Tuesday, April 15, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
We have a tribute.
Tribute to House pages for achievements
Speaker: Under tributes, I would like to draw to the members' attention that one of our pages here today, Marci Davidson, and Amy Klassen, who is also a page, were two of the three big winners at the Science Fair with their project, "Fight for the Future". As well, Jillian Ewert, who is here today as a page and whose grandmother is watching from the gallery, won gold this morning at the Rotary Music Festival in the sonatina/sonata class. I am sure all members join me in offering congratulations to our pages.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to recognize these two young folks. They are from Whitehorse West, and I would just like to acknowledge their efforts.
Tribute to Upper Tanana Cultural Society
Mr. McRobb: I rise today to pay tribute to the Upper Tanana Cultural Society for producing what is known as the Upper Tanana Glossary. It's called Nee'aaneek. I was at the ceremony on the weekend, attended by about 150 people from the Upper Tanana and Northern Tutchone as well as the non-native community. It was a huge success.
This glossary is the only document in existence that translates the Upper Tanana language, and it was put together with the help of Bessie John, a well-respected elder, her daughter, Doris John, as well as Yukon government aboriginal language service and Yukon Native Language Centre.
It's the hope of the Upper Tanana that this glossary will complement the language-retention efforts of their elders and revive the use of the language of their grandparents for future generations.
It's something the Upper Tanana are very proud of, Mr. Speaker, and we, as Yukoners, should recognize that as well. Thank you.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a legislative return to the questions from the Member for Porter Creek South last week.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have a legislative return - a letter responding to some questions from the Member for Riverdale North.
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
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of motion
THAT this House recognizes the importance of appropriate housing for Yukon seniors;
THAT this House recognizes that one of the roles of the Yukon Housing Corporation is to foster and promote programs that will assist the private sector to supply appropriate housing within the Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work with the Yukon Housing Corporation and the private sector to meet the housing needs of a growing seniors population.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Trade and investment diversification strategy
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As members are aware, Yukon's unemployment rate has increased in the last few months due to the full shutdown of the Faro mine. The shutdown emphasized the territory's long-standing reliance on natural resources and government spending and confirms that it is necessary to take innovative, long-term economic diversification steps to help alleviate boom and bust cycles and create stable, long-term jobs for sustainable development.
I'm pleased to announce that our government policy is to address this need, in part through a trade and investment diversification strategy. The 1997-98 budget provides $287,000 to develop this initiative, and helps meet our election commitment to maintain our strengths in the resource sector while continuing to actively promote and support Yukon's traditional industries.
The strategy will provide coordinated action steps to increasing export activity by Yukon businesses and strive to attract investment capital to create more jobs for more people. We want to help foster an outward look at the economy.
In this regard, the strategy will actively promote Yukon products. Our government realizes that economic diversification includes more than simply marketing resources and must involve the development of secondary industry and value-added products.
The trade and investment diversification strategy will identify Yukon products with export potential and create active marketing strategies in partnership with business community.
The marketing will target the growing demands of Asian Pacific countries, as well as markets in Europe, Alaska, the Lower 48 and other parts of Canada. Prefabricated log homes and lumber, oil and bottled water, native crafts and Klondike lore products are Yukon goods that have all been identified as products with export potential in niche markets. The interest in wilderness tourism is also growing and we look forward to using our strategy to help complement the Yukon tourism industry.
Preliminary discussions with members of the Yukon's small business community have revealed that there is great enthusiasm for aggressively marketing Yukon products abroad. This component of the trade and investment diversification strategy holds the potential for economic expansion of small business, and will help provide access to marketing resources that many small businesses would not normally have.
I would also add that the development of this component of the strategy shows our confidence in the Yukon small business community and recognizes its importance as a major employer and player in the territorial economy.
The strategy will also work to attract investment to further develop Yukon's traditional forestry and mining sectors and capitalize on its emerging oil and gas industry through increased marketing efforts.
The message will be clear: the Yukon welcomes responsible corporate citizens who create jobs and respect the environment.
Since the election, our government has been active in promoting Yukon's resources and received a very favourable response at the Yukon Geoscience Forum, the Cordilleran Roundup and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference, in Toronto.
The development of the trade and investment diversification strategy represents a fundamental expansion in the Yukon government's policy of economic planning and priorities. It sets out a plan to achieve the long-term economic goal of a stronger, diversified economy.
The strategy will involve a partnership between government and the private sector. It will be developed cooperatively and implemented, monitored and evaluated by a core management team, made up of representatives from the business community and the Council of Yukon First Nations.
The Department of Economic Development will also be working with trade professionals, Yukon business people with export potential, Industry Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and other levels of government in the creation of this strategy. This unique arrangement demonstrates the project's credibility and the ability of the small business community and the government to work together effectively.
At this time, the Department of Economic Development is working to develop the structure and role of its core management team and devising a plan to identify Yukon products with export possibility.
The potential to create long-term, stable jobs and a diverse, strengthened economy for Yukon through the development of this strategy, is exciting. I'm enthusiastic about its potential and look forward to developing it in partnership with the Yukon's small business community.
Mr. Ostashek: Once again, the minister has not announced anything new in this ministerial statement that hasn't been announced in the budget or that hasn't been done by previous governments. I'm happy to see that he is continuing to look into diversifying the economy of the Yukon, but it is quite clear that this government is smarting that their budget has not been accepted in a positive manner by Yukoners, so they are trying to spin it so that there would be better acceptance of it.
I would say to the minister, maybe when he is on his feet replying, while the objectives of the diversification strategy are laudable - and I encourage the government to keep working in that direction in the long term - I would like the minister to tell those 15.7 percent unemployed Yukoners what this strategy is going to do to put them back to work this summer or in the next year. I don't see anything in here that's going to put them back to work.
Again, while on one hand the government's desire to diversify the economy and move into secondary industries and value-added industries is a laudable goal, on the other hand, they are working in direct contravention to that policy, because in order for these companies - Yukon businesses - to be competitive and to be able to sell their products to more markets, they have to be price competitive. One of the major costs to producing anything in the Yukon is the cost of power. On the one hand, we have power rates going up; on the other hand, we're saying we want to attract investment capital and create more jobs for Yukoners.
I think the minister is going about it the wrong way, and I hope they get this thing back on track very quickly, because Yukoners are getting very, very concerned about it.
Mr. Cable: I have to give the Leader of the Official Opposition some credit. He found more nuggets in this ministerial statement than I was able to find.
I think what we have to hopefully get away from are these press releases under the guises of ministerial statements. Now insofar as this statement is comprehensible - beyond the PR clichés and generalities - it says that diversification is synonymous with stabilization, which is probably right and could be practical, but I think the thesis needs to be tested as to whether, in fact, it's right, and whether, in fact, it's practical.
The Government Leader went to Asia a few months back, and I don't think he has, as yet, given the House a definitive statement on what took place there. There's a reference in the ministerial statement to prefabricated log homes and lumber and bottled water and native crafts and Klondike lore products. It would be useful to hear whether that came out of that trip, and whether there's something definitive, other than general comments - whether people are actually asking for those products.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm somewhat surprised at the negativity from both the Yukon Party and the Liberals to this initiative. We've outlined it in much more detail than we did in the budget. Now this is a completely new initiative. The Yukon Party, suffice to say, went as far as their Cordilleran Roundup a couple of ... They did one trip, I think, to Europe, one down to Florida to be a parade marshal. The former Government Leader went to the Orient a couple of times.
Mr. Speaker, what this is all about is the government formally working together in partnership with the business community to have a vision, to have an outward-looking view to the economy. When times get tough in the Yukon, very often there's an argument over the size of the government pie and how it can be divided up. What we're trying to do is look beyond the borders of the Yukon for export, to try and identify niche markets that Yukon products can capitalize on, and we want to do it very aggressively. Ancillary to that, we want to continue to promote the Yukon as a place for investment capital to create jobs here in a much more aggressive way than was done by the previous administration.
We're very concerned about the unemployment rate as a result of the Faro mine closing. It's something that this territory's been dealing with for quite some time. In 1993, the unemployment rate was 15.7 percent after the mine was down for a number of months in March of 1993. The unemployment rate in March of 1997 is 15.7 percent, exactly the same, and we have the same situation with the Faro mine down again.
Mr. Speaker, we're not happy with that. We're not satisfied with that. That's why we brought in a budget with a number of new initiatives to try and create jobs in the Yukon, in all aspects of dealing with the situation, from training to direct financial assistance to initiatives such as this, to Yukon business centres, and the list goes on and on, in addition to $88 million in capital works.
So, Mr. Speaker, we're working on the issues, and what we cannot do is what the Yukon Party did: tax and spend and tax and spend. They spent $35 million more than they took in last year. We couldn't continue to do that. We had to trim back, and we didn't want to tax people like they did.
We are working within our means. I think we have some good ideas. I think this initiative has already fostered a number of meetings with the business community. They are very excited about it, the business people that I've talked to, and want to participate. So, I'm disappointed in the member's criticism and negativity but I'm not surprised by it.
With regard to the Government Leader's trip to Asia, a lot of the strategy has spawned from that and I would have thought that if the Member for Riverside was that interested, he would have asked about it in Executive Council Office debate that we've been doing over the last couple of days, but, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure, at some juncture, if the member is really interested he could stand up and ask the Government Leader about it, maybe in Question Period, and he could tell him some more about it.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, I would like to remind members to keep their remarks parliamentary. Yesterday, I heard the words "hypocritical" and "hypocrisy" several times, both of which are unparliamentary. I would ask members to keep in mind the provisions of Standing Order 19(1)(h), (i) and (j).
This, then, brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, power rates
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation, who will soon go down in the history of the Yukon as the minister responsible for the highest energy prices ever.
Mr. Speaker, the minister must surely be aware that the 20-percent interim rate increase request that was announced by Yukon Energy Corporation on Friday is spreading alarm through Yukon communities and among Yukoners, especially those Yukoners that are unemployed or on fixed incomes. Yukoners simply do not accept the premise that when the Faro mine shuts down, power rates go up; that when the Faro mine starts up, power rates go up. So, I'm going to ask the minister today if he could give assurances to Yukoners right now in this House today that when the Faro mine resumes operations, the power rates will automatically decrease by 20 percent - that it will disappear. Will he give the House that commitment today?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'm pleased to respond to the question on this point, Mr. Speaker. He, himself, was the architect of the 60-percent solution back in 1993 when the Curragh mine shut down.
I would say to the member that I am not the Yukon Utilities Board, but we are committed to working on stabilization of rates, so that is why we brought back to life the bill relief program that the Yukon Party had no intention of bringing back in in December.
On the issue of the proposed rate increases before the Yukon Utilities Board, I would say to the member that it's on the basis of the Faro mine being down. It's targetted to be rebated if the Faro mine goes back up. If he reads the submission, he would see that clearly. The Yukon Utilities Board will be looking at the submission before it. They will be scrutinizing it - as will the interveners - and then once there is a decision from the Yukon Utilities Board, we will respond, as a government, to that decision with whatever action we can take, and we're looking at options.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, we know that, but Yukoners aren't accepting that, and just before I came into the Legislature today, I was listening to the CBC radio interviewing Yukoners on the street, and a lady was on there who said that she doesn't believe for one minute that the 20-percent increase is going to disappear when the Faro mine comes back on stream. So, I'm asking the minister to give that commitment. On April 3rd, the minister predicted that the Faro mine would be back in operation by August. That's what he said. Well, I'm asking the minister - that same minister who had all the answers to Yukoners' energy needs when he was in Opposition here - to give his commitment that if the mine goes back into operation in August and September, Yukoners' power rates will go down by 20 percent. Could he give that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, in order to do that, I want to be assured that the numbers that we were talking about in this artificial debate were in fact the final numbers that are achieved by the Utilities Board after they hear the submission that's before them, and I guess they'll be looking at that sometime in the third or fourth week in April. So, we're talking about situations here that are not before us.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Utilities Board will be looking at the situation. They are an independent, quasi-judicial board. When and if they make a decision - and we'll see what that decision is, because it could very well be a substantial reduction in rates - then the government will respond. If the Faro mine goes back into production, obviously that's the best solution for the end of the submission for an increase in power for a revenue loss as a result of the mine shutting down.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, three strikes and you're out. I'm going to give the minister one last opportunity to come clean with the Yukon. He's now trying to say, "Well, maybe the rates aren't going to go up 20 percent." Okay, I'll give him that; maybe they won't.
Will the minister make the commitment, whatever the rates go up to on this interim application - be they 15 percent, be they 18 percent or 20 percent - that the minute the mine goes back into production, the rates will come down by the same amount as they're going up in this interim application?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, perhaps the member opposite should be talking to the Yukon Utilities Board. That was the same board that he defended so vehemently back in 1996 when the mine went back into production and they ruled that the cost of service was not being paid enough by residential consumers and didn't bring the rates back down for residential but only for commercial. Mr. Speaker, then the Yukon Party administration removed people from the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to him that when the Yukon Utilities Board looks at this submission and they make a decision, we will take the appropriate response as a government to try to mitigate the effects of any decision, once we know what we're dealing with here. Of course, if the mine goes back into production, that's the best solution for all.
So, Mr. Speaker, we would want to advocate the position that there would be mitigating effects, absolutely, if the Anvil Range Mine comes back into production, obviously.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, power rates
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but yet at the same time the minister won't stand in this House and give Yukoners that commitment. I'm sure that anybody that's listening to this Question Period is going to say, "Here we go again."
Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the same minister concerning broken NDP election promises. Yukoners will soon be living in dire straits as a consequence of the lack of action by this minister and broken election promises of the NDP government to keep power rates affordable. Will this minister, since he can't give a commitment that rates will come down 20 percent when the mine goes back into operation, give his commitment here today that there will be no further rate increases for the duration of this government's mandate, as they promised Yukoners before they were elected? Will he make that pledge here today?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member is completely misinformed. The New Democrats, when we were putting together A Better Way, if he looks at page 21, he can simply see that that was our election commitment to the public; that we were going to take action to help stabilize rates. That is why, in December, we brought back to life the bill relief program.
We've been hit with the situation of Anvil Range going off the main grid and losing our major customer. We are trying to deal with that situation. Once the Yukon Utilities Board looks at the situation and as the interveners intervene, and once they scrutinize the application, I am sure that there will be ways to mitigate the impact of the proposed 20 percent, as it is now, just as there was back in 1993, when the Yukon Party administration started off at 60 percent.
Mr. Ostashek: My supplementary: in Opposition, the NDP circulated a petition, a page of which I have here. It stated categorically, and I quote, "The Yukon government has the power to keep electrical rates affordable." That's what they stated in their petition. I'm going to table that document.
I want to ask the minister now, because, this morning, on CHON FM, the minister said, "There is very little that the government can do to stop it." I want to ask the minister which statement is true: the one he made this morning or the one that was put in the petition by the NDP?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, I want to say to the member that one of the very first actions of this government was to bring back to life the bill relief program in December. Government does have some power with regard to energy rates, and that's why we brought back to life the bill relief program, and that's the reason for the petition, because when that petition was being circulated, the Yukon Party was refusing to commit to re-establishing the bill relief program. That is why we did it and we stand by that.
As a result of our petition, the Yukon Party, on their election campaign, through some deathbed repentance, decided they would bring back to life - or announced they would, if re-elected - the bill relief program.
We are not saying that there's nothing we can do; what we are saying to Yukoners is that we wanted some consultation with the interveners. We asked the Yukon Energy Corporation to discuss the issue with interveners, prior to going for their application, to try and make some suggestions and give them lots of information going into the Utilities Board hearings. Once the Utilities Board makes the decision, as they go through that process - they are an independent quasi-judicial body - then the government can respond accordingly.
Mr. Ostashek: Two hours ago, on CHON-FM, the minister said, "There's little the government can do." Now he says there is something they can do. He won't say which statement is true. I don't know what he expects Yukoners to believe from him and this administration.
My final supplementary to this minister - but, before I get into it, I should just say to the minister that as good as he is at flip-flops, he should maybe ask for a new category to be put in at the Olympics so that he could enter it, because he'd be the master, he'd win the gold medal at flip-flops.
This minister and this government unilaterally directed Yukon Energy Corporation not to draw down the licensing range of their water licence for Aishihik. So the government has the power to do things. That decision cost the Energy Corporation and Yukon ratepayers $5 million. So, the minister can't cop out by saying that he can't do anything to reduce Yukoners' energy bills. Just by reversing that one decision alone, he could do something.
So, will the minister take immediate action to ensure that there are no further power increases during the duration of this government? Can he give Yukoners that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would suggest to the member opposite, first of all, that we didn't commit to that in the election campaign.
Secondly, I would suggest to the member opposite that he didn't commit to that either, for the reasons that he knows full well.
We, with regard to the Aishihik Lake decision, accepted the recommendations of the technical advisory group on Aishihik re-licensing not to draw down the bottom two feet. That's the only directive we've given to the Energy Corporation. That was an election commitment that we made to the public of the Yukon. That was also an election commitment that the Yukon Party made to the public of the Yukon, but obviously had no intention of keeping.
We didn't say we couldn't do anything about energy rates. That's why we brought in bill relief in December and brought it back to life.
Secondly, with regard to the application before the Yukon Utilities Board, we are going to wait for that process - that quasi-judicial process - to go through. Once there's a decision made on whatever the level of rate increase might be, then we will respond as a government, and we're presently looking at options.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Ms. Duncan: My question's for the Minister of Education.
Last week, I asked the minister questions about the Yukon excellence awards, and I'd like to re-visit that issue.
The minister indicated that a committee was reviewing the Yukon excellence awards. Would she indicate, for the record, the membership of the committee and the timing for their reporting to her?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will be happy to bring back for the member the list of who participates in the departmental assessment committee. As I indicated to the member last week, the school chairs' meeting that will be held May 2nd and 3rd is the time line at which we hope to present the draft paper on the Yukon excellence awards review.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that new information regarding the council meeting.
The minister says that there is a committee reviewing these awards, and the basis for the awards is the territorial exam marks, like the grade 10 science and the grade 10 math marks. The exams for these two subjects, at least for next year, have been cancelled. By cancelling the exams, the awards could be cancelled.
Has the minister prejudged the work of this committee, or is the committee coming up with a new basis for the awards?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, the minister has not prejudged the work of the departmental assessment committee. The departmental assessment committee was established when the Yukon excellence awards were established by the previous Management Board and previous Cabinet. The departmental assessment committee has operated within its sphere of influence and has made decisions that have not been a result of ministerial direction.
Ms. Duncan: The NDP have yet another "oops" on their hands. In Opposition, the awards were, and I quote, "Neither fair nor sensible." Now, in government, the NDP have discovered that the Yukon excellence awards are actually helping a number of university students.
Is the real mandate of this committee to come up with a new form of Yukon excellence awards and let the minister meet the NDP campaign commitments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The department has drafted an option paper for consideration by the major education partners, and the member opposite has, in fact, been an advocate of exactly that approach. I'm looking forward to the responses from the school council members, from parents, from students, and from other members of the education community on a review of awards for students.
Question re: Police commission proposal
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on his statements during the campaign, on the police commission idea.
During that campaign, the NDP floated the idea of a police commission and, in the September 6th issue of the Yukon News, the Government Leader was quoted as saying, "A police commission made up of citizens, the police and various justice officials could help direct both public policy and the administration of justice."
Could the Government Leader tell us where this idea sits? Is this still a commitment of the NDP government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The commitment of the NDP government to work with the police and work with the community to ensure that the RCMP are responding appropriately to community concerns is an ongoing project.
Mr. Cable: My question for the Justice minister then: the Government Leader, in the same news clip, went on to say, "Such a commission would ensure that our priorities as a community are reflected not only through the administration of justice through the police services, but right through to which cases are taken on by the Crown and how aggressively they're pursued."
Are there problems with the policing function in the Yukon Territory that can't be dealt with through the RCMP contract, in the view of the Justice minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The position that we took was that we would consider options such as a Yukon police commission. What we want to ensure is that Yukon people are involved in policing issues and Justice priorities. There is an ability to do that, and we are doing exactly that. As one example, the joint vision leadership statement that was announced in this House a couple of weeks ago that all parties supported very clearly indicates the priority of community policing for the RCMP.
Mr. Cable: It appears from what was floated that the government is suggesting that the supervision of the police and the supervision of the prosecutors be put under some sort of same body. Now it's usual that the police and prosecutors report to different bosses, so that there's some separation. In fact, Nova Scotia has gone so far as to set up a director of public prosecutions who can only be fired by the Legislature.
Is this minister satisfied and comfortable with the idea of putting the police and the prosecutors under the same umbrella supervisory board?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure just where the member is coming from with his line of questioning, but perhaps I should point out for him that the prosecution in the Yukon is not strictly a territorial responsibility. There are territorial prosecutors who can prosecute under territorial acts. The Crown attorney function is still retained by the federal government, and I'll certainly look forward to continued support from both the Liberal and the Yukon Party on completing the transfer of the Crown attorney function to the Yukon government.
Question re: Electricity bills, costs
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the minister in charge of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners are not just totally bewildered with the cost of their power bills, but they are certainly amazed, now that they are looking at their bills in more detail, as to how these electrical invoices are structured. Yukoners are asking, "What are we actually paying for electricity? What and how much are the bills being subsidized? How does the rate relief program work? What's the cost of service, and how does that work?"
Will the minister undertake to have the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. issue simplified electrical bills that can be understood by the lay person, and will he undertake to do this within a reasonable length of time?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm extremely pleased to get an opportunity to stand on my feet to respond to another question on energy, but before I do that, I would like to table the news report that the former Government Leader was referring to, where he attributed a quote to me that was actually not a quote of mine; it was a quote of some reporter.
I think that the member was doing something that was less than above board by attributing a quote to me that I didn't make to try and make a headline in Question Period.
Now, secondly, with regard to the question, Mr. Speaker, it would be acceptable certainly for the member opposite, if he's concerned, to make a suggestion to the Yukon Energy Corporation Board to look at taking his initiative under their wing and developing a simplifying process. I think the idea may have some merit, and I'd be prepared as well to make a suggestion to the Energy Corporation Board to look into ways they might be able to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his great acceptance of an initiative from this side, but now that we have the new, improved rate relief program, can the minister explain how this new, improved rate relief program works? Why do electrical consumers who use more than the previous limit of the program of 1,000 kilowatts but less than the new limit of 1,500 kilowatts actually receive less rate relief than they did before? Is this in keeping with the NDP promise of keeping power rates affordable?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, there were modest changes to the rate relief program that I announced in the Legislature in December that was brought back to life after it was the intention of the Yukon Party to kill it. We did that to try and stabilize energy rates. What we did is what we announced in December. We stabilized the rates in all communities, not those just on the WAF grid. We included those communities who were serviced mostly by diesel.
The efforts that we took with regard to the 1,500 kilowatt hours is to try and encourage some energy conservation. One of the concerns about the rate relief program from a lot of Yukoners, as they've indicated to us, is that there is not enough incentives built into it for energy conservation. That's a priority of this government: energy conservation. The energy commissioner will be looking at a new and improved rate relief program in consultation with Yukoners over the calendar year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as a consequence of this new rate relief program, most Yukoners are experiencing an increase in their power bills and the minister's explanation as to how this is occurring is virtually as clear as mud. I had asked the minister to undertake, along with a simplified power bill, to give the public a clear explanation of how this new rate relief program is working. Tell us how it's more beneficial to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is - and it was done on the impetus of the board itself - that there was a flyer included, and I saw it in a recent billing action by the utility, that explained the new rate relief program in really simple terms. But if it wasn't simple enough for the member opposite then I'll try and ensure that we get a simpler version.
I'll try and explain it to once more. The issue is, number one, that we wanted to spread out rate relief through all the communities, not give an unfair advantage to those communities on the WAF grid. Secondly, we wanted to build in some incentive for people to conserve energy. So, Mr. Speaker, that's the reason for the 1,500 kilowatt hour threshold. We think it's a good initiative, and I'm sure the energy commissioner's champing at the bit to continue his work in developing the new energy rate relief program.
Contrary to the Liberal press release - the most confrontational press release that I've seen in some time from the party that was supposed to be the alternative to the politics of confrontation - there is no plan to eliminate rate relief.
Question re: Historic Resources Centre
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism.
The holistic view of the Beringia development project included the Historic Resources Centre. There were a number of very good reasons for this Yukon Historic Resources Centre. It would bring together the exhibits and work spaces of the people who work so diligently to preserve Yukon heritage into one location. In effect, the Historic Resources Centre was the legs of the Beringia dinosaur. Does the minister agree that the Yukon Historic Resources Centre was an integral part of the Beringia Centre development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I like your play on words - it's a good play on words - the mammoth; the leg or the mammoth - that's very good.
The Historic Resources Centre - we are going to be examining that this summer and there are monies in there that we may roll over to examine the incentive. Yes, it is an important part of the move.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Minister of Tourism for that answer. Can he give an indication to the Legislative Assembly where the monies for the Yukon Historic Resources Centre might be found?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Historic Resources Centre has just been deferred; it has not been cancelled. We'll be looking at it through the proper budgeting process, which I anticipate we will be getting into in later summer, early fall.
Ms. Duncan: I was witness to the now Minister of Health's video-recorded commitment to the Tourism Industry Association members that if the NDP formed the government, the Beringia project, including the Yukon Historic Resources Centre, would be completed. Looks like we have another "oops" on our hands.
Would the minister provide a time frame for when the NDP government intends to meet this commitment?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we will certainly be looking at it in the context of the budgeting process this year. I stress that it has been deferred; it hasn't been cancelled. It is a matter of priorities. We will certainly be giving it due diligence during the budgeting process that is coming up this summer and late fall.
Question re: Bos, the police dog
Mr. Phillips: Last fall, in September, I believe, a famous Yukoner retired from service and we have been without this Yukoner's service since then; that's Bos, the police dog. Bos was retired in September, with a commitment that the police dog would be replaced with another police dog.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro thinks it's funny, but an awful lot of people thought that the police dog, when he was here, provided a very valuable service and actually apprehended quite a few criminals when he was here.
There have been a lot of break and entries in the last little while, and the police dog was used exclusively in that years ago and did a great job.
I wonder if the Minister of Justice has plans to replace the police dog and, in fact, when can we expect the replacement to be here and in service?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thought that with the investigative work that the Justice critic was now taking on in the community, that we had things well...
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'll have to come back to the member with a response on the police dog.
Mr. Phillips: For the minister's information on the two cases that I raised in the House here, I've been right on both cases. In both cases...
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Phillips: It's too bad that the individual, the government itself, and the Justice department couldn't do its job.
I'd like the minister to come back in the House and let us know. I understand that there was some work being done on replacement of the dog and training, and surely, the Minister of Justice should have a briefing note or should know when the police dog is to be here.
I understand we're using some temporary tracking dogs now, but we don't have a dog that can provide the full services that a police dog can, and when can we expect to get one?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm somewhat surprised that the former minister should misapprehend what the role of the Justice department is, on so many cases.
As I said, in response to his first question, I will get an answer for him about the police dog. I do know that there are a number of dog trainers in the Yukon who have dogs that can do a lot of this work, and who also train other people to work with their dogs.
Mr. Phillips: That's fine and dandy, but the dogs that are here now, that we use, are basically tracking dogs and they're not dogs that provide the full services. That's why I want the minister to get back to us as soon as she can with an answer.
Is it a commitment by this minister that they are planning to replace that dog and is her government is supportive of having a police dog in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I thank the member for his question, and as I've said, I will get back to him with a response as soon as I can.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of Government Private Members' Business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 16, 1997. It is Motion No. 58, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane.
Speaker: We 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.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Today, we are dealing with Executive Council Office, Cabinet Commissions. Is there general debate?
Executive Council Office - continued
On Cabinet Commissions - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. McDonald: One outstanding item, Mr. Chair, that I indicated I would provide to members was the inside territory travel for commissioners, and today I have that for tabling.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to start out by saying to the minister I am somewhat disappointed that the government wants to deal with this one outstanding issue so quickly. I thought we had an arrangement yesterday where we would have a couple of days to look at the information. I don't know what the rush is to clear this department. We certainly haven't had time to go through the information in detail and to be able to analyze it so that we could come back with some intelligent questions - and not just prolong debate in the Legislature.
I am very disappointed, because I thought we had an agreement yesterday that we would have a couple of days to look at this and not be rushed into clearing it on the opening of the Legislature today.
I haven't had time to go through this in detail. I talked to my colleague from Riverside, and he hasn't had time to go through this in detail. And I just think it's unfair of the minister to want us to clear this immediately, but, nevertheless, the government does have the majority and there's not a lot that we can do about it.
But, if that's the attitude the government is going to take, then we will just have to analyze this information when we get time and use up our Question Periods to get out the information that we need. I think it's grossly unfair of the Government Leader to use his big majority to force the closure of this debate at this time in the Legislature.
I mean we could ramble on all afternoon with crazy questions just to keep the debate going. I told the Government Leader yesterday that I didn't want to do that. I just wanted to have the opportunity to come back after analyzing the information to see if I had any more questions that I felt needed to be responded to so that we have a clear idea of where this government is going. I put that on the record. I'm not going to belabour it, Mr. Chair.
The only question that I can have for the minister at this time is that we asked for him to come back and tell us: of any of the positions that were seconded to the commission from the departments, which ones had to be refilled by other people? I don't see that in this information. This information is very complex. It's not that simple and that easy to understand, and it takes some analysis, but if the member can answer that for me now, that's the only question that I can put to him at this time, and, again, just for the record, I'm very disappointed that we didn't get what I believe we had in agreement yesterday.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'm very disappointed that the member is taking this position. I presume he's being supported by the Member for Riverside. Until the Riverside member tells me differently, I'll make that assumption.
First of all, let's talk about what has been put on the record so far. A week and a half ago, I provided the members with a full organization chart of the commissioners and all staff associated with the commissions' work. I provided the members with full membership of the sub-committee, Cabinet sub-committee membership, and I provided members with a budget for the Executive Council Office expenditures. The only item that I did not provide members at the time was the actual costs of the personnel that I had already identified and were seconded - in terms of their position, I had already identified to members previously a week ago.
With respect to the mandates, the mandates, of course, have been provided to all members last sitting. On top of that, commissioners have been announcing workplans in this Legislature and taking the trouble to keep members informed and going to considerable work to accomplish that task.
Now, the member asked for further information - even more minute detail - about the budgets of the commissions.
I provided that information. The member asked for an extra day to look at the information and consider it. We gave them that extra day. The only additional information that they requested the extra time for, is the information I handed out yesterday, and it's a two-pager. It's not that complicated. Certainly anyone who's been responsible for budgets, or has been around budgets for a considerable period of time, should be able to understand this with a very quick reading.
The member asked which positions were backfilled. I told the members last week which positions were backfilled - two people who are working for the local hire commission.
So the member's suggestion that I'm being unfair I think is very, very unfair, and I can't accept his notion that he's being railroaded in any way. This government has been nothing but giving of information. Even when we do give the information, I discover that the information is, in a rather deceptive way, put out in public by my good colleagues. There was a press release even today about the spider-like growth of the Executive Council Office, and this is all because the organization chart showed every single position in the Executive Council Office, and it looked bigger than that which existed in the main estimates budget book.
Now, the Member for Klondike, of course, is expressing his ignorance, once again, and doing it very forcefully, and I thank him for that - in his heckling. But the point I'm making is that the members asked for every position; I provide the positions; and then they compare their organization chart from their main estimates book - which is a branch-by-branch organization chart, not all the personnel - with the organization chart that he requested, which we went to some trouble to get, which had every single person, in order to try to make a visual point that the department was growing like a spider. That is deceptive. That's the best characterization I can put on that particular move.
So if the member is thinking that we have done anything other than be very giving of information and have tried to get the information out as accurately and as well as we can, he's wrong. We've been doing everything we can and we've got lots of information. We have had people working very hard to make sure that the information, as they wished it, in the format they wanted, is given, and in a timely way.
Presumably, one question that the members may ask of the commissioners is what they're doing, if they haven't got enough information with respect to the workplans or they haven't got enough information with respect to deadlines or their consultation exercises or the nature of the projects at hand. If they want to get that kind of information or they want to find out that kind of information, there are people sitting right here waiting to answer those questions.
If the member wants the information characterized and re-jigged and recrafted in some other way, please let me know and I will be as accommodating as I have been already. But, I cannot accept the member's proposition that we have not been giving of information or that we have not given the members considerable time to consider this. Commissions are not a new idea in this Legislature. We've been talking about this now for four months. There have been all kinds of announcements made. There have been all kinds of opportunities to talk about commissions and their work.
I would submit, with the greatest respect, that now is as good a time as any to talk about commissions.
Mr. Ostashek: This is utter nonsense, and the Government Leader knows it. If he wants to talk about deception, he should know, because he is a master of deception.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McDonald, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the member knows very well that to make an allegation such as that - as grave as that - and referring to me, personally, as a master of deception is unparliamentary. He should withdraw it completely, not in the half-assed way he normally does.
Mr. Ostashek: I ask the Government Leader to withdraw his remark that I was deceptive in releasing those documents to the paper. I was no more deceptive than he is.
Mr. Phillips: Some of the language that the Government Leader used in his response to the point of order was quite unparliamentary and should not be used. He should stand up and withdraw the remark.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to be the first to admit that using the word "half-assed" is unparliamentary.
I stand by the position that I have taken that the member has made a serious accusation and it should be withdrawn. If it is not withdrawn, then I will ask Mr. Speaker himself to rule on this matter and call the House back into order.
Chair: On the point of order, I accept Mr. McDonald's withdrawal, and invite Mr. Ostashek to also withdraw the phrase, "master of deception".
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, if I have to withdraw that phrase, then the Government Leader should withdraw the phrase before that that accused me of deception.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I indicated that the work that the Yukon Party had done to try to misrepresent information that I had willingly and graciously provided to the members was an act of deception. I did not refer to the member as deceptive.
Now, the member opposite has returned the favour by calling me deceptive, and that's unparliamentary and he should withdraw it.
Chair: Order please. I'd like to remind all members to keep their remarks parliamentary and language parliamentary and refrain from casting insults on the other members, and remember the cooperative atmosphere I believe everybody agreed to in this Legislature. We shall resume now.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I again say I resent the manner that the Government Leader is dealing with us on this matter. I asked for this information - not when this Legislature starting sitting. I wrote a letter to the Government Leader a long time ago requesting this information. It never came forward until we got to Committee debate on the Executive Council Office. I'll bring the letters forward and table if the Government Leader would like them.
Mr. Chair, we didn't compare his expanded organization chart to our organization chart. We compared the two organization charts that he put in his own budget book. That's what we were comparing. Those are the ones that we are comparing. The press had them all, all three of them. So, for the minister to take exception to that, that's fine. He can go ahead and take it.
I still am on the public record that I don't believe that this government is dealing with us fairly, not dealing with this Legislature fairly. They're not dealing fairly at the House Leaders' level even. They're using their large majority to operate in any manner that they so choose and they've got a majority and they can do it. All I want to do is be on the public record that that's what's happening.
Some day, the members opposite are going to need cooperation from this side of the House and we'll have to analyze whether we give it to them at that time or not.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member, of course, is speaking nonsense when he says that the government has not been providing information. Information that the member requested with respect to the budgets was tabled last week.
And, the information was given in a standard format - it was not only given in a standard format, it was given in some detail. What the member asked for was even in greater detail and crafted in a particular kind of way. And, the people worked in the department over the course of the balance of that week, and into the weekend to make sure that the information was drawn from departments to make sure that we had all the accurate information.
Quite contrary to the member's assertion that the government has not been responsive, he's wrong - he's completely and totally, dead wrong on that question, and I must say that I've given the members complete information.
I'm just waiting for the press release that the Yukon Party tabled today, because I want to demonstrate to the member that, on the second question, he's also wrong. He did not compare the organization chart that we had put in our budget book with the organization that they had in their budget book. He compared the organization chart that I provided, in the Legislature, at his request, including every single position in the department with the organization chart that he had in his budget book.
That organization chart was considerably different and it leaves a very, very different impression. This is the organization chart that he claimed - for members' information - was the organization chart of the very simplified Executive Council Office.
This is the organization chart where he says, "As a demonstration of the spider-like growth in the Department of Executive Council Office." Draw your own conclusions.
The information is on the table; the information about the budgets of the commissions is on the table. The information about the budgets that the member requested was on the table last week - last Tuesday.
I know the member - who has been around budgets for a while now - is more than capable of taking a week to analyze a simple commission's budget.
The member was able to give a second reading speech commenting on the entire budget and drew conclusions on the entire budget, in less time than that.
So, I don't know what the member is up to.
We have been waiting for some time to get into the House to debate these budgets. I have been as accommodating as anybody has ever been in this Legislature about giving information - moreso - and the member is suggesting that somehow - he's drawing the conclusion somehow, for his own purposes, for some reason, that this is unfair. I don't accept that.
Mr. Ostashek: We will agree to disagree, and I don't expect much different from the member opposite, but I do want to say to the member opposite the press release that went to the press, the two documents in the back were marked, "NDP government" and "Yukon Party government", not the expanded one on the foolscap page. It was not marked.
There are the comparable documents that you put in your budget book. You put these in your budget book. Those are out of your budget book.
So, Mr. Chair, we're not going to agree on that issue at all, and I am on the public record. The government members are being arrogant and is using their large majority to bull things through this Legislature, and that's fine. They've got a majority, and we'll deal with it and we'll see how the Yukoners look at it three and a half years from now.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I know what arrogance is all about when it comes to making brutal judgments about people and using massive majorities to pick on people. I know what that's all about. I sat in this Legislature for a full afternoon listening to a brutal Yukon Party majority take a run at my character and a run at the character of citizens on the street. And it's in this budget, too.
We've just dealt with public plebiscites and the $80,000 that they used and all the personnel, and there were people working overtime in lands branch. I met them coming in on Saturdays, saying, "We were told, Piers, that we have to go out there. We have to work on it overtime, try to get all the information, all the files, because we're supposed to be making a case." It was absolutely - it was more than arrogant. It was more than arrogant.
So that member particularly, and his colleague to his right, are not to lecture me on arrogance in government and how to use your massive majority to do as you will and to attack people. You don't need to talk to me about that. I know all about that. I know all about that as having been a victim of that.
The Member for Riverdale North says, "Because you're so pure." Well, Mr. Chair, watching that member sit there with that Cheshire cat smile on his face after having commanded, along with his colleagues, an $80,000 expenditure to attack and attempt to destroy good citizens' reputations in this territory is something that I find absolutely sickening and abominable.
The members opposite have a lot to learn about what it means to be -
Chair: Order please.
I'd like to remind members that we are discussing the budget, the Executive Council Office Cabinet commissions, and let's please get back on track.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, in following your advice, all the information the members want, in the manner that they want it, has been put forward and put forward well in advance of this discussion. We have lots of time to debate this particular submission. If people want to talk about the commissions and the commissions' work, we've got commissioners, we've got everybody sitting here. Everybody's waiting to respond to questions and do so as well and as accurately as we can.
Mr. Ostashek: The member can say what he likes. That is his right in this Legislature, but he's responsible for that budget, not his commissioners.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member, I know, may not have a lot of respect for the rules of the House, but the rules, by resolution of this House, have been changed, and commissioners are allowed to speak for their budgets, are allowed to speak for their commissions. If there is a question about the money, a question about the executive or the Cabinet direction, I'm here to answer. The members have asked questions about the budgets and budget allotments. They've asked it to be presented in a particular kind of way. I've presented it in a particular kind of way. They've asked for it to be presented in a different way, and I presented it in a different way, so I've been doing everything I can to be as accommodating as I possibly can.
There are commissioners here, members who are responsible for important policy work in the development assessment process, in energy, in forestry and local hire, who are prepared to speak to the substance of the issue - not the superficial stuff - and the policies that have to be addressed. They're sitting here waiting for some question of substance.
If any member in the Opposition would care to ask one question of substance, we would appreciate it.
Mr. Cable: I think we've just witnessed a very good argument why these proceedings should not be televised. The taxpayers, of course, might move to cut off our salaries.
I don't think there's been any question, as far as I'm concerned, that the information has been forthcoming. Obviously the Leader of the Official Opposition has, in his view, not received the information that he wants, but that's beside the point. I think the concession that was asked was not an unreasonable concession - a short period of time for the review of the material that was handed out yesterday. Whether or not the Government Leader agrees with it is beside the point. I don't think we want to be in a position where we're imputing motives for a short delay. I don't think we want to put the Leader of the Official Opposition on an affidavit that he's got some plot underway. He's asked for what, in my view, was a reasonable request, and I would encourage the Government Leader to reconsider his position. A delay for one day to go through all those documents and paper presented yesterday, I think, is appropriate.
To me, I can't see any down side. Why are we resisting this? What is the down side to the short delay? Is there some trouble that the Government Leader is going to get into in the next 24 hours?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Of course not, Mr. Chair. That's an assertion or an accusation or a suggestion that is, of course, completely unfounded. Maybe it's done to provoke me. I don't know, but it won't.
The commissions have been doing work in this territory for a considerable time. The information that the member has requested about the commissions and the commission activity has all been put on the table. The only information that was provided yesterday was a recalculation of commission costs to meet a particular standard for whatever reasons the members wanted it, and so we took the time over the weekend to provide that information and to get that information ready to table.
Now, this has not prevented the members opposite from having already drawn conclusions about the commissions' work. I'm eager to have discussion about the commissions. I'm eager to get some questions about the commissions' work, because we've already heard directed attacks from the Yukon Party and sidewinders from the Liberal Party about the commissions, and it's the time that we started talking about some substance.
The only information that was tabled yesterday was a two-pager recasting the information that I had already provided on the cost of the commissions. Now, what is it that the members find so complicated about that particular budget? Why is it so complicated? That's what I would like to know. There's nothing complicated about it at all. Members in this House have taken more complicated information and drawn conclusions on that information in a heartbeat.
Now, we have a situation where we've provided information starting last December and all through the period right up until now. We had information on mandates, on memberships of committees, on travel schedules, on workplans. We've answered questions about the budget in detail, organization charts - everything that's been on the table, and all that was on the table last week. I mean it was together. It had been given out over the course of the last few months; and then, the information that was tabled yesterday, the members have asked for, I understand, a day to look at it. I thought that we could probably take a break and look at it. They wanted a day. Sure, I'll accommodate, but what I see is a real stubbornness to control the debate, and I don't understand why. I particularly don't understand why when the commissioners are continually being criticized from the Opposition benches.
All they're doing is waiting for an opportunity to speak, and to explain themselves and for me to participate and help.
So, if the members have questions about their workplan, or what they're doing, or the characterization of their projects, why not speak to it? That's what the budget's all about. The Executive Council Office is up for debate; now is the time. Why not?
Mr. Cable: I think the why has been expressed.
I'm not going to get into whether the Government Leader has provided the information or whether there's a plot going on. I don't think there is a plot. It was a simple request.
Could I encourage the Government Leader to rethink his position and put this issue over until tomorrow? I would expect that that would provide - from what I've heard - adequate time to go through the documents.
Is he prepared to go that far in the interest of...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Well, cooperation is one of them, but the efficiency of the operation of the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would advise the member, as I'm certain he knows, that cooperation is a two-way street.
We have something that we want to say on the public record before even more misinformation is propagated by the critics.
We want a chance to be able to say our piece. We want a chance to be able to respond to the questions - the honest, legitimate ones - that members have about the commissions.
Now, the member seemed to suggest that somehow we've flooded them with information in the last couple of days and expected them to draw conclusions and ask some intelligent questions.
First of all, the member has to know that that's not true. I was providing information - I've got copies of letters here to the Opposition Leader, back in early January, which were talking about the cost of the commissions, what the annual budget would be, who the people are, what their rank is, the staff - all along. My own impression of the situation is that we've been giving information just as soon as we could provide the information to members opposite.
So, the member is saying, "Why don't you just be cooperative and give us what we want." And, I'm saying in return, "Well, I've given everything that the members want", and I'd like to simply state that I don't understand why we can't debate this, because we've got commissioners here who want to answer questions.
We have a statement to put on the record. Even if it's not accepted by the members in the Opposition, we have things to say about commissions, and we'd like to respond to the members' concerns.
Mr. Cable: Look, I'm not questioning the Government Leader's presentation of information. He obviously has some argument with the Leader of the Official Opposition and he can hassle that out himself. As far as we're concerned, the information has been forthcoming and that's not the point. I think the Government Leader's angry and he's missing the point. The point is that there has been a request made that doesn't appear to be unreasonable. We're all getting our backs up, and with a 24-hour adjournment on this issue, we might be able to solve the problem. We'll certainly go tomorrow.
There are a couple of questions I'd like the Government Leader to consider and I'll put them in a moment or two. In the interest of getting over this hurdle, is he prepared to put the matter over for one day? I think there is a matter of principle here, not just a matter of whether some press release misconstrues facts or whether the documents are all on the table.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I suspect it's less a matter of principle and more a matter of a power play, frankly, and that really disturbs me because we have indicated on a number of occasions that we are trying to provide information. I have people working over the weekend, for crying out loud, to make sure that we have the information for Monday and make sure that the information was correct and make sure that the departments weren't double-counting or giving mistaken information.
We had people working hard to provide this information in a way that the members wanted because I thought that the members wanted to get down to this and have an honest debate. I've got people sitting in my office who are listening to the debate, who are ready to respond to any detailed questions that the members asked. If we don't do it today, I'll say, "Come on back tomorrow night. You can spend an evening here, too. I'm sure it will be a lovely experience." And they'll come and they'll answer the questions in the debate tomorrow night.
What puzzles me and what concerns me and saddens me is that we have put all this energy into answering questions, not just in the last few days, not in the last couple of weeks, but over the course of the last four months on this subject. Already, the verdict has been that we have been convicted, at least in the minds of some members in the Opposition, that these commissions are not useful. This is starting to wear thin, this criticism, particularly as we've been nothing, I believe, but generous in trying to get the information and trying to craft it so that it makes sense, because we believe that they're good projects.
Now we're all ready and we've got everybody ready and we've got all the information on the table. I had people go through the Blues making sure that we didn't miss a single question so that people would say, "Well, we didn't have this answered, we didn't have that answered." I want to get all the questions answered, then let's have the debate. There's got to be more to the commissions, in any case, than simply the budget. Are there any questions about the commissions' work?
Mr. Ostashek: I'm pretty well on the record for what I wanted to say. I just have one thing I want to say to the Government Leader. His argument might hold a lot more credibility had they made the decision to have this debate after the press release went out. We were told last night, before the press release ever went out, that this was going to be debated as the first order of business in Committee today. I say, fine, go ahead, debate it. I have no more to say on the issue. We'll go along; we'll debate it.
I may not even have any questions after I go through this information. I just felt that we had an arrangement yesterday in Committee, and I may not even have any more questions. I have not had a chance to go through the information in detail, but that's fine.
Mr. Cable: I don't think we're getting anywhere. I would like to get our position on the record. The position that we're going to take is that the commissioner for the development assessment process can be dealt with in the Renewable Resources debate; the commissioner for local hire can be dealt with in the Government Services debate; the commissioner for forestry and the commissioner for energy can be dealt with in the departmental debates. There will be adequate opportunity for us to ask those questions.
I do have a couple of general questions that I'd like the Government Leader to respond to. Does he have any other commissions in mind after these four commissions that he's set up have expired in their mandate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will just respond first to the previous speaker, and then I'll respond to the member.
The member says that they need more time to deal with the information that was provided yesterday. I would point out once again that the information was very rudimentary information and clear information. It was intended to be so, so that members could draw their own conclusions as they wished. It certainly didn't prevent the member from passing judgment on the commissions in the press release yesterday, and that was one of the things that caused me to believe that now is the time for this debate, because he has obviously pointed out the fact that he believes that the commissions are a part of a burgeoning bureaucracy. He doesn't believe, obviously, that they are useful. I would like to have a chance to suggest otherwise.
In answer to the Member for Riverside's question, there is no contemplation at this time of another commission to analyze or review any specific thing. There may be an opportunity - I know there was a suggestion by one of the member's own colleagues that we might consider a commission on another subject - but I do believe it is a very good way of going about pulling together interdepartmental activity and bringing focus to a policy issue. I would be more than happy to entertain any suggestions the member may have.
Mr. Cable: I think the Government Leader is well aware of the fact that we've adopted a wait-and-see posture. Our opinion'll be based on the quality of the product that comes out of the commissions.
When we closed the debate last Tuesday, April the 8th, there was an exchange between myself and the Government Leader on the times for the commissions to perform, and I think he was making the proposition that - well, he couldn't understand why I was suggesting that there be a firm time line when they were originally mandated - and he was making the proposition, I believe, that policy development can't be time-lined. I'm not quite sure I would agree with him on that. I think if he or his departments were to give contracts out for policy development, which I think is done from time to time on certain issues, there's obviously a deadline, and I have reservations, particularly about the Energy Commission not having a firm deadline. It's an issue that is obviously in the public eye, and it doesn't appear to have a clear time line. It could go on forever if it deals with the issues in an unexpeditious way, if I could say that.
What is the reservation about putting a firm time line on these commissions so they have some time to work towards?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member has actually asked for two things, time lines and firm time lines. Presumably, he's asking for deadlines, and I would presume that he's trying to get reassurance that these commissions don't go on and on for ever and ever and just never seem to end.
I share that concern, as do my colleagues, including the commissioners.
The difference, though, as he's indicated with respect to contractors who do the policy analysis - and the policy development work itself - is that the analysis is different from the approval of policy and the thinking that goes into the final approval of policy. The analysis is a very specific project, and even those projects - and if you look at the tender documents, I've actually seen them before - those projects are often more open-ended than a typical contract in any other field.
But there are some general time lines. There's only one specific time line that I'm aware of, right now, and that's December 19th for the development assessment process. The time lines are identified by the commissioners in their work plans, and I invite them to indicate to the member what those time lines are, and I'll let them do that in a minute.
Certainly, there should be some sense of what the project is that we are trying to do - in fairly specific terms - and when we would like to target - in general terms, not specific terms - when we'd like to target completion of this project.
Much of the work that the commissions are doing involve other governments and, like land claims, for example, we cannot be in a position where we're saying this is our projected deadline, we will or won't play after this deadline when it comes to policy development work in this particular area. So, for example, land claims - the member asked me when do I think land claims should be done. I would say, "Well, I hope they're done as soon as possible. I'd like to have a number done in the next year, and I'd like to see them all done in the next two years to two and a half years."
Now that may not be specific enough for the member, and we've got a whole policy unit, so to speak - a working and negotiating unit - working on that subject, but that's the best I can do, because I'm not in control of that process. I'm a participant in the process. The government's a participant. They're not the managers and final decision makers.
That's very true, for example, of the forestry policy development. We're talking about developing a forestry policy for a resource we don't right now manage.
It's very true of the development assessment process, which is clearly a tripartite process anticipated by a land claim agreement. The energy work does have time lines, and the work of the local hire commission does have time lines when they project their analysis to be complete.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure the analogies to the land claim process are totally accurate. That's a negotiation as much as a consultation process. What I'm concerned about is these commissions may take on a life, much like the Somalia inquiry. They're not the same sort of commission, but they seem to be stuck with the same sort of name. They take on their own life and they go on forever.
The Forest Commission, as I understand it, is working to an April 1998 deadline. I think this information came out in the House. In the mandate of the Yukon Hire Commission, the bulk of the work, I gather, is to be done by the 31st of December of this year. Of course, the development assessment process' cadence is mandated by the umbrella final agreement, if I understand it correctly, in a roundabout sort of way. Now, that's a maximum time. There's nothing saying it can't be done tomorrow.
But the one that troubles me is this Energy Commission. What is it the Government Leader would like to see by way of a report on the Energy Commission? We've stumbled over energy policy for a whole decade now, and we haven't intellectually come to grips with it. I would hate to see this exercise become - I was going to use the words "intellectual exercise" - but I would hate to see it go on and on and on and not produce some product, because the problems that we have on the table are, as witness the debate in the House in the last couple of weeks, fairly overwhelming. I think it would be appropriate that there be some target given to the energy commissioner.
Mr. McRobb: As commissioner of the Energy Commission, I'd like an opportunity to respond.
As the Member for Riverside knows, the energy commission released its workplan publicly just last week. March 1999 is the estimated termination point for this commission. It's not something that will go on indefinitely, and I believe the member has been given that assurance on previous occasions. So, I'm a little bewildered why this issue is cropping up once again.
Perhaps it has something to do with the Liberal press release today that accuses us of wanting to do away with rate relief when, in fact, that's not the case at all.
The commission, in its first year, will be conducting a review of rate relief, which includes exploring all options with stakeholders and interested parties. That could include the member opposite.
I recall inviting him in December to take part in this consultation. Once again, we do not pretend we have a monopoly on good ideas. We're leaving the doors open. Let's put everything on the table. Let's see what we can develop, in terms of a good rate relief policy, whether that includes, in part, implementing energy conservation measures for the benefit of not only those customers who see reductions in their monthly bill due to conservation, but also for the rest of the customers on the system because of decreased costs overall.
Also, in the first year, we'll be conducting a review of the Yukon Utilities Board process. As the member is aware, this was reviewed in 1994-95 by the Yukon Party, and it turned it into something a little less desirable than the traditional method, and resulted in very little savings to consumers out of that process while, at the same time, the utility companies absconded with profits higher than that allowed by the Yukon Utilities Board.
So, we're taking another look at that process. It was due to be revisited again in the summer of 1996, but that did not occur. So, we'll be reviewing the Yukon Utilities Board process.
In addition, capital options - new energy options - will be explored at the end of this year. Back in 1992, there was a very expensive capital projects hearing that took place, something to the tune of a quarter million dollars, and nothing was resolved.
So, this commission will be exploring the types of options available and will be prioritizing those options for further development in the Yukon. That will also include demand-side management measures, and anything else that makse sense.
This commission makes sense, and we're going to develop solutions to these energy problems that do make sense. Once the commission's work is well underway, and we begin producing results to these reviews, I'll entertain the member's comments at that time, and I look forward to some positive feedback from the member.
Mr. Cable: That's an interesting speech.
The NDP, back in 1991 or 1992, went through a fairly extensive consultation exercise on the identification of energy-related issues. Has the commissioner been through the product of that exercise, and has he determined whether there are any issues that were not identified at that time?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'm certain the member knows that I am not taking part in the technical review on a daily basis. That's left up to the team we've established: the researchers, the policy analysts, et cetera. However, I can assure him that all previous work will be revisited and anything of value in the previous work will be gleaned out and utilized in our comprehensive energy policy as well as these other reviews that will take place in the first year.
Mr. Cable: The energy commissioner, of course, got off the ground in - what was it? - October 1996, and he's been in the saddle now for - if I can make a bunch of metaphors here - six months, and now he's talking about - what was it? - April 1999. There are issues that need to be addressed. I find it incredible that he is working to that time line when there has been many, many go-arounds on energy policy.
The major issues should be identified. Certainly, the handling of the risk of the Faro shutdown on the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid is an old chestnut, and it needs to be brought together with the comprehensive energy policy. The issue of whether independent power producers can hook into the grid - that issue has been around. The new issues of competition have been sitting in the public domain for at least a couple of years.
The issues that were, in fact, identified back in 1992, I think it was, were not new issues. Why is it that this exercise needs this huge time line to work itself out? Does the minister expect that there will be a bunch of new issues identified when his consultation exercise is over?
Mr. McRobb: I believe it's important to understand that we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. We must not forget about the longer term solution.
This commission is a policy-oriented, action team. We do not simply respond to every little brush fire that comes along. As the member knows, we have a workplan established that gives us little leeway to deviate from the workplan and attend to issues as they crop up, which really aren't policy issues - not in the long term, at least - and we don't have a huge time line. The first year is totally consumed in reviewing the different processes I've identified, including rate relief, the review of capital options, the review of the Utilities Board process, as well as the review of the government's relationship between the Yukon government and the publicly owned Yukon Energy Corporation, the review of the management contract - already, as the member knows, consumers will save $2 million over the next five years if this contract is approved. We are simply very busy in this first year.
In the second and third years, we will concentrate on developing a comprehensive energy policy and seeing the implementation of that policy. We do not intend to re-invent the wheel, as suggested by the member opposite. We will pick up the spokes of the various processes that died along the way and take another look at any new issues that could be identified. We don't have a monopoly on good ideas; we don't have a monopoly on technology. The world keeps on turning. It doesn't stand still for this commission or the member opposite.
Already, last night, we saw on the television news how hydrogen technology has been given a tremendous shot in the arm by an injection of cash from the Germans - the Mercedes-Benz company - to the tune of half of a billion dollars. In my view, this could decrease the waiting period for hydrogen technology considerably. We'll have to wait and see. That's just an example of how technology does develop.
This commission will consider the development of new technology when reviewing different energy options, as well as exploring solutions to the energy-related policy issues of the territory.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I'm pleased to hear that the commissioner is looking at new technology. I intend to pursue the debate further in the Economic Development department. In preparation for that, is the commissioner prepared to give the House a list of all the issues that he's identified to date - I think he identified some of them the other day - so we know exactly what he's working on, so we can reassure ourselves that this isn't some kind of cosmic exercise that's going to go on forever?
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Chair. I can endeavour to table a reference for the hon. member that identifies the issues the commission will be working on in the next year. I also want to emphasize that this commission will be conducting its public reviews through public consultation. And I've referred to this before as being meaningful consultation, not some kind of fly-by-night consultation that we've seen in the past or when decisions were made by backroom boys and the public was completely shut out.
We've already identified several stakeholders, and some of them being new stakeholders - people with a stake in the future of the territory and a stake in the energy-related issues of the territory. I'm very pleased that Yukoners have found the time and interest to be involved in the commission's work. It presents an excellent opportunity to learn about the energy-related issues of importance to the Yukon and to build local knowledge.
Just as importantly, the commission will be building consensus on these issues and, once again, I invite the member opposite or a representative of his third party to attend these consultations and become involved in the processes and be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I refer again to the Liberal Party press release this morning, which seemed to hop on the Yukon Party bandwagon of sensationalism for headlines and not being helpful at all, which is quite contrary to their stated desire to see a more friendlier, cooperative process in this Legislature.
Mr. Cable: I take it, then, that the energy commissioner will provide us with a list of those issues that he's going to deal with, and may I suggest to him that he spend less time in the back rooms of the NDP getting rah-rah-rah'd and a little more time thinking about the work he's got ahead of him, because he has a lot of work.
Mr. McRobb: I've committed to tabling the commission's work plan and I'll be pleased to see the member opposite contribute to that process.
Mr. Livingston: I'd like to take this opportunity to put on the record some information about this government's Development Assessment Process Commission, otherwise known as the DAP Commission.
I think there has been a lot of information that has been played with rather mischievously by the Opposition, and the most recent example is the news release, in fact, that came out over today's fax. I find it interesting that it would appear the Yukon Party had enough time to analyze the information from yesterday to present a news release this morning but don't feel they have enough time to be able to ask questions about the work of the commissions.
I'd like to talk about the contribution that the DAP Commission is going to make to increasing the effectiveness and to providing cost savings to our government's involvement in the tripartite DAP work. Coupled with the consultation and the advice the commission is receiving from stakeholders during community meetings, this will, in fact, improve the focus and improve the product of the Yukon government's contribution and participation in the design of a development assessment process.
I'd like to start off by talking and providing a bit more information to members opposite and to the general public about personnel costs, because that's been one of the issues, in fact, that's been raised. In order to do that, I'm going to go through, in a bit of detail, and some members may want to review the record at a later time on just how we've organized some of the various aspects of the various parts of the DAP Commission and where, in fact, we've drawn the resources from in order to do that.
I'd note, first of all, that the function being filled by the deputy commissioner, in representing the Yukon government at talks with the federal government and CYFN, was previously carried out by a person on contract and by backup staff from the Land Claims Secretariat. In fact, one of the costs that's not noted in the information presented yesterday was the fact that a deputy minister in the Land Claims Secretariat was responsible for supervising that person on contract. So there is certainly an additional cost there that was not noted in the previous organizational structure.
The research and analysis work of one of the positions seconded from the Land Claims Secretariat was previously done at the Land Claims Secretariat, and it's now simply being done within the DAP Commission. Big deal. No additional costs there.
The research and coordinating function of the other position seconded by the commission was previously done, in part, by the same position, as well as with others in the Land Claims Secretariat.
So, no new persons were hired. We simply transferred to the commission these positions in order to consolidate our efforts and to focus this government's efforts on this important policy work.
Finally, I'd note with respect to the positions that we have a position from Renewable Resources and a position from Economic Development that, prior to the establishment of the commission, were involved in work around the development assessment process.
Indeed, it's interesting to note, when one looks at the cost figures and so on that are presented, that it was only April 1st of 1996 when the previous government finally assigned some staff on a consistent basis and with a considerable emphasis on the development assessment process, despite the fact that we knew in 1993, and even earlier, that some work was going to have to be done around DAP.
So, only April 1st of a year ago did we finally have some members, at least around the various departments of the Yukon government, working on DAP.
What we've done with the development assessment commission - the DAP commission - is to bring this team together, so that we can work effectively on an ongoing kind of a basis, in closer proximity, basically to provide the focus that I think is necessary for this policy work.
We've continued to work with an interdepartmental working group - Members from a number of different departments, including Economic Development and Renewable Resources, but also with participation from Community and Transportation Services, Health and Social Services, the Executive Council Office, which, technically, of course, the commission is a part of. We've continued to work with representatives from various departments.
I'd like to talk just for a moment about consultation, because I think that's one of the additional - in addition to the ability to kind of focus our efforts, I think one of the real benefits of the DAP commission has been its ability to get out and, once again, in a rather concerted manner, consult with a variety of stakeholder groups.
Since last October, I, as DAP commissioner, have had an opportunity to meet with a number of different groups, including the Klondike Placer Miners Association, Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Yukon Agricultural Association, the Yukon Conservation Society, Association of Yukon Forests and Yukon Chamber of Commerce and, also, the Yukon Land Use Planning Council, although that was a rather informal meeting.
But, the point that I'm trying to make is that the Yukon government, in its work with the other two parties - the Council of Yukon First Nations and the federal government - as we do our work in designing what DAP will look like down the road, it's important that the Yukon government represent the interests of Yukon citizens.
We can best do that by keeping in touch with these various interests and by discussing with them the upcoming issues, and I'll talk about those in just a moment.
It enables us to best represent the interests of Yukoners.
Some specific examples: at the Cordilleran Roundup, I had an opportunity to meet with a number of mining companies and I also met with the regional director of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency at that time, with representatives of the Alaskan government, as well as representatives of the British Columbia government. Those were very fruitful discussions, Mr. Chair.
A number of points were raised. Some of the predominant themes included a reference to time lines and the value of time lines in terms of guiding the process so that it's a process that works effectively, that it's predictable. Another factor that was raised, time and again, was the desire to avoid duplication in the process that's used, and that we not have one process after another in which, in many cases, some similar questions are asked, that we look at ways of integrating those processes.
And so there were a number of specific kinds of suggestions made by various of those agencies and various mining companies, and that information has proven useful, certainly, to the DAP commission in our collaborations.
The DAP commission has also established a working group that meets on an ongoing basis. The nature of the discussions with the Government of Canada and the Council of Yukon First Nations is that we are propelled toward a December 19th deadline for the tabling of legislation in the federal parliament on the DAP. In order for us to do that, there's quite a number of substantive issues that require a resolution around the table, and our ongoing discussions with our non-government organizations working group - which includes, once again, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association and several Yukon government departments - helps us to kind of crystallize what the issues are, in fact, for the Yukon government as we head to the core table discussions with the other two governments.
We have, in addition, also written to at least 67 organizations to inform them about DAP and invite them to contact the DAP commission if they have an interest that they would like to present. We've forwarded information to them and we've received information back from them.
We also have, of course, carried out a series of about three ads in local papers - papers across the Yukon - to provide some advice about the development assessment process to really inform the general public and try to raise the general awareness. We have had a number of inquiries that have resulted from that, as well.
In addition, the DAP commissioner, in mid-March, attended a number of communities and met with community councils in the communities of Watson Lake, Ross River, Faro, Carmacks, Mayo and Dawson, particularly to explore the manner in which municipal councils will have their interests reflected through the development assessment process.
I look forward to meeting with the municipal bodies again, in the near future, to discuss some of the outcomes of those discussions.
A number of different issues are on the table, such things as interim measures in the absence of a development assessment process in the Yukon, because February 14, 1997, has come and gone. There are obligations under the umbrella final agreement that some type of interim measures be in place, so that has become one of the discussion items for the DAP commission, along with the other two parties.
There are a number of other issues that we're dealing with, as well. I've mentioned one - how municipalities will be involved in the process, the relationship between the designated offices and the Yukon development assessment board, project definitions, referral processes, thresholds, the types of triggers and so on that will exist, trans-boundary agreements. There's quite a range of issues that we need to ensure are going to be addressed through this whole process.
So, just in closing, in terms of trying to get some general information, in the interest, in fact, of informing members opposite so that they are better informed about what this commission is doing and informing the general public, as well, I think that the development assessment commission has, in fact, increased the effectiveness and cost savings to this government in terms of participating with the other two governments in designing the DAP as it will exist in the future in the Yukon.
In fact, the Yukon Party spent something over $300,000 - probably a very similar amount - over the last number of years with essentially no product, no outcome. Over the next year or so, we're looking at an expenditure of roughly in the same order that's in fact going to come out with a product. We're going to arrive at the federal legislation for the development assessment process and determine how it will be implemented with the Yukon government.
We also, I think, have improved the efforts at consulting with the Yukon public to ensure that Yukon interests are going to be reflected in our work at the table with the other two governments. So I'd invite members opposite to participate in upcoming discussions and ask questions. Certainly the DAP commissioner looks forward to providing additional information, as it's requested.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask some questions with respect to the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission. The commission's mandate indicates that the commission will consult with interested parties and anyone affected by government decisions, including but not limited to - and there's quite a list of organizations there. Could I have a report from the Yukon Hire commissioner where he is - a progress report in terms of these meetings? Has he met with these groups? When did these meetings take place? How far is he in his consultation list?
Mr. Hardy: Have you got about five hours? How detailed do you want them: the hours, the minutes, every person? Of course I won't name people.
I guess it was in January or February, we started in Old Crow, and we've gone from Old Crow to Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, Haines Junction. We've gone to Carmacks, Carcross, Ross River, Faro, Watson Lake, Teslin, and we have consulted with the chambers of commerce in each of the areas where they do have them. There are some areas that don't have them. Some towns don't.
But whatever they do, we have talked with them, had meetings with them. We have met with First Nation offices. We have met with council chambers. We have had public meetings in every place we've been to, and public meetings, of course, are drop-in meetings. They've been advertised. We have met with union halls and, of course, we've done our public consultation in Whitehorse, as well, which is slightly different consultation in that there seems to be a broader section of groups that we have to meet with.
The communities have, often, the chambers and the councils and then the public meetings, and that's most of the people who are interested. In Whitehorse we seem to have a larger grouping of organizations that want to meet with us, so that's still ongoing.
Where we're at? On Thursday, I head to Dawson City and I do Dawson City and Mayo. We'll be doing Pelly Crossing and Stewart, as well, on Thursday and Friday, and that should take care of the first sweep-through of the communities and then there is still ongoing consultation with groups and individuals that are meeting with us in Whitehorse.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Yukon Hire commissioner for some more detail with respect to his visits. It's not uncommon, when you're dealing with a subject like Yukon hire, which has many, many facets, that there be some advance work done prior to a meeting. Has there been an advance person sent in front of the Yukon Hire commissioner? That's one question. What sort of format do the meetings take? Is there a questionnaire that's filled out or a series of questions, the same questions that are asked by the commissioner in each community, in order that you can truly evaluate the responses? And how are the meetings structured? Are the drop-in meetings afternoon meetings, which may or may not be possible for a small businessperson to get to, or are they evening meetings? Does it vary by community? Are these pre-established appointments? Rather than just a summary of his diary book, I would like some more detail, please.
Mr. Hardy: With pleasure. You say advance person. No, we don't send an advance person in. We contact the councils, the chambers, the unions. The small businesses are generally contacted through them. There are advertisements in the paper. There are advertisements posted throughout the towns. The drop-ins are held in the evenings to ensure that working people can make it, as well as businesses. They're not held during regular business hours, in most cases. They try to catch an area of time frame where we can get many people available for meeting us.
You go to the meetings with two people - there's usually me and the deputy commissioner, or else one of the research people. This is the first pass; they're all given our mission statement and our terms of reference.
From that we have general discussion, concerns, suggestions, problems they're facing. It covers a tremendous range of topics. From that, we're gathering this together, at which time around mid-June we'll be coming out with a working paper, which will go back to all the people that we have met with to ensure they have a chance to contribute once again to it. As well, it'll be available for the public, or anybody that we didn't have a chance to meet with.
Ms. Duncan: Would the Yukon Hire Cabinet commissioner clarify that in mid-June, when this working paper is released, there is a second Yukon-wide tour planned at that time, or is it scheduled for another point in time, if at all?
Mr. Hardy: At this moment, we're not planning another complete second tour through all the communities. We believe that, the working paper itself, people will be able to respond to it. If they feel they need to have a meeting, we will set up a meeting and meet with them. If they feel that their comments can best be addressed through telephone or through a written method, then we'll deal in that manner. We're completely open to ensure as much consultation as possible in this and to have as much input as possible.
Ms. Duncan: The commission's mandate indicates that there will be developed a communication strategy. Has that strategy been developed, and is it available for tabling?
Mr. Hardy: It's not available for tabling right at the moment, but I will make it available to you as soon as I get it. Okay?
Ms. Duncan: The mandate also indicates that there are a number of - it says - direct investigation or research in a coordinated or timely manner on any matter relative to Yukon hiring, and it lists a number of them. It also lists means of measuring the success of the policy, including economic statistics. Would the Yukon Hire Cabinet commissioner report on his progress on this particular point, please?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I'm not actually sure what she's asking for. Are you asking for after the report is in or asking right now what the measure of success is?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, to clarify and direct my remarks through the Chair, in the commission's mandate, which we were provided with - well, it's dated January, but I don't think we got it at that time - it says, point 6, "Direct investigation or research in a coordinated and timely manner on any matter relevant to Yukon hire, including: (f) means of measuring the success of the policy, including economic statistics." So, presumably, the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission is directing investigation or research in this section (f). I'm asking for progress on that.
Mr. Hardy: I don't have the progress for you at this moment, but I can get it for you. If you're talking more about statistics, we are, of course, looking at the statistics of unemployment. We're also looking at the impact unemployment has on people's lives in communities, and in our consultation, we're finding that a very strong message from people is the health of the community related to the number of people employed and the job opportunities there are. The health of a community, of course, can be whether the youth stays in the community, whether the seniors stay in a community, whether the community is growing or even stable.
In a lot of cases over the last few years, we've seen communities on the down-slide, so in statistics that we're gathering - I mean I can read you some right here - we see these statistics a lot. I guess I'd say that I'm always questioning statistics, because statistics can present one picture, and when you actually go out there and talk to people, they mean another. We have to bring that together to ensure that it's a true picture there.
But, in the last four years, unemployment in the territory has gone from 7.7 to 16.4. Actually, it was in the last year that it was the , in August at 7.7, but also it was one of the highest figures as well. So what those statistics show us is that there's a tremendous amount of what you call seasonal or cyclical work. We'll be using those as well in the local hire commission to try to take those statistics and try to find out how we can get a level or a movement instead of this huge rise in winter unemployment, and in the summer, down to more people working. How would it be possible - especially in communities, but also in Whitehorse Centre as well - to level that out to spread the work out? So, I can get you some statistics if you want on where we're at on it, or else you can wait for the working paper in June - your choice.
Ms. Duncan: I think we're at cross interpretations of what this section means. I understood it to mean that as the Yukon Hire Commission was doing its work, and making policy suggestions, they would be looking to see how we can measure whether or not that policy has been successful. I was asking if there had been any work done in that respect. However, I will leave that for another time, and perhaps, another opportunity.
On page 3 of the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission description, it says, "The commission will create a Yukon hire policy committee", and it also says, "The commission will create an advisory and implementation working group." Could I ask the Yukon Hire commissioner to elaborate on those two bodies please?
Mr. Hardy: Excuse me, just so I can follow the same paper you are.
The first one's going to be based on BIP, the business incentive policy - am I looking at the wrong paper here? Hang on a sec.
The advisory group will be based on the BIP, the business incentive policy group. What we will be doing with that is we're expanding it slightly to ensure a better cross-section of people, a better representation on it to get more feedback from them, more expertise and advice. That's in the process; that's happening right at this moment, and hopefully, that'll be in place in the next few weeks, for them to start work.
We are using them as the core - the business incentive policy, because we feel that it's a body that already does represent a fairly good cross-section. Fortunately, with Yukon Hire, what we're trying capture, we do need, we feel, a broader section. So, there will be some more people added to it.
We have met with them and asked if they would participate in this and they were very eager to. They also agreed that they would like to have more people on the committee, in order to do it.
The other one - could you just clarify for me which paper you were reading out of?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly.
I'm referring to the Cabinet commissions' organization budget and commission mandates document that was tabled by the Government Leader and provided to all of us. The Yukon Hire Commission is last in that document and the title of the document says, "Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission" and it's dated January 16, 1997. I'm referring to page 3, not the last or next-to-last paragraph, but the two before that.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, is the member opposite referring to the subcommittee terms of reference paper?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's this document that I'm referring to. It was tabled by the Government Leader.
Mr. Hardy: I don't seem to have that one with me in front of me, anyway, at this moment.
Okay, let's try this again. Mr. Chair, could you show me what page you're on?
Ms. Duncan: The very last page, Mr. Commissioner. There are two paragraphs, one that says, "The commission will create a Yukon hire policy committee..." I believe you've just discussed that "...composed of citizens and representatives from affected groups to review and recommend policies, the Business Incentive Review Committee could form the nucleus." I believe what the commissioner has just told me is that the Business Incentive Review Committee has indeed formed this nucleus and it has been expanded.
It also says, "The commission will create an advisory and implementation working group." I was seeking clarification on the difference between the two and an elaboration on the two roles.
Mr. Hardy: Thanks a lot. Sorry about that. Just to clarify something, Mr. Chair, the Business Incentive Review Committee is in the process at this moment. They have agreed to it, and it's just been expanded now. So, it's not completed at this moment but they'll be up and running in a very short time. Of course, as it says clearly here, they'll be composed of citizens and representatives from affected groups to review and recommend policies. They'll also be taking a look at the feedback that we get back after the working paper goes out. They will be involved through the whole process - the feedback we get from the affected groups - and we'll be using them extensively to try to work towards consensus on a lot of the issues that are facing Yukon people today.
The advisory implementation working group is really as clear as it says. It's government staff who are currently involved or have been involved in work related to local hire. Unfortunately, local hire is something that a lot of governments have never really taken on seriously, so we have to look into the departments to find the government staff that has background and that will be affected by any changes in policy. They have to be part of the process in order to make sure that it works, once it comes forward.
Ms. Duncan: I'm going to assume, Mr. Chair, unless the commissioner advises me otherwise, that these two groups come together, then, under the Yukon Hire Cabinet Commission and through himself as Cabinet commissioner.
It says, "The consultation process should involve three stages." Number one is this initial formal discussion leading to the working paper, and the Cabinet commissioner has indicated a time frame for mid-June with respect to that. Could he provide a more formal timetable for the second and third stages of the consultation process - the formal consultations - and a timetable for the actual consultation on policy proposals?
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Chair, the first passed, of course, is this community consultation - in fact a group consultation - and, in a sense of communities, it will be ending this weekend. Whitehorse has pretty well ended now, as well. We've been consulting in Whitehorse now for three months steady, and I think we are finally out of our last groups to consult, and we'll be moving into the next stage, which is the working paper.
Now, the working paper, of course, is what a lot of people will be looking forward to. It will give them some direction - some of the stuff we've gathered, some directions we've been given, some criticisms, identified problems and concerns. At that time, the working paper will go - once again, as I said earlier - back out to the people that have participated or to anybody that wants it - the various groups, the chambers, the councils, the unions, the small business people that have been involved. At that time, we will be holding public meetings to ensure that people will have a forum in a group setting to discuss the working paper.
From that position, that will happen over a period of - the working paper's in mid-June - probably over the next couple of months to ensure that if, as said earlier, the communities want us to go back in, we will go back into the communities and discuss the working paper with them. We are going to try to ensure as much as possible input is put into this and answer as many questions and, like I said again, public consultation is very important to us.
At that time, we'll go back in and draw up the policy paper, and it will probably be in the fall, working toward our deadline of December 31st as the end of this commission. Mr. Chair, just to assure some questions that were answered earlier, this commission does have a deadline, and it is December 31st. Our hope and goal is to achieve this earlier. At this time, even though it's a fairly big project, there's a tendency of people to want to broaden it. We're trying to stay focused on employment and business growth and opportunity, and training as well.
We're shooting for ... We are going to make it at December 31st. That's our goal. We are hoping that we can deliver it sooner for the people.
Ms. Duncan: The consultation process - the commissioner referred to going to - for example, community chambers of commerce, community businesses. There's also a number of umbrella organizations - Yukon Home Builders, Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Industry Association, Yukon Contractors Association. Would the commissioner confirm for me that these umbrella organizations have - he says informal consultations have been completed - been consulted during the Whitehorse consultations?
Mr. Hardy: Yes. We have met with the Home Builders Association, the Contractors Association. We have met with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. We have met with a gathering of women's groups just this weekend. There was quite a cross-section of representation there from Victoria Faulkner to the Women in Business. There must have been about eight or 10 groups. We gave a presentation there and had a very lively question and answer session.
We have met with truck drivers. We have met with unemployed labour. We have met with just about every group I can imagine. If any have slipped through that we feel should be part of it, we've been calling them up and asking them if they do want to participate.
I'd say that, in most cases, every one of them has come forward and given lots of excellent advice to us, and direction.
Ms. Duncan: In preparation for the report - the working paper to be released in mid-June - I would assume that there are rather exhaustive meeting notes kept of all of these utterly exhaustive list of consultations. At some point, does the Cabinet commissioner intend that those will be readily available to the public?
Mr. Hardy: A lot of the groups and people that we've met with, especially, I would say, the unemployed, don't necessarily want themselves to be identified or their comments to be identified.
What I think you will find is that the working paper will reflect, very clearly, what we have heard, and you will be able to identify a lot of the sections and areas that we've discussed, For instance, just dealing with construction, you'll see "construction area". If it's dealing with manufacturing and there are problems identified in the growth of a business, it will be clearly identified.
I think, in a working paper, you will see the working notes.
Chair: Are members prepared to proceed with the line item?
On Cabinet Commissions
Cabinet Commissions in the amount of $499,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries or transfer payments on pages 2-21 and 2-22?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Executive Council Office in the amount of $11,451,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now go on to Community and Transportation Services.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services was kind enough to offer our caucus a budget briefing. As part of that briefing and tour, I was given the sports and recreation Towards 2000 report , which I think I already had, but I found it again.
Part of that, they were talking about interdepartmental or intergovernmental partnerships -
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a break at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with the budget, Community and Transportation Services. Is there general debate?
Mr. Chair, as part of the budget briefing processes that were graciously offered - and I certainly took the minister up on - the sports and recreation Towards 2000 report was given to our caucus. Now, one of the points under interdepartmental, intergovernmental partnerships, under youth issues, they were talking about the recommendations from the ministers across Canada, and that, "Ministers agree that particular attention is needed to address the physical activity and recreation needs of girls and young women." I'm just wondering if there's any move afoot to develop some policies, particularly in that area, under sports and recreation policies for young women.
And I think, Mr. Chair, that a lot of this is because of the oddness in our society now where you have young women who are asking at the age of 7 whether they are too fat, and you have eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia instead of looking toward being physically fit, which is the better goal.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the process for this Towards 2000 report and the changes to the Recreation Act is on-going now and it's going to be coming to Cabinet for decision making and, of course, we'll keep the member opposite's response or direction in mind in that meeting.
Mrs. Edelman: As part of the consultation process on changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, in 1996 there was a series of poorly attended community meetings and then after that questionnaires were sent out to all Yukon households. It is my understanding from the briefings that were given to me, there were 1,400 responses to the questionnaires, which is absolutely phenomenal for any questionnaire that was sent out, probably because a lot of those questions were quite evocative. The results of those questionnaires, I believe, are being compiled and they'll be presented to Cabinet. Two of the most evocative of those questions had to do with drunk driving. Is the department working on policies in that area or a continued program to speak to some of the issues around drunk driving?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we are looking at this point in time. I've just received, approximately three weeks ago, the paper and I've gone through it and noted the highlight. As the member opposite states, 1,400 responses is very significant and a very high proportion of those responses were to correct a lot of things which were asked of them.
The next step that I'm taking on this is to meet with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, and we've scheduled a meeting - I believe it is for next week - so that the two of us may sit down and properly critique this before we table it and take it to Cabinet.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the negotiations for the development of the Juneau road, from Juneau to Skagway, are nearing the end and it looks like there is a good possibility that there will be a Juneau road. If that does happen, there is going to be increased need for maintenance on the Skagway Road. Have there been long-term plans developed to deal with maintenance on the Skagway Road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is in the back of our minds at this point in time. We are aware of the consequences of the Juneau road if it does get built from Juneau to Skagway. There's also another route that we're looking at, which has the possibility, if I recall, of potential: on the Atlin Road, on the Tagish Road and on the Skagway Road. Three roads. We have numbers and we're looking at it all. It's approximately five years down the road, at this point in time, but we are aware of the implications.
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, fortunately, the Minister of C&TS is also the Minister of Tourism, and he is very much aware of how positive the impact of that Juneau road could be on the Yukon.
The consultation process on the rural services program and the new taxation areas - I would like to pass on a concern of the municipalities in that, during the press releases and a lot of the public conversation that we've been having about that consultation process, the municipalities and hamlets have not been specifically named as groups that would be consulted. They do have a concern in this area, and I wonder if the minister could allay some of those concerns by saying that they will be specifically consulted.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite for bringing up some short-sightedness in the communication, but it's certainly in the mind of the department and in my mind that, most importantly, we are going to be consulting the municipalities, the hamlets, the unincorporated people, such as the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society, et cetera. They'll be absolutely consulted and their input received and garnered.
Mrs. Edelman: That's good to hear.
Another one of the concerns of the Association of Yukon Communities - and this is a motion that has been around for a good long time - is the concern of the long-term upgrade, because it will take quite a while to bring the south Canol Highway up to a decent standard. I am wondering if there is a long-term plan, once again, to look at the upgrading of the south Canol Highway.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we are, this year, I believe, off the top of my head again. Remember that it was $2.7 million for the south Campbell Highway and we're doing this to stay abreast of the Kudz Ze Kayah mine development, and other mining initiatives that might be coming into production or into play.
Hopefully, we will not be an impediment, if these mines do go in, that we should be able to entice - if I can use that word - to production. So the road won't be a problem.
Mr. Jenkins: I explored with the minister the other day the cost of implementation of land claims within municipal boundaries, and the premise that the communities were given to buy in was that there would be no net cost to municipal governments. This was repeated over and over again by the various respective governments of the day.
Well, there is a cost associated with the implementation. Is the government prepared to underwrite the costs of - let's just take one facet - municipal service agreements that have to be negotiated with First Nations? Is Community and Transportation Services prepared to underwrite the cost that cannot be absorbed by either party to the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member for the question.
I do not believe that there will be a cost - he said to both parties. I believe that within the First Nation side of things in the implementation plan that there are provisions for them to sit down and to implement and negotiate when they can.
The government has forwarded dollars to the AYC for land claims, and hopefully that can be used to assist them to help the communities within their negotiating process.
Here it is right here, "On March the 27th, the Association of Yukon Communities and the government entered into a non-repayable financial assistance agreement" - excuse me, it was $30,000 and not $50,000 - "in preparing for the implementation of First Nation final and land claims agreements, and self-government agreements".
Mr. Jenkins: Municipal service agreements are usually, and for logical reasons, based on a cost-of-service study. The cost of one of these studies can approach the $30,000 that was recently advanced to the Association of Yukon Communities. There are a number of these areas that will have to be explored and negotiated - municipal service agreements, I'm referring to - and they all have to be based on some relevant factors. The cost of assembling all those relevant factors is usually referred to as a cost-of-service study, so there will be a cost to the governments of these respective communities for these studies. Is the government prepared to front-end this money, or are the communities expected to operate with their existing levels of funding and take on the additional responsibilities associated with land claim implementation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that in the communities of Haines Junction and of Mayo we do have service agreements that are in place. The cost of service studies being $30,000 per will, I hope, come to some type of a generic process, where they might be able to build upon one another. Unfortunately, we just do not have $30,000 for each of the communities to do this to be drawn down if and when and as they choose. I do believe that, with this process, it should work.
Mr. Jenkins: From my understanding of what has just recently transpired in this area, the picture that the minister is painting, Mr. Chair, is certainly not close to reality. There is a great deal of time and effort being expended by the various municipal councils. There is a great deal of time and effort being expended by these respective community governments, hiring consultants to assemble relevant facts and costs and to put it in a format that is saleable to all parties. So there is certainly a cost to municipal governments associated with implementation of land claims. I'm seeking assurances from the minister here today that there will be no net cost to municipal governments and, as has been previously stated, that the minister will underwrite these costs, should they occur.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I guess I've got to point out though, in painting pictures not close to reality, there are numerous abstract authors or painters in history who are very famous, so the reality is that if we work cooperatively together, we'll be able to move forward into the future very well.
I, myself, am not desirous of putting up an undue burden upon the municipalities as they move to clarify the meaning of native self-government and how it is implemented within the communities. I'm not here to do that. I'm certainly mindful that we do have fiscal realities, and we must work within those fiscal realities. I will work very closely and will contact the municipalities or the AYC to see how we might best come out of this quandary so that we don't end up in a quandary.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Minister, it's been an issue that's been around for quite a number of years. It's not one that's going to go away very quickly. You referred to Mayo, and you referred to Haines Junction. Both of these communities are in the fortunate position that they're providing services to lands adjacent to their municipal boundaries, and they can encompass it within their overall framework, but there was very little done by these communities to analyze the actual cost of providing that service above and beyond what they were incurring to supply the services to the area that they previously serviced.
So, there is indeed a cost, but I'm pleased to hear the minister state that he'll take it up with the AYC. But just to bring back to the minister, the $30,000 that was recently advanced to the AYC will nowhere begin to cover the costs that the member communities of that association are going to incur just on the municipal service side of the land claims implementation.
I think it's reasonable to ask of the minister that his government provide some sort of policy direction in that area, and what is the policy of his government going to be? If the minister wishes to bring it back by way of legislative return, that would be quite all right.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, and I'd appreciate the patience of the members opposite. This might take some time to do with consultation if there's a need for policy, and it will have to be done on a consultative basis. Certainly, working with the AYC, we will undertake to meet and talk with the AYC so that we might be able to formulate a way out of this quandary, as I said. So, I thank you very much for your time and patience.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to go back over an area that I did bring up in the House with the minister previously, and it was the inventory of mobile-home lots in the Whitehorse area and the need for additional mobile-home lots in the Whitehorse area, keeping in mind the present inventory. The minister indicated in his response that he had consulted with a number of groups to determine that there was this need and went ahead and budgeted the capital necessary to provide for these additional mobile-home lots.
My telephone conversations yesterday with individuals in the construction industry lead me to conclude that just who in the industry did the minister speak with, because there are very few benefits that accrue to the construction industry when mobile homes are placed on lots. So, who actually did the minister consult with in order to ascertain that there is a need for additional lots in the Whitehorse area for mobile homes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the people who consulted are a committee; it's called the land development committee. The people that are on the land development committee are the City of Whitehorse, the builders organization, real estate folks, Yukon Housing Corporation and, of course, C&TS. The decision makers of the land development committee are the City of Whitehorse and C&TS. They meet at critical times. I asked the question of my deputy. They meet at critical times and they're expected to meet again within the next couple of months. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I did hear the minister correctly, it was a decision of C&TS and the City of Whitehorse to construct these additional lots.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly it was the final decision, I believe, but it was made up of a decision by the City of Whitehorse, the builders, the real estate agents, the Yukon Housing Corporation and C&TS. So, it was done on that basis.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could move into another area that was budgeted for last year. I don't see where it shows up and I do not have the results of what occurred, I refer to the planning study for the Ibex Valley, the $50,000 that was identified last year. Where did we go with this? What has transpired? Has it been cancelled, set aside or have the funds just lapsed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that process hit a bit of a snag, to the hon. member opposite. It was a political snag. It was the Ibex Valley hamlet that's having a bit of a problem with it, so we are looking to correct what was wrong with it. We are seeking a re-vote, which should happen some time in May, and we are going to be proceeding with the direction this year.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the topic of developments that have been kind of set aside or lapsed - I refer to the Copper Ridge Olivine Place and the potential for tendering this out for private development. Where is this at, if I could ask the minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: C&TS and the city have identified a block of up to 19 lots within Copper Ridge for possible development by the private sector. The zoning and servicing of the lots are considered, allowing as much flexibility for the developer as possible without compromising the rest of the subdivision.
So, we're going to be taking this to Cabinet in the next couple of months for the approval of the tender requirements, and the release of the block of land is scheduled for this year, 1997.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just take the minister back to the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee, and ask what the commitment in dollars was for the last fiscal year, and what the total commitments in dollars are for this current fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the member opposite would just give me a few moments on this I will get it to him during the course of this debate. All I would be able to do right now is take a rough guess, and I believe it was up to approximately $800, and it's to the equivalent of hamlet status now, but I will get the exact figures for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm getting at is that there's been a considerable increase in funding levels provided to this planning committee, and, in checking, I've asked what additional duties and responsibilities they were taking on. I'm told that it was basically the same regular meetings once a month and the costs associated with those regular meetings.
So, if the minister could tell me what additional duties or responsibilities are being assumed by the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee, and the Carcross First Nation with respect to this area, it would be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We all know the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and its volatility, and it's certainly beginning now to take on a tone, and a good, constructive tone of pulling the community together.
I know the member opposite is asking for additional duties. The duties that they have been performing have been certainly very close to the nature of the process that a hamlet would do. Garnering information, gathering the community together, looking at the contamination site, looking at the general direction of where they would like to go.
They're also looking to getting to the zoning aspects of things and their input into the zoning. What these extra dollars are going to do is to just ensure that they will have continuity for 12 months of the year.
The previous term - let me rephrase that - the previous direction or dollar amount enabled them to only go approximately 10 months instead of the 12 months, and this extra little bit of dollars will allow them to go the full 12 months.
I must also add that the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee is one that I'm quite proud of, simply for the fact that they're alive and reek of community spirit.
Not one of the folks on the Advisory Planning Committee collect an honoraria, they do it from the goodness of their hearts, and are working toward providing better services and better direction and a common front for the community.
Mr. Jenkins: Yesterday, in our discussion, the minister offered his offices to listen to and would provide, although he didn't come out four-squaring for it, for funding for a mobile home park and lots in the Dawson City area, and in taking this up with the people in Dawson City today, the minister can be assured that they will be back to see him very, very quickly. I would urge the minister to give every consideration to advancing funding to this project. It is a very, very needed and worthwhile addition to the community. There are no mobile home lots available in or around Dawson City, unless you stake a placer claim and squat on it, and we know the consequence of the last round of placer claims used for residential purposes and the costs that the government has incurred to date. That's just in general information.
I'd just like to go on to another area. In last year's budget, and I'm referring to Old Crow, in sports and recreation, under C&TS, there was $300,000 capital that was identified in that community. Could the minister advise what has happened to that money, whether it's lapsed or whether it's going to be carried over?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just previously, to the member opposite, the funds that are going to go to the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee this year are $12,710, and I thank the member opposite for making the Dawson folk so aware of the dollar amounts and the direction we are going in. I will certainly be happy to sit and talk and work with those folks to see how we can best achieve bringing some much-needed mobile home lots to Dawson City, so I thank you for that direction.
The Old Crow sport and recreation went from $300,000 to a swimming pool. Then the community rolled it over to a youth centre. I will be seeking a revote of this $300,000 and am working with the community at this point in time to identify community priorities and which direction the community would like to with on this. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the $300,000 for Old Crow, the community had spoken when they moved the funding over from the swimming pool concept to a community centre. The minister indicated that he was going to revote the $300,000, but is there a need to do the whole consulting process again when it was clearly identified that this is the direction the community wished to take?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we're all very much aware of the hardships of Old Crow. By hardships I mean the actual configuration. I was in Old Crow on a community tour, I can't remember when. It was before Christmas, I believe, sometime. I spoke to the chief at that point in time and he said that they were bringing down a building - and for the love of me, I don't know the street names or anything like as such on that - and then they were going to ensure that that area, after they put a pad on it, would be the area. So, seeking a revote and working with the chief and council and the community planners on this is where we're going to be going. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just back up to the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the funding level that was provided in the last fiscal year. The minister did provide the dollars for this current fiscal year, $12,710.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I just thought I'd give the member opposite the information that I had and I still will likely get that information to him before the House recesses for the day. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just explore with the minister another area within his department and it's the reciprocal arrangements for farm vehicles between British Columbia and Yukon. Could the minister advise what the policy is of his government, and what are we going to be doing? Are we just going to be riding merrily along the path or are we going to pursue finalizing some formal arrangement with B.C.?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the member will just give me a moment, I will be able to give him a good answer on that. I was looking through my briefing books here, as the member is aware, and then I did find that and read that, but unfortunately, I read that and then a whole bunch of other things on top of that, so if the member will just give me a few moments, I'll find it and then provide him with the good news that is there.
In late 1994, B.C. and the Yukon entered into an interim reciprocal agreement for farm vehicles, and under the terms of this agreement, the farmers would be allowed to operate within B.C. by either dual plating and purchasing a B.C. licence, or by using a non-resident commercial permit. In both cases, the Yukon farmer needs to have a certificate of financial responsibility filed by the Yukon Farmers Insurance Company with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. In addition, the Yukon farmers are required to purchase a fuel tax permit that's based on the number of kilometres travelled in B.C., and the farmer can, upon his return to the Yukon, apply for refund of the fuel tax paid in B.C.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm aware of what has transpired and the background. Where are we at with renegotiating a position with the Province of British Columbia? Is the minister going to negotiate, or, renegotiate, a position, or are we just going to continue to allow this to go its merry way? There are some benefits that accrue to enshrining this in some sort of formal agreement with the Province of British Columbia and, at the present time, that is not the case.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't know if it's merrily on our way, or whatnot. Certainly the Yukon Agricultural Association is pleased with the progress that has been made to date, and they're encouraging the YTG to continue pressing for a formal agreement. Unfortunately, the B.C. officials have put this as not a priority issue for the B.C. government at this time, but the interim agreement will remain in place for an indefinite period of time, until such time as we can get the B.C. government to the table.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I hear is the background thank you very much, Mr. Minister and where it's at today.
At issue is that there is no formal agreement with the Province of British Columbia. It is in the best interests of Yukon farmers to have such an agreement in place. What steps will the minister be pursuing to ensure that a formal agreement comes to fruition?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly I will be meeting with my counterpart in British Columbia, and I do believe we're attempting to meet my counterpart in either June or August of this year, so there's a possibility of a meeting at that time, and I will bring it up with the person at that point in time.
I must reiterate the infinite period of time, which I talked about, with no changes and the Agricultural Association being on side for this for the future and for the present.
Mr. Jenkins: At issue with that is still the requirement or the need for a formal agreement.
Another area that deals with fuel taxes is the commercial vehicles travelling on the south Klondike Highway and the requirement for them to go to the Government of Yukon and receive a rebate for the fuel tax for that portion of the highway they travel in British Columbia, and then remit those dollars to the Government of British Columbia. Is the Government of Yukon going to be negotiating a formal agreement with the Province of British Columbia with respect to this awkward situation that Yukon commercial operators find themselves in, travelling this highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the Government Leader met with these folks when he had the occasion to. We - the director and myself - are going to be talking this over, among other issues, with my counterpart in British Columbia.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister if this is another issue that is going to be on his agenda for his meeting this summer with the minister responsible for this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is going to be.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister responsible for the fuel tax is the Minister of Finance. Did the minister say that he is going to be meeting with the Minister of Finance of the Province of British Columbia?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No. I will be meeting with the Minister of Highways in British Columbia.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I take the minister to the Shakwak project and ask him what steps his government has taken to ensure that the renewal of this project takes place in the U.S. federal Congress?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The United States government is scheduled to introduce a new transportation funding bill in the fall of 1997, and this bill would be the means of approval for new Shakwak funding.
The drafting of the bill and the agreement on its context will occur over the next six months, and therefore is a crucial and critical period in terms of lobbying for inclusion of additional Shakwak funding.
To this end, the following actions have been taken: the Government Leader has sent letters to the Alaskan congressional delegation and to the Governor of Alaska, and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, requesting their support for funding to complete the project.
In addition, a letter has been sent to the Prime Minister requesting his intervention with President Clinton. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services, myself, has written to the United States federal highway administrator and to the Alaska Commissioner of Transportation.
I've also written to Senator Randy Phillips of Alaska, requesting the support of the state Legislature through a motion in favour of the Shakwak project.
The deputy minister of C&TS has written to a senior counterpart in the Government of Canada, requesting that Canada make every effort to press the case for additional Shakwak funding with Washington.
The department has been providing technical assistance in Public Works and Government Services Canada, in support of Canada's effort to secure additional funding.
Mr. Jenkins: It is federal legislation in the defence budget of the United States that these funds flow through for this project. Would it not be advantageous to lobby the two federal U.S. senators that are responsible for the presentation of this bill, and get them involved in it: Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll just reiterate and clarify that we've sent letters to the members of the Alaskan congressional delegation in which those senators are part.
Mr. Jenkins: This project is very, very important to the construction industry in Yukon, and indeed, I would see much more effort needed and should be exerted than just a number of letters fired off to various elected officials in the State of Alaska.
Is the minister prepared to take a lead role, along with the Government Leader, to ensure that this bill gets through the House and take the necessary lobbying steps to provide more certainty of these funds being approved in Congress?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I think we are working with due diligence, and, even moreso, we are very aware of the consequences of the Shakwak project to the economy of the Yukon and, more importantly, to the safety of all travellers on the highway.
We are taking a lead role in terms of bringing this to the attention of the President and of all the interested parties within the federal system, to the Prime Minister, and we're almost sending a fellow from my department - an engineer - to talk with his counterparts down there, and we are requesting meetings. Unfortunately, at this point in time, those meetings that we're requesting and getting scheduled are being cancelled by the U.S. government at this time. We're working with due diligence and seeing that we're doing the best, and we can only do what we can do, but we are working very hard on this.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll take you to another area that has received a considerable amount of attention over the past number of years, and I take you to a Yukon River bridge crossing at Dawson City. The ferry operation, which runs for less than half a year, is approaching $1 million a year in O&M costs. That is for the existing ferry. The life expectancy of the existing ferry is questionable and its ability to handle the ever-growing load is questionable. The other cost associated with this route is the cost of building and maintaining an ice bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson and the resulting potential liability to the Government of Yukon arising out of its use.
The capital cost of the construction of a bridge was of the magnitude of $20 million; $18 million to $24 million have been bandied about. Would the government entertain other options for the construction of a bridge in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In our endeavours to build a bridge across the Yukon River at that particular point, we are working with the environmental impact and we are going to continue with the environmental impact. I know the member opposite has asked a question whether we would be willing to look at other funding sources. I can only think that it would be in the example of what happened in the Maritimes within Canada. We are willing to look at just about anything. What I would say, though, is that it's got to be done in a very responsible manner and you just can't piecemeal together something as large as this capital project. The member is quite correct. It's in the area of $18 million to $24 million, and somewhere in the middle there it will probably come out, or in the top end. So, just in that light and the magnitude of this capital cost, it would have to be approached in a very well-thought-out and organized manner. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Hypothetically speaking, if the Dawson First Nation were to approach the Government of Yukon or, conversely, the City of Dawson, and have access to this type of funding, would the government be able to commit to providing what they currently spend on O&M costs for the ferry and ice bridge, index it, and look at ferry replacement costs down the line, and put that sum of money into the pot for debt servicing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Are you talking about for one year only? Certainly I can do that.
Mr. Jenkins: For the period of time necessary to amortize the construction of the bridge, Mr. Minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Hypothetically speaking - this is a hypothetical question, so hypothetically speaking - I guess anything is possible, absolutely anything. I would certainly encourage the City of Dawson and the Dawson First Nation to put this on the priority list, if they so choose. In the process, we're going to be working with them on establishing a priority list. This discussion, I'm sure, will come up. It is a hypothetical question. I don't know how the member opposite is going to take to these answers, but they are all hypothetical. What can I say?
Mr. Jenkins: Certainly, that's what it's all about, expanding Yukon's highways. One leg of the tripod on which an economy is developed and grows is the transportation link, and highways and bridges certainly play a very dominant role. I would urge the minister to give every consideration to a request of this nature, should it be forthcoming. I know there's a considerable amount of discussion in this area at the present time, and it would be a wonderful example of cooperation between various levels of government, should it come to fruition. I thank the minister for his response in that area.
I have no further questions of the minister in general debate. I have a number when we go line by line. I'll turn it over to my colleagues on general debate. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: We will now go to Office of the Deputy Minister on page 3-6. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If you just allow me a few moments to get my papers sorted out here, I'd certainly appreciate that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that we report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: 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 5:22 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 15, 1997:
Contaminants: clean-up of Rainy Hollow (B.C.) and survey of berries, moose and caribou (Fairclough)
Oral, Hansard, p. 514-515
Group home at 16 Klondike Road: letter dated April 15, 1997 from the Minister of Health and Social Services to the Member for Riverdale North (Sloan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 587
The following Documents were filed April 15, 1997:
Yukon electricity rates: text of a petition circulated by the Yukon New Democratic Party during July and August, 1996 (Ostashek)
Yukon Energy Corporation proposed power rate increase: CHON FM 7:30 a.m. news story, April 15, 1997 (Harding)