Wednesday, April 24, 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 with the Order Paper.
Are there any visitors to be introduced?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have a document for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have some documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 10
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a petition to present that shows that Golden Horn residents support orderly development in the Golden Horn area that allows for compatible land use and community involvement in creating a land use plan. It also points out that funds budgeted in 1993, 1994 and 1995 for a Golden Horn land use plan have not been spent to complete a plan.
The petitioners asked the Yukon Legislative Assembly to urge the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to take action to initiate a Golden Horn land use plan. They have also requested that the government set aside all rezoning requests, including an application to rezone for a 25-unit mobile-home park, until a land use plan is complete, accepted and in effect for the Golden Horn area.
I was delighted when the Minister of Community and Transportation Services agreed with me completely that it would be wise to develop a land use plan in Golden Horn before rezoning controversial developments. It is nice when we can reach agreement on issues in this House and I think all parties agreed that the M'Clintock zoning fiasco should not be repeated.
Many Mount Lorne constituents support this petition, which I have now presented. I believe that a mobile-home park should not be approved before a land use plan is done. I hope that the Minister will support the position of the petitioners.
Petition No. 11
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I have a petition to present with respect to chelation therapy. There are over 350 signatures on the petition.
Apparently the petition has only been in circulation for the last two weeks and it will remain there, but several of my constituents and others have asked me to present this to the Legislature today.
I will read the petition into the record. The petition is addressed to the Yukon Legislative Assembly and reads,
"This petition of the undersigned shows that there is a body of people resident in the Yukon who desire to have chelation therapy available to them. Therefore, the undersigned ask the Yukon Legislative Assembly to make chelation therapy legally available to licensed physicians practicing in Yukon.
"In 1995 a petition was circulated and presented to your then-Minister of Health. For whatever reason, it did not reach the Legislative Assembly for discussion.
"As the accompanying brochure explains, "Chelation therapy is a safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive treatment to restore blood flow in victims of atherosclerosis without surgery." Chelation therapy involves the intravenous infusion of a prescription medicine called ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA). The word "chelation" is derived from the Greek word "chele" which means "claw" . As the substance is slowly dripped into a vein, once in the bloodstream it claws or grasps the heavy toxic metals. It is considered completely safe to treat people contaminated with mercury, lead or other heavy metals with this system.
"The procedure is available for use by qualified physicians in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and many states, including Alaska, as well as many other countries in the world. In the United Kingdom this therapy is available within the National Health Service, as shown in the attached letters from the Minister of Health, dated December 13, 1991.
"We are not asking you to make this treatment available to us under the Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan. We are asking you to make it legal for qualified physicians to administer chelation therapy to patients if in their judgment it will be beneficial to the patient's health. The cost will be borne by the patient. So far as we can determine, the cost per treatment ranges from $90 to $120. Many of our citizens have gone to other provinces, the United States, Mexico and other countries for this treatment, at great travel expense. Theirs is the best testimony you can have for the procedure's effectiveness. If just one person's life is put back to vibrant health with such a simple procedure, is not that worth your votes as "yea"?
"We ask you, our government, to approve the use of chelation therapy by registered physicians in the Yukon Territory."
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 87: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Bill No. 87, entitled Yukon Oil and Gas Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Economic Development that Bill No. 87, entitled Yukon Oil and Gas Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 87 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any ministerial statements?
Accessory suites: health and safety issues
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I am pleased to advise this House that the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon Housing Corporation are working together to address health and safety issues associated with accessory suites.
Over time, some home owners have converted part of their homes into accessory suites without conforming to existing or current standards. This non-conformance may include non-fire rated party walls, ceilings and entrances, electrical systems with improperly sized panels and receptacles, lack of smoke alarms, and emergency exits.
If the home owner must undertake repairs to meet minimum health and safety standards in existing suites, the City of Whitehorse has agreed to waive the development cost charge of $1,500 until March 31, 1997. After that date, home owners will be required to pay a development cost charge if they want to register and upgrade a suite in their home. The City of Whitehorse will also work with owners to schedule improvements in a convenient time frame.
Home owners can apply to the City of Whitehorse, and the development officer and a building inspector will visit and inspect the accessory suite. If zoning or other development approvals are required, city staff will work with owners to obtain the necessary permits. If the suite meets minimum health and safety standards and is compatible with existing zoning, then the home owner will be issued a certificate of registration.
If repairs are required, home owners can self-finance the repairs, or they can apply to the Yukon Housing Corporation for a loan under the accessory suite initiative. Loans up to $25,000 are provided to eligible clients, and they are repaid over 10 years at an interest rate of two percent less than the current five-year mortgage interest rate.
Joint information packages have been prepared that contain information on the city's living-suite program and the Yukon Housing Corporation's accessory-suite initiative. These information packages are available at city hall, at the municipal services building and at the Yukon Housing Corporation.
In addition, interested home owners can visit the corporation's booth this weekend at the Lions Club Trade Show in the Takhini Arena. Program delivery staff will be available to answer questions home owners may have regarding this initiative.
Ms. Commodore: As an MLA who probably represents the oldest part of Whitehorse, which contains some of the oldest houses in town, I have probably seen every kind of suite and apartment there is to see. I have seen the shape some of those suites are in and wondered about the safety of some of them. There are a great variety of them.
I am glad to see that the government has come up with this initiative in cooperation with the City of Whitehorse, and I look forward to finding out more about it, so I can pass this information on to people in my riding and other interested people. I commend the Minister for working toward something like this. Waiving the development cost charge will be an incentive to anyone who might want to take advantage of it.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Government Leader.
The Yukon Party was busy passing new resolutions this past weekend, all the while leaving a truckload of unfinished business from its four-year plan - business it clearly has no intention of doing.
We now hear that the business development officers serving rural communities are being recentralized, which adds to the long list of positions pulled out of the communities. Can the Government Leader tell us why the government, in four years, has done nothing but pull positions out of communities, reducing service levels and undermining regional economies in communities in which they live?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition has wrong information. That is not surprising.
I believe that we have created more jobs in the four years that we have been here than we have brought back to Whitehorse. These are jobs that will remain in the communities forever and ever. We have made that commitment to the people of the Yukon and are trying our best to live up to it.
Mr. McDonald: When I asked the Minister the same question in Committee debate, he was able to identify only two biologists who have been decentralized to rural communities, while admitting that the communications branch, lands officials, highways officers, territorial agents and now business development officers are all being recentralized to Whitehorse. I have my information quite correct, thank you very much.
The four-year plan indicated that the government was going to be consulting with rural communities and that it would be implementing a decentralization program. There is no such program, and, as far as I am aware, after contacting communities, there has been no such consultation.
Can the Minister tell us why there is no plan, no consultation and no action? It is obviously not a question of financial availability because, as the Minister of Education has pointed out, there is a big pie with lots of people looking for a piece of it. Can the Minister tell us why there has been no action?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In reply to the Member's preamble, he is wrong. He does not have his information correct. We have created many new jobs in the communities in many different areas. There have been some transferred in some departments, as I stated, but there have been new jobs created in the health field and social services field, to name just a couple. In the Speaker's own riding, we went through the exercise at a community meeting, showing that there was a net benefit to Watson Lake, not a net loss of jobs.
Mr. McDonald: I am sure I did not hear the Minister identify, apart from the moose biologists, a single job that will be decentralized from Whitehorse. I point out that the four-year plan did indicate that the government was going to implement a proper government decentralization program in order to promote economic stability and improved service delivery.
The communities want some action. Could I ask the government whether or not it can commit to developing some more shallow promises on the subject of decentralization before the next election so that it can at least show some action, at least in the development of shallow promises?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have been consulting with the communities. We do it on an annual basis. We have already, as you are aware, Mr. Speaker, in your riding, made a commitment following the forestry transfer that there will be more jobs decentralized to Watson Lake - and there will be more jobs decentralized to Dawson City. We said we were not going to go through the same flimflam as the Official Opposition went through when they were in power, creating two positions for every one they had in Whitehorse, to try to win some votes in rural Yukon.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Harding: I have a question on the same subject for the Minister of Economic Development.
The record of the New Democrats on decentralization stands up very well against the Yukon Party government's. We have learned that the government is not replacing the Business Development Officer who serves the Mayo district. A reporter I spoke to this morning told me that discussions with the government informed her that there are plans to perhaps eliminate a couple more of these positions in the communities.
I would like to ask the Minister who is going to be in the small rural communities to help advise small businesses?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member should know that it was the federal Liberal government that cancelled the economic development agreements. The economic development officers, who were part of that whole agreement, obtained the largest amount of their work in the communities.
On the business services end of it, some of these people were providing information to businesses and it was a very good program. Industry Canada, the Department of Economic Development and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce are working together right now to re-establish a business services program for Yukon.
Mr. Harding: Most everyone has heard of this. The Minister is quite correct: it was the Liberals who killed the economic development agreement and it was the Yukon Party who struck the final nail in the coffin and killed the business development fund.
They have replaced it with this highly flawed venture partnership program, which takes away a lot of the traditional access to capital that the rural communities had. It also takes away roles that business development officers had in helping with small business development in the rural communities and the small business fund and the business development fund applications.
I would like to ask the Minister this: what steps is he going to take to ensure that all the small, rural communities are served if he is going to have the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce taking over this role, considering that not all people in the small, rural communities are members of the Whitehorse or Yukon Chambers of Commerce?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is, to set the Member straight, the Yukon Chamber that is working on this initiative with Industry Canada, and it is in the very preliminary stages. That is probably why the Member has not heard of it previously. Our department is working very closely with the other two partners in establishing that business services position.
Mr. Harding: Our understanding is that these positions for the business development office and the function that they were serving of advising small businesses and helping them with access to capital is coming to an end, at least in the Mayo district as of July 1. I would like to ask the Minister if he will commit that he will not remove any business development officers in the small communities until a complete comprehensive program is in place to help advise the small businesses in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I will not commit to that.
Question re: Liard Pulp and Lumber Company project
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the proposed Watson Lake sawmill project. We are going to get some answers if we have to spend the rest of whatever time we have left digging into this.
Yesterday, I asked the Government Leader about his party's convention last weekend and about the resolution that was passed, asking him, I assume, to put pressure on the federal government on behalf of the Liard Pulp and Lumber Company sawmill project in Watson Lake. He was fairly coy when I asked him the question about viability of the project, so I ask the question again. Does the Government Leader think that the project, as put forward by the proponents, is viable?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member for Riverside's Liberal colleagues never let them go ahead with the project, we will never know if if it is viable, and we will never know if we do not let them go ahead with the process of establishing whether or not it is viable. This project, Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, is in the conceptual stage. All that these people are asking for is a fair hearing to see if their project is viable and environmentally sound.
While I am on my feet, for the Leader of the Official Opposition's information, we have decentralized 28 positions to rural Yukon.
Speaker: Order. That answer had no relevance to the question being asked.
Mr. Cable: If we can focus for a moment, the sawmill project is a $165 million project. It sets up 420 full-time jobs - direct employment - and a number of spin-off jobs. There is a resolution from the Government Leader's own party calling for support and there will be a need for many houses and sewer and water facilities to set up to support the houses. Could the Government Leader tell us what the government has done to analyze this project? What have the 50 people in the Department of Economic Development done, now that they are not giving away loans and grants? Have they taken any steps whatsoever to analyze the project to see if it will fly - if, in fact, the federal government should issue the cutting rights?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: When he is on his feet next time, perhaps the Liberal Member in the House could tell Yukoners if he is against creating jobs for Yukoners. That is the message I am getting from him - that we should pour cold water on every proposition that comes forward; we should be negative about them and should not try to create any jobs for Yukoners. If that is what the Member is saying, I ask him to stand on his feet and say it.
Mr. Cable: As the Minister should understand, this is Question Period, and questions are asked of the government. If the Government Leader continues to avoid answering the question, one would naturally be suspicious that the answer is in the negative.
I will ask the Minister this again: does he think that this project will fly? I do not want the people of Watson Lake to be disappointed if it does not happen. I am not putting negative vibes on the project and am not raining on the project. However, this government has a responsibility to analyze the project. If, in fact, the government has done so, could the Government Leader stand on his feet to indicate whether or not he will support the federal government in providing the cutting rights and making this project go?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just finished telling the Minister opposite that this was in the conceptual stage. We just had this delivered to our offices about four or five days ago. We like the concept and think it has some merit. There are a lot of steps and hoops it has to go through, but the federal Liberals, through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, tried to kill it before it had a chance.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest allegations, Motion No. 104 - printing of
Mr. McDonald: I understand ministerial staff of the ex-Minister of Education placed an order for 200 bound versions of Motion No. 104 to the Queen's Printer two days after the motion debate took place on March 27. The order was placed through the Executive Council Office.
Can the Minister of Government Services tell me who is paying for the printing of this document?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I do not know what the Member for Riverdale South said.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member said $40 million is paying for it. I do not know where that figure came from.
I do not know who is paying for it. I do not think there is a transfer back from the Department of Education, because the Queen's Printer special operating agency is not in place. I do not know if it comes from the Queen's Printer budget or from caucus funds.
Mr. McDonald: I did not mention anything about the Department of Education. I said a member of the Minister of Education's ex-staff - a person who presumably still works in the office - placed an order, through the Executive Council Office, for 200 versions of Motion No. 104 - this newly published motion, a tape-bound version with full colour copy and everything else. This person placed the order two days after the motion debate. All the while, the Government Leader was indicating this was not a government-sponsored motion, that it was a private Member's motion.
Can the Government Leader or the Minister of Government Services tell me why any order for additional copies would be placed for this particular motion book by the Executive Council Office to the Queen's Printer?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can speculate that it was probably ordered by that Member so that he could distribute it. If it went through the Executive Council Office, it probably was ordered through the caucus funds. All of us are given a certain amount of caucus funds to be used for research and to provide information to our constituents. I do not know what exactly the process was in fact.
Mr. McDonald: You do know. I have a quote from Mr. Ostashek, the Government Leader, in response to my questions. He said that this motion was a backbencher's motion, and that that is where it was in the Order Paper. He went on to say that the motion was not brought forward by the Yukon Party caucus and that the Member was doing it on his own. He had no support whatsoever from the Yukon Party caucus or from the government for that matter.
I am asking why a Minister's assistant would be placing an order through the Executive Council Office to disseminate information, which is arguably a one-sided smear campaign against a Member of this House. If the government itself had nothing to do with it, why was this action taken? Can the Government Leader answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will find out for the Leader of the Official Opposition what the process was that it went through. It is the opinion of the Leader of the Official Opposition that it is a smear campaign against one Member of the House. That remains to be seen.
We all have money for research. We all publish newsletters. We all send information to our constituents and to people who request it. We have tried to reduce the use of convenience photocopiers and to use the Queen's Printer for that sort of material.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest allegations, Motion No. 104 - printing of
Mr. McDonald: This is not all about trying to defend the existence of the DocuTech. This is not about trying to talk about efficiency in Government Services. This is about a government that claimed that it was distanced from a motion in this Legislature that was arguably a smear campaign against a Member of this Legislature. The government did everything in its power to distance itself from anything to do with this, even though it had Yukon Party observers sitting in the gallery during the motion debate, even though the Government Leader indicated that he supported the motion and even though the government House Leader called the motion.
Now we find out that the government is publishing the motion documents. It is not just simply releasing Hansard, but it is publishing the motion document itself in full colour.
I do not want to hear anything further from the Minister of Government Services about efficiency in publishing government documents and all of that fatuous stuff.
I would like to ask the Government Leader why officials of the Department of Justice are distributing this document, because I have seen a Justice lawyer with a fistful of these documents.
I would also like to know why these documents are showing up anonymously in people's homes around the city - I have two examples of that - and why are these documents showing up in people's in-baskets throughout government?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I would like to respond to the Member, not because of the question but because of the speech that came before it. I agree with the-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The Member for Riverdale South says sit down. I know that she is supporting the Leader of the Official Opposition in this, but she will get her turn.
The Leader of the Official Opposition made his little speech and it is my turn to respond. It is true that it is not about the DocuTech. It is about the sensitivity of the Leader of the Official Opposition with respect to that motion, and I think he has reason to be sensitive.
Mr. McDonald: Did I just waste a question? I asked the Government Leader whether or not he condones the wide distribution of this particular document, published at government expense, two days after the motion was debated. I also asked what the Government Leader is going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The document is not being published at government expense. It is my understanding that the Member is publishing the document with caucus funding and I think he has a legitimate right to do so.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister once had staff because he was a Minister. Now, that staff member - who no longer works for the Member - made a request through the Executive Council Office, not through the Legislative Assembly Office - which was confirmed this morning by Government Services - to participate in the smear campaign. I think this is completely and utterly wrong for them to do that.
Before this action was taken, did the government - before it consciously published and distributed this document outside of legislative precincts - obtain a legal opinion about exposing the government to possible libel laws?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As far as I know, the government is not printing the document. I just said that. It is my understanding that the document is being printed with the Member's caucus money - the money that is allocated to him for his own use, to do his job as an MLA.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest legislation, proclamation of
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader about conflict-of-interest legislation. As many people know, it is a piece of legislation for which I have been fighting for about seven or eight years. I have actually voted for two bills on conflict-of-interest legislation, but we still have no conflict-of-interest legislation proclaimed.
My question to the Government Leader is this: will his Cabinet be coming back to the House for a special session to appoint commissioners so that the conflict-of-interest legislation can become effective - and so that I can ask my supplementary question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are trying to get it passed before we adjourn from this session. I have met with the leaders from other parties to try and resolve how we can get the legislation passed. We met with them on Monday of this week to try to resolve how we can proclaim the legislation and appoint some commissioners. We are open.
Mrs. Firth: The Member who just spoke is quite right; it can be proclaimed this afternoon.
My supplementary question to the Government Leader is this: as soon as the legislation is proclaimed, I would like to ask the Government Leader if he and his Cabinet colleagues are prepared to submit their business affairs and those of their spouses and friends to the Conflicts Commission after it is proclaimed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is exactly why we are proclaiming conflict-of-interest legislation and appointing commissioners. The major role of the commissioners will be for the Members of this Legislature to consult with, in order to ensure that their affairs are in order. That is the whole purpose of the conflict-of-interest legislation and the commissioners. It is so that there is someone to consult with.
Mrs. Firth: It is very strange that all Members of this Legislature were not given an equal opportunity to do this. I have always been a person who is interested in fairness and in people being treated the same. That has not happened in this case. One Member has had his private matters put under public scrutiny, but the other Members have not.
Is the Government Leader telling us today that he is giving an absolute commitment that he and all his Cabinet colleagues will put before the Conflicts Commission all their business affairs and that of their spouses and friends? Is he giving the public a commitment that he is going to do that - not just a consultation but the same kind of scrutiny to which the other Member of the Legislature is being subjected?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know what the Member opposite is looking for. If she is going on a witch-hunt then she has the ability to do that. She can use the same procedure as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes used.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest legislation, scrutiny of Members
Mrs. Firth: I know the Government Leader would not be alluding that I am a witch. I am sure he would not, in all his kind thoughts toward me.
I do not want the Government Leader to be coy about this issue. It is not as if this government has not had any allegations or discussions in this House about conflicts. There is a whole list of them.
I want to know if the Government Leader is prepared to make a public commitment. They waffle around and skirt the issue. Is he prepared to make a public commitment that he and his Cabinet colleagues will present, before the Conflicts Commission, their business affairs, that of their spouses and that of their friends, for the same kind of scrutiny for which one other Member of this Legislature has been singled out?
I am prepared to put my affairs forward. I want the same commitment out of this group.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, the Member should go back and review the legislation if she thinks it applies to friends of people in this Legislature. The bill is quite clear that it is for Members and Ministers of this Legislature. That is what the conflict-of-interest legislation is for. I have no problem in consulting with the commissioner and I will be doing that to make sure that my affairs are in order. If we had had this commissioner in place a couple of years ago, it would not have cost me a couple of thousand dollars to put my affairs in order.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Government Leader should have put his affairs in order before he ran for office, then it would not have cost him a couple of thousand dollars.
This is bordering on the absolutely ridiculous. What has happened is that the Government Leader does not want to put his affairs forward for the same kind of scrutiny as another Member of this Legislature has been forced to do. One would think he would be -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask a question.
Mrs. Firth: I sure will.
One would think the Government Leader would be at the front of the line to have his affairs put before the commissioner, in light of all the discussions we have had in this House about conflicts, yet he is not. He will have to be pushed there, or he will do it in -
Speaker: Order. The Member is answering her own question, in a sense.
Mrs. Firth: Why will the Government Leader not submit himself and his colleagues to the same kind of scrutiny as one other Member of this Legislature is being singled out for?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Let the record show I have already said I would. I will be consulting with a Conflicts Commissioner when we have appointed one. I am sure my colleagues will also.
I answered the question. Let the record show this is about the third time I have answered this question.
Mrs. Firth: The bill has not been proclaimed. We will be in the House for one more day. After we are out of the House, I am sure the government will head off in different directions and there will be no proclamations.
When will the Government Leader do this? When will this happen?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It will happen as soon as we get consent from two-thirds of this House. We can then proclaim the bill and appoint the commissioners -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We can proclaim the commissioners once we have agreement from the other side of the House.
I spoke with the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party about this issue on Monday.
Question re: Conflict-of-interest legislation, proclamation of
Mr. McDonald: For the record, if the Cabinet wants to proclaim the conflict-of interest bill, it can do it now. It could have done it a year ago, and there would have been no objection from me at all.
At the meeting the other day, the Minister indicated he might be interested in selecting a variety of people for Conflicts Commissioner jobs. I believe he received agreement from the party leaders that Mr. Hughes would be acceptable as a Conflicts Commissioner. I understood that route was unanimously accepted.
Would the Government Leader be prepared to proclaim the bill and appoint Mr. Hughes as at least a single commissioner, so the affairs of the Cabinet, and past affairs, can be scrutinized by the Conflicts Commission?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I wish the Leader of the Official Opposition had returned my phone call, as he promised to do after the meeting on Monday. He was going to go back to his caucus - he is playing politics today on the floor of the Legislature - to see about my suggestion. The Leader of the Liberal Party was in favour of appointing both Mr. Hughes and the person who is going to be in the Ombudsman position, so we would at least have two commissioners. He knows full well that we have to bring in an amendment to the legislation to do that, as well. He could have extended us the courtesy of returning our phone call.
Mr. McDonald: This is an outrage. At that meeting, I indicated to the Minister that I would be more than happy to see the conflicts bill passed as soon as possible. I also indicated that Mr. Hughes was acceptable to the Official Opposition. For the Government Leader to suggest otherwise is outrageous.
If the Minister is talking about playing politics, I have never seen such a disgusting display as what he is doing right now.
I want to ask the Minister this: is he prepared to take whatever action is necessary, through this Legislature - before the Legislature breaks - to ensure that there is at least one commissioner appointed to the Conflicts Commission and that the conflict-of-interest act is proclaimed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If anything is disgusting, it is the actions of the Leader of the Official Opposition. We all agreed on Mr. Hughes, and the Leader of the Official Opposition was supposed to get back to us with a phone call about what his colleagues thought about the Ombudsman from Alberta. For the Member to say something different now is totally disgusting.
Mr. McDonald: The conflict-of-interest bill can be proclaimed at any time. If only Mr. Hughes is selected, that is fewer than three. If Mr. Hughes and the Ombudsman are accepted, that is still fewer than three. It still requires that the legislation be changed, in the Minister's opinion.
I will ask the Minister the question one more time. It is more important to me to see the Minister come clean on this issue than to spar with him about who is or is not disgusting. He said, at the meeting, at least, that he was not absolutely dedicated to the concept of having the Ombudsman as a commissioner. Is he prepared to proclaim the bill and/or take whatever action is necessary, through this Legislature, to ensure that the bill is proclaimed and at least one commissioner is appointed, so that the work can be done?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like the cooperation of the Leader of the Official Opposition, who said at the meeting he did not feel as if he wanted to cooperate with us very much. The bill calls for three commissioners. The Justice Department does not feel the bill is valid without three commissioners being appointed, unless we amend the bill. The Member is absolutely right, but I am still waiting for his phone call to see what his caucus decided on appointing the Ombudsman. The Leader of the Liberal Party and myself both agreed to that at the meeting, but the Leader of the Official Opposition has not given us the courtesy of a return phone call.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Order. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 46: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 46, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 46, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This bill is based on recommendations made to the House by the Chief Electoral Officer in a report that was tabled on April 27, 1995.
This bill contains amendments that respond to four of the recommendations of the chief electoral officer. The purpose of these changes is as follows: to protect enumerators from harassment; to establish procedures for voters who are placed at risk if their identities and addresses are made public; to state in legislation that the media may be permitted to enter polling places under the direction of the Chief Electoral Officer; and to ensure that those who vote by mail-in ballot are not disenfranchised as a result of communications disruptions.
There is also a recommendation in the report of the Chief Electoral Officer respecting amendments to the Controverted Elections Act. This is being addressed in Bill No. 66.
With respect to protecting enumerators from harassment, in reference to the amendments respecting enumerators, the Chief Electoral Officer stated in his report that reports were received from returning officers during the 1992 general election that enumerators were being telephoned at home and being harassed.
The Chief Electoral Officer states that it was obvious that the names of the enumerators had been obtained from the enumeration records provided to electors from the enumerators' record books.
There are three public documents on which enumerators are required by law to sign their names. These include the enumeration record, the enumerator's notice to an absentee elector and an oath and endorsement, which is attached to the posted preliminary list of electors.
To rectify the problem identified in the report to the House, an amendment is being proposed that will allow the Chief Electoral Officer to establish a system to identify enumerators by an identification code rather than by name.
Number 2 outlines the safety of the electors. The Election Act requires the name and address of a person to be on the official list of electors before that person is given a ballot and allowed to vote. There are essentially three ways in which a name will find its way on to an official list of electors. The first is the house-to-house enumeration takes place during the first 13 days of the election period. The second is the public revision hearings take place on the eighteenth and nineteenth day after the issue of the writ. The third is a special revision, which is conducted by the returning officer or assistant returning officer for each electoral district three days before polling day.
The preliminary lists of electors are made public in a variety of ways. Upon completion, the enumerators are required to post a set in their polling divisions. Each returning officer is required to post a complete set of the lists for all polling divisions in every polling division. Also, returning officers are required to provide each candidate with three copies of the preliminary lists.
Changes made at the public revision hearings are compiled and transmitted to all candidates within three days of the close of the hearings. Names added at the time of the special revision are transmitted to all candidates prior to the opening of the polls.
In addition, the Elections Act requires that each registered political party be provided with a copy of all the lists of electors for the Yukon within six months after a general election or a by-election.
As I am sure you are aware, there are qualified electors who feel their personal safety would be put at risk if they were to allow their names and addresses to be publicized in this fashion. An example of people in this situation include women who have fled abusive relationships. There are also persons who must avoid having their names and addresses publicized for occupational reasons - for example, police officers.
The recommendation made in the report to the Legislative Assembly concerning electors with safety risks such as those I have mentioned, reads as follows: "It is recommended that the Elections Act be amended to permit an elector, whose name is not on the list of electors and who does not wish to be identified by name and location, to vote by special ballot by applying in writing to the returning officer in the electoral district in which the elector is qualified."
The "special ballot" procedure referred to in this recommendation already exists in our legislation for the following categories of voters: those who are housebound; those who are unable to vote at the advanced poll by reason of their employment, business or occupation; and those who are students in a Yukon educational institution outside their own electoral district.
In each of these cases, the elector's name and address must appear on the list of electors. The procedure is for the elector to apply in writing to the returning office for a special ballot paper and then ensure that it is returned before 2:00 p.m. on polling day. The name of the elector is entered in a poll book, which is open to scrutiny by candidates' agents on polling day.
The amendments being proposed in this bill will allow electors with safety risks to contact the returning officer of the electoral district in which they are qualified to vote, indicating that their safety is at risk if their names and addresses are publicized, and to apply to vote by special ballot. It would be the responsibility of the returning officer to ensure that these electors are qualified by age, citizenship and residency, as a special ballot procedure for these electors would permit their names and addresses to be known only to the returning officer. A numbered code would be used to identify each voter in the poll book.
The advantage of this procedure for the electors with safety risks is that they would not have to appear in person to vote.
It is recognized that an absolute guarantee cannot be offered to those electors, since their names and locations would have to be made available to candidates if an election is challenged, pursuant to the Controverted Elections Act.
The recommendation respecting media in polling places provides legislative sanction for a long-standing practice. The Chief Electoral Officer states in his report: "The practice on polling days has been for members of the media to take pictures of electors receiving ballot papers from deputy returning officers at one or two polling places. There have been no complaints from either voters or elections staff about this practice. Rather, there has been a positive effect as the media coverage after advance polls and on polling day reminds electors that voting is underway."
In 1988, with the agreement of registered political parties, rules were established respecting the presence of media in polling places. While these rules have provided direction to the media and have ensured control at the polling places, it must be recognized that they are not supported in law. Amendments are, therefore, being proposed that would have the effect of providing legislative authority for the media to enter polling places during the hours of polling under rules established by the Chief Electoral Officer.
Four, the recommendation concerning mail-in ballots stems from the requirement found in section
167 of the Elections Act that mail-in ballots be cancelled if there is a communications disruption such as an interruption in postal services. The Chief Electoral Officer states that experience has shown that most mail-in ballot papers can be distributed by the returning office and returned by the voters in ways other than by postal services. The Chief Electoral Officer concludes that a postal disruption should not lead to cancelling the mail-in ballot process. Accordingly, an amendment is being proposed to repeal section 167.
I believe that this bill fully addresses the recommendations made to this House by the Chief Electoral Officer in the report presented to this House, and I would urge support for the bill.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Bill No. 66: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 66, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 66, entitled An Act to Amend the Controverted Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 66, entitled An Act to Amend the Controverted Elections Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will be very brief. This bill is based on a recommendation made to the House by the Chief Electoral Officer in a report that was tabled on April 27, 1995.
The Chief Electoral Officer has asked that the An Act to Amend the Controverted Elections Act be amended to make it clear that only qualified electors in an electoral district be allowed to petition the court for the controversion of an election in that electoral district. Apparently, the present wording of the legislation led to an impression that any qualified elector in the entire Yukon could bring a petition against an election in any electoral district. This was not the intent of the legislation and the amendment before this House simply makes clear what was originally intended.
Also, the Chief Electoral Officer found that there were jurisdictions where candidates in an electoral district are given the right to file petitions under the Controverted Elections Act in those jurisdictions. This right is granted even if the candidates are not qualified electors in the electoral district in which they ran for election.
In his report, the Chief Electoral Officer recommended that this feature be added to our legislation and, accordingly, it is now contained in the bill before the House.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 66 agreed to
Bill No. 53: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 53, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that
Bill No. 53, entitled An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that
Bill No. 53, entitled An Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This act makes two changes. The first deletes the sections of the act that refer to the medical health officer as these sections are no longer necessary. Previously, a dentist could authorize a dental therapist to perform certain procedures outlined in the act only with the permission of the Health and Welfare Canada medical health officer. Health Canada, Yukon region, agrees that this practice is redundant and serves no practical purpose. They have no objection to the deletion of this provision.
The second change is being made to ensure that a visiting periodontist from B.C. who attends patients in the Yukon is able to use his time in the Yukon effectively and efficiently. In British Columbia, dental hygienists can be licensed to administer local anaesthetics. The Yukon Dental Profession Act does not permit dental hygienists to administer local anaesthetics. This change will allow the dental hygienist who accompanies the periodontist to be licensed to administer local anaesthetics. This amendment can also benefit local dentists. They will be allowed to use dental hygienists who have successfully completed the appropriate course work and are licensed to administer local anaesthetics.
The Yukon Dental Association and the federal government regional dental health officer support these amendments to the Dental Profession Act. This practice will ensure continued periodontal care to Yukon residents and that the public is treated by trained and licensed hygienists.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 53 agreed to
Bill No. 68: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 68, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Nordling.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I move that Bill No. 68, entitled An Act to Amend the College Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Education that Bill No. 68, entitled An Act to Amend the College Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: The purpose of these amendments to the College Act is to empower the College Board to receive and administer endowments; to enhance the autonomy of the College Board by allowing the board to select its own chair and by making the president a non-voting member; to restructure the college's advisory committees to remove ineffective components and strengthen community campus committees' influence in college decision making; to more clearly state the college's mandate and update some of the language and provisions of the act.
All these changes were requested or approved by the College Board, administration and community campuses.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 68 agreed to
Bill No. 17: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 17, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Brewster.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that Bill No. 17, entitled An Act to Amend the Dog Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 17, entitled An Act to Amend the Dog Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: This amendment will allow a person to lay a complaint against the owner of a dog that has, while running at large, injured or harassed any person. The action can be initiated after the fact, unless the dog does not have to be apprehended while at large. In addition, the penalties for offences under the Dog Act have been increased to conform with penalties for other offences set out in section 3 of the Summary Convictions Act.
The reason I brought this in, rather than waiting for the new legislation to be written - which will be some time - is that many of the rural areas have requested this and the RCMP are comfortable with it. It appears to me it was an error - I do not know how many years ago it was that the act was made - that it protected horses, sheep, pigs, cattle and poultry, but it did not protect people. I think it is about time we included people in the act, so that they can be protected. The municipalities, of course, have their own bylaws, which they can enforce. This way, we will be able to do it in the rural areas.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 17 agreed to
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 Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 10 - First Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Public Service Commission - continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures - continued
On Corporate Human Resource Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97. Is there any further general debate on the Public Service Commission, Corporate Human Resource Services?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When we left last night, I said that I would get back today with the answers to some questions the Members asked. Earlier today, I tabled a number of legislative returns dealing with the representation of women in management, the reasons and types of grievance activity, estimates of merit costs for the past three years, and changes to employment equity counselling statistics.
The Public Service Commission staff are currently collecting information on activity of the Native Training Corps and the number of job descriptions developed in the past year and the value of related sole-sourced contracts. We may be able to have the information either later today or possibly tomorrow.
The Member for Riverside agreed to clarify his question regarding goals used in management performance evaluations. Once I have that clarification, we will do our best to provide him with the information he is seeking.
I also agreed to make a statement about the issue of conflict of interest for employees serving on decision-making boards. Last night, the Opposition inquired about a matter that had been referred on appeal to the Public Service Commissioner. That appeal concerned an alleged conflict of interest of an employee with respect to his existing membership on a board that was considered by the hiring department to be incompatible with his employment, or conditions of employment, as a senior manager in one of the communities.
The Opposition Member's inquiry was stated to arise out of a desire to know this government's position on whether or not any employee sitting as a member on any board, in a decision-making capability affecting the government is ipso facto a conflict of interest.
Although I wondered last night if I could require the Public Service Commissioner to release her decision on the appeal made to her by the employee, upon reflection, I find myself reluctant to do so.
The Public Service Commissioner exercises decision-making capabilities over a broad range of employment-related issues that are placed before her on appeal or grievance by individual employees, often dealing with sensitive employment issues, and almost without exception related to the employment histories or records of individual employees.
It would surely be an inhibiting factor for employees requesting a review of their employment issues, concerns, grievances or appeals if they always had to remember that their individual issues could end up being debated by politicians on the floor of the Legislature and subsequently reported in the media.
This government has always maintained, as has the Opposition when it was in government and faced with questions concerning individual employees, that individual personnel matters are not an appropriate subject for debate in the Legislature.
We have resisted discussing individual employee matters, even when it may have suited our purposes politically to have made personnel revelations concerning individual employees and we will continue to resist discussing individual employee matters, however great the temptation. This is based on the belief that the employees have the right to keep their employment-related affairs a matter between themselves and their employer. Though the employee may choose to make public certain matters concerning their employment, as is their right to do. It is also based on the concern that this Legislature should not come to be viewed by employees as an alternate forum to seek relief in a political arena from decisions that are properly confined within their employment relationship.
However, with that preamble I wish to be able to address the policy issues that the Member opposite raised in general debate last night, and I feel able to speak in general terms about the scope of the commission's jurisdiction, as she explained it to me, in such a way as it may act as a springboard for a general policy discussion.
In any matter put forward for her review, the commissioner must first assess whether she has the jurisdiction to hear and render a decision on the issue. In a matter concerning the application of employer policies, such as the conflict-of-interest policy, to people either before the employment relationship has commenced or after the employment relationship has ended, that jurisdiction may necessarily be limited indeed.
In such matters where employer policies would not apply until after the employment relationship has been established, the matter before her may very well turn on whether the concerns expressed by the hiring department to an individual can properly be considered to have been conditions expressly placed on the individual's employment, which the individual is free to accept or reject as part of the offer, and further, to assess whether those conditions of employment are reasonable, having a view to a number of relevant factors.
Such factors may include the nature of the duties required of the position, the location of the position, and whether the position is the only one of its kind or is one of several generic positions such that an absence could easily be covered, the nature of the position in the hierarchy of the organization, the time commitments of the activities in question that may required time away from the workplace, and so forth.
It should go without saying that each case would turn on its own circumstances and merits. The Public Service Commissioner would not consider it to be within her jurisdiction to render a decision on whether an employee can properly perform his outside duties, given his employment with the government, but rather, whether he can properly perform his employment with the government given his outside activities.
That is all I am able to say on this matter raised by the Leader of the Official Opposition, but I feel that this explanation may go some way to distinguish the employment issues from other policy issues that may legitimately be raised for debate on the matter of an individual sitting on the decision-making boards while employed with the government.
Ms. Commodore: Was the decision made by the Minister in conflict with any other decision that was made or the reasons for it? I was not exactly sure what the Minister was saying, although I was trying to listen and understand what he was saying about the issue. Are we talking about Bob Laking right now? Is that what we are talking about, or are we talking about employees in general who may have a conflict because they are sitting on a board of some kind?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I was talking about the principle of the policy and I did not want to talk specifically about Mr. Laking. Rather, I wanted to talk about the overall policy in general, and what the Public Service Commissioner would consider on an appeal.
Ms. Commodore: There are a number of other government employees, as the Minister knows, who sit on boards and committees. I am not sure if the Minister knows how many people there are and what boards and committees they sit on, but I would like to know if we are going to be looking at these individuals and their involvement with boards and commitments, now that this has come up in regard to Bob Laking.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, we will not. This is the type of thing that is considered when someone first becomes employed. There are many standard questions asked during an interview such as when a person can take a job, what else the person does and whether or not the person would have a conflict. There are many questions asked during the interview and also at the time the job offer is made. That is when these issues would be discussed.
Ms. Commodore: If an employee of the government was asked to sit on a committee, what would he or she do? Can an individual independently say yes or no, or is there a government policy that states an individual has to follow certain steps in order to make a decision?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The conflict-of-interest policy would require the individual to check it out first before accepting the appointment.
Mr. Cable: On a related issue, does the government have a policy on double dipping by public servants who sit on boards and commissions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think there is something about honoraria if the individual is a government employee and sitting on a board. It is a policy. We can get it for the Member and make it available.
Mr. Cable: The Member for Whitehorse Centre has raised the distinction between meeting during working hours and after working hours. Does the policy draw a distinction between the two?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that it does.
Mr. Cable: The Minister is going to provide a copy of that policy, is he not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes. I will.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the program?
Ms. Commodore: I would like to follow up on the Mr. Laking issue. Has a decision been made? Has the individual appealed the decision and, if so, what was it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, the decision has been made. As I stated earlier, I cannot give the Member that decision because it involves discussing an employee's personal records. Mr. Laking can tell anyone if he so wishes, but we cannot.
Chair: Are Members prepared to go line by line at this time?
On Staffing Administration
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is an increase of $17,000 in staffing administration. This is as a result of budgeted merit increases for 12 permanent staff.
Staffing Administration in the amount of $835,000 agreed to
On Staffing Operations
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is a decrease of $9,000 in staffing operations as a result of a budgeted reduction in advertising of $2,000, interview costs of $2,000 and relocation costs of $5,000.
Staffing Operations in the amount of $78,000 agreed to
On Employment Equity
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Employment equity shows an increase of $1,000. For all intents and purposes, the activity remains funded at the same level as last year.
Employment Equity in the amount of $358,000 agreed to
On Classification Appeals
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This shows an increase of $3,000 for higher costs incurred for hearing appeals.
Classification Appeals in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total, are there any questions on the statistics pages?
Corporate Human Resource Services in the amount of $1,304,000 agreed to
On Pay and Benefits Management
Chair: Is there any general debate? Are we prepared to go line by line at this time? We will go line by line.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This has increased by $37,000 as a result of increased funding for the patriation of Yukon's pensions and benefits plans, $32,000, and merit increases of $5,000.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister is offering us an explanation of where this money is going, but it does not appear to be broken down into too many things. I want to object to the short answers. I think we deserve a little bit more, at least for these numbers.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I did not realize the Member wanted more information. She has now asked, and I will give that information.
This is salary and benefits costs for 10 permanent employees. The increase is due to merit increases for two employees, for $556,000; the funding for the purchase of federal government forms and information pamphlets used in the administration of benefits plans for all employees, $5,000; the printing of information letters to all employees regarding benefits, TD-1 forms, Canada savings applications, $6,000; telephone and fax charges incurred by staff for consultation with federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments concerning reciprocal agreements, head offices of insurance companies regarding estates, financial institution employees, et cetera, for $6,000; employees' premium for post-retirement life insurance, $6,000; investigation of repatriation of pensions and benefits plans, for $200,000.
Administration in the amount of $779,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we carry the total, are there any questions on the statistical pages?
Pay and Benefits Management in the amount of $779,000 agreed to
On Staff Relations
Ms. Commodore: Last night I indicated to the Minister that we want more specific answers from him in regard to the future of collective bargaining rights and rescinding the wage restraint legislation. After answering questions for almost two hours, the Minister was not able to give us any specifics about where this government is going from now on. We are entitled to find out, prior to getting out of this House, exactly what it is going to do, and I am asking the Minister whether or not he will provide us with more information today than he gave us last night. He has had time to have discussions with his leader. If he felt it was important enough to try to find out that information, I would certainly like to have it here today.
Does he have any more information?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I spoke to the Government Leader this morning about this issue and the Government Leader advised me that other than what was said in Hansard there is nothing more to add. I cannot add anything more than I said last night so, no, I do not have anything more to add.
Ms. Commodore: It is really not fair to end this session not knowing what the government is going to do? The public servants deserve to be entitled to at least some kind of commitment about what this government is going to do. It could make a commitment to say the government would think about it, but that is not good enough. For government to completely ignore an issue as important as this is very irresponsible, and that kind of message will, of course, get out to the employees who value their rights as employees and as teachers.
I would like to let the Minister know that I do not think he made any effort to try to find out more about the matter.
We can assume that they do not care and that it is not a big issue with them. Based on some of the other comments that he made last night - about teachers and protection of jobs, and, for instance, if a person wants to get involved in politics - it certainly tells us where the government is coming from. There is no real allegiance to the people who work so hard for him and other members of the government.
I am really disappointed, but I am not surprised at all. Nor are thousands of other people who have had to deal with this situation ever since this government took over. I think that they will speak when it is time to vote and they will decide exactly what they want to do. I think the Member is going to be very disappointed because of the decisions that his government made in regard to this and, I think, even more disappointed with what the government has not done since it has been in the House. This has not been an issue - just a bunch of smart-aleck remarks about what it wants to do. As far as this government is concerned, it has lost it with this issue.
The government tried to promote it in Whitehorse West during the election. It tried to promote the idea of debt-free government and it did not work. I think that if the government were serious and realized the extent of the commitment of these individuals and what they work for and the entitlements that they have, then the government Members might have thought a little bit more seriously about what they had done.
Every single employee has a vote in this election. Almost every single employee has a family member who votes and I think that this government, although it thinks it may have done a very smart thing by doing this, is going to regret it in the end. At least, that is my hope.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In response to a couple of comments made by the Member opposite, we, on this side, do care about the government employees. That is why, when we looked at the options facing us, we chose a small, two-percent rollback of wages, rather than to choose the route many governments in this country have taken, that of fairly significant layoffs. A lot of government workers have told me that they are thankful for the fact that we did not move in and try and downsize government in a major way and instead dealt with it in a less severe way, where it had less of an impact on the employees.
The Member said that we do not know what we are doing. I told the Member last night what we are doing. The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994 is still in place and will remain in place until it expires. I can tell the Member that there is no money in this budget for negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, but money is available to begin negotiations with the teachers. I believe that contract runs out in June 1997, so negotiations will probably begin early in the new year of 1997. There is money in this budget to reflect that.
Ms. Commodore: The government not only took away two percent of wages, but it also took away a fundamental right. Of course, the government never did, and never will, believe that it is a fundamental right. That alone is going to be one of the biggest issues that this government has ever faced. The government may think that it has done a very smart thing right now, and may be happy that they put it to the public employees, but when rights like that are taken away, it does not go far in gathering or gaining support from those individuals who are affected by it.
I just want to say again that this government has been very irresponsible in this matter, and there is really no hope that anything will ever change.
The only thing, of course, that could change that is a change of government. That is the hope of many people out there.
Mr. Cable: I would like to follow up on that issue. I know we went around this circle several times last night. Has the Public Service Commission been engaged in any way in relation to the issue of the repeal of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 1994, the implications and how to go about it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No.
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Staff relations administration shows a net budgeted decrease of $3,000. This resulted from a $10,000 increase in salary and benefits and an $8,000 decrease in funding for eye examinations, a $3,000 decrease in communications costs and the elimination of non-consumable assets for $2,000.
It should be noted that employees with insurance coverage for eye examinations will be able to seek reimbursement from their insurance carrier.
Administration in the amount of $542,000 agreed to
On Yukon Government Employees Union/Public Service Alliance of Canada
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This activity shows a budget increase of $61,000 as a result of increases in professional services for adjudication required for a backlog in grievances and appeals.
Professional services for the adjudication of grievances and appeals are provided under the Public Service Staff Relations Act, as well as the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Boards for $103,000. Expenses activity encompasses the following areas: Yukon Government Employee Union salary, of which the employer pays 75 percent of the salary and cost benefits for $48,000; program materials, which involves the printing and distribution of collective agreements, grievance forms and so on for $12,000.
Yukon Government Employees Union/Public Service Alliance of Canada in the amount of $163,000 agreed to
On Yukon Teachers Association
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This activity shows a budget increase of $40,000 as it results from the increases in funding for preparation and research required for the next round of negotiations; the preparation and research for the negotiation of the new collective agreement and the Yukon Teachers Association collective agreement expires in June of 1997 and there is $30,000 allocated for that work. Expenses pertaining to staff relations matters, $15,000, and program materials, printing and distribution of collective agreement grievance forms and other forms, $3,000.
Yukon Teachers Association in the amount of $48,000 agreed to
On Managerial/Confidential Exclusion
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Expenses in this activity are incurred when there is a labour relations dispute between the Yukon government and confidential exclusion or managerial exclusions. The cost includes legal expenses incurred in negotiating settlements, $4,000, and an employment manual for managerial personnel for $1,000.
Managerial/Confidential Exclusion in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Long Service Awards
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This activity shows an increase of $14,000. This results from an increase in the number of cash awards paid to long-service recipients. I do not have a problem, but I was asked to slow down a bit.
There will be 300 recipients with 10 years of service in 1996-97; in 1995-96 there were 172 recipients in categories of long service.
Long Service Awards in the amount of $61,000 agreed to
Indemnification in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total, are there any questions about the information contained in the statistical pages?
Staff Relations in the amount of $824,000 agreed to
On Workers' Compensation Fund
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Chair: Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
We will go line by line.
On Workers' Compensation Payments
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There is no change in the total budget amount for the 1996-97 fiscal year. That is the standard every year. It is our government's cost to the payment of assessments of the Workers' Compensation Board.
Workers' Compensation Payments in the amount of $1,507,000 agreed to
Workers' Compensation Fund in the amount of $1,507,000 agreed to
On Planning and Research
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program? Are we prepared to go line by line at this time? We will go line by line.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The planning and research administration has an overall reduction of $29,000. Included in this are the following: the elimination of the Sluice Box in the amount of $16,000; a reduction of $3,000 budgeted for program materials; and the elimination of $10,000 in casual salary dollars budgeted for the staffing project for 1995-96.
Administration in the amount of $287,000 agreed to
Planning and Research in the amount of $287,000 agreed to
On Leave Accruals
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program? We will go line by line at this time.
On Leave Liability
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Leave accruals are typically budgeted at $2.8 million a year. The increase of $14,000 - or one percent - results from a reinstatement of $14,000 transferred to pay and benefits management during 1995-96. This transfer helped fund the patriation of the pensions and benefits plan projected in the 1995-96 year.
Leave Liability in the amount of $2,800,000 agreed to
Leave Accruals in the amount of $2,800,000 agreed to
On Staff Development
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
We will go line by line at this time.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Staff development administration shows a decrease of $154,000. This results from a reorganization within the program. There is a budget transfer of $130,000 to staff development operations for contract services associated with employee assistance. The remaining $24,000 transfer represents an associated transfer to supplies and program materials.
Administration in the amount of $692,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Staff development operations has an increase of $124,000. This results from $164,000 transferred in from staff development activities for the internal reorganization.
Operations in the amount of $702,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we carry the total for the program, are there any questions on the statistical pages?
Ms. Commodore: I want answers for a couple of questions. I know that there are courses throughout the year for government employees. It looks like some of them will be increasing and some will be down. Can the Minister tell me a bit about the training that is going on? Is it all done in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can give the Member some idea of the key program areas we are focusing on. They are orientation, communications, human resource management, customer service, teams, organizational development, skill development, finance, diverse workplace, community training, safety and workplace health, tuition support, health and safety training, professional development and worksite training. We also try to offer courses in the communities when we can.
Ms. Commodore: Can the Minister tell me if the department is still providing cross-cultural training, how often and where?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we still offer cross-cultural courses. We deal primarily with issues surrounding land claims, as well as value and diversity. Most of the courses are offered in Whitehorse but we do occasionally offer courses outside of Whitehorse.
We conduct some of them ourselves, but we bring in First Nation people to deliver some of the courses in support, and there are some delivered from outside the territory. We bring in a consultant from outside the territory.
Ms. Commodore: I have one other question with regard to professional development leave. There appears not to have been any last year, and for this fiscal year we are looking at three people. Can the Minister tell me who those people are?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that they are in the process of rewriting the special development leave policy. That is only an estimate in the budget now. No one has applied for it. Once the policy is in place, there will be a pick-up again on that policy.
Ms. Commodore: I have one other question about the employee assistance program. We are looking at an estimate that is higher than last fiscal year. Can I ask the Minister why he thinks that more people are going to be needing this? I know that the employee assistance program provides a number of services, but I am not sure exactly what they are at this point and how the program is being used.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot really provide a reason at this time for the projected increase. We can get back to the Member about the types of counselling offered. It may be that the government employees have been listening to the debate on radio and that has caused a lot of stress. I do not know if that is true or not. I think we can get back to the Member about what the issues are when we get them from the individual who does the counselling for us.
Ms. Commodore: If it causes one-quarter of the stress that it causes us in this House, certainly it is going to be needed by a lot of people, but it is hoped that a lot of those people do not listen to the session as it goes by.
Staff Development in the amount of $1,394,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $9,266,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now move on to capital expenditures.
On Capital Expenditures
On Finance and Administration
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The 1996-97 capital estimate budget is 370 percent higher than the previous year's forecast. This is primarily due to an office automation strategy to upgrade the Commission's outdated technology and improve the integration in the department and to ensure the department has the technology required to access the new human resource information system.
On Office Facilities and Equipment
Office Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $221,000 agreed
Finance and Administration in the amount of $221,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $221,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: We will now move on to Renewable Resources general debate.
Mr. Harding: May we have a brief recess?
Chair: We will take a brief two-minute recess at this time.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Renewable Resources. Is there any general debate?
Department of Renewable Resources
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The 1996-97 operation and maintenance estimates call for the department to spend just over $13 million, which is an increase of $365,000 over the 1995-96 figure.
The sole reason for the increase is the creation of the two new special operating agencies. The department's programs involve a heavy use of vehicles and the department has increased its budget by $426,000 to reflect the transfer of responsibility for vehicle costs for Government Services.
In addition, the department has a number of compounds in rural areas as well as a parks compound and workshop in the Marwell Industrial Area, and its budget has been increased by $87,000 to reflect the transfer of this responsibility.
The major change in the fish and wildlife branch results from working with the new Renewable Resource Councils. To meet these needs and the increased activity in the southwest Yukon, we have converted the previous one-year term regional biologist position in Haines Junction to a permanent position and realigned resources in regional operations to work more closely with the communities.
This is the last year of our involvement in the green plan, which provides for and facilitates the implementation of environmental sustainable activities aimed at conserving and enhancing the natural resources that the agricultural industry uses in shares.
The agriculture branch will be focusing its work on extension activities as well as demonstration and research work. This means that there will be an increased contact with clients. The branch will also be taking a more active role in the planning and development of agricultural land with the intent of improving, enhancing and obtaining agricultural parcels, in particular within the Whitehorse area.
Funds have been identified in policy and planning to facilitate the development of forestry policy and legislation.
The environmental protection and assessment branch is continuing to work with Yukon business stakeholders to develop regulations under the Environment Act, in response to issues confronting both the industry and people in general. The branch is also providing input into the formulation of the development assessment process and is expecting an increase in assessment work in conjunction with new mining-use regulations.
The 1996-97 capital estimates call for the department to spend a total of $1,377,000. Most of our capital projects involve capital maintenance type work and are ongoing in nature.
In administration, the reduction in office furniture and equipment is largely a result of the fact that the department has replaced most of its copiers over the past couple of years, and we expect the need for copier replacement in 1996-97 to be minimal.
The budget for computer equipment has also been substantially reduced. The department's requirements for additional workstations has decreased considerably, and priority is now being given to updating existing workstations to meet changing needs and enable personnel to run the new software programs.
The budget for office accommodation and improvements has decreased, largely as a result of a one-time cost for constructing a meeting room in the 1995-96 budget. The construction did not take place due to our inability to negotiate a new lease with the landlord.
In planning and policy, the major change is in budgeting for the state of the environment report. The major cost of compiling this report was incurred over the past two years, and 1996-97 will see some follow-up work, such as a report summary, the production of education material and an annual publication.
There is $20,000 for the development assessment process, which will allow the department to effectively participate in tripartite negotiations to complete detailed guidelines for the drafting of development assessment legislation. This will involve public consultations, research and development of the Government of Yukon position and the coordination of internal government review and approval processes.
For environmental parks and regional services, we will, in 1996-97, concentrate on applying the protected areas selection criteria in southeast Yukon, and have budgeted $75,000 in the park-system plan for this purpose.
The resource assessment budget of $118,000 allows us to apply the resource assessment process to potential park areas in the Yukon identified through the park-system plan. Values assessed include natural features, vegetation, archaeology, recreation and potential and economic cost benefits. We expect the major focus to be on the southeast Yukon.
The Kusawa Lake management plan budget has only been set at one dollar, as the project has been deferred pending the completion of land selections by the Kwanlin Dun, Ta'an Kwach'an, Carcross and Champagne-Aishihik First Nations. In actual fact, the $31,000 projected in 1995-96 for the forecast has not been spent for this very reason, and it is likely that the department will be requesting a revote of these funds to allow work to commence in 1996-97.
With respect to capital works, campground facilities, the budget of $400,000 includes $48,000 for the replacement of facilities and campgrounds as they wear out and $180,000 to do some major rehabilitation and reconstruction work on campgrounds at the following sites: Lapis Canyon, $55,000; Little Salmon Lake, $40,000; Ethel Lake, $50,000; Moose Creek, $20,000; and Five Mile Lake, $15,000.
Forty thousand dollars is to undertake emergency repairs and liability reduction work as required and $32,000 is to continue general planning and design work.
Fifty thousand dollars is for an outdoor recreation systems plan, to be spent as follows: $10,000 to complete the implementation of the Haines Junction area interpretive plan; $15,000 to produce a Whitehorse periphery outdoor recreation map; $15,000 for materials and installation costs of improvements to existing projects; $10,000 as support funds for planning and travel.
In resource management, the $80,000 in fish and wildlife management planning will enable the following work in 1996-97: to continue drafting, with public support, species management guidelines as needed; $30,000 to continue developing geographic information system applications to analyze wildlife populations and habitat information, to organize this information for traplines, outfitting areas, First Nation traditional territories and game management sub-zones, and display this information on maps; $22,000 to continue work toward regional wildlife management planning; $5,000 to continue stakeholder consultation and draft a policy and guidelines for the use of all-terrain vehicles for the purpose of hunting; $10,000 to complete work on updating the Southern Lakes caribou recovery plan, include British Columbia contributions and communicate the status and management of moose and caribou in the recovery area to the public; $10,000 to begin developing a management plan to conserve fish and wildlife populations and their habitats in southeast Yukon, including the Finlayson Lake area, and to cooperatively manage these populations with the local First Nations.
The $17,000 in 1995-96 for prior years' projects was a budget to complete electrical fencing projects around the four landfill sites at Deep Creek, Teslin, Braeburn and Destruction Bay.
That pretty well covers the Renewable Resources budget.
Mr. Harding: I have a number of issues to cover in general debate. I kept my supplementary debate quite short so I could pay close attention to issues that are important to me.
I will start with the issue in the letter that the Minister handed me about half an hour ago. This issue concerns Yukon residency as it affects hunting privileges and the ability to own, or contribute to the ownership of, outfitting concessions.
The Minister provided me with a letter that concerns Mr. Mayr-Melnhof, who owns at least a piece of three outfitting territories in the Yukon. The letter says that the government's information is the following: he has been a landed immigrant for 20 years; he holds property in Whitehorse; his primary residence in Canada is in the Yukon; he owns a Yukon health care card and a Yukon driver's licence; he has a business in the Yukon; he pays taxes in the Yukon; he has an address in the Yukon; and he has spent at least six months in the Yukon each year. The Minister says that he signed a solemn declaration that he was qualified for a resident hunting licence.
That is interesting, because, as I see the threshold, most of that criteria would be fair and consistently applied and would allow someone to qualify to be a Yukon resident.
The first question that I want to ask the Minister is this: when he says that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof pays taxes in the Yukon, is he referring to personal or corporate income tax?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe it means corporate tax and property tax.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister aware that the definition of "residency" for income tax and tax purposes is determined by where one resides as at December 31 of each calendar year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I believe that is in the tax forms.
Mr. Harding: If one was truly a Yukon resident, would not one declare - as at December 31 of each calendar year - the Yukon to be their principal residence for the purposes of filing one's income tax return?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe so. I think if one's principal residence is in the Yukon, but one's work is in another jurisdiction on that day - I am not sure. I will have to find out for the Member. I am not positive about that, but I believe it is where you are living as of December 31.
Mr. Harding: I believe that this is an issue, because I believe it speaks to the importance of the Yukon residence provisions. As Yukon residents, we have numerous privileges. One would think if these types of privileges were extended, the quid pro quo would be that the person would pay Yukon territorial taxes. In this case, the Minister is telling me that this person does not do that. In what jurisdiction does this person pay taxes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know where the person pays taxes and I am not sure what the requirement is. I do not have a tax form here, so I am not sure.
If an individual works for a certain amount of time in British Columbia or another province, there is a sharing of the tax revenues with the provinces where one worked. I do not know how that works, but I could probably get our Finance people to provide a response.
Mr. Harding: In a letter written to me the Minister says that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof pays corporate and property taxes in the Yukon. Could the Minister tell me or get me the information about where he pays his personal income tax? I think that is relative to the privilege of Yukon residency.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: First of all, I have to find out if we can even provide that kind of information. I do not know whether or not we can get that information from the federal government. I know that some of the information contained in tax forms is privileged, but I will check with the Department of Finance.
Mr. Harding: How did the Minister get the corporate and property tax information for me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure where the department obtained that information, but it was probably from Mr. Mayr-Melnhof himself.
Mr. Harding: I will hold the Minister to his commitment to get the information for me. The Minister has provided me with certain types of information about corporate and property taxes, so I would assume that he could find out where he pays personal income tax. I think that is relevant to the question and it has something to do with one of the reasons people enjoy Yukon residency privileges - they pay taxes in the Yukon.
It is interesting that the letter also states that he has spent at least six months in the Yukon each year.
Does the Minister know that, in the session before last, the previous Minister said that there was an investigation done that stated that the gentleman has lived in Vancouver for the last eight years?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure where that came from. Our indication is that he has been a resident of the Yukon Territory for at least six months of each year.
Mr. Harding: I asked the previous Minister questions during Question Period - and I will dig the Hansard out for the Minister to get the date, because I would like to nail this down. This letter states that his primary residence in Canada is the Yukon. During Question Period in this session, the Minister told me that has been for the last nine years. The only problem with that is that the previous Minister told me this person had lived in Vancouver for the last eight years.
There is a large contradiction there. Two investigations have yielded quite different findings. Does the Minister have any explanation of why the findings would have been so erroneous in the first or second case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I cannot. The information I have today is that he has been a resident of the Yukon for approximately nine years.
Mr. Harding: I am sure the department is listening to this debate. I hope to get some information. Can the Minister undertake to provide me with some information on this contradiction after the break?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is correct that people from the department are listening. I hope they would be able to confirm where the residency has been for this period of time.
Mr. Harding: I want to say that if I am wrong about this, then I would certainly apologize to the Minister and to the individual I have been asking questions about.
A person who works closely with this individual phoned me to complain about granting this resident hunting licence. As this person put it to me, the individual involved is in the Yukon for three or four months a year - tops.
It is interesting that I receive this information from the department. I am confused by that, and also because the previous Minister told me he had lived in Vancouver for the last eight years. This Minister told me he has lived in the Yukon for the last nine years.
I want to get to the bottom of this. It could be perceived by this gentleman as a witch hunt, but I feel this is a representative case of what Yukon residency privilege is all about, which is why I have raised it.
I also have some difficulty with it because this says that he qualifies as a resident because he spent at least six months in the Yukon each year. I had a constituent just last year who was not allowed to get a trapping concession licence because he had left the Yukon for approximately four to five months to work in Manitoba. At that point, the department said to my constituent that he did not qualify for a concession licence for trapping because he had broken his continuous and habitual residence. My constituent had kept an address in the Yukon. I believe he had even kept his health care card, and kept all his possessions in the Yukon, his principle residence, but his Yukon residency was interrupted by his leaving the territory to work.
I guess the question I have is this: is there some difference between the trapping concessions and how the government interprets residency versus hunting licence privileges and outfitting concession licences?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly will keep the name confidential, but I would really like the Member to provide the trapper's name to me and a few of the details of the history of this because if the Member's information is correct, there has been some wrongdoing there, as far as I can see. There may be a lot more to the story than either the Member or I know about and that is why I would certainly like to look into it.
Mr. Harding: I will do that. I did correspond with the department on this topic on behalf of my constituent and tried to help him out with whole issue. I have no problem talking to the Minister about it because I think consistency is important.
This is the reason that I got somewhat concerned about the fact that the synopsis was changed rather then the Wildlife Act. The letter that I received today from the Minister said that the clarification was simply made to address the continued public confusion on this aspect of the definition of a Yukon resident. I would submit to the Minister that it makes it more confusing to have an act that says one thing and a synopsis that says another. I cannot understand why, if we have the time to change the synopsis, the Minister would not have brought in a change to the Wildlife Act to correspond to the synopsis.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think I did mention to the Member that I was not aware that there were differences between the summary and the act. I believe, however, that there were definitely good intentions on the part of the department because there is confusion. The residency requirements under the act cannot be upheld, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but there is some work going on on the amendments to the Wildlife Act. Those kinds of things will certainly be cleared up when the amendments are brought to the Legislature.
Mr. Harding: I do not have a major focus or major bone of contention by any means with the question of the terms of owning a business or the rights that are granted to landed immigrants versus Canadian citizens. That question has been settled. What I do take issue with is the position of the government that we must be very defensive in enforcing the Wildlife Act provisions because some person may decide to file a Charter argument.
Has the Minister received any - for lack of a better word - threats or any kind of correspondence? Has the government received anything like that from lawyers on behalf of any citizens who have indicated that they may wish to challenge the denial of a licence or the refusal to grant an outfitting concession?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not aware of any actual threats. If a government knows that one of its laws is in contravention of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it should be changed. There should be no doubt about that. I will not accept the idea of this government trying to adopt a position in legislation that is contradicted by legislation that has paramountcy. I am not a lawyer, but I think there might even be something illegal about it.
I would like to see the Wildlife Act changed very quickly, but it is a very major piece of legislation and there are lots of changes to be made. I think that had I been aware of all the small changes that need to be made to the Wildlife Act, I would have had them introduced as a small bill while we are waiting for these very large amendments that are going to be made.
The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board are going to give us recommendations with respect to outfitter qualifications.
Some fairly major changes have to be undertaken, and I thought we could wait until it was all put together before we did the major revision.
Going back to the question of whether or not we should try and enforce a portion of our act that all of our legal people have told us we cannot, I do not believe we can do it and I certainly would not advocate it.
Mr. Harding: With all due respect, the Minister has totally missed the point. They should either change it or try and enforce the law - one or the other. The legitimate debate about residency and what we can or cannot enforce must happen; otherwise, these questions are going to continue to be raised in Question Period in this Legislature and out in the public.
I have done some work on this and obtained some legal advice on this myself, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not the be-all and end-all. I have not seen the legal opinions from anyone in the department, as I have not been privy to them, but I have talked to other lawyers about it. There is a very big distinction when we are speaking about ownership and control of a business versus the right of a jurisdiction to enforce residency requirements on the privilege to own a hunting licence. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms speaks to mobility rights and not impeding a person from earning a living. It does not speak to the ability of a jurisdiction to enforce strong thresholds for Yukon residency for owning a hunting licence.
Does the Minister see the difference between these two matters?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, certainly I do, but my understanding from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is that if there is what would be considered by the court as a reasonable residency rate - if the Member recalls, we got challenged on the Elections Act and the court upheld the complainant on the basis that the requirement was not reasonable.
Our information from the Justice people was that if we knowingly ignored the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and continued to pursue the landed immigrant residency requirement as distinct from a Canadian citizen, we would leave ourselves open to any liability charges judicial review. The answer was certainly open to judicial review. That means that the courts would look at the provision and, if there was found to be an infringement on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the courts would most certainly find, they would either strike down the provision, which would mean no residency requirements, or they would read down the provision and interpret "Canadian citizen" to mean "landed immigrant" in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It goes on to say, "Also, someone aggrieved by the provisions or denied a licence based upon the Wildlife Act could bring an action, a Writ of Mandamus, against the government to compel the government to grant a licence if the court agreed, and it would order the government to pay the cost of the action at the very least and possibly pay the cost of lost opportunity."
This would occur especially if the court was aware that the government had legal opinions on this matter, because it would mean that the government knew that its provisions were infringments on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Harding: I do not see that as the bogeyman. It appears that the Minister does see it that way. I concede that a person could bring an action on the question of eligibility for a Yukon resident licence. I concede that. The opinion says a person could; there is no doubt about it. The person could also do it on the basis of a landed immigrant versus Canadian citizen status - which I think is tenuous.
I have already told him that this question is not a major bone of contention. My bone of contention was not to change the synopsis if the act is not changed. I am not even as concerned about that. The only point I was making was that other landed immigrants - many of whom I know - have waited the three years. A wealthy man who has apparently been a resident of Vancouver and Whitehorse for the last eight or nine years comes in, wants to do it, and, all of a sudden, the synopsis changed.
It looks very confusing to people.
One of the people who complained was a landed immigrant who waited his three years and was pretty upset that someone else would get what he perceived as special treatment. The jury is still out on whether or not he did get special treatment.
My bone of contention is not about a Canadian citizen versus landed immigrant getting a licence. I think that can be legitimately changed and probably legitimately challenged.
However, I feel that we have better grounds under the second part of the Minister's legal opinion, in which he says, "If we were unreasonable in our demands, a person could challenge it."
We should be trying to enforce fairly rigid definitions of residency, or at least have a good discussion by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board or another body to determine what we want to see for residency requirements. I think that is the debate that has got to take place.
It is the same thing for the outfitting industry. If we can no longer enforce the act, which says, "A concession may be granted to a natural person who is a resident, makes his home in the Yukon, habitually is present in the Yukon and is a Canadian citizen" and if those are just words on paper that cannot be enforced any more, then the public should be having a debate about whether or not to support the outfitting industry if it can be owned by a bunch of people who do not even live in the Yukon. I think that is a very good question to ask people.
I support the outfitting industry. I think it is a very sustainable, economic contributor. However, if the benefits are not flowing directly to people who live in the territory, we should question how much we want to support it and what the quotas for game should be.
I am not asking the Minister to enforce laws that I know the government would lose on in a court case: namely, the issue of landed immigrant versus Canadian citizen, but I am asking the Minister to be consistent and bring in legislation to change the law so we can have a legitimate debate about that law and on what we want to see for the future.
I also want to point out that I believe the Charter does not speak as strongly as the Minister feels it does - I am not a lawyer - on the question of a jurisdiction's ability to raise residency questions.
I see the Minister has some new information; perhaps he could enlighten me about it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I do not have any new information. The only thing I would like to point out in this particular case with Mr. Mayr-Melnhof is that he would have met the three-year residency requirement regardless. It is really a moot point.
The problem of the summary and the Wildlife Act not agreeing, where the act says three years and the summary says one year, is certainly something that has to be dealt with, even if it is by way of an amendment to make it consistent. The amendment may be introduced in the Legislature this fall, because there should not be a contradiction between the two - there is no question about that.
I agree with the Member on that topic, and I feel really bad about a landed immigrant who had similar qualifications - but did not bother checking this out as well as this other person - being denied a licence, and then the summary coming out stating that that person could have had a licence. I feel badly for that person, because this kind of situation should not happen.
Mr. Harding: Well, there is more than one case, but I appreciate that information from the Minister.
Regarding the Minister's comment that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof would have met the three-year requirement, or the one-year requirement as a landed immigrant, if the information the Minister is providing me with today is correct, then he would have. If the information that the previous Minister provided to me - that he lived in Vancouver for the last eight years - is correct, he would not have. So I would not say that the case is closed. Does the Minister concede that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: As I said, I hope the department is currently trying to find out where that Vancouver residency came from. I know that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof, to whom we are referring, did attend university in Vancouver some 20 years ago. I do not know if that had something to do with it or not.
Mr. Harding: I will wait to hear more about that.
The second to last issue I want to talk about refers to a question I asked in the Legislature during Question Period. According to the Minister, this person could now own 100 percent of any concession he wanted to. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I believe that is correct.
Mr. Harding: That is certainly interesting. That is going to create a bit of news. If he is now a resident - according to the Minister - he could own 100 percent of one Yukon outfitting concession.
I asked the Minister this question in Question Period: what would prevent this person from owning 100 percent of as many concessions as possible? The Minister replied that, according to the Wildlife Act and the regulations, this was not possible. I told the Minister I did not see that.
After Question Period was over, the Minister sent me the regulations, which said that a person could only hold one certificate. I asked the Minister what, in the legislation, would prevent a person from holding a concession, or numerous concession licences, and then incorporating a company to obtain certificates as a corporation? I received a response to that question today. It is interesting, because we have just been talking about the government being concerned about its chances in legal arguments on residency thresholds and landed immigrants versus Canadian citizens. Yet I get an answer back today that says that the government believes that these provisions link natural person to concession to controlling shareholder to company to certificate to one person-one certificate rules.
If the government is concerned about making the argument on the level of residency and the threshold, I submit to the Minister that I sincerely doubt that it will make that stick.
If the Minister wants to comment on that, I look forward to hearing his answer. The act clearly, as he must concede, does not say that a person cannot be the holder of numerous concession licences and incorporate to get certificates.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It might have been during Question Period, but I think that there were notes going back and forth between the Member and me. I thought I had the answer, and then I looked at the various sections of the act and regulations. Interestingly enough, one has to use the interpretation act to get the definition of a person. I thought I understood it, but to make sure I asked the opinion of the Department of Justice. This is paraphrased, but the opinion from the Justice people was that they are linked and that, in fact, someone could conceivably own all 22 concessions but would not be able to get an outfitter's certificate to operate more than one of them.
That has been questioned before. There are opinions about it in our files, but at no time have we issued a certificate to more than one per person. That is why some of the corporations where someone only has 49 percent have partially circumvented the law by doing this.
Mr. Harding: I would submit to the Minister that if the lawyers are afraid to make an argument on the residency threshold for the purpose of obtaining a Yukon resident hunting licence, then the argument they will try to make that links a natural person to concession to controlling shareholder to company to certificate will be even more difficult to enforce. I submit to the Minister that, based upon the wording of the act now, if a person wanted to challenge that, they would have a better chance of succeeding than they would in challenging our residency threshold on obtaining a resident hunting licence, considering the act - according to the Charter and to the Minister - has been determined null and void by the Charter on the definition of a natural person, because the government has argued that we cannot quantify "makes his home in the Yukon and habitually is present in the Yukon". The only reference in the definition is to Canadian citizen, which the Minister says is no different from landed immigrant.
In terms of amendments, the Minister needs to clearly put this in the regulations, and also to address the matter of concessions by stating that a person can only be involved in so many concessions and so many certificates. That is what the Minister has to take a look at, so that it is clearly defined in the act and we do not face a challenge. If we are worried about challenges, we have to make this connection through the act, the regulations and the definitions in the act.
Does he agree that should be closely looked at?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, I agree that there are some problems with the Wildlife Act. Amendments are required, and I have no problem with that.
I believe the Member is aware that we have asked the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to give us some recommendations about outfitter qualifications. My understanding is that the board has sought its own legal advice and will be providing recommendations to me fairly shortly.
Mr. Harding: If the government wins the next election, I will be looking forward to questioning the Minister on that, and perhaps vice versa. No, that will not happen.
I have another question on this subject and it speaks to the request I made of the Minister to provide me with a copy of the share-ownership arrangements - the breakdown - of all of the different outfitting concessions in the territory.
He sent me a letter stating that that was not possible because he checked with the Department of Justice regarding the confidentiality of such corporate information, even though it has to be provided under the Wildlife Act. I have obtained that information on Kluane Outfitters and Rogue River Outfitters and Ruby Range Outfitters by going to corporate services. It shows a transfer of all the shares, the share history, the dates and who owns the common shares. That information has also been provided to me once before by the department under the previous Minister.
I have a letter dated June 8, 1994, from Mr. Brewster, explaining some information about who owns what shares in different outfitting companies. I would like to ask the Minister why the departtment has changed the policy with regard to providing that information to me.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are just a couple of things I want to go over. The department has sent down some information to me on a question that the Member asked previously. This is with respect to Mr. Mayr-Melnhof's residency. His residency was established before 1989. The information states, "It is our understanding that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof was a resident in Vancouver before 1989."
I think I said he was a resident here for nine years. Perhaps it is eight years.
I want to read information about the outfitting concessions from the letter to Mr. Harding. It gives the reasons why that type of information is not available - "It is their opinion" - that is, the Department of Justice - "that we must treat this information, a type of personal financial information, as having been received in confidence for our use in the administration of the Wildlife Act and that breaching this confidence would be a breach of the civil rights of the shareholders, possibly ending in a civil liability action.
"Paragraphs 7(a) and 7(d) are the relevant sections of the Access to Information Act that support this opinion. However, as you may be aware, the following information is available from Corporate Affairs and may be of interest to you." That information is the articles of incorporation, the list of directors and their addresses, officers of the company, and registered office addresses. The Business Corporations Act does not require that the type of information the Member requested be filed with the Registrar of Companies.
Mr. Harding: I do not know if the Minister understood what I was saying. The share ownership - the information I requested - was filed for Kluane Outfitters, Rogue River Outfitters, Ruby Range, and also for what used to be Devil Hole Outfitters. I went over and got them from corporate services, so I do not know if the Member is correct about that, because it is filed over there in some cases.
Secondly, the previous Minister provided me with this information. I have a letter here dated June 8, 1994, that speaks to it. The Access to Information Act was in place. All of the legal rules and ramifications were in place, so I am wondering why the government has just now decided it will change its policy in terms of giving me this information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is correct. We have not changed the policies. There have been no changes. The Access to Information Act was in effect. The information I provided in the letter to the Member was information that we got from the Department of Justice. All I can say is that I will check with that department again and find out why there seems to be some sort of inconsistency.
Mr. Harding: It is very important, given the controversy surrounding this issue, because it speaks to the matter of the public's right to know that the provisions of the Wildlife Act are actually being properly enforced. I have reams of media on this whole issue of ownership. There is a giant stack of it here, and that would certainly lead one to believe that there has been controversy surrounding this. For the government to tell us that we can no longer have that information, and for the government to tell us that there is not even a requirement for it to be filed with corporate affairs - so that we can know who owns the majority of these territories - is quite a major policy change.
Will the Minister get back to me today on why the inconsistency took place?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I hope someone from the Department of Renewable Resources is talking with someone in the Department of Justice right now. I agree with the Member that there is no reason for this type of inconsistency.
Mr. Harding: The next explanation I would like from the Minister is with regard to what just came down from the department, which I appreciate.
The only problem is that the Minister said that, prior to 1989, Mr. Mayr-Melnhof lived in Vancouver. The information the previous Minister gave me was in 1994, and it stated that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof had lived in Vancouver for the last eight years. That is a five-year difference from 1989.
I am still not clear in terms of that explanation, and I would appreciate some more detail about that. We have one Minister saying in 1996 that it was the last nine years, and we have another Minister in 1994 saying that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof had lived in Vancouver for the last eight years, with an explanation that he moved here in 1989. Can the Minister appreciate why this explanation does not provide me with the information I am looking for?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I certainly can and I will see if we can get some proof of residency for the past eight or nine years, since 1989. I will see if we can get some proof of residency - property taxes or something along that line.
Mr. Harding: I am not only interested in proof of residency. I would like to know why the government thought the year before last that Mr. Mayr-Melnhof lived in Vancouver for the last eight years, and why this Minister thinks he lived in the Yukon for the last nine years. I want to know why there is a difference. I do not only want a list of property taxes, but why it happened, because I think it is a fundamental point and is important to the question. I see the Minister nodding his head. Is he going to try and explain this to me?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. I will have to get a copy of the letter, and then I will have to find out exactly what the previous Minister said. It will take some time, but we will certainly check into this for the Member.
Mr. Harding: I will dig out the Hansard for the Minister on the break.
I want to move on to another issue now, one I have raised a couple of times, of requests I have had from senior citizens to be allowed who want to hunt on the Dempster Highway without the requirement of hunting a kilometre off the highway.
They feel that the Dempster is a great trip for them, but some people who have reached the age of 65 have a problem with the cold and some of the terrain they have to cross to get to the caribou.
The Minister has twice responded that he sent it to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I am wondering when we might expect to get an answer back. I think it is a fairly reasonable request that we make some exemptions for senior citizens. It is a great way for them to get some meat for the winter, and I do not think it would ruffle any feathers to agree to that request. Does the Minister have an opinion about that, and does he know when I might hear back about it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not heard from the board. I have not had a recommendation, one way or another. I am not exactly sure where it is on the board's list of priorities.
With respect to my personal opinion, I have a real problem both ways. A gentleman came to my office and made that request. I wondered what was wrong with him because he did not look to be any older than I am. As it turned out, he was something like 66 years old, though I could not believe it. He was in very good physical condition and, I am sure, could easily have walked a kilometre off the highway. I do not have a terrific amount of sympathy for him, but there are people who still like to get out, and who, in some cases, can do the work if they are close by the road, and so on.
I really have mixed feelings about it. I hope that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board gives me a recommendation that I can live with because I do not think that I want to form an opinion - at least, not right here, right now.
Mr. Harding: Seniors still get discounts at Zellers on Wednesdays, whether they need it or not. We tend to have rules that benefit elderly citizens and some of them need it. Alex Van Bibber probably would not have to worry about a kilometre. He, at more than 70 years old, is still guiding for sheep hunts. Some people are more able to get around than others.
Anyway, I hope that the Minister at least checks back to see if the board is dealing with it and lets me know. I want to be able to respond to the people who asked me about it and keep on top of it.
The next issue I want to ask the Minister about is with regard to an issue that I raised in the last couple of sessions. I have a couple of letters here from the department. I have a paper trail on this. These are letters from the previous Minister in 1993 and a letter from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board from February 25, 1993. It speaks to the issue of permit hunts in Mount Mye, which is the area directly north of the community of Faro. That area has been closed to sheep hunting for many years. I made the argument to this Minister that we found two or three dead or dying rams each year. There is a first-class opportunity for hunting, whether restricted from ATVs or not - I would argue that it should be - and I have advocated that the Minister look at issuing a permit or two every year, Yukon-wide, for an opportunity to hunt that band of rams.
The argument could be made that it could be sustainable. I would not want to have the hunt if it was not. I kept getting commitments from the government and from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to review it and get back to me, but I have never seen any action to open it or seen a decision that said that they are not going to open it, which would give me something to argue about.
I would like to know if the Minister would consider the permit system for that area if it is sustainable. We should know whether or not it is. We have done a lot of work on that band of sheep. I have helped the department on it, and I think we know the size of the herd.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There are similar sorts of requests from around the territory. I believe that, in the Burwash area, we have allowed certain numbers for permitted hunts. This one, again, is being reviewed. I do not think I can give the Member a definitive date on when we will know if we can allow certain hunts, but I agree if there are old sheep in the area, why can we not allow certain permitted hunts. Again, it has to be carefully reviewed by our biologists and apparently that is where it is right now.
Chair: Order please. We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Department of Renewable Resources. General debate.
Mr. Harding: When we left debate, the Minister said that the Mount Mye issue was being carefully reviewed. I understand that this has been carefully reviewed since February of 1993. There has been a lot of time for careful review and I appreciate that.
I would also like to get some sense of closure on the review. It is due and I would like the Minister to try and find out for me some kind of a date when I could get an answer to this.
I want to throw in two more issues surrounding these questions, which I think are important.
I have also raised the issue of the Truitt Peak closure, which is in the Magundy River area. The local Fish and Game Association and the Yukon Fish and Game Association supported a late season closure along the highway. What happened is that the game branch closed the entire area right up to Truitt Peak for the whole season. I was upset about that and raised the issue a number of times, but there has been no closure to this issue.
Could the Minister give me an idea of when I can get an answer, a definitive response, so that I can move on?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I can give the Member a response by some time next week, which will tell the Member when it will go to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board for its recommendation. I should be able to get at least that much information to him by some time next week.
Mr. Harding: I appreciate that. I should also tell him that I have one letter from the co-chair, Mr. Rear, dated February 25, 1993, which says that this issue in game management zone 47 was going to be discussed during the April meeting. This was in 1993, so perhaps there is some history there and perhaps I could be informed about whether or not it was ever discussed and why. I really would like to close the issue.
I hope the Minister does his best to provide me with some information on this.
Another issue I want to raise with the Minister is the issue of goat hunting in southwest Yukon. I believe there is an extremely large population of goats and I believe we could sustain, based on the information I have received from talking with many hunters and biologists, a higher level of permits for goat hunting in southwest Yukon. I am thinking of areas such as south of Kusawa Lake. There are very high populations in those areas, or so it appears to an observer, but no permits. We have a couple of permits on the Bennett Lake area but not much hunting.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could make it a bit of a priority to try to see if the Fish and Wildlife Management Board would agree with the government to open up more permits for goat hunting in southwest Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The commitment that I can give the Member is to get the department to look at it. I believe that we have not done any counts or actual studies in the areas that he is referring to. He could very well be right. I do not believe that I have heard from the Yukon Fish and Game Association on this subject. There has not been a letter to me. There may have been letters to the department. I do not believe that I have heard the association's stand on it. Again, we have not done any actual studies in there for some time. However, I can commit to the Member that we will certainly look at it and get some thoughts from our biologists. We have to do that prior to going to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Mr. Harding: I make that as a representation to the Minister. I hope that the department will do that.
I should add that it is alleged by a couple of Yukoners I have talked to that they have had informal discussions with the biologists already. They have confirmed that there are good populations to sustain a harvest. I hope that bears out when the department looks at that.
The next question that I have for the Minister concerns the issue of grazing leases. It is something that I have not often dealt with, but I am interested in it. My first question is this: how long does it take to come to some kind of a conclusion from the time the Minister or the department gets an application for a grazing lease?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I cannot give the Member a precise answer about the grazing leases, in that some of them can go through quite quickly while others take a long, long time. If someone were to attempt to get a grazing lease in the Carcross valley right now, there is a good chance they would not get one because of the caribou herd. Because of the caribou herd, and the possible impact on it, an application has to go through so many people and so many committees - Federal/Territorial Land Advisory Committee, Lands Application Review Committee, Environment and Land Use Committee, to name a few. As well, it has to be looked at by the agricultural, wildlife and biology sections. So, I cannot say that it will take, for example, one year from the time one applies for a lease until one gets it.
I know of one person who was very, very upset. Actually, I think his was an actual disposition; he was looking for agricultural land that could eventually be titled. I think it had gone to committees, back and forth, and all over the place. I think it went on for two years. Finally, he came into my office and complained vehemently about the process - which I do not blame him for doing - and we dealt with it within a few weeks because it had gone through the various committees.
It depends on what part of the Yukon one is looking at, the wildlife population in the area, the water, and all sorts of things. I have seen grazing leases go through in a few months and others that take forever. I cannot give the Member a definitive answer to his question.
Mr. Harding: Is there any way the Minister can take a look at grazing lease applications in the Campbell region, for example, which includes Carmacks, Faro and Ross River, right through to Watson Lake and tell us the average time it takes to process an application, the number of applications received and the average time for a decision to be made on an application? I am in no rush for this; it is just so I know. Could he provide me with that information? Could he also tell me if it would be uncommon to have an application made whereby the decision was rendered within six months? Would that be uncommon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently, we can, in fact, provide the information the Member wants. It will take a little bit of time because we have to review each one. Some grazing applications have gone through within six months. It depends, though, on which area is involved. I believe in certain areas, such as in the Mayo region, applications can go through quite quickly, but if an application is made close to Whitehorse, it usually takes a long time.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of constituents who were wondering about how long it took. They were very surprised that it took roughly six months from application to decision. They were under the impression that it would take two years. The Minister is telling me it depends on the area involved.
I have another question about a concern that was raised with me by a constituent, who is very serious about it. They felt that, under the grazing lease improvement program, it would be possible for someone to start cutting logs on their grazing lease and selling off those logs, and they are adamant that it is being done in the Yukon. Can the Minister comment on that and tell me if, in his mind, it is possible? Secondly, under this program, what could be done to stop it if someone was doing it, or is it allowed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, it is definitely not allowed on a grazing lease. There may be some confusion, because people get agreements for sale where the land is classed as agricultural. Agricultural land must be class 5 soils or better, and class 5 soils consider the amount of moisture, type of soil, and all those types of things. If someone has an agreement for sale on a piece of property, they can cut the trees, sell them, mill them, do whatever they choose, because it is part of the improvements to be done to the property. On grazing leases, there cannot be any wholesale selling of the timber.
Mr. Harding: Basically the Minister is saying that unless there is an agreement for sale of an area, it would not be legal to sell off the timber. Is there a process by which a citizen can complain if someone were to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, there most definitely is, and it would be done through the agriculture branch.
I did not finish my previous response to the Member. People can improve the foraging quality of land, but that does not mean they can go in and clear the whole property. If they want to improve the forage capabilities of a piece of leased land - they are grazing some horses, for example - they must deal with the agriculture branch to describe exactly what they want to do, and it must be approved by the government. With respect to anyone doing wholesale clearing on grazing leases, I would hope the Member - or someone he knows - would let the agriculture branch know about it, because it is not legal.
Mr. Harding: I appreciate that, and I am sure my constituent will be interested, as well. They were worried that it could be done under the improvement program and could not be challenged. The Minister has given me assurances that it can be.
The next matter that I want to talk about with regard to grazing leases is a specific application that was recently made in my riding. It was by a company called Faro Wilderness Adventures in conjunction with Macmillan River Outfitters. I do not expect him to have the answer on this today, as it is specific, but I hope that he can provide it for me within a reasonable time frame, so that I can get the information back.
With regard to this application, some citizens - one of whom spoke to me directly - were against the application and wanted to intervene on it. Once I received the information, I called the agriculture branch and told them there was an application either coming in or just received and that there was an intervenor on the application who had some serious concerns. I wanted to ensure that the process was respected and that the citizen had the intervention clearly on the record so that, when the decision was being made, it would take into account the resident's concerns.
I was satisfied from talking to a Mr. Lee that the intervention was clearly recorded and noted and that it was a serious, legitimate intervention. I also wrote a letter to the Minister at the time, asking him about logging on a grazing lease and whether or not it was approved under the grazing lease improvement program. At that time, he gave me essentially the same answer that the Minister just gave me. I responded to my constituent about the concern.
The question I have for the Minister is this: could he review the file to find out if I or anyone else made representation to have the process somehow accelerated, because I do not recollect doing that, except for the one communication to the department asking if the intervention was there. Could he see if there was any attempt to move this through? This application went from the stage of an application to a decision - which was negative at the end of the day - within about six months. That surprised some people in the community. Could he give me some rationale for the decision? Why did it go as far as it did? Were there any attempts by anyone to speed it up? I would appreciate that information.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We can review the file. Someone may have to contact the Member to get the actual names.
Essentially, it is easier to say no. If there are specific reasons an application should not go ahead for a particular reason, I have told the department that the applicant should be advised of the reason so that he or she can look for another piece of ground.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a couple of questions for the Minister about a related subject, so I thought I would interject at this point.
The Minister has commented that people cannot clear cut on a grazing lease. The Minister was also talking about agreements for sale and I would like to follow-up on that.
When someone has an agreement for sale for agricultural land, what land rights are included? At the stage when all a person has is an agreement, does the person have the ability to clear the trees off the land?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, they do. Part of the agreement for sale does stipulate the amount of ground that needs to be cleared. It is something like 50 percent of 80 percent, which works out to approximately 52 percent of the actual land disposition that has to be cleared at the end of a certain period of time.
I am not sure if that is necessarily a good requirement in the agricultural policy, but it is in the agricultural policy.
A person has to have an agreement for sale and file a development plan - I am not sure that this is the correct terminology, it may be a farm management plan - with the department.
It is fairly unlikely, under the existing policy, that someone would be able to go into an area of the Yukon that has some very valuable timber on it, make an application for agricultural land, clear the trees and then abandon it.
It is fairly unlikely under the old policy. There is an old policy - I do not know its year - and there is a 1989 policy and now there is a 1991 policy. There are applications and agreements for sale that are still under all three of those policies. That is just a fact of life; it is just the way it is. For any new dispositions, the soils have to come up to a certain standard.
A soils technician works in the agriculture branch. I believe he is a federal government employee, but he works in our branch. He actually does tests on the soils to ensure that land that is going to be cleared for agricultural purposes is able to sustain agriculture. I am not saying this cannot happen but it could be that somebody could find a very good stand of trees somewhere and make an application, and then it is determined that the soil is very good, but I do not know of any new applications since 1992 or 1993 where the agreements for sale have been to people who applied merely for the harvesting of the trees.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is not surprising that the Minister is addressing the concern about which I wrote to him, because I know that my constituents are not the only ones who have complained and have had Members write to the Minister about the problem of the agriculture policy permitting clear cutting. This affects wildlife habitat and can have a negative effect on the soils.
The Minister is saying that he is sure that there are no cases of abuse, but the fact remains that there is a vacuum in forestry policy. The federal government is not managing the resource, and neither is the Yukon government because it has not received the ability to do so yet.
Does the Minister not think that there is a way that all agreements for sale for agricultural land could be required to measure up to the standards that were set in the 1991 agricultural policy?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. The problem is that there were people who had accessed land under the very old policy and then there were people who had accessed land under the 1989 policy. I am not sure if it was 1989, but I know there are three policies in effect.
They had the ability to receive, for example, four options of 160 acres each. It does take time - in fact, I think they are allowed five years - to prove up each option. By the time they get the last one, 20 years may have gone by. Maybe the Member does not want me to tell her all of this. It could be 20 years from the time that the first option has been taken out until they start developing the final one. That has happened in some cases.
I do not think we can apply new rules to the people who entered into an agreement under a specific set of rules. We do have to review the 1991 policy. The Yukon Agricultural Association is looking at some changes to it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The fact is that both legislation and policies are continuously changed and updated across government. I do not believe that it is uncommon for a new policy to be brought into effect and for people to have to measure up to standards that are set in 1990 as opposed to standards set in the 1970s.
The Minister just touched on reviewing the agricultural policy. That was the second area that I wanted to ask him about, because I understood that it was going to be scheduled for this year. I have written to the Minister with questions on behalf of constituents about agricultural land improvements and about ensuring that the agricultural policy sets good standards to actually improve the soil and measure tilth on farm parcels.
The Minister referred to the farm management plan, which is something that is required under the 1991 agricultural policy, but it is not in those old policies. That would certainly relate to improving farm lands. Can the Minister tell me if the agricultural policy review will address the concerns that have been brought forward to him - not just by me, but by others in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The review will certainly look at all of the concerns that have been brought forward - there is no question about that. Actually, the review should be happening right now. Unfortunately, there has only been one actual titled piece of property under that new policy. The reason for that is because there have been quite a few applications under the new policy, but only one actual title has gone forward. It is rather difficult to review the policy when only one has gone to title.
Apparently, there are several in the process. I know that the Agricultural Association is interested in starting the review fairly soon. As soon as we can get everyone on side, we are going to have a look at the whole agricultural policy and disposition of agricultural lands.
Mr. Harding: I want to switch to forestry issues now. I have a concern about forestry policy and the lack of it in the Yukon - the Minister knows that full well. He has announced that Ron Irwin is supposed to be making a proposal on devolution early next month. That was the original plan.
What I am concerned about is the lack of input we have had on this issue from the First Nations. The Minister has said that he is concerned about that, as well. The First Nations have a very large say, as another level of government, on devolution to the territory.
Mr. Harding: I have a letter from Grand Chief Harry Allen to the federal Minister, Ron Irwin, speaking about the First Nations wanting to create a forest management body. They want to create this so the traditional First Nations values are reflected in the development of policy, management decision making, community consultations, and these types of things. I think it is critical.
To me, this is a great sign. I had a conversation with Mr. Doug Van Bibber, who is heading this up, according to Grand Chief Harry Allen's letter. They have applied for some funding under the Indian lands programs, which is administered out of British Columbia. They are trying to get some seed money to get started.
For the territory's purposes and for the feds, one would think that to get this body up and running and have consultation from First Nations would be in all our interests. I get the impression there is a willingness to have them involved, which would be beneficial.
Given that this application has been made and given that they are looking for some input, as they should, could the Minister communicate with the federal government about getting some seed money to get them started?
For example, under the oil and gas devolution, I believe there is $25,000 waiting to be used for First Nation consultations on oil and gas. If we have a body ready to be up and running, and we have First Nations who are prepared to consult and engage in discussions on policy matters surrounding devolution, as Mr. Van Bibber indicated to me they were, we should be trying to make that happen.
Has the Minister heard of this? Does he believe we should be taking steps to encourage the forest management body of First Nations to happen?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think it is a very good move on the part of First Nations. I really wish that they would have contacted us and discussed it with us prior to sending the letter. It is likely that we could have lent them our support for the initiative. I would definitely be interested in discussing with them the possibility of providing our support in the way of a letter to Mr. Irwin. However, I do need to know what they are proposing first.
Mr. Harding: I will provide a copy of the letter from Mr. Allen to the Minister. It is in the Yukon's interest to either help the First Nations ourselves or ensure that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and the federal Minister take a reasonable approach to getting this body in action.
The second concern with regard to forestry that I want to bring to the Minister's attention today is the whole question of forest fire fighting and what the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is up to there. We have all heard the stories about the smoke jumpers, how their contract was cancelled and the plan of moving toward having three people in the communities as sort of a - I am not sure of the term - fire suppression team.
Now, I have had concerns raised by First Nations that they are afraid that the applications for these jobs have been designed to essentially hire smoke jumpers on a contract basis. They are afraid that other people who have done this type of work in the communities for forest fire fighting may be out of jobs as a result. These are people who have traditionally done this type of work in the off-season as a form of employment.
I have heard that perhaps two people in Mayo may lose their jobs as a result of it and the fear is that it may happen in other communities. My information is that the federal Public Service Commission was accepting applications, but there were no closing dates on the posters for the applications for these jobs for pre-suppression in the communities. This meant that the communities did not really get adequate time to respond; they did not know the clear rules of the posting.
There are also new fitness standards. Some people have said that for people who have fought fires and have had great reviews over the years - in terms of employment reviews - that they might now be facing the loss of jobs, based on fitness standards when their employment history has been very good, with or without these fitness tests. These are federal issues, but just like the previous one on forestry, they do have a direct impact on Yukoners and the Yukon Territory, which intends to inherit jurisdiction over forestry.
I ask the Minister if he could investigate these concerns on behalf of Yukoners to ensure the federal government does not eliminate these important employment positions in the communities.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I have not heard anything about this. We are working with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs on the fire-suppression issue. In fact, one of the people sitting in my office right now is responsible for the discussions that we are having with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
I will ask this person to prepare a briefing or letter to the Member. I have not heard any of the comments that the Member has stated, but there may be some truth to them, and I will check it out.
Mr. Harding: The issue could be put to bed with assurances that this is not the case and that these people will have their jobs. If the Minister can give me that assurance, I would appreciate it, whether the assurance comes from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs or from the Minister. I will look forward to receiving that information.
I have another matter that I would like to talk about with the Minister, and it is about a constituent of mine. Again, this is a matter of federal jurisdiction, but it concerns the Yukon Department of Renewable Resources because it involves trappers.
I have a trapper in my riding who has a cabin on his trapping concession that he did not build. This cabin has been used continuously over the years. During the winter, it provides shelter and safety, in some cases when it is 50 degrees below zero.
There is really no title on the cabin. My constituent has asked that DIAND recognize the cabin as part of the concession. It was built by a person who had once held the concession. DIAND agreed that the cabin could be held and the concession would be recognized as long as a $10,000 bond was posted for the cabin. If this was not done, they would burn the cabin down or otherwise destroy it.
Maybe I do not understand the issue from DIAND's perspective, but I think that is ridiculous. We talked with the federal government ourselves, through our office, and we wrote numerous letters on behalf of my constituent.
My understanding is that this is a precedent. When outfitters go for land use applications, they sometimes pay a lease that is only about $100 a year - to use a cabin. That is all my constituent wants to do.
Eventually, DIAND countered to me that he could have the right to use the cabin for a bond of $5,000 a year. I thought the same precedent in principle was wrong when it was $10,000, and I think it is wrong when it is $5,000, so I responded to the federal government that I thought my constituent should perhaps have to pay a lease fee every year and that that should suffice. I pointed out how long it had been used, that it was built by one of the people who originally had the trapping concession, and so on.
I am still waiting for my answer, but as a matter of concern for all Yukon trappers and for the precedent, would the Minister be prepared to help me lobby the federal government to allow the use of this cabin on a lease basis as opposed to the posting of a large bond such as $5,000 or $10,000?
Could he comment on this case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It seems very strange to me, because trapline cabins are recognized as being part of the trapping concession. I have no idea how this particular thing works. There have been several cases in the past in which someone has a very nice cabin as part of a trapline, and decides for whatever reason that they do not want to continue trapping, so they sell the trapline and try to keep the cabin. In some cases, it is a house. That is really discouraged by the federal government and by us.
I know there have been cases where that has happened. As far as I am concerned, it should not happen. I would like to get the details of this particular case because it seems very strange to me. Any of the trappers I know have not had to put up a $10,000 bond - or even a $5,000 bond. They do have some kind of arrangement, and it might be a lease. If the Member wants to give me the information, I will certainly follow it up.
Mr. Harding: I will provide that information to the Minister. Any help I can get in having this changed would be appreciated, certainly by my constituents, who are trappers - and probably for all trappers who would not want to face this kind of thing.
The next question I have for the Minister is this: on November 2, 1994, the Minister sent me a letter. I had asked a question about what I thought was a very interesting book. It was called Hunting Patterns in the Yukon, 1979-86 and was full of information.
I have not seen one since. I thought it was a great book for all Yukon hunters and people interested in hunting and what happens in the Yukon.
In 1994 the Minister responded that there was the consideration of another similar book and that the booklet should be available by the end of that fiscal year. I have not seen the book that was committed to. Was a book completed? If so, did I miss it, or was it not widely distributed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not think there was a book prepared by the department. I will check and see if any of the people in the department know about this in relation to the Member's comments, but I have not seen a booklet.
Mr. Harding: The letter from the Minister to me is dated November 2, 1994, if they want to research it, and it says that there should be another book ready by the end of the year. If he could look into that and get back to me, I would appreciate it.
The next issue I have for him is with regard to the impact of new gun laws on the department. Presently, I understand that Mr. Leigh works out of Renewable Resources and administers the courses for the firearms acquisition certificate applications and gun laws. I believe we are one of the few jurisdictions that still pay for the cost of the course. I know, for example, that in Alberta there is a charge to citizens for it.
Are the new gun laws going to impact on the education and course system, and what is anticipated there in terms of changes for the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We will have to see how the final regulations read. Right now, holding a firearms acquisition certificate is sufficient for the training.
When the new regulations come out, we will have to have a look at them. Apparently, the federal government pays the cost.
Mr. Harding: That is interesting because other jurisdictions are charging for the course.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently, the federal Justice department gets monies and reimburses us.
Mr. Harding: That is interesting. I was not aware of that.
This is a personnel matter, but I want to know what the Minister can tell me about it. It has been widely publicized that the director of the fish and wildlife branch is no longer employed by Renewable Resources. Is that the case and what can he tell me about the departure?
Chair: Order. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 6:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Department of Renewable Resources. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Harding: I was asking the Minister about the departure of the director of the fish and wildlife branch. What was the nature of the departure?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was between the director and the deputy minister, or the supervisor of the director. I have no involvement in it, so I do not know any of the details.
Mr. Harding: Who will be taking over as the director of the fish and wildlife branch?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that Mr. Hoffman has moved over to that area, and his area has been filled by a fellow by the name of Lindsey.
Mr. Harding: I wanted to ask the Minister about agriculture. In the short-term economic outlook that was tabled by the government, a number of studies were done on various sectors of the economy of the Yukon. There were a number of indices in the short-term economic outlook, but no indices reflected the value of agricultural production. I wonder why the government did not do any work on agricultural production, nor see the industry as part of the short-term economy of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That actually surprises me. I am going to have to look at that, because the value of production attributed to the agricultural industry is something like $3.2 million per year in the Yukon. It is a fledgling industry, but I believe it is certainly here to stay. I am going to have to look at the economic outlook because I am quite surprised that it would not be included.
Mr. Harding: I think it certainly warrants much more attention than it is getting from the government.
That brings me to the subject of the abattoir. The former president of the Yukon Agricultural Association recently sent a letter to the editor. I recently attended the Yukon Agricultural Association's annual general meeting. There was a lot of discussion about the abattoir and applications that were denied by this government for some fee-for-service funding for the association. There was a lot of concern that the industry has not been further advanced by the actions of this government. I have certainly heard those concerns.
There was a major commitment to the abattoir by the New Democrats when we were in power. There is a long history since the Yukon Party has come in. Recently, the government's commitments toward the abattoir have basically been only a line item in the budget for some token amount in order to appear that there is some effort to develop it.
What is being done with the abattoir? It has obviously not been furthered at all in four years. Where does it sit and what does this government intend to do about this question between now and the next session of the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: On the topic of the abattoir, the Member is right, we have a line item in the budget and we have made a commitment for up to $200,000 for some sort of a slaughter facility. Economic Development funded a study to look at possible options for slaughter facilities. I do not have a copy of the study right here; it was an Economic Development initiative. It has been provided to the Agricultural Association. It sets out a few options for the building of a slaughterhouse.
Mr. Harding: We have had designs for an abattoir for some time now. The project was cancelled after the land arrangement was negotiated with the Kwanlin Dun and the Agricultural Association. At that time, there were people in the design field who came up with a small, cheap, versatile design that would have met inspection requirements.
That has not furthered the process any. The abattoir that was desired and the abattoir that seemed to be reasonable has already been identified, so it is being studied again. I would like to know, beyond the study, what the government is going to do.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a private company in Whitehorse that actually goes out and does butchering work. One of the things the people doing the study were looking at was utilizing this person. There was definitely some interest there.
Currently the department is looking at the options that have been put forward in the study. It will probably then go out for an expression of interest from various people.
Mr. Harding: Is the Minister undertaking any other new action through the agriculture branch to benefit the Agricultural Association, other than programs and existing functions that have been in place for some time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We work with the industry, and we are going to work, moreso now than in the past, directly with the people who are in the agriculture industry, doing more soil testing, helping them with crops and that sort of thing. Most of our people are involved in extension services and they will be out in the field more than they have been in the past.
Mr. Harding: I look forward to seeing how effective that will be.
I have received some information on forestry policy work from the Minister, and we have been around that a bit today with regard to First Nation input. He has given me another timetable now. The Minister knows that I am quite frustrated with the department's attempts to come up with a comprehensive policy. He has given me a commitment now that they are hoping to release a draft forest management policy in the fall of 1996. It will be interesting to see how that looks when it comes out.
He also provided me with some information on habitat protection, on Endangered Spaces 2000 commitments, hazardous waste, and a number of other issues. The first one I want to ask him about is habitat protection.
I am confused about the government's response to the 1992 amendments to the Wildlife Act for habitat protection and about the government not proclaiming them for the last four years. The reason given is that the government wants to determine the act's consistency with the First Nations final agreements and self-government agreements and other regulations that are in place, to see how they match up with federal jurisdiction over lands.
When the legislation was brought in, the Members opposite supported it. The department also supported it. The umbrella final agreement had, I believe, already gone through first and second reading, so it was in existence. Did the department not consider what the impact of the legislation would be? It was still under federal jurisdiction then. Why is this new and why is it seen as a new reason why they cannot bring in the amendments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know what happened in 1992. I cannot really speak to that, but we certainly agree with the concept of habitat protection and there is no question about it.
There are impediments to proclaiming this particular act, which I believe we outlined in the letter. We have hired a person - I will read from the contract - to identify the adequacy of the Yukon government's habitat protection options and provide options and recommendations to address any inadequacies of the existing mechanisms in jurisdictional limitations. The review will include recommendations about whether, and how, the provisions contained in the Act to Amend the Wildlife Act can be effectively implemented and harmonized in light of federal jurisdiction over lands, and the introduction of recent legislation that affects the context of the act.
Once we receive the recommendations, we will be going to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board with those recommendations. I hope that we will be able to introduce amendments that will be consistent with other legislation and the First Nations final agreements that currently affect habitat protection.
Mr. Harding: The department has not changed and probably many of the people who worked on the amendments are still in the department. The government has changed, but the previous Conservative Opposition supported the act with the exception of one clause, which was a minor clause - ironically, it was a clause that spoke to the issue of Yukon residency of board members.
As I said before, all of the legislation that is of concern now was in place then, including federal jurisdiction over lands and all of the items raised by the Minister. I am curious as to why there has been a change by the department and the government. Can the Minister show me that these things were not considered in 1992, by either the Opposition, the government or the department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, I could not. I do not have the Cabinet papers for the time prior to November 1992. I do not know what was considered at that time.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has the department official with him. What was the department up to at that time?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really do not know. The official with me is relatively new to the department. The people I have talked to in the department know that we have some problems because of these other various pieces of legislation and changes. For example, the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and Yukon Placer Mining Act are in the process of revision, and that may have an impact on habitat protection. There is no question about it - this is the reason that we hired someone to look at the whole thing - that there very well may be some holes when this legislation, First Nation final agreements, and so on, are all looked at. If the other legislation does not cover habitat protection, then we will want to make amendments to the Wildlife Act, to make sure that that is looked after.
Mr. Harding: I do not want to belabour this, but let me just say that there is growing concern in the Yukon - not only from conservationists, but also from hunters, fishers and those who simply enjoy the outdoors. Everyone is happy about economic activity in mining, the increase in exploration, and the potential for more jobs to be created by the development of mines in the future. I think people are generally happy about a so-called staking rush, but I would say that, along with that enthusiasm for potential economic activity, there is a grave concern about habitat and ecosystem protection. People want to know that the government has some kind of a plan to ensure that the environment is protected, and that we do not let too much speculative exploration go on that is going to scar the countryside, with very little hope of finding minerals in the area. I sense this concern growing, not just from people who are conservationists - as I said before - but also from people who are hunters, fishers and those who enjoy the outdoors.
I believe that it is incumbent on the government to balance the equation about habitat. I look forward to seeing the review that is promised by mid-May in the Minister's letter.
The next question that I have concerns the wolf kill. I know some other people have requested that kills be undertaken in their areas. They are concerned about ungulate populations. Is the department considering any other wolf kill or caribou recovery programs in any other areas of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a caribou recovery program for the Carcross-Southern Lakes general area. As far as wolf kills are concerned, we are not considering any other program other than in the Aishihik area. We are not considering wolf kill as part of any recovery program that we have going on right now.
I am not saying that this position will not change in a few years. However, right now, our biologists have determined that for the Carcross valley area, for example, predation has not been the major factor for the decrease in the caribou population by any means.
The short answer is no.
Mr. Harding: The Minister provided me with a breakdown of the progress report on the implementation of the wolf conservation management plan. Could he provide me with an itemized update now - probably a year and a half later - about how the implementation of the plan is coming along?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. That should not be difficult. I will make sure that the Member receives an update.
Mr. Harding: I look forward to receiving it. It is always good to know, on an incremental basis, how things are looking.
The next question that I have concerns the all-terrain vehicle hunting policy that was mentioned earlier by the Minister. What are the terms of reference of the all-terrain vehicle hunting policy review? What are we looking at? Are we looking at the Yukon in general or specific areas? What work is underway?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The whole question of the perceived potential problem of all-terrain vehicles is at the very preliminary stage right now. We have talked to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which will also look at it. I will provide the Member with details of how far along we are. It is very preliminary, but I can provide a synopsis of what we are looking at and where we want to go with it.
Mr. Cable: When is the projected date for the full proclamation of the Environment Act?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Right now we are trying to get the regulations required under the Environment Act into place. I believe we have until the end of October this year. The regulations to protect the Yukon's environment are being developed and will be released for public review once they are drafted. There are contaminated sites, storage regulations, spills regulations, air emission regulations and administrative regulations.
When those are completed, we will proclaim the Environment Act.
Mr. Cable: Is it going to be proclaimed in total or is it going to be proclaimed in segments?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It will be proclaimed as we do the regulations - as we go along.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, what is the final proclamation date that we are heading toward?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I would expect that it would be some time in 1997.
One point I should make is that as the regulations are developed - we just finished the beverage container regulations - have gone through the public review and received Cabinet approval, that portion of the act will be proclaimed. That is the way it will continue. It should be finalized in early 1997.
Mr. Cable: How is the air emission segment of the legislation and the regulations going to mesh with the federal clean-air legislation? Will there be overlap?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, there will not be an overlap. What we try and do is similar to what we do with habitat legislation. We will try to fill the areas that are not being covered.
Mr. Cable: Is it anticipated that the air emissions will cover the area of carbon dioxide emissions?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I think we will have to get back to the Member on that. There is some information - like through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and the federal government - but I will have to bring it back for the Member.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate it if the Minister could advise me on that issue.
I have some agriculture questions. I would first like to ask some questions on extension services and compliment the department on some work that extension services has done for me personally. I think that the extension services are very well run.
What are the terms of reference for the extension services? I know the Minister mentioned those services in his opening remarks.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The Member is a little more fortunate than I am because I have never had any of them come to my place. There actually are not real terms of reference.
The branch has significant emphasis on extension and education. Initiatives for 1996-97 include agricultural conferences in both Whitehorse and Dawson City, participation in a number of fall fairs to be held throughout the territory, three new publications to be ready for public distribution early in the new fiscal year and plans to increase the number of farm calls throughout the territory. That is what I was referring to before to the other Member.
The branch will also work in close cooperation with the industry in the next year to improve and expand the farmers' market program. The Member and I were at the harvest fair. He and I were nominated for something we would sooner not talk about. We both lost. In fact, there were three of us who were nominated. That fair was, in my estimation, a great success. The agriculture branch definitely is going to work again this year with the people who run that event.
There is some money going into the farmers' market each year. I believe it is something like $5,000, to help advertise that the farmers' market is open. The farmers' market, again, is very successful for the people who sell their produce there. Anything that is grown and is brought to the farmers' market is sold. That is the way I have seen it.
There is a continued strong demand for agricultural land in the territory. Initiatives in this area of branch responsibility for the next year include the identification of agricultural lands that have appropriate soils, working and cooperating with the engineering branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services to develop and plan some areas so that a number of agricultural parcels can be made available - in other words, a planned agricultural area.
We will continue to monitor and assess the process for delivering the agricultural land program and make the appropriate changes as necessary to improve program delivery.
Mr. Cable: I was curious to find out if the extension services were going to be extended. Perhaps they are already extended to the things that are thought to be on the fringe of agriculture, such as siliviculture and fish farming.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, we do not currently have that expertise in the branch. At this time, it is not the intent to actually get into those particular areas.
Mr. Cable: I believe it was the department who commissioned A. J. Hunt and Associates Consulting Limited to conduct an assessment of the agricultural policy implementation. The report was dated March 1995 and the Minister's office has provided me with a copy of the report. It refers to a number of policy commitments and achievements. I would like to briefly discuss one or two of these commitments.
One commitment relates to research and it indicates that the branch estimates that five percent of its time is spent on this objective. What does the department intend to do in the area of agricultural research along the lines of variety and development? I believe I have asked this question in previous budgets and I am wondering if there has been any change in thinking on the department's behalf?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We continue to have plots on privately owned farms and properties throughout the territory. Different varieties of seeds are tested in conjunction with the owner of the property.
A good example is the Drury farm on the Alaska Highway where the government, along with one of the landscaping companies in Whitehorse, have worked on various grass seed varieties. In fact, I believe they have developed a new or improved grass seed for the territory.
These are the kinds of things we do under that program, and they will be continued.
Mr. Cable: I was not aware that there was actually a cross-breeding program. Is the Minister indicating that that is taking place with respect to grasses and perhaps grains?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure exactly how this worked, but my understanding was that they have come up with some sort of either new or improved seed, whether or not through cross-breeding, but it is even advertised, I believe, under a Yukon name. My understanding is that it was developed on the Drury farm in conjunction with Decora Landscaping and that they have come up with something that apparently is very adaptable to Yukon.
Mr. Cable: Another item in the Hunt report is listed under farm finance and farm management. It says that the branch acknowledges a need for a dedicated financial planner. Is it anticipated that financial planning advice will be provided to farmers at some juncture in the future?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe we would have a dedicated person in the department. We may very well work in conjunction with the Department of Economic Development, but I am not sure. It is not our intention to have a financial planner working for the department at this point in time.
Mr. Cable: On another topic under agriculture, there seems to be a growing organic farming community here in the territory, and some other jurisdictions have worked into a licensing regime, primarily to protect the consumer against false claims and whatnot by people growing produce organically. Is it anticipated that, at some future juncture, the department will move to provide regulations in this area?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not believe it was anticipated by the department. My personal belief is that Agriculture Canada is the department that actually certifies someone as an organic gardener. The problem with trying to be an organic gardener or farmer, if one wants to plant fields, is that if one uses manures as compost, the animal one gets the manure from must have eaten organic material for three years prior to putting it on the field or making compost from it. Similarly, if one uses grass clippings from this government building to make compost, one's garden is not truly organic because chemical fertilizers and herbicides are used on this grass.
For us to regulate it would put anyone who is trying to grow things organically out of business very quickly.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps it is a thought for the future. I know other jurisdictions have gone that way, but they have larger populations and more people to supervise the claims being made by the vendors.
With respect to the vegetable cold storage facility that has been talked about in this House off and on, is there any development in that area? Is the Minister's department promoting it in any way?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. We have not moved very far in that direction. I know the vegetable growers in the Whitehorse area, at least those who go to the farmers' market, and I know of none who have actually asked for vegetable storage. For instance, the person who grows the largest volume of potatoes lives out near Marsh Lake. He has about 10 acres of potatoes. He has his own root cellar, so he does not need a vegetable storage area.
It makes no sense to me to have a central vegetable storage where one takes one's crop to store it, then removes it again to sell it.
None of the people I deal with at the farmers' market have ever said that we need a vegetable storage facility.
Mr. Cable: I guess that we must be moving in different circles, because people have approached me with the view that it would be useful. Whether private entrepreneurs do it or the government catalyses it, I do not know. Last weekend, a person in market gardening in Dawson mentioned it to me.
Let me move on to another topic - energy conservation. What department is actually driving energy conservation in the government? The other night, we heard about some efforts being made by Government Services to re-light some of the buildings. Is one department charged with managing energy conservation programs?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is mostly in the area of Economic Development.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying that Economic Development has the lead role in a formal sense, or is that simply the way it happens?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is managed by our energy branch. I can get back to the Minister on it. I am not sure if it is responsible for overall government, or if it is just in the areas of energy. For example, I believe that people from Economic Development did work with Government Services on the initiative in the schools, but I do not know who actually took the lead.
Mr. Cable: Last year, the Minister reported on the national action program on climate change. I believe that the environment ministers, including the Minister himself, agreed that there would be voluntary action plans drawn up by the various jurisdictions. Has there been a formal voluntary action plan drawn up by the Minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I tabled our initiatives at the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in November. I could probably get a copy of the initiatives. I thought that I had already done that, but I can get a copy to the Member.
Mr. Cable: The Minister issued a press release about a number of carbon dioxide reduction initiatives. Is this what he was talking about as a voluntary action plan?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was part of it.
Mr. Cable: If the Minister could provide me with the rest of it, I would appreciate it.
What is being done between the government and the public with respect to voluntary action plans? Is there anything underway outside of the government?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is, but it is a Department of Economic Development matter. I do not have the information concerning the initiatives with me right now, but some initiatives have been undertaken by the private sector that, I believe, can be registered. It has to be registered to be counted as a system, but I am not sure if they have all been implemented at this time. I can get that information, as well as the other information the Member has asked for, and provide it for him. It is in Economic Development, not Renewable Resources.
Mr. Cable: I thank the Minister for that.
On another issue - forestry policy - I believe that the Department of Economic Development has recently hired, or is in the process of hiring, a forestry officer. Why was this person not hired by the Department of Renewable Resources?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Economic Development and Renewable Resources each have a role to play in forestry development. For instance, when devolution occurs, the forestry people will probably be part of the Department of Renewable Resources. However, Economic Development has a role to play on the industry development side, but did not have a person in that particular area. As a result of the business plan and the restructuring of the department, one of the positions will be for a forestry officer. It will be a new position, but will likely not be a new person.
Mr. Cable: Is the person who was hired for Economic Development going to be instrumental in developing forestry policy? I am not talking about industry policy, but policy relating to the forestry resource.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The person will be working with Renewable Resources - where there is already a person who is responsible for forestry policy - to develop the policies.
Mr. Cable: Which department is vetting the Liard Pulp and Paper proposal?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Because it is just at the conceptual stage, Economic Development is the department dealing with it now. If it gets beyond that stage, Renewable Resources will certainly be involved in the whole environmental assessment part of it.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated that it is at the conceptual stage but it appears to me that it is well beyond the conceptual stage. They are talking about wanting to start construction in September. Is anybody in Renewable Resources devoted to the analysis of the project, from an environmental standpoint?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There has not been but, to clarify that, I think the proposal is considered conceptual at this point in time. If and when it goes beyond that stage, then certainly Renewable Resources will be involved, but so far Renewable Resources is not involved in that particular proposal.
Mr. Cable: On another issue - the contaminants in lake trout in Lake Laberge - last year the Department of Renewable Resources announced that it was implementing a management program for Lake Laberge, designed to reduce the concentration of contaminants in lake trout. Can the Minister provide us with an update on that program?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There have been studies conducted on Lake Laberge and I believe that there is an ongoing study right now through the federal government. A graduate student from the University of Alberta has been contracted to do a study.
Research and study results now indicate that most toxaphenes and organo-chlorines enter local aquatic systems from long-range atmospheric transport. I believe this is an ongoing process.
Mr. Cable: The briefing note that I have refers to Hansard of 1995, page 1836, when the Minister in response to a question I asked him said, "Renewable Resources has implemented a management program for Lake Laberge that is designed to reduce the concentration of contaminants in lake trout. The program calls for stopping the commercial harvest of lake trout to allow the stocks to rebuild. Contaminant concentrations are predicted to decline, with an increase in the abundance of lake trout.
I wonder if the Minister - not now, but later - could refer to that reference in Hansard and provide me with a reply about what sort of management program is going on territorially, as opposed to federal initiatives that he spoke about.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The federal government and Renewable Resources are working together and we can provide the Member with a written update about it.
Mr. Cable: Last year, the department provided an update on current policy activities and provided a one-page document that had 17 policy initiatives contained in it. Is there an update available for distribution to Members?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes. Apparently we have an updated version in my office, and I can probably provide the information to the Member after the break.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister about the southern lakes caribou recovery program.
I think this has been a very successful program and it is the kind of joint management initiative that we will likely be seeing more of as land claim agreements come into effect around the territory.
The Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations were involved in setting up the Southern Lakes caribou recovery program. The Yukon Conservation Society recently advertised field trips to go out and look for the caribou in their habitat areas, which are not only in the Carcross area, but also Marsh Lake and the Carcross valley. In fact, the herd has been nicknamed the suburban caribou herd, because its range extends into the Wolf Creek and Mary Lake areas.
The caribou recovery program people have done a lot of public awareness work. They have been to the Golden Horn School; they have made presentations to the hamlet council in Mount Lorne and other areas to encourage people to phone in sightings, and to protect the caribou. The First Nations are voluntarily observing a hunting ban on this herd.
Can the Minister tell me what support Renewable Resources will be offering to the Southern Lakes caribou recovery program in the next year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there are two line items in our budget; one is for approximately $74,000. I do not have all the details for what that covers. I am not sure what the numbers are, but there have been a number of caribou radio-collared. We want to monitor the movement of the herd. We also want to keep up an advertising campaign.
The Member is right that this has been a very successful program. As a result of the elimination of hunting in the area, no predation control has been required. As the Member has correctly noted, it is called the suburban caribou herd. In the Ibex, one is only about 12 miles from the city limits of Whitehorse.
The program has been successful by eliminating hunting. We want to keep the advertising portion of it up to make sure people know there is no hunting in these areas and understand why.
Ms. Moorcroft: Was the government providing the funding that enabled the Council of Yukon First Nations to hire someone to work on this program? Is there a reduced level of funding this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The funding was provided through the economic development agreement - in other words, the federal government. That expired this year. The Member should also realize that in the caribou recovery plan, it was determined that the people who were hired would be on a term basis. Their term ended in December of last year. We were able to find a few more dollars so we kept them on until April 1.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would also like to ask the Minister about hazardous waste and, in particular, waste oil. I am sure that the Minister will remember the controversy that was sparked when the waste oil collection sites were full and there was nowhere to store it. I would like to ask what is happening with that now. I know that some of the service stations are charging people to dispose of the waste oil when the garage changes it. Can the Minister give me an update on that?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe there was a cartoon in one of the papers where the Mayor of Whitehorse and I were throwing oil at each other, if I remember correctly. Right now, the waste oil is a very small problem in Yukon. Most businesses have adopted the user-pay system, by passing the cost of disposal on to the generators. I will just read part of my note here. There are presently three facilities in Whitehorse - and I believe there is one more in the permitting stage right now - and two facilities in Dawson City permitted to accept used oil, both commercial-generated and household-generated. The oil is either burned as fuel in certified burners, or stored until sufficient quantities warrant shipment south for disposal, or it is included in the annual, territory-wide, special-waste collection program. Renewable Resources is actively promoting and encouraging local disposal options to reduce overall costs.
Just as a bit of an aside, the highways part of Community and Transportation Services has four of these waste-oil burners in camps - I am not sure which camps but I believe Pleasant Camp is one. They collect it from other stations and use it to actually heat the facilities.
Ms. Moorcroft: Yes. I believe we discussed those waste-oil burners during the debate on Community and Transportation Services.
I have some information that the Minister has provided about hazardous-waste collection and the removal of commercial and special wastes. The Minister indicated that the Government of Yukon-sponsored program includes permitting commercial facilities to make sure that special wastes are stored or burned in a safe manner.
How many Yukon companies have been permitted to store or burn special wastes? Are those the three companies the Minister was talking about just now? Is it strictly a permit to burn waste oil, or are there other companies that have permits to store or burn special wastes?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Used oil is different from other special wastes. I think that there is one that is licensed for other special wastes. I think that there are probably five or six in the Yukon that are licensed for used oil.
Ms. Moorcroft: There was some controversy about Raven Recycling diverting hazardous waste at the landfill. Has Raven Recycling received a current permit to handle special waste? Is it diverting waste at the city landfill site?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. Raven Recycling does not have a permit for the landfill, but the City of Whitehorse does.
Ms. Moorcroft: I just wanted to go back and ask a final question about the Southern Lakes caribou recovery program. There has been some general debate on the subject of protecting wildlife habitat and the government taking action to set aside habitat. What, specifically, will the government be doing that will affect habitat for the Southern Lakes caribou herd?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In critical habitat areas in the Carcross valley, we have stopped issuing agricultural dispositions or grazing leases. There has been a bit of controversy about that because some of the areas are considered, at least, as being suitable for agriculture, but we have had to look very, very carefully - and that is another reason for monitoring the herd. We want to know where that herd travels and what its actual range is. In the meantime, we have stopped new agricultural dispositions in the general area of the herd.
Ms. Moorcroft: When does the Minister anticipate that habitat protection regulations may be developed?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The report I talked of earlier should be completed by some time near the end of May. We will then be working with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Mr. Sloan: I have two questions. I heard that the fur biologist position is vacant. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is a vacant biologist position in Renewable Resources, but we will be moving on that very quickly. It has been vacant since the end of January. I do not know if it is for a fur biologist, but it is a biologist position.
Mr. Sloan: This is more of a constituency question. I had a number of people raise concerns about the accessibility of firewood. Are there any plans by the department to expand the number of permits this year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is getting to be a fairly big problem in the Whitehorse area. Right now, people can get personal firewood permits for Haeckel Hill, but not commercial firewood permits. People have to remove the firewood with snowmobiles or four-wheelers. They cannot chop everything down to build roads.
There is a lot of wood in that area. It is difficult to get at, but for anyone who needs firewood this would be a good place to encourage them to go.
Out in the northwest area where there was firewood permitting allowed for years and years, it is my feeling that a mistake was made in stopping people from cutting wood in that area. The trees are starting to grow, and I guess it was too difficult for the federal people to monitor the woodcutters. New trees were being chopped down to get at the deadfall. It is unfortunate, because there are millions of cords of wood in that area but one cannot get at it.
Another area where firewood is available is on the other side of Fox Lake; another area is by Squanga Lake. The Member could pass that information on to his constituents.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will go line by line at this time.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On General Management
General Management in the amount of $273,000 agreed to
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is made up of $926,000 for personnel and $278,000 for other expenditures. Changes are as a result of staffing a full-time receptionist and allowances for merit increases for $241,000 and fleet vehicle agency costs for $108,000, offset by the elimination of the fish initiative for $50,000 and the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency initiative for $15,000.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $1,204,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total, are there any questions about the statistics?
Administration in the amount of $1,477,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Chair: We will go line by line at this time.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There was a $135,000 budgeted for personnel and $81,000 for other expenditures. Changes are as a result of staff turnover and a one-time hosting cost of two Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment conferences in 1995-96.
Director in the amount of $216,000 agreed to
On Policy Analysis
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I will read out each one until the Member tells me not to. The $328,000 is made up of $271,000 for personnel and $57,000 for Other. The changes are as a result of a forestry policy analyst and the development of forestry policy legislation.
Mr. Harding: Is that all territorially funded? Will there be any federal money for the forestry policy development?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No, not until we get devolution. Under the previous devolution agreement, I believe $150,000 was put into the agreement that would have flowed to us for policy development.
Policy Analysis in the amount of $328,000 agreed to
On Planning and Resource Policy
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This comprises $141,000 for personnel and $5,000 for other, with no real changes.
Planning and Resource Policy in the amount of $146,000 agreed to
On GIS/Remote Sensing
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Of this, $141,000 is for personnel and $38,000 for other expenditures. The change is the effect of merit increases.
GIS/Remote Sensing in the amount of $179,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we carry the total, are there any questions on the statistics page?
Policy and Planning in the amount of $869,000 agreed to
On Environment, Parks and Regional Services
Chair: There being no general debate, we will go to line-by-line debate.
On Regional Services
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Of this, $1,687,000 is for personnel and $679,000 for other expenditures. The changes are the result of three additional seasonal auxiliary conservation officers and budgeting for a fleet vehicle agency and property management agency.
Mr. Harding: What is the reason for the three additional auxiliaries? Is it to have more coverage? What is the rationale?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This includes one Yukon First Nations trainee in Dawson City; one auxiliary conservation officer in Whitehorse; and one auxiliary conservation officer in Watson Lake.
Regional Services in the amount of $2,366,000 agreed to
On Parks and Outdoor Recreation
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $1,162,000 for personnel; $572,000 for other expenditures. The changes from last year are due to an extended season in Alaska and Klondike Highway campgrounds and some salary and merit increments, fleet vehicle agency and property management agency costs.
Mr. Harding: Is the switch-over the Minister referred to in his introductory remarks from Government Services for the fleet vehicles? He is nodding his head, which I will take as a yes.
Parks and Outdoor Recreation in the amount of $1,734,000 agreed to
On Environmental Protection and Assessment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $634,000 for personnel; $200,000 for other expenditures. There was the conversion of a half-time to full-time position and effective merit increases, an additional contract cost for waste management and regulation development, and the fleet vehicle agency costs.
Environmental Protection and Assessment in the amount of $834,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we clear the total, are there any questions on the statistics page?
Environment, Parks and Regional Services in the amount of $4,934,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will go line by line at this time.
On Fish and Wildlife
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Personnel is $2,522,000. The amount of $1,302,00 is for other expenditures. The payments are $178,000.
Mr. Harding: Why is there a reduction of five percent in fish and wildlife? What has been eliminated?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That was the elimination of wildlife viewing positions and a reduction of casual auxiliary positions.
Mr. Harding: Why were the casual auxiliary positions eliminated?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The program was coming to an end. I am not talking about the wildlife viewing program coming to an end, but the work that was being done up until this year has been completed.
Mr. Harding: What work was it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not know. I will have to come back with the answer. I cannot think of them right off the top of my head. I will have to get back to the Member.
Mr. Harding: The Minister said earlier that the new director who will be filling in is Mr. Hoffman. Is that correct? The Minister is nodding his head. I take that as a yes.
I read in the newspaper today about the Yukon Conservation Society's concerns. I certainly agree with the Yukon Conservation Society that criticisms of this government concerning a balanced approach to habitat protection and the environment versus the unabashed promotion of mining are legitimate.
What can the Minister tell me about this? Did the director quit?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really do not want to comment on it at all. I am not involved in personnel matters, other than to deal directly with the deputy minister. I cannot comment on what the case was with that position.
Mr. Harding: I realize that the Minister has to respect the fact that it is a personnel matter, but I am not asking him to go into any detail. I think it is very commendable that he respect the legitimacy of not being involved, but surely the question of it being a termination or the voluntary action of quitting is something that, I would say, is legitimately questionable. Could the Minister tell me, based on his conversation with the deputy minister, if it was a termination or a case of quitting voluntarily?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I really cannot, because it is a personnel matter, and we are not to discuss it in public. Actually, I am not to discuss it at all. I do respect that requirement - that political people do not get involved in these kinds of issues.
Fish and Wildlife in the amount of $4,002,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The amount of $604,000 includes $409,000 for personnel; $164,000 for Other; $31,000 for transfer payments; and there is a slight decrease in transfer payments under the final years of the green plan, offset by an increases in meat inspections, veterinarian services conference, green plan advertising and extension service supplies.
Agriculture in the amount of $604,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we carry the total, are there any questions about the statistics pages?
Mr. Harding: I notice in the 1996-97 estimates that the annual value of Yukon fur sold is expected to increase dramatically by 33 percent. What is that figure based on? Is it pricing alone or increased production?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: It is based on increases in price. The cold weather in January made it very difficult for many of the trappers to get out trapping, but fur prices on the first sale were substantially higher. That is the reason for the increase.
Mr. Harding: I see the number of farms is expected to climb from 150 to 165, a total of 15 farms. What is the rationale behind the expected increase?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The numbers are attributed to general industry growth. While I know about a couple of the farms, I do not know about all 15. I believe it totals something like 3,500 acres.
Resource Management in the amount of $4,606,000 agreed to
On Land Claims
Chair: We will proceed line by line at this time.
On Land Claims Administration
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $133,000 for personnel and $47,000 for other expenditures.
Land Claims Administration in the amount of $180,000 agreed to
On Yukon First Nations Comprehensive Claim
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The bulk of the $270,000 is for transfer payments to the fish and wildlife trust fund.
Yukon First Nations Comprehensive Claim in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $304,000 for personnel, $275,000 for other expenditures and $139,000 for transfer payments.
Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) in the amount of $718,000 agreed to
Land Claims in the amount of $1,178,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $13,064,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
We will go line by line at this time.
On Equipment and Furniture
On Departmental Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is to provide for the purchase and replacement of program equipment, such as snowmobiles, boats, motors, ATVs and so on. There is a decrease due to fiscal restraint on equipment to be repaired versus being replaced and deferral of other needs.
Departmental Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is to provide for office furniture and equipment.
Office Furniture and Equipment in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
On Forestry Transfer - Equipment
Forestry Transfer - Equipment in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Information Systems
On Computer Equipment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for the purchase and replacement of computer hardware and software.
Computer Equipment in the amount of $103,000 agreed to
On Information Systems
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for upgrading hardware and software in the library and completing the conversion of satellite libraries to a bibliofile system.
Information Systems in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
On Lands and Facilities
On Office Accommodation and Improvements
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for upgrading and changes to existing office space to meet the changing needs of the department.
Office Accommodation and Improvements in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Administration in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Chair: As there is no general debate, we will go line by line.
On Resources and Land Information Systems
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is to continue implementation and development of the geographic information system.
Resources and Land Information Systems in the amount of $106,000 agreed to
On State of the Environment and Economic Reports
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for follow-up work on the state of the environment report.
Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the Minister what sort of follow-up work is being done and what has happened to the state of the environment report, which was introduced with great hullabaloo in this legislative sitting.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The intent is to pick one particular area and do an update on it each year in conjunction with the Department of the Environment.
State of the Environment and Economic Reports in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Development Assessment Process
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is to participate in tripartite negotiations to complete detailed guidelines for the drafting of development assessment legislation.
Mr. Harding: Is this the Yukon government's contribution to the development assessment process consultation process, which is touring the Yukon now?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: No. This is merely our department's portion of it. Other departments will have similar items in their budgets to provide input.
Mr. Harding: What role is Renewable Resources playing in the development assessment process this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Apparently five people are actively involved in the development assessment process. We are in several of the groups, including the core group. If the Member wishes, I could probably give him a note that would outline in more detail what our involvement is.
Mr. Harding: I would like that, because the target date is February 1997, as the Minister knows, which is within the fiscal year of this budget. It does not look like much of a contribution from Renewable Resources to the department, unless it is covered in other lines. If he could show me, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A lot of our staff costs are included. As I said, five of our staff are working on it. Those costs would be covered under personnel, policy and planning, for instance.
The $20,000 amount is strictly for hard costs, which could entail travel.
Development Assessment Process in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Policy and Planning in the amount of $141,000 agreed to
On Environment, Parks and Regional Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on the environment, parks and regional services program? We will go line by line at this time.
On Lands and Facilities
On Capital Maintenance Upgrades
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is to provide major repairs to public buildings.
Capital Maintenance Upgrades in the amount of $43,000 agreed to
On Special Waste Collection
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is to provide for removal of special wastes on a twice-annual basis.
Special Waste Collection in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Forestry Facilities (Communities)
Forestry Facilities (Communities) in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Territorial Parks
On Parks System Plan
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The priorities for this fiscal year are to finalize the ecosystem classification map for southeast Yukon over the summer field season, and then in the fall and winter to use the classification to delineate areas of interest to representative of the Labiche highland, Liard basin and the Selwyn Mountains ecoregions.
Mr. Harding: This is the capital section for the Endangered Spaces 2000 ecosystem program the Minister has underway, is that correct? He is nodding his head to indicate "yes".
In the letter the Minister sent me on the Endangered Spaces 2000 commitment in which he says it is absolutely untrue that the government is not doing anything, it says that by the end of the fiscal year 1997-98, inventories of areas of interest will be complete. When does the government expect to start designating more ecoregions as protected endangered spaces?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: That is a good question from the Member, and I thank him for it. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society gave us a bad grade. The reason for that is because that organization only looks at what is on the ground. That is why the Member's question is quite relevant. Through planning and resource assessment, when we do create a park, we will be able to say that should be a park and it will remain there forever. Mr. Peepre actually likes what we are doing, but still gives us a bad grade - we were actually about in the middle last time. We hope to start designating probably in late 1997-98. The idea is to have this in place by the year 2000.
Mr. Harding: I want to assure the Minister that it is possible to get higher than a grade of D or F. I think British Columbia actually got a B last year. Of course, British Columbia is the place the Tories opposite love to condemn for making parks. Anyway, it is possible to improve on the D or F grade. One just has to start designating parks and saying that one will not create all kinds of multi-use parks that do not qualify under the definition for the Endangered Spaces 2000 program. If the Minister wants to improve his grades, that is all he has to do.
Park System Plan in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessment
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Areas of interest for protection within the Peel River watershed will be assessed from a biophysical and cultural perspective. The work follows from recommendations of the Peel River Watershed Advisory Committee. Areas of interest would be refined for subsequent detailed assessment and designation. Four ecoregions with no representative protection are included in this study area: North Ogilvie Mountains, Mackenzie Mountains, the Peel River Plateau and the Fort McPherson Plateau.
Resource Assessment in the amount of $118,000 agreed to
On Kusawa Lake Management Plan
Kusawa Lake Management Plan in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
Chair: We will take a brief recess at this time.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10 and we are discussing the capital budget on the environment, parks and regional services program in Renewable Resources.
On Territorial Campgrounds and Day Use Areas
On Capital Works - Campground Facilities
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $32,000 for planning and design; facility replacement, $148,000; reconstruction work, $180,000; and liability reduction, $40,000.
Mr. Harding: What does the Minister mean by liability reduction?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Essentially, that is for emergency repairs to eliminate or reduce hazards.
Capital Works - Campground Facilities in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Outdoor Recreation Sites and Corridors
On Outdoor Recreation System Plan
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is for the implementation of the Haines Junction area interpretive plan, $10,000; production of a Whitehorse area outdoor recreation map, $15,000; planning, support costs and travel, $10,000; and materials, installation costs and improvements, $15,000.
Outdoor Recreation System Plan in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Heritage Rivers
On Yukon River (30 mile section)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There is $20,000 for campsite monitoring, rehabilitation and capital maintenance, and $10,000 for the interpretative visitor services strategy.
Yukon River (30 mile section) in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Bonnet Plume River
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yukon First Nation and stakeholder consultation for $9,000; preparation of draft management plan, $25,000; public consultation, $6,000.
Bonnet Plume River in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Tatshenshini River
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yukon First Nation and stakeholder consultation for $9,000; preparation of draft management plan, $26,000; public consultation, $5,000.
Tatshenshini River in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Environment, Parks and Regional Services in the amount of $856,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
Chair: As there is no general debate, we will go line by line.
On Lands and Facilities
On Forestry Facilities (Whitehorse)
Forestry Facilities (Whitehorse) in the amount of $1.00 agreed to
On Fish and Wildlife Management Planning
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Drafting, with public support, species management guidelines as needed, $3,000; continued development of geographic information system application to analyze wildlife population and habitat information and to organize this information for traplines, outfitting areas, First Nation territories, game management subzones and to display this information on maps, $30,000; continue work on regional wildlife management plan, $22,000; continue stakeholder consultation and draft policy for the hunting use of all-terrain vehicles, $5,000; complete update on Southern Lakes caribou recovery plan and communicate status and management of moose and caribou in the recovery area to the public, $10,000; start management plan to conserve fish and wildlife in their habitats in southeast Yukon and manage these populations with the local First Nations, $10,000; review and update five-year bison management plan during 1995-96, $2,000.
Mr. Harding: What plans were completed? What came to a conclusion?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We were actually able to access some additional funding from the land claims that is not reflected in this budget for work with the Champagne-Aishihik and Teslin Tlingit First Nations.
Fish and Wildlife Management Planning in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure Facilities (Abattoir)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This amount is to provide for a contribution toward the construction of an abattoir.
Infrastructure Facilities (Abattoir) in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Resource Management in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $1,377,000 agreed to
Mr. Harding: I look forward to the Minister making good on his commitments to provide me with detailed answers to the questions that I have left open. I think that I focused on the debate as much as I possibly could. I hope that he explains some of the contradictions that I pointed out to him today about some of the positions that the government has taken. I also hope that he answers in detail the other questions about policy and issues that I have raised. I look forward to receiving his answers in the near future.
Department of Renewable Resources agreed to
Department of Tourism
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am pleased to introduce the 1996-97 main estimates for the Department of Tourism. The operation and maintenance budget totals $7.9 million and the capital budget is $6.4 million. I will first speak to the operation and maintenance estimates.
There has been $32,000 transferred into various branches to reflect costs for fleet vehicles and $98,000 transferred into the marketing branch to cover the cost of maintenance and utilities for the six visitor reception centres.
The administration branch provides corporate services for the department, and there are no significant budget changes from last year. In the industry services branch, the increased budget for this branch is for the fleet vehicle charges, library development and industry communications.
In the marketing branch, the budget is increased to reflect the annual growth in tourist requests for literature and, hence, the increased postage costs. The homecoming program is a new program designed to encourage friends and relatives of Yukoners and ex-Yukoners to visit the territory during the summer of 1997. Yukon residents will be encouraged to participate in the program by submitting names and addresses of friends and relatives to receive a personal invitation to travel to the Yukon.
As mentioned earlier, there is also a transfer from Government Services for the fleet vehicles and the visitor reception centres' maintenance and utilities.
I will relay a few current highlights of the marketing activities. By the end of 1995, visitation to the Yukon will have increased 20 percent from the 1991 levels, representing an average annual growth rate in excess of 4.5 percent. Visitation to the Yukon has out-performed all other Canadian jurisdictions and over the course of the upcoming gold rush anniversaries, visitation is expected to grow by about four percent a year.
In recognition of the Yukon's visitor performance and dedication to professionalism in the marketplace, the Yukon has become an important partner in the recently created Canadian Tourism Commission and the tourism alliance for western and northern Canada. Participation in these forums will allow the Yukon to maintain its presence in the national tourism front, enhancing our ability to market the territory as a stand-alone destination, enabling the Yukon to increase its market share in an increasingly competitive global economy.
In today's global competitive environment, with limited available financial resources, the department has recognized the need for cooperative marketing initiatives to leverage our marketing dollars.
Fifty percent of the total value of Tourism Yukon's marketing exposure is obtained through the development of cooperative partnerships. In an attempt to capitalize on the upcoming Klondike Gold Rush centennial anniversaries, the department is playing a major role in bringing the message of the anniversaries to the marketplace by the development of the anniversaries enhancement program.
Designed as a cooperative marketing program, the anniversaries enhancement program will provide tourism in the Yukon to an international audience using the opportunity created by the anniversaries. The program is designed to raise the awareness of the anniversaries around the world and to use the anniversaries to leverage long-term awareness and sustain tourism revenues.
To date, the anniversaries program has exceeded all performance expectations. In fact, when we announced the program three years ago, we were shooting for a three-to-one ratio with the dollars that we were leveraging. I am pleased to say today that we are now at an eight-to-one ratio for the dollars we are leveraging for the program. It has been extremely successful.
In the arts branch, I am pleased to continue our strong track record for tangible and substantive support to the Yukon's vibrant and growing arts community. In addition to maintaining all previous levels of support for existing programs, this budget introduces a number of important new initiatives. Chief among these is the transfer of film officer role from the marketing branch to the arts branch. The position has traditionally been responsible for the site location marketing of the Yukon to the international film and television community. The move to the arts branch will further harmonize and integrate the efforts of our local cultural workers to find employment in this growing industry.
In addition to transferring intact the full resources normally associated with this function, an additional $15,000 has been allocated for workshops geared toward the development and encouragement of greater local expertise in working with the film industry.
The branch is continuing to work toward a comprehensive arts policy for the benefit of the people of the Yukon. After the conclusion of extensive consultations on the contents of such a policy, we are proud that the Yukon will become the first jurisdiction outside of Quebec to have such a policy.
As part of the policy exercise, important steps have been taken toward realizing this significant economic benefit of the arts in the territory. Studies we have conducted in conjunction with the arts community indicate that this area contributes considerable dollars and jobs to our economy. In the near future, the branch will investigate various mechanisms to encourage this growing cultural industry sector.
Now I will move to the capital estimates.
With respect to the administration branch, the administration budget includes funds for the completion of the visitor reception centre, which will open in September, and the tourism business centre will open in late May. The department is establishing a resource centre in the new building, for use by the various industry clients. The information available in the resource centre will range from a comprehensive bibliography of library materials to computerized data, including information from the 1994 visitor exit survey.
In the heritage branch, the heritage budget includes funds for the completion of the architectural plans for the Historic Resources Centre. The amount of $2.4 million has been allocated toward the planning, retrofit and exhibit development for the Beringia Interpretive Centre. This facility will supplement and diversify Yukon's tourism product and will generate significant economic benefits in the tourism sector.
Under the major capital component of the museums assistance program, funds will be provided for a sprinkler fire-control system for the MacBride Museum and to support construction costs for an addition to the Yukon Transportation Museum. Under exhibits assistance, funds are available for the George Johnston Museum in Teslin, Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing, and the MacBride and Transportation Museums in Whitehorse to upgrade and install new exhibits. Exhibits at the two Whitehorse museums will be major projects in support of the celebration of the Gold Rush anniversaries in 1997 and 1998.
In the interpretation and signage program, the branch will be starting the implementation phase of the sign strategy completed last year. This year, the North Klondike Highway will be the focus of the interpretive site development. Yukon palaeontology is a new program in support of the research and program requirements of the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre and to fulfill the resource management responsibilities relating to the Yukon Historic Resources Act and other legislation.
The industry services branch will continue the analysis of the 1994 Yukon visitor exit survey data. Specific information requests will be fulfilled and further analysis of the market and economic data will be done to assist regional tourism organizations, government agencies and private businesses. To date, nine regional visitor exit survey reports have been completed and distributed, along with the preliminary report. Over 2,000 copies have been distributed. The branch has made over 20 presentations to more than 300 people. Several other reports, including the main survey report, are in progress and are expected to be released soon.
In cooperation with Renewable Resources, the Wilderness Tourism Association and other stakeholders, the branch will complete an industry review and assist in the preparation of legislation for the wilderness business licensing system. The branch will also be working with the Silver Trail region to prepare a new regional tourism plan.
The annual capital activities of the marketing branch include major maintenance of the six visitor reception centres, replacement of equipment and updating displays and audio-visual shows. This year, the marketing branch will also oversee the purchase of a number of interactive displays for use by visitors in the new visitor reception centre. The new audio-visual presentation is currently being developed for the visitor reception centres and the marketplace.
The arts branch includes a new activity called traditional native art acquisition. The branch will work in consultation with Yukon First Nations to re-acquire works of artistic merit that have left the territory in years past. This is the first step toward the reclamation of the artistic heritage of our territory and will benefit all Yukoners and, in particular, the proud traditions of our First Nations culture.
At this time, I would be pleased to elaborate on initiatives and address any questions the Members might have.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to thank the Minister for his brevity. We are both committed to expediting tonight's debate, so I will not belabour too many issues for too long.
I would like to comment that, over the past number of weeks, I have had briefings from the Tourism department, which I found very useful. I have met with the Tourism Industry Association, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce tourism and the First Nations tourism. All have been extremely helpful and have given me some interesting insights into the industry and the initiatives they are taking, particularly in the area of marketing. I found the Department of Tourism's initiatives very interesting and it is to be commended.
I would like to address the Beringia Interpretive Centre to get more information about how that project is being developed and planned. I would like to know from the Minister three things.
What exhibits are being planned and what ongoing research will the centre conduct? I am thinking in terms of scientific research. The Minister alluded to the palaeontologist.
Have there been specific areas of archeological or palaeontological interest identified and prioritized for research?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are now in the process of planning exhibits, so it is a little early to give the Member an idea about the kinds of exhibits that will be displayed.
I am told that there will be some interactive exhibits, including some recreations of ice-age mammals that were wandering the Yukon 10,000 years ago. I hope that some of those exhibits will be outside so when people drive by on the highway they will see a field in front of the Beringia Interpretative Centre resembling the past, including various ice-age mammals such as the woolly mammoth, saber-tooth tiger, the short-faced bear and various other animals.
As well, it is hoped that the outside of the building will be a similar landscape to the steppe that it was 10,000 years ago, with vegetation, exhibits and possibly a recreation of some of the pits where bones of mammals were found in the permafrost.
Inside the centre there will be interactive displays and a film, which will be going to tender very shortly, that will be a high-tech film about Beringia and the era. The film will be professionally developed and very exciting.
These are some of the things that we are looking at. The exhibit planning tender will go out in a few days and these are the kinds of things that will be finalized.
There is a group of individuals, including our Yukon palaeontologist and our staff at the heritage branch, and other people in the Yukon including a representative from the MacBride Museum and some people from Ottawa. I believe there are a dozen or more highly trained experts in this field, including people from Drumheller, who are going to assist us with the exhibits and the exhibit planning.
It is going to be a very sophisticated and well-done - I hate to say world class because it came back to haunt me last time. With the number of world-class people we have working on it, we can produce some high-quality exhibits in the facility.
As to what research the palaeontologist will be carrying out, we have a real opportunity with the palaeontologist being here in the Yukon. He can work with our placer miners and First Nations and others on the various finds that are known already in the territory. We can explore others that we have that we have heard about and wanted to look for for many years. We could get into new areas.
There should be all kinds of opportunity not only for paleontology work but also, down the road, there could be some student training and First Nation training, and that kind of thing, with people getting involved with the palaeontologist on the various activities he carries out.
I hope that touched on the questions the Member asked.
Mr. Sloan: The Minister mentioned that the exhibit plan is going out to tender. Have there been any marketing concepts or marketing studies? What kinds of marketing are being planned in conjunction with the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As with other marketing initiatives in the Yukon, some focus-group testing was done. We are even doing some focus testing on what to call the centre. We want even the name of the centre to conjure up in someone's mind something they may want to visit. So we are looking at all those kinds of alternatives and, yes, we did do some focus testing. We have plugged the Beringia Interpretive Centre into our marketing already this year. It will be in next year's visitors guide. I saw some of the other marketing literature the other day where the Beringia motif and Beringia theme appear.
People have to get into the marketplace at least one year in advance to market these. That is why we are doing it now.
It is interesting to note that since we started on this, there is a new in-bound tour company that started up in the Yukon called "Beringia Tours". It is looking at these kinds of ideas and that kind of educational tour. We have also had three or four tour companies in Europe ask us about the Beringia exhibit and have talked about establishing Beringia tours once it is set up and a little more formalized. We will be working with this company on actual tours in which people will come specifically to see it.
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister give us a sense of what renovations to the Beringia Interpretive Centre - if I can still call it the Beringia Interpretive Centre, or maybe we will name it after the former Speaker or something like that - will be completed? When will they be completed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That tender just came out. The design work is now being worked on. It is in its very early stages. I cannot tell the Member. There will have to be some mechanical changes to the building. There may be an addition on part of the building to accommodate the exhibits that will be needed. The tender just went out a couple of weeks ago. The construction is planned for around September. There will be a lot of winter construction work. The plan is that the facility will be open to the public in May 1997 for the 1997 tourism season. The visitor reception centre will be closed up the hill and opened downtown, and the Beringia Interpretive Centre will be open up the hill.
Mr. Sloan: I want to move on to some figures for the Beringia Interpretive Centre. We have projections for 1997 of $65,000, for 1998-99 of $88,000, and for 1999-2000 of $125,000. Does the Minister feel that those figures are still on target?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Those were just projections. It is pretty difficult to do that, but since those figures were compiled - the Member probably knows as well as most Yukoners -we now have three airlines flying into the territory. Those figures were built on our existing known markets and access to the territory. I think those figures will probably still stand today and, if anything, Yukon tourism may see other increases. Whether people go to Beringia or not, we certainly hope to see more people coming here with better air access.
Mr. Sloan: I have a question about operation and maintenance costs. It is a bit puzzling. In 1997-98, it is $344,000, and then drops down in 1998-99 to $301,000. Then in 1999-2000, it is $303,000. Why are the operation and maintenance costs decreasing over that period? Is there any kind of built-in inflation factor included?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Included in the operation and maintenance budget is the marketing of Beringia. It will be fairly high in the beginning to kick it off and then it will come down to a more consistent level in the future.
Mr. Sloan: Just taking a look at the concept of admission costs, the Minister has suggested that they would be between $3 and $8 and has suggested that the capital and operation and maintenance would be covered by the admission cost within five years. Is it still planned that the admission will cover all the costs for the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, We hope to cover just the operation and maintenance costs.
Mr. Sloan: The Minister mentioned something about the team that is planning the exhibits. Has this team been convened already? Has it met? What is its schedule? Is it meeting on a regular basis? How does it work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot tell the Member that they have all actually come together in a room. They are contributing the various expertise that they can provide. Some of them will be working together with us; some of them will be consulted on an ongoing basis. Some will be more involved than others.
We are just calling on them as we are dealing with their fields of expertise. I know that the heritage branch has had discussions with all of them. They are all very enthusiastic about participating. We are working very closely with Drumheller Museum. In fact, we sent one of our people from the heritage branch who does all our creations to Drumheller to see the kind of work that is done there and for some training.
The interesting thing is that the individual who went down for training at Drumheller did some training to the people there because he has acquired some very specialized skills. Drumheller was quite excited about some of the things that he was doing. Recreating dinosaur eggs was one that I was told about, as well as some other things that they were doing. We will be doing some of that, and Drumheller Museum will be working very closely with us on some of the exhibits.
Mr. Sloan: One of the groups that I did not hear mentioned - and it was probably just an oversight - in that list was First Nations. Do we have First Nation involvement on the planning committee?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we do. I can get a list for the Member of all the people on the planning committee, and I believe there are several First Nations people on the planning committee, at least three or four who are involved.
Mr. Sloan: I would like to move on to the Historic Resources Centre. I have some questions about it. There does not seem to be quite as clear a concept in my mind about how that project is going. How many people do we anticipate being based at the Historic Resources Centre? Is there a number?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get the number for the Member, but that would include all of the employees at the heritage branch who would eventually be there. They would be moved. They are now in the Financial Plaza as well as in the Renewable Resources building. They are spread around into four different buildings. We are moving them all into one building.
The palaeontologist who is in another building will move into the new building. The individual, as I mentioned earlier, who recreates some of the elements used in the exhibits will move into that building. Some people in the Financial Plaza will move up there.
Mr. Sloan: It is my assumption that, given the nature of the building, it will have some fairly specialized curatorial functions. I imagine there will be all kinds of things, such as a fairly sophisticated fire protection system, as well as humidity controls and things of that nature.
When does the Minister anticipate a tender being put out on that particular design?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe it is in the planning stage now. I think there will be a tender early next spring for construction next year.
For the Member's information, the Historic Resources Centre, for the most part, is a large, climate-controlled warehouse. There will be labs for doing necessary work to restore artifacts. The front part will be designed to be office space for about 17 or 18 employees in the heritage branch.
Mr. Sloan: Is the committee advising on the Beringia Centre also advising on the Historic Resources Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it is not.
Mr. Sloan: Does the Minister have an idea what kinds of costs this centre will involve, in terms of operation and maintenance, if there will be substantially increased costs because of the operation of the Historic Resources Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring the costs back to the Member. It will be a per-square-foot cost. We have to remember that the employees are all now on the payroll. We are also paying rent for all the buildings we occupy right now, and we will not be paying that rent any more. I think it will be kind of a push where it will not be a lot more. The building will be pretty much a warehouse box and can be built to be very climate efficient and therefore very efficient to heat.
Mr. Sloan: There is no doubt that Yukon companies will get a good shot at bidding on that one.
On the issue of historic resources, we hope to proclaim the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act. What kinds of attendant costs does the Minister anticipate because of the proclamation of the act?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member with that. We do not have that here.
Mr. Sloan: Has the Minister had any sense from the heritage branch about buildings that would be affected by the proclamation of this act, in terms of a building designation? Do we have a ballpark figure of how many might come under the act?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The city made a list of buildings - I think there are 27 or 29 buildings, or so. For the most part, we have done something with the buildings we possess. One that comes to mind is in Silver City. It is in quite a state of disrepair at the present time. I do not know if an actual list is made up, but I know that there is an inventory of the buildings. I do not know if there is a list that automatically designates a bunch of buildings.
Mr. Sloan: Switching over to the tourism aspect of the Department of Tourism, one of the things that people involved in wilderness tourism have queried me about is the question of regulations for wilderness tourism, in terms of safety standards. Will regulations be drafted in that regard that are similar to provisions of the Wildlife Act for outfitters?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The industry services branch has been working very closely with the Wilderness Tourism Association to doing that. As of now, I think Renewable Resources is taking the lead role in the drafting of those regulations, with Tourism being in an advisory capacity. I think it is moving along. The last I heard is that the industry is working on sets of regulations.
Recently I have heard some concern expressed about some people in the industry still not wanting regulations. At the present time there is a concern in the industry about what could happen to the industry if it did not become regulated. In South America, there was a recent crash of a charter jet, with a group of German tourists on board. As a result of that crash, my understanding is that a black list, which had listed charter airlines that were perhaps not as dependable as others, was changed to a white list, listing the most preferred airlines.
They have now looked at expanding that to a white list of jurisdictions or areas that have regulations to protect the consumer. I believe the Yukon and Newfoundland are the only two jurisdictions in Canada that are left without these kinds of regulations so we end up down on the white list, and of course our product does not get sold as readily as others. There are a lot of competitors in the marketplace selling similar products. The industry realizes that it is important to get some regulations in place fairly quickly, and we are cooperating as much as we can with them in trying to do so. I was hoping something would be in place by this summer, but it looks now as if it will be more like next summer by the time they settle on the types of regulations they want and they get drafted and put in place.
Mr. Sloan: Precisely. The director of marketing spoke a good deal about the need for standards and regulations, particularly with some of the unfortunate things that happened on some wilderness tours recently. I think it is really important that we move along with those.
With regard to some of the other tourism initiatives, I was struck last summer by the number of cruise ships in Skagway. I presume that, if one goes on a cruise, one must have a fair amount of disposable income so I am just wondering, given the potential for this market, is the Yukon trying to tap this market to a greater extent?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are not only trying but we are succeeding in tapping the market. Of course, we will never get the cruise ships to come to Whitehorse - there are a few things preventing that - but the industry is starting to look for more diversification in product and they are developing more inland tours in the Yukon and Alaska and there is an opportunity in the future for tours to begin in Whitehorse and end up on a cruise ship heading down the other way, and vice versa, tying in with the new airline connections, and that kind of thing. I know those options are being considered.
Holland America has one, and possibly more, of the new cruise ships coming up here this year. I think they hold 1,400 or 1,500 passengers. They are huge cruise ships and Holland America, this year for the first time, has dropped its price on the inland package tour.
The department cooperatively marketed with Holland America. It is my understanding from the people at Holland America and Westours that bookings are significantly increased over any other year they have ever booked. It looks like it is going to be a banner year for Holland America and inland tours based on the gold rush.
As well, there is another new cruise ship and a new bus company on line selling a Yukon product. These will add to Yukon tourism.
While I am on my feet, I can tell the Member that from talking with people in the industry, it appears that while last year was the best year ever in tourism, it looks like this year is shaping up to be better than last year.
Mr. Sloan: I was doing some research on the visitor reception centre in preparation for the debate.
I think I have mentioned to the Minister that one of the great joys of technology is that you can use a CD-ROM to access Hansard. Low and behold I retrieved debate about the visitor reception centre back in 1988. I thought my eyes must be deceiving me, because it appears that the Minister was strongly recommending that the visitor reception centre should be located on the highway. I thought I must be deluded, so I went to the year 1990 and found another comment where the present Minister presented a petition in that regard, strongly supported by Mr. Lang.
I was quite surprised at this, because at that point there seemed to be a fairly strong argument from the business community to locate the visitor reception centre on the highway. What happened in 1994 to cause the visitor reception centre to move downtown, when back in 1990 the focus was largely on the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Minister at the time and I were lobbied by the overall business community about the location of the visitor reception centre.
Studies had been completed and there were three possible locations considered in Whitehorse. I believe two of the locations were downtown and one of the locations was up on the hill.
At that time, there was a very strong lobby effort on behalf of the business community, which felt if the visitor reception centre was not located up on the hill, there would be nothing to capture tourists and slow them down. They would go right by Whitehorse.
Since that time, which was eight years ago, the visitor reception centre has been up on the hill. Two successive Whitehorse mayors, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Mayor of Dawson and the Mayor of Watson Lake have all indicated, when considering this closer and seeing what is happening in the marketplace and where people are arriving and the type of people who are travelling, that it might be better to have the visitor reception centre located downtown.
In the last three or four years, the lobby has been to move the visitor reception centre to downtown Whitehorse. We saw the opportunity with the property next to the government building, and with the advent of the Beringia Interpretive Centre, to kill two birds with one stone while satisfying the concerns expressed by the business community today. The business community expressed concern about putting the centre up the hill back in 1988, and the government of the day responded to that. We have now responded to the business community's concern today by relocating it downtown, making sure we have the proper signage in place to direct people downtown, and using the Beringia Interpretive Centre, along with a very well-done Transportation Museum, to attract people to come to downtown Whitehorse.
Mr. Sloan: It is interesting that, back in January 1990, the argument was being made to locate it up the hill because of the proximity to the airport, the idea that it should be on a major highway to catch people coming and going, and that the area had some advantages, such as parking. One of the strong arguments was that the Transportation Museum, which would have been a major attraction, would already be there.
It is an interesting shift in logic. What happens if there is yet another change in public sentiment? This may move somewhat faster than the proverbial Wisconsin ice sheet.
Can the Minister give us a sense that the visitor reception centre will stay in this new location?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As long as I have anything to say about it, it will. It will be in a good location. We hope it will draw people into downtown Whitehorse. We found that not many people came from the airport to the visitor reception centre up the hill. It was not used much in that way.
The business community has lobbied very hard. Both city mayors and councils in the past have lobbied very hard to move the visitor reception centre downtown.
The Chamber of Commerce tourism group wanted the centre downtown. It has had support from the Association of Yukon Communities and all the other mayors by way of a resolution. I would think that if it moves downtown, the centre is probably there to stay.
Mr. Sloan: I hope so. It is a little expensive to respond in caprice.
I will continue on the subject of the visitor reception centre. One of the things that is planned is a multimedia presentation. Can the Minister give us a bit more detail about this? Are we looking at a traditional multi-screen kind of thing as well as the interactive display? For example, we are building a theatre in the visitor reception centre, so I assume that there is some kind of multi-media screen display. Has that already been decided?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We will eventually bring down the slide show that we have up in the existing visitor reception centre for the theatre. As well, we will have a movie show, which will be a fairly high-calibre movie show. It will be a lure piece showing pictures of all parts of the Yukon. It will probably be a 15- or 20-minute film with outstanding footage of things to do and see. We want it to cover every area of the Yukon - from Herschel Island to Keno City to Watson Lake and to every other jurisdiction in the territory.
It will say to people, "Now you are here; look at where you can go." It will be very high-tech and well done.
Does the Member remember the excellent film that was put together for Expo by the previous government? It will be that kind of quality. We hope it will send chills up the spine of Yukoners and visitors and make them want to experience a little more of the Yukon after they see it. That film will be in the theatre.
One of the other possibilities that we may see for the theatre, which has a very small stage, is the opportunity for small lectures once or twice a week, for example, by Renewable Resources biologists talking about the Yukon wildlife and birds. It is actually done quite a bit now for elder hostel people. That is where the idea has come from. It has proved to be very successful. Some of the people who give the presentations do an outstanding job with that kind of thing, and people find it very interesting. That might be done there.
In the main building there will be some exhibits, but also a lot of interactive-type exhibits. We are looking now at the technology. It may be touch computers, where one can travel through the Yukon and look at various things in the Yukon, decide where to go and possibly if one finds something to do, there will be a huge inventory of businesses that are doing that kind of thing. One will be able to print out, for instance, Tatshenshini Expediting and find out how much their one-day rafting trip is. It will give information on who to phone.
There is a similar thing in Fairbanks. One would find what one wanted to do, press a button and a sort of fax paper rolled out and gave information on how to get hold of someone in order to book a tour, or phone someone. It is that kind of instant information that people can get about things that are happening in the territory. It will be quite interactive. It will be the kind of high-tech stuff that will keep people really interested, but also keeping in mind that a lot of the people who are coming over the next couple of years or so, will be still in their mid-50s to their mid-60s. They are not as computer-literate as some others may be, but our market forecasts tell us that that is changing rapidly.
Every year, younger and younger people are coming to the Yukon. The type of people who are coming more and more are the people who do understand this kind of technology and it is quite user-friendly and they have no problem using it. Our technology will start out with something that the elderly people can use, but be able to be adapted in the future to the increasing technology as the years go by.
Mr. Sloan: I know some senior citizens in this city who are far more computer-literate than I.
I am thinking specifically of the in-theatre kind of production. Has that particular film been contracted out yet and if so, to whom?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it has not been contracted out yet. The Member will not recall, as he was not here, but one year ago Hardy Kruger was here. He is a German television star, and he did a half-hour Yukon special. They took some 23 or 24 hours of outstanding footage of the Yukon. They used the best cameraman and they flew to the best locations in the Yukon. They took all these video film shots. When I was in Europe last year, after the promotion night, Hardy Kruger presented us with the 24 hours of footage at no cost to us. It is about $400,000 worth of footage if we had had to buy it.
We can use it for non-commercial purposes, so we can use it in our visitor reception centres. We are putting together little clips. They added sound and narration afterwards, so most of it is just scenery and shots of Yukoners doing various things. We can clip out the shots with Hardy Kruger in them and use the extra shots of flying through Kluane in a helicopter or visiting Silver City. There is a whole bunch of outstanding footage that we can use in our film without having to go and retake it all over again.
Mr. Sloan: I am only familiar with Hardy Kruger as an actor playing U-boat captains. I will assume that he is on German television.
Along with this, one of the things that has become a real concern to me in the last few weeks has been the whole question of local contracting. I had an opportunity - I believe that the Minister did, too - to see a locally produced multi-media production about one year ago. I would suggest that one of the things we might be looking at is what kinds of local companies could be working in this particular area. I would really hope that we would be soliciting local bids on this project. Can the Minister give us some assurance that there will be a real effort to employ some of the creative talent in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Absolutely. If the technology is here for the type of things we are going to do, then we would be more than willing to use the individuals.
Mr. Sloan: That is good, because I am sure the Minister can recall some of the productions that have been done here by some local artists in video and in film. We certainly have the talent, so we should really be pursuing that very actively.
This leads me to my next point, which also has to do with film. We have Kluane Park, which is one of our prime attractions, and the federal government has suggested that the Kluane slide show is under revision and needs to be replaced. Because of budget constraints, the federal government wants to make this show cost recoverable and is considering things like admission fees, video sales and corporate sponsorship. Has the Minister spoken at all with federal officials on trying to fund this program or perhaps doing some kind of joint funding of it? It is quite a noted attraction.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. It has been an area of concern for us. If we jump in and start to fund it, it really is downloading from the feds. They have run the program and set it all up, and then they want us to run it. We also have some concerns about charging admission at Kluane. Half the staff there is our staff, so then it involves the training of the staff for handling money and all the other things that go with it. It would not be just a visitor centre any more. The staff would end up being cashiers and so on, and we are not really interested in getting into that. We do not have that at any of our other visitor centres. They are all free. People come in and just staff them.
It has been a discussion we have had with them. I do not know if there has been a resolution to it this year. I am not sure whether or not they are charging admission this year. I do not believe they are, and I hope they are not, because it is a little late to let the industry know that there is a charge to see the exhibit.
Mr. Sloan: Continuing on with the question of visitor reception centres - and I use the plural; I am not referring to the downtown one - in going through visitor reception centres, I noticed that some are receiving funding for upgrading, including Watson Lake, Dawson, and Beaver Creek, all of which are in government ridings. How is it determined which communities receive funding for capital upgrades?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That was a low blow.
I would ask the Member to look at where the visitor centres are located - they are at the entry points to the territory. We do not have them in every single community.
The way we decide on the capital projects for the visitor centres is to have the manager of the centre, as well as the individual in the department who is in charge of the visitor centres, go to each centre from year to year. We look at the carpets, the paint on the outside, the displays inside, and so on. Anything requiring attention is put on a list and replaced or fixed, as needed. Some centres get used more than others because there is more traffic in some than others. It is not a favoritism thing at all - it is basically a maintenance repair program that, as things need it, they get fixed. If a slide projector breaks or a carpet gets worn out, we replace it.
Mr. Sloan: No slight intended to any community. I just want to make sure that everyone gets their fair shot. That is my over-riding concern.
I would like to turn to the commitment that has been made in the four-year plan with respect to the living cultural centre. We have spoken about this, to some degree, in Question Period. I have a couple of questions regarding this matter. Even though funds have been set aside for this project, we do not seem to be making the kind of progress on this that I had hoped would have been made.
Two studies have been commissioned - one is completed, and the other is not quite finished. The question is this: where is the project at this time, and what can the Minister anticipate occurring over the next, say, year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I guess the future of the project really lies with the Council of Yukon First Nations. I think we spoke about this in the supplementary estimates. I still have not heard back from Mr. Allen and the Council of Yukon First Nations about the meeting that was going to be held with the elders to discuss the project. Having said that - I also said this during supplementary estimates - there are several projects in the centennial anniversaries program that have a cultural component. I think even the City of Whitehorse had a cultural component - the Kwanlin Dun First Nation was involved in that one - and Carmacks, Pelly and Dawson certainly do; Carcross did. Many of them are already off and running in that direction. I was concerned about how many of those we were going to have. I wanted to know if the First Nations wanted a central one and, if so, where did they want it to be? That was the question I left with Mr. Allen and the Council of Yukon First Nations, and I have not heard back.
Mr. Sloan: Is the government still committed to the idea of a living cultural centre and, upon representation from the Council of Yukon First Nations, it would be willing to get this project up and running?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think there has to be some discussion among the Council of Yukon First Nations about whether or not they want a central project or if they prefer several smaller projects throughout the territory. That is a decision that has to be made by them.
I am not sure - I think this is where the Department of Tourism can help - how many First Nation cultural centres could survive independently. The department would have to look at this with respect to marketing. How many First Nation cultural centres will tourists want to see when they arrive in the territory?
There will be several variations of them, and they may work, but I think those are the types of discussions that have to take place with marketing people from the department. We may have to conduct some focus testing on these types of ideas and, of course, work in conjunction with the First Nations.
The department is certainly committed to discussing this further with the First Nations, but I want to leave the final decision about where they want to go with it up to them.
Mr. Sloan: This was not included in my original questions, but I just jotted it down when I heard the Minister for Renewable Resources talk about the cutback in wildlife viewing.
I would suggest that one of the reasons that people come to the territory - granted, they are not always successful - is to see wildlife.
Unfortunately, many visitors have the idea that caribou will walk across the road at a particular time. Quite frankly, I think the wildlife viewing sites have been a very positive thing for tourists. I have seen people stop along the highway between Haines Junction and Haines, to see wildlife when they could.
Does the Minister see the idea of wildlife viewing as a solid part of tourism attractions? We have talked about the need for more attractions. Does the Minister see this as a priority?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I do. The Member is right and I share his concern. I would even go a little further than building wildlife viewing facilities. I have suggested to some that we should be looking more closely at where we relocate and build our highways. We build highways according to the highway specifications, to make them as straight and flat as possible. Sometimes that also gets people through one's jurisdiction as fast as possible. They can get from one point to another much faster and do not stop. I have made suggestions that if there is a bit of a hill and an available lookout in a nice spot, we should think about that in the designing of our highways. We should perhaps not take the hill out and, instead, put a pull-off there, put up some interpretive signage and encourage visitors to stop and take some pictures.
When the road comes near a lake or creek, instead of diverting away from it - making sure that it is environmentally safe, of course - we should take advantage of these very picturesque spots along the Yukon highways. I am just talking about the highway corridor here, not about building a bunch of new ones. We are doing a lot of relocation of the Alaska Highway, and the priority has always been to straighten it out and flatten it and get people to Alaska as fast as we can. I would like to slow them down a bit and give them more to see and do. Perhaps it will encourage them to spend an extra day or two in the Yukon and drop a couple more of those dollars on the way through.
Mr. Sloan: I hope the Minister will make some representation to his colleagues on the wildlife viewing, because I think the marketing people are suggesting that is the reason why - in particular, European - visitors come; it is the space and the wildlife - that kind of thing - that is fairly valuable.
I would like to take a look at the whole question of marketing.
A couple of points have occurred to me. I have identified them by virtue of particular areas.
In the overall idea of marketing under the economic development agreement, a number of businesses had access to funds for tourism marketing. My concern is about the cancellation of the economic development agreements. Will there be access to funds for tourism marketing or development for smaller businesses in the territory? I am thinking of people who are going into adventure tours, which are often one- or two-person operations. Will there be access to funds in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There are no funds in the Tourism budget. There may be opportunities in the Economic Development budget, but I cannot speak to that.
For industry, we provide expertise and advice on how to market a product. There are some fairly inexpensive ways now to get one's product into the marketplace. I am primarily talking about the Internet. That is an area many Yukon businesses are starting to take advantage of, and it is producing some reasonable results.
Mr. Sloan: I think the Minister has been reading my notes, because on the Internet, in my ongoing search for sole-source contracts, lo and behold, in February, the Department of Tourism sole sourced a contract to a Calgary firm for the design of a web page. It was not a large contract, but I was surprised. Here is a contract that suddenly springs out. At the time, I was looking through the Business to Business newsletter and noticed that 34 small companies in Whitehorse had applied for business licences.
In the same issue of the magazine, there was an ad for a company that did the designing of web pages. I did some checking and found out that there are five local companies that have the expertise to perform this work.
My question is why were local companies not asked to give a quote for the project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This particular program was part of our anniversaries enhancement program. That program is handled by our agency, BBDO. BBDO is a marketing firm that did not have the necessary expertise in publicity to produce the type of product that would really attract people in the marketplace. It contracted, or worked with, Parallel in Calgary, which is fairly well-known in this field. In fact, Parallel produced probably one of the best travel marketplace pages in the world. We won a top-five award for it.
I think that what has happened as a result of it is that many Yukoners are now using the local expertise to build their own promotional and advertising pages and attaching it to our Yukon product on the net. We are getting 1,200 hits a day on the Internet. It is pretty high. I think that Yukoners are seeing a benefit from it.
With this particular program, we try to build a fairly high-tech program. These people are pretty talented in what they do, and it showed in the results. The results are really proving to be of good benefit for everybody, including the locals, I believe. There are an awful lot of businesses in Whitehorse right now that realize the benefits of the Internet page. It has almost started a little industry of local people who are building pages to add on to that page, because it gets called up quite a bit. It gives them an opportunity to promote their product.
Mr. Sloan: I am not disputing the quality of the product. Perhaps the Minister can check with his official, but the name I was given was Tiger Media - was it Tiger Parallel?
I did some checking on this. This is an Alberta company not registered in the territory. It does not have a branch office; however, what it does have is a person who was formerly with the marketing firm. What I am asking is why, of all the companies around, - there are a lot in western Canada and, as I have said, there are five in the territory - was this particular company identified? What kinds of attempts are we going to be making to make sure that some of the local small business that have the expertise in this do get a fair shot at it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think they are seeing benefits from it. They are seeing benefits from an outstanding program that was put together. The Member says that this individual was here and now is with Tiger. These publicity people move all over the place. That always happens.
Parallel, or Tiger, I understand, is a very credible company, and very expert in the publicity area. That is what one tries to do with these things. It is not just a matter of putting the page together; it is also having the connections to be able to open some doors and open ourselves to opportunities. This company has done that for us. It has been very successful. There is no other jurisdiction in this country that has seen the results that we have. In fact, I think there are about three or four provinces in the country that are now using Parallel, or Tiger, to put their pages together after they saw our page.
We were leading the way with individuals, I agree, and I have asked the department time and time again that, any time we do this kind of work - or any kind of work with the Department of Tourism in marketing - and I have also sent a strong message to BBDO - if it can be done in the Yukon, I want it done in the Yukon. As long as we in the Yukon can be competitive, as long as we can produce the quality of product, and as long as we can produce it in a timely manner, because marketing is all about timing, then it is my view that we should be using Yukon producers.
For the most part, we have been trying to do that. Some things happen from time to time where one group is producing an item and gets an extension of their contract, and I have heard some people being upset about those kinds of things. I am on the department all the time about that and about using local producers. As I said, if they can meet the requirements that are laid out, I prefer we use locals, or at least give the locals an opportunity to bid and see if they can get the work.
Deputy Chair: Order. The time being 9:30 p.m., we will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 10, Department of Tourism. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Shortly before the break we were talking about contracts and the contract that went to Tiger Parallel Media.
For the Member's information, it is my understanding that it was a winter marketing program that we put together fairly quickly, which was an add-on to our existing Internet program. I think it was a $3,400 contract.
I have all kinds of faith in the local people in Whitehorse who are putting together these kinds of things. This was done to add on to our existing page to conform to our original page representing the winter side of the summer program. The work was done through Tiger Parallel Media, because that is the company that developed the initial page.
It is the department's policy to encourage all of the local tourism operators to use the local Internet companies who develop pages locally. If someone calls us and says they want to build a home page the department provides them with a format that the department has. People are then encouraged to go to local companies to have the work done. The department has a list of local individuals who provide this type of service.
As well, our arts branch put together a home page and did it through a local company.
Mr. Sloan: As the Minister is no doubt aware, I have been hammering away on behalf of small local companies. Once again, I would just remind the Minister that the lifeblood of small companies in this territory is not huge contracts and, while they are small contracts, they can make a difference, so I would encourage the Minister to seek whatever ways he can to maximize Yukon content in marketing.
I would like to take a look at a couple of other points in marketing. A few things have just occurred to me in looking at the marketing program and I have a couple of questions about them.
As the Minister is aware, we have had a number of people from elder hostel visiting this building. I believe they have in fact come into the Chamber and I know that the Clerk has given some talks to them. Have we done any marketing specifically to this age group? Many of those people have more time and likely have a bit more disposable income - and in some cases they have particular interests. What I am getting at is niche marketing. Have we really actively gone after this segment?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that the elder hostel market is a relatively small market. It is not a large market. They are individuals who travel on very limited budgets and often in the off season, seeking the cheapest fares, accommodation and so on. Although that is tourism in some sense, we try to focus more on people who are going to spend more, stay longer and primarily carry out more activities. So, no, it is a market that we do not go after specifically, but we do spent a lot of money on that age group who we know have higher incomes, are retired and have more money to spend. We concentrate on them more than we do the elder hostel market.
Mr. Sloan: I was not thinking specifically about the elder hostel, but I was just using that particular group as an example.
One area of marketing that has interested me is what one would call sports marketing. We have the very successful road relay from Skagway to Whitehorse, and recently we have had the Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska bike race. The people who participate in these events make up a particularly interesting group. They often come considerable distances. Has the department actively pursued this particular market niche? I am thinking that there are a variety of sporting publications that could be used to attract people to come to these particular events. Is this an area that we have taken a look at?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Not directly. However, I have spoken to some of these groups. We do carry out a lot of familiarization tours for writers and those types of people who come to the Yukon. We suggested to them that if they are interested, they could approach the tourism marketing branch with an idea or suggest a running magazine or a person who wants to come to the Yukon to do a story on the territory.
I have to tell the Member that we get dozens and dozens of these kinds of requests from people from all over North America who want to come and write a story about the Yukon. We have to look at the coverage and exposure of their particular media piece, the type of people who do the pieces, and whether or not these people will actually ever come to the Yukon. We do that through our market research. We try to concentrate primarily on those types of magazines and publications that the people who would come to the Yukon would read.
We get literally hundreds of them a year, requesting to come here, from virtually every small town newspaper or magazine in the world.
Mr. Sloan: One area of marketing that the department might want to consider is the possibility of looking at events that could be staged here as an attraction, as demonstrated by the road relay, which apparently has more teams wanting to compete than can be accommodated. I would suggest that that might be a viable angle to pursue.
One of the things that was very clearly impressed upon me during the briefings was the whole area of wilderness tourism, which I understand is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry and holds a measure of appeal for many Europeans, in particular.
My concern is about the kinds of commitments the government could make, so as not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. In other words, I think there might be a problem of over-saturating our wilderness - if you will. I guess the question is this: how would we protect the environment, in order to ensure that this is a long-term, viable industry? What steps are we taking, in terms of managing the number of people who go down certain rivers and enter particular areas? Can the Minister give us some idea about that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are doing a couple of things. We talked about one earlier tonight, and that was the development of regulations that would control the usage, licensing, and that kind of thing, of individuals who might come here. The second thing we do is provide information about no-trace camping, et cetera, to make sure that people pack out what they pack in. Those are the kind of activities that we carry on.
The Member is right - probably our biggest marketing initiatives right now deal with the wilderness, the scenery, the outdoors, and so on. If five million people came to the Yukon each year, you would not see much but people, I suppose, from a Yukoner's perspective. I guess it would not mean much to someone in Germany, where there are 80 million people, but it would sure mean a lot to someone like me in the Yukon.
It is a remote wilderness experience that people want. I think that is a concern that the wilderness industry has and that we share, as well. There is a saturation point. I do not think we have reached it yet, and certainly the wilderness people are telling us that we have not.
Mr. Sloan: That is good. I would hope that the Minister will keep that in mind when he talks to his colleagues about a coal-fired electrical generating plant. The Europeans can see those in the Ruhr; they do not have to come here to see them.
Along with the marketing, I would like to move on to winter marketing. The winter marketing initiative is attracting visitors from Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Minister mentioned that this program had not been particularly successful - I think it was at the meeting in October. Are these marketing initiatives still on the books and still occurring?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, we are not doing it that way now. We took the money from the winter marketing initiative and put some into our European marketing - we talked to the Chamber of Commerce and others about this. We added a winter component to our European marketing brochures and added, as I mentioned earlier, a winter page on our Internet. The type of thing we talked about a few minutes ago - marketing an event on the page on the Internet - were things like the Yukon Quest and Sourdough Rendezvous - those kinds of things.
I do not know if the Member noticed - I sure did - but this year at the Yukon Quest and Rendezvous there were more Europeans and tourists around than ever before. Some of them must have received part of the message through some of our winter marketing.
It was really early. We will not see the full impact of that until probably next year. It has just entered the marketplace and the home page is just being put together. It really has not had the exposure that it will get.
We did an analysis of the Anchorage and Juneau thing, and it just did not work out that well.
The decision was not made by the department but by the people on the marketing council, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and others who had discussed where the money would be best spent. We have limited dollars, and we have to make sure we are getting a return for them.
Mr. Sloan: So basically the numbers were not there.
One of my areas of interest is the whole question of convention marketing. For me, this was driven home by my participation in a national conference a few years ago. One of the things that came out of it is that the tendency of people in this type of niche marketing is to stay longer and consequently spend more. I have had some discussions with the Chamber of Commerce. What kind of initiatives does the department see in this regard? I think we have a lot of potential here to draw people for conventions. Is this a priority for the department?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Absolutely. In fact, we provide $25,000 to help pay for the salary of the individual who is hired for the convention bureau. We do a lot of work through Tourism Yukon to assist the convention bureau with respect to anyone who is interested in coming to the territory.
Mr. Sloan: Does the Minister have any idea of some of the forthcoming conventions or conferences?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get the schedule for the Member. I believe dozens are planned. There are several this summer - more in 1997 - and I know that there are quite a few for 1998. I know of half a dozen that are happening in 1998. I think the Canadian Medical Association, or something, will be here in September 1998. There are supposed to be over 1,000 delegates to that, which is a good time of the year to have them here.
The beauty of conventions is that they seem to come in the shoulder seasons, which helps.
I can get the Member a list from the Yukon convention bureau of the conventions already scheduled for the next three years.
Mr. Sloan: This is something with which I really feel we should be going forward. I think this has some real advantages for the territory and quite obviously, I think, for Whitehorse.
The Minister made some references to the Sourdough Rendezvous Society before. They had a reasonably successful Rendezvous this year and I think the society is to be commended on that. It has had some problems in obtaining funding because it falls between the cracks in some ways. It does not qualify for Yukon lotteries funding or Yukon Recreation Advisory Council - things such as that. I guess perhaps it is just the nature of the event.
I have found out by talking with the members of the Sourdough Rendezvous Society that apparently one of its major needs is in marketing and financial assistance with mailings. Has the Minister given any consideration to this particular proposal or has he had any discussions with the society in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: One of the things that I did was ask the department to put together a winter events marketing page on the Internet and the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous is very much a part of that. Individuals who will look at the marketing page can call up our Yukon brochure and it will have a calendar of events on it of what is going on.
I am not sure about what is on the Rendezvous marketing page and whether or not we would put on its schedule of events for that weekend. The Internet is a very effective tool, especially because the print material does not have to be put together; people can pull the whole brochure up on the Internet. That is what we have done.
We have also suggested that we would be willing to work with them in Economic Development with respect to the centennial events program.
Under that program, they can theme events around the gold rush.
Many of the events are naturals, such as the flour-packing contest, the one-dog pull and the Swede-sawing competition. They could put together some funding programs to be eligible for some assistance to carry out those events. They did this last year with one event. It was not one of the Main Street events, but they received funding last year. For the next three years there is money in the program and they can put together programs and access the money.
Mr. Sloan: I will not be too long, because I know my friend from Riverside has some questions.
I have a question about the Tourism Industry Association. I want to ensure that the commitment to the association, in terms of financing - I know it is in this year's budget - is a commitment that will continue on an ongoing basis.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, it is a commitment that will continue on an ongoing basis, but I think the industry might like a commitment from the New Democratic Party on an ongoing basis, because Members from that side have criticized the association for writing letters, and the industry is concerned about their commitment.
The association knows my commitment is there. It has been there every year for three years and will continue, but I think the association is concerned about a commitment from other parties.
Mr. Sloan: Let me just reassure the industry right now that we always enjoy correspondence. It keeps us going and it is always interesting to have a good and lively exchange. I can assure the Tourism Industry Association that the New Democrat government, after the next election, will commit to keeping the funding going. I hope, when I am sitting on that side, that I can say as many positive things about the industry as the Minister opposite is saying.
Let us turn now to the question of the Yukon Arts Centre. I have had some representations in the last little while and I attended a meeting at the Arts Centre where there seemed to be a measure of tension between the board and some aspects of the arts community. Is the Minister aware of this? Has he received any representations from the arts community and, if so, what steps will be taken?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I am aware of some concerns that have been expressed by user groups at the Arts Centre. I have just recently appointed three members to the board. Two are reappointments - Ava Christl and Roland McCaffrey - and Cristina Pekarik is the third person appointed to the board. Cristina is involved with Nakai Players. I have also spoken to the board members about the concerns that I have heard. I have asked that the director of the arts branch attend the board's meetings as an observer, to be a liaison with the board.
I have told the new and existing members that my priority with the Arts Centre is that the user groups feel it is serving the community. That is my number-one priority, and second, that they do the very best they can to keep the Arts Centre in the black. With today's cuts to the arts coming from the federal government and other governments in this country, we have managed to maintain the funding to the arts community. We have actually enhanced it in our budget over the past three years.
I want to make sure that facility remains viable. My second priority would be that they watch the bottom line. The first priority is that the user groups are satisfied they are getting use of that facility at an affordable rate. I would like to hear that the community is happy with what is happening there. I know meetings are taking place in the next few days, and I hope to hear in the next month or so that discussions will take place and some positive comments come from the Arts Centre about how the community is happier with the way things are working.
Mr. Sloan: I thank the Minister, and I am sure the artistic community also thanks the Minister for that.
I am presuming that is one institution that will stay up the hill for the foreseeable future.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Sloan: With regard to Arts Centre funding, I presume there is a commitment to continue the funding at the same level as in previous years?
Mr. Cable: The Official Opposition critic has canvassed most issues, so my questions will be short.
The Government Leader spoke to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce on January 9, 1996. He was talking about partnerships between the government and other parties. He said, "In today's highly competitive tourism marketplace, partnerships are important." A little later, he went on to say, "Two travel trade partnerships have been established: Holland America, Westours and Princess Cruises." I believe that the Minister alluded to one of those earlier this evening.
When the Government Leader was talking about partnerships, and when the Minister's department talks about partnerships, what are they talking about? Is there a formal agreement or contract between the parties?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In the industry, it is known as cooperative marketing. It varies between the sectors of the industry. For example, cooperative marketing with Canadian Airlines might mean that we will produce a joint brochure. We have done that for a winter brochure. We produced a joint brochure for which we paid part of the costs, the airline paid part of the costs, and the brochures end up in the seat pockets of Canadian Airlines or in travel agencies throughout the world.
With Holland America, it ended up being cooperative marketing for the gold rush anniversary. We provide the company with some of the information about the gold rush, history and that kind of thing, and it puts the information in its marketing. We see benefits from that. It varies with each and every partner, depending on what the partner can offer us.
We also have partnerships with locals for familiarization tours. We put out letters to all tourism businesses in the territory that say, "Can you offer us your product at a reduced rate or at no cost?"
If we receive letters back that say they will do it, we then bring our media people to town to do a story on the Klondike Gold Rush or the Yukon and they get to stay in one of the local hotels in a room that may be complementary for us. They may be brought up here compliments Canadian Airlines.
It takes a $40,000 budget to pay for these kinds of things and it expands it into a $400,000 budget, if these people cooperate with us, because we can do 10 times as much. That is how it works.
Mr. Cable: I was specifically wondering how these deals are documented. Was there a formal contract or exchange of correspondence? What sets out what these corporations are to do - Holland America, Westours and Princess Cruises?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Generally it is an exchange of correspondence. The Department of Tourism looks at it in terms of the net benefit to the Yukon - if we can take a dollar and double or triple it.
We just recently announced the cooperative partnership with the Royal Canadian Mint. We have just recently done one with Pierre Berton's CD-ROM, where we put some money into it, the publishers McClelland & Stewart put money into it, and this was done by way of correspondence. Pierre Berton has to make a couple of appearances for us. The book went into book stores all across North American. We included in that a Yukon visitor guide, how to get to the Yukon on the CD-ROM. We also included a locally produced card in the package so people could order a locally produced CD-ROM with all the history of the Klondike. I think there are 27 hours of great stuff about the Klondike.
It was a cooperative marketing initiative we conducted with Pierre Berton's publisher. We took a few thousand dollars and quadrupled it because McLelland & Stewart wanted to sell more books.
Mr. Cable: What I would like to see, if, in fact, there is an exchange of correspondence provided to us, is what the corporations are obliged to do - if they are obliged to move a certain number of bodies into the territory for a certain length of time - and I would like to see what sort of expenditures, if any, the government is obliged to make on the arrangement. Is the Minister in a position to provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can, and I will, I guess. However, I have to remind the Member that we have very limited resources in the marketing department and the people there, at the present time, are up to their eyeballs in marketing. We just do not have the staff to be able to do that. I can get it for the Member, but it might take some time.
When I am talking about this kind of thing, a different arrangement exists for each and every cooperative partner. So, you are talking about probably hundreds of letters, and it is going to take an awful lot of time for someone to do this.
I would prefer to use the time of the people in the department to produce excellent results - the best in the country - in marketing, rather than pulling information out for the Member. I can give the Member a briefing, and that might be the best way to do it. The director of marketing could then explain to the Member how the program actually works. That might be a quicker way to do it for everyone, and the Member would get the same kind of information.
Mr. Cable: We are using the term partnership, which implies that there is some deal on the table. We do not have to do this tonight and we do not have to do it tomorrow and we do not have to do it in the next week, but at some point I would like to see the documents that constitute this arrangement so I am in a position to judge if these partnerships are really beneficial to Yukoners. I would appreciate it if the Minister would do that when his staff is not tied up with the celebrations coming up.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It might be easier for everybody if I ask the marketing department to put together four to six examples, including the correspondence, et cetera, that goes with them, because they are different, and that might give the Member an idea of how it works, rather than do everything. As he said, we are talking about dozens and dozens of these, when we are looking at getting into the familiarization tours and those other kinds of arrangements.
Mr. Cable: That sounds just fine.
Last year, in response to a question I asked, and I refer him to page 1913 of Hansard, the Minister said, "The fastest growth market for us is the wilderness tourism market and the European market." Are any partnerships anticipated with the segments of the wilderness tourism industry, in the sense of the partnership terminology used in the last few minutes and as used by the Government Leader when he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member with the specifics on that, but the department does produce a winter tourism brochure that deals with winter marketing. The Department of Economic Development has recently made an agreement with the Wilderness Tourism Association for a two-year marketing plan under the economic development agreement.
The department worked with the association to put together a wilderness brochure. There are about a dozen operators contained in the little brochure that was prepared in conjunction with the association. There are quite a few examples of these types of projects.
Mr. Cable: There is a rather imaginative proposal coming from the Klondike Visitors Association about their Ton of Gold project. I would like to know a few particulars about this proposal. Is the Minister's department working with the promoters of that project?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: An individual in the Executive Council Office is acting as coordinator and is working with the association, although the Dawson Centennial Association is arranging the proposal.
The department is considering such things as the legal technicalities of running a lottery to help open some doors for the association to access Wells-Fargo, Loomis or some other large security company.
The department is looking into insurance and the costs for insurance. The department is doing whatever it can on a technical basis and providing the association with technical advice on the project. At this time, there has not been a decision to do too much more than that, but the department is certainly working with the association.
It is an interesting and exciting idea. It is a pretty big task to move that much gold - $15-million worth. There is much to be done, but the department is still helping the association.
Mr. Cable: I gather part of the proposal involves the Royal Canadian Mint providing gold bullion. Is the Royal Canadian Mint on side for the provision of the gold?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not think that has been decided yet. I am not aware of the decision being that. I know that it was one of the options, but I do not think that the whole plan has been finalized yet. I think it is very much in the conceptual stage with a lot of letters and inquiries being made.
Mr. Cable: Are there any guarantees being asked for it by the Minister's department to guarantee the security of the gold?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, there is no guarantee of the security of the gold as yet and it would be quite an expensive process to guarantee $15 million worth of gold.
Mr. Cable: What has the Klondike Centennial Society specifically asked the government to do, other than look at the lottery rules that are needed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: So far, I have had a couple of meetings with individuals representing the society, and they have asked us to look at the legal question surrounding lotteries, to open some doors for them, perhaps write some letters for them with respect to getting them through the doors of some big corporations. We may be able to do that because of our marketing agency, which may have contracts or connections with some of these people. There may be people in Ottawa that should be contacted, and we have offered these individuals our Yukon office in Ottawa to get them into certain places there also.
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Economic Development is asking me if I am intending to steal the gold. I have not decided yet.
I have one last set of questions. Last year, the Department of Tourism applied under the economic development agreement for $180,000 in funding for the Beringia Centre. Was that funding received?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We received $65,000, and it was used for marketing.
Mr. Cable: I am sure that the Minister has been aware that the private sector has not been overly happy with the government sort of feeding on the economic development agreement over the years. Was the tourism portion of the economic development agreement underfunded or were there more applications for the funding than funding was available?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member. I think the money was used up. I do not know whether or not it was underfunded. I did not hear any complaints about the use for the Beringia Interpretive Centre. In fact, as far as I know, there is industry support for that. As far as I know, there is not a problem.
Hon. Mr. Devries: As the Minister knows, the sign outside Watson Lake was vandalized. We still have two of them - an ugly yellow one on the Cassiar Highway, and I believe there is also one like that on the Atlin Road. Are there any plans to replace those two signs and fix the one that was vandalized?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Certainly the one at Watson Lake will be repaired, but we have an ongoing program of installing the visitor entrance signs throughout the territory. I will check and see if those other areas are on the list.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Tourism?
We will go line by line at this time.
Is there any general debate?
Operations in the amount of $928,000 agreed to
Administration in the amount of $928,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program?
Are we prepared to go line by line at this time?
Operations in the amount of $276,000 agreed to
Mr. Sloan: In terms of registered artifacts, there seems to be an anticipated increase. Is that in anticipation of the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act coming into force?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member on that. I do not know at this time.
Museums in the amount of $345,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites
Mr. Sloan: Once again, with the passage of the An Act to Amend the Historic Resources Act, is there an anticipated increase in the number of sites being identified?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think most of the sites are already identified. We know which sites there are in the territory at the present time.
Historic Sites in the amount of $137,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics page before we carry the total?
Heritage in the amount of $767,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on industry services?
We will go line by line at this time.
Operations in the amount of $530,000 agreed to
Industry Services in the amount of $530,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate?
We will go line by line at this time.
Operations in the amount of $1,160,000 agreed to
On Public Relations
Mr. Sloan: Can the Minister give us a sense of the kinds of things that will be included here?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is the public relations component of the homecoming program in the budget.
Public Relations in the amount of $126,000 agreed to
Promotions in the amount of $1,132,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Mr. Sloan: Can we assume that the marketing is through the Internet and CD-ROM?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. This is for the operation of the visitor reception centres in the territory, and the transfer of the special operating agency vehicle fleet and facility maintenance repairs.
Information Services in the amount of $1,922,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistical pages?
Marketing in the amount of $4,340,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate? We will go line by line at this time.
Operations in the amount of $1,298,000 agreed to
Arts in trhe amount of $1,289,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $7,863,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate on this program? We will go line by line at this time.
On General Administration Support
On Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Lang - sorry, Mr. Chair., that was not an insult, even though coming from me it might have sounded like one.
All of the capital expenditures are, of course, new items. It would be helpful if the Minister could give us a quick rundown of each line just to have it on the record.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The items are local area network expansion for connection of additional work stations at the new office facility; arts branch employees and resource centre; paleontology data base phase 2; work stations and required software; furnishings for Tourism Business Centre, including boardroom, lobby, staff room, meeting room and resource centre; and miscellaneous ongoing furniture needs.
Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centre/ Tourism Business Centre - Construction
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is for completion of construction.
Mr. McDonald: When does the Minister expect that the business centre will be open for business?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe the deputy minister was over there today looking at the building. I think the department is expecting to get in about the third week of May.
Chair: Order. The time being 10:30 p.m., I will now rise and report.
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. 10, First Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and I now 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.
The time being 10:30 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 24, 1996:
Yukon Housing Corporation Annual Report for the year ended March 31, 1994 (Nordling)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 24, 1996:
Fetal alcohol syndrome: programs available (Fisher)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2781
Grievances: number of, April 1, 1994, to March 15, 1996 (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3290
Women in management positions: comparison between March 1991 and January 31, 1996 (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3290
Employment equity statistics: counselling services (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3301
Merit increases: anticipated amounts for one fiscal year (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3297