Thursday, March 26, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker. In his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall take the Chair.
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers. I would ask members to bow their heads for a moment of silent reflection.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a number of legislative returns for tabling.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling two documents on the proposed green power fund and the energy commissioner's statement on that issue. I am tabling this on behalf of the energy commissioner, Mr. McRobb, MLA for Kluane.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling some analysis prepared by the Department of Economic Development on the gasoline pricing in the territory.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that funding should have been included for the reconstruction of Grey Mountain Primary School, grades kindergarten to seven, in the 1998-99 main estimates; and
THAT this House urges the government to include funding for the reconstruction of Grey Mountain Primary School, grades kindergarten to seven, as per the design paid for and developed by the previous NDP government in either a supplementary appropriation bill to be introduced during the 1998 fall sitting or in the main estimates for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Land claims implementation: employment equity initiatives
Hon. Mr. Harding: I rise to inform members about a series of new initiatives that support employment equity within the Yukon government. This is the third component of our strategy to support land claims and self-government implementation and employment equity.
The initiatives that I am presenting today respond to the issues of representation identified in the comprehensive Employment Equity Progress Report that was tabled in the Legislature last December.
Many of these initiatives are open to all employees, but focus on the specific needs of women, persons with disabilities and aboriginal people. We will be providing support programs, increasing opportunities to develop and enhance workplace skills, knowledge and experience, and encouraging advancement within the organization.
Support programming will include developing and implementing a mentoring program to serve women in supervisory and management roles, First Nations staff, and employees with disabilities. We are allocating $20,000 to provide training, candidate matching, and corporate support and monitoring for mentors and employees enrolled in the program.
Another proactive support measure will be to catalogue occupations within the Yukon government with higher rates of workplace injury and a higher incidence of disability issues. We will then identify career-path opportunities for those occupations to prevent injury or assist in reintegration if an injury occurs.
Our goal is to support employees in developing skills to move along an identified career path in order to reduce the number of employees who become disabled as a result of long-term occupational exposure.
Additional funding will be allocated to support work placements for employees who have to change occupations as a result of disabilities.
We have developed several initiatives to promote skills enhancement or provide opportunities for work experience. We will encourage and support on-the-job training with an emphasis on helping prepare persons with disabilities, First Nations employees and women for supervisory positions, particularly where there is likely to be a long-term benefit to the organization.
We are providing $30,000 for logistical support to on-the-job training opportunities.
The department will continue to provide $40,000 for work placements for persons with disabilities seeking employment who need to gain some work experience.
The new budget also identifies $324,000 to support on-the-job training opportunities for First Nations persons through the First Nations Training Corps.
The program's new focus is on providing training on-the-job opportunities in the Yukon government for First Nations persons in positions and occupations that would be of benefit to both Yukon and First Nations governments.
We are taking steps to address the barriers to advancement facing some employees. The Public Service Commission will develop services to help employees develop literacy levels that increase their opportunities for employment and advancement, and has identified $30,000 to provide training, promotion and support for this initiative.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, women make up close to 60 percent of the Yukon government work force, but are still under-represented in senior level jobs. We will take special care to promote gender representation by actively encouraging women to participate in training programs for senior management personnel.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my three-part series outlining our initiatives regarding land claims and self-government implementation, and employment equity. I'm confident that these new steps will lead to a more representative public service. Taking these steps will also help us meet our long-term goals to create employment opportunities and build trust in government for the development of shared training opportunities.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, support initiatives that follow through with a commitment toward the land claims and self-government implementation.
Mr. Speaker, I do have some questions, though, for the minister. The minister mentioned in his statement that the Public Service Commission will begin to catalogue occupations within the Yukon government with higher rates of workplace injury and higher incidences of disability issues. I just wonder if the government has taken into account those employees who have suffered any workplace injuries or have become disabled as a result of long-term occupational exposure over the last five to 10 years. By compiling this information from previous years, we will have a better grasp of how much support or how much funding should be directed toward work placements for those who have had to change their occupations as a result of disabilities.
The minister also stated that there would be additional funding for work placements, but he did not mention how much. Has this number been determined? In the budget, there's a 30-percent increase in the number of employees accessing reintegration. So, maybe the minister could elaborate on that a little more.
The minister spoke of several initiatives that have been developed to promote skills enhancement and opportunities for work experience. Perhaps he could elaborate further on what these initiatives are and how long they've been in effect.
In the minister's statement there is a reference to the First Nations Training Corp. with a new focus of providing on-the-job training opportunities in the Yukon government for First Nations in positions that would benefit both Yukon and First Nation governments. Could the minister maybe elaborate a little more on what positions he's talking about, specifically?
The minister also mentioned the government is providing $30,000 for logistical support for on-the-job training opportunities. Could the minister also elaborate further on what comprises logistical support?
A reference was made to $30,000 to help employees develop literary skills. Is this money in addition to funds set aside in the Education budget for literacy programs or is it new money? In reading the statement, one gets the feeling that perhaps we're hiring employees who do not have a strong grasp of literacy skills and I'm just wondering if that's the case, or is it just a process by which to improve the literacy of some. So, maybe the minister can elaborate on that as well.
Mr. Speaker, it is encouraging to see the number of women working in the Yukon government increased, and we agree that there is more work to be done to help promote that and promote women in senior management positions, and I look forward to any initiatives that the government will proceed with in that regard.
The minister also stated that women make up to close to 60 percent of the Yukon government workforce. Maybe the minister could tell us what percentage of those women today hold senior management positions.
I look forward to hearing from the minister and hearing more about these initiatives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus, I would like to express our caucus support and our party support for employment equity within the Yukon Public Service Commission, and generally for the third initiative to be announced this week by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
We will be following this initiative and we'll be questioning the minister more closely in the Public Service Commission general debate.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would like to express appreciation for the support that's been identified by the opposition parties. There are some big challenges for this government in terms of making good, not only on the umbrella final agreement commitments to a more representative public service, but also the inclusion of more women in the public service and the upper reaches of the bureaucracy of the Government of the Yukon. We also have challenges in terms of ensuring that persons with disabilities also have access to opportunities.
All of these measures, albeit they are not the answers written on stone tablets, are, I think, important steps toward moving in that goal, and I'm quite proud of the work that the Public Service Commission has done in the three announcements that I've made this week, in all the important areas that our government puts a high priority on in terms of moving our agenda forward.
The number of women in senior positions was identified in the Employment Equity Progress Report. It is not very high. I don't know the exact number off the top of my head, but it is a small percentage. Certainly, rather than inserting people into those positions, we prefer to take the approach of the mentoring and the enhanced training, and the identification of opportunity for women in the workforce. We hope that that will pay off significantly, and I'm sure that it will, over the next few years.
The member asked a question - the official opposition - about logistical support, and logistical support refers to problems that arise in terms of making exchanges take place, whether it be cost of transportation, or whether it be hardware, from computers to furniture. In the case of persons with disabilities, it might mean ensuring that appropriate desks are available so that people who, for example, might be in a wheelchair, can appropriately conduct their work - those types of issues.
I'll be happy to explore, in more detail, these initiatives in Committee of the Whole debate in the estimates.
Deputy Speaker: This then bring us to the Question Period.
Question re: Anvil Range debt to government and Energy Corporation
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation on the issue of the magnitude of Anvil Range's debt to the Yukon government and the Energy Corporation. Most Yukoners were surprised to learn yesterday that the Yukon government either, directly or indirectly, through the Yukon Energy Corporation is the largest unsecured Yukon creditor of the $20 million owed by Anvil Range. Last December, when I asked the minister, he stated that the amount outstanding was between $2.5 million and $3 million. Now, we're told that the bill could be as high as $7 million. My question to the minister is, can he assure this House here today that the $7-million figure he quoted yesterday is all-inclusive and that is the total amount outstanding to both the Yukon Energy Corporation and the government, and that the $1.5-million loan by the government to Anvil Range is also included in that $7 million.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have to take this opportunity to beat down some of the untruths that the member opposite has put out in the public, first of all. I just met with the board of directors today at lunchtime, and I must say that they were quite taken aback by the allegations of the leader of the official opposition about political interference and confirmed with me that they would be more than prepared to confirm that there was none with the public of the Yukon, if they were so asked by media or anyone else.
With regard to the question about the arrears, the numbers that I gave the member have not changed from the numbers that he laid out earlier. The reason that there is an increase is because the December bill was $1.5 million. The January bill was $1 million. There was some $200,000 outstanding from November relating to some very old issues. The 1997 cost of service is estimated to be $1 million, but that is a matter for consideration by the Yukon Utilities Board.
I would also point out as well that when the CCAA action was undertaken by Anvil Range, the corporation and its board of directors were moving to ask for some upfront deposit on payment for energy bills as well as shortening the collection period on the bills. That move was opposed by the leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, there's a dramatic difference from what we were told in this Legislature in December and what's being told to us today - a substantial difference.
Mr. Speaker, under a previous NDP government, Yukoners were assured that a $5-million loan to the former operator of the Faro mine was secured by a lien on the ore that was stockpiled in Skagway. When the ore was sold off, Yukoners never did see their money.
Since we are supposed to learn from our mistakes, can the minister advise the House how much of this outstanding $7 million Yukoners can expect to see returned?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, there was also a situation under Yukon Party government in 1992 where the mining company that owned the Faro mine went down. A substantial amount of arrears was owed to the territorial government. The Yukon Party government at the time lent, on behalf of Curragh, a bunch of money to the Energy Corporation to cover their bills. Eventually, some of that money was returned when the mine was sold to Anvil Range.
A similar scenario has taken place, although the loan that we made to Anvil was not as big as the loan the Yukon Party made to Curragh.
However, Mr. Speaker, I would confirm with the member once again that my information to the member has not changed. The mine operated in December and January. It's clear that those were the reasons for the increase in the numbers. As well, the process of creditor protection will see some monies flow back to the Energy Corporation on the arrears. It is anticipated that it could be as high as half of that money, but it is difficult to tell. It could even be more or it could be somewhat less.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is playing fast and loose with numbers and he ought to get his story straight because he was very adamant in the House here in December when I said the bill could be as high as $5 million. He said I was wrong, that it wouldn't be any more than $2.5 million or $3 million, at the most.
If, in fact, they were behind in arrears; they should have been stepped on at the end of December. They should not have been allowed to run up $7 million.
I want the minister to explain why this bill has got so high.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite now says that Anvil Range should have been stepped on in December. I must say - and I'll have to table the media, I guess, when they quote the member opposite - that when the Energy Corporation filed to the Yukon Utilities Board to get an upfront deposit on bill payment and to get a shortened collection period, the leader of the official opposition said that that was wrong and would be the final nail in the coffin of Anvil Range. So, he opposed it. He's taking two completely diametrically opposed positions for political expediency.
I also want to point out to the member opposite that, last December, they ran at a cost of $1.5 million. In January, they ran, up until the 15th when the CCAA occurred at a cost of $1 million. That is the increase in the bill. That's $2.5 million. The December bill was not due until January 1, as it is with all customers of the Energy Corporation. So, that is the reason for the increased arrears. The policy hasn't changed from when I was minister or from when that member was minister.
Deputy Speaker's statement
Deputy Speaker: Before the next question, I would like to remind members to keep their remarks acceptable. "Fast and loose" and "untruths" are unparliamentary language.
Question re: Anvil Range debt to government and Energy Corporation
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, we'll try to abide by your ruling. The fact is that the numbers just don't add up. Even the ones the minister gave us here today do not add up.
I want to now turn to the topic of "political interference" that the minister tried to bootleg into his first answer. On Tuesday, in this House, when I asked the minister to give his assurances that there was no political interference into the operations of the Energy Corporation in allowing Anvil Range to run up a larger power bill with Yukon Energy Corporation than other customers were, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the minister chose not to answer my question.
Instead, he went out and made a quote to the press where he freely admitted to political interference, not once, but twice - not only in Anvil Range, but in United Keno Hill, as well. His quote is perfectly clear that he gave instructions to the Energy Corporation. He says in both cases that he has been perfectly consistent. Well, he certainly has. There has been political interference in both cases.
Can the minister explain why Yukon ratepayers should be responsible for paying this enormous power bill, in view of the direct political interference by this minister?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There was no political interference. The chair of the Energy Corporation will confirm that. I met with him at noon, and if anybody wants to ask him, I'm sure he'll tell you.
I have often raised the issue of dealing with industrial customers and the importance - where there are the issues of arrears - that the Energy Corporation, like any business, tries to negotiate appropriate repayment schedules. That was not an instruction. That is a discussion with the Energy Corporation, and I have a responsibility on behalf of the working people in this territory who rely on jobs to do just that.
Mr. Speaker, that is not political interference; that is ensuring the Energy Corporation acts as a business.
While I'm on my feet, I want to table the member opposite's opposition to the move by the Energy Corporation to ask for upfront deposits and to shorten the collection period for Anvil Range.
Mr. Ostashek: This minister just doesn't understand what political interference is. Maybe he ought to get a briefing from his Government Leader as to what political interference is.
Mr. Speaker, last spring, when we accused the minister of using the YEC as a personal political tool, he went on to say that the agreement in principle that had been reached between YEC and Alberta Power had been negotiated, and the minister pointed out that the decision had been made by an independent board - a board appointed by the Yukon Party government - and that he'd merely endorsed what they said.
Can the minister explain to this House then why - and what does he believe - gives him the authority to politically interfere in YEC without a proper order-in-council, as required by the act?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've never heard ... well, actually, I have heard things as ridiculous as this from the member opposite. This is just a similar type of statement that is made in this Legislature by the member opposite. He thinks if he says it enough, it's going to become true.
Mr. Speaker, I did not politically interfere. I have a duty on behalf of Yukoners to raise concerns that I hear with the board and with the president, in our briefings and in our sessions, to talk to him about the issues on a whole wide range, whether it's access to supply options, whether it's rate stabilization funds, whether it's dealing with residential, commercial or industrial customers - all of those issues.
If I give instruction to the board, therefore commanding them by Cabinet order, that would come in the form of an order-in-council. I did not politically interfere and the chair of the board will confirm that.
Mr. Ostashek: It has come to my attention that the vice-president and chief financial officer of Yukon Energy Corporation, a person for whom I and my party had the highest regard, has been fired.
My question for the minister is: was he fired because he objected to the political interference by this minister in the day-to-day operations of the Energy Corporation? Is that in fact why he was fired?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member makes quite an allegation there. First I would tell him that that's a personnel matter that was handled by the board of directors and the president of the Energy Corporation. I had no knowledge of it other than to be informed that the action was taken.
Question re: Energy Corporation, alleged political interference
Mr. Cable: Just to follow up with the same minister on the same topic, there was a clear suggestion in the news clips that the minister was providing input to the Energy Corporation on bill collection policy and we've heard allegations today about political interference by the minister in the operation of the Yukon Energy Corporation. Now the governing legislation, as the minister has stated, permits the minister to give direction to the corporation through formal written directives. Can the minister tell the House whether he has either sent or is in the process of sending the corporation any written direction with respect to bill collection practices or does he simply give his instructions or his discussions to the president by whispering in the president's ear?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would say to the member opposite that when we have discussions, and we have many - just at lunchtime I had a discussion with the president and the entire board of directors - we talk about a wide range of issues. Not everything is done through instruction. I don't command from the mountain top to them to undertake different actions. We have open dialogue and discussions about direction, on capital options and on how we treat the issue of rate stabilization funds. We talk about the need to encourage economic development in the territory and to try and ensure that there's an appropriate level of pricing for energy so that we can attract investment and create jobs in this territory.
So, that's the way it's done. When there is a need for formal direction, as we have done in the past, we pass a Cabinet order directive on issues of great public importance.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, last fall during the session, I asked this minister whether he was prepared to bring the president of the corporation and the chair of the board into the Legislature to answer questions about the business of the corporation and the relationship with the minister. Now, the minister said he would take it under advisement. We're still waiting for his advice. Will the minister today commit to bringing the chairman of the board and the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation before this House so they can give their side of the story on the relationship, so they can tell us their view of the relationship between the minister and the board and the management?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I invite the member opposite to call up the chair of the board. I know he's had several meetings with him. He can talk to him about it. As I said before, we did discuss the press release from the Yukon Party just today at our board meeting, and the chairman of the board confirmed that he would tell anyone in the public and anyone in the media who wanted to phone him that there was no political interference.
With regard to the issue of the relationship, we are negotiating and talking right now about a governance criteria for the Energy Corporation. It will involve some discussions with the energy commission as well. We hope to do that over the next few months and lead to a more formal relationship. I think it's needed now in this territory because of the move January 1 to direct management and the greater level of responsibility that the board of directors now has in this territory. So, I'm actively discussing and working - albeit not all through formal Cabinet direction and not whispering in the ear of the president or the board of directors' chair - to establish a new governance formula and some parameters for the relationship.
Mr. Cable: Well, just to stay on the topic, I've already spoken to the leader of the official opposition, and he has agreed, and we have agreed, that we're prepared to sit late on a Tuesday or Thursday night to hear from the chairman and the president on the energy issues. Will the minister quit stalling, and will he bring these officials before the House so that we can get answers on the issues raised today?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have an agreement on 35 sitting days. We sit on Monday and Wednesday evenings. With regard to the questions the member opposite may want to raise with the president and the chair of the Energy Corporation, then I invite him to raise those issues. The chair of the board of the Energy Corporation has asked me, as a matter of fact it was raised just last week, if he could engage in some briefing sessions with the opposition. I said, "Fill your boots. I think that will be wonderful."
So the member opposite will have many opportunities to ask all the tough questions that he's posing to me right now about issues. Any allegations that he wants to make, feel free.
Question re: Energy Corporation, alleged political interference
Mr. Cable: Let me make this friendly suggestion in an unconfrontational way.
The minister seems to want to interfere in the day-to-day operations of the Energy Corporation. There is now a job open: the chief financial officer. Why doesn't he resign and apply for that job? Then he can micromanage his corporation, as he's obviously doing.
The question I have for this minister is this: the government issued an order-in-council in December, directed to the Public Utilities Board, permitting that board - the Public Utilities Board - to reduce the Energy Corporation's rate of return in situations such as the loss of revenues from Anvil Range Mining Corporation. This power was a blanket power and had no time limit on it.
Then, this March, the minister appears to have changed his mind and he clipped the board's wings, so the board now can only adjust the rate of return on the 1997 interim rates.
Why did the minister clip the board's wings?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I didn't clip anybody's wings. The member makes a number of allegations in the Liberal unconfrontational way.
First of all, he alleged that I micromanaged the utility. That's completely ridiculous. We do things like announce rate stabilization funds; things to flatten out the curves for the ratepayers of this territory. We said, when we heard from Yukoners that they were concerned about the Yukon Utilities Board's inability to deal with the questions of the rate of returns of the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. in interim rate hearings; that they wanted their Utilities Board to be able to lower those rates of return if interest rates and prime rates were more reflective of lower rates of return, thus bringing down power rate increases in this territory.
So we opened up the door to make it clear that the Yukon Utilities Board would have the jurisdiction to rule on the rate of return. Nobody's wings got clipped. They actually got expanded. More power was given to the board on interim hearings. The member is wrong.
Mr. Cable: I suggest the minister read the two OICs. Let me ask him this question: in between the bringing in of the OIC in December and the one brought in this month, where it appears, anyway, that the board's wings were clipped, were there any conversations with the management of the Energy Corporation in relation to either OIC and the role of the Public Utilities Board in governing that corporation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I heard very clearly from the people of the Yukon that they wanted the Utilities Board, in any interim rate hearing, to be able to deal with the question of whether the rate of return in the economic circumstances and the interest rate circumstances in the country and in the territory was an issue. I think, Mr. Speaker, they wanted their board to be able to deal with that question.
The reason we brought in the OIC was to allow the independent Yukon Utilities Board to deal with that question. Was there discussion with the Energy Corporation and the board of directors? Absolutely.
Mr. Cable: What we've heard today are allegations of political interference and a suggestion that there are conversations with the utilities on the setting of regulations with respect to the operation of the Public Utilities Board. These are not accepted as meeting the terms of reference within the respective acts.
Now the energy commissioner, in his original workplan, committed to dealing with the streamlining of the process used by the Public Utilities Board by early 1998, and he committed to deal with the issue of the relationship between the government and the Energy Corporation by the summer of 1997. Now these have been put off to the summer of 1998.
In view of the way these issues have come before this House, could I ask the minister to light a fire under the energy commissioner, so that we get these issues dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, let me be perfectly clear to the public of the Yukon. What we've heard today are a bunch of unsubstantiated allegations from the Liberal and Yukon Party benches - from nobody else in this territory. They are completely and totally unsubstantiated.
What I have admitted to is talking to the Energy Corporation about all kinds of matters, at the board of directors level, like the lunch we had today, and the president's level, about capital options, about dealing with industrial and commercial residential customers, about flattening out the hills and the valleys for ratepayers in this territory - the roller-coaster ride of rates. That is perfectly appropriate for this government.
While I'm on my feet, maybe I could just table a couple more articles about the issues the members have been raising - their unsubstantiated allegations, perfectly on the public record - about what took place in the situation with United Keno Hill Mine, as well as Faro.
Question re: Anvil Range restructuring plan
Mr. Ostashek: It appears that the minister is a little reluctant to let us question the chair of the board in front of the Legislature.
My question is for the Minister of Economic Development on the Anvil Range restructuring plan and the high-stakes games being played out in Toronto, trying to restructure $70 million worth of debt, $20 million of which is owed to Yukoners.
We are unsecured creditors, from my understanding, and Yukon taxpayers have a lot at stake in these court proceedings. Yet, we're getting very mixed messages from this minister about the Yukon government's position.
Can the minister advise this House if the government is supportive of the company's restructuring plan, in view of his public comments that he didn't think much of it? Are he and his government in support of it or are they against the restructuring plan?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Again, the member opposite has a convenient interpretation of my comments. The member opposite is quoting what he would like me to have said, not what I said.
With regard to his statement that we are unsecured creditors, that is not indeed the case. In some areas we hold a weaker position in some parts of the debt. In some areas, there is a very good argument that we are, indeed, very well-secured.
With regard to the mixed messages that the member opposite alleged I have been sending, that's completely not the case. I said that the major creditors - and I'm speaking about trade creditors and the largest creditor, Cominco - have expressed grave concern about the restructuring plan. The position our government has taken is that we want to see the mine held as a going concern, not sold off as soon as possible or not sold off piecemeal, and we want to see the mine going again as soon as possible. We don't want to support anything that would lead to the mine being used in some world zinc play or as some pawn on the world zinc market.
So, Mr. Speaker, we will support a position of either Anvil Range or anyone else who wants to come forward and meet those bottom lines for the people of the Yukon, because it's about jobs and it's about the future of the Yukon's economy.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is sounding more and more like a Liberal. He wants to sit on the fence and then come down on the winning side. He doesn't want to take a position, but I don't believe that's acceptable to the Yukon public. The public has a right to know whether this government supports the restructuring plan or not. This is a very serious situation, and while we agree with the member opposite that we'd like to see the mine operating, there is a restructuring plan in front of the court. I would like this minister to tell Yukoners whether this government supports that restructuring plan or not.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the first thing I'll say to the member opposite is that the plan is a moving target. This morning and in the courts yesterday, Anvil spoke of a new investment opportunity and a new investor. Subsequent to that, there was an extension granted, which was quite unexpected, as well a change of judge in the hearings, to extend it to April 9.
So, my position is that we're going to have to re-evaluate the new plan, and we're going to have to decide what is in the best interests of Yukoners and what's in the best interest of the mine site - keeping it together. And, number two, how can we make sure that we put the Yukon in the best position to benefit from the earliest possible resumption of operations and restarting of that property so that we can get some jobs happening in this territory.
Mr. Ostashek: We're hearing a lot of things, but we're not hearing where this government stands on this very serious issue. The minister is right, though, the president of the corporation this morning said that there was a white knight waiting in the wings to come to the company's rescue.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to assure this House that the white knight isn't the Yukon territorial government. If he knows who the white knight is, would he be prepared to tell Yukoners that today?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There has got to be some record set here today for unsubstantiated allegations. I mean, the opposition is drawing up... The next thing you know, Mr. Speaker- Oh, Mr. Speaker, I'd better not go there, but anyway, I think the obvious answer to the question is no, we won't.
We've always been willing to work with the mine owners to find ways to deal with their infrastructure concerns. We want to see the mine going as soon as possible. We hope that the white knight does materialize for Anvil Range. It's not us, and we're not clear who it might be. There is some rumour that it might be some investors in Alberta, but we're not entirely sure yet.
We're going to be doing a watching brief on the situation. Obviously a lot is going to change. It's been a moving target since the CCAA was announced January 15. It will continue to be a moving target as negotiations take place on an hourly and daily basis around the restructuring plans.
So, Mr. Speaker, we'll continue to watch that and participate in that and try and meet Yukoners' bottom lines, which is the earliest possible resumption of operations, and ensuring we protect the asset and the environment for Yukoners.
Question re: Seniors housing
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation and the question is about seniors housing, an issue that is important to all of us.
The first issue is around the mobile home park strategy. In the mobile home park strategy, there was a comment that the government would be looking at a gated community for seniors, and apparently there were six or seven sites with potential for building a gated seniors mobile home park being looked at, possibly in Riverdale or in Porter Creek on Holly Street. What's the progress of that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What we have done through the mobile home strategy is focus a lot of our energies in one area, to try and accommodate the needs that are out there. We have not worked a lot of details into senior housing specifically as a park on its own.
Mrs. Edelman: What's happened? The government has started the process for a seniors audit, and I hope that they're still in that process. They started a bunch of rumours, and some of these rumours are actually quite worrisome. Some of the things that we've heard is that, apparently, there's going to be another seniors building in the city, possibly down in the main area, around Hanson Street, or else by the Klondike Inn. I'm wondering if the minister could lay to rest some of these rumours.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the member knows that we are working with Health and Social Services to look more into the issue of senior housing. You've mentioned the audit done on senior buildings. I believe that audit is complete. I don't have it in front of me, but I can get it and make sure that the member does receive a copy.
Mrs. Edelman: I think that that's very important. There are a number of changes being made to the Ryder Apartments downtown, and people are making a lot of speculation about it. I think it just makes sense for us to be a little bit more open about the information.
Now, on November 26, 1997, the minister referred to pilot projects with Yukon First Nations and on community housing needs, particularly in relation to seniors. How are we dealing with that issue, and what communities have been contacted, and what's going on with this pilot project?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have brought to this House that, through Yukon Housing, we're doing community studies. We've started one in Carmacks. That is basically asking the community what they would like to see as far as housing, how they would like to see Yukon Housing participate in community housing, and all the questions in regards to whether it's rental or commercial, or senior housing. All those concerns should be flushed out by comments back from the community people.
That's going well. We've had approximately 40 people interviewed so far. We would like to do as many communities as we can. This is the only one. I said we were going to do two, but we are only going to manage to do one in this fiscal year.
We're looking to do two more communities in the next fiscal year coming up.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Clerk: Motion No. 106, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Motion No. 106
Deputy Speaker: The Chair has been informed by the government House leader that the mover of Motion No. 106 is the acting Minister of Justice, the hon. Mr. Keenan. Accordingly, it is moved by the acting Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 16 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Geraldine Hutchings to be a member of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I rise today to bring forward the name of an individual for appointment to the Yukon Human Rights Commission. Ms. Geraldine Hutchings has previously served a three-year term on the commission, which expired on February 28, 1998.
I want to express my pleasure that Ms. Hutchings has agreed to continue to serve on the commission. Ms. Hutchings is self-employed in a general law practice in Whitehorse. Her areas of specialization include commercial, real estate, labour and administrative law. She also has experience as an advisor to Yukon land claim negotiations.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 10: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 10 be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, this bill will permit the government's activities to be carried on during the month of April as we continue to debate the budget. Without this bill, we would have no spending authority for that month because the budget for the new fiscal year hasn't passed this House.
As members will detect, as usual this bill requests more money for disbursement in April than a mere one-twelfth of total budget calculations for the year.
This is largely a consequence of the many upfront payments we make. For example, comprehensive municipal grants and our contributions to Yukon College and the Whitehorse General Hospital are fully paid in the month of April. Another factor impinging on the calculation is that departments require appropriation authority to commit monies even though those monies may not be spent until later in the year.
This is a routine matter, Mr. Speaker, for our Legislature, but I would be happy to answer further questions in Committee.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 10.
Bill No. 10 - Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated in the second reading, we require an appropriation authority for April, and this bill will accomplish that purpose.
I also indicated that the bill requests more than one-twelfth of the total budget. Members are aware that many of our grant and contribution payments are made in their entirety at the beginning of the year, and this of course means that April bears a disproportionate share of the annual spending.
In addition, departments require appropriation authority to make commitments under long-term contracts, and that fact adds to the April requirement for appropriation authority. This is a fairly routine matter, Mr. Chair, and, I'm sure, no surprise to anyone.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 10, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will now go to the main estimates. It is the Chair's understanding that Committee will be dealing with the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, please allow me to introduce the 1998-99 main estimates for the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
The main estimate tabled shows that the department plans to spend $62,660,000 in operation and maintenance and $23,823,000 in capital. Operation and maintenance recoveries are estimated at $2,431,000 and capital recoveries are estimated at $8,732,000. Revenues to be collected by the department are estimated to be $6,735,000.
In comparison to the 1997-98 forecast, total operation and maintenance funding required for 1998-99 is lower by about $700,000. This reduction is mainly due to reduced expenditures for the maintenance of the Faro ore haul routes.
Operations and maintenance recoveries and revenues are at the same level as the 1997-98 forecast, as shown in the 1998-99 budget book.
The department's lower capital expenditure and recovery estimates are lower in comparison to previous years mainly due to a substantial decrease in a 100-percent recoverable funding under the Shakwak project and the completion of the federal strategic highways improvement program in the 1997-98 fiscal year.
As well, the final $800,000 contribution to the City of Whitehorse for the South Access reconstruction is much lower than the 1997-98 contribution as provided in the agreement with the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Chair, the main estimate presented shows that the department continues to undertake numerous infrastructure projects. Capital and operations and maintenance funding has been allocated for highway reconstruction and community infrastructure, as well as for the maintenance of roads, airports and community facilities as dictated by fiscal realities.
As mentioned earlier, the discretionary operation and maintenance budget estimate includes funding for all departmental program responsibilities to ensure safe and efficient movement of people and goods, and to support economic activities in the territory.
The department has allocated $36,810,000 for highway maintenance, airport operations and administration of related regulatory responsibilities. A total of $23.5 million is provided for operation and maintenance of municipal and community affairs programs, the largest component of which is in transfer payments totalling $18,960,000.
Mr. Chair, this government will continue supporting the Yukon communities and municipalities. This is clearly demonstrated by the level of operation and maintenance funding allocated to meet specific needs of Yukoners, and to mention a few, the department's 1998-99 main estimate provides for the same level of total, comprehensive municipal grants of $11,470,000, as in the 1997-98 fiscal year.
Grants-in-lieu to municipalities and home owner grants are up by about 2.7 percent, as compared to the '97-98 revised estimate.
Operation and maintenance funding of $200,000 is provided for the Whitehorse Arctic Winter Games Host Society. This amount represents the first-year payment of a two-year contribution. I'm sure that all residents of the territory understand and support the importance of the benefits of hosting the Arctic Winter Games 2000 in the Yukon.
As well, $55,000 is budgeted for preparation and administration for the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland.
The department has allocated $25,000 to continued contribution toward the government's youth investment fund.
The Selkirk First Nation has expressed interest in assuming full responsibility for the management, administration and delivery of all local government services for the community of Pelly Crossing to both settlement land and non-settlement land. The government supports this ambition as a positive and practical expression of partnership. It's crafted to meet the needs of all residents in the community and it's consistent with the spirit and intent of the umbrella final agreement and provisions in the self-government agreements.
The Yukon government expects to provide an annual contribution equal to the current cost for services to the Selkirk First Nation to facilitate this objective once the agreement with them on this issue is finalized.
Emergency measures and communications programs will continue to be supported. Operation and maintenance funding for delivery of services in these areas has been provided at the same levels as in previous fiscal years.
Mr. Chairman, the department's capital main estimate reflects the government's commitment to improve infrastructure in all areas impacting on the lives of Yukoners. To that effect, available funding has been allocated in a manner that will support current needs and future economic growth.
Three point seven million dollars is provided for the Alaska Highway reconstruction to complete the majority of the upgrading that will bring the section between Watson Lake and Whitehorse up to a modern standard. This section of highway has a high amount of local, tourist and commercial traffic.
An additional recoverable expenditure of $1.5 million is also planned for the Alaska Highway under the Shakwak agreement. As you know, this government is working hard with our northern partners to see further funding for the Shakwak project from the United States government become a reality. We hope and expect a positive decision will come out on this soon, including a decision on our efforts to secure interim financing.
For the Campbell Highway, $2,020,000 is provided to undertake spot reconstruction of sections that would present the most difficulty for large-scale industrial hauls. While it is not possible to be certain with respect to a production decision on the part of the Kudz Ze Kayah project, the government believes it is necessary to make target investments on the highway. The lowest economical, justifiable, total capital cost to complete required improvements of the South Campbell Highway for Kudz Ze Kayah is estimated at approximately $55 million.
While it is beyond the government's ability to undertake a major reconstruction of highway at this time, it is prudent to take affordable steps to prepare for future development along this corridor. These improvements are also expected to enhance tourism opportunities for Watson Lake and the Ross River-Faro areas.
For the Top of the World Highway, $763,000 is allocated for the application of BST to the remaining 30 kilometres of the highway and seeding for erosion protection, as part of the continuing effort to modernize the highway. To deal with required upgrading and repairs of various other roads throughout the territory, in compliance with the rural roads maintenance policy, $500,000 has been allocated. Work to be done using these funds will largely be targeted to small contractors in the territory, in order to provide employment opportunities.
The funding of $220,000 is to provide for apron air-side improvements to the Dawson airport, and it is planned that construction of a secondary taxiway expansion of aircraft parking to meet certification standards and the relocation of aviation fuel facilities will be carried out.
The budget submission provides for a $1-million annual contribution toward a trust fund for the 2007 Canada Winter Games, which is hoped to be hosted here in Whitehorse.
As an initial contribution to either the Dawson sewage treatment project or the Dawson community centre project, $1 million is allocated in this budget. The City of Dawson is working with the Government of Canada to finalize its time line for full secondary sewage treatment. Should construction of a full secondary sewage treatment system not be necessary for some years in the future, the YTG contribution to the community centre project is possible.
The department has submitted a plan to spend an estimated $1.15 million for the rural electrification and telephone program, in order to meet pressing needs for access to telephone in rural areas. This was not possible under the previous rural electrification and telephone guidelines, which are now being revised in response to public needs.
Continuing the commitment to make land available to the public, a total of about $6.82 million is budgeted for the various types of land development. The public has expressed its desire for access to purchase country residential lots in the Whitehorse area and, in response to this, $580,000 will be used for the planning and construction of country residential lots in the Whitehorse area. The department will continue working closely with the city and residents outside the municipality to determine the most appropriate layout for these country residential lots. Funding is provided for the Copper Ridge residential phase 7 project. Other land development activities will occur in Carcross, Dawson, Faro, Haines Junction and Ross River.
In participation with Yukon Housing Corporation, the department plans to spend approximately $600,000 in support of mobile home and related, affordable housing land development initiatives. This reflects the government's commitment expressed in the mobile home strategy. The department's capital plan also includes funding for the construction of a swimming pool in Ross River, and a training room for the Tagish firehall in support of the volunteer fire department. Required capital funding has also been allocated for the improvement of public health and roads and streets in unincorporated communities.
Sewage treatment and disposal projects will be carried out for Tagish and Destruction Bay, and $290,000 will be spent on the solid waste projects.
Local area planning activities for Ross River and Golden Horn, as well as photography mapping activities for Mayo, Haines Junction and the Klondike Valley will be funded. Mr. Chair, the main estimates presented by the department reflect the government's continued efforts to advance the well-being of all Yukoners by making strategic investments in infrastructure, by supporting municipalities and continuing to provide municipal-type services and facilities to unincorporated communities. Available funds have been allocated to programs and capital projects with a view to achieving an optimum benefit to Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, I would like to take this time now to mention that the Department of Community and Transportation Services officials had the opportunity of a technical budget briefing with opposition critics on March 12, and a number of questions were raised and dealt with during that session. Answers to other questions requiring specific detail are being compiled and provided to the critics as they get completed.
My departmental staff and I would very much like to express that the opportunity was very much appreciated, and thank you, Mr. Chair. I believe that the technical briefing would have dealt with many of the questions pertaining to details, and I would be now pleased to answer any further questions in the nature of policy principles concerning this main estimate.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise if his department has made any changes in any of the policies within his department? What were they, and has there been any change in direction given under any of the existing policies?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, no, we do have an ongoing departmental policy. As to the direction given, it is ongoing in a forthright manner, and I would be pleased to share the policy with the member opposite. I do not have an extra copy with me, but I do have a copy for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister is saying, since we last were here reviewing his annual budget, that there has been no change in any policies within his department or any direction given under any of the existing policies.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, I'm not saying that there has been no change in any policy. I do have the changed policies in front of me and I would be more than happy to share the books of policy with the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just interested in the policies that have changed or have been added or deleted since we last debated a budget. Could the minister - I guess it would be most convenient if he'd table a legislative return with the policies that have changed or have been added or deleted. Could the minister undertake to provided that information, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, most certainly I will provide that by way of legislative return, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore with the minister some of the capital projects, the minister indicated that he was trying to secure interim financing so that they could proceed with the Shakwak project. Could the minister elaborate on this area, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the department officials have been working with great diligence, and certainly due diligence, toward the lobby efforts of the Shakwak and to provide interim financing. Just today I was briefed in my regular morning briefing, where the deputy minister had received a call from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, and I would be more than pleased to provide an update to the member as soon as I get my next regular briefing, but I can certainly bring comfort to the fact that we are being noticed and we are being heard through the embassy in Washington.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm asking the minister to elaborate on is the interim financing that he mentioned for the Shakwak project. Just what does that entail and how is he proposing that this interim financing be arranged?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will try to be clearer then when I answer. Certainly, Mr. Chair, as I said, we are looking for interim financing from the Government of Canada to see if we might be able to get funding for this year, based on the conditions and the climate of what we're doing in Shakwak at this point in time. Today we have finally started to get our first answer and it is coming from the embassy. I have instructed my department, if there is a need for me to travel to the embassy or travel to Ottawa, to certainly put that motion forth and I would be able to do that so that I would be able to bring home interim financing.
So, I cannot say at this point in time whether we will get interim financing, but certainly it has been raised and given direction at the appropriate levels through the embassy and through the Ottawa offices.
Mr. Jenkins: If I understand the minister correctly, there's a reasonable assurance that we're going to secure funding from the U.S. government for the Shakwak project. And for the interim financing that the minister is suggesting, his department is going to go to the federal Government of Canada based on the proposition that funds are going to be flowing from the federal government of the U.S. to the federal Government of Canada, and get an advance on these funds from the U.S. government that will be forthcoming.
There would be funds eventually flowing from the U.S. government to the Government of Canada for the Shakwak project? And you're arranging, if you want to call it, bridge financing or interim financing through the Government of Canada. What assurance does the government have that this is going to come to fruition?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, that is correct. As the member opposite has outlined, that is the process that we're going through. As to the assurance, at this point in time, there is no assurance that this will happen, but certainly we are putting our best efforts forward to ensure that we can get bridge financing, as he has called it, for the Shakwak project.
If we cannot get it - although the member opposite is as certain as I am, I hope, that we will get financing from the federal American government, through their regular process and following that process - we have approached the Government of Canada to see if we might be able to procure funding. That talk is happening now in Ottawa and within the Washington embassy, so that we might get clear signals.
Certainly, as I just said this morning, we received a signal that they are listening to us and that the department, at this time now, is working with them. I will hopefully have further information within the next day or two, and I would be more than willing to share that information.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. This is certainly an initiative that our party supports, and we would like to see something of this nature occur very quickly. Indeed, it would be advantageous if this bridge financing could be in place for this forthcoming construction season.
Perhaps it would be a prudent move if we had a friendly motion on the floor with all-party concurrence, which I am sure we could achieve, to support this type of initiative. Would the minister be amenable to this kind of approach?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely. I believe that for anything that we can do together for the further benefit of the Yukon economy and to improve the highways I would be more than willing to participate. I thank you for the offer.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. One of the other capital initiatives is the extension to the Whitehorse Airport. Indeed, if a political decision was made very quickly to move on that extension, I believe that that could be another capital project undertaken very quickly. Mind you, for the same amount of money, we could construct a new and improved airport in Dawson City that would have tremendous advantages for the visitor industry for all the Yukon, and not just accrue to the Whitehorse community.
I was wondering what could be done to facilitate this project, Mr. Chair, and does the minister offer any suggestions in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, as we proceed incrementally to the development of the infrastructure to encourage tourism to the Yukon in general, we will eventually get to where we want to go, and that is to have a fantastic, first-grade infrastructure throughout the Yukon, but certainly first steps first, and the airport in Whitehorse is certainly the first step, although I must say that the airport in Whitehorse is - maybe "conduit" would be the right word, because the people certainly do not just wish to linger here. They wish to see, I hope, even Teslin Lake, and of course Kluane, and of course the Klondike gold fields. Certainly I hope that it acts as a conduit and people do get out.
We have $70,000 in the 1998-99 budget to study the expansion work. This work, as I indicated, I believe it was, just yesterday, will be going forth. Hopefully, this work will be starting as soon as they're ready to do it, as the snow will let us do it.
We certainly realize how important the extension of the runway would be to diversification of the Yukon economy, and we will follow through by studying the matter very carefully. Of course, this certainly will be due to the usual budget processes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure part of the analysis that the minister's department, or his officials, are going to conduct, is a cost-benefit analysis as to how much additional capital can be spent at the Whitehorse Airport, expanding the runway length from 7,200 feet to, let's say, 10,000 feet, before we can look at justifying another airport in some other location where the approaches are more advantageous.
Is this part of the undertaking that the minister's department and his officials are going to be doing, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we will be looking at it in a very concise and deliberate manner to ensure that it does comply with all aspects of safety, et cetera, and we'll be working to ensure that it can accommodate the wide bodies through the extension and whatever it takes to be done. It will be identified through the study and then we'll be more than happy to share the study with both opposition critics so that we can make some work together.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide the time lines for the undertaking and completion of this study, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we're going to be looking at it, certainly, this spring, and I would expect that it will be completed soonest. And to tell you the truth, I would not be able to put a time frame on that, but it will be completed this summer. If it's July or August, I'm not quite certain. I can certainly ask the department for their best guesstimate as to the completion but, rest assured, we'll be getting out to do the work as soon as the snow is gone, and we will put our best efforts into getting it done expeditiously, because this government certainly does believe in the benefits and the added value of tourism to our economy.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I recognize the benefits. I recognize that time lines should be part of the process, and it comes back to the original question. Time lines should have been established, and what are those time lines, Mr. Chair? If this project is deemed politically expedient and there are surplus funds in the budget of the Government of Yukon, it might be advantageous to proceed with it this construction season. So, I'm sure the minister can issue instructions to his officials and put time lines on this analysis that would have this project completed very, very quickly. What kind of instructions were issued, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the instructions were to look at what it would take to do a geotechnical, socio-economic study of the benefits to the community of Yukon, if I can say that it in that manner. So, as to the time frames, I know the department is listening now, so we'll certainly be able to get the time frames for the member opposite and to work it through.
Mr. Jenkins: Maybe it'd speed up the process if the minister brought in his deputy minister to give him some of this advice in a more timely manner rather than prolonging the agony of the House, Mr. Chair. Would the minister agree to bring in his deputy minister and provide him with some advice, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would prefer to do my job and I find it certainly ironic that at times I've been told to bring the deputy minister and get the deputy minister. Then he says, "What are you doing with the deputy minister?" So, I will continue to work in this manner and, certainly, the department is fully behind me and we will get the answers to the questions of member opposite in a forthright and expeditious manner.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess time will tell, Mr. Chair.
Let's explore another area with the minister, the Atlin Road. Redfern Resources has just gone through the permitting process and it would appear that there's an opportunity for Yukon to service that mine site and indeed, base it out of Whitehorse - a lot of the services and supplies for that Redfern Resources operation. What has been the discussion? Are there any plans afoot to upgrade the Atlin Road as far as the B.C. border? Is there some sort of an ongoing dialogue with the Government of British Columbia so that both sides of the border on the Atlin Road are upgraded, or are we just going to adopt a wait-and-see attitude? And further to that, if they truck out of there, and there is a volume of trucking, it might be prudent to look at an upgrade of the Tagish Road, which would be a shortcut for the ore trucks and trucks hauling in and out of there. What is the government's position on this, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we do have ongoing dialogue with the Government of British Columbia, but I must say that this is a British Columbia decision and the decision has been made within B.C. In 1986, though, a preliminary design for upgrading the road to an 80 kilometre per hour road - and it was designed as a light-duty BST surface - was prepared and the cost at that point in time was $7.5 million. That is 12 years ago so, certainly, it would be somewhat greater at today's prices. And it should be recognized that a light-duty BST surface would not be adequate for the proposal of the ore trucks, and I believe there are approximately 12 of the B-trains that they're looking to bring forth.
So, we looked at the upgrading to a fully structured road to support an ore haul, and that cost estimate varies between $12 to $14 million for a fully constructed road. Certainly, that is an enormous chunk of the capital budget, so we've been looking at maybe doing selective improvements to the gravel surface road and the bad areas, and that's the third possibility. It certainly seems that it would be the most likely scenario, to do the sporadic upgrades.
As for the Tagish Road upgrade, certainly folks along the Tagish Road have been asking for an upgrade of their road for quite some time. They tell me it's the last 12 miles of dirt road in the Yukon and that they would like it improved, but in the same condition. The folks along the Tagish Road are quite adamant in saying that they do not wish to have any ore hauls coming through on the Tagish Road, and that is heard from all residents of the Tagish area. So, certainly, the routing will go through British Columbia and up the Atlin Road to Jake's Corner and down to the Carcross Cutoff and then down the road as it follows through.
I believe I've answered the question, but if there's something I missed I'd appreciate being reminded.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm not looking for a sporadic upgrade of the road to Atlin, Mr. Chair. I'm looking for a game plan that dovetails with Redfern Resources' reopening of their mine. I'm not sure that we've done the due diligence that's necessary, and I would ask the minister if he's gone back to his department and asked them what steps they've taken. Have they consulted with Redfern Resources people and have they got a firm handle on their requirements for trucking over that highway?
Will this government be able to meet those requirements? There is a lot of potential for economic stimulation here in Yukon as a consequence of the reopening of this mine, and I would like to see Yukon take as much advantage of the reopening of that mine site as possible. We can only do so if government does cover the areas that it is responsible for, and the major area that government is responsible for is transportation, in this instance. Yes, a great deal of it is in British Columbia, but there is a great deal of it in Yukon, and a lot of financial benefits that could occur to Yukon as a consequence of this road being upgraded and rebuilt.
So, just what are the instructions that the minister has issued to his department? Is the minister steering the bus, or is the back of the bus pushing the minister? Which way is it working these days, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly in a team effort, Mr. Chair, I don't believe that it's hard to sit in the back or the middle or steer the bus if you work with a team effort and everybody does their job, and certainly that is what's happening in this process.
The engineers are working with very much due diligence with me. But let me bring a comfort to the fact that we are working with Redfern Resources. I've met with Redfern Resources officials last fall, I believe it was, with the Minister of Economic Development, and we had discussions with the folks. They wanted to know if we would be committed to working and to developing the roads, so that we would not be impeding progress. We certainly said that we would be working in a fiscally responsible way to bring the road up to par, so that they might be able to bring their B-train vehicles along. As I said, they have a forecast of 12 loaded trucks on the haul route.
So right now my engineers, along with Redfern Resources folks, are discussing the issue, and they're working toward the development of a common report on selected options. They will be finishing that very soon in the near future and, when it is done, I will be more than happy to share the report.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it does sound like the minister is on the same bus as everyone else. I'm not sure where he's located on the bus, but it's interesting.
If I could just explore another potential capital project with the minister - it's the Yukon River bridge in Dawson City. A lot of the initial assessment has been completed. There is one study left to be done - an ice-effect study. What are the time lines for this study being completed within this fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Pertaining to the Dawson City - jeez, I just about said the Dawson City bridge, but there isn't a bridge in Dawson City - would-be bridge ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: ... or the wannabe bridge at Dawson City, there is work going along. As the member opposite knows, we are going through the environmental process and looking at the environmental process. At this point in time, though, a political decision has not been made as to the development or the building of any bridge in Dawson City.
The specific question was about the ice, and that is certainly something that I'll have to get back to the member opposite on to ensure that he does have the correct time frame, so that he will have an understanding of all of the process. I believe that answers the question. I will get the time frame back for the member on that last portion.
Mr. Jenkins: That's not the last portion. The last evaluation is a screening report that will have to be submitted to the Regional Environmental Review Committee - the RERC. What are the time lines for his department submitting this report to the RERC?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Time frames again, as I said - the question has been answered in the technical briefing, but certainly it was not answered with the time frames. It does say that an ice-effect study remains to be done, and I will certainly have to get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that we explored is the number of FTEs in the engineering branch in Community and Transportation Services. I know that a number of them are working for the federal government, or Public Works Canada, and I'm not sure if they're working in conjunction with the Province of British Columbia, but they're working on the Alaska Highway in northern B.C. How did this come to take place, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as all members are on the bus - and we're certainly all on the bus and in the driver's seat - look at what we have, and we feel very, very confident that we are going to be getting Shakwak materials and funding, certainly if not in the interim for this year, then certainly for next year. And we feel quite confident that we did not wish to lose any of our engineering staff, because the engineering staff have some very unique experiences on the Shakwak and certainly in the area in question in British Columbia. It is not that the B.C. government is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. We have put on loan, I guess you might say, the four engineers to be working with those folks in British Columbia on the federal portion of the highway.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, how did this occur, Mr. Chair? What provoked the secondment of engineering staff from the Government of the Yukon to Public Works Canada? How were they seconded? How was the process initiated, and what started the process? Did we just want to maintain our staffing levels and find additional work, and this came into focus? Or is this an initiative of the Government of the Yukon to go out and compete in the private sector for work of this nature?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, certainly not, Mr. Chair. It is not a provocation of any sort. It is wanting, with a great desire, not to lose a very good engineering staff, and certainly I think that is the full intent.
How were they seconded? I sat down with the department myself - I do on a regular basis - to look to the future to see how we can keep our people and, at the same time, work within the constraints of the budget, which we have, and, most importantly, to provide a very good service. Therein is the reasoning why we've moved forward in that direction.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, based on the size of the capital budget of this department, Mr. Chair, and the continuing decrease in the amount of funding flowing into capital projects, what staffing level does the minister eventually hope to retain within his department to meet the needs of the capital budget programs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, as we know, we cannot predict the capital budgets, and certainly I'm not even going to attempt to predict the capital budgets within the future. But again, certainly, I have a great desire, as I'm sure all folks support the Yukon government, and I'm sure everybody does, in some manner or other, to keep good quality people within the region, at least within our reach, so that we might be able to use them again further. As I've said, we feel quite confident that we're going to be having the Shakwak back up and the project going again. Certainly, these are the engineers that we will certainly need to be working on this.
Mr. Jenkins: How is the department determining the required staffing level? We've gone from a total capital budget down to what it is today. It's been reduced significantly, Mr. Chair, and yet the staffing levels have remained virtually the same.
Yes, we're not taking on the auxiliaries or casuals, and they've reduced the contracting out, and there are four engineers who have been seconded to the Government Services Canada for work on the B.C. section of the Alaska Highway.
So, what is going to drive the staffing level that the department is going to have in place, in light of the considerably reduced capital budget? How is that going to be determined, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, there is likely a formula of sorts that would come from engineering. I'll certainly make an inquiry within the department as to the normal ratio, but certainly including, if you will, the management, the administration, the planning, the geotechnical operations of engineering - it takes many people. But what I can say in answer to the member opposite is that, since 1994-95, the staffing has gone from 54 FTEs to a current level of 36.5 FTEs. So, certainly, it is a not a make-work project for any of the engineers. Certainly, there are the appropriate people to ensure that there is good quality work done for the appropriate projects.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, certainly, the minister can concur that, with this year's capital budget, 36.5 FTEs in that department is way more than would be required to engineer and administer the small amount of projects that we have underway.
Now, at what level are we going to settle for an engineering staff within the department, or are we just going to keep this going and hope that additional work materializes? Because, certainly, in light of this budget and the size of the budget in this current fiscal period, there is no justification for the staffing levels that are being maintained. I'm sure the minister can agree with that statement, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, absolutely not. I cannot agree with that statement, Mr. Chair, because I do believe that the department is doing a very good job in their efforts of continuing to lobby for Shakwak dollars and identifying different projects that would be appropriate for the development of the infrastructure of the Yukon and to keep the economy up and going. So, we do not believe that there are more engineers than required as you can certainly see that, within the last three years the FTEs have come down approximately by 18. Certainly, that shows that the department is using a very fiscally prudent administration formula - if there is such a thing - to ensure that the projects are done, that the planning is carried forth in a very thoughtful manner and that we are very flexible. I think that the proof is in - well, I've heard that the proof is in the pudding. I'm not quite sure what that means, but the secondment of four folks on the portion of British Columbia, on the federal highway portion, is a purely good example of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it sounds like we have engineers lobbying for the Shakwak project and doing everything but engineering because there's no engineering to be done. But it's the minister's department and he's going to have to stand up and defend it. I can't understand why he does not have a game plan in place as to where we're going and how we're going to get there. I think that is a disservice.
One of the other areas that we explored previously with the minister was the water and sewer delivery in the unorganized community and a uniform cost for the delivery of that service. It was the minister's position at that time that they were going to do a review of rural services and compile the necessary information.
Could the minister advise just where we are at with that review and when this information will be forthcoming?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Is the member opposite reflecting on the rural services policy? Yes, I thought so. Yes, as you know, this has not been done in the past and certainly there was much need for it to be done. We are looking at having this rural policy completed in 1998. I must say that the public reaction has been very favourable and definitely supportive of this process.
The Cabinet has recommended that the policy be developed for implementation in the 1999 property taxation year, and once we have all of the workings back in again, there will be a third and final round of public consultation on the draft policy once it is formulated.
I do believe that would answer the question, because all things are clicking and growing and certainly we want them to do a good job of the consulting with folks, but we'd definitely like to have it implemented for the '99 property taxation year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as the minister is aware, there is a different charge levied in virtually all of the communities for the delivery or provision of the services the Government of the Yukon provides - i.e. water and sewer - whether it be trucked water or septic field or trucked eduction service.
Is it the minister's intention to work toward a uniform cost for the provision of these services in the area that his department provides these services?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly that is the intent of the consultation. Certainly, when we have the consultation back, we will be looking at it. Certainly, as the member opposite is aware, different regions in rural Yukon suffer from different cost factors, et cetera and what not. In a situation as unique as Dawson City, it will be looked at in that light, and then Watson Lake will be looked at in a different light. The different communities and different municipalities will be looked at on a different basis, so that it would be for that area and not necessarily a blanket or a generic one. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: I was asking the minister about those unorganized communities, where the Government of Yukon provides these services. What are his intentions in these areas? The costs for the services presently provided by the Government of the Yukon vary considerably from community to community, irrespective of the cost that the Government of the Yukon is bearing for the provision of these services. They don't seem to relate back. There is not a percentage recovery of the total O&M cost or anything.
When are we going to be working toward a uniform recovery of these costs for the services the government provides? This is just unorganized areas, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is certainly the intent of the rural services policy, so that we might be able to look at every angle and every avenue and every service that is provided - whether it's unorganized or organized, for the services that are provided. Certainly, that is one of the issues that will arise from the consultation and one of the decisions that have to be made.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'll have to review what the minister said in Hansard tomorrow or in the next couple of days, and get back to the question on Monday, because that response was all over the wall.
If we could just explore with the minister the rural electrification and telephone program - the RETP - there are presently extensions planned. When does the government envision getting out from under the Northwestel monopoly in a number of these areas? When does the minister envision that this will take place?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm somewhat perplexed by the question. If it's an RETP question, I can answer it, but if it's under the monopoly, certainly I would say that, through the CRTC process, we all know in this House that there's a process defined under the CRTC and that we are working within that process.
And yes, I can speak to the RETP. Just today, the RETP was passed on its way through Cabinet and is working its way out now to the public, and I'm sure that people will be more than happy. If the member would like, I could certainly give a briefing as to what is contained within the RETP.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, knowing historically that the rural electrification and telephone program was a one-tiered process with a 75-percent approval rating.
At this point in time, we have a two-tiered process within the RETP. The first process is for the people that are desirous of the service to go out and get 65 percent of the folks to agree to it. When that happens, that triggers the second process, and the service provider would then come in and would give information as to the actual cost of the delivery of the service, and then it would go back for another vote of the folks, again at a level of 65 percent. Once that is done, then the folks would move forward with it. And, as the member opposite knows, we have incorporated $1,150,000 within the budget for it.
What we have now is a process, because certainly some folks will not be supportive of the process. Some people will just wish to have no services, I guess you might say, and what we have done is that we have made it five-year friendly - I guess if I could say it in that type of way. For the ones that do not wish to hook up, we can hold an abeyance for five years, and at that point in time, they do not have to pay; but up to that time, then they must start to pay for the service at that point in time.
So, it's two-tiered at 65 percent and 65 percent, and it's triggered. There could certainly be a proportion of folks that do not want it, which was very evident in the 75-percent approval rating, because folks just never got very much approval for that. It became quite stagnant. So, we consulted with folks and talked to folks, and there were a lot of folks that didn't want it at this point in time. They couldn't afford to be subjected to the cost, but I can assure the members opposite that it is still a full-cost recovery program and that it should be able to be accessed in a much more friendly way by the proponents of the users.
Mr. Jenkins: That response from the minister - if he could probably send over the document at his convenience - deserves a review before we can say whether it's a policy that we can concur with or not or whether it's going to be beneficial for Yukoners. This policy appears to bode well for fixed subscribers in a fixed location, but there are cells now that are coming up for replacement. I'm speaking of the 400 cell system that's obsolete, like in the Dawson City area. There are not enough consumers in that area who are fixed to justify the installation of an 800 cell. It'll probably take three or four 800 cells to cover the area for the same amount of coverage, but there are a lot of mobile customers.
Now, what is going to drive an initiative to replace those cells, or are we again at the mercy of Ma Bell, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, as the member opposite speaks about the 400 cell system, that is information I will have to get back to the member opposite. We will provide the information to the member as it is available. We'll move quickly and expeditiously to provide that.
Certainly we are working with the CRTC cost-of-hearing service, and we have worked with those folks on that. The CRTC again will be hosting a public consultation in Whitehorse on May 26, 1998, and I'm sure the member opposite knows that also. The member also knows that we, in our October 17 submission to the CRTC, stated that a priority of the Yukon government is to see service improved to the underserved and unserved areas of the Yukon, the importance of having universal and affordable access to quality telecommunications for all Yukon residents and organizations, and the need for Northwestel to undertake a program to extend service to presently underserved and unserved areas.
We also stated that the proper regulatory and financial incentives will have to be put in place to ensure that service providers see the benefit of extending and maintaining an equitable and affordable level of service to all folks.
We also talked about and asked for their support and the support of the CRTC for a telecommunication industry-developed national supporting fund.
So, as the member opposite can certainly see, we've been working to provide better telecommunication services with Northwestel and through the CRTC.
Mr. Jenkins: I know our area, the Klondike area, comes under a classification that does not qualify as being underserved. There is the Cell 400 and the Ruraltel. Mind you, Northwestel won't take on any more subscribers on the Ruraltel system and the 400 system is obsolete, but it's still served. It's not underserved. So, this area would certainly fall through the cracks.
What initiative is this government taking to address the specific requirement for an upgrade from a 400 system to an 800 cell phone system in these areas? It's not just Dawson City alone, Mr. Chair. There are a lot of other areas that originally had the 400 cell installed but "she" doesn't work very well much longer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, we are representing all folks, not just the folks that are in the unserved or underserved areas.
Certainly, we want folks to be able to have good telecommunications wherever they are within the Yukon Territory, and that certainly has to come to some type of a qualifier. But, in the area that the member is speaking of and the other areas that the member is alluding to, we are going to be working so that we might be able to give, through the CRTC, direction to the providers, if I may, for a good quality service to ensure that all service in the Yukon is of a good calibre. The nature of the process is not to leave folks out, but to get improved quality service.
So, as I said, I will get back to the member opposite with more information, but I believe that the member can take comfort in the fact that we are representing all Yukoners, so that they might be able to have good telephone service.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the government have a policy in this regard as to what their position is on the provision of the 800 cell system in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, not as such, as a policy. As to this, certainly, we have direction, which I have just been speaking about, and we would like to ensure that, through the CRTC, we do have the initiative and the desire to bring quality telephone service to folks wherever they are. I must say that, working with the Northwestel folks, they are showing a desire to work with us on the same basis, so that we might be able to provide a good service to all folks of the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister has indicated that there is no government policy in this area. Is the minister prepared to bring forward a policy? Really, this is an issue that comes under the domain of the responsibilities of government to provide that necessary infrastructure on which an area is developed. One is transportation and the second leg of the tripod is communications. Communications are not adequate in a lot of Yukon.
We have addressed a lot of the fixed installations, and I will agree with the minister, also, that there has been a marked improvement in Northwestel's attitude toward the provision of service. But, I think it comes about as a consequence of the recognition that there's competition; that it's coming and that they have to be prepared for it. It still leaves out a lot of rural Yukon. The peripherals of Whitehorse will be well-serviced, but rural Yukon will still be on the old 400 cell phone Ruraltel system. Based on what has been advanced in the government's position paper to date, there doesn't appear to be enough justification to install the 800 cell system.
Will the minister undertake to bring forward a policy for these other areas remote from the peripherals of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly hope that the member will take comfort in the fact that we are going to be working and have been working with the service providers.
We are going to continue to work with the proponents and on behalf of the people of the Yukon Territory, no matter where they live in the Yukon Territory. Certainly, rural Yukon is very much near and dear to my heart and to the heart of government here, because we certainly wish to work on behalf of all Yukoners.
Now, I'm not so sure if it has to be reflected through a policy, but, through a statement, this government can rest assured at this point in time that I'm giving a statement that this government will work on behalf of all Yukoners to provide a good telecommunications service that is an equitable service, that is a quality service no matter where you live. Now, that has to be within reason, because I know that in some situations it is very, very expensive, but the government is certainly fostering the arena, or the template, if I could, to encourage that all people have a telephone.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if you extrapolate on that proposition that the minister just advanced, we'll all be driving around or sitting with an M-SAT on the top of our house in rural Yukon.
The other area of concern is that Northwestel has opted out of TV distribution in a lot of the communities that they indicated initially that they were going to have a presence in, and they were going to go to have cable and they were going to be all things to all people. They've abandoned that position. A lot of these smaller communities are unorganized communities. The provider of the television service is the Government of Yukon. What role will the Government of Yukon be taking in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Television service in the areas was going to be provided by Northwestel - they were going to cable a series of communities throughout the Yukon. They've now abandoned their position. That service has been, in the past, provided to a limited extent by the Government of Yukon. What changes are anticipated by the government and are they exploring other avenues of delivering this service, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we are not looking to certainly fill the gap. Certainly, I don't have one; certainly, I'm desirous of one, but the TV distribution and the provision of putting television into homes now is so much cheaper and more efficient than what it was just simply a year or even maybe two years ago - but I can certainly just a year ago. So it is very competitively priced. It's in the private market at this point in time, and it is competitively priced, and that's where it will stay at this time. So certainly YTG is not considering moving any further in that direction.
Mr. Jenkins: Presently C&TS does provide television to a lot of communities in Yukon, to a lot of areas, as well as to a lot of their own highway maintenance camps. Is there going to be any change in what the government is doing in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I'm not so sure as to what the member is asking, to tell you very much the truth, but certainly I will reiterate that, based on the number of priced direct-to-home satellite options that are available, the territorial government is not going to be filling a gap, as the Northwestel pulls out of it in their service.
Mr. Jenkins: Will the Government of Yukon be maintaining the same number of radio and television installations and rebroadcasting facilities as they presently operate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly that is a question that I do not have at my fingertips here, but I'll certainly get back with details to the member opposite and provide the information.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other services that the Government of the Yukon provides is the mosquito-control program, and I notice considerable capital outlay for this period. I don't want to get into a long and prolonged debate with the minister on this topic. I'd just like him to advise the House where his department is heading by having full-time staffing people in place to not only oversee this program but to operate this program and to acquire more equipment to operate this program.
A lot of it is being contracted out. These individuals come in, undertake the mosquito control program and leave. What direction is the government heading in, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I appreciate the efforts of the member opposite to understand and not to deliberate the debate as it was in the past.
But certainly, based on last year's experience, I can say that - well, if I could just re-direct you from the briefing note, it might be much simpler for me, certainly - the 1996 program cost for the communities that participated in both the 1996 and 1997 programs was $72,500; and the 1997 in-house cost was $54,600. And we showed a substantial savings of $17,900. Now, tender prices for 1997 far exceeded the allocated budget, resulting in the request for proposals being withdrawn and the program being conducted in house with available staff. We utilized the materials that were purchase directly from the factory.
The 1997 program was judged as a success by all participants, and the cost-savings comparison of in-house versus using the other programs were very apparent early in the program. So, costs of purchases were lower in 1997-98 than in previous years, as well as less pesticide being required.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister factoring in the cost of the staff and the maintenance of the staff in the undertaking of these projects? Because that certainly doesn't appear to add up. There is probably one or one-and-a-half FTEs there needed or required to undertake the program at an annual salary of some amount, when that is factored in, or are we just taking the actual days that the individual works on this undertaking? When I hear the numbers that the minister is advancing in the House here, they just don't make any sense when you look at having one individual full time for a year overseeing the project in place and then just being utilized for several weeks of the year on this undertaking, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I do believe it's all-inclusive. That is not information I have at my fingertips but, certainly, I will get that information and make sure that the information I provide to the members of the House is very accurate, with the cost reflection to be accurate for what it does take to provide the mosquito control program. So, I will endeavour to get back to the member opposite with that information.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could the minister also confirm that the larvicide for this next operating season has been purchased directly from the manufacturer? There's only one manufacturer, and that's Abbott Laboratories. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Sorry, I did not get the name of the company. Could he repeat the name of the company the next time he is on his feet? I will have to get that information back to him as to whether or not it has been started at this point in time. I'd appreciate the name of the company that you spoke of, please.
Mr. Jenkins: Abbott is the manufacturer, but I'm sure that the minister and his officials would have to work through their agent or their supplier.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we will get the information back to the member opposite as to whether or not it has been ordered and whether that is the person we are ordering from. Yes, I will get that information.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm also looking for the minister to provide a cost breakdown on the program, with the labour component specifically spelled out because, from the numbers advanced in the House as to the program and the extensiveness of the program, I can't believe that we're undertaking the program for the money that has been stated here, Mr. Chair. So, will the minister undertake to provide, by way of legislative return, an overview of this area, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will endeavour to get back by way of legislative return as to if there is a cost, if the labour has been included within the costs. Certainly, I will do that. Certainly, I take comfort from the numbers that I've provided to the House and I will reiterate those numbers again.
So, two things that the member opposite wants are the labour component to ensure that the labour component is part of the numbers. I will certainly provide the labour component numbers to the member opposite. I'm not so sure if, as the member opposite has stated, it's 1.5 FTEs, but certainly we'll get the FTE breakdown as provided.
Also, I will get, by way of legislative return, if the member likes, the manufacturer and whether or not the pesticide has been ordered. Certainly, I will do that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore with the minister one of the other areas that is coming into focus very, very quickly. Could the minister outline what his department is doing to deal with the computer glitches that may or may not arise in the year 2000?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can certainly get information. I do not have information at my fingertips on the provisions of the computer glitches for the year 2000, but I do know, as a part of ongoing process, that we are working toward coming over that hurdle.
Mrs. Edelman: Along the same line, the Minister of Government Services is here, and I wonder if he can shed some light on that particular issue, about what happens in the year 2000 with the computers.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: They crash. No, that's a rather brief and facetious answer.
ISB is coordinating an overall strategy for the government. All of the hardware that we're buying, all of the programs that we're buying now, are required to be year 2000, I guess, compatible, or free of the inherent problems. However, the individual departments are responsible for the upgrades of their own systems. Some departments are along further than others. Quite obviously, ISB, having responsibility for the overall information systems and mainframes, is well-along. We've covered off the needs for our own mainframe system, our own overall programming needs. Justice is along fairly substantially. Other departments are at a lesser point, but ISB is still propelling the various information systems users to be prepared for this and to be able to factor this into their budgets.
I can provide probably some staggering amounts of detail, if the member would like me to go and get my book on this.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hope that the minister will have mercy on us and give us that information perhaps in a legislative return. It's a very interesting issue and I think it's important, but I just need to have the one detail worked out. The mainframe is the same mainframe that everybody uses and that's the one that we don't have to worry about then. Okay, and the minister has indicated that is not an issue.
I need to go back to one of the issues that the Member for Klondike brought up and that's about the section on the Alaska Highway, just south of the border of Yukon where four people from the C&TS have been seconded to DPW and they're doing in-house work on that area.
Now there are a number of different projects in northern B.C. on the Alaska Highway and some of them are private sector. They were tendered out and they're being done by the private sector. Why was this section not private sectored and why are people from the Yukon government working on it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, let me say that - if I could then - in accordance with section 15 of the 1992 engineering services agreement, 03.31, between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon, the Government of Yukon will provide staff and services to Public Works, Government Services Canada and several projects of the B.C. portion of the Alaska Highway in the 1998 construction season.
I could go on into a bit more detail, if she'd like, of some of the actual areas of construction. Certainly, on highway construction of kilometre 906 to 922, Alaska Highway inspection quantity control on the highway construction project and that's near Iron Creek. There are bridge deck repairs, rock scaling and trimming inspection. Again, inspection and supervision on the bridge deck repair project and rock scaling and trimming projects.
Asphalt testing, as in the past, C&TS will continue to provide asphalt testing services and technical services to Public Works and GSC in support of their BST program on the B.C. portion of the Alaska Highway.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you for the detail, Mr. Chair. And, I suppose I'm still not really clear. Now, this is an agreement obviously that has been around for a while - that we would be sending people from the Yukon government to work on that portion of the highway with DPW, but there are portions that are being worked on very close to the border where it has all been tendered out to the private sector. Now, many engineering firms and road-construction firms in the Yukon are suffering mightily from the lack of capital projects in the Yukon. And I suppose what my concern is is that we are taking work away from people by sending our engineers down there, and I wonder if the minister can give us some sort of indication or reason why we're doing it instead of the private sector.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, it seemed, as it states here, that this initiative is a positive development for employment in the Yukon in general, and for the Government of Yukon employees, in particular, since it will be providing information across.
I can speak a little bit about the year 2000 computers issue in a moment.
But certainly, like I said about the engineering services agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon, I can provide a briefing for both members of the opposition if you'd prefer to have a briefing on that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I don't have the information at my hands here, so, certainly, I will provide the information when the information is available.
Mrs. Edelman: As long as we do get that information, that would be much appreciated, Mr. Chair.
I understand now that the minister has some detailed information about the year 2000 issue and the computers in C&TS.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. C&TS is working with Government Services, from a corporate point of view, and C&TS has definite plans outlined and funding requirements determined with respect to the departmental assistance to deal with the year 2000 problems.
Mr. Jenkins: Wow, that's what the question was. How are we dealing with the problems? Where are we? What stage of the game are we at with respect to the potential computer glitches for the year 2000 within the minister's department? I know that Government Services is the lead agency, and I understand where that department is at. What I'm concerned about is that each department has responsibility for its own domain.
So, it's under the minister's umbrella as to the responsibility. I'm looking to find out where the department is at, what stage they're at and how much further they have to go. Have they done any preliminary testing? I'm sure some parts of the department are more advanced than others, but just where is the department at in terms of being compatible with the change of the millennium?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The department does have a definite plan and we will be able to provide the plan to the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: So, this is another legislative return? The minister will be providing a legislative return on where the department is at with respect to potential computer problems and the programming changes that are envisioned by his department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I will provide the information to the member opposite. If the member opposite prefers a legislative return, it will be in the form of a legislative return. But, the member opposite will get the information.
Mrs. Edelman: Just briefly, the CRTC hearings about servicing high-cost serving areas, of which the Yukon is basically a high-cost serving area - those hearings are coming up very shortly. Next month, I believe.
I wonder if we could have a copy of the presentation that the minister's going to be providing at those hearings.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I will be making a submission. Upon completion of the submission, we will be more than willing and able to provide a copy of that submission to the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the area of submissions, the NavCanada submission, made by the Government of Yukon on behalf of the Yukon, which, I might comment, was extremely well done in my opinion - I just would like to know where we're at in terms of followup to that submission.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank and will pass on to the department the good words from the member opposite. It is certainly encouraging. Yes, we're carefully monitoring the process of the study with the air carrier and the users in determining the potential impact, and will continue to work with the NC officials.
As we know, the process is carrying on, and we're working closely with people in the industry, and consultation with the stakeholders is taking place now. Again, the recommendations from the study will be presented to the board for approval some time this summer, but we will continue to work in a very professional manner with them and continue to seek advice and direction from the industry and the stakeholders, and continue to do the job that we've been doing.
So thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure that the minister is aware that a major component of the review was a cost saving by decommissioning the tower at the Whitehorse airport, and I'm sure the minister is aware of the repercussions of that. A lot of the international carriers that have been recently attracted to arrive in Whitehorse, should the tower be eliminated and the FSS station be eliminated, and it be downgraded to an FIC, or potentially a CAR station, these carriers will not land. So has that information been made available to NavCanada and made abundantly clear as to the impact it will have on our visitor industry, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it certainly will have negative impacts, and that is being conveyed now. We've been having discussions with the department, and the department is working to ensure that carriers are notified, and certainly that NavCanada is notified as to the direction where the Yukon territorial government is going with the airport and attracting folks. We're not looking to have one take from the other, and certainly we're looking for the cooperation of NavCan, although they certainly have given us no assurances on it, but we're certainly working stringently to ensure that we do have a flight tower, so that we will not have anything impede the direction that we're going with the airlines.
Mr. Jenkins: On the same study, Mr. Chair, there's also the issue of expanding the hours of the CARS operations in rural Yukon that have a high volume of movement during the summer months. Is anything going to happen in this regard? Is the minister going to be extending the hours of operation of Watson Lake, Dawson and perhaps even Burwash, where the CAR stations exist and have the movements to justify the extension of hours in the spring and fall?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, NavCan and the territorial government are currently negotiating a new contract to replace the old MOA that was in 1989, and we are seeking the additional funding and a schedule of flexibility to meet with local user needs. So, certainly, that's happening right now. It's in process right now and we're certainly working so that we can have the flexibility for the hours as desired, I'm sure, by the aviation industry - or the users if I may.
Mr. Jenkins: But it's not just a local need. These are transient individuals moving in and out, and a lot of them are originating out of the Lower 48 and following the Alaska Highway through into Alaska and following the highway routes in the Yukon. So, there is a requirement for extended hours of CARS at a number of our stations, especially in the spring and fall, and I'm seeking an undertaking from the minister today to fully explore and to provide the additional funds necessary to keep the CAR stations open and extending the hours, based on the justification of the flight movements.
Is the minister prepared to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I've said, we are working with NavCan and we're certainly, at this point in time, negotiating a new contract. I will get a briefing from my department and will be able to report further to the House, but I think that we are working with the users, the stakeholders, and will continue to work so. I thank the member opposite for the information as to the folks that are doing the travelling, whether they're from the Lower 48 or whatnot, and we'll certainly incorporate those thoughts and issues into the negotiation process.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, and this is getting repetitious, we're not getting the answers. These are questions about which the minister should have a firm handle and a firm understanding. It is probably very prudent at this juncture to obtain the services of his deputy minister and have him in the House alongside the minister to provide some of these answers in a more timely fashion. The minister should know a lot of these responses, and the minister is just skirting around the periphery, is speaking in very general terms and is not answering the questions.
I'm looking for more assurances than just a whole series of legislative returns that are going to be very costly in man time for the department to produce. Could the minister bring his deputy minister into the House to assist him in answering these questions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that if we all do our job and we do it in a forthright manner, we can get along and show Yukoners that we can get along and that we're here to work on behalf of the people of the Yukon.
I have answered the question as was expected of me. I will not take offence, because I'm beyond taking offence from the member of the official opposition, but I would like to say that I am here to represent the people at the level that I'm at and I am doing that job.
My department is working with the folks at their level and doing their job. I have stated that NavCan and the territorial government are currently negotiating a new contract to replace the Yukon CARS MOA that was established in 1989. We're seeking additional funding and we're seeking scheduling flexibility to meet the needs. Therein lies the answer, and the member opposite should be more than satisfied with that answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're getting part of the answer, but we could have a lot more of the information here if the minister was doing his job. I am very disappointed.
Given the recent announcement of the closure of the weather office here at the airport and that we are going to be losing the satellite images that add a lot to the ability to diagnose weather systems, what's the backup program that the minister's department is going to be following to encourage the federal government to live up to their responsibilities to perform adequate weather forecasting here in the Yukon. A lot of our systems are quite localized. They move in very quickly; they move out very quickly. When you're sitting in an area 1,000 miles to the south, it's going to be very, very difficult to forecast what's going on, especially when the movement to automated weather reporting systems in a lot of areas has proven to be quite unreliable.
So, what's the government going to do in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct. The Yukon weather centre is going to be closed on April 1, 1998, and that's just around the corner. Services then will be provided by the Mountain Weather Services office in Kelowna and that's in British Columbia, as we all know. Now, we're going to be carefully monitoring the impact on the users to ensure that the service delivery and the accuracy of its Yukon weather forecast products are not degraded. I might say that forecasts for the Northwest Territories have been produced in Edmonton for over 25 years, and certainly it seems to work for them.
Now, as I have said, the data is disseminated in the Yukon by the Whitehorse flight service station and the eight CARS sites that we have around the territory, and we're seeing that the closure should have no impact on the availability or the timeliness of the aviation forecasts. If I might add, it seems that folks who have been consulted are certainly apathetic about it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm looking at the totality of what is probably going to happen here in the Yukon unless the government takes immediate action. We have the weather forecasting office moving out. We have a potential closure of the tower at the Whitehorse Airport. We have the flight service specialists downgraded to a lower level, which will not permit a lot of international carriers. Their own rules and regulations require that they have a tower to deal with and that they be in direct contact with ATC, the air traffic control centre, which is in Edmonton and it's relayed through the Whitehorse tower.
So, there are a lot of issues on the table here, not just a little bit of weather reporting and downgrading and a little bit of cost saving at the tower in Whitehorse. It's going to affect the whole transportation system in the Yukon and it has the potential to seriously remove any efforts the Department of Tourism has undertaken to attract international charter carriers into Whitehorse.
So it's of paramount importance that this government have a very, very strong lobbying effort on NavCanada to ensure that we continue to have a lot of these facilities in place.
Now, the other side of the equation is the cost. NavCanada is going to full cost recovery of the operations of their systems. Now, the Government of Yukon was very mute in their presentation to NavCanada on that area. I haven't seen any documentation on the government's submission.
What is the government's position on the user fees being charged and proposed, and the phasing in of them, for Yukoners and aircraft movement here in Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, there's some what-if or hypotheticalism certainly there. As I've stated quite candidly and correctly, my department is working with the users. Now I know we've gone from the Yukon weather centre proposed closure, if I can speak to that for a moment. We did not support that. It is a federal government initiative, and the federal government, in its wisdom, has seen to do that. Now certainly that's not something that we supported, because we certainly realize the goodness of it.
But certainly, again, cost savings, et cetera - it's their prerogative, and they are working with it. So we have, as I have said, been working with them, looking at it, to ensure that there is a quality service, and there is a quality service in working with the industry and the stakeholders to ensure that what happens will happen in a good manner, and not at the expense of tourism, or not at the expense of safety, or anything like the such.
Now the member opposite went over again to the NavCanada and, as I've said, we have been working with NavCanada. We're negotiating a new contract on the CARS situation - the MOA of CARS. They're looking to reduce the designated services. We're carefully monitoring the progress of the study, and we're doing it with the air carriers and the users to determine the potential impact on them and the public.
What are our primary objectives? Well, our primary objectives are the user agreement and the safety. I do believe that the member opposite should take comfort in the fact that we are doing this. We're certainly working with due diligence and will continue to work with due diligence so that we can continue to have a responsible service here provided in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm going to have to review Hansard once again to see what the minister actually said and digest that, because boy, that was all over the wall.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I was asking the minister about fees. The Government of Yukon's presentation to NavCanada avoided the issue of user fees, and they're apparently at a very high cost. What is the position of the Government of Yukon with respect to the fees being proposed by NavCanada and being phased in as we speak, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the fees, predominantly, I'd have to get back to the member opposite. Again, the information is not at my fingertips, and it is certainly not even at my deputy minister's fingertips. But certainly, they're within the department - but I can reiterate again, if I might, that we are carefully monitoring this process. We are working with the air carriers and the users to determine the potential impact on them, and we will continue to do so. Again, I reiterate that safety and the user agreements are a primary objective. Certainly, therein lies the answers for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record show that the minister once again doesn't know the answer, won't bring his deputy minister in to help him find the answers or provide him with the answers, and we're left with another legislative return, which is going to be very time-consuming for the department and his officials.
So, I don't know why the minister doesn't know the answer. It's part of his job. He should, but he doesn't. The user fees are very important to the aviation industry, and they are a very big bone of contention. What is the government's position? Is the minister going to bring back a legislative return on the government's position as to how these fees are? You know, he went on in some big dialogue as to safety in the skies. Well, if the fees are so high, the skies will be very safe because no one will be flying.
So just what is the government's position? Is it the minister's intention to bring back a legislative return on this subject matter once again, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly not, Mr. Chair, because I do believe the question has been answered, although certainly the question, when it's answered, will be asked again and again and again. I mean, that's just the nature of the gentleman from Klondike. We're used to it, I'm used to it, and certainly we'll continue to work with it.
But I can say that NavCan is looking, the member opposite is absolutely correct, to reduce their fees and to continue with it.
What is the role of the territorial government? The role of the territorial government, on behalf and with the air carriers and their users - the stakeholders - is to determine and monitor the progress, and that is exactly what we're doing.
Now, if the member wants a specific answer on what will the fees be, when the process is done and complete, the member will get that information.
Is it going to be done by way of a legislative return? Likely not, but the member will certainly get his information when the information is available.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I really don't want to get the minister all riled. He's starting to make some misstatements. NavCanada is not looking to reduce fees, for the benefit of the House. NavCanada is looking to increase fees. They're looking to increase fees to go to full cost recovery for the operations of the system they're responsible for. The cost of the services was a major bone of contention with all of the operators I've spoken with and at the meeting that was held between NavCanada and a number of the Yukon operators.
Now, I'm sure that the government has formulated some sort of a policy as to what they're going to do in this area, but all the minister says is, "We're going to monitor it."
Now, the fees are very critical to the costs that we are going to incur for air service here in the Yukon. They are a component, and they are certainly a major component when we look at flying within the Yukon.
Has the government even considered a position with respect to the fees that are being proposed by NavCan and being implemented and phased in?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the department's view is that any proposed fee should be shown to be both fair and affordable, and should consider reductions in federal fuel taxes being paid by the air carriers. There's also some types of air traffic that should be exempt from fees or have very nominal fees and, by way of example, they are small planes, air ambulances, forest fire fighting aircraft, et cetera.
Departments are paying very close attention to this issue and are working closely with the local air industry, as I've said, and the Northern Air Transportation Association, on the effects of the NavCan fee proposal. We've had many representatives at the March 2 meeting that was held by NavCan, and we will continue to monitor work with the process.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm very pleased that the minister finally found that section of his briefing notes and was able to respond. Perhaps with the assistance of his deputy minister, he could have found that component of his briefing notes a lot quicker, a lot faster, and we wouldn't have been here pulling hens' teeth for as long as we have.
If we could just explore somewhat further any plans that the government would have with airports throughout the Yukon - all of the airports that the department is responsible for - is there anything abnormal or are there any changes anticipated on any of the major strips? I'm aware of some development along the aprons in Dawson, and in some other airports there are minor changes, but apart from that, are there any other changes anticipated within the department and this forthcoming fiscal period, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, just to address the preamble of the member opposite, certainly they should be just slightly more focused because I can remember - now, what is it, the one, two, three, four budgetary sessions that I have been in starting back as early as in the fall time of 1996 - where I was by myself working with it and the next time the ex-government leader of the day stated that I should have my deputy minister and I must say he did it in a very gentle and friendly way.
The next time I brought one, I was called "stupid." I was called "ignorant", and so I am used to the reaction of the rubber-band effect of the mentality of the member opposite, so that he might be able to bash me. Well, I can take the bashing, and I will certainly say again that people have come to expect that.
Now, to the question, if you will - as we get into the line-by-line items, I will be more than happy to -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Point of order, Mr. Chair. You know, the language coming from the minister - "stupid" and that - has never been stated by this side of the House, and it's totally not within the keeping of this House, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: I would like to remind members to keep their remarks parliamentary.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much.
Yes, Mr. Chair. As we get into the line-by-line debate, I would be more than happy to reiterate what we are going to be doing, what we will be working with in the capital budget process and what we will be doing within the airports.
Mr. Jenkins: Just looking, in general terms - policy changes, anything of a major initiative, that is forthcoming within his department with respect to airports - is there anything in this area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Policy changes are not necessarily anticipated outside of the regular processes we've been talking about. Certainly, as the member opposite is aware of the capital expenditures that we are going to be moving on, or the expenditures that we are going to be using and doing forthright, are in the budget. Generally, as he said, and as I said in the budget speech, we're working toward the Dawson improvements, the Whitehorse improvements. Certainly, those are two examples.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I just explore with the minister EMO capital expenditures. number of years ago the federal government funded a lot of capital acquisitions for emergency equipment throughout Yukon - suburbans, boats, motors, and a lot of other sundry equipment. The responsibility for their maintenance, upgrade and replacement appears now to have fallen upon the shoulders of the Yukon government.
Could the minister just provide a brief overview as to how this program is working? There are a lot of areas that need added equipment, like Teslin Lake - an adequate boat. How is the program working and what kind of additional costs does his department officials anticipate incurring over the next few years to replace equipment that was originally purchased and is either falling into disrepair or just being time-expired, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As for the reference to Teslin Lake, there is a satisfactory vehicle with the EMO on the lake there, within the hands of the EMO at that place. Certainly, as the member opposite knows through the technical briefing, EMO owns and pays for the O&M on the assets that are housed with the search and rescue teams in the communities. These are the suburbans, the boats, the trailers, the generators. The equipment is used, as the member knows, only for the training aspects and for actual responses. Therefore, the trucks don't get a heck of a lot of kilometres on them and their life expectancy is expected to be up to 20 years.
So I'd like to say at this point in time the suburbans, a lot of them, have fewer than 20 kilometres, the boats have fewer than 100 hours on them, the people that they're in the hands of are doing good work with them. They're not being used. Certainly, if they're damaged during a response, well then the cost of repair may be eligible for cost-recovery under the JEP program. When the units start to play out in time, we'll have to look at methods of replacement. That type of equipment, again, will be cost shared with the federal government.
Deputy Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call the House to order.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have a question about the layoffs in the C&TS this year. Both critics took part in a very good briefing with C&TS - and I just want to say, by the way, that the briefings from C&TS are the best out of all the departments, and I think I mentioned that last year as well.
Mr. Chair, one of the things that we asked about in the briefing was the number of people who are going to be called back this summer to work. It was our understanding that the indeterminate staff will be kept at the same level but that there will not be any casuals called back or any auxiliaries called back. What are the numbers we are talking about - people who are not going to be called back this year? How many auxiliaries and casuals were called back last year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I do believe that we are going to be having approximately the same. I just got a piece of information that has come back, and I can say that 143 auxiliaries and 48 casuals were recalled from April 1, 1997, to March 17, 1998.
The number of auxiliaries that is to be called is not expected to change significantly. As far as the casual supplement auxiliary and permanent workforce, the number of individuals we hire as casuals may not change substantially either. I know that was a question that was asked, and if you do not have that information, I will certainly get that information provided right away.
So, the 143 auxiliaries and 48 casuals are not expected to change significantly.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there seems to be an information problem here. The understanding that we have - and this is in black and white from the department - is that there will be fewer auxiliary employees and no casuals called back, due to the reduced amount of work. So, I think I need clarification. No, I know I need clarification on that issue.
One of the problems - or, not one of the problems, but one of the issues - that continues to be brought up in the House over and over and over again is the fact that the level of block funding to municipalities in the Yukon has not changed. I think this is the twelfth year that block funding will stay at the same level. One of the things that has happened over the years is that the community development fund has come and gone and there has been a number of projects that have been built and constructed in various Yukon communities. What happens with these projects is that they are built and then there's not enough money for operation and maintenance dollars.
Municipalities and First Nations end up with these basic white elephants all over the Yukon Territory. The Elsa curling rink, of course, is the classic example.
Is there any movement on this front? Is there any possibility that block funding to municipalities is going to increase?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We've made a very conscious effort to maintain the spending that we've had for our communities. So, in spite of a decline in revenues and what not, we've made a very conscientious effort to maintain the funding as is for the communities, and we will continue to do so.
We wish to work with the communities in a continuing fashion, and certainly in an evolution type of mode, and we certainly will always be striving to maintain the funding. But, for me to stand here and say that they're going to get an incremental increase would not be a truth to any, but I will continue to maintain, if I may, this as a fiscal attitude, if I could. If the fiscal responsibility changes, then certainly that would be one of the issues that we would be looking at.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, all governments in Canada are facing diminishing dollars, but there's only one taxpayer in Canada, and it makes sense that we be very, very prudent with our money. What ends up happening when you're in junior-level government - and having served on that level for a number of years, I can tell you that you end up being the final dumping spot. Inevitably the government that's above you blames somebody else instead of setting the priority for the people of your area.
I suppose the thing that most disturbs me about that is their line of reasoning, and that is if you are government and if you have a great deal of money - and this government has a great deal of money, $430 million, to spend - then you have the ability and the right and the responsibility to set priorities for the money that you do have.
Municipalities have had their block funding frozen for the last 12 years, and I had expected that when the NDP government took over that there would be an increase in that funding because they listen to the people and they understand that people just can't pay any more. What's going to have to happen on the municipal level is if the block funding continues to be frozen, then the cost to people and their homes is going to go up considerably.
That is a sort of bullying, in a lot of ways. All I want to know is whether there is going to be any sort of consideration given to increasing block funding. Everything else in the world has gone up in price. I mean, inflation alone over the last 12 years has been outrageous and I think it's really important. The monies that municipalities have to borrow - certainly, lending rates are down now but years ago it certainly cost them a lot more to have money, and they're still paying it off and they're paying off that interest. And it goes on and on and on and on. Municipalities have a great deal of responsibility and, because we are the primary funding agency, we have that responsibility as well.
Please, can the minister at least consider it, look at it, in consultation of course with the Association of Yukon Communities, and look at what might be an acceptable level of funding for Yukon municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly can relate to the plight and the very good case that the member opposite makes on behalf of the communities. I would just like to reiterate that it's been somewhat of a struggle to maintain the block funding but certainly we have, and we've done it with a very conscious effort.
I would also like to say that I will be working with them and I would never maintain that any expectations would be placed on a municipality without full consultation and discussion among us. I believe you used the word "a dumping ground" - I'm never going to be looking just to dump or devolve without some type of adequate resourcing or something. Now, does that mean that there's give and take? Certainly, it's a negotiation process, so I will offer that conciliation - I guess that might be the word, I'm not sure - but a comfort level to them.
As the member knows, we are working through the Municipal Act, and contained within the Municipal Act are going to be certain provisions that will allow them to generate and to exercise a little bit more authority, I guess, if I could say it in that way, or added flexibility certainly, to undertake some variety of investment options, et cetera, and economic development and business opportunities so that they might be able to enhance their revenue-generating operation.
So, it's a process that I'm working with them on, and I don't want it to be at the detriment of other industries or anything. I do believe that we have a very comfortable working relationship with the Association of Yukon Communities. The chair and I meet on a regular basis and we do discuss these types of issues, so I certainly understand where they're coming from. I certainly understand where your heart lies. And if I could say for both sides of the House that our hearts do lie in the same place. As we evolve through these changing times, we will continue to work very closely with the communities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hope that that wasn't just a crumb. This is a very, very serious issue. Every other funding arrangement that this government has with an agency has some sort of cost-of-living increase added into the factors. And I remember what it was like on the municipal level without block funding, and it was pretty grim having to come to the government all the time begging for money, and, you know, sometimes you got it, depending on the political whim, and sometimes you didn't. And it was absolutely ludicrous. Certainly, the block funding allowed a certain level of respect from the senior government down to the junior government, and I hope that that continues, and I also hope it is without opening the block funding arrangements because it took a long time to get to that point - although with Faro going down, we're going to have to do that anyway. I think that it's important that we look again at block funding and factor in the idea of a cost-of-living increase.
Now, the residents of Ibex Valley have raised a number of issues with me, and I wrote a letter to the minister, and that letter hasn't been responded to, so I'll bring it up again. Apparently, there has been a problem with people having meetings at the firehall out at Ibex Valley, and the level of communications has deteriorated to such a point that the last council meeting was held in one of the councillor's vans. Of course, this is quite sad, because I remember being on the municipal council one year in Whitehorse, and remembering what the Ibex Valley council was like trying to lobby for that firehall. So, it's very strange to find out that they aren't even allowed to use the firehall, which is the only public building in that area, in order to hold their council meetings. And I wonder if the minister can shed a little light on that particular issue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I understand that there has been an ongoing problem, and the department has been working with the folks for some time. As to the question of the letter, well, we'll certainly check into that and make sure the letter is appropriately responded to.
It's something - well, I'm not sure if it's people driven, or however it's driven - we must all endeavour to get along. Let me give to you what I have in my briefing notes, so it might bring folks some comfort.
I do believe that it started with the janitorial contract. Selection was based on a criteria that was developed by the society in the hamlet council. The lowest bidder was chosen, and the lowest bidder just happened to be a teenager who was still in school. So you have to admire the entrepreneurial type of spirit that the teenager showed.
After the selection was made, the council then raised the concern that the age and maturity level of the individual would impede their ability to do the job without supervision. I know the department talked with them, and the hamlet council then backed out of their agreement to share the cost of janitorial services.
Then the fire department subsequently sent a letter saying they were no longer welcome to use the firehall for their meetings, and they went and changed the locks on their door. So the public safety branch is in contact with both parties and is making best efforts to have them solve the problem.
If there is no resolution by the end of March, which is coming up in just a few short days, the public safety branch is recommending that we have a mediation route so we can bring folks back together, so folks can cooperate and practice good governance and also practice protection of the firehall, et cetera.
We're going to be continuing to work with it, and hopefully it'll come to a very successful resolution of the issue.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think we can all agree that - those of us who served on the municipal level - municipal government is always most interesting.
The rural services policy - one of the things that I brought up with the minister in the past is the issue of regional government. We really haven't had much of a discussion about that in this House. If you're looking at the way in which rural services are offered, then you have to be looking at a regional type of government at some point in the future and regional government has become very common in very rural areas, particularly in northern Alberta and in northern Saskatchewan.
What I'm wondering about now is whether the minister can tell me a bit more about any thoughts that he's had on regional government or any sort of discussions that happened previous to our last time discussing this, which was, I believe, in the spring of last year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well certainly it's an issue that is contained and defined within the umbrella final agreement. Sorry, I used to have those chapters and everything right on the top of my head, but I don't have it now, but there are provisions that allow First Nations and communities that are adjacent to First Nations to come together and the process is actually invoked by those who are affected. As they come forth and say that they'd like to do this, certainly my department would like to continue to work with those who are affected.
Now there was a chance and an opportunity that the Teslin Tlingit Council, along with the mayor and council of the Village of Teslin, were going to come together and there was every indicator that letters were sent and came about. Hence, the municipal election had come about last fall and then things became stalemated. I am not knowledgeable if it was or is the aspiration of the Village of Teslin to proceed with it, but certainly I've got an indicator from the Tlingit Council that they are wanting and desirous of talking about providing services to an expanded area within the Teslin area and to do it in conjunction with the Village of Teslin.
So, I got in touch with the folks there and, in an informal way, with the mayor, and said that you folks should be coming together at the community level to best describe what type of a service it is and what cost-sharing arrangements you might have and how best that I - well, I guess I wouldn't say "I" - my department would be able to work with them in establishing the process. So, therein certainly lies the process and the answer.
It is going to be a challenge in the future to successfully implement these. Hopefully, the overriding principle would be for fiscal responsibility. As to the previous questions regarding the Ibex Valley, it's to bring people together so that we might have a real sense of community, delivered by the people themselves.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, it never makes sense to have one group pitted against another. It makes an awful lot more sense for people to look at the end product and work toward that.
However, one of the things that government can do, because there are so many people that work for government and have access to such large information bases, is that it can offer information or research to organizations that are looking at different models. So, one of the things that I'm wondering about is whether the Department of Community and Transportation Services has offered information on regional government to, say, the people out at Carcross - the First Nation - or out at the Teslin area or to anyone at AYC. Certainly, that makes a lot of sense as a role for the government to take on.
For example, I know that in one area where there is regional government down in eastern Canada, for example, they have a council of 22 members, which is quite cumbersome, and they do very little, actually, because there's so much fighting going on. What I'm wondering about is that there are other models all over this country, some of which are quite good and effective and some of which are not. That sort of information-sharing, coming from the senior level of government, might be very, very useful. I'm wondering if the minister would be willing to consider giving that sort of information to those areas that are looking at that regional government model.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as we evolve through this process and get a deeper understanding of what might be available for resources to the communities as they proceed through here, the department will definitely work with them and hopefully make it a three-party process, so we can come to a conclusion for the betterment of all the folks affected. Certainly, I am sure that that is the spirit with which it would be negotiated and implemented. The member opposite used an example of the Carcross area, and I do know that the Carcross area is, right now, working stringently toward concluding a land claim and self-government arrangement and agreement, and therein would lie the trigger. Certainly, the trigger that I've spoken about and alluded to to go into the development of a district governance structure - however it might be characterized - lies within there.
So, I do believe that my Government Leader spoke earlier to this initiative, so I won't take too much time. But, certainly, that's a trigger, and the department will be more than willing to work with folks and provide any information that we have, and I know that the Association of Yukon Communities - although I can't speak for them - would be doing the very same thing. So, I do believe that between AYC, C&TS, the affected municipalities or the affected people, whether First Nations or non-First Nations, will be able to come together to work with due diligence to provide better services to the regions affected.
Mrs. Edelman: I hope that I can deduce from that information that the department is willing to provide information on other models of regional government.
One of the issues that has also been brought up in the House today is the issue around the Shakwak. One of the things that this government is doing is that they are seconding people to various other governments - to First Nations and, now we hear, to the federal government - DPW - down in northern B.C. We used to have quite a relationship with Alaska. There were a number of conferences that used to take place where we would send our transportation people.
And we would to share information, particularly in the areas where we have a great deal of expertise, and that of course is chipseal, which Yukoners are famous for throughout the world, particularly the northern world. A lot of that information sharing has lapsed because we aren't sending people to these northern cities conferences any more, particularly the technical parts of those conferences.
What I'm wondering about is whether we're considering doing any sort of exchanges or secondments with Alaska. I'm thinking about areas like tourism, for example, economic development, health. There are areas in housing, there are a lot of earthquake initiatives they are doing in Alaska that is world class - recreation; all those areas are certainly very interesting.
I know the State of Alaska has a fixation with asphalt. The legislators, certainly that we spoke to when we were over on our last exchange, spoke about how much cheaper it was to use chipseal and how much more beneficial it was in the long run because, as you know, it deals better with the frost heaves that we all deal with here in the far north.
What are we doing as far as building a connection with Alaska? Is any of that going to be happening with people from the Department of Community and Transportation Services? Is there going to be any possibility that we will be able to send people back to those conferences that we sent them to in the past? It makes sense for us to build that connection with Alaska. They're there; they have money; they have people; they're our markets; they are everything to us. In a lot of ways, when they come over and buy here, it's like coming over and getting 40 percent off. It makes a lot of sense for us to build that connection.
What would the Department of Community and Transportation Services be doing with the State of Alaska?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, everything that the member opposite has spoken to is absolutely correct. As you go through, especially in the uniqueness of the north, it just certainly makes very good common sense that we should be partnering with one another and working very closely.
I can only speak for what happens, at this point in time, from Community and Transportation Services. We do share expertise and conferences. Just of late, there was a conference in Fairbanks, and I sent - I do believe - chipsealing people, bridge-building people, different levels and different technology people to that conference.
We have a good working relationship at the political level with folks on defining and keeping the Klondike Highway open year-round and working with them on those types of issues.
As far as having an actual secondment that would actually go right over to Alaska, I do not know if that's been explored but, certainly, in a casual kind of way I can ask the department if there's anything like that and get back on it. I would prefer not to do it by way of a legislative return but I would certainly like to be able to provide the information to the member opposite on that.
Other things that we are doing with the Government of Alaska in an overall sense - an overall sense of community, an overall sense of economic development, of sharing resources, whether it's an Economic Development resource, whether it's a tourism resource, or whatever the resource is - because I had the pleasure of accompanying the Government Leader - and that would be last fall at some point in time - to talk about how we might best be able to have a working relationship. And that is defined within a protocol signed between the Government Leader, Piers McDonald, and Governor Tony Knowles of Alaska, and if the caucuses do not have it, I can certainly endeavour to provide that document to folks on the opposite side of the House - or the people of the third party, pardon me - to be able to get a bit more information on that.
But certainly I do believe that the partnership is paying off, simply in terms of what's happening on the Shakwak. I can reiterate for the House that as I was in Yellowknife - when was it, last week or two weeks ago or so - for the Arctic Winter Games, I had occasion to visit with and to chat with the governor and his wife, Suzanne, and it was quite a good affair - or maybe that's not the right word. It was a pleasurable meeting, if I can say it that way, because the camaraderie was there. They both came together and said, "We would appreciate and do appreciate working with you," and he actually put his arm around me and called me his raven brother - if you would attest that this is an eagle - and that's what I told him.
So, he was not quite confused, but I guess what I'm saying is that the intent was there to work together. It's defined within the agreement and it certainly seems to be paying off, showing that we can work together in terms of tourism - our Tourism North program and many other programs show that we're working together. So, that camaraderie will continue to be in effect as long as we're working with them in the manner that we are, and we have every aspiration to continue working with them on a partnership level.
Mrs. Edelman: It's always interesting to be updated on the affairs of the Yukon and Alaska.
Mr. Chair, I'm looking at Watson Lake. Watson Lake in the capital budget is quite interesting, because there is quite a bit of money that seems to be targeted for Watson Lake; specifically almost $5 million to be spent on the Robert Campbell Highway.
Now, it's interesting because there's also $400,000 that's being spent on the development of an industrial subdivision and the entirety of that will be recovered. Once you remove those items, you get $218,000 being spent in Watson Lake and that ranks Watson Lake as twelfth in the Yukon, at a time when unemployment claims between December and January rose 21 percent, making Watson Lake the third highest in the Yukon. Faro, of course, is at 29 percent.
Now, there's been a claim that Watson Lake is receiving a larger share of capital dollars than any Yukon community and that public statement was made in Watson Lake on March 10 at the council meeting. Whether you use the government figures or the municipal figures, it doesn't look like there really is that much capital money going into Watson Lake, and I'm wondering why?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I can only speak from my department's perspective, but we are doing road jobs that will hopefully have an economic effect for Watson Lake. We are endeavouring to work with the people of Watson Lake in a forthright manner. I know that the Member for Watson Lake has a protocol signed with the Town of Watson Lake and with the First Nation of the area, who are attempting to work together.
We have, like I said, road jobs on the Alaska Highway. I am supposed to have road jobs happening on the Campbell Highway. Hopefully, that is going to have a very positive effect on the people of Watson Lake.
Again, the ideas of partnering and working and identifying together community-driven initiatives will continue to be an approach that this government takes and will continue to take with them. We are not necessarily looking to say there is one area over another area, because we represent the Yukon as a whole - for goodness sakes, even Klondike - and I take great pleasure in working on behalf of all Yukoners, so that we might be able to move forward.
It's not a race among communities. We want to and will continue to work with communities in a good way. Hopefully, things will work out always for the better and be more positive.
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, it is a race among communities. You have a dwindling pot, a pot that hasn't changed in size for 12 years. It is very much of a competition. That is the reality of that situation. Once again, you are having one community pitted against another - Yukoners against Yukoners - and that is not correct.
Watson Lake is really, really not getting money. There's been a claim from representatives of this government that they are, that they are number three on the capital list. If you really look at it, they're number 12, and that's a concern. I think that Watson Lake deserves, especially because it is chronically underemployed and unemployed, more capital dollars.
The Arctic Winter Games - we all as legislators have received letters recently from the fund-raising committee asking us to send letters of support off to Ottawa looking for money. What I'm wondering about is this: has the minister developed any positions about the Arctic Winter Games? There's quite a bit of money spent on the international contingents. There's also a lot of money being spent on the adults.
What I'm wondering about is whether there has been any thought at the department level about any changes that they might recommend. I know that the minister, of course, always thinks of children first, and that youth are his priority, and that makes an awful lot of sense. But has there been any thought of letting adults go but being able to pay a price to go so that they can at least compete within their areas? That makes a lot of sense. And we need to have a large international contingent - especially if we're going to be bringing Quebec in for the next games. What sort of thoughts has the department had in this area? I know that the minister has made some comments after coming back from the games this year about focusing more on youth for the next games, and I'm wondering if this is a position that the government is taking, and what other avenues is the government looking at?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, let me just go back to Watson Lake for a moment, because I know the member opposite just wound up a few remarks concerning Watson Lake before she went into the Arctic Winter Games, and I can respond to both. I would very much appreciate the support of the Liberal caucus so that we might be able to persuade their federal counterparts not to be cutting our budget, because it's very difficult for us to even maintain the level of funding for the communities. But we did it with a very conscious effort, even though we have suffered cutbacks from our federal people.
So, our transfers have been cut. They are down. So, I would certainly appreciate it if the member opposite would speak to the Liberal government in Ottawa and put forth the same passionate initiative that she put forward on behalf of the Association of Yukon Communities. I would certainly mean that, and I say that in a friendly manner.
As far as the Arctic Winter Games that are being proposed for the year 2000, yes, I believe very strongly in the development of our youth, and I know that, through the development of sports and the team concept - because there is no "I" in "team" anywhere; it's a team; and we look at it as a team - where best do you help out folks in their lives? Right from the very beginning - from a very young age - so they might become vibrant leaders and people with social consciences. That's what sports does; very much so.
We should be definitely focusing on our youth. There are unique problems. I was listening to the chair of the international committee, Mr. Gerry Thick, who's done wonderful work for and on behalf of the Yukon people in sports development. They have some tough decisions to make.
I was asked, on behalf of the Host Society, to support them in their endeavour, when they were making their address to the international committee, to increase capacity for the games that are going to be held in the year 2000 here in Whitehorse, Yukon. They asked for our support, because they said they could actually hold a capacity of 200 over and above the cap that was set.
So that initiative has been put forth to the international committee and, in their wisdom, they will make a very conscientious and serious effort to ensure that all people affected by the development of sports will continue to be included and, at the same time, to include other jurisdictions if they may. I know that others want to host the games. I believe the northern Quebec region wants back into the games, because they opted out for a while. There are certain requirements on them to do so, such as paying their own way, et cetera.
It is certainly a pleasure to be able to stand up and see the children from all over the Arctic states, whether it's from Magadan or Tyumen, Greenland or Northwest Territories, Alaska, Canada, Yukon - it's just wonderful to see them. So yes, we are going to be putting money toward them. The Host Society has indicated that they'll be requesting $400,000. We are going to provide $200,000 in each of our 1998 and 1999 budgets.
And the 1999-2000 O&M budget will hopefully put the money in there, also.
Tourism - I'm so very fortunate to have both portfolios. We are looking to put $35,000 into their respective budgets, so that's the commitment that this government has for the sports and for the games, and we will continue to do so.
Mrs. Edelman: It's really unfortunate that the people who are in government here - that would be the NDP - continually have to ask the Yukon Liberal Party to do their job for them. It is up to the government that is in power to go to Ottawa and say, "We need the money; this is how much we need." It's the government in power's job, if there's a cut, to see if they can get that money back. That's not up to the three members of the opposition party in the Yukon.
The issue that we were talking about was the Arctic Winter Games. I think I can gather from the minister's remarks that yes, the government is taking the position that they would support the youth.
But if there have to be cuts to the Arctic Winter Games, where does this government intend to make those cuts?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, it always gives me pleasure to stand and speak about the games and where would the cuts come from the Games. First of all, let me address that, yes, we are the government in charge. We're doing a very good job, as I'm certain we can all attest, although some people here will not attest to that because they choose not to attest to that. But, we're certainly working very hard on behalf of all people of the Yukon and we'll continue to work very hard on behalf of all people of the Yukon.
We're doing secondments for people and it's surprising that the Liberals say that they would not want to participate with us or by themselves to increase funding for us to the Yukon, because it's for all people, and spend in a very forthright manner. So, I must say I'm somewhat surprised by that comment.
But, if cuts are going to have to be made to the Arctic Winter Games, as a recommendation has been made by the international committee, it will be within the adult contingent and that has been stated quite categorically by Mr. Thick, the chair of the international committee.
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Riverdale South was exploring with the minister the issue of the municipal block funding a little earlier in the debate. Could I just go on the record by asking the minister what position he is going to be taking with respect to granting the municipalities more taxing room? I'm specifically referring to a room tax.
I'll state for the record that I'm imposed - opposed - to the imposition of a room tax and I was hoping that the minister could give some indication as to whether he is going to be permitting that kind of room in the review of the Municipal Act that is underway at the present time.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, with that question, I guess I'm imposed to answer that question and I certainly suppose I will.
Mr. Chair, we are certainly looking to work with the Association of Yukon Communities, or communities at large.
I do not want to do anything to the detriment of another industry so that I might put it into the hands of others. So certainly, it has to be a very thoughtful and deliberate decision, and the decision will be carried out in that manner, and it will be done in conjunction with the people that will be affected.
So, I know that the AYC will have thoughts and comments on that. I certainly know that the Tourism Industry Association will have thoughts, and that the Hoteliers Association of Northern British Columbia and Yukon will have thoughts on that. So certainly, I will be able to sit down, talk with those folks and continue to talk to those folks to see how we might best provide some type of flexibility, whether it's investment options or whether it's economic development or business opportunities, that would enhance the revenue-generating potential.
Because certainly, as the member opposite knows, this government has committed to not raising taxes in this term, and we are not going to impose a hotel tax of sorts that could directly contravene that. So, all those things will be taken into consideration, and I'll be working with all players of the association to make the very best decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, Mr. Chair, the amount of room tax windfall profit that would accrue to Whitehorse would be quite significant, and it would impact on the cost of living of all Yukoners - an additional tax.
Virtually all of us who live in rural Yukon and come to Whitehorse, by and large, end up renting accommodations here that will have a tax attributed to it. Now, you can exempt all Yukoners, but then you get into a nightmare for accounting purposes when you get into the review of that area.
Furthermore, Mr. Chair, look at the impact of the GST. Any visitors to the Yukon - if they're in an organized tour, the various establishments have an assignment of GST on their accommodations, so in fact there's no tax paid - there's no money changing hands; it's just a bookkeeping entry in and out. If an individual from outside of Canada travels through Canada, they just save their receipts and submit them to Revenue Canada and receive a refund of the GST on that portion of their accommodations for rooms that the tax is attributable to.
So, it's an area that I know there's a lot of lobbying for and I'd be very, very concerned with the imposition of such a tax, primarily from the standpoint of the impact it will have on those of us from rural Yukon who spend a great deal of our time buying goods and services and attending to a lot of events here in the capital city of Whitehorse. To that end, I don't think it'd be beneficial.
There is one advantage, Mr. Chair, in the imposition of a tax if that tax was specifically designated for marketing and promotion in the Department of Tourism. There could be a case made. But in virtually all of the jurisdictions where such a tax has been imposed, more and more of those funds end up in general revenue and it's not to anyone's advantage in that case.
So I'd be very, very hopeful, Mr. Chair, that the government of the day will see its way through this issue and give every consideration before it's even contemplated.
And perhaps Monday, when we resume debate, Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister if he could ask his deputy minister to accompany him and provide some more timely answers so we don't get into a whole series of legislative returns after the House rises.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member opposite for such elegant remarks, and I will certainly incorporate those thoughts into any decision we make.
On Monday, I look forward to resuming the debate. It was a very good debate, and if we keep it at the level it is and work with camaraderie, the way we're supposed to in this House - speaking and working on behalf of the people of the Yukon - we'll have a very successful debate. If not, I'm certainly prepared for the long run with the member opposite.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I move you report progress on this bill.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Deputy Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Government Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 26, 1998:
Green Power fund 1998: Cabinet Commission on Energy (Hardy on behalf of McRobb)
Green Power fund: statement by Cabinet Commissioner on Energy (Hardy on behalf of McRobb)
Gasoline prices (dated March 26, 1998) (Harding)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 26, 1998:
Settlement land: to remain as Commissioner's land until final agreement in effect (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2385
Settlement land: property taxation (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2386
Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment 1998 work plan: status (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2395
National longitudinal health and children's survey: background, focus, objectives (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2395
Land transfers: grants in lieu of taxes (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2386