Monday, April 28, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Deputy Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker.
Deputy Speaker takes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will ask all members to bow their heads in a moment of silence and reflection.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Workers' Day of Mourning
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am rising, in my capacity as the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, in 1991, a national day of mourning for workers killed or injured on the job was established in federal legislation. Since that time, April 28 has been set aside as a day to mourn the dead and recognize workers with disabilities arising from their workplace. The statistics are alarming. Each year, more than 1,000 Canadian workers are killed on the job. On average, a Canadian worker is killed every two hours of each working day.
Last year, in the Yukon, four workers were killed while on the job and 53 workers received permanent impairment awards. These awards are given to workers who have suffered a permanent loss of function.
The numbers illustrate that it is time to rededicate ourselves to the goal of making Canada's workplace safer, and right here in the Yukon.
I'm pleased to inform the House that the working group for the occupational health and safety and regulation review is in the process of being re-established and that substantial work has already been completed.
The first aid and radiation protection regulations have been approved by the board and will be coming before Cabinet shortly. There will be a continuing review of existing regulations, including mine safety, occupational health, blasting and general safety.
I think it's very important coming from some - and from many other members in this House - who have talked to me about this and people who've been out in the workforce, that we do recognize that people do give their lives on a daily basis and do put themselves before some serious injury and hazard when they do go and try to put food on the table to feed their families.
I think it is very important that we recognize, in the day of mourning, those sacrifices, and I would ask if members would join me now in a moment of silence to remember those who have died on the job.
Moment of silence observed
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, I rise also in memory of all Yukon workers who have died on the job. While some workplace deaths, such as occurred at Springhill coal mine a few decades ago or at Westray coal mine a few years ago, have caught the public attention, we have to also think of and respect the memory of those countless workers who have died without public attention, and we have to appreciate that there are many who have been injured or disabled and left to suffer in silence.
I have met many of the latter during my four years as an elected member, and the suffering and family disruptions that workplace accidents cause have been brought home. Those of us comfortably working in offices must continue to be aware of the safety and health concerns of those working in more hazardous environments.
Mr. Phillips: I too would like to join with the minister and others in recognition and remembrance of workers who were killed, injured or disabled on the job in the past year. As the minister said, over 1,000 workers each year are killed as a result of industrial accidents, and thousands suffer from injury resulting in permanent disablement, and many more suffer from health problems from exposure to toxic substances in the workplace.
It's important that we take time to remember the sacrifice that others have made in order to work and make a living.
Deputy Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a report about the evaluation of the Canada/Yukon funding agreement on the development, enhancement and implementation of French language services for the period 1993-1998.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Tombstone Park study area
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to advise members that, consistent with our election commitments, the Yukon government has identified the area it wants to study as a potential territorial park in the Tombstone-Blackstone River area, northeast of Dawson City.
This is significant evidence of this government's commitment to setting aside parks and protected areas for future generations.
Maps of the proposed areas were tabled with the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation on Friday in response to their request for a special management area as part of their final agreement negotiations.
The 2,300-square-kilometre study area is representative of the western portion of the Mackenzie Mountains ecological region. Careful consideration was given to a wide range of ecological and cultural resource values, as well as mineral prospects, before this study was proposed.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that the study area may not necessarily correspond directly with the size of the final park. It will become the focus of two years of study and public consultation with interested parties to define the actual park boundary. Consultation will be initiated as soon as an agreement is reached with the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation.
Within the overall study area, which will be formally noted on all maps used by the federal and territorial governments, the Yukon government is requesting an additional interim staking withdrawal order for core area protection. This would bring the total area withdrawn from staking to approximately 720 square kilometres.
Mr. Speaker, identifying this study area and actively pursuing the additional withdrawal order will give supporters of a park in this area some assurance that existing resource values will be protected while consultation and study proceed. It will also offer greater certainty to mining companies who will now know what areas are off limits and what areas might end up within the boundaries of a Tombstone Park.
It is important to note that the procedure followed in this instance arises from very specific commitments made by the government and mandated by the people of the Yukon in the last territorial election.
The procedures for identifying the study areas and providing interim protection for future park proposals will be developed through public participation in the development of the protected areas strategy announced earlier this month.
Mr. Speaker, this is one very big step toward the establishment of a full system of protected areas in the Yukon. I look forward to the involvement and cooperation of all interests in defining the final boundaries of the Yukon's first major park.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, this ministerial statement raises very, very many questions as to what the government is doing and what direction they are taking. First of all, I want to say that the study area that they are proposing to study is to study it again, because a study was just completed when the first park boundaries were established. It was a very large study area, and in the information I have, there was a mineral assessment done at the same time.
The other question is that we are setting aside approximately 2,300 square kilometres for a study area, but we're only withdrawing 720 square kilometres from staking. Now I don't know what the rationale for that is. Maybe the minister can explain on his feet unless the government has already made a decision on the size of the park.
Another concern I have, Mr. Speaker, is the signal that this will send to mining and exploration companies around the world. I believe that this is very, very bad timing with our Faro mine down and exploration dollars being projected by the Chamber of Mines to be less than half of the $55 million that was spent last year.
The other question I have for the minister: is the minister going to be requesting a withdrawal of staking for other protected areas that are being proposed in the statement that he made on April 27th, 1997? And furthermore, Mr. Speaker, was the Chamber of Mines consulted, and were they supportive of this staking withdrawal?
Ms. Duncan: Our caucus places a high priority on conducting extensive consultations on the establishment of parks and protected areas. We are pleased to see that this consultation is to take place. We believe that all stakeholders should be involved in the process.
That being said, there are a number of questions that arise from the ministerial statement.
We are concerned with the two-year time frame - two years of study and consultation to define the actual park boundary. Why was this amount of time selected and when will an actual decision be made regarding the final boundaries?
The size of the park is still at issue. Can the minister give any indication as to what the size of the park will ultimately be?
There are mining claims in the study area that have been staked. What is the plan for the existing areas that are staked?
I'm interested in hearing the minister's response.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There has been a lot of work done in the Tombstone area in regards to natural features. There has been work done in recreational habitat assessments. There have been mineral assessments done. Basically, we feel that, with the amount of work that has been done out there, we have a basic understanding of the ecology of the area.
We have used a number of our departments in putting together this proposed study area. We feel that we have covered off a lot of the interest that comes out from those that support the environment. We feel that we have covered off the interest of those that have interest in mining in the area.
The way the map is laid out, it excludes a couple of areas where staking did take place, so that won't be within the study area.
The question was asked, why the smaller size for the withdrawal? If you look at the map once it has been distributed, you will see that there is a core area that was agreed to by governments and First Nations. There is also an area that was mapped out as an interest area from the First Nations. We took that area and used it for the withdrawal and mapped out the rest for a more intensive study area to involve all people, including the mining industry. They will be fully involved over the next little while in developing the boundaries of the park.
We have had talks with the Chamber of Mines, and the mining industry is certainly supportive of protected areas. It gives them certainty as to where they can and cannot be mining. I think this is necessary when we're looking at a major commitment for protected areas.
We believe that two years is sufficient time to do the study. We think we can do it quite a bit faster than that. We will initiate public consultation as soon as there is an agreement with First Nations in that area and we believe that will happen very soon.
We don't know what size the park will be. The study area that's mapped out doesn't mean that will be the size; it means that this is what we're looking at and we hope that staking does not happen. It could be a much smaller area than what is mapped out or close to that. We'll see from the consultation with the public.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, management agreement with YECL
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.
On Friday, April 1st, at a New Democratic caucus luncheon, the minister gave an address entitled "Powering up for the next five years." I hope the minister wasn't referring to our continually spiraling electrical rates in the Yukon when he made that statement. However, my question to the minister today is about the management agreement that is to be reached with Alberta Power by April 30th. That date is fast approaching. We only have two days left.
So, I would like to ask the minister if he's prepared to advise this House as to whether or not a management agreement with Alberta Power will be reached by April 30th, and if not, what will be the new deadline for reaching an agreement?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I can assure the member that our commitment to bill relief, in response to his preamble, is rock solid and we proved that with our extension of bill relief, which the Yukon Party had no intention of doing in December, shortly after the election. We're also working on the rate increase issue and Cabinet has been examining options and will be prepared to respond to whatever the Utilities Board may determine after their hearings on May 12th.
With regard to the issue of the management contract, I am only one of the parties to be briefed. The Energy Corporation's president and team is negotiating with Alberta Power. The board is also, as I understand it, one of the parties to be briefed.
My latest information, as of this morning, is that they're still in negotiations. April 30th is only one of the deadlines. There is also the June 30th deadline with regard to the franchising aspect of the potential arrangement. So, this is one of the hurdles. It hasn't come to pass yet. They're still in the midst of negotiations.
Mr. Ostashek: That's my concern, because the goal posts seem to keep moving.
We were told, quite clearly, by this minister and by the president of the corporation when he was in here, that if the April 30th deadline wasn't met, the June deadline didn't mean anything. I'm not clear from the minister whether the deadline has been moved or it hasn't been moved, and I think Yukoners are very concerned about this.
My supplementary to the minister is whether or not he can advise this House if the sale of the $4 million worth of Yukon Energy Corporation assets to Alberta Power is still on the table, and whether or not the government has consulted with Yukon First Nations about this sale, in accordance with the terms of the umbrella final agreement, and if he has the support of the First Nations for this sale.
Hon. Mr. Harding: There is Council for Yukon First Nations membership on the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation. They are involved in discussions, in as much as the minister is, in terms of being briefed on the situation. The goal posts have not moved at all. I take issue with the member's statement. The April 30th deadline is still there.
There is also a second deadline of June the 30th. The first deadline is April 30th and discussions are still underway and have to be met. I've said all along that the deal would only be acceptable if it's a good deal, and the basic premises that were outlined to the member originally are still on the table with regard to the distribution of assets, as well as the commitment that those assets would be very invested in the asset base, in new targeted infrastructure to benefit Yukon ratepayers and power consumers.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister is well aware that some Yukon communities, such as Dawson City, are not happy with the proposed agreement, especially, to sell Yukon Energy Corporation assets to Alberta Power.
I would like to ask the minister if he can advise this House if it is the intention of Yukon Energy Corporation to proceed with the sale of these assets, regardless of what kind of criticism comes from the Yukon public?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member's preamble, again, is wrong, and I have to stand and correct him.
The board approved, by vote, the agreement in principle. Negotiations are underway to conclude that agreement in principle, by April 30th.
It's the government's position, certainly, that if there's not a good agreement there, it should not be accepted. I think that's consistent with the board's determination with regard to this particular issue.
Some people have expressed concerns about the agreement in principle. A lot of it is because they have, for whatever reason, not all the information to examine the arrangement. We have made efforts, and I've asked the Energy Corporation - and I've done it myself - to give more informed knowledge to the public about the potential agreement in principle, and the potential agreement. Certainly, I'm trying to let the people who have expressed concerns, such as the Mayor of Dawson, what is actually entailed in the agreement, and my contention with some of the assertions that he's made.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, TIA rate increase resolution
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation as well.
I attended the TIA conference this weekend in Watson Lake, and the tourism industry expressed very strong concerns about Yukon's escalating power rates. They passed a resolution, Mr. Speaker, where they say, "Be it resolved that the Government of the Yukon freeze the Yukon's electrical rates and not allow the 20 percent rate increases requested by the Yukon Energy Corporation."
I'd like to ask the minister responsible for that corporation, what response does the minister have to the TIA resolution?
Hon. Mr. Harding: When I get the resolution that was passed by TIA, I'll be more than happy to respond to TIA. With regard to the member, I know better than to take his representations at face value. They don't often, as he states them, turn out to be the case.
With regard to the member's assertion about us escalating power rates, I would say to him that I wish that the Yukon Party would have taken some action back in 1992-93 when they came before the Yukon public with a 58 percent power increase. They didn't have the vision or the foresight to anticipate any rate stabilization measures for when the Faro mine came off the system again, as it did this year.
We committed to extending bill relief. We've done that. By the same token, the members are flip-flopping all over the place - on one hand, they're talking about the insolvency of the corporation and then, on the other hand - they seem to be any way - stating that no action should be taken to deal with that situation. We're very mindful of the impact of power rate increases. We've taken action already to mitigate them through extended bill relief and we intend, once the Utilities Board rules on May 12th - whatever they may rule - to take other action that we can to mitigate the impact of whatever rate increase might be approved by the Utilities Board.
Mr. Phillips: I sent the proposed resolution over to the minister so he can see that it is a resolution from the tourism industry. I know that minister might find it difficult to even accept that, because he's always been against tourism as an industry in this territory and he has spoken up loud and clear on that many times while he was in Opposition.
I want the minister to appreciate the gravity of the proposed power rate hikes on tourism businesses in the territory. Rates are already set. People have already booked their reservations. They cannot increase the cost to these people who are already coming. Yukon tourism is facing tough competition and every added cost makes it tougher.
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like the minister to honour his commitment in A Better Way, where he says the Yukon government has the power to keep electrical rates affordable, and tell the tourism industry that he will not allow the electrical rates to go up, regardless of what the decision is that is made by the Yukon Utilities Board.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member has bootlegged in some erroneous information. The commitment in A Better Way was to take action to stabilize rates. The whole issue was surrounding the continuance of the bill relief program that the Yukon Party wanted to kill. We said we would continue on with bill relief. We did that in December. I understand, very well, the impact on small business, and I understood the impact on small business when the Yukon Party brought in the biggest tax increase in Yukon history. I understood it when the Yukon Party promoted a 58-percent rate hike for Yukon small businesses.
Mr. Speaker, I'll be happy to inform TIA that they can, as interveners, go before the Public Utilities Board for the May 12th hearings. I can also say that I would welcome them to do that, and then I would also say that we will make efforts and take action to mitigate the potential increase - whatever it may be - once the decision is reached by the Utilities Board.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I wasn't misinterpreting what they said in A Better Way. A Better Way says clearly that the Yukon government has the power to keep electrical rates affordable. The minister can't have it both ways. He can't say it's up to the Utilities Board today, and then, when he was in Opposition, say that the government did have the power to do it. If the government has the power to do it, he's in that position now, and he should use the power and keep the rates down, and I'm asking the minister if he will give the tourism industry a commitment that he won't allow the power rates to go any higher than they are today for the tourism industry.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, isn't that wonderful for the members on the other side of the House. They never gave a commitment that there would never be a power rate increase. The member full well knows that there are many, many complicated factors with regard to power. One thing we did promise not to do was to raise taxes, and we've kept that commitment. We didn't make the same commitment with energy rates because of the volatility of the situation. What we said we would do was to extend the bill relief program. We've done that, and I can assure the member and the public that once the Utilities Board does make a ruling on whatever the proposed increase might be, then we will use the power of government and the power we do have to try and take action to mitigate those increases. I have said that right from the get-go on this particular issue. So, the members will just have to wait, and when due process is served, we will respond with mitigative measures.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Board, appointment of chair
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
The minister received a letter last week from Local 31 of the Teamsters Union relating to the appointment of the chair of the Workers' Compensation Board. Now, the writer of the letter seems upset with the way the minister is carrying on in relation to the appointment of the chair. The writer is suggesting that there are two camps in labour circles on this issue. In one camp, there's the Yukon Federation of Labour representing the Yukon Government Employees Union, PSAC and the steelworkers; and in the other camp, there is the Teamster locals, IBEW and the operating engineers.
The question I have for the minister: is the writer's opinion and his view of what's going on in the appointment in the formation of two camps in labour circles correct?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know who the member's been camping out with, but I do want to say to him that there is a Yukon Federation of Labour in this territory, which is an umbrella organization affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress. The Teamsters Union, nationally, is also affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress. There is some difference of opinion with regard to the two here locally in the Yukon - the Yukon Federation of Labour and the Teamsters - but the assertion of the writer is not, indeed, correct. As a matter of fact, both the YFL and the Teamsters IBW have nominated the very same person.
Mr. Cable: That's interesting. The writer of this letter, dated April 23, 1997, from the Teamsters Local 31, has this to say: "My opinion is that we represent the camp of 'best for the job,' while others are still stuck in the old boys' club, positioning of friends in power and political payback." What does the writer of that letter mean when he is writing to the minister saying that. Does the minister have any idea?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, as a matter of fact, I do. Upon receipt of the letter, I contacted the author of the letter to inform him that they were both choosing the same person and that his impressions, as I saw them anyway, were not, indeed, correct; that the attempt I was making to achieve consensus was not the result of a split of anyone in labour in the selection of the chair, but, rather, that I was trying to build some consensus with regard to the chair with both business and labour - the two stakeholders.
The chair is not a labour-designated representative to the board. The chair is someone there to be as neutral as possible, to be representing both the stakeholders in the process of conducting business with Workers' Compensation. What I am trying to do is get somebody to fill that position that has the support from both of the stakeholder groups.
Certainly, the reference by the author I took issue with and spoke to him about it.
Mr. Cable: I'm pleased to see that, because the writer's view is certainly shared by other organizations.
The Workers' Compensation Board has been in and out of the news for four years. There have been accusations flying back and forth on the floor of this House in relation to the political appointments. We've talked about an all-party committee being struck to make recommendations on appointments to major boards and committees. We've used an all-party committee on the appointment of the ombudsman. Is the minister prepared to turn the chairperson appointment over to such a committee in order to remove any perception of political favouritism in this important appointment?
Hon. Mr. Harding: To answer that question, Mr. Speaker, the act is quite clear that it's not the politicians who own the workers' compensations system, it's the labour and employers, who are the two stakeholders who actually pay the bills and receive the benefits.
So, what we've tried to do, Mr. Speaker, is take - and actually, I took - nominations from the political parties to try and ensure that a candidate could forward with no perception of bias. I'm still doing that. Actually, one of the candidates put forward by the Liberals is still very active in the hunt for the position of chair and I'm working with both labour and business to try and get some consensus around one of those very people.
So, I don't know what precisely the member is getting at or what accusation he's making about political bias. I can assure him there is absolutely none. I'm trying to get some consensus between the two stakeholders. I don't think I should be putting it solely in his hands or the Yukon Party's hands or my hands. The stakeholders who pay the bills and receive the benefits are directing this process through their nominees through the consultation process. I'm trying to build that consensus and both the labour organizations as well as the Injured Workers Alliance are nominating the same person.
Question re: Anti-proverty strategy
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Deputy Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
In this year's budget address on page 23, the government refers to their anti-poverty strategy. Now, it has come to my attention that phone calls to the department asking for the anti-poverty plan have come up empty, that the plan, in fact, does not exist. Does this government have an anti-poverty strategy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As an integrated strategy, at this point, not per se. We are working on a number of issues surrounding the whole question of poverty. Some of them we have announced previously with regards to poverty and children. We are doing a review of the whole question surrounding social assistance. So, when we have some of this together, what we'll try to do is pull together a more integrated strategy, but right now we're trying to deal with a variety of issues.
I suppose one of the issues that springs to mind on this is the whole question of statistical data around poverty because, as the member is probably aware, there are nine different indicators of poverty in Canada and they range from the low-income cutoff down to such humanitarian organizations as the Fraser organization and their definition of poverty.
One of the things that we have done, I can tell the member, is contract with the Northern Research Institute to try to get some indicators surrounding what would be poverty benchmarks in the territory, and I think that's a start.
Mrs. Edelman: There's a great deal of expertise in the NGO - or non-governmental organizational - community that could be put to use in developing an anti-poverty strategy. Does the minister intend to draw on this expertise when developing his strategy?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member opposite that, no doubt when we are pulling together some of this data - particularly with our contract with the Northern Research Institute - they will be talking with NGOs, with anti-poverty advocates, and pulling that together and giving us some suggestions.
Mrs. Edelman: I hear the minister saying that he's speaking about issues around poverty, and there are many, many issues around poverty, because poverty means a lot of different things.
Now, what I really need to know is when work is going to commence on this strategy and when it's going to be presented to this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member right now that work has commenced and that the first step on this is to get some specific expenditure baseline information. That's one of the issues that, as a matter of fact, arose at the meeting on April 18th in Toronto with the provincial/territorial council, because it's an issue that's very germane to all jurisdictions. What exactly is poverty? How is poverty defined?
If we take the low-income cutoff point, it's some $30,728 in a city like Toronto, where that might not be the appropriate benchmark for a community such as the Yukon, with its higher cost of goods and services. So I think one of the things that, nationally, we're trying to get is some baseline information, and certainly on a territorial standard, as well.
Question re: Business coping with increasing costs
Mr. Jenkins: My question today, Mr. Speaker, is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Health and Safety Board. Today, Mr. Speaker, many Yukon small businesses are being hit with a double whammy. Their power bills, as you've just heard from the Member for Riverdale South, are rising at the astronomical rate of around 30 percent, but their assessment for workers' compensation is rising at even a faster rate - over 50 percent, when you couple the change in assessment categories, the increase in assessment and the removal of the rebate program.
Mr. Speaker, both areas are the responsibility of this particular minister. Can the minister advise the House if he is prepared to do anything to help Yukon businesses cope with these tremendous increases? And, Mr. Speaker, please don't allow the minister to tell them to leave the territory, as he advised his constituents in Faro to do.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The last of the big time spenders is now trying to sound like a fiscal Conservative on the floor of this Legislature. It's the same member who asked us for $70 million in one week for expenditures.
The member's assertion about power bills is false. We've told him many times that the Utilities Board is meeting on May the 12th, and we will take action to deal with that situation, to mitigate the impact. We've already been examining options to do just that. The solution to this, of course, is the re-start of the Anvil Range Mine, who was the major customer who went off of the system and caused a lot of this potential increase.
With regard to the WCB assessments, I urge him to turn to his right and talk to the former Government Leader. The WCB assessment increases were announced under the Yukon Party administration in January of 1996, and were brought forward by the former chair of the WC board, appointed by the Yukon Party.
It was done before I came into office, and I actually went to a number of meetings to talk about it. I went to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the president and the chair talked about the rates. There was not a wonderful, warm feeling about it, but there was a general tacit acknowledgment that perhaps the Yukon Party's action wasn't so wrong in raising their rates.
Mr. Jenkins: The compensation board has raised the basic assessment rates by 28 percent in 1997, and discontinued the merit rebate program, resulting in an additional 30-percent increase. Will the minister order an immediate review of assessment rates, and order a rebate for all service sector businesses who have been assessed incorrectly? Will the minister commit to doing that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I know that the member shouldn't be so hard on the former chair that was appointed by the Yukon Party. I think he was trying to do his job when they announced, under the Yukon Party administration in 1996, that they were raising these rates and engaged in some significant consultation with the business community.
The WCB has two labour reps on it that are appointed by the chambers of commerce, or nominated and appointed by the minister at the request of the chambers of commerce. When I've had concerns referred to me, I've referred them to the employer reps on the board.
Secondly, we have agreed to undertake a legislative review for the fall of 1998 of the entire Workers' Compensation Act. But, what I won't do is order the board, on an ad hoc basis, to do this or that. I think they're working through their process. I think that we have to look at legislative amendments as a fair process of dealing with any changes to the act.
With regard to the assessment, I will pass the member's concerns on to the board and the employer reps on the board, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: In Opposition, the current minister constantly alleged that the government could do something and should do something. Now that the minister is in charge of this board, will he order the board to base assessment rates in future on a wider classification base and on a user-pay principle based on this wider classification? Will the minister undertake to make that commitment, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I assume the member is referring to another TIA resolution from the weekend. I am not going to, on an ad hoc basis, order the board to do this or that. What I will say to TIA in response is that they should be in contact with the employer-selected representatives on the board to deal with their concerns. I understand what their concerns are. The member's assertion that I had spoken out on the rate increases and alleged that the Yukon Party government should have turned them back is wrong, completely wrong, as usual with the member.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the board has a job to do, or they had a job to do with the previous chair, who brought in the increases, that was appointed by the Yukon Party, and I think they did a very fine job of a very difficult situation.
So, I would just say to the member that he should learn what due process is. He is the critic. He should educate himself on the act, and then perhaps he would be more informed to come to the House with better questions.
Question re: Waterfowl management plan
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources with respect to the Yukon waterfowl management plan, 1991-95. The waterfowl management plan is the work of a partnership between Renewable Resources, Environment Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited Canada. The original document indicates that the plan is to be reviewed annually, with substantial revision by the year 2000. The Department of Renewable Resources' focus, in terms of staffing and resources, is large game. We have wolf, sheep, caribou biologists, and a wildlife-viewing biologist, but the only one non-game individual identified in the department is teaching up at the college.
Would the Minister of Renewable Resources indicate why the government is neglecting its responsibilities to the partners in the waterfowl plan by not assigning resources to its review?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we are not ignoring what is out there on the land. There is a great deal of work to do in many of the different branches that are within the Department of Renewable Resources, and I will have to go back and check to see at what stage this review is at, whether or not it has been carried out or whether or not the department has someone assigned to this.
Ms. Duncan: One of the major signs of spring for many Yukoners in the south is the arrival of the tundra and trumpeter swans at such places as M'Clintock Bay, Nisutlin delta, Teslin and Tagish. As the minister said, there is a great deal happening out on the land. The dependence of these swans on these areas is described in the waterfowl management plan as critical, yet at least in one of these areas - M'Clintock Bay - the habitat remains unprotected. Would the minister indicate why this key recommendation is being ignored?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm glad that you did bring M'Clintock Bay up. It is an area that our department is going to be looking at. It is very much in our interest to have that as a protected area. I think that there is a bit of work to do in regards to consultation with the First Nations that do have land selections in and around that area. I do think that it is an area that we could have as a protected area fairly soon. I don't think there is a whole lot of controversy over this. I do believe that, with some hard work, we can do it.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this matter has been waiting in the wings, so to speak, for quite some time. Can the minister give a commitment today as to a time frame for when the consultations might be complete and when this area might finally be protected?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I must remind the member that we will certainly be in full consultation with the people out there in regards to protected areas. We brought the strategy together. I do believe that there has been some work that has been done at M'Clintock Bay, and it's pretty tough to give a time line on something like this, but I can say that we are working on it, and we do have it as one of the areas that we see can be fulfilled.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Deputy Clerk: Motion No. 62, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Motion No. 62
Deputy Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 16 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Brenda Chambers to be a member of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to bring forward the name of an individual for reappointment to the Yukon Human Rights Commission. Ms. Brenda Chambers has previously served a three-year term on the commission, which expired January 24th, 1997. All-party agreement has confirmed that Ms. Chambers be appointed for a further three years. I want to express my pleasure that Ms. Chambers has agreed to continue to serve on the commission.
Ms. Chambers displays a strong interest in human rights issues, especially in her commitment to First Nations concerns and aspirations. With her wide-ranging experience in aboriginal broadcast communications and her previous experience on the board, she is a valuable asset to the operation of the commission. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, concur with the nomination of Ms. Chambers to the Human Rights Commission. The individual has been on the commission, as the minister says, for three years and has really done an outstanding job in bringing her perspective to the commission. We completely and fully support the nomination by way of motion here again for Ms. Chambers to remain on the board.
Motion No. 62 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it members' wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with the budget, Community and Transportation Services.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Municipal and Community Affairs Division - continued
Community Services - continued
Chair: We are on the Department of Community and Transportation Services, in the program, municipal and community affairs division.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it does give me privilege and pleasure to be able to be here today, to be able to speak about the intricacy of the C&TS budget. I was asked some questions, and I do have some responses. I was asked questions, and I shall now proceed to read them in, and I have them for distribution also.
Thank you very much.
On the subject of cross-cultural awareness and courses regarding that, the question was: has the department started a process to strengthen aboriginal recreation development and the delivery of cross-cultural awareness programs, as outlined in the Towards 2000 report?
I'm certainly pleased to say that, yes, this initiative has been started. Early this year in March, the sport and recreation branch and the Yukon College partnered to deliver a three-day course on recreation and community leadership. The course attracted 20 participants, including the recreation staff and volunteers from across the territory.
Response to this joint initiative that was as recommended in the Towards 2000 report was extremely positive. Further courses are being planned with Yukon College for next semester, with input from the Yukon sport and recreation groups, communities and with First Nations.
On the subject of partnerships with the private sector, has the department been active in the area of establishing partnerships with the private sector? Well, it's worth noting that a strong and positive relationship exists between sport and recreation and the private sector and one of the many benefits of sport and recreation is the economic impact that is created as a result of sport and recreation activities in communities throughout the territory. Events such as the Arctic Winter Games, the bonspiels of curling, hockey tournaments and cross-country ski races contribute to the earnings of hotel and restaurant operators, equipment suppliers and tourism-related businesses.
Facilities such as ski hills, curling rinks, arenas, cross-country ski trails and golf courses generate millions of dollars in consumer spending in the Yukon in addition to providing needed employment.
The branch has been working to encourage the various agencies involved in the promotion and delivery of fitness and active living in the Yukon to collaborate on joint initiatives aimed at getting more people active from a health and lifestyle point of view.
In 1996, meetings were held with Fitness North of 60O and two local, privately owned fitness operators with a view to establishing partnerships to set minimum standards for fitness instructors in the Yukon. One of the outcomes of these meetings was an agreement whereby the branch provided funding to Fitness North of 60O to develop a basic fitness theory module and workbook to be used in training fitness instructors here in Yukon. This is a homegrown workbook and will be a valuable aid to everyone involved in promoting fitness in the territory.
Work is continuing in this regard and Fitness North of 60O continues to work effectively with the private sector to deliver certification programs for the instructors.
On the subject of partnerships with the private sector, the branch just recently commissioned a marketing feasibility study in relation to the possibility of the 2007 Canada Winter Games being hosted in the Yukon.
The study will examine the amount of potential revenue that the 2007 Canada Winter Games could generate from all potential sources. A significant component of the study will be the potential support that could be derived from the private sector. The consultant will examine corporate sponsorship potential from national/multinationals, as well as local business.
The study is scheduled to be completed in July of 1997, and following our review of the study's finding and recommendations, this government will be making a decision with respect to continuing our support for having the 2007 Canada Winter games hosted in Yukon.
We'll also be continuing to explore the opportunities for bringing together the volunteer and private sectors to further advance the development and growth of Yukon people in communities, through sport and recreation.
I was asked the question: what is the GIL by community, and specifically for the Yukon Arts Centre and for the federal government building once devolution has occurred?
We have attached a copy of the Yukon grants-in-lieu paid to the municipalities, and we have also included an approximate estimate of the amount of monies that may have to be paid to the municipalities if there is agreement on the devolution of federal properties administered by the Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
The Arts Centre is located on the tax roll for Yukon College, and the grant-in-lieu for Yukon College is estimated to be $631,569. The Arts Centre component would be about $108,000 of this amount.
I could read into the record, I guess, if you would like, the possible federal grants-in-lieu to be paid to the municipalities after devolution.
The municipality of Carmacks, and the amount, using the 1996 information, will be $23,428; Dawson City, $136,030; Faro, $7,499; Haines Junction, $10,534; Mayo, $17,370; Teslin, $46,835; Watson Lake, $93,788; Whitehorse, $1,052,083; for a total of $1,387,567.
The 1997 summary by municipality: for Carmacks, the total assessed values are $1,724,420, with the budgeted grant-in-lieu of $19,348; Dawson City, $13,000,590, with the grants-in-lieu budgeted at $210,616; Faro, $6,605,920 for the assessed value and the budgeted grant-in-lieu, $84,688; Haines Junction, $3,986,270, with the grants-in-lieu, $47,572; Mayo, with assessed values of $2,730,100, with the budgeted grants-in-lieu, $42,884; Teslin, $1,596,140 assessed values, grants-in-lieu budgeted, $18,723; Watson Lake, with the assessed values of $9,404,860, with budgeted GIL of $136,220; Whitehorse, $210,545,810 for the assessed values, with the budgeted grants-in-lieu of $3,184,739; w
ith the total of the assessed values being $249,594,110, with the budgeted grants-in-lieu total being $3,744,790.
Burning smell noticed by member
Chair: I will call a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I have one more response to read into the record.
On water and sewer service costs, revenue and shortfall, the first is in Carcross. The total number of customers is 125, at a total cost of $50,825. The total recovery is $18,000, with a projected deficit of $32,825 and with a projected average deficit per customer, $262.50. The charge rate by Order-in-Council 1983/220, plus 1984/114 and amendments, is $11.10 a month for up to 500-gallon deliveries three times a week and $16.65 per month for over 500-gallon deliveries three times per week.
For Ross River, the total number of customers is 155, with a total cost of $72,050. The total recoveries are $21,600, with a projected deficit of $50,450 and a projected average deficit per customer of $325.48; and by Order-in-Council 1983/221 and 1984/115 and the amendments.
With Old Crow, water and sewer; total number of customers 110; total cost $180,200; total recoveries, $148,008. Projected deficit is $32,192, with a per customer projected deficit of $292.65. Agreement for deficit funding is 80 percent by the Vuntut Gwitchin and 20 percent by the territorial government.
The Vuntut Gwitchin portion of deficit per customer is $234.12 and the territorial government's portion of deficit per customer is $58.53. The rate set by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is at $27.50 per month.
In Destruction Bay, it is sewer only and customers on this system consisted of gravity sewers, a sewage pumping station, forced main and sewage lagoon. The total number of customers is 12, with a total cost of $22,100; total recoveries of $2,377 with a projected deficit of $19,723 and the projected deficit customer of $1,643.58. On Keno, it is water operating subsidy only and the total number of customers is 18, with the total cost of $5,520. Total recoveries is zero. The projected deficit, of course, is $5,520, with a projected deficit per customer of $306.66, in an agreement for the provision of partial funding of operational costs for trucked water service in Keno City and with the Keno community club and the territorial government.
Those are the answers for the questions that were brought to me.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The Hon. Mr. Sloan, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On a point of order, just for members' information, apparently the burning smell is also present outside, and it's suspected that it might be from clearing brush along the South Access. Maybe the smell is being pulled in by the air intakes.
Chair: Thank you for that.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his responses, and if we could deal with the first one that I had a written response on, it was with respect to the mosquito control program, Mr. Chair.
Could I just ask for further clarification in his written response from the minister? Communities have been complaining that the program has become increasingly costly, which is the truth. This year, Abbott Laboratories has agreed to supply larvicide directly to the Yukon government at $6.16 per kilogram, compared to $7.96 by the company. Now, are we comparing apples to oranges, or apples to apples? If you go on to point seven, ownership of the larvicide, is Abbott Lab supplying the larvicide FOB the areas where they're going to be used, like the contractors were required to supply it? Is Abbott required to pick up all of the bags and return them to Whitehorse, and demonstrate that the required number of bags have been used, as stipulated in the contract? Because in previous years, the contractor was totally responsible for the larvicide, and if any went missing, he had to replace it. That was one of the costs of driving up the contract price of the larvicide. Further to that, Mr. Chair, the contractor was required to bring all of the empty bags back to Whitehorse. I certainly questioned some of these areas, in my previous elected capacity, as to why we were involved in such a silly undertaking as what this contractor was required to do, because it all led to an escalation of price.
Now, the minimum number of bags that can be ordered is 200, and that would - just doing the rough calculations as to the area that you'll have control of - be well in excess of what you require. Now, the shelf life on the product is not anywhere near what would keep it over for a second year.
So, again, Mr. Chair, we are engaged in a program that hasn't been fully dissected and analyzed, and the end result, in my opinion, is that we're going to see an increase in the total cost to the government, which will be ultimately billed to the communities participating in it.
That's another bone of contention, Mr. Chair. The bills don't go out until usually October, November, December, just close to the end of the calendar year, whereas this program takes place in May.
The lag time calls into question who has a handle on what. So, if the minister could undertake to bring back some responses in these areas, I'd certainly appreciate it. All I'm looking for is an effective program, so that Yukoners will not be losing any more blood than necessary. Can I have that undertaking from the minister?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, you certainly may. What little I have to do with blood-letting is limited to this, so I will certainly get back to the member opposite as per his questions.
Mr. Jenkins: On the issue of recreation funding by community, I'll have to go back and recalculate what I did and compare it, so I'll set that aside, and hopefully, we can move on, but I do thank the minister for his response to that question.
With respect to the other area - the level of support for water delivery, water and sewer, and the provision of piped sewage in destruction bay - the amount charged per month, is set by order-in-council. Could the minister advise if there is a set recovery that is anticipated from the customers? All systems in the Yukon operate on a total 100 percent recovery basis.
Now, I know in our area, the contentious cost of ever-escalating monies needed to fund the water and sewer systems are growing at an alarming rate, and yet we still see a number of communities - unorganized communities - on trucked water and piped sewage, that require a tremendous level of subsidy one way or the other. What I'm trying to ascertain is how the level of subsidy is determined.
Is there across-the-board set of rules, or is it just done on a community-by-community basis, because there does appear to be quite a disparity between rates set in various areas. Could the minister provide a response? If it's a little bit cumbersome, he can bring it back by way of legislative return; that would be fine. But what my intentions are with these numbers is to ultimately deal with the community I reside in, as to the level of costs that the people there are incurring for the provision of water and sewer systems operated there, and the costs associated with it.
It's well over a $1,000 per annum, per household. Commercial rates are well in excess of the cost of service and, with the potential for secondary sewage treatment, we're looking at a doubling of price in that area, potentially, to over $2,000 per annum for a residential home and that's way out of line.
So, what I'm looking at is what transpires in other areas that the government has care and control of, and the level of subsidy provided and whether there's a set formula across the board.
I could ask the minister for that undertaking. We could move on, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will do as the member opposite has requested and get back with the questions answered. It is certainly appreciated, where he is coming from on determining his questions.
I'd also just like to point out that, with the rural services option paper, this will be a part of the consultation of that also and so we can make sure that maybe the communities that we each represent are made aware of that. We'll certainly do our part. I certainly look forward to the idea of moving on. Thank you very much.
Chair: Is Committee ready to move on to the line item, community services?
Mr. Jenkins: We've pretty well cleared that line item and there was one question that I was raising last Thursday that remained unanswered and that is dealing with the grants-in-lieu on all the buildings that have recently been transferred from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, the grants-in-lieu on the actual improvements.
Now, the federal government does not pay grants-in-lieu on vacant land; it pays grants-in-lieu on developed land and improvements only. They determine the cost. If you extend or extrapolate those numbers, now that the Government of Yukon has care and control of these structures, the Government of Yukon treats the municipal governments much nicer and pays their grants-in-lieu based on the assessment without question. Is that going to be the policy? Is that going to remain in place? How much money in the transfers of the various departments were allowed for the future paying of these grants-in-lieu? Because, in my opinion, there is going to be a gap between what has been paid previously by the feds and what will now be paid by the Government of Yukon. What is that gap, is what I'm looking at and how was that taken into consideration when the transfer was negotiated on the various number of departments so transferred to the Government of Yukon? It's a technical question; it's not one that we could probably resolve here today, Mr. Chair, and could I ask the minister to bring back that information by legislative return? I just want to get those numbers on the record.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will attempt to get that information, particularly with regard to the phase 2 aspect, as I assume that's what the member is - no? I thought the member was interested in the information with regards to the transfer of phase 2 facilities to the territory and what's going to be happening there in terms of grants-in-lieu.
I will attempt to get that information for the member, but I sense that the member is seeking a wider ...
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, a much broader spectrum in view of this - recently we had the airports, and previously there have been a number of other departments of the federal government that have been transferred along with the assets, land and buildings. The latest one, of course, won't be taken into consideration until this next fiscal period, and that is the phase 2 of the hospital. That's down the road, but it is going to have a certain impact fiscally on the Government of the Yukon, and I just wanted to identify those numbers, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As stated yesterday, yes, it will certainly, indeed, be our pleasure to get back to the hon. member opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: Similarly, is there going to be a similar policy statement on water and sewer fees that will now be taken over by the territorial government and will have to be paid by the municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the policy will remain the same and we will be covering off, as is, certainly our portion. There are other portions included, too, but certainly our portion, we will.
Mr. Jenkins: Just to pick up on that, Mr. Chair, there is quite a disparity as to what the federal government considers to be a service and what they consider to be a grant-in-lieu, and they have a wider definition of some of the things that can be included in the grants-in-lieu, and depending on how they are invoiced by the respective community, the grant-in-lieu division of the federal government considers, on occasion, water and sewer to be part of the grant-in-lieu and not a service. Is there going to be a clarification of that area made by your government? I would hope that you would make the same assumption, as I would, that the provision of water and sewer is a service and is not part of the grant-in-lieu. Could the minister respond to that? Does he consider the provision of water and sewer to be a service or part of a grant-in-lieu, or a tax?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the member is correct. We consider water and sewer to be a service.
Mrs. Edelman: Would the minister also consider that the rate that the federal government is now paying, which is the government rate or the institutional rate, is the same rate that would be continued to be paid by the territorial government as they take over those facilities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, if it comes up with the municipality, we will speak to them regarding it, but certainly we'd be paying the same rate.
Community Services in the amount of $15,975,000 agreed to
On Engineering and Development
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. The highlights of this budget of $730,000 consist of $286,000 for personnel, which consists of salaries and benefits for two administration staff; $146,000 for internal labour charges from garage operations for repairs to sewer and water trucks, and from the highway maintenance, for maintenance of some dumps and access roads; $447,000 for other; $13,000 for travel in the Yukon; $246,000 for contract services; $46,000 for repairs and maintenance; $16,000, which is mainly internal charges for vehicle usage; $54,000 for utilities; $55,000 for internal charges for equipment to maintain dumps and access roads and fuel charges for water and sewer trucks; $14,000 for various other requirements.
In comparison with the previous year, it is a decrease of $7,000. It's a reduction of $20,000 in utilities, mainly for streetlights, and $4,000 in other, smaller items, which is offset by an increase in personnel by $17,000 due to position reclassification.
Mrs. Edelman: In previous discussion in this House, the Government Leader was very clear that responsibility would never be devolved to a municipality unless there was considerable and right dollars attached to that responsibility in a transfer.
My concern here is that if there was a development of, say, a hazardous-waste regulation that said that landfill sites had to be lined with silk liners, is there a policy of this government that that same responsibility, which would be devolved through regulation, would be covered off by transfer dollars?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, what the Government Leader said, his statement as per the transfer, we will live up to and honour the Government Leader's statement.
On the example of landfills used by the member opposite, and her example, certainly that is in conjunction with not only my department, but it is also in conjunction with the Renewable Resources department. I will certainly be taking that up with my colleague as we proceed through this. We will certainly be most obviously living up to the Government Leader's clarification word on the transfer, so that there will not be any detriment to the communities. It will be negotiated in a certainly heads-up process and awareful process.
Mr. Jenkins: This issue of the sanitary landfills at the garbage dump comes back to haunt us on a regular basis, and the money allocated in this budget seems to be very much on the low side, Mr. Chair, to maintain dumps in a satisfactory manner.
The Government of the Yukon operates the largest number of organized dumps in the Yukon of any level of government and, more often than not, they're in the worst condition, the worst shape, their burns are ad hoc and randomly undertaken, usually under no supervision, and the maintenance, by and large, is some of the worst maintenance you can find in any of the sanitary landfill sites around the Yukon.
Now I understand that they're bringing in regulations, and that led to my allegation the other day that the Minister of Renewable Resources would end up being the prosecutor, and you would be the defendant. Unless we start putting in place a consistent policy with respect to the dump maintenance, and carry them out on a more frequent basis than what is being done, we've got a problem on our hands now that's not being addressed, Mr. Chair, and I would urge the minister to instruct his department to place more emphasis on dump maintenance than what is being done at the current time. The money that's allocated in this budget is, in my opinion, inadequate to address that responsibility.
So, I'm looking for the minister's assurance that he'll be addressing his responsibilities in that area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, certainly I tried to explain that the other day. Let me say that the member's comments are correct, and we'll certainly be working toward improving the dump and the maintenance of the landfills. We'll certainly take that in context. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just look at the utilities, there was a $20,000 savings in streetlights, out of $54,000 - I would assume that there's $20,000 from $74,000 last year for utilities, down to $54,000 this year. Could the minister advise how that savings was effected? There has been a reduction in streetlighting costs. Has there been a transfer of responsibilities to another level of government for streetlighting in some areas?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the utilities did come down from $74,000 to $54,000, and no, there has not been a transfer to another municipality, or anything like the such, it was due mainly to - I've been assured - to the decrease in the utility rate.
Engineering and Development in the amount of $730,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the information I requested of the minister dealing with electrical boiler and pressure vessel inspections, I asked for a breakdown, by community, and I ended up getting everything lumped in together - Dawson, Stewart, Pelly; one lump sum amount - and I'm looking for a breakdown by community with the number of days that the inspectors spent in each community and the number of inspections carried out in each community. That's the information I was requesting in those areas and a lot of it was lumped together.
Another thing that concerned me was notations that a lot of that information was not available. That gives rise to the question, why?
If you look at the notations on the side, I'd like an explanation as to why they can't provide the information in total.
Could I ask the minister for an undertaking, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I guess it hasn't been brought back to the member to his satisfaction as to exactly the points he had asked for, and I would certainly say that it is possible to do that. I have been informed, though, that it is going to have to be done manually, but if the member is insistent, we will proceed to do that. Just to reiterate again, it will have to be done manually and it will take some time to pull that together.
Mr. Jenkins: What about the information that is missing and not available? I don't have those sheets before me, but I did review them over the weekend. If you look at the notations on the side, it indicates that not all the information was readily available, Mr. Chair, but what happened that that information is not available?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct; we do not have it in the fire situation. We're certainly moving to a new record system that will enable us to keep it at that point in time. We do have it underneath the boilers and electrical inspections, but not under the fire inspections, so we are certainly moving to provide more accurate information as we move to our new record-keeping system and hopefully that will satisfy the member opposite in the future.
As to the rest of his concern, we'll certainly do what we can and get the staff working in that direction to see if we can provide the answers to the member opposite, as requested. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister is stating that there is not a consistent policy throughout the department for the collection and reporting of data dealing with inspections. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct. It has been this way for quite some time now and, with the new record-keeping system being put into place, we will be able to fix that gap in our policy.
Mr. Jenkins: How does one do a time-study analysis of the department when the information is not compiled in a consistent manner, Mr. Chair? How does one analyze what is going on in the department when you have a different set of rules for each area that is inspected by the various inspectors?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we will have the information provided for the member opposite as provided. We certainly are always working with due diligence to maintain the status quo and, I guess, simply more to maintain status quo but not to let it fall any lower than what it might be and is deemed to be at this time. But, certainly, with our new record-keeping system and whatnot, we will be moving toward the end that the member opposite has been asking for and we will be able to come with the numbers and the time analysis, and be able to study the times that have been spent to do a study-time analysis study, if and when we have all the pertinent records.
I would just point out for the member opposite's information again that the only place we are a little weak on here - and we're certainly making strides to fix that through policy and the development of policy - is in the fire side. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: The "if and when" kind of concerns me. If I could ask the minister for his time lines on having this review conducted and everything in a consistent manner, will it be before us in the next budget in the next year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As soon as I get out of this House and this debate, I will start to work on that. We'll certainly have it ready for next year's budget deliberations.
Chair: Do the statistics clear? The yellow pages, yes, we're dealing with the entire ...
If the member wishes to go page by page, that's fine.
Page 3-21 - clear.
Page 3-22 - clear.
Mr. Jenkins: This area deals, Mr. Chair, with the sports governing body and the allocation of funds to the various unincorporated municipalities throughout the territory, and who gets what out of the pie. I do have some questions rising out of the responses I received this morning. I'd like to be able to go back and raise them after I've had a chance to review the eight or nine pages that the minister just presented to me a few minutes ago.
Chair: I'd like to advise members that once O&M is clear, we shall not be returning to this section.
Mr. Jenkins: Set it aside until we can get some answers after I've had a chance to review it. It'll probably be this afternoon, later, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.
Is it the wish of the Committee to set it aside?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We've been in O&M now for about 10 days, I think. It's a new record, I guess, but I think the member has had ample time to evaluate lots of information that's come back and forth. There are other opportunities, such as in technical briefings with the departmental officials to pursue some of the types of questions that he has been asking. However, as the House Leader, I'd be prepared to support a stand over to after the break at 4:30.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Mr. Jenkins: That's exactly what I was asking for.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division stood over
Chair: Municipal and community affairs is now stood over. We will move on to capital.
I understand it is the members' wish to move now to page 3-24 in the statistics.
On page 3-25? Cleared.
Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on page 3-26 under "Prior Years' Recoveries", all the money that was sent to Carmacks to pay for the acting CAO at the time - has all that money been recovered now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I have been assured that it has been recovered.
Chair: Does it clear? Cleared.
Are there any questions on the revenue? Does it clear?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, are there any plans in the future to increase the municipal grants?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We've spoken to this previously, Mr. Chair. I do believe my colleague from Faro had asked me, and we were very lucky to be able to pass on the contribution that has been forthcoming to the communities over the last couple of years.
As per an increase, I must say quite candidly that there will be no increase at this point in time, but certainly we're going to be going through some interesting times and consultations with our municipal governments, and I would like to assure the municipal governments that whatever we do with and for and by the municipalities will be underneath a process that will be one of much eye-openness, heads-up and a very open and transparent process.
I can't just jump out and say they are going to get an increase. I certainly can't jump out and say that they are going to get a decrease. I am working to maintain the line and will work with communities, whatever comes: devolution or whatever is not within the mandate now that will be done with the cooperation of the communities.
I certainly hope that that satisfies the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, while we're dealing with municipal grants, one of the contentious issues is the time or the date for establishing the formula to divvy up the funds and the population figure for the respective communities involved. That has kind of moved all over the wall and I'm not trying to pick on anyone, but the population figure for Faro is up and down, and yet some years it doesn't appear to go down in the formula.
Is there going to be a fixed time that we use for the population for the respective communities when we divvy up these funds? That's what I'm looking for. I notice in the recreational area that there is a definite time that is used. What is actually used? Is it going to continue to be the Yukon health care statistics or, when they drop below a certain level, do we go back to the federal statistics that are only compiled about every four years in that formula?
Which way is the minister going to ask his department to proceed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, yes, the member opposite is right. We use the health care stats. It is simply that the federal stats only come out every five years, not four, and by that time they're certainly out of date.
On the fixed time, I've been assured that that's a very good question and one to which we do not know the answer off the top of our heads, but it's one that we certainly will get. When we do go to fix this, everything we do - again I reiterate - will be done in consultation and conjunction with the AYC.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what I'm suggesting to the minister is the date that is chosen for the population review or the acceptance of the time lines for the population figures plays a very important component in the formula, and from my past experience, having looked at this on a number of occasions, the date tends to move from period to period. Now, what I'm seeking from the minister is his assurance that the date will be fixed for the succeeding number of years. Now, can I have the minister's assurances in that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly the member opposite's suggestion is a good suggestion and we will be fixing a date, but we won't be doing that unilaterally ourselves; we'll be doing that with the affected communities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, would that be the same date and population figures that are used for the recreation grant and disbursements?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we'll have to be able to do some thinking and talk this one over a bit before we do that because not all of the AYC recreational funding and their core funding, if I will, are run in the same manner or to the same organization. So, certainly there are slight differences there, but we'll certainly be putting some good thought behind it in trying to make it not so bureaucratic, but certainly more efficient, if I can say it in that manner. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what is being suggested, Mr. Chair, is not that the system is very bureaucratic, but that it lends itself to being manipulated. One can move the numbers around just by simply looking at a different statistical review of the Yukon.
Now, the sports have narrowed it down to a time, but from my past understanding of the municipal block funding, the time lines for the population figures or the cost-of-living figures are not consistently applied. They tend to move around depending on where there is a requirement for fundin, as there was a number of years ago, when the second highest debt level of any community was Faro and their requirements for funds were quite considerable, yet their population had dropped off to very, very few individuals.
Yet, we saw that the maintenance of their municipal block funding remained at a consistently high level and, when questioned, it appeared that out-of-date population figures were used to support the level of funding provided.
Now, I'm just looking for a level playing field so that everybody can understand how we're going to establish these formulas, and that's not something that's a bureaucratic undertaking that is of a massive magnitude. It's a very simple process, and I'm sure the date could be fixed, similar to what we do for recreation - extremely simple. That's all I'm looking for is that undertaking from the minister. We don't need a tremendous review process, we just need "that'll be the date".
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I won't suffer the House through much more time on this. Certainly, I can say, "yes," that's exactly what I'd meant to say, and I guess I didn't say it. But, I will certainly say "yes", that is what we'd like to do, and we'll be doing that, and again in conjunction with the Association of Yukon Communities. It will not be a unilateral decision.
Chair: Just to be clear, page 3-21 is being set aside until after the break. Otherwise, all O&M for the division is clear.
We will now move to C&TS capital expenditures, Office of the Deputy Minister.
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would request that you give me a 3-minute break, for personal business. Could you?
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the House for allowing me to take the short break. It's much appreciated. Is there any general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide an overview of that area, the capital?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly we can do that with the provisions as we go through the document.
Chair: One moment, Mr. Keenan.
On Emergency Measures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mr. Jenkins: Are we not starting on page 3-1, capital expenditures, Office of the Deputy Minister?
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, that's the overview of the whole department, and what we are doing right at this moment is the breakdown, page 3-2, Emergency Measures.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Office furniture - we're in the emergency measures program now, is that correct? We're all together on this? - office furniture, equipment, systems and space: $5,000 for development of emergency measures organization database system that will provide information required in the operation.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Emergency Measures
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Emergency measures at $65,000 has three projects in 1997-98. Thirty thousand dollars is to equip the joint emergency operations coordination centre with alternative communication systems to augment the voice and radio links and to assist communities and EMO coordinators with local emergency operation centres, and equip with strategic and tactical communication systems. Fifteen thousand dollars is for the purchase of a jaws-of-life kit, to be stationed at Destruction Bay, and $20,000 is for the acquisition of emergency measures equipment. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister expand on the justification for jaws of life? Most of the communities did a lot of fund-raising on their own to acquire these jaws of life, and they were contributed to by a number of different sources. Is it now going to be the policy of the government to just purchase them and place them in the respective communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We do not wish to put any undue hardships on the communities, and certainly with a total population of 49 people, as the member opposite pointed out, it was best to proceed for Destruction Bay, and they do have a nursing station there and they do have a lot of traffic. It certainly is needed. So no, there has been no change of policy or anything as such, but certainly, not wishing to put undue hardship on a community and to make the communities safer, and for highway travellers, it was felt that we should go this route.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide an overview of the EMO headquarters communications centre? Is this in addition to the present mobile communications centre that the government currently operates, or is this a new unit to replace that unit?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, this is not an addition. We moved from the Lynn Building to the airport, and we are setting up permanent facilities at the airport now.
Mr. Jenkins: There were three components, the jaws of life, the EMO, and the third component - I'm sorry I didn't get that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The component that was missing, for the members opposite, is $20,000 for the acquisition of EMO equipment, and if you'd like, I can let you know now what that is for, Mr. Chair.
In 1997-98, the planned equipment purchases are for radio and antenna towers and repeaters to permit communication, and personnel to extend their ability to have uninterrupted VHF linkages to YTG EMO, $7,000, and response equipment placement safety upgrading, for $13,000, for a total of $20,000. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the question I had on that issue is where is this equipment going to be located in the Yukon? Is it all going up to the airport?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say, Mr. Chair - and thank you - that each search and rescue team will be identifying their requirements, and purchases will be made over the summertime. So, as each of the teams identify it, it'll be going into that locale. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: This is an area that I had concern with a number of years ago, Mr. Chair, as to the ongoing capital cost of replacing equipment acquired through the EMO program of a few years ago. What kind of anticipated increase are we forecasting for the next number of years? Virtually everything is brand new and there is a need for a lot more capital in a number of areas, such as a rescue boat on Marsh Lake and a number of such purchases. When are they going to be entered into the capital budget, Mr. Chair, and where are we going with this department as far as capital in the next little while? Is he going to be bringing back a supp to address those additional costs, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we are going to be looking at this on a year-by-year basis, and hopefully we will not be overextending, or anything like as such. The equipment is certainly new, but certainly as the member opposite has pointed out, there is a hole. While we certainly will be looking to fill those holes as we go through, but, no, not through the supplementary process. We feel, and I have been assured that we feel, that this will suffice for this year.
Mrs. Edelman: There has been a change in policy in one of the other departments where, in Education, we're going to the school councils to ask about capital projects. Is there any plan to go to the Yukon Disaster Committee to look at a capital plan over the next few years and ask their advice?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I think that the suggestion coming from the member of the third party is an honourable suggestion. I do not believe that we have done that in the past, but, certainly, in the principle of consultation and working with people, we will be doing that this year.
Mr. Jenkins: On the same point of emergency measures, where are we heading, Mr. Minister, if flood forecasting is not going to be continually undertaken by the federal government? Is this the area that the minister's officials are going to plug it into - under EMO - for forecasting? Are there provisions within the budget to take over that area of responsibility should the federal government not continue with it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It would be premature for me to say exactly where the resources would go - whether into here or whether in Renewable Resources or wherever. Certainly, it has only been slightly less than a couple of weeks that we've had to face this situation. I anticipate a bit of a duke-out, I imagine, with the federal government on this and other areas.
I certainly anticipate that I'll be needing the support of the House and I will be asking for the House to give me their support, so that when we do sit down during the federal transfer program - if that is the avenue where it would be coming from - we would certainly look for continuity with the existing programs that will be on the table. Certainly, in my mind, I will reiterate that I will be asking for the support of the House.
If and when - I would like to think that when we are successful with this, we will certainly find a home for this very much-needed program.
Mr. Jenkins: There has been a significant reduction in capital in that area for the last two fiscal periods. The 1995-96 actual of $110,000 was increased to $174,000 last year, and now we're down to $65,000. Could the minister provide an explanation as to why there's been a significant reduction in the capital in this category?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we do not intend not to budget for a disaster or an emergency, and certainly we toe the line this way, and when it does come, it's asked for through a supplementary process and it would show up in the next year.
Mr. Jenkins: I can appreciate that explanation for O&M, but for capital it doesn't wash.
We're talking the capital component of the emergency measures. In the 1995-96 actual, there was a $110,000, subsequently increased last year to $174,000, and now we're down to $65,000.
Now, capital needs and requirements are anticipated and forecasted. Why has there been such a significant reduction from previous fiscal periods?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. In years past there were some significant purchases that had to be made.
As per last year, it was - forgive me if this is not the right word, but certainly, trying to characterize it as such - the mobile command centre that was done with the City of Whitehorse and in participation with the City of Whitehorse. They are not anticipating or planning any such purchases this year for capital.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $30,000 is required to replace obsolete and unserviceable TV and radio broadcast equipment. The 1997-98 funding will be for the purchase of transmitters, receivers and antennas.
Mr. Jenkins: There's a move afoot by a division of Northwestel to cable a lot of these areas. What is going to be the stance of the Government of Yukon with respect to the operation of these transmitters in these locales?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, in our consultations and talks with the Northwestel company, they said where there is a business opportunity, they will be proceeding into that market. They do not expect that there will be a market in each of the communities, but certainly where the cabling of the communities does come, it may lead to the elimination of the program in the future. But again, it will have to be on a community-by-community basis and by monitoring and working in conjunction with Northwestel.
Mr. Jenkins: So there is no policy as to how we're going to address this. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Chair, until such time as Northwestel is able to provide a decent telephone system at a reasonable price, they shouldn't be allowed to explore these other areas and get involved in them - period - I would urge the government to consider such an approach that, number one, they've got to be a decent, reliable telephone carrier before they get into being permitted to provide television service. With the changing technology that is upon us, I'm sure there are going to be other ways of providing a multitude of services. In fact, it might be prudent to look at piggybacking on wireless communication on to the existing YTG system for the enhancement of telephone service to some of these communities. Is the minister prepared to explore this avenue with his department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, certainly only time will be able to tell when we go through monitoring. Let me say that Northwestel received permission from the CRTC, and Northwestel - I have been assured - is certainly in the process of evaluating this right now to see if it is going to be done in a businesslike manner and if it is going to be able to be effective in each of the communities. I guess, again, I'll say that only time will tell and we'll certainly have to be monitoring it as we proceed.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair, but I think it's a much more important issue than just monitoring it. I think it's an issue that we should be pro-active on, and we should be involved from the onset with a position as to how we're going to address this area. I would urge the minister to consider instructing his department to take a pro-active stand and bring forward a policy for his consideration in this area. It's an area that impacts upon us all greatly, and the advent of television to rural communities was extremely well received.
Now, the exercise is to continue providing it in a very cost-effective manner. I know, just in our community of Dawson, if Northwestel were to come in and cable it, it would suck out between an $80,000 and a $200,000 bill every year just in subscriber fees, and it wouldn't attract the whole town. So, that side of the equation has to be looked at, Mr. Chairman.
I'm somewhat dismayed that we're just going to sit back, lay back, and monitor it and not allow this agency to take it if they want it and, if they don't want it, to leave it alone.
Will the minister give his undertaking to coming forward with a policy dealing with this area, because it is an extremely important area for rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I, too, am somewhat dismayed, Mr. Chair. Simply by establishing policy is not going to solve all the problems of the communication or the television service or, more importantly, the communication or telephone service.
We've been working very hard and pro-actively since we've come into power into the administered governance, and met with Northwestel approximately four times. Of course, we met with them on other issues and have been working with due diligence. I must say that the meetings have been somewhat frustrating at times, but certainly I'm hoping for good things to come of the meetings, because I do believe that Northwestel does have a willingness to work with us, and I'm starting to feel a tad more comfortable with it.
The member opposite is asking for a position or a policy to be pro-active. Well, we're certainly developing a working relationship with the Northwestel folks. Again, I certainly cannot tell them how to run their business, but I can certainly work with them to let them know that my government certainly looks at more things than just a bottom-line dollar in a business sense, but there are other needs for communities. We are taking this into consideration.
I thank the member opposite for his suggestion and will certainly be keeping it in mind when and as we proceed through getting better services, whether it's in television or telephone services, for the communities.
Again, the previous administration's policy on this is, if the community wants it, then that's a community decision and, somewhat, that will be the basis of my decision making. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: I was hoping that the minister could be a lot more rah-rah about that issue than what he has presented here in the House today. I believe it is much more important than the priority that he has given the area of community TV and radio.
On that subject, the rural department of highways and maintenance stations that have satellite television - is this all funded through this line item in the department or does it come under another area in the highways?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, this is not limited to only this line item; it is also within the highways and highway maintenance.
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On VHF System
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $145,000 consists of two projects. The multi-departmental mobile radio system, for a funding of $45,000, is to purchase mobile data interfaces to permit the transfer of voice communication and electronic data, portable radio batteries and for additional mobile and portable radios. Multi-departmental mobile radio system, Pelly Crossing, of $100,000, is for the purchase and installation of an MDMRS repeater site, designed to provide full, portable coverage to Pelly Crossing.
Prior years' projects relate to computing equipment and systems, for $2,000 in 1996-97, and 911 implementation, $3,000 in 1995-96.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the installation of the $100,000 equipment in Pelly Crossing was done partly in consultation with the RCMP in that area. Is it normal practice for the department to install equipment at the request of the RCMP?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, no, it is not always done in conjunction with the RCMP, but certainly in terms of partnershipping and making it cost-effective in paying for it. The RCMP contributed $25,000 toward the resolving of the problem or toward the system. Of course, there are many departments within the territorial government that also use it. Thank you.
VHF System in the amount of $145,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $245,000 agreed to
On Corporate Service Division
Chair: Is there any general debate on corporate service division?
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the office furniture, equipment, systems and space of $15,000 were enhancements to the budgeting, financial reporting and other departmental information systems support needs to meet changing operational requirements.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Chair: On the transportation division. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In office furniture and equipment systems and space, the main project is computing equipment systems, which consist of four sub-projects. Transportation and engineering has $57,000 for scanning and conversion services for a record drawing system, and for the purchase of nine personal computers.
Software and miscellaneous computer local area network infrastructure - the airport has $5,000 for software upgrades; transport services has $79,000 to provide maintenance and enhancements to vehicle registration, the national collision database, the driver record, the carrier profile, the intra-provincial record exchange and the weigh station systems, and to purchase four workstations and four printers.
Transportation maintenance has $19,000 to purchase two workstations and one laptop to provide enhancements to their vehicles and equipment management systems, and to upgrade local area network, back-up and storage capabilities.
The other two projects are office equipment and furniture, at $34,000, and office accommodation at $10,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just explore one area of the computer expenditures.
The $79,000 for the motor vehicle branch for intra-provincial accident registration ties in to the commercial vehicle system registration - the national system - and all of that information is obtained through that system. Yet, we're not getting into it, but we're just getting into a part of it.
Now, where's the rationale, especially, when it's in the magnitude of $80,000 to get a component of the information that's available nationally?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It might be helpful if I read into the record exactly where it is all going to. It is certainly not just for the one instance. For instance, the $10,000 vehicle registration system stores the information on registered vehicles; $2,500 is for the national collision data base, which stores the accident information; $30,000 is for the driver record system, which stores the information of drivers' records; $4,000 is for the carrier profile system, which just stores the information on motor carrier drivers and vehicle history; $3,000 is for interprovincial records exchange, which allows across-Canada access of driver and vehicle registration; $2,500 is for weigh station systems, which calculates the vehicle weights and stores information on all vehicles that have been reported to the weigh station; and again, I will reiterate the purchase of four workstations at $16,000; and $11,400 for a printer. Therein is the total.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we're involved nationally in some of the programs but not all of the programs. Where's the judgment call made and who makes that judgment call as to what programs we're going to participate in and what national programs we're not participating in?
We're into the national accident records and yet we're not into the national system of commercial vehicle registration.
With respect to driver records, is this all a demerit point system? Is it all being linked nationally now? It used to be just B.C. and I believe Alberta. Now we're going right across Canada and everything will be inputted for records? When was this policy established?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I can answer some of the questions. In the instance of the CAVAR, we're not in the CAVAR, as explained just a few short days ago, simply for the high cost of it and the revenue loss. Now, the decision, as the member asked - when was the policy established? The decision was done many years ago. It was told to me, and the summary that we provided just the other day explaining the rationale still proves, I think, that it is the right decision made.
The others, of course, are all linked together and will continue to be used in such a manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but it still doesn't answer the question. The national accident registry, what purpose does that serve for Yukon? You know, there are probably more motor vehicle accidents occurring in downtown Toronto or Montreal in one day than there is in the entire Yukon in one year. So, tell me why we're buying in to some of the systems with respect to the driver record systems. Are we going right across Canada for, let's say, infractions that occur in other jurisdictions right across Canada? They'd be showing up on a person's driver's licence, or driver owner abstract here in Yukon?
How do we determine what we're going to be into and what we're not going to be into? Is it cost driven? Is it safety driven? How is it done?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It certainly is my pleasure to stand here today and say that the systems that we are implementing and bringing in across Canada are certainly primarily for safety concerns. We'll continue to work in this manner.
Certainly, in a small location like this, the member opposite is probably absolutely and most certainly correct as to Toronto or his example of Montreal and accidents. But, it certainly does not stop us from taking a pro-active approach to this most important issue of safety, and it certainly works and benefits not only the territorial government, but also the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well.
Chair: Do the members desire a short recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes, please.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
Turn back to page 3-21, O&M, public safety stats.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures - continued
Municipal and Community Affairs Division - previously stood over
Mr. Jenkins: I believe previously I had the minister's response that he would get back to me with a further breakdown of that area. The area that I wanted to have a look at was the sports and recreation part of it. I still am reviewing that area but we will clear that area.
With respect to the mosquito control information that the minister provided, it still does not address the question. The question that was raised was how much money are we going to save? The buck was passed, "We're doing this because the communities complained that their costs were going too high." We went around in a circle and an explanation was provided but the answer was not given, Mr. Chair, as to how much money we are going to save.
That's what I'm heading for. Can the minister please provide how much money is going to be saved by adopting the program and implementing it the way his department officials have indicated? That's what I'm looking for in that area.
With respect to the recreation and the breakdown on the other legislative return or information the minister provided, it breaks down but it does give rise to the question as to the date that we pick for the population to enter into the formula. There is an inconsistency throughout the department as to what date we pick for the implementation of the various programs and grants.
So, I'm looking for a consistent date throughout all the programs and all that information.
Could the minister undertake to bring back that information on the mosquito control program - how much money we're going to save - period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I do believe that we can answer the questions, and we have answered the questions for the member opposite.
Certainly, with the tender price, the lowest tender price was $89,450, and our estimated costs of the in-house program for this year are between $50,000 and $60,000. That sort of gives rise that we could save approximately $30,000 for this year.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister is making the statement that he's going to be saving $30,000, I'd be happy to accept it. But, what the minister is not doing - he is comparing apples to oranges. The price that he has quoted for the product from Abbott Laboratories is FOB Whitehorse.
The price that he received from the contractor, whose bid was rejected because it came in too high, was for supplying the product, being responsible for the product, delivering the product to all of the respective communities and being responsible for it and, after the program was completed, to return the empty bags to Whitehorse so that a physical inventory could be done. So, we are not comparing apples to apples; we are comparing two different programs.
Now, if it's the government's wish to put the tenders out on a basis like they're going to institute it themselves, all well and good, but they are certainly not. So, what I would suggest to the minister is, once again, he does not have his homework and background search completed properly, and we're going to end up with costs in excess of what has been estimated or we're going to end up with a very inferior product supplied by the methods that the minister is going to have his department officials employ this year.
I am seeking the minister's assurances that we're going to be saving $30,000 and that's going to be pro-rated across all the member communities from what we spent last year. Is that where the minister is coming from? Can he give the House his assurance this afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can say to the member opposite that explicitly we are going to be saving approximately $30,000 this year. I've said that, and I'll say it again - approximately $30,000. Now, to me, that is a savings.
Are we going to be passing that on to the communities as they participate? Well, we'll certainly be passing on a portion of the pro-rated savings to the communities, but it is certainly difficult - as the member opposite himself had clarified and stated earlier in his comments - that that is not done until the fall. So I can say again - approximately $30,000. As you are probably well aware, the Village of Haines Junction, the Village of Mayo, the Town of Watson Lake and the City of Whitehorse have opted out. They are not participating in it. So certainly, with the approximate savings and with the tender price being $89,450, we feel that we can do it in house for $50,000 to $60,000. We are going to be doing it in conjunction with the Department of Renewable Resources. Certainly, we will, at that point in time, be able to pass on some savings to the member communities that are participating. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what we have is a number of communities that have opted out and are engaging the contractor who was up here last year to supply and install the larvicide, and the government is opting out of the program - they're going to undertake it themselves.
We can't get the assurance from the minister that there is going to be a significant saving. A $30,000 reduction in contract price from last year is insignificant, given the scope of the reduction in the area that is going to be treated, Mr. Chair. There is going to be considerably less area treated and there is a minimum requirement of purchasing the larvicide. The minimum quantity that you can supply at that price is 200 bags. So, how is there going to be a saving?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is certainly putting a twist to things, but that is certainly to be expected. I have stood here and quite categorically stated that we are going to be saving approximately $30,000 this year. I have also said that for the number of communities that are working with us on this that these savings will be passed forth and on to those communities.
Now, in total, can I say exactly what? Well, I am somewhat dismayed by the member opposite saying that $30,000 is not a significant portion of money. To me, to my line of thinking, I think it is a very significant amount of money. If we are going to be passing that on or if we are going to be doing the same job for it, well then, I think that is a very good initiative on behalf of my government for the people of the Yukon.
Chair: I'd like to make a point. It seems that we are debating something that was not held over. What was held over were the statistics.
Mr. Jenkins: The legislative returns, or the information that was tabled. There were two items tabled, Mr. Chair.
There were two items returned - information items - and one was on mosquito control and the other one was on the formula used to determine community recreation funding to Yukon's unincorporated communities. We've pretty well addressed one, and the minister has failed to answer them satisfactorily, so I guess we can move on, and the record will show the questions weren't answered, Mr. Chair.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $23,549,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Community and Transportation Services in the amount of 64,088,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures - continued
Chair: We'll head back to capital, page 3-4, and we're still on general debate.
Mr. Jenkins: We were looking at the $79,000 expenditure spread over a number of different agencies of the government to provide information. Can the minister provide some details as to how much money being involved in all of these programs is going to save the Government of Yukon, and what additional benefits are going to accrue to the Government of Yukon by being involved in all of these various programs? I should omit the weigh station information. That's self-explanatory. That information I'm aware of, but the other one as to the benefits that would accrue to the Yukon - that's the $2,500 expenditure for the calculation of weigh scale data.
In all of the other areas - driver records, carrier records, interprovincial interfacing - what benefits are going to accrue to Yukoners, or is this just another George Orwell intrusion into our backyards?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I think we must get out of the Flintstone era and we must certainly not proceed backwards to work with chisels and to be working with rock but to recognize that they are going to be moving forth with efficiency and we're going to continue to do this.
The member opposite asked, then, how much savings will we be recurring. Let me ask the member the difference between doing things with a chisel and a hammer and then moving into the computer world. Is there a scope? Well, certainly, there's much difference in savings, but in this particular instance I think that is regrettably another question that has been deemed and thrown out there so that the member opposite can carry on with his dog-and-pony show.
Why are we doing this and why are we moving forward with this particular item? For the health and safety of the people. I have explained to the member opposite repeatedly that we are participating in some and opting out of others. Why are we doing this? Because some portions are not going to be cost-effective and will cost us money, so we're staying out of them.
I have provided the member opposite with a summary, which again reiterated that very same basic principle.
So, again, Mr. Chair, if I may, I would like to reiterate for the member once more this afternoon and likely into the evening that we will be continuing, for the health and benefit of all Yukoners, to upgrade our services and our systems. I think this is what you might call just keeping up with health and safety priorities, if I may. Thank you so very much.
Mr. Jenkins: But, it gives rise to the minister not responding again. We've gone around from the Flintstones, and if anything, all we're trying to keep up with is the Jones. The minister has failed to respond to the question, Mr. Chair. What benefits will accrue to Yukoners for being involved with the national driver records information system and the carrier records at a cost of - what is it a cost of? - $30,000 for driver records, and interfacing it with the interprovincial governments is another $3,000 and national accident registration? What benefits are going to accrue to Yukoners? Tell me what benefits are going to accrue to Yukoners? And we're just looking at spending considerable sums of money - another $30,000 that we're saving on the mosquito control program - to buy another bunch of computers over here or some programs. What benefits will accrue to Yukoners? That's the question, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can rise and speak to the member's question. Certainly from the forecast of $515,000 to the estimate of 1997-98 of $204,000 is a change of minus 60 percent. So, I would suggest to Yukoners that there is going to be savings, and to the member opposite also, I would suggest that.
The member opposite asks what are the benefits. Well, it's obviously hard to describe health and safety issues to the member opposite, because I don't believe the member wants to necessarily hear what I have to say at different points in time.
So, what benefits will be there? Well, certainly the example that I used previously was a person coming here that might have a record of some sort. It will help us to establish and know who is here, et cetera.
Now, I guess I'm at a loss for words to simply convey the message to the member opposite, because I do believe that this is a total waste of our time when we are debating this. I think Yukoners, in general, and certainly at large, wish to see their government keep up. They wish to see us being able to move forward knowing that we are working for their efficiency and the betterment of them. Now, do we do it through computers? I think really what the member opposite has stated in his earlier preamble is that it finally came out. We're saving some money from mosquitoes, so we're going to buy another doggone computer. It certainly seems that the member opposite is not all that enraptured with the modern technology and is still back in the dog-and-pony show, and of course, either the dog or the horse is certainly still his hammer and chisel. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: With that kind of a response, Mr. Chair, this is going to be an agonizing week again. I was very, very hopeful that we could address the areas that the minister has responsibility for and answer in a reasonable type manner.
Now, if the minister doesn't have the answer to those questions, I'd be happy to suggest that he bring it back by way of a legislative return. Is the minister prepared to do that?
What I'm looking for is what benefits will accrue to Yukoners for spending the majority of this $79,000? A lot of it is dealing with the national accident registration driver records, which I would envision as if somebody gets a violation in another area of Canada, that information is immediately conveyed to Yukon. I would imagine if someone moves here from another jurisdiction, they don't have to make the one-day inquiry as they do at present, or two-day inquiry. That information would be available immediately.
Now, how many people are we looking at that are in that category, to justify that kind of expenditure? We are looking at a considerable sum of the taxpayers' money, never mind the ongoing O&M to keep this program current and keep it up to date.
I'm asking the minister: what benefits will accrue to Yukoners by implementing this procedure? As it presently stands, if the RCMP stop anybody from anywhere across Canada, they can access his driver record through their computer system.
Where's the benefit to Yukoners, other than maybe some supplier here getting a few bucks for another computer, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly thank the member opposite for again clarifying. I'd like to point out that the system that he mentioned - the RCMP system - is our system. That is the system that we are using, and the RCMP also.
I must say that benefits - and for some people it's very difficult for them to get an understanding, whether it's a deep understanding or a shallow understanding, but certainly - are not only laid out in terms of cash.
Certainly, other benefits are for the effective support of program service and delivery for the public. It's certainly a better use of human resources by employing better means of data gathering and information retrievable, and I must also say again, the safety benefits are also, certainly, first and most paramount in my mind.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have now is the generic response to implementing a computer system to cover another area. We just have the generic response.
Could the minister be specific and deal with the two areas that I dealt with previously, and advise what benefits are going to accrue to Yukoners - not in a generic manner, but how are we going to benefit Yukoners? Someone must have done a cost-benefit analysis before we embarked on spending this $79,000. Surely, someone must have done that. Was it not done? Is this something on the wish list and we are working down the wish list? Where are we going?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I will say quite categorically here that this will be the last time that I rise to answer this question for the member opposite.
No, it is not done for a wish list. If it was on a wish list, I would be certain that it would be very high on the wish list. Certainly, I think that safety, and especially health and safety problems, are foremost in my mind when we do it. The benefits will certainly be in cash - in part in cash. They will also be for the effective support of program, service and delivery for the public - for the public good - for better use of human resources by employing a better means of data gathering and information retrieval. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister can bring his response back by way of legislative return, because he certainly hasn't answered the question here. I would appreciate receiving that information.
If we look at the line item in the 1995-96 actual, $166,000, and the last year forecast, $515,000, and now we're down to $204,000. Can the minister explain the burp last year and the reduction to current levels? What has transpired for that big increase and that big reduction to occur?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we can look to provide that information for the member opposite, although I would like to let the member opposite know that last year's budget was debated last year and certainly this year's budget is being debated this year.
Chair: Is there no further general debate? Then we'll move to line items.
On Transportation Facilities
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $204,000 agreed to
On Regulatory Facilities
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the $4,000 is to replace the worn out carpet and linoleum at the Watson Lake weigh station.
Chair: Does this item clear?
Regulatory Facilities in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $345,000 consists of two projects: the capital maintenance of $220,000 to provide highway maintenance camps and workshops with minor upgrades and fuel tank replacements - these are necessary for ongoing operations - and, sundry equipment, $125,000, for the purchase of new and replacement small equipment, such as portable scales, water pumps, chainsaws, hand-operated power tools, et cetera.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide a breakdown of the $220,000 as to amount and location throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Our workplan for 1997-98 includes a $65,000 replacement of the fuel tanks in Tuchitua; $30,000, fuel tanks for the central workshop in Whitehorse; $110,000 for the upgrade of a grader station in Stewart Crossing; and $15,000 for miscellaneous and safety items.
Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $345,000 agreed to
On Transportation Engineering and Planning
On Transportation Planning
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, transportation planning at $350,000 provides funding for the transportation capital planning section, which is responsible for the analysis of transportation infrastructure and facility needs. As well, $50,000 will be used to undertake the transportation planning and support of the protected areas strategy.
Mr. Jenkins: From last year to this year, we're doing less capital work and less highway maintenance, and yet we're maintaining the same level of planning in the transportation division and we're embarking on a strategy.
Now, what's this strategy all about, for $50,000, and why do we need to maintain the same level of planning, given that our maintenance is being significantly reduced and our capital projects are being significantly reduced?
Could the minister provide an explanation, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I thank you very much for the time.
Certainly, planning is something that is going to be ongoing and will continue to be ongoing. I certainly see this year's as just a slight - to echo the member opposite's words - a slight burp. So we'll certainly be looking forward to other years, where we will not be in this situation.
Mr. Chair, in relation to the planning, transportation planning is in support of the protected area strategy. Of course, the Community and Transportation Services department certainly must be involved within the protected area planning and strategy, and this will enable us to be involved within the planning and strategy for the protected areas.
Mr. Jenkins: This $50,000 for the protected areas strategy, is that the total dollars that are going to be expended on constructing this strategy, or is it just the Department of C&TS contribution for their involvement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, this strategy that we're embarking on now for protected areas strategy is very important, and this will be, in part, our contribution. It's to hire a person that will work with the team, and we expect that this $50,000 will suffice.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if we look at this transportation planning department, Mr. Chair, we have a reduction in the capital projects that's being undertaken by C&TS, a significant reduction over last year. We have a reduction in the O&M costs that this department is going to be incurring - a significant reduction - primarily attributable to the lack of Lomak travelling the Klondike Highway. That's a significant component of the reduction in O&M costs and yet, we can't find anyone within that department to work on this strategy and we have to increase our budget by another $50,000 for another individual.
So, how does the minister justify maintaining the budget level at the same level as the last forecasted year - and just slightly over the 1995-96 actual - if there's a significant reduction on the workload in that department? Or are we into make-work projects now, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the member opposite's question as per the people that we're working with regarding planning and less capital, certainly there is less operation and maintenance; there are fewer capital projects than last year. We feel that we would have been forced to lay a person off and that's certainly not what we had wanted to do. We're certainly bringing this person in because of my government's initiative to work within the protected area strategy. We are doing that. It was natural that we would be able to take that person from there, that initiative, move them over into another segment of planning and supplement it with these dollars. Therein is the answer. I thank the member opposite for the question.
Mr. Jenkins: So, would the minister kindly identify the total cost to his department for this protected area strategy? His explanation alluded to a reduction in workload in the department. It alluded to the additional $50,000 placed in the department to hire another individual. I don't know what this individual is making or what classification this individual is at, but it appears that we're allocating much more than $50,000 to this protected area strategy.
What is the total cost to the department of developing this strategy? Has that been identified?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the member opposite knows that Renewable Resources has the lead on this department, but there are many issues that might be pertinent to transportation within the protected area strategy, whether it is the blocking of a road within a designated valley or whatever the situation might be. They do arise.
The salary for this person, I do believe, is approximately $50,000 to $60,000. I suggest that we are asking for $50,000 from within this budget. It is simply a guess, as the member opposite is very well aware, but we will certainly be working within our means and we will make sure that we stay within our means, Mr. Chair, and I thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the minister has failed to answer the question, Mr. Chair. What is the cost to his department for the development of the protective area strategy? We've identified an additional $50,000 that has been added in to the budget. The minister has alluded to other areas of the department having a reduction in their workload, and the department would have the ability to address this responsibility for developing this protective area strategy with this lessening of the workload in these other areas, but what is the total cost to the department for the development of the protective area strategy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it's approximately $50,000 for the 1997-98 budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Then why isn't there a reduction in the department's total capital from previous years because of the resulting reduction in workload as a consequence of fewer capital projects and fewer O&M expenditures within the department? Why do we need this same level of planning as previously?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I believe the member opposite might be talking of two different planning initiatives. One, that we're speaking of now, the $50,000, is for the protected areas strategy, and we'll be working in conjunction with the Renewable Resources department to do that. That is the total cost for 1997-98.
As per the member opposite's question as to the other forms of planning, well, we certainly must keep up with planning. We expect that this will be the last year that we'll have to be working within this, but we'll certainly be looking to always plan ahead for four to five years. That's what this enables us to do.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, if the minister would tell the House that those planning dollars are for a bridge at Dawson City, I'd be very, very happy to sit down. But as to why the level of funding is being maintained at the current level, the minister has still not responded. We've walked all around the question.
Could the minister advise the House why the level of planning is being maintained at the same level as previous years, despite a consistent reduction in capital over the last two years?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, if I could reiterate, the 1995-96 actuals were $53,889,000, the 1995-96 forecast was $51,416,000, and with the 1997-98 estimates of $27,198,000, it certainly shows that it has gone down.
Certainly, as to say a "burp" as to the member opposite's question, or to use his terminology, that's what this certainly is this year.
Now, whose fault is that? Certainly not this administration's. We are living within our means. Does that mean that capital or the planning should stop now? No, it certainly does not mean that. It means we must keep up and that we are attempting to keep up and that we will keep up for the future, and we certainly strive to plan at least four to five years ahead, and we will continue to do so, because certainly only on planning will you ever be able to deliver a good product and keep up with what Yukoners expect of us.
I could certainly read into the record for the member opposite our planning initiatives. We certainly have time to do that. We have all the time in the world to make sure that the member opposite gets good information.
The major projects that transportation, planning and program have are the Klondike Highway, Dawson area is a functional plan; the Campbell Highway, Watson Lake to Ross River, again a functional plan; Klondike Highway, kilometre 192 to kilometre 248, pavement strategy; an overview of the traffic-count program; transportation strategy; transportation corridor identification that we just mentioned as the input to the protected areas strategy; maintenance camp facility study - the division performance indicated development; capital budget for 1998-99, of course; the Atlin Road reconstruction for the Alaska Highway corridor and the study update; the Alaska Highway, kilometre 1558 to kilometre 1635, a functional plan; bridge upgrading/replacement for long-term plan; the Alaska Highway overlay evaluation, from kilometre 1014 to 1025 and kilometre 1420 to kilometre 1454; the Klondike Highway pavement evaluation, from kilometre 25 to 44; the Alaska Highway operational feasibility, from kilometre 909 to kilometre 968; the Klondike Highway, kilometre 248 to kilometre 276; the Klondike Highway, kilometre 663 to kilometre 207; the Klondike Highway, from kilometre 338 to kilometre 510; the Tagish Road reconstruction from kilometre zero to kilometre 21; the economic analysis functional planning procedure development; and the vehicle running study speed.
These are just some of the major projects that the department is in and planning toward. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Does this line item clear?
Transportation Planning in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on capital expenditures, transportation division. We will begin debate on the line item transportation engineering.
On Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Transportation and engineering, $460,000, consists of two projects: the transportation engineering support and highway inventory management, in the amount of $260,000, which is for items such as engineering work that arises on short notice for various minor projects that are too small to list separately in main estimate submissions and for replacement of small engineering equipment items; land and granule resource management, in the amount of $200,000, for management of all lands required in the delivery of programs - for example, the rights of ways, et cetera - the identification of granule or material sources and development and maintenance of granule site development plans.
Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management) in the amount of $460,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction Non-YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Alaska Highway, non-YTG funded of $12,488,000 includes the reconstruction of kilometre 1634 to kilometre 1966; the $11.2 million is for reconstruction to a 100-kilometre-per-hour standard with BST surface, and all unimproved portions north of Haines Junction.
This project is recoverable under the Shakwak agreement, and work in 1997-98 is for completion of approximately 10 kilometres of highway, including completion of contracts already in progress, BST and all the reconstructive sections as well as completion of the new bridge over the White River.
Reconstruction of kilometre 1056 to kilometre 1102 and the south Alaska Highway of $1,288,000 is for completion of upgrading the Watson Lake to Whitehorse sections of the highway.
Work includes six kilometres of reconstruction, 22 kilometres worth of new BST, hydroseeding, guardrail and crushing. This project is cost shared under the Canada/Yukon strategic highway improvement program, SHIP.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm somewhat interested in bridges, Mr. Chair, and I would like to know the length of the White River bridge, its capital cost, and how many piers it will have. What type of bridge is it - the new one?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the member opposite, we will have to get back with the correct statistics. We don't have those statistics with us right here at this moment. But I can certainly say it's going to be a good, sturdy, strong bridge. I just don't know how long it's going to be.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just encouraged by those remarks, and I'm looking forward to the day when the minister can open another similar sturdy bridge in another location in the Yukon, right adjacent to Dawson City. I'm sure it's within the realm of possibility and can be easily justified, based on what we've managed to justify here in the past few weeks in the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Chair, the $11.2 million of the Shakwak project - I'll just ask what the estimated completion cost is for the next phase, should it be approved, and where we are at with the approval process. What are we anticipating? Let's look forward for a change.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, to the member opposite, it is estimated that an additional $94 million of U.S. dollars is needed to complete that. As to where we're at with it, the Government Leader has certainly sent letters to the members of the Alaska congressional delegation, the Governor of Alaska, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and the Prime Minister requesting their support for funding to complete the project. As minister, I have written to the United States federal highways minister and to the Alaska Commissioner of Transportation. We've also written letters to Senator Randy Phillips of Alaska requesting support of the state legislature through a motion in favour of the Shakwak, and that has since happened. The deputy minister has written to his senior counterpart in the Government of Canada requesting that Canada make every effort to press the case forward for additional Shakwak funding with Washington, and the department has been providing technical assistance to the Public Works and Government Services Canada in support of Canada's effort to secure additional funding, and we have a meeting set up for some time in June with the Governor of Alaska to certainly drive home this issue again.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise what he anticipates as the time frame for knowing when this money is going to be voted on in Congress, when it's going to be available for the future planning of the additional section of the highway - the $94,000 highway that he's going to construct?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly that slip of the tongue, as well as probably many more, will come back to haunt me, and I thank the member opposite for keeping me accountable. The United States government is scheduled to introduce a new transportation funding bill in the fall of 1997, and this is the bill that would be the means of approval for the new Shakwak funding. The drafting of the bill and agreement on its contents will occur over the next six months, and therefore our meeting is set up and we're certainly going to work with due diligence to ensure that we do have inclusion of this funding. Thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hear what we're asking and I hear the process that's going to be involved in getting the funding. Have we heard back from anybody in the U.S. about how things are going?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we've received a support letter from the Governor of Alaska supporting our initiative. We have received some support from the Alaska congressional delegation. They're mulling it over, but they certainly seem to be coming our way with it and as stated earlier, the Alaska House and the Joint Committee of the House and the Senate have passed a joint resolution in favour.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister does recognize that if this comes into focus and these funds are available that this government can brag that they have created the biggest budget ever. We're talking about $131 million Canadian.
Yes, you just move the decimal place over, Mr. Chair, and you can arrive at the thousands of dollars, but it's $131 million converted at the current rate of exchange.
I was interested to note the minister say that his deputy minister had written to his counterpart in the Government of Canada. I didn't know such an individual existed. Who would his counterpart be in the Government of Canada?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. The deputy minister has been communicating with the public works person who has been assigned and also Government Services representing both on her file - the lady's name is Ms. Carol Beal. It is also important to maintain and remember that this agreement is not between Alaska and Yukon, but this agreement is between Canada and the United States of America.
Again, at the technical level, we have our director of engineering also working with the Canadian Embassy directly on this initiative also. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. This is a major project that the Yukon very much needs. What can the balance of this Legislature do to ensure that it occurs and to ensure that these funds will be budgeted and made available for this project? What additional efforts can this Legislature undertake to ensure that it occurs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's a very good question. I certainly appreciate the sincerity that it was put forward with. Myself, I am certainly not a representative, as others are, such as the House Leaders or such. There may be a resolution or something, a joint resolution from all aspects of the House or something would make sense. I am certainly open for advice on that or anything from any of the respective House Leaders. If not, I will certainly be able to garner that advice and bring it back to the House as requested.
Mrs. Edelman: Our caucus is more than willing to help in that endeavour and we very much support the Shakwak project and what those dollars mean in our economy, especially this year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it's the same for our side. That's what led to this question of the minister, and if there is anything that we can do to facilitate this kind of a motion of all-party support, let's move on with it. It's one of those issues that we can glean some tremendous benefits for Yukon from, and probably put another feather in the minister's hat.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the camaraderie. I will certainly take it up with my House Leader and work it through. As far as another feather in my hat, I guess that might be - you really mean that and I thank you so much for that. It's somewhat of a shock though, certainly, since we've been wearing war bonnets for the last little bit. But, I will certainly put it in my hat and work to making sure that we keep up with the spirit of the House as it has been described.
Chair: It is my understanding that you included strategic highway improvement in your opening statements, and the other side also finished with their discussions on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Just a point with respect to the highway improvements. Is it the eventual aim to bring the entire Alaska Highway up to a 100-kilometre-per-hour road condition, and when is it estimated that that will be accomplished and when is it going to be undertaken on the Klondike Highway? There are a lot of sections north of Whitehorse that, in my opinion, should be at least at that level of posted speed limit.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, certainly on the Alaska Highway it is the overall ambition to get it all improved and up to the 100 kilometres.
As to the second part of the member opposite's question regarding the Klondike Highway, it is certainly something that I will take under advisement and put forth with our directors to see if it can and when it can happen.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister have any idea as to the time frame for the Alaska Highway to all be brought up? How many more kilometres will we be doing each year, and what's the time frame for completion from the B.C. border to the Alaska border?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the time frame, from Whitehorse to Watson Lake, we're anticipating that we should have that finished off within the next couple of years and have the same consistent speed of 100 kilometres per hour from here to Watson Lake. As for the portion of the Shakwak that we're talking about, of course it will be surrounding the Shakwak funding. But we're certainly hoping and anticipating, I've been informed, of working toward a five-year time frame if it all happens.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question on strategic highways. You spoke of the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Watson Lake, and you've spoken of the Shakwak project, but there's going to be upgrading required between Whitehorse and Haines Junction to bring it up to the 100 kilometres an hour. What is your time line on having that completed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the member opposite for his question, I thank you for the question. Certainly, it's all a matter of priorities and money, of course. The member opposite is quite correct in saying from Whitehorse to Haines Junction - the SHIP funding - right now, it is a matter of priorities and balancing, juggling between the Campbell Highway, where we're trying to do upgrading in anticipation of Kudz Ze Kayah, et cetera - the Wolverine properties, I believe it is - and that portion. Certainly, it is a matter of priorities and if all goes well, we will certainly be able to accomplish - as to when, though, I'm certainly not capable of standing here and giving an exact time frame on that. But certainly, as we establish priorities and do a balancing act, I anticipate that it should be quite sooner than later, if I can say it in that way.
As for the White River, if I might, at this point in time, carry on with the bridge question, the White River bridge, the length -
Mr. Ostashek: Just another couple of questions on the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Haines Junction. That's what I was asking the minister. What is his priority? He's saying "sooner rather than later". Does the minister anticipate that he's going to have this done during this mandate or is the time frame longer than that or is there a schedule even being worked on for the upgrading of that highway?
And while the minister's at it, maybe he could also answer - I notice that, this winter, there has been logging going on along the right-of-way from Marshall Creek to Haines Junction. I would like to know if there are plans for the upgrading of that section being anticipated next year, based on funding available, or what is the time frame for that?
What was the rationale for the fact that we are logging the right-of-way from Marshall Creek to Haines Junction when, in fact, one of the things we're trying to do for tourism is to hide the logging from tourism. Yet, the only place we have allowed this contractor to log is on the right-of-way from Marshall Creek to Haines Junction. Is that in anticipation of reconstruction in the very near future?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can attempt to answer the member opposite's question.
As per the question as to a schedule, certainly there is a schedule of it. The possibilities for funding this year were not there. It ended up working on the Campbell Highway. So, yes, there is a schedule. It's not a firm schedule at this point in time, but as to it being done within this mandate, I'm most certainly hopeful that it will be, and I can say that possibly it will be done within this mandate.
As for the logging from Marshall Creek to Haines Junction, the rationale for the logging is that the pre-logging of the Alaska Highway right-of-way, which is east of Haines Junction as we already know, is being presently carried out by AJ Enterprises of Haines Junction, and it's being done through a Department of Indian and Northern Affairs public tender process. It was those folks that let out that tender.
Mr. Ostashek: So I take it that what the minister is telling me is that it wasn't done in anticipation of that contract for the reconstruction of that highway being let in the very near future - like I'm saying next year possibly?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, it wasn't done in anticipation of that, but it certainly is helpful, and it will certainly not impede progress if we do it for next year. So it certainly is a step in the right direction, and thank you for your question.
Strategic Highway Improvement Program (SHIP) in the amount of $1,288,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For this item of $1,350,000, it is for the reconstruction and BST from kilometre 0 to kilometre 427. For improvements to alignment, grades, the width and drainage planned at Money Creek at kilometre 17.6 in support of potential mine development adjacent to this corridor. This project is cost shared at 50 percent under the Canada/Yukon strategic highway improvement program.
Mr. Jenkins: In the minister's initial remarks, he said kilometre 0 to kilometre 427, prepare for BST or install BST or just bring it up to a standard where we can apply BST. What is the minister referring to, Mr. Deputy Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite for pointing that out to me. Yes, that is an oversight and certainly it will not be BST. No, most certainly not; there's not enough money to do it, but it will be a start in bringing it up to the standard so that it might be able to be. Thank you very much for pointing that out; I appreciate it.
Mr. Jenkins: There are three little bridges in that area on the initial sections of the Campbell. What's the department going to be doing with these bridges? They're currently below standard for weight carrying ability. What are the plans for the replacement, time frame and cost? We might as well get the length down, so I have sort of an order of magnitude as to what we're looking at, because we only need about just over three White River bridges to cross the Yukon at Dawson.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, we do not have the length and I'm not going to ask for it again because I might get in trouble. So, certainly, I can attempt to get it for him, though, if the member so wishes.
Certainly, Mr. Chair, the three bridges on the south Campbell Highway, at the Frances River at kilometre 60, Money Creek at kilometre 176 and the big Campbell River at kilometre 275 were the subject of an evaluation by transportation engineering in connection with the south Campbell Highway upgrading.
The analysis indicated that all three bridges required upgrading to fully meet current code requirements and the work required on these bridges was included in the proposed $2.7 million budget allocation for the south Campbell Highway for the 1997-98 fiscal year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that between the O&M budget and the capital budget, we're going to see these bridges brought up to current standards.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In short, yes, that is very much the truth. We are looking to do it this year. Between the two, the money will be there.
Mrs. Edelman: Back to the Campbell Highway, improvements are made in support of a potential mine development adjacent to the corridor, and this is 50-percent shared under SHIP. What I'm wondering about is if this is a policy of the government now. Are we going to be building roads or bringing roads up to standard where there's potential mining? Is that going to be a policy of this government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, in anticipation of mining development in this specific case, yes, we are attempting to keep ahead of it, so that we might be able to not impede mine openings, if mines are going to be there.
You asked about a policy and if we have a policy on that, I believe, and, no, not really such a thing as a policy, but just working hand-in-hand with other departments to make sure that we do have an incremental approach toward maintaining standards within our department to make sure that we will not be impeding a mine opening.
Mrs. Edelman: At what point does the department decide that they are going to be building a road, or are they doing it when they're at the exploration phase? Are we doing it when we're getting bore holes down? Does it depend on the type of mineral that we're bringing out? Does it depend on the number of people that are employed or the size of the development or how far along they are on the development? Are there any criteria whatsoever for the building of roads or bringing up of the standard of a road anywhere near a mining development, and how close does it have to be to the mining development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we do have what is called a functional plan on the Campbell Highway, and I've been assured that it's about this thick. I would certainly be more than willing to loan that report to the member opposite. I don't believe that there are too many around. So, certainly, I'll make that available and that does have, mostly, all of the questions that the member opposite has asked.
I'd also like to say, though, that it is a public road today and that there is pressure - well, Watson Lake has been on our case for quite some time and so has Ross River and the community of Faro - to bring this road up to standard.
With the mine development at the stage that it's at, it has just been a bit pro-active to attempt to keep up with opening - and the maintenance also.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand then that the policy that's contained in the document to do with the Campbell Highway will outline the policy of this government toward developing or bringing up the standard of a road close to a mining development elsewhere in the Yukon?
Am I to understand that will tell me a little bit more about the timing of when a road will be brought in? Is that a general policy statement that will be coming out of that document?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The policy note is not definitely a policy, and the manual is in draft form only at this point in time, but certainly it depicts the traffic and the numbers of traffic, how much traffic actually goes over it, the type of traffic, whether it's just holiday traffic or whether it's more commercial traffic and what type of traffic, and it also depicts the costs and what the costs would be, and also the standards that we would have to live by and maintain.
If I could just give you a bit more on the costs, if you'd like, the costs estimated depend on the standard of the road construction. They range from $93.4 million for a 100-kilometre-an-hour, full-structured BST to $48 million for an 80-kilometre-an-hour gravel road. And that is it, thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: I understand the principles of road construction and bringing roads up to a standard and maintaining them. You do that because you decide at what point you're going to be adding on to or building up a road.
So, at what point on the Campbell Highway or any other highway in the Yukon would you decide that there's a development that's worthy of bringing a road up to a standard that's higher than it is right now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, with the range that I was speaking of - anywhere from $48 million for an 80-kilometre-an-hour gravel road to $93.4 for a 100-kilometre-an-hour, full-structured BST road - as the member opposite knows, that is very expensive and it's wisest to do it if we were going to be able to have a mining development or something like as such - industry, I guess I should say - coming within that area. And that certainly makes it much easier to spend on and encourage the development that I'm talking about. Certainly, though, we have to stay just a bit ahead, if we can, of these developments - being pro-active, as the department is, I believe - and to work toward keeping up, or at least a couple of years ahead. So, such is the request for the funding for the different areas contained within the budget as it is presented.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Chair, am I to understand then that two years prior to a mining development that there will be money put into the budget to upgrade that highway? Is that the policy generally that you're talking about?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, within the member's question - on a road, such as the Campbell, yes, I could say that tentatively that is a good portion of the policy, or the directive to spend those dollars. But certainly, that is not the overall factor. There are other mining roads that are smaller, less impacted roads which might not receive the same. But certainly, on some things such as the Campbell Highway, yes, that is tentatively a standard.
Mrs. Edelman: Then also a development such as say a large lodge or something that was going to be developed - would there also be a similar undertaking, an upgrading of the road, if there was another type of development going on in an area off the Campbell Highway or any other highway in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, within the manual that I spoke about earlier that talked about the traffic numbers and the types and the cost and standards needed for that particular stretch of road or highway, I guess you might say, would be not the bible but certainly the basis of a policy, I would think.
As for a lodge such as could be constructed on the Campbell Highway at this time, for the type of vehicles that are used on that highway now, the highway would suffice as it is right now. It wouldn't have any greater an impact on the road if it was Winnebagos or four-by-four vehicles. With the mining development, the types that use it are commercial, of course, trucks with heavier loads, et cetera, and so it would change the needed standards.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Chair, just to clarify, then, on this highway and probably on other highways in the Yukon, there would be a willingness to help bring a road up to a standard for a mining development in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, yes, there would be a willingness, I guess, to do it with a mine or an industry of sorts that would be able to create employment or whatever. Certainly it has got to be taken within the context of the budgets and the budget cycle, but certainly it would be an incentive - if I could put it in that way - and not just for a mine, but maybe for any other type of major industry that would be looked at under that same type of magnitude.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm somewhat amazed as to how the south Campbell Highway got so far advanced and so high up in the priorities for this cycle to have received $1.3 million in capital and $2.7 in O&M.
Now, there are usually three reasons for a decision of this magnitude - one, the traffic count is there to justify it. So would the minister kindly bring back the traffic count for that highway? I'm sure he has it there now because, from all of my past recollections of the traffic count on the south Campbell, it's virtually non-existent.
Now, the second reason is that there's a mine announcement and it's imminently coming into production. The Kudz Ze Kayah - Cominco operation - is not even started into the permitting process, and it's probably years away from even going into production, or a-go/no-go call being made by the owners.
The third reason that a decision of this magnitude is made is to fulfill an election promise. Now, would the minister advise the House which one we're honouring. Are we leaning toward the engineering side, the business side, or is it just a campaign promise that we're fulfilling? Which one?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly say that the Government Leader met, over the course of the winter, numerous times - as has the Minister of Economic Development -with Cominco.
We feel that Cominco is very serious about their proposal and of announcing and opening mines. We're certainly hoping that we can have the support of the whole House when it comes down to that. I know that the previous administration had worked with the same players, and certainly - I can't say what their feelings were, but certainly our feeling on this side of the House is that they are serious and wanting and willing to work.
So, it is in conjunction with the mine and with their aspirations of opening a mine. The member opposite is absolutely correct; the traffic count is very small. No, we do not have the traffic numbers here with us, but certainly, as requested, I can get those numbers for the member opposite.
If it's to fulfill an election promise - the only thing that I promised on the election trail was that I would give good representation and so far - some might argue - I think I have not broken that election campaign promise, and that is the only promise that I made on the trail.
Now, as far as others within that particular riding, whether it's the member behind me - yes, he is - and others the Minister of Economic Development, no, I do not believe it was anything near an election promise. But, I will say though that numerous people had asked when we were going to fix up the road, because they say it was a very hazardous road, and I'm going to be taking a trip down there myself to look at the conditions first-hand.
In part, I can say quite truthfully that it hasn't been to maintain an election promise, but moreso in the mind of not impeding mining development, or anything like as such. That's the basic principle.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm a little concerned here with the debate and the information that the minister has given back to the House on the Campbell Highway.
There's no doubt the Campbell Highway is a highway that requires upgrading, but again, it has to be based on some fact and I'm going to look forward, as my colleague will, to the minister bringing back the numbers of the traffic on that highway. We have now in front of us again another Faro closure at this time, so the traffic's going to go down again.
The minister sort of alluded to the fact that my administration was working with the mining companies, and he's quite right, but we also took the position with the mining companies that until such time as they made a production decision and until such time that they made a decision as to where they were going to ship their concentrate, i
t would be very irresponsible of us to start putting a lot of dollars into the Campbell Highway because, as the minister said earlier, $50 million for an 80-kilometre-an-hour road, $90 million to $100 million for a 100-kilometre-an-hour road, and when I left office, unless the minister has some new information, Cominco had not yet made any decision as to where they were going to be shipping their concentrate to.
So, I find it a little bit alarming, with the limited budgets that we hear the members opposite saying that they have and that they're short of dollars, that they would find the dollars to put into this highway before the numbers justify it and the mine has not said yet it is going into production or when it's going into production and, even so, if they do, which way are they going to haul the concentrate. Are they going to haul it back through Faro to Skagway or are they going to haul it south to Fort Nelson? It has a tremendous financial impact on the territorial government's budgets until those decisions are made.
So, I'd like to ask the minister: has he got information that he would like to share in this House? Has Cominco made a production decision? Have they indicated to the government as to where they're going to be shipping their concentrate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I in part will answer this question and then I'll ask my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, to answer in part the question, as well. I am certainly appreciative that you're appreciative. We'll get you the facts and the number counts. It certainly goes a long way to sharing information.
As for the Faro closure, I would certainly like to stress to the member opposite that it is a temporary closure, as we've been told, and certainly we look at it in that light.
As for the previous administration and their way of doing business, they certainly have maintained their way of doing business and it is quite admirable. At this time, though, I must say, to be quite truthful, that there is no new information, but I'd like to explain to the member opposite that there is, at the present time, no commitment from Cominco, the owner of the property, to develop the mine, although the decision on whether or not to proceed is expected this year. As I say, we felt quite positive about it. We certainly thought that, in order to stay ahead of it, we should move forward to this year.
I would like to turn it over to my colleague, if I may at this point in time. Thank you very much.
Mr. Ostashek: The one part of the question that you didn't answer: has Cominco indicated as to which direction they're going to be hauling the concentrate? Because when we left office, this was very much undecided yet. They were talking about the possibility of going to Skagway via Faro. They were talking about the possibility of going to Fort Nelson via Watson Lake.
Is there any new information on that? Have they made a decision on that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I know that Mr. Keen of Cominco has met with the C&TS minister. Through the meetings that I've attended, though, in Toronto and in Vancouver and at the Geoscience Forum and subsequent to that, Cominco told us that they still hadn't made a decision. We met with their CEO down in Vancouver at their head office, Mr. Thompson, and had an interesting discussion with him. It appears that they like the southern option down through Watson Lake more preferably than the northern option through Ross River, Faro, Carmacks and out through Skagway, simply because they would have two choices, then, if they went south. They could have the route through Skagway and they would also have the railhead at Fort Nelson.
So they haven't made anything definitive yet in terms of a statement to us, and they haven't made a production decision as of yet. They're waiting till they're fully licensed to do that. They have said to us, though, that it's a 60-cent-plus property and they need a sustained 60-cent zinc price to even think about putting in the necessary infrastructure.
We have told them - probably the same policy as the previous government - that we need as much notice as possible because it is an incredibly expensive undertaking. It would be difficult for the territory to do it on their own. However, having said that, I would like to give the Minister of C&TS some credit for investing in the Campbell Highway. I think the people of Watson, Faro, Ross River and Carmacks do deserve some investment in that highway. I don't think it should always all be related - in terms of expenditures - to whether mines are up and down. Certainly, Anvil Range is telling us that they hope to be milling by the fall. We don't have anything definitive on that but certainly they have not locked up and gone home for the winter with regard to their plans to put the mine back into production.
So we're still very hopeful in that respect and I still have a constituency full of over 1,100 people in Faro who are waiting with bated breath to hear what Anvil's plans are.
So, with regard to the Cominco question, we don't yet know. We haven't got a production decision. We've heard a preferred option, but it's still in conceptually stated terms and, with regard to the Campbell Highway, I commend the minister for his investment in the Campbell Highway and I'd like to see more.
Chair: Is it the wish of the House to take a recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes, please.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister to go back and undertake an exercise on the highways of Yukon and bring back to this House the vehicle counts along the respective highways and corridors where we know that there is upgrading required. And I'm sure that once we see the vehicle count for the south Campbell Highway, the decision to provide $4 million in O&M and capital funding will not and cannot be justified.
Then if we look at it from the business standpoint as to the Kudz Ze Kayah property going into production and do an analysis of that undertaking - despite the assurances of the Minister of Economic Development that this mining property is quite probably going to go into production - we'd soon discount that scenario.
So, what we're left with is a decision made by this government to honour an election commitment. It's probably a commitment made by the Member for Faro to upgrade the Campbell Highway. What we have is a very irresponsible decision of this government to spend that level of funding when there are needs in other areas of the highway system far in excess of what this corridor can justify by any of the logical tests. So I would ask the minister to bring back the stats - the vehicle movements - just to substantiate the first scenario, and I would seek his undertaking in that regard this evening.
The highway maintenance camp that has been operated seasonally along that highway - what is this government's intention? Is it going to remain open 12 months out of the year? Or, is it just going to be open seasonally? Tuchitua?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Seeing as it's Committee of the Whole, I must respond to the member opposite. We refrained from making election promises, unlike the member opposite who, for Dawson, promised millions and millions and millions of dollars.
I have long maintained that the people of Faro, Ross River, Watson Lake and Carmacks who live in those communities are entitled to some reasonable amounts of consistent maintenance and even capital on their highways, just as the other communities in the Yukon receive.
There is a vibrant population in Ross River, vibrant population in Watson, a vibrant population in Carmacks and a vibrant population in Faro. The only commitment that I made to the electorate is that I would work with my colleagues to ensure that they were aware of the concerns of my constituents, and the people of the Campbell region with regard to receiving maintenance expenditures for the highways, operation and maintenance, as well as some capital expenditures.
I think that there is nothing wrong with that, and I don't know what the member is really on about tonight.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I thank you very much for the opportunity.
Certainly, with regard to Tuchitua, it will remain as such with winter closures and spring openings, until such time as the traffic count is up. We certainly anticipate that it could be up soon, in light of the mine there. Certainly, I do have good feelings with it.
As to the member opposite's question and request for the vehicle counts and statistics on that, I can certainly provide the member opposite. Again, I'd also just like to mention, to reiterate, that this did not seem to stop the previous administration from spending a million dollars on the 25 kilometre...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: ... kilometre 25 in anticipation. So, certainly, I just don't see where this line of questioning is coming from, from the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Where the questioning is coming from is the responsible expenditure of government funding. What we have is an expenditure of $1.3 million in capital and $2.7 million in O&M along this section of the highway. The Member for Faro has, more or less, admitted in a roundabout way that he fulfilled an election campaign promise by working with his colleagues to ensure that this highway got some attention.
But the exercise I'm asking the minister to go through, Mr. Chair, is to provide the statistics, the vehicle movements, along those corridors and highways that require upgrading, and it becomes abundantly clear and quite self-evident that the priorities should have been moved by this government to other areas, other highways and other corridors in Yukon before we attempted major capital expenditures along this route. They're just not justified.
So, if I can, I ask the minister to provide not just the vehicle counts on the south Campbell but all of the other Yukon highways so we can just see where we're at. There are monitoring devices in quite a number of locations throughout Yukon, Mr. Chair. Can the minister give us that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am not surprised by this member's line of questioning on the Campbell Highway upgrading. The Yukon Party was consistently opposed to any work on the Campbell Highway, particularly anything that would benefit anyone in Faro or Ross River.
I would like the member opposite to perhaps elaborate on some of these quotes on the Campbell Highway upgrading, because I'm really going to enjoy sending the quotes he has made so far to the constituencies of Watson Lake, Faro and Ross River. I think he should talk more like this.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. Certainly, to reiterate on my colleague's point, I guess the member opposite might say that anything we do is for political purposes. I could argue that and I could say yea and I could say nay. I think what we're doing here is for the people of the Yukon in general. It is certainly not specific for people that live within that region, but for Yukoners in general. We're going to not be provoked into saying anything foolish or anything to get my anger up, because I'm certainly understanding where it's coming from.
I will provide for the member opposite the information that he had requested. It will certainly be my pleasure indeed to provide the statistics for the member opposite. I will certainly be encouraged to speak with the member opposite further regarding how we made these decisions. Again, I stress that it wasn't totally political, although you might say that in part it was. But it was for the best interests of the Yukon and the Yukon economy. We are building a relationship. We are attempting to stay pro-active and stay ahead.
It is certainly funny that the member - it is not funny, I guess, but it is certainly obvious that the member opposite would give the Department of Community and Transportation Services heck, if I can say it in that manner, for not being proactive in one instance, as he said, and then in another instance, give us heck for being pro-active in this manner. Certainly, there is not much continuity there, but it is something I have certainly come to expect.
Let me say that, in 1993 and 1994, which is within the administration of the previous administration, $1,237,000 was spent; in 1994-95, it was $655,000; in 1996-97, it was not so much, but $222,000. With the expenditures that we're doing here to fulfill the health and safety requirements for all Yukoners. The benefits will not be specifically to the mining community, but the benefits will be to the Yukon community, if I might say so. If I might be so bold as to say that the benefits will certainly affect the Klondike region, of which I know the member opposite is very interested in representing and is representing.
People are going to take tourism trails and routes in that manner on that road, when they hear that the road is a bit more than just a trail at this point in time. Mr. Chair, it was reiterated to me at different times that it was; it was nothing more than just a trail. When it turns into mud, it just turns into a slough. When we start to fix up the highway for members of the Yukon society, the general public and travelling tourists, I must say that I am appalled that the member opposite would shout - no, I cannot say "shout" - that the member would feel let down and feel he could do it in a better way.
Mr. Jenkins: That was an interesting overview of highways, Mr. Chair.
What is needed is a comparison. If you want to look just outside of Whitehorse at the highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, there's a considerable section of that that has a vehicle count that's probably a thousand times greater than the south Campbell Highway and is in need of capital dollars.
I am no way disputing the need for ongoing maintenance on the south Campbell, no way disputing it at all, but until such time as the justification can be made to bring it up to the standards that are expected by the travelling public - and the standards today, for the minister's information, are pretty well a chip sealed highway by the majority of the rubber-tired traffic.
The amount of people who will not travel on gravel roads is quite alarming. In fact, a lot of the vehicle traffic that is leased outside of Yukon are not permitted on gravel highways and there are more and more of those coming over here on an ongoing basis. So, the routes that can be taken by visitors are quite restricted if they have a leased vehicle from outside of the Yukon.
With that in mind, I guess, Mr. Chair, we can move on to the next line item.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $1,350,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank you for the opportunity now to speak again to the Top of the World Highway, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Excuse me, Mr. Keenan. I'll introduce that line item first, please.
On Top of the World Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, to stand again and listen and to speak to the issue certainly gives me great pleasure. To listen to the rhetoric on the opposite side, certainly also does give me great pleasure, and I certainly do take into consideration the words that are said from the opposite side - some in wisdom and some not, but certainly I do take them into context.
Let me say that the Top of the World Highway funding of $1,238,000 - non-YTG funded - is for two projects. These projects are eligible for the 50 percent funding under SHIP. An amount of $1,175,000 will be spent for gravel crushing, gravel surfacing and drainage improvements between kilometres 0 to kilometre 30, and BST between kilometre 30 to kilometre 60. A further $63,000 is required for BST surfacing for kilometre 60 to kilometre 66.
I challenge the member opposite. If he wants to do things in a better way, he's certainly running for the wrong party and representing the wrong party. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister anticipate the continuing of this highway project to its completion in the next fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We will be putting this highway to its completion in the next fiscal period, if it makes the priorities. I'm not saying it will and I'm not saying it won't, but certainly that will be brought forth in another budget cycle and I will take the member opposite's support with me into that process for the completion. So, thank you very much.
Mrs. Edelman: Can the minister give an indication of how many jobs are going to be created by the work on the Top of the World Highway this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We will give it our best efforts to get some figures as to the jobs created on the Top of the World Highway for this year for the member opposite, thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: The other concern that has been raised with respect to this and a number of other Yukon highway projects, Mr. Chair, is the timing of the letting of the contracts. These were known contracts that were going to be let, and yet they've just been out in the public domain this last little while with closing dates. Virtually all of the contractors that I've spoken with, without exception, would have appreciated more advance warning and the letting of the contracts a lot earlier, at the beginning of the new fiscal period.
Why did the government deviate from the policy of the previous number of years?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Of course, Mr. Chair, the member opposite will realize that the budget was only tabled on March 24th, and certainly that is the first step. Otherwise, I certainly appreciate him bringing this forth and thank him for his directive.
Mr. Jenkins: But this side opposite had no way of bringing the budget in any earlier. That's your responsibility, as the government, and I'm seeking the minister's assurances that in future years we can bring them in a little earlier and we can get these contracts out in the public domain much earlier than what has occurred this year. Can the minister give his assurances, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, with the budget cycle that we're anticipating in our budget cycle starting in August, and it will be following through, then I certainly expect that for the next three years we'll be able to accommodate.
Top of the World Highway in the amount of $1,238,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The funding of the Alaska Highway of $2,752,000 is for reconstruction from kilometre 1056 to kilometre 1102; $2,712,000 represents the balance of the funding over and above the SHIP funding referred to above for upgrading the Watson Lake to Whitehorse sections of the highway. In addition, $40,000 will be spent for the removal of clearing debris between kilometre 1603 to kilometre 1619, and that - well, gosh sakes alive - is from Canyon to Marshall Creek.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, while we're speaking about the Alaska Highway, I spoke earlier on the strategic highways about the section of Marshall Creek and that. But we still have a section in the Champagne area that is the old highway yet, that is narrow and crooked. Can the minister give any indication in this House as to when the planned reconstruction of that is? I know it was brushed out about 10 or 15 years ago and nothing has ever been done with the highway since, and there is quite a stretch that is a fairly dangerous piece of road. I think it should be receiving some priority.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct - he said 10 to 15 years. Certainly, that is inclusive of his administration. Certainly, we will be looking at that in the context of prioritization when we go into our budget cycle. And, I must say, that this is the second time I answered this question tonight.
Alaska Highway in the amount of $2,752,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the Klondike Highway, YTG funded, of $160,000 is for south Klondike rock scaling, which involves the scaling and removal of overhanging rock from kilometre 62 to kilometre 64.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The reconstruction and BST from kilometre 0 to kilometre 427 of $1,350,000 represents the balance of the funding, over and above the SHIP funding, that's referred to above for the reconstruction at Money Creek.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $1,350,000 agreed to
On Dempster Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This consists of two projects. Funding of $300,000 is required to produce and to place protective rip-rap on the slide slopes of the highway route along the shoreline of the Blackstone River, the Ogilvie River and Engineer Creek. Reconstruction of snowdrift cuts for $500,000 is also required to flatten and reconfigure slide slopes to eliminate some of the high maintenance costs experienced due to massive snowdrift problems near the NWT border. This expenditure is expected to reduce the annual costs of snow clearing in this area by $200,000.
Dempster Highway in the amount of $800,000 agreed to
Mr. Jenkins: While the minister is at it, he might want to take the vehicle count for the Dempster Highway and look at his O&M costs, and he'll find out that he's running about $3,400 for each vehicle that uses the highway, over the course of the operating year.
If he wanted to do the same exercise on the South Campbell Highway, I'm afraid the numbers would just blow him away, and that's the exercise that I'm asking the minister to look at undertaking.
If you want to take the Top of the World Highway, which has over 60,000 vehicle movements, and take his O&M costs there, he'll find quite a disparity across Yukon. So, from an engineering standpoint, those highways that have high vehicle counts require a higher degree of maintenance.
There has to be a minimum standard to which we maintain highways, and the speed limit is subsequently reduced on those highways. The south Campbell Highway does not stand the test from either of those standpoints, but the minister from Faro has honoured an election promise so I'm pleased to see that something is going to happen in the minister's riding.
So if the minister could please bring back the numbers - the vehicle counts for the balance of the highways as I indicated earlier - we'll just crunch some of those comparisons out for his information. They are very, very interesting.
Mr. Fentie: I'm just wanting to clear something up. It wasn't that long ago in this House that the Member for Klondike was berating the minister over stopping truck traffic at the Watson Lake scale from proceeding up the Campbell Highway, which he seemed to think was a real problem.
Now, the government is putting some money for some upgrades on the highway and fixing some bridges and bringing them up to standard; suddenly, you have a problem with that. Exactly, which position is the member taking?
Mr. Jenkins: As I understand it, it's our position to ask questions and for the side opposite to answer.
Chair: Order. Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: In order to enlighten the Member FOR Watson Lake, what has transpired with respect to the scales there is that any of the vehicles that were traveling on the south Campbell Highway of legal axle loads had to stop and report the axle distances and the weights per axle. Even though they conformed to all of the legal axle loading, they had to be faxed to the office here in Whitehorse and permission had to be granted for the trucks to travel that road.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, yes.
I agree with the member. It is a problem travelling up the South Campbell Highway with a pup or a B-train, but the speed at which you're travelling is what really determines how successful you are navigating that route.
You want to set rules that are consistent across the whole range and the rules that were being implemented, Mr. Chair, were not consistent.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Shucks, Mr. Chair, I've forgotten where we're at, so I think I'll just join in the mêlée here.
If I might say so, it's certainly more to establishing budget than just a fiscal cost. There are health and safety issues for all people. And I will give the figures to the member opposite and I can see that we will be wrestling around here for quite some time, but I'll attempt to keep myself clean in the wrestling match, because it's not an enjoyable wrestling match.
Certainly, Mr. Chair, I would like to say that we should remain consistent and I think this government is remaining consistent. This government is approaching things from a balanced approach. It's very difficult. I know the member opposite has not been involved in budgetary processes of this magnitude. He is willing to do it and I thank the member opposite for his input at times, but that is a decision that will be made on this side of this House, with input from the other side of the House, and I thank the member from the opposite side for putting his information and his critiques forward so that we might be able to do this.
I do listen, and I thank the member opposite for doing that. And I say that with all sincerity.
You might be able to close down the Dempster Highway. You might say a cost of $3,000-whatever per vehicle, and on other roads it doesn't cost that, and they have more, but again I think that we do not look simply at the fiscal reality. We look at the - here I go again - spiritual reality and relationship-building with the Northwest Territories government and with others. We look at it so that we are not only building up roads for transportation, but we are encouraging tourism and, with the encouragement of tourism will come benefit to all people of the north, and therein again lies the answer.
Mr. Chair, I must take this opportunity to speak about the political correctness or the political science - the scientist from the politics across the way here - to say that it is his job to ask the questions and it is our job to supply the answers.
I certainly think, Mr. Chair, at points in time in our political system that maybe we should begin to move it back and forth a little bit. It is through debate and it is through talk that we garner positions and attempt to represent the people of the Yukon in any geographical area that is not represented by the New Democrats.
The member was busy talking to a colleague; I thought he couldn't listen to two at once, so I thought I'd give you the moment.
Thank you very much. If it is not a problem, I will take it that that is cleared and we might be able to move on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm ready and willing to take the minister up on his offer of questioning this side. As long as we develop the budget, I am certainly prepared to answer questions on it. If we can be given the opportunity to prepare the budget in this department, you can question us on it. It is not a problem whatsoever. It will be an ongoing exchange.
Just getting back to the Dempster Highway, the Dempster Highway and the south Campbell Highway - the standards are very similar along both of those highways. When you get into the NWT side of it, the Dempster is maintained to a considerably lower standard than the Yukon side of the Dempster.
It's most interesting, and what you have to look at is what you're accomplishing and then the vehicle count, and it translates to over $3,000 per vehicle that uses the Dempster Highway, and the amount of traffic on the south Campbell Highway. It's pretty scary when you do that equation, and you can do it on all Yukon highways, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: No one is suggesting that you shut down highways. No one is suggesting that you close highways - other than the government opposite, who are advocating that the Dempster Highway be closed ...
Chair: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: ... to allow the caribou to migrate. That's the only highway that I've heard suggested be closed, and it's by the government of the day.
So we need to do these numbers, Mr. Chair, and bring back the vehicle count along these highways and corridors, and the O&M cost and the capital costs, and do those calculations.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said previously and for the third time this evening, yes, it will indeed be my pleasure to be able to provide the member opposite with the information requested. And it'll certainly indeed be my pleasure to continue the debate when we have that information. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On Top of the World Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, it is indeed my pleasure, Mr. Chair, to be able to explain this. The Top of the World Highway - YTG funded, $1,237,000,
represents the balance of the funding over and above the SHIP funding referred to above for gravel crushing, gravel surfacing and drainage improvements. It's between kilometre 0 and kilometre 30, BST surfacing between kilometre 30 to kilometre 60 and for BST surfacing from kilometre 60 to kilometre 66.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: There are 60,000 vehicles that use that highway - say over 60,000 in the summer season. I can get you that information.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the information that is requested from the government of the day is readily available within their own department and I would ask that they just contact their associates and relieve the House of this burdensome gobbledegook and requests for very, very foolish information.
Chair: Order. Order.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the Top of the World Highway, can the minister advise us what is transpiring with the construction of an area for the new Canada Customs location and whether the Canada/U.S. Customs will be open longer hours while we're on the Top of the World, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, nothing has changed from the previous administration's stance on this, and certainly the hours are not any longer at this point in time.
Top of the World Highway in the amount of $1,237,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly the bridge and the numbered highways that YTG funded at $100,000 is for bridge assessment and inspection, which is done to rate all of the bridges and large culverts on a rotating schedule.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand then that there is a regular, scheduled inspection of bridges and that that happens fairly often? The reason I'm saying that is that there was a bridge that was out because of a small earthquake this past year. I'm wondering, just for safety's sake, if there are very regular inspections or if they are bi-yearly or twice a year? We are right in the middle of an earthquake zone. We get a lot of earthquakes, and these things are hard to determine unless you're actually out there, very carefully inspecting bridges.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Indeed, it gives me pleasure to stand here and answer that question.
How often do we do the bridges? I've been advised that we do the bridges on a rotation basis, every three years.
As per the question from the member opposite as to the bridge after the earthquake, it was checked immediately after the earthquake and it was deemed to be okay.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm somewhat at a loss, Mr. Chair, as to why the expenditure for routine inspections on the bridge is capitalized. Why wouldn't it be just an O&M cost? Why is this line item capitalized?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, there is a portion of bridges in O&M, and that's for the washing and cleaning of the bridges. As to why this portion here is contained within the capital budget, it is because all of the bridge engineers are within the capital program. And certainly, if something goes wrong or wonky with the bridges, it certainly has to come from the capital for the improvements, so this just makes it much easier to administer.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but that doesn't make any sense at all.
It doesn't stand the accounting test of what a capital asset is or what you spend money on capital for.
I was just amazed to hear that it's an ongoing inspection process. Such an expenditure should be expensed, not capitalized. How is it treated in the asset base? We don't have an asset base book for all of these - it's a write-off in the year - so why is it not expensed versus capitalized - just because it fits better into the department just doesn't wash.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order. Order please. If members wish to speak, I ask that they stand and be recognized.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that the Deputy Chair report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carrried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 28, 1997:
Report on the evaluation of the Canada/Yukon funding agreement on the development, enhancement and implementation of French language services, 1993 to 1998 (submitted by the evaluation committee, dated March 1997) (McDonald)