Thursday, April 10, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order, and we will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to Sarah Abel on her 101st birthday
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to pay tribute to Sarah Abel on her 101st birthday.
Sarah was born on April 10th, 1896 at Chandalar River, Alaska, and during the early years of her life she and her family lived in various areas of the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory, following the caribou for their food and clothing.
In 1913, Sarah married Abel Ch'itzeť. They lived at Whitefish Lake, 30 miles up the Porcupine River from Old Crow, where they raised their 17 children.
After her husband's death in 1944, in 1950 Sarah moved to Old Crow where she became involved in the community and church, and she was the first woman council member for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and past president of the Women's Auxiliary.
At the distinguished age of 101, Sarah complains that her legs don't work so well any more, but she remains a well-respected elder who, as the matriarch of the community, continues to be a source of strength and guidance. With wisdom gleaned from the past, Sarash continues to teach the many traditions and stories of her people to native and non-native alike.
On behalf of the people of the Yukon, it is a privilege and honour to recognize Sarah on her 101st birthday. There will be a very large community gathering - a feast - tonight, held in her honour, at the Old Crow community hall, for anybody who is in Old Crow and is ready and willing to attend.
I would like to say happy birthday, Sarah.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, would also like to join with the Government Leader and pay tribute to a very well-known and respected elder of the Vuntut Gwitchin. Today is a very special occasion for Sarah Abel, as she and the people of Old Crow celebrate her 101st birthday.
I have travelled to Old Crow quite a few times, and I have had the pleasure of dropping in and visiting Sarah on many occasions. One thing that always stood out to me about Sarah Abel was her great sense of humour and her laughter. She is, as the Government Leader says, a very respected elder in Old Crow. Many others know Sarah for her long association with the church and the women's association and her commitment to Old Crow.
Sarah is the grandmother to my friend, the late Johnny Abel, and she is also the mother of many children and a friend of mine, so I am pleased to extend best wishes for a wonderful birthday to Sarah and many more years of happiness and health. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: We too would like to wish Sarah Abel a happy birthday, and I would like to share with members of this House, and in recognition of Sarah, this quote from Beverly Hungry-Wolf, "In the years since I began following the ways of my grandmothers I have come to value the teachings, stories and daily examples of living which they shared with me. I pity the younger girls of the future who will miss out on meeting some of these fine women."
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there statements by ministers?
School lunch program, funding for
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to inform this House of a new policy of the Department of Health and Social Services to create new partnerships to begin to respond to the needs of children living in poverty in the Yukon. We recognize the link between poverty, learning and nutrition. We know how important it is that students receive adequate meals, and we know that learning and behaviour difficulties occur when these basic needs are not met.
Mr. Speaker, meal programs constitute a small investment that helps avoid a huge cost to society later on. Poor children are twice as likely to have chronic health problems, which acts as a drain on the medicare system. They are also twice as likely to drop out of school, which means that they'll be greater users of social services, having double the rate of behaviour disorders which were often the precursors to youth crime - something that costs all of society.
I'm pleased to announce that, beginning immediately, the Department of Health and Social Services and the health investment fund will provide financing in partnership with school councils to create school lunch programs for children in need. An additional $30,000 has been added initially to the fund, and the criteria expanded to include school councils to enable them to initiate such programs.
Two years ago, the Department of Health and Social Services became involved with the core advisory group of food-for-learning program in the Yukon. We continue that involvement today.
This program has received funds from the health investment fund and the National Canadian Living Foundation, to support the establishment of food programs within schools. One school is successfully operating a school program, another is in the development stage and many others have either informal programs, or have expressed an interest in starting them up.
The changes to the criteria of the health investment fund will permit more schools around the territory to introduce nutrition programs, and help the children.
The criteria are not difficult. The school councils must provide at least 20 percent of the funding from sources other than the Yukon government, and funds under the health investment fund cannot be used to pay volunteers. Grants will reflect the number of children being served in the school.
Feeding children, primarily is a parental responsibility, but some parents can't always meet this responsibility, no matter how hard they try.
As of 1994, there were half a million more poor children in Canada than there were in 1989 when the House of Commons voted unanimously to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.
This is not only a poverty issue, Mr. Speaker. Only 13 percent of families have a parent at home full-time, so many even caring parents don't always have the time nor the money to nourish children properly. There is an African proverb that says it takes a whole village to raise a child. Based on that premise, children are everyone's responsibility, and we recognize that, as a community, we have a collective responsibility for our children and their future.
By assisting school councils throughout the Yukon to set up school nutrition programs with the involvement of community volunteers, we are collectively taking responsibility for the children. School councils can initiate the projects based on the determination of their own school's priorities and after identifying those students who can benefit from the program and how it can be delivered within the general school population. Orders and applications for the health investment fund have been sent to all school councils in the Yukon informing them of the change in the health investment fund criteria.
Mr. Speaker, this new initiative responds to a need and involves a partnership amongst the government, schools and community. Addressing child poverty must be a collective effort, and I am pleased to be able to contribute in this manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I am very, very pleased indeed to see that the Government of Yukon is expanding on an initiative that was first introduced and implemented by the former Yukon Party government. It was the Yukon Party government that first introduced the youth investment fund in October of 1995 to fund new activities and projects, which involved young people who participate in at-risk behaviour and those who are out of the mainstream.
The fund is supported with contributions from five sponsoring departments and by community-based groups, including a breakfast program in a Whitehorse school. This program was a true success and I am pleased to see that the government is now expanding upon this initiative.
The issue of child poverty is nothing new to the Yukon. It has been estimated that, in 1992, 2,149 children in Yukon were living with a family income range of less than $20,000 per annum. In December, our caucus presented a motion to create a $500 youth/child tax credit in 1997, which would have been particularly benefiting to low-income families. The child tax credit would virtually eliminate income tax for families earning less than $20,000 per annum.
This would be more effective than the national child benefit program as it would be implemented immediately and would not act as a disincentive to acquire work and produce a taxable income.
Although the government voted against this proposal, I would encourage the minister to reconsider his position and not use the government's participation in a national child benefit program as an excuse to not implement a Yukon child tax credit.
As I mentioned before, the Yukon Party created the youth investment fund to deal with issues resulting from the significant number of youths participating in at-risk behaviour such as crime, substance abuse, at-risk sexual activity, and dropping out of school. It also supported the youth empowerment and success program and its initiatives to address the needs of our youth.
In light of the government's election commitment to help high-risk children and provide financial stability to non-government organizations, will the minister give members of this House here today a commitment that he will confirm his government's support for the YES organization, and provide immediate interim funding to this program so that it can continue to deliver worthwhile programs to our Yukon youth?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Our caucus strongly supports the implementation of a school hot meal program in the Yukon.
Though briefly noted in the minister's statement, I would like to elaborate on the important role that the Canadian Living Foundation has had in the initiation of the hot meal program here in the Yukon. Firstly, the Canadian Living Foundation picked Whitehorse as one of 10 pilot areas to deliver their hot breakfast program. The foundation provided $15,000 in salary money to hire a part-time coordinator for the program. This coordinator has been working hard with school councils here in Whitehorse and in the outlying areas. Yukon College, who originally applied for the funding from the Canadian Living Foundation, has been providing office space and administrative support free of charge to the coordinator.
Currently, the coordinator of the Canadian Living program has developed breakfast programs at a number of Whitehorse schools and is now trying to set up programs with both Carcross and Carmacks. The minister may not be aware, but the way he has set up the funding for this program, there is no coordination with the already existing hot meal program, so the Canadian Living coordinator will have to fundraise in order to set up the program in Carcross and Carmacks.
A gentle suggestion to the minister, who has done a good thing here today by funding this program, is that perhaps he can better coordinate with the Canadian Living Foundation program, so that our limited dollars can go further. Perhaps the minister could also explain whether this is a pilot project or whether it is a permanent program.
Another question I hope the minister can answer is: is the $30,000 to be divided up evenly among the Yukon's 26 school councils?
Lastly, a thoughtful man, who was also a member of the Coalition Against Poverty, coincidentally, told me not too long ago that there is no such thing as child poverty - there is only family poverty. We can do a lot to mitigate the effects of poverty in this House, but our greater challenge is how to share the riches that we have been blessed with.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I'll address the comments by my friend from Riverdale South. Yes, I'd like to thank her for her comments and her suggestions with regards to the coordinator and trying to provide what support we can in this regard, and I want to assure her that we are looking at this as an ongoing kind of program.
With reference to perhaps the less positive comments from our friend from Dawson, the Uriah Heap of the Klondike, I have rarely heard -
Speaker: Order please. When you refer to members opposite, could you refer to them in the parliamentary manner?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker. It was a literary allusion. Uriah Heap, for those who might not be aware of it was a character in David Copperfield, whom Dickens described as a veritable cathedral of hypocrisy.
This member has referred to a government that waged war on poor people, waged war on single parents for four years and now when we begin to take some initiatives with regard to child poverty, we get condemned for it.
You know, it's really interesting this child benefit that's come forward has come forward at the last minute during the mandate of the previous government. It came forward in the month of the election. Now, Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure exactly what happened. I'm not sure whether it was a religious revelation, kind of a road-to-Damascus experience, but perhaps it was something a little more like the revelation on Sinai. Perhaps the Government Leader was out there roaming around the wilds of Porter Creek when all of a sudden a burning spruce tree appeared and a voice spoke out and said, "John, remember the poor or verily thou shall be smitten." I don't think it was the voice of God; I think it was the voice of Gord.
Anyhow, the point is, Mr. Speaker, they did nothing until the last minute. Just to carry on with the biblical allusion for a second, the Gospel tells us that the poor are with us always, not in the last month of your mandate.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Budgetary priorities
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the minister responsible for heritage. Yesterday in the House, Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister a question about the budget for the department of heritage and the fact that the budget has been slashed and burned and gutted by this government, when they told us a few short months ago - six months ago - that heritage was a priority of their's. When I asked the question, the minister of heritage told us that "Whether you call it a balanced budget or not, it is balanced in my mind, because we are working with what we were left. That was absolutely nothing...," he said, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like to ask the minister of heritage if he understands the budget that's been tabled by his finance minister in this House, that that budget says they were left with a $25 million surplus and that their Government Leader has told us in the House - last Monday night - that he expects to see $10 million in lapses. That is a far cry, Mr. Speaker, from being left with nothing. Would the minister tell us why he said yesterday we were left with nothing, and in fact we were left with $25 million?
Mr. Speaker, I would really like the minister to answer the question, instead of getting prompting from everyone on the front line to give him his answers for him.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I find that there were two questions in there. I certainly find it amazing that, when you look across and the member opposite can see teamwork in action, that it's strange to him. I think therein, partly, lies the question.
Do I understand the budget? I certainly do. Do I understand the implications of what we were left with? I certainly do. Do I understand the ability to consult? Do I understand people, team work, networking, prioritizing, looking at all levels of socialism, social programs, economic development, health, everything? Do I understand these things? Are they reflected in our budget? You betcha.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Earth to minister. Earth to minister. Come on down.
Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't answer my question. The question to the minister is: Yesterday, he said they were left with nothing. His Finance minister said they were left with $25 million. My question to the minister is: Were they left with nothing, or were they left with $25 million? Would he just answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I guess we're going to be getting into this debate, and this debate is going to be rolling for, well, forever, in some people's minds, and definitely some weeks to come in the near future. Again, yes, I do understand the budget. Yes, again, I do understand the process of priorization. I do understand the fine art of bringing a budget that is developed by the people for the people. Now, when I say by the people, I mean by the people. I mean I was elected by the people to represent my constituency - overwhelmingly, I might add - and that is what I am doing. So, again, do I understand the budget? You bet. Do I know what I am working with? You betcha.
Mr. Phillips: Thank goodness we got a few more days, Mr. Speaker, because I may get the answer out of the minister. I keep persisting. I'll ask my question one more time, and this shouldn't have to be my supplementary, because I'm going to ask the same question.
Yesterday in the House, Mr. Speaker, the minister stood in the House and said they were left with absolutely nothing. On Monday night, in Hansard, on page 496, his minister - his finance minister, the Government Leader - told us we had $25 million and that, "We're hoping that the $10 million that we're projecting here for our annual deficit will be recovered" with lapses.
Mr. Speaker, do we have absolutely nothing, as the minister said yesterday, or do we have the money that his finance minister claims we have in the budget? Who's right?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, in this wonderful game of politics, which some people do treat as a game, though I certainly try to get it to reflect more value, I don't know if anybody's right, because it can go on in continual debate until people start to act in, I think, maybe a more responsible fashion. It certainly says that as we look at the financial status of the Yukon, and there is a margin there, which is deemed to be safe, not so safe, when you start playing with that very margin in the border of it, and especially when you dip when you get into an election mode - as my colleague has not only alluded to but quite elegantly stated - then I feel that there was nothing - absolutely nothing. Are we going to be in that mode and position? Absolutely not.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Budgetary priorities
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I think the Government Leader, in the new training program, should schedule a training program for his ministers to understand the budget.
That minister is an honourable person. When he rises in the House and makes statements, they should be accurate. Yesterday, he rose in the House and said there was absolutely nothing left. His Government Leader, the finance minister, rose in the House and said that there was $25 million to start and he's going to recover $10 million in lapses.
I would like the minister to stand in the House today and not use any weasel words and not try to squirm around it, and tell us that he made a mistake yesterday; that there is money in the budget -
Speaker: Order please. It is not appropriate to refer to a member using weasel words. It is unparliamentary language.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, Mr. Speaker. Well, Mr. Speaker, he seems to be waffling all over the map, trying to explain what he said yesterday. I want ministers to rise in the House and speak the truth and speak with accuracy.
I want the minister to rise now and apologize to the House for what he said yesterday and tell us that, in fact, there was money left in the bank when they took over the government.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not so sure that there is need for an apology. I think what is happening here is that we are certainly having a healthy debate. I think that what we could do, as the public will certainly learn as we go through the budget, is make it even more open. You are going to get to ask every question that you would certainly like.
I certainly appreciate the member's comments, right from his opening statement in his last question to describing me as honourable. I guess it doesn't much matter to me how the member describes me, whether it's honourable or myself as a weasel or myself as waffling. I certainly have -
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please move to the answer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. I can say that I have no need to apologize. I can say that the people put me here to represent them and I can say that it is absolutely what I am doing.
I can also say that, to the monies left, when you are at such a close margin and that you take what you had plenty of before that, especially in their last year, and bring it down to a very dangerous level, I see no reason to apologize, and I refuse to. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, that's not the point. The minister's missing the point. In fact, his finance minister says that, even with the budget we've tabled here today, he's still on a safe level. He said we're still on a safe level.
Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, he said there was absolutely nothing left. Today he's admitted it. And I'd like him to say it in his own words instead of me putting the words in his mouth, to rise to his feet and tell us that he was wrong yesterday, that there is money left, that there was $25 million and there's going to be $10 million in lapses. And then I'd like to ask the minister, since we now know there was money left in the budget, would the minister admit to this House that the question of building the historic resources centre or not was not a matter of money but a matter of priorities, and that this government, who chose to have heritage as a priority before the election, has reneged on it and heritage is not a priority now?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the member has been so free in his interpretation of my remarks in the Legislature, I thought I might stand and respond.
Yesterday, the member's thesis was that the heritage budget had been gutted by this government and that consequently we had betrayed, I guess in essence, an election promise to enhance heritage. I would point out to the member that his thesis is fundamentally flawed.
First of all, the last year's budget incorporated the Beringia Centre. The Beringia Centre by itself, taken out of that budget, shows that this budget is, in fact, an increase over the 1995-96 actuals for heritage, overall. So, we have made a commitment outside the Beringia Centre project, which had its own dynamic, and a very strange project development it was. This shows, in fact, a very significant increase of $1 million for heritage resources. So the member's basic thesis was wrong.
Now, with respect to the $15 million safe level, I'm not going to, at this member's insistence, who hasn't proven himself to be particularly adept at handling budget matters, be teaching anybody on this side budget realities. The $15 million safe level is not to go out and spend it down to zero. The $15 million safe level is to ensure that we do not get into a dangerous situation, to ensure that we do not do something foolhardy, and it ensures that we do have a comfort level for the people of this territory overall that will allow them the comfort of knowing that we will not, in this fiscal year and the next, be in a situation with an accumulated debt.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader to the rescue. Got a minister in trouble, can't answer the question, doesn't want to answer the question, wants to waffle all over the map, and the Government Leader rushes to the rescue.
This next question is not for the Government Leader; it is for the minister that I've been asking the questions of all along.
I want that minister to stand up and do the honourable thing, and tell this House that he made a mistake yesterday when he said we had no money - we were left with nothing - when in fact we were left with a fairly reasonable surplus and there was going to be lapses. I don't want it from the Government Leader. I want the minister himself to stand up with his own courage and make the statement.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly will. I was hoping that maybe the member opposite would listen to logic, that the member opposite would, after all these years in the House. If you're still asking things that you don't know, then I consider a yearling a yearling, no matter how long an experience.
I must add that I have no reason to stand. I stand here with honour. I stand here representing my people. I stand here representing all members of the constituency, and so be it do I stand here to represent all members of the Yukon within my portfolio.
Mr. Speaker, I see no reason to apologize. I do believe that it has been explained. We can drag this on forever and ever, but I have no reason to apologize and I will not.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education with respect to the Yukon excellence awards.
In December, I asked the minister if it was still the NDP's position that there was nothing fair or sensible about the Yukon excellence awards.
The minister told me that the department was providing her with information on the awards. Has she received this information from the department?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
When the Yukon excellence awards were set up, part of what was established at that time was a process for review of the Yukon excellence awards. There is a committee that includes the Yukon Teachers Association and other members of the school councils, the school community, as well as the department and, yes, they are doing some work and proceeding with it.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The criteria for receiving a Yukon excellence award is the territorial exam marks. My understanding is that all the territorial exams for the next school year have been cancelled. Can the minister advise if there's a new criteria being developed for the Yukon excellence awards, or is this an early indication that the program is being cancelled.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe that the member's information is accurate on the cancellation of all exams for next year. What is happening with the ongoing review of the Yukon excellence awards is that a response document is being drafted by the department that will go out to the education community and go out to the public, and that will provide an opportunity to make suggestions about any changes to the program.
Ms. Duncan: My comment was that territorial exams are the ones that have been cancelled for next year. I'll be sure and tell the principals I was wrong.
Can the minister advise me that, in terms of the consultation with this committee, she did not mention post-secondary students, and I understand the Yukon College president of the student council has been interested in providing this government with feedback on such things as financial assistance. Is the Yukon College student council being involved in this review of the Yukon excellence program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Yukon excellence awards, as it has been established, was for public schools and has not included the college at this stage. I'd certainly be prepared to meet with the Yukon College student council on that or any other matter.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, appointments to
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board on board appointments. The board act, as the minister knows, calls for the board to have two members representing workers. The government just made an appointment to the board of a person representing workers. The order-in-council was cut on April the 1st.
Now the minister, when he was in Opposition, criticized the previous administration with vigor for the way they went about making board appointments representing workers. Could he tell us how this gentleman was selected?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. As the act says, there's got to be consultation with injured workers and labour in the appointment of a labour representative to the Workers' Compensation Board. We went through extensive consultation with the Yukon Federation of Labour, Teamsters, IVEW, Injured Workers Alliance, to try and come up with a name that had some consensus. Initially there was one person chosen that had consensus as a second choice of all the three parties. Unfortunately, due to impediments placed upon him by his employer, he was not able to attend as many of the board meetings, if any, to perform the appropriate functions that he felt he had to as a board member. So consequently, he informed me, as minister, that he could not undertake that position.
Subsequent to that, we had to go back out for more consultation, and we eventually ended up selecting somebody who had the support, as indicated by a large constituency of labour.
Mr. Cable: Now I'm told that the person appointed was recommended by the Yukon Federation of Labour and by the carpenters' union and that another person with a long labour movement history and service with Labour Canada, a long-time Yukoner, was nominated by the Injured Workers Alliance, two of the locals of the Teamsters Union and a local of the IBEW. Could the minister tell us why this person, recommended by more of the labour constituency groups, was not selected in preference to the one he selected?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member needs a little education on the Yukon Federation of Labour. The Canadian Labour Congress is comprised also of the Teamsters Union of Canada. The Yukon Federation of Labour has many, many affiliates. The carpenters are just one. There's the Government Employees Union and there are the steelworkers in Faro. There are various private and public sector unions.
So, Mr. Speaker, that's certainly a very vast portion of the labour and injured workers constituency group in this territory. Both were excellent candidates and it was a very difficult decision to make and as a result of that, I've proposed to labour in a letter in announcing this that I would like to get all of the various factions of labour together to talk to them about getting together a body to give more focused recommendations to the minister so that perhaps they can come together with consensus. I had the first candidate, unfortunately, due to the employer putting restrictions upon them, not being able to perform the task that I think they would have been also very good at doing.
Mr. Cable: Just so we can do some testing of the theory that the minister just put forward, could he table the list of the organizations consulted and the nominees put forward by those organizations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member who was referred to earlier was certainly a very good candidate. There were a number of good candidates. Unfortunately, there was only one position available. So, I'd be happy to table the avalanche of correspondence that I had in trying to build consensus not only with the first position, but the second one as I talked to the various factions of labour in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, I'll also be working to try and get labour to come together to give one focused nomination to the minister for these types of appointments. I think that would be beneficial and the minister wouldn't be forced to make decisions when we have very excellent people to choose from, as we did in this case.
Question re: Chelation therapy
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Chelation therapy is a treatment for arteriosclerosis and hardening of the arteries, involving the intravenous infusion of a prescription medicine which essentially claws heavy, toxic metals from the body, restoring the flow of blood. This procedure is available for use by qualified physicians in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and many states including Alaska, as well as countries in the world.
A large number of Yukoners subscribe to this therapy and have to travel lengthy distances outside the territory to receive the treatment. I would ask the minister what the government's position is on alternate medical treatments, such as chelation therapy.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think it is important to recognize that no jurisdiction in Canada recognizes chelation therapy for any purpose other than the treatment of heavy metal poisoning. At this point, that is the indication that we have from the medical community; that this is the circumstance under which it should be used.
Mr. Jenkins: In April of last year, a petition was tabled in the Yukon Legislature with respect to chelation therapy, on which there were over 350 signatories. The petition asked not to make this treatment available to Yukoners under the Yukon health care insurance plan, but requested the government's approval for use of chelation therapy by registered physicians in the Yukon. Has the minister had an opportunity to review this request? Can he provide this House with a timetable for its implementation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell the member that I have reviewed the petition. I have also met with the physician who is proposing doing chelation therapy in the territory.
Right now, there is no Yukon legislation that prohibits a physician from providing a service not covered under the health care insurance plan and charging that patient directly. But, I can say that a physician who does provide this service does so contrary to the advice of the Yukon Medical Council and therefore it would have to be resolved with them.
Mr. Jenkins: Many Yukoners, including a fair number from Dawson City, have gone to other provinces, the United States and Mexico to receive this treatment and have sworn by its effectiveness. If just one person's life was put back to vibrant health with such a simple procedure, do you not think it is worth looking into?
I would ask the minister again if he would make the commitment to make chelation therapy legally available to licensed physicians practising in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought I had answered that, the fact that there is currently no legislation which prohibits a physician from offering chelation therapy. None at all.
Mr. Speaker, the member says "not sanctioned." I have to point out that the Yukon Medical Council is the determining group for actions of physicians and treatment programs by physicians, and that a physician who would choose to utilize chelation therapy would not risk the censure of the government, but rather the censure of one's peers.
Question re: Dental program for children
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
During the sitting of the last Legislature, the minister assured the House that an independent researcher was reviewing the children's dental program. Can the minister indicate what progress has been made, if any, on the review of this vital, preventative health care initiative?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The children's dental program is one of those community health programs which was transferred from the federal government to ourselves. What we've been doing since that time is we have been looking to see what kind of changes will be undertaken. We were in the process of recruiting someone to come in and do an independent evaluation of the program, to suggest some changes. To date, I have not received a report back on that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that the services provided to rural communities under this program differ greatly from those offered in Whitehorse. Is it the view of this government that those communities outside of Whitehorse do not deserve the same high quality of dental care as those children in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that probably the latter is true. I would suggest that probably in communities, particularly communities where there is no resident dentist, the need would be greater. So, were there to be changes, our goal would be to make sure that rural service would be key, because of just the lack of accessibility to dental therapy.
Mrs. Edelman: That's very laudable. Can the minister assure the House that funding for the children's dental program will continue and that those children in the communities then receive the same level of service that they are entitled to?
I can assure the member that we have received funding from the federal government to continue on with dental programs as well as many other programs under phase 2, and it is our goal to keep the level of service certainly at the same level and, hopefully, there might be some opportunity to enhance.
Question re: Group home, 16 Klondike Road
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and it's regarding a group home on 16 Klondike Road in my riding.
Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, I had several citizens in my riding - constituents - raise concerns about break-ins in Riverdale in late January, early February. I took the opportunity to call the minister's office and ask the minister's secretary, or aid, some questions. The main reason for my call was that I had heard that the individuals who committed the break-ins were youth from 16 Klondike Road.
I received a reply from the minister, and although the reply is very interesting - it talks about who resides there, who the supervisors are, who the residents are, and how long the residents will be there - the main, primary reason for calling was to find out if any of the residents of that supervised home were out running about the streets in the middle of the afternoon carrying out these break-ins in Riverdale, and I didn't get an answer to that question.
I wonder if the minister knows whether or not any of those individuals were the youth that committed the break-ins or not.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Well, I'm sure that the member recognizes that under such matters as young offenders, I am not at liberty to reveal identities of any kind.
I'm also rather reluctant to identify one particular area as being a source of problems. I would hate to cause alarm, and I would hate to give the residents of that area some measure of concern.
Mr. Phillips: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'll pass on to the individuals that had their homes broken into in the middle of the afternoon and other individuals who contacted me that the minister's really concerned about the youth in this case and doesn't want to deal with the issue.
Mr. Speaker, all I want to know from the minister... I don't want to know names of the youth, and I think that's reasonable. It's the Young Offenders Act. You can't name them, but this is a supervised home, and the question I have for the minister...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, all I want to know from the minister is: did any of the youth at that home commit any of the break-ins? They were supposed to be under supervision. My understanding from the constituents is that the kids that did the break-ins - some of them - lived at that home. I want to know whether that's the case, and if it is, what is the minister going to do about these youth who are supposed to be under full supervision at the home? I think there is 24-hour supervision and seven adults - three staff in the day, two in the evenings and two on night shift.
What are these kids doing running around in the middle of the day committing crimes, when they are there in the first place because of crimes they committed? Shouldn't they be better supervised than that, if in fact kids in this home did this? That's what I want to know from the minister?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My heavens, Mr. Speaker.
Well, first of all, I would be more than pleased to convey to the member, in a private sense, if any of the residents of that home were involved in this. I would be loathe to begin to identify persons or identify situations of that kind in a public forum.
I'm a little confused, Mr. Speaker, because the member across the floor has been sallying forth in defence of troubled youth, and now he wants to kind of ride out against them. So, I have to admit that I'm a little confused in this regard.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Well, this is the second minister today that's missing the point. I'm not after the youth in this case. What I'm concerned about is, if the youth were in this home and committed crimes while they were in this home, what is the minister doing about the supervision in the home?
The residents in my constituency are concerned. They have no problem with the home being there, but surely to goodness they should expect that if there's 24-hour supervision and these type of children are in this home, that their homes shouldn't be broken into in the middle of the day, when the kids get out of the so-called detention centre that they're in and bust into the homes.
That's all I'm asking the minister, is what steps - if these kids did break into homes during the middle of the day - is the minister going to take to ensure that it won't happen in the future?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can assure the member opposite, on his hypothetical situation that he's brought forward, that the staff at 16 Klondike would certainly be cognizant of any problems, if indeed this case had occurred. And, I would imagine that there is going to be some internal changes, if indeed that had occurred.
We seem to be dealing in the land of the "ifs" right now.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might just deviate for a moment to introduce in the gallery, our returned friend...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe I answered the question Mr. Speaker. I was just trying to respond on a point of order to recognize our friend Robert Bruce, who has...
Point of order
Speaker: I recognize the Minister of Department of Health and Social Services who has risen on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to draw to the attention of members in this House, the return of our friend Robert Bruce, the newly elected member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed and we will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker's ruling on admissibility of amendments
Speaker: Order. Just prior to proceeding to other business, the Chair will now provide a ruling on a point of order that was raised yesterday by the Official Opposition House Leader, following the movement of an amendment to Motion No. 54, by the Member for Kluane.
For the record, Motion No. 54 reads as follows:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon government should reconsider the agreement in principle reached between the Yukon Energy Corporation and Alberta Power Ltd. which includes the sale of $4 million of Yukon Energy Corporation assets in contravention of a long-standing commitment by the Yukon New Democratic Party to oppose the sale of such assets to southern interests;
(2) the agreement through such provisions as a 20-year franchise for the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. for residential and commercial customers will seriously impede the government's ability to use energy as a tool for economic development; and
(3) the agreement will lead to the increased use of expensive and environmentally harmful diesel for energy generation and will do nothing to reduce the high energy cost to Yukon's electrical consumers.
Also for the record, the amendment moved by the Member for Kluane reads as follows:
"THAT Motion No. 54 be amended by deleting paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) and substituting for them the following:
"THAT the Yukon government should support the agreement in principle reached between the Yukon Energy Corporation and Alberta Power Ltd. that was approved by the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors; and
"THAT this House urges the Yukon Energy Corporation to continue its hard bargaining position on behalf of Yukon ratepayers as they negotiate all outstanding aspects to the agreement."
The Official Opposition House Leader stated on the point of order that the amendment changes the intent of Motion No. 54 and, "by our rules, we're not allowed to change the intent of the motion."
The Government House Leader said that he felt the proposed amendment was consistent with amendments that have been moved and accepted for debate in the past in this House.
The hon. leader of the third party reminded the Chair that an amendment that he had proposed on April 2nd, 1997, had been ruled out of order, and he felt the nature of the amendment now before the House was very similar to that one.
The Chair has reviewed the Standing Orders of the Assembly and found no specific direction there. The Chair has now had an opportunity to review some of the precedents of the Assembly. There are a number which, on the face of it, seem to support the contention that the amendment is in order. I would cite two from the 28th Legislative Assembly as examples.
First, on April 28th, 1993, a motion was before the House in the name of the Member for Faro, Trevor Harding, which read:
"THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should show economic leadership by actively supporting the immediately stripping of the Grum ore deposit in the vicinity of Faro as an infrastructure investment to stimulate economic activity, to keep thousands of Yukon people working and to stave off private sector economic collapse due to the lack of any other immediate private sector opportunities of comparable scale."
An amendment was moved by the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Willard Phelps, which read:
"THAT Motion No. 38 be amended by deleting all the words after the word "Yukon" in the second line and replacing them with the following:
"is showing economic leadership by actively supporting the stripping of the Grum ore deposit in the vicinity of Faro as an investment to stimulate economic activity to keep Yukon people working and stave off private sector economic collapse due to the lack of any other immediate private sector opportunities of comparable scale."
A second example is found on May 4th, 1994, when the House was considering the motion standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, Margaret Commodore, that read:
"THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should immediately live up to its obligations under the umbrella final agreement and commence negotiating in good faith with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation."
An amendment was moved by the Minister of Education, the Hon. Doug Phillips, that read:
"THAT Motion No. 40 be amended by deleting all the words after the phrase "Government of Yukon should" and substituting for them the following:
"continue to live up to its obligations under the umbrella final agreement and continue negotiating in good faith with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation."
I will cite one further motion and an amendment and a further example from the 25th Legislative Assembly when, on March 28, 1984, the Member for Faro, Maurice Byblow, moved a motion that stated:
"THAT the Government of Yukon, in recognition that the history of Yukon includes all regions of Yukon, should alter its tourism policy to include greater support of regions and communities outside the primary Alaska-Klondike Highway corridors and the primary destination points of Dawson, Watson Lake and Carcross."
An amendment was moved to that motion by the Minister of Education, Hon. Bea Firth, which read:
"THAT Motion No. 6 be amended by deleting the expression "should alter its tourism policy to include greater support of regions" and substituting for it the expression "should continue its tourism policy supporting regions."
The Chair, when making the ruling on the amendment to Motion No. 52 moved by the leader of the third party on April 2, 1997, had not had an opportunity to review past precedents of this House and, instead, relied on Annotation 578 of Beauchesne which states, in part:
"An amendment proposing a direct negative, though it may be covered up by verbiage, is out of order." and "An amendment which would produce the same result as if the original motion were simply negatived is out of order."
A review of amendments such as have been cited indicates that past Speakers and Houses have been more lenient in allowing such amendments. The Chair would take this as meaning more emphasis has been put on Annotation 567 and 572 in Beauchesne. Annotation 567 cites Erskine May when it states:
"The object of an amendment may be either to modify a question in such a way as to increase its acceptability or to present to the House a different proposition as an alternative to the original question."
Annotation 572 states:
"An amendment to alter the main question, by substituting a proposition with the opposite conclusion, is not an expanded negative and may be moved."
Taking into account the precedents of this Assembly, the Chair must rule that the amendment moved by the Member for Kluane is in order. Further, the Chair directs that the amendment should now appear on the Order Paper. If debate should resume on this motion, the Minister of Health and Social Services, who had been speaking to the motion at adjournment, shall be entitled to speak first to the amendment.
In reference to the point raised by the leader of the third party about the amendment which he had moved on April 2 and which was ruled out of order, the Chair agrees that it would seem, by virtue of the precedents, the amendment could have been found to have been in order.
In making this ruling, the Chair would comment that he has been informed that the point of order raised by the Official Opposition House Leader reflects a concern that has been raised more than once in the past. Other members from past Houses have expressed frustration with what the Chair would describe as "substitutional amendments".
The Chair, although understanding the point being made by the Official Opposition House Leader and the past members, must, nevertheless, be guided by the rules, and in the absence of a rule, the precedents of the House.
If there is a desire on the part of members for a different standard to be applied when determining if amendments are acceptable, it will be necessary for the House to provide direction to the Chair on this matter. Such direction is normally provided through reports of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges and possibly through amendments to the Standing Orders.
And that's the ruling.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move that the House do now resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
It is my understanding that the House Leaders have agreed that the first recess each afternoon will be 15 minutes. We will now take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue debate on the estimates.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Chair: This afternoon, Committee will be dealing with Community and Transportation Services.
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. We could start off -
Chair: Excuse me. I believe that it's normal practice that the minister will start off.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. My apologies for standing up behind and blocking your view, so you couldn't see.
Mr. Chair, on behalf of my department, Community and Transportation Services, I would like to deliver to you my thoughts in this budget speech for the fiscal year 1997-98. Please allow me to introduce the main estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Chair, the department plans to spend $64.1 million in operation and maintenance and $39.3 million in capital during the 1997-98 fiscal year. The department also plans to recover $2.5 million of its operations and maintenance expenditures and $22.9 million of its capital expenditure. Revenues to be collected by the department are estimated at $6.6 million.
Mr. Chairman, despite substantial reduction in overall capital expenditure estimates, the budget presented shows that the department continues to undertake many worthwhile infrastructure projects. The reductions capital estimate relates to: one, the reduced funding allocated for the Shakwak project by the Government of the United States; two, the final payment to the City of Whitehorse for the sewage treatment project is lower than the 1996-97 allocation; and three, the overall need to reduce capital expenditures to meet budget targets.
Capital and operation and maintenance funding have been allocated for construction and maintenance of highways, airports and community infrastructure within the framework of rational allocation of available resources to meet budget targets. Work will continue on the Alaska Highway under the Shakwak agreement between the federal governments of Canada and the United States to construct the White River bridge, to re-construct the segment between Koidern River, No. 1 and No. 2, and for BST surfacing of 36 kilometres of previously completed road grade. The planned expenditure for this is estimated at $11.2 million.
This government is working with the Government of Alaska to convince the U.S. Congress to extend funding for the completion of about 170 kilometres of the Alaska Highway north of Haines Junction, which remains to be reconstructed and BST surfaced after 1998. The estimated cost to complete this project is $94 million U.S. In this regard, the Government Leader sent letters to members of the Alaskan congressional delegation, to the Governor of Alaska and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, requesting their support for funding to complete the project.
A letter was also written to the Prime Minister of Canada, requesting intervention. In addition, both the department and myself have been dealing with our counterparts in Alaska and the U.S., and Canadian federal governments.
As a result, I am glad to say that we are on a positive track as the Alaska Legislature has recently passed a resolution in support of continued funding from the U.S. federal government to complete the project.
Upgrading of the Watson Lake to Whitehorse section of the Alaska Highway will also be undertaken during the 1997-98 fiscal year, at an estimated cost of $4 million.
Also, $5.2 million has been allocated for the south Campbell and Top of the World highways, under the strategic highways improvement program with Canada. Work on the south Campbell is to reconstruct problem sections, which will support mine development in that area.
Planned improvements on the Top of the World Highway will result in drainage improvements and base course construction from kilometre 0 to kilometre 30 and BSE surfacing of 36 kilometres improved last year. This will improve the highway and contribute to a consistent, safe standard, which will promote tourism.
The plan is to have most of the work completed for the Gold Rush Anniversary, in the summer of 1998.
There's an estimated $1.1 million provided for miscellaneous road upgrades, of which $800,000 will be used on the Dempster Highway. The improvement on the Dempster will include erosion protection at $300,000 and reconstruction of snowdrift cuts, at an estimated cost of $500,000, which will result in an annual direct operational maintenance savings of $200,000 on that highway.
Continuing with our commitment to support the City of Whitehorse's efforts to upgrade the South Access Road, an additional $3 million has been provided for the reconstruction of that road pursuant to the comprehensive agreement, by which responsibility for municipal roads was transferred to the city.
This project is estimated by the city to cost over $12 million and will be of substantial benefit to the construction industry and provide employment this year and next.
Capital projects will be undertaken for the airports program at an estimated cost of $1.1 million, two of which are significant. Four hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars will be used for various facility improvements at the Whitehorse airport. The Watson Lake airport will see an upgrade to its water system at an estimated cost of $395,000. One hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars is allocated to Haines Junction airport for the purchase of a snowblower, the development of airport lots and acquisition of a key-lock system for fuel services. Concrete run-up pads will be installed for Beaver Creek and the Teslin airports.
Mr. Chair, in order to meet transportation operation and maintenance responsibilities, the government has allocated $29 million for highway maintenance, $5.2 million for the airports program and $2.5 million for the administration of transport-related regulatory responsibilities.
The operations and maintenance budget for airports reflects an increase of about $3 million over the 1996-97 main estimates of $2.3 million. This change resulted from the department's successful completion of the devolution of responsibilities for the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports. About 50 percent of this increase is reflected in 1996-97 forecasts in the budget book, as the transfer has been in effect since October the 1st, 1997.
A significant reduction is reflected in the operation and maintenance funding for highway maintenance compared to 1996-97. Although this reduction is partly a result of the department's continued effort to deliver the program at less overall cost, approximately $700,000 relates to the Faro mine closure since less maintenance will be required on the route from Faro to Skagway.
Also, some of the cost savings resulted from capital improvements that have been undertaken by the department. For instance, I have already mentioned that an annual $200,000 decrease in operation and maintenance on the Dempster results from the capital investment of $500,000 for snowdrift control.
Mr. Chairman, the department's budget also reflects this government's commitment to support municipal and community infrastructure needs. To that effect, we will continue to work in partnership with municipalities and to support capital projects that are an economic and social priority and within our means.
Our commitment to local involvement in the planning and development process of land and community facilities and services will be firmly maintained.
In line with our commitment to make affordable land available to all Yukoners, we have allocated a total of $7.2 million for land development. Five point four million dollars is targeted for Copper Ridge subdivision in Whitehorse. Of this, $750,000 will be used to complete phase 5 of 136 lots, $1 million for related trunk main work and $1.4 million to develop a 66-lot mobile-home subdivision. The remaining $2.2 million will be used for another 152 urban residential lots, should the demand for such lots become certain.
The remaining $1.8 million of the total capital allocated for land will be applied to develop other residential, as well as industrial, commercial, agricultural and recreational lots in various communities. Our capital estimate of $4.6 million for other community infrastructure and service programs represents the government's commitment to support communities while recognizing their express desire to have more control over local decision making.
Funding has been allocated to facilitate working with, and to assist, unincorporated communities in planning and implementing their own community visions through zoning. We have included funding for water supply treatment and storage, sewage treatment and disposal, flood erosion control, road/street upgrades and other facility improvements in unincorporated communities. For example, significant work will be done to complete a sewage lagoon at Marsh Lake, for the sewage treatment facility for Destruction Bay and to upgrade roads and streets in Ross River and in Teslin.
As part of our commitment to the Whitehorse sewage treatment cost-shared project, close to $1.3 million is provided. Dawson City and Carmacks have identified future funding needs for sewage treatment. They are both undertaking further work to determine the kind of facility they need. My department will continue to work closely with them in this regard.
We have planned for a new fire truck for the Klondike Valley Fire Department, at a cost of $170,000. We are looking forward to applicants under the extended Canada/Yukon infrastructure program, for which an estimate of $816,000 - and that's including Canada's contribution - is provided.
Mr. Chairman, the department's operation and maintenance includes $15.2 million in transfer payments to municipalities. We have maintained the current level of the comprehensive municipal grant at $11.47 million despite the overall decline in resources available to the department.
Community and hamlet operation and maintenance grants are provided for Carcross, Mount Lorne, Ross River and the Ibex Valley. This represents increased funding to the Carcross area advisory planning committee and the Ross River Development Society.
Mr. Chairman, I will be engaging in discussions with communities in the upcoming months on how to increase participation and control by local people over local decision making. Our government respects the spirit of the final agreements reached with First Nations governments and we will be working to achieve a shared sense of community and common solutions for all Yukon community members.
Policies on payments of grants-in-lieu to municipalities and homeowner grants are maintained. Provision in the amount of $3.7 million is made for grants-in-lieu, which is about 2.3 percent higher than the 1996-97 main estimate. Homeowner grants are estimated at $2.2 million for 1997-98.
A total contribution of about $1.4 million is budgeted to support and promote community recreation and sports.
Of this total, $300,000 will be provided for Team Yukon, for its participation in the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife; $25,000 for the Canada Summer Games and $29,000 for the North American Indigenous games; $540,000 will be distributed by the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee to sport governing bodies and special recreation groups.
Excluding grants and contributions, other operation and maintenance funding provided in support of municipal and community programs includes $1.5 million for public safety; $467,000 for sports and recreation; $1.1 million for land disposition and property assessment and taxation; and $659,000 for community planning and community administration. These levels of funding are about the same as those of '96-'97 fiscal year.
Emergency measures and communication programs will receive continued support. Operation and maintenance funding for ongoing program delivery has been allocated for these two programs at levels consistent with previous years.
Capital funding in the amount of $65,000 is allocated for the emergency measures program to equip the joint emergency operations coordinator sensor with alternate communication systems, to purchase a jaws of life kit that will be stationed at Destruction Bay and to acquire other equipment.
The communications branch will receive capital funding of $100,000 to purchase and install a mobile radio system repeater site that will provide full, portable coverage to Pelly Crossing and $75,000 to replace various other equipment.
Mr. Chairman, the department's main estimate reflects the government's commitment to strengthen economic and social infrastructure, to support municipalities and to continue providing municipal-type services and facilities to unincorporated communities, based on careful financial planning and resource allocation.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will now be pleased to answer questions in connection with this budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'll start off with questions of the minister on where we are in a number of areas. In dealing with municipal governments, there has been a review of the Municipal Act underway for quite a period of time as well as the comprehensive block funding. This was supposed to have been completed by the fall.
Just where are we at with this review, and what are the minister's feelings as to the acceptance of the recommendations that are coming forward from this review?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
The comprehensive review of the whole act will tentatively be completed in time for proposed amendments to be submitted to the spring 1999 sitting of the Yukon Legislature, assuming review and acceptance of proposed amendments by the Association of Yukon Communities membership takes place this September.
Mr. Jenkins: It's my understanding, Mr. Chairman, that that's quite a change from the position that was advanced by the review board that was supposed to have been ready this summer. In fact, I'm given to understand that it's virtually complete. Why the sudden change and extension of the time that is required by, well, another two and a half years from where we were a year ago?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
The times frames are: in June and July of 1997 - this year - completion of the working committee's review; in September of 1997 this year, the Association of Yukon Communities consultation with members and municipalities; and in October/November of this year, preparation of Cabinet submission and discussion paper on the whole act.
Mr. Jenkins: This appears, Mr. Chairman, to be a new time frame. Can the minister confirm that that is the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
No, I've been assured, Mr. Chair, that this is within the same time frame that the department has been consistent in working with.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm hearing now, Mr. Chair, is that the Municipal Act review will not be completed and a new Municipal Act won't be ready for tabling in this Legislature until the spring session of 1999. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Perhaps it would be helpful if I just continue and say that the absolute latest date is the spring of 1999 in the Legislature. What we are hoping to do within December of this year, for the member opposite, is a Cabinet approval of the discussion paper and consultation plan. In February/March of 1998, consultation with public, communities and with First Nations. When we get into July and September of 1998, Justice will draft the legislation and, of course, then we will be proceeding. As I said, that is probably the latest date.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I see a new group being introduced in there - the First Nations. When was the consultation expanded from the municipal government to include First Nations, also? It's not that I'm opposed to it. It just seems like there's a recent change in the body that is envisioned to oversee the review. When was this change made to encompass this larger review group?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm somewhat astounded, I must say, seeing as I'm a community member and the member opposite is a community member from outside of this community. I do not believe that this is an introduction of one side of a community to another side of the community. What we have consistently said in our platform, and what has been stated and agreed upon in, let me see, well over 20 years' worth of negotiations, is for communities to work together and to get along together within a one-government system. That system is described quite candidly. I believe it's sections 17 and 19 of the self-government agreements, but don't take my word for it. Look it up. It's not a new introduction. This is called talking together and working together with communities as a whole.
Mr. Jenkins: It's not that I'm opposed to the direction that is being advanced by the minister, but when did this change take place? I firmly believe in one government, where we're all part of the same process. Now it seems that there's another group, and possibly there might be other groups that the minister wants to bring through into this process to review the Municipal Act. When was the change made to include the First Nations as a distinct body in the review? I'm at a loss.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I don't think that there is any change. I know that, with my talks and association with some of the members of the Association of Yukon Communities, especially Teslin I might say, they have always encouraged consultation. The Teslin mayor and council, I believe, have certainly always been wanting to participate holistically in community development, if I might say, with and for the community as a whole. You cannot certainly do something that is as great as consulting with the AYC, or with the Village of Teslin, and simply alienate the First Nations. We are certainly just trying to bring them together.
As for the date that this has happened, I really couldn't say. I think in Teslin it has certainly been around much longer than the ratification date and the effective date of the First Nation final agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: It's not that I'm trying to make a case of you're for the First Nation involvement and I'm opposed to it. On the contrary, I support First Nations' involvement in municipal government. What I'm asking the minister is when the Municipal Act review was broadened to include the First Nations. This appears to be a new initiative under the new government.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say that nothing has been categorically stated by the AYC. This is from the Government of Yukon and the Association of Yukon Communities. Of course we all realize, sitting here, that the Association of Yukon Communities do want and are desirous of First Nations being members. I believe that they passed a resolution to that effect.
What we are doing is consulting with the communities, Mr. Chair, so that we might be able to work cooperatively with both sides and maybe expedite this process so that we can actually get into legislation, maybe before the year 1999. I am certainly pleased to hear that the member opposite supports First Nations' involvement in municipal governments and I imagine that through his support of First Nations' involvement in municipal government that there should be consultation. I think it would be best to have that consultation up front.
Mr. Jenkins: Initially I was given to understand that, in the fall session of this year, we would be ready to go with revisions to the Yukon's Municipal Act. Now, I am told that it could be put off as late as 1999. It could be advanced to 1998 in the fall. What I see is the review process having been broadened and extended when it's just about coming to completion.
Can the minister confirm that that is the case and, if it is so, an explanation as to what has transpired to take that additional length of time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can simply say that the target dates, as stated, are targets. We are looking to finish the draft legislation by July and September, 1998. Those are the target dates that have always been around, I have been assured, and those are the target dates that we're shooting for.
If the government is going to stick to our agreed upon desire to pass legislation in the fall sitting, then I would think that we will be, at the latest, passing legislation of this in the fall of 1998.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, coupled with the Municipal Act review, the other contentious issue for municipalities is municipal block funding and the formula respecting the distribution of funds among the communities. What guidance has the minister given his department with respect to where he sees this formula changing, if indeed he is going to change it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to state that we're not here to bash municipalities, but we're here to describe within - and, I appreciate that that's where you're coming from, too, the member opposite - that we are here to work cohesively with municipal governments, and that anything that we do within block funding will be with those folks.
Now, have we started anything? No. But, will we do something in conjunction with AYC? We certainly will.
It has been told to me by numerous mayors and councils - by some that we should open it up and by others that we shouldn't open it up. I'm just here to say that whatever we do will be with the blessing of the AYC.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I didn't really appreciate the minister's first remarks, but we're not here to pit one municipality against another, or anything of that nature. One of the major concerns arising out of municipal governments today is, number one, the amount of dollars in municipal block funding and the fact that it has been static for at least the last 10 years. And the second component is the formula under which these funds are distributed. There's always a giver and a taker when you redistribute the pie.
In this last cycle, Whitehorse had a subsequent loss of about $74,000. Faro gained about $70,000. They were the major winners and losers this last round - if you want to look at it in that context.
So, there is a concern that is being expressed by virtually all of the municipal governments that I'm concerned about - that this formula should be looked at and there are several facets of the formula that give rise to concern. Just what is the minister prepared to do to address these concerns?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the issue of block funding, it has gone up and down from year to year. I think in the last little bit it has certainly been stabilizing. I reiterate that whatever we will be with the Association of Yukon Communities, in the immediate future, as we evolve and we look to see what communities are going to assume, then it will be through a negotiated process. We are not going to devolve, and I say again, anything from here outside of a process will be a process that is agreed upon with the communities.
Right now, the Association of Yukon Communities' mandate and that of a lot of communities is narrowly focused. If we go to expand upon that mandate, well, then we'll certainly resource that also. I hope that's helpful to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we've walked all around the question, Mr. Chairman, and still do not have an answer to what the minister's opinion is and what he does envision doing with municipal block funding. Subjecting it to a review by the Association of Yukon Communities is certainly a first step in the right direction, but at issue is the amount of funds in the total block of funds that are being distributed amongst the communities, and that amount has been static now for 10 years. Is it the minister's intention to ultimately increase the amount of money in municipal block funding?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I've heard the answer twice back here now, so I can certainly say that it will be the policy that we follow through until we change that policy.
You asked for my opinion and asked what I would do. My opinion is that I will never, ever devolve something - if that is the right word - or empower a community with a new jurisdiction without adequate resources to go forth so that they might do it. I will never set them up for a system of failure. The system that we set up will be in place and will be safeguarded so that we might have strong communities. That is my opinion. I'm very much a believer in strong communities and community empowerment.
What will I do? Well, I think I've just said what I'll do. I will do everything in my power to be able to get that dream of communities coming forth. As I said in my speech, it was very difficult to maintain $11.47 million.
Will it increase? Well, I think that it will increase at some point in time, or it should probably increase as we get through a process of empowering communities. That is simply where I'm coming from.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's deal with the actual formula. There are parts of the formula, Mr. Chairman, that are subject to a wide degree of interpretation. The Yukon health care statistics are used as the population base. The other component is the price index for various communities and the weighing of these various components in the formula. Now, the balancing act is to meet the financial requirements of all the respective communities in Yukon in a likewise manner, and the areas that have been expressed as being unfair are those two I pointed out to the minister. Is the minister prepared to have a look at these two areas of the formula?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, as the member is aware, the formula is in the act. I know that he has a certain history with the Association of Yukon Communities and he knows that himself. If the AYC wants to change the formula, then categorically, yes, we will sit down and talk with it and work toward that end.
Mr. Jenkins: For the minister's benefit, the formula isn't in the act; it's a piece of policy put together by the government, by the department, that interprets the comprehensive municipal block funding. Well, I can see we're not going to get too far there. Let's move on to another area of Community and Transportation Services.
Let's move into airports. Let's move into airline deregulation north of 60O. What is the opinion of the minister with respect to this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's been brought to my attention that this is not within the mandated jurisdiction of the territorial governments; it's within the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister, but north of 60O is the only area in Canada that still has a lot of regulations in place with respect to aircraft movement and scheduled aircraft movements and it's contingent upon our development that either these regulations come down or that the access to these areas be improved upon. One of the major tripods on which we build an economy is transportation and air transportation is indeed one of the major ones that supports our visitor industry. In fact, we've recognized the consequence of NWT Air's abandonment of the route from Vancouver into Whitehorse and the consequences that will be felt as a result of that decision.
So, yes, while it's an area that is not regulated by this government, it is an area that this government plays a very important role in lobbying our senior level of government as to the level of regulations and to what can be allowed into this area. I was just asking for the minister's opinion as to what he envisions in this regard.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm certainly always willing to share my opinion because I think a lot of times opinions will evolve into the future, so it's certainly nice to be able to look to that. As I can say again, it's not within our regulation and if you want my opinion I certainly will give it to you.
We have not received any requests from any of the air carriers to take a position on the airlines, but we are certainly open, if we are requested, to sit down and talk with them to see how we could make things better.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas dealing with airports that has been very, very contentious over the years, Mr. Chairman, is the devolution of airports to the Government of the Yukon and the resulting loss of flight service specialists in a number of the locations and the development of the automatic weather observation systems now.
At the present time, the government has funds flowing to it from the federal government to maintain our CARS system in and around the Yukon, and what does the minister envisage happening here? Some of these CARS contracts are expiring, and it's my understanding that the federal government is of the opinion that they can be replaced by the automatic weather observation systems that have proven over the years to be unreliable. What is the department's position on this that the minister is going to relay to us?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, all I can say is [translation not available]. I don't know what else to say. I would like to state, though, that I'm trying to be cooperative. I do believe that that's the basis of good governance and how we come together with good governance. To work as a team certainly seems to offend some people - not all people, not most people, but certainly some people.
I would just like to say at this point in time that it is neither the department nor myself, but it is a team, a team of bureaucrats and a team of politicians from all of the Yukon territorial government departments that work together and move together. So I would certainly appreciate it if we could focus on that light.
So what we are going to do is to make fiscally responsible decisions. Those decisions are going to be brought about, in part, by consultation and talking with folks, and maintaining that we would like to keep public safety as the number one issue. Now, it's going to be a decision that's in the future and I will certainly involve all members of this House in debate or give the chance for debate on that.
Mr. Jenkins: The CARS contract and the funding that flows from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon to maintain these in place - a number of them are coming to their expiry.
These automatic weather observation stations are not reliable. In fact, in the Watson Lake area, and a number of other areas that they've been put in place, they've proven to be very, very unreliable. What is happening in Mayo is, instead of 24-hour service, that is being downplayed to fewer hours per day of observation and the off hours are being monitored by the automatic weather reporting station. I would suggest to the minister that there is a great deal of safety to be concerned about if we have to rely totally on these automated weather stations.
Now, just what is the minister prepared to do and what is his department prepared to do in regard to these automatic weather observation stations and the CARS situation at our various airports?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There has been change in the past history of CARS. There is no change in the foreseeable future on the CARS - the immediate foreseeable future - and then I will reiterate what I'd said previously: if and when it does come about, we will certainly keep the issue of safety and consultation principles first and foremost in our minds.
Mr. Jenkins: The CARS contract - the funds for this from the federal government, under which the Yukon operates the CARS stations - expires at certain points in time, and it has been added to for various areas, and additional funds have been found by the federal government to increase the hours in a number of locations. Now, through contracting out, there has been a saving effected by the Government of the Yukon in a number of places.
It's a very needed part of our infrastructure, and it's very, very beneficial to our air system and for air navigation and for weather reporting. Indeed, some of the weather reporting stations are paramount to the development of the weather systems that move through this area down into the southern part of Canada.
The maintenance of those systems is very, very important. In fact, it's critical. The funds are lapsing; they're expiring. I would like know what direction the minister's going to take with respect to this area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I can certainly agree with the member opposite that it is important to the infrastructure of the Yukon Territory and the development of infrastructure, especially, the safety of the pilots, et cetera, in the Yukon and those that pass through the Yukon.
It hasn't gone down and we're going to continue to work with due diligence to ensure that the safety and the principles of safety are taken in. It doesn't mean that - I'll leave it at that, that's what it means. I'm trying to think of different ways to say it, and I can't think of anything, so I'll stick with the line that I said. We're going to use the principles of safety and continue with that.
Mr. Jenkins: Dealing with the airports, the air navigation system, ANS, is being devolved into a private entity, NAV CANADA. This has an effect on the IFR approach in Whitehorse, and, to a lesser extent, in Watson Lake. The maintenance of the system in Whitehorse is of paramount importance to consistent landing and takeoff of aircraft in this region, especially our main-line sked carriers and our local sked carriers throughout the Yukon.
What is the minister's position with what is transpiring in this area, and what is the minister going to be doing to ensure that our navigation systems are maintained, as meek as they are, throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's been brought to my attention that NAV CANADA was set up last year by the feds, and that will be the system, the umbrella that we'll be working underneath.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I'm hearing from the minister is there's adequate funding in place. There's adequate ability through this new organization, NAV CANADA, to maintain what presently exists in the Yukon, and the minister will ensure that it will be maintained.
What I hear from the minister is that he is satisfied that NAV CANADA is going to maintain the existing facilities in place and that there's adequate funding and that what presently exists will continue to be maintained in Yukon, for the benefit of the airline industry.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Basically, yes. What I would like to say is that we could show the member opposite some of the correspondence that we have on this and give him a complete briefing on this if he would so like.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the Minister, but I would like the department to start with briefing the minister so that he has an understanding of it, because it is a very, very important issue for the airlines, both the commercial and the private sector, to ensure that these nav-aids are maintained throughout the Yukon. That is the direction I'm heading in, that these continue to be maintained at the existing level and no less than the existing level. Can I have the minister's assurances of that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, it is not our decision. Yes, they are being maintained. Again, what more can I say? They are being maintained. They are a federal jurisdiction.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back to the airports throughout the Yukon Territory, now that the Government of Yukon is responsible for all of them. If you look at the aircraft movements, the most busy airport in the Yukon is Whitehorse. The second busiest airport, based on movements, is Dawson City. The third busiest airport is Watson Lake, and it goes down the road to Faro and then to Mayo and Old Crow. Not even reported - or is very, very difficult to get, although they are available - are the number of movements that we experience in Haines Junction and Carmacks.
With the devolution in the last few years of B and C airports, a tremendous amount of capital was conveyed to the Government of Yukon to bring both of these strips up to a very, very high level. Structures were built at both of these airports at a cost to the taxpayers of Canada. We are all taxpayers.
Just what does the minister envision will occur to utilize these two airports to any degree of movement from what they are experiencing at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Somewhere therein lies a question. The devolution in the airports was brought about to bring control to the Yukon territorial government on behalf of all of these airports. What I have in mind with that is local control, local decision making for the benefit of all Yukoners in general for the make up of the airports. The process - I guess somewhat - is to follow the budget process and to incorporate for all of the airports, somewhat through this process, care and attention, I might add.
What I'm getting at is that both Haines Junction and Carmacks have wonderful terminal buildings in place. Dawson City has a terminal building. The terminal building in Dawson City is too small, under-utilized, too close to the runway, and we have managed to put all of the capital into run-up pads at Haines Junction and Beaver Creek, where there is very, very little aircraft movement. Run-up pads to a level that would be acceptable are just not available in those airports that are experiencing a great deal of traffic. In Dawson, the run-up pad breaks up every spring. It's chipsealed. It's not a surfacing material that can be used on an airport run-away or on a taxi-way, where you have turning, where you have high weight loads. We end up doing a wonderful job on those airports that don't need it and spending very little or nothing on those airports that do need it. The Old Crow airport is probably going to wash into the river in the next decade or so, and yet there's very little attention being paid to those airports that have the traffic, can justify the traffic, where the traffic will continue to grow, versus those airports where there is very little or no traffic, and what traffic that does go in there is primarily of a government nature.
What's the minister prepared to do to move the priorities to those airports that need the attention?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Following the completion of the Dawson City airport demand forecast, which concluded that a new, relocated airport was not warranted, a condition report was completed on the Dawson airport terminal building. The facility was found to be in good condition and to have many serviceable years left. The aviation and marine branch will now address its efforts to dealing with impediments to the aircraft operations. I certainly see the sincerity in the member opposite and I'm certainly willing to take a look at it and see if that is the case and to work toward those ends. That's what local decision making means to the devolvement.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister's briefing notes also add in a section on Dawson that the building is over-utilized and too small for its intended use. Has he omitted relaying that information to the House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said, we will certainly be looking at it to make sure that we come up with a decisive decision that will be able to accommodate all safety aspects of the Dawson airport and other airports, if I might add.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps I could ask the minister to read into the record his briefing notes on the Dawson City airport, verbatim.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm not so sure if that's totally necessary. We are going to look at it and we're going to ensure that the Dawson airport is going to be factored in so that if there are needed improvements and whatnot, that we will be addressing those improvements.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister's briefing notes do say that the building is over-utilized, too small and either has to be expanded or upgraded. Is that not the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: My briefing note does say that while the Dawson airport, as I said, is not limiting air service, improvements are needed and we'll certainly be looking at that. And if it's needed for the accommodation and the handling of passengers and cargo and for aircraft ground operations, we will certainly look at that.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just take this Dawson City airport. It requires surface improvements and lengthening. It requires expansion of the terminal building, but all we're probably going to expect to see from the Government of Yukon is a relocation of the highway to expand the existing airports. Well, I'm sure that that's in the budget there somewhere for the next little while. I'm sure that that's in the budget somewhere along the line and the minister is very, very, very aloof as to what his briefing notes say because he doesn't want to repeat, verbatim, the truth.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: My briefing note does not say that the airport needs moving. It does not need lengthening. It does not say that. As I've said to the member opposite, we will look at it, and we will do the honourable thing. It will have to be put into the context of budgeting and priorization, but certainly not at the detriment of health and safety.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess we're not going to get any hard and fast answers from the minister, so let's move on to another area of transportation that is impacting on the cost of freight to Yukoners, and let's deal with the Alaska marine highway, the remission of duties on the Canadian coastal trade legislation, and what efforts the minister is taking with the federal Minister of Finance with respect to having some sort of remission of these duties on a more timely basis than what is presently occurring, so that we can bring goods up the Alaska marine highway at less expense and more frequently than is currently the case.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member for bringing forth a very complicated issue. I've been assured that we are working towards those ends and will continue to work toward those ends. As I said, it's a complicated area. We're certainly desirous of bringing goods to the Yukon at rates as cheap as possible, and will certainly get more information on it and get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm aware of the background on this subject matter, and I think it's contingent upon the minister to be brought up to speed by his department and get an understanding of this area. It is very, very critical to the freight charges that are incurred here in the Yukon that the minister have an understanding of the issues and where he should be lobbying and the effects that his lobbying can have on a reduction of cost of freight coming into the Yukon. His answer was very, very blasť, Mr. Chairman.
Let's move into the commercial vehicles and the universal registration of motor vehicles. Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that is not included in that universal registration plan. I'm aware of some of the background as to why we have stayed out of it, but it does have an effect on Yukon truckers going south. It has benefits and it has disadvantages. Just where are we, Mr. Minister, with respect to the universal, Canada-wide - and, indeed, North American-wide- registration of commercial motor vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, correct. We are not in either. The North American is between the provinces and the federal government, and the secondary, the Canadian-wide one - why we're not in it - is that we'd lose substantial revenues and it would increase our administration costs drastically.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the next contentious issues in the minister's portfolio that I would like to explore with him is the issue of garbage dumps throughout the Yukon, and the need for a uniform approach to the development, maintenance, and where to build them and how to get through all of the hoops.
There's one of those situations, called the NIMBY situation - not in my backyard. We all need them; no one wants them. What kind of direction is the minister giving his officials with respect to a uniform garbage dump policy throughout Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that is an issue and you're right about NIMBY, everybody wants to utilize a garbage dump, but certainly nobody wants to do one in their backyard, but they're totally necessary.
What we're doing, is we're certainly encouraging, and certain municipalities and folks have been working with due diligence on cutting down on their waste and their consumption, I guess you might say. We're looking at that, and we're also looking at, right now, doing cost analysis on garbage dumps and the burning thereof, and how we can certainly make it better and keep our environment pristine and clean, and we're looking at it in that context.
We're looking at it in the periphery areas right now to see just what type is the best solution. And, it's going to be done, in part, through consultation with the Minister of Renewable Resources on the air emissions, which is going to be started this year and it should be done by the end of the calendar year so that we might be able to implement something for next year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I heard the minister state was that his department is going to conduct a review and they're going to bring back the results of that review before the end of this year. What I could ask the minister, then, is: would the minister be prepared to bring forward a uniform proposal - an implementation plan - for the construction and maintenance of garbage dumps that they have control over and jurisdiction for throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we are going to be sharing with this House the findings that we have. There are going to be options garnered from the consultation, including work that the Department of Renewable Resources is doing on air emissions. We are also doing a rural services paper. We will be looking at that and making sure that that brings us some facts as to what the people want, and we're going to be looking at it, not only in conjunction with our dumps, but maybe be able to help and consult with the municipalities, because they are affected by the periphery users of it also.
I'd be pleased to bring back the findings of the rural services paper and the air emissions - well, it's not my department but I'm certain it will be shared by the Minister of Renewable Resources - and all facts, so that we might be able to come up with some cost-effective options, options that are good for people and good for the environment and that we can all agree upon, and then get some certainty into our disposal units.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I would like to ask the minister for clarification of what he just said. What I asked the minister was: will he, after he has conducted this review, be bringing forth a uniform garbage dump development and maintenance program for those garbage dumps for which he has jurisdiction?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, sir, we will be doing that in 1998, and I was explaining to the member opposite the process that we are doing and how the member opposite would be involved. In 1998, we will be coming with the solid waste regulations.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I go back to the minister. We will have solid waste regulations. I am aware that they are in the development stage, but I ask the minister if his government will be bringing forth uniform garbage dump development plan and their maintenance throughout the areas where the Government of Yukon has jurisdiction. Is he going to be building these garbage dumps and maintaining them to a uniform standard throughout the Yukon? I am not asking him about the regulations. I am not asking him about the review process. I am aware that there are regulations pending.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Call it a car; call it a vehicle, it's all the same purpose. We'll certainly be bringing it out and bringing it back and we will certainly share the garbage dump policy, but it would be contained within the solid waste regulations that will work on a set of principles that will enable us to make those decisions. You will be involved in that process.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess I'm just not making myself understood. I will try again. What I am looking for is the minister's assurances that they - the Government of Yukon - will be constructing garbage dumps and maintaining garbage dumps to a uniform standard throughout the Yukon Territory in the area for which they have jurisdiction. Can I have a yes or no answer from the minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Cars; vehicles, whatever. Yes, I guess that is what I've been saying. I've been explaining the process and that that is the desire. It is what the people want. That is what this government is going to do. We are going to do it with consultation to make sure that the people get what they want. If it's not in their backyard or it comes in a different concept - whatever. But, it is going to be done with, for and by the people, and, of course, you will be involved through this democratic process.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's explore another area to get off the topic of garbage. Mind you, with computer systems, that's usually what we buy from time to time.
One of the most advanced programs that government here bought into was a computer system to develop a land interest management system. It's basically a database that was developed of all the various land uses throughout the Yukon Territory. I was previewed to its initial offerings a number of years ago and applaud the government for taking this direction.
I'm given to understand that it's been an almost $2 million expenditure to date. Just how efficient is this computer system working, and is it up and running? Will we be incurring additional costs in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
Well, it's been brought to my attention that we are, in part, users of the system, but it is not our system, and my department does not have the lead on this system. It is the Department of Government Services that has the lead. What I'll do though is talk to my colleagues in Government Services and ensure that we get proper answers brought forth for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, but it was a line item in the budget of Community and Transportation Services a number of years ago. I can't recall the exact amount, but it was approaching some $2 million, so the department certainly has more than a small vested interested in the success of that computer system, and I just wanted to know if its use was being well-received within his department and to what level and how satisfactorily.
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
Well, the system is under development. It's been brought to my attention that some of my bureaucrats that have been around some number of years may be perplexed by where this figure comes from, so we will endeavor to ask the department that has the lead in this and to do a critique. And we get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you.
Will that will be by legislative return, Mr. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that is one of the vehicles, and if that's what the member opposite wishes, it would certainly be my desire.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that we look at throughout the Yukon, as to the development of the Yukon, is land inventory - the number of lots - and the rule of thumb has been that we keep a two-year supply on hand. I'm pleased to see in the budget presented by C&TS that the level of expenditures in developing lots is approximately the same value as previously, and if the minister could look down his briefing notes and look at the Dawson City area and advise why there are virtually no lots remaining in that area that the Government of Yukon has available.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's been brought to my attention that there are a number of lots for retail in Dawson City, but the main development of the lots in Dawson City has been by the municipality of Dawson City.
Mr. Jenkins: The developer of lots throughout Yukon has been, in the majority of cases, the Government of Yukon. In a number of instances, the municipal governments have played a role, and the private sector has been involved in some small subdivisions.
Would the minister entertain addressing Dawson's needs by providing funding for the lots that they currently hold in inventory until such time as they are sold, and recover it in a like manner as they do in other areas of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, as the members opposite certainly know, the money that we have to work with is on the table at this point in time. We just don't have the money to buy back the lots, and I'll leave it at that.
Mr. Jenkins: Can I ask the minister for an undertaking that he will review such a scenario and, perhaps in the next fiscal period, budget for funding of this magnitude that will allow the municipality of Dawson to put their funding in other areas. The amount of money they have tied up in land development is one of the largest amounts of money on record of any municipality in their accounts receivable or their inventory. It's not the case with Whitehorse; it's not the case with Watson Lake or any other Yukon municipality where land development is undertaken by the Government of the Yukon. It would make abundant good sense to free up the municipal requirement in that area and free up that funding and allow this community to be treated the same way as any other municipality in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We say in our budget address that we have monies for land development and we're looking to do deals with the private sector, with municipalities and First Nations, and that's just what we're going to do. I can certainly review and look. I will never say yes, as I will never say no. Certain dynamics will change and evolve over the next year and I'd like to put it into that context. It's not that I can't certainly sympathize with the situation that Dawson has put itself into. We will certainly endeavour to work with the City of Dawson on this and all municipal-type services and arrangements.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's explore another area of land use in the Yukon Territory that comes under a wide range of use after it's applied for. Let's go into agricultural land use.
Usually in the Yukon, an application is made and land is granted under this process. In most cases, the Government of Yukon, as a condition of sale, places a caveat against the title that does not permit its subdivision or subsequent sale or use for any other purpose. More often than not, the use is subsequently changed by way of lease or some other purpose and the land falls out of agricultural use and into another category.
What is the minister prepared to do to stop this trend? Caveats being what they are, there doesn't appear to be any teeth in a caveat registered against a land title. Is the minister prepared to explore other avenues of securing the land for its intended use and not allowing it to be changed or subdivided until such time that it comes back to the government for a full review?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Of course, as the member opposite is well aware, agricultural lands are under the direction of Renewable Resources and he can bring it up with them also. But, within my department, we have the Subdivision Act, which stops that type of usage, and we are not relying simply on the caveats, but the Subdivision Act.
Mr. Jenkins: What is happening is that subdivisions are taking way by way of lease, and that is quasi-type leases, which are not specifically included in the Subdivision Act. It does state it, but it does occur and the government has taken no steps to correct this action.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I guess there are plenty of people that will break the law and there are provisions within the Subdivision Act that they are not to do that, and if the member opposite is aware of such instances, I would certainly be appreciative of knowing, because it is an illegal move and it is covered within the Subdivision Act.
Mr. Jenkins: You only have to speak with your deputy minister seated beside you, and he's probably aware of the same number of instances, or perhaps more than I am.
Let's go into another area that has been reviewed by your department, Mr. Minister, and the implementation plan for same: streetlighting in rural Yukon. There was a whole review conducted a number of years ago. Just where are we with the implementation plan and who sets the priorities on this implementation plan?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is a policy in place. Who has the final say? Well, the policy has the final say about streetlighting in rural Yukon.
I might take this moment to chastise the member opposite for even alluding to one of the people that work for me, or work within the department, that they have knowledge that they would not share with me. I, myself, find that very offensive and I asked a certain question, a share of knowledge from yourself, Mr. Member, and I would certainly appreciate it if we could keep it in that context. Bureaucrats in the Yukon Territory are a very fine lot and they work, as everybody does, toward those ends. I'd appreciate that he direct his comments, and if he wants to beat me up, you get at 'er, but you make sure it's pertaining to me.
Mr. Jenkins: No one wants to beat you up. What is happening here, Mr. Chairman, today, is I am asking a series of questions about the department that the minister has responsibility for. And, without exception, there wasn't one of those questions that he did not have to refer to his officials to get the answer. Now, the minister has been in his portfolio for six months and, after six months, it would probably be very, very good if the minister did have an understanding of the issues he's charged with the responsibility for.
What I suggested to the minister was, if he wanted to have an understanding of the agricultural land that has been taken out of agricultural use and subdivided or put to other use, he only had to ask his deputy minister, for whom I have the highest regard.
With respect to the street lighting, Mr. Chairman, I still haven't received an answer as to who priorizes it and who sets the priorities under this plan as to where these lights are going to go. Does the squeaky wheel get the grease or is there someone making a judgment call? How is it determined?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is done by policy and it's done in conjunction with the engineering branch, and if there are problems with that and we are notified, then we certainly go to look at that.
Mr. Chair, I'm certainly glad now to see that the member opposite is going to direct his remarks and his frustration to me. I certainly appreciate that he wasn't here in the last sitting, as I was not here in the last sitting. Deputy ministers are here to be used so that we might give the correct, concisive answers to the members opposite, so that we might be able to work cooperatively.
That is simply what I am trying to do at this point in time.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's move into this streetlight issue and let's move into a very, very high volume traffic area, as substantiated by traffic vehicle movement counts over that section of highway. Let's move into the area from the Dawson ferry landing out to Callison, where the volumes of traffic in that area far exceed the ability of that highway and the standard of that highway to accommodate. There isn't anything in this current budget to address this area. There isn't anything that is occurring with respect to adding additional streetlighting out to Callison. There have been two streetlights added at the Callision intersection, but nothing else, yet the traffic survey warrants a widening of this highway and an upgrading of it through that area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite is certainly right. It was deemed not to be a priority this year, but it certainly could be a priority of next year. That is the nature of budgets.
Mr. Jenkins: Can I have the minister's assurance that it will be a priority next year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is certainly something that will be first and foremost in our minds. We will be looking at it in the context of next year's budget. We cannot be getting into "what ifs", but we can certainly be getting into saying that we will certainly look at everything and make sure it is adhered to or looked at.
Mr. Jenkins: Starting with this road that I just referred to - it's called the Dawson ferry landing - out to Callison, there is a need to upgrade the road. On the other side of the Yukon River at Dawson, I applaud the department's continued efforts to upgrade the Top of the World Highway and get it up to an acceptable standard.
We just have that little intersection, when one comes to both sides of the Yukon River at Dawson City. There is a ferry that moves back and forth. The last few years, passenger traffic has been over 200,000 individuals. It moves 66,000 to 70,000 vehicles per year. It was upgraded to be able to carry 75 individuals, from 49 individuals. At one point in time, you couldn't put a motorcoach on the ferry because of its capacity. Still, today, you can only put one motorcoach on at a time. You can't put anything else on with it if the motorcoach is maxed out, as far as capacity.
This impediment to the development of our visitor industry has been recognized by the previous government. They started a bridge study and an environmental study. Is the minister continuing with the environmental studies in this area and developing the conformity to the regional environmental review committee guidelines for a Yukon River bridge at Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, to my recollection, we are going to be completing environmental guidelines and requirements on that study.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other contentious areas throughout the Yukon - and you really can't find one department to pin down and hold totally responsible for it, so I'll address this issue initially to C&TS, and see if we can come up with some sort of a response there. It's boat docks, roadside pullouts, outhouses. You constantly get the run-around from department to department, and there's no satisfactory results occurring. There is a corridor that's been identified from Skagway through to Dawson, but other than that, we're not doing a very good job with pullouts and these areas off our main highways.
What is your position with respect to this? What can we do to pull this together, Mr. Minister, and put it all under one individual's umbrella?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member's certainly correct. It's difficult to pin down any one department on anything like as such, but we are looking at it, and I would be more than happy to provide a map for the member opposite's input as to what we're doing on it and, if I might say, the locations, too.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm certainly aware of what's located where. I'm just looking for someone, some department, to have overall responsibility for this area - boat docks, roadside pullouts and the outhouses that are along our highways and waterways.
Now, it would appear to be the most logical step to put it under the umbrella of the Department of Highways.
Mr. Chairman, I'm seeking the minister's understanding of this issue, and he does recognize that there is a smattering of responsibility from department to department. It needs to be pulled under one department's umbrella, and I'm asking the minister if he's prepared to do that and go to his colleagues and take responsibility for it or ensure that some other department has the total and overall responsibility for these areas.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, member opposite, and I thank my own colleague for volunteering to take the lead on this, because we will certainly most assuredly turn it over to him if he wants. But to be more pointed, I might say that Tourism, Renewable Resources and C&TS are working collaboratively on this, and I will be more than happy to share with you the findings and to get your input on this.
Mr. Jenkins: When can we expect to see results of these wonderful deliberations as to who is responsible for what and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: You have some advice being offered from one of your colleagues, so perhaps you can pay attention, Mr. Minister, and we can move on. What's the time frame for seeing some results of this magnanimous gesture on your part?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I am paying attention. I'm paying as much attention to the member opposite as he warrants.
As I said, I will be able to get the collaboration, as he stated, to him. We do have it.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I go back to the minister and ask: what are the time lines for completing this review, and when will he have something in place?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We do have an agreement. We do have a map, and I will be more than happy to share it with the member opposite.
I'd just like to encourage people here who have hearing problems that they should do what I do and go get them looked at.
Mr. Jenkins: What I am seeking are the time lines for this review to be completed and when can we expect to see some results? I applaud his initiative, but he hasn't given me the time lines. When is it going to be completed? When are these areas going to be under one roof and someone responsible for it so that we don't the runaround?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think everybody in here is well aware that money is not unlimited at this point in time; there is a limit to the money that we have. Requests are coming in and I reiterate that I'd certainly appreciate that upon receiving the map and collaboration of the three departments. If the member opposite would take the time to review and to talk to me, I would be more than happy to see how we can proceed to work toward cleaning up the environment and to working with us in a holistic fashion, if I might add those words again, and not in such an antagonistic fashion or a critical fashion, but in a critique type of fashion.
Mr. Jenkins: Let us go back to square one. There are boat docks throughout the Yukon Territory that one department of the Yukon government has responsibility for. There are roadside pull-outs containing outhouses and tables that another department of the Yukon government has responsibilities for. There is a split responsibility, and the level of service that these areas receive is not satisfactory. When one goes with a concern, one gets the runaround from department to department. At present, there appears to be three different departments involved. There could only be two. I could stand corrected. What I'm asking of the minister is if he will take it upon himself to put these all under one umbrella so that we have one individual to go to and get something happening to get these areas clean, neat and tidy and maintained.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, let me first of all say that the agreement that we have is an agreement that has been approved by the previous government and, well, I take it that the member opposite is a fan of the previous government, otherwise he wouldn't be sitting in this House as he is today.
So, I will most certainly reiterate, I think for maybe the third or the fourth time, that if the member opposite would like the information that I'm going to send him, if he would take the time to read it and to get back to me, then I will provide the leadership in dealing with himself directly.
Mr. Jenkins: Boy, that is the most convoluted answer that I've received in a long time to a direct question.
I am looking for one department to be responsible for these areas. Is it within the realm of possibility in your better way to put together one department to be in control of these areas, so that we have one individual? Yes or no? And what are the time lines for the minister to conduct this review? When can we expect to see results, such as one department being in charge of the whole situation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What can I say? I will say again that I will encourage the member to read the information I give to him. I will work with due diligence with the member opposite.
Our departments are working together on this and we're working collaboratively together. Maybe that is what is mystifying to the member opposite - the word "collaboration" and "teamwork"- for that is what we do on this side in a better way.
Now members over there might do things in isolated, autocratic ways, and they had their chance and they had their experience of four years in their last administration. I am saying to you that I will work with you, I will share my information with you and I will actually listen to your comments, because in some of the comments that everybody has and says, there is virtue within. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, I'm at a loss as to where the minister is heading with his responses. That is definitely a non-answer. I was looking for an answer to a direct question and the minister, once again, managed to elude it very, very well.
So, for the minister's benefit, there are three areas: boat docks, roadside pull-outs and the subsequent picnic tables and outhouses along on these roadside pull-outs that require maintenance on an ongoing basis.
The responsibility for their maintenance is now divided up among various departments of the Government of the Yukon. It is in the best interest of the travelling public in Yukon that all of these areas be contained under one area, and one individual or one department be responsible for that area.
I'm not looking for a map as to where these are; I'm familiar with most of them. I'm just looking for a commonsense approach from the minister as to whether he will entertain putting these all under his umbrella and addressing the need for their ongoing, continued maintenance through one identified body of government.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the member coming to me for common sense, because I can certainly share my common-sense approach with the member.
For I don't know what time, Mr. Chair, we have asked our departments to work collaboratively - to work together. That's what that means: to work together, to come to a common result. When we have those results, I will share those results, as soon as they're available. That's not a mapped answer. That's a direct answer.
Mr. Jenkins: But what are the time lines for this occurring? Three months? Six months?
Will it be completed by the end of this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This will be done as soon as possible, and when it is done, Mr. Chair, I will certainly be more than willing to share my commonsense approach with the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's explore with the minister in another area that I'm sure his vast knowledge will lead us down the path. Let's go into the 911 service. Its approximate cost is approaching $200,000, the last dollars I saw. Just where are we with extending the service outside of the Whitehorse and Whitehorse peripheral areas?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As reiterated to me to refresh my memory, but which I already knew, there are no plans to extend the 911 service beyond what it is at this point in time. If there is a need, well, then, we'll certainly be looking at it for the future, but at this time it is not a priority and there is not a need.
Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of regulations that are up for review and under review - elevator regulations and boiler and pressure vessel regulations and their resulting inspection requirements.
What direction is the minister going to be taking this department and these individuals in?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate that and I'll attempt to slow down, if I may.
The boiler regs and issues are ongoing issues and we are looking at them. Again, we'll share the information with the member opposite when it becomes available.
Mr. Jenkins: That issue, if we can extend it to include fire inspections, these are all the responsibility of the fire inspections, boiler and pressure vessel inspections, and the elevator inspections - these are all the purview of the department, and the required inspections that result out of the government regulating those areas.
Inspection levels have fallen off considerably the last few years because of the number of additional boilers put into service, elevators put into service, and the added number of buildings that require fire inspections.
Is it the minister's - he can go one of two ways. He could probably privatize some of this service. He could probably rely on the industry itself to be self-policing, like the electrical inspections have become. Or he could hire more individuals to carry out these inspections. Just what direction does the minister envision heading with respect to these areas?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Sorry, I do not have a briefing note with me at this point in time, but I will certainly get back to you. I expect to be here waltzing with you for another few days for certain, so I will certainly be able to get back to you when we continue this dance.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go into another area that is the responsibility of your department.
Chair: Excuse me, Mr. Jenkins, but since we are approaching 4:30 p.m. and you are entering another area, is it the members' wish at this time to take a short break?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We're dealing with the budget - Community and Transportation Services. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We could get into another area - the government communication system, MDMRS. How is the system functioning? I noticed there is $100,000 allocated for extensions to it in the Pelly Crossing area. What other upgrades are anticipated, and what is the policy with respect to the extension of this system? Where will it be needed in the future by the government, and what are the approximate costs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is working well, functioning very, very well. This was it. There are no plans now to extend it, although certainly there will be upgrades and replacement on it. Did I hear you ask, Mr. Member, about policy? Was there a policy question, also?
There is really not a written policy, per se, as I can recall from my briefing note.
Mr. Jenkins: What kind of life expectancy can we expect from this system? It's been about the third or fourth system that's been implemented in Yukon, and it appears to be a very good one, but what is the life expectancy of this system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We can certainly endeavour to get more written information, or factual information, but it's been around for 10 years now, and it's a matter of replacing and continuing upgrade on operational maintenance, servicing, that type of thing. As for the expected warranty life system, we can certainly endeavour to get more information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there certainly must be some sort of a policy that the government has in place with respect to reviewing its total capital cost, its period of amortization and its ongoing O&M. With respect to these kinds of systems, in light of the expanding technology, M-SAT, and the fact that a lot of the truckers operating in North America are connected to their headquarters on a constant basis by satellite, I can see this evolving into another area. I was just wondering what kind of policy the government has in place for dealing with such a situation as the life-expectancy of the multi-departmental mobile radio system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As we continue with this discussion, we're certainly continually monitoring this system. We know that the alternative to M-SAT is a very expensive alternative and hopefully we'll be able to keep up with what we have with the constant monitoring and make decisions as we evolve.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister telling the House that there is no policy review of major installations like our radio communication system? Is there no policy in place that, every two or five years, there are reviews of the dollars and reviews of the tremendous growth in technology and compare them? There certainly must be some sort of a policy in place. How did we get to where we are today, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: By being consistent. There is no policy on the actual review. It is an ongoing review. We continue with that ongoing review of the technology.
Mr. Jenkins: I would just like to point out to the minister that Community and Transportation Services is holding a policy briefing tomorrow, Friday, April 11th, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. It will probably be in the House's best interest if he was in attendance, so that he could grasp the fundamentals of his department in a much better light than he appears to have shed on the various issues I raised in the House today.
With that, I will let one of my colleagues go on with the questioning. I have quite a number of other areas that I would like to explore with the minister, but I will stand aside and let someone go on for now.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to correct the member opposite. There's not a policy briefing being conducted tomorrow, there's a budget briefing to which I invited the member opposite to participate, of which, he quite adamantly said, "I do not need any briefing. Thank you." So, the offer is still open for the member opposite for the briefing if he would like to be involved in the budget - underline, quote, budget, unquote - briefing, for tomorrow.
I would also like to point out that being a Cabinet minister and being in leadership is quite a challenge, and to correct the past administration's direction has been quite a lengthy process. But, I'm very pleased to say that my department of Community and Transportation Services is making no ends to communicating with the communities, to working with the communities, to working with private enterprise, to working with people at large.
So, I would just like to say that I do feel that we are doing a very fine job. I'm very pleased with the people I work with and I do believe that within our four-year mandate the member opposite will be witness - a reluctant witness maybe - to many positive changes within our department and within our government, in whole.
I do believe that the people of Yukon have every reason to feel safe and secure when they go to bed at night, knowing that the Yukon government will be around and working for them for quite some time in the future.
So, I thank the member very much for his comments, and I certainly look forward to working with the member in the near future.
Mr. Jenkins: Of the issues raised here today, Mr. Chairman, there was not one area that the minister had grasped the understanding of. I want to make it abundantly clear to the House that I have the utmost respect for his department and his department officials, and they are doing a very, very good job, but it would help us tremendously if the minister could spend the time and gain a knowledge and understanding of the issues he's faced with and the areas that he is responsible for in this portfolio.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As every person has a piece of advice, I certainly listen to advice, although it is very hard when you get to arguing the fundamental principles of democracy and how you view the fundamental principles of democracy, whether it's socialist, capitalist, et cetera.
I would just like to say that we work as a team. We do not work in an autocratical manner. We work as a team. I extend the olive branch to the member opposite to be a part of that team, if he would so choose, for constructive input. When I sit with the department, it is not because of a lack of a knowledge base. It is so that we get the facts right. Now, maybe the member opposite is very disgruntled because that is the position I've been working with, and I will continue to work with, throughout my term in government.
I do believe that that does bring people very much a sense of comfort.
I might also add that your actions are as big as, or bigger than, your comments, not to say that your comments have not been around and floated throughout the public at large and the bureaucracy at large, for when you get to comparing people to anatomy parts, as publicly stated, well then I think that's a low blow. When you conduct witch-hunts, if I might add and say it here, then I think that is a very low blow.
I am offering an olive branch to you to work together with us, for us, and not to pick on the principles of teamwork and working together.
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind the members we are dealing with the budget and to stay on that topic and to address their remarks to the Chair. Thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: Mutual aid agreements on fire and emergency measures are very common. As First Nations enter into self-government agreements and municipalities and unincorporated areas start to take responsibility for those two areas of fire and emergency measures, there is an even stronger need for mutual aid agreements. Is there a coordinated effort in the Yukon to get mutual aid agreements going, especially with the First Nations that are now getting self-government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we will be doing it in a coordinated fashion with the First Nations within their powers, as described within the self-government agreements, and I do believe that it is section 17 that describes the program service transfer arrangements and the draw-down of powers, and we'll be working with them in a cooperative manner.
Mrs. Edelman: Are we going to be looking at any particular measures to mitigate some of the possible flooding this year, particularly in the northern Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is just been brought to my attention that it is a federal requirement, and it's under the federal jurisdiction. We've just learned at noon-hour today that the federal government is not going to be doing that, and so we certainly have to react to that initiative now to see why they're not doing it and how we can fill that gap.
Mrs. Edelman: If there were flooding in Dawson a month from now, it would be territorial forces that would go in there and help prevent any further damage from the flooding. What would happen is that the federal government would kick in funds for that after the event. What I'm talking about is the actual physical actions that this government is going to be taking in order to help avert some of the flooding in northern Yukon, if there is flooding in northern Yukon. What I'm wondering about is if there is any pre-planning going on in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There are two issues, I guess, for the member opposite. One is the flood watch, and I will be contacting the federal government tomorrow to make sure that there's not a lapse in the watch itself. If there is an emergency flooding within the northern Yukon - or, be it anywhere in the Yukon, but I guess it's predominantly northern Yukon that experiences this - it is a municipal responsibility and it'll be working with the EMO.
Mrs. Edelman: Of course flooding within a municipality is the municipality's business. But if it's outside the municipality, it is not the municipality's business; it is the territorial government's business.
Moving along, are there going to be any further changes in YRAC funding? There was a move about two years ago to go toward youth-oriented activities in funding, and I'm wondering if there are any more changes to be seen.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the Towards 2000 report is almost completed, and it will be coming to Cabinet in the near future, I would say, in parts of it, and then it'll be a Cabinet decision as to the implementation of it.
Mrs. Edelman: Now, under the Municipal Act, municipalities have the responsibility and limited authority on the land within their municipal boundaries. As claims are being settled, typically one of the excuses we've heard over the years from this government and from the federal government is that there could not be a transfer of ownership to municipalities, because claims had to be settled, and that's a reasonable position to take.
Now that claims are being settled, what are the plans for transferring ownership of land to municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that's certainly one of the items that we'll be able to look at during the sit-down with the communities; the Government Leader said it could possibly be there. That's certainly what we're looking to do: to put local control into local hands.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that also means ownership, because the municipalities already have control of the land. They want the ownership, as well.
The privatizing of services. Is there a move afoot to privatize any services and, if so, which areas are you looking at privatizing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: You know, if the member opposite would just expand a little bit on that, it might help me to answer the question. As far as I know, I have no aspirations of privatizing services but, certainly, we are going to live up to the spirit of the agreement under section 17, the program service transfers. Also, within that agreement, there's the ability to form a district government, if both parties want, within a rural community or Whitehorse community, to look at the government structure. If that means privatization, I'm not sure, but that is the direction I'm moving in.
Mrs. Edelman: I would presume that the member opposite is speaking about contracting of municipal-type services from the territorial government. Is that under section 17? If that's right - I suppose what I'm saying is, is there a change in policy, so that you'll be looking at privatizing, for example, some of the maintenance areas down the highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly not at this time, in the immediate future - no.
Mrs. Edelman: I would presume that that's a policy of your government then, for the next four years.
Staffing levels. There's going to be limited callbacks this year at C&TS. Are you anticipating any drops in staffing levels?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is no change in the auxiliaries, but there might be some change in the casuals, but in a general sense, no. We're working to stick with what we have.
Mrs. Edelman: Many of the departments in the government have been doing long-term strategic planning. Has that been going on within Community and Transportation Services, and if it hasn't been, is there a plan to do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There are strategic plans in the sense that there are corporation mission statements, et cetera, within each of the departments. There's a transportation strategy. Municipal community affairs have a strategy. We are certainly, in the last little while, getting me familiar with the different strategies and simply seeing how we can keep government efficient and how we can live up to the agreements that have been made. I think they all start to focus and to form into a strategic plan and I will be willing to share with the member opposite the strategic plans that have been developed.
Mrs. Edelman: Having been part of strategic planning processes in the past, on more than one level of government, I was really pleased to see how well it works. If you've got the different sections doing strategic planning, it doesn't work very well unless there's a coordinated effort to get that plan together for the department. What I'm wondering about is if there's going to be a general umbrella type of strategic plan for the whole department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the member opposite is aware, we have two major components within Community and Transportation Services and each department has a strategic plan. Do they interlink? I would guess that they somewhat interlink together within their objective. Could they possibly ever totally come together, seeing as that they're both completely different in ways? I would think not, but they certainly have strategic plans for both, and they're both moving toward the goals as described within the strategic plan.
Mrs. Edelman: In the strategic planning processes that I've been involved with in the past, I have found that when you do work together and you add one department on to another department on to another department that you get a much better sense for the corporate entity of where that government - whatever level it is - or where the business is heading.
If, the minister - and he said it earlier in the debate - is really interested in a holistic approach, I wonder if he would consider doing strategic planning, where the two parts of his department go together.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think that the member opposite will be pleased to know that this government is working toward a government-wide strategic plan that will encompass all of the departments - not just my department, I would not be so bold as to say that on behalf of the government.
As we describe that and focus on that, the departments that are within will fit within that, so that there will be one overall umbrella or strategic plan with components between the departments within. And, I think this is a good move, just simply in light of the devolution process that is coming forth to be prepared for.
Mrs. Edelman: It's quite fortunate that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is also the Minister of Tourism.
Although we are discussing the C&TS budget today, is there a plan to develop a trail system in the Yukon for recreational purposes and, if so, is the Department of Community and Transportation Services considering taking on that challenge?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The trail systems - if I can maybe try to elaborate somewhat, C&TS does not have the lead on it but there is the trans-Canada trail system that we see advertised on the TV every now and then. I know, from my experience within the land claims process, that there are identified trails and trails that are made public for all Yukoners for their access. The member opposite could certainly get those from the existing land claims agreements. Those are some that were brought forth to my attention.
I have also been passed a note here that says, "Planning for trails was undertaken by the city also last winter, in a local way," which the member is well-aware of.
Mrs. Edelman: It just seems to me that if we have that information in our land inventory system and if we're looking to do ecotourism, that that might be a real opportunity, where you could coordinate your activities across departments to promote something that we can only benefit from.
All of the communities in the Yukon had their sewage systems built with either shared funding from the territorial government or complete funding from the territorial government. Carmacks, for example, has a mechanical plant, which was 100 percent paid for by the government, and the City of Whitehorse was 85 percent paid for by the government.
Now, as Water Board standards are changing, has there been any forethought given by the department to helping municipalities bring their sewage systems up to the levels that are going to be anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the only two that I'm aware of - and I think I stated it in my budget speech - is the Carmacks and Dawson sewage systems, and we're certainly working with the communities to fulfill our obligations to them. The community priorities are within the municipal jurisdiction, but certainly within the territorial also. So, we're working as a partnership with those communities to get proper sewage systems in the communities.
Mrs. Edelman: That's good to know, but I think that in the age of environmental awareness, Water Board standards will only increase, so that where a level 3 would have been fine before, you're now going to have to be looking at a level 1, and we can only anticipate that standards are going to get higher and higher and higher, as far as effluent levels into the river or into whatever the waterbody system is, or if it is into land.
What I'm wondering about is if there is any pre-planning on looking at bringing up the other sewage systems in the other municipalities. I know that with Dawson and with Carmacks you're talking about not even meeting Water Board standards today. What I'm worried about is water standards tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As far as I know, the rest are working quite well, and we would like to certainly make sure that the environment is protected, as we say, as the standards are getting high. As folks know, something that's very dear to all Yukoners' hearts is the Yukon, and we will endeavour to keep up with that on a priorized basis.
Mrs. Edelman: For a minute I thought that the minister was going to say that sewage was important to all Yukoners, and actually, the reality is it is important to all Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: Well, you would know, Peter.
We talked about water; we talked about sewage, so the next stop is going to be garbage. Now, in a number of the landfill sites around the Yukon, there are a number of toxic and hazardous wastes in old dump sites, some of which were abandoned and some of which are still being used. In the 1998 solid waste regulations, are you going to be contemplating what you're going to do with those wastes that we have no way to deal with here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I hate to be seen to be passing the buck, but I'll pass the buck to Renewable Resources and they'll pass the buck to the federal government. All I can say is that, within my constituency, the Ross River Dena Council is very anxious for us to identify and clean up all of the toxic wastes. I know that at a meeting that I had with the Armed Forces - I do believe that maybe it was during Rendezvous - I brought it to their attention that they should be working with us as a government - and I say government in that holistic sense, instead of one department - to provide the information historically what has happened right from - well, as you know the DEW Line, the pipelines, et cetera.
So, yes, I do believe that my government, in whole, will be working to provide the clean-up. Again, I stress that it is the federal government, and we're lobbying and working with the federal government to get dollars from them to help identify and to clean up these toxic wastes.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm pleased to hear that. Along the same line, landfill sites are not going to be acceptable much longer in our world. What I'm wondering about is: is the department going to be taking a lead role in supporting innovative projects, for example, compost, throughout the Yukon in order to deal with solid waste coming out of areas that the territorial government is responsible for?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. Again, this is not within my department, but we're certainly going to be coordinating with Renewable Resources - it falls under the composting. We're certainly doing a concerted effort to work together so that we will be able to provide options that are environmentally friendly, starting with education: recycling. A lot of the communities now - especially, if I might say, Mount Lorne - are working with great due diligence to educate their hamlet members and others about the values of recycling, so that landfill sites will become, maybe, inadvertently in the future, a thing of the past. So it's a continuing and ongoing education and critiquing, but we are looking at it, and it will be a part of and be brought up in, I'm sure, the rural services option paper and with other initiatives that we're bringing forward.
Mrs. Edelman: Now we're moving on to fire. Water, sewer, garbage and fire. Sometimes these things are always the same no matter where the level.
Now, under forestry, we still have some federal dollars left and there is an opportunity to develop a training centre for forest fire fighters and for fire fighters in general. Is there any move to look toward getting a training centre in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me first of all say that I'm not completely and fully versed on this, okay? But, I'm sure that this will be brought up as a part of the devolution talks for a forest fire training centre. Right now it's under the auspices of the federal government and it will be one of the components that we would use through the devolution of forest, lands and water resources talks.
So, thank you for bringing it up and it will be a component of those talks.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I am delighted to hear about that. We have been talking about a training centre for forest fire fighters for years, and we've also been talking about getting a training centre for fire fighters who fight fires within municipalities. So if that can be part of those talks, then that's excellent.
Moving on again with fire, dry hydrant programs throughout the Yukon - is there any move to do any planning for dry hydrant programs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If I might ask the member opposite to explain dry hydrant programs - I'm sorry, I don't know what a dry hydrant program is.
Mrs. Edelman: Basically, if you don't have a hydrant, then you have to make one. For example, if you're in the middle of nowhere, you would drop a hose, I guess, with a pump into the nearest waterway and splash it on the fire.
But the problem is that that's never really been identified. There's never been a plan for dry hydrants programs. But they are really, really useful, particularly in outlying areas where there is a real risk of forest fire.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll take a crack at it, and I would certainly encourage it, because I myself live in a - I would say - not even a rural area, but I live out in the bush by myself, so fire's something that always definitely scares me. I completely have no knowledge of this and don't have very much knowledge base on it, but it is again within the federal jurisdiction, if it's forest fire fighting. If it's outside of it, then it's been brought to my attention that there is a system within maybe hamlets or outside of the municipalities where you have a hole in the ground, and where you can run a line to the hole, and then the firetrucks or the water trucks will continually feed the water source into that hole, so they can pump it out.
Mrs. Edelman: Maybe we can explore that on another day, Your Worship - I'm sorry, wrong level again, Mr. Chair.
The last thing is that, in Alberta and in a number of areas throughout Canada - I can think of the island and the area around Victoria - regional government is a very common form of government. It makes a lot of sense economically. It saves a lot of money. Is there any move toward regional government in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Within the provisions of the agreement for the aforementioned regional government, there are provisions for that. There are some areas that are starting to look at that - completed land claims people - and to see if that is going to be the model of the future for the Yukon. I think it's very worthwhile to look at and to look into. We will endeavor to do that.
Mrs. Edelman: I am extremely pleased to hear that that is at least being discussed, and I hope that it will continue to be discussed at length and with an awful lot of consultation from the areas of the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I want to just explore with the minister policies with respect to an area that was initially covered by my colleague, the transfer of land within municipal boundaries, now that the settlement of land claims in a lot of municipalities is a fait accompli. Municipalities already have care and control over all the streets and the land. What kind of policy does the government have with respect to this transfer of these lands?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said, the transfer, or the ownership in land, is something that has been said that we'd be looking at - and, excuse me, but you asked for the policy, and right now there really isn't a policy on it, for the hon. member's sake on the opposite side, but there's certainly interest, and that interest will certainly be delved into and there will be talks. Whether it's done through the auspices of initial government formation, whether it's done through the Municipal Act, or whatever, I'm not terribly certain, but it's certainly something that we're willing to look at and make decisions on, based on the principles of consultation and good governments, et cetera.
Mr. Jenkins: With the UFA and the settlement and the signing off of a number of the First Nations land claims, there's going to be a requirement of these numerous municipalities to provide services to First Nations, and that will be negotiated between the First Nations and the respective municipalities - the provision of these services.
The Yukon government had a position a number of years ago that there will be no cost to the municipalities. These service agreements will require the undertaking of a cost-of-service study and a number of other lengthy studies to determine the actual cost of the provision of some of these services.
Is it the minister's intention to provide the funding for these undertakings?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Providing funding for these services - if I can say what my knowledge is, which I hope will answer the question, as I have been accused of not answering the question, but I certainly endeavour to answer the question - is between the municipalities and the First Nations. What is sorted out there, of course, will be sorted out at that level. We will certainly be working toward providing a good, equitable solution for all folks.
Mr. Jenkins: So, is the minister saying that he will stand by the government's prior commitment that there will be no cost to the respective municipalities for the implementation side of the land claims in the respective communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This whole process - and I might say that in the Yukon it is an experiment, though experimenting is not a good word - is certainly a new initiative within the Yukon as the First Nations peoples, the original citizens, the non-First Nations people, and a lot of whom were born here, true Yukoners, to work together for the betterment of a Yukon.
That's exactly why I wanted to help. Again, I'm not going to be part of a system that is going to be setting communities or people up for failure. So, whatever is negotiated and whatever is brought down, because I do believe that in cases, what will be good for - let's say conceptually - the Dawson City area district government as compared to the Teslin Tlingit Council area district government might be completely different. They might have different desires or different directions with which they might wish to go into.
We will look at them and their unique circumstances and work with the First Nations and the municipalities, both who have their own jurisdiction and wish to share some jurisdiction and wish to build up their jurisdiction or their mandate, and to clarify it, if I may, it will be through a process where we'll be working together and we'll be, hopefully, not to the detriment of the community or the municipality. I certainly hope that answers your question.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister's dialogue certainly did not answer the question. There was a commitment made by the Government of the Yukon to the municipalities that there would be no cost incurred by the municipalities for the implementation of land claims within their respective areas.
Now, let's take this one step forward.
While these have to negotiate municipal service agreements in a lot of cases, the municipalities have to do a cost-of-service study to determine the level of costs that can be charged, fairly, for the service that is being taken, and all of these have costs associated with them. In the preliminary discussions, there is no way that any of the First Nations want to bear any of the costs associated with all of the background searched. That is, in their opinion, from what I'm given to understand, part of the land claims process and part of the implementation cost. But who bears it? And the Government of Yukon has given its undertaking that they will look after these costs.
Could the minister just respond as to if he's going to honour the government's commitment and look after these costs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm endeavouring to answer this question, and I am getting maybe somewhat confused. Maybe this is more applicable for the Government Leader in his role of land claims. When you say the "background costs" and whatnot, are you talking about a researcher for the municipalities so that they might garner information? If he could clarify that for me, then I'd be greatly -
Mr. Jenkins: A cost-of-service study.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Before rising, I expect that, when Committee of the Whole resumes on Monday, we will be dealing with Executive Council Office in the estimates.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike isn't in House Leaders, but I told the Member for Riverdale North.
I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Point of order
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Chair. I wasn't told this morning in House Leaders' meeting that we were going back to Executive Council Office. I don't have a problem with that, but I just want to get on the record that the member certainly didn't say anything to me, and I don't believe the member of the third party - the Liberal Leader - recollects it as well.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I did, and I'm sorry if the Member for Riverdale North misunderstood. He might have been angered about something.
Chair: Yes, it's been a long week.
Are you agreed?
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: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Resignation of Speaker
Speaker: At this time, I'm announcing my resignation as Speaker of this Assembly effective at the time of adjournment today.
I would like to acknowledge the support of the Clerk, of the Deputy Clerk, of the Sergeant-at-Arms, and, indeed, of the staff from the Speaker's office.
I would also like to thank all of my colleagues in this House for their support and encouragement, even for my brief term in this office, and for the proper respect accorded the office of the Speaker.
I offer my best wishes to our new Speaker, who will be selected by this House when it next sits.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would also like to thank you for a job well done, and I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30