Thursday, April 6, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling the alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan overview.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have for tabling the framework for the Yukon government involvement in forestry.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Petition No. 1 - response
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In response to a petition filed by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, I would like to indicate that Cabinet has already decided not to pursue a tourist-oriented gambling casino.
Speaker: Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Alcohol and Drug Strategy Implementation Plan and FAS/FAE Prevention Plan
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A short while ago I tabled in this House a package consisting of three documents - the alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan, the fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects prevention plan, and an overview document.
Together these documents detail the direction the Department of Health and Social Services will be taking in working to reduce FAS/FAE, as well as the steps we will be taking to reduce the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse within the Yukon.
The strategy implementation plans are the result of several years of work. A draft strategy was distributed widely during our community consultations 18 months ago as well as to targeted groups, First Nations and individuals.
Already, several aspects of the original draft alcohol and drug strategy have been implemented, including increasing staff and expanding prevention and treatment programs at alcohol and drug services, planning for a new location and enhanced services at the detoxification centre.
Sadly, those who abuse alcohol and drugs, abuse not only themselves but those around them, including, in the case of alcohol, the unborn. Alcohol consumption is the cause of FAS/FAE, birth defects that are totally preventable by the avoidance of alcohol during pregnancy.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that every year in the Yukon, a number of children are born suffering from FAS/FAE, and they will continue to suffer throughout their lives, all because of alcohol abuse.
A number of the plans and changes that will be introduced immediately will be directed to the area of prevention of FAS/FAE. These changes include the following: prevention programs and information sessions for school age children; assistance with safe accommodation for pregnant women who wish to avoid alcohol during pregnancy; establishing a family support worker position to provide support to high-risk women in avoiding alcohol during pregnancy; improved coordination of prenatal nutrition; health care and counselling for women at risk of having an FAS/FAE child; parenting training and alcohol counselling; and continued involvement with other agencies, such as the Child Development Centre, early childhood nutrition programs and Health Canada's Public Health offices.
The youth health promotion unit will make FAS/FAE prevention a focus of its work with Yukon schools. The department will be working closely with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice in the areas of programming and services they provide to those with FAS/FAE.
In addition to this, the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, working with Carleton University in Ottawa, and on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Services, will undertake a $200,000 federally funded research project that will answer some very basic questions about the effects of prenatal drinking on individuals, families and communities.
While everyone agrees that FAS/FAE is a problem in the Yukon, we need more information to understand the extent and nature of the problem, which in turn will assist us in designing what works best in the areas of prevention and how to assist those who are afflicted with the disability.
We have committed ourselves to both the alcohol and drug strategy and the FAS/FAE prevention plan. Neither of these will remain static, but will continue to evolve as we find new problems, new target groups and perhaps even new answers to some age-old problems.
I do not think anyone can deny that by taking these steps we will help those with drug and alcohol addiction problems. We may also be able to prevent more children from being born with FAS/FAE, and that would benefit us all.
Ms. Commodore: Last week, in general debate, we were talking about these alcohol and drug strategy programs. I had asked the Minister to provide me with more information at that time. He sent me some documents that contained information about what the government is doing. When I looked at them, I found that most of the information was printed when Meg McCall was the Minister. I wondered at that time where the Minister was going with his alcohol and drug services plan. So, I look forward to seeing the documents that he tabled in the House today. I am sure that they are much more up to date than Meg McCall's information was.
I think that the Minister is probably doing some very positive things in the alcohol and drug strategy program. It was 18 months ago that the government consulted with Yukoners. I am still hearing from people. Yesterday I had a phone call from someone who, I think, read about this in his newsletter. She phoned to ask me about the consultation process, wondering when it had happened.
A few months ago, I said that I hoped they would be introducing something very quickly. I would like to believe that, after all these years and through many governments, we are looking at something that is going to work. One of the things that we keep forgetting is that all of the programs that are necessary to stop these individual women from drinking can be put in place - at one time, the Minister even recommended putting them in jail - and safe accommodation can be provided, but we all know that the individuals who choose to drink while they are pregnant are suffering from a very serious disease, and that is alcoholism. That is what we are facing right now.
Over the past few years, I have talked to a number of First Nations people, and - I think the Minister knows that the majority of the FAS/FAE children are of First Nations ancestry - I think I could say that the statistics are much higher for them. In the last decade at least, aboriginal people have recognized that residential schools are probably the cause of many of the social problems we are facing today. I think with more information coming out, as well as the people who are coming forward and speaking about it, that fact will be recognized. It is recognized here in the Yukon. No matter where you go or which First Nations group you talk to, it is recognized as a problem as a result of residential schools.
How much money or information is going to be provided to First Nations people? Will they be able to run their own programs? The government talks about healing centres. Every time the Minister talks about his support for aboriginal programs, he talks about healing centres. However, in the next breath, he talks about cost-shared funding and that his government will no longer fund anything that is not a joint initiative. I do not know whether or not that applies to Health and Social Services. It certainly applies to Justice under the community projects. Those are some of my concerns.
Another concern I have is in regard to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics doing another survey that will cost $200,000. It is federally funded, but there are a lot of people who will question the need to spend it on a survey when we already know the information. The Minister is always talking about how it will provide the department with information that will assist it in designing what will work best. I thought he already knew that. I thought that is why he was tabling all of this information in the House. Do we know if this $200,000 could have been better spent elsewhere, such as on a healing centre?
I look forward to reading these documents. I hope they are more up to date than Meg McCall's information.
Mr. Cable: I think the Minister is to be given some credit for moving aggressively on a problem that concerns many Yukoners. I am particularly pleased to see the assistance on accommodations for pregnant women.
I have had conversations with many people, particularly educators, who have expressed their concerns to me on the growth of the incidence of FAS/FAE problems, and I note that the Minister in his ministerial statement indicates that we need more information to understand the extent and nature of the problem. I could not agree with him more.
I have not seen the documents, obviously; they were just tabled. It would be useful for the Minister, in reply, to indicate just how he intends to carry out the study of the problem to determine its extent and nature, because this is a very necessary first step.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Let me say that, with this announcement, we have, more or less, concluded the first three priorities that we set for the department when I first became the Minister. They were, first of all, an overhaul of the social welfare system, and, secondly, an overhaul of the health programs. Those are being implemented. The last big step in the social welfare program was just awhile ago, with the regulations. This one, finally, is number three.
On the FAS/FAE side, this deals with prevention and, of course, the whole issue of additional support programs for those afflicted with FAS/FAE will be included in the ongoing priority, part of which deals with youth at risk, and is one that we have been working on for some time.
I am very pleased to have reached this stage and to be able to say that we have taken some really important steps, in my view, in regard to direction.
That is not to say there is not a lot more to be done.
The critic for the NDP Opposition is criticizing us for the money we have that we are going to spend on getting a handle on the scope of the problem, and I thank the Liberal Member for understanding the importance of our getting a handle on the problem.
I say that because the only kind of qualitative research that was done was financed by this government and CYI way back in the early 1980s by Dr. Asante, who studied some of the communities in the Yukon as well as northern B.C.
The diagnosis of those with FAS is considered by the experts to be a health diagnosis.
I have heard over and over again that we have no handle on how many of the repeat offenders, for example, suffer from FAS and how many of the unemployed suffer from FAS. We have to get a grasp of that so that we can design our programming to better fit the needs depending on the scope of the problem.
This money to do that is of extreme and critical importance, not only to this department but to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice as well. I look forward to working with the side opposite as well as with other Yukoners in trying to find solutions to these problems. I do not think one can simply say cause and effect is one thing or another thing; there are a whole bunch of problems in communities. FAS/FAE is one symptom; alcohol and drug addictions are other symptoms. There is a lot to the problems. They are of the utmost importance and priority to any Yukoner who has any amount of caring in his or her soul, and I am just really pleased that we have been able to make some progress. I hope we can continue.
Contract Regulations, April 6, 1995
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am pleased to advise that a new contracting policy will take effect April 15, 1995.
This new contracting policy is contained in two documents - the contract regulations and the contracting directives. The regulations list the principles guiding contract activity, while the directives give specific policy direction to contracting authorities within government.
Previous regulations did not provide for any measure of flexibility to address situations that may occur on a day-to-day basis, and they were very restrictive.
The new contract regulations operate with a new focus, and can best be described as principles, as opposed to rules. These principles are simple, straightforward and designed to provide a much greater level of clarity, both for the government contracting authority and for the potential bidder, and they will provide a much clearer picture of exactly how bids will be evaluated.
Government primarily makes purchases that are either price driven or value driven. In many cases, the value of a contract is determined by factors other than the lowest possible price. These value-driven proposals will now be evaluated in a two-step process so that price is not considered until the non-price factors have been fully evaluated and scored.
Levels of sole-source contracts have been changed to reflect more realistic dollar amounts for consulting and service contracts. The bid challenge process has been revised to allow greater access to information during the bid process, while maintaining the confidentiality of bidders' proprietary information.
The Bid Review Committee has been expanded to include individuals with a variety of expertise and various disciplines to allow for a fair and responsible outcome. The new contract regulations were drafted following a very extensive consultative process that began in December 1993, and it included chambers of commerce, a number of professional associations, including the Yukon Contractors Association, the Council for Yukon Indians and several concerned individuals.
To all those who provided input to the process, I extend a sincere thank you.
The resulting policy reflects all the recommendations agreed upon by the stakeholders and creates a level playing field in the government bid process. It also stresses government responsibility for a fair and accountable process.
Mr. Harding: I am pleased to be able to respond to the ministerial statement today.
A skeptic might wonder about the timing of this particular announcement on the heels of the hospital prequalification botch-up that the Minister of Health carried out, where the regulations were unamended and the Minister broke the rules in an unabashed fashion. Our view of the contract directive and regulation changes is that there are some positive elements. For example, the bid challenge process looks like it should be a positive step with greater access to information; however, we are concerned because of what the Yukon Party used to argue when it was in Opposition. It used to insist that all Management Board directives be put into law so that there would be extremely clear rules, and in their own words, create a level playing field.
Now that the Yukon Party is in government, it seems to be doing exactly the opposite and it is loosening things up. Where there was law, there are now principles and guidelines. One has to ask why this is. Why argue for one thing while in Opposition and loosen things in government?
We have seen some things, such as the hospital prequalification botch-up, that caused us some nervousness. These actions give us concern, given the previous statements about wanting tighter roles by the present government when it was in Opposition. I do not believe that the Minister has adequately explained the loosening of the rules well enough, and the reasons for it, to this Legislature and to Yukoners involved in contracting.
We do not want to see this greater flexibility and sole- sourcing lead to more contracts for the good-ol'-boy friends of this government. Until we see some more evidence that this will not be the case, given its poor track record, we are going to have to remain skeptical.
The onus is on the government to show the public that its fiddling with things, such as the extension of the Boylan sole-sourcing contract and the hospital prequalification process, will cease. We look forward to getting further explanations from the Minister about this particular process in the future, and we look forward to the government upholding its promises to Yukon contractors about a level playing field.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I did not expect to have to get up and respond, but I feel obligated to defend the Minister of Health and Social Services in respect to the hospital.
The Member for Faro alleges that rules were broken in an unabashed fashion. That is simply not the case.
The other concern that the Member raised is that this is a loosening up of the regulations. I do not think that is true, either. The department contracting authorities will be accountable for what they are doing. As I said in the statement, the regulations and the directives resulted from very extensive consultations with industry. They are comfortable with it. There were over 20 different recommendations that were agreed on. There was consensus, and every one of them was accepted by Cabinet. I guess we will have to wait and see. Time will tell whether or not this is an improvement over the old system. Perhaps we will discuss this again next fall.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Legislation introduced
Mr. Penikett: At the tag end of this session, the Yukon Party regime has introduced several totally unnecessary pieces of legislation, including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act and the Historic Resources Act, to name but three. Could I ask the Government Leader what inspired him to present these completely rehashed bills, rather than simply bringing in minor amendments to laws already on the books on the same subjects?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite knows full well that we had some difficulty with those bills. We felt they were flawed and they needed revamping. That is exactly what we did.
Mr. Penikett: I think there has certainly been some vamping, but not much revamping.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could tell us what real improvements, if any, can we as legislators look to in any of these retread bills that could not have been covered months ago with a few minor amendments to the existing laws, which were already approved by this House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we ever get through debating the budget in this session, we will deal with those questions in debate on the bills. At that time, we will point out where the improvements are.
Mr. Penikett: That I doubt.
The Yukon Party Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which is larded with legalese, compares badly with the plain English in the Public Government Act access-to-information provisions. Everyone I have talked to who knows anything about this subject thinks that the Government Leader's claims about it being cumbersome are completely and intellectually bogus. There is no way that he can show or demonstrate that the Public Government Act provisions, in terms of their application, make any difference to the way he has decided to proceed with this completely recycled bill.
Will the Government Leader give us one good reason for presenting us with a new - definitely not improved - bill on the same subject?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We did not ever expect the Leader of the Official Opposition to give this government any praise for revamping and improving upon that legislation. As I said, once we get through the budget debate we will have plenty of time to debate the improvements that have been made to those bills.
Question re: Legislation introduced
Mr. Penikett: The problem is that anyone that I have talked to, who knows anything about this kind of legislation, including officials who work with the legislation on a daily basis, could not point to any improvements.
The Historic Resources Act is being changed, we understand, only because one Minister is insisting on changes, yet no one in the heritage community wants the changes. The Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act is actually going to make things worse for working people than the previous legislation debated and approved in this House.
I want to ask the Government Leader how he justifies the enormous waste of taxpayers' money and the waste of officials' and legislators' time in retreading and recycling legislation that has already been passed through this House, and duplicating work that has already been done once before by officials and legislators. How does the Government Leader defend that appalling waste of time and money?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It appears that this government has raised the ire of the Leader of the Official Opposition again. He asks how this government justifies this; I ask him how he justifies wasting the time of the Legislature debating the bills and then not having them proclaimed?
Mr. Penikett: What a hypocritical thing for the Government Leader to say. When I sat in his office just a few weeks ago with the Liberal Leader and the Member for Riverdale South, the Government Leader admitted to us that expert advice from other jurisdictions told him that it took at least six months to have regulations for this kind of bill passed, and yet he repeats this bogus nostrum here today, after telling us something completely different - in front of witnesses - just a few weeks ago.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he can confirm stories circulating among senior officials that this rush to ram recycled legislation through this House arises from his desire to run and hide from the Legislature until next spring, when he plans to meet his electoral maker?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It seems quite odd to Members on this side of the House that the Member opposite could get the sections of the Public Government Act proclaimed that he thought were to his electoral benefit. He did not bother with the ones he thought would be controversial. There is absolutely no fact behind the allegations made by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Penikett: Logically, we can conclude that the reason the Government Leader did not proclaim the conflict-of-interest provisions in the Public Government Act over the last two and a half years is that they were not in his interest, or the interest of his Cabinet colleagues.
He is getting advice from the Minister of Tourism - do not listen, it will be bad advice. It always is. Let me ask the Government Leader this very direct question: will he stand in his place now and tell the Members of this Legislature that there will be a fall session this year? Yes, or no.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If we do not move any faster than we are moving now, we will still be here this fall.
Question re: Energy, alternate sources
Mr. Cable: I sure hope not, Mr. Speaker.
I have some questions for the Government Leader about that coal report produced for the Yukon Development Corporation, entitled "coal-fired power generation in the Yukon". A review of the report - and this is reinforced by the Yukon Energy Corporation's officers who were on the news - indicates that there are some economic possibilities that the coal-fired generation plant at Braeburn is a serious option. The report was started as a result of the directive given by the government to study coal. Has the government given any directive to the Development Corporation to study the options - these are hydro and renewable energy resources - so that we have the whole picture?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As far as I know, there has been an intensive hydro study done already, and many sites have been identified, even prior to our coming to office. As well, we are continuing to work on wind generation, which appears to have some application for peak low power in the wintertime; however, it is not something that we could use for baseload power. We are looking at everything. As far as I am aware, the hydro site identification study has already been done. I do not think there is anything further to do on it.
Mr. Cable: We are not really talking about economic issues; we are talking about policy issues.
Let me put these questions to the Minister of Economic Development. During the debate on the Department of Economic Development, the Minister indicated that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is going to be hosting a conference on energy issues. He also indicated that he was going to be working with the YCEE to set the agenda. Could the Minister indicate to the House whether or not he is working with the YCEE to put the issue of greenhouse gases and other environmental concerns on the agenda for the public discussion to be carried out by the YCEE?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When we talk about energy, naturally we will be looking at the greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
Mr. Cable: It will be interesting to hear within what policy framework those discussions will take place.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister if hazardous air pollutants would be on the agenda of the national meeting of the environment ministers to be held in Haines Junction in May. He indicated that there may be some difficulty. On the allied subject of greenhouse gases, is the Minister, as the chair of this meeting, going to put that topic on the agenda?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It depends on the time. The main issue for this conference is harmonization. If we can work in other issues, the issue of hazardous air pollutants has a lot of interest to us in the north - the Northwest Territories and the Yukon especially. I would like to see it on the agenda. Again, the agenda has not been finalized, so I cannot say for sure exactly what will appear on it.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mr. Penikett: Could the Minister of Health explain how and why the outside experts he has employed - to guarantee hospital construction jobs for outsiders - prequalified a company, Strathcona Mechanical Ltd., about whose contribution to the Teslin jail there are ongoing disputes concerning work quality, fair wages, and unpaid overtime?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If one looks back at all the contracts that were undertaken during the tenure of the Member opposite in government, looks at all of the lawsuits, all of the overexpenditures, all of the horrible looking buildings that were built, such as the visitor reception centre, one has to wonder how he can pride himself on being an expert on which company should qualify for a highly complex undertaking such as the hospital and which ones should not.
Mr. Penikett: Whenever the Member opposite tries to sound like John George Diefenbaker, we always know he is on the ropes.
Does the Minister still stand by his outside experts' advice or decision to prequalify an Alberta company who did questionable work on the Teslin jail and who may not have paid their workers properly but did not qualify a Yukon company like Klondike Enterprises, a company with an admirable record on major public works here in the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When the Member opposite was running things around here, they built the Thomson Centre. The general contractor for the Thomson Centre was Bert Pratt's Construction. Does anyone know where they are from? I thought they were from Beaver Creek but, no, it was not Beaver Creek. Then I thought maybe Haines Junction; no, it was not Haines Junction. They are from St. Paul's, Alberta.
That job was a mess, a real mess - a very expensive building and one that costs an extraordinary amount to run because it was poorly designed. One good thing that did happen with an outside contractor was that most of the people who worked on the project were Yukoners, and that is going to happen with the hospital.
Mr. Penikett: When Alberta companies come to the Yukon to work on projects like the new hospital, they can bring their own construction crews, as they have in the past. The Minister must admit that when this happens there is absolutely nothing he can do about it, or will do about it.
Can the Minister explain why he indicated Tuesday when we were asking questions that he accepts the view of his outside experts that Yukon construction workers are incompetent and cannot be trusted to build a hospital without putting lives at risk - which is the essence of the message he gave us that day?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have the great equivocator over there. That is not what I said. I said that this is a highly technical undertaking, and we are relying on expert advice, not playing politics with the issue.
It is also important for everyone to understand that to tender on this project without prequalification would be a tremendously expensive undertaking for any company. After preparing a detailed tender for constructing phase 2 of the hospital, to be told that they do not qualify would have been a bad thing. I am very pleased we took this step and did not put a lot of companies to an unnecessary expense.
Question re: Formula financing
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Finance returned from Ottawa, where he discussed formula financing arrangements with the federal Minister. Can the Minister report from that trip that the Liberals have backed off from their insistence that Yukon tax rates are too low, and that the Yukon government should raise taxes in order to be exempt from the perversity factor in the formula financing arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If I had been able to announce that, I would have tried to work it into a ministerial statement. It certainly would have been a change in direction by the federal Liberals from the position they are taking.
I will be filing a very short report of my meeting for the Legislature, probably as early as Monday. I can only say, in the short time I have in Question Period, that we did receive a hearing, we had a chance to talk with Finance officials in front of the federal Finance Minister. I would not want to speculate on what will come of that, but we did make our case.
Mr. McDonald: I am glad to hear this close working relationship the Liberals have with the north is progressing as expected.
Did the Minister make the argument that cuts to the Yukon budget were more severe than they were to the provincial budgets, both as a percentage of the federal transfer and on a per capita basis? What was the Liberal Minister's response?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I did. Our meeting was conducted in two phases. The Minister from the Northwest Territories and I had a private meeting with the federal Finance Minister for about a half an hour and then we met with the officials to discuss a wide range of things. I raised our concern that we were being hit harder than the provinces. The federal Minister seemed to be somewhat surprised by that. When we got into the meeting with the officials, he, in fact, raised the issue with his officials and asked if the position that we were taking was correct. After some hesitance, the federal officials did reply that, yes, we were correct in the assumptions we were making.
Mr. McDonald: Good. The Minister has raised a spectre that, first of all, there will be a $20 million cut next year and perhaps the changes to the perversity factor would mean that we could expect another $20 million cut to the budget. That, combined with a decrease in activity in some of the recoverable capital projects would mean, quite possibly, a significant decline in government expenditures in the next budget. Can the Minister tell us whether or not there will be a budget presented to the Legislature for the next fiscal year, prior to the next election?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It seems like the Legislature, all of a sudden, has election fever. We still have 18 months to go until the next election. I think the chances will be very good that there will be another budget presented to the Legislature before the next election.
Question re: Skagway Road maintenance
Ms. Moorcroft: I found the Government Leader's answer interesting, and I wonder what our chances are of getting some answers.
I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Yukon Party, according to its four-year plan, has a special duty to be open and accountable, but the fact is that we have to drag every single bit of information out of them. On Monday, the Minister made a bland statement about winter maintenance on the South Klondike Highway and filed an equally bland memorandum of understanding that did not tell us a thing.
Specifically, it did not tell us that Alaska will pay the Yukon government $300,000 a year to keep the road open from the border to the U.S. customs.
Alaska will also pay $100,000 upkeep of the highway from customs to the Skagway harbour. What reason did the Minister have for not giving me the figures I asked for on Monday, but which were later reported on a CHON FM newscast. Obviously, someone gave the financial details to the media. Why could the Minister not give them to the House?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: At that time, I tabled the agreement that we had; that is all I did.
Ms. Moorcroft: That is exactly my point. The memorandum of understanding does not tell us anything about the numbers. The Minister only gave those numbers to the press; he did not give them to the House.
In 1986, when the Yukon government signed the first South Klondike Highway maintenance agreement, we paid 50 percent of the Skagway Road maintenance on the Alaska side of the border. The Minister said that, under the previous arrangement, the Yukon government was paying the whole shot. When did this change occur?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The change in which the Americans paid the full 100 percent began when we were in government with the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has just completely contradicted himself again. He had said in the media reports - perhaps I should table them for the Minister so that he can look them over - that, previously, the Yukon government had paid all of it and that now it is paying 50 percent. The fact is, it had been a 50/50 agreement.
The Government Leader said on March 6 that he hoped that an agreement on the industrial user tax charged by the Alaskans would be signed when the Community and Transportation Services Minister went to Juneau. We now have a signed road maintenance agreement with no mention of industrial user fees. Can the Minister tell me why he did not get an agreement with the Alaskans on industrial user fees?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I believe that, at the time, I said that there was a memorandum of understanding. The officials are now working on it. In fact, one of them will be here on Friday, if the Member would like
some more information. They wanted to drive the highway to look at it.
Question re: Faro Real Estate Limited, rent increases
Mr. Harding: I have a question that is not for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - I do not want to get bitten. It is for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I have raised the issue of Faro Real Estate Ltd. rent increases many times in the Legislature and in conversations. There has been, as the Minister is aware, notice given to a lot of tenants about a rental increase that the Minister previously told me had not been approved by the Yukon Housing Corporation, in accordance with the mortgage agreement.
My question for the Minister is this: what has been done to stop the rent increases that have not been approved by the Minister and the government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Yukon Housing Corporation has told Faro Real Estate to cease and desist until the increase has been considered by the Yukon Housing Corporation board. The board meets tomorrow and Saturday. At that time, it will be looking at Faro Real Estate's request for the increase, as well as the position that Anvil Range is taking on it. I will attend that portion of the meeting.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that.
I also told the Minister that 10730 Yukon Ltd., which is a company that is an offshoot of Faro Real Estate, has not only applied for a 10-percent rental increase in Faro, but it is looking for a 37-percent rental increase, which, to my way of looking at it, is much too excessive for people who have been out of work for a long time to bear and, for that matter, is far too excessive for people who have been working.
I would like to know what position the government is going to take, given the leverage that it has to not allow the 10-percent increase elsewhere, regarding the position of 10730 Yukon Ltd. for a 37-percent increase. What is the Minister going to ask the board to do? What is his recommendation going to be?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I agree with the Member for Faro that a 37-percent increase sounds excessive, but I understand that the units owned and operated by 10730 Yukon Ltd. are not covered by the mortgage. I have not spoken to Faro Real Estate; we will discuss this on the weekend.
I read a news report where Mel Stehelin, a principal of Faro Real Estate, responded to the allegation of the 37-percent increase by stating that there would be a 10-percent increase across the board put into place on all the 10730 Yukon Ltd. units and on the FREL housing units, subject to agreement with Anvil Range and Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Harding: I hope that that is the case, but I have constituents who have received formal written notices of the 37-percent increase from 10730 Yukon Ltd. That substantiates it in my mind, until I see something different given to my constituents.
I want the government to use its leverage of its right to not approve a 10-percent, across-the-board rental increase for Faro Real Estate to deal with some of these issues, because, as the Minister knows, the original intent of the mortgage in which government money was involved was to ensure that there was a reasonable rental level in Faro - a 37-percent increase is not that.
I also raise the issue of Faro Real Estate rental-purchase agreements with the Minister, which have gone from a price of between $25,000 and $30,000 to between $55,000 and $65,000.
I would like to know what recommendation the Minister is going to make to the board to use the leverage they have on this rental increase issue to try and come to an agreement with Faro Real Estate, so that we can get a more acceptable and reasonable level of pricing for this rental/purchase agreement.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We will discuss all of those issues at the board meeting. I will let the Member for Faro know the results of those discussions on Monday.
Question re: Weigh scales, hazardous access road
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Department of Community and Transportation Services. I just happened to overhear the Government Leader and Minister of Tourism looking at the time and commenting about how boring Question Period is today. I think that they should be thankful for the breathing space to let their wounds heal, so they should not complain about a Question Period like this.
My question is for the Minister of Department of Community and Transportation Services. Last week, I asked the Minister about the hazardous access road at the weigh scales and what the Minister was going to do about the access road to make it safe for the travelling public, and for the truckers.
The Minister said he thought there was a solution, but he would not tell us what the solution was. Could the Minister tell us what the plan is to make this road safe for the travelling public in the trucking industry?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that we had talked about an idea that we had and there are several other ideas being considered so that when summer comes, something can be done to correct the problem.
Mrs. Firth: Well, summer is coming. I have correspondence from truckers who brought this issue to the Minister's attention and the department's attention as soon as the weigh scale opened, but nothing was done about it.
I would like to ask the Minister, in this new plan the government is making, who is being consulted? Are the truckers being consulted? Are the weigh scale operators being consulted? Or is the solution going to be handled by the individuals who created the problem in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: To start with, I would like the young lady across the way to table those letters she said I received.
The Truckers Association is being consulted, the weigh scale people are being consulted and the whole Department of Community and Transportation Services is looking at this issue
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has the letter that I have, so the young lady here does not have to table anything.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Did he not call me a young lady? Well, it is not very truthful, if I do say so myself.
There has already been one accident up at the weigh scales. I understand that there was another near miss on Saturday. The weigh scale operators are keeping a log of near misses. This is a very serious problem, and the truckers are very concerned about it. Every time they pull in there, they are concerned that they are going to cause an accident. I would like to ask the Minister this question: can he not give us something a little more definitive than saying that they are going to look at correcting the problem in the summer? Is there a plan? Do they know what they are going to do to correct it, and when are they going to start?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Now we have it down to one letter. That is a little more like it. Not "all these letters" or "all these telephone calls" that everybody talks about all the time. We will have a plan. I am not an engineer; however, the Member is an expert. She knows all the answers, so maybe she should design it for us.
Question re: Cowley Road, streetlight
Ms. Moorcroft: I have an easy, friendly question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Sometime ago, when an ore truck hit a school bus on the Carcross Road while some children were boarding the bus, one of the actions taken by the government was to install streetlights along the highway. In February, I asked the Minister about installing a streetlight at the Cowley Road, where several school children catch the bus. The Minister said last month that it was a reasonable request. Has he or his department made a decision about whether this light will be installed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that we would look at that and the MacRae lights this spring, and we will.
Ms. Moorcroft: Spring is here. The Minister thought it was reasonable request, but he did not tell me that he was going to put if off until spring. I have to point out that there is a safety hazard and that snowplows and other road equipment maintain the Carcross Road in the early morning hours, when it is pitch dark. It is a danger for the drivers not being able to see the pedestrians on the road.
Can the Minister ensure that these families will have a street light installed before next September for the safety of the school children who catch the bus in the dark in the winter?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I said that we would look at it this spring.
Question re: Division Mountain coal project
Mr. Cable: I have some more questions for the Minister of Economic Development on the coal study. In the budget debate, the Minister talked about the business planning process and the preparation of an action plan that will help to develop the mineral, forestry and energy sectors. He previously said, "My department will release its completed strategic plan and business plan to the Members of this Legislature and to the people of the Yukon by early in the new fiscal year. If the department fails to meet this deadline, the entire planning team will be made to sit through Question Period for the rest of the session." Could the Minister indicate when he is going to inflict this on his entire planning team?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is cruel and unusual punishment. The department has assured me that, prior to the House finishing, we will table that plan.
Mr. Cable: During the budget debate, the Minister also indicated there were two economists in the department looking at the Division Mountain coal project. Who, if anybody, will look at this coal report that came out in response to the directive given to the Yukon Development Corporation? Will it be looked at by the Minister's officials, or will it be reviewed solely by the Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Minister of Tourism wants to look at it.
My department will be reviewing that particular study, as will the Development Corporation and the Energy Corporation. I do not know who in the department will actually review it but it will be reviewed by the department.
Mr. Cable: Conspicuous by its absence in the report, if I have read it correctly, is the cost of the coal that will be used in the generators. Has the Minister's department done any work to determine what the cost of the coal will be?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not had a chance to thoroughly look at that study, but I do not believe it was part of the responsibility of the study.
Question re: Faro college campus
Mr. Harding: I would like to give the government a breather after that question and ask a question of the Minister of Education.
A letter dated March 20 and jointly signed by the Faro campus of the Yukon College and the Del Van Gorder school council requesting the installation, with some modifications to the Del Van Gorder school of the Faro campus of the Yukon College was sent to the Minister's department. Have the Minister and his officials had a chance to renew the initial request and proposal yet, and what are his initial thoughts on it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department is reviewing the request. We certainly would like to see arrangements made to house the campus, as proposed in the letter, and we will be getting back to the authors of the letter shortly.
Mr. Harding: I have raised this question with the Minister on several occasions in the House. Has he had an opportunity to discuss the cost of the proposal with his department or Yukon College? Ultimately, they have joint responsibility for it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Not yet.
Mr. Harding: There is a time crunch here. The lease for the present Faro college campus in the solar complex expires in June. Business customers have approached the landlord about setting up shop where the college is at present, and the campus is not sure where it will be after June.
Does the Minister have a full understanding of the time considerations, so we can have alternate accommodations ready some time in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for his representation.
Question re: Mobile homes, low-cost lots
Mr. McDonald: Since asking the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation about the progress made on seeking an agreement with the City of Whitehorse for developing lots that could be sold to owners of older trailer homes, I have received quite a bit of response from those owners. It is fair to say that they object to the characterization of land developed to accommodate trailers as being a ghetto, especially since they currently live in large rental trailer parks that are reserved exclusively for trailers.
Can the Minister report any progress made on promoting the development of lots to accommodate older trailers?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: My understanding is that there was a recent meeting with the technical committee and the city where the topic of low-cost lots was brought up. I have not seen the technical report, but my understanding is that it will be done today or tomorrow and will be considered at the Yukon Housing Corporation board meeting Friday and Saturday.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us when this recent meeting took place to discuss the availability of low-cost lots for mobile home owners? Can he tell us if he has responded to the Kwanlin Dun's request for the opportunity to develop land for lower cost lots? Is the government prepared to encourage them to do this?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe that the meeting took place earlier this week. I do not know what has been done with respect to Kwanlin Dun's request. Again, we will be discussing it this weekend at the Yukon Housing Corporation board meeting. I will also report on that issue to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini on Monday.
Mr. McDonald: The issue of affordable lots in Whitehorse to accommodate older trailers has been on the table for a long time. I am sure that the Minister is aware of that and that there has been a lot of debate in this Legislature about encouraging the City of Whitehorse to join with the Yukon government to develop those low-cost lots.
The Minister will also know that of the 900 or so trailers in the City of Whitehorse, many of them would qualify for low-cost lots if there was an option to purchase them.
When can we expect to hear of the Yukon government's land development plans for the development of low-cost lots, and when can we expect some progress on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Again, a lot of that is dependent upon the position of the City of Whitehorse. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini knows very well, from debate in this House and comments from the city, what their concerns are about developing low-cost lots for trailer units. I would hope that he is as enthusiastic in his lobby to the city as he is to me in this House.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will 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 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.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Renewable Resources
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have some notes for general debate and I have some separate ones for the supplementaries and mains. Perhaps what I will do is cover the general ones and the supplementary ones, and leave the O&M and capital until we are to those budgets.
I am pleased to outline today the highlights of the various budgets. There are a number of things happening this year in the department that come under the heading of good government that are not readily apparent in the budget.
One of our new initiatives, which has come about as a result of a suggestion submitted by a staff member to our suggestion plan, is the sale of advertising in the hunting and fishing synopsis. We have entered into a co-publishing contract with a private contractor for the solicitation and inclusion of advertisements in these booklets, and have just completed the sales program for the first year.
A total of about $17,000 in advertising has been sold, generating a net revenue of approximately $5,000 to the government, while also creating about three or four months of employment in the private sector. This is approximately what was projected for the first year and is a significant step toward offsetting the cost of the publications.
The transfer last year of the agricultural lands program from Community and Transportation Services to Renewable Resources now provides a one-stop shopping service to applicants for agricultural land. It also allows us to gain certain operational efficiencies, especially in such areas as coordination of travel for the various different kinds of agricultural work in the communities. Agricultural clients now find that all of their agriculture-related concerns are dealt with in a visit to one department rather than being shuffled around.
Being in the agriculture branch, the program now seems to be more client focused rather than control focused and clients seem to be more open about their problems and concerns, thus allowing us to provide a more effective service.
The transfer of the special- and solid-waste program from Community and Transportation Services to our environmental protection branch is another initiative that has eliminated some duplication of effort and some considerable confusion in respect to roles and responsibilities.
Prior to this transfer, the public would contact our environmental protection branch for information about the disposal of special waste and be referred to C&TS. C&TS would in turn refer inquiries on other environmental situations to us. There were areas of duplication in such things as regulation development and monitoring, public information, waste collection and disposal.
This may cause confusion in the public mind, but it also made it difficult to deal with responsibility and accountability issues from a delivery agency's perspective.
The 1994-95 supplementary budget reflects an O&M expenditure increase of $551,000. This is partially offset by an increase of $136,000 in O&M recoveries. The major reason for these increases include the following: $132,000, due to the change in the government's planned wage restraint legislation - the original budget reflects the effects of the additional planned restraint measures that were not ultimately included in the legislation; $115,000 was transferred from Community and Transportation Services for the administration of the special- and solid-waste program; $178,000 for various winter works projects, including $22,000 fully recoverable funds for trapper education; and, $114,000 for changes in other recoverable programs.
In the capital supplementary, the changes are outlined on a line-by-line basis; however, a few additional explanatory comments may help to move debate along.
Growth capital increase is $382,000. A recovery increase of $67,000 brings the net increase to $315,000.
The largest items in here are $117,000 for the responsibility for special-waste management, which was transferred from Community and Transportation Services. Actually, the word "facility" in the line item is incorrect, in that funds are being used for collection, removing, and transportation of special waste, and the line item would be better described as "special- waste management". There is $250,000 for various winter works projects; $53,000 for the state of the environment report, which is fully recoverable from Canada; and a $40,000 decrease in expenditures on the Bonnet Plume and Tatshenshini heritage rivers, due to the deferral of federal government involvement until the next fiscal year.
That pretty well covers the major items in the supplementary. I trust that these comments will help to clarify any questions that the Members may have in respect to the supplementary.
Mr. Harding: I want to begin general debate by asking the most important questions, which are the ones being raised by my constituents. I want to try to get some idea where the Minister stands on these issues. I have been a very vocal opponent of the move that was considered by the department - and was actually announced to be going ahead - that as of March 31, which has gone past last week, we would lose the conservation officer in Faro, and that the position would move to Carmacks. At the time, I argued that we had a significant need for a conservation officer in Faro, even during the mine shutdown. I said that the bear problems that we have had in the community, and the number of people from Whitehorse and surrounding areas who had started to hunt in the area, necessitated a need for a presence in the community.
Since those original discussions took place, the situation involving the community and its population have changed. I upped the ante by stating I felt the need for a conservation officer was further justified because of the increasing population coming back into the community. There are a number of new people who perhaps have never hunted the type of game that we have here in the Yukon and are relatively green in that respect, as was I when I first came here. There are a lot of people who are non-residents who may be interested in the harvesting of some animals. There are significant reasons, I believe, for the continued presence of the conservation officer in Faro.
When I came to the Yukon I can remember, as a member of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, that we had a conservation officer stationed in Ross River. He was a hell of a conservation officer, but he was extremely burned out by the continued growth in Faro and trying to deal with all the issues in Ross River, Faro, down the highway toward Finlayson Lake and up the highway toward Carmacks. It was an incredible weight for one person.
The Fish and Game Association decided that we should lobby for a conservation officer in Faro. We met with some success. Our MLA, who at that time was a Cabinet Minister, managed to convince Renewable Resources to place a conservation officer there. I believe that the need still exists. I have had some discussions with the conservation officer in Faro. He is still there, on and off, and is unsure, given the stated agenda of this government to move him on March 31, about where he will be.
I would just say to the Minister that I believe that it is important that there is a conservation officer in Faro at this time. I would like a commitment from the Minister that there will be a Faro conservation officer and that he will have some support staff in the office to help him, so that messages are answered while he is out in the field.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is the long-term intent to move that position; however, I can assure the Member that it will not be this summer. It is unlikely that we would move that person during this fiscal year at all.
I do not want to say that we will definitely not move him in the fall or winter, but we will not move him this summer.
There are a couple of reasons for that. The electrification of the dump fence is one. That may pose some bear problems in the community - nuisance bears. Also, we felt that when forestry devolution occurs, there will be three forestry officers moving to Ross River - that is our goal, at this time at least. Those people will be able to take over that job in Faro. Again, we do not know for sure when that will happen. In the meantime, the conservation officer will stay in Faro.
Mr. Harding: Well, I am glad to hear that there is a brief commitment to hire a conservation officer in Faro. However, I object somewhat to the reasoning that there has to be a removal of this position from Faro, especially, with the mine operating, because we are looking at a fairly substantial mine life, which will be at least as long as that of Loki Gold in Dawson.
I have to ask the Minister why the government feels it has to remove this position from Faro. The Minister is telling me that Faro loses a position and secretarial support, which are two jobs in the community - people who spend money in the community. The Minister is also saying that forestry officers, who are going to be moved into Ross River, will take care of Faro. I do not see how that makes logical sense from the point of view of citizens of the community of Faro, and it does not seem too fair.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A lot of the positioning is due to just plain geography. There is a conservation officer in Ross River, approximately 38 miles from Faro. In Carmacks, there is no conservation officer, with the nearest officer being in Whitehorse and Mayo. There is a lot of hunting activity on the Mt. Nansen Road and on the Faro/Carmacks Road and in those general areas. The intent of this was to have more people cover less area.
Again, that certainly will not happen this summer and it is very unlikely that this will happen in this fiscal year.
Mr. Harding: I think the Minister should check back with the former conservation officer who used to be in Ross River, Dan Lindsay. He was responsible for the areas of Ross River, Faro, a portion of the area near Carmacks and all the way down to Little Salmon. I think the Minister should ask Mr. Lindsay, as an experienced person in the department, about how difficult it was to patrol those areas. The same situation will occur again if a conservation officer is put in Carmacks as well has having someone in Ross River; there is a limited area for conservation officers to cover. There is a lot of work in the area of Faro and Ross River.
If someone is stationed in Carmacks, which used to be handled by Whitehorse, to the best of my knowledge - for the touring of the Nansen Road and that area, there is a very slow response time to the Faro area.
The person works in Ross River, and has all kinds of other duties to undertake. It is extremely difficult just to keep a handle on it. I remember, at some point, people in Faro were bringing in 20 or 30 bear skulls and 15 or 20 sheep heads for compulsory scoring. It all had to be arranged by the conservation officer from Ross River. It was extremely cumbersome and almost impossible for him to handle all of the work that had to be done. Then, of course, they were shipped out in the winter for special assignments. So, it was not like they were always in Faro or Ross River, or wherever. I would say that we are going right back into that same problem if Faro is going to be serviced by Carmacks and Ross River.
I make that submission to the Minister. I think it is reasonable, and I think it has been demonstrated in the past that it was a problem. I will stand by that until I am shown differently. Perhaps the Minister has some information for me that would alleviate my concern. However, some of us will be able to remember the time - around 1987, 1988, 1989 - when there was a huge boom in hunting activity in the area. It has been exacerbated because we have a lot of hunters who, because of the moose and caribou closures along the north highway and the area around Whitehorse, and activity on the north and south Canol, come to the Faro/Ross River area to hunt, for example, behind the mine, where there is some extremely fruitful moose hunting territory. It is a busy, busy place. At that time, we had no bear electrification, either. That was another very time-consuming activity that was undertaken by the conservation officer from Ross River. I would make that submission to the Minister, as a representation. I think it is reasonable and logical, and I would like the department to really evaluate this before the conservation officer is moved out of Ross River. I think it is a needed position.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have no problem with their re-evaluating the whole situation before moving the position, but it will depend a lot on the devolution of forestry. Our intent now is to move three forestry people to Ross River, who will share part of the duties of the conservation officer. We would do an evaluation of the workload, and so on, when that move takes place. I can assure the Member, as I have, that that person will not be moved this summer, and it is very unlikely for this fiscal year. We would do an evaluation before the move, regardless of when it is.
Mr. Harding: Why would the Minister remove a secretarial and full-time position from Faro and bring three new positions into Ross River? In a forestry plan, why would the department not put one or two in Faro and one or two in Ross River, so there is a little benefit from the decentralization of these positions to a couple of communities, not just one?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Perhaps I can bring some information back for the Member. Part of this was the need to have a certain size crew in a certain area. I will get a little more information for the Member and try to provide some rationale.
Mr. Harding: I want to go back to the issue of the forestry/conservation officer, and how that will impact on their present duties if conservation officers are called upon to also be forestry officers. People have expressed a concern about something they heard was a change in policy by the government. I do not think it is true, but I want to get a firm understanding from the Minister about where the government is heading.
Some people have expressed a concern that now the First Nation, during the land selections negotiation process in an area, selects areas to be designated as class A lands, and that while negotiations are underway, even though there is no finalized agreement - which we all know can take years - that selection will be respected and local resident hunters will not be allowed to hunt on the potential selected areas.
Has there been a change there, or is it still a policy of the government that as long as the selections and negotiations are underway, hunting can carry on as it has in the past, with regard to the lands. It is only once there is a finalized agreement, as there is with the Teslin Tlingit, Vuntut Gwitchin, the Champagne-Aishihik and the Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun First Nations, that people will be able to hunt. That is the case with those four areas, with 10 bands remaining.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there is no restriction on hunting on interim protected lands, because of land selection. There may be restrictions for some other reason, but it is definitely not because of First Nations land selections. There is no requirement for residents to not hunt on those lands.
Mr. Harding: There has been no change at all to that policy, just to firm this up. It remains as it was in the past. Once there is a finalized agreement on class A and B lands, and the negotiation process is finalized with the 10 remaining bands, resident hunters will be able to carry on as they have, subject to closure for other reasons, such as low game populations, or whatever the case may be.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is correct.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask a couple of questions of the Minister, related to mountain sheep hunting. They are issues that I raised with the previous Minister. I have a commitment for a full review of the situation, and that was last year in debate and I have not heard anything back yet. I have raised many times, in the House, with the previous Minister, questions about the situation at Mount Mye, which is a closed area just north of Faro. I have raised questions about an all-year sheep hunting closure that was placed on the Truitt Peak area, just off the Robert Campbell Highway by Little Salmon Lake. I had hoped that, pending this investigation and revisiting the entire issue, there would be some change in position, but I have yet to be notified of that. I have heard of nothing in the synopsis that indicates there has been any change.
Just by way of reiterating what I am supporting for the Minister, the Mount Mye area has been closed to sheep hunting for a number of years now. Every year, people who actively watch the sheep population and work on keeping track of the sheep in the community - and there are a number of us - usually find at least one or two dead, mature rams every year and some extremely nice, old rams. What we have promoted in the community is that there be a look in the department at perhaps offering some limited hunting for those rams through a draw system.
While I would like to have it restricted to Faro, I know there is no possible way that it could be - some of my constituents would probably like to have it, and some Mayoites and some people in Ross River, and others around the territory. There is an opportunity for some very good sheep hunting in that area north of Faro and I do not think it would be hurtful to the population overall, given what we have seen over the years during which we have been watching it.
I also suggested to the government that, if it is worried about the impact on the habitat, we could make it a backpack-only hunt - whatever the case may be - with no all-terrain vehicles permitted. We are open to all ideas, but I think we have gone over the top by closing it off from permits in the area. I have raised the idea with the government two or three times, and it is something that is worth looking into.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Is that the Fannin sheep? I do not know about this issue at all. The Member's representation certainly has some merit, but I would like to get some more information from the department, such as what the Ross River Dena Council's view is on that particular issue. However, I will commit to the Member that I will have the department look very seriously at what the Member is suggesting. I do not think we would go along with merely Faro residents having the right, but I thank him for the representation. I know where he is coming from - even though I kind of like the idea, I cannot agree with him.
I will check with the department to find out what they have studied so far and whether it would be possible to permit a limited hunt in that area.
Mr. Harding: I understand that. I know it has to be Yukon-wide. I was just musing with the Minister. I would be interested to hear what the Ross River Dena have to say about it. I know that they still have subsistence rights to harvest there, but, to my knowledge, there has not been a lot lately.
The reason that was given to me was not objections from anyone, other than the department, because they had done sheep enhancement on the herd. They wondered if it was morally right to hunt in the area when one is doing sheep enhancement. There are areas all over northern B.C. where there has been both enhancement and hunting. I believe that is a political decision for the Minister to make.
I believe that the department and the biologists should tell the Minister whether or not the area could sustain a one- or two-ram harvest. I put the decision into the hands of the Minister. I believe that is his decision to make, as a politically elected person.
The next question I have is with regard to the Glenlyon Range, which is another issue that the Minister may have to investigate further. I have raised it before. At one point, there was a significant harvest of rams on the winter range - perhaps significant is not the right word - along the Robert Campbell Highway, and basically right up the road. One could see the rams from the road. People would go up in late October and harvest one. It was a concern to members of the Yukon Fish and Game Association in Whitehorse and the Faro chapter. It was also, I believe, a concern with the outfitter in the area.
We felt that it was not appropriate for sheep hunters to harvest rams right from the road. The Yukon Fish and Game Association put forward a proposal to close the area mid-season - sometime around the end of August. That way, one could hunt in the summer in the high country, but when the sheep came down to mate and be on their winter range, they could not be hunted.
The proposal got carried away, and what ended up happening was that the whole Truitt Peak area, far back into the winter range, was closed off all year round. I thought that was excessive at the time, and a lot of my constituents are still boiling about that closure, because we felt duped. We supported a mid-season closure to protect the winter range, but not a full-year closure. We have been watching that population now for about nine years. We certainly think it could be hunted during the summer back in the high country.
I would like the Minister to see if he can propose a change to the synopsis to open the Truitt Peak area for early season, summer hunting. If the people want to keep it closed to protect the winter range up the highway, that is fine, but I would like to see the Truitt Peak area opened for hunting for the early season.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not at all familiar with this particular subject. Can the Member tell me if they talked about a corridor? Would that not work, or is it because they are too close to the road already?
Mr. Harding: A corridor is an option, but a corridor might get too long. We suggested that one game zone be closed, because they only come down to the road in a very small area. There could be a corridor there for sheep hunting. Lots of options could be considered to protect the sheep, rather than a full closure up into the high country. We are open to any options. We just want the original intent of what was supported followed through, rather than there be a full season closure of sheep hunting in that area.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have a problem with taking that back to the department and discussing it.
Mr. Joe: We have been talking about sheep hunting. I have a concern about sheep hunting.
People used to hunt sheep. The sheep would come down from Faro to Sheep Creek, Harris Creek. People used to hunt sheep there. There was an outfitter's camp right by the river. They moved right in. When sheep see a boat, they are gone. They go as high as they can go. They used to come right down to the creek by the river, not too far off. They have a camp just across there, a hunting party camp. I do not know what the Minister can do about it.
The lifestyle is gone, once people move in. The sheep is a very wise animal. You cannot fool around with them. They have good eyes.
My other concern - and I do not know what the Minister can do about it - is the wolf problem. Another pack has moved right into the hunting area at Pelly and MacMillan. People who have been up there hunting this winter say there are too many wolves and no moose. They have been scared away or killed. People are stuck. They cannot really trap with wolves around. There are two or three people up there with traplines. There are all kinds of wolves up there. I do not know if there is anything we can do about it. If we do trap them, someone is going to complain anyway.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a couple of questions that I would like the Member to clarify for me.
Who does the camp belong to where the sheep come down to drink? Is it an outfitter's camp - I see the Member nodding. So, it is an outfitter's camp.
You call this Sheep Creek. Is it up the Pelly River?
Mr. Joe: It is about 40 miles downstream from Faro.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I assume that it is a spike camp for the outfitter. Possibly, we may be able to talk to him - if it is tent frames and such - but I will check into it.
In regard to the wolf problem, I think the Member is quite aware that we only have so much money in our budget. We carried out the Finlayson caribou recovery program several years ago, back in 1982, at quite a cost to the government. I am very happy to report that the results of that program are even better than we expected. There are far more caribou in that area than there ever were before in our recorded history. There are also more wolves than there were when we started the program - a lot more wolves. However, it is sustainable. Everything is working out very well.
I cannot say when we will be able to look at that particular area, but I will bring it to the attention of our people. I expect that they are probably aware of it, but again, it is strictly budgets. We just do not have enough money to carry out all of the programs that we probably should be carrying out all over the territory.
Mr. Harding: I have heard people say that First Nations worry about low populations. The Minister said they are not doing what they should be in terms of programs. Is there any consideration to do other caribou recovery programs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Members opposite know the Carcross caribou recovery project is underway and has been for a couple of years. We would like to take a census of the territory, and then monitor it to see if the herds - caribou and moose - are increasing or decreasing, and what is happening. However, we cannot do it for all areas of the territory, so we basically do the worst ones as they come along, and that is how it has been happening. The worst ones are dealt with first.
Mr. Harding: That is a concern. When we get into the cycle of reactive wildlife management, rather than proactive, it is a problem. Is any consideration underway to address some of the low populations, once the Aishihik program is over, with wolf kills in other areas?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I know of no plan for a similar program at this point in time. There is a minimum of two years left in the Aishihik program, then there will be a full evaluation of that area. A decision will have to be made about what will happen after that.
When that program is finished, it would free up money for work in other areas.
Mr. Harding: There are no plans, but is there consideration being given to a wolf kill in any other areas? Is the government committed to the wolf conservation management plan in terms of addressing that? The plan calls for a whole range of things, like no hunting in the area for a couple of years before, and that kind of thing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, the government is committed to the wolf conservation management plan and all of its requirements, if we go into an area. My official has just informed me that they are aware of the problems in the Pelly area, and it may very well be that that could be the next area we would be looking at.
Mr. Harding: Would the government be looking at that area for a wolf kill, or what?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We would have to work with the communities that are affected. A lot of the First Nations people have ideas about exactly what the problems are. There is no question that there is an awful lot involved in a recovery program - the amount of data that has to be compiled, the consultations, and so on, that goes on. They are aware that there are concerns in the general Pelly area, so that is the one that is being targeted next.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister talking about the Pelly River area, or is he talking about Pelly Crossing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it is the Pelly River area. It is the Selkirk First Nation that has expressed concern, and I believe that that has been somewhat confirmed by other information that we have received. Again, I am not sure of the exact geographical location, but I believe it is the Pelly River.
Mr. Harding: Just for my two cents' worth, I am not philosophically opposed to the wolf kill, as some people are. However, I think it is very reactive wildlife management, and I think it is an extreme last resort toward handling problems we have with underpopulations of ungulates. It is expensive and it is a hurtful process. Also, I think it exacerbates the feeling of ill will toward people who are hunters, like I am, by people who are not hunters; it lessens the understanding that people have. I would hope that if problems have been quantified in the Pelly River area that we try and deal with them now in a much more proactive way than we did with the Aishihik herd. As the government well knows, it is an outrageous expenditure of monies that could otherwise be put to better use, and it causes, I believe, a lasting ill will toward those who do hunt in the Yukon.
Mr. Joe: I am wondering what the Minister is going to do about the wolf kill. Around the Pelly area, Earn Lake is where all the wolves come from. I trapped there one winter with my brothers when I was a young fellow, some time in 1948. If one sees a moose kill around that lake at this time of the year, there is a very big pack. One time I got dragged across the lake by a dog team behind a wolf pack. I do not know how many wolves there were - maybe 200. I could see wolves everywhere across the lake. It is the same pack that one can see down the Pelly River, along the Macmillan River and across the Moose Lake area, Russell Creek and Russell Range area - I think that is what it is called. They were all through that area.
We studied the wolf for a number of years. We were trapping in that area. When the wolves got a moose, it was barely enough for one meal, and not enough for the whole pack, as it was a very big pack. That was in 1948 - how many years ago is that? That is the last time we travelled that way, there were more. There were perhaps two or three thousand wolves.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on Bill No. 3?
Mr. Harding: I would like to know about this dual role that the Minister has spoken of in regard to conservation officers. What kind of expansion of their duties is planned? The Minister stated that forestry officers in Ross River may have to undertake the duties of conservation officers in Faro. Is the reverse true as well, in that conservation officers would also be expanding their roles to forestry duties, and that type of thing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have specific information on their exact duties. We were going to try to integrate the two functions to bring into play some economies of scale. For example, the current conservation officer would probably have some forestry-related duties, and the forestry people who came over under devolution would take on some CO-related duties related to client or people's concerns, and be there for certain situations. For example, the Member mentioned that at certain times of year a lot of game comes down, and heads have to be measured, and so on. I think it would probably work better for the residents of an area if we were to integrate those two jobs.
Mr. Harding: How do the existing conservation officers view the expansion of their duties? Are they interested in forestry generally? Have there been discussions within the department about this? Are there some training initiatives underway or planned? What level of implementation are we at?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Ever since we have been talking about the forestry devolution, there has always been a transition period. We know that some of the conservation officers are quite keen about it, but we are not totally sure about forestry people. It would all be straightened out in the transition period, during the time it is transferred from the federal government to the territorial government. That is when we would deal with the issues. There would be training components for employees, whether former federal or current territorial employees.
Mr. Harding: The forestry devolution negotiations would obviously include some increase in the personnel complemenT for Renewable ResourceS if we are going to take over the full duties of forestry as well as wildlife conservation management.
Does the Minister worry at all about an erosion of the wildlife duties that are presently undertaken by the conservation officers if we have a problem during negotiations and do not get the people in the communities whom we hope to have there for forestry?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: With the current staffing levels - at least the current positions that exist under the federal government - I do not think there would be a problem, but who knows what is going to happen in the devolution process. If the federal government were to talk about cutting back, it very easily could become a problem, and that is why we are very adamant about retaining those staffing levels on devolution.
Mr. Harding: Time will tell what happens there and it looks like it is going to be a long time before we can tell.
Chief Fairclough of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation has expressed to me a concern about low moose populations around the Carmacks area. I wonder what kind of information the department has about the level of the moose populations in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have any of that type of information with me, but I can have the department pull it together and provide it for the Member in the next day or so.
Mr. Harding: I would appreciate that. I have another question as a result of a telephone call that I received from the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. In the last several years, was there ever a moose study done in the Yukon that entailed the harvesting of any moose? Does the Minister know whether or not there was ever a study done by the department, or if anyone was contracted by the department, to look at moose populations, the health of moose and the harvesting of moose?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have any notes on it and I certainly do not recall, but again, I will ask the department and provide a response to the Member.
Mr. Harding: I look forward to receiving that information from the Minister. Could he also provide the vision statement of what he sees happening with the conservation officers and their role with forestry, and some sense of how the system will operate? There should be something there already, because we expected the forestry devolution to be upon us by now.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mr. Penikett: For reasons of urgent and pressing necessity in Faro, I have suddenly transformed myself into the acting Renewable Resources critic. The Minister will have to forgive me, as this is virgin territory for me, and if I ask stupid questions, I hope he will be understanding.
I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to ask about some things that interest me. I may as well begin with the press release I found on my desk awhile ago, dated with today's date, entitled "document tabled for forestry policy development process". It talks about the document the Minister tabled today. I noticed that reference to this document was contained in the Minister's speech to the Association of Yukon Communities this past weekend.
I have not had a chance to look at the document or study it, but I noted today that we had a press statement about the number of wolves killed in the wolf kill program this year. Is it the Minister's understanding of the parliamentary convention that when a House is sitting in the British parliamentary system, a Minister is obliged to report first to the House before giving a press conference or making a public statement? Compliance with that tradition has been varied among Ministers of this government. What is this Minister's view of his obligation to the House in terms of announcements while the House is sitting? The situation is different, of course, when we are in recess.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We had our staff take the identical documents to the Opposition prior to the press conference, and the actual press release was put out after the documents were tabled in the House. It probably would have been preferable if there would have been a few hours difference; I agree with the Member. It would have been my preference if we could have given it to the Members, and held the press conference a couple of hours later, but the logistics were not there to do it. We tried to get the package to Members opposite at the same time that the press conference went on.
Mr. Penikett: I do appreciate the Minister's efforts to get the information to us prior to the press conference, but it is my understanding that the purpose of a ministerial statement item on the Orders of the Day in our daily House routine is so that a Minister can make a policy statement, such as about the framework policy development process or the wolf kill program, to the House first, and then, if the Minister wishes to go out and answer questions from the media, the convention is that the people's representatives hear it first. Because that tradition does not seem to be observed here, I was curious about what the Minister's views were about it.
Let me move on to another question. Could the Minister, since he is relatively new in the department, explain something that I have never understood. Why is how many wolves have been killed and how much money has been spent on the wolf kill program such a secret? I understand the criticism of it and I understand that there are people writing letters.
We actually had one Minister - actually the Minister's predecessor - say he did not know the information and he would not tell us, which seemed a strange thing, in terms of the accountability that is normally expected of Ministers in a democratic Legislature.
I have listened to the explanations before about why the Members of the Legislature cannot be told how many wolves are killed and how much money is being spent. The explanations - forgive me for saying so, but this is not directed to the Minister - seems nonsensical to me.
People in Switzerland, or wherever, are still going to write letters, even if they know there are 37 wolves, as opposed to 32, killed. I just do not understand what the big secret is.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think there is a secret about the numbers, once the program is completed, but for security reasons the department is very nervous about people knowing the exact date the program starts and, consequently, when the program ends. What the department is also very nervous about is the Minister giving a blow-by-blow description of what is happening out in the field.
The previous Minister indicated to the department, and subsequently to the House, that he did not want to know the exact date the program started, how many wolves were being killed on a daily basis, or even on a weekly basis, and he did not want to know anything about the activities and actions in the program until it was finalized.
I have chosen that same method, for security reasons only. I think the Members opposite have their ways of extracting information. I have been subject to it a few times in the last couple of years. I am starting to learn a little bit about it.
I agree with the department that I would not want to come into the House and say, "Well, yesterday we got three wolves in snares in the Kloo Lake area", or whatever. I just would not want to have information that the Members could extract from me by some means or other.
In that respect, I agree with the previous Minister, and I have adopted those methods. The actual number of wolves was released today in the media. The program is finished and we released all the information that we currently have. There is still some more evaluation and assessment to do. It will all be made public.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister expresses concern about leaking information in the House about what may have happened yesterday. Things may have changeD since my time in government. Information very rarely travelled that quickly from the field to a Minister's desk.
The Minister is, in any case, entirely dependent on briefings from officials about such information. This may have changed, too, but in my day that information was quite often filtered, in terms of reducing to the essentials that it was felt the Minister needed to know. The curious thing is, of course - both in terms of the Public Government Act, which was passed in the last House, and the similar access-to-information provisions proposed by the present government - I think that a citizen, under both those pieces of legislation, would have a pretty easy ability to claim a right to know the kind of information that is being kept from the House. It would not strike me as surprising at all to find citizens going to court to get information under either of those pieces of legislation. Notwithstanding the appropriate concerns about the security of the people doing the kill - the aircraft companies or the people who are actually shooting the animals - the fact is that the number of animals that were killed last month would not be information that could be argued to a court is of such a confidential or privileged nature that it should not be made public to the taxpayers - the people who are paying for the animals to be killed. I will not turn that into a question; I will just make it a comment.
Let me ask the Minister about another topic, which is one about which I have already asked some questions. The Minister has tried to answer the questions, but I still remain fascinated about it. Yesterday, the Member for Faro tabled a document from Safari Adventures, which was the operations manual for wilderness operators, including instructions to big game outfitters who are employees of Safari Adventures. I know the Minister is busy, but has he had a chance to glance at this fascinating document?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes I have. I will just talk about it for a couple of minutes. Questions will be coming, so I may as well volunteer the information. We sent the document up to the Department of Renewable Resources, and they are going to determine the document's authenticity. It is my understanding that the person who signed that document for Fritz Mayr-Melnhof in fact was not representing Fritz Mayr-Melnhof. I do not know whether or not this is true. The department is going to check that out. If it is actually a document that Fritz Mayr-Melnhof is intending to impose on some of the outfitters that he has a financial arrangement with, we want to consult with the Department of Justice and see if there is a contravention to the Wildlife Act.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his comments. From everything I know, the gentleman who signed the documents, Mr. Bernd Schmidt, who is a constituent of mine and was a candidate in a recent election, is an employee of Mr. Fritz Mayr-Melnhof. In fact, I was in the company of both of them not so long ago, and when I last saw Mr. Schmidt, he was clearly acting on behalf of Mr. Fritz Mayr-Melnhof. I take it that the Minister, having glanced at it, shares my concern that I had when I first read it, that it seems to be a confirmation of an employer-employee relationship between Fritz Mayr-Melnhof and people who are elsewhere described as "concession holders of big game outfitting areas". Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly, if this document is accurate. The job descriptions make it very clear that the outfitter would be reporting directly to the director of operations who, I assume from reading this thing, would be Bernd Schmidt. I could be wrong, but that is my reading of it. What we want to find out is whether or not this is an actual document that is being used.
The other thing I would like to point out is that one of the outfitters who deals with Mr. Mayr-Melnhof was in my office at lunchtime today, and he is adamant that he has never seen that operational manual. In fact, we did not have a copy of it because when the Member for Faro tabled it it did not get copied and sent to us. We had to get a copy directly from the Member. We promised the outfitter that we would get him a copy. He swears up and down that he has never seen it.
Mr. Penikett: I have gone through it and underlined quite a few sections that seem to me to not only indicate an employer/employee relationship but indicate, as well, an interesting ability in this fairly sophisticated operation to move clients from one outfitting area to another within the total operation. I do not know whether that is contemplated under the regulations, but it certainly implies that employees and clients might move from one operation to another as time permits.
Because Question Period does not permit one to give the full flavour of one's understanding of an issue, let me take a couple of minutes and share with the Minister my concerns about this issue.
First of all, I want to say that the documents tabled yesterday about Safari Adventures and the documents previously tabled in an attempt to construct a side deal between an investor and an outfitter are in sharp contradiction to the statements that we heard on CBC Radio on April 5, 1995, particularly those statements made by Mr. Cliff Hanna, who replied, when asked about the accountability, "I would be foolish to put myself in a situation where I did not have control", and later on he said, "I run the business", and further he said, "He is the silent partner", referring to Mr. Mayr-Melnhof. I think there is a sharp contradiction, in my lay person's sense, between the two statements.
I do not know if I mentioned this previously, but following questions that I had asked, and at Fritz Mayr-Melnhof's request and invitation, I met with him last summer at one of his facilities. He has a very pleasant lodge on the other side of Kluane Lake. I received his hospitality and we talked for several hours about his operation. I paid for my visit there, but I was very impressed with the operation and very appreciative of his hospitality.
I want to say to the Minister, and I say this very directly, it was quite clear to me, from the conversation that I had with Mr. Mayr-Melnhof, that his relationship with the three outfitters was one of an employer. Throughout our conversation, he referred to them as employees. As a matter of fact, he spoke of Mr. Hanna, in the highest and most complimentary terms, as a good employee. He spoke very favourably of Mr. Hanna's manner of operation and clearly singled him out as one of the best employees in his entire operation.
Now comes the second point, where I have some sympathy for Mayr-Melnhof. He made the point about the expert legal work he had obtained to put these arrangements together, that he was sure they would stand up to some kind of legal test. He also made the reasonable point, as an investor - and I know the Member opposite will be sympathetic with it - that the arrangements in Yukon law were such that it was extremely difficult for him to protect his enormous investment here. Because he was not permitted - as a non-resident, or someone who is not a year-round resident - to own and control directly these outfitting areas, he has difficulty protecting his interest in the outfitting business, as such. This is a gentleman who clearly sees the potential to expand the business in further non-consumptive wilderness tourism and other outdoor adventures. I wish him luck in that respect, because there is lots of potential if he works with the other people in the area - First Nations and so forth.
I am not saying this as a lawyer or an expert, but my clear impression was, after many hours of conversation, that this was the employer, this was the person who owned and ran the business, that it was vertically integrated, and he was the top of the pinnacle. He also expressed frustration that because of his business interests elsewhere - in Latin America and Europe - he could not spend the time here necessary to qualify as a concession holder - I think that is what the concern was - even though he owns a home in Riverdale, near where the Minister lives, as well as the properties, lodges, et cetera, in the outfitting areas, plus considerable equipment - planes, boats, and so forth, which have great value.
Lest I be misperceived as being hostile, I understand his concern about protecting his investment. I am the only Member still here who was in the Legislature in 1981 when we passed the Wildlife Act, and I feel very strongly that it was a very clearly expressed will of the Legislature at that time that this was one business - given the nature of it, a wildlife resource that belonged to the people of the Yukon - over which we should never lose control as Yukoners, that Yukon citizens wanted control of outfitting areas. They wanted them owned and controlled by local residents.
Even as one reads the Safari Adventures documents, it makes mention of the virtue of having local employees - people who have knowledge of the land and knowledge of the wildlife - and it makes reference to First Nations in those terms, as well as other citizens. I think that is close to the sense that we Yukoners had when we passed that law.
One of the reasons I have always been nervous about the Charter arguments that have been mooted about is that - while I think the lawyer who was on the radio a few days ago who said that the Charter arguments would not apply to businesses, but they may apply to individuals, is probably right, I am not a lawyer and I do not claim any legal expertise - the logic of a successful Charter challenge to the local residency restriction, it seems to me, is that if that is not Charter proof, maybe the one-year residency rule for hunting here ain't Charter proof, maybe the whole outfitting industry ain't Charter proof, and maybe, if there was a successful Charter challenge, there would be no basis for us saying that this person can control hunting here and that person cannot.
I am not going to claim to the Minister that I am a lawyer; I do not have any legal expertise, but it seems to me that the whole house of cards is at the risk of falling. That may be why nobody has wanted to go to court on the Charter claim, but it seems to me that the proper thing to do in terms of not just meeting legal obligations, but just as important, respecting the democratic wishes of the people we represent, is that somehow we should be very tough about the rule that people wanted, which was local ownership and control. How then does one deal with the legitimate concerns of Mayr-Melnhof about protecting substantial investments? I do not know how one works this out, but the Minister is involved in the Department of Economic Development and has been involved with the Department of Community and Transportation Services, but the way for them to protect their investment is to recognize that, in the long run, the growth area in the wilderness adventure business, or the outdoor tourism business or ecotourism - whatever you call it - has got to be in the non-consumptive area. It has to be in having attractive lodges, such as this gentleman has on the other side of the lake, which photographers, wildlife observers and hikers are going to come to, in addition to the big game outfitting, but the growth areas may be in these other areas. If an investor like him can get - with the completion of claims, as we have partially completed in that area - the title to the land and some of the other security that are appropriate to an investment, we could deal with their problems and their needs without creating these legal mazes or doing great legal gymnastics in order to get around the clearly expressed wish of the people of Yukon, which is laid out in the law of the Wildlife Act, which is to have local ownership and control of outfitting businesses.
Now, maybe I am dead wrong about this. I am groping my way. I am not expressing party policy or anything like that. I want to say to the Minister that I feel that I am in a strange position. I feel very strongly that we ought to be protecting what the public wants here, but I think we also ought to be recognizing that, in the case of someone like Mayr-Melnhof, whose investment is clearly substantial - perhaps in the millions; I do not know how much it is - there ought to be legitimate ways to safeguard their investment without giving up what people here do not want to give up, which is local ownership and control of the big game outfitting areas and the industry.
I am sorry that I have been long-winded, but I would ask the Minister to comment on what I have said.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think the Member opposite has pretty well hit the nail on the head. The Charter challenge could very easily cause the loss of what was intended in the Wildlife Act when it was first released. My reading of its intent, 13 or 14 years later, could very well be lost in the Charter challenge. Again, I am not a lawyer, but I think we have some legal opinions to that effect.
I do not have a problem with investors coming to the Yukon and investing in resources here, but if we want to maintain what was the intent of the Wildlife Act, I do not think the initial intent of the act was to not allow - we do know whether this is the case for sure - Mr. Mayr-Melnhof to own three areas.
I met with the Outfitters Association on Friday afternoon in Haines Junction and it is also quite supportive of maintaining the intent of the Wildlife Act.
It is very difficult for someone to get into the outfitting business. I believe that it was said on the radio a day or so ago that, really, when one sells an outfitting concession, what one is really selling is a lot of blue sky. Banks are not terribly interested in trying to take that for security. When I lived in the Watson Lake area for a period of time, there were lots of areas that turned over. The people who were buying them were usually people who had worked there for a few years. They did not have the kind of money necessary to buy them. Consequently, they obtained loans from people outside the territory and even outside of Canada.
One fellow told me the other day that he actually got money from offshore. It was not even North American money that he obtained to originally buy his outfit. Since then, he has it almost paid for, so he is in a pretty good position.
I do not have an answer right now. I have talked to the chair of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, to the outfitters and to the department. It is a situation. I am not saying that it is happening, as I really do not know. A couple of weeks ago, I was arguing quite fervently that it was not happening. Now, with this latest document, I do not know what is happening.
I would like first to determine what really is going on out there. Then, I would like to find out if there is anything going on that is in contravention of the act, what we can do about it and how we can go about doing it.
We are going to need all the resources we have, such as the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Justice people, as well as the expertise we have in our department. It is not going to be an easy task. I also have certain sympathies, as has the Member opposite, for the investor, Mr. Mayr-Melnhof.
He has invested some monies. The people that the Department of Renewable Resources are interested in dealing with are the concession holders. What we are interested in doing is wildlife management - that is, the proper care and control of wildlife in the territory - so we are going to deal with the concession holder. We are not going to deal with infractions, and that kind of thing, with anyone but the concession holder. That is the person that the Department of Renewable Resources will deal with.
I think there are two issues: wildlife management and ownership by someone other than a Yukoner. That is where we have a bit of a problem.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Minister for his response. Let me express an opinion. I have heard, more than once - several times over the last few months - from people on the street that they could not understand why the Department of Renewable Resources never seemed to have reason to look into situations, such as cases where the concession holder, according to general public knowledge, had been fired by the actual owner of the outfit and replaced by someone else, and the department did not take an interest in such an event. I cannot remember how many cases, but someone recently mentioned several cases to me where that had happened in the last few years. I am not excluding the time of my government. I am talking about the department and the officials who monitor these things.
I know that Mr. Joe has a question, but I wonder if I could ask the unusual, simply because I am really shaky about where we are going on this Charter stuff. I wonder if it would be unkind to ask Mr. Cable, since he is the only lawyer actually present at this moment, to join the discussion on the potential implications of either a Charter challenge, or the claims made about the interpretation of it by some of the Members here. Almost everyone who has spoken about the Charter in this debate on big game outfitting areas has been a non-lawyer. There is something vaguely troubling to me about the fact that we have not heard at all from the people who are actually trained to read documents like the Charter.
I may not want to join the debate, but I would certainly be interested in hearing from him on this if he has something to say - if the Minister does not mind.
Mr. Cable: I am certainly not going to give a free legal opinion, on general principle - it is no longer free, I have received my nickel.
There was a gentleman on the radio either last week or the week before - a professor I think - giving his legal opinion on the various sections of the Wildlife Act and whether they offended the Charter or not. Did the Minister hear that program and did he and his officials agree with the views expressed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. In fact, I made a bit of a mistake in the House the other day when I said there were eight legal opinions. Actually, there were nine, all of which were obtained before we came into office. What he said about section 89 of the Wildlife Act was consistent with the legal opinions we had received, and that was that, very likely, they could be successfully challenged under the Canadian Charter.
Mr. Cable: My sense of it, and maybe the Minister can give his sense of it, is that for something like interprovincial trade or international trade we all dance around the subject. We know there are things that we would like, but they are likely to be thrown out if they were ever challenged. I gather that view was expressed by the outfitters yesterday or the day before in a press conference.
I gather the Minister does have some serious apprehensions about the ability of at least one of the sections to withstand a Charter challenge. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am certainly not a lawyer, but I am concerned with section 89, which has a requirement that to be issued a concession, one must be a Canadian natural person, which is not a problem, as well as a Yukon resident. I will just read it. "An outfitting concession can only be issued to a natural person who is a resident, makes a home in the Yukon, is habitually in the Yukon, and is a Canadian citizen."
Mr. Cable: I have the feeling that neither the Minister nor the members of the outfitting business actually want this in court. I would have to say that if I have misappreciated the Minister's position, there is a way of having the section tested by way of a declaration. I think that is what it is called - I am a little rusty on the process. I think one needs a nominal defendant, and Mr. Penikett is raising his hand, so I guess he wants to be the one. In all seriousness, rather than attacking somebody, one could get the consent of the defendant to act as a nominal defendant in order to get the declaration. Has that been run by the Minister's officers?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Actually, I have never heard of that before. The government does want the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to look at the act and at those sections. The government does want to keep the outfitting concessions going only to Yukoners. We may not be able to do so through a residency requirement, because of the Charter, but there may be other ways, such as qualifications. The government is consulting with its legal counsel to find out how we can maintain the intent of that section and we want to bring this up with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. The intent was that Yukoners would own the concessions and that is what this government would like to maintain.
Mr. Joe: I am certainly not a lawyer, either. Maybe I am, Mr. Chair, because you do not understand my language anyway.
Lots of questions have been raised during the debate about outfitters. I have a question for the Minister. Two years ago, a meeting was set for outfitters and the Selkirk First Nation. It was cancelled by an outfitter. It happened to be Dave Coleman, I think. Right now, we are negotiating with the government. A lot of questions have been raised about how First Nations will be involved with the government, and how we will manage the animals, and things like this. We would also like to know how we are going to work with the outfitters. This kind of question had to be asked of outfitters. I do not know why he cancelled the meeting, two years ago in July - the first week in July.
My last request of the Minister is for some information. How many moose and other animals have been taken by outfitters? I believe that the First Nations have a right to know how many animals have been taken - moose, caribou, sheep and bear. I have been asking this question for a long time, and I have not seen anything yet. This is one of my concerns.
Last year, a meeting took place in Whitehorse for outfitters. I have not seen anything come out of that meeting.
I want to talk about outfitter quotas. We have a lot of outfitters in my riding. I think there are six or seven, so I think that the people have every right to know how the outfitter is getting the animal out from the area being hunted.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will try and answer a couple of those questions before the break. I can bring back the number of each species taken throughout the territory. I think I have a chart hanging on the wall in my office. It does not give the numbers for each outfitter, but it provides the number for species taken in a particular game management zone. I will make a copy available for the Member opposite.
I think I can answer another question, as well. I have met twice with the outfitters at their general meetings of the Yukon Outfitters Association and a couple of times with the executive of the association. During these meetings, we have talked very seriously about the need for the outfitters to work closely with the people in the communities.
There was a problem in one case where the outfitter was trying to give meat to the community and the people claimed that the meat was spoiled. The conservation officer claimed the meat was not spoiled and this became an issue. I think what has to happen is that the communities have to designate a person to receive and distribute the meat, because the outfitters are quite willing to provide any extra meat they have. They provide meat to the Salvation Army and to many communities, which they are quite willing to do, but there needs to be cooperation between the community and the outfitter.
Mr. Chair, could we take a short break and I will get those figures to the Member?
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a short recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate on Renewable Resources?
Mrs. Firth: I would like to get into some discussion with the Minister about parks - the future parks the government is planning. Can the Minister tell us what parks and how many are in the planning process within this department right now?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In respect to territorial parks, the goal of the Yukon parks system is to protect representative examples of all of Yukon's diverse ecoregions.
There are 23 ecoregions, and six are adequately representated in national parks. The Yukon parks system plan inventories have identified targets in an additional six areas.
In 1995-96, we intend to complete inventories of four ecoregions in southeast Yukon: Selwyn Mountains, Muskwa Plateau, Highland and Liard Basins.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is saying that there are going to be 17 more ecoregions that need to be addressed. Six of the 23 regions are covered under national parks, so we have to do 17 more. The four ecoregions that are going to be covered are the Selwyn Mountains, Muskwa Plateau, Highland and Liard Basins. What other two areas, out of the six, is the department looking at?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The intention is to complete inventories of all the ecoregions, and the intention of the inventories is to produce general targets for protected areas. These are not firm candidates. If Members recall, I believe it was last year or maybe the year before that the department wanted to make a territorial park of the Carcross dunes. The community rejected the idea quite fluently, if I remember correctly.
We have identified another area with dunes similar to those at Carcross - a similar type of ecoregion - but it is near Kusawa Lake.
We want to make an inventory of all of the different ecoregions and then identify different impacts that may be there, such as mining or, as in the case of the Carcross dunes, community recreational activities. That was one of the reasons they did not want to turn it into a territorial park.
I think that is where we are with these. There is the Coal River Springs, which is a territorial park, and there is Herschel Island. Those are the only two that are completed now, and they are special ecoregions that have been protected.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us who is doing the inventories and when he expects them to be completed? Is an inventory being done of these four ecoregions only, or is it being done for the whole territory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Over a period of time, we want to do the whole territory. For 1995-96, it is just the four. Selwyn -
Mrs. Firth: Selwyn, Highland, Muskwa and Liard.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell me who is doing those inventories?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is the parks and recreation branch of the department.
Mrs. Firth: It is just being done in house. Could the Minister tell us what the process is for doing the inventories, and what exactly is being inventoried?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will just read what I have in my notes. The parks system plan inventories are comprised of the following components: an overall characterization of the ecoregion, including geology, soils, vegetation, wildlife and habitat overviews; delineation of areas of interests that include the main characteristics of the ecoregion; and, a brief evaluation of the human-use potential for each of the targets, which includes recreation, tourism, mining and energy potentials. Those are the things we look at when we inventory the various regions.
Mrs. Firth: Would the department be involving geologists in the inventory? Would it involve the wildlife biologists or those interested in soils and vegetation? I guess I would like to know who the experts are who will be involved. After that, I will move on to another question.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We have certain expertise within the department, such as is provided by the fish and wildlife section. We use people from that section. We are hiring a term geologist for the soils and minerals area. In fact, I believe that the position is for a mineral geologist.
We use other expertise within government where we can - if we can borrow someone. Where we do not have someone with the certain expertise that is needed, we will go to contract. I believe we have $100,000 in the 1995-96 budget for this activity.
Mrs. Firth: When does an official consultation process start with respect to this? Will there be a consultation process with groups or the public involved? At what stage in the development of the parks would they be involved? Obviously, they are not going to be involved in this inventory stage. When would the public consultation process start? I guess this would also be relevant to the mining community. Is the Chamber of Mines or the mining community going to be consulted at all with respect to the inventory when it comes to geology?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Once we have identified the characteristics we are trying to protect, we would then determine, with our experts, mineralization, for example. At that time we would consult with the Chamber of Mines and the mining community. Then, if we were near a community, we would also consult with the community itself and with First Nations, if it involves traditional land of some sort.
I think that we are not - and the Member had mentioned this - in the process of consultation yet on a lot of these. Most of it is doing the inventory - identifying different regions that we could establish as parks - and then going from there. To answer the question directly, yes, there will be consultation with the various stakeholders.
Mrs. Firth: I guess it will not occur until after their area has been identified and is on the inventory list, so what would have to happen to get an area that had been identified on the inventory off the list? Would that be possible once it becomes part of the inventory?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly. Carcross is probably a good example of one that came off the list. The Carcross dunes were identified but, following public consultation, it was very evident that people in the community did not want to see a territorial park, so consequently it was taken off the list and we are investigating other similar ecoregions.
Mrs. Firth: Are these parks or ecoregions that are going to be created going to be for multi-use, or are they going to be restricted to park land only?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think it would depend upon the type of region it was. For instance, Coal River Springs is a very fragile area. It is very difficult to get into Coal River Springs - from what I understand, I have never been in there - because there is no road. I do not believe there is any day use area either; it is a place you can walk in to and have a look. I guess it is going to depend upon the type of terrain, soils and vegetation that is in a particular region.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister says it depends upon what kind of terrain and soils there are to determine if it will be a multi-use park. When and how will the decision be made about whether it will be a multi-use park or just a park?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think I can answer that question right now. Once we have an inventory and have identified some areas, all the different characteristics will be looked at. At some point during that process, we will decide what type of usage the park might sustain.
Mrs. Firth: The simple question to ask is this: is the government supportive of the concept of multi-use parks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Most certainly we are. I believe it is in our Yukon Party four-year plan.
Mrs. Firth: How much land in the territory is already tied up in parks? The figure I heard was 18 percent. How much is presently tied up and how much more is the government planning to make into parks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am pretty certain it is not 18 percent, but I do not have those figures here. I can get them. It might take a little while, because I believe we will have to get the figures from the federal government for information on, for instance, Kluane National Park. I do not know whether or not we have those figures here. We can get quite easily the information on our own parks.
Mrs. Firth: That is interesting that we are planning more parks, but the Minister does not know how much we have in parks now. I have a concern about the numbers of parks that are being developed. I certainly know how the federal Liberal government feels about parks in the Yukon Territory. I am sure if they had their way, we would be a complete park, just for the benefit of the rest of Canada. I certainly do not support that principle.
The Minister mentioned the Carcross dunes and how that was rejected by the community. There are proposals for territorial parks that were raised as the result of a forum on protected areas that was held in Whitehorse in November. Other areas that were mentioned were the Canol Trail, Dalton Post, Kusawa Lake, Lansing Post, Lapierre House and Rampart House. What is the status of the lands in each of these areas that may or may not become part of the parks system? Are these areas going to be reviewed to become prospective parks?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know if the ones that the Member opposite just named are candidates or not. What we want to do, as I said earlier, is identify 23 different ecoregions in the territory, and we want to identify a potential park in each one of those ecoregions. The reason we want to do that is because these ecoregions represent a full representation of the territory. For example, there might be one that is mountainous. The Carcross dunes is a fairly classic one that we all know about.
Again, Coal River springs is a different type of area entirely. We want to identify these but we also want to be very careful that we do not impinge on some other usage that may very well be more important. That is why we check the mineralization geology. In the case of Carcross, as we said previously, the community did not particularly want a territorial park there at the dunes.
Mr. Penikett: I am fascinated by something the Minister said. I have heard and read Monte Hummel from WWF on a number of occasions. His organization, along with the Duke of Edinburgh and other prominent people, are the people who are pushing for the protection of these ecosystems and the various representative areas in the territory. They are the people who have, over the years, given governments report cards on the progress toward this goal. In my view, they wrongly gave our government a bad mark because we thought land claims were a higher priority than creating the parks, and they gave the present government a bad mark for a number of reasons.
One of the reasons they gave a bad mark was because of a very strong view held by that organization, that one either had a park or a multi-use park, and a multi-use park was not a park. They were very clear about that. If there is a mine in it, it is not a park. If all the trees are being cut down, it is not a park. If there is heavy industrial activity in it, it is not a park.
I take a different view from the Member for Riverdale South. She would probably refer to me as some kind of wimpy tree-hugger, but I actually agree with the idea of protecting the areas. I believe we should be moving toward that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: I do not know if I am not wimpy or not a tree-hugger - whatever it is that the heckler on the other side said. I understand he said econinny - whatever.
I support the objective of protecting a certain number of areas. I do not think that a park is the only way it can be done. There are certain areas under the land claims agreement that qualify. I believe that the special management area - which was an instrument developed during the land claims negotiations to protect areas of cultural or biological importance that the First Nations did not need to own in order to protect, but for which we might have joint or co-management of - was one of the ways in which protected areas could be established.
I must say to the Minister that I do not think that this territory or this Legislature will have much credibility with anyone if we create parks as part of the commitment to the protected area strategy and then designate them as multi-use parks. No one, anywhere, will recognize them as parks and we would, therefore, not be seen to be making any progress toward the goals that have been adopted or accepted by most of the provinces and jurisdictions in this country. The only argument is about what rate or how much progress is being made toward those goals.
I wonder if the Minister would comment on that. I really do think that this multi-use park idea is incompatible with the protected area strategy.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I hate to say this, but I am kind of between the two Members opposite. That almost puts me with our Liberal Member. I am having problems here.
I do not totally agree with the Member who just spoke that we cannot have multi-use parks. I firmly believe that we can have multi-use parks, depending on what ecoregion it is that we are trying to protect. If there is an area around a mountain, which includes the mountain, why can we not use the base of that mountain for RV people who may want to spend the night, or have a day-use area. I cannot agree that a park has to be set aside and that nothing else can go on there. I think that there can be some multi-usage.
I have not been to Coal River Springs, but I have been in similar areas where the terrain and the vegetation is very fragile. I do not think that we would want to build a road into Coal River Springs, unless we protected it in some other way, so that people do not climb all over the place and break off the rocks and so on.
I am not going to agree with either one of those Members opposite, and yet I do not want to be classed as a Liberal.
Mr. Penikett: I am going to confuse things further. I said that I felt the concept of multi-use parks - which, as most people use it, implies industrial activity inside the park - was incompatible with the protected area strategy. I am not one of those people at all, who suggests that it is not possible to have hikers and campers - in fact, I would argue that there can be, under certain circumstances, fishing and hunting. I believe that, under certain circumstances, there could be some kind of harvesting of timber, and so forth, especially if it is meeting local needs or meeting the needs of a local community. What the Hummel group has clearly argued against, though, is the idea that there can be a mine in the middle of a park and still call it a park - or that there can be clearcuts, or pulp mills, or heavy industry in there. It seems to me that that notion is incompatible with the idea of parks and is incompatible with the protected area strategy. There can be all sorts of low-impact use, whether it is whitewater rafters, hikers, or even some cutting of timber and some hunting and fishing - depending on the circumstances. I am not objecting to those at all. Therefore, I want to part company with the Member for Riverdale South, who, I think, has probably classed herself as an ecobandit - and proud of it.
What I am arguing with the Minister is that, as I understand it, Mr. Hummel's view is that the strategy, philosophy or policy of this government - even if it protects areas, but then describes them as multi-use parks - means that it would not qualify as a protected area.
Has the Minister had any discussions with that organization about this?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. I received a fairly strong letter along with our report card. I cannot remember all of the details, but we were chewed on to a certain extent.
Again, it is kind of interesting that the Member says that it might be okay to do a certain amount of forestry, but she does not like mines.
Again, it will depend entirely upon the type of ecoregion there is, what one is trying to protect, and I think each area has to be looked at separately. For example, down in Watson Lake, there is a lake named Lucky Lake. The groundcover that holds the soil is so thin that driving through with a car will ruin it for years and years. In fact, most of the hillside is ruined from the first time that I visited the area, some 35 years ago.
Those kinds of things are very fragile. I do not know how one would actually protect the area, but I do know that one way is not to allow a bunch of vehicles to drive through sensitive areas.
In the 21 regions, there are probably several different things that one may be able to do in several of these areas that will become parks.
I would like to circulate the harvest report to the Members opposite in response to the questions asked by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Penikett: Let me point out to the Minister one contradiction, and then maybe we can continue this debate on Monday. I believe that the multiple-use park policy argued for by the other side is perfectly consistent with drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is essentially arguing that even though it is a refuge and a protected area, you can have limited or controlled or finite industrial development in there. I think that if the Alaskans were to find out that this government is an enthusiastic supporter of multi-use parks, they would probably be saying, "Well, that is not incompatible with oil drilling on the north slope in the Arctic Refuge," - something that this House has resolved, in the past, that it is against. I am sorry, I was not speaking for the Member for Riverdale South. Most Members of this House have spoken against it.
The point is that we need to come back to this question of exactly what is meant by multi-use parks because I think I am not alone among Yukoners in believing that it is inconsistent with the values expressed in the protected areas strategy.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I suspect we will carry on with this on Monday, so I would like to move, Mr. Chair, that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move 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 has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 6, 1995:
Alcohol and drug strategy and implementation plan and overview (dated April 1995) (Phelps)
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects prevention plan (dated April 1995) (Phelps)
Forestry: framework for Yukon government's involvement (dated March 1995) (Fisher)