Monday, March 22, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with prayers at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Recognition of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to pay tribute to the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which takes place every year on March 21. The theme is "racism: stop it".
This day is a symbol of the worldwide need to eliminate racism. Like many such commemorations, it began with the United Nations decision in 1966 to mark a tragic event. In 1960, 70 anti-apartheid demonstrators, who were conducting a peaceful demonstration in Sharpville, South Africa, were shot and killed by police.
Three decades later, racial discrimination is still a serious social problem. I would like to acknowledge the work of many organizations at a community level that try to prevent racism and the promotion of hatred. I encourage all Yukon people to make a personal commitment to eliminate racial discrimination, not only on March 21, but on every day of the year.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to join with members to pay tribute to the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Racism, as defined, is the mistreatment of a group of people on the basis of race, colour, religion, national origin, place of origin or ancestry.
In Canada, the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on many grounds, including race, colour, religion, national origin, place of origin and ancestry, and it addresses issues such as employment, accommodation and services and facilities available to the public.
While we, as Canadians, should be proud of our programs, Mr. Speaker, and services to ensure equality of all beings, this is not to say that racism does not still exist in our country.
Racism, whether in the form of a simple joke or a simple gesture, happens on a daily basis and, more often than not, leaves victims feeling helpless and fearful. The results are widespread at work and at home among family and friends.
As Canadians, it's our responsibility to ensure racism is not condoned. Through continued education and programs to make individuals aware of the consequences of racial discrimination, we can hope to make a difference and help make change for the better.
Mr. Cable: I, too, rise to pay tribute to International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Proclaimed by the United Nations in 1966, this day is the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpville shootings in South Africa, where peaceful demonstrators against apartheid were killed.
Since 1989 in Canada, there has been a national public education campaign to raise awareness of the existence of racism. The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a day for each one of us to personally commit to eliminate racial discrimination, wherever it exists, at home, at work, or in our community.
Racism and racial discrimination can exist where we least expect it.
Sometimes people, especially children, do not realize that the words they are using are discriminatory, such as in name-calling or fights in the schoolyard. Adults do the same thing with jokes exchanged at a coffee break.
If you refuse to laugh at a racist joke and explain why it makes you uncomfortable, you've taken one small step toward eliminating racism and racial discrimination.
It's up to all of us to build a community, a territory and a country free of racism. We can do that by understanding and respecting our differences and trying each and every day to live in harmony. It begins with a personal commitment to change.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Tabling returns and documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker:I have for tabling the report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the Yukon on contributions to political parties during 1998.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 1997-1998 annual report of the Yukon Heritage Resources Board.
Mr. Livingston: I have two documents for tabling. The comments received from the DAP public consultation, as compiled by the Yukon government as well as Canada and the Yukon First Nation governments, and an independent review and analysis of the Yukon Development Assessment Act, prepared by the Macleod Institute for the Yukon's development assessment process commission.
Speaker: 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. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that there should be a public review and evaluation conducted of the use of circle sentencing in Yukon's justice system to determine its effectiveness in dealing with both the offender and the victim; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice to communicate in an appropriate way with the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court urging the judiciary not to utilize circle sentencing for violent crimes.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Lord study, a comprehensive plan for Yukon museums with a blueprint for preservation of Yukon history and culture, is now 14 years old and requires evaluation and updating, in light of progress achieved to date;
THAT this House recognizes that Yukon's history is part of our cultural heritage and our tourism future; and this House urges the Government of Yukon to revisit the Lord study, in a comprehensive manner, to set new directions for Yukon's museums.
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the operations of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board have been attacked publicly; and
(2) it is desirable that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board have the full confidence of the stakeholders and the general public; and
THAT this House urges the minister responsible to exercise his powers under the Workers' Compensation Act to order the board to conduct an operational audit of its operations.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Green mortgages (re energy efficiency)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to inform members of a new Yukon Housing Corporation initiative that advances a number of important policies of this government.
Effective this Friday, the corporation will be offering green mortgages for the construction of new homes that meet a certain standard of energy efficiency, and for upgrading existing homes to improve their energy efficiency.
Besides helping to protect the environment by encouraging energy conservation, as part of the Economy 2000 program, these mortgages will help provide jobs in residential home construction this year.
As a further benefit to Yukon people, all additional revenue generated by these mortgages will be directed into a seniors housing fund.
The green mortgage program has already received endorsements from the Canadian Homebuilders' Association of Yukon, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, as well as support from the Canadian Bankers Association for its focus on energy efficiency.
Mr. Speaker, under this program, eligible consumers will have access to mortgage financing at one percent less than the average posted interest rates on mortgages with terms ranging from one to five years.
In order to qualify, the construction will have to meet the corporation's prescribed energy efficiency rating in accordance with the EnerGuide rating developed by Natural Resources Canada.
In addition, clients will be required to hire Yukon contractors as defined by our government's Yukon hire policy and to purchase at least 75 percent of their building materials from Yukon businesses, as defined in that policy.
At present, the corporation has 94 clients with land sale agreements who have not yet started construction. An information package has been sent to each of these clients to help them decide if they want to proceed with building this year.
By offering lower cost mortgages for energy efficiency construction, we believe we can provide an incentive for lot owners in various parts of the territory to build now. This, in turn, will help create jobs and business opportunities for Yukon people this year.
I'm very pleased to note that the seniors housing fund stands to benefit from this program. This fund will be managed by the corporation's board of directors and will be used exclusively to address the future housing needs of seniors. Our senior population is growing and the seniors housing fund is a proactive approach to help seniors with their housing needs.
Mr. Speaker, the launch of the green mortgages coincides with this weekend's Homeshow '99, which is being sponsored by the corporation and the Homebuilders' Association to focus on new home construction, repairs and energy efficiency.
This co-sponsorship demonstrates our government's Economy 2000 commitments to work with Yukon people in active partnerships to strengthen and diversify our economy.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding the green mortgages, and I would like to offer our support to this initiative.
Over the years, there has been a steady flow of new and improved building products offered by industry designed to offer consumers greater quality, greater choice and affordability. There is also the value with respect to these new and improved products for homebuilding and home repair. With advances in research and development, there is no question that homes are being constructed better today. Whether having a home built or undertaking renovations, there are a number of opportunities to improve a home's performance through lower power bills, more comfort and a healthier living environment. In light of today's rising cost of living, this is indeed welcome news for anyone.
The initiative to make mortgage financing available for the construction of new homes and for upgrading existing homes to improve the home's energy efficiency at a competitive rate is good and is a step in the right direction. We are pleased, Mr. Speaker, that clients will be required to hire Yukon contractors and will also be required to purchase at least 75 percent of their building materials from a Yukon business, although, Mr. Speaker, we are still not clear what constitutes a Yukon business as pursuant to the government's new Yukon hire policy. But it does sound good.
As I have stated repeatedly over the last year, we on this side of the House are very much supportive of programs such as the energy guide and parts of the R2000 program that will enable Yukoners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Green mortgages is yet another program that will enable Yukoners to accomplish these goals.
Having said that, however, we remain of the opinion that this government must do more to reduce the unacceptably high cost of energy in the territory. Homeowners here in the Yukon are in a catch-22 situation. They build or renovate their homes for more energy efficiency, and then the next thing that happens is that the cost of energy goes up, so you have to renovate again to get more energy efficiency to remain neutral.
This NDP government, after having promised Yukoners stable, affordable electrical rates during the election, did exactly the opposite. It killed rate relief, setting Yukoners off on a harrowing roller-coaster ride of ever-increasing energy costs. Despite the government's claim that they have lowered power rates in the territory, Yukoners are now paying nine percent more for power than what they were paying two years before this government was elected to office, Mr. Speaker.
For many of us, that nine percent is too much, and for many more of us it is simply intolerable. This is just another broken promise in the litany of this NDP government. While energy efficient homes are all well and good, Yukon home owners must have the financial resources to be able to participate in the government's upgrading programs, and as we are all too well aware, many Yukoners are not able to do that in today's depressed economy.
So, while having programs to create energy efficient homes will assist those Yukoners who can afford them, they will do little to help the vast majority of Yukoners who are trying to make ends meet.
In the Yukon short-term economic outlook, building construction is expected to decline further this year, with building permits falling to $35 million from an estimated $41 million in 1998, which was down from the year before. With less housing starts, more people leaving the territory every day to find work elsewhere, I have to really question how well this program will be received.
The minister stated that the corporation has 94 clients with land sale agreements who have not yet started construction. What we do not know, however, is the number of homes that will actually be built this year and whether these homes will utilize the green mortgage program and whether these homes have actually been sold to home owners, or will they just be placed on the market in addition to the many homes that remain for sale these days?
Perhaps the minister, in his rebuttal, could also advise what the cost of administering this program will be.
While we support the initiative, Mr. Speaker, to allocate all additional revenues generated by these mortgages to the seniors housing fund, we remain cautiously optimistic that this fund will amount to something significant.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on green mortgages.
Mr. Speaker, building homes that are energy efficient will ultimately help in our endeavours to prevent greenhouse gases and global warming.
Now, home builders who build energy efficient homes now do not get the full value out of the sale of these homes, despite the fact that these homes are more expensive to build. This program may help address that inequity, athough, certainly, the private sector does recognize this issue. One bank at least does offer a half a percentage point off a mortgage for an energy efficient home.
Now, programs like this have been successful in other jurisdictions - there is a program like this in Alaska, and it is working quite successfully. Now, putting the money raised off the interest in the fund toward seniors housing does show some sort of forward thinking on behalf of this government, because 50 percent of the population right now are baby-boomers and soon they will be seniors - and we're not ready.
So I do have a few questions for the minister, however, and the first one is that administering this fund is going to take some staff time. How much has been allocated for the administration of this fund and what will the administration fee come out of? Will it come out of the money that is allocated toward the seniors housing fund or will it come out of the original mortgage costs?
Now, the minister has talked about the support he has received from the Homebuilders' Association, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and the banking association. What sort of support has he garnered? Are these phone calls, or are these letters; what sort of support has he been given?
What form will the housing fund take? Will this be a trust that is created, and how will that fund be structured? Lastly, what are the total dollars allocated for this program? Is this going to be a continuing program that will go into future years, and if so, how long does the minister see this program lasting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I thank the members for their support of this program. We feel that it's a very good program. We are sticking, as a government, to a commitment to the environment.
We also support the recommendations in this program that come out of the energy commission and also the Yukon hire commission. We believe that it's important to offer options to Yukoners, and this program does just that.
We believe that this program will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it is one of the initiatives that this government signed on to after the Kyoto agreement.
Mr. Speaker, to be quick here, I'll answer some of the questions of the Yukon Party and the Liberals. They asked about the cost of the program.
The department informs me that, with the staff they have right now, they would not need any additional staffing to run these programs. It will cost no additional dollars to run this program.
What it would look like in the future, I don't know. We don't know what the uptake will be. After a year or so, we'll have a clearer answer as to how many people are signing on to this. Again, with the support of the banks and the banks looking at possibly reducing their rates to match ours, they could very well take over some of these clients.
We feel that the program will continue in the future. We don't see it as a short-term program at all. We want to be able to have these dollars generated by having the interest rates going to the seniors fund so that, in future years, the pot will grow and the corporation can best administer it according to some of the studies that we are doing with seniors and how they can benefit from seniors housing.
Mr. Speaker, the consumers are going to benefit from this program by, first of all, having lower mortgage rates. They will benefit by having energy efficient homes and, even though the costs of these homes initially are higher than what you'd normally have in a home construction, they will benefit by having lower monthly payments. The environment also benefits, of course, by having less greenhouse gas produced.
We're hoping that we have a good uptake on this program, and it should stimulate the housing industry and the economy. Again, with the seniors fund, this is very much a forward-looking program, putting dollars into a fund that should address seniors' needs.
I thank the members for their support of this program. It's very much a win-win program, and I'd really like to thank the Yukon Housing Corporation for all their hard work.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on his Shipyards resident relocation compensation formula.
The formula, as the minister well knows, is an extremely generous one. In addition to the Shipyards residents receiving the equivalent value for their home on the waterfront, they receive other cash and benefits that can total up to almost $100,000 for each one of them.
Now, this isn't bad for illegally occupying Yukon lands, Mr. Speaker, but one of the most contentious issues, however, is the relocation plans for Shipyard residents, both along the Takhini Hot Springs Road and at Mary Lake.
Can the minister explain why one resident is being located on land at kilometer 5 along the Hot Springs Road that no one else in the Yukon could have access to? Why is this individual being given preferential treatment over hundreds of other Yukoners who have been waiting patiently to have access to rural and agricultural lands here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. In this case, it's the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and yes, we are looking to relocate folks from the Whitehorse waterfront there so that we might be able to free up and have some good economic development happen down there. We're doing that in conjunction with the city and we'll continue to do that fine work with them.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister didn't answer the question. The question was quite specific: why are the squatters from the Whitehorse waterfront being relocated to the Takhini Hot Springs Road area and the Mary Lake area despite the fact the land there hasn't been accessible to anybody else?
Everyone else who has applied for that land was told it was a park or it was in reserve; they couldn't get in there. Now all of a sudden, these residents come to the front of the line and they're being offered this land. Why?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd first of all like to point out that we are resolving a long-standing issue. This issue has been around for 20 years or longer. I don't think we're moving people to the front of the line. That's only one simple - and I must say a very simple - way of looking at it. There are other ways of looking at it and I look at it in the light that we are doing good things at all fronts.
Have we've taken into consideration people's direction of where they want to go? Yes, we have, Mr. Speaker. Are we moving them to the head of the line? No, simply we are not. We are working and will live within the conforming zoning priorities.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, the minister has failed to answer the question. Now, the question is quite specific. We have two parcels of land, one on the Takhini Hot Springs Road and one in the Mary Lake area. Individuals from the Whitehorse waterfront are being relocated to those areas. Any other Yukoners who have applied for land in either one of those areas have been told that that land isn't available to them. One is a park area; the other one is reserved for agriculture. Why, all of a sudden, do these people from the Whitehorse waterfront - the squatters - come to the front of the line and given the opportunity to have access to that land? Why?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, if a short answer is required about why, it's simply so that we might be able to resolve a long-standing problem on the waterfront of Whitehorse. Are we doing it within the existing zoning priorities? Yes, we are.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Jenkins: Wow, that was an answer and a half, Mr. Speaker, but let's get back at it again, with the same minister, and let's look at the situation from a different angle.
Many Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, are having a tough time making ends meet due to the depressed economy caused, in large part, by this NDP government. There is no economic leadership here. These Yukoners have paid taxes, the ones who are here, and they expect fairness.
It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that two lots in the Mary Lake subdivision are being made available in the government's waterfront squatter relocation plan. The proposed site on Fireweed Drive in Mary Lake is presently zoned parks and recreation but would be made available to the waterfront residents despite the zoning restriction.
Can the minister advise the House if he has consulted with the residents of Mary Lake about this relocation plan? If not, why not, and when will he start talking to them?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I can answer the question regarding Mary Lake. Yes, we have been working with the city now since last summer to find ways where we might be able to, with dignity - if I might stress for the member opposite - and a little bit of love in our hearts for the people who are concerned -
We have been working with the city and different levels of government, where applicable, where we should be, and, yes, the city is working with us on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker, but how about the dignity of the people who reside in the rest of the Yukon who pay taxes and want fairness and equity?
It is my understanding that, after the relocation of two Whitehorse residents to Mary Lake and one to the Hot Springs road, there are still six people who have yet to be relocated. Can the minister advise the House what plans are in place to relocate these people and what area of rural Yukon has been selected to receive these new neighbors?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Klondike knows, this is an issue that has been around for many, many years. We are certainly a government that is attempting to resolve this issue. If we keep working with the people - and I would say that 99.9 percent of Yukoners are in favour of what we're doing - we shall have success.
Do we have a specific area anywhere that is designated, maybe much to the desire of the Member for Klondike, to allocate people? No, we do not. But what we do have is an attitude where we will go out and work with people on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when the relocation of the Whitehorse Shipyards residents was first announced, the minister had a budget of $294,000 to bring about this total relocation. It would appear that the true figure for relocation will be over $1 million, if you add up last year's budget amount, this year's budget amount and the involvement of the City of Whitehorse in refunding taxes.
Can the minister tell us how much the total relocation bill is going to cost Yukon taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank you again, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to answer the question. Yes, we do have monies in the budget. Those are the monies that we are going to be spending. Again, we have a formula that is out there that is fair to all. We will continue to work within that formula.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions also for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and they are on the same subject.
Mr. Speaker, this government is relocating a number of former waterfront residents out to country residential lots. Now, one of the lots that's being used is out on the Hot Springs Road, and it's right in the middle of an agricultural section.
At a recent meeting in the area, there was considerable opposition expressed by the residents in that area. The reason that people are so upset is that there has been no consultation with local residents. It was presented to Hot Spring Road residents as a done deal. As the Member for Lake Laberge says, they are going to have a new neighbour.
The decision was already made, and the consultation happened afterwards. Does the minister think it's right to consult with people, when it doesn't matter what they say because the decision has already been made?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Speaker. We will work with people, as we've said, and we will continue to work with people. It is a part of our government's mandate to work with people. What is happening here is that the area described is agricultural land, and this gentleman - or this person, I should say, because I'm not sure if it's a gentleman or not - the waterfront resident, is desirous of the land and is willing and desirous to work within the zoning of that land.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal caucus knows that it's a good idea to have a planning process in place when you develop land. Now, people need to know that they are going to be treated fairly and consistently.
The NDP Member for Lake Laberge believes just the opposite, it would seem. This is what he said last week: "If no development could take place until planning was complete, we'd have no development. We'd be tied up in the process continually."
Mr. Speaker, plans are good, and whether the Member for Lake Laberge understands that or not, we normally do plan development in the Yukon, and consultation normally comes before you approve development. Why hasn't this government followed their own planning process with respect to the land parcel on the Hot Springs Road that is going to a former waterfront resident?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat amazed, and I'm somewhat appalled - if I may say it right now - as to the tone which is being taken. I don't see Yukon people being any different from other Yukon people except maybe by specifics. In this case, certainly not within specifics.
What the Member for Laberge said is absolutely right, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to work with people, and we're very desirous of working with people. We do want to get land developed within the Yukon Territory. That is the mandate, and that is the goal of the department.
Are we straying away from that? Absolutely not. The individual in question is desirous of an agricultural piece of land. And that is the policy with which we are working within.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister says - he says - that the government is consulting. Well, that's simply not the case. One of the Hot Springs residents had this to say, "The main concern is that it is being done without any consultation." And he went on to say, "It's not so much the number, it's the way it's being done without any consultation at all, with the people."
Why are Hot Springs residents saying this if they have been properly consulted, as the minister has suggested? Is the minister saying that these people are not telling the truth?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, that did sound very ominous or something - not telling the truth.
What we are saying here - and I would encourage all members of the House, especially the opposition parties, to listen carefully. What we have out here is agricultural land - land that is zoned as agricultural land. The people have been consulted on it. How would it get that categorization? How would it get to be agricultural land? Through listening and working with the people - that's exactly what we have done.
Now we are looking to let some of that land for those purposes, and this is an opportunity to do it, so we're working absolutely, and conforming to the policy, and working with the people.
Thank you very much.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, operational audit
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
As the minister is aware, the operations of the board have been attacked publicly for several years, and there has been a lack of confidence in the board's operations by some of the stakeholders, most notably the injured workers.
Now, the minister has been invited in this House, on several occasions, to order an operational audit but he keeps resisting. Why the resistance? What's the downside of having the board's operations reviewed by an independent third party?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's not the case, Mr. Speaker. The board's operations, particularly the whole administrative costs of the board, have been reviewed by an independent body, Coles Hewitt. Other audits have taken place.
The board has been attacked publicly. I would agree with the member on that. In some corners, there have also been some supportive comments from stakeholders. I met with the board, with injured workers and with employers the week before last and they were quite pleased about the legislative review that was being initiated. They felt it was a positive step and they wanted to work collaboratively on that.
No one at that time asked for an operational audit, in my meeting with those stakeholders. However, I do understand that the board is working to make some improvements in the administration of the board, hopefully reducing some costs where possible, and they're also considering some initiatives - a long review of different departments within the board.
So, the board - and I met with the chair today on this subject - is looking at that in the context of their strategic plan.
Mr. Cable: The report the minister referred to was the Coles Hewitt report and it specifically says in the report that the study does not analyze the internal administrative efficiencies of the Yukon or any other board, and it didn't pass judgment on why it takes three months after an appeal is heard to get the results, and it didn't pass judgment on why we need two vice-presidents for a small organization, and it didn't, as the Coles Hewitt report says, "review internal administrative efficiencies". It may be that the board is running the best workers compensation shop in the country, but we're not going to have confidence that that is so unless some third party gets in and has a look.
Does the minister not see that confidence can't be restored unless that route is taken?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that there have been some very good strides in terms of gaining confidence in the Workers' Compensation Board. There will always be some critic of the board. However, I would say that the hiring of the neutral chair - that the member opposite lobbied me for in this House and now seems to have lost all confidence in - the hiring of the workers' advocate, who is an integral position in terms of advancing the cause of the board and for the fairness and access of all the workers to the appeal process, the legislative review that we have underway and the striking of advisory committees - the member may choose to selectively interpret that Coles Hewitt report, but the findings - the conclusions - were actually quite favourable for what the board is doing.
I will say, however, that the board is looking at some reviews of their operation, and I trust the employers and the employees on that board to come up with some set of recommendations to deal with those particular types of issues.
Mr. Cable: The Coles Hewitt report was simply a compilation of statistics, a comparison. Now, Prince Edward Island hasn't been bashful. Their board just recently, on its own initiative, ordered an operational audit. There was a proposal call that went out three months ago and there has been a proposal accepted and the work is to be completed by April 30. A local Prince Edward Island consultant is heading the team and they've hired such high-priced help as Price Waterhouse. They've hired an actuarial consultant, they've hired a human resources consultant and an information technology consultant, all for the price of $75,000. They haven't been bashful about calling in someone to give the board a clean bill of health.
Will the minister sit down and look at the Prince Edward Island experience? Rather than slamming the door on this operational audit, will he keep the door open until the Prince Edward Island operational audit is finished?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I feel the member is not listening to the answer to his question. First of all, I haven't been bashful. The agenda we've undertaken, whether it was the hiring of the chair or the appointment of employer and employee representatives with some sense of agreement by the stakeholders of the board, is not bashful. The undertaking of a legislative review is not bashful.
The formation of advisory committees is not bashful. The decision we made to hire a workers' advocate in the face of quite a bit of opposition was not bashful. These kinds of things are positive steps in terms of the development of the board.
I will say to the member opposite that when they, as a board, undertook the review of the administrative costs of the board, that was not a bashful step by the board.
I am not slamming the door on the board making a decision to move ahead with some reviews in certain departmental areas within the structure that they're overseeing. He should listen to the answer.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I am concerned, as well, about the relocation of some of the waterfront squatters to Mary Lake and the Hot Springs Road. Every year, when lots become available, which are country residential or agricultural lots, and they are in the lottery system, hundreds of Yukoners line up to purchase one of these lots or to submit their name in hopes that they get drawn to live that kind of lifestyle.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if he thinks it's fair to those hundreds of Yukoners who, year after year after year, have applied for country residential and agricultural lots and haven't been successful in the lotteries for this government to take a small group of squatters and send them to the front of the line and give them priority over these very people who have been rejected or who haven't been selected every year. Does he think this is a fair way to distribute land in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, certainly, the government will continue to work with people so that we might be able to follow through with the agenda. The agenda is the agenda of the Yukon. It's, in part, working with the folks on the waterfront, and we will continue to work with the folks on the waterfront, as we will continue to work with people throughout the Yukon Territory to make land available. Yes sir, we will.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can see it tonight in the homes of Yukoners who are sitting back and listening to the answers of this minister, who have applied for land and haven't been successful, time after time after time.
These are legitimate Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, who have paid their taxes and applied legally for the land each time that lotteries have been opened, who are now being told by this government that if you squat on the Whitehorse waterfront or somewhere else, somewhere down the road an NDP government will move you to the front of the line and give you priority in land. That is unacceptable to the Yukoners who are trying to do it in a legitimate and fair way.
I would like to ask the minister one more time: does he feel that it's fair to take squatters who were on the waterfront and move them into land and into a land area that was unavailable to others who have applied for the same land in the past? Does the minister think it's fair to move these type of people - the squatters - to the front of the line and give them priority over people who are doing it in a legal fashion?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Take it easy.
Yes, I'm definitely pleased with the rhetoric that's coming out, because it's from the opposite side of the House. The rhetoric is their true colours. When we hear, all in one sentence, "legitimate" and "type of people", it suggests that some people are not legitimate - "squatters" and "residents".
Mr. Speaker, I should not be appalled, but I am appalled on behalf of the majority of the people of the Yukon Territory that this rhetoric would actually come out of this person's mouth.
What we are doing is working to resolve a long-standing issue. This government will continue to work to resolve these long-standing issues and continue to work in fairness with the people of the Yukon Territory, ensuring that all or most people's needs - the majority of the people's needs - are met. Yes, we will continue to do so.
Mr. Phillips: The minister doesn't get it. What I'm concerned about is the fairness of the issue. We have Yukoners who have followed the processes set out by the Government of Yukon. They pay their taxes. When land becomes available, they apply in the proper manner. They put their name in the lottery. They take their chances. They have tried for years to acquire the land which the minister has now gone out and made a deal with some people who just squatted on the waterfront, didn't apply through all the legal processes that this government sets up. Now the government has cut a deal with these individuals and moved them to the front of the line ahead of legitimate Yukoners who are legitimate taxpayers and who are following all the rules.
I'm asking the minister one more time if he thinks it's fair. That is the question. Does the minister think it's fair to all the Yukoners who follow all the rules? Does he think it's fair to them that others, who haven't followed the rules, get moved to the front of the line?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I do believe what we are doing, as a government - working in cooperation with the city, working in cooperation, I think, with the majority of the Yukon people, working to develop the waterfront in a meaningful way, working in a government-to-government relationship with the other two affected governments - is very, very meaningful. Very meaningful.
We also said, Mr. Speaker, that we would make land available, and we are working with due diligence to make that land available. Again, I go back to the point of land that is in question, which has been raised by the Member for Riverdale North.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Member for Riverdale North raises a point: is it fair that we just put the people in there?
It was explained to the Member for Riverdale South that the people that we're looking for do conform to the zoning, and therefore have been talked to through the people four years ago.
So, again, thank you very much for the opportunity to answer the question.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, security audit
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The Occupational Health and Safety Branch did a security audit on the jail last year, and it came up with a list of 74 items that had to be corrected at the facility.
Fifty-two of these items still have to be corrected, and the minister's department has launched an appeal of the Occupational Health and Safety Board order, relating to those 52 items. What's the dispute about? Why doesn't the department want to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Board's orders?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was hoping that the member might be beginning to live in harmony each and every day, today, in Question Period, but I guess that was a faint hope. The adversarial approach in questions isn't necessarily what we need.
Mr. Speaker, the department does wish to comply in meeting the occupational health and safety needs at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We have spent considerable sums of money in doing just exactly that. The member's been provided with the details of the Occupational Health and Safety reports.
Mr. Cable: Most of the items in the branch's safety report look pretty straightforward.
Under the heading "nurse's station", it reads: "maximum inmates alone with the nurse; only one door in and out; no exit for the nurses; door opens inward".
Under the heading "fire doors", it reads: "nursing station in B dorm, no outside exit".
Under the heading "med. dorm", it reads: "fire exit inappropriate".
Is the minister saying that these things aren't a hazard? Is that why she's appealing the order? Or is she saying she just needs further time to get them done?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, there have been a number of occupational health and safety and other reports done on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We know that we're dealing with a facility that's over 30 years old and that is in need of replacement. We have, in this budget, put monies in place to begin the work on restorative justice and consulting on the plans for a future correctional facility.
In the meantime, we have to continue and we are continuing to allocate money in our budgets to repair Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The monies are being allotted to undertake the repairs that we can, at the present time, while we continue to maintain that facility.
Mr. Cable: Okay, well, let me be clear. I asked the minister what her reasons for resisting the orders are. There is a stay of the orders until April 30. Is the minister buying time, or is she, in fact, resisting the orders relating to those 52 items?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, what the department has done is identify the deficiencies, and we're developing a plan for dealing with those issues. A number of repairs, renovations and upgrades have already been done. There is further work being done on costing and looking at the ability to complete other measures that are needed to repair the facility.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the relocation of the Whitehorse waterfront squatters, and we'll look at the Mary Lake subdivision that is being utilized. Now, there is a parcel of land in there that was previously zoned as a park. People that purchased lots in that area were told that that is parkland that can't be used for anything other than that purpose.
Now there is an application in by the Government of the Yukon to rezone it to relocate Whitehorse squatters from the Whitehorse waterfront to that area. Why are we changing that from parkland to another purpose at this point? Why are we doing that, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, of course, the Member for Klondike is very well aware, Mr. Speaker, that the Mary Lake subdivision is within the jurisdiction of the City of Whitehorse, and I must express at this time, again, that it's indeed a pleasure to be able to work with a government in this manner.
Mr. Speaker, in August of last year, I believe it was, they did; they found a formal resolution that would look to the zoning configuration of the area.
Mr. Jenkins: So what we have in Mary Lake subdivision is an original design for that area. People legitimately lined up and bid on those lots, selected those lots through a process established by the government, and people paid a premium for those lots closest to the park. Now, what we have after the fact is the government coming in - the minister's department - applying for a rezoning of those lots, and then the people from the Whitehorse waterfront, the squatters, jumping the line, coming to the front of the line and gaining access to those lots. Does the minister feel that that is a fair and reasonable approach to this whole situation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that whether I feel it's fair or whether I do not feel it's unjust or whatever - what we're doing is we're talking about the City of Whitehorse. The Mary Lake subdivision lies within the city's jurisdiction and it is totally their decision, and they will make that decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's the government that has applied for the rezoning and it's a government initiative that is relocating these people, Mr. Speaker. His own department is relocating these people to the Mary Lake subdivision and the Hot Springs Road and now, under the land claim relocation option, a squatter is entitled to be considered for a parcel of land up to $20,000 in development costs and granted under a 10-year earned equity agreement. This is over and above the generous compensation package provision of the buyout on the Whitehorse waterfront.
My question for the minister, Mr. Speaker: can the minister advise the House if the six-hectare lots on the Hot Springs Road, valued at some $35,000, are being applied for under this option so that, in effect, the Shipyards residents will be paying only $15,000 for that land. That lot could be resold in a very short period of time for almost $70,000. Does the minister feel that this is reasonable?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it's not whether I feel it's reasonable or unreasonable and there is no point in even answering that ridiculous mirage that's coming out of that side of the House. It's absolutely appalling.
What they're trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is attempt to twist the facts to make it gray, to make it shady, so that they might be able to play the game of winning votes, or whatever.
This government, Mr. Speaker, is going out and looking to work in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse in a development for all the people of the Yukon Territory for the development of the waterfront, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Speaker, the lands that are allotted as a part of the formula are not over and above the formula, as the Member for Klondike so craftily tries to say. No, they are not at all. This is a part of the formula and will remain a part of the formula. The lands that they do agree upon will again be a part of that process and will follow the process as established.
Again, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker:Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, the Chair will provide a ruling on a point of order raised on March 3, 1999, by the leader of the third party.
The point of order was raised when the Member for Watson Lake, during debate on Motion No. 153, said, of the Liberal caucus, "Then, their approach for improving tourism marketing in this territory is to assassinate officials on the floor of this Legislature - attack the department officials, assassinate them."
The leader of the third party, in raising the point of order, said that she felt this violates Standing Order 19(1)(h) which states that "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member."
The government House leader argued that there was no point of order, because the expression "character assassination" had been used on other occasions in this House and had not been ruled out of order.
The opinions of the leader of the third party and of the government House leader are not quite on point. The Member for Watson Lake was not imputing motives. He did not say that the Liberal caucus, through their actions, intended to assassinate officials. Rather, he said that they did assassinate officials. Also, he did not use the expression "character assassination" which has, on occasion, been overlooked in debate in this House. Rather, he used the word "assassinate".
Members have heard many rulings on parliamentary language, so the Chair will not repeat what is stated in the Standing Orders and parliamentary authorities at this time. If members are interested, they may wish to review those rulings, including, in particular, the Speaker's ruling of December 2, 1998 and the ruling of the Chair of Committee of the Whole given on December 9, 1998.
In addition to the rules and authorities referred to in those rulings, the Chair wishes to draw the attention of the House to the First Report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. It was presented to the House on March 26, 1997, and concurred in by motion by the House on the same day.
In that report, under the title "Language in the Legislative Assembly", it was stated, "Although the Committee expressed strong support for the use of inclusive, non-sexist and non-violent language, it decided against recommending any changes to the rules of the House in that respect. Rather than making the presiding officers of the House responsible for enforcing rules of debate beyond those which now exist, the Committee suggests that the onus should be placed on each member to strive to use inclusive, non-sexist and non-violent language at all times."
Based on the rulings, Standing Orders and parliamentary authorities, the Chair would suggest that, in the future, if the word "assassinate" is used in the same fashion as it was by the Member for Watson Lake, it will likely be found to be unparliamentary.
Members should also recognize that they have accepted responsibility to avoid such language through the adoption of the Standing Committee report that stated that members should strive to use "non-violent language at all times".
The Chair is certain that members, from now on, will wish to pay greater attention to the use of non-violent language and, in advance, thanks members for their cooperation.
The House will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to read into the record some responses to questions arising from the budget debate on March 11, 1999.
With respect to questions asked by Mr. Jenkins on departmental objectives, the departmental objectives in the 1999-2000 budget documents have been updated to reflect changes made during the department's 1998-2000 strategic planning exercise. The department's objective is the department's mission statement in the strategic plan. In most cases, the changes are minor wording, refinements that make the objectives of the department or branch clear and more precise.
Two objectives have been added as follows. For the corporate services branch, it is to "provide planning and policy support to the government in information infrastructure development". This new objective reflects the implementation of the Cabinet's decision of July 1997 that the "department initiate and coordinate activities to support collaborative information infrastructure in the Yukon". The recently announced technology innovations centre is an example of the work being done in this field.
For the information services branch, it is "assisting departments in developing, implementing and maintaining records management systems and procedures that meet the operational needs of program delivery and support corporate policy/public policy objectives." This objective is not a new function, but better reflects the role that information services branch plays in assisting departments with records management systems.
With respect to the question raised by Mr. Jenkins on the Sunspun company, the Member for Klondike raised the issue of contracts between the government and a non-Yukon firm, arranged through an intermediary who is a Yukon resident operating a Yukon business. Three Yukon businesses were mentioned: Cousins Limited, Yukon Sales and Sunspun.
All three are Yukon businesses, under the definition of the Yukon hire policy and are therefore on an equal basis. However, the manner in which these three companies carry out the business of providing goods and services to the department is different. Through an arrangement with another Yukon business, Sunspun provides local warehousing of a wide array of products that are expedited by a Yukon employee who contracts directly with the government for the provision of those products. Delivery, product quality and customer service issues are resolved locally.
Cousins Limited and Yukon Sales act solely as brokers for outside suppliers, when they list their business as XYZ Company, care of Cousins Limited or Yukon Sales. In these instances, neither business provides local warehousing. The principals of these companies - Cousins and Yukon Sales - do not accept legal responsibility for the delivery, quality or customer service issues that may arise with respect to the products purchased by the government. Any disputes or customer service issues must be resolved directly with outside suppliers.
In a hypothetical solution, where two businesses under discussion would contract for a product directly with the government under their own legal names, and accept legal responsibility for timely delivery, quality performance and customer service issues on a local level, they would be deemed to be Yukon suppliers.
While all three businesses are deemed to be Yukon businesses under the Yukon hire policy, it is clear that Sunspun behaves more like a branch office of an outside business, whereas the other two act solely as brokers, arranging contracts with various non-Yukon firms and assuming no responsibility for the outcomes of these contracts.
The definition of a Yukon business was evolved in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce. In view of the issue raised by this discussion, the government will initiate further discussion with the chamber in the near future, and I can report that that, in fact, took place last week.
In purchasing and contracting in the Yukon, statistic trends provide clear evidence of our success in keeping more government business in the Yukon, and I can provide some further details on that.
Insurance contract, raised by Mr. Jenkins: responses to the request for proposals for insurance broker services have been evaluated and a three-year contract has been awarded to AON Reed Stenhouse Incorporated for $127,500, or $42,500 annually. The price quoted by J&H Marsh and McLennan Limited, the firm that has held the contract since July 1995, was $155,000. The contract document has not yet been signed.
With respect to the question raised by Ms. Duncan on the use of the Diners Club/EnRoute cardless billing system, under the direction of Management Board, the Department of Finance issued a public tender for the provision of a central invoicing system for government airline bookings. Diners Club/EnRoute was selected and the new system came into effect on January 28, 1998.
The term of the contract is three years. The travel agents do not have to invoice the government for the cost of the tickets. The airlines - not the billing agents - process a charge against the government's billing number and, therefore, the agents are not, at any time, carrying any of the government's payables for travel. The agents receive their commission directly from the airline.
In the 11 months ending December 31, 1998, there was $2,344,697 charged to the government's billing numbers for airline travel. This amount would have normally been carried by travel agents as account receivables from the government.
The central billing system is able to provide the government with management information reports to better manage spending on travel and also provide some useful statistics. The contract also contains a rebate clause and, as a result, the government will receive in excess of $7,000 this year as an incentive payment from Diners Club/EnRoute.
There are also insurance benefits, such as flight delay insurance, baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage and life insurance. There is no cost to the government for the use of this billing system.
With respect to the main administration buildings, there were some questions raised by Ms. Duncan regarding the safety audit. Health and safety issues are monitored on an ongoing basis by the corporate health and safety unit of the Public Service Commission.
A review of the south entrance lighting is currently being undertaken by the property management agency.
With respect to lighting, the old, malfunctioning light fixtures are replaced by new energy efficient light fixtures. This is an ongoing project funded by the project management agency maintenance budget.
Maintenance projects now in progress - with respect to the ongoing projects - Public Service Commission, the construction of walls to create a new office has a cost estimate of $2,300. Carpeting for information services, estimated cost, $25,000. Executive Council space review, no cost estimate at this time. Boardrooms - three boardrooms are being converted, with PMA funding, into two boardrooms, to make the space more functional.
And further, the rooms that we're talking about over here were not being used to their capacity because of their size, layout and appearance. They were too small, and there was need for larger rooms. So the rooms were renovated into two rooms with a better layout, and a new appearance, without marked impact on usage.
This renovation was initiated as a result of the lack of sufficient-sized boardrooms within the main administration building.
The contract to do the major renovation work will be to remove walls and install windows; redoing door access and painting; redoing wiring to accommodate new walls; reworking switching, and change exit lighting and signage for fire escape egress; repair and replace flooring as required.
With respect to the question raised by Ms. Duncan on the cost of upgrading federal buildings to be acquired through devolution: an assessment of the buildings was done in April 1997. The estimated cost of upgrading them to the current building codes was $578,000. The federal government states that most of the work has been completed.
Another assessment will be done closer to the date of transfer to verify that assertion. The Government of the Yukon will ask for a one-time contribution from the federal government to rectify any deficiencies found.
With respect to Ms. Duncan's question on the DocuTech, the initial seven-year lease on the DocuTech expires on December 31, 2001. The government has the option to return the equipment, purchase it outright or to renew the lease. The purchase option would cost $83,520. The lease option would be $63,497 a year. It is expected that an assessment of the DocuTech would be done before a decision is made. No formal assessment has been done. The Queen's Printer has found that the DocuTech is reliable, fast, and produces good quality, black and white reproductions. Because the cost for a copy is constant, whether one or 100 copies are ordered, the departments order only as many copies as they need rather than purchasing extra copies in case they are needed.
With respect to Ms. Duncan's questions on the Bid Challenge Committee complaints and hearings, since the Bid Challenge Committee was formed in July of 1995, fifteen complaints from bidders have been reviewed. There were four in each of the three fiscal years, and three to date this year. During the same four-year period, another four complaints were withdrawn and two were dismissed by the committee as trivial.
The basis for the complaints varies, but in general it falls into one of five categories. The most common complaint centres on ambiguity or inconsistencies in tender specifications or instructions. Other criteria are the evaluation process, fairness, transparency, objectivity, evaluation criteria, the fact on which the expertise of the bidder is evaluated, verbal information given by the contracting authorities to the bidder or prospective bidder, and the government's policy of not accepting faxed bids.
Reasons for compensation for complainants - reasonable compensation costs, when recommended by the Bid Challenge Committee, are the responsibility of the contracting department and are negotiated between that department and the complainant. In eight cases, the committee recommended that the contracting department compensate complainants for bid preparation costs and hearing costs or both. Costs were paid in six cases. Compensation for hearing ranged from a low of $62.50 to $2,000. Compensation for bid preparation costs ranged from $262.50 to $8,500, in the case of one highly technical proposal.
The average compensation cost paid was $2,920. Compensation refused by the contracting authority - in two instances, the deputy head of the contracting department disagreed with the committee's recommendation to pay compensation. In one case, the cost of bid preparation and participation in the hearing were thought to be minimal and part of the cost of doing business in the contracting department. The other case concerned a rejection of a faxed bid. The tender documents clearly stated that faxed bids would not be considered, and this is a long-standing government practice. Both the contracting department and Government Services, backed by legal advice, rejected the committee's recommendation to pay compensation.
With respect to questions raised on NovaLIS, by both Ms. Duncan and Mr. Jenkins, with respect to support, a one-year period of free support and maintenance - the warranty period - is provided with each software licence purchased, one licence for each user, effective from the date of the software delivery. NovaLIS is responsible for fixing any flaws in the base software. Thereafter, the annual maintenance fee is 20 percent off the purchase prices of the base software and additional site licences. Maintenance fees totalling $46,815.25 have been prepaid to March 31, 2001, to take advantage of a five-percent discount offer.
The maintenance also includes any software upgrades developed by NovaLIS.
With respect to travel, the total cost for employees travelling to Halifax in conjunction with the LIMS project was $21,647. These costs were broken down as follows: initial evaluation of the NovaLIS software, three employees, $4,476; training and tailoring software, two ISB employees, five trips, $17,151. There were none taken to Barbados or tropical points elsewhere.
IBIS - the information building information system. The IBIS database is a tool in the property management agency to help the staff manage the maintenance and operation of government-owned buildings.
The reports are regularly produced to provide building condition information and operating costs. Work orders from departments for maintenance projects are also tracked through IBIS.
With respect to Mr. Cable's questions concerning energy-saving projects, I can very quickly read through a list of some 13 projects here and the estimated savings and payback period.
In 1994-95, the Department of Education initiated an energy-saving pilot project in six schools. In the pilot, more than $125,000 was saved in the first two years. In the third year, the program was extended to other interested schools. The savings now exceed $325,000 in the first four years, or $84,000 annually.
The payback period is under three years, on average.
Replacement for de-lamping: over 3,000 tubes in six buildings have been removed in light fixtures. This has resulted in savings of over $30,000 annually, and the payback period is less than six months.
De-ballasting: over 1,500 ballasts in six buildings have been disconnected, for savings of over $5,000 annually, with a payback period of less than six months.
Fixture replacement: in four buildings where fixtures were due for replacement, they were replaced by fewer, more energy efficient fixtures. Energy cost savings in the buildings are over 30 percent. This has resulted in $70,000 annual savings, with a less-than-two-and0one-half year payback period.
Variable-speed drive controllers have been placed on new, energy efficient motors, so that the speed of the motor changes, depending on the operating requirements. This has resulted in $10,000 savings annually, with a less-than-five-year payback period.
Indoor/outdoor controllers have been installed on most buildings with hot water heating systems. Four buildings have been converted recently. This has resulted in a $4,000 annual savings, with a payback period of less than two years.
Water-use monitoring was tested on one building. The savings was over 50 percent. The savings is shown for three buildings with over $15,000 annually, with a less-than-one-month period of payback.
The review of electrical bills, completion of seasonal disconnects, deletion of unnecessary accounts and an audit of street lighting has resulted in an annual savings of $10,000 for one department, and this has been in a payback period of under three months.
Ventilation and heating system upgrade in a leased building was completed. The payback period was immediate, since the work was done by the building lessor, and that was for over $10,000 annually.
Changes were made to lighting in two leased buildings by the lessors. The payback period was immediate and, to date, we're not sure of what the savings are in this area.
Incandescent bulbs were replaced with light-emitting diodes in exit signs. This will result in a $3,000 annual savings with a payback period of under one year.
Lease agreements were amended to make the Yukon government responsible for heating fuel costs. The payback period was immediate because no additional cost was incurred and this resulted in about a $12,000 a year savings.
One building was converted from electric to oil heat. Insulation levels and windows were upgraded at the same time with a result of $28,000 a year saved, with a payback period of under six years.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a few questions of the minister, Mr. Chair, arising out of some of the information that has been provided here today. First, I'd like to take the minister back to a statement he made on March 11. That statement was, "What I contend and what I will stick to is the fact that when the Yukon Party was in power, 59 percent of the value of all the government contracts went to local companies. Two and one-half years later, it's 89 percent and we're still striving. That says it all."
What I'd like from the minister, Mr. Chair, is how he has arrived at the percentage of contracts that were issued to Yukon contractors for the NDP government vis-à-vis the Yukon Party, as well as how this was calculated.
What was the method of calculation? What periods are we looking at? Are we looking at a selected period in the four years of the mandate of the Yukon Party, vis-à-vis the last two and a half years? Now what were we comparing? I'm looking for a level playing field here, because, you know, on the surface, 59 percent versus 89 percent - what's the basis of it? Can the minister please provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Let's just take the total of the dollar value, and let's take the comparative year between 1995-96, when the Yukon Party was in power. At that point, granted, there were some major projects - the hospital project - but there was $95,330,636 spent in the Yukon, and the percentage was 59 percent of the amount spent at that time.
In 1998-99, there was $89,238,411, which represents a percentage of the amount spent of 89 percent. In one case, it was 59 percent, and the other part, in the latter, it was 89 percent. If we take a look at the dollars spent outside of the Yukon in that period of time, there was $65,625,307, or 41 percent, spent outside of the territory in 1995-96. In the period 1998-99, there was $11,350,391, or 11 percent, spent out of the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it begs the question as to how much of this is a consequence of the reclassification of firms to becoming a Yukon firm when they previously did not hold the designation. How much is it a consequence of the change in the definition of a Yukon business? Are those figures available, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think that would require a greater analysis than what we have done at this point. I would suggest, however, that probably what it is more a reflection of is a greater diligence on the part of the government in ensuring that contracts are put out in such a manner as to ensure that Yukon companies get a better shot at them.
I know this is first and foremost: when we're letting out contracts we have begun to try to maximize the amount of local content and local input into the projects. I would suggest it's more of a culture change in the government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, excuse me if I disagree with the minister. A cultural change, or a change in the way Yukon companies are classified now versus previously? Now, that deserves an analysis, and when the minister is touting these figures, they have to be based on sound, realistic, level-playing-field parameters. It would not appear that that's the case, Mr. Chair.
The goalposts keep moving and shifting around to accommodate what the minister wants to say, and what the minister wants to do. An example in point is the definition of a Yukon business now, and what it was before. The same businesses are still here operating, whereas currently they're not classified as a Yukon business, or they are classified and previously they were not.
So change in definition, I'm sure, has a lot to do with these numbers being skewed in favour of the government of the day, Mr. Chair. But the minister is not suggesting anything of the sort, to take it upon himself to say that it's because our government is handing out more contracts to Yukon businesses. That's not the case in every situation, Mr. Chair. A lot of the contracts are going outside, but the definition as to what stands the test of a Yukon business certainly begs an explanation in this situation.
I'd like further evaluation, and I would ask the minister for a legislative return on this issue, because it is very, very important. If the minister's going to bandy about these figures, they'd better be based on accurate analysis, not something that's just whipped off on the end of a roll of toilet tissue one morning before he steps into the House.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, once again, the Member for Klondike continues to wallow in vulgarity. I won't stoop to that, either.
I'll merely suggest a $54-million difference between 1995-96 and the present, in terms of a decline of going out of territory in dollar terms - in other words, at one point, 41 percent, during the Yukon Party's tenure, went out of the territory; 11 percent goes out now. Now, that's one heck of a changing of definitions, and I would suggest that the member really needs - I think he needs to get a grip in this case because I don't think he can accept the reality; I don't think he can accept the fact that this government is actively trying to promote the development of Yukon business and Yukon content.
You can't argue with 30 percent and you can't write it down to definitions. No matter how you twist and weasel around, you can't do it. I would suggest that, when you get $54-million difference, that's real, tangible difference. That's real, tangible difference. That isn't semantics, and he knows it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I disagree with the minister and that probably doesn't come as any surprise, Mr. Chair.
Let's just take the minister through an exercise here today that will show one area where the minister is adamant that he's dealing with a Yukon company, when all information that I've received points to a different situation. Just a reclassification of this one company to a Yukon company versus an outside firm would have a tremendous effect on these numbers.
Let's go to the Sunspun situation. When I first questioned the minister, Mr. Chair, he said they were using Sunspun Shopping Services here in Whitehorse; they weren't using Sunspun Food Services based out of Edmonton. Now, I'm just going to give the minister an opportunity to go back to his department and pull the invoices for, say, the last three months, and I will send over a copy of invoices reflecting the two different shopping services, the Sunspun Shopping Services and Sunspun Food Services. Sunspun Food Services' are on a pink invoice, and Shopping Services' are on a white invoice.
If he could kindly table, say, a representative amount for the last three months, Mr. Chair, we can put this matter to rest. I think he'll find that virtually everything is originating from Sunspun Food Services out of Edmonton. It's trucked directly to Whitehorse. The orders are distributed to the warehouse and delivered to the end recipient. That's the case with this food supplier with every other company it services in the Yukon, and I'm pretty sure that that's the case with the government contracts he has.
Can the minister provide that undertaking to bring back the invoices for this one area? We'll see what stationery it's on. They are now producing Sunspun Food Services invoicing with a little sticker on the top of it. Whatever way you want it, you can have it. This would considerably alter the definition of a Yukon business vis-à-vis an outside business. And, this would certainly have an impact on the minister's allegation that there's a tremendous increase or change in the way this government is doing business.
I suggest to the minister that a lot has to do with the definitions given "Yukon businesses" versus "other firms". That plays a very pivotal role in this situation. Can the minister provide that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, the member seems to have a real grudge against this particular company. We will go back and take a look at it. He really seems to want to take it out of the loop and remove it from being a Yukon business.
However, I notice that we have $236.82 and about $197 on the other one. I would suggest that that's just a shade short of the $54 million, in a positive sense, that we've brought in, in terms of benefits for our Yukon companies. So, I would suggest that his math is just a little bit off on this.
We will take a look at Sunspun. We will endeavour to make sure that the member's concerns about eliminating this company as a Yukon company - we will try to make sure that it's all on the up-and-up. He seems to have a real obsession with it. I don't know what it is. Perhaps this company did something to him at one point. I don't know.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Sunspun is a very reputable firm. It's a firm that companies I'm involved with deal with. They have some of the best prices in a lot of the product lines, and we continue to deal with them. What I'm getting at, Mr. Chair, is that there is a difference in the way this government treats firms that operate in the same manner. This government is not consistent in its application of rules to the gamut of companies that provide goods and services to this government.
The definition changes to suit the day. That's what I'm driving at. I'm just looking for the playing field to be level and the same for all these respective companies. That is not the case, Mr. Chair, and the minister knows full well that that's not the case, that the rules are changed to accommodate the need.
Now, let's put to rest any allegations that the minister has raised that I've got a bee in my bonnet about this specific company. All I'm saying is that this company is being treated differently from the other companies in the same scenario here in the Yukon. That's what I'm saying. Now, I want to know why it's being treated differently.
If the government is doing it to slight these other companies, to move business away from them, why doesn't the minister say so? Because they are all very competitive in specific areas, Mr. Chair. And if the minister was to go to Sunspun Shopping Service, as he has alleged that he is shopping, there is a normal upcharge for any business doing it of between seven to 10 points.
Now, I would like to see the government receive the best value and the best product at the best price. I believe that's the exercise we owe to the taxpayers, and that is not the situation that we'd arrive at if the minister conducts business in the way he is suggesting he conducts it here today in the House, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister agree to provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I said before, we'll take a look into this again. The member is suggesting that Sunspun has some kind of preferential treatment. We'll certainly take a look at that. If that is indeed the case, we will take steps to rectify that. He has alleged this before, that Sunspun is somehow being given preferential treatment. We dispute that; we will look into it again.
I'm sure that the folks from Sunspun really appreciate his efforts on their behalf, and I'm sure they will take that up with him, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, before we leave that issue, is the minister still adamant that what the government is dealing with is Sunspun Shopping Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I told the member that we will take a look into this; we will see if there's any discrepancy, and we will report back to the member.
Now, if he chooses to make allegations that this company is being treated in a preferential way, we'll certainly have to take a look at that, and find out if, indeed, this is the case.
The information that I have suggests that the company is considered, at this point, to be a Yukon company. There are some issues around how it executes its contracts. We will take a look into this again, and get back to the member.
But if he's suggesting that this company is solely responsible - that defining this has somehow made a difference of $54 million in the amount of money going out of this territory to outside firms, I think he's a long, long way off.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, does the minister have any idea of how much business we do with Sunspun in the course of a year? All his various government agencies? Does the minister have that number at his fingertips?
And I'd suggest to the minister it is quite substantial. It's not $54 million, but I'd suggest to the minister it is quite substantial. And if we start looking at that one example of a company that is being reclassified from an outside company to a Yukon-based company under this government, we certainly have a good example of how the numbers are stacked - and these percentage figures are stacked - in favour of this government.
That's the point I'm wishing to drive home, Mr. Chair, and the minister is just aloof to it all. He's going to go back and have a look at it and he's countering in a very aggressive fashion that I've got a bee in my bonnet with this one firm. I don't have a bee in my bonnet with this one firm. What I have is a bee in my bonnet as to the way this government treats all of the different firms in the same type of position.
There are three different firms and they all operate in a very similar manner - a very similar manner, Mr. Chair - and yet this government treats them differently. Now, we should get to the bottom of why.
This minister is going to go back and look at it, and I would hope that I could have his assurances that we'll get some sort of response prior to this Legislature rising, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I've already given the member assurances that we will take a look into the situation. He is obsessed with this. I guess he figures that this is somehow responsible for a somewhat abysmal record of Yukon purchase under the Yukon Party government and the substantial improvement that we've made, over 30 percent. So, I would suggest that, yes, I will go back and I will take a look at this again.
This is pretty thin soup, though - not to carry a food analogy on - that the member is going with.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I want to enter this debate for a moment.
Mr. Chair, I want to caution the minister on throwing about this figure of 89 percent as liberally as he appears to be - 59 percent Yukon Party; 89 percent NDP - and in all seriousness, because I recall clearly that, back under the Yukon Party government, we asked Government Services to do the same exercise - what percentage of contracts were going to Yukon companies?
I know it was over 80 percent at the time. It was the number we were given by the department. My concern is that we didn't ask them to fudge anything or do anything that they shouldn't be doing. We just said "What's the percentage of contracts that are now going?" because we were getting criticized at the time by the New Democratic Party government when they were in opposition. The number was a lot higher. Now, it's coming from the same department.
Now, granted, some of the things the government has done have probably increased the percentage. I don't deny that, but I really have a problem with the 30-percent difference because I know it wasn't 59 percent. I know we would have been alarmed with 59 percent. I know that we were satisfied with the percent we were given. I can't recall the exact number, but I'm sure it was over 80 percent at the time. That number was provided by Government Services.
I'm just not sure - I mean, the minister knows very well what one can do with statistics and it all depends on exactly when you take the snapshot. It can make a big difference in the general public's perception.
Let's use an example of this $75,000 prospectus that the government just put out on the hot springs. We look at the statistics that they put out on that and they talk about mining exploration, but they sort of don't mention the fact that they're talking about what the mining exploration was way back two or three years ago. Then they mentioned the tourism numbers, and the tourism numbers, of course, are more positive. Those numbers were released yesterday and they're in the report. The good numbers for mining are back in 1996, so those are the numbers that they use for that.
So, you have to be careful when people start quoting these numbers, because it doesn't give a clear picture - the snapshot in that time frame. You have to compare apples to apples, and that's my concern here - that we're not doing that.
I'd like to ask the minister a question about what we would consider a Yukon contract. For example, if we issued a contract to company A to build the Ross River school and they happen to be a company that was from the Yukon, one of the local companies that we know, do we consider the whole $5 million of the contract a Yukon company purchase? They may, in fact, bring in some of their subtrades for some of the work - maybe the steel structure or some other work. Do we take out the steel structure? Do we take out the special air conditioning? Do we take out that stuff from the contract or do we just include it as one? The example that I'll use clearly is the hospital contract.
Now, in the hospital contract, it went to PCL. But, PCL used a bunch of local subcontractors, as well. It brought in some of the specialists in some areas, but it used a lot of local contractors. So, you could take the $45 million from the hospital contract and say that in one given year - or any given year, I think it was about $15 million a year for two or three years - it could really skew the numbers. In fact, out of the $15 million in one year, maybe $10.5 million or $11 million went to some local companies. Many of the people that PCL had working over there as laborers and carpenters and others were Yukon people who live here. I know them. I knew they worked over there.
So, it's sort of an unfair way to compare. It may be a politically advantageous way to compare, but it's certainly not an accurate way to compare the benefits to Yukoners.
I applaud some of the efforts the government's doing, but I get kind of frustrated when I keep hearing these numbers - 84 percent, 59 percent, "we did better than you did" - because the same department gave us different numbers. I think that, at the time, they broke down things like the hospital contract into what Yukon contractors got what jobs, and it appears, from the minister when I was talking about this - when he was shaking his head - that they didn't do that in this case. In this case, if the job went to ABC company from Edmonton, and it was $6 million, the whole $6 million was deemed to be spent outside the territory, when in fact Yukon drywallers got the job, Yukon painters got the job, Yukon electricians got the job and Yukon plumbers got the job.
I caution the minister with respect to using these kinds of numbers. I applaud the efforts of the minister in ensuring that more Yukoners get the work. But, let's not mislead people into thinking that a whole bunch of things have really changed and that hundreds more Yukoners are at work.
If you took a 30-percent difference - 59 percent to 89 percent - the unemployment rate in the Yukon today would probably be down to seven percent, the way it was under the Yukon Party government.
But it's not. So, there has got to be a reason for that. In fact, Mr. Chair, a whole bunch of Yukoners have left the territory looking for work in other jurisdictions, so you would think that if the minister were correct that all these Yukon companies are getting the jobs, it would be reflected in the statistics that we're getting on our desk every day, and it would be reflected in businesses saying, "Geez, we're doing a lot better now." I'm not hearing that. I'm hearing businesses saying, "Boy, I hope we can make it until spring."
I just caution the minister to not get into this game, because I'll tell you, the more the minister is going to get into the game, the more, I think, we should be demanding a real breakdown on how he got his numbers and a real breakdown on how the numbers were given before. Because it seems to me that there's a problem, because, like I said, Mr. Chair, I would have been very concerned back in 1994-95 if the numbers we were given showed that only 59 percent was going to Yukon people. It was higher than that. I know it was higher than that, and it can't change after the fact unless they are doing it a different way.
And so, I would say to the minister that he can take some credit for some of his new programs that actually see new Yukoners or Yukoners that are out there that don't have jobs getting the work, but don't just do it with a smokescreen of numbers, because there are a lot of unemployed people out there right now who are really concerned about whether they are going to have a next paycheque.
This kind of rhetoric doesn't help them. What they need is real action from the government that creates a real job for them and that sees them being able to work in the Yukon, and to allow some of the ones that have left to come back to the Yukon to work. You know, it could conceivably happen. I mean, when we build this new health facility a year from now, whether the minister likes it or not, it's the open-bidding process. The prices could be so varied that we don't have a choice in making a decision where a company other than a Yukon company is the lowest bidder by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And some tough decisions are going to have to be made. But I can assure the minister that, even if that's the case, in the most part, many of these companies will be hiring some Yukoners, and that should be reflected in the numbers - how much Yukon employment is actually created by the Yukon government's dollars.
If the government has to split it out - maybe the government could split that out for me. Maybe the government could go back to the numbers that they brought, the 89 percent and 59 percent, and break it down. It would be interesting to see how they came up with a number such as that, because I know that that wasn't the number that we were given a few years ago, and we're certainly going through our files to try and find a record of that. I know it came from the department. I know the minister brought it in, because I know there was criticism of our government at that time with respect to the hospital contract, and the minister didn't just read a phony number into the record. It was a number that evidently had some information behind it from the department.
I'm sure this minister's doing exactly the same thing. He's bringing numbers into the House that he has confidence in; that are brought forward by the department. But it doesn't seem to me that they use the same mathematics to come to the different numbers. So, I'd ask the minister to check that out, and to be more careful in raising these kinds of numbers without making sure that we're comparing apples to apples.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I'd like to thank the member for the applause. I'll always take applause when I can get it.
I think what the member may be referring to is the fact that the purchasing and contracting in the territory is generally made up of several things. Some are sole-source, some are invitational, some are advertised tender, and basically from that we get a total.
I'm just taking a look at the trends. In 1995-96, some 65 percent of sole-sourcing was in the territory; 35 percent went out of the territory.
What we see is an increase that generally goes upwards to 1998-99, where the sole-sourcing percentage becomes 84 percent and the out-of-territory percentage declines to 16 percent. Under the invitational tender, which the member may actually be referring to, in 1995-96, the dollar volume was greater and the percentage was 74 percent; the out-of-territory was 26 percent. In actual percentage terms, the invitational tender has risen in 1998-99 to 85 percent, with the out-of-territory invitational as 15 percent.
Under the advertised tender, there was 54 percent in 1995-96 in-territory, and out-of-territory was 46 percent. In 1998-99, there was 93 percent in-territory under the advertised tender, and out-of-territory was seven percent.
So, of that, we roll those numbers together and average it out and we get this particular trend.
My goal is that what we would try to do is maximize as much Yukon content as possible. The member is right when he makes reference to the idea of using subs. There will also be subs that go out of territory. I think one of the things that we're going to try to do and we are aspiring to do is to ensure that many Yukon subtrades get involved in our projects. Right now, one of the things we're looking at is making information available for our contractors in terms of local products and what kinds of local products and services are available. That's been part of the process behind, for example, the Old Crow school and will be part of the process behind the Ross River school, trying to make our general contractors aware of the kinds of services, the kinds of products that we bring on a local basis.
I think that this is something that all governments aspire to - try to maximize the value that we can provide to people in the territory - and that's simply what we're trying to do. I think we're on a positive trend and that it's something we should continue to work on.
For example, I think a good example is where the member made reference to the extended care facility. We've put out a functional design, which is basically a road map of what kind of design we're looking at overall, the kind of land space, the kind of services and the kind of infrastructure that we need. When we put that out - this is a very specialized kind of project - what we found was that we had five potential Yukon architectural companies that realized that this is a project that was beyond their normal scope. It was a specialized kind of project. What they did, in all five companies, was pair with outside firms that had expertise in institutional kinds of design.
In my opinion, I think that is a very positive sort of sense, because what we're trying to do is build some capacity, and the fact that they linked with a partner outside is, I think, a very positive thing.
Do we say, then, that that is not a Yukon contract because they're using the assistance of a company outside? I don't think so. The company here is recognizing it's own limitations and is trying to gain that kind of expertise.
So, I think there are a number of things we can do to encourage Yukon companies involved in Yukon business. I'll just point out that one of the things we've tried to do is move this in what we consider to be the right direction, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister just made my argument for me. He just said that some of the local companies realized that this was outside their scope and they paired or partnered with some outside companies.
I support that and that's a good idea. He said, "Should we say that they are not a local contractor any more and include them on the other side of the ledger?" I don't think we should. The point I made earlier is that in the last year of the tendered contract, probably worth $15 million of the hospital - PCL Construction - worked with a bunch of local companies. They used some local companies and had local employees, and they had local people working on the job.
So, that's my point. Because this extended care facility is like the design of a jail or a hospital, it requires some special expertise to do it right and to understand what's happening in that kind of field. In fact, in many cases, the partner of these paired Yukon companies may be doing the bulk of the design work, working with one or two people in the local office but doing the bulk of the work because that's their area of expertise and that's their field.
Now, in the case of the hospital, PCL hired local companies to do some of the work. In fact, Mr. Chair, the same year the hospital was being built, I was building my house, and the drywallers who were working on my house were also working on the hospital, and they were coming out to my house on weekends and evenings - and these were Yukoners. One of these fellows is still here. I saw him on the street the other day. He has no work right now, but I saw him on the street the other day, and the minister has counted him in 1995-96 as not being a Yukoner because he didn't count PCL as a local company. He took the $15 million and said it was spent outside.
That's my point. You can't just look at the front contract because, in many cases, there are a lot of companies in the Yukon that partner and pair with and work with other companies because they have the expertise. In the technology field, in the construction field, in many fields, they partner with people who have the expertise, simply because there aren't enough of these jobs that come up enough times to have the expertise here and to keep it here. These people are fairly highly paid in fairly highly technical fields and they just can't afford to keep them here.
So, the concern I have with the minister is, let's be careful with these numbers, and let's not throw them around as freely as the minister has thrown them around. I mean, he just read them out again - 59 percent then and 95 percent now. You know, it only takes one big contract, and I'd be interested in the minister providing me with the numbers rather than the percentages. It would be interesting to have the actual numbers rather than the percentages, because I think we'd see where some of the differences are there. But I think we should be careful in using those kinds of comparisons. What we should be more concerned about is that, no matter who gets the job, for the most part, Yukoners are employed. It doesn't matter to me so much who the boss is as much as that a bunch of Yukoners who are out of work are going to get work. I'd be pretty disappointed if some company came in here and brought all their crew and did the whole job themselves when there were locals here to do it. I think we should try to avoid that.
But I'm just concerned with the minister and the minister's numbers in that, you know, there are a lot of contracts that happen from time to time. They are bid by a major company, and they hire a bunch of subtrades, and most of the time the sub-trades are here. In fact, many times, it's cheaper for the contractors from outside the territory who happen to be successful and the low bidder on a job, and it's much more to their advantage to hire locals anyway, because then they don't have to provide room and board and all the other paraphernalia that goes with that. And in many cases, they do that.
And so, I just caution the minister to back off a bit on bragging about his 30-percent difference, because I'm sure that when someone else gets in there, the numbers could be twisted and turned, and you could do the smoke-and-mirrors trick that I think has been done here in producing numbers that you think are to your benefit. The bottom line to me is that the unemployment rate is soaring in this territory. Yukoners are leaving. Qualified, trained Yukoners are leaving in larger numbers than what we've ever seen before.
And that's not because the government's spending more money and putting more of them to work, or we wouldn't be hearing the stories - the sad stories that we're hearing from our friends and neighbours - that they're forced to leave because there's no work in the territory.
And the minister may think it's politically advantageous to say it in the House and to have it published in the papers, or brag about it in the throne speech, or the budget speech, but I don't think it goes very far with those people whose spouses are in Edmonton or Vancouver or some other province in Canada because they couldn't find a job here.
I think the minister should be careful with that. I think there's a lot of angry Yukoners out there right now who are saying that they're not getting much work and not getting much work from the government. And yet at the same time we have the minister bragging that virtually every dollar the Government of Yukon spends is going into the pockets of Yukoners. I think that we had better be careful with that.
The minister might be right in some instances. I think they've made some good moves with respect to some of the things they've done for locals to get employment. But the difference isn't as widespread as the minister would like to think it is or would like to tell the public it is, and he should be careful with his numbers.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I'll thank the member for his endorsement of our Yukon hire policy. That's about as close as I've come in that regard.
No, I'm not interested in playing with numbers. My goal is to try to get a trend going, try to get a mindset going within government, to make departments - and I have to emphasize, to make all departments - look at their hiring, look at their purchasing policies, look at their contracting policies, in a way that when a contract comes up, they look at the local options, they look at the ways in which we can maximize local growth. That's really what I'm interested in; that's what the trends are suggesting to me.
We can get into bandying about numbers left, right and center, and how much this was at this particular time, and so on. Somebody once said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.
I don't want to get into that kind of nonsense, but what I am concerned about and what I will continue to do is to try to push forward a policy that tries to maximize the amount of local content in all our projects and all of our local purchasing, because I think we have the responsibility to do that. We're interested in working with the business community in that regard. They've given us some ideas. We're interested in working with the Contractors Association in that regard. They've given us some ideas. As a matter of fact, they continue to give us ideas on every project.
So, we are committed to making sure that this goes ahead. We are committed to making sure that we can get as much local growth and as much local content as we can.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to see the minister's not going to use his numbers as freely as he has in the past, and I applaud the fact that he's going to make all efforts to hire Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, I've just been passed the document, by the way, that we received September 18, 1996, and it was some figures that we were given by the government at the time. It was a letter that, I guess, was produced by Government Services at the time and it was signed by the Government Leader and it was to the Whitehorse Star. It says, "Over the past five years, 77 percent of building contract designs have been awarded to Yukon firms. Over the past five years, 92 percent of engineering and architectural contracts have been awarded to Yukon firms. In the last four years, $62 million in contracts were issued on the Shakwak project alone to Yukon firms."
And of the 25,873 contracts awarded by our government back in 1995-96, 89 percent were awarded to Yukon firms, 95 percent of all construction contracts went to Yukon firms, 90 percent of all service contracts went to Yukon firms, 89 percent of all purchase contracts went to Yukon firms.
Like I said, I recall us being asked the question about that at that time. We asked Government Services to prepare a document. We just don't do it within the offices. The department provides you the information, and this is the information we were given then, so, I mean, it just becomes a question of, as the member said, statistics, lies, more lies, and damn statistics, or whatever he said. It was something similar to that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Lies, damn lies and statistics. That's right. The three, Mr. Chair.
I'm just telling the minister that, look, the same department provided similar answers to us back then to defend the position that we felt. Like I said, I applaud any efforts by any government - this government or any government in the future - to ensure that Yukoners are employed and get the benefit of the Government of the Yukon's expenditures, but I have to tell the minister that I was getting increasingly annoyed at his Government Leader and the minister himself standing up and saying: "There is a 30-percent difference. Look how much better we are." In fact, I don't believe there is and never have believed that there is. I think it probably has changed a little bit, but 30 percent is really stretching it.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to talk about a couple of other concerns I have about Yukon hire. What I'm hearing now from some people in various communities in the territory is that they support a concept of Yukoners getting the jobs and getting the work, but what they are seeing now is that there appears to be some moves on behalf of this government of almost community hire, that you're given more preference for a job in Ross River if you live in Ross River, you're given more preference for a job in Carmacks if you live in Carmacks if the job is in that specific community. I have to tell the minister that I have some concerns with that, only because we are a very small community in the first place, and there are only a few government contracts every year.
Now, in this next fiscal year, I believe, there is going to be a school built in Ross River, so it means that there'll be a bunch of people in Ross River who'll get work and that's good. Those people in Ross River who end up being trained as project managers, who end up gaining some expertise from the work and actually go to work for a local Yukon company and provide a valuable service to the company in the work they do should be able to come to work in Whitehorse if there is no work in Ross River the next time or go to work in Carmacks or go to work in Mayo when they build a school in Mayo.
I'm concerned that we're getting too protectionist. It's one thing to be protectionist with the Yukon, but it's another thing to be protectionist and divide our communities that way. The concern I have is that it'll get to a point where, unless you live in the community, you won't be able to work on the jobs in the community, and that's what I'm hearing from contractors out there who are feeling that there is some sole sourcing and other things being done with some contracts and they're wondering why they're being cut out.
I mean, some companies have spent years building their companies up here. Many of them are based in Whitehorse because the bulk of work is in Whitehorse. Many of them right now rely partly on government and partly on the private sector, and the private sector is pretty flat, and they're finding out that they're being excluded from contracts in some of the communities, or at least not being able to bid on the same playing field.
So, I'm wondering what the minister's feelings are on the ability of Yukoners to be mobile. I mean, let me give him an example. In Old Crow, we trained a project manager, a First Nations person who was a project manager. I understand now we're going to do the same thing in Ross River. So, the project manager in Old Crow finishes the school and if there is no other work in Old Crow, I guess he is on pogey or on EI - or can he go to apply for the job? I mean, he's been trained. Why can't that individual go to Ross River or be hired if PCL gets the contract? If they were happy with the individual, why couldn't they have the prerogative of hiring a Yukoner, this Yukoner, and get him to go to Ross River and do the job in Ross River?
There are others who are concerned about that kind of mobility, too, and whether we're going to train a whole bunch of project managers in each community - one in Ross River and one in Mayo and maybe one in some other community where we build a school in the future. And yet, it will be sort of a one-job shot. You get trained as project manager and then wait until the school burns down, or 30 years from now - if you're still alive - when they build another school, you've got a job again. I just don't know where the government's going on this.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'm sure I don't have to remind the member that, under chapter 22 of the land claims agreement, there are certain economic obligations.
One of the things that we hope to do, both with the Old Crow project and with the Ross River project, is develop some local abilities and local expertise. It's my understanding that, in Old Crow, the Vuntut Gwitchin are going to undertake some of their own projects, including some band infrastructure. Hopefully, the folks who've been trained on this project will be able to export those skills.
I think it does need to be recognized, both in Old Crow and Ross River, that part of our obligation under chapter 22 does require us to maximize the amount of local input that we can get - as many local opportunities as possible.
Some of the things that we've done with regard to Ross River is work with the design development report, done with consultants, to try and maximize the amount of local hire opportunities. We've done a survey in the community to determine the interest and capabilities of the local workforce. We've worked with the Ross River Dena Corporation and Yukon College to compile a list of local businesses and contractors. Then we're going to be using our survey to sort of update it. We're also exploring some options among government construction contractors, Government Services and Education, with the idea of cost-sharing and cross-training opportunities for the local construction period.
I think in every community I've gone to, whether it's Ross River, Old Crow or down in Teslin, there's a real desire on the part of the people in those communities, whenever I've met with band councils, to sort of maximize local input, local training opportunities. And, frequently, when I'm talking with them - and I'll just use Teslin as an example - they're not looking at the building of the nursing station as a single-shop project. They are looking at other things that they can do to develop their own community infrastructure. They're talking about such things as mill projects. They're talking about such things as district heating units. So I think what's happened in the communities where these projects are undergoing some development, there is real interest in trying to develop further infrastructure, further opportunities. As I said, with the Vuntut Gwitchin, I understand that there's a new band office being undertaken. No doubt many of the people who have worked on the project there will get opportunities in that regard.
So, part of our impetus on some of these projects is also to develop the local economy, to try to get a bit of a kick-start to the local economy, try to get some folks trained in communities who can undertake projects. Maybe there would be housing projects that people who have taken carpentry training can work on. Say, the Old Crow project might have an opportunity for them in the future. That's really what I think we're committed to doing - working with communities, trying to get some of these opportunities in place, and we'll continue to do so. We've had good success in Old Crow. We're working very hard on the Ross River project, and hopefully we can get the same kind of goo, local involvement when we go about building the nursing station in Teslin.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I think the minister is missing my point, though. You know, it's all well and good to train individuals for jobs. But we seem to be training them for specific jobs. And the problem I have at the present time is that there's 15-percent-plus unemployment in the territory right now.
There are project managers, carpenters, plumbers, skilled tradespeople who are sitting at home today in the minister's riding, in my riding, in other ridings in this territory, who don't have work. And with an economy that's depressed as ours is at the present time, and the government being the only real spender, rather than hiring these people who have been in the Yukon for 20 years, the government's training more people to do these kinds of jobs.
It would be nice to have full employment in the territory, but has the government forgotten about the people who are unemployed in the minister's own riding? The project managers who could go to Old Crow or even the project managers who are presently working in Alberta - and their family and children who've lived here for 20 years, and their children go to school here, and their spouse lives here - wouldn't it be important to bring those people back to the territory again to help build a foundation rather than these people look at what the government's done and go, "There is no hope for me here as project manager. The government's trained them all over the territory. I've got to go elsewhere to find work."
What about these people who don't have jobs now? I mean, training is all well and good, but you've got to have jobs at the end of the tunnel for the people who are trained. And it appears that we have training programs that the minister's putting in place to employ people in the communities for a specific job, when in fact, even in the minister's own riding, he's probably got a bunch of people who could do these jobs who are out of work and have been looking for work for 18 months and can't find it.
You know, we heard the other day from a constituent, a heavy-duty operator - highly qualified, has worked on all kinds of projects - who was told the other day that there wasn't a job for him because there is some kind of a training program. The government is training a bunch of people, and they want to put them in these programs on the jobs, and he's saying, "What about me?" I just don't understand where we're going here. I mean, before we start creating a bunch of new jobs, maybe we should try and get some of the 15 percent that we've got out there working, and I'll bet you it's going to be 16 or 17 percent when the next one comes out, and it's going to get worse. The pessimism out there is really bad at the present time. Even the minister's own short-term economic outlook is extremely pessimistic.
So, I mean, it's important to train people in the communities for these jobs. There's no doubt about it, but there are a lot of people out there in the Yukon who have the qualifications now and don't have a job. They are Yukoners as much as the ones the minister wants to train. They've lived here in some cases as long or longer than some of the people that the minister wants to train. They are committed Yukoners, and they want an opportunity, and they don't see it.
So, you know, I asked the minister to have a look at those people, as well, because I think it's an unfair approach. I mean, I understand what the minister is trying to do, but it appears that he's forgotten about this group, and I would hope that the minister would look at this group of individuals and consider them. I talked to somebody the other day in one of the production shops in this town, and they've lost 20 percent of their qualified staff. They've left the territory. Four or five qualified individuals have had to leave the territory and go work elsewhere.
I'd rather see these people come back, because many of these people still have families here. I'd rather see some of these people hired for some of these jobs than doing some more training. When the Ross River project is over, what we're going to have then is not only the same unemployed people in the minister's riding, my riding and other ridings in the territory, we're also going to have some people in Ross River that aren't going to be able to get a job anywhere either. More trained people with no work.
The other thing that has to be a really important concern to the minister and this government at this time is that our economy has been in a downturn now for well over a year and a half. For most of the people that I've talked to who were on unemployment insurance, it's running out. In the next few weeks and months, it's going to run out. They'll be knocking on the minister's door, some of them quite reluctantly, for support from his Health and Social Services department.
It seems to me that we should be making that some kind of priority - to ensure that these trained people that we have in the territory at least have an opportunity to take some of the jobs that are going to come up this summer.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that I'm as cognizant as anyone of the needs of people. I go out every weekend and bang on doors in my riding and I talk with people. I'm very cognizant of what their economic situation is.
I'm also very cognizant, quite frankly, of some of the obligations that we have to help do some community development and to do some training and building of community capacity. You know, I haven't spent all my time in Whitehorse. I've spent a good deal of my time out in rural areas, and I've lived in communities that have virtually no economic base whatsoever. It's projects like a school that can often kick-start other projects and can often get a measure of economic growth going.
We've got a number of communities here that are on the verge of doing some very significant things in terms of self-government. That's going to involve issues of housing and it's going to involve issues between the infrastructure. Hopefully what we can do is, by these projects, get a bit of economic activity going there and get a bit of community capacity going. That's what we're trying to do.
I hope the member is not suggesting at all that we ignore the local needs. I can tell the member quite frankly that if we were saying, "We will simply parachute a company into Old Crow and we're going to build the school and you are essentially going to maybe get a bit of the yard work at the end of the day," to the local people up there, I don't think that would be received very well.
Moreover, I think it would be a violation of a trust that we have that has arisen out of our umbrella final agreement. I think we have an obligation to some of these communities to try and get some economic activity going, get some growth going.
You know, we've got a community like Ross River that suffered body blows over the last number of years in terms of some of the tragedies or some of the social problems that have occurred in that community. Hopefully, by bringing in a project such as the school, we can create some community pride, we can create some community involvement. At the end of the day, I'd like people in Ross River to say, "This is our school. We were part of this project. We were involved in it from day one. Maybe I was the guy that hung that particular beam." I would like people to have that sense of ownership, that sense of belief in their own capacity, and that's what we're trying to do with some of these projects.
I think that's why we've been trying to involve communities, trying to involve some of the local resources right at the start, and I hope the member is cognizant of the fact that we do have certain obligations that we have to fulfill there. And I'm not forgetting about people in my riding or any other riding.
But what I am saying is that we do have some obligations that we have to meet and sort of develop that capacity locally.
As I said, I was in Teslin for some of our discussions around the health centre. The Teslin First Nation and the municipality have been involved in that particular project in terms of location and design right from the get-go. There have been all kinds of meetings looking at the particular project design. What I can tell the member is that that, in turn, has sparked some discussions in other ways, suggesting other things that can be done. I hear the First Nation there talking about lumbering initiatives. I hear them talk about such things as saying, "Well, perhaps there is some capacity here for us to look at a district heating plant that would tie several of our structures together." I think those are healthy elements and I think we'll continue to work with communities.
Quite clearly, not all projects are going to be extremely localized. The largest project that we see here looming on the horizon is going to be the extended care facility. That particular project, I believe, is going to create a fair degree of job generation in this territory.
I know from my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, that there are several other things lurking on the horizon. We've seen, for example, this government bringing forward money to assist the municipality with its multiplex project - its commitment to the 2007 Games. We've seen ourselves involved in a number of projects trying to create some economic growth here in Whitehorse, where quite obviously more of the folks who may be impacted by unemployment live.
So, what we're trying to do, I think, is we're not trying to exclude one group to the benefit of another group. What we really are trying to do is recognize the need for some local growth and, hopefully, we can continue to do that.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, if I were the minister, I wouldn't be putting all my money in the bank of economic opportunities lurking on the horizon because that's somewhat like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I've been there, in government, and I know that there are all kinds of things that happen in cabinet, where you hear announcements and things that might happen tomorrow, and two or three years down the road, they still might happen tomorrow.
So there are all kinds of things that could possibly happen, of course. But until we get firm and concrete commitments from somebody, it's really one of those old things, you shouldn't count your chickens before they hatch. And I don't think the minister should do that.
You know, I heard the minister say something today, Mr. Chair, that bothers me somewhat. He said that we have obligations under the UFA.
Well, let me go back a bit in history to what we were told about the UFA years ago, when all this started - when land claims started. Yukoners were told that a settlement of a Yukon land claim would not only benefit First Nations, it would benefit all Yukoners. There would be an infusion of some $280 million, and all Yukoners would see strong benefits from a land claims settlement.
I don't know if anybody ever anticipated our economy would be as bad as it is today. And I'm sure those Yukoners - non-First Nation Yukoners - never thought that a minister in this House would say, "The reason you're not getting a job and you're unemployed now and don't have much of a future in getting a job with some of these other jobs that the Government of Yukon is spending money on is because we have obligations under the UFA."
I'm sure they never intended or thought that the government's position would be that because of the UFA, the money that we're going to be spending as the Government of the Yukon, you might be excluded from sharing in some of that.
And that's what the minister just said. He said that we have some obligations under the UFA, with this taxpayers' money we're spending - all Yukon taxpayers' money. So I don't think they would have got a lot of support from Yukoners with respect to UFA if they had known that it might cost them their job now and in the future.
Because we were all told that it would be a benefit to all of us, and the minister said in the House here today - and it's in Hansard for everyone to read - that the reason we're doing it this way is because we have obligations under the UFA. Well, I don't think the UFA itself had intended that it would cut certain Yukoners out of future employment. In fact, I think that the Government of the Yukon, the Government of Canada and the First Nations all felt that everyone would benefit from the UFA. At least, that was the impression I had, and I think it was the impression that First Nations had and others have had as well.
So, I was really disturbed when I heard the minister state today that the reason we're doing it this way is because we have obligations under the UFA. So, I'll take that back to some of my constituents and take the Hansard where the minister says that and show them that this is the answer I got. I'm not happy with it, and I don't think a lot of Yukoners who are not working today will be happy with it, because the Yukon government taxpayers' dollars are supposed to benefit all Yukoners fairly, and not divide them as it appears that this minister is doing with his budget and from what he said in the House today.
So, it will be interesting to see what kinds of comments I get from people out there when I take this information to them, because it was quite revealing to see that the minister has this position; that the reason we're spending the Yukon taxpayers' dollars this way is because we have obligations. I would suggest to the minister that he also has pretty strong obligations to the 15-percent unemployed out there right now who are looking for work, and that they should be just as much a priority as anybody else in this territory.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, actually, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure how the member wants to characterize it, but I happen to believe that the land claims process and self-government are going to be and are a net benefit for all Yukoners.
The people in Old Crow are working on a school project. They're making some money. I can assure the member that they're not putting it in a sock and sticking it under the bed. They're spending it on products that are bought here in the territory. They're spending it on services.
When people in Ross River, who will hopefully get employment on this project, make money, it's going to be recirculated in this economy. I don't believe that we're trying to cut anyone out at all. What we're trying to do and what I believe we are doing is recognize - and I believe that the UFA recognizes this - that there are some communities that have been economically disadvantaged and haven't participated in the full economic life of this territory. I believe that some of our obligations of projects on traditional territory do need to recognize that we have to provide some opportunities.
I happen to think that when a group of Yukoners is working, we all benefit. I believe that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member seems to be suggesting that we somehow exclude people from a local project and that somehow if there's a project in Ross River, people in Ross River shouldn't benefit. That seems to be the inference that I'm taking from the member. He seems to be contending that we don't have an obligation under the UFA.
I would suggest that the UFA is a legal document. We have certain obligations there. That's what we are trying to fulfill. I don't happen to believe that when we fulfill those obligations we are necessarily cutting anyone out or disadvantaging anyone else.
I would suggest that the money that we put into this territory in the matter of building infrastructure or purchasing in a community ends up getting circulated through the entire economy, and we all benefit.
There will be projects that work on a different basis. There will be projects that work in different ways in different communities. What we have recognized is that, in a couple of these communities, we have had to fulfill certain legal obligations and this has, I think, proved a real benefit for the people.
When we punched the road into Old Crow, people benefited. People brought in snowmobiles. People brought in vehicles. People brought in building materials. People brought in things that they needed for their community, and they brought out stuff. They brought out derelict tanks. They brought out things that they wanted to remove from their community that had been cluttering it up.
People here in this territory benefited from that project, not only the local company that built the road - and it was a local company. We also had some employment generated in the community and, certainly, the reports that I got from Old Crow suggested that there was a good deal of merchandise that came in on that road and it was a benefit.
So, to suggest that somehow we're trying to exclude one group of people for the benefit of another is patently untrue. I guess the question that we all have to suggest here is: do we believe in the principles of the umbrella final agreement, or do we not? It's a simple question. I happen to believe in those principles. I presume the member does not.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the member is not accurate, because the member knows I supported the agreement in principle in this House. I voted for it. The point that I'm making to the minister is that I think that the minister himself, with his new policies, has excluded other Yukoners from some of these jobs. I think that the unemployed people in Ross River have the same rights as the unemployed people in the minister's riding, in my riding, and in other Yukon rural ridings, to work in this territory as Yukoners.
The minister is telling me that the umbrella final agreement says we have obligations. Well, he's right. We have obligations, but we also have obligations to other Yukoners as well. We should make sure that all Yukoners can share fairly in the expenditure of public funds.
I don't know if anybody ever anticipated the economy being as bad as it is today, but there are a lot of people out of work. In every single member's riding there are a lot of people out of work and we shouldn't be dividing and conquering or dividing up the spoils in certain ridings and giving preference to some people over other people. I think we should make sure that we try to get as many of these unemployed people in the territory back to work as soon as possible. Their UI is running out. They're having to leave the territory. They're having to move their families. We shouldn't be setting up a preferential process where certain people in certain communities get the first priority of all the jobs.
I mean, the people in Whitehorse shouldn't get first priority for all the jobs that come out in Whitehorse. There are a lot of unemployed people in Carmacks, Pelly and in other communities who should be able to come down here and work if they need work. If there isn't work in Mayo this year - and there probably won't be a lot of work - those people should be able to come down here and freely work.
That's the concern I have. We had better not begin this division of, "If you live in Carmacks, you can only work in Carmacks, or if you live in Ross River, you can only work in Ross River, or if you live in Whitehorse, you can only work in Whitehorse." That's where we seem to be moving.
The Member for Watson Lake doesn't think this is a very useful debate, but I think it is. There are a lot of people right now from Watson Lake who are looking for jobs in Whitehorse and every other community in the territory, because there is no work in Watson Lake - or very little.
There are going to be some in the future, because they are going to be building some buildings in Watson Lake, but there are a lot of people in my riding and in Carmacks and in the Minister of Government Services' riding who would like to go to Watson Lake to work as well so they don't have to move their family to Alberta. There are a lot of people, Mr. Chair, who want to work everywhere in the territory, and I see this government moving from a policy of local Yukon hire to almost a policy of local community hire, and that is the danger, I think, that we're getting into.
I think we have to make sure that in this small constituency we have in this territory, Yukoners can be mobile, that Yukoners from Old Crow can work in Ross River, and people in Ross River can work in Whitehorse, and people in Whitehorse can work in Watson Lake and vice versa. And we better be allowing that to happen, especially in an economy so down in the dumps as this one happens to be right now, because there are people out there in everybody's ridings who desperately need jobs.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would just generally conclude that we have been striving for that. When I look at the Old Crow school project, I take a look at the suppliers of the materials and see companies there from Dawson, Whitehorse - several companies from Dawson. When I take a look at the local hire in Dawson, I see that there is site clearing and construction done by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, that we've involved local people, including cooks who work for Pelly Construction, the company that went up there, that we had local equipment operators working with Pelly, that we had gatekeepers, that we had Vuntut Gwitchin folks administering freight unloading, marshalling, security of school materials. Something that I thought was a particularly positive kind of thing was that the Vuntut Gwitchin brought in mobile homes.
They transported them in on the winter road and rented them out to the contractor for construction workers from Whitehorse. So obviously there were workers from Whitehorse on that project. And then, after that, these construction units are going to be converted into housing in the community.
You know, the project itself - the number of people varied. It wasn't exclusively Vuntut Gwitchin. But certainly TSL, the contractor, had demonstrated a strong commitment to trying to hire Vuntut Gwitchin people and, I think, fulfilled it very well.
On this particular project, the local hire ranged from a high of 18 of a total workforce of 26. You know, it varies at different times - the total number employed, the total number of Vuntut Gwitchin - depending on the nature of the workforce. When it was labour intensive - insulating, exterior work, framing - there were a lot more local Vuntut Gwitchin members. When it moved to some of the specialized trades, the numbers dropped off. It'll go up again now that we've resumed work.
So, I think it varies. We're not excluding anyone. What we're trying to do is provide as much local input as possible.
I don't think that there's anything particularly the matter with that attitude, and I would contend that we are fulfilling obligations that we have to the people of this territory. I think there'll be projects that come along that will probably be almost exclusively Whitehorse based. But there will be, within communities, a need to demonstrate our commitment.
I can probably bet bottom dollars that when the funds begin to flow to Dawson - be it their recreation complex or their sewage plant - that there will probably be a very concerted effort - I would imagine, probably a Herculean effort - in the City of Dawson to ensure that local contractors have first kick at the cat.
I would expect nothing else. I would expect nothing else of our friends in Watson Lake. Of course, they live close to the population. They're going to make a real effort to try to maximize the local content in any of these projects, and I think that's perfectly understandable.
So, I don't think we've done anything that is trying to exclude anyone. We've simply recognized that we need to promote some economic activity in some of our rural communities, and that's what we've done.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on Government Services. Is there further debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Just in response to the Member for Riverdale North's comments regarding, sort of, community preference in hiring, I took the opportunity at the break to look up the CERS, which is the candidate evaluation rating system that was implemented in 1998. I thought that, probably, given the tenor of the member's remarks, they had abandoned this because one of the elements in it says, "Restricting competition to a geographic location can be achieved by identifying a geographic preference for candidates in a community or regional area in the statement of qualifications. This restriction may apply to positions outside Whitehorse and this preference would then be indicated on the statement of qualifications."
Now, I thought, well, perhaps, given the member's comments, the previous Yukon Party government had abandoned this, but then I took a look at just a couple of samples. In April 1994, there was a court registry clerk position in Dawson City that said very clearly, "Preference will be given to residents of the Dawson City area." Then again, in September 1995, there was a cook vacancy at the Teslin facility, and it said, "Preference will be given to residents of the Teslin area." So, I just thought I'd bring that to the member's attention, because it appears that there is some confusion on that matter.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the area of contracts and contracts being awarded - on the same topic, Mr. Chair - a number of the government contracts, I'm given to understand, come out with the proviso that they require the contractor to hire trainees. Where did this originate, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't know of anything that requires the hiring of trainees. I do know that there were some changes made to the business incentive program to encourage the hiring of trainees - young people and apprentices. So, if the member has a particular contract in mind, I can take a look at it and see what the element is, but at this point, I don't know of a requirement. I should remind him that not all government contracts come from Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are a number of the contracts out there in the public domain - quite sizable contracts. One that comes right to the surface is Community and Transportation Services' contract let for extending the Whitehorse airport, which, I'm given to understand, required that there were trainees to be hired in the job. I was just wondering where this policy was developed and what the minister's thoughts are on the subject.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that with respect to the C&TS contract, it would be more appropriately put to C&TS.
I can say that, on projects, I think the idea of hiring young people and giving them an opportunity, as a person who's been involved in education, is always wise. We are, after all, not only investing in the present, we're also investing in the future. And part of our goal with the change in the BIP has been to try and encourage - not require, but to encourage - the hiring of young people and the hiring of apprentices.
So, if the member is asking how I feel about trying to hire young people on government contracts, I'm in favour of trying to hire young people. I think it's a very sound investment in our future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's something I agree with the minister on. But, before we implement a provision in the contract that we hire trainees - I'm referring specifically to trainees - don't you feel it's reasonable to come up with a wage category that is not at the journeyman level for these trainees in these respective positions?
Because this is getting to be somewhat of a bone of contention with a lot of the contractors out there. They want to hire trainees, they go and hire trainees, and then they look to paying them just slightly less - somewhat less - than the full-fledged operator, if you want to use that as an example. And they can't, because there are no provisions under the contract provisos that would allow this or permit it.
So, you have a section in there dealing with apprenticeships, and depending on the stage that these individuals are at in the apprenticeship program, the fair wage schedule says you can hire an apprentice who's starting at this level and graduate them up through the program. But for trainees, there is no category there. Why?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would assume that the member is talking about C&TS contracts, so C&TS would have to take a look at those. I would have to also take a look at the individual contract to see what was the nature of the position being required.
I guess, in general, one of the things you want to do is create a well-trained workforce, and you want to give opportunities to people. One of the great dilemmas, I think, young people face in our system is sometimes when they go to get a job, they're often told, "Well, you don't have any experience." How can you get experience if you can't get a job?
I don't know how many times I've talked with young people who are frustrated with that particular situation in employment. So, I think the idea of creating entry-level jobs and trainee positions is a valuable one, but I would have to take a look at the specific references, the specific positions, in this regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go right to the fair wage schedule. Why does the fair wage schedule not have a provision for paying individuals in this category that we're establishing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The fair wage schedule is within the Department of Justice. I would suggest that the member should deal with the Department of Justice on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we couldn't get an answer out of the Minister of Justice. I'm sure we won't get an answer out of the Minister of C&TS -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: - who has been overseas and has got some contagious disease in his throat, by the sounds of things.
Be that as it may, Government Services has the overall responsibility for contracts, and one of the areas that's not working in these contracts, Mr. Chair, is this training part of the program. Now, it's something I believe in. I think we can all concur that it's a good program.
But there are no provisions in there to pay at a lesser wage than the journeyman's wage for that trade or skill. Now, government contracts fall under this minister, Mr. Chair. I think that, in concert with his colleagues, he could come up with something to address this issue - a new provision in the fair wage schedule or something of that nature. Is he willing to undertake this or are we just going to skirt around the issue and pass the buck to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I think the member may be making more of this than it actually is. It is just a clause in the contract. He seems to be suggesting that the whole fair wage schedule needs to be revamped. I would suggest that he is talking about specific contracts, and that would have to be dealt with through the department in question.
I'm not really sure where the member is going with this, but in terms of training I think we can all agree that we want to provide opportunities for our young people and for people to get involved in the workforce.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we agree, Mr. Chair, that we all want to provide opportunities and we all want to have these opportunities for our youth to learn a skill or a trade. There is no quarrel with that aspect. But, when you start applying the requirement to hire trainees to various contracts, and then you start looking at the fair wage schedule - and I'm not suggesting to the minister that we revamp the whole fair wage schedule - I'm just suggesting to the minister that there needs to be a category in it for trainees in the various areas. Now, does the minister not agree with that statement and can he do something about it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, my role is to implement the recommendations of the Yukon hire commission, and recommendation number 4 states that the government should foster more job opportunities for young people. There are several departments involved in that - Public Service Commission, Education, and basically all departments. Some of the progress made to date has been the idea of the BIP construction policy, amended to include a youth rebate. Under Education, there are youth initiatives incorporated into the training strategy. Specific initiatives underway include the youth employment strategy, which is a joint HRDC and advanced education initiative to identify Yukon government apprenticeship program positions for youth. We continue to actively promote the secondary school apprenticeship program. And there is the youth strategy, which my colleague, the Minister of Education, announced on October 14. Those are the areas that we are working on within the Yukon hire, and I think that we are trying to ensure that all of our young people have those kinds of opportunities.
Now, the member has asked me something very specific about the fair wage schedule, and it is not something that I have dealt with, and I would suggest that it's probably more appropriately part of the Justice debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it is an issue that crosses the Government Services department on a regular basis, and it's in that domain in part. Now, it's one of those areas that spans a number of departments, yes. But unless the minister is willing to take it on and address it and write it into the fair wage schedule through his colleague, the Minister of Justice, and come up with something that is going to work - now, if you're going to specify that the contractor must hire and is required to hire trainees to perform the work, it's only reasonable to have a category for trainees in the fair wage schedule.
There's a formula in there for apprentices and there's a fair wage schedule for virtually all of the trades and professions. Now, does the minister not think it's necessary to have a fair wage schedule for trainees that is somewhat less than the full rate of pay for those categories that we're dealing with?
Can we deal with it on that basis? Can the minister undertake to consult with his colleagues and address it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sure my colleague is sitting raptly beside the radio and probably has been just swept off her feet by the passion that's been brought forward by the Member for Klondike; she's suddenly had a revelation that this is a burning issue that reaches down into the soul of everyone and is probably, at this moment, rushing over in her vehicle to Justice, saying, "We must remedy this immediately."
I take a look at number 20 of the Yukon hire recommendations, "Review the fair wage schedule," and then I look across and it says, "Responsible department: Justice." Then I take a look at the progress to date - public consultations completed, legislative amendments drafted, Employment Standards Board recommendations received, department to provide analysis for Minister of Justice, Cabinet approval to increase fair wage schedule, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And that's where the responsibility seems to lie.
Since the member feels so passionately about this, he should bring it to the attention of the appropriate minister. I'll tell her that this was a scintillating focus of our debate today and I'm sure she will act accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I appreciate the minister taking up the challenge. I guess that is the malaise that has set into this government - no one minister wants to be responsible for anything. If it's not in black and white amd within their respective department, there doesn't seem to be any leadership at the top providing overall direction to the respective ministers. They're all skating around helter-skelter throughout their domains.
The record was set straight by my colleague, who read into the record the number of contracts in the 1995-96 fiscal year that were awarded by the Yukon Party government; 89 percent of them were awarded to Yukon firms and 95 percent of all construction contracts went to Yukon firms; 90 percent of all service contracts went to Yukon firms and 89 percent of all purchase contracts went to Yukon firms.
That leads me back to the minister's statement here today, Mr. Chair, that he made initially on March 11, that he will contend and he will stick to what he calls the "facts", that when the Yukon Party was in power, 59 percent of the value of all the government contracts went to local companies. Two and a half years later, it is 89 percent.
So we're talking a 30-percent gap that the minister hasn't explained, other than to throw out a whole bunch more figures. So if this government is doing so much better than the Yukon Party government, why is it that the economy here in the Yukon is in the tubes - down the toilet, Mr. Chair - unemployment for Yukoners is probably one of the highest levels ever, and there's an exodus of Yukoners seeking employment elsewhere, because there are no jobs, no opportunities here.
We have a government that is putting in place more and more regulations on Yukoners than ever before, and the only thing that's getting larger in the Yukon is the government itself. Government itself is growing, and yet they're servicing the needs of fewer and fewer Yukoners.
Why is that? If the numbers that the minister is touting, as to how much they're spending and where they're spending it is all going to Yukoners, why do we have so much unemployment? Why is the retail trade going down? Wholesale trade is at one of the lowest levels in the last decade.
And the optimism here in the Yukon just doesn't exist any more. The minister and his colleagues have managed to kill it.
So perhaps it's time that the minister brought back an analysis of these numbers he's putting forth in this House to substantiate them. I guess the minister said quite succinctly something about statistics - in the preamble to it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: - lies, damn lies and statistics.
There is something to be said there and that was the minister's own statement, Mr. Chair. Now, that would lead me to conclude that the statistics that are being put forward are a boldfaced lie, because they don't substantiate anything, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Sloan, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Member for Klondike, I think, has suggested that I've lied to this House or misled the House deliberately and I would ask him to withdraw that.
Chair: I would like to remind members to keep their remarks parliamentary. Perhaps it's better to use a word such as "incorrect" and I think we can all benefit from that.
Is there further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if it pleases the Chair, I guess we can say that lying statistics are not lying statistics, they're just incorrect statistics. That'll probably sit a little bit more comfortably with the minister, but I'd like the minister to bring back the analysis that his department - or probably his spin doctors - have done to conclude that 59 percent of all of the value of government contracts went to local firms under the Yukon Party and it is currently 89 percent today. From the information that we have assembled, that is pure bunk, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I need to express a measure of concern about the member's fixation on scatological references. So far, he's referred to "toilet paper" and "in the toilet". There appears to be something there that was perhaps unresolved in an earlier part of his life.
With reference to the figures, I think the figures that I'm prepared to put forward here are very clear. The member has his own figures. I've suggested that what these figures are pointing to is a positive trend. We believe that it is a positive trend. We believe that we are more diligent in ensuring that departments pay attention to the local purchase content and so forth. The member doesn't believe that, so I guess we will have to have a difference of opinion on this. His suggestion is that somehow they did do much better.
Now, I've just also been handed some material on retail sales, which appear to be positive. He talks about optimism. I think he needs to really take a look at some of the quarterly estimates on retail sales, which seem to be suggesting that there is a spike up, and I would also suggest that retail sales are, generally, a fairly good indication of where the economy is going and a measure of confidence.
I would also suggest that if the members perhaps got out occasionally and if they actually did venture forth into the real world instead of sitting in their little cave there and telling themselves how great they were and how great they are, I think they would find that, for example, if they had been at the chamber meeting just a little over a week or more ago - a week and a half - there was a very positive sense of optimism there. I think there are some very positive signs on the horizon.
I certainly got the impression that people in business are feeling that there are challenges ahead, but they can work through them, that they can address some of these. I would suggest, as well, that we only need to take a look at the figures of my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, and suggest that there is some optimism in the economy. I would suggest that he is just sort of posturing away here. But we're quite used to that, and now he's brought in the big guns there to help him out.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the positive trend in retail sales is that the decrease was only 6.4 percent. The total retail sales figure in the Yukon for the month of January 1999 was $20.4 million. The January 1998 figure was $21.8 million. We had a decrease of $1.4 million.
So, if that's a positive trend, Mr. Chair, this minister is living in a world that most people can't relate to. I don't know where he's going to get his information from, but retail sales in the rest of Canada were up 2.3 percent over the same time period. This is from the Yukon retail sales, Bureau of Statistics, Government of Yukon.
If the minister requires it, I can suggest where he could get a copy of this publication, Mr. Chair, so that he can have a firmer understanding of what the Yukon retail sales did during the month of January.
I think that if the minister wants to look at the end of February, which is just another few weeks away from being published, he will find that his government is setting another positive trend here in the Yukon, and that retail sales will be off again.
This government is doing very little but make a whole bunch of numbers sound like they're doing something. However, the retail figures speak for themselves. The retail trades speak for themselves and the number of people leaving the Yukon for greener pastures elsewhere speak for themselves.
If the minister wants to refer to all these trends as positive, I guess he may, but it just doesn't make any sense to anyone that I know who knows anything about the economy and how an economy is built. In any of the courses that I can recall taking, trends that went the other way were positive trends. Trends that are going the way that the Yukon is currently going are called negative trends, Mr. Chair.
There is quite a difference. In fact, they're opposite. So, if the minister wants to stand up and correct the record with respect to the retail trades sales for the month of January, the last statistics that were out, we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'm sure he would love us to all throw sack-cloth and ashes on ourselves and beat ourselves on the breast and say, "Oh, my gosh, we can't do anything; we're doomed." I believe that this government is doing aggressive development in the economy. I believe we're trying to move ahead.
I guess what I'm failing to understand is that this member is using Government Services as a platform for his posturing on economics. He apparently didn't have the courage to do that within Economic Development so he's trying it yet again. It's failing on all counts. His only recourse is to get into name-calling and posturing and puffing himself up. If he wants to believe that he's the great economic force in this territory, if he wants to see himself as a Dave Ricardo or Keynes or any of the other economists, Milton Friedman, he can do that. We all know that he feels he is an expert on everything.
So, I guess what we really need to do is decide what we are doing in this debate? I think so far we've ranged into Economic Development, we've ranged into Justice. Are we ever getting to Government Services? Apparently he doesn't have any substance so he's just going through this posturing. So, let's go.
Mr. Jenkins: Normal business decisions or government decisions are based on sound data. Now, the data that the minister is using appears to be very inaccurate. Why is the minister using inaccurate data and information to base his decisions on?
I can understand his spin doctors taking that approach, because really there hasn't been any improvement to the economy. In fact, all the trends have been downward under this government, Mr. Chair. All the trends have been downward; all of the employment figures have been downward, and there doesn't appear to be any light on the horizon as to where Yukon is heading.
Opportunity here in the Yukon is probably at an all-time low under this government, and this minister is responsible for Government Services and awarding of contracts. Local hire is part of that. Now, why is the minister basing a lot of his decisions on inaccurate information?
Why would the minister do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I fail to see what relevance this member's posturing has to do with the debate here. The government has a commitment to the Yukon hire policy; we are committed to working that through. We have set ourselves a timeline. We have particular elements of that policy that we have implemented - some are in the process of implementation and others will take a longer, more reasoned, view of it.
But this member really doesn't seem to have anything to discuss in Government Services. All he seems to be doing is trying to posture away. We're used to that, and we'll continue to be so. If he wants to waste his time going through this posturing, puffing himself up again - he really does believe that he is the expert on everything, so let him continue on in that fantasy. Let's make him happy. He's probably going to get into astrology next or the predictions of Nostradamus, or something. So let's just have him come on.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't like being mistaken for the Member for Faro who is the minister of everything in the House, Mr. Chair, as the minister has just done, so we'll leave that one alone.
But what I am greatly concerned with is the minister's use of the statistics as to the value of the contracts that were let under the Yukon Party government and the value of those currently being let today. The numbers that the minister has put forward in this House do not correspond to the fiscal year 1995-96 that the Yukon Party assembled the data for. Now, what period is the minister referring to, and how is he comparing these figures to come up with a far-fetched example such as he advances in the House?
Now, under the Yukon Party, the record is quite clear. For the 1995-96 fiscal year, of the 25,873 contracts awarded by the Yukon Party government, 89 percent were awarded to Yukon firms, 95 percent of all construction contracts went to Yukon firms, 90 percent of all service contracts went to Yukon firms, and 89 percent of all purchase contracts went to Yukon firms. Yet we have the minister standing up on the House on March 11 saying, "I will contend and what I will stick to is the fact that when the Yukon Party was in power, 59 percent of the value of all the government contracts went to local companies. Two and half years later, it's 89 percent, and we're still striving." Now, where does the minister pull his numbers from? Where did he get this inaccurate information, or how did he juggle the books or skew the numbers to come up with this claim that he's making? Can he please provide all of the necessary and relevant documentation to support his position?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Livingston, on a point of order.
Mr. Livingston: The member opposite is accusing the minister of fixing the numbers. That is clearly unparliamentary. It's not an assertion that should be made.
Chair: Mr. Ostashek, on a point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: The Member for Klondike is asking the Government Services minister to come forward with evidence of a statement he made in this House. He made a statement that only 59 percent of the contracts under a Yukon Party government were given out, when the Member for Klondike has brought forward evidence that is quite different from that. I think he has every right to ask the minister for evidence of how he came up with those calculations. He stood up in the House and said he'd stand by those numbers.
Chair: The Chair will review the Blues and report later this evening.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The numbers that I have, as compiled by our department, indicate the dollar value, the percentage of the three types of contracts: the sole-source contract, the invitational and the advertised tender.
It's done by value, it's done by the dollar amount and those are numbers that we can provide the member so he can peruse them at his leisure.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister also provide the period of time that we are looking at these contracts for the Yukon Party when they were in power, vis-à-vis what period of time are we looking at for the current NDP government? Are we actually comparing apples to apples for the first two and a half years of the mandate or the first three years of the mandate or comparing it to the last two years of this government's mandate? What are we comparing because the numbers certainly don't relate to the information that we have assembled and had assembled prior to when the minister advanced the numbers in the House on March 11.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The years that we're talking about are the years 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99. Those are the figures that we have. I have them in both dollars in Yukon and dollars out of Yukon. I have them in percentage terms. We will provide them for the member if that would set his mind at ease.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister also identify the number of firms that have been reclassified as a Yukon firm, from previously not being a Yukon firm, in that overview? There has to be some other information that skews the number.
Now, it was the same department, Mr. Chair, that assembled these numbers for the Yukon Party government as is assembling the numbers for the current NDP government. They vary dramatically as to the presentation and what one would conclude from them. So, there has to be something in there that has changed dramatically, so that the numbers that Government Services derived today, looking back into the 1995-96 fiscal period, are different from what they presented to the Yukon Party for that same period. There has to be a reason or an explanation for it, and that's what I'm looking for.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is a reason. It's hard and diligent work.
Mr. Jenkins: Now the minister is just getting silly, Mr. Chair. It's very sad to see.
We're here debating numbers that the minister has advanced in the House. They appear to be unsubstantiated, other than by a report that the minister is going to send over. But, they do not compare to the information that was previously assembled by Government Services for the Yukon Party. Now, why is there such a tremendous difference in the conclusion that is drawn? What has changed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that what has changed is, first of all, the government. I would suggest that, along with that, there has been a philosophical orientation in this government that was manifested in the Yukon hire commission and the commitment by this government to try and maximize the benefits.
When we first came into power, we made a commitment to try and advance the cause of Yukon hire. That is what we have done. We've made very substantial efforts in that regard. He asked what changed. There was a difference of opinion and difference of orientation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's look back, Mr. Chair. We're not looking at what this government has done, Mr. Chair; we're looking at the conclusions drawn by Government Services in the 1995-96 fiscal year - the review that Government Services did then.
Now the same government department - Government Services - has gone back and conducted a second analysis of those figures at that time, of all of those contracts - I imagine it's the same 25,873 contracts - and they've concluded something entirely different. We just want to know why, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, my colleague has suggested needless repetition, but that sort of goes along with the Member for Klondike.
What we have here is we've broken out these contracts into type of contract - sole-source, invitational, advertised - and we have come up with conclusions that suggest that the pattern has been for a greater percentage of those contracts to be in the territory and a declining amount to go out of territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I still can't, for the life of me, fathom how the same department has concluded something entirely different than was concluded back on September 18, 1996, given that they have to work from the same information - same contracts, same fiscal period. There were 25,873 contracts. The value of all contracts awarded to Yukon firms in 1995-96 was $99.6 million, or 62 percent of total value of all government contracts awarded. That's the number that we came up with back then.
Now, we're talking about a hospital thrown into that. Now, we're talking about over 89 percent being awarded to Yukon firms, 95 percent of all construction contracts going to Yukon firms, 90 percent of all service contracts going to Yukon firms, 89 percent of all purchase contracts going to Yukon firms, and yet when we look at what the minister says in the House here today, he says that it's only 59 percent.
Now, the method of analysis must have changed. Something has altered, because the conclusions are different. Given that the department was analyzing the same information for the same fiscal period, the same contracts, and yet the department concludes something different, we want to know why, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There may be some difference in the fact that the September analysis would have been for the year previous to 1995-96.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what we need, Mr. Chair, is for the minister to table all that information so we can have a good, hard look at it. Will the minister provide a legislative return outlining all this information and the analysis and how they arrived at these figures, because we've achieved two different results analyzing the same information? Can the minister provide a legislative return with this overview, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will provide information for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his kind cooperation.
I have a couple of other questions arising out of the responses that the minister gave here in the House a little earlier, Mr. Chair.
One was another one of those areas that's bounced between two different departments. We have the Department of Education and the Department of Government Services, and it's concerning the lighting standards. They appear to vary between the schools, and I did get some information last year, after the budget, Mr. Chair, on that topic, but there does not appear to be a uniform standard applied.
If we ask the Minister of Education, she bounces it over to the Minister of Government Services, and I'm sure that I'm going to get the bounce back to the Minister of Education here today, similar to the fair wage schedule practice earlier. But what I'm looking for is: what standard are we adopting? Is there a consistent and uniform standard, and if there isn't, why isn't there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe that I provided that information earlier to the member. Perhaps he wasn't paying attention. I have taken that information upstairs. I can get him the information a bit later on. I think what I pointed out was that we're currently going through an analysis of lighting standards, and I can get that information to him. But I was under the impression that I had provided that before we broke for March break. Is there something incomplete about the information? I thought it was fairly complete in what I said in terms of the work that was being done in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, the minister did provide me with some information on the lighting and lighting standards but, as the minister stated, it was incomplete. It doesn't have a uniform standard adopted. It appears to be on a case-by-case situation, with no one school having a uniform classroom standard for lighting.
Now, we're not looking at hallway lighting and we're not looking at entrance lighting. We're not looking at those areas that can use a lower standard. We're just looking at lighting standards for classrooms, and if the minister would go back and look at the legislative return he provided - I'd like to thank the minister for same - and reread it, there are some blanks in there where still nothing has been done. Those are the areas I'm exploring with the minister, and I want to know why.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll go back and take a look at my response on that, but I believe I indicated that this is currently undergoing some review to establish lighting standards in schools. I'll go back and take a look at that again, but I thought I had made it clear in my response.
Chair: Order please. The time being almost 5:30 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair: A point of order was raised earlier today by the Member for Lake Laberge respecting the use of the term "juggle the books or skew the number" by the Member for Klondike. The Chair has reviewed the matter. During a review of the Blues for this afternoon, it was also noted that the expressions "twist and weasel around" and "twist the facts" were used by other members. The Chair does not wish to encourage members to use language such as this, but, with it being so common, it would become intrusive to step in and call it to order on every occasion. Perhaps the best solution would be to request that members respect the ruling given by the Speaker earlier today and to exercise some self-discipline in restraining themselves from using expressions that maybe be found insulting by other members.
Chair: Committee is on the Department of Government Services. Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I would like to begin this evening with this: the minister supplied us, before we adjourned the House for spring break, with the business plans for the special operating agencies. I've had a brief opportunity to review them. I have not gone through them in depth, but I do have a number of questions for the minister on them.
I'd like to start with the Queen's Printer agency - the business plan. These plans, I might add, Mr. Chair, provide a great deal of information and are quite lengthy on the background of these agencies. I'm not going to take issue with the printed material. I have, however, reviewed the financial information and I would like to question the minister on that.
In appendix B, the financial information in the comparative income statement, the revenue and expenses for the Queen's Printer agency, which are to be equal so that there's a net income of zero, show in excess of a $100,000 increase over their projections for 1998-99 and still in excess of $100,000 for the 1997-98 actual income and expenses. I'm curious as to why there is such an increase.
Now, we know that the four commissions have ceased their operations so there is not a huge increase in the reports we're all waiting for with bated breath from the government. We should presumably have our supply of colour fronts for reports back because the energy commission isn't using them, so why is there a huge $100,000 increase in the operating agency? Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just take note that there seems to be three major areas: one is capital; the other is personnel class, which I imagine is related to the YGEU collective agreement, and the third is on contract services, and I can get some further detail on that aspect.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it wasn't difficult to notice where the increases were. They are, as the minister has noted, an increase in contract services. I'm interested to know whether or not we're contracting that work out, or what "by contract services" means. I see it's an expense line item, so presumably it's a contracting out.
Interestingly enough, the programmable materials is a huge decrease - in excess of $16,000. Yet, advertising has increased by almost $5,000. What advertising is this? Is it government advertising? Is it the advertising we saw in the newspaper for the Yukon Energy Corporation, and talking about energy and rate relief? Is this the design of the ad, or the purchase of the advertising? Exactly what is it? The programmable materials - is this printing brochures for, perhaps, the CDF or the trade and investment fund? If that's the case, then we aren't printing as many brochures for that. Or, is this other existing government programs which are not funded because we're putting the funding into these other programs?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll get back to the member on that when we get toward lines. I'll probably find out by tomorrow, okay?
Ms. Duncan: If the minister could supply a written explanation as to the financial expenditures of the Queen's Printer agency in those areas I've asked for, I would appreciate it, Mr. Chair. I'll accept a written response.
The fleet vehicle agency also has a fascinating summary of revenue and expenses - quite an increase in the 1999-2000 estimates, over the 1998-99 forecast.
Can the minister explain the relationship with the Yukon Energy Corporation and the fleet vehicle agency? I note that they use almost $6,200 in pool cars, and I also note that the Yukon Energy Corporation has also purchased quite a large number of brand new Dodge vehicles. Why are they not continuing their relationship with the fleet vehicle agency, and why the deviation in terms of purchasing their own vehicles?
Presumably, if they use the fleet vehicle agency in one area, they would be using them continually, as opposed to purchasing many of their own new vehicles. Can the minister explain that relationship?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's purely a decision by the Yukon Energy Corporation. What they may have done is to just choose to use fleet vehicles for certain purposes and purchase their own vehicles for convenience purposes, but they are a free-standing agency, so they can do with their funds as they wish.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does the minister have any idea why there would be a difference, and given that the fleet vehicle agency intends to purchase, I believe, 47 new vehicles in 1999-2000, as compared with an estimate for 1998-99 of 11, why would Yukon Energy Corporation not use the fleet vehicle agency and, presumably, its purchasing power and expertise to purchase vehicles for them? They rent from them. They lease vehicles from them. Why wouldn't they use them to purchase and make maximum use of the government dollar, which, I believe, is what the whole idea was behind these special operating agencies?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That we would have to take up with Yukon Energy, but it may be that they are seeking specific vehicles that we cannot provide or that we can't purchase on that basis.
Our basic policy is to replace vehicles as they reach the end of their useful life and need to be replaced. Why Yukon Energy chooses to do it - they may have their own reasons, they may have their own rationale. We can certainly find out what their reasons are, in terms of their own purchasing powers and their own purchasing policies, but we just deal basically with the government as government departments. Yukon Energy, in effect, maintains its own policies, so perhaps they can explain it on their own.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I certainly intend to be asking that question. In terms of the minister's responsibility for the fleet vehicle agency, is it not incumbent upon the minister to also see that a Crown corporation - an agency that uses the government fleet vehicle agency for leasing their vehicles, but doesn't use the purchasing power or expertise and use purchased vehicles?
Is the minister not concerned about this issue, given that the mission of the fleet vehicle agency is to help government departments and publicly funded agencies meet their objectives by procuring and managing efficient and affordable ground transportation services? That's the mission of the fleet vehicle agency, and yet we have a publicly funded organization - which anyone who walks through the streets of downtown Whitehorse or who sees Yukon Energy vehicles knows that there is quite an abundance of them - yet I don't see them purchased through here. They've used their own purchasing powers - the minister's answer. Fine.
Is the minister not concerned about the use of the fleet vehicle agency? Doesn't it make services like this - why have the fleet vehicle agency, then?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member can see from the business plan itself. Just take a look at some of the statistics, in terms of the kilometres utilized and so on, that that doesn't appear to be a problem in our regard, because we have been increasing the amount of kilometres driven by both owned vehicles and by rented vehicles. So, for us, it is not an issue.
Yukon Energy Corporation may have taken their own decision that it might be in their own best interest. There may be issues of capitalization and financial issues that I'm not aware of. Our job is to supply transportation services to government departments.
We work on a service basis. In this case, the agency - Yukon Energy Corporation - has chosen not to use our services for this purpose. They may have their own reasons.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister interested in finding out what those reasons are?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course, and I would suggest that is something that we raise with the minister in charge of Yukon Energy Corporation.
Ms. Duncan:Well, Mr. Chair, I will ask, in written form, the minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation, and I will copy the Minister of Government Services in the letter. I'm sure the minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation will at least respond to his colleague, so maybe I'll get an answer in the meantime.
As I noted earlier, the fleet vehicle agency intends to purchase some 47 new vehicles this year, as opposed to a 1998-99 estimate of 11. The 1997-98 actual was 41. It is quite a peak and valley in terms of purchases. Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The fleet vehicle agency would normally replace 40 vehicles in a typical year of operation to minimize operating costs and maximize the return on the investment in vehicles.
This was curtailed in 1998-99 by replacing only 11 vehicles that were lost in accidents or major breakdowns. So, what we're doing is a bit of a catch-up on previous years and trying to get back to a more appropriate level of replacement.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, is the minister saying that the fleet vehicle agency's purchases were curtailed for a year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: They were cut back.
Ms. Duncan: They were cut back for a year and they just replaced vehicles lost in accidents. Why was that course of action chosen? What happened that made the minister choose that? Was it a cost-saving exercise? Was it a review? Was it part of the whole process of devolution? What was the reason for this contraction in one year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Essentially, it was to build up the capital levels to give us a basis for being able to replace vehicles on an ongoing basis of about 40 a year, and that's what we're aspiring to.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I wrote to the minister and asked him - or at some point had a discussion with him - why we specifically limited our purchases of vehicles to the "North American vehicles", and I never really received a satisfactory answer. Is the minister prepared to answer that question today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My understanding is that it has to do primarily with the availability of replacement parts. If one is out on the road driving a Ford, I guess the availability of maybe getting Ford parts and people familiar with North American servicing is somewhat better than foreign-built vehicles.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I will pass that explanation on to those who have raised it with me, and I'm sure they're going to be about as satisfied with that as I am. There's no point belabouring that particular point. I just don't buy that explanation.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to take a look also at the property management agency report that was submitted to the House. The summary of revenue and expenses in this particular special operating agency shows that the revenues are received from facility management, realty services and other services. Could the minister define "other"?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My official advises me that one of the things that property management does in rural areas is they often maintain fleet vehicles and other small projects for other agencies of Government Services.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I notice that under expenditures this agency has budgeted for a substantial increase in utilities. Presumably that would be payment of electrical bills. In facility management, the grounds expenditures have increased by $8,000, and under the realty services they have actually decreased by $26,000, and the item of expenditures under security is also substantially reduced. Does the minister have explanations for those reductions?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to that, I can get back to the member with some further information on those points.
Mr. Cable: I've asked the minister some questions on his code of regulatory conduct. This was launched last September and, initially anyway, it dealt with a look at regulations and statutes. Sometime later, I wrote the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Renewable Resources, on an issue surrounding taxidermist licences. What came back from a question I asked the minister was that not only will it deal with statutes and regulations, but it will also deal with the administration of the statutes and regulations.
I think that's a good idea, because most of the frustration that I run across from people dealing with the government relates to the way the statutes and regulations are administered - not the regulations and statutes themselves.
The other day our caucus had a conversation with some people who were talking about this exercise. They said that the problem really is based on the different cultures between the business sector and the government sector. One of the ideas that came out of that was that rather than tackling this 3,000-person strong organization en masse - as I think the minister's doing - it might be wise to set up a pilot project in one of the minister's departments, perhaps, or some other department, where the public and the government impinge, to a large extent. And try and work through that branch of one department, and get the rules straightened out, and find out how the red tape can be cut - in a very small, bite-sized pilot project.
I was wondering what the minister would think of that idea - whether he's prepared to set up some sort of a pilot project for red-tape cutting in a small segment of the government, rather than try and do it all at once.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think that may be an idea that has some merit. One of the things that we've been trying to do is identify problematic areas, and this is a - I don't know if the member has seen this, but what we've tried to do is design a very simple survey form for the business community.
The second initiative of this code of regulatory conduct is actually being led by ECO. Basically what it consists of is reviewing existing legislation and regulations.
What we project is that, as part of the survey, we may find some departments that may - as the member has said - lend themselves to perhaps a more concerted effort for identifying regulations to be eliminated.
I think maybe the idea of taking one department may have some merit. We'd like to get some feedback on this first, to find out what the appetite is of the business community for engaging this exercise, and where, specifically, they find the most problematic areas.
But we would like to get some feedback first, and see where we stand and do a pilot from there.
Mr. Cable: I wasn't thinking primarily about the statutes and regulations themselves. I was just thinking about the administration of the various statutes and regulations - not the contents of the statutes and regulations, but the way people interpret them and the way they put the average citizen through the hoops. The people who were speaking to me, I think, would be of the mind that, having a small, bite-sized group analyzed to see whether they are of the same culture - the sort of culture that we're trying to work toward to minimize paperwork - it might be easier to administer than try to do it all across the government all at once.
I don't criticize the minister's exercise in the questionnaire that's coming out. I think that will be useful. It might identify some departments as more paper-bound than others.
But I think that to change the culture in government, one is going to have to work with the people themselves, rather than simply look at the law, and ask the people if they are of the mind to question all their actions. When they set out a number of conditions, for example on a taxidermy licence - the issue that I raised with this minister - have they really sat down and figured out whether those conditions are necessary and whether they're causing more problems than what they're purporting to solve?
That's the approach that I'd like to encourage the minister to at least think about - whether he's prepared to set up some sort of a pilot project that might actually change the paper culture in government.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think the member has hit on an issue there, which I think is probably something that all of us have experienced in government, and that is that sometimes the internal culture of government, because there is a sort of different delivery mentality maybe from the private sector, may be more of an attitudinal sort of environment.
With regard to the idea of looking at, perhaps, a small pilot area, it's something that I can raise with the minister for the Executive Council, who has this responsibility. We've had some discussions with the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office on just where the momentum for this process should lie. For example, should Government Services be taking over the actual review of statutes or would it be better within ECO, or whatever?
So, it's something that I will raise with the minister when I have the opportunity to discuss this, because there are a couple of points here that I've wanted to bring forward on this particular issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Northwest Territories business incentive policy poses quite a difficulty for many Yukon contractors. They are essentially shut out of the Northwest Territories because of their business incentive policies and practices.
Has the minister received representations on this issue, and has the department done any research, prepared any information for him in this regard, and has the minister taken any action on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to this particular issue, there were some informal discussions with the now leader of the Government of the Northwest Territories, Jim Antoine, when he was up on his visit last spring when he came to Whitehorse - oh, no, I'm sorry. It was early September, I guess - and there was some discussion around this, but I haven't had any representation from Yukon businesses in this regard or Yukon contractors. Certainly, if it were an issue to emerge and, for example, contractors wanted me to raise it on their behalf, I would certainly take that opportunity, and we could do the analysis of what kinds of difficulties this raises for Yukon contractors.
I believe we're going to have an opportunity later on this year to meet, not only with the Northwest Territories, but with Nunavut to discuss some common issues. This may be something worthwhile putting on. I would be interested in receiving, from the business or contracting community that had experiences in that regard, some concerns that I could bring forward.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, particularly in the last year and a half, I have received several representations in this regard. I would be happy to suggest that they contact the minister and outline precisely what the difficulty is. My understanding is that it's with the business incentive policy in the Northwest Territories and that its effect is to shut the contractors out.
The minister chose to rise in the House during Question Period and respond to questions I had raised with respect to the agreement on internal trade and the Yukon hire provisions. I'm not referring to business incentive; I'm referring strictly to employment.
The minister made reference to a legal opinion. Was that legal opinion paid for by the Department of Government Services? Is the minister prepared to provide it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: When I made reference to a legal opinion, I may have used an incorrect term. What I was working from there were some documents prepared for us by the Executive Council Office as we were moving toward the social union agreements. Because, quite clearly, in the social union, there was some discussion around such issues as mobility and things of that nature. The Executive Council Office provided us with some discussion or interpretation of the mobility provisions as were being proposed in the framework agreement on social union. Contained in that were some references to the agreement on internal trade.
I think the Government Leader basically said that some of those issues were, I think, largely dealt with in a fairly offhanded manner by the Prime Minister, because it appears that probably a good deal of the work that had been done in that regard was just sort of tossed to one side when they got together in Ottawa. Things that we had been concerned about and had been agonizing over and arguing about at the social union framework agreement table for several months seemed to, all of a sudden, lose importance. They just basically said, "Oh, we can deal with these, don't worry about them". We had gone through a rather agonizing process, and I know that I brought up issues about mobility. I had concerns about mobility. I had issues concerning, particularly, the social framework agreement, aboriginal issues and so on and so forth.
At the last minute, they just seemed to sort of be wafted aside in the rush to get an agreement, so I was somewhat taken aback that some of these things that we had analyzed in sometimes painstaking detail didn't seem to really enter into the picture in the final equation.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the reading that I've done and followed through with the social union and the clauses on the agreement on internal trade, as well as verifying with those charged with the task of implementing these agreements, is that they seem to be quite clear. The minister is saying there is other information and that the minister and the government are operating from a different understanding. I'd like to ask the minister to make an undertaking to provide me with any written information regarding that undertaking that is different from what's currently publicly available.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm just looking here because, within some of my documents from Health and Social Services, I did have some reference to that, and I'm just seeing if I have it with me here in these files by any chance. If not, I can have that sent down.
If the member will bear with me a few minutes, I can probably get the information in that regard. It appears I don't have that particular file among all my other points, but I will get that down to the member as soon as possible and I can read it into the record then.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd prefer to have the written information as opposed to having the minister read it into the record. If he could provide that in written form, I'd appreciate it.
The budget this year for Government Services has been reduced because of Chateau Jomini and a couple of heritage projects, which received supplementary funding. What are the long-term plans for this building and the future intended purpose?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, one can never predict the Chateau Jomini future but, originally, the funds were placed in there because the early thoughts were that the building might need demolition, and subsequent to that, the Town of Faro had some very, very serious concerns about the loss of revenue and made it abundantly clear to us that, since this was a source of revenue for them, they were very concerned about losing that. Most recently, we've had some ideas come forward in terms of the local entrepreneurs leasing parts of it and so on and so forth. There has even been an idea floated around about a correctional possibility. What we've chosen to do instead is just board up the building, to secure it. We've had some instances of young people going in. We're concerned about the safety of the building, so the funds that we have expended this year are basically just to secure the building. We'll have to have further discussions with the town regarding the possibilities of uses of the building, or whatever, in the future. It's fair to say that the town was concerned about the apparent loss of revenues from this building. I think it generates about $30,000 a year in terms of revenues.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, presumably this building is on the IBIS that we spoke of earlier in general debate and is listed, and others who have access to that system would be able to look at it and examine its future potential and so on.
The Chateau Jomini and the other projects - what was the original budget for these projects, and did they come in on time? We've simply boarded up the Chateau Jomini, according to the minister. Was that the original idea, or did we have an estimate for repairs and renovations to the building and elected to simply board it up? Can the minister just outline the history of that, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe the original amount allocated for the Chateau Jomini was around $200,000. Subsequent to that, there were some fairly spirited discussions around the future of this building, and after that we began moving into the realm of securing the building rather than actually demolishing it.
Our hope at the time was that, if we did get into the demolition of the building, it could have been an employment project for the community, but it's very clear that the town, in this case, had some different views as to what should happen with that building.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could the minister elaborate any further on "spirited discussions"? What exactly does he mean by that? Were there discussions in Cabinet, among the caucus, between Government Services and the town? I'm assuming, when the minister speaks of demolition, that this building isn't movable and that it pretty much has to either be used at its existing site and the $200,000 was for an upgrade - and at which point a downgrade? What is the minister motioning to me?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Two hundred thousand dollars to flatten it? Well, you know, the minister might want to take a look some time. There are a number of videos out about demolition of buildings, and we have this film incentive location fund and they seem to have quite a creative method of accounting on some portions of the benches opposite. Who knows? Maybe they could have made a movie out of it.
Would the minister care to elaborate on the future and just the history around this building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe that at the time, because the Chateau Jomini has been vacant for quite a while, and because, quite frankly, aspects of the building have been decommissioned as the town has sort of geared down - water, power, those kinds of things have been shut off to certain areas. As the building is essentially deteriorating because of lack of maintenance and because of lack of use, it was felt that this may be a project whose time had come.
The speculation was that if funds were made available to the municipality of Faro, it may have been a project where there could have been an employment factor. The member's right - $200,000 to tear down a building when you could probably do it - I've sometimes suggested a 16-year old with a can of gas and 20 bucks could probably do the same thing.
The goal was actually to create some employment, and it's my understanding that the town council of Faro chose not to undertake the demolition. We would probably have entered into a contractual agreement with the town to say, "Project manage this", to demolish and salvage et cetera, with the idea of creating some employment in a town that has some difficulty.
The town itself looked at the revenues that are generated from having the building, and said no, that they did not want to see the building torn down, because quite obviously, if the building gets torn down, there ends a source of revenue in a town that doesn't have a great deal of a tax base.
So, we did have concerns about the security of the building. We had concerns about liability and we had concerns about kids getting in there, so it was decided to undertake a very small portion of that - I believe around $30,000 to secure the building, put boarding on the windows, and so on - to try to reduce the possibility of vandalism or future liabilities.
That is what was decided in that case.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, previously this session, the minister and I had a discussion about the two heritage buildings on the waterfront in Whitehorse and the cost. The minister has provided me with the total cost of the renovations and repairs to those two buildings. I neglected to ask what the original budget was and whether we were actually on budget, under budget, or over budget.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe that the original budget for all of the budgets was about $1,060,000. The actual costs are about $1.29 million for all of the projects there. There have been some areas where the cost has increased, most notably in the Taylor House, because of a lot of the structural damage that was uncovered as we got into the project.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in Whitehorse alone, the government now owns the Taylor House, the T.C. Richards Building, the White Pass Building and the two heritage properties. The fire hall is an arrangement with the City of Whitehorse fire department and a volunteer group of firefighters, I believe - the minister is nodding yes. There is a volunteer group that wants to put restored firefighting vehicles in that building, I believe - a fire hall museum. Has the minister standardized the lease arrangements with the groups in these buildings? Have we got a blueprint, or are we doing this on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it really depends on the nature of the project. For example, the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Association has asked to lease the operating house down there. When they take that over, they'll be responsible only for the obvious costs of power, heat, and that kind of thing, because they are essentially a group that is involved in trying to maintain a historical railroad.
We are not charging anything to the Arctic Winter Games, because we consider that to be a contribution to the games in the year 2000.
Subsequent to that, there is an arrangement with the historic resources board, which will be similar to that of Miles Canyon - essentially just recovery of the costs of heat and light. In a similar manner, the rent that has been charged to TIA and the First Nation Tourism Association is basically just on the same basis.
Now, as we move toward the full utilization of the White Pass building, we will have considerably more space. What we will probably look at is working out an arrangement with TIA where they may do something similar to what the chamber did, in terms of administering the building and recovering some of the costs. Basically, the arrangements have been on, more or less, an ad hoc basis. We knew, for example, that the Arctic Winter Games were operating on a fairly limited basis. Their efforts have gone into raising funds for the games, so we didn't want to impose an unnecessary burden on them.
Similarly, with a group such as the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Association, we will try and get, I think, a valuable attraction going in this city.
So, no, we don't have a standard arrangement with groups. Sometimes the arrangements may be just for the recovery, for example, of a non-profit group for heat, light and basic maintenance.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have to caution the minister. I have a sense that the minister is walking into a real land mine in this regard, in developing these ad hoc arrangements. For example, the Yukon Agricultural Association, Girl Guides of Canada and Ducks Unlimited have been paying basic rent - not simply recovery of heat and light - in the T.C. Richards Building.
We have sport organizations that are paying for offices in the sport, art and recreation building near the Lion's Pool. How does the minister respond to these groups when they say, "Look, we provide just as valuable a community service as the operating railway or the heritage board that are only paying their heat and light bill and we're paying a fair market rent"? There's a real double standard happening here with this ad hoc arrangement and I've lobbied the minister previously on the floor of this House to standardize these arrangements so we don't get into this and yet what the minister has stood there and said is, "This is exactly what's happening."
So, how is the minister going to explain to, let's say, a soccer organization or Baseball Yukon that's paying $300 a month in one building and the Girl Guides that are paying $300 a month in a building and someone else who's paying only for the cost of their heat and light, which may or may not amount to $300 a month? All three of these organizations are in Government of Yukon buildings. How does the minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with respect, Mr. Chair, the building that's over near the pool, the Sport Yukon building is not our building. What we have done in the case of that particular building is, I believe, the sport and recreation branch is in there - they went in as a kind of anchor tenant to make the project go.
With regard to the T.C. Richards Building, I'm not sure what the level of rent is there, but I would imagine that there is a cost recovery basis. I don't imagine that it is probably the same kind of market rate that there is commercially, which I think runs around anywhere from $22 to $24 a square foot in the City of Whitehorse.
So, what we've tried to do is we've tried to give some groups a break. For example, there have been some organizations here that have used Government of Yukon facilities for literally nothing, other than maybe the cost of their fuel or whatever. So, I think it has to do probably with the desirability of the building.
I'll take a look into it and see what the comparative rate is in terms of, say, what TIA is paying, as opposed to a group like the Girl Guides, or whatever, and see if there is a large discrepancy there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can tell the minister that there is a discrepancy. I've been telling him that for two years. I've been saying that these lease rates and everything else have to be standardized so that you don't have a policy that's different for the Agricultural Association than it is for the Tourism Industry Association and than it is for any other organization.
This is something that is an unfairness that I personally do not believe that the minister would want to see out there, particularly among the non-profit organizations who are fulfilling invaluable community services, and I would recommend to the minister that he go through and do a comparison - including with the Sport Yukon Building that is not owned by the government - of what organizations are paying in rent and what organizations are paying in half a dozen other Government of the Yukon buildings, specifically in Whitehorse.
I will take the minister at his word that he will do a review, and I would ask that he provide me with that review, and if they are the same or if the deal, if you will, or the terms of the lease arrangements are the same, then I will accept that from the minister, but everything that I have heard is that they are not, and I haven't seen the minister make any efforts to correct the situation. I would like assurances that this situation will be reviewed and that steps will be taken, so that the arrangements among the non-profit organizations for renting space from the Government of the Yukon will be standardized in some way.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have a list here from realty services of the square-footage costs for the space and so on. What we'll do is we'll go through and try to determine the differences and, say, some incongruities in there. We'll go through and just sort of analyze what people are paying and the overall cost of the space, and how much we in turn are subsidizing, if any.
Just take a look at TIA, for example. With 1,420 square feet, they have a cost of space of $12,161 a year, and then what costs are borne by others and so on. So, we'll go through and take a look at this and see what we can determine. There are, for example, different grades of space that we use for calculation purposes. Grade A space is $23 a square foot, grade B space is $20 and grade C space is $14. So, in the case of the Girl Guides, that's listed as a grade B space. I'm just taking a look. I'm looking for some comparative terms here. We don't have that much grade A space, come to think of it. Legal Aid - for a comparative amount of space that the Girl Guides - actually very little more - is paying considerably more in terms of rent.
So, I think it has to do with the level of space, what the grade of the space is, but we can certainly take a look at it.
Ms. Duncan: I would caution the minister to make sure he's using current information on that listing as well, as to where each of those are located, because Legal Aid is on the second floor, as I understand it, on Main Street, and the Girl Guide office is at ground floor with handicap access. That wouldn't qualify as grade B space by any stretch of the imagination when it's Third Avenue and Steele Street, readily accessible at street level. Grade B might be the Ducks Unlimited, who are in the basement with no windows - I could see that, but I can't see that ready access being classified as a grade B.
But I will accept the minister's representations that he will come back with some information.
The minister indicated to me in a conversation - or in a note - that he was an ex-smoker, and I'm sure he can appreciate that there are a number of people still indulging in that particular habit. And I notice that there are certain entrances at this building and certain entrances at our other buildings that are designated as available for people to smoke.
It seems to me that - not having been a smoker, and I'm certainly not encouraging the habit - that we could provide some other circumstances other than the entrances, very public entrances, to these buildings, for people to have a cigarette - a cigarette or cigar; whatever they're smoking.
I would like to ask the minister if there's been any thought to some kind of different method of dealing with this particular addiction.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's why we have the gazebo in Rotary Park. No, I'm being facetious.
No, actually, we haven't given too much thought to it. Occasionally, when I do go by, the folks that smoke out there will sometimes, in a more jocular manner, assure me that they're going to die sooner and save the health care system money. I remind them that likely, no, they will linger, and probably cost us more money.
But to tell you the truth I haven't really given too much thought to the whole question of providing a comfort zone for smokers. I think that when the whole debate about the hospital and providing some kind of glassed-in space came up, there was this real sort of struggle between people who said that by doing that you're actually encouraging smoking and those who wanted to provide at least a bit of protection from the weather.
But no, actually I haven't given too much thought to the whole question of smoking out there. But I think it would be kind of contrary to the government's policy to provide any kind of enclosed space. I remember the previous Health minister, Mr. Fisher, at one time, when he became Health minister, decided to more or less conceal his smoking habit. Unfortunately he was too tall, and he could be seen behind the barrier, and I used to tell him it didn't work.
He used to step over at the side, and you could still see his head and the smoke coming up. No, I haven't given too much thought to it.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I can appreciate the debate, in terms of encouragement, and I do recall the hospital debate. I just have a certain empathy for those individuals when it's 40 below. It's a rather chilly way to enjoy one's habit. I have a certain sympathy for those individuals.
Mr. Chair, the Public Accounts Committee has looked at the issues around the Government of Yukon and Y2K and will be reporting to this House. I would like to ask the minister, however, for the record, if he can indicate his department's preparedness, in terms of the budget. Is the minister confident that - as Government Services has largely the responsibility - they will be completely compliant by December 31, 1999, and in their support to other departments, in terms of facilities and so on, that those facilities, such as security systems, et cetera will be fully compliant?
I'm certainly not suggesting to the minister that we get into any detail. As I said, the Public Accounts Committee will be reporting on this issue. However, I would like the minister's assurances that the budget resources are adequate to deal with departmental needs in this particular area.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's our feeling that we will be fully compliant. I do have a year 2000 departmental report card that takes us up to December 31, 1998, showing the breakdown in the systems - for example, what elements are over 50 percent, what elements are 100 percent, and so on and so forth.
The chart is in colour. I can probably render something similar that I can provide the member. I can tell her, I guess by way of interest, that the mainframe and system software are Y2K ready. There are some areas in some departments that are less developed than others, and those are primarily in the area of some individual departments in terms of workstations, servers and networks.
There are some others where there is less of a completion level, primarily in such things as embedded chips. But, in general, we feel that we are on track. We feel that we are going to be okay in that regard. We're also part of an overall task force that was struck by Minister Manley in this regard, so we're working very closely with our other federal partners - the RCMP, the Department of National Defence.
We've also been involved with the City of Whitehorse and the Association of Yukon Communities that have come on board. So, we're trying to work across the board to make sure that we're all sort of singing from the same song book.
Chair: Do the members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I gave the Member for Klondike an undertaking I would bring back some information on classroom lighting. Lighting intensity is designed to a recommended minimum of the current edition of the Illuminating Engineering Society's lighting handbook or the minimum required by the occupational health and safety handbook produced by the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, whichever is more stringent.
Government Services is in the process of developing designs for all government buildings, including site work, architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical. For general classroom lighting, the proposed standard is 200 to 300 lux, by the Illuminating Engineering Society standard. This is considered to be an acceptable level for improved lighting systems installed in new buildings. The standard will also vary depending on the use of the classroom. For example, up to 500 lux might be necessary for an industrial art shop or a science lab. So, perhaps that's of some use to the member there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to just ask the minister a couple of questions with respect to staffing levels in the Department of Government Services.
There was a secondment, I believe, from Queen's Printer agency to Tourism. I wonder if that position was then filled. And I notice that for quite some time there's been an acting deputy minister in this department. Is it anticipated that that position will be filled?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it is our intention that, at a future point, that will be filled on a permanent basis. With regard to the Queen's Printer, the individual was seconded over to Tourism, as the member has said and, since then, that position has been filled on an acting basis.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe that secondment was due to a level of expertise with an individual. Is that correct? Was it an award-winning program or something that was designed, or something to do with the film incentive program? Could the minister just refresh my memory on that? And, Mr. Chair, if the acting position is from within the department, is there a staffing action that has taken place? And the minister mentioned that the deputy minister position will be filled. Does he have a time frame for that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The position at the Queen's Printer was filled from within the branch, and the position that that person vacated was then taken from a casual position to fill that in.
With regard to the individual that went to Tourism, I'll have to check on that. I can find out the exact position that the person in Tourism was seconded to.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that level of detail is not necessary. My concern was that the staffing had been fulfilled and that either the department was reduced by one or they were back up to full operating complement. The minister is saying that they're fully staffed and is nodding his head. Does he have a time frame on the staffing of the deputy minister position?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For that I would be looking at some time later on in this year. Of course, there are issues around performance evaluations and things like that that will be taken into consideration, and so on, but I will look at it later on this year.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a few loose ends I would like to clear up with the minister.
I would like to take the minister, Mr. Chair, back to the government insurance program. It used to be with Marsh and McLennan. It's going over to Reed Stenhouse. If I understand it, the contract is going to be signed on April 1. The contract is presently expired with Marsh and McLennan. What's happening in the interim?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am advised that the Marsh and McLennan contract doesn't expire until March 31.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the policy is that it is the fiscal year-end of the government. I understood that there was going to be a lapse where the policy might have to be extended for a period of time. Do we anticipate signing the contract with Reed Stenhouse on April 1?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we would. It is tied to the fiscal year.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the areas that the minister is very famous for, Mr. Chair, is having his picture taken by the "red-tape thermometer". I guess the expectations of the public were that there was going to be a tremendous reduction in red tape. Can the minister confirm that the red tape that is in place by his government has been reduced significantly over what it was, say, two or three years ago, when the Yukon Party was in power?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can advise the member that we undertook a review of the whole regulatory code. We have made a commitment in this regard to the code of regulatory conduct. As I indicated, the code applies to new regulations. What we've committed to do, as well, is look at the 250 statutes and 1,000 regulations already in place. That's an initiative that is being led by the Executive Council Office.
I indicated earlier that I would be discussing with the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office how we could move this process ahead. We have had some initial reviews of the kinds of regulations that may be in place and their impact on the business community. We are committed to doing this. It may be necessary for us to consolidate this under one department. These are the kinds of things I will be discussing, as I said, with the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the expectations of the general public and contractors was that there was going to be a reduction in government red tape, and what we have had in the last couple of years has been an increase in government red tape. Would the minister not agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be specific as to the areas where government has not increased red tape and, in fact, has reduced red tape? From all of the reading I have done, this government has put in place more rules and more regulations than we have ever had existing before. Can the minister point out some of the areas where there has been a reduction in red tape?
Reviews are being conducted. We have the code of regulatory conduct that reviews new statutes and new regulations. We also have the social union agreement between the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada.
The other thing that the minister might be quite interested in knowing is the inflation rate in Canada. The only area where the inflation rate is being driven upward is the increase in government red tape and government controlled areas. That's where the costs to the public of Canada are increasing. They're not in any of the principal industries that are in the private sector; they're just in the areas the government has care and control of or regulates. The Yukon is a prime example of more and more regulations and more and more legislation coming into place all the time.
So, how can the minister justify standing by this red tape thermometer saying we're reducing red tape when, in fact, the opposite is true?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, Mr. Chair, it's necessary to understand that the regulatory code was adopted in October 1998. One of the things that has happened subsequent to that is every decision that goes through Cabinet is also reviewed, not only for issues such as equity and impact on groups such as women and others, the standard sort of review process, but it's also reviewed from the point of view of, does it impose an unnecessary regulatory burden? And that's the first step.
As I indicated, what we're really looking at is basically a two-step process, a second initiative. That is the regulatory review, and that has been led by the Executive Council. The member is correct when he says that other jurisdictions have been involved in this. Ontario has begun a regulatory review. We modeled our regulatory code on some examples from Saskatchewan. I understand British Columbia's working on a similar process.
I think all areas in government are becoming cognizant of the impact of unnecessary government regulation on business, and we are committed to do this. As the member can appreciate, having 250 statutes and 1,000 regulations, this is not going to happen overnight. I think one of the things that we've undertaken - as I indicated earlier to the Member for Riverside - is we're interested in working with the business community in identifying those areas that are most onerous and trying to move them ahead on a priority basis. That's what our group in ECO is committed to doing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I believe what we have is very much an oxymoron here, Mr. Chair, in that we're just waving the flag out there, saying, "We are committed to reducing red tape" and, on the other hand, we're selecting a very, very small area to do it in. I understand - and I can appreciate - that what we have before us is a monumental task, but is the speed that we're addressing the task going to be faster than the speed that this government is adding new regulations and rules?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member, as always, is trying to be provocative. I would just say that our government is committed to trying to reduce the restrictions on business and trying to work with the business community. We have undertaken to do this with the business community, and we have sought their cooperation. We're seeking their assistance in this, and that's what we're committed to doing. The member can make all the facetious remarks he chooses, but we are committed to working with our partners in business, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister apprise the House of the timelines for this review?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with regard to the process, there is basically phase 1, which was a round table for a cross-section of stakeholders, plus an internal round table of frontline YTG staff who enforce the regulations. That was completed earlier this year. The second part is a questionnaire for all stakeholders, which I have illustrated here. The third phase begins after we receive these, and we have asked to get these back as soon as possible. March 26 is the target date for when we'd like to receive as many of these back as we can. We'll be conducting a series of open houses where the results of the questionnaire will be given and implementation options tested with all interested stakeholders. Phase 1 is complete. We will look at phase 2 in March. Phase 3 will follow in April.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when can we expect to see the minister's shining face appearing beside the thermometer showing a direct relationship between the amount of regulations and a significant reduction in the regulations, in the rules and the red tape that is currently in place? When is that going to occur? I guess that's the bottom-line question. When are we going to see a reduction in government paperwork burden? When are we going to see a lessening of the task of business to fill out all of these forms and answer all these various questionnaires? There is more and more being added every year. In fact, if you look at the last series of legislation that went through for businesses, they appeared to be very, very small and very inconspicuous with respect to the business act and trade name registration.
But then, when you see the outcome of it, after it flows through the departments, there is a requirement now for re-registering corporate names or operating names. There's also a fee attached to it. It's not a one-time event when you first start your company. It's now renewed on a regular basis. All of these additional costs are a burden on business. Let alone the costs, there's the time consumed in filling out all of these forms.
So, on one hand we're looking at a review. On the other hand, we're adding more and more all the time. When are the people of the Yukon, when are the businesses of the Yukon, Mr. Chair, going to see a reduction in this red tape?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I must say, "Oh, ye of little faith." We are committed to doing this. We wouldn't have begun the process if we weren't committed to doing it. We're hoping that, rolling out of this process, we will have some fairly obvious candidates for looking at reduction in very short order. But I think very early on we made a commitment to work with the business community in this regard. We could probably go through and, on our own, in various departments say, "We can remove this regulation or that regulation," but that may not be the regulation that business finds most onerous.
We have committed to a process. We're going to go ahead with that process. We're hoping that it bears fruit very soon.
The member wants to know when I'll have my smiling face - another picture - taken. I just say that, when one is photogenic, one is merely just a candidate for such photo ops. I can't help it; they just gravitate toward me.
Mr. Jenkins: I must remind the minister that self-praise is no recommendation.
I am still looking, Mr. Chair, for a date when something is going to occur, when regulations are going to start being removed from the books. Is it going to be August? Will it be September of this year? When is it going to be? We've had all kinds of words used by the minister that have no correlation to a time span. They could be used to describe anywhere from a day to 100 years. Somewhere in there is reality. Now, when is that timeline, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: More than a day and less than 100 years.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. Let's get real.
The minister has a responsibility. He stands up there beside this great big thermometer. He has his picture taken with this big, fancy policy that the government has come out with about how they're going to remove red tape - remove this great big burden of red tape on business and Yukoners. When is it going to happen? Now, there must be some timelines. I remind the minister that he has just a short period of time left to go in his mandate. I was hoping he could accomplish something in that timeline, rather than continuously ruining the economy of the Yukon.
Here's an opportunity to do something - something beneficial and that I agree with. When are we going to see some results?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've already indicated that this is sort of a three-part process. The first part was undertaken. The second part will be completed March 26. The third component, which is the series of open houses, will be undertaken in April. From there, there will be some recommendations coming forward to government. Those recommendations will probably go through a Cabinet process and the necessary steps will be taken after that.
I need to remind the member, however, that, being Government Services, our commitment on the first part was to develop the regulatory code. The second part really lies within the realm of Executive Council Office. I have said that before to the member; he doesn't choose to hear it. Because we were involved in the development of the regulatory code, the interest has been with Government Services.
It may be, as I indicated earlier, that we would be best to consolidate this under one shop or the other - either under Executive Council Office or ourselves - and these are some discussions that we will be having with the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess what the minister is trying to say is that he's a lightweight at the Cabinet table and he doesn't know how it's going to flow or the timelines as to when it's going to occur. So, I guess we can leave that one alone, because we can't seem to get additional answers from the minister on that.
If I could just take the minister back to some of the questionings by the leader of the third party with respect to a uniform rent schedule for buildings owned by the Government of Yukon and leased to third parties, one of the contracts I have not been able to find - and I was hoping the minister could help me - was with respect to the old administration building in Dawson, located on the corner of Third Avenue and Queen Street. The upper floor was leased to the Tr'ondek Hwech'in, the Dawson First Nation, for their office space for some two-year period. What was the rent that they paid and what were the terms? Were they consistent with, like, the visitor reception centre, which space is rented out to the Chamber of Commerce? I couldn't find a contract there at all, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That isn't on my current list, so I'd have to take a look into that. The only ones I have listed currently are the Klondike Visitors Association and - I'd have to take a look into the one for the Tr'ondek Hwech'in. It was in the old administration building? We can take a look into that, and I can get the information back to you. We have one for the Dawson City Museum Society. But we can find out about the Tr'ondek Hwech'in. It isn't on my list here.
Mr. Jenkins: It's on the second floor of the old liquor store - where the old liquor store was located, on the corner of Third Avenue and Queen Street. The office space used to be occupied by the minister's own department, SA, before they moved to the old federal administration building on Front Street, along with a number of other YTG agencies. If the minister could obtain a copy of that contract for me and send it over, I'd appreciate it, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will get that to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to run over one area and that's the situation in Faro and where the decision was made with respect to Chateau Jomini. As I understand it, the building has been condemned. Government Services recommended that it be torn down. Some $200,000 was budgeted for the removal of the building and we spent $30,000 to board it up and safeguard it so that we could ensure that the Town of Faro received the grant-in-lieu or the taxes on that building. Just where was that decision made to proceed in that direction, Mr. Chair? Was that made at the Cabinet table or was that made by the Department of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Could the member clarify what he means by the decision not to proceed with the demolition? Is that what he means there?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in general debate just a few minutes ago this evening, the minister said we were going to tear the building down. We budgeted $200,000 for a work project to dismantle the building, and the Town of Faro and some group got together and decided to board up the building instead in order that the Town of Faro could receive the grant-in-lieu or taxes that the government pays on that building. Just how much of a grant-in-lieu or taxes are we looking at? But overall, Mr. Chair, I want to find out where that decision was made not to proceed with the demolition of the building and to board it up and safeguard it in order that taxes or grant-in-lieu could be remitted to the Town of Faro.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The government Management Board approved an additional $200,000 to Government Services in the 1998-99 spring budget to explore options for disposing of the Chateau Jomini. Subsequent to that, the Town of Faro indicated that they were concerned about the loss of revenues and asked us to postpone making any decisions in that regard. Because we had some concerns about making the building secure, there was a project tendered through the Town of Faro and awarded to a local resident for $18,900 on February 18.
I'm sorry, I had thought earlier that the project was $30,000 - it was actually $18,900. We had, I think, estimated that it would be about $30,000 to secure the building.
A project is planned for this summer to paint some murals on the exterior walls of the building to improve its appearance and provide some student employment. Property Management's regional manager plans to use the Faro High School to develop a theme, plan of execution, estimate for materials and labour, and will contract with the Town of Faro to supervise their work.
There was a similar project for the high school in Watson Lake that proved effective in reducing vandalism, so we're hoping that it will have the same effect.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the fact that we have a building there that is deteriorating, that doesn't appear to have a use ultimately for the town or for the Government of Yukon, and the government is doing this to provide the Town of Faro with the additional revenue derived from the taxes on that unit - now, that decision was made at the Cabinet table?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, the funds were approved by Management Board; however, we had some subsequent discussions with the Town of Faro, and they indicated to us that they would prefer to see us put the idea of demolishing the building on hold.
As the member is aware, subsequent to that, there have been some suggestions about using the building for various commercial purposes - or at least one of the buildings. The Mayor of the Town of Faro has proposed the utilization of Chateau Jomini as a possible correctional facility. There has been review of that by, I believe, a justice official or someone from corrections. Property Management went up to take a look at that and to sort of scout out what the possibility of that was.
But it appears that, certainly, the town is very concerned about the loss of this sort of major facility.
They want to keep their options open. So, respecting that, we have decided to secure the building until there are some further discussions with the town as to what are the realistic options with that building. Could it be used, for example, for some kind of alternative use?
We have had a couple of people come forward with various commercial proposals. I think the town probably would like to see the building utilized. I guess the question at this point is what kinds of cost are we looking at in terms of an alternative use, and what kinds of alternative uses are realistic, and so on and so forth.
I should mention that this building has been vacant since 1984. It was put into service in 1986 for construction workers but was then closed again in 1987. In mid-1989, we invited tenders for the purchase of the building. We offered to sell the building to the Town of Faro for a dollar. We reviewed the project. It was reviewed again in 1991, and there was an interim agreement in 1992 to sell the property.
The mine closed, and that fell through. In 1995, the Town of Faro requested that we re-advertise the sale through a tendering process, and so on and so forth. We've actually even made several attempts to get some interest from the Ross River Dena Development Corporation and the Town of Faro.
So, basically, this building is sitting there.
In 1992, there was an upgrading. The upgrading was estimated at $1.9 million and, basically, there is no real need for commercial or office space in Faro at this time.
So, we've been looking at all the different options in this, but when we approached the town with the idea of maybe bringing forward some money for the purpose of demolition, at that point there was considerable concern on the part of the town. I think it was not only for the loss of the revenues, but I think the town, as well, is hoping that that space can be used for something alternatively, and a jail has been one of the options proposed. How feasible that is, how much it would cost, is it practical - those are all things that would have to be determined.
As I said, there was a visit by corrections and property management to take a look at that option.
Mr. Jenkins: I still want to get to who made the decision to postpone demolition. I'm looking for a group. Was it the minister? Was it the department who made recommendations to the minister? Who made the decision not to proceed with demolition?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, the $200,000 was put out to explore some options with the building - could it be renovated, could it be demolished? We're talking actually about three buildings here. Could one be utilized, others demolished - whatever?
There was never a tender put out. The money was allocated. Subsequent to that, there were some discussions with the Town of Faro. They indicated that they were concerned about the loss of the building and the loss of the possible revenues. We, as a department, said okay, if it doesn't meet with community support, let's look at some other options. The other option in this case was to look at securing the building and wait for some further options to come up, some of which have been proposed.
If the member is asking who basically said let's not put out the tender, I basically took that decision in consideration of the feelings of the Town of Faro.
Mr. Jenkins: That gives rise to another series of concerns, Mr. Chair - the position taken by the government with respect to the Chateau Jomini. Faro is treated in all respects the same as any other Yukon community. The reassessment of the infrastructure is done virtually every four years, on average, throughout the Yukon.
Faro has not had a reassessment for - it's missed two cycles now. I believe the last reassessment was 1989. So, that would have the value of that building at a considerably inflated level. Just what are the annual carrying costs of that building, which has remained vacant for some 12 years. It hasn't been utilized for some 12 years. What is the annual carrying cost to the Government of the Yukon for maintaining that building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The only cost involved in the maintenance of this building is the $30,000 a year, which is essentially property taxes.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we're paying $30,000 a year. So that's where that $30,000 figure comes from. It's not from the boarding up; it is the annual property taxes paid by the Government of Yukon. It's $30,000 a year, and the minister can stand on his feet and tell this House that it was a very responsible business decision to proceed in this manner.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I would suggest that, with regard to the idea of the building being maintained, we paid those property taxes for a number of years. The Town of Faro does not have a tremendous number of resources at this point.
Quite obviously, they are concerned about losing any source of revenue that they have. Moreover, I would suggest that the town council in Faro is certainly, I think, not only just concerned about the loss of revenues, I think they're also probably concerned about the symbolic loss of a property that's right in the centre of town. I think they're probably also concerned about the loss of any possibility for this building to be utilized for something that might generate some income.
Certainly, their concern in this case was to maintain their revenues and also to maintain some economic possibilities for the future. I think we have to respect the fact that this town is going through a tough time. When they made their concerns manifestly apparent to us, we respected those.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it sounds like this government is running on symbolic examples, rather than economic realities. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, I think the member has to recognize that as much as he would like to cut the legs out from under the Town of Faro, and as much as he'd like to board up the whole town, close off the road, and say goodbye to this community, there are probably a substantial number of people there who feel differently. I would also suggest that some of his previous comments about the Town of Faro are not shared by people in AYC, and I suspect that they're not shared by the present chair of AYC, either.
The member may be very eager to drive the stake through the heart of this town, but these are Yukoners. These are people who are trying to tough it out in a difficult situation and I think we have to respect that. I think we have to respect the need of the municipality in this case. I'm sure that if the City of Dawson was going through similar tough times, the member would not be crying out for us to close down infrastructure, and so on and so forth.
The Town of Faro has some concerns in this case that involve revenues. They've also got some concerns about hopes they have to utilize that facility, to generate some economic activity, and I think we have to respect those, at least in the short term.
I think we have to continue discussions about what can be done with this building. The building has sat around for awhile. I imagine that there is going to come a point in the not-too-distant future where we're going to have to have a better sense of what we're going to do with this building because of safety concerns and otherwise, but we have chosen to respect the opinion of the town in this case.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, can the minister share with us the results of the review of that building by the corrections branch as to whether it would be feasible to convert it into a correctional centre?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At this point, we don't have any report back. I believe it was two weeks ago that the officials from Justice and property management went up there. I think, not only from a practical point of view, the idea of utilizing buildings like this for a corrections facility would have to be examined in the context of the whole Justice framework. For example, these are three buildings right in the centre of town. There's very little adjacent space for things like exercise and so on and so forth. That has some limitations.
The nature of the building is essentially residential. It's not secure. There would be all kinds of constraints on utilizing it for a correctional facility, but nonetheless, the mayor in this case, Mayor McLachlan, has suggested this. We felt at least that, since he brought the idea forward, we shouldn't dismiss it out of hand. We should actually take a look and see what the feasibility of it is.
I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: 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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: The Committee has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled on March 22, 1999:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on Contributions to Political Parties during 1998 (dated March 1999) (Speaker Bruce)
Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1997/98 Annual Report (Keenan)
Development Assessment Process: compilation of written comments during public consultation (Livingston)
Yukon Development Assessment Act (Oct. 15, 1998 draft): independent review and analysis prepared by Macleod Institute (dated January 1999) (Livingston)