Thursday, April 13, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Ministerial Statements?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Bulk haulage fees
Mr. Harding: I would like to begin by saying I hope that all the Members opposite have a happy Easter weekend.
I have a question for the Minister responsible for bulk haulage fees. In 1993, the Yukon Party raised the haulage fees for large industrial truck haulages. Companies like Anvil Range, which used to pay a $1.00 a ton to haul ore, are now going to have to pay $1.41 per ton, which will significantly increase the costs. Unlike White Pass, a mining company has no ability to pass this cost off on the consumer.
Why has the government imposed such a large increase and will the government reconsider the rates it is charging for bulk haulage?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The reason that we implemented the bulk hauling increase is so that people who haul long distances and use more of the road pay more than the person who drives the road only a short distance.
Mr. Harding: The rates that I am talking about have been jacked up substantially, no matter how the Minister explains the increase.
Companies like Anvil Range and other trucking companies spend a lot of money on technology and try to design trailers to displace the weight of the load and thus keep deterioration of the road to a minimum.
Now, if these companies make the effort to improve their trucks' displacement or efficiency and the government just keeps jacking up the fees, what is the incentive for the companies?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: The government at the same time increased the amount that trucks could haul, so it should balance out. I have never been approached by any of the companies stating that they are dissatisfied with the bulk hauling charges.
Mr. Harding: People have given up on coming to this government, because they know it will never change its mind and that it is stubborn. It is not a surprise that the Minister has not heard anything.
Anvil Range is going to pay hundreds of thousands in bulk haulage fees once it starts shipping ore this year, yet this government has done very little on capital or maintenance work for three constructions seasons on the Campbell Highway. Where is the fairness in that for travellers on the road or for the industrial haulers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is really something. They must follow every move we make, when they say we do not consult or anything. I happened to be at the truckers' meeting, sat right beside the Anvil representative, and spoke with him for more than two hours. We seemed to be getting along well, and he said that he would like to come and talk to me some time. So, I think we are consulting a little.
Question re: Old Ditch Road maintenance
Mr. McDonald: "Consulting a little" - never were truer words spoken.
I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development about the Loki Gold road. It has been over a month since we last asked about the government's deal to upgrade the Old Ditch Road. The Minister indicated that the government negotiator was supposed to be concluding the arrangement - involving probably millions of dollars, in his view - approximately two months ago. What are the terms of the deal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there are still some outstanding issues with respect to ongoing maintenance of the road. The Department of Community and Transportation Services is working with Loki Gold, and I am hoping that the agreement will be finalized within the next couple of weeks. I cannot stand here and promise that right now, but it appears that we may have.
Mr. McDonald: We were encouraged to believe that a deal was going to be debated in this House and, thanks to the government dumping a lot of legislation in at the last minute, we may have an opportunity if the deal comes forward within the next couple of weeks, but I have to ask the Minister, given that this arrangement could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, and given that the Minister has given everyone to expect that we will debate the matter thoroughly, when are we going to be debating this matter in this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly did make that commitment, saying that it would be debated in the Legislature, and I am not going to renege on that commitment. I am hoping that we can bring it in prior to the House recessing this spring, but if we cannot and it comes in during the summer, we may very well have to ask for the Legislature to have a special sitting to debate it. One way or the other, this will be debated in this House.
Mr. McDonald: I thought that the idea of a special sitting was regarded with something less than total enthusiasm by the Minister's colleagues. He might want to talk about that with his confreres at some point before he makes the actual commitment.
If the Minister is committing to a fall sitting, it is something the Government Leader was unable to do only yesterday, and that would be wonderful.
Given that the government has refused to pay for the operation and maintenance of the Faro haul road, can the Minister tell us who the government intends to pay for the maintenance of the Old Ditch Road to the Loki Gold property?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Old Ditch Road is a public road up to the actual property of Loki Gold. We have been paying for the maintenance of that road over the past and will continue to pay for it in the future. The maintenance of the portion that is on Loki Gold property will be paid for by Loki Gold. We will not provide maintenance on private land, other than through a third-party rental. We only pay for the Old Ditch portion of the road.
Question re: Canada/Yukon infrastructure program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the Minister if the program had been oversubscribed and if the applications that were in covered all the money that was budgeted for this year. He said that he was not sure if every cent had been taken, but that he would take it under advisement.
Could he tell us today whether the program has been under or oversubscribed?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is $1.9 million and 24 applications. I suspect that it will be oversubscribed. There is also $440,000 from last year that has not been taken yet but has been applied for.
Mr. Cable: The agreement with the Government of Canada says it is understood and agreed by Canada and the Yukon that the project approval process shall be initiated by the Yukon co-chair, who shall nominate projects. What, if any, input has the Minister and his colleagues had into the list of nominated projects that were nominated by the Yukon co-chair?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We certainly have not had any input, and I am quite sure that if we had the Opposition would say we were trying to influence things. We have had no input at all.
Mr. Cable: The next question is for the Minister of Economic Development. He told us the other day that he believed that the abattoir project - remember the short debate we had on that? - qualified under the infrastructure agreement. Where did that information come from?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The information came from the director of community services for Community and Transportation Services. The application for the abattoir went to him. I am sorry - it came from the deputy minister, who said he felt it met the criteria. I do not know if they have fully reviewed it, or exactly where the application is at.
Question re: Division Mountain coal project, mine road
Ms. Moorcroft: After several months of government delay, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will finally hold a meeting in Carmacks to discuss the road needed by the mine. Can the Minister tell us what position he will take when he goes to the Carmacks public meeting?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would have loved to have been out there a long time ago, and would have if I did not have to sit in this place until 9:30 p.m. two and three nights a week. I would be much happier out there than I am in here. I certainly do not go in with any preconceived notions. I go out and talk to people.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has indicated that in preparation for going out and talking to people he has costed out the various options for the road. Has the Minister consulted with the First Nation there? What was the nature of that consultation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have never actually consulted on anything. They came and met with me once and told me where they wanted a bridge. We also have on the agenda the decision of whether or not it will go there or stay where it is.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister tell me if it has prepared maps based on all the recommendations made by all the community members and all the community groups that have brought input to the government?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, we have not. We do not even think that the mine will operate this year, according to the last information I received.
Question re: School buses, air quality
Ms. Moorcroft: Since school bus regulations fall under the Motor Vehicles Act, I will eagerly await the response of the Minister of Education or the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to my question about air quality standards on school buses.
As a result of driver complaints about headaches and dizziness, carbon monoxide levels on Whitehorse area school buses have been tested. They have reached a peak of 110 parts per million, which is above safe levels. Schoolchildren have smaller lungs than adults, and can have health problems with exposure to lower levels of carbon monoxide than is the acceptable level for adults. What has occupation health and safety done to ensure that the air quality on school buses is safe for children?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Does the Member want the question answered by everyone in the front row? Anyway, it is interesting that this question would come up at this time. As I am sure the Member read in the newspaper, the tests were taken and the findings were that the buses are safe.
Nevertheless, the Department of Education is examining the possibility of changing the positioning of the exhaust pipe, which is now in front of the rear wheel. The problem is that, if it is changed to come out at the back end of the bus, there may be a visibility problem in seeing the bus when it is parked during cold weather, even though the strobe lights would be on.
The department is weighing the options and determining whether or not the safety issue warrants the danger of moving the positioning of the exhaust pipes.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to have my question answered by whoever on the front bench has the answer, and sometimes it does not seem like any of them do.
The Minister has just said that the problem with the exhaust pipe exit behind the bus is that it could not operate in the cold temperatures, but that is the Canadian Standards Association standard for everywhere else in the country, where they also have cold winters.
The problem is that the exhaust pipe is now causing the exhaust fumes to be picked up by the air intake for the heater and blown into the cab of the bus. I thought that the company was supposed to put limit switches into the system. Have the exhaust systems on Diversified buses been modified yet to ensure that the heater air intake cannot pick up exhaust fumes and blow them into the cab of the bus?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue is being worked on. The CSA standards are such that, upon application, they can be modified or waived, and this is the procedure that took place when the positioning of the exhaust pipes was determined years ago.
The Member opposite seems to be taking the stance that we do not have answers to these very detailed questions. They were running out of questions; I guess they ran out of them about three months ago.
Perhaps it is the other way. Perhaps they just do not listen, because they seem to ask the same questions over and over again, and sometimes we are going through the eighteenth or nineteenth set of questions on exactly the same subject.
Ms. Moorcroft: I will just point out to the Minister that this is not the eighteeth or nineteenth time that I have asked questions about school buses.
I would like the Minister to tell me when his government is going to make changes to ensure that the buses are safe. The air quality is not good when the exhaust is being blown into the cab of the bus. When will the government fix the problem?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I did attempt to answer that. They are determining now whether or not to run the exhaust out the back instead of out the side in front of the wheel. I am not exactly sure when it is going to be done, but they are committed to doing it. The concern that lingers is the issue of safety. With the exhaust coming straight out the back, in cold weather there is a real concern that the bus will not be visible under certain conditions.
Question re: South Access Road
Mr. Penikett: It is quite clear that a new government would be a breath of fresh air.
On March 23 I asked the Minister responsible for C&TS for a report on the number of accidents that have taken place on the South Access Road and he has kindly given us a legislative return showing that since 1990 there have been 32 accidents, or an average of six per year, one of which resulted in a fatality.
Could I ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services what it is going to take for him to make a firm commitment to correct this situation?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are 1,300 cars coming down that road daily. We have six accidents a year and most of those accidents, if he read the legislative return, were not caused by the road. There were other causes, and that is the RCMP's information.
Mr. Penikett: The legislative return from the Minister, if he had read it, shows that every year a number of the accidents are caused by unsafe speeds as a result of weather and road conditions. It also cites road repairs as a consistent cause of accidents.
I want to ask the Minister this: until he fixes the road, will he at least commit to putting up the necessary maintenance work or signage, especially in bad weather conditions or during construction, that will warn drivers of the potential dangers of this particularly heavily travelled stretch of road in this city?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Only 1,300 people per day use the South Access Road; 14,000 people use the Two Mile Hill every day, so it is quite apparent that most of them are using the Two Mile Hill and not the South Access Road. Also, there are speed limit signs.
I understand the quack-quack over there wants to talk. Should I sit down and let her talk?
Mr. Penikett: It is quite curious that a former Minister of Renewable Resources would be so intimidated by a duck - or even a quack.
In this House, the Minister said that he has decided not to deal with the problem of the South Access Road until the City of Whitehorse can make up its mind about what it wants to do with its share. Everyone knows that the fact that there are 14,000 people going down the Two Mile Hill and a much smaller number are going down the South Access Road probably has to do with the relative condition of the two roads.
I want to ask the Minister this precise question: how many times has he met officially with the City of Whitehorse in order to address the situation, and can he tell us if there has been any progress at all, in terms of the discussions, consultations, and talks between him and the city about when and how to fix this road?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: When we speak with the City of Whitehorse, we speak about the remodeling of the whole hill, right down to Second Avenue. That is quite a project and is going to cost both the city and the government a lot of money. We are working on this continually. We have already said - I guess I have said this about six times in this Legislature - that we have got $150,000 committed, and we are trying to correct anything that is wrong on the road until we make the decision about whether or not we are going to rebuild the whole road.
Question re: Young offender
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. In the Whitehorse Star this week, it was reported that a girl was arrested after a Jeep was stolen. According to the Whitehorse Star, the girl was 13 years old. I would like to ask the Minister if he could confirm that the 13-year-old girl was in the care of the government - in the receiving home - at that time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased that it was not a question about about how many knives, forks and spoons are in any given group home at any given time.
I am certainly prepared to have the department brief me on this matter and send it to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: This Minister is getting more outrageous as time goes by. I am glad he will soon be able to get back to Carcross and get a breath of fresh air. I hope that next week we will see some improvement.
Could I also ask him where this 13-year-old girl is now? Can he tell us if she is in the secure custody facility? It appears that she has been taken into custody and charged. He does not know the answer to the last question, but perhaps when he finds out that answer, he can add that to the information he is going to bring back.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to. I am just rather amazed that she would ask questions of this detail during Question Period. The Members on that side must be desperate.
Ms. Commodore: Actually, we are not desperate. We have a number of questions. The longer we are in here, the more questions we will have. It appears that they do not know the answers to any of the questions we are asking. That is very unfortunate, and that is the reason why we have been here for so long.
Can I ask the Minister if he could let me know if this 13-year-old girl, who was in custody at the time that this event took place, was taking advantage of the Kids At Risk programs?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would be pleased to bring back that information.
It is unfortunate that Members opposite continually bootleg false accusations regarding all manner of things into their questions. I would hope that the media will not report on this before the answer is provided. This kind of thing has happened over and over again - there was an elevator that would not contain a stretcher and so on. There is example after example.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, application of contract regulations
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services. However, before doing so, Mr. Speaker, I have a bit of interesting trivia for you. We have asked over 500 questions in this sitting of the Legislature. I thought you might like to know that. The number of answers that we have received have been abysmal.
It is my understanding that the objectives of the contract regulations are to ensure fair, predictable, equitable, consistent and efficient treatment of all contractors in an open and competitive manner. We have asked many questions in the House about the tendering practices for the Whitehorse General Hospital reconstruction.
In the tendering of the mechanical and electrical contracts for the hospital, the local contractors have been told that the bid depository system is not going to be used. Could the Minister tell us why?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have asked the people responsible, the manager of the project and the person within Government Services, to meet with the Yukon Contractors Association to explain, in detail, how the system will work for this particular project.
The prequalified general contractors will be required to submit the list of subcontractors in their bid. This will result in a level playing field for all of the subcontractors and is in keeping with the manner in which a job of this size is tendered in other parts of Canada.
Mrs. Firth: The standard practice in the Yukon has been to use the bid depository system, even to the point that the federal government did not use it and is now going to use it on all contracts over $100,000.
Concerns are being brought to me by constituents and other contractors that the bid depository system is not going to be used. Can the Minister tell us why it is not going to be used in this contract?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It has to do with the sizing of the subcontracts and the manner in which the subcontracts ought to be broken down. It has to do with the manner in which the situation is being handled with regard to subcontractors being equally as fair as the bid depository system, and I have asked the officials responsible to have a full meeting with the Yukon Contractors Association to explain in detail exactly why this is seen to be at least as fair as the bid depository system.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is going to find himself lobbied by the contractors, because I understand that they are already compiling letters to come and lobby the government to get the process changed back to the bid depository process. I have not heard anything from the Minister today that will give any reassurance to the contractors who are going to be bidding on these projects.
The concern is about the shopping around that can be done with bids that are presented to the general contractor. That is of a great deal of concern to the Yukon Contractors Association.
Is the Minister saying, then, that he is not prepared to consider going to the bid depository system at all, and that he is going to go with the system that his officials have advised him to go with, and he is just going to tell the contractors that that is the best system for them? Is that his intention, or is there any flexibility here that we could go to the bid depository system?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The situation is this: I have instructed the people responsible to meet with the Yukon Contractors Association to explain the process, what it is based on and why it is seen as every bit as fair as the bid depository system and necessary in the circumstances. If the Yukon Contractors Association is not satisfied with that discussion, I am quite prepared to hear both sides and decide on the basis of what is fair.
I do not pretend to be an expert in contracting or bid depositories, and so on, but I have listened carefully to the reasons for not using the bid depository system, and I am convinced, prima facie, that the system is at least as fair to the contractors as is the bid depository system, especially with regard to the issue of shopping around, and I have instructed them to have preliminary discussions. I will be happy to talk to both sides and try to ensure that the end result is seen as fair to all the parties.
Question re: Curragh Inc. employees, payment of lost wages
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Government Leader regarding wages that are owing to former Curragh employees.
The Government Leader, in his March 20 letter to me, wrote, "A hearing has now been scheduled for April 10, 1995, in the Ontario court" - this past Monday - "and the purpose of his hearing is to obtain an order from that court to distribute the sale proceeds based on the agreement previously reached by the creditors."
The letter goes on to say, "If successful, the payment of the $1.8 million would take place after a likely 30-day appeal period."
I would like to ask the Minister if we were successful in that hearing on Monday.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we were successful, and the court will wait until after the appeal period before the pay out will come, so we should be receiving the monies some time shortly after May 10, and it should be just a matter of days before it is distributed to the employees.
Mr. Harding: This is excellent news. Will the government be communicating what has taken place and distributing the tax implication information that the Minister also passed on to me a couple of weeks ago regarding the depositing of severance pay, and what not, directly into RRSPs? Will they be communicating that to the claimants?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure if they will be communicating that to each claimant. I thought the Member wanted the information because he was talking to claimants who he felt had some concerns. Anybody who has approached the department is being advised of what is available to them under the Income Tax Act. If there is something else that we can do to facilitate it, I am sure that the department will be more than happy to do it.
Mr. Harding: I would appreciate that, because I do not think it is that complicated. We are dealing with 300 people, but it would be a form letter and the labour services branch has all of the addresses and the information for that. I think it is possible.
The letter, which the Government Leader wrote me, also said that the $659,000 from the director's insurance fund is to be paid on or before April 30. I would like to ask the Minister if this is still on target and if he expects the monies to be paid out on or before the end of this month, as he wrote on March 20?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not certain about the director's money. I will check that.
Question re: Kwanlin Dun land selection in planned Hot Springs Road subdivision
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Government Leader, who is also responsible for land claims. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation learned from media reports that this government is involved in a consultation process regarding the Hot Springs Road subdivision development. Can the Government Leader confirm that these lands in question have been selected by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation? I would like to ask the Minister responsible for land claims if that is so.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Apparently, after all the planning had been done, Kwanlin Dun has now claimed part of that area.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Government Leader, because he is responsible for land claims and should know about certain lands that have been selected for First Nations. If he does not know, he should not be responsible.
Were those lands previously selected by Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would think that a Member who has been in the Legislature for as long as the Member opposite would know that, until the lands are removed and placed under protection, there are no lands selected by the Kwanlin Dun. They have expressed an interest in certain lands. They continue to express an interest in lands they had not selected before. It is a moving target.
Ms. Commodore: It is no wonder First Nations have lost faith and trust in this government, when it responds to concerns from them as the Government Leader just did, who is responsible for lands claims. He should be ashamed of himself. That is totally ridiculous, and I hope every First Nation band heard what he said.
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation has asked this government to refrain from further consultation or action in this area until negotiations have been completed. It is a very serious request. Does the Government Leader intend to do that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not only this government, but governments in the past, as well, have consistently taken the same position that everything in the Yukon cannot stop until all land claims are finalized. We continue to work with First Nations. We continue to try to come to agreement on the lands, and we will continue to work in that manner.
Question re: Health services, FAS/FAE support services
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The Minister has made some announcements about the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. I am interested in knowing what the Minister's plans are to help people with FAS/FAE and their families.
There is currently a group home in Riverdale that houses individuals with FAS/FAE. They are considered high risk and have caused some concern for residents in the area. I am talking about individuals who are from the ages of 12 to 18 years. Some people in the FAS/FAE community have suggested that living in a structured environment in a less urban setting would be a good solution. I would like to ask the Minister if anything is being done in his department regarding development of residential facilities for FAS/FAE individuals.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are looking into options, such as the one just suggested by the Member opposite. I would make it quite clear that the FAS/FAE issues have been broken into two parts for policy development: the first part being prevention, which was released with the alcohol and drug strategy, and the second part will be developed between now and next fall.
We have had various suggestions and consultations with various groups regarding the possibility of a rural setting for some of the unfortunate victims of drinking parents. We will be looking at those options very carefully.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister if there is anyone currently delegated or assigned to look at this. Is there anyone presently in the department who has been given the direction to look at working on developing a residential facility for FAS/FAE individuals?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The people in the policy section are examining issues dealing with this and other aspects of the FAS/FAE program. As I said, we will be moving ahead and bringing some options to Cabinet in the fall.
Mrs. Firth: I gather from that answer that no one at present is looking at developing a residential facility specifically. Since it is impractical, cost wise, to have teacher aides for every FAS/FAE child in the education system, I would like to ask the Minister if there are plans to provide any courses for the teachers, other than the program at Yukon College, which Val Binder teaches. Are there any plans in the Department of Education to provide teachers and teacher aides with courses specifically dealing in assisting people with FAS/FAE?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are some awareness programs. The philosophy of the Department of Education has been not to label children with FAS or FAE. That is the policy that we inherited, and that is the way the department has been operating. We deal with special-needs children in the department. We will be working in that department, though, in cooperation with the Department of Health and Social Services, to look more closely at the situation regarding FAS. FAE is a far more difficult problem, particularly because the diagnosis is relatively uncertain, compared to diagnosing FAS.
Question re: Education, tuition fees for foreign students
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Education. Some concern has been expressed by some parents that foreign students in the Yukon public school system will have to pay large tuition fees next year for the first time. Is it the case that the department is planning to introduce a fee system for foreign students in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sorry, I am not sure I heard that properly. Did the Member ask if the department is intending to charge foreign students tuition in the public schools?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to check; I have not heard anything about such an initiative.
Mr. McDonald: Obviously, if there are any plans, they are not being initiated by the politicians. Does the Minister believe that the presence of foreign students in the public schools puts any kind of strain or burden on the available resources for the system as it presently stands?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is the first time I have heard of this being an issue. It has certainly not been brought to my attention with regard to the public school system.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am sorry, the Member for Mount Lorne is busy trying to get her quacks in, but she will have her chance in future Question Periods.
I am not aware of this as an issue, but I will check with the department and get back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: This does affect a number of parents and students in the school system, and it has been an ongoing issue for probably the last seven or eight years. If the Minister wants to get a briefing from me, I would be more than happy to provide it to him in the interest of constructive government and a positive environment in this Legislature.
Could the Minister tell us - I know that he is not aware of the issue at all - whether or not the department is interested in introducing any user fees or any special cost recovery mechanisms for the public school system in the coming year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are no such initiatives that have the blessing of this Minister at the present time. There is no intention to look into user fees in the public school system at this time either. If the Member is making representations that we should be introducing user fees in the public school system, I think it is a very interesting recommendation on the Member's part.
I am rather surprised that the NDP would be the ones bringing a suggestion such as this forward, but certainly if they bring a suggestion such as this forward - given the great experience and wonderful stewardship of the Member who asked the question during his lengthy tenure as Minister of Education, during which time we had the highest cost per student in all of Canada and results that were rather mediocre in the system - this government would certainly consider it with great interest, although the philosophy on this side of the House is that the public school system is an important system and one for which we should not be charging user fees.
Speaker: The time for Question Period had now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Tourism - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Department of Tourism?
Mr. McDonald: During Question Period some months ago, there were some commitments made to provide information to us about the Beringia Centre. I wonder if the Minister would proceed to do that, if he can.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can read into the record some preliminary figures that we have. We are estimating, in the 1997-98 year, when the Beringia Centre will be open, about 65,000 visitors, generating a revenue of about $292,000 or $293,000, and O&M costs of about $344,000, for a net loss the first year of $51,000.
By increasing the marketing of the Beringia Interpretive Centre and raising the awareness of it, we expect the numbers to rise. We are predicting 88,000 visitors for 1998-99, $404,000 in estimated revenues, O&M costs of $301,000, for an estimated net profit of $102,980.
In the year 1999-2000, we are estimating about 125,000 visitors. We are estimating revenues of $583,780, O&M costs of $303,000, for a net profit of $280,680.
This is based, by the way, on the 1987 visitor exit survey data; the expenditures are based on $74 a day. It does not include any revenue generated from in-house gift shops, nor any revenue generated from the rental of facilities, if that happens, and it estimates zero growth in visitors to the year 2000. It does not take into account any increase in tourism we might have in the anniversaries years. It does not take any of those into account.
I guess those are the figures that I can give to the Member. As I said, they are estimated, preliminary figures and are based on a fee of around $5. You can divide the amount into the total amount, but the admission fee is roughly $5.
The fee varies. There is a fee structure we could use, which is used in other facilities. There are group fees, student fees, adult fees and senior fees. These are the kinds of things that could be adjusted but, on average, it works out to about $5 per person.
Mr. McDonald: I want to ask a few questions for the record. What does the Minister expect the opening and closing dates of the Berengia Centre to be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Initially, we had hoped to open the centre in conjunction with the visitor reception centres, which are open annually from mid-May to September.
Mr. McDonald: What actual exhibits will be displayed that involve artifacts? What does the government have in mind with respect to the artifacts?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have not yet determined how the exhibits will be displayed. We know that there will be models of various Beringia-type mammals. On the outside, there will be skeletons of other Beringia-type mammals. There are all kinds of options of displays for the inside. In the theatre, we could put together a Beringia-type film. The technology is available to recreate that kind of stuff. We could put together a film that would describe the Beringia era.
Mr. McDonald: What artifacts? What existing bones does the government have to be put in the centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would suspect that many of the displays in the exhibit will be, for the most part, castings of originals - castings of what we know mammals were like. That is what is seen in many museums now - the Tyrrell Museum and some of the other types of museums. Much of the stuff that is on display are castings because the originals are so fragile and are stored away. We do have, and probably will be able to show, the specimen we have of the miniature horse. We have a skull of a short-faced bear, which we can create castings from.
From time to time, things will be discovered and probably turned over to the facility, so that they can be showcased. I think that most of the exhibits will probably be fabricated exhibits, based on the likenesses of the real artifacts we have. Again, because they are so fragile, they cannot be left out in the open.
I was told about the baby mastodon that was found in Russia, which is similar to what we have here, and that is a travelling exhibit. There may be an opportunity, at some time in the future, to bring something like that to the Beringia Centre and put it on display. That is actually encased in its own travelling exhibit. It is a refrigerated type of exhibit that is put on display. That would attract a lot of local people to the Beringia Centre.
Mr. McDonald: In terms of actual artifacts, does the government anticipate having any actual artifacts - the bones, the real thing - on display?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That has yet to be determined, but I would think that, for the most part, the displays will be displays that are built - like ones I have seen in other museums - from castings and replicas. The story itself is attached below the replica, explaining exactly what happened in that era and what the specimen is.
Mr. McDonald: Of the artifacts that would be available - he mentioned the horse and the short-faced bear skull - how many of these exhibits will be actually indigenous to the Yukon, found in the Yukon and stored in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would think that anything we would show in the Beringia Centre would be Yukon Beringia mammals.
Mr. McDonald: I did not explain myself very well. Of the exhibits for which there would be a casting of the real thing that we have found in the territory - like the horse, like the short-faced bear skull - how many of those would be from the Yukon? How many exist? Are we talking about just the horse and the bear? Is that it, or are there more than that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know how many originals we have. I know that a few years ago - the Member would remember this, because he was in government then - a type of weasel was found in that area that was almost intact, including the fur. I am not sure how many of these types of specimens we have. I know we have loads of mastodon tusks and so on, and we are always getting more every year. Every year, we seem to stumble upon something. A couple of years ago, people stumbled upon quite a variety of things on the north Alaska Highway.
Mr. McDonald: I have taken a personal interest in seeing what is found. Part of the problem that we have faced in the past - and continue to face - is that the stuff is quite often excavated in a large bucket. It is very difficult to put these specimens back in place or make any sense of them. The number of bones that we have for the horse, for example, actually fit into a shoebox. As interesting as that is, clearly it is not exhibit-class material. In order to make it interesting, there will have to be a lot of development work and reconstruction done.
In terms of archaeological and palaeontological work, what is the government's plan to provide expertise for proper excavation? What is the thinking on that subject?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We do have archaeologists on staff now and, in this budget, there are some funds for a palaeontologist who will come onstream about mid-year, probably this September. The palaeontologist's job will be to start to develop the ideas about the exhibits and work with the group of people we have assembled from outside of the territory who are very familiar with the Beringia era and are willing to help us build the exhibits.
Mr. McDonald: Is the palaeontologist position full time? What is the financial commitment toward this position?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The palaeontologist will be a full-time position in the Berengia Centre. The position will be shared between the Beringia Centre and the Historic Resources Centre; it is sort of half-and-half.
Mr. McDonald: What is the staff complement of year-round and seasonal employees for the Historic Resources Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Beringia Centre will have six or seven staff, plus half of a palaeontologist position.
The Historic Resources Centre will have the heritage staff, which is currently in a couple of other buildings, moving up there, together with half of the palaeontologist position.
Mr. McDonald: Essentially, the Minister is saying that the Historic Resources Centre, in terms of new resources, is going to be receiving their share of the palaeontologist position and that is all, in terms of new personnel. Is that right?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is not all; they will also be getting labs and equipment, which they have not had before. I do not know if the Member has been to the building across the road where they are housed now. It is pretty inadequate for the type of work they are required to do.
Having a new facility with a proper archaeology lab and a proper palaeontology lab will make a big difference. The ability to work on these findings in a controlled environment will help them carry out their jobs.
Mr. McDonald: I was referring to the staff complement, and I would like to clarify that. Would it be the existing heritage staff plus the half-time palaeontologist? The Minister is nodding his head in agreement.
Getting back to the Beringia Centre, the Minister has indicated that he expects there to be a $5 admission fee and 65,000 visitors. He says he comes to the conclusion of 65,000 visitors based on the visitor exit survey data. Could the Minister be more precise about what data he is referring to that would justify 65,000 expected visitors?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is from border-crossing statistics from last year.
Mr. McDonald: How many people currently visit the visitor reception centre on the highway?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: About 26,000 right now, I believe.
Mr. McDonald: How many people visit the MacBride Museum right now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have no idea. I do not have that number, although I could probably get it for the Member. Part of the reason for the increase is because we would take the next year or two and market Beringia. The visitor reception centre up the hill has never been marketed. To give a small example, when I was a director of the Whitehorse fishway, we were getting about 10,000 visitors a year at the fishway. We did not market outside the Yukon, but we went around to all the RV parks and businesses. The last year I was at the fishway, there were over 40,000 visitors. It was just a matter of getting the message out of the hours of operation to get people to visit.
We will put Beringia into our marketing plan. We have had fairly good indications from major tour companies, and others, that they would be very interested in the centre once it is up and running.
Mr. McDonald: How much is the entrance fee at the fish ladder?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is no fee at the fish ladder.
Mr. McDonald: There is some price sensitivity in whether or not tourists are going to visit a facility. I understood that when the Klondike park started charging a fee to see the sternwheeler, the number of visitors dropped off somewhat. I find it very difficult to believe that 65,000 visitors will visit the facility and pay an average of $5 each for entrance. It seems quite remarkable.
Is it just essentially based on faith that good marketing is going to sell the facility enough that people are actually going to pay and come in numbers - when it was never even experienced before - to a facility? Is that what we are depending on?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Marketing will certainly go a long way, but we are also being told by others in the tourism business that we have to improve our attractions, build new attractions and build authentic and real attractions, and that will keep people in an area longer. When they are here longer, we have an opportunity to work with MacBride Museum and SS Klondike and others to set a price for a package that includes all three. It then makes it very attractive for the bus companies to stay another day and to include that in their packages.
Let me give the Member an example. Right now, Whitehorse is considered, more than anything, a pass through. I know that MacBride Museum has been concerned about the competition and is worried about it taking away from them. Look at what is happening in other Yukon communities, and I talk specifically about Dawson City. It has a visitor reception centre, which is an interpretive centre; it has various buildings, which have been built by Parks Canada; it has Gertie's, the Palace Grande, gold panning, dredge number 4, a museum, the Keno and riverboat trips, the Bear Creek Dredge. It has Jack London and Dick North, Robert Service and Tom Burns, and Dawson City is not worried about competition. It has an application in for three centennial anniversaries program grants - three more attractions for Dawson City.
Dawson City sees that the more attractions there are, the more opportunity there is to keep people in the community longer and the more chance there is that everyone sees some benefit. That is what the major marketers tell us as well. Two weeks ago, when I attended a seminar, the speaker said, "You cannot have enough genuine attractions in an area, and they do not necessarily take away from each other; they make the area more of a focal point. People come in and will spend more time there."
We have a massive drive-through traffic now, heading to Alaska, that we would like to try to slow down and try to get them to stop in Watson Lake, Whitehorse and Dawson City. This is an attempt to do that.
Mr. McDonald: I was going to get to the reaction of the museums community in a few minutes, and I will, but I am still trying to tie down a few things about the facility itself and the expectations the government has for the visitorship of this particular facility.
The current visitor reception centre, as the Minister says, has 26,000 visitors and no entry fee. The Minister is saying that, in a couple of years, it will almost triple the visitorship, even with an entry fee. He has indicated that marketing alone is essentially going to be able to accomplish that task.
He talked about authentic attractions. What we have, basically, is - as the Minister rightly points out, even though the designation of this facility has been used interchangeably, both as a museum and an interpretive centre - something that may in fact house very few authentic attractions, or even castings of authentic artifacts from the Yukon. The Minister is going to have to pardon my skepticism about the claim that we are going to have, within two or three years, 125,000 visitors to the facility, making big profits. Unless there is something very specific - some really interesting data or analysis - I just do not see how that can be justified.
The concerns people have had about the facility cannot be put to rest until more work is done. I remain very skeptical about it. The Minister may know it or he may not, or may accept this evidence or may not, but there are a lot of people who are enormously skeptical about the plan.
The Minister indicated that there is, as it was initially referred to, a blue-ribbon committee. I do not know how the Minister characterizes the group of people who are advising him on the development of this facility. Has this group met? Have they met each other? What is the status of that - until the Minister renames it - blue-ribbon committee?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know if they have met as yet. I know that they have contacted each other and are very interested in working on the project.
We are putting people together in order to get the best available scientific expertise involved in developing the exhibits. I do not see the Interpretive Centre as having just a few exhibits. I see it being full of exhibits. I see it as being very interesting and as having interactive computer-type exhibits such as are at the Dawson display, and other items interpreting the Beringia era. The opportunities are enormous in terms of the types of things that can be done with technology nowadays. Exhibits can be created as if they were from thousands of years ago; computers can be used to create this effect.
I am a bit more optimistic than the Member opposite appears to be. The people who have agreed to work with us are considered to be some of the best in their field in North America. They think that it is a reasonable idea and have agreed to provide some expertise. They will work with the department and the palaeontologist in putting together the exhibits.
The Member talks about support. There is strong support in the community. I met with the mayor the other day, and she said that there is a lot stronger support than one would think. There are many people who think this is a good idea. The visitor exit survey indicates that 50 percent of the people feel that more attractions and more museums are the kinds of things that they would like to see and do. The Transportation Museum is a strong supporter of the project. The Chamber of Commerce, TIA and the City of Whitehorse are also supporters of the project. The Museum of Natural History in Carcross is a supporter and sees it as an economic opportunity to be involved in working on some of the molds for the exhibits, as it has done for the museum in Burwash. The Yukon Science Institute is another supporter of the project.
We have had discussions with Yukon College, and the president of Yukon College is very interested in the project. Several tour companies from all over North America, and even some from Europe, have written letters to us and told us that there would be interest in the project if we were to build it. Other than from the Member opposite and the concerns of the MacBride Museum - I can understand its concerns about competition - I have not encountered opposition to this project.
From what I have learned in the last two years as the Minister of Tourism, and having attended some of the seminars we put on - I just wish the Member opposite and the MacBride Museum had attended the seminar three weeks ago, when some of the leading experts on marketing in North America were here - we were told about what our competition is and what we should be doing. They spoke about attractions, and they spoke about who we should be worried about and competing with - and it was not with each other, in our own jurisdiction. In fact, they said that what we should do is work together in our jurisdiction, market and work cooperatively in our jurisdiction. That is how we would get our message out as the destination to travel to.
If the Member spoke to members in the industry, that is what it is all about right now. Everyone is getting into it with big bucks and promoting their areas by showing what attractions they have in their area. We have got to do the same thing. At the same time, we have to create attractions. If we have the Beringia Centre, the MacBride Museum, the SS Klondike, Canyon City, and a few other attractions, Whitehorse will be a two- or three-day stop, instead of a one-day stop. That is what we are trying to create. I think we will all benefit in the long run if that happens.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister may be missing the point. I believe a lot of people want to have extra exhibits. People want to have more to do in Whitehorse; they would like to have something to do on the waterfront; they would like to see a living cultural centre for First Nations, perhaps a rebuilt Canyon City. They would like to do a lot of things. I would not be surprised if the visitor exit survey confirmed that commonly held view.
If the government is prepared to spend $3 million creating an attraction, then I do not think there would be many people who would say it will not help the process of creating more diversion for tourists, if the attraction has some justification. Of course it will, but the same can be said of a lot of different projects that are now being considered under the centennial anniversaries program.
The cynicism around this project is that it was decided upon at the last minute to justify a decision to abandon the visitor reception centre and bring it downtown. To fill the building - which was not on the lips of all and sundry - the Beringia Centre was created. At the time, there was a lot of concern about inadequate consultation, in terms of determining if this was a priority. There was consultation afterward with the government explaining what it wanted to do. However, prior to the announcement, there was very little discussion in the community, and people reacted negatively to it. It also generated some excitement here.
I am certain that, with a little creativity, one could put together a first-class northern science centre in the existing visitor reception centre, where we could have everything from northern lights to all kinds of interesting and different things that reflect science in the North.
One could make a very solid case that you could have something extremely interesting, generate enormous profits, be something that everyone is extremely excited about - a world-class facility - around the concept of a science centre. You could even make an argument that school kids will use it, it will be a good educational institution, et cetera, et cetera.
One would be hard-pressed to say in that case that that would not be an interesting attraction or another attraction; it would not attract people to stay in Whitehorse for an extra day or contribute to tourists staying longer in the Yukon.
No doubt, you could make a rational argument that this would enhance the basic tourism strategy of keeping people here longer and making them more aware of what the north has to offer.
It is not that the Berengia exhibit is unworthy of display, the question is what are the priorities, how are those priorities going to be determined, and in consultation with whom? Is there a point to having consultation with the museum's community? The museum's community reacted poorly because they felt that they could make use of funds to improve their attractions to accomplish some of the same general philosophical objectives that the Minister has identified as his priority.
While I think that many of the museums community do not disagree with the Minister's priorities about having more attractions, they disagree with how it is being done and with this being the priority project. That is not new and I am sure the Minister is aware of that resentment, which still lingers in the air. I cannot simply abandon, given the Minister's previous remarks, all of the discussions that I have had with so many people about this centre. I cannot say that I must be seeing or hearing things and none of it is true, because it is true.
Some people say that the fact another attraction is good, or that the visitor exit survey says that we need more attractions, is not necessarily a vote of confidence in this project, as a priority project, at this time. Obviously, the scuttlebutt is around that the government wanted to move the visitor reception centre to downtown Whitehorse someplace and could not abandon a building, could not just leave the building sitting vacant; it had to do something with it. Somebody said, "What about a Beringia exhibit" and somebody said, "What a good idea", and it is that decision-making process that has irritated those people who are used to scrapping for whatever bucks they can get.
I am being as frank as I can with the Minister because he deserves to hear it.
There has been some discussion about the move of the visitor reception centre to the downtown area. Despite all the rhetoric in the Legislature, I remember a committee of people - I cannot remember who was on it but maybe the Minister or his department might remember - who recommended very strongly that there be a visitor reception centre on the highway in order to attract people downtown and to make people aware of what the territory has to offer.
I will ask him what his response is to those people who expressed concern that people may fly through because the visitor reception centre is seen to be off the beaten path. That was the original justification for putting the reception centre on the highway, but the rationale for that has obviously now been rejected. How is the government going to ensure that the people are going to visit the centre downtown?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will do that through our marketing, through signage, and we will encourage people to come downtown and we will do it through our other centres, and through the passport program, to visit all our other visitor reception centres. Since we made the announcement that the visitor reception centre would come downtown, I have heard only one negative comment. The City of Whitehorse, the Chamber of Commerce, other individuals, downtown businesspeople, and everyone I have spoken to was positive about the move.
Mr. McDonald: Only a few years ago, all the talk was about how we needed something on the highway. As an interested observer of those discussions, I find it interesting that the massive opinion can evolve so quickly in terms of the rationale for the location of the visitor reception centre. Now we talk of the downtown location as being the only location.
The Minister indicated the visitor reception centre now receives about 26,000 visitors. How many visitors does the Chamber of Commerce-run visitor reception centre receive per year, at the T.C. Richards Building?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not have that figure, but I can get it for the Member. I was just given the figure for MacBride - 21,489 in 1994.
Mr. McDonald: My understanding of the visitor reception centre is that there is only a record of how many people sign the book, but visitors to the centre could be in the 7,000 to 8,000 range.
Is the government completely convinced that the downtown visitor reception centre will receive the same kind of pass-through clientele as the one on the highway, in terms of numbers?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it will, and one of the reasons that I think it will is because of our passport program - included in it are museums and visitor reception centres. It draws people in to many of these places and it will help. Marketing will help. The new film will be attractive to people. Many visitors come downtown to buy groceries and then scoot out of town. As they come down Second Avenue, or the South Access, or the new Four Mile Hill - or whatever you want to call it - they can pull into the visitor reception centre and park there. The good thing about it is that there will be some RV parking there, because it is a bigger lot; it is downtown; it is within three blocks of MacBride Museum; it is within two or three blocks of the Old Log Church and is next to the skyscrapers. It is close to all kinds of attractions, making it an attractive location. We can point that out in our marketing so that we draw people into the downtown core, and businesspeople can see the benefits from that.
If we use the numbers that I gave the Member, and we use the 1987 visitor exit survey numbers at $74 a day, if these people spend an extra day in Whitehorse - one more day in Whitehorse - it generates $2.2 million a year for the first year, $2.5 million for the second year and $2.8 million for the third year in hotel/motel and basic service revenues. I think that it will benefit others. I do not see how it could not, if we can draw those people downtown. The object is to create more things for them to see, create more things for them to do and try to get them to come into the downtown core so that the Whitehorse businesspeople see benefits from that.
Mr. McDonald: I assume that the reason for putting the visitor reception centre on the highway in the first place was to draw people downtown, because they had a habit of gassing up and continuing on. If there were some way, in a very trouble-free manner and without taking any risks, that they could get into a visitor reception centre, they might be inspired to come downtown, and they might also be made aware how easy it is to get around to see certain things. That was the rationale in the first place.
Some of the people who are critics of the move now argue that the current visitor reception centre was never allowed to prosper. There was a dirt field around it that remained a dirt field for the last few years. It was not even landscaped. Signage is obviously very poor - I think it is still poor. If there were things, such as the Minister has mentioned - a passport program to encourage them in, if they were not otherwise inclined to go in, and appropriate marketing - then the 26,000 number could be enhanced quite substantially.
I do not have strong feelings about location. If it is true that the government simply wanted to move the visitor reception centre because it did not get its way - I am not sure if it got its way or not. I cannot remember how the Minister reacted to the highway location in the beginning.
If there is simply a desire to have some facility downtown now and a need to fill the current visitor reception centre with something, it is a very poor decision-making process. If there is any criticism due the Minister or the government, I think that it deserves every bit of it.
I have been on the sidelines watching a lot of the debate in the last few years. I find it really quite amazing that the ebb and flow of the justification from one side over another can be so dramatically different, and that we can rush to spend money to rectify or change things even a few short years later.
The MacBride Museum has indicated that it has some difficulty with the project itself. It feels that the Beringia Centre should be downtown. They have made a number of arguments, ranging from school busing to its being far from the existing museum. They have expressed concern about competition, which is an argument that the Minister feels that there is justification to reject.
The MacBride Museum had wanted to promote an exhibit within its facility - or across the street from it - to be managed by the MacBride Museum Society. What is the Minister's rationale for rejecting that idea?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The MacBride Museum may have been opposed to the Beringia Centre being where it is, but the Transportation Museum is very supportive of it.
I do not want to go over this debate again. We had it in Question Period, when the Member asked me the same question - why was the Beringia Centre not downtown beside the MacBride Museum - and I gave him four or five reasons. I am not going to go back over that.
I am not quite sure where the Member is coming from. At times, he talks about being supportive of displaying our Beringia era, and at times he talks about being supportive of the VRC. Perhaps the Member could tell us, for the record, if he supports the VRC move downtown and if he supports the Beringia Centre.
Mr. McDonald: I will tell the Minister where I stand. First of all, I will tell the Minister that I am not going to accept, for one second, that he is going to refuse to answer questions about some particular matter. On a number of occasions, the Minister has made some flippant remarks in Question Period, and now is the time we are going to get down to some details.
Number one, I think that the decision made - if the Minister wants to know it, I am one of the skeptics - to create the Beringia Centre was all about wanting to fill a building. That is what I think. I also think that the Minister wanted to move a visitor reception centre downtown because he wanted to. He wanted to have a facility he could call his own, knowing that the waterfront development, which involved other levels of government, was not going to allow him the opportunity to do whatever he wanted. That is what I think.
I think that most of this community was quite persuaded with the idea, a few years ago, of having a visitor reception centre on the highway. While I was not personally involved in a lot of the discussions, I was an observer and I did witness the arguments for wanting the facility on the highway. The community committee that had been struck was advocating the highway location. I did not hear significant opposition to it anywhere.
The opposition came when the facility was designed. People simply did not like the look of it and felt that it was too avant garde for their taste. That is where the criticism started to build up. Pretty soon, it became - in the Minister's words in Question Period - a monstrosity. It was not simply an avant garde building; it had suddenly become a monstrosity. We really got ourselves worked up into a frenzy about this thing.
I think that the decision making that comes on the heels of that kind of hyperbole is poor decision making. It is not thoughtful, it is not coherent, it is not responsible, and I do not like it.
If the Minister wants to know what I think, I think that a small visitor reception centre downtown as well as the one up on the hill are what exist right now. There is a visitor reception centre downtown, and there is one on the highway. If the Minister is asking me if I support a huge one downtown, I do not think the expenditure is justified. Does he want to know what I think? I do not think that spending $3 million for a tourism business centre is justified.
If the Minister can go and convince people that spending $3 million in their community is a good idea and they will accept and they will like it, absolutely; and if the Minister decided he was going to spend $3 million on the science centre next door, I would bet any money people would say, "That is a good idea. That is a great idea." That is what I think. Given some of the comments the Minister made in his announcement, it demonstrated to me that the thinking had been very fuzzy around this particular facility. Again, the hyperbole was that this place was going to be a world-class facility, meaning what, I do not know - meaning presumably that it was going to be of reasonably good quality or something, but it fell short of being an actual world-class facility. It was just hyperbole. We heard that the place was going to make enormous profits and the Minister pointed to the Tyrrell Museum as an example of another museum that makes enormous profits, but we find out that it does not make enormous profits and that at least 50 percent of its operating funds is subsidized through a government grant.
We now have the Minister saying that the Beringia Centre is going to have 65,000 visitors, but we have had no experience that visitors will come and pay $5 for something like this. The Minister says they are going to market it like crazy, and I am sure that good marketing can sell almost anything. Even if the Minister wanted to support a living cultural centre on the riverbank, I think effective, brilliant marketing around the world would make that a centre worth seeing, or at least it would encourage people to come and probably even pay the $5. That is what I think.
Do I believe that there should be a Beringia exhibit? Do I believe that we should be showing off the Beringia history? Absolutely. I was staring at bones from the Beringia exhibit long before there was even any talk about such a thing in this Legislature, and I was going to lectures and really getting into what was being discovered, just out of personal interest. Do I believe that that is of interest to tourists? Absolutely, and if it is done creatively it can be quite interesting. Can it be done out of the MacBride Museum? I think so. Do I accept the Minister's view that the MacBride Museum lot is too restrictive and cannot house the Beringia exhibit? No, I do not believe that.
Do I believe that some facility across the street from MacBride Museum could accomplish the same task and provide for expansion of that museum's facilities? I think it can.
Do I think that the MacBride Museum is good value for money? Yes, absolutely I do. In terms of operating expenses I think we give something like $21,000 per year to the museum, and look at the return for $21,000. All of those volunteers work very hard and they do a lot of fund raising, admittedly a lot is through government in terms of the capital improvements, but look at the return we get on that investment. It is an enormous return.
Should we continue supporting their efforts and rewarding that enthusiasm? I believe that we should, absolutely, if we are going to be putting money into expanding facilities.
What else does the Minister want me to comment on? Do I believe there should be a Historic Resources Centre? I was a Member of the Cabinet that helped approve the museums policy, a policy that the Minister agrees to, or says he does.
Do I think there should be a Historic Resources Centre where there should be proper laboratory facilities? Yes, I do.
Do I think the Beringia Centre is well located? I think it splits the expertise in town. I think it might be better housed, frankly, at the college, because there are a lot of people at the college who do teach this type of history. There are people who are experts in the field; there are a number of them who organize through, the Northern Research Centre, field trips into the communities and scientific studies. I think it would be a brilliant move, in some respects, to combine the Historic Resources Centre with some of the facilities currently housed at the college. I think that would make some sense.
I think if there had been a public consultation around this, we probably could have heard from the experts in the field who might have had something very valuable to say about the location of those facilities.
Do I support more attractions? Absolutely. Do I support the umbrella final agreement, which says that some of these attractions essentially should expose First Nations culture and history as a priority and not as an off-shoot to some gold rush activity, but as a priority? Yes. I think that is not only what we agreed to and is now law, but it is also something that we should be doing, because, with my limited exposure to tourism and tourists - I have had a little bit - they hunger for First Nations history and First Nations culture. That is a thing that is unique. That is the thing they would go around looking for. A living cultural centre, in terms of financial priority, would rank right at the top. It would be a wise investment in the tourism campaign.
I have a lot of views. I have not come to a conclusion about everything, but on the basic questions the Minister has asked, I believe I have given him a clear picture of where I stand. However, given that the Minister and his government are in charge of the agenda, my job here is also to discover precisely what the agenda involves, which is what I am doing.
I will not be put off by someone who says that asking any questions about it indicates I am against it. My first priority is to find out what the terms of reference are. If the Minister had said at the beginning that this would make enormous profits because it had hard information that would justify it, I would have said, in terms of the economic return, they had made a good case. What more is there to say?
The way I see it, the process for making the decision was flawed, and I have said so. With the same investment, there could have been a better combination that would have avoided a lot of criticism that has come forward.
That is my position.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It seems the Member is more concerned with the process than what we are actually doing. I strongly believe that moving the visitor reception centre downtown and building the Beringia Interpretive Centre connected to the Historic Resources Centre is the key. One will feed and work with the other. It is an important link to have, and this was a sound decision. Our government made the decision and fully intends to carry through on this as a priority.
We will build a Beringia Interpretive Centre at the top of the hill. We will market it in conjunction with other attractions in the City of Whitehorse. We will work with other groups and organizations to create more attractions in the future, which we are doing now with the centennial anniversaries program. As a result of all this, we hope this will become more of a destination and that people will spend more time here in the future.
The Member asked me for the number of visitors to the Chamber of Commerce information centre last year. In 1994, it was 5,589.
Mr. McDonald: I think that the chamber visitor reception centre could have used a lot more marketing, because the attendance was poor. However, I think the point is that it was poorer than it could have been. The lesson learned here is that good marketing can improve the performance of virtually anything that one wants to stick anywhere. To say that there are ways of improving the patronage of any facility is not to say that that is the best facility that one can have.
I disagree with some of the things that the government has done, as I have already indicated. Ranking high is the process. I do believe in good process and good consultation. It may feel good to simply dictate the basic parameters of how things are going to be and then allow people to debate the details, but I do not think that is good process at all and I do not approve of it; however, there is not much I can do to change the government's mind on that point.
On the visitor exit survey and the Minister's claim that there is support for the visitor reception centre, where are the results?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will be releasing more detailed results at the TIA convention next week in Haines Junction; part of the agenda is set aside for that. The final tally - the booklet analyzing the diaries, and that kind of stuff - will be compiled in about two weeks. At that point, we will be sending people from industry services to the communities to hold meetings there and explain the regional information when it is handed to them. It will be valuable to them that way.
As well, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia has agreed to take all the information and feed it into a databank in their statistics program, so that if people want more specific information about hiking and canoeing or something - and to really pull this all apart - Simon Fraser will do it and make the information available to us.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that he will release the next round of results next week. Are the results ready now? Are there no more results ready? We are in the Tourism estimates. This is the time to talk about things such as that investment and what it has produced. We are not going to be in Tourism estimates next week, or in two weeks' time. Is there anything ready now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know if there is. I do know that I have been putting a lot of pressure on the statistics branch to get it ready for the TIA convention at least. They will have most of it ready for the TIA convention. I mean, these are statistics for the industry. It is important for us to have them in the Legislature, but these are statistics for the industry. If the Member wants to come to the convention, he can have the statistics there, or if they are available before I leave town on Friday next week, I will get a copy for the Member. I think it is going to be a last-minute thing. They are working like crazy to get it ready. It will not even be in a bound form; it will be more in loose-leaf form. It is not really going to be the finished product for the TIA convention, but we are trying to get as much stuff ready as we can for it, because that is the only opportunity this spring that we will have to meet most of the people in the industry who are going to be heading off for the summer, so we want to try and get them that information.
We have to remember that the visitor exit survey information is information that will be used for three or four years. It is not just for this summer. It is something that is done every three or four years and is relied on for marketing for the next three or four years.
Mr. McDonald: Clearly, the final point made by the Minister is valid, partly because the money to do it every year is not there, and partly because it is an irritation to do it every year. The difficulty that I have is - and I think the Minister can appreciate this - this is the time at which we are talking about tourism. To promise the interesting results from the visitor exit survey to be made public a week after we have our one-window-on-tourism debate makes it very awkward for someone who is being asked to review spending estimates for the department.
The Minister was asked a question some time ago by Mr. Cable about tourists' interest in gambling. What did the visitor exit survey say about the interest of tourists in gambling in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not had a full briefing on that. The Bureau of Statistics is compiling the information. I have not asked them to stop to give me a full briefing on it. I said that I wanted the information for the TIA convention, so they have been working as hard as they can to get it ready for that.
I think the question about gambling was between sixth and twelfth, or something, in order. I am just going from memory now. If you want to use that for gambling, it is an unfair comparison. The regional information has to be looked at as well. I surely hope that people from Whitehorse do not say that gambling was the number one attraction to Whitehorse, unless there is some gaming going on that we do not know about. I would suspect that there might be a higher percentage of people in Dawson City who actually gamble, and t
hat will show up in the regional stuff, and it will show up in the diaries, which are extensive. They are a 14-day booklet of "My Trip to the Yukon".
That is much harder to pull out, disseminate and analyze than just numbers. That is what the Bureau of Statistics is trying to do and get ready as soon as possible. If the material is ready, I will give the Member a copy, but I have not been bothering them to do weekly or monthly analyses of it. I simply asked them to get the whole thing done as quickly as possible because I want to give it to the industry. I would prefer to have had it in January, but this stuff is pretty hard to get together and to analyze. As soon as it is completed, I will give the Member a copy.
Mr. McDonald: I appreciate the copy, of course, but as I recall, on the survey, there was a very specific question about gambling, and it should not be too hard to pull that information. I know that preliminary results have already been published. I have a copy of them, and we talked about them briefly in the Legislature, and even if there is a disclaimer as to the final conclusions about the issue, it would be useful to know the preliminary result. I cannot believe they do not know. I am certain they do know. We have been interested in this subject for a long time, and I am certain the Minister's curiosity has been piqued by this particular question. If the government, which was taking a lot of heat on the gambling issue a couple of months ago, was not even the least bit interested in just trying to sus out this information earlier on, I would be surprised.
Is the Minister saying that there is no information at all, that he knows of, about this particular question?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I am not saying that all. In fact, I just answered the question a few minutes ago. The front page talks about activities that a visitor would like to do when they travel to the Yukon. One of them was to visit attractions and one of them was museums, and those were the top ones. Gambling was one of the questions. I think it turned out to be between sixth and twelfth. I will see if I can get that number for the Member. Some of those people would not even know there was gambling in the Yukon if they had driven straight up the Alaska Highway and not gone to Dawson City. The regional stuff was not done until more recently, because they did the general stuff first and now I understand they are going through the diaries, trying to pull it all out and put it together. I will try to get the information for the Member as soon as possible. Like I said, I was given a number but I cannot remember exactly what it was. I think it was less than 12 and more than six. I will get the number for the Member, but it does not have much relevance any more because the government is not going ahead with any gambling, so the number does not mean anything to us.
Mr. McDonald: I would appreciate the information as soon as possible. Frankly, I am disappointed we could not have it for the Tourism debate. It is very reminiscent of the Economic Development debate where the Minister said that virtually everything of any importance was going to come a month later and we had to wait for that.
We talked about the Minister's business plan, the energy policy, you name it. It was all destined to come a month after we finished the estimates. That is very frustrating for a person in my position, which I hope the Minister can understand.
Can the Minister give us some details on the time line for the construction of the visitor reception centre facility, what the operational costs are expected to be and what the visitor numbers are expected to be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Before I answer that question, I would like to make a couple of comments about the Member's last question on the visitor exit survey.
I believe the Member will remember that about a year ago, when he asked me the question about the survey, I told him that we would receive preliminary information in January and final information in April or May. That was a year ago, and it was based upon what the statistics bureau told me. It was not based on when we do our budgets, when our session is, or anything else. It is when we receive the information.
I apologize to the Member for not having that information when the budget is here. If we had been going through the budget at normal speed, we would probably have completed Tourism months ago, and there would have been no hope of receiving any information, expect perhaps the preliminary part.
I have tried to hurry up the statistics bureau as much as possible because the industry needs this information more than the Member opposite, and we are trying to get the information to the industry as quickly as possible. I did not want to hamper the statistics bureau by asking for weekly or monthly reports on certain aspects. I wanted a total package to give to the industry as soon as possible, which is all I am trying to do here. I will receive most of that package next week. They tell me we will have the final data a couple of weeks later.
As for the visitor reception centre downtown, I understand a tender will go out for removal of the Taylor Chev Olds building in April or May. The tender has already been let and awarded to Florian Maurer for the schematics of the new building.
Several meetings were held with the city and others with respect to design. I expect that that will all come together, and the design will be accepted in early June or July. I would think that some time in early September it will go to tender; some time in October it will be awarded and work will begin on the facility. We hope that the business centre will open in the late spring or early summer of 1996 and the department will move into it. The downtown visitor reception centre will open sometime in the late fall of 1996 or early spring of 1997.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that the facility will be built by the spring of 1996? Is that what he said?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Only the business centre. The visitor reception centre up the hill will run all of this summer and all of next summer. The downtown visitor reception centre will probably open in the spring of 1997. That will give us a couple of years of marketing to promote its downtown location.
Mr. McDonald: What is the operating cost of the facility expected to be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get that figure for the Member. It will not be very accurate at this time because we are just doing the schematic design. It will probably be less expensive than the one up the hill, because we combined the business centre with the visitor reception centre - it is all one building. The Tourism department will be housed in the business centre, and the visitor reception centre will be part of it.
The Member keeps mentioning the $3 million visitor centre downtown. It is not that; it is the business centre as well as the visitor reception centre - a combination. It is not $3 million for just the visitor reception centre portion of it.
Mr. McDonald: I understood that to be the case. It will basically include government offices and the visitor reception centre - office space and visitor reception centre, right?
Does the Minister's department know what the operating costs are and he just does not have them? Are they developed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring them in for the Member. The O&M costs for the department will be the same for the employees because the employees will be moving over. The cost of the visitor reception centre staff up the hill will be similar because they will be moving downtown. I will have to bring back the O&M costs of the building.
Mr. McDonald: The current staff budget for the visitor reception centre will be transferred to the downtown centre - is that correct?
In the Minister's reply, will he tell us what is going to happen to the T.C. Richards Building visitor reception centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is the plan. The only exception will be that we have had discussions with the city. Since this visitor reception centre will now be open year-round, for the first time - it was not open year-round before - we will be talking with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the City of Whitehorse and arranging for them to provide some staff, due to the year-round operation, which mainly focuses on the City of Whitehorse in the winter months. We are working on that arrangement now and we have had preliminary discussions with the city.
I understand that the T.C. Richards Building will be closed down and that this will serve as the year-round visitor reception centre.
Mr. McDonald: How is the year-round visitor reception centre going to be staffed in the wintertime? It is now open for three months. What is going to happen in the winter and who will the clients be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The visitor reception centre will be minimally staffed. That has yet to be worked out, because we are discussing the hours of operation during the winter months with the city.
There could possibly be increases in staffing with the use of auxiliaries during the busy winter months when activities such as Rendezvous or Frostbite are taking place, or whenever important events are happening in the middle of winter.
Mr. McDonald: So as far as the municipal services, the city is being consulted now? When did the Minister or the Minister's department start consultations about municipal services and development costs that the city may have to bear?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have had several discussions with the city. I am not sure what stage these discussions are at, but they range from a footprint of the building of the lot to the design of the city's display inside, but this is all very preliminary right now. They are mainly looking at the outside design of the building, the footprint and the parking. We will be discussing other items as the project moves along.
Staffing is in the very preliminary stages right now. The government has just talked about involving the city and the decision is that eventually the city will close the T.C. Richards Building and move that staff person over to the visitor reception centre, but that is the kind of thing we are going to be discussing; it is all still quite preliminary.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to ask questions about the visitor reception centre. Then I have a couple of questions about the Beringia Centre.
The plans for the visitor reception centre that the Minister has just told us about this afternoon must have been prepared fairly recently, because I remember that the Minister of Government Services, when we were on debate on his department, said that there was really no idea in the department about how the department is going to go about building the visitor reception centre and that no plans had really been made. Is that correct? Did this all just happen in the last couple of weeks - the contract awarded and plans made with respect to building the visitor reception centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was a tender put out a few weeks ago for the schematic design of the building. It closed, and Florian Maurer was awarded the contract. He is now working with the department and design committee, which involves the City of Whitehorse, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, and there will eventually be consultation, as well, with CYI with regard to the interior exhibits. That is taking place now. We hope to have a schematic design, a footprint and design ready to go to tender some time in September.
Mrs. Firth: I guess it has just happened recently. We asked questions about the VRC in Government Services debate. That was what we were told at that time.
With respect to the contract that was tendered for schematics, can the Minister tell me how much that contract was for?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that it is in the $20,000 range. I will bring that information back for the Member after the break.
Mrs. Firth: Is that money coming out of the supplementary budget, the new capital budget, or the operation and maintenance budget?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The initial stage is in the supplementary budget.
Mrs. Firth: That is coming in the supplementary budget under office accommodation. I see the Minister nodding his head, yes.
I have just a quick question about the structure of the budget: why is it that money for projects like that came under office accommodation, furniture and equipment? In the new capital budget, I noticed it was the same thing. Yesterday, the Minister announced that there was $50,000 for the Beringia Centre and $50,000 for the Historic Resources Centre. Instead of having its own line in the capital expenditures, it all comes under general administrative support under office equipment, furniture, equipment and systems. Why did the department do its budget up like that, instead of identifying it specifically on the project page in its budget? The reason I raise the concern is that it could be perceived to be an afterthought, as opposed to being specifically put into the budget.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it was not an afterthought. I guess it was just the way it was done. It is identified in the multi-year project side. I think this question was raised in one other Minister's budget with respect to a capital project as well. If the Members feel better about it, I can probably have all of the projects drawn out and identified as a line item as they become more significant. Right now, we have planning money, and that kind of thing, for the Beringia and Historic Resources Centres. There is only $100,000. Next year, there will probably be capital lines for both of the projects, which will make them more identifiable; however, they are identified on the multi-year side. It is just the way it was done. If the Members feel more comfortable, I can have it identified the other way.
Mrs. Firth: It is not an issue of me feeling comfortable. It is an issue of public information. When I looked at the budget, and I know when the media looked at the budget - we were discussing it - and when other members of the public looked at it, in the multi-year costs, it identified the visitor reception centre, the Beringia Centre and the Historic Resources Centre.
I looked in the budget. There was nothing in the budget for it. The point was made that they are planning multi-year projects, but there is nothing in the budget. The last place I would have expected to find it would have been under general administrative support. I think that would also have been the last place someone in the public would have expected to find it.
If the department intends to start a project, it should be identified as a special project immediately so that we know the year it started when we go back to look at budgets, we know how much money was identified for it, and we and the public can better keep track of how much money is being spent on the project.
The Minister says he does not know why it was done that way. Perhaps he would like to take a recommendation from me that it would be a good idea to put it in the project column.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will accept the recommendation and raise it with the department.
Mrs. Firth: We have a $20,000 contract for schematic design. Has that contract been completed? Is the schematic design ready, and could we have a copy of it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was just let 10 days ago. The design committee is looking at it. I suspect it will be June or July before it decides on the final design and before we go to pretender and tender. It is still quite a while away. The individual just sat down the other day to start to work on it.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister of Government Services was right when he was presenting his budget debate.
The Minister made reference to a design committee and quickly listed the Chamber of Commerce and someone else. Could he give us a list of who is on that committee and what organizations are represented by whom?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The committee is not doing the design. The committee is involved in some of the concerns surrounding the visitor reception centre, from the footprint. The city is involved as it is concerned about the traffic. I believe there is one fellow, Rob Roycroft, who is involved as an engineer with the city. He is evidently the city's representative. The architect is somebody from Tourism. I can get a list of the individuals who are part of that consultation group that is involved in looking at the design as it proceeds along.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want to get into a debate with the Minister, but it is starting to sound vaguely again like a committee that is not a committee, and we have already been through that debate. It is not a design committee, it is a consultation group now. All I want to know is the process. We have given a contract to Florian Maurer; he is going to do some schematics. This consultation group is looking at it and bringing its concerns forward. Are they all sitting down together? How is this process working? Does Mr. Maurer design something and then ask people to come in and have a look at it? Does he check with them periodically? I will give the Minister a bunch of options - how does this process work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Probably the best thing for the Member would be for me to bring back a written reply about the process and how the people are involved in the process, and I will do that. I can probably get it by early next week, if I cannot get it before then.
Mrs. Firth: It would be important for us to have that, because then I want to take it one step further and ask the Minister if there is going to be a kind of open, consultative process like we had when the previous government built the visitor reception centre, or is there just going to be a representative group that is going to authorize or okay the design?
I know when the visitor reception centre that is at the top of the hill now was built, there was a group that sat down and approved the design. They had some options and some input and it was a decision that was made by that group. When will that happen? The Minister made reference this afternoon to CYI being consulted at some stage of the game and the Chamber of Commerce being involved, I believe. I do not know who else is involved. Is TIA involved? Is the Yukon Chamber? I would like to know when there is going to be further consultation. Does the public have an opportunity to have their two cents' worth? How does it work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member should remember that the bulk of the project is the business centre, the Tourism offices.
Attached to it will be the visitor reception centre. The design schematic is asking for an outside design in the spirit of the 1898 period, so that the outside of the building will have that type of design. For the inside of the building, we are looking at possibly dividing the Yukon into regions and having some interactive-type displays dealing with all the regions of the territory. The City of Whitehorse will be specifically consulted. There are 500 square feet dedicated to the City of Whitehorse, out of the total 2,000 square feet, and the city will be heavily involved in the design. The rest of the square footage will incorporate some of the things the visitor reception centre now has, and it will incorporate some of the new computer-type technology in the other areas of the territory.
I do not know if that helps the Member with what will go on there.
The theater will be small, similar to the one we now have. We will have the gold rush film in the theatre and we are now producing a Yukon lure piece about the rest of the territory, which will go inside the theatre, so that when people see it they will see all the various regions of the territory in a quick visual tour, and be encouraged to go to other places in the territory and spend more time there.
Mrs. Firth: If 2,000 square feet is for the building, what is the 500 square feet for the city? Who else will be in the building?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The 2,000 square feet is the display area of the visitor reception area; 500 of it is dedicated to the City of Whitehorse because of its downtown location. The other 1,500 square feet is dedicated to the rest of the Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: How big will the whole facility be? How big will the combination of the visitor reception centre and the office be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will try to get that number for the Member after the break.
Mrs. Firth: What I think would be very helpful is if, along with the consultation process that the Minister has said he would bring back, he would bring me the information about the total square footage of the building, what they are planning to put in it, such as the displays and so on. I would like to have it in writing. I do not know if the information is in the contract with Florian Maurer. Was this given as some kind of a proposal that architects bid on? If so, I would like to have a copy of it, so that we know exactly what the government was requesting be done. Failing that, I would like a copy of Florian Maurer's contact. How was he chosen? Did it go to public tender? There had to be some public document that went out. I would like a copy of that, as well.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get a copy of the tender for the Member.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of questions about the visitor reception centre.
There have been some questions put to the Minister in Question Period about the consultations that took place with the City of Whitehorse. Prior to the announcement of the project in the speech, could the Minister indicate what exactly took place with the City of Whitehorse, either at the administrative or political level, with respect to the concept of the building itself being downtown and the actual placing of the building on the Taylor Chev Olds lot?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Prior to the announcement, the previous mayor had stated many times that he wanted the visitor reception centre moved downtown. He had support from his council. The current mayor, Kathy Watson, was a councillor and the chair of AYC when the resolution was passed to move the visitor reception centre downtown.
Since that time, we have had several discussions with the city. The city has given its full support for a VRC downtown and the Taylor Chev Olds lot as the site.
Mr. Cable: Prior to the announcement, was there any formal approach to the political leaders, the council as such - not just conversations in the coffee shop or reconstructions of past statements? Was there any formal approach to the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know what relevance that has to the issue now. The city council is on side and is working with us to build the facility downtown. The former city council wanted it downtown. The present mayor wants it downtown and supported a resolution to have it downtown. We announced it downtown. They were very excited that it was downtown. I do not know what the Member is getting at. They are very happy that the centre is going to be downtown, as are the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association and others. They are very pleased that the centre is going to be downtown. Is the Member concerned that the centre should not be downtown? I do not know what the Member is getting at.
Mr. Cable: The question I am leading up to is - if the Minister does not have the answer, I hope he can get it by Tuesday - does the site and what is proposed for the site comply with the community plan, the downtown plan and the City of Whitehorse zoning bylaw, or will some application be necessary before construction starts?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it is my understanding that the centre does comply with all regulations. The city has indicated its agreement to the location of the centre by way of letters that we have exchanged. I believe the city has no problem with it and the city has representation on the committee working on problems surrounding it, vis-à-vis traffic footprint and that kind of thing.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that the government has obtained formal zoning bylaw approval or some opinion to the effect that the centre complies with the zoning bylaw? Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding - I have heard nothing other than that from the city - that there is no problem and the city is working with the government on this project. There is total agreement that the project should go ahead and go ahead there. No one has told me anything different from that and the government has had several meetings with the city, some as late as just a week ago, where those issues were discussed. I met with the mayor three or four days ago, and again we agreed to continue with the project.
Mr. Cable: To put the issue at rest, could the Minister's officials contact the city and see whether or not the centre does comply with the community plan and the zoning bylaw? If it does, that will be the end of this issue.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will do that.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister did everything but answer the question about whether or not there was a formal presentation to the city council before the announcement. Was there a formal presentation to the city council on the visitor reception centre before the announcement was made? Was there consultation with the city council?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was no formal presentation, but everyone in the City of Whitehorse who was involved on previous councils and the mayor of the existing council were working hard to move it downtown. Once we made the announcement, they were pleased about it.
Mr. McDonald: I talked to the city council. All the councillors and the mayor were noncommittal at the time. Perhaps the Minister has built up some enthusiasm since then; so be it.
What percentage of the building will be office space and what percentage will be the visitor reception centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Most of the facility is office space. There will be a theatre, which is the same size as the one we now have. There will be a display area of about 2,000 square feet. There will be a reception area and some washrooms off to the side. That is about the extent of the visitor reception centre.
Mr. McDonald: When the Minister says that most of it will be office space, is he saying there will be 6,000 square feet of office space, or 10,000 square feet of office? How big is the office space?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring that number back after the break. It is worked out based on the office space we now have. I could guess at the figure, but I should bring the exact one back.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister says that the theatre will be the same as it is now. Will it be a year-round theatre, or a seasonal facility, as exists currently?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The theatre, of course, will be attached to the whole building, so it will be easily opened up for use in the winter. At the present time, the theatre's stage is planned to be a little wider than the existing stage is, so it can be used for lectures. I believe that the theatre size is 150 seats, and I think that is the size of the one up the hill now.
Mr. McDonald: What is the size of the display area at the current visitor reception centre? Does the Minister know how it compares with the proposed display area in the new visitor reception centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is similar, but I will get the number for the Member.
Mr. McDonald: If the new display area is about the same size as the old display area, and the theatre is about the same size as the old theatre, and all of that is less than the rest of the building, which will mostly be office space, is the government expecting this building to come in at $3 million? The total costs are still going to come in at $3 million?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, that is our expectation.
Deputy Chair: Are there any further questions in general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with some questions about the Beringia Centre. First of all, I want the Minister to understand that I am supportive of a Beringia display, but I do not see the practicality yet, and have not been convinced of the cost effectiveness and practicality of what the Minister is proposing to do.
Instead of rehashing all of that debate, I want to ask the Minister some specific questions. This afternoon, I heard the Minister say he was going to have a half-time palaeontologist position in the Yukon. Is that for a vertebrate palaeontologist?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is a full-time palaeontologist position that is shared half with the Historic Resources Centre and half with the Beringia Interpretive Centre. Now the Member is getting scientific on me - I guess it is a vertebrate palaeontologist, if there is such a thing.
Mrs. Firth: My concern is that we are dealing with a very scientific area. I understand that the number of vertebrate palaeontologists in Canada is very limited. We are trying to find out how many. We have found out that there may be four or five, perhaps more, but it is a very, very specific field. I just want to know how this government thinks it is going to be able to attract an individual who is a scientist to work here in the Yukon. Has the government examined what it will cost us and what the potential is of that happening?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would not pretend to know a lot about the field, but I do not think the department would put together a plan for a palaeontologist without feeling that we could get one who is qualified to do the work. The Yukon has always been a very attractive place for people to work. We have an extensive Beringia history in the territory and this would be an extremely interesting area for an individual to work in. The individual would be involved in the area and it would be a very attractive place for a palaeontologist to be, so we would probably be very successful in attracting a quality person here.
Mrs. Firth: Before the Minister says that, he should know what it is, whether or not they can attract one here, and how many there are. Has the job been advertised yet? Has the department started the recruitment process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it has not been advertised. I am told that it is a vertebrate palaeontologist, but it has not been advertised yet.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate this position being advertised and filled?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We hope to fill the position about mid-year.
Mrs. Firth: Mid-year, meaning in June?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: September.
Mrs. Firth: Mid-fiscal year. The Minister said they hope to fill it mid-fiscal year.
The position will not be filled until after the changes are made with respect to the design of the Beringia Interpretive Centre. Is the $50,000 in the capital budget for the design of the Beringia Centre? What is the money for?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $50,000 for the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the $50,000 for the Historic Resources Centre is to hire the palaeontologist and to do some other preliminary soils work and other work in the area with respect to the Historic Resources Centre.
Mrs. Firth: The $100,000 is just for the palaeontologist?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is for both.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said both. I just heard him say that the $50,000 for the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the $50,000 for the Historic Resources Centre was for the palaeontologist, and that they would do some work prior to the facility being built, or the project being started, or the facility being modified?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The palaeontologist will initially work with our committee on the exhibit design. Some of the $100,000 will be spent on various testing, types of soils and preliminary testing at the Historic Resources Centre. It will be added on to the end of the Beringia Centre. There has to be some soils work done up there, but it will not all be used up with the palaeontologist.
Mrs. Firth: Just so I understand the process, the palaeontologist will be hired to advise the government on what it should do with the facility to make it suitable to house the exhibits, as well as something to do with soil testing for the new Historic Resources Centre.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member is confusing two items. The palaeontologist will not be doing the soil testing. The palaeontologist will be starting work on the exhibits and working on the functional study for the building. He may be working with the Tyrrell Museum and other experts in the field, and may be starting to think about the types of exhibits. He will start to prepare for the exhibits. He does not need to work on the whole design of the building. He will be able to look at the building, see what space he has to work with and start to put together exhibits.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister have that all written out in a plan he could provide for us - the plan and the process? Who is doing up the job description for the palaeontologist? When will it be ready? Could we have a copy of that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The heritage branch and Public Service Commission, I imagine, will do the job description, which I can provide for the Member. I will also provide the process involving the palaeontologist, the Historic Resources Centre, the Beringia Centre and the other work that will go on up there - what the $100,000 will be used for. I will bring the Member a breakdown.
Mr. McDonald: Is there a functional plan for each of these facilities already in place and already documented that the Minister can give us?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, not at this time.
Mr. McDonald: In terms of the Historic Resources Centre, what are the time lines for the construction of the facility and how is that facility going to interact with the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring back information about its size after the break. As to how it will interact, the palaeontologist will be able to use the labs that are in the Historic Resources Centre. Specimens will be worked on there. If they are to be put on display, they could be moved into the Beringia Centre in the future.
The Historic Resources Centre, as well, will be working very closely with other museums in the territory on artifacts.
Did Mr. Penikett have something to say?
Mr. Penikett: I have lots to say about this, but there will not be enough time before the break.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 4, general debate.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member asked some questions before the break and we do have some of the answers. I apologize to the Members. I have the visitor reception centre in square metres, because it was given to us from Government Services and the Historic Resources Centre in square feet, because that is what we were using.
The Historic Resources Centre is 27,500 square feet. The visitor reception centre is 390 square metres, the theatre is 180 square metres and the office space is 1,170 square metres, for a total of 1,740 square metres.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister does not know what 27,000 square feet is in square metres, does he? I do not know how to compare those two buildings.
The Minister described the visitor reception centre portion to be 390 plus 180 square metres. Was he able to determine whether or not that compares with the existing visitor reception centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand it is very, very similar in size. It is about the same size of display area that is in the one now. I will try to get it this weekend. We have to dig out some old files to try to find the square footage so I did not have it right away, but I will try and dig that out for the Member.
Mr. McDonald: The existing visitor reception centre cost - I cannot remember what it cost - $2.1 million? The area is about 570 square metres. That is less than one-half of what the office space is going to be. Given that the projected amount is $3.2 million for 1,700 square metres, is the Minister saying it is going to cost $3.2 million total and that there is no doubt about that in his mind?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is what it is in the projected part of the budget. Just to remind the Member, the other one was a lot smaller, but the technology was very different - curved glue-laminated beams, a copper roof, and an entranceway that is all tiled - a very, very expensive building.
This building is pretty basic. It is going to be a functional, square building, with a facade that reflects the 1898 period. I think the cost of construction will be less. We are also using local architects on this building, where the other one used outside architects. The design of the building is a lot simpler than the other one.
Mr. McDonald: We will just bide our time and wait and see, I suppose.
The Historic Resources Centre is going to be 27,000 square feet. I wish I had a calculator, so I could find out what that is in square metres. Is that much larger than the business centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Historic Resources Centre is a fairly large building, but about 10,000 square feet is a warehouse to store artifacts and that kind of thing. There are a couple of labs and some offices in it. It is a very basic building, a rectangular shaped building; it is not fancy in any way. It is a warehouse - a very functional square-type building.
Mr. McDonald: With labs in it? The Minister made a point of saying that it had labs and that sort of thing in it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are one or two labs in it and, I imagine, a workshop. Right now we have someone who works out of the Renewable Resources building in a small workshop recreating and restoring various artifacts for us. This individual will be moving into the Historic Resources Centre, along with the rest of the staff from the heritage branch. There are labs, but I do not think we are talking about the complicated biological and chemical labs that one sees for that kind of work. It is more for restoring and protecting historic artifacts.
Mr. McDonald: I am looking forward to more detail once it has been developed. The Minister was asked a question about timing for the facility. If he could give us that information, it would help us get a better impression of when we can expect the information as it is developed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: For the Beringia Interpretive Centre, there is some planning in 1995-96, which is mainly the palaeontologist's, and some initial soils work. Construction will start in 1996-97 for the project.
The Beringia Interpretive Centre is supposed to open in May 1997. With regard to the Historic Resources Centre, there is $50,000 for planning money in 1995-96. Again, most of the work will be done in 1996-97, opening in November 1997. The reason it is opening then, with such a short time line, is because it is virtually a big warehouse. It is not a complicated project. It will be a big slab and then a big warehouse with lots of warehouse space and a couple of labs.
Mr. McDonald: In terms of the aesthetics of the current visitor reception centre site, the Minister will put a warehouse there, and combine the Beringia Centre with that warehouse?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Member is familiar with the visitor reception centre there now, there is a mechanical thing out the one end of it. At that end, going toward the airport, hidden behind the building, is where the footprint for the Historic Resources Centre is projected to be. Some of the soils work will take place to determine exactly where it will go.
I have just been told that, for comparison sake, if one were to convert the visitor reception centre to square footage, in the business centre there is 4,196 square feet for the visitor reception centre, 1,936 square feet for the theatre, and 12,589 square feet for office space, for a total of 18,721 square feet.
Mr. McDonald: Basically, the business centre will be two-thirds office space, one-third visitor reception centre. The remainder will be parking, I assume. How much of the existing parking lot will remain?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot tell the Member that now, because I have not seen the design. There will be a couple of designs. I think the offices will be on two floors. I will have to come back to the Member with that information.
Once we come to the design stage, I could provide to the Member the footprint design to give him an idea. The parking is a major concern here with the government and the city. Certainly I would think that there will be as much parking as there was at the centre on the hill. There have been other discussions about parking between this government and the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. McDonald: So, given that the key feature of any visitor reception centre is parking and given that the parking lot now appears to be fairly full with employee parking, what is the plan of action in terms of accommodating both?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding that, in conjunction with the planning for the footprint design and the building over there, Government Services is working on some planning to solve foreseeable parking problems.
Mr. McDonald: So it is the position of the government that there will be sufficient parking for both government employees and people visiting the centre. Will recreational vehicle parking also be accommodated at the facility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there will be recreational vehicle parking at the facility. As well, the government is working on a plan for the government parking lot, because there are a lot of government employees who do park in that lot now.
Mr. McDonald: I know that RV parking takes a lot of space. Is it the position of the government that the waterfront land between First Avenue and the water will be reserved for a park and not parking, or is it anticipating that it will continue as parking or more parking for government employees?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think the government is considering that land for parking. The city wants that land in sort of a waterfront plan reserve, but the city is talking about uses for that land in conjunction with the VRC, so there has not been a decision made on it yet. It is all part of the discussions that are going on about accommodating the parking needs there and linking the visitor reception centre closely with future waterfront development.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister indicated that there will be sufficient parking for everything, and presumably the waterfront plan will not make parking a priority on prime land. How many spaces are going to be reserved for RVs? Does the Minister have any feeling for that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring that information back to the Member. Maybe the Member has had the opportunity to go up to the VRC on top of the hill. At any given time, I have never been by the facility when it has been completely full. We hope to be attracting more people downtown, but they do not all come at the same time. They are staggered at different hours, and the feeling right now is that the parking that will be needed can be accommodated on the lot with the building. In fact, if we are to put the VRC downtown, that is probably the only area downtown where we could do that right now.
Mr. McDonald: Has the government done some engineering tests of the downtown visitor reception centre site itself and, if so, what has been discovered?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Government Services has done those tests.
Mr. McDonald: Has the department discovered anything out of the ordinary on the site?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Not that I am aware of. It has not been brought to my attention, but I can check on it and get back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for that commitment. Does the fact that the Minister is intending to use the old visitor reception centre for the Beringia Centre mean that the government will finally landscape the facility and not leave the scrubbrush and the dirt landscape unattended? Is there a landscaping plan for the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is not a plan as yet. That will be part of the overall plan. However, in a conceptual drawing I saw - I can show it to the Member, if he wishes - there will be several of the ice age Beringia mammals out in the field, as they would be if it were a valley full of ice-age Beringia mammals. Their casts would be able to withstand the tough weather. It would be a great drawing card, because one would see the mammoth family, a sabretooth tiger, a short-faced bear, or whatever, in the field out in front. Certainly, there would probably be some vegetation in front, to make it look like it fit right in, but that sort of plan will work in with the initial planning of the whole project.
Mr. McDonald: I think that some tasteful landscaping would probably be desirable. I would have thought that some basic landscaping might have helped the chances of the visitor reception centre on the hill to increase usage, even though it was used pretty heavily. Judging from the comments in the guest book, which I took the trouble to read, I did not see anybody identify the visitor reception on the hill as a monstrosity or anything other than a very nice place. I will put in that word for all the tourists who took the time to comment.
One of the concerns that I have heard and that I have expressed in a preliminary way in this Legislature is that the government is not doing enough - given the size of its new commitments to the Beringia Centre, the Historic Resources Centre and the business centre - to address the territory's imbalance in exposing aboriginal history and culture. The commitment to the living cultural centre and the work done at Canyon City are considered to be fairly small in comparison to these large new projects.
What plans does the government have to live up to its commitments under the umbrella final agreement to actually get serious about addressing the imbalance among the exposition of gold rush, non-native history, the Alaska Highway history and that of First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I take the Member's comments very seriously and I realize that there is not another major project going on right now with respect to First Nations history. However, there are a lot of smaller projects taking place this year, such as the Canyon City project, Rampart House and Dalton Post, and the work that we are doing in assisting the First Nations Tourism Association, SYANA and encouraging native artists. There are many things being done.
This government is also involved with the Council for Yukon Indians on the cultural centre that they are looking at developing. Many of the First Nations in the communities are involved in CAP presentations. In Dawson there is a First Nations component to the CAP proposal.
I think there are some things going on, but that does not mean that we have to stop developing everything else and just develop First Nation history. There are a great deal of things that we can do in the future with respect to First Nations in the Beringia Centre. Some of the artifacts that we have discovered and the history of Beringia comes from the Old Crow region. The first traces of First Nations people were in that area. We have talked to some people from Old Crow who are very interested in Beringia and in possibly developing some kind of display about the find in Old Crow, the First Nation's history and that era.
There are some things going on, but I think that we can always work at doing more. I do not think we are ignoring First Nations, I think we are doing some positive things, but I do hear what the Member is saying about the appearance of an imbalance.
I think part of the appearance of an imbalance is the fact that Parks Canada pumped millions of dollars into the territory and it has been primarily on gold rush history, from the SS Klondike to Dawson City. If you look at the product that is out there right now - First Nations, vis-à-vis gold rush history - there is more gold rush history, because of the fact that the federal government put a lot of money into that in the last few years.
Even in our presentation that the Member saw the other day, we put in a First Nation component that probably would not have been present a few years ago but is now very important to our marketing. When we travel to Europe, we involve First Nations in that kind of promotion to raise the profile.
It is coming, but we sometimes have to work at the speed the First Nations want to work at. Regarding the First Nations cultural centre we have been talking about, they have been the driving force behind the speed at which that is proceeding.
Mr. McDonald: There is an imbalance with regard to the exposure of aboriginal history and culture that was agreed to in the negotiations that developed the umbrella final agreement, which ultimately became law. It does not take a very detailed examination of what we are now exposing, through our museums and parks, to realize that this history is largely about non-aboriginal activities in the territory, whether it be fur trading, gold rush activities, or the Alaska Highway invasion.
As has been explained to me, the First Nations are not dissatisfied that, in the context of the events of the gold rush, et cetera, their participation is being acknowledged. What they are saying is that they do not any longer want to be a tag-on, an addendum, to other priorities. In essence, they are saying that we have always, in the past, identified the gold rush as being a big event and we have exposed First Nations involvement as kind of a sop to the reality of the First Nations involvement in that project.
First Nations feel, and have established, an identity for themselves that really has nothing to do with the influx of non-native people to their lands. They do not always want to be identified or to have their identity defined by the events such as the gold rush and the Alaska Highway construction project, or even the trapping that took place prior to that. They, and I think frankly a lot of tourists, want to see First Nations culture and exposure of their life before the advent of the non-native influences, or what people refer to as the European influence, because they find that to be uniquely attractive and something worth seeing.
With respect to the Beringia Centre, certainly one has to go back a fair distance in time to be able to find some bones or exhibits that would help explain First Nations culture and history. Obviously, again, that is another example where the First Nations and their communities - their lives - are not the focal point of the exhibit. They are not what the exhibit is all about. It is, again, the sense that there was some involvement, so we will tack on a couple of displays about First Nations people of the time. I am making a serious point. This point has been made to me in much more emotional terms than I am making it now.
Canyon City, for example, is inherently a decent project, but it is primarily a gold rush project. As a sideline, there is some archaeological work being done to identify First Nations settlements in the area. However, they feel that the real reason why the government is proceeding with Canyon City is because of its role in the gold rush. The more noteworthy buildings and exhibits will be gold rush era in effect. The Rampart House and Dalton Post are, as are many around the territory, the results of the advent of the fur traders. Again, we want to expose the history of the fur traders. As an aside, we say that the fur traders were doing business with First Nations.
The orientation is the issue. Are First Nations going to be the prime focus of the exhibits, and not a peripheral element? I think that is what the umbrella final agreement was referring to, and I think that aboriginal people were expecting to see that imbalance redressed. I might point out that, when the announcements came out about the $3 million for the tourism business centre, the Beringia Centre and the Historic Resources Centre, they saw that as the next big investment the government was making into heritage, culture, protection of artifacts, and so on - the next big expenditure the government was making to promote tourism. Frankly, there was some resentment that the government, in their view, was not living up to the spirit of the umbrella final agreement, which was to make it the priority to expose First Nations culture and history.
One could make the argument that the living cultural centre will be developed at the speed First Nations want. In return, the argument that has been made to me is that if there was a financial commitment of $3 million or $4 million to a living cultural centre, or some similar project, it would be a significant incentive for people to actually bring a project about. Obviously, if the money is set aside as reserved, it can sit until people are ready.
The feeling that it is not a priority has been expressed. I make that point to the Minister because it has been made many times to me by different people. We acknowledge that nobody has really done any significant tourism project that focuses exclusively on aboriginal people. The land claims agreement appropriately raised expectations that things would change, but we do not see them changing.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member makes a valid point, but I do not think that he has the whole story. One of the first things I did as the Minister of Tourism shortly after our government was elected was to go over to the Council for Yukon Indians and meet with them. We talked about tourism initiatives.
I talked about a living cultural centre, because it was in our four-year plan. I said that the last thing I want to do is to drive it. For far too many years, we have been telling them what their history should be and that this is something that they should develop, which they agreed to. We have put money in the budget for this for two years. The difficulty is, as the Member says, if one just puts $3 million or $4 million up front and says that there is $4 million to build it, they will get together and put an idea together.
We put money in the budget to develop the concept. We gave them the contract to develop the concept. The difficulty they have run into is that there is no consensus on whether or not to build one cultural centre in a central location, because several different bands may want to get into doing that themselves. Dawson is looking at a type of cultural centre, as was Carcross. There was no consensus among the First Nations on whether or not they wanted one to be developed for all 14 bands or one developed in each of the regions.
It is at the point where they are discussing among themselves what option they prefer. Of course, we cannot fund 14 of them.
What has happened now is that the community assistance program has brought some First Nations together with non-First Nations in the communities, and in some of the projects, and Dawson is one, I understand there is a very strong First Nation component to the particular proposal. So we are trying to move in that direction, but I do not want to jump in and say, "Here is the money and here is what you have to use it for, or else," and I do not think the Member wants me to do that. I am just telling the Member a bit of the history because that is what has happened. They are now deciding among themselves on how they want to proceed.
I should tell the Member in the meantime that we are continuing with things like Canyon City where I did not realize, quite frankly, that there was a strong First Nation component until we started to do the dig, and we are discovering more and more of that. I see the displays at Canyon City now being more comprehensive - one of the gold rush history, one of the Northwest Mounted Police history and one of the First Nations history. We are working on the interpretive plan with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. They are working very closely with us.
We are doing the same thing at Fort Selkirk. There is a lot of gold rush history at Fort Selkirk but we are working primarily, exclusively, with the Selkirk First Nation on developing the interpretive plan and telling some of their history as well.
When we do the displays inside the new visitor reception centre, I would like to see a very strong First Nation component. We will be consulting First Nations on that component and hope to put things in there that they want to see.
As I mentioned earlier, we have been talking to people in Old Crow about the Beringia Centre, and they are fairly excited about the opportunities of tying in some of their history.
The Historic Resources Centre will be a real opportunity for the First Nations, who now are conducting the various digs at Fish Lake, Carcross and other locations, to come back and work with our people there to learn the skill of recreating artifacts that could be sold to tourists for revenue. That is something that is being done in other areas. Exact replicas of the spearheads and other various tools are made and sold. The tourists purchase these and it helps pay for the facility.
I think that we are making some moves, but there is not a project that we can sit down and look at right now and decide whether or not there will be a commitment, other than to the projects that are recommended in the centennial anniversaries program program.
Mr. McDonald: I would not advocate that the Minister set the First Nations' agenda, either. That would be foolish. However, I think some political energy can be expended to try to identify - as was expected in the umbrella final agreement - a stand-alone project that is not a tag-on to other priorities, and does not explain First Nation history in the context of how it relates to the gold rush, how it relates to the transportation history of the non-native population or how it relates to the activities of the European fur traders, but something that is exclusively dedicated to exposing First Nations culture and history on their own terms. I think that would have enormous symbolic value, not only to First Nations, but I would expect that, if it is done properly, it probably would be the most attractive - from a tourism perspective - and most well-attended tourism facility we would have.
People who come up the highway talk about where they can find more information about First Nations history. I think it would be worth the political energy to see if some resolution can be found to some of the problems the Minister has identified. Certainly, every project is going to have some problems to address and overcome. I would be advocating - I will not repeat it, because there is no point - that the Minister spend some energy, time and, ultimately, resources on this particular area.
Has the government, in the context of the living cultural centre, given a sense to the designers of the centre what kind of financial commitment the government is prepared to make and how large the commitment might be, so that we - and they - can have a sense of the scope of the commitment?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it has not got anywhere near that stage yet. I believe that there is $50,000 in the budget this year. It is at the stage I mentioned earlier where the CYI is consulting among themselves if they want to build one or build many, and it has gone no further. To my knowledge, they have not reached agreement on whether or not they want to do that.
The living cultural centre is exactly the type of project that the Member has just been talking about. It is something that has to be driven by the CYI. I realize that there is an extreme need for that kind of product out there - a history product, a First Nations product, Beringia product, gold rush product. We have the people coming now, but we have to supply the infrastructure and the product. We are working on that, so we will just have to see where it goes with the First Nations.
The time being almost 5:30, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to wish all Members a happy Easter, and I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Tuesday.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.