Wednesday, February 1, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: At this time, we will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have some documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Gambling casino
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Government Leader. Last night I met with constituents in my riding. Some of the issues we discussed were crime in the community, the waterfront development and gambling. Of the 17 people who were there, not one supported a gambling casino in Whitehorse. They want to know when this Yukon Party government is going to be talking to downtown residents about its plan to implement a gambling casino and I would like to know what I can tell them.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for that representation. We have laid out what is in process now. I think the city council is discussing, this week, what its position is, and we will make some decisions after that.
Ms. Commodore: The people at the meeting - and there were people there of all political stripes, not just our supporters - felt there were many issues of more importance to them than the government's plan to expand gambling, and they wonder why the Government Leader has placed gambling so high on its priority list. I would like to know what I can tell them.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Clearly, gambling is not high on our priority list. We said in the throne speech that we agree with it in principle. If the city officials and the people of Whitehorse do not want it, it will not happen. We have said that it is not a high priority. If the people of the Yukon do not want it, we will certainly not push it.
Ms. Commodore: I hope that the Minister will excuse me for bringing the concerns of my constituents to this Assembly. Some of the people at the meeting last night said that they believe very strongly that this government is being lobbied by hotel owners to go ahead with the plan for the gambling casino, no matter what the people are saying and even if the majority of people are opposed to it. I would like to hear the Minister say again that that is not the case so that I can tell my constituents. They are worried.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have no difficulty telling that Member that we are not being lobbied by the hotel association. The hotel association was lobbying for VLTs, and we clearly said no to them.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: My question is again to the Government Leader regarding gambling. Despite what he is saying today, he is continuing to say in this House that he has not heard from anyone so far who is opposed to gambling, yet there were 30 people in the gallery when the motion was debated, and 17 people at my meeting last night who are opposed to it. I would like to ask the Minister, because there are hundreds of people out there who want to be heard, when he is going to decide whether or not he will hold a plebiscite on this issue. People do want to be heard.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We said that we would be consulting with the people very shortly - I hope within the next couple of months.
Ms. Commodore: Until now, the Government Leader has indicated that he has all kinds of support, including support from the Council for Yukon Indians and Teslin Tlingit leaders. He says that they have supported his vision to introduce expanded gambling. They have said publicly that that is not true. I would like to ask the Minister how many First Nations leaders have indicated support for his vision to expand gambling in downtown Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is not exactly what I said. What I said was that this issue started when we were approached by two of the First Nations about one and one-half years ago. That was part of the reason for going through the process we have gone through. We know that this issue is controversial in the community, as it is with the First Nations. What I said was that we had been approached by two of the First Nations at the start of the process.
Ms. Commodore: One only has to read Hansard.
The Government Leader has indicated that gambling is not high on his priority list, yet he has struck a Cabinet sub-committee to deal with it, he has someone in his offices upstairs working on it and a number of people in the departments are working on the gambling issue. I would like to ask this Minister if he can tell us - if he cannot tell us today, I would ask that he table the information later - how many people are working on his gambling promise at the expense of taxpayers? How much is it costing us right now, if it is not a priority with him?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It certainly is not costing us a lot of money right now. We did strike a committee, but that committee was struck about 18 months ago. It is gathering all the relevant information, back to day one. The process we are going through right now is certainly not an expensive one.
Question re: Visitor exit survey
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism. Last summer, a visitor exit survey was carried out by the Minister's department. The Minister was good enough to provide me with a sample of the questions asked. Can I ask the Minister this what was the purpose of the 1994 visitor exit survey?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The survey was designed so that we could question a significant number of our tourists who entered the territory by various means and determine from those tourists why they came, how they chose the Yukon, what they liked, what they did not like, how long they wanted to stay, what types of activities they wanted to take part in - those kinds of things. Those are generally the types of questions that were asked. Visitor exit surveys are done by every jurisdiction in the country, usually every three to four years. Ours was after five or six years, but the information will be made available very shortly, and it will be very valuable information in our marketing over the next two or three years and for the various businesses in the tourism industry.
Mr. Cable: The decision about the Beringia Centre was made obviously some time in 1994, before the results of the visitor exit survey were in. In view of the cost of the survey and in view of what the Minister just said, why did the government not wait to make the Beringia decision until the survey results were in?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think any of us will be surprised, even in this visitor exit survey, to discover that the majority of our visitors are bound for Alaska and are passing through. If we are ever going to attempt to make them stop and see and do more things in the territory, we are going to have to create more attractions. I do not think we needed a visitor exit survey to necessarily tell us that. We already know that roughly 75 percent of our tourists just pass through the Yukon and it is one of our goals to try and make them stop and spend more time here.
Because of the number of attractions in Dawson City, many of our tourists spend more
time in Dawson City than they do in Whitehorse, so this was another way of making them
spend more time in Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: Part of the survey is devoted to asking tourists why they stopped in the Yukon, and what they did. If the survey shows that there is no great interest in a Beringia-type centre, is the Minister prepared to take that plan back to the drawing board?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. The question, "Would you support a Beringia Centre or not?" was not a question in the questionnaire. We will be able to determine how many tourists were passing through and how long they stayed. There is no doubt about it, the various people, like Holland-American and Princess, told us that if there were more attractions in the Yukon, they would consider staying longer. We have also heard that from many bus companies and other tour companies that send tourists to the Yukon.
Question re: Agricultural land development
Ms. Moorcroft: Last week, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services told us in debate that the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation had no problem with the agricultural land that the government plans to develop in the Laberge area. I spoke with the chief who said that they do not support further land development until land claim negotiations are complete. Did the Minister tell the truth when he said that neither one of the First Nations had a problem with the land the government is planning to develop?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that they did not reply to the letter, so I presumed they had no problem.
Ms. Moorcroft: What the Minister said was that the First Nation had no problem with the land the government was planning to develop. Yesterday, he brought out the fact that he had sent a letter to which he had not seen a response. Can we trust the government to give us the information they have and give it to us straight, man to man, as it were? Do we have to start getting independent verification of everything the Minister says?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have spent about 24 hours here trying to get the truth through to the Member, but it still does not seem to register.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me ask the Minister this simple question to see if he can get the truth through to me: d
id the Minister tell the truth when he said that neither one of the First Nations has a problem with the lands the government is planning to develop?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that they were contacted but did not reply to the letter, so I presumed that they were not interested.
Question re: Chateau Jomini
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services regarding the Chateau Jomini project in Faro.
The Town of Faro sent a letter to the Minister and his department inquiring about the status of the Chateau Jomini. At one point, it was scheduled for a development project in 1992, but the project was killed by the government of the day.
The people in Faro would like to see the project tendered, because there has been some private sector interest in the project. Has the Minister reviewed that request and is he prepared to tender the project to the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have looked at this briefly. I received the letter of inquiry from the Mayor of Faro. My inclination is to do just that with the Chateau Jomini. I believe it was the Yukon Development Corporation's project a number of years ago. The corporation does not have the mandate to develop that sort of project at this time. It makes sense to tender the project or sell it to the Town of Faro.
As yet, no decision has been made on it.
Mr. Harding: The interest that has been expressed by the private sector for the building has some limitations when it comes to time lines. Could the Minister give me some indication as to what kind of time lines we are looking at for a decision as to whether or not the Chateau Jomini will be publicly tendered for the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I hope that a decision will be made very shortly so that if it was tendered, or if the Town of Faro had the contract, they could work on it this construction season. I do not want to leave it into late fall or next winter. If there is anything to be done with it, I think it would be helpful for whoever owns it to start this spring.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has indicated in his answer to my first question that he was, in principle - or least he presented an answer to that effect - in support of the private-sector tendering. Has he, along with his department, identified any pitfalls or potential repercussions that would, or could, lead to a negative decision in terms of the tendering?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not as yet. I hope we do not and that it can be dealt with shortly.
Question re: Faro Real Estate/Anvil Range, housing agreement
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. There is a disturbing situation in Faro, which is happening right now. Faro Real Estate has frozen the units in Faro and is not responding to new requests for housing in the community. According to the manager of Faro Real Estate, whom I spoke to yesterday, this could go on indefinitely until Anvil Range and Faro Real Estate reach a housing deal. However, I have constituents arriving in Faro who need housing. Is the government prepared to help try and facilitate a solution to this problem so that my constituents arriving in Faro can find some housing?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can. I am not sure what we can do at the present time. Faro Real Estate has paid the arrears on its mortgage with the Yukon Housing Corporation and brought it up to date, so we do not have the leverage with respect to Faro Real Estate that we had just a matter of weeks ago. I will look into it to see if there is anything we can do to help settle what I understand to be a dispute between Faro Real Estate and Anvil Range, who are trying to negotiate some sort of housing agreement.
Mr. Harding: One thing the government does have some jurisdiction over is rental rates in Faro at the present time. As this heavy-weight battle unfolds between Anvil Range and Faro Real Estate, the new residents of Faro and the existing tenants, who are worried about big rental increases that Faro Real Estate has proposed, are suffering right now. Will the Minister ensure that my constituents get no rental increases larger than the increase in the consumer price index while he is in charge of this particular portfolio and these negotiations are being carried out?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. We will certainly exercise that bit of leverage that we have with Faro Real Estate. My understanding is that the immediate concern is that Faro Real Estate is refusing to rent any of the units in Faro. They have put them up for sale and, if our leverage under the mortgage agreement with respect to rental rates can influence or move FREL in any way, we will move to do that.
Mr. Harding: There is also one other potential area of leverage and that is because a mortgage relationship exists between Faro Real Estate and YTG. I think that could be a tool in a negotiated settlement between Anvil Range, Faro Real Estate and YTG.
Is YTG prepared to extend the mortgage period of their loan to reduce Faro Real Estate's base revenue requirements so that rents remain reasonable?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: If that becomes necessary, we will do it. We do not know whether FREL needs that accommodation in order to keep the rents low. They will have to show us that they need it. From my perspective, they do have considerable assets. The mortgage is not overly high. From what I see, FREL can be quite profitable at nearly the rents they have now. If they can establish that they are not making any money and need an extension, then we would look at it.
Question re: Alcohol, special occasion permits
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a policy question for the Government Leader. Previously, if someone in the government wanted to have a tea party and they wanted to lace their tea with alcohol, the policy was that no alcohol could be served in government buildings unless a special permit was obtained. The new policy reads: "The Government Leader..." - bold and underlined - "...approves the occasions for which special occasion permits will be sought under this policy."
What was wrong with the previous policy that Cabinet had to change it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I find this quite remarkable. It is only February 1 and we have a couple of months of Question Periods yet to go.
I am not sure what the Member is getting at.
Ms. Moorcroft: Maybe the Government Leader does not even know about his newfound
responsibilities. We are trying to raise important issues in the House but the Government
Leader sits there at his desk. He has to bring forward conflict-of-interest legislation.
We ask questions about forestry devolution. Why is the Government Leader approving special
occasion permits for consumption of alcohol on government premises? Does he not have
anything more important to do?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not know why the Minister cannot answer the question. This is a result of a Cabinet meeting. Why did the Cabinet make this decision? Why did the Cabinet sit down and decide that the Government Leader must approve special-occasion liquor permits?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There must have been some valid reasons for it.
Question re: Gratuities
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader, the issuer of liquor permits.
The Government Leader has told us that he would provide us with a list of all government-employee travel paid for by non-government agencies, including the private sector. The Minister of Government Services has indicated publicly that there has been quite a bit of this kind of travel, particularly in Tourism, where employees often travel at the expense of tour operators and hotel chains. Apparently, the Government Leader has sent a memo to departments requesting an immediate response to this question. I would like to ask him why we do not have the information yet. Has he been given a list? Has anything come to him about this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I have not received anything back from the departments yet. I will check on it to see what is taking so long.
Mrs. Firth: It raises a curious point, because we have a gift policy in this government that states, "gifts that could bring into question the objectivity, impartiality or integrity of an employee should be declined...", and that, "...if it is accepted, it should be reported in writing to the deputy minister and the Minister". Management Board then decides about the disposition of the gift and whether or not to make it public.
They also have to sign travel authorization forms, so all the information should be
readily accessible. Either the government has not been following its own policy, or there
is some reason for holding up this information. Could the Government Leader tell us what
the big holdup is?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If I could tell the Member, I most certainly would. It was just last week when the request was made by the Member opposite. As she has stated in the House, I have sent a memo to the departments requesting the information. I have not heard back from them as of Question Period today. I will check on it and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: It is obvious that they are not following the policy. I think it is a serious issue, and that it is more urgent than perhaps the government realizes.
Perhaps I will have the information before the Government Leader does. I have been called and told that employees are going to such exotic places as Hawaii, paid for by hearing aid companies -
Speaker: Order. Will the Member please ask a question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: I will, Mr. Speaker, but the Members on the other side are yelling that I am making accusations. I have checked out some of these, and they are true.
I wish to emphasize the seriousness of this issue. I am being told things. I am not simply making allegations.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please ask a question.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Government Leader if we are going to get this information directly, as Members of the Legislature, and if it will be presented directly to the public or if the Cabinet will edit it first.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This Member is notorious for making unfounded allegations in this House. I have requested the information from the departments. As soon as it is available, I will bring it to the Legislature for Members' information.
Question re: Human resource policy
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of the Public Service Commission.
Shortly after I received the new human resource policy that I had requested from the Minister, an amended version of the employment equity policy came forward. A change was made to whom the department would share information with on the employment equity policy: "with representatives of employee unions to discuss and review proposed employment equity policies and programs".
I would like to ask the Minister if it was a deliberate omission that was corrected.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not have the old policy in front of me so I will have to get back to the Member. I do not think it was deliberately omitted.
Ms. Moorcroft: I find it curious that the two corrections that have had to be made to date were both on the subject of including the employee union when discussing revised policies. Can I ask the Minister if the department has prepared a list of the changes that have been made in the new policy manual that was requested some time ago in this House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I tabled some documents today about the Public Service Commission that address some of the questions that the Member opposite asked a few weeks ago. I can check into it to see if they cover all of the areas the Member is concerned about.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I will have to wait until I have a chance to look at the documents that the Minister tabled. Can I ask him if he is aware if there were any other typographical errors in the information he has just provided?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are no typographical errors, but as the commission went back through it for about the tenth time, someone discovered some other omission. I can assure the Member that none of the omissions were deliberate. Sometimes, when things are being transmitted from one document to another, things can get left out. The Member can check it when she looks at the legislative return.
Question re: Tourism boycott
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism on the wolf kill tourism boycott. As the Minister will recollect, a few weeks ago, the anti-wolf kill tourism boycotters came to town and were threatening a tourism boycott. Has the Minister's department been able to determine if the wolf kill boycotters are being successful? Are the bookings down for the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have not noticed any difference in the bookings from last year to this year. In fact, in some cases the bookings have increased.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister's department worked out a response plan? A couple of years ago, when the wolf-kill plan was first introduced, the Minister hinted that his department had worked out some sort of response. Has there been an update of that response, and if so, what are the elements of it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Tourism works closely with the Department of Renewable Resources on inquiries that come in regarding the caribou enhancement program. We are responding to those people who request more information.
Mr. Cable: Two years ago, I had the impression that there was something more formal than that. Is the Minister saying that the department is simply playing it by ear, or is there some formal response plan that could be tabled here in the House?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The response plan is similar to last time. We had an action plan in place and have seen how it responded in the various embassies. Otherwise, we have eyes and ears out there that are watching for any reaction. They report to us, and we respond accordingly. That is the plan that is in place.
Question re: Whitehorse Elementary School, safety lights
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Education regarding the safety light in front of Whitehorse Elementary. The Minister has made his position very clear in this House. He has said he is not prepared to pay for half the price of a safety light in front of that school to help ensure the safety of the children using the crosswalk. Since the government is responsible for the education of more than 400 children in that school, why has he taken the position that he is not equally responsible for their safety?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have gone around this issue in this session of the House before. The position we take is that we pay taxes, and we give very large grants to the City of Whitehorse, and the responsibility for putting up a safety crossing and light in that area on 4th Avenue is the financial responsibility of the city.
Ms. Commodore: Parents of children have been requesting a safety light in front of that school for almost two years. We are told that the total cost of the light is $115,000. The city would like this government to pay the modest sum of $57,000. Can the Minister tell us if his position is that the modest sum of $57,000 is not worth the safety of those children?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am one of the people here who pays taxes to the city, and I would be very happy to see the city spend that money and an equal amount in putting up the light. It is their duty and their responsibility, and it is very imperative that they look at the situation of traffic control and the safety of children.
Ms. Commodore: The impression that most people will get from watching Question Period in this House is that the Minister just does not give a darn about the children in that school and their safety, even though he is responsible for their education. I would like the Minister to turn around and look at the TV camera and tell the parents of these 400 children that he just does not give a damn.
Speaker: Order. The other day I called the Member - I believe the Member who is asking the question - for using that type of language. I would again remind the Members not to use that type of language.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do care. I would like to advise the Member opposite and her colleagues that the NDP does not have the monopoly on caring - believe it or not. I feel quite strongly that the city should go ahead and live up to its obligations and install the light as required.
There is a principle here, and it is an important principle. If we are allowed to be placed in the position of simply caving in whenever the city tries to get us to fund things that are not our responsibility but are clearly the city's responsibility, then where is the end of it?
Question re: Fish Lake Road
Mr. McDonald: We care about a lot of things and we also care about the Fish Lake Road in Whitehorse, and that is the question I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. This road is one of the most important and heavily used recreation roads in the Whitehorse area. Many tourists use it and school trips are taken on that road every spring. A number of people live on the road and now the Kwanlin Dun's new cultural camp is situated on that road.
The Minister has replied to some requests I have made to upgrade it that the project is not a priority for his government. That reply was before the budget came out. Has he taken the time to reconsider his position since then?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have driven up that road personally, and it certainly is not one of our top roads, but it is not one of our priority roads.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: We know where they want to spend their time and attention. We will get them to turn their direction toward the road when we get them to consider a liquor permit at the end.
The government had $14 million last year that it did not expect to receive from the federal government, money it directed toward everything from insurance planners to even more work that they did not expect to do on its major highway reconstruction programs.
Can the Minister tell us why this important recreation road, and road that many Whitehorse residents use for a variety of purposes, cannot be considered a priority, given the amount of funding that is already being put into road development generally?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have lots of roads that are a priority. There are lots of roads in the rural areas that need priority. We cannot fit them all in.
Mr. McDonald: The government is putting $40 million into one portion of one road, millions of dollars into certain other roads, but this road, which is heavily used by a lot of Whitehorse people and has tourism potential - because there are tourism businesses on this road - cannot be considered, at least by the government's priority rating, as being worth its time and attention. I do not understand that. Given that the government has an $8 million slush fund for next year, why can it not reserve a portion of the funding that is available in the slush fund and make use of some of that to upgrade the road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If there is a slush fund, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has not heard about it. We certainly do not have it in the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Question re: Gratuities
Mrs. Firth: I have another question for the Government Leader about freebies - presents, gifts. The conflict-of-interest legislation that was proposed by this government states that there has to be public disclosure of gifts over $150, and the gift policy states that gifts, hospitality or benefits over $100 have to be identified. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he places any limit on the dollar value of gifts that should be accepted or will be allowed to be accepted.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe there is a limit, but I am not sure what it is right now. I can get back to the Member on that, but I believe there is a limit on it, and the Member is correct that gifts are supposed to be declared. I will get back to her with the amount of the limit.
Mrs. Firth: For example, the Minister of Tourism has accepted a free parka, valued at about $500. I would like to know if the Government Leader sees that as being a reasonable amount of money for a gift to a Minister who makes about $65,000 to $67,000 a year - to accept from a business in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When we are talking about the parka the Minister of Tourism received, he was wearing it for the advertising purposes of the anniversary as well. I am certain that the Minister has declared it.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is now becoming a walking billboard, is he? Yes, the Government Leader says. So, we can drape the Minister with gold nuggets and send him out to Florida, on his parade and on his $40,000 European tour. I want to find out from the Government Leader what he thinks is acceptable. Is $500 acceptable, or $1,000, or $2,000? The Minister should have paid for the parka.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is quite ironic. If we do not do anything to promote the Yukon, economic development or tourism, we are criticized severely by the Members opposite. Now the Member for Riverdale South is saying that the Minister of Tourism should not be a salesman for the Yukon.
Question re: Branigan inquiry
Mr. Penikett: I hate to change the topic, but I have a question for the Minister of Health. Last year I filed some written questions to the Minister about the costs of the continuing inquiry into the professional conduct of Dr. Branigan. I note from the Minister's answers that the cost exceeded $250,000 over the last few years, to say nothing of the court costs and the costs borne by the doctor himself. I wonder if I could ask the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Health, whom I would like to answer it, whether the sums of money involved are a concern to the government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: All of these kinds of costs are a concern to the government.
Mr. Penikett: I would be absolutely staggered if there was any other answer than that. The Minister of Health, when he replied to my question last year about the difficulties of constituting a disinterested disciplinary body from within the ranks of the Yukon medical practitioners, indicated that the council and the department were reviewing the Medical Professions Act, particularly on the question of the problem of establishing a disinterested body to examine professional conduct questions. I would like to ask the Minister how that work has been proceeding and whether we should be seeing amendments to the Medical Professions Act in this sitting or indeed in this session?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not believe there is any intention to bring forward amendments to the act during this session. The fact of life for the Yukon is that to get highly qualified medical professionals to hear a case, such as the Branigan case, we really have to go to another jurisdiction, and that cost is something we are going to have to live with.
Mr. Penikett: I think that is exactly right, and that problem was pointed out by some of us in this Legislature when the law was originally introduced and passed. As a lawyer, as well as Minister of Health, I am sure the Minister would share the widespread public concern about the need for an expeditious resolution of complaints against a professional person. It is difficult for the professional, as well as for the alleged victims of professional misconduct.
What particular steps is this Minister considering, in the interests of justice, fairness, and an expeditious resolution, to improve the quality of the process so that when someone is complained against, and their professional conduct is put into question, there can be a resolution of the matter in a way that satisfies our sense of justice in our community?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is a good question; it is a very serious question and one that is not easy to answer. First of all, it is important to note that, at least to my knowledge, we deal with this matter under our laws in a similar manner to the way similar complaints are dealt with in other jurisdictions in Canada.
The second point to make is that delays in the justice system are commonplace across Canada. To abridge due process could lead to an injustice being done. It is a very difficult and awkward area. It is further important to note that, to my understanding, some of the defences launched by the lawyers who acted on behalf of Dr. Branigan chose to raise procedural and constitutional issues, which led to the necessity of impaneling doctors from outside the territory. Some of the delays were a result of the strategy of the lawyers acting for Dr. Branigan, and not the result of the prosecutors' actions.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 31, standing in the name of Ms. Moorcroft.
Motion No. 31
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Mount Lorne
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, to practise good government, public consultation is essential;
THAT the Yukon Party government has announced a number of decisions where public consultation is lacking; and
THAT this House urge the government to engage in discussions with the general public and interested parties about proposed legislation and policy decisions such as: the Environment Act, conflict-of-interest legislation, gambling casinos, the Beringia Interpretive Centre, Yukon Historic Resources Centre, waterfront development, game farming and the proposed First Nations Day.
Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to support this motion, because I think that it is very important that we debate what has been happening in the Yukon since the Yukon Party government took office.
At the outset, I should spend a few minutes indicating what I view as public consultation and what it means to consult. In order to consult, one must seek information and then take that information into account. For a government to engage in public consultation, it must consider the opinions and values of the public that it is elected to represent and serve.
One of the issues that a lot of our constituents have talked to us about since the government called the session in December is the fact that we have moved toward a single session. The Yukon Party has decided to combine all the budgets and call one session, so that we only have one period of public accountability in a year. That, in itself, shows where this government's priorities are, and what their attitude is toward consultation with the public. They prefer to try and govern by sitting at their desks, not being held accountable in this Legislature by answering questions, engaging in debate and hearing the concerns that we bring forward on behalf of our constituents.
In putting the motion forward for debate, we cited a number of policy decisions and proposed legislation that was coming forward, in which we think that discussions with the general public and interested parties have been seriously lacking. I would like to start with some of the decisions that were announced in the Speech from the Throne that began this session.
The first is gambling. This is an issue in which even the government must be aware that the public takes a great deal of interest.
Everybody has an opinion about it, and most people do not like it.
The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment did look at this issue and they did not reach a consensus, because there were so many concerns about pathological gamblers, about crime and about addiction. For most communities, gambling has adverse social consequences as well as a large and costly dark side.
Communities in southern Canada and in the United States have found increased crime, which also brings down property values, when more gambling has been introduced. They find that they have to double their police forces. There is a serious risk of addiction for gamblers, and the fact is that it is also presently a problem in the Yukon.
The Yukon Party's desire to open a gambling casino is very poorly thought out. Casinos will not provide easy riches. What they will do is rob us of our character and resources. They will lead to financial losses for lower income families. Some of the service clubs that run bingos and gambling to raise money are worried that a new casino would cut into their means of raising funds. Others say that gambling, as a tourist attraction, fails to capitalize on the Yukon's greatest attraction: the scenery and the wilderness. Elders of Teslin have come out against the concept, although, at one time, the Government Leader said that he was approached by the Teslin Tlingit First Nation and that the band favoured the idea of a gambling casino. The Upper Liard and Kwanlin Dun First Nations have both strongly opposed the casino. The First Nations Elders Council was unequivocally opposed to gambling, and also said that First Nations would have the exclusive control of gambling on settlement lands. The chair of the Council for Yukon Indians issued a public letter stating that she had not spoken to the government about the proposed casino. Did the government consult with the public on the issue of gambling? No, it did not.
Then the government made another announcement: the government is going to go forward with a Beringia museum. One of the problems that we have is that, whenever we ask questions of the government, the Ministers stand up and say "You are just negative. You are just being critical and opposing everything that we want to try to do." They say, "We have some good ideas and some vision, and you are opposed to them."
I do not think that to raise questions means to oppose an initiative. The questions we raised certainly uncovered a lot of problems with the way the government is going about the Beringia museum. It made this grand announcement and stood up and said it would be a world-class attraction and that it would pay for itself and that it would be a grand success for the Yukon, but those statements just did not stand up to scrutiny. It is very uncommon to find a museum that makes any money.
The Minister of Tourism cited the Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. When we talked to the executive director there and got some information from that museum, we found out that over 50 percent of their funding comes from a line item in the budget of the Alberta government every year. It is not something that makes money.
A lot of concerns were raised by the MacBride Museum Association about the fact that the government did not talk to the heritage and museums community before it made this announcement.
Why does the government want to get into competition with the private sector in developing a new museum.
It is pretty clear that the Beringia announcement was not one where the government in any way engaged in successful public consultation. The government did not talk to the public, nor to the museums community, nor to interest groups, and it has not talked to First Nations about gambling.
Let us consider the third announcement in the throne speech when government announced that it was going to move the visitor reception centre downtown. We certainly have heard a lot of people speculating that the only reason the government came forward with the proposal for a Beringia museum was to have something to put into the visitor reception centre, which it does not like, on the highway, and have an excuse to build a visitor reception centre downtown, because that is where government thought it should be all along.
Fair enough. The government itself thought that the visitor reception centre should be downtown, but the fact is that it did not consult with the appropriate interests before making an announcement. The government did not go and talk to the city before putting the announcement in its throne speech.
We have talked to the mayor, we have talked to city council members, and they have raised some concerns that need to be addressed before this project goes ahead. We have not heard from the government that it plans to address those concerns.
If the visitor reception centre is put downtown on the property just across the street, there is going to be a lot more traffic coming down the South Access Road, which has not yet been improved and is something we have been talking about for awhile. Tourists are going to be turning left across the entrance to the Rotary Peace Park, on to Second Avenue, where there is no streetlight. There is already traffic congestion there. The issue of a downtown tourist reception centre and increased recreational and tourist vehicle traffic is an issue that needs to be addressed. If the government had consulted with the municipality before it went ahead with its grand announcement, it might have been able to come off looking like it had done its homework. Parking is an issue. Where are all the motorhomes going to park? There is no room on the site that the Minister has identified for motor vehicles to park. Those are just three small examples of problems the government is getting itself into because of the lack of consultation.
It is also important to consult with the First Nations in the Yukon. Since this government was elected, we have signed the land claims agreements and self-government agreements and passed them into law here. They have been sent to the Government of Canada to become federal statutes. The agreements are about recognizing that the First Nations in the Yukon own the land, and recognizing their rights and their sovereignty in the Yukon. The culture, language and lifestyle of First Nations is a part of our world that we should honour and must recognize. If we take the approach of the Yukon Party, then that recognition will be forced by bitter confrontations. I do not think there is a single Member in this Legislature who does not recognize that failing to consult, listen to, reach out and work with a separate First Nation order of government is going to cause big problems for whatever government is in power.
Let us examine how the government has done in consulting with the First Nations on public policy issues. I have already spoken about gambling. I have already spoken about the fact that many of the First Nations have a serious problem with proceeding with increased gambling and with a casino in the Yukon.
Another problem is the lack of consultation with the Laberge First Nation. In the Community and Transportation Services debate, I have been asking questions about land development in the Laberge area. The Minister stood here last week and, when he was asked about the agricultural land development that they wanted to engage in there, said that there was no problem with the First Nation. When I asked the Minister yesterday about whether the First Nation agreed with the zoning changes that have been made at the junction of the Mayo Road and the Takhini Hot Springs Road, the Minister then said that a letter had been sent out, which had received no response, so he did not feel there was a problem. That is just not good enough.
To change the zoning and establish a new category of zoning - a multiple rural residential zoning - and allow for 25 homes to be clustered on a five-acre parcel, is something I believe that the First Nation in the area will have some legitimate interest in addressing. That has not yet happened.
The government also brought forward a Subdivision Act, and it set out rules and regulations about how one could subdivide one's property. Here we have a zoning change, where one property owner can set up multiple residences on one parcel, and we do not even know if that was brought in line with the considerations that fall under the Subdivision Act. What kind of lighting, road development, sewage and parking is being worked on for that particular parcel of land? Have any guidelines even be made about how that should occur?
There is another issue where we believe consultation is necessary, and that is waterfront development. This is something about which, for a long time, people in Whitehorse, people outside of Whitehorse, the First Nations, municipal councillors and just average citizens have taken an interest in seeing: sensible waterfront development. We are getting to a time where, because of the centennial anniversaries, it would be quite beneficial to move forward in that area. I can tell the Members opposite that we are not going to move forward on waterfront development if they are not prepared to work with the municipality and if they are not prepared to work with the First Nation.
The lands along the Yukon waterfront belong to the First Nation, belong to the City of Whitehorse, belong to the Yukon government and belong to private citizens. All of the public interests will have to be taken into account. I think it is possible to create a forum in which people can work together. I think the challenge for our communities is to make land claims work. In order to do that, we have to demonstrate an understanding of them. We have to demonstrate a respect for them. We have to try to bring the public, the municipalities, the First Nations and the Yukon government together to talk about waterfront development.
Let us talk for a moment about the forestry transfer. When I was in Mayo this summer at the Association of Yukon Communities meeting, there were a number of speakers who were very concerned about what is happening with forestry in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I know you are interested in this issue, because a lot of the concern is being expressed in Watson Lake. We have had people calling us, coming into our offices and lobbying us who want to see less clear cutting. People want to see a reforestation policy in place. People want to see the stumpage fees increased, because presently the Yukon is having its old-growth forests just mowed down, piled on trucks, hauled down the highway and taken out of the Yukon. We are not deriving any economic development from that.
What does the Minister say? "Well, we can't come up with a forestry policy because we do not have jurisdiction for it yet.'' When there was a proposal for a clear cut out near Marsh Lake, the community club organized a meeting. Because there was so much interest from people, not just in the immediate area, but people who have concerns about the environment - log-home builders, people who have operated local businesses cutting down logs and milling them into lumber, and having small saw mills - all wanted to be there and all wanted to participate. That meeting was opened up to the public and there were more than 75 people there.
It is a big issue for the Yukon public, but we have not seen the government coming forward with a policy. They say, "We have to wait until we are in control", and that is just a summary of what their attitude is. They want to be the ones in control; they do not want to worry about developing a forestry policy that addresses the need for increased stumpage fees or the desire to have some value added locally; to use our forest resources as an economic development tool; to have some small mills functioning; to use our local lumber in building furniture locally, or log homes. What about taking our local forests and making sure we replant to have trees growing for the next generation? We cannot just cut them down without worrying about having no forest left. We have to start with a reforestation program.
All these issues have not been dealt with properly by the government. It has not asked environmentalists or the Association of Yukon Communities or the foresters how forestry should be dealt with. It just wants to ignore the public.
There is another essential group that should be consulted on government decisions: our communities. This fall, the Member for Faro and I travelled to the rural communities. We met a lot of people and heard a lot of concerns. Rural communities are an important part of the Yukon, and they have a lot of important issues to be dealt with.
We have been asking the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about the bridge improvements in Carmacks. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked about that just the other week during Question Period. The Nordenskiold River has a small, old, single-lane bridge going across it, with residences on both sides of the road.
That bridge is not going to last forever. When I asked the Minister about the policy of this government, he told us that the responsibility of the Yukon government is to design, build and maintain bridges. That is what they do. It is what they do in Dawson, in Teslin and in Pelly Crossing. Why would Carmacks be any different? There is some mineral activity taking place in the Carmacks area. There might be more industrial traffic there, as a result of the work the mines are doing, so the road may need to be upgraded.
The First Nation, the municipality and the residents in Carmacks have all said that they are not really convinced that they want acid going through a residential area. They are not convinced that they want mine traffic coming through their town. They have asked the government to cost out a proposal to build an alternative route. When the government costed out that proposal to build an alternative route, they wrote to the Village of Carmacks, saying that it is unclear who would have responsibility here. What the government wants to do is say that if people want to have the bridge paid for by the government, they have to put it where the government thinks it should go. That is not consultation.
We have workers in the Yukon. The government announced, before the session was called, that they were going to legislate a two-percent wage rollback for the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association. We got into session, and it was pretty boisterous. Members of the Opposition asked a lot of questions about why the government was not prepared to go to the bargaining table. We asked why the government was not prepared to negotiate with its workers. We asked why the government wanted to simply legislate, without negotiating first.
They agreed to go to the table with the Yukon Teachers Association. They said that they would go to the table, but only for a couple of weeks. They said that if they did not have an agreement by a certain date, the whole thing was off. People cannot bargain with a gun held to their heads. One cannot really engage in collective bargaining with a deadline, at which point one party says, "That is it; no way; it is game over."
That is what happened. They could not reach an agreement by the deadline, so the teachers requested conciliation, which is an avenue they can seek through the Education Act. However, the Yukon Party government does not believe in conciliation either. It said, "No, we are not going to go to conciliation, we are going to legislate the wage cuts. We are going to legislate the wage cuts because we believe in them. We think that you get too much money. We think that you should get less money." They said that they had a big deficit. Somehow or other they ended up having a $20 million surplus, but they have not changed their wage restraint legislation.
They have also made a number of changes to the human resource policies. I was asking the Government Leader today about the policy on alcoholic beverages, and he did not have any answers. He just thought that it was all a big joke. He said that he would get back to me, and that it was pretty funny that the Government Leader approves the permits for special-occasion liquor permits in government facilities.
What was the matter with the old policy? Why did the Cabinet sit down and spend time even talking about this issue? Why does the Government Leader not remember what the Cabinet talked about? All of the policies in the manual that has been amended have been amended as a result of Cabinet decisions, and Cabinet did not talk to the employees about the changes. These are policies that affect each and every government employee. There are policies about illness, there are policies about employment equity, there are policies about speaking in public and about writing for publication. Even though many of these policies relate to the current collective agreements with the Teachers Association and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the government did not talk to the Yukon Teachers Association. The government did not let the employees know that Cabinet was going to sit down and change all of the policies.
The government did not talk to the Public Service Alliance of Canada either, but chose to ignore the voice of its workers.
So it is not surprising, when we go through these new policies that have been passed by Cabinet, to find out that they have deleted references to the consultation with the Yukon Employees Union in their policies. We know they do not want to do that, and we think they should.
Let us look at another example of the lack of public consultation by the Yukon Party government. Last week, the Minister of Education announced the Yukon Excellence Awards. The Minister stood up and said they had a new program and were going to be setting money aside for the tuition costs of students who get over 80 percent in their cumulative assessments at the end of the year, and was that not wonderful. Well, students have a hard go of it and if they can get some money to help them with tuition, that is important. That is why we have a Yukon grant system in place. But the fact is, the Minister of Education did not talk to teachers. He did not talk to parents. He did not talk to school councils. He did not talk to the Yukon Teachers Association, either. The Minister of Education completely ignored the education partners in his grand announcement about these Yukon Excellence Awards.
It kind of reminded me of the way they went about setting up the education review. What the government seems to do is decide what they think is needed and just make a grand announcement without talking to anybody beforehand. They would not get themselves into so much trouble if they did talk to people beforehand.
The Minister of Education went to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and announced that the
government was going to have an education review because students were coming out of
school and could not read or write well enough, and that the government thought this
should be examined. There was too much multiculturalism and too much fluff in the school
I guess they did not like the direction of the Education Act that the NDP had put forward, although they did vote for it when it went through the House. So, the Education Review Committee went out, and it was a good review. The members went to the communities and spoke with school councils, teachers and parents, and came up with a lot of recommendations. They did not come up with a recommendation for an awards program, such as the Yukon Excellence Awards. I did not see that one in there anywhere.
They did come up with a recommendation that the government should study the issue of cumulative testing and diagnostic assessments because those are controversial forms of testing in the school system. I have talked to some of the students who really hate them, and who are not sure just how much benefit they are.
Even though the education review members said that the education partners should be talked to about whether to increase the cumulative testing - whether that is a good tool for measuring the success of our education system - the Minister, in all his wisdom, decided that the Yukon Excellence Awards would proceed. They presently apply in the field of mathematics because that is where the cumulative testing now takes place. The Minister announced that they would gradually increase and apply to some of the other subject areas, such as language arts and science. Yet, there has been no agreement reached about whether that is a valuable measurement tool.
Why did the government make into a fait accompli what the Education Review Committee wanted to hear from the education partners about before a change was implemented? They should have talked to the Yukon Teachers Association. They could even have talked to the Opposition.
Let us think for a minute about some of the trouble that they have gotten themselves into for not talking to the Opposition. We asked for copies of the Boards and Committees Directory because there are a lot of boards and committees that are established and that do a lot of important work in the Yukon. The government is pretty chary with the information, when I have to ask for four days in a row to receive information on something as simple as a survey of residents or a draft of area development regulations, then still not see it and have to obtain it from a private citizen. The government was also pretty chary with the information we requested about the boards and committees. Finally, just a week ago, we got a list of the boards provided to us. It listed the boards, but it did not give the honoraria.
People want to know about the Employment Standards Board or about the Yukon College Board of Governors. They want to know who is on the board and they want to know how much money the board members make. Is it not strange that that is the only information that the government did not give us? After asking questions, we did get a list of the honoraria, but it is not part of the manual. It is not right there, along with the name of the board, so that we would know how much money people, for example, on the Assessments Appeal Board make when they meet.
We also had concerns about illegal write-offs of loans. The Government Leader listened to those concerns. We all talked about that in our replies to the throne speech and in our replies to the budget speech. The Government Leader stood up and asserted that no loans had been written off, and that the government had made provision for bad debts. Perhaps that Minister can explain the difference between making a provision for bad debts and writing off a loan.
The Auditor General of Canada presented a report to the Legislative Assembly. He said, "During my audit of the consolidated financial statements, the following transactions came to my notice that were not in compliance with the Yukon Financial Administration Act. The government overexpended a vote by $1.7 million, as explained in Note 18, contrary to subsection 17(2), and the government made two loans, each for $2.3 million, without the authority of an act, as required by subsection 41." I do not understand how the Auditor General of Canada can say that the government made loans without the authority of an act, and then the Government Leader can stand up and say, "No, we did not. We absolutely did not."
I hope the Yukon Party is seriously going to listen to what we have to say about how important it is to consult with the public - First Nations, communities, workers, teachers, citizens and interest groups - and that they are not going to follow the example of the Liberal government in Ottawa as to how they consult. This fall, we had the Axworthy social reform proposals. I was one of a number of people who went down to the Westmark and lined up to put our names in a hat to see whether or not we might be able to get five minutes of the commission's time to tell them what we thought about the proposal to cut funding to post-secondary educational institutions.
I have asked the Yukon government to tell us what it thinks about that. It said, "Oh well, it's a trial balloon. We're not going to worry about it until we see what the budget says.'' I think the issue is a lot more serious than that. I think that we should be doing some real consultation - not just flying in and flying out on the next plane less than 24 hours later and not let people speak to them.
We had another poor illustration of that on the Liberal so-called consultation about gun-control legislation. That was another boondoggle.
This government has also taken a very cavalier attitude toward women's groups in the territory. We had the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues established and we had some debate in the Legislature about the new board, what its role should be and what kind of autonomy and authority it should be given to operate. The Minister gave an assurance that women's groups would be asked to submit names of women to serve on the board. When the board appointments came out, there was nobody on the board from the Yukon Status of Women Council and there was nobody on the board from the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. What did the Minister say about that? "Well, we sent them a letter and they didn't respond. They're just a disorganized bunch of women. Why should we listen to them? They didn't answer our letter, so they're not there - too bad.'' It is getting to be a familiar refrain.
I asked about that in Question Period today, when I asked about the development in the Hootalinqua area.
I would like to just tell the Minister why I think it is important that the Status of Women Council should have a seat on the board of the Advisory Council on Women's Issues. The Yukon Status of Women Council has been the only voice of an alternate press in the Yukon in the publishing of the Optimst newspaper for the last 20 years. Every four months, the Optimst publishes another issue. They deal with all kinds of really important, relevant concerns of the women's community in the Yukon. I think they have proved their metal in publishing that newspaper on a regular basis for 20 years.
The Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre has also been in existence for almost 20 years, and it provides a very important service for women who do not qualify for government programs. The centre has had to operate from a tiny office for the past few months, where it cannot offer the same kind of service it offered before.
I guess the Minister does not think that is a serious concern, because he has not put anyone who represents the interests of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre on his new advisory council. I think he should recognize that women who have been actively promoting women's equality in the community for years should be the first ones to turn to for a board that is supposed to advise government on how to improve the status of women in the territory.
I do not want to forget another important example of the lack of consultation by this government. We have seen social assistance policies change in the last couple of years. The first thing we noticed was the development of a state woodcutters' list. It is very inconsistent for a government of that political stripe, which says it is for free enterprise, that wants to let managers manage and that supports business, to set up a list of approved woodcutters. It is saying if a woodcutter has not registered with the government, one cannot buy firewood from them.
Another issue is that the government is taking decision-making away from people. That government has made it clear that it thinks social assistance recipients are liars and cheats. If the government wants to promote self-sufficiency, which is a major element in the speeches it makes, it should be allowing people the ability to make their own decisions.
Social assistance recipients are not going to be able to get off a cycle of dependence when this government is removing the ability for them to decide from whom they buy their firewood, and when it gives them food vouchers, so they cannot decide where they will buy groceries. I do not think the government consulted with social assistance recipients when it changed the policies, and I do not think it consulted with social workers, either. I have already given examples of how it does not listen to its workers.
Social workers have told me that if they had more manageable workloads, they could do better work and could verify the legitimacy of claims. The government should change its attitude and try listening to some of the people involved in delivering those services.
We hear that the government is going to bring forward an access-to-information act. We think that is a very important piece of legislation. What it does is set out the rules by which a member of the public can come to the government and ask, "What information does the government have about me on file?" If a citizen goes to the government department and the government department does not provide the information, they can use the access-to-information act to say that something should be public information and that they want to see it.
There are a lot of concerns about information being made available to the public. I have not heard about the access-to-information act draft, and what the related philosophies and principles of the government are that they want to bring forward. I would be very interested in seeing what they are. I know that there are members of the community and a number of interest groups who would also like to know what they are. I would like to call on government to do that. I would like to ask it to tell us what its plans are for the access-to-information legislation. I would like to ask it to give the public an opportunity to be involved in developing that new legislation.
There are a lot of good ideas in the public realm. This government is not going to be able to do a good job of governing if it refuses to listen to them.
The government thinks that it can tell municipalities what to do. The government thinks that it can browbeat the Village of Carmacks into putting a bridge where it wants a bridge. I do not think that is what it should do. I think it should listen to the Yukon public.
We have had some debate about the privatization of energy. I think that is another important example of the government not listening to the public.
Electricity is provided by the Yukon Electrical Company Limited but it is owned by the Yukon Energy Corporation. Yukoners bought the Northern Canada Power Commission's Yukon assets for $19.5 million. The replacement value of those assets may be well in excess of $400 million - we got a good deal, and more. Decisions about energy and water resources are in the hands of Yukoners. We control our costs. We ensure that all people who live in the Yukon pay the same rate for power, whether they live in downtown Whitehorse or in Old Crow. We can invest our profits into our corporation to make sure that we will have alternate energy sources for the future. We can also use these profits to help keep power rates down.
The current government has no mandate to sell the Energy Corporation. The government has never said that it was its policy to sell its interests. It has not released a paper arguing the benefits of private ownership. However, it has had negotiations with various interests, and those negotiations have been in secret.
The first thing we found out about was a contract for a lawyer to come from Vancouver and negotiate with Alberta Power and the Council for Yukon Indians. Mr. Boylan received two sole-source contracts. The rules are that the maximum for a sole-source contract is $10,000, so the government gave Mr. Boylan two contracts for a value of $10,000 each in the same week. Some people would call that a way of skirting the rules for doing a $20,000 sole-source contract. Then there was another $40,000 spent. What was that money spent on, if the government was not negotiating away the ownership of the Yukon Energy Corporation?
When we were in First Nations communities, we heard a lot of concerns about the government's plans, because the umbrella final agreement sets out interests in resources for the First Nations, and there is a responsibility to protect wildlife habitat and water resources.
We believe that the Yukon Energy Corporation should remain under public control. We believe it should be used as a public asset to help keep our power rates down and to ensure that we have responsible management and environmentally sound development decisions.
Under the land claim agreement, the Yukon First Nations retain a quarter of the seats of the board of directors of the Yukon Energy Corporation. If Yukon Energy Corporation were sold to southern interests, First Nations could then lose their power over any plans to expropriate and flood areas on settlement land. Even if the Council for Yukon Indians were to buy in as a minority shareholder, the input First Nations would have in the running of Yukon Energy Corporation, as a junior partner in a southern company, would be significantly reduced. The First Nations in the Yukon are aware of this and they are concerned about it. They have told us about those concerns. Again, they think the government should listen to them.
I hope I am not going to hear a lot of criticism about the fact that these issues have been raised in the House today. I hope the government will take this as constructive criticism, and not take it personally. We have a responsibility to listen to our constituents, and our responsibility is to take their concerns to heart and to make the best possible decisions. It is a fundamental part of the privilege of being a Member of the Legislative Assembly and representing the public interest in the Legislature. The public interest is best served by having that public interest taken into account when decisions are made.
I believe I have constructive ideas. If the government chooses to interpret my words as being negative, I would say that it is destructive for a Yukon government to not be finding ways of working with First Nations. Government thinks it should tell women what to do, not the other way around. Government thinks it should tell First Nations what to do, not the other way around. Government thinks it should tell communities what to do, not the other way around. Government thinks it should tell teachers and parents what to do, not the other way around. Well, I have news for the government. Life does not work like that any more.
It works the other way around. Governments respond to the community, or governments get thrown out of office.
Part of consultation is being seen in your ridings. The Government Leader and his Cabinet was within 100 feet of the Kluane First Nation, and they did not set foot in the door.
I think I have put forward a challenge for the government. I think that challenge is to listen to their constituents, to listen to the Members of the Legislature and to genuinely consult with the public before important legislation is brought forward and before policy decisions are made.
I know that I could go on for another hour, talking about some of the other decisions that this government has made that have not been in the public interest. I know that I could talk about decisions the government has made where they have not talked to the communities first, or they have not talked to the residents first, or they have not talked to the First Nation first. However, I think that these few examples serve to illustrate the point. In order to practice good government, public consultation is essential, and we have seen that the Yukon Party government has been lacking in public consultation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is our contention that public input is a very important component of good government decisions and, for that reason, we strongly advocate consulting with the Yukon public where practical and reasonable. In order to demonstrate our commitment to that purpose, I would like to provide a brief review of the consultation undertaken by the Department of Community and Transportation Services during the last two years.
Consultation regarding bulk commodity hauling regulations was carried out by the transport service division in 1993 with industry stakeholders, municipalities, First Nations, White Pass Transportation Limited, Curragh Resources Inc., Dawson City and the City of Whitehorse.
During the fall of 1993 and the spring of 1994, preliminary meetings regarding the Motor Vehicle Act review were held by the transport services branch with the RCMP, the City of Whitehorse, bylaw officers, the medical appointee to the Driver Control Board, Yukon Medical Association, the insurance industry, Klondike Snowmobile Association, Yukon Transportation Association and optometrists.
The transportation services branch held a one-day workshop in March 1994, with the transportation industry regarding proposed Highways Act regulations. During the fall of 1994, the transportation maintenance branch had 12 separate public meetings in Yukon communities regarding private and community highway signs. These meetings were held in Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Beaver Creek, Carmacks, Mayo, Dawson City, Carcross, Whitehorse, Teslin, Watson Lake, Ross River and Faro.
In the fall of 1992, the transportation engineering branch had a public open house to discuss the Alaska Highway reconstruction and Shakwak project, and this topic was also discussed at a meeting with the council of the White River First Nation.
In November 1993, the Shakwak project was discussed at a public open house in Beaver Creek. The transportation engineering branch also sponsored a public open house in November 1993, where it discussed the landscaping of the Two Mile Hill in Whitehorse. This branch also held a meeting with the Village of Carmacks council in January 1994, to discuss the Freegold Road, which was followed by a public open house in Carmacks in February. Communications with Carmacks regarding the Freegold Road is ongoing, and additional meetings will be arranged at the community's convenience.
A questionnaire regarding the upgrading of the Klondike Highway through to Dawson City was distributed to property owners adjacent to the highway property in October 1994. A public open house was held in Dawson City in December 1994 to discuss the Dawson River crossing.
A meeting was held with the Mount Lorne hamlet council in late 1994 to discuss the extension of the gravel pit at kilometre 150 on the South Klondike Highway. In April 1994, a questionnaire was distributed and two public meetings were held by the transportation and engineering branch with Crestview residents to discuss the Alaska Highway/Kathleen Road intersection improvements.
The aviation and marine branch held 18 air navigation services review community meetings in 11 separate Yukon communities during 1993. Those 11 communities included Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Dawson City, Mayo, Haines Junction, Teslin, Burwash, Beaver Creek, Carmacks, Faro and Ross River. Between the months of January and April 1994, meetings were held with the Haines Junction village council, the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce and the Pine Lake management plan review proponents regarding Pine Lake float-plane operators.
In October 1994, a meeting was held in Haines Junction to discuss Haines Junction airport land development.
Our communications branch undertook a 911 user survey to determine the public viewpoint on the 911 service and cost of the service. The survey was conducted by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics from June 15 to June 25, 1993.
In January 1994, the branch distributed copies of the report entitled "Moving Forward into the '90s" to all Yukon communities, incorporated and unincorporated, First Nations, sports governing bodies, special recreation groups and the public at large. Clients were asked to review the document, which provided an overview of the Yukon recreation and sport delivery system and identified key issues, along with suggestions for action.
Consultation with sports and recreation branch clients began in February 1994 and carried through until September 1994. In total, 62 meetings were held, with over 250 participants taking part. The sports and recreation branch received 40 written submissions as well.
The sports and recreation branch assisted the Recreation and Parks Association of Yukon in hosting a major conference in Whitehorse in November 1994. The conference theme was, "Building healthy Yukon communities through positive lifestyles." A total of 120 people participated in this conference, representing a wide diversity of disciplines, including health, social service, education, justice, the RCMP, First Nations, service groups, women interests and youth, in addition to residents, depending upon the nature of the project. Examples include the Mount Lorne landfill development, as well as the Carcross sewage treatment plan.
The municipal and communities affairs branch consulted with residents through public meetings and surveys regarding rezoning of specific properties as the needs arise. With guidance from the municipal and community affairs branch, area development committees have been formed in the areas of the Hot Springs Road, Mayo Road, Shallow Bay, Grizzly Bay Valley and Jackfish Bay to organize public input and zoning changes through public meetings and surveys for the north Whitehorse area. The local area committees are tasked with zoning and development recommendations for their areas that will lead to a revision of the interim Whitehorse Periphery Development Area Regulations. The Ibex Valley hamlet area and the Deep Creek area will be undertaking a separate planning process once First Nation and other issues have been resolved.
Consultation regarding the Municipal Act amendments is being conducted directly with municipalities and through the Association of Yukon Communities. This was asked for by the municipalities.
Consultation is being conducted with interest groups, such as surveyors, and with municipalities regarding the Subdivision Act.
From 1992 to 1994, public meetings were conducted with area residents to discuss the amendments to the Whitehorse Periphery Development Area Regulations to permit second dwellings. General consultation with municipalities is conducted on an ongoing basis by the Department of Community and Transportation Services staff to discuss areas of concern and work closely with the Association of Yukon Communities on a variety of issues.
As the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I have met with all municipal councils within the last six months. I also attended the fall AYC general meeting in Mayo and I will be attending the one in March.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation met with the residents of Carcross in December 1993 and with the Ross River residents in November 1994 regarding the public drinking plebiscite. The corporation also conducts ongoing training programs for servers and licensees in all the rural communities. The Yukon Liquor Corporation conducts consultation with area residents on capital projects. The corporation consults with the industry in general on an ongoing basis.
In the past two years, I have visited most Yukon communities a number of times in order to discuss the areas of interest with the residents of those areas. I have visited Haines Junction in an official capacity on nine occasions to meet with area residents, the village council and the Chamber of Commerce. I attended meetings in Haines Junction and Destruction Bay to discuss the changes to the weigh scales. I attended meetings in Champagne, Haines Junction and Burwash regarding the Aishihik caribou recovery program.
I can say that the consultation on that was long and tiresome, but the outcome was very successful. We had people from the First Nation working together with us to show that we can do it if we all get down to it and try to do it.
I have attended community meetings in Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek and Mendenhall. In addition to these meetings, I have conducted community tours throughout the Kluane region. I travelled to Dawson City on six occasions, which included the Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting in 1993.
I did a complete community tour in November 1994. During those visits, I met with Dawson's mayor and council and the Dawson First Nation. In February 1994, I travelled to Mayo to meet with the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun to discuss the Mayo Resource Council, and again in March for the Bonnet Plume heritage river meeting. I visited the community again in September for the Association of Yukon Communities general meeting.
In June and November 1994, I attended a community meeting in Carcross to discuss capital projects and to hear the community's ideas for community development. On that occasion, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini complimented us. It was one of the only compliments that we have received from that side of the House.
I visited Watson Lake to meet with the local contractors to obtain their views on government contracting processes and also met representatives of the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce. I visited Watson Lake again in November, following my tour of the road maintenance conditions on the Campbell Highway, and I met with the mayor and council.
In November 1994, I travelled to Teslin.
In total, I have travelled to individual communities for discussions on 34 occasions. I might point out that my constituency travels are not included in this.
I feel that our government is consulting with the Yukon public on all issues. I will not get into another debate on the bridges at Carmacks, a topic that should be discussed with the people of Carmacks. I will respect that until I see them and consult with them on it.
In closing, I know they call me an old dinosaur. The dinosaur is still up and kicking and still did a lot of travelling. We have consulted with a lot of people, and that does not include the people who come into my office to see me. There were a large number of them. I feel it means there is confidence in what I try to do if people take the time to come to talk to me.
Mr. Harding: I am pleased to enter into this debate. I do not intend to speak for too long today but I see I am supposed to be followed by the Government Leader, so I had better address a few points because I know the bureaucrats will have prepared some lovely bureaucratese for him to spout, just as the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services did.
I have a couple of words for the comments of the previous Minister. We are not talking about a big deal when we talk about the list of accomplishments he read off about consultation. I would say that this government has an abysmal record when it comes to consultation, the big issues affecting the Yukon people's jobs and the environment and areas that have real meaning to people.
He has talked about the meetings he has attended. It is very easy to attend meetings with community groups on tours, but it takes a more consistent effort. In a one-month period, the Official Opposition held meetings with over 50 groups of Yukoners, just in a one month period, so when the Member talks about 34 meetings, I am hardly thrilled with his accomplishment. It is easy also to have the officials go out and to have consultations on bulk-haulage agreements and highway signs - some of the things he talked about; some of the things that are not major contentious issues - with the Yukon public at large. That is the type of consultation that this government has undertaken and, to put it mildly, has missed the boat on the bigger issues facing the territory.
When we talk about economic issues, issues of social policy, health policy, and directional issues of the society and the fabric of this community, the government has done virtually nothing to forward it - absolutely nothing. It has done nothing in the community of the Yukon to pull people together. Its talk of consultation on highway signs, when it sends officials out who are being paid very well, is all fine and good but it misses the point. These consultations that have been held by officials do not get the Ministers and the government at large out there talking to people on big picture issues. Quite frankly, we have such a bunch of ideologues on the other side of the Legislature in government that even when they talk to people they do not listen to them. Their ears are closed because they know best, and that attitude is carried through and through and through by the Members opposite. Their arrogance, which was a criticism of the previous administration, is something that I am hearing increasingly more and more and more out there in the communities.
This is a one-term government, and there is a big reason for that. That is because this government knows best. The stubbornness of this government is second to none. Its Members do not listen, they react quickly, they blow their top, and then it is all over. Then one cannot even talk to them because they have all of the answers. When Members criticize this government, we are told we are being negative about whatever is being discussed. When one asks a question of the government, one is obviously against something. When one asks for a civil consultation with the Opposition, the answer is always no. So, we are not as impressed with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' speech as he was.
I will say that, in talking to regular, everyday Yukoners, outside of the interest groups they represent, their record is abysmal. There are a number of issues that I will point to in this debate where the government has gone out and done some form of consultation, but because it is so pig headed and wants to force things down the throat of the Yukon public - just-a-spoonful-of-sugar-helps-the-medicine-go-down style - they turn around and take the recommendations given, and then ignore them.
A classic example of that is the money the taxpayers have wasted in dealing with the gambling issue. It was readily apparent, from the very beginning, when the government's plan for gambling and VLTs in the territory was announced, that people did not want them. But that was not good enough. The government had to strike up the YCEE, which it has loaded up with a number of their supporters, through its manipulation of the boards and committees, and then had those people go out and try to sell its message at meetings. The YCEE members sat there, their supporters came out - lobbyists in different industries in the Yukon to push for the VLTs - but the Yukon people rose up against this issue and said no. Even with the manipulation by the government, it turned out the vast majority still felt strongly that they did not want gambling in the territory. Then what did the government do? It announced, out of the blue and in the throne speech, that it was going to push ahead with gambling. Well, once again, we have an expensive report commissioned by the YCEE, we have an overwhelming majority of negative public opinion toward gambling, and what is in the throne speech, when people want to hear about economic direction and vision? Nothing. This government's vision is gambling. It not only talks about a gambling casino in the throne speech, but it talks about gambling with the future economy of the Yukon. I am referring to the Division Mountain coal project.
The government talks about this electrical coal project as if it is the vision of the future. However, when one asks simple questions about who is going to pay for it, what it is going to cost, what the feasibility is, if we need the surplus power right now, or if there are mining companies prepared to commit to taking up the power that will be produced by it, the government has absolutely no answers.
Yet it sent a letter to a mining company saying that it is prepared to consider building a railway track to Carmacks. The government claims that is a vision. It is confused; it must have taken a puck to the head. This is not a vision that is clear and concise. It is a dream. It is like the Government Leader's plan for the interlocking power grid - the motion that he introduced in this Legislature, saying that he was going to interlock B.C., the Yukon and Alaska in a power grid. When the Yukon Energy Corporation said that such a proposal was ludicrous, we never heard about it again. Why is that? Is that because the Yukon Energy Corporation has no vision? Is it because the Opposition has no vision? No. It is because, even though it sounded like a good idea, as does Division Mountain, when one gets past the fluff and the hype that this government wraps around it, as it is lost in their ideological haze, one finds out that it has no answers. It is all just talk. It is all just chest-thumping in Cabinet, with the Members talking about how they are "big picture guys". However, the big picture for these guys is blank, because they really have no idea how to get from point A to point B. Policy is certainly not their strength. What they have is a lot of huff and puff.
We asked questions about the Division Mountain coal project, something that the companies have said they want the Yukon taxpayers to make a major commitment to, in terms of guaranteeing that they will buy the product. The government gets upset with us and says that we are against it. We are against it, unless we know what is going on. That includes questions we may have about the environmental implications. The government has no concise answers. When we ask for some, they say "Well, we just said in the throne speech that we have accepted coal as a philosophy." Can one believe that? Why would it put it in the throne speech and announce it to Yukoners, implying that it could possibly mean jobs for Yukoners, when it has absolutely no idea about it. It is a fiscally irresponsible move - one that it makes time and time again. It is a fiscally irresponsible government that has no clear sense of how to get from point A to point B, and build a strong economic and social fabric in this territory. The government Members like what I am saying over there.
This government of the big budgets - the $500 million budgets - this government of the big ideas, such as the $140,000 suggestion box for its employees, has found that the cupboard is pretty bare. It has built absolutely nothing in terms of structures in this territory. It has not built any new schools, and we do not know what is going to happen with the schools that it announced it was going to build. My guess is that it is probably going to mess that up, as well. It claims that its record for building things is 100 percent and that it has a solid record. It has not done anything. It has not built anything. It has put an untold amount of money into the Alaska Highway. Most of it came from an agreement for upgrading, which was negotiated by the NDP. It has also taken the priority off the school system in this territory for projects that are badly needed, such as the J.V. Clark School and Grey Mountain School, and dumped it into other things. The record on construction, in its mind, is perfect.
One of the most classic examples of this government's harebrained schemes was the way in which it went about announcing the education review. I doubt that any of the partners in the Yukon education system would have been against an education review. However, the Minister had to go ahead, without talking to anyone, and thump his chest at a Chamber of Commerce meeting about all his views - dreamed up in some back room - about the education system. Three or four parents, who are good supporters of his, phoned him on an ongoing basis. He adds them all up each time they phone and talks about hundreds of parents' calls to him.
The Minister announces, at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, that the government does not want any more emphasis on multiculturalism or physical fitness. He states that we are doing a terrible job in the Yukon. He essentially insults all the people who are working so hard in the education system, with no apologies - at first. After he gets thumped and pounded by all the people in the education system, who are working so hard to make it good, he tells us in this Legislature, "No more; I give. If there is one thing I could do, I would take back what I did in terms of announcing this. I want to make it good again." We claimed a small victory in that area, because we knew that we were correct about the manner in which he introduced this. It was very poor. It was not consultative; it was dictative. The reaction was poor.
What happened? To save the day, he did something he probably did not want to do. He appointed a committee, comprised of a variety of people, to the Education Review Task Force. They had different views. They came up with an education review. They talked to a lot of people in the territory and took in a lot of submissions. They came up with some recommendations - 83 - that supported the direction of the previous government on education. They did not say it was perfect. They said that there was room for improvement. We readily and happily acknowledge that. We always have.
They said that, basically, people are getting what they want in the Yukon in terms of the fundamentals of the system. That does not mean that there is no room for more emphasis on the basic, core subjects. It does not mean that there is no room for testing. It does not mean that there is no room for more emphasis on multiculturalism. It means that people are generally happy.
What does the government do about that? It ignores the results of the education review.
The government takes an airy response to the education review recommendations. Most people who have read this think it is bureaucratese at its best and does nothing to address the recommendations in some of the tougher areas that the education review identified as problems, wants and needs in the communities.
Two days ago, the Minister of Education said during Question Period that he planned to move ahead with expanded cumulative and diagnostic testing in the core subjects. He said he was doing it because the Ontario NDP is.
I should tell him that standardized testing was not new to the previous administration. There were some areas where increased standardized testing was being looked at, but it would have been done in consultation with the partners in education. That is an opposing view to the Minister of Education, who has become somewhat of a tyrant in that portfolio, as was his predecessor. He is now determined that that is the way he is going to go. He is going to move ahead with further diagnostic and cumulative testing, and he is going to prejudge what the education review stated should have been done for the determination of how a program, such as this testing, should be implemented. I would ask him to read the education review and stop dismissing it in the area of standardized testing. I want the partners in education to tell the government if that is what they want to do. The government can have a view, but I do not think it should be so steadfast that it would prejudge and lock everybody into something they may not want.
I have a letter from the Association of School Administrators that raises a lot of concerns about the diagnostic Strand tests that were introduced by the previous Minister. Using education as a major political football, he wanted to make some points with a few of his friends in the kitchen cabinet and announced it out of the blue, much to the chagrin of so many in the education field who were not consulted. What happened?
We got a lot of complaints from school administrators and from parents who were concerned that their children were facing too much instructional time, with not enough time being spent on the actual curriculum. That is a legitimate argument in a debate about standardized testing, and I accept it as a legitimate point.
If the government of the day was this side of the House - the New Democratic Party - we would be out there debating those points with the partners in education and talking about the pitfalls and advantages of standardized testing and what it is supposed to do in our system. We would not stand up in the Legislature and say we are going to forge ahead with it and prejudge an education review, which made a lot of reference as to how testing should be handled by the partners in education, at a cost of $140,000.
That is what we do. We consult. We talk to the partners. But of course, we have a new Education Minister who has all the answers, who is probably the most arrogant Member on the government side of the House. He has been around. He was the -
Point of Order
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Government House Leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member on the other side is using unparliamentary language.
Speaker: I would agree, and I would ask the Member to withdraw that remark.
Mr. Harding: What was the remark, Mr. Speaker?
Speaker: Arrogant. I have called a Member previously on it. I know it has been used in the past in this House but that does not necessarily mean it is parliamentary.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker, you yourself used that term against me. I hardly think you are in a position to tell someone else to withdraw it.
Speaker: Just because I did it does not mean it was right.
Mr. Harding: The rules have changed now. The Minister of Tourism is in government and he is holier than thou, so I will listen to Mr. Speaker's ruling and I will withdraw the remark. I hope that is acceptable.
Now the rules have changed for debate here, I find that I will have to focus my remarks in a more concise fashion in my critique of the government's efforts on consultation. That is not hard to do with this government, because it is like shooting fish in a barrel.
I was talking about the Minister of Education and his approach to education issues. It
is the same approach that he took in his other portfolio: he knows best. After all, he was
the Leader of the Official Opposition in two elections when he got slaughtered at the
He never learned from that. He has been named as the reason for the downfall of their party by the Conservatives of this territory, because he called an election in 1985 when they all told him not to - but he knew best. I know a lot of Conservatives who have told me that. That is his approach to things: he knows best.
He will never be the leader who takes his party forward - the beloved Conservative Party, now the Yukon Party. Why is that? It is because of his attitude that he knows best, and that will always burn him. I would urge that Member to learn from his mistakes, and to learn from being cast off twice at the polls by the voters in favour of the NDP, and to adopt some new attitudes: conciliatory, consultative approaches to governing.
Unfortunately, I do not think the chance of that is too high.
We now have the Yukon Excellence Awards.
In response to my criticisms of the funding levels for special needs laid out in the 1995-96 budget speech, the Minister stated there was a major increase in special-needs funding of $143,000. Yet, during Question Period discussions about the Yukon Excellence Awards, which will come in at a minimum cost of $180,000, the Minister said it was a modest program.
By his own definition, he has given a very modest increase to special-needs programming. He says he has increased the funding from the previous administration. I must remind the Minister that the previous administration formally developed the principles regarding special needs and was putting more and more resources into the budget as the need arose.
Now, what the Opposition is trying to tell them is that the needs are incredibly strong out there, and have been, and that the commitment must continue to grow. He makes, by his own definition, a modest increase in the special-needs budget of $143,000. But, he knows best. He did not even need to consult with anyone - an astounding statement. He even went on the attack against the teachers, the fine educators who have already been under attack by the wage restraint legislation of this government - and actually had his officials on the radio, berating and attacking the teachers who made a criticism about some of the factors in that program. To me, that is astonishing, because all that is going to do is to continue to break down the bonds between the partners of education that were so diligently formed by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, and the former Minister of Education. He is watching all of his good work, that culminated in the Education Act, being busted apart by the previous Minister of Education for the Yukon Party and the new Minister of Education, because he simply does not care. He knows best. He knows everything about education now.
I have looked throughout Hansard and can scarcely find a comment about education from him, even when he was leader. I could not find a comment about education. Why? Because he did not care about the issue. Now that he is the Minister, he knows everything about it. He is not even prepared to listen to, or consult with, the partners. He says that he learned his facts from the vast majority of Yukoners on cumulative and diagnostic testing. I can find no such reference in the education review, which was a substantive consultation, that says that parents are demanding more cumulative and diagnostic testing. I did not see that specific recommendation.
I met with four - perhaps even five - of the people who were on the education review on a one-on-one basis to go over the results and try to unearth exactly what was contained in the recommendations. None of them told me that every parent, or the vast majority of parents, out there want cumulative and diagnostic testing. What they did say was that they want their children to do well in school. That is what they said, not what the Minister has conveniently interpreted them to say.
Even to give the Minister some credit, that is not to say that there is not some room for dialogue and debate on that issue. I will agree with them that there is movement afoot across the country in the direction of some advance testing, but nothing should be done in a prejudging fashion and nothing should be done in a fashion that alienates partners in education. The Minister turns it into a political football so that he can get his jollies and not be called a union toady. He attacks the YTA on the floor of the Legislature for criticizing one or two aspects of a program about which they were never even consulted. What does he expect? That is indicative of his behaviour toward the teaching profession. I expect his behaviour to continue in that manner and I will be surprised if it does not. Unfortunately, that is going to hurt the students in this territory because the teachers and the educators out there are critical to the success of the system and, until he learns that and stops trying to isolate the elected representatives of the teachers and starts working with them and other teachers, we are never going to get anywhere. No consultation.
Now, on the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board - that was a classic case of Yukon
Party consultation. We, the NDP, negotiated an umbrella final agreement, land claims
agreements, with four bands in this territory.
We negotiate provisions for wildlife management, probably among the most progressive in the country, and establish in law that the representatives of the Council for Yukon Indians will pick half of the board for the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board - a cooperative approach.
What happened? The Minister and the Cabinet, who did not like the fact that there were still some people they obviously perceive as non-supporters, or people who had spoken out against something they did in the past, issued a directive to the Minister of Renewable Resources.
He sent one of the most condescending, patronizing letters I have ever seen in my life to the Council for Yukon Indians asking them to reconsider their position, because he wanted to suggest whom they might place on their board. This was totally contrary to the spirit of the umbrella final agreement, totally contrary to the law, and he delayed the implementation of the new board while he was undergoing these shenanigans. The Council for Yukon Indians sent a letter of disgust regarding his practices back to the Minister, which I read, and I think it was a very appropriate letter, considering the condescending nature of the Minister.
Apparently, the government must not have liked some of the Members that CYI had chosen to appoint. Perhaps it thought they were New Democrats, the evil socialists of the world. Perhaps there were people who had said an unkind word about them and their manner of governing. It was obvious at the end of the day that they did not want to hear from the Council for Yukon Indians about whom they felt should be appointed. They were going to take a big-brother approach and tell the CYI who was going to be on the board. It took a political issue for the Minister to change his mind.
That is all part of this government's respect for the law, which is nil.
I have a few words for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who talked about all of the good work he had done on consultation. This is the Minister and the government that took the Tuchitua road camp, which is an important road camp for the people in Watson Lake, the people who trap along the highway, the people in Ross River and the people in Faro, and announced, out of the blue, that he was going to close it. He did not discuss it with anybody, and did not hear the concerns of the people in those communities. Those are tough, political issues. What did he do? He hid in his office and had some bureaucrat handle it, so that he would not have to take the heat. That is typical of this government.
The people in the bureaucracy made arguments on the radio for the Minister. He never came out to face the people who had concerns about the Tuchitua road camp. He never faced the people of Ross River and Watson lake who had concerns. I do not buy his line that he is really concerned about what Yukoners have to say. I heard about this highway camp in Ross River, Faro, Watson Lake and even in Teslin, which totally surprised me. People in those communities are concerned because they travel up and down that highway.
Most of the people who complained were First Nations people. They were upset. They did not storm the Legislature, but, nonetheless, they were concerned. The other day, I told the Minister what I thought of his decision. I intend to hold him accountable for that highway.
One of my favourite issues is consistent with the Division Mountain coal project and this government's so-called sense of clear vision. In the throne speech, the government announced the Beringia Interpretive Centre. It got some good editorials about dinosaurs coming out of the closet with a good idea. I even heard some jokes that the government wanted to house itself in the centre as a testimonial to its good works.
The government announced a program that most people thought sounded pretty good in principle. Then we talked about the $10 million price tag: how much capital, how much O&M, what would it house, what would the admission be, what was the government commitment? The government gave no answers. Why? Because the Minister of Tourism had a pet project. He did not know exactly what he was doing, but he ran with it without talking to any Yukoners about what they wanted.
What about the MacBride Museum? What about the people in the private sector that the government professes to have a monopoly on protecting? These people are concerned about the Beringia Centre. I read a whole page of concerns on the back of a flyer. They were legitimate, very neutral, not ranting or raving, but just trying to make some points of concern. Of course, they were all dismissed by the Minister of Education. Why? Because he knows best, and t
he so-called fiscal gurus in the Yukon Party cannot even answer simple questions about $10 million buildings.
He makes claims, as he did as Minister of Education, that he has all the answers. He has talked to placer miners. Everybody is phoning him and everybody is supporting it, but he cannot substantiate any of it because he just says whatever comes to his mind to get out of a situation, especially in Question Period. That is a pattern with him, and he usually digs himself in deeper and deeper and deeper. He is a dull performer in a cast of dull performers in this government. I do not know what he is trying to say when he says he has all this support and that all the placer miners are for it. Does he think people are going to just uncover something and say, "Hey, let's stop all our work; let's call an archaeologist and bring him up here because the Minister of Tourism has opened a nifty Beringia institute." The illustration he presents in the Legislature that he has all the placer miners lined up ready to store their wares in the Beringia institute is folly. It is a convenient statement that he made, among many others, just to support whatever was on the tip of his tongue to try and get out of a situation in the Legislature where he was feeling uncomfortable.
I have talked about a number of issues and there are still some biggies left on this
list that I have made up of how the government has approached Yukoners, how it has held
them in disdain, how it knows best, how this is a big-brother conservative government, if
one can believe that, whose sole aim is to tell people what to do, because it knows what
to do. It has a vision, a four-year plan - the so-called four-year plan that, in the
government's own estimation, is going to lead to success for all Yukoners.
Increasingly, Yukoners are losing faith with this government's ability to govern. I predict that that downturn in faith is going to continue because of the stubbornness of this government. I remember seeing an article by a Conservative in a magazine - I believe it was Up Here - where that Conservative said that the downfall of the Yukon Party was probably going to be the stubbornness reflected by its leader.
He basically runs a minority government like a majority government. He got elected on some cheap promises that he has not been able to fulfill in any area, including fiscal accountability. Ask the Auditor General, who would tell you right here and now that the Government Leader writes off loans to manipulate the books so that he can present them in any way that he wants. What happens? There is no fiscal accountability. The Government Leader takes the loans, writes them off, and cooks the books, all to present his view of the world to Yukoners. What do Yukoners do? They say they are not buying it, and that they do not believe these guys any more.
First, the territory was going down the tube. Six months later, it was all clear because the government had saved the day. Then, the government was saying that the territory is going down the tube again, so it had to roll back the teachers' wages because Paul Martin was going to cut our budget in half. Then we found out that the Government Leader received a letter from Paul Martin, who said that he was going to freeze the formula. Then we found out that there is a $20 million surplus on the day the wage restraint legislation is tabled.
This roller-coaster ride he has put the Yukon on for his own political, partisan purposes is, I think, quite outrageous and irresponsible. That is the Yukon Party through and through. I think the Conservative, who wrote that article in Up Here is probably bang on the mark - because the Yukon Party knows best. I just thank the Lord it is only a four-year plan, because it is a one-term government.
The changes to the Environment Act is an issue I wanted to bring up in this consultative debate. Here is a Government Leader who writes a letter to the YCEE presupposing the stupidity of the Opposition and the Yukon public. This is the Government Leader, who has demonstrated time and time again that he has no concept of what he is doing in running this rudderless government, presupposes that the Yukon public will misinterpret his proposed amendments to the Environment Act. If that is not - I would like to use the word I was ruled as being out of order for using, but no longer will be able to use in this Legislature - an affront to Yukoners, it smacks of this government's attitude toward Yukoners The Government Leader has all of the answers.
The Yukon Party is right. They are going to take care of your best interests. One does not even have to see the document because we know that the Government Leader knows what is best for us. Their approach to governing is a spoonful of sugar, but usually the "sugar" is not sugar, it is salt, which is something that does not go down very easily. The Environment Act changes are a case in point. I think it is ludicrous, and even the people who were for the changes were upset with the government's plan to conduct changes to the Environment Act. Their supporters, whom I have talked to, were upset over the way they handled issues, ranging from the Yukon Excellence Awards to the wage-restraint legislation.
Conflict-of-interest legislation is one that is a real tweeker for the side opposite. They were in Opposition all those years and faced a squeaky-clean government on the other side. They get involved in some things that clearly violate what all Members passed in this Legislature. They clearly go against what they voted for just a couple of years ago. What do they do? They dig up stuff, for politically convenient purposes, that they never raised when they were in Opposition because there is no validity to it, but all it did was make them look worse. It made them look like they were covering up and afraid to answer questions. So they bring in a conflict-of-interest bill that did not reflect what Yukoners wanted. They said the reason was they did not want to hurt -
Speaker: Order. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Harding: My goodness, time flies when you are in the heat of a debate and speaking about an issue that you know the Yukon Party has totally flubbed. That is the issue of listening to Yukoners, of hearing them and doing what they want.
I want to close by saying that it is obvious from this government's attitude toward Yukoners that they feel that they know best, and that they are going to spoon feed us what they want to feed us, whether it is issues pertaining to gambling, wage restraint legislation or the Beringia Centre, and they are going to craft and create any argument, even if it is not true, to put forth their position for politically manipulative purposes. I submit that the Yukon public is no longer buying it, and that the clock is running out for the Yukon Party. If they do not start to listen to the views of Yukoners, then they will be reduced to the shortest, one-term government ever in the history of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Riverdale North is laughing so hard at the previous speaker that I am having trouble getting up here to make my rebuttal to this motion.
I want to thank the Members opposite for putting these kinds of motions on the Order Paper. It gives us the ability to talk about their record of public consultation, about which they would like to try to convince the Yukon public of now, as they could not when they were in office. They claim that they are the experts on public consultation. I am afraid their record on public consultation speaks for itself.
I believe that when one consults with the public, one is obligated to listen to the public and to implement some of the things that it is saying, not to just go ahead and consult with the public, pretending one is listening. This is what the previous administration did, Mr. Speaker, as you are fully aware. It then went along on its merry way, doing what it wanted. That, I believe, was its downfall.
I am not going to take a long time this afternoon, but I am going to take some time. I want to review the record of the previous administration on consultation. I will not deal with all of them, because we only have 40 minutes. I could not begin to cover it all in 40 minutes. I could not begin to cover what it called consultation - what it did not do and what it professed to do.
I would just like to cover some examples of them.
This is the same Official Opposition that is now so highly critical of my government, which has gone the extra mile in public consultation in the two years we have been in office. I will refresh the Member's memory on that in a few minutes, but I would first like to speak about their dismal record of public consultation. I am always happy when we get these motions so we have a chance to review their track record and remind them and Yukoners of it.
Let us go back to the postal sorting station at the top of Two Mile Hill. That is a good place to start. This is one issue the people of Whitehorse were totally against. I was not in government then but I certainly listened to the debate for the people of the Yukon. I read the newspapers. I listened to the radio, and I do not think for one minute that anybody could think there were very many people in the Yukon who were in favour of locating a postal sorting station at the main intersection to our community. Nevertheless, the previous administration made the land available. Now we have a postal sorting station to welcome all visitors to Whitehorse. Is that what they call consultation? With whom did they consult on that? Who told them that that was what the people of Whitehorse wanted?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek:
The Member says I cannot go far on it, but I have some better ones than that.
Let us talk about one that still offends Yukoners almost every day, or once or twice a week, or whenever they go to the facility. I am talking about the Arts Centre at the Yukon College. If there was ever a project and a location for a facility that Yukoners, en masse, were totally against, it was the location of the Arts Centre at the Yukon College.
Those same Members over there are now talking about the lack of consultation by my
government. With whom did they consult on this? Did they do an opinion poll? Did they talk
to anybody? Almost every organization in this town was against the location of the arts
centre at the Yukon College. Did they listen to the people of the Yukon? They talk about
us not listening.
This Member knows as well as I, and as well as the Members opposite know, that there was very little support, if any, for the locating the Arts Centre at Yukon College. Most people wanted it downtown, and I still believe that is where it should have been located.
Let us talk about the infamous visitor reception centre that is located by the Yukon Transportation Museum on the highway. That was one of the final nails in the coffin. Every business in town was against it. They all wanted it located in downtown Whitehorse. The then Minister of Tourism would not listen. Did he consult with anyone? Did he listen to what the people in Whitehorse wanted? Did he listen to what the people in the tourism industry wanted? Did he listen to the business community? No, he did not. He stood here day after day and defended the decision to put it up there when nobody wanted it up there. That is what the previous administration called consultation. I can remember the previous Minister of Tourism trying to defend his actions concerning the architectural design of the building. He said that some day Yukoners would come to appreciate that facility, and that it would be one of the better attractions in the Yukon. We are trying to help that Member fulfill that dream of making it one of the best attractions in the Yukon by making it the Beringia Centre. Maybe then it will be one of the best attractions. Maybe he did have a crystal ball and so he knew that someday the Yukon Party government would come along to clean up that government's mistakes. That is an example of consultation by the NDP government. That is what they called consultation.
Let us talk about the construction of the Robert Service School in Dawson City, which was overcrowded before it even opened. With whom did they consult on that? Surely one would have thought that an NDP government, the ones who now profess themselves to be the saviours of our education system in the Yukon, would have consulted with the people of Dawson City and listened to their concerns, and would not have built a multi-million dollar facility that was overcrowded the day it opened.
That is not the only school the NDP government built that was overcrowded before it opened. There was also one in the Member for Mount Lorne's riding. It had to immediately have additions to it. That is the kind of consultation the Members opposite did. Those are the same Members who are now so critical of my government for not consulting with Yukoners. I will hold our record of consultation up to their record of consultation any day.
Let us talk about one of the most infamous building the NDP built. Let us really look at the consultation process involved in it. This one is a real beauty. What was it called: that big, blue thing out there? Do you recall that? That is what the people of Ross River said. With whom did they consult when they built that thing up there? What did the people of Ross River say about it? They said they had asked for a simple facility. The difference was the same as that between a Cadillac and a Chevy.
Did they consult with the people of Ross River before they imposed a facility on which the community has had trouble paying the O&M, and that is still not completed because of the horrendous costs involved?
With whom did they consult? The Opposition, when in government, prided itself on its public consultation. It listened to the people, it said. It was a government of the people. That is not what Yukoners tell me.
What else did they say about that building? There must have been a lot of consultation on this.
Some of the other things that the people of Ross River said were that the local employment opportunities program grants and arena loan could be in the thousands. I would say that they are in the hundreds of thousands. Another one said they had one hodgepodge and did not think they would do it again. I am not surewhich was first, but that comment was made.
Another one was that it is an expensive arena, but not the one that was asked for. Where was the public consultation? The Opposition is critical of this government, but its record speaks for itself in regards to consultation.
One of the community members from Ross River asked why there were meetings held out there if Whitehorse makes the decision to go ahead and do what it wants anyway. Is that consultation? I do not know with whom the government consulted on that one.
The former Government Leader, after months and months of this, went on record by
saying, "It is exactly the kind of building that we do not want to see. It is exactly
the kind of building that the government does not want to make any more of." There
were no jobs for Ross River people, because it was a metal building. It was a building
with horrendous O&M. All the materials and labour came from outside. Then the light
finally went on.
What I really find ironic about this, is that they did not even have the decency to accept the responsibility for the building. What did the then Government Leader say? "Any person responsible within the government would unlikely receive promotions." They did not even have the decency to take responsibility for their decisions.
There are so many of these examples. The construction of the Dawson train building - and we know what that is like. It looks like a high-security jail, when it was supposed to be so that tourists could view the trains, while the engines would be protected. Then there was the construction of the swimming pool in Beaver Creek that they did not have to put water into. It filled up every spring anyway because it was 18 inches below ground level. With whom did they consult about that? Surely to God, they must have talked to someone, but I do not know who it was.
I think the one that every Yukoner remembers, and will remember as long as there is any remnant left of the NDP in Yukon, is the attempt to eliminate the goldpanner and "The Klondike" from our licence plates. Can you imagine? That is how out of touch they were with the public. Six thousand people signed a petition saying that the NDP was wrong. Who did they consult before making that decision?
Then they put a motion on the floor criticizing this government on its lack of consultation - how ironic.
I could go on and on with these. There are pages and pages of them, but those are some of the better ones. There are other good ones, too. Actually, there are two others I think I should put on the record, because these are classic examples of how the NDP consulted when it was in government.
Let us look at one that we had to correct for them, right after we took office. That was its total rejection of the recommendations of the Wildlife Management Board and the Yukon First Nations to save the Aishihik caribou herd.
They went through an expensive consultation process. They sent the Wildlife Management Board all over the Yukon. They consulted with people on behalf of the NDP government of the day, and Yukoners told them unequivocally that they wanted to save the Aishihik caribou herd. What did they do? They rejected it out of hand. That is consultation? That is what they pride themselves on - their ability to consult with Yukoners? Quite clearly, Yukoners said they wanted the government to act, but that administration did not have the political courage to act.
I remember the election campaign and the all-candidates forum that was put on by CBC Radio and the Chamber of Commerce. A Yukoner asked a question of me and the Leader of Liberal Party and the Leader of the Official Opposition, who was then the Government Leader. We were asked to state unequivocally yes or no whether, if we were elected, our government would implement a wolf-control program in the Aishihik area to help the caribou there.
It was probably one of the things I will always remember about the campaign. I am not sure whether it was I or the Liberal leader who was the first to answer, but both of us said quite clearly, "Yes", and when they asked the Leader of the Official Opposition, who was then the Government Leader, he sort of turned his head and squeaked, "Yes". That is how committed he was to saving the Aishihik caribou herd in the Yukon. It was quite hilarious.
What about the previous NDP government's refusal to hold public meetings in Whitehorse
on the revised Human Rights Act. Is that public consultation? Their record speaks
It was a horrendous record of public consultation. When they did consult, they did not listen. If some of my Ministers get a chance to speak in this debate today, they will also bring up some classic examples of how that previous administration spent thousands of dollars consulting with the public. When they did not like what the public said, they shelved it and did not follow the suggestions anyway.
Another classic example of how they listened to Yukoners was their rejections of the representations from the Yukon business community on employment standards and their selective adoption of the recommendations of the Council on the Economy and the Environment - selective recommendations.
I remember that when that debate was on, the Council on the Economy and the Environment held a meeting in Watson Lake. I have the cost of that meeting here somewhere. Here it is. It was held in June 1992 in Watson Lake. This meeting was to discuss the changes to the Employment Standards Act, and the recommendations that were going forward to the government. The chair, who I believe was an NDP supporter, wrote a letter to the then Government Leader and was highly critical of the Government Leader's cherry-picking - the term he used - through the recommendations made by the Council on the Economy and the Environment. That is how they listen to consultation, and that one meeting alone cost the taxpayers of the Yukon $17,589.55 - a total disgrace.
With a record like that, I do not know how they could morally bring a motion to the House such as they did today.
I want to speak about some of the positive things that my government has done in the way of consultation. I have quite a bit I can go through today.
I want to put on the record that when we started out in government, the first thing we did was bring the land claims legislation before the House, and we appointed a committee of the Legislature to consult with all Yukoners about the land claims legislation. That was our first act in government.
We have been on numerous community tours. We have had numerous sessions of consultation with the people. The education review, the Yukon Housing Corporation, and housing conferences were held across the Yukon. The Department of Community and Transportation Services has held consultations all over the Yukon. The record is quite clear and quite different from that of the previous administration on what they called consultation with a very select few NDP supporters. When they did any public consultation and did not like what they heard, they just refused to act.
Our government believes in consultation. We certainly agree with Motion No. 31 that was put forward: "That it is the opinion of this House that, to practise good government, public consultation is essential." We certainly agree with that. We do not have any difficulty with that part of the motion at all. Government should consult, but government should also listen to the consultation.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, there are some good parts to the motion. I would like to propose an amendment to Motion No. 31 so that it reads as follows:
THAT Motion No. 31 be amended by deleting all the words after the word "essential".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader
THAT Motion No. 31 be amended by deleting all of the words after the word
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said prior to introducing the amendment, part of the motion was good. It is essential to the practice of good government for governments to consult with the public. We do not have any difficulty with that. I spent a small amount of time going over the record of the previous administration. If they did consult with the public, they certainly refused to listen to what they were told. I believe that consulting with the public and then blatantly refusing to listen to what they are told is far worse than not consulting with them in the first place. I believe that public consultation is good; my government believes that it is good, and we have practised it.
When we were newly elected to office, the first public consultation we undertook was to take a select committee of the Legislature on a tour to every community in the Yukon to listen to what Yukoners had to say about the land claims process. My government has also held numerous community meetings. I have travelled to almost every community in the Yukon - I may not have been to every one - at least once, and sometimes twice a year. From February of 1994 to April of 1994, we held a total of 15 community meetings.
When we held those meetings, we extended invitations to First Nations, town councils, Chambers of Commerce, school councils and the general public to meet with me and the MLA for that community to discuss issues and voice their concerns. That is consultation. That is grassroots consultation. That is listening to the people.
Each of the meetings was very well attended, varying from 20 to 70 people. I cannot forget the biggest meeting I ever held, and that was in the Town of Faro. That was my first public meeting, and there were something like 600 or 700 people there.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre is asking who forced me to go there. No one forced me to go there. I was asked to go, and I went. Even if I did need a police escort, I still went.
We have consulted with people. We have gone out to the people to explain the finances of government after we inherited the mess left by the previous administration. We went out and tried to educate people about government spending - what portions go to the various areas to provide services to Yukoners. We went out and listened to their concerns.
We had meetings in Dawson City, Mayo, Teslin, Watson Lake, Old Crow, Beaver Creek - meetings all over the Yukon. I am looking at a list of meetings now, and that was just for the 1994 schedule. Prior to that, in 1993, I also visited all of the communities. On February 19, 20 and 21, I and you, Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as Minister of Economic Development, went to Dawson City, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, and Carmacks. Wherever we went, we invited the Member for Tatchun to attend the meetings with us, and he did.
The Hon. Mickey Fisher and the Hon. Willard Phelps and I went to Carcross.
We had a meeting in Whitehorse, in Porter Creek, and we went to Watson Lake. Mr. Speaker was there as the MLA, as well as the then Minister of Community and Transportation Services and I. We went to Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay and Haines Junction. I, and the MLA for the riding, the now Minister of Community and Transportation Services, went to Ross River and Faro. The Member for Faro chaired the meeting. We also went to Old Crow, as I said, and we went to Teslin, Dawson City, Mayo, Watson Lake again, Teslin again, Dawson City again. I, and my Ministers, make many, many trips to Yukon communities to listen to what Yukoners have to say.
I get the impression that the Members opposite do not believe it is consultation unless it involves some huge forum that costs thousands of dollars with some defined issues upon which to consult. They do not believe that a community tour is consultation. That is what they are saying. We have consulted with Yukoners on many issues: the gambling issue, for example. We have consulted with them and we will be consulting further with them. It is ironic that the previous administration spent $17,000 on one meeting on the employment standards in Watson Lake and then cherry-picked through the recommendations, yet our Council on the Economy and the Environment, the one they condemn, held consultations with quite a few groups and people in the Yukon, at a cost of $14,000, on the gambling issue. I guess if it does not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is not legitimate consultation.
They talk about the centennial anniversaries program, where we are getting Yukoners to work together rather than dividing Yukoners - a program that is fairly well accepted around the Yukon. I believe it will work to build our communities, not to divide them, and I believe the Yukon will end up with some tourism infrastructure that will provide some lasting benefits to the Yukon for many years to come.
We do consult with Yukoners. We do listen to them.
The Council on the Economy and the Environment is now holding economic conferences. Is that not consultation? It held one on mining and will be holding more on other sectors of the economy.
The Minister of Tourism held a tourism summit in Whitehorse just over one year ago. It was very well attended and well received by Yukoners. Is that not consultation? We consulted with Yukoners all over the Yukon on the new arts policy. Is that not consultation?
As I said before, I will hold our record on consultation up to that of the previous government any day. By consulting with Yukoners, we can provide better government. That is exactly what we are doing.
I would like to speak a bit about the Environment Act. Are we not consulting with Yukoners about the Environment Act? I think we are. For the most part, the amendments, as we stated time and time again, are housekeeping amendments. There are one or two controversial ones. However, we are consulting with the stakeholders, who are all Yukoners. They are represented on the Council on the Economy and the Environment. In addition, the Council on the Economy and the Environment is then going back to the different stakeholder groups for further consultation. It is not a closed shop. It is listening and reaching consensus on the amendments. I hope that it will be bringing its recommendations to Cabinet in the very near future.
It is important that we do achieve a harmonization of our Environment Act with other environmental legislation across Canada, so that we do have a level playing field for industry. We must be able to attract industry to the Yukon without damaging our environment.
That is critical, but it can be done with some common sense and some thinking, and without coming down too heavily on one side or the other. The mining community has told us that they are not concerned about the environmental regulations. They are reasonable. They do not want to be mining like they were 30 years ago. It is not acceptable any more. That is not what they are asking for. They are asking that the rules be consistent with other areas. Major corporations may be mining not only in the Yukon, but in other parts of Canada, and we should not be too different in our legislation.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes in which to conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Three minutes will be more than enough. I think I have highlighted their lack of consultation, and I have highlighted our own consultation and some of the things we have done.
I want to speak about the service improvement program, which they like to ridicule all the time, but is well accepted by employees. It is helping to streamline government; it is providing savings for government, and we are listening to our employees. That is something the Members opposite failed to grasp. Our employees have come forward with many good suggestions. Some of them are going to save thousands of dollars for the government; others are not going to save a lot of money, but will certainly streamline the system so that we are providing better service to Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am glad to see that we are doing something that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini agrees with, for a change.
I want to close by saying this government has a good record of consulting with
Yukoners. We are proud of that record, and we will hold up that record to the previous
administration any day.
Speaker: There is some confusion in regards to the amendment and the main question. In our Standing Orders, 35(1), "When taking part in a debate on an amendment to a motion: (a) the Member moving an amendment has the right to speak both to the main question and the amendment in one speech;" - I am interpreting that as meaning 40 minutes - "(b) a
Member, other than the mover, must confine debate to the subject of the amendment." So, the next speaker would be speaking to the amendment.
The Hon. Member for McIntyre-Takhini, on the amendment.
Mr. McDonald: Do not worry, Mr. Speaker, the Members opposite want me to keep my remarks narrowly focused, and believe me, there is so much material here that I will have absolutely no trouble keeping focused in responding to the amendment itself.
I cannot tell the Members how pleased I am to speak to this motion today. This is the most marvelous opportunity to compare one government's record on consultation with another government's record.
Right up until the last moment, I really appreciated the Government Leader's remarks, because I thought to myself that once we get past a few of the more significant problems that the Yukon Party government has faced in terms of understanding what consultation is all about, I cannot imagine what more I say. The Government Leader gave me so much material to respond to that I know I will have absolutely no trouble coming up with a few remarks this afternoon.
I found the word "hypocrisy'' welling up in my throat. This became more of a strong emotion after listening to the Government Leader speak about how that government believes in consultation and how the past New Democratic government had absolutely no respect for public opinion, and cited projects such as the Human Rights Act, the Arts Centre, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, I just realized for the first time that there is so much to get angry about in this subject that one cannot force-fit this discussion usefully into only 40 measly minutes.
The Government Leader ended his remarks by indicating that even when it comes to things like appointing the public to boards and committees, this government's true commitment to consultation extends to inviting people from all across the territory to sit on the many important boards and committees that this government possesses.
This is after having spent days in this Legislature talking about how they started advertising for possible candidates to offer their services to sit on a board that works in the public interest. The Yukon Party propaganda organ is the advertising vehicle used to encourage people to come forward and sit on boards and committees. This party paper that is sent out to the party faithful is the mechanism that this government uses to get what they call broad public nominations from persons to sit on boards. Unless everyone in the territory belongs to the Yukon Party, that is not broad public consultation. That is not inviting the broad public to sit on important boards and committees.
When the matter was raised in this Legislature, the Yukon Party government tried to defend the practice of using a party paper to advertise for appointments to boards and committees until it became so hopeless for them to make an honest, justified case for it that they ultimately had to back off. They are still appointing the faithful; they are just changing the way it is advertised.
In a way, I hope the government continues to believe it is doing a good job. I do not meet people anywhere in my daily life who think that they are. If they are bound and determined to move themselves into oblivion, destroy their reputation with First Nations, destroy their reputation with the public, face ridicule from even the strongest supporters that they have ever had, and still assume that they are doing a good job, that can only mean good things for every person who stands in opposition to any Yukon Party candidate in any future election.
The Government Leader indicated that he believes that true consultation leads to better government. I do not think that that government understands what true consultation is. He started off by criticizing what he understands to be poor consultative practices by the New Democrat government. What projects does he use to demonstrate his belief that the New Democrat government did not know how to consult? He did not talk about the Education Act, the Workers' Compensation Act, the squatter policy, the Yukon economic strategy, the Yukon conservation strategy, or the training strategy, which were all hailed by everybody, including them, as being good projects. What they did was to go after these projects, and I will respond to them one by one. The first was the Ross River arena. The people in Ross River wanted an arena. The people in Ross River wanted a community hall. The people there requested them from the NDP government, and the NDP government made a financial commitment to do that. In fact, I went to Ross River on a couple of occasions to talk to them about that arena. The arena turned into a much larger project than was anticipated, that is true.
It is true that the arena became a metal-clad building. However, this government has a Minister sitting in the benches opposite who was the public servant responsible for that project. He was the person that I, as a Minister, depended on to put political commitment into action. For this Minister and his colleagues to now raise that issue as an example of a result of poor consultation is an abomination.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Tourism says yes, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was responsible for the final product. I take responsibility for that now, as I did in the Legislature then. I listened to Ministers opposite, including the actual person who was in the public service and was responsible for ensuring that project met the community's demands, was cost-efficient and met all conditions, criticizing this project. I will tell that Minister, right now, that if he wants to maintain any credibility, he has absolutely no right to utter one word about that project.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini has the floor. Would everyone else please be quiet.
Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Members opposite then talked about licence plates. The government of the day proposed a change in licence plates. Many people reacted to that - some favourably - but the vast majority reacted negatively. They said they wanted to keep the goldpanner on the licence plate as a symbol.
I would ask Members to go outside right now and look at their licence plates. What is on it now? It is a goldpanner.
One has to wonder about the present proposing gambling. It listens to the committees, then agrees, in principle, to gambling. It does the opposite to what the public is obviously recommending. That is a second point.
Does this government have any right to speak about the consultative practices for the Human Rights Act? We faced the most vicious, bigoted, right-wing opposition to that act that one could possibly imagine. People of the Yukon Party were objecting to it, because they thought there might have to be four bathrooms in every restaurant: one for gay men, one for gay women, one for straight men and one for straight women. That was the level of debate this Legislature was reduced to by Yukon Party Members. It was absolutely scurrilous.
Let me tell the Members opposite something. The Yukon government of the day went on two consultative practices, including a committee of the Legislature, and it produced a bill that may not have been supported by the Yukon Party, as it was doing everything in its power, including the most base, disgusting criticisms, to change the provisions of that act. The NDP prevailed - not over the public's objections, but over the Yukon Party's objections - and it passed a good act. Incidentally, it is an act that the Yukon Party has not even pretended it wants to change.
The Yukon Party is now saying, for some reason, that the Yukon NDP government showed lack of respect for the Fish and Wildlife Management Board because the Minister of the day did not follow one recommendation in the same time frame the Yukon Party wanted. Of all the recommendations being made to the government, the Minister accepted all but one, and on that one recommendation he delayed making a decision.
This government comes along and says that that Minister did not show respect for a duly constituted committee, and that not only should that recommendation have been accepted, but it should have been accepted in haste. However, when the Yukon Party came into office, it did not follow anything the Fish and Wildlife Management Board said. It picks and chooses on every issue on which the Fish and Wildlife Management Board makes recommendations.
Incidentally, that one recommendation the NDP government delayed making a decision on turned out to be the right decision to make, because it ended up in a caribou recovery program this government is pinning all its hopes on to save it in the face of skeptical public opinion about the program to kill wolves. So, that one recommendation that was delayed ended up in the wolf management plan. Yet, when this government comes into office and begins receiving recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, it does not follow half of them.
Yet, the Member for Kluane would have stood up and been blustering and frothing at the mouth at the thought that the NDP government may not have followed one recommendation in haste. When he sits in the Minister's chair, he decides that he is not going to follow any of them. He will follow whatever he feels like. He adopts his grumpy style and says, "I will do whatever I want."
To bring the Fish and Wildlife Management Board up, in the context of whether or not a government believes in consultation, is just ridiculous. How can they possibly...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McDonald: ...look themselves in the face - why not?
There was no consultation surrounding the Arts Centre. When the Arts Centre consultation was conducted by Arts Canada North, incidentally, and was supported by the vast majority of citizens. The location of the Arts Centre was not raised as an issue in this Legislature by the Yukon Party. The Yukon Party claimed to support the Arts Centre. In fact, Yukon Party Members from Porter Creek came to me and said, "We think that it should be at the current Arts Centre site at Yukon College." The Member for Porter Creek East, who was the potential leader of the Yukon Party at the time - one of the many leaders - told me that he wanted the Arts Centre to be at that site.
The Yukon Arts Centre had some of the most extensive consultation enjoyed by any public
building ever built in this territory. It is not even on the same scale as the Beringia
Centre, for which there has been consultation with everybody except people in the Yukon.
According to the Government Leader, no one wanted the Robert Service School. We built that school over the objections of people in that community. Never mind the fact that there was a community committee of approximately 24 or 25 people, who went to meeting after meeting, and even sent the Minister letters thanking him for the consultation. The people of Dawson, themselves, said that it was good consultation. They liked not only the school design - the Yukon Party believes it was over-designed - but also took the trouble to set up a ceremony in Dawson, where the government was given a citizenship-of-the-year award for the design of the Robert Service School.
For them to come around now and say that the design and the size of the Robert Service School was plunked down in Dawson, over the objections of the people, is hogwash.
They raise the issue of the Employment Standards Act. When the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment reported, there was one rejection of all of the recommendations - one rejection out of 50. When the Yukon Party heard about this, the Members, who are now Ministers, stood up and said that they agreed with the government not following that recommendation. Yukon Party Members said that they did not think that should be done either. This was before they started participating in a movement opposing anything the NDP government did, because they knew an election was coming.
The government of the day did not follow one recommendation out of 50 from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, and the Government Leader has the gall to stand up and accuse the NDP government of not having followed the recommendations of boards.
What about the recommendations from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment about gambling? They made it very clear that most people in the territory do not want it. What is the government's first response to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment's report on gambling? It is to agree, in principle, to more gambling. What a hypocritical stance.
What about the consultation on the Education Act? It was lengthy. In the early days, we were getting criticism from the Yukon Party. I remember when the consultation first started. A couple of the Yukon Party Members at the time - one who is no longer a Member, but he still sits in this House - stood up and criticized the government for not having the guts to take a decision and never mind the consultation. He said that we were elected to decide things. That was one with about four years of consultation.
It could not wait for the government just to make a decision, never mind what the people had to say, but during that consultation process, a lot of things happened. Trust relationships between partners were built up. First Nations people who could only think about setting up their own school system were brought into the discussion and given real decision-making authority over the lives and education of their own children. Teachers who were just paid public servants, with no right to speak, were brought heavily into the process, and they appreciated that, too.
The government policy, I was told, prior to 1985 was that if any teacher had the nerve to stand up at a public meeting and comment about education policy, he or she would be fired. He would be toast. But they were embraced during the Education Act review. They were brought into the process. They were put on drafting committees that drafted endless versions of the Education Act, which eventually ended up in this Legislature. Do Members know what happened when that Education Act reached this Legislature, and how much debate there was? There was one afternoon of debate. We can spend three days on a gas-burning devices act but we spent one afternoon on the Education Act - 325 clauses - the most important statement about education probably ever made by this Legislature. We spent one afternoon on it, and does anyone know why? It was because there was good consultation for that act - darned good consultation - but what does the Minister of Education now do? In the last couple of days, he says, in the announcement that it is the first semblance of a program the government has identified in a long time for education - a program that obviously is objected to by one of the partners in education who has taken the time to understand the proposal and to object to it - the Minister of Education says he never needed to talk to the partners in education. He did not think it was important, yet the initiative itself was important enough for the Teachers Association, in this particular instance, to make a frontal assault on the government and say, "You should have talked to us; you should have at least discussed this with us in advance of making the announcement."
Do you know what I found out subsequent to that, which is absolutely unbelievable? The vast majority of people in the public schools branch did not know about it either until it was announced. They have even cut out the Department of Education as a partner in education. From the superintendent level right on down, no one knew about this thing, including parents and First Nations.
I was just at the CHON/FM open house. Some people who worked there asked me what the Yukon Excellence Awards in education were. Did they talk to First Nations? I was pretty confident in saying I did not think so, because they did not talk to anyone else, and the Minister said he did not need to.
All the trust relationship that was laboriously worked on by so many people in this territory to develop a real partnership is slowly being eaten away, bit by bit, by this government. It wants to do the macho thing of making a decision, and it suffers the consequences, which is what will make them a one-term government.
They think they are doing a good job. What about the Yukon economic strategy and the conservation strategy? We heard nothing but good things from people who probably had never spoken to each other because of being cross-sectoral - people from the Conservation Society, the mining community, and tourism and transportation. These people had not had the opportunity to speak to each other in the past.
What they found useful about the economic strategy and the consultation process for it - and the subsequent consultations on that kind of discussion - was that it kept the community together by understanding the needs of each element of the business sector and of the non-business sector. The government had a better understanding of the relationship. It made sure that there was a better chance for us to pull in one direction rather than to pull in 500 different directions.
The conservation strategy was molded on the same pattern, as was the training strategy and as was the communications strategy. Not once, except by a few Members in the opposition, was there any criticism that this consultation was not worthwhile. The reason the Opposition could not criticize it was because the public was involved. The public did not always agree with what finally ended up as government policy. Not everyone agreed on everything. Unanimity cannot be achieved, but they never objected to the process and they never objected to consultation. They wanted it and they got it.
What happens now with the economic strategy? What happens now when the government wants to consult about the economy? For the first two years, as we were bunkered down to try to weather a crisis, apart from two things, which I have mentioned in the House before, and as I will continue to mention as good initiatives, they did absolutely nothing to promote good consultation.
It did two things. I will raise them again because I think they are good examples of things that can be done and that government has done. If it would learn from its lessons, it would do more of it. Those two things were the tourism summit and the housing conference. If it understood that there are lessons to be learned from that, and it applied them strategically on a government-wide basis and many of the other sectors that the government undertakes, then they would have learned a lot. But, no, you cannot tell these guys that they are not doing a good job.
What about all the things we have asked them to do to promote a general discussion about the economy? Finally, after a couple of years, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment puts on a one-day conference about mining. The number-one recommendation coming out of that conference was that there should be a streamlined regulatory process, rolling up all of the regulations from the federal level to the municipal level, and embracing it all under one process. Because the land claims process and the development assistance process is there, that is obviously the one process to which it is all going to have to gravitate.
What is the government's response to that? It is not in the throne speech. No one really thinks it is important. It is not in the budget speech or in anyone's work plan - at least, not that I have been able to detect so far. The biggest recommendation to come out of that one-day conference on mining is ignored in every publication, every statement of intent and all of the strategic thinking of the government. There is a real problem there, and it is brewing.
What about the other sectors of the economy? What about holding public discussions about the other sectors, to ensure that not only can people analyze important economic issues on a sectoral basis, but also to bring the sectors together so that they can cross-fertilize their ideas to encourage - dare I say it - a more holistic, coordinated approach.
The government can encourage people to pull in a single direction, or in a number of coordinated directions, so that people do not work against each other. This territory is too small to have people working in 100 different directions.
The government is not going to do that, even though it is the law. The law states that they should do that - they have to do that - but they are not going to do it. They are going to continue on as they have, analyzing little bits and pieces of the economy and seeing to it that whatever recommendations come forward may or may not see the light of day in terms of government policy.
We have suggested that, if they are a going to operate on a piecemeal basis, they include things such as reviewing the regulatory regime for small business or reviewing the problems that businesses have in getting access to capital. Sometimes the government agrees; other times it does not. The point is, it has not done anything about it. You can go out anywhere in the business community and you will hear people talk about those two items. They talk about access to capital and they talk about the regulatory requirements. We come in and talk to the government about undertaking consultation in those areas, and they say no, they have their own work plan. They have gambling on their minds.
They are going to focus their energy and resources on things that the public clearly does not even want to talk about any more.
The Government Leader, in defence of his own actions, has indicated that the Yukon Party government's track record stands tall in the saddle. He points to a select committee on land claims, which went around the territory as soon as the election was held and the government was in power.
By the time the select committee on land claims toured the territory, there was no opposition to the land claims agreement. Every party in the Legislature was saying, "Let us get the thing passed through the Legislature." The people who explained any details in terms of the land claims agreement were on the NDP government's side. There was no appetite for controversy. This was a necessary project to undertake, but not a difficult one. It showed no courage on the government's part whatsoever.
He talks about the numerous community meetings he has attended, as if this is somehow a
brand-new occurrence, and he has essentially elevated what he calls his community tours to
something close to a state activity. He has taken what ministers and government leaders
have been doing for years and made it into some sort of special occurrence.
I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that ministers and government leaders have been travelling around the territory for years holding public meetings. Every year that I was the Minister of Education, which is every year I was in government, I went to every school in the territory. I had public meetings in every community every year - one Minister doing that.
The Minister made a lot of his trip to Faro to discuss the fate of that community - not that he listened to the recommendations the people of Faro stated at the meeting. The fact that he did go, even if it did require some encouragement, was a good sign. The fact that he did not go the second time when they wanted to see him was probably also a sign of his commitment to the town.
He made a point of the fact that when he went around on his numerous community meetings
- his grassroots meetings - he explained the finances of government. I will bet he did -
not from the perspective that been hashed out in this Legislature but from his own
perspective. I do not think he spent a lot of time explaining why there are huge budgets
or why revenues have increased and, even if revenues had not increased, why taxes were
still being raised.
They spent a lot of time explaining the creative write-offs that were going on in this Legislature, and that have been the subject of so much debate. Nevertheless, he says that he was at community meetings. That is his job. It has been the job of every minister and every government leader in the past. Why should we get down on bended knee and salute him for that?
There are some things that have come up recently that I think deserved much more attention and much more consultation by the government. Yet, they received virtually no attention. I would like to focus on a couple of them, because I think that they are important. One is a constituency issue that has, once again, come to the attention of the Legislature in recent days. That is the issue of trailers in Whitehorse. This government was well aware, over a year ago, of the problems that mobile-home owners in this territory face. This government was well aware of the details of the problems, because they were discussed in this Legislature over one year ago.
One must only read Hansard to realize that the issues of land development, regulations and legislation were all pretty thoroughly hashed out. I thought there was a political commitment to do something. As a matter of fact, one Minister indicated that he was going to get right on it, call meetings with the City of Whitehorse and do some consultation.
The first obvious evidence of consultation was a meeting called, not in 1994, but a meeting called in 1995, nine months after this issue was raised in the Legislature and agreed upon as being an important one to address. It was consultation that involved, not the mobile-home owners, but the Real Estate Association, the mobile-home park owners and at least a half a dozen government people, between the city and the YTG. Were there any mobile-home owners at the meeting? Yes, there was one - one person out of 14 to discuss mobile-home owners' problems.
This, to me, number one, does not sound like consultation and, number two, does not sound like political commitment, but perhaps political commitment should be saved for another day.
This is certainly not consultation. Now the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation stands up and tells us to trust them, that they will take care of it. In the paper, he says if there is anything he is going to do in whatever time is remaining in his political career, he will see some action on this front. Why would we be skeptical about that statement?
Maybe because we raised this subject last year, and even got unanimous agreement that something should be done. Only nine months later, a meeting was called for something else but turned into a meeting about the problems of the mobile-home owners, with health and safety, and land. Even after all that time, the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation stands up and says that land was never really an issue for mobile-home owners. I cannot say that I have a lot of confidence in the Minister to fulfill his commitment.
The point is, however, that if they think that is consultation, come the next election they will have a roaring response from the trailer parks in Whitehorse, and there are thousands of residents in those trailer parks.
Speaker: Order please. The Member has three minutes to conclude his remarks.
Mr. McDonald: Unlike the Government Leader, three minutes is not enough time for me to address this issue, because I have a lot more to say.
I could have gone on about the Beringia Centre at some length. It is the biggest capital project this government has undertaken in the tourism area, and there was absolutely no consultation with anyone in the territory, outside of the backroom of government. Even though the government claims, after the fact, that the Beringia Centre has the support of a blue-ribbon committee and that everyone is extremely excited about it, and it is going to make enormous profits, it cannot substantiate any of those claims or defend its record on consultation.
Why would the museum community howl in horror when the government announces a big, good-news initiative like a new museum? Do you think there might be a problem with respect to the ongoing relationship the government has with the museum and tourism community? I think there is a huge problem.
I could go on about that for a long time, but I realize I do not have much time left.
I would have liked to have talked about the privatization of the Yukon Energy Corporation, the education review, gambling, legislating the wage roll back, and more. There is so much material and so little time. There is the winter employment project. Gosh, I just do not have the time.
I will take the opportunity during other moments in the Legislature to raise further
concerns. Frankly, this government does not have a leg on which to stand.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to lend my support to the amendment. I would also like to speak at length about the consultation provided by the previous government. Unfortunately, I do not have the time, but I feel that I have to respond to accusations that were made about me by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. I would just like to talk a little bit about the Ross River arena.
The Ross River arena project fell off the rails very, very early on.
Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate a little bit of quiet.
I, as that Member suggested, was the lead hand in trying to pull that project together. I went to my boss of the day and told him that we had to stop the project. That was before we ever turned the soil and before we ever did any construction whatsoever.
At the time, the community of Ross River was not very stable at all. The First Nations could not get along with the other residents of the town and the community club was changing its executive very often. It was very, very difficult. I knew that. I recognized that, and I let the assistant deputy minister at the time know that this project was in trouble. His comment to me was to carry on and that the Minister did not want to face the political heat for slowing construction. Finally, after trying to get the project back on track, I wrote a memo to the assistant deputy minister and said that we had to stop the project. The assistant deputy minister came back again and told me to carry on. I did make sure that that Member sitting there, who was the Minister at the time, signed every work order for the project from the time it started until it was finished. And that Member sitting right there, the chubby one, said -
Speaker: Order. I would like the Member to withdraw that remark.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will withdraw the remark. I am sorry.
That Member, who was the Government Leader at the time, said in Ross River - I think that somebody read this out today - that whoever is responsible will never get a promotion with this government - or something to that effect.
Point of Order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. Penikett: I am reluctant to intercede in this flow of bureaucratic confessions about butt-covering and evasion of responsibility. However, I have to rise to point out that the Minister is not accurately reporting what I said. In fact, it is a complete perversion of what I said, and I would ask that he withdraw it right now.
Speaker: I believe that there is a disagreement between two Members, and not a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: At the time, a scapegoat was required.
In my opinion, the only thing that saved me from losing my job at the time was the fact that I had written that memo. The report that was conducted later by a Whitehorse firm made reference to that memo. I believe that this is the only reason that I did not lose my job.
Concerning the remarks of the Member opposite, it is true that when the meeting was held in Ross River that I was not present for, I was, at that time, the assistant deputy minister.
I never again acted as director of community services after that. I think that the remarks certainly had their weight that day.
I have refrained from bringing up this subject. One other time, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini brought it up. I did not respond. I have never brought it up. There are some ethics that I respected and I would have continued to respect them if those people had not brought it up.
I did consultation for nine years. That was my job with the Yukon government. There is no question that the Members opposite, when they were in government, did some good consultation. I am proud of some of the consultation that I carried out for those people. The previous Conservative government also did some good consultation.
There were some bad consultations. I am probably responsible for some of those. I could go on for hours and point out where there was bad consultation, but more often than bad consultation was good consultation that was provided and not followed. That is what I call poor consultation. You can talk to everyone but if one cannot follow the advice, then one should go back and tell those you consulted why you cannot follow it.
I am not going to go on. I do not have time to start into all those issues. I just want
to say that I do support the amendment. I think that consultation is essential, and this
government is certainly trying to practice that very thing.
Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition. You have approximately one minute.
Mr. Penikett: That certainly will not be enough, but it will be enough to allow me to get started.
I found the comments of the Member opposite on consultation absolutely incredible, and I would like to return to them. Perhaps we will do that in one of the departments.
I look at the failure to consult on the economy, the economic strategy, trailers, home issues, economic issues, social issues, and I look at the failure to consult according to the law under the umbrella final agreement - to consult with First Nations as the land claims act requires - and I have serious doubt ...
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., this House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Debate on Motion No. 31 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
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 that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95. Is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have answers to some questions that were asked. One of the
questions was about overtime. In 1993-94, there were 42,990 hours; in 1994-95, there were
41,151 hours, to date.
Did the Member get that? 1994-95.
Request for modification to Duncan Drive in Golden Horn: the transportation and engineering branch will have completed its review of alternatives within the next few days and a letter containing the results will then be sent to the MLA.
McLean Lake quarry reserves: the life expectancy of McLean Lake quarry is eight years based on the information in the 1993 McLean expansion final report.
Current full-time employees in 1993: there were 438 to December 8, 1993, and in 1994 to date, 399.
The cost of the weigh scale building, including construction of the scale pad, was $352,000. Based on an estimated cost for the scale pad of about $38,000, the cost of the building was $314,000. The tender for the scale construction was let in the fall as a result of the delay in obtaining the land. There was a requirement for winter construction methods to be used, and these costs are included in the $314,000. The building is 1,750 square feet.
I have a document for tabling. It is rather long. Rather than read it out, I will deliver a copy to each person. They are responses relative to power emulsion contract, a $97,000 revote for systems, non-Yukon contracts in excess of $25,000, land block transfers and north Whitehorse periphery rezoning.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of questions for the Minister on the proposed
Destruction Bay highway camp closure. Can the Minister tell me when this will happen and
how much it will cost?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are waiting until the Shakwak project gets closer to the Donjek bridge. When I met with the people up there, we told them that they would be there for at least another two years. We are running a trial test from Beaver Creek to Destruction Bay now.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the government closes down the Destruction Bay highway camp, will it be purchasing the homes of the highways branch personnel who are presently stationed there?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The government has a policy of purchasing the homes. Most of those people do not live in Destruction Bay. They live at various places along the highway, and they come in every day to work.
Ms. Moorcroft: If there are personnel who own their homes, the government has a policy whereby they would purchase the home - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know if the policy of purchase would apply to homes that were 15 or 20 miles down the road. I will have to come back with that information.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister remember if, when he visited the highway camp, he told the workers there that there was a possibility that they could purchase those homes?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We must have spent two hours with them, and I do not recall that subject ever coming up.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank the Minister for getting this information back to me. I have not had a chance to look at it, so I am not going to be following up in those areas just now. Did the Minister table the letter that was sent to the Ta'an Kwach'an that he referred to in debate yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it was dated July 9. We all seem to be talking about different places. The letters were sent on July 9 on the 608 property. That is the Gruber property. It had nothing to do with the Flat Creek property at all.
Ms. Moorcroft: The one newsletter that was mailed out indicates that the mail-out went to Ta'an Kwach'an - Shirley Adamson, Chair - Kwanlin Dun, City of Whitehorse and the Ibex Valley hamlet. Is the Minister saying that there is also a letter that went specifically to the Ta'an First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: On July 9, 1993.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is that the letter that reads, "Dear residents/property owner, re: request for comments from local area residents with respect to the proposed rezoning and development"?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, that is the one.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Member is indicating that the general letter that was sent to every resident/property owner, addressed to "Dear resident/property owner" was also mailed to the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation. Is that the letter for which the government did not get a response?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, the letter and a newsletter were mailed. Again, I would point out that this is the 608 subdivision that we are talking about.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have to point out to the Minister that to send a letter that is marked "Dear resident/property owner", asking for input to the planning process is not quite the same thing as sending a letter specifically to the First Nation requesting its input on a proposed rezoning and development.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not he sent out a letter to the Ta'an Kwach'an on the issue of the agricultural properties that the government was proposing to develop.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member is referring to the agricultural land on Flat Creek, it is just in the organizational stage right now. We have not gone very far at all on it.
The other development we have out there is above Pilot Mountain. There will be some more residential lots opened up there.
Ms. Moorcroft: As far as the Minister is aware, was the letter of July 9 the only correspondence that was sent to the Ta'an Kwach'an?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The newsletters also went to them.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was that the extent of consultation with the Ta'an Kwach'an, or was this also raised at the land claims table?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We think the land claim division was in consultation with them when this was done.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not think it is particularly respectful or in the spirit under which the final agreements were signed to just send off a blanket letter and think it might have been mentioned at the land claims table but not be sure about something as significant as creating two new property zoning categories - multiple rural residential and commercial. I do not think that is what I would call adequate consultation with the First Nations.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we do it again, we will see that it is addressed directly to them.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have some questions about sport and recreation funding. The breakdown of the funding that has gone out to various sport and recreation groups in the community was the information I was looking for. I would also like to know how the money is allocated. What are the criteria for determining which groups are funded?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The money is divided up by the Yukon Lottery Commission, the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee and local authorities, such as community clubs.
Ms. Moorcroft: Have the rules changed in the last year or two?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, not to my knowledge.
Ms. Moorcroft: Whenever a pot of money gets distributed, those people who do not get funding will think that it is not fair. To protect itself from those allegations, I think the government should be able to say how the money is divided. I understand that the Lottery Commission and YRAC have boards that make decisions. The Minister indicated that some money goes to the community clubs and that they decide how it gets spent. Could the Minister elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Under the legislation, a local authority is designated to divide up a certain amount of money among the people in that area.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know what portion of the money would be made available for that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I realize the Member has not had time to go through the list that we sent, but it is broken down on it.
Mr. Penikett: I want to discuss the Ross River arena at some time, but I think I may touch on a couple of other questions first, since they concern the present Minister and not former ministers.
The first is a question arising from the discussion a day or two ago about airports. The government is contemplating the possibility that it may inherit the responsibility for A airports, as well as B and C airports. There are certain features of A airports that Canadians have come to expect, some of which are present in Whitehorse, and some are not. Obviously, the whole question of airline service to Watson Lake is a huge issue there. I will not spend time on that tonight; I will leave it for another occasion.
As the Department of Community and Transportation Services assesses the possibilities of it becoming responsible for A airports, which I understand are the more fairly expensive propositions and not usually profitable except in the larger centres, I would like to know what the Minister's approach is to questions like the provision of duty-free shops, for example, which is a question because, as I understand it, we have to make provision for the tax-free sale of alcohol and the tax-free sale of cigarettes.
I am not sure what the law is here, but I suspect that we do not have provision in law right now to permit that. I may be wrong. It may be covered by federal law in some way, but I suspect the taxes that duty-free shops allow international travellers to avoid are taxes of a local nature. So, I am interested in how the Department of Community and Transportation Services is addressing this issue, what thought it has given to the policy implications, what preparations it has made to assist anyone who may be contemplating trying to obtain a duty-free store certificate.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Negotiations were started awhile ago. In fact, the terms of reference on the negotiations were just put out, so we have not reached that stage yet, but I have complete confidence in the negotiator. He has briefed me several times, and he certainly knows what he is after and what he is trying to get.
Mr. Penikett: I think it is wonderful that the Minister has complete confidence in the negotiator. Would he mind telling us who that negotiator is and what instructions he has given the person?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is Mr. Marc Tremblay. He is at the airport in Haines Junction, and his instruction is that we do not want to get into what happened with forestry, and I do not want to ever sign an agreement in principle where somebody backs off from me after I have signed it. During the two meetings we had with the city, he made my instructions plain. We also have to have the money to operate it.
Mr. Penikett: I, too, have worked with Marc Tremblay. He was an extremely good ADM in Finance, and I am sure he is doing a good job where he is now. That does not really answer my question, though, about what instructions the Minister may have given about the negotiations in respect to the precise matter I am interested in, which is the advent of duty-free shops, the exemption from liquor taxation and tobacco taxation and so forth.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Tim McTiernan is also in on the negotiations. Regarding the tax-free shop that the Member mentioned, which was also brought up by the city, we are not far enough along in negotiations that we would know what to put in there.
Mr. Penikett: Is the Minister indicating indirectly to the House that, if there were someone - a concession operator - in Whitehorse who is now looking to establish a tax-free shop or duty-free shop, that they would be dealing exclusively with federal officials? If that is the case, who is dealing with the matter of exemption from tobacco taxes? I assume it would be someone in the Department of Finance who is dealing with the question of liquor licensing and liquor taxation. Presumably the Liquor Corporation would have to be involved in that somehow, would they not?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The whole airport situation will come over to us when the negotiations are completed. However, we have just started them. I do not suppose that issue has even come up in the negotiations as of yet. The city did bring that up, so they are quite aware of it, and we will be looking at it. I do not think they are in a position to have negotiated anything like that. They just got started on the actual negotiations a short time ago.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry that I appear to be irritating the Minister. Let me explain the situation. We are not dealing with a hypothetical question. I am aware of a constituent who is interested in this question now. I know that there is some consideration being given to the negotiation of an airport transfer. I am interested in how this government is dealing now with the questions arising from the issue of duty-free shops, exemptions from taxation on liquor, exemptions from taxation on alcohol, and the licensing of said facilities. I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that the Department of Community and Transportation Services would have a coordinating role in these matters, if not the lead role in addressing the obvious policy questions that arise. If it is not the Department of Community and Transportation Services, if it is the devolution coordinator, I would like to know that. We were told by the Government Leader the other day that the devolution coordinator has no policy staff reporting to him, so I do not know how he can develop policy on it. If the Minister is patient and gentle with me, he will understand that I need to know to whom I should address the questions.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Taxes now would be dealt with by the Finance department, not by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. It is being dealt with as a financial matter. There is no question that they are in on the negotiations.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the Minister a direct question. Mr. Tremblay is an employee of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. He reports to Mr. Cormie and Mr. Cormie reports to Mr. Brewster. Has Mr. Tremblay in the negotiating of, or the preparation for, an airport transfer, received any mandate from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, or the Minister of Finance, on the question of duty-free shops? If he has not, how will he receive instructions on that question?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They are not that far along. It has not come up.
Mr. Penikett: I know I am a bit quaint and old-fashioned on the question of planning. I sort of believe it should precede the project rather than follow it. Does the Minister not think it would be a good idea, prior to negotiating an airport transfer, or while preparing for it, to have some policy developed by the territorial government to deal with these questions? I admit this is not the biggest issue, but it is an interesting example of the way that the government is proceeding. I want to know if he plans to do any policy development or planning work before the negotiations begin?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The implication is, if we get the airport, we would rent the space. The financial part of it would be with the Finance department. I am hopeful, but I do not know if the Member is more hopeful than I in thinking that we have got to that stage, because we have not.
Mr. Penikett: Would it be fair to say then that it is the Minister's view that he does not intend to address issues like duty-free shops until such time as the negotiations with the federal government are underway, perhaps even nearly complete. Would that be a fair statement?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is not until they are nearly complete. If we see that they are going, they will go. I have not seen Mr. Tremblay's timetable. As I have said, I have full confidence in him and Mr. McTiernan that they have it worked out as to when they want to bring those things up.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. McTiernan and Mr. Tremblay are both highly professional public servants, as is Mr. Cormie. Perhaps I could direct a question to Mr. Cormie through the Minister. I would like to know, in writing - I give notice of this question and it does not need to be answered now if it cannot be - how the department is addressing the most basic policy questions about the provision of this kind of service at the major airport in, not only this city, but this region. At least as far as people in the private sector are concerned, it is an issue now - not down the road, but now.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If they are interested right now, I suppose they would have to deal with the federal government. With respect to this agreement, the best we can hope for is 1996, which is about 14 months from now. However, we will get the Member a written response to his question.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to move now to another question, which is a constituency matter, about which the Minister and I have exchanged letters, as have the Member for Mount Lorne and the Minister. The issue concerns the road development at MacRae.
The Minister may recall that a number of Ms. Moorcroft's constituents and I were concerned about the appearance of government equipment working on a road that seemed to be on private property. We wrote to the Minister about it, and the Minister replied. The Minister explained that the road in question was being constructed entirely within the Alaska Highway right-of-way. The work being done was work done under a work-within-the-right-of-way permit. The Minister then went on to say, in his November 1, 1994, letter that, "This type of access road is condoned as it results in mitigating the potential problem of having multiple accesses from the lots causing safety concerns for the highway traffic in the area. The placing of a base of crushed aggregate reduces the maintenance effort that is required on the frontage road."
A week later, my colleague wrote a more detailed letter to the Minister, asking more questions. I want to ask the Minister a couple of policy questions arising from that situation, so that I may understand the reasoning. In his answer to my colleague, a letter he wrote on December 2, the Minister said, "The government equipment you observed was engaged in placing a base of crushed aggregate, which will reduce the maintenance effort which will be required on the frontage road. The surfacing was supplied and applied in exchange for the developer constructing the access to the Alaska Highway which, as they were not contiguous to the property, would have been YTG's responsibility."
The Minister listed the costs, which amounted to a little less than $20,000. I do not understand the statement in the first sentence, to the effect that the government equipment he observed was engaged in placing a base of crushed-gravel aggregate, which would reduce the maintenance effort that will be required on the fringes of the road. As I understand it, YTG is not responsible for maintaining that bit of road. How will YTG putting down this surface reduce our costs?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We put it down so that it would help the city when it has to clean it. In the last conversation that I had with the director of transportation, they were still negotiating whether they would clean it or we would.
Mr. Penikett: Would the Minister not agree that, if the city is responsible, doing this work would not reduce our costs at all?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I would agree with that.
Mr. Penikett: Then this letter does not hold up. We are doing this work in order to reduce the maintenance costs. However, if we are not responsible for the maintenance costs, it does not reduce any costs for us at all. We incur a cost, but get no payback - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We reduced the cost for the city. Also, we have accesses on to the main Alaska Highway.
Mr. Penikett: With respect, the Minister did not answer my question. The Minister is saying that it reduces costs to the city, but not to us. Does YTG have a claim against the city for this benefit?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No. There are many lots back there. If we did not do something, they would each be accessing the Alaska Highway. By putting that road in, we have reduced the number of accesses on to the highway.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister will understand that my constituents are skeptical on that point. In the next sentence of the Minister's letter, he says, "The surfacing was supplied and applied in exchange for the developer constructing access to the Alaska Highway, which, as they were not contiguous to property, would have been a YTG responsibility."
Why would they have been a YTG responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are six lots there, and we could have had six accesses, each one installed by the property owner. By putting this road in, we have been able to control the number of access roads coming on to the Alaska Highway. As the Member will know, it is dangerous to have so many access roads coming on to the highway.
Mr. Penikett: I agree that having a number of access roads would be dangerous, but the situation there is doubly dangerous because the government has refused to do what I think it should do about the lighting there, but that is another subject.
The Minister said the government did this because these access roads, "which, as they were not contiguous to the property, would have been YTG's responsibility." The Minister has not answered the question. Why would they have been a YTG responsibility? He previously told us that the individual lot owners would have put access roads in.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Our intent is to cut down the number of access roads so we can at least make the highway safer. If he wants me to concede the point that we did not save any money, then I will give it to him.
Mr. Penikett: I am not trying to be right; I am trying to understand what the government's policy is. The Minister seems to have been behaving in a way that, according to my constituents, was contrary to what they understood was the previous government policy.
In plain English form, is there a policy statement about access roads, costs to the developer - costs to the municipality; costs to us - and arrangements for the sharing of those costs? Does the Minister know of a policy statement that he is governed by?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Actually, we have no policy now. Any lot has a right to access on to the highway but, by doing this, we cut the access down. As to the developer not paying anything, he put all the base down, so I suspect it cost him probably as much as it cost us to make the highway safer.
Mr. Penikett: I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the kind of confusion, concern and questions that MLAs get when they see government equipment working on private property and so forth. I would really like to ask the Minister for a policy statement on the costs, the benefits and the sharing of these costs between the developer, the city and us, because I would like to be able to provide a clear statement to my constituents about what governs government behaviour here.
Can the Minister satisfy that need?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Right at the present time, we do not have any policy on a
situation like this. I am quite sure that they thought they were doing the right thing. I
agree with him that it cut down the safety and it may have cost a little bit, but it was
worth it for the safety of the thing. I think it would have cost the developer, by putting
in the main base, a lot more than it cost us to put the top on it.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister must understand that I am not taking sides in this. All I am trying to do is establish the facts to see if there is a policy foundation for what the government did. When my constituents ask me, as they have already done, in the delightful colloquialisms of the MacRae area, "What the hell is going on here?" I can answer them. I cannot tell them now, because the previous letter from the Minister raised more questions than it answered. I will again ask the Minister, if not in the policy manual, but would he, at least by way of a letter to me, lay out something resembling a policy position so that I can try to make the government's behaviour clear to my constituents?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I will do that.
Mr. Penikett: In the discussion we have had over the last few minutes, the Minister has made reference several times to the safety issue. I would like to make a representation that the principal safety question in this stretch of the Alaska Highway is the problem of poor lighting. I, and several other people, who use that stretch of road have frequently experienced dangerous situations with traffic pulling in and out of McRae - there is significant truck traffic there - and out of the several intersections. There are several access roads to which the Minister refers. It is a stretch of road that is often icy. There is sometimes flood water in the area. The ditches can get quite deep and full of water. People driving in family motor vehicles can sometimes be presented with scary situations there. I genuinely and sincerely believe that the situation would be improved by better lighting, and I want to make a representation to the Minister to spend a little bit of money to improve the lighting there.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe I told the MLA for Mount Lorne that we are reviewing that and will probably be looking at it this spring.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has given that undertaking to the Member for Mount Lorne, and I just want to make sure that he understood that I was adding my voice to that representation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mr. Cable: I gather that the Whitehorse sewage system is running over budget by some significant amount. I have heard the figure of $3 million bandied around. Is that the Minister's understanding of the overrun today?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They have been told to sharpen their pencils. I do not think the project is over by that much yet, but the city may get there.
Mr. Cable: I am sorry, I do not understand what the Minister just said. Is it projected to produce an overrun of $3 million? I know that it is not all spent yet, but is it projected to go over by that amount?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The last report I read was from about a month ago, and it was over budget by about $1 million then. I have not seen the latest report. It could be $1.5 million, or it could be lower.
Mr. Cable: I gather that the costing arrangement that was worked out with the City of Whitehorse was based on a preliminary design done by the engineering firm, Klohn Leonoff. I gather the territorial government was at least partly instrumental in selecting that engineering firm. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The project is run entirely by the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that there was no input from the department in the selection of the consulting engineers that did the preliminary design work?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The only contact we have with it is that we have members sitting on the committee that oversees the project.
Mr. Cable: I am just going over my notes. It was a luncheon engagement. I understand that the territorial government was, at least in part, initially involved at the time the Klohn Leonoff Ltd. engineering firm was selected. Did the Minister say that, or was he saying something else?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A committee was set up. It includes the First Nation, the federal government, the city and some private citizens. We also sit on the board. However, it is a city project and they run it. The board is there to advise them.
Mr. Cable: Let me just go back to the beginning. Did the Minister say that the original funding arrangement was worked out on the basis of this preliminary design by Klohn Leonoff? Did YTG use that as a basis for costing and funding the project?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The planning was done and then we entered into negotiations with our share of the money.
Mr. Cable: The planning being the preliminary engineering being done by Klohn Leonoff. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mr. Cable: From consulting my napkin notes, I see that there have been some significant changes in the scope of the project. Is that the Minister's understanding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There have been no changes to the scope of it; the changes have been in the way they are doing it to try and better concentrate their money.
Mr. Cable: Have these changes been responsible for the projected overruns?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I understand that the city changed consultants. I would humbly suggest that these questions should probably be directed at the city - not me.
Mr. Cable: Let me humbly suggest, in turn, that, as YTG is a main financier for the project, perhaps the question should in fact be directed at the Minister.
I understand the city has requested that reconsideration be given to the funding arrangement, because of the change in the scope of the job. Is that the Minister's understanding? Has there been a communication to that effect from the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it asked for more.
Mr. Cable: What was the reply?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The reply was that the budget has pretty well all been spent.
Mr. Cable: Was that reply given in writing to the city? Is there some letter that can be tabled?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it was.
Mr. Cable: When was that reply given?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We think, but we are not sure, that it was about a month and one-half ago.
Mr. Cable: That is about the date in my notes here.
Could the Minister table that letter so that we can see the basis for the rejection?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we can.
Mr. Cable: On another matter, I put some written questions forward to the Minister on the weigh scales about a week or 10 days ago. Has the Minister and his officials had a chance to come up with the answers to those questions?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, the deputy minister has them on his desk and we hope to get them to the Member tomorrow.
Mr. Cable: That would be very helpful, because there are some questions before we get to that part of the budget.
The Yukon Home Builders Association has, I think, had some contact with the Minister and his officials on the Copper Ridge development. I received a copy of the letter to the Minister from the president of the Yukon Home Builders Association, dated January 23, 1995. A proposition is put forward in the letter that 68 lots of the development be set aside for purchase by home building contractors. Has the Minister had a chance to consider the contents of that letter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I have not. I have read the letter. We would have to look at it to see if we will do it all the way, or just part of the way. It is an interesting concept about which we have not made a decision.
Mr. Cable: The building season, of course, is not going to start tomorrow, but will be starting in a few weeks. When will the Minister make a decision on the points raised in the letter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is a Land Development Committee, comprised of representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Whitehorse, the real estate industry and home builders. We will have to talk to the other people on that committee.
Mr. Cable: From the Minister's first answer, I gather that there is some consideration needed. When does the Minister think that a decision will be made on the contents of the letter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We had hoped to get a response to them in a couple of weeks, but the final decision will not be made that quickly.
Mr. Cable: Will it be made well in advance of the commencement of the residential house construction season?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we hope so.
Mr. Cable: There have been a number of questions asked about lot availability.
I had asked the Minister some questions on January 18. I asked him about the private sector market. Part of one of my questions was the inference from his comments - that is referring to the president of the Canadian Home Builders Association and the remarks of the local president of the association - that if builders could buy groups of lots, this would permit economies of scale in free market competition, and there would be lower house prices. I asked if the Minister agreed with the gist of those remarks. The Minister's answer was, "To some extent I agree with it, but there are also a lot of problems with things the Member for Riverside is now bringing up that have to be solved first." What are the problems that the Minister sees?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The example of what happened at Pineridge, that shot the prices of the property up so high is a real good example of what happened.
Mr. Cable: Is that the main problem? The Minister answered in the plural.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are a number of policy issues on it, and there are a number of things to be sorted out. One does not all of a sudden change the way one is going overnight on an issue such as this. As I have said, I think it is an interesting concept and we certainly will be looking at it.
Mr. Cable: Very early on, near the beginning of the budget debate, and in particular in relation to the supplemental estimates that were produced by the Minister, I indicated that I was curious about why there were wide variations in the initial budget of the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the final budget when the year finally ended.
In 1993-94, the first supplemental was $15,542,000 off the original target, of which the Department of Community and Transportation Services was off by over $9 million. In the supplemental that we are now debating, we have a total supplemental budget of $16,626,000, of which Community and Transportation Services is off by more than that total: $17,007,000.
What is there about this particular department's budget that makes for those very large variations? Are we saying that there are things peculiar to this department that cannot be predicted at the beginning of the year?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In our new budget, there is the Shakwak project for $9 million and the infrastructure for $1.5 million, which is $10.5 million just between those two projects.
Mr. Cable: I was not suggesting that the changes originated in the department. It is basically political decisions that drive these wide variations, then - is that what we are saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The $10,371,000 is from capital recoveries. It is coming from other places. The $9 million is from Alaska Highway. The infrastructure is recovered 50 percent from the federal government. We have asked for $17.7 million, and we recovered $10,371,000.
Mr. Cable: Quite so, but the money is expended, wherever it comes from, and it indicates fairly significant changes in plans from the beginning of the year to the time the supplemental budget is presented.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Right now, we are in a little different situation. There is the Shakwak project, which we are moving on as fast as we can. Then the federal government came along with the infrastructure program, which we were unaware of. Yes, the Member is correct, it is money, but it was brought in at the last minute, so it is in the supplementary.
Mr. Cable: On the same general topic, we had a fair amount of debate in 1993 on the strategic plan. Where did it wind up? Was it ever finally adopted by the department?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They are continuing to work on it.
Mr. Cable: I will read from page 53 of this document. It is designated as issue A. "Lack of effective input into planning of the divisions O&M in capital budgets," and under that is a "rating 2" - whatever that means. So, what are the major problems contained in this issue? Under that, No. 1, "Lack of long-range planning for community infrastructure development." In the Minister's view, is that still a problem that should be addressed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I think that there are some that we definitely have to address.
Mr. Cable: Yesterday, we established that lot planning is done on sort of a rolling basis, but it is just a one-year rolling basis. What sort of plans do the Minister and his department have to address the issue of the lack of long-range planning for community infrastructure development?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The first thing we have to do is get a better understanding of what the people in the communities want instead of our doing what we think they should have. We will go to the people to find out what they want, and then go from there.
Mr. Cable: Is there a road prioritization plan around? There appears to be instant reaction, judging from the dates that the Member for Riverdale South pulled out yesterday, where the Grey Mountain School money was yanked out of the budget and poof, a few days later we had Shakwak gearing up again. Is there some road prioritization plan that the Minister's department works to?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The money for the Shakwak project has absolutely nothing to do with schools or anything else. It is American money and it has to be spent on that section of the highway. The $4.8 million that was pulled out was not used on the Shakwak project.
Chair: Order please. 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 now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3. We are also dealing with Bill Brewster.
Mr. Cable: I think when we closed off, the Minister was attempting to complete my education on the Shakwak financing. I have to say that, having listened to the debate go back and forth for several weeks, I think everyone on this side is completely conversant with the fact that those funds are primarily funds from the United States government. We do not have to beat that one to death.
I think that the point that has been made is that there is some discretionary capital funding involved and that was the linkage that I was trying to make between the funding that was removed and the funding that was yarded into this budget. That really was not the issue with which I was trying to deal.
The issue I would like to deal with is the issue of road prioritization. It seemed rather odd that we had just left the House after having debated the budget, and a very short period later this project came bouncing along to the tune of $12 million. What sort of strategic plan or road prioritization plan is the government following, or is it, as we suspect, done on an ad hoc basis?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member mentioned that he did not want to go back and discuss the Shakwak project, and then he comes up with the $12 million, which is theirs. They are trying to get this road finished as fast as they can. If there are contractors there and the winter weather is good, then they let us go ahead, because some of the other contractors finish ahead of time. They are trying to work toward getting the road built down to the Donjek River for $89.7 million. If contracts are finished early, then we get other contracts out.
Mr. Cable: That was not the point I was making. Roads require engineering and surveying, et cetera. One does not just sit down over a cup of coffee in the morning and decide that, two weeks from now, one is going to spend $12 million on the Shakwak. Is there some sort of plan that determines which roads are going to be built next, and when?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Every year, the foremen go out and look at their roads, and they have a system of testing which roads should be fixed, and that goes into the plan for the next year. It is all planned out that way, yes. A plan is put out every year of what they will be doing the next year. They do that during the summer - they plan to repair areas where there are frost heaves and things like that that continually come back. They use certain instruments, which I do not understand, to test the road and lay out what they want to do in the upcoming budget.
Mr. Cable: That sounds like it might be the case with respect to maintenance, but what about capital expenditures - the building of bridges and extension of roads and whatnot?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: For our main highways, there are long-term plans for 15 or 20 years, but with the budget being as small as it is, we just have to do a little bit of that at a time. So they will choose what they think is the worst part of that road and try to fix it up and bring it up to standard.
Mr. Cable: I am not making my point. We are building this Freegold Road. That is
not a maintenance job. What determines what roads are going to be built, what bridges are
going to be built, what sort of capital expenditures - not maintenance expenditures, but
capital expenditures - are going to be incurred, not in just the next upcoming year but in
the years to come after that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The functional plans for the major highways are being done now. The Freegold Road is one, the Top of the World Highway is another, and the Campbell Highway, between Carmacks and Faro, is another one.
Mr. Cable: Is there a written document around that has written on it, "strategic plan for road construction for the next five years", for example?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we are working on the whole thing, but, as I told you, it is not complete, so we do not have it yet.
Mr. Cable: Let me go at it in another way. What drives road construction? Is it an analysis of tourist needs or trucker needs, or how does the Minister decide when to build a road? Are there some variables that are checked off and analyzed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are a number of things, one of which is traffic. On the Freegold Road, we will watch to see if it can handle the ore coming from the mine, if the mine goes ahead, as we hope. If it cannot handle it, then we will have to build it bigger. If the Cominco Tag mine goes ahead at Finlayson, we have to fix up that road, because it will not handle big trucks. We have counters on most of the roads, and the main criterion is the traffic and the wear and tear on a road.
Mr. Cable: I would like to move on to another point. A fellow dropped into the office with some concerns. He was upset about the way the government is buying its gas. I gather there was a new fuel-price policy implemented in the fourth quarter of 1993, whereby the government secured a discount through a bidding process. Do I have those facts right?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Mr. Cable: I understand from this gentleman that this has had the effect of consolidating all government fuel purchases in a few hands in each community. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, that is not correct. We request tenders every three months. However, I think I know what the Member is talking about.
The bids are solicited from within the community being serviced. For instance, in Haines Junction there are probably five or six that can bid, and other communities may have one or two potential suppliers. A two-kilometre area is considered. It does not mean that they cannot buy gas from other areas if the gas price happens to be lower when they are working in that area.
Mr. Cable: That was one of the problems the gentleman raised. He said the graders took off from Tagish and went way up the road to refill when they could have done it cheaper by staying in the community. Does the Minister know whether there have been any savings in this policy, or has he attempted to determine the savings?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we were saving money when we evaluated it.
Mr. Cable: What sort of order of magnitude were the savings? I am not asking the Minister or his deputy to tell me they were $10,100, but were they in the order of $100,000 or $1 million, or what?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not millions of dollars, but in the tens of thousands. Some people do not realize this, but the way it was before, we had to give the price that was on the pump. That meant that the RVs coming in were getting a good price, because they would put the price down to get the government contracts, yet large numbers of government-contracted vehicles were coming in there every day. Every camper going into Alaska was filling up at a lower price. We turned it loose so that they can now charge them what they want, because they will never see them again. They will see these trucks again, so we put out the tender so everybody could bid on it. I know of only two places that had complaints. I have looked at the complaints several times, and I do not really think that they are justified; however, they disagree with me, and that is their right.
Mr. Cable: I am certainly not critical of the bidding process. It is probably the best way to go. There were complaints registered by this person.
Another matter that was brought up was the after-hours use of the government maintenance shops. Is there a policy about that? I am talking about the use of the shop by people employed by the department for repair of their own vehicles.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have heard those complaints, as well. The department has looked at it. I guess there are some special circumstances, such as if one were in Little Salmon or on the Dempster Highway. When there is no garage and one has a flat tire, we can understand that a person would want to fix it before proceeding to Dawson. However, in the communities, we do not agree with the practice.
I know that the department has investigated a couple of complaints.
Mr. Cable: Just to be clear, I am talking about use of the facilities by the staff. Is that what the Minister is talking about? I am not referring to third parties.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, just the staff.
Mr. Cable: Has the department generated any policy to deal with the situation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I know that it is something that has been in place for a long time.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister mean that there is some unwritten set of rules that can be used, or is there some written policy about it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would say that common sense would be used. Why should they be able to do that when no other taxpayer can?
Mr. Cable: I am not sure what the Minister is saying. Is the Minister saying that the staff can use the facilities after hours or that they cannot?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, they cannot. I just pointed out that we may possibly need to be lenient in places like Ogilvie on the Dempster Highway or Eagle Plains or elsewhere where there is no garage. If something happened on a staff member's days off, common sense would indicate that they could fix a small problem to get them to Dawson City or wherever; however, in areas where there is a community and other garages, no, they are not allowed to do it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Member for Riverside has just raised some issues that I have been writing to the Minister about for some months. I would like to start out with a couple of questions about the fuel-purchase policy. I do have a copy of the policy, and I believe that I understand it and that I understand its intent. People want to believe that the rules are fair and that the rules are equitably applied. I have to tell the Minister that I have heard from several service station owners who have raised concerns, and they are not just in the Tagish area. I think that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. When I wrote to the Minister about the fuel-purchase policy, he wrote back that the intent of the policy was to acquire fuel at the best possible price in order to ensure that there are sufficient resources to maintain the highways adequately for the travelling public. The concern that has been raised is that there are service stations that have a lower price for fuel, and government equipment is driving past the highway fuel stops and purchasing fuel at a community fuel stop at a higher price. Why would this happen?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I think I know pretty well who he is talking about. That part does not matter.
The appeal policy says that one must purchase inside the area of two kilometres. That is one's home. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, they will want the tanks full at night, especially in the winter when they put them in the garage, so that there is no condensation. The second reason is that they claim that a pickup, when it goes by there, should fuel up. When a pickup goes from one area to another on his route and then turns around, and has three-quarters of a gallon in the tank, why should he stop somewhere else? Why should he not continue for the day? If one figures it out, over all those trucks, it would cost a considerable amount of money.
On top of that, there is another thing in the policy stating that they must be open certain hours. Some of the stations that are making these claims were not open those hours when they tried to fill up there.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would have to dispute those facts. The Minister is offering some selective interpretation of the policy. What the policy says is that when the lowest cost fuel station is a highway fuel station, highway equipment operators shall, under normal circumstances, purchase fuel from the highway fuel station. It also says that equipment normally operating from a highway maintenance camp, when it will be proceeding past, or working within two kilometres of the highway fuel station, will purchase fuel from that lower-cost highway fuel station. That is what is not happening.
Several service station operators have reported to me that the highway equipment is driving past the highway fuel stations, which has a lower cost of gas, and driving to a community fuel station, which has a higher cost of gas. That is inconsistent with the Minister's position that the intent is to acquire fuel at the best possible price.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is not true. First, when he fuels up and then passes a service station five, six or seven miles down the road, is he supposed to stop there because he has used that many miles' worth of fuel? On top of that, I think I can pretty well tell where this is coming from. When they did work there and stayed there, they bought their fuel there because I have seen the receipts. I investigated this about three different times. I have seen the receipts and it amounted to quite a bit of money.
Ms. Moorcroft: The same information was provided to us, and it does not amount to a lot of money. The concern that the highway fuel service station operators have - and it is a legitimate one - is that it is very difficult for them to operate when they are not getting business from the government. The highway fuel stations bid a low price on fuel in order to get the business to supplement their summer earnings, because there is very little tourist traffic during the winter. So, it is important for those stations to be able to survive and for them to be having fuel purchased from them by the government in accordance with the policy.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: All I can say is that these stations are not in the community; they are outside of it. They have to fuel up their trucks before they are put into the garage for the night, so that they have a full tank in the morning. In most cases, particularly pickups, they can travel around the whole district, come back and still have a considerable amount of gas remaining. I have looked at this and gone over this. I have lived with this for many years. This system seems to be working better than any I have seen so far.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are quite a few people who disagree with the Minister on that. Let me ask the Minister some general policy questions. Should a government employee, particularly a managerial employee, be permitted to operate a private business in the same field in which they are employed in the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the first place, we do not know what the Member is talking about. Until we know the facts-
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me repeat the question for the Minister and see if he can understand it. It is really a very simple question. Does the Minister think a government employee should be permitted to operate a private business in the same field in which they are employed in the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I understand the question, but it depends upon what they are doing. If they are typists, is the Member saying they should not be able to go home and type for someone? Is the Member saying they cannot do that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No? Well, good.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am asking the Minister a simple straightforward question, and I do not understand why he wants to dodge it.
Does the Minister think a government employee should be permitted to operate a private business in the same field in which they are employed in the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not even going to try to answer that, because I do not know the facts. I do not think we have the right to tell someone, typists for instance, that they cannot have a small business typing in their home after hours.
There have to be more facts than that. I will not even comment on it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me try something different. If a government employee operates a private business, are they permitted to use government equipment to service the private business?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Of course not.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is it permitted to operate a private business out of a government facility?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Of course not.
Ms. Moorcroft: People have brought these concerns to the Minister's attention. I would like the Minister to be able to respond on the floor of the House with a clear statement of government policy. Should a managerial employee of the government be permitted to operate a private business in the same area that they are employed in in the public sector?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have never had anyone bring a concern like that to my attention.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am bringing that question to the Minister now, and perhaps he could try and answer it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not going to debate personnel questions like that on the floor until I know what we are talking about.
Mr. McDonald: There is a very clear policy question here. I will ask a very direct question. Should a person who works for the Highways department operate a business - a road-construction business - in the same district for which they are working for the Department of Highway maintenance branch? Is that permitted?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would have to know more about the case. I do not know of any incidents, and nobody has approached me on that.
Mr. McDonald: Frankly, I do not care whether anyone has approached the Minister. I am asking the Minister a question about whether or not it is the policy of the Department of Community and Transportation Services to permit people who work for highway maintenance to own a business that does road construction work in the same operating area in which that highway maintenance personnel works. Is that permitted? Surely the department has some kind of policy on that question. No specifics have to be drawn to the Minister's attention. Is there a policy?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are conflict-of-interest guidelines under the Public Service Commission. If someone is doing that, it should be brought in front of the Public Service Commission.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister and his department do not hold any opinion on this? They leave it up to the Public Service Commission to respond? Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, there is a conflict-of-interest policy that covers all employees of the government. If there is an incident, it would go through the grievance procedure to find out what can and cannot be done.
Mr. McDonald: What is the grievance procedure for determining whether or not a conflict exists?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If there is feeling that a conflict exists, it would go to the deputy minister. He would give them advice about whether or not they are in conflict.
Mr. McDonald: The deputy minister of which department: the Public Service Commission or the Department of Community and Transportation Services? If it is Department of Community and Transportation Services, then I am asking the right person right now about this particular policy.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it goes through the whole government. In the case of a Department of Community and Transportation Services employee, it would be that department's deputy minister. If the employee did not agree with it, he could appeal to the Public Service Commission.
Mr. McDonald: So, we have it clear. I will ask whether or not I have it clear, and the Minister can correct me.
If an employee of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, for example, even at the managerial level, is operating a road construction company in the same district for which he is responsible, as a highway foreman, that perceived conflict would be raised with the deputy minister. It is clear in the Minister's mind that no private business should operate from any government facility, and that in no case should government equipment be used to support that private business?
Am I right in every detail of that assessment?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If they are using government equipment, the answer is no. If they are working on government time, the answer is no. If they had their own truck and were fixing some yards after hours, the deputy minister has to decide whether or not there is a conflict of interest.
Mr. McDonald: I think I understand the first two items the Minister mentioned. There is no possible way that anyone can use government maintenance facilities for private business purposes, including government equipment. There is no possible way that should ever happen, under any circumstances. I am clear about that. I think the Minister and I understand each other. In the case that someone, who is operating a construction company in a highway district for which they are responsible, does work in that area, such as building roads, ploughing driveways and that sort of thing, then there is a perception that that person's judgment may be clouded as to the rightful division of responsibilities between public and private sectors. There is obviously a concern if there are people in that district who would feel that there is a problem with this person taking road work that might otherwise be apportioned to someone else, in return for some subtle notion of a favour being provided in return. So, there are all kinds of complexities here. I think I would like to hear a clearer statement from the Minister as to where the line is drawn, because this is a serious matter in some people's eyes. Certainly, it appears to be in mine, too.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If they are doing something that was clearly a conflict of interest, they would have to have the deputy minister rule on it. If they did not agree with his ruling, they could appeal to the Public Service Commission. If it is something that does not constitute a conflict of interest, I cannot see that there would be a problem.
Mr. McDonald: How is the deputy minister going to judge conflict of interest? What criteria does he use to assess whether or not there is a conflict?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: First he would have to get the facts of the case, and then assess the perception of the case. The deputy minister would then have to use those criteria to judge whether or not there was a conflict.
Mr. McDonald: I would hope there would be more than that. I presume that the deputy minister would have to establish the facts. He would have to establish whether there is a clear or direct conflict about whether public expenditures are actually being directed into this person's business. Those are the clearer elements to determine whether or not there is a conflict, but I am looking for a tighter definition of what constitutes a conflict. Does the department have one, or is it just going to be a personal judgment call by the deputy?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would offer to give the Member the legislation on conflict of interest, but I suspect he has already seen and read it. First, we have to be sure that the individual is not in conflict with his job by doing this. It is very important that it is not perceived that there is a conflict there. If there is a conflict, a complaint should be made to the deputy minister, and he would have to make the judgment.
Mr. McDonald: The obvious point about conflict-of-interest legislation is that there is no legislative mandate I am aware of that would cover that situation. The next best thing would be to raise the matter directly with the deputy, and then perhaps in the next few weeks get a reading from the deputy and the Public Service Commissioner as to whether or not they believe there is a conflict. If we disagree, we will be revisiting this question with the Minister during the sitting.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have to correct myself. There is no legislation, but there is a policy. It is quite apparent that the Member has a certain individual in mind, and I would prefer he went that way, rather than debate it on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. McDonald: I think we would rather debate it elsewhere, too, but there is a certain level of frustration about this issue, because apparently this has been raised with the department in the past. Perhaps they have just not raised it in the proper way. We will make every attempt to ensure that the channels that the Minister has spoken of are followed and that there is a due and fair process for determining whether or not there is a conflict and whether or not anyone is doing something wrong or whether or not employees are working within their rights.
We will follow up, and if the Minister wants to respond a little bit more, I would be more than happy to hear him.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My deputy minister informs me that he has never had anyone bring it to him. If it is one of our employees, I would like the Member to bring it to him so that we can make a decision.
Mr. Chair, due to the time, I would move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: 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, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Acting Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 1, 1995:
Merit (performance) increases for managers: by department as of January 1, 1995; merit rates for YGEU and YTA (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 404
Resignation, retirement and dismissal policy: explanation of difference between the one in the general administration manual and the old policy book; corrected insert attached (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 415
Training policy: reasons for not being included in the general administration manual (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 415
Canada Council arts consultation: chronology of events regarding the council's decision not to consult with the Yukon (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 659