Tuesday, March 31, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of John McPhail
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a long-time constituent and Yukoner, Mr. John McPhail, who passed away on March 12, 1998.
John was born on April 21, 1912, in Bethune Township, Muskoka District, in Ontario, which is now Toronto. He began his working career in the lumber business with his father before working on construction projects across Canada and operating an international trucking company.
John worked on the Alaska Highway in the 1950s, living in Destruction Bay and Haines Junction before transferring to Beaver Creek, where he and his wife Rose operated the Beaver Creek Motel from 1969 to 1979.
John will be fondly remembered for his devotion to his family, his willingness to help anyone in need and for working hard at any task he took on.
John is survived by his wife Rose, six children, 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Mr. Ostashek: We would like to join with the Member for Kluane and the government in extending our condolences to the McPhail family.
I had the opportunity to meet John and Rose in Beaver Creek back in the early 1970s. They were great Yukoners, great hosts, and really loved the country they lived in.
So, on behalf of the Yukon Party, our condolences go out to the family.
Ms. Duncan: I join with others in this House to pay tribute on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party caucus to John McPhail. Mr. McPhail, a long-time resident of not just Beaver Creek but the north highway, is survived by his wife Rose and children. We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family.
John McPhail was one of those Yukoners who moved to the Yukon, raised a family here and retired here. He quietly led a life of reliable service to all the travellers on the north highway through his work. John McPhail was one of the few individuals still around who likely knew every corner of that particular stretch of the Yukon highway. His historical knowledge and, yes, expertise, of how we did things way back when will be missed.
Our sympathy to the McPhail family and John's many friends.
In remembrance of Ida and Bob McCormick
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to two great and wonderful people - Ida and Bob McCormick. They were long-time Yukoners who, as we all know, were tragically lost in a recent plane accident.
The McCormicks came to the Yukon in the late 1970s, and they settled at Johnson's Crossing, just a few miles from my home.
Over the years, they transformed their home into a beautiful riverside setting where all people were always welcome for a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. Both Ida and Bob were known as caring people who volunteered much of their time and their experiences and their shared history.
I would say that many people were surprised when Bob and Ida, about three years ago, exchanged their lives here in the Yukon to pursue their missionary work, which ended their lives in Venezuela. Their strong faith and their enjoyment of nature, along with their natural desire to help others, led them directly into missionary work. So I guess, all in all, it wasn't really a surprise; it was just a natural evolution.
It's through this work that Ida continued to provide the lifeskills and first aid training at a hospital near Angel Falls and Bob took care of the buildings and the equipment. I can just see them now deep in the forest helping other people as they were here in the Yukon Territory.
I first met Ida while working in construction camps. She is a cook. I know many people here have worked in camps and in camp settings and rural settings and they always knew the value of a good cook, not just for the quality of meals but for the quality of advice. Sometimes they were your mothers; sometimes they were your partners. They were just your best friend.
Ida certainly reflected that in every way.
I met Bob through a mutual love for forest and for the environment. He was building a log house and I was building a log house, and we'd get together and talk about how we could make things better for ourselves through a log house and how much beauty there is in a log house because it reflects our principles.
Bob came down and helped me out, without even being asked. That's truly a true friend.
So, let's all remember Bob and Ida as the helpful, caring, loving, giving people that they truly were. I know that we'll all miss them greatly, and for those they never touched, I think we should all take considerable pride in the fact that they left a legacy through their children and their grandchildren who are very much carrying on the good work that Bob and Ida McCormick have done.
A Tse un Kow. [Member spoke in native language. Translation not available.]
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Ida McCormick. I knew Ida personally through a number of workshops given by the Emergency Measures Organization here in the Yukon.
Bob worked at the Whitehorse Airport with Transport Canada and recently retired after the airport was transferred to YTG. They were both true Yukoners, living happily on the banks of the Teslin River, just downstream from Johnsons Crossing. Their log home was flooded in the high waters of 1992, and their unfinished basement suffered considerable damage.
Notwithstanding, Ida attended the flood threat victim counselling in Teslin and in other communities, rather than fretting about the flood waters that, for a time, made her home inaccessible.
Ida had well-rounded training in emergency management, emergency health and social services and casualty simulation. She gave her time freely and generously to make emergency training events and training exercises more realistic, to help counsel emergency victims and contribute to the preparation of emergency plans in Teslin and Haines Junction.
Ida assisted the Yukon EMO in developing its emergency operations centre, as an effective disaster response coordination facility, and was involved in organizing and conducting staff training and orientation sessions.
A number of people, both in Whitehorse and the communities, knew Ida for her volunteer work and generous personality. She was trained as a St. John Ambulance first-aid instructor, and often gave up her time on evenings and weekends to spend time with chronically ill elders at the Thomson Centre. I think that missing Ida and her husband Bob can be best summarized by what Paul Albertson, who was the former director of EMO, said. He said that "A northern light was turned off when Ida and Bob died on that remote mountaintop half a world away."
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
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
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT Robert Bruce, Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, cease to be the Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
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 to the Government Leader on the MLA from Whitehorse Centre's attendance at the Arctic Winter Games, purportedly on government business.
Mr. Speaker, it's our information that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, as the minister responsible for sports and recreation, represented the Government of Yukon from Sunday to Wednesday of the week that the Arctic Winter Games went on, and I understand that he did a very admirable job of representing the Yukon.
There were no other functions requiring Yukon government representation, other than the closing ceremonies. So, I believe that the claim that the MLA for Whitehorse Centre was at the games representing the Government of the Yukon simply isn't valid.
I would like to ask the Government Leader if he would advise this House as to what government business the MLA attended, other than the one meeting with the Northwest Territories about local hire provisions in the diamond mining business. I'd like to ask the Government Leader if he can give us the details of the government business that the MLA attended to for the other seven days that he was at the Arctic Winter Games.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, it'll be no surprise to the member that I disagree with the fundamental proposition - his fundamental proposition that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was not at the games representing the government. The member most certainly was, and did provide services at the opening and closing ceremonies.
The member asks the question as to whether or not the Member for Whitehorse Centre had other business with the government and, in fact, he did. He met with the vice-president of BHP mine, he met with the Government of the Northwest Territories, the deputy minister responsible for trade, and also met with the manager of government affairs on three separate occasions.
So not only did the member in fact help represent the government at the Arctic Winter Games - which I believe was appreciated - but he also did some work in terms of liaising with the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I suggest to the Government Leader that's a very skinny agenda for eight days of taxpayers' money. I, like the vast majority of Yukoners, believe the MLA for Whitehorse Centre was in Yellowknife watching his son play hockey, and there are many other Yukoners who would have liked to have been there to watch their children participate, if they could have done so at government expense.
Mr. Speaker, we believe he was on a holiday there, and Yukoners are now paying for it. I would like to ask the Government Leader to assure this House that he will insist that the MLA for Whitehorse Centre refund the Yukon taxpayers the money he claimed while not being on legitimate government business.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well again, Mr. Speaker, the member will not be surprised that I disagree with his basic proposition that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was not representing the government during the Arctic Winter Games. In fact, he was. As a matter of fact, politicians have gone to the Arctic Winter Games - and do go to the Arctic Winter Games - and are seen at public events during the Arctic Winter Games. This is not a new occurrence at all.
The member has suggested that the work that the member was doing in Yellowknife was not legitimate. I disagree with him entirely. First of all, the liaising work that the member was doing with the Government of the Northwest Territories is for this government. Secondly, the support that the member gave to the Yukon contingent of youth at the games is something that the government wishes to see happen, and I'm certain a service that the member did perform.
Mr. Ostashek: The Government Leader will not be surprised that I find that explanation and that defence very weak, because I don't believe that there's ever been another occurrence where we've had a government representative represent the Yukon for the entire eight days at the Arctic Winter Games.
My question to the Government Leader: is it the policy of this Government Leader to use the government travel to pacify his backbench MLAs to help keep them in line or keep them out of town when they might speak out against their own government's position on such things as the internal trade agreement or on the two-percent wage rollback? Is that the reason that he's pacifying his MLA backbenchers with government travel?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, on a number of counts the member was wrong, wrong, and wrong again. It's not a matter of pacifying members. It's a matter of using members' innate talents to serve the public of the Yukon, and that's precisely what the members are doing when they are on business travel, acting for the government.
So, I disagree with the member in his preamble. I disagree with the member in his conclusions.
Question re: Members' attendance at sittings of the House
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I would just be hearing a roar from the opposition benches if I ever tried this with my backbenchers when I was in government.
Mr. Speaker, once again for the Government Leader: yesterday, in this House, the Government Leader indicated that the MLA for Whitehorse Centre's most recent trip to Ottawa was not being paid for by the Yukon government. I will accept that, as it's probably being paid for by the federal Liberal government. But the point I wish to make, however, is that this House only sits for 60 days of a year and it is the duty of every MLA to be here to represent the interests of his constituents, unless they are away on government business or have a very good personal reason to be away. Holidays don't qualify.
Does the Government Leader not agree with me in that assessment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the difference between that member's private members and this government's private members is that this government has a lot of talent among its benches and a lot of good experience. It is certainly a challenge to ensure that all, from to time to time, are fully employed doing useful things because there are so many and there's so much raw material.
With respect to the travel taken by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, as I indicated yesterday, the travel taken was not for government business and was not paid for by the Yukon taxpayer. If the member wants to explore the personal business that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was on, then he has every opportunity to ask the member himself.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it appears that this Government Leader has a pretty loose arrangement with his caucus and it really doesn't matter to him whether the constituents of his MLA's riding are represented or not.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat taken aback yesterday by the Government Leader's response in my concern over the travel expense claims made by the MLA for Whitehorse Centre in that the Government Leader signed approval to these expenses when clearly some of them were contrary to government travel policy.
Mr. Speaker, it's the Government Leader who's responsible for reinforcing that policy. Now, I'd like to ask the Government Leader, did he actually review those expense claims before signing them off?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, I want to point out to the member that all members of our government team represent the members of their constituencies very well. With respect to the travel claim that the member raised yesterday, I can tell him that, indeed, a mistake was made and that there were some expenditures claimed that should not have been claimed and that mistake has been corrected. I thank the member for raising that concern with me. However, the member did characterize these expenses as bar bills, presuming to mean alcohol, and that allegation, of course, is not true; it's false.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm very concerned about this Government Leader's cavalier approach to this whole matter, that he would sign off a claim that he knew was wrong without reviewing it. He's the final authority on travel claims. He's supposed to be satisfied that those claims are legitimate before he signs them off. What's the point in having a policy governing the expense travel if it's not being enforced?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Government Leader if he would instruct his officials to make all travel claims, together with all receipts of his ministers and MLAs travelling on government business between October 19, 1996, to the present date, available to the Public Accounts Committee so that a proper audit can be done?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, those records are public. Secondly, if the Public Accounts Committee, which the member chairs, decides to make a request for any set of documents at any time, they are perfectly entitled to. The member hasn't, of course, called a meeting, so he shouldn't presume to speak for that committee.
But the matter is not dealt with cavalierly at all, Mr. Speaker. The travel policy is very clear with respect to claims that can be expensed. Clearly, an administrative mistake was made in this case. I take responsibility for it. It was corrected.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, safety concerns
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice. I want to follow up on questions I asked the minister yesterday on the fire marshall's reports relating to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Now, just to make sure we're on the same wavelength, let me outline to the minister what I think is the situation. In the spring of 1995, the fire marshall prepared a report on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and made a number of recommendations. Those recommendations and responses were forwarded to us, the members of the opposition - not the report itself, but excerpts from the report. Then recently, the fire marshall, working with the City of Whitehorse, did another report.
Is my understanding of the facts correct?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the member's understanding of the facts is correct. I believe that those facts were outlined extensively to the member in a technical briefing that he was provided with before this session started about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Cable: As I mentioned in the first question, the recommendations and the responses from the first report were discussed. We do not have copies of the reports.
Can I ask the minister this: is she prepared to table both reports before the Justice department budget debate and, if not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in response to the members' questions yesterday, the fire marshall's report was provided to the opposition when they requested it previously - absent details that related to security and that would not be accessible under the Access to Information Act. We are willing, of course, to provide public information to the members as long as it is something that does not affect the security and would therefore be subject to restriction under the Access to Information Act.
Mr. Cable: The minister provided an excerpt of the first report. So, just to be crystal clear, is she prepared to provide to this House, and table in this House as public document, the fire marshall's reports - that's in the plural - the two reports. Not the first report by itself, but both reports. We understand that there are some fire concerns in the second report. Is she prepared to do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, I want to make it very clear for the member that we have met the fire marshall's concerns about the safety of remand clients and that my officials in the Justice department meet with the fire marshall with a view to addressing both short-term and long-term priorities at Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
I have already previously stated to the member, and state again today, that we will provide information to them in relation to the fire marshall's report that is not dealing with security matters and is not normally public information because of the sensitivity of that material.
I would like to make a special note, as well, of the commitment and efforts of the staff who are working at WCC and doing a good job of caring for inmates and ensuring both public safety and a secure facility.
Question re: Thomson Centre/Macaulay Lodge, continuing care for patients
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mr. Speaker, there are eight patients in Whitehorse General Hospital waiting to get into the Thomson Centre or Macaulay, and one of those patients has been there since October, using up an acute-care bed. There are seven empty beds at the Thomson Centre, but there's not enough money to staff the beds. There's a waiting list of 18 people for Macaulay, and a waiting list of nine people for the Thomson Centre.
There was a doctor who did a presentation at the NDP convention this past weekend, and we know that the minister's been briefed about this issue. This is a crisis situation that needs to be dealt with today. What is the minister going to do?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would be loathe to characterize it as a crisis. I take note of the total bed usage over the last number of days, from the 27th to the 30th: on the 27th, 44 beds used; the 28th, 39; 29th, 36; 30th, 38; out of a total capacity of 49. Yes, we're aware of the issue surrounding continuing care, and it is something that we are working on and looking for definite solutions there.
However, I think that the member has ignored perhaps a larger component of this, and it's something that is of concern to us and we are working on a strategy, and that's the whole question of appropriate placement of continuing care patients in an acute-care facility, and I think that's something that we will be addressing as a government.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the answer from the minister is absolutely baffling because, once again, of course, he didn't answer the question, as usual, and he didn't speak about appropriate care for people. It's not appropriate for people to be in the hospital waiting to get into the Thomson Centre for seven months. It's not appropriate care, and I don't think that's the sort of care that we want to have for the people we care about here in the Yukon who are seniors and our elders. It costs a lot of money - over $400 a day - for someone to sit in an acute-care bed, waiting to get into the Thomson Centre.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have letters dating back to 1993 from various people in Watson Lake.
I have letters from the Signpost Seniors, the Workers' Compensation Board, the Kaska Tribal Council, the Town of Watson Lake and the Lower Post First Nation. All of these groups support a multi-level care facility for Watson Lake.
Mr. Speaker, people from Watson Lake have had to go into McDonald Lodge in Dawson. They've moved into Whitehorse and recently another Watson Lake person, who needs multi-level care, had to move to B.C. The minister's response to this very clear community need is that he is going to -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mrs. Edelman: - order another study. Well, we don't need another study. Watson Lake needs a multi-level care facility. The need is real. The minister, from personal experience in that community, is excruciatingly aware of that need. Besides wasting taxpayer dollars to discover the incredibly obvious, what is the minister going to do?
Speaker: Would the member please...
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, good heavens, Mr. Speaker, that was a bit of a stretch there on the question. Boy, I guess the member - I'm just flabbergasted by the length of the question. I'm sorry.
The member has addressed a number of things and she's sort of jumped around there a little bit in what I might characterize as a bit of a petulant manner. However, what I did say was that we're working on the current situation with the Thomson Centre and we are looking at an overall strategy on the whole question of continuing care. It is something that is very dear to our hearts and we are looking at our options there.
With regard to Watson Lake, we have been continually working with the Signpost Seniors and we fund them currently to $121,000 a year. I have been in communication with the folks down in Watson Lake. We have done an assessment on what our options are down there to some degree in what kinds of opportunities we have, but there are also some other issues down in Watson Lake, which I don't think the member has quite characterized in the appropriate way. One of those is the fact that half the individuals currently within our home care program are B.C. residents. So, I think anything that we're looking at down in Watson Lake, we would have to be doing in tandem with B.C., and that's certainly something that we would be examining.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, at the risk of sounding petulant, Mr. Speaker, I have to point out that the minister, once again, has not answered the question.
At a recent meeting in Watson Lake about the capital priorities in that town, the number-one priority was a multi-level care facility for the Town of Watson Lake.
When is this minister going to pay attention to that, and answer the need in that community, the number-one need in that community, and build a multi-level care facility in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the member's intelligence perhaps is not quite as good as the CIA. If she really paid attention to the public meeting there, there was a considerable effort directed toward the town, which has been almost singular in its reluctance to fund anything, including the Signpost Seniors. They've given zero there. As a matter of fact, they even asked for back taxes on the facility.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Member for Klondike has decided to get his two cents' worth in there, saying it's not our responsibility. However, I would point out that those efforts were directed at the town council. We are working on options for Watson Lake and we are looking at different options there. Perhaps the member needs to get her lines right.
Question re: Alcohol and drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Yesterday in this House I raised a concern about the extent of Yukon's drug problem. Neither the minister nor the media appear to have paid much attention to this problem, from what I have seen, and the problem is growing. It's getting larger and it's very grave. There have been extensive reports on substance abuse and about treatment centres, but the focus has virtually always been on alcohol.
Since I raised the issue yesterday in this House, I have received a number of calls telling me that I'm only seeing just the tip of the iceberg. Both hard and soft drugs appear to be readily available in Yukon and are being used at an unprecedented scale. In fact, last night on television, Northern Canada, there was a program on drug abuse and it featured a gal who lives here in Whitehorse.
I didn't get to watch it, but I'm told it was quite an eye-opener.
Can the minister advise what strategy he has in place to cope with this problem, other than to continue to cut the alcohol and drug services budget?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we guys and gals over on this side will just try to get an answer there.
But the member asked some fairly substantial questions yesterday - everything from asking what numbers use marijuana as opposed to what numbers use hashish, gender-related questions, cocaine. The figures that I have are from the 1993 health promotion survey, and I can go into tremendous detail of these. Despite the member's characterizations of cutting, I think what he needs to look at is what I said yesterday. We're redirecting some of the funds that we're using into other support mechanisms for individuals with drug and alcohol abuse problems.
For example - and I'll repeat it again - we are investing a considerable amount in the medical detox model. We've entered into contracts with physicians to deliver services in the detox. We've also assigned a nurse in this capacity, so we are actually trying to address a number of these problems, but we're trying to address them in a different way.
Mr. Jenkins: It's interesting to note that the minister cites a report and information five years old. It's a very grave concern to me, both as a parent and a legislator, that the so-called soft drugs, like marijuana, are so readily available in our schools.
I have reason to believe, Mr. Speaker, that the drug problem is probably being hushed up because incidents have to be reported to the RCMP, and supervisors may be reluctant to make these reports, which could eventually saddle our youth with a record.
Can the minister or his colleague, the Minister of Education, outline how government is trying to discourage drug use in our schools?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I must take exception to the fact that the member's contending that somehow there's a conspiracy of silence to hush up - as he characterizes it - drug use, or rather drug abuse, by our young people. I don't think that's done at all. I've worked in schools where they've taken a very hard line with drugs, and drug offences are dealt with very, very swiftly. As a matter of fact, I have been in situations where we've called in the RCMP.
But I think the member probably needs to actually sit down with some people from the educational community and find out how they deal with drugs. We do have active drug prevention programs within the schools. There are programs such as counselling programs. There are also classes where young people deal with issues of drugs and other life-related issues. I don't think it's hushed up at all. As a matter of fact, I think it's taken very, very seriously within the schools.
Mr. Jenkins: My final supplementary is for the Minister of Justice. Can she advise the House about how extensive Yukon's drug problem is from a criminal justice viewpoint, and the actions of the RCMP, and is she concerned about it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member there is trying to jump around a little bit, and since he introduced the first question, I'll take the liberty of answering his second supplementary question.
With regard to drug statistics, we have requested the most recent statistics from the RCMP, and we will relay those to the member when they do become available.
I think what is understood is that we have a population here that is very mobile and, as a matter of fact, one of the things, in talking with people within the addictions community, we have a problem with is people who are recreational - I suppose - hard drug users, who will go out, usually to Vancouver, experiment with drugs, and return, often with that habit, and that is becoming increasingly a problem.
We have to understand the fact that, in a community where there is a fairly large disposable income and a fairly young community - which is another characterization of our community - we will have a problem with drug abuse, and we are working to the best of our ability to combat it and to help individuals.
Question re: Tourism marketing tender
Ms. Duncan: I have some followup questions for the Minister of Tourism regarding his recent business visit to Calgary.
The tender for the new tourism marketing contract closed on February 17. Two weeks later, while the department was in the middle of making a decision about who to award the contract to, the minister visited one of the bidders, Calgary-based Parallel Strategies, for, quote, "just a very general presentation" and to get an idea of what one agency would do. Can the minister tell the House what other bidders he dropped by to see? Did he visit the seven other agencies that bid on the tender during the tender process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would like to point out and build on what I said yesterday. We took the opportunity while we had a layover in Calgary, before getting on the evening flight to go and do some work in the European market. We took the opportunity.
I was invited by the marketing director to accompany him and get a good understanding. We discussed issues, such as the Internet, the anniversary enhancement program, style conscious adventure program and the joint Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon cooperative marketing program.
I can, at this time, let the leader of the third party know that Mr. Rich Thompson, who is the president of Parallel Strategies and Miles Prudan, who is the vice-president, were at the meeting and, yesterday, I was accused of being wined and dined, but certainly Perrier was the flavour of the day that was there.
It should be very interesting for the member to note that both agencies had been short-listed at that time, and notified prior to the planned meeting in Calgary. I would also like to say that, in addition, neither the director nor the minister were included in the agency selection process, and the process was managed by an independent technical advisory committee.
I would like, at this point in time, to table to the House, if I may, the details of the tender process.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that was a rather detailed answer from the minister. However, he didn't answer the question that I asked.
Has the minister, since February 17, taken the opportunity to visit any of the other seven bidders on this project during the tender process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Speaker. I have not taken the opportunity, simply because there hasn't been an opportunity. I feel that it is incumbent on all people in this House, including the opposition members, to educate themselves as to what is there and what is the process and certainly
to take advantage and use the taxpayers' funding and dollars to further the issues, which I have done.
So, a simple answer to the member opposite is "No, certainly not".
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Tourism Marketing Council was told last Thursday that Parallel Strategies was awarded the tourism marketing contract. A representative of that company was on the radio yesterday afternoon talking about having won the contract.
Would the minister tell the House what day the contract was officially awarded to Parallel Strategies?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly not at this point in time, but I can say that it was awarded, I do believe, after my visit there. But, let me just say that the purpose of my trip was not to explore or to see how we could continue to work with Parallel. No, that was not the purpose at all.
I'd also like to remind the member opposite that anything that we do in tourism to enhance the Yukon and get the Yukon as a destination - and it is a world-class destination - should be looked at as a positive initiative.
Anything that is said in this House - because I have gone to people around the world now and spoken to people of the support that we have from all areas of the community.
So, I do wish that the leader of the third party would elevate her thinking into the major leagues and to please get out of the bush leagues, because certainly that is the type of attitude that harmfully affects what we are doing.
So, please be expansive in your thinking.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 1, 1998. They are Motion No. 103, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake and Motion No. 111, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Deputy Chair: Committee is dealing with the main estimates. We are on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Pardon me, I have some things to read into the record.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I have some answers that I could read into the record that were raised yesterday on planning and engineering expenditures. Sorry, can you hear me? My throat is a tad dry and sore.
The issue was, "Now it would appear that we're eroding more and more of our capital internal costs. Does the minister know specifically or will he be able to get back to me in a legislative return." Certainly, this is the information that is required for the Member for Klondike.
The drop in the capital budget since 1996-97 and 1997-98 to the level in 1998-99 is largely due to the absence of funding for the Shakwak project. The budget allocated funding for the transportation, planning and engineering facilities and a number of activities to support transportation infrastructure.
These activities are needed whether or not we have Shakwak funding, and they include examining the need for new and upgraded transportation facilities; undertaking planning and transportation development studies to identify capital requirements and result in changes to O&M requirements; monitoring traffic and traffic growth; providing transportation-related input to assist the resource development sector; managing our existing infrastructure and identifying rehabilitation needs; managing the land required to support the transportation infrastructure - for example, the gravel pits, the bridgehead reserves and the rights-of-ways. Good planning and management of the infrastructure is very important, and the budgets are limited in order to ensure that expenditures are as effective as possible.
The personnel cost as a percentage of the department's total O&M budget - in 1996-97, the total O&M budget was $64,041,000, with a personnel cost of $20,396,000, for a percentage of 31.8 percent.
In 1997-98, with a total O&M budget of $63,438,000, the personnel costs were $21,374,000, with a percentage factor of 33.5.
In the 1998-99, the total O&M budget is $62,661,000 with a personnel cost of $20,446,000, with a percentage factor of 32.6 percent.
In the capital budget allocation, 1996-97, the budget is $58,075,000, with the external being 92.8, and the internal being 7.2.
In 1997-98, the budget was $39,299,000. The external - or the private - is $35,054,000, with the internal being $4,245,000, with a percentage factor of 10.8.
In the 1998-99 budget of $21,823,000, the external private is $17,990,000, with the internal of $3,883,000, with a percentage factor of 17.5.
Also, regarding the Yukon government engineering staff working on the federal portion of the Alaska Highway, the issue was, is the territorial government engineering staff taking work away from the private sector. The engineering staff that will be working for the Public Works and Government Services Canada this year are replacing federal government staff and not private sector consultants.
In 1997, the PWGSC had two large construction projects on the Alaska Highway, which were staffed by eight of their own employees, seven from Edmonton and one from Fort Nelson. These government employees were supplemented by private consultants from Whitehorse and from Edmonton.
In 1998, the PWGSC also has two large construction projects on the Alaska Highway. This year, the projects will be staffed by two federal employees and four Yukon government engineering staff FTE levels.
These staff will also be supplemented with the private sector consultants as well. There will also be an additional Yukon government engineer working on some smaller bridge and rock-scaling projects.
I had a question from Mr. McRobb pertaining to the relocation of the Haines Junction dump. Certainly, as we know, the construction and the operation of the dump for Haines Junction is a municipal responsibility and, as such, the village has certainly taken a lead on the relocation work. However, the department is cooperating with the village in the selection and development of a new site. Work to relocate the dump is in a very preliminary stage but the village expects the work to be completed within three to five years.
There are also questions from the hon. Member for Klondike, speaking on the Haines Junction aerodrome refuelling facility and what are the statistics regarding the use of the Haines Junction refuelling facility.
During the initial four months of operation, 62 aircraft used the facility and 5,850 litres of fuel were sold. For the first three months of 1998, 60 aircraft used the facility and 5,518 litres of fuel were sold. Since the commissioning of the system, a total of 102 aircraft have been served and 11,368 litres of fuel dispensed.
It's hoped that the availability of fuel will attract more air tourists to land at the aerodrome and to participate in tourism activities. Since the majority of the air tourist activity occurs during the summer months, the market the facility was commissioned to attract has not yet been tested.
It is believed that fuel sales will increase significantly, commencing sometime in June. Air tourists have been questioned about their use of the facility and have indicated that they would not have landed at the aerodrome had fuel not been available.
Aircraft owned and operated by a single user account for 30 percent of the aircraft that have used the facility. The number of aircraft that have used the facility does not represent the number of aircraft moving at the aerodrome during the period, as not all aircraft refuel when they land.
Availability of fuel at the aerodrome is advertised in the Canadian flight supplement, and all CAR sites have been advised of the available service. Certainly, airport services and information tour-related literature has been amended to include the new service.
There was also a question raised, again by the Member for Klondike, yesterday or last evening - I'm not sure - on the capital charges for mobile cell phone users. The issue was, "How does the minister envision collecting from those cell phone users who are mobile? They might reside in the Whitehorse area, they might reside elsewhere, but how do you access them for a capital charge?"
Well, the rural telecommunications policy is not designed to extend service areas for mobile cellular 800 customers. The extension of the service for such customers would be made by the service provider and not the government. As a result, it would not be appropriate to recover capital charges until the RTEP for users who don't reside in the area -
One moment, please.
If local users select cellular 800 service to provide local telecommunications service, the RTEP could be used for financing. In that case, only the residents of the area would contribute to capital costs. These residents would know that if they chose a mobile communications system, such as cell 800, non-residents transiting the area would benefit from being able to use the system. This is no different than allowing the non-residents to stop into a corner store and use the pay phone in an area where fixed residents are supplied through the RTEP.
When determining the cost of implementing a telecommunications service, consideration is given to the projected revenue the service will generate. While non-residents do not contribute to the capital cost of the system, the revenue they generate by using the system is factored into the business decision and does lower the cost of implementing the service to the property owners.
And those are the answers that I have for the members opposite today. I do believe that I have these in paper form. I do not have them with me, but if the staff is listening, I'll get them sent right down to both members.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're getting there, Mr. Chair. On Thursday, there were 17 unanswered questions. We received three legislative returns from the minister and three oral returns yesterday, and today we've eaten into some of the responses from yesterday, March 30.
We still have 11 questions unanswered from Thursday, Mr. Chair, which I will be seeking answers for from the minister before we close off general debate, and there are still some more answers forthcoming from yesterday and yesterday evening's debates that require answers. I'm hoping the minister's officials are sitting back there listening and preparing the necessary responses for the minister so we can deal with these issues.
If we could explore with the minister the one area that is of concern to me - it's the capital and O&M and how things appear to slide back and forth in a convenient manner, and what is being allocated to capital when any test that I'm aware of would certainly put it on the O&M side of the ledger.
The pat answer of the department in the past has been that it has always been done that way, and if we could just explore with the minister one of these areas and ask him if he could consider a change, because it's definitely an O&M cost. It's the painting of, let's say, the bridges. This is being done at present in the capital side of the budget. Now, I can understand the construction of the bridge being a capital, but how does the minister justify the painting of a facility, once it's in place being a capital expenditure, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Now, the question is quite straightforward, and a justification is certainly that you are not working toward the painting of a bridge every year or every couple of years, but it's certainly over the projected time span of the bridge in increments.
And so, in certain cases, it depends on the lead base of the paint, et cetera. It would have to be done quite irregularly, as the need comes up. Certainly, that would be one of the primary reasons that it would be there, but certainly we will take into consideration the Member for Klondike's question and discuss it with the department.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, on the surface, does the minister agree with the premise that painting should be a capital cost? Or should it be an O&M cost?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that before we answer a question, specifically, I would prefer to talk with the department and find out from the department the reasoning, and have a logical discussion with the department to see if there's a way that we might better be able to improve the process. If there is, that is certainly the way that we would be going.
I would like to just speak to the preamble a few moments ago on the provision of the answers. I committed to providing the member with information on the eight issues on Thursday and the six issues on Monday. I have provided answers to many of them. I would like to let the member know that they are coming in a timely way and a consistent manner and they will be forthright.
Mr. Jenkins: When we're looking at the capital once again, Mr. Chair, there are some projects that capital dollars are being expended on and the project might come to fruition. How are these treated? Are they just written off or are they accrued? What is the policy of the government? Are they eventually just charged against the total project or are they accrued and just sit in Never-Never Land until the project comes to fruition? If it doesn't, what happens to them?
The minister wanted the question repeated. We are talking about capital dollars and capital expenditures within his budget. A lot of the capital is spent and charged against specific projects, and then the project might not go ahead, like pre-engineering and things of that nature.
These numbers, or these costs that we incur, seem to sit in a Never-Never Land. Now, are they picked up at the time that the capital project comes to fruition, or are they just expensed? How is the department treating them? What is the policy in this regard, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can answer the question, and I'll confirm it with the department, but I would believe that, certainly, at the time of the project. And, no, they're not just in Never-Never Land or anything, such as the member opposite expresses. But, certainly, I will confirm and get back with solid detail for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we should let the record reflect that the last two questions the minister has been unable to answer, Mr. Chair, and I'm sure, had his deputy minister been seated beside him, those answers would have been forthcoming very, very quickly, because I believe they're policy positions that are well-known within the department.
Could we explore with the minister the inspections within his department? There seems to be quite an increase in electrical inspections over the last period. Has there been some change in policy as to how these inspections are recorded, or are they taking into consideration all of the inspections conducted by contractors who can sign off their own inspections?
What's been the change in policy that's driven the tremendous increase in numbers in electrical inspections?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must say that I take exception to the tone that comes from the member opposite. It's certainly easy to stand on your feet and say, what is the policy and what is the change in the policy, but the policy change the member is asking for is an illusion and is actually a masquerade. Certainly, the member opposite is well-known for his arrogance. Pardon me. I will retract that. It is certainly unparliamentary.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: That's totally unparliamentary language coming from the minister.
Deputy Chair: The member has retracted the statement.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would like to carry on and say that you brow beat, you talk down; it's certainly not to anyone's advantage, and especially not to the House's advantage. I've said to the Member for Klondike that I do have staff working with me, and the staff are in the building and working with due diligence with me.
Let me also say that this is not a matter of the member opposite not getting the information he's asking for. It's a matter of the level of detail he's requesting and the amount of work required to gather that information. This is not information that is right at the fingertips. Certainly, that's what the member opposite assumes, but it is certainly not. I've committed to bring back this information to the House in a timely manner, and I will continue to do that, as it has been proven and as it is happening.
I'd like also for the member to keep in mind that we're here to discuss the policy items, and to masquerade everything into policy, well, that is not exactly the truth, is it? As a matter of fact, I'd say it's patently false. That's what I would say.
We're dealing with one of the largest departments in the government, and I think it's unrealistic to expect that every detail should be related right here at my fingertip, or even at my deputy minister's fingertip. So if the member opposite wishes to continue on as he's done historically with me in the past year, well he certainly may do so, because I'm certainly here, for the long run, for the member. But if the member opposite - and it might be demeaning to the member opposite - would come down and talk and ask and encourage and provide provisions, advice, then certainly that would be welcomed.
Deputy Chair: I would remind members on both sides that we're here to debate Community and Transportation Services estimates. So, is there further general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister please respond to my last question?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, on electrical inspections, is there a change in policy? Certainly, I do not believe there's been a change in policy. It's likely to incorporate all of the contractors that do the inspections in the community, that are licensed, and that are available to do it within the different communities.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that the method of collecting data has changed. Is that what the minister is saying - that there has been no change in policy, and the methodology of collecting data is the only part that has changed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will have to check with the department, but I believe that is so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we've just had three questions and three answers where the minister has to go and check with his department. Now, we are here to debate a budget, and it's up to the minister to reply with answers, specifically on policy, that are straightforward, and we can't seem to get anywhere with responses.
Now, it would appear that the minister either doesn't have an understanding of his department or is not prepared to bring in his deputy minister to assist with his responses, and he's wasting time in this House by conducting himself in this manner.
We are under time lines, Mr. Chair, as to how much time we have in this House, and we would very much like to honour those time lines, but it is contingent on a response on a lot of those questions that we are posing to the various ministers.
To date, the Government Leader was the only one who was able to stand on his feet and give very rapid responses and provide legislative returns virtually right away. Now, the Minister of C&TS had three questions posed to him and he gave three non-answers. He's going to have to check back with his department to provide them and he stands up and berates me, Mr. Chair.
If we could just explore some of the other areas in general debate that we dealt with in the last budget and just ask the minister...
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Keenan, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. I do believe, Mr. Chair, that I can be berated, but I must have opportunity to respond. I've certainly been berated in the last moment there.
Deputy Chair: Mr. Keenan, what's your point of order?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: My point of order is that we should have a little bit of respect for each other in this House and work together cooperatively. That is my point of order. Is that possible? I challenge the member opposite.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: Certainly the Chair understands and agrees that there should be respect on both sides of this House and I would expect members to act accordingly. Thank you.
Is there further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise if he's anticipating any cost overruns in any of the projects that were approved and that we explored with the minister? Is there anything in the budget to cover cost overruns that might occur with the Burwash firehall construction this fiscal period, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, there is nothing in the budget to cover cost overruns, as the member is well-aware.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister confirm that the Burwash firehall was done on time and on budget, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. As I recall the debate last year, I also recall the chief of the First Nation phoning down and asking for an apology from the member opposite. I don't believe he ever got that apology from the member opposite, so that's just a point for the record - as the member opposite is so fond of saying.
They also say, though, that, with the exception of some interior lights to be installed during the week of March 23, the project is complete. Certainly, the project, based on the figures, is expected to run approximately $5,000 over the budget, and the First Nation has been made aware of the budget restraints and have made concerted efforts to be fiscally responsible in every area.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the project is just about completed and it's $5,000 over the original estimates for this project. Is that the minister's position, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, no, it is certainly not our position. I don't have a position. Certainly, the member opposite can make all the hay that he wants to with that comment but I certainly don't have a position. When we look at the intent of what this was intended to do through a capital funding agreement, it was to construct a firehall. We also put $50,000 forward, and I remember maybe two days of debate out of a three-week waltz with the member last budget session. So, as I said, I'm tough enough to waltz with the member opposite and will continue to waltz, and frankly somewhat enjoy it.
But let me also say the capital funding agreements are there for community development, something that maybe the member opposite doesn't like, thereby providing jobs. Certainly, he voted against the CDF fund in the budget, so certainly obviously the member is not too in love with that proposition also.
Training opportunities: again, he voted against the budget, so certainly the member opposite is not there in its entirely.
So, no, I've provided information as to completion date and as to the expected cost overrun.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just asking the minister to confirm that the project came in $5,000 over the original budget and that the project is going to be completed shortly. There's still just some lighting to go in. Is that the position that the firehall is in right now? It is $5,000 over the original estimate and there's some lighting to be finished.
I'm trying to get an answer, and we're getting all of this rhetoric back. It's a simple question and it requires a simple answer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. I would say that the member opposite is well on his way to getting an answer for the third time. He is certainly on his way to wasting time in the House. I expect him to stand up and say that if I brought the deputy minister, it would have been much quicker. Here, for the third time, is the answer. I think, once again, I should say that if the member would work cooperatively and maybe listen to what has been said, unless he has a hearing impairment, such as I do, that would be an excuse and we would understand. I gave you the answer the first time. I've said it a second time and I will say again that, yes, the operation is basically complete. There were just some interior lights to be installed last week. Certainly, it is expected to run approximately $5,000 over the budget.
I would encourage the member to stand up and ask what he really wants to ask.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we just explore with the minister the cost of Cabinet commissions to his department? Could the minister provide the cost of providing information to Cabinet commissioners, such as secondments of any personnel. What has been the total cost to C&TS for Cabinet commissions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe the question asked for, basically, costs of any secondments from my Department of Community and Transportation Services to any of the Cabinet commissions, and if that is the question, I will certainly have to research that, but I do not believe that there is.
Mr. Jenkins: That was part of the question, Mr. Chair. The question is, what has been the cost to the Community and Transportation Services' budget? Or, what is the anticipated cost in the next fiscal period to Community and Transportation Services' budget for Cabinet commissions? Secondments and the like - the total cost.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm certain that the member would like to also say that if the deputy minister were here that that information would be readily available. Unfortunately, that information is not readily available, and I will have to do some research into it, but I do believe that there is very minimal, if any, cost. But certainly, I will have to chat with the department about it.
Mr. Jenkins: Did I hear the minister correctly? "Very minimumal, if any, costs" - was that the statement that the minister made with respect to Cabinet commissions, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The member opposite - oh God, I love this. The member opposite is asking a question - is there a cost to my department? Now, the member opposite is starting to allude to the fact that I am saying that there is no cost to Cabinet commissions. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying - let me say specifically - is that I will get back to the member as to any cost that is incurred by the Department of Community and Transportation Services regarding any of the commissions.
Mr. Cable: Tomorrow, there is a motion that has been called relating to brushing and tree-cutting around communities for the purposes of fire protection. And it would be useful for the opposition, who, of course, doesn't have access to the government files, to have some information for purposes of that debate. So, the first question I have for the minister is this: are there any reports around that can be produced for the opposition so that we can read them tomorrow morning?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: To the Member for Riverside, I'm not so sure. I'll certainly check into it at the break and get back to you.
Mr. Cable: What I'm interested in is both the science relating to the fire protection, but also such things as costs, overall costs of protecting all our communities, and also the job creation that would relate to those efforts. Could the minister see if that information could be provided to us, if in fact it's been collected?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will endeavour to check into it during the break to find out if there is, and I'll certainly get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions relating to the sewage system in Teslin, and also the sewage system in the Teslin jail. Of course, there are line items dealing with sewage, and it's partly a Justice question, but I'd like to ask him in general debate, and if the minister doesn't have the information or needs to seek advice from one of his colleagues, perhaps he could do it in time for the relevant line items.
It's my understanding that, in Teslin, there is a lagoon system, and the sewage from the residential area and the commercial areas is taken to the lagoon. Now, is that done by way of an eduction system, or is it done by way of a pipeline - a standard sewage system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that the major principle - and I am speaking just from my own local knowledge - it is based on evaporation.
Mr. Cable: Well, quite so. No, I wasn't talking about the mechanics of the lagoon, Mr. Minister. I was asking how the waste gets from the point of creation, I guess you could call it - the houses and the businesses - how does it get to the lagoon from those houses and businesses?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is trucked. I believe that the Village of Teslin lets contracts biannually, and that it is trucked locally. I do believe there are three: one by the bridge, one in Smarchville and one by the old teacherage, just so the member opposite can remember where that is. So there are three locations for pickup within the community.
Mr. Cable: Have there been any studies done on the relative costs of putting in a standard sewage system as opposed to the trucking system so that the waste would be pumped in the conventional way - say the way it's done in Whitehorse or the way it's done in Dawson - so that the cost of trucking wouldn't be involved? Has there been any cost analysis of the two systems?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that's a question to answer accurately and with detail that I would have to go to the department on. Certainly, it is within the village. I know the Member for Riverside is very well-aware of that, that it is part of the jurisdiction of the Village of Teslin, but certainly the department is more than willing to work with him. So whatever the department has regarding that - if there are studies on it, I will provide them to the member opposite.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I'm sure there would be village input to any changes in the system, but of course the likely source of funding, or a good part of the funding, would be the territorial government. So, I'm sure the minister's department has an interest in the cost of the system.
The question that was put to me was the sewage system in the jail. Now, I gather if the Village of Teslin, with government financing, decided to put in a conventional sewage system and the sewage was piped up to the lagoon, then it would go by the jail and it could pick up the jail, because I understand there are sewage problems at the jail and it probably doesn't make sense to put in a septic tank. Have there been any discussions with the minister's colleagues in Justice with respect to the sewage system at the jail?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I've been made aware through the regular budgetary process that there is a problem. I have chatted with the Minister of Justice, but I realize that the Minister of Health and Social Services does have information and, if you would permit, he could certainly provide information. Yes, he would.
Mr. Cable: I think that would be useful. In particular, I gather that there has been an inspection by the health inspector and I'd like tabled any documents that relate to the state of the jail.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for indulging me on this. The Member for Riverside will force me to scuttle back up to get my health book in a little while, but I can tell him, from the point of view of the Government Services and the property management division, that basically what has happened is that the Department of Justice spent $9,900 on remedial work to the septic system. There is a problem with the septic system in the fact that the septic field needs to be larger. The initial soil tests and the estimated usage on which the present system were premised were incorrect, so the system was, in effect, under-designed. What happens is that the ground of the septic field, which is too small, becomes super-saturated and what is happening is that the local contractor was pumping out the field about three times a week.
In this past summer, in '97, Justice asked property management to investigate and make recommendations. Subsequent to that, property management hired a company, J.R. Paine & Associates, to do a soil percolation test and a soil analysis, and then another company was hired to do some predesign work and cost estimate on upgrading the existing system.
Now, the following items have been completed. One was the installation of a larger grease trap for the kitchen dishwasher, the recalibration of the water softener, the percolation test as I mentioned before, and the design of the new system.
Then there was the installation of reverse osmosis to purify and demineralize the water. So that came to a total of $9,900. If the Department of Justice were to proceed with the other recommendations that were suggested, that would be an additional $44,600, and that would include the design of a new septic system, construction of a new septic field, rerouting waters from evaporators to the well, and repiping the condenser units. Is that of assistance?
Mr. Cable: Yes, that is of assistance. There are some other questions, though. If in fact the septic tank system and disposal system isn't used, how far is it to pump it up to the lagoon from the jail? I'm not sure what the jurisdiction is here. Is this an issue for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services? Because if it isn't, I can bring it forward in some other debate.
The reason I bring it forward here is that if it's tied in to any change in the way the Village of Teslin disposes of their waste, then of course the jail could be picked up along the way.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I couldn't speak with full authority on that. I would suggest that probably the idea of piping the sewage to the lagoon would probably be somewhat considerably more than the $44,600 that the design, on completion of a new septic field, would be. I don't have any figures in that regard. That wasn't one of the options that was identified by the engineering consultants that we employed.
Mr. Cable: I would expect that, in isolation, the disposal of waste from the jail through a pipeline system would be prohibitive, but in combination with a change in the way that the Village of Teslin system operates, it might be cost effective.
I wonder if the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, as he is responsible for funding the municipal systems, would consider that and give me further information when we get to the line item in the capital debate that relates to sewage systems?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we can endeavour to do that, although I would say that the Village of Teslin and the First Nation of the Teslin Tlingit in the area are aspiring to work together to look at different issues and the expansion of the service area, and they're looking to do this cooperatively and to do it through the improvement of service studies and local service agreements and arrangements between the two. I encourage them to do so, and that would be a part of the process, and I would be more than willing to sit and work with them on the process. But, at the appropriate time, I will endeavour to get the relevant information.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the areas that the minister brought back some information from previous questions was on the cell phone system in rural Yukon, and I was specifically referring to the Klondike region, which is presently serviced by the 400 system. Virtually all of the peripheral areas of Whitehorse will be changed over and extended, using an 800 system, and the 800 cell is the system of choice.
The program that the minister announced in this Legislature dealt with fixed installations and a charge against property owners, and a lot of these systems will be cell systems, where the service by the telephone company will be provided by cell. There are no provisions in this program to deal with mobile operators, and the requirement for cell phone service in rural areas - not just the Klondike, Mr. Chair, but a lot of other rural areas.
Are the minister's officials going to be looking at this area and exploring it and finding ways of extending the cell phone system to rural Yukon? Or is it just something that's peculiar to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It would be very desirable on behalf of all Yukoners to be able to have that type of service. I am going to be meeting with the president of Northwestel. He has put a call in to me requesting a meeting, saying that he has some different thoughts about how they might be able to expand the service throughout all the service area. That is the quality of it, as the Member for Klondike was asking about before. So, certainly, that is one of the issues that I can and I will raise with him to see how we might be able to best expand and then to look into seeing how we might be best able to implement that initiative.
Mr. Jenkins: As it presently stands, Northwestel is getting out of the high-frequency radio service that used to service a lot of the mining camps and still is used by a lot of trappers. Northwestel has had fewer and fewer customers on that system and wants to abandon it. The M-SAT is coming more and more into focus, but the cost of utilizing that service is quite prohibitive - some $3 per minute. Other than the cell 800 in and around Whitehorse, the best system that we have in the Yukon is the manual mobile telephone system for rural areas. In fact, it has extremely good coverage along all the principal highway corriders in Yukon, and has stood the test of time.
There is a move by the telephone company to get out of the provision of that service, or raise the fees so high that it's prohibitive. Just what is the policy of the government with regard to manual mobile radios?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we do not have a policy documented as such, but certainly a position would be that we'd like to see better coverage - complete coverage - throughout the Yukon Territory and, as the member knows, we want a qualitative service and an affordable service. We want to make sure again, as the member opposite has spoken about, that in some areas where they do have a service, but it's a poor service - we're looking to bring affordable, quality service into all areas of the Yukon. That is one area where we all could work cooperatively together to ensure that we do this. Certainly, the RETP revamping is simply just one tool or one segment of that.
So, as I said, I know the member asks specifically if we have a position on the revamping or the exclusion of certain services provided. I will work with the providers on behalf of the people of the Yukon to ensure that we might be able to get service to all areas of the Yukon and, again, an affordable quality service.
Mr. Jenkins: It would appear the minister misunderstood my position on the manual mobile service provided by Northwestel. I did state, and I will restate it for the record, that the service being provided in the coverage area that they have is very good. About the only problem I've encountered, heard about or had conveyed to me has been that, if one of the channels do go down, it's sometimes quite a period of time before repairs are effected.
But other than that, this is probably the most widespread and best service that the Yukon has in place to date other than the M-SAT. There has been a move in the past by the telecommunications company to get out of this service, to reduce the level of service they're providing. Now, I don't have any quarrel with the telecommunications company getting out of the manual mobile service, if they provide cell coverage. I believe that that should be the position that this government takes.
At the present time, if you are travelling any distance in the Yukon, you'd better be prepared to have three different radio systems in your vehicle to have any sort of coverage. You need a manual mobile. You need a cell 400 system and you need a cell 800 system to get the coverage. Yes, you can pick up the channels in Whitehorse with a manual mobile, but it's very interesting when you have to use the service and the diversity of it.
So, I'm of the opinion, Mr. Chair, that the minister should be instructing his department to come up with a position paper of this government that's best going to serve the needs of the Yukon in this area and suggest that he go to his meetings with the president of Northwestel armed with that policy. I would ask him to consider this policy and have it available forthwith, Mr. Chair. Can the minister provide the House with that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I'd like to say that our position will be for the continuation and the provision of good service wherever we might be in the Yukon Territory and certainly to keep it simple. So, I certainly accept the direction from the member opposite and we'll incorporate it and work it into our position. I thank the Member for Klondike for the suggestion.
Mrs. Edelman: I've had this discussion with the minister, both in the House and outside of the House. There are a number of lots up in the Copper Ridge subdivision in Whitehorse, and these lots - for one reason or another - have not sold. They make up the large bulk of the unsold lots that the Auditor General has a concern about because of the holding cost on those lots. Of course, when there's nobody building on the lots, then the city doesn't get any revenue from those lots.
So, what I'm wondering about is whether the minister has explored any options - any different ways - maybe that they use in other jurisdictions, to get rid of these unwanted and unsold lots.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the department is analyzing what would be, I believe, the rehabilitation - if I could say it in that way - of certain lots so that we might be able to proceed with getting the lots off our books. That is one of the issues that the department is working on - to rehabilitate and make sure that it is done.
Now, let me say that we're doing some feasibility studies and consultation on the construction of new sites - that's the new sites - but we're also looking at the rehabilitation of previously developed recreational lots that are around the territory.
As to what the member's speaking about, we're doing a recommendation of the feasibility of rehabilitating these, and it's due to be out later this spring. When it is available, I will provide the study on how we will attempt to rehabilitate the lots and then get them for sale, to the member opposite
Mrs. Edelman: I think it makes sense for the department to have a proactive approach with the city to get rid of these lots.
Which leads me to the next question. The minister referred just recently to the rehabilitation of lots. For some years, there's been a development of lots. As a new development comes in, you know, you can absolutely swear that the lots are getting smaller. Every time there's a new subdivision, they seem to get smaller, and this is because it costs so much to bring services in and you want to keep what people pay for a lot down, and that's reasonable.
However, we do know that people in the City of Whitehorse paid $50,000 to $60,000 for the lots in the Takhini subdivision, for example. And what that proved is that people are willing to pay higher costs for a lot that's in a good location, is larger, has a view, has a different configuration. So, instead of cookie-cutting out these subdivisions, it kind of makes sense to look at some other possibilities.
Now, when the department is looking at rehabilitating the lots at Copper Ridge, have they considered things like having a different price for, say, a view lot or a lot that has no view, or whether they are looking at different sizes, different parcels? I know that many, many people would be quite willing to pay, you know, a very decent sum for a large enough lot to put a big enough home on that they want - you know, particularly if they want to develop the lot in the back. Is this part of that rehabilitation process and part of the future planning for Community and Transportation Services in the development of lots, not only in the City of Whitehorse, but in other subdivisions across the territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm sorry, I may have misled the House. I did not know that the member was speaking specifically to Copper Ridge. I apologize for that. I thought we were talking about the rehabilitation of lots throughout, and I beg your pardon.
As far as I know, no, we are not doing that, but that's something - and I say with a caveat on it - that I will check on with the department at the break and find out just what is going on. The member is speaking specifically to the Copper Ridge lots that might be too small and that have been carried over for quite a few years, and what is the plan to release those lots or to make them more salable. I will chat with the department during the break.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in part of that process, I wonder if we could just get information from the department, as well, about any future planning of the development of lots, because obviously what happened in Copper Ridge is just going to continue to happen as long as we continue to develop lots like that - little tiny lots that people just don't want to buy.
If I could get information about future planning of lots and whether they are looking at different types of lot development, particularly within municipalities, that would be very informative, and if the minister can get that information at the break it would be greatly appreciated.
Okay. The minister is indicating that he has some of that information already and I would like to hear it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we, as I said, have been working with the City of Whitehorse in identifying potential lot development throughout the Whitehorse periphery and looking at certainly doing it. One of the greatest demand for lots is the rural residential land development because, as the member opposite says and she's absolutely correct, people do not want to live on cookie lots, I guess, because they come out from cookie cutters as the member opposite said, as they're such small lots. They're looking for nice view lots and that is certainly most in demand.
So, we are working with the City of Whitehorse. The City of Whitehorse said, I believe, a day or two ago that the site identification and terrain suitability studies are being done and used as tools in working with the mayor and council to be able to do that.
So, if I could just say here, though, we're looking at consultation on combined rural and development needs next to Pilot Mountain. We've met with certain opposition from the Pilot Mountain and the Hot Springs Road residents, and at the time it was decided to delay that. Now, the residents did, however, bring forward an alternative option for rural residential areas, and certainly the department is working with them at this point in time.
So, due to the very high demand, we're looking at doing development work in the Pilot Mountain and the Mount Lorne areas this year.
I could go on to further say here, if you'd like, that the Carcross Road area plan has identified suitable sites for release of up to eight parcels per year. Again, however, the Hamlet of Mount Lorne wishes to have accurate information on the land claims selections as well as the information collected during the caribou recovery program prior to any development.
So, we're proceeding with discussions with the hamlets regarding the development of both the rural residential and also of the agricultural lots.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting information about lot development across the periphery of Whitehorse. I suppose that my point would be that urban residential lots, typically ... for one thing, the government has lost money over the years. I mean, you can charge more for a view lot, and nobody ever has. They always charge the same amount, no matter what the lot is. It makes sense to look at things like that. It also makes sense to look at different configurations and at least offering lots that are one and a half times the size of the ones that are offered now, and that people would be willing to pay extra for a decent size lot, mainly because they're already paying 50 to 100 percent more for lots than the ones that are out on the market now.
Anyway, if the minister can get back to me on information about that type of lot development in the city, it would be greatly appreciated.
The other issue - a policy issue - is about above-ground services. Now, in the City of Whitehorse, there's a manual on standards that was developed a number of years ago. The City of Whitehorse and Community and Transportation Services developed that manual. In that manual, it was clearly stated: welcome to the 1990s; it's time to keep your services below ground, so that you would have electrical, cable and everything else like that down below ground. Of course, in times when there's a problem with people driving over power poles and the high winds and that, it makes sense to have those things below ground, and that's why they usually are everywhere else but in the Yukon.
Now, that standard is for the City of Whitehorse. Is there any consideration being given to a lax on the standards, or not using those standards, for the development of the cheaper lots for the mobile home park just off Range Road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, let me say that the lots that are developed are passed on for the development costs. So, government is not into making money off of it, but we're certainly not into losing money also.
It's an interesting point on charging more for a view lot, because certainly they are in demand. As the member would know, we're working to ensure that we can have other suppliers of lots or developers of lots, such as municipalities in certain areas, et cetera.
Now, there is an interesting comment in the manual on the above-ground services by the City of Whitehorse and that is the City of Whitehorse said yes. That's an interesting comment and certainly I'm not sure we have any of those types of principles or standards within our lot development because it's basically what people want.
We're more into now looking at not just the development - and if I may, I'll characterize them as the Cadillac lots - but what we're doing with the subdivision development that the Member for Riverdale South has asked for is to go with strata titles, and I realize that folks will not understand what it is. It's just a slight deviation on the standards of the lot, and this is done in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse and also with full input from the City of Whitehorse, so that we might be able to provide lots at a cheaper cost. So, that's what we're attempting to do in that situation. I don't actually know, so I'd have to check with the department and Yukon Housing just to get an update on exactly what is happening with the service and with the lots, and I will be able to provide that later.
Mr. Jenkins: On that topic, Mr. Chair, could the minister explain how strata titling is going to produce lots at a lower cost?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, in working in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse, because we want to pass on the actual ownership to the folks, we've talked to the City of Whitehorse about the standards. I guess the example that was given to me was having driveway paving. Instead of having four inches, you might have three inches, and that would drive down the cost also. In some cases, they were looking at not actually having paving-type of services, and then again, it's a shared cost and a shared ownership through strata title with all folks in the area.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We were exploring with the minister a little while ago the issue of bridges and bridge painting and the capital cost on that side of the ledger, and one of the other areas that the minister has made a statement on with respect to highways has been pedestrian traffic. There was a ministerial statement on that issue of pedestrian traffic alongside communities. I know that I raised the concern of bridges and pedestrian traffic on bridges on the principal highways in the Yukon, specifically down at Liard, Carmacks, Pelly - I'm sure there are quite a number of other ones - and I haven't seen anything happen subsequent to the ministerial statement on this subject.
Could the minister apprise the House as to what is being done in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, pedestrian safety is very important and, as the member opposite is speaking on the bridge, I do not have a briefing note or information regarding that, but what I can say is that we attempt, through our policy - and the Member for Klondike is well-aware that we do have policy regarding the street lights, so that that might help therein to reflect. But specifically as to the bridges and pedestrian safety on the bridges, no, I would have to get back to the member opposite.
I would also like to say, though, that for pedestrian safety in partnership with the Department of Education and with Community and Transportation Services we've looked at identifying - I'm not sure what you'd call them - but wrap-arounds for school-age children's arms, reflectors if you like, to let them be noticed and just to bring a little bit more safety to the children as they walk home from schools or wherever.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this side of the House certainly supports safety and safety-related issues and clothing, but the problem is a problem of pedestrians using the bridge surface to walk across when there's a walkway right adjacent to that bridge. And this happens quite frequently in Carmacks and in Pelly, and Pelly is going to be a problem one of these days, Mr. Chair. Someone's going to be injured. In Carmacks it could happen, but the one bridge that I could suggest to the minister where there's going to be a problem is in Pelly.
The other concern is there's very good lighting on the approaches to both of these bridges from either side, but there isn't any street lighting on the bridge itself. Therein lies another problem. Now, this position not to install street lighting on the bridge itself, is that a government policy, or is it just some sort of an oversight within the department, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's not contrary to a policy, and I wouldn't think that it was an oversight, but certainly folks - well, I think everybody in this House, whether we're elected members or the folks who do the administrative work or the pages - would appreciate safety for pedestrians, wherever they are. I do know, and I can remember from practical examples, though, that there must be standards for lighting on bridges. I remember certain bridges that I've gone on that had it at eye level. It was very hazardous to the folks using it, whether you were in a vehicle or whether you were walking, so I take into consideration certainly what the Member for Klondike has said regarding, especially, the Pelly bridge, and will initiate a look at it and at the Carmacks bridge, and a general look at all the bridges, to ensure that we might be able to do what we can. Certainly, though, education is another very important component of it, so we'll be looking at it in that type of light, and I thank the member for bringing it forth.
Mr. Jenkins: On that same topic, it would appear that the issue is that the individuals using the bridges have to be encouraged - or required - to use the crosswalks and not walk across the bridge roadway surface, especially when they've got a couple of puppy dogs along with them. It's very, very scary in a lot of cases, and it's been brought to my attention by a number of truckers who use these roadways on a regular basis.
While we're on the topic of highway safety, I would like to thank the minister for the street lighting that his department has agreed to install in Henderson's Corner. It's much needed. If he would check with his operators within his department - his grader operators - he can find out that there have been some near misses out there of kids waiting for school buses. I thank the minister for moving on my suggestion to him earlier this year.
While we're on that same topic - the road surface between Dawson and Callison - the vehicle count does justify the installation of street lighting. There has been very little effort made by the department to widen the roadbed or to install lighting in this area. A few years ago - I know that it was at my insistence - a vehicle count was done and a monitoring, and the numbers exceeded what was required. And I'm sure those numbers have gone nowhere but up since that date.
Now, we have the basic highway topping in that area. We have pedestrian traffic. We have bicycle traffic. The City of Dawson undertook to put a walkway on the side of the Klondike River bridge that is being utilized, but other than that, that highway is a Government of Yukon highway, and I don't want to see us having to have someone injured before action is taken by this government.
Now, could the minister advise where we're at with respect to widening that surface, at least as far as the Callison industrial subdivision, Mr. Chair, and providing street lighting at least to the turnoff up to Bonanza Creek? It would be advantageous to extend it further, but I think it would be a fair request at this juncture to ask for lighting as far out as the Bonanza Creek turnoff.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank the Member for Klondike for bringing to my attention the problem that has been at the Henderson's Corner. And yes, I can concur that it was a problem, and it's certainly good to be able to work with the governance of Dawson City - the local mayor, the chief and council - and the representative at the territorial level, the Member for Klondike, so that we might be able to bring quality living to the communities. Certainly that's what it's for.
Heaven forbid that we'd ever have to wait until somebody is injured or, worse yet, struck down and killed because of something that did not quite work. So, I thank the member for the kind comments to the department. Certainly, it is much appreciated. The department will appreciate those comments. We will look for the vehicle count that had been done, I guess, by YTG and we'll dust those off and have another look at it. Certainly, if I can recall, as I indicated in my letter, we would be looking at the whole issue of street lights there again and we will be doing that.
Certainly, the widening of the highway up to the Callison area, as well as any portion of the highway that is a territorial highway, is certainly subject to the regular budget process, but I can also say that issues that are health and safety issues are very much near and dear to our collective heart and will be taken into consideration. So, we will give that a very serious look coming up at this time and certainly try to see what best we can do.
I want the member opposite to know, though, that there is a process to go on, but certainly this has brought it to my attention and I will work it into the process and see how it will work out.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure if this same highway, the Klondike Highway leading into Dawson for the first couple of miles, was leading into Whitehorse and had the same vehicle count, there would be a divided highway paved with all sorts of street lighting and bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways adjacent to it and all paid for by the Government of Yukon, but our remoteness and the infrequency of visits by the government officials kind of downplays the requirement in our area.
This vehicle count is the basis to substantiate any expenditure that I was suggesting in this House, Mr. Chair. Those numbers are there to support the widening of that road surface and the installation of street lighting.
If I could just ask the minister for the time lines that he envisions for some kind of a review and a program of this nature coming into fruition.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will put it into the workings now and get the department to give me a briefing in the near future to see what the numbers are. I would say, obviously - maybe not so obviously - that maybe the numbers didn't make the count, because I would have thought that the previous administration would have worked toward building that road if they did.
But certainly I will give the Member for Klondike my assurances that I will check into it. I will look at the historical figures and look at maybe having to do a count and see how it works out, based on the information that we get.
I know that the Member for Klondike feels somewhat isolated. Maybe a lot of folks up there do just by the natural geographical location within the Yukon, but dynamics are slightly different. I would say that there is a lot of traffic that goes up to Carmacks and then turns off to Faro or turns around and comes back.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's all one way.
So, I will work it through the system and will certainly keep the member opposite apprised of the time schedule as it evolves.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a few more questions of the minister in general debate. I was wondering - in EMO - if the same level of courses are going to be continued or if there's some policy change in this area - the EMO courses offered to municipal officials and municipal elected officials, as well as the municipal officials that oversee the communities, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I do not believe that there is any change in policy regarding the above stated.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that the minister alluded to was the proposed or anticipated changes in the Municipal Act to allow for investing opportunities.
Could the minister just elaborate on what he envisions right now? Municipal investments are quite specific as to where they can go and they have to be in a secured type of account. A number of B.C. municipalities have gotten into problems by investing in some of the various institutions that have subsequently gone into receivership.
So, could the minister just elaborate somewhat on what investing opportunities are going to be open to municipal governments and how does the government envision protecting these investments if they allow a broadening of the investment opportunities for municipal governments, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, this is an issue that we're working on right now with the Municipal Act review, through that process, and with the Association of Yukon Communities.
I would like to suggest to the member opposite that I can offer a detailed briefing as to the Municipal Act and the review of it, and these are issues that are certainly ongoing at this point in time. So, if the member opposite would like a detailed in-depth review of it, I would certainly encourage that, so maybe we can get the comments of the opposition and the third party also.
Mr. Jenkins: I can assure the minister that I'm somewhat up to date on where the Municipal Act review is and what areas they're covering, but this was one area that I had concerns with and that's why I'm raising that issue with the minister today.
So, if the minister could bring back information on that specific area - I'm not looking for an overall briefing on where we're going - as to how he envisions broadening the investment opportunities for municipal governments and protecting those investments. There's got to be a give and take here, Mr. Chair, that will ensure that the funds of the municipal governments are not subjected to any investment opportunities that have a high degree of risk associated with them.
That's what I'm looking for from the minister - an undertaking, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will be more than happy to provide the information to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: To just switch back to the capital side - the transportation division. A couple of the questions that I have had unanswered from last period to this period are about the benefits that the Government of the Yukon is accruing from the interprovincial records exchange and how often we use it, and even in this fiscal period there is some $35,000 being used for upgrades. How often do we have to access driver's licence records or records in other jurisdictions? When we look at the total capital cost of this infrastructure and the constant upgrading of it, do the ends justify the means? That is where I'm heading, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is information I would have to get back to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that I've asked in the House previously about and haven't received an answer from the minister or his department about is the number of driver's licences issued in the Yukon. And the 1996 actual is quite specific; there are 27,300.
Now, when one looks at the population statistics of the Yukon, the total population, and right on the top right-hand corner, it's quite specific. It says that 22.7 percent of the Yukon population was under the age of 15. That would suggest to me that that group of our population wouldn't qualify to hold a driver's licence. Now, if you subtract that from the total population, you end up with a variance of another approximately 1,000 individuals that have driver's licences, and we don't have a population base to support it.
Could the minister provide some sort of explanation as to how this occurs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, that is the type of information I'll have to get to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't have any more questions in general debate, but I'm looking for assurances from the minister that when the information that he's agreed to provide comes forward in the House we can go back into the subject matter at that time.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'll do anything to cooperate and provide information to the members of the House, but I do remember last year I got stung, and I remember being stung quite severely, because when I said, in my generosity - and maybe "generosity" is not exactly the correct word to use, because I like to be open, I like to be communicative, and I like to provide the information. But when it was used against me to prolong the agony, I have to say, no.
But I will provide the information to the member. The member has the arena and the opportunity to raise any of these questions during Question Period, so it is something - and during the lines - so I will provide the information in a timely manner. I will do my best to get the information to the member as quickly as possible, and I encourage the member to continue to ask questions and to provide the direction that he feels he must.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have, Mr. Chair, is a situation where the minister has been unable to answer a good deal of the questions here today. He has been in general debate for several days, and each day there's been a high degree of the questions that the minister didn't even have an understanding of.
The minister doesn't have a firm understanding of a lot of the issues that are within his department, within his domain. He has agreed to bring back answers to those questions.
He's agreed to do so in this House. Now, I think it's contingent upon the minister to allow us, when he brings those answers back, to provide a window of opportunity to debate that subject matter at that time. That's all I'm seeking from the minister.
Now, to suggest that we can bring that up in Question Period - come on, that's ludicrous. If it were one or two questions, I would certainly agree, but what we're talking about is not just one or two questions. We are talking about a whole series of questions that the minister either hasn't had the ability to answer, doesn't know the answer or hasn't had a proper briefing himself or can't find it in his briefing books.
I don't know what the answer is, but for these questions, he has agreed to bring back the information. Now, at the time that he brings back the information - and I hope that it will be during Community and Transportation Services budget debate - we would like the opportunity to deal with it.
Chair: The Chair would like to remind members of my remarks at the opening of this sitting with regard to opportunities for debating matters on the budget. I will quickly summate. At the beginning of each department, there is general debate. Then, as we move into the particular categories of the department, there is opportunity for further debate, as there is on each specific line item.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm used to being insulted, and I guess I will just continue to get insulted - no ability, can't find it, et cetera. There's no need to be demeaning. When I am, I certainly get corrected by my mother and others, when I do. They say, "That's not why we elected you, to put forth yourself in that general way."
It's not a matter of not having the knowledge, it's a matter of working cooperatively together. I do remind the member, if the member, last year, hadn't abused that privilege, I might have been just more than happy to say, "Yes, why can we not do that. "
But, certainly, the member opposite knows that, as we're on debate on the lines and, certainly, those questions can be brought up again and answered. But to even allude to the fact that I would withhold information upsets me. I probably have stronger words than that, but I'll leave it at that. I find it very upsetting.
So, it's not a matter of the member not getting the information he's asking for; it's a matter of the level of detail and I will certainly get that to the member opposite. I'm very much committed to bringing that information back to the House and I will continue to do so and I will ensure that the member will get the information.
I think it's very unrealistic to think that the minister should know every detail related to the department. I think it's very absolutely unrealistic. I mean, I know the member opposite does not believe so much in the concept of working together and I say that from practice. I mean, I've been with the member now for practically 18 months, so certainly I'm starting to get a good feel for that, yet at moments I know there is an ability to work together and we do work together.
So, I think that there is definite proof that I have attempted, in every manner, to work with the member, within his riding, within the community of Dawson and in other areas throughout the territory. So, I think that I have that proof there, that I will continue to have that working ability with the folks, never to hide anything but to certainly provide, at a very transparent level, the information and to have discussion with the member.
Now, if he wants more detailed information, I will get that detailed information. Again, as I say to the member opposite, I'm more than willing to offer more detailed briefings with the department if he wants that information. So, it's not that we're trying to withhold information. We're certainly here to work with the member and would continue to do so in the manner that we have outlined.
Now, I do know that the House leader has some comments on process, and it's not up to me to turn it over to him, but certainly I'm finished with my comments.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm a little concerned about the approach that the minister is taking. My concern revolves around the fact that we've been in this debate now for a couple of days, asking questions of the minister about his department. The minister has been there for 18 months. The minister has chosen, by his own choice, not to bring his deputy in to provide some of the information we need.
The whole purpose of this debate is for us to go through the line-by-line items - or in general debate - and to be able to ask the minister questions about the operations of his department. And these are sometimes questions about day-to-day operations of the department or incidents that took place over the year or are planned to take place in this next fiscal year. That's why we bring the deputies into the House, because the minister can't be expected to know all the information. But this minister chose not to do that.
That's fine if the minister can stand up and answer the majority of the questions. But what we've seen, Mr. Chair, in the last couple of days is an enormous amount of questions where this minister has said, "I'll bring you back a legislative return." But we've also seen the minister only bring back a few legislative returns in the last couple of days.
It's unfair to us. I mean, the only time that we get a chance to scrutinize this budget in its entirety, the way it is, is in this debate we're having now, and that's when the minister is supposed to come to this House fully prepared to answer all the questions.
And this minister, as the Member for Klondike said, either doesn't want to answer the questions, either doesn't know the answers to the questions or doesn't read his briefing notes. I don't know the answer, but I think the minister owes it to members of the opposition and other members of this House to come prepared into this House with the information that's required and not defer everything for several months down the road. It's unfair to us. It's unfair to our constituents and unfair to that member's constituents.
We were asking some questions today about incidents in his own riding, and the minister didn't know about them.
So I think that the minister should possibly bring his deputy into the House. He could assist him in that way. We could expedite the business of the House. It's unfair to say we can ask these questions in Question Period. We did a rough total, and I think we're up to about 40 or 45 instances where the member has said "legislative return". We'd use up every Question Period and almost everybody's question just trying to get general information in Question Period if we used that tactic. That's not what Question Period's all about either. That's why we're here now, debating this budget now. That's why we go into Committee, where there's a free flow of debate back and forth, and the minister's supposed to be prepared. And the minister's not prepared.
It appears, Mr. Chair, that the tactic they're using now appears to be a stalling tactic. Because the minister isn't prepared, they say, "Leave the deputy out, we'll give them a bunch of legislative returns, and we'll pass them out maybe a week before the next session. It'll be old news then, and maybe they'll forget about it."
But it's not fair. That's not what we're here to discuss. We're here, Mr. Chair, to talk about the budgets, and the minister should come to this House prepared.
The Member for Faro says our sniveling is disgusting. What's disgusting, Mr. Chair, is the ridiculous answers that we're getting from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Read Hansard. You might be able to understand it, but there's a lot of people out there who can't make any sense of it.
What we're trying to get is just some answers to some very legitimate questions asked by all members on this side of the House, and the minister doesn't know the answers, and now he doesn't even want to give us the chance a day or two later, if we defer it, and we come back into it, so we can give us the answers. I mean, we haven't gone into a big long debate about all the ones he's given us so far. The ones he's given us, we've looked at and accepted. We've got the answers.
But the minister should at least entitle us to have the opportunity to debate them in the House and not pass them out long after we're out of the House.
It's unfair to the process which we're in in this House and discussing at the present time. So, I'd ask the minister to reconsider that. There's no major issue here like there was the last time. There are just dozens of questions that the minister didn't know the answer to and should have known the answer to.
It's up to the minister to come prepared to do his job, and that's all we're asking the minister to do. If he can't do the job, bring his deputy in. If he doesn't want to bring his deputy in, then within 24 hours provide us with legislative returns on the questions that were asked the day before, so at least we can debate them in a timely and orderly fashion, Mr. Chair.
That's all we're asking. I don't think that's an unreasonable request.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I just want to enter into this debate a little bit after the whining and snivelling of the member opposite.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, the noise he's making now sounds a lot like the speech he just gave, actually.
Mr. Chair, as I sat and listened to the Member for Klondike smugly drip those insults off his lips, attacking the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - the member opposite, who so piously cried his disdain, and how things were just not fair in this world, just not fair in this Legislature, I just can't get over how ridiculous the member opposite sounds after days and days of debate in this Legislature. The member opposite and the Yukon Party are obviously playing a little game here. And that's fine. We'll play the game with the members opposite. They're not interested in information about policy. They're asking questions about extensive detail that should more properly be attained through a briefing or a number of briefings. The minister has tried -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Now I can hear him heckling: "What did you do? What did you do?" Listen to him, Mr. Chair. More whining and snivelling.
The member opposite is a big boy. He's almost ready to retire from this House. He should grow up. He should learn to move ahead. He should be a little bit bigger. He should be a little bit bigger. But, Mr. Chair, let me just say to the member opposite that these questions of detail that the member opposite is talking about are going to be answered.
Now, if the members opposite want to engage in a policy debate, then they should do so. If the members opposite want more questions of detail, sometimes our resources - you know, those resources that are paid for by that evil O&M - are used to provide the information that the members are asking for, and sometimes that takes a little bit of time.
The member opposite is very interested in getting some information and we are interested in providing it for him, but we are not going to usurp the process of this Legislature and continue to go back into general debate when there's ample opportunity in the line-by-line debate and in the general debate in the various departments to raise issues about detail that are brought forward by legislative return. However, I must caution the members opposite that when you're talking about that detail, the answer you'll probably get will probably be insufficient because the minister will not be, and should not be, prepared to answer questions of that extensive detail, because that is not the job of the minister.
So, Mr. Chair, the members opposite also said that there is no major issues this session. Well, there were no major issues last session, except for the fact that they got publicly burned on the Sifton Air thing that they raised - and they were on the radio - and they were feeling burned by the fact that there was nobody in the public and the people they attacked in the public sort of lashed back a little bit. That was the only issue, and that was self-created and self-inflicted.
Now, I will just say to the members opposite that our minister is prepared to answer policy questions. If the members opposite want details, it's going to take some time, but we'll provide it. But, if they think we're going to go back into general debate on any legislative return, they're dreaming.
If they want to stand up until the cows come home, they have 35 days. You can slice it, you can dice it, you can julienne fry it any way you want. We could care less on this side. I think that the Liberals, who have a few actual constructive questions might be a little ticked off about the time the members opposite are taking up, but it's 35 days for the opposition. That's all there is. There ain't no more, and I can promise the members opposite - I proved it to them last time and I'll prove it to them again. If they want to do this and play their little game, they can do that.
Mr. Ostashek: I never heard such arrogance from any member in this Legislature as that from the Member for Faro. He has no respect for this Legislature, no respect for this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Keenan, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that the word "arrogance" is unparliamentary. I've been corrected for it.
Chair: The Chair sees no point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: He is totally arrogant and he has absolutely no respect for this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On a point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would not ask for a ruling now, but I would ask the Chair if he would be so gracious as to report back to the House as to previous rulings on the word "arrogance" and members being accused of being arrogant in this House.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, the Member for Faro has been in this House long enough that he knows that when the Chair rules he should sit down and follow the rule of the Chair.
Chair: The Chair would like to remind members that use of the word "arrogance" in general is acceptable but it is unacceptable when applied to a specific situation or a person.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, let's be a little broader. The government on that side is very arrogant, and I'm not pointing at any one member, according to their position in this Legislature. And the Member for Faro thinks, because we have a gentlemen's agreement on 35 days, they can push and twist and turn and do anything they like. Well, I've got news for him.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: No, we didn't lose last time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: We'll see about that as the time moves on.
Mr. Chair, I don't think what my members have been asking for in this debate has been unreasonable. It's the arrogance of this government not to provide information because they're scared they're going to get questioned on it and they can't stand the questions.
Mr. Chair, if the ministers can't stand the heat, then they should get out of the fire.
If the minister can't answer his questions, then he should resign. He should resign, because he doesn't know his department. He doesn't want to bring any help into this Legislature to help him out in answering the questions. And they believe, by stonewalling, that they can expedite the debate of this House. They can't. We proved that to the Minister of Government Services last year with the contracts.
Mr. Chair, what the opposition is asking for is information in a timely manner, which I will point out to the Member for Faro was part of the agreement on the 35 days: that information would be provided in a timely manner, not legislative returns after the session is over. We have an obligation to do the job that we were elected to do and that's to go through the budget and ask questions that we believe are of public interest.
The Member for Faro said that if we wanted policy debate, we should have a policy debate. Well, Mr. Chair, I heard the Member for Klondike ask the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services numerous questions on policy that he couldn't answer. How can we have a policy debate when he can't answer the questions on policy, let alone the mechanics of how the department operates?
If this Legislature is going to work and we're going to be able to get through this budget, we need to cooperate, and one of the keys to the 35-day agreement is that information be provided in a timely fashion.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we won't; we'll wait for it. We'll wait for it. We'll start drafting the press release now, Mr. Chair, seeing that we got this warning from this great legislator, the Member for Faro, who knows all about how a Legislature should be run.
Mr. Chair, we would like nothing better than to expedite the debate of this House, and I believe that the government is being just obstinate by not bringing in deputy ministers to help expedite the debate of this House.
There is nothing wrong with it. It helps expedite the debate of this House. It gives us the information that the ministers do not know and should not be spending their time knowing, but they ought to be able to answer the questions. That's what Committee debate is about.
That's why we allow deputies in Committee, to give that information to the opposition, so that they can do their job. The minister should know the policy questions. He shouldn't be turning to the deputy for them, but if we're going to get through this budget, we're going to need some cooperation from the members opposite. Otherwise it's going to be a long, long session.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The members opposite are essentially in the mode now of what I believe is a grave disservice to the people of the Yukon. They're all in here now to engage in a little bust-up session. It's very uncommon for them to, as I see it, all engage in the debate - I'll put it that way. Sometimes they're more occupied with other things.
But they've all come in to engage in the debate because they are trying to make some sort of a point. The point, as I see it, is that they're wasting about $1,000 an hour of taxpayers' money to make this point that really doesn't need to be made and doesn't exist, because the members opposite spent 10, 12 days in Committee debate with the minister responsible for the department, with the deputy in the other chair, accusing the minister of the very same thing that they're accusing him of now.
So, what difference does it make, I ask the members opposite. Secondly, the members opposite are not going to win this. They can thump their chests and drag their knuckles around the ground all they want about how they are going to keep the session going longer than 35 days. That's the agreement. Part of the agreement also says that detailed technical briefings will be provided for the opposition members, and that's where they'll get their technical information. The ministers will do their best on the floor to respond to detailed technical information, but much of it will have to come back.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Resign? Yeah. Well, the member opposite knows all about people being asked for their resignation, as was the former Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who was engaged in some interesting behaviour. But anyway, I won't go down that road, because it's not conducive to the debate, and I don't want to lower myself to the level of the members opposite.
However, I will say that the members opposite can continue to waste $1,000 an hour trying to prove some point. You know, there's only one way to handle a bully, and I was taught that by my mother when I was very young. If they want to play this game, we'll fight back. But I would just say to the members opposite that 35 days is 35 days. They can slice it, dice it. They can do whatever they want. That's their choice. But the session will be 35 days, mark my words.
Mr. Phillips: The member talked about wasting time at $1,000 an hour. So, what I'm going to do is refresh the member's memory.
Last night, in this House, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was asked some questions. The main crux of the question was about the formula funding that the communities receive. He was asked if he would consider changes to the funding. If you want to talk about wasting time in the House, here's what the member said - the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - "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's what I try to do." He went on to say, "So, that is how we do things."
"I've gone on community tours; I've talked to people, and I've said, "Folks, this ain't a race, but certainly we can look and say, 'This is what we want. Let's put down what we want.' Let's not treat it as pie-in-the-sky day, where you say, 'Oh boy, there's lemon meringue, and I wish I could reach the cherry, and reach for it, because the cherry is absolutely reachable.'"
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services what he meant last night when he made those profound statements that have nothing to do whatsoever with the question that was asked. Was he wasting time - at $1,000 an hour, as the Member for Faro says - or was he trying to make some kind of obscure point? What was he trying to do making those statements? What was that all about?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: You know, to hear those words just warms my old heart. By golly, it just gives me the desire to hang in here and continue to work with you folks, because I surely see that you're not converted, and I surely see that you must be, because there's just no hope in Mudville for those folks.
Certainly what I was speaking about with the questions on funding is doing things in a community way, doing things better in a community way, making sure that things are realistic and focusing on what people want in their lives, the quality that people want. And, you know what? Quality - well, money can't buy no happiness, but I don't believe that anybody over on that side of the House, especially to the left of the Liberal Party, actually believes that - to the right, pardon me. To the far right of the Liberal Party - believes that money can buy happiness. But, you know, there are a lot of unhappy millionaires that died, and it may be even evident on that side of the House. I ain't sure. But there are certainly a lot of unhappy people because they focus on the almighty dollar.
They don't focus on what you should be doing here as a politician, looking at the goodness of what people want.
Now, why did they end up in Mudville? Because they were not listening. Because, maybe the previous administration was arrogant. Maybe they didn't take the time to go out and talk to people, but maybe they dictated to people. Maybe they said, "This is what you're getting." And you know what? My God, déjà vu all over again, here I am.
That's why I ran for government, because I couldn't work with those folks, because I did not have the respect of those folks, and obviously I don't have that respect yet to this date - not at all.
Certainly, it's reciprocal, but for Joe's dog I have respect; for others I don't have respect. I have a love for Joe's dog, as I do for those folks across the floor, too. I have that love because I want to convert those folks. I want them to see the beauty of what we have here in the Yukon and to make it sustainable and to work toward that.
So, I can get thumped out. I'm used to getting thumped out, but doggone it, I'm like the willow tree, I'm still here. I can bend. I can come back. I can talk. Maybe folks across the floor in the official opposition think I have ridiculous answers, but certainly not, certainly not. Certainly the people of my riding think that I'm doing a fairly admirable job for not just the people of the riding, but representation of all of the Yukon.
So, it's certainly - well, what was the buzz word used by the House leader opposite? "Unfair. It's really unfair." Well, you bet. It's really unfair that they won't listen, that they have to waste the time. I mean, we're getting whine down to a fine vintage over there, for God's sake.
And it's going to be there. But let me say that I will provide the information. I will provide this information to the House in a timely manner, and I'll continue to do that. I committed to doing that. The member asked for information on eight issues on Thursday and six issues on Monday - not 17, as they have said. Now, I'm surprised that they can be successful business people, because obviously, their mathematics -
Excuse me, ma'am, but did you ever put these through the education system? Obviously you wouldn't know, because it's a dinosauric education system that was definitely there.
So, I will endeavour to buy new batteries for the calculators. Just to save $3, I'll do that. But certainly, I'm here to work with the folks and will continue to work with the folks. I'm used to being thumped out. It's unfortunate, though, that somebody was crying wolf, because now that they've cried wolf all the time and now that they might actually have something that's legitimate - well, Peter cried wolf and Peter can't get no more. Unfortunately, you cried wolf, and that's it.
Now, if the gentlemen would rise to the occasion, understand their misfortune in life - philosophically, if it may be, but certainly that's what it is, in just my humble opinion, and I know this is going to be all read back to me tomorrow with quizzical looks, with dismay on the face, but certainly with fine vintage, because that is the calibre of the whine; it will be back. But I'm here to work with the folks. I'm here to provide information. I'm speaking for the people of the Yukon, and I will continue to speak for the people of the Yukon.
If the member would like finer or detailed information, I'm certainly here to provide that information. So I thank you very much.
Chair: Order please. The time being about 4:30, we'll break for 10 minutes.
Deputy 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 other general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in light of what we've just heard from the side opposite, that they don't want us to be allowed to go back into general debate, I'm sure at one point the minister was agreeable to going back into general debate after the information that he agreed to provide was provided in this House. But it would appear that quite a bit of prompting from the Minister of Education and the minister of economic devastation changed him.
Deputy Chair: Order please. Could you refer to the ministers by their proper titles?
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Mount Lorne and the Member for Faro, Mr. Chair.
It would appear that, upon the advice given to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services by these two members, things came to a grinding halt. So that leads us to where we are at right now. We have to continue in general debate until the answers from the minister are provided in this House. I hope the minister honours his commitment and agrees, as he suggested he would, to provide that information in a timely manner.
I think that tomorrow morning would probably be the earliest we can see a series of legislative returns and information, and hopefully, we can get on with the general debate. As it stands right now, if I could have the minister's assurances that we can go back into general debate on the issues arising out of the information he has provided in the House - nothing other - we can move along and get into line-by-line debate. Is the minister prepared to reconsider his position in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, it's certainly not a matter of changing my position or changing my mind. I'm very desirous of working cooperatively with the official opposition.
I have very thick skin, skin to the bone, in part due to the Yukon Party - not just from the last 18 months, but certainly from the time that I've had the opportunity to work with them. I've been insulted. I've been lampooned. Just last night, I've been characterized as being high and through the ozone again. It's been said that I've faked my hearing impairment.
The funny thing of this is that the folks there must be strategists. They must be generals in the art of political warfare, when I didn't think there was such a thing as political warfare; I really didn't. I thought we were here to represent the people and to speak, not as gentlemen, but as human beings and as comrades, all together for the same intent.
Certainly that is what my aspiration and desire in life is and it will continue to be until the day I'm put in the ground out there in old Teslin town. And that's what it will be. It's sap that runs very deep in me and will continue to run deep in me. I can't see anything that's changing that.
I have provided information in a timely manner and I will continue to do so in a timely manner. I just chatted with my department and they said that they expect that before 5:30 I should be able to read into the record more questions that remained unanswered.
There are certainly many ways of doing things. I actually get the same feeling that every once in a while, the Member for Klondike and I can come together. I get that feeling sometimes, because we do. And then what is it that separates us? Well, doggone it, I don't know. I really don't know, because I think we both have the desire to do things in a collective arrangement for the people of the Yukon.
Now, politics certainly separates us. Maybe personal style certainly separates us. But certainly I think that, well, everybody in this House has that desire, absolutely everybody. I know that the leader of the third party and the other two members of the Liberal Party have that desire. I know that we, on this side of the House, have that desire, but for the love of me, I can't figure out why it has to go.
So, the Member for Klondike said that I was swayed by the Member for Mount Lorne and by the Member for Faro. No, I wasn't swayed by those two folks, although I do highly value their opinion, because we sit and we talk about the needs - not of Ross River-Southern Lakes, not of Mount Lorne and Marsh Lake, certainly not singularly of just Faro - but the needs and how best we can work with the resources that we have for all peoples of the Yukon Territory.
Doggone it, I think that's reflected in this budget and I think it's a mighty fine budget.
Now, on some issues within this budget, if there's any further debate from the opposition's perspective, well, that's what they're paid to do. They want fine detail as to the driver's licence issue in the Yukon - it's 22.7 percent of the people who are under 15, so there's a dynamic to that. I say that I'm going to get the information back and then that's not good enough. When I do provide an answer on something, the opposition House leader stands up and says, "Ridiculous answer. Ridiculous." Now, there's a gentleman who, at one time, I thought I had respect for. I thought I had respect for people like that. Obviously, respect has to be earned. It has to be proven and it has to continue - the process of respect - on both sides, I will also say.
So, I don't think that I'm standing up here to deliberately mislead the House - which I've been accused of - with ridiculous answers. Certainly, that is not my case. That is not my character and that is not my upbringing. That is not the way I will be. It is not the way I am.
I will provide, in a timely fashion, for the betterment of no matter where you live in the Yukon, some answers, and I will listen with these rusty ears to solutions, no matter who they come from. Certainly, in my experience in governance - 10 years at the First Nation level - combatting very deep problems with alcohol, do you know where I found the best solutions? Within the people affected, with the alcoholics, and the converted and reformed alcoholics, and there are people I still see on the street today who provide some very good solutions. Yet if you looked at them, maybe some people in this House wouldn't respect them because of the way they look, but they have hearts of gold, they have direction. It is incumbent upon us to listen to them.
So it's incumbent upon me to listen to people.
I've been stung. I've been stung bad, because I put my heart on my sleeve and on my shoulder for people to see and said, "Yeah, why don't we do this?" to the Member for Klondike last year.
What did he do? He just took me and just went wonky. To me it was amazing, because I thought I was attempting to provide information that the gentleman wanted. But the gentleman wanted to make hay with it. He wanted to insinuate that I was doing something for somebody that comes from my background, and that is definitely not the case, because these cases were looked at on a merit basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, I never have offered any racial slur toward the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, like he's suggesting here in the House, and I ask him to retract his statement to that effect.
Deputy Chair: The Chair never heard the member accuse the member who has just spoken of making a racial slur.
Would the debate proceed, please.
Mr. Jenkins: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: If the Chair could please review Hansard tomorrow, he'll see full well that the minister did offer that up, and he could probably bring back a ruling at that time.
Deputy Chair: I will do that, Mr. Jenkins.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I think when you make that ruling you will find that there is no racial slur because that certainly was not the intent, but certainly it might be the intent to misconstrue what I had said because that happens every day in this House - absolutely every day, and there in itself is an example of what it was said right there, because it was not meant that way, but it was heard that way, so it certainly says that people will hear what they want to hear and will cherry-pick what they want to hear.
Well, it was never meant that way and I'm sure the Chair will understand that when he reviews it.
But that incident that was brought forth at that time was what makes me wary. It makes me very wary that I could stand here and say, "Certainly I can provide this." Does this mean that I have to go for another three weeks, or whatever the heck it was? Because at that time last year when I went to three weeks with my deputy minister beside me, I was called misinformed, why don't I just do it with the deputy minister? As a matter of fact, as they were walking out of here, the Member for Klondike said to the deputy minister, "Why don't we just step outside and we'll settle this and then we'll get it over and done with?" Now, that wasn't called for.
So obviously, it's a political ploy. It's a political ploy because they don't want this government, which works so well with people, listening to people and the aspirations of people, no matter where they are, and they don't like that. They don't like it that we take our time and focus on the desires of people and the hurts and the needs of people. They don't even like to sit here and listen to me, but it's something that's absolutely got to be said.
So, I sometimes wish that the Member for Klondike and I could just step outside and settle this - not in a fisticuffs manner.
Deputy Chair: Order, could the member please address the general debate in Community and Transportation Services. That's the part that we're debating currently, and if he could restrict his comments, please, to Community and Transportation Services debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I am not prepared to go back into general debate, not at all, because last year when I did go back into general debate, I was stung and I was burned because it was used as a political ploy - and that was with the C&TS budget, Mr. Chair.
So, Mr. Chair, once burnt, think twice - I don't know what the heck the old adage is, but certainly that's what I'll do.
If the Member for Klondike wants me to change my mind, then the Member for Klondike had better stand up and give me a very passionate appeal and tell me why I should.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm not offering a very passionate plea, Mr. Chair. I'm just pointing out that it is the minister's responsibility to answer questions about his department in this House - policy questions. In the majority of the cases, they are questions posed to the minister by the Liberal caucus and by my caucus. The minister has been unable to respond to the questions. He has either agreed to bring the information back by way of a legislative return or an oral presentation.
I don't have any quarrel with that. We've pretty well concluded general debate. What we're looking at is a window of opportunity, when the information is presented to this side of the House, to look at the information, go back into that subject matter and ask questions of the minister if they're deemed necessary by this side. We're just looking for that window. If the minister agrees to provide that window, we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will say, and I'll go back, that I do believe that the process and the budget debate last year was abused. It was abused. The process was abused.
Now, I've said to the Member for Klondike that I will bring them back, as soon as possible and in a timely manner. As I said when I came back from my break, the department is looking to provide three answers. They are working with us. That shows us that teamwork can work. It's a living and vibrant example of how things can and should work.
I must say that when I make this case, I'm only making this case to the official opposition, and certainly the official opposition at some point in time should look to their left and take some action from what they see.
So, the window that is here for the member opposite is that I will bring back the information and I'll entertain that further debate when we get into the lines. So, I'm not trying to skirt the deal. I'm not trying to do anything to evade or to look at any type of evasion of anything.
What I'm here for is to provide information in a timely manner. What I don't know, I will work with my department on to get the information back. And I will even, as the Member for Klondike has said, act on some of the issues that he brought forth, because certainly, if we can work together at that level - on a community level - and say that this is for health and safety and this is what we want - then I can't see why we can't work together at this level. I really can't. I think maybe again, if we stepped aside and worked things out, we would be able to work through a very fine process.
So, the window that the Member for Klondike was looking for is there. It is there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's obvious the minister isn't going to provide his assurances that we'll have an opportunity to move back into general debate, so if we can just continue with general debate, I have a number of questions arising out of statements that the minister has made and responses to various questions.
I refer the minister to page 2580 of the Blues on March 26, and this is the response that the minister offered with respect to a question concerning the Association of Yukon Communities: "Certainly, Mr. Chair, as we evolve through this process and get a deeper understanding of what might be available for resources to the communities as they proceed through here, the department will definitely work with them and hopefully make it a three-party process so we can come to a conclusion for the betterment of all the folks affected. Certainly, I am sure that this is the spirit with which it would be negotiated and implemented. The member opposite used an example of the Carcross area, and I do know that the Carcross area is, right now, working stringently toward concluding a land claim and self-government arrangement, and therein lies the trigger. Certainly, the trigger that I've spoken about and alluded to to go into the development of a district governance structure - however it might be characterized - lies within there. So, I do believe that my Government Leader spoke earlier to this initiative, so I won't take too much time. But, certainly, that's a trigger, and the department will be more than willing to work with folks and provide any information that we have, and I know that the Association of Yukon Communities - although I can't speak for them - would be doing the very same thing. So I do believe that, between AYC, C&TS, the affected municipalities or the affected people, whether First Nations or non-First Nations, will be able to come together to work with due diligence to provide better services to the regions affected."
Could the minister, in lay person's language, tell us what he meant by this statement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Would the Member for Klondike please read the question that was immediately before the statement?
Mr. Jenkins: I read to the minister his response to a question, and I'm sure he was listening. We're trying to ascertain what was meant. Could the minister please provide a layman's explanation of what was meant by this statement that the minister made?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to make sure that the member opposite got a good grip on what the question is.
Certainly I always appreciate to talk to the unconverted, because certainly the unconverted are the ones that we should be talking to, not the converted, because the converted know where we want to go with life in the Yukon.
Let me throw out some words to the members opposite.
You know? Is it about being good neighbours? Is it about getting along? Hmm. Is it about finding better ways to do things - more economical ways? Hmm. Is it about cooperation? Is it about cooperation that develops socially and economically? Hmm. Oh, the member must be going to read Hansard again because, certainly, the member's not listening.
I'll carry on, though, because they certainly seem to read better than they listen. But then, again, maybe that's not true, because I have to decipher what I say.
Is it about creating opportunities for all and sharing strengths of energy and resources? Hmm. Oh, I think that's what it is. Is it about incrementally developing relationships on an issue-by-issue basis? Hmm. I think that's what it's about. Is it about better quality of life for community people? Yep, I think that's also what it's about.
But, for everything I just said, the person on the opposite side - absolutely on the opposite side. Doggone, I just didn't realize that until entering into the realm of politics either. Because in some people's life - but not in this life of mine or anybody in my government - it is into spooking people. Is it about fear-mongering? Is it about putting up fences of jurisdiction? No, no, no. It's not about any of those things. It's about cooperating and working together. That's exactly what it's about.
So, I do hope that that will suffice for the member opposite and that that will work for him.
I do have a couple of issues here that I could read in, if you'd like, to the questions raised on the 30th here.
It was one of the requirements of the emergency response teams at the community airport.
There is no requirement for the provision of emergency response at any of the Yukon airports, although the Whitehorse Airport is a participating airport and meets the equipment and manpower requirements of the Canadian air regulations. All other Yukon community airports, including Watson Lake's, are only required to have written emergency procedures in case they have to be activated in response to an aircraft emergency.
Yearly table-top exercises are conducted to review the established procedures and ensure that all applicable agencies are aware. Now, here we go with another. It was a question asked about how the department is determining the required staffing levels. The transportation and engineering branch routinely tracks the engineering costs associated with all projects, and this information is used as the basis for projecting the staffing needs in relation to available project funding.
Based on the transportation division's capital and O&M project workload, projected for 1998-99, and accounting for secondments to Public Works and Government Services Canada and to other Yukon government branches, it is estimated that the remaining FTEs in the transportation engineering branch will be fully occupied.
The number of full-time capital funded staff presently in the transportation and engineering branch is 31.5 FTEs. In addition, there are also eight auxiliary staff on strength who normally work during the construction season. There are five employees, four FTEs in the branch, who are funded through the O&M.
And these employees are involved in management and administration rather than with specific projects. The workload for the 1998-99 year includes $14.5 million in projects under transportation engineering management. In addition, the branch is providing the engineering services to Public Works and Government Services Canada, which will utilize approximately four of the FTEs and five secondments of other branches in the government.
I'd also like to say that the information brought back to me on the issue of Cabinet commissions - certainly my department does not have any budget in-services for any of the Cabinet submissions.
I'd also like the report to reaffirm what I'd said, that on the manual mobile service, the department certainly supports this service and will resist every effort by Northwestel to remove this service.
So again, therein are some issues that we can work toward together and in a cooperative spirit. I thank the House for their concurrence.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a somewhat agonizing way of conducting the House's business, waiting for the minister to receive notes from his officials with responses. We're getting the information and it's appreciated, so I thank the minister for that, but there has to be a better way that the minister can address his responsibilities and what he's doing at the present time, Mr. Chair. It's a disservice to his department and to the House to proceed in the manner he has chosen to take at this juncture, Mr. Chair.
In the interim in general debate, I'd like to ask the minister what he meant by the following statement. I refer the minister to page 2597 in Hansard. The minister's response to a question was: "If I walk like a duck and talk like a duck and look like a duck, I guess there must be a 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."
Can the minister advise, in lay person's terms, what he meant by that statement, please?
Deputy Chair: Order. I would just remind members that they're not to be reading extensively from speeches.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Lord, love a duck, Mr. Chair. But I would certainly ask that the Member for Klondike read out the question and quit cherry-picking from the Hansard, and read out the question in its entirety, because I do believe that the Member for Klondike, as he reads from the Hansard, if he would read from the Hansard the question and his statements it would bring some type of closure to this issue.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have a question about the information that was just received on FTEs in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. We now have information. I know we asked for this information at the technical briefing and we're getting dribs and drabs of it back, and I'm glad that we got this clarification on the issue about where those comments were and the difference in the figures, but there are a number of C&TS employees who may not have been seconded but are now working in other departments, not in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I'm wondering if we could get a general indication of how many of those staff are not actually working in the Department of Community and Transportation Services but are performing C&TS functions perhaps in other departments.
If that information could be available, I would greatly appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, to the member opposite, I will have to get that type of information. That information is not here.
Again, I just received another question and I can answer another question but, certainly, I will get that information to the member opposite.
On the mosquito control program - gee, if it flies like a mosquito and it buzzes like a mosquito and it bites like a mosquito, it must be a mosquito. The issue: what was the cost per bag of larvicide in 1997? The cost per bag of larvicide in 1997 was $111.60. How many bags of larvicide were used in 1997? We used 103 bags of larvicide in 1997. How much area was treated? A total of 114 hectares were treated. What area was treated per bag? The application rate is four hectares per bag.
Mr. Phillips: I have one question about that insecticide - I forget the term the minister used.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Larvicide. I have a hearing problem, too, so I apologize to the minister. I haven't got my ears on today.
The government does this themselves, but does it make it available to individuals who wish to do their own areas? For example, if someone lives in a remote area and wants to get hold of a bag or two of this stuff, could they possibly purchase it from the government? Is there a way one could purchase this kind of material, that they could use for doing that kind of mosquito control?
I know some people who have cottage lots in some areas where they wished to maybe carry out their own mosquito control in some areas early in the spring, and the government doesn't cover those areas. So they may want to use that. So I wonder if it's possible to contact the government, because I think this stuff is pretty safe to use, from my understanding of it, and I just wonder if people could do that, could approach the government and maybe the government would give them a half a bag, if they were in a controlled zone, or they would purchase it, or whatever. Would they consider doing that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, that is certainly something that could be looked at, because it would be for the benefit of the people.
Could I ask the members of the House, would this be taken away from private enterprise? Is this something that should be taken away from private enterprise? Am I being set up? Now, is that paranoia or is that need for a real fear, because this is the type of question where I would say, "Why can't we do something like that? Why can't you do that for different people?" I mean, it's just half a bag. I mean, just the way the Member for Riverdale North said it, it sounds certainly logical, but the fear - and it is not paranoia - is actually there that when I do something like that, I'll be called down and a case will be made of it.
So certainly, I will look into the matter. I will examine the issue - the content of the matter - and look at it in that light. I would encourage both the official opposition and the third party to tell me that it is just simply paranoia.
Mr. Phillips: I get the impression, Mr. Chair, that the minister is crouched down on his knees, peering over the top of his desk because he's afraid that, every time somebody asks a question, they're taking a shot at him. I wasn't taking a shot at the minister. I was asking a legitimate question that has been posed to me by some residents of cottage lots. "What's the process?" Maybe there is a private company that does it. I don't know that. I think we used to contract it out before, to an individual company. Now the government does it. I'm sure the government wants to keep some idea of control over this kind of thing because they don't want everybody out there with larvicide, spreading it around.
So, I wanted to just ask the minister. It wasn't a mischievous question or anything. There isn't a hidden agenda behind it. All it was was that I was asked the question, if they do the mosquito control, can we do it privately? Could we buy it from the government or can we buy it from a local supplier or another supplier, the same supplier the government uses? What are the rules?
So, that's what I'm asking the minister. There are some people who like to sit around their campfire in the evening or out behind their cabin at night, on the deck, and they don't want to be spending all their time swatting the little mosquitoes, so they wanted to do something that might solve that.
So, I would just like the minister to sit up and show his full body. I'm not trying to take a potshot at him here. I just want him to do his very, very best this time and realize it isn't a trick question. It's a genuine question, and I don't intend to keep him here all night if he doesn't answer it. I'm just trying to get some information for some constituents who asked me the question. If I can get an answer from the minister, I want to raise his ratio of no-answers versus answers. So, I'm trying to help the minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, you know, we've certainly proven that we can get along in this House when we want to. It's certainly crazy what brings us together, though - ducks and mosquitoes. No, pardon me, ducks aren't bringing us together yet, are they? Just mosquitoes.
I will certainly check into it to see if it works. If it does work, then we'll certainly do it. We are here to try and do things for the constituents of the territory, but we're not here for the expense of the folks.
I'll research it and look into it and get back to you soon on it.
I do have an answer on impervious liners that was raised by Ms. Edelman, and Ms. Edelman, herein lies the answer. The question: is the department aiming toward impervious liners in the development of new landfills? None of the landfills constructed in the Yukon to date use an artificial, impervious liner. The liners are occasionally used elsewhere where the natural ground conditions require their use. They are required only where the geotechnical water table or surface water conditions are such that it is not possible to prevent groundwater contamination by any other means.
A decision to use a liner would be made on a site-specific basis following a thorough geotechnical evaluation and design. Some of the factors that would be considered prior to selecting a liner would be the availability of suitable sites that do not require the extraordinary measures, depth to the water table, the porosity of the available underlying soil, the expected volume and makeup of waste to be delivered to the site, the porosity of the available soil cover, the results from monitoring wells, the annual precipitation, the site-grading costs, and reliability of liners.
It goes on to say that conditions have not been such at any solid waste facility developed in the Yukon that a liner was required to date and it is not anticipated that this will change in the near future. A design of new disposal sites takes into account the nature of the underlying soils and other relevant considerations.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move 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. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Document was filed March 31, 1998:
Full service agency (Department of Tourism) tender process for three-year standing offer agreement (Keenan)