Tuesday, April 28, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Clerk: It is my duty, pursuant to the provisions of section 24 of the Legislative Assembly Act, to inform the Legislative Assembly of the absence of the Speaker. In his absence, the Deputy Speaker shall take the Chair.
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers. I would ask members to bow their heads in a moment of silent reflection.
Deputy Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Workers' Day of Mourning
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety Board to ask members to join me in paying tribute to Yukon workers and all Canadian workers who have been killed or injured or disabled on the job.
This is the National Day of Mourning for these workers, and we join compensation boards and governments and labour organizations across the nation in this commemoration of their sacrifice.
Last year in the Yukon, there were 1,798 workplace incidents reported. Forty workers received permanent impairment awards for a loss of function, and one worker died as a result of job-related occupational disease.
These numbers are quite extensive, and in many parts of Canada, the situation is not much better. The numbers of fatalities are quite dramatic, and I think it's important that we recognize the sacrifices that workers make.
People in this Legislature, I know, have worked in industry before, and I, myself, have experienced occupational injury. Working in the mining industry, I have seen people seriously maimed or disabled, and even killed, and it has a dramatic impact on the workplace, on the workers, and, particularly, on the families who are affected.
All too often, I think, perhaps we take for granted the impact that these types of injuries can have on the people. Their sacrifices should not be overlooked.
I would ask if members would stand to join with me today, just in a brief moment of silence to commemorate these workers.
Deputy Speaker: I would ask members to rise in a moment of silence.
Deputy Speaker: Please be seated.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I wish to also pay tribute to the National Day of Mourning. On this day, we recognize those workers who have died, been injured or who have suffered from diseases due to workplace hazards. At the same time, April 28 also serves as a reminder and an opportunity to continue our efforts to protect our workers by achieving healthier and safer work environments.
Although workplace conditions have improved dramatically over the course of this century, there is still much more work to be done. By placing more emphasis upon accident prevention and risk education, as well as increasing opportunities for Yukon workers to participate in occupational and safety changes, improvements will continue to be made. As legislators, as members of families and as Yukoners, we all share in the promotion of a safer and a healthier workplace environment.
Mr. Cable: On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I also rise to give respect to all Yukon workers who have died or have been injured or have been disabled on the job. We who work in comfortable offices tend to forget about the hazards associated with many occupations, and we tend to forget the personal cost to workers and their families when a worker dies, is injured or is disabled on the job. Society needs to be constantly reminded of that cost and the need for prevention efforts and the need for occupational health and safety programs.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Yukon Writers Festival
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I take great pleasure in recognizing events of the 1998 Yukon Writers Festival taking place from today through to May 2. Writers give us an insight into our society and all of its complexities.
The Yukon Writers Festival is a joint production put together by Nakai Theatre, libraries and archives, the arts branch and the Department of Education.
Comedian and playwright Jan Derbyshire performs The Opposite of Everything is True this evening. Wednesday night at Hellaby Hall offers an eclectic mix of author readings from crime writing to comedy to gritty poetry and tender prose. Refreshments are available, and admission is free.
A highlight of the Writers Festival is the 19th Young Authors Conference, April 29 and 30. This intensive two-day workshop gives Yukon students a unique opportunity to meet and work with renowned Canadian authors.
A literary cabaret on Saturday at the Guild will include former writer-in-residence, Don Hannah, reading from his recently published novel, The Wise and Foolish Virgins. Musical performances and readings from other visiting authors will round out the 1998 festival.
I welcome invited Canadian writers Anita Rau Badami, William Deverell, Patrick Friesen, Jan Derbyshire and this year's writer-in-residence, Brian Brett, to the Yukon. Works of local writers will also be featured throughout the festival.
I hope other members will enjoy some of the special literary events planned over Yukon Writers Week.
Deputy Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have some documents. Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Healthy child initiative
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, in the Action Agenda 1997-2000, our government promised to continue improving ways to identify children at risk, especially preschoolers. It's with a great deal of pleasure that I rise today to inform this House of an initiative that advances that policy and has the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of very young Yukon children.
I refer to the introduction of the healthy child initiative and one of its first priorities, the early intervention program.
This will enhance existing programs that draw on the resources of agencies and organizations outside government to provide support services to Yukon families.
Mr. Speaker, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent each year in the Yukon dealing with the outcomes of child abuse and neglect. The direct dollar costs are seen in law enforcement, the court system and foster placements for children.
The indirect costs, however, are even greater, including substance abuse, depression, teen pregnancy, youth crime and school failure.
With the early intervention programs, we hope to address these problems before they start.
Recent research has shown that the single most effective strategy for preventing child abuse and neglect is to provide parents with support and education around the time that the child is born.
The early intervention program will offer support to parents from the time of the child's birth until it reaches five years of age. Under this voluntary program, family support workers will focus on promoting positive parenting, fostering parent-child attachment and bonding and connecting parents to other community services. The goal is to help parents do the best they can for their children by helping them learn their own strengths and by giving them the tools they need to understand and cope with the child's needs. The program will also help reduce the isolation many parents feel after the arrival of a new baby.
Early intervention programs have been successful in a variety of jurisdictions in the United States and are now being introduced in Canada.
The program calls for home visits to new parents to offer support and assistance. Not all parents will require this support, but those that do will receive a continuum of education and support services. Some parents may require a family support worker be involved with their family for a long time; others may need only one visit.
The model that we're using is based on a pilot program started in Hawaii almost 25 years ago. In that program, child abuse and neglect were prevented 99.8 percent of the time in families identified as high risk. The goal of the program is to assist in child development from birth to age five, provide positive parenting models and skills and encourage healthy parent-child interactions, assure proper medical care and prevent child abuse and neglect. Parents will be referred by community health nurses, who see new mums and dads at home with their newborns within days of birth. Families identified as being at risk will be referred to the program and a followup visit will be made by the family support worker.
This program is one that holds out hope. It brings together partners from outside government, including the Child Development Centre, Kwanlin Dun, the nurses in Whitehorse and in other Yukon communities to work toward a better life for children. These agencies will form part of an ongoing consultation and monitoring team to evaluate the program and provide redirection if necessary. The program is not costing new money, but represents a new way of coordinating services to ensure that we provide the support and assistance necessary to give every child a healthy start. I'm sure the members will join me in looking forward to seeing the long-term benefits to the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I rise to respond to the minister's statement regarding the healthy child initiative, and I'm pleased to offer support to this important program.
While we on this side of the House fully support initiatives to provide support to families in need of early intervention programs, there are a number of questions that arise.
The first question that comes to mind is how the determination will be made as to whether or not a family is in need of early intervention. More specifically, what criteria will be used in making the decision, my fear being that, while there are many families who do need support, there may be other families who might feel offended, or just do not require this support.
Perhaps the minister could elaborate with further information about the selection criteria to be used and by whom these decisions will be made - nurses, family support workers, et cetera.
The minister stated that no additional monies will be used to support this initiative. Now, that's difficult to believe, as some families may require a family support worker to be involved with their families for periods of time, perhaps up to four or five years, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There'll be home visits, phone calls and other support services to deliver the program as required, and this would certainly entail additional resources to draw upon.
The minister also mentioned that the resources of agencies and organizations outside government to provide support services to families would be used to deliver this initiative. Perhaps the minister could provide a list of these agencies and organizations that will be used to provide this type of support.
Again, I have to question the minister about how he feels that no additional resources will be used to implement this program, in view of non-government organizations and agencies taking on additional responsibilities and roles to deliver this program.
The minister went on to say that partners, such as the Child Development Centre, the Kwanlin Dun, and nurses, would be brought together to monitor and evaluate the program.
Are these partners part of the agencies and organizations that will be used to deliver this program? How will monitoring be performed to measure the success of this program? I would also appreciate receiving some information as to the number of family support workers there are currently in the Yukon, broken down by community. For those communities who do not have family support workers, how does the government plan to make the early intervention program available to families in those areas?
I must say again that it's difficult to believe that additional costs will not be incurred, particularly when support workers may have to travel to outlying communities to provide the support envisioned by this initiative.
Finally, I'd like to ask the minister what support services are currently in place for those families at risk, and specifically, if the minister would kindly tell us what is going to change. What will family support workers and agencies be doing differently under this new initiative that wasn't being done before?
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on the healthy child initiative. When I initially read this statement, I was inordinately pleased to see that someone in the government had been listening to last fall's alcohol debate, when our caucus spoke at some length supporting the Head Start program that has been used in Hawaii, B.C. and the inner cities of Ontario. Prevention programming like these save us money in the long run and, more importantly, improve the quality of life for these high-risk children well into their adult years.
The federally funded prenatal intervention program also adds to this continuum of preventive programs that target high-risk Yukon families, though I see no mention of that tremendously successful program in the ministerial statement.
As the minister is aware, the Child Development Centre desperately needs more money to meet the ever-increasing need of early intervention preschool programs, particularly in rural Yukon. The minister says that there is no new money to add to early intervention programs. There will, however, be a coordination of services. There is to be a coordination of services between the public health nurse, Kwanlin Dun and the Child Development Centre. Good idea.
It's all very good for the minister to have some good-news ministerial statements at the end of a session to announce to the world that, truly, there is good news. But, Mr. Speaker, show me the money. If there was a real commitment to early intervention with high-risk Yukon families, there would be some much-needed dollars attached to that commitment.
And, Mr. Speaker, some of the Head Start early intervention programs for preschoolers have been around for a very long time. As the minister mentioned, a version of the Hawaii program has been around for over 25 years. A consistent problem for the groups that put on these much-needed programs is that the funding eventually dries up, other political priorities take over and the money disappears. But, in this case, there's no new money to start with, so that's not an issue.
I hope that if the minister is truly committed to an early intervention program for preschoolers, he will at least commit one staff person to coordinate these programs. Improving the lives of high-risk Yukon preschool children is a worthy enough reason to assign one staff person.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thank the members for their support. With regard to just some of the general comments, we have been looking at not only the Hawaiian model and other areas, but, in particular, also, the Oregon model for some early intervention. And, we have been looking more at how we approach the coordination of services - how we do the early identification and how we do the early determination of risk factors. To a large degree, we've borrowed from these jurisdictions.
We have no intention of making this compulsory, and we have certainly no intention of imposing this on individuals who do not want our assistance. What we are doing: we have a matrix of risk factors that we will be sharing with our staff and trying to work with the medical community, community health nurses and so on to identify some of the risk factors for families in the prenatal areas and early months. What we'll try to do is direct as many resources as we can toward those individuals.
I think the important thing about this is that this is an attempt to identify what some of those risk factors are going to be. If one looks at the research in the jurisdictions that I mentioned before, there have been some very significant reductions in terms of, notably, child abuse in the Hawaiian model and, in Oregon, just general problems of development.
We are working with outside agencies. We've had some discussions with the CDC, Kwanlin Dun. It's a different approach. The Member for Riverdale South has mentioned CDC in particular. I met with CDC last Friday, and we discussed a number of issues around that.
The Member for Klondike asked the numbers of support workers and breakdown by community. We can certainly provide that.
I think what this is is more of a retraining, a refocusing. We're doing training over the summer with our current family support workers. We do have staff dedicated toward starting this and initiating the training. We're going to be bringing in some training staff, and go from there.
We're looking at a November startup. So I felt it would be worthwhile to let members know what our intentions are for the fall and where we plan on going with this program, and I look forward to their support.
Emergency plan, government wide
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Today, I rise to inform the House of a new step forward in our government's policy of promoting public safety in Yukon communities. I'm pleased to inform the Legislature that a government-wide emergency plan has been established that outlines the roles and responsibilities of departments and will better prepare the territory for emergencies.
No one can fail to realize the importance of a plan that helps the Yukon prepare for emergencies. Almost every day we learn about some natural or man-made disaster that has had an impact on people somewhere in the world.
Floods, forest fires, chemical spills and earthquakes are just some of the possible disasters that may affect the Yukon. Such events put lives at risk, damage property, affect the environment and interrupt the economy.
We have reached an important milestone in Yukon emergency preparedness. The government-wide emergency plan provides a framework for all government departments and agencies to work together in preparing for their individual emergency responsibilities.
During an emergency, this plan will help our government act quickly and efficiently to reduce suffering, increase the security and health of the population, and work toward the protection of the environment and private property.
Having this plan does not mean that we can now rest easy. Instead, we must continue to ready ourselves, updating departmental plans, and providing more training and exercises in our response capabilities. Only a thorough testing of plans will guarantee that we are ready for future emergencies.
No statement on emergency preparedness would be complete without mentioning the great support received from the volunteers who have helped build the Emergency Measures Organization into the reliable service it is today. These people make up the membership of the volunteer agencies, such as the search and rescue, firefighters, ambulance attendants, emergency social services, radio operators and many more organizations that are vital to an emergency response.
To all of these dedicated volunteers, I want to say thank you for your compassion and for your dedication in keeping the people of the Yukon safe, and I encourage other citizens to become involved in their own communities.
Emergency preparedness is everyone's responsibility. To help raise awareness, next week has been declared National Emergency Preparedness Week. All Yukoners are encouraged to consider the potential risks in their communities and their own homes, and plan to be prepared.
Mr. Speaker, an example of when the full potential of this plan would be realized is a situation in which there is a need to evacuate a community because of a flood threat or a forest fire threat.
Under the coordinated effort this plan provides, our government would act quickly to take the necessary action to receive and care for the evacuees, assist friends and relatives in contacting them, and all of the many other activities that would be required.
With the roles and responsibilities already determined, the effort of government will be maximized without duplication. This plan represents an important step in a continuing process of preparing the Yukon for potential disasters. By taking these steps, our government is confirming its commitment to coordinate efforts among all levels of government and private citizens to better ensure the health and safety of all Yukon communities.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I rise to respond to the minister's statement regarding the government-wide emergency plan.
To begin with, it's difficult to offer a fair assessment of this plan without having first had the courtesy of receiving a copy of the plan prior to the delivery of this ministerial statement. The Yukon's always had a plan in place to deal with emergencies. In any event, I will attempt to address the statement and look forward to having an opportunity to review the emergency plan in the not-too-distant future - that is if the minister will allow opposition members such an opportunity.
Having worked in two emergencies, one involving a major flood in the City of Dawson, I'm all too familiar with emergency situations and the dire need to have comprehensive plans in place to deal with potential disasters. To prepare for emergencies, it is crucial to have a plan that outlines everyone's roles and responsibilities so as to avoid confusion and duplication of efforts. To ensure a clear understanding of a plan requires constant rehearsals of its priorities, procedures and practices. Each year, the City of Dawson organizes a luncheon involving members of the EMO community, municipal, territorial and federal officials as well as members of the community at large to discuss and rehearse their readiness in the case of a flood and other potential emergency situations that could arise, such as forest fires. This meeting is invaluable as it provides a comprehensive overview of what is expected from everyone, from staff at the Alexander McDonald Lodge to members of the department of highways. This approach has worked well over the years for Dawson, and I am hoping this government-wide emergency plan encompasses the same detailed and united approach.
With respect to river flood monitoring, I'm pleased that DIAND has agreed to continue to monitor ice conditions on the Yukon River system. As members are aware, flood monitoring and forecasting provides an invaluable service to Yukon communities as a means to prepare and address flood potentials each spring, especially in communities such as Old Crow, Dawson, Ross River and Mayo.
This is a preventive measure that has the ability to save millions of dollars by giving communities time to prepare for potential disasters, and I am hoping that the federal Liberal government will be able to maintain funding for this important service.
On a separate note, I'd like to say a few words about the EMO organizations. This organization provides support and reliable services foremost, on a volunteer basis. The efforts and hard work put forward by these people is honourable and is to be commended. In light of this statement and the fact that next week has been declared National Emergency Preparedness Week, it is fitting that we pay recognition and appreciation to our many dedicated volunteers throughout the territory addressing the safety of Yukoners.
But, once again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what are the new initiatives in this ministerial statement, and what is going to change from the plan currently in place?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on the government-wide emergency plan.
Mr. Speaker, a plan for disasters is absolutely essential to Yukoners. Clear lines of authority and responsibility, as well as backup plans, make decision making under dire circumstances much easier, but the plan must be shared with the rest of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, when I travel to B.C. or California, I'm always impressed by how well-distributed emergency plans are in these jurisdictions. The plans are also well-understood by the citizenry. When I go into an elevator in B.C., there's a little plan about how to get out of that building in the event of an earthquake, and I have to admit that is somewhat unsettling, but at least I know what to do. In California, my niece in school knows what she should do in a disaster, and every Joe Blow in California knows where their nearest reception centre is located, and every Jane Q. Public in B.C. knows that they should stand in a doorway or get under a desk when an earthquake starts; but many Yukoners don't know that, especially children.
Mr. Speaker, I know that we have a good EMO disaster plan, but that plan is useless to us and our families if no one outside of government knows what to do in the event of an earthquake or a flood or another big fire.
I challenge this minister to find a way, in the next two years, to make sure that every Yukon adult and every Yukon child knows what to do in the event of a disaster. Start with maybe some notices on the bulletin boards or some rolling ads on the TV. Maybe have a regular article in the newspaper. Be creative. That's my challenge to the minister.
I just have to note here that, although a plan has been widely distributed to government members so that they will know what to do in the event of a disaster, I know that members of the opposition haven't been given that report - and I'll try not to read anything into that.
May the Yukon Liberal caucus have a copy of the government-wide disaster plan when it becomes available?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will rise to the challenge of the critic from the third party and certainly attempt to continually inform people in various manners, as it is done in other jurisdictions. Certainly we will, and certainly I will provide copies of the plan to both the members and all folks at large, because there certainly isn't anything hidden in the fact that we have copies and you don't have copies.
If an emergency comes, we're all in the same boat and it is not the Titanic, I assure you. We will be here pulling together as we normally would.
But, certainly one thing that would help to keep the Titanic off the sand bar, or to keep the Titanic off the whatever it is, is that I certainly concur with the critic of the official opposition that we do need resources and continuity, as well, from our flood forecasting to our forest fire planning - status reports.
We do need to have continued resources from the federal Liberal government. We certainly would appreciate it if the federal Liberal government would follow through on this initiative that they have started, and stop the downloading.
Thank you very much for the comments.
Deputy Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Chief land claim negotiator
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Government Leader on our transient chief land claim negotiator. Mr. Deputy Speaker, it would appear, through media reports, that the individual brought in from British Columbia by the Government Leader to occupy the chief land claim negotiator's position is now, once again, on the move, even though, true to form, he's denying it.
At the same time, the chief land claim negotiator is admitting that he's providing free consultation services to any First Nation he can, despite his extremely heavy land claim responsibilities in the Yukon and a number of Yukon land claims that have yet to be settled.
I'd like to ask the Government Leader if he could explain to this House where in the chief land claim negotiator's job description does it say he will provide free advice and consultations to First Nations, both in and out of the Yukon.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, up to this point, I understand that a major function of the chief land claim negotiator was to represent the interests of non-beneficiary Yukoners in land claim negotiations, as well as overall government interest. I would like to ask the Government Leader, when was the job description changed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I'm a little surprised that the member thinks that the chief Yukon land claim negotiator for the Yukon government represents only non-beneficiary Yukoners. The Yukon land claims negotiating policy is to get good agreements for First Nation and non-First Nation Yukoners. I also believed that to be the case, even when the member was in government. Perhaps that's a revelation now of the direction that he provided to the negotiators, and perhaps that's a reflection of why there was so little activity. I don't know.
The point though, Mr. Speaker, about the chief land claims negotiator today is that that person is not leaving the employment of the Yukon government. The person is available to others, if they seek his advice and it's not inconsistent with the direction provided by the Yukon government to him in terms of him carrying out his duties.
So, that's the long and the short of it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I find it somewhat surprising that the Government Leader is not aware that his chief land claim negotiator may be leaving the Yukon. In fact, in a news clipping here, it says he was down for an orientation session with the Skeetchestn Band in the Kelowna area. He was down for a week's orientation session and it's not known of his permanent arrival date yet. It's in the papers, Mr. Speaker, so the government -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we hear the Minister of Justice say it must be true. This is a replay of what happened when he came to the Yukon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He denied vehemently that he was coming up here. Six weeks later, he was here.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the Yukon First Nation negotiators are quite capable of representing the interests of their respective First Nations. They've proven that at the table, as has the federal government who are looking after federal interests. The main role of the Yukon negotiator is to represent Yukon's interest, and the Government Leader is fully aware of that.
In light of the fact that this chief land claim negotiator appears to be very stretched and not only working for the territorial government but offering free advice to other First Nations, can the Government Leader tell us who is representing the interests of the non-beneficiary Yukoners at the land claims talks?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, Yukon First Nations are Yukoners. I make that point absolutely.
Secondly, the Yukon government's negotiators are charged with the responsibility of getting a good agreement for all Yukoners, including First Nations.
Now, last year, the person who is now the chief land claims negotiator denied that he was offered a job before he was offered a job, and that was true. The chief land claims negotiator is saying now that he has not accepted employment elsewhere, and that is true. Both are true. The chief land claims negotiator is batting a thousand and speaking the truth.
So, Mr. Speaker, the chief land claims negotiator is doing and is continuing to do the job that he has been asked to do, that is to get agreements between the Yukon government and First Nations governments, and progress is underway.
Mr. Ostashek: Let's see if the Government Leader can bat a thousand. Quite obviously, the chief land claims negotiator is a fairly popular fellow and claims to be receiving job offers almost every month, and it appears now that he has accepted one, by all media reports, and the proof will be in the time table as to whether or not that is true.
Will the Government Leader now admit that it was a mistake for him to dismiss experienced negotiators and replace them with an outsider from British Columbia, who now appears to be looking for greener pastures?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will bat 1,000. I did not dismiss senior negotiators - number one. All media reports do not have the chief land claims negotiator moving to British Columbia - number two. The media report that the member is referring to is a community newsletter from some little community in central B.C. And, number three, the land claims negotiator is negotiating land claims agreements for all Yukoners.
So, consequently, I'm batting a thousand and the member is batting zero.
Question re: Yukon hire report
Mr. Jenkins: My question is for the Minister of Government Services on his now infamous response to the local hire commission report.
On April 23, in response to the ministerial statement on local hire, I forewarned the minister that he was going to be held accountable for sacrificing the common good of Yukoners on the alter of the NDP partisan political agenda. In the final report of the Yukon hire commission, on page 10, it states, "develop, with appropriate partners, a hiring agency which contractors on Yukon government projects would be required to use."
In the public comment section on the same page, it states, "contractors apprehensive when not opposed." I think that says it all, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Can the minister advise the House how many, if any, of the Yukon contractors that this requirement is going to be forced upon actually requested this section? Can the minister name even one contractor, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I was forewarned. I tremble in terror. You can see that I'm absolutely petrified by this. I think, with regard to the hiring agency, this was an idea that came forward. It's an idea that I think has some merit in at least examining. It's an idea that can be adapted to our particular needs, and we've had numerous discussions with people within the contracting community and within the business community. They have expressed their opinions on it, and we are willing to certainly work with people. We're interested in trying to accommodate this and also trying to work for the benefit of Yukon people.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it's not just an idea. It is a position that has been accepted by this minister's Cabinet colleagues and himself. It's on the way to being implemented, and Yukon contractors are being put between a rock and a hard place.
The local hire commission has given them a choice of compulsory unionization, compulsory local hire or a hiring agency, which would effectively require both compulsory unionization and local union hire. There is no choice, given the option of none of the above.
Can the minister explain to the Yukon and Yukon contractors and all of us why their views were totally excluded on this requirement for a union hiring agency? Why has the well-known trade unionist views of the Member for Whitehorse Centre been given precedence over the views of all other Yukoners - the majority of Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can see that the Chicken Little of the Klondike is alive and well, running around crying, "The sky is falling." I think, with regard to the concept of a hiring agency, the member has made some false statements right off the bat.
He has assumed that this would be a union-only enterprise. He's suggesting that this is somehow back-door, compulsory unionization, which it isn't. We believe that there are some opportunities in this example to try to help workers, particularly in rural Yukon, obtain work in their community, to promote equity hiring - which I assume that the member is at least in favour of, slightly - and this is of particular concern to First Nations people - women - and is called for under the UFA. We also believe it will help ensure compliance with the Employment Standards Act by contractors. We can't see that this would be particularly onerous. We are looking forward to, in the future, working with contractors, working with business people, in trying to come up with the kind of model that would work for us. We're not going to just borrow a model from another jurisdiction. We're going to develop, we're going to work with our business community, we're going to work with workers who, after all, are some of the people who need to be consulted in this, and ...
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please conclude.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's obvious the minister had very little of anything to say. The local hire commission's final report states "develop with appropriate partners a hiring agency which contractors on Yukon government projects would be required to use." A key word there, Mr. Speaker - "required" to use.
Why were Yukon contractors not considered by this minister as appropriate partners in implementing this unionist scheme? Why are the rights and the interests of the majority trodden upon to implement the minority trade unionist views of the Member for Whitehorse Centre?
I guess he must have threatened to leave the NDP caucus if these weren't implemented. I'm sure that's the case.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: This is a shameful day for democracy in Yukon. What benefits will Yukoners ultimately see? We have two models that have been pirated - the Vancouver Island highway project, or the Saskatchewan model. We've pirated either one. What benefits will accrue to Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think we've finally hit on it. We've known that the opposition has been opposed to the concept of Yukon hire. We know, from their very first statement, when they referred to it as creating a barbed wire fence around the Yukon. This member here is basically suggesting that we just abandon Yukon workers.
What we're suggesting is that, by creating a pilot, we could develop an agency that would satisfy not only the interests of workers, but also the interests of employers, whether they are unionized or not. I, and this government, have committed to working with the community - the business community and the labour community - before we would go ahead with such a model. I've told the member that it's not imminent. I've told the member that this is something that we would have to approach with careful consideration. Now, he's running around doing his usual fear-mongering kind of stuff. I can only say that he wants to posture and pump himself up, but it doesn't mean anything.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Justice. Mr. Speaker, other Canadian jurisdictions fund legal aid for family cases at significantly higher rates than the Yukon government does. Saskatchewan, a fellow NDP government, funds the federal contribution at almost three-to-one. The NWT, which, unfortunately, is similar to the Yukon rates of abuse, alcoholism and family violence, funds it three times what we pay in the Yukon. Now, the minister can blame the feds and the legal aid board, but she's the one with the money.
As it stands, legal aid has no money to pay for Yukon women to go to court and get permanent custody of their children. When will this minister take responsibility and find the money she demanded when she was in opposition, to ensure that Yukon women in need have the resources to go to court and get enough money in support payments and permanent custody of their children?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's question requires much more than simply referring to the legal aid budget. There is in place, as the member knows, a maintenance enforcement program that helps women who are having trouble getting their maintenance payments from a defaulting spouse. In addition, we do fund the legal aid budget to help all people who need legal help, both on criminal and on civil matters, as well as young offender matters.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, no answer again.
Now, we know that there are women who are trying to get permanent custody of their children, and these women are being turned away because of the lack of money at legal aid.
Can the minister provide an estimate of the number of women who are being turned away from legal aid because of the lack of funding for civil cases? And can she also estimate how much it would cost to provide these women in need with the full legal means to keep their children permanently and be awarded adequate support payments?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated when the member raised these questions before, I have asked the legal aid board to provide us with an update on what their caseload is like. As I've also indicated, the legal aid board has the ability to determine which aspects they fund - how much of their expenditures will go to criminal as compared with civil and young offender matters.
There are other resources available as well, which we think it's important to support and which we continue to support, such as the Yukon Public Legal Education Association.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, as expected, the minister has again blamed someone else for the lack of funding for legal aid, but that doesn't help Yukon women one bit.
Mr. Speaker, because of the recent tragic crimes in some of our Yukon communities, limited legal aid funds will have to be used for the criminal cases, leaving even less money for civil family cases like child custody. There isn't enough money so legal aid has to put criminal cases before civil. Legal aid money is going to run out because of the increased criminal load.
Will the minister provide additional funding for civil family cases? She does have the legislative power to provide legal aid services funding for family cases. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter that the member opposite seems to refuse to recognize is that we have to live within our means and that we have had significant federal cuts to our funding. That has an effect on what the Yukon government can do with its money.
I can tell the member opposite that we've undertaken a number of initiatives to help women who have difficulty, such as the improvements to the maintenance enforcement legislation; we're looking at implementing the child support guidelines; we've brought forward legislation such as the Family Violence Prevention Act and the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act to try and make some changes to improve the situation for women in this territory.
Now, the member opposite knows that we have made a commitment to spend within our means, and we will do that.
Question re: Women's Directorate, new location
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, my next question is for the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, or perhaps we should call her the "minister of blame."
Now, Mr. Speaker, I can see by the move of the Women's Directorate office so far from the Cabinet office that women's issues are a diminished priority of this government. This NDP government moved the Women's Directorate from a very high-profile, very high-traffic location to P.O. Box Oblivion on top of the Financial Plaza - a move, I might add, that would have brought the current minister screaming and shouting to her feet had a Yukon Liberal government done the same thing. The NDP are making women's issues invisible.
Could the minister tell this House how this move has impacted on the provision of service to women? Could the minister tell us how many women used the library in its old site, and how many women are now using the resources at the new library-in-the-sky location?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, I really have to take exception to the rhetoric in the member's preamble there. The Women's Directorate has not been moved to oblivion, and it has not been removed far from the executive offices. It is about a three-minute walk over to the building.
Secondly, as the member is aware, that building has handicapped access and is fully accessible by people in wheelchairs.
Thirdly, the Women's Directorate continues to do important work for this government in advising on policy matters pertaining to women throughout government.
We've also demonstrated our commitment to the women's community in the territory by funding the new Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre.
Mrs. Edelman: While the minister is apparently so committed to promoting action on issues of violence against women that she flew to Toronto with the head of the Women's Directorate to get the word out, and the minister has direct program funds in the Women's Directorate's budget.
Kaushee's transition centre for women will be underfunded by $10,000 this year. Will the minister commit to transferring $10,000 of the $405,000 Women's Directorate to Kaushee's budget for front-line care of Yukon women who were victims of violence?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong in her allegations. We have made a commitment to provide sustainable funding to non-government organizations. The Department of Health and Social Services continues to provide sustainable funding to Kaushee's Place and to other women's shelters in the territory.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Party government considered shutting down Kaushee's, the minister was at the front of the protest parade. Unless she is willing to provide additional operating funds to the Women's transition home in Whitehorse, she is as guilty as the previous government of not paying attention to women's issues. Will the minister prove that her government is different from the Yukon Party by adequately funding Kaushee's transition home?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong; I am just turning to the Health and Social Services budget to pull those numbers out for her, but Kaushee's Place continues to receive funding from the Department of Health and Social Services. They have stable funding. We have a strong commitment to women's groups in this territory, including the shelters in Watson Lake, Dawson City and in Whitehorse.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education, and it's about Grey Mountain Primary School. In the 1994 budget debate, the minister - then in opposition - supported an amendment to remove $4.5 million from the highways budget, and urged the government of the day to build a new Grey Mountain Primary School, irrespective of the student enrollment which, I might add Mr. Speaker, is higher today than it was in 1994.
The minister - when she was a member on this side of the House - is quoted as saying, "I have no hesitation in supporting this amendment in the motion. It goes a little way to making this capital budget more balanced. With this amendment, the government would have spent $4.5 million less on roads in order to build new schools and needed schools." The minister meant the Grey Mountain Primary School.
In 1994, the member said the Grey Mountain Primary School was a much-needed school. However, on March 24 of this year, the minister said the total enrollment numbers in Riverdale at Grey Mountain make it difficult to justify the replacement of the facility.
Deputy Speaker: Order please. Would the member please conclude.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Why has the minister performed a 180-degree flip-flop on this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm really enjoying getting that member's question in Question Period today. That is the member who campaigned in favour of Grey Mountain Primary School in 1992, and then he was Minister of Education and cancelled that campaign commitment to build that school.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am really happy to put our record in relation to education capital spending up against that member's any time. After four years in government, and ignoring the needs in rural Yukon, we have made a commitment to build schools. We are constructing a school in Old Crow at the present time. We've also brought school councils into the decision making and developed a long-range plan, which will see us building the school in Ross River next year and a school in Mayo the year after that.
Mr. Phillips: That's my point. In 1994, when we cancelled the school because of the lack of numbers, which were lower than they are now, that minister said it was irresponsible and that we should build the school. I would like the minister to answer whether she was being irresponsible when she was in opposition in demanding the construction of a new Grey Mountain Primary School, planned by the previous NDP government, or is she being irresponsible now by not building the new school, despite her previous statements. What option does the minister pick?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite is not only being irresponsible, but he's being extremely inconsistent. Mr. Speaker, we were the only party in the 1996 election to not promise the school. We have a responsibility to balance the needs in the territory, to respond to the greatest need and to involve the communities in the decision making. The school councils have met. They have put forward their own recommendations as to the orders of the priorities in the capital construction of schools. That's exactly what we're doing. We have a planned approach, where we're building schools and I've already told the member what the order of that is.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, in 1994, when the Minister of Education was on this side of the House and the numbers in Grey Mountain Primary were lower, the member voted on a motion to remove money from the highways budget to build a "much-needed" school. Those were the minister's words. Today, the numbers are higher, Mr. Speaker, and the minister's flip-flopped on her position. Why has the minister changed her mind from 1994? The numbers are higher today. Why isn't the school much needed today if it was in 1994, according to the minister?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, that is the member opposite who is feeling a little bit burned because they did spend all their money on highways, they did not build schools that were needed in Yukon, and it came back to haunt them.
Mr. Speaker, we are responding to the needs in the Yukon. We are embarked on a long-range plan in building capital projects to have new schools in Old Crow and Ross River and Mayo over the next three years. We're proud of the work we're doing in involving school councils in the decision making, and I am surprised that the member wants to continue punishing himself by asking these questions and pointing out the fact that he promised something that he failed to deliver.
Question re: Forest strategy
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the forestry commissioner and it concerns his fast-approaching deadline for the delivery of the draft Yukon forest strategy.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, at the end of the fall session of the Yukon Legislature, the NDP government - the open and accountable government - had a couple of bad-news announcements they didn't want the public to hear too much about. One was the cancellation of rate relief that is helping to increase Yukoners' power bills, and the second was the closure of Crossroads.
We are hoping that there's no repeat of this type of activity this spring.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this member of the House was given one task by the Government Leader: to complete a Yukon forest strategy by April 30, 1998. Can the commissioner tell the House if the full draft strategy will be completed and delivered to the Legislature, as promised, by Thursday, April 30?
Mr. Fentie: Let me assure the member opposite that we are continuing to finalize the draft strategy. We are sticking to the process that we developed at the beginning and, in due course, we will be bringing the strategy forward.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, there was one task given to this member. He spent considerable time blaming others for forestry problems - the federal government, the previous Yukon Party administration - everybody but the NDP. In a statement to the Legislature last May, the commissioner said the status quo was unacceptable.
The commissioner was right. The uncertainty surrounding the forestry industry cannot continue. Can the commissioner tell this House why this government has been unable to complete the promised forest strategy on time?
Mr. Fentie: I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the member opposite is a little premature in her comments. First off, blaming the federal government - our position is quite the opposite. We're working with the federal government. It's unfortunate that the former Yukon Party government wasted four years on this issue by telling Yukoners that there was nothing they could do and that it was a federal problem. That's not the view that this government takes.
Secondly, when we look at the state of the industry in the Yukon, let me remind the member that in this harvest season, there were 88 commercial timber permits issued in this territory, which translates into approximately 300,000 cubic metres of harvest. So, I think the member should do a little more homework.
Ms. Duncan: Well, we've heard some interesting rhetoric from the member, but so far little in the way of results. Does the forestry commissioner have any idea when the Yukon public can expect to see this strategy? Will we see it released next week when the Legislature is finished and the commissioner will not have to answer questions in the House, or is the open and accountable government we were promised going to deliver the forest strategy by Thursday, April 30?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the first place, we will stick to the process that we committed to. That process was to develop a comprehensive, made-in-Yukon forest policy, and let me assure the member opposite that a lot of the work done to date has been by Yukoners.
Also, we will bring forward the strategy in the context of the process that we are working on, and, Mr. Speaker, it is not the end of April, unless I am missing something. Thursday is April 30.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I'd like to identify the items standing in the name of government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 29: Motion No. 105, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and Motion No. 102, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake.
Deputy Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Deputy Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 11: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 11, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a second time.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Members will be well-aware of the elements contained in this bill from the ministerial statement I made and the discussions we've had previously in these Chambers. The supplementary will increase spending for 1998-99 fiscal year by $4,370,000.
This is being achieved by advancing capital spending we were planning for future years.
This acceleration of our spending plans is justified because we now know that the Shakwak project will be proceeding in 1999-2000, and there would consequently be a large bubble in capital spending in that year.
The bringing forward of these projects into the current fiscal year will reduce that bubble and even out our year-over-year capital expenditure.
Aside from the generic advantages of a relatively smooth capital spending pattern, this action will serve to significantly alleviate the current unemployment problems we're facing as a result of the closure of the Faro mine and demonstrate our willingness and ability to address emerging economic trends.
The planned expenditures are related to tourism, heritage properties and public safety.
The extension of the Whitehorse airport's main runway is of obvious significance to the future of our tourism industry and will also add to the already impressive safety standards of the airline industry.
The proposed campground upgrades will improve facilities, not only for visitors to our territory, but will be welcomed by the many Yukon residents who will also enjoy their use.
Several historic properties, including the White Pass train depot and Taylor House will receive major upgrades and renovations. Not only will this aid in the preservation of our heritage, but it will also make Whitehorse more attractive to visitors and residents alike, as well as make those facilities more functional.
Finally, the long-overdue realignment of Yukon College access road will greatly increase safety on that much-used artery.
While the numbers are still being refined, it is estimated that these projects will create in excess of 1,100 weeks of direct, private sector employment, not to mention the secondary employment created through the multiplier effect. This will be of significant value to the local economy until such time as Shakwak takes up the slack in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
As I mentioned in my ministerial statement, instructions have been given to the public service to carry out this work in a manner such that the maximum number of Yukon people and businesses are employed in this completion. In this regard, our youth are to be given a special consideration, since they can be particularly affected by a lack of employment opportunities.
These expenditures will, of course, reduce our nominal accumulated surplus. We're confident, however, that spending lapses from 1997-98, which we have confirmed in recent weeks and which will not require a revote in the current year, will maintain that surplus in excess of our minimum desired level of $15 million.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I don't have many comments in second reading. We are aware of what the government's doing here. We had discussions with the Government Leader prior to the supplementary budget coming in. We're pleased to see that there will be some more jobs created in the private sector in the Yukon this summer.
I will have some questions when we get into Committee on it, and I'll save my questions until we get into Committee.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I, too, would have questions when we get into Committee. I would like to indicate that we believe that this supplementary budget tabled by the Finance minister is the first step toward getting our unemployed back to work. It's a first step in recognizing the plight of workers and individuals who were seeing a rather bleak future and that the government is truly concerned about the economy and the unemployed.
Expenditures aren't the only type of government initiative that can work to set a climate for employment and investment. There are policy initiatives, some of which have been discussed in this House, that can be used in returning the unemployed to work and generating an atmosphere of hope and opportunities for those who wish to seek work, who are already living within the territory and wish to raise families here.
We will be discussing the budget further in line-by-line, and will have some additional questions at that time.
Deputy Speaker: If the Government Leader now speaks, he will close debate.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the member for what I believe to be support for this measure. I'm glad to hear one member in the opposition make the obvious point that direct spending by the Yukon government will not replace the $100 million-plus payroll that Anvil Range, at one time, represented.
Certainly we can make strategic investments that are important to improving the economy and ensuring that people have as much work as we can. But, we certainly can't do everything and I'm happy that people in this House, in the opposition, recognize that fact.
We have spent a considerable amount of our time, Mr. Speaker, as the members are aware, in improving the climate not only for investment but for future economic activity. We do have not only a short-term plan but also a long-term plan, and I believe that that is a reform in the way a government does business, which is very much positive.
I'd be happy to answer the questions the members raise, to the extent that I can, Mr. Speaker, in Committee debate and, when we get to the various lines, I'm certain the ministers, when their votes come forward, can answer in slightly more detail should the need arise.
So, I thank the members for their support and I'm happy to proceed with this bill.
Deputy Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Deputy Speaker: Division has been called. We will now ring the bells for five minutes.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Deputy Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 11 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 11, Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99.
Bill No. 11 - Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I think we've discussed this at some length. It's not a complicated bill, but I'll just, for the record, say a few words.
There are appropriations for $4.37 million, only $50,000 of which is O&M; the remainder is capital. The projects proposed are ones that would have been budgeted in future years but are being brought forward for several reasons.
As I mentioned, with the Shakwak project proceeding again next year, accelerating these projects will serve to somewhat level out our expenditures year over year.
Now, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services may give some hope that there may be some Shakwak funding, in fact, for this year, if all goes well, but, at this point, there are no guarantees.
Mr. Chair, it's hard to make eye contact with the Liberal leader through the flowers here. This is a job for the Clerk Assistant.
Secondly, these expenditures will obviously serve to help with the unemployment that has resulted from the closure of the Faro mine.
As the members will note, many of the projects - or most of the projects - have a tourism theme to them, and that has been done purposely, recognizing the importance of the tourism industry.
I would also mention, as I mentioned to the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the third party, the criteria for proceeding with projects included the ability to actually undertake them in this fiscal year. So those projects that may have been worthwhile but for which there had been inadequate planning were not eligible for work because they would not have been undertaken, in any case.
As I indicated, these projects will draw down our reported surplus of $15 million, but as I indicated to members already, the surplus we expect for March 31, 1998, is expected to be $41 million minus revotes - in the $41-million range, I should say, minus revotes.
Consequently, I believe that we will be on target again next year, based on our understanding of our revenue and expenditure picture.
So, I'm happy and available to answer questions if members want to ask them.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of questions that I'd like to start with to explore this budget. The Finance minister has talked a little bit about the Shakwak funding and what this budget will do until next year when the Shakwak will kick in.
I wonder if the Finance minister could tell us: do we know now for certain that the funding has been approved and will start to flow in the next fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the member, I'm certain, knows, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in Washington have both passed appropriation bills, both with Shakwak funding in them. We do know that they are headed to a conference between the two Houses, which is a standard event that will blend the two bills.
There is every expectation that the two transportation bills will incorporate some saw-off of Shakwak funding, and the expectation by insiders is that it would be approximately $16 million per year to the end of the Shakwak term. I think the total figure is $120 million over six years, so it will be $16 million to $20 million per year.
Now, there is the potential for Shakwak funding to be - the correct terminology is not "advanced" but to be - initiated this year if the President signs this bill. That is expected to happen in May. If that happens, and there are no glitches, then the money could be released this summer, which means that the Department of Community and Transportation Services could proceed immediately. They have, as I understand it, a fair amount of work on the shelf ready to go. It is tender-ready, and they can issue tender calls the moment we get word that the funding is there.
So, we're very confident, even though the bill is not signed by the President. We see no signals, we hear no signals, that there will be any trouble with the appropriation bills. We expect that they will be passed, and we're hoping they'll be signed by the President in May.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, just a further clarification of that. The Finance minister mentioned a figure of $120 million. Is that $120 million U.S., or is it going to be $120 million Canadian?
Also, as he said, the two Houses have to meet to blend the bills. Does this happen prior to the President signing the bill, or does the President sign it first and then, sometime over the summer, the two Houses meet?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the two Houses are apparently meeting now. They should be having their planning meetings now. As I say, the new bill should go before the President for a review and approval shortly.
As I also mentioned, or alluded to, there's nothing in the bill that insiders think would cause the President to veto this measure. So there's every expectation that this will happen.
Now, the Senate passed a bill, U.S. funds, for $96 million over six years, and the House passed a bill of $120 million for Shakwak over six years.
Now, I don't know. I guess Representative Don Young has obviously been more successful in getting more money into the House bill than Ted Stevens did getting money into the Senate bill, but nevertheless we appreciate the effort from both members.
In terms of the precise amounts, perhaps when we get to the Community and Transportation Services estimate, I can give an estimate in Canadian dollars and the minister can answer the question.
Mr. Ostashek: It's really not that important. It's a substantial sum of money and will be of great benefit to help put Yukoners to work over the next few years.
I wonder if the Finance minister could just give us an update. There are a whole bunch of different projects that will be going ahead in this supplementary budget. Are any of them started now, and are we in a position where actual work will start shortly, or is most of the work not going to start until September or October, as is usually the case in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as I understand it, the Yukon College access road is ready to go. There's a design sitting on the shelf and, as I understand it, that project would be managed by a local engineering firm.
The work on the airport will be done this year. We had set aside in the main estimates budget $70,000 for design; that work is underway. I don't know precisely when they can start moving earth but I would suspect it'll be this summer - certainly it will be this summer. We've been assured that, in fact, they can do it this year. So, how much it bumps into the fall season I'm not certain.
With respect to the campgrounds, the work should happen this summer. With respect to the heritage buildings, work on the Taylor House can begin very soon, as I understand it, and the design work for the White Pass train station is, I believe, underway right now and should be started this summer.
I'll have to ask the ministers involved to give some more precise information about that.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one other question. If the Finance minister can't answer it now, maybe the Minister of Community and Transportation Services can answer it when we get to his budget. The alignment of the college road - is it going to be going out to the Alaska Highway, as one proposal was, or is it just a realignment of the road in the proximity of where it is now?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is a realignment of the existing access road. This is the road from Range Road through to the college site. It would leave from the same point that it currently leaves Range Road and the curve would be shorter and softer than the existing curve.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to ask a few questions of the Finance minister and begin by, once again - perhaps I wasn't clear in my earlier remarks - expressing support for the initiatives which are targeted directly at Yukon's unemployed - 15.7-percent unemployed. These initiatives go immediately to creating real jobs.
While, as the Finance minister has said, it is no replacement for the payroll of Anvil Range and the mine at Faro, it does augment Viceroy's payroll and it speaks to creating a climate for employment.
With regard to creating a climate for employment and working with the private sector, are any of these particular projects going to employ any versions of a public-private partnership model?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, right now the government is engaging in discussions with the Whitehorse and Yukon chambers of commerce, the Chamber of Mines and the Klondike Placer Miners Association on a variety of subjects. One of them is the exploration of public-private partnerships.
We participated in the City of Whitehorse review a couple of weeks ago, which had David Connelly of Taga Ku fame in town doing some work for the City of Whitehorse on public-private partnerships. I've committed to a number of people who've come to the government wanting to talk about various, potential projects. I've indicated to them that we will continue discussions with them as well. Certainly, over the course of the next few months, we will be in a better position to determine what we're prepared to do within our previously stated limitations. Certainly, there are some interesting and some potentially exciting prospects. These projects here are not particularly dedicated to being public private-partnerships even though one project that I do know of is going to be project managed by a private engineering firm and not done in-house by Community and Transportation Services.
Certainly, we have indicated in principle, and as we indicated in the Legislature during the motion debate, that we are prepared to investigate potential opportunities and we're going to be taking the next few months to continue those discussions.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would take it from the Finance minister's remarks then that this idea and these models are under discussion and development and they haven't been dismissed.
One of the criteria that the Government Leader mentioned for these projects, when he approached departments and asked for these suggestions, was that they had to be projects on the shelf, ready to go. Presumably, we've used most of, or a good portion of, the existing projects on the shelf and I just wonder what sort of a planning exercise has been undertaken to ensure that, as funds are available, additional capital projects are on the shelf, ready to go, so to speak?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the member is correct. One of the criteria for proceeding with these projects was that there was a realistic determination of the projects to proceed this year. We've been reassured that, in fact, that's the case with the projects on the table this afternoon.
We have indicated, as the Yukon hire report had recommended, that we are starting to work on a three-year capital planning exercise, where we're trying to determine better and with greater foresight what could realistically happen in terms of major projects in the future. That initiative will help us position ourselves better for designing projects in advance of their construction.
Now, the member makes a good point that there are a number of projects that are available, particularly on the road construction side, that are ready to go. The same is not true for building construction. In fact, there are millions and millions of dollars that could go on the Shakwak project right now.
We do not have, for one reason or another, work in building construction, but that is something that we're going to be discussing internally to try to do some advance work sooner so that we can, if the money is available, advance projects when the opportunity arises.
The concern that I have, however, is that building projects typically require pretty substantial public discussion and consultation. If we proceed with, for example, a school building project and people get reassured, say, a certain school will be built in a certain year, they are not particularly excited - I discovered this recently - at the notion that the project might be advanced until they're ready to participate fully in the design work as they had been promised.
So, there are some limitations to that, but there may be some projects - there have been some joint projects - for example, discussed even between the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government - that might be projects that we would put in the hopper and consider in the future when money was available.
Such a project that they have raised is joint firehall facilities, for example. That is certainly something that could be designed and left to wait until money is available. The city has indicated an interest, for example, in combining the airport firehall with, at least, the Takhini firehall. That may make a lot of sense. I don't know, but that class of project may be the kind of project that we could design in advance.
Ms. Duncan: I'd just like to indicate to the Finance minister that I understand his point about the design of public buildings, and then the creation of expectations within the community.
Just a couple more questions. One concerns the Shakwak funding, which the minister had mentioned earlier, and I thank him for the explanation given to the leader of the opposition regarding the funding and where the funding was at.
I just am a little curious as to if there's any liaison with the Canadian Embassy in Washington, if we have somebody making sure that the President has the pen necessary to sign the paper. We often talk about the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development not having a pen to sign water licences, and I'm just concerned. You know, sometimes at the last minute, the lobbying, and so on, doesn't go quite the way we planned, particularly in Washington, which is noted for its lobbying and so on.
Do we have someone who is dogging this paper, so to speak, to the President's desk, and making sure it's signed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have received some excellent cooperation from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Mr. Chair. The Canadian Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Chrétien, has been very attentive to this file, as he has been to many other issues that affect Yukoners - but certainly this one.
He initially helped set up a number of meetings that we had. Even the Yukon government's circumpolar ambassador, at one point, went to Washington to lobby for the Shakwak project. That meeting was arranged by the embassy staff and they received good support.
We do know that the Canadians in Washington are very familiar with precisely who is responsible for what and when. They've been able to give us very, very detailed snapshots as to where the decision is at any given time, who might be a problem in terms of the lobbying effort, and they've been invaluable in helping us with the very, very aggressive lobbying campaign that we've undertaken.
So, I think we would know within a very short period of time if there was any trouble at all and, as I say, we have not detected any concerns with respect to this bill.
There had been a concern that perhaps this bill might conflict with the President's other spending plans, particularly around health care, and that the President might want to chop portions of this bill in order to redirect funds into his health care program. But we've been given some assurance that that's not going to be an issue with this bill. This is a long time in coming. Every state is involved; both Democrat and Republican representatives in the House are very concerned about what impact this will have on jobs in their various districts, so we're pretty confident that this is not going to be derailed. But if we got any indication at all, any inkling at all, that there would be a problem, I'm certain the Canadian Embassy is well positioned to tell us.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that information from the Government Leader, that the Canadian Embassy has been working very hard on our behalf.
The minister mentioned the recognition of tourism as a very important industry to Yukoners and to future development of the Yukon and that there's appropriate recognition in this supplementary estimate, and I agree with him and support that recognition of that industry.
There's just one particular stretch of road that I don't believe is mentioned and relates to tourism, and that's a section of the Tagish Road. I have heard from a number of people developing tourism industries on that road that they're interested in seeing it upgraded to a level for tourism, not necessarily for any future mine developments. It's an interesting conundrum for the government. I just wondered if there's a project on the shelf that addresses the needs of that road and if there are levels. Is there a project that says so-many millions to upgrade to tourism level or if there's a project that says so-many millions to upgrade to more industrial traffic or if there's even a plan that is even close to the shelf? Whichever minister wants to answer that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I've been faced with the same initiative. Folks quite adamantly tell me that this is the last 10 miles of unpaved road in the Yukon Territory. We know it isn't, but to them, it certainly is. And, they would like it upgraded but not necessarily to the point, as the Liberal leader has said, for mining. I agree with the Liberal leader, they don't want it brought up to a grade for mining.
Yes, the department is going to be looking at it in the future. There are no plans on the shelf for that particular piece of the road right now, but certainly it will be in the budget process for identification to see how we might be able to proceed with it or at least get a design done for it up to the standards that the community desires.
Ms. Duncan: I just have one last perhaps - I don't know what the word is for this question, but it's one of those questions that occurred to me that I don't know the answer to. In the runway expansion, how many of the trees in the area of the runway expansion are going to be cut down or removed? Is there a potential for removing a number of trees from that area? The minister can get back to me by legislative return if he wishes.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I certainly will get the information requested back to the Liberal leader opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Having just taken off on a flight on Friday morning, it just occurred to me that with runway expansion there might be some other initiatives there. On the other point regarding forestry and trees, we had quite a discussion about fire-breaks and the communities, and are there any initiatives that might be included. There's none that we've heard discussed when this was tabled but is there room in the budget for any of those initiatives?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there is work underway now to scope out a program for fire-breaks around communities - thinning of trees that have a higher chance of burning. That work is being done by the forestry commission and the Department of Renewable Resources. The details are not ready yet but there is potential for some work going ahead this year.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have no further questions. I'd just like to express our party's support for the initiatives to help Yukon's unemployed.
Deputy Chair: Hearing no further general debate, we will now go to the estimates book, page 1-2, Community and Transportation Services.
Department of Community and Transportation Services
On Capital Expenditures
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, there's not generally general debate to the specific issue, although I would like to certainly join my comments with the Liberal leader to say that this budget does certainly go a long way to helping the unemployed of the Yukon Territory, certainly in absence of other jobs such as the Shakwak, which has already been discussed.
Certainly, I'm quite excited and pleased about this project, because this project does not simply bring about just X amount of person years or person weeks of employment. It brings about and attracts, as a lure, an airport for consideration of airlines and gives me the incentive to go forth and to try to procure other airlines coming in. So, I am quite enthused and pleased with the initiative that we're coming forth with.
Deputy Chair: We'll go onto line items.
On Transportation Division
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Aviation/Yukon Airports in the amount of $2,200,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $2,200,000 agreed to
Department of Education
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The total budget of $650,000 for the upgrading of the existing access to Yukon College will include site inspection and project management. The new road will eliminate the switchback in favour of a single curve so it will cut off a portion of the top corner of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre property. The Yukon College access road upgrade has been a long-standing request from the College Board of Governors and the college community of staff and students and people who use the Yukon Place site. Road safety will be improved. The new road will be banked and surfaced with asphalt.
I am pleased to inform members of a training component of this project. Yukon College has entered into an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation whereby First Nations students from the heavy equipment operator program will be employed on the project.
Mr. Ostashek: So, the government's going to be doing this project themselves? It's not going out to private contract? Is that what the minister is saying? If we're going to be employing Kwanlin Dun students, is it being done by C&TS department, or is it going to go out to private contract?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Education has entered an agreement with Community and Transportation Services engineering and development branch to manage the project on our behalf. It will be going out for tender.
Ms. Duncan: Earlier, the Government Leader indicated that a local engineering firm would be overseeing this project. I'm a little confused. I was going to ask the Finance minister at the time how that was going to be tendered, if he already knew who was going to be doing it. Just how are we dealing with these projects? Can I have that clarified?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There is a contract with Yukon Engineering Services, which will be responsible for the site inspection component of the road upgrade. There will be a tender going out within the next two weeks for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre site preparation, which will include fencing, site lighting and grading. The second tender will include all of the remaining construction, including the road.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no more general debate, we'll go to the line items.
On Advanced Education
On Upgrading Existing Access to Yukon College
Upgrading Existing Access to Yukon College in the amount of $650,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $650,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $650,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will now go to page 3-2, under Government Services.
Department of Government Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Capital Expenditures
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This expenditure consists of two principal projects, one being the upgrading to address code, safety and structural issues to permit occupation of the second floor of the White Pass depot, as well as cosmetic and other structural revisions on that building, as well as the two small buildings in front of the Tourism Visitor Reception Centre. This also includes landscaping, both hard and soft landscaping, which was last done in 1991-92. Some further work will be done to make sure that the buildings inside are more presentable to the public.
In addition, the city is also doing some major restorations to the old firehall building, which they've leased from YTG, and there's some landscaping work around this building, and contributions to that project will also be made.
In addition, the Taylor House upgrade; this is $250,000. The proposed upgrades to this building are to address fire and safety code issues as well as to shore up the general building components.
On this project, the estimated date of completion is approximately 17 weeks after commencement of work. The department estimates that this would translate into approximately 3,500 person hours of work, or 87.5 person weeks.
On the waterfront/White Pass train depot/old firehall houses, it's estimated that there will be 7,850 person hours of work, or 196 person weeks of employment resulting from this project.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have a couple of questions. What's the game plan for the firehall? If we're going to be doing upgrading on it, is there going to be any utilization of it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. We were approached last year to lease the firehall. There's a group that's interested in, and has access to, a number of historic firefighting pieces of equipment - old fire engines and things of that nature. They formed a society and, through the city, they approached us about leasing that facility with the idea of doing a tourist attraction firehall museum, if you will. As the building is ours and, without some improvement, it would deteriorate fairly rapidly. The city is undertaking approximately $60,000 in terms of renovations to that building. We are supporting them in that regard.
Mr. Ostashek: I can see we're going to be doing some upgrading to these two small buildings in front of the VRC, as well.
I think it's about time that the government started considering what we're going to do with the parking lot that's in front of the VRC on the riverbank. It's about time that that was done away with, landscaped and made attractive to our tourists, so that they would start spending some time on the waterfront. What are the minister's plans for that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to the parking lot, I think we'll be working with the city as they move toward their plans on the waterfront. With regard to the two small houses, both of those houses are buildings that were built for White Pass workers at the time that the train ran back and forth, and they are considered to have historic value. As well, there's a further small building, almost adjacent to this building, which is the Casey house. At some future point, that one would have to be restored.
With regard to the parking lot, we don't have the immediate plans on that. As I said, we'll be working with the city on the whole waterfront development.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions. The minister will recall, if he or his officials go back into debate - not from this year but last year on Government Services - that I had quite a discussion with the minister about lease arrangements with these non-profit organizations and these buildings the government owns. Now, unless I'm mistaken, the government still owns the T.C. Richards building; the government owns the Taylor house; the government owns the White Pass building and there are different lease arrangements in all three buildings. Now, has there been any effort made by Government Services to standardize these lease arrangements? Is everybody under the same arrangement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to, say, for example, the Taylor House, there have been some discussions with a group that's interested in going in there, and we would try to reach a market rent with expenses, et cetera, et cetera. As well, there is also an organization that is interested in going in there, as I believe I mentioned before, the Arctic Winter Games.
Our arrangements on the White Pass building are somewhat different. Up to now, we've basically had TIA and the First Nation tourism group in there. They have been largely spearheading the interest in trying to consolidate some of the tourist-related organizations in there and we have begun some discussions with them as to the kinds of developments we're going to be doing in, the kinds of impact that there'll be on those organizations. We're going to try to do the upstairs with little impact on the two organizations and then we'll probably move them up. But what we'll be doing is trying to work out some kind of arrangement, either something along the lines of perhaps an arrangement similar to that with the Chamber of Commerce and the T.C. Richards and perhaps having TIA administer it or something of that nature. But those are still some preliminary discussions. I think the interest that we've heard is from the Tourism Industry Association who is trying to get access to that building for some groups like the Wilderness Tourism and so on.
Ms. Duncan: That was an informative answer from the minister, but I still don't understand if the Department of Government Services is going to standardize arrangements, or if they're just going to continue to make individual arrangements.
My worry is that, if there are individual arrangements for each one of these buildings, there's the potential for dispute between organizations and the government.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can understand the member's concern, and certainly with regard to, I suppose, space that has a business/office potential, we could look at the standardization of some arrangements, at least based on the square footage and what is similar to market value.
With regard to some other space that might not be quite as commercially attractive, for example, I'm thinking of, perhaps, one of the small houses on the waterfront, which we have been approached on, actually, by a non-profit society that's interested in that. Those buildings are somewhat different. They don't have the same value. In a similar arrangement, we've made an arrangement to lease the firehall, and the amount of work that would have to go in there is quite considerable.
So, I think we'll try to standardize, at least on spaces that have a commercial/office value, but there will be some arrangements we'll make, obviously, with organizations that don't have the same resources.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to clarify? Are there any commercial operations, either a food stand run by a non-profit organization, or an actual business, going into either of the two small houses, or are those strictly to be repaired and renovated?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we had been approached by one business about going in there. We said that, first of all, it would have to be done on a tender basis. Second of all, we didn't feel that those buildings would be, at this point - I won't say fit for human habitation - appropriate right now for any kind of use, because there are some structural issues. There are clearly some cosmetics, and also clearly some structural. That's what we'll be working on this summer.
As well, we've also been approached by one non-profit society that's interested, because of the historical value, in trying to get some space in one of the houses.
Ms. Duncan: If I'm understanding the minister correctly, it's strictly, at this point - I don't want to use the word "cosmetic" - to bring these buildings up to landmark status. Am I to understand that there's not been an agreed-upon, long-term use for these planned; that it's under discussion?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is correct. It's under discussion. As a matter of fact, when we announced that we were going to be doing some renovations on those buildings - and it was primarily to ensure their preservation, and so on - we have subsequently been approached by a group that has asked about the idea of getting accessibility to one of those buildings. Of course, those are some of the things we will have to discuss with them in terms of maintenance, and so on and so forth.
Right now, it's very preliminary. The first thing we're going to do is just restore the buildings and get them into decent shape.
Ms. Duncan: If I could just leave the minister with the recommendation. I think the downtown core business community would have quite a brief to present to the minister if those spaces were to be leased commercially. I'm not certain that it would be met with wholehearted enthusiasm by all members of the downtown business community.
The last question I have for the minister - there was a discussion earlier this session about initiatives by the government with regard to working with Challenge and landscaping and landscaping skills, and the minister, in his brief preamble, indicated that there was to be landscaping done on these buildings. Is the government working with Challenge Yukon and utilizing these skills that are being developed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we haven't had formal discussions with Challenge. I have asked the department to see what kinds of things that we could be doing to sort of maximize youth in there, and they have made some suggestions in terms of such things as incentives, perhaps even looking at a modification of the business incentive program, where people would hire young workers, and trying to work through the Canada Student Employment Centre and things of that nature.
But at this point, no, we haven't had any discussions with Challenge.
Likely what we're looking at - and not only with landscaping in terms of plants and things like that, but we'll also be looking at the restoration of some of the boardwalks, the wooden sidewalks and that kind of thing, because there are some problems with the existing sidewalks.
Ms. Duncan: Well, if I could just make the recommendation to the minister that we are, on the one hand, spending money working with groups to develop a skill set, it would seem entirely appropriate, where we are also spending government funds, to in turn provide opportunities to make use of that skill set. It seems to me that it would be a good fit, and it should be explored, if I could recommend that in the strongest possible terms to the minister.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll take that under consideration and pass it on to the department.
There are also a couple of other things that we're going to be doing with regard to the property management branch.
We're looking at employing two additional STEP students this summer with regard to these projects. As well, we're also looking at putting out some contracts for young people to do a website on heritage building information on our Internet site, and we're also trying to provide some other employment opportunities for youth in that regard.
Incidentally, just while I'm on it, one of the things that is almost coincidental to the announcement on White Pass was a production in March of a book by the heritage branch, which is a history of the White Pass building in terms of the structural basis of it and just the whole history.
So there's a wealth of information that we could be translating into some heritage information for a website, so that's something we could be working on as well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the heritage branch is a bit displaced because of the lack of the historic resources centre. Are they a potential tenant for the second floor of the White Pass building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: They might be. I would suggest that probably that space would not really lend itself to what they need.
I think they're looking for such things as conservation labs. They would be looking at some fairly technical kinds of facilities.
Having toured the building and having looked at it, it's actually very prime office space. It's very nice, and I could see where it would be a desirable area for people, particularly in the tourism industry.
One of the things that we want to do, and I've just had some discussions with TIA on this - we've had one committee meeting already with our folks in heritage - is that we would like to, as much as possible, restore the sort of main foyer/lobby area in terms of historic detail. Certainly, in my discussion with the president of TIA - I guess it is the past president of TIA, as he still is - he indicated to me that there were some positive signs with regard to White Pass possibly bringing a train in, at least on a seasonal basis.
They would like to have that area restored as closely as possible to its original, and perhaps even have something akin to the Skagway train station, with historical photos and displays, and that kind of thing. So I think that has some real potential.
The one thing that they have suggested as well is, because that building attracts so many visitors - it's probably the most photographed building in the territory - they're looking at ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has indicated that perhaps it isn't, but it is a very popular building. He has suggested that they have a lot of tourists who wander in there, just attracted by the building. They're thinking that, perhaps once these restorations are done, they might work with a summer employment program to do sort of an interpretive aspect on the building.
So I think there's some good potential there.
Deputy Chair: Seeing that there is no further general debate, we will go into the line items.
On Property Management
On Common Facilities
Common Facilities in the amount of $1,060,000 agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $1,060,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $1,060,000agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess just to quickly run through some of the dollars, where they're being spent, I think this is fairly straightforward in regard to campgrounds. There are 10 campgrounds that will receive rehabilitation and reconstruction work. This includes improvements to roads and bridges and the little loops that go off the roads, campsites, installation of barrier posts, gates, new signage, bear-proof garbage containers, painting, and basically a smaller type of upgrading and maintenance to these campgrounds.
The 10 campgrounds are Squanga Lake, Rock River, Johnson Lake, Drury Creek, Frenchman Lake, Ethel Lake, Engineer Creek, Takhini River, Lake Laberge and Wolf Creek. We will basically be going about doing this work as we normally do. We'll hire local contractors for road work and supply of gravel and so on, the rental of equipment and operators, the supplying of building materials and drilling of wells. Basically, the seasonal, auxiliary employees will also benefit from facility construction and installation of an extended employment period. And, of course, the improved services, we feel, given that the Yukon is celebrating its 100th anniversary, will complement and enhance the tourism industry and the Yukon image.
Mr. Ostashek: I have just a couple of questions. The minister listed off a lot of campgrounds there for a total budget of $610,000. It isn't going to go very far. I would just like to ask the minister if he could share with the House how these campgrounds got picked to have the work done.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: These are basically ongoing maintenance. They were on the list of campgrounds that should have had money applied to them, but were not, of course, because of looking at priorities within our budget. They were already listed as campgrounds that needed work. It was easy enough to apply dollars toward these. Basically, year by year, as campgrounds get worn out and facilities wear down and need replacing, we do keep an inventory of what campgrounds need work, what has been completed and when they need work. These 10 were basically on the list of work that needed to be done. They were basically put on the list that way.
We do have, if you look back in our budget for this year, one campground that has major dollars, I think, going toward it, and that's the one in Watson Lake. We have $200,000, but that's not part of the supplementary budget; it's $200,000 for the rehabilitation of that campground.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we're going to be into Renewable debate here shortly on the main budget, so we'll wait until we get into that.
I'm just wondering here a little because I see a Ross River campground in here, and I don't believe that there'll be that much of an increase in traffic to Ross River with the anniversaries on. It'll be mostly along the gold rush route. That's why I was asking as to why the campground was chosen, but as the minister said, these are just part of an ongoing overhaul and there's nothing special in any of this $400,000 that's being spent - am I correct?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we did not focus on five or six campgrounds that would particularly be on the route that tourists would normally use. We've looked, for example, even at Frenchman Lake campground, which is off the Campbell Highway or the Klondike Highway, whichever way you would want to go. It is a few miles off the road, but people do use it.
A lot of the local people do use these campgrounds, and sometimes when these facilities fall apart or are in desperate need of repair, we need to really look seriously at it. I think the Department of Renewable Resources was quite lucky to have identified, ahead of time, a number of campgrounds that needed work, and could easily put local people to work. These 10 were on the list and fell in quite nicely with the supplementary budget.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of comments. I, too, was very pleased to see the additional funding for the campground facilities and would just say publicly to the minister, as I've said to his staff, that I appreciate the work that's done in this particular section of Renewable Resources. I understand it's very well-used by Yukoners throughout the Yukon.
One question that I haven't had answered - I'm not sure that I've asked the department for a briefing note - if there's a tracking of usage by campground, I'd be interested in receiving that - just, you know, which campgrounds are more used in the Yukon than others.
Secondly, I would just - in their planning exercise - suggest that the next time they mark campgrounds that also require upgrading that they also prepare a list of those campgrounds that require the Big Toy and playground equipment, as not all Yukon campgrounds have it. Some are more suited to it than others, but those that do have it are very well-used, and it is an added feature of the campground and it's an attraction for children that we don't often think about when we're talking about tourism.
And I just would like to recommend to the minister that we prepare a list of those campgrounds, where it would be suitable, and have that on the shelf ready to go next time these monies are available.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can take that suggestion back to the department. I think the member is right. Things like this do complement, I think, a lot more local people in going out and using these campgrounds if there are facilities there for kids to use.
In regard to a list, I can provide as best we can, I guess, the number of campgrounds that are used the most or appear to have been used the most. We can look at the number of campground permits, campground fees, that are bought in certain areas and we can also look at what type of O&M, I guess, we have on these campgrounds. One way, I guess, that people can tell that campgrounds are used a lot is when we have to replace the wood supply. And in the supplementary budget we do have $50,000 that would go toward that, and it is not under capital but under O&M, just for wood supply, and I do have a list of campgrounds if the member would like that later for which campgrounds the wood would go to.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no more general debate, we'll go to the line items.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Environment, Parks and Field Services
Environment, Parks and Field Services in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Environment, Parks and Field Services
On Territorial Campgrounds and Day Use Areas
On Capital Works - Campground Facilities
Capital Works - Campground Facilities in the amount of $410,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $410,000 agreed to
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that you report Bill No. 11 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Renewable Resources - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, when we left off debate last night, we were talking about the permit hunt in the Finlayson caribou range area, and the minister's fixation with going to a permit hunt rather than voluntary compliance. One of the reasons that the minister gave for wanting to go with the permit hunt is that he needed to have better information. I am not entirely versed in what he means by "better information."
I did say last night in the debate - and drew the minister's attention to it - that we do have a mandatory hunter report, which I understand is compulsory to fill out. If you don't fill it out, you could be denied a licence the following year.
Is my interpretation of that hunter report right? If you don't fill it out, there is a possibility that you wouldn't get a hunting licence in the following season?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that is a possibility.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. When I look at this mandatory hunting report, it asks for a lot of information, and it's also got to be filled out whether you take any big wildlife or not. So, even if you bought a licence and didn't hunt, I presume you still have to fill the report out.
Can the minister tell me what kind of success they're having with hunters filling out this report?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the member knows that we have changed the reporting to December - a bit of change from previous years. The number's normally fairly good - that people do fill out these reports. I don't have a number for the member as of last year's information gathered. I could provide that information; we just don't have it here.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I would appreciate it if the minister would have that information for us tomorrow, because we'll still be in this debate tomorrow night; I'm sure of that.
Can the minister tell me: has anybody been refused a licence for not filling out this form?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I don't believe that anybody has been refused a licence. If they have not filled out the questionnaire that comes with it, if they reapply for a licence, they have to come to the Department of Renewable Resources to get a licence. It's not simply going into a store, or wherever they do sell these licences, and picking one up. They have to come into the department to renew their licence.
Mr. Ostashek: How is it monitored? Is there a list distributed to every licence distribution place? Suppose, just using myself as an example, I bought a licence in Whitehorse last year and I didn't fill out a hunter report form, and I went to, say, Dawson City and bought a licence this year. That is perfectly legal. I can buy one at any licence outlet in the Yukon. How do you monitor it to make sure that people who haven't filled out the form have to come to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The agencies that give out licences, whether they're in stores or what not, all bring the information in to us in the department and we compile it. We keep track of all the places that are issuing licences and make sure that all information does come back from them to us.
Mr. Ostashek: That was not my question. My question is: how does an agency know that I, last year, bought a licence in Whitehorse? I didn't send in the form. I ignored the form and didn't send it in. I'm going to buy a licence in Dawson this year. How does the agency in Dawson know that I didn't fill out this mandatory hunter report?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is my understanding that the agencies are provided with a list of people that have and have not filled out these questionnaires. They are also asked, up front, whether or not they have. If they haven't, they are referred back to the department so that they can reapply for the licence.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. So, the minister says that there is a list distributed to every agency that issues licences. We are into the new licence year now, as of April 1. I would like, when the minister comes back to the House with the percentage who are filling out the form, for him to also give me the number of people who are on the list who haven't filled out the form last year, that is being distributed to all of the agencies, so that they are aware that, say, John Ostashek, didn't fill out his hunter report form and that they ought not to issue him a licence until such time as he could verify that he has filled one out. When the minister comes back with the information, will he come back with a number of the people who are on the list?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we could provide that list for the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay. So, if we have this arrangement in place that everybody who buys a licence has to fill this form out, has to fill in what species they hunted, what subzone they hunted in, if they were successful what did they take, what other information does the minister hope to gather by going to a permit hunt in the Finlayson area? What information is he lacking now that he's going to gather by going to a permit hunt in the Finlayson area? Because that's what the minister said in the House the other day in Question Period - that they were going to a permit hunt because they needed more information. What further information does the minister need?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: With permit hunts, you're able to get information immediately rather than after the hunt. That would be information, I guess, that if you wanted to make a decision part way through the season, the information you get at the beginning of the season could be used.
In regard to the Finlayson area, I said that we would take the recommendations that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board gave to us. The recommendation was to look at a permit hunt and also to talk with the Ross River Dena Council about what they feel and what their input is and what knowledge they have to contribute to this season's hunt.
We need to take precautionary measures. We both know that. We know that the cow/calf ratio is down. If we started to take precautionary measures this season, and if we find through our rut count this fall that the numbers are down, we can make a lot more informed decisions as to what really needs to be done in regard to hunting in the Finlayson area.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I believe the minister said last night that they were going to do, I believe, a rut count or a calf count this fall, and they were going to do a full-blown census in 1999 of the Finlayson caribou herd. Am I correct? Is that what the minister said last night?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I said that we would be doing a rut count this fall and that we would be doing a full census of the Finlayson caribou herd next March. So, we should have numbers by the end of next March or close to that date.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I guess that's what's causing me some concern, Mr. Chair. Here we have a minister who believes that they need to take some precautionary measures and bring a permit hunt in on resident hunters, yet he's not doing a census until 1999. Again, I think the minister has the cart before the horse. I mean, if the minister's department felt that there were some problems with the herd, why didn't they do a census this March?
Why are we waiting until 1999, after we've put in a permit system? Can the minister tell me why, if there's a concern with the herd, there was no census done this year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The concern we have, as the member well knows, is with the cow/calf ratio. During the wolf control in the 1980s, there were 50 calves per 100 cows, and we had an average of 29 calves to 100 cows after the wolf kill, and we expect that the calf survival rate, or what we've seen, I guess, as of 1997, is 20 calves per 100 cows. So, it has dropped considerably. We expected the numbers of the herd to drop once the wolf control ended.
What we don't know is where the number is going to stabilize and basically provide for predator and hunters alike. We know that there's a minimum number to be harvested in this herd, and it's been overharvested, and we need to do a reduction. We don't know what the total number is. We feel that it's approximately around 4,000 at this point, and we need to do a count. Until we do a count, we would not know whether or not this herd is in trouble.
What we do know, though, is that the cow/calf ratio is down, and it's down in 1997. That means numbers will go down in this herd. It's just common sense, but what are the real numbers of this herd? We don't really know that yet, and we want to do a count and, in the meantime, to take some precautionary measures.
The member well knows that the department has been working with the Ross River Dena Council now for several years on this management plan, and they have made suggestions. They also have committed to reducing their harvests. That's important to us to feel and have trust among people in looking at the health of the herd.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I don't have any argument with the minister saying that it's important that they cooperate and reduce their harvest, because the fact is, they are the ones that are taking cows and calves. They are the ones that the minister is concerned about; that is the part of the population he is concerned about.
The minister still hasn't answered my question. I'm saying that if there's concern about the herd and we have to take precautionary measures, why wasn't the census done this fall instead of bringing in further hunting restrictions and then doing a census a year from now? Why?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I just answered that. I told the member that we know that there is a low cow/calf ratio and this would mean a number of things, I suppose, but it would mean that the numbers of this herd are probably lower than what it was this year and the previous year. By knowing that, why can't we take precautionary measures?
We're not jumping to conclusions, like the member has, wanting to go out and do a wolf control program immediately. The member says, "Who said that?" That's all he has been implying to the general public and the people of this House over the past couple of weeks. That's not the way we're going to operate, as the member knows full well. He signed on to the wolf conservation management plan. If we were to go to that extent of doing predator control, obviously we would be shutting down hunting for a two-year period.
Mr. Ostashek: Now the minister knows I never asked him to do that; the local residents never asked him to do that. That's the minister's excuse for doing absolutely nothing.
He's saying he's got a problem. He doesn't even know he's got a problem. He's trying to satisfy some select group out there in the Yukon but I don't know who. The minister won't tell us who they are. He says he's talked to the local people. The minister won't tell us who he's catering to.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, why doesn't he get up and tell us what he is doing with it because you won't do it.
The issue here is that residents have asked for some more access to being able to remove wolves. Nobody asked, and in fact everybody I heard at the management board spoke against use of helicopters in predator control. They all spoke against it but they wanted more access to the wolves and they wanted the government to come up with some way that that could happen to help alleviate the cow/calf ratio problem in the area.
The fact is, the minister is trying to portray that there is a problem and that he has to take precautionary measures, yet, he is not prepared to go out and count the herd so he knows the actual numbers before he makes those decisions. I would think as responsible wildlife managers, we ought to know how many animals we're managing before we start placing restrictions on the herd. If it is the minister's desire for the well-being and biological status of herd that is biologically healthy, we ought to know what the numbers are.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm wondering who the member is speaking on behalf of when he jumps up and says that we're not looking at taking precautionary measures. Mr. Chair, in the management plan over the past years we've had hunters from Faro who have been part of the management plan, we had Ross River residents, the First Nations, the Yukon Fish and Game Association and the Yukon Conservation Society. All had invitations to be part of this management plan and declined, simply because of schedules - or that's what I've been told.
We've had the outfitters as part of the management plan. We've had the Faro wilderness tourism organization and air charter operators. So, there were a number of people that were part of the plan. It's not that we're going to be jumping to conclusions and acting without information.
There are a lot of people that are involved in wanting to look at a bigger, broader wildlife management plan in the Ross River area. We know from information that has been gathered that there is a low cow/calf ratio in the Finlayson herd, and we would like to focus efforts on that and take some precautionary measures to address that.
Now, the member is trying to push upon us that there is no other way to do this than a permit hunt, and we're taking the recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to go back and talk with the Ross River Dena Council and come up with a solution to this problem.
We understand that there is a problem, and we would like to have discussions about it on how to resolve it in a manner that satisfies all people. We cannot just jump to the conclusion of doing predator control without having Yukoners know the full implications of that.
Right now, we know that wolf control is very expensive.
It was approximately $4,200 to kill one wolf in the Aishihik herd and approximately $800 in the Finlayson herd at the time this took place. We don't feel that that's an everyday management tool to use, and we want to be able to approach local people and bring in direction from them.
And I really don't like the fact that the member is trying to suggest that we are splitting and drawing lines between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. The member may have that type of thought, and I know for a fact that he has that type of thought. I had to deal with him for four years when he was in power, Mr. Chair.
We work with renewable resource councils that have board members that are appointed by First Nation people and by the Yukon government, and if he'd look at some of the examples that are out there in the Teslin area and the Mayo area, they have taken the initiative to reduce hunting in certain areas, on caribou and moose, and it was upon them to bring that direction forward to us.
There was no favouritism in any way through the resource councils with recommendations that had come forward to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. We have processes in place to deal with things, and if the member wants to get into the whole issue of drawing lines between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, then bring it out, and let's have a discussion about that.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like to enter this debate. I've been in this House for awhile and listened to various debates that have taken place, but I have never heard such convoluted, contradictory statements made by a minister regarding a program.
I don't have any problem with the minister standing up and defending the reasons why he's putting in place such a program. But what bothers me is when the minister gets asked questions about the program, he first of all says one thing, then he says another, then he gives all these various reasons - that are so weak it's pathetic - for his rationale for doing what he's doing, and then, when he really feels he's in trouble, he attacks the questioners.
He accuses the questioners of jumping to conclusions. The point that we're trying to make, Mr. Chair, is that the only person jumping to conclusions on this issue is the minister. He admits that he doesn't know what the numbers in the caribou herd are. He admits there's a cow/calf problem. He admits that he has to do a rut count this fall and a census next spring. But, he's taking an initiative right now that has no basis in any kind of rational studies. No facts. No numbers - just maybe what the minister feels.
Mr. Chair, maybe I'll ask the minister this question: have the biologists ever told the minister, in the last few weeks and months, that there's a shortage of bulls in this herd? Have they indicated there's a shortage of bulls in the herd?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have a game guardian program that has been in the area for awhile and we know the numbers between cows and calves that are being taken out from there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Cows and bulls, Mr. Chair.
In regard to us jumping to conclusions, I told the member what we know about this herd, and I know the member would like us - and this is the way they would operate - they know there's a problem with the cow/calf ratio, but they would let hunters go in until the herd's in trouble so they can do wolf control. We know what their plans are, and that's the way they would have operated, but we like to do things differently.
We keep telling the members that, but it just doesn't seem to sink in, and it probably never will. You can be focused on permit hunts, and nothing else, and then you're going to come back to wolf control. We know that. We know where the member's coming from, and Yukoners know that.
They've demonstrated that in the past four years, and that's going to show again come election time. And it will show come election time.
The general public does not want gunships going in and killing wolves. They don't want aerial killing. There was support and consultation in the wolf management plan, and the process is in place of things to do, and we would like to use that as a tool.
At this point, we know that there is a low cow/calf ratio, and we would like to take precautionary measures. The Ross River Dena Council has shown concern over the numbers in that area. They're the ones who use that herd for the livelihood of their people the most, and they would like to make some suggestions on how we could go about alleviating the number of caribou that are taken out of this herd. And so, we're working with them to come up with a solution.
I know the member may not know what that really means: working with Yukon people. It's a new concept to them. Maybe they ought to try it one of these times, but they'll never have the chance, because they'll never be in government.
Deputy Chair: Is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Committee will recess for 10 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We're in general debate in Renewable Resources. Is there any more general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, when was the minister made aware by his department of the pending concerns over the caribou in the Finlayson Lake area? Was it last fall, after the rut count? Is that when the minister was made aware that there were some concerns?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There was a census done in 1996. It was from that point that the department was aware that there was a reduction in numbers, and it was from that point that more concentration was put on looking at possibly doing something with the Finlayson herd.
In regard to doing a census, the member asked previously about why we haven't done a census this year. Our last census was done in 1996. The time before that was in 1990, and the time before that was in 1986. So, approximately every four to six years, they've been doing a census. We feel that, in 1999, it would be closer to those trends that have been put in place and we could use these census in comparison with one another if they were closer to one another. That's why a census is going to be done in March 1999, although we're still doing a rut count.
So, it's been awhile, I think, that, within the department, they knew that these numbers were declining.
Mr. Phillips: What I find kind of unusual here is that, in 1996, the minister said that they found that there were some problems.
Instead of reacting at that time, the minister is telling us now that they wanted to wait the six years, or whatever, before they did another census. I wonder why the minister wants to put severe restrictions on a certain segment of the population with respect to permits prior to doing a census.
If the minister thought there was a serious enough problem to bring in permit hunting, why didn't he think it was a serious enough problem to do a census this March? He had an opportunity this March to do a census. Why didn't the minister do a census this March if he thought there was a real problem?
He keeps telling us in the House - and I could probably read you half a dozen places where in the last couple of days in this House he's told us - that they are concerned about it. I mean, they seem to be just concerned enough to limit a certain segment of the population, but not concerned enough to do the count that they say is necessary to get the real numbers, and that's puzzling. Why didn't the minister do a census this spring in March?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I just told the member that we wanted to be able to bring the time lines closer to the trends that we have in place so that we can do a lot more comparative work with the other census that have been done.
In 1996, the numbers were down. We knew that the numbers were going to decline after the wolf kill had stopped. What we didn't know at the time was where the number would stabilize within the herd and we feel that now, with a low cow/calf ratio, that the numbers have to be down and we should be taking some precautionary measures.
Local people in the area have expressed their concerns that the numbers are down and they would like us to do something, and they had volunteered on their own to reduce the hunting and the numbers of caribou taken from that area. So, as the member knows full well from the amount of times that I have mentioned it, that the Ross River Dena Council have come forward and have expressed concerns and are willing to reduce their harvest.
Even though they're still hanging on to their aboriginal right to take what they want, how much they want, whenever they want, at this point they've reduced their harvest of caribou this past year. They recognize there's a problem, and we do. Why can't we work toward a solution or an interim solution until such time as we do a count?
Mr. Phillips: When was the last rut count done? Was it done in the fall of 1996, or was there one done last year? What was the number of bulls in the fall rut count?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Between 1990 and 1995, there was a calf survival count that averaged 31 calves to 100 cows. Of course, this was a decline from when there was a count done during the wolf control program, which showed 50 calves to 100 cows.
There was also another calf survival count done in 1996, and it showed a continued decline to 29 calves per 100 cows.
Also, in 1997, it shows that there was a continued decline of 25 calves per 100 cows. I guess this, in itself, should raise questions as to whether it is normal for caribou to have 25 calves per 100 cows? Is it normal for this area? Where is the number stabilizing that? We feel that we have to take some sort of action, and made some suggestions to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and that's the recommendation that came back to us. If the member is very concerned about this, they have the opportunity to speak with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. They go through a process of coming up with reasons why they make recommendations and so on.
We feel that we took some measures this year, just as a precaution, in cooperation with the Ross River people. I think that, if we do a count next year, it would be more of a peace of mind at least knowing that there's a low cow/calf ratio that we've done something instead of nothing.
Mr. Phillips: I was just seeing if my mike was working, because I'm asking the minister questions and I'm getting an answer for a question that I never asked.
I asked the minister, Mr. Chair, and I was trying to be as clear as I possibly could - you did a rut count sometime in the last two or three years. When you do a rut count, you count the number of bulls, and my question had nothing to do with the number of cows, nothing to do with the number of calves. I'd like to know from the minister how many bulls did you count per 100 cows, or how do you do the bull count? How do you compare the number of bulls? Could the minister give us the figures on the number of bulls in the last two or three counts, and the dates of the last two or three counts?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member asked a question and I gave an answer as to what the department has done over the past years. He didn't appreciate that information and must be stuck on where he wants to go with this situation.
I don't have numbers in front of me as to what numbers were in the rut counts of bulls in the area. I don't have any of that information with me. I can ask the department to look in their files and come up with the numbers that the member is asking for.
Mr. Phillips: I'm not sure if the minister is playing coy with me or what's going on here. The minister's been in the bush. The minister knows about wildlife. The question I have is a simple one.
They're putting in some regulation to regulate the bull harvest in this area. I'm trying to determine if there's even a shortage of bulls in the area. The minister says that there's a cow/calf problem. Well, he's told us that it's the number of cows and the number of calves that have been taken. The minister knows that, with caribou and moose, one bull can service quite a few cows.
I mean, the minister's own department just did a harvest of the bison in the bison area. They harvested surplus bulls. They knew how many bulls were in the herd and they know how many they need to service X number of cows to get a high pregnancy rate.
They must have the same kind of numbers for the Finlayson caribou herd. They must have them. If they don't, somebody's not doing their job.
Right now, the only determination I can make is that the only person that isn't doing his job and doesn't even know anything about this is the minister himself, and it's becoming awfully frustrating when it's a serious issue to a lot of people out there who utilize the resource - when they can't get a straight answer from the minister.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The minister says that he's giving me a straight answer and I'm not accepting it. Well, then the minister can stand on his feet, since this has been an issue for three or four weeks, and tell us how many bulls were in the herd the last time. He can't do that? What does he do all day, Mr. Chair? What does the minister do all day? He obviously doesn't know very much about his department, because he comes into this House so ill-prepared that it's pathetic.
Mr. Chair, I'd like the minister to give us a commitment that he will come back to the House tomorrow when we enter this debate and bring us those numbers with respect to the number of bulls that were in the herd and the last time that they were counted. Would the minister give us that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, I guess the member opposite hasn't been listening, and I don't know how many times that I'm going to repeat things over and over. However they want to think the outcome is going to be, that's what they want. They want to try to get information out of me that's to their liking, but they're not going to get it unless they are true numbers that come out of counts and so on.
I did tell the member before he said that I wasn't listening to his questions that I was going to go back to the department and ask them to look through their files for the numbers that the members are asking for. I said that. I did not make a commitment to have it in tomorrow, but I will have that information for them, whatever information it was.
So, as we go on with this debate, I know where the members are heading, and they're just awfully slow at getting where they want to go.
I will maintain our position that we will continue to work with local people, with the management team that's in place, and the Ross River people. I told the member who was involved on this management team, putting together the management plan, and I continue to respect the recommendations that come from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and not to just throw them out, simply saying that they didn't do enough work or didn't do their homework in making these recommendations.
They feel that there is a problem of a low cow/calf ratio, and so do we. We know that from the numbers that we've collected, and we want to take precautionary measures. I don't know where the member is coming from in trying to make this different or to his liking. We said that we would work with the Ross River people, and they have made commitments to reduce their harvest.
Now, I'm just wondering, even from them listening to this debate, what their positions are going to be next. We've had very good working relationships with them, and for a First Nation to come forward and to reduce their harvest is very big. The member knows full well the difference between licensed hunters and First Nation people, licensed hunters having the privilege of going out and hunting, whereas aboriginal people have the right to do it.
Having that right and to volunteer yourself not to hunt in the area because of concerns about the herd, to bring numbers back up to possibly a safe and stabilized number, is their goal, and it's our goal too. Everybody's concerned about this and working to a solution.
Now the members opposite can play around with numbers and ask for counts of bulls and cows, and everything else, and try to work maybe to their supporters on trying to direct government to do something that they feel is important.
With the low numbers of cow/calf ratios, we're taking precautionary measures and we're going to work with local people to come up with a solution. Where the member is coming from, I don't know. That's the direction we're going.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister just doesn't get it. Mr. Chair, what we're trying to determine is on what basis the minister has decided to put in a permit hunt for bull caribou. Is it because that there is a shortage of bull caribou? He said it's the cow/calf ratio. Maybe it's the predators that harvest the cows and the calves - the wolves and the First Nation people who are harvesting cows and calves. It's not the licensed hunters because they're not allowed to hunt cows and calves. So, what I want to know from the minister, Mr. Chair, is maybe, since the minister is working with the First Nation, he can tell us what the harvest level is of the First Nation and maybe provide a breakdown as well with the cows and calves and bulls that they harvested in previous years. Does the minister have that information?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself to this member when he talks about permit hunts and thinks that that's the only thing that this department is doing to reduce the number of hunts. I told the member that we have worked with the Ross River people and they made commitments to reduce their harvest. The member just doesn't get that; he's focused on bulls and permits and that's it. We've answered his questions over and over and he'll continue to ask them and get nowhere.
We don't know what the percentage of bulls was during the last census that counted 4,007 animals. Every indication that we have is that the number of this herd is declining, and if the member is saying that, no, we shouldn't be taking any precautionary measures, I think he's wrong.
First Nations have indicated that they are willing to make a reduction in harvest and we feel that is a good step in bringing people together to work together on wildlife management.
This is not the only area that needs attention. We've looked and worked with other First Nations and local people in the past, and things have worked out well.
Now the member wants us to either have no hunting in the area or the status quo remain. We feel that the numbers are declining and we are going to take measures and some steps, or at least have discussions on this and not just assume that this herd is in trouble in regard to numbers, but work with the local people and take some steps ahead of time so that we're not faced with a crisis situation that forces us into actions that we just don't want to be taking.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not urging the minister to take any radical actions whatsoever. What I'm asking the minister to do is to justify the actions that he has taken already, that he's announced - the direction he gave to the Wildlife Management Board to implement a permit system. Now, his department gave that direction to the Wildlife Management Board. The Wildlife Management Board, who are supposed to represent the views of the general public, heard from the general public, who overwhelmingly argued that there wasn't justification for a permit system.
Overwhelmingly, some 85 percent to 90 percent of the people who made presentations to the Wildlife Management Board said that there wasn't justification for a permit system. But, the board chose not to listen to it. Now, the minister said earlier today that, "The member had an opportunity to contact the Wildlife Management Board."
Well, if a couple of hundred residents didn't have any impact, I don't think I would have had any impact.
So, there's a real frustration in not knowing what the minister is basing his decision on. We don't know the numbers of caribou, because he says he's going to do a census. We don't know the number of the First Nations harvest, because he won't give it to us here today. He won't give me the number of the bulls that are harvested in the herd. He says that they don't know the percentage of bulls. I guess they just count them and don't determine the sex of the bulls.
I can tell the member that I've been in the Finlayson area when the branch is counting caribou. They do determine whether they are cow, calf or bull. They even determine whether they are a yearling or a two-year-old calf. It's part of the sheet that they have in front of them, so they have got the numbers. If the minister was doing his job as the minister, he would know that.
I'm just trying to get the minister to justify the actions he's taken. We asked the minister, Mr. Chair, about the reason for the permit. His first answer was to get more up-to-date or current results with the permit system. That's hogwash. It's hogwash.
The minister's not even going to do a census until the fall, when the hunting season's over. He talked here today, when he talked about the permit system, about how it would allow us to take some action in the middle of the hunting season. So, what is he telling us? That he's going to issue 30 permits for the caribou in that area and, sometime in the middle of the hunting season, he's going to reduce it to 15, and he hasn't even done a count? Or, is it going to be 30 for this whole season? The minister is making contradictory statements.
Mr. Chair, even if the department used the permits to make quicker decisions, they couldn't do that until all the people who had got permits had completed their hunt, so they had an idea of what was being harvested. The hunting season ends at the end of October, and already - now, if the department could react overnight at the end of October, that would be fine, but they wouldn't make any decision about any of the permits unless they were for the next year, because the hunting season would be over.
Already, Mr. Chair, they have a mandatory hunter report in their hands that tells them, as of December 15, six weeks after the end of the season, what the harvest was.
Maybe the minister can explain to me how you could get any more accurate than the mandatory hunter report. Is the minister telling us that December 15 isn't enough time for his department to react on an annual basis to changes in wildlife harvesting? Is that what the minister is telling us - that December 15 is not timely enough and that he might have to change it for all species?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, the member seems to be throwing out the good work that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board does in making recommendations to us, assuming that they have not done any of their homework and bounced this decision back to us.
I told the member that we can bring the numbers that he is asking for to him, so he can draw his own conclusions on this. What we want to do is take the Fish and Wildlife Management Board seriously, take the recommendations and work with them.
They feel, with the recommendations that they have put forward and working with Ross River people, that we could come up with a solution. The member's talking about permits and how they could be used more accurately. I said to the member that the recommendations that came to us from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board were not to go to a permit hunt alone. There were others attached to it. This is all part of how the Fish and Wildlife Management Board sees a possible improvement in what takes place in the Finlayson herd. They said, go and talk to the Ross River Dena Council and work with them and come up with a solution, provide technical support for trapper training and workshops with the Ross River people. We have offered that. Look at providing resources for game guardians, like has been done in the past, and also what was suggested to us was a registration/permit hunt. We would take those recommendations that were provided by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and work with them.
Also, they talked about our government's commitment to habitat protection and looking at the possibility of working with local people on how we could identify areas out there for habitat protection. Taking precautionary measures is the approach we like to take, until we go out and do a full census and come back with numbers that we can work with.
The member's going to come back and ask about the numbers and what numbers we've been working with. I can tell the member that we'll go back and look through our files and come up with answers to the questions he's been asking in this Legislature.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm certainly not finished here and we're going to be in this one for a few days. So, what I'm going to do now, Mr. Chair, is -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Faro is laughing. The Member for Faro is the member in this House who wants to bully his way through the Legislature and he's saying, "There, you wait, little fellow, you wait, little fellow." That's the arrogant attitude of the Member for Faro, Mr. Chair, but I think the public is realizing how arrogant that individual can be.
Mr. Chair, I want to move on to another area that I'm concerned about for a moment and that is catch-and-release fishing, and I'd like to ask the minister: in the policy that the government currently has with respect to catch and release fishing, are there any changes contemplated?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board has been dealing with this issue and they've indicated that they will be doing a public review of the sport fishing management approaches and until such time as that, we've had no changes to the catch-and-release policy.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, there was a salmon subcommittee meeting that took place on January 21, and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board had put forward a recommendation to limit or eliminate live-release fishing, not only for salmon but also for fresh water species as well.
Mr. Chair, I want to express a very strong concern to the minister with respect to that recommendation and that is, Mr. Chair, that I know there are some First Nations people out there who are concerned about catch-and-release and they feel that they have some cultural values and problems with catch-and-release fishing, but I want to remind the minister that there are an awful lot of non-native fishermen out there who value very much the Yukon resource and the recreational opportunities it provides to use catch-and-release fishing as a conservation method, so that they can enjoy the resource.
So, I want to put it on the record, Mr. Chair, that, in this particular issue, I hope the minister will take into consideration very strongly the views of all Yukoners with respect to this issue, because this will be another one that people will be very upset about.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the Member for Faro is yipping away in the corner there. I'm concerned about fishing because I buy my fishing licences every year. Some others in this House are known not to do that, and some of them who should do it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
He says that's nasty, Mr. Chair, but I'm not the one that was illegally poaching fish.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Deputy Chair: On a point of order, the hon. Government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, the member is making somewhat veiled but not altogether veiled accusations about fish poaching that is completely untrue and he knows that, but he continues to do that. I think the thinly veiled accusations that he's making should certainly be stricken from the record.
He's referred to members in this House and others in this House illegally poaching fish and I think that would be inappropriate by anyone's standards. He's imlying something, impugning something, to someone in this House that I think is a very serious charge that he can't back up.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I don't believe that there is a point of order. It is just a dispute between members.
Deputy Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order. The Member for Riverdale North is making some serious accusations. He has not named a member, but I would remind members that we're in Committee of the Whole debate on Renewable Resources in general debate. I would expect members to keep their remarks parliamentary and to keep on topic.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to ask the minister if he shares the same concerns and values of the non-native fishermen who respect catch-and-release as a proper conservation method and that it should be something that should be continued in this territory.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, we're not going to be drawing lines between non-native and native people. Native people have been releasing live fish for a long time. What they don't like to have, and because they have seen it, is large numbers being released to the point that they are dying off. That's the concern aboriginal people have.
Now, this government does not encourage anglers to catch and release a large number of fish, but we know that it is essential if selective harvest management is to be successful. So, we do support that, but I don't like to have the members draw lines between native and non-native people in regard to fish. Even aboriginal people who put nets in the waters still release live fish for them to continue to spawn so that the numbers will always be there for them.
So that practice is out there, but what they don't want to do, especially in these lakes that are being used by a lot of people, is have a large number of fish caught and released, because of the survival rate of that fish and the numbers do decline.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister set off a few alarm bells here. I understand what he's saying. First Nations people do it to preserve some spawners and that in the creeks, or the salmon, and that kind of thing, but so do non-native fishery people. They catch fish and return them to the wild to spawn.
I would recommend to the minister that, before we make any decisions whatsoever with respect to this issue, we examine the numerous studies that have been done with respect to catch-and-release fishery in North America. It's been very successful. It's proven to protect the resource immensely in many other areas.
I think the other thing the minister should also examine is, if he does away with catch-and-release fishing for people, there are a lot of people in the tourism industry who operate fishing lodges, and many of them operate on the basis of a catch-and-release fishery.
That's the basis on which they operate. That's the basis on which they sell their product to their clients. If the minister makes any changes to that, I would hope that there would be a full-blown public review, so that all Yukoners will have an opportunity to express their views on such an important issue.
I think that some of our lakes in the southern Yukon, at least, were in serious trouble until a few years ago, before we brought in catch-and-release fishing. Now, many people are practising that. There's been a good education program in the Yukon with respect to it, from your own department, which has instructed Yukoners on how to properly catch and release the fish without harming them and when to actually keep the fish if it is harmed. I would encourage the minister to continue with that and, if there were going to be any changes whatsoever, that he would have a full-blown public review, so the general public would have an opportunity to have some input into such a significant change, which will affect a lot of the anglers and hunters of this territory.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the reason that I brought up the native fishing is because the member brought up non-native practices without looking at all of the Yukon and all of the Yukon people. Now, I'm not sure, but it sure sounds like that's the way that that party has been running this government in their four years of power.
Mr. Chair, we have looked, along with our department, along with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, at some lakes and declared some lakes as high management lakes, and have looked at things like barbless hooks to be used in these lakes. We know that there is a large number of people that are using these lakes and we would like not to have the fish stock decline to where it's in trouble.
There are a lot of concerns in regard to what catch and release really means. We don't like to see a large number, like I said earlier, of people catching and releasing, and this is a concern by aboriginal people also because they've seen fish stocks in lakes that they're used to going to decline in numbers.
We do support catch and release, but we want to avoid high use in some areas in the Yukon. The Fish and Wildlife Management Board had recognized this and made recommendations to the department to implement and declare some lakes as high management lakes.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I just wanted to enter into this debate before we move progress, just to talk a little bit about some of the very disconcerting comments and innuendo I've heard from the Yukon Party today - y
ou know, particularly that Member for Riverdale North.
Back in 1982 that member signed an open letter to the people of the Yukon. At that time, he urged people not to vote NDP.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The letter said -
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: This is not relevant to the debate. We're talking about Renewable Resources and fishing. Mr. Chair, and that's what we're talking about.
Deputy Chair: The hon. Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm speaking precisely to those issues and the issues that were raised in the debate today, and the issues as they pertain to native and non-native Yukoners. They were raised many times in this debate today by the Yukon Party opposition. I think it's quite appropriate that we discuss them.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: I'd like to remind members to keep their language parliamentary. At times, it does slip, and you can do it outside the House, but in the House we do have some rules please.
Order. The time now being 5:30 p.m., I will rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 11, Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report it without amendment. Further, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and I now report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: We have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 28, 1998:
Business development fund outstanding loan guarantees, as at February 28, 1998: list and amounts (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2730
Community development fund contract tendering procedures: explanation of Help and Hope Society contract to Raketti Construction (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2730
Utilities analyst (departmental): status vis-ŕ-vis the Cabinet Commission on Energy (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2734
Green power fund paper: comparative generation calculations (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2735
Business development fund and economic development agreement outstanding loans, as at September 1997: number of loans and scheduled completion dates (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2739
Alliance Pipeline Limited proposal: explanation of (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2471