Monday, April 14, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
By-election return to writ
Clerk: I wish to inform the Assembly that a letter has been received from the Chief Electoral Officer respecting the by-election held in the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwich'in on April 1, 1997. The letter, dated April 14, 1997, reads as follows: "Subsequent to the report of the Hon. Mr. Justice R. E. Hudson, the order to declare the election of Robert Bruce in the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwich'in void and for that election to be set aside caused a vacancy for that electoral district.
A writ for a by-election was issued on February 28, 1997 and polling day was April 1, 1997.
I hereby advise that the returning officer for the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwich'in has certified in the return to the writ that Robert Bruce has been elected as the Member to represent that electoral district in the Legislative Assembly. Yours sincerely, Patrick L. Michael, Chief Electoral Officer."
New member takes seat
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have the honour to present Mr. Robert Bruce, representing the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwich'in, who has taken the required oath and now claims the right to take his seat.
Clerk: Hon. members of the Assembly, on April 10th, 1997, Hon. Doug Livingston informed the House that he would be resigning as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly upon the adjournment of the House on that day. Therefore, effective at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 10th, 1997, Mr. Livingston ceased to be the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. As required by law, nominations are invited for the Office of Speaker of this Assembly.
Election of Speaker
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move, seconded by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Third Party
THAT Robert Bruce, Member for the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwitchin, do take the Chair of this Assembly as Speaker.
Clerk: It has been moved by the Hon. Mr. McDonald, seconded by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Third Party
THAT Robert Bruce, Member for the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwich'in, do take the Chair of this Assembly as Speaker.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Clerk: I think the ayes have it, and by direction of the Assembly declare that Robert Bruce has been duly elected as Speaker of this Assembly.
Speaker's Address to the Assembly
Speaker: I would like to express my thanks to the Assembly for the great honour it has given to me by electing me to be your Speaker.
I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: Oh Great Spirit, Creator and Leader of all people, we are thankful to be gathered here today. Oh Great Spirit, I ask that you touch and bless each and every one in this House.
Grant that we, the elected Members, will make only strong, fair and sound decisions on behalf of the peoples we represent throughout Yukon.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Tribute to participants in Yukon science fair
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd like to pay tribute to the many participants in the Yukon science fair that was held up at the Yukon College site this weekend. Young people from across the Yukon took part in this educationally valuable experience. The teachers, organizers, judges and parents also deserve our recognition for their support for project-based learning.
There are many categories of awards, and I'm pleased to announce that two of the projects will be proceeding to the Canada-wide science fair to be held in May in Regina. One was the "Fight for the future" about cancer prevention, and the second was about a parabolic sound collector.
So, again, congratulations to all of this year's science fair participants.
National Volunteer Week
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, today is the beginning of National Volunteer Week. Volunteer Canada in Ottawa contacted legislators across Canada to recognize National Volunteer Week by wearing this green ribbon for the week. I wear this ribbon for the Liberal caucus and these ribbons are being worn in legislatures all across Canada today.
In addition to wearing the ribbon, legislators were asked to donate one hour of their time this week to a volunteer organization and indeed, all the members of the Liberal caucus have volunteered their time for at least one volunteer activity this week. Truthfully though, most of us here in this House volunteer our time at least once a week every week.
The Yukon is still a small place and many of the services and clubs that enrich our lives are based on volunteer service. Today I am wearing my Guide uniform to show my colleague Pat Duncan's and my own membership in the sisterhood of guiding, a sisterhood that spans the globe and many generations of women.
Joyce Hayden is also a former member of this Legislature who is active in Yukon guiding. Our caucus is active in numerous other organizations as well, but this day is not about our participation in volunteer activities in the Yukon; it is about many, many men, women and children who volunteer their time each day to make our lives richer.
The most obvious example of this month's volunteerism is the response of the volunteers of all Whitehorse's churches, that have replenished the food stocks at Maryhouse and the Salvation Army.
Volunteers are our greatest natural resource. To all Yukon volunteers, we appreciate what you do.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I, too, would like to commend all of those individuals who enrich our lives by their volunteer activities throughout the year. I'll be speaking more specifically about the Maryhouse food drive in a few moments, but I would also like to note that several members of our caucus are also volunteering this week at the soup kitchen in an attempt to demonstrate our commitment toward volunteerism in the community.
Maryhouse food drive
Hon. Mr. Sloan:
A truly remarkable event has occurred in the Yukon over the last few weeks. People of the Yukon have once again demonstrated their tremendous generosity and caring. I'm speaking of the results of the food drive for Maryhouse and the Salvation Army that was organized, cooperatively, by the churches of the Yukon and the Ecumenical Ministerial Association.
Hundreds of volunteers delivered 5,000 grocery bags to homes throughout Whitehorse. Several days later, volunteers have returned to find an overwhelming response of over 4,500 bags overflowing with essential foods.
The true measure of any community is its caring. The people in the Yukon have once again shown their finest qualities. This is a tribute to everyone who participated.
Maryhouse pointed out this morning that it was obvious that people shopped specifically to help others and provided the essential non-perishables that Maryhouse had requested.
I'd like to commend the volunteers, the organizers, Maryhouse, the Salvation Army and everyone else who filled a bag of groceries to help those in need. I think this is truly a marvelous start to volunteer week.
I would urge everyone in this territory to continue the efforts of organizations to help care for all Yukon people, and there will be a number of opportunities to do so in the next few weeks, including the campaign of the United Way, which funds worthwhile projects throughout the territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for the opportunity to pay tribute to all of those people in the Yukon who showed that the true Yukon gold is found in our own hearts.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to welcome and to introduce some of my younger constituents to the Assembly today. The grade 7 class from Golden Horn Elementary School is here with their teachers, Chris Hobbis and Linda Lammers, and some parent volunteers, and I'd like all members to join me in welcoming them.
Tabling of returns and documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling a letter from the Chief Electoral Officer that the Clerk read to the House earlier today.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have for tabling a legislative return for a question from the Member for Klondike that was asked me on April 3rd concerning the Campbell Highway.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I rise to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Taylor House is an important and historic landmark in Whitehorse and that the Yukon Legislative Assembly urge the Yukon government to continue to work with the City of Whitehorse, Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Yukon Historical and Museums Association to develop a plan to preserve Taylor House.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Athletic games, Yukon participation
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I am pleased to rise today to declare 1997 and 1998 as the year of the games. Participation in sport and recreation provides many benefits for the health and social well-being of Yukon people and we are fortunate to have such an active volunteer sector dedicated to the development of Yukon communities and people throughout sport and recreation.
The opportunity to represent Yukon at national and international sporting events and games is a special honour. In 1997 and 1998, Yukon will be represented at three major sport events: the North American Indigenous Games, the Canada Summer Games and the Arctic Winter Games.
This government is committed to investing in the development of youth and the building of strong, healthy communities through sport and recreation. We are therefore proud to be contributing $354,000 from this year's budget, in addition to $11,000 from 1996-97, to enable over 560 athletes, coaches, officials, mission staff and cultural performers to represent Yukon at these three important national and international games.
In all, a total of 1,600 participants will benefit by participating in the selection trials for these three games.
The North American Indigenous Games was scheduled to take place in Victoria, B.C. from August 3rd to 10th of 1997. Team Canada will consist of 140 athletes, coaches, volunteers, staff, support staff and cultural performers. Yukon athletes will compete in eight events, including archery, athletics, swimming, badminton, shooting, volleyball, boxing and wrestling. Athletes have been selected from across the territory, ranging in ages from 13 to 20 years old. The North American Indigenous Games will attract aboriginal athletes and cultural performers from across Canada and the United States. The North American Indigenous Games complement this government's goal of increasing access and equity for our aboriginal youth to participate in sport and recreation opportunities. The lasting legacy is the development of self-esteem in the individual through the pursuit of excellence in sport.
As you know, Yukon has a long history of participating in the Canada Games. This year, the Canada Summer Games will be held in Brandon, Manitoba, from August the 10th to 23rd, 1997. Yukon's team will be made up of 50 athletes, coaches and mission staff. They will be competing in tennis, wrestling, swimming and cycling. While we are small in numbers, we can be proud of the dedication and commitment that every member has made to representing Yukon in this team. These young athletes and their coaches have been training for the past two years in order to participate in these games in Brandon. They have set high goals for themselves and deserve the full support of all Yukon people as they set out to achieve their dreams.
Yukon has been one of the original three partners in the Arctic Winter Games since they were first established in 1970. The Arctic Winter Games symbolize athletic competition, cultural exhibition and social interchange. The games are a vehicle to strengthen the development of northern athletes and to showcase the very cultures of northern people from Greenland, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, northern Alberta and Russia. Yukon will be sending a team of 373 athletes, coaches and officials, mission staff and cultural performers to Yellowknife to participate in the Arctic Winter Games from March 15th to 21st, 1998.
I want all team members in this House to join me in wishing the members of each Team Yukon the very best as they prepare for these games. May each and every participant realize their personal goals and dreams and return home with fond memories and new friends.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, sports have always been, and will continue to be, a major part of Yukoners' lives. The Yukon Party has been and continues to be a strong supporter of sports and it has helped make the Yukon a centre for sports and recreational activities. As part of that commitment to Yukon athletes, the Yukon Party government contributed over $400,000 in Yukon sports fundings to various Yukon sport associations during the 1996-97 fiscal year, and provided monies in support of Yukon's participation in various games across Canada, including the North American Indigenous Games, Arctic Winter Games, Canada Summer Games, Canada Winter Games, and Yukon Special Olympic Games.
The Yukon Party has been a consistent supporter of Team Yukon's participation in the North American Indigenous Games. In 1995, Team Yukon comprised 111 participants, representing all Yukon First Nations, of which the previous Yukon Party government was pleased to be a sponsor. The indigenous games fostered pride, self-esteem and leadership in aboriginal youth, and provided an awareness and appreciation of First Nations culture.
I am pleased to see the Government of Yukon continue its support towards the games, and it is my hope that one day the Yukon will be able to host these games.
One thing that the minister did not mention in his statement was the breakdown of funds for each games that the Government of Yukon will be contributing to. I would appreciate receiving this information from the minister.
Like the North American Indigenous Games, it is also my hope that Yukon will one day have an opportunity to host the Canada Games. Yukoners may recall the efforts taken by the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Mr. Bill Brewster, to have the Yukon added to the hosting cycle for the Canada Winter Games. With the support of the City of Whitehorse, as well as other provincial and territorial ministers responsible for sports and recreation, Yukon has an opportunity to host the Canada Winter Games in the year 2007.
Last December, the Yukon Party caucus introduced a motion urging the government to establish a Canada Winter Games trust fund in the next year to assist in the planning and facility development needed to host the Canada Winter Games in 2007. I am hoping the government will give serious consideration to this suggestion, as the opportunity would be a real coup for Yukon, not to mention the many economic benefits that would come to Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the Arctic Winter Games came about as a result of Yukoners and other northerners not being able to compete effectively and very, very well in the Canada Winter Games. If the Yukon is successful in being able to host the Canada Winter Games, we will have come a very long way indeed since 1967, when after our trip to the Canada Winter Games, the Yukon Commissioner, Jim Smith, and the NWT Commissioner, Stu Hodgson, created our own northern games.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, children who are regularly active are less susceptible to stress. They perform as well or better academically. They exhibit positive attitudes about school and themselves. They are less aggressive and play better with other children. This is from the 1992 Canadian Association for Health and Physical Education and Recreation.
Mr. Speaker, more than 80 percent of Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 who are active have never smoked. This is from the 1980 Campbell survey of Canadian fitness and lifestyle.
Girls who are active in sports are 92 percent less likely to use drugs and 80 percent less likely to have unwanted pregnancies. This is from the 1992 Institute for Athletics in Education.
Mr. Speaker, how could you not support these games? I join the government in wishing well the coaches, athletes, sponsors and all the volunteers that will help to make these games happen.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the comments from the other side of the House this afternoon. I agree with the member opposite that it is truly beneficial to society as a whole that we can have sporting events like this that bring together team work, support for one another, helping one another in every way, on the field and off the field. The figures and statistics are truly representative of where we want to go with healthy minds. Young healthy minds turn into truly healthy communities.
We are having preliminary meetings with the city. We have discussed with the city their needs in this area that is ongoing to host the Winter Games in 2007. I would be pleased to provide a breakdown of each game for the member opposite. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, power rates
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation. I'm sure he didn't expect the question today, but nevertheless we'll direct one or two at him.
On Friday, the Yukon Energy Corporation filed an application with the Yukon Utilities Board for a 20-percent interim rate increase for all service categories. Mr. Speaker, this'll be the third increase since the NDP came to power. What this means, Mr. Speaker, is that the ratepayer who was paying an electricity bill of $100 a month in September of 1996 under a Yukon Party government, in May of 1997 under an NDP government will be paying a minimum of $130 - a 30-percent increase in six short months.
My question to the minister : is it the minister's intentions to have the electrical ratepayers bear the full impact of these rate increases that have been applied for?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The unfortunate situation that we have to deal with is we have had an extensive increase in the world price of diesel and energy, and that had an impact and a rate rider on Yukon power consumers. There was a 1993 court decision that also affected rates. It was long before we came to power but, nonetheless, we had to deal with it. Of course, we've had the situation whereby the rates that exist today were based on the assertion that Anvil Range would be in operation. Unfortunately, I cannot report to the House today that that is the case.
We responded with the continuance of the bill relief program in December, as we committed to in the election campaign. To respond to the issue of the proposed increase as a result of losing the Anvil Range as a major customer, we have asked the interveners, or we asked the Energy Corporation, if they would consult with them about the rationale for their changes, to listen to suggestions that they may have prior to them filing an application with the Utilities Board.
Subsequent to those discussions last Wednesday, and the president of the corporation coming before the House, they have now filed that application. There were some good suggestions that came out of the interveners. They will get another kick at the cat before the YukonUtilities Board. It is now seized of that board, and once the board relinquishes their ruling, then certainly the government is free to deal with it in whatever options may exist. I'd be interested in suggestions from the Opposition parties on that point.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, but he failed to answer the question. There are many, many Yukoners out there that are very, very concerned. The unfortunate situation here is that the NDP promised to stabilize energy rates and keep them affordable.
Under the Yukon Party government, with the rate relief policy, residential customers were protected from any further increases while the policy was in effect. This minister has already passed on two rate increases to Yukon ratepayers, and my question to the minister is this: is it his intention to make residential users and other service categories pick up this third rate increase?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member is incorrect. First of all, we did take action promptly to work on stabilizing rates. We did that in December. We brought back the bill relief program that the members opposite refused to commit to bringing into effect until they had some death-bed repentance during the election campaign.
We worked very hard on that. We brought it in. Their assertion that their rate relief somehow protected Yukon ratepayers from these increases is completely wrong, as its been understood by the Utilities Board and by the Energy Corporation. That is to say, even if they brought in rate relief at all. They've already gone on the record in this session as saying rate relief is wrong, it's a short-term way to deal with the situation. So, I submit to the members of the public and the members of this Legislature that if the Yukon Party were to have been re-elected, we wouldn't see rate relief in existence at all in this territory.
We had the unfortunate situation of dealing with the mine shutdown - two rate increases based on decisions prior to us coming into office. We will continue to work on rate stabilization. We will continue to support rate relief. We're working on revamping it right now. Those commitments we made and those commitments we will keep.
Mr. Ostashek: Let the record show that the minister has again failed to answer the question.
This further 20-percent rate increase for all service categories is going to have a very inflationary impact on the Yukon economy. As electricity is considered a cost by all industries, by all services groups - tourism, the service industry, the mining industry - as a cost of doing business.
Those businesses are going to pass that rate increase on to the consumers.
Does the minister not believe that the rate increases of this magnitude will have a negative impact on the Yukon economy - an economy that's already weakened by the closure of the Faro mine - and does the minister not in fact believe that this will lead to further increased unemployment in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think it's only fair that I refresh the public's memory on the record of the member opposite.
In 1993, when the Faro mine came down, the Yukon Party responded to the Yukon Energy Corporation with a request for interim rate hikes of 58 percent. They also brought down a budget with record tax increases. So, for them to stand here and preach to me on that point I find somewhat hypocritical.
But, I will say that we are concerned about the proposed energy rate increases and we're hoping that some mitigative action can be taken to deal with the situation once the Yukon Utilities Board, who sees to the matter, has the interveners come before them to make concerns known, to raise suggestions, and we'll be free at that point, as a government, to take whatever responsive action we can to the situation, and we will.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, power rates
Mr. Ostashek: I guess any Yukoners who are listening to this are saying, "Oh, my God, I guess here we go; we are going to pay another 30 percent because this minister failed to take action."
This minister wants to talk about hypocrisy. Let's talk about the hypocrisy of the NDP in Opposition, that said, because the rates didn't go down when the Faro mine opened up, that they were making windfall profits. Now, under their administration, the mine is closing down and they are allowing another rate increase. If we want to talk about hypocrisy, that is the hypocrisy of all hypocrisies, right there.
To the minister again, on energy: there has been a 30-percent increase in power rates in the six short months that this government has been in office. We know that there are going to be further rate hikes coming as we move on down the road, perhaps as much as 55 percent by next year. Can the minister advise this House what he intends to do to help the 15.7-percent unemployed, senior citizens, single mothers and others on a fixed income to cope with this 30-percent increase in their power bills? It is time that Yukoners had a clear answer from this minister.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have to respond to the preamble in the member opposite's question. The member opposite has been mixing apples and grapefruits in his rhetorical preamble. He talks about the issues of the windfall profits for Yukon Energy Corporation and that somehow being related to this situation. That is a situation whereby the Energy Corporation takes in more profits than they are allowed or ordered to by the Yukon Utilities Board. That is a question of whether those profits should be put back into rate relief or some other matter.
The issues regarding the two rate increases that we dealt with prior to this interim application relate back to a 1993 court decision when he was in power and there was an extensive world price increase in diesel costs. They are completely separate issues, but I understand what the member is trying to do. He is trying to raise concerns in the public and set up concerns that I can understand, because power bills are certainly very important to Yukoners.
We will deal with the situation. It is going to the Utilities Board. The Utilities Board is seized of it. They will make a decision based on the interventions that are brought before them and the submission of the Yukon Energy Corporation. We will then take - and I am going on the record today - whatever action we can to deal with the situation.
I might also point out that, if we are fortunate enough to have a change with the status of the Faro mine operation or not, that could change this whole picture very dramatically.
Mr. Ostashek: I am sure it will. I would just like to let the minister know that it is not I who is trying to raise alarm bells in the public; it is the public phoning me and raising alarm bells and asking me to ask questions about what this government intends to do, after all the promises they made when they were in Opposition, to stabilize energy rates and make them affordable for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the unemployed and those Yukoners on fixed incomes are going to get hit again and again every time they go to the store if this minister allows this rate increase to go through. Every time they buy a loaf of bread, every time they buy a pair of shoes, every time they buy a service in this community, they are going to pay more money for it, because this government is going to allow energy rates to increase by 30 percent in six short months.
Can the minister tell this House - and tell Yukoners now, because they have a right to know - what immediate actions is he going to take to make sure that electrical rates are affordable for Yukoners, something that his party has preached about for many, many months?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the member says, "If the Minister lets this go through"; that's implying that it's totally within my control. This is the Yukon Energy Corporation. Rates today were based on the assertion that the Faro mine would be operating. That's the first point.
Secondly, on the 20 percent, it's going before the Utilities Board. There will be close scrutiny paid to the requests of the Yukon Energy Corporation. There is due process in effect. The intervenors will get a chance to argue, to make suggestions. There is the potential situation whereby the diesel contingency fund could be looked at. "What action did we take?" the member asks. Well, we brought back the rate relief program that the members opposite had not committed to Yukoners to bringing back into effect. We did that in December, and, Mr. Speaker, we're working on decisions with regard to long-term energy policy and rate stabilization questions with the Energy Commission.
I'll also point out to the member that when we were hit with 58-percent increases in 1993 after the mine shut down, what did the Yukon Party do for four years in office so that when this situation occurred again, we could deal with it? Instead, we're left, five months into office, dealing with it. If the Yukon Party would have taken a little bit of action, perhaps the blow wouldn't have been as severe as he is indicating it's going to be.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, this minister's got to quit blaming the previous government for his problems. He is the minister responsible now, and people are looking to him for answers, and he isn't giving any to the Yukon public.
Let me approach this in another way for the minister, so that he can realize the impact of what he's allowing to happen here, and he says I'm saying he's allowing it to happen. Yes, he is allowing it to happen. He has some levers that he can pull to reduce this impact to Yukon consumers, and it's up to him to act in a responsible manner and do it.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government is currently in negotiations on new collective agreements with the teachers and the public sector employees. This 30-percent rate increase is going to have an impact on those negotiations. It's going to have an impact. What is the government's position going to be in these negotiations? Will the government be making allowances to the negotiators to make up for this 30-percent increase that all union employees and every other Yukoner is going to have to pay now?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I find this line of questioning quite amusing from the members opposite, who were the architects of the first decision in the country to kill collective bargaining in a jurisdiction with no accumulated deficit, Mr. Speaker. Unprecedented action. Now they are standing up today and saying that there somehow should be a 30-percent increase mandate awarded to the negotiators for their dealing with this situation.
Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the first two issues, with regard to the rate increases, were issues that arose, one from a 1993 court decision prior to us even coming into office, an increase in world diesel prices and ongoing ability of the Energy Corporation under a rate rider. We responded quickly with rate relief in December, something the members opposite did not commit to doing, and I only wish that the members opposite, after having had a 58 percent increase come before the public in 1993, would have tried to do something in advance to deal with offsetting future impacts.
Mr. Speaker, we will have to take that task, and we accept the responsibility we have been given by the public. It's difficult to do it in five months, but we did commit to rate relief, we are undertaking initiatives for longer-term rate stabilization, and we will continue to work on long-term policy.
Question re: Energy, needs-based subsidy program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the same minister on the same topic.
The energy commissioner was on the radio the other morning talking about a needs-based subsidy program, and the minister had previously mentioned this in his ministerial statement last December.
Could the minister tell us whether this needs-based subsidy program is in lieu of or in addition to the present rate relief program?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The present rate relief program is in effect for this calendar year. We haven't announced any changes to it. I invite the Liberal member of the Legislature to take part in the Energy Commission's work, to make suggestions on what he'd like to see for some changes to the rate relief program. I'm not sure quite what he's advocating on the floor of the Legislature here, but I'm sure that the energy commissioner, in his deliberations over this calendar year as they plan for a new rate relief program, would be interested in his comments.
Mr. Cable: We can get into the discussion later, but right now I was asking a question whether that program that was suggested, both by the minister and by the energy commissioner, was in lieu of or in addition to the rate relief program.
The reason I ask that is that the energy commissioner was on the radio the other day saying, "Our rate relief program is very important to Yukoners, reducing their power bills by up to 15 percent." Now, if this 20-percent rate increase goes through, what's going to happen to these people that don't qualify for a needs-based subsidy program? Are they in fact going to be paying 35 percent instead of 20 percent?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member's question is completely hypothetical. He's saying "if" the rate increase goes ahead and "if" these changes in the rate relief program take effect. Mr. Speaker, they're in consultation right now. The whole issue of the 20-percent interim rate increase proposal is before the Yukon Utilities Board. Let's not put the cart before the horse. I think that if the members opposite have some concerns or some comments about the consultation surrounding the rate relief program, they should let us know and we'd be more than happy to take them into consideration.
Mr. Cable: The energy minister and the energy commissioner put the idea out. It's not hypothetical because they're talking about it. I was hoping that he could give us something to nibble on.
Let me ask this question: the rate relief is in force until the end of the year, by the directive that was given to the Energy Corporation, and it's funded out of Yukon Energy Corporation profits. From what we've heard in the last couple of weeks, there aren't going to be any profits. Does the minister have some firm plan as to what is going to feed the rate relief program, or is he just winging it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know quite how the member makes the assertion that those are the only choices available. The member is a great fan of asking the government to do white papers to put ideas out for consideration. He's always asking us to embark on studies and have commission work and do all kinds of things.
Mr. Speaker, the member was simply putting out an idea for consideration. It should form part of the basis for some consultation and some discussion with the Yukon public. I think that that's the appropriate way to deal with this situation, as we embark on a new rate relief program and, as I said before, I invite the member opposite to partake in that process.
Question re: Seniors housing
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Even now, there is an insufficient housing inventory to meet seniors' needs. Ten years ago, there was a needs assessment conducted on the Yukon housing market. Will the minister conduct a new needs assessment that will lead to the development, inevitably, and the implementation of both public and private housing projects for seniors?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'd like to thank the member for her question. Certainly, as I said before, this is an issue that seems to be more and more of a concern to communities and to seniors. I did say that we were going to try to have the seniors advisory group up and going again, so that they can make recommendations to us. That has not happened, and we want to continue to look into the housing situations for seniors.
Mrs. Edelman: A fourplex for seniors in Teslin is completely occupied by non-seniors. The consultation process with seniors before building did not adequately identify seniors' needs. Will the minister commit to seniors or elders input in the planning of any future, government-funded seniors development?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: One of the commitments that we're making with the corporation is to look more and more to the communities to have the communities' concerns met, more so than being directed by overall Yukon, and we'd like to try and continue to work in that fashion and bring the community concerns forward. I think a lot of these issues would come out in that type of atmosphere.
Mrs. Edelman: Hopefully, it would.
The HASI program, which provides up to $2,500 for home adaptations for seniors, has never been accessed. It has never been used. This program could help seniors stay in their own homes while creating private sector employment. Would the minister consider actively promoting this program, in creative ways, to seniors and to the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We will certainly look into this and I will get back to the member with an answer.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, funding to offset Aishihik water loss
Mr. Ostashek: My question, again, is for the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation.
The NDP government's unilateral decision not to allow the Energy Corporation to draw down Aishihik Lake, as allowed by their water licence, has had a negative impact on the cashflow of the Energy Corporation by some $5 million - $5 million that went up in diesel smoke. That's limiting the options available to the Energy Corporation to deal with the shortfall in cashflow caused by the Faro mine closing down.
My question to the minister: does the minister intend to use some of the $10 million that's in the Development Corporation that they had earmarked for electrical infrastructure development? Does the minister now intend to tap into that fund to help to reduce the impact to all service classes of ratepayers in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I thank the member for that question.
The member states that it was a unilateral decision. In the election campaign we committed to taking action to mitigate the environmental damage on Aishihik Lake, something the members opposite did as well. They did nothing the last four years. We relied on the recommendation from the technical advisory group on the Aishihik water re-licensing and took their advice, and made that decision.
With regard to it affecting cashflow, the member knows full well that the president of the Energy Corporation confirmed the other night, as a witness, that it did not affect the cashflow. The money used to finance that was reserves. It was not a direct revenue-flowing item.
It's funny the way the positions are changing from the Opposition. On April 3rd, the member opposite said that there should be no use of Yukon Development Corporation money to offset any proposed rate increases. Today, on April the 14th, he's telling me that there should be some use of Yukon Development Corporation money. Could he please give us a more clear indication of what his position is on that?
Mr. Ostashek: This is the minister that had all the answers when he was in Opposition. Now he's asking the Opposition to solve his problems for him.
I just asked the minister about what he intends to do about the $10 million. That is what I asked him and Yukoners have a right to know.
The president of the Energy Corporation did not say that here on Wednesday night at all. He did say that the $5 million did have an impact on cashflow. What he said was that the rate increase they were applying for was directly related to the lost revenues from the Faro mine. The reality of it is that, because they don't have that $5 million in the Energy Corporation, they are very limited in what they can do to deal with that rate increase.
My question to the minister and his NDP is: during the election campaign, they promised Yukoners they would keep electrical rates affordable and stabilize electrical rates. That is what they promised Yukoners. My question is to the minister: at what level does he intend to stabilize rates and does he believe that a 30-percent increase in electricity rates, imposed by his government upon Yukon ratepayers, is affordable?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, I am trying to get a clear sense of what the member's position is. On April 3, they said, "Don't use Yukon Development Corporation monies to offset any potential rate increases as a result of Anvil Range." Today, they're saying that there should be Yukon Development Corporation monies used to offset that. There's only so many sources that you can use to deal with a situation like this. There is the potential to use reserves and there's the potential to use taxpayers and there's the potential to use ratepayers. So far, he has eliminated all of those options, but he's got no answers for me.
The issue, as the president of the Energy Corporation said the other night, was that it was not a cashflow issue. The member knows full well with regard to the Aishihik Lake decision, that it was financed by reserves, not revenues. The 20-percent rate increase that they proposed is from March 31 on, and has to do with shortfalls.
What this government will do is what we did in December: a bill relief program, which is something the members opposite did not commit to until the last dying days of the election campaign. And, we will respond, now that the board are seized of the matter, once the Utilities Board goes through due diligence and their screening and due process and listens to the intervenors.
Mr. Ostashek: It is really nice to watch this minister twist and turn in the wind, but he certainly isn't giving any comfort to Yukoners about what's going to happen to their power bills, something that that party campaigned on.
One thing I can say about the Yukon Party's rate relief program was that we didn't see residential customers paying more for their power while the rate relief program was in place.
Anvil Range Mining has stated that the high electricity cost was one of the reasons for the Faro mine closure. It is also one of the issues that needs to be resolved before the Faro mine goes back into production. My question for the minister: does he not believe that the additional 20-percent increase, on top of the 10-percent increase that has already happened since this government came to power, will make it that much more difficult for Anvil Range to restart the mine in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That is an amazing question. The whole 20 percent that's proposed is based on the issue of Anvil Range not being in operation. That's the reason they're proposing the rate increase. So, if they go back into operation, then Mr. Speaker, you won't have that revenue shortfall and thus you won't have it.
So, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how long it took the member to think about that question, but I think he might want to spend a little bit more time in the morning on thinking these things through.
Speaker: Order please. Let the minister finish his statement, please.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We promise to work on stabilizing rates. We brought in bill relief in December. We've been hit with a 1993 court action. We've been hit with increased diesel prices. I wish the members opposite, in their four years, would have come up with a plan that dealt with rate stabilization. They didn't, but now that's our task. We're dealing with it. We're dealing with it through the Energy Corporation. We intend to keep an eye on the situation with the Yukon Utilities Board. Once they render their decision, as a government we'll take what action we can to deal with the proposed increase, whatever the level it may be at that point.
Question re: Seniors housing
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation. The private sector, including the construction industry, does not appear to be planning for the seniors housing market, which could produce revenue and create jobs. Would the minister consider facilitating the involvement of all sectors of the economy, including public and private sectors, in the planning of Yukon seniors housing developments in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Member for Riverdale South for her question. Well certainly, in the housing industry with Yukon Housing Corporation, the withdrawal of CMHC is going to have a big impact on us all and until such time as Yukon Housing Corporation is successful in negotiating some kind of an arrangement with them, it's certainly going to be difficult to deal with this issue.
I can say that we would like to be a little more friendly in using the private sector and having a better working relationship with them. I certainly would like to build that. I know it's going to be difficult for anybody to get into this joint venture in building seniors housing, but there is a program in there and I do urge the private sector out there to try and come up with something.
Mrs. Edelman: That is the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
The 1993 housing conference said that YTG should be involved in, but not necessarily build, all seniors housing. An example of a successful private sector initiative would be the Abbeyfield Society, for example, which produced secure seniors-adapted, seniors-crafted housing from old, less attractive buildings. This type of initiative is innovative and creative. Has the minister considered cooperating with the housing industry and meeting the needs of Yukon seniors by researching innovative seniors housing projects in other jurisdictions and making that information available in the private sector?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As I said earlier, we would like to be concentrating on the communities and having them come forward, on how they would like to see their seniors housed. I know that the majority of the seniors are certainly looking more and more at staying in their own homes rather than a seniors complex.
If there is information that the Yukon Housing Corporation has with other jurisdictions, I can certainly bring that forward and have that information for you.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I don't think that the minister really understood my question, but I hope that he can read that in the Blues tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, just about everywhere you go in Canada, you will find seniors housing in the form of a seniors trailer park. These are gated communities that offer security, accessibility, groundskeeping and recreation. We have a mobile home-heavy housing stock in the Yukon. We have a need for seniors housing. We have an economy crying out for jobs, and we have a plan being developed for mobile home lots in Whitehorse and in the Yukon. Will the minister at least consider adding seniors' housing needs to the list of issues to be considered by his government in future land development?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Certainly, we can consider that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and the House will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call the House back to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Chair: We are dealing with the budget, Executive Council Office.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have some information that I would like to hand out for all members. One question that was asked of me was to provide an organization chart for the department. I have a chart. I will explain what it is briefly. If members could pass it out, perhaps to the Opposition side first, it would be helpful.
The organization chart is on a number of different pages, but it will be fairly easy to read. It identifies the overall organization, including the organization chart that is identified in the departmental budget document. With each section led by either a director or an ADM or deputy Cabinet secretary, there is a subsection that is identified in the following sheets, which identify all the personnel associated with that branch, including the Cabinet commissions - a document I have already tabled. So, that would identify the organization of the department.
Now, I've got some information respecting new positions. Members asked about what the new positions in the department were, and the new positions, as members will note from the organization chart, show three positions in intergovernmental relations, one principal negotiator, one director of policy and mandates within land claims, a half-time secretarial position in land claims, and the director of communications.
Now, with respect to the question put on the job description for the assistant deputy minister of intergovernmental relations, I have a handout for members with that information. This shows the job posting, the position description and a statement of qualifications for this position. I handed out last week the same information respecting the chief land claims negotiator.
The members also asked a question respecting the outside territory travel by private members on commission business, and I have a list. I regret that there's very little information on a whole sheet of paper. The forest industry at least will forgive me.
I'll pass that out.
Now, there was some information requested respecting costs of Cabinet commissions and I'm having that information copied now. It should be down with us shortly, and when I receive it I will pass it out.
The positions of the assistant deputy minister/intergovernmental relations, and the assistant deputy minister/chief land claims negotiator, are positions that previously existed in the government and they have the same job classification as the previous positions. The job descriptions for the existing positions were based on the previous job descriptions and were revised as necessary to reflect the changing circumstances and our priorities.
The assistant deputy minister position, with overall responsibility for the Land Claims Secretariat, existed from 1989 to 1991, when this position was made a deputy position. The current assistant deputy minister/chief negotiator for land claims, is a return to the older organizational model with one ADM responsible for land claims and implementation activities, reporting to the deputy for the Executive Council Office. This position replaces an organizational model based on a deputy responsible for land claims, with an ADM responsible for implementation and an associate chief negotiator reporting to the deputy.
The assistant deputy minister/intergovernmental relations also existed in the early 1990s, with the title of assistant deputy minister/constitutional development, devolution and intergovernmental relations. This position was moved in 1992 and its responsibilities assigned to the policy branch. In 1995, a deputy was given responsibility for devolution, along with land claims responsibilities.
As I mentioned, the previous positions have been classified by PSC, and the existing positions are the same classification for the new positions that had be given to the older positions. The salary ranges, of course, are identified for all positions in the job descriptions that I've tabled.
A question was put to me with respect to the revenue accruing to First Nations under the oil and gas memorandum of agreement, and the answer to that question is that the royalty revenue accruing from April1993, to the transfer date will be shared with the First Nations on a 50-percent basis. This share to date totals approximately $3.15 million. Individual First Nations' share will be based on the sharing arrangement outlined in chapter 23.2.4 of the UFA, or as agreed to by First Nations.
Of course, oil and gas royalty revenue after the transfer date will be shared with First Nations, in accordance with chapter 23 of the UFA.
So, when I get the commissions' costs, I'll pass that out.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for the information he's given us. It's virtually impossible to digest that information right now, and I do have a couple of questions that come to light right away. We still have some outstanding information that we asked for. I don't have a lot more questions in general debate, but I'm prepared to go line by line, if the minister is prepared not to clear the department until such time as we get the additional information, or in case more information arises after we have had a chance to study the information we have so far, as well as the information that's still outstanding. Can the minister make that sort of commitment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm prepared to try to provide information as quickly as possible. I wouldn't want the members to feel that we've not been giving information. Certainly we do and would like to give them the time to digest it, of course, but there's not a lot to digest, but there is a lot of paper.
The questions that the member asked I understood to be particularly about the commissions. Is that not correct?
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we have questions about the total cost of the commissions. That paper hasn't been delivered to us yet. As well, it's going to take us at least a day or two to go through this to see what there is and to digest it and to review the Blues as to what the minister said on his feet just now. I mean it's very hard to be able to grasp it all verbatim and then come back to it, especially when we've been away from the department for a few days. I guess all I'm saying to the minister is that I'm prepared to move out of general debate and go line by line if he's prepared just to leave the department and not clear it. In case we had some more questions, we'd clear it two or three days from now. I mean it's not something I want to hold up forever, but I do want to have the opportunity to be able to ask any more questions that may arise out of the information that's going to be tabled. That's all I'm asking.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can agree to that, Mr. Chair. I think if we're not talking about coming back to the Executive Council Office periodically for the next two months, then we're talking about trying to clear the department in due course and quickly, and I'm more than happy to try to provide information and give the members time to digest it.
Mr. Ostashek: That's all I'm asking for. I don't want it to be outstanding for the rest of the session, if we could just get the commitment that we won't clear it today. I don't know about my colleagues - I don't have that much more to go on it, and I would just like the opportunity to be able to come back whenever is convenient for the minister, and we finalize it and clear the department at that point. I don't want this to carry on forever.
I just have a couple of questions here now that have risen from what the minister has said so that I can get clear in my mind.
On the revenue accruing to First Nations, my understanding is - and I could be wrong on this and the minister will correct me if I'm wrong - under chapter 23, the revenue sharing was up to 50 percent of the first $2 million, but it was only to apply to the bands that had settled at this point.
The minister said something about "it may be distributed under some other method that First Nations agreed to." Is the minister saying to the Legislature today that he's prepared to distribute the 50 percent up to $2 million to all bands in the Yukon regardless of whether they finalize land claims or not, because that would be substantially more money that would be distributed if it was more. My understanding is it's only the four bands that have settled that are qualified to share in that resource at this time. The minister may correct me if I'm wrong.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the essential concern arose from those First Nations that had not yet settled. As I understand it, the problem was that the first four First Nations would take advantage of the entire amount allocated to First Nations under the sharing arrangement - not a pro-rated amount, but the entire amount. The concern, essentially, is that other First Nations felt that, through no fault of their own necessarily, they would not be allowed any resources.
Now, the option that has been presented to them is that - and an option that is agreed to - if they want a different sharing formula amongst First Nations, all the First Nations - other than that which is already laid out under the UFA - have to agree. It would have to be unanimous because we don't want another First Nation who doesn't sign on to come back and try to change the arrangement. So, they all have to buy into the sharing formula.
If we can get that agreement - and there's every suspicion that we probably can - then the allocation amongst the First Nations could be changed from what we initially anticipated would be the case.
Mr. Ostashek: I am still not perfectly clear on that. My understanding, from the briefings I had from officials, was that revenue sharing would only involve the first four First Nations that had settled their land claims agreement and that it would be done on a pro-rated basis and that the excess revenue from that would not flow to the first four First Nations, but would remain in the general revenues of the territorial government. Am I wrong in that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would recommend perhaps, under the circumstances - as it was not my department that negotiated the actual arrangement with the First Nations; it was the Department of Economic Development - that when we get to Economic Development, perhaps the member will want to pursue it; otherwise, I am going to have to tool myself up. I don't feel comfortable giving precise information in the House that may not be entirely complete.
Mr. Ostashek: I asked the minister, as he is the minister responsible for land claims, to bring a legislative return back to the Legislature on that issue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I could.
Mr. Ostashek: On the travel documents that we have for caucus members, this pertains only to outside travel. Is the minister prepared to table travel inside Yukon, as well?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Is the member asking for travel respecting just commission business or is he asking for travel respecting constituency business?
Mr. Ostashek: We are going to need it accounted somewhere. If it is counted under commission travel, there's no necessity to bring it back in a return other than what the travel is for. If there is other travel in the territory by caucus members - and the minister is utilizing his caucus more extensively than in past governments - I think we ought to be entitled to know how much money they're spending.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The question put to me was for outside travel, which I have provided and it shows that there are two members who have travelled outside the territory. With respect to inside the territory, there certainly is travel inside the territory. It is budgeted in the commissions' budgets. I can get a listing of the travel taken so far by commissioners on commission business.
With respect to constituency travel, I am assuming the member is not asking for that, and that it is just the travel associated with public business.
Mr. Ostashek: The member's correct in that. We would just like what travel has been carried out in the six months the government's been in power on commission business by backbenchers, so that we can try to get the total cost of this operation.
Is the minister prepared to expand on what consultations took place in Vancouver-Nanaimo by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who's responsible for the local hire commission?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm certain the commissioner can speak for himself.
Mr. Hardy: Could I have the member opposite clarify that question again for me, please?
Mr. Ostashek: The question I asked is what consultations took place in Vancouver and Nanaimo that necessitated the Member for Whitehorse Centre to travel there.
Mr. Hardy: Part of the work that we're trying to do is identify what other jurisdictions are doing throughout Canada to increase local hire, to increase opportunities for businesses. We felt that the methods that are being used on the Island to deal with their problems - and they're facing quite substantial problems with the mainland contractors and workers travelling across on the ferry, working for three, four or five days, and travelling back again, where the Islanders are not getting the work and the communities are suffering - quite similar to what we feel has been happening up here. There was an approach that was done down there that we felt merited investigation. We went down and met with quite a variety of groups - contractors, the organization that set up the structure to deal with specifically the Island highway project - and what they've done to increase local employment, as well as opportunity for local contractors.
We met with politicians, we met with municipal councillors, we went and viewed the sites, we met to see what the makeup was for First Nations on the job, as well as, I guess, the increase of women working in a trade, as well as people with disabilities. So that's what drove us to go down there and see it first hand.
We probably wouldn't have gone if there wasn't such a success story. What we heard was a very high success rate in what they're trying to achieve, which is exactly what we're trying to achieve here. When we went down there, it was confirmed. As well, we made contact with the people down there on how we could demonstrate to the people up here and see if it merited application up here.
Mr. Ostashek: The member continually refers to "we". Could he tell the House who travelled with him?
Mr. Hardy: Sure I could. The person I travelled with was one other one. There was myself and the deputy commissioner, Luigi Zanasi.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one further question for the minister at this time and then I'll let somebody else go. There was a reference, I believe, either in the budget speech or a ministerial statement in the House this session, for the restructuring of Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Could the minister elaborate on it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there is a submission going before Cabinet before too long on the membership of the YCEE and the selection of a chairperson for the council.
It is our intention, of course - this is not inferring any decisions before they're made, but certainly, there's an expectation - that YCEE will do as was expected of it when the Economic Development Act was passed and the Environment Act was passed, and that is that the council will review the economic strategy and will review the conservation strategy annually, as was mandated under law.
Those certainly will be part of their mandate, but we have not yet made a decision with respect to the full membership, nor the chairperson. The old chairperson, Mr. Preston, resigned some time ago and we have to seek a replacement and give them the mandate.
Mr. Ostashek: Is the minister saying that there is consideration being given to expanding the number of members on the council?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can't, at this point, say whether we're going to expand or reduce the membership - or change the membership - from organizations currently in place on the board. That decision has yet to be made, and it will be soon.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to delve, if I could for a moment in general debate, into the appointments to boards and commissions.
The minister will be aware that there's an informal committee working on this issue and working on the recommendation that all-party committee appointments be used to make appointments to major boards and commissions.
We understood in our first meeting that the appointment process for gathering appointments and so on from the general public had been moved to Executive Council Office territory. Would the minister confirm for me that that would be the public communication services section in Executive Council Office, or is it some other section?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I frankly don't know what section or who is handling that in the Executive Council Office. I'll have to return with that information, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: There seems to be general agreement on a list of major boards and committees, which definitely would require this all-party committee appointment process.
Is the minister and his government prepared to suspend making any of these major appointments until such time as this informal committee does its work?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I think that would be highly unlikely, Mr. Chair. First of all, I'm not aware of any informal agreements. That has not been reported to me at all, but if the member wants to tell me more, I'd appreciate it.
With respect to the boards and committees, particularly the senior boards, I would think it would be highly unlikely that we would want to delay, very long, the appointment process for many of these boards.
I don't know if the Workers Compensation Board, for example, is on the member's list that she says there is already agreement on. If that board has lost a member, then clearly time is a-wasting if we can't get an appointment to that particular board.
So I think it would be unlikely. I don't know when the all-party committee will report back or what the status of their discussions are, but I would suspect that, if we have a vacancy, we'll fill it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, expediency of appointment and timeliness was a huge discussion at one of the informal meetings and I can appreciate, to some degree, some of the minister's argument.
In the absence of an all-party agreement on a method for making appointments to major boards, for example YCEE, which was just mentioned by the minister, is the government prepared to put some other process in place in order that there can be all-party committee input into this? He just mentioned YCEE and appointments going before Cabinet. Is there some method for seeking other caucus input into those appointments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly, I understand that my colleague has just indicated that he did seek opinions from other members with respect to the Workers' Compensation Board appointment. If that's not true, maybe the member could put it on the record.
The member is asking me the question as a general proposition. First of all, as a general proposition - are we prepared to suspend boards and committees appointments until sometime and some point that an agreement is struck on the procedures - I can't give that commitment, because I do not know the impact of what that would mean. If that means that the public's business is undone because we can't get together and get an agreement, I can't agree to that. We have a responsibility to serve the public. We have to get the public involved. These boards have to be operating.
I would encourage members of this committee to try to come to some arrangement. I have already indicated that my own preference is that they do try to come to some arrangement. We have not been trying to hold it up. We've tried to be accommodating. If they can come to some arrangement that makes some sense, then that's great.
With respect to boards and committee appointments as they come up or as board appointments expire, certainly I would think that would be desirable. If members wanted to put forward some names, they should be encouraged to put forward some names. In the absence of any other formalized arrangement, I would be happy to consider those suggestions.
Ms. Duncan: Let me just go at this from another angle. What I have heard the minister explain to me is that, in the absence of an informal, all-party committee agreement, the government is not prepared to suspend making major appointments to boards and committees. I understand that.
There was an informal process in the absence of the informal committee reaching agreement. There was an informal process used for making suggestions for appointments to the Workers Compensation Board. As a caucus member, I appreciated that opportunity to have input into that.
What I am asking the minister to state for the record is if the government is prepared to use that same informal process for these other major boards and committees. More than just saying, "Yes, members are encouraged to make suggestions." I am asking for the commitment that there would be some consultation on the list of major boards and committees - some consultation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would really encourage - I have just been given information, so I just understand that a transfer of letters has just recently taken place between members. The member has caught me rather cold on the subject. I am going to have to therefore say that I would encourage the member to take the matter up with the Member for Lake Laberge, who is our caucus representative on the committee, and, if she wants to propose some options, to encourage this group to consider these proposals.
I guess the member and Mr. Phillips and Mr. Livingston are all members of this committee, and they should be encouraged to come to some kind of consensus.
Mr. Phillips: I'm a little bit puzzled today by the answers given by the minister with respect to this committee. I was under the impression that the minister himself had directed Mr. Livingston to contact the Liberal Party and me and meet on this issue, and come to some kind of agreement. The minister is sort of standing on his feet today and saying he didn't know anything was going on. I'm concerned that I wasn't wasting my time at the meeting, because I thought I was meeting with Mr. Livingston as a representative of the Government Leader, who had indicated some time ago that there would be all-party consent, or some kind of all-party agreement, to appointments of people to boards and committees.
Maybe the minister can tell us if, in fact, he did direct Mr. Livingston to conduct those meetings and why there isn't a reporting process. I know I went back to my caucus, and I'm sure Ms. Duncan went back to her caucus and said, "Here's what we did. Here's what we decided. What do you think?" I'm wondering why there was no reporting process to the Government Leader, or to whomever directed this to start in the first place, or was this just Mr. Livingston's idea?
I don't know. It seems to me that the Government Leader should have known something about it. I just assumed that when I got the first indication from Mr. Livingston for the meeting that it was on direction of the Government Leader himself, who said, "Get together with these folks and let's start having some discussions."
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the member is taking my comments out of context, and that's unfortunately typical. However, the fact remains that the caucus of our government has indicated that Mr. Livingston will be our point person in terms of trying to strike an arrangement between the three parties on the subject of boards and committees membership.
This government's not a one-man show. He does report to the caucus. Now, I haven't been in the caucus meetings in the last few days, because I've been out of town. That doesn't necessarily mean that the government stopped while I was gone. I'm presuming that it continued operating.
With respect to an attempt to try to find some negotiated arrangement, I'm certain that Mr. Livingston is more than capable of performing that task and is well aware of the general feelings of our caucus with respect to the matter at hand. With respect to the letters that were just recently exchanged, I have not been given, personally, a heads-up as to what happened. My suspicion is that there are attempts to get me to do something that Mr. Livingston has not agreed to do. Consequently, I'm going to be extremely careful, because I don't believe that that's the way this issue should be handled.
With respect to the issue of the boards and committees appointments process, it is desirable that there be some process that encourages some sort of all-party input into certain key board and committee memberships in the territory. What that process is and which boards and committees are selected is a matter to be discussed by the committee. If the member does not want to sit on the committee; he doesn't have to. I didn't say he had to be there. If he feels he's wasting his time and wants to do something else, do something else. Mr. Livingston will be present and will be charged with the responsibility, on behalf of our caucus, for trying to come to some kind of agreement to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm sorry that the Government Leader is such a sensitive guy, but I expressed a genuine concern. Normally the Executive Council Office has been responsible for the boards and committees appointments. The Government Leader himself has sort of taken the lead role on this, and when he was in Opposition talked about appointments to board and committees and suggested that it should be an all-party committee. I guess I wrongly assumed that the Government Leader had given direction to Mr. Livingston to contact us to come to some consensus on whether or not we could reach an agreement on appointments to boards and committees.
I mean, the meetings were useful. It was a good discussion. What I'm dismayed about is that the Government Leader didn't even know they were happening. He says he was missing the last couple of meetings and didn't know what the last letter was. Well, that's fine, but that isn't what he said about 15 minutes ago. He said he didn't even know the meetings were taking place. He said that he didn't know what discussions had taken place. He didn't know what was going on with that. All I'm saying is that if we're going to have meetings on these things then surely to goodness the minister who's supposed to be responsible for it should have an idea of what's going on and should be briefed after there is a meeting so that he has some inkling of what people are talking about.
I know he's rather sensitive and he'll probably jump to his feet and personally attack me again for some unknown reason, but that's the way that minister operates. What I'd really like him to do when he gets to his feet is to tell us that there is a process by which he does communicate with Mr. Livingston and that what we're discussing is getting back to the minister who is ultimately responsible for delivering this kind of agreement in the end. That's all I'm asking.
I thought the meetings were useful. I thought the meetings were actually getting somewhere and we'd reached some agreement. They were just taking a little bit of time and we appreciated that. What the Liberal member and myself indicated to Mr. Livingston is that if there are any appointments pending, we put some kind of a process in place by which we could honour or be involved in the process in which the government had said, when it stood on this side of the House, we should be involved in. We should be involved in making suggestions and appointing - more than just tokenism- the individuals who are on boards.
We should be able to make recommendations, and in the light of a full-fledged agreement, at least we should be consulted in some form or another. We can work out something that wouldn't be so complicated as this can be - as these things seem to be sometimes - but something somewhat simplified in the interim to expedite appointments, not to hold any up, and that we were actually involved in it and not just that we can send some names up to the minister or send some names to Mr. Livingston. My impression of the meeting is that Mr. Livingston and Ms. Duncan and myself all felt - all three of us indicated - that there should be more involvement than just sending lists around to each other. So that's all I'm asking the minister to communicate, or maybe have a meeting with Mr. Livingston, and discuss what has been said. Possibly we could work something out in the interim, in another meeting, which we could hold at Mr. Livingston's convenience, and work something out for us. That's all we're asking.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's interesting that the member said that all he's asking is for another meeting with Mr. Livingston, and I've just suggested that perhaps he and Ms. Duncan might have another meeting with Mr. Livingston and talk about this very matter, so I'm glad the member and I agree on this point.
With respect to the member's suggestion that I didn't know what was happening at all, that is, of course, incorrect. Respecting the member's desire to express a genuine concern, I would submit that is a genuine fantasy. I don't accept that proposition at all, particularly given the fact that the member, when he was on this side of the House, who also said that there ought to be a process, did nothing for four years, and there was no attempt to consult with Opposition at any time or even to have such meetings to try to come up with some system at all. So, I can't accept the member's proposition.
Now, I want to make one thing clear. Our caucus has named Mr. Livingston to be the spokesperson with respect to this matter, and that is a person that I will recommend that the member speak to with respect to the appointment process.
Now, the appointments are actually made technically by Cabinet, not by the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office, and so I've explained the process as clearly as I can about what our general intentions are to come to some kind of agreement on the boards and committees process. If the members are fearful that they will not have an agreement despite their best efforts over the next couple or three months, and they want some interim arrangements, then I would suggest that they speak to Mr. Livingston in the committee meeting about that subject, and then Mr. Livingston can speak for the caucus on this matter.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, maybe the minister can tell us, then - he said that the caucus appointed Mr. Livingston to be the spokesperson and he said the Cabinet makes the decision, I guess, on appointments. I thought it was the minister responsible for Executive Council Office whom we can ask questions of on this matter. Is that still the case? Is the Government Leader the minister responsible for Executive Council Office, who, in fact, has the ultimate responsibility for this issue? Is this the point person to whom we talk for this issue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, with respect to a particular board appointment - for example, the Workers' Compensation Board - I would submit that if perhaps the members have a specific concern about that particular board appointment then they will speak to the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. If they want to speak to the process of the appointment process, then they can speak to the member in the committee forum that we have delegated to speak on the subject. And I understand that there is every hope that there will be an agreement struck through the committee process.
If the members feel that that committee process is not going to work, then they can speak to me now and make their position known.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the concern is not that the committee process will not reach agreement. I raised this in the Legislature as a motion. It's an issue that's very near and dear to me personally, and as an elected official I think it is extremely important.
The issue is that, while this committee is doing its work, Cabinet, of which Mr. Livingston is not a member, is making decisions. I have no difficulty, and I'm confident that I can speak for my caucus, that no one is raising the issue of the specific WCB appointment. There is a list of nine, I believe, major boards and committees.
Let's use an example: the Yukon Development Corporation, the Yukon Energy Corporation and/or the Yukon Utilities Board - particularly the Utilities Board. It is absent three members. If Cabinet were to make a decision while this committee is doing its work, three members could be appointed to that board.
All I am asking the minister for is a commitment in this Legislature that he will, in the absence of a formalized process developed by this committee, use some form of an informal process on those Cabinet appointments.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll discuss the matter with the member in caucus who had been asked to lead the discussion with the members opposite, with respect to the boards and committees appointments, and I will ask him his opinion with respect to the matter of interim arrangements and whether or not they've been discussed before, and what his opinion is on those things. And, if an interim arrangement can be agreed upon, then we will strike an interim arrangement.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Minister for following up on that suggestion, and I'd just like to emphasize that these are highly politically charged boards and committees on the major list, and there was, I thought, in the spirit of a new Legislature, a real intention to try and work cooperatively on this, and our caucus is certainly endeavouring to do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, our caucus is certainly endeavouring to do that, too, and I would argue that we have gone further faster than we have on this subject than we have in the last 15 years.
Mr. Cable: I just want a point of clarification. The other day, in Executive Council Office, we touched on oil and gas legislation. I think the Government Leader indicated he expected it to be passed this spring, in Parliament. Has he asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to expedite that legislation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, our understanding is that the minister would do his very best to try and get it through in the spring sitting of the Parliament. That may not be possible, but certainly our current understanding is that he will try and that there will be a window of opportunity.
Mr. Cable: Has he had any recent conversation with the minister to determine when the final reading will be given to the bill?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I haven't had any personal contact with the minister for a few weeks, at least, but I know that officials have been speaking to each other on a whole range of subjects.
I would suspect that when we last left this, the minister committed himself to putting it through during the spring sitting. If he is unable to do that, I expect that he would let us know.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
We will now go to page 2-6, Executive Council Office, Cabinet and management support.
On Executive Council Office
On Cabinet and Management Support
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As members can see, the budget for the branch has decreased by $262,000 - a 22-percent decrease. This decrease is primarily related to the one-time costs, not being borne this year, associated with the severance of two deputy ministers in 1996-97.
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to get on the record that the estimate has decreased. The final cost won't be known until a year and one-half from now when the Auditor General does the books. When I look at the actual cost of 1995-96, the total Cabinet budget and management support has gone up a little bit from what the actual costs were in 1995-96. Both 1996-97 and 1997-98 are merely estimates, not actual costs.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: While I appreciate the member making that clear once again, I hope he doesn't feel he has to make it clear every time we stand up for a line item throughout this entire budget document. That would take at least a day to just do that one task.
Of course 1995-96 are the only actuals we are aware of; 1996-97 is clearly a forecast; 1997-98 is obviously an estimate. But we do compare, and we've always compared, forecast estimates. This is nothing new, so the procedures that we have identified for identifying our expenditures and estimating expenditures and forecasting the previous year's expenditures are pretty much a tradition around here.
Administration/Secretariat in the amount of $933,000 agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support in the amount of $933,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The budget for the Land Claims Secretariat is increased by $932,000. We're up 29 percent from 1996-97. We're expecting, of course, that the completion of the First Nation final and self-government agreements are this government's top priority.
The budget provides for additional senior negotiation staff, required to handle the increased negotiating activity toward the completion of all outstanding agreements. Two million, four hundred and ninety thousand dollars has been identified for specific implementation projects and funding to UFA boards and committees in 1997-98.
Individual departments are carrying out these activities with recoverable federal funding flowing through the Land Claims Secretariat.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have a couple of questions here. On the increased funding, I know that we were given a pool of money from the federal government that was negotiated for the finalization of land claims and implementation. I guess my question to the minister is: are those funds that we negotiated still able to cover the costs, or are we digging into general revenues to top this up? I think it's important that Yukoners understand where we're at financially on this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is a very good question and would be a very difficult one to determine, depending on what one counts as implementation costs.
I may have put this on the record before, but I have long held the view that the implementation costs that we have been provided by the federal government are insufficient. I do believe this quite strongly. However, we are going to try and keep the implementation process as much as we can boxed to certain specific and key areas and then try to force the federal government's hand to pay for everything else.
It is very difficult to determine what is an implementation cost and what is not. There are some things that one might argue - for example, on the land use planning area - that we might be doing anyway. One might argue that we're only doing them because of the land claims agreement, and whether or not that should be incorporated into the land claims implementation fund is obviously debatable.
I have discovered that there are some very high expectations from some departments that they are going to be able to tap in, in a major way, to this fund. They can't all do that, because there is not enough money in the fund to tap into, so obviously there is going to have to be some reality therapy about what we can accomplish within the context of this fund. That, I am certain, will not be a subject that will end this year or next year or for the next 10 years. It will be an ongoing issue for the government to contend with.
I can't answer the question really specifically. There are certain projects, like renewable resource councils or certain one-time costs for studies that are identified at the land claims table, that certainly will indeed come out of this fund. Whether or not we can meet all expectations is a highly debatable proposition, in my view, and we may not be able to do some things. We may decide that some things are very important and do them anyway and fund them ourselves. That is the best answer I can give right now.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, and I certainly realize the difficulty in trying to deal with this. The member opposite is not the only one that didn't think we'd got enough money for implementation, but the reality of it was it was forced upon us and the Yukon First Nations to take a reduced amount or watch the land claims settlement not go anywhere. So we did it. But I still think it's important that the implementation funding was spread over a 10-year period. I think there is 10 years for implementation of land claims, and the funding was a block of funding that we were given.
I believe it's very important for the departments to try to separate. Some of it may be arbitrary, but I believe it's important that Yukoners know how much of this was funded by the federal government or whether the federal government has really reneged badly on their obligations to the First Nations people and to the territorial government.
So I would urge the minister to try to put in place some sort of an accounting that will tell Yukoners which things we're paying for out of general revenues that we feel are important to the land claims process that the federal government has failed to fund. If the minister could at least give me a commitment to look at that, I will ask him in the next budget process whether he was able to put a process in place.
With all the computers we buy now and the accounting programs we have, I don't think it should be that difficult a task. I do agree with the member opposite that some of the figures will be arbitrary. They'll have to be arbitrarily decided on by the departments, such as the example the minister used with land use planning. But I do believe it's important that we try to track the two issues separately to see if, in fact, the federal government is even close to what it's going to cost Yukoners to finalize and implement land claims.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, certainly I can give, almost instantly, an accounting of what money has been spent on and what we are preparing to spend money on, but I know the member will appreciate how difficult it would be to determine what is an absolute commitment under the land claims process that will be funded under implementation and what might be a decision made, thanks to the land claims agreement, that would ideally be paid out of implementation but there won't be enough implementation funding there to pay for it.
Accounting for those kinds of decisions is a very difficult proposition, and the member would acknowledge, I am sure, that that would be very arbitrary accounting on our part. Clearly, there has to be, as I have mentioned before, some reality therapy as to what we can actually do and what we can actually accomplish.
I have not said publicly - well, I may have said publicly - I'm concerned about the size of the implementation fund, but I've not criticized anyone for agreeing to that fund. I know that a lot of the financial arrangements between the federal government and the Yukon government are not a matter of negotiation at all; they're a matter of being informed of what the situation will be and accepting it. While it may have been a tough decision for the government of the time, I'm certain they didn't want to hold up the land claims agreements either in order to try to secure a few extra bucks from the federal government.
So, I'm not faulting anybody for it; I'm just saying that I don't think there's enough money. That's the suspicion I have based on some comments that I've heard from. For example, one department doing land development suggested that the implementation fund should pay for the transfer of some already developed lots to a First Nation. The implementation fund will pay for it. Well, I think that's a highly dubious proposition given that these lots that are referred to could be as much as half the implementation fund, and so consequently I don't think it's probably realistic that half the implementation fund will go to just the lots. But that's an example of where some people can be labouring under some misapprehensions about what can be covered and what can't be.
Nevertheless, I am certain that we can meet our basic obligations. It may not always be smooth, given the financial restraints that we face, but I'm certain we can meet our primary obligations. If there is a possibility, if there is a way - and I'll ask the Land Claims Secretariat - to identify implementation costs that are well-known and that would be anticipated, I'll try to get a listing for the member so that he can see that. Obviously, I can't get a listing of what people's fantasies are about what the fund might actually fund.
In terms of the implementation itself, certainly the Land Claims Secretariat is doing a number of things in this current year to undertake meeting our commitments to do studies and that sort of thing that came out of the land claims negotiation process. All of what we're proposing to do this year, of course, were commitments made in the past from arrangements already struck to fulfill our commitments.
As the member knows, this implementation project funding will be transferred to line departments, who will undertake to do those projects. It won't be done directly through ECO.
The implementation group in ECO, as the member I'm sure is aware, have a number of other tasks ahead of them: f
or example, participating in the program service transfer negotiations, the financial transfer agreement negotiations, the bi-lateral agreement with Canada on the outfitters' compensation, et cetera. There are a number of things that are ongoing. I think the last one has been concluded.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that, but I just want to be on the public record that I don't expect the minister to ask departments what they believe should be funded by the implementation agreement, but I do believe it's important to track the costs, because I believe that in the agreement there's an automatic review in the fourth year as to whether the funding meets the expectations of what it was supposed to do. So, unless we keep track of what we're spending and can verify and provide evidence that that money was, in fact, directly spent on the implementation of the land claims, we're going to need that information to make a strong case to the federal government if, in fact, we find out that the shortfall is more than what we expected when we signed the agreement.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, certainly we can track the costs that we're bearing. As I mentioned, I want to keep the box as tight as possible so that we don't spend the money too soon before our full obligations have to be met.
Obviously, there are still some outstanding final agreements to negotiate. They will have obligations too. This is a finite pot; it's not that big. Money has already been committed. We've got to be careful. Consequently, the member and I agree on these general points, and if there's any way to track it better, certainly we're going to try to track it better, and I've already made it clear that I think we should be concerned about what is categorized as an implementation cost and what can be funded. But, we do, obviously, have to be very careful about this particular fund.
On Land Claims Secretariat
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $4,187,000 agreed to
On Intergovernmental Relations
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the intergovernmental relations unit was split from a policy communications branch in recognition of the priority that government wants to assign to devolution of federal responsibilities and to improving First Nations government-to-government relations and other intergovernmental relations initiatives. I have given the members a copy of the organization chart, which shows those expenditures in this area.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question here. I guess maybe I should have been on top of it, having just come out of government, but it sort of glared out at me, and that's on the job descriptions here in the advertisements for an ADM for intergovernmental affairs. Is an MG10 the normal range for ADMs?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I was informed, Mr. Chair. I asked this question just so that I would be clear myself. The ADM for intergovernmental is the same classification as it was the last time we had an ADM for intergovernmental. The ADM that used to be there for land claims was an MG10 as well. The classification is the same. The job description is essentially the same with some minor variations based on our priorities for devolution, et cetera.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess the question I was asking though is: is the range for all the ADMs in all departments an MG10?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't know. I can ask the Public Service Commission the question. This is not new for these positions at least.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. I'll get that when I get to the Public Service Commission.
If the minister will allow me, I just have one question that I missed when we were in land claims, and that is: when did the minister expect to have a full complement of staff in the Land Claims Secretariat?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I understand that the competition for the principal negotiators has closed and that there are discussions with the Public Service Commission with respect to job offers and that sort of thing. There is a position open for - maybe I'll just get the position names correct here - director of policy and mandates, and I don't know when that's going to competition. Depending on what happens, as I understand it, some people may have applied for the principal negotiator position inside the secretariat, so there may be a position opening as a result of the competition. There is also, I believe, a lands negotiator position vacant, and I don't know if that has gone to competition either.
I'm just looking at the vacancies in the organization chart here. The land negotiator is vacant, principal negotiator vacant, implementation analyst vacant, director of policy mandates vacant. Other than principal negotiators, I don't know when they're going to competition. They may already be at competition, for all I know.
Mr. Cable: On devolution, the Government Leader put out a press release the other day.
Are there any deal-breaker issues on the table that are, as yet, unresolved?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The big issue, of course, from the Yukon government's perspective, is the issue we call fiscal fairness, and that could well be a deal breaker. We don't know. We need to be satisfied that we don't essentially have to pay for the transfer of the program, and if we have sufficient resources to provide the program as we see it, then the transfer negotiations will proceed aggressively from June 1st onwards. Between now and June 1st, we're going to do analyses of the DIAND budgets - what it is precisely that they have put on the table. They say it's plenty. We don't know. So we'll have to go through that process before we know whether or not there's anything to talk about.
I believe that there quite possibly can be language satisfactory to all sides with respect to environmental liabilities. Certainly, from our perspective, if the federal government decided not to assume a clear commitment to take on past environmental liabilities, then that might well be a deal breaker, too.
But I think that we are in the ballpark, and there may be a reasonable agreement there.
My impression right now is that there is a tremendous will by all parties to negotiate. I think there is also recognition that negotiations will not be easy. Financial transfers are very, very important to us, given our constrained resources and given the size of this program. It's in the ballpark of $30 million. If we feel the program is underfunded and there is public expectation that we come up with any number of millions of dollars to supplement it, then obviously it would put tremendous strains on our budget and we would prefer that not to happen.
So, that issue of fiscal fairness is a big one.
Mr. Cable: As I understand it, what's going on between now and June 1 is more an assessment process than a negotiation process. Have I understood correctly what is happenning?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, it is an assessment of what the federal government has in its budget that they are intending to transfer to the Yukon government as part of this transfer. That's the process we're going through.
From our perspective, we went into the negotiations saying that we wanted some sort of notion that we would be able to provide services that are comparable to the provinces in similar circumstances. The federal government said, "No, we are not going to negotiate on that basis. We want you to agree absolutely that you will accept, up front, whatever the envelope is." We said, "No, we don't know what the envelope is." So, rather than trying to find language around that, the compromise was that before we get into the agreement-in-principle stage and negotiations on how the transfers were going to take place and how we were going to deal with employee concerns and all those details, we would first do due diligence in terms of determining how big the financial envelope is and do a preliminary assessment as to whether or not we can carry out our functions with the financial package available to us. That is what we will be doing between now and June 1.
Mr. Cable: What do you think is going on that would fall under the rubric of negotiations, or is it all assessment of the federal proposal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it's not so much assessment of the federal proposal; it is assessment of the federal budgets and the federal departments. We want to find out whether or not the money that they have identified for this program in the north, and what they are saying is on the table, is sufficient. It is a very difficult budget to pin down, because they have money flowing through from all sectors and in and out. They have I don't know how many positions over there that they fund from elsewhere and are not housed in the so-called budget. They have a number of positions on the books for which there is no money. They have some positions that are unfilled for which they have money. We have to tie all this down to get a sense of where this amoeba-like creature is going to take us. Once we pin it down, is it going to be sufficient? Is it so much money or are we going to be buying ourselves a lot of trouble?
Nobody wants to go through 10 months of obviously expensive negotiations and a lot of trouble - raise expectations - only to find that we are not even in the same ballpark. So, we want to determine whether or not we are in the same ballpark.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one follow-up question on that, after the experience that we had with the federal government on the forestry transfer, where the financial envelope was agreed to by both sides and then reneged on when it came to signing the final documents.
I don't know if the minister has proceeded that far yet, but I would - and I guess I'll have to say this as a statement and the minister can reply to it if he likes - urge the minister that he get a commitment in writing from the federal government that that financial envelope - be it $30 million or $35 million, whatever it is - isn't changed in the eleventh hour after long, protracted negotiations, because what killed the forestry transfer a couple of years ago was the fact that the federal government wanted to cut the funding, basically, in half.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To the extent that we can get commitments, that certainly will be a priority for us. I appreciate the member's concern on this point.
The negotiations that we had recently in Ottawa were complicated by the fact that a number of things that were in the federal devolution proposal we could not get into the memorandum of agreement - or letter of understanding, rather - to carry us to the next step. It was a source of some anxiety to us that if the policy statement couldn't be reflected in the agreement we signed, what was the problem? Certainly, First Nations and others expressed serious concerns about that.
Having said that, I don't want to do any Ottawa-bashing on this subject. I do believe there's a willingness at certain levels to complete this project and to do a good job at it, and I think there is a lot of goodwill on the part of all parties to the negotiations - the federal government, the First Nations and, most certainly, the Yukon government - and we're going to give it our best shot.
But, to take the member's point, we're not going to take any agreement simply because it's offered. We're going to take a good agreement, and it's got to be at least satisfactory, at least meet our needs; otherwise, there is no deal.
The member did ask whether or not the federal relations office was in this program. Yes, indeed, it is.
On Intergovernmental Relations
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $513,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Policy in the amount of $465,000 agreed to
On Public Communications Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: I believe this is part of the new reorganization. If the member could just give us a quick view of it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay, the public communications services branch split away from policy and communications as a separate entity. That reflects, in part, the government's priority that it places on public communications and public consultation, particularly. A major task for this branch will be to assist departments in designing consultation exercises that involve citizens in decisions and decision making, rather than simply talk to them through road shows.
The establishment of the branch has largely come from a reallocation of existing resources throughout the department. There is one new position.
On Public Communications Services
Public Communications Services in the amount of $623,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the supplementary information?
Mr. Ostashek: I was just reading through the supplementary information. Is there going to be any change to the photography section of this department? We did do some reorganization in there, and I was just wondering if the minister is satisfied with the way it's set up now or if he's going to be re-examining it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm not aware of any changes to the photography section. I believe there's just one photographer, and I believe that that photographer will remain. I don't think anybody's contemplating more photographers. That's all I know.
Chair: We will go to page 2-13, aboriginal language services. Is there any general debate?
On Aboriginal Language Services
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The main estimates show a budget of $834,000 for aboriginal language services. The actual budget provided by the federal government is $830,000. This estimate was put forward before the federal government tabled their budget, so there is a small change. Of course, it's all recoverable from the federal government. It's a decrease of $75,000 from the previous year. The program was simply scaled down due to reduced transfers from the federal government.
On Aboriginal Language Program
Aboriginal Language Program in the amount of $834,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on French language services?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There's a $69,000 decrease in the Bureau of French Language Services budget due to the reduction in the Canada/Yukon funding agreement. The reductions, in our view, have not resulted in reduced services to francophones. We've just re-allocated some of what does happen here, but the reduction is exclusively resulting from a change in the financial arrangement.
The program officer position at the Bureau of French Language Services is presently vacant and will only be filled for part of the year. Funding for the bilingual account manager position at the Queen's Printer has been reduced by 50 percent, which more accurately reflects the time spent working on French language issues by this position. There is a small increase in the advertising budget. That's about all.
On French Language Program
French Language Program in the amount of $1,158,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Management Improvement
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the budget has increased by $42,000 from the forecast to allow for the staffing of the vacant director's position. It continues to provide audit and evaluation services and to advise government on management improvement, program effectiveness, et cetera.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the Government Leader could bear with me while I go through this.
Under the Bureau of Management Improvement, there is a program called the service improvement program, and this came under an awful lot of fire in the previous government, primarily from the now Government Leader. I think I need to sort of go through the history of this program first.
Initially, the service improvement program was a program that came out of the Executive Council Office and a committee was struck to come up with the way that that was going to be implemented within the government. With this, there was a recognition letter from the minister responsible for that particular department somebody had a great suggestion, or sometimes there was a letter from the Government Leader.
The advertising for this program basically started and ended at the very beginning of this program. In addition, there was one particular case, which was the disc which breaks up chipseal, which got quite a bit of advertising later along in the program. This was not open to the public but primarily to employees.
Over the course of a number of years, the now Government Leader had a number of suggestions for the improvement of the service improvement program. Basically, one of the biggest objections that he had was that the service workers, or the people that were on the front lines, were no longer able to give suggestions to the program, and it was his contention that the cost to put on the program was now greater than the cost savings of having the program.
My question is that maybe this isn't such a bad program if you just go ahead and re-tool it. In B.C., rather than raising taxes, they have cut costs through their program and indeed, because this government is saying that they don't want to raise taxes, maybe they want to take a look at this program again?
So, for example, if it costs you $200, you can save $1 million. If an employee comes up with a really good suggestion, then you can give him some sort of cash reward in order that he can give you a suggestion that will save you $1 million.
Now, the reason I am talking about cash incentives is because- and this is just my perception from the past - although people, I'm sure, appreciated the letters from their ministers or from the Government Leader at the time, it may not have been enough incentive for people to bring forward suggestions. And there's no disrespect meant to the former ministers of the time.
Now, in the British Columbia government, they have an employee recognition program. Basically, they have a 12-point introduction to it and what it says is that the employee recognition program is a primary means of encouraging employee initiative and creativity. It recognizes that a positive supportive work environment has a direct bearing on employee initiative and creativity.
The employee recognition program and its predecessor have generated net annual or one-time savings of over $44 million since 1990, and the employee involvement is a proven and profitable business strategy. It also says that improvements have not only transformed the work processes, they have also, in some cases, transformed work environments. "We have seen situations," it says, "of low-trust, high-grievance work environments become happy, productive, supportive workplaces." It says that the keys to a successful employee involvement program are, first and foremost, management support followed by effective organization, wide communications.
Now, I know that a lot of positions became entrenched in the last government, but it's my hope - and I can pass on this information from B.C. to the government now - that there will be some, at least, review of successful programs everywhere else in Canada, particularly ones that work as well as the B. C. program, and I was hoping that the minister would at least have the committee that still exists - although it hasn't met for some time - take a look at this program. Would he be willing to do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to ask the committee and the new director, when a director is hired, to look at the other programs and see whether or not they can provide better services. I have not had an opportunity to seriously consider providing any direction on this matter myself, but certainly the member makes a good point, and I think it would be worthwhile to see how the improvement program can be improved.
I believe, though, that the program - even though I was clearly not the biggest fan of the program - did take in suggestions from the public as well as employees, and I've got a whole briefing note on all the suggestions that they've taken here and ones that they've approved and ones they haven't. I know these have been read out in the Legislature before. If the members want the information, they want me to read it out or they want me to provide it in a legislative return or if they want it at all, I'd be happy to accommodate them.
One task, of course, is going to be to hire the director, and there are other issues that this branch must address quickly, as well. Under the Environment Act, it is required that we do an audit of the government's performance under the act and meet its responsibilities, and that has to be done this year, so that's a major project for this branch.
So, it does do audit evaluations, and does manage this service improvement program. But, I will take the member's suggestion and will ask the branch to do a review of other programs, and particularly ones she mentioned, and they can do an evaluation as to the effectiveness. It would involve the union, of course, in assessments, to see whether or not we can improve the improvement program.
Mrs. Edelman: I was fortunate enough to be on the ground level, beginning stages of a very similar program with the City of Whitehorse, and it was tremendously successful. And, if it's put together properly, then I think that this is really an opportunity to empower employees and to make a more efficient government to service the people of the Yukon, and I'm pleased that the Government Leader is going to be at least looking at that.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have to get on the public record here, because I'm glad to hear that the minister has had a bit of a change of heart about the service improvement program, because I think it was one of the better things that was implemented for cost savings in government. As the minister said when he was on his feet, there were many, many recommendations that came back - not all of them got the exposure that the disc did, but there were many good initiatives that came forward that did save money for the government in the long term. And, I believe that the program was effective and could possibly be made more effective by restructuring it. You can always improve on programs.
I guess my concern is that we have an increase in the budget here and the minister has given the explanation that they're going to be hiring a director. So, is the minister saying this is a new position in the Bureau of Improvement Management, because the departments generally carry the money in their estimates for any vacant positions that are in government, so I would have thought that that director position would have been included in the '96-'97 forecast of $188,000.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I understood in the forecast estimate for '96-'97 that there was a projection that there would be less funding required for this particular branch, thanks to the departure of the previous director. So, that's why we're going to 230 - and that's largely reflected in the fact that there's going to be a full year's cost for this.
With respect to the personnel, I'm not aware of any other than three personnel that will be in this branch, and there's been no change in terms of the program organization whatsoever, to my knowledge.
So, at some point soon, presumably there will be a recruitment and the position will be filled.
Mr. Ostashek: So, what the minister is saying to me, then, is that the 1996-97 forecast did not include funding for a full year for a director. Is that what the minister is trying to tell me here now in the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is correct.
On Internal Audit
Internal Audit in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
Bureau of Management Improvement in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is a decrease of $217,000, due to the completion of two cost-recoverable projects: the second cycle of the national longitudinal health and children's survey, $181,000, and the high-risk alcohol use qualitative study for $36,000. These surveys are under contract to Statistics Canada every second year. The next cycle will be next year.
The organization of the branch remains the same.
On Management and Information Services
Management and Information Services in the amount of $282,000 agreed to
On Operations and Research Services
Operations and Research Services in the amount of $358,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $640,000 agreed to
On Office of the Commissioner
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Office of the Commissioner
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $119,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Offices
Chair: Is there general debate?
The estimate shows a decrease of $284,000, or 18 percent, from the forecast. The forecast amount for 1996-97 contains the severance costs of the outgoing Cabinet offices and the transition costs of the new government. Apart from that it remains essentially the same.
Ministers in the amount of $113,000 agreed to
On OIC Personnel
OIC Personnel in the amount of $1,137,000 agreed to
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $1,250,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Commissions
Chair: Any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would recommend at this point - I had committed to providing some information and it's not here, so I would recommend that we either take a break now and come back in 10 minutes, or we skip it and continue to the next branch.
Mr. Ostashek: Maybe this is one we could just set aside, then we could get the answers for the other information we have coming and deal with it all at the same time, if the minister's agreeable to that.
Cabinet Commissions stood over
On Public Inquiries and Plebiscites
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There's one dollar forecast. There are no expenditures planned under this authority. The $112,000 forecast included $32,000 for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and $80,000 for the Hughes inquiry. Both inquiries are complete.
On Public Inquiries
Public Inquiries in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Public Inquiries and Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a 10-minute break at this time?
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Executive Council Office, Cabinet commissions. Is there any general debate?
On Cabinet Commissions
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I have some information, first of all, about questions that were asked previously and also about Cabinet commissions, and I will hand it out.
Some member, I think it was the Opposition Leader, asked about ADMs in the government and whether or not they are all MGNs. The answer is no. There are 19 ADMs. There are six MG10-level ADMs. There are 12 MG9-level ADMs and there's one MG8-level ADM.
The member asked in general general debate for information about Government of Yukon purchasing stats and what happened recently. For this last quarter, we've been able to determine that, from January 1st to March 31st, 1997, there were 1,260 requisitions for an amount of $3,563,000 worth of products. This compares to a similar period last year of 1,139 requisitions for a dollar amount of products of $4,378,000.
First of all, before we get into the commissions, I'll hand out a summary sheet of the Executive Council Office organization. We've just taken everything that I've passed out in papers before and just sort of rolled it up into one sheet so it's easier to understand.
I also have information about the Cabinet commissions and budgets, and I'll pass that out now. What I've tried to do is separate out the amount of money that was in the Cabinet commission budget, the amount of money in the department budgets, the amount of money that's still being spent in departments on these subjects, the amount of money that was spent over the last four years in these areas, so that members can get an appreciation for what the comparisons are. It is very difficult to provide comparisons, but I've done my best, so I'll pass that out.
Chair: Is it the Committee's wish to deal with capital at this time?
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate? It's page 2-1.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is a decrease in the capital budget of $373,000. Recoverable funds account for $525,000, and that's 95 percent of the forecast budget.
These funds account for capital spending in most of the branches: Land Claims Secretariat - we talked about implementation costs; the French language services; and Bureau of Statistics.
The non-recoverable spending is $25,000, and this is to cover replacement of equipment that is past its useful life.
Of course, Supplementary No. 1 included $373,000 to support the transition costs. These funds are, of course, not required in 1997-98.
The Land Claims Secretariat has the largest capital budget: $500,000. Work for 1997-98 includes $150,000 in support of the geographic information system. This is a multi-user database mapping system which allows for the visual overlay of land use interests, and $350,000 is for the implementation of specific projects across departments.
On Cabinet and Management Support
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Chair: Is there general debate?
Implementation in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Land Information Management System (LIMS)
Land Information Management System (LIMS) in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Public Communications Services
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Public Communications Services in the amount of nil agreed to
On French Language Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
French Language Services in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Recoveries in the amount of $525,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Executive Council Office in the amount of $550,000 agreed to
Chair: Do members wish to return to Cabinet commissions?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I would ask for the minister's consideration if he'd give us a day or two on this one before we come back and clear it. We won't be long, but I'd like some chance to go through the information that was tabled today in detail.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will agree to that. Perhaps the member could return the favour. If there are any outstanding information that is required maybe he could list that for me so that when we do come back there will be no loose ends. I understand there is a requirement to bring back information respecting the oil and gas agreement and I've indicated that a legislative return will be brought back.
I would invite the member, in terms of detail, to bring it up if the member wants to explore it thoroughly. Then we can explore it in the Economic Development estimates. I will be here for those estimates, too, but certainly my colleague, the Member for Faro, is also as well-versed - or certainly better versed - in the subject than I am, in any case.
Is there other information that the member wishes?
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the member for that. I will check. I will review the correspondence that we have had from the minister and the request made in the House, and I will let him know forthwith this evening, or first thing tomorrow morning, if there is any information outstanding.
Cabinet Commissions stood over
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Executive Council Office stood over
Chair: We will now go to Community and Transportation Services.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we will follow on from where we left off the other day. I believe when I was exiting the Legislature, the minister referred to it as "waltzing Matilda".
If I could take the minister back to the Municipal Act review that is underway and the municipal block funding review that is underway and where this review is actually at.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The question being then to the Member for Klondike - the Municipal Act review and where is it at?
Was that the question?
Mr. Jenkins: At what stage are the Municipal Act review and the municipal block funding? Where are we at with respect to both of these issues?
We did manage, after prolonged discussion, to get some sort of a timetable from the minister, and I would like to know at what stage these reviews are.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will reiterate from my comments of the previous is that we're looking to a completion of the working committee's review in June or July of this year, and incorporated in that will be, of course, the parameters and the guidelines for the block funding.
Mr. Jenkins: I've been given to understand that the review is virtually complete. What is taking the additional time and why is the review being extended at this juncture?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to say that we are following the time frames. The time frame is for June and July of 1997, and we will be working towards that target.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go into another area, where the answers on Thursday were less than satisfactory: CARS, expanded hours of operation.
What is the government's policy with respect to CARS?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The short answer is that we are maintaining the process as laid out, and working with the federal government on this and their program.
Mr. Jenkins: What steps is the government taking to expand the hours of operation of the various CARS operations throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It might be helpful for the member opposite then if I read the 1996-97 Yukon CARS program into the record for him.
The winter hours and the summer hours, for Beaver Creek, six of each; Burwash Landing, eight winter, 12 day; Dawson, eight winter, 14 during the day; Faro, eight in the winter, 12 in the day; Mayo, 24 hours, both winter and summer; Old Crow, 12 and 12; Teslin, eight in the winter, 12 in the summer; and Watson Lake, eight in the winter and 14 in the summer.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister for clarification? Is that eight in the winter and 12 and 14 in the day, or 12 and 14 in the summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The first comment was for the winter and the second portion of the answer was for the summer.
Mr. Jenkins: What is required, and what the industry is hoping to obtain, is expanded hours in the spring and fall - the general aviation industry - and, certainly, extended hours beyond the 14 in the summer. Most of the CARS stations open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. Eight p.m. in May, June and July is certainly too early on a VFR airport.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's been brought to my attention that a couple of years ago we worked with the Northern Air Transportation Association and have agreed with it and there has been no rumbling since. It could be brought to the House's attention that anything we do here has to be done in conjunction with Navigation Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: If we just back up a few years, Mr. Chair, flight service specialists were maintained in Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Dawson City and Mayo 24 hours a day, seven days a week. B and C, and then A, airports were devolved to the Government of Yukon. All of the flight service specialists were removed from Mayo, Dawson and Watson Lake, and automatic weather equipment was installed that subsequently was proven to be unreliable and the CARS stations were put in place in these areas.
Now, I'm not opposed to the CARS installations and the people running them. By and large, they're doing a very good job, but what is needed by the general aviation industry is an extension of the hours of operation of these CARS installations.
What steps is the minister taking, in conjunction with his department, to ensure that this issue is met?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It has not been brought forth to the department as a request, or anything like as such, that there is a need for an extension of hours or anything in that area. What we do have - and I'll go back to my previous answers - is that the Northern Air Transportation Association is the forum for that, and we do have people that are in meetings in Yellowknife as of this moment.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's benefit and his department's benefit, it certainly has been an issue raised by the general aviation industry, and it's an ongoing concern, and it's not being met, and it's not being addressed. There has been a considerable reduction in the hours that at these airports has been maintained. Under the federal government, it was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, it is very considerably less than that.
If we could look at Mayo at the present time, they have a community aerodrome radio station in place 24 hours a day. The industry has been advised that as soon as automatic weather stations come into place - and it's supposed to be this year - the hours of operation in Mayo will be reduced, and Mayo is maintained at that level because it is a very, very beneficial weather reporting point that maps out the weather for all of this region. What steps is the minister taking to ensure that this place will remain manned by suitable CARS personnel and not devolved to some automated, unreliable weather reporting system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank you very much, and I bring the answer back to the previous two answers that I've given. We have not been put on notice that there has been a reduction of the hours. I simply don't know what more I can say to that.
Again, I reiterate, we have not been requested. As far as I know, things are well.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the government have a policy with respect to automatic weather observation stations?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, until the industry endorses them and feels good about them, then we'll be accepting of them.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the policy is: "We have to feel good about it to endorse it." Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Well, Mr. Chairman, if we could just expand a little bit and go back to airport terminals and the needs assessment that was recently completed -I believe it's probably a year-and-a-half, two years old - and specifically the terminal building in Dawson City, what is your department's policy with respect to the expansion of terminal buildings? Is it on an as-required or as-needed basis, or is only being spent in areas where there is no aircraft movement, like Haines Junction and Carmacks? What is the department's policy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. Following the completion of the Dawson City airport - the amount forecast - which concluded that a new or relocated airport is 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 remaining. The aviation and marine branch will now address its efforts to deal with impediments to the aircraft operations.
Mr. Jenkins: Does it not go on to say that the building is undersized for its use? It's being overused and will probably require expansion or extension to its present size.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It does go on to say that while the present airport is not limiting air service - and I quote - "not limiting air service, improvements are needed to accommodate the handling of passengers and cargo and for aircraft ground operations".
Mr. Jenkins: I would conclude from that statement that the department sees a need to expand the terminal building. What is the time frame for these expansions? I notice that there are monies being spent in the various areas. How does the policy decide where the funds are being allocated?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's not represented within the budget for this year. It certainly does not mean that in future years it will not be looked at, but when you just don't have the money - there were other projects that were over this.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have is the second busiest airport in the Yukon with respect to aircraft movements - Dawson City. Why is the minister not addressing the needs of that airport - the second busiest airport in the Yukon? The thrust and emphasis is on all of the other airports. We are, in Dawson City, taking a backseat to any initiative that your department is addressing. Why?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to just reiterate again on the comment that says, "while the present airport is not limiting air services..." Well, it's just a simple matter of dollars and, at this point in time, the dollars are not there.
"While the present airport is not limiting air services" tells me that things are good for this year and that we'll certainly be able to look at it in future years, when conditions improve.
Mr. Jenkins: Then how can the minister justify the expenditures on other airports for run-up pads, for expansion of facilities in Haines Junction and other rural Yukon airports that do not have anywhere near the movement that Dawson has?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll just continue to say that we are following it. I do not think that the Dawson airport at this time is over or above. I realize it is the second busiest, as has been stated quite a number of times in the House. We are going to be looking to make improvements that are erstwhile improvements for all airports, and we'll approach it on that level. Again, I reiterate, while the present airport is not limited in air services, it was not a priority this year. Does it mean that it is going to be priority next year? No, it does not, but it certainly means that we are going to look and we are very conscientious of this.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't think his position is shared by those in the general aviation business, Mr. Chairman. Isn't it about time that the minister made a trip around the Yukon and had a look firsthand at all of the rural Yukon airports, just to see the difference in the level of facilities being offered at all of the various airports and the type of terminal buildings in existence, and then cross-reference that to the frequency of aircraft movement of the various airports, and it will then become abundantly clear to the minister that some of the monies being expended on rural airports where there is no movement are very, very difficult, in fact almost impossible, to justify.
Will the minister commit to making a trip around the Yukon and analyzing the situation at the various Yukon airports?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the direction that has been offered and, as part of my continuing trips establishing partnerships and examining things in the Yukon, I will certainly be keeping my eye open, as I have been, to this. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Another issue that I asked of the minister the other day was dealing with the Alaska marine highway and the remission of duties with respect to the Canadian coastal trade legislation. I know it's an area that the minister probably couldn't come to grips with through the briefing notes - it is quite an involved issue. I would ask the minister to provide either a legislative return or a thorough overview for us today of where we're at and what policy directions the government is taking.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's from the question the other day. I do have a response for the member opposite today.
The Interdepartmental Remission Committee - the IRC - has recommended that the Alaska Marine Lines' application for duties remission be approved. The process now requires the legal drafting for the development of an OIC. We are advised by the secretary to the IRC that this process should be completed by June of 1997, and that the Alaska Marine Lines would receive a retroactive adjustment for duties paid. The AML is continuing to provide weekly service on this basis and has not returned to the biweekly schedule, which could otherwise have been the case.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the remission of duties apply to just one craft, or is it to the entire fleet?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's a good question. I'll have to check on that and get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: What it means is the frequency of service will remain at a certain level, with only one craft covered under this legislation having duties forgiven.
As I understand it, the minister is going to respond by way of a legislative return on this issue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly say that Alaska Marine Lines is going to continue to provide weekly service - I underline weekly service.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but what it means is they're arriving there almost every other day during the summer, and there are only certain sailings that one is allowed to place goods on that is covered by this remission of duties from the federal Government of Canada. So your frequency of moving goods to the north is severely restricted and curtailed if it only applies to one craft.
Would the minister provide us, by way of a legislative return, what it does entail?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm not so sure that the legislative return is warranted here, but let me just say that, in our opinion and the opinion of the Alaska Marine Line, weekly is a good service, and that is the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: There are probably many, many people in the Yukon that would disagree that a weekly freight service to the Yukon is all that's warranted, all that's necessary and all that's required, so I'm sorry that I cannot accept the minister's response to that question. Would the minister please provide by way of a legislative return a response to this whole issue of the remission of duties for the Alaska Marine Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, let's go into another area that we touched on. It's one of those major issues that gives rise to concern throughout the Yukon: garbage dumps. What I am looking for is a policy that the government would develop, or have in place very quickly, for the construction and maintenance of garbage dumps throughout the Yukon that are under the control and care of the Government of Yukon. Is there such a policy? Is the minister prepared to develop one, and what are the time lines for bringing forth this policy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, as I stated the other day, my government is working toward looking at the problem of garbage dumps and, certainly, municipal services under our control, and working with the rural services paper with municipalities that are under their control to come up with a concrete proposal. We're hoping to have something by way of a recommendation policy for this House by the end of the year.
Mr. Jenkins: I take you back to the computer system that was discussed briefly: the land inventory management system. I mentioned the total cost was approaching $2 million. It was funded by various government agencies. Government Services did play a lead role. I noticed this year again in the capital budget of the ECO there's another $150,000 under land claims. What I ask of the minister is how the system is working. Is it working to the level of expectation that was originally envisioned? His department has an involvement in this computer system. What is his department's position with respect to further enhancing the system, or has it been a waste of time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is being monitored. It's working well and I must say that it is being monitored on an ongoing basis. It is under the auspices of the Department of Government Services, and it is still under ongoing development.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I'm hearing the minister tell the House is that this is a $2 million project that's just an ongoing development project. Is that the case with respect to the LIMS?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's a multi-year project that's funded through partnership with the Department of Government Services, DIAND, and the Land Claims Secretariat, and if I'm saying it's $2 million - actually, I'm not quite sure where the member opposite is coming from. I think that I've answered this question. It's ongoing and we're monitoring it. It's a multi-year project, and it's been funded by the people I've just spoken about, and it's ongoing and being monitored.
Mr. Jenkins: In the monitoring program, what savings has his department effected through the implementation of this management system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, when something is under development, as I've said a few times now, it's hard to calculate. So, as we go through here and we do the monitoring and we look at the efficiency of it, at the end of the monitoring I'm sure that we'll be able to provide very detailed briefings for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: What's the period of this monitoring, and when can we see the results of the implementation of this system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think that question would be better directed to the Minister of Government Services, when it comes time. He would be able to provide a better briefing for you.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. I will certainly take it up with the minister of that department, but as a user of that facility, what are his department's feelings as to when they can conclude that it's a satisfactory system, or otherwise?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As far as we know, it's up and running, and it's running very well.
I must reiterate that we are just a very small user of this, and we will continue to monitor it. It is a monitoring situation, and when we do have it analyzed, we will be more than happy to get back to the member opposite with our analysis.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like we are talking about electrical rates being stabilized. They're going to be stabilized, but we don't know at what level.
What are the time lines for his department concluding whether this system is adequate for their needs or inadequate? Is it this year, next year, the year after? What are the time lines?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the time.
I don't quite know how else to answer this question. It's monitoring. It's an ongoing monitoring. It's in conjunction with the Department of Government Services, with DIAND and with the Land Claims Secretariat. The Justice part is running well, but the C&TS part is not fully developed yet. When it is fully developed and when it's completely monitored, I would be more than happy to get back to the member. If it is a year, two years or three years, then when it is finished and done to our satisfaction and I have something to share, I would certainly be more than happy to share it with the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: What I hear the minister saying is he doesn't know, he doesn't have a clue and he is covering his backside, but not very well.
His department has an involvement in LIMS. In any capital expenditure of any form, there is always a period in which that capital is analyzed and justified and the savings are further shown to justify the expenditure. Surely, somewhere in his briefing notes this system must be in place as a pilot program for only so many years or so much of a period of time.
All I am asking the minister is: what is the period of time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Maybe to expedite things we might be able to provide a legislative return with a complete description of our involvement, the C&TS involvement and our role in it and the ongoing monitoring. Would that be satisfactory?
Mr. Jenkins: As long as the legislative return has in it the time lines for this review process, when the review process is completed, when the analysis is done and to either accept the system or discontinue its use and go back to whatever. There has to be some time lines in all of these expenditures. We can't just keep pumping money year after year after year into a program unless we know we're getting benefits.
Now, what I hear the minister saying is there hasn't been a review conducted to date; it's being monitored. Yes, I will accept a legislative return if it spells out all of these areas as well as the time lines for this monitoring and a completed review.
If I could delve into another area that I questioned the minister on the other day: the lot inventory, lot development of additional lots. If I could deal with the land development in the Whitehorse area, the inventory that was presented to this House showed quite a number of mobile-home lots in the Whitehorse area that are still being held in inventory, and we see in the budget that is just being presented and that his department is going to go ahead and develop additional mobile-home lots.
Could the minister explain to the House where this need for these additional mobile-home lots comes from, and the justification for creating more mobile-home lots in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The decision to come to this is a tripartite decision, and it's done with projections based on a need, and the players in there are the City of Whitehorse, the local builders, real estate agents and the Community and Transportation Services. In 1996, the City of Whitehorse expressed an urgent request for the development and release of the mobile-home lots, and we're looking for completion hopefully in late 1997 or early 1998.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I did hear the minister right, his briefing notes said that the need is expressed by Whitehorse and the building community and a number of other outside interests outside of government.
How does this process work from there? I'm somewhat alarmed to see an increase in the mobile-home lots with no emphasis placed on the development of any of the other lots that appear to be needed, to probably a larger extent than is identified in the budget.
If I could ask the minister: what is the current level of inventory of mobile-home lots in the Whitehorse area and what is going to be the development? How many more lots are they going to develop?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In Arkell, phase 1, there are 22 lots. In Arkell, phase 2, there are nine. I do believe the other part of your question was how many and we're coming with 66, and it is done in consultation with all of the players that I've just spoken of. This isn't something that I, myself, or the department has come up; it has been in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse, the local builders, the local real estate agents and C&TS. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: If I can just go into another area and explore with the minister the rationale behind the additional funding that is being sent to the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee. They'll be receiving additional funding. Could the minister advise what additional duties has this body assumed, or what additional responsibilities has this body assumed, to justify the need for the additional funding?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we are just bringing the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee up to the funding levels of the hamlets, and also we are bringing the funding levels of the Ross River Development Society up to the hamlet levels.
What are they doing to deserve this money? Is that one way of saying what you are asking? It's called community empowerment, and it is certainly communities making their own decisions. So what we are doing here is working with Carcross, which the member opposite had asked, and also with the Ross River Development Society to look at what services are needed and what services do communities want, whether it is some social services or whatnot, and I think we've well explained that in the past. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could ask the minister, Mr. Chairman, to be specific: what other duties and responsibilities have these two planning committees, the Carcross area and the Ross River area, undertaken to justify these fundings?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must say I'm somewhat surprised at the tone that's being taken here because I thought we had all agreed upon, or thought that it was better by parties of all political stripes, to have community empowerment done in a meaningful, responsible, fiscally oriented manner.
That's exactly what we're doing. Why does Carcross want this? Because the people are very desirous of and are wanting to make decisions on their own and in partnership, on their own where they can, but they act as an advisory board to the minister at this early stage of their growth.
I do expect the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation to continue to work the way they have been working, and then who knows what is possible? We are coming with our rural service option papers to give them the ability of a hamlet and we will continue on and carry on in that light.
Mr. Jenkins: So it sounds as if they're not taking on any other duties or responsibilities. No other duties are being devolved from the territorial government, from the Government of the Yukon, to Carcross or to the Ross River area that they will be responsible for. All of these fundings are going into the planning process. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Is that what the minister is saying? Planning? Yes, of course they are, in part, due to planning. Let me say that the community in question has been struggling somewhat to work with government in the past. Again, it's certainly wanting to work with government. From their past history - their past mistakes - we feel that what was given to the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee was not quite sufficient in order to keep the community involvement, to which they are desirous. Gee, I've got to use that word again.
In order to ensure that they can hold regular monthly meetings and that the voice of the community will be heard in a structured fashion, my department has gone forth to give them the funding level of a hamlet. As the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee copes with their problems, talking with people - all segments of Carcross, which they are doing - working, as they are right now, with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, I do expect good things to come out of this little bit of funding. For one thing, it certainly brings continuity, and I guess that says it all. It certainly brings that to them and it allows them to set their goals - to set their time frames - as they will.
They will be working with my department - with my officials - and providing good, timely advice as to where the community would wish to go and is wanting to go, and then it would be incumbent on government, as a whole, to work toward those ends, within those parameters.
So again, I would just like to say that it is advisory services that is being brought up to the level of hamlet status funding.
Mr. Jenkins: So, understanding the operation of a hamlet, it would appear that the minister is providing the same level of funding to these two areas as is being provided to the various hamlets throughout Yukon. Are they addressing the needs of their respective area by undertaking the same programs and having input into the same areas as these hamlets?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, very similar. I wish I could ask questions too, but I can't, so I'll just try to reiterate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Okay.
There is not just all of a sudden an implosion or an explosion and you have a hamlet that is there and structured. What it takes is consultation; it takes interaction with one another; it takes a government to guide - maybe that's where you're missing it. It takes a government-to-government relationship and mentality to get the voices of the people heard from the communities into a structure, which is going to be defined by them in consultation with ourselves, so that we might be able to move together into the next century.
Now, I'm certainly desirous of having that happen, and I'm actually quite surprised that you're not.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if it looks like a hamlet, behaves like a hamlet and it's funded like a hamlet, why can't we call it a hamlet?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It looks like a hamlet; does it taste like a hamlet? I'm not even sure what they taste like.
All I can say is that I'm very much desirous of working with the people of the Carcross area. We're looking to do all sorts of wonderful things through our consultation processes, the rural services programs and how smaller communities can interact with larger communities. When are we going to call it a hamlet? They haven't asked to be called a hamlet. But what is certainly happening here is maybe next year they will be asking to be a hamlet because there will be certainty in the community.
One thing that I'm very proud of in the Carcross-Tagish Area Advisory Planning Committee is that they are listeners, and they're doing what the voices of the people say. When they're unsure, they go back to the people and they work and interact with my people in that same way. Is it always beautiful? No, but neither is anything always beautiful. But based on good communication and good direction and where we want to go, a common goal or a common vision, well, by gosh, that's exactly where we're going to get to be. If and when they deserve to be a hamlet - well, maybe not deserve to be; I shouldn't put in those types of words - but when they choose to be a hamlet, well then that is when it will happen if all the levels are defined, the jurisdiction is defined and they are capable and desirous of doing that. Thank you very much.
Chair: The time being 5:30, the House will recess to 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order. We will continue with the budget.
Is there any further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Mr. Jenkins: When we recessed, we were exploring the funding going into the Carcross area and the Ross River area.
Perhaps as a final question of the minister with respect to this additional funding that will be flowing through to these two respective areas, will the minister assure the House that there are the same conditions attached to this funding level as any other hamlet would receive?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I can assure the member opposite that, generally, that is very much the truth.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but that was qualified: "generally, that is very much..." Could the minister be specific? Are the same terms and conditions applied to this funding, as would apply to any other hamlet? Yes or no - not "generally".
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think as witness to this whole legislative process, there is no such thing as a simple answer, yea or nay, and so I will not break tradition; I will stick with my answers.
I would like to say that hamlets are covered by legislation, whereas the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee is not a hamlet and, therefore, not covered by legislation, but is certainly covered by the terms of the contribution agreement, which brings focus to the way they shall spend their dollars.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm hearing is this contribution agreement covers the transmission of these funds to these two respective areas. Will the terms and conditions in the contribution agreement be similar to what the terms and conditions are under which the hamlets receive money?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would be more than happy to forward a copy of the contribution agreement to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much. I didn't ask for a copy of the contribution agreement. I asked if the method under which the Government of Yukon was going to provide -
I don't know what you're wiping over there, Mr. Minister...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I just saw the container that it came from and it was more appropriate in another area. I just-
Chair: Order please. I'd like to remind members to address their comments through the chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chairman, what I'm looking for, and what I'm requesting of the Minister, is the method under which the funds are flowing to the Carcross area planning committee and the Ross River area planning committee - the agreement. Are the terms and conditions similar to the funds that flow to a hamlet?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For the record, if we're going to be talking about people, we should state them as to what they are - it's the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society. Funds flow to both through the contribution agreement process. And, yes, there are caveats. There is direction as to how you should be spending and what the money is used for.
Mr. Jenkins: I can see this is going to be a long and arduous process. You can't get an answer no how, and I'm somewhat disappointed that the Minister refuses to answer. The question once again, Mr. Chairman: are the funds that flow to the Carcross and Ross River groups transmitted - I understand they're transmitted under a financial agreement or arrangement. Are the terms and conditions of that agreement similar to that which the funds flow to a hamlet - yes or no? It's a simple question.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must say that it gives me pleasure to answer questions in the same way that they're asked of me. When you qualify it and say, "similar", well it's qualified also. So, I shall stand up and say, "yes, similar."
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it takes a long time to get a simple answer from the minister and I'm somewhat disappointed that he takes this tack.
Can we look at another area that was discussed last Thursday with the minister. The answer given was nowhere near what it should have been. I refer to the street lighting review process that was completed by Community and Transportation Services along rural highways and throughout the Yukon Territory. I would like to know what the department's policy is on implementation of that review that took place on street lighting.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say that there was no street light review happening. What we do is investigate on a case-by-case basis and I do believe, as I recall, the member talking about the specific location as one of those being investigated. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: For the benefit of the minister, his department did conduct a review of street lighting throughout the Yukon, along Yukon highways and through the various communities of Yukon. It's about two years old and there was no implementation date attached to this review. The department has acted on this review in several locations throughout the Yukon and I was hoping that the minister would understand what is transpiring in his department in this area, what the time frame is and who sets the priorities for the implementation of this review.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We'll certainly attempt to answer that question. Bear with me. Here we go.
We will investigate on a case-by-case basis, and we will affix when we can. And the constrictions to that, I might add, are that the implementations will be on a budget availability and need, so that is all garnered together in a case-by-case review and will be put forth in that manner - budget availability and the need.
Mr. Jenkins: So what I'm hearing the minister stating is that if there is a need, and it's clearly demonstrated - and I would assume that need is usually demonstrated by vehicle count, traffic count - that the government will react, but I ask the minister why he hasn't reacted in the corridor from the ferry landing in Dawson City to Callison and demonstrated his ability that he has clearly amplified on in his last response and addressed the lack of street lighting in that area.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: All over.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I believe I stated last week, we will look at it on a case-by-case basis, and I certainly am going to be looking at it on a case-by-case basis, and I will be working with that particular scenario soon.
Mr. Jenkins: Probably just as a supplementary to that, if I could request that the minister establish the time lines in which he's going to look at this, and other than "soon". Is it going to be in six months, a year, or two years, or when will this review and his looking at it take place, and when will something happen?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We will be looking at that as we look at all requests through the budgetary process. We will be starting the budgetary process this summer, likely with the capital process being in the fall, and we will address it there.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas we touched on with respect to the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Act - the fire inspection and elevator regulations - the one area that I did omit bringing forward was the gas regulations that have recently been implemented by the government.
When these were imposed upon Yukon, the Government of Yukon did not have in place adequate individuals to do the inspection that is required, and people have to spend considerable sums of money bringing up inspectors from Vancouver to inspect equipment and certify it for use.
What steps is the department taking to address the need for added staff in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Imposed; exposed - flipsides. I will be - because it is one of the first things that was brought to my attention when I came into this portfolio - numerous people had called me and talked to me regarding it - and we're taking steps to bring to Cabinet shortly - what is "shortly"? Shortly is certainly a small time frame. We should be looking at having it in a couple or three months, and that's when we'll have it.
As to the other question, "What is Cabinet", well, based on that side of the House, I can see why you're asking that question.
Mr. Jenkins: On these other areas, the minister wasn't able to respond last Thursday and he indicated he will be bringing back a response in the various areas that were questioned, and I would hope that that would be by legislative return. Could the minister please confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We will certainly be more than willing to get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: That is by legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said the last time, your wish is my command.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much.
Let's deal with another area that is somewhat contentious around the Yukon in the various government departments. There is in place a fuel purchase policy for all departments as to where they are to purchase gasoline and diesel fuel for their respective vehicles. Most of this is in the area of government services, but Highways is one of the major users. Could the minister assure the House that all areas of his department are complying with this government policy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the best of my knowledge, the policy has been adhered to.
Mr. Jenkins: Dealing with another area that comes under the minister's responsibility - emergency measures - could the minister advise what his department's policy is for the replacement of the equipment that was supplied through the various organizations throughout the Yukon by EMO in the last couple of years. Who is going to be paying for its replacement and upgrading, as required?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just to endeavour to keep up with the EMO and the volunteer organization, I think it's a good time to recognize the EMO here in this conversation during volunteer week.
We have $975,000 worth of miscellaneous equipment, ranging from all areas of search and rescue, water, et cetera, and I might say that this is from a federal program.
Mr. Jenkins: What I hear the minister saying is that $175,000 is being allocated by his department for equipment replacement. Is the minister clear on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry, in my endeavour to answer your questions, I'd like to get you to repeat that question if I may then, please member.
Mr. Jenkins: Several years ago, our various EMO agencies throughout the Yukon received numerous pieces of equipment: boats; outboard motors; suburbans; rescue gear, depending on the areas; pumps; and a whole series of equipment. There was a tremendous amount of capital expended.
The ongoing O&M and upgrading and replacement of the equipment was left the responsibility, by and large, of these various EMO groups - these volunteer groups formulated throughout the Yukon. But they can't address the cost of replacing a lot of this equipment; it is very, very, expensive equipment.
I was asking the minister how much his department had budgeted for this area and for equipment replacement and upgrading throughout the Yukon Territory.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Somewhere or other - maybe it's my faulty ears here or something like such, but the figure $175,000 came up. Maybe I pulled that out of the air and into my ears here. But nowhere is there anything for the replacement of them at this point in time. They're just a couple of years old, and the member opposite is correct - $975,000 then. At this point in time, there's not a need to replace boats, motors, et cetera.
Mr. Phillips: I want to follow up in the same area.
The Marsh Lake Emergency Measures Association has been working for some time to procure a rescue boat for Marsh Lake. It is probably, I guess, one of the most used lakes now in the southern Yukon system. And I know that last summer the people in the Marsh Lake area that are involved with emergency measures had to be involved in several rescues. All of them went very well. In fact, I think they rescued everybody they went after, but some of them were pretty hairy because of the type of equipment that they had to use. I know that the association has been holding fundraisers in the Marsh Lake area to purchase a proper boat which could handle the waters of Marsh Lake and Tagish Lake. And I just wonder if the Minister has seen fit in his budget - I raised it last year, I think, in December - to work out some kind of a deal where they could at least help the Marsh Lake group in procuring such a boat. I hate to suggest this, but we are going to have a tragic accident on that lake in the near future because of the amount of people who are now using it - many more than ever used it before.
And, as the minister knows, living in that area and knowing that area, that lake - especially Tagish Lake in the far end - can blow up and be extremely dangerous. There were a couple of times last summer where houseboats had to be rescued, where people had to be rescued off other vessels that had broken down in the middle of the lake, or had run aground on the lake, which can be quite shallow at some times of the year. And we're awfully lucky so far that, in the last few years, we haven't lost any lives there. And I think that the time has come to equip that emergency measures organization, which is absolutely outstanding, and I can't say enough about the work they do out there because they've really put their lives at stake sometimes in pulling off some rescues at that lake.
I wonder if the minister has seen fit to either help them in some way by putting some money in the budget, or is there money in the budget to help purchase a boat this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for allowing that point to be brought forward. Certainly this government is conscious of the use of the Southern Lakes area, and specifically the Marsh Lake-Tagish Lake area. You can achieve so much with education, and my government is moving forward to do that with education, just through our pamphlets, word of mouth, et cetera, and pass it along to whatever area we can.
I must say that, yes, I did have it within this budget - the initial budget - but it was removed from the budget - and we will be looking to find some ways and means and alternatives so that we might be able to work towards helping the EMO or the volunteers that live in that area out there with this.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I am disappointed to see that it has been taken out of the budget because it's one of those things that could mean life and death to some individuals on that lake. I know of one incident in particular last summer where some individuals were just on the other side of the lake and had a breakdown and were washed up on the shore. The EMO people tried to go out and get them and didn't have a vessel that could handle the real rough waves coming in that day and had to come back - and put themselves at risk by doing that.
If they'd had a vessel like they are asking for now, even in that rough water they could at least get across the lake. In some cases there are children involved in these other boats that run aground and it is a very serious matter. I would maybe suggest, Mr. Chair, if the minister can't find the money for the full cost of the boat that the minister should maybe look at a program, not just in Marsh Lake, but throughout the Yukon, of matching dollars or a two-thirds-one-third split, where if the organization out there, which I know now is holding raffles and trying to raise money for it, raises $10,000 then the minister would find another $20,000 in a program to purchase the boat or whatever they need for carrying out these kinds of rescues.
I can tell the minister that with the marina at Marsh Lake, the number of people on the lake that have bought boats and are using them, the marina at Tagish, the people on the Tagish River, there are dozens and dozens more boats on that river and lake than there were five years ago. There is going to be an accident because people are venturing into waters that they may not be so familiar with.
So, I think that if we're going to have an emergency measures organization on the lake and part of the role is going to be to go out and rescue people who are in trouble, they had better have the proper equipment to do it because we're putting them at a very high risk if we don't give them the proper tools to do the job.
So, I encourage the minister to look long and hard for a program in which, if he couldn't fund the whole cost of the boat, at least he could fund a significant portion of it and encourage the emergency measures organizations in their respective areas to maybe raise funds for the rest, but at least do something now before there's an accident.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite for his invaluable suggestions and will certainly look into that.
Mr. Jenkins: On emergency members, the funding for the capital assets that were acquired here in the Yukon a few years ago flowed from the federal Department of National Defence's budget. What steps is the minister taking to provide for a continuance of funding from National Defence for EMO in Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is another valuable, I hope, suggestion. There has actually been no valuable follow-up work with the Department of National Defence and the federal program. Certainly, with this comment in conjunction with the last comment in mind, I could certainly identify this issue as a place where we should go and look into.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the subject of EMO and its operations, one of the areas that one has to contend with is forest fires. My colleague dealt with the fire aspect of EMO previously, but could the minister advise the House as to whether, when EMO evacuated Pelly Crossing and Old Crow, the government has been repaid by the federal Government of Canada for these evacuations, and how much is outstanding if we haven't been paid?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, sir - pardon me, that might be deemed as sexist. No, member opposite, that is. We do not know what the outstanding amount is but I will get that figure for tomorrow. And, of course, with that simple statement, there has not been any money received from the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what we're going to be providing the House with, Mr. Chairman, is a legislative return spelling out how much is outstanding with respect to the evacuation from Old Crow and how much is outstanding for the evacuation of Pelly Crossing to the Government of the Yukon, what steps the Government of the Yukon has taken to obtain this money from the federal government. If the minister could bring that back to the House by way of legislative return, that would be very much appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I guess I have to take back "Your wish is my command", because that's simply not going to work out here. I guess I shouldn't have said it in the first place. I will get back to the member opposite and I will read into the record the figures.
Mr. Jenkins: We could just deal with another area that the minister has responsibility for. The Yukon Lands Act was given assent to in 1983. Could the minister advise of his government's policy for review of this act, what stage it's at - I'm sure it's being reviewed at present - and when an amended act will be brought forward to the House in this area? Tab 17 in your briefing book, Mr. Minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Tab 17, from 1983. It's got to be around somewhere. Let me just say that, before I even look at the briefing note, which I'm sure the member opposite has read a couple of times, in the post-devolution scenario which is going on between the territorial government and the federal government at this point in time, there are going to be many, many amendments and changes taking place within the whole Lands Act. And, of course, we are going to have to be working with the amendments - I'm not even sure if they will be amendments, perhaps a whole new act of some sort - to follow through and make sure we're in a situation where we can properly manage the lands of the territorial government in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: I think we are very much aware of the situation the minister mentioned. That's what gave rise to my question. When is the government going to be conducting a review of the Yukon Lands Act? When will it be brought forward to the House? What is the status of the review? Does the government have any policy with respect to a review?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Lands Act amendment process was brought in approximately a year and one-half ago by the previous administration. Of course, the previous administration's priorities were a bit different from our priorities.
If I might further say, though, we are going to be looking at the whole situation concerning and surrounding the Lands Act, in conjunction with the devolution process. Now, we are all quite aware of what the devolution process means and where it's going to take us and if it will mean amendments to the Lands Act, et cetera. We will be doing that and, of course, keeping the membership informed.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be more specific? What is the difference then, if there is a difference, between the policy review he is presently conducting through his department and what was conducted under the previous government? What are the exact differences?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, within the scope - and, I'll try and take my time and go through this with you, if I may.
Previously, and still, the land amounts that we have in the Yukon that are held by the territorial government are not very significant in quantity.
What is happening now, as we proceed through the devolution process, is all the lands outside of the First Nation lands that are agreed upon through the land claims process will be coming over to the territorial government for their administration.
Now, what we are doing is we are looking at that bigger picture in the context of managing and how do we credibly manage, where do we credibly manage these different initiatives?
Not only is the land, but all land-related issues such as forestry, the water, et cetera, are on the table through this process, as the member opposite is well aware.
I would like to say that we are looking at that bigger picture. We are working toward that bigger picture and we are very responsible in implementing a very good land regime - land use regime - and, we are looking at it just simply in that light, of land use.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be specific? What is different now than from when the Yukon Party was in government? What is different with respect to the review that is being conducted, and what areas are we differing on, because they're virtually the same issues, the same review process and the same land is going to be transferred to the Government of Yukon for their possible administration. Could the minister advise what is the difference?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It gives me great pleasure to stand here and to debate and to talk this through because the member opposite - well, I guess what motivated him to enter the territorial political scene is certainly different from what caused me to enter the territorial political scene. He asked, "What is different?" Well, this is different: the people representing the rural Yukon are certainly different from the last administration - more numbers. Why? Well, I think because we talked about what people wanted to hear out there. And you know what the result is? The result is that in less than half a year, we have a devolution process - a devolution process that brings all people to the table. It gives me great pride. It gives me great pleasure.
Mr. Chairman, that is exactly what is different. We are involving the Yukon people into - not diversifying the Yukon and having a culture over there and a culture over here, and there a culture and there a culture. We're looking at amalgamating true Yukon to what it was, and is, and can be. The potential is there, and we are going to open that potential up for exposure through the principles of consultation - all those wonderful things that we talked about. So, if you ask me what's different, that's different. We have a devolution process, and the timeframes of devolution are going to happen.
Has it happened over there? No, no, no, not on your lifetime. But is it going to happen over here? In my lifetime. It's going to happen. So, it just gives me great pleasure to say, "Yes. Yes, that's what's different. Yes, that's what's going to happen." And the time frames - to the member opposite - are within the devolution process. I look forward to listening to you.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to try and get away from big speeches and get an answer to a very simple question. I would like the minister to tell this House: what is the policy of the territorial government on any Yukoner applying for territorial land, at this time, that's adjacent to settlement land - land that's already been settled. What is the policy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It was said to me just last week that, when the answers got a little tough, "Oh, the Government Leader to the rescue. Oh, the Government Leader's coming to the rescue. Here comes the Government Leader." Let me tell you. Who comes to the rescue? Well, let me tell you that the policy for selecting lands opposite and adjacent to is no different than your policy, only it has been implemented.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. We don't need him pontificating over there. All we need him to do is answer the question. That's all we need.
But I want to ask the minister now, because I have had a constituent come to me - now, this constituent has told me that he applied for a piece of land adjacent to settlement land - and when he talked to the officials in the lands branch, the first question they asked him was, "Do you have any friends in the First Nation where you are applying for lands right next to?" And he said, "Why?"
What he said to me, and I'm relating what this constituent said to me, was that the official said that if the First Nations are against his application, then he would have to side with the First Nations. Is that the policy of the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I hate to say it, but - no, I don't hate to say it, actually - it is not the policy of this government that it would be like that. I guess I can't really reiterate any more now, but we must certainly look to all of the processes that are within the land claims agreement.
The member opposite was asking me his questions as the land claims critic, so I'm sure he's very intimate, not only with the processes, but how you can massage some life into these processes, et cetera. We do have a development assessment process that takes place, which is called, in part, for lands and land selection; we have land use planning - all of these wonderful things, which my government is attempting now to put in place, which has remained stagnant for approximately three years. Those are all part of the process.
Does it make it friendlier when somebody wants you to move there? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. But, no, absolutely not, that is not the position of this department or this government.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, and that's all I wanted to know. I wanted it on the public record so I can go back to this constituent and tell him, no, that is not the policy of the government. Thank you very much.
Mr. Phillips: I want to follow up on the member's question. He claims that nothing was done at all in three and a half years of the Yukon Party administration, so I guess my question to the minister then is: now that he's rapidly moving forward on all of this, what's his time line, so I can go out and tell my constituents that if they want to buy some property in the Teslin area or apply for land in the Teslin area or in one of the other settlement areas, they can do it in two weeks, three weeks, one year, two years?
I know the minister said now they are working cooperatively with everybody and it's going to happen overnight, because we took too long to do it, so maybe the minister can give us some specific - now I don't want a guess - time line, what the minister himself is shooting for, and maybe we can get some figures for that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I guess, specifically, I would say that we'll follow the process, and as we follow the processes in changing times - and you understand that there are certainly changing times now that this administration is here -and we enable ourselves to move forward through this process, well then, it will follow due process. Now, I myself have gone through this process - and experienced this process - and it's taken anywhere, from what I've seen, from six months to six years, and maybe even longer.
Now, what are we doing? We're going to expedite the process as best as we can. We're going to make it a friendly process for people, but we're also going to back up and follow what we said we were going to do, and that means that we're going to be bringing the lands to the Yukon through the devolution process, and as we go through that process, we are going to be working to make it much smoother and more efficient, and we're also going to be honouring all of the commitments of the umbrella final agreement and the Yukon First Nation final agreements as they are laid out and described in law.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to turn the discussion to hockey - now that play-offs have started. You will recall this past winter the story of Sheldon Kennedy, the NHL hockey player who came forward with the story of abuse while he was a minor hockey player. The sport and recreation branch funds a number of Yukon sporting and a variety of different organizations that deal with children.
Would the minister tell me whether or not there is a requirement for organizations that the government funds to have a child abuse protection protocol - I'll call it that for lack of a better word - in place prior to receiving funding?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite raises a good question, and I thank her for bringing the question forward. At this point in time, as I look through the briefing books, there is nothing pertaining to that at all. What I will do is take it under advisement and get back to you soon.
Ms. Duncan: The information I am seeking is whether or not the government requires groups, which the government funds, to have some kind of child abuse protection protocol in place. I am using that term. It can be some derivative thereof. I am wondering if it is required.
Following up on that, I am wondering if someone is examining these protocols and determining whether or not they are coordinated with the existing government legislation. For example, the Department of Education has in place a requirement for reporting under the Education Act. Is there some - an individual - say, a step-student, being assigned to review these policies to see if they're in line with the government's or if there are any holes in any organization's protocol?
I would indicate to the minister, since we are talking about volunteer organizations, the Girl Guide organization has one of these in place. It is a model that was used in other provinces. I would commend the minister to look at that as an organization that is funded, in part, by the Government of Yukon.
I also would like to raise the issue of training, on this same subject. In February, there was a media release from the Government of Yukon about a joint Yukon College/Government of Yukon recreation leadership training program. This new leadership training program has a minimum of one short intensive course each year, leading to certification in community recreation leadership. Again, is the subject of abuse part of a section or component of that leadership training?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do thank the member opposite for bringing up that very critical substance, if I could say it like that. It has to be checked into immediately and I will endeavour to do my very best and get back to the member possibly tomorrow or, at the latest, the day after, with this. I thank you for offering the Girl Guides' protocol that is in place and I'll be directing the department to please request one of the Girl Guide organizations to use as a model or to certainly use as input. Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: One more question in this section. Related to this issue, the Government of British Columbia brought in - I'm not sure at what point in time but - a requirement for volunteer organizations to do screening of their volunteers. There's a substantial cost to volunteer organizations of doing this.
Would the minister, by legislative return, let me know his thoughts and policy in the government in this respect if there's an intention to require this of volunteer organizations and, if so, if there is an intention to assist with costs or if it's something that the department is not yet looking at - that's screening of volunteers working with organizations, police checks.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, I thank the member opposite for bringing these forward and I thank her honestly for the questions that she brings forward. We'll be definitely looking to see if there is something underway, and the cost of it, and we'll be more than happy to get back to the member opposite on all of the questions that she has relayed to this side of the House on child abuse and how we might be able to better put legislation or policy or anything into place that would require groups and parents to feel comfortable that their children are being looked after when they're in other organizations away from home.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that.
Mr. Chair, in the same department, the Yukon Council on Aging recently released a survey - and I regret to say I didn't get one, not being of age. However, the advertisements and so on have sparked my curiosity. Is this survey partially paid for by the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It certainly doesn't ring any bells with me, nor with my administrator with me, but, again, I will endeavour to check into that and see if there are costs associated, or if we're, in part, responsible for that.
Ms. Duncan: It must be health. I erred, Mr. Chair.
With respect to airports, the minister will recall that in the December session and, again, earlier in this session, I raised the issue of the Minister of Government Services requesting a feasibility study into air travel and the provision of air services to Yukoners. I asked that the Minister of Tourism have input into this.
I note that in Community and Transportation Services there is $1.7 million, roughly, recovered in airports. This, I would assume, is everything from landing fees to fuel taxes and so on.
When Canadian Airlines was in such dire straits in December, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicated that Canadian Airlines hadn't approached the Yukon government for any money, and that any money that we might have would be a drop in the bucket. Considering this is $1.7 million, which is a pretty big drop in any bucket - and I realize it's spread all over the Yukon - is the minister giving any consideration to using these funds as some kind of an economic tool?
For example, would you be looking at a reduction in landing fees, or fuel rebates to a European carrier or Canadian Airlines? To any sort of air carrier as an economic incentive?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite for the question. The $1.7 million, I believe, is the money that is used to run the airports and, as we go through the negotiation process, would we be willing to look at other avenues to enable airlines to enter and to stay? I most certainly think that we would, through a negotiation process, look at all avenues to stay here.
To follow that up, I've just received a letter that was cc'd to me a couple of weeks ago, from NWT, saying that it was unfortunate that it had to happen as it was and that the media, they felt, took their answers and made them into a media blitz.
So I just offer all that. With timely advice and a timely process and with everything on the table, we will look at anything, through a good negotiated process, to bring and to keep airlines here.
Ms. Duncan: On the subject of land development - and the minister may have answered this question before, Mr. Chair, but I would like it restated - could he advise, perhaps by legislative return, the number of lots in the land bank in Whitehorse, and the status of those lots, i.e. their zoning designation - the lots currently in the land bank?
Chair: Order please. The time being 8:30 p.m., is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with the budget, general debate, Community and Transportation Services.
Ms. Duncan: Did the minister want to respond to the last question, or would he like me to re-ask it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I tabled to the member opposite of the Yukon Party and the member opposite of the Liberal Party the current lots by community and type. Will that suffice?
Ms. Duncan: If I could ask the minister for some clarification in the Whitehorse area, the total column are the ones that are currently available for sale?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that is correct. Just to qualify that, on the bottom left-hand corner, it says, "as of that date". It would be February 25th of this year.
Ms. Duncan: So then, if I'm to read this handout correctly, there are no lots available left in Cowley Creek, none in Copper Ridge, only the 180 in Copper Ridge phase 1?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Across from the Whitehorse branch, where it says 180, that is the total of all of the lots in Whitehorse, right from 22 at Arkell down to 4 at Logan.
Ms. Duncan: If I could just clarify for the minister and, if you will, paint a picture, there are a number of individuals in my riding in particular, and I must emphasize that in the Porter Creek area, there are some huge lots - we're talking 140 feet, 200 feet deep - and these lots were bought by parents at $400 and $600. Children of those parents trying to buy lots in the Whitehorse area are not getting anywhere close to that size of lot. The lots are very, very small, and that's a huge issue with people who want to build, with the contracting community and with individuals - the size of the lots. There's either country residential or there's these very, very small residential lots in Copper Ridge or Logan.
Would the minister provide me with a legislative return or his thoughts, or the policy in the department, in terms of why these lots are so small?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The two principles, I guess - or the one principle for sure, and they are city lot sizes - but the principle that they use is the size and the price. Way back then, I guess, it was a lot different. Now, the size and price are much closer together and correlated.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that, from my knowledge of civic issues and working with municipal governments and my understanding of this government. The public doesn't understand that. The public wants to know how come they can't buy a big lot for their, hopefully, big house. Is there any sort of a handout produced by the government when they're doing these land sales in residential areas that outlines for the public why the size of lots are the way they are?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the best of my knowledge - and I was just up there browsing through that board just a couple of weeks ago - I can't recall seeing anything like that on there. To tell you the truth, I never thought of it. So, what I could do is take it under advisement, talk with the department and ask about the number of questions that come to that. Certainly, if that's a question that's been asked then it's a question that has to be answered also. So, thank you.
Ms. Duncan: Would the Minister also please have the department prepare a suggestion as to where individuals who are concerned about the size of lots might voice their concerns to himself directly? People that are speaking to me are prepared to pay for a larger size of lot, and they would like a variety in the size of lots. So, I would like two things from the Minister: information for those people as to why lots are developed in the size they are and, secondly, an indication from the government that if they receive enough public feedback, that they might consider changes in that policy, in spite of the costs.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly - and I know I don't have to remind the member opposite about it - whatever we do would be done in conjunction with the city, and we will do that as good neighbours with the city - or good governments, I guess we'd say, with the city. And yes, if there is enough interest, and certainly you've twigged my ears, and I will be asking the department as such, and if there is enough, well, then we can. Now, it's kind of lame, but if somebody does want a bigger lot, they could buy two. I guess that's kind of a lame excuse at this point in time, with all of the different services that would come with it, but there is an option. I will certainly explore for other options to get people the lot sizes and the land that they want.
Mr. Phillips: I'd like to go back to the questions I was asking earlier about land and just ask the Minister. He made his point that not much was done in three-and-a-half years, but now they're over there and they're going to make some changes. So, I can only take from that that he will hold true to his word and that we will see land for all Yukoners - rural land, recreational land - that will be made available in the areas where bands have settled.
I think Yukoners have been pretty patient - First Nations and non-First Nations - for, I think, 23-some-odd years now since land claims were started. I know that any Yukoner, including myself, that went to the lands branch and asked to buy land was always told that there was a freeze on and nothing would happen until after land claims.
It was frustrating for the First Nations who couldn't get a lot and it was also frustrating for non-First Nations people who couldn't purchase a piece of property. But now we have four First Nations that are settled.
The minister has said in the House here today, Mr. Chair, that we didn't accomplish anything in three and a half years, so I can only assume that the commitment the minister is making here today is that, in the next three and a half years - because six months of the mandate are gone - Yukoners will be able to see recreational lots and land applications for lots in rural Yukon for non-native Yukoners made available.
I can only take it from the minister's comments that that is what he means, and that is the time line I'd like to hold the minister to. If he feels it can happen in the next three and a half years, then I'd like to hear him say that that's what he's going to direct his department to do.
Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. One of the principles that my government was elected on is making land available and we will ensure that that does happen. Let me say that recreational lots of $50,000 is a possible development of cottage lots, with emphasis placed on the land claims and the settled areas within.
Mr. Phillips: But the minister left out one important little part, and that was when. How long are we going to have to wait? Is it going to be in the first mandate of this government, that in the next three and a half years, we will see new recreational lots come available? Not just recreational lots and subdivisions, I'm also talking about the individual Yukoner who might go into the Teslin area or into the Mayo area and has a nice little piece of property on a lake that they've discovered over the years and now they want to get a 100- or 200- or 300-foot lot out there. Is the minister going to give his assurance today that, if this land is out of settlement lands, he is going to have a process in place which, within the next two and a half to three years, people will be able to get?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, if we follow the agreements, life should be very good and wonderful for all Yukoners. That is the spirit that the agreement, at least on the side of the House that I negotiated agreement on, was put into place for. So, I can stand here and say certainly.
Now, how are we going to do it? Well, we're going to do it through the regimes, the land use planning regimes, the agriculture policies. We're just going to talk to people, consulting. The old principle of NIMBY comes up again, you know, so there's a certain amount of consultation and talking to people that we have to do.
Are we going to give it our best efforts and are we going to do it in our first mandate? And I'm certainly glad you said it that way - our first mandate - because it certainly alludes to a second mandate, so I certainly appreciate the pat on the back that you've given us on that. But certainly, within our first mandate, we'll be endeavouring to work to those ends.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his current lots by community and type review that he provided me. I didn't have any knowledge of what the situation was through the Yukon when we discussed this issue last Thursday. If I could take the minister to the review that he just recently provided me on Callison in Dawson City, there's two industrial lots available for sale. The city has a number of serviced lots up for sale. There are no country residential lots available in the Dawson City area, no recreational lots available in the Dawson City area and no mobile-home lots available in the Dawson City area.
The Klondike Valley squatter review process has been pretty well concluded and a number of people have applied for title to the claims that they have held and the Dawson First Nation land selection has been completed. Yet, we still can't get land in the Dawson City area. What steps is the minister prepared to take to make land available? What steps is the minister prepared to take to make available mobile-home lots in the Dawson City area and country residential lots in the Dawson City area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Firstly, on the need for country residential lots in the Dawson area, which was requested, Dawson City has requested that development be put on hold until the placer occupant review is complete and that, as you know, is to be completed this year.
Just on this issue now, we need the additional residential lots in Dawson City and Dawson City Council has expressed a desire that at least some of those lots be country residential. The most suitable location for this development is north of the Klondike Highway across from the Callison industrial subdivision; however, this area is currently under claim by the placer miners.
The engineering development land branch met with the Dawson City Council on April 3rd and they did suggest that. Dawson City has subsequently contacted the branch and requested that YTG provide the geotechnical and engineering services, and that is on the country residential lots. Did I also hear the member opposite speak to industrial lots? Mobile-home lots. Thank you very, very much.
Well, I know I just read my briefing note and it's somewhere here, too. There are two developers, as I recall, but I would like to get the briefing note.
To expedite matters here, the same principle is going with the mobile-home lots. There are two interested developers to develop mobile-home lots with the impact of the new mine and mining in general going in that territory. We are looking at working with them to develop that.
Mr. Jenkins: That gives rise to the question of the time lines for these lots coming on the market. Can the mobile-home lots be made available for this summer and will the minister undertake to make them available for this summer, because they certainly are needed. There is a big demand. There is a large demand that is not being addressed and hasn't been addressed because of the unavailability of land for that purpose.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we found the note and I thank you for your patience.
There are currently two private groups negotiating with the town on the development of the mobile-home parks. The negotiations are expected to be complete this year. The town is also negotiating with existing lot owners to allow development of an additional 60 to 70 urban residential lots.
We are looking at working with the city to come to an agreement on where it might be and then proceed. I do not think they will be ready for this year, by the looks of it, in this time frame.
Mr. Jenkins: The largest issue, next to land, is the provision of municipal services - water and sewer - to this area, and the large capital cost associated with it. Is the minister prepared to undertake to advance funds and amortize these costs in the process of developing these mobile-home parks or mobile-home lots?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say that the Yukon government will consider specific requests for financial support under the Municipal Financing Community Grants Act. After additional investigation analyses and cost estimating have been carried out a decision on the cost sharing will be made when the costs are more precisely defined.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's benefit, the costs have been specifically defined. The total project costs have been specifically defined, and conveyed to the city. The hangup is how to amortize the large capital cost. In order to ensure that there's any progress whatsoever in the development of these mobile-home parks, or mobile-home lots in the Dawson City area, the only way that I can see something occurring is the same way it happens in other areas of the Yukon, is for the Government of Yukon to take the lead role, advance the funds, and recover it through the sale or lease of these lots.
Now, is the government prepared to treat this land development the same way it treats land development in other areas of the Yukon, or is it making an exception and it's not prepared to treat this land development in the same way?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we will work with the City of Dawson on this endeavour to make sure that we come to the best possible solution so we can provide - you're speaking specifically to mobile-home lots in this instance?
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Minister, we're speaking specifically of mobile-home parks and mobile-home lots. The only impediment to them not coming on stream this year, this summer, is the amount of capital that is required to extend water and sewer and to amortize that cost.
Now, in any other jurisdiction of the Yukon, the Government of the Yukon front-ends the capital cost and recovers it either through the sale of the lot or the lease of the lot. Now, why is this area of Yukon being treated differently? If the minister could give us assurances here tonight that he will treat this area in the same manner as other areas of Yukon, this mobile-home park could come to fruition this summer and serve a great, great need in the Dawson City area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We'll certainly look at those costs if they are available, and I'll endeavour to find out what those costs are quickly, the soonest. We will work with the City of Dawson on this, and I don't like the insinuation that I treat Dawson any differently, because I certainly don't treat Dawson differently. I'll work with the mayor. I've said that quite consistently. I'll work with the chief. I've said that quite consistently. I've said I'll work with both of them for the future of planning. They've said that. I've said that quite consistently. Treating Dawson differently? No, I think if anything, Dawson definitely has the potential to be a role model of sorts in cooperation with other levels of government, and I'm not saying senior or junior levels of government. I'm saying "in cooperation with". So yes, we'll work with Dawson. We'll look at the costs, and we'll see how we can endeavour to get this moving.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his response. It is a very positive response, and I'll look forward to seeing it come to fruition. I'm sure that he's aware that one of the initiatives is a First Nation initiative on First Nations lands, but the extension of a water and sewer to that area and to that potential mobile-home park is beyond the possibility of the First Nations to finance at this juncture. That is the concern. So, I do thank the minister for his response on that issue.
I would like to deal with another area with respect to roads: the Brewery Creek road project. Is the government committed to funding to the agreed level on the agreed timetable?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is certainly something that will be within the auspices of the Department of Economic Development. The short answer is yes.
Mr. Jenkins: The other day, on Thursday, Mr. Chairman, one of the areas that I was uncomfortable with the response I received from the Minister was with respect to the government's policy on reviewing their communications needs. What I'm looking for is some sort of time line. All I received was the answer that they're constantly monitoring their policy on communications, but I get back to our discussion with respect to the MDMRS system and, with the constant changing technology, someone in the department must be charged with the responsibility of constantly reviewing the costs associated with the operation of this system and looking at new technology, seeing if this system cannot be replaced with a more widely accepted system that reaches all of the regions of the Yukon and provides a much better communication at lower cost. Would the Minister undertake to have someone in his department do this review, if it's not already in place?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we do have a person reviewing the system and the technology, and we do this each and every year on a monitoring basis for the annual budget cycle.
Mr. Jenkins: I take the minister back to last Thursday. I don't know if the minister has a copy of the Blues - on page 601-2 he was responding to one of my questions. I quote the Minister: "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." Now, to correct something means that something was wrong. Could the Minister be specific as to what was wrong with the administration's direction that was given under the previous government? And what changes in policy did the minister initiate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's a big topic. Where do I start? Yes, I would like to point out that being a Cabinet minister and a leader is a challenge, and certainly I think it's an effective - well, it's certainly something that I'm very desirous of doing and am going to do.
We're going to continue to make government maybe more transparent. We're going to continue with that. We're going to continue with the obligations that we have laid out. Obviously, the people have spoken. People have spoken, by the sheer magnitude of the election results both last fall and again later.
So, that is what we are doing. It is more getting along with people, taking the process, because if I could say it again and I don't think it can ever be said enough, how a government does things is just as important as what it does. And I think what we've done is to start to get people back into that mode of getting along and moving forward and not being controversial and adversarial with one another, except when they're paid to do that, and then it is mighty effective, if I guess I can say it in that point and manner.
So, that is what we are making different. That is what I am here for as a cabinet minister and as a leader and a representative of my constituents within my riding. That is what I'm here for and that's what's happening.
How is that reflected into government policy? How is that reflected into government direction? Well, you're living witness right now to what is taking place within the Yukon and what can be taking place within the Yukon through such important initiatives as the completion of the land claims, as completion of the initiative and the start and completion of the devolution process.
Hopefully, all these things will come to and bear fruit for us at the end of this mandate and people will see that we can walk the talk.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to draw the minister's attention to a specific land issue: the green space that surrounds the southern portion of my riding, Porter Creek South. The concern with this area is that the proposed Yukon College endowment lands would not only come up to the back lot lines of properties on Ponderosa Drive and Walnut, but that the green space, which so many residents of Porter Creek use for recreational purposes and enjoyment, might be taken away and lost for public use.
In 1993, the City of Whitehorse sponsored a round of public consultations related to the development of a parks and recreation plan. These aforementioned residents in the area lobbied the city during the consultations to such a degree that the recommendation to preserve a greenbelt in the area for the dedicated recreational use of residents and preservation of the natural state of the area and its diverse ecosystems found its way into the final City of Whitehorse report.
The protection of such lands throughout the city was also a recommendation of the final City of Whitehorse plan. City council passed a motion adopting both the recommendations in the final report and the plan itself.
I have written to the minister on a number of occasions, as have constituents of mine, regarding this particular area in question. I understand that the endowment land issue is only a proposal, that land has not been formally transferred. I also understand that there are land claims issues in this area, and I would draw the minister's attention to a resolution coming forward from the City of Whitehorse to the Association of Yukon Communities: "Be it resolved that, following the finalization of land claims settlements, the Government of Yukon should transfer administration, control and ownership of all remaining vacant Crown lands to those municipalities who have demonstrated their willingness and capability to manage the resource."
I have a question for the minister. With respect to this area that surrounds Porter Creek South, this greenbelt area and these diverse ecosystems, there seems to be a great deal of confusion as to who has responsibility for this area, what's under possible land claims, what is not. I'm wondering if the minister is prepared to hold a public meeting in the riding to discuss what residents want to see in the future with this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Before I endeavour to call a public meeting - and I'm certainly not afraid to get the public's input on anything such as the endowment lands and the green space that we're talking about and the protection of the ecosystem within the city periphery. I would like to allow the member opposite to cut me a little time here. It is a complex issue and I will do due diligence quickly to bring together some type of discussion paper and where different issues lie. I would be more than willing to sit with you and to share that with you and maybe you could help me with that before we would ever take it to a public meeting or anything like as such.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that; that's certainly reasonable. Am I understanding, then, his commitment that before anything happens with that green space area, such as a transfer to Yukon College or a transfer to the City of Whitehorse that residents of Porter Creek South and myself as the MLA might be involved in those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will say yes, but I'll put a caveat on it though. As long as I'm not breaching a legal requirement or an obligation or something like that, but certainly.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that and appreciate that of the minister. Could he give me a time frame, as this has been a very strong issue, since October 1st, September 30th. It was a very strong issue from August 25th right through to September 30th in my particular riding, just a time frame - a year, six months - when we might begin to discuss this, please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the member opposite would allow me to shoot for this fall, that would enable the different people that are involved with holidays, et cetera and that type of thing, so that we can get some meaningful discussion and input and papers. So, if this fall would be fine, I'll endeavour to have it done by the time the fall sitting happens.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that and, of course, I will communicate that I've asked this question with the City of Whitehorse, as well. I'm sure the minister's department officials will, as well.
I'd like to ask a question with respect to community block funding. Would the minister advise whether or not he or his department have had any discussions with the local hire commission, and any discussions about - I don't want to use the word "restrictions" - discussion about block funding and local hire? Have there been any discussions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The technical people - the bureaucrats within the commission and within my department - have gotten together on that initiative. But I can quite categorically say that they have never talked about block funding within that realm.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the Minister: is there any suggestion that block funding might be on the agenda for discussion by the local hire commission, in consultation with the communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We have not put it on the agenda with them, so I'm speaking totally within my knowledge base, which is nothing right now.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, I'll save any further questions in that respect for the local hire commission. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions for the minister.
The previous NDP government, several years ago, was contemplating building a hazardous waste plant and I think the estimates at the time were in the $1 million-plus range to build this hazardous waste plant. I think it was going to go in Whitehorse West, actually - out somewhere near MacRae was where discussions took place.
Since that time, our government - the Yukon Party government - asked the department to have a look at the options and one of the options they came up with was putting in a depot and then transporting the hazardous waste out of the territory at certain periods of time, when they accumulated a full load or whatever. And that's turned out to be a much more cost-effective way of getting rid of our hazardous waste.
I just wonder if, now that the NDP is back in government, they contemplate any changes to the way we're dealing with our hazardous waste. Are we now looking at going back to the old proposal of building a plant, or are we going to continue with the process which we have now where, as we get a buildup of hazardous waste, because we have such a small population - we don't seem to get a lot of it all at one time - are we going to continue with the way it's happening now, which is much more cost effective, or is the government looking at other options?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Although I would be more than willing to answer this question, I really can't answer this question. It is certainly within our government's initiative, but it certainly should be taken out to Renewable Resources. The responsibility was transferred over to Renewable Resources by the previous administration.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, I will raise that with the Minister of Renewable Resources when we get to that budget item - whether or not they are planning on continuing with that.
The other issue I had was a question asked a few days ago in general debate about a sewage lagoon treatment for the Marsh Lake area. I would just like to know from the minister where that is at now and what the requirement is going to be in the future? Are there any changes to how people deal with their waste in that area? There are more and more people living out there on an ongoing basis. I know there was contemplation of a sewage lagoon. Has a site been selected? Maybe we could have an update, generally, on where we are with that project.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In reply to the member's question, C&TS this spring will submit an application to the Water Board for approval to design, construct and operate the facility and the facility is going to be at a site adjacent to kilometre 1407 on the Alaska Highway - pretty close to 1407.
So, we'll submit that application to the Water Board for approval to design, conduct and operate the facility. The design is scheduled for May, with tendering for June and construction in August and September of this year. As to our chart right here, it's near the Judas Creek subdivision.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, one last question, as the hour is getting on, is to the minister responsible for highways. The amount of money in capital in the highways budget has been decreased dramatically in this budget. The main reason, I guess, is the Shakwak project, but as well, his government has chosen to reduce maintenance and upgrading of highways generally, even with their own discretionary funds, and put it into other areas. Does the minister see this continuing and what priority does he as the minister of highways, put on upgrading our Yukon highways?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, a balanced effort, I guess, is what we're sort of trying to do. What we were talking about, selling raffles, a little while ago for EMO and that sort of reminded me of that bumper sticker that came up and it said that the day that we have to sell raffle tickets to build highways is the day that education will get better.
So, just within that context we're certainly looking to make it balanced. Do I project to go on? No, I really want to see the roads improved within our capability, especially on the Alaska Highway, in absence of the Shakwak funding, but certainly the portion from Watson Lake to Whitehorse so that it'll improve the tourism economy, et cetera.
I do believe that you also asked if I see a maintenance trend and was it going down? I'm not quite sure how you categorized that, to tell you the truth. But, no, we're here to make sure that the highways are safe for our traveling public and for our traveling tourists to enjoy Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Before I leave the Chair, it is the Chair's understanding that Committee will return to Executive Council Office when it resumes tomorrow.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: 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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 14, 1997:
Election of Robert Bruce as Member for Vuntut Gwich'in, letter dated April 14, 1997, from chief electoral officer to the Assembly (Speaker Bruce)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 14, 1997:
Trucking permits on the South Campbell Highway: background and status (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 448