Tuesday, January 31, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Introduction of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a report on regulations to table.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling the Annual Report on Education.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Bills to introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government immediately establish a new
travel policy that states that government employee travel should be undertaken only when
it is in the public interest and that no expenses related to any travel as a government
employee be paid by the private sector, no matter what the purpose of the travel.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Mr. Penikett: Yesterday, the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation said, in response to a question asked about problems facing mobile-home owners, "The problems that were identified over a year ago were not about the availability of land." Yet, on May 10, 1994 - many months ago - the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services said, in response to another question about the long- and short-term problems facing the Kopper King trailer owners, who had been evicted, that, "The long-term one is what to do about the 900-odd trailers in the Whitehorse area that could be subject to the same situation at some point in the future." Does the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, now responsible for mobile-home issues, see any contradiction between these two statements?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not. The Leader of the Official Opposition will have to explain it more clearly to me. I was here and listened to the debates. With respect to those trailers and the moving of them, the big problem was safety and bringing them up to code when they were moved. That was the issue. They were old and did not meet the standard. That was the concern. So many trailers were more than 10 years old. Some were more than 25 years old. That is the big issue of concern at the present time.
Mr. Penikett: The record will show that that was one of two related concerns, both of which were addressed last spring in this House.
The second concern was the lack of choices for people caught in the situation. There are 900 or so people with trailers that are more than 10 years old. They might be trapped in mobile-home parks and have had no opportunity to move, because there was no cheap, available land.
Also at that time, we talked about the problem of the Landlord and Tenant Act as it now operates, and the possibility of a new act for those tenants. At that time, the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services said that he would be talking to the Minister of Justice about a new Landlord and Tenant Act. Can the Minister tell us what has happened to those discussions? Can he report any progress?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that it is still under consideration. As the Member will recall, we did amend the Landlord and Tenant Act, with the support of the Opposition, to provide for notice for the people living in the trailer parks. It has been an ongoing problem. I am surprised that this has not been dealt with over the last number of years. I am not sure which MLA had the Kopper King Trailer Park or the Takhini Trailer Park in their riding, but I think that MLA should have known about these problems. They should have been worked on over the last 10 years and not simply in the last year.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member opposite for the compliment. Foresight, the ability to anticipate, is a rare political skill. I would be interested to know how an MLA could have anticipated, five or 10 years ago, problems that arose last year. We will save that for another time.
What I would like to ask the Minister is this: exactly what work has been done on a new law to deal with the landlord-tenant relations between mobile-home owners and the owners of mobile-home parks? Have there been drafting instructions issued to the Department of Justice? Has there been a Cabinet submission? Has there been consultation with mobile-home owners or mobile-home landlords? Can the Minister give us any progress report at all?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot. I will see what has been done. I know that last year, when we amended the Landlord and Tenant Act, there was talk about looking deeper into the act and changing it, but I do not believe that instructions have been given to the Justice department to draft a new act.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Mr. Penikett: From the Minister's statement, it does seem that nothing has been done since the House rose last spring. That is a concern, particularly since, in response to a question from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini about the need for available low-cost land for mobile-home owners, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services said on Wednesday, January 25, that "It is a pretty good pitch, and I agree with 90 percent of it." Could I ask the Minister what is the 10 percent that he did not agree with and why, having agreed with 90 percent of what my colleague said, the government has taken no action?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that what we would like to have, and what we had hoped to receive from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini at a meeting yesterday, was a suggestion as to exactly what he proposed. There was a concern that in developing low-cost land for trailers, we would be building what would turn out to be a slum or a ghetto with overhead power lines and gravel roads and no sidewalks, all of which would eventually cost a lot more to fix up than doing it right in the first place.
Mr. Penikett: I am sure the people living on low-cost land in mobile homes all over the Yukon will take deep offence to the Minister's description of their housing situation as a ghetto. Since there are 900 trailer owners who are in the situation of having trailers that are difficult to move because of the law and the situation of standards, and since he now appears to be responsible for part of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' budget, will he now make a commitment to make a portion of that $8 million residential land budget available for developing low-cost mobile-home lots in this city, and will he proceed to do so in consultation with the City of Whitehorse now?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: First, to correct the preamble, I was not describing the situation that the mobile-home owners and the parks owners are now living in as a ghetto. I was concerned that that was what the Member for McIntyre-Takhini was advocating we provide as a solution. With respect to giving assurances, we are willing to discuss that and we will discuss it with the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Penikett: The record will show that my colleague, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, made two specific and positive proposals many months ago in this Assembly, neither of which this government has acted on.
First, he suggested we should be taking steps to make some low-cost land available to mobile-home owners. Secondly, he suggested that we should develop an inspections policy that encourages people - not discourages them - to renovate their mobile homes, bringing them up to standard. When is this government going to take some active steps to make some land available, according to the practical, positive suggestion made by my colleague many months ago? When is this government going to take some action on that?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We are taking action on it right now. I explained to the Leader of the Official Opposition yesterday that we have met with the city, Yukon Housing Corporation and Community and Transportation Services with respect to low-cost land. It has to be discussed with the city.
We have to make sure we are not setting ourselves up for huge expenses in the future, and that it will actually solve the problem.
With respect to the inspections, the technical people from the city, Community and Transportation Services and Yukon Housing are meeting now to see what can be done to alleviate the problem.
Question re: White Pass, petroleum division sale
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on White Pass' sale of its petroleum division.
In December, the Government Leader told the House that White Pass had been very good about keeping the government informed on what it is doing. Yesterday, White Pass announced that it had sold its petroleum division to an American corporation.
When did White Pass inform the Government Leader that the sale was going through?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I talked with the CO of White Pass last week. At that time, he made me aware that a sale was imminent.
Mr. Cable: In December, the Government Leader agreed that the sale of the railway, or the railway right-of-way, was of some concern to him, particularly if it was sold to an American corporation. Has White Pass indicated to the Government Leader what its intentions are with respect to the railway right-of-way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding of the sale that is to close on April 1 is that it is for the petroleum division only.
Mr. Cable: Quite so. That was the first question. The second question was this: has the White Pass Corporation indicated to the Government Leader what its intentions are with respect to the railway?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, it has not.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Mr. McDonald: In the last nine months, I have spoken to mobile home owners who continue to face the same serious problems - problems that have only been compounded by cease-occupancy notices on their doors, threats by one mobile- home park owner for further evictions - and at the same time we have been given the opportunity in this Legislature on at least half a dozen occasions to outline all the basic issues that mobile-home owners face in this territory, and particularly in this city.
The Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation responded with a meeting a couple of weeks ago that was called to discuss an unrelated matter, but ended up discussing the plight of mobile-home owners, and he wonders why I may want to make this a political issue.
Can I ask the Minister why he would say that all the discussions we had last year
involving the Kopper King evictions would have nothing to do with land availability when
his predecessor, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services at the time,
indicated that the Government of Yukon would discuss with the city about the opening up of
a special subdivision to handle trailers that might have to be moved from mobile-home
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I think that the primary concern that came out of that was the condition of the old trailers. That was the serious, serious issue that had to be dealt with. Trailers that were more than 25 years old did not meet the code. If they were moved in any way, they were beyond bringing them up to standard. That was the big concern. Land availability was a secondary issue. For the Member for Faro's information, there was concern that, even if land was available, it is not practical to move the old trailers that did not meet code on to that land. It is just too simple a solution for the Member for McIntyre-Takhini or the Leader of the Official Opposition to stand up and tell us to make some low-cost land available and that that will solve the problem. It just will not.
Mr. McDonald: This Minister, who earns a high salary, and who knows nothing about living in the conditions that most of my constituents in trailer parks live in, cannot possibly claim to know what their problems are. If there is no land to move on to, they cannot get mortgage financing. If they cannot get mortgage financing, they will not have the funding to do the kind of upgrading that the Minister is talking about. So, it is a part of the problem.
The fact that the Kopper King residents had no place to move to within the city was a huge problem for them. If the Minister of Community and Transportation Services recognizes it as being a problem, why can this Minister not recognize it as being a problem?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have recognized it as a problem. The old condition of the trailers, and having them being brought up to code, is a serious problem. The secondary problem, and I told this to the Member yesterday, is what we talked about. He was invited to the meeting, but he could not make it. Land availability was a consideration that would be talked about and dealt with, along with the inspections and bringing the trailers up to code.
Mr. McDonald: This is a situation that requires a number of different responses. That is where I agree with the Minister, but that is where our agreement ends. I think the Minister is completely insensitive to a lot of the issues.
With respect to this meeting that was called yesterday, that the Minister keeps referring to, it was called during a time when the Ministers know that I have a caucus meeting. After I had already given the Ministers at least two hours' worth of advice last week - I had given them notice before Christmas about the questions I would be asking, on the record, and I probably spent a week last spring talking about the issue - can the Minister tell me whether or not he told the City of Whitehorse that I had called the meeting? I would ask him to please be precise in his answer.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I did not tell the City of Whitehorse that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini had called the meeting. I told the City of Whitehorse that I hoped that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini would be at the meeting because I felt that he had some solutions and some suggestions to offer, and I was sorry that he was not at the meeting to provide them directly to the officials and to the others who were at the meeting.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Mr. McDonald: The problem I have with this latest claim by the Members opposite that they want to consult and work with the Members in Opposition is that I made speeches in this House on a number of occasions that outlined, at length, the issues that trailer-home owners face. They are now claiming that, because I did not show up to one meeting yesterday, I am not interested in providing them with solutions to this problem - what hogwash.
Given that someone - the Minister or the Housing Corporation - called the meeting yesterday, are they going to establish a proper committee of people with proper representation from home owners and from trailer-park owners from all parks in the City of Whitehorse to ensure that there is a full airing of issues, so that possible solutions really could be found?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. That is what I hope to see happen. The Member keeps
saying that he stood up for hours and hours and identified the basic issues and the
problems. Yes, that is true. We are aware of those problems, but what we need now are some
solutions. It is fine to stand up and say that there are terrible problems that have to be
solved, but after you have done that for hours on end, it is time to start talking about
solutions. That is what I would like to try to do now.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister probably was not in the House when there was a detailed list on the floor of the House last week. He either was not here or he was not paying attention. The list described solutions, including the availability of low-cost land and an improved inspections policy. It included the idea of buyer-be-made-aware, instead of buyer-beware clauses. Many different solutions have been proposed.
I have been very accommodating in trying to provide the Minister with support. One meeting in nine months does not show political commitment to me. That is why I am asking for a political commitment right here and right now.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am willing to work with the Member opposite. I listened very carefully to his representations. We talked about low-cost land being available, which I agree with, but then I hear that the low-cost land may not be the solution, because it is better to do it right in the first place, so we have to sit down and decide exactly how these things can be done.
It is fine to say that inspections should be changed, but we have to decide how they should be changed. We have to decide whether or not things can be done incrementally.
Speaker: I wondered if I had missed something the last time.
Mr. McDonald: Me too, Mr. Speaker. It has come to mind.
I invite the Minister to go back and look through Hansard. There is a detailed explanation of each proposal being made.
The Minister has made it clear that he does not believe that lots without pavement, curb and gutter, underground cabling and cable television and underground Northwestel lines is something that might lead to a ghetto situation. Since these same conditions are perfectly satisfactory for every trailer park in the City of Whitehorse right now, what makes the Minister feel that somehow that would be unsafe or would lead to horrific problems down the road?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: That is the concern right now: the conditions the trailer park owners are living under are unsafe because of the age of the trailers and the space between them.
When the Member's proposal was put to the city and the Department of Community and Transportation Services, they expressed a concern about their being responsible for putting in a low-cost development, as the Member suggested, then later being required to pave and curb it. It would end up costing more money than if it were done right in the first place. The Crestview experience was cited as an example.
If it is a political decision, we have to overcome the concerns of the City of Whitehorse and the department with respect to these things. Perhaps that can be done.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Mr. McDonald: The Minister appears to be rigidly adhering to the notion that in order for there to be safe living circumstances, Cadillac lots are required, costing in the neighbourhood of $20,000 to $30,000. I invite the Minister to come with me to trailer parks in the City of Whitehorse. He has lived here a long time, but I am not sure he really understands the conditions in which some people live. I can demonstrate to the Minister that it is not the lots that are unsafe, it is some of the trailers that are below code. If one develops low-cost lots, it does not mean that the trailers will continue to be below code. Does the Minister understand that point?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is advocating that we develop low-cost lots. My understanding is that it costs a considerable amount to develop a simple lot with above-ground power and gravel roads. This is not a huge saving, and they would have to be fixed up down the road.
I do not understand if the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is saying that if we develop low-cost lots, someone can move a trailer from the Kopper King trailer court on to that lot, and suddenly everything would be fine without a tremendous expenditure.
Mr. McDonald: If the trailer owner moves on to a lot that they own, they can apply for a mortgage. If they apply for a mortgage, they can get preferred interest rates and long-term payback on mortgage financing, which allows them the financial capability, the capacity, to upgrade their homes to code. That is what they would like to do.
Now, with respect to the low-cost lots, Porter Creek was developed with gravel streets and overhead services. Crestview and a lot of subdivisions in this town were developed because there was a desire to develop lots that were considered affordable - not affordable to government but affordable to the people who were going to buy them. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with that concept for people who are among the lowest income people in the city?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The concept is fine, but the City of Whitehorse has a problem with it because the low-cost, affordable lots are developed; people buy them at low cost and then the city ends up coming in later and picking up the majority of the tab for providing the pavement, curb and gutters, the lighting and everything else that is needed to bring them up to a standard these people want. So the city does not want to be put into the same position it felt it was put in in Crestview, and that has to be discussed with them and overcome.
Mr. McDonald: Hooray. I know that is the problem and I have expressed it in almost those same terms, with more detail, on the floor of this Legislature on a couple of different occasions.
I am asking whether or not the Government of Yukon advocates the development of
low-cost lots and whether or not it will be an advocate for people who do not have the
income to apply for and pay for a lot with all of the Cadillac services. After all,
Whitehorse was developed acknowledging that there were people who were wealthy and that
there were people who were not so wealthy. We should not be advocating development of any
kind in this territory that only advocates for the wealthy. Presumably that is only just.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I accept the Member's representation and I hope that he will join me in meeting with the city and passing that on. Perhaps it can be convinced.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, if he will be allowed to answer it. Market value of land in Whitehorse is artificially high. Speaking specifically about the Arkell trailer lots, they are highly priced, even for the trailer market, averaging $24,000. Does the Minister think that is affordable for most trailer owners?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department advises me that if we develop lots that are not up to that standard, they will still be $20,000. That is a difference of $4,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister said yesterday that they cannot develop lots for much less than $24,000 without real problems. Now he is saying that $20,000 might be possible. I guess the problem is that the housing Minister would consider those to be slums. How many ways have you looked at reducing the cost of providing low-cost lots for trailer owners?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Until the city is able to get their building, electric and plumbing code changes into effect, we have to work with them. When that is done, we will see whether we can make the land available. With a difference of only $4,000, one might as well develop properly now and not end up doing it later on. It would cost more money doing it that way.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is an issue that has been raised repeatedly. It was raised months ago. Will the Minister try to work with the city to change its requirements and lower the cost of land for trailer-home owners who want some land tenure and security?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are trying, we admit. We had a meeting again, a few days ago. The problem is that, even if we had lots available right now, the mobile homes could not be qualified to hook up, electrically, because most of them are not up to standard.
Question re: Xerox, travel contribution
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Government Leader. The Government Leader and the Minister responsible for Government Services have both admitted publicly that it was a mistake for the three government employees to go on a trip to Toron to that was paid for by a private sector company. However, the Deputy Minister of Government Services is saying publicly that if he had to recommend accepting the trip again, he would. That is not really admitting to a mistake. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he sees this as acceptable behaviour on the part of a deputy minister in his government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member has articulated the situation well. What she is failing to recognize is that the deputy minister said that he would recommend the trip again to the Minister, and the final decision would be the Minister's to make.
Mrs. Firth: As has been pointed out to me by several people in the business community, there is an obvious contradiction between what the deputy minister is saying and what the Government Leader and the Minister of Government Services are saying. The deputy minister does go on to say that he should have done a better job preparing for the public's perception of the matter. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he has discussed this with the deputy minister, and what specific direction he has given him.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have discussed it with the deputy minister. The direction I gave him is this: when we are accountable to the public, perception is very important. That is understood by the deputy minister. From a business point of view, there may not have been that perception. I have instructed the deputy minister, and he has accepted that this sort of travel should not take place in the future, and it will not.
Mrs. Firth: The business community is very concerned about this issue. They have acknowledged to me that, while this practice may occur in the business world, contractors want reassurance that they will have a level playing field and be treated fairly when doing business with the government. I have a concern about the deputy minister continuing to have delegated signing authority for travel, when he is still insisting that he would recommend this kind of activity again. I would like to ask the Government Leader or the Minister of Government Services if they have taken the delegated signing authority for travel away from this deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I have not taken away the signing authority. It has been clarified not to include that sort of travel in the future. The travel that is authorized by the deputy minister is travel that is budgeted for in the House and is a line item in the budget. No special travel, or travel like this, or travel on short notice will be authorized by the deputy minister. I can assure the business community, and the Member, that travel of this kind will not be authorized by the deputy minister; it will be authorized by the Minister, and I can assure the business community that I, as the Minister of Government Services, am doing my utmost to ensure that there is a level playing field for them.
Question re: Queen's Printer, equipment
Mrs. Firth: I have a new question for the Minister of Government Services, and we will watch the other issue very closely. According to the Department of Government Services officials, one of the Queen's Printer's three offset printing presses has already been taken out of service and a second one will follow within a year. I would like to ask the Minister if this government is going to buy or lease to purchase any more DocuTech machines.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not that I am aware of. My understanding is that the DocuTech 135 will serve our needs at this time. I think that the Member was concerned that it would interfere with the amount of business that private enterprise does with the Yukon government. I am informed that that is not the case. What the Queen's Printer will be doing is trying to do copying and work that is done at a higher expense in the departments, so this will not hurt or interfere with small business in the territory.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister of Government Services if there have been any commitments or any discussions in the existing contract for DocuTech with respect to purchasing more DocuTech machines. Is there any commitment to do that in the future contained in the contract that was signed with this government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not sure. I will check that and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: All we are looking for from this Minister is a commitment that we are not going to have one or two more DocuTech machines purchased, which is what I have heard is going to happen. Will the Minister stand up today and tell the taxpayers of the Yukon that the government will not buy another DocuTech machine?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I cannot stand up and say that. I do not know what the requirements will be. I am not sure exactly what is needed. When we have the charter for the Queen's Printer as a special operating agency, and a business plan, we will discuss it in the House.
Let me make it clear that it is not my intention to do the Yukon private sector out of business by buying duplicating machines for the Queen's Printer.
Question re: Yukon Excellence Awards
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Education about the Yukon Excellence Awards. The Minister was very good in responding to five rounds of questioning yesterday by giving as many explanatory answers. However, a few points slipped through the cracks.
One of the questions I have for the Minister is on the rationale of this award system. In his ministerial statement, he indicated that it was to encourage children to stay in school, as well as to go on to post-secondary studies.
Just so we know three or four years from now whether or not this thing is a boondoggle, does the Minister have any set goals for this excellence award to promote increased school attendance?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I know the Member opposite has spent a good many years in university. I know the Member knows about the problems in logic of cause and effect. I do not know if he is deliberately trying to entice me into some kind of conundrum, but this is a very simple and straightforward program. It is one small part of an overall solution to the education problems we face in public schools, where kids are dropping out and the standards are very low. When we are tested on national standards, the students do not do well. For me to set objectives for this one small part of the solution would be logically indefensible.
Mr. Cable: That might suggest, then, that the program is logically indefensible, but let me ask another question. The Minister, when he was reading from his handout, assured us that the awards program will not affect the student grant system that is in place now. Yet, reading the regulations, the exemption is for special scholarship funds. This program has more the air of a bursary about it than a scholarship. Can the Minister assure this House that he will do whatever is necessary to make absolutely certain that people who are building up Yukon excellence award credits will not find their Yukon grant affected?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have to look at his preamble and talk a bit about that. I would have thought that the Member opposite had taken some logic courses in all his years at university, because that remark was totally illogical.
With regard to the impact of this modest program on grants and other awards to students, it is not our intention to in any way penalize the students who win these scholarships. In fact, we would encourage those people, in every way possible, given our modest means, to proceed on to post-secondary education.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for that answer - a little bit, anyway.
One member of the teaching profession who phoned me - a big of a wag - indicated that it was really the Minister's intention to promote standardized testing and that this was a round-about way of achieving that.
Could the Minister assure the House that this person's views were incorrect?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thought the Member was here yesterday during Question Period. I made it very clear then that we intend to introduce standardized testing. That is the intention. In consultation with all the stakeholders -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Perhaps the Member should, from time to time, discuss these issues with Members on this side of the House. If he spends all his time talking to the folks over on the NDP side, he could do serious damage to his IQ.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Ms. Moorcroft: I have another question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Let me point out to the Minister that land prices are high. For example, my constituents in the new Mary Lake and Cowley subdivisions paid $32,000 for a lot. Then they have to drill a well, put in a septic system, a culvert and a driveway. Then they either have to build a house or bring out a trailer. That is not very affordable, when the starting price is $32,000 for a three-acre lot. What does the Minister think a fair land price should be based on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is very simple. We have to recover the taxpayers' money that is used to develop the lots. It is charged back to the people who buy the lots.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister does not even seem to have grasped the difference between market value and development cost. Market value is artificially high because of the scarcity of land. I get calls from constituents all the time, who ask if the government is deliberately holding back on land development in order to keep prices artificially high. What is the Minister doing to make more low-cost land available?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We just tabled a document the other day. There will be 592 lots available this fall.
Ms. Moorcroft: In debate last week, the Minister suggested that eight lots for $160,000 outside of city limits in Mount Lorne represented low-cost land. Eight lots in Mount Lorne hardly represents a solution for the hundreds of people who would like to get out of trailer courts and purchase their own low-cost lots.
What is the Minister doing to encourage the development of low-cost land within the city?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have 88 trailer lots in the Arkell subdivision.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. McDonald: I would ask for special leave to debate trailer homes, but the Speaker may not agree. I will reserve that for another day.
Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the
name of the Official Opposition to be called tomorrow, February 1. They are Motion No. 31,
standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne and Motion No. 21, standing in the name
of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Point of Order
Mrs. Firth: On a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you will rule this out of order as a time to raise this, and I do not want to create any disrespect for you or the House, but I would like to read into the record a letter from a constituent, who is an avid follower of the proceedings of this House. It is very short. I think the intention of it was to give us something to reinforce our sense of humour.
It goes like this, "Dear Bea, so you can't call a scandal a scandal, and you can't call a stupid remark a stupid remark. The emperor isn't naked; he is just travelling light. It reminds me of the story of the two young men who were researching their family tree. When they found out that Great Uncle George had been...''
Mrs. Firth: Listen to the rest of the letter. It will take two seconds.
Speaker: Order. Hon. Government House Leader.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, the Member is taking an opportunity to read a letter or document into the record. If the Member wants the public to view the document, she has the ability to table it.
Speaker: Order. I was just about to call it out of order. It is not a point of order. Hon. Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Point of Order
Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On a point of order, is it in order to interrupt a Member when that Member is speaking, as the Government House Leader just did?
Speaker: As I have indicated, I was just going to interrupt the Member myself.
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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some information in regard to other questions.
There are currently two consulting firms working on the Yukon River crossing at Dawson City. One contract is with N.D. Lea and Associates of Vancouver for approximately $130,000. It is doing a study into the feasibility of putting a bridge across the river at Dawson. The study includes environmental impact, appropriate location, engineering problems, such as foundation and ice approaches, and what would be the best type of bridge design. A cost estimate will be provided.
The second contract is with a marine consulting firm, SSHM Marine International Inc. of
Vancouver for approximately $10,000. It is looking at options for the upgrading of the
ferry system and the cost of those options. Transportation should have enough information
for the analysis to be done in the next couple of months and make recommendations to
Management Board and Cabinet.
At this time, there are no cost estimates to make a two-way access to the weigh station. The transportation engineering department is making no commitments at this point as safety should not be compromised. Two-way access can possibly be done inexpensively through lane changes created by line painting. This will be evaluated next May and cost estimates proposed. The director of transportation engineering has checked out the existing situation, and the access is quite safe as it is now.
The question was this: does the government consider private industry when purchasing equipment? The department's dump truck fleet is sized to meet its winter snow removal requirements. This equipment is specifically configured for snow removal equipment such as sanders, front ploughs and under-body ploughs. The department is not aware of any such equipment available for rent from private industry. Privately owned equipment is used for peak-work demands. Each year the government solicits equipment rates from private industry, which is used to meet its seasonal peak requirements.
On the commercial sign consultation, the Tourism Industry Association was sent an information package that contained information and requested feedback. An official from the department called TIA to confirm that the package had been received. Mr. Dave Moyle, the executive director, was spoken to, and the department was assured that TIA was aware of the review process. Up until now, TIA has provided no feedback.
Information packages were given to the officials of the Department of Tourism. Some exemptions for the Department of Tourism were requested. No other response relating to tourism and signage has been brought forward to date.
When the Auditor General looked at the Two Mile Hill project, all related files and information included in the January 6, 1994, legislative return were made available, including information on Two Mile Hill proper, the Alaska Highway and the weigh scale. Discussions between the Auditor General's representative and Community and Transportation Services management were held regarding all aspects of the project. The Auditor General's report focused on the Two Mile Hill proper, as this is indicative of the critical issues.
I also have the surveyor's results for the Hot Springs area, which I would like to table.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for providing me with the summary document on the results of the minimum-lot-size survey in the Hot Springs Road development area. I have requested additional information about that area.
Could the Minister provide me with a copy of the survey that was sent out on the minimum lot size, as well as a copy of the survey regarding the rezoning to multiple rural residential and commercial?
I understood from the Minister's statements that there was a survey about that issue. Last night, the Minister said that 48 percent of the residents were in favour of the rezoning. Could he provide me with the information on how that result was achieved?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe the Member is talking about the land at the 108 area and we can get that. A survey was done by the department, but I will bring any other information we have back to her.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the Minister comes back with that information, I would also like to request that he bring back information regarding any consultations they have had with the Ta'an First Nation on the Hot Springs Road development area and on the rezoning application, as well as on the minimum-lot- size survey.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: On the 108 one we were just talking about, the First Nations were notified and sent letters, but did not reply to either one.
Ms. Moorcroft: Would the Minister be prepared to provide us with a copy of that letter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will look in the files and get that.
Mr. McDonald: I have a couple of questions to ask the Minister and an issue to raise with him. I will save a couple of other issues for later on.
I want, at some point, to return to the availability of land and land pricing, and the whole subject of low-cost lots. However, first of all, I would like to raise with the Minister an issue that transcends the boundaries of a number of different branches in the department. It has taken place in the last year, which makes it a perfect candidate for a supplementary general debate in this department.
The issue that I refer to is something I know the Minister is familiar with. It is the Trail of '98 RV Park, which is in my constituency.
I have listened with great interest to some of the discussion that has taken place in the last few days about the costing for the Two Mile Hill reconstruction project, and I have listened intently to the indications from the Minister about the amount of planning that has gone into this project and his justification for the expenditures.
This is not a huge issue of massive public importance, in its broadest sense, if one were to just factor in the dollars associated with the problems that my constituents face.
It is my view that one can tell a lot about a government by the way it responds to the needs of private citizens and, in this case, a family business. It certainly says a lot to me about who they are and whether or not they are fair-minded, even with the power and resources they have at their disposal.
This issue was first brought to my attention last summer, when the owners of the RV park came to ask who they might approach in government who would best understand their concerns from a small-business perspective and would try to steer them through the various levels of the public service to ensure that, in the end, they would receive a fair hearing.
Their concern was that they do not have the power and resources of the government, let alone the information sources, to be able to make as compelling a case as if they had batteries of engineers and lawyers at their beck and call. They wanted some reassurance that, even given their particular situation, they, too, could receive fair treatment from the government.
I told them that there are ways to get fair treatment from Yukon government. I told them that they ought to be as accommodating as possible. I said that they ought to be as friendly with the various emissaries of the Yukon government as they could. Ultimately, if they felt they needed to, I told them that they should approach the Minister's office. I told them that the Minister would be, in this particular case, the one person in Cabinet who would likely be the most understanding of the interests of small business and the most likely to want to correct an imbalance in the power relationship between private citizens and small family businesses and the government.
As I will explain, I have had some reason to regret those words, but, nevertheless, I think the advice has been pretty sound. I did take it upon myself to visit the site of the business, of course. It is very accessible, if one can find the entrance. It is very visible from the Two Mile Hill.
I did take the opportunity, on a number of occasions, to visit the site and talk to the Brennan family, who owns it. I had some association with this project myself back in the late 1980s, when the owners of this particular site approached the Yukon government prior to the development of the Two Mile Hill, given that the Yukon government had stated its intention to reconstruct that road, to see whether the government needed some of their land, because they did not want to develop a business that would only be truncated by the road development.
At that time, the response from the government, on advice of officials, was that the land was not required and that the development could continue without incurring any negative impact on their business or on their business plan.
The family went on to develop the RV park, and ultimately signed a development agreement with the City of Whitehorse, which incorporated a number of features. The development agreement suggested that any impact of the old Two Mile Hill road would have to be taken into account in the development of the business, given that the conditions on the Two Mile Hill were longstanding and well known to the developer. For example, measures to control noise would ultimately have to be taken into consideration in the developer's plan.
I believe the development agreement was signed in August 1990, before the actual road development took place and during some of the public consultation, which was later to lead to the construction of a new road in 1992.
The -park owners operated the business for a year prior to the road reconstruction. As I understand it, things were going reasonably well. They had some discussions with the planners of the Two Mile Hill, indicating they needed to have a pull-out on to their property in order to ensure their business would thrive. This was a reasonable expectation, under the circumstances, given that their savings were ploughed into this business.
They were told that there would be no possibility for a pull-out on to their property directly off the hill, given that this was going to be at least a four-lane road with a median. A representative of the department - a traffic engineer - indicated to the city in a letter that generic signage would be possible to ensure that people were not fumbling around on the hill, trying to find the access to the property.
Things appeared to be going along fairly well until the development actually took place. Then, things seemed to fall apart, at least for this business. It may have been that the department responded very well to concerns of the Takhini area residents and to other area businesses, but this was one business that appears not to have received the same care and attention.
That is not to say that in the last six months engineers have not visited the site. When concerns were raised, there was an attempt to visit the site to determine whether or not the problems and complaints from the Trail of '98 RV Park were justified.
There is some dispute as to whether or not that attention was sincere, and whether or not - as someone crudely put it - engineers were trying to cover their asses, or whether or not they were genuinely trying to find a solution to this business' problems, given that there was absolutely no doubt that their business has faced some impact from this road. Prior to the construction taking place, they had a sign up on Industrial Road, which indicated the entrance to their place. I believe it was up for one season, and was later removed, because, as the Minister knows, this has now become a no-private-sign corridor. I suppose that, while a precedent may not have been set, there was, historically, some interest shown by the business to appropriately sign itself so that travellers who did not know the city would find access to the park. As the Minister knows, that is the essential feature to signing for the tourists, because it is the tourists who do not know the details of the City of Whitehorse's roadmap, and it is the tourists who cannot find their way around because they are new to Whitehorse. It is the tourists who need special treatment. This is particularly true when one is running an RV park that caters exclusively to tourists. Getting signage that shows access to the park is obviously an extremely important element of the business.
There are a number of issues that have been raised with the Minister - signage, drainage, noise control and encroachment by the development on to his property. I would like to ask the Minister if he could give us some sense of the government's response to these concerns, in any order that he wishes, and then I will follow up with some more questions.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: First, I met with the gentleman and his wife and had a few conversations with them. I then talked to the department, and the department's engineers have gone out there a couple of times. In fact, one time they were not allowed on the property. They were put off. I continued to try and find out what exactly was going on there. They finally agreed to let the engineers on the property and the insurance adjusters came, too.
The flooding damage was turned over to the insurance company, which stated that it did not feel there was any claim or liability there at all. However, it did say that it would check it again this spring. I noticed that he has back-sloped one area and taken all of the trees out. This area is right above where his office is. I suspect that anyone looking at that would certainly see where the erosion has been caused on that hill, which brought some of the water down.
The traffic noise complaint was pointed out to him, and he signed an agreement with the City of Whitehorse on August 31, 1993, which stated that he was required, at his own expense, to install a sound barrier. As to erecting signs there, it is a no sign area. I do not think that there is anyone in the Legislature who cannot say that it would be very dangerous to have signs on that hill, with traffic going both ways. The turnoff is at the bottom of the hill, anyway.
The Member states that trailer parks need signs. I agree with this, but I notice that the one by the Chevron station has no signs directing them in that area. I notice that the propane company that sells parts to mobile homes is down in the industrial area, and it does not have any signs. If we put a sign up for one business, we would have to do so for the others. They would have to be located below the hill somewhere. We offered to put up a street sign for Industrial Road, including service areas, but he was not satisfied with that. I thought that would help everyone. I have to be very fair. The others have not even asked for signs, and the other trailer court by the Chevron station has not asked for any signs, either.
We had one more meeting after that, and he insisted that he did not want to meet with me any more. He wanted to meet with the Government Leader. We arranged that meeting and the Government Leader listened to his complaints and made it very plain that he had to deal with the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. McDonald: I have taken some trouble to go into the case a little bit because, even given my experience working with Community and Transportation Services in the past, I do feel that this situation warrants further review, and I will tell the Minister why.
First of all, regarding the drainage situation, in the plans for the Two Mile Hill reconstruction, the solution that was being proposed to handle runoff water on the north side of that hill shows pretty obviously that there was really not a lot of thought put into what was going to happen with that runoff water. It does not even take an engineer to acknowledge that reality.
My constituents gave me some pictures that are really quite useful - enormously
fascinating, actually, because they suggest that there is more to this than meets the eye.
In the summertime, I went out to the property and my constituents indicated that they felt
that, because there had been no plan to handle drainage off the north side of the Two Mile
Hill, some natural erosion had taken place on a channel down the hill adjacent to their
property. They had taken a picture of it. It is an interesting picture. It is clearly an
erosion channel, even though I think some suggestion was made by the engineer who visited
their property that this channel actually could have been made with a spade, by some
nefarious person who was interested in milking the government out of money to which that
person was not entitled.
The Minister may have seen the pictures. The channel is an erosion channel. There is no question about that, and it leads off the Two Mile Hill and directly on to this property.
Concerns about this were pooh-poohed by people who visited the site. Shortly thereafter, they said they would clean up the channel a little bit. Members can see the channel in the picture, as it leads off the property. In reality, it is about this wide.
I suppose they agreed that it was messy and should be cleaned up. Instead, they constructed a bloody huge channel to control water. In this picture, the Members can see the piece of equipment that is cleaning up the old erosion ditch. The Caterpillar has what looks to be a three- or four-yard bucket on it, and it is cleaning out the whole ditch. It looks to be about 25 feet wide.
As if that is not enough, the department laid down some kind of tile - so there would not be further erosion - all along the ditch and right up the hill. That should suggest to someone that this is either gross overkill for a situation that never needed that kind of attention or someone privately felt there was a problem that should be addressed and did not want to see it repeated.
What is ironic about all this work - the channel going down the hill, which is a width of about here to the Member for Riverside - is that it all leads to a culvert that is approximately one and one-half feet in diameter - a small culvert. So, there is a channel that could probably handle a small river leading to a tiny culvert at the bottom, and t
his channel was meant to correct this nothing of a problem, which is the little erosion ditch that led on to this person's property.
If this is not needed, why go to the expense of building it? I do not know why. Perhaps the Minister could tell me.
The argument is made that the backsloping of the hill beside his property was probably responsible, in large part - at least in the government's case - for the runoff that may have affected this fellow's property and, ultimately, the buildings on it.
Water does not run off the hill with a typical rainfall. If it did, there would be some kind of erosion ditches on the top, and they cannot find any.
The deputy minister says that they can. I would like to see it. I walked up there and walked all around, trying to find these things.
The ultimate problem is, as I understand it, that they claim not to have had any problems with water the year before. That may be evidence that the government does not think it true or can be corroborated, but they did the backsloping the year before and said that they did not experience any water problems until the Two Mile Hill was built. That year, when the erosion channel was built, which led on to the property, was the same year in which they had a water problem. The government corrected it with a channel that can handle a river. This suggests to me that there may be more to this situation than meets the eye.
Can the Minister give us a reason to believe that the government has done all it can to address this particular problem. At face value, one can see that it is not a clear situation from a commonsense perspective.
As a postscript to this, the government, after the first rainfall in 1994, was out there preparing the road and pumping out the storm sewers. They were being plugged. Pictures were taken in the middle of the night of the government pumping them out and the government or some contractor ripping up the road and putting in new storm sewers.
This suggests to me that maybe there was nothing considered in the design to account for runoff for this road. If the government thinks that there is a problem, presumably they will want to address it - that is a rational response - and they will replace old, small storm sewers with larger ones, and cut the newly constructed road open and repair it, at some expense. They will build big erosion channels with tile bases. Perhaps before long, if there is any problem, they may be replacing a small culvert with a larger culvert at the entrance of Industrial Road to Two Mile Hill. That may happen this year - who knows? Can the Minister elaborate further on what the government's response is to all of these concerns?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I have stated before, we have turned it over to our insurance company. The adjuster has looked at it, and he says that he will look at it again when he comes back in the spring. As far as I am concerned, that is what we pay insurance companies for. I feel that the insurance adjuster must have some knowledge of what he is doing.
Mr. McDonald: I am disappointed in the Minister. I think that if it was a true attempt at arbitration, where the two sides present information and somebody makes an impartial decision, then I would respect that as being a reasonable response under the circumstances. Insurance adjusters have their own interests to protect, which are the interests of the insurance company. They have a potential vested interest that they have to respect, and they cannot be considered to be proper arbitrators.
I am disappointed in the Minister. This is a small family business; they cannot afford to go up against the big government. As one deputy minister noted, this government has a war chest of hundreds of millions of dollars. If someone wants to sue the government, they should go ahead. These folks know that. They appeal to elected people to see that they get fair treatment. Fair treatment can sometimes mean proper arbitration and, perhaps, even proper mediation, so that at least they can have a crack at it. They will then know that if they were right, they have a shot at getting satisfaction.
Given that I am not an engineer, I am not even suggesting to the Minister that I am taking their side on this issue without reservation.
I think arbitration would have been a more suitable arrangement. Is he not prepared to do that or is he going to allow the insurance adjuster to basically make the decision on the government's behalf?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we will turn it over to the insurance company and we certainly should not be getting back into it at all. The insurance company has made a decision. They said they were going to look at it again in the spring. It is not our affair until the insurance company makes the final decision.
Mr. McDonald: It really is the government's affair. It was the government who affected this guy's business, and it is the government who is the owner of the construction project. The Minister will know, as every commonsense person will know, insurance companies want to protect their funds, too. They either settle or they do not settle, depending on whether or not they feel there is going to be resistance from the other party.
I have seen insurance companies want to settle automobile claims simply because they do not want the hassle. It may affect your business and your record, but they do not want the hassle. They are not in it to determine what is right or wrong. They are in it to protect the insurance company.
Surely the Minister can understand that. This is not necessarily anything to do with right or wrong. The problem is that even though the dollars in terms of potential damage to the government seem small - they may be small to this department - it is a huge sum of money for this business. That is why the Minister must think that they are completely preoccupied about and almost fanatically dedicated to this situation. They are because, as one can understand, it is their business, their life. It is their children's lives. It is everything for them. That is the reason they are going to bug the Minister's butt until something happens.
The Minister indicates that the insurance company is going to come back in the spring and pass judgment on it once again. Is the Minister saying that the insurance company is going to check the erosion channel or monitor the waterflows? What precisely is the insurance company planning to do, besides protect the insurance company's financial health?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I never went near the adjuster. If I had, I would be accused of trying to influence him, so I never would win at all. I just know that, in the recommendation he sent out, he said they would be looking at it again this spring, but there was no fault on our part.
I must point out that most businesses and governments would be irresponsible if they did not hire an insurance company. Yes, it costs a lot of money, but if one does not listen to their advice one could get into a lot of trouble.
Mr. McDonald: The government does things and sometimes even makes mistakes, and these are not always referred to an insurance adjuster. Sometimes they are settled. Sometimes the government will do something. I know this for a fact. If, for example, the government is reconstructing a roadway and it impacts on somebody's access road and the person complains, its response historically has not been to say, "Go and see our insurance adjuster." Somebody goes and checks it out and sometimes they settle. Sometimes the government says it will bring some trucks in and do this and that and fix it up. Sometimes government will even pay for it. So this automatic referral to an insurance adjuster is new policy.
I am surprised that the Minister believes that somehow the insurance adjuster is some
sort of fair and impartial agent. It is not. It is a business, and the business is to
protect the fund and to keep its customers happy. That is what the business is all about.
It is not to seek the truth. It is hoped that the truth will come out, but that is not the
I am very disappointed in the Minister. That is not the only issue being faced there, and it is not the only issue in the court of the insurance adjuster.
There is also the issue of noise control. The Minister has indicated that it is the responsibility of the developer - meaning the RV park - to provide for noise control. In the development agreement of August 31, 1990, there is a reference to providing noise barriers. That agreement was signed in 1990 and, as part of the development agreement, the developer was required to put up sufficient noise control in order to meet its own needs prior to being given a permit to build.
They put up a fence and there was groundcover, and presumably that was satisfactory to whomever mattered, as they received a permit to build.
At one point, they did have adequate sound control, at least to the extent that it met the terms of the development agreement.
At that time, the government was undertaking some consultation about the Two Mile Hill and what it would entail. Even some of us who were in government at the time were surprised to see the size and extent the development ultimately embraced. The budget was well beyond anything given to us as information when the project was first approved in Management Board or Cabinet.
A lot of discussion was taking place. I remember going to some meetings hosted by Community and Transportation Services, talking about development and things such as noise control for properties such as Takhini. The department quite rightly addressed the needs of the residents in the Takhini area by putting in some noise barriers.
That was appreciated by the residents of that area. A claim was made, I think, at the public meeting that the traffic noise in the early years may not be much more significant, but later on it would be higher. Consequently, noise control would be required at the intersection. I think that many thousands of cars per day would be passing through the intersection, so it was justified to put in a berm to protect the residents of Takhini.
The road construction then proceeded and, lo and behold, the elevation of the road changed. The road was no longer below the RV park; the road was level with the RV park. Consequently, the circumstances faced by the RV park owners changed in the process, and the noise became more and more of a problem as a result. In the construction, as well, some ground cover that had been part of the RV park's noise barrier was removed.
This is interesting. When this was cited as a concern by the RV park owners, the government did a survey of one corner of the lot and someone came to tell them that it was perfectly justified for them to remove the groundcover and the noise barrier because the fellow had a portion of his fence on the government right-of-way. Rather than simply trying to work it out, or make an arrangement, the people were being told to get their property the heck off government land. This is in the midst of all of this happening. Whose negotiating skills were employed at this point? Obviously, someone who may be a good engineer, but who knows nothing about negotiating.
When that was pursued a little bit further and better survey work was done, it was discovered that a portion of the fence was on government land, but a whole lot of the government's development was on the park's land, including the bicycle path. When the government was caught with egg on its face, it quite obnoxiously told the RV park owner to get his improvements the heck off the government's property, only to find out that the government had more improvements on park property than the park had on the government land.
Would this not have caused government to want to work something out with this guy? I think so.
Anyway, the point of the concern about the noise barrier is that the road changed from the time the development agreement was signed until this last year, when the road was constructed and traffic was travelling. The road was parallel to his park. That makes a difference in terms of noise control and in terms of the situation they face.
I have gone on long enough. The Minister can now respond to that one.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We want to talk about the traffic noise. I saw the document he signed with the City of Whitehorse. I must point out another thing: that property was not zoned for that purpose, to start with. It was zoned industrial for a car lot but, somewhere along the line, that got changed to a trailer court. He signed those agreements. He also knew that it was his responsibility to put a fence up - a sound barrier - and he has not done either one of those things. He keeps blaming us for it.
To get to the bicycle path - yes, a mistake was made there by the contractors when they went three metres on to his property. We have twice offered to purchase that property or let him give us permission to take the three metres of path off his property. That is a mistake that was made. There is no question about that, and we have already notified the contractors that they will be responsible for it.
That is about all I can say about this. I have gone over things and sat with him on a number of occasions and tried to solve it. I just do not think that, except for the bicycle path, we did anything wrong. We have admitted to that and we are prepared either to buy that three metres of land or we can turn around and take it off if he will give us permission - whichever he wants. We have tried to meet him halfway and, in the case of the bicycle path, we have tried to meet him the full way. We will either purchase that small piece of land or, if he will give his permission, we will take it away from there.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister said a mouthful. He said the developer developed something contrary to zoning rules on this site, and by putting in an RV park, changed the usage in a way that should ultimately result in his own liability for any changes in circumstances that site may face as the result of the reconstruction of Two Mile Hill.
This development agreement we are both referring to states that the developer should develop an RV park on the lands in accordance to the plans attached hereto as Schedule C., the agreed standards of the provisions of this development agreement. This was signed August 31, 1990. The development agreement between the City of Whitehorse and the Brennan family talks about developing an RV park on land adjacent to the old Two Mile Hill, not a car sales lot or anything else.
The development agreement asks that the developer - the private business, the RV park - put in sound barriers. The Minister said they did not put in sound barriers, but they did, at least to the satisfaction of the people from the City of Whitehorse. This development agreement says they will not receive approvals to build until they meet the conditions cited in this agreement. They obviously received the approvals, because the business started and the building went up: someone gave them a building permit.
If they received a building permit and put up a fence thenthey had a sound barrier - in the fence and the bushes - and they clearly met the terms of the development agreement, at least as far as the City of Whitehorse was concerned.
They asked to put up an RV park; they were told to put up sound barriers; they got approval to put the RV park in, and they put up sound barriers. This was signed in August 1990, and I guess development went ahead the next year.
The road was not under reconstruction then. In 1992 and 1993, as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, I went to meetings about the design of the road.
I remember going up to the table to talk with the engineer at that time, and he was debating with someone who wanted to put an overpass-underpass at the site of Two Mile Hill, Hamilton Boulevard and the Alaska Highway. Obviously the suggestions for the cloverleaf and the overpass-underpass were not accepted, probably for very good reasons. The point is that these people were conducting business on the old Two Mile Hill under the terms of this development agreement.
I have some pictures, but I also remember that the road elevation was significantly different before the development than it was after the development. The road before the development was well below the RV park; after the development, it was parallel to the RV park. That is a change in circumstances.
It is clear that the situation is not as the Minister has described it. These people have a case. They have some concerns about noise control.
At one point, they asked who could come out and determine noise levels on their site. It was suggested that they ask the Workers' Compensation Board to use its noise meters. The Workers' Compensation Board came out and took some readings, and then they discovered from somebody that these readings were unreliable.
Nevertheless, the road configuration has changed. Is that not an issue for the Minister to consider?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Perhaps I had better start at the beginning and get all the facts out here.
When the government acquired Lot 404, it was zoned for industrial use. In 1987, some four years before the reconstruction of Two Mile Hill began, Mr. Brennan offered to sell part of this lot to the Yukon government to accommodate future construction. Our recollection is that Mr. Brennan originally had plans to establish a car and truck dealership on the lot. However, some time before or after October 13, 1987, when direct access to Two Mile Hill was denied for safety reasons, the Brennans rezoned the lot for commercial use.
Upon the Brennans' application to the city for permission to develop the lot into an RV park, the city planning department requested input from the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Community and Transportation Services advised planning services on access, visibility, noise and signage issues and concerns related to the Brennans' proposed development in light of the imminent construction on the highway.
Subsequently, the city prepared a development agreement, which was signed by the Brennans on August 31. This required them, at their own expense and on their own lot, to erect fencing and landscaping vegetation to ensure visibility and a noise buffer from the Two Mile Hill. Transportation Engineering has reviewed photographic evidence of the natural bush cover in this area before Two Mile Hill was reconstructed. An accurate determination of whether or not brush was removed will require proper re-establishment of the legal survey pins. This will be completed next summer. If it is shown that the brush was inadvertently removed from the Brennans' property, this will have to be dealt with, as well. However, it is felt that this brush would not have provided a significant noise barrier, as it was generally lower than the RV park elevation.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell me what the relevance of that briefing note was to the question I asked? I asked a question about this RV park. I do not care if the zoning there was for school use 10 years ago. That is irrelevant in this situation. I do not care if the Brennans wanted to put in a private hospital 20 years ago. That, too, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that they received permission on August 31, 1990, from the city, which has the responsibility for zoning, to put in an RV park. There were restrictions included in the agreement - things that they had to do, and did do, to the satisfaction of the city.
They were faced with a need to put in some noise control for a road that was below their property. Two years later, the road was reconstructed to be level with their property.
The Minister shakes his head. It was below their property, and it is level with it today. The Minister says no, so I want him to tell me, in his own words, what he disagrees with.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: He put up a small fence, which, apparently, was not enough. He was not satisfied. I would think that if he had to put up a fence as a noise barrier, as he was asked to do by the city, it would at least come up to a standard that he could have accepted, so that noise would not come into the RV park. We have all driven down that hill for many, many years, and that piece of property has always been quite visible - from the old highway and from the new highway, and also from the gas station below it.
Mr. McDonald: It is not relevant whether the Minister thinks that the noise control was satisfactory. What is relevant is that the city asked the developer to put in a certain standard of noise control, and it was done to the satisfaction of the city. That is the point. There were no complaints about noise control until the road was changed. Feasibility is not the issue. I am not asking the Minister whether or not it is visible from the road, from the top of the hill, or from a plane. The point is that the road elevation was below the property immediately before the reconstruction work and now the road elevation is even with the property, now that the road has been reconstructed.
It is a visible property. I agree with him. It is visible from the top of the hill. It is visible from the bottom of the hill. It is visible from behind the property. It is visible if you were to stand up on the bluff on the other side of Two Mile Hill. It is visible from there and it would be visible from a plane. Who cares? When it comes to this particular issue, the road elevation has changed, and that has changed the sound emanating from the road. Is the Minister unable to see that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The responsibility for noise barriers is a matter between the property owners and the city. When there are 14,000 vehicles a day going down that hill - we had that on the old road and we have it on the new one - anyone would have known that there was going to be a noise problem. If he built a barrier, it certainly was not up to us to correct him. The Member mentioned that the place is visible from all angles. No noise barrier will stop sound if the park is visible from every direction.
Mr. McDonald: The issue of visibility has absolutely nothing to do with noise control. The issue of noise control is the proximity of the road and the elevation of the road to the property.
Did the Minister receive any complaints from the Brennan family about noise prior to the reconstruction of the road? Did the government receive any complaints about the noise from the lower road elevation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I did not, because I was not the Minister responsible at that time.
Mr. McDonald: Can he ask his department? Let me put it this way: the department did not receive complaints about noise because the noise problem was supposed to be satisfied with the noise barrier built according to this development agreement.
As far as I am aware, he did not complain to the Department of Community and Transportation Services about the quality of his noise barrier or the 14,000 vehicles going along that road each day. Surely the Minister can see, given the changing circumstances, that if the road before the development, which was below his property, was not causing problems and he is not reacting by complaining to the government - nor should he complain, because he was supposed to have that covered in the development agreement - surely he could see that conditions would change if the elevation of the road came even with his property.
If the noise is coming from the road to his property, that surely accounts for a change. Can the Minister not see that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The gentleman went to every meeting there was. If he had any complaints, that is where they should have been raised. I will check with the department to see if there were any; however, from what I learned in my casual conversations with the department, I do not think there were.
Mr. McDonald: When the Minister has an opportunity to have a casual conversation with the department, could he find out whether or not he heard any complaints from the Brennans about the noise control prior to 1992?
How could that be the determining factor here? How can a person going to public meetings, listening to options for development, be somehow held responsible for his own noise control when the government makes the decision to raise the elevation of the road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: He agreed to put a sound barrier in. The city warned him, and we warned him, that there would be noise. He agreed that he would be responsible for that and responsible for signage.
Mr. McDonald: Jeepers, he did respond to the noise. He put up a fence and had groundcover; he did not complain about the noise and the road elevation is below his property. Two years after the development agreement was signed, the road is suddenly right beside his property and level with his property.
There is something the Minister is not telling me, that the department is telling him not to tell me. They must be suspicious that they are being bilked in some way and are not even prepared to listen to what is an obvious argument.
I am not going to take the time of the Legislature by running through that again. The Minister's position makes no sense. It is not common sense and it is disappointing.
The department sent a letter saying that generic signs are possible. There is a concern that if traffic on the road sees the business but does not know how to get to it, they will be driving all over the road looking for an exit. This is the only business that made the request. They have a unique situation in that they are the only people facing the highway. What is wrong with a generic sign?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the letter that I sent I said that I was in agreement with the department's recommendation that included generic wording on the overhead sign at the Industrial Road intersection. This would result in the sign reading as follows: Industrial Road service area. Are we supposed to put up a sign for that individual and not for the other businesses down there - cater to RVs?
Mr. McDonald: The Minister said himself that nobody apart from this business has asked for a sign. He said that earlier. There is one business asking for a sign, and it is a business that caters exclusively to tourists who do not know the City of Whitehorse. The Minister has been in the tourism business himself. Picture this: you are an RV owner - tired, hot, on your way to Alaska or Dawson City and trying to find a place to stay - what do you suppose is going to alert you to services?
Do you think that if a tourist saw a sign that read Industrial Road service area, they would think that is where to go for souvenirs, a place to eat and an RV park? Or will they think to themselves that is where to go to buy 10,000 tons of concrete, or 15,000 board feet of lumber or $200,000 worth of diesel fuel? Think about it for a second - Industrial Road service area?
I think that the proverbial curtain is closed here. Can I ask the Minister what the cost would be for the generic sign that he is proposing?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We would have to get the cost of that. I do not have it.
Mr. McDonald: Does he have any ideas? Is it less than $2,000 - less than $20,000?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not think it is quite that high, no.
Mr. McDonald: One element of the business' proposal is that its sign would cost the government nothing. Let us hope the tourists can find their way down the hill and find their way into the Industrial Road service area and ultimately to this RV park, which is ostensibly right on the highway. I am certain it is going to cost this business a fair amount because it obviously depends on people to identify them and to make use of their services.
It is important to point out that the department has received a petition signed by tourists, with a couple of hundred names on it, who could not find the property. Lots of letters were also received from tourists, saying that they had a hard time finding the access to the property. Obviously, they found it well enough to actually make it to the park, otherwise they would not have been able to sign the petition, but the comments read: need directional signs, needs better signs, hard to find, hard to find, needs more signs, needs better signs, very hard to find without signs, please give them more signs, hard to find without signs, very hard to find without signs, extremely difficult to find, there are no highway signs, hard to find, hard to find, missed turn despite map, please put up a sign - well, it is all there and the Minister has a copy so I do not need to table this one. There are also other letters; there are even some to the Tourism Minister.
It is interesting. When I first went out to the RV park - the first time I had actually
ever been there - I went into the office and there was a woman standing at the counter.
She was complaining that she represented the Tourism Industry Association in Whitehorse
but could not find the access road to the park.
She lives here. I thought to myself, "Boy, there is some anecdotal evidence that carries some weight, does it not?" However, not with the Minister. That is the reason I asked the questions yesterday. I am sure that the Minister is aware of the input from the tourism industry about the issue of signage.
Obviously, I think there are other safety issues that traffic engineers have to worry about, such as complicated signs that have lots of messages or that distract people's attention and cause them to not focus on the road. Those are all important questions. However, to propose a sign policy that permits some signs that do not promote tourism, does not seem to make a lot of sense, in my opinion. There is no reason to put people to the trouble of pretending that their needs will be responded to if, in fact, their needs are not responded to at all, in the end.
The last issue, I guess, is the sidewalk. The Minister has indicated that it is the contractor's responsibility. Did the contract irresponsibly put a sidewalk on to any land he found? Did he inadvertently put that sidewalk right - smack, dab - on to private property?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is the surveying contractor who is responsible.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister indicate if the government is going to bear the responsibility, or whether the contractor is ultimately responsible?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will do whichever he wants. We will be responsible and then we will go after the contractor.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister could not look to the insurance agent to handle this for him - is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it is below our deductible.
Mr. McDonald: If it had been above the deductible, it would have been the insurance agent who would have put the screws to this property owner. I do not have a lot more to say. As a final ironic point, I just want to make the Minister aware of a letter that the Trail of '98 campground received from the Leader of the Yukon Party on August 20, 1992, which asks this business for its ideas on how to ensure that the government responds better to the needs and desires of Yukon business people.
He makes reference to the fact that he has been in the territory for 19 years. He is a business person just like the owners of the Trail of '98 campground. He knows better how to work with them and respond to their needs.
It is ironic that this is where we started and where we end on this issue. I think more consideration could have been given to precisely how this was handled, as it was handled. There were probably some good, well-meaning people who were involved at various stages, but there were others who were perhaps more insensitive than they should have been.
The government has a strange notion of what a fair and impartial hearing is all about. I do not accept their interpretation of it. It has taught me a couple of lessons about who to refer to in the government when a private citizen needs some help or a fair hearing, even when faced with all the resources that the government can muster. We will leave it at that and see how things proceed.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have some questions for the Minister regarding land claims. One of the responsibilities of the department is to participate in the efficient implementation of land claims. I would like to ask the Minister how the department has done that this year. What kind of status report can the Minister give us?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We work very closely with the land claims people. We give them advice about land when they need it and check what land belongs to First Nations and what does not when there is a project to be done.
Ms. Moorcroft: That raises a concern about some information I seem to be unable to get from the Minister. He has just now said that his department works closely with land claims and gives them advice about land. I wish the Minister could give me some advice about what the actions of the government have been in land development. I have asked for specific information I know is available. I have been able to get some of it by asking citizens to provide it, but I cannot seem to get it from the Minister. I am particularly talking about the Hot Springs Road development area. We did receive the results of the minimum-lot-size survey, but I have had no clear answers from the Minister regarding how they reached a decision on rezoning. I have been unable to get clear answers from the Minister on the agricultural development they want to see taking place in that area. The Minister says they sent a letter to the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation but have received no response. Was that the extent of the government's efforts to consult with the Ta'an people before they proceeded with the regulations and decisions on the development area around the Hot Springs and Mayo roads?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The letter we sent was regarding Lot 108, which is on this end of the Hot Springs Road and had nothing to do with that area at all. The Hot Springs Road area is another section. In Pilot Mountain, they are looking at possibly putting in some agricultural and more residential lots.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister not think it would be appropriate to speak directly with the First Nation to ask them if they have any interest in the land in question?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have asked everyone through the statistical poll we sent out. The department works with the First Nations all the time. If they have any objection to what we are doing, I am quite certain we will hear about it, and we will have to address it at that time.
Furthermore, if the Member wishes, I will check to see how much consultation was done with the First Nations on the Pilot Mountain development.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was under the impression that that was what I have been asking the Minister to do for the last four days. Why is the Minister not bringing the information back to the Opposition?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have one pile here and there will be another pile after the break. Here are some more piles. How much more do they want? They are killing a lot of good trees around here.
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems to me that they might be talking about killing trees making photocopies of pieces of paper but the fact is that they are not consulting with the First Nations, they are not taking into account the requirements under the umbrella final agreement to work with First Nations on land use planning and on regional planning, and the government is not providing the information to the Opposition that we are requesting.
The question I have to ask is whether the government is trying to proceed with these four zoning amendments prior to land claims being settled because it wants to alienate the land. Is that the plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it is not.
Ms. Moorcroft: Why, then, did they not survey First Nation members when they surveyed property owners?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said I would get back with the information; I will get back with the information.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the Minister is going to get back with some information on that, I will just have to see what he comes back with and go back to that issue later.
I would like to ask some questions regarding sports and recreation funding. Can unincorporated communities apply for funding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, they can.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can First Nations apply for funding as well, separately?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Some of the First Nations are now applying for it, yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me how the department has supported
unincorporated communities this year? Can he indicate what kinds of projects have been
funded for unincorporated communities and also what kinds of applications he has seen from
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will come back with a complete list. I know that the swimming pool director goes on regularly.
Ms. Moorcroft: What swimming pool was the Minister talking about? I did not hear the community.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are two that I can think of: the one in Pelly and the one in Beaver Creek. There are probably others. I will get back with a complete list of how many there are. I know there are more than that.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister just said that some of the First Nations have applied for sports and recreation funding. Can he tell us which ones and if they were successful?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Vuntut Gwitchin and Selkirk First Nations have applied and received money.
Ms. Moorcroft: If he is coming back with information about the sports and recreation funding, could the Minister provide us with a listing of the community development fund projects that have been approved to date for the current year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think that should be asked of the Minister for Economic Development.
Ms. Moorcroft: All right. He is passing the buck on that one too, I guess. I would like to ask the Minister about something that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and I both spoke to him about when he made the ministerial statement on the implementation of the 911 number.
The concern that was raised is that the people in communities outside Whitehorse need to be very clear that they cannot dial 911. I have seen a lot of newspaper ads on both the implementation of 911 in Whitehorse and the fact that it does not apply in the rural communities. We suggested that there be stickers made for people's phones that give the emergency numbers, because there are universal emergency numbers for ambulance, fire and police.
Has the Minister thought about that and made a decision on it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we have thought about it. We have them made up and they will be going out in the next few weeks. There will also be some advertisements in the papers.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Member for that. It is an uncommon event to have not only an answer, but also a successful representation. We thought that it was a good idea, and we are glad the government has followed up on it.
I have asked the Minister some questions about putting streetlights at MacRae, and I had also written to him, before the House went into session, to say that it would be a good idea. I would like to ask the Minister what he has to say about that.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I recall, I wrote a letter to the MLA to say that we would be looking at it this spring.
Ms. Moorcroft: What the letter says is that the traffic volumes and other statistics do not meet the normal requirements for streetlighting along the highway, so the Minister has asked the department to further investigate my request. What is there to investigate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If it is obvious that they should be there, they will go in. If it is obvious that they are not required, they will not go in.
Ms. Moorcroft: My constituents think it is obvious that they should go in, as do the constituents of the Member for Whitehorse West. Whitehorse residents who frequent the restaurant out there, as well as the service station and the other businesses, also think that.
The Minister indicated that there was no reason to install the streetlights, based on the latest traffic figures and other evaluating criteria. Can I ask the Minister what the latest traffic figures and other evaluating criteria are?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The standard is a cross-highway because the highway belongs to part of the Trans Canada Highway; however, in most cases the Yukon is below that. We put the lights in, too, and I have said we are going to look at it this year. We will certainly take in the Member's recommendations and others when we look at what we are going to do out there.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not understand why the standard would be different at MacRae than it is at Trails North or at the station at the top of the South Access or at the Carcross Cutoff or any number of commercial properties along the highway.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: One of the main reasons is because they were put in when Anvil was hauling. We put lights where the trucks turned from the Mayo Road on to the main highway, and we put lights where they turned off into their yard and where they pulled out again to go down to Skagway.
Ms. Moorcroft: The fact is that several lights were recently put in at the Cowley intersection, yet there are still no lights at the MacRae intersection, which is much busier.
Can the Minister tell me why they are delaying investigating this?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There will be 100 lots at Cowley when we get finished there, so the lights were put in. We are not delaying things. We certainly are not going to do the work in the middle of winter at great expense. We are looking at it and I have said that we will consider the Member's suggestions when we look to see what we can do with it.
Ms. Moorcroft: How long will the investigation take?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said we will look at it and evaluate it this spring.
Ms. Moorcroft: When the department looks at the traffic figures, do they go out there and measure the traffic for a two-hour period on one day, or do they do it over two weeks or a month or what? How do they establish the traffic figures?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They have cables stretched across the road and every vehicle that goes over it clicks a number in the box.
Ms. Moorcroft: For how long a period do they have those cables out? Is it for a
week or a month or what?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It varies quite a bit. However, in the summer, we have them there most of the time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will hope that they do not leave them there for the whole summer and fall, so that we have the same debate next winter.
What other evaluating criteria applies to streetlighting?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It depends on the turning requirements of vehicles pulling in and out, particularly trucks. Also, it depends on the roads that are coming on to the main road in the area.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will they consider, as an evaluating criteria, the fact that there are three entrances along that section?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we will.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to make another representation to the Minister for some lighting at the Cowley intersection. I am not referring to the Cowley intersection where the 100 lots are being developed. I am referring to the old Cowley Road, not the new one.
The Cowley Lake Road is on the Carcross Road. A few years ago, there was an accident where an ore truck hit a school bus on the Carcross Road. One of the remedies that the department carried out was that lights were put up at several of the intersections where school children catch the bus. There are lights at the Robinson Road turnoff and the Annie Lake Road turnoff and a few other places along the Carcross Road.
There is no light at the Cowley Road. Several students catch both buses - the elementary bus and the later high school bus. There already is a lamp standard and a pole there. It has electrical capabilities. I would like to know if a light could be put up there, so that when the maintenance equipment is going by in the early morning, and it is dark out, the students are not at risk.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take it under advisement. It certainly seems like a reasonable suggestion and, unless the department has a good reason for not doing it, it will be done.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am delighted that we seem to be moving along a little bit, although I am still waiting for some information to come back after the break.
Related to the rural road maintenance property, I would like to know how the decision is made as to how far the government equipment will maintain a road. Some time ago, the Two Horse Creek Road was added to the rural road maintenance policy and, when it was, the decision was made to maintain only the first two kilometres of the road. That was quite unfortunate, considering that the main property owner who organized and agitated for that road maintenance to take place, lives four kilometres down the road. I would like to know why the maintenance cannot proceed an additional 1.6 kilometres, or whatever that distance is, to the end of the road. Over the years, I have spoken to several of the grader operators. They have advised me that it would only take another 10 minutes to maintain the road that additional distance. Initially, when the decision was made to maintain the first two kilometres, the understanding was that, during the following year, the clearing would be done to maintain the road the remaining distance. I see the Minister is getting some information from his deputy, and perhaps that can be passed along.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a rural maintenance book, which lays it out, and it
depends on the number of residents in an area. I agree that it is a seesaw thing, because
I have talked with the gentleman. The one big problem we have right now is that there are
a number of private people cleaning roads and our policy is not to interfere where there
is a private contractor around who can do the work. I know, in his case, he does most of
it himself. That has been brought up several times.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just do not think that argument is relevant in this case. The Minister is familiar with the situation. He has met with the property owner involved and he does clear the road himself because the government grader will not do it. If the government grader would spend 10 minutes once a month, sometimes twice a month, to do that clearing then he would not be clearing the road himself. Can the Minister tell me if he is going to solve this problem?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a policy laid out on this. I told him that if he got the contractors to agree and it would not bother them, we would do that extra distance and charge him for it. The charge is very little. He told me that himself.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the Minister saying that if the private contractor does not have a problem with the government doing the ploughing, the government will then plough the road? Is that what he just said?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Beyond where we already go.
Ms. Moorcroft: I still do not understand why the rural road maintenance policy, when it was applied, did not go down the full distance of the Two Horse Creek Road. What is the explanation for that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am presuming that the MLA has read the rural policy. Certain things are laid out, and they are to stay within those rules.
Ms. Moorcroft: What I do not understand is which of the rules would be broken by the maintenance of that road continuing another 1.6 kilometres down the road. What I believe was stated was that one year the clearing and ditching would be done so as to be able to maintain the first two kilometres, and then the following year the clearing and ditching would be done to maintain the other 1.6 kilometres. Whose decision is that, and why was it changed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The policy states very plainly that there has to be a certain
number of residents. I agree with the Member that the 1.6 kilometres is a small amount and
I have no problem with it, but if I multiply that by 150 or 200 people in other areas of
the Yukon, it puts quite a few more kilometres on the graders.
Ms. Moorcroft: The fact is that I do not see a bunch of other MLAs lined up behind me to advocate for 1.6 kilometres of any other roads being maintained. The Minister still has not answered the question. A user-density formula and a system of points are used in the rural road maintenance policy. How do those points add up to only maintaining the first two kilometres of the road and not the final 1.6 kilometre of the road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is asking for the calculations and we can get those, too.
Ms. Moorcroft: The formula also says that if the road in question is longer than the user-density figure provides for, it may be necessary to negotiate with the users for the recovery of costs for that portion of the road in excess of the user-density figure.
The Minister indicated that he had met with my constituent. Has he negotiated the recovery of the costs for the portion of the road if they are not going to be able to lengthen the portion that the government maintains?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I also asked the gentleman if he would see if the contractors in that area, who have snow-clearing equipment, agreed with our taking on that extra section. He has not got back to me with that. In fact, the last time I talked to him, he did not think it was a big issue. However, it was something that makes sense to me if the other contractors, the private people, are not upset about it. If there are private contractors out there and they do not want us cleaning roads, then we do not clean roads.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister some questions about the road to Golden Horn Elementary School, which is called Duncan Drive. This is also something about which I have written to the former Minister and the present Minister. I think that a number of people agree that the road should be improved. I would like to ask the Minister if he has any information on that for me?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There has been some correspondence about it. I will see what the department has come up with, and then get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would just like to ask the Minister to bring the information back after the break. I cannot proceed with the follow-up to the questions I have been asking for the last four days if I do not get some information back. I am hoping that he will be able to find it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not sure that we can get it all back that fast; it has to come from other buildings. However, we will do our best.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister on Wickstrom Road. This is a bit of an old chestnut, but the people on Wickstrom Road have been bandied back and forth between levels of government. They do not seem to be getting anywhere.
There are two problems associated with the Wickstrom Road, particularly as it curves from Hospital Road. The corner is very sharp and there is a visibility problem. There is a large bank of gravel there, which makes the corner a 90-degree right-hand turn. There is also the state of the guard rails, or, as I have heard them referred to, the barrier rails. The issue has gone back and forth between the two levels of government.
It is my understanding that the responsibility is divided on that road. It is partly the responsibility of the City of Whitehorse, including the corner, and partly the responsibility of the territorial government. Do I have my facts straight?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, you have. Our responsibility begins by the church. From the church back is the city's responsibility.
Mr. Cable: The Minister is saying that the portion along the river is the responsibility of the City of Whitehorse - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mr. Cable: There is a new element that was introduced into the equation. That is the construction of the hospital. I gather that the trucks coming out of the road from the hospital are posing some problems for the people who live along the road, in that the trucks do not seem to be too aware of other traffic on the road. Does the Minister's department have the authority to regulate the traffic coming off of the hospital construction site?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we do not.
Mr. Cable: Because there is mixed jurisdiction along that road, is the Minister prepared to sit down with the people who live along that road, together with representatives of the city, and perhaps a representative of the Yukon Hospital Corporation to work through what I think is a bit of a bureaucratic haze on responsibilities and plans for the future?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I understand it, the Member would like us to get some
sense about where the trucks come out from the hospital on to the road. Is this what the
Mr. Cable: There is more than that. There is a discussion of the whole problem. The sharp corner at the bottom, the state of the guard rails, which visibly appear to be dangerous, and then there is this new element of the trucks coming out of the hospital construction site.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that would be under another Minister's jurisdiction. I shall talk to him and see what we can do. I am prepared to meet with them if they want to meet with me.
Mr. Cable: I will endeavour to set up that meeting or put the Minister in contact with the person who would like that meeting.
Another issue is the Stevens subdivision gravel pit. I asked the Minister some questions in Question Period, as the Minister, I am sure, will recollect, on December 8, 1994. I had had the impression earlier from the Minister's predecessor's public statements that the Stevens gravel pit was cancelled, and I refer specifically to the news release issued on July 11, 1994. The Minister's predecessor, at the end of this news release said, "In a letter to the mayor, I have made it clear that we do not want to see a pit developed in that area.''
A little later, in the Minister's predecessor's newsletter, it states, "As a result of concerns expressed to me by area residents, I decided that the Government of Yukon should not proceed with the development of the Stevens quarry. Development of an adjacent country residential subdivision was also stopped."
What is the government's position? Is the quarry dead, or is it up in the air pending
the gravel inventory? Where are we on that question?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The former Minister made a statement, and I am quite prepared to honour it. It is on hold right now. As I told the city, I am not going to say that it is on hold for 95 years, because by that time I will not be around to face the punishment. It is on hold for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Cable: I am endeavouring to find out what is meant by "the foreseeable future". In the Minister's opening remarks, he indicated that the gravel inventory was going to be completed by July of this year. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, that is what I said.
Mr. Cable: I think that the gravel inventory was precipitated, in part, by the Stevens quarry problem. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, the Member is correct.
Mr. Cable: So, does the decision about whether or not to develop the Stevens quarry depend upon what comes out of this gravel inventory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The easy way will be to find gravel in other places so that we do not have to disagree with each other about the one in the Stevens subdivision, but I still back the previous Minister when he said it will not be available at the present time.
Mr. Cable: To be a little more definitive - and I know the Minister cannot speak for the next 95 years; that is unrealistic - how long is this thing on hold? Is a decision going to be made shortly after the inventory results are in, or is it going to be on hold for the next five years or the next 10 years? Can we be just a little bit more definitive on the time span?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Is the Member speaking of the Stevens subdivision or the gravel quarry?
Mr. Cable: I am speaking of the gravel quarry.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As far as I am concerned, it is on hold. If they decide not
to have the Stevens subdivision, that may change the situation. Otherwise, it is on hold.
Mr. Cable: Does the gravel inventory that will be done by July give us a definitive answer, in the Minister's view, as to whether or not there is sufficient gravel around without touching the Stevens gravel quarry?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I hope there is. For instance, I know from dealing with the South Access Road that there is enough gravel there for those two contractors for 17 years. I have seen a preliminary inventory, where there is some just outside the city. There are a number of places that have gravel.
Mr. Cable: On another topic, which has been canvassed before in the House, there has been discussion over the past few days about lot inventories. I believe the Minister's predecessor was questioned on this in the past. What does the Minister's department use to project the number of lots that will be needed in any particular year? Are there inquiries put out to the building industry or is there some long-term projection made? How is that done?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are mainly using information from the past. For instance, in the period of January 1, 1994 to December 31, 1994, there were 14 mobile home lots, 82 residential lots, 20 country residential lots and one lot for public use, for a total of 136 lots. In the period of January 1, 1995 to January 30, 1995, there were seven residential lots. We go back through previous years to give us an idea of what we sell every year.
Mr. Cable: I am sorry. The Minister just read the lot sales. Is that what he was reading? I am asking about the last calendar year and the present month.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have sold 143.
Mr. Cable: We have some historical data. How does the Minister's staff and deputy extrapolate that data to tell us what is needed for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have a committee that represents the city, the Real Estate Association, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Home Builders Association, the Yukon Housing Corporation and the department. They meet on a regular basis to assess how many lots we need.
Mr. Cable: There have been a number of things asked of the Minister in the last few days. Have those projections been tabled? If not, could they be?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes. We can table them. We only have one here. We will get the rest and table them tomorrow night.
Mr. Cable: Lot development goes on from year to year. It is a multi-year project. Is there any long-term projection made? Is the information that will be tabled long term or just one year ahead?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we hope to get at least two years ahead on lots for sale.
Mr. Cable: Are the forecast sales for two years ahead in this information that is about to be tabled?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, not quite, but we would just like to have a stock two years ahead of time. For instance, if another big mine started up, there might be another demand for lots.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister's department have a two-year projection in writing that we could see?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes. In the coming year, 1995, we would like to develop another 289 lots.
Mr. Cable: That is 1995. Is there something beyond 1995 that could be tabled by way of a forecast for lot demand?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, there is not.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to table some more information.
Mr. McDonald: I have an agreement in front of me entitled A Memorandum of Understanding for the Development of the Carcross Waterfront Infrastructure Project. Can the Minister tell us more about this agreement, and how it was negotiated? It looks interesting. It looks very positive. Could we hear what the department is doing in other communities to ensure that everyone takes advantage of the opportunities that Carcross is now going to embrace?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have been considering doing this in Carcross during my years in politics. I am very proud of the department for the way it was able to work this out.
We now have a working agreement, although it is not actually signed, with the First Nations in Whitehorse. We are subcontracting this. We are using the contractor's labourers for this, and it seems to be working well. It worked in the Logan area, as well. Both the contractors and the First Nations seem happy with the arrangement.
When I was the Minister of Renewable Resources, we suggested to the people at the mine in Mayo that they work with the Mayo band, and that was very successful. The Mayo band sent in the workers, and did the hiring and the firing. I hope that we can get this type of program running everywhere. I suspect that each area will be different, as each First Nation is different.
Mr. McDonald: As I read the agreement, it says that the Carcross First Nation and the government will work to develop an infrastructure project on the lands. Is there any financial commitment from the Yukon government to this project?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, there is not. Our duty on that was to get this signed and to get working on the Watson subdivision and the sewage and water treatment there. We got this ministerial order at the same time, and it will be transferred over to the other departments.
Mr. McDonald: The agreement does say that the government agrees in principle with the concept of a Carcross waterfront infrastructure project and that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation will produce a comprehensive business plan about the proposal, including capital and operating and maintenance cost sharing. The cost sharing suggests that the costs will be shared. With whom will the costs be shared?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A committee has now been formed. It will be up to Economic Development and Tourism to put up some money for it.
Mr. McDonald: In negotiating this agreement, presumably the government and the community had identified that the waterfront lands should be used for something, and a commitment was ultimately made to permit the Carcross-Tagish First Nation a very significant say in the planning of those lands for what is called here "an infrastructure project".
Is there a standing agreement with not only Carcross but also with other communities
that if they can identify waterfront lands for the purposes of improving the
infrastructure - presumably the tourism infrastructure and that sort of thing - will the
government be entertaining similar proposals from those other communities as well, as nice
as this one is?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This was done under the infrastructure but, as long as I am here, this department will certainly try to help. That does not mean that we will carry it to the end; we may be just the first people in to get everyone working together and then give it to one of the other departments.
Mr. McDonald: Getting people to work together is a laudable goal and whenever there is success, we should acknowledge that. I am thinking about the policy implications of what we are doing and just trying to get a sense of what the limits are. For any infrastructure project that requires a cash infusion, the assumption is that it would be the responsibility of the Department of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mr. McDonald: I will reserve my questions regarding that for that department and spare this Minister further questions on that point.
The agreement to have the area planned in the manner that is proposed here, the parties to this agreement - the Yukon government and the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the Carcross First Nation - will strike a management committee to oversee the planning of the proposed development of the Carcross waterfront.
Thinking of this from a constituency perspective - namely my constituency perspective - this is an interesting concept. There are interesting precedents that I am sure one might want to explore a bit. In the mind of the Minister, is there a precedent being set, given that this is not selected lands, is excluded from the land selection, according to the agreement? Is there a willingness on the part of the government to discuss with First Nations a joint-planning mechanism for prime waterfront lands in other communities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As far as I am concerned, there always has been. I think the City of Whitehorse is also involved in the one the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is speaking about, so that may make a difference in how it is done.
Mr. McDonald: As it applies to the City of Whitehorse, obviously the city ought to be involved in the planning, given that it is the municipal government here and is not in Carcross. Given that in Carcross the planning of the waterfront involves two equal parties, the First Nation and the Yukon government, should the planning of the Whitehorse waterfront involve three parties - First Nations, generically, the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government - if one were to follow the precedent being established here?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is now bringing me into City of Whitehorse politics, although we are involved. The city will lead the waterfront development and we will be there, not only as an interested party, but as a working party. We will not be the ones leading the development of the waterfront.
Mr. McDonald: In the case of the City of Whitehorse, the situation is very similar. The majority of waterfront lands are owned by the Yukon government, so the government obviously has an interest. Now, it may have been stated that the city should lead the planning process for the waterfront development, but, surely, two things are the case. The Yukon government has established a precedent in involving First Nations in waterfront development. It would establish a precedent that they would be intricately involved in waterfront development on lands for which they have no interest in terms of selections. They also have an interest in ensuring that, even in the even that the city does the planning, the planning process is acceptable to the YTG. If the City of Whitehorse devises a plan that would plan the lands in a way that the Yukon government fundamentally objected to, they might want to express an opinion on that subject. In the case of other communities such as Whitehorse, if they are going to make the City of Whitehorse their agent in leading the planning process, would they not want to make sure that First Nations are given the same respect that they are given in Carcross?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I must first point out that Whitehorse is a municipality, and it runs its own affairs. Carcross is an unorganized community. Therefore, we can move around a little more freely than in Whitehorse.
Whether we disagree with Whitehorse or not is hypothetical, because we do not even know what the project is all about.
Mr. McDonald: I agree and disagree with the Minister.
First of all, the City of Whitehorse is a municipality, but it does not give them the right to do everything within the community. The Yukon government has historically expressed - and continues to express - interest in doing things, even without getting city council approval.
We have a visitor reception centre being proposed for waterfront lands. Well, we are not sure whether or not they are waterfront lands, because the Minister of Tourism says they are not waterfront and the Minister of Education says they are. Nevertheless, there is a Yukon government interest, in that the Yukon government owns the lands.
In the Carcross situation, they acknowledge the existence of the Carcross Community Area Advisory Planning Committee. They are recognizing a community interest being expressed there. It is not the same as the City of Whitehorse, because it is not as sophisticated. They do not have staff. Obviously, it is not as big a town as Whitehorse, so the Carcross Community Area Advisory Planning Committee clearly would not be accorded the same rights and responsibilities as the City of Whitehorse. However, acknowledging the City of Whitehorse would be integrally involved - and the City of Whitehorse itself acknowledges that the Yukon government is involved, because the proposal is planned on Yukon government lands - why would the Yukon government not want to ensure that the planning process on its lands not only includes the City of Whitehorse but also, in a manner similar to the precedent established in Carcross, includes First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to say that I agree that, although Carcross is unorganized, it has made a large first step in having the two community groups working together. We are very pleased about that. Until we really know what the plans are for the Whitehorse riverfront, I would not say too much. I would be committing myself, or the department, to a hypothetical situation.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is correct. Anyone with a crystal ball who could tell us what is going to be on the waterfront two years from now should sell their services and make some money. I am not asking what is going to be on the waterfront. I am asking about the planning process that leads to what is going to be on the waterfront. I do not want the Minister to get the impression that I am opposed to this Carcross waterfront development agreement. I think it is a good idea. It has broad community support and the support of First Nations, and perhaps it will actually lead to something of real consequence. We will talk to the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister responsible for the centennial anniversaries program, about their financial commitment and about all of the commitments around the territory. That will be part of the discussion. However, I am thinking more about the planning process, and about the degree to which one shows community groups and community governments, including First Nations governments, respect when it comes to planning viable waterfront lands.
Other communities also have waterfront lands. I am thinking right now of my own constituency and the waterfront lands there.
The Minister said the city would lead the planning. In communicating with the city, could he not effectively say that the city would be the agent for the government, or at least chair the discussions on the planning process, even if it is not technically the agent of the Yukon government? Would it not be worthwhile to mention to the city that, as far as the Yukon government is concerned, when it comes to the planning on valuable waterfront lands, the Yukon government has identified a precedent that respects First Nations governments' involvement in waterfront planning?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Until the land issue is settled - and this is a land claim issue - I would make no commitment. It would not be this department, in any event; it would be Tourism.
Mr. McDonald: It was the Executive Council Office, the last time I checked. I am
committing to asking the Minister in the Community and Transportation Services estimates
about waterfront development planning. I am not going to pigeonhole this Minister about
that. I want to make the obvious point, however, that in Carcross the First Nation did not
even have to select any waterfront lands, yet they have 50 percent of the planning
responsibilities for the waterfront. In fact, they are the ones who will be involved in
developing an infrastructure project.
One could argue that these are the prime lands of all the vacant land on the Carcross waterfront. This is where the boat was. It is something that is obviously of interest to other communities. Again, I am not disagreeing with this initiative. I am just saying that, if I were a First Nation anywhere else, I would be really interested in this and would say, "right on, Yukon government, you have done a good thing and if you want to do a good thing times 12, we are here to negotiate".
I will just let the Minister know that, as far as waterfront planning is concerned, I will still be talking to the Government Leader and I will expect that he will be giving us all kinds of good information about what is happening there. I will also talk to the Minister of Economic Development about the specific issue of funding for infrastructure projects. They are both very interesting.
I have a quick question that the Minister could probably answer before the break.
We were told that a large portion of this supplementary budget was to include a very
large Shakwak project - in fact, I think it was tendered some time in July, and it has
been the subject of some discussion here about when it was tendered and who approved it
and whether or not we were sitting in the Legislature while the thing was being approved
for extra money, and all that sort of thing. I do not want to approach this issue from
that perspective. I am approaching the issue from a perspective of the tendering practices
of the department.
The Government Leader indicated that the reason the government went ahead with the Shakwak project was because there was a construction company on the site, that it had the money and that it did not want to give the job to outside contractors - the government wanted it to go local. I have the exact quote here, should the Minister press me to produce it. I want to know what the policy is with respect to adding on extra large projects to an existing road construction plan.
A fellow who works for a road construction company told me that he was a little bit upset by this practice because a company that already has its equipment mobilized is going to have a real super advantage in bidding on a contract. Normally, when one talks about a few add-ons to a road contract, no one really objects, because if one has a few extra bucks or a little extra work is required, it is pretty common for a change order, or even a tender, to permit the extra work to be done, even knowing that the company that is already mobilized will likely bid the most aggressively. However, when the project is worth $12 million, that is a different story. Can the Minister explain what has transpired?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Number one, it is a common practice among contractors. I worked on some of those projects. You put your first bid in low so that you are in a position to get the next bid because you have all your equipment there. It stands to reason that if your equipment is there and mobile, you can bid cheaper. I do not think that there is anything bad about that. I mean, that is a business practice.
There were two companies there and it was put out to bid, and one got the bid. I suppose they could bid lower because they had their equipment there and they were mobile already. I do not think they should be punished for that.
Mr. McDonald: It is not a question of punishing the low bidder. It is not a question of punishing companies that have already been mobilized. It is an issue of whether or not other companies that could have bid and might have bid even more aggressively had they known there was going to be, say for the sake of argument, not just $15 million, but $25 million worth of work.
Sure, we should take advantage of the low bid, but other companies that did not bid - either because they did not think it was worth their while or did not bid aggressively enough because they did not realize the scope of the work that was going to be out there for them - might have a grievance if the new project is huge.
As I pointed out, if there is $15 million worth of work going on and the government wants to tender an extra couple of million dollars worth of work on that size of project then one might say, in terms of the percentage of the project, that is acceptable. However, to bid a large project of that size, one would wonder if the government is really doing a fair thing.
The Government Leader already indicated that there was some desire to ensure that certain local people got the work. He made the point that he did not want this to go outside, because he knew that the tendering practice would make it very difficult for other bidders to bid successfully. Maybe we can continue with this subject tomorrow.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled January 31, 1995:
Report on Regulations: January 12, 1993 to June 27, 1994 (Phillips)
Department of Education Annual Report 1993-94 (Phelps)