Thursday, April 17, 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?
Rotary Music Festival participants
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise and ask all members of this House to join me in paying tribute to the young musicians and all participants at the 29th annual music festival taking place in Whitehorse this week. The Rotary Music Festival fosters music appreciation and music education. It provides an opportunity for local musicians to hear from experienced adjudicators. Competitions include piano, flute, voice, violin, choirs, band and wind ensembles.
I would like to congratulate all of the organizers, including the chair, Joanne Lewis, and the co-chair, Henry Klassen, for their tireless efforts in arranging and running the festival.
This event takes a whole year to plan and involves 50 volunteers. The Department of Education and local businesses have also made donations that are critical to the event's success.
The Rotary Club is to be commended for providing this opportunity for Yukon musicians.
I encourage everyone to attend the final showcase of Yukon musical talent at the Yukon Arts Centre this Saturday, April 19th, with performances at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to draw attention to the fact that, since 1985, April 17th has been designated as Equality Day to acknowledge the coming into effect of section 15 of the Charter, dealing with equality rights.
This section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for equality before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination, based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. I know we're all committed in our private and our public lives to advancing equality for all members of society.
As well, today is Law Day. Events planned this year provide information about alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation, litigation, family group conferencing and negotiations. Yesterday, the Law Day fun run raised money for the Crossroads alcohol and drug abuse treatment centre. As well, next Wednesday night, the Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of the Yukon are sponsoring a public forum on the criminal law system at the Arts Centre.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I would like to introduce in the audience Lenny Kohm, from the U.S.A., who is a tireless campaigner on behalf of the Porcupine caribou herd and for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have a report for tabling.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to table the workplan synopsis for the Cabinet Commission on Energy.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Placer mining, opening roads
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Speaker, with the shutdown of the Anvil Range mine at Faro, the anticipated decrease in mining exploration throughout the Yukon this year, and unemployment currently standing at 15.7 percent and rising, one would think that the Yukon government would be doing everything in its power to put Yukoners to work. I'd like to know why the minister is not supportive of an industry that gave birth to the Yukon as a territory, that has proven itself to be the backbone of the Yukon economy for the last 100 years, and employs about 700 Yukoners who would like to go back to work. I'm referring of course to the placer mining industry and would like to know why the minister has reverted back to the old NDP policy of not opening placer miner roads until April 1st, which is preventing placer miners from going to work.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, as I reported last night, we are not reverting back to any old policy. What we are doing is attempting to be fiscally responsible. I explained to the member opposite last night in debate on my budget as we were going through it - at a tedious pace, I might add - with much detail, so if he would remember my answers from last night, which were that the dates were set back by one week. It is not to impose hardship on the miners but to be fiscally responsible. At this point in time, there have been no complaints. I know that the member opposite could get on the telephone and garner many complaints if he so chose, but at this point in time, there have been no complaints, and things seem to be working very efficiently.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this spring there was a delay in opening mining roads throughout the Klondike area and I would like to know why the minister changed the policy of the previous Yukon Party government to have those placer mine roads open by March 15th? Why is he preventing Yukoners from going back to work? Is it because they live in TROY and they don't count?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I guess, in part, the answer is with the dollars that were left to us: none. What we're absolutely attempting to do is to make things better, much more fiscally responsible. We represent all of the Yukon and we think of all of the Yukon when we bring these thoughts together.
I'll go back to that. It was delayed by a week and there have been no complaints. I reiterate again that if the member opposite wishes to continue this line of dialogue, we could be here forever because I know that he can phone and get complaints.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the minister is attempting to save money on the backs of rural Yukoners - working rural Yukoners - and in so doing he is making a very costly mistake in keeping Yukoners from going to work. So, I'd like him here and now to make a commitment to this House and to the placer mining industry that next spring mining roads throughout the mining districts will be open by March 15th. Will the minister give us that commitment here today?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must categorically state, and I'll help the member count, but there are one, two, three, four, five, six - there's all sort of rural representation over here. I take strong offence to the way the member opposite is bringing this line of questioning forward.
I'm a rural member. I represent rural members. We're sitting here to be fiscally responsible for all Yukoners. That is what we said in our campaign, and that is what we are going to do. Are we looking at rural services? Yes, we are. Are we looking at ways to bring more improvement to the services that are supplied by Northwestel to rural communities? Yes, we are.
I take strong offence to the line of questioning by the member opposite.
Speaker: Order please. I want to make a ruling here, that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is going to be debated during Committee of the Whole, so the questions should not be asked until then. Move on with the questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're into Economic Development, I understand, today.
Speaker: You will be on Community and Transportation Services.
Question re: Workers' advocate
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question of the Minister responsible for the Worker's Compensation Board.
In Opposition, the Member for Faro repeatedly lobbied for a workers' advocate position, and stated on a number of occasions that the advocate should be an unabashed defender of the injured workers, helping injured clients deal with the Workers' Compensation Board.
Shortly after taking office, the member said in an interview with one of the local papers that an independent workers' advocate should start work in January. Apparently, that has not happened.
In a further news article, it was reported that the closing date for applications for the worker's advocate job was March 14.
It has been over a month now and Yukoners still have heard no word about a workers' advocate.
Can the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board give us an update as to whether or not this position has been filled, and when, in fact, this person will begin the task of going to bat for the injured workers out there?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It is interesting to hear this line of questioning from the Yukon Party, particularly from this member who, given there is one annual meeting for the Workers' Compensation Board a year, instead of going to that as the critic, he chose to go to a Business After Hours. That is a signal to me that he's not really as concerned about injured workers as he pretends to be on the floor of this House.
However, Mr. Speaker, in response to the question on the workers advocate, we have engaged in some very thorough consultation in the development of the workers' advocate job description. It took some time and it took some lengthy discussions with both labour and employers and stakeholders.
Nonetheless, the process has certainly moved along. A number of applications - I think there were some 30-plus applications for the advocate position that came in. I asked the PSC to set up an advisory body to them as they went through the applications. It has been composed of labour, and business was offered the opportunity to participate, but some of them couldn't, for various reasons. They are working with representatives of the labour community to go through the applications. I understand that they have agreed on a number of applications and they'll be doing their interviews. I think they're scheduled for some time around April 28th or 29th.
So, certainly we are progressing. It's not as fast as I would have liked but it takes time to do good consultation. It takes time to deal with both labour and employers on these issues.
Mr. Jenkins: It should be pointed out to the minister that the same minister in charge of Workers' Compensation Board is also in charge of Economic Eevelopment, and on that same date he missed a very important meeting dealing with that area, also.
Mr. Speaker, it was reported this morning on the radio that injured workers were picketing with signs saying that WCB is unfair: "We want justice." In light of this protest, it is evident that injured workers are not satisfied with what this government is doing or has not done. In fact, it seems the only thing that the minister has done since taking office has been that of political interference with the firing of the chair of the Workers' Compensation Board, which I should also note has yet to be filled.
I would like to ask the minister what actions his government has taken, since taking office, to address the concerns of injured workers.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's allegation of political interference is, indeed, ridiculous. I could give him the section of the act that would prove that to him. The problem with the previous chair - I know he's near and dear to the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker - was that they did not undertake any consultation with labour in the process of determining the chair for the Workers' Compensation Board. That was a direct contravention of the act and I had no other choice but to engage in the appropriate consultation in the choosing of a new chair.
We've been engaging in that extensive consultation process. It is taking some time to deal with labour and employers to try and build consensus. We've asked Opposition parties, even, for nominations for that position. We're in the process, as I said, of hiring a workers' advocate. We've just appointed a new labour rep to the board. We've gotten - in conversations with the board - the occupational health and safety review back on its feet and they're moving ahead with that. I expect some things to come to Cabinet before too long. We've also committed to doing a whole revamp of the Workers' Compensation Act, hopefully to be ready for the fall 1998 sitting of the Legislature.
So we have an agenda, and we are working on workers' concerns, and I think that there will be some good results coming out of it.
Mr. Jenkins: I refer to the NDP's election platform, A Better Way. It states that an NDP government, led by Piers McDonald, will immediately establish the independent position of a workers' advocate and will improve accountability of the board to injured workers and the general public.
It seems that a better way is no way. Can the minister tell the House what action his government intends to take to restore confidence among Yukon injured workers that their concerns will be heard and that they receive both fair hearings and fair decisions? It's obvious the message isn't getting through, or these people would not be out picketing today, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, I spoke to the people who were protesting this morning. Many of them have had long-standing issues and long-standing claims with the Workers' Compensation Board. I have not interfered on an individual basis, as was the policy of the Yukon Party government, with individual claims. That is interference in the board in adjudication matters, and I refused to do that.
We moved immediately on developing the workers' advocate, but we did not want to deny either of the key stakeholders - labour and employers - a voice. We want to consult with them - that takes time. We don't make decisions like the Yukon Party, where they just listened to one side and not the other. We try and listen to both, Mr. Speaker.
So, as I said to the member earlier on, we have some dates set up for hiring a workers' advocate, or at least doing interviews. There's an advisory committee set up of representatives of labour, including the injured workers. I believe one of the representatives was out picketing today.
So we are involving the public. He's agreed to the terms that we've identified. So we're quite pleased with the progress. It's not as fast as we would have liked, but there will be a workers' advocate, as we committed, as soon as we can do it in an appropriate manner.
Question re: Education, staff recruitment
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education.
Yesterday in this House, the minister told me that the Department of Education's practice is to advertise for positions locally and to advertise simultaneously in outside newspapers if that is the request of school councils.
I'd like to table in this House two job advertisements placed by the Department of Education. They are for a special education language learning disabled resource program teacher - there are three positions - and special education teachers - and it doesn't say how many positions there are available in that section. These advertisements appeared in the Vancouver Sun, Saturday, April 12th. They have not yet appeared in Whitehorse newspapers. Would the minister explain in the context of local hire promised by this government why these jobs were advertised outside of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the policy of the government is that advertisements for vacancies are advertised simultaneously. If they're going to be advertised in outside newspapers, they are advertised simultaneously in local papers as well as papers outside of the Yukon. Ministers of our government do not interfere in the personnel practices of the public service. I do not have specific information regarding these positions, but I can certainly find the information and bring it back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the minister, the advertisements will appear in this Friday's Whitehorse papers. That is not simultaneous advertising. As a minister, she has responsibility. Would the minister assure the Yukon teachers and the Yukon public that there is not a double standard in place when it comes to hiring for these positions?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong in her allegations that we do not seek to take local hire seriously. We do want to hire qualified Yukon residents for jobs. I can assure the member, and I can assure the members of the Yukon Teachers Association, that we are going to give every due regard for qualified local candidates in any positions that are advertised.
Ms. Duncan: If the minister is purporting to have local hire and to uphold the policies of this government, why are the closing dates for the outside applications April 22nd and the closing dates for the Yukon applications April 25th? Why is this minister not upholding the government's promise of local hire? Can she tell me if the Department of Education officials have even met with the Yukon Hire Commission?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps the member opposite is not aware that someone from the Department of Education is seconded to the Yukon Hire Commission and, yes, the Department of Education has met with the Yukon Hire Commission and all departments of this government are working with the Yukon Hire Commission. I can bring the member back an answer to her question regarding the dates on the competitions.
Question re: Fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
During the territorial election campaign of September, 1996, the Yukon Liberal Party made a number of commitments toward a pro-active coordinated approach to the health, social, justice and education issues around FAS and FAE. As far as I can tell from my research, this government made no commitment toward dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.
Does the minister now agree that fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects require perhaps a little attention?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As a matter of fact, I can tell the member opposite that a qualitative study has been undertaken through the alcohol and drug strategy to understand risk factors that contribute to high-risk alcohol consumption. As well, I have met with the Health and Social Services Advisory Board and have asked them to meet with relevant organizations to gain a better sense of the magnitude of this problem, not merely confined to the education area, but also to other areas, and to bring me back an assessment that will be factored into this program later on.
Mrs. Edelman: This has been done before. According to the April 1995 fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effect prevention plan, there is no reliable information in the Yukon that tells us how many people have FAS or FAE. A project to answer this fundamental question was scheduled to be completed in February 1996. I have written to the minister on more than one occasion, asking for that information. Is the study available?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: What I can provide for the member opposite is, from alcohol and drug services, a proposed plan for the prevention of alcohol-related birth defects. This document is an assessment of some of the risk factors and some of the issues surrounding public health, et cetera.
What I think is interesting about this is that it does bring up a very interesting planning model. I have asked that the group that is working on FAS/FAE take a look at this and give me an assessment of it. I will be happy to provide a copy for the member.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that's very interesting. I wonder if it's similar to the plan that they already had in 1995. In November 1996, there was an interview on CBC Radio with Jocyline Gauthier, who is a counsellor with alcohol and drug services and she noted that there are programs in place to deal with FAS in the Yukon, but there is a lack of coordination. Does the minister have any concrete plans to coordinate the approach to FAS and FAE in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, as a matter of fact, there has been an issue; there has been some planning with this regard, and I would remind the member opposite that we did undertake to address some of the issues surrounding preschool children, particularly, who are at risk of developing problems later on in life.
Jocyline Gauthier, as a matter of fact, was one of the authors of this report, and part of the substance of this report was the suggestion - and I think the member will find it interesting - of how we can coordinate some of these strategies.
Yes, indeed, there have been some problems of lack of coordination before, and Ms. Gauthier and Sandra Armstrong, the other author, have made some definite suggestions in that regard.
Question re: Canadian Airlines, reduction of airport fees and taxes
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Finance and it's concerning the measures to lower the cost of air travel and encourage visitation to the Yukon.
As the minister well knows, air travel is fairly costly and is an extremely competitive industry. The Yukon, situated north of 60O, is facing a geographical handicap, and anything that the Yukon government can do to reduce air travel costs and improve air service benefits to the Yukon economy, overall, and especially for our visitor industry, they should try and do. Would the minister consider measures, in the purview of the Yukon government, to reduce the costs of scheduled air carriers who operate year-round out of the territory in relation to such things as the Yukon government's fuel tax landing fees and other fees?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I took the opportunity, listening to the conversation between the Member for Klondike and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services yesterday on the same subject, to investigate with Finance what is actually paid by Canadian Airlines to the Yukon government by way of a fuel tax and I discovered that it amounts to approximately $33,000 per year.
Now, of course, there is an option to lower taxes to all users or simply to grant certain funds back to a single user. We can, of course, do those things, Mr. Speaker, but I doubt very much that that would have a significant impact on Canadian Airlines operations.
Clearly, we do want to encourage airlines to make the Yukon a destination point. The Minister of Tourism has in his budget, I believe, $250,000 to initiate joint marketing efforts with airlines and to encourage the greater activity and greater competition in the Yukon market.
What we have to be careful about doing, of course, is not to get into a situation that we experienced last year, where two airlines did very poorly and damaged both of their operations in the process.
We have to be very careful about this and I'll take the member's suggestion and we'll give it consideration.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister of Finance may think that $33,000 is a small amount for Canadian Airlines, but when they were on the brink of bankruptcy, I'm sure it was a significant amount, when you take into account the many other areas where they were in trouble and they were looking for savings as well.
It's my understanding that Alberta and British Columbia have reduced their taxes on jet fuel, and it's important that we remain as competitive as we can be as well.
In fact, in view of the fact of the Yukon government removing the road tax on off-road equipment to help the mining industry, would it consider a similar exemption for scheduled Yukon air carriers that come in here year round?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the member for reminding us about the off-road fuel tax, which the Yukon NDP government eliminated to promote activity in industry, in rural Yukon, primarily. That was an interesting model, which I think had some good effect in promoting industry.
I want to point out to the member that Canadian Airlines has never made a request and never did make any request of the Yukon government to provide any assistance whatsoever, either by way of foregoing any fees or the reduction of any tax rates, all during the period when it was facing its darkest moments in facing its creditors.
That's probably because the amount of that they actually paid in fuel tax was minimal and probably amounts to maybe 33 airfares for a full year. Obviously, it's not significant.
I want to point out that in the first instance we are not in a position where we can simply grant tax benefits to industries that never even requested them.
We have some very, very significant responsibilities to face here. We have requests made every single day, including today, in this Legislature alone to spend money and to provide services to Yukoners.
So we can't gratuitously give tax breaks, and I would suspect, in any case, that Canadian Airlines would consider this a fairly minor sum.
Mr. Phillips: I have to say that I'm rather disappointed with the answer that I got from the Minister of Finance, because I think that any amount that we can save the airline in transportation costs makes those airlines more competitive in bringing people to the Yukon.
I know that the Minister of Tourism - who was just in Europe - when he spoke to me told me that that, in fact, is one of the problems we have - becoming competitive price-wise - in dealing with airfares to the Yukon, and what I would ask the minister is if he would give serious consideration to doing away with the tax on jet fuel, which would help the existing airlines who come here year round and any new ones that may come in, and do that in the context of an agreement such that the savings would be passed on to the air travelers - the people from the Yukon, who want to fly outside, and the people from other parts of the world who wish to fly in here.
When he looks at a reduction of jet fuel and other fee reductions that they now control at the airport, it be done in the context of actually reducing airfares.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I find the argument the member is making to lower tax rates rather fascinating. I also asked the Department of Finance to tell us when the tax rate was last increased, and it turns out that the tax rate for fuel used to propel aircraft was increased from seven-tenths of one cent to one and one-tenth cents per litre in 1993, when the Yukon Party was busily raising everyone's taxes. Certainly, the airline industry was no exception.
So, we indicated at the time, Mr. Speaker, that we were not in a position to raise taxes and we did not want to raise taxes to Yukon businesses and people in this budget, and we will not. We are not in a position ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... to lower taxes to industries that have not requested that we lower taxes.
So, first of all, Mr. Speaker, the member should reconcile the position he's taking today with respect to the desire to lower taxes to make the airline industry more competitive, with the position the Yukon Party took only a few years ago to raise taxes. Then, the member should also consider the notion that perhaps the Yukon government would consider its tax policies in the context of our full needs, and in no case would we consider targeted tax reductions to a particular company, even in the absence of any request by that company to lower the taxes.
While we do want is a competitive airline industry, and we have taken steps on the expenditure side to encourage airlines to come to the Yukon, we are not in a position, at this point, to do as the member asks.
Question re: Abattoir
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the abattoir project.
The minister's department, last December, went to the private sector with a call for expressions of interest on the development and operation of an abattoir. I understand there were three or four responses that were looked at.
Has the minister's department evaluated the responses? Could he give us a status report on whether the evaluation has taken place and whether any of the proponent's ideas appeared to be viable?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We did receive four applications of interest, and we're presently going over them. The department has indicated that they will be going over the applications with them to try and see whether they are viable for the project to be successful.
Mr. Cable: It appeared from the original press release that was put out that this was going to be a two-step procedure. First of all there was going to be requests for expressions of interest and then, if there were any that appeared to be viable, the minister's department was then going to put out a proposal call. I'm quoting from the January 27th, 1997 issue of the Whitehorse Star.
I would expect within the next 30 days we should have some idea whether we are going forward with the call for proposals. I think that's what one of the members of his department quoted.
Could the minister indicate whether he is going forward with the proposal calls?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we will be continuing and pursuing this issue.
Mr. Cable: I don't think the minister and I were clicking on that one. I was asking whether he was going forward with the next step - the proposal calls. Perhaps he can give me a written response on that. I would appreciate that.
The Whitehorse Star also carried a quote on December 5th from the minister: "Fairclough said the level of interest expressed will determine the amount of money the government will set aside for the project."
Now, there's a $100,000 envelope in the budget. Does the minister anticipate that that is the upper limit of the amount that the government will be involved in the project?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That all depends on the proposal that comes in. In our budget, we do have an additional $50,000. That brings that total amount up to $150,000.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and the House will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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 have 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
On Transportation Division - continued
On Highway Maintenance - continued
Chair: We are dealing with the budget. Community and Transportation Services, transportation division, debate on the line item, highway maintenance.
Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have, to read into the record, some answers from yesterday. It's the total revenue earned from the Canadian Airlines by the Yukon government, October 1st, 1997 to March 31st, 1997. Landing fees, $18,990.35; loading bridge, $9,596.34; recovery, which is damage, $1,338.90; recovery, electricity, $1,541.08; parking plug-in, $1,080.00; office space, $23,885.52; cargo operations, $15,405.90; access route, $499.59; parking, $142.66; office space, $5,340.54; parking plug-in, $585.00; counter and equipment, $27,951.72; microphone, $125.52; for a total of $106,483.12.
On the question regarding the availability of space for lease in the YTG buildings of the Whitehorse airport, there are 30 square metres of office space available behind the check-in counter on the main level of the airport terminal building. The air terminal basement - there are 65 square metres of office space with ground-size access, which will be available as a result of the Transport Canada's air worthiness office moving to the combined service building. Combined service building - there are 101 square metres of office space that's currently vacant, but the Transport Canada airworthiness office is relocating to this space.
A breakdown of the 1997-98 revenue forecast for the Whitehorse airport: the leases, $408,700; concessions, $146,800, which includes fuel services, restaurant, duty-free and the car rental; the aircraft parking, $12,500; the aircraft landing, $61,000; car parking, $27,500; loading bridge, $40,000; the forecast is $696,500. For the Watson Lake airport: leases, $58,200; landing fees, $1,300; the forecast is $59,500. The total forecast is $756,000.
On the question under the reduction of salaries and benefits by $5,000, the question was: why hasn't the communications branch salary total gone from $217,701 in 1996-97 to $212,565 in 1997-98? Fringe benefits and merit increases were estimated based on assumed percentages. In comparison to what was used for 1996-97, a lower percent has been applied in estimating fringe benefits for 1997-98. This is based on an analysis of actuals for previous fiscal years. The department believes that the 1997-98 estimates more closely reflect what actuals will be for this fiscal year.
The benefits, percent used, applies to all program areas within the department. The actuals for 1993-94: salary and wages, $21,280; fringe benefits, $2,576, 12.1 percent. In 1994-95, the actuals: salary and wages, $21,268; fringe benefits, $2,578, 12.1 percent. In 1995-96, the actuals: salary and wages, $20,160; fringe benefits, $2,482, 12.3 percent. The 1997-98 estimates: salary and wages, $21,667; fringe benefits, $2,724, for a total of 12.6 percent.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister yesterday filed a couple of legislative returns dealing with questions, and one legislative return doesn't accurately portray what is happening out in the field. I was hoping that the minister could further clarify this area. It deals with this legislative return on electrical inspections throughout the Yukon Territory.
At the present time, there are two full-time inspectors and one seasonal, and there is still a delay with having inspections completed on time, especially in rural Yukon. In the legislative return, it is stated, "Due to an increased number of electrical installations, some reputable electrical contractors have been permitted to declare the installation complies with the act and regulations. Even in these cases a minimum of two inspections by public and safety inspectors are necessary."
They might be necessary, but they are not occurring. They're not occurring in a lot of cases in rural Yukon. Just what is the department's position? They come right out four-square saying, "We're not anticipating resorting to privatizing such a public safety service." What is the minister prepared to do in this area?
There are some abuses taking place. There is some shoddy workmanship occurring, but the reality is that control of this responsibility is vested with that department, for which the minister is responsible. What is the minister prepared to do have this service provided in a timely basis?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the member opposite were to just continue on and read his legislative return, he would find the obvious answer. The obvious answer that is stated in the legislative return is that the public safety branch of the C&TS is currently doing an in-depth analysis of the electrical inspections unit to determine if there is a need to increase our electrical inspector complement.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much for the minister's response, Mr. Chairman, but obviously there is a need that's been clearly identified. It's been discussed on an ongoing basis in the public domain. What are the time lines for this in-depth analysis to be completed? Is this something that's going to take place over the next one year, two years, three years so that we're not going to see anything occur? Or, is it going to be completed next week?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the in-depth analysis will be prepared and ready for the 1998-99 budget.
Mr. Jenkins: So, once again, nothing will happen this year despite repeated requests from rural Yukon for more timely electrical inspections and the fact that electrical inspections are not being undertaken and completed as required. By and large, in rural Yukon, more and more contractors are just declaring that their installations comply with the act and regulations. But this does not help any private homebuilder undertaking their own electrical installation in their own home where they require an inspection. There is a considerable delay, and it is contingent on the department to provide that inspection service in a timely manner. That is not the case.
Rather than doing the in-depth analysis, it is obvious that we have to have another solution, and we have to have another solution very, very quickly. What is the minister prepared to do? What changes in policy is he prepared to institute to ensure that this occurs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would just like to state that this problem has been around for a couple of years now. The previous administration certainly had the opportunity to work toward these ends. This administration certainly is working toward those ends.
It has been brought to my attention that the analysis that has been painted on the opposite side of the Legislature is not a true analysis. It is not as serious as he says. We are certainly taking a timely approach to it. We're working at it now. We're doing an in-depth analysis, which will be prepared for the 1998-99 budget.
Again, I stress and reiterate that this problem has been around now for a couple of years.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, here's a wonderful opportunity for the minister to clearly demonstrate the better way. One of the ways is the expansion of the declaration system. Is the minister prepared to ask his department to expand the declaration system, whereby a professionally certified electrician or electrical contractor is authorized to swear that the installation conforms and declare that it does, and that, thereby, the inspection is completed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the declaration system is now in place, and it is ready and available for qualified contractors. What we are doing is seeing, through the in-depth analysis, if we can expand on it. I again reiterate that that'll be ready for the 1998-99 budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, but that certainly doesn't help the construction underway for this season. It would be contingent upon the minister to act forthwith and put something in place. Why is the minister not prepared to act immediately and expand on a system that has proven itself?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite has mentioned A Better Way, and are we going to do it in a better way. Well, we certainly are. I'd just like to remind the member opposite, though, that we've been in power for six months, and six months only. We're certainly doing things in a better way, and I believe that is very apparent to the Yukon. You can look at the press releases and see what we've done in all areas of saying where we are going with A Better Way. Things are certainly moving, Mr. Chairman. We are doing this in a thoughtful, timely manner. We're doing an in-depth analysis of this problem. We know it is a problem. I reiterate that it could have been handled and done two years ago. This is not a problem that surfaced on September the 30th or October the 15th. This problem has been around for two years. The previous administration did have ample time and opportunity to initiate this. They chose not to.
Mr. Chair, I say to you that we are doing this in a thoughtful, well-laid-out manner, and it is certainly a part of the better way.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, but if I could point out to the minister that it was the previous government that brought into place the declaration system to approve certified journeymen electricians and contractors, so they were looking at ways of speeding up the process, and it was the previous government that added one seasonal inspector in the summer. Perhaps it's prudent to obtain the services of a second seasonal inspector, or to devolve some of this responsibility. There are a number of options that are open to the minister to get these electrical inspections completed in a timely manner.
Now, what is the minister prepared to do? We don't want to sit and study this for another year and have nothing at the end of it, other than a fine paper that we'll study for another year. We need a solution for this forthcoming construction season.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I don't know what to say. I guess all I can say is that through A Better Way we talk about consulting, we talk about talking with people, people affected, and that is exactly what we're doing, and we're doing this so that things will not come back on us. When we embark on a job, we're going to do that job to the best of our abilities.
I would just like to say that if the previous administration would have used those same principles we would not be in this quagmire that we are in today.
Mr. Jenkins: Pure bunk, obviously. It's becoming more and more abundantly clear that the minister doesn't even have an understanding of what this area of his department is all about or what his responsibilities are. Six months in the job, a $100 million portfolio and he hasn't a clue.
To take you further down the legislative return, Mr. Chairman, the legislative return points out that there has been a number of increases in the amount of boilers and there has been an increase in the number of inspections but, once again, rural Yukon is not experiencing the level of inspections that it had a few years ago. There has been a considerable reduction in the level of inspections that are provided to rural Yukon, and what is the minister prepared to do to address his department's responsibility in this area? Another example of TROY: one set of rules for Whitehorse, another set of rules for rural Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As a rural member, it gives me great pleasure to stand here. As a matter of fact, it gives me great pleasure to be standing with my colleagues who represent six seats in rural Yukon.
So, Mr. Chair, we do represent rural Yukon, and rural Yukon is absolutely within our initiatives to move forward on. I'd like to expand on that a little bit. If the previous government was doing such a great job in rural Yukon, why do they only have one member representative from rural Yukon here?
The regulations do not require yearly inspections on existing installations, although the owners of boilers and pressure vessels are entitled to an inspection on request. Boilers in all communities outside the City of Whitehorse are inspected annually and these inspections are undertaken by existing staff.
Mr. Jenkins: Having the responsibility, previously, for about 13 boilers and presently, only for about seven, I can assure the minister that that's not the case.
So, is his department misleading him, or does the minister not know? This is certainly not what is happening in the field. In rural Yukon, these inspections are not being carried out as the minister has indicated.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would just like to state to the member opposite one more time, that the boilers and owners of boilers and pressure vessels are entitled to an inspection on request. When they are on request, they are certainly complied with.
Mr. Jenkins: I take the minister to the legislative return, the second part, and it states, "The regulations do not require yearly inspections on existing installations, although owners of boilers and pressure vessels are entitled to an inspection on request. Boilers in all communities outside the City of Whitehorse are inspected annually." That, Mr. Chairman, is not the truth.
Now would the minister kindly ascertain what is correct, go back to his department and get his department's assurances that that is indeed the case? Because it certainly isn't from my understanding and from what I am involved in.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it has been brought to my attention once more that the boilers, in all communities outside of the City of Whitehorse are inspected annually. They request that two inspections -well - they're entitled to one inspection annually. Again, these inspections are undertaken by the existing staff.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, inspections are not taking place on all boilers outside the City of Whitehorse on an annual basis; it's just not occurring. So, either the department is misleading the minister and the minister is conveying inaccurate information to this House, but that is certainly not the case, and I would ask the minister to go back to his department and ascertain what is actually going on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must say categorically, right here, - and I'm sure all of my colleagues will agree with me and I'm sure that the majority of the members in this House will assure me - that this is not the place to attack civil servants or to slander civil servants. This is just totally not the place and I just have to put on the record that I deeply resent that.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sorry, I cannot accept what the minister is suggesting here in this House today. Here we have a department responsible for the life safety of a lot of equipment and all of the mechanical areas and it's not being done to the level that is required. That's the bottom line, Mr. Chairman. All I'm asking the minister to do is to go back to his department and get his department's assurances that they are undertaking the responsibilities to the level that's indicated in this legislative return.
Now, if the legislative return had come back and it said that the boilers are inspected on a regular basis, but not annually, that would be one thing.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I'm accusing the department of not accurately reflecting what is going on in the field.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The boilers are not getting inspected to the level that the minister has indicated, and electrical inspections are not being carried out in a timely manner and to the level that is required. That's the bottom-line issue. Now, what is the minister prepared to do to ensure that these occur?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must say that, within parliamentary procedure, I am here to represent this department and my constituents. On behalf of my department, I do work on behalf of and for the people of the Yukon within my portfolios.
He can say whatever he likes to me and I can take it. I have an extremely thick skin. Some people have said I have skin to the bone, but what I will not tolerate, absolutely will not tolerate, is an attack on the people who work for me, the civil servants of the Yukon Territory and their integrity. They do a wonderful and fine job and for the member opposite to stand up and blatantly attack them is certainly, in my opinion, unparliamentary.
Now, he can come at me any which way he wants to, and I can take that, because I knew I'd be putting up with that, but it's absolutely despicable that he would stoop so low.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go on further in this legislative return dealing with fire inspections in Yukon communities. Let us read what the legislative return says into the record.
"The number of fire inspections has risen from 44 in 1990 to 204 in 1995, and the projected number in 1997 is 225. As part of their municipal responsibilities, the City of Whitehorse now has a full-time fire inspector, and the City of Dawson has fire inspector bylaw officers, so inspections by the fire marshal's office in these areas have dropped off. We are presently working with the new fire chief in Watson Lake so he can establish his own inspection routine for this area. There are a number of buildings that only get inspected every three years; however, schools are large public buildings, and they are inspected on an annual basis. Not every building in the Yukon can be inspected on an annual basis."
Mr. Chairman, with respect to Dawson City, they have a bylaw enforcement officer, but that person does not do fire inspections, nor have they been given any indication that that individual receive training to conduct such inspections. So, again, I would suggest to the minister that somewhere the suggestion comes across in this legislative return that Dawson has a fire inspector bylaw officer. They have a bylaw enforcement officer. They do not have a fire inspector. Where is this misinformation coming from, and why is it being conveyed in this form to this House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This explanation has been brought forth from the fire inspectors, and so I take it that this is the correct information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, Mr. Chairman, those three areas, and they are three areas that I've spent a little bit of time researching - the fire inspections, the electrical inspections, and boiler and pressure vessel inspections - are not being conducted in the manner that is set out in this legislative return, and I would ask the minister to go back to his department and ascertain what is actually transpiring in these areas, because it is not the way it is stated here in this legislative return.
Could I have the minister's assurance that he will undertake that and bring back another legislative return that clearly spells out what is transpiring in these three areas?
Chair: Does it clear?
Mr. Jenkins: I'm seeking the minister's assurance that he will bring back a legislative return that clearly spells out what is happening in these three areas.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Chairman, I am seeking the minister's assurance that he will bring back by way of legislative return what is actually happening in these three areas. Is the minister prepared to bring back that information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It certainly seems that whatever we bring back, whether it's by way of legislative return, by way of verbal commitment, I'm sure even if it was by way of pony express, that it would be critical, that it would be picked on, it would be analyzed as such. So, Mr. Chairman, I do believe that we have done our job. We have absolutely brought back answers to the member opposite. If he is not satisfied, I absolutely have no idea of how to satisfy the member opposite. I'm not sure anybody does.
Mr. Jenkins: All the minister has to do is bring back accurate, timely information, and this side will be very, very satisfied with what is transpiring, but with respect to those three areas that I brought forward, after receiving this legislative return I am seeking further clarification from the minister to provide accurate information on those three topics. For the minister's benefit, they're the electrical inspections, boiler and pressure vessel inspections and fire inspections.
Can I have the minister's assurances, Mr. Chairman?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, but has the minister lost his tongue? Can he not respond? Is he prepared to bring back, by way of legislative return, an answer to those three questions - an accurate answer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would ask you, in your wisdom or your research, or whatever, to do a judgment on this. I think I've expressly brought myself forward. I've represented my department. I've given the information by way of legislative return to the member opposite. Mr. Chairman, I do feel that we've done our job and our obligation.
Chair: It is the Chair's understanding that such matters are not up to me. The minister can choose not to answer, particularly if the minister believes the question has been dealt with. It is not up to me to force anyone to answer or force anyone to ask further questions.
Mr. Jenkins: So, by a lack of response, I clearly indicated that the minister is not addressing his responsibilities in ensuring that there's proper procedure in place and that it is followed, and that these three areas are covered in the manner that they're supposed to be covered. The minister, I will take it, is just abdicating his responsibilities by refusing a response.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chair: Is it clear? Clear.
Is there further debate on the highway maintenance line item?
Mr. Jenkins: We could go into expenditure by highways, and let's start at the bottom - access roads. Could the minister explain why we have seen such a dramatic decrease from 1995-96 actuals of $239,000 down to zero in this forthcoming fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, indeed it gives me pleasure to answer this question. In 1995-96, the $239,000 for the access roads - the Two Mile Hill, the South Access - that have since been transferred to the City of Whitehorse, and therefore it shows nothing for this year.
Mr. Jenkins: The 1995-96 actual goes from $239,000 then to 1996-97. Was the $36,000 there still a continuation of the Two Mile Hill or the South Access? I can't recall what the minister stated. Was it a continuation of that project?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This $36,000 for the 1996-97 forecast is for miscellaneous items, until it is all completely done in the next year.
Mr. Phillips: I have a couple of questions. The Alaska Highway south, between here and 100 kilometres south of Whitehorse, seems to have a lot of frost heaves and cracks appearing in the road. Is any of this work planned for doing more BST on that section?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we will be continuing with our work on that to correct the frost heaves and to make sure that they are safe.
Mr. Phillips: Is that just the crews going out with the air compressor, where they blow the stuff out of the cracks and then they pour tar into them, or is that actually taking the surface off the road, levelling it out and taking the humps and bumps out of the road?
There's a few of them on the road I know by the Lewes River bridge and the other side of Lewes River bridge, and even further south along the highway, where it's becoming ... Of course, this time of year is when the frost heaves really start to show up and there's more and more of them showing up in that area.
Are there any plans to resurface that section of the road, between Jake's Corner, for example, and Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We are going to be doing, not long, straight stretches, where you use the reclaimer, I believe it was called, but we're doing specific spots where there are dangerous spots and where there are frost heaves. We will be doing those specifically.
Mr. Phillips: I'm sure that will be welcomed by many of the people who travel the road.
The other question I have about another highway is the Top of the World Highway. I see some more money in the Top of the World Highway, I suppose for chipsealing again this year.
Can the minister give us an idea of where we're at, overall, with the Top of the World Highway chipseal and, secondly, could the minister give us an update on where the Americans are at on their side? That was the worst part of the road in the past few years, and I know they challenged us a few years ago that they were going to meet or beat us in getting their section of the road done first. I had an opportunity to drive the road last summer, and they've done a great deal of work on their side, primarily, I think, from the Tok Junction area going this way. There is a section in there that is quite hilly and narrow, just before Chicken, I believe it is. Maybe the minister can tell us if there are any plans to straighten out those sections of the road and improve those sections of the road on the American side this year or the next.
Really, I want kind of an update on where we're going on that. The plans initially were that, by 1998, that road would be in pretty good shape for tourists who wanted to make the loop.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the status of the Top of the World Highway - in the Yukon, of course, it's called the Top of the World Highway - is that the upgrading work was started in 1993 and, to date, construction of the BST surface has been completed between kilometre 66 and 105.
The surfacing and grading improvements are progressing between kilometre 0 and kilometre 66, in preparation for the future BST on this section. The current plans are to have the upgrading and the BST surfacing completed over the entire 105 kilometres of the highway by 1998.
What we know of the Taylor Highway on the Alaska side is that the State of Alaska has completed the upgrading of the first 23 miles of the Taylor Highway, and Alaska plans to improve other areas of the Taylor Highway, near the Alaska/Yukon border, starting in 1999. That's assuming that their budgets allow this to be done.
Mr. Phillips: The minister said that we were preparing from kilometre 0 to kilometre 66 for future BST. If we don't do it this year, that means it will probably be planned for next year. Is that correct? If it is, my only concern is that they will be applying BST in probably the busiest year that that road will see in a great number of years. I just wonder if they've made any plans to get a lot of that major construction and long-distance road work out of the way before we see what we feel will be a fairly significant increase in visitors over that Top of the World Highway in 1998.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we're going to the BST between kilometre 30 and kilometre 60 of this year, and we're looking to finish the remaining BST surfacing from kilometre 60 to kilometre 66.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could ask the minister where the maintenance - there is a two-percent increase in maintenance along the Klondike Highway - is going to take place, and is there going to be any patching and chipsealing taking place throughout the Klondike Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the Klondike Highway shows an increase of $118,000, and this reflects an increase in the BST program in the Carmacks, the Dawson and the Carcross areas, and reductions in crushing and winter operations help to offset the increase.
Mr. Jenkins: Could you provide a breakdown as to what kilometres are being re-chipped in the Carmacks area and the Dawson area? And with respect to the Dawson area, that's always been a subject of contention from the ferry landing to Callison. The base has never been able to hold the BST for any length of time. Has the engineering department come up with any other alternatives to BST in that area? What are they, and what is the time frame for them implementing this - whatever they've decided to do?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, for the member opposite's question surrounding the kilometres in the Carmacks area, I will have to certainly get that information back to him as soon as I possibly can, and I will have that information for him.
On the Callison area to the ferry landing, we are certainly looking to do work in that area, and it'll be done as much as the budget will allow in future years.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's get specific in that corridor from the ferry landing to Callison. What is his department planning on doing in that area in this next fiscal period?
There is bad breakup of the surface BST all through that area. The traffic levels are way in excess of the highway's ability to carry it. The highway should be widened and upgraded. All of these have been substantiated by the traffic count that was undertaken a few years ago by the department of highways. I'm sure the results even amazed the department of highways as to what the level of vehicle movement through that area was.
Can I ask the minister as to what his department will be undertaking in that area in this fiscal period this summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'll be specific and to the point when I get back to the member opposite, as I said, in the Carmacks area. It will be from the Carmacks to Dawson area. I'll get back to him and let the member opposite know exactly what is happening.
Mr. Jenkins: Will that be by way of legislative return, Mr. Chairman?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will get the information back to the member opposite in this House before this sitting is finished, certainly. Well, much sooner, before the sitting is finished. I will get the information back as soon as possible, in the next couple of days.
Mr. Phillips: Silver Trail - I see $652,000 this year for the Silver Trail. What's the status of the condition of that road at the present time? There are more and more visitors going up the road now that the museum is open and Binet House is part of the passport program, and more tourists are visiting that area. It is a very beautiful part of the territory.
I just wonder where we are at with that road as far as chipseal and, while we are on that particular road, is there any planned work or improvement work going to be done on the Duncan Creek road, which is really a loop road which runs from, I think, the Keno area back onto the Elsa road or the road up toward Elsa. I've taken the drive myself and the road was - if you're driving a big RV, you'd be a little nervous about driving along a road like that. For we Yukoners, it's a highway, but some of those people would feel a little nervous about some of the boulders that are on the road.
It was brought up to me, by the people in the Mayo area who were concerned about tourism, that it could be used as a possible loop road and a link and a very nice little drive, that it maybe could be fixed up in the future to be something that could be tied in with the tourism trails or tourism roads in the area.
What is being done on the Duncan Creek road as well as the Silver Trail?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the BST on the Silver Trail is in good shape for this year, and it will not require upgrading.
I will certainly take the member opposite's comments on the Duncan Creek Road under advisement. I certainly concur with him that to us it might be a highway, but to others it's not. I previously worked along that road myself.
So, thank you very much. We'll take that under advisement, we'll look at it and make sure that it's passable.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe I could ask the minister at the same time to look at extending the BST toward Keno - it only goes, I think, a few miles out of Mayo at the present time - and, possibly, extend it toward Keno City. Because, I think, after all, people that come up to that area as visitors, that's their ultimate destination - to go up to Keno City - and see the little museum up there and get up on top of that ridge and see half of the eastern Yukon from on top of that big hill. Maybe the minister could tell us whether or not they might give that some consideration.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we'll certainly take that into consideration when we are putting our budgets together. It is a capital expenditure, but I certainly understand where the member opposite is coming from - the tourism initiative and the uniqueness of the Silver Trail and the road to Keno and to Elsa.
It would be helpful if the mine were going - it would be very helpful to everything if the mine were going - but we'll certainly take that into consideration and put it into the works.
Mr. Jenkins: I see that there's quite a concerted effort to get the Tagish Road up to grade and up to standard. I applaud the Department of Community and Transportation Services for this initiative. Just what the-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: It must be the minister's riding.
I was just wondering what was actually going to take place along the Tagish Road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I thank the member opposite for his comments that are certainly somewhat of a shock, but I certainly do appreciate the comments.
Mr. Chair, the Atlin end, including the Tagish Road, is showing an increase of $338,000, and that is due to crushing contracts, BST repairs, bridge upgrades and gravel re-surfacing. It is pretty well, I guess you'd say, ongoing maintenance and a type of repairs, but it does show an increase of $338,000.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just deal with the Cassiar Road, is there any realignment in that area, or is that just upgrading and crushing and chipping, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, the Cassiar Road is showing an increase of $46,000, and that is due to $40,000 worth of BST and miscellaneous activities, and overheads of $6,000.
Highway Maintenance in the amount of $29,002,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, of that total, $2,200,000 is for personnel. It includes the salaries, wages and benefits for nine staff and the general administration and operations - 16 at the Whitehorse airport, two at the Watson Lake airport and three observer communicators in Old Crow. The personnel budget also includes $462,000 for internal labour charges from other program areas such as highway maintenance - that's support maintenance work on airport runways. The $2,919,000 is for other, which includes $67,000 for travel - which, of course, is $43,000 in Yukon and $24,000 outside of Yukon - including four community aerodrome radio service - CARS - and training. There is $961,000 for contract services, of which $805,000 is for CARS contract, $66,000 for rental expense, and $208,000 mainly for runway maintenance. The $38,000 is for equipment for snow removal and equipment fuel. There is $524,000 for utilities and $52,000 for communications. There is $942,000 for internal charges, of which $454,000 is equipment usage and grounds and runway maintenance, and $488,000 is for maintenance of airport buildings by Government Services, and $62,000 is for various other program items.
The O&M comparison with the previous year is an increase of $1,346,000, from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and that's mainly a result of the devolution of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports from Transport Canada. An increase of $1,554,000 has already been provided for in 1996-97 supps for the six-month period from October 1, 1996 to April 1, 1997. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's start with the easy part and work up. Emergency airstrips - who determines to what level these airstrips are maintained and the snow is removed from them?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the person responsible for that would be the community airport manager.
Mr. Jenkins: I just noticed this last year, on the McQuesten airstrip, the snow was not ploughed off that airstrip all winter. Has there been a change in policy within the department? I know it was just recently opened, but I've noticed a couple of other strips that had been kept ploughed previous winters are no longer being ploughed. Where did this change in direction in policy come from and what is the policy, Mr. Chairman?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I will get back to the member opposite on that and I'll get to him on Monday.
Mr. Jenkins: They're constructing run-up pads at a number of airport sites throughout the Yukon. What type of material is being used for the run-up pads? Are we going into chipseal or are we going into asphalt?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I do believe that it is concrete.
Mr. Jenkins: I was just going to advise the minister that they had previously tried BST and, because of the weight of aircraft, the ground movements, the stop and go and turning, BST does not stand up under that use and it would be best to use concrete. If that is the case, I , once again, applaud the department for taking the correct direction.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite for his comments. If you would like, since we are into airports now, there was a question raised and I can read the answer into the record.
On the cost of landing a 737 at the airport - remember, we were just wondering about the whole bouquet, but we weren't sure, so we were saying just one - they are $48.22 per flight. The loading bridge fee is $25.66 for one.
Airports in the amount of $5,119,000 agreed to
On Transport Services
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Personnel is $1,977,000, which includes salaries, wages and benefits for 4.5 staff and administration, 14.6 staff for motor vehicles and 17.2 staff in weigh stations. Other is $503,000, which includes $45,000 for travel, for which $33,000 is in Yukon and $12,000 is outside Yukon. Honouraria is $22,000 for the Motor Transport Board, the Driver Control Board and the Medical Review Board. There is $64,000 for contract services, $26,000 for repair and maintenance, $80,000 mainly for internal charges for vehicle usage, $85,000 for supplies, $28,000 for advertising, $51,000 for program materials, $41,000 for utilities, $48,000 for communication and $13,000 for various other program needs.
In comparison with the previous year, it's a decrease of $103,000. A reduction of $41,000 in personnel is due to the elimination of an already vacant weigh station operator position. A reduction of $62,000 in contract services is mainly due to one-time contracts for Motor Vehicle Act review, public consultation and analysis and for the Faro Metafina chemical clean-up that was needed in 1996-97 and are not part of the 1997-98 estimate.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that the utilities of $41,000 - that there has been no budgeted increase for electrical costs for the department? I guess we might as well get it on the record, as to whether any of Community and Transportation Services have budgeted for known electrical increases that are already on the power bills - not proposed, the ones that are in place currently.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It just took me a few moments to dig out the information that I provided the member opposite with yesterday.
Of course, it's a news release from July the 2nd, 1996, and it states that, "General service customers will receive a 17-percent decrease. A 10-percent refund will be credited over the next 18 months," of which, of course, we're still in.
Mr. Jenkins: So what's the answer? Has the department budgeted for increases, known increases, in electrical power rates in the forthcoming fiscal period? Specifically this department, but we might as well ask it of all the departments and then it'll save raising it in each specific department, Mr. Chairman.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. In July 1996 there was a 17-percent decrease. Now, in February of 1997 there was a three-percent increase on fuel, and a 5.5-percent increase as a result of a lawsuit. This was primarily after the main budget was developed, and that's there. Last year, we were under budget by about $40,000, as we said yesterday.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister didn't really answer the question as to whether they budgeted any additional funds for increases in electrical charges throughout his department, and his department minister indicated yesterday that his utility charges throughout the various areas amount to some $1.7 million. What I did hear the minister say is that last year they lapsed $40,000.
Is it the minister's position that that $40,000 lapse will absorb or cover any costs in electrical rates that has happened?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It will certainly go a long way to covering it partially, but it's difficult to say at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Forty thousand dollars is a quarter of a percent of the total budget of $1.7 million for utilities. If the minister's suggesting that that is going to cover a three-percent rise, or a fuel rider, or anything of that magnitude, my gosh. There has been two increases that we know of. If the department hasn't budgeted for it, that's fine. If they have budgeted for it, that's fine, but which way did they go? Is it in or is it out? Could the minister please advise the House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We feel that it will suffice and will be accurate. No budget, of course, is perfect, but we feel comfort.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if I could have clarification from the minister on the $64,000 for contract services, perhaps an indication of what those contract services are.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's going to take a bit, but bear with me please.
In the contract services, casual secretarial office overload assistance, 20 days at $200 a day, $4,000; consulting services miscellaneous research for traffic safety initiatives with personnel reorganization, $5,000; for a total of $9,000.
The coordination and delivery of the child restraint program, $10,000; the national safe driving week contracts, $1,000; the catering of the reception for the award presentation ceremony, which is in National Transportation Week, $1,000; changes to the hall of fame, the National Transportation Week, $1,000.
Legal advice concerning policy and procedures equals $1,750, and transcripts and typing of public hearing proceedings is $2,000.
Medical exam fees for senior citizens is $15,000. Courier/cash blotter pick-up, $3,500. Removal and storage of impounded and bonded vehicles, $500. Maintenance contract for alarm system, $400. Alarm response call cuts, $300. General contracts, $12,000.
CMS and SAS training, it equals $600, and legal services equals $400. And, then contract services, room rental for workshops and communities, $625.
Mrs. Edelman: The $28,000 for advertising - is any of that money that went toward the impaired driving program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. For advertising the reduced impaired driving strategy advertising, $3,000.
Mrs. Edelman: Are there any more dollars that are being spent on the impaired driving program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, there are certain staff that do this as a part of their duties. But, if the member opposite likes, we could pull together all initiatives that we use within the department on impaired services and driving.
Mrs. Edelman: I would like that information.
Mr. Jenkins: I would ask the minister for an explanation about the $1,750 for legal advice, when we have a Department of Justice within the government.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, that $1,750 is the Motor Transport Board, which is, of course, arm's length.
Mr. Jenkins: Under the transport services transport division, one of the numbers that I found very, very interesting - if can take the minister to page 3-16 - was the number of operators' licences issued in the Yukon. The 1995-96 actuals is $27,244, and the estimate is $27,300. Given the population of the Yukon, and given the number of people of the age that can hold a driver's licence, how do we get that many drivers' licences issued? Does the minister have an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Our records show that the operators' licences are approximate, and so if people leave the Yukon, their licences would still be on the record.
Mr. Jenkins: But, that would have us with a very, very high transient population, or only 3,000 people under the age of 16 that wouldn't qualify for a driver's licence. There seems to be something amiss in that number. Could the minister explore with his department if, in fact, we're not issuing licences incorrectly or if something else is occurring to get such a high number, because it does seem to be out of line with our population base and the number of transient people that come through the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly we can look into this and get back to the member opposite. We are certainly always working to improve our operations, as you know, but we anticipate that there are approximately 1,000 or more that are in transit.
Transport Services in the amount of $2,480,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the supplementary information from 3-11 to 3-17?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't know if this is the place to ask or not, but I was talking to some contractors late this fall or early winter and they were telling me that the costs have risen quite dramatically for the use of gravel that they would use from our gravel pits or from the quarries. I know that people used to get loads of gravel delivered for $90 a load and now it's going to be $120 a load, or something like that. Have they risen that much and are there plans to increase the cost of the use of these gravel pits in the future?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we, the territorial government, have not raised our rates, but certainly the federal government might have - but we don't have that information here.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could take the minister to 3-17, the Identification Plates in Force. We've gone from 1,300 to 1,600 and then we're dropping back to 300. Could the minister provide an explanation as to why operating certificate or operating I.D. plates are reduced to that level?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the federal government controls the cross-border traffic through the commercial transport. The territorial government issues the plates through the Motor Transport Board. There was a plan that the feds were going to deregulate this on January 1, 1998, which showed the dramatic number changes, but there's a "but" to it now. Now, we are not sure what they're going to do or what they're up to. We're in that situation.
Mr. Jenkins: That would explain also why the operating certificates in force are going to be reduced from 350 actual in 1995-96 to 455, and down to 150 this forthcoming year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that is the correct reason.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what I hear the minister saying is, we're buying into part of the program, but we're not buying into all of it. The commercial transport area will be partly covered and not partly covered. I refer to the licensing and fuel arrangements and the cross-Canada reciprocal arrangements. The minister advised the House previously that we weren't getting into it, because it would cost the Government of Yukon too much. Just where are we in this overall scenario?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we're only into it where we have to and where we are required to be into it by law. As you know, law is not optional, and especially the federal law is not optional, so we are into it where the law requires and, of course, both the Northwest Territories and the Yukon opt out where we can because of the expense.
Mr. Jenkins: Has there been an analysis done of the costs, and is it available, and would the minister please provide this information on joining in or not joining into the Canadian national system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, there were two analyses done, one approximately five years ago, and one last year. The analyses, as compared to each other, show that there has not been much change, but if the member opposite wishes, I can provide that information.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have a question here on weigh scales.
As we know, the weigh scales have been closed on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway - or they were closed - and they were also closed at Haines Junction. Are there any plans by the department to reactivate those scale sites?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The weigh scales at Cassiar are done on a part-time basis, and the weigh scales at Haines Junction are somewhat the same way, but they're done by the mobile safety officers.
Mr. Ostashek: My question was: are there going to be any changes to that policy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, the policy will be going on as presented.
Mr. Jenkins: I notice that on 3-12, the fleet forecast is one car. Is that one of those expensive vehicles that the highway enforcement people have that look like RCMP highway cars, that they tootle up and down the highway in, that have all the bells and whistles in them? Could the minister advise why we need such elaborate vehicles for this area, with all the gear and bells and whistles - I guess we can refer to them as - hanging off these vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're re-evaluating that from the previous listing, and we may or may not be purchasing at a later date. I stress that it was last year that we were doing this, so it's just a previous purchase forecast.
As for the bells and whistles on the vehicles, they are necessary, otherwise I don't know how we'd stop people that are causing infractions. So the bells and whistles are necessary.
Mr. Jenkins: It does give rise to the question as to why we need such an elaborate vehicle for our highway enforcement people. If you look at what has transpired with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as to downsizing of their vehicles because of the tremendous capital cost and O&M cost they're incurring, it would appear to be reasonable to ask the minister to review this area and see what we're actually spending, adding all this equipment on these vehicles, and is there an adequate justification for the number of times that they're used during the course of a year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the member opposite is likely aware, cars have just come into existence in the last little while, and we are certainly going to be seeing how they do their job, and if it's overkill or underkill. Certainly, that will be taken into consideration in conjuction with any future decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise of the period of time for this review to take place? Because I certainly do consider it overkill, in light of the number of RCMP we have out on the highways that also enforce the Motor Vehicles Act.
Would the minister advise the House as to the length of time that he's going to spend on this review, please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, there is a not a time frame, or anything like as such for the review. It is not a review. It is ongoing and it is monitored and it is certainly there to see.
I must stress though, that it is only the member opposite's opinion that it is overkill. We do not share that opinion. The cars are of a safe manner. They're of a manner that's noticeable. It is for the safety of our people who operate them. It is for the safety of the highway operators. But, as we move along, we're certainly always looking to make ourselves more efficient, and we'll certainly take that into consideration.
Mr. Jenkins: Is that not a duplication of policing?
Previously, there was a Bronco that was utilized for this purpose, that served very well and that functioned for quite a number of years, and, all of the sudden, we needed a vehicle in the magnitude of about $50,000 expenditure, when you add up all of the bells and whistles that are hanging off of this piece of equipment. What did this vehicle cost?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly provide the member opposite with the dollar figure for the cost of the cars.
Mr. Ostashek: While we're still in transportation, I have a question I'd like to ask the minister to see if he can give me more information on it.
There's been an ongoing problem in British Columbia on the sections of the highway in the Swift River area, on the south Klondike Highway and on the Haines Road, where it ducks back and forth between B.C. and the Yukon. Under our administration, the minister of highways had made a representation to British Columbia to reach an agreement on those sections of the highway. I, at my level, was in correspondence with the premier there to make arrangements. In fact, I had a commitment from the premier at the western premiers conference that they did not see a problem with it and would deal with it if I wrote them a letter from my office. I did that.
Just for the minister's information, about once a year, enforcement officers from British Columbia would come up here and ticket our truckers on those sections of the highway and make a lot of people very, very angry, because British Columbia contributes nothing to the maintenance or upgrading of those highways, yet they're coming up and writing tickets.
I suspect that these enforcement officers are just using this as an excuse to take a holiday in the Yukon every summer. They come up and make a tour over our roads and write a few tickets to justify the fact that they've been here.
I guess my concern has expanded more than that now. When I drove down the highway myself last November, I see they now have signs in the Swift River area - "Welcome to British Columbia. This section of the highway is British Columbia highway," or something to that effect. I just don't believe it's fair to our truckers and people travelling these highways. Can the minister bring me up to date as to whether we got any response from British Columbia or if we're still pursuing it?
I would think now that we have a deputy minister in the Cabinet office who was a principal secretary in the premier's office in British Columbia, we ought to have an inside track into British Columbia, and that this is a problem that we ought to be able to settle very quickly. We should maybe take advantage of some of this B.C. talent that we imported.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the member opposite's endorsement of the B.C. talent. It is certainly just another reason for bringing them here, so I certainly appreciate the endorsement. I sure thank you for that.
Now I'll get to the results for the member opposite. Premier Clark, in a letter dated August 21st, 1996, committed to continuing cooperatively to resolve this issue. There have been a number of communications between the Yukon and B.C. officials on the issues involved, and we understand that an OIC is being prepared relating to the Alaska Highway section. Earlier this year, the Government Leader discussed this issue with the B.C. Minister of Highways, and it was agreed to work toward a resolution. There is a memorandum of agreement being worked on between the Yukon and B. C. now as we speak, and I would like to remind the member opposite - maybe not remind him, but I do think I said it - that I will be meeting with my counterpart in B.C. sometime in June.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that.
You know, we've been to this stage many, many times to where we've been working on an OIC to resolve this issue, and the minister, when he was on his feet, related to the Alaska Highway. What about the south Klondike Highway and the Haines Road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, let me just say that it is the Haines highway, and it was all of the Alaska Highway, et cetera, that could be within our jurisdiction.
Mr. Ostashek: Does the minister believe or have hopes that this issue will be settled before this summer? I've never heard of instances where these enforcement officers come up in the middle of winter and ticket our truckers, but they certainly seem to make a point of coming up in July or August every season and writing some tickets while they are here. This matter is of some urgency. It has been dragging on for many, many years, and I would urge the minister to do everything in his power to see that it's resolved before this summer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, our government takes this very, very seriously and I think that's reflected in my Government Leader discussing this issue and moving this issue forward. The memorandum of agreement is being worked on between the two jurisdictions and we'll certainly keep the member opposite up to speed on this.
I would just also like to let the member opposite know that my deputy minister has been talking with the deputy minister down there and that we have quite categorically stated that this is not right and that it should not be going that way. These intentions are being reflected within the memorandum of agreement. I certainly hope that shows in the member opposite with the information required.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're in the transport division, this is the area that has care and control over the Motor Vehicles Act. Just where are we at with respect to the review, Mr. Chairman?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I'll just repeat the answer which I already answered, I do believe, for the critic and member opposite from the third party. She is a critic for C&TS and asked the same question. What I said there is that Minister of Justice and myself, the Minister of C&TS, will be getting together and I believe it is next week. We'll be working out the finer details and then we'll be proceeding with this paper to Cabinet. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, what is this government's position on the issue of drunk driving/driving while impaired? I know that, in the last election, we raised some issues with respect to that and some suggestions and ideas on how to deal with people who have received impaired charges. As well, maybe the minister could also tell us about what this government plans to do with those individuals who continually drive without insurance and registration, and if there's going to be increased penalties? Are you going to clamp down on these individuals who are doing this? What action does the government plan to take?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, and thank you very much. A very important question, and when the survey on this came back, it was overwhelmingly responded to and it's very near and dear to the hearts of the public that responded. If I remember, there were 1,400 or some-odd respondents. Very near and dear. And this is one of the issues that I'm going to speaking about with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, next week, and then we'll be taking it to Cabinet and then making a decision on it.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if I might make a suggestion to the minister, then, a friendly suggestion. I know what happened with the last review of the Motor Vehicles Act. There's a real wish list that the department has wanted for a long time in terms of some changes to the Motor Vehicles Act, and some of those issues are more complicated than others. Sometimes when we wrap it all in one package, we end up doing nothing for months and months and months, and sometimes years.
My suggestion to the minister is - I can't speak for the third party but I'm sure our party would be more than willing to expedite business as fast as we can in this House with respect to any kind of a bill that would deal with drunk driving and with driving without insurance and driving without registration, and increasing the penalties in both of those areas and clamping down on those individuals who, in fact, are causing a great deal of harm to other individuals by the accidents that they create and, in fact, are causing the rest of us to pay fairly reasonably high insurance premiums because of the fact that they are sometimes not covered and there are other problems with insurance and registration itself.
So, I can give the minister assurances that he shouldn't hold up Motor Vehicles Act amendments with respect to impaired driving if he's waiting for the whole revamp of the act to come in. We can do the act later if we have to. We can do some of the other housekeeping things later on. Let's get on with the business of dealing with the drunk driving, and let's bring something into this House and let's deal with it. Pass it. And I'm sure, if the member looked at our four-year plan where we discussed initiatives that we would take - and I know there was an awful lot of work done by the department with respect to impaired driving and driving without insurance and confiscation of vehicles - all the work's done. I don't think we have to go back out and reinvent the wheel.
So, if the minister would just take the information that's there, put something together, in my view, even though this is a budget session, we'd certainly entertain dealing with something as important as that and getting it out of the way, and making a clear statement to those people out there who continue to drink and drive that it won't be tolerated.
So, I give that to the minister as something to think about. Don't put it off. We don't want to see another accident like some of the ones that we've seen in the last few years where people have been seriously injured or killed by people who are drinking and driving, and maybe the minister should move on that sooner rather than later.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will certainly take those into consideration. I would just like to reiterate, though, that our position will be public, and that we are moving with speed on this, and we'll certainly be bringing it back after the Cabinet for a decision.
Mr. Phillips: If we can't get anything in this session - and I know it's pretty late for this session and that's understandable - can I get a commitment from this minister that he will bring forth a bill in the legislative session this fall that will deal with impaired drivers, that w
hether or not the rest of the motor vehicle amendments are ready or not, he will he deal with that very serious issue and bring something forward so we can deal with it in this House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll certainly take the member opposite's suggestion and work it through. I'd just like to say that maybe the flip side of what the Minister is suggesting - it might not be the flip side, but this is truly a very emotional subject for myself; I just lost two very close, dear friends from Teslin, not two weeks ago, and I'm having trouble coming to grips with it -
I do take this very, very seriously. I do understand the consequences of losing people to drinking and driving. I understand the consequences of the education needed. I understand the consequences of the impacts on families, children and the community. So, I will take his suggestions seriously, and I will incorporate them into our line of thinking. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: I can understand how the minister feels about this issue, but an education program can be started at any time and dealt with at any time but, presently, under our existing laws, we are rather lenient, in my view, of individuals who drink and drive and cause accidents. I don't think we have to wait much longer. I think that this is an extremely important issue. It hits home to the heart of, especially the minister, because of what's happened.
I would just like a commitment from the minister that, regardless of whether or not the rest of the act is ready, by the end of this next fall session we will pass stronger drinking and driving laws in this territory and that we will deal with it, once and for all.
The consultation has been out and I think the minister knows the feelings of the general public on the issue. I think the minister can rise on his feet here today and give a strong commitment that we will deal with the drinking and driving issue in the fall session as a priority.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite once more for his suggestion. Certainly, when a Cabinet decision has been made, the commitment will be brought forth at that time and the time frame will be brought forth. But, certainly, the decision by Cabinet will be made first.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I can't seem to get a commitment from the minister about whether it will come back in the fall. Can the minister tell me, then, how high this issue is on the list of priorities of the minister with legislation that he's bringing forward? Is it number one? Is it down near the bottom? Is it somewhere in the middle? Is this one of the highest priorities of the minister and, if it is, why can't it be brought in for the fall, so that we can deal with it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is a high priority, to myself personally, but we're also doing a Municipal Act review, et cetera. Once again, I would like to thank the member opposite for his suggestion. I will certainly take it into my line of thinking. My colleagues are certainly desirous of working toward making our highways safer and making our quality family life safer and certainly staying away from unfortunate accidents that are caused by impaired drivers or vehicle standards not being sufficient, or anything such as that.
I thank the minister for his friendly suggestion. I have said now that it is very personally close to me, and I will do everything I can to see that it is brought forth quickly.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I am puzzled somewhat by the reluctance of the minister to give a commitment.
The minister is in charge of his department. The minister believes in this issue very strongly. The minister has the ability to direct his department to work on this as a high priority and come back to him in the next two or three or four months with proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act to deal with this issue. That is totally the responsibility of the minister. He can do that.
All I am asking the minister to do is to give us a commitment here today that he will deal with the issue of impaired driving and suspensions and registrations, and that he won't wait until we have a full review of the act and another year goes by - and possibly other friends of the minister and mine die as a result of inaction - and that the minister will stand by his word, stand by what he said about it being a priority, and give us a commitment here today that he will bring in legislation this fall that will deal with drunk driving and increase the penalties for drunk driving. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly will reiterate what I have said now. A Cabinet decision has not been made, and therefore commitment cannot be made. I can certainly say that it may come forward in the fall, but at this time, no decision has been made, and I have to work through the process, meet with my colleague - the Minister of Justice - next week. We just received a paper last week. We both take it very seriously. It is near and dear to all people within this Legislature and, I'm sure, to the greater majority of Yukoners. So, a Cabinet decision has not been made; therefore, a public commitment cannot be made, because it is not public yet, but I can certainly give you my best efforts, and I will bring it forward if I can, and certainly, I will personally be supporting it, and I hope that will satisfy the member opposite.
Mr. Phillips: So, Mr. Chair, can I assume that what the minister has told us here today is that it is one of his very top priorities, and although the Cabinet decision hasn't been made to put it as the top priority, that it is one of his top priorities, and he will take that to Cabinet as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and tell his Cabinet colleagues that this is number one of his number one priorities and, "I want it through this fall." Is that what the minister is saying - that he plans to bring it in there and make strong arguments that these kinds of changes will come through this fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member is clearly and obviously trying to pull a stunt here. The minister has made it very clear that this matter is a priority for the government. He has made it very clear that the matter has not received Cabinet approval and, consequently, he cannot speak for the government on the subject yet. The member knows that when the minister speaks, he speaks for the government. People who speak for the Cabinet will speak for the Cabinet when the Cabinet has made a decision.
He knows that that's the procedure that must be followed in this system. We've heard the member's representation with respect to his desire to see legislation proceed. We've also heard the minister indicate that he is desirous of seeing legislation proceed. When that legislation proceeds, it will be a Cabinet decision, and when the decision is made, the minister will speak for the Cabinet at that time.
Mr. Phillips: I'm asking the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services. As the minister responsible for that department, is that the number one priority for that minister, to move that forward to the Cabinet level with respect to legislation this fall?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't quite know how to say it any more. I'm trying to follow the parliamentary process. I've reiterated numerous times, my Government Leader has reiterated and explained the process. He asked me if he could assume certain things. Well, I will say to him, yes, he may assume such things.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore the Motor Transport Board. This board is having to deal with less and less because of the changes in federal legislation and the changes over the areas of which it has control. There are fewer public hearings, fewer certificates that they have to deal with and the matters that are brought before them are on the decline.
What is the minister's policy going to be with respect to streamlining the board and reducing overall costs to the industry as a result of the federal legislation that we have bought into, by and large, and reduced the need for the Motor Transport Board to the degree that it used to be required here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The federal government was going to be bringing this forth on January the 1st, 1998. Now, it's been delayed, and once we know what the federal government is up to, then we can make our decision.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what will ultimately transpire with respect to the operation of the Yukon Motor Transport Board?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this point in time, we have no plans to make changes.
Mr. Jenkins: I do find that alarming, in light of the requirement of this board. With the federal changes in legislation, there will be less and less of a requirement.
Why would we not want to address the fiscal responsibility associated with the operation of such a board, and operate in the same manner as other jurisdictions do in Canada, with respect to a streamlining of the operation? There must be some game plan in place that the government eventually foresees in this area, other than no change.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, there will be a need for the board for the travel that is strictly within the Yukon, and the federal changes, of course, will be for the border crossings on the Dempster Highway, on the South Klondike, on the Alaska Highway south of Watson Lake, et cetera.
Mr. Jenkins: Obviously we're on different wavelengths. The Yukon Motor Transport Board deals with the operating authority. I guess it deals with something of substance. When you look at what is transpiring on the federal level and our dovetailing here in Yukon into the federal system, there will be less and less of a need for this board.
Certainly, the Government of Yukon and the department officials must have analyzed this area. Obviously they have, Mr. Chairman, because a part of it we don't want to buy into because of the high cost. I accept that, but parts of it we are buying into, and we must buy into. But what it does is reduce the requirements for the Motor Transport Board, so eventually, where are we going to end up with respect to this board? It's still needed, yes, but to what extent?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, as I said just moments earlier, it has now been delayed. Once we know when it is going to be back on the table, we can certainly make that decision at that time, and we will make a decision at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: But, does the department have a strategy as to where we're heading? What will the policy of the department be? Could the minister please elaborate on his department's policy in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Until there is a change, we will be sticking with the same policy.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that leads to this question: are his department officials planning for this eventuality and have they got a new policy in place and ready to go into effect as soon as this federal change occurs? The date has been moved, so obviously we have to effect change here in Yukon to dovetail with our federal counterparts.
Now, certainly the minister must have, somewhere in his department, officials that are keeping abreast of when this legislation is going to be assented to, when it's going to fall into place, the effect it is going to have on the Yukon and what we can change here to streamline our operation and reduce our overall cost.
Chair: Order please. Order please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Okay, we're talking about a piece of law here and we'll be keeping this even if there's a federal change. The Motor Transport Act will still be in force in the Yukon. Our plans are to continue with the existing Yukon Motor Transport Act. Some laws, for example, as with the previous government, are the same laws.
Chair: The Committee will now take a recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, it is indeed an honour for me to recognize in the gallery this afternoon a very distinguished Canadian, the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark. He was, of course, a much-celebrated parliamentarian, with a long career in the House of Commons, and perhaps most notably for the time he spent as the Prime Minister of Canada and, subsequently, as Minister of External Affairs and minister responsible for constitutional affairs.
Just for members' information, Mr. Clark was elected six times to the House of Commons. He was Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada for seven years and Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament for approximately six years. He has been very busy in his retirement from elected office and was recently recognized in his appointment as a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Mr. Clark is no stranger to the Yukon. I had the pleasure of meeting with him during his very significant attempts at building national consensus around constitutional reform, and it is nice to see that he is yet another survivor of that process, even if we have yet to resolve that issue nationally.
I would like to ask all members to join me in welcoming him to the House this afternoon.
Mr. Ostashek: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I too would like to extend an invitation to Mr. Clark, and say, "Welcome back to the Yukon once more." The Government Leader gave a fairly thorough analysis of Mr. Clark's career history.
I just want to put one thing on the record, and that is that Mr. Clark was the Prime Minister of Canada when Yukon received what we call the Epp letter, on which our democratic system has been built, which gave us the freedom to have a fully elected Legislature in the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Yes, it's your fault for this sandbox we have down here, Mr. Clark.
Nevertheless, Jake Epp was also a great friend of the Yukon, as Mr. Clark has been. Again, I just want to say welcome to the Yukon, enjoy your stay here and we hope to see you more often.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. I would like to welcome the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark back to the Yukon, and to the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
There are politicians who shape our country and our world, and who also affect us as individuals. I first met Mr. Clark as a participant at the Forum for Young Canadians, and I won't say just how long ago that was for either one of us.
Mr. Clark has always impressed me, as he has impressed Canadians and the world, as a politician of integrity and courage.
His understanding of the Yukon is not some superficial one derived from a briefing note that he read before his plane landed. He understands and shares our desire to take our place in Canada, as only a true friend can understand another's needs and aspirations.
It is good to have Mr. Clark with us here today. Welcome back.
Chair: We will continue with the budget - Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister set?
I'd like to explore with the minister and take him back to page 3-15 and the airport here in Whitehorse, and take him back to the information that he brought back to the House earlier today with respect to the operating costs for Canadian Regional Airlines. I could just go back to the minister and try and get out what we were trying to encourage this government to do.
What we're looking at is using the ability that the Yukon now has with the transfer of the airport responsibility for the Whitehorse airport as a tool for lowering the cost to Yukoners for travel and as a tool for economic development. Now, we can achieve that by going back to the two major carriers that operate on a regular basis year-round out of Whitehorse - Canadian Regional and Air North - and providing them with some sort of a negotiated arrangement.
I am asking the minister to take it upon himself to do a full review of these areas and these costs, because it's not just the landing fees associated with a 737. It's the ramp fees, taxiway fees, it's the use for the conveyor belt, the PA system. It's the use of office space, baggage storage space, all of these areas, as well as the 1.1 cent a litre that the Yukon collects on every litre of jet fuel that these aircraft take on.
Daily, Air North is using 6,000 litres and daily, each flight of Canadian - depending on its weights and balances - uses between 10,000 to 15,000 litres.
Can I ask the minister to undertake, through his departmental officials, a full review of the total cost in this area for both Canadian and Air North, and see if there's a way where we can negotiate with these carriers a lower fare structure for Yukoners.
The second thrust is that that can be used as a tool of economic development. It's a wonderful opportunity. I'm seeking the minister's concurrence to take it upon himself and ask his departments to review this area and explore it, and bring back something beneficial for all Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that was a terrific speech, and I do believe that's what it is.
I just must stand up and say, now that the audience is gone and the member sat back down and he'll listen to the answer once again, I have to just thank you for your suggestion, though.
But, I will remind you that the previous administration certainly had ample opportunity, ample time, to do just what you suggested, but no, what the previous administration did - well, what did they do? Well, they raised taxes on every such thing, which is what the hon. member is talking about back and forth now. He's asking me to correct his mistakes, the previous administration's mistakes. That is exactly what he is asking me to do.
So, I take it upon myself to say: will I be looking at it as a serious suggestion? Well, I certainly will. When will I be looking at it? Well, that will be my priority and I will certainly do it when I get around to doing it. Is it a high priority at this point in time? Well, we shall certainly see how high it is when I get into working with my colleagues on it.
So, it is our agenda and when you had your agenda, well you certainly should have followed through on your agenda. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sorry, Mr. Minister, I can't respond to you as you did to me that that was a nice speech.
If I could take the minister back to just a short time ago to flights in and out of the Yukon. There's two ways to bring down the cost of transportation in and out of the Yukon when we're dealing with the air. One is to provide for competition, and when there is not that competition, the other way is for the government to get involved and deal directly with the carrier that has the monopoly and see what they can do to negotiate better fares.
The previous government attracted a second carrier into Whitehorse, and indeed a third and a fourth.
They'll be back this summer. There'll be other carriers back this summer. But there is a need, if you start to look. When there were two carriers operating continuously in and out of the Yukon, the availability of fare structures encouraged travel. That doesn't exist any more, Mr. Chairman. It is no longer available. It's quite obviously that the minister doesn't have to buy his own airline tickets any longer, and he's not too concerned about it, as most Yukoners are who have to travel.
Mr. Chairman, from Vancouver, for $1,000 you can travel anywhere in the world, virtually, unless you're going as the Minister of Economic Development does, first class or business class, but you still look. That same $1,000 will only get you back and forth to the Yukon, and you still have to throw in a couple of hundred dollars.
This I see as a wonderful opportunity for the minister to take back to his department, do the necessary research associated with it, add up the total cost that is being incurred by Canadian Regional and by Air North, and go to these respective carriers and negotiate a better fare for Yukoners. Use the fuel tax, use the landing fees, use the rental space, use all of these areas. I'm sure, if the minister could focus on that area - he's well aware of the advantages that would accrue to Yukon as a consequence of lower-cost travel to Yukon, having spent some time in Europe.
You sit at ITB and start talking to the people and, yes, they all remember the Klondike. "Oh, the Klondike. Wonderful place. How do I get there? Oh, you fly to Vancouver and then up to Whitehorse. White-what?" You know. We're on the map, parts of Yukon, but it's up to the minister to get in there and negotiate better air fares and do something for Yukoners. The way to do it is to use what he has in his department that is a cost to the airline carriers, and negotiate terms with them.
Will the minister undertake such a program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I've said categorically that I will look at all issues, but I will have to say it once more. I will say it. We will look at all of these issues and we will certainly look to making things better for Yukon. Of course, we will be looking to always keep in mind the rights of Yukoners when they travel and how to make it better and good for Yukoners.
Now, how do we do that? Well, that is something we are going to put our minds to. I've said that, and we are going to do that. Is it by decreasing the revenue flow? Well, that is certainly one option. The gentleman - the member opposite - excuse me, I can't call him a gentleman, because it is unparliamentary, so I will just call him the member opposite, mentioned that I was at the ITB and people were talking about flying to the Klondike. He spoke in somewhat of a strange accent at the time, and I guess that that was with intention.
If they would simply talk to one another in their caucus meetings maybe, because I have briefed the critic of Tourism in the Official Opposition and I have let him know what is happening in this and what our strategy is, and I thought I was being very open with him and sharing some future direction by bringing and trying to enable flights to come here so that we might pass on cheaper flights to Yukoners and that we might also bring in more people - non-stop, direct to the Yukon.
Yesterday, we spoke with the previous Tourism minister, the Tourism critic of the Official Opposition, I believe it was, asking your questions of the critic of Community and Transportation Services, so he's doing your job somewhat for you; you must thank him for that at some point in time.
We talked about expansions of airports and where that lies and where it will lie. We're doing all these things. We're looking not only at not cutting the revenues, because the cutting of revenues is simply not going to solve this problem. You raised it, now you want us to drop it. We're taking a very big approach to it. We are looking to see how we can expand business and we are doing just that. I don't see what more we can say about this.
It is your turn to grandstand. This is the day of grandstands, so grandstand.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't think it's a case of grandstanding. I think if the minister were to go back and read in Hansard what he has said and what I have said, I think our intentions and our aims parallel each other. Now, it's just how do we get from here to there. I'm sure if the minister were to give some thought to the suggestion that I put forward - more than just taking it and delivering a sleight-of-hand to it - surely he can come to some conclusions through a policy of sitting down with the airline carriers, negotiating an arrangement with them for a reduction or elimination of the fuel tax and some or all of the landing fees and some of their other additional costs with their operation at the Whitehorse airport, so that the resulting saving that they incur will be passed on to Yukoners in the form of lower airline fares.
Airline fares today are some of the highest costs coming north. East-west, you can find a bargain every day of the week in Canada. North-south, it's a different story all together, and one only has to be travelling for business or for pleasure on a regular basis, and one will notice the costs of these flights. I would very much urge the minister to give some more than just a cursory overview to an approach as I have suggested and to deal with it, and to deal with it very, very quickly.
This summer, there will be additional carriers landing at the Whitehorse airport. There'll be a wonderful opportunity for a multitude of airfares, when you look at the number of carriers that we'll have. We'll still have Canadian in the fall. Then, with a monopoly, there will not be such an abundance of airfares as there is when there is competition.
So, competition does drive the marketplace, and the other part that can - let's call it interference in the marketplace and providing incentives - is government, and the minister sits back there smugly today not even giving any consideration other than a cursory overview of this suggestion.
Will the minister kindly find it within himself to establish some time lines as to when he's going to take this advice and do something with it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I realize it's not my department, but there are a couple of points I think worthwhile raising here for clarification. First of all, I believe that my colleague has addressed the issue of taking a number of things under consideration with this regard. I have some familiarity with the air travel issue, having dealt with it through government air travel, and I think it's important to point out that, in the off season, it is very, very questionable as to whether there is sufficient volume here to sustain two major airlines. We had a case where, for a number of months, aircraft were going out of here far - and I stress "far" - under capacity.
I recently had a communication from Northwest Territorial Airlines, who indicated that one of their primary reasons was just the fact that, for departure, there was not sufficient volume. Quite frankly, I don't think that, unless there was a major incentive given to airlines, that we would have enough of a market here to sustain that kind of capacity.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's certainly correct, and I respect the remarks that the member has made in the House. There is not the number of people travelling in the off seasons to justify four 737 flights a day in and out of Whitehorse. That is why it is incumbent upon the government to spend some time speaking with Canadian Airlines, the only carrier that has been here for years and years, and continues to be here, providing a very reliable service, at a very good cost. If you look at the cost per seat mile on the route - the 930 mile route between Vancouver International and Whitehorse - and you look at the cost per seat mile on other routes of similar distance, either internationally - compared to San Francisco, which is a Canadian Airlines route - to going back east, there is one heck of a difference in cost per seat mile. We are paying a premium.
I am sure if the minister would take the time to address this issue, he could bring airline seat costs down to a level that would be reasonably acceptable, but I asked the minister for his assurances here today that he's going to undertake to address this area within his portfolio.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It indeed gives me privilege to stand once more and talk to this subject.
I thank my colleague to my right for reiterating again, and I do thank the member opposite for keeping this up. It's a good, valuable, concrete discussion. I think it has great substance to it, I know he's not just trying to talk the clock out. I certainly understand that in him. He's very serious and sincere about his comments and what he says.
He says that we have parallel processes. Well, I guess if there's a parallel to the right and to the left - it certainly seems to me to be opposites - but if there's a parallel there, and a desire to do good things for Yukoners, then I certainly expect that he is right, because I am here to do the correct thing for Yukoners.
I did say that I was going to look at all these issues. It's certainly not just my decision. We do work in conjunction with the caucus, and we make decisions as a caucus. We make recommendations to Cabinet, and then we go through to the Cabinet process, and that's the process that we follow and the process that we continue to follow and do everything.
I think what these budget books represent to us are a good reflection of what Yukoners want and are desirous of having. Of course, you know that you cannot have everything, because of the financial implications and the financial situation that we, as Yukoners, face today.
I must say thank you very much for that. I certainly appreciate the challenge that the previous administration has created for me, and it's not challenges that we cannot overcome. So thank you very much for the challenge. It's deeply appreciated that we'll be here to represent the people on this.
Now, what more can I say about this? There are different ways of doing things. Certainly, we can cut taxes. We did say that we are not going to raise taxes, and we're not going to raise taxes. I find it ironic. I find it funny. I find it ludicrous that the member opposite would be speaking with such eloquence and such timeliness to this very important decision and discussion that we are having. It's certainly unfortunate that he was not a part of the previous administration. Maybe he would have been able to massage, if I may use that word, some of his line of thinking into the previous administration, because they certainly needed it. Believe you me, they certainly needed it.
Has that changed today? No, it has not changed today. I think it's certainly still needed.
So let me talk about the process now - he process of coming to timely commitments and direction for people in the airline industry, because we know that it does affect the tourism industry. We are certainly here and desirous of helping maintain and bring forth the tourism industry to its rightful place, and I do believe it can be done. Are we going to work towards those ends? Yes, we are going to work those ends.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chairman, the minister did elaborate in general terms on what the philosophy is of his government, but if I could ask the minister to deal with specifics and the one specific area that we have on the table for discussion here this afternoon is the issue of how to make air transport affordable for Yukoners. Now, throughout the Yukon, we have one scheduled carrier, Air North, and with their recent upgrade of new aircraft, they're providing an excellent service in and out of the community I represent, Dawson, and Old Crow, as well as Fairbanks. I'm sure if the market could sustain it, they would be happy to expand their routes into other areas of the Yukon and probably even internationally.
One of their significant costs, Mr. Chairman, is the cost of their landing fees. Yes, per flight, it sounds very, very inexpensive, but over the whole year if you add it up, it's a significant amount. And there's the fuel tax of 1.1 cent per litre on the 6,000 litres that they consume virtually each and every day of the year.
Mr. Chairman, when you add these costs all together as well as their ramp space, their baggage handling, their cargo storage and their PA system rentals, one gets to a tremendous amount of dollars that must be recovered in the sale of their product. Their product is seats for travellers to various destinations throughout the Yukon and Alaska, as well as a great amount of freight going into the one community in the Yukon that is only accessible by air, Old Crow.
When you add all these costs together, if the government were to go to this carrier with a view of negotiating a reduced cost per ticket because of the reduction in their operating costs at the Whitehorse airport and the removal of the fuel tax from the rate base that they have, I'm sure it would be well-received by all Yukoners. Is the minister prepared to deal with the Yukon carrier in the same manner as Canadian Regional Airlines?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me take some time here to explain to the member opposite what we do. First of all, I'd like to say - reiterate what I've said - that we're going to look at this and we're going to look at it in a timely manner. He'll ask me, "What does timely mean?", and I'll reply that it will be up to us to set that priority, and we'll set that priority through our caucus and through our Cabinet, and we will do that.
He's talking about how to make prices cheaper. Let me just say now about comparative tax rates per litre that the Yukon is at 1.1 cent per litre. The Northwest Territories, which is slightly lower than the Yukon, is one cent per litre. Nova Scotia is at 0.9 cents per litre. Prince Edward Island is 0.7 cents per litre. All others are higher. They range from 3.5 to 4.2, 2.7, 3.0 - three cents a litre in British Columbia.
Obviously, it would make a very small impact, if any. It would take from revenues, of course. If you couple that with the assumption that we can just draw down rates and give them all sorts of breaks, the total - and I've read this into the record for the opposite member - is $106,483.12. If you average that by the number of passengers, well, it would certainly be less than $10 and it might even be less than $5. We would have to do our mathematics on that. Would that bring a dramatic decrease? No, it certainly wouldn't. Would it affect revenues, et cetera? Well, it would. Is that a part of it? Yes, it is a part of it.
Let me just say that there's not enough capacity to sustain that. So, what is incumbent upon us now? Well, we've got to look and find imaginative ways, and I've spoken about some of those ways. I've spoken about what some of my departmental people are doing. This month, some of my departmental people are going and exploring options with different airline companies so that we might be able to bring those airlines non-stop, that we might be able to treat Yukon - and I stress Yukon - as a destination, which of course includes the Klondike, because I do represent Yukon.
So, this is what I'm going to do. This is what I'm doing, and I certainly wish that somehow or other the member opposite would be able to get a grasp on that, because that is what I'm doing. I know it's your right to talk and to say anything you'd like in here. Well, the hon. member has certainly proven that he is capable of doing that.
Mr. Jenkins: It seems like we're narrowing our focus and getting to the point, Mr. Chairman.
After the last words that were mentioned by the minister, things are starting to sink in, but what I was focusing on primarily, for the minister's benefit, was not international carriers coming directly into Yukon, it's what we have here and what we live with on a day-to-day basis, year-round - what all Yukoners live with year-round. There are primarily two carriers, Mr. Minister. They are Canadian Regional Airlines and Air North.
There are a lot of impediments to bringing in other aircraft on international flights directly into the Whitehorse airport. They can land here, but they cannot take off fully loaded, so they have to go to another airport and take on additional fuel for the trans-Atlantic flight.
Has the minister given consideration to this aspect?
What I'm hoping to hear from the minister is that he's going to explore every avenue, primarily in this area, to ensure that flights for Yukoners can be reduced to the lowest possible common available price that we can possibly have. And, yes, $10 or $5 per ticket would be significant. The minister might not think so, but that is a saving over what the ticket prices are now.
And, it could be a lot more. The mathematics that the minister has done were rapid, on-the-back-of-an-envelope mathematics.
I'm sure if he took the time, he would find that there could be savings for the carriers in the magnitude of a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
Would the minister undertake to explore it in that context?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I'd like to point out to the member that this line of questioning was raised in Question Period today.
Now, the member may not understand the rules of the Legislature, but when it's raised in Question Period, the matter is then left to Question Period. If the member wants to bring it up in Question Period again, he can, but he's lost his right to raise it here, thanks to the fact that he decided to raise it in Question Period. Those are the rules.
Now, the member also asked - and I'll just say this just to repeat my answer from Question Period - whether or not we were prepared to give breaks to any private company who may be doing business in the territory.
One member asked this afternoon the question of whether or not we were prepared to lower taxes. We've already got one of the lowest tax rates for aviation fuel in the country. Canadian Airlines has not requested that there be any drop in rates, and we have not even considered the matter with respect to how that would play out with every other business in this territory, who could easily do with a tax break and, therefore, give the consumer a break.
Ultimately we'd be in a situation where we would be saying, "Well, perhaps maybe we should give Northern Metalic a break because then maybe if we cut this particular" - they haven't asked for it in the first place - "company's taxes, then maybe they would give us a break on window glass, or maybe they would give us a break on tires."
We might be able to drop the price of a Big Mac by a couple of cents if we just simply said that McDonald's didn't have to pay any tax. The whole notion of this and the whole approach that the member is taking is, I think, wrong according to our rules. We have this situation in Question Period where we were dealing with this exact same issue on the same day that we're debating it in this Legislature.
The general proposition of targeting tax breaks to a particular company when they haven't even asked for the tax breaks, haven't even asked for a break in the first place, seems ludicrous under the circumstances, given particularly that this member, of all members, is the champion - probably one of the best I've seen in terms of asking for things and asking for big expenditures, the best that I've seen in probably 10 years. I've just been blown away by this member's creativity in trying to figure out another interesting way that we can spend the taxpayers' money. Yet at the same time, he'll come and spend a half an hour in the Legislature on a Thursday afternoon asking to target a tax break to a company that didn't even ask for it.
What about the citizenry out there? Does this proposition that the member is floating late on a Thursday afternoon mean that, on the grounds that perhaps the consumer might get a break, that we should perhaps forgive taxes to a whole range of companies and corporations? We better do it to everybody, because I'm certain that some people would feel a little left out that they weren't targeted for a tax break.
Where does this put the tax burden for the average citizen, I would ask, Mr. Chair? Where does this leave the rest of the citizenry who are expected to pick up the difference? Where does that leave us?
So the citizen who has to pay the bulk of the taxes, therefore - now it's perhaps just the wage labourers who are going to be paying taxes, no business taxes at all. If the wage labourers are expected to pick up the difference, what are they going to think to themselves? As an individual citizen, they would say, "Why don't you give me back my taxes and let me make maximum use of the resources at hand, and I will, in turn, put people to work. We don't need any of this stuff. We don't even need this Chamber."
The member opposite tries to pretend that the Yukon Party is somehow the champion of the taxpayer. Well, he's a champion tax-increase operator. That's what we've been faced with a few years ago. We were standing in this House for weeks debating tax increases that the Yukon Party were proposing, including a tax increase in the area that the member himself is now insisting that should be a tax decrease without there ever having been a request for it, other than from the member opposite.
Mr. Chair, I think the members opposite ought to think a little more carefully about their propositions, but I would invite the member to advance it once again in Question Period because it certainly makes for good air time.
I would move that you report progress on the bill, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole 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 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: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 17, 1997:
Yukon short-term economic outlook 1997, dated April 1997 (Harding)
Cabinet Commission on Energy workplan synopsis (McRobb)
The following Document was filed April 17, 1997:
Department of Education: job advertisements placed in the Vancouver Sun on April 12, 1997, for special education teachers (Duncan)