Thursday, March 14, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is with great pleasure today that I introduce to the House Mr. Jim Gabay, the public relations manager for Royal Airlines.
I am pleased to inform the house that Mr. Gabay will be announcing at a press conference this afternoon the initiation of air service from Vancouver, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto beginning this summer. I am also very encouraged by this initiative and the confidence that Royal Airlines has in the Yukon's economy and the future business opportunities this will present.
At this time I would like to extend a warm welcome to Royal Airlines and wish them every success in their initiative. I am sure this will mark the beginning of a strong relationship to the benefit of all Yukoners.
I would like all Members to welcome Mr. Gabay to our Legislature.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have some legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have one legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
Are there any ministerial statements?
CRTC Hearing on Affordable Local Telephone Service
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am pleased that the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission will be in Whitehorse tomorrow to conduct a public hearing into the issue of affordable local telephone service in the Yukon, as part of hearings being held across Canada.
Members will recall that the Yukon government and many Yukoners lobbied the CRTC to hold regional hearings on Northwestel's last two rate applications. Many Yukoners submitted interventions on these applications and have shown that they are knowledgeable about their telecommunication needs.
In its presentation to the CRTC, the government will stress that Yukoners, particularly rural Yukoners, are dissatisfied with the telephone service they are receiving from our telephone company, Northwestel, and that the Yukon government shares that dissatisfaction. There are several reasons for this dissatisfaction.
The basic reason is that many Yukoners are not receiving accessible, affordable or quality telephone service.
Rural areas without telephone service, such as California Beach at Tagish, the cottage lots at Teslin and the Mendenhall, Marsh Lake and Laberge areas have either no service at all or very expensive service options.
Some rural communities, such as Old Crow, are receiving a service that is neither reliable nor dependable.
For those communities and individuals not receiving service, Northwestel has failed to provide any cost-effective practical alternative technologies to enable them to receive service at an affordable cost.
For communities receiving limited or substandard service, Northwestel is providing the service utilizing outdated, impractical and prohibitively costly technologies. In many instances, the technology being provided was obsolete long before the service was implemented.
Yukoners in these communities have been angered by the act that the product they purchased at considerable cost in some instances was "manufacturer discontinued" shortly after they purchased it.
Further, rural Yukoners and the government fail to understand why neighbouring telephone companies are able to provide modern technological innovations and installation at a lower cost and with greater investment per customer than does Northwestel.
Telephone service in the Yukon, especially during our extreme winters, is an essential service. It is a vital lifeline but has not become a fundamental part of Yukoners' lives because of the inability of Northwestel to provide accessible, affordable, quality service to all Yukon communities.
The Government of Yukon believes that Northwestel's ability to provide proper telephone service to Yukon communities is severely hampered by the fact that Northwestel acquired Bell Canada's Eastern Arctic service. We fear that Yukoners are now paying for that acquisition.
The Government of Yukon remains opposed to rate increases of the magnitude proposed by Northwestel in December 1994, which ranged from 125 percent to 156 percent for residential customers and 57 percent to 75 percent for small business customers.
The Government of Yukon is asking that Northwestel should provide a basic service, equally available to all Yukoners, at a price Yukoners can afford to pay.
This basic service must be a quality service that is reliable and dependable. Basic service should provide unlimited access to telephone service for all Yukoners. People should be able to connect to long distance. People should have access to such services as call-display, credit card, fax and Internet. Customers should be provided with prompt, accurate billing and efficient repair and installation service.
The Yukon government would, therefore, not favour any budget service options if this means providing a service that is of a lesser standard for some Yukoners. There must not be marginalization because of low incomes or because some Yukoners may reside in remote, rural communities.
Tomorrow at the hearing, the Yukon government will appeal - on behalf of Yukoners - that the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission respond to our concerns and ensure that Yukoners receive the basic telephone service that southern Canadians take for granted.
At this time, the government also wishes to compliment and thank Yukoners for their valuable input on telephone service in the territory in past proceedings and at tomorrow's hearing. The CRTC will no doubt find the input of Yukoners valuable.
It should be noted that copies of the government's complete submission will be available tomorrow at the public inquiry centre in the Yukon Government Administration Building in Whitehorse, or by calling the inquiry centre at 667-5811 or the toll-free number at 1-800-661-0408.
Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to rise and endorse the Minister's statements. As you know, the Opposition caucus has made representations to the CRTC in the past about the telephone service that Northwestel provides here in the Yukon. I am very pleased that the government is appearing to represent the Yukon public as an intervener for tomorrow's hearings.
As the Member for Mount Lorne, I have attended meetings on this subject over the past several months and I can assure all Yukon people that I will continue to work for accessible, affordable and quality telephone service in Mount Lorne, as well as in the rest of the territory. It is unfortunate that we are not on an equal footing with other Canadians when it comes to either the quality or the cost of telecommunication services.
I would like to conclude by thanking the Minister for his commitment that the government will stress that Yukon people, particularly the people of rural Yukon, are dissatisfied with the service they are receiving from their telephone company. The basic reason is that many Yukoners are not receiving accessible, affordable or quality telephone services. I hope this can improve.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to thank the Member for Mount Lorne. This appears to be one of the few times that this House seems to be in agreement and we do not have anyone disagreeing, and that is very pleasing. That message should be made very strongly to the CRTC that we all agree that something has to be done.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, the Chair will make a statement on the point of order that was raised by the Hon. Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board at the conclusion of yesterday's Question Period.
The Minister stated that the Member for Faro had violated Rule No. 8 of the Guidelines for Oral Question Period. This rule states:
"A question must adhere to the proprieties of the House, in that it must not contain inferences, impute motives or cast aspersions upon persons within the House or out of it."
This rule is backed by Standing Order 19, which states, in paragraphs (h), (i) and (j) that a Member is out of order if the Member:
(h) "imputes false or unavowed motives to another Member,
(i) charges another Member with uttering a deliberate falsehood, or
(j) uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder."
The Chair has reviewed the Hansard for the past two days and has found a number of occasions on which direct accusations have been made that the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board has broken a law.
A Speaker's ruling on such a matter was given on May 5, 1992. On the previous day, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Dan Lang, asked the Minister of the Department of Health and Social Services, Hon. Joyce Hayden, a number of questions about events in a situation she was involved in, concerning two young offenders who had escaped from the young offenders facility. During a preamble to one of those questions, Mr. Lang stated:
"I want to go on to another area, in view of the fact that the Minister admitted that she aided and abetted the young people in question, which is contrary to the Criminal Code."
In his ruling on this matter, the Speaker, the Hon. Sam Johnston, said the following:
"Only courts of law make decisions as to whether or not someone has broken the law. It is not the place of Members of this House to make such judgments. Allegations or accusations that a Member is guilty of breaking the law, therefore, must be viewed as being unparliamentary until such time as a court has reached a verdict finding that the law has been broken or a Member has openly admitted to breaking the law."
The Chair regrets not bringing Speaker Johnston's ruling to the attention of Members at an earlier time. The ruling of Speaker Johnston provides clear direction that accusations should not be made in this House that any Member has broken a law. If such unparliamentary language is used in the future, the Chair will call the Member using it to order.
On a related point, the Chair would remind Members that no Member should accuse another Member of deliberately misleading the House. There have been a number of times during the course of this session when this kind of unparliamentary language has been used. For example, on March 12, one Member said, "I think he is not being really straight". Also, on March 13, one Member used the expression, "a government that plays fast and loose with the laws", and another made accusations, more than once, that a Member had "distorted the truth".
In conclusion, the Chair asks that all Members respect the rules of this House.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Question re: Minister of Education, public statements
Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday, the Minister of Health and Social Services told us that the reason he publicly stated in Carcross that the chief was a liar, that the planning committee was a joke, that people were lining their own pockets and that he would vote against any government money being spent in Carcross was because it happened in the heat of the moment. The Minister also said that he had held in these concerns for too long. It seems obvious to me that he has no respect for the people that he has attacked. Does the Minister think that was an apology?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, I do. I do not think that the Member opposite is very appreciative of the factual background of the social climate in Carcross.
Carcross is a community where the paddlewheeler Tutshi was burned down through arson. It is a place where a member of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation had his house torched, which is still under investigation. It is a place where an RCMP constable who was confronting a mob that was looting a hotel was advanced upon with sticks and told that they would rape his wife. This is a community where all kinds of threats and innuendo have been going on, and the tension has been rising.
I just received a phone call, within the last hour, from someone who said that she would gladly write a letter or talk to the media, except that she was afraid that her place would be burned down. This is the kind of background we are talking about. We are talking about an extreme frustration by people who are being bullied, and people who ought to have been trying to talk and cooperate with one another have not been doing so. Those are some of the underlying concerns that I am speaking about.
It is fine for Members opposite to try and make political points out of this. I made a mistake and I cannot undo what was said.
I just do not think there is an appreciation of the seriousness of the situation there and the deep-set feeling that many, many people in Carcross share with me. A lot of people are upset by what is happening. A lot of people feel this incident is being used ...
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: ... used for political purposes by certain people in the community, and all I can say is that I apologize. I do not know what else the Member expects of me.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister need not attempt to browbeat me with his dribble about political tricks. The Minister has been the one making threats here and the only mistake he admitted to yesterday was that he made these comments in a public place. The Minister has shown a complete lack of integrity.
Does he really believe anyone can accept that he was making a sincere apology?
Speaker: Order. I believe that the accusation that the Minister has shown a lack of integrity should be considered unparliamentary.
Is the Member prepared to withdraw that statement from her question?
Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, and I would like to ask the Minister if he believes anyone can accept that he was making a sincere apology yesterday - or today.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have spoken to a lot of people in Carcross over the course of the last 48 hours and everyone I have spoken to believes that I have been sincere in apologizing. I regret very much what has happened, but I do not know what more the Member expects.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister's insults of the people in Carcross were an abuse of his authority as a Cabinet Minister. The Minister indicated that he has been thinking these things for a long time, but that he had lost his patience and overstated his case. The community of Carcross has now lost patience with the Minister. Enough is enough. Does the Minister believe that his thinly veiled apology, when he lashed out to assign blame to his constituents rather than to himself, is an acceptable response to the calls for his resignation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member opposite may not wish to believe this, but I still enjoy a good deal of support from people in Carcross and other areas in my riding. I have been receiving their support on a fairly continuous basis since this unfortunate story broke. I feel that I have a responsibility to apologize and to finish the job that I am here to do. I think that that outweighs the wish of one faction - from which some individuals have never, of course, supported me - to have me resign at this time.
Question re: Minister of Education, public statements
Ms. Moorcroft: We have learned from talking to people in Carcross that the Minister lost his head in an hour and a half rant. In the report of the meeting, several people in Carcross heard him refer to a number of community leaders in the most disgusting, derogatory way. This cannot be tolerated by the government.
I would like to ask the Minister to resign immediately.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We can get into a dispute about what was said and what was heard by individuals in the club. A lot of people were there. We are getting into a very technical issue about exactly who said what and who heard what, and so on. I have apologized for what I did. I have stated my position clearly, and I regret that the incident occurred.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister lashed out at a number of people and he said that the community would not get any future money or projects if he could stop it, that he would vote against any projects for his community. Why was he so indignant? He felt that Carcross had stabbed him in the back.
It is completely unacceptable for a Minister of this government to manipulate his public office for personal retribution. Will the Minister resign?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. I have to disagree with the way in which the Member is casting what occurred. I disagree. We have been over the same ground.
The Member has to understand what has been happening there and what the frustration was truly about. There are a lot of people in the community who fully understand the frustration and the concern about the relationships and divisiveness within the community. Those people do not agree with the way in which I did this; I do not agree with it.
The facts are that there are some very deep-seated problems. People are going to have to find some way to get together and try and cooperate and stop casting blame around, twisting facts and bullying people. It is the bullying of people that concerns me the most. It is a fear that pervades the community.
Ms. Moorcroft: Here the Minister goes again assigning the blame to his community. There is no justification for his bullying.
The Minister's constituents still believe that he can and will use his ministerial authority to wage a vendetta against the people of Carcross. He said that the community will not get any future money if he can stop it.
Will he resign for abusing his power in this way?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. Most people believe me that that was never my intention. They were words said in the heat of the moment.
We can get down to the issue with individual witnesses. I talked to lots of people who were there, as well. The general view does not side with what the Member is saying at all. However, the point about my support of Carcross in terms of budgets and doing things for that community has never waned. It has always been there. Just recently, we were talking about the school van that we will be providing for the community.
Question re: Public service, collective bargaining process
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader about the collective bargaining process in the Public service. On Tuesday, the Government Leader said, "We are looking at ways that collective bargaining can be restored." Could the Government Leader indicate what ways or options he is looking at, and more particularly, can he advise this House if he is looking at repealing the restraint legislation.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member is right, I made those statements on Tuesday. We are looking at the possibility of not repealing the legislation, but amending it to return to collective bargaining at an earlier date.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister indicate when this is going to happen? Is it going to happen before the next election?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I cannot indicate that today because I have not yet even taken it to my Cabinet colleagues at this point, but I am exploring the possibility.
Mr. Cable: The curious point is that the government has been rolling in money for the last couple of years and at the same time beating the restraint legislation drum. All of a sudden, it has a deficit and now it wants to repeal the legislation. What caused this remarkable conversion on the road to the election?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It was amusing to hear the Member opposite say that this government was rolling in money and now it is in a deficit situation. The fact of the matter is that we still have an accumulated surplus. The intent of the actions that were taken by this government by putting spending restraints on government departments and imposing wage restraint legislation was to prepare for the cuts that were coming from the federal Liberal government in Ottawa, which we are absorbing in this budget - a sum of $27 million in total.
Question re: Minister of Education, public statements
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services regarding comments he made about First Nations.
According to people who were at the community club on Friday night, the Minister stated that once land claims were finished the Carcross First Nation would go broke, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation would go broke, the Pelly Crossing First Nation would go broke and the Ross River First Nation would be one of the only ones that would not go broke. The Teslin First Nation would go broke, but the Dawson First Nation might make it. He qualified those comments to CHON by saying, "I am upset with what I see as pretty bad advice coming to some First Nations through their consultants, and the remark I made was, 'I can think of two where I have faith in the consultants sufficiently to be reassured that they will go ahead'." Is the Minister indicating that Yukon First Nations leaders are not qualified to hire good consultants? Is that what he is trying to say?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Again, the discussion had to do with advice being given to some First Nations. I am not sure how anybody could be saying that those specific First Nations were mentioned in that light, because I am sure they were not. I did say that I was very concerned about the kind of advice and the kind of things that were happening.
This was more in the context of Carcross; it is incredibly important that the best kind of consultants and advisors be retained by First Nations.
I certainly do not believe that the First Nations the Member listed are going to go broke, or anything like that. I am just concerned that the government work with them to assist them in every possible way and to try to ensure that they do not enter into ventures that are unsafe or rash, and that the kind of steps they take are taken in cooperation with people who want to see them succeed.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister can stand for as long as he wants, but I do not think he is ever going to be able to erase the comments he made that night, and there were many.
By his actions and his words, the Minister believes that the Yukon First Nations, except for two, are not capable of implementing self-government. He indicates that all but two are probably going to go broke. I would like to ask him if he has taken these concerns and this position of his to the Government Leader and to Cabinet, and even, if he believes that, to the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, because it appears that the Minister has no faith in the leadership of that First Nation, if he feels that only two First Nations in the Yukon are capable of implementing self-government and will not go broke.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is wonderful how one person can take someone's comments out of context, try to cast the comments in the most negative light possible and then repeat oneself over and over again.
All that I can say is that I have a record of working with First Nations and on their behalf on land claims. This is a longstanding commitment that I have. I had an outburst and made some comments - many of which were taken out of context - and the Member opposite seems to think that she can destroy all of my work over the years because of that one unfortunate situation. The Member may think that she can, but I do not think she can. I stand on my reputation with my many friends in the First Nation communities, and I have to simply say that I do not think I have ever been considered racist. I do not think that I have ever been considered unsympathetic to First Nation aspirations. I do not think that I have ever done anything in my life to thwart their legitimate aspirations or to put them down. For the Member to keep using this situation over and over again in an attempt to destroy my reputation -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: In my view, this is something that I cannot prevent the Member from attempting and I believe most people will see through it.
Ms. Commodore: This is the person who was paid $800 per day to negotiate land claims for the Yukon territorial government, and in an outburst he walked away from the table for six months. The Minister can say whatever he wants to try and justify the remarks he makes about First Nations people.
I would like to ask the Minister, because he has indicated that First Nations people are not capable of hiring qualified consultants to work for them - the Minister said that to CHON-FM yesterday. I think he said those words; he quoted them. I would like to ask the Minister whether or not he has had any contact or any discussions with First Nation leaders to indicate he has this concern. Has the Minister talked with Chief Robert Bruce? Has he talked to Chief Dave Keenan or Pat James from his riding to tell them about the consultants who are not qualified? The Minister can talk all he wants, but the dirt has been done.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once again, I have to rely on the past and on who I am. The Member incorrectly characterizes the dispute we had with the federal government, which led to the Yukon government leaving the land claims table over a dispute with the federal government back in the early 1980s, as my walking out in a huff. It was not I; it was a government decision that had to do not with a quarrel with the First Nations but with the federal government. That is well documented, and is a matter of record.
With regard to the Member characterizing me as a person making money at the expense of Yukon First Nations as a land claims negotiator, my yearly fees were no more than the fees of the negotiator whom Mr. Penikett hired. We have the annual cost of each. During my tenure as land claims negotiator, we set the framework of the settlement that is in place now, we got land-
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We got land rights for native people in such places as Burwash - huge areas for them. We worked very hard to do good things for Indian people. I do not think-
Speaker: Order. I believe the Member has answered the question.
Question re: Minister of Education, public statements
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader.
The matter before us this afternoon is a most serious one. The Minister has been quoted by people in his community as threatening the use of his public power because he felt personally betrayed by the community of Carcross. On a number of occasions, he claimed he was simply trying to promote community solidarity, but about all of the community leaders who have been identified as being associated with the community planning process, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, he has spoken in the most derogatory and crude manner.
Under the circumstances, and despite the fantasy explanations the Minister has given this afternoon about his conduct, will the Government Leader ask the Minister to resign his position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to assure this House that I view this as a very serious matter - let there be no question of that.
Both yesterday and today, I tried to have a meeting of the people who issued the press release and talk to them directly.
I intend to continue to try to meet with them. Once I have met with them, I will then make my decisions. In the meantime, I will keep my options open.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister involved indicated that he lost his head, leading all of us to believe that in a brief moment of passion he said some things that were out of character. From the people in the lounge, we understand that the Minister, in fact, lost his head for well over an hour and one-half. During that time, he not only referred to people in the community as being losers and used foul language about them, which I cannot repeat here, he also cast his net to include public servants who were performing a public service on behalf of the Yukon government in Carcross. This rant continued for a long time.
Under the circumstances, and given that the Minister has made only half-hearted attempts to apologize - not for thinking these things, but for saying them - how can the Government Leader come to any other conclusion that this Minister is not fit to continue to fill the position he has been entrusted with?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The allegations that are being made in the press release are very serious allegations, and I view them as such. I think it would be appropriate for me to meet with the people who issued them. If you will recall, the press release demanded a meeting before 10:00 a.m. yesterday, when they were going to go public with the matter. I was delivered the document at 5:00 p.m. the previous evening, which was less than 24 hours before they went public with it.
I immediately contacted the chief and tried to set up a meeting with him, prior to the release of the document. Again this morning, I was on the phone to the chief to try to get a meeting with him confirmed. I will continue to try to meet with him in the very near future. Until that time, I will keep all options open.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has indicated, apparently both in the bar on Friday night and subsequently to the media, that he feels that only First Nations who have wise, outside consultants can survive the land claims process and be able to govern themselves, and that he was not speaking only for himself, but he felt that the government felt the same way.
The Government Leader has clearly indicated to us that the government does not feel the same way.
On a matter of such significant importance to the government, how can the Government Leader retain a Minister who has significant responsibilities in his Cabinet who has so little faith in the land claims agreement and in the ability of First Nations people to govern themselves?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have said twice, and will say one more time for the record, that I view this as a very serious matter. I make no exceptions to that. This is a very serious matter. However, the Minister has stood here and been berated by the Opposition for two Question Periods now.
I do not want to get into a debate about the details of what was said and what was not said at this point. I want to meet with the people in the community. I want to keep my options open until I have had the opportunity to do that.
Question re: Minister of Education, public statements
Mr. McDonald: I am under the impression that the Minister resents the fact that the Opposition is holding the government and the Minister of Health and Social Services accountable for his actions. I can only assure him that, as unpleasant a duty as it is, it is necessary for us to take this line of questioning, because we believe that the public trust that has been given to the Minister has been betrayed.
The Minister has admitted that he has said a number of very crude things, not only about his constituents, public servants and others, and he has also indicated that the government itself feels the same way about a number of matters that put the government in a very bad light.
The Minister is indicating that he is going to speak to the people in Carcross to determine if there is presumably more information that they can give him to justify whether or not he should remove this Minister from office. I am going to ask the Minister this: is he going to try to make a deal with the people in Carcross by perhaps agreeing to various capital works or other things so that they will withhold their fire on this Minister, so that this Minister can remain in Cabinet, and consequently, the government can remain in office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The simple answer is no. The Leader of the Official Opposition may have been part of a government that operated in that manner. This government certainly does not.
Mr. McDonald: I certainly expected that, at some time during this line of questioning, that the Government Leader himself would lash out at the questioner; yet, I am afraid that I am going to have to continue asking the questions because, unfortunately, that is my job.
The Government Leader has heard in this House, as have I, that the Minister of Health and Social Services, who represents the community of Carcross, has indicated that he has no faith in the community planning committee that the government itself set up and went on to say that Mr. Fisher was also of the same view, and held the same opinion - that the community planning committee itself was a joke.
Given that there are a number of Ministers who apparently share this position, how can the Government Leader do anything but remove the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes from his position as Minister in order to salvage whatever integrity remains in his government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member has every right to continue this line of questioning. I do not have any problem with that. I do resent it when he makes assumptions that I, as Government Leader, would go there to make some backroom deal. I have every right to take that as an offensive statement.
Again, I say that I view this as a very serious matter. I will deal with it appropriately.
Mr. McDonald: What precisely does the Government Leader have to hear from the community of Carcross for him to determine that action is necessary? He has heard that the Minister has referred to the community leadership as "losers". He has heard that people associated with the planning community are in public life to line their own pockets. He has heard the Minister refer to the land claims and self-government process as being completely dependent on the ability of outside advisors. He has heard the Minister claim that he is speaking only for the solidarity of Carcross when he clearly has done nothing but exacerbate the situation in Carcross by referring to people as "losers" and other things - I wish I could repeat this language, but I cannot.
He referred to virtually everyone associated with this process in derogatory terms and referred to the community of Carcross as having stabbed him personally in the back.
What more does the Minister need to hear? Does he doubt any of the evidence?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think the Member opposite is a lawyer and neither am I, but what he is delivering in this House is hearsay at this point. I want to talk to the people directly, and I will do that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on Bill No. 9, Department of Health and Social Services, general debate.
Bill No. 9 - Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Mr. Harding: There are a couple of matters I would like to discuss with the Minister. One concerns health services in Faro and another pertains to social services. I have had considerable correspondence with the Minister, the deputy minister and officials of the department about these matters.
The first issue I would like to discuss briefly is that of the health pilot project in Faro and integration of the phase 2 initiatives of the health transfer into our existing system, where the doctors and the fee structure are controlled by the Yukon territorial government.
I support the pilot project and the general initiative; I always have, and I think most people in Faro are also supportive of it. I expressed some serious concern and anger at one point with the Minister and with the federal government in that no clear terms of reference were outlined to the people, nor were there any consultative hearings so the people in Faro could have some input or for the project to be aired.
This led to some rumours swirling about the community, which grew, and ended up with the calling of an impromptu public meeting in the community. I was not invited to speak or be at the front table, or anything like that, but eventually I ended up in front of about 100 people, some of whom were quite angry about the meeting being called by someone they did not know, and about the posters that were up around town being of an inflammatory nature. Some people were angry about the pilot project and not knowing what it was all about.
I spoke to the people about my knowledge of it, and I also expressed my frustration, because I was certainly on the record as having asked for some consultation on the issue.
There were no officials present at the first meeting and in one sense it was a pointless exercise, but, nonetheless, some issues were brought out that were of great importance to the community.
From this came a second meeting with the territorial officials. Mr. Ron Pearson came from the Yukon territorial government, along with nursing officials, as well as Rick Dowdall from the health services branch of the federal government. I think the second meeting was more productive because some questions were answered and some commitments were made. There was a relaxation of the services offered to a second physician in the community on a fee-for-service basis at the nursing station. There was some discussion about admissions and rural deliveries. There was a relaxation of the criteria surrounding that issue.
There was also a commitment for follow-up consultation with the people in the community. By and large, people are quite happy with the way things are going, but I would like to see the government make good on its commitment to give people an opportunity to air their concerns.
Recently, the Minister wrote me a letter saying that the health and social services consultation surrounding issues such as midwifery and social assistance would be a good forum. I have talked to people in the community - the forum took place on a Thursday night and I was here in the Legislature and not in Faro and they found that it was not really the appropriate forum for it, but that there should be some kind of specialized meeting to talk about it.
I understand this is in the works, and I am not demanding that this happen right now by any means, but I do want to see that commitment lived up to. I wanted to get a sense of the Minister's view of the pilot project and when he thinks that commitment can be followed up on. I want to ensure that things remain in a positive light, so I do not want to see what happened in the development of the project take place again.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can assure the Member that Mr. Pearson is working on a meeting and is committed to it, as well as to an evaluation of the project. I have not seen an evaluation, so I cannot say at what point that is. The full intention of this was to do an evaluation and to talk further with the community about how it was seen.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that and look forward to receiving information from him as to when this will take place. I do not expect it to be a huge deal. There have been a few concerns raised by people in the community. Most of them pertain to how the pilot project can work with one physician in the community on salary and one on a fee for service. That is the number-one issue.
There has been a bit of tension in that area but, other than that, I hear pretty good things from people. I am pleased, and I hope we can continue to enjoy two positions in the community. Most people appreciate the choice, while still accommodating the needs of the physician, the nurses and the people who require health services, which is fundamentally important.
The second issue I would like to speak with the Minister about is with regard to social services in the community. I have raised numerous concerns with him about the issue of counselling in the community. I have met numerous times with the interagency group in Faro. It has expressed some concern about cutting a part-time counsellor position in the community a few months ago. At one point, we flew in from Faro to Whitehorse in order to discuss this with officials from the Minister's department.
At this point, in Faro there are a lot of people now who have come from a lot of places. There are a lot of young people who, essentially, have had a major lifestyle change. They have come to a mining town and know the Yukon. There have been a number of problems. I do not think it is as bad as some people perceive, but there are certainly some areas of concern. There is a major thrust by the people who provide services in the community, as well as parents of youth who are having trouble and who are looking for counselling services to build strength back into their families.
As I understand it, we have lost the head social services person in Faro, Ms. Reid-Glass. We are now filling a vacancy for her former position. There has been a home support worker and family support worker hired in Faro on an auxiliary, on-call basis, and the former director of the office, Ms. Reid-Glass, has gone to a position of, I believe, auxiliary, on-call counselling between Faro and Ross River.
I have had a couple of concerns raised with me that perhaps the position that was created could have been posted in the community. I have also had concerns raised with me that there should have been more consultation about the position and the sharing of it between Ross River and Faro, given the need in the school. I have talked to the principal and many other service providers in the community.
It was kind of a surprise to us when all this happened. We are in a position now where we are looking for some counselling support. We are seeking to hire someone to be the head director in the office who has been introduced to the community, knows what they are getting into and who has talked to the various leaders in the community to get a real sense of it. That way, when they come into the community, they know that they are coming into a mining town.
They know a bit of the sense of the politics. The Minister is very familiar with community politics in the Yukon and the personalities involved. I would hope that the people who are interviewed are given that kind of an introduction to the community, so that the community is given the chance to know a bit about them, as well. Also, there should be some form of discussion with people in the community about the type of person they want. If the Minister could respond to that, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to the last point, I can certainly say that it is our intention to take such steps, as the Member has indicated, with regard to trying to ensure that the people are accepted by the town and will fit in.
Regarding the person who has moved from one position to the counselling position, that was an internal administrative decision that was made. We will be looking at counselling needs above and beyond what is in place now. The senior position has been posted, but not closed, for competition.
Mr. Harding: I do not accept the auxiliary, on-call position idea for counselling in Faro. I think the needs are greater, and that a person should be working half-time with families and with youth. Ideally, the person should also be working in a proactive and not always reactive fashion. I would like to see the department take a look at that. A person to work as an auxiliary on-call - half time in Faro and half time in Ross River - has been proposed, depending on the number of calls received. I would like to see an evaluation of that done in the very near future.
Another proposal made by the school council was rejected by the Minister. The proposal consisted of the departments of Education and Social Services working in partnership to share a counsellor who would focus on Del Van Gorder School youth. I would like some answers about why that was rejected. What I am trying to say and explain to the government is that there is a very real concern with service providers for counselling services. We do believe that the need was demonstrated in the past. I have had some disputes with the regional manager about this, but I do believe that the need is there and that the person will be quite well utilized.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will take that under advisement once again, and get back to the Member with regard to the issue of some of our other counsellors being shared between the two departments. I will have to go back to that issue.
We will evaluate the issue of reviewing the position of auxiliary and on-call being shared between the two communities. The issue of a proactive approach is something that I will have the department review as well. It may be that part of that work could be done in conjunction with the school if it seems to be reasonable. I think that the best that I can promise at this time is that we will definitely review it and get back to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: We were talking about the Yukon Health and Social Services Council when we broke last night. I was going to list the terms of reference, because I thought that they did include more than what they did in 1990.
I would like to ask the Minister to look at the terms of reference at some time to see if they still apply to the confidentiality that is required of them on some issues. My assumption at that time was that meetings were not confidential. I did not realize that some of them had become confidential. There was certainly no intention on my part to cause the stir that I did among those individuals on that committee, who, of course, are very qualified. I would like to ask the Minister to take another look at the terms of reference with regard to that. If he changes them, I would ask that he let me know right away.
I would like to let the Minister know that I had a technical briefing by his department today. It lasted for almost two hours and I do appreciate the time that was spent giving us that kind of information that was very valuable to all of us who were there. There was a representative from all parties. It did last a long time and there were a lot of people there.
I have a question that came out of that meeting and it was in regard to the secondment to the Ross River Kaska Dena Council. I am not sure what Mike Rawlings' correct title is. A long time ago he was seconded under the alcohol and drug services program. Perhaps he was an alcohol addictions worker, or social worker, or whatever. I would like to ask the Minister if he is still being paid the salary of that position, and what position was he seconded to? What is his position?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: He is still being paid in the position that he left when he first went to assist the Ross River Dena. I understand there is going to be a line item in the budget that should set that out. He has been involved in a fairly holistic approach to a wide variety of things, from assisting to setting up the pilot project for the alcohol and drug strategy for Watson Lake and Ross River to assisting in negotiating the agreement regarding how we handle apprehension of children by welfare in a cooperative way.
Very recently, he was involved in a new project, strengthening the alcohol and drug program in Ross River with financial assistance from two of the mining companies in the area: one being Cominco and the other, Westmin. That is only just coming together. In working with alcohol and drug services outreach from the new offices in Whitehorse, there has been a lot of collaboration.
As well, he works for the Ross River Dena Corporation and has been doing a lot of organizing and helping with economic and training issues. This year, we have written the chief saying that he would be seconded again for the upcoming year. The understanding would be that they would be paying all his travel and expenses while away, and that is where it sits at this time. The expense item will be transferred to the policy and administration unit.
Ms. Commodore: I have a bit of a problem trying to understand exactly how the secondment fits in with what is happening in the community. I am not begrudging Ross River Dena Council its program; it is needed in a lot of other areas as well. What I do not understand is the amount of money and the amount of work that has gone into this secondment. I believe the figure given to us for expenses for this individual last year, which is already in this fiscal year, was $25,000, and that included travel back and forth to his home in Whitehorse and accommodation for him while he was in Ross River.
I wonder if the Minister could indicate to me whether or not that is normal for workers who have to travel back and forth to communities to work.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am not sure about the exact figure - whether it was $25,000 or not - but it has come from the previous year and is going down to zero this year. This year the Ross River Dena are providing his accommodation in Ross River. Next year the First Nation will be providing both that and travel expenses.
With regard to whether or not it is a normal practice by our department, I only have one ancient, similar secondment to compare it with, and that is back when Chief Doris McLean was Chief of the Carcross-Tagish Band. The department seconded a director of social work to work with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation for a year or so. I am pretty sure he lived in Whitehorse and commuted to Tagish and Carcross.
Ms. Commodore: How do other First Nations qualify for this kind of program? I was very disturbed when the position of tribal justice coordinator was eliminated in Teslin - in the Minister's riding. The amount of money for that program was not that large. This is a complaint I still hear from that area. A lot of First Nations require assistance from the department, or from other places, to deal with the social situations and problems in their communities. The Minister indicated what a success this program was in Ross River, which I do not doubt. If something good is happening there, and the Minister's department is responsible for it, what must other First Nations groups do to meet the requirements to get the same kind of assistance in their communities?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: First, we do not have the resources to provide a position for every community, or even for every First Nation community. The precedent was set by the previous administration by the secondment of a director of social services with Chief McLean when she was Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
When we assumed office, the individual had already been doing work for Ross River. The decision to have him there was made before we assumed office. At that time, I do not know how long he had been there. There was no formal secondment in place. As time went on, we formalized a secondment arrangement, partly because of the needs of the First Nation at a very critical time in its negotiations about the bankruptcy court case in Toronto.
We felt that, as they had needs they wanted him to perform that were not related to the mandate of the department, it was best he be seconded to them. They have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success. It is very awkward to try to disengage him from the corporation, when they are continuing to make progress and expand their partnerships, training, and so on.
With regard to what others must do to receive similar attention, we have tried in various ways to work in cooperation with First Nations, sometimes successfully and sometimes not - earlier today, we heard about the not.
The department has developed a special arrangement that we hope to move into with the Selkirk First Nation, under the strategic initiatives program. I hope that program will be finalized very shortly and announced in the House. The government is going to see whether or not it is possible to work with another First Nation; if not Carcross, perhaps some other First Nation, to be determined by a partnership arrangement between the federal government and this government.
Beyond that, the government has been working with First Nations and groups to see about assisting them in having positions created with the government contributing a portion of the seed money and then trying to attract additional seed money from Health Canada or the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. We have had some success in developing positions under this program.
There is a real problem with resources. There is a real issue of determining which First Nations want to work with the government in a serious way to develop priorities. This is not a land claims-related matter; it is simply listening to, and trying to work with, First Nations to see how we can find the resources to work with similar systems. In the case of the strategic initiative that I have talked about, that would not be a secondment - at least I do not think it would be a secondment from Government Services - I think the position would be one that would be selected by the government team and the First Nation.
I do not know if that answers the question.
Ms. Commodore: He certainly took long enough to answer it. He provided me with a lot of information.
Can the Minister give me a breakdown - not today, but before the main estimates - of the secondment of this individual, including his salary and expenses, in order to give me a better idea about the contribution the government is making to the program? I say again that I am not asking this in criticism. I am asking in case other people are interested in it.
There was a conflict a few months ago with the Champagne-Aishihik Band with regard to the child welfare project. I noticed that their funding is going to be decreased in the 1996-97 budget. Has the Minister been able to resolve the conflict that occurred, I think, in the fall, and if so, how?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to the request for salary and expenses, I am prepared to address the salary range, but I we do not discuss the salaries. With regard to the expenses, the cap is $25,000. If it is less, I can give it to the Member. Next year, it is supposed to be nothing. If it is less, I will let her know. Otherwise, we paid the first $25,000 for travel. A lot of the travel was not just in the Yukon. There was travel to set up meetings and partnerships and so on. They have been paid for over and above the rest. For example, he was at the Cordilleran Roundup with members of the First Nations; he has travelled to set up partnerships with such things as the catering company out of Vancouver that is in partnership with the Dena, and so on.
I do not know about many of these trips, except that he went and there are partnerships.
We will be back to the main question. At this point in time, we are providing the child welfare services to the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. The amount is less because it is - in the opinion of the department - the realistic estimate of the cost. The outstanding issue surrounding the money that we believe is owed back to the department from the First Nation has not been resolved. There have been ongoing discussions. I understand that the chief is requesting a meeting in the next month or so. That is fine. However, that is where the situation is at this time.
Mr. Harding: I have some questions for the Minister about this excellent socio-economic arrangement in Ross River regarding the seconded officer to the Ross River Dena Development Corporation. Is he filling a full-time, permanent position?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If he means at our end, then the answer is yes. I assume that it is at the other end.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said that he was performing a function that also works for the Ross River Dena Development Corporation. Is that just in a sense from Health and Social Services? I assume that he is not paid any remuneration by the Ross River Dena Council.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is correct. His remuneration is the salary, and his travel expenses and accommodation costs are paid for.
Mr. Harding: In the last couple of years, the expenses for that position have totalled about $40,000 - if I am correct - to $25,000 to $27,000 last year. This fiscal year, it is down to about $15,000. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It has come down every year, primarily because we have insisted that as the Dena Corporation gets on its feet it be responsible for a portion of the initiative. In this coming year, it will be responsible for all of those expenses. It was somewhat over $30,000 last year, and our contribution will be capped at $25,000 this year. Next year, once it is signed, my letter stated that it would be the Dena Corporation's responsibility to pay all of the travel and accommodation.
Mr. Harding: So his rationale for that was that, for the first few years, the Dena Development Corporation was getting on its feet, and now it is not.
The Minister is acknowledging that with a nod of his head, which I will take as a yes.
The Minister alluded to some kinds of expenses that were included in this $30,000-plus in one year. My colleague has asked for a year-by-year breakdown. Included with that, could the Minister give some idea of the type of expenses claimed? I would appreciate that if he could do that. Could he?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Sure.
Mr. Harding: It would be interesting to see if we could expand this pilot project into some other First Nations.
Can the Minister tell me a bit about the role this pilot project officer plays in terms of the Ross River Dena Development Corporation? For example, does he sit as director of corporations the Ross River Dena Development Corporation is involved in? Obviously he would be negotiating arrangements with businesses; for example, the Faro mine. Does he actually get involved and sit as a director of any of the corporations as a government employee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that he is the chief administrative officer of the Ross River Dena Corporation. He takes his orders from the directors of the corporation, and those directors are the chief and council.
Mr. Harding: So, if the Ross River Dena Development Corporation forms a joint venture with another business, would the officer of this pilot project sit as a director on some of those ventures, or would the government not want to get into that as a matter of policy, because he is a government employee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not have the answer to the Member's question. It is really up to his directors. I am not sure who is the director of some of the companies. I know they have formed some companies with Norcan Leasing, and so on, but I do not know what the corporate structure is.
Mr. Harding: Would it not be a matter of some policy concern for the Minister? There are certain liabilities attached to being a director on joint ventures. For example, the Minister will remember when Curragh went under, the directors of the corporation had direct wage liability to the workers. As a matter of policy, has the Minister thought that out, if indeed it is occurring anywhere?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If he happens to be a director of a company - and I am not aware that he is - he would not be doing that as a part of his job for us. It is the same as if my deputy minister were to be on a board of directors of some company. It would not affect his role if he happens to be on the board of directors of - I am trying to think of a company - that is not going to attract any kind of legal exposure to the government. He would not fall under any kind of right to render the government liable. I am not aware of it being the case that he is the director. He is there as an administrative officer of the corporation. I would expect that that is his role in terms of dealing with the other corporations.
Mr. Harding: What is the policy of the government about government employees on public business engaging in business of a private nature? What would the policy of the government be regarding that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The biggest concern would be where it was a conflict of interest in the sense of the person being remunerated for services that we were paying for, or taking personal advantage of a business opportunity that arose because of, and was in conflict with, his position. I take a very dim view of an employee in those circumstances promoting a business of his own, or setting up his own business in the area because, in my view, it would give rise to conflict issues.
Mr. Harding: I agree with the Minister, because if the government employee is actually using the position they have been given by the government to engage in business deals with private corporations and benefiting themselves as a result of it, or otherwise using expense money or money provided by the government for the performance of some other duties to negotiate and involve themselves in business arrangements, that would certainly be a serious concern to me. It would probably concern the Minister, as well, I would assume - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As a general rule, if the person is being paid to do a job for the government and somehow, in the course of that employment and because of that employment, is setting up his own business in Ross River, or wherever it might be, yes, that would be a real concern. I am not sure if I fully understood the question.
Mr. Harding: That is fine. The Minister has provided me with the information I was looking for and I look forward to receiving the detailed information from the Minister. That is all I wanted to know.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: For the record, I would like to say that the ceiling for this year is $15,000, rather than $25,000. That is for the current year; next year it will be zero. The job classification is AR-13.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the hospital construction and the hospital staffing, and the relationship between the Hospital Corporation and the government.
I gather from questions that were asked last year and from observations that the construction phase is actually being driven by the department as opposed to the corporation. I believe the deputy minister and his staff are liaising with the consultant who was hired to oversee the project, and that it is the department, rather than the Hospital Corporation, that is carrying on conversations with the consultant. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The person who is running the show has an employment contract with the Yukon territorial government, but the management committee that runs it is made up of the chair of the hospital board, the planner at the hospital, the Deputy Minister of Health and the person running it.
Mr. Cable: There are a couple of things going on, and I am trying to figure out who is actually running the show. First there was a turnover of the hospital from the federal government to the territorial government, and then there was a turnover from the territorial government to the Yukon Housing Corporation. Who was actually responsible for driving the staffing policies at the time of the turnover from the federal government to the territorial government? Was it the department or the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We negotiated the transfer, and the staff was taken on by the new Hospital Corporation. From that point on, the staffing policies and the negotiations to establish the union were the responsibility of the corporation, not the territorial government.
Mr. Cable: There appears to be some regulatory power in dealing with people. I am reading from the regulation section of the Hospital Act. It says, "The Commissioner and Executive Council may make regulations; . . . (c) prescribing methods of operation and standards of facility and care to be complied with by the corporation or any other person operating a hospital."
I am not asking the Minister for a legal opinion, even though he is a lawyer, but it appears to be broad enough in concept that it would permit some broad personnel policies to be given to the hospital.
The reason that I am asking this question - I will get to the point - is because I have heard from a certified nursing assistant that the Yukon Housing Corporation, or somebody working for the hospital, has indicated to the certified nursing assistants that there is likely to be some layoffs, and that the first people on the firing line are the certified nursing assistants. Is this the Minister's understanding about what is going on at the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They have had a functional planner on staff for some time now. They are dealing with a functional plan for the new hospital, which will be up and running sometime in the fall. The new part of the hospital will not be completed for another eight months or so.
They are developing their functional plan and will be dealing with their employees accordingly. We have not taken any kind of position that we should be interfering in that process. We certainly expect them to run efficiently and we do have the ultimate regulator, which is the power of the purse. We expect them to come in with a reasonable budget and do the best they can to be efficient. I will be concerned, naturally, if there is any kind of drop in the level of services but, thus far, nothing has been related to me by anyone that there is anything to give us any cause for concern.
The hospital board has now been in place for almost three years. I guess the three years end at the end of the month. They have developed a lot of expertise and grown with the job. They are developing policies and bylaws and all those things that hospitals do. I am quite pleased with the work they are doing. There are often rumours about employee-employer relationships, but I have heard nothing that would give me any reason to believe that there is any problem with regard to how the corporation is managing its functional program for implementation as there is the shift into the new hospital.
Mr. Cable: I do not pose as an expert in the area, but I am told that hospitals in British Columbia and Alberta removed the CNAs, then realized that the costs went up. Presumably the CNAs were replaced with nurses to provide the same service. Those provinces have reversed that procedure. Is my information correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We do not have any knowledge of that. We do not dictate the staffing mix. We have faith they will be in constant communication with their counterparts. They travel to the meetings that are held, and they are becoming quite knowledgeable in the field. They have a very experienced person developing the functional program.
At this point, I have no basis for second-guessing something that is in their domain.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister has indicated, ultimately this House and the Minister have to be satisfied that the costs of the hospital are justified. There appears to be some suggestion that they are moving along the route that B.C. and Alberta went. This caused some cost escalation in those jurisdictions.
There is also the suggestion in the regulatory power that the government does have some input.
I am not suggesting the Minister interfere with a Crown corporation, but for the main estimates debate, could he write a letter with a copy to all of us - that way he would not be deemed to be interfering - to find out if there is a policy afoot to replace the CNAs with nurses and, if that is not the policy, if there is a policy afoot to reduce the staff and put the CNAs first on the firing line?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The problem with that is that the whole issue of the programming and so on is being developed right now. The Hospital Corporation is making a presentation to our department officials about its functional program. It will make its presentation to me fairly soon, at which time I will be very happy to put these questions to it. Once the Hospital Corporation has gone through those stages and when it comes to us with its proposed functional program, we will ask those questions. It is coming to us to discuss its budget. When it does, we will ask that question. This should happen by the end of the month.
Mr. Cable: I should advise the Minister that there was a meeting either last week or the week before in which the certified nursing assistants were advised that if in fact there were staff reductions, they would be the first to go. I guess that does not do much for a person's feeling of job security. I would appreciate it if the Minister would follow up on that. I will follow up on it myself with some correspondence to the Hospital Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is fine. I have no difficulty with him writing the chair, if that is his wish. It is just that I do not want to be seen, at this point in time, as lobbying on behalf of one group of employees over another. I do not have that kind of expertise. I am waiting for them to come to me and tell us when they are going for next year's budget what they are doing and why and explain themselves. The department has a very important role in satisfying itself that its budget is reasonable. I do not want to appear to suddenly be taking the side of any particular group of employees there. There are rumours flying, and so on, because that is the stage they are at. I suspect much of it is rumour.
Mr. Cable: I appreciate the Minister's assistance in gathering information. I wonder if he could do one other thing: could the Minister verify the experience of the two other jurisdictions, Alberta and British Columbia, in what, I gather, was the decision to eliminate CNAs and to reverse that policy? I would like to know whether or not my information is correct and if it was a cost-related thing that caused the re-hiring of the CNAs.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am quite prepared to do that. I am wondering if the Member has any documentation or information that he could provide us with, so that we could use it to follow up. We are quite prepared to do that. Does the Member have any specific details that he wants us to look into?
Mr. Cable: This is information on the experience in other jurisdictions? I have no documents - this was a conversation that was related to me. This is why I would like the assistance of the department because it, of course, has a lot more machinery than I do.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are quite prepared to follow up, find out what we can and get back to the Member. I just thought that we might save some work, if the Member had some information.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to follow up on the same issue. As a former CNA, I can speak with some knowledge about the kind of work that is done by the CNAs in the Whitehorse hospital. We were informed by CNAs that the Yukon Hospital Corporation advised them that they were being deleted from their jobs, as of October 1, 1996, upon the transfer to the new hospital. They were also told that it would be more cost effective if they were replaced by more highly paid registered nurses. They also say that the majority of CNAs working at Whitehorse Hospital are Yukoners, who have taken their training here and have been working for 15 to 20 years. I know a lot of people who are still there from the time I was there.
For the information of the Member, the Member for Riverdale South and I used to work in the hospital, even on the same ward, and one night she was my boss. They also say that being replaced by a registered nurse involves a lot of taxpayers' money, and they talk especially about the cost of transferring registered nurses to the Yukon if they do not have the amount here that would probably replace them. It would cost a lot more as the transportation, freight and so on would be paid by the government. Then they say that, being the major care givers to the patients at Whitehorse General Hospital, the certified nursing assistants would like the opportunity to work another 15 to 20 years and they ask us, as MLAs, to support them in their wishes. When people feel they have no other option, they can turn to their MLAs. I have a call to return right now, regarding an update on the situation as it was a week ago. I understand further meetings are coming up but I want the Minister to know that I am passing this on to him. I realize his restrictions as the Minister, but I am passing this on to him on behalf of those certified nursing assistants who are concerned about their jobs and whether or not they will be able to maintain a lifestyle in the Yukon that they enjoy. If they are going to be replaced, they certainly have a concern about it, so I am passing that on to the Minister and hope that, by the time we deal with this again, he may be able to give us more positive news in regard to the certified nursing assistants at the hospital.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thank the Member for her representation, and I hope one day to be able to come forward with news when we get to the mains.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Are we prepared to go to line-by-line debate at this time?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Family and Children's Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The increase is as a result of the following changes: a $60,000 increase, resulting from an agreement to extend our funding support to the end of the current fiscal year only to the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre; a $46,000 increase, resulting from a new funding plan for transition homes - the policy provides for more stable yet flexible funding, allowing an appropriate response to changes in occupancy levels; a $20,000 increase, resulting from increased travel demands for children in care; a $6,000 increase in adoption subsidies as a result of two special-needs adoptions; a $311,000 increase in child care subsidies and operating grants, which is driven in part by social assistance changes that require that mothers re-enter the workforce two years after childbirth, as opposed to the former six years; a $340,000 increase for special needs placement contracts for three youth sex offenders; $187,000 in offsetting reductions, including $70,000 from probation assessment and open-custody contracts, a $110,000 recovery of prior years' surpluses in residential contracts, and $7,000 in miscellaneous savings.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $596,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This comes from the following: a $500,000 reduction in social assistance, reflecting a continuation of the downward trend reported following the introduction of social assistant recipient, social assistance verification and other phase 1 reforms; a $50,000 reduction from pioneer utility grants, reflecting a reduction in applications and closer screening on eligibility; a $198,000 reduction from vocational rehabilitation services, including $126,000 due to a delayed opening of the Aspen Place residence; an amount of $85,000 through transfer of responsibility to the Department of Indian Affairs in Quebec for a client placed there many years ago, which is offset by $23,000 in increases for assessments, lifeskills training and employee travel in Yukon. There was a $34,000 increase in alcohol and drug services for maintenance of the Crossroads building. Property management has been contracted to perform this work.
Social Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $714,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The increase results from the following: a $150,000 decrease due to not utilizing external contract services for the phase 2 health transfer negotiations and $57,000 increase for maintenance for No. 2 and No. 4 Hospital Road. Property management is contracted to do that work.
There was a $71,000 increase in contracts with Whitehorse physicians to provide care to clients in rural communities. Of this, $48,000 is due to the increase from 70 percent to 100 percent of cost when we took over this program from the medical services branch near the end of last year. The remainder is due to expanded service coverage, covering Mayo, Ross River and Faro during the period when there is no resident doctor there.
There was a $45,000 increase in the Yukon Medical Association agreement to cover increased malpractice insurance premiums and to provide administrative support incentives for two additional community physicians.
There was a $47,000 increase representing the portion of the new youth initiative fund, which is to be funded by other participating departments. An amount of $15,000 each will come from Education, Community and Transportation Services and Justice and $2,000 from the Women's Directorate. Our $15,000 share has been offset from within the youth services section for family and children's services program.
There is a $194,000 increase due to opening an additional seven beds in the Thomson Centre.
Ms. Commodore: I missed the figure on the money that came from the Women's Directorate, because the budget is very small. Was it $2,000?
Chair: Are there any other questions on this line?
Health Services in the amount of $264,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This results from the following changes: $400,000 from social assistance payments, reflecting the same downward trend in the communities as was reported for Whitehorse; a $121,000 decrease due to contribution reductions for the Kaska family support and Champagne-Aishihik child welfare projects; a $100,000 increase for a pilot counselling project through Yukon Family Services, whereby, since September, 1995, it has been servicing Teslin, Haines Junction and Carmacks; and a $45,000 increase in juvenile justice contracts for a young offender placement, which was a court order placement.
Regional Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $376,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $230,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a revote of lapsing office furniture and equipment funds to replace liquid toner copiers and to complete other required purchases that were interrupted or deferred temporarily by year end.
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $45,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
On Young Offender Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There was $138,000 revoted to complete renovations to the young offenders facilities that were planned in the winter- works initiative. Most of these renovations are now completed; however, the tenders for the workshop at the secure custody facility were unacceptably high and caused the cancellation of the project. Those funds have been redirected to required maintenance work and to allow a needed extension of the group home capability, using the recently vacated detoxification building.
Young Offenders Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $138,000 agreed to
On Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This amount was revoted to complete renovations to child welfare facilities that were begun in the winter-works initiative and they have now been completed.
Child Welfare Facilities - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $138,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This amount represents a revote of lapsing funds required to complete the renovations and equipment purchases for relocation of the alcohol and drug services program to the Swiftwater building, and relocation of the detoxification unit to the Crossroads building.
The initiative to expand the alcohol and drug services program and locate in-patient detoxification services under one roof has been in place for some time. However the renovations to the Crossroads building were held up by the need to find and prepare a suitable new site for alcohol and drug services.
The relocation of the detox unit to its new home in the Crossroads building was finally achieved on October 27, 1995.
Alcohol and Drug Services - Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $761,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Whitehorse Hospital Construction
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This increase is for expenditures that are forecast to occur in the current year. The overall cost and schedule remain unchanged, and it is offset by recoveries.
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to ask the Minister a question. I chose this section, because it is probably where a lot of money has been identified for the responsibility of the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
The Hospital Corporation has had a lot of money transferred to it, yet I do not recall ever having seen an annual report. I know that it has a requirement to do one. Can the Minister tell us if there has ever been one done? Can we get copies of it?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. I intended to table them on Monday.
Whitehorse Hospital Construction in the amount of $3,758,000 agreed to
On Hospital Road #2 and #4
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This was to complete heating system backup work for which planning began in the winter-works initiative. Of this, $150,000 represents revoted funds. The remaining $10,000 is reallocated from the Macaulay Lodge renovations.
I am looking at a note. The tenders for this work came in unacceptably high, so these funds are actually going to lapse.
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister.
I have heard him speak a couple of times today and yesterday about tenders coming in unacceptably high. What does he mean by that? What happens when that occurs in his department? What does it consider to be unacceptably high? Does it re-tender the project? Does it just cancel the project? What does it do?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We realized that we had been burned on a number of smaller projects. One example on which we felt that we had been burned was when they renovated the group home in Riverdale. It got a few people angry, including some of us. We felt that we had to institute much tighter controls on these smaller projects that had somehow been historically coming in rather high, or had started at a figure that then was added to.
We have been putting that kind of discipline into the system. If the project is any more than 10 or 15 percent above the estimate, we have a hard look at it. If it is much more than that, we often cancel the project and look at alternatives. One example is coming up in the next line item; namely, the ambulance station.
Mrs. Firth: I guess I would like to ask the Minister this: if the tenders are specific and are requesting a specific service - I guess I am concerned about the Minister's comment about getting burned on small projects. It is difficult to understand how that happens if the tenders are specific and the contractor has to meet the requirements of the tender. What happens to make them go way over after the contract is signed and they are half way through construction?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There would be an estimate of cost by Government Services and contracts would go out. There were instances when the contract came in at double what the estimate had been and was accepted. That is the kind of thing that happened at Klondike. It became very apparent that it is important to have control right at the top of all these things, so that is what we have done.
A person who feels that they need a therapy room in a building for children is not that concerned about the cost, because it is such a wonderful thing that they need. Some of the decision making was not brought up high enough to apply the fairly rigorous policy to it.
In cases where it seems to be excessively over the Government Services' price, we look at alternatives. In the case of the ambulance station, it started out with the issue of a relatively new building with a terribly leaky roof. The request was to put a second floor on it and roof it. It came in way over budget. We determined that we did not need a second floor, so we are just going to roof it instead. Those kinds of things have been happening.
In simple terms, it is to ensure that a senior level looks at these things and tries to make sure that we do not accept the lowest bid just because it is the lowest bid, when it seems to be far more than was anticipated.
Mrs. Firth: When I hear of that kind of problem, the immediate thing that comes to my mind is that perhaps the policies in place are not adequate to address the small construction projects.
When the decision is made to proceed with some kind of repair or small construction project, Government Services tenders it and awards the contract. Who supervises it? Does Government Services do that?
The Minister is nodding his head, yes, that Government Services manages the project and oversees it. Is the Department of Health and Social Services not satisfied with the product that is being provided? I am trying to find out where the breakdown is and why there is no coordination in place between Government Services and Health and Social Services to see that that does not happen.
The concern I have is that there are a lot of little projects going on throughout government, and if other departments are experiencing the same problems, we may be paying a lot more money than we should be for some of the small renovation and construction projects.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: What happens now is that the need is identified and Government Services does its thing - gets the quotes and estimates what it will cost. When the bids come in, they are reviewed by senior management in the department. If they are too high, there is a hold put on the project. We insist on a review of why they are so high and if there is another way to do it.
What was not happening, and what came as a shock, was a senior review on the client's side - we being the client. The policy now is that it is reviewed at the deputy minister/assistant deputy minister level. Each contract has to be reviewed and accepted. If it is too high, it is scrutinized fairly carefully to determine whether or not we should look at other options. That is something that is fairly recent in the history of the department.
Hospital Road #2 and #4 in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Station Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This comprised a revote of $160,000 for upgraded facilities in Mayo and Carmacks, approved in the winter-works initiative, and a $34,000 increase comprised of a $160,000 revote for the facilities in Mayo and Carmacks approved in the winter-works initiative, partly offset by a $120,000 reduction in funding for the Whitehorse facility. Plans to add a second floor to the Whitehorse station were cancelled due to the excessive cost. A scaled-down project will now be limited to replacement of the roof, which has been a problem since the construction of the building, and must be replaced.
Ambulance Station Renovations in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre - Building
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a revote to complete the Thomson Centre renovations begun as part of a winter-works initiative. These renovations include the dining area, nursing station and bathroom areas of the special care ward.
Thomson Centre - Building in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Macaulay Lodge - Renovations
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is an increase to complete renovations begun as part of the winter-works initiative. They include a mechanical retrofit to the air system, flooring and nursing station modifications; $184,000 was revoted, of which $10,000 was reallocated for the work at #2 and #4 Hospital Road.
Macaulay Lodge - Renovations in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On McDonald Lodge Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is a revote to complete the renovations begun as part of the winter-works initiative. They include the bathroom retrofit and boiler room modifications.
McDonald Lodge Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $5,293,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Department of Justice
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The total supplementary request here is $266,000, all in capital funds, and the total request is a revote of lapsing capital funds from 1994-95 for ongoing projects in the Department of Justice that were not completed before the end of the fiscal year. These funds were already approved in the 1994-95 capital plan. I am prepared to answer any general questions, and then go into line-by-line debate.
Mr. Sloan: I am aware of the lateness of the hour, and also of the fact we are trying to get through the supplementaries fairly rapidly. Most of my debate in Justice will be in the main estimates, and I will looking more at philosophical issues there.
I just have one or two questions on the supplementaries. As an aside, as I have mentioned to the Minister, I would like to commend the department on an excellent technical briefing. It answered many of the issues, and I hope he will pass on my compliments to the department staff.
In basic terms, with regard to some of the Justice initiatives that have been coming out recently, while I am not opposed to the initiatives, one of the concerns I have was the cost of publication for the householder brochures that have gone out. Does the Minister have any idea what the cost will be for the publication? Are there any indications as to how they have been received?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member on the actual cost of the publications. The decision was made to do a householder to each and every person in the territory, primarily because of the nature of the initiative. Keeping our communities safer involves so much more than community involvement. The thought was that public relations would be a large part of the program, where people know what we now have, what the statistics are, what programs there are, how they would become involved and, as we announce new programs down the road - special justice initiatives and crime prevention initiatives - we hope that people will have read the information they have and will be willing to participate in some of the programs.
The idea was to let everyone know. When we went around the territory, talking about crime, we found that one of the strongest comments made was that people did not know what programs there already were, or which department was doing what, or if there was anything happening in many areas of Justice. One of the recommendations in the Talking About Crime report was to provide information to the public.
That is why we are doing it this way, but I will get back to the Member with the exact costs. I may be able to do this by Monday if we are still in Department of Justice, but I will certainly be able to do it when we get into the main estimates.
Mr. Sloan: I hope that we will not still be on the Department of Justice by Monday and that we will try and expedite things.
On the justice initiatives, we have already had initiatives about youth crime, family violence and property crime. I believe those are three that have been discussed so far. Could the Minister tell us about what other initiatives will be coming out in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have just reviewed these and I believe the offender management initiative is ready to go. We recently released these initiatives to the public - we were not sitting in the House. When the next initiative comes forward, I will provide a ministerial statement and release the initiative in the House first. That will happen some time next week.
The last initiative deals with impaired driving. I have not seen the final draft of that initiative because the department is still working on that, but I would think that should follow in a few weeks. At the present time, I believe that is the last of the four or five initiatives.
Mr. Sloan: I have no further questions for debate and I am prepared to go into line-by-line debate.
Chair: We will proceed with capital expenditures.
On Capital Expenditures
On Management Services
On Departmental Equipment and Furniture
Hon. Mr. Phillips: An automation project in the public administrator's office was not completed prior to the end of the fiscal year, and funds of $4,000 were approved for revote to complete the project.
As well, the corporate affairs registry systems development project was a two-year project with funds voted for 1994-95 and 1995-96. At the end of 1994-95, funds in the amount of $8,000 were still remaining and were approved as a revote in the 1995-96 fiscal year. The project will be completed during the summer of 1996 and has come in on budget.
As well, funds in the capital building maintenance program were not spent at year-end as parts ordered for the heating and ventilation system at the Law Centre were not received in time, and some of the maintenance work was not completed by year-end. The funds of $57,000 were approved as a revote for the current fiscal year.
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister give us a sense of what the automation project involved?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is required under the land claims agreements for tracking land ownership. That is what that program is about.
Departmental Equipment and Furniture in the amount of $69,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
On Replacement Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The money was for the replacement of radio phones at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Although the phones were ordered, they were not received in time for the year-end, and the funds were therefore approved for revote for the next fiscal year.
Replacement Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Correctional Facility Construction/Renovation - Whitehorse
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The funds were budgeted in 1994-95 to undertake some repairs and renovations to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. These items were laid out in a report. The work was not able to be completed prior to year-end, and the lapse in funds were requested as a revote in the new fiscal year.
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister give us a sense of what those renovations involved?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The renovations included the following: the installation of large mushroom-headed panic buttons in areas throughout the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, so that the control could be alerted in case of an accident; improvements to the yard lighting; the replacement of the emergency generator transfer switch; and the upgrade of the doors with electric door locks that could be gang unlocked at the same time. Most of these were safety recommendations made by the individual who looked at the facility. There was other maintenance work completed, including the following: repairing fuel leaks around piping; rebalancing the HVAC system; tuning up the boiler; cleaning ducts, air fans, dampers, the kitchen exhaust fan and laundry/dryer vents; sealing the boiler room door to prevent the emission of fumes; repairing the leaking sewage pipes; and removing or encapsulating asbestos insulation and all plumbing pipe joints. The final step of the lock upgrading will be completed in June 1996. That will complete the majority of the health and safety concerns.
Mr. Sloan: With regard to the improvements being made in the correctional facility, is there a sense that the overall inmate population is going to be reduced as a result of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre? Is it anticipated that there will actually be more space with the facility in Teslin available?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Teslin Centre was intended for lower-risk inmates. My understanding is that at the present time the Teslin facility is almost operating to capacity. As well, there are in the neighbourhood of 100 inmates in the facility in Whitehorse. It fluctuates quite a bit from one part of the year to another. The last couple of years it was down considerably, compared to other years. It always seems to rise in the winter. I do not know if it is because it is a warmer place and it is a nicer place to spend the winters. The numbers seem to rise in the winter and when the weather gets better they seem to decrease.
We expect the numbers to do the same this year, but we are for, the most part, at capacity now in the centre. If the Member wants to get an idea of how the numbers fluctuate, I can provide a graph for the Member. I can have that ready for the mains. It will give him an idea of the ebb and flow of the residents at the Correctional Centre.
Correctional Facility Construction/Renovation - Whitehorse in the amount of $190,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Public Service Commission
Chair: We will now move on to the Public Service Commission. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I did not think we would get to this point today, but we are, so we will proceed.
The Public Service Commission continues to provide and deliver corporate human resource services to government departments. The commission continues to investigate the patriation of the government's pension and benefit plans. This project will determine the feasibility of patriating the Yukon's pension and benefits plans from the federal government. Patriating such plans will provide the Yukon government's employees with more say about how such plans are run and will produce more autonomy from the federal government.
The supplementary estimates show an increase of $46,000 to the Public Service Commission's operation and maintenance budget. This net increase results from increased funding for the continued investigation for the patriation of Yukon's pension and benefit plans.
A transfer from the Department of Finance is funding the continuation of this project. The capital increase to $4,000 results from the acquisition of training video material. The dollars were allocated in the Commission's O&M vote; however, the nature and expense of the material indicate that these are capital items.
The Public Service Commission has budgeted a total of 52.97 full-time equivalents in terms or positions for the 1995-96 year. This complement represents 46 full-time indeterminate positions, 6.55 full-term positions solely dedicated to across-the-government employment equity training assignments, such as the Native Training Corps, persons with disabilities and the remainder for casual relief.
I did not mean to end so abruptly, but that concludes my opening remarks. I am prepared to entertain any general questions and then go line by line.
Ms. Commodore: I was not expecting my colleague from Whitehorse West to finish Justice so quickly, so I was caught off guard and missed the first part of the Minister's presentation. At this time, I do not have any questions in general debate. We are not looking at a large amount of money here, so I am prepared to go to line-by-line debate.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Human Resource Services
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is a transfer of $3,000 to planning and research to fund an extension to the staffing project. A vacancy in a corporate human resource services position provided this funding.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister where the s comes in, or if it is still in existence. What branch is it under?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is in this section, and it is still in existence.
Ms. Commodore: Prior to the general debate in the main estimates, could the Minister provide us with up-to-date information with regard to that? I have heard nothing about it for a long time. I was told it was no longer in existence, and then I was told it was.
How many people are training through that program, and what are they doing now in terms of statistics, and has the funding gone up or down?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes.
I am told, for this particular line item, that there is about $1,000 difference in the funding altogether for next year. In my opening remarks, I mentioned there was 6.55 full-time term positions solely dedicated for across-the-government employment equity training assignments, such as the Native Training Corps, persons with disabilities and the remainder for casual relief. I will get back to the Member with the rest of the information she asked for.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Native Training Corps is part of the overall employment equity program, which will be evaluated in the coming year. Is that the case? What plans are there for evaluating the program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member is looking for the whole employment equity policy and what is happening with that policy.
Yes, we are looking at that, but we are also going to develop an overall five-year plan of employment equity - a reported five years.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will that start in the 1996-97 budget year, or has the work already started?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The employment equity policy is something we will look at for the future. The five-year report is something that is starting now, but it looks back five years and does the numbers from the previous five years. It will be updated as we go along to give an idea of trends. It is difficult to see trends, the way it is established now.
Ms. Moorcroft: Who is going to be involved in completing that look at the past five years of the employment equity program and policy?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Public Service Commission itself is doing it, and we are looking at interviewing individuals in departments and, specifically, individuals who were part of the program, in order to get their evaluation of the program, as well.
Ms. Moorcroft: Will the government include the Public Service Alliance of Canada on the committee that is reviewing the program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is more an evaluation of the people who were involved in the program, but I do not see a problem in involving the Public Service Alliance in it in a substantial way, so that it knows exactly what is going on. I do not have a problem with that.
Ms. Moorcroft: In view of that, I would appreciate it if the Minister would make a commitment to correspond with the Public Service Alliance directly and extend that invitation to it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we can do that.
Corporate Human Resource Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
On Pay and Benefits Management
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This reflects a decreased transfer in the amount of $7,000 for planning and research to help fund the extension of the staffing project. A vacancy in pay and benefits management coordinating position provided this funding. An increase in the Department of Finance transferred in $50,000 to fund the continued investigation for the patriation of pensions and benefits plans, and $14,000 is also transferred in from leave accruals.
Pay and Benefits Management in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
On Planning and Research
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is an increased transfer of $3,000 for corporate human resource services and $7,000 from pay and benefits management to help fund the extension of casual policy analysts working on the staffing project.
Planning and Research in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Leave Accruals
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is a decrease transfer to pay and benefits management to fund the continued investigation of patriation of pensions and benefits plans.
Leave Accruals in the amount of an underexpenditure of $14,000 agreed to
On Staff Development
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is a decrease transfer to capital in the amount of $4,000 for the purchase of training video material. The branch has the necessary funds to make the purchase allocated in its operation and maintenance vote; however, the nature and expense of the video material dictated that they are capital items.
Staff Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $4,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $46,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
On Office Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Phillips: These are the videos that I just talked about that were moved from the operation and maintenance to the capital side
Office Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Public Service Commissioon in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue at this time with general debate on the Department of Renewable Resources.
Department of Renewable Resources
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 1995-96 supplementary reflects a capital expenditure increase of $196,000. This requirement is the result of a revote from 1994-95, which are pretty well outlined. However, a few additional explanatory comments may be useful, as follows: $17,000,
for departmental equipment, was a transfer of surplus funds from capital maintenance upgrades to cover the purchase and installation of a secure firearm storage in conservation officer vehicles and to cover some specialized equipment used by conservation officers; $20,
000 for office furniture and equipment was a revote to replace two old liquid toner photocopiers; $59,000
for office accommodation was a revote to pay for the construction of a large reading room in the facility at 10 Burns Road.
A recovery of
$10,000 included a capital maintenance upgrade revote of $7,000 to complete some repairs to the septic systems located in the department's Ross River compound, offset by the $17,000 transfer to departmental equipment.
Forty thousand dollars, special waste collection, was a revote to carry out the second phase of this project.
Two thousand dollars for Coal River Springs was a revote for interpretive panels.
Twelve thousand dollars, for resource assessment, was a revote for investigation of oil and gas potential in the Eagle Plains region as it relates to resource assessment in potential protected areas.
The amount of $9,000 for the campgrounds in the northern region was a revote for interpretive panels for the Pine Lake campground. The amount of $24,000 for the outdoor recreation system plan was a revote to develop common interpretive themes for the Haines Highway corridor. The amount of $6,000 for the Yukon River was for interpretive panels. The amount of $17,000 for the special projects was a revote to complete the electrical fencing of the four landfill sites at Deep Creek, Teslin, Braeburn and Destruction Bay.
This covers the items in the supplementary. I trust that they help to clarify any questions that you may have.
Mr. Harding: I will be fairly brief in general debate. I intend to save most of my comments and questions for the main estimates.
I would like some information provided for the main estimates, so that when we get to that department, I am prepared to approach it with some more detailed questions. This will be read into the record. I would hope that by obtaining the Hansard, the department can prepare this information for the Minister and he can provide it to me before going into general debate of the main estimates.
I have seen very little about this past year's winter wolf kill program. I am interested in having some information about the costs, success, the latest numbers of the caribou and the number of wolves taken. I would like this information to be categorized over the years of the program - this is the third winter of the program, I believe. I am looking for information about this government's signed commitment to the Endangered Spaces 2000 program. I want a progress report on the agenda. I want to know how many areas will be protected in the next year and the following year.
I am also interested in the Tombstone petition response. I am sure that I will be hearing that before we get into the main estimates debate. I will be going into that in more detail in the main estimates debate after the response from the petition.
I would like to ask the Minister about the habitat protection amendments in the 1992 Wildlife Act. They are not proclaimed, and have not been proclaimed thus far. My understanding is that there has been some serious concern raised about this by the Yukon Fish and Game Management Board. I would like to ask the Minister when we will see the proclamation of those provisions, which give some force and effect to the Yukon as a jurisdiction, in terms of habitat protection.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The officials are in my office right now, having listened to every word the Member has said, waiting with bated breath. They will be quite happy to try to get the information to the Member a day or two before getting into debate.
I have some notes here on habitat protection, and we can discuss the subject briefly.
I spoke briefly to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board early in the new year about habitat protection. Some provisions of that section may be inconsistent with the First Nations final agreements regarding the jurisdictional authority of the Yukon government on settlement lands. The provisions could actually affect the First Nation's ability to develop on its own land.
The federal government is currently revising the Yukon Placer Mining Act and the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and intends to introduce mining land use regulations for the first time. I expect that the Member opposite is probably aware that those were tabled in the House of Commons just a few days ago. They will definitely affect what our habitat protection looks like.
We essentially have to revisit the whole idea of habitat protection as it was written in 1992 to s˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙ations' organizations.
I am not going to get into that debate today; that is for Question Period, but I will just say to the Minister that he has just told me that it is the federal regulatory processes that are underway now for revisions to the legislation and potential opposition from the First Nations have prevented the government from bringing forth habitat protection amendments.
In what form has he had this opposition raised to the provisions for habitat protection in the 1992 Wildlife Act amendments by First Nations in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe it was specifically brought forward from any of the First Nations but, upon review of the legislation, it became apparent that there would be some problems. If I remember correctly, it was mentioned at the Fish and Wildlife Management Board meeting I attended.
Mr. Harding: I would like the Minister to provide me with a plan for habitat protection. I do not want a book; I want a chronological timetable about what is happening on that score. It is often a good tactic to bury the Opposition under some paper, but I do think there has to be a solid plan. If I could see some evidence of a solid plan, then perhaps I can feel more comfortable about it.
Will the Minister provide me with that information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. In fact, it will not be too difficult to do, because we are in the midst of creating a contract for someone to look at the whole issue, and the chronological listing of the anticipated series of events is almost complete, so we should be able to provide that information for the Member.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that.
Could I also ask the Minister to provide me with a detailed list of existing ownership of all the outfitting concessions in the territory? The Minister has pronounced that the outfitting situation, in terms of ownership, is entirely an all-clear. I would like a list of share ownership and the names that are filed with the corporate registry. Obviously, if the Minister can announce that ownership is all clear he must have that information. Will the Minister provide me with this information for the main estimates?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thought we could provide it now, but all we have is a list of outfitters with us. We do not have a list of how the shares are allocated, but we can get that without too much problem.
Mr. Harding: I know who the outfitters are; I just want to make sure I know who owns the areas.
The Minister provided us with a copy of his speaking notes from Watson Lake, or his version of speaking notes. In reviewing them - I was there and listened to the Minister - I was looking for the speech he should have given, not the one he gave. This speech leaves out his comments about the Ron Irwin devolution by April 1. This speech leaves out his pronouncement that, by spring of 1996, we would have a comprehensive forestry policy in place.
Can I get the speech he gave, not the one he should have given?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When Mr. Hedmann asked for that particular speech, I did not realize it would come up in the House. If I had, I would not have provided it to him. Those are just notes the Member has there. He is correct; I did not read that speech verbatim. There was a lot of ad libbing, and I instructed the person who gave it to the Member that those kinds of notes are not to be provided to the general public.
I do not have the actual speech I gave, because it was not just read out.
Mr. Harding: This was a public speech the Minister gave. Why can the public not have a copy of the notes of the speech he gave?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member opposite has a copy of the general speech. There were some other comments, which I believe are written on there, and there were additional comments made.
Mr. Harding: The meeting of the Council on the Economy and the Environment was recorded. Could the Minister get me a transcribed copy of his comments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We could certainly try. We could ask the Council on the Economy and the Environment if it is able or willing to provide it.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister tell where the process on amendments to the Environment Act is right now?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We are not going to make amendments at this time - I believe I said this in the House already. We are working on the regulations only. We have a deadline of October 1996 to come up with regulations. We could either do amendments or regulations, but we would not be able to do both. What we will do is leave the amendments for now. The housekeeping amendments are things that we can live with. We are concentrating on the regulations. There is no intent to move quickly this year on amendments.
Mr. Harding: This process has been underway. It was kicked off by the previous Minister of Renewable Resources and he spoke at length about how the NDP was too progressive on environmental issues, and how this government wants to go back to the dinosaur days.
I am curious about why the process got stopped after the big bravado act about the process of attempting to amend the Environment Act.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: If the Member recalls, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment recommended quite extensive consultation on the amendments. If we had done that we would not be able to concentrate on the regulation. We chose to go ahead with the regulations, as required, and live with the housekeeping amendments that are not too onerous and can be lived with.
Mr. Harding: I will review those comments. I suppose we will get into it in the mains, unless all the material gets chewed up in Question Period by the Rottweiler from Riverside - that was kind of a shot; I am sorry.
On the issue of hazardous waste, I have a question for the Minister responsible.
I would like to ask the Minister what is being done about the hazardous waste storage facility. Initially we had proposed something that was not good enough for this government. It came up with the idea of a barbed wire fence, but the Minister did not really know what good that would do, but it was a suggestion. Is the government still at the barbed wire fence stage? Is there any plan in place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure if "Rottweiler from Riverside" is appropriate parliamentary language.
Chair: Order. I think the comments were meant in good humour and were quite acceptable.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I thought they probably were, too.
We will not be constructing a hazardous waste storage facility. What we have found is that it is better - or cheaper and likely better - to remove the special waste directly to a facility that can recycle or dispose of it. What we found in the first year and a half or two years from when the regulations were put in effect was that there was something like five truckloads of hazardous waste going out of the territory.
Since we did the initial clean-up, which captured special waste that had been stored for, in some cases, many years, we are now finding that there is approximately one truckload per year. It costs approximately $60,000 to transport and dispose of the waste, whereas a facility, besides the $4.4 million capital costs, might cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250,000 per year to maintain. Aside from that, we would still have to transport it out to have it either recycled or disposed of because we do not have those facilities in the Yukon. I doubt that we will have them for many years.
Mr. Harding: Could the Minister provide me with a rationale for his argument on his cost breakdown and how it was obtained, as opposed to some of the various other options that have been identified, such as the option we had come up with, the discussions about putting a facility at the Whitehorse dump, and these kinds of ideas. I am a little taken aback by that being rejected out of hand by this government. Certainly that begs a question about just how thoughtful the arguments were in terms of this government's rationale on this particular problem. It is not just a strict cost measure. It is creating an environment in which citizens in the community feel comfortable and can deal with hazardous wastes in an accessible manner. Instead of having stuff dumped out or thrown in the regular garbage, there would be a process by which we can safely remove hazardous wastes.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We can certainly provide a breakdown of the costs. I am not sure if the Member is talking about the projected costs for the construction of the facility and the operation of it or if he is talking about the costs that we now incur. I can certainly provide a breakdown of the costs we have incurred over the past three and a half years or so, and the projected costs for future years.
Mr. Harding: I will accept that from the Minister for now. After looking at that, we will return to this issue in general debate on the mains to see just how good the rationale is.
I have no further questions in general debate.
Mr. Cable: During the debate on the Department of Community and Transportation Services, there was a punt by the Minister to the Minister of Renewable Resources on the agricultural land inventory. I would like to ask a few questions about that.
Is there in fact a process underway right now to produce an inventory of the agricultural land in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The agriculture branch, working in cooperation with the land planning section and the engineering and development branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, is taking a lead role in the identification and planning of agricultural land. In and around Whitehorse, 800 hectares of land have been identified as having some potential for agricultural development.
Mr. Cable: Is there anything wider than the immediate Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In years past, inventories had been taken in Dawson City, Mayo and Watson Lake.
Mr. Cable: Are the 800 hectares identified free of any land claim claims?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, that is one of the problems. The fact is that there are other interests on a lot of that potential agricultural land.
Mr. Cable: Is there a map identifying the various lands that could be circulated to the Members?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. In fact, I believe the Member and I were talking about that the other day - concerning the Hootalinqua area, at least. I know that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is working on an agricultural overlay of a reference plan. I do not believe it has been completed yet, but I will check on that for the Member.
Mr. Cable: What is the department's intentions with respect to the disposition of more lands for agricultural purposes in the immediate future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is some very limited agricultural land on the Hot Springs Road and on the Mayo Road. These are agricultural lands that were previously identified, were probably optioned by others, and reverted back to the government. We want to do a consultation and so on with First Nations and other agricultural people. We would like to dispose of them.
There is agricultural land available in Mayo and Watson Lake. However, in the Whitehorse area, there is a big problem, mainly because there is very little land available, agricultural or otherwise. Land for potential agriculture or rural residential types of lifestyles has become very desirable. It is a bit of a problem.
The other thing is that as one gets further out, one sees what we call planned agricultural areas. There is some agricultural land about 50 miles out of town, or some distance away from the city, that would require some road development and so on. The department is looking at doing a planned agricultural development in some area. There are always the situations in which somebody finds a little meadow somewhere where they want to do some sort of agricultural activity and can make what are called "spot land applications." Those are the three methods that we have to dispose of agricultural land.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Renewable Resources? Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Capital Expenditures
On Equipment and Furniture
On Departmental Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The departmental equipment expenditure was for the transfer of surplus funds from capital maintenance upgrades to cover the purchase and installation of secure firearm storage in conservation officer vehicles and to cover the cost of some specialized equipment for the conservation officers.
Departmental Equipment in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Office furniture and equipment was a revote to replace two of the old liquid toner photocopiers.
Office Furniture and Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Lands and Facilities
On Office Accommodations and Improvements
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was a revote to pay for the construction of a large meeting room in the facility located at No. 10 Burns Road.
Mr. Harding: Were there no meeting facilities in the building before, or was the existing meeting room expanded? What was done?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The meeting room still has not been constructed. The current meeting room holds about 10 to 12 people, at the most.
Mr. Harding: The obvious question, if we are voting the additional supplementary funds in the amount of $59,000 for this fiscal year, and the meeting room has not been constructed, is this: is it going to lapse?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, it will.
Mr. Harding: So we are going to be left with $7,059,000. I guess we will not have that election after all.
Office Accommodation and Improvements in the amount of $59,000 agreed to
On Environment, Parks and Regional Services
On Lands and Facilities
On Capital Maintenance Upgrades
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was comprised of a revote of $7,000 to complete repairs to the septic systems located in the department's Ross River compound, which was offset by the $17,000 transfer to departmental equipment.
Capital Maintenance Upgrades in the amount of an underexpenditure of $10,000 agreed to
On Special Waste Collection
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was a revote to carry out the second phase of the project.
Mr. Harding: What does the second phase mean?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was a second annual collection.
Mr. Harding: What was collected? What are we talking about here?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It was the special waste - hazardous waste - collection about which I spoke earlier.
Special Waste Collection in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Territorial Parks
On Coal River Springs
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This was a revote for interpretive panels.
Coal River Springs in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The $12,000 for resource assessment was a revote for the investigation of oil and gas potential in the Eagle Plains region, as it relates to resource assessment in potential protected areas.
Resource Assessment in the amount of $12,000 agreed to
On Territorial Campgrounds and Day Use Areas
On Northern Region
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a revote for interpretive panels for the Pine Lake campground.
Northern Region in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Outdoor Recreation Sites and Corridors
On Outdoor Recreation System Plan
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is a revote to develop common interpretive themes for the Haines Highway corridor.
Outdoor Recreation System Plan in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
On Heritage Rivers
On Yukon River (30 mile section)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, that is for interpretive panels on the Yukon River.
Mr. Harding: How do the interpretive panels work? Quite a few are being put in, which is good. Is it cost shared with Tourism, or what happens?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. As my colleague is sitting in front of me, that is a good idea. Currently, however, they are a full cost to Renewable Resources.
Yukon River (30 mile section) in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
On Special Projects
On Bear-proof Dump Fencing
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was for electrical fencing at Deep Creek, Teslin, Braeburn and Destruction Bay.
Mr. Harding: What is the territorial contribution to the bear-proof dump fencing for the bear-safe project in Faro? Does he have that information?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have the actual cost but it was under the Canada infrastructure program. I believe it was one-third the municipality's, one-third the Yukon government's cost and one-third the federal government's, but in addition we are going to have extra people there, because it may very well be that because the bears no longer have a pantry they may go into the Member opposite's place looking for something to eat. So we will be having certain care taken of the bears.
Mr. Harding: Does the Minister think the bear-proof dump fencing will work on Care Bears, or just grizzlies?
I think it is going to involve a significant amount of support from the conservation officer in Faro to make this work. I have had this go-around about the future of the conservation officer in Faro. So far, he is still there, and I want him to stay there. Could the Minister provide me with - not today, because he probably will not have it with him - what the commitment is. Last year, the position was going to be eliminated, and I lobbied very hard to continue to keep the conservation officer in Faro. I would like to know what the long-term plan is for that position. I think it needs to be in Faro. We have a lot of new people in the community, and the conservation officer can work proactively with the community to ensure that rules are well known and enforced.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are no immediate plans to remove the conservation officer from Faro. In fact, he will be receiving some help this summer because of the potential bear problem. It is something that we will continue to look at, but there is no immediate intention to have that position removed.
Bear-proof Dump Fencing in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $196,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources agreed to
Department of Tourism
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Department of Tourism has requested supplementary funding of $262,000 in operation and maintenance and $2,786,000 in capital. The operation and maintenance supplement is all within the marketing branch and comprises the following three items: $192,000 will be used to offset high foreign exchange rates and to maintain buying power in the foreign market places; $50,000 has been recovered from the various joint marketing activities with the Town of Atlin; and $20,000 has been recovered from the City of Whitehorse as its contribution to the CTV Canada AM production this past June.
Moving into the capital side, I will highlight the significant changes. This supplementary has opened a new project line for each of three major construction projects. The $3.7 million for the visitor reception centre and tourism business centre is made up of the following amounts: $900,000 is for the estimates previously voted; $296,000 revoted from prior years as minimal work was completed in 1994-95; and $975,000 for land costs. This is an accounting entry, which reduces the land inventory held by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. An amount of $1.5 million is a funding advance for next year to permit the accelerated completion schedule.
The total allotted in 1995-96 for the visitor reception centre is $3,671,000. The Yukon Historic Resources Centre has been allocated $50,000 to start the planning process. This is a re-allotment only from the previous administration line item.
The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, with a scheduled opening in May 1997, has been allotted $150,000 to start the planning and design process. Of this, $50,000 has been moved from the prior administration line item and $100,000 from the signs and interpretation line. An amount of $50,000 has been reallocated to marketing to commence the planning function for exhibits in the visitor reception centre. This is not new funding, but rather movements from four other projects.
Funding from the living cultural centre has been reduced by $40,000 because the project has not proceeded as quickly as anticipated. I would be pleased to elaborate on these initiatives and answer Members' questions.
Mr. Sloan: This is one of the points where we agree to disagree. I have a strong belief that tourism is an extremely valuable resource in this territory and I think there are a number of laudatory things being undertaken. Certainly, the department is to be commended for some of its marketing strategies.
I really have a serious problem with seeing these kinds of funds go into structures when I have to question their applicability to the entire tourism industry. Certainly, the whole question about the visitor reception centre is one that we are going to have to investigate substantially in the main estimates.
The Minister and I jest about the Beringia Interpretive Centre, but I have a fundamental problem with the whole concept of the Beringia Interpretive Centre, and particularly its location.
I have less difficulty with the Historic Resources Centre, which I believe has a value. I would like to see it given a higher profile and the Beringia Centre less.
We are missing the boat in terms of structures of this kind. While I realize that we have to retain tourists in the territory, I think that our efforts would be far better expended on a marketing program, rather than on structures of this type. I think that would be the most effective use of our tourism dollars. I would prefer to see us using our resources to attract people and perhaps to provide the industry with a wider scope of actual reasons for people to remain in the territory for longer periods of time.
I would like, for example, to see the kinds of funds that we are expending on such things as the Beringia Centre perhaps directed into some other areas to a greater degree, such as the arts, as a method of attracting people here.
I would also like to see our existing museums and our existing historic resources given a higher profile and a good deal more support.
I have a real fear that, given the kinds of funds we are pumping into the Beringia Centre - it is a substantial amount and I know we are going to get into questions of figures, questions of attendance, how many people are going to go through the Beringia Centre, and those are all figures that are fairly questionable - I have a real fear that one of the problems with this centre is that it will detract from existing museums and existing attractions in the territory. I made a couple of queries, and one of the things I learned is that the SS Klondike has suffered a decline in visitors since it began charging an entrance fee. I am wondering what kind of an impact the Beringia Centre, with its attendant cost for visitors, will have on attractions such as the SS Klondike and MacBride Museum. It is a real fear of mine that by the time people get through the Beringia Centre they may be somewhat jaded and may not spend the kind of time that we would like them to spend on other attractions. This is a very real fear of mine.
I guess that I have a fundamental problem with the visitor reception centre, because I think that it has gone from being just that - a visitor reception centre - to being more of an office facility. I think that had it retained the original function of providing a centre to attract and keep people here and to give them a sense of what we have available, it might have been more acceptable.
I have some concerns about its location. I have some concerns about the difficulty with traffic patterns and similar issues. These are some of the basic and fundamental issues that I will be raising, particularly with regard to the main estimates.
There are other issues that I would like to discuss with regard to tourism. Although this may be more related to Department of Community and Transportation Services, an example is the kinds of things that we are doing in the Dempster Highway area. Are we trying to exploit the tourism potential of that particular area? What kinds of facilities are we planning for those particular areas?
That is the kind of diversification that we are trying to provide. I am really quite concerned about so much money being spent in one area. I wonder what this will do to other rural areas in the Yukon? Will the Beringia Interpretive Centre draw down the kind of visitor attendance that we have in other parts of the territory? These are some of the issues that I would like to discuss further.
I see that we are drawing close to the end of the day so I will not pursue that issue now.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Millar: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Third Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: 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. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 14, 1996:
Carcross area plan - Phase 1: executive summary (dated October 1993); status (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2452
Land financing: Yukon Housing Corporation has authority to administer agreement-for-sale program for subdivision lots; listing of outstanding Yukon Housing Corporation land sales agreements as at January 31, 1996 (Brewster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2459
Government Leader's meetings in Japan and Taiwan, January 1996 (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2391