Thursday, January 12, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with
Royal Canadian Mounted Police centennial
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to take this opportunity to remind the people of the Yukon that 1995 marks the centennial of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Yukon. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are known around the world for their image, professionalism and outstanding contributions to this country's development. In particular, this centennial commemorates the official arrival of the 19-member Northwest Mounted Police troop in the Yukon in 1895 and its subsequent contribution to the protection of the territory.
To commemorate its 100th year of service to Yukon residents, the RCMP will undertake several special events through 1995, and celebrations will kick off this Saturday at the "Centennial Gala" at the Yukon Arts Centre.
This summer, our residents and tourists will thrill to the famous Musical Ride performances in Watson Lake, Dawson City and Whitehorse. I encourage all Yukoners to participate where possible in the upcoming centennial celebrations.
Inspector Russell Juby, the officers who have travelled with the Department of Tourism
during the past months and all those who are involved in the planning of this year's
events are to be commended for their efforts to promote the centennial to our tourism
Recognition of birthday of Jack London
Mr. Penikett: I would like to rise to note the birthday of the famous Yukon
writer and socialist, Jack London. Since we are sitting today, I think we should make
mention of that fact.
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. Phillips: I have documents for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have two documents: Wild Yukon Environmental Conservation Education newsletter and Yukon Agriculture State of the Industry papers for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have one legislative return for tabling and a brief summary report, entitled "Airport and Aviation Management in the Yukon" for Members' information.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling some information regarding Help and Hope
Society in Watson Lake.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Quebec sovereignty
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Government Leader. As all Members know, there is a separatist government in Quebec, and a referendum on sovereignty - or independence - is coming later this year. Could I ask the Government Leader what preparations he has made for participating in the upcoming national debate about the future of Canada?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Our colleagues across the country have been holding frequent discussions on this matter, dating back from the time the separatist government was elected in Quebec. For the most part, the position that has been taken by the Premiers is that this is an issue that will have to be decided in Quebec, at least at first, and I am not aware of any plans by any of the Premiers to intervene at this point.
Mr. Penikett: That flies in the face of the evidence presented in the national media, where I have seen statements by Premier Klein, Premier Romanow, Premier Harcourt, Premier Rae and Premier McKenna. In fact, most of the premiers have made statements in the last few months. Can we assume, from the Government Leader's answer, that he shares the same general approach as the federal Liberal government, which is to take a wait-and-see attitude toward events in Quebec?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have raised those concerns with the Prime Minister on several occasions. We are urging him to consider carefully the approach he is taking. I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I believe that the Prime Minister should be leading the charge in Quebec. On the other hand, there is a down side to that approach. All of us are possessive when it comes to our own province or territory. We have had discussions with the Prime Minister about this matter and have urged him to play a lead role in whatever forum he feels appropriate. I am hoping that there will be a First Ministers Conference called shortly on this issue where we can discuss it further. We have discussed it at the Western Premiers Conference and at the Canadian Premiers Conference.
Mr. Penikett: Careful consideration of this issue might be a good idea, and given Yukon's fragile purchase on a seat in Confederation, the Government Leader might also see virtue in the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared." Since a lot of Yukoners are bound to be concerned about what the Government Leader and, in fact, any government leader might be saying in national forums on this question in the coming months, could I ask the Government Leader if he is willing to present his position on this matter, in the form of a motion, for debate during the sitting of the House so that we might have a full discussion here before firm positions are taken by the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that suggestion, and I will certainly give it serious consideration and will discuss it with my Cabinet colleagues. I think it would probably be a very, very good motion to put on the floor for serious debate before I have to participate in a premiers' conference on this issue. I will seriously consider that and get back to the Member.
Question re: Devolution
Mr. Penikett: I would like to now move to a small "c'' constitutional question, which is the matter of devolution. Back in October, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs told the House of Commons that within three or four years, the Yukon will have, "all the powers of a province''. Given the delay in the forestry transfer, to say nothing of the unfolding national events, does the Government Leader still agree with that timetable, as expressed by the federal Minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess I could say to the Member opposite that I believe there is time to accomplish the devolution process in three to four years with the federal government. In fact, I would not be afraid to say that I believe that the process could be completed more quickly than that. That does not necessarily mean that everything would be in effect any more quickly. The effective dates of devolution may go beyond the three- or four-year horizon that the Minister has set for himself. There are other issues that are of great concern to Yukoners and to my government, and that is the finalization and outcome of the outstanding land claims, which must be seriously considered in any devolution matters.
Mr. Penikett: At the rate that negotiations at the land claims table have been going over the last couple of years, it may well take more than three years to finalize settlements with all 14 First Nations.
Does the Government Leader seriously expect the leader of the next administration to take on all the powers of the province, as described by the federal Minister, before land claims agreements have been finalized with all the Yukon First Nations? Does he seriously anticipate that as a practical possibility?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I do not, and I think I have said that quite clearly in statements in the House in the last couple of days. I do not believe devolution can take place on land, minerals and water in areas where the land claims are not finalized, but that does not mean we should not be negotiating. There are vast areas of the Yukon where the land claims, and the land decisions surrounding them, are completed, and it is time for Yukoners to get ownership of the remaining land, rather than it being vested with Ottawa.
Mr. Penikett: I fully share the view of the Government Leader that the only way to address these questions is through negotiations. However, as he indicated to the House yesterday, there have not been many negotiations on the question of the First Nations' interest in devolution over the last few months; nor, from discussions we have had with federal employees, have there been, from their point of view, satisfactory negotiations, in terms of their interest, as employees.
Could the Government Leader give to the House some indication of a timetable when the official who is newly responsible for land claims and devolution will be meeting face to face at the table with First Nations and, if necessary, with federal employees to make sure that both groups of Yukoners are satisfied with the devolution arrangements this government is making with the feds.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I indicated in debate here in the last couple of days, the
Member opposite surely is aware that First Nations have had to deal with priorities other
than devolution at this time, and that is the finalization of the first four claims. They
are in the process of setting up boards and committees to implement those first four.
Their human resources are very stretched and therefore cannot enter into any kind of
further negotiations, and we appreciate that. We are waiting for that process to be
completed, then I would hope that we are going to sit down seriously with them and address
the devolution problems. As I said, the man who is going to be responsible for devolution
will be meeting with, I believe it is, an ADM of DIAND in Vancouver this week to have some
preliminary discussions about the process and what the federal government is thinking of
proposing, other than what is already on the table.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the gambling issue. As the Government Leader will recollect, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment was asked to review the gambling issue. In its report, the council stated that it was unable to reach a consensus on casino gambling but that if the government were to proceed with casino gambling, it should do a number of things, including putting in place two policies. I asked the Government Leader in December if these policies were in place and he did not answer the question, so I will ask it again. Are the two policies that were recommended by the council in place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: One of the policies was to involve the First Nations people, with whom we have had some preliminary discussions. We are exploring some options that will be coming to Cabinet shortly on how to proceed from this stage with the casino.
I want to make it very clear that we are not talking about wide-open gambling here. We are talking about one tourist-oriented casino in the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: That is an issue I would like to deal with. The Government Leader spoke to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce the other day and went to some length to assure the people there that the government was not going to build the gambling hall itself. So, what does the Government Leader see as being the government's role? Is it going to be a promoter or a regulator, or just what part will it play in this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I see the government's role as a regulator and a facilitator, to see if this option will fly and if there is any interest from some group to undertake such an endeavour. Shortly, we will be exploring the options that are being presented to us and we shall see where we go from there.
Mr. Cable: From the actions to date, one would perceive the government to be, at least in part, a promoter. In the Speech from the Throne, the government set out a number of priorities, one of which was improving Yukoners' quality of life. Is the Government Leader saying that taking the lead in the gambling issue in a territory full of social problems leads toward improving the quality of life of Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are not saying that at all. We are saying that we see that there could be a need for such a facility, and it would attract tourists who would spend a little more money in the Yukon, maybe stay a few hours longer and create a few jobs in the Yukon. There is a down side to it, but there is a substantial amount of gambling now that has very little regulation. A casino would be very strictly regulated - such as the one in Dawson City is - much more so than some of the bingos and other avenues of gambling that we have in the Yukon today.
Question re: Consultation with employee union
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, who indicated yesterday that the Human Resource policy revisions were simply housekeeping. They have swept away the training development policy in their zeal. Does the Minister intend to consult with the public sector union on any revisions or deletions of the government's training policies?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will consult on any initiatives that we are required to consult with the union about, as per the contract. I said that yesterday, and I say it again today.
Ms. Moorcroft: Has the Minister read, and does he understand, the provisions of the collective agreement on joint consultation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: I challenge the Minister to indicate in any substantive way that he has in fact read the provisions of the collective agreement on joint consultation. Training, education leave and career development are subjects of joint consultation under article 34 of the collective agreement. The new policy manual, unlike the old one, has no training and development policy. Does the Minister plan to continue legislating changes instead of consulting with employees' representatives?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, we will be consulting with the union on any issue that we are required to consult the union on, based on the collective agreement.
Question re: Consultation with employee union
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not satisfied that the human resource policy changes consist only of minor revisions. The old resignation and retirement policy provided for severance pay upon dismissal. That is not in the new policy. Why not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to take that under advisement, and I will get back to the Member with why that is not in there. I do not have the manual in front of me, and I do not have the overall policy with me, but I will get back to the Member on that. I thank the Member for pointing it out.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would thank the Minister for following the collective agreements and the laws of the Yukon. The new attendance and work breaks policy applies to people employed under the Education Act; that is, teachers and principals. Why did the government not consult with the Yukon Teachers Association, or even provide them with a copy of the revised policies?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not have the list in front of me, but there was a list of everyone who was provided with the policy. I will check through it.
I recall that the Yukon Teachers Association was on the list, but I will check it over. If they do not have a copy, they will certainly be getting one forthwith. They are just across the street, so we will run one over.
My understanding is that everyone who would be affected received a copy.
Ms. Moorcroft: My understanding was that the Yukon Teachers Association did not receive a copy of the policy until they requested one today.
When will the Minister provide the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association with a list of the changes that have been made in the policies and procedures manual that, in any manner, affect employees covered by these collective agreements?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is the department had been involved in discussions with the employees union about the changes. In fact, the union pointed out one particular area where there was concern. As I said yesterday, if the union has other areas of concern, I would like it to bring them to the attention of the department. We would certainly be more than happy to clarify it for the union.
Question re: Consultation with employee union
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to go back to the same Minister and ask him to answer my question. When will the Minister provide the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association with a list of the changes and revisions that have been made to the policy manuals?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I suppose we could do that right away, but I know that the union has a copy of the manual - the new one - and the old policy. They could determine some of that themselves. We could provide them with a breakdown of the changes. There were only changes in format. Some of them had only minor changes.
I can ask the department to provide that forthwith.
Ms. Moorcroft: That would be helpful. It is all very well for the Minister to say that they had the manuals. They have volume 3. The old policy manual is available, but some of the policies that were formerly in the policy and procedures manual are now in a new volume. The union no longer has a copy of it, so I would like the Minister to confirm that the union will be getting copies of the volumes of the manuals that they have not received, as well as a copy of all the changes that have been made.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that the union does have a copy of the new policy manual that we are discussing. They have apparently had volume 3 for some time, and that is the one we have been discussing.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to point out to the Minister that the devolution policy and speaking in public and writing for publication policy are no longer contained in the human resource policies. They are contained in volume 1 of the general administration manual. I would appreciate it if the Minister could provide the public sector unions with copies of all volumes of these manuals and lists of the changes made.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have no problem doing that.
Question re: Industrial support policy, YukonNet
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to pursue a line of questioning with the Minister of Economic Development that I opened yesterday.
I have to say, at the outset, that wife-beating is not a joke. I hope that the Minister does not make a flippant response to suggest that it is. I think the Minister owes an apology to the public for his remarks yesterday.
I think it is fair to question the government as to whether or not it intends to continue with a Department of Economic Development, when it continues to put Ministers in the portfolio that do not take the responsibility seriously. They cannot answer questions; they cannot remember issues they have written or received correspondence about, and they cannot tell us what their so-called policies mean for Yukoners.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please get to the question.
Ms. Moorcroft: My question for the Minister is this: YukonNet is still seeking a
grant from Economic Development for $30,000 for funding. Can the Minister tell me if he is
going to support that funding request?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I checked with the department this morning, because of the Member's line of questioning yesterday, and in fact the department had requested an application from YukonNet, which was supposed to be forthcoming last Friday, but we have not received it yet.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me ask the Minister a policy question. His industrial support policy states that they would like to support economic initiatives in the area of a knowledge-based economy. Does the Minister support funding from Economic Development for developing YukonNet in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly the Yukon government supports funding. The organization has received some funding already through Government Services.
Ms. Moorcroft: With all due respect, I was asking this Minister for his support. Can the Minister tell me if he supports a YukonNet system that is affordable to the average user?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I answered that yesterday. Certainly I support YukonNet and so does the Department of Economic Development.
Question re: Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects have been of great concern and debate for many Yukoners for many years now, and there has been some talk by government regarding this issue but little action. The Minister made comments recently that there is a variety of broad-based fetal alcohol prevention activities being planned and that he was considering options like getting pregnant women who drink out of dysfunctional family situations and into places like a healing centre. Could the Minister tell us when this is going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I hope that within a matter of weeks we will be in a position to make public our final alcohol and drug strategy. That portion of the issue, the prevention issue, will be included in that strategy.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister made those comments, he indicated that there was
no specific dollar figure attached to the announcement. I have looked at the budget and
the operation and maintenance budget for alcohol and drug services has increased by one
percent, or $24,000, and the capital budget for alcohol and drug services has been reduced
by 81 percent. It does not sound like a very serious commitment for a variety of
broad-based initiatives, and I would like to ask the Minister how he is going to implement
this program without any money.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In the first place, there have been a lot of extra resources put into alcohol and drug counselling and into improving the capital situation. The housing for both the prevention unit and Crossroads, and other facilities, are being upgraded. With regard to specific programs, once they are accepted by Cabinet, we will probably be going for some additional funding for the new programs.
Mrs. Firth: This is another program initiative that is not included in the budget and we are going to be looking for more money. I am concerned specifically with initiatives with respect to fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
This Minister has been Minister of Health for over two years now. Last year, almost to the day, on January 10, I asked him if he could tell us what his department was doing with respect to FAS/FAE. I got a legislative return with 10 points on it, none of which were new except one point, which was an initiative for a summer camp for FAS/FAE kids, and which was run by the parents of those children. Could I ask the Minister of Health and Social Services how much he is prepared to commit toward FAS/FAE and if there are really going to be any new programs to deal with this serious issue?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have discussed, to some degree, the prevention issues, and
they will be coming forward soon. As well, as part of a major initiative throughout the
department regarding kids at risk, we will be coming forward with policies regarding how
new programs could deal with issues surrounding kids who have FAS/FAE. These are in the
process of being developed. We will be going to Cabinet and we are very serious about some
of the programs, which are presently being worked on, not only by the department, but by
some of the non-government organizations as well.
Question re: Human Rights Tribunal decision, appeal by government
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Government Leader a question about a recent Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, in a matter affecting the territorial government and an employee of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, in which the tribunal has ruled that the complainant was a victim of racial harassment, was unjustly denied promotion, and should be awarded damages. Can the Government Leader tell us why the Government of Yukon is appealing this decision?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. I do not have the details with me, but we can get them for the Member opposite.
Mr. Penikett: This is an extremely serious incident where the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled against the Yukon government on a matter of racial harassment and unjust denial of promotion, and recommended that the affected employee be promoted, awarded compensation for lost wages, and other compensation. Does the Minister of the Public Service Commission, the Minister of Justice, or the Government Leader not know about this case? Has it not been discussed at the Cabinet level?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am aware of the case and of the decision. It happened just prior to Christmas. I am not aware of any other facts, but I can get back to the Member about this issue.
Mr. Penikett: This is very serious. There has been a ruling against the territorial government. Somebody must have made the decision to appeal, and I assume that it must have been a Minister. I assume that Minister must be appealing on the basis that the government does not accept either the justice of the complaint, or the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Why does the Minister not know about this? Who authorized the appeal?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member with that answer.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Cable: My question is for the Minister of Tourism on gambling. In December, I asked the Minister of Tourism if the 1994 visitors exit survey carried any questions about gambling. He said that he did not know, but that he would get back to me. He then provided me with a copy of the survey questions, and there is some reference to gambling. In his covering letter, he indicated that the preliminary numbers from the survey would be ready this month. Are the preliminary numbers ready yet, and are they available for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The answer is no to both questions.
Mr. Cable: When, in the Minister's view, will the preliminary results from the 1994 visitors exit survey be available for tabling in this House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I told the Member that it was going to be in January. As yet, I have not been told differently. I can check on it and get back to the Member, but my understanding is that it will be some time this month, so in the next couple of weeks I expect to have received some preliminary results.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister anticipate that the results from the survey will, in any way, influence the government's policy on gambling?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Is that a trick question? Of course, when we look at the survey, we will take all aspects of it seriously. Every one of the points in the survey will be considered, in one form or another. Otherwise, there would not be much point in doing the survey if some of the information we gathered from it was not used.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development, squatters
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader regarding the Whitehorse waterfront and land claims. I think the Government Leader knows that the development of the waterfront requires certain things to be done beforehand, namely and including the settlement of the Kwanlin Dun land claim, and particularly land selections on the waterfront. Can the Minister tell us when he expects the land selections will be completed and whether he has given clear enough guidelines to the negotiators to see that they are completed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I certainly have given clear enough guidelines. In fact, I had the negotiators give me a briefing about 10 days ago to bring me up to date on what issues were still outstanding. The biggest portion of the land package has been completed, more or less. The blocks have been identified and agreed to. There are still, however, some outstanding issues that have to be resolved.
Mr. McDonald: I am focusing on the waterfront because it is clear that the waterfront probably faces the most severe development pressures. So, I am asking the Minister if he could give us a target date by which he would like to see the negotiations completed for the waterfront, so that we can get on to the next range of discussions, particularly respecting the future of the waterfront residents.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure the Member opposite knows how difficult it is to try to resolve the land issues in the City of Whitehorse - especially the ones within the City of Whitehorse - and trying to find a balance between commercial lands and residential lands that the First Nations are going to find acceptable. I do not believe that we can separate the waterfront from the entire land package and try to deal with it as an isolated issue. I think that would just complicate the process and would be precedent setting. It did not happen in any of the other land claims negotiations. So, I believe that we have to come to an agreement on the entire land package.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask the Minister whether or not it is the government's policy that there should be a successfully negotiated land settlement on the waterfront, prior to waterfront planning and waterfront development taking place.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have every indication that, with what is transpiring, that is the way we are leaning. We have said that the city should take the lead role in the planning.
We dealt with the previous city council. I have had one meeting already with the present council. They have had meetings with the Kwanlin Dun. I believe that it would be in everyone's best interest to have the land issue settled and finalized before we proceed with development or any intense planning on the waterfront.
Further to that, I do recall - and I will relay this information to the Members opposite - that the deputy chief of the Kwanlin Dun made a statement in public, a short time ago, about the difficulty of the land negotiations within the City of Whitehorse. He also could not put a date on when they would be completed.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development, squatters
Mr. McDonald: I think that the issue of waterfront development is becoming more pressing, as there is greater public discussion about development activities taking place for that area. We have had discussions about casino development, visitor reception building and so on. Yet, we are having trouble getting the basics taken care of, particularly with respect to land selections and with respect to the waterfront residents.
I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the future options for the residents. This is something we have addressed before. It is a pressing problem. Can the Minister tell us precisely what options he has devised for area residents, and when he will be discussing those options with them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As far as I am concerned, Whitehorse and the two First Nations and the government's land claims representative have to settle the situation.
I have said, in public, that I will do my best to see that they get a fair deal. However, I also have to point out that we think one of them is possibly in the area that is too close to the river. This is illegal anywhere in the Yukon, but we will not know any of this until that land is surveyed.
Mr. McDonald: Virtually all of the houses on the waterfront are within the 100-foot reserve of the high water mark. Consequently, all of them would not normally be accorded any sort of land tenure.
It is quite obvious to anyone that is talking about the development of the waterfront
that, given the time lines we are facing, we cannot afford to have a linear process,
whereby one thing is settled before the next step begins. Can the Minister tell us whether
or not he is prepared to discuss, early, with area residents, their options for their
future? Also, is he prepared to discuss with them what they think should be accorded them
in terms of options?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It will be done with the land claims people. We are certainly not going to get another discussion going that does not correspond with the land claims, but I can assure the House that the land claims people in the Yukon territorial government will see that they get a fair deal.
Mr. McDonald: Given that the land claims negotiators will be discussing the options for area residents, I will ask the Minister responsible for land claims whether or not the negotiators are prepared to immediately discuss options with the area residents, from Kishwoot Island toward the train station, plans for their future so that they can have some sense of where they will be in two years' time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can understand the Member's concerns, being the MLA for that area, and I can certainly understand the concerns of the people who are living there. I believe that we first have to settle the land issue with the First Nations as to which lands are going to be retained by whom before we address the issue of the squatters on the riverfront.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront development, squatters
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services just indicated that because the development pressures are severe and because we are talking about a very short time frame, there really is not the time to have a linear process where we deal with one first, and then you deal with the second. On their own, each one could take months and months and months. Clearly, we do not have months and months and months for each step.
I would ask the Government Leader whether or not, under the circumstances, he would be prepared to instruct the land claims negotiators to discuss options with the area residents so that they might know in a couple of years' time what their future will be, when presumably many of the decisions will have been made and development of one sort or another will be taking place.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will not make that commitment to the Member now, but I will get a full briefing from the land claims negotiators to see what discussions have taken place surrounding the squatter issue so far, and hear any ideas they have. I may be able to bring something back for the Member opposite.
Mr. McDonald: I would urge the government to act in haste when it comes to the briefings, because I will certainly be raising the issue within the next couple of days and, given that this issue has already been raised on numerous occasions in the Legislature, it behooves the government to respond quickly.
I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism a question on the same subject. Is there an inventory already in place of heritage interests on the waterfront that should be protected to ensure that the heritage value of the waterfront is not overlooked in the planning process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am aware of 25 or 27 buildings that are identified as having heritage value, but I do not think they are all down on the waterfront. A couple of those buildings may be on the waterfront and the rest are elsewhere in the City of Whitehorse. As to an actual heritage plan for the waterfront, we as a government have made it very clear to anyone involved that our preference for any development down there would include a strong heritage component. From what I hear from the City of Whitehorse, the MacBride Museum and others who are interested, that is an issue to which they are also strongly committed.
Mr. McDonald: I will be asking the Minister particulars about that in debate in the budget, because it is important to understand precisely what the government has done.
There is an international agreement to promote the development of a heritage park to recognize the gold rush trail from Seattle to Dawson, and the Whitehorse waterfront is obviously an important transportation hub as part of that.
Can the Minister of Tourism tell us whether or not the government has taken any steps whatsoever to ensure that any waterfront planning respects the existence of the park?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, not at this time. Since there is no real waterfront plan
developed, and there is still one to be developed, that is the kind of input people will
have when that concept is developed on the waterfront. The previous government purchased
the waterfront, and I think their intention at that time was to work with the various
groups and organizations in developing a plan and providing for the necessary heritage
protection. Because there has been no settlement on the ownership of that land, nor any
development plan for the land, nothing has been done so far.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Are the Members prepared to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Bill No. 4?
Mr. McDonald: There are a number of issues I would like to address. I would like to clear up a couple of things from yesterday, just to close a loop, and then proceed with other matters that are important to people.
The first matter deals with the subject of banking. I want to get it clear in my mind what has happened, what the savings are, and what we can expect to happen over the next five years.
Last night, the Minister indicated that the Toronto Dominion's successful bid was going to cost the Yukon government $556,000 per year. He indicated this reflected a saving of $200,000 per year that would have been borne by the Yukon government if the other bid had been accepted.
From discussions last night, I also understand that, because the CIBC is going to retain the agency service, approximately $275,000 per year will not have to be borne by the government.
I will ask the question this way: was the government's statement that the successful bid of $556,000 reflects the savings that they have achieved as a result of not having to provide the agency service?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The $556,000 reflects only the savings of the first part, the $200,000 a year, approximately. We do not know for sure that the CIBC is going to retain all of those branches as they are now, but in the event that they were to decide to pull out of there, we certainly have an obligation to provide the service in that community.
Mr. McDonald: I can assume, first of all, that the losing bid was in the $756,000 range. Does that sound correct? There would be further savings to the government as a result of the fact that they may not have to pay for the agency service?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct, but do not hold me to an exact number. It is somewhere between $700,000 and $750,000. That is what the other bid was. The other $200,000 we spoke of yesterday is the savings we get by not having Toronto Dominion provide the service in those seven areas retained by the CIBC. The actual savings on the contract was $200,000 - over $1 million over the life of the contract. That is what we issued the tender on, and it was on that TD's bid was accepted. These savings were the basis on which Cabinet decided to award the contract to Toronto Dominion. At that time, we were not aware of how many agencies CIBC would keep, if any. We did not know that until the transfer date of November 1, when TD took over, and it was just prior to that that CIBC decided they were going to retain the agencies in those seven communities.
Mr. McDonald: The $556,000 price will now be reduced by the cost of the agency services, which the Minister has reflected at approximately $275,000 a year. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is correct.
Mr. McDonald: Because the CIBC is presumably going to continue, at least for the time being, to provide agency services in the communities, are there any service charges that the government would pay as a result of continuing to use the banks in those communities? Presumably they are going to continue to use the banks, or are they going to be trying to do this long distance through the TD?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct. There will be some normal bank charges whenever the government uses the CIBC in the communities. Those are not reflected in the savings realized from not operating the agencies. That would have to be deducted from the approximately $200,000 that was saved on the agencies.
Mr. McDonald: I presume, from the Minister's tone, that the cost would be a
nominal one. Can he give us a ball-park figure in terms of what is nominal?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: A ballpark figure would be about $15,000 a year.
Mr. McDonald: To sum up, the bid that the CIBC submitted was in the $750,000 range. Is that correct? I understand that the bid that the TD submitted was in the $556,000 range. The further savings that the government will achieve are going to be subtracted from the $556,000, as long as CIBC retains the agencies that they are currently providing. Have I understood that sequence properly?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, the Member is correct.
Mr. McDonald: Will there be any enhancement of the services in Watson Lake and Dawson by the TD Bank? Is the government asking for any enhancement of services?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The CIBC and TD are in Watson Lake as branches; they are not agencies.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, I am aware of that.
I would like to ask a question about the transition period. I think that this is the element of the problem that has struck me as being potentially the most controversial. It could have been the most controversial had the communities been forced to change over from one bank to another.
As I understand it, when the tender was called, the bids were accepted and the contract was over, had the CIBC shut its doors on some agencies, there would have been a period when the TD would have had to create new agencies. Was the government aware of some of those problems? Did it have a plan to deal with them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we certainly did have a plan to deal with them, because,
as the Member will recall, I stated last night that the contract started on November 1.
The contract was awarded in early September. CIBC was obligated to continue services until
the end of October.
Mr. McDonald: So, the government feels quite confident that, if the CIBC, in this particular case, had chosen to close its doors on its agencies, the TD would have responded and opened up agencies, resulting in no loss in service whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am certain that that would have happened. I am certain that the Member is aware that we had a bonafide contract with CIBC. If this hypothetical situation had actually happened, we would have been looking to CIBC for restitution as well, because its contract did not expire until October 31.
Mr. McDonald: I am not saying that. I am saying that the TD would have had its agencies open by November 1 then, and the government was quite confident, given the information TD had provided, that the TD could have fulfilled its obligations and opened agencies by the beginning of the contract date.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, most definitely. As I stated last night, very shortly after the contract was awarded, TD provided a transition team from the Vancouver office. It is my understanding that the transition team visited every agency in the Yukon and talked to the people in the communities. In fact, I believe that some of the comments of people in the Member's former riding of Mayo were printed in the paper. I recall that somebody there was upset because they were dissatisfied with the service that CIBC was providing and that this was the first time anyone in the banking industry had been there to talk to them.
So, TD did do a very professional job in the transition and we are quite satisfied that everything was handled in the appropriate manner and with the least anxiety possible in such a change-over for the residents of the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Without passing judgment on either the TD's or the CIBC's professionalism in this particular case, I think that it is pretty obvious there have been some discussions with communities by the banks - historically, with the Royal Bank and CIBC in Mayo about banking services - because I was in attendance at the meetings, so I know there has been some dialogue. Perhaps an unfair allegation has been levelled at somebody, and that may not be the first time.
Yesterday I asked the Government Leader about the extras in the contract, and I was not quite clear about the answer, so I will ask him again now. The Minister said yesterday that the services not specified in the call for proposals that the TD was prepared to provide included personal-touch banking machines, I think. Is that correct? Is that one of the extras? Precisely to what services was the Minister referring?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a service that will give clients an instant update to their bank accounts, rather than three days after the fact.
Mr. McDonald: That is the slide card service, not the personal-touch banking - fair enough.
Presumably, one element of this contract is the interest rates that are offered by the banks. Can the Minister tell us what interest rates were offered by the winning and losing bids?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe I have the losing one. I believe the Member for Riverside has asked us to table that contract before we get to Finance. However, I can tell the Member it was part of a percentage point higher at the Toronto Dominion Bank than at the CIBC.
Mr. McDonald: If the Minister could give us the precise interest rates, I would appreciate it.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have that rate here somewhere. I just cannot find it right now.
Mr. McDonald: While the Minister or the official looks for that information, I have another question, because I am most concerned about the question of transition, should the award change again, and impact on the communities and on the government.
As I understand it, the capital of the agencies is largely paid for by the government through the banking contract, but there are some capital assets in the communities that would be paid for by the bank. Had the government calculated the value of these assets that would have to be replaced by the winner of a bidding process in the future?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that all the assets belong to the government.
Mr. McDonald: There are no assets in any of the agencies, other than paper and pencils, that could be carried away by the bank, and all the assets, apart from office supplies and paper, would be transferred to the new bank providing the agency service - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct.
Mr. McDonald: I just want to tie this detail down because some people have asked me whether - at a decision from CIBC, which is now obviously no longer beholden to the Government of Yukon to provide any service at all since there is no contractual relationship there - there is an arrangement made so that notice provisions are given to the government or to anyone about the possible demise of a particular agency service so that the TD can come and pick it up and the government can accommodate this, and so that the people who are currently using the agencies or the banking service can realign their banking lives to accommodate the new circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that we have a verbal agreement with CIBC that if they are going to pull out of a community they will give us notice. For the record, the CIBC did a very thorough analysis. They had two months prior to the takeover by the TD Bank to decide whether or not they wanted to keep their agencies. I believe the rationale used by the bank for deciding to keep the agencies, even though they would no longer being paid for by the territorial government, is the potential opportunity from the settlement of land claims in many of those communities to be the banker for the First Nations in those areas.
Mr. McDonald: One would hope that the CIBC will continue to have that relationship so that we do not have to pay the $275,000 it costs to provide agency service.
Can the Minister give us a breakdown of the $275,000, so that, if the CIBC does pull
out of a community, we can get a sense of what the costs would be to the government for
the government's banking contract that would be added to the TD's winning bid, which is I
guess now in the $280,000 range. That is the current cost, I take it, of the TD bid about
$280,000, not $556,000, as a result of the agency service being continued by the CIBC.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We can get that information for the Member. We do not have it here right now, but we can get him a list of the costs of the agencies. In order to give some comfort to the Member opposite, I will say that I believe the chartered banks are very professionally run organizations, and they do not do things on a whim. They do a complete analysis before they decide to absorb those kinds of costs. It is a substantial amount of money, even for a bank. They have done a thorough analysis of it, and I think they are prepared to try, if for a certain period of time, to see if it pays off.
I am quite comfortable that nothing is going to fall apart very quickly. I am not saying that will not happen down the road. I believe the TD Bank is very happy that it received our contract, and will do everything in its power to step in and fill the gap, if one should be created. Along with that, I can tell the Member opposite that there may be some more residual savings in this contract for the government, due to the fact that we do not have to pay for the seven agencies now, and the fact that we will be keeping a somewhat higher compensating balance in our bank account and drawing a little more interest on it. We will not be paying fees for those agencies. It will be reflected in our cash flow and there will be a little more money on which we will be drawing interest.
Mr. McDonald: I am sure the federal government will thank the Yukon government for that.
I agree with the Minister that neither bank will do anything that is not in its long-term interest. They may make some short-term investments and take some short-term losses, but they obviously have their long-term best interests in mind. As long as we understand that here in this Chamber, we should not feel particularly hurt or elated that either bank is in business in this territory, or is refusing to do business in the territory.
Can the Minister tell us what level of compensating balance is required right now, given that we are presumably looking at a cost of $280,000? Let me be clear on this. The cost of the TD bid now would be approximately $280,000 - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We could probably round it off at about $300,000, just to be in the ballpark.
I now have the answer to the previous question on the rates. The regular prime rate at the TD is eight percent as of January 9, 1995. The TD will allow us to borrow at the London interbank-offered rates for short-term fixed notes. That rate is currently 7.18 percent for a 120-day loan. As for the rates we are credited for compensating balances, the TD credits us with the TD prime less 1.75 percent. The similarly CIBC rate is CIBC prime less two percent. There is .25 basis points difference.
Mr. McDonald: In dollar terms, what would be the comparative value of the difference in prime, between 1.75 and 2 percent reduction from prime?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This may not answer the question just asked. The type of balance that we have to keep in the bank to offset the rates would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10 million. The other question was what the dollar figure was between the 1.75 percent and the two percent reduction from prime? That would depend on the amount of compensating balances we had in the account over the year. It is difficult to put a dollar figure on that.
Mr. McDonald: Obviously, the government did try to put some dollar figure on it. They would have valued it at something, otherwise they would not have been able to take it into account. Can the Minister give me a ballpark figure? I will not hold him to it. I just want to have a sense of what we are talking about, in general terms.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Part of the dollar savings in the $200,000 fee takes the compensating rate difference of 0.25 basis points into consideration when calculating the overall savings and the difference between the contracts.
Mr. McDonald: I will go over it again. In any case, I think I understand what the Minister is saying.
In order for the Yukon government not to have to make an actual expenditure, the compensating balance required for the TD bid is $10 million. What would it have been for the CIBC bid?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $15 million to $18 million.
Mr. McDonald: I think I have that clear. I thank the Minister for his commitment yesterday that he will undertake some consultation with communities in the future about the banking contract, and will take another look at the transitional requirements so that, in the event there is a changeover of agencies, that will be taken into account with a little more sensitivity.
I would like to make a couple of comments about the budget book and the way budgets are calculated. I made this point last year, and I will make it again.
On page S-2 of the operation and maintenance estimates, the government has listed a column of expenditures and has also calculated a surplus and deficit for the year. They have again identified what they call a "contingency".
Alternately, when we hear what the government is prepared to spend, and we talk about the growth in public expenditure, we make certain assumptions that that growth - whether from forecast estimates of last year, or main estimates from last year to this year - is somehow reasonable, in general terms.
In the government's press release and opening statements, it has identified a two-percent growth in expenditures from the forecast of 1994-95. If one does not calculate in the contingency, it is at two percent. However, if one does calculate in the contingency, it is four percent or more. If one compares the expenditure rate from last year's main estimates to this year's main estimates, it is better than a six-percent increase in expenditures.
I would like to make the point that, if one does not calculate the contingency into either the surplus figures or the planned expenditure figures, then one really cannot draw conclusions about the growth rate in government expenditures, and one cannot be making a point of it in the summary information the government may provide in press releases and speeches.
Obviously, the government was not persuaded by my remarks last year, and they have continued to follow the same route this year. I will have to get on the record the question of whether or not the government intends to spend the contingency fund. Does the government feel the contingency fund is sufficient to meet the emerging needs for the coming year? What caused the government to characterize its planned expenditures in this way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are several reasons for characterizing the expenditures in the manner we do. There are reasons for having a contingency fund, rather than having it show as a surplus. One of the things that I take into consideration is that we are asking the departments to budget tightly. If we are asking departments to budget tightly, and we do not show any funding as a contingency - just as a surplus - they may not feel that we are prepared to draw that surplus down. By showing it as a contingency, I think the government shows that it is prepared to draw that down if necessary. It does work; the departments do think about that.
In every year, we have supplementary estimates. I believe that we had them every year that the Member was in government, as well. The contingency is there to cover off the supplementary estimates. We are basing the contingency on the supplementaries that we have had, on the O&M side, particularly, but on the capital side, a decision has to be made to make that money available if one wants to proceed with some capital projects. Clearly, we are looking to make sure there is money available on the O&M side.
We did show a contingency in the last budget, and, whether the Member agrees or disagrees with it, we will continue to show a contingency in the next budget. It is a method of budgeting that we adopted. We will continue to do so, unless there is some rational reason why we should not.
This year, there are some very valid reasons for the contingency. When the budget was
put together, as the Member is aware, the Faro mine was in the process of being sold.
There was no sale date or startup date. When the departments came to us and asked if they
should consider in their budgets money for the eventual opening of the mine at Faro, we
said no. We told them to budget without taking that into consideration. So, I can assure
the Member that some of that contingency money will be used, as expenses increase. Due to
the Faro mine opening and the ore trucks beginning to haul ore, there will be more
maintenance necessary on the Robert Campbell Highway. We will likely have to add money to
the Education budget for more teachers for part of the fiscal year. There will be other
costs, as well, that the government will have to incur, relating to the opening of the
Faro mine. These costs will draw on the contingency fund. I do not know how much, but,
whatever is left - if any - will go into the accumulated surpluses of government.
Mr. McDonald: I think we resolved last year that we are going to agree to disagree. I am still interested in the rationale that the government is using to show the contingency, and not simply show it as part of the accumulated surplus, which, at their option, they can draw down any time they wish. They can draw down not only the $8,272,000, but they can also draw down, if they wish, the estimated surplus in March 1996, which is listed here at $10 million, but I know it will be higher, based on past experience.
That could be a signal that the government could send to the departments in any number of ways. I am interested not only in the signal that the government thinks it is sending to the departments, but also the signals that it thinks it is sending to the public. The signal appears to be that, on the one hand, we are only showing a modest increase in overall expenditures, and at the same time, we are keeping the estimated accumulated surplus down as low as we possibly can. We are sending two different signals to the public. With respect to the signal to the departments, we are saying to them that we intend to spend probably in the neighbourhood of $8 million for the purposes of contingency. We are not saying to the departments that we are only going to spend $8 million, because as we know, this year, the amount of money in the supplementary - this is for expenditures - obviously far exceeds the contingency that the government had listed in the main estimates for the current year.
I am not sure I understand the rationale that the Minister of Finance is giving to us about what kind of signal he wants to send to the departments. He must know that the signals he is giving will have an impact on the public as well. Can he clarify what precisely it is he is telling the departments?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What we are telling the departments is that we want them to budget responsibly and not to be afraid if for some legitimate reason they have underbudgeted, to come back to ask for a supplementary budget.
I want to point out one other thing to the Member opposite. Again, this gets back to the whole philosophical debate about how much margin of comfort a Finance Minister may want. While I have a commitment from the federal government that the formula is frozen for this next fiscal year, I do not have a hard dollar figure, and it could vary by several million dollars. The Member opposite is fully aware of that. So, I think this is a responsible way of budgeting. Quite clearly we are not hiding anything. Everything is listed on that page. It may not be listed in the same manner as the previous Finance Minister felt comfortable with, but the fact is that all figures are revealed.
Mr. McDonald: Yes, I know they are all there. I have not taken issue with the accuracy of the numbers. I am taking issue with how they are being portrayed. In the past they were portrayed in two different ways, neither of which was true. The figures are accurate, but on the one hand, last year if one took the contingency revenue one way, there really was not an accumulated deficit. If one took it another way, there really was not a modest decrease in overall public expenditures. Both of these, the government, for its own reasons, wanted to communicate.
That is the reason why I am taking issue with the presentation, not with the accuracy of the numbers. They balance, and I am certain the government is not trying to hide anything, nor do I suggest that it is going to be spending money in ways it has not communicated to us already.
The goal the Minister has identified, that departments should budget responsibly, is a respectable goal. If this particular mechanism encourages them to budget responsibly, then I understand that and could possibly even support the Minister. But, if he is saying that a certain portion of the surplus monies have to be listed as contingency in order to encourage the departments to spend responsibly, I just do not get the rationale of that at all. I do not understand that rationale.
If monies were listed in the surplus and the government were to tell responsible departments that there was money available, because there is a surplus, for purposes of the opening of Faro mine or building the Old Ditch Road to the Loki property, or anything else, then that would be a legitimate communication and the departments could respond accordingly.
I think I have made myself clear enough. The Minister seems to understand what I am
saying. I would just point out that I think the way the numbers are characterized sends
out not only confusing signals but signals that are really not straightforward,
particularly when one looks at the budget presentation and the press releases concerning
the budget. Would the government have felt comfortable saying that if the contingency is
not used, the surplus is in fact closer to $20 million?
If they had identified the expenditures or had said that they had every intention of spending the money, would they feel comfortable saying that, at this point in the year, they expect expenditures to rise by 4.4 percent and not two percent? All of these things have an impact on the public, particularly when the public looks at things such as whether or not the government is spending appropriately given the current inflation rate, and they look at things such as their own pay, and those individuals who work for the public see their pay being reduced by two percent. All of these messages are sometimes complicating and conflicting. The way the government presents its basic figures all has an impact - that presentation is what I am referring to now. I am responding to the signals I am receiving from various people as to how they interpret the government's presentation page and the explanation of the financial situation. So, that is all I am saying. If the Minister wants to respond to that, I would be happy to let him.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I could not let the Member sit down without responding to that. I think I should respond to it because there is, quite clearly, a difference of opinion between the Member opposite and me as to how it should be handled. I think that the main criterion in budgeting is that, regardless of whatever is done by an administration, it should be done consistently, and that is what we intend to do. We showed it last year, we showed it this year, and we will show it again next year. In my humble opinion, a deficit or a surplus cannot be accurately calculated until the books are done for the year-end. When the Auditor General puts out his report, then it is known whether there is a surplus or a deficit. Until then, it is subjected to many forces. We are saying that this is the amount of money we intend to spend.
We do know that there are supplementaries every year. We know that. I do not think there has been a year when there has not been any supplementary estimates. So, I think it is prudent to make allowances for those. It is not known what the expenditures are until the books are completed. Let us look at the completed books from year to year, after the Auditor General has reviewed them, to see if there has been a real increase in spending or a decrease in spending, or what. This is the best guess estimates. Any budget that is put together is a best guess estimate.
Mr. McDonald: That is right. We are obviously talking about a best guess situation in terms of estimating the accumulated surplus for March, 1996. That is 14 months away, and it will probably be 15 or 16 months before we will actually know what the estimated accumulated surplus would be for March, 1996.
Nevertheless, we do make a guess; it is listed on the page. Something may happen, and the government might want to spend a little bit of the accumulated surplus that they have listed here. They have obviously made a judgment call about the estimated accumulating surplus. I think it is quite clear that if one makes the judgment, one has to live by that judgment. Why the government would have picked the amount of $8.2 million for contingency, I do not know. I do not know if the government knows why it picked that precise amount.
The point I am making is that, in presenting the original budget figures, one is drawing conclusions, perhaps too early, about what the government's finances are all about. Are they balanced, or not? Are they actually running a larger estimated surplus at the time? If they are running a larger estimated surplus, are there things they will have to take into account in the future in terms of possible expenditures that may use a portion of the $8.2 million, or they may, in fact, spend $15 million and eat into the estimated accumulated surplus? These are all judgment calls.
The budget presentation, in the beginning, is very important, and the Minister knows that. It is all about who the Government is, what it stands for, and that sort of thing. Not only is it important to the government, but it is important to the public. That is the reason I have spent so much time on the question of budget presentation. I am not saying that the government is lying about the numbers; it is not lying, it is just the way that the numbers are presented that I take issue with. If the Minister wants to talk about that, he is more than free to help himself.
I would like to ask him about unfunded commitments. Yesterday, in his speech, the Leader of the Official Opposition referred to a number of announcements that were made just before budget time about expenditures that did not end up in the budget. I am referring to the VRC, the Beringia Interpretive Centre and a number of schools. There must have been some reason to announce these large projects at that time, yet present no funding in the budget for the projects, even in terms of planning. Can the Minister explain the rationale for that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Perhaps the Member could ask that question at the end of the budget debate, after we have gone through the supplementaries and mains, because there is planning money in the supplementaries, as well as in the main budget, for these different projects that are planned and have been announced. Some that we have been accused of not having in the budget, we have no intention of building, such as the casino. The Leader of the Official Opposition made that statement yesterday. It is not true, and at no time did we say we were going to build one; therefore, it is not in the budget.
As we go through this, department by department, and the Ministers are questioned, they will point out where the funding is. These are all projects that were announced, and they are all included in the five-year capital plan of the departments. There is some planning money allocated to them.
The visitor reception centre and the Beringia Interpretive Centre have a total of about $1 million identified for them. During third reading, or when we wrap up, the Member may point out some legitimate areas where he is not satisfied that we have made a financial commitment to projects we have in place, or have announced, and we could then entertain that debate.
I believe there is planning money for those projects, which will be multi-year projects and budgeted for in the future.
Mr. McDonald: The concern I have is perhaps better directed at other Ministers, as well as at the way the budget is presented. For example, if one looks at the Tourism budget, there is not a single line item that refers to what are obviously huge projects. The long-term costs are identified for the visitor reception centre, the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the historic resources centre, but I cannot find a line item that refers to any of these projects in the capital budget. Can the Minister help me on this?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is why I said, first of all, that a more opportune time for this may be at third reading if the Member cannot find it. The capital budget for Tourism, general administration support, office accommodation, furniture, equipment and systems: $1,050,000. The breakdown of that, when the Minister gets to it, would be as follows: $900,000 for the Taylor Chev-Olds building; $100,000 for the Beringia Centre; and $50,000 for office. It will be identified as we go through the various departments.
Mr. McDonald: The difficulty I have is with the way the budget is presented. One would have assumed that office accommodation, furniture, equipment and systems would have referred to office accommodation, furniture, equipment and systems, but not the Beringia Centre or the visitor reception centre downtown, or the historic resource centre. Presumably, that would be true for all other projects of this sort.
Can the Minister come back to us at some point, after he has had a discussion with his colleagues about budget presentation, so that we actually get a budget that means something to us. Surely, on the face of it, the Minister would acknowledge that one would have a difficult time interpreting the line item that he has identified as having anything to do with the Beringia Interpretive Centre, or the visitor reception centre, or the historic resources centre.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Firstly, the Beringia Centre is in the preliminary planning stages. That is why there is not a line item in the budget for it. We do not know what the total cost of the building is going to be yet; we have a ball-park figure. We have said that this is a commitment we are making, and there is some planning money in there. Regarding Tourism, it quite clearly says, "Office accommodation". We said in the throne speech that Tourism offices are going to be moving into the visitor reception centre. It has been identified, but maybe not as clearly as the Member opposite would like. We can talk about that, if he likes.
Mr. McDonald: I would like to, because if one looks at the public schools branch, for example, I am sure the government does not know what the second school in Dawson is going to cost in total, but they obviously have a ball-park figure - they have it listed here as $4.3 million - as they do for the tourism projects: Beringia Centre at $3.3 million, visitor reception centre at $3.2 million and the historic resource centre at $4 million. They have given us some sense of where they want to go. If the Beringia Centre ends up at $5 million or $6 million, we know there is a cost overrun.
The same is true for the other projects.
In terms of the budget presentation for public schools, it is obviously different than it is in Tourism. It is more informative than it is in Tourism, as well. There is obviously no way of knowing how much money the government even has allotted for planning for any of these projects. For some projects, as the Minister has mentioned, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars. In other projects, there may be only $100,000; it does not tell us much. I believe it is a simple point. It does not require much discussion. It is fairly self-evident that there is a need for reform. I am not asking the Minister to say yes, that he will do it; I am asking him to take it back and have a look at it. That way, we will get as much - and as accurate - information as we can, given that these are not minor projects.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I agree with the Member opposite. They are not minor projects. I will certainly take it back and discuss it.
I will say this at this time, and the Member can discuss it further with the Tourism Minister when we get to that department: the reason that there is no line item, as I said, for the VRC or the Beringia Interpretive Centre is because, clearly, there is not the money in this budget to put it together. It will have to be accounted for in future budget.
Quite possibly, it could be broken down, as the Member said, into the VCR for $1 million or $900,000 and the Beringia Interpretive Centre for $100,000 - whatever. That may be a better reflection of the budget. However, in the Education budget, it is clear that the school construction is going to go ahead. The department must reckon that it is going to spend that money in this fiscal year.
We cannot put in a large figure to start the capital construction project - the $4 million or $3 million for the Beringia Centre - since we have no intention of starting it this fiscal year. We said that in the press release. We said that we are only going to start planning for it. That is where we are now.
I will take note of the Member's comments. We will take the issue back and discuss it.
Mr. McDonald: I trust that the Minister does that. I do not know if this particular subject is worth a lot of time - I am sure it is not - I would just point out that the planning for public schools projects is identified, on a line-item basis, in the public schools budget. The government will obviously not proceed with construction, because it cannot build a school for 300,000. However, it can start on the design and plan one. It does send a message about what kind of emphasis the government wants to place on a particular area. It also suggests to the department, very clearly, what its limits are. For example, the limit for the department for office equipment is $1 million.
They are accountable to the government ultimately, but as far as the Legislature is concerned, a line item that says there is going to be office equipment and accommodation for $1 million it does not really tell us very much. Obviously there is a problem to face. I think the Minister will understand. The Minister will go off and deal with that as may be, and we will see what progress there is next year at this time.
I would like to ask a couple of general, philosophical questions about the government's understanding of infrastructure. I will give the Minister an opportunity to clarify remarks about debt and wealth creation. One of the elements of this budget, which I think is something that should be discussed briefly, is how it matches the government's rhetoric in terms of development of infrastructure.
One of the remarks I made is that the government talks about a number of things in its budget speeches. At various times it is interested in investing money for mining projects. Its priority is to invest money to bring mining projects onstream. Apart from the Freegold Road, I have difficulty understanding how they are matching their priorities, because they are saying, on the one hand, "We can defend $500 million or $490 million, because we are investing in infrastructure. The infrastructure that counts is the stuff that leads to resource development because that gives us a return.
When I see the budget, I see a lot of good projects. Some projects I do not think are
as high a priority as the government gives them. I see a full range of commitments. What I
do not see is the $490 million being placed as the government says it is. They make the
grand statements about wanting to support infrastructure and self-sufficiency. One expects
that there would be a program, such as the old resource transportation access program,
which would, in a programmatic way, support and provide upfront commitment for a
particular purpose. What we have got here is a promise that, maybe through the
contingency, if the mines go ahead, some money that we have not yet budgeted for may be
applied to the government's number-one economic priority. I do not understand the
budgeting rationale. If the Minister can give us some sense of what the government's
thinking is on that score, I would really appreciate it. If he wants to pass comment on
what he considers to be debt and wealth creation, that would also be helpful. I am not
asking for a long, drawn-out discussion, just some signals.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know what all the confusion is, to be truthful. We are a party that believes in infrastructure development that will create wealth for the territory. That can be a lot of different things. Highway upgrading is infrastructure. The Alaska Highway is infrastructure. Upgrading the highway is going to lower our freight rates - it has already done that dramatically - and it is going to attract more tourists to the Yukon - a happier tourist who is going to spend more money. Those are wealth-creating projects.
Some buildings that are required are wealth-creating projects, too, but buildings that are not required, on which there is O&M, are not wealth creation. If we are replacing buildings that do not require replacement yet, that is not wealth creation.
We have said that we will build those buildings when and where they are required. That is the approach we have taken. We are not only supporting the mining industry. We are supporting all segments. We are also supporting tourism, but we are supporting tourism in a manner whereby we want to help to contribute to infrastructure that will have some return on investment to the territory. That is why we amended the capital assistance program by the parameters we added, so that the communities will come up with projects from which they will be getting some revenues. They will be getting a return on their investment so the government will not be asked continually for operation and maintenance help.
In a nutshell, that is basically it.
Mr. McDonald: I hope it is the case that there is not ever a government, even in Yukon's future or even in Yukon's history, that built buildings that are not required. We have seen too much evidence of that in Ottawa, where buildings are financed and they sit empty. I am assuming that we are of a like mind on that point.
The difficulty I have had, and the confusion I have, is not that there should not be
expenditures on projects like the Alaska Highway. I do believe that there should be
expenditures on the Alaska Highway, and they should be substantial. I also believe that
one would reasonably expect a substantial commitment, particularly when a lot of the
funding for the Alaska Highway is contingent funding; it must be spent on the Alaska
Highway. But when there are other worthwhile projects that also actually help the the
natural resource sector the Minister speaks of as being the future generator of wealth in
this territory, I see precious little that is actually invested in that particular
direction. The Campbell Highway to Faro, for example, clearly requires huge maintenance
costs when that mine is running, huge maintenance costs associated with a road that is not
well constructed or is not constructed to proper standards.
People know that it is a public road and that mines are going to be going. At no time has this government said that it believed that there would not be some mine in Faro within the next five or 10 years. This was even before Anvil Range came along.
Upgrading roads of that sort is a long-term proposition. Consequently, one would expect that it would be a long-term commitment, if the government actually invested in building roads into mining districts, and upgraded them in order to bring down the operating costs.
There is every expectation that this is not like other mines with a high degree of
speculation. This is a mine with a town beside it, and it has a big pit with a lot of
stripping done. It has a future and we have all expressed faith in it.
I am puzzled, therefore, as to why, over this period of time, there would have been so much money placed in one road - not that there should not be a lot of money placed there - and so little placed on the Campbell Highway between Faro and Carmacks. I am puzzled why a program such as RTAP, which was mentioned on many occasions at the most recent Geoscience Forum, by speakers and people I spoke to, as having been a valuable program. They said that because it supported actual mining activity, it was every bit as valuable, in some respects, to some mining operations - like mines at the exploration stage - as was the YMIP. I am puzzled why programs like that would not have been given any consideration.
If there was ever a concern about how a program such as RTAP functioned, one would think that the natural response would be to fine tune the program and improve it. If there was a problem with the YMIP, or there had to be some rejigging of it, one would think the government would fine tune it, not cancel it.
Given that I heard so much about programs such as RTAP, I am puzzled as to how the government has decided to balance its budget priorities according to its own statement of what its political priorities are. I know there are opportunities for financing the government's own objectives.
I see some objectives. Obviously, Alaska Highway road building is one, and is a legitimate one? Time and time again, people have asked me, "Why so much, and why to the exclusion of other things?" It does not make sense - not even by our standards, meaning Yukon Party supporter standards. People are glad that the north Alaska Highway is being built - of course, that is all American money - and are glad that the south Alaska Highway is being built because it is one of the corridors into the territory. But why so much, given that even a small shaving of that particular project could be put to so many good uses, even to support the things that we thought the Yukon Party government believed in and for which there is virtually no funding at all. If the Minister can clarify the government's thinking on this point - or if the government has not been thinking about this point or does not think it is important - I would like to hear it from him.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that we are going along with the game plan we have in place and, quite clearly, the Alaska Highway is a very important artery through the Yukon. We have another lead-zinc mine, the Sa Dena Hes mine, that we expect will be back in production at some point. The Member opposite knows that as it is now, without the completion of the upgrading on the Alaska Highway, we have to apply a road ban in the spring. That adds costs to the trucking of that ore. We have the anniversaries coming up. So, we are spending money on that highway - certainly we are. I think that it should be pretty well completed by next year. Then we can look at other priorities.
We are also spending money on the Top of the World Highway by an agreement made with the United States government. If it upgraded its side, we would upgrade our side. That is going to work for tourism. It helps for trucking into Dawson in summer. A lot of trucks run over that road now from Alaska. It helps the placer miners in that area, and it also helps should any other minerals be discovered there.
Clearly, we have to set the priorities about where the money should be spent. The road from Faro to tidewater is in fairly good shape. There is no doubt about it, but it will take more maintenance, once the trucks start hauling again. However, that can be accommodated at that time. If this government were building roads when nothing is happening, I believe that the Member opposite would be very critical of our actions and would view it as a waste of taxpayers' money.
We have made a commitment to the mining companies by stating that, if they have an ore body they want to put into production, we will assist them to put the infrastructure in place, and that is what we are doing. As the Member said, there is $1.00 in the budget for the Old Ditch Road. There is also some contingency funding that can be drawn on to meet that commitment to Loki Gold, once we come to an agreement with company.
It was budgeted for in the highways budget. I guess the highways department has been maintaining that road and that is why it was in the budget. That was prior to the industrial support policy coming onstream; it was budgeted for last year. When we found out that the Williams Creek mine was not going to go ahead, we did not spend the money there, because we felt there were other uses for the money. We sat down with the proponents of the mine, and they said they were not yet prepared to put it into production. We told them we would have difficulty upgrading the road, unless there was a commitment to put the mine into production, and they said that was fine. We gave them a clear signal by saying in the budget that we are prepared to upgrade that road if they are prepared to put that property into production. I believe there is a line item in highways for it again this year, in which we renew that commitment, but I have not yet gone through each department in detail. If for some reason that mine should be delayed in going into operation, I think it would be irresponsible to spend the money to upgrade that highway, when it is quite sufficient to handle the volume of traffic that it receives now. I believe we are doing what we say we will do; there is not that much difference between what we are saying and what we are funding.
Mr. McDonald: I will make the case that, on the one hand I do agree with the government's approach to funding access roads to mines - I agree with that approach. However, I would argue that there is a big difference between what the government is saying it is doing, and what the government is, in fact, doing. I do agree with the actual budgetary approach, because I would take issue with the government if it were to build a big access road - a high quality, expensive access road - into a mining area with no sense that there is actually going to be a mine at the end of it. I agree with that. I think that the political talk used in defending this budget leaves the impression that the money is being put into supporting mining developments, when, in fact, it is not. It may be because the mining developments are legitimately not ready to go into production. At that time, a healthy, responsible decision can be made about whether or not the expenditure should be made. I do not dispute that. I would point out that whenever the government builds with chipseal, there are going to be road bans in the spring; that is a foregone conclusion.
The government is not going to avoid that. In fact, it will likely have to face even more severe road bans as a result of chipseal than they would from a gravel road. When damage is done to a gravel road, it can be easily repaired. When damage is done to chipseal, it is much more expensive to repair. One does not avoid the road bans, unless there is five inches of blacktop. I know that the government is not intending to put that on the Alaska Highway. It is a minor point, but I would just like to point it out to the Minister, so that he knows it for the future.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: There are road bans. Never mind. There are road bans. I know there are, because I was around when they were used, because the chipseal would get torn up. I do not think there is any point in debating it, at this point, I am just trading experience with the Minister.
I do not disagree with the demand-side approach to determining needs, although I do think that there are some needs that could have been addressed - and this is a judgment call - even while there were still final decisions being made for a particular mine to go ahead. The Campbell Highway is a good example. It is a multi-purpose road. It provides for local traffic and a certain amount of tourism. One could argue that the road could have been given more attention.
With respect to budget policy, I do not understand why the Old Ditch Road would get $1.00 and Freegold Road would get $1.3 million. Presumably, both roads are there for the same purpose. Ministers have indicated already that no upgrading will go ahead unless a development decision is made by the mine at the end of the road. There is a mine at the end of each road. That is the reason for the upgrading.
This Minister has said that the Freegold Road will not proceed; the money will not be expended, unless there is a development decision. Other Ministers have said that the Old Ditch Road will not be upgraded, unless there is a development decision at the end of the road. Yet, one gets $1.00 and the other gets $1.3 million. The Minister is nodding his head, indicating that it all makes sense. Perhaps he can enlighten me.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, it makes sense. In the case of the Freegold Road, the highways branch knows how much it will cost to upgrade it. They know what the costs will be. In the case of the Old Ditch Road, we are negotiating with the mining company about how much money we are going to contribute to that project. That issue has not yet been settled. It would have been irresponsible for us to put a figure in the budget.
Until that negotiation is concluded and we know what the costs to the government will be, we do not know that figure. That is the reason for the $1.00 amount.
Mr. McDonald: If that is the case, the government knows precisely what the Campbell Highway is going to cost, because they have done more extensive engineering work on it than on any other roads that we just mentioned. Why would the government not put some serious money into the capital budget for upgrading of the Campbell Highway? The Ministers have already said that they are not going to spend money on the Campbell Highway unless there is a development decision by Anvil Range. We have three mines and three different situations. If the argument now is that it is not the development decision that is going to decide in the end, but the development agreement - and it is more a question of how much money we think we are going to put into a particular road - why would we not have put more money into the Campbell Highway?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, the reason it was not put into the Campbell Highway is because the Campbell Highway was not a priority in this budget. The highway is in good enough condition to haul ore from Faro. There will be further maintenance. Ore trucks have been hauling on it for many years. There are other priorities for the capital dollars right now rather than the upgrading of that highway.
Mr. McDonald: I do not understand, because at one point the Minister said that one of the reasons for a contingency is if Anvil Range goes ahead the $300,000 that has currently been budgeted for the Campbell Highway would be increased. This is in the capital budget. One Minister has said that there is a good likelihood, now that Anvil Range is going ahead, that some of the money from the contingency would be applied to the Campbell Highway. This is one highway where we know what the maintenance costs are; we know how significant they are and we know that they can be reduced with upgrading of the road. Knowing that that is more of a sure thing than anything else we have going - we even had news today that Western Copper is delaying its production decision at least until the fall, maybe until next year - of all the roads, this one is the "go" and the others are still up in the air. We know precisely what the maintenance cost are on this road. We know precisely what the capital costs are for each section of upgrading, and we know that if we apply a certain investment in capital upgrading on this road, we will achieve certain cost savings in operations. I do not understand why this would not be more of a priority than the others.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That may be a question that might be better taken up with the Minister responsible for highways as to why it was not a priority, but let me make it quite clear to the Member opposite. We know what the maintenance costs are but no money has been put into the maintenance budget for the Anvil trucks running on that road. The maintenance budget will have to be increased for that highway, contingent upon when the ore trucks start hauling. My understanding now is that is will be in September, so it will be almost the end of the year before they start hauling.
Mr. Harding: I would like to enter into this debate. It is a most opportune time because, although I intend to discuss this particular issue, the Campbell Highway capital construction, with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I believe questioning the Finance Minister and Government Leader in general debate will yield some information for me that I can use later when I discuss this in further detail with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
I would like to understand, in a non-partisan way, precisely what the government's philosophy is now. I have been listening to the debate all afternoon and we have raised the issue in Question Period. I guess it goes back to the government's first budget speech in 1992-93, when we listened ad nauseum to the Diefenbaker vision and the infrastructure-driven investment. The philosophy that I understood at the time, based on the Diefenbaker analogy and the rhetoric that was coming out of the government and the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document, where a number of infrastructure initiatives - at least as I understood it by the words in that document - were to be the building block or the jigsaw puzzle for the Yukon, and once the pieces of the infrastructure were put together it was assumed in that document that the mining activity would have, if not a very strong chance of coming on line, at least, at a minimum, a very much improved chance.
Of course, we at the time, through all the rhetoric about the infrastructure-driven investment and the big-vision stuff the government was talking about in its budget speech - another example is the Division Mountain coal project - we always asked the tough questions: what is it going to cost, what is the demand, how much is the government going to get involved, what other arrangements have the proponents asked for, do they have any financing? All of those questions. We did it with Casino. We did it with Division Mountain.
Whereas we think it is fine to have a vision and we have a clear vision, we want to
know exactly whether the government's actions match the government's words. In my mind, I
found it difficult to get a handle on that. We have always been proponents of demand-side
infrastructure investment by the government, and the Alaska Highway is a good case in
point. That is why the NDP negotiated the Alaska Highway upgrading agreement. We believed
there was a demand there for infrastructure investment and negotiated that agreement.
Also, we put a lot of money into BST and capital upgrading on the Campbell Highway, as the
Curragh mine was operating in 1986 through 1992.
We did that, because it was a demand-side infrastructure investment.
We have no problem with what the government is saying, in terms of it having made some clear production decision before investing in infrastructure of mining projects in the Yukon. We certainly have no problem with that and think it is the right way to go.
We believe it is incumbent upon mining proponents to produce clear evidence that they are prepared to go ahead with a project. It would be a bad investment for the Yukon to invest a lot of taxpayers' money - or ratepayers' money, if we are talking about energy developments - in infrastructure that does not go ahead, and the taxpayers or ratepayers are stuck with the bill, as we wait for some mining company to come.
The Government Leader will remember that, during the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century debate, when we first received that document, we had a bit of fun with the government's vision, as stated in the rhetoric. We made some statements about the movie "Field of Dreams", and referred to their philosophy as the "Field of Roads" - if you build them, they will come.
Now, however, we seem to have a government that has really pulled back from the Diefenbaker vision that was talked about at great length.
Can the Finance Minister and Government Leader tell me how I could be mistaken - if I am mistaken - in view of the words in the 1992-93 budget speech and their actions now, which seem to clearly adopt the policy of demand-side infrastructure investment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am utterly amazed. The Member walks in here, after not being in the House for two days, and says he has been listening to the debate.
Point of Order
Mr. Harding: Point of order.
Chair: On the point of order.
Mr. Harding: I believe it is unparliamentary for any Member to refer to another Member as not being in the House.
Chair: That is correct, Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I apologize.
The Member said he was listening to the debate. If he was listening, he should know that I answered that question for the Member for McIntyre-Takhini less than five minutes ago.
Mr. Harding: I was listening to the debate. I am very disappointed in the Government Leader's curt response.
While I accept his apology for his unparliamentary remark, we will have discussions about the absences of particular Members in other appropriate forums that are set up. I am sure that we will have lots of those during this session.
I was listening to the debate, but I was not satisfied with the Government Leader's answer. I thought that he was clearly avoiding the question on the rhetoric surrounding the roads to resources in the Diefenbaker speeches, and the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document, and what they really meant. Now we are talking about demand side, which is totally different from my interpretation of the 1992-93 budget speech and the Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document.
Perhaps the Government Leader could clarify, once more for me, what his views are on that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have answered the question.
Mr. Harding: I find the arrogance of the Government Leader somewhat disturbing. This is quite often the case in general debate with this particular Minister. Whenever I get up to answer a question, I do not often get a response that is professional, and this is just more of the same.
I am asking questions of a philosophical nature that I am interested in. I believe I have a right, as any Member of this Legislature does, to receive cooperation from the government.
I will tell you, Mr. Chair, why I feel it is important. As the Member for Faro, I place a significant amount of priority on trying to ensure that the government recognizes the Campbell Highway as a place where one can have demand-side infrastructure investment. If one were to take the government's philosophy of roads to resources programs, one could also have work done on that highway consistent with that particular philosophy. Unfortunately, what we have now is a government that neither believes the roads to resources philosophy applies to the Campbell Highway, nor do they believe it is demand side.
During the shutdown, we argued that there was mineral activity in that area and that, to be consistent with the roads to resources policy - which we thought was espoused by this government, and we felt very clear about that - they would refuse to invest anything in capital construction on that particular stretch of the road.
Now we have a bid by a mining company, we have 200 people working up at the mine, and we have a significant amount of activity, which is a clear case for a demand-side infrastructure investment. Yet, when we look in this particular budget, we see it is obvious that the government, even on the demand side, is hesitant to put forth the commitment. I have heard the word "maintenance'' from the Government Leader, but I have heard nothing about using the so-called contingency fund for anything to do with the capital upgrading project.
Perhaps he could tell me if there are any plans to move away from a maintenance
philosophy by improving the BST road surfacing on that particular highway for the safety
and the enjoyment of Yukoners who live in Faro and Ross River and the tourists and others
who use the Campbell Highway from Faro to Ross River and through to Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess that the Member opposite is not clear on what is capital and what is O&M. BST and other surfacing activities fall under O&M costs. We stated quite clearly that we would have to increase the O&M costs once we know that the trucks are going to start to haul.
Mr. Harding: Then the Minister can educate me. He has just said that he places BST, chipseal and surfacing under O&M. Could he then tell me what the plans are on the capital side and clearly tell me what he thinks the needs might be on the capital side, now that he has announced today that we are going to start shipping ore from that particular mine in September?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Those questions would be better answered by the Minister responsible for highways. He is more familiar with the priorities of the department than I am.
Mr. Harding: I had hoped that, by asking the Government Leader and Finance Minister, it would yield some information that I could use to perhaps shorten the debate, or at least make it a little more crisp during the general debate and line by line when we get into the budget for the Campbell Highway. However, it appears that we are playing dodge today, which is often what happens when I ask questions of this particular Minister.
I want to go back, though, because I am not particularly satisfied with the curt answers I received. I feel very close to this question. I have been in this Legislature for 26 months, and whenever I attempt to put forth a recommendation that was consistent with the government's own stated policy on road development or that it should continue with a strong O&M and capital program on the Campbell Highway, I have been refused. Now, I get some questionable responses as to what it is planning to do in O&M and capital on the Campbell Highway. Can the Minister tell me when, if and where we would come up with an understanding, based on the government's stated policy toward road resources, that it was prepared to build infrastructure on the supply side, and why we seem to be talking so much, now that these projects are coming to realization, or so it seems, about a demand side and industrial support policy from the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is aware that there are many projects that could be going ahead in the Yukon in the next several years. As a government, we have to set the priorities for the spending. We have made a commitment that we will do that project, as we will, also, with the Faro road.
All I said to the Member was that the Minister responsible for highways has the information. I do not have it here at my fingertips; I do not have the breakdown for his department. He has the breakdown, and he will have his deputy minister here, so that he can answer the questions for the Member opposite.
Mr. Harding: I will accept that, and move on to another topic about which I know the Government Leader and I have had many discussions in the past. Sometimes the discussions were as curt as the one that we just had regarding their philosophy. I want to talk a little bit about the Government Leader's views on economic diversification for the community of Faro.
It seems to me that, when we talk about economic diversification in the Yukon and in the communities, this government, in a lot of its speeches and rhetoric about investing in the economic development of communities, talks about making those areas a priority of the government. However, when I talk about Faro the philosophy starts to shift around. Rather than adopting a philosophy where the government works with the community, or where the government makes it a priority or an initiative to facilitate and try to create something in partnership with the communities, the Government Leader says to me - as he did in Question Period the other day - that they are prepared to look at a proposal from the community.
The government has the expertise and it has a $500 million budget this year. The government has a lot of abilities that the municipality and the community do not have. Sometimes it takes the government making this a bit of a priority to boost economic diversification in the communities. That is not to say that the people in the communities do not have the ability to work with the government, or that they do not have ideas, but sometimes it is helpful for them to work closely with the government and get the sense that the government considers the economic development of the communities a priority - an initiative that is paramount.
When I ask the Government Leader about my riding, I always get a sense that it is the other way around, in that the community will have to put together the plan. Once the plan comes in, the government will take a look at it. However, if nothing came in from the community, the government would be quite pleased to let it sit there and not diversify. I would like to see the government take the approach that it will work very strongly with the community, and make it a priority to economically diversify the community as best it can. I realize that this is not an easy task. There is no way that I think economic diversification in what has traditionally been a one-industry mining community is easy.
I do not live in a fantasy world. I know it is tough and it is an initiative that takes a tremendous amount of priority by the government to help make it work.
Can the Government Leader give me some assurances that, in the communities as well as in the community of Faro, it is a priority of his government to promote economic diversification?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member has gone on for about five minutes and he really has not said anything. He has just uttered a lot of rhetoric. Is he asking us to tell a community that it should do this or do that? I do not think the community would be very happy with that. We have an Economic Development department that does have the expertise. They have helped many communities put together tourism plans and some economic development plans, and those resources are available for all Yukoners. Quite clearly, this government will work with the communities to do what we can to help the communities. The community of Faro does have a municipal government, it does get municipal block funding, and they have people there who, as the Member said, are quite capable. Our people are quite willing to meet with them and do whatever to investigate any possibilities for diversification in the community.
Mr. Harding: I am not asking the Government Leader. I specifically said, if he was listening, that I do not want them to go into a community and tell it what to do. What I want them to do is to take economic development and diversification in the communities on as a priority. There is a big difference between telling the community what to do and going into the communities and saying, "We want to make economic development a priority; what ideas do you have? We are prepared to commit certain resources to the community and work with the people at close range and give them assurances, basically, that it is a priority for the government."
There is a big difference between that and someone coming up with an idea and telling them to go to the ECO in their community and maybe work out a proposal at that level, then it has to get past his boss, and then his boss and maybe, just maybe, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel. That could sometimes be frustrating for people who have a lot of skills but may just at some point feel that the whole thing is not entirely worth it because it does not seem to be a priority of the government.
I am talking about a philosophy or an approach to involving people but also giving them a sense that what they are doing is not going to fall upon some deaf ears at the end of the day.
Does the Minister understand the distinction between telling the community what to do
and going into the community and asking what it would like to do, listening for ideas, and
telling the people the government is prepared to put forward some resources to achieve
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, the Member is aware that they do have an economic development officer in the Faro-Ross River area. That is what he is there for.
Mr. Harding: It is no wonder that economic activity in this territory is happening in spite of this government; it certainly is not because of its attitude. If a distinction cannot be seen between having an economic development officer in Faro-Ross River and having an economic development officer who has to drive out from Whitehorse to Haines Junction once every week or two - as was the case when I was on the community tour and spoke to people there - then we have a serious problem, because there is a real difference between a government that has taken it upon itself to go to the communities and not throw bags of money at them, but give them a clear sense that their ideas are important, and that their ideas, if they are sound, will be implemented and that they will have some form of a fast-track priority with the government. Telling someone who has an idea just to go, on an individual basis, to the economic development officer can be sometimes rewarding, but a lot of times it is not all that rewarding. That is not to say that the economic development officers are not doing their jobs in the context of the priority that they have been given by the government, but that is to say that they follow a policy that is set by Cabinet and the administration that obviously is not taking a very proactive approach to it.
Does the Minister have any thoughts about an initiative by the government that would give some sense to the communities that there is a greater priority put on economic development in the communities, other than the status quo that presently exists with the established Economic Development department and how it is set up at present?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have no new priorities. There are programs available under economic development.
Mr. Harding: There is not much more that could be said in the general sense about my view toward economic development and the Government Leader's view. His is one of sitting back and spending half a billion dollars a year; mine is that you have to make it a priority in the communities and you have to show them that. It is unfortunate that I cannot pursuade the Government Leader to see the distinction between the two approaches, but I guess I will have to accept that.
I can remember a conversation I had with the Government Leader. During the shutdown, we were going through some pretty tough times in Faro. We were going through some possible alternatives to what was happening in the community, and some things that might be done to try to invest in the community and build some long-term infrastructure, but ease some short-term suffering at the time, and give people something productive
to do. The Government Leader told me in a telephone conversation that they did not want to do anything to get people's hopes up in Faro, which might cause them to stay. From that, I could only conclude that it was the end of the road, as far as investment in the community of Faro was concerned, and that the government had given up on the community. As one prominent frontbencher, the Deputy Government Leader, said in one debate, "Mines come and mines go, and that was the end of the community."
Now that the mine is up again and we have about 250 people working at the mine site, I would hope that the government would be more prepared to look at some ways to build a stable community with a little more of a diversified base. Is the Government Leader of more, or less, or the same view on investment, economic development and capital projects in that community, now that the mine is up?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When the mine is up and running, there is no doubt we will be happy to see that, as well as to see the community reviving again. I am sure it is great for the residents of Faro and the new people moving in.
We treat Faro the same as we treat any other community in the Yukon. There is no exception made. At the time the mine closed, we spent some money to keep people working, to see what was going to happen. There were several projects undertaken on Faro by the Department of Economic Development with the people of Faro, and we will continue to support the community of Faro, as we do every other community in the Yukon.
Chair: Order please. Are the Members prepared to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it there further general debate Bill No. 4?
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Government Leader some questions in regard to the proposed gambling casino. It is not in the budget, but I would like to find out whether or not there is a plan to do something in regard to the gambling casino this year.
I have noticed that there are other things that are not in the budget. They were announced in the throne speech but, when looking in the budget, you find that they are not there.
It appears that he is actively seeking a partner, or someone who might be interested in this gambling casino. I would like him to tell me what his real intentions are in regard to the casino. I understand that he has met with CYI officials. He intended to meet with Judy Gingell, but I do not know whether or not that meeting took place. According to the news, David Joe said he had met with the Government Leader and had talked about a joint venture with CYI.
If the Government Leader is serious about setting up a gambling casino, how does he intend to do it? It appears that he is actively seeking a partner in this venture. If that is the case, does he intend to pursue it with vigour until he finds someone who might want to be partners with him?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. Perhaps I can clarify this for the Member. There is no allocation for a casino in the budget because we do not intend to build a casino and never have. I entered into discussions with CYI through David Joe, as the Member opposite has indicated, and I did talk very vaguely to Ms. Gingell just before Christmas when I had a meeting with her, but there were other priorities at that time.
I was not talking about a partnership for a casino. Our concern is that we not have a proliferation of casinos across the Yukon, be they on Crown lands or be they on First Nation lands. I just do not think it is in the best interests of Yukoners to have a proliferation of casinos here. So, I was trying to see if there could be some arrangement made with CYI, similar to that in Saskatchewan, on the revenue sharing of the casinos, no matter where they are built. In Saskatchewan, they have an agreement in place - and I am guessing here, but I believe I am right - where 50 percent of the revenue goes to the provincial government, 25 percent goes to the First Nation and 25 percent goes to charitable organizations. Those are the talks I entertained with CYI.
Prior to our making an announcement, and even before the council had finished their
review of it, the Member opposite is aware that several proposals from different groups
came forward to Cabinet - one from the Lions, one from TIA, and I believe there was one
from a private individual group - indicating that they were interested in something like
The government's position is that we have agreed on it in principle. When we go ahead with it, we will be sending it out for proposals. As I said at the Chamber of Commerce meeting the other day, my preference would be to see a non-profit society take on the operation of the casino.
Ms. Commodore: The Government Leader has just said "when we go ahead with it." I took the word "when" very seriously. He has already decided, despite the fact that there is so much opposition to it, to proceed with it, and will actively look for someone to make proposals to him.
I am still concerned about the social impact of this. I know that there appears to be a high priority put on tourism, and this may be fine, but I remember listening to somebody from the news media interview tourists in regard to whether or not they would like to see a casino here. Without question, every single one of them said no. I think they were picked at random. The general feeling at that time was that if they wanted to gamble, they would go to Las Vegas or Reno - wherever.
There appears to be promises of millions of dollars that are going to be spent. The Government Leader is shaking his head. I know that the Minister of Tourism stood up in this House and mentioned the millions of dollars that were going into tourism, and all of the great projects that were going to happen. That is fine, but I would like the Government Leader to tell us about his proposal to build a casino. What is his timetable and how he is going to proceed with finding out who might be interested in doing it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I should have stated that as "if" or "when" we go ahead. As I stated, we have agreed in principle with the philosophy of a tourist-oriented casino. We have asked the departments, through ECO, to come back to Cabinet with some options, after looking at all the ramifications. We will be looking at that advice, but the thought, in general terms, was that it would go out for proposals, if it went ahead.
Ms. Commodore: I asked the Government Leader about the timetable for this. Are we going to be hearing in the next few months that proposals are going out? I would like to know if he is going to be doing any more work with respect to consulting with people? I know that many people are opposed to it. I have not had anyone approach me who is in favour of it.
I have spoken to a lot of First Nations people, and I know that some of them are talking about it. I know they are talking about it at their meetings. Many people are opposing it. It appears that there is a great problem. One of our elders, Jessie Scarff, says that it scares her, and she is scared for her people. I think that we have to look at the social impact of it. I think it was one of the members of Kwanlin Dun who said that if the government has millions of dollars to spend on a casino, why does it not talk to us about healing centres? I understand that healing centres are being talked about, but we do not see any money anywhere for them.
I would like to find out from the Government Leader whether he intends to have extensive consultation with respect to this matter. We put a lot of emphasis on tourists, and I agree that they do play a large economic role in the Yukon and we would certainly not want to prevent them from coming here, but I fear for the people who are concerned about the problem and how it will affect local people - and it will. There is no question about that.
He talks about other addictions that are worse than this, and we have seen the results of those. If he intends to actively pursue this casino, I would like to know when we can expect to hear from him. We will not be in session again for another year. We would like to have some kind of information from him that indicates that he has done some extensive consultation with the public in order to determine whether or not it is a good thing. It may be good for the tourists, but is it really good for the Yukon? How does he propose to do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will try to answer the questions. The comment was made that, if we have millions of dollars, we should be spending them on healing centres. I just said that we have no intention of building this. We have no intention of putting up the funding for the construction of a casino. We do intend to conduct further consultation. It will be part of the options that will be coming back from the departments to Cabinet for examination in the near future.
As far as the Legislature is concerned, I expect that we will be back in here in November of this year.
Ms. Commodore: The Government Leader is going to be getting proposals from individuals. The Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, for example, talked about building a seasonal casino on the waterfront. However, it would require a loan guarantee from this government. That is money that is being used for construction. Is the government now saying, although it previously said that there was no money available for this, if the proposal was made to it, the government would consider loans to individuals who may want to do this?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are some loan programs available through government. I would be speaking hypothetically if I were to say "yes" or "no", at this time. If we get to the stage where we go to proposals, we will look at them, and, as I have stated quite clearly, my preference would be that it would go to a non-profit organization, and it would be run on a seasonal basis, and not year-round.
Ms. Commodore: The Kwanlin Dun First Nations group is opposing this, and they said so in a press release. They have also said so in letters and phone calls to me, and to other MLAs, I am sure. One of the organizations had said that they would like to build a casino on the waterfront, and there was some concern about that. Of course, it angered the Kwanlin Dun First Nations, because there is a land claim dispute in regard to that area. I would like to ask the Government Leader whether he has had discussions with the Kwanlin Dun about this proposal, because it appears that, whenever anybody talks about a gambling casino, they talk about locating it on the waterfront, and they say that is the best place for it. The Government Leader has indicated that it was not his intention to build it on the waterfront; it could be built somewhere else. Has he had discussions with Kwanlin Dun regarding the concern they have about it being built on the waterfront? I know that this is a hypothetical situation, but it is a growing concern with them.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member for McIntyre-Takhini and I discussed today that we are not about to entertain the notion of building anything on the waterfront. At this time, the first priority is to get the land issues on the waterfront settled. We do not need to complicate it any further. I have heard the same speculation as the Member opposite has, about the notion that the waterfront would be the best place for a casino. I do not know whether or not that would be the best place for it. At this time, we are not entertaining the idea that one be built on the waterfront. We will be getting into discussions with Kwanlin Dun. We have been moving very slowly on this. We intend to move slowly with it. We want to see if we can first resolve some things with the First Nations about the whole gambling situation. The Member opposite is aware that some bands are in favour of expanded gambling, and some are not. I think that if we can work together and find a rational approach to it, that would be in the best interests of all Yukoners.
Ms. Commodore: Although this is not in the budget, the Minister did indicate in the throne speech that this is going to happen. He has also said that his government would not be putting any money into a gambling casino. Yet, he actively seeks support for it for instance, the meeting with David Joe from CYI. That shows me that he is serious about building a gambling casino. Why else would he announce it in his Speech from the Throne?
I would like to ask him if he is going to continue to pursue this project by seeking proposals. There are many other things that people would rather see happen, rather than gambling casinos.
We have done so much for tourists already. I am not saying that we should stop but if this is just for the tourists I think we must first of all worry about the impact that a gambling casino would have on Yukon people. I think what the Liberal MLA asked today, when he questioned the contradictions between healthy communities and building a gambling casino, were good questions. I think that is a question that a lot of people are asking right now. If the government is serious about building healthy communities, why is it proposing that someone build a gambling casino?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My desire to work something out with the First Nations is not a desire to get into a partnership with them on a casino. My desire in working with First Nations is to get an understanding and rationalization about what is going to occur on our land and on First Nation land. This has been a real issue in other jurisdictions. It is an issue that is boiling in several jurisdictions in Canada now, concerning casinos on native lands. I believe that one there would be just as harmful as one on our land, so I think it is important that we work together, in the best interest of all Yukoners. My desire is to have good controls in place so that we do not end up with a proliferation of casinos around the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: I want to ask a couple of questions of the Government Leader about broad policy points not as a way of exhausting the debate on them because I think there is lots to say about this.
All of us on this side of the House - I think I speak for all of us - have heard from all sorts of individuals and groups who are opposed to this. We have had almost no contact from constituents who support this idea. Perhaps the Government Leader could go on the record, since he claims to be representing some form of public opinion, although we do not believe he is, and tell the House who supports the proposal to build a casino in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is an issue that I believe is split about 50/50 in the community, and even the Council on the Economy and the Environment said that when it held its hearings. Even the organizations that said no said that they were very, very split when they made their presentations in front of the council. Even the city council was, at that time, and if we look at the city council people who just ran in this election, I believe five out of the seven who were elected said that they could support a casino in some form. They did not say what, but they said they could. So there is some support out there for it. The council also said in its brief that when they questioned the people about the different forms of casinos - whether it was run by a non-profit group, whether it was run by a private-sector, for-profit organization - there was a vast difference of opinion. A lot of people felt that a seasonal casino, run by a non-profit organization, would be acceptable. There is a variety of opinion.
We are going to do further consultation and try to get a good reading on the opinion of the people of Yukon before we proceed.
Mr. Penikett: For the record, I will tell the Government Leader again that our reading of the public opinion is that two-thirds of the people in this town do not want any more gambling, but if there has to be gambling - that is, if someone makes a decision that they do not like - they would rather have it done by non-profit groups. It is a narrow majority on that question. Certainly, people do not want the private sector running it. They do not want the government running it.
The Government Leader says he is going to do further consultation. That begs a question. Who is he going to consult, and what is the question that is going to be asked?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That decision has not been made. We are waiting for the
options to come back from the analysis and the research we are having done by the
Mr. Penikett: For the number of times the Minister has referred to proposals and proposal calls, I have to say that we are pretty nervous about this. I would like to know exactly how the Government Leader sees these proposal calls going out. Who is he going to invite to make proposals? He will know that this has been the source of controversy in many places. In British Columbia, the major proposal for what was supposed to be originally a $700 million waterfront casino went to somebody from Las Vegas, as I recall. In the end, I gather the project was deep-sixed because of public opposition. Who does the Government Leader contemplate inviting to make proposals?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, we have not made those decisions yet. I can assure the Member that, as soon as we have, we will share that information with him. It would be very foolish for this government to take an approach that is clearly not popular with the people of Whitehorse, especially, and that is one of private-sector gambling. I have stated time and time again that we would prefer to see a non-profit society, such as the Lions Club, interested in doing this. That is what we are looking at. All I can tell the Member now is we do not have the plans finalized as to how we are going to continue or how we will put the proposals out. As soon as that is decided, I will share it with the Members opposite.
Mr. Penikett: At least half a dozen times, by my count, the Government Leader has referred to consultation with First Nations, including consultation with Kwanlin Dun. Has he actually met with Kwanlin Dun yet and discussed this?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, we have not met with Kwanlin Dun because we have been dealing with the umbrella organization, the CYI.
Mr. Penikett: Has the Government Leader had a formal meeting with the Council for Yukon Indians - I do not mean with a representative of it - but a formal meeting with the Council for Yukon Indians, with this topic formally on the agenda?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not a formal meeting of the whole council. I have discussed it, as I said, with David Joe, who discussed it with his council. I had discussed it briefly with Ms. Gingell the other day, and we were trying to arrange a briefing for the chiefs this week, but that did not happen. We are also waiting to see what position they are going to take on this before we proceed.
Mr. Penikett: My colleague just pointed out that David Joe was on the record as saying the Government Leader did not discuss a casino with him, but discussed some kind of joint venture which was, I gather from what the Government Leader said, some kind of joint government management of some kind of gambling, as yet undefined.
Let me make a point to the Government Leader and see if I can reach him on this, because I am concerned about where the government is going. From conversations we have had, we know that people in the KVA are quite concerned about where this government is going with gambling in Whitehorse.
Let me raise an issue brought forward by other groups and organizations. This could be a very divisive process, even if it goes to a non-government organization, such as the Lions Club, for example. There may be 20 or 30 groups that think this is going to be the absolute bonanza for them, in terms of fundraising. All of the groups end up competing, and then one group, or one organization, ends up being the winner in the process - that is why we are extremely interested in the fairness of the process - and there are a lot of very unhappy groups as a result. It is rather like a politician and government hiring - 100 people apply for a job, 10 people get interviewed, and only one is hired. You have one friend and 99 enemies. Something similar could happen with this.
I would ask the Government Leader to consider this problem, which I do not think has been part of its consultations at all. Look at the fact that NGOs in this town have had their funding cut by this government. Look at the fact that you have volunteer organizations, such as the Yukon Museum Historical Association, that have had to lead a hand-to-mouth existence and had to run bingos in order to raise money. I do not think they particularly wanted to be in the bingo business. It is a lot of extra work for the volunteers and, no doubt, some of the people involved have some questions of conscience about the appropriateness of bingos - as one will find in any group. So, they are forced to run bingos, another form of gambling, because they cannot get adequate funding from other sources, either from revenue at the gate, private donors or from government.
If this government builds - even if it is a summer-only operation - or works with someone or sanctions someone to build a major casino, those groups could see a shrinking of their revenues from that source. A number of groups in this community depend on raffles or bingos or, if you like, other minor forms of gambling, and would really see an impact.
This is doubly ironic, when one considers that, for the museum community, which has been absolutely starved of funding, there is, simultaneously, a government talking about not just one big project for which it is taking the lead, but another one - the Beringia Centre. These projects will not only siphon their revenues from the gambling source, bingo, but, if they go ahead with it, will probably also take every penny available for the other volunteer- and small-community museums, unless the government is prepared to bump up the heritage budget, something that they have given no indication of doing.
The point I am making is that these projects have implications for other groups, other sectors of the economy and other sectors of society that do not seem to have been addressed by the Council on the Economy and the Environment and do not seem to have been thought through by Cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They have been thought through by Cabinet. That is the reason why I just completed an exchange with the Member for Whitehorse Centre. We have been looking at some sort of formula, similar to that which was set up in Saskatchewan, where a certain percentage of the money goes to those charitable organizations that feel that they have suffered negative repercussions as a result of the casino business. I think that it is a very valid option. If we go ahead with this, we will have to look at these options. It is a valid concern. That is why we are considering the options.
Mr. Penikett: I would just make this last point. I do not think we can demonstrate that gambling revenues are that elastic. Look at what has happened to lottery sales. At one time, all sorts of groups and organizations thought that the sale of lottery tickets would be a real bonanza - and Mr. Hayes knows about this - for sports, arts and recreation groups in the community. Those revenues have flattened in recent years. If a casino begins to cut into those sales, so that every sports, arts and recreation group in the Yukon loses, there are going to be some real problems.
However, there is a prior question. I know that the issue has been debated in Saskatchewan. They have just been through it in B.C., as well, and will be in other jurisdictions soon. The really big question is whether or not gambling is worth the money, and whether the revenues that come to the government are worth the costs. I am not just talking about the social costs, as my colleague described. I am talking about whether or not there are really any real economic benefits in the business.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate the Member's representation. Those are very
valid concerns. They will be taken into consideration in our deliberations.
Ms. Commodore: The Government Leader just talked about the process in Saskatchewan, what their dollars do there and how they share the profits from gambling. I wonder if he is aware of the help line that had to be set up for gamblers in Saskatchewan. The help line offers crisis counselling intervention and general information access to written information referrals to long-term counselling services and self-help groups. Those things are available by this number. Not only that, the government has also committed more than $500,000 for dealing with this problem. To address the issue of gambling since it went into effect, the $500,000 would be used to provide money for programs of the Canadian Mental Health Association, and for treatment and prevention programs for those people who are addicted.
This government has not been that open. People who ask for money for social problems
have to scrimp and save; they have bake sales and all sorts of other things to raise money
to keep them going from year to year, in addition to the funding they get from this
I think we should be talking about a much more serious problem in regard to the effects of gambling, and not about the benefits. There may be a monetary benefit from casinos, and some people will benefit, but I do not believe the Government Leader understands the extent of this problem. Is he seriously considering the amount of money that might have to come from his government in order to deal with the problem that this could cause? We already know there are problems as the result of even bingo, which the Member keeps bringing up.
Apart from the benefits in Saskatchewan, $500,000 is a lot of money, and it is going toward gamblers with real problems.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is absolutely right. There are studies going on in other jurisdictions on those effects. We are analyzing all those studies, and we are taking those concerns into consideration.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister who is analyzing these studies? Who, in the department or Cabinet, is looking at all the studies that have been done? Who, in his government, is seeking information from all these other jurisdictions that have gambling? If they are seeking information from other places, who is doing that? It is a big problem. If he has someone specific from one of his departments who is doing that, I would like to know who that person is.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have been gathering information for some time now. The Lotteries Commission has contacts through the Western Canada Lottery Association, and they get that information for us from different jurisdictions so we have it available when we make our decisions.
Ms. Commodore: I did not know that the role of the Lotteries Commission included looking at the social problems that occur as a result of gambling. If their role is to seek information from other jurisdictions regarding some of their programs, and if they also do research at the same time, I would like to know who within that group is doing all this? I would like to know who is analyzing it. If someone is doing an analysis of certain programs that are available, I would like to know who it is and get information regarding that.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, the Lotteries Commission was helping us gather the information. We did have a Cabinet subcommittee in place a while ago, which I believe is still in existence. I do not know if they have met recently on this, but the information is being funneled to them, and they are doing the analysis and giving it to Cabinet.
Ms. Commodore: When Cabinet sets up a Cabinet subcommittee, it has to be very serious about things that it is going to do. In our time, I know that we have set up Cabinet subcommittees to deal with many things. The government must be very serious about implementing some kind of gambling in the Yukon to have set up a Cabinet subcommittee to look at it. Who is on that subcommittee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would have to get a list for the Member. At this time, I do not know who is on that subcommittee.
Ms. Commodore: He does not have a great number of Cabinet Ministers. He must know which Cabinet Ministers are on that Cabinet subcommittee.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will bring a list of who is on the subcommittee for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: The Government Leader has all kinds of Ministers sitting here. I would like to ask them if they could stand up and let me know which of those Cabinet Ministers are on that subcommittee?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said the subcommittee has not met for several months now.
The Member for Riverdale South is laughing. This goes back a long way. It goes back to when we gave this to the Council on the Economy and the Environment. We have been gathering information on these things. I will bring the list back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: If a subcommittee has been struck within Cabinet, someone sitting on the other side must know who is on it. The only Cabinet Minister who is not here, is their Independent Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. Chair, I apologize for my unparliamentary remark, but if they do not know who is on this committee, I would like to know from the Government Leader why he does not know. If he is promoting this, standing up in the House, saying that they have struck this subcommittee - they do not meet very often but, it has been struck - surely to goodness, he should know which Ministers are represented on that committee, and which departments.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is a subcommittee of the Cabinet committee on social
policy. The subcommittee reports to the Cabinet committee on social policy.
Mr. McDonald: I am not sure what the committee is all about now. There used to be a subcommittee of Cabinet. Now it is a committee that reports to a Cabinet committee on social policy. I hesitate to ask the Minister who is on that Cabinet committee. I am not sure the Ministers themselves know.
What I would like to do is quickly make a pitch for a lot of the small business community, particularly in this town, that depends on retail trade. Many people have talked to me about the introduction of casino gambling or video lottery terminal gambling. They express the concern that there is a limited amount of disposable income in this town for the non-essential items on which people spend money.
During the TIA convention debate, I was listening to this question, and found the people present at the convention very ambivalent about the whole motion of a casino, for business reasons. They were not convinced that this was going to be the kind of attraction that was actually going to draw people into Whitehorse who were not intending to come already. They were convinced that the people who did come would have a choice: to spend money in the flashy casino or spend money in their store. They were worried that, in that competition, they would lose.
Consequently, of the disposable income that is available in Whitehorse, either through tourist activities or through resident gambling, a portion of that will be drawn off into the casino operations, and probably ultimately into government through taxation. They are concerned, of course, that there will be less money spent in their businesses. Consequently, that is not good business. They were not convinced, at the same time, that the government needed the additional revenue. They felt the government was getting sufficient revenue right now, and did not need the new form of taxation.
A lot of people, as well as my colleagues have pointed out, are also people who populate the volunteer network and run a lot of the societies and associations that we have come to depend on for services. There is always an expectation that these organizations are going to make an effort to generate funds on their own in order to demonstrate that they are keen, active and eager before they even come to government - if they do come to government - for matching funds or for some other kind of funding.
They are worried, too, obviously, that this activity on the waterfront - or wherever the casino is located - will draw funds away from their organization or will draw interest away from whatever they are doing, such as their own bingo or their raffle ticket sales, to the casino. Presumably, people's appetites for gambling will be saturated by going into the flashy facility.
I make this representation because it is a serious one, and there are a lot of serious-minded people in this town who have thought about this carefully and have expressed their concerns about this whole initiative. I am hoping that the government will take their interest into account, otherwise there will be all kinds of repercussions beyond the legitimate ones with respect to the ones that the Member for Whitehorse Centre identified, the social ills. From a business perspective, there are concerns that it should be addressed as well.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress at this time as it is that time of the day.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled January 12, 1995:
Agriculture - state of the industry in the Yukon, 1992-93 (report dated October 1994)
Wild Yukon: winter 1995 environment/conservation education newsletter published by the
Department of Renewable Resources (Fisher)
Airport and aviation management in the Yukon, dated January 11, 1995 (Brewster)
Help and Hope Society (Watson Lake): letter dated January 12, 1995, to Ms. Commodore,
Member for Whitehorse Centre, from Hon. Mr. Phelps, Minister of Health and Social Services
re status of society (Phelps)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled January 12, 1995:
RCMP civilian employee case: publication ban (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 239
Maintenance enforcement program: outstanding arrears from 1987 to December 8, 1994 (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 238
Golden Horn area development regulations: Order-in-Council 1994/222, dated December 20, 1994, amendment prohibiting open burning of waste materials; offences against not ticketable (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2753 (May 3, 1994)