Monday, March 30, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to introduce to the members of this chamber Pat Gillespie of the Canadian Diabetes Association, who is with us today for a statement on our diabetes education program.
Speaker: Are there any documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have three legislative returns from last week's debate.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling today the 1998-99 business plan for the Queen's Printer agency and the 1998-99 business plan for the fleet vehicle agency.
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: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should investigate the possibility of creating a position of children's advocate to
(a) provide advocacy to children who are receiving services pursuant to the Children's Act and who require the assistance of an advocate to ensure due consideration of their rights, interests and viewpoints when decisions are made; and
(b) identify issues and provide information and advice with respect to the nature, adequacy, availability, accessibility, effectiveness and appropriateness of services which are offered to children.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the federal loan on the assets of Yukon Energy Corporation, YEC, requires YEC to generate certain revenues each month to meet this fixed cost;
(2) when the Faro mine is not operating and consuming 40 percent of YEC's output, this fixed cost must be met through increased payments for other customer classes;
(3) the secondary sale of excess hydro energy would benefit ratepayers by reducing the import and burning of fossil fuels; and
(4) the reduction of fixed costs associated with the repayment provisions in the federal note would enable ratepayers to enjoy more stable electricity rates
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the repayment provisions of the federal note do not sufficiently recognize the impact of the Faro mine closure on the Yukon economy and discourage secondary sales of excess hydro energy; and
(2) the fixed costs associated with the federal note should be reduced;
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue its efforts with the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to renegotiate the repayment provisions of the federal loan on YEC's assets.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Rural electrification and telecommunication policies
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this House and the Yukon public about recent improvements to the rural electrification policy and the rural telecommunications policy.
The lack of adequate telephone service has been the most common concern expressed to me by rural residents. Addressing this concern has been a major policy commitment of our government, and I believe these changes will be welcomed by many rural Yukoners.
These initiatives address our government's goal of ensuring that people in rural areas have access to high quality power and telephone services that are reliable and reasonably priced. Last fall, our government laid out our principles for improving telecommunication services to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.
The rural electrification and telephone program has now been separated into two companion policies, which I would like to table at this point in time. The new rural electrification policy and rural telecommunications policy are tailored to better reflect the requirements of both electrical and telecommunication services.
Our government will continue to take an active role in helping rural Yukoners with proposals to extend new electrical services or telecommunications services to their properties.
The new policies introduce a revised voting process for project approval, which will be administered by the government. Rural property owners will be directly involved in both the final planning and the final project approval process.
We recognize that the previous majority required for project approval was a difficult threshold to achieve. The new policies lower the special majority required for both planning and project approval to 65 percent, which represents a very strong show of community support.
Funding provided under the two policies continues to be 100-percent recoverable through the levy of the local improvement fee on benefiting properties. However, the government has proposed a deferral measure that will provide comfort to the minority of property owners who do not wish to subscribe to electrical or telephone service immediately.
These policy changes further the goals of respecting our environment through environmentally responsible energy options. The rural electrification policy has been expanded to include sustainable energy projects. Financing will be available to property owners for wind, solar and microhydro projects that service individual properties.
Our government continues to work on other initiatives to meet our commitments to rural Yukon people, such as a rural services policy and the CRTC hearing on high-cost service areas.
The new rural electrification policy and rural telecommunication policy - important initiatives for improving services for many rural residents.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: This ministerial statement speaks of creating partnerships between property owners, service providers and the Yukon government for the extension of telecommunications and electrical distribution systems in rural Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the role of government in society is to build the infrastructure for the tripod for the provision of all of these services for a society. That tripod - the three legs - are the electrical grids and service, communications and transportation.
What we have here is a definite downloading of another area that government is responsible for - a downloading of those costs. Why is it, Mr. Speaker, in Yukon, where we have monopoly service providers of electrical services and telecommunication services, are these companies contributing less and less to the projects as a service provider, and yet are allowed to maintain their monopoly?
What we have is a program that has the threshold reduced to 65-percent participation, and if the property owner chooses to opt out, he is just given a five-year hiatus and then has to pay.
Perhaps the minister, in his rebuttal, could advise how the Yukon government is going to secure their charge against the properties, and especially the First Nations properties. How are we going to ensure collection of these costs that are front-end advanced by the government?
It's very, very hard to comment on this initiative, when there are no costs provided or examples of this program, and I'm very disappointed in the Member for Lake Laberge. He's advised rural Yukoners previously not to do anything until these new policies were announced. Both these policies are very short on the financial details, as to the costs the consumers will eventually bear.
Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on the rural electrification and telephone program.
Generally speaking, our caucus supports the need for a rural phone and electrical program. We will analyze the policies just tabled and will comment on them during general debate in Community and Transportation Services this afternoon.
It is important to note our continued support for a program that remains 100-percent recoverable from lot owners for the services being brought into each property. I'm still a little mystified as to where the minister got the figure of 65-percent approval for planning and project. The minister dropped the figure from 75 percent of people in an area agreeing to bring either phone, electrical or both into an unserved area. He dropped that figure to 65 percent, and I would like to know if there was any logical or fact-based reason why this figure was picked. Why not 70 percent or 60 percent or even 51 percent?
I'm also wondering if the minister could give an indication as to what this government's position is as far as the CRTC's hearings on high-cost serving areas. Most of rural Yukon is a high-cost serving area. It is my understanding that it is possible that there may be a fund established under CRTC guidelines, so that all phone companies put money into the fund. This fund will help defray the cost of new infrastructure into high-cost serving areas.
I've asked the minister about this issue in the past and have received no substantial answer. Is this government a proponent of such a fund, and will he be making a statement to the CRTC about this issue?
Lastly, it's about time that the rural electrification program starts to recognize and pay for alternate energy sources at remote rural locations, but once again, we will be responding to that aspect of the rural electrification program later today in C&TS debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, certainly I expect nothing but what I have received for this from the official opposition, but let me say to the official opposition that what we do is done in a very thoughtful and a very deliberate manner. It is done in consultation with the people, and certainly it is done in partnership with the people.
We have certainly realized that government's role is to build infrastructure and to continue with infrastructure. The member can certainly recall many times when I have said that in the House.
No, we do not look at this as a downloading of costs - certainly not. We look at this as the maintenance and the revamping of an existing program that has been, I believe, in basis since 1984. It's a very thoughtful program. It's a user-friendly program, and it is going to continue to be so. It has always been a full cost-recovery program, and under this government, it will be maintained as such. But certainly, it is going to be much easier.
As to the security against, well certainly that is all part of the process, and we'll be working with people to ensure that people are going to be able to work with the process, and this is not a process where you're going to dictate to people, but work with people on a partnership basis.
Certainly, I think that everybody should be very helpful and thoughtful and enthused about that: that we are going to be able to work to bring telephone service that hasn't been in existence and to bring quality telephone service to people that need it. That is the intent of this program.
So, I thank you very much for your critique of it. It's a very logical process.
Certainly, on the CRTC our comments are very well-known against the high cost of service. Just as recently as last October, we put forth to the CRTC four principles of which that is one. There is a part of the process in there where we say that there should be a nationally funded fund and that all of the providers should be putting money into it. That is there now, and that has been massaged into the system at this time.
We also have the Northwestel model, where the Northwestel model has a surcharge, I guess you might call it, of 10 cents right now, within the whole service area to provide that infrastructure to communities within, in this case, the Northwest Territories. So, certainly, we'll be continuing to work with Northwestel. We have another meeting scheduled in the very near future with the president of Northwestel and I'm going to be working and continue to work - and certainly bringing forward the comments that I hear from both sides of the House - to enable us to work with those folks and other folks to provide the services that are so critically needed here in the Yukon Territory.
So, I thank you for somewhat conditional support and the critique that you have given me, and I will take all comments and move forward with them on behalf of all of the people of the Yukon.
Thank you very much.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just before I begin my statement, I would like to introduce Ida Calmegane, who is from CYFN. Ida has also been, along with Pat, one of the principal drivers behind our diabetes education program.
Diabetic education program
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, much has been said over the past months, both in House and outside, of the need to create new partnerships within the Yukon to foster safer, healthier communities.
Today, I rise to advise my colleagues of an important new health services partnership involving the Yukon government, the Yukon Hospital Corporation, the Council of Yukon First Nations, family physicians and the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Within the next several weeks, the Department of Health and Social Services, with its partners, will begin accepting patients in the Yukon's first diabetic education program.
Mr. Speaker, diabetes is one of Canada's most prevalent health problems, and is linked to major killers such as heart disease and kidney failure. It is also implicated in many debilitating conditions, including amputations, hearing loss and blindness.
It directly affects between five and 10 percent of all Canadians. Among First Nations people, the incidence of diabetes is several times the national average.
Here in the Yukon, this silent killer affects between 1,500 and 3,000 people, with approximately 84 to 96 new patients diagnosed each year.
Diabetes, however, is an illness for which education and management can make a considerable difference. Research shows a definite need for such an education program in the Yukon.
Until now, diabetes teaching has varied depending on the knowledge and availability of the health care workers. Some patients receive diabetic education from their family doctors, some from nursing staff and dietitians at the Whitehorse General Hospital, and others from community resources, such as public health nurses and home care nurses.
In-depth services have required referral to a program either in British Columbia or Alberta. The cost for persons attending diabetic out-patient clinics in Vancouver has significantly increased over the last five years. One-third to one-half of doctor-referred patients have gone outside specifically to attend teaching clinics. Local training, management and followup will reduce the number of persons sent south with complications. It will also reduce the cost to both the patient and family members who also need to accompany them.
The Yukon diabetic education program is the result of careful thought with direct input from diabetes patients and their families. They made it clear that they need and want a culturally sensitive coordinated approach that is closer to home and uses local supports and community resources.
A three- or four-day program will be presented 10 times a year, with individuals plans developed by the client and the education team. Educational plans will include diet and exercise counselling, the nature of the primary disease and its secondary effects, administering medications, monitoring blood and urine and coping with chronic disease. There will be education for family and care providers and a followup for people who have been newly diagnosed.
This locally based program means that people will not have to wait as long for training and they will have the opportunities to learn when they are ready. The teaching facilities for this program are nearing completion and the first education program should be ready to deliver in June.
We're very excited about this program and the benefits and support it will provide to people with this chronic condition. It will mean that they can receive the tools they need to deal with their conditions sooner and in a setting that is more comfortable for them.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of the Yukon Party and the official opposition, I rise in support of this initiative. The need to create new partnerships within the Yukon to foster safer healthy communities was a major initiative of the previous Yukon Party government and we commend the current government for continuing with this initiative.
The diabetic education program will not only be cost effective, but it will provide a culturally sensitive coordinated service here at home. This will mean Yukoners who are afflicted with this serious disease will have more community resources to assist them and people to support them. Care givers and family members will receive the necessary training much quicker than was previously the case, Mr. Speaker. There will be better followup for people who have been newly diagnosed.
Diabetes is a major health problem in Yukon, which is linked to major killers such as heart disease and many disabilitating conditions, such as blindness and amputation. Anything that can help combat this dreaded affliction will be welcomed by this side of the House.
Would the minister in his rebuttal perhaps be a little bit more specific as to the exact numbers of Yukoners afflicted with diabetes - 1,500 to 3,000 individuals is a 100-percent variance, especially in a population of some 33,000 individuals, Mr. Speaker.
We applaud the minister for introducing this education program and urge him to continue with its full support.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise again today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the Health minister's statement on the new diabetic education program.
Mr. Speaker, there is no question that this coordination of diabetic education is needed here in the Yukon. Over the years, I've had many friends and acquaintances who have been diagnosed with diabetes. The trip outside to learn about how to manage diabetes is often as stressful as learning about the initial diagnosis.
Diabetes is a dreadful disease. It kills, it maims, and it cannot be cured, only managed.
In the Yukon, diabetes has been an even greater issue in the last 10 years. Over the last 10 to 20 years, more and more seniors have decided to stay in the Yukon after retirement. The prevalence of diabetes in the 65-plus age group is, of course, almost twice what it is for the younger population.
In the Yukon, too, our population is almost 25 percent of First Nations descent, and we note that the people of aboriginal descent are three to five times more likely than the general population to have or to develop diabetes.
In the Yukon, we consume alcohol at a far greater rate than most of Canada, and we must realize that alcohol dependency is one of the leading causes of late-onset diabetes.
Diabetes education is so important. The Canadian Diabetic Association says that 30 percent of people with type-1 diabetes and 70 percent of people with type-2 diabetes never receive appropriate diabetes education and self-care programming. That fact that we are now offering Yukon's first diabetic education program here in Whitehorse is good news.
Of course, I do have a couple of questions. Firstly, although juvenile diabetes is actually quite rare, we do on occasion have children diagnosed with diabetes here in the Yukon. Is there a component in the new local program specifically teach children and their parents about diabetes care, or will children continue to travel outside for these clinics?
Secondly, will people from the outside communities be coming into Whitehorse for diabetes education, or will they go and travel outside for that? If these individuals from outside of Whitehorse are to travel into town, will there be mileage allowances, hotel allowances and food allowances for the patients or for their families, and how many family members will the department pay for? How often will the department pay for clinics - once a year or when there is a change in condition - and if you are going to be paying for people to come into the diabetes clinic, is there any consideration being given for people coming in from the rural communities to go to specialist clinics in other areas? How many people will be attending the clinics per year, and how much is this going to save the territory over the current model, where we send patients outside to B.C. or Alberta for treatment?
In short, Mr. Speaker, I need a few more details.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am here to provide the details.
First of all, with regard to the numbers of diabetic patients, that's a number that is generally arrived at through population health statistics. I think one of the things that's significant is that last year, based on a major report, there was a change of the threshold among the medical community of what is diagnosed as diabetes, and we're beginning to see that reflected now in the fact that there is now more routine testing for diabetes. So, I believe that we will see firmer figures in the next few years. As I said before, we are currently diagnosing between 84 and 96 individuals a year in this program.
With regard to the program, one of the principles of this new program is that it will provide education for care givers, parents and individuals who will be involved with diabetes as well. So, we see opportunities in working with parents as well as with young people.
Naturally, juvenile diabetes has its own impact, so that will have to be an assessment, for example, with the physician, if they require some specialized work with that patient.
With regard to the rural people travelling in, we will be providing accommodations in that regard, and we will be taking a look at what other opportunities we can provide. Our approximate cost of the program will be about $11,300 in one time set-up costs, which essentially is the renovation of the teaching kitchen - equipment, that kind of thing - about $79,400 in ongoing costs, and that includes a nurse educator, an out-patient counselling nutritionist, equipment, books, things of that nature. It's expected that the costs in this area will be realized from savings to our medical travel program.
I think there are a couple of other features with this that I think are rather sort of unique, and I'll just take the opportunity to just mention them. One will be a 24-hour telephone and answering machine access to the nurse educator and counsellor. The messages will be checked daily and calls returned. What this will allow is that for information, education and referrals, people can say, "Okay, when's your next clinic coming up?", and people can be booked in for that.
As I said, we're looking at 10 sessions a year for three to four days. I think one of the things that having the feedback will do, as people go through the program, they're going to come out of it, and they're going to have some questions around certain dietary needs, or certain management needs, and they'll perhaps want to check up to see if they can do this or they can take this other kind of food. So I think that will provide some feedback.
I think we're on the right track. I'm very pleased with the cooperation, particularly the cooperation we've had from our physicians, and I really have to commend CYFN in this regard. CYFN has recognized that this is a major health concern for our First Nation population, and I would like to thank them for their support.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Travel expenses for government members, Member for Whitehorse Centre
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader on government travel. It has come to our attention that the MLA for Whitehorse Centre attended the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife for a period of eight days at government expense. I want to thank the Government Leader for sending down the actual travel claims to us so that we could use them even when we didn't ask for them, but it was nice of him to send them down. But as a result of that, I do have some questions that I believe need to be answered.
Mr. Speaker, the expense forms are for $1,349.35 that the taxpayer has been asked to cover for lodgings and per diem costs for the Member for Whitehorse Centre for a period of eight days. The purpose of the trip given on the travel claims is Arctic Winter Games, and then sort of as an after thought, "and government business."
Since the Government Leader's approved this travel, I would like to ask him if he can advise this House what business the MLA for Whitehorse Centre was attending to on behalf of the government in Yellowknife that would take eight days?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in the first instance, Mr. Speaker, the member went to Yellowknife with the Arctic Winter Games Yukon contingent to provide support and to attend various functions on behalf of the government. For a short time the minister was there, as well.
With respect to the government business that the member refers to as an after thought - which of course wasn't - is that the member went to speak to the Government of the Northwest Territories about local hire provisions in the diamond mining business.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I understood that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was no longer the local hire commissioner. He told this Legislature that himself - that he was out of a job, that he was no longer the local hire commissioner.
Nevertheless, the MLA for Whitehorse Centre has a history of claiming he's representing the Government of Yukon when in fact he's not, such as his comments on internal trade.
Now I understand he's off on another junket to Ottawa and I want to know if the Government Leader can confirm that and if he can confirm if it's the Government of Yukon being asked to pay for this trip as well?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Speaker, the fact that the Member for Whitehorse Centre is no longer the commissioner for the local hire commission does not mean that, in the first instance, that he has no longer any interest in local hire and, in the second instance, that whatever information he can acquire for this government will not be useful.
So I reject the member's notion that, I guess I presume, the Member for Whitehorse Centre should not speak out on local hire again, because the commission is no longer there.
With respect to the comments he made about the member thinking he was speaking for the government on internal trade, that's patently false. That's not true, and that's been repeated many, many times in this Legislature. The member was speaking for the government with respect to the MAI, and he in fact did speak for the government on the MAI.
The member is not going to Ottawa on government business, and it is not being paid for by the government.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the Government Leader can say it's patently false, but there was an interview done with the MLA where he said he was speaking on internal trade, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is this: ministerial travel is up by a whopping 40 percent, and now we have government backbenchers travelling all over the country on purportedly government business - very sketchy at that, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he's prepared to table the travel costs of all government MLAs who have travelled outside the Yukon on government business from October 19, 1996, to present date.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, in the first instance, to answer the member's question, yes, I already have tabled that information for the members. The members can read it at their leisure.
With respect to the comments about travel being up, I would point out to the member that - and I provided this information to the member, so I'm surprised he has not quite read it yet - for the same period of time, the year 1994-95, comparing that with the year 1997-98, the Yukon Party government took 44 trips, the NDP government took 44 trips - business trips, presumably, in the Yukon Party's case, and entirely for the NDP government.
The costs, however, have increased substantially for travel since that period of time, and I provided that information to the member, so the member, in trying to raise the issue, presumably either doesn't feel that the government should travel as much as his government travelled, or is willfully ignoring information that I've provided to him.
Question re: Travel expenses for government members, Member for Whitehorse Centre
Mr. Ostashek: Every time this minister gets up to answer a question, he's got a different answer. Last time, there was only a couple of hundred dollars' difference between ministerial travel of my government and his government. The reality of it is that the NDP ministers, when they're travelling, are big spenders, and it's the size of the delegations that they're taking, not the fact of the trips they're taking.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: They may have taken only the same number of trips, but the reality of it is that it's cost the taxpayers of the Yukon 40 percent more.
Once again, my question is to the Government Leader on travel costs of his high-flying MLA for Whitehorse Centre. Yukoners are concerned enough about the travel costs for ministers, which we believe are going to hit $100,000 in this fiscal year. Now, it appears that we're going to be paying the bar tab for the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Can the Government Leader tell me why he approved travel claims submitted for the expenses for the MLA for Whitehorse Centre, which included bar tabs for the Latitude Lounge in Yellowknife? Can he tell me why he approved that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the government does not pay for bar tabs. The government pays for per diems, but the government does not pay for bar tabs. Secondly, on the member's comments about the costs being up 40 percent, I will point out to the member that, from 1994 to 1997, the costs were up 25.6 percent between the period when the Yukon Party were undertaking their business travel and the NDP government were undertaking business travel. But, the costs of airfares were up a minimum of 40 percent and the costs of hotels were up 38 percent. So, clearly, there is a very good rationale for the cost increase. Secondly, to point out the obvious to the member, the size of delegation that he thinks is being taken differs in no way from past experience.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, again I just want to say that it was very nice of the Government Leader to send these forms down so we knew exactly what we were talking about. And what he's saying right now is patently false, because they are paying the bar tabs as well as per diems, and he signed it off. The total bill from the hotel is $866.35. It's been claimed. Below that comes eight days of per diem at $58.75 for another $470, and it's been totalled up and it's been signed and approved by the Government Leader.
Can the Government Leader tell me why this member is allowed to double dip?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the government's policy is not to permit the claiming of bar tabs; the government's policy is to provide per diems and travel.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would to ask the Government Leader then if he reviewed this before he signed it, because it certainly doesn't appear so because there is a double claim here.
Mr. Speaker, I'll send these forms back to the Government Leader so that he does have the originals, but I would like to know now if he can assure this House that if in fact there is a mistake here it's going to be corrected and we are not going to be paying the MLA twice for his bar tab.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, if there is a mistake, certainly it will be corrected, but the government's policy is very clear on this point.
Question re: Travel, Minister of Tourism
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. On March 25, the minister gave a ministerial statement regarding the minister's last business trip. However, there was no mention in the statement of the minister's work in Calgary. Would the minister indicate whether or not he did break his journey in Calgary, and could he indicate what business was conducted there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, after flying to Calgary on one evening and overlaying to the next evening, I had a chance to take a tour of the Parallel Strategies workplace and to get a better understanding of what takes place with them there.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has been overheard saying that he was not just simply taking a look at the offices, he was being wined and dined by the government agency of record. Did the minister have additional meetings with the Calgary-based advertising firm, and would he provide us some details on the substance of those meetings?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe it was Perrier water that I had, and that was the full extent of what I had done with that. So, it was very informative, it was a good understanding to get an idea of what one agency would do, and of course that was the whole intent of what I'd done. The Perrier water was cold.
Ms. Duncan: The minister's indicated that he had a tour of the offices, and that there was a meeting held. Would he indicate who was present at that meeting, and what was discussed? Was it simply a tour of individual offices, or what was discussed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, just off the top of my head, I do not have the names of the gentlemen involved, but there were two gentlemen. What was discussed was strictly what they'd do and, of course, some of their workings - just a very general presentation, and no decisions or no favouritism, if that's what you're alluding to. There was certainly a look at what happens, what takes place, opportunity availed, I took it to improve myself and to improve my thoughts on behalf of all tour operators for the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, safety concerns
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In December, the minister told the House that concerns at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre had been corrected and, to use her words, "Currently there's no danger to staff or inmates."
Now, in a briefing given to the opposition in January of this year, by the former superintendent and some of his officials, the superintendent said there had just been another propane leak that they had to deal with and fix.
Is it still the minister's contention that there is currently no danger to staff or inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the member in the House on previous questioning and as I'm going to tell the member again today, we are ensuring that the staff are safe and that the inmates are safe, and that the facility is being operated by the management there in the best manner possible.
Mr. Cable: The minister didn't answer the question, so let me ask her this question - it's fairly straightforward - in the briefing, I was told that there was a fire marshall's report that had been done recently - that's earlier this year. Is the minister prepared to make this report public?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I did answer the member's previous question and I am answering the member's questions as I'm standing here on my feet today in the Legislature. I believe that the members have been provided with the information that they're asking for now and at the technical briefing. The officials in my Justice department have been instructed to meet with the fire marshall and do meet with him on a regular basis to address both short-term and long-term priorities at WCC.
Mr. Cable: Information was provided to us on recommendations from the fire marshall in relation to an earlier report. Now I understand there is a second report. Will the minister assert to this House that the recent fire marshall's report - that's one earlier this year or late last year - raises no serious safety or health concerns?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the fire marshall's report on the facility brings forward concerns that the officials in the department have dealt with and do respond to on a regular basis - I can assure him of that.
Question re: District governance
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Government Leader and it's regarding the district governance concept that we talked about awhile back between the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and the Carcross Area Advisory Planning Council, which apparently would encompass the Carcross-Tagish-Marsh Lake-Mount Lorne area. Since raising the issue on March 9 during debate of the ECO budget, more and more citizens of these areas are contacting me and raising questions and concerns. It's my understanding that this district governance would encompass authority over land use planning, renewable and non-renewal resource management, infrastructures, services, taxation and more.
This raises a lot of questions for people in those areas that will be affected. The Government Leader said he would get back to me with specific answers to my questions on March 9, and I'm getting more calls all the time. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could inform the House today what is driving this district governance planning process.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the member is aware, there is provision in the land claim agreement for there to be a consideration in the future for promoting the notion of district governance. There is no definition in the land claim agreement as to how that might be undertaken.
What the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is doing, at least as far as the Government of Yukon is concerned, is undertaking some discussion with the people in the district as to what notion of area governance they would like to see in the longer term.
As I indicated to the member in the House last month, the concept is at a very preliminary stage. There has to be a lot of discussion in the communities with the area residents before anything is undertaken and the people in the area are essentially going to have to agree, at some point in the future, as to whether or not, in the first instance, they want governance of that sort and whether or not they want to band together to provide services together.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell the Government Leader that, so far, I've heard nothing but negative comments toward this type of governance. I think it's partly because people are not aware of what it means to them, and there's a fear of that. There's no statement from the Government of the Yukon. It appears to be driven by the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, which hasn't even settled its land claim yet. I know that the minister was surprised by that the last time.
I would like to ask the minister this: will the minister take hold of the process, so that the general public can get a clear understanding of what this involves? It seems like even the Government Leader isn't sure what this involves right now. So, I would like to know if the government will take hold of the process and put the brakes on everyone else right now, so that the people can have it clearly explained to them what the government actually means.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the member before, there's no doubt that the notion of area governance lacks definition, and certainly the land claims agreement doesn't provide any direction in this particular regard. I did indicate to the member that, in any case, the first step would have to be that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation would have to have a land claim agreement, as would any other First Nations in the area who would be participating at some point. We are well on our way, in my view, to getting such a land claim agreement, but nevertheless, that is a prerequisite.
With respect to the future, I would suspect that these discussions will take place almost indefinitely over time, as people decide what kinds of governance they would like and how they would like to band together to ensure maximum efficiency and delivery of service. But certainly, the umbrella final agreement, which directs the negotiations for the First Nation final agreements does make reference to there being an opportunity for such discussions to take place.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, there's no doubt that there are opportunities, and there is no doubt that's a revision in the umbrella final agreement, but what I'm concerned about is that the Government of Yukon doesn't seem to have control over this matter, that some First Nations are calling meetings, passing out pieces of information to people, and there isn't a lot of information about who is supporting the agreement. Is the Government of the Yukon supporting this initiative? The residents of the area are quite concerned that they're not being involved in the process, and that they don't even know what the process is at the present time. So, would the Government Leader take control of whatever process there is out there and inform the residents that they have nothing to be afraid of, that there will be a public process, that they will have an opportunity for full public input before any decision whatsoever is made to proceed in this direction?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I can assure the member that the area residents don't have anything to be afraid of and that there will be a full public process before any further definition of new governing structures takes place, but I have to say to the member that area residents around this territory do all kinds of things that I'm not in control of. They set up meetings and they initiate things constantly, on a regular basis, to further what they believe to be reasonable objectives. I cannot, and I should not, Mr. Speaker, insert myself into every plan, every initiative, that somebody undertakes.
However, I can assure the residents of the area that, indeed, they don't have anything to be afraid of and, secondly, yes indeed, before any changes are made to governing structures the area residents absolutely will be involved.
Question re: Yukon Employees Union negotiations
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Government Leader and it concerns the breakdown in contract negotiations with the Yukon Employees Union.
The NDP spring convention was protested this weekend by the union representing government workers. Workers are obviously upset at the lack of movement on their contract with this government.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP campaign literature promised to negotiate new collective agreements to reflect current labour conditions. Why has the NDP government allowed current labour conditions to reach a point where union members feel they have to protest an NDP convention to have their voices heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised at the question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the Member for Riverdale North has put out a press release already. I thought it was going to show up in Question Period today, because they very graciously provide us their conclusions in press releases before they even hit Question Period.
Yes indeed, Mr. Speaker, there is this unholy alliance between the union and a member who was most definitely a player in denying collective bargaining rights to the union membership.
In any case, the situation, as it currently is taking place, is simply that there is the union - in this case, the Public Service Alliance, or YEU - which is about to go to conciliation with the government as employer. We will bargain collectively with the employees in a respectful way. Sooner or later, there must be and there will be an agreement. I can't control the actions of all members of the union who may wish to want to make a point to the public that they think is worthy of making.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the point one of the union leaders made to the convention was to ask for the Government Leader's resignation. Would the Government Leader tell us what his response to that question was?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, indeed, I was there. I don't remember seeing the member there, but the reporting was correct. There was a member who asked for my resignation. I indicated - not at the time, because there wasn't an opportunity at the time - on a number of occasions during the convention that it is important that the government balances the various needs around the territory and, certainly, respect for public servants is one need that the government is indeed addressing. It is very much a balancing act. We are going to do it in a respectful way, respecting not only our own employees, but also people around the territory and the needs that they express to us, as well.
Ms. Duncan: The union leader said, in a newspaper article last week, that he was insulted that the NDP has not lived up to their commitment to fully rescind the wage rollback legislation. The union believes that that includes returning the lost two percent. They feel betrayed by this government.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP recently concluded negotiations with the Yukon Teachers Association and, judging by their comments after the settlement, for example, and I quote, "The NDP were out at the front of it." - referring to the rollback - "They, too, fully expected to have the rollback rescinded." Clearly, both groups were left with the impression that they were getting the two percent back. Why did the NDP raise this expectation and do nothing to change that expectation, if they had no intention of meeting it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, the NDP government did fully rescind the wage restraint bill. I believe it was approved even by the members in the opposition. I think it was unanimous, and we did not raise expectations in an unwarranted way, because in fact when I was asked the question during the campaign - all party leaders were asked during the campaign - on a number of occasions whether or not we were going to automatically restore the two percent, I said, "No," during the campaign and before the election day on a number of occasions.
Question re: Alcohol and drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services that concerns the extent of the Yukon drug problem. There's a tendency when Yukoners talk about alcohol and drug abuse in the territory to focus, invariably, on the alcohol side of it. There are statistics on how many litres of alcohol are consumed by Yukoners per capita, yet when it comes to the murky, grey world of drug abuse, there appears to be very little information or statistics available. Can the minister advise the House if his department has an estimate of the number of drug users in the territory, broken down by category - IV-drug users, cocaine, marijuana, hash and the like? Is there any information available which shows the extent of Yukon's drug abuse problem?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we do have a sense of the drug problem in the territory, and I can provide - but I don't have it here - the member with some details on that. What I will say is that, increasingly, we are finding problems with injectible drugs, and that manifests itself not only in terms of addictions issues but also in terms of related health problems.
I made some reference earlier to the difficulty that we're having with people particularly coming in with such things as hepatitis C related to injectible drugs, and it is becoming more and more of a concern.
Mr. Jenkins: It's a concern shared by this side of the House also, Mr. Speaker, so I believe it's very important that we tackle this rapidly expanding problem by starting with a data base. Can the minister explain why, in view of this obvious problem that he has enunciated upon, he's reduced the alcohol and drug services budget lower than last year's forecast by some eight percent and even lower than the 1996 actual expenditures? I hope he doesn't believe that by ignoring this serious problem it'll simply go away. Why has the budget been reduced in light of this recognition of the problem, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought that would be the kind of discussion we'd get into in terms of general debate on Health, but I can say we're refocussing a number of our efforts in this regard, and part of our work in realigning our drug and alcohol services was to address this issue. If one takes a look at what some of our efforts are in terms of detox, we're moving to more of a, I suppose, medical model detox to recognize some of the difficulties that individuals have with, in particular, drug-related problems.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I certainly can't buy that, Mr. Speaker. It's very obvious - it's obvious to me and it's obvious to a lot of the people that I've spoken with - even though the minister doesn't recognize the problem, that we have a widespread abuse throughout the Yukon that is not being addressed by government.
This abuse is going down into our youth. It's present in our schools. Marijuana is a problem in our schools. Does the minister have any information about the extent of the drug abuse problem in our schools?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that, having worked in education for a long period of time, and having worked with secondary students in particular, I'm very aware of the fact that there is a drug-use problem among our young people. My concern is increasingly finding young people moving from, I suppose, the softer drugs to some of the harder drugs. It's becoming a concern that cocaine, for example, is now becoming a drug of choice among young people.
As for drug abuse within schools, that's a hard one to nail down. I think we'd really have to have a sense from the individual schools as to the degrees that they find. What I can do is provide the member with some written information giving what we believe are some of the statistical basis for this, as well as what some of the programs that we are taking with our young people in that regard.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 10: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a third time and do pass.
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 third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 10 has passed this House.
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to give assent to the bill which has passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber
ASSENT TO BILL
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: Madam Commissioner, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 1998-99.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair's notification re absence of Deputy Chair
Before proceeding to Committee business today, I wish to advise members that in the absence of the Deputy Chair this week, I will, pursuant to section 902(3) of the Beauchesne, be calling upon Mr. Livingston, MLA for Lake Laberge, to take the chair of Committee from time to time.
Committee will now proceed to further review of the estimates.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
I will now call Mr. Livingston to the chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Chair, I have tabled legislative returns, which I hope provide the information required by the members opposite that were asking for it. If it doesn't, then please ask for clarification. We will do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we work cooperatively together on this process.
I have a few issues which I'd like to read into the record for the members opposite. First I have a question which was raised by the Member for Klondike on March 26 on the replacement of the 400 cell system in the Dawson area. Certainly the rural electrification and the telecommunications policy can help in this area because access to the program is not limited to fixed service only. This policy allows the service providers to propose a service that meets the needs of the people in the area. This could be a fixed service or it could be a mobile service such as cell 800 or it could be a service that accommodates both fixed and mobile.
The government is taking part in the CRTC's hearing into issues surrounding service to high-cost areas. This includes the issue of a national telecommunications support fund, and hopefully when these proceedings are completed service providers will have a greater incentive to extend modern telecommunications systems into rural areas than they do today.
In very sparsely populated areas where a business case cannot be made for terrestrial services, existing satellite networks will offer competitive solutions, such as networks, our Canadian mobile satellite system and the upcoming system, such as Iridium and the Global Star.
Also in response to a question raised by the Member for Klondike, Mr. Jenkins - what are the time lines for the Whitehorse Airport runway extension study - the feasibility study, which is now being conducted by the transportation engineering branch, is expected to be completed for review by April 30, 1998. The study will provide preliminary construction cost estimates for the project. A preliminary engineering schedule study is scheduled for completion by the end of May 1998, and will include survey and geotechnical work.
Also in response to a question on March 26 on the government's involvement in radio and television distribution systems, the issue was will the Government of Yukon be maintaining the same number of radio and television installations and rebroadcasting facilities as it currently operates?
Well, C&TS maintains the 14 CBC-TV rebroadcast sites, six CBC-Radio rebroadcast sites and eight installations in remote highway camps. At this time there are no plans to change this at all.
Also, for the record, on the secondments to the State of Alaska, from the Member for Riverdale South: is C&TS considering doing any sort of exchanges or secondments with the State of Alaska? Well, the department has been exchanging information and knowledge with the State of Alaska through conferences and meetings. Secondments with Alaska have not taken place so far, but the department is prepared to give such opportunities serious consideration whenever and wherever mutually beneficial.
Those are the issues that I have to date from the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister provided information - three legislative returns and three oral responses. The questions that I have outlined in the Blues from last Thursday - there were 17 questions that were going to be responded to or about which the minister was going to be providing more information.
So we've got 11 more to go, Mr. Chair, and I was very, very hopeful that the minister would be able to provide that information in a forthright manner, so that we can speed the business of the House.
If we could deal with the first legislative return, and that is with respect to mosquito control, and we go back to the Blues and Mr. Keenan's statement. It's on page 2573.
"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 purchased directly from the factory."
It's interesting to note, Mr. Chair, that when we take the number of kilograms of larvicide that was purchased in each year, and the cost of applying it, overall we did less and it cost less. If you look back to 1996, there were 291 bags of material applied. Based on the total program cost of $72,500, it cost $249.14 per bag applied. Now in 1997, if all the 200 bags that were purchased from the manufacturer were applied by ground and air, it works out to $273 per bag applied. That's a 10-percent greater increase in cost, Mr. Chair.
And the minister has indicated that there was a cost savings. So, what is happening is that we're doing less work, and it's costing us more money to do less work.
If all 200 bags were applied in the 1997 program - and all of them were not; there were some bags that were not applied, and they were carried over to this year. So, we're not getting an accurate reflection from the minister or his department as to what is transpiring in this area.
Would the minister stand on his feet and give this House an undertaking that he is going to be bringing back accurate information that actually reflects the cost of applying a bag of larvicide? How many hectares are we servicing overall and treating? How many bags are we applying, and what is the cost? Can the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we have endeavoured to provide the member opposite with factual information, the best information that we have. Certainly that is the case in this response that has been provided to the hon. member. Certainly we must take into consideration, I'm sure, the cost of inflation, et cetera, of others.
But certainly I will go back to the department and raise the questions that have been raised - how many hectares of service per bag, how many bags, what is the actual cost, et cetera - and see if we can define the question a bit more. But certainly, I would state that therein would probably lie a certain proportion of the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it will certainly probably expedite the business of the House if the minister brought in his deputy minister and provided him with the answers in a more timely manner, because the minister doesn't know what he's talking about in a lot of these areas. He doesn't have an understanding of the responsibilities of his department, specifically in this area, and he's bringing back information that, while accurate, is skewed, so that it misrepresents what is actually going on. I'm looking for information that actually reflects -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member has just accused the minister of misrepresenting the information. I think that is clearly unparliamentary.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: On the point of order, this is a dispute between members as to the facts. It is not the responsibility of the Chair to make a ruling as to who is correct; therefore, there is not a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Nice try, Trevor.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Members should be referring to members by appropriate titles in the Legislature, in Committee debate and in this House and refrain from using my personal first name. I think that's clearly unparliamentary.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: I would just remind members to refer to members opposite by their titles, rather than their names.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Can we get back to the issue before us, which was the issue of the larvicide application. Can the minister bring back accurate information?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: Order please.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister undertake to bring back accurate information, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the information that has been brought forth by the department is of an accurate nature. The member opposite has asked further for more detail in the questions. As I've said in my previous response, I will endeavour to oblige the hon. member.
Mr. Jenkins: Of the 17 areas that the minister was going to bring back more information on, he provided information on three by legislative return and three orally here this afternoon, Mr. Chair. Can the minister advise when he's going to provide the additional information that he agreed to?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we will provide the information to the member as it is available. As the Member for Klondike is aware of the workings of government, the staff is working at this time so certainly it will be done at the soonest.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I can't accept the minister's response. It's going to do no good to facilitate the quick movement of this bill through the House. We have agreed to provide information in a timely manner and the minister is not doing so. So, I need more of a commitment from the minister than he'll provide it when it becomes available. Can the minister undertake to agree to provide the information at least on the next sitting day for the areas that have been outlined, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as the information becomes available it will be provided to the member, and in that manner it will become available and certainly in a very timely manner. We will endeavour to do our very, very best to get the information to the member, as per the request, in such a fashion that it will not impede and certainly I do not expect it to impede.
As to the member opposite alluding that if the deputy minister were here that he would have it at his fingertips, that is certainly not the case and certainly this is an answer that will justify that case because it is a departmental initiative and the department is working forward to make the information available - whatever information the member opposite wants - as it becomes available in a very timely manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that, once again, the minister is not providing information in a timely manner. He's refused to do that. He says, "When it becomes available."
If we could deal with the second legislative return the minister tabled, and it's concerning the RERC review that is necessary before they can go to that board, the minister indicated that there is no funding available for undertaking the ice effect study. When does the minister envision this program to be beginning, and what are the time lines for it? He notes in the legislative return that the screening report will not be submitted to RERC until the remaining technical work is done and stakeholders' consultation is complete.
Could the minister advise what the time lines are for undertaking the ice study and the stakeholders consultation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we will not, as it says in the legislative return, as there is no funding in the 1998-99 budget for the undertaking of this study. I do not believe that we will be moving forward with this study until there's been a conscious effort as to moving forward with the development of the bridge.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there is, and there has been, a conscious effort moving forward with the development of this bridge, and the minister knows full well that there has been. There have been initial studies undertaken and completed. The preliminary design, preliminary consultation with the area residents and the fish habitat study, have all been completed.
Would the minister indicate to the House why the progress on this project has stopped? Is it for the same reasons that the Minister of Education has stopped the school in Dawson City - she doesn't have a commitment to the education system? What's the minister's excuse, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the minister doesn't have an excuse. The minister has certain direction that he will follow through. There has not been a conscious effort to delay. Neither has there been a conscious decision made regarding the development of the bridge across the Yukon River near Dawson. Now, I know that certainly the Member for Klondike is very supportive of the initiative of a bridge, and others are also. But certainly, at this point in time, we are not going to be building a multi-million dollar bridge. Our priorities are, at this point in time, to continue with health and education, and we will not get into a taxing burden upon people to support bridge. But, certainly, in a timely and deliberate and thoughtful manner, we will be making these decisions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm not asking the minister to make a commitment here to build a bridge. I'm asking the minister to follow through on a commitment made by previous governments that they will do all the preliminary assessment work and the evaluations necessary so that we would have in place everything that is required to go to RERC and get the necessary approvals to construct the bridge. If we don't start with the process now, it just puts the time lines down the road for the eventual construction in another five or six or seven years. And I hope the minister understands that.
Now, I'm hoping the minister will see his way clear to follow through on commitments to complete these necessary studies. Can the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as I said, they are not in the 1998-99 budget, but the Finance minister - the Government Leader - in his wisdom, does partake in community tours and does listen to the people and incorporate his best to the ability of the government overall to move forward. So, there certainly is a process for such, and I would certainly say to the member opposite to work with the process and to work with me to ensure whatever we can do on behalf of government in total so that we can do that in total. So, certainly, with active lobbying from the member opposite and with the direction that would likely be coming from the community, these are issues which focus on it. But, as I have said, at this point in time, I do realize that the member opposite is not speaking for a commitment to the bridge but a commitment to the process leading up to the development of a bridge.
Certainl,y money is not in the budget, but certainly we will take it into consideration, and I hope the member opposite does not take offence, as he has in the past, to the word "consideration," because it is not totally my decision, but certainly a decision that we will all have to collaborate and work on to find the best way.
Mr. Jenkins: On the subject of the bridge, has the minister asked his department to review the potential for a private enterprise-government partnership on the construction of same, similar to the causeway to Prince Edward Island? Is this avenue being explored, or is it being considered for being explored?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that is a question I feel would be better directed to the Minister of Finance, and the proper opportunity would be during the Question Period or Finance debate.
Mr. Jenkins: So here we have the Yukon Territory today. There's one operating mine; we're heading for an all-time high in unemployment; there's very little capital works underway; and the government is not even planning for any future capital civic works here in Yukon. It's a shameful situation to be in, and the minister bears responsibility.
Here he has a whole engineering staff sitting idly by. We're scrambling for work to keep the engineering staff in place. We're exploring avenues of utilizing this engineering staff in projects with Public Works Canada and British Columbia. We're probably going to be exploring secondments into Alaska, and all other things, but we're not even looking right in our own back yard to see what we can do to enhance the infrastructure.
This is an area - the necessary reports and studies leading up to a submission to RERC before one can undertake a major capital project, like a bridge across the Yukon River in Dawson. What's the government's policy on these issues? Could the minister elaborate as to how he envisions his department working in this area? Where do the guidelines come from to undertake any projects, and what projects of this nature are underway that are being studied and reviewed by his department? Perhaps the minister has some other areas that he's exploring that we're not aware of.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly we do not surround policy for the identification of capital projects. It is certainly a political decision, and politicians will make those decisions. We will certainly make those decisions in terms of what is right for the Yukon. I must say that, in spite of the decline in revenues, we're creating jobs, and we're doing that by putting more than $70 million back into the economy in capital spending. We're still protecting important health services and education, and we're doing it without increasing taxes or imposing health care fees. Certainly, with much less to spend, we're trying to spend smarter.
I do not believe that the member opposite can say anywhere that we are looking to say, "Never a bridge," but we are certainly trying to get there in a thoughtful and deliberate manner and we will continue to do that. We recognize the need that we must break the boom-and-bust cycle, and we are going to do that. How are we doing that? Through a more diversified economy.
Now, the member opposite is going to stand up and say we're not, but we are. We're working with the business communities, we're working with communities at large, we're working with the First Nations and labour and we're working with the environmental community. We're doing it to encourage development that is financially and environmentally sustainable.
Mr. Jenkins: Sounds like bunk; and it is bunk.
I guess if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's got to be a duck. We're not going to get any further on this area with the minister, because he's refusing to answer, but it's safe to say that his government's thrust as far as job creation goes is that you had better have a government job or a government contract; otherwise, you had better be in line for unemployment insurance benefits and get a cheque from the EI people. Failing that, come and see us for welfare.
So you can work on one of these three areas. That seems to be the three-prong thrust of this government. Otherwise, everything else is coming to a screaming halt here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
The minister has to assume a lot of responsibility for it, because they're not even exploring any initiatives that will lead to work down the road.
Enough said on that area.
The third legislative return deals with the computer glitches, and that information appears to be reasonable and quite succinct. I thank the minister for same.
Getting into the verbal questions or the verbal responses that the minister offered, could the minister please elaborate on the 400 cell system in the Dawson area that presently exists? That'll eventually fall into disrepair and be decommissioned. How does he envision collecting from the mobile users who are located in other parts of the Yukon that use the cell system and who work in Dawson for certain times of the year and want to access the cell in that area? How does he envision getting them involved in a replacement program and anteing up for the capital costs, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If I walk like a duck and talk like a duck and look like a duck, I guess that must be the reason therein that I'm trying to get plucked like a duck. Certainly, as the fresh-plucked duck, I can say, "How do we envision doing it?" That is exactly what we've done. We've laid out the process and we're going to continue to work within the process for the people. We've established a process that the people can work within so I very much encourage the people.
If the member opposite knows of how we could work together with those folks and to provide direction to those folks within the process who would like the process to be furthered, certainly, my department would be more than willing to work with him. If the Member for Klondike could help facilitate that with my department on behalf of the 400 cell users, then we can start to get down to using the process and that's definitely what it's for.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that once again the minister has failed to answer the question. So for the benefit of the minister, let's try it once more. In Dawson there exists a 400 cell system. Users now have come to rely on the 800 cell system in the Whitehorse area. It is being expanded upon quite rapidly. Virtually everyone who comes up north utilizes the 800 cell system. They get to Dawson City and they can't access the cell phone system. There are a lot of people who are mobile users. The policy that the minister just brought forward envisions a downloading of the charge to these users.
How does the minister envision collecting from those cell phone users who are mobile? They might reside in the Whitehorse area. They might reside somewhere else. But how do you access them for a capital charge?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is a question that I'll have to refer to our communications department and get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the minister is offering another legislative return on this subject. I think that's where we're leading, once again, Mr. Chair. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There are very many ways to communicate, Mr. Chair. Certainly, we can communicate within a condescending manner. It certainly seems to be a practised manner. We can communicate in a friendly forthright manner. We can talk, we can get information, we can read it into the record, we can exchange information in the hallway. So certainly I will get the information to the member opposite in a very expedient manner, if I may say so as such. Certainly, I'll get it to him, as it becomes available, in a timely manner. That is certainly what I'll do, on behalf of my department.
Mr. Jenkins: I think what we're looking for on this side of the House is for the minister to understand the issues he is responsible for within his department and to either have somebody alongside of him who can show him in his briefing notes where this information is contained - he can read it verbatim - or he can waste the time of the House, and his department's time, by going back and researching the information and providing a legislative return.
Yes, there are many ways of communicating. The best ways of communicating are for the minister to stand on his feet and answer the questions but, in order to do that, the minister must have an understanding of what he is charged with the responsibility for, and that does not appear to be the case.
So we don't need all this rhetoric from the minister about the ways of communicating. All we need is for the minister to know his job and his areas of responsibility and answer the questions when he is asked the questions.
So, I will accept that we are now being offered another legislative return on this subject.
With respect to the Whitehorse irport runway extension, we were given information of the time lines for the initial study as being April 30 and the engineering as being May 31. What does the minister envision occurring after the engineering and the reports are done? Where are we going to be heading from there, and what are the time lines for a decision being made as to whether we can undertake this project this period and go out to tender to undertake this contract, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, if I may say that, having been charged with the responsibility, and the responsibility is to work within the realm of my two departments, which I do, I certainly attempt to understand most of the issues, but certainly, Mr. Chair, I am not charged with understanding every bit of detail. There are certain trust factors and direction factors that are given and used between myself and my department, and it will continue to be so.
I would like to point out for the record, though, that we must become consistent here. So, when I do bring somebody in to do just what the member opposite has asked me to do, I am called ignorant. I am told that I do not have the proper ministerial information.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Point of order. There is no indication from this side of the House that the minister was called "ignorant." I am sorry, Mr. Chair. That has never been the case.
Deputy Chair: I did not hear the previous member speaking use the word "ignorant," and I just ask members to continue the debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I certainly have a memory of being abused many times in this House and, if the word "ignorant" was never raised, then certainly other words were alluded to. Certainly, Mr. Chair, I have suffered. I have been called the absolute worst and the most uninformed C&TS minister ever and then smoke was blown up someone else. Mr. Chair, I am certainly used to this, and I guess I will just have to continue to get used to it.
I would just like to say that Committee of the Whole is for general policy debate and if the member opposite would like technical, detailed information, we will provide that. That detailed information will be provided as we proceed through the line-by-line debate.
The question that the Member for Klondike was asking for, certainly the time frames, as they've been spoken to, are there and are out.
That is what's happening this fiscal year. There's certainly a process that we work within for the identification of or the prioritization of capital projects, or whatever we do within our budget, and we'll be following that process. Certainly, that is a process that is steered and guided by the Finance minister, or our Government Leader.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could take the minister back to the Whitehorse Airport runway extension, we have two time lines. After we've met the engineering report for May 31, what is going to happen after that date?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Completion for the preliminary engineering schedule design - or study, I guess I should say - is due for completion by the end of May. What happens after that is certainly going to follow within the process of developing the budget for the following fiscal year. If there is going to be any deviance from that, it is certainly up to the Finance minister and the Government Leader to speak to.
Mr. Jenkins: Will there be anything happening with respect to the Whitehorse Airport runway extension this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm certain the member opposite means the fiscal year that is coming up.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm terribly sorry for mixing apples and oranges here. It is something that we all get used to, I guess. For this fiscal year, certainly, it is within the budget - $70,000 is contained within the budget to look at the geotechnical costs and to do that work.
Mr. Jenkins: Will there be any work undertaken on the runway extension other than what the minister has indicated in these two studies? Is there going to be any work started this coming fiscal period, the fiscal period that we're debating here in the House today?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the Member for Faro said to the member opposite, it's not in the budget, and it certainly isn't, so we are debating the issues that are in front of us at this point in time.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister hope to do something with construction and extending the airport runway this year, if funds become available?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: My hopes are certainly not the only thing that is taken into consideration as to the development of a budget, or within the budget process. I believe the member opposite knows that if this government did not support it, we wouldn't have put the dollars in. We have put $70,000 in to look at the extension and, right now, we're doing the preliminary engineering costs, and the time line for that is by the end of May. We will be considering what comes from the engineering study and looking at how and when is best to move on the recommendations that would come.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister once again let the record show that he's failed to answer the question. The question is, simply stated: if funds become available in this budget period that we are debating here today, is it the minister's desire, or will he see work started on the runway extension?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we all hope and we all aspire for many things in our lives and we certainly have processes, hopefully, to follow a proper decision-making process, and we're going to follow that process and continue to follow that process. This year we are debating this year's current budget - we're coming up into the next fiscal year, which is in just a couple of days - and I would like to focus on that. We will follow the process that has been established as to what we want to do and how it will incorporate into and enhance the economy, et cetera, et cetera. But at this point in time, I'm here to debate this year's budget and I would like to focus on it as such.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we haven't got very far with responses on any of the questions today, so the last issue that the minister gave a verbal response to was the issue of radio and TV stations here in the Yukon that are operated by the Government of Yukon.
My question to the minister is this: in light of the recent decision of Northwestel to get out of the cable business in some of the remote areas where they had sought and obtained CRTC approval to cable, there appears that there will be a demand for additional services. What is the government's policy in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I do believe I answered that question last week. Certainly, the territorial government definitely does not have a policy for when they become vacant as such, but we are not going to be walking in to fill the field - if I may put it in that manner.
Mr. Jenkins: But is the minister stating here today that he doesn't have a policy one way or the other? What's the minister actually stating to the question? What's his response?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the government have a policy in this regard, and if they do, what is the policy? Is the minister's response, "No"?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, we do not have a policy as outlined in my policy book, Mr. Chair. I have answered the question - I do believe last week on the last day - and I've now answered the question one more time. No, we do not have a policy, and certainly we will not be filling the field. There are many very economical TV dishes out at this point in time, and they are certainly led by the private sector. So, I would suggest that the member would be stating that we should be moving in where the private sector is taking over.
Mrs. Edelman: A few minutes ago, the minister referred to the fact that C&TS would be quite amenable to sending secondments over to Alaska, if that was the way it was going to go, or maybe even mutual exchanges, I'm not too sure. I just wanted to say thank you for taking a look at that. It makes a lot of sense. We have a lot in common with Alaska.
My next question is a policy question around capital projects. The minister just said that decisions about capital projects will be made on a political basis. Good governance talks about people being fair and consistent. Is it this government's policy to make capital project decisions on a political basis, instead of being fair and consistent and looking at issues as they are needed? For example, if the bridge is falling down, it has to be replaced. You have to look at preventive maintenance, you have to look at O&M maintenance - regular maintenance - and a lot of times that comes under capital.
I'm a little concerned, because if these decisions are being made on a purely political basis, that means that some Yukoners are going to lose out every time. The people of my riding, for example, are not represented by the government in power. Does this mean that political decisions are going to dictate and that there's no chance that the people in my riding will get capital projects?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, if I misled the member opposite in my answer. Certainly, the politicians will make the decisions, but as the member opposite knows, the departments have five-year capital plans. We take all the information that is readily available to us. Some of it is current information; some of it's historical information as to where the departments are going and identification of the infrastructure needs of the territory. Certainly, I think that a good case is the Klondike riding, in what this government is trying to do.
We think of all ridings and we look to have a government for the complete territory. There are 17 seats in the Legislature and we are certainly going to represent all 17 seats to the best that we can for all folks. So, forgive me if I've misled the member opposite; that is certainly not what I intended.
Mrs. Edelman: That's good to hear, because it's certainly not a good policy.
The territorial government recently had airports devolved to them, and one of those airports was the Watson Lake Airport. The Watson Lake Airport had this elderly firetruck that was responsible for taking care of air emergencies out by the airport. That truck, I understand, was apparently outfitted with the equipment necessary to fight that type of fire, which would be a plane crashing, that sort of thing, or hitting something else, I guess.
Now, the Town of Watson Lake got that firetruck given to them for a dollar. I understand they've now turned it over and have gotten rid of it. They have firefighting equipment within the town, but it is not the type of equipment that is suitable for fighting airport fires. Is it this government's policy, when they have airports devolved to them, to provide adequate fire protection?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It is part of the devolution process, and part of our governance, to certainly ensure that we have protective fire spaces through the devolution process for the airports. We also look to use our firetrucks in different places, so we shuffled them around from here and there because, as the Yukon grows, there are different needs, geographically, I guess I can say, and we attempt to move them around and to make best use of them.
As it would be one of the principles that I'm speaking from - not detailed knowledge that's contained within the devolution process - I would know that one of the principles would be that we move forward as per the agreement.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's a very interesting discussion about the shuffling of firetrucks. However, this is a very meat-and-potatoes kind of issue - like, actually, just about everything in C&TS.
Now, you can't use the same type of firefighting equipment on air fuel as you do, say, on a house burning down. You need different types of firefighting equipment, and that is not available at the Watson Lake Airport. I'm wondering if the minister will at least review what firefighting equipment is available, particularly at the rural airports, and make an effort to make sure that that type of equipment is available, particularly at the Watson Lake Airport.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the clarification of the question. Certainly, I will get the department to look into it and ensure that the terms of the devolution agreement have been lived up to and see if there is satisfactory firefighting equipment that is specific to the fighting of a fire on an airfield with an airplane.
Mr. Chair, the issue of Watson Lake is probably not just an issue for Watson Lake. I would suspect that it would be timely and wise, considering that we just had the airports devolved to us, to look at that sort of firefighting equipment across the Yukon. I wonder if the minister - he probably has that information from his department and it is available to him - could provide that information to this side of House at his convenience, providing that is very conveniently in the very near future.
With that in mind, I also wanted to talk to the minister about landfills. Now, I'm speaking to you from the Echo, which is the newspaper of Haines Junction. This is the April 1998 edition, and there's quite an interesting discussion in it about landfills, and of course garbage is always a fun topic.
One of the statements made - and it doesn't say who has written this, so it's a little unclear - it says, "No Yukon landfill has a totally impervious liner." Now I know that the liner at the Whitehorse sewage lagoon, for example, is impervious and I'm wondering, is this the Yukon-wide policy? What's happening with the liner and it is going to be the policy in the future to provide impervious liners when we're developing new cells at the various landfill sites across the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly Mr. Chair, now that I understand what the impervious liner is and means, I can certainly talk a little bit about it. Certainly I concur, talking about garbage or landfill - however we would term it - is fun.
But certainly Renewable Resources, at this point in time, led by the Minister of Renewable Resources, is looking at doing a solid waste study, and that is going to be incorporated. We're looking at all sorts of different options that might be able to come out and to work with them and, of course, we'll be having these issues discussed with communities as we go through the rural services consultation for the development of the next policies. These are all issues that we will be coming back to and the department will be sitting down and sorting out all issues that pertain to rural services, of which this is certainly one.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the issue of impervious liners is actually a policy decision. The first thing I wanted to know is that the statement about no Yukon landfill has a totally impervious liner - I wouldn't mind knowing from the department whether or not that's true.
And also whether it's C&TS's policy now, let alone in the future, to line new cells at landfills with impervious liners. Now we're talking about keeping up with technology; we're not talking about recycling here. We're talking about just basic meat-and-potatoes construction of landfill sites. Is the department now aiming toward these impervious liners in the development of new cells?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As to the impervious liners in the Yukon now, certainly that is something that I will have to get back to the member opposite on, and we'll have to do some consulting, certainly, with the municipalities that have control over their own waste. We will endeavour to do that and get the answer back to the member opposite in a timely manner.
We're still investigating how to handle garbage, and we'll do it in a manner that's consistent with the Yukon residents' wishes. We're doing this, as I said, through the rural services policy.
There are lots of discussions on rural service policy, through consultation, pertaining to garbage, coming up. So, we're in the process of investigating it and working through. As I said, Renewable Resources is certainly working with us through their air quality standards, and so on. I will get the information that the member asked for. Those are some of the processes that we're going through now to look at how to handle it and work with the dilemma we're in.
Mrs. Edelman: I appreciate that the department is also going to look toward municipalities and see what their practices with impervious liners are or are not, although the vast majority of landfills - actually, they're dumps - are run by C&TS in the Yukon.
Now, also, in this same newspaper, if you can call it that, they talk about guidelines: "... similar to enforceable guidelines elsewhere in Canada will cause the cost of garbage disposal to increase." They're talking here of different ways of disposing of waste.
I wonder, in this next budget, if the department is going to be listening to the consultations and enacting any of the guidelines coming in from Renewable Resources, because it is C&TS that runs most of the landfills in the Yukon. Has there been any extra money budgeted in this budget to look at the increasing costs of disposing of waste in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Not specifically at this point in time - to the member opposite - has that arisen, and no, there are no extra dollars in here, but we're going to be working with all aspects, looking at all aspects, to see the costs and how to bring the costs down and work wisely within the dollars that we do have.
So it's an ongoing process. Certainly the member opposite will be offered a complete briefing of process and recommendations. I would assume, and probably am correct in the assumption, that the member opposite is taking part in some of the discussion and consultation to put forth the thoughts that the member opposite would have.
So, specifically, no, there is no new money identified, but certainly it's a challenge and we're waiting to look at the recommendations from the people as they come forth.
Mrs. Edelman: There's another C&TS issue in the City of Whitehorse, and it speaks to the people living in the Shipyards and Sleepy Hollow area who are going to be moved. I'm wondering, what is the policy on this government on consultations for when you're moving people or when you're making large changes?
The reason I say that is I see there's $294,000 allocated for this particular line item, but I don't see any money put aside for consultations. What is the normal amount of money that the department sets aside for consultations, and is there some sort of formula that the government uses - you know, if there are 50 people that you're going to have to move, it's $5 a head? What is it that the department covers in consultations? Is it the cost of consultants? Is it the cost of the rental of a hall? Is it the cost of doughnuts - coffee? What does the department pay for, in terms of consultations, and how much is usually budgeted?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As to the exact formula used, as per is there a cost per consultation or increment built in to the budget for consultation, I think not, but I would assume that it is built in to the work of the technical people - the bureaucrats, if you will. That is a part of their job.
In the case of the waterfront residents, we're looking at this on a case-by-case basis so that we might be able to work with the people who are affected, so as to make less of a negative impact on their lives. As the member opposite knows, they are in varying degrees of age, health, et cetera. So it's a case-by-case basis, but specifically, as to the nature of the question regarding is there an increment in the budget specifically, or part of a formula specifically for consultation, that is something I would have to get from the department to provide an accurate answer.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I then to understand that the minister will get back to me with specific figures about the cost of, specifically, the consultation in Whitehorse on the people in the Shipyards and Sleepy Hollow?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the member opposite would appreciate just focusing on just the waterfront residents - or the Shipyards or Sleepy Hollow or Whiskey Flats, as we used to call them - we've been around forever. Well, we're showing our age, you know. Certainly, I will focus on just that portion.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, some of us are showing our age.
As well as the generals, if the minister could please provide a general statement about what sort of costs are covered in consultations by the department, I would appreciate that information as well.
Other issues that keep coming up are the issues around emergency measures. There are a number of people - probably a good 1,000 people - across the Yukon who take volunteer positions with the Emergency Measures Organization of the Yukon, and those are people in search and rescue, and they are in the Red Cross and a variety of different areas. And those people are recognized usually in the volunteer picnic every year down at Rotary Park, but for people particularly in the communities, there is very, very little recognition. Of course, this is really brought to mind when we speak about Ida McCormick, for example. I attended, I think, six workshops and Ida McCormick was there every single time, and there was never any recognition of the good work that she did here, and it was all volunteer, and I know it cost her a pretty penny every time that she came into those workshops.
Would the minister consider getting an annual report to the Legislature - maybe a recognition of some of those volunteers here in this Legislature - about the good volunteer work that they do? I know that some people in some of the communities have been doing it for over 20 years, and I don't know if it would really hurt to at least recognize that type of volunteerism. Lord knows that we're going to need those people if there is ever an earthquake or a major disaster in the Yukon beyond the normal floods that we get on an almost yearly basis.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I think the member opposite has a very good point on the nature of volunteerism and how it works out with all folks that can dedicate in some cases a small part and in other cases a very large part of their lives to the social fabric of the Yukon, making it that much stronger. To recognize volunteerism is, I think, our duty as a government. All members should recognize volunteerism, no matter what riding or where we come from in rural Yukon. It's those kinds of people, who work selflessly for others, who are going to be recognized when they depart this world. Certainly, that is written into the scriptures, but I don't know if it's written in our scriptures. Certainly, I will endeavour to ensure that folks are recognized for good community work. I thank you for bringing that suggestion forward.
Mr. McRobb: The Member for Riverdale South referred to the Haines Junction Treadmill on the dump issue. I would like to encourage all members of this Legislature to read this community newsletter, which is full of good information and brings us up to date on events in the Haines Junction area, as well as the Echo, which is a monthly production. The Treadmill is also available on the Internet off the Yukon website for those with computer Internet access.
However, I don't have to exclusively rely on newsletters for my information, because of the contact I have with people in the communities, including Haines Junction, but I can say that people there are very happy now that the dump will finally be moved. Many people have felt that it has attracted bears, as well as discouraged tourism in the area, since occasionally there is a fire at the dump that drifts over into the highway and people catch this unpleasant odour as they enter the community. This really gives them an incorrect perception of such a beautiful community.
I'd like to ask the minister if he knows when this dump may be relocated?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the commercial pause brought forward by the Member for Kluane. When is the dump going to be relocated? Certainly, that is something that I do not have exactly right here, but it is certainly something that I will have to get back to. But, certainly, I'd like to let the Member for Kluane know that it is an initiative that lies within the muncipality's direction.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that answer. I would like to also express my appreciation for this departmental budget. I know there are many people in the Kluane riding who appreciate many of the undertakings in this year's budget and, as we all know, there are several communities in the riding and it seems that there is something there for each and every one of them.
In fact, just about a week ago, I attended a pre-annual general meeting in Mendenhall subdivision and one of the main concerns there was telephone access and access to electricity. I've already spoken to some residents of Mendenhall about the rural electrification/telephone program announced by the minister today and they are extremely happy that this new program could include them as candidates for amortized payments on independent electrical systems and they are just, once again, elated that this program includes such things for them.
I've also talked to people in Beaver Creek who are very happy about some of the capital projects, the renovation of the visitor reception centre, the nursing station and so on. I've talked to people in the Destruction Bay area, including the Kluane First Nation, who are very happy about the work that will be done on the sewage lagoon.
I also took the occasion to stop and talk to some of the highway lodge owners, especially after the leader of the official opposition claimed he was talking in one of the coffee shops. Well, Mr. Chair, I undertook to travel out there the next day to just see for myself what they were saying and it was quite surprising, I wasn't able to locate the coffee shop he was referring to. Maybe it doesn't exist.
Maybe it wasn't the coffee shop at all. I'm not quite sure on that one. Anyway, this RETP, as I understand it, could also provide funding for some of the highway lodge owners who wanted to get away from their diesel generators to independent power systems. So there's something in this budget for them, as well, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: Let the member complete his comments.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Member for Klondike, I guess he can dish it out, but he can't take it. We spend days and days in here listening to him, but -
Deputy Chair: Order please. Would the member keep to the topic.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you. Also, Mr. Chair, we heard about the situation in the Ibex community, with the council there looking for a place to meet. I discussed this matter with the minister and I'm satisfied the department is taking whatever action is required to resolve this issue, and the people there are looking forward to a resolution of it, as well.
I would just like to summate by thanking the minister for bringing forward such a thoughtful budget that seemingly has something for everyone, including those in Dawson City, I might add. It's something that, so far, I've heard from Yukoners that they all appreciate. The only negativity I've heard, Mr. Chair, quite frankly, is from some members of the opposition - and maybe their friends, the cartoonist in the local paper. They're the only ones I've heard any negativity from at all.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's get back to the issue at hand, and that's debating the budget and not listening to the rhetoric from the Member for Kluane.
If we could just explore with the minister some of the issues for which the answers were somewhat skewed, after I had a chance to review Hansard.
If I could take the minister back to the discussion we had with respect to the airports and the CARS situation, the minister indicated, on page 74 of the Blues, "I will get a briefing from my department and will be able to report further to the House." Could the minister report further to the House with respect to the information that he obtained from his department after he had the briefing on CARS, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have not yet been able to have a briefing from the department on CARS, specifically, but if the member would like to formulate that into a question at this point in time, it would be much appreciated.
Mr. Jenkins: As I suspected, Mr. Chair, the minister doesn't have an understanding of the issue. We have a couple more questions on this side of the House dealing with CARS.
At the present time in rural Yukon, the CAR stations operate from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and they close. A lot of the traffic that is coming our way - Dawson City, Watson Lake and along the Alcan Highway - occurs after the closure of the CAR stations. What steps is the minister taking to keep the CAR stations open longer in the day, at least until legal darkness, in most of these areas?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as I have said it and will reiterate, NavCanada and the territorial government are currently negotiating a new contract to replace the old contract. Certainly the Yukon government is seeking the additional funding and the scheduling flexibility to meet the local user needs.
Now, I know that the Member for Klondike suggested that there is much more than just local user needs, and I had attempted to bring a level of comfort to the Member for Klondike to say that we would be looking to have an understanding from the member opposite of all the users. So, certainly, we're going to look at that, but at this point in time, we are negotiating with them for the flexibility of more hours based on the needs that have arisen.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister aware that local flights originating and terminating after the CAR stations close, if they're on a company note, are not recorded, and the movements are not recognized by the statistic-keeping bureau of the government? Is the minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: My department is charged with the responsibility of identifying the needs of the community and to have meetings with the stakeholders and the folks who are affected by the needs, and that would be one of the issues that the department is very, very well-aware of.
I'm charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the department does those things, and the department is doing those initiatives. I must say again, though, that we're negotiating a new contract. We're doing it with NavCan to ensure that we have additional funding and schedule flexibility that has been identified and arising from stakeholder consultation, talking with folks and the local user needs.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record once again reflect that the minister doesn't really have an understanding of the information that he's giving in the House and is just deferring it back to his department. I'm very, very disappointed.
At issue is what drives the need to keep the CARS operating longer hours. It's the number of movements. Unless there is an accurate way of knowing how many aircraft movements occur, especially when they originate and terminate at the same airport after CARS is closed - and a lot of operators operate on a company note. So that information doesn't even go into the system. So according to whomever is keeping track of the stats, that flight didn't start or stop, so there's no need to provide those additional services. So we're in a catch-22, Mr. Chair, and the minister just passes the buck on to his department.
The other issue that arises with the closure of the CAR station at three o'clock in the afternoon is NavCanada's position that they want to decommission ARCALs at a number of airports throughout the Yukon. What is the government's policy in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll ask the member opposite to repeat the decommissioning and, I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand the last portion.
Mr. Jenkins: With the closure of CAR stations at three o'clock in the afternoon, there's no one in attendance from three till dark. If they're a VFR airport, nothing can happen after dark. They're not legally allowed to land or take off after legal dark at a VFR airport unless you declare an emergency, Mr. Chair. But NavCanada is looking at decommissioning ARCALs at a number of Yukon airports. Now what is the government's policy in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, if I asked for the question to be clarified, it seems to have become longer.
Certainly, let me also say, though, that we are working with NavCan. We're working with NavCan to get assurances that quality will not be diminished and certainly we all know that they propose to terminate and reduce. But certainly it's impossible for them to do that without going out and talking to folks and that's exactly what they're doing.
So what are we currently doing? NavCan and the territorial government are currently negotiating new contracts. I don't have to reiterate that. It seems like I'm getting repetitive. Certainly, consultation with the industry and with the stakeholders is now taking place and the recommendations from that study will be presented to the NavCan board of directors and that will be taking place some time further during the summer.
So, we're carefully monitoring the progress of the study with the air carriers and the users to determine the potential impact on them and on the public. Certainly, safety in the user agreement is the primary objective to work on and to continue to bring forward and I do believe that I've satisfactorily answered the question for the member opposite. I do not see anything that could be brought forth now to further clarify. So, on that front, we're working with them. We're addressing the needs, looking at all needs and I'm sure that the dilemma that has been alluded to by the Member for Klondike has been taken into consideration and we'll certainly clarify that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what we've heard from the minister is a whole lot of gobbledegook. For the benefit of the House, can the minister stand on his feet and tell the House what is meant by ARCAL?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Gobbledegook? Is that parliamentary? I think I need a ruling from the Chair.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: Gobbledegook is not considered to be unparliamentary.
Would the members please proceed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Doggone it. That's unfortunate, because I understand that "doggon it" is. We are here not to make each other look bad or look silly. I think that's up to the individual to do that, and I must commend the member opposite for doing such a fine job. I'm here to work toward describing this budget and will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I have asked of the minister, Mr. Chair, is his department's decision on the policy on ARCALs. The minister doesn't even know what it stands for.
He walked all the way around the topic. He danced around the issue, stood on his feet and offered a whole lot of gobbledegook, but he didn't answer the question. For the benefit of the House, what does ARCAL stand for, Mr. Chair? If the minister doesn't know what it stands for, he certainly can't answer the question.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me say that, last year, I had suffered approximately three weeks of abuse, certainly, from that member opposite. The opposition critic for the third party certainly did not offer that type of abuse, and that is remembered and certainly looked after and warranted.
Now, it seems to me that I am back on my feet again, getting just this kind of abuse that I do not think is warranted. Certainly, if we could keep the level of debate where I do believe it should be and put the trust factor into people, then we might be able to work together a little more closely, and not go through weeks of abuse.
I do recall standing on my feet and working with the member opposite, repeating my answers, and continuing to do so, and even at times that the member had the answer in front of him, I said, "Go ahead," and it opened up another two hours of abuse.
Well, it certainly seems that this is the type of abuse that I'm going to have to be subjected to again and again and again. My department is working with much due diligence, working on and for and on behalf of the aviation industry, on behalf of the stakeholders, on behalf of the people that are used. And why are we doing it? So that we might provide safe conditions, better conditions for all people that are users of it, and I think that that is exactly what we're doing. But certainly, let the Yukon know that abuse and mismanagement of their time and of their House is happening, and it is happening once again, and all I can do is say that I expect it to continue happening.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, as I understand our respective roles, I am here to ask questions of the minister of his department, and he is here to answer them. Now, the question is a question of policy dealing with airports, dealing with NavCanada's position that they are looking at decommissioning ARCALs at a number of Yukon airports.
Now, what is the government's position with respect to NavCanada's desires in this area? It is a safety issue. It is a very critical safety issue, Mr. Chair, and the minister doesn't even know what ARCAL stands for, so what is the government's policy on it? If the minister can't answer it, I guess we're in for another legislative return.
Now, if the minister can't answer it, and if he could please stand on his feet and say, "I'll bring back the response by way of legislative return," we can go on. I'm not looking to prolong this debate and dance all around and get the type of answers that we're receiving here in the House today that make no sense whatsoever, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The present Yukon air navigation system is protected under Bill C-20, and that's the commercialization of the civil system. If NavCanada proposes to terminate or reduce designated services, implementation is only possible if the Yukon government, or users, do not reject the proposal, or if the proposal is approved by the Minister of Transport.
Now certainly the Yukon government is carefully monitoring the progress of this study with the air carriers and users to determine the potential impact on them and the public. Safety - if I may repeat - safety and user agreement are the primary objectives.
Now, NavCanada officials have stated that the Yukon community airdrome radio station program will not likely be affected by any major service changes; however, no assurances have been given regarding the Whitehorse air traffic control or such. So now we're into a different realm, but I do believe that the question has been answered for the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but the question most certainly hasn't been answered by the minister. ARCAL - NavCanada is looking at decommissioning ARCALs at a number of rural Yukon airports. What is the government's position with respect to this decommissioning? It is a safety issue, Mr. Chair.
The minister doesn't even know what ARCALs are. If that's the case, fine. If he could bring back the information by way of legislative return, I'd be most happy, and we can get on with the debate. Will the minister undertake to provide that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If I might say, I've answered what is the government's position. The government's position is to go out and to work with NavCan, to talk to the local users, the people who are affected by the decision, and to work with them therein. Now, I have said quite categorically, if I may say, that safety and user agreements are the primary objectives of this.
Now, do we have a position at this time? We are looking. We are talking. We are aspiring to get people's comments, because certainly, that is the nature of this government - to focus on what folks want. Now, I've said the primary objectives are safety and user agreements.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House what ARCAL stands for?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I cannot stand up and advise the House at this time what it stands for, but I can certainly stand up and advise the House as to what we are doing with all safety projects, and what we are doing here with all folks for it. Now, I could certainly repeat my statement, and maybe I should, because we all know that the air navigation system is protected under Bill C-20. It's the commercialization of the civil system. If NavCan proposes to terminate or reduce designated services, how is implementation possible? Only if the Yukon government or users do not reject the proposal. So, what are we doing? We're going out and we're talking to people about what does it mean? What is it? What are the primary objectives? The primary objectives are the safety and user agreements. What is the government's position? That is the process that we use to get to the government's position.
Now, the member will not be satisfied with that answer. I certainly understand that he won't be satisfied with that answer. I've already said that I'm used to three weeks. I'm prepared for another three weeks of abuse, if I may say it as such. But, certainly, that is the government's position. We are working with folks, and we'll continue to work with folks. And what are the primary objectives? The primary objectives are the safety and user agreements. Those are exactly what the primary objectives are.
Now, as we are negotiating a new contract to replace the CARS agreement that was negotiated in 1989, the territorial government is seeking the additional funding, and we're seeking a schedule of flexibility so that we might be able to meet the local user needs.
Again, we are in a process to talk, support and to work with folks, whether they are local users - whoever the stakeholders are. Therein lies the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record reflect that the minister doesn't have an understanding of this very important safety issue. He's not prepared to go back to his department and inquire about it, which I hope he might do at the break, and come back with a response, and advise the House just what the government's policy is with respect to ARCALs, because it is a safety issue. It is a critical safety issue, especially when you look at emergency landings and landings by our carriers that are involved with medevacs. NAVCanada is not going to give the time of day to anyone who doesn't have even the basic understanding of what it stands for.
So, can the minister undertake to go to his department at the break and get a couple of minutes briefing so he can come back and advise the House on his government's policy with respect to ARCALs and what position they're going to take?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe, as the Member for Faro - pardon me, heaven forbid that I say he's from Faro. My God. Forgive me Faro - the Member for Klondike says that he's speaking to a fundamental component of a safety issue. I have said and have not alluded to the fact, I've quite categorically stated, that safety and user agreements are the primary objectives of this process. Those are our principles. That is what we're doing.
How are we doing it? We're doing it in consultation with stakeholders. We're doing it in consultation with the local users. That is exactly what we are doing and that is exactly what we will continue to do and our policy - because there is not a policy on our position at this time, because what we're doing is that we're coming with the position to those folks. It's not a policy. It's going to be done and garnered from that process and the primary objectives - well, I'm sure that the member opposite has heard me say that, so I won't even have to complete that.
But, certainly, safety is first and foremost there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister had the basic understanding of what ARCALs stood for, he would know full well that if you were looking solely at safety, the decommissioning of the systems would be the preferred way to go. But, they are needed for medevacs and they are needed for emergency purposes and emergency landings, especially when the CAR stations are unmanned.
So, once again, I will ask the minister if he could bring back the information by way of a legislative return. Could he agree to provide that information, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I said that safety is a primary issue and will continue to be so. The objective is the user agreement. The process is laid out. That is going to be one component of the process. Folks are going to bring it up. I am certainly assured that the member opposite, as he does have his private pilot's licence, will be bringing this up. I know that the member opposite has great concern for these issues and processes. We will work within the issues and processes.
The process is outlined. I've outlined the process, I do believe, on my feet in the last 15 to 20 minutes - it could even have been longer than that - but the member opposite is aware of the process and aware of the objectives of what we'd like to see. We will get the information to the member when it becomes available as to the position - not to the policy, but to the position, if I may.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm hoping we could expedite the business of the House if the minister could undertake to bring back a legislative return, and we can move on.
Can the minister undertake to do that, please, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will be able to provide information on the process and the details of it when it is completed.
Mr. Jenkins: And that would be by way of a legislative return, please - could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will live up to what I said. When it is there, the information certainly will be provided. That'll be provided in a very timely manner, as it becomes clear, and the stakeholders have been consulted and worked with. Certainly I will work. Will it be in the form of a legislative return? Well certainly we'll get the information back to the member as soon as possible. The member wishes a legislative return, well, we'll certainly provide the information to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I just refer the minister back to Hansard. If he could take the time and review the Blues from last Thursday, he will find that there are 17 instances where, during the course of debate with me, he agreed to provide information or a legislative return or he will get a briefing from his department and will be able to report further to the House.
What I'm looking at is a process that will get this information in front of the minister and to the House a lot faster than what is coming forth here today. We are wasting the time of the House in the way the minister is answering the questions here today. It is very, very time consuming and agonizing and not serving any purpose. The minister doesn't have an understanding of his department.
He doesn't have an understanding of the issues and he doesn't have an understanding of how to respond to the majority of the questions posed to him today. The minister's responses are all in a very generic form. I believe it is his responsibility to answer these questions in a timely and forthright manner and a very simple manner. That could be well-advanced if he had someone beside him in the House that could point out in the briefing books where this information is contained.
The minister feels that it's his responsibility to answer all this information, and he's doing a very poor job of addressing the questions posed to him today, Mr. Chair, as he was last Thursday. So, I'm looking for a method of speeding up the process. If the minister wants to respond to all of these questions by way of legislative returns before the House rises, that's fine, and I would be hoping that we could deal with it immediately after the next day. The debate takes place today and the legislative returns would be tabled the following day for our consideration, so we can get on with the debate.
Can the minister undertake to do that, please, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm reminiscent of last year's process. I do not believe it matters who is sitting to my left or to my right, or who is providing the information. I am reading from the briefing notes, as the member is well aware. I have the information in front of me. I've been providing the information to the member opposite. I've been providing the information in a timely manner. I've been providing the information in a forthright manner. There is some level of detail that I don't think anyone is expected to have and to contain.
Certainly, if that was the case, then what would we have? We'd have dictatorships, and one person would be controlling all. Well, that is not what this government is about. This government believes in talking to people. This government believes in consultation. This government believes in providing answers and looking for solutions. Therein is one of the biggest factors that we can do - is to look for solutions - and how do we do that? We do that by talking to the stakeholders, talking to the users, identifying a very transparent process so that folks will be able to come forward and to bring forth their concerns and their needs. That is what is happening.
Now, I have been ridiculed in this House by the member opposite, the Member for Klondike. He has ridiculed me talking with my folks. My people, my parents tell me, "You must calm down, David, because certain people are that way. You must have a deeper understanding of some people's nature." Well, I'm getting that understanding. I'm certainly prepared to go another three weeks. If that is what I have to do, then I'm certainly prepared to do that.
I'm also very much committed to getting the information to the member opposite and to the Yukon at large.
I'm very much committed to that, and I will continue to be committed to that, and I will get the information back. I will also work with the system and work with the people within the system, but I will not have my people subjected to the abuse that I am in this House.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair: Do the members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Committee will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, during our brief recess, I am hoping that the minister had an opportunity to consult with his department and can now come back to the House and offer an explanation about ARCALs and the government's policy with respect to this issue. Is the minister prepared to do so?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much. Certainly, let me first of all say that the member opposite speaks to the need and the desire, from himself personally, to go forward and do things in an expeditious manner and work within the system. I don't think - well, I think that's gobbledegook. That's exactly what I think that is.
If the member was desirous of that aspiration, he would not be putting out that kind of gobbledegook. He would be attempting to work with the questions and work with the members of the House so that we might be able to bring forth what we want to do in a feeling of working together.
So, if I could say it in that manner, the question is gobbledegook - the question.
Let me say that, yes, the department has given me a briefing at the break. I am very appreciative to the department. Let me also say, does this lie within the NavCan system? No, it doesn't.
It's not within that system. So, unfortunately - I might not have been misleading the House, but certainly I may have been speaking about another process - so I beg your pardon.
It's Transport Canada and not NavCan that has concerns that come about from the aircraft radio control aerodrome lighting, and that's the system that's in Dawson and Ross River. Now they say that the airports may not meet these safety regulations at both airports. I'm certain that the member opposite knows that. I mean, the member opposite is a pilot, has been for some years, I understand, but both airports are not certified for night landing.
Now the department, meaning my department, feels that the aircraft radio control aerodrome lighting system should be retained for emergency flights such as the medevacs. What's happening now, though, with the devolution process that's taking place, is that Transport Canada is seeking a legal position from the federal Department of Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for taking the time to find out about this very important safety issue.
And it is a very important issue, not just for emergency situations or for medevac flights that come in after legal dark or before legal light, but for the time period after the CAR stations are closed and unmanned, and that is from 3:00 p.m. to legal dark, which is now sometime around 8:00 p.m. So, there's quite a window in there where an inbound pilot, by pressing his microphone, can turn the lights on and give himself that added level of safety. Now, the issue - and the minister is quite correct. It is correct that Transport Canada is concerned with the liability arising out of the use of this system. They are used on a regular basis by medevac pilots, who, despite the airports that the minister has referred to - Ross River and Dawson being strictly VFR airports - who have to land in all hours of darkness in the event that they have someone who requires emergency medical treatment and has to be moved to Whitehorse. The fastest and quickest way to get them out is via air, so this system is very critical
The alternative is to man the CAR stations 24 hours a day, and that is out of the question, cost-wise.
So I thank the minister. I would like to see the position the government develops, now that the minister has agonizingly become familiar with the issue.
If the minister would undertake to provide the position that his department is taking with respect to ARCALs, I'd certainly appreciate him providing me with a copy - and probably my colleague in the Liberal caucus.
Is the minister prepared to provide that information, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have spoken into the mike already, and I believe that the Member for Klondike can take comfort from the fact that the department feels that the aircraft radio control aerodrome lighting system should be retained for emergency flights such as medevacs. I have stated that and we'll certainly continue to promote that.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could just explore a couple of the other issues surrounding airports with the minister and the firefighting ability here at the Whitehorse Airport, in the interest of providing additional service, now that the Government of the Yukon has care and control of Whitehorse firefighting, has the area of making one firefighting facility at the Whitehorse Airport, which is able to serve the surrounding area, been explored?
At the present time, we have a fire detachment up in Takhini. We have several. It would appear to make an abundant amount of sense to a number of individuals that I've spoken with to have one central firefighting station at the Whitehorse Airport that can service not just the airport, but all the surrounding area. Is this avenue being explored?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, one moment, please.
Yes, certainly we're exploring that initiative right now, and doing it in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse and working with the City of Whitehorse to see how we might best put it into one central location. That location that is being promoted is the airport area. So, yes, we are looking at that and hopefully it will be brought to fruition soon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm very pleased to see that the minister has some initiative in this manner and an understanding of it. Has there been a cost-benefit analysis taken on the matter and could the minister provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I just had to write down the question. Certainly, that is going to be a part of the process. As we conclude our discussion, I will certainly keep both members of the House included.
Mr. Jenkins: Has there been a cost-benefit analysis undertaken to date on this issue, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do not believe so but, as I've said, this is a part of the process. He says, "to date" and I say that this is a part of the process and that we will explore this as part of the process in the discussion with the City of Whitehorse - and it will be provided.
Mr. Jenkins: What's the government's policy with respect to firefighting equipment at the balance of the airports - specifically Watson Lake, which is the other major Yukon airport - and some of the other international airports, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can get the policy issues surrounding the devolution process and the firefighting process that has come from it. I'm sorry, but my ears are rusty. I'm hard of hearing. Did the member say the policy of international airports? I'm sorry, that confused me.
Mr. Jenkins: There are three airports in the Yukon that are designated international airports for the Customs clearance. There's Beaver Creek, Dawson City and Whitehorse. Whitehorse has virtually full-time Customs attendance here - Customs and Immigration. Dawson is on an on-call basis and Beaver Creek is located right adjacent to the Canada Customs centre where Customs and Immigration are located.
I was wanting to know what the government's policy is with respect to the provision of firefighting equipment at these international airports and additionally, Watson Lake, which is the other major Yukon airport, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I stated earlier to the Member for Riverdale South that I would get the information back.
Mr. Jenkins: In the last budget debate, we looked at the refueling installation at the Haines Junction airport and the requirement that the operator provide statistics on the amount of fuel and the amount of aircraft movements. Could the minister provide the House just where we're at with respect to this undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I could just read directly from the briefing note, if I may.
As the member opposite knows, the operation facility has been contracted to Sifton Air, and it's been done for a 16-month period that started September 1, 1997. Of course, logically, it's going to end on December 31, 1998. They're responsible for the supply and dispensing of the fuel and providing the monthly fuel sale statistics. Then the statistics will be used to determine the success and the viability of the facility.
During the initial four months of operations, 62 aircraft used the facility, and 5,850 litres of fuel were sold. I could provide - well, I guess if we look into the Hansard, that information regarding the facility was tabled in the Legislature here in December of 1997.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm whether that was 62 different aircraft, or 62 aircraft movements?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would have to get that information from the department. It does say here, though, that 62 aircraft use the facility during that. So, I'll have to get it distinguished between the two.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, earlier in the debate, we got to listen to the comments of the Member for Kluane, and he brought up a good point - that we should get out of Whitehorse more often - and certainly I've had the great pleasure of going out in his riding - first of all for the Liberal Party AGM in the fall, and then of course, for the last two hockey tournaments in Haines Junction, where my son's team won the gold medal for the novice.
At any rate, Mr. Chair, one of the issues that has come up in visiting friends and family in that area has been the issue of rural lot development in the Ibex Valley. This was an issue that was brought up during the C&TS briefing, and we had some response on that issue. The question that was posed to me was, where is the push for residential development coming from? Is this something that was initiated by the area residents, or is this something that is coming from the department as sort of an overflow need from the City of Whitehorse for rural residential lots? And I didn't really get a response from that briefing question, and I'm wondering if the minister is prepared to give me that information now.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Did I hear the member opposite talking about not developing Dawson City, and then clarifying it and saying, "Ibex Valley"?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Okay. Well, I can tell you about the Ibex Valley firehall - as we know - the Ibex Valley hamlet planning study, but that's not the question either. And so it's specifically to do with lot development within the area of the Ibex Valley.
Well, if I could - I could tell you that, yes, we are looking for the Whitehorse area, but, unfortunately, it just states the Whitehorse area for the construction of 20 lots of the country residential nature.
Now, of course, we have to work with the City of Whitehorse to make sure that we follow the process and that we use the terrain analysis and suitability study, I believe it was called, that was used, and certainly to work with the folk that are affected. As the Member for Riverdale South knows, NIMBY keeps coming up, but we will continue to work with those folks to ensure that we do it. I'm not sure if that answers the member opposite's question, but that is what we're doing within the Whitehorse area.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that what I'm trying to get to with this issue is who initiated the process of land development in that area - or land planning is probably more the issue. The people I have spoken to in that area weren't clear why all of a sudden these meetings started to happen. It's always a good idea to do planning in that area, and that makes a lot of sense. Certainly, the people of Marsh Lake would appreciate a little bit of planning out there. But, they were very unclear as to who initiated the process for the planning and development of lots in that particular area, because as far as they knew, it didn't come from the residents of the Ibex Valley. It seemed to be initiated by C&TS.
I'm just wondering if this is part of a greater scheme. If the minister wants to get back to me with that information, I would be happy to receive it whenever it becomes available.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you for the direction. Yes, it's incumbent upon government to make adequate supplies of lots and land available. We know that country residential is of the greatest demand, especially around the Whitehorse area, whether it's to the north, to the south, to the west or, for that matter, to the east of Whitehorse. The area surrounding takes in the greater impact of land need throughout the Yukon Territory, and of course there is the cottage lot land development, also.
So government, and the Department of Community and Transportation Services, have been looking to try and provide a suitable land base through land development, and has found it somewhat difficult, but have been working with, I know, the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, maybe with Ibex Valley. As to who actually triggered it, it would likely be as a government initiative, working with the city, as I said, and identifying the studies and, at the same time, working with the folks who are affected by it, so we might attempt to preserve their quality of life, whatever it is - like if it's through the trail infrastructure development, or whatever. We try to work within that realm, and certainly the Ibex Valley is in close proximity to Whitehorse. Folks commute every day. I understand that there is land availability, but therein lies some of the reasoning. Certainly I would be more than pleased to provide the aspiration specific to the question of the member opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: That brings us to the issue about land planning issues in the periphery of Whitehorse. It's my understanding, from what the minister just said, that the start of the planning exercise probably started because of a C&TS initiative, mainly because of the pressure coming from Whitehorse for bedroom-community sort of lots.
The community of Marsh Lake, which is probably the third largest community in the Yukon, with about 900 permanent residents right now, is in dire need of regional planning. In 1995, there was a very well-attended meeting out at the Marsh Lake marina - which, as we all know, has burned down now. At that meeting, there were over 80 residents from the area.
That's an extremely well-attended meeting, especially for a rural meeting, as the minister is quite well aware. At that meeting, there were continued comments about the need for planning and tenure of the land - or the understanding of who had tenure on various pieces of land. Is there any move by the department to restart that regional planning out in the Marsh Lake area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I forget the young lady - and I say young lady; I shouldn't have said "young lady" - but I forget the person who had triggered the letter and spoke to this and has been asking for it, and I understand that the lady who she was talking about has been doing some work to try to do some type of formal organization that would speak on behalf of the people of Marsh Lake. I understand that's happening. My department will be more than willing to work within that process to put together a structure and what not.
Specifically the question is land use planning, specifically within the Marsh Lake area - not certainly in this budget year, but certainly that type of work to organize.
I certainly encourage the folks to continue. We can make use of some of our community advisors, development advisors, to work with the process, and if we can start to get that shape together, then certainly the next step would be to look at working with those folks in that manner to say, this is what we want in our community - whether it's industrial, commercial, preservation of trails, or the enhancement of whatever else that they would want. That would be the process that I'd be very much desirous of working with and for and on behalf of the folks out there who are affected.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand, then, that it's the minister's position that if the group out there - and there are quite a lot of people out there all with very different points of view - gets organized and comes up with some sort of an elected body that represents the people of that area, then we will move forward with a planning exercise for the land in the Marsh Lake area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, that would be one of the desires. And yes, that would certainly make it easier if we had a focal point so that we might be able to garner all people's opinions, and so the next step would - I'd like to start the planning process out there. My department would certainly like to start the process out there. As we go out there, you get conflicting talk, because, as you say to the member opposite, we do get different signals at all times, but if there was an accountable, elected body that would speak on behalf of all of the folks, then surely I would welcome that. And that would be part of the process for good land use planning. That would definitely be a part of that, and then I could feel comfortable and could start to look at the allocation of all of the resources that it takes to do that. That would certainly be what I'd like to see in place first of all.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for clarifying that issue.
Well, one issue that has recently gotten a lot of press is, in the City of Whitehorse there is a building specifically called the Mast House, and this old building has now been designated as a historical site, and because there isn't the money available to preserve that house, it's been suggested that it's going to have to be demolished. And what has happened since that decision by the city council is that one of our local seniors, Pat Ellis, has come forward and said that she will sell her house in Riverdale and that she will buy the Mast House and bring it up to code, which will take quite a bit, and that she will do her bit for preserving this particular historic site.
Now, what this particular case illustrates to me is the fact that municipalities are taking on more and more and more responsibilities without an increase in funding.
Now, it's great to have legislation around historic sites, but if you don't have the money attached to it, it's not worth the paper it's written on. Many, many people in Whitehorse have become painfully aware of that particular fact just recently.
Now, the Mast House issue - there may be other types of funding that becomes available, particularly for the Mast House, since it is a historical site - brings us back to the issue of the fact that municipal block funding has been frozen for 12 years. What the territorial government is doing is developing land, particularly in the City of Whitehorse. The economy is in the toilet, people are leaving and here we are developing lots, and we can't even pave some of the streets downtown because there isn't enough money.
The Auditor General has said over and over again that we have to be careful about the holding costs on the inventory of land and that we have an inventory of land in the Yukon that is far too high. The large majority of that inventory, as the Government Leader has pointed out a number of times, is in the City of Whitehorse. It is basically property that can't be sold. What it comes back down to is that here we are developing more lots that we're going to have to be paying O&M on. Fifteen years from now, we're probably going to have to do new pavement and new sidewalks. All of that is going to have to happen and municipal block funding is not going up. The population is going up, the demands are going up and we're getting increased legislative responsibilities, but block funding is not going up.
The Government Leader has also said on a number of occasions that if there is a responsibility that is devolved to the municipalities, then there will be block funding attached to that, or some type of funding to offset that cost. There has been no money allocated to municipalities for the preservation of historic sites. Is the minister considering, at all, reviewing the block funding of municipalities with an eye toward making it responsive to the increasing needs that the municipalities face?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly appreciate the all-within, if I can say it, historic sites development, the taxation and what we're doing. The specific question is, are we considering anything to increase the municipal block funding?
I recall that the member opposite had spoken - I believe it was just last week; it might have been Thursday - saying, let's not touch our formula, because it's good. There's a challenge there for my department to be able to do the right thing and to move forward with the right process.
When we do - we have the Municipal Act review committee, and that committee was struck a couple of years ago; they've been coming forward with their thoughts and have been doing really good work. It's work that's been brought forth on and for and on behalf of the people who are affected. So it's not like the heavy hand of the territorial government going out and saying this is what we're going to do for you - duke-duke-duke - and duke it out with them. No, not at all. It's to work with them and to get a good understanding of what can be done and where they would like to go.
So certainly we're trying to enable them to have different opportunities that would enhance their revenue-generating potential through a variety of investment options, economic development or business opportunities. The grant, though, except for one year that it went up and then came down, has been pretty stable and consistent for the last few years.
I just must say again that it's been difficult to maintain that level of block funding, but I certainly did not see where we could take away from it. Contained within that formula is - well, not harmful effects, but certainly effects that, if they do something, it would shake up this area.
The City of Whitehorse cannot, I guess, afford to put dollars toward the Mast House, but that's their decision, and I can't say yea or nay to their decision, because that's their decision-making process, and it would be the heavy hand of government that would get in there and criticize, or praise, or critique.
I would say that, as we go through the process, we're going to be able to work with them. I'm not looking that the Yukon government would dump any expectations on municipalities without having full consultation with them.
Now, I know that this heritage house was not dumped on them. It was done with full consultation, and folks certainly knew what they were getting into, but we will continue to work with the City of Whitehorse or any town or municipality under the AYC umbrella to make sure that we move together, because certainly it is not the case where I just wish to have a good responsibility to look good and then to dump off some problems to the other people. That's not the case. We believe in quality of life for all Yukoners and work toward that end.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to be clear, the Association of Yukon Communities has been very clear over the last few years that they want more money.
One of those communities that definitely wants more money is the community of Watson Lake, and once again I'll stick with that newsletter theme. This is the newsletter that came out from the municipality of Watson Lake and it's called the Town Crier, and it's the March 18, 1998, edition. It speaks about "Watson Lake's MLA appeared before council to discuss YTG's most recent capital budget. Mr. Fentie stated that Watson Lake was receiving the largest share of capital dollar expenditures of any Yukon community, a statement disputed by council."
Mr. Chair, if you take away the highway funding plus the land development costs, which are completely 100 percent recoverable, it looks like Watson Lake is actually number 12 on the list, as opposed to number one. My question to the minister: why is Watson Lake doing so poorly on the priority list?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, Watson Lake is not doing poorly on the priority list because we do not have a priority list of one community over another community. There is no such critter within our department or within my department or my government. We certainly look to move things forward on behalf of all Yukon people. So, certainly, as the MLA for Watson Lake has stated, we do take development if there is a need for it when it's an opportunity for job generation for highway construction that actually puts jobs into the community.
I understand that Watson Lake is looking to do different things. I understand that they might have a savings account and that they want to go out and do different things. Well, certainly it is not like they were a poor community. They certainly seem to have been working within their system for quite some time and are apparently identifying their priorities and working with their priorities within their established jurisdiction. So, it's not that we have a hidden list that's in my back pocket or within the desk of the MLA for Watson Lake. No, we look at all areas of the Yukon in a very thoughtful manner - whether it's from the Klondike or the Gwitchin of the north, or to the folks in Ross River-Southern Lakes and Watson Lake. We try to have a very thoughtful and deliberate budget for them.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to clear something up here. The member opposite did state that Watson Lake is doing very poorly, and I can assure this House that Watson Lake is not doing very poorly in capital dollars. In fact, the mayor and council, by direction from the community, is right now working on some sort of priorities on capital expenditures for Watson Lake. Secondly, the community itself, the Watson Lake municipality, has a sizeable bank account, and I believe there is over $3 million sitting in the bank. Thirdly, you have made comment that if we subtracted the capital dollars on the Alaska Highway and the south Campbell Highway, Watson Lake does very poorly, and I would ask where would you put those capital expenditures in the budget?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The Member for Klondike says, "Dawson City," but I thought you were more prone to wanting a bridge built, and these are capital dollars that are put into upgrading of highways.
So, for clarity's sake, Watson Lake has not done poorly. It seems to me that maybe the member opposite is trying to politicize this particular -
Chair: Order please. Would the member address his comments to the Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Sorry, Mr. Chair. I would like to commend the Minister of C&TS for his thoughtful manner of producing this budget and ensuring that Watson Lake and, in fact, all communities, are getting a fair share.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, it's a very interesting accounting program that the Member for Watson Lake is bringing up.
I suppose if there was going to be highway work done just outside of Haines Junction, down by Champagne, that that money would be attributed to the Haines Junction capital budget. Indeed, it is not. That is not the way it's done, and this secret document is actually the capital projects listed in the budget.
Now, just to close my comments this afternoon, I thought that I would pass on to the minister a comment heard from about four or five people who went to the Arctic Winter Games. It was their statement that the minister did a very good job representing the Yukon at the games and demonstrated the true spirit of the Arctic Winter Games.
Mr. Cable: I'd like to ask some questions about Watson Lake. My colleague and I both were talking to people in Watson Lake, and they think - rightly or wrongly - that they're not well done by by this government. Is there any long-term planning for capital projects in the communities, and in particular in relation to Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Basically what I've done - and I've scheduled a meeting for Watson Lake some time within the next couple of weeks. I've chatted with the mayor on it and talked with the mayor regarding Watson Lake. I've somewhat chatted with the chief of the local First Nation, and my message to them - as my message to others throughout the Yukon Territory as I've gone through the territory - is one on the development of partnerships and the identification based on partnerships of what they would like to do as a community.
We know that the admin building burned down, and other things have come up. So far, we haven't really had that direction back to me. In all due fairness, I haven't been in a physical meeting with both the First Nation and the government, Mayor Kalles of the municipality.
But certainly I'm going to be, and that is the message I take. Now, I know the member opposite asked if there is anything that is out and about and there for the folks. Well, we want it to be community-driven, and I'm going to go and chat with the people. I know that the Minister of Government Services - that's you - the other day, is going to be working with us and working with myself to be able to foster that type of capital planning within the territory. Whether it comes from the development of a youth centre or whatever it might be, that is what I'd like to hear from the community, in a community way, so that we do not have a First Nation going and doing something on their own and we do not have a municipality doing something.
If we can foster it with territorial capital dollars, that is what I'd like to see in partnership for the benefit of the community as a whole. I'm leaving it in the hands of the community to start that identification process and then sit down with myself, where it is applicable to myself, for the prioritization of it. Then we can look at that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, just starting to. If we can get all of the communities into that mode - and I think it's possible, because as I've talked to folks - and that's the last community I've yet to talk to regarding this - all communities are quire desirous of that ability to work together and to be listened to. It's certainly for the betterment of the community that we're doing this initiative, and the voice of the community will be heard.
Now, not that everybody can't run out and say, I want a bridge; a rec centre; I want a sewage treatment plant. We have to work together to prioritize these, and therein lies a direct result of what we can do with the community for the identification of these projects.
I hope I haven't rambled on too long, but that certainly is the process.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've been listening to this debate with great interest. I understood the arguments before I read the Watson Lake local newsletter that the town puts out.
I think government could look at changing the way numbers are calculated, but it would have to be government-wide. This has been a long-standing practice, the way that the distributions to communities are determined. It was that way under the Yukon Party administration. It has been that way under our administration. It's that way for Klondike. It's that way for Faro, for Carmacks, for the incorporated communities and also for the communities that aren't incorporated.
For example, some of the highway expenditures near Dawson are included in the community distribution. The rationale behind that is that it is thought to have benefit to do that work near that community for that community, and benefits usually accrue. If you're looking at Klondike, for example, if there's roadwork done in the area, it improves tourism. Sometimes there is work that's derived by the citizens of the community, particularly if the contracts are smaller.
So, I think it is a principle that has some rationale that is acceptable behind it. However, if the communities feel strongly that they like only ultimately extremely specific measures, directly and absolutely identified and made to them, then that would be something to consider. It has been that way.
Mr. Jenkins: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we're here to ask the minister questions on his budget, not to make speeches in the House.
Chair: Mr. Harding, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am freely, as a member of this Legislature, able to take time in this Legislature to outline and make points and to debate with the minister and to debate with others in this House issues that relate to budgeting and that relate to the communities.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Chair: The Chair finds there is no point of order. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Chair. As I was saying I also know that, for example, I and the CDF board and the CPI board have granted capital expenditures to the community of Watson Lake, to the Signpost Seniors, to the women's shelter just recently - fairly substantive grants and contributions to the community.
They are not reflected in the budget. So, those are their other areas of expenditure that are not directly identified to Watson Lake in the budget, which don't show up in the numbers the member opposite was talking about, but they are, in fact, directly going into the community of Watson Lake, so there's a bit of a trade-off there.
I'm sure that there will be more of those expenditures.
So, I just wanted to ask the minister if he was interested or prepared to consider the idea of perhaps breaking things down in a more direct way, or if he sees potential pitfalls. Personally, as one member, I think there are pitfalls in both approaches. I think that there are benefits to the approach we use now. Some expenditures that are not direct to the community show up in the numbers, but some that are made, for example, through the CDF, do not show up in the numbers.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. To the Member for Faro, I could say that certainly I agree that there could be pitfalls in the breakdown on both sides.
Let me say that some of the conscious things we do, in terms of the road job, is that I try to keep a road job that is within that area to a size of capacity that the folks in that area would be able to provide to do it. We do those things conscientiously and with great thought, so that we might be able to have a focus.
So, I do agree that it is money that is meant to be directed as much as it can to the people of the Watson Lake area, and also somewhat to the contractors that might have the capacity to do it.
Deputy Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30, the Committee will recess until 7:30 this evening.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the main estimates. We are on the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Cable: Before we recessed, I was asking some questions on priorities on capital planning. Of course, the minister of everything got up and interrupted me. Could I take the minister back to the questions I was asking before that interruption.
The minister and the Member for Watson Lake had made some rather significant comments in the questions relating to the reason why Watson Lake didn't seem to be getting its fair share of money from this government. One of the wonders of the Internet is that we can get these played back almost instantly, so I'll read them to you.
Here's the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in response to the question about why they weren't getting as much money and how the money was prioritized.
He says, "I understand that they might have a savings account and that they want to go out and do different things. Well, certainly, it is not like they were a poor community." And then the Member for Watson Lake, in his response, said, "Secondly, the community itself, the Watson Lake municipality, has a sizeable bank account and I believe there is over $3 million sitting in the bank."
What is the significance of those two comments? I ask the minister that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I think, Mr. Chair, if you look at it specifically, that you could try and paint a wagon but, certainly, if you look at it in the overall context of what was said you'd have difficulty painting the wagon as the member is wishing to paint the wagon.
What is the significance of having $3 million in the bank? Well, certainly, the $3 million in the bank is certainly something - what can I say? The colleague to your left from Riverdale South was talking about their being poor and they want to do things more, and I guess what I was saying is that it's their process. If I'm going to be getting into changing formula, it's got to be desired by all communities. All communities of the AYC are not desirous of having the formula changed.
I'm saying that they shouldn't be thumping on me, in one instance, if they have something in another instance. Now, is that dangerous? Maybe that's a dangerous comment to make, but I'm just being very realistic - absolutely realistic. The member opposite cannot paint the wagon and say that this was used against them, because it clearly wasn't. Most of the initiatives I would like to do with, for and on behalf of the communities are exactly what I'd said to the hon. member. That would be to work with them, to establish what their plans are - not in a race between regions of the Yukon Territory, but to start to lay out the plans, in conjunction with the community at large, putting aside the jurisdictional disputes that people might have, and to look at where the community wants to go. All communities are wanting to have a good, healthy community life. I'm certainly desirous of helping them to have that community life, but I'd certainly like to do it on their prioritization, so I can sit down and say, "This is what we can do." Maybe those type of issues might come into play then, so it's certainly not to hold against. But they'd say, "Well, we have this." And we could say, "Well, do you need meaningful help in doing something else in this manner?"
The intent of the Municipal Act and the funding formula was not to create a savings account, I'm sure - although who knows? I wasn't around at the time that it happened and maybe that certainly was one, but it was not to do that and it wasn't to force them into any other situation, nor was it to be used against another level of government - and I say another level of government quite conscientiously because we are a senior level of government - but certainly I like to respect the communities and the decision makers at all levels to work within a process and to buy into working with me on the identification. So, that's absolutely what I meant because I have heard - I haven't seen - that they have X amount in their bank. Then when the member opposite says that this is here, well all in all it's not to be used against them but certainly - I think I'll stop right there.
Mr. Fentie: I think I'll even be a little more specific, Mr. Chair. What's really happening here is the non-confrontational Liberals are playing partisan politics at the expense of my community. What you've done here is accuse this government of treating the community of Watson Lake poorly.
Chair: Order please. Would the member direct his comments through the Chair, please?
Mr. Fentie: What the members opposite had done in this instance is accuse this government of treating the community of Watson Lake poorly.
And, Mr. Chair, that is simply not the case.
Now, when we discussed the issue of monies in the bank, it was simply meant to show that there is a sizeable fund sitting in the hands of the community of Watson Lake. The mayor and council are, at this point in time, working through a budgetary process. They may very well be spending some capital dollars. Secondly, there seems to be some confusion around the fact that there is, coupled with the Alaska Highway and the south Campbell Highway, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million placed in Watson Lake's capital budget. I do not create the budgeting formula, but I can tell you that there is a significant amount of people in my community that are quite pleased that we have the foresight to continue to do work on the south Campbell Highway in regard to upgrading. These are important expenditures in the area.
Let me remind the members opposite that less than a year ago, a $2.8-million capital expense was just completed. I believe this government's input into that capital project was $1.5 million - somewhere in that neighbourhood. I stand corrected if the dollar values are somewhat different, but it is well over $1 million. That capital project is the Northern Lights Centre. Less than one year ago, that $2.8-million project was completed. So, to leave the impression that this government is treating that community poorly and using the example of capital expenditures in Watson Lake is simply false. And if the non-confrontational members want to play partisan politics in this Legislature and use my community and the people in it, you'll find that I'm a willing participant to take you on.
So, let's get serious. We all know why you've brought this matter to the House, and if you're interested in finding out some realities down in the southeast Yukon and in the community of Watson Lake, I think this side of the House would be more than willing to help you, but you must ask those kinds of questions.
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if I could finish without being interrupted. I do have a line of questioning and I should point out to the previous speaker that we do get information from Watson Lake. There are several people that speak to us and those people are somewhat concerned that their community is not getting a fair share of the spoils from government.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Would members please let the member speak.
Mr. Cable: I see we've got the doors to a number of cages open. We'll have to put the food back in the cage to get them back in again.
Now, I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services why he made the comment referring to the financial status of the municipality of Watson Lake, and he accused me of painting a wagon. I wasn't painting a wagon and I wasn't doing any redecorating whatsoever. I was simply putting his comments back to him and asking him to explain what he meant.
So, I'll ask him again: was the verbiage that he used just superfluous verbiage to fill the afternoon or did he actually mean something when he said, "Well, certainly, it is not like they were a poor community." And, when the Member for Watson Lake said, "Secondly, the community itself, the Watson Lake municipality, has a sizeable bank account, and I believe there is over $3 million sitting in the bank." Do those comments in any way play any part in the thinking of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in the allocation of the capital budget?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair. I can bring comfort to the Member for Riverside that they had no thought in the development of the budget. We developed the budget in a thoughtful manner and looked to spread the budget in such a way, and based on some of the work, as the Speaker knows and the Member for Riverside knows, on the south Campbell Highway report and so on. We took a conscientious effort to break them down, as I said earlier this afternoon, in terms of looking at the capacity of the community, so that we wouldn't put something in that was out of reach of the community, but keep it within reach of the community.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I'll pass along to our several hundred communicants in the Town of Watson Lake that, if they're prudent and save their money, they will not be penalized, despite the comments that we're going to be sending in Hansard from both the minister and the Member for Watson Lake.
So, let me ask this question: if prudence and saving and dollars in the bank are not a consideration for the prioritization of capital expenditures, what factors are? Is population a factor? Is job creation a factor? What does the minister consider when he allocates the capital budget?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly all of the above, and certainly the ability to move forward with all communities. So, certainly, prudence - I'm not actually sure what the heck the word "prudence" means, but certainly how we do things -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Would the members please let the member speak?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: So, that is definitely what is used to work, so we do it in a thoughtful way, we look at what the folks need, and we do it in a partnership-driven way, as the member opposite well knows, because we had many discussions over the last five years, certainly when we had political-affiliation type discussions. The member opposite knows exactly what I say when it comes to having fiscal responsibility, bringing communities together, having an outlook where you do not have to race, whether it's a wagon race or a dog race or horse race, to get to the trough-line. Because there is no trough-line here. Basically, what we have and what we try to spend is within the development of the Yukon community, I mean, as a whole.
Mr. Cable: Okay, I'll certainly pass along those comments.
Now, the Minister of Economic Development got into the Hansard chain here just before 5:30 and he was talking about all the money going down to Watson Lake. He was talking about the money from the CDF and the CPI and whatever.
Is there some sort of master list of money that flows to the municipalities, similar to the one that was given to us in the budget briefings in relation to capital projects? Is there somewhere in the labyrinth of the government upstairs a master document that will tell us just what the Town of Watson Lake is getting from all sources in the government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, there is not one set list, but there certainly are other issues, such as the capital plans, the projections, and those types of issues - but no one list saying, "This is what we're going to give, or this is what they historically got." It is looked at on a case-by-case, community-need basis.
Mr. Phillips: I was listening to the debate with some interest, and I notice some of the other members jumping in and making some statements about the money that was in the budget for Watson Lake. I just want to correct the record, Mr. Chair, because I was in this House with the previous government, and I know the Member for Watson Lake was not in the House at the time, and he's made some statements in the House today that I should correct for the record.
One of them was that Watson Lake was getting $5 million of highway money on the Campbell Highway to provide jobs for Watson Lake. That was one of their arguments for saying that Watson Lake would get the money.
I want to remind the member that that may be a highway project close to Watson Lake, but it's not guaranteed that Watson Lake people will get jobs on that highway construction. In fact, I think that process - when we talked about the various communities, and we broke down the Community and Transportation Services budget in the past, and we talked about the highway money going to Watson Lake, we, at one time, talked about some Rancheria money for the highway going to Watson Lake. I think it was the Member for Faro who stood up at the time and made a strong argument that this was just highway money, it wouldn't necessarily go to people, and it shouldn't be included in the budget - counting it as just Watson Lake money, and what really was the money going into Watson Lake -
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Riverdale North is dreaming in Technicolor, as usual.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, there's no point of order - just a rude interruption.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I see the Member for Faro isn't too happy when the things that he says in the House come back to haunt him, but it was his colleague who said you couldn't count the money. So, I would think that if the argument from the NDP in opposition is that you can't count the $5 million spent on the highways somewhere near Watson Lake as money going directly to Watson Lake, then you can't count it now. That's the first thing.
The second issue I think I should correct the member on is - he talked about the Northern Lights Centre and this government being committed to the Northern Lights Centre. Well, let's go back in history again. The Northern Lights Centre is a CAP project. The CAP project was started by the Yukon Party government. The CAP project, Mr. Chair, was not only condemned by the NDP government, they voted against the budgets which included money for the CAP project and included money for Watson Lake. They voted against it; not for it, against it.
So, they didn't support the project. In fact, they even went a little further. When it came into the House and they had to provide the last year's money for that particular project, they stood up in the House and they talked about having no money to spend on wages for their employees and other things because of the commitments that were made by the Yukon Party government that they didn't necessary support - meaning the CAP project in Watson Lake.
So, they came forward with the money, but reluctantly they came forward with the money. They never did support the CAP projects and they never did support Watson Lake. In fact, the Member for Faro, who jumped up at every opportunity, Mr. Chair, spoke out very strongly about the commitments that were made by the previous government, specifically the CAP project and specifically the Watson Lake project. So, the Member for Watson Lake shouldn't take the credit for his government for completing the Northern Lights Centre because his party voted against it twice - twice they voted against it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Just for the record, I voted against the Northern Lights Centre in the community myself, but now that it's built, obviously we're going to do the best we can with this particular facility.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Pardon me? I didn't say that.
Now, I think what's being implied here is, through this budget for 1998-99, this side of the House has treated Watson Lake badly. I'd like to point out to the former government member, the Member for Riverdale North, that while in power their capital expenditure in Watson Lake was something like $1.9 million.
$1.6 million? We're talking $6 million-plus here, and yes, it is in the south Campbell Highway. I'll agree. I can count it, because why I'll count it is that expenditure in the south Campbell Highway is going to be broken down into small segments so people in Watson Lake who have equipment, who are capable of moving dirt, who know how to read a grade stake, who know how to do back-slopes will be working on that highway. That's why we're counting it, so you should know that, Member for Riverdale North.
Secondly, again I'll say in this Legislature for the record that the non-confrontational Liberals are playing partisan politics at the expense of my community, and I take exception to that - just so you are aware of what I think of your little ploy here, because I know exactly where you are getting your information. And that particular person got his butt kicked in the election by me.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the Member for Watson Lake shouldn't be so sensitive.
Mr. Chair, what I see happening in the House this evening is us and our colleagues, the Liberals, coming to the aid of the Member for Watson Lake who was unsuccessful in getting his community recognized strongly enough in the budget. Now, obviously, Mr. Chair, the government didn't consider the extremely high unemployment in Watson Lake. Let's be fair here. They didn't consider that when they looked at the budget, and they tried to masquerade it, and they did a good job of convincing the Member for Watson Lake that the $5.5 million will all go to his constituents. I hope it does go to his constituents, because they need the work extremely badly. There are a lot of people in Watson Lake out of work; I hope it goes to them, but there is absolutely no guarantee by this government or anybody else that it will go to them, first of all.
And secondly, Mr. Chair, I'll remind the member again that it was his members on that side that said you couldn't count that highway money as community money. They said that when they were in government. They're saying exactly the opposite, which we find with an awful lot of things with this government. They're saying the exact opposite now that they're in government - the exact opposite of what they argued when they were on this side of the floor. That's my point. You can't do that and remain credible in government.
We've already heard, Mr. Chair, some of the union members criticizing the Government Leader for what he said during the election campaign about wages of these government employees. We've heard all kinds of other statements being made by this government that they've flip-flopped on - the wolf control and all kinds of other statements that they've flip-flopped on.
People are losing confidence in this government, Mr. Chair, because they're not saying or doing what they said they would do when they were in government. They're not doing that any more. All I'm saying to the Member for Watson Lake is that if he needs help, we're here on this side to help him get some more money for his community of Watson Lake. Obviously, his colleagues are not concerned about his constituents. We'll do whatever we can to help the Member for Watson Lake, who, at one time or another in his political history, had different leanings but, at this time, he is hoping to get what his constituents justly deserve in his riding. Unfortunately, it looks to me that, in this case, the left wing strength of the New Democratic Party won out in their ridings and t
he one member who has tried his darnedest to work with these individuals has been rather frustrated. But I'm here to tell him that I'm here to support him and I'll work as hard as I can to -
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Sloan, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I'm somewhat mistaken, but I thought we were on the C&TS budget. I understood that the purpose of this exercise was that the members opposite ask questions of the minister and he responds. It appears that what it has become now is simply a forum for debate.
I would like to have us return to the purpose of this.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair -
Chair: Would members please wait to be recognized before speaking.
Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. On the point of order, Mr. Chair. We were talking about the budget. We were talking about the money allocated to Watson Lake. I can't help it if the Member for Watson Lake wanted to jump into the debate, but I was talking about the money allocated to Watson Lake and pledging my support to the Member for Watson Lake to try and help him and his constituents to make sure that more money flows to that community in the future.
Chair: The Chair would like to encourage both sides to keep their conversation related to the budget.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Let me just inject a couple of facts -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order. Order please. Would members let the member speak?
Hon. Mr. Harding: This was when they had that right-wing Yukon Party MLA for Watson Lake -
Mr. Phillips: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, the member is holding up a budget from two years ago. We're talking about the 1998 budget, and I think it's irrelevant.
Chair: Mr. Harding, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: This member's trying to reciprocate with no point of order, and, Mr. Chair, I'm doing some comparisons. The argument here is about the level of expenditure in the community of Watson Lake. I'm pointing out some historical comparison. I know the Yukon Party is scared of that, but I'm going to do it.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you. So, Mr. Chair, if one looks at the Yukon Party when they had that right-wing MLA, John Devries, 1993-94, the capital budget, community of Watson Lake, $1.672 million. Then you look at the 1994-95 budget, capital budget, Yukon Party, right-wing, $1.9 million. What's the NDP contribution this year in the capital budget to the community of Watson Lake? Six million bucks.
Now, Mr. Chair, I also want to say that these numbers, this puny $1.6 million and $1.9 million budgets, were at a time when they were throwing everything but the kitchen sink in those numbers, including any work, the minimal amount of work they did on the south Campbell Highway. And they were criticized by their own candidate in the last election, Mayor Barry Ravenhill, just before the last election, for putting too little work on the south Campbell for Watson Lake.
Well, Mr. Chair, I want to tell you, the Yukon New Democrats heard those pleas from the community of Watson Lake and have put in over $6 million, almost four times what the Yukon Party did.
So, Mr. Chair, the MLA for Watson Lake may be right-wing but he is not stunned and that's why he's not with the Yukon Party.
Mr. Fentie: I'd just like to clear a couple of matters up for the Member for Riverdale North.
I lobbied my colleagues to get that expenditure on the south Campbell Highway for specific reasons - number one, having been a boy scout with their motto being "Be prepared". Spending money now on the south Campbell Highway is an intelligent and thoughtful expenditure. Secondly, when you talk about my right-wing leanings, after four years of Yukon Party government that we went through in Watson Lake, I've seen the light. I had no choice but to go left.
Now, the last point I'd like to make, Mr. Chair, is that time and time again in this Legislature the Yukon Party continues to accuse this side of the House of doing a flip-flop. I would like say that, when it comes to governing in the Yukon Territory, the Yukon Party was a complete flop, and that played a large role in the Yukon electorate flipping them to that side of the House. Make no mistake about it, Mr. Chair, the only flip-flop in this Legislature is the Yukon Party's.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the 1998-99 budget?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the only comment I have for the Member for Watson Lake, who talked about being a boy scout, is that I was a boy scout, too. We made a lot of promises when we were boy scouts - "I promise to do this, I promise to do that." This is a government of broken promises. None of the members on the side opposite would qualify nowadays to enter into the boy scouts or the girl guides because they on that side of the House have broken a lot of promises.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: It appears that we're off on one of those NDP tangents, where we do a means test before we allocate any funds. It doesn't matter whether we're talking the stabilization of electrical rates and some programs, it's going to result in a means test.
What we're hearing today in this Legislature - and I'm somewhat appalled - is that the NDP have undertaken a means test on the Town of Watson Lake to ascertain what they have in the bank and that they don't need any further investment. And that's exactly where we're coming from.
Now, the next thing we're probably going to hear from this NDP government is that they're at the bargaining table with the union, and they're going to do a means test to see how much they have in RRSPs so that they don't have to justify any increases to them. This holds true to some sort of a NDP philosophy that's prevalent - you look at the situation, and you see what you can get away with.
Big Brother is watching. 1984 and George Orwell have come and passed, but this government is still reading from that same script. When we look at the money that is being allocated by C&TS to the various communities in the Yukon, it is most interesting -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it's very hard to get anywhere in this budget debate when the side opposite won't even sit quiet and listen.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Speaking of George Orwell, this is the guy who wants to nationalize all the Yukon gas stations.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: The Minister of Economic Development, a.k.a. economic devastation, is constantly interrupting this House. We have a time frame in which we're supposed to accomplish here and with that constant interruption and with the lack of information forthcoming from the ministers charged with the responsibilities for their departments, we're going to be here a lot longer than the time allocated.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could get back to the budget debate, Mr. Chair, I'd be very appreciative and if we could get some answers from this minister, it'd be very, very - well, it'd be very interesting.
If we look at Watson Lake and we look at the various monies allocated throughout the Yukon and how they're attributed to the respective communities that, in a lot of cases, are very remote from them and it does not do justice to those communities to attribute that capital spending to that area in a lot of cases. Some of it is legitimate; some of it certainly isn't.
The Member for Faro did make a case earlier before we broke for dinner that he certainly didn't agree with the way it was done, and I probably share that concern with him also, having been in municipal government and seeing how that funding is allocated and what gets attributed to those communities.
Is the minister prepared to look at the way that this is done and come up with a better program of allocating these funds rather than attributing them to the respective communities and, in a lot of cases, not doing so? And we only have to look along the Alaska Highway west of here. There is a lot of money that could be attributed to Haines Junction. It certainly hasn't been in the past. It's been earmarked separately. Is the minister prepared to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would certainly encourage the Member for Riverside, as he does his mail-out of the Hansard, to do a complete mail-out, not cherry-pick the Hansard - but do a complete mail-out - and then we'll let the people judge, because, hello, that's the way it is.
You know, I never was a boy scout. I never was a girl guide either, actually, but I definitely never was a boy scout. Why? I think it was because the opportunity never arose for me. I was born down there and raised behind a spruce curtain, and Jesus, what a wonderful world it was. I took time to reflect, as I had my supper, on the representation that came from the Teslin area, and it was a good representation. It was a wonderful representation, because it was a person that was community concerned and a person that started to bring the communities back together again, not from this side, that side or over there or over there. That is what I try to do.
As the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, that is exactly what I attempt to do. I attempt to look into the back to see the goodness of what was there, to bring those values forward and to say this is procedure.
This is not a race to the trough. There is no trough. Is there a race to a better way of living? Is there a race to good community development? No. But there is certainly a need to bring people to that. There's certainly that need, and I like to think of myself as one-eleventh of a caucus that has the same aspiration. And certainly, the gentleman from Faro has the same type of aspiration as I.
So, that is how we do things. I've gone on community tours, and I've talked to people, and I've said to folks, "Folks, this ain't a race. But certainly, we can look and say, 'This is what we want, and let's put down what we want.' Let's not treat it as a pie-in-the-sky day where you can say, 'Oh boy, there's lemon meringue, and I sure wish I could reach the cherry,' and reach for it, because that cherry is absolutely reachable."
No, no, no, no. Take the time to listen. I have told you before that communication is definitely a two-way street. Sometimes, my hearing impairment, which I have been told that I do not have from over there, now the member opposite says I'm smoking joints or something. What does that mean? That means that the member is taking time to lampoon a very serious situation. I am talking about bringing communities together and building healthy communities, and he's lampooning it and thinking it's cute and funny and desirous.
Well, certainly, I think that he muct get a great chuckle out of it when he looks at himself in the mirror in the morning, because I'm sure that he's the only one laughing over this serious question and the serious plight that you have put to me today.
So, listen. In 1984, George Orwell wrote of Big Brother. No such thing. I'm here to facilitate and to continue to facilitate the bringing together of communities and the prioritizing of capital expenditures, or O&M expenditures, for the good of the people of the Yukon. That's exactly what I'm doing. How are we doing it? What are we doing for the Yukon economy right now? Well, let me tell you that, in spite of the declining revenues, we're still creating jobs and we're putting more than $70 million back into the economy - $70 million. Yes, in declining revenues, we have made a conscious effort to do that. For anyone in particular? No. It is a process that brings people together. That's what we're doing.
I can go on to say that that budget is spending more than twice the amount of our total capital budget on capital. That's what we're doing. Twice the amount of nearly any of the provinces and almost four percent more than the NWT. That's this government's commitment. Again, how are we doing it? By talking to the people and by consulting with the people. The Government Leader, the Finance minister, has gone out to the communities - at very busy times - and listened to people and made very deliberate, conscientious efforts to reflect what the people wanted. That's what he's done. With less to spend? Definitely.
I know that the member opposite thinks that this is cute and amusing and he just continues to laugh, but I'm going to continue to talk, so you just keep giggling away in the dark, because that's where you shall remain.
What are we doing? Not just with the capital budget. We're maintaining our social agenda. We're building schools, all within the capital budgets. We're fostering healthy communities. How are we doing that? By maintaining municipal block funding. In light of being cut, we're still doing some maintenance.
We're still doing maintenance and we're still going out there and talking to people through processes: "How can we do it better, a better way?" What a beautiful thing.
The community development fund increased by 75 percent to create jobs and to meet other priority community needs. Now, boy, I love that one. Because what that does is empower communities. It empowers communities to come together and to work together so that those communities might be able to better build and foster community life. That's exactly what that does, and I'm so very proud of that, and I'm so very proud to say that it's applicable across the Yukon Territory. It's not done and allocated by partisan politics or anything like the such. It is done based on community needs by a government that is listening, absolutely listening.
When they're in a dilemma, and the community's in a dilemma because they say they want one thing and another thing has been forced onto them, what does this government do? What does the department do? Well, by gosh, we speak to setting aside special multi-year savings accounts, and that's what we're doing.
Why are we doing that? We're doing it to bring people together. Certainly not because the member's better looking than any other member. No, we're doing it so that we can do it to bring people together, recognizing the goodness and creativity yet recognizing that they are decision makers and I do not have the mighty hand to go, "Poof, this is what you're getting."
I've got the ideas to listen. And that's exactly what I do. And we listen with dignity and treat people with dignity.
We also recognize the value of teachers, of nurses, of government workers, social workers, addictions counsellors, police officers, the people that drive the graders on the highways, who recognize the value and we try to put that into quality community life. We don't go out and close schools and hospitals or compromise public safety. They're a vital part, absolutely a vital part.
So, what do we do for jobs? How do you prioritize? We do it through people. We look at helping people. We continue to help people, and we look at the goodness and the maintenance and maintaining the jobs that come from those capital projects. Because, certainly, there are many opportunities for people.
As I said earlier, I try to drop it down so that I can do it to the capacity the communities have. Those are conscious efforts. They aren't by gosh and by golly, just flip-flopping in the dark with no conscientious effort - deliberate, thoughtful, meaningful, involving people, taking the time, no matter who it is, to listen to those people.
That's what we do, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to stand here and talk about that and to look at it. What is our commitment? It's reflected in the budget process. The commitment of our government is to recognize the need to break that boom-and-bust cycle. This is not a personality-driven government. This is a government that looks at the keeping the sustainable values of the Yukon, and doing things in a sustainable fashion so that we might always have a Yukon to promote - always - and the Yukon will look after us.
Now, maybe that's just a little bit too doggone "butterflies are beautiful and here we go with freedom again." Maybe the Member for Klondike wants to lampoon what he was lampooning a few moments ago, because "Davey's gone through the ozone layer." That's what he said the last time.
Well, I'll tell you, I haven't gone through any ozone layers. All I've done is broken through the crust to get to the people to listen to what the people have to say, and implement what the people have to say. That's exactly what this government does - not one member, but a caucus of 11. That's what we do.
How do we do it? "We work with them," I said - the business communities, the First Nations, the labour and environmental communities. We work with them and listen to them so that we might be able to foster a better arrangement.
When the member opposite asks me if I'm willing to sit down and do things, I'm willing to further move toward the betterment of the Yukon Territory. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: For the minister's benefit, it is March 30, 1998, and we are here to debate his department's budget. There was a very succinct question posed to the minister. Rather than answer the question, he just wasted another 10 or 12 minutes of this House's time going on - I don't know where. If he doesn't think it was something to laugh at, may I suggest he spend some time tomorrow and read what he said? Take the time to read Hansard and review what he said. I'm sure he'll be shaking his head.
Now, the question was quite specific, Mr. Chair: is there a way that capital funds are distributed and allocated to the various communities? And it doesn't appear to be a fair and reasonable way of allocating these capital dollars, especially when they're highway jobs.
It was pointed by the Member for Faro that he didn't agree with it. We share something in common on this point. I don't agree with the method of how that it's broken down. Now, will the minister undertake to find a better way of allocating these funds so that when they're directly attributable to a community they are allocated to that community, but when they're for a highway project outlying the community along a principal route that will benefit not just the community they're adjacent to, but the whole Yukon, that they are so identified. Will the minister undertake to do that in the future?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, undertake a better way of allocating community dollars. Obviously, the member opposite was not listening. I've got to say that - He's shaking his head. I'll be shaking my head. Always speaking down to a person. Should be looking up to people to see what people are saying. Once you start to look up to no matter who it is, you start to improve your quality of life because what I have to say is not only in my head, but it's in my heart.
I bring forth, on behalf of all community people no matter where you lie, whether you're in any riding that is not New Democrat, but a Yukoner, and I speak on behalf of all people of the Yukon Territory and I will continue to do so throughout all my life. Whether it's a political life or just my natural life, I will continue to speak out. I have done that historically and I will continue to do so historically, because that is my passion. My passion is the Yukon. My passion is not the extreme right or this over that, but my passion is to continue with the sustainable development of the Yukon and to ensure that people are looked after. That is my right. That is my way of doing things and I consider it a better way and it is certainly a better way.
He speaks of a better way of allocating the dollars. I can't think of a better way. You go out and you talk to people, you look at people, you take into context the five-year plan that the department has brought forth and they're based on continuing basis. They roll forward. You bring all of these initiatives together and you come up with the options. You look at the reality and that's exactly what we're doing.
We're looking at the reality.
For clarification, the Member for Faro didn't say that he didn't agree with it in the way we broke it down. I guess that's exactly the same way that you've done yours, but let me tell you that we're doing it in a new and better way, and we'll continue to do so until all people are looked after in the Yukon Territory.
We then look into the diversification end of things and the diversification of the economy and look at that and how we can build it, because the boom-and-bust cycle of the Shakwak-driven enterprise or equipment enterprise or just any singular segment of the economy is not right. It's got to be balanced, and that's what we're doing. So, it might take time for all members to be able to get together and to wrap their minds around that. But, that is what we're going to continue to do by listening to people and prioritizing with people.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer a very basic question on this budget and budget debate. The question once again for the minister is: will the minister undertake to review how the capital projects are allocated throughout Yukon and break them down according to a municipality only when they are applied to that municipality - when the funds are expended within the municipal boundaries? And in all other cases, specifically highway jobs, they can be adjacent to, but not an actual benefit that would be totally accruing to that municipality, because in a lot of cases, Mr. Chair, those benefits accrue to all of the Yukon. Specifically with the highway jobs, the contracts are let, and they are let sometimes just in the Yukon and a lot of times nationally, and anyone can bid on them.
Yes, in a great deal of occasions, they are Yukon employees working on the jobs, but the allocation of those capital projects to those specific communities that they are adjacent to certainly skews the numbers and makes for this rhetoric that we've been through with the Member for Watson Lake, and certainly in this last hour's debate. It's not benefiting the House, and it's not proving anything. In my opinion, it's quite a waste of time, Mr. Chair.
The minister is bantering on in this manner. What I'm looking for is an answer. Will the minister undertake to allocate the capital funding within his Department of Community and Transportation Services to the municipal governments when they're directly attributable to a municipal government, and if it's a highway job, to allocate it separately? Will the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, the short answer I'll get around to. The long answer - well, it's the day after Sunday, and I guess I must continue with what I do on a Sunday.
Obviously, the member is not in touch with anything other than maybe the Klondike riding. Hello. I do certainly find that disappointing.
If the member had an idea of the implications of what he just said, then I'm sure that he wouldn't have said that, because in certain locales the community boundaries that have been implemented many years ago are not reflective of the community and, in some cases, only cover off half the community. The communities have aspirations to move it out and look at district local services arrangements, and so on, to see how they can provide a service to expand upon the service.
Certainly, I want to keep up with those folks and the communities as I go about and do these things.
What else are we doing? Well, you know, we've put together a commission on local hire. We're going to be announcing soon about some of the issues that come out of there after it's gone through the due process, and that's going to be done soon. My colleague to my right will be making the announcement, I am sure, and it will be done in a very good way.
Now, why do I say this? Because those are points that we use to incorporate within the capital jobs and the need for capital jobs in communities, so that those people within that territory might be able to better access those jobs that affect them. That is what we're doing. We're doing those issues.
So, when you ask me - pardon me, Mr. Chair. When I am asked if I can do it in a better way, certainly I can do it in a better way, and time will certainly prove that we are doing it in a better way.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that, once again, the minister has failed to answer a very simple question. Once again, I will repeat it for the minister's benefit, hoping to obtain an answer this time.
Will the minister consider another way of displaying the capital expenditures within his department rather than on a community-by-community basis? The only exception is when the monies are actually accruing to that municipality, then they can be reflected as being a contribution to that community or a capital expenditure within that community.
I'm referring specifically to highway construction, where the benefits accrue not to just the community that highway construction might be adjacent to, but where the benefits accrue to all Yukon. Now, there has to be a better way of putting this information forward than what has been done previously and what is being done presently.
What I am seeking from this minister are those assurances. Perhaps it is prudent if the minister would undertake to bring his deputy minister in to provide him with some advice that might speed the progress of the debate in the House tonight.
Could the minister undertake to provide an answer this time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, we're going to go back and forth a long way. It's going to be a long session but, as I said earlier today, with the abuse that's been heaped on to me in the past, well, I'm just a tough old dog and I'll continue to be a tough old dog.
Are we doing it in a better way? You bet we're doing it in a better way. Are we doing it in a thoughtful, deliberate manner? You bet we are. Are we talking to people and asking for people's input as to the actual impact of those jobs? Did we talk to people about what they would say if we were doing a job on the Campbell Highway? You bet we did. Who did we talk to? The folks at Tuchitua? Well, there's a highway camp there. Just a few folks are running around. That's all. So, we have to.
We talked to the folks in Watson Lake and the folks said, "Yes, and please would you be able to break it down so that we might be able to focus so that our capacity in the communities will be able to get this." So, is there economic benefit to it? Absolutely, there's economic benefit to it. Are there wages involved in it? Absolutely, there are wages involved in it.
I don't know what more to say to the member opposite. We're going to continue to work in a thoughtful, deliberate manner. We're going to absolutely work with the people so that we might be able to have their input. Does it brush off on to them? Absolutely, it does brush off on to them, and we'll continue to do that until maybe one day, we're just into maintenance because everything is said and done and people are making decisions by themselves on behalf of themselves with the government.
Well, that's certainly a goal that I'd like to get to one day - when people are making their own decisions and people having the reflection of what's in their decision and being able to talk to the government and being able to utilize the talking with government. But if it has to be within their own little block, and it doesn't fit them, then I say to the member opposite is in another world.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let the record reflect that once again, the minister has failed to provide an answer to a very basic question about the budget, his budget and his capital part of it. Once again, I will ask the minister, would he kindly consider a different way of presenting the capital expenditures within his department than the way it is formatted at present?
What I would suggest is that any capital expenditure that accrues within a municipal boundary be directly attributable to that community. And any highway construction or other type of capital expenditures within his department, outside of the communities, be so indicated separately, because the benefits don't just accrue to that community; they accrue to all Yukon, and indeed all Yukoners that work on that project.
Will the minister consider that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as we endeavour to move forward with A Better Way and continue to refine our processes and our practices based on the people, we'll be continuing to evolve as to how we work with the people and how it works.
But something is awful frightening in the tone of the member opposite. It seems to me that it's a race. If it's not a race of communities, then it's a race of geographical locations, and I've got to come back and say that this is not a race. This isn't a contest between communities of who's got the loudest mayor or the best +looking mayor or whatever people would characterize to make decisions. Certainly, that's not the way we do it, and hopefully we'll never do it that way.
Did it happen before? I think it did because, all of a sudden, as has been said, we've got extreme right people within our caucus, and doggone, it's a pleasure to have them - maybe they're not physically here, but they're mentally here - and certainly aspire to promote them to work with us.
So, the benefits are not strictly to the community from highway jobs, and neither are they not for the community. They're for both. You can look at it in both lights. Does the member opposite want it to get so bureaucratized that we spend all of our time in our government just doing paperwork to say that this is what's happening? No. This government has a much bigger challenge, and that's to clean up the mess that we inherited.
Chair: Order please. The time being 8:30, is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm very, very hopeful that during this break the minister was party to some advice from his colleagues and from his department and he now has responses to the questions being asked - similar to what he came back with after the break before we stopped for dinner. That was an enlightening break for the minister, I'm sure, and I'm very, very hopeful that this past break will be similarly enlightening for the minister and that he now has a response to the question.
And for the minister's benefit, Mr. Chair, I will repeat the question: will the minister consider a different method of allocating capital expenditures within his department, rather than region by region or municipality by municipality? At present, it appears to skew the capital dollars that are going to an area because they're allocated to a lot of highway systems, sometimes not even adjacent to the community but many hundreds of kilometres distant.
Will the minister have his department consider a different way of presenting this information - one that more accurately reflects the capital dollars that flow into the community? Will the minister have his officials consider that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, reflection is always a better way of doing things - snap, knee-jerk decisions, as historically put out by the previous administration, certainly proved to be their demise. Certainly, there are always better ways of doing things - always.
If this is an issue that is not voted on, then what is the member opposite's motive? Is it better information? I think not. Is it clearer information? I think not, because this has been going on - well, ever since Trevor was a choirboy, I guess. It's been going on that long - or, when Trevor was a boy scout, I guess. That's how long it's been going on.
Does the member opposite want this information so that he might say, "This is what the City of Whitehorse is getting and what about TROY?" Well, I must remind the member opposite that TROY is on this side of the House.
This is TROY. So, is there an ulterior motive? Because, obviously, what the member could do - and the member is a very skilled business person. I will admit that the member is a very skilled business person and very much a Conservative, I guess. A business person definitely, but skilled at what he does.
So, is it so difficult for the member to break down these numbers? No, obviously it's not, because we're not voting on that process. Definitely not. So, why will he not accept the reasonable explanation of what I say? This is the way it's done, this is the impact, certainly that's what the communities wanted. As a matter of fact, I was led to believe that the mayor from four years ago, at the time, who actually ran for the Yukon Party but did not make it, was endorsing, on behalf of the Town of Watson Lake, the south Campbell because it had good economic impact on the town. I, myself, have worked in the Tungsten mine at Cantung. I spent many years of my life working in Cantung.
I used to talk to the folks from Watson Lake and they always appreciated the work and the workers that came from Cantung and the economic benefit that the mine, at the end of the road in the Northwest Territories, brought in.
So, I am somewhat mystified as to the reasoning why. Now, I guess if the Member for Klondike and I had a better relationship and maybe a more trusting relationship and we fostered that so that we might come together which, I must say, I truly hope happens one day. I truly hope it happens, because when you work together, you do so much better for the betterment of the Yukon people than working as adversaries. So, I will always attempt to work with the member opposite for a better Yukon, because that is my job and that is my mandate.
But, the member stood up and said, "not regionally; not municipally." I wonder what it is that the member opposite really wants me to do, in light of what the communities are doing in aspiring to expand their horizon and expand their scope - to stop that and work on this? No, I know that's not what the member opposite really wants. So, I won't endeavour to do that.
But what I will say to the member opposite is that I will look for a better way - a more clear and perfunctory manner - for the member opposite in the future, so that we might be able to have not setbacks in the debate, but a furthering of the debate.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the minister some questions regarding the purchase of infrastructure for the Whitehorse Airport.
I have asked the questions of the minister in Question Period. He has wrongly interpreted these as criticism. I am seeking information. Can the minister please provide to me an indication of the dollar value?
If the minister would like the questions, I can provide them to him. The question I had asked was: would the minister confirm a list of the equipment being purchased and the purchase costs for the additional infrastructure presently being purchased for the Whitehorse Airport? Is the minister able to provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we do have the information. Unfortunately, the information is contained within my Tourism portfolio. I do not have that information readily at hand at this point in time, but I can certainly fill the air until it gets here if the member would like.
No, she does not want it. Certainly when it comes, I do believe that I said I would be able to do it. We could talk about the benefits that bringing in 4,635 visitors translates into, and certainly that translates into almost $3 million for the tourism economy here and the business community throughout the Yukon, and I think that is a very, very beneficial issue to do - certainly, to echo the Member for Klondike who says, "What is government's responsibility?" You know, doggone it, sometimes we do agree.
Certainly it is in terms of infrastructure development and the development of infrastructure so that we can encourage and have people come to the Yukon in a very expedient and professional manner. Certainly infrastructure is a major component of that. So, not just to fill the time, but therein will lie part of the answer.
Ms. Duncan: The minister indicated, when he was standing on his feet, that I wasn't interested in him filling the time. What I actually had said was that I was prepared to ask more questions.
What we're having is a new service arriving in the Yukon, a direct international flight from Germany to Whitehorse.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: We are on C&TS. I'm asking about additional infrastructure being purchased for the Whitehorse Airport. Would the minister indicate what research work was done and what information was provided to him in terms of the L1011 aircraft landing in Whitehorse? Was the minister advised of FAA regulations in other jurisdictions regarding this particular aircraft, and were there discussions about having this type of aircraft land at Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, what research was done - we knew if we did not get out and hustle and do something, that we were not going to have a better year than the one that we have just previously had. We knew that. We looked at it. We talked to the industry. What can be done? What's said and should be done? What can this government do to build upon the ongoing and the ever-growing tourism opportunity here in the Yukon Territory?
So, when she asks, what research was done? That's the research. We've seen an opportunity and we capitalized on an opportunity so that we might be able to move forward with the development and the diversification of the economy, creating new jobs and getting dollars into every area of the Yukon.
From Old Crow, to Klondike, down the highway, to western Yukon, to eastern Yukon - that's what we did. We knew there was a problem. The window of opportunity was two weeks. That was the window of opportunity. I've met with my officials and my Government Leader and said, "Look, I've done this work. I've talked to the industry. This is what is needed. We absolutely need it, especially in light of the post-anniversary, et cetera, those types of issues." I said, "Where can we go? What can we do? We need another airline into the community of Yukon."
How do we go about getting this other airline into the community of Yukon? Well, you go and knock on doors, and that's exactly what we did. We went out. I sent a gentlemen, who I've grown extremely fond of in both a professional and personal manner, and listened to the wisdoms of that gentleman, who said, "Mr. Minister, this is what we have to do; this is what we can do; this is what we should do, and this is what I'm here for." So, we went out because we knew we had the endorsement of the Tourism Industry Association and other business people, who are not players within the Tourism Industry Association, and we said, "We've got to do it." And we did it. We went out and did it. What did that entail? It took a lot of negotiation.
Not only did we believe in ourselves, not only did the Tourism Industry Association believe in us, others who are not members of the Tourism Industry Association that are still in the business believed in us - and have said so - but even the CTC believed in us, the Canadian Tourism Commission. They believed in us so much that they brought forth $250,000 to complement what we were doing.
That's the type of research that was done. That's the direction we had. We knew that there would have to be capital expenditures brought out and put forth so that we might be able to facilitate what was happening at the airport, and what needs to be facilitated at the airport, so that we might not have only, and just, a charter company coming in - Air Transat flying the L-1011s - but to look at the opportunity to maybe do an airport plan, to maybe look at the - The member opposite is very well aware of what I'm talking about. The member opposite knows that we are in a unique, geographical location here, where our airport lies at this point in time.
The member knows that there are many obstacles and hoops that we have to come through and go to, and will, but we are doing it in a manner that is thoughtful and consistent. But we didn't wait. We went out and capitalized on an opportunity and, doggone it, it's paid off. It's paid off. It's bringing people there, and we're into negotiation with them so that we might even be able to bring more people here. We're looking and we're doing a $70,000 study so that we might be able to do this.
People have been into the paper and on the radio saying, "You've done good, territorial government. You stood by the Tourism Industry Association and you are doing good. You are developing tourism into the Yukon."
So, you asked me if it was researched. Was it dotted right to the t and dotted to the i? No, it wasn't. But did we have the gumption to go out and talk to people to see what it is and what's needed? You bet we did. And that's exactly what we did.
Now, let me say that the air carrier, in this case Air Transat, is responsible for deciding on the type of aircraft that they will use to service Whitehorse. Now, the L-1011 is acceptable to Whitehorse, as per the Air Transat initiatives. So, that right there is how it works.
Now, advice from other regulatory bodies - certainly, that is all part of this process. It is a definite part of this process so that we might be able to have people come, that we might live within the guidelines of what those guidelines are, and that we might actually start to develop and get to an international-class airport so that we can have the Asian market come in, we can have the down-under market come in, and this is all potential. So, whatever we spend, as I do believe one of the business owners in the community said, if we spend a million dollars, it would be absolutely well-spent for the benefits that we would get.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has gone on at some length as to how this particular arrangement was arrived at and the background behind it.
What I'm trying to determine is, since the deal has been structured, what has taken place?
Specifically, what infrastructure has been purchased or is about to be purchased for the Whitehorse airport to service the needs of an L-1011 aircraft?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: So that I will not be accused of withholding any information, I'm going to read my briefing note verbatim.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the definite endorsement from the Member for Klondike. I so enjoy the gentleman. Yes, it's about time.
The issue is the details of the partnership between Air Transat and Tourism Yukon for increased Air Transat.
Ms. Duncan: A point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, that is not the issue. I asked the minister what equipment and infrastructure is being purchased for the Whitehorse Airport.
Chair: Mr. Keenan, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, that is exactly what I was doing. Certainly, the briefing note states that it is page 2 of 2, and I was starting from the beginning. I do not consider it to be irrelevant. I certainly consider it to be historical and applicable.
Chair: The Chair sees it as a misunderstanding between members. Please proceed.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Okay. Well, I've already talked a bit about it, so I will not talk any more about it, but, certainly, Air Transat's going to be providing 15 direct flights, starting May 19, right through to August 25, using their L-1011 wide body.
We know that it's going to bring 4,635 visitors and we know that its estimated monetary value is $2.9 million for the Yukon economy. We also know that we've received $250,000 in promotional support from the CTC.
The Yukon tourism ... excuse me, I'll just get to some of this stuff and then delay the agony. Existing ground handling equipment at the Whitehorse Airport cannot meet the needs of this aircraft and the purchase of a reconditioned container loader equipped with baggage dollies is required. The process now is that Air Transat will not be using the passenger-loading bridge; however, they are willing to use the air stairs for passenger loading and unloading, as this usage is not uncommon at other airports. A set of modified air stairs is available at the airport to meet this need.
C&TS' aviation branch has placed an order for one container loader for $80,000 and 16 dollies for $35,000, for a total cost of $115,000, with a delivery date. We are looking at a delivery date, by golly, of March 30.
The push-back factor moves the aircraft from the bridge out on to the apron area; however, due to the estimated cost of $50,000 to $80,000, the branch is not considering purchasing this equipment at this time.
The modified air stairs are owned by Canadian Airlines, and Air Transat is advised that these stairs are suitable for their needs and has worked with Canadian Airlines to do that. So, C&TS is currently investigating the purchase of an air-start for the operation, and there is no cost to that as of yet. It's just being investigated.
And I do hope the information is what the member opposite asked for.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister indicated some of the equipment. I'm going to have a look at that in Hansard tomorrow. Would the minister clarify, is this reconditioned equipment, or is it new?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that the equipment is basically reconditioned equipment. I said that. Just let me - we placed an order for one container dolly at $80,016 and $35,000 for a total cost of $115,000 with the date being today. The push-back tractor, et cetera - and we are doing some research into the investigation right now of the purchase of an air-start, and I do believe that what I was talking about is refurbished equipment.
Ms. Duncan: The container dollies outlined by the minister also require a method for loading them. Has the department investigated the pallet loader? And the minister mentioned the air-start track and that the department was investigating this. Is this required on-ground equipment for an L-1011 in terms of safety issues and in terms of starting the plane, basically?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I do believe on the air-start that there are different methods of working with it, but certainly, it is something not particular just to a L-1011. It is particular to other planes of that nature, also.
So, we're talking with the airline to see if that has to be there and if it's needed, and certainly it is for a safety factor also. It is definitely a part of that.
Then the other question was on the pallet loader. I do believe that the information I have given to the member opposite - I'm not sure if there's a difference between a pallet loader or one container loader. I do believe they're one and the same.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: They're not one and the same? Then we are going with the one container loader, and obviously the department feels that we do not need a pallet loader at this point in time because it is not mentioned here. Just to reiterate, it is the one container loader, $80,000, 16 dollies, $35,000. That is basically what it is.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, one of the other issues with an international flight is the lavatory truck and the potable water. The existing facilities are unable to reach that particular type of aircraft. Is the department investigating the purchase of this equipment?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, pertaining to the lavatory and the potable water that is something I would have to get back with. I do not have that information at my fingertips at this time, but I will be able to read it into the record, I'm sure, tomorrow.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I could, I would just indicate to the minister that a legislative return on that equipment question would be fine.
Another issue with regard to an international flight is the environmental consideration when it lands at its first point of debarkation - or whatever the word is - the first point of landing. There is some information that garbage removed from that aircraft has to be incinerated, and of course there are questions with regard to the lavatory and water issues and cleaning. Could the minister also get back to me with regard to environmental issues and indicate whether or not the department has considered those issues? Perhaps he can answer that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I would be happy to incorporate that into the return.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, would the minister indicate whether or not there were discussions with respect to the emergency services at the airport? Are the emergency services presently located at the airport adequate for this size of aircraft?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I recall from the briefing, I do believe that they are adequate, but I will certainly reconfirm that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are also issues with regard to the operation of this equipment being purchased by the Government of Yukon, Department of Community and Transportation Services, for the Whitehorse Airport.
Could the minister indicate what actions have been undertaken by his department with regard to the operation of this newly purchased equipment?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Could I please get the member opposite to repeat that question?
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. What I was asking the minister is what discussions or actions have taken place by the Department of Community and Transportation Services, as this equipment will be owned by the Whitehorse Airport. What actions have been taken or discussions initiated with regard to the operation of this equipment?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I will have to reflect that information accurately in a legislative return for the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, has the minister had any discussions with regard to the equipment being purchased, if this particular equipment is specific to an L-1011, or if it's available for service to other wide-bodied aircraft, as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is applicable to other wide-bodied aircraft, as well.
Ms. Duncan: I wonder if, in the legislative return, the minister could address what discussions have taken place or what research the department has undertaken with regard to other Yukon airports. Specifically, Watson Lake seems to be very much in everyone's mind and discussions, and they have quite an excellent runway there and capabilities. Has the minister undertaken any discussions or research in terms of expanding the facilities and infrastructure at other airports; specifically, the Watson Lake airport?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we have not.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister planning to undertake any sort of additional research work as to what equipment or infrastructure would be necessary in other Yukon airports? Is this minister planning to examine this, either in the context of tourism development or other economic development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, certainly not at this time.
Ms. Duncan: Has the minister had discussions with any other airlines with regard to the infrastructure at the Whitehorse airport, specifically, Canada 3000? Were there any discussions with regard to a change in their aircraft and what infrastructure might be required? What sort of planning is taking place?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, discussion has not taken place with Canada 3000, but as we move through the process and talk to the regulatory bodies and look at what might be needed and is needed, certainly that information will become available.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we leave this topic, Mr. Chair, I just have one question for the minister regarding these flights coming into Whitehorse direct from Europe and this initiative.
This is an initiative that our party very much supports and very much encourages the government to continue with. We very much support the studies underway on extending the Whitehorse Airport to accommodate these larger aircraft. We look at the total cost that the government is spending and we don't really have a problem with the marketing and promotion aspects - the $70,000 study and the additional equipment - which came as somewhat of a surprise to the minister, I am sure, and some of his officials.
I guess the major concern is what initiatives the government is going to take with respect to NavCanada and with respect to the decommissioning of the Whitehorse tower. The operating policies of some of these carriers preclude them from landing at or taking off from an aerodrome that doesn't have an ATC tower.
So, we have gone to all of these extensive marketing and promoting efforts. We have gone to extending the runway and we've purchased equipment to service the aircraft that are going to be coming into Whitehorse. This is all well and good, but if we do not maintain the tower, we're not going to be able to encourage any additional international carriers to come into Whitehorse, and the decommissioning of the Whitehorse tower would also probably preclude Air Transat from arriving and taking off in Whitehorse, as well.
It is an area that certainly has to be addressed. It is a very critical and important one.
So, I'd encourage the minister to put a considerable amount of effort, more than what is presently being done, on NavCanada to ensure that that facility remains in place. I'm hoping I can get some encouragement from the minister that he concurs with that position and will instruct his department to proceed forthwith and tackle this problem and address it immediately, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the member opposite states a case that is very applicable. Yes, I have instructed the department to let the Minister of Transport, NavCan folks, understand exactly what we're doing, where we're going, that we would like their support through the process, to keep the tower open and alive. Certainly, this should be shown as a commitment that this government has, and others I must say, to the development of the tourism infrastructure and should go a very long way to being able to bring some type of assurance that we are working with due diligence as a government to look at diversifying the economy and that this is a major part of it and that it cannot be done in isolation of a tower.
So, certainly, we are proactive on this situation and working with great diligence and due diligence to ensure that it does not happen, for, certainly, it would be a very terrible thing to have happen to the initiative which we have brought forth.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we've beaten that issue to death, Mr. Chair, and we can move on to another area of concern. It's the capital dollars that are expended by the department.
Of the total capital that is spent, in the technical briefings we had from the department, indications were that 17.5 percent of the total capital budget was internal costs to the department, and the balance of 82.5 percent was contracted out or spent in the private sector for goods and services.
Could the minister advise if these percentages are consistent with previous fiscal periods?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I would think that they are consistent with the previous fiscal periods, but that is something that I would have to confirm with the department. I would think that if the department brought forth this number based on their information, then it would be, but I will confirm that information for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm somewhat concerned, when we look at the transportation engineering planning branch, as to why, when the capital budget is what it is and with what we're spending within that department.
If we look at the 1996-97 actuals, the capital was $46 million, and the actual expenditures of that department were $736,000. When we go to the 1997-98 forecast, the actual capital was $25 million, and we spent the $810,000 forecasted. Now, we're going to $10 million in the 1998-99 budget and we're looking at the same $810,000.
Now it would appear that we're eroding more and more of our capital in internal costs. Does the minister know specifically or would he like to bring back a legislative return? Having the deputy minister right by his side, I'm sure we'd have a quick answer to this.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I do not believe that if the deputy minister was right by my side that we'd have a quick answer and certainly the deputy minister, at this point in time, as other staff members are, are within reach and going to be always within reach for this.
The number that has been asked for and will be provided to the member opposite is going to take a little bit of thought and research. So, certainly we will get the number accurately back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: If we look at the O&M budget of the department, Mr. Chair, personnel costs run about 32.6 percent. Is this consistent with other fiscal periods, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Is it consistent with other fiscal periods? That, again, is something that I would have to get the department to look at and we can run an average. It certainly shouldn't take too long to run an average, but certainly I'd like to remind members that the O&M budget is not just an operation and maintenance budget for government and for government to feed on.
It does pay. It pays for a lot of basic services. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - such as the teachers, nurses, the social workers, the addiction counselors, the police officers and the equipment operators who clean off the snow. Certainly, they are not separate from what we say. They are very real people and very real jobs, and they deserve our thanks and respect for the valuable services they do perform. Their wages, their input into the economy is exactly that - it's input into the Yukon economy, and it puts millions of dollars into our economy every year. Certainly, it goes a long way to providing jobs and maintenance for our people in every aspect of the economy.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, that was an answer and a half. I would just remind the minister that we are dealing with Community and Transportation Services. This was a question that I posed specific to his budget, specific to the personnel costs within his department. It didn't have anything to do with nurses and teachers. It had to do with his personnel within the Department of C&TS. The question is quite a specific question about the personnel cost estimates and the O&M component of the C&TS budget that were indicated to be 32.6 percent.
Is that consistent with previous fiscal periods in the O&M budget of the Department of Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I absolutely understand where we are in terms of the budget debate and will continue to do so - to understand - and we'll continue to talk about what the impact of the O&M budget has on people in their real lives and their real jobs, because it has always been painted that the O&M budget is on government itself. But no, the O&M budget is not spent on the government itself. It is on behalf of the people.
As I have said previously in my comments, just to this question as a matter of fact, yes, we will look to run an average and to show the member opposite what that average would be. We will do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Will the minister confirm that he will be providing that information by way of legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry, I did not hear.
Mr. Jenkins: I had a question on the floor that the minister didn't quite - he was conversing with his colleagues, Mr. Chair, and didn't quite gather it. The question to the minister is: would he be prepared to provide that information, by way of legislative return, tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I will certainly provide the information to the member in a timely and expedient manner.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 30, 1998:
Queen's Printer agency: 1998-99 business plan (Sloan)
Fleet vehicle agency: 1998-99 business plan (Sloan)
Rural electrification policy and guidelines (dated March 1998) (Keenan)
Rural telecommunication policy and guidelines (dated March 1998) (Keenan)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 30, 1998:
Mosquito control program: 1997 costs; larvicide supplier 1997-98 and 1998-99 (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2573
Regional Environmental Review Committee: no funding for ice-effect study; general information (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2569
Computer programs and the year 2000 problem (Keenan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2573