Tuesday, March 14, 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.
Tabling Returns and Documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on contributions to political parties during 1994.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Alcohol and drug abuse treatment for youth
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Since being elected in 1992, I have made it clear that the young people of this territory are among our top priorities. The Department of Health and Social Services takes this commitment to youth and the problems very seriously. I rise today to inform my colleagues of a number of new initiatives and program additions that are specifically designed to serve the Yukon's youth and assist them in combating drug and alcohol abuse. The alcohol and drug services branch is taking a lead role in establishing new services aimed at youth. It has just begun a new program that offers a specialized form of group therapy for youth with drug and/or alcohol problems. This is a pilot project. The group is meeting once a week for five weeks. Upon completion of the first set of meetings, this initiative will be evaluated. There is no waiting to see a counsellor at alcohol and drug services. Outpatient services for youth are available on a drop-in basis from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or by appointment from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. five days a week.
Alcohol and drug services out-patient services also provides referrals to in-patient treatment centres located outside of the territory that specialize in treating youth with severe drug and alcohol problems, including inhalant abuse.
Individual and family counselling has long been provided to youth in the greater Whitehorse area, both for personal drug or alcohol abuse problems, or to youth adversely affected by the drinking of a parent or close relative.
ADS staff has completed work on a handbook for teachers on dealing with children from alcoholic homes. This handbook provides information on working with and helping children living in homes where alcohol or drugs are a problem. This is the culmination of several years' work, and it is expected that the handbook will be in teachers' hands within the next six weeks.
There are several other initiatives that are designed specifically to help youth. We participate in the Youth of the Mainstream program, a federally funded initiative targeted at youth who have been, or are, at risk. ADS has a seat on the local advisory board and the education prevention unit continues to provide technical support to the program.
The department is also involved in two additional programs that will indirectly benefit youth with drug and alcohol abuse problems.
Alcohol and drug services is working with youth services to develop specific in-house prevention and treatment programs for youth in custody. ADS will also provide training to youth services staff and provide ongoing monitoring once the program is implemented.
We will also be working with the Lions' Quest program. This program, aimed at providing lifeskills and esteem building to youth from kindergarten to grade 12, is new to the Yukon and will be delivered through the schools beginning next fall. In communities where the Quest program is not part of the school curriculum, ADS will focus on the creation of a partnership among itself, children's services, regional services, the RCMP, the local school, First Nations and the Department of Education. The intent of this project is to provide effective education and prevention programs in those schools not benefiting from the Quest program.
ADS is also a member of the National Addictions Awareness Week Committee and partially funds the groups activities. Part of this group's intent is to provide positive role models from the Yukon to visit local schools.
Future plans include what is referred to as the electronic BBS. Modeled on the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission's Electronic Zoot Bulletin Board System, ADS On-Line is aimed at providing accurate information about alcohol and drugs, their use and abuse, serving as a forum for youth to discuss their world and respond to questions asked by youth. This system is scheduled to come on line during the summer of 1995.
As well, ADS will be facilitating an adolescent inhalant abuse workshop for trainers in April of this year.
Alcohol and drug abuse is a serious problem among Yukon youth. It is a problem that we take very seriously. We have a commitment to the territory's youth to help them, and we will continue to provide help in ways that make a difference.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to start by saying that the ministerial statement describing all of the programs looks good and sounds good. I do not know when the Minister expects to see results from all of these new programs coming onstream.
On this side of the House, however, we are still concerned about a lot of the reports that have been coming in, and specifically one - the A Cappella report - which describes the amount of drugs in our schools. I know that questions have been asked regarding that, and the government has been asked how it plans to deal with it.
In the past, we have asked the Minister responsible for juvenile justice about kids on our streets, but there did not seem to be a big concern about the problems of those children, except for the Minister saying that people could drop in to see his people any day of the week. It appears that the proposal for a safe home for these kids has been completely ignored by his department.
The Minister described a once-a-week, walk-in session - a group therapy session - which I believe has already started. I have talked to a parent, and I think this is the program she was talking about. She was not very optimistic that this program was going to be that effective for individuals with ongoing substance-abuse problems because the problem is ongoing. She did not know whether or not once a week would be that effective, and whether or not it would be available in the communities.
However, he says that they are going to evaluate it after five sessions. I do not know whether or not five sessions will indicate to him whether or not it is successful.
I am very concerned about the decrease of cultural programs in juvenile justice, because I understand that, since this government has taken over its administration, a lot of the cultural programs are not being used as much as they were in the past. I have heard that from many people. There are some small bits of it still being used.
I am still concerned about the person he has working in juvenile justice, who describes those programs as being a bunch of nonsense. The term he used was a bit stronger than that.
I have spoken with the Advisory Council on Indian Child Welfare. She feels very strongly that this government is not taking the council very seriously when it makes its recommendations.
I wonder if the Minister can indicate if there is a cost to these new programs. I do not know whether or not it is in the budget, because we have not come to that budget yet, but we will. I would like to know, because he keeps talking about doing more for less. There is a lot of controversy about the statement that he keeps making in this House.
There is no additional money for the keeping kids safe program, and volunteers were going to be used because there is no money. I have heard controversy about that.
People in the communities are saying that those comments are hogwash, and that because they are getting less money they have to do less. We are talking about, for instance, the Watson Lake transition home, where they have had to cut the programs. They have had to cut a lot of their outreach programs as well.
I understand that the young offenders facility has been overcrowded for a number of months now. I do not know if they are offering programs there for the individuals who may be suffering from some kind of substance abuse.
I mention these because those are the concerns that are being brought forward to me in regard to kids - mostly by parents, but sometimes by individuals. I asked questions, not too long ago, about a young individual who, at 11 years old, was asking for help for his substance abuse. I understand now that help is available to him.
I would like to know more about that. Do we have to continue to wait until individuals break the law so that they can be ordered by the courts to get the treatment that they need out of the territory?
Speaker: Order please. The Member has about 20 seconds left to speak.
Ms. Commodore: I will be asking for more information from this Minister. We have a lot of time left here, and I will be seeking specific information with regard to the programs he has announced.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member is suffering from a number of misconceptions, which I will be pleased to set her straight on during the budget debate.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: Yesterday during Question Period, we talked about the proposed gambling casino. In response to a question I asked the Government Leader, he said that if a casino went ahead, it would have to be within the city. If the city was not in favour of it, the government would not be pushing it.
What did the Government Leader mean by that? Is he saying that the city makes the final decision on whether or not his government goes ahead with the gambling casino?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the casino was to be in the City of Whitehorse, it would have to have the city's support. If the city does not support it, the casino will not go ahead.
Ms. Commodore: According to CHON FM this morning, Mayor Kathy Watson has written a letter to the Government Leader indicating that the city was not prepared to proceed with a gambling casino at this time.
Can we now assume that all plans for a casino have been called off?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I heard that report, too. I have not received the letter yet from the mayor but when I do, and if that is what it says, I will be recommending to my Cabinet that we drop the issue.
Ms. Commodore: In that case then, all the work he has done in the past with the subcommittees and in compiling reports will not mean a thing, because the final decision was up to the city.
I would like to ask him, since the Kwanlin Dun is a form of government in the city, whether or not he has considered any of their opposition to it, or has he ignored them until now?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The recommendations were set out in the Council on the Economy and the Environment report. Had we proceeded with it, we would have been talking with Kwanlin Dun and other First Nations; but if we are not, then there is no reason to continue the discussions.
To say that the work that has been done has been wasted, I do not agree. It has given us a lot of information and a better understanding of what is involved with casinos and VLTs.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Commodore: This question is for the same Minister regarding the same issue.
On December 13 last year, I asked the Government Leader if he was going to go ahead with the construction of the gambling casino despite the objection of Kwanlin Dun, and this is what he said, "I thought we made it very, very clear that we would be going out for proposals some time in the new year." It appears that he already had plans for what he was going to do despite what the city thought about it. We are now into our third year this year. Can I ask him if that was a recommendation that was made to him by the committee that had been reviewing this for two years?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Council on the Economy and the Environment recommended that if we were to proceed, we should do further consultation. That is what we did. If the radio report of this morning is correct, then there is no use pursuing it.
Ms. Commodore: On December 13, the Minister said that he was looking for proposals. He made that statement in December. I have already asked him this, but he did not answer me. Did he do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wonder if the Member wants us to proceed with the casino now? Is that what she is saying? Has she done an about-face here all of a sudden? During debate in this House we were criticized for going ahead. We were told to can the project, and now that we have, we are being questioned about why we are not proceeding with it.
Ms. Commodore: People have been phoning me at home and at my office in regard to the proposal by this government. One of the high priorities that was talked about in the throne speech was that the government was going to construct a casino in cooperation with someone else. Every time we ask a question, we get a conflicting answer. Since it was mentioned by the Minister in the throne speech, was it not a priority at that time? Did he make a decision without knowing anything about this issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We never said we were going to build a casino. In the throne speech we said that we agreed in principle with it; however, if the municipality is not in favour of it, why would we proceed?
Question re: Mediation
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice about mediation. As part of the government's service improvement program, the Department of Justice has been asked to explore the introduction of mediation as an alternative to court proceedings. It appears, from the Bureau of Management Improvement handout relating to implemented suggestions, which was tabled in the House earlier, that the look at mediation is being driven, at least in part, by cost savings in the court and in the litigation areas. Is there any other reason for the review, other than the cost of the courts and the lawyers involved in conventional litigation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Member knows, mediation can sometimes be a less confrontational approach to solving problems. He is the Member across the floor that recommends mediation and consultation on most things, so that is what we are looking at. That is probably another reason for looking at mediation, as opposed to the court process.
Mr. Cable: I am glad the Minister raised that point, because a couple of years ago - and I direct this question at the Government Leader - I asked the Government Leader if he was willing to approach the proponents of the Taga Ku project with a view to submitting the disagreement to mediation or commercial arbitration, and the Government Leader, as he is today, was rather dismissive. In retrospect, in looking at the long drawn-out court proceedings and the undoubtedly high cost of those proceedings, does the Government Leader think he should have been more enthusiastic and made more of an effort to have submitted that very disagreeable disagreement between the government and the Taga Ku proponents to either mediation or commercial arbitration?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It will be mediated by the courts.
Mr. Cable: Well, back to the Minister of Justice then.
Is the review that the Minister of Justice is having his department enter into restricted to disputes between the government and third parties or is it wider, the use of mediation to mediate disputes between citizens? I believe that alternative is available in the small debts court at the present time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member with details about that, but I know that all across the country mediation is becoming a way to deal with these types of issues. Mediation is much less expensive than using lawyers and going through the court system. Many people are now using this type of problem solving and this government is certainly considering mediation as an alternative.
Question re: Lands Act amendments
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Government Leader about proposed amendments to the territorial Lands Act. The government has said that it wants to be ready with streamlined legislation when it takes over more land devolved from the federal government.
Despite promising open government during the election campaign, the Yukon Party government seems to keep the public and the legislators uninformed about its plans. The Government Leader received a letter today from the Kluane First Nation that poses a question that has been asked in the House many times, and I am going to ask the question again. What, if any, guiding principles were given to the Department of Community and Transportation Services to conduct the amendments to the territorial Lands Act and the process contained within that act?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are a few simple amendments, and they will be brought before the public for review prior to becoming law.
Ms. Moorcroft: There are four First Nations who have land settlements. Most of the other 10 Yukon First Nations are actively engaged in negotiating for settlement land. The Kluane First Nation has asked whether or not the government will refrain from seeking amendments to the Lands Act until the final land settlement has been achieved. Can the Minister indicate whether or not he is willing to agree to that request?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will proceed with it, but I assure the Member that we will not be stepping on the toes of any First Nation.
Ms. Moorcroft: That would be a first.
It is clear that the government has not talked to the Kluane First Nation in the Minister's own riding. It is also clear that government has not got an answer regarding what principles are guiding the amendment process. The Government Leader promised a written answer on February 20, when he refused to answer questions.
Has the Government Leader talked to any Yukon First Nations about devolution of lands and Lands Act amendments? When will the government provide the answers that were promised on February 20?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The department is still working on the amendments to the act. That is all they are working on. When that is ready, it will be taken to the public, including the First Nations.
Question re: Forestry policy
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The Minister told us yesterday in Committee that three departments had drawn up complete forestry policy objectives and have been working, for well over one month, on an action plan that would contain forestry policy principles. Can the Minister tell the House what a few of those principles and objectives are?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: One of the objectives is the consultation process with the stakeholders, such as industry, First Nations and the public.
Mr. Harding: I am shocked that that is all there is to the Minister's answer. I guess I will ask him another question.
On CBC Radio, on February 8, the Minister told us that three departments were working on an action plan as he spoke on that day. Can he give us an update, over one full month later, as to what is in this action plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The action plan has to go to Cabinet before it is released to the public. We expect to have it before Cabinet, probably, next Thursday.
Mr. Harding: I will be looking forward to getting that back from the Minister. Let me ask the Minister about consultation. The Minister said that the department objectives are complete, that the action plan is well underway, and he has now told us that it is going to Cabinet next Thursday. He also said that, in the action plan development, he consulted with the Southeast Yukon Forest Association and other people of Watson Lake. I would like to ask the Minister why the consultation was stopped at Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not if the consultation in Watson Lake was necessarily for the development of the action plan. The Southeast Yukon Forest Association does have a lot of concerns, and the people from Economic Development and Renewable Resources met with the association more to hear what its concerns are than for input into the action plan.
Question re: Forestry policy
Mr. Harding: That is consultation in the development of the action plan, and it was stopped in Watson Lake. The Minister knows full well that there are others in the Yukon who also want to have input into an action plan or forestry policy development in the territory.
I want to suggest something to the Minister. An area of policy that could be very valuable to Yukon for promoting Yukon forestry use would be for the government to adopt a purchase-and-use policy for locally prepared wood and wood products. The Yukon Housing Corporation and the new visitor reception centre would be perfect showcases for local products in the forestry industry.
I would like to ask the Minister if this is a firm objective outlined in his department's new objectives and action plan list and, if so, how?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I find that really interesting because I just finished having a meeting with the forestry coalition from Whitehorse and, almost word for word, was that particular recommendation. That recommendation has a certain amount of merit to it, but it is something that would go into the policy, and not into the action plan for the development of the policy.
Mr. Harding: I find it disturbing that the first time the Economic Development Minister of the Yukon Territory ever heard of the concept of value-added, was at about 12 o'clock today, in a meeting with the forest coalition. It is something that has been around for awhile. Perhaps the government should familiarize itself with the concept.
One of the measures of value for the forestry industry is jobs created per cubic metre cut. How is the Minister measuring value in his objectives and action plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member has mentioned a method that is used in British Columbia, and I believe in parts of the United States: that being the number of jobs created per metre cut. Again, that is certainly one method of measurement that can be looked at in the policy, but not in the action plan for the development of the policy.
Mr. Harding: I really do not think the Minister knows what is in the action plan. When I asked him yesterday in Committee, he had not even seen it, and he was talking about it on the radio over a month ago.
The Liberals are saying that they want to bring in new policy in some forestry areas, such as allocation and stumpage fees, yet they have had little consultation with First Nations. Does the Minister agree that the Liberals would be violating the UFA if they fail to involve the First Nations in new resource development policy work?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know whether or not they would be in violation of the UFA. I think that is their particular problem. We are asking the federal government to consult with us and with First Nations prior to making some major decisions on the three areas that they were looking at, which are stumpage, reforestation and allocation of the resource.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Board, late payment
Mr. Penikett: The Workers' Compensation Board was late in paying the Yukon Hospital Corporation for a worker's disability claim. For this reason, benefits due the employee in 1994 were not paid to the hospital until 1995 and, because of this, the worker will now be paying income tax on that portion of the money due her from WCB, and she will not be able to recoup the tax until 1996 when the WCB can issue a T-5 for the 1995 tax year.
Has the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board been made aware of this situation?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I have not, but I am very interested in it.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his interest. The Workers' Compensation Board has admitted to the late payment. Revenue Canada has called this an unfortunate incident but says there is no way to rectify the situation.
Because I have now had two constituents who have experienced this problem, could the Minister investigate the matter and communicate with the Department of Finance to see if there is any possible resolution?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, I will. If it is an error on the part of the Workers' Compensation Board, perhaps we can ask the board about compensating the worker for the amount she ends up paying in taxes.
Mr. Penikett: I think that is an excellent suggestion, and I heartily endorse it. As that is the position of the government now, I hope it will be expedited very quickly.
This situation obviously should not be allowed to continue. Would the Minister be willing to request, from the Workers' Compensation Board, safeguards to ensure the timely payment of WCB monies owed to both employers and employees so this situation does not recur?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I had hoped that I would not have to do that, but apparently I do, and I will.
Question re: Taxation policy of government
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Government Leader. During the election campaign two years ago, the Government Leader said that it would be obscene to raise taxes. After the election and the Government Leader's first budget, Yukoners had imposed upon them the biggest tax increase ever in the history of the Government of the Yukon. In response to the federal government's budget, the Government Leader said, "Cut spending." However, when they did, he said that it was not fair. He complained about the cuts. Now the city is imposing some tax increases, and, guess what? We have a Government Leader who is unhappy because of the tax increases. It is very difficult to get a clear, consistent position out of this government about anything. I would like to ask the Government Leader this question today: does he have a clear, consistent position regarding taxation, or does he just make it up as he goes along to suit his political purposes?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, he makes it up as he goes along to suit his political purposes - okay. I know the Government Leader must be able to see the contradictions that are present in what he is saying and in the actions he is taking. It is always bad if someone else increases taxes, but it is okay if he does it. Can he stand up here today and tell us why it was all right for his government to impose one of the largest tax increases on Yukoners, yet when the city does it, it makes him unhappy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite asks shotgun questions, so that she can pick the answer to whatever question she chooses. We did not have any choice but to raise taxes, because of the mess that was left to us by the previous administration.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, we have heard that story a lot of times - that they were broke and they were poor. However, we ended up with a $20 million surplus a year later. My position has been clear and consistent. I have opposed this government's tax increases, I oppose the municipal tax increases, and I supported the federal government when it cut its budget. I asked the Minister two years ago what his government's policy was regarding taxation, and there was no policy. It makes Yukoners very nervous to have a Government Leader who sways in the wind, and bends in the wind, and makes up policies as he goes along for his own political purposes. I would like to ask the Government Leader when his government is going to have a clear, consistent position on taxation. When is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do.
Question re: Taxation policy of government
Mr. McDonald: I would like to know what the heck it is, because I have heard the most incredible things today and yesterday, and reading the paper was almost too much to bear.
Three years ago, the Government Leader said that to raise taxes would be obscene. He followed that up with record-size tax increases, both for individuals and for the small business sector, and then, when the City of Whitehorse raises its tax rate by 1.3 percent, which incidentally compares quite favourably to the government's 11 percent increase in personal income tax, the Government Leader took great umbrage. What is the Minister's position on tax increases? Are these obscene or not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not think I would ever get the opportunity to get back into this kind of debate again. I thought the Opposition had learned its lesson about trying to make mileage out of a $64 million deficit. That is the government that took over a set of books having a $64 million surplus but seven years later they turned it into a $64 million deficit.
Mr. McDonald: I would have thought the Government Leader would have learned his lesson about tax increases and about criticizing other governments' tax increases after he had levied record-size tax increases on the public of Yukon. I would like to ask the Government Leader something. On April 26, 1993, he indicated that Yukoners have had a tax holiday for many years. Is the holiday over?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not as far as the territorial government is concerned.
Mr. McDonald: That is correct, and we will see more tax increases in future years.
The Government Leader indicated that he felt he had to balance his books in 1993, and that caused him to want to raise an extra $8.8 million from Yukoners' pockets. He found $7 million three or four months later for a brand-new program, and still lapsed $20 million at the end of that year. I am not convinced I understand the government's policy on tax increases. The Minister says the holiday is not over. Can we expect more taxes in the future, even though he has been quite liberally taking shots at the Liberal government for raising taxes and at the City of Whitehorse, as well, for raising taxes?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can understand the Member opposite having difficulty in understanding finances when we look at the way they kept the books over the years when they were in government. It was a pretty sorry mess.
No, we are not planning any further tax increases.
Question re: Environment Act amendments
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources about the Environment Act. They are the follow-up from questions I asked earlier this month.
The government sent a number of proposed amendments to the Environment Act to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment for review. Earlier this month, the Minister characterized the proposed amendments as "essentially housekeeping amendments." When the council got back to the government, it said it would like to have a more thorough review of other sections of the act. The Minister refused to table a legislative return on the other issues the council is dealing with.
In order for the public to have some inkling of what is going on, are the changes that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is looking at of a housekeeping nature, or could they result in major amendments to the act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The amendments for which the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment has asked us to conduct some additional consultation are more substantive than the housekeeping amendments that we had anticipated.
Mr. Cable: In the original letter of instruction to the council, the Government Leader asked the council to conduct an in-house review of the proposed amendments, but he did not say that the views of certain non-government interest groups be obtained. He listed the following non-government groups: the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, Yukon Conservation Society, Raven Recycling, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Bar Association, Yukon Fish and Game Association and the Council for Yukon Indians. Did the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment obtain the views of all the parties listed in the instructing letter of September 8, 1994?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure whether or not they solicited all of them. I will have to get back to the Member with a more definitive answer.
Mr. Cable: The Government Leader, in his instructing letter, asked that the council's review not be carried out in public so that the Opposition would not mistakenly assume that the act was being gutted.
In view of the fact that the council has enlarged the terms of reference, is the government now of the opinion that a public process may be more appropriate for reviewing the various amendments - that is, the amendments proposed by the government and the amendments being discussed by the council on its own initiative?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly believe that the council agreed on some of the minor amendments for administrative purposes, but I think that the decision has to be whether or not the government wants to proceed on those more substantive amendments, and if so, then the recommendation from the Council on the Economy and the Environment - I tend to agree with the recommendation - would be that we go to a more public consultative process.
Question re: Taxation policy of government
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader responded to what his government believed were the high-spending practices in the first half of 1992-93 by proposing to spend an extra $30 million the following year - the government's first full year of operation - by raising $8.8 million to accomplish that task.
How can the government come along and lecture the municipal government by telling it that it has to do the same thing as the territorial government did, which is to look at its costs and not look at constantly increasing its revenue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly what this government has done. We have controlled the costs of government and, quite clearly, the operation and maintenance costs in this budget bear that out, compared to the previous two budgets.
The overall operation and maintenance cost of government has not increased since we took over government.
Mr. McDonald: Incidentally, the payroll is now a record $150 million. That is the highest in history, on the operations side. So, the Minister should take that as notice. However, the fact of the matter is that a dollar spent, whether capital or operations, is a dollar out of the taxpayers' pocket. This year, the government is proposing to spend a record $500 million. I have to ask the Minister how he justifies his lecture to the City of Whitehorse for wanting to raise its property taxes by 1.3 percent, when he raised personal income taxes in the territory by 11 percent; he also raised the taxes for corporations, and he raised the taxes for small business.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member is going to stand up and quote figures, he should quote them accurately and not mislead the public. We did not increase personal income taxes by 11 percent, and the Member opposite knows that. Now it sounds like the Member opposite is saying that we should raise taxes, and he is also in favour of the City of Whitehorse raising property taxes.
Mr. McDonald: We have been against the Government of Yukon raising taxes when it did not need to raise taxes. We are flabbergasted that the Government of Yukon now is indicating some consternation that another government is raising taxes at a lesser rate than what the Government of Yukon did. Incidentally, raising the personal income tax rate from 45 to 50 percent is an 11-percent increase - not a five-percent increase. What is the government's consistent policy with respect to taxation? Does it believe it should cut costs and avoid taxes at all possible costs? Or, is the Government of Yukon going to do as it has, and raise both expenditures and taxes - and make it a tax-and-spend government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, the Members opposite are scrambling, in view of it being such a long session. They are having to recycle questions from two years ago now. It is quite remarkable that they have run out of questions so quickly.
Quite clearly, we did not have any choice but to raise revenues because of the sorry mess left to us by the Opposition - the most fiscally irresponsible government the Yukon had ever seen. All they knew how to do was to blow money, and not to operate in an efficient manner and get the best bang for their dollar.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Board, appearing as witnesses
Ms. Moorcroft: We have not run out of questions at all, although we certainly have not been getting very much in the way of answers.
I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. We get calls from constituents on worker compensation issues. Can the Minister tell us whether or not the members of the Workers' Compensation Board will appear before the House?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am not certain, but I believe that they will. I expect them to, and I will request that they do. They are a little more independent than the Crown corporations. When we get calls, I take it upon myself to contact the board. I would invite the Member to not only contact me, but also to contact the members and president of the Workers' Compensation Board directly.
Ms. Moorcroft: I think I can take it from that that the Minister is prepared to make a request to the board, as well. If he would like me to reinforce that request, I certainly will.
We have heard numerous complaints from injured workers who have now formed an organization to protect their interests. Has the government thought about extending an invitation to the Yukon Injured Workers Alliance to appear before Committee of the Whole?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, we have not considered that. I have met and spoken with one of the members. The subject was not brought up. It is really in a formation stage and I am not sure what its plans are. We did not discuss the idea of the group appearing before the Legislature.
Ms. Moorcroft: We have heard reports that the new hospital design has affected the original agreement to provide Workers' Compensation Board rehabilitation services from the Thomson Centre. Has there been a change to the delivery of rehabilitation services by the Workers' Compensation Board?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Not as far as I know, but I will check on it. As far as I know, there is still a fee for service being paid on an ad hoc basis. We hope to have a long-term agreement in place some time in the future.
Question re: Tourism, free air tickets
Mrs. Firth: I have a question about privatization again, and this time it is directed to the Minister of Tourism.
I have been asking all Ministers questions about privatization, and about whether or not they are doing anything about this issue. I received warm responses from one Minister, and cold responses from the other Ministers.
Presently, the Tourism Industry Association represents the business sector, yet the Minister's Department of Tourism said that, without taking free tickets from airline companies to promote the tourism industry, the tourism industry would collapse in the Yukon. I do not necessarily agree with the Minister making that statement, but I would like to offer him another suggestion.
Is the Minister prepared to relinquish the free tickets his department receives and have them go to the Tourism Industry Association for distribution to journalists and marketing specialists?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think we produced a legislative return that laid out the number of free tickets received last year. There were some given to the Department of Tourism for an Australian festival. However, the other free tickets from the airlines are for familiarization tours to bring people into the territory - they are not for people to leave the territory. Those tours are offered through the Department of Tourism in the Yukon, as well as in the provinces.
Mrs. Firth: I do not think it matters whether or not they are coming in or coming out. They are free tickets. I am suggesting to the Minister that to get the government out of the business of accepting free tickets and designating them, that he look at giving that responsibility to the Tourism Industry Association. I would like to ask the Minister if he would consider doing that.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think the Member opposite is speaking from a rather uninformed position. I would be willing to offer a briefing to the Member on how we market and how other jurisdictions market, because I think it is important when the Member asks questions about these kinds of things that she know why we do it, how we do it and how it is done. I would be prepared to offer a briefing with our marketing director so the Member can more fully understand why we accept these types of tickets from the airlines.
Mrs. Firth: If the Minister is so informed and I am so uninformed, why does he not stand up today and tell us why we cannot do it? I think it is a reasonable suggestion. I think business should work with business and get the government out of accepting free tickets from anyone for anything. If the Minister thinks it is such a bad idea, and we are all uninformed, why does he not stand up and tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure whether or not the airlines would deal directly with the Tourism Industry Association, or if they would deal with us. I will check into that.
The Member keeps raising all these questions purportedly on the behalf of the tourism industry, and yet the people I have spoken to in the tourism industry tell me that that Member knows nothing about marketing. That Member should perhaps sit down with TIA, and sit down with our marketing people and, before she asks the question, she could be more informed, and she could really know what she is talking about when she asks these kinds of questions.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members' Business
Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition to be called on Wednesday, March 15. They are Motion No. 44, standing in the name of the Member for Faro and Motion No. 34, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse West.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members 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. 3.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Economic Development?
Department of Economic Development - continued
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a couple of items for circulation. I also have a verbal response regarding the coal plant study by H.A. Simons. It is expected to be completed in the next week or so, and it will then be reviewed by the Yukon Development Corporation Board toward the end of the month. Following that review, we should be able to make it public.
I have the ARA Consulting contract for circulation, and I will have a summary of responses to the industrial support policy discussion paper.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister explain the summary of responses to the Yukon industrial support policy discussion paper? Who are these responses from and what is the context in which this document is being given?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the left-hand column it says "subject", and these were comments on the subject of mining. We received comments from various people. The government did not feel that it had the right to put each person's comment down, so the comments were summarized and grouped under categories.
Mr. McDonald: I am still not quite clear about this. Regarding the column that is titled "subject", is that subject the comments from the mining industry about the industrial support policy, or is it comments from just anybody about the mining elements of the industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: They are comments about mining from any number of groups.
Mr. McDonald: I will read it over. I do not think that it is critical to pursue it at this point.
Regarding the study that is coming forward and was to have been done by Christmas, are we talking about the same study? Can the Minister tell us what the study refers to? Is it the feasibility of a coal-fired, power-generating facility? Specifically, what is the study about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I am not completely familiar with this, because it comes under the jurisdiction of the Yukon Development Corporation, and I am not its Minister. My understanding is that the corporation commissioned, "a study on coal-fired power generation in the Yukon", and that the contract was awarded to H.A. Simons in Vancouver. We expect, as I said a few minutes ago, to be able to make that public sometime toward the end of the month.
Mr. McDonald: What is the Simons report expected to do? Is it expected to tell us whether or not a coal-fired power- generating station is feasible under certain conditions - economically feasible? Is it supposed to give us some sort of environmental review of coal-fired power generation? Does the Minister have a sense of the general terms of reference of the study?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, as I said before, I am not familiar with the proposal, but I understand that it is a study that looks at the economic feasibility of coal-fired electricity generation in the Yukon.
Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Minister could ask the Minister responsible for the Development Corporation if we could see a copy of the terms of reference of the report. Would that be possible?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can ask, through the Minister responsible.
Mr. McDonald: I was taken by the Minister's very aggressive commitment to provide benchmarks by which the department's performance can be judged in the upcoming strategic planning process being undertaken. Consequently, I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the benchmarks will include the government's economic performance in rural areas. Is he planning to establish some benchmarks, in terms of employment business starts, and that sort of thing, in the rural areas in order to demonstrate whether or not the government is actually showing accomplishments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what the benchmarks will actually be. However, I have asked the department to create a business plan for approval that would include some tentative benchmarks that will indicate if the government is or is not doing its job. So, part of the department's job is to create the benchmarks.
Mr. McDonald: Benchmarks have to have some meaning. I recall that when I was in Economic Development there was a continual din from the Opposition benches - which were then populated by Yukon Party personnel.
The one benchmark that was worthy of consideration was how many jobs were created in rural regional districts and how many business starts could be counted in those rural regional districts. Does the Minister not feel that this is the kind of benchmark he is going to be pursuing in his strategic plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The number of jobs created and small business starts could certainly be considered benchmarks. However, I suspect that there may well be more than just those. I want to have a look at what the department comes up with for potential benchmarks.
Mr. McDonald: We do not want to see situations where the Minister makes some big claims about setting benchmarks for what he calls the first time, only to find that the benchmarks are really quite watered down and wishy-washy indices that are really only of interest to public servants and not to the community at large.
When people talk about economic development, they are talking about jobs and business starts. That would be one area that the government might want to consider. I am not asking if it would be the only benchmark.
Is the government going to cut to the chase and prove that its policies are having an effect by showing the number of jobs created and the increased economic activity in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly the economic activity in the territory is an overall benchmark. The number of jobs created is, as well. There are other factors, such as the seasonal nature of employment and whether or not the jobs are year-round and the actual salaries. All of these factors could be considered benchmarks under the overall heading of "economic activity".
Mr. McDonald: I am sure that the general territorial indices of job creation, the unemployment rate, and the number of business starts would be useful. I am referring more specifically to regional areas. The reason I am focusing on that is because it was of great concern not only to me, but to the Opposition, when I was a Minister. The Opposition Members insisted that we show progress in the regional districts if we were really going to demonstrate that we cared about, and our policies were effective in, creating economic activity in Ross River, Mayo, Haines Junction, et cetera.
This came up during the election campaign on a number of occasions. Because the Yukon Party campaigners made an issue of it, that is one of the reasons why I am making an issue of it now.
Can we expect the benchmarks to also include employment opportunities and business starts in the regional districts, and not just be calculated as overall indices for the entire Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The benchmarks will have to be tied to program activity. If we have a program, one of the benchmarks for the program would be the job creation component for a specific community. We could then measure whether or not that particular program was of benefit to that particular community.
Mr. McDonald: I am not sure I understand what the Minister is saying. Surely, whether or not the government is doing well in a particular community - or whether or not its policies are doing well overall - could be determined by the amount of economic activity in the communities. Is the Minister saying that, even though a particular community may be suffering incredible unemployment, the only performance standards the department will set for itself is, for example, if it begins a $100,000 program that promises to create 10 jobs, and the program does create 10 jobs, the government will then consider it to be a success?
So the community itself, say Ross River for example, which may have an unemployment rate of 40 or 50 percent at a given time, may not substantially change by the introduction of the program, but the program itself may be successful. Is the Minister saying that the standards of performance are going to be measured by whether or not the program is successful, not whether or not they have achieved significant success in, say, the employment status of a particular community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, not entirely. The program could be very much of a success in a small community. The Member opposite was using Ross River as an example because it did create those 10 jobs, but the overall economic opportunities in the community were very, very bad and it had a very high unemployment rate. We could say, certainly, that the benchmarks for our program indicated that the program was quite successful but, for the whole Department of Economic Development and the Government of Yukon, there would have to be more benchmarks than just what were used for that particular program because maybe the Government of Yukon and/or the Department of Economic Development really were not doing that great of a job because the unemployment situation was really bad there. However, I also do not think that the Government of Yukon or the department can be held totally responsible for the entire economic activity in the community.
There is certainly room for benchmarks for each program and then those would feed into an overall look at whether the department itself was doing what was intended.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Minister is starting to catch on to some of my concerns. If the government and, in particular, the Department of Economic Development, set benchmarks that are simply programatic - meaning that if the government decides to spend a certain amount of money and it expects to get a certain return - then it considers itself to be wildly successful when it gets that return. The program could be wildly successful and the community can be stuck in a cesspool of unemployment, even while the wildly successful program was going on or completed. The benchmarks have to be realistic. The government cannot do everything; the government cannot turn things around overnight. We have to have a sense of what realistic benchmarks are, and I am hoping that the government does set realistic, but tough, benchmarks for itself.
Are the benchmarks being set by the Department of Economic Development going to demonstrate the Government of Yukon's expected performance standards in the communities, or is it simply going to be a reflection of the Department of Economic Development's responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The benchmarks are for the department, but they do feed into the overall government. We have other means - with our economists, for instance - of measuring the economy in the territory, which will determine how the government is doing overall.
Mr. McDonald: In determining how the government is doing overall and how the Department of Economic Development is doing, will the benchmark include employment in the communities? However realistically the performance standards may be set, will they include the level of employment in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not absolutely certain at this time, because I have not seen the draft plan yet. I would think that would be one of the measurements that would be used.
Mr. McDonald: Okay, I think I am glad to hear that response. Without some realistic benchmarks or performance standards that mean something to the average Yukoner, I do not see the point in establishing benchmarks other than for the government or the department to pat itself on the back. If the benchmarks have no effect on the real world, what is the point?
I would ask the Minister to have a look at a letter that the Minister for Economic Development sent to me on March 9, 1994. The letter appeared to pooh-pooh the notion that there should be any benchmarks in rural areas, in particular with respect to employment, saying that it is just impractical. I am glad that the Minister has higher standards and expectations of his department than were evident in the past.
The Minister was going to try to determine what the efficiency arrangement between the federal and territory governments that was signed by the Government Leader and the Prime Minister was all about. Has the Minister had an opportunity to find that out?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We received a copy of the agreement from the Executive Council Office, but we have not photocopied it yet. We will provide the document tomorrow, or maybe even after the break this afternoon.
Mr. McDonald: I realize there are quite a number of outstanding questions, and I will wait for the Minister to respond. I have not had a chance to digest some of the information that he has provided today. I am sure there will be an opportunity somewhere down the road to ask follow-up questions. I think, at this point, that we can move to line-by-line debate.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of hours' worth of questions that I want to go over with the Minister. Actually, I am just kidding.
I would like to ask him about the Faro Wilderness Recreation Association. I had a call from the FWRA this morning. We were talking about a call they had received from the director of economic programs that was quite positive. Last week in debate the Minister indicated to me that he would have some sort of detailed response for me from the department regarding the Campbell region tourism coordinator and FWRA proposals. I was wondering, before we close general debate, if he had that response for me, or if he is going to need some more time to come up with it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Since the representations by the Member, we have been dealing very diligently with the FWRA, and it looks very positive. We have not made a response to the Member yet because the fellow who is responsible for doing it happens to be sitting beside me instead of in his office writing it. It is on his desk. You are looking right at him, so I am sure that it will be forthcoming soon.
Mr. Harding: I certainly accept that answer from the Minister. I am anxiously awaiting the official having an opportunity to do it. I would also like to thank the department for communicating with the FWRA today. The association appreciated it, and I want to pass that on. The anxiety level is fairly high, given the work that they have put into it, and the uncertainty surrounding what they are doing.
It all relates to budgeting and the types of considerations that the Yukon government and the federal government are thinking about. I would just say that they appreciate it. Let us hope that we can pull this thing together shortly.
Mr. Cable: I just have a few more questions in general debate on the business development fund and the terms of reference for the evaluation as tabled by the Minister, which are dated November 10, 1994. It seems that the initial evaluation relates primarily to an evaluation of the availability of funding. I am not sure that that was the original rationale for the act.
I refer the Minister to the bottom of page 2 and the top of page 3, where it says, "the rationale issues to be addressed are these: do Yukon businesses still need financial assistance from the business development fund; what, if any, is the appropriate type of assistance for the Yukon government to provide to business; and, is the assistance provided for non-commercial industries support sufficient or appropriate? They seem
to generally hinge on the availability of financing being the term of reference. Am I reading the document correctly? I am referring to the terms of reference document, dated November 10, 1994.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do have the document in front of me. Essentially, what we were trying to assess at the time was whether or not there was any need for the government to be in the lending business. That is essentially what we were trying to find out.
Mr. Cable: I was not around at the time the Business Development Assistance Act was originally brought in; neither was the Minister. Perhaps the official could tell us the original reason for bringing in the Business Development Assistance Act. Was it to provide financing niches that were not available in the general commercial market?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My official is just going over the act. I worked for the government at the time and so did the official, although we worked in different departments. What I seem to recollect is that, at the time - maybe we should be asking the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - the idea was to fill a niche that the lending institutions were not able, for whatever reason, to fill - at least, that was the perception.
Mr. Cable: We could possibly issue some sort of a writ to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and get him to appear before us.
Looking through the act, its original purpose is fairly obtuse. The preamble says, "The Executive Council Member shall not approve an application unless" - and under 4(b) it continues - "the Executive Council Member is of the opinion that a direct result of the carrying out of the project will be a net increase in the number of opportunities for long-term employment in the Yukon or the prevention of a decrease in the number of such opportunities."
By inference, that would appear to be a major rationale underlying the act.
I have not gone through this with a fine tooth comb, but the only place I could find a smell of the availability of financing being an objective of the act is in section 20(2)(c). It says, "In making a recommendation to the Executive Council Member to approve or not to approve an application, the board shall take into consideration: (c) the extent to which the project may be carried out if the application is not approved." Further on, under section 2(i), it says, "the board can consider such other factors as the board considers relevant to the accomplishment of the purposes of the act."
It seems to me that one of the purposes, if not the only, or main, purpose is the job creation or the retention of jobs. Are the Minister and I on the same wavelength, or does he disagree with that proposition?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My colleague just said that I should never admit to being on the same wavelength as a Liberal.
In response to the Member's question, I think that the Member is essentially correct. However, there is an assumption that if a business is created, jobs will follow. That is the way the act was written; if all these things happen, jobs will be the result.
Mr. Cable: It does not seem to be the assumption, because the Executive Council Member, in section 4(b), has to satisfy himself or herself that that, in fact, is the case.
The reason I am asking the question is that the terms of reference for the evaluation of the program do not seem to address the basic, underlying rationale for the act, which, if I am reading it correctly, is job creation or job retention. They seem to address one of the problems that business may have had here in the past - may still have - and that is the availability of financing.
Why was the analysis of job creation and the success of the fund not made part of the original analysis?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It goes both ways. We may make the assumption that businesses need money and that businesses create jobs, and feel that the business development fund fills a niche that is not being filled by the lending institutions. Following along with that same assumption, if the lending institutions are filling that need and/or businesses do not feel that the business development fund is necessary any more, those jobs would be created by the private sector. If money is necessary and the businesses do not need it, it must mean that they are getting money from some other source.
Mr. Cable: I have no problem with that particular observation but I do have a problem with the scope of the evaluation. The success, or lack of success, of the business development fund has been the subject of debate in this House, off and on, for at least a couple of years, and judgment on the success of the fund is not going to relate to the availability or the lack of availability of capital; it is going to relate to the administration of the fund. If, in fact, we find there are some niches where funding is not available - for example, in venture capital - we still have a long way to go to complete the evaluation.
Why are all these issues not addressed at the same time so that we can reach some conclusions about whether or not this fund is worth retaining?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We wanted to find if there is a gap. We did not go as far as the Member opposite is suggesting but we were trying to determine whether the program is filling a gap. It may not be necessary to fill that gap any longer.
Mr. Cable: The Minister is saying, then, that if, as a result of the study, we find that the commercial financing market and entrepreneurs are adequately serviced, then that will be the end of the business development fund. Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is right.
Mr. Cable: Let me go on to another issue, one that was talked about in Question Period: gambling. What has been the Department of Economic Development's role in analyzing the economic benefits of gambling? If the Minister knows, what has been the role of the Department of Tourism in analyzing the benefits of gambling, in particular the casino gambling proposition that may be sort of dying on the vine, judging from the city's reaction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A representative of the Department of Economic Development sat on the original committee that collected the information, but the department has conducted no economic analysis of gambling in the territory.
Mr. Cable: To refresh our memories, who sat on the original committee?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not remember the individuals, or even the departments; I only know that it was an interdepartmental committee.
Mr. Cable: Was any attempt made to quantify the benefits of increased gambling in the territory? If so, is there some report with this quantification contained therein that could be tabled?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Department of Economic Development was not asked to conduct any particular analysis at all.
Mr. Cable: There was a very interesting article in the May 1994 issue of Canadian Business. This article made some observations about the short-term gain and the long-term pain associated with gambling and the redistribution of income from family purposes to casino gambling purposes.
At page 38 of this article, there is a quote that says, "According to Bill Thompson, a professor of public administration at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and an expert on gambling economics, a casino must draw at least 50 percent of its wagers from outside its local region to generate any new wealth for its community. Otherwise, the effect is simply a redistribution of money within the local economy and a hefty tax take for government."
I do not know if the Minister's government is floating around waiting for a hefty tax take, but does the Minister agree with the proposition the professor put forth: that a casino must draw at least 50 percent of its wagers from outside of the community to result in creating new wealth within the community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know. That depends on a lot of factors, such as the size of the casino, the cashflow, the turnover and that sort of thing. If one had a casino with a multi-million dollar annual cashflow, one's 50 percent would not wash very well. In that case, 25 percent might.
I have read all kinds of different articles; I do not recall reading that particular one. Last month, Reader's Digest had an article with respect to Manitoba, where they say it is a wonderful thing. In this article, people at the casinos and VLTs are making mega-dollars for the government.
I am not expert on this at all, and I do not want to dispute what the professor is saying, but I think it depends on other factors, rather than just making a statement.
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Tourism said that the Government Leader said that we are not going to have a casino. The change in tactic between the city not driving the issue and the city now driving the issue is the subject of some sad humour.
In the event the government should happen to change its mind, has it done any analysis of the financial or economic spinoffs from a casino in Dawson? Has it determined who is actually using it on a percentage basis - locals or tourists?
If we do not have that information, perhaps either the Minister of Tourism or the Minister of Economic Development can indicate how we got so far down the road with what appears to be a flimsy analysis of the economic benefits.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Perhaps I can help. My understanding is that the KVA did some initial work to determine the expenditures of tourists in Dawson and whether or not they go to the casino. I am not sure if that particular information was used by Economic Development, but I know that KVA has an estimate of the number of dollars each tourist brings to town with respect to gambling in Gertie's.
Mr. Cable: I am not going to belabour it, because it appears that the project is going the way of the dodo, like many other projects. However, in case there is some renewed attempt to bring the casino back again, I would recommend to the Minister that he refer to this article in Canadian Business. It was referred to in Reader's Digest, which I think is where the Minister read the excerpt. It is a very well-written article. It is in a magazine devoted to the cause of business, so it is certainly not going to beat against the business drum, if there was any reason for it not to do so.
There are many fairly interesting observations in the article. One of them reads, "'Casinos are not in the business of providing reality therapy to people who lost touch with how much their gambling habit is costing them. As long as a problem gambler has money, he or she is free to remain at the gambling table. Casinos depend heavily on the fact,' says Tibor Barsony, executive director of the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling. 'It is my opinion,' he says, 'that if you took the problem gamblers out of the casinos, they would have to shut the places down.'"
The article also goes on to talk about Atlantic City, and the candy-floss sort of economic development that casinos have created for that particular city. It says, "Poverty is still high. The population has shrunk to 37,000 from 42,000, and the jobs that have been created are mostly low-end service positions." I know that the experience in Windsor, which is right next door to a city of several million people, is different. However, at such time as Windsor opens its own casino, which I assume will happen if it finds most of its recreation money being siphoned across the border, you will find the same problems arising there - low-paying jobs and people not being able to meet their mortgages.
As a matter of fact, the employees of the casino just went on strike the other day, assumedly to achieve higher wages. This is simply by way of positive reinforcement for the Minister, in case he or any of his colleagues want to bring this idea back again, to have a long look at the economic and social benefits to the community. What would happen in Windsor was postulated by a gambling expert - that the jobs would become low-paying jobs, and instead of people having homes, they would simply be transient, and have little connection to their community. In the long run, it would be an unhealthy community.
I am not asking the Minister to respond to all of that sort of hectoring, but it is too bad the proposition went as far down the road as it did. It is hoped that the Minister and his department will take a long look at the economic benefits if it is inclined to bring back the gambling proposition.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will move on to Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Economic Development
Chair: Is there any general debate on capital estimates and on the O&M estimates combined?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will move back to Bill No. 3.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I wonder if we could take a very brief recess. I believe I may have the wrong book here.
Mr. McDonald: I think the Minister may have been reading from the wrong book since we began general debate. Irrespective of the fact that we are calling general debate finished in operation and maintenance and supplementary estimates does not mean that we are particularly happy with what is going on but we are more than happy to take a brief recess.
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This figure is made up of the wage restraint relief, three days at Christmas, which is an increase of $9,000; $12,000, due to a vacancy in the position of personnel administrator; $13,000, due to a vacancy in the position of records indexer; $7,000, due to mining facilitator salary being slightly less than budgeted and start date two weeks later than budgeted; and $1,000 for miscellaneous changes; for a total of $24,000.
Administration in the amount of an underexpenditure of $24,000 agreed to
On Energy and Mines
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is comprised of $5,000 for wage restraint relief and $51,000 for the program assistant position coordinating centennial programs being transferred into economic programs. The position previously coordinated the northern oil and gas action program, NOGAP, and the saving energy action loan fund, SEAL, which have been discontinued. There are also miscellaneous changes for $5,000, for a net result of $51,000.
Energy and Mines in the amount of an underexpenditure of $51,000 agreed to
On Economic Policy, Planning and Research
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is comprised of $12,000 for the wage restraint relief, $6,000 for miscellaneous personnel reductions, and $4,000 for miscellaneous non-personnel reductions, for a net of $2,000.
Economic Policy, Planning and Research in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Economic Programs
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is an amount of $7,000 for wage restraint relief. A program assistant was transferred from energy and mines, for the amount of $51,000. The length of vacancies was greater than anticipated, for the amount of $11,000; miscellaneous changes and reclassification amount to $7,000. The net is $76,000.
Economic Programs in the amount of $76,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Energy and Mines
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a decrease from $863,000 to $861,000 in personnel due to wage restraint legislation, for a net of $2,000.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister give us some information about what the future of this program is?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is no anticipated change at this point.
Yukon Mining Incentives Program in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,000 agreed to
On Mining Information Projects
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is made up of geoscience data compilations, $60,000; promotional campaign for national mining week, $50,000; placer mini-file database, $50,000; geology and mining pamphlet; $30,000; established mineral property information database, 10,000, for a net total of $200,000.
Mining Information Projects in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Surplus Electricity Utilization
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is the item that I spoke about yesterday - electric boilers to be installed at Yukon College, $100,000, and at the Justice Centre, $50,000, for a net total of $150,000.
Surplus Electricity Utilization in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Economic Programs
On Community Development Fund
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Contributions increased $224,000 - a carry over from 1993-94 projects; administration decreased $27,000, due to a vacancy and elimination of a half-time economic development officer. That amount is reflected by a full-time economic development officer resigning in Haines Junction, a half-time economic development officer resigning in Carmacks and a full-time economic development officer in Whitehorse created, for a net total of $197,000.
Community Development Fund in the amount of $197,000 agreed to
On Business Development Fund
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The loans are reduced by $1 million. The federal liberalization of the Small Business Loans Act has led to commercial banks expanding their roles in this area. Administration decreased by $20,000. Vacancy and the elimination of a half-time economic development officer position was charged between the community development fund and the business development fund administration.
Mrs. Firth: I have two areas that I want to cover under this item. The first item is the issue about people getting business development loans - companies in particular - in competition with other companies when they are bidding on contracts.
We had an issue in the House where one contracting company went to the business development fund, received a loan, and bid against another contracting company for a project with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
When I raised the issue, the Government Leader stated that he had a great deal of concern. He said that he did not agree with what had happened. The Government Leader said that the government was going to do something about it to see that it did not happen again. Could the Minister tell us what steps the government has taken to see that this situation does not happen again?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I was in charge of the Yukon Housing Corporation at the time and I recall that particular situation.
The government has now initiated thorough and better checks of loans: what it is going to be used for and with whom the company may be in competition.
Mrs. Firth: Was the department not doing that before this time? Was the department not inquiring about what the loan was for? All you have to ask is what the loan is for and you know right away the purpose, and whether or not the loan should or should not be allowed.
I would like something more definitive from the Minister about this particular issue, because the Government Leader did state very specifically that the government is going to do something to ensure that this situation never occurs again.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Under the policy, it was an allowable loan at the time. We have said that that is not the type of loan we want to entertain.
Mrs. Firth: There are two things here. First of all, I do not think it was an allowable loan at the time. Part of the philosophy of the loan program is that money is not supposed to be loaned to businesses in competition with other businesses. I do not know how the Minister can say he was of the impression that it was allowable. I do not think it was then, and it should not be now.
Does the Minister now have a policy that says it is not allowable? He said they thought it was allowable, and they are checking closer now. Has there been something other than a verbal discussion in this House - if I raise it as an issue and the Government Leader says he did not agree with it, do employees automatically say it is not allowable and they will not do it again? Is there anything in writing? Was any written direction given about a change in the policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if there has been direction given. I will have to get back to the Member and provide her with an outline of how we deal with that type of loan today.
Mrs. Firth: I am not going to hold up the line; I disagree with it anyway. I will wait until the Minister comes back with the information. I hope he will bring it back tomorrow. I am making a note of that right now.
The other question I have is about the business development fund. The other night, I heard the Minister say in the House that the interest the government collected on loans made to people who were making payments and paying interest on those loans covers the bad debt write-offs. I do not think that is possible, in light of some inquiries made about the interest rate on the loans the government provides.
I also say that because, in the operation and maintenance budget, on page 4-13, under the recoveries column in economic programs, the recoveries the government are predicting from business loan interest is only $340,000. If the government has $1.6 million worth of loans in arrears this year, that is not going to come anywhere near to covering it.
My theory that the taxpayer is picking up the tab for this is a more accurate statement than the statement the Minister made in the House the other night. Perhaps the Minister would like to clarify his position.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will bring back a legislative return that outlines how much has been written off and what interest has been collected. I also am interested in seeing the exact numbers on that for similar reasons as the Member opposite. However, I do not think that covers the administration costs, such as personnel and so on. I will bring back a legislative return that explains that.
Mrs. Firth: I heard the Minister make a commitment to the questioner the other evening that he was going to bring that back for us. I believe that the questioner was the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. That is the reason why I have been waiting to debate this particular issue. I have been waiting to get this information from the Minister. We are supposed to be proceeding with this line item at this point.
Can I ask the Minister if we can have the information presented to us tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I will make that commitment.
Business Development Fund in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,020,000 agreed to
On Economic Development Agreement
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The projects are generally down, due to the emphasis on providing loans rather than contributions.
The tourism subagreement is down $359,000; the small business support subagreement is down $89,000; renewable resource subagreement is down $300,000; economic development planning is down $100,000, for a net total of $848,000.
Economic Development Agreement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $848,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,323,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Chair: We will move on to Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Economic Development
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Personnel makes up $690,000 and travel within territory, $3,000; travel outside territory, $16,000; contracts, computer programming, filing systems, et cetera, $12,000; photocopy services and maintenance, $6,000; entertainment, deputy minister and mining facilitator, $2,000; rental office equipment, meeting room rentals $1,000; office supplies for department, $16,000; acquisition of books, reports, periodicals for library, $16,000; communications, telephone and fax charges, $16,000; non-consumable assets, for example, minor office equipment, $2,000; other conference registration, miscellaneous, $2,000; computer software and miscellaneous hardware, $3,000 - for a subtotal of $95,000, for a net total of $785,000.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister indicate where the two-percent increase is shown?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In 1994 there was a vacancy in the deputy minister position, which made a reduction of $26,000 in 1994-95 - which would actually increase it by four percent for 1995-96. There were miscellaneous personnel changes, with a salary reduction of two percent, except managers, who were reduced one percent. The merit increase freeze was lifted October 1994 for management and January 1995 for the rest. Yukon bonus charge is a flat $2,000 rate, effective January 1, 1995. All of those miscellaneous items come to a $1,000 reduction, for a minus one percent, for a net increase of three percent.
Mrs. Firth: Regarding the administration costs for this department - the costs of all the economic development officers and the deputy minister costs and so on - has the department ever figured out what percentage of the total budget goes toward administration costs alone? I am talking about administration costs for the economic development agreement, the business development fund, the activities of all the business development officers, and all costs that go toward salaries for administering the Department of Economic Development. What is it as a ratio to the total budget?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The EDAs are not included in the personnel in this particular column, because 10 percent of the total EDA budget is allocated for personnel and they are paid under those budgets. We could figure out the percentage that the Member is looking for, and I will have the department do that and bring it back.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to see that information, because when I just have a quick look at the budget, and I look at the personnel costs under the allotments for all of the programs, such as energy and mines, the total program cost is $435,000, and personnel costs amount to $395,000 of that. The total budget in economic policy and planning is $1.5 million; of that, $958,000 is personnel costs. In economic programs, the budget is $974,000, and of that the personnel cost is $800,000.
It appears that a huge portion of the budget is going toward personnel costs. After we get the final figures from the Minister, I would like to know the functions of these individuals. I know the economic development officers simply process loan and grant applications, or maybe they do something else. I would like to get some idea of exactly what everyone's function is in this department, and how that function is serving the business community and helping to promote economic development in the territory, other than just going through the process of getting grants and loans from the Department of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The administration component of the O&M budget is approximately 75 percent for personnel, and the rest is Other. Is the Member asking me for job descriptions of all the personnel?
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister this: when one looks at first blush at his department, we see the organizational chart. There is an assistant deputy minister of administration, energy, mines, economic policy planning and research, and economic programs. I would like to know the function of all the individuals in the department. Is the Minister satisfied that they are doing things other than just administering the grant and loan program? I know that there are some economists in the department who are supposed to write economic forecasts and so on, but we have been through a harangue and debate on that issue.
Instead of receiving the total job description of absolutely every person in the department, could the Minister provide me with some kind of outline of the functions of the individuals who work there, what they are supposed to do, who works on developing policy and what policy areas the department is looking at? The Minister gave us a general description of current policy activities, but he did not tell us who is working on them or whose responsibility they are. I am also interested in exactly what the individuals do, how they help the business community and how they help promote economic development in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To provide that information, we would have to provide the full job descriptions or we would have to summarize it.
I think it would be a lot easier for the department if it provided the full job descriptions. There are quite a number of people in the department and it would be quite a job to summarize the department. We will try and gather all of the job descriptions for personnel, and I will circulate it, rather than table it.
Administration in the amount of $785,000 agreed to
On Energy and Mines
On Policy and Administration
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The personnel costs in energy and mines total $395,000. The other expenses include the following: travel in territory, $3,000; travel outside of the territory, $8,000; contract services, such as mining and energy policy and issues such as the coal deposit inventory study, $13,000; reference materials and periodicals, $4,000; communications, telephone and fax, $10,000; membership in the Yukon Chamber of Mines conference registration fees, $2,000; totalling $40,000, which provides a net of $435,000.
Mrs. Firth: I have some policy questions for the Minister. The industrial support policy is all that we have seen from this government with respect to an energy policy. On the Department of Economic Development current policy activity, there is an item here termed energy policy, IPP electricity rate policy.
Is the government ever going to develop a comprehensive energy policy and, if so, when are we going to see it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is putting together a conference on energy. The legislation, as the Member is aware, is being drafted by the people in the energy and mines branch, so that when we fully take over the - sorry, I am on oil and gas. I am going to have to get back to the Member. I do not have notes on that here in the line-by-line debate at all.
Mrs. Firth: I see other Members frowning; I am frowning, too.
For two and one-half years, we have been hearing about the comprehensive energy policy this government was going to have. All we have been able to get so far is the Yukon industrial support policy and some snippets and references made to an IPP policy, which I do not think was ever implemented and of which I do not think anyone ever took advantage.
Now, the Minister is saying that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is going to have a conference on energy. Is the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment going to develop the policy? Is there absolutely no work being done with respect to an energy policy? The Department of Economic Development current policy activities indicate that something is happening. Does the Minister not know what is happening, without having to refer to a briefing note?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are in line-by-line debate. I do not have my notes with me.
I know that a planning group has been formed within the Department of Economic Development to conduct a review of the current energy policy. I am not sure where that stands. We talked about it briefly a couple of weeks ago during general debate but, as I said before, I do not have my notes with me.
Mr. McDonald: Did the Minister not indicate to us that the department would be producing a comprehensive energy policy within one year? I thought the electricity rate policy would come before that, that it was a component of a comprehensive energy policy, and we could expect that by the fall, or at least before the comprehensive energy policy was completed, and that will be a year from now. I thought that was what the Minister told me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe that I did that in debate a couple of weeks ago. I believe that the Member opposite is quite correct.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps when the Minister gets his briefing note he could share it with us so that we will know exactly what his government's plans are about an energy policy. I know that the Official Opposition is interested in this, as is the Liberal Leader, and as am I. We have been promised a comprehensive energy policy for quite some time now. I thought the Minister would give some direction and know what is going on, without having to have a briefing note.
Where are the ideas coming from for the energy policy? Did the Minister just tell his department to do something up for an energy policy? Is there any direction or lead role being taken by Cabinet and the Minister in terms of a direction on what kind of energy policy they would like to see?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: All of that is in Hansard. I can refer the Member to the proper pages, as soon as I have a chance to review it.
There were objectives stated. I cannot recall all the objectives off the top of my head, but I can certainly either find it in Hansard or provide a note to the Member opposite.
Mrs. Firth: I do not recall the Minister giving us anything new, or stating any great objectives or policy direction in Hansard. Does he not remember what he said? I am not asking for an epistle here, I am just asking what the general direction is. If the Minister has already stated it, can he remember what he said about what his own energy policy is going to be and what direction it is going to go?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I outlined a few of the objectives in Hansard. I do not have my notes in front of me. One of the objectives was to identify the energy issues and identify what actions could be taken to resolve those concerns - to develop an action plan and to create an inventory of energy issues. As I said before, I do not have my notes here. We have discussed this before. I can provide a note to the Member opposite fairly quickly.
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect, the Minister did not stand up here and tell us what the policy would encompass. I would not ask the question if the Minister had given me this information earlier. I may not be in the House physically, but I listen to the debate on the radio, which is why I am asking the question. We are still waiting for this energy policy. It has been almost three years now, and all we have is this Yukon industrial support policy, which generated a lot of questions in debate because of its lack of substance.
The last comment I heard the Minister make about the energy policy was something similar to what he just said about some objectives. Objectives are fine; we could all have objectives, but I want to know if any specific policy matters have been developed yet and what they are. The last comment the Minister made about it was that it had something to do with the business plan.
From the information the Minister has given us, I personally do not think any energy policy is in place, or that any policy statements have been developed, because he is waiting for the business plan to do it. This afternoon, he said he was waiting for the Council on the Economy and the Environment to have a conference.
Because the Minister cannot enunciate any policy positions this afternoon, I have to draw the conclusion that there is no energy policy and that the government has not done any work on it yet.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: On a point of order. The Minister asked why do I not ask in general debate. Since when is it that the Minister tells us when we can ask questions? I can ask questions about the energy policy under the line, energy and mines. Give us a break here. Just because the Minister does not know his information, has not done his homework and cannot defend his budget -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Minister does not know his information; he cannot defend his budget. He cannot stand up today and tell us what the energy policy is, so he turns around and says to me that I should not be asking about the energy policy under the energy and mines line in the budget, which is absolute and utter nonsense.
Chair: There is no point of order. I would remind the Minister that there is general debate when we get to the programs.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister if he would bring this information back to us. I am not prepared to approve this budget item until we get some information about the progress of the energy policy, and we have not yet been given any by the Minister. Is there a policy or is there not?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I indicated in general debate that the energy policy was part of the overall business plan for the department, that it would be creating an energy policy during the business planning process, or as a result of the business planning process. I can give that to her in writing, if that is what the Member wishes.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister bring that back in writing? I know that he does not have his notes with him and that he does not know what it is. I want to know what it is.
The Minister has also indicated that the Council on the Economy and the Environment is going to have a conference. What is this conference supposed to do? What will be on the conference agenda, and what does it hope to gain? The Minister can also provide that to me in writing.
With respect to the business plan, the Minister said that energy policy is part of the overall plan. Is the business plan supposed to develop part of the energy policy, or is it one item on the business plan, which will probably be a reiteration of all these other activities such as forestry, agriculture and whatever. Could the Minister provide, in writing, how the energy policy fits into the business plan? We would like to have some idea of whether or not the government is working on an energy policy.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will bring back an outline in writing for the Member.
Chair: Is there further general debate on the program?
Policy and Administration in the amount of $435,000 agreed to
Energy and Mines in the amount of $435,000 agreed to
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 general debate on economic policy, planning and Research?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Just before we start, I have for circulation information on the efficiency of the federation initiative.
Mr. McDonald: Now that he has his briefing notes, would the Minister mind giving us an explanation about what the two line items are, so we can move along at a reasonable pace?
On Economic Policy, Planning and Research
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In the policy, planning and research branch, personnel totals $690,000. The breakdown of other expenses includes travel in territory, $3,000; travel outside - federal, provincial and/or Alaska meetings on oil and gas issues - $16,000; contract services/research analysis, $30,000; program materials, Statistics Canada computer tapes, reprints and reports, publications for public distribution, $7,000; communications, telephone and fax, $12,000; Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment meetings and honoraria, $20,000; miscellaneous entertainment supplies, freight, conference fees, $3,000; computer software and miscellaneous hardware is $1,000; totalling $92,000, for a net of $772,000 for the line item.
Mrs. Firth: What is the expenditure of $30,000 for research and analysis for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is for contract services, research and analysis and community sector analysis, economic forecasts, assessments of development options for resource sectors, trade issues and policy development.
Mrs. Firth: What part of that is for policy development and for what policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a $30,000 item for all of these things. It is divided up later in the year as initiatives are started and budgets are developed for them.
Mrs. Firth: I know how that works. There is just $30,000 identified for research and analysis, but I want to know in what policy areas the Minister anticipates using this money. What policy areas are they going to research or contract services for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: According to the policy activity chart that was circulated earlier, the one we foresee for this current year is the Watson Lake economic profile study, and there may be more. We were discussing Haines Junction, and possibly others. There will be a continuation of the business planning exercise that is underway now. The energy policy and forestry policy are two more that would very likely come under this item.
Mrs. Firth: It sounds like a fairly ambitious plan for only $30,000. What is the average cost to do an economic profile study of a community?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Generally, the analysis is done in house. We had a contract with the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce for $7,000 for that particular profile.
Mrs. Firth: It is the community itself that does the profile - is that correct? If the department is getting the local chambers to do it, it is not an objective profile. It is difficult for a community itself to do an objective profile.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We essentially design the questionnaires, and they do all the data collection and that sort of thing. We then do an analysis of it in the department.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has made a commitment to bring me the job descriptions of the individuals in the department. Regarding this current policy activity list, some of the activities on it are going to be contracted out, and I am assuming that some will be done by people within the department. I would like to ask the Minister if he could give us a more comprehensive list - in the sense that right now we have the title of the activity and the description. I am interested in knowing which of the activities will be done in house and which ones it is planning to contract out.
The Minister has already said that forestry, energy, business plan, Haines Junction and Watson Lake profiles may be contracted out. Could we get this list printed again, with each of the activities specifying who is responsible for following through with the activity? Then, when we come back to ask about progress on the list of activities, we will know if it has been a contract or if the department is working on the particular activity.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We could do that for this current list. The current list is sort of a snapshot - and I am not even sure what the date of this is - of what the department is doing at a given time. Six months from now, it will probably look a lot different. We could take several of the things on the list and outline who is going to do it, how it is going to be done, and so on. But, the overall business plan I have committed to table will incorporate a lot of these things, and a lot of them will be in that plan. If the Member wants to wait until the plan is completed, I think it would give her a better idea.
Mrs. Firth: I am very interested in the plan, but I am also interested in the activities within the department itself. It is consistent with my request for the job descriptions of what people are to be doing and the current policy activities that are supposed to be going on in the department. I recognize that, as projects are completed, or new ones are added, the list may change, but I am trying to get some idea of how the responsibilities are delegated within the department and who is responsible for doing what. If I had an idea from the Minister who is responsible for the current activities, it would give me a better idea about how the department is being managed and what everyone's delegated function and authority is.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We can use this list. I would like to warn the Member that this list will change; six months from now it will look quite a bit different, but we can lay out who is doing what right now. This will give the Member an idea of how we do these activities.
Mr. McDonald: I have a question about support for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Is $20,000 the sole amount of funding that the council receives from the government, or is that just this department's contribution?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That amount represents this department's contribution. We believe that the ECO and Renewable Resources may also provide funding.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minster provide us with information about how much the council receives altogether?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mr. McDonald: In reviewing the minutes of the council, I noticed that the council wishes to avoid taking a position on anything. All it acknowledges is that it discussed a particular item. The minutes do not tell one very much. One could have received the same information about what the council discussed from the agenda; one does not even need the minutes. Does the Minister know why the council is being so tight lipped about taking positions on anything?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really do not know. I do know that if we seek a recommendation from the board, we do get recommendations, but I share the Member's concern at least in the set of minutes that I read some time ago. Again, if we ask for a recommendation on a specific issue, we will get a recommendation from the board.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister undertake to find out from the board what its policy is in respect to divulging an opinion on something that may not be a simple request from the government itself?
I do not mind the board - in fact I am a supporter of the concept of the board - deliberating on matters of importance in our community. I do not even mind investing taxpayers' dollars to support that end. However, if the sum total response from the council is that it gives us minutes saying that it discussed something, and that is all there is, and yet we are out of pocket of some fairly large sums of money, then my support for the council's activities begins to waver.
It is gutsy to take a position on something, but that is presumably what it is being asked to do from time to time. If it sees some things happening in the community that it wishes to comment on, I wish it would, irrespective of whether or not it is something that the government has asked the council to study.
Would the Minister undertake to at least express my opinion to the council. I will undertake to do that myself, but I would like the Minister to communicate the concerns of some Members of the Legislature about this matter.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will go to the Minister of ECO and make the representation on behalf of the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I just wanted to follow up on this particular issue. I had questioned the previous Minister about this board. The previous Minister was the Government Leader. There was a reluctance on the part of some of the members of the board to express their opinions if they were going to be written down and read by people. At the time, I said that I thought that the positions taken by different representatives on behalf of their organizations should be recorded in a detailed way, the way they used to be.
When the previous government was in power, we used to get very detailed minutes, with all the discussions and positions that were a consensus and those that differed. I believe that is the way the minutes should be kept now, as well.
I would like to ask the Minister, since he has some responsibility for this board and some communication with it, if he will make a direct representation to the board and tell it - if he also feels that the minutes were a bit sketchy - that the minutes are inadequate and that he would like more detail. Perhaps he could make a representation to the board, and not the Government Leader, that he would like more detailed minutes to be kept. I would certainly support that position. I have expressed my concern, as well, although in a fairly casual way. I have expressed, both in writing and verbally, my concern about the minutes to the chair of the board.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have heard both Members. Organizationally, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment reports to the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office - the Government Leader. I will make that representation, but I will do it through the proper channels.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Policy, Planning and Research
Policy, Planning and Research in the amount of $772,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Resources
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This amount is broken down as follows: personnel, $278,000; other, travel in the territory, well inspection, Kotaneelee, trips to Dawson, Old Crow, et cetera, $10,000; travel outside to federal/provincial, Northwest Territories meetings on oil and gas issues and legislation, $30,000; travel, non-government, to bring in interview candidates for a seconded position, $5,000; contract services for expertise related to a consulting contract for technical advisor, $80,000; data system development, $191,000; royalty and taxation regimes, $25,000; consultation and drafting of regulations, $50,000; assessment and inspection of Yukon well sites, $30,000; education costs for two employees, new and returned secondment to Alberta, $30,000; repairs and maintenance of photocopier and office equipment, $2,000; entertainment, meetings with industry, federal or provincial counterparts, $1,000; supplies, $2,000; postage and freight, $1,000; advertising for the recruitment of new positions, $6,000; program materials, maps, publications, et cetera, $6,000; communication, telephone and fax charges, $15,000; registration fees, Canadian Petroleum Landmen, Yukon Geoscience Forum, $2,000; for a subtotal of $486,000. There is included a contribution for CYI participation in the development of oil and gas regimes, $25,000, for a total of $789,000.
Mrs. Firth: I see $2,000 for registration fees. Who are those fees for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The registration fees are for the Canadian Petroleum Landmen. It is not for an individual; it is department registration fees. This line is also for the Yukon Geoscience Forum. Those two items total $2,000.
Mrs. Firth: So, those fees are paid to those two organizations. What service does the department get for that registration fee?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Both organizations share information. The Yukon Geoscience Forum was held in September, and it is an information-sharing forum.
Mrs. Firth: Did part of the money for the Geoscience Forum pay for government employees to participate in that forum? Did that money pay for their registration fees?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that was part of it.
Mrs. Firth: Does the other organization pay for registration fees for conferences? What is that amount for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are not sure whether it is strictly for registration fees for the Canadian Petroleum Landmen Association. We will bring that information back for the Members.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to have that detail.
I would like to ask about two more budget items: the $6,000 to recruit new people for existing positions. What positions were vacant?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When oil and gas are totally devolved, the positions will be required in the unit. That is what the money is for. I can get more detail if the Member wishes.
Mrs. Firth: I would. Are they existing positions, or are they new positions that are going to be created? If they are new positions, how many are there going to be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not know exactly what those positions will be, because we are just developing the whole oil and gas regime. Other than the director and the secretary, the other positions are term positions. When the regime is completed, it will be necessary to fill certain positions. We do not know if they will be new positions, or if the term positions will move over into the new positions, or if they will even want to. This will be for permanent staffing in the following fiscal year, 1996-97.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister know when that decision will be made? What is the time line for finalizing this, and when will it be known if these positions are needed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: By late summer or fall we should know what the positions are. We will need to know that before the next budget round. My understanding is that the department is working on it now, but it will be finalized by late summer.
Mrs. Firth: I wonder if the Minister can correspond to us in writing to provide us with that information once the department has made a decision, because we will not be coming back into the Legislature for some time after that.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, we can do that.
Mrs. Firth: The other question I have is about the $30,000 for educational opportunities for two employees in Alberta. I think I heard that correctly. Can the Minister tell us what that is all about?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: One of the people whom we have in the branch right now is a secondment from Alberta, and that person will be going back to Alberta. We will have to replace the position. It may very well turn out that there is a local person whom we are able to hire, but we will have to return the one person to Alberta.
Mrs. Firth: Who is that person? What does he do, and when was this arrangement made?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will have to bring that information back. The person has been here for approximately one year. I am not sure of the details.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what that person is doing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is the oil and gas advisor.
Mrs. Firth: I will look forward to the Minister bringing that information back tomorrow as well.
Mr. Cable: The corresponding revenue item relating to this line item is $1,500,000. Is that all for gas royalties or does it include money for the disposition of drilling rights or anything else?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is oil and gas resource revenue.
Mr. Cable: With respect to the makeup of that resource revenue, is it in the form of royalties on gas production or a disposition of drilling rights?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That would be royalties received from the Kotaneelee field.
Mr. Cable: Are there any long-term projections on the royalty revenue from that particular field and from other drilling, which I believe the Minister's department is attempting to encourage? Are there any guestimates around? I know it is like trying to describe the future of the universe, but are there any estimates on the amount of money the Yukon government will receive from royalties and the disposition of drilling rights in the future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The National Energy Board did a type of forecast - not of dollars, but of volumes - from the Kotaneelee field and from the Dempster corridor. It was quite sketchy, however. I think only 81 holes were drilled in the whole Yukon Territory. They did a bit of an assessment of what the potential would be.
Mr. Cable: Has there been any economic take-off from those quantitative analyses as to what we can expect in the future by way of royalties?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there has not, because the department felt that it would be premature, based on the very limited drilling knowledge that was available.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding that the present regime is based on the federal scheme of royalties and, I assume, licensing fees for drilling rights. Is there any intention on the part of this government to change that scheme of raising revenues?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are looking at options in the development of the oil and gas regime, but we do not have any recommendations that are different from what the federal royalty system is now. It is not our intention to change it unless, during the drafting of the policy, we find that there are some very large anomalies.
I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on them.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 14, 1995:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on contributions to political parties during 1994 (Speaker)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 14, 1995:
Contracts: list of sole-source contracts from April 1, 1994, to January 27, 1995 (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 657
Employment statistics: part-time and full-time employees; trend toward a more polarized distribution of jobs being monitored (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 521
Electricity rate policy directive: amendments being drafted; Yukon Utilities Board not involved (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1297
Mineral resources program: devolution negotiations still in progress (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1322
Street people: underlying causes being addressed through social assistance programs, Alcohol and Drug Services, and community-based youth initiatives (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1077