Monday, April 6, 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 recognition of National Wildlife Week
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of National Wildlife Week and to pay tribute to the many organizations and individuals who are involved in the event and presentation, which highlights the importance of Yukon wildlife.
Staff from my department, the Department of Education, the Canadian Wildlife Service and a variety of non-governmental organizations, including the Yukon Bird Club, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, Ducks Unlimited, and Canadian Wildlife Federation are all pitching in.
This year's newspaper insert focuses on the importance of shoreline areas as contributors to biodiversity.
I'm particularly proud of the contribution this government is making to wildlife this year through the proclamation of the habitat protection measures and our continuing work with the public on the protected areas strategy. I hope all members will join me in recognizing all efforts on behalf of the wildlife and biodiversity.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to National Wildlife Week. The theme for this year's National Wildlife Week is "protect our shorelines." The Yukon environmental statistics note that we have over 2,200 square kilometres on 15 different Yukon lakes. This small fact emphasizes for each of us and for all Yukoners, as we celebrate this week, the need to safeguard these shorelines throughout Yukon.
I would like to express thanks to those organizations, volunteers and professional people who work so hard to remind each of us to be vigilant in our efforts to ensure that we create an economic future and protect our natural world so that we use our resources wisely and with care.
Speaker: Are there any 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. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that the Whitehorse International Airport has the appropriate air traffic control systems, services and infrastructure in place to encourage and accommodate international airline flights to Yukon.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the existing health care facilities do not meet the needs of our Yukon seniors; and that there is an urgency to address these requirements in light of the growth of our seniors population; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to initiate immediate planning for the construction of multi-level health care facilities in the City of Dawson and the Town of Watson Lake.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that governments everywhere are seeking innovative ways to finance public projects; and
THAT this House strongly recommends that the Government of the Yukon actively review the public private partnership model used extensively throughout Canada for the development of such projects throughout the Yukon .
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Rural roads upgrading fund
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today our government has committed to a policy of promoting safe and healthy communities throughout the Yukon - and let me clarify that not only today, but previously and in the future we will continue to do so.
Recent examples of this commitment can be found in the widespread consultations and policy development work in rural services as well as the improvements I announced a few days ago to the rural electrification and telephone programs.
In a similar vein, I am pleased to rise today to outline a major initiative of our government to show support to every area of rural Yukon.
I would like to advise members that this year's budget has significantly increased funding for upgrading rural roads. The goal of this funding is to improve the standard of rural roads for residents and visitors alike.
This work will not only improve infrastructure for local traffic, it will also provide recreational and economic benefits, including increased tourism opportunities for the rural Yukon communities.
To facilitate this goal, the '98-'99 capital budget increases spending on construction and reconstruction of rural roads from approximately $50,000 to $500,000 this year.
This is a new approach to road upgrading that represents a significant investment in the future of our communities. The increased spending will create local jobs and provide economic benefits to many rural contractors.
We are accomplishing these benefits by focusing on providing work for small-scale contractors on the various projects. The work will be administered by the Department of Community and Transportation Services and performed by local operators.
This program is designed to respond quickly to local needs in the same spirit as the community development fund, which recognizes priorities that are determined by the communities themselves. In fact, it will be the rural communities themselves that put forward the suggestions of which roads need upgrading.
My department is also working to select roads from all areas around the territory in an attempt to provide a balanced service and to put as many local contractors to work as possible.
Our government's commitment to the future of rural Yukon is unwavering; so is our commitment to involve people in the decisions that affect them. With this community roads initiative, we are honouring these commitments by seeking local input and knowledge to deal with the challenges that face rural Yukoners.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I rise today to respond to the minister's statement regarding rural roads maintenance funding.
We, on this side of the House, very much support initiatives to improve our local infrastructure as increased spending on infrastructure such as roads will not only contribute to increased economic benefits to rural Yukoners but will also help create jobs, which are so badly needed in many of our communities today.
As a member of a rural community, I am fully aware of the importance of road maintenance and construction to local contractors and residents in providing jobs and providing benefits throughout the communities and Yukon alike.
Unfortunately, it would appear that roads are not a priority of this government, as is reflected in this government's capital budget for this fiscal period. In the minister's department alone, the capital budget has dropped significantly by some $18 million. Projects such as the Shakwak Highway that have kept Yukon's world-class road construction companies busy in the past - because of ineffective attempts to secure these project fundings, these same companies are having to look beyond the Yukon borders today for work.
In view of the current, sorry state of affairs, it is disappointing that this government has failed to recognize the importance of roads in the territory, and it would now appear that efforts are being made to resolve this sorry situation by announcing additional monies for rural roads. While we applaud the government for this initiative, I might point out that it's a little bit too late.
Though full of information, the minister's statement seems to raise more questions than answers. Having said that, perhaps the minister could provide responses in his rebuttal to the following questions: the minister threw out an arbitrary figure of anywhere from $50,000 to half a million dollars, to be spent on construction and reconstruction of rural roads. If the amount is only $50,000, the minister would be disappointed to know that this would not be near enough to put our contractors back to work and will not be near enough to improve and enhance our road, as is required.
Perhaps the minister could be more specific as to what amount of monies he envisions to ensure that the standards of rural roads are improved and so that our contractors could go to work. As the minister is aware, there exists a rural road maintenance policy that has been in effect for quite some time. The roads maintenance policy was set up to provide for the maintenance of certain roads that are up to tax standard, based on whether or not there are enough residents on the road. It is a good policy and nearly all rural people are able to avail themselves of this policy - snow removal and some minor maintenance - if there are enough people living on a road within a certain distance.
While it is important to note that these are roads that exist outside the boundaries of a municipality, I would like to ask the minister if his recent announcement to improve rural roads in the Yukon includes roads such as those that exist outside of municipalities alone. If so, perhaps the minister could explain to members how this department envisions making decisions as to how roads will be selected for improvements and construction. Will the minister be consulting with residents who live along the roads that exist beyond the boundaries of a municipality or will the minister be asking for expressions of interest among Yukoners at large?
The minister mentioned in his statement that his department will be working to select roads from all areas around the territory and that rural communities will be asked to come forward with suggestions on which roads need upgrading. This statement is somewhat confusing, as it leads me to believe that the Government of Yukon is now giving consideration to the upgrading and construction of roads within municipalities in view of the government's wish to ask communities for their input about which roads need to be improved.
Perhaps the minister could tell which it is - if consideration will be given to roads within municipalities or outside municipalities, or will it be both, Mr. Speaker?
In any event, Mr. Speaker, I'd appreciate receiving a list of planned expenditures on the roads and details about each road once the projects have been determined.
Getting back to the rural roads maintenance policy, the minister mentioned the other day in budget debate that there would be some changes to this policy. Perhaps the minister could elaborate as to what these changes include and how these changes will impact the continuation of rural road upgrading.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to the ministerial statement on rural roads upgrading funding.
Mr. Speaker, I'm concerned about the inconsistencies between this statement and the budget. By this, I mean the fact that the minister, on the one hand, says that he wants to enhance tourism by better maintaining select rural roads and, on the other hand, he's cutting maintenance on the Tagish rural road by a whopping 41 percent, cutting Dempster Highway maintenance by 39 percent and cutting Top of the World Highway maintenance by 24 percent. These are the roads that tourists use.
I know that I've already had more than one call this week about the state of the Tagish Road. I can't see how reducing the maintenance levels by such a great extent everywhere in the Yukon is possibly going to help tourism. Tourists, after all, have to get to those rural destinations on the highways.
How are rural residents going to make the decisions about what rural roads are to be maintained at a higher level? I know that in the Marsh Lake area, for example, there is no advisory body to the government and they're going to lose out on this program because they have no voice.
Marsh Lake is the third largest community in the Yukon. It's extremely likely that without well-defined criteria, the squeaky wheel is going to get the grease when C&TS officials decide where to allocate dollars.
A large amount of remote Yukon is not represented by a local government. I can see problems with the program being equitably and fairly administered, and I hope the minister will look into that possible glitch in this program.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, let me begin by looking to the positiveness that I think, or I assume, I have heard from both members of the opposition. Let me say, though, we have taken it from $50,000 to $500,000. There in itself is a large capital expenditure. It's a very big increment and increase. And how are we going to do it? We're going to be doing it by working with the partners on a partnership basis.
I won't even bother with the reference to Shakwak, because certainly we're doing good work on Shakwak. We can talk about that in the line by line. It is helping with the job creation, and therein is why we have done it. It's going to be done with the rural roads policy, and certainly the rural roads policy has been around for some time, but finally, there is some meat to it. We put a little bit of bucks behind our talk and are looking to do it with partnerships with the communities - outside of the communities.
This is not municipally-driven. This is people-driven, and this is driven by the partnerships that we make with all people. You do not have to be incorporated into a member of a council or an advisory body. You can bring forth your statements and your concerns, as we will work with all Yukoners to do that.
A list of plans and expenditures for here - certainly not at this time, because that would be just leading the charge, and certainly I'm not here to lead the charge. I am here to facilitate a meaningful process so that people can identify what it is that they would like to see within their policies. And certainly, that is what is happening at this point in time.
Yes, it will increase tourism. I do believe that in certain areas of the Yukon that have been suffering from lack of tourism because of a lack of infrastructure development, this will certainly go ahead to do it. There are no cuts, no deviation from standards at this point in time in the O&M budget. There are absolutely none at all.
We're just trying to work better with less and sometimes that is difficult, but certainly we're going to see if it can be done and we'll continue to protect the good spending of taxpayers' dollars. This is not a squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease situation. This is certainly going to be allowing the department and me to sit and look at where we can best spend dollars for people in the Yukon so that we might be able to do those things that are better, that we might be able to continue to diversify the economy, as we are.
It's certainly good to know that with the experience that has been gained in the Yukon over the last 15 to 20 years since the road development program has been in and the transfer of the highway situation that we are developing expertise in the Yukon that can be used outside of the Yukon. So certainly, I do believe that this tool is a very good tool and we'll continue to work as the New Democrat caucus for the development of just such tools.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services and it's concerning our drug crisis here in the Yukon.
I'd like to quote some words from a junkie in Whitehorse, "When you tell people up here there is rampant, out-of-control cocaine use, that there is significant, substantial heroin use, they don't buy into it, but that's the case."
Unfortunately, the minister is one of those who doesn't buy into it. He has shown he isn't aware by continuing to reduce the alcohol and drug services budget. Is the minister aware that the needle exchange program that started in 1994 exchanged 52 needles that year. From January to March of 1997, seven hundred and twenty-nine needles were exchanged. For the month of April 1997 alone, over 600 needles were exchanged. I have been told now that the number stands at over 1,500 needles exchanged per month here in Whitehorse.
Is the minister now prepared to admit that he has a serious drug crisis on his hands?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can tell the member that not only am I aware of the statistics on the needle exchange, I could point out that we worked with the hospital to remove this service from the hospital because of concerns of individuals there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan:
Despite what the Member for Riverdale North suggests, I don't think it's largely related to tourists.
We are fully aware that there is a problem with injectable drugs, and yesterday I received a communication from Mr. Rock suggesting some concerted actions between the provinces and the federal government on the whole question of injectable drugs and related diseases, particularly AIDS, HIV and hep C.
Yes, we are aware that there is a drug issue in the territory; however, I can point out that we are working to try and resolve that problem in a variety of ways.
Mr. Jenkins: A former drug user has described Whitehorse as a small town with a big-city drug problem, and that this problem isn't confined to adult drug users; it also affects our youth. I can tell the minister, as well, that the drug problem isn't confined to Whitehorse alone; it is territory-wide.
One local pharmacist has talked about a 15-year old girl who has been using drugs for six years. In order for government and social service agencies to combat a serious problem, they first have to recognize that they have one. Will the minister acknowledge here today that he is fully aware of Yukon's serious drug problem and is prepared to do something about it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course we're aware of the difficulties surrounding drugs and illegal drug use. As a matter of fact, much of our efforts in the last while surrounding drug and alcohol abuse involves actually trying to address the problem of younger people, using drugs at an earlier age, and trying to reduce this and trying to direct people into more positive pursuits. We're certainly aware of the drug problem in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, actions speak louder than words, and when we come to the alcohol and drug services budget, I expect the minister to indicate that he will be adjusting Health and Social Services expenditures accordingly.
In the next two or three years, when the social costs of cocaine and heroin drug use become apparent to everyone, as they are now becoming more and more apparent to some of us, it will be too late. Will the minister act now to implement a program? What is he prepared to do?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're certainly aware that there is a problem. We've been working with our partners in alcohol and drug services, as well as communities, to try and address a whole variety of these concerns. I can enumerate, in painful detail, all the things that are being done by both ourselves and by our partners in education.
We're certainly open to any suggestions that the member might have. This is a concern that's not only shared by ourselves but, as I said earlier, by all provinces and, as indicated by Mr. Rock's letter today, certainly on a national front.
Question re: Drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services on Yukon's serious drug problem.
As a consequence of the questions I raised in the House last week, Mr. Andrew Best provided me a copy of the video Nedaa had produced on heavy IV drug use in Whitehorse. This video documents the drug abuse of a First Nations woman. From this and other sources, I've been told that drug abuse is particularly high among First Nations people, and it's exceeding alcohol abuse. A copy of the video was also provided to the minister, and I would like to know if he's had the opportunity to view it and, more importantly, what is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We're certainly aware of the problem with IV drug use, particularly among First Nations communities. I spoke on this at the meeting that we had last year on the whole question of AIDS and AIDS prevention. It's certainly something that has been mentioned by our medical officer of health, as well, in trying to get across to First Nations communities that this is a problem that is going to be increasing unless we take some concerted action.
We do know that we tend to have higher illicit drug use levels here than perhaps other places nationally.
We are working on trying to bring that down, but I think, like any frontier community, those are going to be some of the risks that we face.
Mr. Jenkins: I've been told that in Mayo the drug abuse problem is referred to as the "hundred dollar habit". In Dawson City it has a similar name. So the drug abuse problem isn't confined simply to Whitehorse; it's territory-wide.
Can the minister advise the House if his department keeps statistics on First Nations drug abuse to help define the extent of the problem, and is DIAND and National Health and Welfare working with Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government to deal with this serious problem?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do work with not only DIAND but our federal partners as well.
The most recent information we have with regard to drug use and drug abuse in this territory comes from the 1993 health promotion survey, and I can indicate that we have some stats in that regard. We do have some further stats from our high-risk alcohol abuse survey that we can provide the member, but that relates primarily to alcohol.
However, we are concerned about the level of drug use up here. I acknowledge that it is also a problem in rural communities. It's not something that's confined to Whitehorse. We have an extremely mobile population here. Many people go south and, unfortunately, many of those people become involved in illicit drug use.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister certainly isn't taking his responsibilities very well when he's dealing with numbers that are that far behind. Statistics that are four and five years old certainly are not indicative - well enough - of the problem. That's history. We have to look ahead.
Much has been made by the minister of his new alcohol and drug treatment program, which I understand was pulled off the Internet. Can the minister advise the House approximately what percentage of the declining budget of alcohol and drug services is being allocated to dealing with Yukon's serious drug abuse problem?
What concerted action will the minister be taking in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I'd like to refute the member's allegation that there has been a reduction in the budget. Some money has been redirected within the alcohol and drug abuse program. We have set aside, for example, money for particular staff. What's important is that there is no decrease in services, and we're hoping that, by redirecting some of these funds, we'll be able to address some of the problems that are related to drug abuse and particularly some of the health problems.
We are always looking at ways that we can reduce this part of our new alcohol and drug strategy. We'll be targeting those kinds of issues, and we hope to bring forward some information in the near future.
Question re: Tourism marketing tender
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. Last week I raised a number of questions regarding the awarding of the new tourism marketing contract to Calgary-based Parallel Strategies. For the record, Mr. Speaker, I also noted that Parallel is a firm with a strong, credible reputation in the industry, and I note that two representatives of the firm are here with us today, and we welcome them.
I also noted that the concern of everyone in this House and outside of this House is the best value for tourism, a key industry, and the best value for Yukoners. Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of questions - among them, the minister's visit to one of the bidders. These questions raise some real concerns.
Will the minister now agree that the visit to Parallel Strategies should not have occurred?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Speaker, I could not say that I shouldn't have gone there. I might classify it as a bad judgment call, but certainly that is all. So, no, I cannot agree.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, by the minister's own admission - a bad judgment call. There is at least one problem with this "squeaky-clean process."
I have a very constructive suggestion for the minister, and I would like him to give it some thought. Since this contract is so important to the Yukon, and since at least one error has occurred during the bidding process, will the minister agree to have an independent, three-person panel review the process in light of the new information that has been brought to this House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely appalled, and I must say the member has been known to be wrong. She has been wrong in this case and will be wrong again. If she's going to run on her track record, she certainly will.
There has not been an error in this process. This process is a squeaky-clean process by their own admission and by my admission. It's certainly a transparent process. So certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will not stoop so low as to do that. If there is a bid challenge process that is available, I will not interfere in that process by making any further comments at this time. If the unsuccessful bidder wishes to challenge the contract award, there is a challenge process - well established.
Ms. Duncan: I'll leave questions regarding the bid challenge process to another point in time.
I'd like to ask the minister to reconsider this constructive suggestion of an independent panel. I and others could make suggestions to the minister of some names for this independent panel to meet with both proponents and satisfy all Yukoners that we've got the best possible agency.
Mr. Minister, the winner of the contract indicated today that he would be more than prepared to have an independent panel review this process - more than prepared. Will the minister reconsider this process and will he have an independent group re-evaluate the awarding of this contract in light of the new information that's been brought to the House? Will he consider this very constructive, positive suggestion? Will he consider it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly appreciate the suggestion from the member. I do not believe there is a need to go through the process, as outlined, with a three-person panel. There is a bid challenge process that is available. I, along with the people that the member opposite is talking about, feel absolutely positive that it's a squeaky-clean process, and certainly there is an established process and I would suggest that we stay within the established process.
Question re: Tourism marketing contract
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. There are a number of issues that have come to light surrounding the awarding of the Department of Tourism marketing agreement. Once again, it's clear to the Yukon business community that the bid challenge committee, as a court of last resort, lacks any real ability to act if a problem has occurred. Will the Minister of Government Services provide an assessment of the bid challenge committee? Has there been an internal assessment of how effective the committee is and will he provide it to me?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will take this question. It certainly falls within the subject that we've been talking about. Mr. Speaker, I find it absolutely appalling, and I will say again that the member is absolutely wrong. It is difficult to say that the bid challenge process is however she wants to characterize it. It is absolutely not. It is a very credible process and that is the established process. It is there.
I will again not interfere in that process by making any further comment, because there is an established process.
Ms. Duncan: It's unfortunate that the minister will not listen to the questions. Again, to the Minister of Government Services: it has come to light after the awarding of the contract that there was a real or perceived conflict of interest. Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of Government Services explain why this issue - a perceived conflict of interest - is not addressed as part of the tendering process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the Yukon government policy and guidelines do not restrict discussions between government and businesses on an ongoing business and existing contract. They do not. There was no breach of the government policy in my visit to Parallel Strategies, and the contracting question was never discussed.
So, let me say that Yukon government policy and guidelines do not restrict a discussion between government and businesses on ongoing business and existing contracts.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I do wish the Minister of Government Services and the Minister of Tourism would listen to the questions. I'm asking about public process, which it is my responsibility and right to do. Would the Minister of Government Services please answer the question?
It has only come to light after the awarding of a contract that there was a real or perceived conflict of interest. Mr. Speaker, would the Minister of Government Services explain why this issue - conflict of interest - is not addressed as part of the tendering process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, I must just repeat and express on behalf of the Government of the Yukon Territory that there is not. You might be able to continue on and say "perceived" and use all the buzzwords that are possibly imaginable - and I'm sure that the member has many more come to light after a visit.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government policy and guidelines do not restrict discussion between government and businesses on an ongoing business and existing contractual basis. So therefore again, Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely wrong. Absolutely.
Question re: Drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Phillips: My question is to the Minister of Justice on Yukon's serious drug problem from a Justice perspective.
Every other day, Yukoners hear in the court proceedings that an offender was hooked on drugs, and it was one of the reasons given for the commission of the crime. At the same time, there appears to be a considerable drug trade going on throughout the territory, and yet the drug busts have been somewhat few and far between.
Can the minister advise the House on what statistics her department has outlining the number of arrests and convictions for both the illegal possession and trafficking of drugs throughout the territory?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I do not have the statistics present in the House with me today. I will take the member's question under advisement and see what we can bring back for him.
Mr. Phillips: It is a serious problem and I think, when the minister sees the statistics, she will know that, and so I would appreciate getting those fairly quickly.
As my colleague from Klondike has said, Mr. Speaker, before you can deal with the problem you first have to admit you have one.
Can the minister advise the House what resources the RCMP have at their disposal to combat this serious drug problem in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, as the member knows from reviewing the budget, the Department of Justice contains a $10-million item for the RCMP. The RCMP are responsible for providing police services in the territory, which include both investigations and charging.
Mr. Phillips: It appears, Mr. Speaker, from the answers we got from both the Health minister and the Justice minister here today, that everything is in someone else's hands and that they're not really concerned about the seriousness of this problem.
Has the minister discussed the seriousness of the Yukon drug problem with her colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, or have they just left it up to the other officials: the RCMP and others? And, Mr. Speaker, have they sat down with the RCMP to work out solutions to this problem and combatting the serious drug problem in the Yukon Territory? And if she hasn't done that, will the minister do that now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being completely wrong in his preamble and in his statements.
The member opposite knows very well, from the considerable debate that has taken place in this Legislature, that our government and our Cabinet and caucus colleagues have worked together on addressing the problem of drug use in our communities.
I don't think the member had a serious question there. I believe he was just trying to paint the government in a bad light. We know that there's a problem and we're working on it in a number of ways, both through programs in our schools and programs in the health care system and through funding the police services in the territory.
Question re: RCMP auxiliary program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the same minister on the RCMP auxiliary program. The minister is on the record as saying that this program is very successful, and in January of last year, the minister wrote to me saying that she hoped that spring - that's the spring of 1997 - to bring in legislation relating to the program. Then in May of last year, the minister wrote to me saying that research and policy work was being done on the development of a statutory basis for the RCMP auxiliary program. And then last fall in Question Period, the minister again said that she was prepared to bring in legislation after some consultation.
So, just for the record again, is this government still committed to bringing in legislation covering the RCMP auxiliary program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, we are, Mr. Speaker, and the Department of Justice officials are working on a discussion paper to talk to the public. I can also advise the member that I have spoken both with the RCMP and with members of the auxiliary police on this subject and that we are making progress.
Mr. Cable: Well, it's about a year since the minister said that she would be bringing in legislation, and we're not building rockets in this area. When are the consultations going to start, and what's the target date for the completion of the consultations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, we have a legislative session once a year in the fall. The target date for the consultation is later on in this spring, and the target date for having it completed is prior to the fall legislative session.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just for the record, is the minister committed to bringing in legislation in the fall session dealing with the RCMP auxiliary program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Just for the record, Mr. Speaker, yes. Yes, we will do our best.
Question re: Drug abuse in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health and Social Services. As more and more Yukoners turn to using hard drugs to allow them to cope, the consequence of drug abuse can be deadly. It is my understanding that there have been over 10,000 HIV tests administered in the Yukon between 1985 and 1996. In 1997, I've heard a figure of around 2,000 of these tests being administered here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, with high drug use on the rise, can the minister advise the House if the number of people being tested for HIV is also on the rise? Can the minister provide the House with the latest statistics in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, of course, HIV is an issue that is often intimately associated with the whole question of drug use, particularly if one takes a look at the situation down in the Lower Mainland where, unfortunately, many of our injectable drug problems originate, or at least many Yukoners who become addicted have a contact there.
Yes, HIV tests are increasing. They're also being encouraged and I think that's not necessarily a signal of any kind of crisis as much as a signal of public awareness, and that's what we're always interested in encouraging.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it appears we're testing more and more to find out if people have this dreaded disease, but we're doing less and less on the educational side and the rehabilitation side, as indicated by the reduction in the minister's budget in this area.
Mr. Speaker, according to information I have, 20 Yukoners tested positive for HIV between 1985 and 1996, and during that time there were four cases of full-blown AIDS, two of whom have subsequently passed away. Can the minister advise the House what the latest statistics are in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will get that information - the most recent information - for the member. I can tell him that we're fully aware of the whole issue surrounding HIV and AIDS. I think one of the things that we've been doing, particularly, as he made reference to earlier, in the First Nations community, is encouraging First Nations to take this issue as a major health concern. If he's aware of some of the national studies, this indicates that there could be some major difficulties for First Nation communities with regard to the whole question of HIV and AIDS in the future. We do take it very seriously, and we're working with our partners in the health community to mitigate the impact.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the dreaded consequences of drug use is that HIV-positive mothers pass it on to their babies. Can the minister advise the House how many HIV-positive babies have been born in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We don't break it down in that fashion. However, what I can do is see if there's any way we can break out the HIV numbers with regard to age.
I would say that the member is characterizing the fact that people are being tested as somehow an indication of a crisis. I would suggest that that indicates that people were being more responsible. I would suggest that our young people in particular are becoming considerably smarter about such things as safe sex, and I would suggest that people are now aware of the problem. They're not running from it; they're not hiding from it; and I think that is responsible action.
Question re: Pharmacists Act, proposed amendments
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services as well. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Pharmacists Association met with the minister late last year to discuss their submission for amendments to the Yukon Pharmacists Act. Mr. Speaker, at that time, the minister indicated that amendments to this act would not be on the fall 1998 legislative agenda. However, the Pharmacists Association met with officials from the Department of Justice early this year, and they have indicated that amendments to the Pharmacists Act would be on the fall 1998 legislative agenda.
Is the act on the fall 1998 agenda or not?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member may or may not be aware, we don't have control of the professional acts, and acts such as the Optometrists Act and the Pharmacists Act have to go to Justice for consideration. In this case, we did not believe that it could go through by the fall. We have subsequently referred it to Justice, and if Justice indicates that this is within their ability, this is a new one on me.
Mrs. Edelman: Lots of interesting things happening in the department, I guess. Mr. Speaker. The Pharmacists Association has asked the Department of Health to be the coordinating agency for any amendments to the Pharmacists Act. Other professional groups, such as the nurses and optometrists, are asking for changes to this act, and Justice does not have the health expertise to judge the efficacy of these amendments.
Mr. Speaker, it is just common sense that the Department of Health oversee these amendments, because they do have the expertise. Will the minister consider taking on this task?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I have to say that we haven't made a final decision on these various and sundry acts. They do come under Justice. What we can do is provide - and we do provide - input, both in terms of expertise and review of existing professional acts for the Department of Justice, as well as issues that we feel are key in any revision of an act that has a professional nature. Those are some of the things that we would be bringing forward. We have already given, to the Department of Justice, our input in a number of these acts. But, do we coordinate them? No, it is a Justice responsibility. All professional acts are.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's my understanding that information's being lost between the two departments. The Pharmacists Association is a volunteer professional group, yet they have now produced two extensive submissions for changes to the Pharmacists Act, once in the 1980s and another one in late 1997. All of this was done on volunteer time. Mr. Speaker, is there any possibility that the Department of Health will fund any further consultation work that needs to be done on this act for the Pharmacists Association?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, I have met with the pharmacists and they've given me an outline of some of the issues that they feel need to be addressed. As well, they've given us some positive suggestions. I don't think we need to be into a huge rewriting. As a matter of fact, a couple of the professionals I've met have suggested that we either adopt in full, or adopt in large measure, certain professional acts from other jurisdictions. I don't think there's any real need to reinvent the wheel.
We do have some particular issues here, particularly around the whole question of the dispensing of pharmaceuticals by our community health nurses, and those are some issues that we will have to resolve in any future consideration of any professional acts.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: Saved by the bell, Mr. Speaker.
I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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 the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Okay, 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the main estimates.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, in reviewing the Blues from the debate on April 2, I see that when we left off debate, my colleague, the Member for Klondike, was asking the minister some questions on Northern Cross. The minister indicated to the Member for Klondike that he would be meeting with Northern Cross last Friday, I believe, and that he'd be able to give the Committee an update on what has transpired. Could I ask the minister if he's prepared to give us that update now?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Not a lot of new information. Northern Cross conducted their tests. They had much shorter time for testing than they had hoped. They really need about a 100-day window. They still have plans to do that for next year. They've been in contact with the mining industry and a number of companies that are interested in their product for burning to generate electricity.
It appears that the City of Dawson is becoming more amenable to dealing with a test burn there for their product. There are just some issues that have to be worked out to ensure that they are addressed to the satisfaction of the city. Hopefully that can be accomplished. We're working with both Northern Cross and the city to that end.
They have some fairly big plans, but they're dependent on securing markets for their product, so obviously the test burn is critical.
They know they have no huge export potential here because the infrastructure isn't in place, but they do feel there's a market for their product. They're going to run extensive technical tests on their product to make sure that it's pure and that devaluing qualities of the oil are not present - that does have an impact on the price that it's worth. They've even talked about the future, in terms of a small refinery and those kinds of things, but it's dependent on what the test results yield and what happens with the test burn.
They were interested, as well, in selling to the Faro mine. Unfortunately, with the mine down, that does create another element of uncertainty for them, but we're certainly keen to push ahead with the test burn.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the minister for that brief update. This, to me, appears like a very viable project, from what I can understand of it. It can create some local employment. The minister said that they need a market, but he seemed to sort of skirt around the issue and didn't give me much detail about the biggest possible customer, which is the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Even though the Faro mine is down and we have ample power on the grid now, I believe that this would be an opportune time to do whatever tests need to be done - any burn tests - to see the value of using crude rather than importing diesel fuel. This would be developing one of our own energy sources, small as they may be.
I believe it could play a very important role in the future development of power in the Yukon, especially in outlying communities, where it's not feasible to put in the grid.
My understanding of what I'm aware of in the program is that the cost is substantially lower than imported diesel fuel. I'm also led to believe that the energy component in the natural crude is much greater than in burning diesel fuels, so there would be a plus benefit there, as well as lower cost. We would be getting a bigger bang for our dollar.
My understanding also is that the technical problems are very, very small. So I look forward to this. I'm glad to hear that the minister says that he's supportive of the program. I would hope that the government will aggressively pursue this program. I know that there are some negatives with the Vuntut Gwitchin that need to be worked out, but I believe that, in the best interest of all Yukoners, those can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction, and it would give us a chance to create some jobs locally at a time when every job is very, very important to us.
While this question may be more related to his responsibilities as the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation, I'll ask it now; if he chooses not to answer it, I'll ask it again later. Does the minister believe that the Government of the Yukon will be in a position to go ahead with a test burn at the facility in Dawson City this summer? I understand that Northern Cross has enough fuel stored in Dawson to be able to do a very stringent test - to burn it - to see how viable it is as a burn. My understanding is that it also doesn't take very much for modification, if any, of the diesel engine itself in order to burn this crude.
Can the minister bring us up to date as to what his feelings are of this being completed before the summer's over?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I hope so. The member knows that, right now, with Faro off the grid, this particular option probably wouldn't save any money because we have excess hydro right even now. However, it's an excellent time to do the testing. I'm certainly hopeful that it can be accomplished this summer. They have enough of the product to do a pretty good test.
I haven't skirted around or anything, as I was accused of by the member opposite. I've been a very vocal and active participant in these discussions since I've become the minister, and I have not shied away from where I believe this thing can go for the territory, to its benefit.
I well remember, though, just last week in Question Period, how I was accused of my demonic action of interference with the Energy Corporation. Let me just say that, in this case as in all the other cases, I have met with the chairman of the board and the president himself and I have expressed my desire to see some action take place here. This is not in the form of a Cabinet order, however, and that will continue to be the case.
The board has heard me out on this subject and I believe are quite supportive of the desire to go with the test burn. However, I have to caution the member that the Energy Corporation's board, while they are keen to pursue this initiative, are not prepared to enter into a long-term commitment without knowing the results of the burn, for example, or knowing the results of the testing that's undertaken on the product.
So, I don't want the public to get locked into a long-term arrangement. When the member opposite says, "pursue it aggressively," he ought to know that there are certain cautions in any negotiation that must be heeded in the interests of Yukon ratepayers and the Energy Corporation.
The board is mindful of that, the president is mindful of that, and Northern Cross concedes that that's a perfectly acceptable way of conducting business.
With regard to pursuing this aggressively, I would only indicate that my public comments and my actions in terms of Northern Cross and my meeting just last week to talk about these issues is proof positive of my desire to responsibly approach this.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the minister need not get defensive about his meddling into the affairs of the Energy Corporation. The minister wears two hats in this situation. One is the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, and one is the minister responsible for energy under Economic Development. So, he can pursue this as aggressively as he likes without political interference into the board. He can do it through his department. While I say "pursue it aggressively," nobody said that we wanted to see either the Energy Corporation or the Government of the Yukon get locked into a long-term contract until we know the benefits of it. The facts are that they did recover enough oil from the wells this winter to be able to do a very legitimate test burn.
My understanding is that they're doing all kinds of laboratory analysis of the fuel as well that should satisfy the environmentalists about the emissions that are coming from it and all of the other factors that need to be involved there. I'm just saying to the minister that even though we have excess hydro now, that excess hydro doesn't have any benefit to the City of Dawson, and I'm not looking for an immediate reduction in rates. I'm looking for viable alternatives to importing diesel fuel, and this is developing an energy source of our own, albeit small, and I believe that Northern Cross is aware of that also. But the fact remains that government can play a very important role in this, and it need not all be left just to the Energy Corporation.
So, I'm encouraged that the minister will be proceeding, and hopefully, if the tests can be done over the summer period, the company will be in a better position next winter to know how much work they can do or can afford to do on the wells in the Eagle Plains area.
Can the minister tell me, is their land use permit good for next winter as well as for the winter that's just been completed, or do they have to apply for a renewal?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, I just want to say to the member that his argument about me wearing two hats makes no sense when stacked up today against the argument last week in Question Period. I was also then Minister of Economic Development and minister responsible for the Energy Corporation. What the member is arguing today is that, somehow, with my Economic Development hat on, it would be appropriate for me to deal with concerns surrounding policy as it pertains to industrial customers and their method of payment to the Energy Corporation.
The argument that he's making today is that it would be appropriate for me, with my Economic Development hat on, to make some kind of overtures, from a policy perspective, to Yukon Energy Corporation on developing our energy sources. I would argue that he has changed his position completely.
I would argue that I was doing precisely that just last week and today - when I was acting with both hats on. He should develop at least one modicum of consistency, but I don't expect that to happen.
With regard to the Yukon Energy Corporation, it is the Yukon Energy Corporation that ultimately would probably be the agency of government that would enter into some kind of an agreement. It could perhaps be done through Economic Development. I will have to examine that very closely. The member, in his opening comments, said that the Yukon Energy Corporation was the biggest customer - or potentially the biggest customer or client - for Northern Cross. That is indeed the case.
I would have to go beyond talking to them about my desire to see some initiative there. I would have to, in fact, order them if I did not agree with their direction or their decision with that. Ultimately, it is theirs, and, ultimately, I could change their decision if I saw it was desirable for Yukoners to do so through a Cabinet order.
In response, I will just say that I'm pushing ahead on the Northern Cross agenda. I'm not defensive, I'm just trying to find some consistency in the member's arguments.
With regard to the land use permit, I'm not entirely sure of all the details of my discussions with Northern Cross. Apparently, if they want to do some more work in the area beyond the scope of what they're doing now, there is some time-dated factor on the permit.
I can provide more technical information for the member, if he'd like - in a timely fashion - on the permitting issues because they are handled by the federal government.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, it's hard to be consistent in our questions when the answers aren't very consistent. So, we have to bounce around a little bit, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I certainly would appreciate whatever information the minister can forward us at a later date about the land use permits and any hurdles that the company may have to overcome before they come back in there next year.
Let me just ask a question of the minister about his own beliefs on energy in the territory and specifically the one with Northern Cross. Does he believe that there's a role for this type of energy production and utilization in the Yukon? Does he believe that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you. That'll be enough on Northern Cross for now. We may refer to it later in the session at some point, but I thank the minister for that information.
I have a few other questions yet in general debate - not a lot, but I have a few. The one question that I have arises out of last Thursday's debate, which the minister was going to investigate, and that was the somewhat controversial CDF monies to the Help and Hope Society in Watson Lake. Has the minister had time to investigate as to what transpired, and is he prepared to tell the House today? I mean, he gave a half-hearted commitment to the House that he would give us the answers on Monday.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I haven't had a full brief on the matter, but I would tell the member opposite that, the way I understand it, there was some discussion between the people in Economic Development and the successful applicant about some issues that arose in the community about contracting. There were some suggestions made about how to handle it. There's not a huge amount of expertise in some organizations about how to handle contracting issues.
There was no directive given by the department on those issues. They were following the criteria. They simply were engaging in a discussion about how some issues around the tendering might be handled. As the member knows, in Watson Lake work is at a premium right now, and certainly when there is work available it's the subject of some scrutiny - as it no doubt should be - by the community.
My understanding is that that information given by the department was interpreted as a directive when, in fact, it wasn't. Subsequent to that, some discussions took place and some moves were made by Help and Hope that did create some confusion. My understanding is that subsequently has been cleared up.
Mr. Ostashek: The confusion has been cleared up. The contractor has been awarded the contract - he was before 5:30 Friday afternoon. It's a real coincidence, but it did happen. I'm glad that it did.
My concern, Mr. Chair, is not so much that contract but what has arisen out of that controversy. The contractor was told quite clearly by the Help and Hope for Families Society that they had received instructions from the member's department that they had to retender the contract and had to advertise it Yukon-wide for a period of 10 days.
Is the minister telling me today, here, that that was not the case, that there were no instructions from his department, nobody in his department phoned Help and Hope and gave them that instruction?
Hon. Mr. Harding: My understanding is that my department did not instruct anybody to tender anything. There was a discussion about the tendering process; some suggestions were made. That's the understanding I have.
There obviously was some confusion around this. I've asked my department to be more careful in the future and to make it clear and, if they are providing some advice about how to handle situations, that they are not instructing, that they are simply suggesting. That is an important function that they perform on a wide range of projects.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the contractor was told quite clearly by Health and Hope that that was their understanding, that the department asked them to rescind the contract and to retender it for 10 days. And the Health and Hope Society was very, very upset by that as well. They were not very happy about it because my understanding was it was a unanimous board decision to award the contract in the first place, and they didn't feel very good about having to go back to the contractor the next afternoon and tell them that they were going to have to rescind the contract and retender it.
So, I just wanted all Yukoners to know clearly what the rules are, and that the rules are going to be applied equally to all people who make applications under the CDF. There will not be different rules for different groups.
Could I ask the minister if he'd be prepared to give us a written response to our questions on the inquiry as to that, and give us his findings?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that.
I have a question now, as I was going through some of the information that was given to us at the technical briefing, which I was unable to attend but my assistant was there, and I was looking at the outstanding loan guarantees that were issued under the business development fund as of February 28, 1998.
My question to the minister is, of the loan guarantees that are listed here as some $752,000, are these loans all up to date at this time? These are all current, up-to-date loans, and that none of these loans that are listed here are delinquent loans?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can't confirm that right now but I can get that information for the member.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that.
I'd like to ask the minister, on the same page of this document it says "outstanding venture loan guarantees as of February 28" and it lists four loans here, starting in June of '97 to February of '98. Are these loans under the new venture loan program that was brought in by my predecessor, the former Minister of Economic Development? Is this the program that they're given under?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There was one change to the program, yes. Essentially, it was pioneered by the Yukon Party government.
Mr. Ostashek: What was the change to the program?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It was expanded to allow tourism-oriented businesses.
Mr. Ostashek: But this is the same program, basically? It's administered by the banks, will be followed up by the banks, collection will be by the banks, and any outstanding losses will be covered by Economic Development after any seizures or anything - whatever monies were realized from seizures that the bank does in this respect. Am I right in that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's the same program, only one change.
Mr. Ostashek: That makes it interesting, Mr. Chair, because I can remember the member, when he was in opposition, when this same program was brought forward by Mr. Fisher, who was the Minister of Economic Development. In the debates on April 23, 1996, the member opposite made some comments about the loan program and said he had a question for the Minister of Economic Development on the venture partnership program, which he simply called "corporate welfare for the banks," and he stated, "Banks lend money every day. Banks take on marginal customers every day, and they make bad loans. All this new venture loan program does is give them a fat pot of $3 million of taxpayers' money to offset loan losses they probably would have already had."
Is the minister still of the same opinion?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think those were extremely good comments then, and I would also say to the member opposite that I didn't say I wasn't going to change this program. We just haven't done it yet.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, the member may say he's maybe going to change it, but it appears that some people like it. We've let out $217,000 under it already, and as this is a program of a loans of last resort - where they can't get the money on their own without the loan guarantee - it seems to me that in the short time that it's been in place the public is starting to be aware of it, and they feel it's pretty good.
I find it interesting. The minister's been there 18 months. He hated the program so much when it was brought in by the Yukon Party government and yet, now 18 months into their mandate, they are lending money under it. I think the minister will find that the program is a very good one, and is very low risk to the taxpayer.
Mr. Cable: I have some general questions for the minister on women and business. There have been some articles in the newspapers recently - and I believe this is a fact; that the majority of small businesses are now started by women and that they have a better success ratio than men. Are there any stats collected in this jurisdiction on business formation and business formation according to gender?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know the answer to that, decisively, but I will check on that and get back to the member.
Mr. Cable: It has also been said in the past that female entrepreneurs have more difficulty in accessing capital than male entrepreneurs. Is that a position that the Minister of Economic Development agrees with?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've had discussions with people who should be in the know who have told me that that's the case and I believe it to be true.
I know that the chair of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is looking at that issue and is going to be looking at it in the context of making some recommendations to me on the whole issue of access to capital and investment that we talked about so often in the last few days.
I would also point out, too, that I think that the Women's Business Network is doing very well in the Yukon and is expanding and growing. That is a positive sign.
Mr. Cable: So the minister's saying, then, that as part of this package he talked about a week ago during the investment tax credit debate, that there will be some comment directed toward access to capital for women?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It will be one of the issues that we identify and try to deal with some of the gaps in the system. I want to say, also, we just approved, through the CDF, some funding to expand a youth program that will have an element that also deals with women entrepreneurs, particularly young women entrepreneurs. We invested $200,000 in that.
Mr. Cable: Could the minister run that up the flag pole again? Is there some contract that's been let, this $200,000? What's he talking about?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It was in the paper, in the press releases, so it must be true. We're working with Dena Naye Ventures. They have some federal Liberal government money. That was for aboriginal young entrepreneurs and business. They came to meet with me many months ago, and said that they were interested in trying to expand the program, since they were administering it anyway, to all Yukoners, and could we help.
We worked with them on it. They went for some funding under the community development fund - $200,000, I believe it is - which we recently agreed with, and now that program will be expanded and will apply to all Yukoners.
Mr. Cable: So the minister's saying that, as part of that analysis for this $200,000, we'll be obtaining information on access to capital for female entrepreneurs. Is that what he's saying?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the main criteria of the program is youth, and it's designed to get young people started in business, but one of the things that people will be looking at are equity issues in the context of the funding. Obviously the program was initially created to deal with the inequities in aboriginal business, or the number of aboriginal businesses. It is my belief that there will also be consideration given to gender issues.
Mr. Cable: Now, the minister and I have exchanged some thoughts on the community development fund and how it should be administered and whether there should be a statute surrounding it or not. I'd like to bring the minister's attention to the debate that took place in this House on the Economic Development Act and some comments that were made by one of his NDP predecessors, the Economic Development minister at the time, Mr. Byblow. This goes back five or six years. I know the collective memory isn't all that good, but let me just refresh the minister. Here's what Mr. Byblow had to say about programs under the Economic Development Act. He said, "Currently, programs have different means by which they are established. In some cases, we have programs established by a vote authority in the budget and, for example, the community development fund is such a program. If you eliminate that program from the budget, there is no program. There is no authority that requires such a program to exist other than its establishment in the budget for which we have policy guidelines. The community development fund now would be restated under regulations and attached to the act" - which is the Economic Development Act - "thereby giving it a stronger statutory base and a stronger commitment for existence."
Just out of curiosity, does this minister agree with - I won't say his immediate predecessor - his predecessor from five or six years ago, Mr. Byblow?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No.
Mr. Cable: So, at the time that this act was brought in and it was expressed that there would be regulations authorizing or surrounding the community development fund, that wasn't a firm commitment of the NDP; that sort of changed over time. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I don't want to get into a legal argument with the member opposite. I'm not a lawyer; I'm a politician. All I can say is that we believe our expenditures in the CDF are within perfectly acceptable accounting practices. So says the Auditor General, so far anyway. Even if the Auditor General made some comments, we have the choice on how we respond. We are accountable, as a government, on the budget and, as well, on the CDF.
Mr. Cable: Well, I won't go any further into flip-flops in the May 6, 1992, Hansard excerpt.
What I'd like to ask the minister some questions on is Anvil Range - some further questions on Anvil Range. It's been touched on in this House, and the minister hasn't been completely clear on where his government sits with respect to this application that's underway.
Now, as I understand it, with respect to the extension of the time prior to the appointment of the receivership, there are a number of players, and the players that have a negative attitude toward the extension are Cominco, DIAND, two groups of lien claimants and this government. Those are the people that are against the extension. Do I understand that correctly?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, and the Liberals are against it, too.
Mr. Cable: Well, could we get something more than a facetious answer? Are those the players that are against the extension of the time under the CCA Act?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know what the member is saying I'm being facetious about. He mentioned the federal government. That's a Liberal federal government. And he's correct about the last court transaction and where the creditors stood on the motion.
Mr. Cable: So, what the minister is saying, then, is that the Government of Yukon had instructed its lawyers to oppose any extension of the period prior to the appointment of a receiver?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's not exactly true - or the case, excuse me. We, as a government, put the interests of Yukon workers ahead of any particular company or any particular motion. We want to do what's best for the Yukon economy. Our approach is that the creditors must deal with the situation around their claims and around the restructuring. We will support whoever puts the best offer to the Yukon.
So, at the time of the last motion, Anvil did not have anything from their potential investor in writing. They were talking about the Grizzly underground project, with no definitive time lines for restart. The creditors organized the best response to Yukoners. Therefore, we supported that motion.
That may change this week. We have to see what comes forward. The milk churns constantly.
Mr. Cable: Okay, just before we get into that, and changes and what not, I gather that, on the other side of the motion, the Ross River Dena and the union did not argue against the extension, together with the unsecured debenture holders. Is that the minister's understanding?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Not necessarily. The steelworkers did support the motion, as I understand it. I can check on clarification. I don't believe, though, that they necessarily took a position one way or the other. I think they lobbied the courts on their interests and did not want to definitively support a particular bid. I know they did not support, in the case of the steelworkers at least, what Anvil Range had put forward.
Mr. Cable: Yes, it's my information, and perhaps the minister could check this out, that the union didn't support it, but it wasn't against the motion.
Now, the minister mentioned that things could change. Just what is the minister looking for in the package before the minister will instruct his lawyers to go along with the package?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'm sure the member can appreciate that there are some subtleties around this, given that it's before the courts, and I'm limited as to what I can say at this juncture. However, I've made some public commitments that, number one, we don't want to see the mine sold piecemeal to pay off creditors, because we think it's too important an asset to the Yukon. We're also concerned about the environmental liability and, as federal taxpayers and Canadians, the best way to help get us off the hook as taxpayers, as a territory and as a government, is to have the mine operate.
So, we have some grave concerns about that. So, we would only support anything that made us a very big player in any process that would deal with the dissolution of assets. Secondly, we want to ensure that there's a competitive process for the sale of the property. We don't want it to be engineered or orchestrated by one particular interest. We need to know that there's a competitive process put together to see the mine - if Anvil Range is not successful in restructuring - proceed with a sale to an appropriate buyer through an appropriate, fair process.
Mr. Cable: I gather Anvil Range Mining has prepared a draft plan for the courts. Has the government actually responded to Anvil Range Mining, outlining the government's responses to the various points raised by Anvil Range Mining?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there are constant discussions underway - daily, hourly, on the weekend - between different lawyers and creditors. The response I gave directly to Anvil Range on their plan is just what I told the member opposite. As they work out the details over the next few days, then we will be in a position to give definitive responses to it.
But the bottom lines have to be met. I actually had a frank discussion last Tuesday with the CEO of Anvil Range about the issues, and they understand completely and, I think, agree that we have a reasonable position. They are not being surprised by what we are saying to them.
I've also explained that what took place in the last court case is not necessarily what will take place in terms of the Yukon government's position now. As I said, we put the interests of Yukoners over the interests of any particular company or creditor, keeping in mind there are many Yukon businesses involved as creditors that we have to deal with, as well, in terms of what position we take, and we have to try and deal fairly with their concerns, because some of those companies are hurting quite badly as a result of the closure.
Mr. Cable: So the minister's position, then, is that this government has made it clear to Anvil Range Mining what its concerns are with the plan, and there's been a full response on the issues that have been raised.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know what the member's definition is of "full response." We have expressed our concerns about the lack of clarity in the plan to Anvil Range on a number of issues, yes.
Mr. Cable: On another topic, the business law reform paper that was prepared by Davis and Company, which the minister provided to the opposition - what precipitated the contract to Davis and Company? What problem is being solved by the report that was done?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The issue that was raised by the member's colleague, the leader of the Liberal Party in the debate on Friday, and it's with regard to support of the profession and, essentially, job creation through expanded corporation initiatives by the government, not necessarily by companies that actually make their base here.
Mr. Cable: We just got the documents this morning, of course. Does the minister intend to follow up on the report? Is there a working group set up to deal with business law reform?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, not per se. The department is looking at it. There's a pretty substantial political nut to crack surrounding this issue, as I talked about with the member's leader last week. I mean I haven't heard the definitive position from the members opposite either, I notice. But there's an issue around whether Yukoners - and I'm not saying I agree with it - want to more fully endorse an approach of companies to incorporate here simply for our more favourable laws, when in fact the benefits of that incorporation are not necessarily accrued by that many in the Yukon.
I'm prepared to examine anything, and I would expect that our department would have to crunch this in terms of our analysis on access to capital and investment opportunities that we're perhaps not garnering right now in the Yukon and put it together with that package of elements of expanded opportunities.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister saying that everyone will have to benefit directly - every Yukoner will have to benefit directly - before he would be interested in the proposition?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that the business of businesses setting up here, on paper only and not necessarily in reality, is a concern, philosophically, to a number of Yukoners. And I don't know, quite frankly, whether it is a large concern or whether it is a small concern, and whether or not more people feel, for example, that the economic benefits that do accrue, both in the local industry here, for those in the legal profession, et cetera, and the fact that some of these businesses may want to set up small offices here and hire a person or two people to set up, are legitimate objectives of government to pursue through broadening and increasing our attention to this area.
Myself, I think there is some benefit to it and I'm willing to pursue it. It doesn't have to accrue to everybody, I'm just explaining to the member.
Perhaps he could tell me his views. I'm interested in his views as well. Perhaps he could tell me whether he thinks it's a good idea to pursue and we should be doing it, or perhaps not?
Mr. Cable: I certainly think the issue should be looked at.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: "Exactly," the minister is saying. I think it's a good idea. It doesn't have to benefit everybody. It will indirectly benefit other people if it benefits one element of society.
But if the minister has some philosophical problem with it, just what is it? Is there something he considers unethical about attracting business corporations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'll give the same answer the member just gave me. I think it should be looked at.
With regard to my philosophical bent, I didn't give it to the member opposite. Personally, no, I don't. Professionally, as a politician I'm stating - and I know the leader of the official opposition has had this debate on the floor of the Legislature when he made some changes to corporate tax rates in the territory - it's an issue for some Yukoners.
But do I think it should be looked at? I have the same position as the Liberal Party: yes.
Mr. Cable: And he has the same view that there aren't any earth-shaking philosophical problems, I gather from what he just said. The State of Delaware, which I think has attracted a company as big as Dupont Chemicals, and, of course, many other corporations, have benefited over the years from providing a favourable incorporation regime. I think if one views that activity as having some ethical overtones, then perhaps we should talk about it more, because when one gets into it, I don't think one will find too many ethical problems with it.
The minister also provided this morning a list of the current policy activities of his department. Down at the bottom of the list, under trade and investment - does the minister have a copy of that document with him?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I don't, but I can get one sent down to me immediately. But the member can ask. I might know the answer.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, if we run into problems, I'll just zip out and make a photocopy for the minister.
Under the heading, trade and investment, there are three bullets. One of those bullets says developing government response and extending the agreement on internal trade to the MASH sector. How far are we along on that and what is the problem that we're having to deal with?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, obviously protecting the Yukon's interest. We are actively participating as a government in the discussions. We haven't necessarily gone to all the national meetings, but we certainly have some concerns about the MASH sector and how it pertains to our ability to deliver on our local hire agenda, our standing as a regional economy in the big world of things and the barriers that we do face.
We share those same concerns with the Government of the Northwest Territories to a very large degree.
Mr. Cable: I know that this government hates to have target dates and commitments, judging from comments in Question Period today, but could we get a target date from this minister on when he and his government feel there will be a response developed, so that we'll know whether the Yukon is going to sign on to the amendment to the internal trade agreement?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the Government Leader committed that, when we heard back definitively from the Yukon communities and their views were incorporated, we would be taking a position to Cabinet, and then we would make a decision as to whether we would be interested in pursuing this or not.
Mr. Cable: My understanding is that the AYC has already responded to this many, many weeks ago. Is my understanding incorrect?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There was a response, and then there was a subsequent letter sent out to the communities by AYC to confirm that. The second letter is the one I'm referring to, and I'm not entirely sure if all the responses have been received.
Mr. Cable: The minister's saying that he received a response from the Association of Yukon Communities, which was positive, and then he wrote to the individual municipalities and he hasn't heard from all of them. Is that the way it sits?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No. There was a letter sent out by AYC. I'm trying to recall now. On one end it said they didn't think they had any problems with it, but they wanted to go back - and I think this was actually in the body of a letter sent to municipalities themselves - that they had looked at this, that they didn't think there were any problems, but they'd been requested by us to have a look at it in more detail. That letter's the one I'm referring to.
I'm not sure if all the responses have been garnered from that yet. I will say that I have not communicated directly with the municipalities on this issue. We left the consultation vehicle up to the AYC.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister would be good enough to table his first outgoing letter to the AYC and his response and then his second letter to the municipalities. Is he prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Perhaps I confused the member. I'm not sure if there's one letter or two. I'm trying to go with my memory here. My recollection is that there was one letter sent out by the AYC. I will send any correspondence that I sent on the issue to AYC to the member.
Mr. Cable: In any correspondence coming back, is he prepared to table that, as well?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll check with AYC, but I don't think the director will have any problem with the member getting a copy of the letter.
Mr. Cable: Oh well, that's good. I'm sure the director will probably give it some consideration.
On another issue, on this current policy activities document that was provided to me, under the heading, "energy supply and delivery" - does the minister have a copy now? He could just nod his head. He's nodding his head, so he has the document. Under "energy supply and delivery", there are four bullets. The first one is, "Developing a discussion paper on grid expansion." We heard about that in the budget speech. The second one is, "Identifying measures to reduce and/or stabilize electricity rates." The third is developing recommended policy options for energy rate regulation and the fourth is, "Developing a targeted rate relief program."
Those seem to be, with the possible exception of the first - the grid expansion - within the mandate of the energy commission. Is there independent work going on by the minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, that's the idea behind the commission. We have policy people on energy in the Department of Economic Development. They're working with the commission. That's the whole idea behind it.
Mr. Cable: Is the commission, then, working on the grid expansion, or is that being handled solely by the department?
Hon. Mr. Harding: They are providing some assistance on that issue, but mainly the utilities analyst is working on that. He's also working with the commission.
Mr. Cable: Has the utilities analyst been seconded to the commission, or is he still on the payroll of the department?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll provide the member with some details as to the exact nature of the relationship.
Mr. Cable: I thank the minister. Another heading under the current policy initiatives document is forestry/industry development, and there are two bullets; one is participating in forest strategy development, and the second is developing a forest industry strategy. And we talked a little bit about what the forestry commission was doing in the Executive Council debate. I wonder if the minister would elaborate on what those two items involve?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, again, it's the old commission theme, Mr. Chair. You've got people that the Yukon Party had all over the place in government going around bumping into each other and not generating anything. So we took the bull by the horns, and we said that we've got to focus this policy work so there's -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. The leader of the official opposition is doing his usual math over there. He forgets about the American mediator who flew in and hit the floor during the election campaign and the $1-million stumpage subsidy promise that they tried to buy off the loggers with.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. But anyway, that's ancient history. Let's talk about the here and now.
The people working on forestry work with the forestry commission on a whole range of issues, including forest industry strategies. They also work with them on forest strategy development. Most of the time they work, depending on the issue, with the commission. Sometimes they do work outside of the commission, in a coordinated fashion.
Mr. Cable: Is the minister saying that the forestry policy is being developed partly under the auspices of the forestry commission and partly under his department's control? Are there two separate streams of policy development going on?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No. I'm saying that, when assistance is needed, there are people in government - that was how the commissions were set up - doing policy work in Ec. Dev. They were in Renewable. People from Ec. Dev. are utilized by the commission to generate the policy, but they also do work, from time to time, as economic development, working with the commission under a little bit broader mandate than just policy development.
Mr. Cable: The minister was asked to produce the Yukon industrial support policy documents relating to the Viceroy Resources mine at Brewery Creek and those documents were provided this morning. I haven't had a chance to go through them and compare them with the original contract, but could the minister advise as to whether the mine operation is complying with all the agreements that were in the original contract, the original Yukon industrial support program contract?
Hon. Mr. Harding: My advice is that they are. By all accounts, I would declare that Viceroy has been a good corporate citizen for the Yukon in terms of the opportunities that they've worked with, with the people of Dawson, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation. They make a conscious effort to use local opportunities wherever they possibly can. They've participated in benefits for hospitals. They've participated in good, environmentally sound practices. So, my advice is that they are meeting their commitments.
Mr. Cable: And I take it then that the minister's advice is that the arrangements with the First Nation are working out well?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, you know, there are problems from time to time. There's a new COO, I think, for Viceroy and time will tell how that relationship develops, but in the past I think it's been quite positive to the extent that now they're doing some exploration on some settlement of category A land for Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation. They have an agreement on that. That's essentially groundbreaking work being done in more than one way.
Mr. Cable: Well, I thank the minister for that.
The green power fund paper put out by the Cabinet Commission on Energy deals with a number of issues, and there were some facts raised in the document. Has the minister's department worked with the commission on this particular initiative?
Hon. Mr. Harding: My understanding is that it has done a bit, but I don't know all of the extent of that work.
Mr. Cable: There is some information put out in the pamphlet at page 2 that compares the cost of generation of wind power with the cost of generation by diesel generators. I don't want the minister to jump up with his calculator on the spot here. I wonder if the minister would provide me with a copy of the calculations that went into those two numbers. That's 10 cents for diesel, and I think it's 12 cents to 15 cents for wind power. I'm interested in knowing what the inflation factor was that was put on fuel oil and the cost of money and all the details that went into those calculations. Could the minister agreed to that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will do my best. I should be able to.
Mr. Cable: It would also include the life of the assets and every other factor that's usually considered in the determination of the cost of generation. Are the minister and I on the same wavelength here?
Hon. Mr. Harding: To provide him with hours of bathroom and bedroom reading.
Mr. Cable: Well, on that thrilling note, I conclude my general debate.
Mr. Ostashek: I have a few questions left in general debate. I don't want to go back over the ground that my colleague went over, but I do want to go back to the Faro mine and some of the statements made by the minister, wherein he stated that the best thing for the Faro mine and for the potential environmental liability would be to have an operating mine there to take over the responsibility and see that there was no environmental damage.
Does the minister believe that the courts will be successful in finding another operator - as they did in the Anvil Range situation - another operator that's going to be prepared to accept what I understand now - I don't know how they got the figure, but it's been calculated at $130 million potential environmental liability. Is the minister optimistic that they can find an operator with that kind of a problem to overcome?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it depends on the type of company. Obviously if you have a one-asset mining company, like Curragh was when they started, or Anvil Range, the answer's yes. If you have a big company like Cominco, that's worried about that liability extending to their broader operations, the answer's no. The key to that is going to be some indication from the federal government as to where they stand on the extent of the liability as to how they'll apply it to any prospective buyer.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we're basically having a replay of the scenario that played out in Toronto a few years ago when Anvil Range took over, and a company like Cominco wouldn't touch it because they had some assets that could be attached. So I guess I have difficulty in understanding the minister's rationale that we go through the same scenario again with a company that doesn't have any assets and has to go out and raise all of the money and go into debt quite severely to put the thing into operation - and that it is better for the Yukon as a whole and the people of Faro and unemployed workers and all Yukoners to go through the same scenario that we've gone through several times in Faro.
Does the minister not believe it would be a much better situation if we could get the federal government to accept some of the past environmental responsibility, which they should, rather than to try to foist that off on a new company coming in that had absolutely nothing to do with creating the potential environmental liability that's there? Yet, they're being asked, because the federal government believes they're getting a buy on the assets at a court sale, to accept this potential environmental liability that even the federal government doesn't have an actual grasp on what the figure will be? Does the minister not believe it would be a much more palatable situation if the federal government could be convinced to accept some of the past environmental liability?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I didn't say that it would be better to accept the one-asset mining company. As a matter of fact, the member should know that we didn't support Anvil's plan, and we put forward an agreement with Cominco's motion at the last court date. There is much merit in what the member says. That issue has been discussed ad nauseum by this government and my officials and our lawyers and analysts - lots of different people.
The fear of a larger company - a larger player - taking it over is that, on one hand, it's good because they have deeper pockets and they have knowledge of the industry and extensive contacts, but on the other hand, their incentive and their desire to open the doors and get the mine going is not - when it makes some economic sense, given these prices - that great.
One can only surmise and wonder about the economic pressures that could be brought to bear on any government in the Yukon by those kinds of cards - and the federal government, for that matter.
So, that is a difficult equation. That's why it's been so important that we look at all of the factors surrounding any proposal put forward by anybody and weigh them out very carefully. So, our position is a moving position.
With regard to the federal government, I have made the pitch to them that there should be some consideration, given it's an old liability under older laws, to deal with that liability issue in a new way and one that's fair, but as a price for that, Yukoners have to get something back. And that "something back" is some ability to ensure that that mine isn't going to be sold off piecemeal or used in some big world chess game of the world zinc market.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I guess I'm having a little difficulty with the minister's answers because they seem to be different answers and different desires of the minister. On one hand, he says he wants to see the mine sold as an operating entity, yet on the other hand, he says that the territorial government went along with Cominco and lien holders to put the company into bankruptcy and, doing that, the chance of it being sold as an operating entity is very, very slim.
The one reason - I think the most compelling reason - that it was sold as an operating entity last time was the fact that it wasn't put into bankruptcy. Once it's put into bankruptcy, the lien holders are going to be trying to collect whatever money they can out of it from the sale of assets.
Does the minister not agree?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I don't know where the member's going. I don't think he knows.
Then he turns around and now he's taking a different position. I'll just tell him this: the protection that we've put in any proposal we accepted for the Cominco motion would have allowed the mine to be dealt with on a competitive market bid. That was the key element of supporting that motion at that particular time.
That motion is gone now. There's a new ball game this week, and we're playing in that game. We're going to put the interests of Yukoners ahead of the interests of any specific company or creditor. That's a position we're taking this week, and that's the position we took.
One shouldn't venture out too far without knowing the specifics. I caution the member opposite on this because the Anvil proposal was very, very vague. The mine was put into receivership - Curragh was put into receivership when it was sold before. It had a receiver - Peat Marwick Thorne Inc. It cost $7 million. There are other proposals being put forward by different creditors that don't involve receivers. There has been a myriad of things put forward by different people, so I just caution the member on the extension of the logic that he's using here.
Mr. Ostashek: The member ought to get his story straight. It's not what I'm saying here; it's what he's saying.
On the one hand, he wants to see it sold as an operating entity. On the other hand, he wants to see it put not into receivership, but basically into bankruptcy, because that's what's going to happen. The member is fully aware of that. It's not going to be sitting around long, trying to find a buyer for its entire entity this time. I don't think the courts will go that route with the players that are involved right now, because, as he knows full well, there are some very key players that don't believe it's in their best interest to see it go that way.
The issue that is in front of us is that the minister has to protect the interests of all Yukoners and taxpayers. There is no doubt that no mining company with any assets of any value is going to accept the environmental liability that's there. That's the big nut that there is to crack in the whole issue as to whether that mine ever goes back into production or not.
Nevertheless, my understanding is that, while the court isn't going to convene until Wednesday or Thursday, the decision has already been made as to what's going to happen in the court. Has the minister been briefed in the last few days of anything that transpired last Friday in Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'm not going to prejudge what the court is going to say. I know I've told the Liberal member opposite that there have been discussions going on steady for the last week. There's no arrangement that's been concretely developed that I'm aware of. There may be proposals, but it's not over till it's over and right now, it's not over.
The member's premise is that, if it's put into receivership, it somehow would be sold off piecemeal, I guess. Well, if that were the case, we wouldn't support it and we would demand action by the federal government of which they have some considerable clout regarding that environmental liability to ensure that that did not happen. That's the bottom line for us.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I thank the member for that. It may be his bottom line, but I don't know that we have that much power to stop it. The federal government may put that caveat on it, but then they might be stuck with the mine. I think we both agree, it's going to be hard to find any mining company that has any assets to take on that environmental risk.
Mr. Chair, I just have a couple more questions and one of them is concerning one of our other hard rock mines that is operating right now and is having very serious environmental problems. That's BYG and I heard that they're in the news today asking again for another extension on their water licence in order to overcome the problems. Has the minister had any discussions with them that he could bring us up to date on? Is he optimistic that they will be able to resolve their problems?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, they just achieved some new financing and it's certainly my hope they can produce gold - or so I'm told - at even this price and produce considerable profit generation. So, I'm hopeful that they can overcome their problems with the Water Board, but I haven't discussed the specifics of this new proposal for an emergency amendment.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd just like to ask the minister for a little more information at some point. It doesn't need to be before we're finished debate here. I'm prepared to move to line-by-line debate shortly, but I would like a copy of the evaluation that is going to be done for the Yukon business service centre that states that there shall be a document that states the objectives, activities and intended impacts of the Canadian business centre.
I want to know if this thing is working and what they are generating - or what reports. There should be a report coming to the minister shortly on that, I understand, and I would like to receive a copy of it.
I understand that, under the new long-term funding arrangement that they have with different organizations, there is a requirement for quarterly reports - organizations such as the Federation of Labour, the chambers, the Construction Trade Council, et cetera. Could I call upon the minister to make those reports available to the opposition as he receives them - the quarterly reports - so that we can have a better understanding of what's going on with these organizations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, certainly from talking with the president of the chamber, they seem very pleased - and some chamber members - on an ongoing basis, but I'll provide any information I can to the members on that subject - be happy to.
Mr. Ostashek: Having gotten that commitment from the minister, I'm prepared to go line by line.
On Corporate Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: If the minister could just get up and read the briefing notes that he has on each as we go through them, it would help expedite the debate.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Personnel is $742,000. Do you want the full breakdown or do you want changes?
Mr. Ostashek: Just a quick overview.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Personnel is 11 FTEs, $742,000; travel in territory is $2,000; outside travel is $11,000 for DM for provincial meetings, and officials for industry conferences and meetings; contracts, $16,000, for computer technical support; photocopier services, $5,000; $1,000 for entertainment for the officials at industry meetings; office supplies for the department, acquisition of books, reports, $16,000; communications, $45,000; minor office equipment, $1,000; conference registrations and fees, credit bureau, $3,000; software licences, hardware, $10,000; freight, renovations of a minor nature, $1,000.
Essentially the change is an increase in the forecast of $27,000 for a systems administrator, and a reduction of 25 percent, which is $43,000, for contracts that were reduced, and travel out of Yukon reduced from the previous year's forecast.
Administration in the amount of $868,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $868,000 agreed to
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
Deputy Chair: Seeing no general debate, we will move to -
Mr. Ostashek: Maybe the minister could just advise us. I see a 86-percent reduction in the mineral resources. Could the minister just explain that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's not too hard. That's the loan to Yukon Energy Corporation on Anvil Range's arrears.
Deputy Chair: We will move into line items.
Hon. Mr. Harding: There is only $9,000 in reductions here - sorry, Mr. Chair - and that's a senior directors seconded to DIAND.
Administration in the amount of $77,000 agreed to
On Mineral Resources
Mineral Resources in the amount of $232,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Resources
Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $776,000 agreed to
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $1,085,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
Deputy Chair: Seeing no general debate, we will move to the line items.
On Strategic Management
Hon. Mr. Harding: Just to highlight the changes, we've got an increase of nine percent here, $96,000 in personnel, full staffing this year. The forecast year, which we have an increase over, had vacancies in secretariat officer, FIDO and energy management analyst. We've since staffed that energy management analyst. And there are some increases in program materials.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, we maybe had the vacancies last year but I think they were still budgeted for, were they not?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Not in all of the areas identified. We had vacancies in FIDO, but I believe the analyst and the secretariat officer were not budgeted for.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll ask it in another way. Can the minister tell us if there has been an increase in the number of staff in the department, an overall increase, and how large an increase has there been?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, there has been a small change. The FTEs related to the oil and gas branch have increased from 1.5. There have been some reductions as well in some areas. There has been a position as well of a 0.73 increase, for an oil and gas facilitator. There is a term position for the export facilitator.
There's also money budgeted under trade investment, which could yield if they're staffed - and they're not right now - 1.73 for marketing, communications and assistance to the trade investment diversification strategy. So, if they're all completely staffed, you'd have an increase with the oil and gas branch and in investment of 3.9. They're not all staffed yet.
Mr. Ostashek: I just asked the member if he has an overall for the entire Economic Development department. Does he have those numbers available?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, that is the overall department, so the increase would be, if they were all filled, 3.9.
Mr. Ostashek: It is just about my question. Now we have an oil and gas facilitator. Is our trade and commerce facilitator too busy and our mineral facilitator too busy to handle whatever has to be done on oil and gas? What is the rationale for having another facilitator?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I hope that that oil and gas facilitator's going to be the busiest person in my department. It's something that I think we need. We have to put the department on the scale of mining if we're going to be serious about trying to develop it.
I agree with the member. It's going to take some time, but you have to get to first base, and we're running hard to get there.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, time will tell. There's no doubt that there's a lot of work to do, but I guess I'm a little concerned that, a few years ago, we didn't have any facilitators in the department and now we have three.
Strategic Management in the amount of $1,292,000 agreed to
On Community Economic Development
Community Economic Development in the amount of $146,000 agreed to
Corporate Policy in the amount of $1,438,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
Mr. Cable: The department provided a list of the FTEs in this particular section, and there are shown two FTEs for trade promotion officers - two officers, I presume. What have they been instructed to do?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's the Bert and Bert show in my department. They are working on initiatives and marketing plans for oil and gas. They were the architects behind the web page and ensuring that it's upgraded on a continuous basis. They work with the trade and investment people on planning for investment and marketing strategies. They're often involved in liaising with, for example, Tourism, when our department has to liaise on initiatives with Tourism - those types of duties.
Mr. Cable: There are two FTEs - if I'm reading this document correctly - devoted to marketing promotion officers. What's the difference between a trade promotion officer and a marketing promotion officer?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Excuse me, Mr. Chair, I have to apologize to the member opposite. The marketing promotion officers are the ones that I just described. The trade promotion officers are the people in the department who are working on issues like access to capital, issues pertaining to export trade, issues on the immigrant investment fund - those types of things.
Mr. Ostashek: I see the overall allotment for this department is $1.3 million. This is fairly new to the department. How much of this money is new money, and how much of it is money that's been funneled from other parts of the department?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There is just over $500,000 of new money.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no more debate on this, let's move to activities.
On Trade and Investment
Trade and Investment in the amount of $1,307,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is there any discussion on recoveries and revenue?
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one question here on oil and gas revenue royalties. Is this still being held in trust by the federal government, or have we got it and are we holding it in trust? What's going on with it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: They have it in trust until the transfer date.
Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that this administration chose to advance some of that royalty money to First Nations governments for participation in oil and gas. Where did the money come from to advance to the First Nations if the federal government's still holding it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We haven't advanced the money. There's a commitment against when the money is actually received.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess the question I'm going to have on it then is that my understanding under the Northern Accord is that when the Northern Accord was signed, that only those bands that had finalized their agreements would be eligible to share in the royalty resources. The rest would remain in general revenues of the territorial government. Has there been a change in the government position on my interpretation of what was in the Northern Accord?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there was quite an interpretation battle between First Nations on the Northern Accord. Subsequent to that, we signed a memorandum of agreement, which the member has seen and which sets out a different sharing arrangement among the First Nations. So, there has been a change in the minds of some. In the minds of some, they argued that that was consistent with what was originally intended.
Mr. Ostashek: So basically what the minister is saying is that all First Nations will share in the resource regardless of whether they have completed their land claim agreements or not.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Just of the royalties up to the transfer date. After that, it's back to the more commonly understood arrangement that we're familiar with.
Mr. Ostashek: So the minister is saying that we have made an agreement in the memorandum of understanding that monies that are being accrued now that the federal government is holding will be divided according to a formula among all 14 First Nations and the territorial government on the sharing arrangement that's set out in the Northern Accord. Then he's saying that once the arrangement - be it July 1 or whenever we take over oil and gas - that those bands that have not completed their land claims will no longer be eligible for that royalty, and those will accrue to the general revenues of the territorial government. Am I interpreting that right?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. That's correct. Up until the date of transfer, we have and will be, I guess, under the auspices of the umbrella final agreement, chapter 23, which does put some provisos in the sharing arrangement.
Mr. Ostashek: I guess I'll just say to the minister, good luck. We've been giving the money to the First Nations and all of a sudden we're going to take it away. I think that will be part of vigorous debate.
Mr. Cable: On the revenue side, the business loan interest has been dropping off fairly steadily. When does the minister's department think that that program will be completely wrapped up - all bills paid and all loans repaid?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We don't have an estimate. Obviously, there are some pretty substantial bills left to pay. For some people, the terms are still fairly long. There's not a lot of lending going on, but there's a lot of collecting and attempts to collect going on.
Mr. Cable: In theory, what's the farthest date into the future when the last loan will mature?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I will provide that for the member. We don't have that detail here.
Mr. Cable: I thank the minister for that. Is there any intention of this government to put more money into the business development fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Not at this time.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development iPn the amount of $4,698,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Mr. Ostashek: Does the minister have just an overview of his capital budget that he can give to us? His opening comments in debate on the whole department were very, very brief, and I was just wondering if he has an overview.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, knowing that the member doesn't like long speeches from the Member for Faro, I kept it that way purposely. I don't really have a speech. I see that the Member for Riverside is happy about that. The poor guy had to endure not only general debate the other day, but then he went to the after hours and had to listen to me again.
Mr. Ostashek: Maybe I'll just ask a couple of quick questions then, and see if we can get a little bit more detail.
I see that the capital budget for mineral oil and gas resources is $2.9 million. Can the minister just give us a quick cover of it? I'm not going to ask him in any detail on it. There's another $4.3 in capital for corporate policy. The total capital vote is $7.2 million. If he could just give us a quick rundown of the major expenditures there, I would feel a little more comfortable in clearing it.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know why we couldn't do this through the lines, but I can state that there's a decrease of 75 percent in office furniture and equipment and systems.
In major changes, we've had some increased expenditures in areas of resource assessment. We've had to put some money into computers and systems for oil and gas because we want to upgrade our systems. So, we've put in over $100,000. We've been looking at the grid extension, which is $100,000 that we've put aside for a study there.
We've also had some reductions, obviously, in the CAP project, which is the major reason for the reduction in capital from last year. There is $3.96 million less there. And the increase that offsets that somewhat is the CDF.
So, those are some of the major highlights of the department, the major areas being the difference between CAP and CDF, and our desire to get the oil and gas office systems up to speed.
Deputy Chair: We'll go to the programs and into the line items from there. We'll start with corporate services. Is there any general debate in corporate services?
On Corporate Services
Deputy Chair: Seeing no general debate, we'll go into the line items under corporate services.
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense (Capital Loans)
Bad Debts Expense (Capital Loans) in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
Deputy Chair: We will go into mineral and oil and gas resources. Is there any general debate?
Okay, moving from there, we'll go under capital expenditures.
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Mr. Cable: I've asked this question of the minister's predecessors. I would like this minister's current thinking. Is there any work done to evaluate the two items shown on the yellow page at 4-5 - the prospectors incentive contribution and the prospectors grub stakes contribution - to see how effective they are?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes. The Yukon Party government did an extensive analysis of it, and it was determined that it was a fairly successful program and that's why they made the decision to maintain it. We've maintained it as essentially $500,000 and get reasonably good feedback from industry on it. Of course, why wouldn't you?
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister could just refresh our collective memories. What is this item "target evaluation" of $240,000?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It has to do with when a prospector feels they have a particularly good mineral prospect, and they can quantify it and possibly sell it off at those kinds of levels.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure what the minister is saying. What's he talking about when he says "those kinds of levels"?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it's essentially quantifying the deposit. That's the target level that is used in the analysis.
Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP) in the amount of $506,000 agreed to
On Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys in the amount of $1,391,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Management - Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Oil and Gas Management - Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessments
Resource Assessments in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure Support Programs: Yukon Industrial Support Policy - VLB Resource Corporation
Mr. Cable: I asked this question in the briefing that the minister's deputy provided. Just for the record, are there any other Yukon industrial support policy applications underway and how far are they along?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No.
Mr. Cable: Have there been any inquiries lately with respect to any significant business venture?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Just some preliminary discussions by some companies, but nothing definitive - no applications.
Mr. Cable: I know the minister, when he was in opposition, if I recollect his comments correctly, was somewhat skeptical of this program. What is the minister's present position? Is he fully supportive of the Yukon industrial support policy?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No.
Mr. Cable: What does that translate into? Is he going to close the door on further applicants, or where does he sit?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I think that essentially the Yukon industrial support policy isn't really a policy. It's essentially whatever the government wants to do they can do in just about every case. So, I haven't changed my thinking about the quality of the policy. Will I create a new one? No, I didn't at this time think it was a priority for our government, given the lack of applications, the lack of work we're having dealing with it. We have a lot of other irons in the fire, so I'll have to live with it until I can afford the people to analyze it further. The department has done some work on the policy, but I have not made it a priority. I've got them working on so many other things that it is difficult for them to deal with a tough question like this.
Mr. Cable: Well, acknowledging that the minister's not too excited about the program, would he consider - just so there's more visibility - putting regulations under the Economic Development Act around this program?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member has a love affair with red tape. I've not considered regulations for this program, nor would I want to spend a lot of time on that question, particularly in light of the fact we've had very little uptake on it.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I couldn't let this debate go by without getting into it a little bit. We've have little uptake because people are losing interest in developing mines in the Yukon - one of the biggest reasons that we've had little uptake on it. That is a responsibility of the minister also.
The one thing about the policy, whether the minister likes it or not, is it provided some transparency to government involvement, where the deals weren't being made behind the scenes and the public wasn't aware of everything that was taken into them. While the member's absolutely right, the government can do almost anything they want under the policy, the one thing they have to do is bring it to the floor of this Legislature for debate. That was the main thrust of the policy, and I believe it worked well in the Viceroy Resources situation.
The member himself has just stood in this House today and said that Viceroy is a good corporate customer and is living up to their obligations. I believe that that loan under that policy to Viceroy, spread out over a period of years so that there was some commitment by the company to invest in the Yukon, has been a benefit to taxpayers.
So the minister may not like the policy, and that's his prerogative - he is the minister - but I just wanted to get on the public record that what the policy did do was bring any monies that the taxpayers that weren't being expended in those circumstances out into a forum where they could be scrutinized with total transparency.
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, let me take issue with the idea that people have little interest in developing mines here. I talk to people who want to do that every day. Secondly, if that was the thrust of the policy, I think it missed. Most people know that if there's any budgetary expenditure made, it's open for debate on the floor of this Legislature, with or without this policy.
Infrastructure Support Programs: Yukon Industrial Support Policy - VLB Resource Corporation in the amount of $413,000 agreed to
On Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development
Energy Infrastructure Loans for Resource Development in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Energy Supply Options Planning
Mr. Ostashek: I couldn't let this one go by either, seeing that this was an idea of the loony right that's been adopted, as I said in general debate, by the loony left.
I do want to ask the minister, now that we're into a debate here in Committee, he says that their idea is much better than our idea was. What's different? What's different with this $100,000 that he's going to spend on supply option planning.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, his idea was an idea of the loony right. Our idea is much more measured and thoughtful, and I'll tell you why. The reason is because we're not talking about the massive interlocking power grid with Alaska and B.C., with no concurrence whatsoever from any of the respective jurisdictions.
Secondly, we're not talking about selling surplus power to each other, as the member's idea envisioned. Thirdly, we have some concurrence from B.C. Hydro that they actually want to do this. So, there are three good reasons. Strike three, you're out on the loony right.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, that's a pretty weak statement by the minister opposite. I think his Government Leader had a better one when he was asked the question when the minister was away.
The fact remains that the minister's already been told by people in the power business that we can't afford this kind of an option to import power. Yet, the minister seems bound and determined to go ahead and spend $100,000 to be told the same thing.
The fact remains that if you have a power grid, you can ship power both ways, not just one way. I didn't know that they put check valves in these hydro lines, so that you could only ship power one way.
My colleague asked the question of when this contract was going to be tendered and when the minister expected to have an answer. Can the minister give us that information today?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We're working out the details with B.C. Hydro.
Mr. Ostashek: Does the minister really believe that B.C. Hydro is going to pick up some of the costs of this grid for the small customer base that we have here? We're talking about going to Fort Nelson to hook up to this grid, to service - well, build a line all the way to Teslin and then we have to upgrade the line from Teslin to Whitehorse as well, because the line from Whitehorse to Teslin now isn't capable of handling those kinds of loads. Does the minister really believe that B.C. Hydro is interested in putting money into this?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, if he thinks that our idea is ridiculous, I wonder how he ever supported the even more ridiculous concept that he proposed. All I can tell him is that he should ask the question of the chair of the B.C. Hydro when he comes up to the Yukon, and I'm sure he will, and he can talk about it. I'm sure he'll have lots of answers for the Yukon public, because all I can tell him is that the chair has expressed a lot of interest in doing it, as had the Government of British Columbia, on the basis of improving the power generation and infrastructure of northern British Columbia and its natural extension.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, there's quite a difference between this idea and the idea proposed by the Yukon Party government. First of all, ours was a long-range plan. We didn't dedicate $100,000 to it. We didn't look at it as an option of supplying energy to the Yukon. That's what the difference is. Ours was a commonsense program. This is one that is going to waste $100,000 of Energy Corporation money to be told what the minister's already been told: it's not feasible.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't know why the chair of B.C. Hydro wants to do it, then. Maybe I'm missing something here, Mr. Chair, but I don't know. I can't say any more other than the member opposite's ideology and rationale is completely consistent. It's beyond me. He says he talked about it and he put it forward in a motion, but he obviously didn't believe in it enough to actually put any resources or anything behind it, so it was simply empty rhetoric. So somehow that is better than what we are doing. Go figure.
Deputy Chair: We're still on energy supply options planning.
Mr. Cable: On the inter-tie, just out curiosity, are we talking about a connection with the Alberta grid or the B.C. grid? What's the proposition?
Hon. Mr. Harding: B.C.
Mr. Cable: That would be the high-voltage line up through Fort St. John - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Quite possibly. I know that the chair of B.C. Hydro has expressed some concern about the Stewart extension.
Mr. Cable: I had a conversation where somebody told me that there is a proposed gas pipeline being looked at between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. I think it was the Alliance pipeline, if I remember the name correctly. If in fact that goes forward, that would be one of the possible routes for the extension of the B.C. grid.
Is the minister aware of that possibility?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, but we'll look into it and get back to the member if there's anything to it.
Energy Supply Options Planning in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $2,960,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate? I see no general debate. We'll go to line items.
On Centennial Anniversaries Program
Centennial Anniversaries Program in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Centennial Events Program
Centennial Events Program in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Community Development Fund
Community Development Fund in the amount of $3,500,000 agreed to
On BDF Loan Guarantee Contingency
Mr. Cable: When does the exposure on that loan contingency expire? When does the longest term loan mature?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't have that detail, but I'll provide him with the information and the other information requested on the BDF.
BDF Loan Guarantee Contingency in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
Corporate Policy in the amount of $4,300,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries? I hear no questions.
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $7,270,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is it the members' wish that Committee will return to the Department of Community and Transportation Services after the recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We'll recess for 10 minutes.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would certainly like to start by thanking the House for the concurrence the other day when they allowed me to step away from budget debate when I had a respiratory problem, and it is very deeply appreciated and I thank you very much for that.
I would also like to say that there are three questions from the previous week and two questions from the last day that I was up. I will have the answers to those questions for this evening's debate, and I'll be able to read them into the record.
And as we talked about the ability to talk to those questions, if we had passed along to a full-blown debate, I would certainly be more than willing to answer questions, not all strung out and delayed, but certainly I would appreciate that flow of information. And that is all I have at this point in time, Mr. Chair.
Would it be the pleasure of the House to go right into it? Is that what I'm hearing?
Deputy Chair: That we will go into programs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, is that what I'm hearing?
I can talk about the - we're into the municipal -
Deputy Chair: One moment, Mr. Keenan, I will read the program for the record.
We're on municipal and community affairs division. Is there any general debate?
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Mr. Jenkins: Probably, it's just prudent if the minister could just give a brief overview of any changes in the department or the briefing notes on that area to start off each area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I can elaborate a little. You know that this year we're coming forth with a Municipal Act review. We're talking with the folks out there with rural services, so it's been quite a year. It's been certainly a year that we've been talking to people and garnering their thoughts. As folks know, we are going to be coming this fall with the legislation on the Municipal Act review. Certainly, the rural services consultation that is coming forth is constantly coming. We're having the department out there talking to folks. It's been very invigorating to hear people talk regarding some of their aspirations.
It's certainly in the department's hands now to gather all of the information that they might be able to that is pertinent and certainly we'll be respecting the wishes of the folks in a format that hopefully will include all Yukon people to have their input and to carry forth within the right direction.
That, basically, is about all of the report. There is nothing really specific, as the Member for Klondike has said. There is no briefing note pertaining to this specifically, but certainly many initiatives come together under this one heading.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, is there any information that is available at the current time with respect to the rural services policy as to where we're at and how we're progressing through the consultation process with the communities, and is there some background that has been assembled so far?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As it says here, it will be completed in 1998. As I said earlier, public reaction has been very favourable and very supportive of it. Cabinet has recommended that the policy be developed for the implementation of the 1999 property taxation year and there will be a third and final round of public consultation once the draft policy is formulated.
If the official critic and the critic from the third party would like, I could certainly provide a briefing as to where we're at on this situation from the director that's in charge of it.
Mr. Jenkins: I would specifically like to know where we're at with respect to a uniform fee for the provision of water and sewer services in the unorganized communities in Yukon. That is one area. And what, if any, charges are envisioned for garbage and the sanitary landfill sites.
As I understand it, some will be picked up through the tax base and some will be a fee-for-service charge. In some cases, garbage is a fee-for-service charge and in some cases it's in the tax base. Just where are we going in those two areas and how does it relate to what is being charged in the rest of the Yukon? Those are two areas I would appreciate the minister bringing back some information on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, thank you very much. Yes, Mr. Chair, I will be able to accommodate the Member for Klondike on the question that has two questions within it on the tax base and the fee for service. Certainly, we can do that.
Mrs. Edelman: With that information, I wonder if the minister could also include information about access to things like sewage facilities and to landfill sites and dumps across the Yukon. I know that when I was out at the Mount Lorne municipal meeting there, they had some extended discussions about how to restrict access to their local dump, and I'm wondering if there is any policy being developed along issues around access. Also, out at Marsh Lake, with the new sewage system being built, whether there is going to be any sort of restriction on access and whether only local people are allowed to use it, et cetera, et cetera.
Issues like that I'd like to have some clarification on as well.
In addition to that, can the minister please forward information about whether there has been any change in policy about elite athletes or whether there's been a change in policy with the granting on - well, it's my understanding that youth get first priority and I'm wondering whether that's still the case. I'm also wondering if there's been any change to the programming for elite athletes. And I say this because I have two elite athletes in my riding and they'd like to know.
Deputy Chair: I'd just like to mention - would you prefer to do it in the line-by-line items, instead of the general, because the questions that have been asked are line-by-line questions.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can endeavour to answer one of the questions regarding access. But that's what we're doing at this point in time. We're out there investigating how to handle garbage in a manner that's consistent with the Yukon residents' wishes, and it's been pursued here, as it says here, on several fronts - the rural service policy, it's handling.
There's also a study of handling garbage south of Whitehorse. That will be carried out.
C&TS is also in the process of investigating the cost of imposing a ban on the burning of the garbage. As well, Renewable Resources is investigating the effects of burning on air quality.
All those things are coming in to a head, and certainly the access to the sewage lagoons and/or the dumps and the landfills - I believe, as the Member for Riverdale South put it - will be incorporated into that process.
Changes in the policy regarding the elite athletes and the youth is not handy at my fingertips here, and certainly, while the department is listening, I will certainly be working to get an answer to the member opposite. I'd like to bring some comfort, though, that I do not believe there has been an anticipated change in policy at this time. We haven't looked at it, although with the advent of the Arctic Winter Games restricting, I know I've been starting to get a few inquiries about what does it truly mean, et cetera.
So, at this point in time, I am looking to have meetings with the different people who are affected, some of the coaches, certainly the Host Society and others. So we're going to be doing some good work in there and getting some answers that we'll be more than willing to share, and I thank the members for their concern.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no more general debate, we'll move to the line items.
On Assistant Deputy Minister's Office
Assistant Deputy Minister's Office in the amount of $169,000 agreed to
On Lands and Property Assessments
Lands and Property Assessments in the amount of $3,312,000 agreed to
On Public Safety
Mr. Jenkins: What changes are we looking at here? Is there any more downloading of responsibility to other agencies for inspections services? And are the various areas where inspection services are carried being carried out in a consistent and uniform manner, Mr. Chair? And the number of inspections is a report on them for the various categories. I know the minister answered the one question with respect to electrical inspections. Are there any other areas that appear to be out of line? There are some variances.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, there are no aspects of downloading or anything like as such in here, but I can redirect from the book if the Member for Klondike would like. We are spending $1,020,000 for personnel, which includes salaries and benefits from the 16 FTE positions - administration, electrical safety, mechanical, building, plumbing and fire protection; $449,000 for other, which is $67,000 for travel of which $60,000 is in the Yukon and $7,000 is outside of the Yukon; $50,000 for honoraria for the fire volunteers; $20,000 for contract services; $55,000 for repairs and maintenance; $95,000 for internal charges for vehicle usage; $80,000 for utilities and $45,000 for the communications; and, $37,000 for various other requirements on it.
The member is right. There was a mistake there. I just asked the department to come with explanations and I was told, just this afternoon, that it has more to do with the way of reporting now than it is actually with the work that has been carried out. Certainly, that note should be here this afternoon. On the process of the reporting of it, I would share the information with members.
Mr. Jenkins: Last year, there were changes to the Workers' Compensation Act that provided coverage retroactively and picked up the unfunded liability for volunteer fire brigades throughout rural Yukon. Just how much of a cost are we budgeting in this fiscal period for that unfunded portion of the liability? I know I did get an answer from the Minister of Economic Development as to what they anticipated the cost will be. What has the cost been for the last period and what are we anticipating spending in the next fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is the type of information that I will have to get back to the member opposite.
Just for clarification, did I hear "last period" and "next fiscal year"? Or was it both fiscal years?
Mr. Jenkins: What did we spend in the last fiscal period, and what are we anticipating spending in the next fiscal period? I believe it approached a couple of hundred thousand dollars as to what we anticipated the unfunded liability portion to be, but it was broken down over a period of fiscal years.
Has the issue of the wages for the volunteers been resolved, as to how we treat them? Is there a consistent policy in place for WCB coverage?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. Again, Mr. Chair, the issue of wages for volunteers is the information I will again have to look into and get back for the member opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: In the fall we passed the amendments to the Public Health and Safety Act and those regulations were being developed. I'm just wondering where we are on that and whether any of that is impacting on the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, again I do not have that information at my fingertips, but certainly my colleague to the right will assist me in getting the information and we'll get back promptly.
Public Safety in the amount of $1,469,000 agreed to
On Sport and Recreation
Mr. Jenkins: For all our efforts concentrating on sports and recreation, we're looking at a substantial decrease in this line item. Why, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That was due to the transfer payments for the various recreation and sport groups, such as the Arctic Winter Games that we have just now incorporated into the last year.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be more specific about the reduction in this line item? I know that there's a new policy for funding of unorganized communities for recreational purposes, but when you look at the amount of money flowing in that area and when you look at all of the total monies flowing, what's changed to make this significant increase? We're showing an eight percent decrease in overall costs for sports and recreation, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's from a decrease of $141,000 from 1997-98 to 1998-99 in the transfer payments covering North American Indigenous Games of $29,000; the Yukon sport governing bodies, $15,000; Arctic Winter Games, $100,000; Sport Yukon, $19,000; and various smaller contributions of $8,000, which is partially offset by the increase of $30,000 for the 1998 games.
Sport and Recreation in the amount of $1,738,000 agreed to
On Community Services
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide information on this line item, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. Of the total, $573,000 is for personnel, which includes salaries and benefits for the director, 4.3 FTE positions in community planning and three FTEs in community services; $76,000 for other, which includes $15,000 for travel in Yukon, $9,000 for contract services, $8,000 for photocopier rental and internal charges for vehicle usage, $15,000 for supplies, $8,000 for program materials, $10,000 for communication, $11,000 for other program requirements; $15,445,000 for transfer payments; $3,807,000 for grants-in-lieu of property taxes; $11,470,000 for the comprehensive municipal grants; $52,000 for the community and hamlet operation and maintenance grant; $50,000 for the Association of Yukon Communities; and $66,000 for the Selkirk First Nation local service agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: What's the anticipated increase in grants-in-lieu this year versus the last fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The forecast for 1997-98 was $3,693,100 and the estimate now in 1998-99 is $3,807,292.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister indicate where the lion's share of that increase is incurred, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's an actual percentage change of two percent. The increase has been in the home owner grants and is due to more applicants coming on.
Mr. Jenkins: I was referring to the grant-in-lieu, not the home owners grant. That's a separate item in that budget line.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I will have to get that information back to the member opposite as to the complete breakdown.
Mr. Jenkins: Will the minister consider bringing his deputy minister into the House to assist him in answering these questions? A lot of these questions that are being posed are very straightforward. I don't want to inconvenience the department with having to respond to over half the questions that have been posed here in just the last few minutes. It would certainly speed debate in the House if the minister would have his deputy minister with him to just point out these items in the briefing books.
Would the minister consider that, or are we going to go on in this agonizing manner?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly I will consider it not an agonizing matter. Certainly I am attempting and will get the information to the member as requested and give the member exactly what has been asked for in terms of the estimates and the increase. At my fingertips, I do not have it. It is not in this package at this point in time - the complete breakdown for the lion's share, as the member has said. But certainly, in a timely fashion we will get the information to the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: So can we stand aside this area until we have the answers back, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure if we have to stand it aside until we get the information back. We will get the information to the members as requested, as I said coming into the House. Certainly, I will endeavour to work with the folks of the House here and will continue to do so.
We will get the information back to the members opposite as requested. Certainly, if it's a case of speeding up or slowing down, I am not wanting to withhold any information. I will continue to provide the information as required and as available. So certainly, I've said to the member opposite that if we work and cooperate together underneath this heading, we will continue to provide satisfactory answers and have satisfactory debate and get the information, which I will share with the others.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we've only been here for a very short time, and I have 11 questions arising out of these few line items that require the minister to bring back an answer into the House. They're very simple, very basic questions that are being posed to the minister and that the minister should have a firm handle on. For some of them, perhaps the numbers would require a little bit of research, but by and large they are specific questions that are very, very straightforward. For us to ask these questions and not have an answer forthcoming and have to wait for that answer is extremely demanding of the time of the House.
We've got to speed up the process in this House, and the only way to do it is for the minister to answer the questions in a very timely manner. Most of this information should be at the minister's fingertips. He has been in his office now for some 16 or 17 months, and he should have a handle on this department and these areas. The answers are still not forthcoming, so if we can stand that line aside until we get the answers back, we can move on, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair: Shall the line item stand?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Community Services stood over
On Engineering and Development
Mrs. Edelman: Could we have detail on that one, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, $298,000 is for personnel. It consists of the salaries and benefits for two administration staff, a half TE position for mosquito control and $146,000 for internal labour charges for garage operations for repairs to sewer and water trucks, and from the highway maintenance for maintenance of some dumps and access roads.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide the total cost for the half TE for mosquito control, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: An increase of $33,000 from 1997 to 1998, and $11,000 is due to the 1998-99 budget for administration salaries and wages being higher than 1997-98, and $8,000 is due to the mosquito control program being done in house.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for from the minister is the total cost of the FTE for the mosquito control program. The minister indicated that he had one-half of an FTE there. What is the cost of that to the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that answer would have to come back and I do believe it is on its way with the question that was asked previously, but certainly we will endeavour to do so.
Engineering and Development in the amount of $727,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on statistics supplementary?
Mrs. Edelman: I have a question about recreation in Ross River. There has been a change in where those recreation dollars are going and I wonder if the minister could elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the community is taking responsibility for that and it's done through the sport and recreation branch staff who are providing guidance and support to the local authority and the local authority is the Ross River Dena Council.
On Capital Expenditures
Deputy Chair: Okay, hearing no more discussion, we will move to capital. Is there any general debate on the Office of the Deputy Minister?
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just provide a departmental overview on the capital side of the equation, please, Mr. Chair?
Deputy Chair: That's page 3-2.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, I do not have page 3-2 within my briefing book.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's time we got some assistance for the minister. Could we have a brief recess? Could the minister go and get his deputy minister and come back and find these pages in his briefing book, the main binder?
Mr. Chair, how can we debate something when the minister can't find it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I apologize. I do not have pages 3-2 to 3-9 in my book. They've been removed.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the members to take a recess until the pages are found?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Five minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on office of the deputy minister.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I have information for the member opposite on community services.
May I give that information, as I have it?
Deputy Chair: Just some clarification here, Mr. Keenan. Are you going back to the item that was stood aside?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes.
We will return to O&M under community affairs division.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division - previously stood over
On Community Services - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the 1997-98 main estimate for the grant-in-lieu increased $725,000, and it's mainly for the hospital and the airport.
Mr. Jenkins: There was still some additional information that was forthcoming from public safety, Mr. Chair, before we clear that area.
Deputy Chair: I believe public safety was cleared. We are on community services.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but we stood aside the total before we cleared that area. The total municipal and community affairs was stood aside until we receive the balance of the information that the minister has promised.
Deputy Chair: It's my understanding that we stood aside community services. Therefore we couldn't clear the total. So the questions that we're dealing with are in community services.
Mr. Jenkins: It was my understanding that we were standing aside that one line item and this whole amount until we received the information from the minister on the various questions that were raised that he's promised us answers for. I'm not prepared to clear the line item until we receive the information.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The information is coming, Mr. Chair. I did share the information that was brought to me at the break. The member will get his information.
Deputy Chair: Okay, so we still have an issue with the public safety, but will community services clear then?
Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Chair, until such time as we have the information. Let's just leave it stood aside and move into the capital area that we had agreed to.
Deputy Chair: Is that acceptable in here, to leave this to decide on later and go back to capital until the information that was requested is brought forward?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have not a problem with that, Mr. Chair.
Community Services - stood over
On Capital Expenditures - continued
Office of the Deputy Minister - continued
Deputy Chair: Okay, we'll go back into capital. We're on the office of the deputy minister and we're in general debate still.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister please provide a description of the line item, Mr. Chair?
Deputy Chair: Mr. Jenkins, just to get it clarified here, do you have questions in the line items or do you want to debate just the debate overview?
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could just provide that department overview or that area overview and then go into a little bit of an explanation on the line items to start, that will speed up the debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As you can see, there is nothing for the deputy minister in the 1998-99 estimates as there was nothing in the 1997-98 forecast, which would clear that, so I can go into the emergency measures. Is that what the member is asking?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is nothing in there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No.
Deputy Chair: One moment please. I believe what was requested is just a general review of the department touching on the line items that are included with the costs, and from there, we can move into line items debate.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, if the minister doesn't have any notes on that, maybe he can wing it, and we'll just see how much he knows about that office.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I can certainly move into the debate if that is the general wish of the members here. Certainly, as we say, we have a total vote of $23,823,000, with recoveries of $8,725,000. I'm certainly prepared to go in and talk about the department in itself and to move forward. As I said, there is nothing for the office of the deputy minister but, as we move through, there are certainly other expenditures.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not too sure - and once again, this is where we've all got lots of information and very little of it seems to be that organized - but in general debate, just for information, under capital, one of the issues that comes up over and over again is issues in the motor vehicles branch. The motor vehicles branch is in the Department of Community and Transportation Services and there is no line item in capital on this issue, but it speaks to revenues and, of course, we don't discuss recoveries in general.
The areas in motor vehicles where it looks like we could possibly be making some money in order to recover our costs so that we don't continually have to put money into road tests, for example - I wonder if the minister could speak a little bit to the idea of recovering costs in motor vehicles, for example.
Just as a general philosophy or a general policy question, does the minister believe that we should be looking at recovering some of our costs in the motor vehicles branch?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, in a general sense it's always good to be able to do such. I must say that there no briefing notes or anything, like as such, as the member has said. Certainly, though, if we do something like a cost recovery or whether it's taxation or a perception of any of them, it must be communicated well and certainly must not be putting any undue hardship onto the people who would be using the service.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that makes infinite sense.
One of the things that happens in motor vehicles is that when people are told to take a defensive driving course, for example, if they've had an impaired charge, the department pays for that. In other jurisdictions, that's paid for by the person who's had the impaired charge, and I'm just wondering if that's one of the things that we might look to recover our costs on.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, there's something that could be taken into consideration and we'll have discussion with the department.
Mrs. Edelman: Another thing that the department does is they give road tests, and they charge a dollar for road tests, but the cost for road tests, particularly in the communities, is quite phenomenal. You send somebody up there, there's the cost of mileage, pay for the hotels, you pay for the staff time, and then you charge somebody a dollar. There are people in the communities already who could offer that service, and I'm wondering whether the minister would consider also recovering some costs in that area as well, perhaps by sending that into the private sector.
For example, if you're going to inspect large vehicles, the private sector does that.
Because there are so many places that offer that service, you are at a point where it's actually quite affordable. That's what happens in the marketplace - you create a demand. When the demand's there, then a number of people go to answer that demand and it brings the cost down.
Would the minister consider maybe getting some costs back for a road test, which we now charge a dollar for? I am sure in some places it really costs us, the taxpayer, up to $100 a pop.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, it is a matter of case work at this point in time. We are looking at it at this point to see if we can be taking road tests into the private sector within the communities, or wherever. Certainly, that has been researched now, and we'll get the information back when applicable and ready.
Mr. Jenkins: I can see the headlines in the paper tomorrow: "Liberals advocate $100 road test for rural Yukoners." You'll probably be out of the limelight, Mr. Minister.
If we could get back to the basics, the office of the deputy minister has a number of components to it. Does the minister have an overview as to what is changing within that department? Does he have a brief narrative of the area, encompassing emergency measures, EMO and communications? We can see full well that the deputy minister's office has no prior year's projects. That budgeted at zero. So, is there some sort of a narrative that the minister can provide?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, there is not some sort of a narrative that the minister could provide at this point in time. Certainly the narrative is included within the line-by-line items, and it would be more than my pleasure to take the folks through it.
Deputy Chair: Can I suggest that we go into line-by-line items?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would suggest that, the time being close to 5:30, we adjourn until 7:30.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: Order please.
I really do appreciate the guidance that I'm receiving. Is it the wish of the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Chair: We're just about there. Don't worry.
The time being 5:30, the Committee will recess until 7:30 this evening.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division - previously stood over
On Community Services - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do have responses to questions that were raised earlier during the budget debate. I have copies for the opposition and for the table.
I'd like to start with the question raised by the Member for Klondike on the WCB coverage for the volunteer firefighters, and I'll just read the responses actually. Or should I read the question into the record? The question from Mr. Jenkins: "Last year there were changes to the Workers' Compensation Act that provided coverage retroactively and picked up the unfunded liability for volunteer fire brigades throughout rural Yukon. Just how much of a cost are we budgeting in this fiscal period for that unfunded portion of the liability? I know I did get an answer from the Minister of Ec. Dev. of what they anticipated the cost will be. What has the cost been for the last period and what are we anticipating spending on the next fiscal period?"
Volunteer firefighters are covered under the new WCB policy for volunteers under section 4.1(8)(a) of the amended Workers' Compensation Act. No monies are paid to the WCB on behalf of volunteers by the PSC or the C&TS. There is a claim and YTG picks up the cost of the claim from the Workers' Compensation Board.
The process of how the WCB wages to volunteers who are injured is determined is outlined in section 3, page 3 of the act that we have distributed for your review.
As to the question raised by Ms. Edelman with regard to the Public Health and Safety Act and regulations, the question was this: "In the fall, we passed amendments to the Public Health and Safety Act and these regulations were being developed. I'm just wondering where we are on that and whether any of that is impacting on the department?"
The Public Health and Safety Act and regulations belong to the Department of Health and Social Services.
On a question raised by Mr. Jenkins on statistics: what changes are we looking at here? Is there any more downloading of responsibilities to other agencies for inspection services? And in the various areas, where inspection services are being carried out, are they being done in a consistent and uniform manner? A number of inspections have a report on them for the various categories. I know the minister answered the one question with respect to electrical inspections. Are there any other areas that appear to be out of line? There are some variances."
There has not been any change in policy. Last week, we noted that there was a typo in the electrical statistics - a 2,500 to 1,500, I believe. With regard to the projected increase in the number of fire inspections, the fire service staff is working closely with the municipalities outside the City of Whitehorse in a coordinated manner, and gas inspections are expected to continued to decline due to the high cost of propane gas.
There was a question on the ore haul route: what does it cost to maintain these roads when the ore trucks are hauling, and what does it cost when they're not hauling? When the ore trucks were fully operational, the additional highway maintenance cost was $763,000 per year to maintain the highways on the ore haul route.
The 1997-98 forecast total for highway maintenance has only $275,000, as the mine operated for only part of the year.
Questions concerning the mosquito program from Mr. Jenkins: first, what was the cost per bag of larvicide in 1997? Two, is carrying out the program in house cost-effective when we consider that the Yukon government is required to carry the capital cost of the equipment? Three, just how was two tonnes of larvicide moved around in vehicles belonging to personnel supervising the program? Four, who was doing the certification for the Government of Yukon? Who was actually certified to undertake this type of application? Five, the contractor is required to provide up to a five-percent variance without the government paying for any overrun. The government purchased 200 bags but applied only 103 bags and had to carry the cost of the remaining bags over the winter. Why are there different rules for the contractor than for the government? Six, who undertook the adult mosquito control program last year? And, seven, is the pilot of the helicopter certified?
In response, number one, the cost per bag is not a meaningful measure of program effectiveness. Larvicide applied where there are few larvae to control provides little benefit. In 1997, the local communities were given much greater control in deciding what areas should be treated so only those areas where larvicide application provided a significant benefit were treated thereby providing maximum benefit at minimum cost. This had the effect of significantly lowering the cost to communities while retaining the benefits. The government could have reduced the cost per bag simply by increasing the number of bags applied; however, the objective was to get the most benefit from the lowest total cost. Treatment desired by the communities was provided with fewer bags of larvicide than was used in the past. However, this resulted in a higher cost per bag while reducing total cost.
Number two, the government has carried the capital cost whether the program was done in house or done by contract. The government loans out equipment to the communities that participated in the program, and the contractor has never provided the equipment.
Number three, the larvicide is not all moved at the same time, but only the amount needed in a particular area is transported to that area. When staff then travels to another area, a larvicide for the new area is transported.
Four, there are currently no provisions for certification of applicators in the Yukon, so in accordance with pesticide regulations under the Environment Act, the Yukon government accepts provincial certification. For the individuals requiring certification, the Yukon government obtains course material from the B.C. government and puts on a course. Exams are prepared by and marked by the British Columbia government. Applicators who pass the courses are certified in British Columbia.
Five, the amount of larvicide purchased in 1997 - 200 bags - was based on the average quantity the contractor charged for over the past five years. However, actual requirements were much lower. It resulted in a reduction in program costs but a requirement to carry an inventory of larvicide until 1998. Savings realized by not applying more larvicide than required were much greater than the five-percent potential saving had the work been done by the contractor.
Six, the control of adult mosquitoes in 1997 was the responsibility of local communities, the same as had been done in previous years.
Seven, there is no requirement for the helicopter pilot to be certified, only that he or she works under the direction of a certified applicator.
In response to a question raised by the Member for Klondike on pedestrian traffic on bridges at Carmacks and Pelly: "Ccould the minister apprise the House as to what has been done in regard to pedestrians using a bridge surface to walk across when there is a walkway right adjacent to bridges at Carmacks and Pelly? Is the position not to install streetlighting on the bridge itself a government policy, or is it some sort of an oversight?"
Seeing as the two questions are interrelated, I would like to deal with both in this one response. The department is interested in ensuring that pedestrians use the walkways in order to ensure safety. The department is looking at ways of encouraging the pedestrians in that direction. As the members are aware, adequate signage already exists for the use of walkways. As I've stated before, one means of dealing with this problem is through public education. The department will start encouraging the use of walkways in its public service announcements and on-road reports.
With respect to the lighting, there is no policy disallowing the installation of lighting on bridges. Lighting on bridges may be another way to encourage the use of walkways, especially in the winter, when it is dark. I've advised the department to assess the feasibility, including the financial implications of installing street lights on the walkways.
There was a question raised by Ms. Edelman on the secondment of employees: "There are a number of C&TS employees who may not have been seconded, but who are now working in other departments, not in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Could we get a general indication of how many staff are not actually working in C&TS, but are performing C&TS functions in other departments?"
There are no staff who are not actually working in C&TS, but are performing C&TS functions in other departments. However, during the 1997-98 fiscal year, eight C&TS employees were seconded to other departments and organizations and five staff were seconded to C&TS from other departments. Salary and benefits are the responsibility of the host department and organization.
In a question raised by Mr. Jenkins on the speed limits: "When are the posted speed limits going to be raised on a lot of the Yukon highways?"
Reconstruction of the remaining portions of the Alaska Highway is being carried out to 100-kilometres-per-hour standard and, as this work is completed, the 100-kilometrs-per-hour speed limit will be extended to include the newly constructed areas. While the south Klondike Highway and some sections of the north Klondike and Campbell highways meet the 90-kilometres-an-hour design standards, these highways are built to a narrow standard than the Alaska Highway. In order to meet 100-kilometres-per-hour standards, wider shoulders and great improvements would be necessary at a large cost.
The common standard of practice, established by the traffic engineering profession and adopted by Canadian road authorities, is to post speed limits at or below the highway design speeds, so that, under normal conditions, drivers should be able to negotiate curves, overtake and come to a stop safely at the posted speeds.
In a question raised by Mr. Jenkins on proposed subdivision regulations: "Is there a background paper that we could peruse at our convenience, and come to an understanding of where we're heading with respect to subdivision regulation?"
I have tabled copies of the highlights of the changes in the draft subdivision regulations for the information of the members. This package was utilized for the second round of public consultation. We are planning to have the regulations go to Cabinet by mid-May of 1998 and, if a briefing is requested, we would certainly be able to provide a briefing.
In response to a question raised by Mr. Jenkins again, on the memorandums of understanding: "Can the minister table a copy of the MOU with British Columbia on inter-jurisdictional issues and the MOU respecting a federal-provincial-territorial agreement on vehicle weights and dimensions? Does the MOU with British Columbia cover the Stewart-Cassiar Highway?"
I have tabled the following memorandums of understanding: the federal-provincial-territorial agreement on vehicle weights and dimensions and the British Columbia MOU on interjurisdictional transportation issues. The MOU with British Columbia covers the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, in terms of liaising regarding capital and operations planning.
Therein are the answers to the questions that have arisen so far, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to go back on a couple of the answers we received, and thank you very much for the timely responses. It certainly makes the debate a little bit more intelligent.
The issue around the Public Health and Safety Act and regulations - although the regulations do belong to the Department of Health and Social Services, they impact C&TS directly. And I suppose that that's my concern: what is the cost to the department? If I could get that information, I would greatly appreciate it. Certainly, these regulations do affect municipalities. What sort of consultation is being done with municipalities and with the department on this particular issue?
On the issue of secondment of employees, I believe that I haven't been clear on what my request was. The information I'm requiring, Mr. Chair, is the information about what employees, who would normally be working in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, are working in other departments. They don't necessarily have to be performing C&TS functions, but how many are working somewhere else?
Lastly, because we're still in general debate, I feel that, once again, I probably didn't get my point across well before the break. I obviously didn't, because the Member for Klondike thinks that I want to charge people from the rural communities $100 a road test - which, clearly, was not my point.
I suppose the point that I was trying to make was in talking about having to cut costs. Typically what this government does, or what most governments do, is they go right to capital, and particularly they go to the biggest department, and that usually is Community and Transportation Services, no matter what province or territory you happen to be in. And what we've done here is to sort of indiscriminately cut back large amounts of capital as a way to save money. That's a good idea. I think that it's good to save money, but I think we have to be looking at how we save money wisely.
There are some things that the department does that maybe we should be charging for. For example, why are we paying for defensive courses for people who have had an impaired charge? That doesn't make a lot of sense. I don't want to have my taxpayer dollars used to subsidize that particular program.
I think that, before we look at cutting costs, we have to get a good indication of what we are paying our dollars for, and I don't think that that's done very well in some cases. I think that's largely because it's a government and governments aren't used to looking at the true cost of delivering services.
I used the example of the road test, and much to my horror - the horror of horrors - found out that I was being misunderstood again, of course. I used the issue of the road test as an example of how we don't really look at the costs of what we're doing. The cost for a road test in a rural community, for example, costs us quite a bit of money, and it costs us less in Whitehorse. And there doesn't seem to be a really accurate accounting for that.
One of the things that we are going to have to be examining at some point in the very near future is that, if we are going to be cutting costs, one of the ways that we might do that is by - one of the things we have to look at, not that we have to do it, but we have to look at, is examining the possibility of putting other functions that the Department of Community and Transportation Services does out into the private sector. And in order to do that, we have to have a true accounting of what our costs are.
I think that that's really important. I know in Alberta, for example, that they now do road tests in the private sector. I believe they do mosquito control in the private sector. And they even do licence plates in the private sector in Alberta, and I think that's something we at least have to look at.
All that I'm saying is that if we're going to be looking at cutting costs, the easy way is just to lop off those few hundred thousand dollars from the top of a capital project. It makes sense for us to really look at where our costs are in the department and the costs of the services that we're looking at specifically, and to look at other options of delivering those services efficiently and well to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I've attempted to get the major portions of the questions, and certainly the department will have to review the Hansard to get them all. But I think that the member, if I could - to reiterate just a bit - is saying in a meaningful and a thoughtful way if we were to do any cost cutting to do it certainly in a meaningful and thoughtful manner and to look at being able to devolve or maybe empower - I'm not sure of the language - through the private sector or others - in such cases it might be because we went from licence plates to driving to mosquito control to road tests in the same statement, more or less. Certainly I would be - and am - in all cases looking at a thoughtful way of doing it so that it's not simply a reaction to less money, when usually what you do is cut 10 percent across the board and then that's it. No, to certainly see how we can spend dollars wisely and to get the best bang for the dollar, such as the member said, by using the one dollar example as compared to the hundred dollar expenditure that might have been there. So, certainly I take that into consideration and refine the thoughts and the directions that we might be able to use.
Also, on the cost of the Public Health and Safety Act regulations - the cost for the municipality cost consultation - that's a answer that I don't have exactly right at my fingertips. But here let me say in that Public Health and Safety Act that - coming down the tube here. Everybody ready? Flashing news bulletin - the only cost to the C&TS may be in the case where a building or a plumbing inspector may not inspect a sewage disposal installation belonging to a homeowner.
Now, I have attempted to capture as many of the questions of the Member for Riverdale South as I possibly could, and certainly, as I said, upon review we'll be working the direction given into the thinking that we have.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that I need to clarify again that I'm not saying specifically that road tests should be done in the private sector - or mosquito control. All I'm saying is that it's something we have to examine, and the department has far more resources than the people on this side do, and access to information, and they have the option of looking at what they're doing in other jurisdictions. And I'm not saying that the private sector is necessarily the best way to deliver a particular program. I'm just saying that it might be something we'd want to examine.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Point taken.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple of questions arising out of the information the minister supplied, Mr. Chair, and I'd like to thank the department officials for responding quickly. I mean, we've only got about an inch of material to digest in about five minutes, so I thank the minister.
The first number of issues I'm comfortable with - the first three. On the mosquito control program, if we looked through the questions that I raised, Mr. Chair, and the answers I received, I have to compliment the department in providing non-answers. The first question was quite specific: what was the cost per bag of larvicide in 1997? The response I got was, The cost per bag is not a meaningful measure of program effectiveness."
Well, that's not the question I asked. Program effectiveness is when we don't get bitten by mosquitoes during the course of the summer in all our Yukon communities and outlying areas. But my question was, what was the cost of a bag of larvicide? And that's the answer I was hoping to receive, not two paragraphs outlining why the cost of the bag of larvicide is meaningless.
When we look at the total program, Mr. Chair, we see a considerable reduction in the area treated under the mosquito control program last year vis-à-vis the area treated previously. I'm just questioning whether this is a meaningful use of the taxpayers' money. Now that we've taken the whole program virtually in house, we have a number of individuals - one half of an FTE - that I can't get the cost for. The minister hasn't been able to provide that.
So, we don't know the cost of that half TE, as well as the overhead and management costs. Now, the overhead and management costs would be there, irrespective of whether we contracted out or not. So, I'm just making a statement here that we probably derive more benefits from contracting out this program than we do doing it in house. I can't get any answers from the minister as to what it actually costs. It's like pulling hens' teeth.
Would the minister kindly provide the answers to the questions raised. What is the cost of a bag of larvicide in 1997? What you do is take the cost of your bag of larvicide, the area treated and the cost of treating it, and you come up with a total cost. That area treated has been consistent over the years. Could the minister undertake to provide that information, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just on the first comment, I guess, on the proposed subdivision regulations. It was seen in the question: "Is there a background paper that we can peruse at our convenience." Certainly, the convenience is five minutes only. Well, then, don't put that on to the department, because that is what we have done. We are offering a briefing or anything like as such to the member opposite, so we would be more than willing to do that.
Again, in all fairness, I believe that the questions on the mosquito control program came up on April 1, but the FTE and the cost of the half-time TE came up this afternoon. Certainly, the department is following through, or will follow through on the cost of the half-time TE. As I just look at the questions from one to seven that were raised, there was no such question as to the overhead and management costs. Mind you, I might have missed that. My apologies if we have missed that. As to the actual costs, the member is asking what are the actual costs per bag for larvicide in 1997. Certainly we can provide that and will provide that to the member opposite. Also, we are giving the Member for Klondike the opportunity to, I guess, look at the philosophy or the process that we would use to bring costs down.
Certainly, I will be more than happy to provide the costs.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess where we're heading, Mr. Chair, is that, when one analyzes this program, there appears to be a resulting saving in dollars. But when you look at the area that was treated, the cost for treating less of an area was substantially higher. So the program costs in house, I'm sure the minister can agree, were considerably higher than contracting out in previous years.
Does the minister not agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's not whether I agree or disagree at this point in time. I do believe that we're here to answer the questions in a timely manner, and certainly I will endeavour to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what the minister is charged with is the prudent expenditure of taxpayers' dollars, and does the minister believe this to be a prudent expenditure of taxpayers' dollars, or is he of the opinion that we could be more cost-effective contracting this service out?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the member is correct that we certainly always look to spend and expend taxpayers' dollars in a very mindful, thrifty manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister, after seeing all this information flow and the calculations that were provided, not believe it would be more prudent to contract out this service than keep it in house?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I do believe that this is the last time I'm going to rise to the great mosquito debate this year. But, certainly, I do believe that we will answer the member's questions as he asked - costs specifically to the cost per bag of larvicide in 1997 - and we'll continue to find good ways to spend the taxpayers' dollars.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, on that topic, would the minister be prepared to have his officials do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it is more effective to do the program in house or to contract it out? Can the minister give some sort of indication, if he's prepared to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as I've stated previously for the benefit of the Member for Klondike, the 1997 program certainly was judged a success by all of the participants. The cost-saving comparison of the in house versus using the DRG were apparent very early in the program. Now, I know that the Member for Klondike disputes that, and certainly, I will take very seriously into consideration the member's comments. As we compile our costs over the year - certainly, the ongoing cost benefit analysis - we will make the decision for next year at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we ask the minister to undertake an arm's length review of this program? What we'd probably end up with is the chickens guarding the henhouse, saying it's very effective guarding of the henhouse, when we know full well what kind of report is going to be provided before the report is even there. So, an arm's-length review of the program, to determine whether it's more cost effective to do the program in house or to contract it out, is what I'm looking for, Mr. Chair. Can the minister give that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, though I wonder sometimes if I'm in the barnyard or where I'm at, because I've heard comments now, like pulling teeth from a hen. Well, you know, I haven't had the luxury of ever living around a barnyard, so I couldn't even say whether a hen has teeth or a hen doesn't have teeth, or whether the cows come home or the cows don't come home, whether the chickens are guarding the house or if it's the rooster guarding the house. I certainly don't have that.
I also find it ironic that the member opposite would thank the department for doing such good work and, in another statement, say that they'd like to have an arm's-length cost benefit analysis done. Certainly, we will, as we do with other cost benefit analyses, do it on this program as it is done on the others. Certainly, I think the Member for Klondike should take comfort in the fact that we will continue to do so, and that we will make the decisions as they come.
Certainly, the information I have now is that it was a success in 1997. We're certainly looking for a success in 1998, because the ultimate goal, I guess, is to control those little mosquitoes, wherever they might be, and we will certainly endeavour to do that. So, we will continue to do the cost benefit analysis, and we will do it in a very professional manner.
Mr. Jenkins: We could move on to the minister's response to pedestrian traffic at bridges at Carmacks and Pelly. The response to one of the issues was, "As the members are aware, adequate signage already exists for the use of walkways." Is the minister quite sure of that? I just stopped by the bridge over the Klondike River at Dawson, the bridge over the Pelly River and the one at Carmacks, and I didn't see any signs on any one. What signage exists, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I haven't had the benefit of stopping and looking at the two bridges in question - and certainly now there is another bridge in question on the Klondike. So, certainly we will look at that. No, I do not have that information right at my fingertips, but certainly we will look at ways of dealing with it, and it will be done, as we say, by the education process and other ways. So, certainly the department is more than willing to look at it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd very much hope that the department is very willing to look at it, but these walkways have existed adjacent to the all of these three bridges that I mentioned for some years, Mr. Chair, and I am not aware of any signage that instructs the pedestrians to use them. The only thing we've heard from the minister has been an announcement in the House that we're going to encourage safe pedestrian travelling on our highways, but no signage to insist that people use the walkway adjacent to the bridge and not the road surface of the three bridges that I've mentioned.
So, I'm looking for some assurances from the minister that some signage will appear in these areas. I'm very, very hopeful that the bridges themselves will have adequate lighting in the very near future, similar to the approaches on both ends - but that doesn't exist in the middle. I'm hoping that the minister can give us some assurances that signage will appear in this area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, as the member points out, if there is inadequate or no signage, then certainly it's not adequate and certainly we'll have the department get on to it and look at it and start the necessary process.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the posted speed limits and the increasing of them, if the minister could think back a few years when the posted speed limit was dropped from 60 miles an hour to 55, the justification for that change was fuel economy. We were in a fuel shortage. Now, irrespective of the price today, there's not a fuel shortage any longer, and yet we are still at a speed limit slightly higher than the 55-miles-an-hour speed limit that it was dropped to at that time, and we're going to an engineering explanation of why we can't raise it. Is the minister of the opinion, and is he prepared to accept this engineering explanation, or is he more tempted to use some common sense and make a judgment call in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, if it is done on an engineering basis, that is adequate for me. I know that engineers adhere to principles as other professionals do and that they would not be fed the wrong information. Now, if the minister would think back. Well, I'm thinking to the future and working with what we have to work with at this point in time.
So, I really do not have a comment or an opinion as to whether it was fuel economy that promoted it from 60 to 55 miles an hour and now back up from 90 kilometres to 100 kilometres an hour, but I'm certainly willing to accept the wisdom of the engineers. And as I have had the opportunity, for quite a portion of my life, to travel the highways of the Yukon Territory, I do find that 90 to 100 kilometres an hour is sufficient, certainly for me. But, you know, I might just be getting to be an old codger here and having to slow down a little bit, but certainly that's what I encourage others to do also, because I think we're all a bunch of codgers here - the same age maybe.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not sure if "old codgers" is parliamentary, but I guess self-praise is no recommendation, Mr. Chair.
The minister has indicated that he has no opinion and no answer, and he's going to rely on the department. I thank the minister for his response.
The issue of the memorandum of understanding between British Columbia and Yukon - it's interesting to note that this still hasn't been signed or agreed to in total by the British Columbia government. I understand that departmental officials are journeying to B.C. to reach a conclusion in this regard.
The other area that flowed out of this was the Province of British Columbia's decision to tear up chipseal along Highway 37, which is one of the access routes into Yukon. One of the supplementary questions that I posed to the minister, in conjunction with this memorandum of understanding, is that if the Government of Yukon had made representation to the Government of British Columbia to ensure that, instead of tearing up the chipseal, more be added and the access route improved upon.
What is happening with regard to Highway 37, one of the alternate access routes to Yukon? Has the government had any conversations with the Government of British Columbia or made representations to them to improve this highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, as I reported to the House - I do believe it was just last week - the issue, as defined within the memorandum of understanding that is signed by the minister of the day - I would take exception and say that it is signed - is working its way through. As I said, my deputy minister, who was travelling outside last week, had opportunity to bring up the issue of living up to the memorandum of understanding and to come through on timely dates and best efforts clauses, et cetera. He had done that, as I said.
I'm in the process of waiting for a response from the minister. If a response isn't forthcoming, certainly toward the end of the week we will again be phoning the minister in British Columbia and putting on a little more pressure.
I've also said that we're going to be taking the time, when the Government Leader will be going to do business outside, to again bring the issue up with his counterpart in British Columbia.
Now, the issue specifically - Highway 37 - has it been brought about on the discrepancy of the chipseal going back to the gravel road? No, it has not singularly been brought up but, certainly, I'd like to bring some comfort to the Member for Klondike and the critic from the third party, from Riverdale South. I will be bringing this issue up on my return from the tourism jaunt, during which I'm attempting to raise a meeting with the minister in British Columbia. That will certainly be one of the issues that I bring up with him and I thank you for bringing this together - pardon me, for bringing it forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I've just had a note handed to me. I'm not sure if it came from the Member for Watson Lake, but it says, "Watson Lake wants Highway 37 left rough so that all the tourists come up the Alaska Highway and through Watson Lake and don't bypass it." Is this a position that the minister subscribes to, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely not.
Mr. Jenkins: I have just one other question arising out of this MOU between British Columbia and the Yukon. Will fishing licences valid in the Yukon and British Columbia be attainable this next year -interjurisdictional licences - Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I do believe, as the member opposite is very aware, that is not within my portfolio.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just worried that we can all fish legally when we proceed into Teslin Lake, Mr. Chair, and I wouldn't want anybody on the government side doing anything that was contrary to the rules of the land. I was just hoping that an interjurisdictional licence would be available for fishing on the inland waterways this forthcoming season.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I agree. He's just fishing. He doesn't even have a hook on the end of his line. As a matter of fact, I think all we have is a line.
Community Services in the amount of $16,094,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps it would be prudent to explain just what we've just done, for the benefit of the member of the third party.
Chair: Are there any questions on the stats?
The stats are 3-20 to 3-25 inclusive.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $23,509,000 agreed to
Chair: Before carrying the department, are there any questions on the recoveries? For the benefit of the members, those are found on pages 3-26 to 3-28 inclusive. Does it clear?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, on some of the numbers for recoveries from highway transport, the commercial vehicle licences seem to be stated quite high. In fact, we're showing an increase when we know that there's actually a decrease in the number of commercial vehicles licensed in the Yukon. Lomak, for one, has gone from the scene. There are a lot of other carriers that are licensing fewer and fewer of the heavy vehicles, but yet we're showing an increase over previous fiscal periods. Is there some justification for that increase, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would have - if the member wants exact detail because it is not at my fingertips here - to get that back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, there are a number of areas, Mr. Chair, that appear to be quite optimistic as to what is happening. We're looking for increases in fees of some 10 percent, 16 percent; private vehicle licences increase to 16 percent; commercial vehicle licences are up by 10 percent. There has been no change in the fee structure that I'm aware of, and yet we're looking at increases of between 10 and 16 percent across the board. Just what is the department's rationale for this kind of an increase in this area, when all the trends appear to be the other way?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I said that I would have to get the information, and maybe we have it right here at our fingertips.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $62,661,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures - continued
On Office of the Deputy Minister - continued
On Emergency Measures
Mrs. Edelman: Part of this expenditure is the Zodiac that will be going out to Marsh Lake. Will the Zodiac also be covering the area around Tagish - all the way down?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's a good question and the coverage area is something I would have to ask about. I would think, though, that it could be worked out for the folks in that general area. That's certainly part of the guideline that I would want to impose on them: to make it accessible to all folks.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could just provide a brief outline of each area as we go through it, it would be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. I would be more than happy to do that.
Just starting where we left off with the emergency measures at $70,000, it covers two projects: $20,000 to assist communities in preparing, testing and revising emergency plans and to purchase the various types of emergency equipment; $50,000 for the purchase of a Zodiac boat with an outboard motor, to be stationed at the Marsh Lake volunteer fire department.
The boat, again, will speed the response time for search and rescue efforts, as well as fire responses in the vicinity of the community.
If you would like, into the communications, then.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I just want to make a comment. The minister mentioned $50,000 for a Zodiac for Marsh Lake, and I want to thank the minister and the department for seeing fit to provide that service. I've been asking for it for several years now in this House, and it is something that I think is needed. More and more people are using that lake system, and I'm sure it will get well-used by the excellent people who are involved in emergency measures at Marsh Lake. I think we've been extremely fortunate up until now in not having any loss of life out there, because there have been a few boating mishaps and accidents, and I'm sure that this new piece of equipment will be welcomed by the group of individuals who do such a fine job out there in search and rescue and emergencies that arise in the Marsh Lake area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to let the member know that this is a government that will take action. If the member opposite has been trying for several years, that certainly goes back to when the member was a member of government. Certainly, as we said before, we do take that seriously, and it had a lot to do with the Schille inquest recommendations. But, certainly, it is going to do all of the correct things, I hope, to bring more safety to our public waterways.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On VHF System
Mr. Jenkins: Can we have an explanation of what we're doing in this area with our VHF system?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The $27,000 is required for the MDMR rescue to purchase mobile data interfaces to permit the transmission of voice communication electronic data, portable radio batteries and for additional mobile and portable radios.
VHF System in the amount of $27,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $107,000 agreed to
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order. We will go to corporate services division. Is there general debate?
On Corporate Services Division
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister please provide a little bit of detail at the onset of each one of these line items?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the highlights of office furniture, equipment systems and space...
Chair: Order please. We are on general debate, not the line items. We'll go to office furniture, equipment systems and space.
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The office furniture, equipment systems and space of $19,000 is for the enhancement of the common departmental information system infrastructure and to fix some of the systems for the year 2000 compliance, to upgrade software to corporate standards and to acquire minor hardware equipment as required for business continuity.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The office furniture, equipment, systems and space main project is computing equipment and systems, which consists of three sub-projects within transportation engineering. We'll use $4,000 for workstation, hardware and software upgrades; transport services needs $35,000 to provide maintenance enhancement to the interprovincial records exchange, the National Safety Code, the drivers' records and the weigh scale systems, and to purchase two workstations and three printers. Transportation maintenance will use $12,000 to purchase two workstations and one printer, and the other project is non-computer related office furniture and equipment for $5,000.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $56,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This consists of four projects: $185,000 for the construction of a new office annex at Stewart Crossing; capital and maintenance of $200,000 to purchase a generator set at Tuchitua and to provide highway maintenance camps and workshops, with minor upgrades and envirotanks are necessary for ongoing operations and sundry equipment of $115,000 for the purchase of portable scales to replace the existing unit for transportation services at $15,000 and five sanders for the garage operations at $100,000.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if the minister could give a bit more detail as to where we're using these portable scales - what locations in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the purchase of the portable scales to replace the existing unit, the existing set was purchased in 1991-92 and will not hold a charge down in the cold weather. This restricts the operational use and the efficiency. New portable scales with D-cells would be tendered in the spring of 1998, for delivery shortly thereafter. It's to provide the mobile enforcement officers with the tools necessary for year-round regulatory enforcement, and this is particularly important in the remote areas where there are no permanent weigh station facilities and are used for monitoring in winter-spring hauls and the gravel hauls and log hauls.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose that the reason I wanted more detail as to where they're using those scales is whether there is one location using it more often than another. For example, are they using them more often in Haines Junction or are there other areas like that? I wonder if the minister has that level of detail, and if he doesn't, I'm fine with getting that information by some sort of paper.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I do not have that type of information readily available, but we will be able to do a breakdown and get the information via paper trail back to the Member for Riverdale South.
Mr. Jenkins: On the issue of scales, I don't know if I heard the minister exactly correctly, but the reason he gave for replacing the scales was that the battery pack in the scales wouldn't hold their charge. Is that part of the explanation for replacing these scales?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the set that was purchased in 1991 will not hold the charge now in the cold weather, and it restricts the operational use and efficiency.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm reasonably familiar with portable scales. Normally, we just replace the battery pack. Has that not been looked at?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that, when we were getting the briefing on this, the whole set was more or less worn out, and that it is more advanced than that now. So, we are looking at a set that is approximately seven or eight years old and it would not hold a charge. So, certainly the department looked at those options, I'm sure. I will get that information to you. It's been some time since I had the briefing but, as I recall, that was looked at and the best option was to go with what we did. Certainly, I will provide the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas where we're spending capital dollars this fiscal period is on envirotanks. All of the fuel storage tanks have an effective life when they're buried, Mr. Chair. I was just wondering what the phase-out and the replacement policy of the Government of the Yukon is with respect to fuel storage tanks and waste oil storage tanks, and what the effective life cycle is of these units and how are we coming with replacing them with the envirotanks, the double-lined, double-walled tanks that would contain any potential spill?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that is the type of detailed information that we do not have here, but certainly I will get the life expectancy of the tanks to the member opposite.
Chair: Mr. Keenan - er, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a Freudian slip once again, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, if I could just explore with the minister $200,000 for a generating genset for Tuchitua. Again, I know the camp is operated seasonally. What is the life cycle of the unit in place, and what are we replacing it with? Two hundred thousand dollars is a pretty substantial genset. What happened to the old one, especially in light of the length of time that the camp has been in place and existence and its seasonality?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I can give a further breakdown if you would like, Mr. Chair. The generator set is budgeted for $100,000. Just indulge me a minute. I know I have a briefing note on the Tuchitua replacement of the tank, but certainly I will look.
No, I'll have to get the life expectancy and what not. I do not have it right at my fingertips, but I could give a breakdown of the $200,000. An amount of $100,000 was for a generator set at Tuchitua, so it is only $100,000 of the $200,000.
Mr. Jenkins: No, the minister's initial summation was that there was $200,000 for a generator set at Tuchitua and that is quite a size of generator set for $200,000 unless we're shipping it via the Klondike and having it gold-plated. We have a lot of miners out of work who would be more than willing to supply that kind of service for the minister. Could the minister indicate what the other $100,000 are that we're spending on capital in Tuchitua?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, it wasn't at Tuchitua. Excuse me. It's $100,000 for the generators at Tuchitua; $26,000 for safety repairs and that's at various locations throughout the Yukon Territory; $50,000 for environmental tanks, again at various locations; $8,000 for an overhead door at Mayo; $8,000 for water lines at Haines Junction; $5,000 for heating at Carcross and $3,000 filtration and electrical systems upgrade at Stewart Crossing.
Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Transportation Engineering and Planning
On Transportation Planning
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the $350,000 provides funding for the transportation capital planning section, which is responsible for the analysis of transportation infrastructure and facility needs.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, in light of the fact that we're doing less and less in the department, as far as projects go, can the minister explain the continued need for the same funding as forecasted in 1997-98 in this fiscal period? What are we doing to justify this kind of expenditure on the capital side?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe there was a more detailed answer that was previously answered, but certainly what we have here is that the planning and transportation development studies and analysis for identifying the capital requirements result in changes to the O&M requirements for the Yukon transportation infrastructure. There is also an increased emphasis on planning and its importance to the division operations.
Also, in response to a question raised by the Member for Klondike, the budget allocated for transportation planning and engineering facilitates a number of activities to support our transportation infrastructure. These activities are needed whether or not we have Shakwak funding, and they include examining the needs for new and upgraded transportation facilities, undertaking planning, and transportation development studies to identify capital requirements resulting in changes to the O&M requirements, monitoring traffic and traffic growth, providing transportation-related input to assist the resource development sector, managing our existing infrastructure, identifying rehabilitation needs, managing the land required to support the transportation infrastructure; for example, the gravel pits and bridgehead reserves and rights-of-way.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're into transportation planning and bridgehead. Does this cover the cost of the analysis and the monitoring of our highways - the vehicle counts? Is this where this is plugged in? Is this a capital item that plugs into this line item, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: May I get the Member for Klondike to please repeat the question for us?
Mr. Jenkins: We do an annual survey - vehicle counts - on all of our principal highways in the Yukon. Is this classified as a capital expenditure and plugged into this line item in transportation engineering? Just judging by the way the minister explained this line item, it would appear to fit there, but I do not know.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I've been told that it is incorporated within it.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there enough funding in this line item to complete the ice study on the Yukon River in front of Dawson to justify the bridge?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, there is not, at this point in time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, one of the last remaining undertakings of the government before we go to RERC is this ice study that's required. Does the minister have any ideas about what it's going to cost and the time frame for completing this study? It's not a study that we can do in June, July and August, so it looks like a winter project, studying ice. I might stand corrected; the minister might have a different way of doing it. It would appear to me that this transportation planning would be the appropriate slot to plug it into. There's probably enough funding in that line item to undertake that project.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, the funding for the Regional Environmental Review Committee is not contained within this line item, and nor is it contained anywhere. Certainly, the discussion now will have to be a political decision, and it is certainly a decision that lies within politics. As to the proceeding, whether it will proceed to petition or not, at this point in time, a decision has not been made as to the positive effect that the member would like.
Mr. Jenkins: Between transportation planning and transportation engineering, the next line item, we're using $810,000 in this budget. How many FTEs are we encompassing in both these line items, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that the question has been answered through the duration of this debate already but, certainly, I have an official looking so that I may reiterate the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking at is that we're maintaining the level of transportation planning and transportation engineering at the same levels as forecasted for 1997-98. There's zero change. That would lead me to conclude that it's the same FTEs in both the last period and this coming period. What I'm trying to get a handle on is, if there is a change in this capital item in forthcoming fiscal periods, what is going to be the resulting change in FTEs? That's where I'm going, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I could not answer that question into the future, but I could certainly reiterate what we have already done. I understand where the member is going and, certainly, if he'd like, I could give the response again, but I don't think it's necessary. I have read into the record answers to questions that were raised by the member on the staffing level and the transportation engineering branch and how the department determined the required staffing level.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but, as I recall, that pertained more to the O&M side and what I'm looking at is the capital side of the department. Or was the minister able to answer both at that juncture?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is contained for also the capital-funded staff. Yes, it is.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask for some clarification from the minister? Could he indicate where perhaps it is contained in this particular line item where any liability might be outlined for transportation or engineering projects that are under litigation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, it is not contained within the budget.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just for the record, then, is the minister telling me that nowhere in the budget is there contained a line item set aside for any pending court cases with the government? There was last year, in the case with Klippert's Transfer Ltd., but is he telling me it's not contained in the budget this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've just been informed, Mr. Chair, that it falls within the government insurance.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I'm absolutely positive there was a line item contained last year, because there was an outstanding court case on which there had been a judgment. The minister will recall our discussion on December 2 last year regarding the payment of that judgment to Klippert's Transfer Ltd. It was contained in last year's budget as a line item. Is he telling me that there's a current court case but it's not contained anywhere in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would say that I can't remember. I can certainly remember the questions that were being asked and are raised but I certainly can't quite remember. So, that is the type of information I would have to get staff to look into and get an answer back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: Well, could I just remind the minister that he committed to me in the House last year - excuse me, if I could just find the quote - he indicated in the discussion of the Klippert's Transfer Ltd. case that the minister would be reviewing the actions of his department and he would be looking into the matter. The minister has never given me a written reply concerning any of his investigations. Could I ask the minister to provide me with that then?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. I wasn't really of the understanding that there was a need for a written reply. Certainly, it was answered within the context of the rules of this House and so it's not as if we had committed to giving a written reply, unless, of course, I had done it as a quote. If I had, I certainly apologize for that, but if I remember correctly, I don't remember at this time committing that I would be doing that in writing. But, I did commit that we would be looking at ways so that we do not get bogged down under these kinds of issues.
We are certainly trying to become - I'm not sure what the word would be - friendly? It's not a case of friendliness. It's a case of looking at the actions and seeing how best we might not do that. Yes, I've had discussions with the deputy minister on that. The deputy minister and I have talked about how we might be able to make it - perhaps the word is "transparent" - more professional or less professional. But, we've talked about how we can make it better. Certainly, those discussions are ongoing and will continue to be ongoing until we have some type of a refined and defined process.
Ms. Duncan: The minister did not commit to giving me an answer in writing. He did commit publicly that he would look into the matter. He's just given a sort of a verbal explanation of what he's looked into. I wonder if I could ask the minister if he could also provide me with a written response about these discussions and what progress the department has made.
There has been, I understand, a subsequent lawsuit launched against the government and I wonder if the minister could also provide an update on that in a written response to me.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, we will always endeavour to work with people and to work with the public. It is a very large department and the department covers everything. The member opposite knows certainly what it covers.
People, logically, I would assume, are going to have differences. What we would like to say is that not all things have to be settled within a court of law through a benchmark process. People are actually looking to have other processes of conciliation and to seek a conciliatory type of roots.
With the Minister of Justice and within my own department, we're looking at the establishment of an arbitration type of process. And yes, I can commit to giving the Member for Porter Creek South a commitment that we would be able to give an update as to what cases are within it and share it with the Member for Klondike if he so chooses also.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does the minister have a time frame for the establishment of this arbitration process? Will it apply to cases that are currently before the courts or is it just in future for in-case situations?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly if something is before the courts now in litigation, it would stay before the courts in litigation. I can think of just the one case that is in the conciliatory route, and certainly, as I say, I would be willing to provide that information to the member opposite. Yes, I can provide all the information that the member would like in a report.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the subject of litigation arising within the department, just what is the government's exposure within the Department of C&TS? What's under litigation at the present time - how many cases and what's the potential exposure? This is, I'm sure, information that's not kept reasonably on hand. The minister could provide it by way of legislative return. I'm sure it's something he doesn't have right at his fingertips.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know one just off the top of my head, but I will certainly search and get back.
Transportation Planning in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management)
Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management) in the amount of $460,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On Non-YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway - Shakwak
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's for the reconstruction of kilometre 1634 to kilometre 1966 - our portion of the highway. The $1.5 million is for the reconstruction to 100 kilometre-an-hour standard with BST surface on all improved portions north of Haines Junction. This project is recoverable under the Shakwak agreement. Work in 1998-99 includes the BST surfacing at kilometre 1868 to kilometre 1872 and at the approaches to the White River bridge, seeding and pit restoration at three various locations, roadway repair at kilometre 1955 and pre-engineering for kilometre 1665 to kilometre 1822.
Alaska Highway - Shakwak in the amount of $1,500,000 agreed to
On YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $3.7 million is for the upgrading of the Watson Lake-to-Whitehorse section of the highway, and work in 1998-99 is for BST surfacing at kilometre 1056 to kilometre 1062, seeding at various locations, and for reconstruction at kilometre 1089 to kilometre 1096 and kilometre 1098 to kilometre 1102.
Alaska Highway in the amount of $3,700,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This is for the south Klondike rock scaling, which involves the scaling and removal of overhanging rock and installation of steel mesh and rock bolts from kilometre 58 to kilometre 64.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any chipseal anticipated along the Klondike Highway this year, Mr. Chair? It looks like we've significantly reduced our expenditure from 1996-97 actuals to forecast - we've gone from $833,000 to $100,000 this year. Just how long can we sustain this tremendous reduction in the expenditures, capital-wise, on the Klondike Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, there is no funding for the chipsealing of that portion of the Klondike Highway.
Mr. Jenkins: That was exactly my point. How long can we sustain this tremendous reduction in capital expenditures on the Klondike Highway between the border coming out of Skagway, right through to Dawson City? We've gone from $833,000 down to $100,000. Every year, there are major sections that, in the past, have been torn up and re-chipped. We're doing it along the Alaska Highway, why not the Klondike Highway? How long can we sustain it? This winter, there are sections that have been torn up. We can only patch for so long before we have to go back, tear it up and re-chip.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I recall, there is a document or a standard or a rule that is used for tests in the strengths of the BST, and that is the mechanism that is used to replace the BST.
Klondike Highway in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This is for the continuation of engineering and design work surface and seeding on the Muddy Creek section, and reconstruction of the Finlayson Hill area. In addition, smaller projects could be considered, such as small clearing contracts at four locations of substandard horizontal alignment between Tuchitua and Finlayson that will be carried out.
Mr. Jenkins: At the current rate, how long is it going to take the government to get the south Campbell, from north of Tuchitua right through to the Faro turnoff, up to acceptable standards, up to 90-K standards? I believe that's what they're aiming for, from a 70-K standard, as it presently is.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, there are reports out on the Campbell Highway and the reconstruction undertaken within the document that prioritizes areas, and that is the document that we used to identify the target areas in the beginning.
As to the rest of the member's statement, if we threw all the money in the world we had at it, we could finish that quickly, but certainly it's subject to the constraints of the budgeting process.
Mr. Jenkins: But at the current rate that we're spending, capital-wise - last year there was significant capital spent on the south Campbell; this year, there's a good chunk of capital. At the current rate, how many years is it going to take to complete the Campbell Highway? Five years, 10 years, two years, 100 years?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: By the figures that we have put out in front of us, the cost, if it follows through right into the year 2000 and 2001, looks like it could basically be completed by that time, although I would prefer to get the documentation to the member if the member doesn't already have it, over the total period of the report, based on the report. I believe it is up to a 80- or 90-kilometres-an-hour standard. So, I will fulfill the wishes of the member opposite.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $2,024,000 agreed to
On Dempster Highway
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, could I have details on the Dempster Highway and how our negotiations are going with the Government of the Northwest Territories on that road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The funding is required to produce and replace and protect the rip-rap on the side slopes of the highway route along the shoreline of the Blackstone River. That's at kilometre 143.
Could I get the member to explain what she means by the negotiations?
Yes, everything that we're doing is working with the shutdowns during the spring breakup and fall freeze-up period, and it is all being done with the input of the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I guess I wasn't clear enough in my request. I suppose what I would like is an update from the minister, if it's possible, on any cost-sharing agreements that they're having, any trends for the future and where we're heading with the Northwest Territories and this shared roadway.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Minister Antoine - I believe it is - and I have had a recent discussion and he said that he would be coming over to the Yukon this spring and he'd like one of the issues on our agenda to be to talk about the Dempster Highway and the maintenance to the Dempster Highway and, further, to how it could be improved for the enhancement of tourism within that area, et cetera.
So, those talks are getting closer now, but, the shutdowns in the spring and the fall periods have been done. So, we're starting to and are developing a good relationship with those folks and will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister anticipate any joint cost sharing of the Dempster Highway with the Government of the Northwest Territories? The road is primarily a road to service the Mackenzie Delta, and it does access a lot of mineral claims adjacent to and surrounding that wonderful mountain called Tombstone, that are probably going to be protected and out of the range of possible exploration in the immediate future. So, the purpose of the road will end up being to service the NWT. Is there any cost sharing anticipated or additional cost going to be borne by the Government of the Northwest Territories to maintain that route?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is one of the topics of discussion that will be coming around, so that we will mention that. Just as the member opposite has stated, yes, there could be, and certainly probably is, a better way to look at this road. Certainly, that is going to be a part of the discussion that I will have with the minister when I have that discussion.
It's going to be a discussion where - "You want this; we want this. These are the facts here for us. These are the facts for you. How best do we go about working together on this, so that we can ensure that we have a good road there?"
Mr. Jenkins: I don't know if the minister has had a chance to drive the Dempster Highway. I know he's flown over the area, but there is a difference in the standards that the Yukon maintains on the Dempster Highway vis-à-vis the standards that the Government of the Northwest Territories maintains on their side of it. Our side is maintained to a much higher standard and a much better standard. Is there some reason for the difference in standards that this highway is maintained at?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, when that was brought to my attention and I brought it to the attention of the Government of the Northwest Territories, he didn't look at it in that light, but that is certainly one of the points that I will bring up with him. They were upset that we might be doing certain things on the Dempster and they were afraid that it might bring down the quality of standard. It was pointed out that certainly there was some work to do on their end of things to bring the standard up.
So that would be the type of discussion that I'm going to be having with the minister from the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps when the minister comes to visit this government, you can recommend to him that he drive the Dempster Highway so he has a first-hand view of the difference in maintenance on the NWT side and the Yukon side, because it is significant. It is very significant, Mr. Chair, and we're spending a lot of money maintaining the Yukon side.
I don't have a quarrel with that, but it is primarily to service the NWT side of it now that we're going to protect all sides of the Dempster Highway, and access to mining claims in that area will be certainly in jeopardy.
So, I believe the Government of the Northwest Territories should bear a lot more of the responsibility for that highway maintenance than they presently do.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you for that.
Dempster Highway in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.