Tuesday, December 17, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is rare that one gets to rise on a personal point, but I would like to introduce in the gallery today my daughter, Amy Sloan, a young woman of whom her mother and I are very proud. She is a product, incidentally, of the superior Yukon educational system in Watson Lake, Porter Creek and F.H. Collins. Not incidentally, Amy is the first Yukoner ever to attend the National Theatre School in Montreal, and I would like to invite the Members to welcome her to this gallery today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling the statement of revenue and expenditures of the health care insurance program.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I would like to table the annual report of the Yukon Housing Corporation for 1995-96.
Speaker: Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 2
Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling today a petition from residents of the Marsh Lake area, protesting assessment value increases calculated over the past year.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of motion
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should report to the Legislature annually on the state of the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of motion
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to continue with the planning for the construction of the second school in Dawson City.
I also give notice of motion
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work with the Yukon College to make plans to relocate and expand the existing portable classrooms at the Robert Service School in Dawson for the Yukon College satellite campus when they are no longer required for use by the school.
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should commit itself to consulting with parents, students and teachers concerning the future of the Yukon excellence awards program prior to making any action to terminate this program. The House urges the Government of the Yukon to follow the recommendation of the other partners in education concerning the future of the Yukon excellence awards program and give consideration to expanding the program to include students who demonstrate a marked improvement in their grades or step up a parallel program entitled "the Yukon achievement awards program".
Speaker: Are there any statements by Ministers?
Environment Act: regulations re contaminated sites
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is my pleasure to advise the Legislature that the Yukon government has formally adopted new regulations under the Environment Act that will allow it to manage contaminated sites, regulate the safe storage of chemicals and provide for the reporting of spills. These regulations will come into force on January 1, 1997.
The new regulations and relevant sections of the Environment Act will provide the Yukon government with a legal framework to regulate the clean-up of contaminated sites such as the waterfront property in Carcross.
The new regulations were drafted in consultation with advisory committees consisting of representatives of other governments, industry and non-governmental agencies. Draft regulations were subject to 60 days of public review and comment and public and stakeholder suggestions have been incorporated.
The contaminated sites regulations set out standards and protocols for the management of contaminated sites. They will apply to land other than federal land, such as private property and land owned by the Yukon government.
Soil and water standards, based on national standards and provincial regulations, determine what properties must be managed as contaminated sites. Regulations set out a clear and fair procedure for assessing contamination, managing clean-up and assigning costs.
The "polluter pays" provisions of the Environment Act assign liability to the person or organization that caused the pollution, no matter who owns the property at the time the contamination is discovered.
The storage tank and spill regulations will apply throughout the territory and be enforced in situations where there are gaps between the federal territorial regulations. Where clear federal rules are in effect, they will prevail. For example, spills into water, which are covered by the federal Fisheries Act, would be covered by regulations under that act.
The storage tank regulations apply to new tanks and those that undergo major renovations. Storage requirements are based on national guidelines and the National Fire Code and will affect a variety of hazardous substances, some of which are not covered by existing legislation. They will not apply to heating fuel tanks that hold less than 4,000 litres or tanks used to supply "comfort" or space heating systems.
The spills regulations detail what substances are covered by the regulations, what quantities of substances must be reported if spilled and how spills should be reported.
My government takes its responsibilities as trustee of the Yukon's environment very seriously and is committed to completing the additional sets of regulations required to give the Environment Act full effect.
In the months ahead, we will be working with the affected interests to develop draft air emission standards to regulate open burning of industrial waste and other harmful emissions. We also plan to initiate discussions on solid-waste management plans and regulations in 1997, and are considering amendments to the beverage container regulations to add other classes of beverage containers to the recycling program.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the Minister for his advice to the House regarding the contaminated sites regulations. The Minister noted that the government is committed to completing the additional sets of regulations required to give the Environment Act full effect. The Environment Act, which passed this Legislature in 1991, was not without controversy; not from a lack of desire to protect the Yukon's environment, rather from the perspective that the legislation itself was not always clear.
Officials from the government were often heard reassuring industry that whatever problems they envisioned would be dealt with by regulations. I note that the government is developing regulations in consultation with the industry and offering an opportunity for the public to review and comment. I appreciate that; however, I also note that when one works on one aspect of a problem, one can lose sight of a larger picture. If I could offer a constructive suggestion to the Minister, it would be useful to the general public to prepare a guide book for industry that indicates what aspects of the Yukon Environment Act are enforced at this time, a summary of what regulations are in place and those regulations that are in development. It would also be helpful to note which legislation might apply, depending on the project. For example, it would be helpful for industry to be able differentiate between the development assessment process referred to in section 6 of the Environment Act and the development assessment process required under the umbrella final agreement. It should not take a battery of lawyers to develop a project in the Yukon.
Notwithstanding the confusing jurisdictions of the Environment Act, I am pleased that these regulations are in place and commend the government for the progress in this aspect of environmental protection.
There is one missing element from this ministerial statement. I wonder if the Minister could clarify for me whether or not the necessary personnel resources and expertise will be in place when these regulations come into force in 1997. For example, one would assume that the reporting of spills would be coordinated between the federal environmental protection officers and the territory.
I look forward to the Minister's response about that.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess that I want to note that this Environment Act was supported by all parties in this House when it was passed. Our government is committed to a clean environment and to being able to take action when necessary. This is important to families and all Yukoners.
The costs for having somebody who has full knowledge and expertise in this field and the implemention of this Environment Act would be included in the next budget. It would include existing budgets, and we would also look at having somebody come in to oversee some of these regulations. That is where the expertise comes in.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City water licence
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The City of Dawson has recently received its new water licence from the Yukon Territorial Water Board. This three-year licence is expected to be signed by the federal Minister in January 1997. The major requirement of this new licence is that the City of Dawson must install secondary sewage treatment.
Is the Government of Yukon prepared to assist the City of Dawson with extraordinary funding to meet this legal requirement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The territorial government has worked with the Dawson City staff on the application that they sent to the Water Board. Of course, Dawson City is responsible for making the decisions regarding primary treatment. We will certainly be willing to work through the whole process with the city.
Mr. Jenkins: That was not an answer to the question.
The capital cost of secondary sewage treatment will be in the neighbourhood of $8 million to as high as $11 million. The ongoing cost of O&M will be an additional $250,000 to $600,000 per year. This is in addition to existing O&M costs, funded by the ratepayers in Dawson, of some $1 million per year. Will the Government of Yukon be meeting this additional cost?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As we know, Dawson is eligible to apply for an extraordinary grant under the Municipal and Community Infrastructure Grants Act. Once it has made a decision, it will be able to pursue this and determine the project perimeters and costs, and we will be prepared to sit and negotiate funding under provisions of the act.
Mr. Jenkins: Previous Yukon governments spent some $5.8 million to repair the system. In addition, the City of Dawson has spent $3.8 million over the last several years on upgrading and expanding the system. The total focus for the funds in Dawson, for this past decade and a half, has been on the repair, maintenance and upgrading of their water and sewer system, to the detriment of all other infrastructure. The City of Dawson has the highest water and sewer user costs in Yukon. What is the Government of Yukon prepared to do to assist Dawson to provide water and sewer to its residents in an affordable manner?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said, and I will repeat, we are prepared to sit with the City of Dawson once a decision is made regarding the options and, within the provisions of the act, we are prepared to negotiate funding. I am certain we will be able to come up with something that will be of mutual benefit to all people, and especially to the environment, which is affected.
Question re: Gambling
Mr. Phillips: My question is directed to the Minister of Justice. Yesterday, the Leader of the Official Opposition asked about a proposal from the Carcross First Nation to set up a gambling casino and a gas station selling tax-free gas. The Member responded to the question by saying, and I quote, "I am going to let him know that I am going to give serious consideration to any ideas of that nature, whether it is to increase legalized gambling or sell tax-free gas." I would like to ask the Minister this: is it the position of the Government of the Yukon that it will give serious consideration to any First Nation to sell tax-free gas to the consumer?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the Member misunderstood the response yesterday. Certainly we will investigate and study any proposal made by any First Nation to try to sell tax-free commodities. As the Member knows, on a reserve, First Nations have some ability to sell commodities and have section 87 protection under the Income Tax Act, up until 1988, after which they lose that protection and they are required to live by self-government agreements or the laws of general application, whichever are in effect.
With respect to the question of the sale of tax-free gas - as I understand the proposed business plan - it would be sold out of the gas station that is currently off the reserve in Carcross and consequently, it would be subject to the laws of general application and would therefore have to pay tax.
Mr. Phillips: That is not what the Minister said yesterday. Yesterday, she said that she would give serious consideration to it. I received several calls from people who own businesses and are quite concerned about this statement.
My supplementary question might possibly be answered by the Government Leader. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation has indicated that it is interested in getting into legalized gambling. I know the NDP, while in Opposition, opposed any increase in gambling. I would like to know the position of the government on any First Nation, or anyone else, getting into increased gambling - such as setting up new gambling halls - in the territory.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I will indicate to the Member that he misunderstood the answer yesterday, which was that we would seriously investigate or study the ramifications of any proposal put before us. With respect to the question of gambling - as the Member probably knows - the regulation of gambling is covered under the Criminal Code of this country. The Criminal Code says that you must have a licence for a province or a territory in order to conduct gambling or organized gaming - run a casino. That is the law of the land today, and it has been tested at the Supreme Court. With respect to the matters after the First Nation, or any First Nation, sets up or passes its self-government agreement, they do have the power, under the self-government agreements, to bypass Yukon laws; however, they do not have the power to bypass the laws of general application that are inflicted by the federal government. So, the Criminal Code would still apply with respect to any First Nation law to the extent of any conflict between the two sets of laws. That is how the actual agreements read.
Of course, as the Member indicated yesterday, we would not be promoting additional gambling, and certainly not without extensive consultation. We are certainly aware of the significant opposition to the operation of a casino within the City of Whitehorse.
The situation is both a legal and political one.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the Minister did not clearly hear the question that I asked him. I asked the Minister what the New Democratic Party government's policy is with respect to increased gambling in the territory.
Could the Minister be specific - is the New Democratic Party government for or against increased gambling in the territory?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Unfortunately, I was trying to give the Member a clear answer to a complex question. The Member was not listening and perhaps did not care about the answer.
What I was trying to say is that we, as government, do not want to promote additional gambling, but it may not be our call because, under the legal authority of the self-government agreements for First Nation governments, they may be able to make some arrangement with the federal government to undertake gambling. It may not be this government's call, but we do not want to promote gambling. That is our position.
Question re: Faro mine, plan for reopening
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development about the Faro mine closure.
A couple of weeks ago, after he had delivered a ministerial statement, the Minister said that he would be keeping in contact with the company and he would be communicating with us and the public about any new information that he had received. I have not heard from the Minister so I would like to ask this question: on November 25, the president of Anvil Range Mining Corporation was reported as saying, when the time was right, that the company would go to the government with a proper plan. That statement was made nearly a month ago, and Yukoners and the Yukon economy are hanging in limbo while this company gets its act together and works out its problems.
Does the Minister have any idea as to when the company will begin mining again, and has the government been presented with the plan that the company president spoke about approximately one month ago?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for the question.
With regard to an update, I spoke to a company CEO last Thursday and on that day the company issued a press release with regard to the Strathcona Minerals report that was presented to the board of directors the previous Wednesday.
The Strathcona Minerals report confirmed the longevity of the ore bodies - some 20 million tons in the Grum deposit. The report also spoke to the fact that there was virtually no debt in the corporation.
What it did say was that they were very much in agreement with the corporate direction and they said that the issue is entirely price sensitive; that is, price sensitive to the price of the metal, namely zinc, which is their main, staple product.
That was a public statement that I felt would be better heard coming from the company and it did come from the company. I also know that debate on economic development is scheduled in the supplementaries so I expect lots of questions from the Opposition.
As a matter of fact, my officials are in Faro today dealing with the effects on the community and having further meetings with community organizations to formulate some plans, it is hoped, for early in the new year.
Mr. Cable: It has been my experience that every time the mine goes down, the rumour mill starts about some major mining company swooping into the Yukon, purchasing the mine, putting it into inventory and warehousing the ore body.
Has the Minister had any information from the mining company about whether or not it is talking with prospective purchasers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: In my discussions with the chief executive officer, which were fairly brief, the subject did not come up. I have had casual discussions with other mining companies during the recent geoscience forum about the status of the temporary, partial shutdown and the surprise to a lot of people in the investment community. At that time, there was absolutely no interest expressed to me by any corporations about purchasing the Anvil Range mine.
Mr. Cable: On the day that the Minister gave his ministerial statement, he also presented his department's analysis of the economic and fiscal impact. We learned that over the short-term, there is little effect on revenues. He went on to say that his department was calculating the effect on expenditures such as, I assume, social assistance and additional education costs.
Can he provide the Members with any information, either by way of legislative return or, if the House shut downs, by way of letter, on the additional expenditures that are anticipated due to the mine closure?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, I said that I could do that for the Member and I will. The reason that it has not been provided yet is because it is not finalized. I had a meeting on the Saturday before last in Faro with the community groups to talk about issues such as counselling services and some college courses. The college is undertaking a survey in the community to identify some 13-week courses that could perhaps be productive time for a lot of the citizens in the community.
There is also a major desire to put on some recreational programming and to bring some ongoing courses in the territory to Faro that normally are not provided in order to give people some additional productive activities.
With regard to social assistance, it is very difficult to calculate this at this juncture. However, the federal government has a representative, Mr. Rick Roberts, in there today to talk about issues such as some of the needs that some people may have in terms of job search and whatnot while people make decisions about their future.
I might also add that I am fairly optimistic about the company being able to survive this. The chief executive officer told me on Thursday that their mine plan is being put together for investors. It seems like things are still going ahead in that direction, and that is positive.
Question re: School council chairs, Minister meeting with
Ms. Duncan: My questions today are for the Minister of Education and are with respect to a number of departmental matters.
It is my understanding that the Minister will be meeting with Whitehorse school council chairs on Thursday of this week. The key issue for all Yukon school councils is, of course, facilities. The Minister indicated in an early interview with CBC Radio that she would be sitting down with school councils to see if they could come up with some priorities. Facilities or the date for a discussion with all Yukon school councils about facilities is not even on the agenda for this meeting with Whitehorse school council chairs. Does the Minister intend to hold a separate all-school councils conference about facilities? How does she intend to, as she said, get them together to look at how they can accommodate each other's needs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the Member would be aware, if she has a look at the agenda for the meeting with school councils, one of the items to be discussed is relations between school councils and the government. We are working with them on that. This is indeed a preliminary meeting with the Whitehorse school councils, since we did not have the time and the budget to bring all the rural school councils in at this time. That is something that I will be pursuing in the new year and that we will be discussing in the interim with the Whitehorse school council members.
Ms. Duncan: I do not know how the Minister is going to get all of them together to see how they can accommodate each other's need of facilities, but let us talk about training for school council members. It was not on the agenda either, but it is a concern that has been expressed by a number of school councils.
School council elections were October 26. Has the Minister or the department set a date for a training session requested by school councils?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, perhaps the Member could benefit by asking the question about what items are on the agenda, rather than going by whatever information she has at hand. The item regarding training for school council is something that I intend to discuss with the school council chairs when I meet with them. As well, there is an annual meeting of school councils, which is normally scheduled in the spring. It is our intention to continue with that past practice.
The school councils that have been elected since October have had some information packages sent to them by the department. They have also had people from the department going out and meeting with various school councils - not with all of them as yet. I have met with some of the rural school councils, but have not yet met with all of them.
Ms. Duncan: Busing is another item that is on the agenda. The tender document for the review indicated that it was imperative to proper consultation that the chance to comment on school busing be extended to the public at large.
An out-of-Yukon firm was the successful bidder on the contract, and they may not be aware of the general interest the public has in school busing, even those of us whose children are not yet in school. Would the Minister outline how and when the public consultation on school busing and the review of school busing will occur?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The contractor who was awarded the busing review contract was the lowest bidder and won the contract based on the normal criteria that we use in evaluating proposals. The successful contractor has had meetings with the Department of Education officials and has been asked to ensure that there is an opportunity for the general public, as well as for the elected school councils, to represent the interests of the public.
Question re: Local hire
Mr. Ostashek: My questions are for the Government Leader on campaign promises. During the last campaign, the New Democratic Party was trying to make an issue out of local hire. The Government Leader and the Member for Whitehorse Centre called a press conference at the Whitehorse General Hospital and made a commitment to Yukoners that, within 90 days of being elected, they would have a workable plan in place, created jointly between themselves and Yukon contractors and suppliers and labour representatives to implement their local hire policy.
Can the Government Leader tell me if he intends to live up to that election commitment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, we did not make a commitment that we were going to have a local hire policy within 90 days. We did not even commit to having a local hire policy. Discussions have already been initiated with contractors, labour organizations and others to start work immediately in this particular area. This is work that is going to be ongoing for, I suspect, a little while because there are a lot of things to consider in coming to conclusions about, for example, how our contracting regulations can be changed, what the tender specifications might identify as being our needs, local purchase policies, and other things that may have a significant impact on local hire.
We have consequently established a local hire commission, led by a Member of the Legislature, to do the necessary review work to ensure that we will be able to ensure local hire, particularly in the construction sphere, as much as possible under law.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader is starting to sound like the Prime Minister of Canada on the GST, saying, "Do not listen to what I said, but see what I wrote down." Quite clearly, the report that came out of the press conference that was held led Yukoners to believe that there would be a policy in place in 90 days. That is what was said at the press conference and that was what was left in the public's mind. Further to that, there was left an impression that the government would be working to have 100 percent of Yukoners employed on the hospital construction. I ask the Government Leader today: does he intend to live up to that commitment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: These questions could really well be put to the commissioner for local hire - questions that the Opposition clearly has great objections to asking and great objection to the commissioners actually answering. We will get down to that and change the rules in due course to allow democracy its full course.
As I have said, I cannot comment on press clippings. I can comment on what is in our platform book, which does indicate that we are going to be developing a local hire policy. We have set up a commission to do just that to the extent that we possibly can under law. We do want to work out a system where we have as many Yukoners working on construction projects as we possibly can. If we can shoot for 100 percent, we will.
Certainly, we would like to encourage as many Yukoners working on construction as we possibly can, and the local hire commission, if it were allowed to speak for itself, is charged by this government with presenting policy options.
Mr. Ostashek: I suggest that the Member read Hansard tomorrow and see how much he sounds like the Prime Minister of Canada on the GST. He could have taken a page out of his book.
There was absolutely nothing in the election campaign about setting up a commission. It was not discussed nor campaigned on. Setting up the commissions was an after-thought after the election. The Government Leader went as far during the election campaign to say that he would challenge the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to implement local hire policies because of the leakage in the Yukon economy and, in his view, that was horrific.
Again, I ask the Government Leader if he intends to follow through on this election commitment to ensure 100 percent local hire for any projects that involve Yukon funding, such as the new hospital construction.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I will point out once again that developing local hire policies was a commitment by the New Democrats in the campaign. It is a commitment we fully intend to keep. We did not mention the subject of commissions - the Member is quite right, but that is a red herring. What we did do after the election was to undertake an innovative method to pursue policy work in this area.
We believe it is not only a cost-effective way of doing policy work, but is also a much more focused way of doing policy work. We will proceed with our plans, probably over the objections, unfortunately, of the Member himself.
The Member asks whether or not we will have to face a court challenge. We may well have to face a court challenge, but if we do have to face court challenges, we will take them as far as we can.
Question re: Child care workers, education
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Here in the Yukon we have made a concerted effort over the years to educate our child care workers. When Mrs. Hayden was the NDP Minister of Health and Social Services, she put in a fund that topped up the course offerings at Yukon College so that the communities, in particular, would have access to early childhood courses. This fund was a diminishing fund, which completely disappeared in 1996. My question to you, Mr. Minister, is whether or not your government will re-commit to child care workers - particularly those in the communities - enough dollars to ensure the continuation of training for workers who work every day taking care of our most important resource: our children.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have met with the Yukon Child Care Board, and this subject came up. It has been referred to the department for some discussion. There are a number of particular problems with training, not the least of which are the present rates for child care workers, which sometimes preclude them being able to access courses. So, that is one consideration that we have to get around.
Mrs. Edelman: It is good to hear that there is some discussion in that area.
Another question that I have on child care, which is somewhat related, concerns the maximum day care subsidy for a parent. Right now it is $450 and this amount has not increased since 1991; however, the cost of day care has gone up considerably since then. If a parent qualifies for the total subsidy, there is no way that that parent can afford the extra $150 to $200 that day care costs in a month. This is a real hardship for them.
Is the Minister going to review the day care subsidy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I have indicated in this House previously, I have some serious concerns with a number of issues surrounding, for example, issues such as social assistance, not the least of which is the whole question of day care subsidies, because the question of being able to afford quality day care is one that sometimes prevents people from taking meaningful, better paying jobs. That is something that is under consideration.
Mrs. Edelman: That is also good to hear.
I hope there will be some action there and that it will be more than reviewed.
The child care development grant is under a moratorium at present. Day cares in the communities still desperately need this type of start-up money and day cares that offer space for special needs children or after-school programs need these funds as well.
When is the Minister going to complete his review of this fund and start putting these day care dollars back into the community?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That should be taking place fairly quickly. I am pleased with the ardour that the Member has for day care. Perhaps they can prevail upon some of their federal associates to fulfill the quality child care spaces. Was it not $150,000 promised in 1993? We are still waiting.
I certainly will pursue that line with the department.
Question re: Local hire
Mr. Ostashek: There seems to be an alarming trend coming from the government benches. We had the Minister of Justice yesterday say that she was prepared to consider the illegal sale of gasoline. We had the Government Leader admit in this House yesterday that he broke the Yukon Housing Corporation Act in appointing a president. And now we have a Government Leader who is saying that he is prepared to challenge the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is an alarming trend for people who are supposed to be setting an example for the general public. It is very disturbing to me, anyway, and I am sure to many Yukoners as well.
Once again, I want to ask the Government Leader about local hire. In view of the strong statements that his party has made about local hire during the election campaign and those contained in his orange book, not red book, can the Government Leader assure this House that he will respect those commitments to local hire when it comes to hiring more land claim negotiators to replace the three negotiators that he has already dismissed? The Government Leader is fully aware that local knowledge is critical in these positions. Can the Government Leader give the House that assurance.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there is an alarming trend in the Legislature. It is a trend where Opposition Members are misquoting, over and over again, comments made by the government side, desperately trying to create the impression that something is amiss. They are trying to compete with their counterparts, the Liberals, for attention, which is really quite a sad sight to behold.
Nobody misquoted the section on local hire with respect to the campaign commitments. The commitment by the government to work with contractors and building trades was to establish a plan of action for the development of local hire policy; that is what it said in the press release. Consequently, there is no misquote or misintention on our part. However, there is a misquote on the Opposition Leader's part.
The Member now asks the question about land claims negotiators, a question that he asked last night. Of course, what the Member failed to mention yesterday while they were championing the rights of local people to get principal negotiator jobs was that they themselves put out a job advertisement all of last year for a principal negotiator and a lands negotiator. Despite the fact that Yukoners did apply for the job, they did not accept a single applicant from the Yukon for that job, even though they fully intended to fill that position. We do intend to try and get Yukoners to work in the public service as we always have.
Mr. Ostashek: There is a real trend beginning in here - when the Minister does not have an answer he attacks the Opposition instead of answering the question.
The Government Leader is wrong in saying that we did not hire anybody last year. The fact is that we did advertise and we did fill the positions from within the civil service, because that is where the most experienced people were. That is what happened in that instance; it is not that no one was hired.
So, I ask the Government Leader again if he can assure this House that the new land claim negotiators will not be refugees from the now infamous NDP government in British Columbia, and that Yukoners will not see a whole flood of patronage appointments once this House is adjourned.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is not my practice to attack easy targets, but I must set the record straight when poor and bad information is presented before the Legislature. It is my duty.
With respect to the question about local hire within the Land Claims Secretariat, I indicated yesterday that the government will do its best to try to get Yukoners on the job. I did point out that the job competition that the Member just indicated was filled from within was only closed last week. To say that it was filled from within is again wrong information. It is my duty to bring that information forward, because some facts in Question Period are always of some assistance to us.
Mr. Ostashek: The fact is that we filled three positions last year and increased the budget for the Land Claims Secretariat.
I will ask the Government Leader if he can assure this House that the new land claims negotiator positions will be advertised locally, and that there will be open and fair competition for these jobs rather than his normal one-person interviewed, one-person certified and one-person hired policy, which he used for the deputy ministers.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Public servants will always be hired under the Public Service Act, and the full extent of the law will be applied. The policies of the government will be applied in every case. That is the policy of our government.
With respect to the innuendo about outside hires, I understand that the Member is smarting from the fact that I did quite extensively criticize his own government's record yesterday and last night. If he has taken offense to what I mentioned - that a lot of people, even in the Cabinet office, were drawn from British Columbia - I apologize. I had no intention of tweaking the Member or causing any offence.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Government Private Members' Business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of government private Members to be called on Wednesday, December 18. They are Motion No. 27, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie, Motion No. 28, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy, Motion No. 31, standing in the name of Mr. McRobb, and Motion No. 30, standing in the name of Mr. Livingston.
Speaker: We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. At this time, we will take a short break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Chair: The bill before us is Bill No. 3, Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97. We are on Executive Council Office. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I have a few more questions, and I will not be very long on this at all. I do need answers to a couple of questions about the commissions and, once I get those answers, I will be asking the Government Leader for a detailed legislative return, and I will read it into the record.
I guess all I have to say at this point is that there is an agreement to disagree between me and government as to the cost of these commissions and the effectiveness of them. I do not have any difficulty with the Government Leader trying to find work for his backbenchers in building and developing policy - I think that is probably laudable, but I believe that there could have been a far cheaper vehicle used than creating four commissions and creating four deputy commissioners, who - using very conservative calculations - are going to cost $500,000 per year.
So, this is going to be a fairly expensive process. The Government Leader says he is going to draw the resources from within government, and that is fine. However, I still think it is important for us in Opposition to be able to have those costs all pulled into one place so that we can see them and pass judgment on whether these are a new and innovative way of doing things that is cost effective or if, in fact, they are - as we maintain - an expensive way of getting the information that the Government Leader desires.
I just have a couple more questions before I read into the record what I would like. I asked the Government Leader last night what the term was for the three deputy ministers whom he said were term employments. Could the Government Leader tell us today what that term is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The term is for the length of the project, and the term is identified in the terms of reference for each commission. In a case like forestry, for example, it is to develop a comprehensive forestry policy. We would like to do that within a certain specified period of time, but our objective is to develop a comprehensive forestry policy and the person who is assigned to the task as the deputy commissioner is there for the term of the task.
I will return the favour and indicate that I hereby certify that we do agree to disagree on the effectiveness of the commissions. I do believe they are a cost-effective vehicle for developing policy. As the Member has quite rightly pointed out, there is no charge to the surplus for the work of these commissions, unlike virtually every other expenditure in this supplementary.
I would point out that the essential core cost of these commissions, with the exception of the seconded employees, are identified in one department - the Executive Council Office. I believe that if we were to have rolled up all the costs associated with, for example, the forestry policy in the past, and put it into one department, one would see the true costs of developing forestry policy, even by our predecessors. There was the full cost of three or four person years - whatever it was - plus ancillary costs, such as computers, potential mediator and other things that would have been identified in one cost centre and we perhaps would have been able to identify it more clearly. That is what we are doing here.
The only area in which we are doing something new, that our predecessors did not do - or they did not do very much - is the work in the area of local hire. In every other area, such as the development assessment process, forestry and energy, there was work going on of one sort or another - disjointed as it may have been in various departments - expenditures were being made and time being spent doing work.
I would argue that this is a cost-effective way of doing the public's business.
The only innovation here, apart from rolling all the costs associated with this into one department, is that they report to a private Member of the Legislature. I do not think that that is a bad thing. I acknowledge that it is new, but I do not think that it is a bad thing. I would even suggest that it gives all Members of the Legislature, particularly the Opposition Members, a chance to focus in on a specific area. I think that the increased attention by elected people is not a bad thing, but a good thing.
Mr. Ostashek: We are going to agree to disagree and that is my dilemma. I do not have any difficulty with these people making statements in the Legislature, none whatsoever, but I do have some difficulty with us directing questions to them when there is a Minister sitting over there who is responsible for those areas. I think that is a ministerial responsibility and that they have to be held accountable. I do not want to see the Minister deferring questions to the commissioner because I think we are going to get totally frustrated in this Legislature if that starts taking place.
There has to be a Minister responsible and held accountable for the actions of those commissions, not the Legislature. Those people are working for your government gathering information to develop your policy. There has to be a Minister who is responsible for it. If it is the Government Leader, that is fine. We need to know who we go to as the final source.
I hope that that will be worked out. I am not supportive of this. I believe there are other ways of doing this. We will not get it settled in the supplementary debate today. We will be watching very closely.
I do have one other question I want to ask right now. We have another vehicle that was put together by an NDP government and that is the Council on the Economy and the Environment. When I look at the two-page generic outline that he gave me yesterday and I look at the duties and responsibilities in areas that the Council on the Economy and the Environment can work, they are identical.
Anything that one wants to do with these commissions could have been done through the Council on the Economy and the Environment and we would not have had to hire four more deputy commissioners. That is my problem. I see that causing great additional expense that was not required. There are deputy ministers in every department to give direction. The Council on the Economy and the Environment has taken on many tasks over the years in the public, some for the previous NDP government and some for my government. I believe that the Government Leader could have used that vehicle and put the backbenchers together to help develop policy for Cabinet. When there is a large caucus such as his I think that they would have some valuable input to give. It would have worked very effectively. Did the Government Leader consider that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I want to point out a couple of things. First of all, commissioners working in policy areas will be speaking for the government about their actions when it comes to recommendations they want to make to the caucus and the Cabinet. When the government adopts a policy and undertakes to do something through a department, the Minister stands ready to answer. However, when it comes to answering for the work of the policy group, the commissioner answers for that policy group and should, in my view, be allowed to speak about that matter.
The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is a public advisory body on the economy and on environment issues. We have every intention of making use of this council. The commissions are interdepartmental policy working groups. They are different creatures. We intend that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment performs useful functions for the government. We have had the time to think some of the things through and decide on a work plan we would propose to the council, considered the appointment of a new chair, and all those things will be undertaken in the new year. We will then be in a position to request this public advisory body to provide some advice in certain key areas.
I would point out to the Member that, when it came to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment doing a one-day workshop on forest policy in Watson Lake some time ago - I think this was the last public workshop, a year and a half ago - the work the council had done and the public workshop was only to perform a very general policy guidance in terms of general policy work advice in that specific sector of the economy.
Policy working groups will be doing detailed work as well as general policy work for the government. Certainly the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment will be given some assignments, and I would want to encourage a more local approach on the part of the council. The Member and I have locked horns on this point before, but I will be canvassing my colleagues as to what they think the primary assignments should be.
One other thing that it is mandated to do under the law, of course, is to review the Yukon Economic Strategy, which it has so far failed to do in the last four years. That may be something that they may want to put their minds to, because it is mandated under the law.
Yes indeed, there is a need for two entities: interdepartmental working groups on policy and the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Both will be usefully employed.
Mr. Ostashek: We are not going to agree in this Committee debate here today. We will have many questions in the spring on the effectiveness of these commissions. Unless this government is prepared to give a target date for when these things are supposed to be wound up, in my opinion, they are ongoing processes that will be instilled into the bureaucracy and will be there forever at great expense to the taxpayer.
I will mention two of the terms of reference for the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. One of them is that it is the call of the Minister to arrange public symposiums on major economic issues. Another clause that they inserted into the terms of reference is to carry out or supervise projects assigned by the commissioner in the Executive Council Office. What this says to me is that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment can do anything that the Government Leader wants it to do. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment can provide advice to Cabinet on policy and do consensus building in the public. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment can do all of these things. If it is a one-day meeting or more meetings, he has the prerogative and the ability to do that under this clause, without hiring four new deputy commissioners. That is my major concern.
I would just like to read into the record what I would like from the Minister some time in the near future. I would ask that he present me with a legislative return - or by letter - an organization chart for each of the commissions, and where the employees are being seconded from and what their previous duties were. I also want to know who is filling those positions in the departments that those employees were being seconded from while they are doing work on behalf of the commission. I want a target date for the completion of each commission. I think Yukoners need to know that. I want a complete and comprehensive breakdown of all of the financial resources that are dedicated to the commissions, including the financial resources that are being extracted from other departmental budgets.
If the Government Leader wants to maintain that there is no cost to these things because it is coming from existing funds, I do not accept that. There are other uses for the money. This is his priority so he is spending money on it. Already there are conflicting statements by some of his commissioners themselves. His commissioner for energy has said that this will not cost the taxpayers one more dime. The paper that the Government Leader presented to me yesterday states quite clearly, in section 3, that because the commission work is a high priority, each commission will be provided with sufficient staff and financial resources to do its job well; however, those expenses are to be borne largely through existing staffs and budgets, with the objective of minimizing new or additional costs to government.
So, there are already conflicting stories for the public to deal with, and I just think that, in order that we can have intelligent debate on this without just throwing allegations and accusations back and forth across the House, we need to have more detailed information from the Government Leader.
Can he give me a commitment that he will get that information for me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not think we can save ourselves - certainly not on this side of the House - from receiving allegations and accusations, simply because we provide more information to the Legislature, but I can certainly provide answers to those questions when those decisions are made.
Certainly, by the time we get to the Legislature in the spring, the Member will have as complete a picture as I have with respect to those matters the Member has mentioned.
I want to make the one point again, and I realize it may - and probably will - fall on deaf ears, but he quoted the energy commissioner as saying it will not cost taxpayers one more dime. Whether the energy commissioner said that or not, he was correct. That is a correct quote. Unlike the rest of the supplementary, this will not cost more money than we are spending already. Certainly, we are investing in these particular areas as priorities, but to say that it will cost extra money is not true, so I support the quote.
On a couple of occasions, the Member has said that the work that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is charged with doing precisely this kind of thing, so why should we have this kind of activity going on.
Perhaps the Member could consider it this way: he had the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, with the duty of making recommendations on forest policy, and yet, at the same time, he had three people, and was about to hire a fourth person, to do policy work within government. Clearly, in the Member's own mind, he must have acknowledged that the Council on the Economy and the Environment would do one thing and the policy advisors that he had hired in his government were going to do something different, though perhaps complementary. They were both, presumably, going to do useful work. This is all in the context, of course, of the government not even having responsibility for the management of that particular resource.
Clearly, the Member has now acknowledged that, yes, there is a role for departmental policy people to be working in these particular areas, because they have been, irrespective of the fact that the Council on the Economy and the Environment had been doing work also assigned to it by the Yukon Party government.
The only difference here is that we have an interdepartmental group. What is so strange about that? We are taking the people who would normally do the work and they are actually sitting together and doing the work together. I do not see the problem. Obviously, the Member does see a problem. We are on entirely different wavelengths. We are not even close.
Have I answered all the Member's questions? He asked if I would do a legislative return. I think that I said that, yes, I would.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Member is not going to agree with what I am saying. I am just trying to say to the Member that he has not created anything new with these commissions. There already was an interdepartmental committee for forestry. There was an interdepartmental committee for DAP and there was one for energy. That work was ongoing. Now the commissions are going to pull the work together and perhaps go back and do some more public consultation, which is fine. The Minister has added a commissioner to each one to go along with that. The part that is going to be the biggest cost of these commissions is that he has added a deputy commissioner. He has created four more deputy minister positions in this government. That is a cost to government. I do not care how the Government Leader cuts it; it is an additional cost to government.
I will write the Member a letter outlining the information that I would like before the spring session, so that we can have an intelligent debate on these commissions.
Mr. Cable: I will be brief. I should signal to the Government Leader that these commissions may be the best things since sliced bread and we will find that out, or they may be the worst thing since mouldy bread and we will find that out also.
I would like to get on the record, and this may be stating the obvious, but is the Government Leader firmly committed, at this juncture, to putting those commissions in place to deal with the four policy areas that he has described?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, indeed I am.
Mr. Cable: When did the Government Leader first make this decision? Of course, the concept of commissions was not in the NDP platform. I believe that the first wind Yukon people got about these commissions was on October 19 when the Government Leader was sworn in. That is the first mention I can recollect about the commission concept. Was that about the time the decision was made?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The decision was made to do policy work in these areas a long time ago. The decision to use an interdepartmental working group concept or model was made prior to October 19, but after the election.
Mr. Cable: Was there some formal analysis of the alternatives that were available and discussion within the about-to-be-Cabinet as to the merits and disadvantages of the various options - you know, secretaries have stayed, or, as the Leader of the Official Opposition has discussed, the handing of these issues to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Was there some lengthy discussion or was that decision made just like that after the election?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There were lengthy discussions - not in Cabinet, because the Cabinet was not yet formed - in caucus about how the work might be apportioned, how people might be usefully employed, whether they be potential Ministers or doing policy work. There were a number of options discussed. The commissions were not to the exclusion of other options. We did not make a conscious decision at that time and we still have not made any such decision to ignore the Council on the Economy and the Environment. As a matter of fact, I think that there are many things that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment can be doing.
There were some suggestions about how we can put to better use bright, effective, talented, experienced, elected Members of this Legislature. This was in the absence of further discussions, which we may still have with the Opposition, about committees in this Legislature. This was one vehicle that we knew we could use to good effect.
We decided on this model because there are some precedents for it - the Land Claims Secretariat being one such precedent. For years, people have been calling for more and better interdepartmental working activity in policy work. So, the marriage of talent, experience and what we knew to be needs, both in policy areas and the imperatives of involving interdepartmental activity, seemed to be met through the creation of the idea of commissions.
We are prepared to try this innovation because we have seen a lot of work and money having been invested in a couple of these areas in the past without great effect. We still wanted to do good work in these areas, but we did not want to simply add on these projects to the already heavy loads of Ministers and leave some private Members in the government doing very little, other than standard MLA work. We wanted to put people to work, and this was one way we thought we could do that.
Mr. Cable: Before I continue on, I would like to get a copy of the information that the Leader of the Official Opposition has requested. When that information goes out - whatever it is - if the Government Leader could copy the Liberal caucus with that information, I would appreciate it.
One of the things that the Opposition will be looking at, of course, is the effectiveness of the commissions as a delivery system for policy development. That evaluation, of course, will have two facets: some analysis of the product - what comes out of the commissions - and also an analysis of the costs.
We have heard that there will be no additional costs, or that additional costs would be marginal. I have had some discussions with other Members of the Official Opposition, and we are having some trouble coming to grips with the concept that there will be four deputy commissioners who, assumedly, will be making something approximating $100,000 per year, with benefits, yet there are no additional costs will be incurred.
Also, we are having some problem with the movement of people out of existing jobs into other jobs, again resulting in no further costs. Let me ask the Government Leader this: have the various departments that have been asked to provide personnel for these four commissions been told - as is suggested by this organization chart of the Land Claims Secretariat - that anyone seconded to the commissions will not have their jobs filled, either by full-time or term public servants or by consulting services?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For three commissions, the clear direction has been that there will be no backfilling of the jobs of the people who are seconded to commissions. The idea is that the people who are already doing work in these areas will be working, instead, in a commission.
In the area of local hire, we have yet to detect a person who has even spent a modicum of time on the subject of Yukon hire. Consequently, we may not necessarily be able to remove a position from a department without some backfilling or rearrangement of the workload within the department.
With respect to the evaluation of them, of course Members of the Legislature will evaluate whether or not the commissions are working, based on the product and the cost, as will the caucus evaluate the effectiveness of the commissions on the basis of product and cost.
We want to have some results in these areas within a respectable period of time, and we want to have results there just as much as we want to have results for Ministers who are responsible for a whole range of issues in policy areas in their departments. That goes without saying.
When it comes to the cost associated with this, in some cases - in fact, the analysis we have done shows - we will be spending less in a particular policy project than our predecessors. In other areas, we will be spending more than our predecessors - forestry, less; local hire, more.
When it comes to the question of cost, the point has been made that we are not talking about simply wanting to add an extra expenditure on top of everything else that we are doing in order to accommodate these policy projects. We are trying to do everything we can to draw people out of departments who are already working in these areas and, for the cost associated with the team leaders, we are drawing the costs of those team leaders from departments, which means the departments, on a pro-rated basis, have had to reduce their base budget in order to accommodate their contribution toward this project.
Yes, we will be investing public money in public projects, but we will not be eating into the surplus, as we are with most of this supplementary budget. To carry it one step further, I would argue that, in some areas, we will actually be spending less than our predecessors in these policy areas, including the costs associated with the deputy commissioner.
Mr. Cable: The one problem that I have had with the proposition, now that the movement out of the departments is going to be a no-cost proposition, is that it would only be true or accurate if the job descriptions in the departments exactly followed the job descriptions of the people moved into the commissions. Perhaps the Government Leader can tell us that. Does he anticipate that the job descriptions of the people in the commissions, who have been seconded from the departments, will be exactly the same as their previous job descriptions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, that may not be true at all. It may be true but it may not be true.
The Member has been a public sector manager before, so I am sure he will understand that there may be a policy unit. For example, say that the Minister is the Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources and he may have the equivalent of three full-time employees working on forestry policy in his department, which may be made up of five people. Two are working three-quarter time on the project, another couple are working half-time and another person is working a fraction of the time. In terms of the work assigned to the five people, there is the equivalent of three full-time equivalents actually working on forestry policy and he would budget it that way and budget their time that way.
We may take a couple of those people, who are otherwise working on forestry policy from the Department of Renewable Resources, none of whom may have worked more than three-quarter time on forestry in the past, but drawing them out and having them work with the commission.
The balance of the people who remain in the Department of Renewable Resources no longer work on forest policy, but reassign this task among the remaining personnel so they could cover the other workload for the department. The department no longer has the obligation to provide dedicated staff time to forestry policy development.
Mr. Cable: I guess that is the part of the concept that we are having some trouble getting our heads around. There are public servants, say in the Department of Economic Development, who have job descriptions, namely public servant number one who does tasks a, b, c and d. Public servant number one is going to be moved over to, for example, the forestry commission and is going to do task a and b. There is his or her job description dealing with a, b, c and d and a continuation of the first part of the job description in the commission. Over in the Department of Economic Development, there is a loose end that is still running around. Who is going to be doing c and d? Is that going to be done within the present budget and, if it is, then why was it not done that way before?
Can the Government Leader appreciate the problem we are dealing with? He is telling us that, when all the smoke and mirrors are finished with, it is not going to cost the taxpayer anything extra. We are having some trouble wondering about whether the workloads that were there before - if, in fact, they are going to be handled by the present people after the secondments - were proper workloads in the first place.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I suppose the reason we are out of sync is because my notion of public sector time management is not as rigid as the Member appears to think is the way things operate. I do not regard this as being smoke and mirrors at all. Quite often, departments do set up interdepartmental working groups - and they have in the past - for short periods of time on a particular project. The person actually goes out and does something and then comes back. The assignments are mixed and matched among the policy people and the program implementors, et cetera, who also have some policy responsibilities.
This sort of thing happens all the time in the management of large organizations like a department of this government. It is not exactly new. What happens when a government says, "Let us start investigating coal." It has people hell-bent for leather investigating coal. What happens to the other projects, the other assignments, that the department is doing? They are distributed among other people.
Sometimes something has to give, meaning that something has to be dropped off the plate altogether. We are saying that here, in these departments, we acknowledge that policy work is going on already in the areas that we have identified - for example, again, forestry; we will continue using that example, to be consistent. We have identified three full-time equivalents working for the government on forest policy, and we have identified that the government was about to hire a fourth person to work on forest policy - four people. We believe that if we can take a total of three people to work on forest policy, the able departmental managers can redistribute the work so that nothing has to give. In fact, there may be some extra time there for some other projects, as far as we are aware.
So we are saying that this can be a cost-effective way of doing things for precisely that reason, but it will be up to the departmental managers to assign tasks to the best of their abilities. We do know that there are people in Economic Development working on energy. We do know that there are people in Renewable Resources working on forestry, and they have budgeted full-time equivalent time on these projects. So I know that this can be done. Departments know that this can be done. It is not a foreign concept.
Mr. Cable: That is fine. It may all work out just fine.
To get back to the original question that I asked the Government Leader, can he assert to us that the secondment of these people from the departments will not in any way cause the hiring of additional staff - either permanent or temporary - or the letting of contracts to consultants to work on policy matters that these people would have otherwise worked on if they had remained in the departments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As long as we are clear about this point. If the Member is saying that we should be seconding staff to work in policy areas - and this is a core policy unit - and that they should do nothing other than what they normally do to develop policy, in terms of contracting services for one thing or another, then yes, that is correct. I would give the Member that commitment.
However, if the Member is saying that we cannot hire contract services and that we will have to do policy differently than is currently the case - departmental budgets are laced with contract services in policy areas - then I cannot hamstring this government to that extent to please the Member. I cannot do that. There may well be contract services required from time to time in particular areas for short-term projects or for getting some special technical advice. I cannot make a commitment. The Member understands that I cannot make a commitment that we will do policy work differently, in the sense that we will ignore that option.
Mr. Cable: That was not the question that I was really asking.
The question that I was really asking was this: will the actual secondment of any of these people cause the hiring of additional staff or additional consulting services?
That leads us back to the original question about the Government Leader's assertion of having no additional cost being caused by the formation of these commissions. It may very well be that there are going to be additional costs, and that the product we get out of these commissions will make it worthwhile. However, we want to test the Government Leader's theory that there are no additional dollars going into these commissions.
Can he assert to us that the secondments themselves will not cause the expenditure of additional salaries or consulting services?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The reason for which I did not answer that question this time was because I thought I had already answered it on a couple of occasions.
The Member is essentially asking me whether or not there is going to be any backfilling through contract services or some other mechanism. I have indicated that for three of the commissions we do not believe that there is any need to do that kind of backfilling. As I indicated, for the local hire commission, we have just not been able to identify full-time equivalents, or even a fraction of a full-time equivalent, in our government that does that kind of work. Consequently, we are going to have to find someone within the public service to perform those tasks. They may well have to backfill in order to perform those tasks in that area.
When I talk about no increased costs, I am talking about no increased costs overall. That is what I have always consistently said. I have not said that we are not going to spend more than the previous government on local hire policy. I said quite the contrary. Probably every dime we spend will be more than the previous government spent on that area. I do not want to make an absolute statement. Someone will come up and find some fraction of a person who was given some fraction of a project at some point - perhaps three years ago. The point I am making is that there are no full-time appointments or fractions of full-time equivalents that are working in the area.
Consequently, we are going to have to draw from the public service people to work in this area. There will be an incremental increased cost in that particular area but, overall, to government, there will not be increased costs. We will not be asking for money out of our surplus because we are going to be reducing departmental expenditures in order to accommodate increased costs in this area.
Mr. Cable: Let me leave that. I am sure that, in the next session, there will be considerable questions asked on cost collection. It is a sort of cost accounting exercise.
In the area of conflict of interest, we had the conflicts commissioner up here. One of the areas about which I have some concern relates to the fact that the commissioners are half way between a Member and a Minister. There is no clear delineation in the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act on half-way Members or half-way Ministers, particularly in the section that relates to what people are entitled to do after leaving political life.
It would seem to me that there could be the perception that those commissioners who are instrumental in developing policy are bettering their own personal interests. What I am wondering is how the Government Leader is going to approach the general interest of conflict of interest, other than having some casual conversation with the conflicts commissioner when he was up here.
After the terms of reference are clearly set out, is the Government Leader prepared to put to the conflicts commissioner a series of questions relating to those terms of reference as to whether he sees that these commissioners could perceptually be in conflict of interest because of their role in policy development and because of their conversations with caucus Members who are Cabinet Members?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, if one looks at the generic draft terms of reference for commissions, their responsibility is to recommend policy to government, to the caucus and to the Cabinet. They are not there to decide policy nor to carry out policy. Having said that, I would also point out that the conflicts commissioner has been presented with the commissioners, and he has met with the commissioners. This question was asked by one of the Member's own colleagues. I had indicated that Mr. Hughes had considered the matter, had given us the position that he saw absolutely no problem with this at all. I invited the person who was asking the question - one of the Member's colleagues - to give Mr. Hughes a call if they doubted my word on this point at all, or if they did not think my word was clear enough for their tastes.
We have taken the trouble of addressing that precise area. We believe they should live by the same restrictions under the act as do other people working in policy areas. The conflicts commissioner saw no problem with this notion.
Mr. Cable: I am not doubting the Government Leader's word or his translation of what took place. I am suggesting to the Government Leader that the terms of reference have not yet been firmly set, and that when the rules are completely known, a written submission to the conflicts commissioner might be more useful.
While the Cabinet, as the Government Leader has quite correctly said, will determine policy, they will make the decisions, and I think the work of the commissioners will be very determinative in the setting of that policy. They are not just going to be drinking coffee with the Cabinet Ministers. I would assume they will be very persuasive so they are in a much higher position than an ordinary Member on this side of the House. In a practical sense, they may be determining policy, so there is a very live possibility of a conflict. I am not suggesting any of the commissioners would do that, but that is why we have conflict legislation - to deal with the outside possibility that people will misuse their office.
After the terms of reference are finally struck, is the Government Leader prepared to put the series of written questions, so we can all have the answers, to the conflict commissioner, outlining what these people will be doing, what kind of communications they will have with the Cabinet, and ask him, on a formal basis, if he sees any problem with conflicts.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I admit that the commissioners will be very persuasive when it comes to determining the direction of our caucus, the Cabinet and this government.
I am very open to suggestions that Members have on this point. The Members are very persuasive themselves. If Members want to draft the questions or issues that they would like the conflicts commissioner to address, I would be more than happy to refer them to the conflicts commissioner. If the Member wishes, we can send the generic terms of reference, the specific terms of reference and everything else to the conflicts commissioner and ask him to give a statement in writing and perhaps include it in a report if Members would like and if the commissioner is willing. I think we can do that. Whatever the Member wants us to do on this point, because he is a reasonable man, I am certain we can do that.
Mr. Cable: I think that will go a long way toward satisfying the people who have some apprehension in this area. The other facet that needs to be addressed is whether or not those sections of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act that deal with Ministers should in fact apply to the commissioners, and that is a separate issue.
Is the Government Leader prepared to sit down and discuss that with the Opposition? In particular, the section that comes to mind is the right of commissioners to take employment or jobs with the public service within six months of their leaving this House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Any questions that the Member wants to put to the conflicts commissioner, I am prepared to transmit to the conflicts commissioner on his behalf.
If the Member wants to write down the questions and send them to me, I will not even edit them. I will send them off and just add my signature with a notation that I wish the questions to be answered, too. Whatever questions the Member wants answered, we will put to Mr. Hughes. Just name it and we will do it.
Mr. Cable: Do not take this as a cheap shot, but the Minister was reading while I was talking. The question I was asking was . . .
The Minister is well aware of the acrimony that related to several conflict issues that arose over the last few years; I do not have to spell that out for him - well, somewhat acrimonious debates - that took place in this House. Is the Minister prepared to look at the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act with the Opposition, with a view to - the Government Leader is rolling his head in agony, but I am sure that having gone through the fire of conflicts and accusations that he can fully appreciate what goes down on the street does require very careful handling of the conflicts issue. Is he prepared to sit down and determine where these commissioners should sit within the terms of reference of the act? Should they be restricted in their after-leaving-the-House employment rights, and should they be restricted in other areas, as Ministers are? Is the Government Leader prepared to sit down with the Leader of the Official Opposition - if he is interested - and myself, for example, and discuss whether or not these people should be plugged into the act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What I would be prepared to do is to present the issues to the conflicts commissioner, seek his advice as to whether or not he believes, in the first instance, there is a problem there whatsoever. If he determines that some remedial action should be taken in law or policy, then we can consider that point at that time. If we do consider change to policy or law, I will undertake to sit down with my counterparts in the Opposition to review that particular question.
I would not want to go into the equation thinking that there ought to be some tinkering with the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act and seeing whether or not there could be a reason to actually change the act based on the new role of commissioner in the Legislature. I would rather put the question of the commissioner to the conflicts commissioner and ask whether or not he believes there to be a problem.
Knowing what we all know now, so far he has said that he does not believe there to be a problem. If that is the case, I do not see that as being evidence of a need to change the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act.
Perhaps the conflicts commissioner has not considered everything that the Member himself has, so that would be a point to keep in mind - to ensure that the conflicts commissioner has considered all of the angles. The Member could help by helping us to ask the right questions so that we get a complete picture or complete advice from the conflicts commissioner.
Mr. Cable: That suggestion, which is half a loaf - I am perhaps not communicating with the Government Leader completely - certainly should be taken up. At some juncture later on, we can do what perhaps the Government Leader has not fully appreciated, and that is to review the act - not with a view to whether these people are complying with the act but whether the act should be changed to make the rules tighter for commissioners and draw them closer to Ministers.
Let me just ask a couple of other questions. Why were the four policy issues that were assumedly identified by the Government Leader - being forestry, energy, local hire and the development assessment process - pulled out as opposed to any other issue that required interdepartmental coordination?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am going to be sending today's debate down to the conflicts commissioner. As the person who spoke to the conflicts commissioner regarding this issue, I just want to get on the record some of the points that he made with me.
First of all, the private Members or commissioners who are going to be doing this commissioned work are part of the government caucus to begin with. Government caucus members, private Members of a government caucus, are always party to policy direction; they are always party to discussions about what direction the government is going to take. Government caucuses are often involved in what legislation is going to come forward, or what angles should be taken in legislation. There is nothing new about that, or nothing wrong with that. These people are obviously going to have a very strong bent in terms of what direction the government takes. That would happen whether there were commissions or not, because the people in question are extremely strong individuals, and intelligent, who will be able to put forth good arguments in whatever forum they are engaged in - whether it was just in a government caucus or whether it was in the form of a commission, or some combination of both.
The conflicts commissioner also told me that, as far as he is concerned, what is wrong with private Members doing, as he put it, public policy work that affects a broad range of electors on behalf of the people. I feel pretty strongly that sections 2 and 3 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act would suffice. The Members are always free to raise concerns or to raise specific allegations about the Members, if they have any, but I do not think we should be taking all kinds of action based on some supposition that something might happen. I agree with the Government Leader's approach that, if there is some feeling from the conflicts commissioner that we should address something, then we should take a very, very serious look at it, and I would suspect that we would do so.
With regard to the information that the commissioners or private Members might have, they have taken an oath of secrecy.
With regard to any recommendations or policy that they put forward, they will be tabling policy that affects a broad range of electors. If the Opposition or the public feels that this is not the case, then they have a conflict. We would fully expect those concerns and allegations to come forward, and we would deal with them. We have instructed the private Members and commissioners on the extent of the law in this territory to ensure that their actions meet the rigid tests identified in that bill and to ensure that they are putting the public interest ahead of the private interest in the task that they undertake. I might also add that this obligation falls on all private Members in this Legislature.
I will send this debate down to the conflicts commissioner, and I hope to get some response in writing.
Mr. Cable: I think that would be useful. However, just to confirm, the Government Leader has indicated that we should structure some questions. I assume that this is going to accompany the debate. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We will welcome them.
Mr. Cable: The question that I was asking the Government Leader related to the four policy issues that were put to the four commissions.
Why were those four policy areas decided upon as opposed to other potential policy issues that needed interdepartmental integration?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: They were chosen because they are important issues to our government and important projects identified in the election campaign. People have expressed a desire to see action in these areas for a considerable time. In setting up these particular commissions, we did not mean to suggest that additional commissions could not be established. I know that there has already been a question from the Liberal caucus as to whether or not we would consider another commission in another area. The answer is quite possibly "yes", depending on the rationale for it, and whether or not that vehicle is arguably the most effective one. I do not see any reason for which we could not do it more. We decided to test ourselves in these particular four areas, because they were considered to be very important in the campaign. However, there are many other important issues that Ministers are charged with addressing, and they will be doing hard work in other areas. It is hoped that we will get good work done on everything from responding to fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects to school violence to other problems in the workplace. There are many issues that can be addressed through interdepartmental working groups.
These were probably chosen because they are topical now and were determined to be the best match for, not only the people involved, but also the projects that we had identified as being important.
Mr. Cable: There has been considerable discussion in the territory about the issue of crime, in particular young offender crime. The committee report recommended that the Government of Yukon develop a comprehensive, interdepartmental strategy for crime prevention and community safety. Without depreciating any of the other issues that have gone to the commissions, it strikes me as strange that this issue, which is a very important issue, was not dealt with in the concept. Does the Government Leader have any explanation of why he stuck the four issues that he is dealing with ahead of this important social issue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, there is nothing intended by it. I did take a logic lesson when I was in university, and I am aware that the one of the seven logical fallacies is about to be presented to me on the table. One of those fallacies is the old argument that if one did not accept something else, such as crime, then obviously it is a lesser priority. I find, though, that the whole debate at this point is rather surreal in any case because I have just spent a couple of hours this afternoon defending even the concept of a commission's work against some pretty heavy skeptics.
Our point is that we do believe that there is work to be done with these particular individuals. We do care about FAS/FAE and do believe in interdepartmental work in that particular area. We do believe in responding to crime and in interdepartmental work in that area too. There are many other areas that require interdepartmental work. There are important policy areas and we care about them. We are going to be doing interdepartmental work.
In this particular case, we have identified these because they are appropriate for our time. They matched not only the expertise and experience of the Members involved, but they were also very high profile issues in the campaign.
Mr. Cable: It is unfortunate that the Minister finds the debate surreal, because it is going to continue for a few more moments.
Could the Government Leader indicate to us what the reporting function is going to be? I assume these deputy commissioners are going to report to him directly. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I want to reassure the Member that I do not find that question surreal. I just find the notion of being asked, after having defended the concept of the commissions, why we are not doing more in other areas a bit surreal. Most of the time, when the Member asks questions, they are very solid questions - feet-right-on-the-earth questions - and I am always very impressed.
With respect to the question about the reporting relationships, the commissions report to caucus and will report to Cabinet through a Cabinet Minister. The commissioners also chair subcommittees of Cabinet and participate in the subcommittees of Cabinet in those areas. It is a principle that has been accepted before. As the Member may or may not know, there have been subcommittees of Cabinet in the past where private Members do sit.
Mr. Cable: Are these people, with their chair hats on, going to be dealing other than with policy? Will they be dealing with programs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, they will be dealing with the mandate of the commissions.
Mr. Cable: Perhaps when we come to draft our questions about conflicts, we can take that aspect into consideration. Let me be absolutely clear. I assume the Government Leader is responsible for the hiring and firing of these deputy ministers, as with anyone else at the deputy minister level. Is that his understanding of what is going on?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In a manner of speaking. Government leaders are responsible for deputy ministers in the sense that there is a reporting relationship to both the Minister and the Government Leader. Of course, the release and hire of anyone at a deputy head level is done by Cabinet, not by the Government Leader on his or her own.
With respect to the basic reporting relationship, the commission's work will be as follows: in the first instance, staff will report to the deputy commissioner and the commissioner will report to caucus. When it comes time to take action and actually change government policy, a Minister will be charged with submitting an item before Cabinet for approval, when that kind of decision making is required.
Mr. Cable: I have a couple of more questions on another issue.
For example, when we say the commission on forestry is going to deal with forestry issues, we are talking about a broad issue that has many, many sub-issues attached to it. With respect to forestry, we have silviculture, clear-cutting and any other number of issues. Who is actually going to determine what issues these people are going to deal with initially? It is not clear from the way the mandate is set up as to what process is in place for issue identification.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The specific preliminary mandates of each commission will be finalized and that will help set direction for the time being.
The commission, like any policy group, will have to start building consensus, working with other groups with whom they do business and identify those issues that are initially of the most significant importance, until such time as they come to a conclusion. They will be reporting regularly, as policy people do, to the caucus and the Cabinet - and, presumably, if they are allowed, they will be reporting to this Legislature.
If the Member is asking me who sets the strategic plan or which project within a comprehensive forestry policy comes first, I think the commissioners have some idea of that on their own. Perhaps when we have some time the commissioners can tell the Members their thoughts about what they would like to be tackling first and what the public - and the very specific publics - are saying should be tackled first, the order in which they should be tackled and how they should be tackled.
That is not uncommon to any interdepartmental policy working group. Certainly I will expect them to behave as other policy people do.
Mr. Cable: The question I was asking is: what process is in place to identify the issues initially that these commissions are going to deal with? That is very much determinative of the success of the commissions.
So we do not spend a lot of time arguing about the terms of reference of the question, just let me give an example. When the energy policy was done in 1991 or 1992 - whenever it was - a very extensive list of issues were identified. Input was then taken from the various stakeholders and the various people who were working on the development of the energy policy. The success or failure of that piece of work would depend very much on how the issues were identified in the first place - whether all of the issues were identified. I am wondering what process is in place to initially identify the various issues.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The commissions will be canvassing the work that has to be done with other stakeholders and people involved in those particular areas. In the energy field, I am certain there will be some imperatives that will command the policy group's attention initially. I would think that the management agreement, for example, between Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Limited would be one such issue that cannot really be avoided right off the bat.
Insofar as someone might want to put it off until they get their ducks in order in some other areas, we know that there have to be some preliminary decisions made right away with respect to the management agreement. That is going to command some attention.
The process will be a consultative one. I do not know how else I can help the Member on this point. I think that when the commissioners have a chance to speak for their areas, we can actually identify the process as it plays out more specifically for certain commissions. There is already a framework in the umbrella final agreement for the development assessment process and there is a deadline that is breached. There are already procedures that should be followed for interim development assessment processes, et cetera. That policy process will follow its own imperatives, but we will be consulting with people to determine the work plan.
Mr. Livingston: It has been a bit frustrating sitting and watching the discussion around these commissions, in particular, and not feeling much opportunity to participate. I will nevertheless try to restrict my remarks so that they are salient to our current discussions.
I think it was a good day for democracy to hear in the Legislature today from a Member opposite that indeed private Members do have some role. There was certainly, I thought, in some of the discussions over the last number of days, the suggestion that the role of private Members has been trivialized and so I was pleased to hear acknowledgement of that today.
I would like to talk just a little bit about the MLA's role, as I see it. I would like to talk a little bit about resources because that has certainly been an issue, particularly relating to the commissions. I would like to make some comments as well for the need for this kind of work that the commissions can carry on.
I guess, as we get into the resources and so on, the development assessment process commission, just as one example, is maybe good for us to get into the specifics. We have talked a little bit about the forestry commission and how we anticipate some cost savings by using the approach of a commission. Indeed, in the DAP commission, we have, of course, seconded a deputy commissioner, as all here are aware. We are also seconding from - and it is noted on the organization chart here - one person seconded into the development assessment process commission.
It is interesting to note that prior to the election there was a budget of $100,000 from the Land Claims Secretariat that was earmarked for the work on the development assessment process, to try to move it forward. This was used for a variety of purposes, including the contracting of services from a private lead at the DAP table. That is a considerable chunk of money right there. When we offset that against the hiring of a deputy commissioner, that seems not quite so significant.
As well, as has been pointed out, there was some work ongoing within government on the development assessment process in the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Renewable Resources and the Land Claims Secretariat. What we will be doing is bringing together a deputy commissioner and two individuals to do the work that these people have done. They will continue to liaise and consult with departments as we go.
We are not talking about a larger team; we are talking about a team that is essentially going to use existing resources.
There were comments made the other day about the $97,000 for furniture and equipment that the commissions will be using, despite the fact that when these commissions come to an end, this furniture and equipment will simply go right back into departments for use. Essentially, while this is a new cost today, it is not something that will be wasted in the long term. It will simply go back into government. It could be argued that we could simply have included them in line items for the various departments. We did not do this, because we wanted to be upfront about the initial costs for the commissions. It is there for all to see.
The comment has been made as to why we did not hear about the commissions during the election campaign. I would suggest that we heard an awful lot about consultation. We heard an awful lot about wanting to quite aggressively pursue policy development in a number of areas, including local hire, a development assessment process, forestry and energy. We did not talk about the specific means, but I think that we have come up with a creative solution that does put backbenchers to work in a unique and a new kind of way.
I expect that I speak for all Members of this House when I say that we did not run for election to simply sit on the sidelines and do nothing, which I believe was suggested the other day. We came here to try and serve our communities. We have looked for ways to harness our energies to the best of our ability. I think that there is going to be some creative and effective work coming out of these four commissions.
The question of need has come up. In fact, the comment was made one day recently that we have had certain consultations about the development assessment process. Indeed, there has been a set of information sessions across the Yukon. There have been 30 consultations, and they have all been one meeting held 30 times across this territory.
This is just one example of the overhead presentation package that was shared at that meeting during 1996. As most Members of this House will be aware, the development assessment process is something that was mandated from the 1993 umbrella final agreement, and it is really only in this last number of months that we have seen some significant work move forward.
It is not, as has been suggested, because our public servants were not doing their job. Our public servants have performed as directed and have performed to the best of their abilities. That is the beauty of these commissions: they really bring teams together - teams from across these various departments - that focus their energy and move along at a timely pace.
I would suggest it has really been a question of political will. I do not think the political will has been there to resolve these kinds of issues. Public servants are not able to act on their own without some political direction, without there being that kind of initiative from their political leaders. That is what the public service should be about.
It has been suggested that some of the groups - the Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Association of Yukon Communities - think that these commissions may not really have a role to play or that they may not be significant in their role. I know that one of the Members opposite was challenged yesterday to bring forward a letter from, for example, the Chamber of Mines that says that the commissions did not have a useful role to play here. I would re-issue that challenge. I think that if there is any canvassing being done by Members opposite, they will find that there is, in fact, general support for what they see as an increased emphasis and focus on trying to get these particular tasks done. I think that this process is going to serve Yukoners well. It is something that is going to focus our energies and will be consultative. It will give opportunity for the various stakeholders who are central to and most affected by these processes, such as the development assessment process. It will give them an opportunity to be involved as we go, rather than the kind of consultation that was referred to earlier - an information session that was not really an opportunity for an awful lot of input. It will be an opportunity to be involved as we go. That is a significant improvement and contribution.
I think that as the Member opposite said the other day, "This is about priorities." It is about wise use - he did not use the word "wise" - of taxpayers' money. I would suggest that this is a wise use. These are four areas in which we have to move forward. This will give us the opportunity to do that.
I cannot help but feel that over the last number of days, we have heard the same questions asked over and over and over again. We have heard consistent responses to the questions being asked. We have heard them asked over and over again in the House and in the Committee of the Whole. There have been consistent responses.
I cannot help but wonder if this is a kind of filibuster. We want to talk this out. We do not really want to get to the $30 million that was overspent in the first seven months of this fiscal year. I think that there are some important questions to be asked there. We are sort of being nudged up to the last hour without being given much opportunity to discuss these other important matters.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Cabinet and Management Support
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will give a brief explanation of these items. The $248,000 is largely made up of the severance package for two deputy ministers who have left the government and whose salaries were contained within this particular department. The balance is for staffing reorganization of the Executive Council Office - essentially an organizational review.
Cabinet and Management Support in the amount of $248,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Of this, $164,000 is for land claims implementation projects, all of which is recoverable; $64,000 is required for salaries for staff brought in by our predecessors, and $30,000 is forecast for a contribution to the AYC for work related to negotiations and implementation of land claims.
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
On Policy and Communications
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This funding is for a combination of two things: contributions to CYFN for the development of the protocols that have been identified in the Legislature, and additional staff time to support increased work on the devolution negotiations.
Policy and Communications in the amount of $128,000 agreed to
On Aboriginal Language Services
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is an increase of $140,000, which is entirely recoverable from the federal government.
There are a number of items that are made of small items. I can provide somewhat of a breakdown for all of the projects, but the money is largely used for community-based language projects.
Aboriginal Language Services in the amount of $140,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Management Improvement
Bureau of Management Improvement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $39,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of an underexpenditure of $34,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Offices
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The $283,000 is made-up of two items.
The first item is $256,000 for the severance packages for the Yukon Party Cabinet staff. The balance of $27,000 is for the transition contracts for the incoming administration.
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $283,000 agreed to
On Public Inquiries and Plebiscites
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are two items here.
One item consists of $32,000 for the balance of the cost of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board Inquiry that totalled $68,000 over two years. There is $80,000, which is the cost of the Hughes inquiry.
Public Inquiries and Plebiscites in the amount of $112,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Commissions
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is $133,000, which is the pro-rated amount for the four deputy commissioners; $34,000 for operational office costs, and all of the funding has been reallocated from elsewhere in the government.
Cabinet Commissions in the amount of $167,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Recoveries in the amount of $257,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,263,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Cabinet and Management Support
On Office Equipment - Department wide
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is just office equipment for the branch. I do not have any specific items - computers, office furniture - for the Executive Council Office. I am not aware of specifically where they are to be placed. They are not for the Cabinet office.
Mr. Phillips: This is a fairly significant increase over the projected. Could the Minister just give us a breakdown at a later date? We do not need it now.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Office Equipment - Department wide in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
On Office Equipment, Furniture and Space
On Cabinet Offices
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Renovations contract for the Cabinet caucus offices was $140,000. There was $57,000 for a computer service for the Executive Council Office staff. This will be redeployed when the Executive Council Office staff moves back to the main administration building some time in the future. There is $30,000 for furniture and computers for Cabinet office staff, and $6,000 for miscellaneous costs associated with the installation of communication lines, telephones, et cetera.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to the $140,000 mentioned by the Government Leader for the Cabinet office renovations, I do not recall seeing the tender for that. How was it done?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On that particular issue, given the time constraints we had, I checked with Government Services and, had we solely employed Government Services staff, we would not have been able to meet the deadline for this session. Therefore, I went to a sole-source contract for the Cabinet offices, and we were able to use Government Services for the Opposition offices.
Ms. Duncan: The sole-sourcing limit is $25,000, is it not? How was it carved up?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is a provision whereby the Minister can sign off a greater amount in such a case. Since time was of the essence and we had had some difficulty reallocating the space downstairs, we felt we had to do something like this.
Mr. Phillips: I just cannot resist jumping in on this one. This was the Minister whom I recall talked quite a bit about sole-source contracting and contracting, the limits being too high and Ministers having the discretion to just spend as they liked. The ink was hardly dry in the ballot box and the Minister was out blowing the money.
It is interesting what changes bring about in people, but it appears that the Minister flipped the coin over when he got on that side of the House. He found it much easier to spend the money than to abide by the rules he wanted others to abide by before.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I love those sanctimonious little comments.
With regard to this particular point, one of the difficulties that we had in achieving the goal of the renovations within the time frame was that we had an Opposition space, which previously handled seven Opposition Members. Now, with six Opposition Members, we cannot come to some agreement on reallocating this space, and it became necessary to create brand-new space, so we had an initial delay with that.
If we had gone with property management handling it, we would have been looking at time frames of between nine weeks and three months to achieve this. In view of trying to accommodate the Opposition as best as we could, I thought that we should go this route.
Mr. Phillips: I was kind of hoping that the Minister would not use us as an excuse for them to sole source and blow all the money, but he has. I do not know how any kind of discussions that took place downstairs could have anything to do with the extravagant renovations upstairs.
I would like the Minister to bring back for me a detailed item-by-item cost of all the items in the new offices. I hear that there were some cost overruns up there. I heard that a lot of people were working a lot of hours and that there were an awful lot of new things ordered. They replaced old locks and so on. I would like a breakdown of the total costs for the project on the upstairs offices. If the Minister could provide that for us, I would like it.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would certainly be happy to provide information for the Member opposite. I would be remiss in not pointing out that in terms of overall space allocation, the offices for the government increased by 10 percent, whereas for the Official Opposition it increased by close to 35 percent. I can get more details. I also have a breakdown of all the office space renovations which have been gone on, and I can certainly get the breakdown of designs, materials, costs, and things of that nature. I can, for example, give the project costs for the two particular projects, if that is what the Member wishes, and get back to him as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: I think that the issue we are trying to get at is not the fact that there are so many square feet issued or office space occupied by our party and the Liberal caucus, and so many square feet occupied by the government. I think it is a matter of following procedure - tendering procedure. I am given to understand that this contract was not only sole sourced, but it was cost plus - a cost plus contract. Can the Minister confirm this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps I was remiss in trying to accommodate the Opposition, by getting that space done as quickly as possible. I had thought that there was a measure of urgency. Apparently, however, since the space has not been occupied yet, I guess there was not the urgency I was given to believe earlier. Had I known that, I would have cheerfully put the whole thing out to Government Services, completed the upstairs work and then proceeded to the Opposition offices. However, I had understood that there was a measure of urgency. With respect to that, I can certainly get any costs and, if there were any overruns, I can bring those back.
Mr. Phillips: One of the things I did notice about the job is that the government workers work Monday to Friday, and the people upstairs worked on the weekends. I understand what the Minister is saying, but the fact of the matter is that the contract was sole sourced. The Minister criticized our government for sole sourcing and the amounts being sole sourced, yet he has exceeded that amount in spades in this particular contract, and then tries to blame us for what he is doing. That is ridiculous. I am sorry, but you are the Minister, and you have to be responsible for your actions. You are the one who criticized us for sole sourcing in the past, and now you are turning around and trying to blame us.
Chair: Order please. Would Members refrain from referring to other Members directly and pass their comments through the Chair, please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: When this project came up, I met with the deputy minister. I asked him if the modifications for both could be achieved as quickly as possible. We were anticipating the start of the session. It came back to me that it would not be possible but what we could do was to begin, using Government Services personnel, almost immediately on the Opposition offices. We chose to go that route, believing that it was necessary to get that space done first. We went with a contractor - Aries Construction in this case - who had familiarity with the building and who had done previous renovations, et cetera. That contractor ordered in the materials, which was part of the fact that we had to incur some overtime on it. But in general, we began the Opposition offices, to start. That was what our ambition was: to get them completed.
Ms. Duncan: The point the Minister has made and the point that has been made by my colleagues and the Liberal caucus is that the Minister has exceeded the sole-source limits. He has told us he can do that. The figures here would indicate that he can exceed them quite substantially. Is this the limit? Is it $200,000? How far over the sole-source limit can he go?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My understanding is that any Minister has the authority to exceed the limit. I would have to make reference to it, but I believe section 17 of the Financial Administration Act provides for this. I would have to check on that.
When this project came forward, I did check to see that we did have the authority to do it. I felt that time was of the essence. It was the only way to accomplish this within the parameters so, yes, I did. However, I can assure the Members opposite that, on principle, I am not comfortable with sole sourcing and I will endeavour to reduce it.
Mr. Jenkins: I do not find this amusing. I find this an abuse of authority. One has to just look back and one could recognize that the Opposition parties occupying the downstairs office, the location of their office would not be decided until after the House sat and the Speaker made a ruling as to who was going to be the Official Opposition. This was all unfolding. The Minister and the government were very, very familiar. This contract could have been accomplished in the House, probably at a great savings to the taxpayer.
I do have a compliment for the workers who did put the job together. They did an excellent job and they used nothing but first-class materials. It is amazing to see the quality of the work that can be produced here. I guess when a blank cheque is thrown out, one can get that kind of work. The issue that I take exception to is sole sourcing, cost plus, especially when the time lines were not there to the degree that the Minister has indicated to this House.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I appreciate the Member's comments. I also have to digress a little bit. My understanding was that there was not anything particularly sacred about one space over the other. I assumed that both spaces would be adequate. I did not know that space closer to the door was the Official Opposition and the space closer to the cafeteria was the third party's. I was not aware of those sorts of quirks - or the number of windows, for example.
I will pass on his compliments on the quality of workmanship, however. It was part of my direction to the department, in that case, that we were to make the space as comfortable as possible. I am pleased to see that the Member appreciates that.
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $233,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Commissions
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the furniture, computers, copier and office equipment for the commissions.
Cabinet Commissions in the amount of $93,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Hon. Mr. McDonald: These are for implementation projects that are 100 percent recoverable from the federal government. There is a corresponding $126,000 increase in recoveries. The two projects are the following: one in the Department of Community and Transportation Services for a quarry rural location off of settlement land; and the second one is heritage site management plans for Shawshe, Lansing, Ramport House and Lapierre House.
Implementation in the amount of $126,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $499,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Chair: Is it the wish of Committee to take a short break at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a short break.
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will go to the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there any general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: I am sorry, please excuse me. I am not on the up-and-up as to what we are going to be doing here. I just want to go back to the issues around some of the promises made. Perhaps it will become a lot clearer in the line-by-line discussion.
During the campaign, we talked a lot about land development and I notice that there are some extra expenditures under land. Is there some sort of a great plan here for land development? Is that one of the areas the government is going to be working on?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I am not sure. Being a rookie myself in the Legislature also, I do have the supplementary budget before us and I am prepared to explain and speak to it.
As for campaign promises, yes, we are going to be working toward land development as per our platform, but I do not believe it is inclusive in this supplementary budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I have questions for the Minister with respect to airport devolution and how much money we eventually expect to recover with the operation of all the Yukon airports, vis-a-vis the current transfer of A airports, Whitehorse and Watson Lake, to the Government of the Yukon. How much will flow through and how much will it eventually cost this government to operate all the airports in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do not have that type of information in front of me, although I do know that any of the initiatives we have proceeded with in the airport devolution have been incorporated into the devolution process. I will certainly endeavour to get back to the Member opposite with a legislative return.
Mr. Ostashek: I do not want to belabour this issue. I know this is our supplementary budget and I have no questions on it.
But, would the Government Leader consider bringing departmental people in to assist the Ministers in this debate? The Liberal caucus and one Member of our caucus are new to this Legislature and they have questions. I think it is unfair to a new Minister to ask him to answer all these questions in detail, not being familiar with the process. I just ask that in an effort to expedite the debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know that I am not the Government Leader and I certainly appreciate the Member's concern. I certainly appear to need help at times, as I am definitely on a learning curve, sir, and I prefer to do it. The department made the offer to do it and the department put forth different notes for me, but it seems that the only way I can learn is on my feet. I certainly appreciate it, but the offer has been made.
I guess I could clarify that if it does get so hot that I cannot pick it up, then the department is ready to stand behind me. The officials in the department are listening and willing to be here with me.
Mr. Jenkins: I think that position is well taken and would be appreciated. I have a number of questions and I know that the Minister probably does not have a grasp on that area of the department as yet, but I think it would be very useful if some of his senior officials could be brought into the House to assist in the response.
Is the Government Leader prepared to review this matter and proceed with allowing deputy ministers to come into the House and answer questions? I would ask that we get the Government Leader to make a decision on this matter.
Chair: Order please. The Member must be aware that deputy ministers do not answer questions. They give advice to the Minister.
Mr. Jenkins: We are aware of that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I am prepared to answer questions on line-by-line items. The department officials are standing behind me, and I will bring them in if I need to. If the Member would like to ask questions, please do.
Mr. Jenkins: Let us go back to the airport issue - the A, B and C airport classification, the transfer. To save a legislative return, could the Minister have his officials provide him with the information as to where we are at, what it is projected to eventually cost, and what kind of dollars we are looking at overall?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I am certainly prepared to speak to it. The devolution transfer was negotiated under the previous administration's budget, and there should be full knowledge of that devolution process. If the Member opposite would like to go through line-by-line items, I am, by all means, prepared to do that.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Mrs. Edelman: Can we have a description?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. Emergency measures response in the amount of $15,000 required to reduce flood potential threat in Dawson City area; $10,000 for the VHF radio system to cover the cost of battery reconditioning and/or replacement, and $2,000 in other smaller amounts.
Would it be right if I told you the reductions? I see quizzical looks, so please bear with me.
The reductions in the communication administration is $5,000 for postage and freight, because the branch moved back to Whitehorse.
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
Mrs. Edelman: I am new to this. I would not mind a detail on each line, if that is possible.
Chair: That is what I am asking now.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly do not mind. We are both new to this, and I do not mind myself.
The increase in corporate services is due to finance systems and administration, for $30,000; and policy, planning and evaluation, for $25,000, is due to the devolution of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports. The reduction is from human resources, in the amount of $30,000, due to a vacant personnel officer position.
Chair: If any Members have questions on a line item, I invite them to stand after I read the line item.
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Mr. Jenkins: Could we have an explanation of what the additional $1.6 million consists of, and what was added and what was reduced from this line item?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I just go back to repeat myself.
There is a $1,554,000 increase in airports as the result of the devolution of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports; transport services, $30,000, for the Metafina chemical clean-up in Faro; highway maintenance, $85,000 for additional third-party BST projects done for various municipalities, which is 100 percent recoverable. There is a $47,000 reduction in overhead on the Alaska and Dempster highways, and $4,000 in other smaller amounts.
Mrs. Edelman: Could I have more detail with respect to the reduction on the Dempster Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The detail I have here for the Member opposite is that there is a $47,000 reduction in the overhead in the Alaska Highway and the Dempster Highway. That is the only information I have here, but I do know that the staff is listening and I will endeavour to get that information over to her as soon as possible.
Mrs. Edelman: I would appreciate that. I know that there was some talk around the election about changes in the agreement with the Northwest Territories, and I am wondering if there is any continuing negotiation in that area on the Dempster.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I could say right now that I have been talking with the Minister in the Northwest Territories and we are looking to set up a meeting early in the new year. We are going to be talking about that particular issue as one of many subjects.
Mrs. Edelman: Are we going to keep the Dempster open this winter?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, except for, of course, when there is freeze-up and break-up and those types of things, but as per normal, yes. When the ferry is not in service, yes.
Transportation Division in the amount of $1,618,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There were increases of home owners grants and they are anticipated to be $118,000 higher due to new housing starts. There was an expenditure in municipal administration in the amount of $16,000 to cover the cost of the administrator appointed to the Village of Carmacks, which is 100 percent recoverable; mosquito control in the amount of $23,000 for expanded coverage in some of the communities and an inclusion of an additional community, and $3,000 and other smaller amounts. In the reductions, the assistant deputy minister in the amount of $35,000 due to support staff vacancy; municipal administration in the amount of $20,000 due to vacancy in one of the municipal advisor positions; grant-in-lieu of taxes, $28,000 less than total estimated and $12,000 in smaller amounts.
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries?
Mr. Jenkins: When we looked at this, I originally started on airports after having just read a paper on them. There are funds for airports in the corporate services division and in the transport division under transport division airports. Under the revenue side of it, there are aviation operations. I am hoping that the Minister could help us understand the total picture with a focus on airports. Can the Minister bring back an overview of this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will certainly endeavor to do so.
Mr. Cable: What was the theory behind the gain on the sale of lots?
There is $104,000. Was that the sale price or the notional cost accumulation that goes into the pricing of the lots?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That results from the sale of developed, finished land in excess of the development costs.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,730,00 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Mrs. Edelman: Is this the same deputy minister we had before?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is. The one and only.
On Deputy Minister's Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Mr. Jenkins: Could we have an explanation for the additional requirements for funds in that department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is a $30,000 revote from the 1995-96 budget to purchase the emergency command vehicle for the City of Whitehorse. The deduction is $1,000 reallocated to the computing equipment and systems to cover a requirement there.
Mr. Phillips: I have just a question or, I guess, a suggestion for the Minister. I spend a lot of time in Marsh Lake in the summertime and I had an opportunity to be there when, during a storm, a couple of parties were lost at the other side of the lake. One was further down the lake and the other across it. The emergency response people in Marsh Lake were just excellent. They did an outstanding job. I want to commend them for the work they did in locating these people and recovering them.
It was brought to my attention that the type of vessel they had was not the best in the world for being out on that particular lake. There are more and more Yukon boaters using that large lake.
When the Minister is putting together his capital budget for this next summer, my suggestion to him is to give that consideration. Due to the increased boating activity in the territory, there are now literally hundreds of boaters on that particular lake every weekend. If a storm blows up, one day we are going to have a disaster and the emergency measures team is not going to be able to get to them. I would encourage the Minister to meet with the emergency measures people in the Marsh Lake area, who do a great job now, and search out their needs for that area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member opposite for the suggestion. We will certainly do that.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thankfulness for the emergency measures operation people. I would just like to say that this is all done totally on a volunteer basis. I would like to express my sincere sentiments for their work. It is certainly well done.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $29,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will just start to stand up. I think it will probably be much easier just to explain.
Twenty thousand dollars was revoted from 1996-97 for the purchase of equipment that was unable to be purchased prior to year-end, and the reduction is $2,000 reallocated to computing equipment assistance to cover a requirement there.
Mr. Jenkins: To which systems do these refer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Which systems do they refer to - is that the question?
Mr. Jenkins: That is correct.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I will have to get back to the Member opposite with that, if he would like.
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The increase is $2,000 for additional funding required in Human Resources for local area network infrastructure; $57,000 for increased finance systems and administration for departmental systems; infrastructure at the Lynn Building due to the upcoming human resource information systems and financial management information systems; policy planning and evaluation and $2,000 in additional funds required for the local area network infrastructure.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $61,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Forty-five thousand dollars revoted in transportation, engineering, computing equipment and system for implementation of records drawing system; $88,000 revoted in transportation maintenance computing equipment and systems for implementation of highway maintenance management systems; $152,000 resulting from the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airport devolution for systems development and software; $24,000 resulting from the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airport devolution for office equipment; $20,000 for a modular filing system for motor vehicles as space for these confidential files is estimated to be full by December of 1996; and $9,000 in smaller amounts.
Office Furniture, Eqiopment, Syetems and Space in the amount of $338,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is $367,000 revote from 1995-96 for the Dawson grader station to complete the yard and building construction; there is a $127,000 revote from 1995-96 to complete two capital maintenance projects, the central workshop ventilation and the Whitehorse grader station wash pad.
Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $494,000 agreed to
On Transportation Engineering and Planning
On Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The reduction of $9,000 is due to the fact that the demand for miscellaneous studies has been low this year.
Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management) in the amount of an underexpenditure of $9,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On Non-YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Alaska Highway increase is an increase to Shakwak due to the White River Hill increasing excavation and rip rap costs resulting from poor quality material, and the contractor on kilometer 1852 to kilometer 1862 is anticipated to substantially complete projects this year instead of in 1997.
Alaska Highway in the amount of $3,950,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is an $11 million increase for reconstruction and BST from kilometer 0 to kilometer 50 due to the crushing contract and BST being higher than estimated.
There is $323,000 for gravel pit development as Transportation Canada has agreed to include this project in the strategic highway improvement program.
I might also add that SHIP, strategic highway improvement program, reimburses 50/50 and the original contract was to go to the Freegold Road and at the last minute to the Campbell Highway.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $334,000 agreed to
On Top of the World Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is an increase of $174,000 for the resurfacing from kilometer 0 to kilometer 60 as tenders for aggregate and resurfacing were higher than estimated.
Mr. Phillips: This Top of the World Highway project was coordinated with the Americans. Can the Minister tell me whether or not the Americans are continuing with their portion of the highway next year; are we continuing with ours, and what is left to do?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member for the question, and I will get back to him as soon as possible and practical.
Top of the World Highway in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This line item represents $85,000 for project work on Victoria Creek at the request of BYG Natural Resources Incorporated, offset by a $425,000 reduction of budgeted funds for work that was planned to be carried out on the Freegold Road. The mining company decided not to move ahead on the production.
Other Roads in the amount of an underexpenditure of $340,000 agreed to
On YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This represents a $93,000 revote for reconstruction of kilometer 1008 to kilometer 1634 to supply and install guiderails and to supply and place seed and fertilizer. This work was not completed in 1995-96. There was a $198,000 reduction on the reconstruction of kilometer 1008 to kilometer 1634 due to the construction tenders being lower than estimated.
Alaska Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $105,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The amount of $100,000 is required for shoulder repairs, overlays to complete pavement and overlay to the Takhini Bridge; a $33,000 revote for reconstruction of kilometer 715 to kilometer 719 to complete design; $60,000 is required for the South Klondike Highway rock scaling due to the contract being higher than estimated.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the Minister to get back to me with respect to the South Klondike Highway. As I understand it, there is an agreement with the British Columbia and Alaska governments respecting that highway. Could the Minister get back to me by way of legislative return or letter as to the state of the discussions regarding that contract with the other governments?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly will.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $193,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is for reconstruction and BST from kilometres 0 to 50. There was an $11 million increase due to the contract price being higher than the estimate. There was a pre-engineering and gravel pit development increase of $265,000 because the scope of the project expanded as a result of its being included in the strategic highway improvement program. There are reductions of a decrease of $323,000 in the YTG-funded portion of the pre-engineering and gravel pit development as Transport Canada has agreed to include this project in the strategic highway improvement program.
Campbell Highway in the amount of an underexpenditure of $47,000 agreed to
On Top of the World Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The increases are for resurfacing from kilometres 0 to 60; an increase in the tender for aggregate production and resurfacing were higher than estimated. Again, it is 50/50 from the last page, but we pay for the engineering from the strategic highway improvement program.
Top of the World Highway in the amount of $223,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is a $147,000 revote for the replacement of the Nares Lake Bridge for design. There is a $26,000 revote for replacing the Fox Creek Bridge for design. The Yukon River Bridge at Dawson required $90,000 for environmental fishery studies. In reductions, bridge assessment has reduced $77,000 on the scope of inspections for 1996 and 1997.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $186,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is $25,000 for project work on Victoria Creek at the request of BYG Natural Resources Inc. This is the YTG portion. There is a $23,000 revote for Two Mile Hill to complete registration and the transfer of land titles, and an additional $9,000 is required to complete the legal surveys.
There is an increase of $136,000 required for glacial control and brush and weed work on the Mount Nansen Road in support of the BYG Natural Resources Inc. mine, offset by a reduction of $425,000 for budgeted funds for work planned to be carried out on the Freegold Road, and a $3,000 reduction in smaller miscellaneous amounts.
Mrs. Edelman: I am missing something here. Is there a comprehensive quarry plan for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is a very good question. I will endeavour to get back to the Member opposite on it.
Other Roads in the amount of an underexpenditure of $220,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is an increase in capital maintenance of $70,000; sundry equipment, $309,000; airport identity signs, $30,000; planning and engineering, $70,000; and airport maintenance equipment, $835,000, as a result of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports devolution.
There is a $36,000 revote in planning and engineering for site surveys and mapping projects not completed in 1995-96 due to revisions. There is a $25,000 revote for Haines Junction airport to install an aviation refuel facility that was not completed in 1995-96. There is a reduction of $15,000 for the Dawson airport due to geotechnical work, which will not proceed. There is a $25,000 reduction for the Old Crow airport, due to the air terminal maintenance repairs that were not finished before the summer season ended.
If I may, for the Member opposite who asked about the total budget funding for airports, it comes to a total of $5 million.
Mr. Jenkins: Just a couple of issues.
Perhaps it would be prudent if we asked the Minister to bring back, by way of a legislative return or a letter, a narrative on where we are with the strategic highway implementation program. Of the $10 million, how much has been spent, what are the plans for future undertakings in that area and an overview in the form of a narrative as to how the Shakwak project is funded and how it is progressing? Probably all of the new Members would appreciate that kind of a review.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will certainly do that. If the Liberal caucus would like one, I will certainly provide it to them, as well.
Airports in the amount of $1,345,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Assistant Deputy Minister's Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Office furniture, equipment, systems and space increases are due in part by divisional local area network infrastructure. It is due to the new communications standards.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $41,000 agreed to
On Public Safety
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Fire Protection
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This increase is due to a $219,000 revote for firehall construction in Burwash to construct a new firehall. It was not done due to the winter weather. It will probably be constructed in 1997. There is a $160,000 revote for the Ibex Valley and $160,000 revote for the Tagish firetruck, as tendering problems delayed the delivery of trucks until the past year-end. There is a $10,000 revote for the Mount Lorne firetruck due to the costs being higher than estimated.
Fire Protection in the amount of $549,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There was a recreation facilities increase. There was a $35,000 revote for the Carcross skating rink plan and construction of a skating rink before the winter. There was a $35,000 revote for the Canada Games 2007 marketing study. In the reductions, there was $6,000 reallocated from community recreation centres of areas to cover computer purchase.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $64,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Community Planning
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There was an increase of a $15,000 revote for the Carcross area plan to produce base mapping and ortho photos. There was a $13,000 revote for the Klondike Valley local area plan phase 2 to establish ground control and base mapping. There was an $18,000 revote for photography and mapping to finalize digital mapping in the Marsh Lake, Carcross Road area and for ortho photos of Teslin. There was a $49,000 revote for the Hamlet of Ibex Valley local area plan to complete local area plan.
Community Planning in the amount of $95,000 agreed to
On Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There was a $1,002,000 revote to complete some projects not completed prior to March 31, 1996. The extension of the projects in the 1996-97 was approved by the federal government.
Mrs. Edelman: Can I get some details on that? Which projects were those?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Member asked for clarity on which projects. Again, I will endeavour to get that information to the Member opposite.
Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program in the amount of $1,002,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There was additional funding required because the printer needed to be upgraded.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The increases were required to cover the agreement with the City of Whitehorse, such as the mobile home study and terrain analysis, soil survey and the wetland classification study, offset by a $20,000 savings in other planning-related activities.
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Water Supply, Treatment and Storage
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The amount of $100,000 is a revote for the Carcross water truck as it was not purchased in 1995-96 because of tendering problems.
Water Supply, Treatment and Storage in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The surplus is due to a reduced funding requirement forecast in 1996-97.
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The amount of $600,000 of the $700,000 revote requested is required for sewage treatment and disposal in Carcross, the application of the water licence, design work, and the start of construction.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The revote in the amount of $125,000 is for the dump, sewage and pit relocation in Carcross and for the clean-up of the existing dump and construction of the new site. The revote in the amount of $25,000 is for solid waste disposal in Mount Lorne to complete the construction of the site, including the animal control fencing and to complete fuel design of a burning facility.
Solid Waste in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Flood/Erosion Control
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The revote in the amount of $38,000 is for the Mayo dike extension to correct settlement problems on the flood protection dike.
Flood/Erosion Control in the amount of $38,000 agreed to
On Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The reduced funding requirement is for miscellaneous planning assessment work that was less than originally anticipated.
Pre-Engineering Roads and Streets in the amount of an underexpenditure of $36,000 agreed to
On Roads/Streets Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Ross River road upgrade required additional funds to address the street configuration and portion of work done on First Nation streets.
Mrs. Edelman: Which First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I was muttering that to myself as I sat down. I do believe the Ross River First Nation is there, and it has a very good working relationship with the non-First Nations community members. They went through a streetscape within their community.
Roads/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is a $79,000 revote for Faro industrial lots to do design, geotechnical services, road reconstruction, possible water and sewer work and power to six or seven lots.
The revote of $82,000 is for the Ross River industrial lots to do road construction and provide power to two to four lots. There is a reduction in the amount of $11,000 for industrial airport lots as the anticipated request from the aviation branch to develop lots has not materialized.
Industrial in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This supplementary represents a Mount Lorne rural residential revote of $109,000 for design and construction of two lots; Carmacks urban residential infill revote of $96,000 for survey, sewer, road upgrading and minimal road construction for five lots; Carmacks country residential revote of $135,000 for road construction and minimal legal survey work for 16 lots; the Faro country Tintina phase 2 - a $95,000 revote for design, geotechnical services and to clear and construct roads for 13 lots; Teslin urban airport lots - a $120,000 revote to complete the sewer and road construction with possible improvements to lift station for 17 lots; the Cowley Creek country subdivision - a $290,000 revote to complete construction of cross-connecting road from phase 1 to phase 2; within Copper Ridge, a $255,000 revote to carry out phase 5 underground and electrical work that was postponed and a $384,000 revote for area D to complete the pumphouse and reservoir deficiencies, the design of the Marwell trunk main, the Hamilton Boulevard extension planning and substation transformer; the Logan subdivision required $11 million to cover the outstanding commitment awaiting resolution of a court case.
Mrs. Edelman: Is any of this for mobile-home lots? I would like some detail. Is anything going on for mobile-home lots?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will endeavour to get that detail to the Member opposite.
Residential in the amount of $1,495,000 agreed to
Commercial in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable
Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $10,918,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will be pleased to answer any questions the Members have.
Mr. Cable: I just have a few questions.
Is it the intention of the present Minister to adopt the strategic plan and the energy plan that were put in place by the previous administration and carry forward with them?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have told the department that I do not want to try to reinvent the wheel and I do not want to spend an endless amount of time revamping the planning work that they did, so all that we do is planning.
I believe that we want to have a clear agenda. I have communicated that to my deputy minister. I expect that some of the skeletons of that plan can be used.
For example, there are some philosophical statements in that plan that would probably be changed, but it is not a huge priority for me to take them out and I think the department knows where I am going.
Mr. Cable: Has the Minister had an opportunity to assess the venture capital program brought in by the previous administration, which was essentially a loan guarantee program? I know that considerable reservations were expressed by the Members in the government when they were in Opposition at the time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I have not had a chance to fully assess it. What I have told the department is to green-light it because there is a request from several outfits for some kind of access to capital and, quite simply, I have not had time to develop any changes to an access to capital program, or vehicle. We have green-lighted it. My concerns about the program are the same today as they were back then, but I do not want to unnecessarily hold up people and businesses wanting to try to access capital under that program when I think that the risk is not too outrageous for the government to bear - until we develop something else.
Mr. Cable: There have been some news clips in the last week or so relating to the price of propane. I think the Minister was talking out loud about a propane inquiry. Has he determined whether or not he is going to proceed with that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, there has been no formal determination yet. I have asked the oil and gas branch to do some cross-jurisdictional work. They have referenced also that the issue has come up in the federal parliament and that some commitments have been made at the federal level. That might have a lot more stroke. We are investigating whether or not the impact of an inquiry would really accomplish the task. It is a good suggestion by the teamsters, and other fuel and propane distributors have contacted me. I want to do something, but I want to make sure the approach is effective and right.
Mr. Cable: The Minister previously talked of a working group on the Faro mine closure. Could he spell out just who is in this working group and what the terms of reference are?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can provide the Member with a full and detailed response on that in writing, if that is all right.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to know where we are at with the centennaries anniversary program. How much funds were allocated, how much is left, and where are we going with it? Are there any changes contemplated?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Some of the projects are a long way down the path. We will continue with the ones that are. With respect to the ones that are not, we are making decisions on a project-by-project basis. In some cases, deadlines have passed and passed again. The money has not been reserved. The Member has the impression there is a trust set up, but it is not. Any decision we would make to fund another project next year would come out of this government's budget for the next fiscal year. So, i
t is a project-by-project evaluation.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $78,000 agreed to
On Mines and Resource Development
Mines and Resource Development in the amount of $109,000 agreed to
On Strategic Management
Strategic Management in the amount of an underexpenditure of $55,000 agreed to
On Industry, Trade and Investment
Industry, Trade and Investment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $135,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the revenue?
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the Minister could explain the fairly large drop in the oil and gas revenue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. The royalties were not as high as expected in this year with respect to the Kootaneelee oil field.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Mines and Resource Development
On Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys in the amount of $31,000 agreed to
On Yukon Industrial Support Policy (Loki Gold/VLB Resources)
Yukon Industrial Support Policy (Loki Gold/VLB Resources) in the amount of an underexpenditure of $285,000 agreed to
On Industry, Trade and Investment
On Economic Development Agreement
Economic Development Agreement in the amount of an underexpenditure of $13,000 agreed to
On Centennial Anniversaries Program
Centennial Anniversaries Program in the amount of $1,300,000 agreed to
On Centennial Events Program
Centennial Events Program in the amount of an underexpenditure of $50,000 agreed to
On Business Development Fund
Business Development Fund in the amount of $265,000 agreed to
On Community Projects Initiative
Mr. Phillips: Is this the interim money for this year for community projects with the reinstated community development fund? If it is, could the Minister, prior to going out to the communities, provide us with a copy of the criteria for the fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Much of the information with regard to criteria was outlined in the ministerial statement. I will again provide the Member with as much information as I can
Department of Education
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Second Appropriation Act, 1996-97, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 17, 1996:
Health care insurance programs: statement of revenue and expenditures (1990-91 to 1995-96), Health Services branch (Sloan)
Yukon Housing Corporation Annual Report, for the year ended March 31, 1996 (Fairclough)