Monday, February 13, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have a document for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that investment in health and education of Canadians and their children is fundamental to the future prosperity of Canadian society, and
THAT this House opposes the deep spending cuts in these areas being proposed for the next federal budget.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Education review, expanded testing
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Education. In a letter to the Minister of Education, the Education Review Committee representatives, including CYI, Yukon school councils, school principals and the YTA, stated that the Minister, in answer to my questions in the Legislature on February 2, made statements that are "false and misrepresent the public views expressed by the Education Review Committee regarding expanded testing." I would like to ask the Minister why he would make such irresponsible statements that hurt his creditability and, worse, our education system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: First, I would like to table a package regarding this sensitive issue and, as well, send a copy of the documents over to the critic for his edification. What happened in the letter is the authors, deliberately or negligently, used the old ruse of misquoting what I said in the House.
To begin on that note, what was said on page 777 by me was that the education review made it very clear that there was an overwhelming call by stakeholders for a measurement of output from the system. I would ask the learned critic to have a look at what was said in the education review at page 32 where it said "... that at the junior and senior high levels there was agreement among most stakeholders that evaluative assessment needs to be done more frequently." I would submit that the actual text of what I said in the House, as represented by Hansard, is on all fours with that direct quote from the Review Committee itself.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that ineffectual answer. In this Legislature, in response to questions regarding expanded testing in cumulative and diagnostic areas, the Minister stated quite clearly on the same page - page 777 - that he was referring to earlier that he intended to move forward. He gave the distinct impression that there was an overwhelming call by stakeholders for expanded testing in the cumulative and diagnostic areas, which is untrue. Now that the committee has expressed to the Minister that his statements were incorrect - in whatever context he wishes to place them - will he apologize to the committee members, whose views he misrepresented, and to the Yukon public, whose views he misrepresented?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The hon. Member is now saying that I did not really say it, but that the inference could be taken from questions and answers in the House. That is a far cry from doing a rigorous examination of what was said. What I also said in that exchange, wherein the Member opposite was the questioner, is that it is our intention to listen to concerns raised by 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. I direct the hon. Member's attention to page 33 of the committee report, which states, and I quote, "Standardized testing is being endorsed and utililized throughout the country to access the educational effectiveness of curricula and teaching strategies on a system-wide basis." What I said in my answer is exactly in conformity with the statement made by the very same people who wrote the letter.
Mr. Harding: I hate to get into a legal battle with the Minister, but it is obvious that his hysterical ranting in this Legislature has come back to haunt him. On January 30, the Minister said, "The answer is yes, we intend to move ahead with diagnostic assessments and cumulative examinations for the core subjects from grade 8 onward ... We will do this in response to the desire expressed by the vast majority of parents in the Yukon."
The education review never said that, the committee members are telling the Minister that, but the Minister is ignoring them. Why does the Minister choose to continue to ignore the Members of the Education Review Committee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not ignoring the members of the Education Review Committee. The committee wrote a letter that had a direct bearing on the statements that were made on February 2.
With regard to the issue of standardized testing, assessment and performance measurements, I stand by my position that these are indicative of the direction in which the rest of Canada is moving. I intend, in consultation with the stakeholders, to come out with a plan for implementing diagnostic assessment and cumulative testing, on a phased-in basis, for grades 8 through 11.
Question re: Education review, expanded testing
Mr. Harding: Having some consultations with some stakeholders would be a good start for the Minister of Education. There is another issue that the committee members were upset about. That is because the Yukon Party caucus published a newsletter about education issues with the Government Leader's picture on the cover. This is the same Government Leader who said, on the floor of this Legislature, that education spending was debt creation. In the publication, it implies that the Yukon Excellence Awards idea came from the education review. Can the Minister tell me from what part of the education review he found a request to award money for good grades?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am always somewhat taken aback when an advisory body comes out politically and when one examines the people themselves, one has to wonder what their politics are. With regard to the scholarships, there was a concern expressed by a lot of stakeholders regarding the issue of excellence in the schools. This was a very modest step taken, and one that I did not think would be controversial, to introduce some scholarships. We are looking at a lot of other ways to raise the level of our education system and most of the other ways, of course, would involve extensive consultation with the stakeholders.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has just hit a 10 on the pomposity scale because he has now said that the education partners who have criticized him are politically motivated - that is the CYI, the representative of the school councils, the school administrators and the YTA. They are all politically motivated because they have criticized the Minister, in his estimation.
I still cannot find the school councils that asked for this Yukon Excellence Awards program. The Minister stated that these are the people who came up with this idea. I want to ask him again today: which school councils asked him to bring in the money-for-marks program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The implementation of scholarships was something that we initiated - that I initiated. I did not say it was in response to a request. No, I did not. Once again, it is fine to play fast and loose with Hansard, but he should be more precise in making direct quotes.
Let us get it straight, though, for the record. The Liberals are against scholarships and the NDP are against scholarships. I think that is the important issue because there are an awful lot of people out there - stakeholders, students and teachers in the high schools - who support them.
Mr. Harding: The NDP, when they were in power, developed some extensive scholarship programs that were all developed in consultation with the stakeholders. They also developed the Education Act, which was also done in consultation with all the stakeholders in the industry, which is much different from the manner in which this Minister undertakes his ministry and his endeavours in that area.
In order to maintain one shred of credibility for this Minister in education issues, for the sake of Yukoners, will he go back to square one, scrap the awards program and expanded testing for now, and sit down with Yukon education partners and plan a comprehensive strategy for education issues to address our needs and inadequacies in that area?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course not. The consultations are ongoing. I met with the teachers of F.H. Collins a week ago Friday. I met with the chairs of the school councils on Tuesday night. On Thursday night, I met with the school council for F.H. Collins. This Thursday night, I will be meeting with other school councils. I have visited all but two schools in the city and three or four outside. Consultation is something that we are not opposed to.
Question re: School councils, liaison
Mr. Cable: I have further questions for the Minister of Education on the same topic, which is the results of the Education Review Committee's studies.
On Thursday, I asked the Minister if the person whom the Education Review Committee was recommending be set up as a liaison person had, in fact, been appointed. The Minister indicated that he would check into it and get back. Has he now had an opportunity to determine if that liaison person, recommended by the Education Review Committee, has been appointed?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sure that the hon. Member opposite would appreciate a package of the material I tabled. Since it will not be circulated until the break, could this be circulated to the Liberal leader?
It is interesting to pursue recommendation number 65 and look at the rationale leading up to it. Nothing in this rationale deals with the issue of an autonomous position. In fact, quoting from the text leading up to the recommendation on the bottom of page 51, left-hand column, it reads, "Many council members were unaware of this contact..." - the existing one at the time - "...and believe that this points to a need for a greater profile for such a position. It is felt by council members that there needs to be more emphasis on the importance of this position. There is strong concern about the lack of a consistent contact person, who can supply advice and provide support to council on the many issues that arise."
We have appointed an individual who has a fairly senior position.
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That person reports to the Superintendent of Schools, and it is in direct response to the rationale leading to recommendation number 65.
Mr. Cable: I would have to think that when this group of reasonably intelligent people use the word "autonomous", they mean exactly that.
Is the Minister saying that the discussions that are now going on relate to whether or not this person will be autonomous, or will they relate to how the position will be set up to be autonomous?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thought I just conveyed to the Member opposite that there was no rationale for an autonomous person contained in the body of the committee report to lead to, and justify, the recommendations. We are quite prepared to meet and talk to the stakeholders about whether or not that person has to be autonomous. I would ask the Member opposite to read fairlythe passage I just read to the House and judge for himself whether or not the obvious complaint is really addressed by what we did. We acted immediately to have a highly placed person in the department liaise with the school council.
Mr. Cable: I would have to think that this group of people would not have used the word unless there was some rationale for it. This group of people had the confidence of the government when it first started out. It heard the various stakeholders, and it used the word "autonomous".
Could the Minister table the job description, so we could judge for ourselves just what is going on in the Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Surely, I can, and I am not suggesting that the advisory body, and that is what they are - advisory - used the word "autonomous" in recommendation number 65(2) without knowing what it meant. What I am suggesting to the Member is that he carefully reads, as I have, the rationale leading up to the recommendations. Nothing in the rationale speaks to the issue of autonomy with regard to the position recommended.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: I am not going to ask the Minister of Education any more questions. We only have 40 minutes in Question Period and we have a few more than just a handful of questions to ask today.
I would like to ask the Minister of Tourism a question. A few weeks ago, some questions were put to the Minister regarding the proposed Beringia Centre, something that he alternately referred to as an interpretive centre and a museum. He did not appear to know precisely what exhibits might justify a public investment of $3 million. Can he tell us specifically what artifacts the government has identified that would be on display?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The displays themselves have not been designed as yet, but of course anything from the Beringia era will be eligible for a display, and we will be talking to various experts in the field. We will be looking at the types of things we already have and then we will be working on putting displays together. As I said earlier, we will now be working with various individuals in working on and designing the types of displays that will go in, but it will include all the Beringia mammals and that kind of thing that existed in that era.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister was kind enough to table a photocopy of a list of Alaskan ice-age mammals and I notice he pencilled in the word "Yukon" to give the list some local flavour - a list that includes everything from gophers to sabre-toothed cats. Will the Beringia Centre have these animals on display, or simply pictures of them?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Members opposite laugh about that, but if they knew more about the Beringia era they might not think it so funny. It is an important part of Yukon's history. It has not been determined yet what kind of displays will be set up. In fact, we have the opportunity nowadays to recreate many of these types of mammals in various types of displays, but we have not yet got to the point where we are designing the actual displays. We announced the concept and are now going to be consulting with various individuals on the types of displays and the best way to display them, along with the artifacts we already have in our possession.
Mr. McDonald: After listening to the Minister, I do not think that I needed the list he provided to demonstrate that the brown lemming was still alive and well and not extinct.
The MacBride Museum's space, which includes the area across the street on First Avenue, is said by the Minister to be too small to locate outside exhibits. Given that this is the rationale for MacBride Museum not getting a Beringia exhibit, can the Minister tell us what outside site exhibits he is referring to?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is an opportunity for future expansion of the building. That could happen down the road. As well, there is an opportunity to display several ice-age mammals - the woolly mammoth, the short-faced bear, the sabre-toothed tiger - and other displays in front of the facility. The problem with the MacBride Museum, and I think everyone who understands MacBride's area knows that it is very limited. It is located on one block. There is already a major parking problem downtown in that area, and there would be very little room in which to include the existing displays that MacBride wants to put forward as well as add a significant Beringia display. There just is not enough room to do both, and I think the Member knows that.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: I do not know what it takes to set up a photo gallery and a few actual exhibits, but I am certain we will get to that in the estimates debate.
A couple of weeks ago, the Minister appeared to be quite adamant that the museum would cover both operating costs and the capital construction costs from the admission charge. He told us that the Department of Tourism would work up estimates that he would bring to the House. Can the Minister tell us what justification he has to claim that the admission charged will pay for the operating costs and the capital costs of the facility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I plan to bring some rough estimates of projected numbers and rough estimates of the costs of the operation of the facility when we get into debate in the House. I will certainly bring the information for the Member then.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister said that facility would not cost more to operate than the existing visitor reception centre, which is between $220,000 to $280,000 annually, and that the admission charge would cover the operating costs.
Based on information that the Minister has provided to us and the expected number of visitors required to cover the operating costs of the facility, the price per ticket would be approximately $9 per person. Could the Minister tell us whether or not he believes this to be a reasonable or justifiable ticket price?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are going to be discussing all of the issues required to run the facility, including the actual ticket price, as the opening date of the exhibit approaches. I consider a ticket price of anywhere from $3 to $8 or $9 to be a reasonable price, but that will depend upon what is being displayed. The facility has to be marketable; we have to be able to sell tickets to get people to go through the facility. It has to be a worthwhile stop for visitors to the Yukon. This is the type of issue we will be determining.
I think there could be a significant display, which will be a major attraction and cause bus companies to spend more time in Whitehorse. If we can increase the number of people who spend time in Whitehorse this will increase their spending while they are here.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister also indicated that the capital costs would be recovered over a period of four to five years. Based on the Minister's estimates of the capital cost of the building, the number of visitors per year and the pay-back period, the price per ticket to cover the capital costs would be $26 per person, in addition to the $9 per person to cover operating expenses, which increases the cost of the ticket to $35 per person. Could the Minister tell us whether or not he believes that to be a respectable or reasonable ticket price. Does the Minister feel that the exhibits alone justify a $35 ticket price?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I agree that $35 is not a reasonable ticket price.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Minister's strategy is that visitors may have to stay a little longer and get a day job in order to pay for the ticket price. I think it is important to get a clearer sense from the Minister about what the operating and capital costs actually are.
I would like to ask the Minister this simple question: given that the reason for the siting of the VRC on the highway was to attract visitors downtown, what is the Minister planning to do to encourage visitors who are otherwise passing through Whitehorse to go downtown to visit the proposed new tourism business centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, we will be informing tourists at other VRCs throughout the territory where the Whitehorse VRC is. There will be proper signage erected at either end of town to direct tourists downtown. We have decided to locate the VRC downtown, partly at the request of the Association of Yukon Communities, the City of Whitehorse, and others who wish to see the VRC downtown. We will also be using the Beringia Centre up the hill, and other facilities. Even the Yukon Transportation Museum tries to direct people downtown now. I am sure that all of the facilities will attempt to do that.
Mr. McDonald: I thought the rationale for a VRC was to tell visitors where all of the other sites are, and not the reverse - that is, to have visitors go to all of the other sites in order to be informed about where the visitor reception centre is. Did the Minister get information from the tourists who visited the VRC in the past year or years that they did not like the location of it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Obviously, the NDP's nose is really out of joint on this one. They created an absolute albatross that everyone in the Yukon hates on top of a hill, and now they are really burned because someone is going to do something useful with the building to accommodate the needs of the people in the City of Whitehorse who wish to see a VRC downtown. We are convinced that, in the long run, having the VRC downtown is the best move, and that is why we are making the move at this time.
Mr. McDonald: I am not entirely certain that the Minister has his facts straight.
In the February 11 edition of the Vancouver Sun, for example, there is a person who reported on her trip to the Yukon with some incredible enthusiasm. She even went so far as to say, "The museums and information centres helped us to discover the historic Klondike and modern attractions. One of the finest information centres in the world is beside the Whitehorse airport." While everybody inside the Yukon hates the visitor reception centre, that opinion does not appear to be shared by at least one traveller.
Did the Minister get from the visitor exit survey or from any people who visited the visitor information centre in Whitehorse - the actual travellers themselves - that they detested this facility and considered it to be an absolute albatross?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Anyone who has had the opportunity to go inside that facility is rather impressed with the films and the displays that are there. I am encouraged to see that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is so proud of that monstrosity on the hill. It is laughable. Inside there are good displays and good films, but the outside is a mess. It was a mistake; it should not have been done that way. The government did not listen to the people when they designed it. People in the Yukon do not like it. We are finally going to make good use of that facility. It is unfortunate that the Member opposite is still so stuck on the beautiful building on top of the hill that no one but him appears to like.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Penikett: Unlike the Minister's project, the building up the hill was designed with a community group and a community committee.
Since my obvious misunderstanding of conservative ideology was that conservative governments would try and have the private sector initiate projects and carry them out and that conservative governments like to support the volunteer sector, can I ask the Minister, in respect to the Beringia project, why, instead of involving the private sector or volunteers, or consulting with people who are already committing many thousands of hours to museums, this Minister decided to go ahead with a government museum rather than a project that involved the existing established interests in the private sector and the volunteer community here?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is not a museum, it is an interpretive centre, first of all. Secondly, I welcome the suggestion from the Member opposite that we should get the private sector involved. We will work on bringing the private sector in there if they wish to participate.
I believe that this facility will enhance the attractions that are in Whitehorse. The visitor exit survey, which just came out the other day, said the number-one reason that people like to spend time here is because of attractions. We are creating another attraction, which will allow people to spend some more time in Whitehorse and thus, it is hoped, spend more money in the City of Whitehorse, not just at that centre, but at MacBride and at other attractions in the city. That is what the tourists are telling us that they would like to see.
Mr. Penikett: I must say the Minister's behaviour on this question would do credit to a Soviet commissar. He seems to want to proceed with a statist or government top-down decision here rather than following the requirements of the museum policy, which, of course, talk about consultation and partnership with the people already involved.
Can the Minister tell us, as a question of fact, why he absolutely refused to consult with, or involve, the museum community or the MacBride Museum community before he made his announcement about his Beringia museum, his government museum?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to remind the Member opposite that his is the party that is more associated with the Soviet commissar-type government. It is his party that likes that - a government running everything. We saw that the last time, from sawmills to whatever.
We feel that the government has a role to play here in displaying Yukon's Beringia era. Obviously, the side opposite does not think that is important. We feel that it will enhance the museums in the territory. I know other museums, such as the Transportation Museum, is supportive of this particular initiative and other people in the museums area...
Speaker: Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Other people in the museum area have spoken out in favour of this. I think it will benefit, in the long run, all the museums within the Whitehorse area.
Mr. Penikett: As we have noted before, whenever this government is in trouble, they invoke the sawmill, which, of course, the Member opposite voted for not once, but twice.
I want to ask the Minister, since he is the Minister responsible for museums and heritage and has a moral obligation to consult with people like MacBride Museum community before making decisions that will have a big impact on them, especially because that is a government policy, is he prepared to formally apologize to the MacBride Museum community for the way in which he has proceeded with the Beringia project over their objection and without giving them a reasonable hearing about their concerns? Is he prepared to apologize to them for that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I am not going to apologize. When we develop the exhibit and work on the future plans for its marketing, we will be involving the MacBride Museum and other attractions in the City of Whitehorse. It is hoped that all the attractions will benefit from the Beringia Interpretive Centre.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
In the budget debate on the Two Mile Hill, it was revealed that the final costs are in excess of $13 million for a project that was to cost $4 million. The Minister gave as his reasons that it was a rushed job, poorly planned and that the department was too busy with the negotiations for the Alaska Highway transfer to dedicate time to this project. We now see that there is going to be another $500,000 spent on the Two Mile Hill for lawns, sprinkler systems and maintenance. I would like to ask the Minister why another half-a-million dollars is going to be spent on this project.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to correct something. The total cost of the Two Mile Hill was $8.8 million. The $5,235,000 for the Alaska Highway applied to work on both sides of the bridge.
It appears that every time we get into this situation, they want to turn everything around just to make themselves a story. The plan called for the landscaping to be brought down into the city. The city requested this, and this is what will be done.
Mrs. Firth: I find it interesting that the city can dictate to YTG how it will spend its money.
The cost I have is what the Minister tabled during budget debate: $13,273,000. That was for the Two Mile Hill, the Alaska Highway, Hamilton Boulevard and Range Road. The whole project was supposed to cost $4 million.
The Minister admitted that mistakes were made. He also admitted that mistakes were made with respect to the weigh scale relocation, which was to cost $400,000 and is now over $1 million. There are so many mistakes ...
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: ... that the department has asked the Auditor General to do a project audit. Why is the Minister spending another $500,000 on a project that was poorly planned and is being reviewed by the Auditor General?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the first place, the Member suggested the city is dictating to the the Yukon government, which is not true. First we are condemned because we do not consult, then we are condemned when we do consult - one cannot win.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It seems that everyone on the other side wants to talk, so perhaps I should sit down and let them talk. They do it all day, anyway.
Mrs. Firth: It would be nice to receive an answer from the Minister.
The South Access Road is in bad need of repair. There is $150,000 in the budget for some paving. This Minister and this government are going to spend $500,000 on sprinkler systems, topsoil and maintenance.
Will the Minister reconsider throwing this $500,000 at this project, until they have the project audit done, and look at redirecting the money to some other area that was not poorly planned or a rush job?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No.
Question re: Road ploughing
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a very serious question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. This Minister is usually very taciturn, but he waxed quite eloquent about the six new tandem trucks they bought, which he told me have a V-plough in front as well as an underplough and can sand at the same time as they are clearing the road. The Minister also said these new trucks can travel 50 or 60 kilometres per hour so they can cover more ground faster. My question for the Minister is this: where were these new wonder dump trucks when I was driving an unploughed road until I reached Carmacks on my way to Dawson City early Friday morning?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will check to find out where each truck was. I have no idea.
Ms. Moorcroft: This is quite serious. I understand the Member for Klondike had to turn around at Laberge and return to Whitehorse because he found the road impassable later that same morning. Where does the Klondike Highway rate for priority on the highway maintenance schedule?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is one of the most important highways we have, as it goes to Skagway.
Ms. Moorcroft: Let me clarify it for the Minister. I was referring to the north Klondike Highway on the way to Dawson.
I met a school bus on the road, and although there was more traffic in the Whitehorse-bound lane of the Klondike Highway, the school bus was driving on an unploughed road as well. I would like to know what happens when there is a heavy snowfall, as there was on Thursday night. Do the operators start work early, on an overtime basis, when there is a large dump of snow to clear and there is going to be morning traffic, especially school bus traffic?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: In the Whitehorse area there is a night shift that works all night.
Question re: Visitor exit survey
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism on the visitor exit survey. I have spoken to some people in the tourism business and they are somewhat concerned that the final results will not be out in time for a marketing plan to be ready for 1996. Could the Minister commit to this House when the final results will be made public and be made available to the tourism industry?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have been told that they expect they can have a final report done by mid-April. I asked them to have it completed in time for the Tourism Industry Association convention, which I believe will be held mid-April.
Mr. Cable: In the preliminary results that the Minister released last week, he indicated there were three sorts of activities high on the list: visiting attractions, visiting museums and guided tours. I know from the question that gambling was mentioned. Where did gambling rank on the list of activities that people wanted to engage in while visiting the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know specifically where gambling ranked, but I can tell the Member that the gambling issue, along with many other issues - the information provided highlights of the visitor exit survey that we could use in general terms - are more regional in nature and gambling certainly is one, because there is only one region in the territory where people can gamble at the present time.
I expect to have that kind of information by April 15, which will provide us with the full details about the question of gambling.
Mr. Cable: Gambling is mentioned in two places: one is in the general visitor exit survey that surveyed what people did while they were in the Yukon and another is the household supplement. In this survey, the government asks people where they want to go and what kinds of things they would want to do. Is the Minister saying that the preliminary work has not been done? It was obviously done on the first three, which were ranked. These three items indicated where people went when they visited the Yukon.
Can the Minister not table in this House the results of both of those elements of the visitor exit survey prior to April?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have been waiting since 1987 for this survey to be completed. It will be completed in about six weeks - mid-April. I think we can wait until the middle of April to receive all of the statistics. There is much information that has not been included into the survey yet, such as the diaries that were sent out. This information cannot be gathered as easily as the other information, which we will plug in to it, and this information will change the numbers in a small way.
The highlights and the general areas are what has been focused upon. We will have the rest of the information by mid-April. If I ask them to work on retrieving information Members request, it means they stop compiling the information we want by mid-April, which will further delay that information. If the Members wish me to do so, fine, but I think the industry wants the total information as soon as possible, and that is what the Bureau of Statistics is trying to do at this time.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
Mr. Harding: I have for tabling various comments from the Legislature made by the Minister of Education regarding the Yukon Excellence Awards program, as well as the expanded testing initiatives he is undertaking.
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.
Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 4. We are on Community and Transportation Services, municipal and community affairs division, recreation facilities.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
On Capital - continued
On Recreation Facilities - continued
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to table some more on solid-waste management at 9 Mile, Faro industrial lots, Whitehorse gravel inventory, Two Mile Hill construction, additional catch basin, Kluane Park Road, VST Klondike Highway, Klondike Highway width, landscaping for the Two Mile Hill at $200,000; legal survey from the Alaska Highway to Fourth Avenue, $70,000; landscaping Industrial Road and water system, $60,000; grass, top soil and hydroseed, $15,000; grass with top soil, $26,000; miscellaneous, demobilization, traffic control, et cetera, $4,000; internal charges, $5,000; contingency, $20,000. The total is $200,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the Minister for the information he has provided, which does not relate to this line item, so we will be dealing with it later.
I have another question on the recreation facilities line. Over the weekend, I was able to attend a portion of the recreation conference that was held in Dawson City. There were people there from different communities in the Yukon who were talking about productive ways to get youth and adults involved in recreation. Carcross recently opened a youth centre - in part because of the support of their diligent MLA, I am sure. I would like to know if the government intends to support any other capital projects of this sort in the coming year. In Dawson City, there is now a very active group that is getting a youth centre going on its own. Does the government intend to support that in any way?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The municipalities have to look after their own groups in this area. They can apply for funding from Lotteries Yukon, but they will not be getting extra money from us.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are there any specific projects in mind for the recreation facilities funding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, but it is for unorganized communities. In 1995-96 the work to be done is as follows: swimming pool repairs in Pelly Crossing, $10,000, in Carcross, $10,000, and in Beaver Creek, $10,000; community centre repairs in Carcross, $10,000, in Beaver Creek, $10,000, in Destruction Bay, $5,000 and in Ross River, $20,000. There is another $50,000 for Ross River to repair the roof and address the condensation problem that has been experienced in the arena due to the lack of insulation in the roof.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Community Planning
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The community planning budget of $205,000 consists of funding for various projects for new area community plans, area development regulations, and funding for area planning committees in Carcross and Ross River, and to complete and control the photographic program for the greater Whitehorse area, in conjunction with local area planning exercises.
The 1995-96 projects are the Carcross area plan, $75,000; Klondike Valley area plan 2, $75,000; photographic and mapping, $35,000; Carcross area planning committee, $10,000; Ross River Development Society, $10,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: How does the department intend to be involved in the Klondike Valley area development scheme?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is the area from Callison to Rock Creek.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is the department then going to write the area development scheme with some consultation with the local residents? What is the plan?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There will be a committee set up in the area. We will consult with it. If it wants public meetings, we will have them.
Ms. Moorcroft: Last week I was asking the Minister if he could provide a copy of the Golden Horn plan that was done last year. Has the Minister been able to determine if that plan has been completed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We checked into it. The plan has been written, but apparently the people did not appear to want it at that time. We are checking again to see if they want it or if they want to see some changes. They have not wanted us to go beyond starting it, so it is just sitting now.
Ms. Moorcroft: Could I ask the Minister if he could provide me with a copy of the document that was prepared as a result of the expenditures in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are searching the file now and will get what information we find to the Member.
Community Planning in the amount of $205,000 agreed to
On Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Canada/Yukon infrastructure program budget of $2,578,000 is being used to renew and enhance the Yukon's physical infrastructure in communities. This program is undertaken in partnership with the Government of Canada and local organizations. In 1995-96, $1,289,000 will be recovered from the Government of Canada.
Ms. Moorcroft: Is this the infrastructure program that has already approved projects like the boardwalk at Carmacks, and is this just the funding for next year's projects that have not yet been approved? The Minister does not have any information on what projects this will involve, does he?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, that is correct. This is the infrastructure one. We have not yet completed the applications for this year. They are coming in now. I believe we have a list for last year. It was given out some time ago.
Ms. Moorcroft: It seems to be a list that is growing daily. I heard something on the 12:30 news about a project proposal from Haines Junction as well. I will ask the Minister if he knows how many projects will be funded in total and how many applications they have to date.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I wonder if the Member is getting mixed up with the anniversary proposal from Haines Junction. No? I will find out how many applications are in, then.
Mr. Joe: Could the Minister tell me how many applications are being received from the communities under the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, there is one application being received from the Pelly area for beautification of a park. I believe I saw a letter today on that topic, which has now been turned over to the program. I understand that the application is being submitted.
Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program in the amount of $2,578,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Before I move on, I would like to advise Members that we have now received 24 applications for the infrastructure program.
In the area of office furniture, equipment and systems, there is a budget of $7,000. This includes project management software, $1,000, and a photocopier for $6,000.
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The planning and pre-engineering budget of $290,000 consists of two major projects: project planning assessment, water and sewer in the amount of $125,000 to provide engineering and development with funding to carry out required work of a small scale and emergency nature; project management in the amount of $125,000 to cover the costs of administration and staff incentives; and other projects, such as planning various sites, in the amount of $40,000.
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of $290,000 agreed to
On Water Supply, Treatment and Storage
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The water supply, treatment and storage budget of $100,000 is for the purchase of a water truck to continue the existing water delivery for the service in Carcross.
Ms. Moorcroft: What standard is applied to water that is delivered to households for human consumption?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The Canadian Drinking Water Regulations set out the acceptable amount of minerals et cetera the water should have in it when it is tested.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am aware that environmental health falls under the Government of Canada, and am mindful of the Yukon Party's stated priority to have Yukon control of resources. Can I ask what work is being done to ensure that testing and maintenance of the water standards are applied to water delivery?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The water comes mainly from the community pumps in the villages and unincorporated areas. Our staff checks the water every so often.
Water Supply, Treatment and Storage in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The funding of $2,075,000 is for the sewer main replacement in Dawson, a 1995-96 contribution of $1,925,000 for replacement of sewer pipes; the balance of $150,000 is to make improvements or repairs to the water and sewer system in various unincorporated communities.
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of $2,075,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The budget of $8,010,000 consists mainly of two projects: $7 million to cost share the sewage treatment in Whitehorse in 1995-96 - our contribution toward modification to the sewage treatment facility and sewage treatment facility; and $700,000 for the first stage of design and construction of a sewage treatment facility in Carcross; and a wetlands sewage treatment system in Ross River, for $250,000, for the beginning of construction of a facility; $10,000 for sewage improvements in Beaver Creek; $50,000 to upgrade sewage pit and for sewage pit relocation in Pelly for siting design and construction of a new sewage facility.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to ask the Minister what happened to a couple of projects that were mentioned earlier for Marsh Lake and for Burwash. Are they covered under O&M or not?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Those were studies. They were in the 1994-95 budget.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am aware that they were studies in the 1994-95 budget. What I am asking is this: will there be improvements in the 1995-96 budget? What happened to the projected improvements that were supposed to be coming from the studies?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are waiting for the studies to be done, so that we know what is required. That will be toward the end of the year, so there is no money in this budget for it.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $8,010,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Solid waste projects in 1995-96 are these: garbage dump expansion in Old Crow, $25,000, to relocate garbage dump facilities; miscellaneous garbage dump improvements, $70,000, for site improvement and construction in various locations; and solid waste disposal - Mount Lorne, $60,000, for design and construction of a new facility on an existing site.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am looking at the solid waste management proposal for the Mile 9 dump, which the Minister provided me with. That includes an outline of the reconstruction of the Mile 9 dump, with a dump in the upper level and a clean-out in a lower level. It talks about a pit facility with a concrete box and a screened roof. There is also a provision to take burned waste to the Marsh Lake landfill three or four times a year and bury it, and a recycling depot. Can I ask the Minister whether the government is considering this kind of reconstruction for other dumps around the territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This is the first one we have done this way. If it is successful, we will look at possibly doing this in other areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: I noticed the department is looking at facilities in other jurisdictions and will finalize the design with the hamlet council. The drawing shows a gate. Is a gate planned for this solid-waste management site?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That would mainly be up to the residents in the area. If they wanted a gate there, it would be up to them. It would be a matter of who would control the gate and keep it locked and such things as that.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have to raise a concern about moving the garbage from one dump to another. I have heard concerns expressed by Marsh Lake residents about the scattering of materials and wind-blown debris in the Marsh Lake dump, and that there is too much garbage going there.
Are there any plans to improve the dump in Pelly, or Tagish, or Marsh Lake, or in other areas where the same kinds of concerns have been raised?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not at the present time; however, if this works out, it may be used in other areas.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have had some debate during general debate about the improvement of solid-waste management. We talked about the Quigley dump and the need for a gate there to monitor the use of the dump and prevent really hazardous materials from being dumped where there could be harm to the water table.
Is the Minister willing to consider the idea of a gate at other dumps around the territory?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I know some of the municipalities have them. For these areas, it would depend upon the citizens there. We cannot keep someone at the dump for eight or 10 hours a day. It would be too expensive to even consider.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think the Minister should recognize that it is too expensive to allow people to dispose of hazardous materials with no governing of what goes into the landfill sites. That is how we end up with polluted waterways and a polluted earth. I think the Minister should lobby his colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, to get the solid-waste discussion paper out and to listen to concerns of Yukoners. We certainly have heard some well-expressed concerns about the proliferation of hazardous materials being dumped in unsuitable areas.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take that under advisement.
Mr. Joe: I would like to know where the federal government comes in with regard to the leaks from mining camps and forestry. There is quite a mess produced at the fire lines, as well, where barrels upon barrels have been left, which are leaking.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Actually, that is still under federal jurisdiction. We still do not have control over that. Most of the mines have incinerators. Again, they are under federal control.
Solid Waste in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
On Flood/Erosion Control
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Flood control projects in 1995-95 are miscellaneous flood and erosion control in the amount of $35,000. They are for the periodic replacement of rip-rap, corrections of settlements and so on.
Riverbank erosion protection will be provided for Old Crow in the amount of $75,000 to provide riverbank stabilization protection of the Porcupine River and dike extension.
There will be $40,000 spent in Mayo for the additional fill to provide the required flood protection.
Flood/Erosion Control in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Community Facilities Improvements
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Funding of $200,000 will be provided for small but essential community improvements to community facilities in the transition from the community development fund in 1995-96.
Community Facilities Improvements in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets
Hon. Mr. Brewster: A budget of $50,000 will provide the engineering development branch with funding to carry out required work of a small scale and an emergency nature.
Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Road/Streets Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Projects in 1995-96 include the following: road upgrading in Ross River, $130,000, for construction of drainage improvement and road upgrading and street upgrading; Beaver Creek, $175,000, for upgrade of all of the local streets in the community, with emphasis on solving existing drainage problems; road and street improvements, in the amount of $60,000, to investigate problems and make miscellaneous improvements to various roads in unincorporated communities.
Road/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $365,000 agreed to
On Quarry Development
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Quarry developments consist of land claims quarry identification, $50,000, to do field testing work on identified quarry sites in affected land claim areas; quarry site analysis and development, $60,000; site identification and development of potential quarries for commercial and public use and to carry on quarry rehabilitation, $50,000 on quarry sites.
Quarry Development in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Industrial development consists of Carmacks stage 3, $50,000; creation of approximately 10 to 12 surveyed heavy-industrial lots; Dawson-Callison stage 3, $50,000 to develop eight lots; Teslin, $30,000, and Watson Lake, $50,000, to develop an industrial subdivision; Whitehorse Industrial Area, $100,000, as demand warrants more lots. For territorial-wide airport lots there will be $50,000 for development of airport-related lease parcels on an as-required basis.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am sorry I missed a couple of the communities. Could the Minister just give me that list one more time, please?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Development consists of Carmacks stage 3, $50,000; creation of approximately 10 to 12 surveyed heavy-industrial lots; Dawson-Callison stage 3, $50,000 to develop eight lots; Teslin, $30,000, and Watson Lake, $50,000, to develop an industrial subdivision; Whitehorse industrial lots, $100,000, as demand warrants more lots. Territorial-wide airport lots - $50,000 for development of airport-related lease parcels on an as-required basis.
Ms. Moorcroft: Where does the government plan to put the additional industrial lots in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We were thinking maybe in the MacRae area, but we will have to have agreement with Whitehorse as to exactly where they want them.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the Minister is thinking about putting those additional industrial lots in the MacRae area, then he should also think again about his plan according to the legislative return we got this morning, to put off a study of the traffic volumes in the MacRae area until the summertime, in order to get peak volume.
I was looking at the Whitehorse corridor transportation study that was completed, I think, in 1990, and it indicated that the MacRae area should be in the stage-1 schedule for lighting. There are still no lights there, whereas there are lights in the other areas that were indicated for stage-1 lighting.
Is the Minister prepared to commit to installing lighting prior to the further development of industrial lots in that area?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We are definitely considering that and we will undertake a study, which would probably be in conjunction with any further lots being developed in the area.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am not sure why the government wants to spend more money duplicating a study that has already been completed. Does the government not accept the recommendations that were made in the initial study?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The last study was completed in 1990 and was very preliminary, but as we have said - I believe this is the fourth or fifth time now - we will definitely be looking at it this spring.
Industrial in the amount of $330,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The budget of $250,000 is to undertake pilot projects on cottage lot land in the areas of Haines Junction and Teslin.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister know how many lots this consists of?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we do not have a specific number at this time.
Recreational in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Agricultural development of $560,000 is undertaken through the leadership of the Department of Renewable Resources agriculture program and consists mainly of two projects: Mount Lorne, $260,000, for development of two agricultural parcels along the Carcross Road, and $250,000 to provide agricultural land in planned subdivisions throughout the territory over the next four years as an alternative to individual site selection. The balance of $50,000 is for the development of soil-based agricultural parcels at Flat Creek.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister support individual site selection as a process for identifying land for development and then proceeding with that application?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This money is basically for block land agriculture, not for specific sites. In and around the Whitehorse area, we would be very careful not to have specific-site agricultural land.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister mentioned two agricultural parcels along the Carcross Road. I would like to ask him where those are, what size they are and whether they are identified in the hamlet local area plan.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We do not have the exact location but they are identified in the Mount Lorne plan. We consulted with the community about them.
Ms. Moorcroft: How big are they?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We do not know for sure, but generally there are 160 acres to a lot.
Agricultural in the amount of $560,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Five major residential projects for 1995-96 are as follows: hamlet in Area D, Copper Ridge, $5,650,000, for completion of 210 lots in phase 1 and underground servicing of approximately 200 phase-2 lots; Cowley Creek, phase 2, $900,000 for development of 43 lots; Carcross/Watson Lake subdivision, $350,000, to complete a country residential subdivision; Carmacks urban, $460,000, for development of serviced residential properties; Whitehorse north, Hot Springs Road, rural, $450,000 to develop 18 to 25 properties.
Other 1995-96 projects are these: Mount Lorne, rural, $160,000; Teslin airport urban, $120,000; Watson Lake stage 1, country, $40,000; Hamilton/Logan subdivision, $100,000; and Porter Creek, lower bench, $80,000.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am just looking at the list with the number of lots scheduled for completion for the Yukon government in 1995, which the Minister provided. Does the government anticipate that the Carcross country residential lots are going to go ahead for this summer?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, we do.
Ms. Moorcroft: So, the community is on side supporting how the government is going about doing that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, and a number of residents have been working over this winter doing surveying and grubbing out for the roads.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can I ask the Minister how the devolution of Yukon land is proceeding?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If the Member is referring to the devolution of land from the federal government, that would not be in our department at the present time.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have asked the Minister before about the Mount Lorne lots, and he indicated that the hamlet plan would go to Cabinet before these lots were developed. The lots are scheduled for completion in the fall of 1995. Does the Minister know when he might be taking those regulations to Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would hope to do so this week.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me where the 18 to 25 properties are going to be developed on the Mayo Road, which are referred to as Whitehorse north development? Does the Minister know what kilometre that is on the Mayo Road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe the Member means the Hot Springs Road. That would be under the Pilot Mountain expansion.
Ms. Moorcroft: So, there is no planned development for the Mayo Road, and the 15 lots would be on the Hot Springs Road as an expansion of Pilot Mountain. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is correct.
Ms. Moorcroft: I notice that country residential development of Stevens for 32 lots is shown as being in the works for the summer of 1995. Is it the plan to proceed with the development of residential lots there and solve the problem of whether or not the gravel quarry is developed later?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We hope to do that some time during the summer, but so far the city has not agreed with us.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe the Minister is on record about this, but I want to confirm that his position is that the country residential lot development will proceed, but the gravel quarry will not. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is in a letter the Hon. Mickey Fisher wrote, and I back it up solidly.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister support the rural electrification program?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, I certainly do.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am interested in how the government would support making land available to Yukoners to meet a variety of needs. Does the Minister support the principle of people putting in their own roads, doing their own survey and bearing the development cost on the land themselves, in order to make the land more affordable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That depends on how it starts out. If it is just one or two people, I do not think the government should be responsible for the roads. If we decide to survey an area and put in lots, who looks after the roads depends on what the agreement is when the property is sold.
Ms. Moorcroft: How will the government work with First Nations to ensure that land made available to Yukoners is not incompatible with the land claims agreements? We have a list of lots of several different kinds of land ownership in several different communities. There will have to be some effective communication with First Nations to ensure there are no disasters.
How is the government going to work with the First Nations on making land available to Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I intend to keep doing as we have always tried to do: consult with the First Nations to see if there are any objections and, if there are, try to compromise. I have asked everyone in my department to be very sure to consult with First Nations before any decisions are made and before the department begins a survey in any area.
Ms. Moorcroft: In future, will the Minister make sure that First Nations actually receive the letters that have been reportedly sent to them, and develop a response to them prior to proceeding with land development?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not think that I have to personally get into every one. That is what the department is for. I have full confidence in the deputy minister that they will carry out the instructions to consult.
Residential in the amount of $8,310,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Office furniture, equipment, systems and space have a budget of $10,000 for the acquisition of computing of office equipment.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Central Services - Recoverable
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is $40,000 to provide for various recoverable legal surveys and land acquisition in the amount of $100,000 for the purchase of private property where required.
Central Services - Recoverable in the amount of $190,000 agreed to
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Rural electrification and telephone has a budget of $150,000 to assist rural property owners with the installation of power and telephone. The expenditures are 100 percent recoverable, amortized over 10 years.
Ms. Moorcroft: I believe this line item was oversubscribed in the previous year. I am wondering why there is quite a large reduction in the projection of how many people will be taking advantage of the rural electrification program in the coming year.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We usually put in $150,000. It is very hard to tell when private individuals and groups will come along. If we have to have more money, we will go back to Management Board to get it. It is very hard to tell how many organizations and people are going to ask for that. The applications come in all through the year.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the program is oversubscribed again in the coming year, will the department just come forward with a supplementary estimate to add in the amount required to cover it?
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This $40,000 expenditure is for various non-recoverable legal surveys to conduct legal property surveys as required. There is $15,000 for clean-up and site restoration resulting from unauthorized land activities.
Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $25,003,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services capital expenditures in the amount of $75,896,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Economic Development
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Whenever I read the newspaper or listen to the evening news, I am reminded how fortunate I am to live in the Yukon Territory. Our economy may have taken a few hard knocks over the past few years, but compared to some parts of Canada, we seem to be pretty well off. Many indicators tell us that we are well on our way toward economic recovery. In fact, forecasts from the mining industry indicate that we are approaching a period of significant growth. Coupled with the enormous potential of other resource sectors, such as oil, gas and forestry, the Yukon's economic future looks very bright.
I should hasten to note for the benefit of the Members of the Opposition that I do not intend to stand here and take all of the credit for our promising economic future. In truth, resource industries are more affected by world markets than any action that can be taken by our government. We also fully realize that the private sector is the real engine of economic growth, and that the challenge for government is not to create a strong economy, but it is to create a positive environment for business investment.
How does our government plan to meet this challenge? As we focus on the future and consider the Yukon's potential, we envision a productive, competitive and resilient economy that is based on our natural advantages and strengths. What are those advantages and strengths? Clearly, our greatest advantage is the land we live in, with its great wealth of mineral, forestry and energy resources. We also have the advantage of a beautiful, natural landscape that attracts tourists from around the world. In addition to these advantages, we also have our greatest strength - the people of the Yukon. We have a skilled and industrious workforce.
Our government's task in economic development is, firstly, to ensure that industry has access to the responsible use of the wealth of natural resources, and, secondly, to ensure the benefits from that access accrue to the people of Yukon. As simple as it seems, this is the essence of our government's economic development strategy. Our future prosperity will depend on our successful management of our resource-based economy. We believe that the government's primary role is to make opportunities for the private sector possible, and we believe that the government must also ensure that Yukoners benefit from resource development.
I also want to say that I believe that Yukoners are capable of realizing this vision. We can take measurable steps toward increased self-reliance. We can face the challenges presented by anticipated future cuts in federal funding. We can take control of our mineral, forestry and energy resources, and provide economically prudent and environmentally sustainable management of these resources. We can further improve our road and electricity infrastructure to support industry growth, and we can forge strong partnerships between government and industry to ensure a positive investment climate and benefit to Yukoners.
We are faced with significant challenges to the management of our economy - challenges that bring many opportunities. With the passing of the umbrella final agreement and our First Nations' settlement agreements, we are entering a new level of partnership with First Nations for economic development. Given the state of federal resource management legislation as it relates to the environment, forestry and mining, we are responding aggressively to see clear and positive changes to ensure that our economy and the environment are managed in modern terms in the interest of all Yukoners.
Responses to these challenges will lead us into a new way of doing business in the Yukon and a new form of collaboration with each other.
I am pleased to inform the Legislature that, based on these beliefs, the Department of Economic Development has recently embarked on a strategic business-planning process, which will lead to the preparation of an action plan, which will clearly state the steps government will take to develop the mineral, forestry, energy sectors and small business.
I should note at this point that some Members of the Opposition may be disappointed that I did not cite the former administration's management of the economy. Suffice to say that our government takes a different philosophical perspective on economic development from the previous administration.
Economic planning has not moved ahead as fast as our government would have liked. We focused our efforts on the important. We have pursued the finalization of land claims. We responded to the downturn in the mining industry. We got ready to refocus our approach to the economy in these lights.
The temporary closure of the Faro mine and the resulting general downturn in the Yukon economy became our focus of attention during our first year in government. We also experienced difficulties in other resource sectors, such as the delays in negotiating the transfer of forest resources from the federal government.
Despite these external problems, our government has been able to introduce a number of economic policy initiatives that have laid a firm foundation for the strategic planning process.
In support of the resource industry, our government introduced the energy infrastructure loans for resource development program and the Yukon industrial support policy. Both of these initiatives were designed to reduce the high cost of infrastructure associated with resource development.
More recently, we signed the Whitehorse mining initiative, along with the federal government and other provincial governments. This initiative promises to poise the mining industry to face the 21st century in partnership with First Nations, the environment and others and will be the focus of our mining strategy and our business planning exercise.
While I am noting our accomplishments in the mining sector, I would also like to point out how our willingness to let the market work, instead of interfering with it with massive subsidy, opened the way for a financially independent and healthy Anvil Range Mining company to acquire the assets and reopen the Faro mine.
In support of the mine workers, we were active participants in the Curragh creditor negotiations and court processes, and we are currently taking court action against Curragh's board of directors to recover lost wages for former employees of the mine.
In the energy sector, our government introduced a non-utility generation strategy that sets the stage for private sector investment in electricity generation infrastructure. We also amended the mandate of the Yukon Development Corporation to ensure that Yukon Energy Corporation profits were only used for system investment or rate relief. This led to the introduction of our current rate relief initiative for residential and commercial customers, which was implemented to offset the 30-percent rate increase approved by the Yukon Utilities Board in 1993.
In the oil and gas sector, progress has been ongoing on legislation that will govern the development of oil and gas resources in the Yukon. We expect the transfer to happen during the 1995-96 fiscal year, and we are working with industry to increase Yukon's profile for future oil and gas exploration and development.
In the forestry sector, we continue to pursue negotiations with the federal government to establish a new forestry management regime and plan for the devolution of forest resources to Yukon. Although these negotiations have not progressed as quickly as we would have liked, we have now made a firm decision to move ahead on forestry management planning, regardless of the state of devolution negotiations. Too much of our forest is being given away; too little regard for the environment is being considered in the process.
In short, we have focused on pressing economic issues in resource development and are now prepared to bring these broader challenges into a more comprehensive planning initiative.
How will we do this? In the process currently being undertaken by my departments, staff have adopted a team approach in the review of each economic sector. Earlier this month, government staff with knowledge of different aspects of the energy sector formed a planning team to draft an energy action plan for government. This plan will build upon existing oil and gas and electricity initiatives introduced by our government, and will provide direction on a broader range of energy issues in the electricity, oil and gas, heat-energy and energy-conservation sectors. The planning process will include consultation with the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, as well as focused consultation with stakeholders and interest groups.
My department will follow a similar planning approach in each economic resource sector. In the mining sector, the strategic plan will clearly determine government's role in providing infrastructure and financial support for new mining development and in implementing the Whitehorse mining initiative. It will also specify the types of services and programs that will be offered to the mining community through the department. Finally, the strategy will note specific measures that can be taken by government to streamline the permitting and regulatory processes for mining development.
In the forestry sector, the strategic plan will set a Yukon agenda for the management of our forests and will give direction in the development of a forestry management regime. We cannot ignore the loss of economic opportunity that we are now seeing from the forest. We need to consider the ways that we can work with industry to have a healthy forest industry in the Yukon.
In addition to planning in these three key resource sectors, my department will be conducting a full review of how our government can most effectively support development in the small business sector. We are currently undertaking some of the most in-depth economic research ever undertaken in the Yukon, with the evaluation of the Canada/Yukon economic development agreement and the business development fund. Here we ask these basic questions: what works, what does not and why? We are doing these with the public, as the public has been involved in key stakeholder interviews. I am looking forward to the results and sharing those results with this House.
During planning sessions held to date, one of the dominant themes that has emerged is the need for government to form constructive working partnerships with First Nations governments, private sector companies, business and industry associations and municipalities. The success of our work will entirely depend on our ability to build good working relationships outside of government.
I want to know what each of these sectors needs from government to operate more effectively, more efficiently and more profitably. I should note that this is particularly the case with First Nations.
With the implementation of the lands claims agreement, Yukon First Nations will have both the land base and financial resources to significantly affect economic development in their traditional territories and throughout the Yukon. First Nation investment in the development of new First Nation-owned businesses will benefit all Yukoners.
We are going to work closely with the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. We will ask the council to work closely with us in our process to share its insights from its sectoral conferences in mining energy and other areas it seeks to explore.
We will ask the council to review the 1988 Yukon Economic Strategy to determine whether there are recommendations from that review that have not yet been acted upon and that are still relevant today.
I have spoken about our government's vision for economic development in the Yukon and I have talked about the planning process that is currently underway. I have also stated that it is my government's intention to ensure that Yukoners benefit from the initiatives we undertake.
I think it would be fair to say that we are not the first government to have made a statement like this. I seem to recall the former administration making similar commitments during its Yukon 2000 process, and of course it would be the first to say that it delivered on those commitments, and we would be the first to say that it may have fallen a little short on a few of them.
Yukoners will never know for sure, because the former administration was hesitant to set benchmarks by which the public could measure their progress. We plan to pursue such benchmarks.
As part of our strategic planning process we will set specific targets for each economic initiative by which our performance can be measured on an annual basis. If we do not measure up, we will expect to be held accountable by the people of the Yukon.
I am going to set a performance benchmark for my department in this Legislature today. My department will release its completed strategic plan and business plan to the Members of the Legislature and the people of the Yukon early in the new fiscal year. If the department fails to meet this deadline, the entire planning team will be made to sit through Question Period for the rest of the session.
It would be fair to say that what every Yukoner wants for themselves, their families and their communities is a fair chance to enjoy economic prosperity. Prosperity will not cure all society's problems, but it certainly helps. I believe what people want most from government is the knowledge that it is taking measureable steps to support growth and prosperity.
In closing, I want to say again that I believe the Yukon has a great abundance of economic opportunities that will lead to long-term prosperity for the people of the Yukon. We are the stewards of a vast wealth of mineral, forest and energy resources. I believe the quality of these resources and the industry of our people will make us competitive in world markets.
Strong development in each of these resource sectors will also drive growth in other industries, including agriculture, supply and services, construction and transportation. Growth in these industries will, in turn, provide opportunities in other businesses ranging from commercial enterprises to our vibrant cultural industries.
All this growth and development will depend upon government's ability to gain control of our resources and provide sustainable access to private sector investors capable of developing these resources in a way that is beneficial to the Yukon.
As we look forward to the end of the decade and the beginning of a new century, our government envisions a mining industry that includes operations at Faro, Elsa, Braeburn, Carmacks, Minto, Dawson and Finlayson Lake. We see a forest industry that includes timber, milling and chipping operations to provide logs, lumber and heating fuel for domestic and export markets.
We see an oil and gas industry that includes new exploration development, and perhaps even transmission. We also see an electrical system that includes new coal- or hydro-generation plants supplying power through our expanded grid system to communities and industrial customers in Yukon.
We are in the business of making things possible. I tell you that all of this is possible, and our message to the private sector is simply this: "We will back you all the way; just do it."
Mr. McDonald: I am impressed by the Minister's remarks for a couple of different, and seemingly contradictory, reasons, and I will explain what I have to say on that score over the next few minutes.
As I listened to the Minister's remarks, I could not help feeling, when he first started speaking, that a public servant had written the speech, because it made attempts to cover all the appropriate bases about land claims and about care for the environment and about the need to ensure that economic sectors besides mining, forestry and tourism were respected.
I was impressed that the Minister would talk about the need to support small business. He spoke about the regulatory review. He spoke about consultation, and emphasized consultation. He emphasized respect for the umbrella final agreement with First Nations, and he focused on a need to take a strategic planning approach to economic development.
Obviously, the person who drafted the speech has taken notice of not only the most severe criticisms the government has faced in the last couple of years, but has also taken note of the many positive and constructive suggestions that have been ignored by the government up to this point, coming from Opposition benches.
So, it was an attempt to cover all the bases and to avoid as much criticism as possible, presumably.
When he made the remark that he did not want to mention the previous administration because he was now taking a different approach, I at first thought he was referring to the first two years of the Yukon Party administration.
I recall in the discussions in this Legislature over a variety of different documents and different economic strategies that seemed to get air play from time to time that we spent some time analyzing the four-year plan. We talked about the document, Toward Self-sufficiency by the 21st Century. We talked about the resource infrastructure initiative. We have spoken about the Yukon industrial support policy, to name just a few of the economic statements that the government has made over the last couple of years.
Now, the government has indicated that it wants to, essentially, start again. It is going to engage in a strategic planning process, which is going to report early in the new fiscal year. It will develop an action plan, focus on consultation, and have everything from what it calls key stakeholder interviews to encourage reviews to be done by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
The Minister will excuse my skepticism on this point, because the government's record, frankly, has been abysmal, and I have not made a secret of my feelings on that score. I received, only this summer, some updates on the government's economic strategy to find that it was singing the same old tune in the same old way.
With respect to infrastructure-driven investment, there was no pretension about who wanted to distance themselves from many of their earlier economic statements, which talked about anything from gas pipelines to Watson Lake to railroads to Carmacks.
Clearly, we have had some disagreements in terms of not only substance, but also approach.
The Minister did mention that they wanted to set a course that differed from that which had been established by the NDP. They said that they were going to set their own benchmarks, where the NDP had failed to do so. I will challenge him on that statement and ask him to justify it.
First of all, I think we have a fairly clear sense of what many of the benchmarks are for the Yukon Party. They are very simple and direct. If there is no railway to Carmacks, we will know that they have failed in at least one area. If there are not a certain number of mines begun, they have failed, according to their own benchmarks.
This is a slippery government, in the sense that one is never quite certain where they stand on any particular day. At times, they will want to talk about wanting to create a climate for investment. This essentially means that they do not have to establish a single benchmark, as long as they are making the right statements and ultimately talking about keeping the Yukon open for business.
They try to suggest, from time to time, that if they simply talk about a territory that is open for business, somehow it will happen - if it does not happen, that is okay, because they have talked about it. I am increasingly puzzled about where this government and this department are really going. Over the course of the last two years, the government has given virtually no work to the Department of Economic Development. It has given the department no responsibilities. It has undercut every initiative that the department has undertaken, even, and including, the most simple, basic economic analyses that were once a feature of the department's work.
On the other hand, it has taken many contradictory positions on a whole series of projects and endeavours, such as the whole discussion about loans and grants, and the role of government in the economy.
On October 26, the Minister said that if we cannot be helpful to business, we should stay the hell out of their way. He says that if they cannot reduce red tape and if they cannot streamline regulations, then they are not doing their jobs.
Did we hear about regulations in the throne speech? Did we hear about any initiatives in the budget speech to promote streamlining of regulations? No, we did not. We hear about it in the Minister's remarks when we got into department estimates. I get the impression that what we have is a convert to the idea of the need for the reduction of regulations, and not one who was sold on the idea from the beginning.
The government has indicated on many occasions that it does not believe that it has any role to play in providing anything more than just infrastructure.
They say they should stay out of loans and grants, yet they promote programs that provide loans and grants and they initiate the biggest grant program in Yukon history. The Government Leader indicates that he personally would never agree to loans and grants, yet he is one of the few in this territorial Legislature who has ever, to my knowledge, applied for and received a grant for his business.
We are continually puzzled by the government's rhetoric and its action. The government's line - probably a well-worn line in some provinces - is that it simply wants to let the market work, and that it is going to do everything it can to foster a climate for investment.
We heard in the Finance estimates that the Government Leader is going to do his darnedest to ensure that the Yukon government receives a new economic development agreement, if at all possible, which is all about loans and grants, and if there ever is any other federal program that should come along that involves providing loans or grants to business, he is going to do his utmost to secure the maximum amount of funding for that purpose.
When it comes time to actually analyze programs and actions of substance that the government has undertaken to date - in mining, for example - we see a reiteration of support for old programs, with the exception of the creation of the position of mining facilitator, and the government's desire to support the Cordilleran Roundup through the involvement of a number of Ministers, if they can handle it.
We do not, however, see a lot that is new. When we want to talk turkey about the industrial support policy, we are, unfortunately, left with this gnawing concern that there are no rules, and that it is open season for industry to make application to the government, and the government will provide whatever financial support it can through, as the Minister has described it, grant programs. When it comes to supporting infrastructure for electricity, we still do not know whether or not ratepayers or taxpayers will pay; we still do not know the criteria by which the mining facilitator considers the requests put forward by industry; and we are still unaware of how the government measures public benefit for public expenditure. In essence, we are left very much in the dark. The only excuse the government has given for its actions is that it has good intentions, and that we are not to worry, because the Members in the Opposition will test any agreements that may be struck to determine whether or not they are just or appropriate - providing, of course, that the Legislature is sitting.
I have a lot of questions about the industrial support policy. Given that now is the time to discuss it, I am sure that we will be spending a few days on it. I have a lot of questions about the government's philosophical position, and what it is prepared to do to bring its programming into line with that philosophical position.
I can tell the Minister up front that there are elements of his philosophical and ideological position with which I quite aggressively disagree. I do not support some of the ideological tenets that they hold. I think it is bad for the economy, bad for the Yukon and will leave us in the position of a third-world situation if it is pursued over the course of the next 10 years, unlike any other jurisdiction in this country.
I disagree with the Minister, but I want to first of all determine whether or not he has thought his way through the ideological maze and whether or not they are living up to the philosophy they have espoused. I have questions about that and the document, Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century, contained in the Yukon Party's four-year plan.
I was told by the Government Leader in a letter that I received in June that these documents are very alive and are the government's economic strategy. They remain so and one can only assume that they will remain so until the end of the government's mandate, which I hope is soon.
I want to discuss with the Minister the role of the Council on the Economy and the Environment and the Yukon Economic Strategy. Today, for the first time, we heard a Minister publicly acknowledge the Yukon Economic Strategy and suggest that there was anything useful in that strategy.
The first Minister of Economic Development spoke about the Yukon Economic Strategy with the Council on the Economy and the Environment and suggested that there should be updates to that strategy. I presume the Minister did that without knowing that the government's action plan was to ignore the strategy in public.
There is some reconciliation to be done there.
I would like to ask the government about economic forecasting and what role the department plays, whether or not we will see forecasts, and whether or not these forecasts will be edited. I would like to ask the government about access to loan capital funding. We know the government is getting out of what the Minister calls the "banking business". Presumably this means the loan-providing business. I want to know if the Minister is getting out of the grant-providing business.
We have some questions about the government's collection efforts in loan programs, and there is also the outstanding question of naming people who have failed to pay back loans to the government.
I have some questions about core funding, or fee-for-service funding. The Minister very adroitly tried to extricate himself from questions in the Legislature by indicating it was the NDP government that signed fee-for-service agreements with certain organizations. I want to ask the Minister about his policy on providing fee-for-service agreements, because the NDP, in government or Opposition, has not objected to fee-for-service arrangements. It has taken issue with the Yukon Party government over the exclusive list that seems to be available for people to consider negotiating similar arrangements. We will pursue that.
I have some questions about the internal trade agreement signed this last year. I would like a reconciliation between the principles espoused in that agreement and the exceptions that were provided for therein, and the government's statement about wanting to open borders to free trade.
I would like to talk to the government about federal policy and devolution of mines. The Minister has made some general statements that we cannot really be masters of our own house unless the responsibility for miners is under the jurisdiction of the Yukon government. I will be asking the Minister how far down that track the government has taken us. It seems to be an announcement that should not be buried. I am certainly interested in what the Minister has to say about that.
I am also interested in the future of the economic development agreement, and particularly the mineral development agreement.
We may or may not know what the Minister thinks of loans and grants, and I would like to know about the future of those programs.
The Minister has indicated that they are going to undertake some sort of regulatory review. I have not had a chance to read through his remarks carefully - I will do that analysis later - but I would like to know what this regulatory review entails. The Minister will know that we have asked for this in two successive legislative sittings and I would like to know what he has in mind.
I am also interested in having discussions about some of the mining projects that are currently underway. Back in the early days, we were treated to some pretty grand statements about one mine or another being almost ready to go ahead, and all we had to do was pack a lunchbox, get over to the bus station and buy a ticket to Casino, or wherever it was at the time. I would like to know precisely what the government is doing to support each mining project. Given that the Minister has indicated to us that negotiations have been ongoing with some companies, I am more than interested to know the precise nature of those negotiations and the terms of reference that have been provided to the mining facilitator, who is presumably negotiating financial support for those projects.
I would like to talk a little bit about the mining facilitator. Up until recently I was a supporter of this position and I think I still am, although I am uncertain as to precisely what the role this person is to play. The position was originally billed as an internal industry advocate within government, who was going to make things happen, tear down the barriers, discuss matters with the regulators and get things moving.
We also hear that this industry advocate is also the negotiator for the public financial support for various mining companies. If he is the industry advocate within government, who is the taxpayers' advocate within government, who may be concerned about how public money is spent? It is one thing to ensure that the mines get going, but we need checks and balances and it appears there are none when it comes to the position of the mining facilitator. We will have to talk about that a little bit.
I would like to talk in some detail about the Whitehorse mining initiative. The government has expressed some support for this particular initiative. I think that is good. I have got a motion on the Order Paper, which wishes the Legislature to express support. I want to see whether or not the government is truly committed to the principle of that initiative or if it is all just talk.
I have a variety of small questions to ask, too, about a variety of different things, such as support for small business, the small business incubator and some of the ideas that have been raised in the past by various people. I will take the time in general debate to touch on each of those items.
While the Minister had committed to Members of the Legislature that he would be providing some information on loans, grants, BDFs, CDFs and EPAs - information that is generally tabled at this time - we, unfortunately, need time to go through that sort of information in order that there be a realistic overview of the information. As soon as possible, the Minister should provide that information. We will be on this department for some time. We will have a bit of time to review the loans and grants.
I would also like to ask the Minister specifically what policy work plan the department has on its plate. The Minister has indicated that the department has a new strategic planning process underway, which obviously will take up the time of some people. What other policy initiatives is the government undertaking?
I would also like to know, seeing that the Minister is prepared to set benchmarks on his performance, what those benchmarks might be for rural-regional economic activity and development. While I was Minister of Economic Development, I endlessly heard from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that we needed to improve rural-regional economies. I believe that that is true. These Ministers felt that we were not pursuing economic activity in the regions or various communities quickly enough, so I am going to ask the Minister to tell us about the specific benchmarks that he feels are suitable for us to be able to judge the speed at which the rural-regional economies are being developed.
The Minister made a number of comments that are thinly veiled criticisms of the NDP. I will let them pass for the moment, but I will get back to them later on, as I look over his remarks. We can do a dissection of them later.
I would caution the Minister not to be too self-serving or too cocky in his remarks, because I think that the government's track record to date leaves a lot to be desired. The suggestion that we are going to embark on yet another brand new approach is something that is met - as I am sure the Minister can understand - by some skepticism from this side of the House and, presumably, the Minister will be around next year so that we will be able to test him on whether or not he has taken us forward in any substantive area.
I would only point out to him, though, that Question Period is not the only time when one is really tested. It is during Committee debate when the test comes. I am sure the new deputy will be more than pleased to sit with the Minister and go over that process now, even before these new benchmarks are established and met.
The Minister did not seem to make a very strong statement about infrastructure support, although he was making sounds to suggest that he is taking a broader approach than did his predecessors to support economic activity.
The Minister will remember that previous Ministers, throne speeches and budget speeches made almost exclusive reference to road building and mining support in their economic statements. We were even treated to a homily on John Diefenbaker, and how people laughed at his vision, and we were reminded that they laugh no more, and that his vision has been borne out in what the Yukon Party referred to in its budget speech last year as the igloo-to-igloo road-building program. I do not see the same faith in road building and that sort of infrastructure that I saw in the variety of documents that I touched on in my opening remarks this afternoon. Perhaps the Minister would comment on the role of infrastructure and how it is going to be played out in this newly revamped economic vision.
I realize that we have a lot of material to get through, so I will let the Minister respond, and we will carry on.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite has a plethora of questions. I would prefer to respond to each one individually, perhaps starting with the last one first.
With respect to infrastructure, we believe in roads, which is evident when we look at the capital portion of the community and transportation budget. We believe in roads throughout the territory, as well as specific roads for resource extraction, but roads are not the only economic development opportunity we have.
In Question Period the other day, I said that forestry has a very good chance of becoming the second largest industry in the Yukon. I expect that the logging going on in La Biche and the Watson Lake area is very close to equalling tourism today. I think it is important that we get a handle on that industry very soon in order to get some value added. I personally do not have a big problem with exporting logs to other parts of Canada, but I do have a problem with all of our logs going to other parts of Canada. We should be looking after a lot of our own local markets and markets in Alaska. We can compete with British Columbia and Alberta in a lot of areas involving export of material from logs. It is extremely important that we get a handle on forestry.
We have many smaller industries in the Yukon that have to be looked at and developed. In the last few weeks we have been discussing the agricultural industry, which is a fledgling industry in the Yukon, but it is here and I think with the climatic change that we have noticed in the last 12 to 15 years it is definitely becoming more and more viable all of the time. Again, that works toward some sort of self-sufficiency.
If the Member opposite thought that all we were interested in was roads, I take exception to it, because that is not this government's intent. Resource extraction, such as mining is very, very important to the territory and will be for years and years to come.
With the benefits that come from resource extraction we should be looking at other renewable resources as well.
Mr. McDonald: I do not take issue with the Minister's claim that there should be a comprehensive response to the economic requirements of this territory and to build a broader economic base, meaning that it is necessary for one to promote economic activity in forestry, agriculture, tourism, mining and fishing. Even light manufacturing has had some small success in the territory over the last number of years.
What I take issue with is the government's actions, and the agricultural industry is probably a good example of that. Industry proponents have either been completely ungrateful and have decided to ignore the marvellous things that the government is doing, or there is some substance to their contention that things are not going very well - and I am not simply referring to one person who was once a Member of this Legislature and that person's criticisms of the Minister or of a number of Ministers; I am talking about a number of people in the industry with whom I have spoken within even the last couple of weeks who feel that the government is not in touch with their needs, does not consult, as it says it would like to now. They are concerned that what the government is actually saying and what it is doing are two entirely different things.
The Minister has indicated that forestry will soon become equal to tourism and may even surpass tourism in its economic importance to this territory, yet we still do not know what a sustainable harvest is. Even before the Minister indicated that he has great faith that the industry will be producing great wealth for the territory, there is a nagging concern among industry and environmental interests alike that we simply have no idea what a sustainable harvest is in this particular industry.
While I think we can agree on the need to provide a greater value added in the cutting of trees for what we do produce, I fear that we may have different positions and different values when it comes to determining what the health of the industry is going to be in the long term. How can one take the Minister seriously that he is interested in promoting sound environmental practices and, at the same time, suggests that forestry is going to become the number two industry in the territory, but is also unable to determine what is a sustainable harvest.
All these things coming together suggest that we need to learn a lot more about where the Minister and government stand.
I have spent a lot of time in the Legislature and I am not going to repeat it now, except only to say that I think that its rhetoric about road building and what it has actually done are, again, two different things. At one point, all the rhetoric about road building was about building roads to resources - roads to resource extraction as the Minister refers to it. The problem is that when one actually analyzes the budget, one does not see much of an expenditure that leads to resource extraction. We do not see much road building that is anything other than rebuilding the existing highway network. The one program that was in place and was available for mining companies and all industries alike in road building was quite consciously removed from the budget by the Yukon Party. Where does that leave us? I am confused.
Just to get some details down before the break, could the Minister tell us when he is going to be tabling the information that we requested? Is he going to table the information and, if so, when?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have all the loan information ready for tabling. It is in my office. I should be able to provide it after the break.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister made reference to support for the umbrella final agreement. He indicated he was going to show respect for First Nations through consultation. Can he tell us precisely how he is going to accomplish this? What will the Minister be doing differently that brings this commitment to the umbrella final agreement to life?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure that it is different, but the umbrella final agreement lays out certain consultation processes, and we intend to follow those processes as they are laid out under the agreement.
Mr. McDonald: I must say my blood ran a little cold when the Minister said the government was not necessarily going to do things differently. Whether it is perception or reality, it remains the case that the Council for Yukon Indians and some First Nations feel the government is doing such a terrible job in consultations with them on activities that they went on the radio last week to say there was a major breakdown in the relationship between the government and First Nations. This was on the eve of tomorrow's ceremony recognizing the coming into force of the umbrella final agreement.
Did the Minister mean to say that this department has no different plans, that it will be business as usual, in terms of consultation with First Nations, or does it have more ambitious plans to try to heal any wounds, perceived or otherwise, that First Nations have had to bear?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that the Department of Economic Development has done quite a credible job of consultation with First Nations, and with other stakeholders. With the UFA becoming law tomorrow, I think that it would be safe to say that we would become more aggressive in pursuing the consultation with the additional economic activity that at least four of the First Nations will be entering into. I would expect that we will become a little more aggressive, I suppose, is the word, in the consultation processes.
Mr. McDonald: I suppose we will have to deal with specifics at some point, to determine how the government is prepared to promote consultation, as it understands it, under the UFA, within this department's particular mandate. I will think that through a little bit and come back to the Minister with some questions.
I asked the Minister whether or not he would provide - and I should clear this away before the break - any information about the department's specific work plan, in terms of projects underway. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the Member opposite is referring to when he talks about "work plans underway".
Mr. McDonald: The Minister knows that I was Minister of the department for a couple of years and, unless the department has absolutely nothing going on, it will have some work plan - a list of projects that it will have underway. I have seen it and know that such a thing exists, or has existed. Unless everyone in the department is going to be embracing the strategic planning process, is the Minister saying that there are no specific projects underway in the department? Are there no policy initiatives being undertaken at all in the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that the department does not have an actual departmental work plan, as such. The business plan that I did speak about in my budget outline will, in fact, address that type of activity.
Mr. McDonald: I know the department is doing more than just working on the new strategic plan. The employees cannot have been taking home paycheques for nothing. Some people are very program oriented and some people are policy oriented. I know in the past there were a couple dozen projects that were of high priority to the department. Surely, there is a list of those projects. Surely, management of the department would have wanted to coordinate this in some way and would have had some sort of list. Otherwise, it leads us to believe that nothing was going on, and the staff is completely demoralized and directionless. That may be the conclusion we end up drawing, but nevertheless I am still interested in what the projects were.
Could the Minister - given that he had a number of things to say in his opening statement - table his opening remarks right now so that we may have a chance to read through them and perhaps quiz the Minister about some of the details?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have made some corrections in the actual text, and I will try to have them corrected and table the report right after the break, if that is agreeable.
Mr. McDonald: If the Minister could give some thought to the question about the department's action plan over the break, I would appreciate it.
I know that the department cannot have been doing absolutely nothing to this point. Considering all the things that the Minister has cited as big, new projects, such as the development of a new business plan, the strategic planning process and those sort of things - I think he has characterized them as recent initiatives - the department must have been doing something over the last year. Perhaps he could consider this over the break so that we may pursue it after the break.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are activity reports, and if that is what the Member is referring to, I would not have a problem having the department compile and table them. However, it is my understanding that there is not an overall, departmental work plan.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have for tabling the information about the loans program that we discussed prior to the break. I will not be able to bring a copy of the speech until after the dinner break. I will circulate it after we come this evening. I have activity reports that are used for my own information, but this is an internal document that I will not be tabling. I can list some of the activities that are taking place.
Mrs. Firth: I am asking specifically for the activity reports for all of the loan and grant programs within the government. The Minister made a commitment to table them in the House at the time of the debate, and that is what I am looking for.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think that if the Member looks at the information I have tabled, she will find that it is all covered there.
Mrs. Firth: This includes the activity reports of all the loan and grant programs as well as the loans that have been written off - is that correct? Does it include the loan guarantees that are delinquent? The Minister is indicating that it does. I will have a look at this, and if I have any further questions, I will ask them of the Minister.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that he was not yet able to table reports of activities, but that he would table something. What sort of "something" is he going to table that will give us a sense of what the department has been doing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will get the department to put together a listing of the departmental activities, and I can circulate that.
Mr. McDonald: I do not want anything very fancy; the Minister does not have to digest it and clear it for correctness, but I would like something for tomorrow, if he can do it.
The Minister made some big claims about benchmarks. I do not have his speech in front of me. I do know that he went so far as to indicate that the previous NDP government did not believe in benchmarks, but that this government does believe in benchmarks. First, I would like to ask him what he knows of the NDP government's economic strategy that did not respect benchmarks and what he is planning to do differently. What benchmarks is he promoting? Some wag told me during the break that the only benchmarks the government possesses are the ones on their butts for sitting on the bench so long. Can the Minister tell us a little bit more about what his benchmarks are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The benchmarks are being developed along with the business planning process and the strategic planning for the department. I said we will become accountable to the public and to the Legislature using the benchmarks. If we do not live up to what we set as our objectives, we will then be accountable to this House and to the general public, but specific benchmarks have not yet been established and they are not ready for debate at this time.
Mr. McDonald: The benchmarks may not be but the government's actions certainly are. I must say I am disappointed. The department has not been doing absolutely nothing for the last year. The Minister has been the Minister for awhile, and when it comes to determining where the government is going in Economic Eevelopment, apart from the short list of programs, many of which are programs inherited by the government, the government appears to want to simply avoid any criticism about what its plans are by saying that everything has to be developed in the future, that all we have to do is be patient and perhaps assess the government's claims to great performance next year - or after the next election or something. Surely there must be something more to it than that.
On many occasions, we have gone through long debate in the Legislature about the government's actions, about its philosophical position, about its program plans. We have asked about everything from the regulatory environment to access to venture capital. Is the Minister going to simply respond to all our questions about these particular areas by saying it is going to be, or might be, part of a strategic plan yet to be developed, which is going to be tough and specific, and is going to knock the socks off every economic theorist who comes along - all we have to do is wait?
The Minister is going to have more substantive information on each subject, is he not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Despite what the Member opposite says, the department has been very active in a lot of areas. The reopening of the Faro mine has taken a certain amount of activity by Economic Development, and the whole capital assistance program has taken much time, as has the development assessment under land claims; the mineral property assessment through our mineral development agreement office; the Northern Accord; the Yukon Placer Committee; and the Yukon mining incentive program. People working in economic forecasting are in the process of doing an economic profile for Watson Lake - an economic program evaluation. The Old Crow Cooperative store is another example.
There has been ongoing parks planning, working with Renewable Resources, and the energy infrastructure loans for resource development program, access to financing, the MDA Geoscience office, and Yukon Mining Advisory Committee are just some of the activities that the department has been, and will continue to be, involved in.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for a more expansive answer - a little less rhetoric and a little more content. What are the benchmarks? That is the key feature. The Minister has indicated that the government is going to turn a corner and have some benchmarks.
What are the benchmarks of the development assessment program? What are the benchmarks with respect to access to financing issues that have been raised in the past? The Minister says the department is working on those issues. Clearly, we do not have to wait for a strategic plan to determine the benchmarks. The government has all of these programs; it must have some benchmarks to test what it is and is not doing. Does the government have benchmarks? When we come to asking questions about each program, can we determine what those benchmarks are at that time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The planning process will determine the new benchmarks and what we expect to achieve. Currently, the department has been using the Yukon government's four-year plan as a benchmark. We want to flesh those out in the actual planning process. This has started and will be ongoing for the next month and one-half or so.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that the strategic plan will set new benchmarks. However, he has gone so far as to say that this government has done something differently from the previous government and that it is going to set benchmarks. That piqued my interest, because I thought that benchmarks had been established in the past. The Minister claims that this is all a new creation of the Yukon Party government. It has been working now for better than two years. There have to be benchmarks, because this is how we can tell the difference between the Yukon Party government and the NDP government. There should be no trouble telling the difference, given that they are proud of their benchmarks and of being respected for identifying them. They should, therefore, have no problem listing them. When we get to each program, can the Minister tell us what benchmarks they have established?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I guess there are benchmarks. In the mining area, for example, the number of dollars spent on exploration could be considered a benchmark. I think that nearly everyone in the House is aware that the exploration dollars in the past year have been somewhere in the area of $36 million. This is substantially up from previous years. I suppose this could be considered to be one of the benchmarks.
What we want to do, as I said before, is flesh out that type of benchmark and that is what the department is currently in the process of doing.
Mr. McDonald: So, the Minister does have benchmarks. I would urge him not to use mining exploration as a benchmark. There is sufficient information to suggest that mineral prices have by themselves raised the exploration activity in the Yukon, and the jurisdiction that the Yukon Party likes to lambaste, which is the B.C. government and its treatment of the resource extraction industry - the mining industry - saw mineral exploration go up in northern B.C. by a greater amount than that which took place in the Yukon.
I would like to have a chance to discuss these benchmarks with the Minister so that we get a clearer sense of what the government thinks is an appropriate test for determining whether or not it has actually accomplished something.
The Minister encouraged us to look back to the four-year plan, which was developed, presumably, in the spring/summer of 1992. I thought I would go through the various commitments in the economic field listed here, implemented in conjunction with First Nations. It mentions a systematic plan for the transfer of the ownership of land and resources to Yukoners from the federal government, to make land available to Yukoners for community residential-recreational resources use purposes. That is a fairly easy one to show some progress in, but I would be interested in knowing what the systematic plan is for the transfer of ownership of land and resources to Yukoners from the federal to Yukon government.
What kind of consultation has taken place with First Nations? That is the first commitment. The second commitment is to proceed with the forestry transfer negotiations on a priority basis. We know where the forestry transfer is currently.
It mentions concluding an offshore revenue sharing agreement with the federal government and the Government of the Northwest Territories for the Beaufort Sea and concluding the Northern Oil and Gas Accord for offshore resources. We know that the GNWT/Yukon government agreement has been concluded. I know that because it was announced here and I helped to negotiate it myself. We also know that the Northern Oil and Gas Accord for offshore resources between the federal and Yukon governments has not been completed. Where are the other commitments here?
In mining, it is to promote the establishment of a revised flow-through share program and other tax measures for northern Canada. Perhaps the Minister could give us a sense of how the lobbying efforts to the federal government have done on that score.
Something so generally worded is hard to use as a benchmark.
It says it is to provide reasonably priced energy and other forms of assistance to encourage mining exploration. I guess that brings us to the question of the industrial support policy, which we will have a chance to review shortly.
It says it will review the government's programs to determine their effectiveness and enhance the prospectors assistance program and other programs that promote exploration. The government has maintained those programs, but we know it has not enhanced them.
It says it will lobby the federal government to streamline review processes to clarify regulations and respond to applications on a timely basis. The first reference to the need to streamline regulations and bring them under one window by the Minister was today. I am sure we will have a chance to focus on that.
That is it for mining. There are a number of promises in the small business sector. One is to develop fair and realistic contract regulations that give Yukoners a preference in bidding on government contracts. We know the government will not do that. Another is to reintroduce the principle that low bidders will be awarded government contracts. We know what happened to that.
There is another one that says it will remove government interference, such as in the Watson Lake sawmill operation and the loan to Totem Oil. There is no danger of the government becoming too involved in the marketplace, then.
Another one says it will reduce government regulations and eliminate red tape. The first reference to that was again today - regulatory review. We must learn a lot more about that.
In terms of testing what the government wants to do, I think that striking out through a new approach and establishing benchmarks through this test performance are things that are worth exploring. If the Minister says that they have benchmarks for each of the things that they have been doing, then he ought to be prepared for questions about what those benchmarks are and whether or not they will really test the government's ability to perform. I will leave him with that as notice, because I think that it is fairly important.
Instead of only dealing with general matters, I would like to get into some specifics, and then we can chew on something for awhile. Regarding the centennial anniversaries program, can the Minister give us a sense of what the genesis of this program was, what the program is about, and what the criteria for selection are? This may help us to understand where the government is going in terms of its new philosophical approach, because it is the most recent incarnation of a program from the Yukon Party government. It would be interesting to see how it is progressing - how it is doing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would like to go back to one of the comments that the Member opposite made with respect to exploration activity in British Columbia. I cannot recall the exact date, but I remember speaking in the House at some length, using testimonials that I had received from various mining companies and people who were involved in mining activity. They certainly did not support what the Member opposite is saying about B.C. surpassing the Yukon in mining exploration.
I received a call the other night from our people who were at the Cordilleran Roundup, which is a very large conference of mining people from all over North America, as well as many mining ministers, premiers and government leaders. It was interesting that the Yukon night at the Cordilleran Roundup sparked an attendance of something like 1,500 people, whereas British Columbia had something like 200 people. I just want to point that out for the information of Members opposite.
Regarding the centennial anniversaries program, most people are aware that the program is made up of two components: the capital works portion in the amount of $9 million and the centennial events program in the amount of $500,000. They are established at $500,000.
Just to go briefly over some portions of the program, one criterion was that they would provide some short-term jobs but long-term economic benefits for the community and that, generally speaking, there would be only one project per community. From 1995 to 2000, we will be looking at what relevance the project has to one of the anniversaries and at what the overall long-term benefit to the community would be.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us whether or not the Yukon night at the Cordilleran Roundup provided free liquor to participants?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that various suppliers provided beer as well as food.
Mr. McDonald: Was there free liquor at this Yukon Night?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is my understanding that at all of the activities put on by various jurisdictions there was free liquor available. For the Yukon, it was provided by suppliers.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the Government of British Columbia provided free liquor on British Columbia night?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are not sure if the Government of British Columbia provided the liquor or if someone else did; however, there was free liquor at British Columbia night.
Mr. McDonald: We will check that. Could the Minister tell us the names of the suppliers who provided the liquor and food?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have a list of names available here. We can probably compile a list. I am not certain we will get all of the names, but we can compile a list of who supplied food and liquor - as much as we are able.
Mr. McDonald: I like that answer. I would like the Minister to provide us with information about what jurisdictions provided free alcohol at the Cordilleran Roundup, which ones provided free food and the names of the suppliers who provided liquor at Yukon night. I would like to receive that information.
The Minister indicated that he felt that the Cordilleran Roundup was a performance indicator for the government to determine whether or not the government is doing well in providing for exploration in the Yukon. I would just point out to him that I was at the Geoscience Forum in Whitehorse, and the exploration activities in northern B.C. were approximately $46 million. That is higher than it was in the Yukon. Clearly, either someone was doing something right or whatever the government was doing was irrelevant and mineral prices had a whole lot to do with everything.
I would point out to him, as well, that if we are going to be trading testimonials about how things are going and what we should believe about the Yukon Party's performance as opposed to the performance of the NDP, I would suggest that, barring an assessment of prices, a number of operating mines would be a good performance indicator. I even note that the president of Loki Gold indicated in a radio interview that he had always had a good relationship with the Yukon government and that he had a good relationship with the NDP government.
As well, he felt that it was to be expected that governments in our circumstances would be encouraging mining activity. I say that as a note.
Could we get the information on the Yukon night and the other governments' special nights that promote exploration in their jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will bring back a more comprehensive list as soon as I am able, but my understanding is that both Alaska and British Columbia hosted nights similar to Yukon night. Newfoundland and some of the other provinces had hospitality suites going at certain times during the roundup. All of them had free liquor and hors d'oeuvres at their respective evenings.
Mr. McDonald: I will wait for that information. The Minister gave us a brief accounting of what the terms of reference are for the centennial anniversaries program. He indicated that there would be one project permitted for each community, and that every project should be relevant to one of the anniversaries.
Like everyone else, I have had the opportunity to look at some of the projects that have been coming through the pipeline and that have been promoted by various community governments. I must say that some of them are interesting and are probably worth investigating further.
On the CBC news this afternoon, I noticed that the projects that were listed included the Imex theatre in Haines Junction, a statue of a giant white horse overlooking downtown Whitehorse, a planetarium for Watson Lake and, I quote, "A sort of giant freezer to give summer tourists a taste of the Yukon winter." The obvious point is that these projects and their cousins in the other communities are going to exceed $9 million. I have already made representation that I think the government has been courting considerable trouble in the communities by not focusing the criteria somewhat. It has not been encouraging people to think more economically - perhaps to think smaller - given that the fund is, in the end, only $9 million.
As far as the operations costs associated with each of these facilities, is there an expectation that the municipal governments will provide these funds through their own sources? Is that the case? I note that a standard in building construction is that the operating costs of facilities of this nature are often at least 10 percent of the capital costs on an annual basis. That would suggest that the government knew that almost $1 million of brand-new operating costs would have to be borne by municipal governments and that they felt this money could be easily recovered or found in some way.
Is that the case? Was the government aware of that? Did it simply believe that the municipal governments and taxpayers could absorb the extra $1 million per year in operating costs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The operating costs will be the responsibility of the sponsoring community. They were all aware of that. I have not seen the projects in any detail; all I know of them is what I have heard on the radio.
I understand that several of the projects are revenue generating. The idea would be to generate enough revenues to partially - or maybe to fully - offset the operating costs.
Mr. McDonald: We have heard that song before. I refer to that world-class facility in Whitehorse - the Beringia Interpretive Centre - that is going to make enormous profits, has everybody extremely excited and is being guided by a blue- ribbon committee. It is approximately $3 million. I note that many of the projects that are being proposed by the communities are of equal size. Having gone in detail through some of the projects with their proponents, I know that there are fairly optimistic expectations about what the operating revenues are going to be.
Presumably the government, then, did know that there were going to be operating costs and it was going to trust the communities to absorb those at will. If there are projects coming forward that show expectation of O&M funding from the government, will they be rejected? How will they be treated?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is essentially hypothetical, and I do not know if there are any such projects. I would expect that the department people who are dealing with the proponents of the projects will point that out to the community during the technical review that there will not be specific funding from the Yukon government for the operation and maintenance of their project.
Mr. McDonald: The government will not entertain operations funding for any of these projects, I think I heard the Minister say, and I think he nodded.
In regard to the criteria for determining the acceptable projects, clearly there are a number of projects that are being proposed that do meet the basic criteria that the Minister has enunciated, but are of such size that they will exceed the budget.
What is the process for narrowing down the applications? Precisely what is going to happen? Is there going to be any attempt to ensure that all communities receive something? How is the government going to handle that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have all heard numbers through the media, but I do not know what the actual total will be. We do know that some of the projects have components that would not qualify for CAP funding. However, the municipalities and/or communities are including those components with the expectation that they will receive funding from other sources, and they will be requesting funding from the government for the components that do meet the criteria.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister did not answer the question. I realize that some of the projects being proposed are hybrids of a number of different projects and some municipalities are finding different funding sources for various elements of their projects. However, having said that, I think that it is patently obvious that there are a fair number of projects that have a high enough ticket price that they are going to exceed the budget. I am asking the Minister whether or not there is going to be an attempt to try and ensure that all communities share in the program.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is certainly our hope and intention. Whether or not we are able to achieve that remains to be seen. The intent is for all communities to participate in the program in one form or another.
Chair: Order. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a copy of my earlier speech to circulate.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for the copy of his remarks. I intend to read them later on this evening and perhaps follow up with a reading of what happened this afternoon. I can cover the Minister's remarks this afternoon on a variety of subjects.
I would like to see if we cannot come to some understanding about one of the pivotal government policies, one of the most recent to be issued by this Minister; namely, the industrial support policy. When he made his announcement in the Legislature, I was not particularly complimentary of the effort. Given that has swallowed some Question Period time, I think it is probably desirable that we just clear a few things up so we all understand what has happened and what is happening.
Some of the issues raised in Question Period are not well covered in that forum and should appropriately be nailed down in Committee.
The philosophy behind the industrial support policy appears to be something different from the philosophy that the government championed in the 1993 budget estimates debate. That philosophy, when it came to infrastructure development and support for mining ventures, seemed to indicate that the government should be building infrastructure on the assumption that industry would use it once it was built.
The industrial support policy takes a different tack. It suggests that infrastructure support should come after a mining company, for example, has indicated an interest in development. Can the Minister reconcile those two philosophical tenets for me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The industrial support policy is set up in a way that the Yukon government may take a risk in, for example, the electrical generation portion, in that we would be willing to help out a large industrial user, whether it be a mining company or a large forest industry, that would have very large capital costs at the front end of the project.
For instance, with a mining company the government would be willing to agree to accept a lesser rate than the cost of service for electricity over a period of time. This would work by having the mining company pay for the cost of service so the ratepayers in Yukon would not be charged if there were some risks involved. The Yukon government would provide some funding to that company based on the amount of electricity used for a period of time. This rate could be adjusted with the price of ore or tonnes of production. There are many different ways this could be arranged. After a period of time, the company would pay back the amount of money that was initially subsidized.
On the road portion, we would not develop roads on the actual mining property or industrial site property, but we would be willing to help defray the costs of road construction on public land to the site, wherever that site may be.
For instance, with Loki Gold, we are willing to talk to the company about upgrading the Old Ditch Road, which is essentially a public highway. We would upgrade it to a level that Loki Gold would find acceptable to move its equipment in and out and haul ore.
However, we want a production decision from the mining company - or whatever other industrial-type company might apply - before getting involved in the funding of any portion of it.
Mr. McDonald: I understand what the Minister has said, but his final summation illustrates the dilemma I am in, and that is that it is philosophically the reverse of what was championed in the budget speech of 1993. The government at the time - I have quoted it on a number of occasions, so I will not bother to do it again - made a great deal of the Diefenbaker model of infrastructure development: that being that if infrastructure is developed and we have faith, investment will come. What the Minister has just identified is the reverse of that tenet, which is that if one wishes to make a public investment in a development such as a mine, one must wait for a production decision, at which time one can then decide how much risk one wants to share, and with whom - mainly ratepayers and taxpayers.
There are two approaches, which are not compatible, that have been explained or enunciated to us in the course of the last year. This time last year, we were debating, essentially, the Diefenbaker model. This year, we are debating a different model.
I am asking the Minister this philosophical question: what caused them to change their minds? Why did they change their minds?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I recall the discussion about the Diefenbaker vision when we were talking about roads from igloo to igloo or something like that.
I do not think we have changed. All we have done is put parameters around our original philosophy. We are saying that yes, we will help out with the construction of the road, but we will not build a road out to the Bonnet Plume area, or somewhere like that, just on the off chance that there is some mineralization or the possibility - however remote - of a mine being there. If there has been sufficient work to indicate that there is a good possibility that something will go into production and a production decision is made, we will certainly get involved financially.
Mr. McDonald: I apologize, but I cannot accept this line of reasoning. The reason I cannot is because we have spent a lot of time in this Legislature debating a different vision. This is not a vision that simply has a few new clothes on it, or, as the Minister stated, has slightly different parameters. This is a fundamentally different vision. The budget speech made a lot of the Diefenbaker model of infrastructure development. That model involves investing in infrastructure on the faith that industry will come. It has nothing to do with development agreements, and it has nothing to do with a mining company or some other developer showing interest. I want to know why there is a change. The Minister cannot simply claim that the visions are somehow compatible and that there is just a little bit of different dressing. We are talking of last year's budget speech. It referred to the Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative - Becoming Self-Sufficient through Infrastructure-Driven Investment in Yukon, which discussed building new hydro capacity, new roads, and providing infrastructure to a variety of different mining companies.
There was no suggestion at all that there needs to be in any way a commitment from any mining company to develop before a commitment to provide public support.
It is only because of the fact that we spent such a long time debating this that I feel compelled to tie this detail down, because it is an important detail. Presumably, governments design whole budgets around their philosophical approach and we have had some long and very heated discussion about the government's philosophical perspective and what it means in terms of the investment of literally tens of millions of dollars of public money.
The Minister indicates that the philosophical approach has not changed and that there are, as he terms it, slightly different parameters. Frankly, that is nonsense. It is not simply that there are different parameters associated with this approach; they are fundamentally different approaches.
Can the Minister explain why there is a contradiction here? I understand the approach the government is taking now, and we will get into how practical an approach it is in a minute, but the Minister does not have to explain what it is proposing to do about ensuring that there will be a development agreement with a mining company before it builds a road or commit itself to share the risk of providing electrical generation facilities.
I know that, but I want to know why we went through all that debate last year and why are we going through a different debate this year if the policies are really all the same?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not agree that it is a different vision, and I do not believe that there is a contradiction. It is merely that we have established some guidelines for how we will go about assisting various companies. We are not going to, nor was it ever the intention to, develop roads and hope that there is something at the end of the road, wherever that might be - or something along that road, whatever that might be. I do not think that that was ever the intention. We are not, in fact, going to do that. What we will do is assume some of the risk, if there is something there - and it has to be economically viable and make sense - by providing some of the infrastructure. I do not see that we are reversing or contradicting our previous statement.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister must think we are stupid. I say that by way of punctuating my remarks.
This budget speech spoke about the Diefenbaker vision. It spoke about building roads to resources to open up Canada's north - about building a road from igloo to igloo. It spoke about the utility of the Dempster Highway, a utility that was not planned at the beginning or planned when the road was first built; it came afterwards. The Yukon Resource Infrastructure Initiative talks about infrastructure-driven investment, and talks about building roads to mining regions. It does not make reference at all to development agreements. Where are the development agreements?
Back in the spring, when I asked a question about another document that was under consideration internally within the department, I was told in a letter from the Government Leader that it was simply an internal document but never government policy. That was the first sane statement the department had made to provide controls on its unbridled vision of building infrastructure - mainly roads. The document was entitled "The Resource Infrastructure Initiative". This was termed an internal working document by the Department of Economic Development.
The two visions, so to speak, have only one thing in common - they are both called visions. From there, the similarity ends. One clearly speaks of developing infrastructure to create a climate where industry will want to come and invest. The second, current vision speaks of development agreements that would seek to have industry show a financial commitment, or a commitment to invest, before there is public investment.
As an aside, I am more inclined to support the latter than the former. However, I am puzzled that the Minister thinks these two visions are compatible.
There is nothing compatible about them. The Minister must think we are stupid if he believes that one is a mirror of another, only dressed up a bit. I do not understand this at all.
If the Minister is going to play dumb on this subject, perhaps he could give us a sense of how the industrial support policy is being used. When did the industrial support policy come into effect? Was it being used as the guiding document before it became Cabinet policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the exact date when the policy came into effect. I believe it was either December 1994 or January 1995.
Several companies that we have been talking to were aware that we have been developing this policy. We consulted with some mining companies, the Chamber of Mines, Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, several groups and stakeholders, so there were several people aware of the policy. However, we had not conducted any in-depth negotiations with anyone until very recently.
Mr. McDonald: What does the Minister mean by "recently"? Can the Minister tell us when he has been using this industrialized support policy, and can he also tell us when he started negotiating with proponents such as Anvil Range, Loki Gold and others?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It has only been the last three or so weeks since we have been in any actual negotiations. We have not actually had any negotiations with Anvil Range. They are aware of our policy and they have said that they will be wanting to come and talk to us about electrical rates and the bulk haul agreement - those types of issues - but they are not ready to come and talk to us yet. The only one we have actually negotiated with is Loki Gold.
Mr. McDonald: I was under the impression that the government had indicated that it was, in fact, negotiating with other mining companies. I will try to find the references in the throne speech. I am certain the government indicated that they had been negotiating already.
Can the Minister tell us why the mid-term report indicated that the initial support policy had been developed? Can he tell us why the Government Leader, in his letter to Cash Resources, would say the industrial support policy had been developed if it was not developed until mid-December?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The actual policy was developed some time ago, but it had not been approved by Cabinet until either December or January and, as I said before, I am not sure of the exact date. The policy had been drafted; it had gone out for consultation with stakeholders, and there had been some changes. It had gone back and forth like that, but it did not actually receive Cabinet approval until either December or January.
Mr. McDonald: In Question Period, on being questioned as to whether or not the draft policy was the policy, the Minister said - and I will quote the exchange of December 5, after the letter to Cash Resources and a month after the mid-term report came out - "Is the draft industrial support policy for discussion now the industrial support policy?" asked the Member for Faro. The Minister answered, "In short, the answer to the Member opposite's question is no, the draft discussion paper is not the policy." So I am still puzzled about the status of the policy. We know that there was a draft policy as early as April of 1994. The government made that draft public and tabled it in the Legislature. So, if the draft policy was not the policy, why did the mid-term report say that the government had completed the policy and why did the Government Leader indicate to Cash Resources that it indeed had a policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As the Member indicated, the policy was drafted back in April. There was consultation in May and part of June 1994. Some changes were made. It did not get to Cabinet until fairly recently - either in December or January, as I said before.
Mr. McDonald: That does not answer the question; I will ask it again. The Minister went out of his way to say that the draft policy was not the policy, and yet the mid-term report said that it was a policy and that, in fact, it had been developed. We know that there was a draft policy. We know that it was under discussion. We know that the government was speaking with some people, at least, about the draft policy. However, the Minister did indicate that the draft policy was not the policy. Yet, the Government Leader said that there was a policy, and so did the mid-term report.
The importance of this question has not only to do with the Minister's credibility or the Government Leader's credibility, or the credibility of the mid-term report, or all three, it is also important to know under what regime the discussions were going on. Therefore, I will ask that question, and I will come back to it if I cannot get an answer. The Minister said that the discussions with the mining companies have only been really active in the last three weeks, and that there has never been any discussion with Anvil Range, in any case.
The throne speech reads, "Mining companies, such as Anvil Range Mining Corporation and Loki Gold Corporation are currently discussing their transportation, energy, and other infrastructure needs under the auspices of this policy." - the policy being referred to in the previous paragraph as the industrial support policy. A policy that, at the time this throne speech came out, was not a policy, according to the Minister.
We have two apparent contradictions here. This is not Question Period and we do not just spout rhetoric at each other; we find out what is going on. Maybe the Minister can tell us what is going on.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When does a policy become a policy? It has always been a policy; it was approved by Cabinet some time in December or January. How does one go out for consultation if one cannot say, "This is the industrial support policy. What do you think of it?" The Member opposite is saying we cannot say that this is the industrial support policy when we go out for consultation because it is not a policy until it has received Cabinet approval. I disagree with that.
The industrial support policy was drafted in April 1994. It went out for consultation during the summer. All that time, we were telling people it was the industrial support policy. Eventually, it received Cabinet approval - very recently.
I guess the Member is saying that we cannot call a draft policy a policy.
Mr. McDonald: I am trying to find my copy of the draft policy. As it happens, the government called the industrial support policy of April 1994 a draft policy. It made sure we understood it was a draft.
Now, the Minister is suggesting that, at some point, the draft designation magically lifted from the page and it became the industrial support policy, but not really until the Cabinet approved it in December. However, there were active discussions going on with the mining community about the draft - or no draft - policy prior to Cabinet approval. So, someone was undertaking negotiations on a draft policy without the authority of the Cabinet.
We now discover that, while people were negotiating under the auspices of the policy - or the draft - nothing has taken place until the last three weeks.
There is a problem that has to be addressed. I am not the one who called the Yukon industrial support policy a draft policy. It was the government that called it a draft. It said that it was going out for public discussion and for consultation, that it was going to undertake discussions with various interest groups and was going to bring back the true policy in December, after Cabinet had approved it. That is how it normally works; that is how I understood it has worked in the past; and that is what the government led us to believe was the way it was going to work this time. The draft policy was apparently being used with mining companies prior to Cabinet approval, such as Anvil Range Mining Corporation, which we have now learned has not had any discussions under this policy. Can the Minister please clarify what is going on so that we can get past this basic stage and then move on to the substance of the policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I suppose the Member opposite is saying that we are not allowed to talk to any industrial party until we have the policy approved by Cabinet. The department certainly used the framework of the policy as a guideline when it was talking to various companies. There have been no actual negotiations; there has been no agreement to date. I do not see where the Member is coming from. He is playing with words.
Mr. McDonald: I am not playing with words. I am a Member of this Legislature representing literally thousands of Yukoners. I am trying to understand what the government is doing. I know that there are megabucks at stake every time the mining facilitator, or whoever is doing the negotiations for the government, sits down with a mining company. I know that the risk associated with any one of those mining projects could be something that the Yukon public and Yukon taxpayers are going to live with for a number of years if something goes wrong.
In December, and prior to that, when we asked about the guidelines being used to undertake discussions with mining companies, there was a point. There was a point to asking whether or not the Yukon industrial support policy is the policy being used in negotiations with the mining companies. It is important to have that information so that we know on what basis the public financial commitments are being made.
When the Minister goes out of his way during Question Period to state to a Member that the draft policy is not the policy being relied upon, then we take him at his word. We are not playing with words; we are trying to understand his words. When it comes time to try and understand what is going on, we do not like being put off during Question Period by being told that nothing is really happening, or something has been happening, but it may be guidelines or something of that nature.
We are seeking some precision in the Minister's answers. When the statements come back and they are contradictory, then we are thrown for a loop, because we thought we knew some baseline information. We thought we were not being jerked around by anybody. That is the reason we ask the questions and that is the reason we are trying to tie down these details now. I want to be reassured that no one was playing fast and loose with us when we were asking questions in good faith.
Was Anvil Range discussing its transportation, energy and other infrastructure needs under the auspices of the industrial support policy - never mind if it was a draft or final document; we will leave that aside for a moment? Were discussions taking place under that policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member, whether he wants to admit it or not, is playing with words. There have been no negotiations or deals being made with any company under the industrial support policy, whether it started in October or December. There have been no deals made at this time. The Member knows full well that whatever deal is made will come to this House and be debated. The Member is just playing with words.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has got to be joking. The Minister reassured us, just now - this is just this evening - that the only discussions taking place, pursuant to the final version of the industrial support policy, have taken place in the last three weeks and that at no time has Anvil Range had those discussions. The throne speech does not say that. It states that the Anvil Range Mining Corporation is discussing their infrastructure needs under the auspices of the industrial support policy. Which is right? Is it the Minister or is it the throne speech?
I am not playing with words. I want to know if there have been discussions.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have been various discussions with Anvil Range for approximately one year; however, there have been no discussions, as far as I am aware, under the Yukon industrial support policy. There have been all kinds of discussions with Anvil Range about a myriad of initiatives. They have not asked us for any assistance under the industrial support policy to this date.
Mr. McDonald: The throne speech that received such good media attention, the throne speech that everyone took for granted was telling the truth - is the Minister saying that the throne speech was not telling the truth?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, the Member is playing with words. I said it before, and I will say it again: Anvil Range has discussed many things with various departments and political people within government. There have not been, however, any deals made with Anvil Range at all.
Mr. McDonald: I am not asking if there have been any deals made. As far as I am aware, there have been no deals made - unless the Minister chooses to correct that impression. As far as I am aware, all that has been going on have been negotiations, but I do not know if there have been negotiations going on with Anvil Range or not. The throne speech approved by Cabinet says that there have been discussions going on under the auspices of the industrial support policy - a policy that the Minister of Economic Development indicated was not the policy because, at the time the industrial support policy was made, it was only in draft form. The Minister went out of his way to tell us that the draft was not the policy. So, the Minister is contradicting the throne speech in two ways.
The only way I have to communicate with the Minister is through words. I am not playing with them. I am trying to assess truth and falsehoods, and I am trying to determine what is actually going on in the government - what it is doing, whether negotiations are taking place, whether or not there may be an arrangement being devised that could put the taxpayer at some risk - maybe a reasonable risk, and maybe not.
I know that this is a favourite come-back line in Question Period, but it does not work here in Committee, because it is not enough. I know that the arrangements are going to come back to the House. There is always an opportunity to debate arrangements in the House, after the fact. I want to know what is happening, as it is happening. This is a policy that may involve multi-millions of dollars for each development.
It is important that we know what precisely is happening. Can the Minister tell us precisely who the government is negotiating with under the auspices of this policy - all the mining companies?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Anvil Range Mining. Sorry, I mean Loki Gold Corporation.
Mr. McDonald: I presume the Minister misspoke himself when he said Anvil Range Mining.
Is Loki Gold the only company that is currently negotiating with the government respecting its infrastructure needs? Is it the only company?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct. Loki Gold is the only company we are negotiating with under the Yukon industrial support policy.
Mr. McDonald: What is the status of those negotiations? Are they complete or close to completion? What is happening?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The negotiations are underway and ongoing. We hope to have something in draft form in the very near future.
Mr. McDonald: Knowing what the Minister knows about the Loki Gold negotiations, does he anticipate that the draft agreement will come before the Legislature in this sitting, say within the next six weeks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Our target is to table it in the House before the end of this sitting.
Mr. McDonald: I think are going to have to come clean on this throne speech some time, and I urge the Minister to do that because right now the credibility of both the Minister and the throne speech are at stake. I would urge the Minister that, if he is telling the truth, he should salvage his credibility in some way and not try to maintain the contradiction in its current form.
I presume we are not going to come to a conclusion unless the Minister wants to come clean on when the policy came into effect and why they are laying claims there was a policy in place. I will not beat that one around very much any more. I am interested in some elements of the policy itself. The Minister indicated to us during Question Period in the past that if we were interested in knowing the criteria for developing agreements with mining companies, all we had to do was look to the industrial support policy for a guide. When it came time to look at the policy in its final form, we were still left wondering what the criteria were, and are, for negotiating agreements with mining companies.
I think all of the people in Opposition who spoke on the subject expressed some concern that the criteria, or the guidelines, were not clear enough and did not make clear what level of public financial support would be provided for what return, in terms of general public benefit. I know that this is essentially the fundamental question that we have all been waiting to have answered through the policy. The policy does not actually make reference to the question, nor to an answer to it. Can I ask the Minister how the government assesses the level of support it is prepared to provide and what level of public benefit it is going to be seeking in return?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not going to try to develop a program while standing here. It will depend on the economic benefit to the territory: how many jobs it produces and for how long, the spinoff industries, and so on. That sort of thing is what our people will be looking at in assessing a project for possible future funding. I am not going to say that it has to provide 100 jobs for five years to receive a $1 million loan from the Yukon government. I would not even attempt to do that while standing here.
The industrial support policy is flexible. Each project will be assessed on its own merits and the benefit to Yukoners will be taken into consideration during that assessment.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has hit the nail on the head when he calls the policy flexible. If there was one word I would use to characterize this policy, that would be it. Unfortunately, it also makes it sound as if anything goes. As long as the negotiations are done in the back room, people's anxiety about a level playing field are heightened.
At the Geoscience Forum, I was involved in a very interesting round-table discussion with a number of people who were talking about the industrial support policy. They told me that, as long as there is a level playing field, the policy could be justified in the end. However, they were concerned that one company may come along and receive $3 million or $4 million in a public subsidy and agree to a loose agreement with the local First Nation, a couple of jobs and a road-clearing contract.
Consequently, the issue is not an insignificant one, it is a major one. That is what we all assumed would be the substance of the industrial support policy. If one looks through the guidelines and conditions of the industrial support policy itself, one can see that the basic tenets - with the exception of the first one, which talks about insisting that the company have its project financing in place first - are essentially found in the documents issued last spring. The basic principles of this policy are found not only in the Yukon Party's platform, but also in the Yukon Economic Strategy, which was passed by the previous government many years ago. So we have not actually progressed, identified and tackled the tough issues about determining what level of public support should provide what level of public return.
I realize that is a difficult equation at the best of times. However, one would assume that that was the substance of this policy. The Minister now says - I guess this is an escape clause or something - that we cannot know how to answer that question until we have programs in place. The programs could presumably involve training and other things. We also know that Loki Gold - I think we know this - is negotiating its infrastructure needs under the auspices of this policy and that there are no programs available to delineate or limit the amount of public investment. There are no qualifiers; it is basically a wide-open general policy statement at this point.
It leaves the people in Opposition wondering what the government is negotiating with and about and what its expectations are, and what Cabinet is expecting in return for public investment. Can the Minister give us some clear indication, in the absence of program support or programs pursuant to the policy, what the mining facilitator is negotiating?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Loki Gold has asked for government assistance to bring the Old Ditch Road up to a standard that will allow it to haul equipment in and out and travel back and forth with their crew from Dawson. We are likely talking about a secondary-highway standard. The costs are being gathered and some sort of a deal is being worked out. I do not have the actual numbers. I would not want to discuss them until they have been reviewed by Cabinet. At that time, the deal will come to the Legislature for approval. If the Legislature does not approve it, it will not go ahead.
Mr. McDonald: I am sure the Minister can understand that, in the absence of any programs and in the absence of any limiting factors in the policy, we will have questions about that, even right now. I am not going to ask the Minister what the precise numbers are. Can I ask the Minister if the road is all that the Loki Gold Corporation has asked for? Is that it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. As far as I know, that is all it is asking for.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister give us a ball-park figure of what the investment might be? Can he also tell us what the government is expecting in return for the investment?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I went over that before. Again, the Member is trying to get me to state a number that I am not willing to state. I do not know the amount. As I said before, the benefits will be assessed by the department when it has a tentative agreement. It will do an assessment of the benefits to Yukoners. I think I also said that before.
Mr. McDonald: In the absence of any specific program guidelines and in the absence of any specific criteria, I feel it my duty to ask some questions before the final deal is struck and we are told to accept it. I do not feel guilty or hesitant about asking questions.
Did the Minister actually say that he does not know what the ball-park figure is for the road? Did he say that he personally does not know that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is what I said.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that, in the absence of program guidelines, in the absence of any specific criteria, he has a public servant, namely the mining facilitator, negotiating for the upgrading of this road and that only the mining facilitator knows, or only the department knows, how much they are going to hit the government up for in the end? The Minister indicated to us in the last half hour that the negotiations are just about at a conclusion. Surely the Minister did not give the negotiator a blank cheque and virtually no program guidelines and no sense of limitation as to what the cost to the public might be. Surely he did not do that. He did not do that, did he?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I did not at all. The mining facilitator will be coming back, apparently within the next week or so, giving us an idea of exactly what they are talking about. Community and Transportation Services is involved in estimating costs for upgrading. Loki has its own ideas about the cost, but no deals will be made until we know what all of those costs are. The mining facilitator will be providing that to us in the not-too-distant future.
Mr. McDonald: I beg the Minister to understand my perspective for a moment. We now understand that negotiations with Loki Gold have been ongoing for a considerable period of time. Certainly, the throne speech - well, of course, the throne speech could not be trusted to tell us about what was happening with Anvil Range Mining Corporation - could tell us what has been happening with Loki Gold.
There have been ongoing negotiations for a long time. The only item being discussed is the road, because that is the only item it has requested. The Department of Community and Transportation Services is involved, the mining facilitator is involved and the Minister does not know what the ball-park figure is for the public investment that is being expected from this Legislature, and the Minister has told us that the negotiations are about to conclude.
Given that there are no program guidelines or no specific criteria, why would the Minister provide such loose negotiating guidelines to his department? He does not know how much the public investment is going to be until the closing of the draft deal, and the Minister does not know what the public is going to get in return under the draft deal.
I am not sure he or I can trust the throne speech on this point. The Minister says that there have only been negotiations during the last three weeks with Loki Gold or with any company. Were discussions underway at the beginning of December, as the throne speech seemed to indicate, with Loki Gold, or is it only a very recent development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Discussions were certainly underway. Loki Gold wanted some support - and it knew about the industrial support policy - but no figures came from it, about exactly what it was looking at. Some time ago, it did indicate that it wanted some help with the Old Ditch Road. There have been no estimates, and that is exactly what is going on right now. As I have said numerous times, the mining facilitator has been discussing with Loki Gold for the last two to three weeks. He will be coming to the department and to me with a tentative proposal from Loki - something he can live with - and then he will be bringing it to me for eventual Cabinet approval and Legislative Assembly approval.
Chair: Order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Mr. McDonald: Before the break, the Minister was telling us the procedure the government uses to get agreement on development with a mining company; namely, in this case, Loki Gold. In response to the concern that I expressed about their mining facilitator operating in a policy/program vacuum, the Minister replied, saying that the mining facilitator was working out the details, and would come back, I think he said in a week or so, with something he could live with.
That brings us to a question about the role of mining facilitator. Obviously, the mining facilitator is in the driver's seat because the first test of whether or not a deal is appropriate is whether or not the mining facilitator can live with it, and that is before the Minister even has any idea about the terms of the arrangement.
The mining facilitator was originally billed as the industry advocate within the department. He was to be the person who would act on behalf of mining companies to ensure that they got through the regulatory process and to ensure that there was an industry voice inside the circles of government. He was the person who was to cut through the red tape and he was the person who would unabashedly speak in the industry's favour.
Given that that is the role of the mining facilitator - if that is indeed the role of the mining facilitator, as he has been billed - I am somewhat surprised to learn that the mining facilitator is also the government's negotiator. In essence, he is acting on behalf of the government department - the taxpayer - to determine the arrangements between the mining company and the government. He is so much in control that he has to be satisfied that a deal is satisfactory, and he is going to be satisfied before the Minister knows anything about the deal at all.
Can the Minister tell us why he would have the inside industry advocate also negotiating the terms of public support for a mining company?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The mining facilitator will obviously know more about a particular mine that is requesting assistance than will anyone else in the government. He has a very responsible position, but one has to remember that he is accountable to the deputy minister, who is, in turn, accountable to me. I am, in turn, accountable to Cabinet.
Mr. McDonald: The credibility chain is nice, but the Minister forgot the two final elements. Cabinet is accountable to the Legislature and the Legislature is accountable to the people. However, none of that is really relevant in answering the question I asked.
I am aware that the mining facilitator knows - or probably would know, given that he is an industry advocate - as much as can be known in the public service about a particular mining company's operations. I am certain that if that were the only criteria, we could also have the mining company itself design its requirements, strike a deal for public financial support and have that referred directly to the Minister, Cabinet and the Legislature. Obviously, any deal that is concocted by the mining company would have to clear the Minister, the Cabinet and the Legislature. I take that for granted.
I take that for granted. I am essentially asking a conflict question. The mining facilitator is supposed to act on behalf of the mining company. Even the job description indicates that. Surely there are checks and balances within the system, and I am not referring to checks and balances with respect to the Minister, the Cabinet, the Legislature and the public. I am talking about checks and balances within the department.
If the mining facilitator is going to be an advocate for the mine, who in the department is the advocate for the public purse, the public need, the public good and the public benefit - the taxpayer?
The reason I express this concern is that, without program criteria and specific policy, it appears that this deal is going to be cooked without the Minister even knowing the terms.
It can be accepted as a fait accompli after the fact, or it can be rejected, but where are the checks and balances within the department to ensure this unabashed industry advocate is going to also think of the public good?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can name quite a few positions within government that are not all that much different. The engineering people who are designing a sewage lagoon or water system for a municipality or small community are in a similar situation. They are trying to get the very best for that community and, at the same time, are trying to look after the funding from the Yukon government, as the Member said, for the public good. Municipal advisors are also in the same situation. It is the same as the mining facilitator.
There is a very rigorous process within the Department of Economic Development. Before the tentative request from the facilitator and the company comes to me or Cabinet, there will be checks and balances within the department. I do not see that as being any different from many other jobs within government.
Mr. McDonald: In constructing his analogy with the public works engineer, I trust the Minister knows that the YTG engineer, acting on behalf of the community as well as on behalf of the government, has been the source of controversy at the municipal level for some considerable time. I am sure the Minister is aware of that. For example, I remember attending village council meetings in Mayo for many years where the concern was always expressed as to whether or not the municipal advisor or the municipal engineers were acting in the community's best interest as a first priority or in the government's. That has been the subject of some controversy. I do not know if it has been resolved in people's minds, but I certainly recall it taking place.
I am identifying this as a problem because, as I understand the process and how the Minister has tried to explain it, he is not even aware of a ball-park estimate of the public expenditure. He is not aware of what the specific public benefits are going to be in this particular case. He feels that he might receive the information from the mining facilitator in a week or so, once the mining facilitator feels comfortable with the deal.
That is what we know. We know that there are no program guidelines, and we know that there are no specific policy criteria. The negotiations have been taking place - the final negotiations, or however they want them to be characterized - over the last three weeks. In general terms, they have been taking place over a couple of months, if we can believe the throne speech. Clearly, a lot of background work and detail work has been undertaken, and the Minister is going to be given a deal, which he can either accept or reject. The deal has been constructed by somebody who represents the industry.
I do not know what the rigorous process is within the department. All I know is that the Minister is going to deliver something, perhaps in a week. I would like to ask the Minister how the rigorous process in the Department of Economic Development has resolved, or will resolve, this apparent conflict of interest - not in personal terms, but in public-policy terms.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that the mining facilitator will be in the department for the economists and the deputy minister to look any potential deals over. The long-term benefits to the Yukon and First Nations involvement will be analyzed by the department, and I hope that the facilitator will be able to answer all of these concerns. The department will then bring that information to me, who in turn will bring it to Cabinet and, eventually, the information will be brought before the Legislature.
Again, I do not think there is a conflict - certainly there is potential for a conflict, which is the same for the engineering staff and municipal advisors; however, that is their job and they are paid to deal with these types of things. I do not think that it puts the mining facilitator in a bad light with mining companies or the department.
Mr. McDonald: I do not think that it puts the mining facilitator in a bad light with the mining companies, either. If the industry advocate inside government was negotiating with me to provide me, as an industry proponent, with public funds, I do not think that would be a bad deal at all, and I certainly would not object. However, if I am interested in the public good, the public benefit and the public trust, I would hesitate to see a job such as this constructed in the manner that it has been. It means that the checks and balances within the system only come at the end of the negotiations.
I would again state that there are no program guidelines, nor are there any specific criteria - this all comes in the assessment of the final deal.
The Legislature is going to assess the final deal, the economists in the department are going to assess the final deal, but it is the facilitator who is doing the negotiating right up until that moment. I will not belabor the point, but I think the Minister and his department are erring in their judgment about a legitimate desire to protect the public good - to ensure that the deal is balanced.
What happens if the facilitator goes to a mining company and says, "Listen, we want some of the road-building work; contract it out to local people," and the mining company, with which he has a good relationship, says, "No possible way," and the mining facilitator agrees with that. When it comes time to check the deal, the department comes along and says, "What did you get in return for the Old Ditch Road?" The mining facilitator replies, "I could not get very much because it is just not there. I know the company, and it is just not there." Who is speaking on the public's behalf? Who can give an honest assessment of whether or not it is really there? Is it the person who is the unabashed supporter of industry in government, or is it someone else who has the public interest at heart, as well? Obviously, we have a problem that the Minister does not recognize - or does not acknowledge. I am not going to belabour it, but I think the Minister should perhaps think about this more carefully.
How are the department economists going to assess the deal? What kind of information are they going to gather so that they can inform the Legislature, which is going to approve the deal, about whether or not the deal is a good one? How are we going to be able to assess it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know all of the indicators that the economists use. Again, I would not want to try to develop those indicators here. I assume that they will look at such things as the number of people employed, the length of time those people are employed and if there is a deal with the First Nations for some First Nation employment. Those are the types of things that I expect the economists to look at. Again, I am not going to try to devise the program or the methods that they will use right here and now.
Mr. McDonald: If those things have not been done by now, there is no point in doing them right here because we are uniquely unsuited to do that kind of analysis in this forum. It is my contention that the Minister knows what the analysis of economic indicators should be, and how they should be judged is something that should have been done before. The Minister made quite a bit of the need to set performance standards to determine whether or not one achieves success. His speech had a lot to do with benchmarks to determine one's success levels, yet we seem to be completely incapable of determining whether or not we got a good deal, or determining how we might even find out whether or not we got a good deal. Does someone in the department have this information? How are they going to recommend whether or not it is a good deal once the assessment is done? They were involved in the negotiations and they do not have any program guidelines. How are they going to tell the Minister that they think it is a good deal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Legislature is eventually going to decide whether or not it is a good deal. It will indicate what some of the indicators are, the employment activity and so on. That will be indicated to us. When it comes to the Legislature, that is the time when we can debate whether or not it is a good deal and whether or not we should go for it.
Mr. McDonald: What is the point of having the Minister's department or the Minister at all? Why does the Minister's mining facilitator not just come to deliver the deal to us directly? We can then all have a political debate about whether or not we think it is a good deal.
What is the point of having a program? What is the point of having policies? What is the point of having the analysis done?
The Minister of Tourism is shaking his head as if he thinks it does not matter. This is pretty gol'darned important. The Minister of Tourism says this is a dumb question, but let me tell the Minister something - and I am talking to the Minister of Tourism because the Minister of Tourism was talking to me.
The Minister of Tourism said that I just asked a dumb question, and I am saying this: here we have a situation where there is a policy that has no program guidelines and no specific criteria. We have a situation where the mining facilitator, who acts for the mining companies, is negotiating without guidelines to give public funds to the mining companies.
The mining facilitator will be reporting in about a week. We do not know how the department is going to assess things and provide benchmarks against which to determine whether or not he has made a good deal. In the final analysis, this deal is supposed to come to the Legislature and we are supposed to make a determination. We were not involved in the negotiations. We will be a bunch of lay people who are asking whether or not this is a good deal. We would have an increased comfort factor if we felt there was professional, competent staff, whom we pay, not only doing the negotiating but also assessing the deal against certain program criteria.
Instead, we are going to have something that is going to essentially shunt from the mining facilitator right to us. Does the Minister, or any Minister, not think that that is an awkward sort of arrangement to make? How is the Legislature going to access whether or not a good, hard deal in the company's interest and in the public's interest has been struck? How are we going to assess that, because the mining facilitator speaks for the mine - he is doing the negotiations.
We have been told that all of the economists in the department, who are going through some as yet undefined rigorous process, are going to be able to tell us precisely what the benefit is and what the costs are. How do we know that is the proper balance? How do we know that the public has received the best possible deal? We know there is a good chance that the mine has received the best possible deal, but how do we know that the public has received the best possible deal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member has contradicted himself numerous times in his last little speech. First he said that there was no need to analyze it and that it should go directly to the Legislature. He said that there was no need for it to go to the economists at all. Then he said that the mining facilitator essentially works on behalf of the mine.
I disagree with that; the mining facilitator works for the government. He is certainly an advocate for the mining community; that is part of his job. That does not mean that he is going to look only at the mining company's side of the request or tentative agreement. His responsibility is to the Government of the Yukon, and he knows that. It is not a untenable position to be in.
The economists will look at factors such as the longevity of the mine, according to the reports. They will look at the employment and the tax benefits, as the Member for Faro has mentioned. The Legislature will then debate the actual tentative agreement. At that point, it can determine whether or not it is worthwhile.
If one looks at the previous government, the bureaucrats made deals. Examples are the Sa Dena Hes deal, the Canamax deal and the Mount Skukum deal. The deals were made by bureaucrats and never went to the Legislature. I do not know where they went.
I feel quite comfortable with the mining facilitator negotiating with Loki Gold or any other company and then coming to the department to have the economists review the deal from the myriad of reports and information available at that point in time. People in the department will assess the information, and I would expect that they would make a recommendation. At that time, the department's report will come before the Legislature and we will all have an opportunity to debate that in this House.
Mr. McDonald: When did the Minister ever get the impression that anything the bureaucrats did during the seven and one-half years that the NDP formed the government in the territory was not up for debate in this Legislature, or would not be considered for debate in the Legislature? Since when is any transaction involving public money not a debatable item in this Legislature? What in heaven's name does the Minister think is different?
He said that the deal will be debated in the Legislature - if we are sitting. If we are not sitting, it will not be debated until it is after the fact. So what is new about that?
When the Curragh deal was struck in 1986, it was debated in the Legislature because we were sitting in the Legislature. When the government made an expenditure for the Annie Lake Road for Skukum, for example, or to support United Keno Hill Mines, or the operations of any other mining company, that expenditure was debated in the Legislature. It has always been open for public scrutiny.
The Minister said I contradicted myself by saying that there is no need to do the analysis in the Department of Economic Development, that the mining facilitator should just deliver the deal to the Legislature. I was saying that the Minister made it clear that nothing of substance - other than a description being given by the department - will be done in the department before the mining facilitator's deal goes through the Legislature. That is what I was referring to.
My gosh, if after all this time this evening the Minister thinks that I do not think there should be more and better staff work being done, then he has not been listening.
We do want more and better staff work being done. I do want program criteria. I do want specific policy criteria, and I want public servants operating within those guidelines. I want good, professional people acting on the public's behalf doing the dealing. That is precisely what I want.
If the Minister has identified a contradiction, then he has issued the contradiction. The Minister has been unable to tell us so far, but maybe between now and tomorrow he could provide us with a little more detail as to what, precisely, the economists will do. My impression at this point, is that the economists will identify the deal and will clearly tell us what the terms of the deal are. They will not tell us whether or not it is a good deal in relation to benchmarks that the government has identified. All they will be able to tell us is what the deal entails. That is fine and that may be sufficient for them under the circumstances.
Because we do not have the benchmarks the Minister mentioned in his budget speech - something that is going to set him apart from his predecessors and from the NDP government - we will not have any notion whatsoever about whether or not there has been success in the negotiations. All we will know is what the economists tell us is the cost of the road and the public benefit, precisely, and what the tax implications are, precisely. That may be useful information, but it is not enough.
This policy was supposed to take us beyond anything we have ever done in the past. This policy was supposed to cause the policy work in government, in this particular area, to take a leap forward. In fact, it has done nothing of the sort, and I think the process is flawed, to boot.
There may not have been the so-called benchmarks that the Minister is referring to during the NDP government - even though he cannot even identify what they are himself - that could determine whether or not the Canamax deal is a good one or whether the Skukum, Curragh or United Keno Hill deals were good. This policy was supposed to tell us.
On top of that, I have expressed a concern here that the process by which this deal is coming about is inferior to the process used with other deals. The process is not good; the policy is no advancement.
I do not understand how the Minister can now stand up and tell me that he thinks I am contradicting myself. I am repeating what he is saying to me.
If the Minister can come back tomorrow and tell us what the benchmarks are - the performance indicators - and tell us what the specific process is going to be, and perhaps reassure us that we should not have concerns about the mining facilitator - the industry advocate - speaking on behalf of the public purse at the same time, and if he can tell us what useful role the department is going to play and that the Minister is going to play, then, in my opinion, he will have accomplished a lot. If he cannot, then he will not have accomplished very much.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I just want to make one comment. Obviously, the Member opposite neglected to remember that I said that there would be a rigorous review by the Department of Economic Development, and that remains.
Mr. Chair, I move that we 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. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, 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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 13, 1995:
Gaming: government income from charitable licences for the period 1990 to 1994 (Phillips)
Written Question No. 8, dated January 25, 1995, by Mr. Cable
MacRae frontage road: responsibility for maintenance; standards of construction; letter of understanding with developer (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 886
MacRae traffic: review to be undertaken in the summer of 1995 (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 800
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 13, 1995:
Economic Development programs: Approved amounts 1994/95 for the following: Yukon Mining Incentives Program, Business Development Fund, Community Development Fund, Mineral Development Agreement, Economic Development Agreement. Also: Delinquent Loans as at January 11, 1995; Business Development Fund Loan Guarantees as at November 30, 1994; Status of Economic Development Loans as at November 30, 1994; Loans written off to date (Fisher)
The following documents were filed February 13, 1995:
Excellence Awards: information pertaining to consultation and to an assessment plan (Phelps)
Excellence Awards: Hansard excerpts (Harding)