Wednesday, April 16, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a document for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling a number of letters: two to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Hon. Ron Irwin, and one to the Hon. Sergio Marchi, Minister of the Environment, which are relevant to this afternoon's motion debate.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I rise today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the flood monitoring and forecasting functions of the federal government provide an essential service to Yukon communities;
(2) this service is important for monitoring water levels, planning water use, planning fire control, and many other vital purposes;
(3) the federal Liberal government is ignoring its obligations to the Yukon by giving notice that it intends to reduce its flood forecasting and monitoring service substantially, at a critical time before this year's spring break-up; and
(4) this decision has been taken unilaterally by the federal government without consultation with the Yukon at a time when devolution talks are underway;
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to honour its obligations to Yukon people by continuing to fund this essential program and take full responsibility for inland waters until responsibility for such resources is transferred to Yukon control.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Survival skills for women
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I rise in the House to inform the House of an initiative that my department has been undertaking to assist a group of disadvantaged Yukon people.
I refer to clients of the social assistance branch. While this government recognizes that there may be times in people's lives when they require financial support from the government, it is also our responsibility to support people in treating them with dignity and respect and helping them leave social assistance and get back into the workforce. People want work, not welfare.
It is our responsibility to help Yukon people achieve independence from government support wherever possible and to preserve a strong social safety net for times of need. Those times of need have been greatly exacerbated recently by cuts to employment insurance and other federal services.
The Department of Health and Social Services social assistance branch will soon introduce a program called survival skills for women. Our staff have recently completed training and will be using what they have learned to assist many women on social assistance in their return to the workforce.
We recognize that there are times when people need assistance, when they need help in providing very basic needs for themselves and their families. We also know that there are many women within the system who, despite having great resumes, good experience, still can't find a job. When these people have exhausted their resources, they must have some place else to turn. But instead of only providing financial assistance the government will also assist by providing people with additional tools and support to regain control of their own lives.
Survival skills for women consist of 10, three-hour sessions over a 10-day period, designed to help develop skills in a variety of areas including advancing employment, problem solving, personal and family health, legal issues, keeping a job, goals and aspirations, and personal money management.
This program is only one of several supports for people on social assistance. We recognize that some of our clients need additional help and support to return to the workforce.
This program has had considerable success across Canada and the United States by providing participants with greater personal confidence, greater independence, positive modeling for their children and by protecting their innate worth and dignity. Special attention is given to problem solving to reduce barriers to employment.
Because of the training that staff members have received, the department has a core group of Yukon-based facilitators who can work with a wide group of clients. This program has also been adapted for men, and survival skills for men training will take place later this month.
This program will benefit more than the women who participate in it. The direct beneficiaries are also the children of those women who will see their mothers move toward more independent lives. This program will help strengthen women, which, in turn, will strengthen our families and our communities.
Mr. Jenkins: I am pleased today to respond to this new government initiative. While I commend the government for taking action to address those in need, I would be remiss if I didn't mention initiatives that were introduced and implemented by the previous Yukon Party government regarding social assistance reform.
Upon taking office in 1992, it was apparent that social assistance costs had risen significantly, with no end in sight. Today, as in yesterday, the challenge for government is to get people back into the work force, off social assistance, as well as manage with a view to reducing the cost of social assistance to Yukon.
To achieve these goals, a report on social assistance was completed that provided valuable insight into understanding the social assistance trends in identified areas where changes were possible that would have a positive impact upon the programs. From this report, a number of social assistance initiatives were introduced by the Yukon Party to enhance the employability of social assistance recipients, including increased funding to the Head Start program to enable on-the-job training, formalization of assistance rates and policies for transients, disentitlement of employable adults and supplementary needs assistance, parental leave policy, an increase to the territorial supplementary allowance, and income and earnings exemptions.
These initiatives, Mr. Speaker, were designed to help get people back to work, to better target expenditures to those most in need and to help reduce the rate of growth in our social assistance programs. I should note that these initiatives saved more than $1 million in social assistance costs each year, while addressing the needs.
It is the opinion of the Yukon Party caucus that the social assistance program should provide adequate assistance to meet the basic needs of those in need, should help people achieve self-sufficiency, and should provide responsive and caring services, while respecting the dignity of individuals, rather than introduce new initiatives, such as the one just announced. Perhaps the government of the day should expand upon the initiatives already introduced and implemented by the previous government.
Mrs. Edelman: Generally speaking, our caucus supports the survival skills for women program that the minister is initiating. What our caucus is starting to become very concerned about is the general tone of the statements coming from this government.
In the minister's statement about the hot lunch program on Thursday, April 10th, the minister says that only 13 percent of families have a parent at home full time, so many, even caring parents, don't always have the time nor the money to nourish children properly. Today the minister's statement says that helping people into the workforce will provide "positive modeling for their children and protect a woman's innate worth and dignity."
The minister says that children will be the direct beneficiaries of these programs to get their mothers back into the workforce.
Mr. Speaker, women who stay at home are caring parents. They do provide positive role modeling. Mr. Speaker, women who stay at home have worth and dignity. The only house where that doesn't seem to be recognized is right here. Women who stay at home are in the workforce. The only problem is that society still has trouble recognizing the many skills and contributions that these women give to our society. And the real sorrow here is that there are people in the government today that still believe that taking a survival skills course to enter the workforce, so that you can get an $8 an hour job and put your kid into day care, is the only way you can attain innate worth and dignity in our society.
Mr. Speaker, if the minister really knew what he was talking about, he would stay up with the current trends in the economy and the workforce and develop a program that addresses the inequities in the income tax system and the pension plan, so that a parent who stays at home at least has the ability to take advantage of some of the tax and pension benefits of those parents who go to work in the external workforce.
Mr. Speaker, how dare the minister tell women how to live their lives, and Mr. Speaker, how dare the minister make value judgments that only women working in the external workforce make positive role models for their children. And Mr. Speaker, how dare the minister make the value judgment that women who stay at home have no sense of inner value and dignity. Mr. Speaker, how dare he?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I guess I'm a little bit taken aback that the member would take my comments in that direction. This is not a reflection on what we feel is the work of women who are at home at all. The aim of this program is to assist women, particularly those on social assistance, who are eager to return to the workforce. We will try and provide them with some of those skills.
One of the things that we know, for example, about many mothers who find themselves on social assistance is that this group is the group that stays on social assistance for the least amount of time and is probably the most motivated group to return to the workforce when they want to create a better life for their children.
Our goal in this was not to reflect negatively on women who stay at home with their children. Our goal was to try to provide assistance to women who are interested in getting back into the external workforce.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Tombstone Park, staking ban proposal
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. We heard the federal government this morning being very optimistic about mining exploration in the Yukon, to the tune of some $60 million. Yet, immediately after, we heard a representative of the Chamber of Commerce not being nearly as optimistic and, in fact, cutting that figure in half and predicting only $25 million or $30 million. I guess if I had to take the choice today, I would probably side with the Chamber of Mines, who are much closer to the action than federal bureaucrats are.
Further, with Bre-X falling from grace and changes in interest rates on the dollar, it is going to be very difficult for mining companies to raise money, as investors now are very wary and will be scrutinizing every action, especially those taken taken by governments, in relation to mining.
My question to the minister : could the minister advise this House what position the Yukon government will be taking in relation to the request this morning by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society for a staking ban in the Tombstone Park area?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister responsible for the land claims can speak to the second part of the question.
With regard to the issue of mineral exploration, I, too, heard the comments from the president of the Chamber of Mines this morning. I wasn't surprised by them because conversations that I've had with them have indicated that the Bre-X situation has affected investment capital in the exploration business somewhat substantially. Some people have taken a bit of a different approach. Some have said that what it does is highlight the risk of doing business in countries like Indonesia and countries within the continent of South America, and therefore that may bring investors closer to home and back to Canada. Certainly, we've been very active reaching out to companies to say that we encourage responsible investment activity and job creation in this territory - at the Geoscience Forum, at the Cordilleran Roundup, at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada - we are very interested in ensuring that people know that responsible activity is welcome in the Yukon and that we value exploration dollars and we value job creation and we value the eventual opening of mines in the Yukon that create jobs for Yukon people.
That's a priority of this government and we've been very active in sending that message to companies.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, but I think it's really important that we get to where this government's position is on the staking ban in the vicinity of the Tombstone Park.
The members opposite will recall that the decision by the NDP government in British Columbia to cancel the Windy Craggy project and their recent position in relation to the Kemano project have severely crippled investor confidence, not only in British Columbia but in Canada in general.
Will the minister or the Government Leader advise this House what actions they intend to take to assure mining investors that this NDP government in the Yukon will not be going down that same path and following the lead of their colleagues in British Columbia, that their actions in regard to Tombstone will be different from the reactions of their colleagues in British Columbia to Windy Craggy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm certain the member is aware that the circumstances that led to the Windy Craggy decision, as regrettable as I think we both agree they were, are substantially different than the circumstances surrounding the creation of Tombstone Park. The member will be also aware that there is a staking ban in a portion of the park area now, and we have indicated, and we indicated during the election campaign, that we would like to see an expansion of the park.
In the discussions that we had in the Legislature already, this government has indicated that the design of the park boundaries will be done through a public consultation process. Having said that, we have been having discussions with the Chamber of Mines and we have had some preliminary discussions with the federal government about discouraging staking if that means an expanded park will undercut investment that people might make in advance of the park development.
We do not want to lead people astray in investing in, admittedly, a reasonably good mineral area if we believe that this area has a potential of being a park. It's only responsible for us to consider letting people know that the park boundaries may be expanded in certain areas. So, we are taking action to ensure that everyone is aware of what potentially could happen, and we are ensuring that the process for establishing park boundaries is done through appropriate public consultation.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Leader for that and I appreciate the dilemma that it puts any government into when they want to consider expanding park boundaries, but nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, we heard this morning that there has been a substantial amount of staking that has been done north of the Tombstone Park boundaries that are proposed now.
You know, Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words. How this government handles the establishment of Tombstone Park, and whatever the final boundaries are, will send a clear signal to mining investors around this world. In view of the hardships that are facing Yukon mining companies now in attracting investments, will the Government Leader advise if he will be approaching the Minister of DIAND for a ban in the vicinity of Tombstone Park and, if so, how large an area would he be asking for the ban in, if he is in fact going to ask for it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Indeed, we will be taking action to encourage the federal minister to, in turn, take action, to ensure that people are made well aware that there may be a park in the area, and consequently, it would be risky for them to invest money in a particular area.
Certainly, I have spoken to various mining companies and to the Chamber of Mines, and to the various environmental groups about our interest in ensuring that there be a public process for determining park boundaries.
We are aware that this is a balancing act that is going to decide for people whether or not the government is truly interested in public consultation when it comes to establishing a park with protected areas, which is a much bigger project than simply the establishment of Tombstone Territorial Park.
So, we do want to establish a process for ensuring that there is appropriate and full public consultation in the establishment of parks and protected areas. But, at the same time, we don't want to lead people astray into believing that there is a - in this particular case - an opportunity to mine when there may not be in the long term.
So, we don't want people to invest money where its inappropriate. We want to encourage responsible exploration activity in the territory. We want to encourage that kind of investment, and we don't want to be faced with any situations where people invest money only to have expectations dashed by later actions.
So, we have to try to send some long-term signals to the industry to make sure that everyone is aware of what our public agenda is.
Question re: Placer mine water licences
Mr. Ostashek: My second question is, again, for the Minister of Economic Development.
Currently, with the Yukon's largest producing mine shut down, unemployment is sitting in excess of 15 percent. The Yukon economy is not doing as well as any of us would like to see it do.
Placer mining has proven itself to be the very backbone of the Yukon economy, and has done that for well over 100 years, and, in fact, in 1982 and in 1993, when all of our hard rock mines were closed down - I'm not sure they were all closed down in 1982, but they were in 1993 - it was the placer mining industry that helped pull the territory through those very difficult times.
Now, I've been made aware that the placer mining community is experiencing some difficulties in having their water licences approved, and that there are many delays that are being experienced.
Can the minister tell me if he is aware of that, and if he has taken any action?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, to my knowledge, I haven't been notified of that. I will check. I certainly haven't been notified, to my knowledge, by the Klondike Placer Miners Association. I'll check with my office on the issue. I did meet with the Water Board just last week for a full briefing. The issue didn't come up there, but certainly we are supportive of the mining industry.
We are also concerned about permitting problems with some of the potential mining projects that are in the latter stage of the permitting process, and have been having some discussions with DIAND officials and the federal minister about establishing clear, concrete goal posts for those mining projects so that they may be able to come into production and help us deal with some of the problems that have been created by the loss of the jobs in Faro.
So, I certainly will take the member's question under advisement. I'll look into it forthwith.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that it's the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, not the Water Board, that's holding up the process. The Yukon Placer Implementation Review Committee relies on DFO for much of the work and for them taking the lead and conducting field investigations and presenting recommendations for stream classifications and discharge standards.
It is also my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that there's quite a backlog of water licences waiting to be approved as a result of DFO not being able to be able to produce the information necessary to re-classify a number of streams.
Could I ask the minister if he intends to appeal to the minister responsible for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about this very serious matter, so all placer miners can get to work on time this summer?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader just passed me a note. He met with the KPMA a couple of days ago, as well, and the issue was not raised. However, I've told the member that I certainly respect the legitimacy of his submission, and I will look into it and take some appropriate action to ensure that there are not undue delays occurring with regard to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, because if that is indeed occurring, as he alleges, then that is a concern.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister pretty well answered my question, but I would just like to get on the record to say that for the placer mining industry not being able to start work in the spring when water starts flowing, and from what I understand they've been told - the committee is where I got the information from, more than anything - is that it takes approximately three months for a water licence application to be processed, and it's my understanding that if the recommendations of the placer committee are approved and signed off, the soonest that new miners would be able to get their water licence to work would be the end of July, and that would be halfway through the season. So, it is a very serious matter, and I would appreciate it if the minister would look into it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I give the member my assurances that that will indeed occur, and we will take, as the Government of Yukon, in terms of dealing with the federal government and their responsibilities, all responsible efforts to ensure that if unnecessary delays are occurring that would impede these people from getting to work as they normally do, we would make representations to the federal government that actions should be taken to remove that roadblock, so to speak.
Question re: Education, principal recruitment
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education. The Education Act, section 5(c), says that the minister shall contribute to the professional development of teachers. I note that this government has provided financial assistance, in partnership with the Teachers Association, to enhance the qualifications of Yukon teachers by offering a masters program.
There are about 600 qualified - very well qualified - teachers in the Yukon. Would the minister explain, with this government's commitment to the Education Act and local hire, why this government advertised outside for two Whitehorse principals?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The practice of the Yukon government for vacancies within the Department of Education is to advertise locally and to advertise simultaneously in outside newspapers, if that is the request of the school councils.
The member is referring to the ads that recently appeared in papers outside the Yukon. That was a request of the democractically elected school councils, as was set up in the Education Act. We certainly respect their ability to ask for a wider selection process.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding is that the school councils did not request the outside advertisement; it was offered to them. There is a huge difference. Would the minister confirm that it was offered or if it was asked for?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I certainly believe that Department of Education officials should make known to the school councils what their options are. I have no reason to believe that the school councils did not request that so that they could have a broad range of candidates to select from.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister table the costs of advertising these positions outside, the costs of bringing people up for interviews and the costs of this whole "local hire" charade?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure what the specific request of the member opposite is. As far as the advertising, we can provide information on the costs of advertising in the newspapers for vacancies. The costs of recruitment are only available after the recruitment has taken place, so I will see what I can get for the member.
Question re: Non-government organizations, liability
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. A number of service agreements are made every year with the various non-government organizations in the Yukon. Quite a few of these service agreements are with agencies who deliver health and social service functions in the communities. An example of such an NGO would be the one which provides treatment programs for children in care. It is my understanding that there is a protocol in place for the safety of staff. Does the minister have a monitoring program that regularly monitors the personal safety of the clients being served by these NGOs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I wonder if I could ask the member for clarification on what she exactly means by that?
Mrs. Edelman: Okay. There is a protocol in place for the safety of staff members at NGOs. Now, is there a monitoring program that monitors the personal safety of clients who are served by the NGOs that work out of the Department of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would presume that what the member's referring to are such things as RCMP checks for previous criminal record. I'm not quite sure what the member is getting at. Is it with reference to the clients themselves, in terms of their personal safety from the personnel in the NGO that's delivering the service?
Mrs. Edelman: There is a potential for abuse, not just from the staff - although I don't think that's really the case here. There's a potential for abuse from others that are at these facilities. There is a potential for problems. Typically, if you have an organization that delivers a service to the poor, to children or the disenfranchised, there is some sort of mechanism in place to protect those people. Do you have a policy that monitors the personal safety of persons in NGOs who have service agreements with the Department of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, I would have to get back to the member on that. I would imagine that a tremendous amount really depends on the nature of the NGO and the type of service that they're delivering. If they indeed have individual policies in that regard, what I can do is I can get back to the member when I determine with the department which of our principal NGOs have such policies.
Mrs. Edelman: It was for clarification the first time.
Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that there is a residential supervisor who does an annual inspection of Health and Social Services NGOs. This person is notified when there is an incident or a serious problem.
The Liberal caucus does not believe that this is sufficient to ensure the safety of the clients, particularly if they are youth or children.
Are there any plans to increase the number of inspections?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, what I'll have to do is seek further clarification from the member as to specific concerns that she has, and what I'll do is get back to the department and determine what our plans are in that regard and convey the information to the member.
Question re: Flood forecasting
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Government Leader.
We learned just this morning that DIAND has cut $100,000 from its water resources branch and, as a consequence of this reduction in funding, will be curtailing its flood forecasting. Dawson and a number of other communities have relied upon this information to set the level of preparedness in order to address flood potentials each spring. This decision could have serious consequences and endanger lives in the Old Crow, Mayo and Dawson area.
Will the minister be taking this matter up with the Hon. Ron Irwin, Minister of DIAND, requesting that funds be restored?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. As you can very well tell, we're not very pleased with the position that we've been put into. It is our understanding that it is DIAND's responsibility, and has been for quite a number of years, and I find it quite offensive that the federal government would put us in this position.
Mr. Jenkins: In the event that the Minister of DIAND does not come through with the restoration of these funds, are there any other federal departments that the Government Leader or Minister of Tourism can take this matter up with and restore this very important function?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We will be getting into the motion and expressing our concerns, and everybody will have a chance to express their concern.
Certainly, the starting point for this debate will be, as per the member opposite's request, with the Minister of DIAND, and we certainly will be letting him know of our displeasure.
Mr. Jenkins: I will be very, very hopeful that telephone calls and letters and faxes will be immediately sent off to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and I am pleased to hear the assurances from the government.
If the federal cutbacks do occur, will the minister be directing the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization to take on these added responsibilities, bearing in mind that there will be a learning curve because of the technical expertise needed in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't believe I'm here to direct EMO. The EMO is not in the process of monitoring water, but it certainly maintains a 24-hour per day, seven days a week response capability and, operationally, the Yukon's EMO is prepared to deal with emergencies as they arise. Thank you.
Question re: School portables
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to ask a question of the Minister of Education. I'd like to ask about portables and their use as school facilities. I don't want to reference the historic site of Grey Mountain Primary with its 30-year-old-plus portables for a temporary facility, but the portables that were used for École Emilie Tremblay in Riverdale. Would the minister advise this House and outline for the public, the plans for these portables now that the École Emilie Tremblay has been relocated to a new facility?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as the member knows, the portables that used to house École Emilie Tremblay are located adjacent to what is now Christ the King Secondary School, which will next year become Christ the King Elementary School. We will be working with the new school council, when they move over there in the fall, on a plan to deal with the portables.
Ms. Duncan: As the minister has quite correctly noted, Christ the King High School will become Christ the King Elementary School and, with substantial refurbishment, in essence, this is a new school. It will be a new school and the first exposure to school for many small children. Will the minister assure this House and the public that the portables will be removed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as the member knows, our budget contains a lot of funding for the grade reorganization project, which includes making sure that all the schools, not just at Christ the King Elementary School, but that every school in the Whitehorse area affected by grade reorganization is adequate to meet students' education needs.
Ms. Duncan: Would the Minister of Finance or Education please provide this House and the public with a date as to when those portables will be removed from that site?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I've been saying to the member opposite, we are going to work with the school councils in the Whitehorse area. The grade reorganization project is something that affects every school in the Whitehorse area. It is costing millions of dollars. I do not have an exact date for the removal of the portables from what will become Christ the King Elementary School next year, but we find portables and modular classrooms provide ancillary space where needed. For example, the old Teen Parent Centre became space for MAD. I don't think we can just throw away existing resources and spent money on new ones without talking to the school councils and making sure we have a good plan in place.
Question re: Garbage dump at Marsh Lake, trucking garbage to
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
A couple of weeks ago, a resident on the Carcross Road raised the issue of the burning of garbage on the Carcross Road, and, in fact, put a page on the Internet that talked about the environmental problems caused by the burning of the garbage.
In a CBC radio interview, this same resident said that the government had plans to eventually truck the Carcross Road garbage to a landfill site at Marsh Lake.
As the minister knows, Marsh Lake is the headwaters of the Yukon River system and is the drinking water source for the City of Whitehorse.
I wonder if the minister can assure this House that his department has no plans whatsoever to be trucking any garbage from any other area of the Yukon to the Marsh Lake area, and building a new dump or enlarging the existing dump that's already there.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We'll be looking at the problems of the garbage and the dump in a comprehensive manner. We're certainly, right now, looking to and working with the Hamlet of Mount Lorne on their unit, and we're trying to find certain ways to make it efficient and to make it better.
As the member opposite knows, we are certainly also working with the rural service option paper, and all of these things will be coming up in light of that.
Mr. Phillips: Surely the minister can give us an answer on this one.
Does he believe that garbage from any other area of the territory should be trucked to, and stored in, a garbage dump near the headwaters of the Yukon River that is the main source of the drinking water of the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The headwaters of the Yukon River is a very broad and diverse range. I happen to live not 50 feet from the headwaters of the river. So we should put certain things into context, and certainly not do any fear-mongering among the people.
Whatever we do will certainly pertain to the headwaters. The headwaters of the Yukon River are also the Mount Lorne dump. So, I wish the member would ask something pertinent.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe I'll have to give a geography lesson to the Minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services.
Marsh Lake runs into the Yukon River - the Lewes River. It runs right down, 20 or 30 miles, into Schwatka Lake. The City of Whitehorse, whether the minister knows it or not, draws its water from that lake.
I'm asking the minister if he feels it's proper to truck any garbage to the Marsh Lake area from any other area of the territory, since it's in such close proximity to the Whitehorse City drinking water?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said, we are monitoring and working with the existing problem right now, and a decision has not been made on that, thank you.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 58, standing in the name of Mr. McRobb.
Motion No. 58
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) contamination at abandoned military sites could have detrimental impacts on the Yukon's environment, fish, wildlife and people who depend on country foods;
(2) clean-up of these sites should be undertaken on a priority basis; and
(3) given the Government of Canada's ownership and jurisdictional responsibility for most of the Yukon land mass, both now and at the time the sites were contaminated, Canada must retain the responsibility for reclamation of these sites;
THAT, given the Government of Canada's current jurisdiction for fish and wildlife and the shared responsibility of Canada, Yukon and First Nations governments to manage for conservation, Canada has an obligation to consult with Yukon and First Nations governments and the relevant land claims boards and councils in respect to the matters affecting the reclamation of contaminated sites on Crown land;
THAT this House strongly objects to Canada's signing of an agreement with the United States of America regarding reclamation of U. S. military sites which may affect the clean-up of sites in the Yukon without any prior consultation with Yukon governments and people;
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to provide assurances that contamination at Yukon sites will be cleaned up; and
THAT the Speaker forward copies of this resolution to:
(1) the Right Honourable Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada;
(2) the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs;
(3) the Hon. Doug Young, Minister of National Defence;
(4) the Hon. Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development;
(5) the Hon. Sergio Marchi, Minister of Environment;
(6) Audrey McLaughlin, M.P.;
(7) Acting Grand Chief Steve Taylor of the Council of Yukon First Nations;
(8) all Yukon First Nations Chiefs and Councils;
(9) Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board;
(10) Alsek Renewable Resources Council;
(11) Teslin Renewable Resources Council;
(12) Mayo Renewable Resources Council;
(13) Wildlife Management Advisory Council, North Slope; and
(14) Inuvialuit Game Council.
It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to this motion on the contamination of abandoned U.S. military sites and the detrimental impact these sites could have on our environment, fish and wildlife. These contaminants end up in our food chain and could have devastating effects on wildlife and on First Nations and other Yukon people who depend on country foods.
In my riding of Kluane, there are many abandoned and contaminated U.S. military sites. Some of these are Beaver Creek, Donjek, Destruction Bay, Haines Junction and Blanchard River. One of these - the Haines/Fairbanks eight-inch pipeline - was constructed in 1954-55 by the United States government to supply fuel from the port at Haines to military sites in Alaska. Along the Canadian section of the line, six pumps and related facilities were constructed, five of which are in the Yukon and one in British Columbia.
Although the pipeline ceased operation in 1971, nearly 20 years later, the Government of Canada declared the six pump sites abandoned and deemed them Crown assets.
The preliminary environmental assessment of the Haines/Fairbanks pipeline, prepared for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, identified several sites as being contaminated. At the Blanchard River pump station, hydrocarbons and an inorganic element containing leachite were found. It was also discovered that hydrocarbons had contaminated the groundwater, with the risk of leakage into fish-bearing waters, including the Blanchard River.
At Million Dollar Falls, the Arctic Environmental Strategy, action on waste, discovered possible low-level PCB contamination of the campground water supply and elevated levels of zinc and DDT at the toe of the dump, resulting in implications of possible human and ecosystem health risk and potential migration to the Takhanne River.
In the border pump station, adjacent to Rainy Hollow in northern British Columbia, just south of the Yukon border, the soil and groundwater were contaminated with hydrocarbons, with the potential for migration to Kluhini River via the Rainy Hollow site. In September 1994, 40 buried canisters of DDT were discovered at Rainy Hollow. Environment Canada initiated an emergency environmental response and immediately removed the canisters to a disposal facility in the United States.
Clean up of the border pump station is estimated at $1.75 million. The border station Rainy Hollow detailed site investigation and risk assessment, recommendations for further clean-up, are based on the premise that the need for any action arises only in situations where there is a possibility of risk to humans and/or other living organisms at present, or some reasonable expectation that risk could occur in the future.
At the Haines Junction pump station, buried drums were found containing hydrocarbon products, and at the Mile 207.6 fill site, extensive hydrocarbon contamination of soils was found.
The United States military also constructed, and later abandoned, contaminated airfields. By 1942, several new airfields, including the Aishihik airfield, was constructed at the north end of Aishihik Lake in order to improve air transportation to the north in support of the war effort. The airfield at Aishihik was part of a chain of airfields, including Snag and Northway, Alaska, that connected Whitehorse to Fairbanks.
The Aishihik area is home to the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, where traditional activities have been carried out for almost 3,000 years. The Champagne-Aishihik First Nation has since renovated the airport site for use as a cultural camp and meeting place.
Let me review some of the problems found at the Aishihik site to give members a better understanding of how these abandoned military sites are contaminated.
Chemical contamination at the site was assessed, and a review of the analytical results indicated that contamination was limited to the power house, garage and a dump site. Soil samples collected by Environment Canada indicated that the floor of the generator room of the power house building was contaminated with PCBs. The environmental study of the Aishihik airstrip indicated that the power house was clearly contaminated with PCBs and would have to be thoroughly cleaned before use.
Further tests were carried out to determine the extent of PCB contamination in the surrounding area. The study recommended that the potable water well adjacent to the power house be tested for contamination and, if present, a groundwater investigation initiated. This work has since been completed.
Meanwhile, members of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation still continue their traditional activities in the area, eating fish and wildlife, berries, and gathering medicines, not knowing how far the contamination has migrated up the food chain.
A similar situation exists at the Snag airfield. In the summer of 1996, the facilities at the site consisted of eight buildings, the old airstrip, and a small summer tent camp run by the White River First Nation. Soil sample tests uncovered the presence of PCBs and pesticide contaminants. All soils and materials that contained levels of contaminants above the remediation criteria were removed. Recommendations for future work included the installation of groundwater monitoring wells around the containment cell, fencing, and monitor work with annual visual inspections.
Similar to the situation at Aishihik, the White River First Nation members also continue their traditional activities in this area, as do many other Yukoners, unaware of the possibility of contamination in the food chain.
Mr. Speaker, many of these sites still need to be cleaned up. The extent of the contamination and its migration into the food chain and the effect on those who eat country foods remains unknown. For many First Nations, this is a disturbing reality that could weaken or threaten their very existence.
Another example of abandoned military sites is the Distant Early Warning line which was built between 1953 and 1957. It was built and operated by the United States as part of the overall North American air defence system. The DEW line originally consisted of 63 sites, 42 of them in Canada. In 1963, 21 of the Canadian sites were decommissioned and returned to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The United States completed a surface clean-up of the 21 sites and transferred operation to Canada between 1989 and 1993.
Remediation of the DEW sites is of significant concern to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, given the fragility of the Arctic ecosystem, the nature of the food chain, and the fact that many aboriginal people live off the land.
DIAND, through the Arctic environmental strategy, a federal program which has funded much of the Northern Canada clean-up to date, has estimated that clean-up costs on the Canadian portion of the Haines to Fairbanks pipeline, at $4.3 million. The AES was terminated on March 31st, 1997.
On April 9th of this year, the CBC reported that the Government of Canada had accepted $100 million U.S. in military supplies, in return for U.S. military environmental liabilities at former sites in Canada. Canada reportedly started negotiations by seeking $500 million. It's not a very good deal by the federal Liberal government - another slap in the face for Yukoners.
The sites referenced in regard to the settlement included the Argentia Naval Base, Goose Bay airport, DEW line sites and the Haines to Fairbanks pipeline.
This secret deal, which was reached in October 1996, states that "payment, in full, of the ex gratia settlement shall constitute a full and final settlement of all claims for costs of environmental clean-up at the four installations described."
The 1996 report of the Auditor General of Canada noted that, "The federal government does not have a complete picture of its environmental risks, costs and liabilities arising from federal contaminated sites. Some estimates place the federal share at $2 billion, excluding the costs of dealing with radioactive waste. The government is not in a position to adequately assess the risk to health, safety and the environment and to establish the timing and costs for remediation of federal contaminated sites."
The report went on to state, "Currently, the government does not have a timetable to assemble a complete picture of the extent to which its lands have been contaminated by a variety of pollutants ranging from unexploded military ordinance to petroleum products."
There are many dangerous sites in Yukon and Canada that need to be cleaned up, yet Canada has signed an agreement with the United States of America regarding reclamation of U.S. military sites, which may affect the clean-up of sites in the Yukon, without prior consultation with the Yukon government and the people of this territory.
Further, CBC reported that the clean-up of Argentia alone is expected to cost $81 million. The Globe and Mail has reported the Goose Bay clean-up costs at $12.5 million, and the DEW line site clean-up costs at $242 million.
The Department of National Defence wants to cut the costs of the DEW line sites by burying PCB-contaminated materials, and it continues to seek approval to bury the PCBs.
There were no consultations at all with the Government of Yukon despite the fact that the Yukon has two abandoned DEW line sites, Komakuk Beach and Shingle Point, and most of the Canadian portion of the Haines-Fairbanks pipeline.
Valerie Noftle, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, according to the Whitehorse Star, "confirmed that there was no consultation with the governments of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, saying that governments are all part of the federal government anyway." Shame; shame is right.
It is important to understand that the Government of Canada has a fiduciary obligation to consult with the people of the Yukon, the Government of Yukon, First Nations governments and the relevant land claims boards and councils regarding reclamation of U.S. military sites.
Given the Government of Yukon's current jurisdiction for fish and wildlife and the joint responsibility of Canada, Yukon and First Nations to manage for conservation of fish and wildlife, this House should object strongly to the signing of this agreement.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, this House urges the Government of Canada to provide assurances that the contamination of these abandoned military sites will be cleaned up and that First Nations and those who depend on country foods will no longer be threatened by the migration of contaminants into the food chain caused by these abandoned military sites. Thank you.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess I was somewhat surprised. I thought the Member for Kluane would be a little bit longer on his presentation today, taking the opportunity to, once again, lambaste the federal Liberals, not that they don't deserve it.
No, I'm going to be very gracious today and I'm going to be very, very short. I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party caucus will be supporting this motion. There are not very many that are put forward by the members opposite that we can support, but this is one that we can support quite wholeheartedly.
Mr. Speaker, it's a trick, is it? The Member for Riverside says its a trick, so I'll wait for his amendment and we'll see where we go with that. Nevertheless, in a little more serious light, I take exception when the federal government keeps walking away from their responsibilities in the north and then wanting to take all the benefits of the north and keep all the benefits, just as they are in the devolution talks, revenue sharing on royalties or resources where, on one hand, they told Yukoners they'd like us all to leave their home and be on our own and yet they won't give us the tools to be able to do it.
So I do take exception to that.
The Arctic environmental strategy and clean-up of abandoned Yukon sites is a big job. We're looking at cleaning up facilities that have been around for many, many years, and they have to be cleaned up, and I'm not one to stand here today and say to the federal government, "You must remove every item from those sites completely", because they have to be put somewhere on earth anyway. So, I'm not the expert as to whether they should be buried onsite or whether they should be flown out, or how they should be handled, but I do take the position that this is a federal responsibility, and they ought not to abrogate their responsibilities in cleaning up the environment.
Mr. Speaker, if I could just take a little run at the Liberals on this one, they are the one party - along with their colleagues across the aisle over here - who pride themselves on being the great defenders of the environment. Everybody thinks the Yukon Party doesn't have an environmental conscience, but I could debate that with the members opposite some day as well, but that's not the issue here today.
The issue here today is that we've heard the Prime Minister, who talks very strongly about environmental issues across Canada. I just find it a flip-flop, almost as big as what the NDP made on their election commitments, for the federal government in Ottawa to walk away on this and to not fulfill their obligations in funding the environmental clean-up.
I heard the Member for Kluane talking about the pipeline up along the Alaska Highway. Well, I've lived alongside that pipeline for the 25 years that I've been in the Yukon, and many times, as I drive down the highway and look at one of those pumping stations, I say, "I wonder when that's going to be removed. When is that site going to be cleaned up?" They've been fenced. The fences have in some cases deteriorated, and in other cases, they've been vandalized. Nobody knows what contaminants are in those sites from many years of pumping petroleum products.
So, I believe the federal government has an obligation and a responsibility to clean up these sites, as they were the ones that gave permission for those facilities to be established there in the first place. And, I guess, Mr. Speaker, now is probably as good a time as any to put pressure on the federal Liberal government to live up to some obligations. We see them solving a lot of problems that have been outstanding since they came to power, on a day-to-day basis. I think today they're signing an agreement with British Columbia on the salmon treaty. Only yesterday they announced the settlement of the outstanding Pearson airport lawsuit. It seems that, all of a sudden, the Prime Minister may be getting a little concerned about how many seats they're going to win in the next election, and he's going to take some action.
So, this is the time for us in this Legislature to put some pressure on him and hope that we have some small impact if the Liberals really want to have a shot at maybe electing a person from the Yukon to represent them at the federal level this time.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can't say that I rise to speak with pleasure to this motion; instead, I speak with concern. As members have already known, a recent deal struck between Canada and the U.S. raises questions about the resources available to clean up the significant number of abandoned military sites in Canada. The deal signed with the U.S. referenced a number of specific military installations in Canada and Yukon, but does not include the hundreds of other former U.S. military sites in Canada.
National news reports have mentioned that there are estimated to be more than 300 former U.S. installations across Canada.
The deal reached by Ottawa specifically referenced the two north Yukon DEW line sites, Shingle Point and Komakuk Beach, as well as sites along the Haines to Fairbanks pipeline. The sites that the agreements have to deal with are only a fraction of the known and unknown military sites in the Yukon.
In the Yukon, construction of the Alaska Highway, Canol pipeline and the Haines to Fairbanks product lines were all undertaken by, or in conjunction with, the U.S. military. We were to supply emergency airstrips along the Alaska Highway route.
PCBs, DDT and other chemicals were in common use at the time of this activity and, as we have learned, to our cost, were sometimes left behind in dumps at abandoned Yukon sites.
The 1996 report of the Auditor General of Canada noted that the federal government does not have the complete picture of the environmental risk, costs and liabilities arising from the contaminated sites. Some estimates place the federal share at $2 billion, excluding the costs of dealing with radioactive wastes. The government is not in a position to adequately assess the risk of the health and safety of the environment and to establish a time and costs of the remediation of the federal government-contaminated sites.
In regard to the sites covered by this secret agreement, a further problem is that the estimates of the costs of the clean-up are way bigger than the amounts received by Canada in return for letting the U.S. off the hook.
Sites referenced in regards to the agreement include the Argentia Naval Base, Goose Bay airport, in Newfoundland, and a number of DEW-line sites across the north, in addition to the Yukon sites. The CBC has reported that clean-up of the Argentia alone is expected to cost $81 million. The Globe and Mail has reported the Goose Bay clean-up cost estimate at $12.5 million. It also reported that the Department of National Defence estimate for the DEW-line clean-up cost is $242 million. Those projects alone total more than three times the amount of compensation received, and that compensation has been put in a trust fund for the purchase of U.S. military supplies.
Clean-up costs for the Haines, Alaska, pipeline alone are estimated at $4.2 million. It seems shocking to me that there were no consultations with all the Yukon governments on this agreement, despite the fact that Yukon is home to two abandoned DEW-line sites, and most of the Canadian portion of the Fairbanks products line, the Konakuk Beach and Shingle Point.
The Yukon has also been an active participant in overseeing work done under the Arctic environmental strategy and had thought that it was a partner with the federal government on the clean-up of waste in the Yukon.
It concerns me that the Government of Canada considered the Yukon of so little significance in this matter that, according to the Whitehorse Star, the Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, "confirmed that there was no consultation with the governments of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, saying that the governments are all part of the federal government anyway."
It sometimes seems that Ottawa forgets that it is in active negotiation to devolve further powers to Yukon when it treats the territory like a rock in its backyard. This kind of forgetfulness on the part of Ottawa has happened before under the Liberal government. It was just a few months ago that the Department of National Defence sought permission to landfill PCB-contaminated materials in violation of the national standards, as if the north is somehow not part of the country where environmental standards apply.
I'm happy to say that a letter of protest, which I sent to the Minister of Environment, the Hon. Sergio Marchi, on February 20th, 1997, did generate a positive response. He indicated that Environment Canada's position was "that landfilling PCB waste is not environmentally sound management, and that such waste should be treated and destroyed."
However, we understand that DND continues to seek approval for burial of this material.
Mr. Speaker, I really wonder just how seriously the federal government takes the whole question of contamination and waste in the north.
Just last week, there was a big announcement about how successful the Arctic environmental strategy had been at cleaning up the north - an announcement that was made based on the evaluation of a multi-year program that ended March 31st.
My staff had an opportunity to review the evaluation, and I would like to reference a number of passages that were not reported in the media and relate directly to the matter that we are discussing this afternoon.
The evaluation spoke specifically of the DEW line sites, noting that, under the strategy, two of the 21 abandoned DEW line sites were cleaned up. Neither of those sites were in the Yukon. It went on to state, "Clean-up of the remaining site is expected to continue beyond the AES timeframe and will be dependent on significant funds being allocated for this purpose and the level of risk associated with the sites."
It also went on to note that, "Some regional officials noted that a commitment is being sought from the U.S. government to assist in the clean-up of the DND DEW line sites."
Well, we have seen what has come of that hope. A hundred million dollars of military materials in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up work still to be tackled.
It is very important to emphasize that many sites that are of concern have not only left behind twisted metal, oil drums and abandoned buildings, but buried sources of DDT and other chemicals have the potential to migrate through the soil into the waterways, potentially affecting fish and wildlife and human health.
This was recognized by the Arctic environmental strategy, which was, in some ways, a notable effort to try and deal with the legacy of the last 50 to 100 years. As the evaluation of this program noted, prior to 1972, there was little regulation regarding land use in the north. As such, it is the responsibility of the Crown to clean up the waste sites in those instances where the responsible party cannot be located. Although the responsibility for clean-up rests with DIAND, an inter-agency waste priority clean-up committee was established in each territory to assist in coordination and administration of the program.
As I mentioned previously, the Yukon was happy to be part of the inter-agency effort. However, we were concerned that the program would not have the resources to do the job, a pattern that we see repeated in the secret agreement recently signed.
The problem is very clearly identified in the AES evaluation. It states that, "Waste implementation, according to the plan, would have been unrealistic given the objectives that were revisited following the sharp drop in the cost estimate of $400 million to a budget of $28 million." Right off the top, the Action on Waste component, which funded much of the site work, was given less than one-tenth of the resources needed to do the job.
Now, there are some nice statements in the evaluation, which I'm sure the members from the third party will highlight, but the fact is that the work has only begun, and the program has ended.
Will they remember to mention that there is now no funding at all for waste clean-up? They may talk about $6 million in funding for contaminant programs across the north, but it is important to note that all the clean-up work of the kinds of sites we are talking about today was funded out of Action on Waste, dead as of March 31st.
This raises serious concerns about the priority which Canada is giving to clean up sites in the north and here in the Yukon. The federal government, in its report, seems to recognize its responsibilities, but something seems to happen at the budget table.
The AES assessment noted that, "The need for waste clean-up arises from legal obligations under CEPA, as well as a need to demonstrate responsible practices to the world at large."
I would agree with that, as would the people involved in delivering the program, but, according to the evaluation, "Evaluation participants were concerned about the consequences of sunsetting the AES. Regional officials suggested that the level of activities without AES funding will be below the threshold necessary to ensure the integrity of the Arctic ecosystems."
Officials believe that there is strong scientific evidence to justify continuation of certain aspects of the work under DIAND A-base. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the Liberal government has taken this advice to heart. No new funding for waste work has been identified, unless we can count on the Yukon's share of the military deal - whatever that is worth.
There is no doubt that there is much work still to be done. In fact, the key conclusion of the Action on Waste evaluation was, "There was overwhelming agreement among the participants in the program that the work initiated must continue. Respondents in both territories emphasize that there are many sites on the inventory that have yet to be addressed and that the inventory itself is not always up to date. It is also important to note that there are many sites that have yet to be discovered, according to the elders and according to other individuals."
I hope that this motion serves as a wake-up call for the federal Liberals. I will be supporting it, and I encourage all members to do the same. Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I rise with great pleasure to respond to this motion.
It is most unfortunate that the Member for Kluane has determined that it is that side of the House's right and privilege to call the federal election. I believe it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister and Governor General to do that honour. Since they seem to have usurped that right, and they seem to think it appropriate to use Yukoners taxpayers' time, money and energy to argue the federal election on the floor of this House, then bring them on.
My national leader is ready -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My national leader is ready to stand on the record of the federal Liberal government over the last three and one-half years. He is confident that a Liberal government will be returned to power. Look no further than the comments from the leader of the federal NDP on how the election is shaping up. She's already admitted they're finishing last.
In the Yukon, I'll stack up our incredible field of candidates any day of the week, and I hope it's next week.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order. Order.
Ms. Duncan: Now, let's get to work on the issues. The real issue, Mr. Speaker, is a clean environment. Previous uninformed or misinformed public servants and industrialists have left us a mess. Our environment, especially our Arctic environment, needs a really good clean-up. This motion addresses the issue of contaminated sites in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, let me enlighten the House as to the actual facts of the matter, as this motion is a little light on facts. Under the federal Arctic environmental strategy, over 300 sites in the Yukon have been cleaned up over the last six years. They include the Aishihik and Snag airports.
Last time I checked, Mr. Speaker, we are all Canadians. The Government of Canada has a responsibility for the clean-up of military sites. The Government of Canada has accepted the responsibility and the credit for the military and the Department of National Defence actions. The Government of Canada has done a great deal to clean up existing contaminated sites in the Yukon, and no one said the job was finished or that the monitoring of these sites would end.
Overall, the Arctic environmental strategy was seen to be one of the federal Liberal government's most significant accomplishments to date, north of 60O. Many successes were achieved, even against the background of government cutbacks. Canada is far ahead of all other countries on northern environmental issues, as a direct result of AES work. The overall goals were seen as tangible and the AES was seen as having made a major contribution toward the achievement of all its stated objectives, although some are seen as longer run in nature.
AES has increased environmental awareness throughout the north and this should work to ensure the health and well-being of Arctic ecosystems. Significant gains were reported in community awareness and environmental planning. Partnerships - partnerships - and community involvement have enhanced decision making through integrating various interests. The contaminants work contributed significant achievements internationally.
The member should have done his homework before suggesting to this House that Canada failed to live up to its obligations to consult with Yukon and First Nations government respecting clean-ups. They consulted, and what's more, they're paying the bill.
The Government of Canada, representing all of us at our request, negotiated with the United States government respecting this clean-up. They didn't get the best deal from the United States government - at first glance. Asking for $250 million and getting $136 million may not, in some books, be the greatest settlement.
Mr. Speaker, by law, the United States government didn't have to pay anything. Getting $136 million is better than spending millions of dollars on lawyers' fees trying to take the U. S. government to court to fight this in an international court. It is the opinion of the Department of National Defence - and you can ask them for yourself - that if the case had gone to court, Canada wouldn't have received anything.
The deal is a good one for Canada. I repeat: the U.S. had no legal obligation to pay for the clean-up outside of the U.S. If the deal had gone to court, Canada wouldn't have gotten money. Canada got $136 million in the agreement, and Yukon was consulted before negotiations were begun.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the side opposite wants to fed bash - from last place in the polls, I might add. Let us take a look at their own House. What has this government done for the environment lately? Contaminated sites regulations: who does the clean-up? Who does the public report spills of toxic substances to? Well, gee, I guess that would be the federal government - the federal Liberal government.
A new report on United Keno Hill Mine says that chemicals from the pond are making their way into the environment, and in the event of a large-scale spill of contaminants, the nearby McQuesten River would likely be impacted. Gee, who would look after that? I guess it would be the federal Liberal government.
Environment Canada recently turned down a request to bury PCBs in the Arctic, and since that was raised by the Minister of Renewable Resources, let's deal with it.
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment improved in principle an accord designed to lead to improved and more consistent environmental protection across Canada - November 20th, 1996, during the life of this government - the council agreed to a Canada-wide ban on landfilling waste with a concentration of PCBs in excess of 50 parts per million. Each jurisdiction was to put the ban in place as quickly as possible.
Environment Canada recently turned down a request to bury PCBs in the Yukon. The Ministry of the Environment will never recommend PCBs should be buried in the Yukon, and this Minister of Renewable Resources was signatory to that agreement.
Mr. Speaker, what has this government done on the environment? People concerned about contaminants were able to participate in a live broadcast on the topic, sponsored by CYFN and three aboriginal groups. And we have, on the news report from February 17th, updated on March 12th, news that legislation which would allow northerners to have a say in what happens to their rivers has been passed by all parties involved, except the Yukon.
An important federal-provincial conference on greenhouse gases - where was the Yukon? The minister says we were too busy - not at the conference.
An important study on contaminated foods. The minister takes the question under advisement. He knew nothing about it.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to address the point about lack of consultation. That government, the government opposite, contends the deal with the U.S. was signed without consultation. This is not true. DIAND and YTG have consulted extensively over the last number of years about the clean up of contaminated sites in the Yukon. DIAND has more resources than YTG and has taken the lead on the clean-up at YTG's request. DIAND took the concerns to Foreign Affairs, who did the negotiations with the Americans.
Before this government dares to slam the federal Liberal government, the City of Whitehorse, any municipality or any First Nation government, or attempts to speak for them, why not get your own house in order?
There are some very real concerns with our Yukon environment and the Arctic environment as a whole. I quote Sergio Marchi, March 20th, 1997, "More than 70 percent of the pollutants entering the Great Lakes basin and the six tons of PCBs which fall on the Canadian Arctic each year come from outside of Canada."
CBC News, March the 4th, "A new study says nuclear waste could be affecting the waters of the north Yukon coast." Researchers at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Victoria say, unlike the surface current, the deep ocean waters in the Arctic usually move counter-clockwise. That means pollution from nuclear processing plants in Europe is being swept into the Beaufort Sea. Institute spokesperson Greg Holloway says there were dozens of waste nuclear reactors dumped into the ocean off the Russian coast, but no one knows how much radiation is escaping from them and more research is needed.
"Global warming could mean good things for Yukon farmers." That's from CBC, Monday, March the 3rd. Wednesday, March the 5th, there is an extensive interview on CBC dealing with scientists and the detection of nuclear wastes in the waters off the Beaufort Sea.
Mr. Speaker, motion day is for Yukon issues. Liberals have used it for that purpose - witness our domestic violence legislation motion.
The NDP are using this motion day as a platform to fight the federal election. It would be far more appropriate to discuss local issues. What about energy, land claims and unemployment, just to name a few?
The side opposite wants to use this forum as an opportunity to battle for the hearts and minds of Yukon federal election voters. I'll argue the merits of issues that are under Yukon jurisdiction on the floor of this House, and I'll try to improve those situations, because that's my job as the Member for Porter Creek South.
I would remind the government, before I close, the Arctic environmental strategy was introduced in 1991 as a six-year program and ended on March 31st, 1997, as originally planned. Gee, the federal government tabled a plan and stuck to it. What a new idea for governments, especially the government opposite.
DIAND - the federal Liberal government - will continue to honour its statutory and legal responsibilities in the north after the AES comes to its conclusion. For the coming year, the northern contaminants program will be funded at a level of approximately $6 million to continue a sound program for 1997-98. The level of expenditure is similar to that of previous years.
The Liberal caucus will not support this motion.
Get your facts straight.
Mr. Livingston: Just to work on a few of the facts, w
hile the member opposite is talking about Russian subs off the Soviet coast, I think the whole notion of the contamination of sites in the Yukon is far closer to the hearts and minds of Yukoners.
It is interesting - just to put a few facts on the record here. The Arctic environmental strategy, a six-year program - that would put it back in what, 1991? That was prior to the election of the recent Liberal government that's now considering moving to the polls.
Speaker: Order. Order please. There's too much noise. Order.
Mr. Livingston: What is at the heart of the matter?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: At the heart of the matter, I would submit, is the preservation of our natural environment and the clean-up of our natural environment and the responsibility of the federal government to clean up the contaminated sites that have existed here since the Second World War.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Let's take a look at this. The member says -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: - clean up your own backyard. Let's take a look at some of the initiatives that have taken place here. In fact, we'll use the same time period. We saw in 1991 the Environment Act passed in this Legislature.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: Excuse me, that was passed by the last New Democratic Party government in this Legislature. We see now the environmental regulations being brought forward. We see work being done on parks and protected spaces - another step forward by this government in terms of working at protecting the environment in the Yukon. We see work on the DAP - the development assessment process. The development assessment process, I submit, is going to ensure that we don't have these kinds of situations occurring again.
The member opposite says, "Well, they're paying the bill". Well, let's take a look at how we've gotten to the point where we are. In November 1996, the deal was struck between Canada and the United States - a secret deal; a deal that was done in secret. The member suggests there was consultation. The consultation occurred and reference has already been made to the article in the paper where we had a federal official saying, "Well, you know, the territories, really, we don't bother to consult them; they're part of the Government of Canada anyway". Excuse me, we have something to say about our own backyard here.
I want to just quote from...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: I want to refer to the Arctic environmental strategy assessment report, and I'll just quote a couple of statements: "Prior to 1972, there was little regulation regarding land use in the north. As such" - and I would ask the members opposite to note - "it is the responsibility of the Crown to clean up waste sites in those instances that the responsible party cannot be located. Although the responsibility for clean-up rests with DIAND, an inter-agency waste priority clean-up committee is established in each territory to assist in the coordination."
So, the responsibility clearly rests with DIAND.
Is the job done? Well, let's see what the report has to say about that. There was overwhelming agreement among all participants in the program that the work initiated must continue. Respondents in both territories emphasized that there are many sites in the inventory that have yet to be addressed and that the inventory itself is not always up to date. There are also many sites that have not yet been discovered, according to elders and other individuals.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would submit that there is much work to be done.
Now, I'd just like to talk for a moment about the member opposite's suggestion that the federal government is going to pay the bills, the federal government is doing all of the work. Well, I would submit that I've already given a couple of examples that the Yukon is in fact moving forward in our environmental protection. It is interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the CBC, which is another potential hazard or another potential accident victim or victim of cutbacks by this Liberal federal government, had to obtain, through Unites States access-to-information legislation, about the kind of deal - the secret deal - that was struck between Canada and the United States. It's interesting to note that, initially, Canadians requested approximately $500,000, which is reduced through the negotiation process, and finally, of course, we ended up with $100 million, not in cash to go out and do the work, but rather in military goods - rocket launchers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Livingston: Hey, U.S. dollars. Wonderful. But how is this in fact going to help us clean up our contaminated sites in the Yukon, and that, Mr. Speaker, is the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is how are we going to get this job done.
It's an important job, I would submit, and it's one that we simply need to get on to. The Government of Canada needs to live up to this responsibility, and, at this point, it's regrettable that they haven't given an indication that they intend to do so.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to stand and offer my support for this government motion, and I'd like to reiterate a few of my thoughts on this, if I may.
I was born and raised in the Yukon Territory, as many of us in this room were and are. Many of us came to the Yukon Territory from spots outside of the Yukon, to enjoy the tranquillity, the peacefulness and the serenity of the Yukon Territory.
Thinking back to my childhood - and we were already affected then but just simply didn't realize it - I've seen a change in Mother Earth, in the Yukon. I, as many others do, travel the back lands, the hinterlands and have seen the accumulated garbage left by the military from both sides of the fence, I guess I might say. This is not totally right at all.
I've noticed that in my people's health condition - my people that use the country foods, if I could say it in that manner - the berries off the land, the animals that eat the berries off the land - and it's very serious.
I remember cartoons in the past by - I can't say the name - cartoonists in the past, very popular, local cartoons, which show and depict the caribou - the caribou of the land, which my people definitely depend upon - showing up like they were on a radar screen from radioactivity in their bodies. It is simply not a laughing matter.
I'd just say that, in support of this motion, we should be here. We all speak of a value-driven government, and how we're here. Well, I think that some of the principles that we have, and we should have close to our hearts - we shouldn't be wearing them on our sleeves, but we should be putting them into our direction and working cooperatively with one another - is the one of preservation of Mother Earth.
If we look at the ozone depletion and we look at all the depletions of the Earth, I must say that if we don't have Mother Earth first and foremost in a healthy state of mind - well, in a holistic sense, I guess mind does come in, but you know what I mean: it's more than mindful, it's soulful, it's a part of us - and if the Earth is not healthy, then her children are not healthy, and this means so very much to me. I want the north to be as it is, strong and free and always to be strong and free. I want all people to focus on it. Whether its fiduciary obligations or not fiduciary obligations, I think there's obligations to Mother Earth.
Mr. Speaker, I've had the privilege, the unique opportunity, of representing my people at the land claims table, where we sat and talked about not just the tenure of the land and the governance of the land but the land itself and having the land in a healthy condition. We had asked the Government of Canada to disclose sites that are buried now, that have a regeneration of forests on those sites, which is very hard to pick up now, and to disclose those sites and where they are. Those sites were not disclosed to us because of the War Measures Act and other excuses. I say that's atrocious.
We are not here to beat up on anybody. We are here for one issue, and that is the preservation of Mother Earth, and then her children will be healthy, and I'll say that again.
What Canada has done is despicable, and I've got to say it in that strong a word. It's despicable. They've done it without consultation, saying that we are just their children and just fragments, I guess you might say, of their own political system. Well, that's not true. That's not true at all. I think each and every one of us in here understands the merits of Yukon governance and how our people, all our Yukon people, all Yukoners, want to have a healthy environment, and that's why we're here. Well, let's work toward those goals. Let's all encourage the federal government to disclose these sites. Let's encourage the federal government to work cooperatively with us, and then we can work cooperatively with the United States of America. Let's not treat this as a rummage sale, for God's sake, where we go and exchange - we don't get cash, but we exchange military supplies.
Mr. Speaker, to me the southern people are missing a lot of the point of the northern people. It bothers me deeply that they would miss that point and that they would not put trust in us to know that. We live in this country. This is our backyard. Each and every one of us, when we take our vacations, primarily have our vacations in the hinterland. Well, the hinterland must be clean and pure for us.
So, I would like to support this motion. I want everybody to support this motion, and I think that we should and could support it if we focus on what the motion is primarily working toward. It's the values, it's the preservation of the earth. Fiduciary obligations or not, it's something that we must do and we must encourage the government to work with us to do. It's simply not a ticket price of $500 million and then we put it on sale every second Monday and we put a 99-cent sticker on it. It does not work that way. This is the food basket, the chain of the people of the Yukon and all the children of the world are affected by this, by our northernmost portion here.
Mr. Speaker, that's how seriously I take it. I would encourage the federal government to give us - At this point in time, it is not too late to disclose the places where these atrocities are buried, and to bring it forth and put it on the table so that we can all put together a plan that will work towards giving us a healthy environment and healthy children again.
That is what I am here for and that is exactly what I want, Mr. Speaker.
I can't see why that cannot be done. Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that by simply digging up some earth containing radioactivity or PCBs, or whatever it might be, and covering it with earth and masquerading it with a nice clean lawn is going to help my people; it is not going to help any people here.
So, Mr. Speaker, to me that's what it means. We just can't put it aside; we can't treat it as a rummage sale item. We must treat it with realism and be realistic so that our future is secure. I'm very worried about the security. I want to be able to pass on this Yukon. I want to be able to pass on the north. I want to be able to pass on Canada. I want it to be passed on so that we might all be able to do it. I want everybody to encourage and to work together no matter what geographical site they come from so that we might be able to work toward having and preserving the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, I do not mean harsh words to anybody, but I do believe that this is something that is very dear to all of our hearts and if it isn't then it certainly should be, and with that, I thank you very much for your time.
Mr. Phillips: I thought there were some other speakers who were going to get up before me, but I have no problem speaking at this time.
Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to commend the federal government for taking the initiative to negotiate an agreement with the American government to clean up the American ex-military sites. But having said that, that's about as far as I want to go, because once it got to that point, all the positive aspects of these negotiations, or this discussion, ended.
It's kind of ironic, I guess, in a way, when you talk specifically about the Yukon of the deal that was struck at the negotiations, because in the Yukon many of the sites, and even in Canada, are ex-military sites so one can see how the negotiator sort of got hood-winked into thinking that this was a military negotiation, and when it all ended, we ended up with a whole bunch of machine guns and rockets out of it.
It's quite bizarre, to say the least, to think that we went down there to negotiate money to clean up Canada and to clean up the mess that our American neighbours left us with and we came back with probably a bunch of used tanks and used military equipment. I think if there's a lesson here, the lesson is, number one, let's get the name of that federal negotiator and not ever use him, because I think the fellow was off base and, unfortunately, we're going to pay the price.
I think this is just one of a series of things that seem to be trickling down from Ottawa and we're all starting to see them show up one after the other.
I know, Mr. Speaker, when we heard the federal Liberal Finance minister stand up in the House of Commons and talk a couple of years ago about cutbacks and changes that were happening in the Government of Canada, they mentioned just millions of dollars. No one really knew how it was going to affect us.
I guess we're now starting to see it. We're starting to see it with the flood-control issue that we discussed today - I think it was in Question Period - where no one in their right mind would think that that would be a program that would be cut, because that's an essential program. That's a program that, in fact, Mr. Speaker, is one that we're going to have to pick up, or somebody's going to have to pick up. There's going to have to be some early warning system developed in the Yukon to warn our communities about that, and that's one that we're going to have to pay the costs on.
The other one is the weather office, and the cutbacks to the weather office and the thousands of dollars. Now they want to charge for the five minute blurb every morning that CBC does live with the weathermen, which many, many Yukoners listen to throughout this territory - just silly little cutbacks, and everyone in their right mind knows that the people are sitting up there and could be carrying out this task, but the federal government feels now it's got to charge for it.
I guess how that relates to the motion that we have here before us and the deal that's been struck that is detrimental to the territory is the fact I think was all clearly said by the Liberal official, in the Whitehorse Star, that said that we're just all part of the federal government. We just all belong to Ottawa. That's probably someone who thinks Whitehorse is in the Northwest Territories, and I've run into a lot of those kind of people in Ottawa.
I guess it's rather disappointing that this colonial attitude still prevails in Ottawa with respect to the north, and that, face-to-face, many of the first ministers and other ministers say, "Oh, we recognize that you guys are a full-fledged government and have the respect of us" and yet, when these things start trickling down, we realize that they have no idea how they affect us, and they don't really want to listen. I mean we've had all kinds of examples of CBC - I think one member mentioned here today - and health care cutbacks that we're going to have to pick up.
It's a sad day indeed, and I don't know what the overall strategy of the Liberal government is, but I have to think - I have to hope, I guess - that this isn't just localized to the Yukon, that we're not the only ones that are feeling this type of cutback and this type of effect from these cutbacks.
The member for Carcross-Southern Lakes just spoke before me, and I would like to remind that member that he gave a very passionate speech about cleaning up our environment. I asked some questions in Question Period today talking about the very issue of garbage, and the member talked about the Yukon River and the headwaters of the Yukon River, and I gave him a geography lesson. I think, if the member would have listened to my question at the time, Mr. Speaker, he would have realized that my concern was about the drinking water in the City of Whitehorse and the headwaters of the Yukon River that flow into that drinking water. I don't think any water from Johnson's Crossing reaches the drinking water in the City of Whitehorse.
So, I will take the words that the member said today, in the House - his concern about the federal government's garbage, and other people's garbage - as very sincere, and that the individual will make sure that, in anything he does as a government, or any control that he has on distributing garbage throughout the territory, that he will make sure that he will protect Yukoners themselves from the same kind of thing that we're addressing here today.
It's indeed unfortunate that the federal government has chosen to go this route with respect to this agreement. It sort of closes the door, I suppose, on eventually cleaning the mess up.
The unfortunate part about that is that somebody is going to have to clean it up, and the responsibility, eventually, will fall, maybe not on this government, but certainly, on future Yukon governments as the problem becomes more obvious, and that means the Yukon taxpayers are going to have to pick up the bill. By the time that rolls around, the rocket launchers will be worn out and the tanks will be traded in that the federal government purchased with the deal. In fact, what we'll probably have to make sure is that the federal Liberals still aren't in power and they don't haul all the junk up here and bury it up here in the old piles where the other military equipment was buried. We'll have to make sure they don't do that.
It is unfortunate that they won't listen. I found it a bit unusual, a bit amazing, that the local Liberal Party is coming strongly to the defense of the federal Liberals. When I look at the motion, the motion itself is specific to this particular agreement, specific to the contamination of abandoned military sites, and it doesn't get into the types of things that the Member for Porter Creek South talked about - the positive things that they've done.
I would agree with that member that there are some positive things they've done with respect to the northern environment, and some positive things are going to be happening in the next few years, and I was pleased to see that they did continue with the Arctic environmental strategy that Mr. Mulroney put in place, and that the federal Liberals saw fit to continue with it.
Unfortunately, that strategy has identified a great number of problems that still haven't been dealt with, and the unfortunate thing is that the Liberals didn't extend the strategy to deal with the problems that were identified, and that is unfortunate.
I think the local Liberals should take a second look at the motion and really ask themselves how they could vote against this motion, because this motion is specific. It talks about the abandoned military sites and the detrimental impacts on the Yukon environment, the fish and wildlife, the clean-up of the sites should be undertaken on a priority basis and, given the Government of Canada's ownership and jurisdictional responsibility for most of the Yukon land mass, that Canada must retain the responsibility of the reclamation of these sites.
Do they disagree with that? Do they think we should have the full responsibility in the Yukon for that? I would hope not. That would be an unusual position to take - that we should take over all the federal responsibilities and come up with the dollars to clean them up or fix them up.
I would think that, although they may have seen this as an attack on the federal Liberal party on the eve of a federal election, they might want to look at this in a broader context of how it might affect them down the road as a territorial politician, because this is going to affect all residents of the Yukon Territory if we have to end up paying for this clean-up ourselves.
I think it is the responsibility of the federal government to clean this mess up. I think this motion deals with that specifically, and I think the motion is dead on. I can't believe anyone would say that this particular motion, or this particular deal that was struck in Ottawa, was a bad deal. It was a terrible deal. No clean-up money, and we're going to buy military equipment, and the local Liberals are going to vote against a motion that condemns that? I can't believe that, Mr. Speaker. I can't believe that, and I would hope that they would assemble themselves in a quick caucus and realize, read the motion one more time, and then come back and say what they want to say about the federal Liberals and the good things they've done, because they have done some good things here. This is a bad thing. This is bad. We'd better be united in this House and we'd better tell them that this is bad.
I commend the member for bringing a motion like this forward. It's important to deal with these motions in a united way, because we represent all Yukoners.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would not only urge all members in this House in our caucus to support it, but I would appeal to the Liberal members of this caucus to represent your constituents in supporting this motion. I think it's very important.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I can see there will be a press release out about how the Yukon Party is supporting the socialists across the way. I think that's the usual drill after these debates.
The motion is based on the premise, of course, that the federal government is walking away from its obligations, which is absolute poppycock. Hopefully the media, who might, on occasion, listen to these proceedings or perhaps even read Hansard, will contact the local federal offices of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to get the facts. They might find that there is absolutely no intention to walk away from the responsibilities. They might also find that there is continuing and ongoing consultations between this government and the federal government on site clean-ups.
Now, the news reports out of the deal that was made by the federal government and the American government indicated that the federal government got the best deal it could get. The federal government negotiated a cash deal, whereby it's obligated, as I understand from the news reports, to purchase military equipment. What the government speakers are saying and what the last speakers from the Yukon Party are saying is that, in some way, that is connected with the fact that the sites are not going to be cleaned up, which is quite an inductive leap. If the federal government chooses to purchase military equipment, so what? It doesn't mean they are not going to be cleaning up the sites. There is no connection between the two of them. I'm surprised at the lack of logic that is going on among the side opposite.
We heard the Minister of Renewable Resources, I believe, talking about legal obligations. If, in fact, he believes that there is a legal obligation for clean-up, then what's his concern?
I think what we've been doing all afternoon is creating a straw man to knock down - let's have a problem that we seem to be solving. Now, there are lots of local problems to solve. I'm sure the energy minister has all kinds of problems that he can be working on, rather than focusing his mind on synthetic problems.
Now, instead of blowing hundreds of dollars an hour on synthesizing problems to solve, why don't we get to the business of the Yukon. There's lots to be done here.
I'm sure there are many public servants who are being obliged to listen to this debate. There's money being spent on the members' salaries, there's money being spent on Hansard, there's money being spent on the Clerk and his staff. I would like to think that Wednesday afternoons could be used to solve real problems, rather than ones that are synthesized for political purposes - cheap political purposes.
We'll be voting against this motion on principle.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I rise today most certainly to support this motion. I think that here's another example of the federal Liberals running from their responsibilities, and I believe it's imperative on a government of the territory to stand up for the people of this territory and its environment.
Now, we could probably sit here all day digging up facts and information about this, but I think the issue is very succinct. It's about our environment - the protection of our environment - and the need to clean up contaminated sites here in the Yukon, which the federal government does have a legal obligation to do. This is not a straw man, as the Member for Riverside pointed out. This is most certainly a serious problem for this territory, and when the government of the day - the Liberal Government of Canada - sends a negotiator to the United States to negotiate an agreement on cleaning up these sites, and the negotiator comes back $400 million short, we have a serious problem.
So, I think I would like to plead with the Liberals to support this motion and get off the fence, and let's take a position that supports Yukon people and the Yukon environment.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Interesting comments by the Liberals across the way.
Actually, what it gives me the impression of is that the federal Liberals from Ottawa have these long sticks, and they reach up over the Yukon, and there are these strings hanging down, and they pull up here, and they pull up there, and the territorial Liberals kind of jerk up and say some comments and then fall down again. Every once in a while, the sticks wiggle sideways, because you don't know what side of the fence they should go on, and they pull them up and put them down again.
So, I guess what it's really exposing is that this is a very good motion. This motion was to deal with a very serious problem in the Yukon, and anybody that lives up here that does not believe that this is a very serious problem doesn't really understand what draws people to the Yukon. As my colleague from Ross River-Southern Lakes said earlier, he talked about the land and the care of it. He talked about the relationship we have to the land - all people in the Yukon. And this is pollution, this is contamination, and this was brought in through the war. This was brought in by the U.S. They are responsible, and it's up to our federal government - whoever that may be, and it happens to be the Liberals at this time - to ensure that those sites are cleaned up.
Anyone who thinks that this is not a real issue for the people of the Yukon is not in touch with the people of the Yukon.
It really saddens me that all the Liberal Opposition can react to is defend the Ottawa group. That's all they can react to. They haven't said one thing about cleaning up the site. So, obviously, they don't have a feeling; obviously, they do not believe that it's that important to clean up these sites. Obviously, it's fine to leave them out there contaminating the waters, poisoning the lakes.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Hardy: That's true, they actually don't have rural seats. Maybe that's the problem here; maybe they never leave Whitehorse; maybe it's just urban; maybe it's that Ottawa urban connection. I don't know.
There's a couple of things that I'd like to read here, just so we really understand the wonderful deal that was cut by our federal Liberals. This
is from the report of the Auditor General of Canada: "The federal government does not have a complete picture of its environmental risk, costs and liabilities arising from federal contaminated sites. Some estimates place the federal share at $2 billion, excluding the cost of dealing with radioactive waste. The government is not in a position to adequately assess the risk to health, safety and the environment and to establish the timing and costs for remediation of federal contaminated sites."
Now, that's the report of the Auditor General of Canada, and I hope that the Member for Porter Creek South recognizes that as some authority as well, and not say that those facts are wrong too.
I'd also like to point out, because it hasn't been really clarified, exactly what did we get for not cleaning up the sites - for leaving them out there? How did we let the U.S. off?
Well, $100 million settlement. We went into negotiations - the Liberals went into negotiations, not us - pardon me - not the Yukon people, because we didn't have a say in this. But, the Liberals went into negotiations asking for $500 million, even though it's recognized it was a $2 billion problem. So, we already started at a quarter of what we should be. We went in with a $500 million request to help clean this up. What did we end up with?
We ended up with $100 million that we have to spend in the U.S. We can't spend it anywhere else. We have to spend it in the U.S.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: That's right, it's not local hire. Thanks for pointing that out to me. That's right.
We have to spend that in the U.S. so they actually get the $100 million back. And what do we get for it? We probably get some rusted old pieces of military equipment that are obsolete, that they don't need any more. They don't need it over in Iran or Iraq, or whereever else they're going to be going.
I wonder if a few people have seen that movie, the Avro Arrow? There was another wonderful deal where we cancelled a state-of-the-art airplane that created 45,000 jobs. It shut down plants just so that the Americans could sell us obsolete old planes and some missiles that, within four years, could not fulfill their duties.
So, here we are again doing the same deal - $100 million. So, we start with $500 million and we're down to $100 million. We can't even choose where we spend it. We don't even choose what we buy with it. So, here we are, we've got military equipment that we're probably going to store. As the Member for Riverdale North said earlier, "They'll probably end up shipping it up here and we'll have to drag it out into the bush somewhere." We'll have to put it out there where the urban Liberals never go and, of course, they never see the problem and maybe one day it'll start leaking all over and we might to collect money at that time.
This is just part of the problem. This is part of the whole offloading problem that we've been facing with the federal Liberals. The previous motion which, unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to vote on, is the same situation: the offloading.
Before I close, I'd just like to make a point about this lovely tendency to offload. There was a comment made by the Member for Riverdale North that said, "Where are the federal Liberals going? What are they trying to do here?" Lately, I've been reading a lot of articles. All of them seem to point to one direction where the federal Liberals are going.
What they have been doing, a lot of provinces have debts, very serious debts, and it's been identified that the majority of the debt has been created by the offloading, by the pull out of the federal government on the national programs that are instituted across Canada that unite and pull Canada together.
Actually, some of the figures are up to 80 percent, the debt that has been created in the provinces in the last 20 years caused by the offloading. I think it's something that we seriously have to look at. Why is it happening? This is not tongue in cheek. I think there's an element of truth in this. I actually believe that the Liberals are trying to pull out the federal government, trying to dismantle Canada, make Canada weak, separate it, create a bunch of warring sections all over and break our national programs, break a country that is ranked number one in the world and make it that much easier for the U.S. and other countries to slowly and surely take control of Canada as it is.
I don't believe that they were ever given the rights to do that, but I believe that's what they are actually working toward, and all indications are pointing toward that. I think, for our territories and the have-not provinces, it will be a disaster, and this is just one more indication of the disaster that's going to be created environmentally, financially and economically for the people of the Yukon.
If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. McRobb: I would like to say thank you to all those members who supported my motion. It's good to see the members of the Official Opposition, especially, put aside the fear-mongering on power rates and work cooperatively with us to support something constructive for a change.
It's too bad the members of the Liberal Party have underestimated the importance of this motion to Yukoners and, instead, have interpreted it as an exercise in fed-bashing.
That's not true, Mr. Speaker. It's called accountability, something the members opposite fail to recognize, possibly due to their own lack thereof - members of the third party, that would be. I stand corrected.
The cleanliness of the Yukon environment is fundamental to the health of Yukoners and must not be underestimated.
Throughout discussion this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I noticed something very interesting developing, especially in regard to members of the third party. It seemed that out of the closet came their position on the environment and health of the First Nations people in the Yukon. Last week, we heard how they suggested environmental problems at Aishihik Lake are not a concern. "Drain the lake. Drain the lake," they said. That position ignored, not only the environment, but concerns strongly expressed by a Yukon First Nation.
It's clear that the Liberals are more concerned with defending their federal counterparts in Ottawa than protecting the legitimate environmental and health concerns of Yukon First Nations and other Yukoners. The secret deal we learned about today is a disgrace. We've been sold down the river. Unfortunately, it's down the same river as the contaminants.
I appreciate many of the comments this afternoon. A lot of good information has come out of the closet, along with the Liberals' position on the environment and health of First Nations people. I would encourage all members in this Legislature to become more magnanimous and less pusillanimous and support this motion. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 12 yea, three nay.
Motion No. 58 agreed to
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 members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We are dealing with the budget, Community and Transportation Services, Office of the Deputy Minister. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, before I get into line by line on the office of the deputy minister, I have a legislative return for the Clerk.
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Keenan. These documents are formally tabled. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I also have a response. On April the 14th, 1997, I was asked the question about what steps the Government of the Yukon has taken to obtain this money from the federal government for the outstanding recoveries for the evacuation of Old Crow and Pelly Crossing. The response is that the department estimates the following: the recoverable amount relating to the Old Crow evacuation is about $285,000. This claim has not been accepted by the federal government. The costs relating to the Pelly Crossing evacuation is about $18,000, and $112,000 was incurred as a result of the Klondike Highway closure.
Attempts to recover these monies are continuing. We are currently going forward to get Cabinet direction and will take further actions, including considerations of legal recourse, if necessary.
On April 10th and April 14th - questions on the multi-departmental radio systems. The question was: what kind of life expectancy can we expect from this system and would the minister undertake to have constant reviews of costs associated with the operation of the system done?
The response to that was that the system has an estimated life expectancy of 15 years. Northwestel is under contract to maintain -
Chair: Order please. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Your microphone seems to be off.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Testing, one, two.
Speaker: Okay. Mr. Keenan, please continue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I will start with the responses again.
The system has an estimated life expectancy of 15 years. Northwestel is under contract to maintain the system until 2005. Over the life of the system, ongoing monitoring takes into consideration system reliability, cost-effectiveness and user needs.
Expect a study into the "next generation" of mobile communication to take place after the year 2000. The study would consider user needs, the technologies available at that time, and costs.
A response to the question raised on April 15th on the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society. The question was: what is the dollar commitment for the last fiscal year and the current year for the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society? The response is - am I shouting too much, or is it just my ears? Pardon me, I'm getting feedback on my own ear system here. I don't know if it's affecting everybody here. No? It's just me. If you don't mind, I'll just take this out, so please bear with me. There is a little more clarity for me.
I will start with the question again, if I may.
What is the dollar commitment for this last fiscal year, and the current year, for the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society?
In response: on the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee, in 1996-97, the actual was $11,600. The 1997-98 budget is $12,710.
The Ross River Development Society in 1996-97 was $10,000, in the 1997-98 budget it is $12,710.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Now I will get into line by line.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I don't have any additional general debate. I haven't had a chance to review the legislative returns that were just tabled by the minister, and I would like an opportunity to review them, and perhaps get back at that time, after review, some time later in the day.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have no problem with that.
Chair: We now go to O&M expenditures.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Deputy Minister's Office
Deputy Minister's Office in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Page 3-6, Office of the Deputy Minister is where we're at. For the members' information, pages preceding 3-6 are overall totals and not part of the line items.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I can't clear the first part. I was still backed up to 3-4 when you wanted to clear it, and I do have a question arising out of the Office of the Deputy Minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just ask the House to bear with me, because the headphones I'm wearing are fading in and out, so please bear with me, and we'll work toward this end.
The highlights of the deputy minister's office, of the 1997-98 O&M budget of $266,000, consist of: $254,000 for personnel, which includes the salaries, the wages and benefits for the deputy minister, a secretary and administrative support assistant.
There's an amount of $1,000 for other, primarily the deputy minister's travel, which is an amount of $1,000 in the Yukon and $6,000 outside of the Yukon; $2,000 for communications; $1,000 for non-consumable assets and $2,000 for other program needs. As for the O&M comparison with previous years, it's an increase of $19,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and that's mainly due to the changes to the federal legislation that affect the cost of pension benefits.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no increase in salaries other than required by agreements, or have there been increases in salaries? Or, is it all attributable to increases in pension plans and CPP regulations?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There would be allowances for merit and the $254,000 includes salaries, wages and benefits, which would be based on merit.
Mr. Jenkins: So, from the actual number last year for salaries, wages and benefits to the actual number for this year, what is the increase in that area alone - not the overall for the ministers, just the salary portion?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In 1996-97, the comparison dollars were $199,279 and, in this year, it is $199,301, which is regular pay permanent.
Mr. Jenkins: So, from the $199,301 to $254,000, there is approximately $54,699 difference. Where does that come in as a difference from last year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I can get into a bit more detail, and if the member will bear with me, I will do that, and I will go slow so that he can write. I'll start right from the beginning again. It's from 1996-97. The comparison dollars are the following: regular pay is $199,279; other permanent is $1,020; Yukon bonus is $6,126, fringe benefits are $27,899; for a total of $234,324. Within 1997-98, regular pay permanent is $199,301; other permanent is $1,020; Yukon bonus is $6,126; fringe benefits are $47,760, for a total of $254,207.
I do believe that might be a quick calculation, and that's the comparison of previous years. I hope you find that helpful.
Mr. Jenkins: So the additional costs are being incurred in fringe benefits. Could the minister elaborate on the additional $20,000 cost in fringe benefits and what that is attributable to?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's mainly due to changes to federal legislation that affects the cost of the pension benefits.
Mr. Jenkins: So $20,000 is all attributable to change in the federal legislation with respect to pensions.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is correct.
Chair: Let's start at the top again with the line items.
On Deputy Minister's Office - revisited
Deputy Minister's Office in the amount of $266,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures - revisited
Mr. Jenkins: There's been a resulting decrease in the cost of the EMO. Would the minister explain why the decrease in this department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would express a little latitude when I'm taking off and on the headphones, if I may.
In the highlights: the budget of $256,000 consists of $123,000 for personnel, which includes salary and wages and benefits for the director and an administrative assistant; $133,000 for other, of which there's $48,000 for travel, of which $46,000 is in Yukon and $2,000 outside of Yukon; $46,000 for various contract-related services; $11,000 for repairs and maintenance of equipment; $6,000 for supplies and program materials; $17,000 for communication, and $5,000 for other program requirements.
The O&M comparison with previous years is a decrease of $51,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, which entails a decrease of $10,000 in personnel due to a seconded director at a lower pay scale, reduction in contract services of $15,000 that was required for response to the Dawson City flood threat in 1996-97, which is not in the 1997-98 mains, and $12,000 due to EMO's relocation to the Whitehorse airport will reduce some contract requirements for services such as a training facility and storage, and $14,000 in various other smaller items.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a brief question. Is there any move afoot to be training any of the members opposite in emergency measures? Are you going to be sending anybody to Arnprior? Understand, because my concern is that from the general conversation that we've had over the last few months, there is a real misunderstanding about the role of emergency measures in the Yukon, not from the people who take part in EMO but from the people who are responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have been briefed by the department and, as you know, EMO Week is coming up in a couple of weeks and we'll be participating with that and always striving for a greater, deeper knowledge.
Mrs. Edelman: My concern is that although the minister has been briefed by the department and he seems familiar with the role of EMO, the government in power generally doesn't seem to understand that, and this is one organization that goes across all the departments. So, my real concern is that not only is the minister educated, but the other members of the government in power are educated as well. I was pleased, when I was on the municipal level, to be trained at Arnprior and it certainly opened my eyes to what this organization does so well right across Canada.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly expect that my fellow caucus members would be up on the Emergency Measures Organization and I'd just like to say to her directly that we're a group of socialists that is always striving to learn and to make things better.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the subject of EMO, how many people in the department have actually received training in that area and have actually attended at Arnprior and have a background in EMO as presented through the college at Arnprior?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the member opposite: I will have to get back with exactly how many have been specifically trained at Arnprior in Ontario.
Mr. Jenkins: This is an area that is growing in importance in the Yukon as more and more is being devolved. In light of the recent announcement that the federal government is reducing funding to DIAND for...
I take it we still have a problem with our hearing? Why don't you see if maybe the outlet on the next seat is a little bit more appropriate?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Well, responsible information will probably be flowing from this side of the House, so keep the noise coming - is that what you're suggesting, Mr. Minister? How are we doing now?
Chair: Order please. Direction to Hansard: this does not need to be recorded. I will call a brief recess until we get this straightened out.
Chair: I call the House back to order.
Mr. Jenkins: Emergency measures is going to be taking on new dimensions in the Yukon with the devolution of additional responsibilities to Government of Yukon: the transfer of the A airports, along with the recent announcement that the federal government is no longer going to be funding the Water Survey of Canada to the same extent as previously, and they won't be able to provide ongoing announcements as to the potential for ice-jam floods in the various Yukon communities.
What steps is the minister allocating in his budget to address these eventual responsibilities evolving to his portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I did get the gist of that, even though there's static interference.
As I said today earlier, we will be contacting the federal government and their department and letting them know about our dissatisfaction by direct contact - by writing, of course - and let them know we're dissatisfied with the downsizing, offloading - whatever you want to call it, however you want to characterize it - and let them know that, in the time of the devolution process, we should be working with good faith and it should be kept on the table.
Mr. Jenkins: I also notice that we're only budgeting $11,000 for repairs. Every time there's a situation arising throughout the Yukon where the emergency measures people activate someone on a call-out, there are costs incurred. There's sometimes a lot of maintenance required on the equipment. This appears to be a sum of money that is on the low side. Has this been reflective, historically, of the dollars that have been spent?
Further to that, the equipment was relatively new - boats, motors, Suburbans and everything - two years ago. They are now several years old and they will be requiring more repairs and more maintenance. I am just questioning whether this is an adequate sum of money to cover anticipated costs in this area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. We do believe that it is an adequate sum of money. It is the same amount of money that we spent last year on repairs.
The equipment - the Suburbans and so on - are not overly used, so we are very hopeful and mindful that this should be enough.
Mr. Jenkins: Bear in mind that the actual reported costs in the 1995-96 fiscal year were $440,000. Now we are down to $256,000, over a two-year period. That is a significant reduction for emergency measures in Yukon. I would find that somewhat alarming in recognizing the additional responsibilities that are flowing through this department. But, if your department officials say it's adequate, we'll see in the fall when the supps come in.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank you very much for your input.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $256,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Of the total of $369,000, $213,000 is for personnel and includes the salary and wages and the benefits for the director, the radio systems administration clerk, and the communication technologies manager; $156,000 is for other, which includes $20,000 for contract services, $190,000 for repairs and maintenance of equipment and facilities, $31,000 for utilities; $428,000 is for communications; $16,000 is for various other smaller items; offset by $529,000 in internal recoveries received from government departments and agencies that use the multi-departmental mobile radio system. In comparison with previous years, it's a decrease of $31,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98. This net decrease of expenditures is mainly the result of increased internal recoveries in the form of user fees to users of the MDMR system, offset by a net increase of $3,000 in various other areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, I reflect on the actual budget, 1995, and there's been a corresponding decrease in each period, and I ask whether all areas have been accounted for and how we've managed to achieve this corresponding reduction over a two-year period in this department.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In addition to what I've just read out, there's a $4,000 decrease in the utility fee, and, if the member would like, I'll certainly read the comparison again.
This net decrease of expenditures is mainly a result in the increase in internal recoveries in the form of user fees to the users of the multi-departmental mobile radio system, which is offset by a net increase of $3,000 in other various areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I have the exact dollar increase in what we're recovering with the use of the MDMRS in 1996-97 actuals and in 1997-98 estimates?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. In 1996-97, the comparison is $495,000; for 1997-98 the budget dollars are $529,200.
Mr. Jenkins: So, obviously there is a $30,000 increase in recoveries from what has just been stated by the minister and, with the percentage increase in the payroll loading on personnel that was just explained for the deputy minister's office, there seems to be something that's not jibing. Has there been a reduction in personnel or a change in the classification of personnel to achieve the saving in that office, because we know our cost of pension plans for all of the senior people has increased dramatically?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the federal requirements only reflect the deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm at a loss to analyze this. We have an overall saving of $31,000, of which $30,000 has been recovered from additional user fees on the MDMRS. So, there is an additional $1,000 saving somewhere. We know the utility costs are going to increase. There's $31,000 in there. The cost of electrical service to government is something that's gone - they're paying 140 percent of the cost of service now, so if we can break out the electrical cost there, there's going to be a significant increase in utilities, and there has been an increase in payroll loading for personnel by way of the increase in cost of Canada Pension Plan and the increase in cost of workers' compensation.
Could the minister please advise where the savings are being incurred?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm getting somewhat mystified, and what I'll do, again, is I'll read the O&M comparisons with the previous years.
There's been a decrease of $31,000 from 1996, 1997 and 1998. This net decrease of expenditures is mainly a result of an increase in internal recoveries in the form of user fees to users of the multi-departmental mobile radio system, which is offset by the net increase of $3,000, in various other areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but if we have the same number of personnel still in that department, we know that there are two components that have increased - Canada Pension Plan and Workers' Compensation. So our payroll loading has gone up in that area. Has the department looked at the anticipated cost of electrical in that $31,000? Does that reflect the recent two increases and the forthcoming increases? Have they been budgeted for?
Has the minister taken into consideration that there's going to be a raise in electrical rates?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank you very much for coming forth with the question. No.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister go on to explain why not? Is it not prudent - fiscally responsible - to address known increases in various components of the budget?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Life goes along rather merrily, doesn't it? There are certainly ups and downs in life.
I will just say that the system has been followed - that has been followed - and we have a system that we'll work with. The member opposite very well knows the system - the parliamentary system and the budgeting system - well, then, we'll follow the parliamentary and the budget system, and all things will work out just fine.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a rather blasé answer to a direct question. I still haven't had the two components of my question answered by the minister, and I would appreciate a responsible answer.
If the number of personnel in the department has not changed, the salary component is identical to last year. We know there have been two increases in payroll loading, one in workers' compensation and one in the Canada Pension Plan component.
So we know that there has been an increase in these two areas. The minister, with respect to utilities, is not even allowing for any increase in utility costs. We are already aware of two increases having been passed through to consumers. The Government of the Yukon is a big consumer of electricity, and we don't know where we're going from here. There's supposed to be another 20-percent increase.
Is it not prudent fiscal management to budget for these increases?
So, number one, Mr. Minister, when you stand up, I'm looking for a response on personnel; number two, on utilities. Why aren't we budgeting for these increases?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In relation to the first aspect of the member opposite's question about personnel, we use a percentage for the staff in the department, except for the deputy and, of course, the assistant deputy minister, which I took time to explain to the Member opposite.
On the utility increases, I think that's a hypothetical question. I don't think I really have to belabour my time with a hypothetical question.
Mr. Jenkins: What is hypothetical about the current electrical rates that are being charged in the Yukon? There's already been two rate increases that have gone through to all classes of customers. There's another one on the way. Why is the minister so blasé in dealing with this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I don't believe I'm blasé. As we know, this is a current political problem. It has occupied Question Period numerous times. I think for the member opposite to bring this to this level, I do believe is not good relations for government. I stand by my answer. I think I have answered the question and I'm not speaking in a blasé manner.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I could ask the minister directly: where is the additional funding coming from that is going to pay for the past two electrical rate increases? Is it the $5 million contingency in the budget speech?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Maybe we should take the time to waltz the member opposite through the process. The budgetary process doesn't start on Monday and finish on Friday. Maybe it certainly does in business or anything in the history of the member opposite, but not certainly with government. It's a timely process and it involves having the departments working with the Cabinet and with the caucus, certainly setting our corporate strategies straight and working toward those ends, which, I might add, that the people of the Yukon elected us for.
Now, as you carry on, anything that is unexpected or comes up that is a surprise or that government has to react to or finds in its wisdom the knowledge to move forward and to work with it, well, that is what we do. Then we do come with what we call the supplementary process. I do believe that we should not be making decisions on behalf of the Yukon Utilities Board because there has not been a ruling made yet. So, I do believe that today is certainly a day of fear-mongering and I can see it's going to be a long session. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm extremely disappointed with the response given. There have been two electrical rate increases in place since the government came to power. Has his department budgeted anywhere for any electrical rate increases now that they're approved and in place? Never mind the pending rate increases in electricity - what we know about today. Has the department budgeted for any cost increase anywhere throughout the Community and Transportation portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The figures that we have are for the entire department, and I'll start off within the comparison on the dollars. There's $1,683,622. In 1997-98 the budget is $1,773,358.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I can't resist. Maybe I'll try and word the member's question a little differently. We know how budgets are put together. What we are asking is if any of the increases that have already been allowed were built into this budget, or was the budget put together before these increases were known? That's the first question.
The second question is - the minister, I guess, has already answered - they haven't built into this budget the 20-percent anticipated increase that's been talked about. What we're trying to get at, Mr. Chair, is that, in fact, the projected numbers that we have on electrical costs for this department are somewhat low because they haven't built in the known increased costs and the anticipated increased costs of the power bill. Maybe the minister could tell us if they were built in or were they just based on last year's numbers?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, both members of the Official Opposition, for attempting to get clarification.
No, there has not been a budget increase due to those factors. It's very untimely, in conjunction with the budget process and the preparation of the budget process. Again, I state that we should not be prejudging the Yukon Utilities Board and what the decision of this government will be.
Mr. Phillips: So it's clear then that the budget figures that we've got for this department - and I assume it'll probably be for all of the departments in the government - any figures that were put together with respect to electricity costs will be old figures. In fact, the real cost will have to come in in a supplementary, whenever we get a supplementary, which will then reflect an increase in the deficit of the Government of the Yukon, because, in fact, they haven't allowed for.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's been brought to my attention here that the question is generic in nature, I would say, and that Finance is responsible. When we get to the Finance department, maybe you should ask that of the Finance minister.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, let me be more specific. Let's look at the Department of Community and Transportation Services with respect to electrical costs. Because this has not been allowed for in putting the budget together - any electrical increased costs - we can expect that department will have to come in with a supplementary to deal with these increased costs, probably in the fall session or, at least, before the fiscal year end, because the minister has already told us there isn't enough money in this budget in that line item to cover the already known power costs and the possibly anticipated increased costs that we're going to have.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I did not say that. I'll put that on the record now. I did not say that. But, I certainly will say that we will use a process, and the process of supplementaries will be used and, as both members opposite should be aware, that is the process.
Mr. Phillips: The minister is not being very clear in his answer, so maybe, if I can ask the minister, is he telling us that, yes, he will be coming in with a supplementary? He's now being coached by the Minister of Economic Development, who seems to know about everything.
I'd like to ask the minister, who told us already that the money is not in his budget, will he be coming in with a supplementary to include the increased costs? Because it's not in this budget. You can't pluck the money out of the air or dig it out of the Minister of Economic Development's pocket. It's got to come from somewhere.
The Member for Faro says it's the $5 million contingency. Well, he's used about $30 million of that now. I think he's used it for the various projects throughout the territory, as well as the contract talks with the union. He's used it for just about everything under the sun, so it will be an interesting answer.
I'd like to know from the minister if, in fact, that department will have to come to the minister with a supplementary to cover the increased electrical costs for this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I'm not going to say what the member opposite is asking me to say or the member is trying to bait me into saying. What I will say is that, in 1996 and 1997, $1,683,622 - excuse me, for 1996-97 - in utilities, department-wide; 1997-98 budgeted $1,773,358 for this year.
Now, if there is a need, we shall find out what the need is, all over, within any project that the government will be doing or deemed to be doing, and then we will be using a process, such as the member opposite stated earlier on in the fall session, the supplementary process. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the minister is not telling me his budget is padded in this area, and he has lots of slack there, because the minister is supposed to bring the budgets into this House, and they are supposed to reflect, as best they can, the most accurate amount that they project. All I wanted from the minister is to get on the record that they have projected what they would spend next year, and in those projections they did not build in anything for known increased electricity costs or even anticipated increases, and the minister has confirmed that in fact that is the truth.
Maybe the minister could do this for us, Mr. Chair, to make it a little easier for him. Maybe the minister could come back to the House tomorrow with a projection of what this will cost the Department of Community and Transportation Services for the known increases already - and that one he should have, because they should know what that's going to cost - and possibly the anticipated increase of 20 percent. What would that cost that particular department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I offered earlier - and I will stay with my offer - I certainly hope the members opposite will ask the question of the Minister of Finance. Now, it has been brought to my attention that Finance does build some conservative numbers into the overall budgetting, and also there's a $5-million contingency fund, and there's also the 5.5 percent raise from the 3.3 percent raise for interim or temporary measure.
Now, if the member opposite would like, he may certainly ask those questions and get the details from the Minister of Finance when that comes up. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's take the total utility cost and break it down - the $1.7 million. I would make the assumption that this is not all electrical cost. Is some of it heating costs, some of it water and sewer, and some of it electrical? What is the electrical component in that $1.7 million?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's the type of question that certainly leads to antagonism. I just have to say that.
I have accurately stated what our projections for utilities are. It's at $1,773,350, as compared to last year's $1,683,622. Just in this brief conversation, I have been accused of padding budgets. I take offence to that type of language.
The member opposite was encouraged to come to a budget briefing and he refused. For gosh sakes, let's try and work together and be a little cooperative. Now what he is asking for is a very detailed breakdown, which I can get him and I guess I will have to get him.
I would just like the member opposite to know that it will be very detailed if that's the way he wants it. I have been elected for four years and I'm certainly going to be hanging around for four years and I certainly can take this.
Mr. Jenkins: As I understand it, the minister will bring back, by way of legislative return, a breakdown of the $1.7 million costs as to what is attributable to what area. Is that understood?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I did not say legislative return. I did say that I would get back to the member opposite and I certainly will.
Mr. Jenkins: And could we have a time frame for the return of this information before we clear this line item?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, during the duration of this conversation with the member opposite that I will have it ready.
Mr. Jenkins: Let us go back into communications - the $31,000 for utilities. How does that break down, Mr. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the utilities: the electricity at 14 broadcasting sites throughout the Yukon, $31,000.
Mr. Jenkins: So the $31,000 is totally attributable to electrical cost. Have there been any provisions made since last year for an increase in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No. The answer simply is no.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister can confirm that last year, virtually the same amount of funds - approximately $31,000 - was spent on electrical utilities for the Department of Communications?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly hope that the member opposite finds this helpful. In 1995-96, it was $35,290; in 1996-97, $36,000; in 1997-98, $31,000.
Mr. Jenkins: So we're operating the same number of sites. What has changed to show a reduction in electrical utility costs of $6,000?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the member opposite is likely aware, the power rates under the previous administration were dropped dramatically for government users.
Mr. Jenkins: Government is still paying 140-percent of the cost of service. The only area that was reduced in the cost of service, to general service rates, was municipal governments. Are these meters being run through some municipal government or some other community organization? Is that why the resulting decreases occurred?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly the budgets that we are establishing, and brought forth here, are based on what we are paying presently.
Mr. Jenkins: That doesn't answer the question.
The Government of Yukon remained in the same rate category throughout the last rate review. The only category of electrical customers that were brought in line with general services was municipal government.
Municipal governments had a decrease from what the federal and territorial governments are paying for electricity to general service categories. All municipal governments had a subsequent reduction in their electrical costs. How did these areas incur their reduction? Is it because the government pays for these electrical bills through a community organization, or some other way, and it's not billed directly to the Government of the Yukon?
Deputy Chair assumes Chair
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, perhaps I can shed some light on this. The member opposite is incorrect suggesting the only decreases occurred in the general service class. If he cares to research the facts, he will also find the government class cost of service was decreased, as well as street lights. I believe what the minister is saying is that the budget in the 1997-98 year is comparable to the previous year because, in the previous year, at the beginning, it was configured with a higher rate. The rate decrease occurred in the meantime. Therefore, there is a contingency already built into those figures.
Mr. Jenkins: It still gives rise to the fact that's known: that there are no funds budgeted in that sum of money that would address the increased cost in electricity that is known at the present time. I just wanted the minister to confirm that that is, indeed, the fact.
Mr. McRobb: Although I am not the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I can repeat for the member opposite that, because last year's budget was built on rates that were higher than in effect, that would account for a built-in contingency, and that would therefore cover any increase in the cost to the government service class for the coming year. If he wants to argue with that, I invite him to go check the facts. They're available at the Yukon Utilities Board office.
Mr. Jenkins: I would appreciate it if the minister could bring back the facts as to what is happening in his department. Here we have the minister in charge of a $100 million a year portfolio, and we're talking about a major component in that budget - a $1.7 million expenditure for utilities. I asked the minister if there is a breakdown of that $1.7 million, if it's all electrical and, if it's not all electrical, the known electrical utility increases are going to amount to $170,000 right today.
Now, that is a significant impact on a budget of that area. That is the known cost increase today. Now, is the minister prepared to bring back the actual figures by way of legislative return in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I stated we would get back to the member opposite, and we have. The total electrical for the department in 1996-97, to date, is $906,000.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not prepared to clear this until such time as this information flows back. If we could move on, please, Mr. Chairman?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: No, it's stood aside.
It's stood aside, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I said I'm not prepared to clear it.
Chair: Order please.
Is it the wish of the Committee to stand this line item aside?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Some Hon. Member: Disagreed.
Chair: I believe the nays have it, so we will carry on with the debate.
Does the item clear?
Point of order
Some Hon. Member: On a point of order.
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: I want to register a strong concern from this side that the Chair of the Committee of the Whole jumps out of his Chair to respond to questions. Usually the Chair of Committee of the Whole, when they vacate the chair, uses it to do other things that aren't related to questions in the House. The questions on the budget are directed to the minister, and should be answered by the minister, not by another member in this House. The Chair should remain in the Chair and do his job as the Chair and quit trying to be partial by moving out of the Chair to answer questions. I think it's unfair.
Chair: Mr. Harding, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I find the point of order from the member opposite ridiculous. Every member in Committee, every MLA in this Legislature, is entitled to respond to points raised in Committee debate, and it's perfectly acceptable for the Chair to allow the Deputy Chair to take over to respond in Committee.
Now the problem here is we have games being played by the members opposite on the question. They're trying to make some point - and they haven't been able to make it - that there's no contingency budget for any known rate increases. There was a very thoughtful and rational explanation given, both by the minister and by the energy commissioner, as to the answer to the member's question.
The member has requested that the line item be stood over. There has been a response given to that member. The minister has conceded that he will bring back more information for the member, and there is absolutely no need whatsoever for this line item to be stood over.
There's obviously, also, no reason whatsoever why the Deputy Chair shouldn't be able to respond and speak in Committee of the Whole.
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: On the point of order.
The issue here is not the Chair going and asking questions - that's legitimate. The budget belongs to the minister. The Chair of Committee of the Whole, even if he's sitting as the MLA for Kluane, ought not to be responding to the answers that we're looking for from the minister. It's the minister that's responsible for that budget, and the minister needs to be accountable for that budget.
I don't have any difficulty with the Member for Kluane asking questions about the budget, but he ought not to be answering on behalf of the minister. I think it is an abuse of the House.
Chair: Mr. McDonald, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't understand the member's position on this. It is clear that the minister has been providing answers, and most recently provided a very specific answer in dollar terms to the member. Any member who has information that might help the debate or might further thought processes, even if they're in the Opposition, are welcome to stand at any time they wish.
The principle of defending the budget does fall to the minister. The principle of speaking for the department does fall to the minister, but we shouldn't be of the mind, however, that, if someone has something to offer the debate, they're not entitled to speak. I can't accept that principle at all. Otherwise, we have this most ridiculous situation of questions only being put to one person and, if any other elected person in this Legislature has something to offer that might help the debate, that's not legitimate.
That's a nonsensical proposition. I wouldn't want to accept that kind of precedent. I point out that the minister has been responding to his questions.
The member opposite, the Leader of the Official Opposition, has just mentioned that the issue is not as his colleague said. It is not the fact that the commissioner has left his seat to participate in the debate. He was arguing the fact that he felt that the minister should be responding to questions put to him about his department. The minister did respond. The commissioner added to that by providing extra insight which would help everyone listening to the debate understand what was going on.
I think it's useful, and if anybody else has information that they think would be useful and would enhance our common understanding of issues - great.
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, it's bizarre to think that in our parliamentary system, our Chair of the Committee of the Whole would run back and forth to his seat to answer questions for the minister. It's always been tradition in our House and in other houses that members can ask questions in Committee of the Whole, but ask questions, not answer questions as backbenchers.
If he wants to contribute to the debate in that way, then ask the minister a question - deal with it as a question. But I think it's unfair to the House to have this flip-flop by whomever is sitting in the chair, because they feel they have an important answer they want to give a question for an Opposition member on this side of the House.
It's absolutely bizarre to think they could be carried to our Speaker, who might be jumping back and forth. I mean tradition was, Mr. Chair, that on important issues, the Chair would leave the House for other matters and not to enter the debate in a full-blown argument to defend the minister, and I think that's inappropriate - totally inappropriate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Chair has to remain impartial, otherwise -
Chair: Order please.
Mr. Cable, on the point of order.
Mr. Cable: I have a question on the point of order. I think we've established previously that the commissioners, when they speak, don't bind the government when they're speaking on policy issues and on the work that they're doing, and what I would assume from what just took place a few moments ago, the Chair was speaking on behalf of the government and, in fact, binds the government with his answers. Is that what just took place? He was speaking on an operations issue.
Chair: On the point of order, I want to thank the members for their input. I will consider this matter over the supper break and report on it at 7:30 p.m. Thank you. We will continue on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would just like to state categorically that I did answer the question. I will answer the question again. To date, the electricity spent for the department, in 1996-97, is $906,000. I also do believe that the Energy Commission provided a point of information. I do believe that, between the two, the members opposite have the information they asked for.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. Let's let tempers cool down a little bit with respect to energy for the moment. Let's go back to the personnel side. Can the minister provide us with the exact dollar amount that was budgeted for personnel in the last fiscal period? In the current fiscal period, it's $213,000.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In 1996-97, in comparison of the dollars, it's $217,701.
Mr. Jenkins: That covers the four personnel in that department? We were told there were four personnel in that department previously. Has there been an increase and decrease in the size of the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Maybe what I'll do is read 1997-98, the O&M budget. There is $213,000 for personnel, which includes the salaries, wages and benefits for the director, the radio systems administration clerk and the communication technologies manager.
Mr. Jenkins: So it's three FTEs in that department. Could the minister explain the reduction in cost to $213,000 this year from $217,000 last year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It gives me great privilege and pleasure to be here.
In 1996-97, a comparison of dollars - let me get a ruler here please.
In 1996-97, $184,436; 1997-98, $183,338. Other for permanent: 1996-97, $1,318,000; in 1997-98, zero. In the Yukon bonus: 1996-97, $6,126; 1997-98, $6,126. Fringe benefits: 1996-97, the comparison dollar is $25,821, as compared to $23,101. The total on each: 1996-97, $217,701; 1997-98, $212,565. Thank you.
Chair: Order please. The time being close to 5:30, Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Prior to the dinner break, a point of order was raised by Mr. Phillips with regard to the role of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Other members rose to offer their comments on the point of order, and the Chair thanks them for their input.
On reviewing the Blues over the recess, the Chair is of the opinion that what is at debate here is not so much a procedural point, but rather a question as to what members view as being appropriate.
The rules of the House do not prohibit the Chair from participating in the activities of Committee of the Whole from his seat in the House as a private member, provided the Chair is previously relieved by the Deputy Chair.
It was obviously the Chair's understanding that this permits participation in the debate, as was done earlier today.
The difficulty which seems to have been felt by some members is having the Chair leave the chair to take his member's seat and then immediately participate in the debate. On reflection, the Chair understands the perception this may leave and, in future situations, the Chair will ensure that care will be taken to provide some distance between the Chair acting as Chair and taking part in debate.
We will proceed now to the budget.
Is there any further debate on the Communications line item?
Mr. Jenkins: I was exploring with the minister the personnel costs and would appreciate receiving an explanation. In the last fiscal period, the minister indicated $217,701 were spent within his department for three full-time equivalents, and this year, he anticipated a cost of $213,000. There's a reduction in that area, and my question of the minister is this: how does this reduction come about in light of the fact that the payroll loading component, Canada Pension Plan, employees' pension plan and workers' compensation have all increased in cost directly to the payroll loading?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The WCB premium is paid by the Public Service Commission, and any rate increases will be reflected there.
On the second portion of the hon. member's question, it is done over the entire department, on a percentage basis, and reflected in that manner.
Mr. Jenkins: What is done over the entire department on an average?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Benefits.
Mr. Jenkins: As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Chairman, the costs of payroll loading, or fringe benefits, or whatever you want to refer to them as, have increased. How does the minister explain a subsequent reduction for the three FTEs in that department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I'll reiterate that it's done on a percentage basis over the entire department.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just go back over this again. In 1996 there were three FTEs in the department. In 1997 there are still three FTEs. I would imagine the same method was used in the 1996 fiscal year as is being used in the 1997 fiscal year for the application across the department, uniformly, for payroll loading and yet, we see a net reduction of $4,701. How does this come about in light of the fact that the pension plan loading has actually increased, overall?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In my endeavour to explain this, I would just like to reiterate that when I say over the entire department, I mean over the entire Department of Community and Transportation Services - the entire department in itself.
Here we go. In 1995-96, the fringe benefits were $2,481,965. In 1997-98 budget, they are $2,724,693.
Mr. Jenkins: So they have increased $300,000. Now we're starting to make sense. But, overall, what has changed in this small little department of communications, with three FTEs, to result in a $4,000 decrease? This is in payroll costs. There's a $4,000 decrease. What has changed? How does this come about?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The fringe is a $2,700 decrease, and not a $4,000 decrease. I just say, on the other portion, that it could be attributed to the overtime.
Mr. Jenkins: Now if we could go back and explore with the minister the area that was somewhat contentious prior, the $31,000 for utilities, and the subsequent reduction in costs from $35,000 to $36,000 and now to $31,000. Would the minister kindly explain the justification for coming in at this low cost, in light of the fact that there has been no changes in power rates for just about over a year, and there have been two increases in energy costs, which have been passed on to all consumer groups this past month?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to take this back to July the 2nd, 1996, and I'd like to table a news release from the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. at that time. It'll shed more light on the answers provided by the Energy Commission in response to the questions from the Member for Klondike. The release clearly indicates that government general service customers will receive a 17-percent decrease, and a 10-percent refund will be credited over the next 18 months.
I hope this satisfies the Member for Klondike. As the commissioner stated, it clearly explains how there is a built-in contingency in the department's budget for electrical utility cost. If the member would like more information on this subject, I could provide it tomorrow, or the member could visit the office of the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise what form of a contingency is built into his budget to allow for rate increases in the electrical utility field?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For the whole department, Mr. Chair, actual costs for 1996-97 will be about $40,000 less than expected for 1996-97. There is some room for power increases in the '97-'98 figure.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm hearing the minister say is that his department has budgeted a net decrease in power costs over the entire department of $40,000 for this last fiscal period. That leaves him with a contingency of how many dollars? Can he just confirm those two points: that he's budgeting $40,000 less overall and that he has provisions for a contingency of how many dollars?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me clarify that. I did not say that. I said that the power cost would be about $40,000 less than expected this year.
Mr. Jenkins: And the second part of my question was: what is the contingency that his department has overall to absorb any increases in rates?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the rates are actually $40,000 more than required, and this in itself is a contingency.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I understand what the minister said, he said they have budgeted $40,000 more than what they paid last year, and that $40,000 is the contingency - is that a correct review of what the minister said?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll have to say it in this manner. We underspent $40,000 last year, and even if the budget is reflected here, then that therein would be the contingency.
Mr. Jenkins: So, further to this overview of the department in this area, could the minister advise when this change of policy came about and they started budgeting for contingencies?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As we go through the budget process, certainly in times of years, et cetera, we reflect upon the budget and as we budget, we budget on our very best information. The numbers there will certainly be subject to change. I'd just like to remind the hon. member opposite that is what the supps are all about and the process of the supps is all about.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it would appear that we don't take into consideration known rate increases in the utilities. We don't allow for them in our budget process; we just bring forth a supp at the end of the year and cover all of these expenditures, unforeseen or not. We just bury all the costs, incur all the costs and just shrug our shoulders and go away. So, why are we here debating the budget process and debating the budget when it's just not worth the exercise? We just come back with a supp at the end of the fiscal period. Most definitely, also, Trevor.
Chair: Order. I'd like to remind all members to direct their comments through the Chair, please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't know how best to inject knowledge into another person except by repetition. I would just like to say that we budgeted on our best information - on the best information that was provided - and the bureaucracy does this with the instruction of doing it on the very best information. That is exactly what we do. I think I've spent time now to explain to the member opposite the process and the ideas that we've come up with and, basically, the process.
I've also explained to him the supplementary estimates and what that is about and then he reverses on me. Mr. Chair, I don't know what more I can say to the hon. member.
Communications in the amount of $369,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $891,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In 1997-98, the O&M budget consisted of $335,000, consisting of $305,000 for personnel, including salary, wages and benefits for director, two personnel assistants, one full-time and one half-time personnel officer and an administrative assistant. There is $30,000 for other, $6,000 for travel in Yukon, $6,000 for communications, $13,000 for other, which includes reference material and various departmental initiatives, and $5,000 for other program needs.
The O&M comparison with last year is a decrease of $13,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98. The decrease is mainly due to a reduction of one vacant personnel officer position, which has been vacant since the beginning of 1996-97, to a half-time position. The position was partially reduced in the 1996-97 supplementary and the balance is not included in the 1997-98 mains; a decrease of $4,000 in other program items.
On Human Resources
Mr. Jenkins: I would take it that this refers directly to the reduction to the one-half FTE?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will reiterate. It is a decrease of $13,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98. The decrease is mainly due to the reduction of one vacant personnel officer position, which has been vacant since the beginning of 1996-97, to a half-time position.
Human Resources in the amount of $335,000 agreed to
On Finance, Systems and Administration
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This includes $746,000 for personnel, and it includes the salaries, the wages and benefits and wages for a director, eight indeterminate positions and one part-time casual position for finance and administration operations, two records maintenance staff and two information systems-related positions; $32,000 for other; $6,000 for contract services; $3,000 for repairs and maintenance; $13,000 for supplies, which is for the whole of corporate services; $8,000 for communications and $2,000 for other program items.
In comparison with the previous year, it's a decrease of $8,000. The decrease is mainly the result of the funding provided in 1996-97 to support the devolved-related functions of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports. It is not fully required in 1997-98.
Mr. Jenkins: The $32,000 under "other" - could the minister provide a further explanation and breakdown of this cost?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, and if the member opposite would like me to slow down a bit, I surely will accommodate that. I'm going to end up repeating myself.
The $32,000 for other consists of $6,000 for contract services; $3,000 for repairs and maintenance; $13,000 for supplies for the whole of corporate services; $8,000 for communication.
Mrs. Edelman: The two information systems-related positions, Mr. Chair, are those ones to do with LIMS?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I've been assured - it's on the others.
Mrs. Edelman: Okay. So, are the information systems-related positions for an ongoing program, or is that a finished product?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, there are many ongoing systems, and it's an ongoing system, and some of them are the Motor Vehicles Act, et cetera.
Mrs. Edelman: Further clarification then on the $6,000 for contract services: what would be the nature of those contract services?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The systems technical assistants, including charge-outs from information services branch.
Finance, Systems and Administration in the amount of $778,000 agreed to
On Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $351,000 consists of $347,000 for personnel, which includes the salaries, wages and benefits for the director and four policy analysts; $4,000 for other; $2,000 for communications; and $2,000 for training reference manuals.
O&M comparison with the previous year - there's an increase of $22,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and the increase is mainly due to a top-up of a partial policy analyst position to provide related support arising from the devolution of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports. A portion of the funding required for the position was provided for in the 1996-97 supps budget, and the balance in the 1997-98 main estimates.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask for a further clarification as to what responsibilities this individual that is devolved with the airports has, what area this individual is involved with, and how it fits in to the overall scenario of the devolution process with respect to airports, and what the specific cost is and where these funds flow through in this area? Is it part of the devolution dollars?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the dollars are from the devolution process. When the devolution process happened, it was the trans Canada policy people had and were making up the policy as an ongoing basis, and that's exactly what we're doing with the added responsibility of the development of the policy and the policy analyst.
Mr. Cable: What are the major policy initiatives that the department is investigating at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly provide some, and if the member would like, I can provide him with a detailed list.
Some of the major policy work that is ongoing now in the department is a Motor Vehicles Act, the rural services paper, the Northwestel and related issues, such as rural electrification telephone program, and the elevator, also on the boilers.
Mr. Cable: The Department of Justice and the Department of Economic Development, in the last mandate, had provided periodically a list of those policy initiatives. I think it would be useful if the minister would provide that to us.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I'll be happy to provide that to you.
Mr. Cable: How far are we along with the review of the Motor Vehicles Act? Could you bring us up to date?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I think I mentioned it yesterday or the day before - they all seem to flow together - but the Minister of Justice and myself are scheduled to meet, and we are going to be meeting, I believe, next week, or the week after. Then we're going to focus and critique it one more time, and then it will be going forward into the Cabinet process. So, I expect it soonest, if I may say that.
Mr. Cable: Information that I got previously from the Department of Economic Development gives a title of the policy activities and then a description. I think on occasion there were target dates. Is that sort of information available without putting the department into a turmoil?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we can forward the member opposite that type of information, and it would certainly be within reason and would be accompanied by the lists of the legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore a little bit further these policy issues that the department is involved in, could the minister advise us what policies this new devolved position dealing with airports is involved in? What issues is that individual dealing with?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will be happy to provide the lists that I'd spoken about to the member opposite. What it is though is that there is not just one policy analyst focusing on airports, there are more working on it department-wide, so if I provide the same list, it might help clear up those issues with the time frames.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps it would be somewhat easier if the minister could just read them into the record so we could have a quick snap as to what areas his policy analysts are reviewing at the current time.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll say that I'll be more than happy to provide him with the same lists that I'm going to be providing to the Leader of the Third Party.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we can expect another legislative return, Mr. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I did not say a legislative return, but I said that I would provide the information, and I will provide the information.
Policy, Planning and Evaluation in the amount of $351,000 agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $1,464,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $1,583,000 consists of: $1,372,000 for personnel, including salary, wages and benefits for 14.38 staff and highway maintenance administration, seven staff in transportation engineering administration; $211,000 for the other, which includes $58,000 for travel - $46,000 within the Yukon, $12,000 for outside the Yukon - $49,000, which is mainly in internal charges for vehicle usage; $21,000 for supplies; $61,000 for communication; $10,000 for other, which is the training conference fees, et cetera; $12,000 for various other requirements of the program. In comparison with the previous year, this is a decrease of $42,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and the reductions of: $18,000 for superintendent's fleet vehicle rental, and that reduction of $10,000 in supplies and $11,000 in other, such as reduction in membership fees and a reduced technical training, as well as a net decrease of $3,000 in various other program items.
Mr. Jenkins: Of the total decrease, Mr. Chairman, the $18,000, could the minister advise how this savings was achieved through the leasing of the fleet?
There's a net saving in the department. One of the major items where we've achieved this saving of $18,000 is the leasing of the superintendents' vehicles. Can the minister advise the House as to how this saving was achieved? Are they driving Toyotos, now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: These are based on three actuals and this basis is the reason for them coming down.
Mr. Jenkins: I have no idea what the minister is alluding to. Could he be more specific in his response. How does the $18,000 saving come about?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Chair, if I was just simply alluding in what I said. I guess maybe it didn't get conveyed properly. It was based on three-year actuals and it's simply just on the averages that used less hours.
Mr. Jenkins: As I understand what the minister said, Mr. Chairman, the superintendents are using their vehicles for less hours and the charge-out is on an hourly basis for the vehicles, so the resulting saving comes about as a consequence of less use. So, that leads to the question: why are the superintendents using their vehicles for fewer hours?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's done on three-year averages and on those averages it does come down. It does not mean that they are doing less of a job or anything, it's just on the actual averages of the three years.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that for the past three years, there has been a reduction each year? Or, all of a sudden we're seeing a reduction? What's happening? What has changed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would just like to reiterate that it is over three-year actuals and that is the best I can do at this point in time. If the member opposite would like, I can certainly dig up more detailed information, which I don't have with me, and get back to you, if you like.
Mr. Jenkins: I would appreciate receiving more information on how we're saving funds anywhere in any department. I will look forward to receiving the minister's legislative return on this topic in the near future, so that we can clear this item, or the department.
Mr. Ostashek: I have a couple of questions on this. When I look through the budget book, I see that highway maintenance has gone down by $2.2 million from the forecast of 1996-97. That, in itself, doesn't concern me, but what concerns me is that the forecast is lower than the actual in 1995-96. Does the minister have some explanation why we're realizing that type of savings? It's in excess of $1 million more. We're saving $1 million from 1995-96 and we're estimating $2 million less than the forecast for 1996-97. Can the minister expand on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is the next line. We are dealing with the transportation division at this time. I would like to clear that. I would like to reiterate that the $18,000 saving is over three-year actuals. Those are the averages as they come out over the three years.
Chair: It is the understanding of the Chair that we are still in general debate.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, you know, if we're not, then I'll wait until we get to the line items, but it was my understanding that we were still in general debate on the department, and I'm asking questions of a general nature. I don't want to get picky when we get to line by line. If I can get the information now, I'll be satisfied. If the minister wants to wait until we get to the specific line item, then we'll dig it out then.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I was under the assumption that we were in line by line, and that is the process that I was following.
Chair: We are in general debate on the transportation division, page 3-10.
Mr. Ostashek: The question is: is my question appropriate? That's all I'm asking. If it's not, please make a ruling.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If that is the process, then I'll certainly follow the process. That is not a problem with me. It's just I had the understanding, and I thank you for correcting that, Mr. Chair. I will be more than happy to attempt to answer the member opposite's question.
The net $2,224,000 reduction is due to a number of factors. The Alaska Highway shows an increase of $90,000, and this is due to a significant increase in patching with pre-mix to counter the effects of permafrost in the Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay areas. Increases are offset by reductions in winter activities. The Klondike Highway shows an increase of $118,000, and this reflects an increase in the BST program in the Carmacks, Dawson and Carcross areas. Reductions in crushing and winter operation offset the increase.
The Haines Road shows a reduction of $51,000, due mainly to less anticipated snow removal. The reduction of $1.476,000 on the Campbell Highway is largely due to the mine closure. As well, there will be reductions in BST operations, crushing programs and overhead. The Dempster Highway budget has been reduced by $400,000 due to reduced maintenance in the spring and fall, as agreed with the Government of the N.W.T. and reduced snow removal due to the proposed capital work during the summer of 1997, which will reduce snow drifting. Reduced resurfacing and overhead makes up the remaining $317,000 reduction.
The Canol Road shows an increase of $72,000, due mainly to increased surface blading and some additional bridge repairs on the North Canol, as well as BST in the Ross River area.
The Atlin and Tagish roads show increases of $338,000, due to crushing contracts, BST repairs, bridge upgrades and gravel resurfacing.
The Top of the World Highway is increased by $102,000, due to increased crushing requirements, but is offset by reductions in surface blading and patching with pre-mix as an additional 36 kilometres of BST will be applied this year.
The Silver Trail shows a reduction of $302,000, and that's due mainly to reductions in the BST work, the bridge repairs, brush and weed control, culvert repairs, glacier control and patching with pre-mix.
The Cassiar Road shows an increase of $46,000, and that's due to $40,000 worth of BST and miscellaneous activities, and overhead of $6,000.
Other roads show a reduction of $322,000, and that's due mainly to reductions in surface repairs, road openings, BST work, culvert repairs and road upgrades.
However, this is partially offset by increases in cleaning and reshaping of ditches, crushing requirements, gravel resurfacing and ditching.
The access roads budget has been reduced by $36,000, as jurisdiction for Robert Service Way and Two Mile Hill was turned over to the City of Whitehorse. However, recoverable services are reduced by $86,000, due to less anticipated third-party work order requests.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, but that does lead to a few more questions.
I heard, in the minister's summation, a substantial amount of reduction in BST application in this fiscal year. My question to the minister is: is this because we are catching up with the BST?
I know that highways always said they had a program that every, I believe it is, five to seven years, depending on the highway, they have to do a certain number of kilometres of BST to keep up, or they're going to get behind and our highways are going to start falling apart.
So, I'm asking: is the reduction in BST this year because we're caught up? Or, have we cut back on maintenance on highways for financial reasons?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, some are for financial reasons, and some are for the other reasons, as the member opposite has said. I could just say that on the Dempster Highway there is $6,000 on the impact of the mine and the ore haul is a $7,000 savings there.
Mr. Ostashek: That leaves me with some concerns then, because we may end up in a situation where we're going to be penny rich and pound poor. If we're not going to pay the amount of money that's required to maintain our highways, we may find out that we're going to have a bigger bill if, in fact, this continues into the next budget cycle. If we're going to have this kind of reduction ongoing in the budget cycle, I want to raise my concerns now to the minister that it may be costly in the long run to continue with that approach.
And I know it's unfair to ask the minister what's going to be in the next budget cycle, but has there been any discussions as to whether this is a one-time reduction in the level of maintenance, the level of BST application on the highways, or is this something that will carry forward to future years? If the minister can answer, fine; if he can't, I'll accept that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I express thanks for the latitude, but I will answer the question. No, we're certainly looking for it to be one time only, and the people within the department have assured me that it shouldn't affect it all that much. Again, I reiterate, we're looking to a one time. I cannot crystal ball anything, but that's what we're looking toward and working toward.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. Well, I appreciate that, and I agree with the minister that a one-year reduction certainly ought not to let our highways deteriorate too badly, as long as it's caught up.
Another question for the minister on the numbers that he gave us: I heard him explain that there was a reduction on the Robert Campbell Highway, mainly for the fact that the Faro mine is going to be shut down for a period of time. I didn't hear of a similar reduction of maintenance on the south Klondike Highway, where if a mine is shut down, we won't have to maintain the same level of winter maintenance. Have there been allocations made for that, or if there hasn't, what is the reason?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There are reductions in the crushing and within the winter operations, which offset the increase.
Mr. Jenkins: Can we explore with the minister the savings on the south Klondike Highway? What we do is we reclassify the highway, so it doesn't require 24-hour snow removal and the amount of snow that's allowed to accumulate is allowed to increase before plowing takes place. What is the savings from snow removal? What is the savings in this area - the reduction in costs?
Chair: The time being 8:30 p.m., is it members' wish to take a short recess?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would like to answer this question, if I may, and then get back to it, if that is acceptable. Is it true that the response time won't be as fast with more traffic on it. As the member opposite is likely aware, the equipment and operators are charged against the time they're on. That should explain it. No?
Chair: We will take a break. Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Community and Transportation Services, general debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I was saying before the break that the savings are from the snow removal. There is not as much equipment on the road. It's call-out, less traffic, and of course the equipment and the people power to drive that equipment are somewhat reduced also. On the break I did get actual dollar changes, and the changes in the Klondike Highway maintenance is snow removal of $198,500; the sanding is $47,000; and the glacier control is $19,000.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister showed us a total increase on the Klondike Highway of $118,000. I didn't get any numbers for the south Klondike Highway and I would make the assumption that... That was just the south Klondike Highway? What is the total for the south versus the Klondike? Was the $118,000 increase just for the Klondike from the turnoff on the Alaska Highway north?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that is from the whole Klondike Highway.
Mr. Jenkins: Under "other" is a $322,000 reduction, and one of the components that make up that reduction was opening roads. Now, this spring we've experienced a delay in opening mining roads throughout the Klondike area. Is this anticipated to be a further reduction, and is this a change in policy for not opening roads in the spring?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we are attempting to go with this flow, and we will be attempting to do the same process in the next year as we have done this year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, that leads to the question. Historically, the Top of the World Highway to the 59 Mile Road cutoff was opened, commencing approximately March 15th.
The Hunker Road, Dominion and the Upper Bonanza were all opened around the same time, and glacier control started and the removal of the glaciers in this area started around the first week in March.
Over in the Mayo area, the road into Duncan Creek was also started to be opened around March 15th. Is there going to be a change in policy within the department and a later opening?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No. I will say again that we are attempting to save money and we'll be critiquing it and monitoring it and looking at it to see if it's going to assist us or hamper us. We will certainly be watching very closely.
Mr. Jenkins: Fifteen percent unemployment, and rising. The only sector of the economy that's going back to work and wants to work is the placer mining industry in the Mayo and Dawson area.
The minister is refusing to give a commitment to open the road. He's going to monitor and critique it. What is it going to take to get the minister's assurances that we can get people to work, who want to work and are needing to go back to work, and have to get into their mining properties as early as possible? We are talking Yukon hire, Mr. Chairman. These are Yukoners who want to go back to work and the minister is refusing to give a commitment to open the roads.
We brought this up in the House previously, but from what I'm hearing today the minister is not prepared to commit to opening these roads into the area where work is available for a great number of Yukoners. What is it going to take to get the minister's assurance that he will open these roads in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I am not simply critiquing; I'm not simply monitoring; I'm not simply doing any of these things. We're working with a limited budget. We're trying to work within the means of a limited budget.
What we are doing is opening the roads, and we are monitoring it, and we are certainly not here to hamper anything. We're certainly here to be fiscally responsible, and that is exactly what we are doing.
From the March 15th opening date, I do believe it was delayed for one week, and we're looking at that.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise what resulting savings he's going to incur by opening the roads in time? And, would the minister provide us with the breakdown of how the balance of the other $322,000 is going to be realized?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly will be able to provide that information, and I will be making that information available to the member opposite on the first question, and, on the reduction of the $322,000. I will get back to the member on that.
Mr. Jenkins: In the minister's briefing notes he doesn't have a breakdown of how the $322,000 is going to be realized.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What we have to do is put the information together. There's not a specific that we have to gather it and garner the information, and bring it together, and I will have that information for you.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sorry, there has to be something in the minister's briefing notes, other than "others", $322,000 saving. Would the minister please refer to his briefing notes, and provide what is there, and what it says under $322,000 saving?
You've been advised by the deputy minister that it's there, and repeat it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Okay, I will repeat it, and I would ask that the member opposite listen this time, because this is the second time I'm going to repeat this this evening for your pleasure, and I'm sure that it is your pleasure, because you certainly seem to take pleasure.
Other roads show a reduction of $322,000, due mainly to reductions in surface repairs, road openings, BST work, culvert repairs, road upgrades. However, this is partially offset by increases in cleaning and reshaping the ditches, crushing requirements, gravel resurfacing and ditching.
Mr. Jenkins: And beside each one of those components, what is the dollar value?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will revert back to what I'd said previously, and that is exactly what we are going to get for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: That will be provided by way of legislative return tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will certainly be more than privileged to offer this information to the member opposite tomorrow.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd just like to switch gears just a little bit while we're still in general debate on transportation division, and I'd like to talk about the supplementary information on the road equipment reserve fund. This is always an area that the public asks a lot of questions on, I know, even when I was in government, on the brand spanking new equipment that the YTG keeps buying. I've had these discussions with the department when I was in government. I listened to their explanations and, while they may be valid in a lot of instances, we still get the questions from the public, so I need to get a clear understanding of what I have in front of me here.
What I see here is that there is going to be a one for one - I expect that will be that I for one loader we're going to replace it with one loader; for three packers, we're going to replace them with three packers; for four graders, we're going to replace them with four graders; the same with the pickups, the crew cabs, the vans and the service trucks. Am I correct?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, hon. member, you certainly are correct.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. Now, I would like to go to the next category - that type change. Three tractors for three tandems - three tandem what?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's three tractors for three tandem dumptrucks.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. What is the "change" from, when it says "type change"?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we're taking three tractors that are gravel trucks at this point in time, and we're going to replace them with three tractors that are versatile - like, with the fifth wheel, et cetera - and you'll be able to put a box on it, and you can haul gravel or you can put a sander on it. That is the "type change" right there.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. And the line below that: "two gravel trailers for a single axle". Are we talking about a gravel trailer and a pup for a single axle?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, you're basically right. It's two gravel trailers for a single-axle dumptruck. I believe it's somewhere around the vicinity of a five-ton.
Mr. Ostashek: Could the minister then tell me what special use it's going to be put to? Why are we going to a single-axle tractor and two gravel trailers? Are they tandem gravel trailers or are they single-axle gravel trailers - and why? Why are we downsizing, or what special use are they going to be put to?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What we're doing is we're taking the single-axle gravel truck, the smaller version - I imagine it's a five-ton and it's very versatile, but takes a smaller load. What we're doing is we're replacing that for two gravel trailers. Yes, I believe the member opposite used the word "pups" and they are pups. The reason why we're doing this is because I believe they're hauled behind the 10-tons and they're approximately 20 yards, I believe. With the distance to gravel and the proximity of gravel being further away, this is just more efficient in the long run.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, thank you. I believe I understand the minister now. I just want to get this clear. So, we're trading off a single-axle tractor or gravel truck for two gravel trailers. Is that what we're doing? Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I guess you can't nod your head, so pardon me, Mr. Chair. So, yes, that is absolutely true.
Chair: Does it clear?
Mr. Phillips: I have a question about airports. I was trying to find the recovery side in the airports. Is there a recovery side in the O&M of the airports? I think on page 3-15, where the only airport statistics are, I don't see any recovery side. So, where would I find that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I might direct the member opposite to page 3-26, where it says airports, $1.7 million.
Mr. Phillips: Is that airport landing fees, like fees at the Whitehorse airport? Is that what that's going to be? Is that airport landing fees, like at the Whitehorse airport? Is that what that figure represents?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the member opposite, approximately $980,000 is for CARS, which is refundable from NAV Canada, and that is recovery.
Mr. Phillips: Where would we find fees or any revenues that we would receive from, say, Canadian Airlines or any other airline arriving in Whitehorse? Where would any revenues show up?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll direct the member opposite to page 3-27, and it's under the transportation division-aviation operations line, and the estimate for 1997-98 is $756,000.
Mr. Phillips: So, that $756,000 would be from the various operators who would fly in and out of airports such as Whitehorse, Dawson City - the major airports? It would be landing fees that they would be paying.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There are two parts to this. The revenue from the airport leases, concessions in air terminal building, the aircraft, the parking of the aircraft, landing fees, car parking and passenger loading bridge - $696,300. The second part is revenue from the airport leases, concessions in the airport terminal building, aircraft parking and aircraft landing fees - $59,300.
I hope that answers the member's question.
Mr. Phillips: The reason I'm asking the question is that has come up in the tourism sector - about trying to attract other airline carriers into the territory. One of the suggested ways to attract them here, of course, is to offer them fairly reasonable rates for landing fees, ramp use and that kind of thing. I wonder what it costs presently for, say, a 737 like Canadian Airlines or NWT Air, when they were here? What would it cost for them to use the airport facilities, and is it the kind of carrot that we could hold out to Canada 3000, other European charters and other charter aircraft to maybe attract them to use Whitehorse as a destination for some of their charters?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the figure that I quoted to the member - the $59,300 - that is from the Watson Lake airport. I should have said that; I don't believe I did at the time. The figure of $696,300 is from the Whitehorse airport. That's the breakdown that I have at this time.
As to holding out a carrot for the tourism and aviation industry, we would certainly have to be thoughtful and mindful of that, because this is the only revenue that is generated from here. I will certainly take your suggestion into context and put it into our thoughts when we get into other discussions.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister could bring back for me, by way of a legislative return, what it would cost for someone to land a charter jet in Whitehorse - one charter jet.
I would suggest to the minister that, in my view, I don't think you have to recover the full cost of this aircraft landing in Whitehorse. Because, if we can land a DC-10 here, or a 767, or even a 737 full of passengers from Europe, or some other country, and they disperse themselves for two or three weeks throughout the territory, the revenues that we'll see from that, and the jobs that that will create if we get 20 a week coming in - I think the minister is aware that Anchorage right now has made itself a destination. Anchorage, has, I believe, five wide bodies a week coming into Anchorage, full of Europeans who fill up their hotels, rent their RVs, buy their goods and services, and you recover your landing fees, in spades, by making it a little more attractive and encouraging them to come here.
So, I'd make that suggestion to the minister that that is something now that we do have control over. We didn't have control over it before we took over the airports, and that is something that the minister can do.
So, I would highly recommend that the minister look at that as one of the avenues to attract more carriers in coming to the territory.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, as the member opposite is aware, that is certainly one of the initiatives.
I know I took the time to brief him, and he was desirous of being briefed upon my return from the old country, I guess, if I could say that.
We are certainly looking at different ways and manners to land wide bodies, and all sorts of other aircraft here - DC-10's, et cetera.
So, I reiterate, I will take all of this into consideration and I will certainly be letting the House know exactly what is transpiring and when it is transpiring so that we might be able to, as you say, entice more people into the Yukon Territory, to stay longer and spread out.
hat was the direction part, and I thank you for that. The request or the question was that you wanted - I saw you put one finger, and that meant - the cost of a 737.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Oh, I can give bouquets, if you like, but I'll just go one.
Certainly, we can break that down and I will get that information back for you tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: Just another question for the minister. Now that we do have control over the airports, one of the constraints to the Whitehorse airport is that it's too short, and it does limit us to the type of aircraft we can get in here - not so much that they can land; it's just a little more difficult for them to take off with a full load of fuel and passengers. For some reason, they insist that they be able to do that.
Has the minister had an opportunity, or has he thought about looking at the possibility of lengthening the Whitehorse airport? One of the suggestions that's come to me is that, in some jurisdictions - we don't have a lot of room at the Whitehorse airport - things like the gully on the north end of the airport, rather than filling in the gully, they've built a bridge across some of the gullies in some airports in some parts of the world.
I don't know how costly that would be, or whether it would be worthwhile, and whether we'd be able to attract others here in the long run. It would have to be something that would be cost effective. Is there any opportunity at all of lengthening the Whitehorse airport and, if not, does the minister have any idea, or are they thinking at all about eventually relocating the Whitehorse airport to an area where they could accommodate larger aircraft as the Yukon grows? It may be a problem that we might have in the future, but it is something we should maybe be thinking about now.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I was going to say that.
Yes, as a matter of fact, the Government Leader and I had this discussion approximately two months ago. We were talking in a manner of how to best improve, and to get things up and running, and to make the airport a little bit better so that we could come to - as you know, we were coming to the Yukon being a destination, and how we can entice people here, and get them to stay longer here, and to spend their money here. So, certainly it is something that was in my mind, and as soon as I get through this budget process and get into the practicalities of being government and running government, that is one of the things I am going to sit down and talk with my staff about, and the city also. I believe the city was involved with that, and we're going to sit down and have a little brainstorming session on that.
Ms. Duncan: The minister will recall that I had originally raised this issue of airport landing fees and the potential for economic generation when we were discussing general debate. I didn't mention exploring the possibility of exploring cross-border traffic - for example, Northwest Territories-Yukon exchanges, Alaska-Yukon exchanges - and pursuing that as a growth market. That would be with smaller aircraft. And I noted that he was in the Northwest Territories some time ago on other transportation issues. Were transportation airport issues also discussed at that time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the best of my knowledge - and I'd have to look through my notes that I've taken on that - but no, they weren't. Really, it was just a very short visit on one specific item, although I did have cursory talks with tourism people and others to see how we could jointly do some marketing in that area.
Why I'm saying that is because parallel to that is the question of airports. We are going to be having that type of discussion with the caucus and the Cabinet of the NWT government some time this summer. Also, there is an MLA that is from the Mackenzie delta in town and I'm going to be chatting with him sometime, likely on Friday or sometime in there if he's still in town, so that we have that type of conversation with folks to see how we can best get together.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister, by way of legislative return, for information on any current vacancies in terms of this airport lease space or any potential vacancies? I'm interested if there are any potential economic initiatives with respect to the airport. Are there other opportunities that have not as yet been explored?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly assure the member opposite that I will get back to her on the issues of vacancies, et cetera. As you know, there is an airport development plan that is in place.
Again, one of the things we will do with the member opposite's question and your question is that this all has to come together. It's a big project, and I'm certainly willing to look at the process of putting it together and being able to do it. I anticipate that we'll - I'm more than anticipating, because within my time frame, there is an extreme amount to do - but it is certainly on my agenda to be looking at those issues.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the topic of airports, if we just look back at the last little while and what has transpired with Canadian Airlines, one of the incentives that was provided to this airline to keep it flying - and even today, its financial woes are not over - was a rebate of the fuel tax paid by Canadian to the respective governments over whose territories this airline flew. If we look at the Yukon today, Canadian is now the only carrier coming this way. I'm sure down the road it would be in the best interests of travellers in and out of the Yukon if we were able to reduce airfares.
The cost identified by the minister was six hundred-odd thousand dollars a year. Would the minister please bring back the actual cost to Canadian Airlines for maintaining their operations at the Whitehorse airport and the costs that this airline remits to the Government of Yukon in fuel taxes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that that is more in line with the Finance minister. The way I heard it - and of course my headphones are a little wonky, if I can use that word here tonight - but you're asking me to bring back to Canadian Airlines. I was wondering: are you representing Canadian Airlines this evening, or how is this working?
Mr. Jenkins: Now, are the earphones working, Mr. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think the earphones are working as well as the lips across the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: The question of the minister, Mr. Chair, was the cost to Canadian Airlines for the use of the Whitehorse airport. There are their landing fees, their ramp charges and their rental fees for their facilities at the Whitehorse airport. There are three components. We will address the fuel tax component to the minister responsible for collecting those.
If he could bring back the costs that are incurred by Canadian Airlines in those three areas.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Within reason, I will certainly be able to do that. I must reiterate that we're doing things on behalf of Canadian Airlines at this point in time, and I certainly feel slightly uncomfortable with that - in making it a public matter. I'm sure if that's what they want but, you know, within reason, I'll certainly provide the information that I can.
On Maintenance and Engineering Administration
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Of the budget, $1,583,000 consists of $1,372,000 for personnel - that includes the salaries, wages and benefits for 14.38 staff in highway maintenance administration and seven staff in transportation and engineering administration; $211,000 for other; $58,000 for travel, which includes $46,000 in the Yukon and $12,000 outside of the Yukon; $49,000 mainly in internal charges for vehicle usage; $21,000 for supplies; $61,000 for communication; $10,000 for other, which includes training and conference fees, et cetera; and $12,000 for various other requirements of the program.
In O&M comparison with the previous year, it's a decrease of $42,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and the reductions consist of $18,000 for the superintendents' fleet vehicle rental, a net reduction of $10,000 in supplies, and $11,000 in other, such as a reduction in the membership fees and reduced technical training, as well as a net decrease of $3,000, in various other program items.
Maintenance and Engineering Administration in the amount of $1,583,000 agreed to
On Highway Maintenance
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I represent a rather zealous lot, but I'm sure that we can do things with camaraderie and humour, and I appreciate it.
The 1997-98 O&M budget of $29,002,000 consists of: $9,552,000 for personnel, and this includes the salaries, wages and benefits for the maintenance of highways; $19,450,000 for other, for various maintenance expenditures other than labour costs, and mainly consists of program materials and charges for use of equipment and road equipment fleet.
In comparison with the previous year, it's a decrease of $2,224,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98.
The reductions mainly relate to the ore haul route as a result of the Anvil Range mine closure - $700,000.
There is $756,000 for snow removal, partially as the actual cost for this activity has been less over the last few years due to the weather conditions, and partially due to reduced maintenance of the Dempster Highway, which includes the closing of the Ogilvie and the Klondike camp for six weeks in the spring and in the fall.
Other areas of reduction are: $126,000 in brush and weed control; $371,000 in surface blading; $129,000 in sanding; and $142,000 in general highway maintenance projects.
Mr. Phillips: One question for the minister: when the minister was putting his budget together and seeking approval from his Cabinet, did he get any concerns from the member for Faro, who used to be quite vocal about cutbacks on the Campbell Highway and the Faro Road when the mine went down the last time? He told us we shouldn't cut back on it that time, and I just wonder if the member was vocal within his own Cabinet this time - criticizing his own minister for cutting back on maintenance on the highway because the mine was down.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I must say, in all honesty, that the MLA for Faro did bring up his concerns, and he was quite adamant that his concerns would be met. But, of course, in teamwork and team play, we did come to a consensus decision on the budget. So, I'd like to thank the Member for Faro for bringing us up in a consistent manner.
Mr. Jenkins: If we just could explore the savings in brush and weed control. This is always a contentious issue throughout the Yukon as to why more of it isn't undertaken. How, at this juncture, can we effect savings in this area? One only has to drive the highways on a regular basis and one can identify the need for it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we're just simply doing less of it and that is because of the fiscal reality that we have. If the member would just give me one second, please.
If the member opposite would like, I can read it for him here. The total brushing we control is $125,580 less. There is a reduction.
Mr. Phillips: I move that your report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 16, 1997:
Clean-up of military sites: letter dated April 14, 1997, from Piers McDonald, Government Leader, to Lloyd Axworthy, federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, regarding misconception of the status of the two territories (McDonald)
Clean-up of abandoned Yukon military sites: letters dated March 3, 1997, and April 16, 1997, from Eric Fairclough, Minister of Renewable Resources, to Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and a letter dated February 20, 1997, from the same minister to Sergio Marchi, federal Minister of the Environment (Fairclough)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 16, 1997:
Duty remission: effect on Alaska Marine Lines' service to the Yukon (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 596, 629, 630
Land interest management system (LIMS): status (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 597
Regulations and staff levels for electrical inspections, boiler and pressure vessels, elevator and fixed conveyances, and fire inspections (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, pp. 600, 601, 633, 634
The following Document was filed April 16, 1997:
No rate increase for residential customers: news release dated July 2, 1996, from the Yukon Electrical Company Limited (Keenan)