Monday, April 21, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Motion No. 63
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
1) flood monitoring and forecasting provides an invaluable service to Yukon communities as a means to prepare and address flood potentials each spring; and
2) the end of the flood forecasting services as a result of recent funding cuts to the water resources branch by the federal Liberal government will have serious consequences, and will significantly impact Yukoners in the communities of Old Crow, Mayo and Dawson; and
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to maintain its responsibilities to the people of Yukon and restore funding to the water resources branch so that this important program may continue and safety may be maintained; and
THAT failing to meet this commitment to maintain federal funding for this essential service, the Government of Yukon implement whatever measures are necessary to ensure that water monitoring and flood forecasting continues.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Workplace harassment prevention coodinator
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise today to announce that this government will be providing funding for a new half-time position for a workplace harassment prevention coordinator within the Public Service Commission.
As was stated in the Speech from the Throne, it is our government's policy that employees deserve to work in a positive environment free of harassment or intimidation.
Training is a key measure to prevent behaviour in the workplace that undermines the dignity and self-esteem of employees. It also ensures that employees understand and are fully aware of their right to complain if they believe they are being harassed.
Employees also have the right to expect a fair and timely response to complaints. The current process for resolution of harassment complaints uses trained employee volunteers to investigate complaints. These employee volunteers often have to balance the demands of regular jobs with the time demands of completing a thorough investigation. This has sometimes resulted in disruption of the workplace while an investigation is being carried out.
The Public Service Commission has consulted with departments and with representatives of both the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association on how best to ensure timely response to complaints and a fair, objective and unbiased investigation. All believe that a dedicated and skilled harassment prevention coordinator can assist an investigating employee committee with its responsibilities and this will help to provide more timely resolution of the complaint.
The new half-time position will also be able to provide information and training to employees, supervisors and managers on how to prevent harassment in the workplace and how to deal with it if it should occur. The harassment prevention coordinator will ensure that training and information is made available to all employees, including employees working in communities outside Whitehorse.
Harassment is a costly problem in the workplace. Not only is it hurtful and stressful to the individuals who may be experiencing the problem, but it can also affect their co-workers. It often results in lost employee time and lower productivity.
This government believes that investing in prevention and demonstrating our commitment to stopping harassment when it occurs is money well spent. We believe this will result in a more productive public service that is respectful of the dignity of every employee.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is a positive initiative from the government, but I believe it's one that should have been brought in under the previous NDP regime. This new position will, unfortunately, not help the 20 or more former and present government employees in the Department of Education.
Workplace harassment can be costly to government, as the government knows. Recently the government has been ordered to pay an employee costs associated with a harassment case. In this case, the present Government Leader publicly supported the person convicted of harassment, even going as far as saying, some witnesses have said, that the end justifies the means. This appears to be another reversal, but one I think that all government employees will certainly welcome. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to respond to the ministerial statement respecting the hiring of a half-time position for a workplace harassment prevention coordinator.
It is entirely appropriate and a most worthwhile objective that this government seeks to provide its employees with an atmosphere to work in which is a positive environment free of harassment or intimidation. I am especially pleased that this position purports to have been developed in consultation with representatives of the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association.
Harassment is a difficult issue. It is often the subject of our pop cultures: movies such as Disclosure, situation comedies that air nightly on our television sets, for example, Murphy Brown. These American versions and discussions are not always the Canadian truth, yet they serve to reinforce some of the facts and the fictions around the issues of harassment.
People do not always understand harassment and its debilitating effects on the recipient. People, unthinking in their actions and reflective of culture as they know it, will make remarks or suggestions that they consider appropriate, and to the recipient constitute harassment. Efforts to educate and to end harassment in the workplace are entirely appropriate.
There are, however, rather a few glaring holes in this ministerial statement.
Will this position support Crown corporations, independent agencies and non-governmental organizations? For example, will the work of this individual have an impact on such agencies as the Yukon Energy Corporation or non-government agencies that are funded by the Government of Yukon? What level of employee will the half-time position be including in their workplan?
Is the position directed at one level of employee, i.e. managerial or support staff? What will be the sphere of influence, so to speak, of the person? What is the time frame? Is there some sort of performance indicator, such as a decrease in the incidence of complaints, that has been incorporated into the job description?
Consistent with the local hire initiative, I am confident this position will be locally hired.
I am truly curious as to what is the driving force behind this initiative. What evidence suggests that this is the most pressing problem for Yukon government employees? For example, I've asked in this House repeatedly about safety audits. A safety audit evaluates buildings for dark nooks and crannies that make particularly female employees and students uncomfortable using buildings during the darkest days of winter or at night after hours.
What about Dawson City, for example? Has anyone done a safety audit on the Robert Service School in Dawson or any other government building in Dawson City? Has anyone asked if students or employees feel safe using these buildings?
What about employee assistance programs to deal with such problems as depression, alcohol and substance abuse, marital breakdown, family in the workplace? These stories are often the untold stories of individuals as they come to work each day, yet they have a huge impact on individuals, their co-workers and quality of work.
Aren't these issues just as important? How did harassment get to be at the very top of this government's agenda?
I look forward to more complete information from the minister regarding this initiative.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will begin with the Liberal critic's comments first of all. I think there are four of them.
We cannot do everything in five or six months. We are trying to do some things in that period of time. I know the member seems frustrated by that, but I am sorry to inform her that, indeed, we cannot do everything we committed to doing in four years in six months.
Nonetheless, I thank her for her comments. The person is a half-time person. This has been an initiative that has been worked on under the previous administration, as well as ours. Bringing this position into effect is just bringing that work to fruition. One of the things that we wanted to do was have our employees work in an environment that is free from harassment and to change and better the policy for dealing with harassment complaints.
Employees do have an EA program in the Public Service Commission that is very substantive. I think there is some protection built in for employees who have concerns like those that the member identified. Also, this is not a policy for NGOs; it is a Yukon government employee policy. NGO employees are not Yukon government employees. But I take the member's comments under advisement and I will certainly ask the department to investigate it.
With regard to the Yukon Party, the Official Opposition's comments, I was quite sure that they would take this opportunity to try and bootleg in some more substantiated allegations. I took the opportunity to dig out page 51 of the court case that they referenced and I invite them to read the court case and the actual finding of the judge. They will see that the judge dismisses, quite strongly, the evidence as certainly not being without its flaws.
He says, "I cannot, on the evidence presented to me, find on a balance of probabilities that the actions or inactions of McDonald constituted a tort or breach of duty for which the government defendant was responsible."
So, to try and make the case that somehow that should be laid at our feet is, again, wrong, but that is something that I expect from a member who publicly convicts youth on the floor of this Legislature, in the absence of due process.
Time and time again, the previous Yukon Party government - whether it was the Hughes inquiry, where they organized a government smear campaign against citizens and members of this Legislature - refused to live by the results of Mr. Hughes' decision publicly, and that was indicative of their attitude toward the law.
Of course in the Taga Ku case, where they cost the taxpayers $8 million, they went through appeal process after appeal process, and even then when they lost they didn't respect the decision.
I'm pleased to bring this policy forward. I hope it goes a long way toward helping employees ensure that they have solid due process when they lodge harassment complaints, and I look forward to, hopefully, as little use as needed of the policy through other initiatives that can be undertaken to deal with issues that do come up with regard to harassment in the workplace.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period today, the Chair would like to clarify the rules and practices regarding anticipation.
Standing Order 19(1)(E) states, "A member will be ruled out of order by the Speaker if that member anticipates any matter on the Order or Notice Paper."
Guideline 12 of Guidelines to Oral Question Period states, "A question is out of order if a debate is scheduled for that day on the same subject mater."
Annotation 513(1) of Beauchesne states, "In determining whether a discussion is out of order on the grounds of anticipation, the Speaker must have regard to the probability of the matter anticipated being brought before the House within a reasonable period."
In our House, "reasonable period" means the same day.
If any matter is scheduled for debate later in the day, the Chair will not be able to allow questions on that subject during Question Period. By way of example, as Committee of the Whole will be continuing debate on the Department of Community and Transportation Services this afternoon, the Chair will not be able to entertain questions on the programs and line items still to be carried. On the other hand, if debate on a program in the department has been completed, the Chair can allow questions on matters falling within that program.
If the Chair should neglect to notice that a matter is likely to be up for debate later that day, the minister can always decline to answer based on anticipation.
The Chair hopes that this will clear up any confusion that may have arisen from Thursday, April 17th, 1997.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, operational concerns
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the operational problems at the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Mr. Speaker, there was an alarming report on CBC today. They apparently got their hands on a report that was done by the doctors. This wasn't surprising to me. As the minister knows, I raised this issue with him about three weeks ago that people were complaining to me about the operations at the hospital and the problems that they were encountering.
My question to the minister is: is he aware of this very critical report that the doctors put out, and how long has he been aware of it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the actual report itself, I have not seen the report. As the member opposite is aware, because I have spoken to him and the Liberal health critic, we were aware of concerns on behalf of both the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon Registered Nurses Association, as well as concerns that were brought forward by both the member opposite and the Liberal critic in this regard. Based on that and on some discussions with the hospital board, the hospital board has asked for a transition team to be brought in to place to address some of these concerns, particularly the rec patient care activities, and that team has been formed with the assistance of the Department of Health and Social Services. It is in place, and we expect it to commence on the 24th.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the supplementary question to the minister is that my understanding is that the transition team has yet to be hired. The minister is shaking his head. Apparently they are hired.
Is this transition team going to deal with the immediate problems? Because, in a briefing I had from the minister, he was talking about a transition over the summer, and we have some very critical problems that need to be dealt with right now, even as pointed out by the doctors' report on CBC this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. With regard to this team, first of all I can assure the member opposite that it has been hired. It is my understanding that the last individual in that team was confirmed on Friday. Basically, there is a currently practising medical chief of staff, a director of nursing, and director of hospital administration. From what I gather, these are three very highly trained individuals. They are in place. They will commence on the 24th, and one of the things that they have been asked by the hospital board in a resolution on April 8th is to review direct patient care activities, paying particular attention to the concerns raised by the Yukon Registered Nurses Association and the medical staff with respect to patient care.
So that will be key.
There are also some longer range plans involving such things as an overall operational picture for the hospital, some things surrounding issues dealing with implementation of certain things such as Meditech, expected scope and volume of patient activities, budgeting, a whole variety of other issues.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister is aware that any time we have a new facility, there are always some kinks to be ironed out and the facility has been open now for several months and complaints are not slowing down. We continue to get them. We continue to get them in our offices. I continue to get letters from constituents who are urging me to take action on this.
The minister says he has taken action and I accept that at this point.
Will the minister be prepared to file a report in the Legislature before the end of this session as to what actions he has taken to alleviate these very serious problems at the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is a workplan in place for this team. Now, the structure of it is that it will be reporting directly to the hospital board concerning the recommendations. As the members are aware, there is a board in place, so it's more of an arm's-length kind of relationship. What we are trying to do is to support the board in their deliberations.
We expect to receive a report from the hospital board following a submission by this team in June.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development concerning the Yukon's short-term economic outlook. I was quite astonished when I had the opportunity to go over this report and the accompanying news release. The document was most complimentary of the Yukon Party government's actions in 1996, telling us what a great job we did of reducing unemployment from 17.3 percent to 7.7 percent. It was a truly remarkable accomplishment, but I was very disappointed that the report fell short of what I was expecting and what previous reports did.
I would like to ask the minister why he neglected to forecast what was going to happen in 1997. Was he embarrassed by the comparison to 1996?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it is amazing how that member opposite reads the report. I read the report a different way. I read the report to say that the Yukon Party government's economic record was held up by massive government spending: projects on the Shakwak and projects on the hospital that were negotiated by the NDP government - money that flowed into the territory - and also were financed by heavy deficit spending last year, in the election year, by the Yukon Party. Unfortunately, that was not sustainable by us. We were going to have a pay-as-you-go budget.
It is clear that, when the mine shut down, it had a major impact on the economy.
The short-term economic forecast was not a political document. We didn't do what the Yukon Party did. We didn't try and hide it. We didn't try and change it at the political level. It was prepared by an economist in the department. We didn't have the former Cabinet communications officer from B.C. - the Social Credit Cabinet communications officer they brought up - try and vet the document and refuse to release it. What we did do was get the document from the department and we tabled it.
In actual fact, the mineral exploration expected figures, according to DIAND anyway, are supposed to be higher than they were last year. So, we have gotten the document. We realize how important the Faro mine is to the economy. We have been working as best as we can on that situation, and we've also been taking many other actions to do what we can to deal with the unemployment problem in the territory.
Mr. Ostashek: I know this came out even to the press last Thursday or Friday, trying to set the groundwork that there was no political interference in this document. That is fairly questionable, and we'll have more questions on that as we go along. One of the main things is that the report is about two months late coming out.
Three of the most significant economic indicators concerning mining exploration, mine development and permitted building construction - there's nothing given for a forecast in 1997. Can I ask the minister why?
Hon. Mr. Harding: With regard to the mineral exploration, I'm not sure why the economist didn't include that in this forecast. I'll have to do some research on all of the previous forecasts that have been tabled. I know sometimes it was very hard to get an economic forecast out of the Yukon Party. We had to ask questions in Question Period for days on end, because they tried politically to vet the documents. That's something that we absolutely refuse to do. He doesn't have one ounce of proof in the allegations that he put on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to mineral explorations, I said - according to the federal figures anyway - it's anticipated that it be increased. Now Bre-X may have some impact on that, as it's expected to have some impact throughout the country. We'll have to wait and see, and I will check back with the economists in the department to see if they have any further information that the member requests.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, we can see that this minister is grasping straws. He's going to take whatever figure is the highest, yet the report quite clearly shows on three of the major economic indicators in this territory, there's nothing in the 1997 column. If the minister goes back and looks, he'll see that there is in the 1995-96 column, all three of those indicators were forecast.
Mr. Speaker, I know how embarrassed the minister is about this forecast, and I would like to ask him if he directed his officials not to include those figures for those three industry groups.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, absolutely, completely, unequivocally, no, is the answer to that question. And secondly, as I said with regard to mineral exploration, the projections, at least from DIAND, are it's going to increase. I'll check with the economist in the department about the other figures for the member.
Mr. Speaker, you won't get this minister going around singing the song, "Don't worry, be happy", as the member opposite did when the Faro mine last went down. That is a major concern to us. It is the reason for an increased unemployment rate in this territory, and we're working on that situation and many others with regard to the spending in our budget, the investment, trade diversification initiatives, targeted community expenditures, such as the community development fund, creating some jobs in the communities, investing in training and investing heavily in education.
Mr. Speaker, we know that the Faro mine is absolutely critical to the economy and is a fundamental part of it. We just don't have the ability to spend as the Yukon Party did. We are not going to raise taxes as they did, and we are not going to run a $35 million current year deficit as they did last year in an election year. Thank you.
Question re: Education, staff recruitment
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Education.
On Thursday, I asked the minister about two job advertisements that were placed outside of the Yukon before being advertised in Yukon papers or notification being sent to the Yukon Teachers Association. The minister didn't answer my questions, but departmental officials did in the media on Friday.
Officials are quoted as saying, "Teachers with, say, speech language pathology are hard to find and most of them already have jobs."
There are about 200 temporary employees for the Department of Education, and there are at least 60 qualified teachers on call. Can the minister tell this House what steps were taken by her department to ensure that no Yukoners were, in fact, qualified before advertising outside of the territory?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I assure the member that we have given direction to the department that any vacancies, whether they're for special education teachers or other teachers, are to be advertised for locally, and that practice will be carried out in the future.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has just told me that they have closed the gate after the horse left.
The department, by placing the ads outside first, has sent a message that Yukon teachers are second class. Since the Department of Education, under this minister seems to pursue anything but local hire, will the minister ask the local hire commissioner to undertake a special review of Department of Education hiring practices?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member's allegations are absolutely ridiculous. There is a hiring protocol in place to ensure that locally qualified residents are hired first before anyone is hired outside the Yukon Territory.
In regard to the ad for the special education teachers, although the ad has appeared, there has been no screening done, there has been no interviewing done, and it is a fact that locally qualified candidates will be hired for positions above anyone from outside the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Once the short list has been established for these positions, the next step will be the interview process, and with the two administrator, or principal positions, at least two candidates from out of the Yukon were interviewed. I'm going to assume that interviews for these positions, if there's an outside candidate screened in, will also be conducted in Yukon, which means that the department is flying more people in for an all-expense-paid-interview holiday to the Yukon.
Will the minister table in this House the number of outside candidates brought to the Yukon for interview by the Department of Education, at what cost, and how many of these candidates are successful?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think the member is being really very irresponsible in her allegations.
In the Education Act that was brought into this House and passed unanimously in 1990, we gave school councils the ability to be involved in the hiring of principals. The school councils make a determination whether to advertise outside of the Yukon, as well as whether to advertise locally, and frankly I think that our trust is well placed in school councils to determine who to hire for the principalships in their schools.
Question re: Non-governmental organizations, funding for
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and I read to you from A Better Way. "Yukon people have a right to not only be consulted, but involved in things that affect them, from the beginning of a process until the end."
Countless NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, received a letter in February saying that they were to be consulted in March on a multi-year funding policy.
We have spoken to a large number of those same NGOs and they never were consulted in March on the development of this policy.
Which NGOs did the government consult with?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Contrary to all belief, I don't have all of the NGOs. I can tell the member opposite that I have met with, I would surmise, the great majority of all NGOs and they have brought public concerns to me. The NGO paper has been completed. Letters have gone out, last week I am assuming - or should be in the process of going out; I signed it off - basically suggesting a date in May when we could get together and review the NGO paper and some of the suggestions that the groups might have.
But I should stress that I don't have all the NGOs. There are other departments that have NGOs under their auspices as well.
Mrs. Edelman: I was only referring to Health and Social Services NGOs.
All the NGOs that I have spoken to still have not received a copy of the multi-year funding policy for NGOs.
Will the minister at least commit to mailing copies of the multi-year funding plan to the affected NGOs before he consults with them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's the general idea. They are going out, along with the letter asking them to review this and come back with some suggestions and some points of discussion. Given the large number of NGOs that my department has, we are anticipating, in May, getting together and sitting down and discussing these kinds of points, but the paper will be going out.
Mrs. Edelman: That's very interesting considering that these groups were supposed to have been consulted with in the first place.
Mr. Speaker, the only way a government can truly commit to multi-year funding for an NGO is if the government signs contracts with those NGOs, that says funding, say over a three-year period, will never drop below a certain level.
Is the minister willing to take his commitment to multi-year funding further than a ministerial statement, and make this contractual arrangement with NGOs that have service agreements with his department?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It would be our basic assumption on this policy that we would be looking at a base level.
Notwithstanding that, I think we always have to be aware that there will be, I suppose, vagaries in the economics of any government. For example, if we were to receive a major cut from the federal government, that would quite clearly have an impact on any kind of financial agreement. But our goal is to provide stable funding for NGOs and that is still our intention. That's what we're hoping to do.
I should add, just for point of interest for the member, that there were some structured things that had to be worked through with regards to finance as to how this would be delivered, accounting procedures, et cetera, et cetera.
So, our intention was to get the paper out earlier but we did have to work with the Department of Finance on some relevant issues.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Ostashek: I have another question for the Minister of Economic Development on this great document he tabled the other day - the short-term economic outlook, the one with the key economic indicators missing, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to ask the minister to explain to this House why the 1997 short-term economic outlook was not released until the middle of April, when it's been a practice to release these documents in February? Can the minister tell me why the two-month delay?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's amazing the line of questioning coming from this member. As I said in an earlier answer, we used to have to ask a question, sometimes for two weeks on end in Question Period, to get a look at the economic forecast before the political level upstairs, when the Yukon Party was in power, for them to go over it, for them to try and make things look good, to take things out they didn't like, they didn't want to tell people. The Government Leader had his "Don't worry, be happy" speech around the territory first before they released it.
I released the report as soon as economists in the department prepared it for me and told me it was ready.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the minister can sit there and go back in history all he wants. He's in government now, and he's responsible for these documents, just as the Economic Development minister before him was, and we're going to ask questions to find out exactly why it was two months late this year. It was out on the 15th of February last year, Mr. Speaker, that's where it was at.
I want to ask the minister: how long had he had this document before releasing it to the Legislature last Thursday?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The members talk about releasing it last year. Well, last year they had an economy that was pumped up with lots of government spending - the members had - and they released it on that basis last year. But in previous years, when they had downturns in the economy, they didn't release it, and the Opposition had to drag it out of them.
I think I had the document for approximately two or three days, maybe, before it was ever released to the public. As soon as I got it, I put it in the first Cabinet caucus meeting, and then released it.
Mr. Ostashek: This is not a very well-drafted document. There's a lot of key information missing out of it, and it is also a very contradictory document. If you look in the preamble, in the text, where it talks about visitation growth, which is another key economic indicator, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Tourism says quite clearly in the text that they would see a forecast growth of only 1.5 percent. Yet when we get to the columns document, where all of these indicators are listed in columns, we see that this has been increased from 1.5 to possibly four percent.
Can the minister explain to me where the difference is here? Why does the text only refer to 1.5 percent, then when we put it out in the columns, that the people are going to look at it to see what's happening in the Yukon, it's expanded from 1.5 to four percent?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member's question clearly confirms to me just how much manipulation of the document by the economist was undertaken by the Yukon Party. As I said to the member consistently, and as I have said to him, the department prepares a document. Economists prepare a document. It is not meant to be a political document, Mr. Speaker. We get the document and we table it. We don't send it back to be politically vetted to fit our message, as the members opposite used to do when they were in government. That's not how we do it.
The politicians have ample opportunity to express their views on how they feel the economy will go. This is a chance for people who are paid professionals - economists - to give their views. I'll pass on to the department that the former Government Leader doesn't like the numbers that they're using.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, safety concerns
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
There has been considerable public discussion both in this House and outside on the condition of the Whitehorse jail, and a consulting firm - Barr Ryder Architects and Planners - was retained by the government. It prepared a report a couple of years ago, and this report pointed out the various serious concerns relating to health and safety at the jail.
Now, the minister has stated publicly about a month ago that her department had been asked to prepare a report identifying options to deal with the jail problems raised in the Barr Ryder report, and I had ask the minister three weeks ago in this House in Question Period about what time line had been put on the department to give her the report. Now, she didn't answer the question, and we're still waiting. Can she tell us today when the report is due from the department in response to the Barr Ryder report?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, let me assure the member that there is a plan in place to respond to the Barr Ryder report, and the plan was developed by the department when the Barr Ryder report was first completed and taken to the previous government in 1995. The plan responds to many of the life safety concerns; however, it is a fact that the existing Whitehorse Correctional Centre is over 30 years old, and other alternatives are going to have to be examined for improving it.
The department is working on alternatives. One of those alternatives involves working with the federal government, and perhaps if the member opposite could use his lifeline to Ottawa, we might get a quicker response from examining at least that one alternative.
Mr. Cable: Well, that was a very informative answer.
I'll ask the question again, because I'm not going to give up. The minister asked her department to prepare a report on the options relating to the correction of the problems at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Can she tell us what time line she put on her department to prepare that report for her view?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The department is working on that report now, and I hope that they will have it available to come to Cabinet soon.
Mr. Cable: This is getting painful.
The Yukon News carried an article last Friday entitled, "Whitehorse prison 'like a death sentence'". Going through the article, it appears that whoever was interviewing the person up at the jail was having some difficulty in getting answers.
Could the minister tell us whether there has been a gag order put on the staff up at the Whitehorse jail in response to questions asked by the media?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that that is a really unfair allegation for the member to make. Employees from Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the director there spoke to the media, conducted a tour with them, was interviewed on mike and responded to a number of questions. No, there has been no gag order placed on the staff at Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Question re: Economic forecast
Mr. Ostashek: My question again is to the Minister of Economic Development.
The minister doesn't want to take any ownership for this 1997 short-term economic outlook. What I say to the minister is that he's the minister of this department. He tabled that report in the Legislature and, ultimately, he is responsible for it.
I'm going to ask the minister if he understands that the purpose of this forecast is to give people outside of government information on where the Yukon economy is heading, to businesses and industries who may be planning investments in the Yukon. That's who this report is for, not just for this Legislature.
Can the minister advise this House if the same people in the Department of Economic Development who prepared the 1996 outlook prepared the one for 1997?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I want to say to the member opposite that it is not the responsibility of the minister to change, modify and politically manipulate the economic forecast prepared by professional, paid economists, as the Yukon Party did. We said that we weren't going to do that. We criticized that action when it was undertaken by the Yukon Party government.
Now, I have some explanations sent to me for the member that have been obtained by the economists in the department. With a quick cursory glance, the explanations of the economists are that a lot of the information that they were looking at just wasn't available. With regard to the timing, they wanted to get a greater sense to see whether or not the mine was going to be in a temporary or more permanent state of closure. Initially, when the mine said that it was shutting down, it was a temporary, partial shutdown. They waited to ascertain whether or not it would be reopened, as was the stated direction of the mine back in November, when we first learned of the shutdown.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister failed to answer the question, and I wonder why.
This report was two months late coming out, and it's a forecast. It's not actually based on the sound, final figures. It's a forecast and those are key indicators.
Building permits; another one that's missing, Mr. Speaker. Again, I ask the minister, did the same people in the department author the 1997 report, that did the 1996 report? Will the minister tell this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, as I understand it, there are a couple of economists in the department. The authors, as I understand it, are consistent with the authors who have been undertaking this report in the past. They are from the economist branch from Economic Development.
I'm not exactly sure what the member is getting at with his question, but I will check in, to make absolutely, crystal clear, with the economist in the department, or the senior economist, who was involved in the preparation of the report.
With regard to his other questions, the information, as I understand it, was not exactly current, or available for the economists in the department when they were doing their forecasting. And with regard to the timing, it's quite clear that they were waiting to see whether or not the announced temporary, partial, mine shutdown was going to be more permanent than it was first expected to be.
Mr. Ostashek: The questions I'm talking about have absolutely nothing to do with the Faro mine shutdown; they are very simple questions that the minister refuses to answer, and that leads me to believe that there has been some political direction given to the publication of this report.
I ask the minister again, was it the same people who did the report in 1996 that did it in 1997? It is very simple. Please tell me, yes, or no.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know who the Yukon Party is after; I'm trying to figure it out. Perhaps, if the member asked another question he could state who he is after in the department, or somewhere else. I really don't know what he's on about today, but I will tell him that the report was prepared, as it always is, by the economist branch of the Department of Economic Development.
I don't know what the issue is that he's on about; perhaps he could enlighten the Legislature and enlighten me. I don't know what allegation he's prepared to make, but I'd surely love to hear it.
The practice was perfectly consistent with other governments in this territory, with the exception that we did not politically vet the document - the economic forecast - as the Yukon Party did. It's an outlook with regard to the economy of the Yukon in the short term. We got the document and we tabled the document.
So, I'm not sure what the member's on about, but if he could be more specific, perhaps I could give him what he's looking for, but probably not.
Speaker: The Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that 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 take a short recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Chair: We are dealing with the budget, Community and Transportation Services, transportation division, supplementary information.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Transport Division - continued
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed it is good to be back here again.
If I might, I was asked questions earlier in the debate - specifically, last week - and I am prepared to answer some of those questions.
I did answer questions through the hon. member opposite regarding the location and trails and plans for the outhouses along the byways and highways and the rivers. There is an appendix for one that I would like to table for the hon. member now at this time, if I may.
I was asked questions by the Hon. Leader of the Third Party, and he was asking for information such as I have received from Economic Development and C&TS as to policy initiatives and dates of completion. I have, for their pleasure, one for the Yukon Party caucus and one for the Liberal Party caucus.
If I may now, I will just carry on now with the answers that the department has given me with respect to the questions that were asked.
I was asked the question: are there any more dollars that are being spent on the impaired driving program? And the response here is that Transportation Services administration unit has directly budgeted $3,000 for advertising and $3,250 for program materials that are to be used for public education and awareness relating to various impaired driving initiatives.
The branch is also one of the partners involved in the inter-departmental working group on impaired driving. This working group consists of the Departments of Health, Justice, C&TS and the Yukon Liquor Corporation, in partnership with the RCMP and various community and recreational groups where we jointly develop and cost share a variety of impaired driving initiatives, such as the Ride Safe-Ride Sober campaign, the Christmas-New Year's stop checks, the Plan Ahead to Get Home Safe, the Boat Safe-Boat Sober and the Summer Stop Check program.
In addition to these initiatives, the registrar suspends indefinitely the driving licence of any driver who is convicted of a second offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, relating to impaired driving on or after November 19, 1993. Drivers can appeal this decision and appear before the Driver Control Board. In order to have driving privileges restored, the individual must prove to the board that they have separated drinking from driving.
In response to the $18,000 savings on vehicle rental for superintendents, the question was: how was the $18,000 saved from the rental of vehicles for superintendents achieved? And the response again is that the reduction of the $18,000 is based on an analysis of the actual usage of vehicles by superintendents in 1995-96 and 1996-97.
The level of funding allocated for vehicle rental used by superintendents in the 1997-98 main estimates will not negatively impact our communication with camp foremen or the procedures in effect to ensure road maintenance standards.
In 1993-94, the actuals were $20,112. In 1994-95, the actuals were $15,752. In 1995-96, the actuals were $19,823. The 1996-97 forecast is for $43,098, and the estimate for 1997-98 is $25,057. So, as you can see, the forecast is just a bit out and this just simply brings it back into line with the actuals for previous years.
There was a question that was raised regarding the additional funding for the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee, and it was in respect to the authority and responsibilities in the formation of hamlets and other community advisory committees. The following is summary information in point form to maybe just move it just a bit faster.
If I might, I will start off with the responsibilities of a hamlet, then I will talk about the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society. There are currently two hamlets in the Yukon: the Hamlet of Ibex Valley and the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. Both hamlets were formed in 1990 by OIC under the Municipal Act. The OIC states that the hamlet advisory council shall be responsible for but not limited to advising the Commissioner in Executive Council on matters that would normally be under the jurisdiction of a municipal council. The council shall also advise the Commissioner in Executive Council on matters of local government in areas adjacent to the hamlet that may affect the hamlet. With respect to funding, the OIC states that the council shall be the recipient of any funding from Government of Yukon that may from time to time be provided to the hamlet for its purposes.
The hamlet council, in managing its financial affairs, shall adhere to all applicable requirements and deadlines as set forth for a village in the Municipal Act.
Annual funding to the hamlets was initially established as an estimate to cover the cost of secretariat support, operating costs and election costs. This funding is budgeted for and distributed once annually on or close to April 1st, together with all other municipal annual grants. Any unused funds are retained by the hamlets and will show up as surplus on their balance sheets. There is no written contribution agreement with the hamlets.
As for the Ross River Development Society, it was created in 1995 and received $10,000 in 1995-96 and 1996-97; $12,710 has been budgeted for 1997-98. The Ross River Development Society is made up of six members, three appointed by the First Nation and three elected from the society's membership. It should be noted that at the end of each fiscal year, the society has to return any funds not accounted for in its books.
The purposes of the society are: one, to promote a healthy and stable community; two, to represent all community long-term interests to government; three, arrange for and administer grants and other monies available for community betterment; four, to promote and encourage appropriate infrastructure, social and economic planning to maximize the use of available human and financial resources; and five, to promote the cooperative interests of the Ross River Dena Council and the rest of the Ross River community as a whole.
The Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee was formed in February 1992, in response to a need by residents of Carcross and vicinity to form a representative body that could advise both YTG and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation on local area planning issues. A goal of this committee was to assist the government, First Nations and the community of Carcross in applying social, cultural, economic and environmental policies to the management of land and resources in the area. The committee's structure includes six members - three First Nation and three non-native - all to be elected and all to be residents of the Carcross area.
The budget for 1996-97 was $10,000 for the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee. The budget was increased to $11,672 for 1996-97 - and in brackets, it's an increase of $1,672 - to cover unanticipated expenses of a second election and extra meetings. An additional $973 was required to cover the expenses related to a meeting regarding the waterfront contamination issue.
This year, the budget figure is $12,710, a figure which brings the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Committee and the Ross River Development Society up to a level financial playing field with the existing hamlets, and is a more accurate reflection of what the true costs will be. Unlike hamlets, funds allotted for this committee are retained by the department, who will pay the bill directly, and surplus or unused funds are not carried forward into the next fiscal year.
There was a question raised on EMO training. In the last five years, 181 people have received emergency measures specific training in the Yukon, of which of the Yukon territorial government, 96; the municipal governments, 29; federal government, 22; and non-government, 34. The courses included emergency planning, emergency operation centre management, emergency plans, operations and recovery, registration inquiry, emergency social services, critical incident stress debriefing, mayors and elected officials.
Canadian Emergency Preparedness College training: over the past seven years, 186 candidates from all over the territory have been sent to the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College in Arnprior, Ontario. These seats are funded by Emergency Preparedness Canada. Of that, of C&TS, 26 employees; others, 38; municipal government, 20; federal government, nine; non-government, 18; and volunteer organizations and others, 75. This includes such courses as the basic emergency preparedness, exercise design, emergency site management, emergency public information, emergency social service planning, emergency health services planning, emergency operation centre management, hospital emergency planning, school board workshops, mayors and elected officials.
Further to this training, the Emergency Measures Organization delivered more than 4,000 hours of training to search and rescue volunteers. In addition, members from four teams attended a week-long, rigid-hull rescue training session in B.C., which was co-sponsored by the Canadian Coast Guard.
In response to a question on the road work planned for Callison to the ferry landing and BST on the Klondike Highway, the question was specifically: what are the department's plans for doing work in this area in this next fiscal period?
The engineering branch of Community and Transportation Services intends to complete a functional planning exercise from Callison to Crocus Bluff. There are no funds allocated for any other upgrades in the 1997-98 budget. Between the ferry landing and Callison, there is no BST work planned for the 1997 season; however, depending on spring break-up, some spot patching may be required. This was confirmed by a recent visit on April the 17th, 1997, by the director of Community and Transportation Services transportation maintenance branch, the superintendent of maintenance and planning, and the manager of geotechical services.
BST work on the Klondike Highway for the 1997 season is scheduled as follows: km 119.5 to km 132 is the Carcross maintenance area, August 21st to the 27th; km 294 to km 298, the Carmacks maintenance area, July 28th to August 2nd; km 370 to km 381, Carmacks maintenance area, July 28th to August the 2nd; km 480 to km 500, Stewart Crossing maintenance area, July the 18th to the 26th; km 660 to km 663, Dawson maintenance area, June 25th to July the 3rd; km 690 to km 710, Dawson maintenance area again, June the 25th to July the 3rd.
Also, there was a question: has there been a change in policy within the department with respect to airstrip maintenance?
The current level of maintenance at Yukon government airstrips was established during 1994 and 1995. The 17 Yukon government airstrips, commonly referred to as emergency airstrips, are better characterized as community airports and local airstrips.
The term "emergency airstrips" is more accurate when aircraft were less reliable, aircraft range and fuel availability were more limited and pre-flight briefing information was, virtually, non-existent.
Today, it is extremely unlikely that an aircraft will experience a problem that prevents it from reaching or returning to a district or community airport. Occasionally, serious problems do occur; however, they are impossible to predict, and we cannot locate airstrips to serve in these types of emergencies.
Seven of the 17 airstrips - Carcross, Pelly Crossing, Silver City, Braeburn, Cousins, Wylie and Ogilvie - receive a higher level of maintenance than the others, and this is primarily due to the higher level of aviation activity at these sites and to support many of these activities and other emergency services, for example the RCMP, while other airstrips are maintained in the summer only.
Occasionally, airstrips receive additional maintenance to support government programs, and as an example, the Finlayson Lake and Mule Creek airstrips received some winter maintenance this past year to support projects conducted by Renewable Resources. This type of response is very cost-effective and allows the government to meet specific needs.
In addition to the airstrips program, the Yukon government provides year-round airport services at Old Crow, Dawson City, Mayo, Faro, Ross River, Carmacks, Beaver Creek, Burwash, Haines Junction, Whitehorse, Teslin and Watson Lake.
Thank you very much. Those were the answers to the questions that were led up to last Thursday.
Mr. Jenkins: I was expecting a number of legislative returns today, dealing with major issues of importance.
We seem to just be dealing with the generic information, and information that is readily available, summarized in a manner that doesn't really respond to the questions.
The only one piece of paper that was sent my way, Mr. Chairman, is a drawing of a campground privy.
Probably before we get into sending over drawings of campground privies, it would be more appropriate if the minister spent some time inside of that privy and got rid of whatever you get rid of in those campground privies, so that he can bring back to this House information that is of value.
The question that was looking for an answer is dealing with privies - yes, in part - but it was dealing with one government agency to control roadside weigh stations, boat docks and the associated privies. And the minister, in his response, chooses to send over a drawing of a campground privy. Let's not waste the House's time, Mr. Chairman.
There is still the question that begs an answer.
Point of order
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On a point of order, this House has adopted guidelines for using non-sexist language. I would like to remind the member to use the term, "Mr. Chair". Thank you.
Chair: One moment, please.
Chair: I find in the first report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, dated March 26, 1997, the following quote, "Rather than making the presiding officers of the House responsible for enforcing rules of debate beyond those which now exist, the committee suggests that the onus should be placed on each member to strive to use inclusive, non-sexist and non-violent language at all times."
I would ask that all members strive to adhere to the intent of the rule change. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, we get back to the question at hand. I'm seeking from the minister an explanation as to what policy his department is going to adopt with dovetailing the responsibility for a multi-jurisdictional unit responsibility to various departments at present and putting it under one roof. Now, it could be Renewable Resources, it could be the Department of Highways, but it makes an abundant amount of sense to have one department responsible for it overall. And all the minister sends me is a drawing of a privy from Renewable Resources.
Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not prepared to even.... We're going to have to set aside this area of debate until such time as the minister is prepared to address his responsibilities and answer the questions in a forthright manner. Now, the question is: will the minister be bringing forward some information on that matter?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I apologize. If there is need to waste the House's time here, well then I've just tried to inject a simple sense of humour into the House to make things just a little bit lighter.
Unfortunately, I deem that to be virtually impossible for some members of this House, but I would like to remind the member opposite that his question has been answered. His question was answered last week in a statement of departmental responsibility, which was tabled in this House, which states accurately the rest stops: the new rest stops, the enhanced rest stops, the river rest stops, the parks and campground wilderness areas, including the toilet facilities, the boat ramps, the capital O&M, the boat docks, and the site-specifics as to where they are located. Mr. Chair, they have been tabled and, unfortunately, in a sense of humour that certainly did not work.
Let me just categorically state right here, Mr. Chair, that if I have been accused of wasting this House's time, that is absolutely ludicrous. I think that the wastage of time has been on the other side of the House and if we would get down to business, well, we could get down to business. So, I certainly look forward to getting some pertinent questions and I will certainly get those answers across to the member opposite and then we will not be wasting anybody's time, specifically ours, or, more importantly, the taxpayers' money. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, now that we're going to get some answers, perhaps the minister could start by answering the question that is before him. The areas that he just described are responsible to various departments within the Government of the Yukon. Is the minister going to seek out one department to have overall control for all of these areas so that when there is a concern, when there is an issue, when there is a complaint, one doesn't make multitudes of phone calls or requests of various departments to ensure that something occurs? Is the minister prepared to undertake this reasonable request?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I guess we'd have to deem "reasonable", but Mr. Chair, I've just categorically stated no. It is going to be working the way it is working. The three departments involved certainly have different areas and it seems to be working now, so I thank the member opposite for his question.
Mr. Jenkins: But, it isn't working totally satisfactorily, Mr. Chair, and it is an area where the government could probably reduce costs, streamline operations, provide a better product to the travelling public by putting all of these areas under one roof of government. The minister's negativity in his response indicates clearly that he is not prepared to address his responsibilities, and his responsibilities - and I take the time to go back and remind the minister - are to provide the highest, consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayers. Now, he is certainly not doing that by answering the question in the format that he has presented here in the House today.
I urge the minister to go back and consider it. Now, it's a reasonable request. Why is the minister not prepared to even respond in a reasonable fashion?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe I'm answering in a reasonable fashion, Mr. Chair. As a matter of fact, I long ago stopped taking offence from the member opposite in his reasonable approach to governance. So, I think I have done everything reasonably possible. I would remind the member though that this government has signed a devolution agreement and a protocol that enables us to move forward with the other governments of the Yukon Territory in respect to the devolution process, which includes, of course, the lands, water, resources, et cetera, and this would very likely be a part of the restructuring that will happen and is likely to happen if things are successful. My government will always be looking to make things timely and cost-effective for the public.
Mr. Jenkins: It can easily be seen that the minister is not prepared to respond, and we'll have to set that matter aside and set the department aside until we do receive a response.
We go into another area that the minister provided a response to and didn't answer the question, and it was dealing with emergency airstrips located throughout the Yukon Territory. This past winter, starting in the fall with the snowcover, there was less and no maintenance performed on a number of emergency airstrips that had previously been kept clear, and I refer specifically to the McQuesten airstrip. When did this change in policy come about within his department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, believe it or not, Mr. Chair, but this current level of maintenance at the Yukon government airstrips was established during 1994 and 1995, and I can only assume that the member opposite would have that knowledge. He was not a part of the previous administration, but he is certainly part of the party that was.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but the fact still remains that the airstrip was maintained in 1995-96 and it's just this year that it's not being maintained. Somewhere in the department, there had to have been a change in direction on this airstrip. The same format and policy direction was provided with respect to all of the emergency airstrips and yet some were singled out and handed a closure order by someone, somewhere. When did this take place, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as I already reiterated in my response, seven of the 18 airstrips are there. No, the McQuesten is not part of that group of seven.
Mr. Jenkins: When did it actually change? When the policy was changed one year, the strips were still maintained for a year after. Now, what happened? Did we just catch up internally? What happened, Mr. Minister, that this strip was maintained after the policy was changed and yet it's not maintained this last year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I said, the Yukon government airstrips were established during 1994-95 - and that's the level of maintenance, of course. Of course, they would be implemented over time, and therein is your answer.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the subject of snow removal, the same question deals with secondary roads and roads into other access areas like Braeburn Lake. This winter, for the first time, these roads were not maintained to the same level as they have been in previous years. Now, what change in policy came about so that none of these roads are maintained during the winter, as they have been in previous years?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Since November of 1991, there has been a rural roads maintenance policy put into place, for which Braeburn does not apply. In anticipation of the next question, of course, and I will answer that next answer now, is why was it done in the past? I guess it was simply some good-hearted operators probably just dropping a blade and going in. We are trying to discourage that and we're simply trying to work from policy, in which, of course, everything is captured under the rural road maintenance policy. Thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: If we go back to one of the minister's answers on airstrip maintenance, there's an accordion-like structure at the Whitehorse airport, which acts as the ramp for passengers going on and off aircraft as they come into the Whitehorse airport. Currently, that accordion-like structure is being held to the Whitehorse airport by duct tape. Is there a move afoot to do something about that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. The accordion-like structure is in a safe operating mode and it is going to be looked at and fixed during the course of this summer.
Mrs. Edelman: In Faro and in a number of outlying areas in the Yukon, the airbrakes course is given by the local Yukon College campus. In that campus is the resident examiner, and that examiner has been recently notified that he is no longer allowed to do the practical side of that examination.
In view of this government's commitment to the people of Faro, as far as education, I'm wondering if there is going to be, therefore, an opportunity for the Whitehorse examiner to go into Faro more often and to provide vehicles so that they can do a practical test on airbrakes in Faro.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, there are scheduled examinations on that side of things - on the practical side - so Faro residents will not lose out on an opportunity to take or to pass the course, or to be examined, specifically.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that happens, because it's very important that people who are out of work get the opportunity to get employment through better education.
Watson Lake, when it burned, and most of the offices last summer, when they burned - there was a plan, of course, to replace those offices at some point in the future. Currently there's a feasibility study going on in Watson Lake to determine what those offices should be like, whether they should be one amalgamated site, et cetera, et cetera.
What I'm wondering about is: are the employee of C&TS being consulted about what they want in the way of office space in replacement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If I might just respond on that one, right now that's still at a very, very preliminary stage, and I'm speaking from the point of view of Government Services. There was initially a review of what our space requirements were.
Subsequent to that, we received a sense from the community of Watson Lake that they were interested in a stand-alone municipal facility. We then approached them from the point of view of Government Services, seeing as to whether we could be partners in that, and we proposed what we would be looking at in terms of space requirements, et cetera, et cetera.
Subsequent to that, the plan was revised that they want to review with the Liard First Nation the concept of an overall facility, and we have still indicated that we would be interested in doing some kind of partnering, whether as a lease tenant, or whatever.
So it's still at a very, very preliminary stage until we see what point that is. Currently, there is space there that, though it's not the best, seems to be adequate for the needs. But I would just say that, right now, until the resolution of how this project is going to go, it would be pretty preliminary for us to get into what we were actually looking at. At that point, we would then consult with our client departments and see what they needed, what they were anticipating.
Mrs. Edelman: I can certainly understand how the municipality of Watson Lake wants to get their building built as soon as possible, and they wouldn't want to be held back by a number of government studies.
I still haven't really had that answered. Perhaps the minister could be a bit clearer. Is it that the employees themselves are going to have some say in what they consider to be useful space in the Town of Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that when we get to the point of if this project goes ahead, and it is speculative at this point, we would then be going back to our various departments, because Government Services takes the lead in terms of realty and property matters. We'd be going back to our respective departments and saying, "Okay, what sorts of space do you need? What do you anticipate?"
For example, if we take a look at the possibility of devolved forestry authority, that's certainly something we're going to have to take a look at, in terms of any kind of accommodation. But, we would be going back and consulting with our respective departments.
We've already given the municipalities a sense of what we'd be looking at if we entered into a lease, just in terms of a ball-park figure in terms of base requirements, to give them a sort of sense, but we would expand on it.
Mrs. Edelman: Also on the subject of Watson Lake, the Help and Hope agency, in Watson Lake, has been trying for a number of years to gain parity, in many ways, with Kaushee's Place, which is a transition home here in Whitehorse.
One of the items that they have been looking for, for a number of years, is a vehicle. Now, I know that it's not possible for a vehicle to be given to any particular NGO, but it may be possible that a vehicle could be leased, at least, for a minimal cost, for say a year, without a great deal of change to that vehicle's value.
In the equipment reserve fund, is it possible that a vehicle could be leased at a low cost to the Help and Hope agency in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's a good question; a good point. I'll certainly have to look into it. I'm not sure that's what the equipment reserve fund is for, specifically. But, I don't think it has been done before, and, yes, you're correct, we do not just give away the vehicles, but we're certainly willing to look and see if there's some avenue I can come up with or think of.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that the minister can look at creative ways of helping this agency.
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to point out to the member that there has been a lot of work done in regard to the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake, and we will continue with them, to improve the lot there for victims of family violence.
I think it's imperative that you consider the fact that not all things can be done, but we must move forward and do the best we can with what we've got to do it with.
I wonder, Mr. Chair, if we could get on with debating C&TS, and move along here.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could go back to the minister's previous statement with respect to the rural road maintenance policy, there appears to be a change in the interpretation under the existing policy that has been in place for a number of years. Now, on whose instructions and for what reason was there a change in the interpretation under this rural road maintenance policy, so that snowploughing or the dropping of the blade by an operator no longer takes place? Why was this done? Because it certainly helped rural Yukoners to a great degree to access property in rural areas, or is this just another example of there being two standards - one within Whitehorse, and one in rural Yukon, another example of TROY, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It seems to me that the rural Yukoners are on this side of the House, and we're not all represented here. So no, I take offence, and I was trying not to take offence at anything you say, looking at where it comes from. Excuse me, I shouldn't say "you", but certainly the member opposite. Certainly at this point of time, I do.
I don't know where the member opposite comes from most of the time and where he's going at all, but certainly I would like to say that this government is here to provide good governance for all Yukoners and is going to be able to provide good governance for all Yukoners. How we do that is by policy, so that it is fair and equal for all people, so that it might be applied in a fair way. Now, that might have been unheard of in the member opposite's attempt at governance, if I may say. But, we are here to do things by policy. Our operators are charged out. Our equipment is charged out, so that we know exactly where they are going and what they are doing. If there is a need, we can review policy. We can keep up with it. We look at things as such, and we shall continue to do it. Why? So that we can provide good governance and good services to all Yukoners. That is therein, again, the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the response once again, Mr. Chair, is pure hogwash. The question of the minister is that there has been in place for a number of years a rural road maintenance policy. During the time that the policy was in place, a number of roads were maintained in rural Yukon. This winter, they are no longer being maintained. Snow is no longer being removed from these roads, and if you want an example, the road into Braeburn Lake.
Emergency airstrips are not being maintained at the same level, even though there has been no change in policy. Where did this change in direction come from? That is what I am seeking from the minister. There has been a reduction in the level of service provided by his department. Has the minister politically intervened and made these changes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm going to answer only one last time to anything related to the Braeburn airport, if I may. I feel that question has been answered and it has been answered very well. I have given the member opposite the time when the policy was changed. It takes time to implement and it was implemented last year. So, therein, again, is the answer. If the member opposite would listen, I'm sure that he will find the answer. And I would just like to point out that the road to the Braeburn camp has not been plowed since April, 1995.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much, but it was kept open last winter - probably not as far as the camp, but it was certainly kept open - and you could get through the snowdrift off the highway quite readily. Usually passing it two or three times, or sometimes as many as four times a week, one certainly keeps one's eyes open as to what access routes are being maintained or not being maintained.
So, once again, I would ask the minister: where did the change in direction come from with respect to maintaining snow removal on some of these roads? There's obviously been a change or new direction provided by the minister. Now, when did that come about and for what reason?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Could ask the member opposite if he could clarify which road he is talking about. Is he talking about the Christian camp road?
Mr. Jenkins: It is the road that goes into Braeburn Lake, just past Braeburn Lodge. If you're driving toward Whitehorse, south bound, it's just past Braeburn Lodge on the right hand side and it goes into the lake. There are a number of recreational properties there and the access through the snowdrifts along the side of the highway have been removed in previous years. They haven't been removed this last year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the road that I believe the member is speaking about is to the Braeburn Christian camp and it has not been plowed since April, 1995. If it has been plowed by an operator dropping his blade, well then, therein shows you the need for policy and the need to adhere to policy, because of the confusion that it creates and, of course, the costliness.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is admitting to is that there is no change in policy; there's just a change in direction. If there's been a need for it, and it has been kept open for his department in the past - and there's certainly a demonstrated need - I would ask the minister why he considered these changes and why he implemented them?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I would ask that any folks who need the roads plowed, or anything like as such, please approach the department so that we might be able to do it under the rural roads maintenance policy. I do believe that that will bring into effect some continuity, for sure.
Mr. Jenkins: I take the minister back to his statement with respect to the Klondike Highway and the function planning that is ongoing. It is my understanding that the function planning along the Klondike Highway, from the ferry landing at Dawson to Callison, has been underway for at least the past three years.
We know the vehicle count is higher than the road or highway is designed for. We know that the planning process has been underway for a couple of years. Could the minister advise us on his department's policy on how long one of these function plans will take and what is the time frame for seeing some results on this function plan?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the planning cycle is almost finished there now. I would also like to say that, unfortunately, there are just no resources for it this year.
Mr. Jenkins: I am given to understand that, again, we'll spend it all in the Whitehorse area, and there is nothing left over to spend anywhere else in rural Yukon.
Once again, the BST along Front Street is deteriorating very, very badly. Are we just going to continue patching this? It's a fact that the subgrade in that area is not able to support the weight that the highway is permitted to carry. There is a constant break-up problem through that area. Yet, this is being totally ignored by the minister. What direction is the minister prepared to provide to address his responsibilities in this area? What's his policy for doing something where it's needed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to state right here, now that I've answered this question already, but I'd just like to bring up at this point in time, Mr. Chair, the $24,855,000 annual deficit last year from the previous administration. It seems to me that, if they were going to do so much hard work then, maybe they should have spent some of that money in that area and we wouldn't be doing that.
So, unfortunately, there are no resources this year. We do not have resources to do that this year. Certainly, the member opposite could have done his lobbying as forthright as he had this year, but of course he was with the previous administration, if not in body at least in spirit at that point in time. However, I will qualify that, and again say that, depending on the spring break-up, some spot patching may be required, and if it is required it will be carried out and done.
Mr. Jenkins: Wow, we're going to get spot patching. Jeez, thank you, Mr. Minister. Your generosity is most overwhelming.
Could the minister advise his timetable -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I would remind the minister that if he needs this built, I'd be happy to construct one for him, and he can probably fill it with some of what he's spewing forth in the House here.
Mr. Chair, let's go back to this area. This area is a very critical, high traffic volume area in Yukon, and yet we can't get a commitment out of the minister as to whether he's going to do anything this year other than the functional plan. The next step is to budget funds for it. Can we get a commitment from the minister here today that it'll be in next year's budget, and is it in the capital planning process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the member opposite is well aware, I've stated in the House here already - Lord knows, I think I've stated it more than once - the planning process for a budget and how we're going to be doing it and how we're going to be working it through, and that the basis of it is going to be through themes. It's going to be done in a way, and it's going to be done like this. It's going to be done in a much better way. Recognize this?
Absolutely. I'm sure you do.
So, with that, I'd just like to say that, as we get into our budget process, unfortunately we were left with such a deficit from last year that we had to make up for that deficit and some things just were not allowed to be done. No resources. So I will certainly be looking at this in the context of budget planning for the next fiscal year, in the budget plan for next year. Again, that is certainly not a guarantee, but my government does everything on a fair basis, whether it's geographical, whether it's for people, and that's the way we will continue to do things.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to just remind the minister that the Yukon Party government left this government in a much better financial position than the previous NDP government left the Yukon Party government in. And that has been substantiated by the Auditor General of Canada.
So the minister might want to go back and just review the numbers and see who was left where and see who did a good job of fiscal management.
But let us take another area -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there's a bunch of heckling coming from the side opposite that's unwarranted.
I deal with a legislative return tabled in the House, on the question of electrical inspectors, Boiler and Pressure Vessel Act and regulations, and elevators and fire inspections.
I was anticipating a legislative return correcting the three areas that were incorrectly stated in this legislative return.
Perhaps to assist the minister in this area, would the minister please provide the following information under electrical: the number of electrical permits issued, by community and area, during 1995, 1996 and the first quarter of 1997; the number of inspections carried out by community and area by the inspection branch in 1995, 1996 and the first quarter of 1997; the number of visits electrical inspectors made outside of Whitehorse, the length of the visit to each community by inspector, and the number of inspections carried out on each visit during 1995, 1996 and the first quarter of 1997.
I think when we get this information we'll have a clear indication about the level of electrical inspections being made, and it will refute the statement provided to this House that in each and every case, even in these cases, a minimum of two inspections by public safety inspectors is necessary. They might be necessary, but they're not being carried out, Mr. Minister, and that's the point that I'm trying to get across.
If we can deal with the boiler and pressure vessels, I would ask the minister to provide by way of legislative return the following information: the number of pressure vessel licences issued in Yukon, by community and area for 1995, 1996 and the first quarter of 1997; the number of new licences issued per community and area for 1995, 1996 and the first quarter of 1997; and the number of visits made to each community in rural Yukon by the appropriate inspectors, the duration of these visits and the number of inspections carried out on each trip during 1995, 1996 and the first quarter of 1997. I think after that information is brought forward, Mr. Chair, the statement, "Boilers in all communities outside the City of Whitehorse are inspected annually."...
With respect to fire inspections, would the minister please provide the number of fire inspections carried out in the years 1990 through 1996, and the first quarter of 1997, by community, by the fire marshall's office; the number of visits to each community made for inspection purposes by the fire marshall's office; the duration of these visits and the number of inspections carried out on each trip, from the years 1996 through the first quarter of 1997.
I think when that information is provided, that it'll be a clear indication that there is a double standard, that inspections are not being done on a timely basis in rural communities as they are in Whitehorse. Once again, a fine example of TROY by the minister's department. What is the minister prepared to do to address this inequality?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the member opposite is certainly alluding to a lot of things. Let me just say, though, that rural Yukon has not been forgotten, has not been neglected by the electrical inspection unit. Electrical inspectors respond to each request and ascertain what level of service is required, and make every effort to ensure individual home owners in rural areas are accommodated. In emergency situations, the inspector may call upon a local contractor to help a home owner, so as not to delay the process until an inspector can arrive on the scene.
The following information here gives a good indication of the level of service provided to Yukon communities. It is the electrical inspectors' community visits from January to November of 1996. In Dawson City, they were there in January of 1996, January 3rd. They were there on February the 13th of 1996. They were there on May the 5th to the 17th of 1996. They were there in July, on the 2nd. They were there in August, on the 12th, and on October the 8th. They were there in December, on the 2nd.
In the Watson Lake-Teslin area, they were there on the 30th of January. They were there in June. They were there on July the 16th. They were there on August the 26th. They were there on October the 7th. They were there on December the 10th.
In Carmacks, they were there on the 15th of May. They were there on the 5th of August, the 16th of September. They were there on the 28th of October. They were there on the 3rd of January.
In Faro and Ross River, they were there on the 24th of June. They were there on the 6th of August. They were there on the 17th of September. They were there on the 19th of November.
In Haines Junction and Destruction Bay, they were there on the 28th of January, and they were in Beaver Creek and Burwash Landing - excuse me - on the 20th of February. They were there on the 12th of June, the 6th of August, the 16th of September, the 14th of October. In Mayo and Keno, they were there on the 16th of May, the 8th of October. They were there on the 2nd of December.
The electrical inspection unit has two full-time inspectors and one seasonal person who will be coming in May to meet the demands of the needs of the impending construction season. The department has undertaking an analysis of the number of electrical code inspections required to determine if there is a need to provide more staff in the need for an in-depth analysis to ensure that we meet two very important goals: to provide the public with effective service and to stay within the fiscal constraints faced by government in a time of shrinking dollars, we want to ensure we get every dollar available. The analysis will be complete in time for consideration in the 1998-99 budget preparation cycle.
Let me say that on the subject of boiler inspections the mechanical section has established a priority list for annual inspections, which includes schools, nursing stations, hospitals and other public buildings. For example, in Dawson City, both the school and the Dawson hospital have been inspected every year since 1991. These priorities are established on the basis of public use and on the history of the unit being inspected. Owner requests receive top priority. In all, there are 119 boiler and pressure vessels in Dawson; in 1996, 93 were inspected - approximately 80 percent. There certainly is not one set rule for Whitehorse and another set for rural Yukon. An inspector visited Dawson City three times in 1996 - in April, August and November.
It is worthy to note that the majority of these inspections were not requested by owners but inspected based on the diligence of the inspector to ensure that we have safe operating conditions in the Klondike and indeed throughout the Yukon Territory. The public safety branch has taken a very pro-active approach to help the operators of these units by inspecting on a regular basis rather than wait for owners to call when disaster strikes. We call it preventive maintenance to head off potential accidents. The general consensus is that most owners are responsible and welcome the opportunity to have their units inspected by staff from the public safety branch.
On the issue of fire inspections in Dawson City, Dawson City certainly does have a qualified fire inspector. It is in the form of a paid fire chief who was hired in the summer of 1991. This fire chief was more than qualified to carry out fire inspections, having over 15 years of experience in the fire service, including five years doing inspections around British Columbia as a fire instructor for the Justice Institute of British Columbia prior to coming to the Yukon. Having accompanied the fire chief from Dawson City on many fire inspections over a five-year period, the fire marshal is satisfied that this person is competent to carry out fire safety inspections.
About a year ago, Dawson City hired a fire training officer/bylaw enforcement officer. This person has and does presently assist the fire chief with fire inspections. According to the fire chief, the fire department of Dawson City is very active in the fire inspection category. A direct quote in 1996 is: "They did approximately 200 inspections, which included initial and follow-up inspections in Dawson City." The Dawson City fire department ensures that they inspect the school, the day cares, the day homes, the hotels in Dawson City before they open in the spring before they open for the tourist season, and many other public buildings, including the federal government buildings.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the minister for that information, and I will look forward to receiving the legislative return in response to my previous questions. But, the legislative return that the minister tabled - and I will reiterate for the minister's benefit - if you look under the electrical inspections, "even in these cases, a minimum of two inspections by the public safety inspectors are necessary." That is the statement that I'm calling into question. By the minister's response, it is obvious that, in dealing with boilers, boilers in all communities outside of the City of Whitehorse are inspected annually. It is obvious that that is not a true statement after the information the minister has just offered in the House a few minutes ago.
With respect to fire inspections in Yukon, the City of Dawson has a fire inspector bylaw officer, so inspections by the fire marshall's office in these areas have dropped off. In fact, I don't believe that the fire marshall's office has conducted any fire inspections in Dawson in the last year.
The fire chief is qualified, as the minister pointed out, but there is no fire inspector bylaw officer.
So, if the minister would kindly correct the legislative return and provide correct, accurate information and give this House his undertaking, it would be appreciated.
I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, I didn't get an undertaking from the minister. Is he abdicating his responsibilities?
I'm not prepared to see this matter cleared. I would like to stand it aside until such a time as the minister brings forth the information requested.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly can understand why some people are frustrated, but I just encourage all members to hang in there. We have a job to do and we will continue to do that.
I will certainly endeavor to get back to the member opposite, not by way of a legislative return, but certainly we will get back to the member opposite on the questions that he's asked in this sitting. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. With respect to electrical inspections, the minister provided a response that his department has been working on a legislative return about how the Department of Community and Transportation Services is currently doing an in-depth analysis of the electrical inspection unit to determine if there is a need to increase their electrical inspection component. How long has his department been working on this in-depth analysis?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed it gives me privilege to stand here and say that it was first looked at in preparation for the 1996-97 budget. There was certainly not enough justification at that point in time and it will be looked at again in time, as I said, for the next budget cycle.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chairman, my question to the minister is: how long has the department been working on the in-depth analysis?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It was first looked at under the previous administration and it was looked at at that time for the 1996-97 budget, using simple arithmetic.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister made mention of the fact that electrical inspectors and their shortage has been known for two years. If that's the case, why will the in-depth analysis not be ready until the 1998-99 budget, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, that was looked at on a needs basis. It was looked at in the 1996-97 budget. Again, it was looked at under the 1997-98 budget and again, it will be looked at under the budget cycle of 1998-99.
Mr. Jenkins: In 1995, the City of Whitehorse adopted a new policy requiring that a final electrical inspection be done on new buildings before they be occupied and this new policy placed major additional demands on the electrical inspection staff.
It gives rise to the question: does the minister feel that it's acceptable to inconvenience the rest of the Yukon because the City of Whitehorse requires more inspections? Does the minister not want to hire additional electrical inspectors to offset the demand? What would happen if all of the other communities adopted this same requirement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, that certainly caused a problem, in 1995 when the city policy changed, but it seems to have gotten us over the hump, if I might say it in that manner, and the problem doesn't seem to exist as severely now.
Mr. Jenkins: What has happened is a lot of additional hours by the inspection branch has gone into the Whitehorse area and, as a consequence, rural Yukon is suffering. TROY, Mr. Chair.
We further go into the legislative return tabled by the minister and I quote from it, "Due to an increased number of electrical installations, some reputable electrical contractors have been permitted to declare that the installation complies with the act and regulations. Even in these cases, a minimum of two inspections by public safety inspectors are necessary."
It gives rise to the question, Mr. Chair, can the minister tell me how his department distinguishes between electrical contractors to determine who is reputable and who is not reputable? How is that distinguished?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Several years ago, the changes were brought forth and contractors, at that time, could apply to get certification to be able to do these systems. So, at that point in time it was brought in and it was only for the people who applied and got the certification. That's what that means.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what we have are two contractors, both of them having journeyman electricians on staff, fully licensed, and if they both apply, someone has to make a judgment call. Who is making that judgment call, and what's the basis of making that judgment call? Because, I know in our area, there are quite a number of electrical contractors and some are using the system and some are not permitted to use the system. What's the difference? They're both journeyman electricians; they're both electrical contractors.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm certain that the member opposite has the right to speak for those people, and that he has basic knowledge that they both had applied to get certification. So, on that assumption, if I may assume, and that assumption is based - working from the member opposite's knowledge base, if I may answer that question, and the answer to that question will simply be that I have to get back to him, to find out the processes that he asked for and the people there.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister also bring back the number of contractors and licensed electricians that are permitted to carry on this inspection under this system, the declaration system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, certainly.
Ms. Duncan: While on the subject of public safety in this area, I have a couple of questions for the minister. There are at present no regulations governing oil burners, which I would say a very good portion of Yukoners use in their furnaces in the heating of their homes. Is the minister contemplating regulations and inspections in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly we haven't heard any feedback on that from anybody, and it certainly means that it's working well with input, but I will certainly take it back to the department and ask the department if they have had anybody - just anybody - phone in, write in, or anything like that, to see if there is a need for it.
Ms. Duncan: I believe the minister could consider this his first advance notice and a heads-up that the industry servicing this area is looking to have it regulated. I would like from the minister a commitment that, indeed, he and his departmental officials will look into the development of regulations for oil burners and, further, that he would provide me with a time frame on that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the heads-up, and we will certainly be working with the industry and talking with the industry to ascertain just what it is that we can do and what it is that is required.
Ms. Duncan: As I understand it, the industry is looking to have this section of the industry regulated, in that there are regulations governing gas. I believe that one of the members to the far right had been talking earlier about other types of electrical inspection, et cetera.
As I understand it, the industry is looking to have the servicing of oil burners regulated and, in particular, the qualifications for individuals who do service these oil burners regulated by the Government of Yukon, as are, for example, electricians - an example that was used earlier. We have regulations governing what constitutes a journeyman, et cetera. I believe the oil burner industry is looking for a similar type of regulation.
I have asked the minister previously, in providing him with the heads-up, if the department officials, in turn, could provide me with the time frame. Would it take six months to develop these regulations? Could they be done more quickly than that? Could the minister provide me with a time frame, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In answer to the member opposite's question, we were talking about the qualifications for the oil burner mechanics. The qualifications come under the Department of Education, so I have notated it, and we will get together with the Department of Education. We will certainly take it and look at it and see what the results are. It could probably take up to six months, but I'll certainly be working on it this fiscal year, working toward that end.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister quite correctly identified the interdepartmental area and interdepartmental jurisdiction. It requires the cooperation of Education. It requires the Department of Community and Transportation Services' public safety branch. It's going to require them working together to deal with this industry, and I believe it is rapidly becoming a priority for the industry.
Would the minister provide me with his assurance that he, indeed, will treat this as a priority issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the member opposite, certainly. I said six months and then I guess I need to talk about math, too, a little bit because then I suggested here in this side of things that we could certainly do it by October, and that is six months. So, I'll have something for the member opposite by that time.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to thank the member for that assurance and I would advise the members involved with that industry that have approached me that it is of concern to him and that he will be working with his departmental officials on establishing a method for inspections and for developing qualifications for the industry in this respect, and regulating it.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we leave the subject of inspections, Mr. Chair, one of the areas that has been identified as working extremely well in our area is the recently hired gas inspector, and I would like to throw recognition in that direction for the efforts being put in by that inspection department. The job being done in our area is being done very well. I wish I could say the same for all of the other areas that the safety branch has care and control over.
The oil burner mechanic trade, while it's not regulated, Mr. Chair, I think it's fair to acknowledge that, once regulations are brought in, we are going to have a number of individuals that probably know the trade extremely well. As with the gas inspection, when that became regulated, there was a number of individuals that were extremely knowledgeable for installations and trouble-shooting, but unfortunately they had difficulty writing the exam and completing the exam satisfactorily - the written part of the test. These very, very well qualified people otherwise are going to fall through the cracks, so I would just caution the minister and his officials that provisions should be made for these types of people that have been associated with the industry for a long time, that are fully conversant with it, understand it, and can do a very excellent job.
Would the minister give this House that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that is a very good point raised by the member opposite and it'll certainly be looked at. We're going to make sure that all people have ample opportunity and that their expertise is clear. Some people can freeze on a paper exam, but we'll look at all other avenues to ensure that everybody is given a very fair shake and that certainly will be taken into consideration. I thank you very much for that.
Mr. Jenkins: I have some other additional questions arising out of the debate last Thursday, dealing with Community and Transportation Services. Can the minister advise how many people will be hired by Transportation Services to work during the summer season?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will certainly get back to the member opposite with the numbers on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister give this House his assurance that hires in this department will be directed toward residents of communities that are geographically nearest to the jobs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, yes, I can rise to say that we'll certainly try to hire Yukoners and nothing but Yukoners for these positions. As for the question, there are, I recall, zones that people fall into. I will be seeking information regarding those zones. At times it does not necessarily mean that the community closest, but from the zones.
Mr. Jenkins: The next question, Mr. Chair, is that we were going to deal with the same policy format that this hiring has been in the past. Does the minister anticipate any changes from past hiring practices? I don't want to ask if the minister is going to be advertising in Vancouver before he advertises in Yukon, or anything of that nature, because I am sure that after the Department of Education recognized what they were up to, this won't occur within his department. I am seeking from the minister his assurances that the policy that was previously in place with respect to hiring from a specific zone will remain in place.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Two questions asked two different ways - I'll answer them both.
Yes, it's going to remain in place, and the first question he asked was, "Does he anticipate any changes?" No, so you get a yes and a no answer.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that arose out of discussions I had over the weekend with various individuals is the timing of the issuing of the contracts from within his department. The contractors just out there reviewing jobs are somewhat annoyed that they're this late and their window of opportunity is very, very narrow. Plus, there is the uncertainty of what type of work will be available.
But what I'm seeking here today, Mr. Chair, is the minister's assurances that in the next fiscal year the contractors will be made aware of what is going to be made available, according to what the plans are of the government, early on in the year, similar to what the previous government had in place, and that the contractors will be told what the government anticipated letting and the timing for the letting of these contracts. Can the minister give the House his assurances? It's too late for this year. It's goofed up, but it would be very excellent for contractors to have this in place for the next fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We'll certainly look at that.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other contentious issues is how land is appraised in Yukon.
As the government controls land that's available, and governments make it available, would the minister apprise the House as to how the government appraises land for its value?
Chair: I would like to remind the members to have their questions pertain to the area of discussion. In this case, we happen to be on the supplementary information to the transport services.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we do. We appraise the land using the same standards as those right across Canada, and that is driven by market value.
Chair: Are there further questions on transport services, supplementary information?
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise us how many employees of this department are seconded to the commission, and who is filling the positions of these people who have been so seconded.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this point in time, there are no secondments.
Transportation Division in the amount of $38,184,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Chair: We will now go to page 3-19. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In 1997-98, the O&M budget of $170,000 consists of $162,000 for personnel, which includes the salaries and benefits for the assistant deputy minister and secretary; $9,000 for other, which includes $6,000 for travel - $2,000 in Yukon, $4,000 out of Yukon; $2,000 for supplies and $1,000 for other.
In comparison with the previous year, it's a decrease of $23,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and the reduction is due to the elimination of the vacant policy officer position. A portion of the funding allocated to this position was surplused at the 1996-97 supplementary.
Mr. Jenkins: On the reduction of $23,000 for a policy officer in that department, what classification was this individual in for salary? Obviously, he wasn't a $23,000 a year paid position, so what classification was this individual in, and where was the balance picked up within this department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: A portion of the funding allocated for this position was surplused in the 1996-97 supplementary and, of course, the rest is in this budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I didn't quite understand where the minister was taking us. Could the minister please run that by us again?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. A portion was dropped last year and a portion is being dropped this year. As for the classification which the member opposite asked for, I will have to get it for him.
Mr. Jenkins: That gives rise to the question: what was this policy officer's responsibility within the assistant deputy minister's office? Why is it not needed now?
If I understand correctly, the position has been eliminated over two years. The position wasn't filled in the last fiscal period, funds were reduced in the budget for that fiscal period and they were subsequently eliminated in this fiscal period. So, the sum of money we're looking at is probably 46, plus some payroll loading.
Why has the position been eliminated? What has been the change in policy that led to the elimination of this position?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, in sticking with the priorities, unfortunately we just could not keep up with it and do it. We were left with choices and we decided that we were going to keep the grants in place, such as the home owners grants and the grants to the municipalities. Therein lies the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: I take it that what the minister is advising us is that this individual was responsible for policy dealing with grants. We presently have underway a review of the Municipal Act, which includes a review of the municipal block funding. Is this not one area that is under the guidance of this ADM - partly his responsibility and partly a policy officer under this ADM would be responsible for at least part of this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. The work is ongoing and the work is being done by other staff, and there is not a lapse of anything happening. Certainly, it's not going to affect the municipalities and we shouldn't even think that it is going to.
I would like to correct the member opposite by getting sexist myself, I guess. The ADM is a her, not a him, and I think therein we should refer to employees and each other in a non-sexist way - person.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's deal with the numbers. Let's deal with what these individuals have responsibilities for. Let's look at the actuals in the department - 1995-96, $167,000. It was subsequently increased by $27,000? What was the lapse from last year, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The question somewhat confuses me, Mr. Chair, and I'd ask the member opposite to please ask the question again if he would.
Mr. Jenkins: In 1996-97, the forecast was $194,000 for the department. The minister indicated that the one position was eliminated over two years. Could the minister advise on how much lapsed? What was the lapsed funding for the last fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it has been only three weeks, not all of them working days, since the lapse of the last fiscal year. I've been advised that the department will normally get into number crunching in the month of June and it'll be available at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: There are statements prepared on a quarterly basis. What was the lapse for the last quarter? What was the surplus remaining in the department and how much did they anticipate spending?
You know, we have these little pools of money all over and it was known that we were going to eliminate this position of policy officer within the department. Now, that would lead to a small pool of funds being created within that budget line amount. So, that's a given. So, obviously there's some understanding of that amount there somewhere within the department. Just how much would those funds be?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the numbers will be ready by June, as I have said, and I'd just like to point out to the member opposite that any monies that have lapsed will not come to the department, but will go into central government.
Mr. Jenkins: Certainly, the department has an understanding of what they're going to lapse within that line item of the budget because they haven't filled the position; they've subsequently eliminated the position in this next fiscal period. So, there is a sum of money there that they're aware of. All I'm trying to get at, Mr. Chair, is how much that money was. Has it been moved to some other area of the department? You can move it within, but if it does lapse finally, it'll revert to general revenues.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we will certainly look into it and get back to the hon. member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give his assurances that we will have that information before we clear this line?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do not believe that there is a necessary wait to hold this over. We certainly will get back to the member as soon as we can with the necessary information that the member opposite has asked for.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, in the budgeting process, one has to ferret out the sums of money that are hidden in little pools, and this is another example of a position that has been eliminated over two years, and yet was budgeted for last year and is not being budgeted for this year.
So the sum of money associated with the position that is being eliminated over two years has got to be rather self-evident. It has to be a known quantity. There are areas like this within any budget, where little sums of money are subsequently buried, hidden or tucked away.
It's part of the responsibility of those of us in Opposition to point this out, to see if we can come to a better recognition of the budgeting process. I'm just seeking the minister's assurances that he's going to be bringing this information forth in a very timely manner, and I think it's an extremely legitimate request of the minister that he obtain this information forthwith.
I'm sure if he wanted to he could obtain it over the break by making one simple phone call, or it might be right after the dinner break. So, let's see what we can do. Can I have the minister's assurances?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For the second time this afternoon I will answer the question, and I did say that I will get back to the member, and I will.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Cable: I have some questions that relate to a matter that has been raised before, and that's the Municipal Act review. I understand that the city council in Dawson may be interested in purchasing the Yukon Energy Corporation's assets in Dawson - that's the diesels and the distribution lines. It is my understanding - and hopefully the minister's deputy will be here in a moment - that the Municipal Act, just to get us all tuned in here...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: No, I'm not inductive leaping the Minister of Government Services.
It's my understanding that to facilitate or to permit that sort of purchase, there'll have to be an amendment to the Municipal Act permitting the purchase and ownership and operation of those assets. Is that a view shared by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The gist was that the Dawson City council wants to buy the YEC assets and it would take an amendment, and if I would be open to making sure that an amendment would be put forth into the Municipal Act review. Was that the question?
Mr. Cable: Just to clarify it, I don't know whether the city council has adopted a definitive position. It's my understanding they're certainly looking at it and may contact the minister. What I'd like to know is, if in fact they followed through on that proposition, is it the view of the minister and his department that amendments to the Municipal Act will be required to facilitate either the purchase or the operation of the assets?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it will require an amendment.
Mr. Cable: Now, we're probably working on a very tight deadline from the agreement in principle that was submitted to the House two or three weeks ago. Is the minister prepared to review that portion of the Municipal Act that relates to the empowerment of municipalities to own utilities in isolation from the rest of the act, if, in fact, the council wants to move and put in a proposal on the purchase of those assets?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, in this day and age, I guess I should say, in the future here, in the near future, we want to do things in a meaningful way for the municipalities, and I want to do things in conjunction with the municipalities. So, when we do the act and the review, I would like to do it all at once and not to jump ahead with just one over the other.
Mr. Cable: What that would do, though, is effectively preclude the City of Dawson from entering into the bidding war for those assets.
Is the minister prepared to accept the exclusion of the municipality from making propositions for the purchase of those assets?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, no, we haven't been approached, and there certainly hasn't been a resolution or anything come forth. I think we are all aware that the AYC is holding their annual general meeting in a couple of weeks, I think it is, a couple of weekends from now, and it will likely be brought up at that point in time. I will be ready for it at that point in time.
Mr. Cable: It is my understanding there may be something fairly imminent. I could be wrong. The grapevine may be inaccurate, but it's my understanding that the minister will be approached fairly quickly on that, to put the City of Dawson into a position where they could make a proposal and have a comfort zone that they could carry through on. Of course, they will need some sort of an amendment.
The response that the minister gave me, the legislative return that he gave me, asking about the various policy initiatives shows that the Municipal Act review won't be completed until the fall of 1998, which, of course, would effectively preclude the municipality from entering into the bidding war.
The question I would like to put to him is: if, in fact, the City of Dawson does come forward, and I think they will be very shortly, and approach the minister, is he prepared to move up a review of that part of the act so as to permit the city to get into the bidding war with Yukon Electrical?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm certainly open to working cooperatively with municipalities, and I thank the member opposite for the heads-up, and I certainly appreciate that I'll be approached. When I am approached, I will certainly give my best efforts. You know I have to work with my Cabinet colleagues, and I'll certainly be seeking the advice of my Cabinet colleagues, and seeing what is our opinion.
Again, I just reiterate that I'm certainly willing to work with municipalities on a collective basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Further to Mr. Cable's suggestion that a review of the Municipal Act in this area would be necessary to accommodate a request coming forth from the City of Dawson, it might be at the point now where the minister will receive this request tomorrow morning. I'm given to understand that it's imminent. In order to accommodate, I think the minister has to give it more consideration than what he has offered to date in the House, in light of the request forthcoming tomorrow.
Would the minister undertake to give it more consideration than what he has offered today in the House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I did say that I would take it to Cabinet, and I would discuss it at the Cabinet level, and I certainly will do that. The time frame on it - while I certainly appreciate that I'm going to be approached tomorrow morning, at whatever time, first thing in the morning, I think the member opposite has said - and at that point in time, I will seek the advice of my Cabinet and caucus colleagues.
Mr. Jenkins: While the minister is deliberating on that topic, I'm sure he should consult his department officials. His deputy minister is very much aware as to how integral the power generation in Dawson City is to the operation of the water system in that community and the need to have more control over it than what presently exists.
If we look at two identical-type systems in the north, virtually in size and generating capacity - one in Watson Lake and one in Dawson - the only one that was able to facilitate waste heat recovery in a timely, efficient manner was Dawson. The strings attached by the investor-owned utility in Watson Lake were such that a very, very worthwhile program, like waste heat recovery from diesel generators, did not come to fruition.
So that alone, Mr. Chair, should give some more credence to the approach from Dawson to acquire the assets, and it will probably be suggested that they be transferred at book value. I'm sure, after the numbers are crunched, that that municipality can run its power generation distribution system and provide contingencies for reserves and replacement at far less cost than is being experienced in that community, and indeed throughout the Yukon today.
When this decision is being made, I would urge the minister to give careful consideration to that position, other than just a cursory overview. It might be advantageous to have a joint venture from not just the city, but the city as well as the Dawson First Nations, as well, who, as I know from previous discussions, have looked at those opportunities. It gives rise to other joint opportunities for municipal involvement in natural gas distribution - natural gas coming down and servicing the power plant.
So, I'm pleased that my colleague to my left brought this to the House today. I'm sure you're going to give it more than just a view. I would ask that you look favourably on this request.
Mrs. Edelman: Under general debate, under lands and property assessments, the home owners grant is part of that area. What I'm wondering about is, with the increase in electrical costs, et cetera, is there any chance that the home owners grant, especially for seniors, is going to be increased?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I presume that the member is referring to the pioneer utility grant. It is something that we'll have to take a look at in Health and Social Services, with regard to some of our issues here. I believe that that is more properly where it belongs.
Mrs. Edelman: The home owners grant is administered through C&TS, under property assessments.
Also in this area, generally speaking, under sports and recreation - $21,000 for active living - can I get a breakdown as to where that is in relationship to the communities - a breakdown by community on that $21,000?
Also, I noticed that there is funding for elite athletes. Is there any funding whatsoever for wheelchair athletes? Can I get a breakdown of the funding for elite athletes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will certainly be getting back to the member opposite, as requested.
Mr. Jenkins: Before the break, Mr. Chair, we were exploring the assistant deputy minister's office, and we had that contentious issue of the sum of money carried over and lapsed, and the only thing we know for sure that was a reality was the 1995 actual of 167.
During the break, was the minister able to ascertain what has transpired in that department, and how much of a little pocket of money we do have left over?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is no pocket of money for the department, Mr. Chair. Whatever money that is left over will go back to the government central, and I will certainly have that information for the member tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we just explore this policy officer's position. The responsibility for that position, now that it no longer exists in that line item - where did it get picked up or transferred to?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the work is done by the directors and managers and the policy officer who was there to assist them with that help. It will now be incumbent upon the directors and the managers to do that help with help from the department when it's needed.
Mr. Jenkins: This policy officer, in order to have been initially justified and put into place, must have had a great deal of responsibility to create another position within government. It has been eliminated and now we're told that the other members of that department, which are few in number, have picked up the responsibilities of that policy officer - and perhaps with some outside help from other areas within the department. Can the minister give the House his assurances that, with the structural changes, we're going to have the same efficient operation that we had previously, or is there going to be a reduction in the level of services provided by that office?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly with fewer resources, Mr. Chair, things do certainly slow down, but as for the quality, we certainly should be able to maintain the same quality. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I heard the minister correctly, we're going to have very good quality, but less of it. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, we shall endeavour. We have a very efficient group of managers and directors and we're certainly always taking pride in our jobs, as all civil servants do, I'm sure - and myself - and we take pride in what we do. We shall certainly work to keep that there. We'll certainly work within a timely, effective manner and we will continue to do so.
On Assistant Deputy Minister's Office
Assistant Deputy Minister's Office in the amount of $170,000 agreed to
On Lands and Property Assessments
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, $985,000 of that money is for personnel. It includes the salaries and benefits for seven positions in the lands disposition and nine staff in property assessment and taxation; $101,000 for other, which includes $19,000 for travel in Yukon, $11,000 for contract services, $14,000 for rental expense, $10,000 for supplies, $15,000 for advertising, $12,000 for program materials, $12,000 for communication, and $8,000 for other program needs; $2,231,000 for transfer payments, and this full amount is for the home owners grant payments.
The O&M comparison with previous years is an increase of $36,000 from 1996-97 to 1997-98, and, Mr. Chair, this is mainly a result of an increase to the home owners grant budget of $72,000, which is partially offset by a reduction of $20,000 in personnel costs, $13,000 in pool vehicle rental and $3,000 in other smaller items. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're dealing with that area and the home owners grant, let's just look, to start, at the method of assessment within the department that is used by the officials - where at land for market value and everything else, I believe, we're still using the Alberta manual, which is Whitehorse replacement cost less observed depreciation throughout the Yukon. Does the minister anticipate any change in this area, as far as method of assessment? Are we going to move to market value for total, or what's happening?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this point in time, there's not any anticipated change, but as the member opposite is well aware we are going to be going out to consult on rural services, speaking with municipalities and empowering municipalities, et cetera, about the changes to the Municipal Act.
So, we are certainly open to hearing what the public has to say on this, and we'll certainly be taking anything the public has to say seriously and into context and put it into the system at that time. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that is called into question on a regular basis and arises out of the assessment is that once every four or five years there's a total reassessment in every area of the Yukon. At that juncture, in the next taxation year, there's usually a heck of a shock as to where the taxes are heading for those areas so assessed.
It has been the practice of some of the communities to lower their mill rate. Would it not appear reasonable to the minister to index the buildings every year, and then adjust them every four years, rather than - I'm sorry, not the buildings, the improvements; let's classify them properly: index the improvements so they're indexed every year so that we do not have this amazing shock every four years?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're certainly looking at computer-assisted mass appraisals, and we'll be looking at all things to certainly make it easier and more efficient, so I thank the member opposite for his direction.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what we're trying to look at is a fair way of doing the appraisals throughout the Yukon Territory on a consistent basis, and it is certainly reasonable to use Whitehorse replacement costs, less observed depreciation, for improvements. But the shock associated with the reassessment every four years has to be addressed in a better manner than it is currently addressed, and that was by creating another mill-rate zone. What we're going to end up having to create is a whole series of various mill rate zones throughout the Yukon Territory to absorb the shocks.
I'm sure that in your document, A Better Way, this is one area that wasn't recognized, because paying taxes is not something looked on too favourably or open for discussion on a regular basis, but it is a fact of life that property owners have to pay taxes.
From what I've outlined today, is the minister going to continue with this practice of establishing other mill rate zones throughout the Yukon Territory to address the inequalities brought about as a consequence of the shock of an assessment every four years? Is this going to be an ongoing practice?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The shock every four years is certainly something that we might be able to lessen and the member opposite has certainly brought forward a manner and a way of doing it - well, certainly a manner.
We will certainly be looking at this in conjunction with making things better and easier on the general public and we will put it in that light. I thank the member for his advice and we will certainly be looking at that.
Again, I would reiterate that, through our consultation on the rural services, et cetera, and from talks with the AYC and municipalities in general, and in partnerships with First Nations governments through providing them with services, we will certainly be looking at everything and bringing forward some good recommendations to make it better. I'm sure that the member's advice will be applicable at that time. So, thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that's controlled by the Government of Yukon is land, and the Yukon government controls the sale of virtually all land and lot developments in the Yukon. There are small exceptions here and there, but by and large, that's the case. They are the major developer of subdivisions and country residential and cottage lots. In the Whitehorse area, land has doubled in the last decade, and these higher land prices have created an inflated cost for home buyers. The Lands Act states that government must sell land for the cost of development and, depending on which government is in power, lot prices have been stretched to include past, present and future infrastructure costed into the rate base.
What is the government's policy with respect to land development in this area? We have to get a better handle on these costs, because the infrastructure that's presently in place in any municipality will only permit it to expand so far and supply so much water and sewer and so many telephone lines, and then there is an incremental cost increase to add on. Now, what is the government's position and policy as to who should pay for that capital cost? Is it going to be spread over the whole rate base, or is it going to be charged out to that new subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the development costs for a subdivision are all factored into the development costs. Rarely - it has been brought to my attention, and it has also been brought to my attention that other costs do come into those prices, and mostly around Whitehorse.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm aware of that, Mr. Minister. I'm aware of the background, but I'm asking the minister, Mr. Chair, for his government's policy as to what is going to be amortized in the rate base and what's going to be recovered from the sale of the properties. It's moved all over. No, it's not everything that's in the subdivision at all times. The goal posts have moved and they've moved on a regular basis.
Now, what you say and what you hear from the department and when you start to dig into it and analyze it, something else is usually occurring and there are some other costs that have to be picked up or they're forgotten and are dumped into the pot.
Now, I'm just looking for the government's policy as to what they're going to allow to be incorporated into the base.
Chair: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say that there is no change from the previous administration to this time. Let me also reiterate that we've been in government six months, but the principles certainly are that land development is and has to be a recoverable. If not, and it's outside that, then it has to be written off by the Cabinet. But certainly, at this point in time, there is no change from the previous administration.
Mrs. Edelman: Does that mean to say that if there was a pump station needed to bring water into a new subdivision the cost would be written off by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In short, no. But, in Copper Ridge there were two pumphouses put in, and they were both put within the lot development.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm sure there was some cost sharing with YTG on that. Nevertheless, I have a question.
The consultation that was undertaken by the department on the Motor Vehicles Act review was tremendously effective. You had 1,400 responses on the questionnaire that was sent out, mainly because there were some really interesting and evocative questions within that consultation process.
Is there any thought given to doing the same sort of consultation on changes to the land assessment process, if there are to be changes to the land assessment process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're not doing anything on the land assessments, or anything like as such, but if the member opposite means on policy change in general, yes.
For rural services, we're certainly hoping that we'll have that big of a response and direction as to how we should be making our decisions.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand then that the land assessment process is not going to be a part of the consultation on the rural services program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In the rural services consultation, the principle is basically who decides what we get and what you want, and definitely it would be then how do you pay for it, or who pays for it. Then the overtures will certainly be getting into the land assessment. So it's a complicated issue, but it's all interlinked and interrelated, and we'll certainly be taking everything into context when we come with this.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm seeking from the minister here today is the clear policy as to what will be in the recovered in the base when a subdivision is developed. There also have to be provisions made for offsite levies. As a community grows, these offsite levies will become more and more costly.
Now, is it going to be the position of the government to absorb the costs of offsite levies or pay part of them and get the municipal government to ante up the balance? What is happening, if you look at Whitehorse, is subdivisions are growing, and there's a demonstrated need, and the exercise is to provide land at the cost of development, but the cost of offsite levies is rising because the pumphouse that's downtown won't lift the water up to that subdivision, so it requires another major series of lift stations. It requires an extension of the power grid. And all that usually happens is an estimate of power comes from the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. and a cheque is cut for the full amount. No one gets in there and really does any haggling or anything as to how is the best way to develop this. Maybe an outside electrical contractor could come in and install it at a less expensive cost.
All of those costs of that subdivision electrification goes into the rate base of our investor-owned utility, with the dividends flowing to Alberta. But let's have a look at this, Mr. Minister. It's not a laughing matter, and if it wasn't raised in the House, the minister wouldn't take the time to probably understand it and get a grasp on it within his department. But it is the future of the Yukon as to how we address this area, how we address subdivision planning and how we address what is going to be recovered from the sale of those lots, and what we're going to absorb or attribute to that subdivision in the way of offsite levies.
Is the minister prepared to table a document spelling out what costs they're going to attribute each way, or are we just going to go around with another dog-and-pony show?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I was not giggling or laughing at anything that was pertinent, but I certainly was smiling at the member opposite's delivery. He insinuates that consultation is a dog-and-pony show. He insinuates all sorts of different things. It's like sitting down and eating mixed vegetables, only you never know what's going to be in the mixed vegetable pot. To me, I do find that amusing, and it's certainly his way of bringing it up, and so I do find that amusing, and I just can't help that. That's certainly amusing to me, but certainly what is not amusing to me is the tone that he sets. Let me say that the offsite levies are set by the municipality and are paid for by the lot purchaser to the municipality.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as we get more and more into this area of land development, it becomes more and more abundantly clear that the minister doesn't have very much of an understanding of this very critical area of his portfolio. Perhaps over the dinner hour tonight he could spend a little time with his deputy minister and gain what kind of an understanding he can gain in the two-hour break that we have.
From what I hear today, land development is not always sold for the cost of development. Sometimes, not all of the costs of development are in the various lands that are developed. Would the minister please confirm this? His officials have alluded to it, but we haven't heard a definitive answer on that topic.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly nothing has changed from the previous administration. The previous administration certainly did write-offs, and we will continue at this point in time.
Another way of saying it is just that the costs are recoveries of the development in land sales, has been the norm for years and will continue. Again, I stress that it hasn't changed from the previous administration. Thank you.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Committee will recess until 7:30.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate on municipal and community affairs division, lands and property assessments?
Mr. Jenkins: Prior to breaking this evening, we were dealing with offsite levies and land development. After going at the question from a number of different angles and not receiving anywhere near a satisfactory response from the minister, perhaps I can take a new tack this evening, knowing the minister is suitably refreshed and fully apprised of this area of his portfolio.
Offsite levies are a major cost to any new development today, virtually anywhere in North America. Would the minister be kind enough to explain to the House what he understands offsite levies to mean? From there, I can probably give rise to addressing the questions I have from a standpoint that the minister can probably best understand.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The question from the member opposite was what are the offsite levies? Of course, we all know that they are the cost by the municipalities that the property owner pays.
Mr. Jenkins: I can see this is going to be a long and tedious evening, with that kind of a response to a simple question.
Would the minister be kind enough to let us know what is included to establish the fee that is paid. What is it based on, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would just like to let the member opposite know that the needs are set by the municipalities.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we've gone from one silly answer to one answer that makes silly look like it's intelligent.
What constitutes offsite levies? What is in that package, Mr. Chair? We're dealing with a very important issue when it comes to developing land in the Yukon, and offsite levies are growing in costs to the municipalities to provide. Would the minister provide a response to the House as to what constitutes an offsite levy charge - what is it based on?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Now that he is starting to make a little sense in his questions from the opposite side, then I certainly will be able to answer the question. Now, I will reiterate, though, that the needs are set by the municipalities, and they choose those needs, not the territorial government, Mr. Chair. But, by definition, some of the costs would include such things as water mains, the sewer mains, the pumphouses, even parks, roadworks - whatever the municipality chooses.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm pleased to see that, as time goes on, the minister is becoming more enlightened about the areas that he has responsibility for. What I'm seeking, Mr. Chair, is a consistent playing field with the goal posts established for offsite levy charges for land development, and that has not been the case throughout Yukon. There hasn't been a consistent and uniform approach by this government, the previous government or the previous government before it in their applications of offsite levy charges.
Is the minister prepared to identify those charges and put together a uniform approach for offsite levy charges, and could the minister please identify what those offsite levy charges consist of? We've heard water mains, sewer mains and pumphouses and we have roads, but a multitude of other areas are covered in offsite levies that haven't been identified, that are usually looked upon after the fact, which do come back to cost the government considerable sums of money to address.
So, I eagerly await the minister's response.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'm certainly eager to rise and to answer a question now that it is starting to make a little sense, and I thank the member opposite for that.
The question was - well, we all know the question. It might change in the next context. It's hard to say. Let me just say that, again, the municipalities do set the offsite levy. We do not set the levy; therefore, a policy has not arisen now. If the member opposite is asking for us to set a policy, I can certainly take it into consideration and sit down with the city and the municipalities and talk about it, and get their desires and wishes also - their input, I guess, not their desires and their wishes but their input into this very important matter.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, surely the minister must realize that, associated with development of residential areas, there are costs that are not set by the municipal government. There are costs associated with that development that bear directly on the budgets and funding levels of the Yukon government itself. One only has to look at schools, school busing, highway access and highway street lighting. These are areas that are definitely impacted by the development of additional subdivisions, and the minister is totally ignoring them. Now, what is the minister's position? What is the government policy with respect to offsite levies in those areas?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, let me say that if it's directly related, then certainly it's included. If it's not directly related, then it's not included. So, in the examples that the member opposite used, such as street lights, access to roads, et cetera, I believe they would be included if directly related. Again, if not, well they're not.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, may I give you an illustrative example of where the problem lies. When Porter Creek C was developed in the City of Whitehorse, there was a need to increase water pressure, so there was a pump station put in so that there could be increased water pressure in that area in Porter Creek C and D.
Now, in Granger there was a similar problem with water pressure and it was decided there needed to be at least a twin line going up the Two Mile Hill in order to bring up enough water to bring water pressure into Granger, Logan, Copper Ridge and the subsequent subdivisions in that area.
Now, the problem was that in the Porter Creek C and D subdivisions there had been almost 100 percent pay out by YTG to bring those services in, but there was only an 80 to 85 percent share taken by YTG for the subdivisions on the top of the hill. I think that what a lot of us would prefer is some sort of constancy in the way that that sort of cost sharing is borne by the territorial government, and that's the sort of policy that we're hoping that we can develop with the YTG in power so that we can look to the future and future land development in the Yukon and know what our costs are going to be.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly accept that, and I'm willing to sit and look at that as portrayed by the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Can we now deal with specifics? What is the current government's policy with respect to offsite levies? Where are we at? What is included in the offsite levy base calculation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: First of all, let me say that these fluctuate differently from region to region - I guess you might say from development to development - and therein, when it is different from development to development, we sign a development agreement with the municipality. Now, if the member opposite is wishing for a policy, there is no policy, but the principle, which is contained within the development agreement, is that if it's directly related, it's included, and if it's not, then it's not included. As I told the previous speaker, what we will do is sit down and look at it and take it into consideration and bring it to the works with the municipalities.
Mr. Jenkins: So, Mr. Chair, if we could follow up with that, who determines if it's directly related? Obviously the municipal government advances costs. How do we arrive at the final components that are directly related?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. It's a negotiated agreement. I sat down with the municipalities and both have to sign it off. I guess "negotiated" is the word.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, as a consequence of these agreements all being different and, from time to time, areas are omitted, how is the government treating these areas? In the past, they have just written them off, but as they grow in magnitude, surely the government is not going to suggest a continual write-off of these costs that are not recovered through the sale of the land or not added into the rate base.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Hopefully, the write-offs should not occur if they're looking at the development agreement up front. We certainly tried to put everything in there. We certainly don't want to see it, but each case is looked at on its own merit.
I know that the previous administration had to do it. I am not so sure about the administration previous to the previous administration, but I know that it is looked at on a case-by-case basis, and it will continue to be until such a time as we follow through with what I have stated.
Mr. Jenkins: In light of the probably slipshod way that some of these contracts have been negotiated and finalized and some of the costs conveniently omitted and subsequently brought to the attention of the minister, at which time it had to be dealt with through write-offs, is the minister not prepared to bring forward a policy that will set out specifically what areas have to be covered and recovered?
The Government Leader, when in Opposition, indicated that he wanted to develop low-cost, mobile-home lots. I looked at the current budget, and I noticed that we are embarking on developing additional mobile-home lots, despite an inventory of some 39 or approximately 40 mobile-home lots at present.
Now, in order to do this, some compromises must be made. Can the minister tell me if these new mobile-home lots are being developed to a different standard, with a lessening of the level of services being provided? Is that the way it's going to be achieved?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me start at the beginning - a slipshod way; conveniently omitted; is there a policy, et cetera?
Well, in answer to that question, I spoke to the member of the third party and said that we will look at it, and that is certainly what we are going to look at, so I thought we were by that, but obviously we're not quite by that.
Now, in context of the member opposite's next question, on the new mobile-home lots and the lessening of services, the standards are set by the City of Whitehorse and the territorial government. They are negotiated and therein lies the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: So, could the minister advise the House as to what the selling prices of these supposedly lower-cost mobile-home lots are going to be? How will they differ?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, there are different ways of approach in development. You can do the development privately, with private developers, or you can do the development the way we've been talking about here. And how will the selling costs differ? Well, I can certainly only speak about what we're doing here, and there will be options. The Yukon Housing Corporation and the Department of Community and Transportation Services are looking at other options at this very time, right now. So, there will be options, but certainly not right now. We're working it through. And with the private developer - well, the standards are there and they might just develop a proposal that would show that there wouldn't be any sidewalks, per se, and then that would certainly bring the costs down.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back over this in a manner that might be more acceptable to the minister. In years past, the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini urged the government to make land available for sale to trailer home owners. Mr. McDonald was not interested in the trailer lots already available. Instead, he was seeking low-cost land with a minimum of services.
Now, in this year's budget there are lots being developed. Could the minister please advise the House what the cost of these lots will ultimately be and how they are going to achieve that lower cost, if, indeed, they are, what services are they going to curtail, or, conversely, what offsite levies are not going to be included in the rate-making base?
It's obvious the minister's understanding of this issue is very, very minimal. Perhaps the Government Leader would care to respond. He obviously has a very good understanding of it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Frankly, I was quite surprised by the member's question. In the first instance, the situation is something that is to be negotiated with the City of Whitehorse. The minister spent the last half-an-hour explaining that matter to the member. It has still not sunk in, but perhaps if we give it another couple of hours we can get at least that one point across.
The concern that has been expressed by the City of Whitehorse in the recent past is that the mobile-home lots that are available in the Copper Ridge area, given the fact that they've already been developed and some neighbourhood standards have been established, there have been some concerns that the transfer of mobile homes from existing lots in Whitehorse - from existing mobile-home parks - should not be transferred to that site, but that other sites would be more preferable. Consequently, there is an opportunity for us to consider mobile-home lot development elsewhere that would be acceptable to the City of Whitehorse, to the politicians and the city council, that would allow people who are currently in existing mobile-home parks to move their trailer to a site, upgrade it, move their trailer to another site inside the City of Whitehorse - not to the Copper Ridge area because those neighbourhood standards have been established - but some place else.
The actual cost of those lots is something that has to be negotiated because the standards are set by the municipal government, not by YTG.
If we can do anything to reduce the cost of lots, either for mobile-home lots or for any other lots, then that would obviously be seen as a fairly laudable objective and probably very much appreciated by every home owner and property purchaser inside the City of Whitehorse. So, I think that's a laudable objective, and I would encourage my colleagues to pursue it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: And, in conjunction, just to finish off the answer, the lots that are in the budget will be developed to the standard of the other lots, and the other options that we were talking about will certainly be announced in the next couple of months.
Mr. Jenkins: I am aware that Whitehorse has a handbook that lots have to be developed to a standard. I am aware of that standard, but the object is to develop a group of lots for mobile homes at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer, and it's laudable, so I certainly concur with what the Government Leader offered by way of explanation.
Now, how is that reduced cost going to be achieved? Is there going to be a negotiated deviation from the standards, or are some of the offsite levies not going to be included in establishing the price of the lots?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. As I said, we are looking at other options and will be announcing them in the next few months, if I may say it in that manner. But the principle will likely be a deviation from the standards.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a minute ago I heard the Government Leader saying that there would be no deviation from the standards that have already been set by the City of Whitehorse. It was a set of standards that was developed with the territorial government. I was part of that development process. Now I'm hearing that there will be a deviation from that set of standards that was set by the territorial government and the City of Whitehorse. Is there going to be a deviation? Are there going to be two sets of standards - one for private developers and one for YTG?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me try and clarify it, if I may, for the member opposite. As an example - and I just had to ask for clarification of an unusual name - with the Northland trailer park, it's a private level of service. It's brought up with a private land developer and that would be done in conjunction with the city. When the Yukon territorial government does it, it is done in conjunction, again. The development agreement will be negotiated with the city and, no, there will be just the one standard.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that there won't be a double standard, but there will be a deviation from standards. That's what I heard the minister say, and I heard him cover it up by saying it'll be negotiated between the city and the government, if the government is the developer of these mobile-home lots. So, which way are we going, and if there are deviations from standards, what will those deviations be?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, there will not be a double standard, of course. But, if there's going to be a private land development for that, it will certainly be negotiated with the city. That will be negotiated; what the deviation will be will be done between them and the city.
Mr. Jenkins: The exercise is to provide the lowest possible serviced land available for the mobile-home park. I hear the minister talking about the private sector, the City of Whitehorse and YTG. Who is going to be the developer of these mobile-home lots that the minister is speaking about? This is as budgeted and clearly defined. Is the Government of Yukon going to undertake its development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. The 66 lots in Copper Ridge will be developed to the normal standards.
On the other, well, there is certainly a proposal that has not yet been developed. It will be developed.
Mr. Jenkins: My question of the minister was, who will be developing the mobile-home group of lots? Will it be the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, let me say that on the 66 lots that have been done in Copper Ridge, it is going to be done by the Yukon territorial government, and it will be done to the normal standards. As to the other, well, it has not been completed yet, and it is still in the definition stage.
Mr. Phillips: These are the lots, I presume, that the Government Leader talked about in the throne speech.
What kind of cost are we looking at, overall, for lots like this? They were supposed to be much lower cost than standard trailer lots, and maybe the minister can give us an estimate of how much these lots are going to cost.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly will be happy to garner that information, and get it to the member after the break.
Mr. Phillips: I'd like to have that information.
The other question I have for the minister is: the sale of these lots is usually market driven - the sale of the trailers and units that are on them, and I wonder what analysis the minister has done with respect to individuals who are in mobile-home trailer home lots now.
Many of these people are first-time home buyers; they have bought a lot for the going price - which is obviously going to be more than what the minister is going to charge. They've got their investment tied up in that. They've built some equity into that mobile-home lot, made payments on it for several years, and they now want to sell it and move on to maybe a house, a bigger mobile home, or whatever.
Is the minister not concerned that if he puts lots on the market for a much lower price that he's going to affect market value, and that the prices may go down in other areas, and it may have an effect on individuals who are trying to sell their property, and they may not receive fair compensation for it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I spoke just a few moments ago about the work we're doing in cooperation with the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Department of Community and Transportation Services, we're looking at options here, and they'll certainly be taken into factor there. With the proposal that we have on the 66 lots in Copper Ridge - no, they will be of the same standard.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I thought the Government Leader spoke - I think in his budget speech - about providing lower cost lots so that individuals could get into these homes at a more affordable level. And I guess my concern is that if I was someone who was just starting out and had just purchased a trailer and a lot, and paid $25,000 for the lot and another $50,000 or $60,000 or $70,000 for the trailer, and built up some equity in it over three, four or five years, and then the government came along and put a bunch more lots on the market for $10,000 or $15,000, or whatever they're anticipating the money will be, they could eat up my equity really quickly by putting these things on the market. If there were that many of them on the market, it might drive the prices down. It's the government really interfering in the market system. And I know that I, as an individual who struggled to meet the down payment to start with, and struggled to make the payments every month, and built up some equity in a mobile home, would be kind of upset with the government if they ate up my equity by sort of subsidizing, in a way, I guess, the cost of new lots. And I think that might be a concern that one might have out there. I wonder if the minister has thought about that and what he's going to do to protect the investment of these individuals who purchased lots - maybe last week, maybe next week - before these lots come on the market. But what is the government going to do to protect those individuals who have bought or are contemplating to buy in the near future before these cheaper, lower cost lots come on the market?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, when we do our consultation, and when we're doing our work in conjunction with Yukon Housing Corporation and with the C&TS, that will certainly be a point to bring up, but we're certainly here to fill a void, and that's what will be taken into consideration when we do this. Again, I reiterate that the 66 lots that we have coming will be of the same standard that people are used to, and we'll certainly continue with the market driven. But, I guess the opposite side of it is: do members on the opposite side - the Official Opposition - not think that we should be making available starter lots for folks?
Mr. Phillips: No, I don't have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is that the government has announced a new program, and I've asked the question of how are they going to put these lots on to the market without affecting the existing costs of lots that are out there now and people that have purchased at the higher price? How are they going to do that? Surely, when the government brings a program forward like this - that is as significant as this - it should have been thought out, or was it just a wild promise made by the Government Leader when he was in the heat of the campaign, and he didn't have any idea of how he was going to do it, or is it some concept that has some thought to it? I'm not sure where they are coming from. All I wanted to know... It's in the budget speech, and he talks about lower cost lots. It must have been well thought out. It must have been well planned. It must have been well researched, and they must know that it won't affect anyone out there at all. It will just provide lower cost lots for those people who can't afford the other ones, and I haven't heard any answers here this evening from the minister to indicate that that's the case.
They're going to consult Yukon Housing. Well, I would hope they would also consult some of the other individuals out there who have paid a little higher prices for their houses. If they're going to lower the price of the lots now, they maybe want to talk to some of those people about the higher priced lots and put a trailer on them, because they're going to be affected more than Yukon Housing employees are, and that's the concern I have. When you bring a program forward in the House, you usually have done some homework on it and usually know how it's going to work, and it's not just a pie-in-the-sky dream that somebody thought would be nice but with no real background in it.
That's what I'd like to know. How is it going to work? Maybe the minister can come back to us with full detail on how this program is going to work and how it's not going to affect existing markets? I just want to know so that, if I have constituents who are looking at purchasing a trailer lot in the future or own one now or are thinking of buying one now, it's not going to impact them in a negative way.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The member went on and on and on about the government having to do its homework before it makes announcements in budget speeches and commits to producing lower cost lots, and repeated that point on a number of occasions in the last five minutes. I would hope that the member would have done more homework in asking the question in the first place. There is nothing in this budget speech which refers to lower cost lots. I've just checked the budget speech. Not once were lower cost lots mentioned.
Maybe the member can tell us, when he was saying that in the budget speech the government was promising lower cost lots, stand up and tell us the citation in the budget speech which promised that. If he could do that, that would be very much appreciated. Then, perhaps his credibility will be restored.
Second of all, he indicated that the program had been announced. The program has not been announced. If he could show us somewhere in our announcements where the program has been announced, I'd appreciate it. I can tell him that, from my knowledge, we announced that we are going to be announcing a program and the details of the program. So, clearly, there has been no announcement. Now, if the member knows something that I don't know, perhaps he can let us know or expand on his point, and therefore, perhaps, once again, his credibility will be restored. Right now, it's just about rock bottom.
The issue about lower cost lots is an interesting one. Generally speaking, the government always tries to pursue the lowest possible cost lots in its development practices. The member's colleague, the Member for Klondike, and I just finished agreeing, not long ago, on the need to provide for lowest possible cost lots; not to artificially inflate them in order to, presumably, attract as much return as possible for the government.
The government, of course, sells the lots at market value or at development costs and, consequently, if lots are higher in price it's generally because there's more value constructed into the lot - maybe five inches of pavement, curved gutter, sidewalks, underground services, et cetera - that would make for a higher cost lot, and obviously there would be more equity that the person would be buying into when they purchased the higher cost lot.
Now, if there are, for the sake of argument, private development which takes place with strata titles and there is not quite so much by way of bells and whistles in terms of underground services, et cetera, obviously the price of individual lots can go down, as they do with other private developments. As long as it meets the standards that are established by the city council for developments, there is no reason why a range of lots - particularly lots that are a little more affordable to people in low-rent housing - should not be an objective pursued by government.
I recall when the mobile-home open house took place - I believe it was about a year and a half ago or maybe a couple of years ago - everybody who came to the open house - and it was a shutout - talked about land, talked about lower cost lots, talked about wanting to find property to which they could move their mobile home, and all felt that there ought to be land developed for that purpose or there ought to be land available for that purpose, and that if the city council expressed concerns about trailers moving into the existing subdivisions - namely, in this case, Copper Ridge - an option should be tried so that they can move to land that they might own someplace else. So, they wanted that option explored, and that's an option I think should be explored.
Certainly, if a number of other objections can be met, in terms of fluctuating the housing for people who currently own mobile homes, that's something that we should be pursuing. In a month or so, I believe the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation will announce the program, and the details will be made available at that point. I think that the options that have been expressed by the members so far and by the minister are options that are worthy of exploration.
It certainly is the case, and it has been the case in the past, for as long as I can remember, that the Yukon government, as a developer, would try to encourage the lowest cost lots available, recognizing, of course, those basic standards we negotiate through development agreements with the municipality. So, we allow them to set the standard. We simply come in and do the development.
If private developers come in, they have developed, they do and they can develop to a different standard, but a standard that, nevertheless, has to be accepted by the City of Whitehorse, presumably, if the City of Whitehorse has clear zoning rules that will dictate those standards.
I don't see anything wrong with the approach being taken at all. I agree with the Member for Klondike. I think we should be pursuing lowest cost options for lot development.
Mr. Phillips: I don't disagree with that, that we should always be trying to reduce the cost of land development.
But, the question that I asked the minister - and, I may as well ask the Finance minister, or the Government Leader, the same question - is, I guess, a laudable concept, but how do you protect the investment of those people who bought the higher cost lots - y
oung individuals who have bought trailers and bought the lots at the going price, and now you're going to put, presumably, in the near future, a bunch more lots on the market at a much lower cost.
Initially, people get into trailer parks because of the lower cost to start with, and they use it as a stepping stone to get into a larger home in the future. So, how do you protect the investment of those people who bought that mobile home?
I know that when we were in Cabinet, we were faced with the issue many times when lots were put up for sale, and even larger lots and country residential lots, about what the cost of the lots would be.
I know that the Real Estate Association spoke out very strongly against reducing the cost of the lots dramatically, because, again, it affects the equity that everyone else has in their lot out there if it's a similar type of lot with a similar size and similar services.
So, that's the concern I have. How do you protect those individuals if you want to put... I guess maybe what the minister is saying is that there won't be similar services, they won't have curbs and gutters, and they won't have sidewalks and they won't have all kinds of othe things.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The minister is saying, "You get what you pay for." So, I guess what he's saying is that we'll have some streets in Whitehorse that are gravel and maybe don't have garbage pickup and don't have curbs and don't have sidewalks and don't have other things, I guess, to lower the price of the services. I don't know. Maybe the minister can tell us what he's talking about.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I think that certainly, by the member opposite's own admission, there is a desire for people to move up. What we are doing here is we are going to be filling a much needed void, I think, that has been around for a while, and that void has been expressed at the open house, and, in part, I think it helped this government get elected, because we started to take notice and we said that we would do something.
Mr. Chair, we are doing something. We are working with the Yukon Housing Corporation to talk about just how it is that we can do it, and what we are going to do will be announced shortly. So, we are doing it with them. We are not here to take away anybody's equity. We are certainly not here to do that at all. We are certainly here though to fill the void. Not all people in Whitehorse and Yukon are so lucky as to be able to afford the down payment on a home. Many people I know and personal friends can say that they might live in sub-standard, because right now their trailers are not really ready to be moved and are not available to be moved. There are standards in there that have to be negotiated.
All these points are going to be brought forward, and they are going to be talked to, and talked about, and portrayed quite candidly within the paper. That is what we're going for. We're actually filling a void, a hole that has been left open, and now we are making a move toward that. That is not to take away from the young couple - and I believe the member's own example was to buy a trailer. And then maybe they'll buy a bigger trailer, and then maybe they'll buy maybe a small home and on as you go through life. I mean, we've all certainly been able to do that and certainly appreciate the opportunity.
Well, that starts from this level. What we're doing here now is we're starting from a level to fill a void, and that void is there. All members of this House must admit that, that it is there, and through Yukon Housing and the Department of Community and Transportation Services coming together and identifying that need, we are certainly taking the opportunity, or will be taking the opportunity, and the time and patience and good, common sense to fill that void.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a short break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with line item lands and property assessments.
Mr. Phillips: Before the break, Mr. Chair, we were talking about providing lower cost lots for trailers, and I made a couple of statements when I led into my questions about commitments made by the Government Leader about lower cost lots. I said he made the commitments in the campaign and he also made the commitments in the budget speech. The Government Leader tried one of his age-old tactics in this House where he jumped to his feet and virtually threatened this member by saying that, "The member didn't do his homework. The member obviously - there's not a mention in the budget speech. I read it twice, and there's no mention in the budget speech of anything about lower cost homes for trailer owners."
Well, Mr. Chair, on page 16 of A Better Way, "The NDP government, led by Piers McDonald, keep a variety of land types in supply ahead of demand, including lower cost lots for low and middle income earners." He clearly said that, but the Member for Faro said just now that the first year we were debating the budget it wasn't in the budget speech. Well, lo and behold.
I think the Government Leader should maybe go back upstairs to his office and have somebody read the budget speech to him, but this time he should listen because it is in his budget speech and it's on page 17 at the very bottom of the budget speech.
You know, the Member for Faro said did I finally look at it. Well, that's the tactic the NDP like to play. I had heard the member say it. I heard the Government Leader say it and then the Government Leader rose in the House to try and embarrass members saying he never said any such thing. Well, Mr. Speaker, he didn't speak the truth when he said that I didn't do my homework - quite clearly.
And he said, and I'll quote from page 17 of the budget speech, "In that regard, I'm pleased to announce a major new affordable housing initiative to address the needs of many mobile-home residents." What is that if he didn't say it? Mr. Chair, he did say it.
On page 18, the Government Leader talked about the cost of land again. "It will deal with a wide variety of issues, including health and safety concerns, availability, tenure and cost of land and access to financing and purchase of land."
Again, next paragraph, "The government is also prepared to enter into partnerships with municipal governments and First Nations in the private sector and individuals to expand options available to mobile-home residents."
Three times he talked about mobile home residents and affordable land for mobile-home residents. So, I did do my homework.
It's the Government Leader who didn't do his homework, Mr. Chair.
Now, to get back to the issue at hand with the minister, there's an example that I'll use about providing much lower cost land and much lower cost commodities that has a great effect on people. This last January, there was a concert in Vancouver - The Three Tenors - and the tickets were very expensive, and in the last dying weeks, the promoters decided that they would put on a reduced sale of the tickets. There was a near riot in Vancouver of people who had paid a premium for it and had made an investment. Some had scraped and saved and put as much money away as they possibly could. Even if they couldn't really afford to go, it was something they saved for, and then all of a sudden, the tickets were a quarter of the value they were when they were put on in the first place.
That's what I'm talking about when it comes to land. If you put land on at the lowest cost that we can put it on the market for, and then the government turns around and interferes with the marketplace by lowering the cost that much more, it creates problems for those people who have made an investment - for young people, for young men and women who have made an investment - and that's the concern I have. That's the concern I have about the approach that the member is taking, and then I see that what the Government Leader was really talking about is doing away with curbs and gutters and streets and sidewalks and pavement and anything that anyone else in Whitehorse has. He is creating a lower cost subdivision, which is generally what he's doing within the City of Whitehorse, and that creates problems within itself as well.
What I would like to know is if that is the approach that the government is recommending to the city - that we create subdivisions without any of the other amenities that other people within the city limits have now? Is that the proposal that the member has?
Chair: Order please. I believe that the member used the phrase, "didn't speak the truth". I would like to remind all members to keep their remarks parliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I find the comparison that the member opposite made ridiculous - absolutely ridiculous, if I can echo his leader's words, because that is what he says when he gets very frustrated. I must say that I am very frustrated here with the member opposite.
As I look at the member opposite and see the lifestyle, if I may, and the way the member is and conducts himself, then the member has absolutely no idea. I certainly do not like the member opposite to be referring to people in need as lower class. A person in need is not lower class. I, myself, have been in needy situations. Does that make me lower class? You are saying "lower class subdivisions", my friend. When you say, "lower class subdivisions", do you mean that the rich and mighty are going to fit into lower class subdivisions? No, you don't. You mean lower class people, so have the cajones to say it as it is. When you start to compare going to a concert to developing land, well ...
Chair: Order please. I would like to remind all members to address all their remarks through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: When that member opposite compares something that many people take as a luxury - to go to a concert - and talks about that, and the development of people wanting to have homes, well, then, I just can't see it. It just certainly shows where this member comes from. It certainly shows why my government is in power now, because we do feel for the needy. We do feel for the poor. We do work overtime so that we might be able to bring into conjunction an opportunity for those people to raise up their standard of life, at least to have a little bit of certainty.
The examples that I'm using are from people when they were moved out of the city trailer court and bounced all over to different trailer courts, now their homes are becoming sub-standard. What are we going to do? Kick them out and put them on the street with other homeless people? No. Certainly, the member opposite might be desirous of doing that, but certainly not this member and nobody on this side of the House, and I even beg to differ that others on that side of the House would not be in that situation.
So when the member makes those comparisons, it is appalling, absolutely appalling. When the member opposite says that my Government Leader is threatening him, well, we should all just give our heads a shake, because what is the threat? Is it a physical threat or is it a threat against society? Is it a threat where the member opposite believes that there should be standards, there should be lower class, a little bit higher, you know, just a little bit higher, and a little bit higher, then, all of the sudden you get to middle class and you're on the way up. Is that what the member opposite is alluding to?
Well, certainly, then I do think that we should look at that, put it into context, and again, I suggest that the member opposite does not feel anything in his heart, or their hearts for the disadvantaged people.
When this government goes to make a move to help the disadvantaged people and bring those disadvantaged people just a little bit of security within their homes, the member opposite fights against it and rebels against it.
Mr. Chair, I've got to say that I find that absolutely astonishing that the members opposite, of the Official Opposition, would be wanting to debate A Better Way as compared to their - you know, for the life of me, I can't even remember what their document was called, and I don't imagine many people can, because that debate has been done already. That debate was said and done on September 30th. That's when that debate was over. Now, we are implementing A Better Way, and doggone it, it is going to be a better way, because we are going to go that direction. I'm just simply still amazed, and certainly thankful that the member opposite will keep showing me the different sides, because I think that is what is definitely needed for all Yukoners - to see the other side.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, what a bunch of bunk. The minister just doesn't get it. The minister just doesn't get it. He doesn't realize that most people, when they get homes, or build homes, or buy homes, start small and build their way up, hoping one day to own a bigger home. Most people have those aspirations. I started in a log cabin, and I have a nicer home now, and I worked at it. I still owe money; I still am working hard to make my payments, and what I'd be concerned about is if a government stepped into the free market system and lowered the standards, and lowered the prices that would take away all the hard work and equity that I'd put into my home, whether I was down at the level where I'd just started or I was a little further up. The minister doesn't understand that. That minister might have started a few years ago in his home, and he started at the bottom, and he worked hard to build what he has.
I've never heard so much bunk from a minister in my life. People should sit down and listen to this debate.
Chair: Order. Order please.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister to answer one question in this whole debate. Since he's been in this House as the minister, we've heard a bunch of airy-fairy words. He's never answered a question. I want the minister to stand on his feet and tell us how he's going to develop this program and how it's not going to affect other individuals who have purchased mobile homes in the last few years - how it's not going to affect them financially, and how he's going to ensure the protection of their equity that they have in their homes. How is the minister going to do that? Those people aren't at the upper level. Those are people that got into starter homes and are concerned about whether or not they can still move up somewhere down the road, if that's what they wish to do. But they don't want to see this minister, and this government, eat away any equity that they have in their home.
So maybe the minister can get on his feet and tell us what type of subdivisions he's going to produce in this territory, what kind of services are going to be in those subdivisions and maybe what kind of a cost there'll be to people trying to purchase those lots?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think we certainly see a difference of political philosophy, not only between the government side of the House and the Opposition, but also between members in the Opposition with each other. That includes members in the same party.
Now, the member brought up the budget speech and, in quoting from the budget speech, he said that I had made reference in the budget speech to lower cost lots. That's not what this budget speech says at all. Affordable housing doesn't make any reference to lower cost lots at all.
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Now, the member is calling me a liar again. Mr. Chair, this member, I've got to tell you, has got no credibility with me at all, no credibility with anybody on this side of the House, and he didn't even have the decency to come in and recognize the fact that, number one, this budget speech, even though I do agree with the principle of lower cost lots, does not make reference to lower cost lots. It refers to affordable housing, which, when the program is announced, the member will see that affordable housing has a lot to do with being able to purchase the mobile home itself.
To get this member to agree to that, or to acknowledge the fact that he's made a mistake, is probably far beyond this person's capability.
He also mentioned before the break when he was on his little rant that the government had already announced this affordable-home program and, consequently, we should have all the details out. He had the chance to go back in the break and find the reference to where we had announced this program. He obviously tried, probably tried, couldn't find it, came back in and tried to make the best of a situation by going on the attack.
Well, Mr. Chair, I don't appeal to this member. I stopped doing that well over a year and a half ago. I appeal to the people listening to the debate, listening to what the government is trying to do, and I appeal to them directly, because I will not and cannot - I have no chance of - drumming reason into this particular member at all.
The whole point of affordable housing and affordable land, and even lower cost lots, is to ensure that they're developed at the lowest cost possible. That's a principle that I agree with and I support wholeheartedly. Now, if the member is suggesting - I won't even talk to that member; I'll talk to the Member for Klondike. I want to talk to somebody who might understand and who might listen to the reasoning.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'm trying to do my best.
The point of lower cost land is that in any case when the government develops lots, when the government finances lots, the lots come in at development cost or market value. Market value means that you do not offend the market. If the development costs are lower, it'll be because there is less equity developed into the lot.
Now, there are some lots out there where it may well be the case that the subdivision has pavement but no sidewalks. It may be the case that the services - electrical, cable TV, et cetera - may be over the ground and not under the ground. Those things all have an impact on the cost of a lot.
Now, if there can be an agreement struck with the City of Whitehorse or any municipality that allows for that kind of development to take place, then what it does do is it puts land into the affordability range for a lot of people in this territory, people who would otherwise have to pay a premium price for the lots available.
Clearly, surely, that ought to be at least one of the objectives for any responsible government that has more than simple money making at heart. Clearly, not everyone in this territory is able to afford a top-of-the-range lot, particularly when they're trying to move their mobile home out of a mobile-home park and on to a lot in the first place.
So, it's not simply a matter, Mr. Chair, of buying some trailer in a trailer park and then buying up to a small home and then progressing through to expensive homes in affluent subdivisions. The problem that we face here is that there are mobile homes in this city right now - there are hundreds of mobile homes in this city right now - that cannot leave mobile home parks and the people cannot afford to do anything other than stay in their mobile home.
So, they want to have an ownership option and that's what we should be trying to provide. If we can provide the lowest cost ownership option, surely that ought to be at least a partial objective for any humanitarian government. You're not giving anybody any special breaks. You're not giving anybody a subsidy; you're charging a price for the lot that was associated with its development cost.
Lower the market price. So, you're not offending market. You're not giving anybody a break, but you are trying to bring in lots at the lowest possible cost. Now, it seems to be a secret, but that has been an objective by the Yukon government forever - for at least the last 15 years - and I think that should be an objective today, and I believe that is an objective that is worthy of our support. If the members feel differently, then I would invite them to say so. I know one member feels differently, but if they all feel differently, I'd like them to say so. I'd like them to say it as clearly as possible, because I need the handout for my constituency. I've been around long enough to know what is good and bad news for people living in the mobile-home parks. They will want to hear it directly from this Legislature if they can.
So, the point of the program, which is to be announced, in general terms, is to bring affordability to living circumstances of people who are living in accommodation that is often below code and needs upgrading, and it also affords people an opportunity to engage in home ownership - not just the building ownership but the building and land ownership. A lot of people who live in mobile-home parks right now are of the view that they are renters with heavy baggage. They are even less free to move from their circumstances than people who rent an apartment, because when they need to leave, they've got to take their furniture and the mobile home together, and that's a pretty heavy duty problem for people to face, particularly when, demographically, a lot of the people living in those circumstances are lower income people, and it is obviously something that should be addressed if we can address it.
So, I think the initiative that the government is taking is long overdue. I think there's going to be an enormously positive response in the mobile-home parks in this city, and if we give it the kind of support that it's due, then I believe that the people who are living in mobile-home parks will understand and acknowledge that the government and the Legislature does have their interests at heart.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to ask the minister then, if they proceed with a program such as this, I suppose they have to approach the City of Whitehorse and have the official community plan amended and select an area in Whitehorse where they want to put this new subdivision with many fewer services.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Watson Lake says, "up by my house". Well, there are some people that might be concerned about that kind of development in an area, and that's why you have official community plans, so when people are building in an area they have an idea of whether they are close to schools, close to stores, close to main highways, a greenbelt in the back. They want to know that stuff. That is why you have an official community plan, for the information of the Member for Watson Lake.
I would like to ask the minister if he has talked to City of Whitehorse officials about his official plan to build a subdivision with lower standards than are presently accepted. What kind of standards did they talk about and what kind of area are they looking at to establish this particular subdivision?
I know the minister is getting advice from about four different directions there, but I would like the minister to try and answer the question. This is something that I think the minister should be well aware of, because it is officially in A Better Way and was announced in the budget speech. The government was supposed to be ready to go with this one. I would like to know answers to the questions I asked the minister.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As much as it is painful for me to once again indicate to the member -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the member says he doesn't like talking to me. Well, I can certainly acknowledge that I am sure that the feeling is mutual. Nevertheless, it pains me to have to say, once again, that the program is not announced. There has been an announcement made that there will be an announcement in this sitting, hopefully.
We still have 20 minutes in which I could get that message across. If that message can get across this evening, then I think it will time well spent.
The member mentioned, in his characterization of this program, that the services are going to be much less, so already he is trying to characterize the debate as one where there is a subdivision with no services and he will probably try to characterize it as some kind of eyesore, and is probably leading down the track that it is going to be difficult to place these subdivisions anywhere in the City of Whitehorse. I would point out that there are a number of subdivisions in Whitehorse already that have lower standards, probably a lot lower than we would be proposing in such a program right now.
Yes, there have been discussions with the City of Whitehorse, and there have been discussions at the officials level, and at the political level, which talked about development of country residential lots, and mobile-home lots within the city boundaries of Whitehorse.
If the land, of course, is not zoned to accommodate this kind of land development, then indeed, there has to be changes to the community plan to accommodate this kind of land development.
There's a lot of open space in Whitehorse right now that is slated by the planners to be residential land, that is not yet zoned for that purpose and, consequently, no matter what we do, or no matter what the City of Whitehorse does for land development, whether it be top-of-the-line lots, or whether it be mobile-home lots, or whether it be country residential lots, or any kind of lots, it will require a zoning change, and that's something that we have to bear in mind as we go.
Mr. Phillips: Let the record show that the minister who is responsible for this program and for these initiatives is not answering the questions; whether he can answer them or not, I don't know, but the Government Leader keeps coming to the rescue. And, I'm not particularly too fond of speaking to that member either; the feeling's mutual I think.
I'd like to ask the minister responsible, again, to try and answer this one. Maybe he can give us his ideas of where a subdivision like this would fit in, where he'd see it fitting in, whether it would have sewer and water lines provided to it, and those kinds of things. What kind of services would he see it having, and maybe in what area of Whitehorse he would see it being developed in.
The previous speaker mentioned that there are subdivisions now that would have much lower standards. My question to the minister responsible is: are those subdivisions now that have much lower standards in the official community plan and where are they, if they are?
Maybe, if they seem to know what the standards are, they could tell us what the standards are going to be for these new lots.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I guess, first of all before I start, I've just got to mention the fact that when the members opposite see something that is driven by teamwork and that involves the caucus at large, I think it's very disappointing for them because I do not think that that was a principle that they had ever used.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: So, I certainly must say that it is very irksome to them to look at maybe too little, too late. For them to be rising to the defence of the poor again, I find that absolutely ludicrous, and for them to mix that up with the initiative that my government has when we come to provide low-cost options for the poor - I guess I should not be saying the poor, but for the needy - definitely for the needy - and maybe by choice in some cases, certainly, it's very disappointing.
Now, if I could just say that everything has to be discussed. We did say that. It has to be negotiated with the city. It has to be agreed upon. It has to fall through the developmental guidelines. All these things are, I'm sure, within the grasp of the members opposite.
It's floating in the circle somewhere. Maybe you should sporadically reach the hand up in the air and see what you grab. It just might come down and insert a little bit of common sense into the members opposite. And so, again, teamwork does different things. Don't be ashamed of teamwork. Teamwork got this world to where it is, and certainly this party to where it is, and it's going to continue to be a thriving principle of this party.
Again, I reiterate that this has to be discussed, this has to be negotiated with the city, and that is exactly what we're going to do. It certainly seems to me that the principle of NIMBY has arrived. Well, certainly the principle of NIMBY - not in my back yard; of course, that is the principle of NIMBY - has always got to be brought out and done in a forthright way, an upfront manner. Well, doggone it, that's exactly what we're going to do.
Mr. Phillips: I don't know what the minister just said, Mr. Chair. But, anyway, he never answered my question, that's for sure. I asked about three or four questions, but I'll ask another question of the minister: since they haven't discussed this with the city, when they do, if the city says it's not interested in creating subdivisions with these different standards that don't meet the existing standards, is the government going to be prepared then to drop the idea, or is it going to go ahead on its own - setting up its own subdivision - since it made a commitment in A Better Way and also spoke about it in the budget address and said that, although it's not developed, it's in the budget address and that we're-all-ready-to-go-but-we-don't-know-what-we're-going-with-yet kind of approach?
Are they prepared to go it alone if the city is not interested?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, there have been initial discussions at the administrative level, at the bureaucratic level, with the city of which knowledge that the member opposite might... Oh, I forgot, they didn't operate on the principle of team work. Right, so I better explain it to him.
I do not believe that you've ever been the Minister of C&TS. Has he ever been the Minister of C&TS? No. Well, then I'll have to explain to him and I will.
There are ongoing relations with the city in existence. I'm certainly attempting to work just a little bit harder with the city and -
I'm sorry, the member opposite, you wanted to say something?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan:
Thank you very much. I certainly appreciate that tongue-in-cheek. I think if the member opposite had come to a technical briefing the member opposite would not be wasting the time and the taxpayers' money, and certainly my time. I was elected here to do things in a better way and, doggone it, that is exactly what I'm going to do: things in a better way.
So, if the member opposite wants to heckle all he wants, well go get right at her because I'm certainly here for the long run. I'm a born-and-raised Yukoner and I'm going to be here for the long run. I will not be lifting my butt to any other place. Pardon me, maybe "butt" is not parliamentary and I will retract that.
Now, the question - yes, certainly. Let me just say that we have met with the city at the bureaucratic level and - oh, he hasn't been a Minister of C&TS - again I have to reiterate that. Then I will let him know that I do have ongoing meetings with the mayor and council of the City of Whitehorse and one is scheduled to come up soon. Of course, this will be on the agenda.
Mr. Phillips: I think the minister should be careful, Mr. Chair, in who he criticizes in this House of not understanding the C&TS budget, because I think records could clearly show - and all members in this House that sat here and listened to the debate over the last three or four days - that this minister knew very little about his department and, in fact, rarely answers the question. And then when the minister brings a legislative return back into this House, and he's questioned on the legislative return, which he tabled, he doesn't even know that. Talk about doing your homework. Maybe we do need to end the session, Mr. Chair, so the minister can get back to his desk and learn a little bit more about his department.
I'd like the minister to answer the questions that I asked him earlier about his concept of where he sees this kind of subdivision going, what kind of services this subdivision may or may not have, which others have. Maybe the minister should just try to answer the question instead of making big speeches. All I want is an answer to the question. It's your program. It's in your budget. I'd just like the minister to tell us what it's all about.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it does give me great pleasure to stand here and talk about my budget.
Let me tell you firstly that relationships are built on trust. You certainly have to work with your bureaucracy and not pick on the bureaucracy. You must put your trust and faith in the bureaucracy and understand that the bureaucracy is certainly here for the betterment of all Yukoners. In my heart, I do believe that.
Now, seeing as the members opposite do not trust the bureaucracy - never have trusted the bureaucracy, which has certainly come moreso into the front - let me just tell them a little bit about the decision-making process that my government embarks upon.
My government does not make unilateral decisions. My government -
Chair: Order please. On a point of order, Mr. Phillips.
Point of order
Mr. Phillips: A point of order, Mr. Chair. I'd like an answer to my question. I didn't ask anything about the bureaucracy. I asked about the minister's concept of the subdivision. Would he please answer the question?
Chair: There is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to just let the members opposite know that we do not make unilateral decisions, that we do forecast. We actually do some visionary type of work of what we would like to see Yukon be in the future. We do that not by daydreams or night dreams, but we certainly do that with input from people, and they build upon that. That is called building upon trust. The people that work and do develop and implement that are the bureaucracy.
This is not a unilateral decision. The decision will be made in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse, and the partners that should be affected and will be affected will be a part of that decision-making process.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister could put this building to excellent use.
Arising out of the bits and pieces of the discussion this evening that were relevant, I have some concerns.
The Government Leader made the statement that the sale price of lots would either be market value, or development cost. Now, which is it going to be? Is it going to be market value or development cost?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: For the information of the minister, they are two separate and distinct...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We will have to, of course, recoup our development costs and we'll certainly do that, and we will be offering the product and the lot to the consumer at the lowest possible rate, at the lower rate.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we've gone around in a complete circle and we're not even a wheel.
Land costs in the Yukon are driven by government. All land in the Yukon has been pretty well developed by the Government of Yukon. There is very little private land available and very little private development of land, unless it is acquired from the government. The price of land in the Yukon has virtually doubled in the last decade. These prices have created an inflated market when you go to purchase land.
So, when I hear the Government Leader mentions market value or development costs - and the Government Leader repeated it twice, so it must be very, very clear in his mind that it could be either one way or the other - what is the difference? What is the difference? Which one is the minister going to pursue? Is he going to be selling lots at market value or development costs? They are separate. They are very separate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it does give me pleasure to stand here and to be saying that we'll be selling them at the development cost. It's very similar normally, but these will be offered. I just have to say that, because we are looking to fill a void that is there on behalf of less fortunate people.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record show, Mr. Chair, that the Government Leader did mention twice that these lots would be sold at market value or development cost. Now, they are separate. They are distinct. I'm on the record as saying that I want to see land developed at the lowest possible cost to the consumer. That's where I'm coming from. I believe that's where we're going if we do it correctly, but in order to address this issue and produce these lots at a lower cost than what the previous lots were developed at, the minister has to omit something in the rate base. Something has to be removed. Now, what is the minister going to be removing, and is he going to be deviating from the Whitehorse guidelines? They're more than guidelines, they're set criteria for the development of land. These are enshrined in policy for the government of Whitehorse. What is the minister going to change?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that you report progress.
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: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 21, 1997:
Oil and gas royalties: sharing agreement with Yukon First Nations (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 616