Thursday, December 10, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Recognition of 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Today offers an opportunity to reflect on how human rights contribute to our quality of life in Canada. Respect and dignity for everyone is a fundamental principle that should transcend partisan politics.
Canadians and Yukoners have shown that we believe in the importance of human rights and are willing to protect them. The spirit of the words in the Universal Declaration is given life when we believe in them and act on those beliefs.
I encourage each one of us to make sure that these fundamental human rights are not taken for granted. By renewing our shared commitment to human rights on this day, we create a legacy for future generations. I am happy that this Legislature has passed amendments to our own Yukon Human Rights Act that strengthen the legislation and advance the cause of social justice for all members of our society.
In 1999, there will be opportunities for a broader public discussion on additional proposed amendments to ensure hate literature is not circulated in our communities, and to strengthen human rights provisions for women who experience violence at the hands of abusive men as a form of gender discrimination. I look forward to those discussions.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer our support to the International Human Rights Day. It's appropriate to commemorate Human Rights Day as we head into the season that celebrates the coming of peace on earth, as peace is always a necessary precursor to the observance of human rights.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly. The declaration, in its anniversary each year, recognizes and marks our responsibility to take care of each other, to educate ourselves about the restriction of human rights and to raise awareness about the need to protect basic human rights throughout the world.
Here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, we should be thankful. As Yukoners and citizens of Canada we enjoy a full range of rights and system in place to help educate, explain and enforce those rights.
We are pleased today to offer our support to this day and observe it as an opportunity to join together to ensure that all forms of discrimination do not have a place in the Yukon, nor regions of Canada or, for that matter, the world.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to International Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On October 7 of this year, Canada Post issued a first day cover relating to the declaration and one of its drafters, a Canadian by the name of John Peters Humphrey. On the reverse of the cover is a script, which I'd like to read to the House.
This stamp commemorates one of the most important international initiatives of the 20th century - the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The agreement set global standards for human rights, and it served as a moral conscience to the world community for half a century.
John Peters Humphrey, a New Brunswick-born jurist who specialized in international law, wrote the preliminary draft of the document early in his 20-year tenure as the first director of the UN Human Rights Division. He was also pivotal in creating the two international covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that, together with the declaration, comprise the International Bill of Human Rights. Humphrey remained actively involved in human rights education and issues until his death at age 89.
The cover displays the author and a portion of his typed and handwritten draft, and anyone who knows a child interested in stamp-collecting and wants to give a gift with a Canadian educational value, may wish to go to the local postal outlet and purchase the first day cover.
In remembrance of Shaughnessy Cohen, M.P.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a fellow parliamentarian and a friend, Shaughnessey Cohen. Shaughnessy's sudden passing yesterday has left her colleagues in the House of Commons, and many Canadians whose lives she touched, shocked and deeply saddened.
Yukoners knew Shaughnessy through her travels here as the chair of the parliamentary justice committee, and as a Member of Parliament with a particular interest and commitment to the Yukon.
I personally will always remember Shaughnessy's warmth, and her pure enjoyment in her political career. Her integrity and her common sense have been reflected in the tributes paid to her today in legislatures like this one.
Her light on earth may have dimmed, but her passion for all that is honourable in this profession has not. On behalf of all of my colleagues in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and her many Yukon friends, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Shaughnessy Cohen's family, and to all members of the House of Commons, on the loss of their colleague and friend.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motions?
notices of motion
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Question Period should be renamed "Question and Answer Period", to encourage ministers to actually answer the questions that are asked.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Mary Kane to be a member of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Further, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Erwin Ordoņez de Leon to the Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a certified driver education program will
THAT this House supports the establishment of driver education programs in Yukon schools, thereby improving access for Yukon youth to such programs; and further, that this program will meet the standards of the insurance industry while fostering the development of attitudes in driver skills training in the next generation of Yukon drivers.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Women's transition homes training trust fund
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise to advise the House of a new initiative by the advanced education branch that reflects one of the major policy goals of their government, the goal of fostering safe and healthy communities. I am pleased to inform members that an agreement has been reached with the three women's transition homes in the territory on the creation of a training trust fund for transition home employees. A total of $150,000 is being set aside for this fund with a contribution of $75,000 in this fiscal year and an additional $75,000 next year.
As members are aware, helping women and families at a time of crisis is stressful and emotionally demanding work. As a result, transition homes often experience high turnover rates among their employees.
Transition home directors in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake have told us that appropriate staff training, especially in key areas, such as counselling and crisis intervention, would be of practical value to their employees to help encourage them to stay longer in this important field of service.
We listened to those views and this training trust fund is the result.
This is an important step, which recognizes how valuable the work done by non-governmental organizations to deliver frontline social services to Yukon societies is. It also recognizes that employment in the non-profit social services sector requires specialized training, just as much as employment in industries such as mining and forestry.
That is why our government made a commitment to provide stable, long-term funding for such organizations, and that is why we are prepared to provide training to help them operate more effectively.
Under the training trust fund, transition home employees will identify their own training requirements. Training initiatives will be reviewed by a three-person committee made up of representatives from the three transition homes.
This committee will also be responsible for overseeing the development of a women's transition home training plan.
Mr. Speaker, our government has a strong belief in the value of job training. We also have a strong belief that the key decisions about what training is needed are best made by the people directly involved. Our support of training trust funds proves that.
In the case of this funding for transition home workers, it also proves our ongoing commitment to fostering safe and healthy Yukon communities.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the office of the official opposition, the Yukon Party caucus, I am pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement about the women's transitional homes training trust fund, and am pleased to offer our support to this initiative.
As the minister stated, transition homes help women and families in times of crisis. They provide counselling and crisis intervention and a safe haven for those in need of support.
I believe that this is a positive initiative and it will certainly go a long way to help each transition home in the territory operate on a sound basis and provide effective training for its employees.
I do, however, have a few questions for the minister that I hope the minister will be able to answer. With respect to the actual amount of the trust fund, the minister made reference to $150,000 to be set aside for the contribution of $75,000 this fiscal year, and $75,000 next.
Perhaps the minister could clarify it. I'm assuming, Mr. Speaker, that the two $75,000 come to the total of $150,000; that we're not talking about a $300,000 fund, we're talking about just a $150,000 fund.
Is the fund going to be renewed each year? Mr. Speaker, what I'd like to know here is if the transition homes are going to use the interest accrued from the fund to operate the training programs or are they going to actually spend the $75,000 annually with respect to training for the various homes?
And the committee that the member mentioned - she said it would be formed from the transition homes themselves, and I'm wondering if the minister will tell us if the individuals that are on the committee will be appointed by the homes or will the ministers appoint them herself?
Mr. Speaker, other than that, we certainly support this fund. The transition homes are a much necessary part of our society, unfortunately. But they are much needed and much used by many women who find themselves in this situation, and we certainly support the need for extra training for the individuals involved.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus strongly supports the training of transition home staff. I heard the need for staff training when I spoke to the director at the women's shelter both in Dawson and in Watson Lake. I've also had numerous discussions on this training need over the years with the staff and directors of Kaushee's here in Whitehorse. Plainly, this is a long-standing issue that needs to be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, the three women's transition homes in the Yukon do miracles on fixed budgets. There just isn't enough money left over to do sufficient staff training as well as deliver services. The money from this fund will be disbursed by a three-person committee made up of representatives from the three transition homes, and this seems like a practical and very fair approach.
The longer-term approach, whereby the three-person committee is also responsible for overseeing the development of a women's transition home training plan is also strongly supported by the caucus. My only question for the minister - and she can get back to me on this by way of legislative return - is: is this in fact a trust, or is it rather a specially designated fund? And if it is a trust, is there a trust agreement, and could she send me a copy of that agreement if it exists?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd like to thank the opposition members for their support of this initiative. I can respond to their questions by saying that the training trust fund will be for a total of $150,000, as the statement indicates.
Our experience has been that training trust fund boards are often able to find other sources of money to use when they're offering training, and this may occur as well with the training trust fund for transition home workers.
The women's transition homes came to us with a request for a training trust fund. We do respond to community needs when we create the training trust funds, and the transition homes will form a board and society that will manage the fund in the same way that the mine training trust fund and forestry training trust fund, and others, are managed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tourism, air access to Whitehorse
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism, and it's on air access to the Yukon. In September, the minister announced more flights from Europe. First, that Condor Air was coming to the Yukon on a weekly basis, and then that Canada 3000 would be providing direct, one-stop flights from Germany twice a week.
This was very welcome news, and we support these initiatives. And at the time of the announcement, it was stated that Canada 3000's stopover in Vancouver would be 90 minutes, and that our visitors could jump on a flight that's coming right into Whitehorse.
Mr. Speaker, we have since discovered that this might be a rather long jump. Our European tourists now - in my information - are going to have to spend the night in Vancouver, and then travel to Whitehorse the next day. This is obviously, then, not a direct, one-stop flight from Germany to Whitehorse - it's more like a direct flight from Germany to Vancouver, with an extra flight on to Whitehorse the following day.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Tourism why the government promoted it as a 90-minute stopover, when in fact it's going to be an overnight stopover, on the way to Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to state that the member is wrong. At no time did I say that the flights would be a same-day service. Certainly, no, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to say that we are doing good work within the Tourism department, and I'm certainly glad to see that Condor and Canada 3000 are looking to the Yukon as a destination.
So, certainly, I think that could clear up the issue.
Mr. Phillips: Well, it didn't clear up the issue. Announcements made at the time of the flight indicated there would be a 90-minute stopover. It's now going to be an overnight stop. As the minister well knows, a stopover of this magnitude adds probably another $500 or so to the cost of travelling to the Yukon in a very competitive market. To make matters worse, it probably adds an extra two days' time for our European visitors, which could affect their plans to choose the Yukon as a destination.
Has the minister talked to Canada 3000 about this problem, and what are they planning to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Canada 3000 did initially indicate that they were hoping that the flights would be same-day service. However, to date, international airport departure slots have yet to be assigned, and the Whitehorse-bound passengers from Dusseldorf and Munich may be required to stay over.
But let me also say, Mr. Speaker, that, again, the sales are very lucrative. The wholesalers are very pleased with the proposed schedule and the pricing of the flights.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister's answer leaves me with another question. The minister says there may be an overnight stopover in Vancouver. Mr. Speaker, how does a tour wholesaler, or anybody selling this product, sell it with "maybe an overnight stopover"? You either have to price in the overnight stopover, or you price in a direct flight.
How can they be in the marketplace right now, selling these seats, when they don't know whether or not it's going to be an extra night in Vancouver, with hotels, transportation, and other added costs, or if it's going to come direct to Whitehorse? How can they do both?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, as the game goes on, I guess I can say that - I'm very pleased that Canada 3000 and Condor Air would start to recognize the Yukon as a world-class destination, which it is, and this government will continue to work very hard with Condor Air and with Canada 3000 and others to be able to continue to promote the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, as I've said previously, the travel trade and the tourism wholesalers are reacting very favourably to the proposed scheduling and the pricing, so I'm not sure what the member from the dark side of Riverdale - if the member from the south is from the sunny side, then the member from the north must be from the dark side of Riverdale. He has certainly good scouting skills. Maybe he could exercise those scouting skills in here, but certainly, Mr. Speaker, the department and I are very pleased to be able to work with Canada 3000 on these issues.
Question re: Tourism, air access to Whitehorse
Mr. Phillips: I just wish I could get an answer to my first two questions.
Mr. Speaker, the minister and the government promoted a same-day type service with a 90-minute stopover to Whitehorse. I understand that there is a severe problem with the continued service, that there has to be an overnight. This adds at least $500 to the cost of the Yukon package.
Mr. Speaker, how are we competitive in the marketplace when we have this extra day? I'm happy, as well as the minister is, that Canada 3000 is coming to the Yukon, but the minister blew it all up and promoted it as a same-day service, and it's not. So, I'd like to ask the minister again: when did he find out that it wasn't a same-day service? Was it before or after his government promoted it as such? And what did he do about it once he found out it wasn't a same-day service?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What can I say, Mr. Speaker. The member is absolutely wrong, once more. I do believe the member is going for a grand slam of wrongness in this session. At no time did I state that Canada 3000 would be a same-day service. And yes, Mr. Speaker, I can agree that the prices on a through ticket are much cheaper - very much cheaper - but these are not my decisions.
I will continue to work with charter airlines, whether it's Canada 3000 or Condor, or whoever it may be, to ensure that the Yukon is identified in the world-class market.
Mr. Phillips: I'll go on this issue again, Mr. Speaker. The first question I'd like to ask the minister is this: is he responsible for initiatives of the Department of Tourism? Can the minister answer that question.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I very much enjoy being able to work with the department. I very much enjoy being able to be a part of a moving industry, an industry that is very lucrative, an industry that accepts the cultures of the Yukon - the diverse cultures of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. I'm very much pleased to be able to promote the Yukon and the sense of its geography - the four pillars. I'm very excited about the Yukon Territory and will continue to work with charter airlines.
As a department, we'll continue to work with our partners in the Tourism Industry Association and the others that are encompassed underneath that umbrella: the Yukon Wilderness Tourism Association, the Yukon First Nations Tourism Association. Yes, it gives me great pleasure indeed to be the Minister of Tourism and be able to work in conjunction with our partners, so that we might be able to promote this wonderful, beautiful territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: I wonder if that means he's responsible for his department. I asked the question but I wasn't sure that he actually gave me the answer.
Mr. Speaker, senior officials from the minister's department stated on September 22, 1998, with respect to Canada 3000, and I quote: "Now they have through fares out of Europe, one ticket, an hour and a half layover in Vancouver, jump on the flight that's coming up, and come right into Whitehorse, into the Yukon, so for us, like, it's really great news."
Mr. Speaker, that's the minister's department, the minister who's responsible for that department. Why didn't the minister, since he found out that there wasn't a through flight to Whitehorse, stand up and correct the record in the tourism industry and in the public that it was now going to be an overnight stop in Vancouver and it was going to add cost to the trip to Whitehorse and make it more difficult to sell? Why didn't the minister tell the public that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I would say that in the tone - really great news. I mean, it's not really great news, it's terrific news. It's terrific news that we have a Tourism department that will be able to work with its European partners. We have a department and partnership within the tourism industry that will continue to work with charter airlines, wherever they may be. We have a department that is looking to expand and we will continue to expand on the direction of Yukoners.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, we are going out for a new Yukon tourism strategy, and we will do so.
But, again, I have to say that the member's categorically wrong - absolutely wrong. At no time did I state that there were going to be through fares. Now, certainly with the good work that the marketing branch within the Department of Tourism has done, they have aspirations, they have goals. I'm so pleased to be able to work with professional people to continue the tourism development of the Yukon.
Thank you very much.
Question re: Wood Street Annex
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education.
A couple of weeks ago, word leaked out of the Department of Education that the NDP planned to close Grey Mountain Primary School in a couple of years. Yesterday I asked the minister about the future of the Wood Street Annex. Judging by her answers, it too is on the chopping block. I'm asking this minister, on behalf of this so-called open and accountable government, a simple question. Will the minister answer the question today? Does the Wood Street Annex have a future in its current capacity after this school year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member consistently gets her facts wrong. Word did not leak out of the department that the Grey Mountain Primary School was being closed by this government. This government is not closing Grey Mountain Primary School.
As I've answered in this House before, and provided a letter to the school council, we are not planning to close Grey Mountain Primary School. We are conducting a survey of space needs in Riverdale.
Now, the member also asked a question about the use of the Wood Street facility. As I indicated to the member yesterday, we have been using Wood Street for the last two years, during the grade reorganization, when F.H. Collins was full to capacity, as Porter Creek Secondary School was being expanded. The Wood Street facility was identified for use until the end of the 1998-99 school year, where MAD and ACES and experiential science and other programs have been offered. We will continue, Mr. Speaker, to offer those programs.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I believe the member's friend in British Columbia refers to those types of statements as "weasel words". The Wood Street Annex, as the minister has stated, runs programs like experiential science and MAD. The entrepreneurship centre is also housed in the Wood Street Annex.
Yesterday, and again today, the minister has stated that the department will continue to offer the programs. There's no guarantee, and no statement from the minister, that the programs will be offered at the Wood Street Annex.
Would the minister confirm today that the programs will be offered at the Wood Street Annex past the end of this school year?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, it seems the member opposite is not listening to the answer to the question. Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, we had made a commitment to offer the programs at Wood Street while the construction of Porter Creek Secondary School was underway and F.H. Collins was full to capacity. We have made a commitment to continue to offer those programs in the future. We will have space, and continue to have experiential science and the ACES and the MAD programs, and the others that are available.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, if these programs are not going to be offered at the Wood Street Annex, they're going to be offered somewhere else.
These programs are attended by students from at least three Whitehorse high schools. Where is the minister planning to run the programs? Are they going to be put at one school? Are we going to split them among the three schools? Are we looking at busing students to different locations? What's the plan for offering these programs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we are still considering where those programs and how those programs will be offered. What I can assure the member is that we will continue to offer those programs. We know that they're very popular with students and with parents, and that the students do well in them. We have made - and are making again today - a commitment to continue to offer those programs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The Chair heard the leader of the third party use the expression, "weasel words," during her question. That is unparliamentary and I would ask the member to withdraw them.
Withdrawal of remark
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll be happy to withdraw them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: That's right, we'll call them "marten" or something.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a decision to move these successful programs out of the annex and setting them up in individual schools is setting them up to fail.
These programs work where they are, because students from the high schools can get to them; they're accessible. They work because of the unique setting they're offered in.
Mr. Speaker, this NDP government just doesn't make decisions about education based on what's right for children. They make decisions based on saving money.
Last year they cut kindergarten busing to save money. Now, they're going to cut the programs at the Wood Street Annex. When are they going to put programs that work ahead of saving money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's pretty clear that the member opposite does not understand the concept of pay-as-you-go budgets and of living within our means.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that member is standing there and making completely false, wrong allegations.
We have not cut kindergarten...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: ... as the member states.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: You ruled on that particular issue just a couple of days ago that we were allowed to state that the member had made an incorrect statement and incorrect allegations, and you ruled that that was in order. And the word "false" was used. I thank the opposition House leader for reminding me that the word "false" was used in the ruling that you made.
Speaker: There is no point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I should inform the member that she may not be aware that the programs have been offered since 1988, and that these programs have been offered successfully for years, before the Wood Street facility was offered, and they will be offered successfully in the future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the five-stage intervention model is a new program that works because it's located out of the Wood Street Annex.
Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that some of the programs at the annex won't work in another setting as part of a regular high school, yet she's determined to go ahead with these changes. Why? Why is the NDP pushing these changes? These programs work where they are.
There's a saying, Mr. Speaker, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Why the push from the NDP to close down these successful programs at the Wood Street Annex?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I wish that the member opposite would stop trying to put words in my mouth. We have not ever said - and are not going to say - that we are cancelling the programs that are offered at Wood Street.
The member implies that the location is the only factor to the success of those programs. That is not the case. Those programs have been offered successfully at F.H. Collins High School. The MAD program has been in the past accommodated at the Arts Centre. The programs can be successful, regardless of their location.
We have not made a final decision on the future of the Wood Street facility beyond the end of the current 1998-99 school year.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, if they haven't made a decision about what to do with the building, why are they planning to move the programs elsewhere? Obviously something else is planned for the Wood Street Annex.
The fact that the minister hasn't told her partners in education about it shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone. That's how the NDP seems to operate. The fact that she won't tell this Legislature is not a surprise either.
The fact is that the minister has said there's a lot of interest in the Wood Street facility. Many community groups, and others, have expressed an interest in the use of this space. What community group, or others, has this minister, or the Government Leader, promised the building to?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, once again, the member is making false accusations. I have made no commitment, and this government has made no commitment, to any group about what use Wood Street will have in the next year. As we have been indicating, when we made the two-year commitment for both the 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years, the Wood Street Annex has been used to offer those programs during the time when grade reorganization meant that F.H. Collins high school was full, while Porter Creek Secondary School was being expanded. That two-year commitment is drawing to a close at the end of the 1998-99 school year. We have not made a decision regarding next year.
Question re: Seniors strategy
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services. A year ago, I raised a number of questions regarding health care facilities and the provision of continuing care services in Yukon. At that time, the minister stated the department was in the process of doing an assessment of seniors services in Whitehorse and rural Yukon. The minister explained that the review would look at existing health care facilities in the territory, what facilities required upgrades, and what additional facilities will be needed to address the future health care needs of our fast-ageing population.
As I understand, the department was also looking at programming, as well as other social-related issues with respect to seniors and the delivery of services for seniors.
Mr. Speaker, that was a year ago. I'd like to ask the minister if he could tell us if the seniors strategy has been completed and, if not, when we can expect to see this strategy.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the strategy will be released shortly. We're also looking at - the member has made reference to the issue of continuing care - going out shortly to do a target consultation with, primarily, health care deliverers in the communities on the whole question of continuing care and continuing care needs in the communities, and we believe that that should start probably in about another week or so and continue through January.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we've got an answer from the minister, Mr. Speaker: "Shortly." Thank you.
Well some time ago, the Watson Lake Signpost Seniors, with the full support of the town, the Kaska Tribal Council and the Liard First Nation sent a proposal to the Minister of Health and Social Services with respect to the construction of a multi-level health care facility to address the continuing care needs of the Watson Lake area residents.
Well, some discussions have been held, but it is my understanding that no decision has been made and won't be made until such time as a seniors strategy has been completed. While I can appreciate the need to complete this comprehensive view, what I find to be rather interesting is that no one from the Signpost Seniors has been asked to participate in the development of the strategy, even though members have been asked to be involved.
I'd like to ask the minister just who he has consulted within the territory about the seniors strategy. Has the Yukon Council on Ageing been asked to provide input, and how about rural Yukoners, like the Signpost Seniors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, the member is somewhat mistaken, as is his custom. The Signpost Seniors did send in a proposal in this regard. I subsequently met with them this past summer. It appears that there was some uncertainty about the nature of the proposal. I asked some questions regarding levels, the kinds of services that could be provided, and it became apparent through my discussions with them that really what they were focusing on was the question of respite, the question of provision of respite services, presumably within the hospital. We had some discussions around that. Many of their concerns really revolved around the question of seniors housing. I discussed that with the Minister of Yukon Housing and it's my understanding that some developments are being made in that regard.
Yes, with regard to the seniors strategy, when it comes out, it's going to be, for the purposes of discussion, with groups such as the Council on Ageing, the Golden Age Society and groups such as the Signpost Seniors and, as well, we're also doing consultation, as I indicated earlier, with the communities.
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as the minister is fully aware, there are waiting lists to get into the Thomson Centre, Macaulay Lodge in Whitehorse, as well as the McDonald Lodge in Dawson. Now, more than ever, there's a critical need to assess and address both the short term and long term health care needs of our residents. While we are pleased that some efforts are being made, we're quite concerned about the length of time it is taking the government to act and the lack of consultation that has taken place.
Who has the minister consulted with? What have the terms of reference of these consultations been? When are we going to see some results? When are we going to be at the final end of all the consultation, and we can move forward with a definitive program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can just say to the member, stay tuned. There will be a number of developments forthcoming on this.
We have done a tremendous amount of work in this regard, looking at needs, projecting into the future, trying to estimate where the pressures are coming from. The worst thing that we could do - the absolute worst thing that we could do - would be to go riding off madly in all directions without a clear plan.
One of the problems that we have right now, at this point, is our current extended care facilities are not adequate for the level of care that's required. As the member may be aware, the Thomson Centre was originally built as a level 1-2 facility. Currently, the nature of the patients there is level 3-4-5. What we need to do is assess where the needs are going to be in terms of extended care, in terms of levels, in terms of such things as palliative, respite - and I also need to point out that we're not exclusively talking about seniors. Over half the people -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Earlier this year, the minister's department hired a consultant to do a report on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. A report was delivered in the summer, but the minister has doggedly refused to release the report to the public.
The minister said, initially, there were some privacy concerns, but she anticipated she would release the report before the session was ended.
Then, a couple of weeks later, she said that an implementation plan was being prepared in response to the recommendations in the report, and that the report wouldn't be released until the plan was complete.
So, the questions that I have for the minister are these: what target date has been set for her officials for completion of their work, and when will the public see the report and the implementation plan?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's an interesting question from the member opposite, since I understand he has a copy of the report and has been waving it around in this House and discussing it with the media and in the House.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice officials have been working on an implementation plan to respond to the recommendations in the report. A number of activities have already been undertaken, and I believe that the report is ready to be released, and I can get back to the member with an answer on that.
Mr. Cable: I'm always pleased to help the minister be open and accountable, and if anybody leaks the implementation...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Cable: ... plan to me, I'll give that to the public too, because it's the public's business.
Now, about five weeks ago, I wrote to the minister, and I asked the minister for a copy of the contract with a consultant hired to do the work on the report.
Now, despite that letter and despite a couple of followup phone calls, we haven't seen that contract. Is the minister going to provide that contract, or is this part of the secrecy game?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, there is no problem providing the member opposite with a copy of the contract, and I will ensure that he does receive one.
Mr. Speaker, I also think that it's important to acknowledge the good work that is being done by the staff and the management at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, who are working to implement the principles of restorative justice, of finding new and better and more effective programs for inmates. They really do their best.
Mr. Cable: I'll check my mail this afternoon.
Now, a couple of months ago, there was a briefing given by the minister's officials, to myself and to our researcher, on the jail, and we raised the question of occupational health and safety orders that were given to the government by the occupational health and safety branch.
It's my understanding that those orders - the description of the orders, and when they had to be done - were going to be given to us, but despite the lapse of maybe three months, there has not been any reply from the minister, or the officials.
Now, I tabled written questions on the Order Paper, and they're still outstanding. Those were tabled on November 30, relating to outstanding occupational health and safety branch inspection reports, and fire marshal reports.
Are these reports going to see the light of day in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, is the member opposite saying that this "closed government" actually gave him a briefing about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Is the member opposite actually acknowledging that this "closed government" has provided him with numerous reports and documents...
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: ...and information...
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: ...about the occupational health and safety? Mr. Speaker, I am answering the question. Mr. Speaker, the member has been provided with many of the reports and documents that he is saying we haven't given to him.
Some of the information that the member opposite has requested goes back for 10 years, and is not easy to locate and to provide to him. The member opposite has been given a briefing, as he's acknowledged. He has been given copies of relevant information, and - more importantly - the department is working and responding to the concerns raised in occupational health and safety reports, and improving the facility.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the provisions of Standing Order 27(1), with regard to notice, in order to call Motion No. 148 and Motion No. 149 for debate at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion No. 148
Clerk: Motion No. 148, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to subsection 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Mary Kane to be a member of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Motion agreed to
Motion No. 149
Clerk: Motion No. 149, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Erwin Ordoņez de Leon to the Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99.
Bill No. 13 - Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
On Capital Expenditures - continued
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd like a little detail on this line, and I'd also like to know if this includes the conversion at the Whitehorse Airport.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, it does include the conversion.
The increase of $383,000 for airports consists of a revote of $273,000 to complete the upgrade of the water system at the Watson Lake Airport. Work on this project virtually has been completed. It includes a revote of $17,000; $102,000 is required for the conversion of the combined services building to a fire hall at the Whitehorse Airport, and construction is looking to start in January 1999, with completion of the phase prior to the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it is just over a quarter of a million dollars for water service to the Watson Lake Airport. Could the minister confirm that all of the facilities down there are now operating properly in the cold weather, specifically? I understand there was quite a problem with the heat tracing between the various buildings there, Mr. Chair. Could the minister confirm that it is now functioning correctly?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I've been assured that they are functioning correctly now.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you and I don't want it right now, but could the minister provide by way of letter or legislative return the additional cost of making the system down there work? I know there were cost overruns and there was a lot of difficulties with it to get the heat tracing to work between the various buildings so that the water lines wouldn't freeze. I just want to know what the additional costs were to get the system to function. Could the minister provide that information, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It would be my pleasure.
Airports in the amount of $383,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Public Safety
On Fire Protection
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can we have details on that line, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The increase is a revote request for the construction of a training room addition to the Upper Liard Fire Hall.
Fire Protection in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, could I have detail on that line as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. It's a $22,000 revote request for the purchase and installation of a new pool liner for the Pelly Crossing swimming pool.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, could we have detail on that line as well? And also, where does the LIMS project fit into this supplemental budget, or is that in one of the lines?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The LIMS is not within this budget, and the $2,000 increase is for the replacement of a computer that went boom.
Mrs. Edelman: Could I have more detail on the computer that went boom?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe it was one frosty morning, when somebody turned it on, and it went boom, and it is absolutely irreplaceable, and we're looking to replace it. It's for the workstation of a cartographer, and it requires a 21-inch monitor.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, am I to understand that that's mapping services here in Whitehorse, in this building, upstairs?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's within the planning section.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Community Planning
Community Planning in the amount of $111,000 agreed to
On Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program
Mrs. Edelman: Detail, please, on that line.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly. It's a revote to complete the projects that were late getting approval and could not be finished in 1997-98. It's anticipated that all the projects that are funded out of this revote will be completed by March of 1999. So, 50 percent of this is recoverable.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if I could get sort of a brief list of what some of those projects were that were completed.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Within the Village of Haines Junction there was landfill upgrading and recycling, a community well at Mendenhall, construction of a new administration office for Champagne-Aishihik, water-sewer improvement in the Town of Faro, recycling depots in the City of Whitehorse and a youth fitness centre for Selkirk.
Canada/Yukon Infrastructure Program in the amount of $330,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Mr. Jenkins: Well, somewhere in this area in this public works, health and roads and land development category, Mr. Chair, we must deal with the issue that they have here in Whitehorse surrounding the land development that has taken place previously and that I'm hoping that the minister is budgeting some more funding somewhere in here.
I'm referring to the problem with low water pressure in the Granger subdivision. Now, these subdivisions were developed by the Government of the Yukon and the lots were subsequently sold by the Government of the Yukon.
It doesn't appear that the Government of Yukon duly recognized the off-site levy charges that would be necessary to provide an adequate level of water to the subdivision when the cross town water main was installed in the early 1980s, and it was known at that time that there wasn't enough pumping capacity to provide the full subdivision with adequate water. It was originally envisioned that the loop would come right around and come back down and would be pumped up the other way, but that road was never continued; in fact, it was stopped and the situation has been aggravated by the development there and only so much water is available.
So people now have to run around in their showers in the morning to try to find water for a shower, despite paying the same quarterly service charges for water, sewer and garbage as every other resident.
So, we take that, Mr. Chair, and extrapolate it, and it would appear that there is a responsibility by the Government of the Yukon to address some of the costs that they should have addressed initially by putting in adequate pumping capacity. The City of Whitehorse appears to be attempting to address it by putting in individual pumps.
Now, I have a number of concerns. One, that the onus is going to be shifted to the owners for the operation of these individual pumps in their own homes to provide adequate levels, but the biggest concern that I would have, in addition to the residents there not being adequately serviced, is the IAO standards not being met for fire protection.
Can the minister confirm that the standards are being met in these subdivisions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know that the member never asked for an answer on the water, but certainly, yes, the department is going to be working with the city and is working with the city this year and is going to be looking to alleviate the historical problems. So, certainly, we will continue to work with the city on them.
As I can understand it, and I could be corrected, I would say that yes, they do meet the standards in Granger, but I will certainly have to qualify and confirm that for the member opposite, but I've been led to understand that.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess, Mr. Chair, what I'm looking at is: does the minister understand what we're looking at with IAO standards, what it really means? Could the minister advise the House what this issue addresses?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, certainly not in technical terms, but certainly in terms of working with the department, yes, I do have an understanding on it and, yes, we will work with our partners, and we will continue to see that standards are met.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's plainly obvious that the minister doesn't have an understanding of this issue, but I do welcome his ability to skirt around the question.
What we're looking at, Mr. Chair, is the issue of the insurance advisory organization, and the minimum flow rates, and the minimum residual pressure, that is available at the fire hydrants to provide an adequate level of fire protection in these subdivisions. It's my information that it's not being met. What this means, Mr. Chair, is the classification for insurance purposes could be downgraded if there's an inspection conducted by IAO officials in that area. What it means is the cost for residential home insurance for individuals residing there will go up significantly, so the option of installing individual pumps in individual homes, while it might provide a measure of comfort to those homeowners - at their expense, ultimately - will do nothing to address the overall problem. This is one of the major reasons why a water system is installed. It's installed to provide potable domestic water to households, but it's also installed to provide adequate fire protection to that subdivision, and that is not being met. I have grave concerns, and the member for that riding is reported to have offered to pay for 20 percent of it.
Now I would hope that, in the spirit of Christmas, he would sit down with you, as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and somewhere here come up with the necessary funding to address the responsibilities that have been abdicated by the department in previous years.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just by way of correction, Mr. Chair, the funds that were referred to: I did not offer, they were offered by the department in this regard. The original water system was signed off by the city. YTG has come forward with $128,000, which they made available to the city, either as a contribution toward a booster station or the individual household pumps.
Now, clearly there's a sentiment within the area of the subdivision where it isn't a positively received idea. Subsequent to attending a public meeting on that, and discussing it with some of my constituents, I've gone back and I've met with the minister on this issue, and I know they are looking at what they can do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to thank the Minister of Health and Social Services. I'm sure he was addressing the issue with his responsibilities for Health and Social Services, as to the need for these individuals to have an adequate supply of potable water so they don't contact any contagious diseases that he might have to spend some money addressing.
But the issue before us is that there should have been a recognition by the Government of Yukon when it put that subdivision in to address the need for an off-site levy for additional pumping. And because the project wasn't completed as it was originally designed, that has never come to pass. So the best alternative, to meet all of the needs of all of the people there, is to provide a booster station in the area.
Now, there is $128,000 sitting there now, and I don't think we're too far off. But I'd like to see the Minister of C&TS stand on his feet, and give an undertaking in the House here today that his department is going to address their responsibilities in that area, in a timely manner, and in a mannner that is going to see a booster station added there at very little, if any, cost to the City of Whitehorse.
I think it's only fair and reasonable, because for all of the development, it wasn't total recovery of costs. They made a profit on selling the lots there, Mr. Chair, and there has to be some funds left over that can be diverted toward that purpose. They say that it was cost recovery, but boy, when you start looking at the costs that were incurred, you'd have to pad in a heck of a lot of overhead in management to justify some of the costs that we arrived at up there in those subdivisions. So, there has to be a little bit of surplus somewhere that can go toward a booster station.
Now, I'd like to see a resolution of this situation for the residents of that area and for the City of Whitehorse, and the minister has - I was going to say that he has the ability, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt there - the necessary portfolio and the position to get it accomplished.
Now, I'm looking for an undertaking to see this through at very little cost to the residents there and at very little cost to the City of Whitehorse. Can I ask the minister to provide that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just a couple of corrections, Mr. Chair. We do not make money on land development. It's done on cost recovery, certainly.
And yes, I do enjoy working with my colleague from Granger. He does represent the people well and speaks for the people in a very good manner, especially on this issue, because he has been into my office many times.
I've assured him that we will continue to work with the city on a partnership basis so that we would be able to overcome the problem that has come there.
Now, just on November 25, residents again have met with the city to ask them to take a look at a central booster pump station, and that was there, because we do know that a booster pump station is going to be very expensive. It will be very expensive. They did consider it. It was found to be too expensive. Again, the folks from Granger had asked them to take another look at it, and I know that the city is going to be looking at it. We're talking in the vicinity of capital costs of $450,000 to $500,000 for the booster station.
So, yes, the department will continue to work with the people to see if we can alleviate and overcome the problem that has arisen.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is approximately correct in the numbers he's put out in the House here. I understand a booster station would be of the magnitude of about $550,000, and just to install the pumps in some of the residences would be a total cost, installed, of $262,500. There would be some individuals who would still have low water pressure and would still not be conforming to the standards that have been set to receive a water pump.
You know, the territorial government has indicated they'll contribute $123,000 and, again, they're going to hide behind a legal opinion that there's no legal obligation but, because the minister's a nice guy, and the fact that the government was part of the original development, they'd like to give some money toward it.
Well, that addresses water in a number of houses, but it doesn't address the issue of meeting the standards for fire protection. The only way that that standard can be met is with a booster station.
Now, that will serve the needs of all of those residents in that area, as well as providing adequate fire protection, and that, Mr. Chair, is what is needed.
This has been known for a long time. In fact, I knew very well the contractor who installed the cross-town main and did a lot of the work in Whitehorse, and that was known back when it was installed, that it was going to be a problem. Why it wasn't done at that time was because of some eventual design that would loop the water system around, that didn't occur, didn't happen, so there is an obligation there.
So, I'm very, very hopeful that we'll just look at something considerably more than this $123,000, because the solution is putting in a booster station. It's not putting in a bunch of pumps in the houses in that area, Mr. Chair, and I'm sure the minister knows that, too.
So, I'm looking for some sort of assurances that we're going to look for a final solution that's in the best interest of the City of Whitehorse and the best interest of the residents of that area and will provide adequate fire protection. Can the minister provide that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, let me say that I'm not hiding from anything; I'm certainly not hiding behind legal opinions. Everything is quite transparent, as the department is.
I will reiterate that I will do research into this. I will get briefed again, although I have been fully briefed on it. The Member for Klondike covers a bit of historic fact there. I will check those issues out. I will do that, but certainly I can bring comfort to the member opposite in saying that I will continue to work with the City of Whitehorse and the MLA from the area so that we might be able to continue to provide a service and to come out for the betterment of all Yukon people. So, yes, I will continue to do that and we will look for solutions that are good for all.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to go back to that issue of the Granger water pressure, speaking as someone who has more knowledge on this issue than anyone else in this House because I was on the City of Whitehorse council at that time when we did that development, to be absolutely clear, it was the Government of Yukon that backed out of that agreement. We thought that the Government of Yukon would provide a booster station right up until they almost broke ground on that subdivision, and it was quite a surprise to all of us when that didn't happen.
Yes, we need a booster station, but certainly the City of Whitehorse does regular testing of their hydrants throughout the City of Whitehorse and does provide adequate fire protection throughout. They do pressure testing, they do sediment testing and they do provide adequate pressure throughout the city. It may not be the best, but there is enough for the lowest standard in some areas.
The municipal government is the one that makes a decision about this, not the people in this House. Certainly it's important that the people in this Legislature talk about these issues within the City of Whitehorse but, basically, the one who's going to be doing the negotiations is the City of Whitehorse with Community and Transportation Services, and I think it's something that we need to be very mindful of, that the City of Whitehorse is the player in this, not representatives from other areas of the city sitting in this Legislature.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $548,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Mr. Jenkins: I don't know how much time - and I would suspect no time - the minister spends looking at some of the garbage dumps, or sanitary landfills, operated by the Government of the Yukon. I've missed only a couple of them in the Yukon this year, Mr. Chair, and the maintenance level that is provided by the municipalities to their sanitary landfill sites is of a very high standard around the Yukon Territory, but there's always room for improvement. The one area that is sadly lacking are the dumps that are operated by the Government of the Yukon. The maintenance is nowhere near the standard that I would deem acceptable, right down to blowing debris, and things of that nature. I check on about three of them on a regular basis between the community I live in and coming south.
I can tell the minister that I would be looking toward spending the money in these various categories, rather than looking at a surplus, because they're not spending it on adequate maintenance of the garbage dump, and the garbage dump maintenance is not being adequately performed.
It would appear to be an affliction that is directed right to the ones operated by the Government of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I must certainly accept that backdoor compliment, or the back alley to the dump, or whatever it is. And who knows? Certainly, some day in the near future in the next summer, we might have the pleasure of running into the Member for Klondike at the dump, and we can settle our issue there. If they are recyclable or not, we'll be able to have the opportunity, I'm sure.
But I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to speak to this, because dumps and the management of dumps are quite serious initiatives here in the Yukon Territory. As you know, the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources is going to be working toward solid waste management. Certainly, there might be three of us at the dump, but I'm sure that we'll have a good time.
But Mr. Chair, in this specific instance, this is a decrease of $20,000 because of the village council's decision in Haines Junction not to proceed with the relocation, because we were looking to assist them in that area.
Solid Waste in the amount of an underexpenditure of $20,000 agreed to
On Flood/Erosion Control
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, this $33,000 is a revote, and it's for riverbank erosion protection in the Old Crow area. We were looking to complete the work identified in the capital funding agreement with the First Nation, so that is for the riverbank erosion in front of Old Crow.
Mr. Jenkins: Has there been any engineering study done on the banks of the Porcupine River in Old Crow? There's considerable erosion in quite a number of areas there that is going to ultimately affect the airport, Mr. Chair, and I was just wondering what steps - is there a long-range plan to address the issue of the Porcupine riverbank erosion in Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that's something I'll have to check and provide the member opposite with.
Flood/Erosion Control in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Quarry Development
Mrs. Edelman: May I have more detail, please.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. This decrease is due to the limited rehabilitation work on quarries required to be carried out this fiscal year.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, are there any particular quarries that we're working on right now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we've completed work on the McLean Lake quarry this year.
Quarry Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $20,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, can I have more detail on that line, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. This reduction of $273,000 is related to the Kopper King commercial infrastructure development - it's not to proceed at this time. It's looking at working with the City of Whitehorse on this issue, but it's going to be deferred for awhile.
Commercial in the amount of an underexpenditure of $273,000 agreed to
Agricultural in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, certainly I'd like more detail on this line, but more particularly, a good portion of this is the Copper Ridge subdivision, if I recall from previous briefings. I'm still wondering why we're developing these very small urban lots in the City of Whitehorse when we have such a huge land inventory that the Auditor General was telling us we shouldn't be holding. We continue to build lots that we can't sell.
On the other hand, there is a very large demand for country residential, and we don't seem to be meeting that. It's a very, very poor economy. It's costing us a lot to hold these lots in inventory and we continue to build them. Plainly, there is no demand.
I understand the need to keep land in inventory, but we have got excessive land in inventory in the Yukon right now, and I'm wondering why do we continue to build this subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, the member knows that we are doing work in reconfiguration and planning in certain rural areas. We're doing that in conjunction with the residents and we are giving them the opportunity, as I've explained in the House before. We will continue to do that type of initiative and we're quite positive that with the good work we're doing in Economic Development and Tourism and other areas, we will come out of this quagmire that we're in.
I have asked the same question and it's been stated we are simply two years in good time ahead of the demand, if I could say so. It's felt that it is certainly necessary to continue with this, and yes, $275,000 of that is required for Copper Ridge, which has undergone utilities and road works contracts that have been carried forward.
Mrs. Edelman: Over the last 10 years, lots that the City of Whitehorse has developed, in conjunction with Community and Transportation Services, have been getting smaller and smaller. They look like little cookie-cutter lots. They're all identical. They're priced the same, no matter whether they're view lots or they are interior lots, or they're on crescents, or whatever. There doesn't seem to be any thought given to these subdivisions. They just look -
One of the reasons they don't sell - clearly, one of the reasons they don't sell - is because they're not good lots. People need land in good times to build homes on, but if the lots keep getting smaller and smaller, and if there's no price differential on them, and people don't get the opportunity to buy two lots side by side, so at least they can make a decent sized lot for a decent sized home, then we're not going to get anywhere.
Quite frankly, I have brought this issue up on a municipal level for at least six years, certainly, when I sat on the planning board for four of those years, and I've been bringing it up in this House consistently ever since I was elected. I think it's important that we start looking at that issue. Why do we build these smaller and smaller and smaller lots in the City of Whitehorse, and expect them to sell, especially at a time when we have an economy that's in the toilet?
I've spoken to the minister about this on a number of occasions, and I'm still wondering whether the Department of Community and Transportation Services will give any thought at all to looking at the way they develop these urban subdivisions within the City of Whitehorse, and look at other configurations, other lot prices, at least more attractive lots, and larger lots for the people of the City of Whitehorse to buy.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the member raises a point, and I would be more than happy to sit down with the member, in the department, and talk about these issues with the member, so that the member can get an understanding of how it is done. It's an attempt, again, to provide affordable lots. That is what, basically, the attempt is.
So, you know, the member says it's not cosmetically appealing, I guess in one sense, but certainly we're looking for different areas and different ways, and working quite hard with the city and other partners to try and provide that. Therein is the answer. We want fully serviced urban residential lots that are affordable, but I would certainly be willing to sit down with the member and come to an understanding, if I may, on that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have been listening to that line from Community and Transportation Services for 10 years. It's the line where the lots have to be affordable for people, so you build smaller and smaller lots in the same configuration, and you don't get anywhere with the Department of Community and Transportation Services because you get the same line back over and over and over again. The demand is there.
The lots in Takhini subdivision that the federal government put on the market were selling for $60,000, and some of those lots moved so fast it was incredible. The last lot on Ponderosa sold for $65,000. There is a demand out there in good times for different-size and different-configuration lots within the City of Whitehorse. People don't want to buy an itty bitty tiny lot where they are only two or three feet away from their neighbour's bathroom when they go in the morning. Honest to pete, Mr. Chair, it's way too close for comfort.
I talked to the minister about this, and I've got the same line back again and again and again, and I know that municipal officials, over the years, have brought this issue forward to the Department of Community and Transportation Services and got exactly the same answer, and at least that's good, because it has been completely consistent. However, there are lots that we could be developing in this city that would sell, even in these poor economic times, if they were configured differently and a little bit larger. I don't think that's an unreasonable request.
I know that the minister wants me to sit down with the department so I can hear that same line over and over and over again, but that's not going to get us anywhere.
I hope that the minister has heard once again what I've said today, and perhaps he can go and think about that, but we need to start thinking about developing sellable lots, urban residential lots in the City of Whitehorse and throughout the Yukon, and I hope that the minister will think about that at least, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I will consider what the member said. I know that the member is saying not to do away with affordable lots, that's not the point, but to look at other lots. I can speak to my friend, the forestry commissioner, and see if we can get a tree-planting expedition or something like that. But no, in a very serious tone, I hear the member opposite, and I will certainly consider that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, another issue on land development that's come up in this House this session has been the issue of the Tagish lot development - just over the bridge.
Now, there was a petition that was tabled in the Legislature from almost all of the affected residents in that area, so it's almost 100 percent of the people that were affected by that new development.
Now, it's my understanding that - and certainly I've been contacted by a great number of them after they heard the response from the minister on the petition. And they're not pleased with the response they heard to the petition. They are still very, very concerned about this development, and it is my understanding that a number of them have applied for lot enlargements in that area - almost all of them, as a matter of fact, have applied for lot enlargements in that area. They hadn't done that previously because they were told by the department that they couldn't possibly get them - that's why there was no demand.
Now, can the minister update the House on that development and where it sits? When is the consultation going to occur? Is it going to occur in the winter when nobody's around? What is the latest on the Tagish lot development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I've sent a letter, and I've asked my staff - so I've sent a letter, after the petition, and encouraged every person who had signed the petition to please - we've given till, off the top of my head, I think until the end of this calendar year, but this was done a month and a half, two months ago, so we've given opportunity for them to make extension. I've instructed my political staff to do follow-up on that, to ensure that they realize that there's an opportunity there. In visitation to the community, I've expressed that also.
So I thank the member for bringing this up, because it certainly is a wonderful opportunity to be able to work with people to fulfill some of their desires - historical desires, in this case.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this area of Tagish has got a great number of retired individuals there. Many of them are what we call "snowbirds" - which means they leave the territory in the winter. They're not available.
So, if the minister is contacting them by letter, then they are not going to receive those letters, very likely, until the spring when they come back. Now, at that point the consultation will apparently have finished, and this is an issue that was brought forward to the department at the so-called consultation meeting in the fall - that this was going to be a problem, that these people are snowbirds, and that you can't contact them in the winter, because they're not there.
Now, is the minister going to go ahead with development in this area, based on the somewhat limited consultation he's going to have with the few people who live there year-round in the Tagish area, who are going to be affected?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For the snowbird portion of the Tagish population, it certainly has to be considered into it. But, when I was there in the summer, talking to the people at the community meeting, and when the member opposite was also there in the summer, talking to people, and people signed the petition, we contacted most every person.
But I hear what the member's saying, and certainly consultation wouldn't be consultation unless you have people contacted and brought out. So I will check into that, and if I do feel that there's been adequate consultation and process, we will continue to make decisions. If it's not good consultation, then certainly we'll make every effort.
So I hope I can bring you comfort by saying that we'll make every effort to be able to contact people on this historic problem, but certainly we will do that.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm quite pleased with that commitment from the minister about consultation and decision making. One of the other issues that I spoke about earlier was the lot enlargement issue. Apparently quite a large number of individuals in that area have applied for lot enlargements. Are we going to be waiting for this decision on the land development before we'll be granting lot enlargements, or are we going to be doing lot enlargements first, and then doing the configuration on the development?
It's my understanding, and the minister seems to be indicating then, that they're going to be doing the lot enlargements first, and then we will be doing the development at Tagish after that. Is that the right understanding?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we're going to give every opportunity to the people who have lived there, in some cases, for as many years as I am old, and that's just too many years than I want to admit. I am offering every consideration to those people, so that they might have the opportunity, and we're going to look for people in certain cases to provide them with that opportunity, and then proceed.
So, certainly, it will be done in conjunction with the wishes and desires of the folks within the community.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, before we leave this section on roads and public health, Mr. Chair, I just have one other issue that I'd like to raise with the minister and it sort of crosses over into his Tourism portfolio. The Tourism department, along with Parks Canada, has erected a whole series of signs along some of the mining roads in the Klondike. They look great; they do an admirable job, but what it's done is encourage more and more people to travel up that way and that's great and I'm talking specifically about the Hunker, Dominion, Sulfur, Granville Loop.
What the signs do not say and what is causing concern is that there are no services up in that area and it's quite an extensive loop. Either the department responsible for highways, or someone, should be posting a sign like at the beginning of the Dempster that there are no services for X number of kilometers or that there are no services in this area.
I would encourage the minister to have his officials look at that road, just cutting back the brush in a number of areas and taking a few corners out - I believe there are six corners that have been brought to my attention - could enhance public safety in that area, but the Department of Tourism has done a very good job with their signage in that area, as has Parks Canada.
We're encouraging our visitors to go out and see the mining field, but we have to make it as safe as possible. So, I'd like to ask the minister to have a look at those areas and see if this can be addressed for the next visitor season, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the request from the Member for Klondike certainly seems like a reasonable request and the safety of our tourists or our travelling public at large is something that is paramount in our minds. So certainly, I can have that brought up and yes, Mr. Chair, we can look at it through the other road program, of some sort, in the applicable time. So, I will have officials travel there and to check into it.
Residential in the amount of $909,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any question on the recoveries?
Mr. Jenkins: Just as a note of interest, the funds are flowing from Uncle Sam to the Government of Canada to the Government of the Yukon for the Shakwak. When does the government envision going out to tender the next Shakwak contract? I'm hoping it will be as early as possible in the new year, Mr. Chair, but could the minister give the House some indication of when the next Shakwak contract will be let out to public tender?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. As the money flows from Uncle Sam to Uncle Jean to Captain Piers and delegated to Minister Keenan, yes, we will surely see that it gets out in a best effort and as early as possible, because we certainly want to keep our people working and get them working. So, yes, as early as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for, Mr. Chair, are timelines. Can we look forward to seeing a pre-tender call in February of this forthcoming year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I will give the best efforts to get it out as early as possible. After talking with the department and seeing what is possible, I will forward that information to the member opposite, but certainly, sooner is better.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $13,448,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, this Supplementary Estimates No. 2 reflects our government's commitment to invest monies in areas that are consistent with our objectives to promote a healthy economy and to create jobs and economic opportunities.
The supplementary itself consists of, for the most part, initiatives consistent with our trade and investment diversification strategy. There are other areas of investment along the lines of the oil and gas revenue sharing agreement that we have with Yukon First Nations. That is offset by a recovery of $500,000. There are also impacts of the recent collective agreement that was negotiated through conciliation with the Yukon Government Employees Union.
As well, Mr. Chair, there is $140,000, which is utilized for the development of the immigrant investment fund. We will be using it as a loan, which will be offset. So it's recoverable. These are monies that will be used to start the fund in the coming year.
So, with that, there's not a lot of large expenditure items. I'll be prepared to answer questions in general debate.
Mr. Ostashek: I have some questions in this department. As the minister knows, we've been asking questions all through this session on the state of the Yukon's economy and raising concerns of Yukoners, so I think it's an opportunity to try to get some answers that we can't get in Question Period to some of the concerns of residents.
One other area that I need to explore with the minister a little bit is that the largest part of this supplementary budget he's putting in is an additional $1.7 million into the community development fund. I know that members of government see this as the be-all and end-all to creating employment in the Yukon but, quite clearly, from the state of our economy, it isn't working as well as the government believes it is working.
We know that communities like it and know that organizations like it as a quick way of getting money. Since they've been in power now two years, this program has been revitalized One of the first acts they did upon coming back into government was to revitalize the community development fund.
The minister knows that we have concerns with how the program is administered and the fact that ministers have a final say in the money going out, but that's not the area that I want to explore now. I want to explore with the minister what checks and balances, what procedures have been put in place to identify the amount of jobs that are being created and the impact that it's having on the community.
Because we have many, many businesses - many contractors - that are complaining that they don't get the opportunity to bid on a lot of these projects that are being funded under the community development fund. And it's not one contractor; there have been numerous contractors that have raised this issue with us.
I believe if we're going to have a program of this type that doesn't come on the floor of this Legislature, then I would hope that the department and the minister would have some clear criteria to measure the effectiveness of this program. Because there are examples all over the Yukon of projects that were funded under community development that weren't very good projects. They might have created some short-term jobs, but they've done nothing to promote employment in the long term.
So I would like to ask the minister what benchmarks they have. Are they tracking to see the number of jobs that are being created? Are they tracking to see if these are long-lasting jobs, or are these just short-term construction jobs that are going to last for a few months and we have no real economic benefits from the projects after that?
So I'll just stop there, and let the minister reply.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm please to answer questions. I would have actually hoped there were more questions in Question Period on the economy. If I were in opposition, I would have asked a lot more about the economy right now.
Let me say to the member opposite that, with regard to the Community Development Fund, we do track person-weeks, and we announce them, mostly at the time that we put forward the press releases announcing the projects. The member opposite says that there are a lot of bad projects that have been funded by the community development fund.
Maybe he could pick 10 or 12 out. It seems like there's a lot that he likes to pick. Surely, they'll go after anything in Faro, but maybe he could go beyond that and pick a few more of these community development fund projects that are so bad, and I can respond to that.
Frankly, I see a lot of good projects. I see a lot of economic initiatives undertaken. One could argue that you could put $500,000 in a piece of road restructuring, and that that would be economic development. I'm sure that's what the member opposite would say. But he referenced, himself, short-term construction jobs, and that's exactly what that particular work would create as well: short-term construction jobs.
I've got the project list here. I suppose I could go through it, and I could pick probably dozens of economic initiatives undertaken, from hard infrastructure projects to studies and work that have been done on all kinds of marketing initiatives, from the Chamber of Mines, the Tourism Industry Association, all kinds of positive initiatives that were undertaken that have a positive economic and social impact on communities.
So, we do track the person-weeks of employment, and that's a focal point of the criteria that we use to determine whether something is going to be funded or not.
As well, Mr. Chair, this winter, we're going to put a particularly strong emphasis on the number of person-weeks, and that's why we've increased the fund this year.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, that's exactly why we don't ask questions in Question Period, because all we get is a bunch of political rhetoric from this minister. I asked him a very specific question: what benchmarks does he have in place to tell us how effective this program is? Once again, he refused to answer the question. Then he wonders why we don't ask him questions in Question Period.
I want to know what benchmarks he has in place to see the effectiveness of this program. We don't have the right, we don't have the ability to question these programs on the floor of this Legislature because they bypass the Legislature, so I think it's incumbent upon this minister to come back with some benchmarks as to how effective this program is. Will the minister do that? If he doesn't have it now, will he bring them back in a legislative return so we can raise this issue in the spring again?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I take issue with the member's statement that they don't have the right to raise questions about the community development fund - pick a project, raise an issue right now. Raise it right now. So, the member shouldn't tell me that he doesn't have the opportunity to raise these issues in this Legislature because that's not the case. Raise it right now. Pick a project. I'll give him a page of them.
Mr. Chair, I think that the member opposite wants some information on the person-weeks. I'd be more than pleased to present that information to him.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want more than person-weeks. I want to know how the effectiveness of this $5 million expenditure is being measured. That's a substantial amount of money and taxpayers have a right to know how effectively that money is being spent. It's incumbent upon the minister to bring that information to this House.
There is $5.2 million in that program now and very little accountability. So, I want to know the person-weeks of short-term employment, I want to know the lasting impact it's going to have on employment in the Yukon and I want to know what other benchmarks his department is using to measure the effectiveness of this program. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: What I'll do, Mr. Chair is write some of the organizations, like the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, Learning Disabilities of the Yukon, the Downtown Urban Gardeners Society, YES, the Yukon Quest, the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, the Ross River Dena, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, YukonNet, the Yukon Scottish Club, the Carpenters Hall, the l'Association Franco-Yukonnais, Yukon Arts Council, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Watson Lake Daycare and I'll ask them if they feel that the monies that they received under the CDF were successfully used and contributed healthy initiatives to that community.
And, Mr. Chair, I'll provide those letters in response to the member opposite. Then he can judge if that's a good enough benchmark for him.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, this minister is abrogating his responsibilities as a minister of the Crown. Every one of these organizations is going to be happy to get government funding. We know that. We know that, but I want to know how the department is measuring the effectiveness of spending $5 million a year of taxpayers' money, and whether the taxpayers are getting their money's worth. I don't want an endorsement from the organizations. I know that endorsement is there. I want to know what this minister and his department are doing to measure the effectiveness of a very expensive program, and if it's effective and is working, fine. But the department ought to have some benchmarks in place to do some accurate measurement of the effectiveness of this program. That's what I'm asking the minister, and I'd like his commitment that he'll bring it back for the spring session.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member may object, but, Mr. Chair, I think it is a valuable benchmarking tool to get feedback from the organizations who have benefited from the money, who will explain the benefits, and we listen to those community people. We don't mistrust their analysis. So, we utilize what they say as a benchmark for determining how successful this program is. I can't understand how the member would take issue with that.
Mr. Chair, I told the member that I will bring him the benchmark on person-weeks, and I will bring him any other benchmark that we utilize, including what I just discussed with him, and I'd be more than happy to provide that for him.
Mr. Ostashek: Can the minister tell us on his feet what other criteria they look at for the effectiveness of this program? Can he tell us now? Has he got a briefing note on it? Or, his deputy is sitting beside him, can tell us what other criteria they are using to measure the effectiveness of this program, other than the endorsement from the organizations out in the public?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, our first priority, Mr. Chair, is obviously the economic impact of the initiative, but we don't limit it to that, because we also know that there are other considerations and benchmarks that we utilize - social, cultural. We benchmark it by the general support of the community to determine whether or not it's a priority initiative.
These are all put into the mesh, in terms of determining what we determine are going to be the benchmarks for establishing, first of all, whether or not we're going to fund a particular project and, secondly, whether or not we feel it's an appropriate expenditure once it's made.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, I'll look forward to getting that from the minister. I'll just tell the minister that the best social program he can have is a good paying job for Yukoners, something that we're dearly short of right now in the Yukon economy.
Whether the minister wants to believe it or not, people out on the street aren't happy with the performance of this government in relationship to the economy. There was just a program on TV Monday night - I haven't had the chance to see the program yet; I understand it's going to be around a couple more times because of popular demand - where Yukoners are saying what the opposition is saying is right on, and what the government is saying, they don't believe.
So the minister can stand up and espouse all the political rhetoric he wants. Whatever he is doing is not having a positive impact on Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, I've had people in my office who have broken down because they're on the verge of bankruptcy; they're on the verge of losing their home; they can't get work. One brought up the example of the Yukon hire, says it's not working, that outsiders are still getting jobs, and they're not getting them. People are very, very demoralized out there, and this is having a serious impact on them. I would like this government to listen, and listen hard, to what the opposition's been saying about what Yukoners are saying, because what the people who are coming to my office are telling me is that they don't believe that the government is talking to people on the street, because what they say in this Legislature doesn't bear any resemblance to what's happening out there in the Yukon society.
We just had two more businesses this week make announcements. One announced that they're closing. We had another one announce that it's got cutbacks in the number of people they've got working. And we understand that there's another one coming before the 18th of this month.
Those are not positive signs for our economy, and that's why we've been urging this government to do something - something radical, something different from what they've been doing. Trade and investment's fine - we've said that time and time again. Every good government does that. But it's not answering replacing the jobs that we've lost in the Yukon in the last two years.
And I would urge the minister to listen carefully to what's been said - not only by us, but by Yukoners in general - and try to come up with some new ideas as to how to kick-start this economy and put some people to work. We're not short of money; the government has all kinds of money. It's a matter of what their priorities are.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I do listen to Yukoners all the time. I just don't take for granted what the member opposite says is indeed the case. I know there are tough times out there. I represent a community that's in the worst of times right now. And I'm out in the community all the time, talking to people on the street. And I know that there's some pain out there, and Mr. Chair, I don't discount that for one second.
But Mr. Chair, I don't do what the member opposite did when he was government leader. I've got a cartoon in here of him with the Rastafarian hairdo going, "Don't worry, be happy", back in 1993-94 when the GDP dropped 22 percent - when the workforce was 14,000 instead of the number we have today, around 15,000. When things were very, very bad he was telling everybody, "Don't worry, be happy."
Now, I don't say that, Mr. Chair. I say, we are undertaking a number of initiatives on the economy. We are doing what we can to try and deal with a very difficult situation.
Mr. Chair, it's very important that we continue on with all the initiatives that we have undertaken, to try and deal with economic discord for the people of the territory.
The member opposite says, "Yukon hire's not working." I say that's not the case. I say that Yukon hire has been a very positive contributor to the territory, and some people are not going to get jobs, and they will look to reasons stating why they didn't get the job. But the numbers don't bear that out, when you look at the number of business contracts, for example, that have gone to Yukon businesses.
We've tabled actual and very factual proof that indeed, since we've implemented Yukon hire, the number of contracts to Yukon businesses has gone up considerably.
So I don't agree with the member there. The member opposite says do something radical on the economy. What - raise taxes like he did? I don't think that's what Yukoners want us to do. I'm not going to do something radical. No matter how many times he asks, I'm not going to raise taxes and overspend, spend over half a million dollars.
Again he brought up government spending. He says the government's got lots of money; therefore, I suggest he wants us to spend more money. So, again, the false economy. Advance capital projects so that we have less capital money next year. What kind of planning is that? That's a complete roller-coaster ride.
So, Mr. Chair, the member opposite doesn't have to lecture me about the pain out there. I know it full well. I talk to Yukoners all the time.
But the member shouldn't overstate it. He shouldn't forget the past, when he was government leader, when we lost the Faro mine, and he should not completely discount all the work we're doing on a whole slew of new areas.
Mr. Chair, when did he ever initiate tax reform? He never did. The only tax reform he did was raise them. When did he ever initiate immigrant investment funding for access to capital? Never. That's a brand-new program. When did he ever initiate a program to go through a red tape review to cut regulations for business? Never. That's a new program.
Mr. Chair, when did he ever unveil a brand-new training strategy and invest in training trust funds around this territory? Never. That's a new initiative. Mr. Chair, the list goes on and on and on.
Mr. Chair, what did he do with oil and gas? Well, it died on the Order Paper. If it wasn't for this government, the Yukon Oil and Gas Act would be nowhere. It would've never gotten the approval of Yukon First Nations and, therefore, the federal minister would never have devolved that resource to this territory.
Mr. Chair, we are going to move on oil and gas development in this territory, because we think it's needed, and if the member opposite, heaven forbid, was still government leader, that act would be completely dormant.
So, Mr. Chair, I know what's going on out in that territory. I talk to people very day on the street, and we're working very hard to deal with the problems that they face as Yukoners, so I resent the member opposite stating we're not.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the member can resent it all he likes, and I thank him for that speech, because I'm going to send it to several hundred Yukoners. I'm going to send it to them, because it just shows how naīve the minister is when it comes to the economy in the Yukon.
That's exactly what Yukoners are accusing them of: sitting up and espousing political rhetoric, blaming somebody else for his problems. Whatever this government is doing to put Yukoners to work is not working. Can't that minister get that through his head? Yukoners are telling us that every day.
I suggest that he get out on the street and talk to some Yukoners and quit looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses. Nobody is asking him to raise taxes. We said that the government has got all the money they need. What they need to do is adjust their priorities. Quit increasing the government by 5.2 percent, when the number of private sector workers is going down.
Mr. Chair, this government took over an economy that had the largest number of workers in it that it ever had. It took over something with the lowest unemployment in August of 1996, and they blew it, and they blew it in spades. There are 2,000 fewer workers now in the Yukon than there were when this government came to power, so all of these things that the Minister of Economic Development thinks he's doing right are clearly not working.
They are not putting Yukoners to work. Yukoners are still leaving in droves, and the minister ought to be able to see that and not try to hide. He can resent it all he likes. I'm here to bring that message to him, and I'll bring it to him, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I have another question in general debate that I'd like to ask the minister. We see $5.2 million in the community development fund. We see full-page ads running in the papers inviting Yukoners to come and get this money. I want to know what the advertising budget is, not only for the community development fund. I'd like that one broken out. I don't need it right now. I'll wait for the spring session to get it. I'll ask for it in a legislative return so we'll have it in writing. I want to know what the advertising budget for the Department of Economic Development is, and I'd like to know how much that's increased over the previous budget. Could the minister do that for me?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I will, Mr. Chair, but first, before I get to that, I'm going to take issue with what the member said in his statement to the effect that we took over this wonderful economy and then blew it.
Well, Mr. Chair, what happened with that economy could be told across this country in terms of the resource sector. I was just reading today, you know, when you rely on the resource sector, what happens when the cyclical nature of it comes home to roost. The government of Alaska has just announced, due to oil prices, that they're going to have a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and have to tie into the permanent fund. Alberta, because of the sustained low prices in oil, is starting to see the results on particularly the oil companies' exploration budgets and this winter is considerably slower than the last couple.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite forgets, just conveniently, that the $50 million hospital construction project ended the year we got elected. He forgets that in November - I mean, we hadn't even hooked up the phones yet in our offices and - we got a call from Kurt Forgaard, the CEO of Anvil, stating that they were going to be shutting down the mine. Somehow that's our fault and that we blew it.
Well, Mr. Chair, that's 20 percent of the gross domestic product of the territory and 1,000 jobs. How many Yukoners were working on that $50 million hospital project that came to an end? The member's revisionist history is far too simple, far too simple for the truth.
Mr. Chair, the work we're doing in oil and gas and the work we're doing in trade investment I think is welcome and appreciated, and it's something we are investing in long term for this territory. It's having some short-term benefits and there are some businesses that are benefiting immediately.
I think of businesses like Northerm and Hypoborean, which are increasing their export markets, and we've been working with them on that. We've got over 70 businesses doing casework on trade and investment initiatives. Our list of partners from business, labour and education is growing on this initiative.
Mr. Chair, I admit that that is difficult to filter down to the street, and when I go into Tim Horton's - like I do very often in the morning - and I talk to people, it's hard to have a good discussion about trade and investment, because these people are either wanting to know, very quickly, when they're going to work, or they're wanting to know, very quickly, what you're doing to try and make sure they do.
And when you talk about things that are going to take, in some cases, a short-term, medium-term, long-term outlook, that doesn't always satisfy them. But I think it's the right thing to do, in terms of future direction.
That's not to say we're abandoning, in any way, our traditional sectors - quite the contrary to that. We are increasing our efforts in the development of a mineral strategy, for example, in the mining sector. Mr. Chair, just last week a production shift started in Watson Lake - a brand-new mill. Millions of dollars of investment during the time that this government was in power. That's the resource sector.
Not only that, Mr. Chair, we're hopeful - but we're not sure now, because the price of copper has hit almost 20-year lows now - that the Minto mine will go this spring and fall. But we've been told now that even though the mill footings are poured, Asarco's going to wait to see if they can get the price of copper to rebound from these terrible lows. That is unfortunate, because that would have been probably 120 jobs, if you count the spinoffs, if not more. But we're hopeful.
We've got nothing but positive comments from the owners in Minto. Asarco themselves flew up here and said they respected very much the attitude of this government. It's their only new mineral investment in North America in years. They thanked me personally, and said, "We come where we feel welcome." Those were their exact words.
The member opposite should know that we are doing a lot of things to try to create economic activity. It's going to be difficult for this territory to come to grips with the fact that we may not have the Faro mine for a long time.
That is going to change the economy of this territory. It's got to be replaced, but it can't be done overnight, and if we build expectations to the point where we all think that the Government of the Yukon can either employ people directly - $1,000 people - or create $1,000 jobs overnight, then that is not plausible, that's not reasonable unless, by some miraculous event, we got lucky. I don't think it's responsible for us to approach the economy on that basis.
So all the initiatives that I've outlined are generated to try to help those people in Tim Horton's, the people in Faro, the people up in Mayo, the people in Ross River, people in Watson Lake, who are trying to go to work. That's what they're all about. They may not be the immediate response to the woes that they're having if they're unemployed, and I recognize that. Seeing the people in my riding suffer through what they're going through, I know it first-hand. A lot of my friends - a lot of long-time Yukoners, people who've been in Faro for 25 years - had to leave because the mine shut down for the third time since 1992.
I've had a three-generation family, very good friends of mine, leave our community, and many, many more, and that's very unfortunate, but they know, and if I ask them today if they thought that this government could change the forces of that mine, they would say no, and they know we've tried. So that's the reality.
With regard to advertising numbers, I'll be more than happy to provide that to the member opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, just a little bit on rebuttal here, before I let my colleagues get in here.
Let's look at the statistical review for November 1998. Gold is, in fact, up from 1997. It's up some 2.8 percent; up $12.05 an ounce. Silver is up 15 percent. The minister's right, lead and zinc, copper, are down from where they were in 1997, but the minister must remember that, in 1997, according to his own short-term economic outlook, zinc averaged 59 cents a pound.
So, metal prices may play some role in it, but they are not the only reason.
The other thing is that the member continues to talk about losing 1,000 jobs with the Faro mine going down. He's absolutely right, but what about the other 1,000 that are lost, that are gone from the Yukon. Those aren't because of the Faro mine. Those are because of other factors, and that's what I'm trying to get through to him. While the minister and the government are doing things on trade and investment, immigrant investment strategy, people aren't seeing any benefits to that. That's not going to help them put groceries on the table this winter. People are worried, and whatever the government could do to give them some comfort and some optimism would certainly help. I think the minister better think seriously about that.
Let's talk about the Watson Lake sawmill that he's brought up several times in the last few weeks. The minister is fully aware that they only have logs to operate until spring breakup, and if they are fortunate enough to make a deal with the Liard First Nation, they'll be able to operate until the middle of June. The mill needs a substantial amount of wood before it will be in a position where it has really got some level of certainty to it.
They don't have that. They don't have a timber harvesting agreement, and they're going to need one, or they are going to have great difficulty in making it. They can continue to buy, as they are, from independent operators, but as soon as the price of logs go up outside, the minister knows full well that they are going to have difficulty competing with the price.
So, there is a lot of uncertainty with that mill yet. I wish them every success in the world because, heaven knows, Watson Lake needs it and the Yukon needs it. But unless they can come up with a timber harvesting agreement of their own so they have something to fall back on, their lives in the Yukon might be shortlived.
There's a major investment there, and they don't have the wood to supply that mill - any certainty of the wood to supply that mill. So there's a lot of work to be done there yet before the minister should be bragging too much about that. But it is a little bit of a bright light; it's a glimmer of hope, and hopefully they will be able to get a timber harvesting permit.
Can the minister tell me, is his department tracking? We hear so much about trade and investment, immigrant investment policy, all of these great programs that this minister is hanging his hat on for the future of the Yukon that are putting absolutely nobody to work in the Yukon right now. Is the minister's department tracking what benchmarks they have in place to see the effectiveness of these programs? Have there been any jobs created - any long-term jobs created - in these programs?
I know the programs are new, and I'm not criticizing the minister if they're not. I just want to know, and Yukoners want to know. They would like to know. Can the minister bring back a report on that, as to what they're using for benchmarks to monitor the effectiveness of the money they're spending, because they are spending a substantial amount of money in these areas?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member just said absolutely no jobs were being created, and I would challenge that. The Government Leader met with one of the people who've benefited directly from a trade initiative of the government, just last night, as a matter of fact, and they take quite a contrary view of that.
The members opposite have been very critical of the efforts of Mr. Drury and Letang to try and find work opportunities, not just in the Yukon, but expand their markets. That boggles my mind, frankly, because I do think that companies that are able to compete and work abroad are stronger back home, and companies in Alaska and B.C., and Alberta, and everywhere else, do the same thing. To not do that would be, I think, a crying shame.
The government, contrary to what the member opposite thinks, cannot put everybody to work in this territory through O&M or capital, for that matter.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite talked about the sawmill in Watson Lake, and I am fully aware of the problem they have with logs. Even though the federal government has control of that equation, we are working with them on an almost daily basis, through Economic Development and through the MLA and myself, to try and help them with that serious issue.
The member opposite talked about the Nedaa program. He might want to watch that himself and he'll see the proponents of the mill say that the Yukon government has been very cooperative in helping them with this very important initiative.
We have received a lot of cooperative spirit from them and we are trying extremely hard to help them to deal with the problems because I respect, as one citizen of this territory, the extensive investment they have made in the Yukon, and I want them to be successful and I think they should be successful. For them not to be would be a crying shame. So, we're going to put a lot of effort into that particular initiative. I want to see it succeed.
When I toured in Alaska with a couple of gentlemen, the Kerr brothers, who are putting together this particular mill with others, I was really pleased with their entrepreneurial spirit and the work that they put into it. So, we're deeply committed to working with them.
The member opposite opened up by talking about gold prices. Surely, he's got to admit - he can't be that much of a philosophical ideologue - that three years of a minus $300 U.S. price per ounce of gold doesn't have an impact on the mining industry. He can't think that's the case.
Why did Colomac and Lupin - and I understand the Con mine in the N.W.T. is just barely limping along; they've got a strike going on right now - all shut down, if a prolonged shutdown is not a factor? What's happening is that people who have sold ahead and hedged don't have the hedging position any more, and the higher cost operators are being pushed out of business. That helps Placer Dome and Barrick Gold and the big ones that are gobbling them up like a big Packman, but it doesn't help the smaller companies. He knows that. I mean, politics aside, he knows that and, Mr. Chair, it doesn't help the placer mining industry either.
You know, you talk to the KPMA and they say, thankfully, the dollar is low. That's helped them out a little bit. If it wasn't for that, the'd be in real, real trouble. Some of them are and some of them have been.
I was reading in the paper the other day - I mean, you talk about the mining industry in this country - Noranda, Cominco, Inco, Falconbridge. Look at their stock prices. Look at what's happening to them.
What Cominco tells me is very, very bad in terms of their production at Red Dog and paying to meet operating costs. They're not making their operating costs. Noranda is cutting back all of their other subsidiary businesses and focusing on mining and minerals. All of their forestry is gone or going to be going. They have targeted the mines that they do have to run at $1 copper - copper is, I think, about 68 cents - and 60-cent zinc, which recently was at 42 cents.
So, the member is going to have a tough time convincing me that prices are irrelevant to the equation. He can argue that probably more on exploration than he can on operation, but that becomes a financing issue, because if the big companies that sometimes fund and option properties off juniors are cutting back, then they don't take as many risks, and they stick with their core operations. I know he knows that.
So, you know, I'd like to have some of the benefits of a big find in the Yukon, and I think that would spur a lot of exploration. Hopefully, we'll get that, and if the prices returned, that would also yield to some operating mines. If we could get some changes to the federal permitting process in the meantime, while DAP is being worked out under the bluebook process, which has basically died under the federal minister, that would also be helpful, as well, because companies like Western Copper can only stay in this game for so long. It has been about four years now.
So, I think there are a lot of problems out there, and the member, at least in Committee of the Whole, should be prepared to admit that there is some tough sledding out there, right across this country, in the resource sector.
Mr. Ostashek: I asked the minister a question, and he failed to answer it. What is he using for measurements on his programs? I want that. He can stand up there and say all the rhetoric he wants. I have a chance in Committee to come back and ask the question again.
I don't want them today. I want a legislative return with the benchmarks that he's using on these different investment programs. There's a lot of money being spent, and if it's working, fine, I'll support it. But I want to see some real benchmarks that are in place to measure the effectiveness of the dollars that we're spending. I want to see that we're getting a return on them.
Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yeah, I will, Mr. Chair. Let me just say, while I'm on my feet, that we can provide that criteria, and a lot of it was already provided to the member opposite. When we signed on with our partners, we signed a three-year commitment to this particular initiative.
My department has been on warp speed, working extremely hard, and I just want to say that I appreciate that. They've been busting their - I guess I can't say that in here - but they've been falling all over themselves to try and meet the agenda; working very long hours and dealing with a lot of new issues and complex problems that we, as a Yukon government, generically, haven't had to face in the past.
So, I'll get that for the member opposite, but I also want to say that I, for one, am very proud of the work that the department's done - not just in trade and investment, but in the mining side, in the oil and gas side, the policy people, the people doing community development work. All the people in the department have been working extremely hard.
Mr. Cable:The department periodically puts out economic forecasts. When is the next economic forecast scheduled for public delivery?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am advised it will be just before the budget.
Mr. Cable: Is that a commitment? Do I hear the minister saying we're going to get it before the budget?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I don't want to lock myself into a specific date, but I'll tell the member opposite that I'll try to do it in accordance with the timing that is done every year, and I'll do my best to get it out. I can't remember exactly when that is, but I'll check, and I'll try to get it out by that date.
Mr. Cable: What projections are we working on right now? What projections is the minister working on with respect to unemployment rates and the gross territorial product and construction in the upcoming calendar year of 1999? Where do we see those indicators going?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, this would be a non-economist informed view of the world. It's my own from discussions with my department officials, but I think that we are obviously working on an assumption that the Faro mine will not be operating, that our capital budgets will remain fairly consistent, and the economist is going to have to make some assumptions about things like the impact of the mill in Watson Lake. Can they get a wood supply? They are going to have to make assumptions about oil and gas activity, what would actually take place in the coming year. They're going to have to make assumptions about copper prices, and that could impact 120 jobs, for example, with the Minto mine.
So, I don't tell them what assumptions to make. They make them on their own, based on their view of the world.
Mr. Cable: No, I'm not suggesting that the minister drive the train. I'm asking what information he has from his officials. What are we looking at next year? Is the gross territorial product going to drop further, or are we looking at it levelling off or what?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm not working with an estimate right now, but I'll get that information - if there's a live estimate right now - for the member opposite. The projection from the economist on the drop last year, as I remember, was pretty accurate.
Mr. Cable: I look forward to receiving that.
Now, some of the contractors, the construction contractors, I know are looking outside for work. They're on pretty thin times. Is there any acceleration of construction work that can take place this winter? I know the previous regime had a winter works program, and I'm not suggesting there be some synthetic work created and a waste of public funds, but is there work for these contractors that could be brought forward - road right-of-way clearances, for example?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite will know that we've done some work for small-time contractors on rural roads to open things up. We've been successful in lobbying for Shakwak, and the highways minister said that they're going to let some contracts tout de suite - as fast as they can get them out, they want to let them, you know, if the production's actually possible.
Yukon contractors have done work abroad before, even in good times - Antarctica and Belize are a couple that come to mind. Things were going pretty good for one contractor I know, from Golden Hill, who accompanied us on Team Canada. He got caught on that trip. So, at a time that was pretty busy for him, with the loss of his work at the Faro mine, and that end that he had going, but he was down there looking for extra opportunities, particularly in Chile.
So I think it's a good thing for us to export our services. I don't think the member would disagree with that, but I just want to make the point that it's been done before.
We have advanced over a million bucks in the community development fund - $500,000 for fire suppression. That's all designed to create work. As I said, we're going to put a premium on job creation this winter and projects that'll create opportunities for jobs.
So I think there's going to be a myriad of opportunities for work through capital this year.
Mr. Cable: Let me just ask some other questions on the crystal ball, here. I know the minister's got his deputy here, and I'm sure the deputy's been thinking about this for some time.
What do we see next year on unemployment rates? Are they going to go up or down, or level off?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's quite an interesting question. It's a difficult one to answer, because it depends on a whole range of things.
It was only the September last, when I was in Haines at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce meetings, when Faro had re-started; the price of zinc was 79 cents; Cominco flew up on the morning flight to have a meeting with me and the Government Leader to tell us they were going to open Sa Dena Hes; Western Copper was just about to get through their permitting process; Minto was about to go ahead; they were supposed to have their water licence signed. As the member knows, the story's quite a bit different, not too much later.
I would suspect - if you take the negative assumption that Faro doesn't reopen - there will be some stabilization of the rate, but I don't expect it to be reduced dramatically. Obviously, in the summer, it will come down. We saw a blip this year, with a lot of the seasonal work ending, to about 11 percent - it was down around nine percent. I don't expect that that is going to differentiate much from that, unless we get a few more developments, like a stable flow of wood to the mill in Watson Lake; the Minto mine opening up; some activity in seismic, for example, in oil and gas; some contracts obtained by people in doing export that are large - that would really have an impact.
But I think the most telling impact is going to be if people are picking up a job or two here and there, for small companies doing work in export, and through new investment vehicles.
Mr. Cable: I think the minister is aware that construction in 1998 dropped precipitously, as did building permits.
Could the minister tell us just what is going on with these two initiatives in Chile that Mr. Drury and Mr. Letang are dealing with? Do we see prefabricated construction taking place here in Whitehorse and, if so, when do we think that's going to start? And what is the government's role in all this?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd ask you to direct most of those questions to the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation. I can answer it to the extent that our department has taken on, internally, as a partner, the Housing Corporation, through our committee of deputies involved in trade and investment initiatives, and we've been working with them and advising those gentlemen on business planning and on contract prep.
The projects that they're working on have the potential to be quite large and would create some opportunities, for sure, for Yukon workers - and probably other Yukon companies as well.
Mr. Cable: Okay, let's say we get to the best case scenario and both these projects get off the ground. What is the best case scenario with respect to job creation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm advised that the proponents here are in the process of developing a finalization of their contract, and I probably should not get into speculation on the largest size of their potential right now.
Mr. Cable: Well, I can appreciate the fact that there are some variables to tie down. When does the minister see that these projects will - if, in fact, they get a green light - get a green light?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well again, we would like to see it go as soon as possible. We're working with them on issues of financing as well right now. If all things come together, then they obviously could start very quickly. If there are complications, then they will take longer.
Mr. Cable: Is the Export Development Corporation involved and, if so, is it on side for these two projects?
Hon. Mr. Harding: They're negotiating with them. I understand there are some meetings next week as well.
Mr. Cable: Okay, on the community development fund, there has been some considerable question in the House as to whether the minister should be dispensing funds without full scrutiny in the House. Could the minister go over, very briefly, what the process is now from the time an application is received? Who actually vets it? What is the role of the minister in making decisions?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, what happens is I wait for a letter of support from the Liberal Member for Riverside for a project and if I get that, the project gets approved. No, I'm just kidding. It's a joke. It's almost Christmas.
No, what happens is in terms of the process is that the public is made aware through advertising of the program's existence. Through communication, they apply. They get the forms in local government offices in the communities or they get them from the department and they put forward their application. The applications are screened by the officers. There is some initial communication done by the fine officers who do the work around the proposals to try to refine them. Then there is a technical review committee of departmental officials that's interdepartmental so when there are issues that affect different departments, they get that cross-referencing.
Then they're brought to the community development fund board, which is made up of DMs from a range of departments as well as ministers, for final approval and for modification to the proposal if needed.
Mr. Cable: Does the minister mean final recommendation or final approval? Because my understanding is that he is the guy who eventually approves the grants. Can we get that cleared up?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The board ultimately makes the decision as to whether or not the recommendation or the work done by the TRC is accepted or not.
Mr. Cable: The minister has talked about the community development fund in terms of person-weeks, job creation and economic development, and I'd like to refer to the Economic Development Act, which, in my view anyway, requires the Cabinet to establish these economic development programs by regulation.
Now, there's no cloth around this program at all. There's no public scrutiny as to what goes on with the decisions, and this is what this side of the House, if I can speak for everybody, finds difficult to accept. There is $5 million handed out - over one-percent of the total budget - and there is very little public scrutiny.
Why is the minister so reluctant to put at least some regulations around this program, as would be required if, in fact, it is an economic development program?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, this government doesn't want to create more red tape.
Mr. Cable: Well, we could do away with all scrutiny if that makes it easier for the minister.
Let me just refer the minister again to the Economic Development Act. I assume he's read it, because he's the Economic Development minister.
He's working on regulations for some of his other funds, so I suspect that he's read it.
Why is he so loath to put some regulations around this community development fund? I'll give him another chance to answer the question, because I know that he didn't quite answer it the last time.
Hon. Mr. Harding: My apologies, Mr. Chair. I was being cheeky with the member.
The decision not to further encumber this process is made, based on the success of the process so far and the outcome. I'm loath to create regulation when I don't think it's needed. I'm not hearing the concerns that the members opposite are raising, from the public. If I were, then I would really think twice about whether or not we needed regulation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have a fundamental disagreement with the leader of the official opposition on that point, but I will say that I think the program is working very well as it is. When I look at the list of projects, I feel, frankly, very good about them. I know the Member for Riverdale South was recently at an opening ceremony for the animal shelter, the new one in Whitehorse, and that was an incredible moment, to see the people who had worked so hard for so long, finally conclude with that building, and that created some jobs. I forget the name of the contractor specifically. He was mentioned at the opening ceremony, but they spent quite a bit of time working on completing that building, and we were most pleased to help them construct that.
Some would argue that is not an economic initiative, but I would argue it has tremendous social impact, and improves the community dramatically. It also had an economic impact in its construction.
Mr. Cable: The point that we make on this side is that, for example, I think, there's $500,000 going into some fire suppression initiative, and that strikes me as rather strange. We have a number of line items. If you go through the supplementary budget, you will find that the vast majority of the items are less than that sum of money.
I know we want to keep the forestry commissioner busy with a few bucks here and there, but why would we have such large expenditures not subject to public scrutiny? Doesn't the minister see the inconsistency of that? We're bringing forth supplementary line items that - let's just look at the Economic Development department budget.
The supplementary capital expenditures: $2,000 and $9,000 and $1,000. Why would such a large item, in the minister's opinion, be free from public scrutiny?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I just totally disagree with the member's premise, as I do with the leader of the official opposition. Ask away - pick a project. Pick it apart. There's plenty of scrutiny.
The Question Period, every day in this House - I've been asked in Question Period about CDF projects, the Faro ball field. I've been asked about a project in Teslin in Question Period. Watson Lake Health and Hope Society was a project that was debated on the floor of this Legislature.
So, Mr. Chair, I just don't accept the premise that there's no public scrutiny. It's the members opposite's choice as to what they want to debate in Question Period and in Committee of the Whole, and in second and third reading on the budget. That is public scrutiny - intense.
Mr. Cable: Well, that's a good spin, of course, but that's after the fact - after the goodies have been dispensed.
Who is going to stand in this House and say, "The Health and Hope Society from Watson Lake shouldn't have money," after the fact?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Who's going to say that? I mean, let's get off this widows and orphans argument.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Order please.
Mr. Cable: I'm going to leave this, but I'd like to encourage the minister to read his act. He can tell us in the spring whether he thinks that what is basically an economic development program should, as the act requires, have some regulations around it.
Now, the energy commissioner beavered away here for two years, and he came up with, I think, 56 recommendations.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: A darn fine job, yes. I'm currying favour with the Chair here.
And there was a fairly extensive reply - no, that's a bit of a fib. The government put out this implementation plan, which basically said, "Yes, those are good recommendations. We're just going to adopt them all."
I'd like to go over a few of the recommendations - if the House would quiet down for a few moments - in particular, the green initiatives - and that's recommendation 37. The energy commissioner had quite a bit of emphasis on green power in his energy commission report and, as I said, the government has adopted all of these recommendations.
But one of the things that is missing in the report, in my view anyway - and I put it to the minister for his consideration - is the buildup of intellectual capital in this area in the territory. We talk about physical things in both the Cabinet commission's report and in the recommendations, but we don't talk about people. There is no reference that I'm aware of - and the minister can correct me if I'm wrong - about research at the college, for example.
If green power is to get off the ground, we need people on the ground who can get into research and can develop the skills that are necessary to bring solar power, wind power, microhydro and whatever else into being. There are a few people around, but there's not a very large group of people. We need some research done in a formal sort of way - not the sort of informal way that's being done now - on a lot of these new types of energy.
Is the minister considering, as part of his green power initiative, working with the college?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I think there's some merit in the member's suggestion. There's quite a bit of work being done now on the green power initiative by the Energy Corporation, which is handling the delivery of that particular program, and I thank the board for agreeing to do that. We're working with them. But I think there's some merit in the member's suggestion.
I take what he says. There are a number of people in the Yukon, but it isn't that large, who have some experience in that area, and to improve the intellectual capital along those lines, as he puts it, would no doubt be beneficial for Yukoners.
Mr. Cable: I'll pass the Hansard on to the college. I will take that as a commitment by the minister, at least, to think about it - absolutely, he says.
The implementation plan that was brought out by the government runs through the various recommendations - the 56 - that were made by the energy commissioner. There are some 15 in the short-term category, but there doesn't seem to be any prioritization. I know the minister has worked on three or four so far, but has he given his department like a shotgun to look at all those 15, or has he given them some sort of prioritization?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, we did identify short-, medium- and long-term commitments when we responded to the report, and we obviously started responding to the short term first. There is a committee of departments that have different responsibilities in terms of delivering the report and they're focusing, in accordance with the recommendations of the commission report, along the timelines that were recommended. For example, community energy projects would be handled by Government Services, and they're undertaking work on that right now. So, everything is in accordance with the document the member has and it's being done on a cooperative basis among the departments.
Different departments have leads. It was up to us to identify the different departments that were to lead and to coordinate that.
Mr. Cable: I think the 15 short-term recommendations, though, minus the three or four that the minister has talked about in the House so far, are still a large number of recommendations to work on all at the same time. Does the minister anticipate providing some sort of prioritization to his department and the working groups?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we have done. We've asked them to work on the initiatives for implementation that we've already announced to make sure that they come off well. We've asked them to deal with the initiatives on community energy projects. We've asked them to deal with the recommendations on providing more education and opportunities to promote energy awareness.
That could include utilizing a number of the recommendations of the board. They could be simple things, like preparing car pooling initiatives and education campaigns to inform people about greenhouse gases. I should also point out that we're not the lead on most of the 15 short-term projects.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Economic Development, general debate. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Cable: I have another question on the Cabinet Commission on Energy's recommendations and the response by the government.
The previous administration had the Yukon industrial support policy in place, and I note from the recommendations and the response in the Yukon government implementation plan that one of the short-term recommendations is the fact that non-industrial ratepayers should be isolated from the potentially detrimental impacts of supplying electricity to industrial customers, which would seem to be the Yukon industrial support policy revisited. Where does the Yukon industrial support policy sit at the moment? Has this government adopted it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There has been no change because we've been very busy on a number of other priorities. I haven't directed the department to do a lot of work on the industrial support policy. It's essentially, in my mind, not really a very substantive policy. It's basically a flexible way of approaching different projects that come in the door. The guidelines are quite minimal.
We did have the department -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite heckles across that it's like the CDF, and I'm sure that he would stand up and say that because he created the YISP it was a great policy. Therefore, by that logic, he should also endorse the CDF criteria. But, Mr. Chair, I don't think that's going to happen.
What I will say to the member is that we feel that we did have some work done by our policy people early on in YISP, but it became pretty clear that we were on warp speed with the people we had with the economic agenda and the new programs and new initiatives and the trade and investment work that we had going on, so we didn't direct too many resources to it.
Mr. Cable: On another - what I think would be qualified as a green power initiative - there are people in Watson Lake who are looking at burning wood to generate power and community heat. Where does that sit, and is this government involved in any way in the analysis of that project?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yeah, I've had a couple of meetings. I don't know if we're talking about the same proponents here. Is it Autumn Industries? Okay.
A couple of proponents - and then there's a number of people around the Yukon who have some ideas. We've talked to this one particular company a couple of times. They seem to be fairly well versed in terms of that type of technology. They're working with some local people from Watson Lake.
At the last meeting, the Energy Corporation president came and attended, and they spun off from there with some new meetings. As well, a gentleman who operates a five megawatt chip plant on Queen Charlotte Islands was also up with those gentleman, in attendance - and he's been up here a number of times before. I think he's had meetings with the previous administration, as well.
So, we're providing some focus to the projects that they might want to undertake right now. We've indicated that if they are providing local benefits there may be some room for them in the green power initiative somewhere. But it's still pretty early.
Mr. Cable: If in fact it becomes reality, of course, the Yukon Electrical diesels would be displaced. Is Yukon Electrical in the game - in the discussion game? Or is that further down the road?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, they've indicated that they know they have to deal with Yukon Electrical. But there are some competitive issues there that Yukon Electrical can't really control. I don't think it's an entirely closed market.
I think they want to take a cooperative approach with them, and they have met with them, I know that.
Mr. Cable: On another issue, the Alliance pipeline was approved the other day, which I believe will run from Chicago to Fort St. John. I asked the minister this question, I think, earlier this year. Does he and his department see that there will be some extension of that pipeline up into the gas fields in the southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there is, presently, into the Kotaneelee, and we think that, with the potential there, the pipeline will follow the pool finds. We have actually no doubt about that. It's obviously going to be impacted by what happens, to some degree, with land claims, and we've informed the industry of that, as well.
Interestingly enough, I heard the new chief on the radio this morning. He said his two priorities were settling land claims and doing some oil and gas development, and making that happen, so that certainly got two thumbs up from me.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions on the trade and investment strategy and these other funds, and I'll leave those until we get to the lines, but there is one other question.
Our researcher and I were playing around with the computer and the Internet, and what do we get turned up but the Economic Development department, with the minister there and his smiling face.
I wonder if he could tell us how much this Internet - what would you call it? Internet ad? Is that how you'd - the home page. Could the minister tell us how much that cost and why he hasn't got his sleeves rolled up in this picture?
Hon. Mr. Harding: You know, we've only got a couple more days in here but, anyway, Mr. Chair, use them the way you will.
The Web site, I think, is a pretty key document in this day and age. I don't know if the member was implying that he was anti high tech but we pretty much, in order to compete right now, the way people do business, have to have professional-looking Web sites.
I think it's important to have a picture of the minister. I used to have to look at the Member for Riverdale North's mug in the tourism brochure every year for four years - luckily it was only four years.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Member for Riverdale North has already told me his plans, but anyway, Mr. Chair, I think it's important that we do communicate, and I've worked pretty hard, if I might say so - I know the members opposite might heckle back - to gain a profile and a presence and put a face on the Yukon. I've met a lot of people in industry and I think it's important -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite heckles over, "It's really paid off." Well, I think it has, certainly in oil and gas and in the mining industry. If we hadn't done that work, things could be more difficult.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have one more question in general debate. I'd like clarification from the minister. I don't believe he was totally accurate when he said the board makes the decision on the CDF. My understanding is the board makes the recommendation to the minister and the minister can say yea or nay or change the decision. That's the way it used to be under the old CDF and I want to know if it's the same under this CDF?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, it depends on the tier, and we've provided that information to the opposition. It depends on the tier - if it's tier 1, tier 2, tier 3. The larger projects are determined by the board; the smaller projects are determined by the technical review committee that reports to the minister.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'd appreciate it if the minister would get that information back to us.
Mr. Phillips: Just before we leave that, Mr. Chair, there is some work going on along the waterfront now, I think, on a bunkhouse here, a fire hall and the White Pass station. Is the money coming from the community development fund for those projects?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I don't think it was, but I'll check on that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a question with respect to access to capital. There was a workshop held by the minister - I believe it was almost a year ago - and that was one of the recommendations. What happened with that initiative and those discussions? That was identified by the business community and has been restated by a number of people in discussions around the economic situation in the Yukon. I just wonder what progress or work has been done by the Department of Economic Development on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, actually, we've made quite a bit in terms of working this issue. There's a round table on banking services underway. There have been discussions around access-to-capital options.
We've been investigating credit unions, trust companies, business law reform. We're working with business people on those boards, partners from the chambers - for example, from labour.
There has been work done in terms of processing tax credits. That work is starting to crystallize. The members opposite, I'm sure, will be happy to hear a whole string of announcements that are going to be upcoming in the new year. There is the immigrant investment fund. We've got an extension from the feds, and we're just finalizing the arrangements with the marketing funds, and we've got to put the details to bed. As well, we've just created the tourism and trade investment marketing funds as well.
So, there is quite a bit of work that has been done there. As well, since that conference, we created a youth program for access to capital to start small businesses, that's being run through Dana Naye, and CDF contributed $200,000 to that, because it was originally funded by the federal government, but only for aboriginal youth. Our money allows Dana Naye to expand it to native and non-native Yukon youth for business startup.
Chair: Is there further debate?
Seeing none, we'll go to operation and maintenance expenditures.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
Mr. Cable: May we have an explanation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, the increase is related to collective agreement, the oil and gas revenues, Yukon First Nation share of the royalties, legal services, and consulting costs for the receivership filing regarding the Anvil Range closure.
Mr. Cable: The $350,000 for the Anvil Range closure - is that legal costs, did the minister say?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Legal, consulting and evaluation work we had done on the property, due diligence, that kind of thing.
Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources in the amount of $863,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
Corporate Policy in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
Mr. Ostashek: I just want to be on the record here. With this injection of $521,000, I'd like an explanation of that, but I just want to point out to the minister that that brings it up to $1.8 million, plus $180,000 down below, on trade and investment - well over $2 million - and that's why I believe it's important that we have some benchmarks and some measurements to see how effective this program is. Could the minister explain what the $521,000 is?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Absolutely, but the member should be careful not to add in and to factor out that there were people in the department who've been restructured that add into the cost that he's totalling up right now, who were there before. There's just been a departmental restructuring. I admit there's been new money. I'm actually glad there has been, but it's not that much.
The numbers break down under collective agreement impact, trade and investment diversification initiatives, for $370,000; and $140,000 is the Yukon government fund for the start up costs for the immigrant investment fund, and these funds are to be recoverable.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. I don't want to get into a long debate on this line item, but I just want to point out to him that it's identified as "trade and investment" in the budget. It's going to be $1.8 million. The minister can say what he likes about reshuffling the department, the fact is we're spending close to $2 million on trade and investment, and there has to be some measurement of the effectiveness of the program.
Mr. Cable: The trade and investment strategy - has the minister provided a work plan for that, or is there one available with timelines on it - just a general work plan?
Hon. Mr. Harding: You bet, Mr. Chair. We've accomplished most of the three-year work plan in one year. It's been - as I said - on warp speed. We had a meeting two Fridays ago - the Government Leader, myself, and all the partners - where we ran through all the stuff that had been done by the businesses themselves and by the department.
I can provide a lot of that information for the member opposite, if he wishes. I see him saying yes.
Mr. Cable: He did, indeed, say yes.
Just to follow up on what the leader of the official opposition had to say, is there, in the workplan some means of measurement of job creation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, but it is difficult to do, because, for example, there are businesses that come in and get assistance from us - there are over 70, as I said - for trade and investment initiatives.
The question then becomes whether or not you can record all the jobs that were created by this particular initiative, because we helped a person get insurance to work in another country, or something like that. So, the effect you have is a difficult thing to quantify sometimes, but I know that the businesses themselves, who I think are an excellent benchmark, have been telling us that it's a service they need.
I don't know if the member opposite attended our export conference that we put on at the college, but I heard nothing but extremely positive comments about the trade mission that I was on with 19 businesses. I talked to each and every one of them at length. Incidentally, none of them were in Armageddon mode, but they all said that they, you know, wanted to do more, wanted to do better. Some of them signed contracts on the trip. Some got leads. I talked to a gentleman today who is working on a bid still and is very hopeful from that particular trip. If he gets the bid, do we say, "Well, that was because of our trade investment strategy and we created whatever amount of jobs." I mean, it's difficult to quantify.
However, when we established the concept behind this, we did come up with some benchmarks. I think one of the important ones is that we've got to take a longer term approach with this. Before three years, it's going to be extremely difficult to nail down and quantify the number of jobs. I would argue that the number of businesses that are coming for services is a measurable and quantifiable product of the strategy.
So, we can look to some ways like that to quantify it.
Mr. Cable: The $140,000 set up for the immigrant investor fund, does that have a regulatory framework around it yet? And if not, when is that anticipated to have regulations?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That's all federal. We have to submit the plan and the feds have to approve it, but it's dictated by them under their laws.
Mr. Cable: I have just another question that's sort of related to the trade and investment initiatives. There was a conference called Meet the North in Edmonton last week, I think it was. I believe the city officials were there and somebody from the Department of Tourism. Did anybody go from the Department of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It was organized mainly by the City of Edmonton and the Government of the Northwest Territories. I would have liked to have seen our businesses play a greater role, but our businesses weren't well-informed of the opportunity to go down there and weren't really, frankly, according to the organizers, all that much welcomed.
I understand that a number of businesses went - a few, I think. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Skookum went and a couple of others. Some were invited as panelists. It would have been an excellent opportunity for us and I understand that they are doing a followup in Prince George, and we may have to target that and try to get our feet in the door for that particular initiative because it seems like it would be fairly worthwhile.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have just one question. The minister mentioned one possible opportunity that arose out of the Alaska trip and I, too, have spoken with those individuals and understand, again, it's an access to capital issue. It may be that some of the programs would help some businesses pursue our opportunities. Aside from the new funds that the minister has announced, one line item is subject to federal responsibility, but other funds mentioned by the minister have been announced but we haven't seen any applications or guidelines yet. Where are they in the process?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I met last Friday with the Tourism minister, with the partners on the board, and we had an extensive meeting. We went over all the guidelines. We got agreement with the partners that that was the way we should proceed. We'll be working over Christmas to get applications up and running, and I think we'll be ready to go, to take applications, sometime in early January.
Ms. Duncan: Are there any parameters that the minister can advise the members of the Legislature about? Are they all behind closed doors, or can we be made aware of some of those?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've just got to get them formally approved by Cabinet. Then I can release them to the opposition - no problem.
Chair: Any further debate?
Seeing none, are there any questions on the recoveries?
Any questions on the revenue?
Trade and Investment in the amount of $521,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $1,422,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Ms. Duncan: Are there specific projects that were waiting for additional funds, or is this a top-up to this program? Could the minister give a line explanation?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Contract.
Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP) in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Resources Assessments
Resources Assessments in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
On Centennial Anniversaries Program
Mr. Phillips: Can the minister tell me what this is about?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, $1,259,000 is revoted projects that were approved last year. That's netted out by $200,000 for the cashflow projection for the Teslin project, which was delayed from 1998-99 to 1999-2000.
And the Whitehorse project changed the Yukon Unity Foundation. There is no cashflow required for 1998-1999.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, what happened to the $1.5 million, I believe, that was in the Whitehorse fund for a tourism attraction? It was put in there specifically to develop a new tourism attraction.
I know Whitehorse didn't get its act together, but what happened to the $1.5 million?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we had made a standing commitment to people involved with the Unity Foundation - Kwanlin Dun, the Association des Franco-Yukonnais, the Downtown Community Association - who have said that they wanted to have a tourism component to their project. However, failing that, Mr. Chair, we felt that, given the fact that no major Whitehorse project came forward, the money shouldn't - well, first of all, the money was never pooled to begin with, so the Tourism minister directed $1 million or is going to be directing $1 million to the tourism marketing fund. He's invested money in the airport runway extension to benefit tourism opportunities. So, much more than that has been invested in tourism, to a large part, to benefit the people of Whitehorse.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister just said that the Minister of Tourism directed $1 million from this fund to tourism marketing. Where did that show up?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, $250,000 was announced already in the tourism marketing fund this year; $250,000 is earmarked already just in this fiscal year for the tourism marketing fund.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, that's $250,000. That still leaves $1,250,000 of the total that was earmarked for Whitehorse. Where has that gone? Is there a plan to put more into tourism marketing in future years? I'm not quite sure where the minister is coming from.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, there's also the development of a new tourism strategy. There's also going to be the Millennium fund; there's the work that's been done to get new charter flights; there's money that has been invested in capital to - largely for tourism, that's the reason the airport runway was extended; it was $5 million. So, we've spent way more than that allotted amount for Whitehorse, which was never put aside in the budget anyway.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I've got some difficulty with this, because the centennial anniversaries program was put in place for a specific, finite time and specific projects.
Were the rules for getting money out of the centennial anniversaries program changed after this government took over? Money was to be directed to tourism infrastructure that was going to be ongoing wealth creation for communities, such as the Northern Lights in Watson Lake, probably one of the more successful ones under it.
So, I have great difficulty when I hear the minister saying that this money's going to marketing, it's going to the airport runway, it's going to everything, because that doesn't meet the parameters of the centennial anniversaries program. If the money's gone back into general revenues and is going to be re-directed somewhere else, I'd just like the minister to get up on his feet and say so.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I take issue with the member's premise. First of all, he talks about this money as if it was put aside in a trust. It was no such thing. If he really wanted to send some endowment to tourism infrastructure development in Whitehorse, he should have put aside a trust. Instead he made a commitment of $1.5 million, but set aside no monies for it.
So, it was a mythical commitment of $1.5 million. If it was in a trust, he should have given it to the City of Whitehorse or some proponent or a partnership group. The money didn't exist. Is the member saying that the capital - $5 million for a runway extension is not a capital initiative for tourism infrastructure development?
I beg to differ, because I think the availability of being able to have larger planes come in and attract new charter flights is the kind of tourism infrastructure people are supportive of.
Mr. Ostashek: I didn't say that at all. I said it didn't fit under the parameters of the centennial anniversary program. There was $9 million dedicated to that program, even if it wasn't voted. It was for centennial projects that could be visible, could be seen after the anniversaries were over. People could identify with them and they would be tourist attractions.
The runway is a good thing, a good investment, but it doesn't fit under the parameters of the centennial anniversary program. I just want to know whether the commitment for that money will not be dispensed under that program. Is that program going to be wound up now?
I don't have any difficulty if that's what the minister's doing. I mean, it was supposed to be wound up after this year, anyhow, but don't try to pretend that the money from this program has gone to extend the runway, because that's ridiculous.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've already told this House a long time ago that the Unity Foundation isn't a CAP project any more. I mean, I've already announced that. Maybe the member didn't hear it. I know the member opposite, the Member for Riverdale North, did. I've told the proponents that.
But if the member's premise is that somehow there was $1.5 million set aside by his government, that's not the case. There is no trust. There is no endowment, not like the Dawson fund that we've set up or the fund for the Canada Winter Games we've set up. That's a true trust; that's a true commitment.
What we've done is we've said that no project came together, so we've invested much more than $1.5 million in tourism infrastructure and marketing and all those initiatives.
Mr. Ostashek: I don't have any difficulties with that; I'm just trying to get it clear in my mind what's happening. So, is this the last time we're going to see the line item for the centennial anniversaries program in the budgets?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it depends on if you look at the Teslin project. I would guess that would be the only one if there is a little bit more money left that has to flow, but I would hope it should be wrapped up.
Mr. Phillips: Just on the Unity Foundation, did the federal government ever come through with the commitment of - I forget how many million; $3 million, or something - they were talking about, or whatever it was at the time? I know that the cheque was almost in the mail and they were waiting for it. I'm just wondering where we're at with that particular project. Is it still a go? Is the Unity Foundation still pushing for it? Where are we at with it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'm pretty disappointed, because the member opposite will remember Hedy Fry flying up here, the renowned Liberal, and creating a bunch of expectations for the people who are working so hard in the Association Franco-Yukonnais and Kwanlin Dun and the Downtown Community Association. They were since dashed.
Then, of course, there was Sheila Copps who got involved, a former deputy prime minister who, you would think, would have quite a bit of considerable weight. She was talking about $3.5 million but, unfortunately, their hopes were once again dashed.
We told them that we'd be in it for the long haul, that their project, conceptually, was good, would be good for the community, but the Liberals have not come through yet, unfortunately.
Mr. Phillips: I don't have another question, but I do want to correct the record. My colleague from Riverside reminded me that it was the federal Liberals who were going to come up with this money. He reminded me that his federal Liberal friends in Ottawa were the ones who, so far, have reneged on this.
Centennial Anniversaries Program in the amount of $719,000 agreed to
On Community Development Fund
Community Development Fund in the amount of $1,770,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
On Trade and Investment Development Fund
Mr. Cable: The minister gave a ministerial statement on this a few weeks ago, and we applauded him loudly, as I recollect. One of the things we asked him, though, was: when will these terms of reference be completed? I think in the ministerial statement he talked about talking about terms of reference.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I think the senator fell asleep there for a minute, because the Liberal leader just asked me that question.
But there was a meeting last Friday with the board, which includes a wide range of people from the arts, labour and business community. There was an excellent meeting. We agreed on the terms of reference. They've got to go to Cabinet now for formal approval, and then they will be made available to the opposition.
Mr. Cable: No, I was wide awake. The minister was keeping me just on the edge of my seat here, and I must have fallen off for a moment.
Who is on this group that's looking at the terms of reference?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, I'll provide that for the member opposite. I think I can almost get everybody, but I don't want to forget anybody.
Trade and Investment Development Fund in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $2,751,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Department of Education
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Before I start general debate on the Department of Education, I would just like to make note of the fact that today at 5:30 p.m., there is a ceremony at the new Human Rights Commission offices at 211 Hawkins Street. I understand that all caucuses have been invited, and I would encourage all members to attend in acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I am also pleased, Mr. Chair, to provide details of our supplementary request for the current fiscal year. There are three major components to this request: a funding request, due to contract settlements with the union, a request for the revote of funds for continuing projects from 1997-1998, and a request for funding to cover the costs of the fire at Jack Hulland school this past summer.
The operations and maintenance request amounts to $391,000, which is made up of the collective agreements settled this summer, the Yukon College collective agreement settlement and the community library board portion of this settlement.
The wage increases resulting from the collective agreement have been applied to all categories of staff - union, management, confidential exclusions, auxiliary and casual. The collective agreement settlement of $190,000 is broken down into education support services, public schools, advanced education, and libraries and archives.
The Yukon College amount is for funding to cover the increased costs as a result of their collective agreement, and will be transferred to the college as an amendment to their funding agreement, in the amount of $197,000.
On the capital side, the department has requested a total of $3,021,000, including revotes that will be required, totalling $1,468,000; an advance of some funding for the Ross River septic system, for $100,000; emergency expenditures for the Jack Hulland Elementary School roof, which was damaged by fire this summer, for $705,000; increased funding for the training trust funds of $500,000; and approval for new dollars received from the federal government for upgrade of the student financial systems for $89,000.
The major capital request for revotes included in the above are $969,000 to cover the Old Crow new school year project construction. The cost for the 1997-98 fiscal year covers such items as building design and purchase and delivery of building materials for the school.
The revote of $239,000 is for the design of the new Ross River school. This whole sum represents outstanding commitments to the architect, who is Charles McLaren Architect of Whitehorse.
The funding to construct a new septic system in the Ross River School came about when the department discovered the failure of the existing system. A plan was approved to advance the construction of the new septic system for the new school, from 1999-2000 to 1998-99.
A temporary line has been run from the new system to the old school for the final years of operation. This means that we did not have to invest significant resources into upgrading the old system when we were putting in a new system for the new school.
The $705,000 to cover the costs of fire damage to the Jack Hulland Elementary School includes replacement of materials and personal effects. There is an anticipated recovery of approximately $705,000 from the contractor's insurance agent associated with this expenditure.
A $500,000 amount represents additional funding for training trust funds, which will be developed with communities for private sector or community-specific training initiatives. An example of this is the training trust fund for transition home workers that I announced earlier today.
The request for funding for adult capital support and student financial assistance is for a revote for the upgrade of the student financial assistance computer system and for the information system to be year 2000 compliant. There is a recovery for these items. I will be happy to respond to specific questions, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions in general debate. Mr. Chair, first of all, I'd like to talk about a concern that's arising not just in the Yukon but across Canada, and that is a potential teacher shortage in the upcoming years, if the Yukon government is aware of that potential, and how are we doing in our recruitment? Are we having some difficulty recruiting teachers now?
I know that there are some jurisdictions in Canada that are getting very aggressive in recruitment, and I just wonder whether or not we are having any trouble attracting very highly qualified teachers to the territory.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We have not, to date, had difficulty with receiving applications for teaching positions in the Yukon. The Department of Education is now maintaining an inventory of Yukon teachers. We also continue to support the Yukon native teacher education program, and to encourage First Nations students, throughout the Yukon, to register in this program and to consider teaching as a rewarding career.
We anticipate beginning our recruitment early in January, to give some extra time to ensure that we don't run into a shortage. We have, however, to date, received, generally, a large number of applications, except on occasion where there have been specialized requirements.
Mr. Phillips: One area I think that's important is that there are quite a few people who I talk to, from time to time, who are qualified Yukon teachers. They apply for jobs in the territory and in some cases they are not successful, yet we bring teachers in from outside the territory. Now, this may depend on the area the teacher is in, and the experience and background the teacher has but, in some cases, in the elementary cases, there have been some cases that have been brought to my attention where there are concerns raised that some of the local people are getting bypassed and not getting hired.
The reason I want to raise this with the minister is that there are an awful lot of Yukoners out of work at the present time, and there are many people here who are qualified teachers. If they meet the requirements, maybe there should be a higher priority put on the Yukon-resident applicants because of the fact that many of these people - and in some cases their spouses - are not working, or the jobs that they have may be tentative.
Some people are pretty desperate out there. They keep wondering why, when job openings come available, they are bypassed. So, I would encourage the minister to do her utmost to try to hire local teachers.
I asked the minister about a potential teacher shortage. The minister says that we're not experiencing one now. My understanding from talking to the president of YTA is that in the next five years, with retirement, we could probably lose up to 30 percent of our teachers, because many of our teachers have been here for quite a few years.
I'm concerned that many of these teachers who are at the retirement level are at the upper level and teaching some of the higher grades. So, my concern is, are we planning for recruitment for that, in light of the teacher shortage that there is in southern Canada? There is quite a potential of a shortage in southern Canada, and you're going to have to do some innovative things to attract teachers here in the future.
I know that the Yukon in the past has always been a pretty attractive place to work.
We have good student/teacher ratios. We have good facilities, and it's a pretty nice place to live, as well. But, as we now are seeing in the health care field, there is quite a shortage of nurses, and it's getting harder and harder to attract nurses. I'm hoping that we don't get into the same position with teachers, in light of a lot of our older, experienced teachers in the higher levels are going to be retiring in the next five years.
Is the minister concerned about that? Is the department concerned about it? Have they done any kind of forecast to see how to deal with it and when we're going to deal with it? If the minister has some kind of a forecast of what we're going to do with our teachers and how many are going to leave, maybe she could provide that for us.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, a couple of things in response to that, Mr. Chair. We do have a staffing protocol that has been developed with the Yukon Teachers Association. Yukon teachers are given first consideration, and Yukon residents who have teacher qualifications are given first consideration. Where a teacher is suitable for the position that they're applying for, they do have an advantage in hiring.
In addition, the department is working with the YTA and the Public Service Commission to identify the levels of retirement, not just in the immediate future over the current year, but on a long-range forecast.
Early indications are that the retirement level for this year will be about the same, in the range of 10 to 12 teachers retiring at the end of this year.
The Yukon is an attractive destination for people to come and work, whether it's teaching or other professions. We're ensuring that we meet those needs and that we identify them early.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the minister gave her forecast for next year, but have they done work on the next five years? I've been told that within the next five years there is going to be a significant number of teachers retiring, and that must be available now.
I mean, we know how many teachers are there. Many of them have given indications of when they may want to retire. Many of them have actually been asking this government and previous governments about early retirement. If that happens to come about in this mandate or the mandate of the next government, the new government, then there'll be some concerns that there'll be some teachers retiring prior to the five-year period.
So, I'd like to know from the minister, if they have a longer forecast, rather than one year, would she table the estimated numbers of retired teachers that we're going to need to replace and possibly some idea of what grade levels that these might be.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are putting extra efforts in recruitment for the long term. For the first time this year, we're posting vacancies on the Web site. Public Service and Education have also done some forecasts to look at future needs.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, Third Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. on Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.