Tuesday, May 5, 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?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce in the gallery today Mr. Lu Tinggang, the Deputy Consul General of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Shi Gangzeng, Consul for Political and Governmental Affairs, and Mr. Wang Ding, Consul for Science and Technology.
They have been in Whitehorse since Sunday and have been touring the city meeting with trade and investment officials and local businesses.
Please join me in welcoming them to the gallery today.
Deputy Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Deputy Speaker's statement
Deputy Speaker: Before calling ministerial statements today, the Chair will provide the House with a statement on the point of order raised by the leader of the official opposition during yesterday's sitting.
The leader of the official opposition, in reference to the ministerial statement given by the Government Leader on the circumpolar sustainable development conference, asked the Deputy Speaker to "make a ruling on the appropriateness of this ministerial statement and whether or not it conforms with the rules of this House."
The rule covering ministerial statements is to be found in Standing Order 11(3), which, in part, states: "On ministerial statements... a minister may make a short factual statement of government policy."
The only other direction to be found is in the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges of the 24th Legislative Assembly, which was tabled on October 10, 1979.
One of the recommendations of that committee, which was concurred in by motion of the House stated: "That ministerial statements be made only on subjects of significance and primarily for the purpose of announcing new government policies."
Previous speakers in this House have noted the difficulties faced by the Chair when points of order are raised about ministerial statements. Although Standing Order 11(3) requires that ministerial statements be restricted to statements of government policy, the report of the Standing Committee that was quoted expands their use to "subjects of significance."
As evidenced yesterday by the remarks of the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party and, subsequently, in response to those, the comments of the Government Leader, the question of whether something is a subject of enough significance to justify a ministerial statement can be contentious.
On April 6, 1988, former Speaker Sam Johnston stated, in a ruling on a similar matter to this, that, "Although there may be some disagreement between members as to whether that point is important enough to justify a ministerial statement, it is difficult to see how the Chair can begin making rulings based on judgments of the level of importance of certain matters. Such judgments are really political decisions and the Chair should be careful to make only procedural decisions."
The Chair concurs with Speaker Johnston about the difficult position that the Chair is placed in if called upon to make judgments on whether a matter such as the circumpolar sustainable development conference is a subject of significance.
This point of order also highlights a problem that Speaker Johnston signaled in another ruling that he gave on November 17, 1987. That is the point that, if the Chair were to rule a ministerial statement out of order after it has been given, it would not be possible to let the proceedings continue and opposition members would be denied a chance to respond.
The Chair would suggest to members that, if the content of ministerial statements has become a matter of major concern, it may be time to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for consideration and recommendation.
The Chair would further suggest that, if such reference were made, it should direct the committee to develop more definite and helpful description for the purpose of ministerial statements and, also, to indicate the desired method for dealing with points of order raised about these statements.
The Chair thanks members for their attention.
Returning to today's daily routine, are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Thomson Centre, empty beds
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Their office has been contacted by Mrs. McIntyre seeking assistance for her husband who is terminally ill with cancer. Knowing many members of the McIntyre family, I was pleased to learn that Mrs. McIntyre was finally successful in having her husband John admitted to the Thomson Centre from the hospital where he can receive the care that he needs. Unfortunately the respite bed he is currently in is now required and Mr. McIntyre is to be moved back to the hospital. This moving back and forth for a person who is so ill amounts to inhumane treatment. I would ask the minister, therefore, on humanitarian grounds to take whatever steps that are necessary to ensure that Mr. McIntyre can remain and receive care in the Thomson Centre. Can the minister give his assurance?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can't give the member that assurance. What I can say is that we will undertake anything we can to provide a compassionate situation for the individual in question. We were able to have the individual in the Thomson Centre for a period of time; however, there was also some need with a child in this case who had some very special needs and, while we tried on the weekend to work out a situation that would work for both individuals, it just proved that, because of the special needs in this case, we were unable to do it. But I have directed the department to see what steps we can take with Mr. McIntyre.
Mr. Jenkins: While I appeal to the minister on humanitarian grounds, there are also very good economic reasons for making better use of the Thomson Centre.
As the minister well knows, the cost of maintaining an acute-care bed in the hospital is almost $800 per day and that is almost double the cost of a bed in the Thomson Centre. Can the minister explain why he isn't making better use of the Thomson Centre to help reduce the cost of running the hospital and giving terminal patients the care that they need?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We are looking at ways in which we can maximize the use of the Thomson Centre. We are looking at ways we can maximize the resources that we currently have to save money and to make economical use of what resources we do have. I should point out, however, that the whole question of health is one which has dominated, certainly, this government. We have invested over $6 million in increased health and social services costs since last year, from mains to mains. And particularly with the hospital, we've invested an additional $1.4 million.
So, what we're trying to do is make sure that we adequately resource all health care.
Mr. Jenkins: Then can the minister advise the House why the Thomson Centre and the hospital are not all under the control and management of the hospital board, in order to provide an overall, cost-effective, integrated health care delivery system that would better meet the needs of Yukoners?
The hospital and the Thomson Centre were built and connected. That was supposed to happen. Why isn't it happening?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In this case, we have a hospital, which has an acute-care focus, an acute-care direction. The board has indicated to us that that's what they want to pursue. We within our social services realm have responsibility for extended care needs. That's how the arrangement is set up.
I suppose if there were some indication that the hospital were to seek a different direction, we would work with them but, in this particular case, the hospital has given clear direction they want to stay within the acute-care focus, and I think we have to respect that, particularly in light of the fact that they're still finding their role, they're still finding their direction, and, I think, trying to achieve their ultimate objective in delivering the best health care in an acute-care mode.
Question re: Tetrapacks, recycling of
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the issue of tetrapacks and cans of tinned food products.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in defence of those Yukoners who are having a tough enough time making ends meet, trying to stretch their family budget and keep enough food on the table. Unfortunately, this government isn't helping.
Can the minister advise the House why his government is imposing a deposit charge, commencing June 1 of this year, on these food and beverage containers? That deposit charge is higher than the refund, thus amounting to an additional cost of basic household food groups to every home owner - another tax.
This government gives a full refund on a bottle of beer. Is this government more concerned about the cost of beer for adults than the cost of juice and food for children? What's the explanation for this inequity?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The department had done public consultation on this, as I said to the member yesterday in the debate on Renewable Resources. We have received direction to deal with these two containers, to have them as part of the recycling program, and it was from that direction that this department has gone forth and put both tin and tetrapacks as refundable items.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has one of the highest costs of living in all of Canada, and the recycling regulations of this government are certainly not helping. They are adding to that cost of living here in the Yukon.
Why is this government attempting to make money on tetrapacks and tins of food that are household food items? Why isn't the deposit equal to the refund on food items? It can be so for beer. Why can't it be for food items? For beer bottles, it's okay. For food items and beverages for children, it's not okay. Why is this government imposing this new surcharge or tax on Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's not a tax, as the member had brought up. It's about recycling, and it's about keeping the environment clean. Again, it is Yukoners who have spoken out and would like us to move in this direction, and we're carrying that direction out.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, juice boxes are 90 percent lighter and take up 70 percent less volume than glass bottles holding a similar amount of fluid. Furthermore, while glass is recyclable, it is only being recycled at a rate of about 30 percent, so the other 65 percent of that glass is being thrown away. So, I would ask the minister, on environmental grounds, if he will give a commitment here today to make the deposit on tetrapacks and tinned food items equal to the refund charge in order to help protect the environment and help Yukon families by not imposing any new taxes on them.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have made a decision to have this included as part of recycling items. There is a refund for those who take the tetrapacks to the recycling clubs.
There is a cost to keeping our environment clean. We will carry out the direction that has been given to us by Yukoners.
Question re: Tetrapacks, recycling of
Ms. Duncan: My question is also for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Last night, during the debate on the department, there was considerable discussion regarding the recycling of juice boxes of all sizes, or, as we referred to them last night, tetrapacks. What we are actually discussing are amendments to the beverage container program. Last night in the House the minister said, and I quote: "I can tell the member that there hasn't been any final decision on this and I can take suggestions back and have them considered along with others."
At the technical briefing offered by the Department of Renewable Resources, both opposition caucuses were told that the tin and tetrapack containers would be added to the beverage container program, effective July 1, 1998.
After last night's debate, has the minister reconsidered this issue, or will tin and tetrapacks be added to the beverage container regulations, effective July 1 of this year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We're still carrying out the schedule that has been put forward. I have said to the members that these issues and concerns that have been raised will continue to be part of the discussions before final decisions are made.
Ms. Duncan: Well, a department document that I obtained says, "Consumers will pay a deposit on any tin, tetrapack, glass, plastic or aluminum beverage container sold in the Yukon after July 1 and will receive a refund for the container from any recycling depot. The exception is milk containers.
Mr. Speaker, soy-based baby formula is not a dairy product and it's not milk. It is sold in tin cans. It is an item that a baby drinks and it can be considered by some grocery people as a beverage.
I could ask the minister: does he intend to tax baby formula? I'm sure that's not a part of healthy communities. What this discussion emphasizes, though, is that there are a number of areas where the proposed regulations could have unexpected difficulties and costs for families. Will the minister reconsider the beverage container regulations and seek more public input on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The members must be running out of questions. We're recycling old questions that we've gone through extensively in general debate.
We have given a lot of concern to those containers that are a part of household foods and have made decisions in regard to tetrapacks and tin cans for recycling, and the possibility, of course, will be to receive funds back as you turn these products in. We did not want to be able to be intruding on increasing costs to the consumer for foods.
The member asked about a certain container in regard to milk products and so on for babies. I don't believe that this is part of the product that is going to be included in this increase on deposits.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, these questions are about recycling but they're not being recycled.
I still don't have a clear answer as to whether or not these regulations will be in effect on July 1. The minister has said they will be but he's also said they're considering more public input.
The minister has said they didn't intend to put this recycling fee on baby milk. Soy-based formula is not milk, and the way one reads the regulations, as produced by the department, it could be considered on the recycling list. There is going to be some real public confusion around this issue.
I need a clear answer from the minister. Will the regulations be in effect July 1st?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I said to the member that we are keeping this on schedule.
Question re: Local hire commission recommendations
Ms. Duncan: My question is to the Minister of Government Services and it concerns the local hire report.
Mr. Speaker, on April 23 the minister announced this government's response to local hire recommendations. The minister said, "I can report that three-quarters of the 40 recommendations are being put into effect right away."
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I've heard a number of complaints from the contracting community about confusion that this statement has created. The fact is, as our caucus was briefed by the department, none of the recommendations of the local hire have actually been implemented. "Implement now" doesn't seem to be implement now.
When will the changes, as adopted by the government, actually be made and in effect?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, actually, I can suggest that some of them have, indeed, been put into place. I refer the member to the question of the contract registry on the web, which was one of the things.
We have - boy, I can hear the members opposite. There you go. They are so overcome with mirth and joy that they're just cackling with joy and I'm pleased with that. I'm pleased that I can brighten up their somewhat dull and humdrum lives.
However, what I would like to say is that's an example of one. We have two of our staff assigned to work with departments on bringing about the implementation of the local hire recommendations, particularly working on those ones which we can bring into place right away; for example, such things as bringing in lower sole-source limits, things of that nature. We have used some of the basic principles in designing our contracts in Old Crow and also in designing the contract for the design of the Ross River school.
So, we have used some of the basic principles but, when we said "implement now", basically what we meant was that we were going to be trying to get those things in place as soon as we can.
For some of the others, if the member goes through the report, she will notice that they are going to acquire greater resources, or greater time, or whatever.
Ms. Duncan: Another concern I have with this policy is the cost of implementing the recommendations. In his statement to the House, the minister said the result will be better use of taxpayers' money. Recommendation nine, for example, says the business incentive policy should be extended. This will come with a cost. At a briefing arranged by the minister, I was told by officials - the officials the minister just mentioned - that the government has not costed this recommendation out. In fact, none of the recommendations have been costed out.
Can the minister tell this House why the government is going ahead with these recommendations if they have no idea what they're going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think one of the things we'd be wanting to do is to find out what the costs are. For example, we have taken a look at a couple of changes in the BIP that is designed for maximizing youth employment. The indications are that the cost in that regard would be relatively minimal.
There are, however, some recommendations - for example, the one that springs to mind is the idea of extending the BIP to the trucking industry, and what we'd have to do is we would have to get a costing out of what that could actually mean.
I've just gone through the business incentive report for this past year and have a sense of the cost currently, but we're going to have to go through and price up, for example, if we applied it to - For example, I had a request from another department to see if there are ways in which the business incentive policy could be applied to some media-related issues. Quite frankly, it's not something that we had contemplated, so that's an issue I'll have to take to our folks, and see, in consultation with the department that made the request, what we could be looking at in terms of cost.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the local hire response indicates that the government plans to do more consultation before implementing some recommendations, and the minister himself has just restated that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the consultation is supposed to be done. Anyone adopting recommendations of a report would, you would think, have some kind of a cost-benefit analysis before they are at the implementation stage. If the government wasn't finished consulting, why did they announce that all of the recommendations were being followed? What's the point of more consultation if the government has already made up its mind?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: When I said that we would be consulting, we would be working with businesses, with industries and with labour to see what kinds of ways that we could implement this in the best possible manner. If, for example, we were to take a look at the request I just received from a government department to see if the business incentive policy could be applied to this particular industry, this is something that had not come up before. It had not come up in any of the discussions.
I think it probably came out of the interest in the Yukon hire report, and now we've been asked to look at it. That will necessitate us going and discussing with that particular industry what this would mean to their industry, how it could be used, and what kinds of benefits would accrue.
I don't think that this report is a static document. I don't think this is the final cut. I think that what this is is a blueprint. This is a direction for us to go in, and this is a direction, quite frankly, for us to work with industry and labour in the future.
Question re: Kopper King Trailer Park/CMHC joint venture
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. The Yukon government's Land Acquisition Review Committee will be meeting on May 12, 1998, to consider some land applications. One application is for an enlargement for a mobile home park development near the Kopper King by Yukon Housing Corporation and 16098 Yukon Limited.
Can the minister advise the House what type of development is contemplated by this joint venture between the Yukon Housing Corporation and a private company, and how was this partnership with 16098 Yukon Limited arrived at?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That, again, is the private sector looking at helping out in problems that we're facing in the Whitehorse area. We have worked with the private sector to try to alleviate the mobile home issues, and we have not made any final decisions on this joint venture, so it's ongoing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't recall seeing any requirement or a request for a proposal from the private sector published anywhere. Furthermore, could the minister advise the House who the major shareholders of 16098 Yukon Limited are? I've heard reports that a former NDP Cabinet minister is involved.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I cannot at this point say who the shareholders are. There are still discussions with the corporation with the joint-venture program and nothing has been finalized to date. There hasn't been anything at all. They are still working on whether or not this is possible.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we're at the point now where Yukon Housing and this company are jointly going together to LARC to apply for rezoning. In addition to that, they're going to the City of Whitehorse for a change in the official community plan.
Can the minister advise the House which party initiated the joint venture? Obviously, there must have been some backroom dealings, because this has never been out in the public domain. Was it the Yukon Housing Corporation or 16098 Yukon Limited? What other companies were considered for this joint venture or was it an exclusive arrangement with this firm?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As the member knows, we have a joint-venture program within the corporation and the private sector does make inquiries to the corporation about these programs. They are the ones that approach us.
Question re: Dumps, ban on burning at
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Speaker, the government is in the process of developing new regulations for solid waste. One of the issues on the table is the burning of garbage at town dumps. The government recently made a decision to stop burning on an interim basis at the YTG-run, Mount Lorne dump. In other provinces, like Ontario and Nova Scotia, open burning at municipal dumps is completely prohibited. Is this type of ban in the works for other YTG-run dumps or are we looking at a complete ban on burning at all Yukon dumps?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is an issue that is near and dear to many hearts in the Yukon, to stop the burning. This is being done now, here, at the YTG dump at Mount Lorne in an experimental fashion, and certainly we'll have to be looking to see and hear what folks from the solid-waste regulation have to say on this.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, most communities in the Yukon burn their garbage regularly. This is the cheapest way that municipal governments can dispose of solid waste. It is not, however, the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of garbage. This government is on the record opposing adding extra responsibilities to municipalities without the extra funding to cover the costs. All the other options, like burying and recycling programs, will cost these municipalities more money than burning their garbage.
When the Minister of Renewable Resources bans burning at municipal dumps, will the Minister of Community and Transportation Services increase municipal funding to cover the costs of disposing of town garbage?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me say that what has been said in this House regarding what we could maybe call "downloading" from senior governments to junior governments is going to be a case based on consultation. Certainly, we will consult with the folks that are responsible and involved and will continue to do so until we can come to some type of reasonable arrangement. Certainly, the process that is taking place right now through the rural services policy, which is now out and about in the communities, is a part in that process.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about offloading thousands of dollars' worth of responsibilities down to the municipal level, without the dollars to do the work. Will the minister commit today that, if the new regulations add new responsibilities to municipalities, they will receive the money they need to carry out their responsibilities in solid-waste disposal for Yukon towns and cities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I'll tell you what we will do and we'll certainly do it in a manner that is not arrogant, such as the federal government has consistently done to the territorial government saying, "This is what you get; take it. That's it; use it in your best way."
This government will commit to going out and talking with communities and finding better ways that we will be able to protect the environment and this is certainly so in this case. The process that is up and about at this point in time is the rural services policy, so as all mayors and councils know - and I will take the message to them again this weekend - we should be working together on this very important issue.
Question re: Predator control
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Deputy Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Renewable Resources on the issue of predator control. The minister made some inflammatory statements in this House about the previous Yukon Party government's predator control program. He conjured up images of helicopter gunships. These images were not only disturbing to the public but they must have been very disturbing to the professional staff in Renewable Resources who implemented a very professional predator control program - a program that served as a model for other jurisdictions and I might add, had full support of the Yukon First Nations.
My question to the minister : can he explain to this House today why he's changed his position on predator control?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we haven't changed our position.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the minister has in fact changed his position. Perhaps he could explain why, then, when the Aishihik program was on and he was the Chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, that he took it upon himself to ask the previous Minister of Renewable Resources to implement the same predator control program in the Carmacks area. Why did he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If the member would like us to reflect on our previous periods, I think I can bring a lot up in regard to how that member has treated wolves in this country, and I don't think he would like that.
Mr. Ostashek: I must have touched a nerve. The member opposite has done the classic NDP defence - that was then, this is now. It's a traditional NDP flip-flop. The minister has stated that he doesn't support the methods carried out to protect the Aishihik caribou herd. Does the minister have full support of the Yukon First Nations for his new position?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess the member has not been listening in past debates in regard to our position with predator control. We've said time and time again that we would like to work with the communities and come up with different ways of dealing with this issue. There is a wolf conservation management plan that's out there. I know the previous government had supported it, and this Legislature did not show that support. I don't know where he's coming from. He's flip flopping around. He doesn't know the direction that he's going. He supports one project one time, and then later on, doesn't support it.
Mr. Speaker, we continue to go along the lines that we have said we were going to during the campaign and during our time in government, and we have not changed our position on that.
Deputy Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to inform the House that the third party does not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, May 6, 1998, under the heading of opposition private members' business.
It is the Liberal Party's position that Yukoners would be best served by spending this Legislature's time on finalizing the budget debate.
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to inform the House that the official opposition does not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, May 6, 1998, under the heading of opposition private members' business in order to expedite debate on the budget.
Deputy Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 acting 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 take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Fifteen minutes please. Recess
Deputy Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with the main estimates.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Tourism - continued
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Department of Tourism?
Mr. Phillips: I have a few more questions in general debate.
Mr. Chair, one area that I have a concern with in this budget - the minister has talked about his commitment to tourism and I appreciate the fact that, in most cases, they have maintained the tourism budget and in some small areas there's an increase, but there's one area that, when his government was in opposition, they talked about it as a priority and that was the area of heritage.
Prior to the 1996 election, there was a TIA convention in Haines, Alaska, where there were some statements made by the critic for Tourism for the NDP at the time, and a recorded commitment was made by all three parties to continue with the Beringia project as well as the historic resources centre.
Since that time, the historic resources centre has disappeared from the budget.
There's no line item with respect to the building of the centre, so I just want to ask the minister and get it put on the record, Mr. Chair, whether or not this government intends to honour a commitment it made prior to the election that it would continue with the building of the historic resources centre attached to the Beringia Centre and do it within their first term, as was committed by all three parties at the Haines TIA convention?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Chair, as the member states, the historic resources centre is not in this year's budget, but certainly, pending the resources that we go through for the budgetary process, it is still there to be considered.
So, certainly it is not, as the member opposite says, dead and not a part of the five-year plan; that's not true. It's not in the budget for this year, definitely it's not, but it's certainly subject to the process and we will look at it again, considering it through the regulatory process.
Mr. Phillips: That, unfortunately though, is a change from a statement that was made by the Tourism critic prior to the election. There was no provision put on the commitment, "subject to the budgetary process." The critic, as did the critic of the Liberal Party and me for the Yukon Party, all committed to the building of the historic resources centre in the first term.
That was the question that was asked. That was the question that was answered by all three parties. So, it looks like this government, at the present time, anyway - we'll wait and see in future budgets, but at least in this budget - doesn't see that as as high a priority as it did back in 1996.
The second area that I have a concern with is that I notice several areas of reduction in the heritage budget. The Canyon City example is a good example, where the government backed away from Canyon City. Upon pressure from us and people in the community, I am thankful that the minister saw fit to find some $10,000 to hire interpreters for Canyon City for this summer, and I hope that that project continues, and I hope that the long-range plan for Canyon City with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation - the building of the interpretive centre that was going to be built there; I think the minister must have already seen the plans of the reconstruction of the buildings and the continuation of the archaeological dig that were worked on.
I hope that that's still on the books somewhere down the road and that it hasn't lost priority, as well.
My last concern, Mr. Chair, is over signage. A few years ago, we had several thousand dollars in the capital budget of the heritage department. There was $245,000 in 1996-97. It has been reduced to $207,000 in 1997-98 and it's down to $175,000 in this year's budget.
That signage area was put under heritage, because we noticed that, in the past, there wasn't the attention being paid to the tourism-related signs in a way that would complement the attraction or complement tourism itself. I know that the people in the heritage branch have done an absolutely outstanding job in building the new signs in the Dawson area that are going to go up this summer.
My concern is that if the minister keeps whittling away at this portion of the budget, we're not going to do very much in the way of signage in the future. We have a lot of signs out there that need to be replaced, upgraded and improved.
So I'm appealing to the minister to give this a higher priority. There's a great group of people working on the program. They've done a super job in designing some of the signs, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the new ones in Dawson, but we need new ones in Watson Lake; we need new ones on the Ross River-Faro road; we need new signs in the Haines Junction area, and this budget is being chipped away at every time we see this government come forward. Pretty soon there won't be enough money to do any signage in the territory.
My third concern with heritage, of course, is the cutback of the capital in the transfer payments to the museums. In many of the museums, I believe, some of the projects are not as active as they have been in the past.
The fourth area that I have a concern about with the priority of heritage is the government's position on the Mast House. I know that they took quite a strong position on the Taylor House, and they said because the legislation wasn't in place in the City of Whitehorse, they took care of the issue of the Taylor House, but here we have a house that is probably 40 or 50 years older than the Taylor House, and the government's saying it's the city's responsibility.
So my question there to the minister is, what happens to historic buildings, such as the Mast House, or other buildings that are maybe in the City of Whitehorse or in other cities in the territory, that are up for demolition but are historic?
We have a good example right now, the Carcross Caribou Hotel. Here we have the old Matthew Watson Store and that is actually what I want to talk about. The Matthew Watson Store is for sale. They haven't been able to sell it. They've got all the artifacts in there that are historic artifacts of the Yukon and they are going to be, it appears, liquidated and many will be bought by people who are not from the territory and these kind of artifacts will leave the territory. What is the position of the government with respect to these kinds of things? We don't have a lot of them in the territory. The Matthew Watson Store was a unique store in the territory. It has a great deal of history there and many of the other artifacts - the till, the scales - that are in the building are very valuable. Are we going to sit by and watch these disappear out of the territory or is the minister prepared to do something to try and make sure that these artifacts will stay in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Chair, first I haven't kept an order of the member's questions so I'll attempt to answer them. Well, I will answer them and I just hope I've caught all of them.
On the historic resource centre, we've talked about that now and, as I've explained, it is not in this budget but it is certainly not off the five-year capital plans. It's still within the department's wish list, certainly, but it is, as everything is, subject to the financial resources that we allocate during the budget process as was - and is - the Canyon City funding. I can say it wasn't through the member's prompting that we found, I believe, it's $11,000, if I can remember right. It was something that was a conscious decision that was made. We knew that we could not afford this but we knew that it was a good thing coming up and we had talked to the Conservation Society to see if we could continue with it and we did find the resources for it.
It is difficult at this time, through the budget process, as all members of the House are very well aware, to maintain what we have and then move on. It's a matter of checks and balances. It's a matter of prioritizing. It's not a matter of one being over the other in a personal type of way, but it's a matter of checks and balances.
And certainly, on the issue of the signage, yes, certainly, the signage budget has come down, but certainly, within the 1998-99 priorities that we have now, it includes the installation of the 15 new signs in the Klondike gold fields. We are looking at the completion of the Tintina Trench overlook site and we're looking to have that done in May. We're looking at an additional site on the Campbell Highway to be redeveloped, and an interpretive sign for the Alaska Highway north will be completed in this fiscal year.
So, I do understand the importance of the signage and where we're going, and I've chatted with my deputy minister in brainstorming sessions as to how we can make things better - spend wiser but make things better. Are there technologies out there?
We have it in the type of a situation right now where we can work our way through it, but I do share the concern of signage.
On the museums, under operation and maintenance, yes, the museums have gone down 0.5 percent, but certainly, based on their needs and their capital plans, we've endeavoured to work with them and we'll continue to work with all of the museums so that we might keep them up and moving.
Now, the member opposite puts together an interesting case - well, maybe it's not an interesting case but certainly puts a case forward - well, it's interesting also, so what am I saying - a case on the Mast House.
Certainly, the situation was entirely different when we had the Taylor House scenario come up. There was absolutely no resource or no way to go except to take concrete action, and this government did. We jumped in and took concrete action.
We said the house had to stay. It was due to significant pressure from the public at large. I was stopped many times in the street concerning the Taylor House.
Now that we have the city up with their bylaw in place and what not, it's encumbent that we work with the city and the city works with us, but it's also encumbent that the city recognizes their jurisdiction and stays within it. Now, they have established their jurisdiction in that area. They have made a very conscious effort. I've noticed, of late, that they're trying to find maybe different ways, but they made a very conscious effort. That is what their role and their responsibility is.
I can also say, and I will raise the fact, that there are many more historical buildings in the Yukon Territory outside of Whitehorse. I can think of some in the Dawson City area and, indeed, right in the Teslin First Nation area that are very prominent, historic homes.
As we go through the process and the challenge of looking at tourism in the future and how we might better increase and keep the Yukon as a high-quality destination, that will be one of the thoughts that we will continue to go with.
As far as the artifacts go, yes, I know that there are some concerns that artifacts are leaving the territory and being sold as is the case in Carcross, I believe, through the store there. We do have a Yukon Heritage Resources Board that is in place and functioning and working with museums prioritizing the different artifacts that are out there. So, certainly the member raises some very interesting points as to where we can go.
This government is very much desirous of maintaining and improving what we have here in tourism. That is the reason why. I know that both members opposite - the leader of the third party, who is the Tourism critic and the House leader of the official opposition - are desirous of seeing tourism increase and move and to keep it high end. Therein lies the direction and the feelings that a lot of Yukoners share. That's why we've gone ahead with the airport expansion, so that we might be able to encourage people to stay.
We've allocated $50,000 for future tourism strategy development. We spent a portion, as I was explaining last night, with Peter, Kent and Trent, looking at different ways. So, we are absolutely trying to spend wiser.
The government put forth $200,000. Again, we have to take a portion of that $200,000 to offset the interest rates on the dollars. We've negotiated deals with Air Transat. The member to my right, the Government Services minister, has the White Pass building renovations and the Taylor House renovations.
My colleague to my cheek left over here, the Minister of Renewable Resources, is working with the campground improvement, so all in all, the government is very, very much committed to working with the tourism industry and promoting tourism here in the Yukon. I certainly thank and welcome the encouragement and examples of how we can do better here.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, my point is that when in opposition, the NDP were quite critical of our government's heritage program. In fact, if you look at the record, our heritage program saw increases over the years. In fact, we developed a lot of new programs while we were there.
What I'm concerned about is that it appears now that the government is chipping away at the heritage branch in a couple of different areas that I've pointed out. It seems inconsistent with what they said before the election. This is only half way through their mandate, so maybe we'll see a higher priority put on heritage in the next two years. So, I'll leave that.
The minister didn't answer my question, though, on situations like the Mast House. He basically said that the Taylor House was our responsibility; the Mast House is the city's responsibility now that they have a bylaw.
All I want is a simple answer from the minister with respect to these kinds of issues, like heritage homes. Is there a safety net, so to speak, if any other government who has jurisdiction over a certain historical building fails to protect the building? What's the position of the Government of the Yukon? Will it stand by and watch the wrecking ball knock the building down, or will it exercise its final concern with heritage and move in to try to protect the historical building? Or will it just say, you know, "That's the city's responsibility, and we're not getting involved in this, and if they want to wreck all the historical buildings in the City of Whitehorse and not protect any of them, that's their business. We're not interested in it." Because I don't think I would hear that from people in the heritage community. I think the people in the heritage community want somebody to protect the Yukon's heritage.
I just wonder what happens, for instance, if the city doesn't protect the Mast House and it was to fall to the wrecking ball. Would the Government of the Yukon step in to protect it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In a short answer, I could probably say no, we wouldn't step in. Certainly the case of the Taylor House and the Mast House are two distinct, different cases, where the city did not have its jurisdiction, and the city does have its jurisdiction at this point in time.
The heritage branch, and the YHMA, will continue to encourage the city to be very much proactive and to look at and lobby and work with the city to encourage them, as I said, to be proactive, but to look at the distinct tourism value that heritage has. We know a good thriving example of that is within the Dawson City area and within the Carcross area, where there are heritage buildings that are preserved, that are there, and people do come to see them.
Again, we must recognize the city's jurisdiction, and will continue to recognize the city's jurisdiction.
The Yukon government, though, does support the municipal preservation initiatives, and we do that through our historic properties assistance contribution program - the provision of technical advice and property preservation, et cetera.
So, you know, the support is there for the maintenance and the inventory of the heritage properties. It's unfortunate that the city has made the decision that they have, but it is within their authority and it is their decision. Now, though, the citizenship at large - there have been some unique offers that have come from the citizenship at large - a lady in Riverdale talking about purchasing the house and doing things. I would like to see the community at large look to finding ways, and it's certainly very encouraging when you have citizens who come forth.
I do believe that, in cooperation and working with the city and with the heritage branch, through our heritage initiatives and other initiatives in the political system, that we would certainly be able to continue to preserve heritage buildings here.
Mr. Phillips: I thank the minister for the answer. I guess I'm a little concerned that we don't have a safety net of some kind to protect the demolition of these heritage houses. I can understand the dilemma the minister is in, because if you had something public that was out there, if it was going to cost other governments money, every one of them would back away from it if they knew that YTG would jump in in the end and save it.
But on the other hand, the heritage community is very concerned about losing these, and I'd like to see the private sector get involved, too, and save these homes. I think it would be a great thing for the City of Whitehorse and for the Yukon as a whole if this happened, but we don't have as large a private sector or large corporations that they might have in bigger centres.
They are more small businesses in the territory, and there aren't a lot of people out there with the wherewithal to come up with $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 to preserve or move to protect a building like that, which there might be in even Alaska or B.C. or Alberta. So we're at a little bit of a disadvantage. Maybe when our economy improves and we get all kinds of oil and gas exploration and all those big companies with money up here, we can convince some of them to kick in, but that's probably a long ways down the road.
Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned the airport expansion. Just one area there and that's the airport tower. It's still unresolved. I understand there's a meeting taking place in May. NAVCanada is coming up here with their people again in May.
I've heard that the Northwest Territories is virtually assigned an individual who virtually travels with the NAVCanada people, lobbying them all the time, working with them, ensuring that they protect the towers and they protect the services they have in their part, and we've only sent a couple of letters.
We haven't done a great deal of work there. My concern is that there may be some decisions made that are more economic or based on the dollar than based on the future.
Can the minister tell me if he's had any indication from Air Transat or any other carriers that not having a tower after next September, if that happens, will make a difference the following year whether or not they will arrive and depart from Whitehorse Airport, or have these carriers given him assurances that there will be no problem regardless if there is a tower or not?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Pardon me for jumping the gun there, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Yes, Mr. Deputy Chair, we have chatted with the NavCan folks and sent letters. I'm quite proud of the aviation branch within C&TS for monitoring it, because the NavCan folks said that that was the very best presentation that they had seen from the perspective of governments. So, they had said that they feel confident - now, this is in an unofficial way, of course, but they said that they feel confident that we would be able to retain the tower. So, it's more than just sending a couple of letters. We've been working with them and I have been working with my counterparts at political levels, and the deputy minister and the staff generally have done a very fine job.
I, myself, initiated a canvass of the carriers. Now, that's in my C&TS briefing book which I do not have with me right here but I can speak from some knowledge, if I may, and, no, all the carriers had said that that would not really affect their service. They would be able to still service the Whitehorse area because they do have control there. It's not like they're just off into limbo and not tracked. They are tracked.
But certainly I feel confident, with the NavCan presentation, that we do need a tower. We absolutely need a tower here. If we're going to look at bringing in DC-10s, and I'm trying to think - I think it was Condor, if I remember off the top of my head now, that they would not be able to come here because that is their company policy. And that's because of the unique terrain here. And the member opposite being a pilot - and I not being a pilot - would probably have the knowledge that it's just not geographically suited here. So there is no way that they would be coming with their DC-10s with or without a tower. So that is just out of the question. That is really their company policy. But, certainly, therein lies the answer as to the other companies that said it would not make a difference to them.
Mr. Phillips: Another issue that came up at the TIA convention was changes to the Employment Standards Act that will be implemented with respect to the local hire policy. The local hire policy is, of course, people doing business with the Government of the Yukon. But, if you change the Employment Standards Act, the Employment Standards Act applies to all sectors.
Does the minister have any idea? He doesn't have to give me an answer now. Maybe he can respond in writing. Based on the recommendations of the local hire policy that recommended some changes to the Employment Standards Act, what effect will that have on the tourism industry? Are there plans for consultation with the tourism industry with respect to employment standards?
Employment standards can really affect a seasonal business, if there are some significant changes. So, the industry should be given a heads-up with respect to any implications the local hire policy might have on any changes to legislation. I urge the minister to do that.
One of the last points I want to raise with the minister is the area of winter tourism; that is, snowmobile tourism. The local snowmobile club has been very active in preparing a lot of information and providing me with a lot of background information.
I was just looking at the snowmobile trail development in Newfoundland, and it is quite interesting. There's $5.8 million committed to snowmobile trail development in Newfoundland, and $1.1 million is provincial money - $1.1 million for one sector. Snowmobile trails and adventures are turning out to be a very huge business.
The Yukon is lagging considerably behind a lot of other jurisdictions, yet we have some of the greatest terrain in the world to take advantage of for this kind of thing. We only have to look at what the small City of Dawson has done with respect to two or three events that they hold in the winter. The snowmobilers would arrive in the Yukon with virtually some of their winter clothing and a credit card.
They would rent snow machines and stay in our hotels. I mean, it would be great for us in the winter, when our hotels are not as full.
So there's not a lot in this budget with respect to support for that industry. I just want to encourage the minister to lobby more strongly. If he's thinking on developing more programs, or if they want to put more emphasis on tourism with more new money - not take away from some of the existing programs, but more new money - then they should give strong consideration to the snowmobile industry in the territory and the potential we might have. I was quite surprised to find out that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have quite a snowmobile industry in their provinces, and a lot of it's from Europe. Wide bodies arrive in Halifax, full of Europeans who want to take a two- or three-week winter vacation, and the hotels and lodges in the hinterlands in those provinces are more full now than they were in the regular tourism season. They're more full in the winter than they were in the summer. It's made the winter season almost their major tourism season in some areas. We could sure use some of that business but, like I said, we are behind.
My last question I have for the minister is one that I've heard in the industry time and time again. I know I've asked this question before, but I'm going to ask it I think in every budget we're in. Tourism is the second most important contributor to the Yukon economy behind mining, and it's quickly gaining on mining. It's the largest employer in the sector, and there are still rumours floating about that this government is considering merging Tourism with the Economic Development department.
I just want to put the minister on notice that the industry is certainly not in favour of that. The minister would face a deluge of calls and meetings, and probably demonstrations and everything else, if they even thought of doing it, especially in light of the role that tourism is playing today in our depressed economy.
So maybe I could just get the minister on record saying that their government has absolutely no intention whatsoever of merging the Department of Tourism with the Economic Development department, and that it's an important industry in the territory, and it's a stand-alone industry, and their government's not going to tinker with that.
Can the minister give us those assurances?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me start from the beginning, if I may, on the local hire policy and the employment standards. Yes, I will reply in writing to both members to let them know, and I appreciate the attitude that I can do that.
In the snowmobile industry, though, yes, that's very, very interesting - the trek over the top. It's exactly a very positive example of a good winter product that would bring new dollars, new resources, and, as the member said, some winter clothes and a charge card are just exactly what we want them to bring.
Renewable Resources, Tourism and Community and Transportation Services are working with the Klondike Snowmobile Association to explore initiatives and new ways. There are certainly a lot of considerations to be taken in. There are the land use planning issues that have to be all worked out. There are the trappers' trails. There is also the Canada Trail that one of my colleagues is quite enthused about and anxious to get that connection, not only a unity connection to the rest of Canada, but you can hike it, you can trek it, you can ski it, and you might even be able to snowmobile it. So, certainly, we're getting the infrastructure developed there, and I hear the member opposite when he says to look at new ways and not to jeopardize or take away from what we've got.
I certainly will go on record at any time saying that I believe very strongly in the fundamental, intrinsic cultural value of snowmobiling and of winter tourism and all components of tourism to the Yukon Territory. I see that as definitely the way to go.
As far as the rumours and rumours and rumours out there about a merger - certainly, I can say quite categorically that it is not on the government's plan, and I hope that will bring comfort to all people out there who are concerned about this. It is absolutely not on the government's planning initiative to do that.
Ms. Duncan: I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Department of Tourism's budget, and the last question from the Member for Riverdale North leads nicely into what was one of my first questions concerning the overall direction of the department and ways of work, if I might.
This discussion stems back to the 1996 TIA convention, when I represented the Liberal Party, the Member for Riverdale North represented the Yukon Party and the Member for Whitehorse West represented the New Democratic Party.
One of the ideas that was put forward by the Liberal Party at that convention was the suggestion that there be an examination of new ways of work with the tourism industry, and the turn of phrase at the time was a special operating agency.
Now, just to give some background to the minister, I understand that Tourism British Columbia started out as a special operating agency and has moved to a Crown corporation, and in Alaska they have something called the new millennium plan, which I have reviewed in some detail and discussed briefly with some members of the tourism industry. I'm just wondering if the minister could outline if there is any examination within the department or with the partners for any discussions of new ways of work?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Specifically, Mr. Chair, to a special operating agency for tourism or, in the case of the B.C. model, their marketing initiatives - another interesting example is the Alberta model and the dismal failure of that model. I'm really quite concerned. To put it in a nutshell, no, it is nothing that I want to do. Absolutely not.
I'm looking to find new ways, and better ways, maybe - not new ways because there is a certain correlation now with the industry - but I'm certainly always looking to improve on those types of initiatives, to work closer with the industry, to make sure that the industry is an umbrella industry representative of all people in the tourism industry.
I'm certainly very interested in marketing the Yukon Territory and to continue marketing the Yukon Territory in the aggressive fashion that we have. The Marketing Council, as the member is very well aware, has put forth a concept initiated by the two co-chairs, I do believe, and they are the marketing director of Tourism and the executive director of TIA and they will look at how we can do that.
But no, I hope it brings comfort that we're not looking at a special operating agency. If that's another nasty rumour out there, I certainly can say that it's not in the government's plans.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the government has been in office for 19 or 20 months now and the minister has become very well-acquainted with the success of organizations like the KVA. It's been successful for many, many years, and I believe the news reports indicated it has something in the neighbourhood of a $1 million payroll. We have the Tourism Industry Association, the First Nations Tourism Association, the Wilderness Tourism Association, the Anniversaries Commission, the Yukon Tourism Education Council, the Yukon Convention Bureau and, of course, there are the festivals, the Northern Storytelling Festival, and the Quest, the museums, YHMA, as well as the Tourism Marketing Council. The minister has a number of partners, and each has their distinct roles in this partnership.
Now the minister has ruled out a special operating agency as one model. I'm interested in whether or not the minister is being regularly briefed on the Alaskan new millennium plan and whether there is discussion of any other models that have been used, some successfully and some not. Are there any other discussions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we do not have other initiatives that are out there. Certainly, as I can reiterate, we are looking to strive and rise to the challenge of new tourism initiatives and to look at new ways and certainly to empower people and to have good functioning umbrella organizations.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that response, in terms of the overall direction of the department.
The arts branch of the department - have there been any initiatives to work with the Minister of Economic Development in terms of securing any form of an arts branch economic development agreement - an arts EDA for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. I've been sitting down for the last month and a half looking at that. We're one of the latest jurisdictions to tap into that. I can give examples of other jurisdictions that get big dollars, but it is something we're going for.
Now, I have to say that I have to have Cabinet approval, of course. It is in the process, and I am seeking Cabinet approval.
Ms. Duncan: If it's not a violation of Cabinet secrecy, could we have some kind of time frame or an estimate? Are we looking at another 18 months?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not certain if it's in violation of Cabinet secrecy or anything, but, at this point in time, I just reviewed the paper approximately one week ago. I sent it back for some changes that have to be done, and then it's going to be going to Cabinet. What I will ensure, though, is that I will give it to the official critic of the official opposition, and I will get it to the leader of the third party, the Tourism critic, as soon as it's done.
Ms. Duncan: I'm not sure that gives us an indication of when we might see the money in place, but that would be prejudging Cabinet.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Okay, let's look for an announcement in the fall.
Just related to that, I would like to take just a couple of minutes, if I could, and pay tribute to the new film launched last week, As the Crow Flies. I would especially like to extend - I guess the best way to describe it is "my heartfelt thanks" - to Rob Toohey and Tina Sebert and the talent of Chris Guichon and his flying capabilities. That film involving all Yukoners is a real testament to Yukoners and to the land we live in. My compliments to everyone involved in the department - those who worked on this project.
It was an honour to be invited to share in that gala evening. I truly left with a lump in my throat, which was a testament to the film's power, as well as the Yukon and the land we live in.
On the discussion of filming in the Yukon, can the minister give an indication of when we might see a replacement for Ms. Howlett in place within the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I couldn't. That's a personnel matter, and I really don't know, but I could search into it and get personnel and the Public Service Commission to get back to you.
Ms. Duncan: By legislative return, I'd be interested in a date of when that position might be filled. I'm sure it's in someone's notes, and perhaps if the minister could give an indication of other vacancies within the department and what the time frame is for filling those, too, that would be helpful.
I have a few very specific questions and a couple of suggestions, and I'll try to keep them focused and to the point. One complaint that's come to me from a constituent is the issue around brochures, and I've dealt with this many times when I was the manager of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and that's the availability. In this particular instance, we had a parent volunteer working with a class of 30, going out of the territory, wanting to take packages and information to their host families. The response they got from the Department of Tourism was, "Sorry, we don't do that." The City of Whitehorse very graciously had packages ready in half an hour. That's not a very ringing endorsement of the whole Yukon. It's certainly a ringing endorsement of the efforts of the City of Whitehorse tourism officer.
Now, I appreciate that they are different jurisdictions and different focuses. However, I would like to bring that to the minister's attention and ask if he would follow up on it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I certainly will follow up on it. I can say that I've just been informed that - although I'm not involved in personnel, other people here with me are - the interviews are going to be in a couple of weeks, and we're looking at hiring for Patti's replacement within a month.
Ms. Duncan: I'm especially pleased that one of the individuals that works on product and market development is with the minister.
I'd like to draw another concern to the minister's attention, and I have to tell the minister a short situation that affected me personally. My family wanted to experience the Yukon during Easter weekend via renting a cabin or a location somewhere, and the response I received from one business was, "I'm sorry. We don't cater to the North American market." I was very upset by that response. I understand it perfectly, and I would never presume to tell private business how to do their business. I am concerned that Yukoners themselves need to support and work with the tourism industry. We need to feel that we're a part of it and to be a part of it.
I'm wondering if the minister could outline what steps we take when we have someone coming in saying, "Well, I'm interested in starting a tourism business," and if we remind them that we also want business from fellow Yukoners.
The flip-side of that is that, this weekend at the Trade Show, there was a booth with a First Nations business on the Yukon River, and the individual whom I spoke with was very interested in having Yukoners and Whitehorse residents come down on a trip for dinner. So, there are two sides of that sort of product development that I've experienced, and I'm just wondering if the minister is aware of these concerns, and if, in discussing product development with industry, we are also cognizant of working with Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Actually, I do know that we have a very fine business centre over there. You can walk in and, right from the beginning, you can start to develop a business plan and move on through. The staff are very conscientious and very courteous in encouraging people in the development of a business.
Now, tourism, as we know, is very focused on their markets. Certainly, one of their markets is the North American market, the wheeled market. As I've been told, it's the bread-and-butter market of the Yukon Territory.
Certainly, we have to find out about that, so I'll chat with the department regarding that and try and get some information back, which I will definitely share with the member opposite. But, certainly, we try to encourage the local market.
Most businesses, no matter where you are, rely on the local market, as they should, because this is Yukon. My joy of travelling, get this, would be a nice, wonderful trip to Old Crow for two weeks instead of Disneyland, and I know I'm not the only one that has that attitude. So, I will certainly check into things.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, that relates to my next question. There was some talk of a homecoming program, inviting people who used to live here but also using individuals who are travelling outside to sell the Yukon. We have to know what we're selling and we have to experience it ourselves.
What programs are underway in the department in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this point in time we have the passport program that gets folks to come in and travel and distribute out and about. But I've got to say the homecoming program was sitting down in consultation with the industry and they thought that, with the resources that we had, it would be better to spend those resources in other areas. It's very difficult to market. The cost was, if I remember, somewhere around $100,000, mostly for mailing, et cetera.
Certainly, though, the challenge - and I'll keep coming back to the challenge of post-anniversaries and where we're going to come - is that we have to have a complete, new outlook, if I may, as to how we would proceed to move into the future to secure the tourism industry.
Ms. Duncan: The homecoming program is just one aspect of working with Yukoners in terms of tourism and promotion. The thrust of that question was not to highlight that as the answer, but to highlight this issue of Yukoners being able to experience the Yukon and, in turn, to sell the Yukon. I was relating a very personal experience of not being able to do that, and I would like to hear from the department on that.
The economic survey that was done by the department - and the minister has mentioned a business service centre, and I concur with the minister, and I got the statistics, thanks to the department, of the clients they have served, and it is a wonderful resource within our community. It's well-used, very well laid out, and it's very user friendly.
The economic survey that was done by the department did not include any travel by Yukon residents. Are we going to do the survey again and, this time, will it include travel by Yukoners to other places within the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, and yes.
Ms. Duncan: The Wilderness Tourism Association - I had many members privately express dissatisfaction with the working and development of the website, and some frustration while that was being developed and worked on. Have these issues been resolved? Are the websites up and running and functioning well to the satisfaction of the industry?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I do believe it has been resolved to the satisfaction of the industry.
Ms. Duncan: One of the agencies involved in developing that wilderness tourism website was Parallel Strategies, and I understand, via a memo dated April 29, that Mr. Prodan - there was some controversy regarding him earlier in this session - is still with Parallel Strategies. Is that the minister's understanding?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, my latest understanding is that he has resigned.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, that was my understanding as well but I've since seen a copy of a memo that indicated that Mr. Prodan was still working with this company. Could I just ask the minister to take that matter under advisement and review it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would have to check on that. I was told that he resigned and he is not associated at all now with the Tourism account. Does that mean that he has ability to go someplace else? I'm not sure. I'll have to check and see if I can actually do that and if I can, well then I'll certainly contact the member opposite and let the member opposite know.
Ms. Duncan: I wrote the minister a letter asking some followup questions with regard to the last full-service agency contract and I appreciate that the minister hasn't had time to review that or respond to me as yet. One of the questions I asked was that I wondered if we would be continuing, through the full-service agency, a relationship in Germany with Mr. Berghold I'm just wondering if a decision has been made on that?
The question I asked was whether or not Parallel would be continuing their relationship, subcontracting in Germany with Holger Berghold or if a decision has been made on that yet.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Deputy Chair, they are not at all related in companies, not at all. But there is a need for them to work together occasionally because one is our European representative and, of course, one is our marketing agent.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didn't make that question clear for the minister. I understand that this is a separate company, but under the previous full-service agency contract, there were a number of subcontracts let to this individual to do marketing in Europe.
We have a new full-service agency. Are we going to use the same subcontractor in Europe or will we be using a different one? That's my question.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Deputy Chair, if the member opposite would give me the time, I will have to check into that and find out.
Ms. Duncan: Could I also ask the minister to have his department officials review that standing offer agreement with Parallel and review it in light of the local hire recommendations to see where the recommendations will apply to the standing offer agreement - where they will apply and where they will not? Could I ask that that be reviewed and just a legislative return sent to me?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to extend a warm Yukon welcome to the director of marketing. I guess we don't introduce him as "new" any more, according to the Tourism Industry Association convention. I'd like to extend a welcome to him.
I noted in some of the media information when he first arrived, he had expressed a concern re: attracting western Canadians to the Yukon. I think the exact quote was, "Find ways to get more western Canadians to vacation in the Yukon." In light of that, I'd like to just ask the minister to address the participation in the Canada 3000 tour. It's my understanding that Canada 3000, who fly into the Yukon during the summertime, do a number of shows throughout Canada. There were five shows, wherein the Yukon was represented by an Alaskan marketing manager from the Alaska Division of Tourism, and shows in eastern Canada where the Yukon was representing both Alaska and the Yukon.
Now, it's my understanding that Canada 3000 was very disappointed with this poor showing on the part of the Yukon. I'm wondering if the minister will take that under advisement and commit to me that, next year, the Yukon will be fully represented at all of the Canada 3000 shows as opposed to half of them.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Chair, as we move to the post-anniversary - and I was going to say "decade," but everything is going to be post-anniversaries here. Wherever it's appropriate and makes good marketing sense, we'd be looking at such a partnership within the marketing.
I'd just like to go back just a bit further here to say that we're looking more and more at the Canadian market to bring those people here to the Yukon. What better experience for Canada than to have the Yukon. Of course, you know, probably every minister says that across the country. That also includes the visiting of friends and relatives.
So, certainly, where it makes sense, we will move on that, and we will have that discussion, and I will get back to the member opposite on it.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister outline for me just a short outline of the familiarization tours - fam tours? How are the vendors chosen? For example, if we are entertaining western Canadian writers and decide to take them on a dogsled tour and out for dinner and whatever - do a familiarization tour of the Yukon - how do we choose the vendors?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I must congratulate the member opposite for asking a question that is not contained in 10 bullets of a briefing note. You've got a mingy there, I'll tell you. Of course, it's logical that the members must have a product that the wholesalers are looking for, because it's got to be market driven. But, certainly, I will have to get back to the member opposite.
Certainly, they do identify and help fund these ones, but as to the specific process, I would have to get back to you.
Ms. Duncan: There is some suggestion that, on these fam tours, people choose what they want to do, which I understand; that if they want hiking and so on, they would do that. However, there are perhaps half a dozen people who could then take them on a hiking excursion. So, how do we pick and choose is my question, if the minister could get back to me on that.
I'd like to ask about the tourism plans. I asked in the briefing and I've received a note from the department that is quite thorough. However, there's nothing written under "Whitehorse" and I'm quite certain that the Whitehorse area tourism plan was completed in 1994. The forecast update is 2003. Are there any updates planned before then?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly the member opposite is correct. That is when we were going to do it. We said, I believe in the budget speech I mentioned, that we're going to look at attempting to do and complete three plans this year, which is up and above the normal one plan per year. But certainly we're looking to always expedite and to keep up with the times, and certainly that is a part of the challenge. So we are looking at them, as the member said, to the year 2003, but we're doing three this year and, as resources are allocated, we'll have to take that into consideration.
Ms. Duncan: Just to verify: the three we're doing this year are Kluane, Old Crow, north Yukon and the Campbell. Is that correct? Yes, the minister's nodding.
Just a correction to the department's briefing note. They should add "1994" under "Whitehorse".
The GST is not anybody's favourite topic. However, just a note from my tourism notes, the Finance minister had announced some time ago a review of the visitor rebate program to assess whether the current design and administration could be improved.
I'm just wondering if the Department of Tourism liaises with the Government of Canada in tracking the applications for the visitor rebate program from the Yukon. We have a lot of cross-border traffic, of course, with Alaska. I'm just wondering if information in terms of the visitor rebate is being made available to these people, and if we're doing anything to track not only the applications, but also Government of Canada initiatives in terms of improving this program.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We certainly liaise with the Canadian Tourism Commission but I don't think that we actually track it, but certainly we can check, as we go in and do the economic survey, if that could be a part of it. So certainly, it's a good suggestion and I thank you.
Ms. Duncan: I didn't intend for this debate to engender a ton of work for the department but it seems to be going that way.
The 1999 annual tourism guide - could the minister just elaborate? What will be the focus for 1999's tourism guide?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Deputy Deputy Chair, that is to be determined at this point in time but certainly that is a project of the Marketing Council and their small input is built into that. I image, though, it will be revolving around the four Ps that we've come up with in the focus test results.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, perhaps I could just advise the minister that I've had a strong lobby that adventure tourism is very interested in being part of that focus and the pull-out, if you will.
The Air Transat flights - can the minister provide any more information than what has been provided to date? I'm looking to find out if the additional equipment required at the airport has been purchased and is in place. That first flight's only 12 days away. Has the additional equipment required been put in place and have the additional Customs officers been hired? Can the minister provide an update?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I can give an update. Air Transat has contracted the following company to handle their 1998 flight operations: it's the Canadian Airlines for the ramp operations and aircraft maintenance; Air North through the passenger check-in; and Yukon Travel for the customer service representatives. And yes, I will go on the record saying that we have worked with the Customs folk and that there is a process put into place at this point in time.
The dollies, I believe, are here now. There is no need for a push-back. The air stairs are on loan from Canadian Airlines, and there is the purchase of an air-start that is coming about at this point in time to have on record in case of an emergency.
Ms. Duncan: Could I have, by legislative return, a final accounting of that, too - perhaps in the minister's other department - of our investment in this regard?
The minister has said that Canada Customs officials and arrangements are in place. For the flight with Fulda, the arrangements were that the Customs officer travelled at Fulda's expense to Germany and cleared people en route. When the minister says that Customs officials and arrangements are in place, exactly what are those arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll just read directly from the briefing note. Canada Customs have also advised that two additional Customs and Immigration agents will be hired for the summer season. That's in addition to the three full-time agents, and all will be utilized to ensure the fastest possible expediting of the aircraft's passengers and to further assist two Whitehorse Airport commissionaires who will also be enlisted to direct pedestrian flow within the terminal.
Ms. Duncan: The sales figures - does the minister have an update on the flights and, from the wholesalers' perspective, how this has been received? I understand very well, and the minister in his letter said 73 percent of the 16 flights arriving in Whitehorse this summer are sold. That's as of March 22. Now, that's a month and one-half ago, almost. Could we have an update on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we just received an update as of today - just a short while ago - and we can advise you that an outgoing flight has been cancelled. Instead of creating any confusion, let me read it to you, okay?
It says: "Air Transat has advised, just today, that special airfares have been offered to European wholesalers to both Whitehorse and Vancouver on the first seven flights from May 19 to June 30. Air Transat have also advised that the June 2" - and this was the outgoing flight - "has been cancelled due to low numbers of sales on the Whitehorse-to-Frankfurt flight that day." That's simply for the reason that people don't want to go back yet, which is good for us. Sales on the June 2 inbound flight transfer to Whitehorse will operate as scheduled, and passengers who originally booked on the cancelled flight have been rebooked on scheduled carriers to Germany. The sales on remaining flights are extremely good and the airline advises that approximately 65 percent of the entire aircraft capacity at this time has been sold.
Ms. Duncan: Okay. I'd like to review the minister's answer and if I have additional questions on that I'll get back to him in writing.
The last question I wanted to touch on, in the interest of time, is the training trust funds. Now, I understand these are administered with TIA, one of the partners in tourism in the Yukon. Can the minister give an update as to the uptake on the training trust funds, and an update in terms of YTEC?
Does the minister receive regular reports from the Yukon Tourism Education Council as to their training initiatives and how many people have achieved their diplomas, and that sort of information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, we don't have that information. The training trust fund is developed through Education and administered by the Tourism Industry Association, but I will certainly relay that and get an answer back to you on your question.
Ms. Duncan: I'd appreciate it. I've given the minister a number of areas to review that I would like legislative returns on. If I could just ask that that be done as soon as possible, I think I could, at this point, move on to line-by-line debate, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Just one brief point, if the minister, in providing the legislative returns to the third party, could they provide the same returns to us as well? We'd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely.
On Corporate Services
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there general debate?
Ms. Duncan: If there's a brief explanation from the minister, perhaps in general, that would be helpful just to give us a minute.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operations in the amount of $983,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $983,000 agreed to
Operations in the amount of $282,000 agreed to
Museums in the amount of $367,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites
Historic Sites in the amount of $137,000 agreed to
On Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in the amount of $358,000 agreed to
Heritage in the amount of $1,144,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like to have a point put on the record. It's a question I raised in the Tourism briefing and that is the issue around working with the executive directors of organizations, the museums, in terms of if there is a salary increment being negotiated by YEU that's not reflected necessarily in our core funding to museums for their executive director position. Could I ask the minister, once a settlement has been reached with YEU, if we could have a note as to what the cost would be if museum staff, their core individuals, were funded to a similar position level? What would be the impact on our funding to them? Could I just have that on the record as information from the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, on record, we'll provide it.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Are there further questions on statistics?
Some Hon. Member: Clear.
On Industry Services
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on Industry Services?
Operations in the amount of $470,000 agreed to
Industry Services in the amount of $470,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: On Marketing, is there any general debate?
Operations in the amount of $1,396,000 agreed to
On Public Relations
Public Relations in the amount of $111,000 agreed to
Promotions in the amount of $1,591,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $1,794,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the Statistics?
Marketing in the amount of $4,892,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate on Arts?
Operations in the amount of $1,400,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the Statistics?
Arts in the amount of $1,400,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $8,889,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Just one question - we have been meeting with the department on this one, and that's the Beringia sculpture, "Where the Legends Meet." I understand that it was going to be completed around mid-May. Is there a scheduled unveiling for this sculpture, and what day is that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At this point in time, we're still looking to have the sculpture completed on May 13. I'm not sure if the unveiling is for that date. I'll certainly make sure that both the official critic and the leader of the third party are notified in time so that they would be able to attend.
On Historic Resources
On Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
On Capital Maintenance
Capital Maintenance in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Heritage Attractions Site Support
Heritage Attractions Site Support in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Museums Assistance
Museums Assistance in the amount of $314,000 agreed to
On Exhibits Assistance
Exhibits Assistance in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing in the amount of $88,000 agreed to
On Conservation and Security
Conservation and Security in the amount of $53,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites
On Historic Sites Maintenance
Historic Sites Maintenance in the amount of $235,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites Inventory
Historic Sites Inventory in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Ft. Selkirk
Ft. Selkirk in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites Planning
Historic Sites Planning in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Interpretation and Signage
Interpretation and Signage in the amount of $175,000 agreed to
On Rampart House
Rampart House in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Yukon Archaeology
Yukon Archaeology in the amount of $180,000 agreed to
Palaeontology in the amount of $123,000 agreed to
On Heritage Studies
Heritage Studies in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Heritage in the amount of $2,043,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Industry and Regional Services
On Industry Research and Strategic Planning
Industry Research and Strategic Planning in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
On Product and Resource Assessment
Product and Resource Assessment in the amount of $45,000 agreed to
On Tourism Industry Resource Centre
Tourism Industry Resource Centre in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Industry Services in the amount of $290,000 agreed
Deputy Deputy Chair: On marketing, is there any general debate?
On Visitor Reception Centres
On Multi-media Equipment
Multi-media Equipment in the amount of $56,000 agreed to
On VRC Capital Maintenance
VRC Capital Maintenance in the amount of $84,000 agreed to
On Travel Equipment, Displays and Productions
On Purchase and Maintenance of Displays
Purchase and Maintenance of Displays in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Production, Distribution and Versioning of Vignettes
Production, Distribution and Versioning of Vignettes in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Production, Distribution and Versioning of Films and Audio-Visual Shows
Production, Distribution and Versioning of Films and Audio-Visual Shows in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Marketing in the amount of $225,000 agreed to
On Visual Arts
On Visual Arts Acquisition
Visual Arts Acquisition in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Arts Acquisition Endowment Fund
Arts Acquisition Endowment Fund in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Native Art Acquisition
Native Art Acquisition in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Facility Development
On Arts Centre Capital Maintenance
Arts Centre Capital Maintenance in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Arts in the amount of $108,000 agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $2,676,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: No.
Chair: Okay, we will move on to the Women's Directorate.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The 1997-98 capital budget of $4,000 and the operation and maintenance budget of $409,000 for the Women's Directorate represent a total of $413,000 to support the Yukon government's commitment to the economic, legal and social equality of women.
The directorate's capital budget of $4,000 is to ensure all computer equipment in the directorate is adapted to meet the demands of year 2000. It will also provide space for the human resource information system and inter-line library service.
The O&M expenditures of the Women's Directorate fall under one program heading, policy and program development. The directorate's priority work is to enhance its role as a policy office within government and to support the Yukon government's commitment to the economic, legal and social equality of women by integrating gender considerations into government policy, legislation and program development.
Over the past year and a half, the directorate's policy work has included violence prevention, training, child support and maintenance enforcement, anti-poverty measures and issues involving Yukon youth.
The directorate will continue to work with Health and Social Services, Education and Justice on policy issues, such as the regulations to implement the Family Violence Prevention Act, changes to the Family Support Act, midwifery legislation, the anti-poverty and youth strategies, as well as providing gender analysis to departments on Cabinet submissions.
The allotments under policy and program development are as follows: personnel, $259,000 reflects four full-year equivalent positions - director, office administrator, policy analyst and communications coordinator position; Other, $120,000 covers program and project funding, the administration of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues and departmental administrative costs, including communications, advertising, office supplies and travel; transfer payments of $30,000 are for contributions and grant funding. Of this, a contribution of $20,000 will again be provided to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to help it carry out its valuable services to Yukon women.
The directorate continues to strengthen its links with women's groups in the community by providing funding for a variety of programs targeting women in need. An eight-week anger management program for women, "Exploring Your Anger", began in March 1998, and is delivered by the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and funded by the Women's Directorate.
The response has been excellent, and there is a waiting list for a fall series of sessions.
Another project being funded here is a statistical profile of Yukon women, which the directorate is producing in conjunction with the Northern Research Institute and the Yukon Bureau of Statistics for release in the winter of 1998-99. This, and the economic gender-equality indicators will provide useful information to policymakers.
The issue of violence against women in the territory continues to be of major concern to many people in the Yukon; $43,000 has been allocated in the area of violence prevention.
The Women's Directorate is an active member of the Fostering Healthy Communities Interdepartmental Committee, which ensures that government departments take a coordinated approach to creating healthier and less violent Yukon communities. The directorate will support the Department of Justice in ensuring a smooth implementation and ongoing public awareness about the Family Violence Prevention Act.
The directorate continues to implement the government's public awareness strategy to end violence against women and children through radio spots, TV public service announcements, workshops and print ads.
Through a contribution agreement with the Directorate, Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre now takes the lead role in coordinating activities and events for Sexual Assault Prevention Month, Woman Abuse Prevention Month, and the December 6 commemoration. All of these special events are coordinated through an interagency steering committee. The directorate is active on the committee and sponsors a speakers roster for Sexual Assault Prevention Month and Woman Abuse Prevention Month.
The directorate has co-chaired an interagency committee with the Canadian Red Cross to deliver the abuse-prevention services program in Yukon schools. This program, which is run by trained volunteers, is being expanded into rural Yukon schools.
The directorate continues to co-chair a federal/provincial/territorial status of women working group on violence against women.
The directorate continues to focus energies on initiatives and projects that promote equality for young women in our society.
Young Women of Grit is a program for young women who are at risk or who have experienced violence in their lives, which is supported by the directorate, Skookum Jim's Friendship Centre and the Youth Achievement Centre, Health and Social Services. The program offers a week-long wilderness experience that covers topics such as building self-reliance, learning respect for nature, body image, motivation, gender equity and goal setting. Activities include First Nations storytelling and healing circles, hiking and rock climbing. This year, the program will run over the period of a month.
The directorate also heads up a steering committee of representatives from the Department of Education, Yukon Teachers Association, school council members, Yukon College women's studies program, Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and Les EssentiElles to ensure the gender equity policy for public schools is implemented into all Yukon schools.
Focus group discussions with students, teachers, administrators and parents in Whitehorse and rural Yukon communities are underway to develop a comprehensive action plan and identify pilot projects for Yukon schools. A user-friendly booklet appropriate for teachers, parents and youth on the gender equity in public schools policy has been developed and will be distributed throughout schools and to the general public in the territory.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I have very few questions in general debate, but I do want to, first of all, thank the department for their briefing that they gave us when we attended a few weeks ago and also thank the department and the four individuals who work there and the many others - whom the department seems to be able to second from time to time from other departments - for their very hard work on behalf of Yukon women. I know they are a very dedicated bunch and they work very, very hard and sometimes you'd think there's 20 to 30 people working in that office with the type of work that they put out. They really do a great job.
I also want to compliment the Women's Directorate for their new page on the Internet. I've had a chance to go through and look at some of the things on the Internet and it's very interesting to pull up issues that are current and look at the issues the Women's Directorate is dealing with.
I would give the minister some advice, though. The minister has talked about education programs. I think there is one education program that is needed. I know the minister, when she was in opposition, wanted us as a government to make the Women's Directorate a higher priority, and I didn't realize that it was the minister's plan to put them on the fourth floor of a building in obscurity.
Although the view is beautiful from up there, I am hearing some complaints that some people are having difficulty finding the office and maybe the department should make a more concerted effort to inform people about exactly where they are. It's a little difficult to find people in that building in the first place and now that they've moved - their storefront location in the YTG building was a little more accessible and I think some people whom I'm running into are asking me where the office is and how to find it.
I know they did a bit of a campaign in the beginning to let people know where they are, but it might be something that, for the first year or so, might have to be kind of ongoing and, when they do various programs or announcements, they should remind people of exactly where their office is.
With that, Mr. Chair, I'm prepared to go line by line.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions in this department. The critic from the official opposition did talk about some of these issues, and I must say that I did appreciate the briefing that the department gave earlier this month, but I, too, have some questions about the change in location.
I never did get an answer from the minister as to whether there have been any statistics gathered about the numbers that may be down because the location has changed from a very visible, very, very accessible location close to the heart of this government up to a location that is little known - and there is no reason for anybody to go there.
What I'm wondering from the minister is what sort of figures does she have on, say, the use of the library at the old location this time last year and the use of the library this month?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm always pleased when the opposition parties acknowledge the hard work that is done by public servants. I'm glad that they have brought that praise forward when the officials from the Women's Directorate are working in the House with us.
I'm also able to respond to the member's question in relation to library use. As members know, the Women's Directorate moved in January 1998 and held an open house to announce the new location. There were about 120 people who came to the open house and advertisements are placed on a fairly regular basis to ensure that Yukon women are aware of the new location.
The library use has remained the same. Four hundred and eighty-six items were borrowed from the Women's Directorate resource library in 1997, at an average of 40.5 items per month since January. We are now into May. The number of items that have been borrowed have also averaged 40.5 per month.
The department has also drafted a communications strategy for library outreach and is a member of inter-library services. With the library listing available on inter-library services and coming online on the Internet some time this year, we anticipate that the use of the library will remain constant.
Mrs. Edelman: Is the minister saying that we're counting every hit on the Internet as use of the library?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, that's not what I said. I said that the library listing will come online on the Internet. The numbers I gave the member were the numbers of library items that have been borrowed.
The official opposition critic indicated that he had visited the website that was set up fairly recently. The website has been visited over 800 times since its inception in 1997.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the things that has come up over and over and over again, and particularly after the last article in the paper, was that there is a budget over $400,000, and people are not aware and don't understand what the Women's Directorate does with that type of money. What does the department do as far as educating the public about what they do and being very specific about how that money is being spent?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, perhaps the member missed the remarks that I made in my opening statement. The priorities of the Women's Directorate are to provide gender-based policy analysis to government and to inform government decision making to ensure that women's equality considerations are taken into account.
The directorate staff have worked on a number of policy issues, including Yukon local hire, the Yukon training strategy, the state of the environment, midwifery, administration of the new federal child support guidelines, social policy reform and renewal, and ensuring that gender equity is a principle in the social policy reform.
They've also worked on Canada Pension Plan negotiations, economic gender-equality indicators, public participation and consultation guidelines, gender-inclusive language, and the guidelines for the community development fund and the youth investment fund.
The directorate collaborates with Health and Social Services, Justice, the Public Service Commission, Community and Transportation Services, and Education. It works on the Fostering Healthy Communities Committee internal to government.
They have been active on an employment-equity representative workforce plan within government, the anti-poverty and youth strategy work, the Family Violence Prevention Act, the crime prevention and victim services trust fund, the healthy child initiative, the for-the-sake-of-the-children initiative, and provocation as a defence.
I think that the public is aware of the work that the directorate does, but they also become aware of that work as we see that work informing the decisions that government makes throughout all of its departments.
Mrs. Edelman: I don't doubt for a minute that the Women's Directorate doesn't do good work. My point is that there are people out there - a vast majority of people out there - who still don't understand what the Women's Directorate does for $400,000 a year. Regardless of the fact that the minister knows what they're doing, and we on this side of the House know what the Women's Directorate is doing, that information is not getting out to the public, and they do do good work. I think it's important that we make sure that that information does get out.
What I'm asking the minister again is, what does the Women's Directorate do to make sure that their message about what they do gets out to the public? Now, the Department of Health, everybody knows what the Department of Health does. The Department of Justice: people have an idea what they do in that department. It's not clear to the general public what the Women's Directorate does, and there doesn't seem to be a way of getting that information out that's been successful in the past, and I'm wondering what the department is doing to try to get that information out to the general public.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: At the Women's Directorate open house, as I believe members opposite are aware, there was an information handout available on the work that the Women's Directorate does. They're also working on a brochure for the fall. The majority of their work is focused, as I've repeated here this afternoon, on supporting the policy initiatives within government and ensuring that women's equality concerns are part of the government decision making.
The Women's Directorate also works with a number of community organizations, as I indicated in my opening remarks, on things like Sexual Assault Prevention Month, and initiatives that the public is aware of.
Mrs. Edelman: With all due respect, handing out information to people who are already at the open house is like preaching to the converted. These people already know what the Women's Directorate does. If there is a brochure that's going to be developed for the fall, where is that brochure going to be disseminated in our community, as well as in the outer communities of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Women's Directorate will do a mail-out to community groups and organizations that have indicated an interest in the work of the Women's Directorate in the past and that work on similar kinds of issues. It will also be available through the web page which has seen a lot of activity.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a friendly suggestion is that, once again, mailing out to groups that have already expressed an interest is preaching to the converted again. Putting it on the web page is good for people who have access to the web, but not everybody has a computer, not everybody is on the web, not everybody has that type of money. If the Women's Directorate is interested in spreading the word about what the Women's Directorate does - because there is very little understanding of what they do in this Yukon community - then it might be better to perhaps put brochures in general locations; for example, the library at Haines Junction. There's a very good location there. They've got quite a large pamphlet rack there. It's a very friendly suggestion. I hope the minister takes it that way.
The Family Violence Prevention Act is an interesting act, and certainly our party did table a bill that was almost identical to the one that went through the Legislature, prior to it going through this Legislature. The problem with the Family Violence Prevention Act is that is of no value to Yukoners now because there are no regulations attached to that act. Those regulations have been very slow getting developed, and I understand after it was brought up in the Legislature - that very day - members of that committee got a call from the government asking that they have their first meeting to start developing those regulations. I'm still not clear - and I asked the minister about this during Question Period as well - as to what the time line is going to be for this group developing these regulations. In fact, are they going to be developing the regulations, or are they developing a process to develop the regulations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I indicated to the member in response to questions in Question Period, the Family Violence Prevention Act implementation committee took some time to come together, since we sought nominations broadly, and some organizations took longer than others to respond to the letters inviting them to submit the names of people to participate.
The RCMP, the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council, the Watson Lake, Carmacks and Dawson City shelters, Kaushee's Place, the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, the Canadian Bar Association, as well as the Department of Justice and the Women's Directorate, are represented on the committee.
The committee met for the first time on April 30. The implementation plan has an advisory committee so that they can represent and share information with their constituent groups, provide advice to Justice staff and make recommendations to government regarding training programs and regulations that address the implementation of the act.
The consultation with that committee and with the public at large will occur over the next several months, with a view to the proclamation of the act in the fall of 1998. I gave a commitment to that member in debate in this House during the fall session, when we passed the Family Violence Prevention Act, that the act would not be proclaimed until the regulations were developed, and that we would ensure that the public and interested groups had an opportunity to participate before we proceeded. That is now underway. The time frame is to hope for proclamation by the fall of 1998, but we will give the process as much time to complete as it requires.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I still really haven't got an answer to the question. This group, then, is an advisory committee that's out spreading the word on the regulations. Who is developing the regulations and are these groups going out with a draft set of regulations to advise the groups that they have been asked to communicate with?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The implementation coordinators are a policy analyst in the Department of Justice and the manager of the victim services and family violence prevention unit. Their responsibilities are to coordinate the logistics of the committee. They will develop draft regulations, training programs and consultation documents for review by the Implementation Advisory Committee.
As I just stated, the Implementation Advisory Committee represents their constituent groups, shares information with them, provides advice to the implementation coordinator and makes recommendations to government.
The implementation coordinators will oversee the distribution of the consultation documents and host community meetings to get response from the public relating to implementation and training issues.
After reviewing the results of the consultation process and with the assistance of legislative counsel, they will draft final regulations and develop a training program, again for review by the Implementation Advisory Committee.
Mrs. Edelman: Perhaps I can put this in simpler terms. The draft regulations - is the group working with draft regulations at this point?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, perhaps if the member reviews the comments that I've made in Hansard, she'll see what I have just indicated to her. The implementation coordinators are developing draft regulations, training programs and consultation documents for review by the Implementation Advisory Committee. The Implementation Advisory Committee will inform the work of the two implementation coordinators, who are the manager of victim services and family violence prevention unit and a policy analyst in Justice.
Mrs. Edelman: At this point, is the committee working with draft regulations?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, as I have stated, the implementation coordinators will develop draft regulations. In developing those, they are working with the Implementation Advisory Committee.
Mrs. Edelman: At what point can we expect that those draft regulations will be developed and be used by the committee?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I've read into the record the implementation activities. I'll try to abbreviate for the member. The implementation coordinators will be developing draft regulations, training programs and consultation documents. Those will be reviewed by the Implementation Advisory Committee.
The Implementation Advisory Committee will provide advice to the coordinators as they develop those regulations. The Implementation Advisory Committee will also have input on the consultation documents.
We will take the consultation documents out to the public and gather information and suggestions from the community. We will develop the regulations after we've heard from the community and from the Implementation Advisory Committee.
We hope to have this done by the fall of 1998. The implementation process is scheduled to occur between now and the fall.
Mrs. Edelman: Let me recap: we have no draft regulations; we have no consultation documents; we have no training schedule; we have no dollars allocated for that training schedule; we have no schedule for consultation in the communities. How is this possibly going to be ready for the fall sitting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we have all of those things. I have just read into the record what the implementation schedule is and how we are proceeding with developing them. That member, during debate on the Family Violence Prevention Act in this Legislature in the fall, requested that we ensure that implementation of this act proceed with the advice of women's shelters, the RCMP, women's groups and First Nations, and we have done that.
We have established an implementation advisory committee with broad representation to share information and to ensure that the consultation documents and the draft regulations meet the needs in the communities. We hope to have a draft consultation document ready within the next month or two. We hope to go forward with communication materials over the summer and the fall, and we will be developing the regulations, based on the advice of the implementation committee and based on the response from the communities.
The potential costs associated with the implementation plan are covered within the Department of Justice budget. The Women's Directorate is also participating, and their participation is helping to cover off the consultation costs.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you for finally getting a time line.
I have very, very serious reservations about going out and doing consultations with people in the summer in the Yukon. If you really value what people have to say, you don't do consultations in the summer in the Yukon.
I've served at the municipal level twice, and I have found that if you really want to get something through, and you aren't interested in consultation, you do it in the summer. I'm really concerned that this act, which is so important to Yukon women in particular, is going to be swished through with pretend consultation in the summer.
On the issue of legal aid, Karen Ruddy, who is the administrator over at Legal Aid, had an interview with the media in the fall of 1997. Her concern was that there were women going through the system without help. This was an issue of women being intimidated by the process. It's a policy issue in many ways, and I'm wondering if the Women's Directorate is looking at that issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The intention of having the Canadian Bar Association, for example, as well as the transition homes, the RCMP and government representatives, on the Implementation Advisory Committee is to simplify the process. The Women's Directorate is regularly working with the Department of Justice on issues such as ensuring that women have access to needed support and assistance.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I guess we don't really have an answer to the question again.
The question was that there are women who are trying to go through the legal process, the justice process trying to get custody of their children, for example. Many of these women are intimidated through the process and they need help. There is no funding in legal aid to help these women. This is an issue of gender equity. Women are having a difficult time because usually they don't have the money to get themselves a lawyer in these situations, particularly in abusive situations.
Is this an issue that the Women's Directorate is interested in and are they working on ways so that women can find a way to get through the justice system, being less intimidated or at least finding a way for someone to work with them as an advocate through that system? Is this an issue that the Women's Directorate is looking at?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Edelman: How are they doing that? Is this a policy paper that they're writing or are they looking at some programming? I wonder if the minister could elaborate.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the member's question encompasses a broad range of interests. It includes the child support guidelines; it includes maintenance enforcement legislation; it includes potential amendments to the Family Property and Support Act. The Women's Directorate works with the Department of Justice in all of those areas. For example, we will continue with an information campaign to raise awareness about the federal child support guidelines. The directorate is working with the Department of Justice on potential amendments to the maintenance enforcement program.
The member was also inquiring specifically about the maintenance variance applications for legal aid coverage. As the member knows from this debate in the Department of Justice and from questions in Question Period, the Legal Services Society has changed the legal aid coverage, both because of cost considerations and because of quality of service.
I have asked the board to bring forward recommendations on how we may be able to improve legal aid coverage without significant additional costs.
The Women's Directorate is also looking, through their interdepartmental work on the fostering healthy communities initiatives, on other ways of dealing with the problems.
I've also received a letter from the Canadian Bar Association, inviting me to participate on a discussion paper they put out promoting a pro bono culture in the Canadian legal profession, and I look forward to discussion with the Law Society on how that might be brought about.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm glad to hear that the minister is working with the law profession. I'm glad to hear that there's some good public education going on in a number of different areas. However, that doesn't help the woman trying to get through the system, who's feeling intimidated. What sort of work is the Women's Directorate doing to help the woman who is intimidated by the system?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: A lot of this work is connected with the significant change that we see when the Family Violence Prevention Act is implemented. I do want to comment that I agree with the member that July and August are not good months to hold consultation, and that we will ensure that the consultation is either prior to that or following that.
The Women's Directorate has available a booklet called Making Changes, which helps women in abusive relationships, and are looking at updating that to provide information on the range of services that are available for women.
The family violence prevention unit, which is housed in the Department of Justice, also offers support for women who are intimidated by the legal system.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not getting anywhere. I'm glad to hear that the minister doesn't feel that July and August is a good time to talk to Yukoners.
The issue that the Women's Directorate may want to deal with - they do provide direct program funding to the Women's Centre. Another women's facility that needs a lot of help right now is Kaushee's Place. It's going to have a $10,000 shortfall this year and probably next year it will be greater because of the freeze in funding.
Is there any interest at all that there will be money coming from the over $400,000 of Women's Directorate funding to go toward helping to offset that deficit at Kaushee's?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as the member knows, the women's shelters are funded by the Department of Health and Social Services. The member stood in this House and made the allegation in Question Period that we had reduced the funding to Kaushee's Place. That is not, in fact, the case. That is not true. Kaushee's Place received $486,000 in 1997-98, and Kaushee's Place will also receive $486,000 in 1998-99, to perform the valuable community service of providing shelter for women who are leaving abusive relationships.
We also hope that having the Family Violence Prevention Act implemented will offer another alternative for women in violent relationships, and they may not always require shelter but may, in some instances, be able to remain in their own home.
We will continue to fund Kaushee's Place and value the service that they provide.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the minister should review Hansard. Clearly, I did not make the allegation that there had been a cut in the funding to Kaushee's. I did say that there was a $10,000 deficit because of a freeze in the funding and that it was difficult to tell the difference between one party and the other in the treatment of Kaushee's. I also hear from the minister that there is no interest whatsoever in transferring that funding to direct programming for Kaushee's.
The other issue that's come up - and it's going to probably become a greater issue in the future because of the demographics of the Yukon - is the issue of elder abuse. Elder abuse is, in some cases, a systemic type of abuse. Is there any work being done at the Women's Directorate on that issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Chair, I would like to respond that the Women's Directorate is working with Kaushee's Place in a number of areas. For example, Kaushee's Place and the Women's Directorate are both involved in the Family Violence Prevention Act and in revisions to the Making Changes document.
Elder abuse is a serious crime, and it's a problem in the Yukon, as it is elsewhere in the country. The Family Violence Prevention Act is intended to help people who are victims of violence, whether they are women or children or elders.
The question the member asked about whether elder abuse is being worked on by the Women's Directorate - yes, it is.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm prepared to go to line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
On Program Delivery
Program Delivery in the amount of $309,000 agreed to
On Public Education
Public Education in the amount of $57,000 agreed to
On Violence Prevention
Violence Prevention in the amount of $43,000 agreed to
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $409,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $409,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Deputy Deputy Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will now proceed with the Yukon Development Corporation.
Yukon Development Corporation
Mr. Ostashek: I have a few things I want to put on the public record on the Energy Corporation.
As the Government Leader knows, I and the Liberal critic have been asking to bring representatives from the corporation into the House. There are a lot of serious questions that need public airing, not just briefings behind closed doors. We felt that it was important, at this stage, in light of the increases coming in, in light of the rate relief policy being cut off, the increases in the power rates and the mine closure, that we should have the opportunity to question the chair and the president in a public forum.
That hasn't happened. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he could give us a little stronger commitment than what was given by the minister responsible, that he will try to bring them in in the fall session. If we could get a commitment that they would make every effort to bring them in here in the fall session, I think that would satisfy me for now and we could clear this department and not prolong the debate on it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, as the member rightly pointed out, both the critics do have access to the Yukon Energy Corporation Board. I understand that the board chair indicated that he would prefer not to come before the House or make formal statements about the progress of the corporation until such time as the corporation has settled down from all its new responsibilities.
Of course, we don't have to respect that wish. We can ask them to brief, either in public or in private, the members as we wish, and we trust that they would respect our wishes in that regard.
But I would point out, in deference to the chair of the board, who is doing a very respectable job, that his wish is to have it deferred.
Now, the government House leader has indicated to members that in the context of an agreement, which, I guess, no longer exists, the plan was that if the members wanted to, within their 35-day or 25-day sitting, have members before the bar of the House to discuss things on the record and record it in Hansard, that is a decision that could be made.
I, for one, personally feel that the opposition members can be briefed by the corporations and have it done so in public, not in private, but it doesn't necessarily mean that we all have to assemble to watch the display, to watch the activities. It could happen any time. If members want to take that lower-cost but still very public offer, we can try to set that kind of thing up for the members to have access to.
With respect to the fall sitting, I suspect that we can arrange something if the circumstances are right. I will undertake to discuss the matter with the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation and see if we can, within a reasonable time, spend an afternoon or an evening discussing a number of matters with the Energy Corporation and the Workers' Compensation Board, for that matter, or any corporations that the members want.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Government Leader for that. The fact remains that the position that was put in by the government House leader was basically a position of blackmail, which the Government Leader says he doesn't respond to at all and ought not to expect the opposition to respond to either. We did offer to sit either on a Tuesday or Thursday night so that we wouldn't inconvenience or take away from the budget debate. We feel it is important that the president and the chair of the board, in light of what's happening - and to set all the political rhetoric aside on both sides of this House - that they appear here and be on the public record as to how they answer the questions of the opposition, and the minister and his colleagues are there to clarify anything they feel that needs clarifying.
One of the major issues that needs to be clarified is the proposed rate increase that's now coming in and is purported to be less than what it was in the last shutdown when, in fact, I have some great difficulty with those kinds of assumptions when we're talking about an amortization rate that's spread out over five years rather than 18 months. There isn't a great difference in the percentage that's being requested. It's a matter of how it's being presented to the public.
Those are issues that we can't really debate in this House without having the expertise of the president and the chair of the board. I believe I've heard a little form of commitment from the Government Leader that he'd talk with his minister responsible for energy. I'll accept that for now.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are a number of different opportunities that I think the opposition, or anyone, can have to discuss the operations of the Crown corporations, and I would be an advocate for increased accountability, not less accountability. But it doesn't necessarily require that the House be sitting, because the organ of government requires not only all the MLAs, even the ones who are not critics, to all be here, all the staff be here, everybody listening in, all of that kind of superstructure to listen to a very specific, very narrow discussion.
If the members want to think of other alternatives, even to have it recorded, but without the House sitting - but in this Chamber - I am certain that we can make any number of arrangements that can take place during the normal time that the House generally sits.
So, I am certain that we can arrange those things. That's not an issue for us, but having the House sit, with everyone in attendance and the whole superstructure in place, is an issue.
But, as I have indicated to members, I will discuss the matter further with caucus members and the relevant ministers, and if members want other corporations to come before them in some manner and discuss various issues, I am certain we can encourage that to happen. I think it would be a good idea to improve the accountability of the citizen boards.
Mr. Cable: I'm a little surprised at the reluctance to bring the Energy Corporation forward in the fall - with respect to reluctance of the principals.
I think that if one explains to them carefully that their predecessors have been before this House, that's the best way to get information out to the public in a formal setting - or one of the better ways of getting information out. I think they would be only too happy to come and go over what has taken place in the last couple of years and what will take place between now and fall. Assumedly, there will be a set of financial statements off by that time, and we'll have some more information to deal with.
Now, we've had the Yukon College Board in front of us with the president. We've had the Workers' Compensation Board in front of us. We've had the Yukon Energy Corporation in front of us. We've had the Human Rights Commission in front of us. I think that, on all of those occasions, the members appreciated all of those people appearing before us in a formal setting.
So I'm just wondering, why the reluctance? There certainly wasn't any reluctance to adopt that procedure when the Government Leader was in opposition.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Was the member just here when we were discussing this matter, when I was discussing the matter with the leader of the official opposition? He was here? Well, perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I did indicate to the member, and to that member, too - I meant to be speaking to the entire opposition, not just to the one member - that we would be thinking about trying to bring the Crown corporations forward to allow them an opportunity to explain their activities in this Legislature. Now, the problem arises - if we do have an agreement, and I'm not sure we do; I don't know that - with respect the time that the Legislature is called and the length of the sitting, et cetera, then there is an issue that has to be addressed with respect to the amount of time taken to address all the Crown corporations - they should all have some public scrutiny - and the time necessary to do basic public business.
So, these have been issues, and I'm saying to the members that we're willing to discuss these issues and find ways to ensure that both the objectives on all parties' part can be met through ensuring that the corporation presidents and the chairs speak to opposition members, and perhaps to private members who are interested, about the operations of their Crown corporations in public, with scrutiny. There may be ways that we can do that. We could either reduce the costs or still allow sufficient time within an agreed-upon time for a sitting, which we may or may not have, to ensure that we can conduct not only the public business but also ensure that the Crown corporations answer to members in public.
Motion to sit beyond normal hour of adjournment
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Deputy Chair, based on an agreement between the House leaders, I move
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit beyond 5:30 p.m., if necessary, for the purpose of completing consideration of Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, in Committee of the Whole; for the House to consider Third Reading of Bill No. 9 and of Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99; and for receiving the Administrator to grant assent to Bill No. 9 and Bill No. 11; and
THAT the Chair be empowered to call an extended recess between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Motion to sit beyond normal hour of adjournment agreed to
Mr. Cable: Let me ask the Government Leader this then - I'm not looking for a lecture on the merits of the agreement. Did the minister, when he was in opposition, find that having these people appear before us in the formal setting was a useful exercise? The reason I ask this is that there were motions put on the floor by the energy minister to have the Workers' Compensation Board appear before us in that setting, and I believe that there was a similar motion - I'm not sure - put to have the Yukon Energy Corporation appear before us. Was that type of questioning and that type of attendance by these people found to be useful when the minister was in opposition?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, if the member wants a frank response, there were times when it was useful, and there were times when it was less than useful. There were times when a lot of questions were asked that I personally thought had a point. There were times that I felt that the people presenting the corporation's case were a little long-winded and providing information that we all were aware of.
So, if the member is asking for my opinion, that's my opinion.
Mr. Cable: I think I can safely speak for some of the members on this side, and perhaps all of them. There would be occasions where the information that would be given by these people, and particularly the Energy Corporation, would be useful, both to this side and to the House and the general public.
I was just wondering why the reluctance? If we're going to have some halfway house of having people appear in the House and have staff around, assumedly making notes and what not, why not go all the way? What's the problem with having them appear before us as they have appeared before?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the issue that has been raised is simply this, we've had a request for some corporations to come before the House. We were under the assumption that we had a 35-day sitting. We were wrong. We thought that there was going to be a 35-day sitting. We thought that there was a lot of business to conduct within 35 days and that if the members opposite wanted to have the Energy Corporation come before the House, this would not be added to the 35 days, because we thought there was a 35-day agreement for the spring and a 25-day agreement for the fall.
So, that was the nature of the concern; that this would all just be added on and it would be 36, 37 or however many days it takes to discuss the matters with the corporations. There is no reluctance to having the opposition members speak to the corporations. For heaven's sake, every time the members have ever raised the issue, they've been invited to go and speak to the corporations and ask whatever questions they would like. If it's an issue of having it in public, that can certainly be arranged. What is the problem with it being in public? There is no problem with it being in public. If the member opposite wants to ask the president of the Energy Corporation questions in front of the media, I encourage him to ask questions of the corporation in front of the media. It doesn't have to happen in private briefing sessions at all.
The question is, does the member want it recorded and bound in some way? If that's an issue, it can be accommodated. Does the member also want all the other members in the House to hear his questions and for our staff to be in the House as well, while he's asking those questions? Well, perhaps he might want to make a case for that. I think that's a tougher case to make, but if he wants to and he thinks he has some questions to ask the corporations on behalf of his constituents, then there is no problem from this side of the House in encouraging him to do that.
Mr. Cable: I can see we're not going to get anywhere, but just let me make the point. Having people here seeing their elected representatives put questions to government officials in the Crown corporations is a useful exercise.
Now the Government Leader may think that's a bit of showboating, but I don't view it that way. I view that as a very useful exercise. If his backbenchers or his ministers don't want to come and listen to us ask questions, that's their business. They don't have to. They can go in their offices and work, but I think it was a useful exercise when the Government Leader was in opposition and, for the life of me, I can't figure out what's changed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I think it may be the reflection of the end of a long sitting, and clearly, as the member's temperature may be rising in response to my answers, I can definitely guarantee him that mine is rising in response to his questions.
Perhaps this matter can be discussed when we've put some time between this sitting and the next one and, hopefully, cool heads will ensure that we meet mutual objectives, including the objectives that the member has stated.
Mr. Cable: That's a very useful suggestion.
Let me go on a different tack. I know the minister is not the Yukon Energy Corporation minister. The Government Leader's not the Yukon Energy Corporation minister, but I'd like to express some concerns I have about both the lack of information on the financial situation of the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation and some apprehensions that I have for the future for the corporations being able to finance their capital projects.
When is it expected that the financial statements will be off and available to the public? I think we're still on a December 31 year-end, unless that's been changed, and the last statement that I have is 1996. It may be a little out of date here, and the covering statement was dated March 10, 1997.
Are we in a position to provide the public with the most recent consolidated annual statement involving the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, at this point, not to my knowledge, Mr. Chair, because the information hasn't been provided to the government, nor to the Cabinet, nor to the minister. So I guess the short answer for the moment is no, but if the member wants us to try to get the information as soon as possible and assure that it is communicated to other members of the Legislature and to the public, then the answer is yes.
Mr. Cable: Does the Government Leader have any idea of what major capital projects the Energy Corporation involved in in the next, say, 10 years or the next five years or the next two years? Is there any significant need for new capital in the corporation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, right now, Mr. Chair, there is a project underway at the Whitehorse rapids dam. It's the reconstruction of a building. That's underway at the moment.
I'm sure the member is talking about energy supply options, and to my knowledge, the corporation has not filed any requests through a capital hearing with Yukon Utilities Board. There has been over the last decade lots of discussion about a number of different projects but to my knowledge no projects of any size have come forward as a green light item from the Energy Corporation.
We all know and we've talked about the Dawson-Mayo inter-tie. We've heard, recently, some discussions about the inter-tie between Atlin and the hydro grid. The corporation and others were asked previously to have a look at a coal-fired electrical generating station. There was a call in 1996 to independent power producers - to no result - to offer proposals to consider adding some supply onto the grid. Clearly, it's less of an issue now, thanks to the fact that Anvil Range is down but those kinds of discussions have taken place.
I know that the corporation, from the one discussion I did have with the board chair, indicated to me that the board wants to take a very deliberate and careful approach to capital planning, have some analysis done and then be making the appropriate pitch to the Yukon Utilities Board.
Mr. Cable: Has the corporation indicated to the government that they will be obliged to borrow to finance major capital projects? Is that in the wind? Or is it viewed that these major capital projects can be financed out of their own cashflow?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I think in virtually every case, borrowing has been involved. Even with respect to the Dawson-Mayo inter-tie some years back, it was a clear case that the corporation did have something of a downpayment but that they would have to borrow some cash in order to proceed with the project. I've not heard of any project - of course, if it's a small project like some repairs to dams and existing facilities in the normal capital program, then those have been financed out of existing reserves. However, I have not yet heard of a significant project that does not require some borrowing.
Mr. Cable: Could the Government Leader, either now or by way of letter, give us an up-to-date financial picture of the Development Corporation? How much cash is sitting in that corporation right now? Does he have a rough idea right now, or can he give it to us by way of some other means, by way of letter or by way of legislative return?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I don't think the member wants a legislative return, otherwise he'll get it in the fall, but I will ask the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation to provide him with that information as soon as the minister can possibly do it, in the form of a letter.
Mr. Cable: What's the government's policy with respect to dividend declarations? Is the government going to be requiring the Energy Corporation to dividend up to the Development Corporation, or is that over?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are not asking the Yukon Energy Corporation to provide dividends to the Development Corporation for any purpose other than energy-related matters. There will be no profits from the corporation directed to normal government operations.
Mr. Cable: Is it anticipated though that there will be any dividends flowing up from the Energy Corporation to the Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have no plans to do that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: I won't be long. The Liberal critic asked about the financial statements, and the Government Leader said that they haven't received them in Cabinet yet. I am somewhat surprised that they are a little later than normal. If, in fact, the statements aren't going to be out in the next month or so, could the Government Leader have his minister advise us by letter as to why there's been a delay in them? If not, I would appreciate getting a copy of the financial statements as soon as Cabinet has approved them.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can do that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Cable: I just have one other set of questions. The Northwest Territories Power Corporation has worked up a deal with the Dogrib Nation for a fairly significant generating site. What work is being done by this government to bring the First Nations into power developments on water sources that are within their traditional lands?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as the member, I'm sure, knows, there are provisions in various First Nation final agreements that do make reference to rights of First Nations within their particular traditional territory to undertake joint energy development projects when a decision is made to proceed with an energy development project. Right now, as the member can appreciate, there is not a strong desire to rush ahead with a new hydro project and a new mortgage, given the fact that the Energy Corporation is working with plenty of generating capacity currently.
However, the Energy Corporation, as I mentioned, will be trying to do a long-term analysis on what its needs will be, even past this, presumably, short-term economic downturn and into the future, to determine what can be done.
When those decisions are made as to what should be done, then the various options can be analyzed and, if there are clear opportunities with First Nations, then they would certainly be encouraged by the government, if that was realistic.
Mr. Cable: I think we'll always be in a catch-22 situation as long as the Faro mine represents 40 percent of the load on the grid, but at some juncture we have to break through the catch-22 situation and plan for some major project, I would think, rather than doing all the incremental generation by way of diesel.
Is the minister saying that there's no active approaches to the First Nations with respect to the development of hydroelectric power?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the context of land claims negotiations, there certainly are, but in terms of a specific project, they are not. Now, the member may not realize it, but his suggestion that we should proceed and plan immediately for a major generating project is quite controversial, and there are those who strongly believe that we should not be thinking of major projects at all, but we should be thinking of small renewable projects if, for nothing else, but for financial reasons.
Certainly that is an issue that will be addressed by the corporation in their capital planning exercise, and I'm looking forward to the results of their analysis.
Mr. Cable: I think a single, major project is an option. There are obviously a number of people who disagree with that, and they have something to say. I think the use of a number of small, environmentally sound projects is a very viable alternative to that approach.
Let me just finish up by asking the minister a question. There's a stabilization fund that was suggested by the commissioner. Then, during the rate application, we heard that the Energy Corporation has applied for a stabilization fund within the corporation.
Whether the Utilities Board allows that or not, I don't know, but let's assume they do for the moment. Are there plans afoot to integrate these two stabilization funds?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that may well be an outcome of everything that's happening at the present time. Certainly, it is the government's intention to proceed with stable rates. We have made that signal very clear. The Energy Corporation, to a lesser extent, has agreed with that general objective and they've put forward other proposals and have dealt with different trade-offs.
Now, the Yukon Utilities Board will rule on what they think is reasonable, ultimately, in response to the Energy Corporation's application. After that, the government will make a decision as to what it wants to do with the profits from the Energy Corporation with respect to improving, if necessary, the rate stabilization package.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we'll move to the line items.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Less Internal Recovery
Less Internal Recovery in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Development Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation
Deputy Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's my pleasure to offer some opening comments on the 1998-99 budget for Yukon Housing Corporation.
During the last election, we promised to offer affordable housing options to Yukoners, and I'm pleased that the corporation's budget reinforces our strong commitment to assist Yukoners with options that address specific housing needs.
The corporation anticipates additional activity in several areas in this budget year. Members will be familiar with the home repair program, designed to provide low-interest loans to bring homes up to acceptable standards. In the past, it has been criticized for it's all-or-nothing approach to home upgrades. This year's capital expenditure for this program is $3,025,000, an increase of 21 percent, in anticipation that recent enhancement of this program to offer greater flexibility will attract many home owners throughout Yukon to the program.
The mobile home upgrade and mobile home emergency repair components of this program are specifically targeted at improving the quality of housing for mobile home residents on rental pads. Mobile home owners who relocate their units to title or strata title property, such as will be available through the new Range Road East development, will be able to access a regular home repair program.
Under the home ownership program group, which is designed to help people achieve home ownership, almost $4.5 million is targeted at the mobile home initiative.
Two million dollars of this is for the Range Road East development, which will provide an attractive and affordable relocation option for the owners of older mobile homes. As members know, City of Whitehorse's bylaw restrictions on mobile homes more than 10 years old has meant that owners these units have had nowhere to go. Representatives of the corporation were at the Trade Show this past weekend to inform people about the Range Road development and promote the corporation's programs.
As I noted in my ministerial statement last week, the corporation will also host a public information session for mobile home owners at Mt. McIntyre on May 27. This session will offer information on the new development as well as advice on Yukon Housing Corporation programs and services that will assist in relocation to titled property.
Additional funding has also been allocated for home completion, which provides mortgage funding for rural Yukoners who want to complete their unfinished homes. As members know, in rural Yukon it can be difficult to secure mortgage funding to cover the real construction costs of a new home.
It is important to point out to members that although funding support for home ownership has increased significantly, these are fully recoverable dollars and do negatively impact on the corporation's net expenditures.
The corporation is also working on a new project that may lead to the development of additional, affordable entry-level homes. At the request of both the City of Whitehorse and the Department of Community and Transportation Services, the Yukon Housing Corporation is working on alternative housing designs to serve as a buffer between existing and proposed neighbourhoods of different housing types. The Yukon Housing Corporation plans to proceed with this initiative with the goal of encouraging subsequent similar activity within the private sector.
In terms of affordability, these stick-built homes will be comparable in price to new mobile homes, consistent with the corporation's role of providing affordable housing options to Yukoners.
Turning to the management of our non-profit housing portfolio, the Yukon Housing Corporation is making real progress in helping to meet the needs of seniors. An audit of the public housing units occupied by seniors identified a number of incremental improvements that would make life in their units more manageable for them. Since then, approximately $13,000 has been committed to assist elderly tenants by installing lever-type faucet controls, hand rails and similar improvements. Additional possible measures have been identified. These will be reviewed by the contract standing committee and subcommittee of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors to determine the projects that can be funded in this fiscal year.
Also with an eye on seniors and others with mobility problems, the corporation has launched a study of accessible units within the private sector. This will be based on customers' requests for assistance with the modification of private sector rental accommodations.
The consultant's report is due to be completed shortly. It will be presented to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board for their review and consideration, and it will also be available as a reference guide for people seeking information on accessible private sector housing options.
Technology and its potential positive impact on Yukon's housing stock is an important area for the corporation, and several projects are underway. The Yukon Housing Corporation and the Canadian Home Builders Association are partnering to access funding from CMHC to undertake a comprehensive examination of ventilation systems utilized in northern climates.
The corporation is also making plans to offer additional training to members of the construction industry and representatives of the inspection services. Later this month, the corporation will again sponsor an indoor air quality course. This type of training offers the most up-to-date information on technical issues affecting the performance of new homes in Yukon.
Energy efficiency is important, not only for its positive impact on the environment but also as a way to reduce personnel and corporate and governmental expenses.
Yukon Housing Corporation will continue to offer residential and commercial energy management programs that were introduced last year.
In addition, I had announced recently that the corporation has become the Yukon's licensee for the R2000 program and is partnering with Enercan for the delivery of the energuide program. This is a comprehensive energy efficiency testing and rating program for both new and existing residential buildings.
These initiatives, along with the existing home repair program, provide customers with a range of options to reduce their energy expenses.
This year, in support of government efforts to develop the trade and export opportunities for Yukon businesses, the corporation has taken a lead role in the development of a Yukon export readiness workshop being held here this week. It will provide members of the housing industry a fantastic opportunity to explore export opportunities for the housing industry and learn about export strategies and financing. It will also be a venue to gather technical information and network with new business contracts.
Good, current information on existing housing stock and client housing needs is the key to accommodating people in safe, affordable housing. This year's budget provides more funding for information gathering through additional community housing surveys. The current pilot project with the Northern Research Institute is well-underway in Carmacks, with local people trained by the institute and administering the survey itself. The budget for this fiscal year includes funds to conduct surveys in an additional three communities. This information is critical to the ongoing development of effective housing decisions that assist residents in all Yukon communities. This information will be used extensively by the corporation and it will be housed at the Yukon College to assist future academic research.
One area we have worked on with the corporation over the last year is a framework for accountability. The challenge is to foster an arm's-length relationship that still ensures that the corporation will deliver on government policy objectives. The corporation directors understand that the corporation exists to fulfill government policy objectives, just as government appreciates that the corporation needs room to operate.
To consolidate that understanding, a performance contract has been signed, laying out the respective roles and responsibilities of the board and the minister. The existence of a detailed government-wide plan assisted the development of a performance contract and helped to guide the board's development in its new strategic plan.
The strategic plan is complemented by the annual operating plan that came into effect April 1. It will help guide the corporation to attain goals that are consistent with and support the government's overall strategic plan.
Starting this year, the corporation's annual report will be presented in a format that evaluates the year's activities in relation to the strategic plan and annual operating plans.
I expect these measures to enhance the corporation's accountability to all members of this Legislature. The corporation is also involved in some interesting new initiatives. Alternative housing is a concept that enables people to look at innovative housing options as a means of addressing their own housing needs.
The board of directors recently approved additional support for the development of the co-housing proposal. This form of alternative housing promotes community growth and living by integrating personnel and shared ownership within a housing development. The corporation supports initiatives that contribute to the development of affordable housing options to meet the needs of Yukon people.
In summary, the net operating expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation for the 1998-99 fiscal year are $5,312,000, which compares to last year's forecast of $5,297,000. This is a very modest increase of $15,000, given the number of initiatives the corporation has underway.
Just before closing, I should note that, through much of the past years, senior officials in the corporation have been involved in ongoing discussions with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or CMHC. As members know, CMHC - the federal housing corporation - has been in retreat from many of the areas in which it had once played a dominant role.
Since 1994, there have been no federal housing dollars available for construction of new public housing, and subsidy dollars have been frozen or chipped away. As a consequence, many jurisdictions across the country have been negotiating to take some of the responsibility formerly assumed by CMHC before all resourcing disappears.
The Yukon has made good progress in this regard. Although we believe that there is a role for the federal government in housing, given its funding policies, we are contemplating the assumption of a number of CMHC programs in the Yukon, and this budget reflects that anticipation.
Mr. Chair, that is a brief overview of some of the projects that the corporation is involved with, and I'll be pleased to discuss further in general debate questions that the members may have.
Deputy Deputy Chair: Order please. Pursuant to the motion carried by Committee at 4:55 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Yukon Housing Corporation. Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to start my comments this evening with a comment to the minister that the board really made an effort this past summer, and they've made an effort to put the fence up around the women's shelter in Dawson City. I thought that was a great thing that was done by the board, and I just wanted to say, once again, I'm very pleased with the way things went on that particular issue.
I have a series of questions. I will try to keep them brief this evening. The first one is about policies about tenants in Whitehorse Housing and Yukon Housing across the Yukon and what they have to use to prove their income. We have had a complaint from a constituent who, apparently, has been asked to give not just their T4s, but they were asked to give their bank statements as proof of their income.
These tenants felt that that was inappropriate, because it was more information than the Housing Corporation needed, and I'm just wondering whether there is some sort of policy on that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, they do ask for tenants to produce any information in regard to their income. As regards bank statements, it could be that they have their own business and that would be the reason why they would be asked for bank statements. I'm not sure, but I can check into that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, yes, it was my understanding, certainly when I sat as the chair on the Whitehorse Housing Board for a few years, that we didn't ask for people's bank statements. We were very clear that copies of the tax returns was more than adequate information, and the information that was declared to Revenue Canada was all the information that we needed.
Like I say, this particular constituent feels that that was an invasion of his privacy and I hope that the minister can get back to me in writing at some point in the future about any more information he might have on that issue.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, it does seem a bit unusual, but I can get back to the member with all tenants that are housed in Yukon Housing, including those with businesses, to see what type of information is required for proof of income.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in the minister's opening remarks, he spoke about CMHC and the devolution of those responsibilities down to the territorial government. CYFN is also doing a set of negotiations with CMHC, and I wonder if we could get updated on the progress of those negotiations.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, we're very close to finalizing an agreement with CMHC. We feel that, in a few months, we could possibly have an agreement with them. We did run into some problems that prevented us, I guess, from going any further. We presented them to the governments, and a lot of that was resolved. Our biggest one was in regard to native housing, and we did not want to be intruding anywhere in the Yukon in regard to native housing, and CYFN had expressed interest in doing this separately. So, we certainly weren't going to be encroaching on that portion of it.
Since then, that particular issue has been resolved and we're quite close to a deal. Once it's put together, it has to be reviewed by Cabinet and then a decision can be made.
Mrs. Edelman: Can we assume that the end of that process would be sometime this calendar year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, within this calendar year. Recommendations would come forth to Cabinet and then we'll make a decision on it. If we still feel, at that time, with what's been negotiated by the corporation, that it would have a long-term, negative effect on the Yukon, we will not be looking into this.
There are some provinces that do have problems with this still because of other issues, some of them fairly big, such as with regard to B.C. If it does have negative impacts or is going to cost Yukoners in the long run, we will not be entering into this agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to explore with the minister in general debate some of the issues surrounding some of the initiatives that were brought forward in this budget.
This significant one is the mobile home park development - the one that's near the Kopper King. This initiative is underway. It's been advertised in the local newspapers that there's a land application notice. It reads that: "The following applications will be reviewed at the Yukon government's Land Application Review Committee, the LARC meeting of May 12, 1998, lands disposition board room, third floor of the main administration building."
The one LARC application that I would like to target, Mr. Chair, and seek some background information on is the one being advanced by Yukon Housing and 16098 Yukon Limited. Now, just perhaps by way of a bit of background, I'm not aware of any requests by the Housing Corporation for invitations to submit proposals or anything of that nature. So, perhaps the minister could advise how this company was selected to go ahead with this mobile home park development. What was the process used by the Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As the member knows, a joint-venture program has been in place for a number of years, and there have been a number of different companies that have entered into agreements with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
We have not approached this company at all. People have been inquiring, through the corporation, about the joint-venture program and the interest this government has in mobile homes and doing something with it.
Yukon Housing Corporation has not asked to change the zoning on this particular piece of land. We have not had an agreement with this company to this date. We have still just basically had talks with them. Nothing solid has arrived out of this joint venture with this company.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I find that very, very hard to grasp, in that presently there is a land application notice published, and it's for Yukon Housing Corporation/16098 Yukon Limited. In addition to that, Mr. Chair, on last night's agenda for the Whitehorse city council to deal with, there was a request by Yukon Housing and this same company for a change in the OCP - the official community plan. Now, that was subsequently removed from the agenda after it was initially published.
Could the minister apprise the House as to how that all came about? The minister just stated that we're in the preliminary stages, but we look like we've proceeded way beyond the preliminary stages in two areas: one, a requirement for additional land, and, two, a change in the OCP, the official community plan for the City of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, the member is right that it was scheduled to be reviewed by the planning committee of city council on May 4, and the Yukon Housing Corporation did ask to have the corporation's name removed from the application. At that point, the city pulled it from the agenda. It was not that we had gone out to apply for this. If any company is going to be coming forward, it would have been done by them, although any Crown land attached to a joint venture could be done in a joint fashion with the Yukon Housing Corporation and with the company, but it does not tie us into any project or does not commit us to a project.
I don't know how much more you want me to say on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it also appears that the consultant engaged to move this process forward was hired by the Yukon Housing Corporation. Could the minister confirm this?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I'm not aware of this. I'll have to check into that for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister aware of who the principals are in 16098 Yukon Limited - who are the principal officers and directors of that corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I must just remind the member again that these joint-venture programs - the joint-venture program and the companies entering into agreements with the corporation - are basically done by the decision of the corporation board, and they not done by me or the president of the corporation. It's done by the board of directors, and they are the ones that go out and seek these. This particular one has, again, been handled by the board of directors.
Mr. Jenkins: My question still remains: could the minister advise the House who the principals are in 16098 Yukon Limited, which is engaged in a joint venture with Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I don't have names in front of me to give to the member. We have not entered into a joint venture with this company. It's under discussion and negotiation.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister aware that there are two other individuals who have previously attempted to assemble land for this same purpose in that area over the course of the last several years, one as recently as last year? Is the minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I'm not aware of two companies trying to acquire this piece of land.
Mr. Jenkins: Further to that, both of these individuals and their respective companies were stalled or put off and told that land was not available in that area until the land claims had been settled and the land selections had been made. Could the minister confirm that this project is now going ahead and this land selection is now going ahead because the land selection and land claims have been settled in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I cannot confirm that. We're still working - the corporation board is still working with the company on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this is starting to have an aroma about it that I don't really like, Mr. Chair, in that there was no invitation for proposals to develop a mobile home park anywhere in the Whitehorse region or area, in spite of an announcement by this government that there was a considerable amount of money in this year's budget for that purpose.
Now, why wasn't a request of this nature made in the public domain, carrying on to the amount of money that was clearly identified in this year's budget for that purpose. In all other areas, this government takes the initiative, issues a ministerial statement and gets out there and advertises and proceeds. Why are we making an exception this time, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We haven't made an exception to this. I said to the member nothing has been finalized with them. The whole joint-venture program is designed so that the private sector can approach the corporation and look at entering into this type of initiative. We've had this company come forward and inquire about it and express an interest to sit down with the corporation and try to work things out and that's still at the stage it's at.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House when this individual and this company first approached the Yukon Housing Corporation with an initiative to develop anything in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that this company had come forward to the corporation approximately in the month of September of 1997.
Mr. Jenkins: What was the initiative that this firm or corporation initiated at that time with respect to land development in that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Can he repeat that question, please?
Mr. Jenkins: What was the initiative that this individual or firm brought forward at that time for development in that area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the company had inquired about, again, the joint-venture program and the mobile home strategy and talked about how they can possibly get something going in this regard. It was the mobile home strategy that really caught their interest.
Mr. Jenkins: So, which came first, the mobile home strategy or the initiative to develop this land with the mobile homes? Which initiative - the government's initiative or this individual and firm's initiative to develop that land? Which was first?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the public knew about the mobile home strategy. It was put out on May 13, 1997. Of course, this has come out first and this company had inquired about that.
Mr. Jenkins: So, could the minister also advise the House as to when this land application notice in the background was originated within Yukon Housing, which led to the publication of the lands application notice recently in the newspaper? When was that originated, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that would have been in March of this year.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister's official aware of the names of the individuals who are the principals in 16098 Yukon Limited?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No. He is not aware of the names.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it would appear that we have this enigma, 16098 Yukon Limited, walk into the Yukon Housing Corporation offices sometime ago and bring forward this proposal. But we're not sure, we don't know who it was, we're not exactly sure about the timing, although it looks like it was sometime last March. Is that accurate information, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, that isn't accurate. I said that the application was probably, from what we know, sometime in March of this year. We had initial discussions with the company in September 1997, and we haven't made any deals with them to this point. The member who is with me here does not know the names that are attached to this company, but I'm sure that we do have it in our files within the corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just for the record, Mr. Chair, one of the individuals listed on the documents as being involved with this company as an officer and director is a gentleman by the name of Maurice Byblow.
The other area that concerns me, Mr. Chair, is the information that's out there that the Government of Yukon, through Yukon Housing Corporation, is going to add to the land mass that's presently owned, either directly or indirectly by 16098, and that land is going to be transferred, after this process, at no charge. Could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I cannot confirm this. We have not had any plans that have been approved by the board to this point, and there are ongoing discussions with this company to try to work out a joint-venture program that can address the situation that's in the Kopper King area.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously, Mr. Chair, if we've made an application to the City of Whitehorse for an amendment to the official community plan under Yukon Housing/16098 Yukon Limited, and we have put an ad in the paper for a lands application for additional lands for an enlargement for a mobile home park development near Kopper King, and that application is being presented by Yukon Housing/16098 Yukon Limited, there obviously has to be a considerable amount of planning that has already gone into this process. There has to be considerable amount of background information already assembled by Yukon Housing.
From what I'm given to understand, the minister is suggesting that they are still in a very preliminary stage, and I can't for the life of me fathom the Yukon Housing Corporation proceeding to these two stages without having done their homework.
Is the minister suggesting that the Housing Corporation hasn't done their homework, hasn't got all of these areas defined and identified, and is proceeding willy-nilly or however you want to term it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, I am not saying that. It's surely coming from the member across the way. I said that the corporation did not make an application to the City of Whitehorse. The name was attached to it, but it was not the Yukon Housing Corporation that put it forward. It has been withdrawn from that. Even if there was a joint application for Crown land, it doesn't mean that there is a deal between the corporation and the company.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, is the minister trying to suggest that I could go make a land application tomorrow, and just attach the Yukon Housing Corporation to my name and make that application? Is the minister aware of what would happen to an individual that would enter such a document before the government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, that's not what I'm saying. It has to have the approval of the corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: So, for this land application notice to be published, it has the approval of the corporation. Do we have that understanding, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yukon Housing Corporation and the company, 16098, have made a joint application for Crown land, but they have not entered into and made applications to the City of Whitehorse to designate the land from commercial to residential. Even though we have done this jointly, it does not mean that we have committed to the project at all.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm trying to get a grasp on this explanation that the minister is offering to the House. Here we have the Yukon Housing Corporation and this company, 16098, jointly making an application to the government for additional land. Now, that has to be predicated on an understanding between the corporation and this individual company. Something has to exist there, at that level, for this to proceed. The next stage is the rezoning of that land from commercial for mobile home park lands, and I understand that the City of Whitehorse's official community plan has to be amended accordingly.
Now, the signatory to that amendment is ultimately the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. He has to sign that off. It just reeks of a backroom deal, Mr. Chair, at this juncture, given the information that the minister has advanced in the House.
Can the minister confirm that this is all above-board, and that there are no hidden agendas?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I can confirm that. There is nothing hidden in this at all. The corporation had carried on business as usual. They have not ventured beyond what is legal. They have continued to operate the joint-venture program as it was in place for years.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House how many applications 16098 Yukon Ltd. has presented to Yukon Housing for joint ventures?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe there is none at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister is advising the House, Mr. Chair, that there are no applications before Yukon Housing by this firm for a joint-venture undertaking. Is that what the minister is saying, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What we have with this company is a letter of intent with them. This basically allows the company to proceed with defining the project for the board and bringing it forth. There hasn't been an application - like I said earlier - submitted to us. They're still at that planning stage.
Mr. Jenkins: Then how did Yukon Housing Corporation's name get on this land application notice if we're just at this preliminary stage, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I feel, as the questions are coming in regard to this, there is a lot of misunderstanding between the member and me on this. To, I guess, address this and get more accurate answers to the member, I would have to go back to the corporation and ask them to give the member a written response to this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, is the consultant who was hired to drive the bus on this, Ann MacDonald, reporting to the Yukon Housing Corporation or is she reporting to 16098 Yukon Limited, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This person is not a consultant. She has been seconded from C&TS to be part of this mobile home initiative.
Mr. Jenkins: So, this individual is, in fact, working for the Yukon Housing Corporation, who has presented and prepared these necessary applications for the land application notice and presented the documents to the City of Whitehorse for the official community plan amendment. There has to be considerably more involvement by Yukon Housing than what the minister is leading us to believe here tonight.
Now, is the minister prepared to go back and review this situation? It's not starting to smell like roses, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have said to the member that Yukon Housing Corporation has had a number of discussions with this company and has tried to work with them to resolve problems that they have run into in putting together a project. If the member looks at the other types of programs we have, we do have members in the corporation who go out and try to assist the applicants in their application to make it as successful as possible.
The corporation has gone out and worked with this company to try to come up with a product. Unfortunately, a lot of time has gone by. We would like to move on the mobile home strategy and look at trying to resolve the problem we have with the health and safety issues of mobile homes in the Whitehorse area. Because of that, Yukon Housing Corporation has gone out and worked on developing strata title mobile home lots and are continuing to work on it and try to make land available for those mobile home owners who would like to relocate their units.
I understand where the member is coming from. We have had many discussions with this company, but nothing has unfolded to our satisfaction, so that's one of the reasons why the corporation has gone out and done work on their own.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I am aware of two other individuals who are in this type of business, the mobile home park business, in Whitehorse, and both of them - over the past four years for one, and just less than a year for the other one - have made initiatives to develop mobile home parks. Why is this company being singled out for what appears to be preferential treatment by Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This company is not singled out.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if I can talk about the mobile home strategy again at length. We have been contacted by some park owners in that area, and they'd like to have an opportunity again to offer their input into this process.
I know it's at the municipal level now, and, of course, as this strategy screeches through the municipal bureaucratic process there will be many opportunities at public hearing to offer input. Is there any other opportunity at the territorial level to give input into this?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I might have missed part of the question - into the strategy itself? Can you clarify that, please?
Mrs. Edelman: The concern that we had raised with us is that there are park owners, particularly in that area, that wanted an opportunity to give their input into the development of this piece of land and to talk about where they see parks going in the Whitehorse area. What they were wondering about is when there would be another opportunity at the territorial level to give that sort of information and input to the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Is the member referring to the Range Road East development? We've had public meetings on this, and we've had fairly good attendance to this. We've had a lot of input from the general public out there and mobile home owners, and more so, I guess, than the park owners who have had a lot of questions for the corporation about this initiative and want to have a mobile home park designed, I guess, a little bit differently and a little bit more to what they thought they could be satisfied with. So, the corporation took all of those comments and worked with what they could possibly do in this particular area with the lay of the land.
Now, with the general layout of the design that the corporation has, it's changed several times to accommodate things like fuel trucks and services to the units, although we've tried to design it the best we can to have enough area for playgrounds and play areas and walk areas between the parks without having an overcrowded look to it.
At this point in time, we will be going ahead very soon with construction of this park and we would like to keep our schedule. Should we fall behind, we would not have this built by the end of this summer and we would like to do that so that mobile home owners could have access. We will be working with them at the same time to have access to the programs and try to enter into something before the winter months.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand then, Mr. Chair, that the opportunity for park owners will be at the municipal level, at this stage in the process for that particular development?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we have it scheduled for this subdivision to go to the council's planning committee meeting on May 18. It's scheduled also to go to council to be approved by resolution by May 25, and we expect that it will be approved, subject to two things - payment of development cost charges and finalization of a development agreement.
So, in regard to the questions the member has, it is at the municipal level for approval at this point.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, once again I have to make the comment that if this gets through by the end of May, perhaps I'll eat the minister's hat.
The park owners were also wondering whether there would be any opportunity to give their input into the mobile home strategy. Is that a complete document and a finished document?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, they won't. This had been completed on May 13, although should any park owners in the private sector out there be interested in this and would like to look a bit closer into it with the corporation, we still can look at this issue.
This particular park that we have designed and would like to go ahead with would not accommodate, we feel, all the mobile home owners who would like to relocate to private land. We have, as you know, approximately 1,200 mobile home owners here or those who rent on pads and this particular one is for approximately 69 parks.
We've made a bit of an improvement in numbers over the last design and we still feel that, even though we have designed this park, we would continue to have people knocking on our door to enter into a user-fee strategy and wanting to relocate their mobile home. So, I think that this is the beginning of trying to address the situation in Whitehorse.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to understand then that there will be other parks developed around the same lines as this one?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That is a possibility. There are going to be mobile home lots for sale in the Copper Ridge area or in and around that area - I think C&TS had said - and those could be used by these people also, but at this point in time, our concentration is on the Range Road East.
Mrs. Edelman: I'll certainly be following that issue in the future.
The Yukon export readiness workshop on May 6 and 7 - which, of course, is coming up very shortly - has a number of events and there is one under Yukon Housing. Indeed, we talk about marketing opportunities in Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Korea and Taiwan. We have a person here from Calgary and someone speaking about Canada North projects. What's missing is any discussion about Alaska, which is right beside us and is certainly a lot more relevant probably than any conversations we should be having with the Koreans or the Taiwanese members of this delegation.
I'm wondering why Alaska has not even been mentioned.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the corporation has gone out to look at a number of the speakers to come forward. They've done their best to try and have people scheduled to come up and speak at this conference.
I think they've done a good job. I think it's going to be good for Yukoners and those that are in the industry to really see what it really means to have an industry that exports houses from Yukon.
We have been working with the Northwest Territories and things look fairly good in the future with export in this particular field.
I know where the member is coming from. It is unfortunate that they are not here at the conference speaking.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, was there any effort made to try and involve the Alaskan industry in this workshop?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not sure if Alaska did ask to be part of this. I know that this conference is tied with Team Canada and Team Yukon, along with some of the works that the Government Leader and the Minister of Economic Development have done in the past.
Mrs. Edelman: I realize that it is politically sexy to be talking about world contracts, particularly in nations that are a tad more exotic than ours. However, it makes sense for us to develop that connection with Alaska. I know that, on a retail level for example, when the Alaskans get their Alaskan fun cheque, they come over to the Yukon. It's like getting things at 70- or 80-percent off, because of the change in the currency, as well as the fact that we offer our goods much cheaper.
I would strongly recommend to the minister that if he is going to have another one of these sessions, there be some market effort to try to involve the Alaskans, even to the extent of asking them if they will come, and they will have something to do with these sessions in the future.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I do have those same concerns as the member. We have a fairly good relationship with Alaska right now, and we have been working with them over the past years fairly successfully. I would hope that, in the future, we could involve them in these upcoming conferences. What we've tried to do, in a very short period of time, is gather these people together. I think that if we had a bit more time to work on this, we could solicit a lot more people to bring together, get ideas and possibly do business back and forth with them.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd like to move into the seniors housing audit. This has been long overdue. The seniors housing audit looked at a number of different seniors buildings in the Whitehorse Housing inventory, Closeleigh Manor, Alexander Street, Greenwood, Ryder, the Thomas Dixon Apartments and the Hanson Street townhouses. What wasn't looked at was the Duke Street development, and that is financed, indirectly perhaps, by Yukon Housing. I'm wondering why that wasn't included in the seniors audit.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the member knows that this was designed and built for seniors. The corporation, I guess, expected that this would have addressed the problems or areas of concern for seniors, although I could inquire a bit more on this. It could be of interest, I guess, to the corporation to go back and have a look at this. What we've tried to do, though, is look at a lot of the units that house seniors and try to accommodate them the best we can so they can get around in these units a bit easier.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, sometimes it makes sense to take a look at all - I mean, Whitehorse is a very small place, and there are very few buildings. It probably would have made sense to look at them all.
First of all, I wanted to say that I am pleased that I got the audit as quickly as I did from the minister. There were a number of issues around policy, and in the recommendations section of the audit, there was a recommendation that the current no-pet policy should be revisited, but only for seniors.
Now, this has been a very contentious policy over the years, and the bottom line is that pets do cause damages in housing stock, but for seniors, perhaps if it was a small pet, in particular - that was one of the recommendations - it might be something worth revisiting. Is the Housing Corporation going to be looking at that issue again?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There are a number of concerns that seniors had in regard to pets. I think the big one was the fact that some people are allergic to certain pets, and a decision was made to blanket this. I can have the corporation, again, go back and do some review on this.
It's a bit costly to go back and have more discussions with seniors on this, but I can have a talk with the corporation and see where we could go with this. I know that this is a concern, of course, as the member had said, to all tenants.
Some of those that are in the communities that run community associations have made decisions to have no pets in all units, and this has caused some difficulties with people transferring from one town to another if they had pets and are not allowed to move into these units. It had forced, basically, the corporation to have a look at this again and make the communities aware of the situation that is out there.
At the meeting that you had attended, the Council on Ageing, we also started to have some seniors ask again about the pet policy that we have been working on, and have requested again that we do not have pets where seniors are.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the issues that I thought was quite amazing was not in the maintenance section or any other section of the housing audit. It was the issue of security. I'm just wondering, I've heard concerns in the past, particularly from ground-floor tenants in some of the seniors dwellings, about security. Has that been an issue at all?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is speaking of security to the overall buildings - no, that has not been looked at and it has not been part of the action plan to have this addressed at this point.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I do know that, in some of the buildings, there's a problem with people propping the door open and letting people come in at all hours of the night and day. Certainly, that's been a problem in the past, and I was quite amazed not to see that as part of the audit, because certainly those complaints were registered by Whitehorse Housing.
Another one of the issues was the no-smoking policy required for public spaces. The minister spoke earlier about allergies and I know that this is quite an issue for people with lung problems, particularly seniors, and I'm wondering if that's one of the recommendations that the Yukon Housing Corporation can go forward with.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have, again, had this expressed to us over the past, I guess, with many other public buildings. I'm not a smoker myself and I really do not like it in public buildings and public areas.
Although we can have the corporation go back and address this and look into this again, it has not been part of the action plan.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hope that that, as a result of having done the audit, is at least one of the recommendations being looked at by the board.
There are a number of other issues. The next point is that long-time Yukon residents should have a priority over newcomers for seniors housing. Of course, this is a very common complaint. People who have lived here for, you know, 45, 50, 70 years are put on the same level as someone who arrived here last year. Has there been any thought about giving preference to long-time Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Social housing, as the member knows, is a nationally funded program. Communities, I guess, have a bit more control than we do here. We have not distinguished between those who have been here for many years. I know that, at times, it becomes difficult for us to say that we will be refusing an applicant who has been living in the Yukon for a number of years. There could be many situations attached with these applications, and they have been taking them on a case-by-case basis.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to understand, then, that at least for Whitehorse Housing, although there seems to be a little more elasticity in the communities, this issue will not be revisited?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation has not made any mention of going back to visit this particular area, although I could raise it with them again.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, another of the recommendations is that there should be a building manager couple to do repair, yard and janitorial work, monitor the building and take rent payments at one of the buildings. Now, I know that, at the Alexander Street Residence, years ago, there was such a couple. It ended up being just a single woman in the end, but it was a remarkable service, particularly for that building, which was primarily single men - some of those rugged individualists that we've had many discussions about in the past.
The person who took care of that building was very supportive of the lifestyle of the gentlemen who were in that building and, indeed, made their lives better in a lot of different ways - sometimes by helping with food, sometimes by helping with medications, certainly by reminding people about appointments that they may have, and by providing some measure of security in their lives.
I'm wondering, is this possibility out there? One of the recommendations from the rugged individualists' report is that there should be a building with just such a couple available to provide that sort of support.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: In regard to the audit itself and the senior units that we have examined, and so on, those and what the member has just raised will all be evaluated. I know we have done an action plan to try and address some of these issues and there are some that we believe could be addressed further down the road, but a lot of these dollars are in this year's budget to do something with the audit and the action plan.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I've actually been looking at the action plan and these are some of the issues that aren't addressed in the action plan. That's why I'm bringing it forward. Another one of the issues is that there should be a regular fire drill at the buildings.
I do know that at Greenwood, some years ago, there was a gentleman who had come home after his evening shift and he would make toast and inevitably fall asleep and burn the toast and the fire alarm would go off. It went off on such a regular basis that people no longer bothered to go outside when it went off. It makes sense for people to be practicing regular fire drills and I'm wondering if that's part of the policy that the Housing Corporation is going to be looking at.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not sure if the places have organized fire drills but certainly I can go back and inquire about this. I know that if you hear a fire alarm going off and it becomes a regular thing, you are certainly not going to be believing in it. It's there for a very important purpose and should not be going off every day or every second day, believing that there is a possibility of a fire. It's just not healthy - I don't think - for the seniors who are in these units. If there is a way that we can resolve this issue, then we'll try to find it and do something with it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, also before I leave the seniors audit, I wonder if the minister could provide, in written form, just a basic comment about what sort of bathroom upgrades we're going to be doing at Alexander Street. I would imagine that these are the things for accessibility. So, it would be the lever taps, et cetera, et cetera, but if I could just get that in written format, that would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I can have the department forward that information to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I just explore with the minister the issues surrounding the vacant staff housing units in Watson Lake that are used for office space? Could the minister advise how these staff units were financed? Are they still carrying a CMHC mortgage or were they paid directly by the government and paid out to go into the staff pool?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, these units, I believe, are built through the corporation and do not involve CMHC financing.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister can confirm that there is no CMHC mortgage in place on these staff housing units in Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I believe that CMHC has no part in the financing of these staff units.
Mr. Jenkins: Are they financed in any manner whatsoever through a block allocation from CMHC or through a bank or lending institution?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I believe that the member is right. We don't have any other organization financing these units. It's done just through the Yukon government.
Mr. Jenkins: So, that fact, Mr. Chair, would allow the government a great deal of flexibility in their use. Why, then, with a waiting list for social housing in Watson Lake, varying from a low of four to a high of 11, would these units not be used for residential housing? It's commonly accepted that housing units designed for housing units remain housing units, and when there is no requirement for staff housing, they are let out on the open market and rented to third parties.
That has been the case in many of the outlying communities with respect to surplus staff housing. I'm just concerned that, with the demand for social housing, these housing units could be utilized for office space before they can be used for the purpose for which they were originally constructed, which was housing.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe that when the requests came from the department, these units were vacant at the time. It was to address the issue as an interim solution. It's turning out to be basically longer than an interim solution.
Mr. Jenkins: That leads us to the next question. How long is an interim solution?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It was suggested that it would be until such a time as the City of Watson Lake can get these buildings up and going and occupied. It would then no longer be needed. Complications and so on have come into play. Basically it's not for me to determine what is interim.
Mr. Jenkins: How long is the Yukon Housing Corporation going to allow these units to be used for a purpose they weren't originally constructed or intended for?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I know what the member is looking at. The corporation has expressed some concerns with Government Services. We would like, if possible, now that we have a waiting list for the Watson Lake area, to see if Government Services is coming up with alternatives to using Yukon Housing staff units.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the other way we could proceed, Mr. Chair, is for the Housing Corporation to sell them to Government Services to provide accommodation and proceed to build other homes. Has the Housing Corporation explored this avenue?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation would like to continue to have these units as part of its inventory and maintain them as staff units.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the Housing Corporation going to come forward with a policy that specifically sets out what staff housing units can be used for? This completely detracts from the original intended purpose.
When this money was voted on in this House, which I am sure it was at one time, to construct these houses, I'm sure there was no mention made that these housing units might eventually be utilized for office space for so many years.
Is there going to be a policy coming forward from the Housing Corporation to specifically outline what purpose housing units in the staff housing pool can be used for, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As the member knows, it is used to house government staff. We made a decision at the time, basically because of an emergency that arose, along with a request from Government Services. These are government buildings, and because there was not a waiting list, it was a fairly easy decision to go ahead and accommodate those who were in need.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to explore with the minister a couple of other items in general debate and then move out of this area. I have a couple of questions about the cost of litigation to Yukon Housing Corporation.
I'm not looking for the specific individuals who were in litigation with the Housing Corporation. I'm just looking for the total number of individuals who were involved, what it cost the corporation in payouts, and what the legal costs associated with these payouts were.
There were a number of cases settled on the courthouse steps - that's what I'm referring to - and the ones that were settled in court, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I think that it is in government's interest to be cautious in regard to certain claims that are in question, although I can go back and ask the corporation to put these numbers together and have it forwarded to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: That's fine, Mr. Chair. What I'm looking for is a legislative return indicating the total number of cases that were resolved and the total payout associated with the settlement and the legal cost associated with those settlements. I'm not looking for the names; I'm not looking for the individuals; I'm just looking for the dollars, what it cost us overall, and the number of cases.
Can the minister undertake to provide that by way of legislative return, Mr. Chair, please?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I can have the department work on this and respond to the question that the member raised, and forward this by letter. If we did a legislative return, he would be waiting awhile before he got it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I want to return to the issue of seniors housing. What seems to happen here is that there is not a clear understanding of seniors housing in the Yukon Housing portfolio and seniors housing in terms of Health and Social Services housing.
What happens is that, when seniors housing comes up, Yukon Housing seems to bow to Health and Social Services in this issue, and that doesn't make a lot of sense because there are a lot of strategic gaps in the housing market for seniors that have nothing to do with Health and Social Services funding.
What I'm wondering about is whether we are going to be focusing on developing a seniors housing market. Right now, the government's focus is going to be limited to financially needy seniors, but what's going to happen when 50 percent of the population moves up into the seniors bracket is that that's not going to be the real need. The real need is going to be that strategic gap between the family home and the extended care facility, which is a Health and Social Services matter.
What is Yukon Housing doing to look at that gap?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There is a big difference, I guess, in regard to what Health and Social Services are doing in regard to care, care facilities and so on. We've had a percentage of the social housing being filled by seniors and we are hoping - I know the biggest problem right now is in Whitehorse - to house seniors in Whitehorse. But it's also an issue that is arising out of the communities and we're hoping, once again, that a lot of these questions in regard to exactly what Yukon Housing Corporation should be doing and what they should be providing in the communities would come forward as suggestions.
We're hoping that we would be able to go to three other communities, possibly four this year, and get feedback from them on these housing studies. It doesn't address immediately the situation that the Yukon is in in regard to senior housing, but we think it would provide some direction to work with.
We have continued to work with Health and Social Services to look at the issue of senior housing and, in particular, Health and Social Services has focused on care for seniors.
I understand that the people in the Yukon are living longer and are going to be requiring more facilities. We understand that and we would like to continue to help out and work toward this.
We have some processes in place. As I've said to the member, we've tried to address some of the immediate situations with the units that we do have for seniors and try to accommodate in that fashion.
In regard to the building of bigger facilities to house seniors alone, we're hoping to have more of the private sector come in and work with us to address this situation, and have, possibly, the joint-venture program that we have in place to help out in this regard.
As the member knows, the CMHC has been pulling away from the provinces and territories and have had no new buildings constructed in the last few years, and it has an impact on the Yukon. I think that we're going to be faced with a situation soon of having to address this problem. It has come up at this point, and to some extent, we're trying to undertake and work toward the betterment of seniors in the Yukon.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, part of the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation is to look at gaps in the housing market and to address some of those needs for Yukoners. One of the gaps that's been identified and which the corporation is working on now is an opportunity for mobile home owners of older mobile homes to find property where they could move those homes to, and, of course, that's being dealt with through the mobile home strategy.
This is another need, and it's growing, and it's huge, and it's bigger than the mobile home problem. You're talking about an issue where you have people who may not be needy - actually, most of them will not be - and they do not have the type of housing that they need in the community. When you're talking about a group that's now 52 years of age and coming up, my concern is that we're not paying enough attention to that, and we should be planning now and focusing our attention on those seniors. They may be better off financially, but they have the same housing needs of those who are less fortunate financially - the need for dwellings that will last us well into our senior years.
That's something that I still haven't really heard as a commitment from the minister, and I'm wondering if there will be a commitment toward looking at those housing needs for seniors, regardless of what their income is.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation does know that I am concerned with seniors' issues. I have given them directions to look into this matter a lot more carefully than has been done in the past. They are working and trying to respond to this, and I'm hoping that this continues.
Mrs. Edelman: Part of this process is going to be consulting with people who are pre-seniors now. It's all good and well to be looking at seniors right now who are in housing, but their needs physically may be the same, but their expectations are dramatically different than the baby-boomers.
What I'm wondering about is what sort of consultation process is the Yukon Housing Corporation setting up to talk to pre-seniors, particular people in their 40s and their 50s now?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have tried to get interest in the private sector in the joint-venture program. There has been some initial talk with a couple of people. They have expressed interest in seniors housing.
Those are very much at the beginning stages. I don't exactly know where it is right now, but I can go back to the board and ask where it is - whether it fell away and is no longer part of discussions that are with the corporation.
We are trying to see what the general public's views are on seniors housing. That's through the community studies and the pilot project that was started in Carmacks.
Even though they are from the communities, it ends up that seniors do end up in Whitehorse here. So, I believe that there's going to be a lot of comments with regard to senior housing and what we can do to accommodate them.
It's a big matter. First Nations have tried to address this issue. It's very costly and expensive, but I think that we should not be putting this serious matter behind us. We should continue to work with seniors.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are two things. The first thing is that, certainly we should be working with seniors, but we need to be talking to the pre-seniors. I still haven't heard a commitment from the minister that that's where we need to get information from. It's grand to talk to the seniors who are there now, but the expectations of those who grew up in the Depression are dramatically different from those of us who went through the totally self-absorbed 1970s. I think it's important we speak to the pre-senior population about what their expectations are for housing when they become seniors.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have not initiated our department to go out and talk to individuals specifically about senior housing. We have been talking with a number of people of all ages and those who are interested in bringing forth their ideas on senior housing. Concerns have been expressed by what the member refers to as pre-seniors. Although we did not specifically go out and have people address those issues, it's a good idea. Again, I know this has been raised with me before by this member, and I can take it back to the corporation and the board for them to look into it.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for looking at that again. But the second point is - and the minister referred to this earlier - about the migration into Whitehorse by seniors. The percentage of seniors moving into Whitehorse is growing, and we do have figures to back that up. My concern is that if we're spending a lot of time out in the communities first, when the greatest need is in Whitehorse, then I'm wondering about the allocation of our resources as far as consultation. I think it's absolutely essential that we look at the communities, as well, but there needs to be a double track, where you're also looking at the needs here in Whitehorse, which are greater and are increasing at a faster rate.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have a number of issues that communities have brought forward to the board over a number of years, and their interest in whether or not Yukon Housing can play a role in resolving situations in communities. Some of them are wanting to have deeper discussions with the corporations.
This is not something new. It's just a matter of giving the corporation direction to go out and do this.
It's much more than senior issues that have been coming from the communities, and we're hoping that this year we will have three or four more communities done and continue to work on having all data collected from the communities so that we can put together a plan of action and look at working with communities a bit more.
I'm not sure if the number of seniors in Whitehorse is growing because of the communities. I know that a lot of people who have moved to Yukon know that this is a good place to live and have brought parents to Yukon communities. From what I know at this point they would like to have their seniors within the communities. Unfortunately, many of the communities cannot house them and, for a number of years, they have been coming to Whitehorse.
I know that we do have a list of seniors on the waiting list for Whitehorse housing, and that's approximately 15 people, from the numbers that we have.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the items that's up considerably in this budget is the home completion loan advances, particularly in rural areas. Is this demand going up, and can we forecast that demand going up in the future, and is there a particular gap that's not being met out in the rural areas by this program, by the banks?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, there has been an uptake on this particular program. In 1996-97, we had 10 people who have been using this particular program, and that has increased to 17 as of 1997-98.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, then can I gather from the minister's comments that he expects an increase in the future in this program as well?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, I do believe that there will be an increase to this. It has been developed for the communities because of the difficulty of acquiring financing for the building of homes and also with the increased cost of building homes in the communities versus central Whitehorse. Many of these units get built but are not completed. That's exactly what it's designed for and it's having an uptake, as are many of the other programs that we do have within this department.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, are there any other programs that the Housing Corporation has that there is a particular demand for out in the rural areas?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There are a number of programs that have been taken up a lot by the rural communities. The extended mortgage is one of them and, of course, the home repair program, which has been a very good and popular program over the years.
We've had the first mortgage and home owner bill and, for the home completion, what we've had - and that's mostly concentrated in Whitehorse though - is the mobile home initiative programs.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if we could return again to the Range Road development and the new development for older mobile homes. This area is basically built on an area that had an old dump in it used by the military and a number of other organizations over the years. I'm wondering - has anyone checked to see if this site is contaminated?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe the corporation has done tests. They have done tests, and they've done drill samples, I believe. From what I know, they have not found any contaminants in this area.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that completes my general debate in this, and I would appreciate it if we could go line by line.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no more general debate, we will move to page 15-5.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $4,729,000 agreed to
On Program Costs
Program Costs in the amount of $7,706,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $12,435,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Repair and Upgrade
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Home Repair
Home Repair in the amount of $2,825,000 agreed to
On Mobile Home Repair and Upgrade
Mobile Home Repair and Upgrade in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
Repair and Upgrade in the amount of $3,025,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: I do have to remind the members that I do have to hear from this side.
On Home Ownership
On 1st Mortgage Loan Advances
1st Mortgage Loan Advances in the amount of $3,200,000 agreed to
On Owner Build Loan Advances
Owner Build Loan Advances in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Home Completion Loan Advances
Home Completion Loan Advances in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Mobile Home Initiative
Mobile Home Initiative in the amount of $4,425,000 agreed to
On Extended Mortgage Guarantee
Extended Mortgage Guarantee in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Home Ownership in the amount of $8,625,000 agreed to
On Private Sector Partnering
On Rental Suite Loan Advances
Mrs. Edelman: The demand for this particular program has gone down over the years. Is there any thought being given to cancelling this program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, we will not be eliminating this program. This is what we predict that the market would handle. We have the accessory suites jointly with the City of Whitehorse that are no longer a part of the budget.
Rental Suite Loan Advances in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Joint Venture Loan Advances
Mr. Jenkins: Has any part of this joint-venture loan advance been advanced to 16098 Yukon Limited?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No. We have advanced no money and there is no money identified to be advanced to that numbered company.
Joint Venture Loan Advances in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
Private Sector Partnering in the amount of $560,000 agreed to
On Non-Profit Housing
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Seeing none, we'll move to the line items.
On Repayment of Long-Term Debt
Repayment of Long-Term Debt in the amount of $524,000 agreed to
On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock
Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of $416,000 agreed to
Non-Profit Housing in the amount of $940,000 agreed to
On Staff Housing
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Seeing none, we'll move to the line items.
On Repayment of Long-Term Debt
Repayment of Long-Term Debt in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock
Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of $405,000 agreed to
Staff Housing in the amount of $440,000 agreed to
On Central Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $305,000 agreed to
Central Services in the amount of $305,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Seeing no questions on the recoveries, does the capital for Yukon Housing Corporation carry?
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $13,895,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will now go to Bill No. 9.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Schedule C
Schedule C 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. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that you report Bill No. 9 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Deputy Chair: Mr. Deputy Speaker, at 4:55 p.m., Committee of the Whole carried the following motion:
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit beyond 5:30 p.m., if necessary, for the purpose of completing consideration of Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, in Committee of the Whole; for the House to consider Third Reading of Bill No. 9 and of Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and; for receiving the Administrator to grant Assent to Bill No. 9 and Bill No. 11, and;
THAT the Chair be empowered to call an extended recess between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m..
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 9: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 9 be now read a third time and do pass.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 9, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm just going to be very brief on this. The Yukon Party caucus will be voting against Bill No. 9, because we do not believe it has addressed a very important issue that's facing Yukoners today, and that is employment. Unemployment numbers are very, very high, and a lot of Yukoners are looking for work, and we don't believe this budget is going to do anything to put Yukoners back to work, so therefore we cannot support it.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to indicate that the Yukon Liberal Party caucus will not be supporting this bill because we believe it does not deal with the economic issues that are facing Yukoners: high unemployment and the other major issues that are facing Yukoners today.
Deputy Speaker: If the Government Leader now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We've taken 37 days to come to a point that we knew we were going to reach 37 days ago. The Yukon Party and the Liberals have taken virtually identical positions on every point, including now the position that they will vote against a budget that does so many things for so many people in this territory.
It's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the Liberal Party during the Yukon Party's governance saw fit to vote in favour of budgets that incorporated tax increases and wage cuts and did even less to promote employment than this budget does.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think that the Liberal Party in the Legislature has demonstrated thoroughly and completely that it is completely beholden to and a follower of the Yukon Party. Let there never ever be any mistake about that ever, ever again.
Mr. Speaker, the opposition parties have criticized this budget for not doing more to promote employment. What they are saying is that the government should have spent more, presumably more money that they didn't have, to create direct jobs through direct spending.
Mr. Speaker, this budget targets spending well. It meets the needs of many Yukoners. It ensures that expenditures are made on both the operations and the capital side where people need it most. It speaks to job creation in the rural communities. It speaks to the need for a capital budget, a capital budget incidentally that in net terms is higher than the Yukon Party's first two capital budgets.
Mr. Speaker, this budget does a lot to not only create work, but also to create hope for this territory. It creates hope because we have a long-term vision. It's not a vision that's simply a vision involving gross spending by government. It's a vision that targets spending to encourage long-term economic activity. For that reason, we are proud of this budget, and we're proud to vote in favour of this budget and stand against the Siamese twins of the Yukon Party and the Liberals, for which there is absolutely no distinction in ideological terms and in practical terms.
We are happy to support this budget, Mr. Speaker. We do so proudly.
Deputy Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Deputy Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: 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: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Cable: Disagree.
Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, six nay.
Deputy Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried and that Bill No. 9 has passed this House.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Bill No. 11: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 11, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 11, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99, be now read a third time and do pass.
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 third time and do pass.
Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Deputy Speaker: I believe the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried and that Bill No. 11 has passed this House.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 11 agreed to
Deputy Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Administrator to grant assent to bills that have passed this House.
Administrator enters the Chamber announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILLS
Administrator: Please be seated.
Deputy Speaker: Sir, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, Second Appropriation Act, 1998-99.
Administrator: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Administrator leaves the Chamber
Deputy Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Special adjournment motion
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT the House, at its rising, do stand adjourned until Saturday, June 13, 1998, when it shall meet in the original Assembly Chamber in Dawson City;
THAT the Speaker, after consultation with the Government Leader, set the time at which the House shall meet on June 13, and give notice of that time to all members;
THAT the House shall meet prior to June 13 if it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Government Leader, that the public interest requires that the House meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time; and
THAT if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader
THAT the House at its rising do stand adjourned until Saturday, June 13, 1998, when it shall meet in the original Assembly Chamber in Dawson City;
THAT the Speaker, after consultation with the Government Leader, set the time at which the House shall meet on June 13 and give notice of that time to all members;
THAT the House shall meet prior to June 13, if it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Government Leader that the public interest requires that the House meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time and;
THAT if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until June 13, 1998.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.