Monday, December 1, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call this House to order.
We will proceed with prayers at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
World AIDS Day
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise today in recognition of the 10th annual World Aids Day and to pay special tribute to those nearly one million children in this world who suffer the physical and psychological consequences.
The theme for this year's World AIDS Day is children living in a world with AIDS. It reflects the fact that all children around the world are affected by AIDS, because it is a part of the world in which they live.
Children hear about AIDS all the time - on television, on posters, in school, talking to friends and others. Today, all children in the Yukon, just as children in Canada and the world, face a lifetime of risk of HIV infection. As more and more people become infected with the disease, more and more children will be spending time with other children and adults who are infected with the virus.
Last year alone, 400,000 children under the age of 15 contracted the human immunodeficiency virus. By the end of this year, it is estimated that a million children under the age of 15 will be living with HIV. It is estimated that more than 2 million HIV-infected children have been born to HIV-infected mothers since the beginning of the epidemic. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children have acquired the disease from blood transfusion or through sexual contact.
Because HIV quickly turns to AIDS in children, most of the three million children infected since the epidemic began have died. Today, we wear the red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS awareness, to remind ourselves and others of the need for support and commitment in fighting the battle against AIDS.
Mr. Speaker, today we remember especially the children, those already suffering and those who are at risk, but we also pause to think about the many adults who continue to fight the epidemic as well as those who are living with HIV.
While we can rejoice in the promising breakthroughs in treating HIV and AIDS, we must also mourn for those who have been infected. Remember those have died, and we must remember the children.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: It is estimated that 8,500 new cases of HIV infection occur each day, with almost half of them being women and children. It is also estimated that 22.6 million people are infected with HIV worldwide and that, by the end of the decade, there will be more than 10 million children with AIDS. Of these, an estimated 5 million adults and 1.4 million children have died.
HIV's ever-increasing numbers are alarming. AIDS is a very serious problem that has affected millions. It has affected children, men and women from all walks of life and from all parts of the world. While treatments have been developed, a cure has yet to be established. On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, we join members today in offering support to World AIDS Day and to those especially who are fighting the battle against this serious epidemic. We congratulate the federal government for its new national strategy to fight the AIDS epidemic that was unveiled this morning. The federal government intends to spend about $211 million over the next five years to address the prevention of HIV, search for new vaccines and drugs and continue the efforts to find a cure.
We are pleased to offer our support to this strategy and hope that support will be given to the Yukon and its initiative in the prevention of AIDS. By helping to raise awareness about AIDS and the lifetime consequences of AIDS through our schools and public awareness campaigns such as this, I believe that we, collectively, can make a difference.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to also pay tribute to the children who suffer from AIDS.
The federal Liberal government has just recently committed to continuing funding for research on this plague on our people. This five-year $211 million commitment will not only benefit children who suffer from AIDS but the adults that suffer from the disease as well.
But, what most people don't realize is that this research money will also benefit those who suffer from cancer, in particular leukemia. That is because, while AIDS is an immune system deteriorating, leukemia is that exact opposite; it is an immune system gone wild. Work done in the field of our body's immune system will benefit all those who suffer from this cancer, as well as other diseases that affect the blood.
Hopefully, within our lifetime we'll have beaten AIDS and leukemia as well.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to the opportunity to draw to the members' attentions the presence of the grade 10 ACES class, from the Wood Street annex of F.H. Collins School, under the leadership of their teacher, Jim Boyd.
Speaker: Are there any returns of documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a response to the leader of the official opposition's question in regard to grizzly bears.
I also have for tabling a response to the Member for Riverside's questions regarding the abattoir. Also, I have for tabling the information package from Yukon Housing Corporation, which was distributed to the mobile home owners over the weekend.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motions?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Youth employment strategy
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In keeping with our government's commitment to create jobs and economic opportunities for Yukon people, I rise to inform the House that the territory is actively participating in the development of a national youth employment strategy, which was announced a few hours ago in Regina.
This government has already taken significant steps to help provide young people with skills and programs that will help them build a successful future. Youth Works is the most recent example.
I am pleased to note that this new national initiative will enhance the important work that we have started in the Yukon on behalf of young people.
It is significant to note that the rate of youth unemployment continues to be twice the general unemployment rate across Canada. This makes the need for such a comprehensive national youth employment strategy obvious.
The premiers of the provinces and the government leaders of both the NWT and the Yukon have consistently expressed concern about the high rate of unemployment among young people. This strategy is a direct result of that concern.
Mr. Speaker, the goals of the national youth employment strategy are to create opportunities for young people to develop knowledge and skills for work; to increase work opportunities for youth; to help young people respond to the changing nature of work; and, to address social and cultural barriers that prevent youth from working.
The strategy paper asks the federal government to form a new partnership with provinces and territories, to set priorities and to coordinate spending related to youth unemployment.
Like our own Youth Works program, Mr. Speaker, the national youth employment strategy focuses on young people between the ages of 15 and 24. It recognizes that some youth are at greater risk than others and that unemployment among Canada's aboriginal youth needs special attention.
This strategy calls for stronger partnerships among business, labour, schools, universities and colleges, youth, their parents, and communities. A key component is a collection of best practices from various jurisdictions, including concrete examples of successful provincial and territorial programming for young people.
The Yukon can learn a great deal by being involved with this strategy. We also have much to contribute. This government is working with a variety of community groups on projects such as cooperative education, Yukon secondary school apprenticeship program and the new Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre.
The anticipated outcome of the strategy include the following areas: improved access to locally relevant, timely labour market and career information; a higher number of secondary and post-secondary graduates; better connection between learning and work, by making training job-relevant; decreased youth unemployment; increased support for entrepreneurial activity; and, better access to work experience.
Mr. Speaker, by helping in the development of the national youth employment strategy, our government is expressing confidence that practical solutions to the current youth unemployment situation can be found by working with a variety of partners, both here in the Yukon and across Canada.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I am pleased to offer support to the Government of Yukon in its participation in the development of the national youth employment strategy.
Youth unemployment remains a serious problem in Canada and, with the Yukon rate sitting at about 16 percent, double the national average, without a doubt, our young people are having a difficult time. They are having a rough time finding their first job and are often under-employed and have seen their earnings drop, with few options for full-time work.
Young people are often recognized as being the key to our future and, so far, that future hasn't been looking too promising for our youth. For these reasons, we, on this side of the House, are encouraged by the work being done by our federal counterparts in the fellow provinces and territories, but there still is much more to be done.
In a recent report adopted by Canada premiers and territorial leaders, a number of findings were noted, and they include that the number of jobs for youth have dropped some 300,000 since 1990, despite several provincial youth retraining programs being in effect; there's also an overlap and duplication of youth programs, as many levels of government and community organizations are involved; that the provinces and territories should work with the federal government to improve job opportunities for aboriginal youth; and, the programs being implemented, so high school students can combine on-the-job training or trade apprenticeship programs with their high school education.
As well, there were requests were help in setting up youth entrepreneurship programs in each of the provinces and the territories. Perhaps the minister could provide a brief overview of progress, if any, regarding the above findings with respect to the Yukon.
The national youth employment strategy focuses on youth between ages of 15 and 24, and recognizes youth at risk, in particular. Problems associated with youth at risk are numerous and varied and are problems that must be addressed. These are the kinds of kids a lot of people are talking about: the troubled, violent kids, many of whom have been emotionally, physically, or mentally abused.
We on this side of the House believe the best way to help troubled youth is to get them involved in programs that give them life and communication skills and boost their self-esteem. I'm talking about programs such as YES, who have had to close their doors a result of this government's reluctance to recognize YES as being a worthwhile program, that works.
Contrary to this government's commitment to help youth at risk, this government has done little, if anything, to address the problems at hand. The minister spoke of Youth Works as a program that will help young people with skills and programs that will help them build a bright future. What about the 30 or some youth at risk who have nowhere to go but the streets, now that their safe place has been closed? I would ask the minister how Youth Works is supposed to serve our many youth at risk.
If the minister really cares about our youth, she would redirect some monies from Youth Works to YES. Those funds would have kept the YES program alive for almost three years.
In light of the government's broken promises, and lack of action in helping youth at risk, we are encouraged by the strategy that is before us today - the federal strategy that is before us today - and hope that the funding can be reinstated to YES, so that we can continue to keep our sick kids safe and off the street and provide them with a better future.
Ms. Duncan: Young people say, "No experience, no job; no job, no experience." It's the biggest barrier they face in getting career-related jobs. Young people also want one-stop shopping for information on jobs, careers, educational choices and government programs and services.
The Government of Canada's youth employment strategy is a very real start to answering these needs. It builds on some 250 federal initiatives already in place for young people and the commitments the government made to Canada's youth in the 1996 Speech from the Throne.
The youth employment strategy is an action plan that builds on the existing investment in young people of over $2 billion. It should be noted that it includes $315 million set aside in the 1996 budget for the creation of new youth employment opportunities over three years.
The federal government's approach is that the youth employment strategy will expand work experience opportunities through partnerships. Federal departments and agencies will work with different levels of government, First Nations communities, the private sector and community organizations to create opportunities for Canada's youth. The youth employment strategy will give young people easy, one-stop shop access to the information they need to take charge of their futures.
The minister said today that the strategy paper asks the federal government to form a new partnership with provinces and territories to set priorities and to coordinate spending related to youth employment. It appears that the Yukon government, the federal government and the provincial governments are working together on a key initiative.
I was especially heartened by the minister's comment: "A key component of these efforts is a collection of best practices from various jurisdictions, containing concrete examples of successful programming." It's useful, and a very positive, real example to set aside parties, jurisdictions and recognize good ideas from wherever they came and to make use of them. Our caucus supports efforts to ensure a brighter future for Canada's young people.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Perhaps I'll begin by responding to the comments from the Liberal Party and thank them for their support of this initiative. We do agree that a survey of the best practices in various provinces and territories can be helpful in looking at programs that might succeed elsewhere in the country, that could in the future succeed here. I also expect that some of our work in the territory might be helpful to other jurisdictions.
The comment from the Yukon Party was a little more negative in tone, and I do want to respond to some of the statements that were made. The Yukon government still continues to support youth, both for education and in social services. The youth investment fund serves youth at risk, and there have been and continue to be a number of projects funded that will help youth in the community through the youth investment fund.
As well, my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, is working with the board of Youth Empowerment and Success to address its needs. I know he spoke last week with board members about their organizational needs.
The federal government pulled the funding from the Youth Empowerment and Success program. Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure that the Member for Riverdale North is aware that we gave over $45,000 in three years to Youth Empowerment and Success. We have supported YES, and I think the member's comments are misplaced.
I hope that the national youth employment strategy will identify a number of ways that we can expand work experience for youth and that we can deal with the problem that the current youth unemployment situation poses for our young people because we do want to see them have a future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Land claim negotiations status
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Government Leader in his capacity as the minister responsible for land claims.
On Thursday, November 20, in Committee debate, I raised the issue of very little progress being made on the land claims front, largely because of the actions of this government in replacing the Yukon government's key land claim negotiators with imports from British Columbia, Mr. Speaker. The minister replied to me at that time saying that, "Land claims are going very, very well at this time," yet we heard over the weekend that Yukon First Nation chiefs believe the land claims are bogged down and going nowhere.
Can the minister tell this House whose interpretation of the land claims process is right?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, thank goodness for noon newscasts, Mr. Speaker, otherwise the opposition wouldn't have any information or be bringing anything new to the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that the member's characterization of what the First Nation leadership was saying is accurate at all. Tensions are always higher when the negotiations are about to conclude. I was indicating last week, and I will indicate again today, that I believe that negotiations are progressing and I believe that we can have agreements this month or in January. Just as I said last week, I do believe that the atmosphere around the closing of the agreements is always somewhat more tense than it is at the beginning of the negotiations - that's somewhat natural - but I do believe that negotiations will conclude.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, thank God for newscasts. Maybe we can get some facts, because we certainly can't get them from the members opposite.
In opposition, Mr. Speaker, the NDP severely criticized the Yukon Party government for its lack of progress on the land claims front. Yet, we completed three agreements - with the Ta'an, Little Salmon and the Selkirk First Nations - and virtually completed the fourth agreement, with the Tr'ondek Gwitchin.
A year has passed since this government has been elected, and elected on the campaign to fast-track the land claims process, yet no new agreements have been signed. Can the minister advise this House at this time how many land claims agreements he feels will be concluded one year from now? How many will be signed off?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, on the subject of facts, I don't expect the member opposite to contribute many facts to Question Period. Certainly I have been doing my best to keep the members aware of what the situation is.
I'll point out to the member that the Ta'an Kwach'an settlement is not complete and I will point out to the member that the Tr'ondek negotiations were not complete when this government assumed office and that this government closed that deal.
With respect to the outstanding negotiations, as I indicated last week and I'll reiterate again today, I expect that we will be achieving agreements with White River and Kluane and Liard by the spring, and I expect that Carcross and Ross River will be complete some time next year, hopefully at least by the fall. I am hopeful, of course, that circumstances will allow us to continue negotiations with Kwanlin Dun and that we will reach agreement with them, but there are few outstanding matters that must be determined first before we can be certain that the atmosphere and the opportunity is ripe for the negotiations.
Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that this minister's interpretation of history sometimes strays quite far and dramatically different from that of history.
Since some First Nations no longer have any faith in this government and believe that they have been hoodwinked by the NDP election campaign, will this government consider reinstating the former land claims negotiators who were making progress on land claims? Will he do that and will he send his B.C. negotiators back home so the Yukon First Nations can get on with settling their claims?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I do have faith in the land claims negotiators, both the current and the ones who were appointed recently to the table and also the ones that have been there in the past. I have faith in those negotiators to continue to negotiate the land claims and bring them to conclusion, and I have for a very long time.
There has been a lot of progress made on the negotiations that I cited, as virtually no work had been done prior to the last year on those fronts. I feel very proud of the negotiators. They've taken us virtually to the brink of getting agreements and I'm certain that we'll be able to announce good news with respect to the settling of those agreements in the not-too-distant future.
Question re: Education, mathematics grades
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister for Education.
On November 12, I asked the minister several questions about recent results in math tests and some Yukon students where over 60 percent of our students in grades 9 and 10 failed. The minister called me an alarmist and said it was only the first term and that teachers would have time to improve these results.
Is the minister aware now that the second term marks are in, and that 42 percent failed in math 9 and in math 10 the failure rate was 58 percent?
This is a significant negative trend, and I wonder if the minister is aware of these poor results and the recent math marks?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'll take it that the member's questions today in Question Period mean that we will not be revisiting the issue of the math results in the Education debates up this afternoon following Question Period, in the supplementaries.
I have not looked at the second term results of the math. Perhaps I can point out to the member that these results may in fact be in part based on the direction of the previous government in relation to the math testing.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, what a terrible excuse from that minister.
Many of the parents have just received a letter from the F.H. Collin's math department which encourages the parents of students who scored below 50 percent to sign up now for the next semester.
Is the minister aware that the next semester is already almost full, and that most of the students who failed will have to wait until next semester before they can retake their course? Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable. Will the minister act now and consider hiring more teachers to help these math students to achieve passing grades so that they don't have to wait nine months to take their math courses over and lose a year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are very concerned about ensuring that all of our students have an opportunity to do well in math and to do well in all their subjects. I think it is important that we ensure there is participation and success available for all the students in the system and not simply looking toward achieving excellence for a few students.
We need to make sure that the math is taught well to all the students and that all students are encouraged to do their best, and I'm working with departmental officials to deal with the results that the member is referring to at F.H. Collins.
Mr. Phillips: Not only are our math students failing in very high numbers, so is our Minister of Education failing in this regard at the expense of these young students.
Last week, Mr. Speaker, the minister said she would consider my request for an independent evaluation of our math programs in Yukon schools. The present trend is unacceptable. Will the minister call a meeting with the partners of education - the teachers, the parents, the students, the school councils - and discuss with them the method of developing this evaluation, so that we can get an independent evaluation of the math in this territory? There is a problem and the minister should recognize that problem. Will she call that meeting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to learn that this member is finally recognizing that it is important to work with the partners in education. That's something he didn't do when he was in the chair of minister responsible for Education. He's standing up here and he's demonstrating that he has little faith in teachers. He's the one taking shots.
I would like the member to know that his allegations are causing very serious concern. I also know that parents are concerned about how their students are doing in math at the high school. Parents are concerned about the fact that there are other subjects suffering because too much time is being spent on homework for math to the detriment of other subjects and extracurricular activities. That member is coming too late to the realization that it's important to consult with the partners in education. That member is coming too late to the realization that we need to encourage all of our students to do well. We'll continue to work on improvements.
Question re: Northern Network of Services/Gibbs Group Homes, operational audit
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
In recent weeks, I have asked a number of questions about the operations of the Gibbs Group Homes and NNS in Whitehorse. I've raised a number of issues, including safety concerns and First Nations staffing levels. Indeed, questions in this area have been going around for some time. In 1996, Margaret Commodore, NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre at the time, also asked questions about this very issue.
I understand that the Department of Health and Social Services is now in the process of conducting an operational audit of Gibbs Group Homes and NNS, and I'm very pleased that the government has selected this course of action and I look forward to the results.
Can the minister elaborate on what form the audit will take? Will it focus on financial issues, program evaluations, safety concerns, staffing issues or all of these issues? Can the minister elaborate on the content of the audit?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can confirm that we are doing a review of the operations, and it will include all of the above.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's wonderful.
Can the minister tell the House who will be doing the audit, and will it be done in house or will someone from outside the department or outside the territory be brought in to complete this project?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just to ensure impartiality, we're anticipating at this point that we would be bringing in someone from outside.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, that's wise.
Does the minister have any idea when the audit will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, Mr. Speaker, we are looking at how this can be facilitated. It's a little bit premature to make an estimate on that, but we are actively looking at some of the options.
Question re: Yukon Federation of Labour, government funding
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. The minister indicated in this House that many organizations receive fee-for-service funding for providing service and input to the government. I note that the Yukon Federation of Labour, in their financial statements, indicate that they received $7,000 in professional fees, and this is listed as "YTG funding project contract payout."
Would the Minister of Economic Development outline what this contract with the Yukon Federation of Labour was for? What was the service performed for this fee?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll have to check as to the details of what was involved in that, Mr. Speaker, and I'll get back to the member on that.
While I'm on my feet, though, I wanted the member to be given some information. I did a little review after her question the other day about business organizations, grants, contributions, fee for service, and what actually is paid out by the Yukon government. I did a review for 1994-95 on, and I'll just table that for the member.
Contributions for business organizations in the territory reached a high in 1995-96 of $923,000 in one year. So, perhaps I can table that for the member and give her some information about how much money is given to business organizations to participate in public processes.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister. I look forward to reviewing that information.
When the minister was determining what this $7,000 project was for, it would appear that it may have been a payment to the Yukon Federation of Labour for their preliminary brief on the Yukon hire commission. When the minister is researching this particular contract, would he also examine it to determine what other organizations this fee may have been made available to?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can look into it. The member has a lot of interest in that $7,000. She seems to have developed quite a dislike for the Yukon Federation of Labour, which represents some 3,000 union members in this territory, but I'll be happy - if she wants to scrutinize them, they should be open to appropriate scrutiny, and certainly I'll provide her with more information regarding this contract, if it even exists, and I'll have to look into that. I'm not aware of the details.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the first part of the minister's preamble was wrong. I don't have a dislike for any organization in this territory. The second part was quite correct. I think this and every other contract deserves appropriate scrutiny by this Legislature. That's what we're here for.
My question for the minister is, in determining what payment is made for professional services, would the minister indicate if there has been some kind of a scale attached for this funding, when intervenor funding or professional services are rendered by an organization in terms of their written submissions to the government? I note that the NGO funding policy says, "Requests for intervenor funding will be considered only in exceptional circumstances and where it is the Yukon government's best interest." It also says that when it is determined that intervenor funding will be provided, it will be based on a predetermined budget. Nowhere else in this document does it indicate what that predetermined budget might be. Would the minister advise us on that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll be happy to investigate that, and I'm sure that any arrangement that was struck would be entirely consistent with other arrangements that have been struck for different services and advice and research performed for government by many different business organizations in the territory, and I've tabled some information on that.
I also would like to table a couple of fee-for-service agreements, one with the Yukon Chamber of Mines and one with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, for the members' perusal. I'm sure that anything that might be struck would be entirely consistent with the provisions of these fee-for-service arrangements.
Question re: Driver exams, non-truck routes
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the issue of the class 1 driver students being required to use non-truck routes in Faro and Dawson City.
On November 25, the manager of transportation services branch is quoted in the media as saying, "There's absolutely no problem with the routes that they used in both places." She said she talked to the RCMP and town officials in both locations and there have been no complaints. She went on in the article to say, "The only one who has a problem with the route is 918" - the driving school.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ and would like to table a letter that was sent to my colleague, the Member for Klondike that he received from the City of Dawson complaining not just once, but three times about these routes. On one occasion, the tractor-trailer was stalled in front of the firehall exit doors, creating a potentially dangerous situation if there was a fire.
Can the minister advise the House why his officials are saying one thing, while the town officials in Dawson and Faro are saying quite the other?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, as we know, this has been back and forth many times in the House and we are looking and have come with a legislative return as to the member opposite's question. I do know that in Dawson City we used the industrial subdivision that is outside of town to do the route testing and, certainly, whatever we do, we'll do in future with the advisement and under the understanding of the municipality or the town in question.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems that the minister has a poor memory as well because I don't believe he tabled any legislative return with regard to this issue. He handed something out to the media, which we had to get from the media. He didn't table it in the House.
I've also received a letter from a resident of Faro stating his concern about class 1 driver tests being conducted on Dawson Drive in Faro, a very narrow road, and creating an unduly dangerous situation. An individual brought this concern to the attention of the owners and was told that the driver examiner was in the truck and the owner could do nothing about it.
I'd like the minister to advise the House what instructions he's given his officials about the driver examiner using non-truck routes in Faro and Dawson to conduct class 1 road tests, and when did the minister give those instructions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, let me say that the bylaw officer and the RCMP in Faro said just recently that they did not have a problem with the testing being done on the lower bench. Of course, there is a sign that discourages use of heavy trucks on this route and the fuel and moving trucks use this route. The sign is certainly meant to discourage heavy mine trucks from using the route regularly.
Of course, being that the sign does belong to the municipality of Faro and the municipal bylaw officer says that they do not have a problem, although we will certainly continue to work with the municipality and to let them know if we use the route, it would be with their permission.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, it would sure be interesting to know if a child was run over by one of those trucks in that area, who would be responsible. It seems that this minister would be avoiding it at all costs.
We, on this side of the House, called for an independent investigation and we heard the minister say one thing and his officials say another. Now his officials from various communities say that they disagree with what the territorial government officials have said. Would the minister not agree that, because of the discrepancies, it is time to call for an independent inquiry into what is going on with this particular issue to solve it once and for all? It's a very serious safety issue and the minister is trying to avoid it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly would not agree.
Question re: Northern Network of Services/Gibbs Groups Homes, operational audit
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mr. Speaker, once again, this is again about Gibbs Group Homes and Northern Network of Services.
As the audit is well on its way and I assume that there are terms of reference in place, can the minister table the terms of reference this week?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated to the member, we are currently taking a look at what needs to be examined. We are looking at some of our options in that regard. As far as the terms of reference, I made mention to the member, we are looking at all aspects. That would include such things as operational, financial, et cetera.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, perhaps the minister can provide those even after the House has risen.
Now, Mr. Speaker, on the same note, could the minister also provide a final report of the audit when it is completed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The report, when it comes in, will be available for our department to determine what steps need to be taken, if any. As well, we'll also make it available to the principals in this regard. To date, we have not determined how widespread this report would be disseminated, but, certainly, some of the principals involved in there would have an interest in it.
Mrs. Edelman: So I gather I'm not going to get the report.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I understand the minister has been in contact with Yukon First Nations over this issue. Will there be an opportunity for interested parties, such as the Yukon First Nations and other NGOs, to participate in the audit process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we have been discussing with CYFN in this regard, and as a matter of fact, part of the process is going to be to make sure that we cooperate on defining the parameters of this review in conjunction with CYFN.
Question re: Driver exams, non-truck routes
Mr. Phillips: My question again is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Now, Mr. Speaker, in an unusual move, the minister released a media backgrounder on November 27 on the chief driver examiner rather than a news release or tabling a document in this House. In that backgrounder, contrary to what the manager of transportation services stated, there is a note that the chief driver examiner be instructed not to use the road in Faro with prior authorization from the Town of Faro. So, obviously the department hasn't got its story straight.
I would remind the minister that this is only one allegation and has now been proven correct out of several allegations with calls for a creation of an independent inquiry.
Mr. Speaker, how does the Minister of Community and Transportation Services explain his comments in the release that he gave to the media and the comments by his official in the department who said that there was no problem with the routes they use in both places - they've talked to the RCMP and town officials - in light of the letter that we've received from the City of Dawson saying that they were told not to go on those particular routes? How does the minister explain those differences?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I do have a legislative return that I tabled in the House on November 27, 1997, sitting before me, so I do believe it is misinformation that the member opposite is bringing to this House.
Certainly, it has been a controversial issue as to where people have been driving for their class 1 training. We do respect the wishes and the demands, in some cases, of the municipalities. Certainly, in this instance though, I said that I would be working with the municipalities in both Faro and in Dawson to make sure that safety is first and foremost in people's minds. Certainly, though, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that in 1993 and 1994, the previous administration, who was in government at that point in time, was using the same routes within Faro, so obviously, if they had the same concerns, they were not exercising those thoughts at that time.
Mr. Phillips: I'll ask the Minister of Transportation Services again. Who, Mr. Speaker, did his official talk to in Dawson City, when they said there's absolutely no problem with the routes they used in both places? She talked to the RCMP and town officials. Who were the town officials they talked to? Because, Mr. Speaker, in the letter that I tabled here today, the people in Dawson City - the officials who are supposed to know - said that no one talked to them and, in fact, they raised concerns three times with the chief driver examiner.
Why is the official contradicting what the Town of Dawson is saying? Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just for clarification on the first point, Mr. Speaker, within the Blues of November 27, it is quoted that, "Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return," by myself, so I'm not sure where this misinformation is coming from, or why it is being presented. Certainly, it might be coming to a vacuum, or an empty hole, at this point in time, and so we must keep coming and reiterating over and over again.
So let me say that I will reiterate over and over again, until the point is driven home and absorbed by the member opposite. I will be working with the municipalities to work within their requests and to make sure that health and safety is paramount in our minds - in their minds - and that we do work together on such said issues.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the vacuum and the empty hole is over there in the minister's office, Mr. Speaker. That's the problem. We're not getting any answers to this question.
Would the minister come back to this House and tell us why there is a difference between what the minister has said in this House and what the minister has released to the media and what his senior officials are releasing to the media and what the City of Dawson officials are saying about permission to use those routes? Why is there a difference between that, Mr. Speaker?
It's not just a misunderstanding. One says they were allowed to go; the other says they were told not to go several times. Why is there a difference?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I would be glad to get back and clarify this once and for all, and to make sure that the Yukon at large knows that the department is working with the municipalities who have that jurisdiction, if I may.
Question re: Municipal block funding
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Now, each year, the Yukon government turns over approximately $11.5 million to municipalities. The Yukon municipalities, in turn, use this money to provide services like garbage collection and fire protection. Now, the amount transferred has been frozen at $11.5 million, with no increases to cover inflation or population increases for a number of years.
Are there any plans to increase this funding to more acceptable levels?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I can tell the member opposite that I'm having difficulty - well, not having difficulty, but certainly my colleagues and I are looking to maintain the funding that they have at this point in time. I realize that the Association of Yukon Communities has, for quite some time, been looking to get inflation factors, et cetera, built in, but certainly I can give them the assurance that I will be maintaining the level of funding, which, if I must say and can say, that the New Democrat government initiated.
Mrs. Edelman: Now, Mr. Speaker, municipal governments have very few opportunities to generate revenues. Given the minister's admission that there are no plans to increase funding to municipalities, will the minister at least commit to allowing municipalities to pursue alternative sources of revenue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure as to where the member opposite is coming from on this, and certainly a blanket "yes" would be a very dangerous thing to say. But let me say that, in the idea of providing good governance and providing good services that lie within the municipal jurisdiction, I would be willing to work with the communities to see that we can maintain those levels.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, as part of the review committee's mandate on the Municipal Act, there was an examination of alternative ways of generating revenue, and there seemed to be some agreement from the government at that time that alternative sources of revenue generation were things that would be allowable under the Municipal Act. With that in mind, when will these Municipal Act amendments come forward into this House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I do believe that the Municipal Act amendments are due to be brought forward early in the coming new year, and I do believe - I can check to make certain - that it is January or February when the recommendations will come forward.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed to Orders of the Day. Government Bills.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 45: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 45, standing in the name of the hon. Mrs. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend to Public Utilites Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No.45, entitled an Act to Amend The Public Utilities Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amendments being proposed in this bill will allow the government to continue to fund the Yukon Utilities Board as it is done now or to enter into contribution agreements with the board.
As the Public Utilities Act is presently written, the minister can provide administrative support for the board and enter into contracts for specialist services. This means that the board must rely on government for administrative support, or the government must contract with the board's technical advisors.
One of the recommendations from the utilities regulation review, concluded in 1995, was that the independence of the board should be maintained and enhanced. The first step to comply with that recommendation was to establish a separate office for the board. These amendments are the next step in enhancing the independence of the board.
Under the amendments before us, the Department of Justice could be able to conclude a contribution agreement with the board to cover costs associated with the day-to-day operations of the board, such as regular meeting, administrative activities, investigations of complaints filed under the act, training of board members, and attendance at meetings of the national organization of utility tribunals known as CAMPUT.
Under this arrangement, the board would be responsible for the payment of its cost and for maintaining an accurate account of all expenditures, and for operating within the funds allotted to it. These changes will give the Yukon Utilities Board greater independence without sacrificing accountability.
Mr. Phillips: We support this bill in principle. It is in fact the direction that we were moving in with the Public Utilities Board when we were in government and we appreciate that the minister is going to continue with the Yukon Party policy of setting the board up in a more independent manner.
Mr. Cable: I would like to thank the minister for the briefing this morning. I think the bill does achieve the dual goals of greater independence for the Yukon Utilities Board at the same time as retaining the accountability that I think is necessary for their financial operations. We will be supporting the bill.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 45 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act.
Bill No. 45 - An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 45 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will continue with Bill No. 8, Second Appropriation Act 1997-98.
Bill No. 8 - Second Appropriation Act, 1997-98 - continued
Department of Education - continued
On Capital Expenditures - continued
On Capital Project Planning and Pre-Engineering - continued
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. When we were discussing this line item on Thursday, I indicated that the funding was transferred to computer lab - $26,000 - and $350,000 for the design of the Ross River School.
It has been determined that the Ross River project will only require $300,000 for the fiscal year; therefore, $50,000 has been made available for transfer or allocation to other projects with Education. Ross River School was not planned at the time this budget was put together. We did put money in the budget for capital project planning and pre-engineering. Subsequent to the spring school council meeting in May of 1997, we determined that money would be allotted to the Ross River project, and that is the substantial amount of this line item.
Ms. Duncan: The issue that was raised with respect to this line item was the issue of transferring money around. It seemed that what the minister indicated in her original briefing and in the briefing today is that the department discovered, in light of other issues, they were able to do the capital project and planning for the Ross River School, allocated that money, discovered they had extra, and then shopped around to fill out the other gaps. I just question the ability of the department to do that, in light of the restraints in the Financial Administration Act. This isn't what we originally voted the money for, and that was the concern that was being expressed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In response to that, Mr. Chair, the original purpose of this line item was to allow flexibility in the planning of projects. Ross River School was not planned at the time this budget was put together. However, the government had committed to consultation with the communities, school councils and First Nations on future major projects. It was as a result of that consultation that the major project priorities were established, and I would remind members that this was after the capital budget had been approved by members of this House.
We have taken the funding and are using it for planning of construction for the Ross River School project. I understand the member's concerns, and will endeavour to ensure that there's good accountability for the funds that are spent by the Department of Education.
Ms. Duncan: The minister, on Thursday, outlined that $283,262 was the cost for planning for Ross River. Does part of that cost include bringing in people to examine other schools, such as was done with Old Crow? Were not other school councils brought in, for example, to look at Holy Family and Hidden Valley schools - their footprints and see how they operate? Is that part of the cost of this $283,000?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Some of the questions the member has can more appropriately be directed to the Government Services minister in relation to the design phase; however, the amount of the contract that I referred to on Thursday was specifically for the design contract that has been awarded for the Ross River School.
The funding for the Old Crow school council to take a look at the Hidden Valley and Holy Family schools was minimal and was covered elsewhere.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is the Ross River School council being given an opportunity to look at other schools then, or not?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I know that members of the Ross River community, including the First Nation and I believe school councils, have been in Whitehorse on a couple of occasions this fall and have not requested or taken the opportunity to tour those schools. If they were to do so, that opportunity would certainly be afforded them.
Ms. Duncan: So, am I to understand then, and is this House to understand, that this design contract is for a completely new design of a new school, and we are not using any previous work?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Perhaps I can assist here. The $283,262 that is for the design fees represents about 5.4 percent of the amount in terms of construction. This will be for a new design. One of the issues is that the sort of off-the-shelf approach, off-the-shelf designs, probably wouldn't lend themselves particularly well to Ross River, because of the nature of the school's program as well as - and I think anyone who is familiar with Ross River can appreciate some of the inherent geological conditions there that mitigate against simply taking one project and popping it into that community, because of the problems with discontinuous permafrost, et cetera.
At this point, what's being anticipated is a new design.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we often talk about saving money and where cost savings can be achieved in terms if capital projects, and often we link recreation facilities, saying if we are building a new school and this community needs a new pool, ice arena, or whatever, why aren't we attaching them to the school and building them at the same time?
Is there any thought to including any recreation facilities in the design of the school, or has there been a request?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member knows, particularity in the rural communities the schools are used as full-time and year-round facilities. The school gymnasiums are used for recreational activities outside of school hours. I believe that that is the intent for the new Ross River School, and we'll work to ensure the facilities in the new Ross River School meet the needs of the community, since most rural schools are community schools.
Ms. Duncan: Has there been a specific request for additional recreation facilities with the construction of this school, or is it simply the gymnasium?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Not other than the request for a gymnasium.
Mr. Phillips: With the comments that the minister made last Thursday and then comments she's made today, she left me a little concerned about the numbers. They don't seem to add up. The minister said on Thursday, "This funding was transferred to the computer labs, $26,000, and $350,000 was for the design of the Ross River School. It's been determined that the Ross River project will only require $300,000 for this fiscal year; therefore, $50,000 is made available for a transfer allocation to other projects within Education."
Mr. Chair, what I'm concerned about is that it appears that $50,000 is still in that line item. If you're not going to use the money in that line item, you usually, in the supplementary, give it up. So, I'm concerned that the minister is just holding the money to spend on something else that might come up and that isn't the way we give the minister authority to spend money. The minister has to stand up and can't say that, "Well, we've got $50,000 left over here, we're just going to look around for some other projects and if they come up, we'll do them."
The minister can't do it that way. We're not just carte blanche - I mean she could put it into miscellaneous capital projects, I guess, or some other line item - computer labs or something specific. But to just say it's just there to use for whatever doesn't seem to me to be the proper budgeting process. At least it's not very accountable. So, maybe the minister can explain what's going on with this $50,000.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll attempt to communicate this clearly and hopefully the member and I can at least have a common understanding of what's happening here.
The reduction in the capital project planning and pre-engineering line item is a reduction of $376,000. Three hundred thousand dollars of that reduction is being applied to the Ross River School and that is reflected further down in the supplementary under public schools as Ross River School design, $300,000. And as I've explained previously, the Ross River School project specifically was not in place until after the spring school council meeting in May, which was after the capital budget had been approved.
In addition, $26,000 has been transferred to computer labs. The further $50,000 reduction is included in the net amount of total capital expenditures supplementary of $5,176,000, which is the last number we have on page 5-3 of the supplementary budget. The member will see, if he looks through, that there are several other additional expenditures and several other reductions of expenditures. That $50,000 is being applied throughout the capital reallocations.
Mr. Phillips: That helps. That's a little better explanation. When the minister said the other day that it's going to be made available in allocations to other projects in Education, it sounded like it wasn't allocated yet and it was just $50,000 that the minister had in her office that she was going to look around for a little pet project and apply it to. So I just wanted to clarify that.
Capital Project Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure of $376,000 agreed to
On Air Quality/Energy Management Projects
Mr. Phillips: I guess I could let the minister go, but my concern on this one, Mr. Chair, is that this has always been a fairly significant area of concern. Usually, our problem in this area has been that we don't have enough money in that line item. So I just wonder why we're actually turning some money back, because I know that there are air quality problems in schools throughout the whole territory.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I hasten to assure the member that we will be back next year. There are also some monies in our operation and maintenance budget for some of the smaller energy savings projects. In this line item, the largest capital project was the air quality renovations at Whitehorse Elementary that were done this year. It is expected that projects will be identified in future years that deal with air quality and energy management.
Ms. Duncan: Air quality in our schools has been raised by a number of my constituents, not simply with respect to the schools in my riding, but with schools overall. I wonder if I could ask the minister to have her staff provide me with some information on what studies have been completed, in which schools and what work remains to be done on air quality in particular.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will ask for a complete listing for the member with some details on air quality projects.
Air Quality/Energy Management Projects in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Renovations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a result of lower costs in a number of projects. There still exists a contingency for emergency repairs that could occur during the balance of this fiscal year.
Much of the work covered by this line item is done during the summer months, to minimize the disruption to students and staff.
Ms. Duncan: Am I to understand from the minister that this is strictly a cost-saving? That all the projects in the technical briefing were completed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. I have a list of the projects completed during the summer of 1997, which correspond with the projects listed in the technical briefing.
Ms. Duncan: One of the items that might be considered for that contingency is the roof at Jack Hulland School. I understand it's still a problem. Could the minister indicate if that's in the lineup for the 1998-98 budget year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have to tell the member that we certainly haven't finalized the budget for the 1998-99 year yet. I'm unable to give her an answer.
I can indicate to her that $49,000 would not cover the expenditures required for the project she's mentioning.
Capital Maintenance Renovations in the amount of an underexpenditure of $49,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
On Facility Construction and Maintenance
On F.H. Collins School Upgrading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a result of various projects costing less than anticipated.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm told by the individuals involved in this project and others - students and so on - that this project, the F.H. Collins upgrading, went particularly well this summer, largely due to the cooperation by everyone involved.
I'd just like to applaud the individuals involved for not only realizing a cost-saving but completing these projects in a timely manner and with a great deal of cooperative support from the partners in education.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank the member for that. We're always very happy to pass along compliments from the public and from the opposition to the Department of Education and to Government Services for the good work that they do.
F.H. Collins School Upgrading in the amount of an underexpenditure of $45,000 agreed to
On Modular Classrooms
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These funds were transferred to cover additional costs incurred at the Teen Parent Centre. The savings were the result of selling the portables at L'École Emilie Tremblay. The sale price was sufficient to cover the costs incurred in selling the units.
Ms. Duncan: Have they been moved, Mr. Chair? Have the portables been moved?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, they have, Mr. Chair. I was there recently for another event, and the portables have been sold and moved.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does part of the price include site recovery, and is that scheduled for this summer?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We'll have to check that with Government Services and get back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I also understand that one of the modular classrooms was the addition of a modular classroom at Elijah Smith this summer. Is that correct? Did we not move a portable up there as well this summer?
I'm getting a blank look, so okay. The addition I'll deal with under school facilities alterations then.
Modular Classrooms in the amount of an underexpenditure of $15,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Porter Creek Secondary School
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This revote of $1,972,000 is for a carryover of the construction costs from 1996-97. The contract was paid to a level of completion and Government Services returned the funds to Education at year-end with instructions to request a revote. This follows normal procedure at each year-end. Contracts for work that has not been finished are returned to the department for a revote. Revote approval generally depends on the legal liability, health and safety or, in some cases, is based on new information with regard to the actual need for the project.
This particular revote covers a wide range of construction costs. The revote has to do with the contractor's schedule on the overall project.
I'm aware, as well, that members have requested a summary of the change orders for the Porter Creek Secondary School renovations. I've been assured by my colleague from Government Services that he'll provide that to the members opposite and they'll be able to pursue it with him.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to remind the minister that I had requested a listing of what projects were left to be done for these funds, and what projects are remaining outstanding at the school, for example the technical lab that has no computers. The technical lab has wonderful furniture and it's a beautiful facility but they've got nothing to do in it. There are problems with the cafeteria, problems with the grounds - those sorts of issues that remain outstanding that that school will be coming back next year for money for. I want to know what's left to be done and what's the estimated cost.
Also, I neglected to ask for my revised opening date. The Minister of Government Services had absolutely committed November 15 to me, but it's come and gone. I wonder if we could have a revised date?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's anticipated that there will be a full move in over the holidays, and I would imagine that the official date, with fireworks, flowers and a big cake, will be some time in the new year.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister indicate if the funds for the move are included somewhere, or are we asking students and staff to donate their time and energies to moving into the new facility?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we will be drafting the children from Jack Hulland - no, I'm just being facetious.
No, that will be done; that will be included in the price.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't know if the member has further questions in relation to the Porter Creek Secondary School project. What I would like to recommend for the member is that the critics take advantage of a technical briefing. We could certainly make both Government Services and Education officials available so that we can have all the information that they require. We appreciate having received notice of it, and I know that the public servants involved are working on compiling that information for the members.
Ms. Duncan: Can I just make a suggestion, that as long as we are getting a technical briefing on it that we invite the building advisory committee members who are interested to attend that, as well?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't believe that would present a problem, Mr. Chair; we can do that.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Porter Creek Secondary School in the amount of $1,972,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Renovations - Other Schools
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: These are revotes to complete a variety of projects.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister provide us with a list of those projects at some other point in time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Since the member asked, some of the projects that were completed include Christ the King Elementary, on Nusutlin Drive; various Catholic secondary renovations; several of the F.H. Collins renovations; the two new modular classrooms at F.H. Collins; the Elijah Smith Elementary is adding four new classrooms; plus related furniture and equipment.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to bring to the minister's attention that I was told by members of Elijah Smith that there were a number of problems with the renovations and the alterations to that particular school. I don't think the building advisory committee was particularly satisfied at the end of the process.
Are the alterations being made, to their suggestions?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, there were - I don't know if it was a question of not being enamoured, but the principal problem was the ceiling that was put in there, and also the light levels. The light levels have been adjusted. As far as the ceiling goes, there was some dispute as to what the original design for the ceiling entailed. I believe the description was "a wood ceiling less formal than the entrance". That left a fair degree of interpretation and, indeed, when the ceiling came in, it was considerably less formal than the entranceway.
Subsequent to that, the administration and the school council raised the concerns. We have since resolved that. The changes to the ceiling will be accomplished over the holidays and, as I understand, it will be to the satisfaction of the school council. Right now, there's, I suppose, a bit of a debate as to the exact style that they're looking at, but it will be accomplished over the holidays. I spoke with the principal on Friday about that and, as well, I also spoke with the chair of the school council.
Whitehorse Grade Reorganization - Renovations - Other Schools in the amount of $72,000 agreed to
On Various School Facilities Alterations
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The major portion of this item was a revote for school-initiated renovations. The schools are able to request a revote of funds that are not expended in the current fiscal year as part of the site-based management process. Some of the projects completed over the summer of 1997-98 include the reading recovery renovations at Christ the King Elementary, the Gadzoosdaa Residence furniture, asphalt repairs at Whitehorse Elementary and Jack Hulland schools, and security systems at Johnson Elementary and Takhini.
Mr. Phillips: We've had a rash of broken windows and vandalism at our schools over the past couple of years or so, and we've installed security systems at various schools. Have we got in place now in all of our - at least the Whitehorse schools - adequate security systems, cameras, that kind of thing, to try and apprehend some of these people who run around in the evening or at night or in the early morning hours, smashing windows?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we do have some, and I think that what I should probably do is provide the member with a written reply so that he can have a breakdown of what is available at what schools, and we'll continue to be working on it.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, when we build new buildings, such as the Porter Creek school, I suppose part of the contract is a security system built into the school. Are we putting in security systems that the local security companies here can monitor adequately and have the ability to monitor? Because sometimes we have a tendency to go to some new Cadillac system or some fancy system that creates problems for the existing people to monitor.
So, I just want to make sure that if we're putting in a security system the local people who monitor these types of systems have the ability to do so without having to do major upgrades, because I am hearing some concerns and complaints about some of the systems we are putting in, that the local security companies are having to come in and look at them and make recommended changes and that kind of thing.
In fact, one comment that I heard is that we're having people possibly without the proper security credentials actually designing some systems for our schools, that some engineers who don't have the proper credentials are designing systems and, in fact, local companies are having to go in afterwards and sort of clean up the mess and spend a lot of time changing or improving the system so that it can actually be monitored properly.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure, as a general rule of thumb, if that is indeed the case, but I was just running through some of the contracts that we have in this regard and I do notice that, specifically with Porter Creek, we did allocate money to Total North Communications for the monitoring of the Porter Creek existing security system. So, I imagine that it is being done on an ongoing basis, but I can raise that issue with, certainly, Government Services about the adequacy of the monitoring.
Mr. Phillips: Well, you know, we hear the government on the side opposite talk a lot about local hire and local purchase, so we do have a couple - two or three maybe - security companies in the territory that can do this kind of thing. I just want to make sure that whatever kind of security system we put in our new facilities, we have the ability to monitor it or at least keep track of the incidents that happen there. I am hearing some concerns from local companies who are very concerned about all the work they have to do to actually set up the monitoring of the system. They have to make modifications to it and other things that may or may not be included in their contract and, if they're not, of course, they have to come back to the government and say, "Look, we were going to do this for X amount of dollars, but we found out that the system you set up isn't compatible with our system and now we have to do something quite a bit different."
I just want to make sure that we're consulting the local companies before we put a system in so that they can monitor it properly.
Various School Facilities Alterations in the amount of $177,000 agreed to
On Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This funding is requested to enable the government to work on preparing the foundation, put in a gravel pad and purchase materials for the replacement of Chief Zzeh Gittlit School.
Mr. Phillips: Any more word on the road or the possibility of when they might try to put a winter road in there? I would think that if this weather keeps up for a couple more days, you might be able to barge it up the Yukon River to Old Crow in January or February. That's wishful thinking, I suppose. I just wonder if the minister could bring us up to date on where we're at with getting the materials onsite.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member has raised a very serious concern, which is that the weather is certainly not cooperating with enabling us to meet the logistics required to construct a winter road. This line item does not include the cost of building a winter road. The costs of the road are included in Government Services' budget. If we're unable to build a winter road, the materials will be freighted by air. I know that the Department of Government Services has been working on making sure their minister is fully prepared for the member's question in the Government Services estimates.
Mr. Phillips: I hope that we can use a winter road, because that would provide a lot of local work and local purchase if we do. If we have to go the air route, I would suspect that it would be quite a few trips in a single-engine Otter if we were to do it locally. I would think we would have to use a Hercules aircraft, I suspect, and I'm not aware of any Yukon company at the present time that has a couple of spare Hercules aircraft sitting around that they could use on this. So I would suspect that if it does go the air route, then a lot of dollars that would be allocated toward reducing the Yukon's unemployment rate would be reducing some other province's or territories' unemployment rate and not ours.
So, I hate to say this, but I hope it cools off, and we get more snow, because if we do that, then, of course, we'll be able to hire Yukon people to do the job.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just indicate that it was my understanding that local companies had obtained prices in terms of working with the Hercules aircraft? I understood that local companies had obtained prices of working with the Hercules aircraft so that there indeed would be local jobs generated should we be in an air-freight position. Is that not correct? Is my information not correct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We did have an expression of interest from one of the local companies. Now, whether or not that was involving a Hercules, at this point, I am not sure, but they did indicate a price for air freight. So, we have at least one local submission. Whether or not the equipment would be available from that company, or whether they would have to lease it, we're not sure at this point. We are certainly interested in a backup, and we have been looking at some air options.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps we could leave the question of whether it's a comparable cost to the Government Services debate and focus on the school itself.
Can the minister indicate if there's a final design in place that is approved by the various partners on this school for this money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We anticipate that the design will be completed by January 15. It's very close at the present time.
Hon. Mr. Bruce: I'm pleased to thank the government for the quick response when the school burnt down in January in Old Crow, and how quickly the government and the First Nation came to agreement on a temporary school for the children of Old Crow. It's not the suitable way to teach our children but in the emergency it was the quick way to do things.
I'm also pleased with the government for setting up a project manager and an advisory committee for the Old Crow school, which will be built soon.
I know it's hard to do something like this.
This project will give jobs to the boys of Old Crow and will be a good learning experience in all areas while building the school. And after the school is finished, the kids in Old Crow once again will have a good school to learn in.
Thank you very much to all the government.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if the minister can tell us, with respect to the transportation of the school, whether or not it will be tendered, whether it's by air or by road. Will there be a public tendering process posted in the local papers? Is it the plan for the government to do it that way?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm just looking for my notes from the most recent updates and the meeting we had in relation to the Old Crow school project. The intent of Government Services is to tender.
Chief Zzeh Gittlit School Replacement in the amount of $2,825,000 agreed to
On Distance Education
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This project has been delayed for the current year. The department needs to complete the training and development of current systems before taking on new projects so that we're making use of available technology before proceeding further.
Distance Education in the amount of an underexpenditure of $75,000 agreed to
On Teen Parent Centre
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This funding was transferred from the modular classroom line to address the need for new traffic signs and completing other minor projects, such as landscaping.
Ms. Duncan: The minister just said a crosswalk, the signs and so on, so this is a direct request from the City of Whitehorse then?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Teen Parent Centre in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Dawson Second School
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This was a revote to complete the design contract and to finish the site cleanup. All of the contaminated soil has now been removed from the site. There is still a concrete slab on site for use as a skateboard park. The City of Dawson has leased this as a test project for use by the children of Dawson. It has proved to be a success.
Mr. Phillips: She doesn't have to provide it right away, Mr. Chair, but maybe the minister could provide us with the latest number of students in the Dawson school, and maybe a bit of a chart of where it's going, and tell us where the Dawson school council is with respect to their request for a new school. Have they been asking the minister to speed it up? Is there a demonstrated need right now with the numbers? What's happening in Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the present enrollment in Dawson is 304 students. With respect to the member's second question, I can tell him that, when I met with the Dawson school council, they did have a participant at the school council chairs meeting in May of this year and were in agreement with the decisions that were made at that time.
Ms. Duncan: Aren't the portables with the Dawson school to be moved? Isn't there an agreement between the City of Dawson and the Government of Yukon respecting the use of these portables? I believe they had a finite life. What's the status of that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The portables are presently in use at the Dawson school, and I believe that the agreement for their use was extended between the department and the school.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, did I understand the minister to just say that that agreement was extended?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: Could she come back at some point in time with the details then of the extension if it was signed off by all the parties and provide us with the details on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can come back with that information for the member. As well, Mr. Chair, I have some responses to some questions that were made in the House on Thursday available for the critics.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I apologize. I should have asked in the line before. Could the minister indicate when the old Teen Parent Centre will be removed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll have to come back with an answer for the member on that question.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just elaborate further on the extension of the agreement on the portables in Dawson City? When was the contract entered into to extend it, because it has expired. What were the terms and conditions of the extension?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't have that information with me in the House. I will have to come back with a written response for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister envision a life expectancy of the portables?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm not sure what exactly the member's question is. The portables are presently in use at the school and I believe I recall some correspondence with the community and with the Mayor of Dawson and, as I've said, I'll have to come back with a written answer.
Mr. Jenkins: What is the ultimate life of these units? Let's go about it this way: what is the effective life of a modular unit in use as a school?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That depends on the modular unit itself. Some have been in place for quite a long time. For example, the Mayo school has modular construction and is approaching 30 years of age. Some of the modular classrooms in various locations have been replaced; others have been renovated.
Dawson Second School in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
Chair: For the record, we will return to Teen Parent Centre.
On Teen Parent Centre - revisited
Teen Parent Centre in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On New French First Language School
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This was a revote to complete the installation of the Big Toy, crosswalk controls, landscaping and roof repairs.
Mr. Phillips: Roof repairs? I thought the school just opened up about a year ago. We have roof repairs already?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, there were some repairs on the roof, I believe. That's what the note indicates.
Mr. Phillips: Well, isn't there some kind of contractor's warranty where, if we have repairs within 12 months or whatever? I know when you buy a house or build a house, you get a new home warranty. I'm sure we have a warranty with the contractor. Maybe the minister could come back with the amount we spent on roof repairs and whether or not it's recoverable from the contractor.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister of Government Services is going to be checking into the contract and whether there was a warranty that covered the roof repairs. I will certainly get the detailed information on the total cost of roof repairs and how much of it was recoverable.
Mr. Phillips: I would prefer if the Minister of Education brought that back. She's a little shorter and a bit more concise than the Minister of Government Services. It would save a bit of time if maybe he could pass the information over to the Minister of Education. If she could give us those answers, we would appreciate that.
New French First Language School in the amount of $42,000 agreed to
On Ross River School Design
Ross River School Design in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Instructional Equipment
On School Based Equipment Purchase
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The majority of this is a request to revote $231,000. The revote is for school-specific projects, and was transferred directly to the schools. There was also a net transfer of $8,000 to assist in the purchase of curriculum software that came from various school facilities alterations.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister provide us with a listing of where this school based equipment purchase is going? Which schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, we can come back with that information.
Ms. Duncan: I do hear continuing discussion, some of which I alluded to earlier, of technical labs that are lacking equipment and other situations.
Is there still an outstanding number of requests for equipment in various schools?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The request for replacement equipment is certainly ongoing within the schools, and that is why that line item is here. I'm not sure if the member is looking for a specific list of which schools have requested what, but I can tell the member that, in almost all budget years, the request for school based equipment purchase exceeds the allotted budget.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister has indicated to me then is that the wish list exceeds the money, which is not surprising.
How does the department determine its priorities in this respect? Is this also an area where the minister intends to involve school councils in the discussion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do have discussion with school councils about their priorities, so they are involved in requests relating to school based equipment purchase. As well, there is a policy in place within the department for phased in replacement of, in particular, computer equipment. So rather than replacing computer equipment that's two years old, there would be phased in replacement so that the oldest equipment is being replaced before the newer ones are.
School Based Equipment Purchase in the amount of $239,000 agreed to
On Advanced Education
On Training Trust Funds
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Youth Works Steering Committee requests that this money be taken back because they determined that they would not be able to spend the total allotment. They have requested that this money is made available in the future, and the department has agreed to return the funds with this understanding.
Training Trust Funds in the amount of an underexpenditure of $150,000 agreed to
On Adult Education Capital Support
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a revote to cover costs of upgrading electronic systems.
Adult Education Capital Support in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Community Library Development Projects
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This is a revote and covers several projects, including a bibliophile licence, computer systems at the Whitehorse Public Library, books and cataloguing, air circulation upgrade, and audio-visual equipment.
Mr. Phillips: Are there any special projects planned by the community library services with respect to the gold rush anniversary and the centennials?
Of course, 1898, as we know was the year of the Klondike Gold Rush, and 1998 is the anniversary. There is a great deal of information in our local libraries that could be put together in displays with respect to a history of the gold rush. I just wonder if our libraries and the archives in this area are going to be more active in 1998, so to speak, in the types of projects that they were active in in 1996. In 1992, I know they put on various displays and interpretive evenings for people to tell us a little more about the history of the territory.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair. I do not have the list here with me, but I know that there are some special displays, both in libraries and in archives, in relation to the anniversaries, and I can bring back for the member further information on them.
Community Library Development Projects in the amount of $94,000 agreed to
On Archives Development Projects
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This revote is requested to increase the display preparation and additional conversion of film to video. Part of the funding is to prepare for the Yukon centennial displays and to prepare thematic displays to publicize archival resources and programs throughout the Yukon and, eventually, world-wide by the Internet.
Archives Development Projects in the amount of $59,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There were questions on the recoveries in general debate, so I would just like to read into the record the notes that I have for this.
There is a recovery of $2,945,000 associated with the fire loss of Chief Zzeh Gittlit School, which includes temporary facilities, replacement of materials lost in the fire, personal belongings of the school. A full breakdown of the recovery will be available during the Government Services debate.
As well, there is a recovery of $125,000 for the day care at the new French first language school. There was a delay in the processing of the claim with the federal government, and the funds had been paid in previous years for this facility.
Mr. Phillips: If anyone in this House has ever had an insurance claim, they know that it sometimes can be somewhat frustrating waiting for the insurance company to replace the item. My concern here is not so much for the school, because we know that that's going to happen over a period of time, but the personal items of the teachers, the staff, the school - are they satisfied now? Did they move fairly quickly on that, and have they all been satisfied with respect to their own personal items that they lost in the fire?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: All of the teachers who lost personal belongings have been paid out and have signed off their insurance claims. We did make that a priority because, as the member knows, it's very traumatic to lose personal belongings. It has been a difficult transition time, not just for the teachers, but for the whole community.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $5,176,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Department of Justice
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Department of Justice supplementary estimates show a reduction in the O&M expenditures and an increase in the capital expenditures. I do have detailed breakdowns that I can either provide now or provide in the line items after general debate.
Mr. Cable: I have some general questions on issues that have been asked over the last little while, and I indicated one of the issues to the minister's executive assistant this morning. The limitation period on sexual abuse, civil proceedings - I had asked the minister a question about this during the budget debate and she had indicated, if I recollect correctly, that she'd be looking at that. Is there a status report she can give the House on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I guess the short answer to the status report would be that yes, I have looked at the subject. As the member knows, the way the Statute of Limitations is presently set up, once a survivor of abuse is aware of the abuse - and in some cases there's a suppression of those memories until perhaps counselling occurs or perhaps later in life when these events are recalled - there is a six-year period during which they can file suits against their abuser.
I'm aware that some jurisdictions have passed legislation to look at ways of being more supportive of victims, as the member knows, because we've been through the legislation already in this session. We haven't brought anything forward to the House in this session, but I'm still considering the possibilities.
Mr. Cable: I think the minister is probably aware that some judges have sort of tortured the language of the limitations acts to provide victims' redress, going back to where their memories have started to focus. It is my suggestion to the minister that this be done through a legislative section, rather than have the judiciary trying to squeeze people through the words.
Has she reached a conclusion as to whether legislation is necessary to permit people who have their memories blanked out and then, many, many years later, have their memories opened up on their childhood experiences?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, I haven't reached a conclusion on that. What I would like to suggest - and I thank the member for his comments - is that, following completion of this legislative session, perhaps in the new year I could sit down with the member opposite and discuss the issue with him and listen to his recommendations, as well as present him with the information that the department has prepared for me.
Mr. Cable: One of the other issues I mentioned to the minister this morning during the briefing is the Crown devolution. I understand that the federal Justice minister was going to prepare a briefing paper - or discussion paper, I guess it was going to be called. Where does that sit?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I hope to find out shortly where that does sit. As I've mentioned to the member, since the federal election we do have a new federal Minister of Justice. There is a Justice ministers meeting scheduled for later this week, and I hope to meet the new federal minister at that time and follow up with her on the transfer of the Crown attorney function to the Yukon.
We had previously been informed that the consultation paper would be completed by September and then October and then November, so it's now December 1. I will be following up with the federal minister on when we can anticipate having that paper available.
The Stein Lal report was commissioned, I believe, in 1995, and presented to the previous administration. That report called for a time frame of completing the transfer by the year 2000. I will be following up with the federal minister.
Mr. Cable: That report, of course, didn't see the light of day so there wasn't much public discussion on it. It didn't see the light of day with the public.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Well, that's not the story I got, but in any event, on the Crown devolution, has there been some internal departmental review of the various options that are available for the devolution of the Crown?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it's fairly difficult to make much progress on this subject without the cooperation of the federal government. So, I'm waiting to have a chance to sit down with the new federal minister and see if we can, in fact, expedite the process. I hope that may occur over the next couple of years.
Mr. Cable: One of the problems or one of the apprehensions that people have in a smaller jurisdiction like this - and of course, we've had newspaper coverage on this - is contact between politicians and justice officials with the law enforcement and law administration agencies.
One of the ways that we have, in Canada, gotten around the apprehensions of interference is the Nova Scotia model, with respect to the Crown attorney's office, where the Crown attorney is treated as an independent public prosecutor and messages given to the Crown attorney's office, either with respect to individual cases or by way of general guidelines, are all made public and, in fact, I believe are Gazetted. These recommendations came out of the McDonald inquiry, the McDonald Commission.
What is the minister's thinking on the use of the independent director of public prosecutions - I guess it's called? What's her thinking on that particular model?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I do believe that this is more in the nature of general debate that we could continue in the main estimates in the new year. However, I can give the member a preliminary response.
Certainly, in every jurisdiction in Canada the independence of the prosecutions office and the independence of the judiciary are fundamental principles. I believe in those principles and want to uphold them.
The Nova Scotia model is one model that is used and I would say to the member opposite that the model in place in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba - all the provinces and the federal government - are based on the prosecutor's office operating according to the principle of the right thing to do, not according to what the political masters are asking them to do. I can assure the member that I'm fully supportive of that principle of independence and that any model that we look at will be built on that.
Mr. Cable: Well, belief and support are one thing, but perception by the public, of course, is another thing, and that's what the confidence level in the institutions is based on. It's the perception that people have of their institutions. Let me encourage the minister to look long and hard at the Nova Scotia model that has built-in checks and balances within it, and also, to a lesser extent, the British Columbia model, where instructions on particular files have to actually be Gazetted. This is my understanding of how the British Columbia model works so that there isn't any perception whatsoever of any invisible instructions between politicians or public servants and the Justice department with the Crown attorney's office.
On another issue, the child support guidelines, I believe the minister was looking at that and I think it was her original intention to bring those forward. Where do those sit, and what is her intention with respect to them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, I would like to respond that the federal government itself has not been immune to charges of a perception of a conflict of interest and indeed it has been charged that they have been in conflict on some high-profile cases. Regardless of that, any model in place needs to be built on the principle of independence.
With regard to the child support guidelines, I would like to inform the member that he is correct that the Canadian Bar Association, Yukon Chapter, family law subsection, has requested that we give them further time to look at the contemplated changes to the Yukon legislation to comply with the child support guidelines. We have agreed to that request and will continue our consultations with the family law subsection of the Canadian Bar Association.
Mr. Cable: Is it the minister's intention then to bring in the guidelines in the next legislative session, which would be the fall of 1998?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That is our intent at this time, Mr. Chair, subject to the discussions that will continue with the legal community and with others.
Mr. Cable: There was a blurb in the news about a month and a half ago on a community police station at F.H. Collins. I wonder if the minister could advise us as to what sort of success that's had. Is it working? Are there other schools planned, and what's the role of the YTG?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The school resource officer program that is now in place at F.H. Collins, at Vanier Secondary and Porter Creek Secondary have, I believe, been a success, but they're relatively new. They've only been in place since this fall. They've been supported by the Department of Education and Justice and by the RCMP. The thinking behind it is that when students are able to see a police officer in the school, and maybe build a relationship with him, they're maybe going to recognize an officer when he or she may be attending at a bush party, so there are already some people that may be known to the officer and this may help the dynamics in the future.
As well, the whole community policing initiative has involved the community at large recognizing that it's important for not just students but for all the public to see that police officers are members of the community as well, and that they often volunteer their time in helping with sports activities at the high schools.
Mr. Cable: The minister is going to be speaking to the federal Justice minister in the next day or so. Does she plan to speak to the Young Offenders Act? Is that on her agenda?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that the Young Offenders Act is on the agenda for the meeting. I can certainly provide the member with a report when I return from the meeting.
Mr. Cable: Just out of curiosity, what position is the Government of Yukon going to put forward on the naming of young offenders for serious crimes? As the minister's undoubtedly aware, young offenders cannot be named in the media.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that there have been some changes made to the Young Offenders Act which allow for the naming of offenders in cases where there are crimes of a serious, violent nature. I don't have those notes with me in the House, so I'd like to come back to the member with that. But in cases where there have been serious violent crimes committed, and it is in the public interest to name the young offenders, I believe that those provisions are already in place, and we support them.
Mr. Cable: The minister may be better informed than I am on that particular subject and it would be useful to get her information on that.
With respect to the Harbans Randhawa case that has been going on in the Yukon now for, what is it, the better part of a decade, has Mr. Randhawa been paid out yet?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That payment would go through the Public Service Commission, I believe, and I'm not certain whether the payment has been made. I do know that there was recently a ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and I believe that the final payment is in process. I would have to confirm that with the Public Service Commission minister.
Mr. Cable: Would the minister do that - confirm the status of the payment? Could she also confirm whether it's her government's intention to appeal the Human Rights Tribunal finding or whether the government has accepted that finding?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will provide the member with answers to those questions after speaking with my colleagues.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on legal aid and on the Correctional Centre, and I believe they are probably best left until we get to the correctional services line item.
In legal aid, where have you got that in the budget? Is it under legal services?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, it's under legal services.
Mr. Cable: All right, I'll deal with it in those two line items, then.
Mr. Phillips: The Stein Lal report was a report that was done when we were in government and I was the Minister of Justice, and the report - we wanted to make the report public but Alan Rock, the federal Minister for Justice at the time, was reluctant to do so. Does the minister plan to make the same request that we made of the new federal Justice minister to make the Stein Lal report public, because I think it would generate some discussion if the general public saw the position that the federal government was taking with respect to devolution of the Crown attorney's office.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm certainly not adverse to making that request. I believe that it may in some respects have been superseded by events. What we are hoping to move forward with at this stage is a discussion paper that both the Yukon government and the federal government have contributed to and agreed to, and provide that to the public for comment and move forward to a resolution to this long-standing request on the part of the Yukon government to be responsible for the Crown attorney function.
I can come back to the member after the meeting with the federal minister and indicate to him what the next step will be.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I guess it's another one of those federal reports that's going to sit on the shelf, cost us a few thousand dollars and a bunch of time of our officials and the officials of the N.W.T. to do, and nothing is going to happen to it. I guess it's not real surprising.
I wish the minister well on the new initiative. Maybe the minister should get a commitment from the new Minister of Justice that this one won't sit on the shelf and that as a result of the discussions that the minister will have, it will be allowed to be made public, so that the public can know where this is going. Because, it seems like, since the last one is going to die a quiet death on someone's shelf, it is a shame and waste of taxpayers' money to even have started it. So, we'll leave that one with the minister and we'll see where we go with the new discussion.
I've raised with the minister my concerns over maintenance enforcement, and in particular, some of the ways that some individuals are treated or feel they've been treated with respect to their claim. One issue that I've raised with the minister is searches internally in the government to determine whether or not an individual has any assets.
Has the minister looked into that any further? I know that there was a request asked, and in this particular case a search was done by the department. They found nothing. The individual who was due the funds from the fellow who skipped the territory, it was shown, even within the minister's own offices in the Department of Justice, the land department and consumer and corporate affairs, that this individual had significant assets. Yet the Department of Justice did a search and I'm not sure where they searched, but they came up empty.
So, I just wonder if the minister has had an opportunity to look into that, and whether or not we've changed our procedure for carrying out these searches to determine whether an individual does have assets.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can tell the member that I believe what has happened following the phone calls that we had in regard to one specific case from the claimant directly and from the member opposite is that the maintenance enforcement staff were trained by the officials in the land titles office on conducting a search in relation to property. I believe that the property of the non-custodial parent has had something registered against it in order to provide for the maintenance enforcement payments.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, Mr. Chair, so this is as a result of the issues that the complainant brought up and that I brought up with the minister. Okay, I haven't talked to the complainant in the last couple of days.
So, what the minister is telling us is that there has been a training program put in place since these discussions took place to allow the people in maintenance enforcement to get a better idea of the search procedures, and that something is actually happening in this particular case now, and that a claim has been filed.
Can the minister tell us, then, if they will produce a sort of how-to form for the staff in maintenance enforcement with respect to all areas that they should be searching - not just land titles, not just consumer and corporate affairs? There may be other areas that officials in the minister's department are aware of that one should search if they're trying to find someone's assets, and it might be useful to provide a one-pager or a two-pager or whatever it is that would be information that our staff in the Department of Justice in maintenance enforcement could use in a sort of a step-by-step check to ensure that an individual who has skipped the territory or is refusing to pay their maintenance support so that the government can move quickly to either recover some money or register a lien against the particular property?
I just suggest to the minister that I know they did some training. I think that's a good idea, but just make a one-pager or whatever that they'd have handy for them to use in the future for these kinds of cases.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It is a priority for this government to ensure that the maintenance enforcement program is as effective as it can possibly be. We will certainly continue to look for ways to improve the training that's available to the maintenance enforcement officers, and I believe the member's suggestion has some merit. I think it's something that, if we haven't seen done yet, we can look at doing in the future.
Mr. Phillips: I was also told by the complainant that when a file is moved from one territory - our territory in particular - to another province, they sort of go on to a waiting list or they get dealt with in the order that they're received. The concern that this individual, the complainant, had was that they were told that - in this case, it was Saskatchewan - it might be three months before the individual's file was dealt with.
I thought we had a reciprocal agreement where things could be dealt with in a timely manner. I mean, somebody skips out in November - it's November, December, January - you've got the Christmas season, you've got the middle of the winter, probably the most difficult time for an individual to try and get through. If it sits on somebody's desk in Saskatchewan for two or three months, it makes it rather difficult. They were told that they were lucky that it wasn't Ontario, because in Ontario it might be up to six or eight months, or even longer.
So I just wonder if the minister does have - if she could bring back for the House what the waiting period would be, Mr. Chair, if she could come back to the House with a list of the various provinces that we have agreements with and what their waiting period might be on a request, and if we have a waiting period on this side. If someone transfers to the territory, Mr. Chair, do we have a waiting period? Do they go on a list and be dealt with on a priority manner? Do we deal with them fairly quickly, or does it take three weeks, or a month, or what?
Maybe the minister can get back to us on that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I know that we do have reciprocal arrangements in place with many of the jurisdictions across Canada. I believe that, since we came to government, there have been two more agreements in place with Ontario and one other province that have been added on to the jurisdictions we already had agreements with for enforcement of maintenance payments.
I can bring back for the member a list of what the normal processing time is in each jurisdiction. In relation to the specific case that the member is referring to, his question in regard to putting a garnishee on a federal payment, such as the income tax payment or unemployment insurance payments, is something that there is a charge for. The federal government has requested that only the jurisdiction that will be enforcing that charge be the jurisdiction that applies to see that the charge is levied, because it's charged back against the non-custodial parent.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't have a problem with the federal requirement. What I have a problem with, though, is in late October, November and December these kinds of things could arise where an individual moves from the territory to another province and in this particular case, the file was transferred.
The individual in question has been known, in the past, to file his income tax extremely early in the year - probably by e-mail early in the year and, by the first three weeks of January, may have his return in hand. By the time we communicate this to the Saskatchewan government or another government, it'll be too late.
So, I think that we should deal with this in a manner that we give priority to trying to recover the money that's due as quickly as possible. So, if we look at this and we realize it's going to take a month or two for it to be activated in Saskatchewan, then we file the federal intervention under the Income Tax Act and we hold the file until we at least do that so that at least the person has an opportunity to put a garnishee against the income tax return. Because what's going to happen now, sorry to say, is that it might be lost in the mail just because of the time it takes for it to get into the Saskatchewan offices for them to deal with it and sign it. By the time it's all done through the holiday season, this individual may have received his rebate from his income tax and the complainant will be right out of luck. It will be too late and so we should have something in place for at least the last couple of months in the year. So, if there's a transfer, we can deal with something like an income tax garnishment because, if we don't and somebody files early in the year, we've lost an opportunity. That's all I'm suggesting to the minister; maybe we can look at another way of doing this with the priority being on recovering this money that we know this individual will receive probably fairly early in January.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I've stated, the priority is to ensure that the maintenance enforcement program is effective. In relation to the specific case that the member is talking about, I know that it has been referred to the staff in the maintenance enforcement office in the Yukon. I also know that we have been following up with Saskatchewan to ensure that they deal quickly with this case. My understanding is that when a respondent moves to another jurisdiction, the file is transferred to the jurisdiction where the respondent lives. That is why we have in place reciprocal enforcement arrangements with the other provinces and territories.
I have put forward the request that this case be dealt with expeditiously and we can get back to the member with some details on where it stands.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for that. Don't get me wrong. I think the maintenance enforcement staff in the Department of Justice do a great job, but all we're talking about here is a relatively new program with relatively new experiences in transferring cases and reciprocal agreements, and I think that, although there may be a procedure to transfer a claim from one jurisdiction to another, there may be an opportunity to look at what's best for the claimant, sometime, to deal quickly with a matter, like the income tax garnishee now, or some of the other initiatives that could have been done very quickly here.
So, I just suggest to the minister that, rather than, as soon as we know somebody's gone, shipping the file right away, we should look at what we could do very quickly to try and recover some funds. That's all I'm suggesting to the minister, and I commend the staff at the maintenance enforcement office. It's a very small staff and I hear a lot of positive things from a lot of individuals who are receiving their monies on a regular basis because of the work they're doing.
I think these are just some of the technical things that we're learning as we go along in this thing that maybe we could do more efficiently. So I just suggest that to the minister.
Ms. Duncan: I'd just like to ask the minister a few questions in terms of general debate in this particular Department of Justice.
I wonder if the minister could indicate if there was any action by her department, upon taking office, to review decisions whether or not to proceed with court action on specific cases? Was she given an outline of cases and decisions made, or an option made, whether or not to proceed with them, immediately after taking office?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm trying to recall all of the many subject matters that we reviewed in this first year in office. I know that I did receive a report of cases that were ongoing. Perhaps, if the member has specific questions that she is getting at, if she can bring them forward I can review my notes and memories and see whether any changes transpired.
Ms. Duncan: I'll get to the specific point. There was a decision made to proceed with an action by the Government of Yukon with a company in what the trial judge has now described as an "absurd interpretation of events". I'm referring specifically to the case between the Government of Yukon and Klippert's Transfer Ltd. This case went ahead. There was a judgment issued on July 11 and subsequently filed with the court, found in favour of the plaintiff. It's my understanding that, although there's almost $50,000 in favour of the plaintiff, this money has yet to be paid out, although this judgment's about four and a half months old.
Would the minister advise on that, if she's aware of this particular case, and what the holdup is with this money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I can advise the member is that the Department of Justice provides legal advice to the line departments, so in a case where a court action is as a result of a contract, it would likely be Government Services who has received legal advice from the Department of Justice, and there the decision is made, based on the merits of the case.
With regard to the specific example that she's quoting, I'm going to have to come back with an answer for her.
Ms. Duncan: This is one of those long, drawn-out cases of citizen versus the government. Would the minister take this question as urgent and indicate to her officials that this matter should be resolved as soon as possible?
I would also like the minister to come back with perhaps a written answer as to the cost to the government of proceeding in this action and, further, would she instruct her officials to work with the department concerned - Community and Transportation Services - to ensure that if there's an argument over cost, to haggle over cost later and get this judgment paid out to this particular company?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd be happy to ask the officials of relevant departments to come forward with a prompt response to the member's request.
Mr. Cable: I've got a couple of other questions in general debate. With respect to the Stein Lal report, it's my understanding that there was some problems with the territories on the release of the report. Now, from what we've just heard from the ex-Justice minister, it's obvious they didn't arise in the Yukon. Could the minister take up with the federal minister the release of that report and report to her that all parties in this Legislature are in favour of the release of that report?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I thank the member for his endorsement, and I'll try not to use his name in vain when I meet with the federal minister.
Mr. Cable: On another topic, I know the minister and I share the view that the bench, and perhaps the Judicial Council, should be more representative of the broader society, both in gender and in relation to, perhaps, racial characteristics here in the territory.
Does the minister, at some juncture in the future, intend to bring in legislation that would deal with the affirmative action in relation to either gender or racial characteristics with respect to the Judicial Council?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to share with the member opposite the report that we anticipate receiving from Ted Hughes in the new year. He will be looking at a number of questions in relation to the justice system in the Yukon, and I believe that there are a number of groups and organizations in the Yukon, including the legal community, the bench and the Judicial Council itself, which may be making representations to him on where they think there is room for improvement. I agree with the member that we need to enhance the public's confidence in the justice system. I also believe strongly that one of the ways of doing that is to ensure that all segments of society are represented in the decision making within all of our systems.
I hope that we can achieve some measure of success in making changes in that area, and I'd be very happy to work with the member opposite on that.
Mr. Cable: I think the main focus of Mr. Hughes' report will be the protocol for communications between elected officials and the bench in that sort of commentary on the past.
What I'm asking the minister is, what are her intentions in the future, after Mr. Hughes has reported and what not and indicated where we can go from here? What are her intentions in the future with respect to affirmative action? Is she prepared to bring in legislation to deal with that issue so there is some firm guidance to the Judicial Council and some firm guidance to the government in the making of appointments to the Judicial Council?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe the member opposite has been provided with the order-in-council that has been passed that sets out the parameters for Mr. Hughes. They are broad in nature. I believe he may be asked to address these questions, as well as others.
Nonetheless, my intentions are no secret. I hope to work with the public to enhance public confidence in the justice system. I hope to hear from members of the public on ways that we can ensure there is broader-based participation.
I think that changing the composition of the Judicial Council might be one way of achieving that. I am looking forward to a discussion with my colleagues across the country, because this is not a problem unique to the Yukon. This is a circumstance that's in place right across the country, and I look forward to discussions on ways that we can ensure that the public does not feel alienated and can be assured that we have in place an effective process.
Mr. Cable: One of Mr. Hughes' mandates is for making recommendations, if he deems it appropriate, for amending the appointment process for judges of the court and for justices of the peace. Is the minister thinking that this is going to encompass rules with respect to affirmative action?
What I'm thinking about is something wider than his commentary on the mechanics of the legislation.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that this is a subject that we will continue to be discussing in the future. I would suggest to the member opposite that the order-in-council he is just quoting from and referring to is established to provide for a report by March 31, 1998, so it might be more appropriate for us to continue this discussion in general debate on the main estimates.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I'll accept the minister's suggestion. We will continue that discussion in the spring.
On the Motor Vehicles Act amendments, where people's licences were taken away for non-payment of fines and non-payment of maintenance support orders, has anybody's licence been taken away? Can we have an update on that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have an update on the total number of active files and funds paid out. I'll have to come back for the member with an answer in relation to driver's licences being withheld.
Mr. Cable: In the event that the House rises before the minister gets back from her conference, could she give us that information by way of letter?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Actually, Mr. Chair, I have located another note in relation to administrative sanctions and unpaid fines related to motor vehicle offences. I'm just taking a quick look through it to see if the member's specific questions are here.
The statistics indicate that administrative sanctions continue to be successful in the amount of fines owed, and I believe that this covers maintenance enforcement payments as well. I'll certainly commit to providing the member with an answer in writing, if the House rises prior to my return from the Justice ministers conference.
Mr. Cable: Just one other question, and I promise this will be the last in general debate. I mentioned to the minister this morning the case out of Manitoba where a pregnant women was, I believe, forcibly restrained so she wouldn't take either alcohol or drugs and damage the fetus. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, I think, and there was some commentary that some provisions, I believe, in our Children's Act, may be ultra vires.
Does the minister intend to clean up that act? Perhaps this is an issue primarily for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is correct that the Children's Act does fall under the Department of Health and Social Services. My colleague, the Minister for Health and Social Services, has indicated that the Yukon will be looking at our legislation. The intervention of the Supreme Court of Canada hoped - the Yukon hoped to reach a resolution or some kind of a comment from the court to indicate that, if legislation is required, how the legislation should be worded in order to meet any Charter challenges. The Supreme Court of Canada did not refer specifically, in their judgment, to the constitutionality of section 133 of the Yukon Children's Act. We are now going to be, with the Department of Health and Social Services, looking at the act to ensure that the decision has been reviewed and determine its impact.
Chair: Not seeing any further general debate, we will go to operation and maintenance expenditures.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Legal Services
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Additional funds of $22,000 have been provided in legal services for the native courtworker program. The federal government informed us recently that they were increasing their contribution to the program by this amount and, under the terms of our cost-shared agreement, the Yukon government agrees to match federal funding.
Recoveries have been increased accordingly.
Mr. Cable: What's the minister's intention with respect to legal aid? Is that budget going to stay sort of in limbo, as I think it has over the last few years, or is it anticipated that there will be an increase that will run up with population increases?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we will continue to support the legal aid program by following the 50/50 contributions agreement that we have in place with the federal government.
Mr. Cable: What's the minister's view on the use of the public defenders? Is this system working and, if so, is the use of public defenders going to increase over the future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As the member is probably aware, the legal aid program is governed by a board of directors of the Yukon Legal Services Society. The legal aid program is also bound by resolution of the board of directors, which indicates what criminal proceedings people are eligible to receive legal aid for. As well, the board of directors sets out what civil matters legal aid will provide funding for.
Mr. Cable: I take it, then, the minister is saying that the retaining of solicitors on the payroll is solely within the discretion, then, of the Yukon Legal Services Society's mandate and she's not going to have any input into that decision at all in any form?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I haven't had a meeting with the directors of the Yukon Legal Services Society to date. Certainly I'm willing to meet with them and to look at whether the program, as they presently administer it, is the most effective model. I know there have been concerns expressed in the community about one approach being better than another. There might be room for improvement. I'm certainly willing to discuss that with the board.
Mr. Cable: The minister is then saying that the use of the public defenders, if I can call them that, is going to be reviewed by the Justice department - whether it's an effective way of delivering legal aid. Is she saying that she is going to discuss that with the Legal Aid Society?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There may be a program evaluation in the future of the models that are presently in place. I think that this is an issue that the member and I might follow up on in the spring debate.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just a technical question. The lawyers on the payroll in the legal aid system - are they in the line item for legal aid in the main estimates, or are they shown in the solicitors branch?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The line item in the budget covers the payment that is made to the Yukon Legal Services Society. The Yukon Legal Services Society then pays the lawyers that they engage.
Mr. Cable: Okay, thank you.
I'd like some information. I'll just spell it out for the minister. I'm sure she doesn't have it at her fingertips. The mains had an item of $200,000, I think, for outside counsel. I don't notice any change in the supps, but I'd like to find out how much has been expended to date and whether that includes legal advice contracted for by other departments.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll come back with some information for the member on that question.
Chair: The time being about 4:30, is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on legal services. Does it clear?
Legal Services in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Additional funds of $20,000 have been approved in consumer and commercial services for the implementation of the mobile home strategy.
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This line item is 100-percent recoverable, Mr. Chair. The federal government has provided funding for the implementation of the firearms legislation in the amount of $200,000, which shows as an increase to the recoveries as well.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, we were owed some $34,000 from the federal government in the past for the existing firearms legislation, and we've been in quite a dispute for some time over that amount of money. Have they paid up or are they still in arrears for what we say it's costing us to deliver the program and they say they're actually going to pay us?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that they have renegotiated the terms of the funding agreement and that we will be getting full recovery. I will confirm that and provide the member with a written response.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister can outline for us what is going to happen in the next few months with respect to C-68 and what Yukoners can expect from this government in the implementation of the revisions of C-68.
What's going to happen on January 1, for example, with respect to C-68?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: One of the things that I can indicate to the member opposite is that that is an item that will be discussed by all Justice ministers at the conference coming up later this week. As the member knows, there is a lot of concern around the country with regard to Bill C-68. What is in place at the present time is that the federal government has been training people from across the country on the administration of Bill C-68. They have also been providing the funding for that training to do with the implementation.
We are at present waiting for a decision to be rendered by the Alberta Court of Appeal on the legal challenge to the constitutional validity of Bill C-68. I have no doubt that the member and I will be discussing this item in future budget sessions and in future legislative sessions.
Mr. Phillips: No doubt we will. Mr. Chair, the federal government just released some guidelines or regulations with respect to First Nations exemptions in Bill C-68. One of the exemptions, if I'm to read it correctly, is that First Nations youth under the age of 12 will not be required to take any training and can actually use firearms unsupervised. Does the minister think this is a fair provision under the exemptions of First Nations in the act, whether that's a safe provision?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I think that there's a lot of common ground between First Nations and the Yukon government and even between the member opposite and me on these subjects. It is important that people who are using firearms use them safely.
At the present time in relation to First Nations in the Yukon, the Council of Yukon First Nations has drafted its own firearms act as an expression of its jurisdiction, but is concerned also about implementation funding. Yukon and CYFN are considering developing a joint strategy respecting the implementation of Bill C-68 and we have jointly written to the federal government to express their concerns with the firearms act. Any discussions that I've had with the First Nations leaders have made it clear to me that they have concerns about firearms being dealt with responsibly and safely. I expect that all Yukon citizens are going to be trying to ensure that firearms are handled safely, whether it's under Bill C-68 or whether First Nation firearms legislation comes into force.
Mr. Phillips: Well, maybe the minister can tell me then. Does the minister support two separate regimes, as the federal government is looking at implementing - one in the Yukon for First Nations to give them certain exemptions to C-68 and one for non-First Nations people in the territory? Does the Minister for Justice support that, or does the Minister for Justice feel, as I do, that there should be one law with respect to this, and in fact, I think the minister agrees that C-68 is a bad law. But my concern is that there are going to be two sets of laws here in the territory governing people who use firearms, basically for the same purposes in many instances.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the preference of this minister and the preference of this government would be to have in effect firearms legislation that is practical and that ensures the safe handling of firearms. We also support firearms legislation that brings about consequences for people who use firearms dangerously or to commit criminal activities.
Some of those are components of Bill C-68. Nonetheless, there is a lot of the measures of C-68 that neither the Yukon government nor the Council of Yukon First Nations are in agreement with.
We would certainly prefer to see a firearm regime for the north that could be developed and jointly supported by the federal government, First Nations governments in the Yukon and the Yukon government. I hope to discuss that with the federal minister. I've written to the previous federal minister and I've written to the present federal minister about that. I can't stand here and promise to the member opposite that we'll be able to achieve some accommodation from federal government but that is what we would like to see.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister can tell us, Mr. Chair - she's had an opportunity, as I have, to look at the regulations pertaining to changes to First Nations people that the federal government is proposing. Does she support those changes that they have, or does she believe that there should be one regime for firearms regulations and laws in this territory?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have not had an opportunity to look at those regulations in detail, so I find it difficult to respond to the member's detailed questions on that.
I can tell him that I think it would be very helpful for Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government to continue working together in developing a joint strategy - if we're able to do so - with the federal government on implementing firearms legislation. I think the member and I are in agreement that the most sensible regime would be one that all parties can buy in to. I won't know, until I've had an opportunity to discuss the subject with the federal minister, what we may be able to achieve.
Mr. Phillips: The minister didn't really answer my question. She said that we should have a regime that the parties can buy in to. There are a lot of Yukoners who live in rural Yukon and remote areas of this territory who live in First Nations communities. My concern is that we are going to have people who live side by side of each other who, for the most part, have identical lifestyles, but there will be two different regimes as proposed by the federal Liberal government with respect to firearms ownership. Some will be more lenient than others.
The First Nations won't have to abide by the same rules and regulations that others will. I'm asking the minister if she feels that that's a manageable proposal in this territory? We're going to have people that sometimes live in the same house, one that has to do certain things with her firearms, and can't do certain things, and one that can. I just wonder if the minister supports that concept of a firearms law in this country. I think it's the first time that we're going to have two distinct laws to govern one specific problem.
So I want to know from the minister if she agrees with that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, what I can tell the member is that there isn't a lot about Bill C-68 that we can agree is reasonable. That is why this government proceeded with a legal challenge to the constitutional validity of Bill C-68.
I don't think it makes a lot of sense to have different regimes in place for different people. Nonetheless, what I've indicated to the member is that I have not reviewed, in detail, the recent regulations that came out. I'm not able to respond to his questions because I'm not aware of the facts. I have not spent the time looking at those regulations. I can indicate to him that it is a serious concern of the Yukon government and of First Nations governments that we see whether the federal government would be in support of a joint strategy respecting the implementation of Bill C-68.
I can assure the member that the Yukon government and First Nations governments are concerned that there be safe and responsible firearm ownership and management in the territory, and we'll see what happens as we proceed through the morass, but I can't give the member any more information than that in relation to the specific regulations he's referring to, because I haven't had time to look at them.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I thought that our Justice minister would take the time to look at them because they have pretty serious implications for Yukoners. Maybe I can suggest to the minister that if she hasn't got a copy of them, I do. I could make a copy of them available to her this afternoon and she can take them with her on the aircraft tomorrow when she's flying to meet the Justice minister and read them over.
I don't know, for the life of me, how this government is going to implement those regulations in this territory with respect to the types of communities we have. Thirty days from now - this is the 1st of December - 30 days from now, provisions of C-68 start to come into effect. Some regulations have come out with respect to First Nations and some of the exemptions that they are going to face. For example, a 12 year old First Nation youth can go out, unsupervised, with a firearm and use the firearm at will if they wish to do so, under the new regulations. I don't know, for the life of me, how that provides safe use of a firearm.
Elders - by way of definition, there'll be the ability to, I think, loan firearms and exchange firearms.
Now, I agree with those kinds of provisions. The First Nations have been doing that in the past. But now we're going to have two different laws for the use of firearms in the territory by people who, for the most part, use these firearms for similar purposes, and we're going to be responsible because we are one of the few jurisdictions that decided to fight it in court, Mr. Chair. We decided that we were going to fight them in court, tooth and nail, but we were going to implement it anyway.
The minister's rationale at that time was that the reason we were going to implement is because we wanted to have control. So today, three and a half weeks before things start happening, the minister says she hasn't read the regulations. That's a concern.
This is a serious issue. The minister should read the regulations that are going to affect all of us and understand them and have recommendations on how, Mr. Chair, they're going to implement them. I would have thought that this would have been a great opportunity for the minister to sit down with the federal Minister of Justice and explain to the federal Minister of Justice the problems that we're going to have with this. But the minister doesn't even know what they say.
It's pretty feeble support, Mr. Chair, for a bill that we all stood up in this House one after the other and said was a bad bill, but we'll do our best to take care of the rights of Yukoners and to get our message to the federal government. We're sending a minister to Ottawa to talk about the very thing and she doesn't even know what's in the bill; she doesn't even know what's in the regulations.
There are a lot of firearms users out there in this territory who were concerned and they have a real reason to be concerned with this government. I have to tell the minister that I'm disappointed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Member for Faro has said, "Is my lecture going to come to an end?" No, I don't think it ever will, not unless you take a stand.
I mean, is it too much to ask the Member for Faro that the Minister of Justice of this territory would read the regulations that came out a few weeks ago to understand how it will impact Yukoners? I don't think so.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: This minister is just playing lip service to it and, unfortunately, he doesn't even know how it's going to impact on us. I would have hoped they would be going to Ottawa this week to meet with the minister.
How do we know? Maybe the minister can tell me how much money is in this particular budget specifically to deal with Bill C-68? Is it the full $200,000? Is that the amount that we're going to use to deal with implementing C-68?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member doesn't need to provide me with a copy of regulations. I have received a copy of the regulations. I have asked the Department of Justice to review the regulations and I intend to discuss with the federal minister a number of problems in relation to Bill C-68, in relation to administration of the bill and in relation to the unique problems that we have in the Yukon.
I can also tell the member opposite that we have taken a position on this bill. We have challenged it. We have participated in a legal challenge on the constitutional validity of Bill C-68 heard before the Alberta Court of Appeal in early September. We are waiting for a decision in that case. We are also, as a territory, having ongoing meetings with First Nations, who are also very concerned about Bill C-68 and about safe, responsible firearm use in the territory.
I'm not sure what the member is looking for, other than perhaps an opportunity to chastise me for not having read through the regulations of Bill C-68. I can assure him that I take the matter seriously. I can assure him that I'm going to be prepared for the meetings that I have with the federal minister, and I can also assure him that the Yukon government and Yukon First Nations are interested in developing a joint strategy and on working in collaboration with each other on firearms legislation in the territory.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, you have to recognize the concern I have here today, when less than 24 hours before the minister leaves on a trip to meet with the federal Justice minister, she hasn't read the regulations. She just received it in the mail and passed it on to the department and said, "Do an analysis of this and let me know what's happening later, and I'll stand up before the federal Justice minister, and I'll tell her how I feel," or tell her how you feel, I guess, because the minister hasn't read them and maybe won't read anything but the briefing note.
My concern, Mr. Chair, is that we knew a long time ago that on January 1, 1998, there were going to be provisions of this act enacted. The minister didn't answer my question, and that was, how much money is in this budget with respect to implementing C-68? I'm not sure how the minister is going to be able to answer that when the minister hasn't even read the regulations that will affect the implementation of C-68. So, it might be a difficult question for the minister to answer, but I'd be interested in hearing it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The $200,000 in the line item under community and correctional services, which we are discussing at this time, Mr. Chair, is for the implementation of C-68. As I indicated when I provided the background information on this line item, the full $200,000 is for Bill C-68, and that is why there is a corresponding $200,000 recovery shown in the recoveries line item, since these costs are covered by the federal government.
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister outline how they're going to implement Bill C-68? What are they going to spend the $200,000 on?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are a number of costs associated with the line item. It includes travel; it includes advertising; it includes office expenses. There are personnel within the Department of Justice who have been attending training sessions provided by the federal government up to this point that will continue. I can provide further information for the member, if he's interested.
Mr. Phillips: How did we come up with the figure of $200,000? My understanding is the supplementary budget was put together some time ago, and these regulations - the new regulations - affecting First Nations just came out in the last few weeks. The new regulations are going to impact on the budget. If the federal government is successful in the court case, we're going to have two different firearms regimes in the territory, because they've brought in some provisions for First Nations people that are different for others.
So these changes are going to impact on our budget. So how did the minister come up with the figure of $200,000? Does the minister think, in light of the recent regulation announcements by the federal government, that this $200,000 is adequate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The federal government made money available at the beginning of the year for implementation of Bill C-68. This amount has been estimated by the chief territorial firearms officer, who has been involved in the ongoing training and who has been informed of regulation changes as they have been coming about. As with any line item within the budget, the final amount may have some slight variance in the final supplementary that comes forward, but we believe this to be an accurate estimate, based on the information that the chief territorial firearms officer has been working with.
Mr. Phillips: I know the minister will not be able to answer this question now, but maybe she can bring me back an answer.
Let's give a scenario in a remote community in the territory where there are First Nation individuals and non-First Nation individuals living, and there are two sets of rules. How does the minister see this particular piece of legislation working with respect to the role of the RCMP and how they will monitor these kinds of situations, where there will be two different rules, some will be able to loan firearms, some won't, some will be able to hunt or some will be required to take training programs, some won't, how does the minister see this working? Maybe the minister can give us an outline of how they see the RCMP administering this cumbersome law that is going to be very difficult to administer in some our mixed communities.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, that is exactly why it is important that we continue to work with First Nations that have expressed some interest in having their own firearm officers trained in relation to Bill C-68. This is why both First Nations and the Yukon government have written to the federal minister about C-68 implementation. Nonetheless, as I have indicated earlier, the chief territorial firearms officer is aware of all the concerns, has had an opportunity to take all of the training available and can make the information available in rural communities as well as in Whitehorse.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I have to say that I sort of wish that we had all stuck together on this one. I wish the First Nations in the territory would reject the regulation changes made by the federal Liberal government with respect to being more lenient in their areas and we would all stick together and say it is a bad law, because it is a bad law, and we would all vow that in the next federal election we would fight it again, and we'll try and change Bill C-68 to bring in firearms legislation that will deal with the criminal activity of firearms.
I also have to say, Mr. Chair, that I am extremely disappointed that our Minister of Justice is leaving tomorrow on an aircraft to fly down to meet with the federal Minister of Justice and has informed this House that she hasn't read the regulation changes, but intends to, after she gets briefed by her department, I suppose on the airplane tomorrow, that she intends to bring it up with the federal Minister of Justice and fight strongly on our behalf, stringently on our behalf, Mr. Chair, when she finally becomes aware of what our behalf looks like.
It is rather disappointing, to say the least, that the side opposite, who stood up beside us - even our maybe-Liberal friends who took a mediocre strong stand on this one - would back off now and just let it happen and not understand what's in the regulations. I would think that this department would be following the regulations very closely, especially in light of us fighting the case, especially in light of the arguments that we might have to make down the road with the federal Justice minister. And if they were as serious as they maybe pretended to be when they stood across the floor and voted against C-68 at the time, Mr. Chair, it's just unfortunate that they've just let this one go by as if it's a fait accompli and there isn't anything we can do and it appears that we're going to let the federal Liberals bring in two firearms regimes in this territory, which is going to do nothing - it is going to do nothing - to prevent crime and do more to divide this territory between the First Nations and non-First Nations people because it will be seen as two different rules.
It's unfortunate that this Minister of Justice hasn't taken a strong stand to say that she believes, as I believe, that there should be one regime for all peoples of this territory with respect to firearms. And it's unfortunate the minister won't stand in the House and say that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, we have taken a strong stand in opposition to the federal Liberal government on Bill C-68. I don't see much point in me reiterating that we participated in the legal challenge to the constitutionality of the bill, but the member knows that we've done that.
I also believe that the member opposite, when he was in this chair, would have taken the very same approach and would have reviewed his notes prior to attending a meeting. And I also can tell the member opposite that he is not raising new concerns. He is raising concerns that we knew about and responded to prior to forming government. He is raising concerns that we've been dealing with since we came into office, and I have no hesitation in going forward and speaking to the federal Minister of Justice about Bill C-68. I know what our government's position is; I know what our concerns are, and I will be taking those concerns forward the same as that member opposite would like to say he has taken concerns forward on behalf of Yukon residents.
Mr. Cable: I was going to say that the previous Justice minister had made a confession to me that he's fully supportive of Bill C-68, but I think I misunderstood him just a little bit.
Bill C-68, just for the record, had four main elements. One was the increase of the minimum sentence for the commission of certain offences with a firearm. Another one was the addition of a smuggling offence. A third one was the enlargement of the prohibited weapons to include military assault weapons. Then the final one was the one that has raised the hackles here in the territory, and that's the registration of long guns.
I was a little surprised to hear the minister say that there was very little in Bill C-68 that she agreed with. Does she agree with the first three elements?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, let me go through this again for the member opposite, just to ensure that he understands the position.
I do support the provisions of the bill which ensure that criminal activity carries with it a consequence of a longer period of time for which the convicted offender is prohibited from owning weapons. I also support the prohibitions and the smuggling components of the bill.
Mr. Cable: Well, the reason I asked is I think we have the former Justice minister on the record - you know there was some comment here indicating he is in support of three-quarters of the bill - if we can divide those things into quarters - the increased sentence for a commission of a crime with a firearm, the prohibition or the new smuggling offence and the increase of the prohibition against military assault weapons and other automatic weapons. I take then that the minister will indicate this to the Justice minister when she talks to her in the next day or so.
The $200,000 that's referred to in the supplementary budget - could we get the time period to which that relates? Is that for dealing with the regulations for the period of January to the end of the fiscal year? Have I understood the minister's remarks correctly?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, let me just respond to the first point that the member was speaking to and that is the support for the provisions of Bill C-68, which deal with prohibited weapons, criminal activity and smuggling.
The expensive part of Bill C-68 is implementing the registrations. Those are the costs that have escalated from the original estimate on the part of the federal government by an inordinate amount of money. Those are the parts of the bill that have been very controversial across the country and particularly in the Yukon and those are the parts of the bill that we don't see the merit in.
So, if I seem to imply that those were the major components of the bill, that's because that's where the money is being spent and that's where the money is being misspent in our estimation.
The $200,000 amount is for the 1997-98 fiscal year. I can come back for the member and confirm how that $200,000 is broken down, both in terms of actual cost and the time frame involved.
Mr. Cable: Do we at the present time have an estimate of what the administration of the registration provisions of Bill C-68 will cost on an annual basis - just a guesstimate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe we have something with an estimate, but I don't have that with me, Mr. Chair, so I would like to just make the commitment that I'll provide that for the member.
Mr. Cable: Has there been a significant increase in the amount estimated for administration of the bill since the bill was originally brought in?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, there's been a substantial increase in the estimate, Mr. Chair, and that's not just an increase in the Yukon. That's an increase across the country.
I know I've seen a figure where it has, I believe, escalated beyond $285 million for the country, and that's money that, in my mind, could be better spent on effective crime prevention programs and on a number of other areas within justice programming, rather than on implementing the mandatory firearms registration.
Mr. Phillips: Yeah, if the minister could bring that back. Just to remind members that the hon. Allan Rock told us that it was $75 million to $80 million to implement Bill C-68, back when it all started. I can confirm the minister's numbers. I'm now hearing between $250 million and $350 million for the cost of implementation of Bill C-68. It's an absolute waste of money. When you talk about dealing with crime problems in this territory, it's a disgrace that we're going to spend $250 million to $300 million on a registration system that is not going to stop one person being killed with a firearm.
Mr. Chair, if the minister could bring back for us the most recent numbers, I'm sure that they'll get those numbers at the Justice ministers meeting, as well.
The $200,000 seems to be a significant amount of money for the territory for this bill, for the number of firearm users here. There was some talk initially about a cost recovery program from the federal government, that the firearms users would pay for the cost of a lot of this.
Is there any discussions with the federal government on what the fees are going to be? Have the fees changed, the discussion of the fees changed, now that the bill is in law? What kind of guarantee do we have from the federal Liberal government that, after one year, they're not going to change the fee structure like they have with the FAC now? It used to be $10, and I think it's somewhere around $80 now for someone to get a firearms acquisition certificate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: It started at $5 and it has gone up 10 times to $50. It used to start as a one-page thing with an FAC, and now it's a booklet. I wonder if the minister has gotten some assurances from the federal government that these costs - the $200,000 - aren't going to be passed on to the end user, the responsible firearm owner in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as the member knows, the federal government has been sending out regular updates on regulation changes and regular updates on the program. I did see a memo from the federal government indicating that they would not be raising the registration fee for individual firearms owners. However, that's exactly the kind of question that I want to put to the federal minister when I have an opportunity to talk with her directly. We would like to know how they anticipate funding the administration of Bill C-68 when the costs have escalated enormously just during the planning phase.
At this time, the federal government has not given notice of any increase to the registration fees on the part of individual firearms owners.
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'm afraid that the promise that the firearms owners won't pay the shot is going to fall on deaf ears fairly quickly once they realized what this thing is actually going to cost, and it's going to cost literally hundreds of dollars for responsible firearms owners to register the firearms. In fact, many people who are seniors or people who are on low incomes are going to have to forfeit their firearms rather than register them. Maybe that's what Allan Rock wanted us to do anyway in the long run, so I guess maybe he's accomplished his means to his end there.
Mr. Chair, $200,000 is a lot of money in three months - January, February, March. Is that all we're going to need in the Yukon to implement this bill, or are we going to be looking at - $200,000 is, what, a quarter of a year, so are we going to be looking at $1 million next year in the budget to implement the rest of the firearms system?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, this is intended to be a short-term budget line item. However, as the Member for Riverside has just finished asking the same question, I can come back with an answer. I do anticipate that there will be some monies required in the 1998-99 budget year for the implementation. I don't believe it will be completed by March 31, 1998, so this $200,000 is for what is needed to take us to the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I think we can probably leave this item, but I wouldn't leave it without mentioning to the minister and all members of this House that if we didn't have Bill C-68, and the federal government gave us $200,000 for crime prevention, we could be funding things such as the Block Parent, the COPS program, the auxiliary police officers, and YES. This $200,000 would fund an awful lot of those crime prevention programs and do a heck of a lot more than any registration system will ever do in this territory, and it's probably, in my view, one of the dumbest pieces of legislation I've ever seen drafted by any government, and it's unfortunate that Mr. Allan Rock and the Liberals have sold it to the general public under the guise that it's going to reduce crime, because it's not going to do that. It's actually, Mr. Chair, going to make some law-abiding citizens criminals.
It's going to remove some firearms from some people who have used them responsibly their whole lives. It's going to divide our territory because we're going to have two separate laws - one for the First Nations, one for the non-First Nations people in the territory. It is just a bad law, no doubt about it, and Mr. Chair, I don't know what other members are going to do about it, but I know that as long as I'm still living and kicking and breathing, I will do whatever I can do to change that bad law a
t the next federal election and the next federal election and the next federal election.
Probably time will tell, when we are looking at this thing 10 years down the road and we find out that it did cost the $400 million to $500 million that the firearms group said it was going to cost to implement, and we find out that the statistics aren't any different, the biker gangs in Montreal and throughout the country and the gangs in the country are still murdering at will, and guns are being smuggled in and out of this country like never before.
I suppose then we will just get another set of laws to remove all firearms from everybody. But, it still won't solve the problem because they haven't dealt with the problem and it's unfortunate. They did fool the people this time, but I think time will show them that this law isn't going to work.
Mr. Cable: The $200,000 for the long gun registration - isn't it anticipated that the short gun registration, like pistols and what not, will be rolled into the long gun registration and that the $200,000 will apply to the both types?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe so, Mr. Chair, but we'll ensure that that answer is part of the information that I'm bringing back for the member.
Mr. Cable: Has there been any attempt to isolate the long gun registration costs, that the minister's aware of, from the total registration system?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'll have to provide that answer for the member.
Mr. Cable: I have a number of questions on the Correctional Centre. Is it the minister's pleasure to deal with those and the Chair's pleasure to deal with those at 7:30? I see we have about two or three minutes to go here.
Chair: Does the Committee wish to recess until 7:30?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We were dealing with Justice, operation and maintenance expenditures, community and correctional services.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Just before the break, the Member for Riverside was indicating that he wanted to follow up with some questions he had given notice of, last week I believe, during Question Period in relation to Whitehorse Correctional Centre. What I would like to do is begin with some of the responses that I do have and then give the member an opportunity to follow up from there.
There were questions in relation to a propane leak in the kitchen area of the Correctional Centre and there have been some immediate safety concerns that were addressed at the time.
An inspector, then, from Community and Transportation Services completed an inspection of the Correctional Centre's propane lines. That has been forwarded to Government Services, and we are awaiting a report from Government Services and will review any recommendations put forward by that agency. Currently, there is no danger to staff or inmates.
In addition, the Member for Riverside requested the summary of the expenditures for repairs and renovations since 1988 on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The total from April 1, 1988, to March 31, 1998, is $988,800, and I can have the breakdown of that copied for the member opposite.
In addition, the member had some questions in relation to the remand area, which does not have natural light. The remand area has been closed, except to house intermittent offenders on the weekends and to use the common room in the remand area as a place to provide literacy and education assessment and upgrading for remand offenders, which had not been available in the past.
The desire to place remand offenders in one of the dormitories at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre was based on increasing population pressures and operational concerns about the placement of people in various areas throughout the centre. The dormitory has traditionally held medium-security sentenced inmates, so the placement of medium-security remand offenders has not increased any security concerns within the centre.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre is involved with Government Services in reviewing the options for allowing natural light and fresh air into the remand area, which would provide a more conducive environment for housing offenders for extended periods of time. In the meantime, the dormitories will continue to be used and the remand areas will only be used intermittently on weekends.
There was also a document identifying deficiencies raised in the Barr Ryder report concerning the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There has been progress made in several of these areas, and I don't believe I need to spend time just now going through the list that we went through at some length in the spring, providing for the member opposite a review of the life-safety upgrades and other improvements that were made in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre as a result of the Barr Ryder report. There has been progress made in several of these areas and a detailed accounting can be made available once the information has been received from Government Services.
I would like to make the offer to the member opposite that we could provide him with a technical briefing, to sit down with people from the Justice department and from Government Services when they have had time to complete compiling the information on where each of these items stands at present. Some have already been dealt with and others are underway.
I'll leave it there for the member to follow up.
Mr. Cable: I'll take the minister up on that offer of a technical briefing and when she has that material together maybe she, or somebody, can give me a phone call and we'll attend the briefing.
Just a couple of points on the issues that the minister dealt with - the propane leak, the C&TS inspection. When was that carried out?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't have the date of that inspection on this note, Mr. Chair. So, rather than give the member the wrong date, I'll bring that back for him.
Mr. Cable: I'll look forward to that. In the event that the House rises fairly quickly, could I get a letter on that, please?
The minister is nodding, yes.
The minister indicated that the remand offenders were moved into one of the dormitory for population pressures, and also for operational concerns. What were those operational concerns?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The ratio of remand had risen to 50/50. Previously, the ratio had been 30-percent remand and 70-percent offenders who were sentenced inmates. So, this was the operational concern.
Mr. Cable: I'm sorry, I don't understand. Does she mean the ratio of serious offenders had gone up above the desired ratio? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, I was referring to the ratio of remand inmates to sentenced inmates. There was an increase in the number of remand inmates and so, because there were more remand inmates, they needed to be housed in the dormitories for the medium-security offenders. The high-security offenders are housed in the cell blocks.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I thought the minister had indicated that there were population pressures and operational concerns. When she used the term "operational concerns," was that the same as the population pressures?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Due to the requirement to house the remand inmates together, the medium-security remand inmates were moved into the dormitories.
Mr. Cable: Is it the minister's officials' opinion that housing a mixed bag of prisoners - some of whom are serious offenders - in an open dormitory is desirable practice?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it has been standard practice to house the remand inmates together. The remand inmates are now being housed together, all as medium-risk offenders, in the dormitories. They are still housed together in the dormitories rather than in the remand area.
Mr. Cable: I haven't been up visiting at the jail for quite awhile. All my friends have gotten out.
In the remand area, it's my understanding that the remand prisoners are housed in individual cells. Am I incorrect in that understanding?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If I can just explain for the member, the remand population could only be housed in the remand area when there were fewer than 12 remand inmates. There are approximately 30 remand inmates, so now they are being housed together in the dormitory. The maximum-security offenders are being housed in the cell block area.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I'll have a peek at Hansard tonight and go over that.
I'd like to ask the minister some questions on answers she has given in the House in the past on various issues. On March 27 of this year, she was on the radio and talked about a response plan, and then I asked her a question on the same day, I think. This was followed up on April 21. It's my understanding that she indicated her officials were preparing a report identifying options that deal with the jail problems. I had the feeling, from her answers, that this report was expected at some juncture in the near future. This was after March 27. Has the minister received that report and, if so, is she prepared to tell us what it said?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the department is still working on preparing options available to government to deal with the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and options to replace it.
Mr. Cable: Here's what I asked the minister on April 21 - I'll ask the question again - this is myself speaking: "The minister asked her department to prepare a report on the options relating to the correction of the problems at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Can she tell us what time line she put on her department to prepare that report for her review?" And this is the minister's answer, "The department is working on the report now and I hope that they will have it available to come to Cabinet soon." And this is on April 21.
What is the time line that the minister has given her officials to prepare that report on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, there are a number of stages involved in that. On an interim basis, the department has come forward with reports on the government's response to safety issues and other concerns that have been identified in the Barr Ryder report, among others. There have been interim reports of what work has already been done, as well as detailed accounting of the status of each of the items raised by that report that are still being compiled.
I don't have a final date for the member, if that's what he's asking for.
Mr. Cable: These reports that have been prepared - is the minister prepared to release those for use in connection with this technical briefing that she's offered to provide me?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have made the offer of a technical briefing to the member in good faith. Any information that is available to be provided for him that does not have security concerns related to it will be available for the member.
Mr. Cable: Let's get into that for a moment. This report that I asked the minister about, for want of a better name, I called the Roberts report. I think the minister went through it and had indicated that she wasn't prepared to release the Roberts report, because it dealt with security issues. Now, I know she released the Barr Ryder report after some persuasion, blacking out the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Voluntarily, yes. The minister released it voluntarily after the security concerns were blacked out. We had some conversations on that issue. Is she prepared to deal with the Roberts report in the same fashion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I would like to do is provide the member with some information in relation to the security survey of Whitehorse Correctional Centre that was conducted by two members of the Correctional Service of Canada. The Correctional Service of Canada staff members attended Whitehorse Correctional Centre and conducted an onsite tour of all areas within the centre. They subsequently produced a report outlining some measures that could supplement existing security practices at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. This was technical assistance that community and correctional services branch had requested from the Correctional Service of Canada. Since the sole function of the review was to look at security areas and make recommendations for consideration that could enhance security, it would not be appropriate to release this report publicly. It would jeopardize the very thing it was intended to enhance.
I hope that information satisfies the member, but we cannot release a security report.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister talking about this report done, at least in part, by somebody by the name of Roberts?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The two Correctional Service of Canada staff members were Jim Roberts and Joe Truckair.
Mr. Cable: The Barr Ryder report broke down the deficiencies at the jail into a number of categories. One of them was referred as life and safety concerns. Another was referred to as technical- and code-required upgrades. The other was referred to as correction standards, which was an euphemism for security problems.
Is the minister saying that this Roberts report has no comment whatsoever on anything other than security concerns, that there are no life and safety concerns or building structure concerns?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's correct, Mr. Chair. This was a very brief review on the part of some Correctional Service staff with expertise in the area of security and it was specifically a security survey.
Mr. Cable: Now, when I had asked the minister about whether the Roberts report indicated that the jail did or did not meet national correction standards, I had the impression that she had not as yet had an opportunity to review the report, which I take it she now has.
Does the Roberts report indicate that the jail meets national correction standards? Maybe she can correct me if I'm wrong in assuming that she had read the report the first time I asked her the question.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: When the member first asked the question, I thought that I recognized the name that he gave and in fact there has been a report prepared by Mr. Roberts. It did deal with security measures; it did not deal with correctional standards.
Mr. Cable: Well, I think the two of them are linked; are they not? Did the Roberts report have no comment on whether the security system complied with national corrections standards?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The purpose of the report was not to determine whether the security measures in place at WCC met national standards. The purpose of the report was to identify if any enhancements could be made to the existing security measures.
Mr. Cable: Just back to the briefing note that the minister provided from the deputy minister on the costs over the last 10 years for the jail, do these costs collect dollars that are in the Government Services envelopes? I know, periodically, people would go up to the jail to fix doors or things like that. Are all of those figures caught by Government Services and transferred over to Justice?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, what the Department of Justice does is put money in its budget to cover work that may be done by Government Services.
Mr. Cable: I'm sorry, there was some comment I didn't pick up. Perhaps the minister could enlarge?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I would indicate to the member is that the information that I provided to him with the breakdown for over the 10 years covers most of the expenditures, virtually all of the expenditures, that have been made at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There might be some minor work that had been done if Government Services were there to do one job and there was some small add-on that they didn't put a separate charge to. I suppose that might be possible, but this sum, as it is broken down for the member, is virtually all of the expenditures that have been made on repairs or renovations to the Correctional Centre.
Mr. Cable: So then, just approximately $1 million has been spent over the last decade if we add in some small sums that may or may not have been collected through Government Services.
Does the minister agree with one of the salient propositions from the Barr Ryder report that the cost of the repairs to upgrade the Whitehorse Correctional Centre really exceed the cost of building a new facility? Have the minister's officials reached that conclusion?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, the report is fairly convincing in laying out the information that the cost of continued maintenance is excessive.
Mr. Cable: So what's the long-term plan? How does the minister, as the Minister of Justice, propose putting this fairly large capital expenditure on the priority list?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the long-term plan is the ongoing work of the government to put together its capital budgets over the course of a term in government. I can tell the member that we are at present debating the supplementary estimates for the 1997-98 year. I can also tell the member that the budgets for future capital projects have not been set and that we'll be debating those again in the spring.
Mr. Cable: Oh, I know that's so. I thought that was one of the salient points that the Minister of Finance, the Government Leader, had made - sort of long-term capital planning. I know he believes in that, and I think everybody in this House believes in that. It's not clear though how this issue is going to be resolved. Is there some sort of long-term capital planning process that the minister is going to be in on, arm twisting with her colleagues to get this jail built?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems that the member is trying to get me to stand up and indicate whether I'm doing some arm twisting of my colleagues on when or whether we can replace Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I really can't tell the member when we're going to be able to find the money to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
I can tell him that it's a serious concern of the government that we offer an adequate environment for inmates. I can tell him what work we've done in upgrading and repairing Whitehorse Correctional Centre. I can tell him that we're working toward a solution and that there are a number of options available. I don't know whether the federal government is interested in cost sharing a project such as this. I don't know whether we'll be able to bring money forward in the next budget year or the year after. I can tell him that I take my responsibilities seriously, that I'm aware of the needs, and that our job is to continue to balance competing needs.
Mr. Cable: Just one last question about the propane lines. Is the minister saying that this Community and Transportation Services inspection report gives the propane lines a clean bill of health and that no further work is needed on the gas lines?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that what the report indicated was that there were no further immediate risks of danger to staff or inmates as a result of the propane system. An investigation was completed and forwarded to Government Services, and we're awaiting their recommendations in following up on dealing with that review.
Mr. Phillips: To go back to the possible building, in the future, of a new facility - does the minister intend this week, when she meets with the federal Justice minister, to raise the issue of a new facility in Whitehorse and a cost sharing with the federal government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that would be under the purview of the Solicitor-General, and not the Minister of Justice. What I can tell the member is that officials within my department have been meeting with federal officials to discuss the possibilities.
Mr. Phillips: I know there was a suggestion when we were in government that one way to bring the federal government on side with cost sharing was to increase the term of residence at the facility from two years less a day to maybe four years less a day, or four years, and that way, the federal government would be a little more amiable to contributing a few dollars to the new facility. Is that the kind of thing the minister's officials are discussing with our federal counterparts?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the officials have been discussing various possibilities, and that would include looking at the criteria by which we determine which inmates are housed in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: Well, right now, Mr. Chair, most of the inmates that are housed here are low-risk or minimum/medium security type individuals. If the government changes that at all, to go to more high-risk, longer term, would they be going through a process of public consultation, because the existing facility is sort of right smack-dab now in the middle of the City of Whitehorse and there may be some objections if we were going to increase the level of the clientele in there to people who are less desirable than the ones that are there now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the criteria that is presently in place is the length of the sentence. There are high-risk inmates housed at Whitehorse Correctional Centre under the present criteria. Nonetheless, I can tell the member that, on a significant subject such as replacement of Whitehorse Correctional Centre and including a possible change to the inmate population, we would undertake a public consultation.
Mr. Phillips: Is the government looking at relocating the Correctional Centre if, in fact, we're going to build a new one? Would they be looking at another location for a correctional centre as opposed to the present location?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, the member's putting forward hypothetical questions that I'm unable to answer. We haven't looked at locations.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I don't think it's very hypothetical. I mean, if they're discussing with federal Justice officials several options, if it's going to be a much bigger facility or whatever, they must be discussing the fact that it either might be where it is or it might be somewhere else. Are they having any discussions about location of the facility, or are they just talking about it being right where it is at the present time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The discussions between the officials are not dealing with that level of detail. What is being discussed between officials is whether the federal government would entertain being involved in negotiations for potential replacement of the Correctional Centre.
Community and Correctional Services in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Community Development and Policing
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The RCMP forecast a surplus at year-end of approximately $444,000. Although no changes have been made to the RCMP reference level at this time, they've been notified that these surplus funds are encumbered for the balance of this fiscal year and are managing their budget accordingly.
Community Development and Policing in the amount of an underexpenditure of $444,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the operation and maintenance recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $202,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Management Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This sum is primarily revotes from the previous fiscal year for ongoing projects. The projects included in the revotes are land titles automation project, integrated case management system and network infrastructure costs for the department. In addition to the revote, $20,000 was provided to replace computer equipment in the judge's chambers.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $161,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $161,000 agreed to
Department of Justice agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Women's Directorate budget shows a reduction of $6,000 in the operation and maintenance budget. This amount is from program materials and advertising.
Mrs. Edelman: Generally speaking then, Mr. Chair, this is a very small reduction and it's actually quite a small budget as well, but one of the things that the Women's Directorate has been doing for the last two years - and I know they did it before that as well - was the brown bag series of lunches. They bring a number of issues that are important to women. They've been doing it at the library, partly because of cost and because of its central location. There is a reduction in the line item this year. Is this going to affect that at all?
There hasn't been much of an attendance. I know that I've been to two where I was the only one there. I'm wondering if there's going to be a change then on the programming or if there is anything coming up in the Women's Directorate with a different way of bringing out information to the public and if this is sort of an indication of things to come?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I can say to the member, having been to a number of discussions of that type over the years, that sometimes people will come out in droves and other times they don't.
This reduction has not meant that the directorate has discontinued working in the area of public education, and indeed the brown bag lunch sessions over the month of November, which was designated as women's Assault Prevention Month, have gone ahead, as have the other program areas that the Women's Directorate had planned. This is a minor line item reduction in advertising expenditures.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't really have a problem with the reduction. The only problem I have is that I can remember when I was on that side of the House and I was the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, the now-minister was chastising me for the small budget of the Women's Directorate. Now, in the first operational budget, she's removing $6,000 from the O&M, so I guess it's an indication that maybe when I was the minister, it was over-funded a bit, but I felt that it was a reasonable amount of funding at the time.
On Operation & Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
Policy and Program Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $6,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We will go back to Community and Transportation Services.
Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will continue with the capital estimate for the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
On Capital Expenditures - continued
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I have for tabling documents for many questions that were asked over the course of the debate, and I'd like to table them now for the consideration of the members.
I would like to ask, if I may, considering that there were problems in sorting out the returns and whatnot today, did all members get a copy of the reply on the Haines Junction aviation refueling?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the minister for finally addressing some of the questions and responding to them. It's appreciated. I refer specifically to the minister's promise to table the information on the refueling facility in Haines Junction several days ago or last week.
It's there, and, because of the late tabling of this, I would like to request that we be given the opportunity to go back and deal with this matter for just a few questions, Mr. Chair. Does that meet with your concurrence?
Chair: Does the Committee agree?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Pardon me. Certainly, Mr. Chair.
On Airports - revisited
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
After reviewing the information that the minister presented to us, Mr. Chair, it would look as if this firm, Sifton Air, has cut a very good deal with the Government of Yukon, and I'm not here to berate anyone in the private sector for doing what is natural and conducting business in the most profitable fashion. And I certainly do not want to convey the image in the public that I'm after Sifton Air in any respect whatsoever, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to make that point abundantly clear to all.
The area that I have concerns with is the whole concept of this refueling facility in the Junction and the cost that the taxpayers are going to be incurring overall to provide this facility.
It appears, when one analyzes it, that the previous minister of the department knew nothing of this project coming to fruition. In fact, I believe if the minister of the day was aware of it, he'd only been briefly briefed on the impact of it and the cost that the department could bear. When one looks at a project of this nature, Mr. Chair, one looks at the aircraft movements. When one looks at the statistics provided by the minister - Yukon aircraft movement stats 1994-97 - and looks at the Junction, the only thing I can say to them is, for the Junction, the estimates are bunk. To suggest that there are 1,000 movements in 1997, or that the numbers in 1996, 1995 and 1994 are of that magnitude is grossly exaggerated.
There are two aircraft movements that are tracked: the rotary and the fixed wing. There are two rotary operators working out of the Junction that would add up to the greatest majority of these movements.
What this refueling station was initially put in there to do was to address the issue of providing fuel to intermit traffic and to encourage the development of the visitor industry. That is not the case. When one goes through this overview provided by the minister, the number of over-flights between Whitehorse and Northway, Alaska has been estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000. Mr. Chair, there has been no change over the years in the number of over-flights.
When one looks at the various aviation clubs flying into the Yukon, and when one receives their itinerary - and I have been involved in it since the early 1970s - it has been veritably constant. The clubs fly the Alaska Highway, refueling at Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Northway, if they head that direction, or up to Dawson over to either Northway or direct into Fairbanks, returning by any number of the routes. There are occasions when, because of supreme headwinds, they have to land and refuel, but this is a very rare occasion.
When one looks at the history of the staging route during the Second World War as to where fuel was strategically located, it wasn't Haines Junction, Mr. Chair.
Why was this project undertaken? I guess the issue is why was this expenditure at Haines Junction? How was it justified when one looks at the need for the movements in Burwash or Beaver Creek? Beaver Creek people coming into Canada can at least clear Customs there. To get permission to clear at the Junction - it can be done, but it's done with a great deal of effort with either a Canpass or by phoning ahead and making an arrangement, unless you declare an emergency, which no pilot wants to do unless it's absolutely necessary.
The issue of justifying it on attracting visitor traffic just doesn't wash. I would be very hopeful that the minister would take the high road and admit to that and to the justification being very shallow. It's just a pet project for his department. Is the minister prepared to acknowledge that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite has given us much food for thought. Certainly, the member opposite encourages me to take the high road. Well, I certainly believe that I have taken the high road and have responded with the date and the information that the member required. We did that forthright from the department.
It was initiated many years ago, as we know. It has been told, and I certainly support the idea that we must attempt to bring more tourism stops and more people into the Kluane area. That is exactly what I wish to do.
Mr. Chair, I know no further what I can say except that, certainly, as I recall, a similar approach was done within the Mayo and the Dawson areas and it was done to encourage the same movement. I say it is an experimental process, I guess, for lack of a better word right now. Certainly it was a pilot project - is what it was - and will certainly be conducted as such.
We certainly will be looking into the member opposite's allegation - the member opposite's direction. I do believe that we have taken the high road in this and certainly we want to make it work.
Mr. Chair, let me also say that it was done for the said purpose of what I have just said. It was not done for political reasons, other than it was done to encourage tourism and tourism traffic to stop in the area. Therein is my answer.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to go point by point as to the minister's position on that. The information returned to this side was not forthright in coming. The date that it was promised and the date it was received were almost a week apart.
And as to suggesting that the project was initiated many, many years ago, that certainly isn't the case, Mr. Chair. It was identified as an area and proposals were sent out, and there was no response - no responses whatsoever, as indicated in the information presented by the minister, and rightly so. There are just not the number of aircraft movements utilizing av-gas to justify the installation of such a facility, and the only way around it was for the department to go back and to negotiate a contract with specific companies. This was a sole-source contract with an individual to operate this facility, at a cost that's clearly identified as being $2,160 for the period of time, or $134.75 per month, for an individual to operate a facility that the Government of Yukon bought, paid for and installed.
Now, Mr. Chair, when one looks at the refueling situation in both Dawson and in Mayo - if the minister would like to check the statistics over the years as to aircraft movements, Dawson, for many years, has been the second busiest airport in Yukon, as far as recorded movements are concerned. Mayo, at one time, was the second busiest airport in Yukon. One just has to look at the existing statistics where there's about 2,000 movements a year variation between last year and this year in Dawson and Watson Lake. Refueling has always been available in Dawson City in one form or other since the 1960s. That has been the case in Mayo. It has been upgraded at various intervals and, when the operator was required to put in an upgraded system, the government had to step in because no operator was going to take it upon themselves to be encumbered by the financial responsibility and the liability arising out of the operation of these refueling facilities.
And the last set of tanks that were removed in Dawson were underground tanks and they had reached their life expectancy and had to be removed by laws set out by this government in the Yukon fuel handlers regulations.
That's when we came to the juncture that this government had to find another avenue to continue - not to provide a test project, but to continue with it. So, we're looking like a wholly different scenario, Mr. Chair, from what the minister is suggesting for Haines Junction. We're talking 6,000 to 8,000 movements a year in Dawson City, and it's been higher, and it's been lower.
So, the minister's response, Mr. Chair, does not hold water. It does not justify the position that he has taken. Can the minister please provide a response as to how it was justified internally? The minister can't justify it on any of the bases set forward in here, so what was the justification and the reasoning for installing this system? It's certainly not justified in the material we have.
How did the minister's department justify the installation in Haines Junction of this refueling system, given the extremely low level of fixed-wing traffic and given the proximity of other airports like Whitehorse, like Burwash, like Beaver Creek, that have considerably higher movements and considerably more justification for the installation of a refueling system of this nature?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, this is the last time that I will answer this question here. It has been cleared and out of courtesy I certainly thought that we could work this way.
Mr. Chair, I certainly do believe that what we have here are philosophies at loggerheads. I certainly do appreciate comments from the member opposite. I do not see how we will be able to satisfy the urge to communicate with each other at this point in time, but certainly I feel that I have taken a high road.
I do believe that what my department has done has been done forthright and quickly. The member opposite should realize that it does take time to get good pertinent information, and the department was very up front, very good and efficient and professional, in my opinion. Certainly, I enjoy working with the department in that manner, because we do try.
So, Mr. Chair, I do not think that we would get an answer to this over here. I welcome the member to continue with his dialogue, continue with his interrogation in the proper manner, and that would certainly be the Question Period.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I do believe I have fully answered the question.
Mr. Ostashek: I've got a couple of questions I'd like to ask on this because, first of all, the information wasn't forthcoming. The minister stonewalled for about two hours - three hours - on the line item when we went through it and refused to give us the information. He said he'd table it later, and he didn't table it on the day he said. I think the question that's been asked is valid: why Haines Junction? If you were going to do it at Beaver Creek, I could see some justification in it.
Traffic coming from Whitehorse, going north, is not going to stop in Haines Junction for fuel. They are only 30 minutes from Whitehorse. Traffic coming from the north would like to stop at Beaver Creek and clear Customs, if they could get fuel. Then, they could continue on, either flying into Whitehorse or over-flying Whitehorse, because they've already cleared Customs. I could see much justification if the department wanted to go with a pilot project of increasing traffic in Yukon airports by putting one in at Beaver Creek.
The question my colleague asked, and that I'm asking is this: why was Haines Junction picked over a point like Beaver Creek? It has much more traffic; it has a Customs station adjacent to the airport, and could use a refueling facility. People coming from Alaska would then over-fly Northway, not stop in Northway and fuel up, but would stop in Beaver Creek, fuel up, clear Customs, and maybe stay in the area or maybe continue on their way. But, at any rate, I think that the minister and the department could come forward with lots of evidence and lots of justification for putting a project of this type in, on a pilot project basis, in Beaver Creek. The arguments for putting it in at Haines Junction, as my colleague said, are very, very, weak. Can the minister tell this House why Haines Junction was picked over a place like Beaver Creek?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The minister graciously allowed the opposition to go back in the lines on this subject to try and clear this up. The members have gone back and forth, back and forth over the same ground. If they want to ask about this, if they feel they've got a heat-seeker here, I invite them to ask about it in Question Period. Quite frankly, Mr. Chair, I think it's a dry well. They're obviously burned by the criticism they've sustained over this on the radio, and they're trying to make up for it. But, Mr. Chair, let's get on with the debate.
Mr. Ostashek: I never heard such garbage in all my life, especially from that member who abused every privilege in this House when he was in opposition. He thought nothing of prolonging debate for day after day after day when he was getting answers.
The opposition's role in this House is to ask questions and get answers to them. And I think we've asked a very valid question as to why was Haines Junction picked over Beaver Creek. We have not heard an answer to that. Why was it picked over the other? The traffic numbers don't indicate that Haines Junction should've been picked over Beaver Creek. There's no Customs station in Haines Junction. You need to get special permission to land if you're an American and you have to clear Customs.
I think the question is very valid and it's not going to go away. It may come back in Question Period; it may come back next spring for the whole session. The fact remains that the Member for Faro is smarting because he doesn't like it on that side where he has to answer questions. He's just smarting, but I would like the minister to answer the question as to why Haines Junction got picked over Beaver Creek. Give us some valid reason.
Chair: Does it clear?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's obvious, Mr. Chair, that the minister is either incapable of answering the question or he doesn't know the answer. I guess we can draw whatever conclusion that we wish with respect to the question that the minister has before him.
Let's go on to another question about the same facility. Given the expenditure of government funds and this being a test project, at what juncture is the minister going to evaluate this project? Can we make the suggestion that, when the completion or the expiry of this contract with Sifton Air comes about, an evaluation be completed that won't take any longer than a 30-day period and that other sites will be evaluated as to the relocation of this refueling facility, i.e. Beaver Creek. Is the minister prepared to give us that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, upon the end of a contract we certainly will be doing an evaluation of the contract.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the response to the last question, I can understand why the minister's response to this question is so minuscule and very, very vague. Could the minister please respond to the question, provide time lines as to how long this evaluation is going to take place, what period of time, and whether they'll consider relocating this refueling to a much busier airport facility?
Is the minister prepared to respond?
Relocate this refueling tank to an airport that has justification, has aircraft movements, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Does it clear?
Mr. Jenkins: No, it does not, Mr. Chair.
We would be prepared to entertain having the minister bring back this information by way of a legislative return. Is the minister prepared to provide information on the questions back to this side of the House by a legislative return?
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I think the opposition deserves some answers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Fifty-five pages; listen to the Member for Faro.
The fact remains, Mr. Chair, that we have asked a very valid question - not a difficult question for the minister to answer if he knew what was going on in his department. He didn't answer it at all; he said he answered it, but he didn't, I asked, why Haines Junction over Beaver Creek? What was the rationale? That's not in the return that the minister gave here. Flight aircraft movements don't justify it. I'm quite familiar with the area; I know what traffic is in the area. And, why Haines Junction over Beaver Creek? There must be some rationale; if the minister doesn't know, his department should certainly know, because it seems like this was a pet project of the department that was going to go no matter what happened.
All we're asking is what is the justification for it? Why was Haines Junction picked? Why that airport? Put everything else aside. Why was Haines Junction picked when it's not a point of entry. It has no Customs station. You can stop, if you're an American going through at Haines Junction in the case of an emergency if you get special permission. Certainly the traffic numbers at Haines Junction, as my colleague has pointed out, is a guesstimate by the department, because there certainly isn't anybody counting them, and were inflated for their justification for their purposes of putting in a refueling system - but why?
Tell us why Haines Junction over Beaver Creek. That's the question we're asking. It's a very simple question and we would like a very simple answer. What is the rationale? Why would it be picked?
I know there have been many people come through that would have liked to see a refueling facility at Beaver Creek. I don't think we could criticize the minister or the department very long at all for trying a pilot project at Beaver Creek. But, we certainly can find all kinds of rationale for him not putting one in Haines Junction. The reality of it is that, in our opinion, there is no justification, unless we're missing something.
All we're asking the minister is to provide that information to us. There has to be some rationale by the department for putting this facility in Haines Junction rather than at a much busier point of entry into the Yukon where, in fact, one is required. If the minister can give us that, we will move on.
Chair: Does it clear?
Some Hon. Member: Clear.
Mr. Phillips: No, it's not clear, Mr. Chair. I have a question about it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Harding: It is obvious that this was cleared. We've gone over this ground many, many times. The opposition asked a question and they've received the answers. The minister graciously agreed to go back. We've been over the same ground on this line time and time again. The members opposite obviously have a hate on for Sifton Air. It's pretty apparent. They've made that point. They should ask about it in Question Period if they want to ask more questions.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, on the point of order. If one goes back to when that member was in opposition, he used to ask the same questions at least 100 times. So, just asking questions is not a point of order, Mr. Chair. We're allowed to ask questions. That's why we're here. We're debating the budget. The minister allowed us to go back to that. The Chair allowed us to go back to that, and we're not all finished asking questions here on this side yet. So we're still on that item, Mr. Chair.
Chair: After reviewing the situation, I would appreciate it if members got to their feet a little quicker. However, it has been common practice throughout this supplementary budget debate to allow the deadline to be stretched a little bit, so I would recognize your question, Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I apologize for not getting up as quickly as I should have.
Mr. Chair, when the minister made the decision to locate this fuel facility at Haines Junction, did he have, at his fingertips, all of the figures of the number of landings at Haines Junction and other airports in the territory, and did he consider those?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, out of courtesy I will stand one last time on this question.
I do understand that the members opposite are capable of asking simple questions, and that is certainly what they come with. I do believe that I have provided adequate answers for every question that the members opposite would like. So, I thank you very much. In my rookie years in this Legislature, I certainly shall learn from my mistakes and I have certainly learned tonight. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: I don't know what to take from that, other than that the minister is saying that in the future he's going to be more careful or not answer any questions that the members opposite present to him. He hasn't answered very many right now, Mr. Chair. Let the record show that.
Mr. Chair, did the minister, when he made the decision to locate the fuel facility in Haines Junction, consider the area of air safety and the availability of fuel on the air routes between Yukon and Alaska?
The minister has talked about the number of, I think, 10,000 to 15,000 over-flights in that area, and in fact that's what they are - over-flights - and people base most of their flight planning on fuel availability and the range of their aircraft. Not much has changed other than that aircraft can actually fly a longer distance without refueling nowadays.
But, Mr. Chair, why did they not consider the safety factor and the Customs issue at Beaver Creek when they chose a new site for a fuel supply system?
Mr. Chair, these are really legitimate questions to the minister, and the minister has an obligation to answer them. I guess we might be here all night dealing with these matters. I mean if the minister doesn't know the answers and is incapable of answering the questions, because he's been flying around the country and been on holidays all summer, he can get up and say that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Well, the minister can make faces at us too, Mr. Chair, but I think it is unparliamentary to make obscene gestures in this House. I think the minister should apologize for that.
But, Mr. Chair, I'm asking some serious questions here of the minister, and this is not tom-foolery time. This is not kidding around. This is asking the minister all about his department, all about his budgets, all about the money he's responsible for, why he made decisions such as he's made here, and to come forward in this House and justify those decisions.
This is, I think, a pretty good question. The figures don't justify a fuel depot in Haines Junction. What does? And so, that's the question to the minister. What in the minister's mind made the minister decide that Haines Junction over Beaver Creek or any other community in the territory was the location for a fuel depot for aircraft? What was it that made the minister choose Haines Junction over other areas of the territory?
Mr. Jenkins: It's obvious either the minister doesn't know or doesn't want to admit that he's hiding something from this House. It's very sad that we're spending this kind of time in the House going over and over an issue that the minister probably knows, and it would be very much appreciated if he could answer the question. And the question simply put is: why Haines Junction, when there is virtually no justification for selecting that site versus Beaver Creek?
We welcome the development of the visitor industry on this side of the House and anything we can do as a government to encourage it is welcome. It's welcomed by government. It's welcomed by all of us here in the Yukon, but the rationale for choosing the Haines Junction airport for a refueling installation versus Beaver Creek, when one looks through the information provided by the minister, certainly can't be justified by any of the reasons that the minister put forward.
So, would the minister please respond and tell us what was behind his decision? Could the minister please provide a reason for his decision.
We're talking taxpayers' money, Mr. Chair. We're talking a good portion of taxpayers' money. So, would the minister quit wasting taxpayers' money here in the House and give us an explanation as to the justification for his expenditure of the sums of money at the Haines Junction airport installing that refueling tank.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we hear his colleagues over there, "Read the legislative return." Well, I've read the legislative return. I've read it in great detail, and there's nothing in the legislative return that gives any rationale as to why Haines Junction was picked, other than the fact that they want to increase tourism traffic.
The fact remains, Mr. Chair, as I said earlier and I'll say again in case the minister didn't get it, that there are certain spots on this route that many, many airplanes are ferried back and forth to Alaska from that are refueling stops. One of them is Fort Nelson, and another one is Watson Lake, because of the distance involved. Very few aircraft, if they're fighting headwinds, can make it from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse, not by flying the highway, anyhow, which most of them do. You can if you go straight across country. But, if you fly the highway, which 90 percent of the traffic does that's coming up here, they have to stop in Watson Lake for fuel - Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake - or, if they're coming up the trench, they stop at Watson Lake, then Whitehorse. It's the normal procedure for people ferrying aircraft.
So, people going north are not going to utilize Haines Junction as a refueling facility which is, with almost any aircraft, 30 minutes from Whitehorse - 40 minutes max. They don't need fuel there. So, the only ones that the minister could hope to attract were the ones coming from the north. Yet, when we look at the logistics of the aircraft coming from the north, everything is against Haines Junction because there's no Customs clearance at Haines Junction. Even if they wanted to stop and spend some time in the community, they can't because they have to get special permission to land in Haines Junction, and they have to have a very valid reason as to why the RCMP will clear them through Customs so that they could take in some other activities while they're in Haines Junction. Therefore, they'd still have to stop in Beaver Creek, clear Customs and then stop in Haines Junction if they wanted to.
So, there's a lot of rationale and a lot of reason, in my opinion, as somebody who has spent many, many years flying in the Yukon, as to why I could understand the department's desire to put in a refueling facility at Beaver Creek. It makes a lot of sense - even Burwash. But Burwash doesn't make as much sense as Beaver Creek because Burwash doesn't have Customs either, but certainly Beaver Creek, and especially with the new Customs station located adjacent to the airport.
With a refueling facility there, I believe the department - if it was its desire to increase the number of movements in the Yukon - could have done a pretty good job of it. They certainly can't in Haines Junction.
Another thing I want to point out about Haines Junction is that over 50 percent of the time, probably better than 50 percent of the time, there's a crosswind on that runway, a big cross wind. Inexperienced pilots will hesitate to land on a runway with a strong cross wind. As a result, even if they do need fuel, they're going to try to sneak into Whitehorse because of the fact that if there's a wind blowing - and there is a wind blowing most of the time in the summertime - it's a cross wind on that runway. And I know. I've been in there many, many, many times.
So, we really would like the minister to tell us what the department used as an argument when they came to him to put this facility in. We're not saying that this was the minister's idea. We're not saying that at all, but we certainly know it was somebody's idea. What was their argument and what was their rationale for putting this facility in? So, could the minister tell us - with everything that we've said or refuted what we've said about Haines Junction - what your arguments were?
This, as my colleague has said, is $40,000 - I believe the minister said - in taxpayers' dollars. We're here to hold the government accountable for how they spend taxpayers' dollars. I don't think that's unrealistic. I don't believe that's unreasonable and I believe that the minister should be prepared to give us some sort of an answer.
If the minister, as my colleague has previously said, cannot give us an answer tonight in the Legislature, he could move this debate on by making a commitment to come back with a legislative return with all of his arguments as to why Haines Junction was picked over Beaver Creek. It's a very simple request. If the minister could answer those questions for us, we could move on in his budget.
Mr. Phillips: Let the records show, Mr. Chair, that the minister is refusing to answer all questions on the matter and it's pretty serious when a minister doesn't treat his responsibilities in a serious fashion and refuses to answer questions on the floor of the House on an item that's in his budget that he's supposed to deal with at this time.
I want to go back for a moment to how this came about. Who requested the fuel depot in Haines Junction? Can the minister tell us if it was -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the side opposite said Mr. Brewster requested it. Well, when we pass that on to Mr. Brewster, I am sure members on the other side are going to hear from Mr. Brewster, because I don't think Mr. Brewster did request a fueling facility to be put there.
Did the Tourism Industry Association request that a fuel depot be put in there to increase tourism in the area? Did the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce request a fuel depot to be put in there? Did the Yukon Chamber of Commerce request a fuel depot to be put in there or was it just a request from the minister's own department? Maybe it was the minister himself. I think it's a fair question to ask. Who requested the fuel depot? If someone requested the fuel depot and brought it in front of the minister on an issue like this, did the minister examine all of the facts with respect to the takeoffs and landings and the traffic in the area and other airports - whether or not it warranted putting a facility in Haines Junction.
I think it's a reasonable question. The minister obviously did it because he feels that it was warranted. The answer we're trying to get from the minister is: why did they make this decision? It's not an unusual request. I think the minister has a responsibility to either stand up in the House and say, "I'm refusing to answer the questions," for whatever reason or stand up in the House and say that he doesn't have the answers. Maybe If he can't deal with his budget and can't answer his questions, maybe the minister should resign. They should put somebody in that chair who can actually answer.
We were told, Mr. Chair, by the side opposite, all along, that this is open and accountable government and we get to the supplements, you folks can ask your questions there and the ministers will answer the questions. In fact, the Government Leader said, before the session, in an annual meeting of the New Democratic Party, that he had intelligent, coherent, competent and bright ministers who were prepared to deal with issues. It appears that some of the lights have gone out on a couple of the ministers over there when it comes to answering questions. We can't get an answer.
So, I would like to ask the minister who requested the fuel depot in Haines Junction? Was it any of the groups I mentioned? And does he have letters of support from any of those groups and individuals? Was it an individual businessman who requested it? Who was it that asked the question? I mean, somebody must have asked for a fuel depot there. Was it somebody in the department? Who is the magical person or the mystical person, I guess, that asked for a fuel depot in Haines Junction and provided someone on the government side who made the decision the rationale for putting one there? Who made that decision? Who made that request?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister once again has refused to respond to a very valid, very basic question as to why his department spent this kind of money - this sum of money in Haines Junction - on a refueling facility when it doesn't make any sense according to all of the criteria that the minister has provided.
Perhaps, as my colleague suggested, it might, but the minister certainly hasn't justified it. He's not answering questions. He's just going to sit there and pretend he's a bump on a log, Mr. Chair. I don't know.
Mr. Chair, when one looks at the data sheet that was attached to the legislative return on Yukon aircraft statistics, 1994-97, it's interesting to note that, of all the movements recorded, Haines Junction comes up for notable mention on all of the notes at the bottom. Note 1 says, "1997 stats are based on movements from January to September"; note 2, "Haines Junction stats estimated by aviation-marine branch for 1994-96"; note 3, "Haines Junction stats for 1997 were gathered from major airport commercial users and are shown at the minimum of the range submitted. Does not include itinerant or incidental movements."
Now, that kind of sums it up very succinctly, Mr. Chair. There are three operators based at the Haines Junction airport. Two of them are utilizing rotary aircraft. One is a fixed wing. This refueling is low-lead 100. It's aviation gas. Two of the aircraft operators do not use that type of fuel.
In fact, they have their own refueling facilities. One has had it there for a considerable length of time - in fact, before the advent of the aviation and marine branch basing itself at the Junction. We can see, Mr. Chair, from this one overview provided by the minister that the minister's department is either trying or attempting to stonewall or move one of their pet projects forward by justifying it in this manner, because there is no one in their right frame of analytical ability, if we want to use it - I was going to say "right frame of mind," but I didn't want to offend the minister. When one analyzes a problem, Mr. Chair, anyone that analyzes a situation wouldn't accept those kinds of notes attached to a justification. One would certainly question that kind of notation in depth before one allowed a project of that magnitude proceed.
Would the minister advise if he did conduct a review and if he did question his officials with respect to this statistical review of aircraft movements throughout the Yukon? Can the minister undertake to provide a response to that question, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Phillips: Let the record show that the minister refused to answer again.
Mr. Chair, the operation instructions in the document tabled this afternoon by the minister talks about maintaining records of the volume of fuel and oil sold to the airport and provide these to the government upon request.
Can the minister tell me when we did actually start selling fuel. I understand it was September 1 when the contract was signed - roughly around September 1. When did we first start selling fuel? Does the minister have an idea of how much fuel has been sold at that particular fuel-dispensing unit?
Mr. Chair, don't rush us, please.
The member is talking to his official and hopefully getting an answer which he can provide and the Chair appears to be trying to rush us through this. With all due respect, I would ask that we give the minister an opportunity to at least respond.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, to that question, I can answer that question. I likely shouldn't because I feel that I've gone far beyond the call of duty with the gentlemen opposite, and I use it loosely when I say that.
Certainly, Mr. Chair, we have been, as per the information in front of the little members opposite, it was started on September 1, 1997, and we have sold, as to my information, 3,400 litres in September. Thank you.
Mr. Phillips: I understand that there was a government project ongoing in the area in September and October, I believe, associated with the Aishihik monitoring program. Did we sell any fuel?
Well, the question is: how many tourist aircraft did we attract to the area as they were passing through to fuel up on their way through, Mr. Chair. Because, obviously that was the rationale the minister used. So, maybe he can tell us how many tourist aircraft.
I know the Member for Faro just rushed over and told the minister not to answer any more questions, but maybe the minister can make decisions on his own and he doesn't have to listen to that Member for Faro who used to ask question after question after question for hour after hour after hour in this House, Mr. Chair, and expect to get answers. Maybe the minister could tell us how many tourist aircraft stopped at that facility.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that we report progress on Bill 8, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Mr. Phillips: In this session we have had very little work to do. We've rushed through. We've got 15 minutes left. We've got 15 minutes worth of work to go, Mr. Chair, and we would still like to deal with this matter.
Chair: I think the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, and directed me to report it without amendment. Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 8, Second Appropriation Act, 1997-98, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 55(2), I'd like to request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed with the third reading of Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, subsequent to an agreement between the House leaders.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 45: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 45, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 45, entitled An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 45 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 45 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:16 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 1, 1997:
Mobile home owner information sessions package (Fairclough)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 1, 1997:
Bear/human conflicts: number of bears killed in 1997 by conservation officers (Fairclough)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1602
Abattoir: slaughter schedule; fee schedule; income estimates; funded equipment (Fairclough)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1467
The following Documents were filed December 1, 1997:
Economic Development programs: contributions to business organizations for 1994-95 to 1997-98 (dated December 1, 1997) (Harding)
Financial assistance agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Chamber of Mines (dated June 4, 1997) (Harding)
Financial assistance agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce (dated May 5, 1997) and a proposal for a service agreement from April 1, 1997, to March 31, 2000 (Harding)
Class one driver examination routes in Dawson City and Faro: letters of concern from the city manager, Dawson City, and from a resident of Faro (Phillips)
Haines Junction aviation refuel facility (Keenan)