Thursday, February 2, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have some documents for tabling.
I also have a couple of comments to make. Regarding the request for documentation of government travel that has been paid for by third parties, we have gathered as much information as we could in the time that we had. I am not confident that the list is complete, but I still have the departments researching it. If more information comes forward, it will be tabled early next week.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Members can debate that in a few minutes.
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: Student financial assistance
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
In my capacity as Education critic, I have heard many concerns from Yukoners about the lack of student financial assistance available to average Yukoners trying to gain an education. Single college students attending school presently get only $70 a week, and $145 a week if they have four children. Will the Minister increase the student financial assistance program this year to a more substantial level?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not intend to at this time. We are going to review the grants that are given out and the training allowances in conjunction with whatever is coming down from the initiative and whatever impact that has on higher education and on student loans and on tuition. We intend to do a thorough review of the package in place at this time once we have a handle on what direction the federal government is taking.
Mr. Harding: A review was completed on student financial assistance a couple of years ago, just prior to the election. There was a commitment by the government then to increase the funding, and now the department is going to do another review. The problem is that I have had one single mother tell me that she is trying to go to Yukon College, but it is getting tougher. She is feeding and clothing two children on a mere pittance of $460 a month. This Yukoner is never going to be eligible for the Yukon Excellence Awards program, but her efforts are no less deserving of support than those who are eligible. Can I ask the Minister when he might have some idea about when he is going to bring forward an increase in the student financial assistance program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The entire program will be reviewed once we know where we stand regarding the federal position on student assistance and student loans.
Mr. Harding: The Minister just brought in a Yukon Excellence Awards program at a cost that would have increased funding to student financial assistance over 17 percent. Many students who are trying to make it on $70 a week are not eligible for the Yukon grant, a lot of loans and bursaries that are available, or the Yukon Excellence Awards program. Can the Minister give me some better indication - this is the third time I have asked him this - about when he might bring forward some positive changes to student financial assistance.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Statistics are wonderful things. The actual cost, in terms of money being spent this year, is something in the order of $60,000. The cost will increase over time, but I think the Member should be cognizant of the fact that what is happening is that students are winning scholarships that are drawn down once they go to university. At this point in time, that kind of money would not provide the kind of increase that he speaks about.
Question re: MacRae access road
Mr. Penikett: Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about an access road at MacRae developed by Mr. Doug Thomas, about which the Minister had said in a December 2 letter that the YTG work on this road would reduce its maintenance costs, but later the Minister agreed that since the city is responsible for this road, not YTG, there would be no cost reduction for the territory at all.
Can the Minister now tell the House, in view of the retraction of his statement about cost savings, what was the reason for the government proceeding with the work on this road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We must be back in Committee of the Whole. I have explained that several times. Instead of having five or six access roads to the highway, there would be only one or two and they would be put in the proper position. The private individual certainly put a lot more money into that road, which now belongs to the city, than we did.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister has described the kind of road which is normally paid for by private developers, and yesterday he told this House that his department had no policy about the development of such roads, and about the sharing of costs of such roads with private developers. Can I ask the Minister now, in Question Period, why he proceeded in the manner he did in this particular case?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When you get well over half the cost of the road being paid for by a private contractor, where we only put the finishing touches on a road that reduces the number of access roads to the Alaska Highway, I would think common sense would tell you that is not a bad situation.
Mr. Penikett: Common sense is a good idea. I want to ask the Minister about this. Since his original claim, in writing, that it would produce cost savings to the territory is not, in his own admission, true, and he has admitted last night that there is no policy governing such situations, exactly how did this project transpire? Was it a ministerial initiative? Did it come at the request of the developer? How did this project take place?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have to take that under advisement. It started before I was the Minister.
Question re: Visitor exit survey
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism on the visitor exit survey.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister some questions about the visitor exit survey and, in particular, why the decision on the Beringia Centre was made prior to the results of the survey being in. The Minister said that we have to create more attractions and that we do not necessarily need the visitor exit survey to tell us that.
The survey, in two places, asked about tourists visiting museums, both in the sense of what they did when they were here and what they wanted to see. If the survey is to have any value, why did the Minister proceed with a decision to build a new museum before the results from the survey were in?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We strongly believe that the Yukon does need various kinds of new attractions. The Beringia era is an extremely important time in the territory. It is a story that is yet to be told. There is an opportunity to tell that story and create an interpretive centre and another attraction that will keep people here longer. That is why we proceeded at this time.
Mr. Cable: That was not the question. There is no question about our needing more attractions. What the survey suggests is that it was set up to determine how attractions should be marketed and what sort of attractions people want. It talks about museums and about gambling casinos.
If there are limited tourist dollars to build attractions, why does the Minister not wait until the results are in before deciding on things like gambling casinos and a Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of many other people of the territory, that the Beringia era is an extremely important era of Yukon history. There is as yet no place in the Yukon where we can display it the way we will at the Beringia Centre. That is why we are proceeding with the project. We think it will be a good project. We think it is something that is needed. We also know that Alaska is considering something similar in the future and we would like to move ahead before they do and create an attraction that will keep people longer here in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: That is what the Minister thinks. After having spent something like $400,000, I believe, if I have the numbers right, on the visitor exit survey - and the Minister can correct me if I am wrong - what was the point of the survey if, in fact, the Minister was going to go on a hunch on both the gambling casino and on the Beringia Centre? What is it the Minister wants to see out of this visitor exit survey on tourist attractions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: What we want to learn from the visitor exit survey is where our tourists come from, what area of the country they come from, how many months ahead of time they decided they want to come to the Yukon, the ages of the tourists who come to the Yukon, the types of things they like to do and see, the types of campgrounds they like, the way they feel about our roads, whether they are good or bad, whether they like to hunt and fish or just hike. There are hundreds of things we will learn from the visitor exit survey.
Question re: MacRae access road
Mr. Penikett: I would like to pursue the question I was asking before the break.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services has agreed that there is no policy about the Yukon territorial government building access roads, there are no savings for these roads. This is work, I am told, that is normally done by the private sector, by the private developer under Community and Transportation Services direction. I want to know from the Minister who ordered this work to be done, and how can other developers get YTG to do their roadwork for them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Last night I agreed that I would bring back all of the information to the Leader of the Official Opposition. He wrote the letter last fall. If he was not satisfied, he could have written to me then. We could have given him the information then. I will bring back the information; that is all that I can do.
Mr. Penikett: It is a matter of record that after I wrote a letter and got an answer, my colleague, the Member for Mount Lorne, the Opposition critic for Community and Transportation Services, did follow up with a letter, and we got no more satisfactory answers from the Minister. The Minister spent several hours with his deputy last night - the same deputy as under the previous Minister - and even though the Minister says that decision was made under the previous Minister, the deputy must have briefed the Minister by now. I want to ask the Minister this simple question of fact: who ordered this project, which has no financial benefit for YTG, even though the Minister previously claimed that it had, and the Minister claimed that there is no policy covering this situation? Who ordered that the work be done?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will bring that back in Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Penikett: Is this Minister telling the House that, after having discussed this project with his deputy minister last night and after having faced a series of questions on this matter, he still does not know whether this project was initiated by the developer, by the Minister, or by some other person in Community and Transportation Services? Does he still not know it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The deputy minister, his assistant and I were still at it at 10:00 p.m. last night. We did not bring this subject up at that time because we were going to bring back a briefing note today to Committee of the Whole.
Question re: Faro Real Estate Limited
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Solid sources have told me that the Yukon government has decided to again sue Faro Real Estate for a commitment that it feels Faro Real Estate has not honoured. I would like to ask the Minister this: what is the nature of the suit, and how much does it hope to gain?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: When the agreement was made with Faro Real Estate and the Yukon Housing Corporation to postpone the foreclosure action, part of the agreement was that the numbered company that had had assets transferred to it from Faro Real Estate would sign a guarantee - I believe it was for $1 million - to the Yukon Housing Corporation. The guarantee that we were looking for has not been signed. That was the fraudulent-preference action that Yukon Housing commenced against Faro Real Estate.
Mr. Harding: This is the second major law suit that has been initiated by YTG against Faro Real Estate in quite a short period of time. I would like to ask the Minister for his opinion about how Faro Real Estate has been conducting its business dealings with YTG and with Anvil Range?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Faro Real Estate has been very difficult to deal with with respect to the Yukon Housing Corporation and with the general provision of housing in Faro, generally.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister this question, because there is a significant level of anxiety regarding housing issues in Faro, especially for the new people arriving in the community. Can the Minister ensure me that this new suit will not have a detrimental effect on either existing renters, the rental/purchase owners or new tenants coming into Faro?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, if there is any sense that there will be a detrimental effect on people coming into Faro, or even with Anvil Range and the operation of the mine, or the ability of people to have housing, then I will look at it with a view to withdrawing it or doing something to stop that interference.
Question re: First Nations, consultation with
Ms. Moorcroft: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about consultation with First Nations. Last night, I was astonished when the Minister tabled, as proof of his consultation with the Ta'an Kwach'an and Kwanlin Dun, a copy of a letter that is addressed "Dear resident/property owner, re: proposed rezoning and development". The First Nation is not just another resident or property owner. Can the Minister tell us what the meaning of consultation is in the umbrella final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said last night, we probably should have addressed that to the First Nation personally. We did not, and that was a mistake. The consultation is to inform them of what we are doing. At the time we are doing that, it would be nice if we got a reply, so that we know where they stand on different situations.
Ms. Moorcroft: The definition in the law, in the umbrella final agreement, is not just to tell them what you are doing. It is to give them notice of what you want to do, and to give them time to respond and consider the views that they have presented. Since the Minister's own understanding of consultation is so weak, will he now get an opinion of what "consultation" means and follow that opinion?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will look it up in the dictionary.
Ms. Moorcroft: Maybe the Minister should also make himself aware that there is a law that he is obliged to respect and obey, and maybe he should follow that definition. On Monday, we saw a new zoning approved, that has not been presented to the First Nations for their approval, according to the land claims law, and has only been supported by 48 percent of the residents in the area, according to what the Minister told us in the House. Is this correct? Should the Minister go back to the drawing board on this?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are two sets of opinion polls. If the Member will look at both of them, the majority want the sub-zoning in that area.
Question re: First Nations, consultations with
Ms. Moorcroft: Under the Canadian Constitution, the First Nations governments get more recognition than does the Yukon government. Why can the Minister, whose department is supposed to participate in the efficient implementation of land claims, not figure out how to write a letter to the First Nations about land development in their traditional territories?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have a talk with the three people in the department who wrote the letters.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister's actions are totally indefensible. He knows that it is not acceptable to mail out a form letter and decide, because he did not get a response, that he is free and clear of any problems and that he can just assume that it has been approved.
How is the Minister going to rebuild his credibility with First Nations when it comes to consultation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will put my credibility with the First Nations up against anyone else's.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister to perhaps check and see whether or not he has failed to consult properly and if any decisions that were made after this poor consultation should now be revisited.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will personally phone and speak with the chief.
Question re: Gratuities
Mrs. Firth: I have quite a few questions for the Minister of Finance, the Government Leader, and I may have some for the Minister of Government Services.
The Government Leader tabled today a list of out-of-territory travel. Just for the individuals who have not had the benefit of seeing the list, there are 29 items on it. The only private sector ones that immediately stand out are the three Xerox trips and the two IBM trips.
The Minister of Government Services made a public comment that there was quite a bit of travel in the Tourism area, where employees often travel at the expense of tour operators and hotel chains. Yet, there is nothing documented in the Tourism area for this travel. Can the Minister tell us why we have nothing for Tourism?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I stated quite clearly when I tabled the documents, I was not absolutely confident that everything was listed there. However, with the time restraints we had and with the Member's diligent pursuit of some information, I thought it was appropriate to table what we had at this time. As I said, the instructions to the departments are to keep going through their files to ensure that they have everything documented. If and when anything else comes forward, I will table it at the appropriate time in the House.
Mrs. Firth: I want to reassure the Government Leader that we are probably both on the same side of this issue. It is in the public's best interest to find out how prevalent this practice is in government. I think the only time the government gets itself in a lot of trouble is when it starts trying to defend these activities. I want to ask the Government Leader this: is he aware of whether it is a common practice for employees who are due to attend conferences to also go on holiday while at the conferences? Would there be a record kept of that and is the Government Leader confident that he is going to have any way of finding out that information?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I want to make it very clear for the record that we are concerned about this. We do want to get to the bottom of it. We want to make sure that any travel that has been taken has been documented appropriately. If not, it will have to be answered for. There are guidelines and conflict-of-interest policies in place, as well as gift policies. They are in the manuals and we have to be certain that they are being abided by. We are checking the matter now but I assume there would be instances that would be very, very hard to document unless somebody came forward with information. If somebody comes forward with that information, it will certainly be investigated.
Mrs. Firth: I just may be in a position to help the Government Leader there with that information but, first, I want to make the point that it appears that the policies are not being followed; otherwise some of these trips would not have been taken or would have been given more serious consideration. I would like to ask the Government Leader this: when does he anticipate establishing a new policy, or is he even working on it? I think he should be, but when does he anticipate getting a new policy in place to see that this kind of activity does not continue within the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Because of the questions that were raised in the Legislature, I have pulled the gift policy and the conflict policies. I have reviewed them and I believe they are adequate. Whether they are being followed appropriately or not is another matter. I have issued instructions that a copy of the conflict and gift policies be distributed to all people in government to refresh their memories, if in fact they have become complacent about them, because they are serious and we certainly want people to abide by them.
Question re: Gratuities
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on that with the Government Leader because I also think they are serious. I do not think the public's perception is the media's fault, like some Ministers have alleged - that it is the way the media presents it. I think the public is smart enough to put two and two together and draw its own conclusion about the perception.
I want to ask the Government Leader if he would provide to us any memos or direction he has issued to show how seriously he is taking the issue, indicating that the government now wants employees to follow the policies that are in place. It is obvious that they have not been.
I want to ask the Minister if he has given any thought to whether or not the benefits that these people have been getting are taxable benefits.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, we have to establish what benefits these people enjoyed and if they were appropriate. I can tell the Member that that is what we are pursuing at this time. Once that has been pursued, we will address the issue to see if the policies have been breached or whether they have not been breached.
Mrs. Firth: I think just the fact that public servants were given tickets to the Commonwealth Games is a great benefit. There were people who were unable to get tickets to the Commonwealth Games. I think that is a perk above and beyond the job. I would like the Minister to give very serious thought about whether or not it is a taxable benefit, particularly when they get airline tickets paid for, hotel rooms, food, complimentary tickets to games, and so on. I would like to ask him this: since he said he is not writing a new policy, how is he going to address that particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will reply to the question about the Commonwealth Games, because there is a deputy minister involved in that. I have issued a memo to the Public Service Commission to conduct an investigation and to make sure that the guidelines and policies were not breached in this instance.
Mrs. Firth: I would be very interested in receiving a copy of the results of that investigation, because, of course, the public has put two and two together. One of the concerns that I share with the people who have made representation to me is that in this budget year this government has probably the biggest budget for the purchase of computers, printers and photocopiers that they have ever had in the history of the Yukon - approximately $9 million. There was a 63-percent increase just in the Government Services budget alone for those pieces of equipment.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member ask the question, please.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. These expenditures have caused the public great concern. I would like to ask the Minister this: is he prepared to provide us with an unedited version of the investigation he has requested? Could he tell us who is conducting it and when it is to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In cases like this, the Public Service Commission will do the investigation. I have asked that a full report be delivered to me by February 10. An investigation of this type is a personnel matter. However, I should not have any difficulty tabling the results in this Legislature so that all Yukoners will know the outcome of the investigation.
Question re: Yukon Agricultural Association, agriculture review
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources with his agricultural Minister's hat on.
In October, the Yukon Agricultural Association applied for funds to carry out a strategic plan for the agricultural industry and association. They received a rather rapid return from one of the Minister's departments - the agriculture branch of the Renewable Resources department. However, they have had extended delays in dealing with the Economic Development department. Could the Minister indicate what the status of this application is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will take that under advisement as I do not recall the details of the application.
Mr. Cable: I believe the Minister is launching a review of the agricultural policy. When does he anticipate that will begin?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is my understanding that the preliminary review has started. It was due to commence in November 1994, and it is a one-year process, if I remember correctly.
Mr. Cable: What role does the Minister see the Yukon Agricultural Association playing in this review? Are they going to be one of the stakeholders, or will they simply be asked to comment after the fact?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They will definitely be one of the stakeholders.
Question re: Education
Mr. Harding: During Question Period this week, the Minister of Education responded to some questions by saying that he was going to move ahead with expanded cumulative and diagnostic testing in our education system of the core subjects, even though the Education Review Committee did not give that particular action as a recommendation in its recent report.
Before the Minister prejudges what the Yukon education partners want for testing, will he ask them if they want to increase it, in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our departmental response to the education review was probably some time ago. There was a briefing offered to the press and to all Members of this House. In that response, it was clearly stated that we would be coming forward with a plan for diagnostic assessments and cumulative examinations for the core subjects for grades 8 to 11. We stated that that draft plan would be prepared this spring and we would be consulting with all the stakeholders on the basis of the draft plan. This is consistent with what I have been saying in this House.
It is our intention to listen to concerns raised by the stakeholders, but we, in this jurisdiction, will be moving in the same direction as the rest of Canada with regard to setting objectives and standards for students to meet. It is working well with math ...
Speaker: Order. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: ... and we need similar success with other subjects.
Mr. Harding: There is a big difference between preparing a plan and a proposal and the definitive-action statement given by the Minister in this House that he was going to move ahead with this. He gave the distinct impression to Members of this House and the public that he was going to move ahead with it, no matter what anyone said.
I have heard concerns from First Nations, parents, school councils and other educators about expanded cumulative and diagnostic testing.
Specifically, how does the Minister intend to involve the education partners in the development of proposals so we do not put the cart before the horse with these issues?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We will be preparing the draft plan and consulting with all the partners in education with regard to it. We will undoubtedly make changes to the plan if there are good reasons for them. The education review made it very clear that there was an overwhelming call by stakeholders for a measurement of output from the system, and that there was a high degree of dissatisfaction among many of the stakeholders with the results we have seen when our students write national tests.
Mr. Harding: I do not know where the Minister is getting his interpretation of the education review, because I am not sure it is as definitive as what he is espousing in the Legislature right now. The other day, he said that the vast majority of Yukoners want expanded testing. Yet, the broad consultation in that education review never made such a statement, to my knowledge.
I would like to ask the Minister why Yukoners would not have told the Education Review Committee what the Minister claims he has been told by the vast majority of Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would ask the Member opposite to simply read the first few pages of the education review report. If he still has a different interpretation of the plain language there, I will only have to believe that it is a misconstruction of what is said there, based entirely on a philosophy that is totally alien to the philosophy that we, on this side, share with many parents across the territory.
Question re: Small business financing
Mr. McDonald: Every time that Member speaks, I am moved to want to debate with him. However, I will ask another Minister a question - the Minister of Economic Development.
I have heard from a number of small business owners that they have had difficulty getting venture capital funding. It is money that they need to make their businesses and the economy grow. They are also confused about the lending rules and the rules of various lending institutions themselves.
A Yukon Party Minister has already committed to convening working meetings between lenders at all levels and possible borrowers, to discuss the full array of problems many borrowers face. Can the Minister tell us what has transpired since that commitment was made?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will have to get more details. I do know that the banks have increased their lending capacity, but I am not familiar with all the details. I would be quite happy to bring that information back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I can assure the Minister that if he is unsure about the details, so are a lot of small business people, particularly in Whitehorse. They are very unsure about the details of the banks' lending practices, as well as the future of the business development fund, the Federal Business Development Bank, the Yukon Indian Development Corporation and the various roles and responsibilities of these organizations.
A couple of years ago, the Yukon Party minister of the day acknowledged the state of affairs that small business owners face and committed to convening working groups to discuss those problems. Can the Minister tell us what is happening with the working groups? Have any such discussions been initiated with the small business sector?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, there have been discussions with the business sector. The professional staff at Economic Development is quite aware of the programs available to small business owners. We encourage small business owners to go to the Economic Development office to discuss their capital problems with our people.
Mr. McDonald: I was not referring to whether or not there was a standing invitation for small businesses to go and speak to the business development office about loan funding. I was talking about convening meetings of all institutional lenders and the small business sector to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each lending agency. If the Minister can respond to that specific question, I would truly appreciate it, now that I have asked it three times.
Can the Minister also answer the question about the future of the business development fund? We were told by the second Minister of Economic Development in this government that he believed that all lending should be undertaken by the private banks and not by government.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it was before Christmas that representatives of the Federal Business Development Bank, as well as officials, vice-presidents, and so on from at least two of the major chartered banks, were in Whitehorse and had meetings with small businesses and our Economic Development people. Our philosophy was, and is, that government should not be in the banking business, and especially now, given that the chartered banks and the Federal Business Development Bank have expanded their capital loan programs.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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. Are the Members prepared to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Mr. Penikett: Earlier today, the Minister indicated that he would have a reply to some questions that we had asked last night. I wonder if he has that information with him now.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some now and the rest will be here at the next break. I have some for tabling and I would like to read out one reply.
This letter is to Shirley Adamson. It reads, "Dear Ms. Adamson,
"You may be aware that the area of land immediately to the south of the existing Pilot Mountain subdivison is being considered for development for rural residential and agricultural parcels. The attached concept represents some of the possibilities for development of the area.
"Your comments on the issue of development of the area, as well as comments relating to specific concepts are welcome and would be especially useful for undertaking public consultation on the proposed development. I expect to be taking the concept to the public-discussion stage by mid-September of this year. Would you please advise this office if you do not anticipate being able to provide comments prior to September 16, 1994. If you require additional information or clarification, please call me at 667-3093."
As I promised in Question Period, I will contact people tomorrow morning some time.
Mr. Penikett: Just for the record, before my colleague takes over in this line of questioning, the Minister does not yet have answers to the other questions about the MacRae matter that we were asking about last night. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: He will be here at the break. They are organizing it right now.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask, then, about another matter. This arises from a letter the Minister wrote to me on September 29, 1994, which is about the mix of housing sizes and styles in subdivisions. Going back many years, I think the best part of 20 years, I am not sure I can remember how, it has always been the policy both of the city and the territory to encourage a mix of sizes and types of housing in new subdivisions. I know that there are some people - I do not know how many - who have been arguing for more homogeneity in subdivisions. Some have even been asking for a more exclusive, upper-income areas or areas set aside for housing of certain types, I gather, to advance the idea of compatibility among neighbours.
I was asking in my letter of June of last year where the government was going on this question, and the Minister wrote and told me that they were making some changes.
He told me that the changes we were making were based on the concern about possible lot devaluation as a result of houses of a different standard being built nearby. I want to ask the Minister on what he based that concern. I will give him my point of view. I happen to live on a street, the newest street in Hillcrest, that has some very fine homes on it but also has a number of social housing units mixed in with the housing stock. It is not a perfectly homogenous neighbourhood but it is a perfectly pleasant neighbourhood and I do not believe the social housing units have had any adverse effect on the housing prices in the area. In fact, what I think has happened over time is that the social housing units tend to have been purchased in some cases by the tenants, and the families have become an absolutely intrinsic part of the neighbourhood and have contributed to it.
I want to ask him about the change in policy, exactly what the new policy is and where he got the idea that low-income families perhaps have a negative impact on the value of finer homes in the same area.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Actually, I am going to have to agree with the Leader of the Official Opposition. We have a new lands policy going before Cabinet, and just what the Leader of the Official Opposition has stated will be my argument. I understand the city does not agree with it, so we will have to work it out between the city and us, but I agree with the Member that low-cost housing should not all be put in one area and the other houses in another area.
As to depressing the market price, that is another question. I do not believe it will but I guess time will tell.
Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to hear the Minister say that, but I would note two things: one, there is a new city council now and I do not think he should be confident that the present city council's views on this question are the same as those of the last council; secondly, a different impression was given in his letter than the statement he just made. I would just like to read the relevant sentences to him, because I would like to explore it with him a bit. The Minister said, "The department is continuing to strive toward encouraging a mix of housing sizes and types in the larger subdivisions. However, as a result of experiences during the Granger development - the complaints fielded by the department and also I believe by the City of Whitehorse - the approach by the department to developing such subdivisions has been refined."
I have a two-part question: what does the Minister mean by "refined" and,
two, what complaints was he talking about?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I agree with the Member. We now have a new city council, and I hope that we can convince it that that is the way we should go. Before I was Minister, there were apparently some people who were concerned about it. My recommendation will be that they be mixed together in some way, if the city will go along with that.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that answer; I am pleased to hear him say that. He still has not told me exactly what he meant in his letter of September 29, when he said that the approach by the department to developing such divisions has been - past tense - refined. What does the word "refined" mean in that case?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: What I meant by that is that there is a move to change the way we were doing things with the city. I firmly believe in this. I have talked to a number of people in government and other places about this. I have to agree with the Member that it has worked in the small communities, and I see no reason to believe that it will not work here.
Mr. Penikett: Again, I am pleased to hear the Minister say that. However, I want to say to the Minister and his deputy that he will understand why a contrary impression was created by the use of the word "refined". I would still like to know exactly what the department meant by that.
Let me go now to my second concern. I want the Minister to understand that I am not doing this in any adversarial way, I want to deal with a serious question of policy. The only person I know who has written publicly and expressed himself strongly on this subject is the person who was the Yukon Party candidate in the last territorial election that was held in this area - my opponent. My opponent has some important points to make about some problems he had with his neighbours in, not a public housing unit, but a non-profit housing unit, and I respect those concerns. As far as I know, he and his neighbour were the only two people who expressed to me, while I was canvassing in my work as an MLA, the particular concerns that the Minister said were being addressed in the refined policy. My concern about that was that the letter I received from the Minister seemed to indicate that a policy change had been made, based on intervention from certain people, including a defeated Conservative candidate, but no consultation whatsoever had been carried out with the elected MLA for the area - me - about a matter affecting my riding. Most of the new subdivisions in the next little while are going to be built in my riding in this city - not all, but most.
The Member opposite and I have both been in this House for awhile. I have a problem with that, because I do not think that is very democratic behaviour. When people vote in elections, they have a right to expect that the views of the person who won the election will be listened to - not the person who lost the election - even though they may not be agreed with. I take the view that everybody should be heard, and I would like everybody to be heard, but I want the Minister to know that I have a big problem. Mr. Cormier will not misunderstand this, but I think city MLAs have had a problem with the Department of Community and Transportation Services. The Department of Community and Transportation Services has often not been sensitive to neighbourhood politics in this town because we have a municipal government, for obvious reasons. As an MLA in the city, I would like to have a chance to be heard before the government makes policy decisions affecting my neighbourhood and my riding. By this letter, the impression has been created for my constituents that some people were heard, but not the person they voted for.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will be very frank with the Member and say that I never saw the letter. We are trying to get a policy through Cabinet. I do not think we will have too great a problem with that. It will depend on the city, but it is a change we want.
I agree that there should be consultation with MLAs; however, I also have to say that when we consult, we then have to go to Cabinet and convince the rest of Cabinet. Sometimes we succeed; sometimes we do not. I think the Leader of the Opposition fully recognizes this after his years at it.
Mr. Penikett: I do not disagree with that at all. I am not making an argument that I am the only person to be consulted. I do believe, as the elected representative of the area, that when a matter comes up, or the government is making policy that affects entirely or has an impact on my constituency, I should at least have the right to be heard before a decision is made.
The Minister said he has not seen the letter I am referring to. He may be concerned to know that he signed it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Oh, he was talking about the letter from the constituent. The letter in question is a public document; it appeared in the local newspapers. I will let the Minister see it. It has no bearing on the particular matter. I think that the government should listen to all citizens, and I am concerned about other views being heard.
I will not table these, but I will lend the Minister my copies of both of these letters so that he may better understand the concerns I am bringing up and the concerns that arise out of the statement that the policy had been refined, but I still do not know how.
My second point is about the fact that I had no input into the policy that affected my riding. I simply say that by way of a representation.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am looking at the letter the Minister just provided, which was sent to the Ta'an on August 17 about the development of rural residential and agricultural parcels. I am really concerned about the fact that either the Minister does not know what is happening, or he is not willing to bring the information forward until the last possible moment. This is an issue that has been going back and forth for a week now, and we get one or two answers a day.
As recently as Question Period today and the debate last evening, the Minister indicated that the letter sent out to First Nations was one that had been sent out as a general survey letter to all the residents and property owners in the area. The First Nations group is not just another property owner.
Now, the Minister has provided a letter that was sent out to the two affected First Nations - the Ta'an Kwach'an Council and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation - requesting comment prior to September 16. I am aware the First Nations groups have communicated their position to the government in the past. They stated that the government had agreed to a process for land use planning that is more in keeping with how the Ta'an Kwach'an would prefer the planning to occur. They have indicated that zoning amendments could be detrimental to First Nations' interests, and that unless the commitments of the Government of the Yukon, as a signatory to the umbrella final agreement, are honoured, development in a haphazard and poorly planned fashion could occur without the support of a major land owner.
Is the Minister aware of those concerns? Can he tell us how much information he has, and how he is responding to it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If one writes a letter to someone, should that person not respond to it by saying that they agree or disagree, that they are interested or that they are not, or something? Surely that is the beginning of consultation. If there is no dialogue between two sides, is everything supposed to just stall, or what? In all sincerity, we have tried, and I think I have been very careful since I have been a Member of this government, to see that we get to them. We may not always agree, but at least we can keep talking. If letters are not replied to, I do not know what else one is supposed to do. When I say that, I also realize that they are very busy with land claims and a few other things, but does everything sit and wait? If they still want input into the Pilot Mountain situation, that can still be done. We have not gone that far with any of it. In fact, some of it will have to be changed after the vote in the Hot Springs area, because the Pilot Mountain people voted in that one, too.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would have thought, if the Minister was a reasonable person, he would have thought of some ways to deal with this. For instance, if one does not get a response to a letter, one could always pick up the phone and ask if the letter was received, if there are any concerns, and ask for a response. Why does the Minister not look at the responses before him? At least a half dozen letters have been sent from the Ta'an Kwach'an Council, talking about its concerns and giving examples of where that First Nation's concerns are neglected to further the interests of non-beneficiaries, talking about what kind of development it would like to see, and talking about the fact that the First Nation wants to be consulted. It does not want to see ad hoc development occurring prior to its interests being taken into account. It does not want to see further land alienated before its claims are settled. Is the Minister prepared to accept that fact?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that I would phone them tomorrow. Surely the Member does not expect me to see every letter that comes through this department. Mr. Conrad wrote them, and the Member would have thought that they could have either phoned him or written to him. As they did not, I will make phone calls in the morning, as soon as I get to work, and talk to both of them and see if we cannot get together with the department and discuss this issue.
Ms. Moorcroft: No, I do not expect the Minister to read every letter that department sends out. What I do expect is that when we stand here in this Legislature, day after day, and we ask, "Did you consult with the First Nations about agricultural property developments in the Laberge area?'' They say, "Oh, well we have not heard from them, so there is no problem.'' When we stand here and we ask, "Did you talk to the First Nations before you implemented zoning changes in the Laberge area?'' They answer, "Oh well, we sent them out a blanket letter, which we sent to everyone else and they did not reply to that.'' Because they did not reply, that was good enough.
Then they come back another day later and bring a different letter in. I expect the Minister to become informed when issues are raised here. I expect the Minister to understand what consultation under the umbrella final agreement means, and I expect the Minister to abide by those definitions of consultation and to consider the interests of the First Nations.
We are never going to move forward as a territory if we do not establish good relations with First Nations around the territory. If the government continues to develop lands prior to land quantums being settled, and it continues to change zoning regulations prior to the land negotiations being complete, it is just going to get itself more deeply mired in the muck.
I think this government has demonstrated that it has made some very unfortunate decisions. It has also demonstrated that it is not willing to be responsible by coming forward with the answers to our legitimate concerns.
Is the Minister prepared to go back to the drawing board about the fact that they have come forward with zoning changes on a parcel without having heard from the First Nations on it? The Minister said, "Well, I will come in and first thing tomorrow morning, I will phone up to Ta'an and Kwanlin Dun and I will see what they have to say about this zoning change.'' They have already had lots to say about the zoning change. Those are probably other letters that the Minister has not read yet, but the Minister knows that this is a concern that has been brought to his attention, that he has been asked to be briefed on, and that he has been asked to deal with. What is he going to do about it?
What is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are trying to deal with everyone. It is very difficult. I am doing my best to compromise and come down the middle. If that is not good enough for the Member, I am very sorry.
Ms. Moorcroft: I do not see how the Minister is doing his best to compromise and come down the middle when he cannot come forward with answers, except piecemeal little facts, one at a time, one day after another. It is not good enough for First Nations and it is not good enough for the Yukon, either.
Is the Minister prepared to enter into any meaningful negotiations with the First Nations on the issue of the rezoning and the issue of the proposed future development in the Laberge area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that I would phone them in the morning. We will try to get some dialogue going with them. That is all I can say. If the Member wants to blame me, the buck stops here. I accept it.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is not that I want to blame the Minister. I want the Minister to deal with the problems and try to solve them. He will never solve the problems if he does not consult with the First Nations in a meaningful way. That is why there is a definition of "consultation" in the umbrella final agreement. It is there to deal with exactly this kind of situation.
The Minister stood up yesterday afternoon, so proud of his record on consultation. He wanted to defend all the things he has done. We are now finding all kinds of examples where that has not been the case.
I leave it at this point, now that the Minister is willing to contact the First Nations tomorrow, and he will presumably have some kind of a report on whether or not he comes to a satisfactory arrangement with them. I will follow up on this issue after that.
I would like to ask the Minister some policy questions, as well.
We were debating the fuel purchase policy last night in the Legislature. There were a number of concerns raised. I would like to ask the Minister if he would let me know what the normal process is when someone comes forward with a complaint to the Minister. How does the department deal with that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If they write a letter to me, I do my best to find out what the problem is. They may want to come into the building and speak with me. Some have been in three or four times to discuss these things. Fuel policy has always been a problem. The people that I talk to who sell fuel and gas now think that this policy is working fairly well. We will stay with it. It is saving the taxpayers of the Yukon a considerable amount of money. It states plainly where and when they can fuel up. They are not expected to go miles out of their way because one place has fuel at two cents less than the one near their home.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am very glad they are not expected to go miles and miles out of the way to fuel up cheaper.
Let me ask the Minister this question: if the Minister was driving from Porter Creek to the Carcross Cutoff and the gas at the Petrocan station was six cents a litre cheaper than the gas at the Esso station, and they were six kilometres apart, to which one would he go?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The study made by the former government proved that people do not necessarily go where the gas is cheaper. That was proved when Totem Oil came in. They did not all go to Totem Oil, which was only one block away.
Ms. Moorcroft: The fuel purchase policy is supposed to be in place so that the government purchases fuel for the cheapest price possible. If government equipment or government pickup trucks are driving by two stations and they have to drive past both those stations and they are six kilometres apart, do they go to the one with cheaper gas? Is that not what the policy indicates?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, it does not. The bidding is supposed to be within a two kilometre circle. If they go on the one road, which I know the Member is talking about, then they might as well continue on to the other station at the Atlin turnoff, which it is cheaper than all of them together.
Ms. Moorcroft: Actually, I was not talking about the stations on the Atlin Road turnoff. The Minister keeps saying he knows which particular stations are being called into question here, and I guess the problem is bigger than the Minister thinks it is. I cannot get him to even acknowledge that it makes sense to stop at the station that sells gas for a lower price when driving by both stations. So I will leave that, but I would like to ask another question.
If people come forward with a complaint, is the Minister satisfied that they are not punished in any way for coming forward with a complaint, that their concerns are dealt with fairly and there is no punitive action because they made a complaint? Can I have an assurance from the Minister that that is how the government operates?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am convinced that, according to the policy, they got a fair hearing, but they disagree with it so I presume they think they did not get a fair hearing. I must also point out that the policy states that stations must be open certain hours. I have verification from people in my department that they were not open when they tried to get fuel there. When those machines work in that area, they do fuel up at those stations.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question about construction in the Whitehorse area. There is a new entrance to Northern Metalic. Is this as a result of the Two Mile Hill reconstruction? Is Community and Transportation Services paying for it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not even know there was a new one being put in. I will have to check on it and get back to the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: Just so the Minister has all the facts that we have, we were informed that Skookum Construction was working on the entrance. It also had the contract for the Two Mile Hill. A constituent brought forward the question about whether they were two separate contracts, or whether the new work was part of the Community and Transportation Services contract.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will get back to the Member about that.
Mr. Cable: Last night, I was asking the Minister questions about the letter from the Yukon Home Builders Association, dated January 23, 1995. One of the questions asked when the Minister would respond to the letter. It was in the context of how soon, prior to the start of the house construction season, the Minister would reply to the Yukon Home Builders Association. The answers were somewhat vague.
Has the Minister had a chance to reconsider this? I have since had a further inquiry, and the contractors are looking for more precision about when a decision will be made.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We only received the letter a week ago. My policy is that letters have to be responded to within two weeks. That response will be made in the two weeks.
Yes, we are looking at trying to work with the association. We hope to open the lots up a little earlier.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying the response will be two weeks from the date of the letter - is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Those are my instructions. It may be one day over the two weeks before I ask where the letter is. The department has been very good about getting this system working. Most letters are replied to within two weeks.
Mr. Cable: Will that letter contain a position on the part of the Minister with respect to putting group lots out for tender, as was suggested in the Home Builders Association letter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Some of it will probably have to go to Cabinet before it is finalized. However, I can give the Minister an indication of how I feel and which side I am going to be on.
Mr. Cable: I put a written question to the Minister about the weigh scales. Last night, the Minister indicated that the letter was just about ready. Is the letter ready now?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Is the Minister referring to the legislative return regarding the cost of the weigh scales?
Mr. Cable: That is correct.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some documents for tabling.
Mr. Cable: This information may be in the documents that I am about to receive. However, there are a number of technical questions that I would like to have on the record, in the event that they are not in the documents that were just tabled or the Minister does not know the answers. There will be some time, prior to the closing of the department debate, to discuss the matter further.
The first question I have is this: how much will be saved by the closure of the Haines Junction and Cassiar Cutoff weigh scales? Do we have an approximate number?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Haines Junction one will amount to $250,200; the Cassiar one will be $119,200.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister have the calculation sheet to demonstrate how those savings are calculated?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: These are actual expenditures from the O&M general ledger.
Mr. Cable: Are those numbers that the Minister read derived from the information in the legislative return? Is that what is being said?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, those are the numbers.
Mr. Cable: What was it that precipitated the closure of the weigh scales? Was it a drop in the volume of traffic, or cost savings, or a combination of both, or what?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was determined by a study initiated by the former government, and we carried it on from there.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that was a recommendation contained in the study to which he just referred?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it was recommended that the two weigh scales be closed.
Mr. Cable: I understand that there is substantial revenue collected by the people who serve these two weigh scale operations, and the Minister has outlined that in his return. I gather that, if the weigh scales are closed, there will be some escapage. Am I accurate in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are estimating that about 10 percent will not go through the Whitehorse weigh scale or will not be picked up by the mobile scales located in Haines Junction and Watson Lake.
Mr. Cable: This is 10 percent of what?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Ten percent of $51,000 and 10 percent of $62,800. That is on
the back page.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister walk me through that? Where on the back page is he referring?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am getting to be like a repeater.
I am referring to the 1993-94 items. If the Member looks at Cassiar, to the bottom line before the total, $51,000; then, under Haines Junction, there is a total bottom line of $62,800.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that the anticipated escapage will be 10 percent? Using the 1994-95 figure, is it 10 percent of the total of $38,600 and $62,800?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is better to use the 1993-94 figure of $51,000. I said $62,800. It should be $84,600, because the other figure is for a part of the year 1994-95.
Mr. Cable: Was there a saving from cutting back from a 24-hour-a-day service to whatever time period on which they are now being operated?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, there is a savings. If the Member looks at Haines Junction for 1992-93, the figure was $296,600 and Cassiar was $304,700. In 1993-94, when we began cutting back the hours, it dropped considerably.
Mr. Cable: I was just considering the numbers. There is quite a mind-boggling series of numbers here.
How many full-time employees will be displaced through the closure? I am referring to the FTEs involved in the servicing of the two stations, minus the FTEs involved in the mobile weigh-scale operation.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In Haines Junction there will be three laid off in March. There were four there. One of them will be the mobile officer in that area. In Cassiar there were three; two will no longer be there and one will continue as mobile officer. We have tried to replace all of them, but the big problem is, of course, particularly in the Haines Junction case, which I know quite well, that they have been there for years and they do not want to move. If a job comes up there, they will have first chance at it.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister have the number of casual hours or casual FTEs that will be saved by the closures?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I will have to get back to him about that.
Mr. Cable: Does the Minister have a cost estimate relating to the operation of the mobile scales?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will have to get back to the Member about that. We have it, but do not have it here.
Mr. Cable: I had some anecdotal evidence given to me. One of the weigh-scale operators was on duty and happened to go past the midnight shift. I guess there was some overtime needed. An American truck came up and had not expected that the operator would be there. It was very heavily overloaded. As a consequence, there was, I think, a few thousand dollars that went into the public treasury that would have otherwise escaped. Where does the Minister get this 10-percent figure for escapage? I was going to say "rule-of-thumb", but I have been admonished not to use that phrase. Where does that 10 percent come from?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is an estimate, but I must point out that any coming through Cassiar when the weigh scale is closed have to either go down to the Watson Lake one or radio in to the Whitehorse one, and they have to cross it. The majority of our traffic comes in from the south. The argument they are putting up in the Haines Junction area is that a lot comes from Haines, Alaska. Tourism puts out a pamphlet every month of the number of trucks and the number of cars going through Customs, and it does not at all add up to what some of them are saying. Actually, right now Totem brings some trucks through there, as well as Petro-Canada - although my understanding is that Petro-Canada is going to start coming the other way in the very near future.
Mr. Cable: How is the mobile weigh scale going to operate? Will there be spot checks or regular hours or irregular hours? Just how are we going to be certain that the traffic coming out of Haines and moving through to a mainland part of Alaska is not subverting our regulations?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The mobile officer could catch them anywhere from the time they cross the border at Pleasant Camp until they cross the border at Beaver Creek. These mobile officers not only do the checking of that; they also check people for driving licences and so on, and check on the safety of trucks - that they are loaded correctly and so on. Right now, she spends quite a bit of her time up in the area around Beaver Creek where the big trucks are working on the construction.
Mr. Cable: Are the people who operate these mobile weigh scales peace officers?
Do they have the powers of arrest, or what?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At the weigh scales, there is a little thing that comes under each axle, and they can figure out the total weight by taking the weight of each axle. They do not have the power to arrest, but they do have the power to pull the truck over and hold it there.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Ms. Moorcroft: To follow up on the question of mobile safety officers, the Minister indicated they could catch vehicles between Pleasant Camp and Beaver Creek. We would like to know what the staffing schedule is. Are there two safety officers working 40 hours a week on a day shift, and do they work any weekends? Do they have a regular beat of distances that they travel? How do they operate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is only one in the Haines Junction area and one in the Cassiar area. They move around mainly when the traffic is the heaviest. We get that information from the weigh scales. Once in a while, they work irregular hours to be on the road at different times.
Ms. Moorcroft: They move around irregularly and try to catch the heaviest traffic, based on information from the weigh scales. Is that one safety officer on a 40-hour week?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not quite sure how many hours a week they work. I will bring that information back for the Member.
Ms. Moorcroft: The point is obvious: we are trying to determine if having a mobile safety officer, instead of a fully operational weigh scale is resulting in a lower revenue, and if the money that is supposedly being saved by having fewer workers employed is not made up by having less revenue.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If you look at the legislative return we gave you, the most revenue from the Haines Junction weigh scale would have been about $100,000. It costs us $251,200 to run it. We are saving over $100,000.
Mr. Devries: I have an information question to ask of the Minister regarding the Cassiar scale. One concern I have heard is that if an over-width truck comes up the Cassiar Highway, it would have to go to the Watson Lake scale. It is very costly to do this if there are pilot cars and the truck has a wide load. Will the safety officer have the ability to check the weight of the vehicle at the Cassiar junction without the vehicle having to go all the way into Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: They can make arrangements ahead of and a permit will be issued.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the Minister could indicate what the elements of these O&M expenditures are? For example, of the $251,000 budgeted for Haines Junction, how much of it is payroll and how much of that is other overhead? What are the elements of the other overhead?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not have that information here, but I will bring it back for the Member
Mr. McDonald: I have a few questions. First, the Minister was going to get back to me with an answer about whether or not the Tourism Industry Association had been consulted about the highway signs regulations. Can he now answer that, please?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have another copy here, and I will send it over. I thought it went out in the package last night.
Mr. McDonald: Is his answer that the Tourism Industry Association was indeed consulted?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It was consulted. There were certain things that the association wanted done; I am not sure what those were. However, they will be taken into consideration in the regulations.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question about the review of highway regulations. A press release was issued in March of 1994 announcing that there was going to be a regulation review. What is the status of that review?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are waiting now for the draft regulations.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister expand on that? I will give some details of the kind of questions I would like answered in order to get a better picture of what is happening. Did the government undertake some consultation? With whom did it consult? What essential issues is it trying to address? Does it have a drafting committee? Has it consulted with the Transportation Association? When did it consult with the Transportation Association? Does it plan to make the draft regulations public prior to implementation? If so, when will that be done? When the draft regulations are made public, are we going to have a chance to see them in the legislature? Can the Minister identify the issues that the draft regulations are going to address? When does he expect to see the draft regulations come into force? Those are some of the questions one would ask in order to get a picture of what is happening.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The remaining issues under the Highway Act are vehicle weights and dimensions, road access, maintenance and construction-standard enforcement authority. Public consultation was undertaken in the spring of 1994. Minor comments were received. The Department of Justice is currently drafting the regulations. The Department of Community and Transportation Services expected to receive the draft by the end of October, 1994.
The bulk haul regulations have now been passed. The commercial highway sign regulation is just being finalized, and most of the proposed changes in this area are the result of a ministerial agreement to involve national strategies - so, these are regulations found across Canada: a memorandum of understanding on vehicle weights and dimensions, signed in 1991 and a memorandum of understanding on the national safety code, signed in 1987. Construction and maintenance standards are regularly reviewed by the Transportation Association of Canada and Western Association of Canada Highway Officials.
Mr. McDonald: When is the complete list of regulations pursuant to the act going to be completed? Also, can the Minister tell us a little bit more about the commercial highway signs regulations? He says that they are finalized. Does that mean that consultation on that subject is over and they will be implemented shortly?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are just finalizing consultations on the commercial highway sign regulations now, and then a draft will be prepared.
Mr. McDonald: When does the Minister anticipate seeing the commercial highway sign regulations coming into force?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are hoping to have them ready so that they can go into effect this summer.
Ms. Moorcroft: When we were in one of the communities, somebody who had been out to the public meeting on the highway signs regulations - I guess people either love them or hate them - was wondering whether the government would mail out the proposed regulations for discussion prior to implementing them, or whether the intent was simply to implement the regulations.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have done a lot of consultation; the regulations will be prepared and then go to Cabinet and it will be Cabinet's decision whether or not they go back out.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions about the letter that was tabled from the deputy to Mr. Walt, the chief administrative officer for the City of Whitehorse, relating to the Whitehorse sewage facility.
In the last paragraph of the first page, the deputy indicates that the city's request for Yukon government funding of $1,180,000, assigned to lagoon expansion, will be considered if it is shown to be necessary to meet the water licence requirements for the effluent.
Is that additional expense attributable to the greatly expanded amount of earth that has to be moved to form the lagoon?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That was in the original agreement but it was not supposed to be paid until 1997, but if they can prove that they require it before that, it would probably be considered. They will have to be able to prove it.
Mr. Cable: I see. So there is no argument about the amount. It is just the timing of the payment. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, that is correct.
Mr. Cable: I gather there are some other issues, though, where the government and the city are not in agreement, and perhaps this is the issue of the greatly expanded amount of dirt that has to be moved.
Is the Minister aware of that particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I have not heard that from the council. I must point out, in fairness to the council, they were only elected in October and they have quite a bit to get under their belts. We meet with them for breakfast every so often. I suspect the issue will come up then.
Mr. Cable: Last night we were talking about the cost overruns. The number that I had been given was something in the order of $3 million. I think the number the Minister was talking about is something in the neighbourhood of $1.5 million. What does that $1.5 million do, just so we are communicating here?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not really recall just what it was, but I read it in their report that they sent out. I would also point out that we have actually put more in there. Rather than having them knock the wood down with bulldozers and burn it, Renewable Resources looked after having it removed with wood permits, which was a considerable savings. That was paid for completely by Renewable Resources.
Mr. Cable: It appears that the city and the territory are heading for a bit of an argument whether or not the overruns - if I can call them that - were contemplated by the original arrangement. How does the Minister see that argument being resolved? Is he just going to tell them to take a hike, or are some other attempts going to be made to resolve the issue?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As far as that argument goes, I guess I would have to point out that ever since I have been Minister I have been in arguments. No, we are going to talk about it. They honestly have not brought anything up except for the letter they wrote then. There is also a $1.5 million contingency fund still available.
Mr. Cable: I gather it was originally thought that there would be some profits from the disposition of the timber, but that did not work out. Am I correct in that assumption?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know how they would think that there would be a profit. We allowed people free permits to take out the wood. We discussed this with the former mayor. If we had burned it all, it would have been a waste of good material. If we had a cold winter and it was being burned, we would be living in smoke in this valley for some time. We reached a practical solution; Renewable Resources could issue permits and oversee the harvesting of the wood. I do not believe it is all out, but a great amount is. It benefited the local residents who took it to their homes, as well as the smaller mills that hauled logs away for lumber.
Mr. McDonald: I want to quickly return to one matter, and then deal with a couple of other issues.
I want to return to the tendering practices on the Alaska Highway. The other night, we addressed the issue only very briefly. I mentioned that the Government Leader had indicated that the contract that was approved last July for the Shakwak project was approved because, in his words, the government had the money and had the contractors on site, and it did not want to let the contract go to an outsider.
As I indicated to the Minister the other day, some people have complained to me about this practice. Normally, it is not unexpected to have change orders to highway construction projects that may be quite sizeable, but it is a rare event to see a multi-million dollar project proceed because the government knows it can get some pretty aggressive bidding from companies currently on site.
I made this pitch to the Minister. He did not respond that night because we ran out of time. I would like the Minister to respond now.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have two pages here and I will read them out for the Member.
The United States government fully funds the Shakwak project through Public Works and Government Services Canada. Yukon Community and Transportation Services does the work, as agreed to by the U.S. federal Highway Administration and the public service, as a performing agent for the design and construction.
The Highway Administration required that the expenditure be increased in order to achieve a desirable level of progress. Community and Transportation Services agreed to deliver the necessary projects. Community and Transportation Services checked with the contracting industry to ensure that the workload could be handled. Community and Transportation Services desired to see the Shakwak project completed as soon as possible, in order to achieve benefits for tourism and highway maintenance.
It is very important that we demonstrate to the federal Highways Administration that we can spend the allotted funds within the desired time frame, because we want the federal Highways Administration to seek further approval of the $94 million necessary to complete the project from the Donjek River to Jarvis Creek, near Haines Junction, in the next U.S. transportation spending legislation in 1997. We therefore approached Management Board regarding the issue, noting that we needed approval as early as possible in the construction season.
On June 2, 1994, Management Board approved an increase of $9,038,000 in Shakwak funding, and directed us to include this in the first supplementary for 1994-95, which we did. Subsequently, on the basis of this direction, the department awarded to Golden Hill Ventures a contract for reconstruction of kilometre 1894 to kilometre 1915, in the amount of $12,930,584, of which $6 million was expected to be spent in 1994-95. We also proceeded with a number of other contracts, including crushing at kilometre 1845, awarded to Nuway Crushing on October 19, 1994, for $972,350. Clearing segment 15B, Twin Mountain, was awarded on August 24, 1994, in the amount of $272,883.60.
A contract for segment 14A exploration was awarded September 1, 1994, for $87,359.97. A contract for survey quality control, 16V, was awarded June 16, 1994, for $449,372.32. There were a number of other consulting and service contracts, as well as expenditures on in-house supervision and inspection.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I really do mean that I thank him for that explanation; however, it does not answer the question.
The Minister indicated that the reason for the department proceeding with the project was that it wanted to see the work done as soon as possible and also wanted to prove that the work could be done in the allotted time.
The department had anticipated spending $26 million on the Alaska Highway this year, of which a portion was for the Shakwak. The problem we face here is that this is an advance in the work. Because the department was going faster than it had anticipated, it had already indicated to its funding sources, namely the U.S. government, that it was going to proceed on a particular schedule. Part of that schedule was listed in the main estimates for 1994-95.
We all knew the schedule that the department had to live up to, and that it was going to proceed with that schedule. Under normal circumstances, it is understandable that change orders may take place, which do increase the scope of the work and do cost more. However, when one proceeds with an additional project that was scheduled in the main estimates in the amount of $12 million - perhaps the Minister can indicate the percentage the Shakwak represents of the total that was to be spent on the Alaska Highway - one quite legitimately wonders whether or not the construction community was given the straight goods about what they should prepare and plan for, and how they should bid. If the construction companies all think that there is going to be, for the sake of argument, $15 million worth of work, and it turns out to be $27 million worth of work on the Shakwak project, then one might argue that they have been misled.
Unfair advantage has been given to the low bidder in the initial phase of the work, because the low bidder is on site and does not have to mobilize anything, hire anybody, or get the foreman to do any extra work. It is all right there. Consequently, people have come to me and complained about that practice. It is not that they do not accept that change orders take place, but on a contract of $12 million, it is out of the ordinary. Does the Minister not accept that as a rare event? Does he think this is something that should, or should not, happen? What is his position?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is a rare event. However, we should be happy that the contractor has moved faster than we thought would happen. I might point out that not all of the contractors have done that. Some of them are still playing around with their first contract. The Department of Community and Transportation Services checked with the contractors to see if they would be available for this, so I am presuming that all contractors are aware of this. I think it is a rare event to have a gift like this given to you. I have talked to tourists and people out in Beaver Creek, and they tell me that people almost have to wave to each other when they pass on that stretch of road now, because they are so far apart. They used to have to squeeze around that corner. Last summer we were up there and had to go through in a convoy of cars, and we realized that it would be an inconvenience to tourists. To be fair, very few complained about it. However, the faster the problem can be solved, the better. Also, maintenance costs drop almost immediately on a road like that, so we are saving money in that way. We had some money we could use to improve the road, and that probably brings us a year closer to being finished than we would have been otherwise.
Mr. McDonald: I would not disagree that speed is a desirable goal, but perhaps that goal comes at the expense of fair contracting practices. I am not passing judgment on the quality of the contractor. Golden Hill has a proven track record, and it is generally quite a competent company. As far as I am aware, they do good work. The project itself is a good project; there is no doubt about that. It obviously does reduce maintenance costs. I do not take issue with that at all. However, I do not understand it to be the case that if we did not accelerate the project, we would lose the funding. I think that the funding was guaranteed to us anyway. Speed is desirable; however, there ought to be some signal to the industry that if certain things occur, such as a speed-up in the work, there may be more projects on the way.
The problem here quite simply is this: the ends do not always justify the means. We cannot simply state that because we think we have a good project, which nobody disputes, and because we have good contractors, which nobody disputes, and because the tourists love us for it, which may be a little disputable, it is okay to contract in this manner. Other companies that did not bid or did not bid successfully felt they were bidding on a smaller project, but it turns out in reality that they were bidding on something much larger. It is obvious that once the winner of the initial contract is mobilized, he has an advantage. Pure and simple, he has an advantage when it comes to bidding aggressively.
The issue I am referring to is all about fairness in the tendering process. I am not challenging the project. I am not saying anything about the quality of the construction work or about the reputation of the contractors. That is not the point.
I would hope that the Minister and his department will take note of the fact that there have been complaints - I do not know whether or not there have been complaints to the department or not, but there have certainly been complaints to me - and anticipate that, if they do this again in the coming year or years, there will be more complaints. If some action is not taken to address it, the complaints are going to be more toughly expressed by Members of the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I pointed out, it is a rare occasion - the Member for Riverside is laughing and having a good time with this - when this happens and we certainly will do our best to see that it does not happen again. Again, I must point out that these contractors quite often bid the first contract low to get their equipment in place, trying to guess where the next piece of road is, and to me that is business. Whether it is right or wrong, it is business. They guess, and I can name a trucking company that got contract after contract by guessing where to put its camps. The Member is right. They usually only have to move their camp once for two contracts, so they do have that advantage, but are we to interfere with a business policy that does that and cost the taxpayers more money by saying the camp has to be moved again?
It is quite apparent that the Opposition is dissatisfied with this example. I said it
was a rare event, and I will do my best to see that it does not happen this way again.
Mr. McDonald: I want to point out that I am aware of the fact that road construction companies want to keep their costs low and angle their way to the best bidding position for the next contract. As long as they have a clear sense of the order of the contracts and where they are going, the companies can do that, and the taxpayer can benefit from that aggressive bidding and the fact that the contractor with the winning bid has done better planning than its competitors.
As long as everyone knows where the projects will be and when they are going to be called for tender, it is fair. I agree.
I have some questions about transportation regulations. In February 1994, there was a letter pointing out that the Transportation Association of Canada had set up a task force on competitiveness. Can the Minister tell us what has transpired from this task force? I presume it was meant to harmonize transport regulations across the country. What is happening with this?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member is talking about our own regulations, we have taken this into consideration and are working with the task force. I have been at one or two meetings. Getting 10 provinces and two territories to agree completely on something is a problem, but I thought there had been good progress made. It is not finished yet, but we can see where some of the regulations are starting to be the same all over, and we will try to keep ours in line with theirs.
Mr. McDonald: Has the Minister received any complaints within the last year about the difference in regulatory environments between the Yukon and other jurisdictions? Could he tell us what the nature of those complaints have been?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we have. The one that comes to mind is the problem Watson Lake truckers had getting into B.C. when B.C. truckers could come up here and do pretty well what they wanted and go back out.
Mr. McDonald: What has been the response of the government and the Motor Transport Board about the more open environment that the Yukon possesses? What attempts have been made to resolve that issue, and others, among our neighbouring jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Alberta Minister and deputy minister and our Minister and deputy minister tried to gang up on B.C., which has been somewhat of a stumbling block, in an attempt to get them in line with the other jurisdictions. We have not been completely successful. My deputy minister and I also had lunch with the Minister of Transportation while he was in Whitehorse, and tried to convince him that we should be able to get together on this issue and also have a trade-off on the two areas where the Alaska Highway runs through British Columbia. We look after them, but we actually have no authority to arrest people, or do anything else, in those sections because it is B.C. property.
We have an agreement signed for the Skagway Road. I think the Member opposite probably knows as much about it as I do. We do not have an agreement signed for the Haines Road or the section by Watson Lake, where it makes that dip in and out again.
Mr. McDonald: In terms of the regulatory environment for trucking, what is the B.C. government's current position?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The province's regulations have not been changed, but some adjustments were made so that our truckers received a better deal when they drove there.
Mr. McDonald: In the next couple or three weeks, can the Minister undertake to have a clearer statement of the regulatory environment? I know that the Minister is no expert here, and I do not want to spend a lot of time on this issue, but there are some Yukon people - not my constituents - who have expressed some concern to me about their ability to operate elsewhere. If the Minister could give me a clearer statement of B.C.'s current policy and where it might be moving in the next year, I would appreciate it. Can the Minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If B.C. does not change its policy, there is not much we can give by way of a statement, except to say that that is the way it is. We will certainly look at the issue and bring back as much information as we can.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that there may be a little bit of movement here or there, and I was not sure precisely what he meant. If he wants to give me some information with some precision about precisely what that is all about, I would appreciate hearing it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we will do that.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Community and Transportation Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Bill No. 4, Community and Transportation Services, on the mains, operation and maintenance estimates and capital estimates?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Chair, will you please allow me to introduce the 1995-96 main estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services. The main estimates, which are in front of each of you, show that the department plans to spend $61,481,000 in operation and maintenance and $75,896,000 in capital. The department also plans to recover $2,294,000 of its operation and maintenance expenditures and $46,217,000 of its capital expenditure. Revenues are estimated at $4,875,000.
Taking these recoveries and revenues into account, the departmental net combined main estimates for operation and maintenance and capital is $88,866,000.
Continued progress in reducing the O&M costs has been made over the 1993-94 period through to the 1995-96 period.
To put this budget into perspective, it is necessary to point out that there is over $35 million in project funding for highway construction that is paid directly by the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States. Members opposite are well aware of the Shakwak project and the improvements it has brought to this long-neglected section of the Alaska Highway. Members will also recall the substantial funding provided to this government for reconstruction of the Alaska Highway.
We are proud of the improvements that have been made on the highway to Watson Lake. I assure the Members of this House that these improvements were applauded by tourists and business enterprises using the highway for commercial traffic and by Yukoners generally.
We have also allocated capital funds in support of municipal projects, based on earlier agreements made with this government. This includes the Dawson water and sewer main project and the Whitehorse sewage treatment project.
Funds were also allocated for projects that were cost shared with Canada through the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program. The total funding for these items is estimated at $11,502,000.
The operation and maintenance estimate also includes over $14 million in transfer payments to municipalities. Recognizing that municipalities have a responsibility to their taxpayers and citizens, we continue to assist them with appropriate funding levels to the extent possible. We have taken care to maintain the level of funding paid to the municipalities at $11,470,000 in comprehensive municipal finance grants. We have maintained our policy on the payment on grants-in-lieu of taxes to municipalities.
In 1995-96, we will pay $2,831,000 in grants-in-lieu of taxes. We are proud of this level of financial support for municipal governments.
In addition, we are continuing to pay the home owners grants directly to Yukoners. We estimate the home owners grants to be $1,862,000 for 1995-96.
The size of our department's budget reflects the fact that Community and Transportation Services provides diverse programs and services that directly benefit all people residing in the territory. The department continues to undertake many worthwhile capital infrastructure projects necessary for current and long-term social and economic development throughout the Yukon.
The department's land development program addresses a broad range and types of land needed in the Yukon.
The transportation division continues to focus our major construction activities on the maintenance and operation of roads and airports to promote safe and efficient movement of people and goods.
I would like to identify specific highlights of this main estimate.
On the operation and maintenance side, the 1995-96 discretionary new estimates, net of recoveries, is less by about $1 million than the 1994-95 forecast. This reduction has been achieved mainly in the transportation division through critical review and appropriate allocation of funds for program activities.
The emphasis has been on a team-based approach to improve efficiency and program delivery at lower overall cost. Some examples of this effort include application of northern snowdrift control methods by controlling slopes adjacent to the Dempster Highway, reducing line repainting without compromising safety standard, the use of a multi-purpose vehicle to reduce the number of units in the maintenance operation, the application of improved BST reclamation techniques, effective labour time management to reduce overtime, the introduction of a periodic commercial-vehicle inspection program by private sector mechanics, instead of by government employees.
Similar principles have also been applied in the municipal and community affairs division, resulting in a two-percent decrease in non-transfered payment expenditures.
The department has allocated $37,045,000 for highway maintenance, airport operation and administration of related regulatory responsibilities to continue strengthening the safe and efficient movement of people and goods in the territory.
To meet commitments of the municipal and community affairs division in the area of public health and safety, land availability, support of communities and land claims related initiatives, a total of $22,054,000 is allocated for operation and maintenance. This level of funding is similar to the 1994-95 forecast.
By far, the largest component is composed of transfer payments. These include the comprehensive municipal finance grant, grants-in-lieu of taxes, the home owners grant, contributions toward sports and community recreation, and grants to the Association of Yukon Communities and the two hamlets. These transfer payments total $17,504,000, or almost 80 percent of the allocation for municipal and community affairs division.
The department has allocated $75,896,000 in capital mains investment to meet the government's priorities.
The amount of $50,579,000 has been allocated for the continuing improvement of the territory's transportation infrastructure that links communities and provides access to resource development. Capital investment in transport infrastructure provides support for private sector investment in resource development and tourism, which in turn will permit long-term economic growth and increased levels of employment. The department allocation of a substantial portion of its capital estimate toward investment in such durable infrastructure clearly supports this. Neither mining, nor logging, would be successful without the ability to move the product to market at an affordable cost and on a reliable basis.
As far as responsible investment in infrastructure is concerned, the Alaska Highway will continue to receive core construction between Watson Lake and Swift River, and major reconstruction will also take place under the Canada contribution agreement and the Shakwak agreement. Substantial reconstruction work will also take place on the Top of the World Highway, and is planned for the Freegold Road in support of the Carmacks Copper project.
Drainage, structure and rehabilitation work will take place on the Dempster Highway and reallocation measures are planned for the Klondike and Campbell highways.
I remind Members that this budget was prepared without the benefit of a firm decision on either the Cominco mine near Finlayson Lake on the Campbell Highway or the possible reopening of the Sa Dena Hes mine. The department will be investigating the implications and developing capital and operation and maintenance plans for these possible mine projects on the Campbell Highway.
Bridge replacement assessment work will take place at various locations to ensure structural integrity in support of bulk commodity transportation policy for the movement of heavy products economically. The study of the feasibility of a Yukon River bridge at Dawson will continue, along with the evaluation of other affordable alternatives for the improvement of the river crossing.
Funding has been allocated to provide for better airport facilities and equipment and for runway resurfacing work, to ensure improved and year-round access to communities by the local aviation industry serving tourism, resource development, emergency evacuation and business-related traffic.
Continuing with our commitment to make affordable land available to the public, we have allocated a total of $9,450,000 for land development programs. Our commitment to local involvement in planning and development processes will be maintained. This funding for land, which is a component of the capital estimate under the municipal and community affairs division, addresses the government's priority of improving Yukoners' quality of life and of attaining balanced economic development.
In 1995-96, our efforts will be focused on developing residential, industrial, agricultural and recreation lots. We will continue to be active in carrying out feasibility studies, legal surveys and the development and rehabilitation of quarries. In this regard, the Whitehorse area gravel inventory study will be completed in July.
Our primary focus in residential land development will include five major projects:
Copper Ridge for completion of 200 lots plus underground servicing for the next phase of approximately 200 lots;
Cowley Creek, phase II, for 43 lots
; Carcross lots and country residential subdivision;
Carmacks urban residential serviced properties;
Rural and urban residential lots at Mount Lorne and Teslin.
Yukoners have expressed interest in the importance of agricultural land and development. In cooperation with and under the leadership of the Department of Renewable Resources agricultural program, we have allocated funding to carry out the development of two parcels along the Carcross Road in Mount Lorne and to provide agricultural land subdivisions throughout the territory over the next four years.
We hope to undertake pilot projects on recreational lots in the areas of Haines Junction and Teslin.
To meet demand, industrial land development will take place in Carmacks, Dawson, Teslin, Watson Lake and Whitehorse in cooperation with each municipality.
Our capital estimates of $2,783,000 for community services and $11,562,000 for public health, roads and streets represent this government's commitment to support all communities by recognizing their express desire to have local control over decision making.
The community services branch will continue its commitment in working with and
assisting unincorporated communities in planning and implementing their own community
visions. Community planning will continue to be of importance to enhance physical
infrastructure in communities. This government has allocated substantial contributions of
funding toward the Canada-Yukon infrastructure fund.
The engineering branch, as well as continuing to deliver major capital programs, including land development, will continue to serve unincorporated communities with respect to water-supply treatment and storage, sewage treatment and disposal, flood erosion control, road and street upgrading, and various other community facility improvements.
A cost-sharing contribution of $7 million will be made to assist Whitehorse in its sewage treatment and disposal project. There is $1,925,000 being provided for the Dawson City piped water and sewer main project. Funding is also allocated for a sewage treatment facility at Ross River, sewage pit improvements at Beaver Creek, sewage pit relocation at Pelly Crossing and for solid-waste projects at Old Crow, Mount Lorne and various other locations.
Flood erosion control projects will be carried out in Old Crow and Mayo. Road and street upgrading will be done in Ross River, Beaver Creek and in various unincorporated communities. Public safety and recreation programs will receive continued support: for example, the 1995-96 capital estimate has $644,000 for fire protection - to replace the firehall at Burwash, to purchase two firetrucks for unincorporated communities - and includes equipment and communications systems for the branch.
Existing recreation facilities in unincorporated communities will be maintained in good repair. A total of $125,000 has been allocated for this in capital. A total of $285,000 is allocated for communication equipment and emergency measures equipment.
The department's main estimates reflect the government's commitment to advance the economic growth and well-being of Yukoners by investing in infrastructure, by supporting municipalities and by providing municipal-type services and facilities to unincorporated communities.
Ms. Moorcroft: I imagine there will be a little bit. One of the issues that we have been debating in the supplementary estimates has been the orderly management of land. We had asked the previous Minister, when we were discussing the transfer of agricultural land to the agricultural branch in Renewable Resources, whether or not there was a plan to transfer any more land branch functions to other government departments.
We have already talked about the fact that how we sell land was something the government was going to bring forward in the discussion paper. The present Minister said that is in abeyance, and nothing is going to happen to it in the short term.
We heard in the message the Minister just read out for us, that the department is looking at cottage-lot development in Haines Junction and in Teslin. When I went through the capital community distribution list to see how much money was being spent in all of the rural communities around the Yukon, I noticed that there was $25,000 in the 1995-96 estimates for cottage-lot development. That amount was under the Department of Renewable Resources' policy and planning branch. I would like to ask the Minister for some more details on cottage-lot development in Haines Junction and Teslin, and if this is just an error in the capital community distribution, or whether the Department of Renewable Resources' policy and planning branch is now working on cottage-lot development.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Department of Renewable Resources has some plans to do some cottage-lot developments as well. I think the Minister can probably speak to that when we get to Renewable Resources.
Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the Minister could explain to me how it would be considered orderly development of land to have two different departments working on developing the same kind of land. Why do both the departments of Community and Transportation Services and Renewable Resources have plans to go forward with cottage-lot development?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I did not use the correct words. Renewable Resources is using a policy, in other words, to see what effect it will have on the habitat and the game, and such things, around the lots that we are developing.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister is telling us that the two departments are working together on the effects of cottage-lot development on issues pertaining to Renewable Resources, such as wildlife and habitat.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon Lands Act is what provides the government with the authority to sell or lease Crown land under Yukon government control and that administration of land is also subject to the territorial Lands Act, Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act, as well as to federal acts. So, there are land regulations that set out how the Minister can administer Yukon land.
It has been the policy of the government that First Nations and local governments are consulted on land applications that may affect their areas of interest. There is also the Land Advisory Review Committee that was created to review land applications and make recommendations to the director of the lands branch. My understanding of it is that normally, where there was going to be land development, the Land Advisory Review Committee was one committee that would ensure that appropriate interests knew about the development and were ensuring that it was satisfactory to all of the interested parties. Can the Minister describe for us how that is presently working and how they are consulting, not just with First Nations, but also with local communities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If it is all right with the MLA, I will bring back a complete breakdown, from the start to the finish, of how this operates for the communities and for the First Nations.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister does not have the information in his head? He does not have an overall picture of how that works; how they go about developing the land, coming up with a price and ensuring that appropriate people are onside with the developments?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I probably have a rough idea in my head, but I have learned in this Legislature that I do not want to have an "and" where there should be a "but", or everyone will climb all over me. So I will bring back the written information.
Ms. Moorcroft: I guess I will leave that for now and move on to another area.
The rural road maintenance policy is something we have already been discussing, in terms of maintaining minimum standards for roads. I was under the impression that, with the roads policies of the government, the intersections to secondary roads will be cleared of their windrows. We had some conversations with the department and were told that the driveways of private residences that connect to a primary or secondary road will only have their windrows cleared when all the primary and secondary roads have been ploughed, if there are no snowstorms, using every piece of equipment and with only one time allowed. In other words, that is at the bottom of highways' priority list.
Constituents have called me with concerns about their unmaintained roads having the
windrows ploughed from them, so that at least the intersection would be clear. This would
really help a lot there. Can the Minister tell me how he is going to respond to the
representation that the unmaintained roads have not had the windrows ploughed out from
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is quite correct. That is the last thing that they will do. We are there to keep the main roads open.
I might give a little bit of advice to the MLA for Mount Lorne. I have been fighting this since the Canadian Army had the highway. I lost this one badly, and I am still losing it. It is still there, and now I have to defend it. It is not a good situation.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is almost starting to sound like I might have an ally on the other side. The Minister has just said that he has been fighting this for years, and that he has been coming to the defence of his constituents and wanting the grader to stop and take five minutes to plough a windrow, even though the road is not maintained. Can I have the Minister's assurance that he might be more effective in addressing those concerns and representations by Opposition MLAs and actually get the windrows ploughed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I make a statement and the Member has committed me to everything. I did not commit to anything. Let me also point out that we very seldom use graders any more; we use the big V-ploughs. It is very hard for them to stop, turn around and plough windrows. Their job is to keep the main highways open. As long as I am Minister, I suspect that we will continue with this policy, because I certainly cannot see going to the cost of trying to turn a V-plough around to get into the small places.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not sure what the highways Minister is talking about. When I have travelled the South Klondike Highway, the Alaska Highway or the North Klondike Highway, I have seen the large V-ploughs, but I have also seen quite a few graders on the road. I do not think that that is a very difficult request. I hope the Minister will come forward with a happier answer for my constituents.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, the Member is not going to get a happier answer; the answer is that I agree with the policy completely. I would point out that the only time the graders are out is to push the windrow off the sides of the road. The V-ploughs do the original ploughing.
Chair: Is it the Members' wish to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on Bill No. 4?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some more information, and I have asked the department to clean up everything and have it here by Monday. So we should have all the answers by Monday, as we are still on general debate. I have one Member's answers here, as promised.
On the MacRae frontage road, the department is designated under the Highways Act to care for and control the right-of-way. All work undertaken within the highway right-of-way requires a permit issued by the department. A review of each application entails consideration of safety issues, maintenance issues and future requirements and ramifications.
In July 1993, Mr. Doug Thomas approached the Minister and transportation division regarding the building of a frontage road on the right-of-way. Community and Transportation staff were involved and supplied suggestions and standards that were required to be accommodated by Mr. Thomas' design. In the course of this review, the department deemed it important that the number of accesses on to the highway in this area be kept to a minimum. In the meeting attended by the Minister and transportation staff, it was agreed that the developer would build the frontage road and Community and Transportation Services would build the tie-in to the Alaska Highway. However, in the interests of cost and efficiency, the department supplied surfacing for the road as a fair trade for the developer constructing the tie-ins. The cost of the surfacing was $19,575. The department is not maintaining the frontage road.
Can I finish these first?
The Member for Mount Lorne wanted to know whether we purchased houses of the employees from Destruction Bay. Employees are covered by the Government Employee Housing Plan Act. This act provides that employees are eligible to receive a level of reimbursement for their homes if they are transferred away from the community in which their housing unit is located. This is administered by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Another question was how many non-Yukoners were hired in transportation engineering during the past construction season. According to our branch record, we had one person who worked for one month as a casual junior construction inspector. We interviewed him for junior construction inspector at a time when we could not get any qualified local applicants.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his answer about the MacRae frontage road. I am still not sure I understand the process, especially since the Minister had previously told us there was no policy. Perhaps the Minister could just remind me what the sequence of events was. Did the developer approach the Minister or the department with the proposal? Who was involved in negotiating the transaction, which the Minister described in his answer, that the work done by the developer would be offset by the department's contribution to surfacing the frontage road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Thomas approached transportation division staff regarding building the frontage and the right-of-way because he had to get permits. The meeting was attended by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and they came to an agreement. At that time, we were supposed to build two access roads on to the road. However, he had the big equipment, so we decided to do some horse trading, which I think was practical: we supplied the surface material, and Mr. Thomas and the department put in the two access roads.
Mr. Penikett: I want to be clear on this. In terms of the actual agreement on the transaction - the horse trading that the Minister talked about - it was between the previous Minister and the developer. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is not quite correct. When the previous Minister was there, it was agreed that the government would put in the two access roads. The situation was subsequently looked at and it was decided that it would save both parties money if the government put the surface on and the private individual put in the two access roads.
Mr. Penikett: In this case, the Minister's previous decision was superseded because there was a judgment that, in this case, it would save money for the department, by doing the surfacing rather than the second access road. Do I understand correctly?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes. The director of transportation felt that there would be a savings there for the department by just doing the surfacing, rather than bringing in the heavy equipment needed to do the other work.
Mr. Penikett: The director made a decision that it would be cheaper for the department to do the surfacing on the road, which had already been prepared by the developer, than to actually build the second access road. What I do not understand is the policy context. Is it not the case that in similar developments elsewhere in the territory the whole cost of developing such a road would have been borne by the developer, or is the policy something different?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The developer could have built eight accesses on to the highway from each lot. There is nothing to stop him from doing that. All he asked for was to simply put the road in and one access at each end. The director made a decision - one that I fully support, because it was more economical than hauling our equipment to build the access that he do the heavy work and then we complete the job.
Mr. Penikett: Just to make sure that I understand the policy, can the Minister tell me this: if the developer was allowed to put eight accesses in, as he said - I suggest there is a policy problem there, if that is the case - would the developer have had to pay for all eight if he had put them all in?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, he would have.
Mr. Penikett: If the developer was going to have to pay the full cost of doing eight, if he had put in eight, what was the saving for us because he only put in two?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We simply did not want eight so close to each other on the highway. There is a tremendous safety risk. Apparently, according to the rules, we could not have prevented him from doing that, because each piece of property is entitled to an access on to the highway.
Mr. Penikett: I do understand that, and I do concur with the safety concern of the government. What I do not understand is the Minister's claim that we were somehow saving money by doing this. I do not understand that, because since he has conceded that it is a city road - his previous written answer to us is wrong - YTG does not save any maintenance costs. He has just a minute ago told us that the developer would have had to pay for all eight of the access roads. I do not understand how we saved any money. That is what I am asking about.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not going to argue. I will just say that safety is worth quite a bit. It is worth a great deal. If there was an arrangement made and he had the heavy equipment, he would put the access at the two ends and we put the surface on it.
Mr. McDonald: I do not understand this at all. It is fairly clear that the department has the power to determine where the access roads should be on the Alaska Highway. I understand that that is the case. Constituents who have asked to have access on to public roads have been denied them, and have had to find a way around the problem. An example is the case that occurred just yesterday.
Given that the department has the power to determine what access should be placed on to a public road, why should there be any sense of obligation by the department to pay a developer to restrict the number of access roads? Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department has to look at the line of sight. If they decide that it is not safe, they have to provide another access for those people to get off their property. They did this. They thought that they were working together, trying to solve an issue about which everyone is making a big deal.
Mr. McDonald: There seems to be a policy vacuum here. On the one hand, it is obvious that the Department of Community and Transportation Services has the power to decide what and where access roads should be. The Minister has correctly indicated that if a developer wants to build an access road on to the highway, the developer must pay 100 percent of the cost.
If those two things are true, one has to wonder why the department felt it had to dicker with the property owner in this particular case in order to offer public funds to support this particular development. Why could the department not have said that there would be a maximum of two access roads on to the highway for safety reasons and, because the developer was pursuing this project, the developer shall pay? What is wrong with that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I presume we could have done that. The director felt he was doing the right thing, and I concur with him. It shows that we try to cooperate with people and try to get the right roads correctly built. Quite frankly, I have no problem with what the department did.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is saying that he disagrees. Perhaps he is not even saying that, I do not know. I am saying that, in the absence of any clear guidelines, given that the taxpayer does not have to pay anything, because it normally is the developer who pays, by the Minister's own admission, and given that we all expected the Department of Community and Transportation Services to make a determination about the location of the accesses on to the highway, based on safety concerns, why should the department not have simply said, in order to save money there will be two accesses located at points A and B, and because the developer is initiating this - not the public, nor the department - the developer will pay, because the developer is initiating this need, and not the public? Why does the developer not pay the bill in this case?
I am certain that the Minister wants to solve the problem, but I am sure that if there is ever a disagreement, the Department of Community and Transportation Services, or any other department, does not simply come forward and offer to throw a few bucks into the deal to make sure that things run smoothly.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In order for us to have prevented that we would have had to go on a restricted access highway under the Highways Act, which has never been done in the Yukon. I think they made the right judgment when they decided not to do that.
I should also point out that it could probably have been a lot cheaper for him to put the accesses straight out to the road from the property, because, just to go across the right- of-way, we had to go down all eight and then get the accesses. It is done, and if Members want to criticize it, that is their privilege.
Mr. McDonald: We are still in the stages of wanting to explore the policy; criticism may or may not come later.
The Minister has said that the developer could have simply put all the access roads straight out from each lot right on to the highway, and there is absolutely nothing the Department of Community and Transportation Services could have done about it. Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, unless they had orders from Cabinet for a restricted access highway under the Highways Act.
Mr. McDonald: Are there no other people along that road who have been restricted access on to the highway or on to any highway because the Department of Community and Transportation Services said it would be unsafe to do so?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When we declare it unsafe, it is because of how far one can see down the road from the access. I do not know if there is a restriction anywhere in the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Surely, there are restrictions about how many access roads can enter on to the Alaska Highway. Surely, there are. I think I can probably recall a couple myself, where there was a concern about access to the highway. We have all acknowledged that in this particular area there are serious concerns about existing access roads on to the highway. That is why the Department of Community and Transportation Services has been insisting on controlling accesses.
Are we saying, then, that because this particular developer could have put eight accesses on to the highway, each property owner, all the way down this particular stretch of road, is entitled to their own access on to the highway, and there is absolutely nothing that the Department of Community and Transportation Services can do to stop them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Each lot is entitled to one access on to the highway, unless it interferes with the line of sight.
Mr. McDonald: The line of sight is the only consideration, is it? Whether one can see far enough down the highway is the only thing that would prevent an access road on to the Alaska Highway - is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am saying that is correct, unless we declare it to be a restricted access under the Highways Act.
Mr. McDonald: Clearly, there is some concern about safety that would be greater than simply access, or lines of sight on the highway. There have to be other considerations.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department is concerned, but no policy has been produced by this government or, presumably, any government before this one.
Mr. McDonald: I think I have it clear now. I will be able to tell the people in MacRae, and all the people along that stretch, that if they want their own access on to the highway, the Minister says that is all right. On the record, am I entitled to do that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, the Minister has no authority to say that. People would have to get a permit from the department to do it. I do know about that area. I have not been down in that section. However, most of them do have access on to the highway at the present time.
Mr. McDonald: No, not in this particular area. I do not want to split hairs here, but, if anyone along that road goes to the Department of Community and Transportation Services now and says that they have a lot and deserve direct access on to the highway, is the Minister telling us that they will get approval from the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not if there is a frontage road or a problem with the line of sight. There are a number of requirements. The Department of Community and Transportation Services would have to make that decision.
Mr. McDonald: There is no problem with the line of sight. If any property owner in that area wants an access road, they can have it, as far as the Department of Community and Transportation Services is concerned - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are just playing around here. If there is a frontage road or some other way to access it, they would probably refuse the permits.
Mr. McDonald: Why should they refuse the permits? The Minister just indicated that anyone along that road should be entitled to their own access on to the Alaska Highway. Anyone on the edge of the highway should be entitled to that. He just said so. Why, in heaven's name, would they be refused, under the circumstances?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I said, if there is a frontage where they can get on anywhere else, or any other access is available to them, then they would probably be refused. It would be up to the transportation division to make that decision.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is responsible for that department, and that is why I am asking questions of this Minister now. In this particular situation, it is pretty clear that, in the case of these contiguous properties along the Alaska Highway, the department could easily have said, "Build a frontage road with one access on to the Alaska Highway." The department could easily have said that, and told the developer to pay for it.
I think the problem is that the policy is extremely unclear. There is a lot of flexibility and latitude left up to whoever in the department is making the approvals for this kind of thing. What bothers people is that it appears that some developers get a deal in order to do the right thing, work things out and be nice, and some people get diddly-squat. That is the problem, and that is the problem that Members have raised.
Mr. Penikett: Let me rejoin the discussion to say to the Minister again that I want to assure him that I am not simply making criticism here; I am not taking sides. The problem I have is that an arrangement was worked out here with no policy context. In fact, the written statement the Minister gave me three months ago turned out not to be the case. It was originally justified in terms not of safety, but of savings to the government. As it turned out, there were no savings because it is a city road and there are no maintenance savings to the territory.
When we asked questions yesterday, I wanted to find out what the policy was so if somebody else in a similar situation comes along, I would know what to tell them about the rules: there were none; there is no policy.
Today the Minister said that the developer could have put in eight access roads to the highway, but the Minister also said that an instrument exists in the law to prevent that. Indeed, where there is a frontage road, it would have been unnecessary. He then went on to say that, even though the developer could have put in eight access roads, he had to get a permit from the department. Presumably that permitting process would have given the department an "in" - a say - in what happened in terms of access to the highway.
I still do not understand.
I am not trying to be mean to the Minister; I just want him to understand that this is in my constituency. If there is another developer in my constituency - and there are all sorts of people wanting to develop land all over the place for different projects, especially on that stretch of the Alaska Highway - and they come to me and ask, "Tony, what's the deal here? How do I get the government to pay for part of my road?", what are the rules? What are the standards? Does he just go in and sit down with the Minister and make a deal, or what? I understand cooperation. I understand safety, but when one is dealing with the government one wants to know the rules and to make sure that the rules are the same for everybody.
That is what I do not understand. I want to understand what the rules are in similar situations in a similar area in the next few months and years. What can I tell my constituents about what they should expect in their dealings with the department in a similar situation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the first place, I resent the Member saying that somebody made a deal with the Minister. I do not think that needs to be brought up. Anybody who has a piece of property facing the highway is entitled to a road on to the highway. They would have to go to the department and get a permit and, if the lines of sight are all right, then they are entitled to it.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister said he resented the fact that I said there was a deal made with the Minister. I did not say that - he did. He read out an answer that said that originally the developer had gone to a meeting, and that there was an understanding or an arrangement made with the previous Minister - not him - that was subsequently changed in further discussions with the director. I did not make an accusation about a deal with a minister - the Minister said that.
The concern about that is now compounded by an absence of policy, a lack of rules, a lack of clarity, a gap of understanding - not just with me, but with other Members here - as to how one goes about this. If I have another constituent who wants to develop a property on the Alaska Highway in the same area, what do I tell them about what they can expect? Do I tell them to seek a meeting with the Minister or with the director of highways and work something out? What do I tell them?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member has a constituent who wants to go on to the highway, why does he not apply for a permit?
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me. I am not as educated as the Member opposite, and I have not been around as long as he has. I have only been in the territory for 30 years, or whatever, but I have a disadvantage because I went to university for a few years and we took courses in government and political science. In one of these, we were taught that if one has a policy instrument, like a permit, the foundation for issuing a permit is a policy. The permit is not something that exists as a free-floating agent in the atmosphere. A permit is an instrument of a policy. It is required as a result of a statement by the government that indicates that there are some rules and standards.
The Minister said a number of contradictory things, but among the contradictions is the statement that anybody can have one access from each lot to the highway, and the second thing he said is that there is a permit. What is the context for the permit? Why does one need a permit if there is no policy? What is the permit for? What does the permit do?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The permit is very simple. It is to see that there is safety when coming on to the road; it ensures that the line of sight is clear or that it is not on a corner. As I said, it is an open area where there is no policy. I recall another government was in for seven years and I did not see it make a policy on it either.
Mr. Penikett: No, but I was not asked to sit down with developers and negotiate arrangements about access. I do not know if any of my colleagues, who were Ministers of Community and Transportation Services, did either. A permit means that one is permitted to do something. Let me ask the Minister this simple question: what the Minister just said, does that mean that when there is a problem with the line of sight - that is, the configuration of the road is such that people would have difficulty seeing clearly in both directions when they enter it, or if the road is angled in a certain way, or the curvature is a certain number of degrees or a certain shape - a permit is required, or is the permit required in all cases? Can we see a copy of this permit? What does this permit say or do?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We can get the Member a copy of the permit.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for that. Can I ask him what the permit does? Does it say, "I can build an access here, even though the road is curved"? Or, is a permit required any time there is an access? What is the permit for?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A permit is needed any time, and if a curve was there, they would not issue the permit.
Mr. Penikett: "Permit" implies some kind of restriction. It implies some kind of power of the government to permit, or not permit, one to do something. However, the Minister said earlier that one has a right of access to the highway if you have property. That implies that either the permitting process is automatic or the government has the right to refuse or agree to the permit to access the road. Which is it?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The transportation division has to allow them to have a permit unless the line of sight, for some reason, is not there. If the line of sight is bad, or there is a corner, there will not be a permit issued. Otherwise, we have to issue a permit. There is no rule or law saying that we cannot.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister is saying that the permitting is automatic, unless there is some safety consideration that would prevent the department from issuing the permit. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is like any other permit, such as for hunting or anything else; you must obey certain rules and certain laws.
Mr. Penikett: What are the certain rules and the certain laws? That is what we have been asking for a couple of days now. What are the certain rules and the certain laws that govern this permitting process?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Safety and line of sight are the main criteria for the safety of the highway. We will get him a copy of the permit requirements.
Mr. Penikett: If you cannot satisfy some criteria - some test of safety and some test of lines of sight - then you will not be given the permit. Okay, the Minister says that is correct.
I said to the Minister that surely eight access roads on to a short stretch of the highway would not be safe, and the Minister would, according to what he just said, have the right to deny it.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Member is not right. Each access road would have to be judged on its own merit on the line of sight. The only other way we can control them, and I have said this about 50 times, is by restricting access to the highway under the Highways Act, and that has to be a Cabinet directive.
Mr. Penikett: I am interested in the authority for the Cabinet to do things. I suspect that, if there were eight accesses in one short stretch of road, a sight and safety problem would occur if other vehicles were accessing the road just a bit ahead. Anyway, that is a traffic-engineering question.
Can I ask the Minister this: since the permitting process must flow from some authority or some regulation, and since the regulation must be specific in its language about the sight lines and safety, can we see a copy of the authority for this permitting and the language about sight lines and safety?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We can give him a copy of the permit and all the matters that have to be reviewed before a permit is issued.
Mr. Penikett: I did not hear that answer. The reason I want to see the language about safety lines of sight is because, as my colleague the Member for McIntyre-Takhini points out, if all access roads are safe, and there is no problem of lines of sight, what basis would the department have to deny the permit for the eight accesses? The Minister's response is that it did not think it was safe, so the Minister of the department persuaded the developer to only have two access roads.
There is a problem here. Either these accesses were safe or they were not. If they were not safe, the Minister did not have to approve them.
Let me review that point again. Some time ago, the Minister said that the department negotiated an arrangement with the developer to reduce the number of access roads from eight to two for safety reasons. Later, he said that, according to the permit, one is allowed one access road for each property and that the permitting is automatic, unless there is an issue of safety. He said that because there was not a problem of safety here, the permitting would have been automatic and the developer would have had a right to do all eight of them, if the department had not negotiated out of this arrangement. However, if the developer could have obtained permits for all eight access roads, even though that would have been impractical, even from his point of view, why is there public money being spent on behalf of the developer, when the public safety issue is confused, even in the Minister's mind? That is the policy issue. That is what I do not understand. We still do not have the policy context clear.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have repeated myself over and over, and I stand by what I have said. We have offered to give the Members the complete permits on this. That is all I can say on it.
Mr. McDonald: That is not all I would have to say about it. If safety was not a consideration in approving eight access roads on to the highway, then why not permit the eight access roads on to the highway? If one, or two, or more of those access roads did pose a safety problem, why not deny the permits for safety reasons? What justification does the Minister have, if this is not a restricted access road, for spending one dime of public money to build a road that has nothing to do with safety? If it does have something to do with safety, why did they not deny the permits to build the access roads?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are just going around in circles and having lots of fun. It stands to reason, with a little bit of common sense - sometimes we do not have that - that eight access roads coming on to the highway are a lot more dangerous than having two. Therefore, the director of transportation decided to go this way. It cost the developer more money because he had to build from one end to the other to have access to the end. He paid for all of the rough work. All we did was put the finishing crushed rock on top. He built the two access roads. The road is a lot safer. A little bit of common sense was used, and politicians are now jumping all over the place to try to make a mess of it.
Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but we are doing our jobs as legislators.
The Minister said that eight access roads would have created a safety problem. However, he also told us that if there was a problem of safety, he could have denied the permits to the eight access roads, at no cost to the taxpayer.
The deputy minister is shaking his head, saying no. I would like the Minister to explain the policy there. Perhaps we could have the deputy minister appear as a witness. It would save a lot of time. Can I move one of those motions that do that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If one figures out all the time we have wasted on that, the little bit of money spent on that gravel was just fine.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 and Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on them.
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. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 2, 1995:
Travel by government employees paid for by non-government entities for the period
February 1994 to January 30, 1995: list by department; Government of Yukon
conflict-of-interest policy, gift policy and ministerial gift policy (Ostashek)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 2, 1995:
Alcoholic beverages on government premises: practice regarding approval by Government Leader (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 735
Weigh scales: annual budget, traffic volume and revenues for 1990-91 to 1994-95 (Brewster)
Written Question No. 7, dated January 25, by Mr. Cable