Monday, April 12, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Are there any introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have some documents for tabling.
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
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
THAT this House recognizes that the 1989 Yukon childcare strategy, released under the previous NDP government, identified early childhood education courses for Yukon childcare workers as a very high priority; and
THAT this Houses urges the Government of the Yukon to make the training of Yukon childcare workers a priority today by setting aside funds to enable childcare workers to access early childhood development courses.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Counting Us In: A Statistical Profile of Yukon Women
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: To help launch gender-equity awareness week, I am pleased to advise members of an important new tool that is now available to advance our government's policy of promoting gender equity. Counting Us In: a Statistical profile of Yukon women compiles statistical data that provides valuable insights into the differences between Yukon women's and men's lives.
This government believes in fairness and inclusiveness and this profile represents a significant step toward achieving both. Gender-based analysis provides a way to measure the impact of proposed policies, programs and legislation on women and men.
Gender-based analysis is a tool for understanding social pressures and for responding with informed and equitable options. To create equitable policies and ensure fairness, we need to create equal conditions for women and men to realize their potential and contribute fully to society.
Gender-based analysis looks at the effects of proposed or existing policies and programs and legislation on women and men. It allows policy to reflect gender differences, the nature of relationships between women and men and their different social realities.
Good public policy relies on good analysis. The statistical profile contains a wealth of information to help apply gender based analysis and to successfully create fair policies.
Our goal is nothing less than full equality for women and men in the workplace, classroom, the home and community. This is consistent with our commitments through the economy 2000 initiatives to develop a strong, diversified economy that benefits all Yukon people.
I would like to cite a few examples of differences in the workplace that are part of the different reality facing Yukon men and women.
Over twice as many women as men hold degrees in education, recreation and counselling. However, men outnumber women in commerce, management and business administration, in the agricultural and biological sciences, and in engineering and applied sciences. The impact of these choices is evident when we look at relative incomes.
Women in the Yukon are more likely than men to earn less than $20,000 per year, and men are more likely than women to earn $60,000 or more annually. Information of this type needs to be considered when we are developing new training initiatives, apprenticeship possibilities, or educational opportunities.
This statistical profile is the result of many months of work by the Women's' Directorate, the Northern Research Institute, and the Bureau of Statistics. It will provide a valuable tool for policy analysts and managers, when applying gender-based analysis.
The profile will be updated as federal census information changes. I invite members to study the findings of this document, and to recognize its value for analyzing the policies and programs of this government.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to take this opportunity to respond to the minister's statement regarding Counting Us In: a statistical profile of Yukon women.
Over the years, Yukon women have made tremendous progress toward achieving equality, and are making great strides in a number of areas. Today, more women than ever are furthering their education and entering the workforce, and rising to the top. The number of women who own businesses is also increasing, and is consequently changing the face of our economics.
Whether at home, caring for families, whether in the labour force, or as a volunteer, women play an integral role in our communities. Despite these accomplishments, there does still remain a number of challenges facing women today, and throughout the world.
Identifying barriers and opportunities for advancement of women is critical for all governments, to ensure that women are fairly represented in decision-making roles and are given opportunities to advance their views at all levels.
I believe the statistical profile of Yukon women provides an important tool in identifying differences among women and men, and the challenges facing women, in realizing their potential contribution to Yukon society.
In 1993, the previous Yukon Party government conducted a territory-wide survey of Yukon women's concerns and priorities as a means of providing government with a better understanding of the realities and challenges facing women's lives.
Questions regarding the unique quality of life, women as victims, career barriers and opportunities, women's well-being and working outside the workforce were asked of over 1,000 Yukon women. I believe the information collected from that statistical profile and the one before us today will enhance our understanding of the challenges facing Yukon women even more and it will be of great benefit to governments in ensuring that their agenda and initiatives reflect the concerns and priorities of women today.
While there have been improvements in the advancement of Yukon women over the past few years, many of the issues identified in the 1993 report remain a concern among women today. Many women, for example, are paid considerably less than their counterparts. Women must also struggle with the dual responsibilities of raising a family and meeting the demands of a full-time job.
Given the numbers of Yukon women who are represented in the Yukon government workforce, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that women's needs and concerns are reflected in the development of government policies, programs and legislation. And given the large number of Yukon women who work outside the home and are also raising families at the same time, I believe government also has a key role in promoting work options and alternatives to help balance work and family responsibilities, both within the government and the private sector.
In this regard, the actions and work of the Women's Directorate, the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, the Yukon Status of Women Council and women's centres throughout the territory cannot be overstated. The information from the profile offers some varied and valuable insight into the lives of Yukon women and, in turn, will provide a strategic planning tool for the directorate and women's groups and departments within the government.
I would also like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to the members of the groups and individuals who contributed to this statistical profile.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party to respond to this ministerial statement on the release of the statistical profile of Yukon women. This snapshot of the lives of Yukon women is very interesting, but very little of the information, however, is at all surprising.
Women in the Yukon make less money than men. Yukon women spend more time than men in the health professions and taking care of children, and none of that is at all earth-shattering information.
What's missing from the ministerial statement is a clear workplan to address some of the inequities illustrated in the report. More women than men take care of our children, yet they get paid nothing - or no money, that is. Is this government willing to at least examine the possibility of some sort of recognition within the Yukon tax system for parents who stay at home with their children?
The leading cause of death among Yukon women is cardiovascular disease, as it is in the rest of Canada. What exactly is this government going to do to target women in this area? How much money and how many resources are being used to help women combat heart disease?
Our caucus had hoped for a few more details or changes in programs that would be released along with this report, but once again, we are sadly disappointed.
I would like to leave this almost totally male House with this one thought: there is some justice in the world, because although it is true that men make more money than women, in the end it is only the women who will enjoy the pittance that they make, because women outlive men.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was really hesitant to stand up here this afternoon and refer to this statement as a motherhood statement, but as I was listening to the support from the Member for Riverdale North, I thought that's what it seems to be, and I'm very pleased that the Yukon Party has endorsed the report and has recognized its value.
What a statistical profile of Yukon women does is count us in. Here's the proof - and that's worth a lot. We've come a long way but we have a long way to go.
The publication of this profile of Yukon women demonstrates our government's commitment to achieving equality for women.
Now, the Member for Riverdale South indicated that she wanted to hear more about the programs that this government is undertaking in order to accomplish women's equality. Mr. Speaker, I could stand here for far more than five minutes to list things like the crime prevention and victim services trust fund and the Family Violence Prevention Act.
The low-income family tax credit will have an effect on women. We know now that more women than men earn lower incomes and that low-income family tax credit in this budget will benefit families that are lead by women.
Our seniors strategy, our healthy families initiative and many government programs across departments will continue in effect, and we will also continue to work on improving equality for women and on using this valuable information.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economy
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Government Leader. He promised Yukoners that his government was going to do away with the Yukon's boom-and-bust cycle. This is one promise the NDP government has kept. They've got rid of the boom out of the cycle and kept the bust with a 16.7-percent unemployment rate in March and likely to get worse in April.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon business summit report has concluded that there is no economic leadership and that the Government Leader's government is sending out messages that are more concerned with the environment than the economy. The current 16.7-percent unemployment rate shows that to be a fact.
My question to the Government Leader: will he sit down with his Minister of Economic Development and the business summit leaders and try to get the Yukon economy back on track?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To suggest that the Yukon government is doing nothing, or has shown no leadership at all, of course, is a complete falsehood - a falsehood propagated by the people in the opposition for whatever purpose.
The reality is that the Government of Yukon, the NDP government, has been working very hard with the business community over the last year. I've already met with the business summit leaders. The government has taken dozens of initiatives to help propel our economy into the next century and improve its fortunes, whether we're talking about the tax incentives that were introduced for the very first time, or the capital construction projects that we are investing in, or whether we're talking about devolution and the assumption of the responsibilities for oil and gas, or the support for the mining industry, or the work that we're doing in tourism to get direct charter access from Europe to Yukon.
The numbers of things and the kinds of things the government is doing with the community as a whole, including the business community, is many, many, many, and we are working very hard to try to improve our fortunes.
What we cannot do - what the member wants us to do - is simply spend our way out of our difficulties or, simply, magically, bring mines that have water licences, that have ore bodies exposed, that have infrastructure, into production, despite the price of minerals. We cannot do that, but we can do many other things, and we are doing many other things.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I asked the question of the Government Leader hoping I'd get more than the political rhetoric that I've gotten from his Economic Development minister.
This Government Leader and his government are going to have the dubious distinction of presiding over the worst economic period in the history of the Yukon, and all we get from them is political rhetoric.
Quite clearly, Mr. Speaker, whatever this government is doing is not working. There are more and more unemployed Yukoners. There are more and more people leaving the territory, and there's a real alarm out there in society that this government doesn't know what to do.
I want to ask the Government Leader, in light of the fact that, whatever this government has been doing, and all the political rhetoric we hear, that it's not creating jobs in the Yukon, does he not believe it's time to change his tactics and start doing something different?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, when the mining industry started suffering, when the mineral prices dropped and mines started to close, I looked to our immediate predecessors, and thought carefully about what John Ostashek and the Yukon Party had done in their period of office, when exactly the same thing happened.
And I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, we decided not to raise people's taxes. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, we did not decide to simply put all our money into one particular thing, and think that big spending was the only route.
Now, the member opposite has made suggestions that we simply spend more money, and that would make up for the private sector difficulties that we're currently facing - and yes, they are hard and they're tough for many people.
But what we have done, over the course of the last two years, is work with people in this territory - not just in Whitehorse, but throughout the territory, in every community - to try to improve economic fortunes. And we have put tools in people's hands, so that people themselves can start working to make things better - whether it's the community development fund or whether it's the trade and investment fund -
Speaker: The Government Leader's time has expired.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Many things, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, quite clearly, what this Government Leader and his government have done is decide not to put Yukoners to work. That's what they decided. It really didn't matter, as long as we have lots of government employees, which have increased - the only segment of society that has increased in the Yukon under this administration. It really doesn't matter if private sector people are working.
Mr. Speaker, this government cut $7 million out of their capital highways budget this year, because they had the Shakwak money. They're sitting on a $60-million surplus - and we have 16.7-percent unemployed, which is likely going to increase next year.
My question to the Government Leader: will he spend some of the $60 million now to put Yukoners to work, rather than saving it for its election war chest next year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many times I have to stress this point to the members opposite. What we want to do is to provide stable spending for this territory. People expect that at least the government would be stable when it comes to its spending practices in government spending. The boom-bust that the member opposite advocates does not help matters.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there are always opportunities for the government to direct funding in key areas to try to improve the economic fortunes of the territory. The government cannot make up the difference of the Anvil Range payroll. The government cannot make up the difference of the payrolls of other mines that have closed through sheer spending, and the member should try to understand that, because it's critically important that we do. It's important to this territory that we do, because we have to understand that government itself cannot make all things right to all people, but it can work with people in every community in this territory to make things improve to the fullest extent that we can, and that's what we're doing.
Question re: Health and Social Services, performance re First Nations
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It's my understanding that the Minister of Health and Social Services recently received a letter from the Council of Yukon First Nations listing over 100 complaints that that council has received from the Yukon First Nations about how the Department of Health and Social Services is operating in a whole number of areas. Some of them include children in care, day care, the Ross River protocol, to name just a few, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister confirm that he has received such a letter, and what is he doing about these large numbers of complaints?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have had some discussions with our First Nation partners on a variety of concerns. I addressed a number of those concerns in response to the Grand Chief Shirley Adamson, and these are some concerns that we will be discussing in further detail when I meet with the First Nations Health Commission tomorrow and discuss them.
I believe that a number of the concerns that were articulated, I feel, are probably because of a lack of, perhaps, understanding of some of the developments that we have undertaken in Health and Social Services in the last while.
Mr. Jenkins: The Minister of Health and Social Services will vividly recall last July 17 when the Kaska Tribal Council issued a letter calling upon the Government Leader to shuffle this minister because of the serious problems the Kaskas in Ross River, Watson Lake and Liard Basin were having with the minister in relationship to substance abuse prevention and aftercare service. The minister cut that funding by some 50 percent.
Will the minister table the letter he has received from the Council of Yukon First Nations and his responses?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure exactly what the question is. He made reference to the Kaska project. I should emphasize to the member that we actually have signed a protocol with the Kaska on that.
Initially, there was some concern about the funding. The question there was who was actually contributing the funding.
We didn't cut the funding, as the member has characterized it. It was supposed to be a cost-shared agreement but we found that, increasingly, we were paying the entire cost. We simply said that we wanted to go back to the basis of sharing the costs, and that's what we did. We offered that to the Kaska and, subsequent to that, they've agreed to it.
Mr. Jenkins: Obviously, there's a lot of concern out there because the minister has received a letter from the Council of Yukon First Nations expressing concern with over 100 different areas.
Now, will the minister please table a copy of that letter - that's what I'm looking for - outlining all these concerns, so we can get it on the table and look at it? Because the picture the minister is painting is one of just everything being wonderful out there, and the reality is quite something else.
Will the minister kindly table that letter, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I explained to the member that we've addressed a number of the concerns that were articulated and that I am meeting with the health commission tomorrow to address some further discussions in that area. As a matter of fact, one of the things we're going to be suggesting is that we expand out the consultation process from basically health, as it has been, to a wider range.
We've addressed a number of concerns. I suppose, if the member just wants to natter on about things, he could natter on about perhaps things such as a group home review, and I can point out that we have substantially addressed most of those concerns. If he wants to talk about such things as alcohol and drug treatment centres, I can tell the member that we have expanded out our funding for that area.
So, I'm not really sure what he's talking about. He just likes to hear himself blather on for awhile, but I can tell him that we are working with our First Nation partners and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on electoral district boundaries. The Government Leader told the House on March 1 that he would be seeking legal advice on the subject of whether we should have a commission to look at riding boundaries. Now, I understand from what came out of the House leaders meeting this morning, that he expects to receive that legal advice in about 10 days.
Would the Government Leader tell the House why it should take over seven weeks to get legal advice on a fairly straightforward matter?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the ways of the legal community are sometimes a mystery to me. It could be that the member opposite could provide more insight on this question than can I. I understand that the legal opinion is being drafted. It should be available by next week. I have asked that it be thorough, and I'm presuming that the legal personnel are providing for a thorough opinion.
So, when it's available, I'll make it public.
Mr. Cable: Could the Government Leader tell us about the legal advice he sought? Who has he sought it from - in-house, in the government, or from a Vancouver law firm? When did he ask for the advice, and what were the specific questions posed to the lawyers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe it's Yukon-based legal advice. The legal opinions sought were on the subject of whether or not the circumstances in the territory were sufficient to warrant an electoral boundary review. The case law on the subject of reviews is being considered in the matter. If the member wants the specific questions put, or the specific instructions, I can provide them along with the legal opinion.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate the minister tabling the outgoing question, if he would. I'll take him up on his proposition.
Now, I'm having some trouble coming to grips with why this exercise is taking so long. The Government Leader seemed to have no problem getting advice on the Inuvialuit final agreement in a matter of a few days. Yet, with the electoral boundaries issue, a not particularly complex issue, we have this long, drawn-out exercise.
Now, assuming, as everybody expects, that the advice the Government Leader's going to get is that there is good reason to have a review of boundaries - not a change, but a review of boundaries - is he prepared to commit to bringing in the necessary legislation to set up the boundaries commission before April 30, the last day for this session?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can understand why the Liberals may be a little bit hurt by the position that the government took on the Inuvialuit final agreement. I know it was an embarrassing moment for them, but it was not required that I get a legal opinion on this particular matter.
I've asked for a legal opinion and one was requested, I believe, even here and what we've done is taken the advice of officials and our own reading of that particular final land claim agreement and drew obvious conclusions - conclusions that the Liberals came around to only a couple of days later.
So, in terms of that agreement, Mr. Speaker, I did not receive a legal opinion, but I have sought one.
With respect to what might transpire as a result of the legal opinion, I would ask that the member await the legal opinion, rather than speculate in a hypothetical fashion on what the government may decide to do as a result of that opinion, or what the government may decide to do in concert - this may be wishful thinking on my part - with opposition parties with respect to the legal opinion.
So, I would hope that the member can understand that and will wait until we receive the document itself.
Queston re: Family Violence Prevention Act regulations
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Justice. I asked the minister a couple of weeks ago about the rather unnecessary delay in the development of regulations for the 1997 Family Violence Prevention Act. I then asked the minister to confirm that a new date for completion of those regulations is January of 2000. The minister refused twice to answer the question.
It is now going to be over two years since this bill was brought in, before it actually does anything to protect Yukon women. Will the minister confirm that January 2000 is the new date for when this bill might become law because the regulations will pass?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I cannot stand here and confirm a specific date for the member opposite. Now, the member opposite has made the charge that it was an unnecessary delay.
I do not believe that the delay is unnecessary, when what we are doing with the Family Violence Prevention Act is speaking to the residents of all Yukon communities, seeking their opinions, asking for people to serve as designates under the act for emergency intervention orders and doing the necessary training. That work has taken longer than we anticipated. It's better to do it right, and to take a little bit longer, than to meet an artificial deadline.
We will complete the implementation of the Family Violence Prevention Act, when that work has gone on.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, once again the minister hasn't answered the question. Now, I know the NDP is embarrassed about the lack of progress on this bill, and it should be. There has been a lot of hype and a lot of patting on the back for a job well done, and a lot of taking credit for improving our laws that deal with domestic violence. What is missing is the regulations that the minister promised when the bill was passed.
Now, Mr. Speaker, on November 7, 1997 - two years ago - the Minister of Justice was quoted on one of the local radio stations. She said, "Women don't want more studies, more words, more delays. Victims of violence need some action."
Can the minister confirm the new date of January 1, 2000 for the regulations on the domestic violence bill?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have answered the question for the member. The answer is that I cannot confirm a date for implementation. The date for implementation will occur after we have completed the training, after we have completed identifying people in communities who are willing to serve as a designated officer, after we have addressed all the enforcement issues that are legitimate questions that members of the community raised. We are providing public education materials and completing the training in order to implement this legislation properly. That's a good response. Doing it right is important.
Mrs. Edelman: Doing it late, Mr. Speaker. This is two years later. Can the minister confirm a target date for the completion of the regulations and the passing of the regulations for this bill?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member is standing there and saying that doing it late is all wrong, but that member stood up last year and criticized the government for rushing the process.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in order to implement the Family Violence Prevention Act well, we have women's shelters and the RCMP, the legal community, the family violence prevention unit, the Women's Directorate and other women's groups, as well as victim services, helping us to implement this act well. We have spoken to people and communities. We're providing public education materials. We'll be providing training. When that work is done, the regulations can be enacted. We are working on them as quickly as we can. It's important to bring people alongside to understand it and to be able to work with it effectively.
Question re: Yukon excellence awards
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education. A student recognition survey was conducted in May 1997, and the results of the survey were published in the student recognition report in August of 1997. The survey found that 84 percent of the parents supported the Yukon excellence awards, and that a majority of students - 62 percent - reported that they were motivated to work harder and try to get better grades as a result of the excellence awards. This is what the parents and the students said, Mr. Speaker, but it's not what the minister has done.
Can the minister advise the House why the amount of the awards was reduced by $100,000 between the 1996-97 school year and the 1997-98 school year? And, as well, the number of subjects for which awards were made available was also dropped dramatically from 23 in 1996-97 to only 16 in 1997-98. Why is the minister gutting the program, Mr. Speaker, despite the views of the parents and the students?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I think that the member's question very clearly demonstrates the difference in approach to education of the Yukon Party and of this government. We want to recognize the full potential of every Yukon student. We want to make sure that we're meeting not just the intellectual needs, but the physical and emotional and spiritual and linguistic needs of students.
Mr. Speaker, we have to offer a good-quality education for every Yukon student, regardless of whether they achieve 80 percent in territorial examinations or not. Mr. Speaker, when the survey was done about recognition programs, many parents and students indicated that we need to recognize effort and improvement.
The determination of which subjects are considered for the excellence awards is informed by the departmental assessment committee, as I told the member last week.
Mr. Phillips: I'm going to take a document out of the Yukon Party commitment in the last election. It says, "... to continue the Yukon excellence awards program and create a new program, the Yukon achievement awards, to recognize students who work hard to improve their grades, even though they do not qualify for the excellence awards."
Mr. Speaker, that's where the Yukon Party was talking about as well, and that's exactly what the survey told the minister they wanted. Mr. Speaker, that was back in August 1997. Why has the minister done nothing but reduce the program since August 1997, despite what the parents and the students wanted the minister to do with the program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We're increasing our funding to education. We're increasing our support of Yukon youth being involved in decisions. We've established a youth training trust fund, we supported the recent youth conference, we have a youth strategy in effect, where we're working to establish a youth advisory board and, unlike the member opposite, we recognize that there's more than one particular program that youth care about.
We need to have Yukon graduates coming out of our school system who do well and who are able to attend university. We're working to ensure that all eligible students are able to attend university, not simply the ones who have achieved a mark of 80 percent on their territorial exams.
Mr. Phillips: The minister just doesn't get it, Mr. Speaker. To get into most of those universities now you need about an 80-percent average to start with.
Mr. Speaker, the minister can throw up the biggest smokescreen she wants. The fact of the matter is that the question is about the awards of excellence. That's what the questionnaire was about. The parents and the students said overwhelmingly they wanted them to continue.
The other programs the minister talked about today are fine.
My question is, and I'd like an answer from the minister: why hasn't she done anything with the awards of excellence program other than reduce it? Why haven't you done anything with it? That's what the partners in education wanted you to do. Why haven't you done it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. I can tell the member for a fact that there are thousands of parents in this territory who care about how their students do in science, in languages, in drama, in arts and phys ed. There is more than one subject and you don't need an excellence award in order to be getting a good education. You don't need an excellence award in order to be going on to university.
Mr. Speaker, when I look at the Yukon excellence awards, where 65 students may have passed and got an excellence award and 235 other students would have passed, the students who didn't get an 80 percent may still want to go to university and may still, contrary to the member's theory, be eligible to go to university. Putting money strictly into an excellence awards program for the students who achieve 80 percent does not recognize the value of the effort and achievement of the other students, and that's important to do, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Electoral boundary reform
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader on the electoral distribution.
The Government Leader told us that he took opinions from his officials - not lawyers, but from his officials - on the complex Inuvialuit final agreement and gave positions in the House, yet he's not prepared to proceed on his own advice on whether we should have an electoral reform commission set up, a far less complex issue. He's also not prepared to give us a commitment to bring in this legislation before the end of this session.
I know he can avoid the question because it's hypothetical but, if he should get legal advice telling him, as everybody else knows he will get, that there should be a commission set up for a review, is he prepared to bring that legislation forward before the end of this session?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I had no idea that the motion that the Yukon Party brought forward last week hurt the Liberals so much. They were wrong; they admitted they were wrong. Why do they continue to feel so hurt?
The language in the Inuvialuit final agreement, I felt, was very clear on the subject, and I got officials to confirm that point. There was a request made that I seek a legal opinion and I'm doing so.
In the interim, Mr. Speaker, we determined that the language was clear enough, that a motion was promoted by the Yukon Party that was agreed to by the government, and by the Liberals, too, that suggested that the Liberal interpretation of matter was wrong and that Yukon contractors should get a chance at work on the North Slope and at the DEW Line cleanup sites.
The languages, as I had mentioned in debate, was very, very clear on the point. It didn't need a lawyer in my opinion, but I am seeking an opinion in any case.
With respect to the question that the member put, he begins by saying that I can get away with not answering the question because it was hypothetical. Well, Mr. Speaker, the reason why I don't want to answer a hypothetical question is because it is clearly -
Speaker: The Government Leader's time is up.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: - one of many options that we should be considering.
Mr. Cable: Fortunately, there are two more questions. Fortunately, there will be two more different answers. So, let's get the second or third version here.
Is the Government Leader, assuming he gets this opinion telling him the obvious - that there are ridings around Whitehorse that don't meet the Supreme Court of Canada's test - is he prepared to commit to bring legislation forward in this session?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all it is important that we understand and get a reading of what the legal opinion states with respect to the matter. There are many different permutations that can be and will be considered in this particular question. We will respond appropriately, aggressively and responsibly to the advice we receive. That is a commitment that the government will make - and, incidentally, makes on every single matter that comes before it.
Mr. Cable: That was close to dreadful. Could the Government Leader tell us what he's done in the meantime? Has he instructed anybody to check the medicare record, to find out how many people are in each riding? Has he contacted any prospective commissioners? Just what have they done - what has the government done in the seven weeks since this issue was raised in the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, we've considered the matter very carefully - very thoughtfully, very responsibly. We've analyzed the matter thoroughly, in many different permutations. We are not prepared to take a position on the potential outcome, because there could be any number of potential outcomes.
But what we will do is behave thoughtfully, carefully and responsibly with respect to this matter - and, as I mentioned before, with respect to all matters - but particularly here, because it's deserving of a careful response.
We have to understand, Mr. Speaker, that if we simply do take the knee-jerk reaction that the Liberals have taken to a suggestion by the Yukon Party, we would have spent $250,000 without ever considering the consequences.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we're not going to act in such an irresponsible fashion. We're going to act carefully and responsibly in this matter.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
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 Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when we left general debate last Thursday, we were dealing with a number of issues - recent initiatives of this government - and one of those was the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, and those amendments were by and large supported by this side of the House, Mr. Chair.
What we didn't support is what is currently flowing from the regulations. We didn't have a chance to see the regulations at the onset. They were developed by the department in-house, and what I'm referring to is one of the areas that causes me and a lot of the business community grave concerns, and that's with respect to vehicle impoundment.
There was recently a letter mailed out at the end of March to all commercial licence plate holders. It in effect says that the vehicle impoundment program is one of the new initiatives developed to remove drinking drivers, as well as those who abuse their driving privileges from the roadways to make the roads safer for all who use them.
Now, on the surface that appears to be an excellent initiative: if someone's caught drinking and driving, or driving when their driver's licence is suspended, or is under suspension, or they're not insured, their vehicle is impounded, but what it's going to affect, and what it could have a very dramatic effect on, is commercial vehicles that are owned by a company, a firm, or a rental car firm that, when they hire a driver or an individual to operate their vehicle, be it a tractor-trailer, a motor coach, or whatever, you go through all the initiatives, Mr. Chair, to ensure that your operator, your driver, conforms to all the conditions, has the proper class of driver's licence, and has his medical currently - all of those areas are covered. But what you don't have control of is the way that that individual behaves.
Now, that that vehicle would be seized, and would be seized for up to 30 days, leads me to some concerns.
The intent of the law is to punish those who break the law. Why is the minister having his officials within his department bring down regulations that don't do that? They don't punish the person who broke the law.
They punish the owner of the vehicle, who could be someone other than that individual. Why is the minister doing that?
There is one exception to that, Mr. Speaker: when a vehicle is not insured, it can be seized. Now, it is definitely the responsibility of the owner to ensure that vehicles are properly insured and that the pink slip is there at all times.
But why is the minister taking the responsibility away from the individual who has broken the law and placing it squarely on the shoulders of the owner of that vehicle? Why is the minister doing that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, we're absolutely not doing that. Absolutely not at all. It might be a way of painting the picture. It might even be a way of looking at it, but certainly that was not the intent and that is not exactly what is happening at this point in time.
I know that I received all-party support for the most important motor vehicle legislation in quite some time to hit the floor of this Legislature, and I certainly do appreciate that support. I know that, when we went out to canvass the public, to consult with the public, to talk to the public and ask them on this particular issue, it was high. So, there was a great deal of interest from the media, there was a great deal of interest from the Yukon public, as reported by the media at the time, as there is from the Legislature.
Why are we doing this? Well, it's certainly so that we might have safer highways. Absolutely that is it - so we might have safer highways for all to enjoy, certainly.
Now, these restrictions or provisions, if we categorize them both, I guess, are coming right across this great land of ours, Canada. They're coming right across. It's becoming more uniform, as we know. We went through this debate just last fall, just a few short months ago. And so, what we are doing, though, is making it more incumbent upon people who have responsibility when they loan their vehicle out to whomever, that there are certain responsibilities that go with the transfer or the loaning, or however it's done, whether it's done in a legal manner or whether it's done on a handshake-type, it is done and the owners have responsibilities also.
What I'd like to point out at this point in time, though, is that there are provisions within the Motor Vehicles Act for the early release of the vehicle and they're under certain eligible circumstances. So certainly, I do know that the Driver Control Board that is in charge of this initiative would very much look at those eligible circumstances, and the circumstances that were painted by the Member for Klondike are certainly circumstances that would eligible.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the information that the minister is putting out there doesn't paint the true picture of what the current letter has stated. I'll send the minister over a copy of that letter, Mr. Chair.
It's a notice dated March 29, 1999, to all commercial vehicle plate holders. It's Yukon's new vehicle impoundment program, and how it affects your business, and your employees. Now, remember, Mr. Chair, the purpose of punishment is to suit the crime. You punish the individual who broke the law. What this, in effect, does will punish the firm that owns the vehicle.
It goes on at great length to describe the vehicle impoundment process, and it goes on to say, "... under this program, drivers who are impaired, suspended, disqualified, prohibited, refuse to provide a breath or blood sample when requested to do so by the RCMP or fail to remain at the scene of an accident, or drive without minimum liability insurance ..." Now, of all of those categories, six of them the driver is clearly responsible for. One is the owner of the vehicle's responsibility. Yet, we're penalizing totally the owner of the vehicle.
It says, "We will have the vehicle they are driving impounded for a minimum period of 30 days, regardless of who actually owns the vehicle. The actual length of impoundment may be considerably longer, depending on the number of prior offences committed. Only the power unit of a combination commercial vehicle will be impounded ..." - meaning, if it's towing a trailer, you'll be impounding the tractor.
"Straight trucks carrying goods, or buses transporting passengers, will be offloaded prior to the impoundment taking place." So clearly, Mr. Chair, the department has thoroughly analyzed what they're going to be impounding - it's any and all vehicles.
Then, it goes on to say, "Should one of your company vehicles be impounded under this program, you would receive formal notification of this from the Whitehorse motor vehicle office." Well, the motor vehicle office - by the time the mail has gone through the hoops, we're looking at a considerable period of time.
"A copy of the notice of impoundment form, which was given to the driver by the RCMP at the time of the impoundment, will be mailed to you." Oh great. Snail mail today is very, very time consuming, especially if your vehicles are registered in Ontario, or Seattle, or Anchorage, as the case may be. You're looking for two or three weeks, right there, before you even find out that your vehicle's impounded.
"Motor vehicles will notify you via letter of the actual length of the impoundment period ..." - by letter, once again - "... the location of the vehicle, the process to be followed to claim the vehicle at the end of the impoundment period, and you will be provided with an application for review form."
Well, this is all great. Now we've got a bureaucratic maze there that would defy the imagination of anyone who was trying to put roadblocks in the way. This goes way, way beyond it. Why do we need this? I don't know, Mr. Chair. No one I've spoken to within the industry knows why we need this lengthy a process.
Then it goes on to say, "As the vehicle owner, you could apply for an early release of the vehicle if you could demonstrate one of the following: the driver drove the vehicle without your consent or knowledge ..." - in 99 percent of the cases, that wouldn't be the situation. You've hired an individual, you've practised due diligence to make sure he has the proper class of licence, you've done reference checks, and he stops off and has a couple more beer on the way home than he should have, or he stops for lunch, and he could be impaired. To have care and control over that at all times is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the owner of that piece of equipment or vehicle, Mr. Chair.
You did not know that the driver did not have a valid licence to drive, and you took reasonable care to determine that the driver had a valid licence to drive your vehicle, or if you were the driver when the vehicle was impounded, you could not have known by reasonable diligence that your driver's licence was not valid at the time - well, all this is great. As an employer, having operating authority, you photocopy the employee's driver's licence. Your insurance company requires that you get a driver's abstract on this individual. You have to send them for a medical. So, you've got copies of his medical, you've got copies of his driver abstract, and you've got copies of his driver's licence, so you know when it expires. But all this is not enough to ensure that he conforms at all times to the rules and the laws, and your vehicle can be impounded.
Now, to apply for an early release of the vehicle from impoundment, as the owner, you must file an application for review - pay a $50 application fee and provide information for the review officer to consider. If your review is successful, the application fee will be refunded to you.
Well, if I were operating a motor coach or a tractor-trailer unit, and my operator was charged with, let's say, impaired driving, he'd be automatically dismissed. But what's more important is that I get that piece of equipment back to service as soon as possible. This process that is set out here is a bureaucratic nightmare that's not going to serve the purpose of punishing the person that has committed the offence. It's only going to punish the owner of the vehicle, and for what purpose, Mr. Chair? What purpose?
Will the minister consider going back to his officials and putting in place a policy and a program that is more conducive to punishing an individual that commits an offence, and provides for much faster advice to the owner of the vehicle that is impounded, and a much faster release mechanism than we currently see here? It should be able to be accomplished with a series of telephone calls and faxed confirmation that the owner will pay this fine or that fine. There has got to be a much better way of dealing with this than what is set out here.
If you wanted to find a more complicated way of enforcing this part of the regulations, Mr. Chair, we'd have to put in a considerable amount of overtime to devise a more convoluted costly method than this, especially when this method doesn't serve the purpose of penalizing the person who committed the offence. All it does is punish the owner of that piece of equipment or that vehicle. Why is this government taking this tack and going that way?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, it's not quite as the Member for Klondike points out. Certainly, let me talk about the intent once more. We have to have safe highways. I know we have to have safe highways, and nobody in this House here or in the general public would argue that point. So, I do know that we have agreement upon the act.
Now, the Member for Klondike is saying that we are alluding to the fact - quite incorrectly, I think - that we're not punishing the person who is the actual person who is impaired. That is wrong, also. The person will be punished as per the punishments, according to the severity of the nature of the crime. So, certainly, that's put to bed. The person will be punished.
Now, what we're talking about here is the vehicle, and the Member for Klondike says that the owner is being punished versus the person who was actually doing the impaired driving. Well, the impaired driver will be punished as per the law of the land.
There are certain requirements, whether legal, civil, or just common sense, that you should know, as an employer, about your drivers. You should also encourage them, as I do and I know that this happens, that they do get encouraged to practise safe driving. That's nothing new. Drivers do that.
From the occasional time when something like this would be kicked into place - the Member for Klondike said "snail mail" - well, that's a way of categorizing it. We can use fax machines. Fax machines can be used in this case, and we can use the fast fax versus the snail mail.
Certainly we can use that, and we will use those type of issues. The idea here is not to prolong or create agony, but make sure that we have safe highways. The RCMP - they'll certainly continue, because they are now, at this point in time, to exercise caution and common sense when they're ordering the impoundment of a commercial vehicle. What they're going to do is they're going to be ensuring that the cargo is not jeopardized or that the travelling public is not jeopardized by a motor vehicle that is parked alongside the road.
If it's a tractor-trailer and there's a cargo load that has to be delivered, well then the RCMP, through the system, will ensure that it is done quickly - quickly. We're not talking weeks here, or anything like as such - not at all. And it will happen; it will happen very quickly.
What else can I add to this debate? Again, I can reiterate that speed is there, that there are processes. If the vehicle is owned - not by the person who was impaired - and impounded, certainly there are processes within the act that will allow quickly to get the vehicle back if it fits. But again, we're all talking after the fact. What we should be talking about here, and I think what is really desirous of government and the public at large, is that these issues do not have to be put to - well, no, I guess they're going to be put to test, but certainly as a last resort.
So we want safer highways. If there are hiccups within the system and there are companies that are affected by this, certainly we'll give every best effort so that we might be able to move forward to get their vehicles back. And I'm certainly suggesting that it can be done through fax. It doesn't have to be done through the mail. The post office is only open from Monday nine-to-five type of nature. It can happen, and will happen, much quicker than that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister might want to check with his own department, with his own officials, and he'll find out what he has just stated in the House here is pure bunk. Because his own department indicated it would take weeks, and nowhere in the regs is there anything dealing with fax notification - not anywhere.
Now, I want to make it abundantly clear from the onset, Mr. Chair, that our party supported these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. We are not questioning the intent of this rule. We are questioning the wisdom and the reasonableness of the seizure of a commercially licensed vehicle and the process an owner has to go through to obtain that vehicle back. That's what we're questioning.
I'm sure, once the minister has the time to reflect on it, he can make a simple phone call, or have one of his friends make a simple phone call to his department and find out their interpretation of these rules - because they're certainly not the way the minister conveyed them in the House, or as he was advised by his officials to convey it in the House. I don't know which is the case, Mr. Chair - but when you contact the officials, they said, "Well, it'd be a minimum of a couple of weeks before you could get your vehicle back because you have to be notified. There is a procedure set out." A couple of weeks is too long.
What the minister's officials have done with this type of regulation is penalize the owner of the vehicle for the offence. Now, the purpose of the law is to penalize the individual who broke the law. In the case of a commercial vehicle, the only occasion where this would come into full force or where it would be a reasonable approach is in the case where it is not properly or adequately insured; that's the only case.
I'm sure the minister is having serious second sober thoughts about this issue because it has the potential to wreak havoc with commercial highway traffic.
Now, will the minister go back to his department and streamline the process and, as he stated in the House, advise by fax, not by mail, because mail is specified in the regulations, fax is not. Now, we can work with the minister on this. We can streamline these regulations and we can have them in place so that it serves the purpose that was intended and yet, the vehicle can be put back into the hands of the owner and that owner can go out and hire another driver and put that vehicle back to work.
Once you're talking commercial vehicles, Mr. Chair, in the case of a motorcoach, you're talking almost a million dollars a copy for a current motorcoach - well, $600,000 or $700,000-something U.S. - just about a million bucks a copy for a motorcoach on one of our highways today, and, yes, drivers do make mistakes, but why are we penalizing the company to the extent we are? There's no purpose served.
Now, the minister would be well-advised to have his officials go back, review this area, and put something in place that is going to serve the needs of the transportation industry and serve it in a much better manner than what we are advancing here, because all this is done, not in this Legislature, Mr. Chair, but by regulations brought forward by the bureaucracy.
This is a case where the bureaucracy has gone too far, and it is not going to serve the purpose it was intended to. It will put the onus for penalty on the owner of the piece of equipment or vehicle. The driver goes through due process.
Let's use a for-instance: somebody from Europe flying into Anchorage, picking up a rental vehicle, a motorhome, value of $100,000 U.S. - or Canadian, for that matter; it doesn't matter, almost 50 percent more. He brings it over, and gets stopped for impaired here. How long is it going to take to notify the owner of that vehicle? The worst that's going to happen to that individual who's stopped - and it's happened time and time again - is they're going to get deported. That's about it.
Who's going to get penalized for that vehicle being stopped with an impaired driver at the wheel? The owner of the vehicle.
Now, is that fair? Is that reasonable? Is that what we intend? No, it's not, Mr. Chair. It's the same thing with the line hauler, a tractor-trailer coming out of California on its way through to Alaska with a load of fresh produce or something of that nature. The same thing could be happening.
The only thing that might be a variable there is that the trailer that he's hauling might be owned by a company, and he might own the tractor. In that case, you've got a situation where you could impound the vehicle, but usually those types of owner/operators are in a much better position and are much more responsible than someone who is working straight for wages. Usually owner/operators are much more apt to adhere 110 percent to the letter of the law.
So, the issue here, Mr. Chair, is what is fair, what is reasonable and due process. What the minister's regulations are doing in this case is penalizing the owner of the vehicle. I'm sure that we weren't intending to do that, although this letter that was recently mailed out to all commercial licence-plate holders spells that out quite succinctly.
Will the minister consider going back, reviewing these regulations and amending them to serve the purpose that they were originally intended to have by all of us in this House?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the intent of the legislation was to make our highways safer for all of the travelling public and for the commercial public too, because it's not certainly just a travelling public, but it's the commercial drivers, in most part, who want fair highways too. It's a right honourable profession, and it should be perceived as such.
I would like to say if I could, right off the top, yes, I will look into it. I'll talk to the department about it, to make sure that issues are done - not to the detriment of the economy or anything like as such, but certainly so that we can have good, free-flowing goods. That is absolutely the intent of the legislation, and we'll check with other jurisdictions. I do know that B.C., Alberta, P.E.I., Ontario, and Saskatchewan, if I remember right, off the top of my head again, all have some form of impoundment, and there are others, I think, if I remember, that were even more severe for commercial - if I remember, Alberta. Again, I'm just talking off the top of my head, but it's certainly stuff that we can and will check into.
Certainly, though, I do believe that it does say, through the regulations, "mail", but fax is definitely an accepted part of the process. So, it's not that we have to wait for the letter to get from the box to the post office to the truck and then vice versa at the other end. No. But I will check on those issues.
I would like to talk just a tad about the responsibility here, if I may. To enact the intent of the legislation - well, of course it's supposed to be fair and it's supposed to be reasonable, but I think it's trying to share the responsibility for the vehicle. It doesn't lie just simply with the driver who is in control of the vehicle. Of course, it lies within their control but not simply. There's also a fair amount of jurisdiction - maybe "jurisdiction" is not the correct word, but responsibility that lies with the company also. So, how is it mooted, I couldn't say, but I know that everybody is responsible, from the company to the driver to the mechanic who services it but doesn't even get out onto the road with it. The responsibility lies everywhere. So, the drivers will be punished, of course, according to the act.
There are provisions so that we will not allow a delay in the movement of goods - I certainly don't want that to happen. And in cases where the vehicle is impounded, there are provisions that will allow the owner - whether it's a company, or just the neighbour or whoever - to get the vehicle back.
I will check with the department. I will definitely keep the Members for Klondike and for Riverdale South informed as to how I see it.
It should be done so that it's sweet and efficient, because that's certainly what I want to see. Maybe "sweet" is not the right word, but it should be done so that it's quick and efficient, and that's what I will ensure.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I just want to give an example of what happened when people got this letter. Some individuals called C&TS and asked about these conditions.
Now, let's assume for a moment that we in this House all support the sanctions - and we do. We voted for them. But let's also assume that the problem is driver-related. It's either an impaired driver, or it's a driver who has his driver's licence suspended, and then he's stopped. It's not related to a fault of the company.
Now, when the individuals asked the department what they could do, the department suggests in the letter that they could find a way to obtain an abstract on the employees. Most companies do that already. They do that for insurance purposes.
They might do that last week, and it could go almost a full year before the individual's licence is suspended. And when the individual pointed that out, the government employee said, "Well, why don't you do two a year, then?" I mean, there shouldn't be a need to do two a year. It's the responsibility to do one a year, to provide that information to your insurance company and to ensure that your drivers have valid licences when they're driving.
For the next suggestion, the person asked, "Well, how long will it take to go for the early release of a vehicle?" They said, "Well, up to two weeks."
Well, let me give you a scenario. The Member for Watson Lake used to be in the lumber business and has maybe one or two trucks running that are absolutely critical to his operation. He checks the abstracts. He has his insurance, his registration, he's done everything right and one of his drivers gets, for one reason or another, picked up and his licence is suspended. He doesn't want to lose his job so he doesn't tell the Member for Watson Lake, his boss, that his licence is under suspension. The next day, while driving the Member for Watson Lake's lumber truck, he gets stopped and the truck is impounded.
There are tough times in the territory right now. The Member for Watson Lake or any other businessperson in this territory couldn't wait two weeks to get that truck out of impoundment because they had contracts to honour, they had services to deliver and they needed their truck within minutes of that happening. In fact, in some cases, they might have to get another driver within an hour of the other driver being off the road in order to keep the truck rolling. If it is for the delivery of fuel, or for the delivery of logs or a certain type or piece of equipment that is specialized like a Hiab that is doing specialized work - they need it immediately.
So, I think the impression the minister is leaving with us today is that the process should be expedient but that's not the impression that his officials are leaving with the private sector right now. There should be something put into the regulations that says if the commercial owner of the vehicle can prove immediately upon notification - and he should be notified by phone or fax immediately upon seizure of the vehicle - that the vehicle should be released immediately, within hours - not days, not weeks, not a month - so that the individual, the private sector person, can put the vehicle back to work. Not being able to get this electrical Hiab truck back for two or three weeks could mean the difference of that particular business, in this economy, going bankrupt.
Conceivably, it could even be a Government of Yukon contract, for cryin' out loud - not being able to finish the contract, because they didn't have the equipment to do it, because the government had it impounded.
All we're saying is we agree with the principle of impoundment, but there has to be an extremely high priority put on the commercial businesses that haven't done anything wrong, and have followed all the guidelines to ensure that their drivers are competent, safe, and have the necessary licences to carry out the job. If that's the case, then the government should be bending over backward.
You know, one of the things that this government talked about in its early mandate was to act more like a business and be more business-like. Well, if you're going to act more like a business, then you've got to appreciate that businesses have to operate every day of the week. If the Member for Watson Lake's truck is seized this afternoon, he has to be able to get it out later on this afternoon, if it's not his business' fault, if it's just his driver's fault.
If it's on a weekend, somebody has to be put on notice, or somebody has to be on call, so that the individual can deal with them right away and get their equipment back. It can't be done any other way.
I'm sure the minister would agree with that, that that kind of teeth has to be put in on the bureaucratic side to ensure that the bureaucrats move quickly and efficiently to get the vehicle back in the hands of the commercial operator, if it wasn't the fault of the commercial operator in the first place.
Because the Yukon is made up of dozens of small companies like the Member for Watson Lake's small company, and the small companies that I've had, and others, that simply couldn't afford to be without a key piece of equipment for a day or two, or two weeks, as the official from the minister's department is saying. It's intolerable.
So I would ask the minister to not go back and see what he can do. I would ask the minister to go back and give strong direction that teeth will be put into the regulations to ensure that, if the private sector, the commercial operators, meet the criteria for the return of the vehicle, that it'll be returned forthwith, and it will be in writing, and there will be someone on call, and there will be someone to respond to it immediately, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because in some cases, some of these vehicles could be seized on the weekends or in the evenings or late at night or in the early morning hours, and in some cases they have to be on the road the next day working for the company.
So I'd ask the minister to consider that in light of the examples that I've given him that it's absolutely critical for these businesses. If they've done everything in their power to ensure that their vehicle is properly equipped and on the road, has a qualified driver in it, and it was the fault of the driver that this happened, the commercial operator should be able to get their vehicle back immediately.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I can thank the Member for Riverdale North for presenting basically the same argument that the Member for Klondike did, just in different language, and certainly, I understand the seriousness of what's been said. I hope it's just a matter of interpretation, but certainly I will check with the department.
These concerns are painted horrifically. We don't want these types of issues to arise, but certainly the need for legislation was apparent. Everybody in the House supported it.
I will take it upon myself to talk with the department and find out if this can happen - it's not what I want to happen - and how I can make the regulations so that it won't happen. So, we've got a little bit of work, but we'll do the work.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I appreciate the minister going back to his officials and having a review of these new regulations. Hopefully, they will be amended so that they're more friendly to commercially licensed vehicles here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
I'm not sure if the minister is aware, but for any vehicle with an operating authority here in the Yukon, as soon as that insurance is cancelled by the insurers, notification has to go to the motor vehicle branch, and your plates are voided at that same time. So, we're talking very, very few commercial vehicles without operating authority, but we are talking some in that category for insurance purposes, Mr. Chair.
While we're on the issue of regulations, one of the other contentious issues for those of us in rural Yukon is the system that's in place for overheight, overlength, overwidth units that originate in rural Yukon and call ahead, come to the scales. They tell them they're over height by this many feet and/or they're overwidth, and they've got a pilot car. They're given a number and an authority to proceed. When they get to the scales, they're over by the estimated weight. They could have a D9H on instead of a D9K, and they're fined $500, $600, $1,000 - some pretty horrific fines are coming down. Yet these operators have done everything in their power to follow through. There are no scales in rural Yukon. They can measure the overwidth, they can measure the overheight, but the weight is one that is driving truckers in rural Yukon silly.
I'd ask the minister to go back and find a much better way - and this is all done through regulations - of making this process more user-friendly. Now, I'm not suggesting that the fines be waived. What I'm suggesting is that the process that is used and the questions that are posed to the truckers be specific.
How much overweight are you? How much overlength are you? The overweight is causing grave concerns. How much overweight are you? Is it a divisible load? These types of questions can allay a lot of fears. Then they come into the scales - especially if they've picked up three or four hundred pounds of ice or snow enroute, which happens and happens on a continuing basis - that's thrown into the whole formula, and if it's the least bit - you start in the north, where it's well below freezing, you end up in Whitehorse, where it's right around freezing, you'll pick up - well, eight hundred, nine hundred pounds of ice and snow.
The minister knows full well what I'm speaking of. But there's got to be a better process in place than what we have. Will the minister go back to his officials, and see what he can do to put in place a better process that serves the needs of the trucking industry in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. Yes, Mr. Chair, I do know full well what the member is talking about. Now that I'm over the age, though, of having to get a driver's licence every year, I've had to rescind my class 1, which kind of hurt my feelings, because now I can't go and skin those loads the way I used to - doggone, it's too bad.
But certainly the only reason I say that is that I do understand. I do have a good understanding of what the member is speaking about, and I will. There's always room for improving communication so that we do not hamper anybody within the industry, whether it's hauling logs or gravel, or hauling a Cat.
But now, speaking about that, the Member for Klondike is well aware that a Cat of a certain category weighs so much, and a Cat of another category weighs so much, so there is some commonsense decision-making on the part of the people who are moving them.
But certainly I can commit to trying to improve our communications so that we don't come up against these types of problems. Certainly I can.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that commitment. I'd like to take the minister to another issue, Mr. Chair. On March 11, I received a letter from the minister in response to the cost-benefit analysis of the in-house mosquito control program. Could the minister, for my education, explain to the House what he understands a cost-benefit analysis to mean?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do have the letter that was sent to the Member for Klondike, dated March 9 - pardon me, dated March 11 - my mistake. I would be happy to answer questions surrounding it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I asked the minister, Mr. Chair, if he could explain what a cost-benefit analysis meant. Does the minister have a response? What is a cost-benefit analysis?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not here to be grilled as to what this means and what it does not mean. I'm certainly very fluent in understanding the government process and how it goes. We are going to do a cost-benefit analysis. That's what we've done, and it has proven that it does deliver the program cheaper if it's done in-house.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously the minister doesn't know what a cost-benefit analysis is. It's a comparison of the costs to the work performed. If I could take the minister to page 2, where they spell out - it starts off with the 1996-97 annual program costs. In 1996-97, the total cost was $119,000; in 1997-98, it was $58,000; in 1998-99, it was $57,000. Let's not deal with the estimate, but let's just look at these three categories.
What the minister is saying and what his department is saying is that we have saved money doing this program in house. Well, Mr. Chair, when you complete a full, cost-benefit analysis, you would conclude otherwise. You would conclude, from analysis of that information, that the program is now less than a third of what it used to be.
We are now applying - because the cost for the larvicide has remained constant throughout that whole period - $10,000 worth of larvicide, whereas back in 1996-97, we were applying $38,000 worth of larvicide. So really, what the department is doing is just over a third of the work that they used to do and they're doing it for $57,000. Now, a cost-benefit analysis, if those numbers were extrapolated, taking back their current costs, would show that it would have cost almost $150,000 to apply the same amount back in 1996-97.
The considerable cost savings realized from 1996 to 1997 were an actual result of Whitehorse, Mayo and Watson Lake leaving the YTG program. That's what has happened. The department is doing considerably less. They're treating considerably fewer hectares of area. In fact, it's several hundred fewer hectares, because, when you look at the area that you can cover with the larvicide versus what is being done, certainly, you have to conclude that. How we can call this a cost-benefit analysis defies the imagination, Mr. Chair.
The minister is being baffled by his department in this regard.
Now, why doesn't the minister present the actual numbers, break it down into the areas treated - the total area treated - which is a true indication of the costs? What we're doing is treating less and less area for more and more money per area. Yes, our total costs are down significantly. What we haven't taken into consideration is all the capital costs that the department has assumed also. We have storage areas. We have vehicles. We have all of those costs. We have equipment that has been purchased. One only has to look at the capital budget for the last number of years to see what we spent on the capital side of the equation. That's not even factored in here, Mr. Chair. Why isn't it? It's just to skew the numbers so that it makes it look like it's better to do the job in-house than to hire a contractor, and nothing could be further from the truth. The taxpayers of the Yukon are getting a royal - I'm searching for words, Mr. Chair. They're getting taken to the cleaners, I guess is the polite way to say it.
But, Mr. Chair, I would urge the minister to ask his officials, if he's going to provide a cost-benefit analysis, that he approach it on the normal basis that a cost-benefit analysis is concluded. This certainly is not. This is just a summary of the total amount spent on larvicide, the total amount spent on all the areas, and it concludes that the department has spent $57,000 versus $119,000 back in 1996-97. The only thing that's saving our skins here in the Yukon from mosquito bites is that we're on a very, very low cycle for mosquitoes.
Yes, and that's a direct result of the amount of moisture. We're in a low frequency of precipitation and snow, which translates into a low cycle for mosquitoes. But if we had a normal year, where rainfall was up at those levels and spring run-off was at normal levels and we spent that little and treated that small of an area - now, I would urge the minister to go back to his officials and have a look at this, because taking the program in-house is costing more and accomplishing less. We're doing less and less and less and, for the area that we're treating, it's costing more.
Now, surely the minister can grasp that, Mr. Chair, and go back to his department and have an analysis done. Will the minister agree to undertake that kind of a review?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I believe, because we're making direct and constant reference to a document, that I'm entitled to that document so that I can also view it.
Chair: The point of order has been cited. I see the member has been provided with a copy.
We'll continue with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I do understand what the member is talking about. Certainly, we do comparisons. We want to ensure that we're delivering the program cheaper, and I've been assured that we are.
The Member for Klondike, though, if he could look at the sheet, it says that Dawson City, a participating community in '96 spent $22,000. In '97 it spent $6,000 - I'm rounding these figures off, mind you. I'm just rounding them off, so please bear with me. And then in '98 they spent $4,000.
And then if you look at Faro, in '96 with $8,900, Faro then went to $4,900, and in '97 and '98, Faro went to $5,200. It certainly seems to have absolute cost savings to the communities associated with it.
If the member would look at the different areas - like in the Ross River area. In Ross River, in '96 there was $8,900 spent, and then in '97, there was $7,500, and then in Ross River, $6,900.
So, certainly, it seems to be working, but I hear what the member is saying. He's saying it's a low mosquito year because of the moisture content. Certainly, all those points do factor in. Although we can still say that this year, if we do have a high flooding season - which possibly could happen - then the water will back up into the ponds and then you'll have more -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It can happen. And you'll have more water flooding the backcountry, where you'll have 100-year old mosquitoes coming out this spring and biting you. Bit by a 100-year-old.
So all those things will be factored in, but what I can endeavour to do is, I can endeavour to get all the detail - the excruciating detail - of the mosquito control program to the member opposite, and show where it allows for the capital costs. I believe some of the capital costs have been fixed into this - or not fixed into this, pardon me. They're in the capital budget.
But certainly if the member wants, I can look at it. Certainly, it is my belief it has been delivered a lot cheaper to the communities with it being done in-house, than was done by contract. But surely, again, I can take it upon myself to work with the department to endeavour to get the excruciating detail to see that it does work out that way.
And if I may have the indulgence of the House for two seconds so I can get some, that would be fine.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for that commitment, and I would urge the minister to go back to his department and do a cost-benefit analysis. What we're looking at it is the unit cost, and the specific numbers that the minister has to spend some time putting together are for the cost per kilogram of larvicide applied. When one reviews what has transpired here, one gets a steadily increasing unit cost. Thus, the cost to the taxpayer is going up.
The minister cited Dawson City, and I'm familiar with what has happened in Dawson City and the changes that have taken place there. What has happened is that the aerial treatment was decreased significantly, and also the city does its own and has contracted its own ground-treatment program out, so all of that is out of the loop. It's not even costed in there, where it was previously done by YTG or the contractor acting on behalf of YTG.
So, while there has been a cost reduction in the total cost to Dawson, it has come from them contracting out directly their ground treatment and their treatment after the initial aerial spray to a local individual, plus they've reduced significantly the amount of aerial spraying that has taken place.
That explains it fully in that municipality. I haven't spent the time analyzing some of the other communities, but when one looks at the costs that they're incurring currently versus what they were incurring before, those costs have increased, Mr. Chair - they have increased.
046So, if the minister could spend the time and do the cost-benefit analysis on the basis of unit costs and also clearly identify the capital costs associated with maintaining this program in-house, I'm sure, after he's assembled all those numbers, he'll find and he will conclude, that we are getting less and less for more and more.
Mr. Chair, one of the other areas that I was hoping the minister might have some more information on was when he is going to be bringing forward - and I was hoping he would agree to have it brought forward this fall - the Fire Prevention Act. Is that going to be brought forward this fall in the legislation - an upgrading of that - or is this one of those acts that will just die?
There are many, many provisions in that that are outdated. They go back so many years. There has been a review that was driven by AYC quite a number of years ago. It kind of just died.
I know this is not one of those high-profile acts that the minister is going to get a lot of pats on the back about, but it is a very important and a very critical act but the inspection powers are very, very limited under this act. They should be increased.
If there is a defect, Mr. Chair, if there is a problem and the government has to step in, the maximum they're allowed to spend, I believe, is $250 under this act, and you can't really do anything for $250 to remedy a situation. The maximum fine is a couple hundred dollars.
So, all of these provisions are antiquated and I would ask the minister to go back to his department and ask why a rewrite of this act isn't being brought forward. It would probably have the unanimous support of this House because there are very few contentious issues in it, other than bringing current a lot of the sections.
Can I ask the minister to review that act?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I can say that it is not on the legislative calendar for this year. I've just spoken to my left-hand man here, the deputy minister, and he explained that we are starting to look at it. At this point in time, we are starting to look at the Fire Prevention Act to see that it has to be brought current. So, it's not on the legislative calendar for this year but certainly we'll have to have a look at it, as it unfolds, and as we are desirous of having all acts brought current.
Mr. Jenkins: Last week, we were into garbage dumps with the minister and we didn't really get any firm answers other than that the department is budgeting just over a 100-percent increase under the new landfill regulations for the operation of its garbage dumps.
With respect to municipal governments, what are the anticipated increased costs across all of the municipal dumps to conform to the new regs, and has a cost-benefit analysis been done on those costs, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we haven't done a cost-impact analysis of what the effect would be on the communities. We haven't done that because it lies within the community's jurisdiction as to what it would cost. But as I said earlier in the debate in the House last week, I would work with communities to mitigate the impact that this would have, and there are probably many different ways that we could look at mitigating the impact to see that the impact is not to the detriment of the municipalities, but to the betterment of the environment. I don't want to throw up a rock and do a good thing and then hurt somebody when the rock's on its way down. That's maybe a terrible analogy, but it's the only one that comes to my mind at this point in time.
I certainly want it to be a good thing, and the impact on the communities to be mitigated. So I know that I have a meeting with the Association of Yukon Communities coming up later on in the month. I think it's May 14 and 15, and one of the issues I was going to discuss with them and the municipalities, is that, as they get their numbers crunched, to encourage them to look at the number-crunching process, so that we might have some good projections, so that we can have some really tangible figures that could be put on to the table, so that we might be able to best find how to implement, if that's the desire.
So certainly we will work with the communities, as we have in the past and will continue in the future, to ensure that the impact is, hopefully, not to their detriment, but is manageable.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, with respect to the new regulations that are coming into focus from the Minister of Renewable Resources, the impact on municipal budgets and on the Department of Community and Transportation Services for its dump operations is going to be quite significant. I would urge the minister to go to the respective communities and ask what their costs are going to be, assemble those costs, assemble the department's own in-house costs, before the minister sits down with his Cabinet colleagues and discusses this situation at the Cabinet table.
Unless we have a full understanding of all the costs that we're going to be incurring, we're operating in the dark. This alone, especially the no-burn part of the regulations, and what it will do - and I'm given to understand it'll have a significant impact - is increase by 90 percent - or the amount of material filling up our dumps could increase by 90 percent.
That, coupled with the additional costs of burying on a weekly basis, would mean that the dump life, where it was 10 years, would now be a year.
That in itself has horrendous repercussions, and what is the purpose of that - especially when the burn gives off very little, if any, known toxic wastes? Primarily we're burning wood, garbage, construction materials - some of the plastics do have a toxic component - but has any study or review been done on the burning in landfill sites by this department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I don't think that any studies have been done. But, as I answered earlier, I will work with the communities of the Yukon Territory that are going to be affected by it. We will work with them and give them a heads-up on it too, so that we can do some good decision-making at the Cabinet level that will mitigate the impact, because that's certainly what we want.
So, yes, I will take it upon myself to speak to the mayors and councils about that, if they could, so that we can have some good, fruitful discussions, so that we can all go in, I think, with a common vision. I think that's what the people of the Yukon Territory are saying through this exercise.
I know that some of the municipalities that I've spoken to are quite adamant about no burning - no burning. They're also quite adamant about education and working with their citizens so that we might be able to do the right thing.
So it's that kind of process, it's not myself out in front going [sound effect] and charging off into the wonderful green horizon. It's myself with the municipalities and the department going [sound effect] "Let's take a thoughtful look at this, and see how we can best do it."
So certainly the suggestions raised by the Member for Klondike are worthwhile in this situation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for his remarks and his commitment to go back and review. As I stated earlier in this House, there are a number of dumps in close proximity to living centres where a no-burn rule would be excellent advice, but perhaps a relocation of those dumps to a down-wind location from those individuals would probably be more appropriate.
The other issue that I'd like to take exception to with this government is that, of all the dumps around the Yukon Territory, Mr. Chair, the municipal dumps are extremely well-maintained and very well-operated. The ones operated by the Government of the Yukon are the worst and, in a lot of cases, they are in a very sad condition. One only has to travel a couple of the highways and have a look. Has the minister got an in-house program of improving maintenance at the dumps operated by the Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we do have an in-house program, process or policy, if you will. We do have contractors that look after dumps. I mean, the member knows that. In certain situations where the primary user is a lodge or something around there, then the lodge generally gives a hand with maintaining the dump and those types of things also.
Yes, the finan it will not only be just to the municipalities, but it will be also to the Government of the Yukon. As I stated last week in the House, it is quite severe. And so, whatever we do, we have to really go into this process with our eyes wide open, and certainly, the dumps that are being looked after by the territorial government, whether it is through volunteer labour, which is very limited, or whether it be by contract, is also a part of the problem. It's not a municipal problem and a YTG problem, and then over here there's a First Nations problem, because they have their own jurisdiction. No, it's a global problem. So, certainly, as we evolve through this, I'm definitely going to keep the territorial dumps in line so that we might have a good process here in the Yukon. And I think if we all work cooperatively at it, as directed by the people of the Yukon, and do it with the Association of Yukon Communities and everybody else, we might come up with one real good jim-dandy, crackerjack of a dump program here that we can use to show the world, one that's based on cooperation.
So, there are many challenges that are going to arise from this debate but, certainly, I do know that we're up for it and we have to work, as a department and as a government, closely with the people so that we can come out of this problem, and that the impact, both financially and environmentally, will be mitigated.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that sounds great. I respect the minister for making that statement, but why, in the draft regulations that are proposed, are all of the dumps on federal Crown land exempt from these proposed regulations - and all the dumps operated by the Government of Yukon just happen to be situated on federal Crown land? Now, why aren't all dumps in all areas covered by these regulations? What is the purpose of exempting virtually all of the dumps owned by the Government of Yukon from these regulations?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, let me first of all say, Mr. Chair, that that was not done by treachery or trickery or anything like as such. It just happens to be a happenstance of the circumstances that have arrived. Certainly, with the advent of devolution, if devolution does happen, well then, the laws would apply because it would be, by nature, Yukon land.
I can say that even if devolution did not happen, through policy we would ensure that what is good for Peter is good for Paul, or what is good for Susie is good for Sally, or in this scenario, what is good for Davie is good for Dennis. So, certainly, we will make it so that it's uniform. The intention, I can say quite categorically, is not to exempt to ourselves. It never was; it never will be.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the only way that the minister's answer will hold water on that answer, Mr. Chair, is if it's frozen and it couldn't fit through the holes in the bottom.
Why are the regulations designed with this easy-out clause? Why are they being exempted?
Now, I know the minister will defer it to his colleague who's responsible, but it has going to be the minister's department that is going to be facing a great increase in O&M cost as a consequence of these new regulations, as are the municipal governments. I'm sure it's been a topic that has been discussed between himself and his colleague, the minister responsible for natural resources.
Has the minister gone to his colleague and asked why that clause is in there? Why are we exempting dumps on federal Crown land? If this is supposed to be a uniform policy for all Yukon, why are we exempting?
The minister's explanation that we'll adapt that by regulation - I'm sorry, I just don't subscribe to that. It's just as easy, at the onset, to say this applies uniformly to all dumps everywhere in the Yukon. About the only exemption would be Department of National Defence reserves, of which there are still a couple. From there it would be a uniform application.
Why can't it be done in that manner, Mr. Chair?
I'm sure we can get a wonderful bureaucratic answer to that, and I'm sure it's forthcoming.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, based on the Friday edition of the paper, we are the best.
Let me say here - bureaucratic answer - that the Yukon government's Environment Act will apply upon Commissioner's land - that is, not federal land; not at all.
So, we can do it by policy, though, for our own dumps that lie on federal Crown land. It can and will be done.
As to the exact reason, as depicted within the Renewable Resources paper, I'll certainly have to check with the Minister of Renewable Resources and find out why. I'm sure it was quite simple by nature, but I will certainly take it upon myself to let the Member for Mayo-Tatchun be aware that this will come up in his debate and to see if we can get some answers for the Members for Klondike and for Riverdale South - the sunny side - good information for them.
So I will endeavour to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: We can bring it in by legislation or we can empower legislation to bring it in by regulation, and I see more and more of a trend to that in this government, a trend like never before, or we can do it by policy. Now, what is the downside, Mr. Chair, of the government doing it by regulation to include all of the garbage dumps that they operate, whether they be on federal Crown land or otherwise? Then we're sure that it has to be done, because policies can be easily changed. Regulations are a little bit tougher and legislation is, well, time consuming and that's the hardest of all.
Why does it have to be policy? Why doesn't it get moved up to the next step where it would enshrine a level of certainty to it? If we're going to do it, let's do it. But there are too many ways that we can circumvent the intention of this Legislature, and I have serious reservations allowing that many loopholes. I'm sure the minister can agree with me.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I, too, Mr. Chair, have very serious reservations also, but certainly I will endeavour to answer the Member for Klondike's question. It will take some time because it might be a technical question in nature - if it's acts in conflict, or whatever. I don't know, but I will find out and we will get a reason back.
Again, I do want to say quite categorically that it is not my intention, as the Minister of C&TS, to bring into effect laws and then pre-empt myself from those laws. That is not - I can say that right now. I can also say that my Cabinet colleague, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, is of the same mind as I am, so there is nothing here that - this is an open and honest government and will continue to be so, and what applies to Peter also applies to Paul. In this scenario, what applies to Dennis should apply to David also.
So, I'll look at it in that light and we will find ways and answers, but I do want the Yukon public to take to heart that what we put out for municipalities and other people - no matter whether it be by regulation, policy or legislation - will be applicable to the territorial government.
Mr. Jenkins: That's just the point I was getting at. Legislation, we know it's there; regulations, we're not so sure. And policy can be changed any time.
I'm probably giving the minister a lot of credit, Mr. Chair. Had we not pointed out that he did have this loophole, he probably wouldn't even have been aware that it existed, but we'll give the gentleman the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Chair.
Let's move on to the rural services policy, with respect to the provision of services to the unincorporated municipalities.
We conducted a review some time ago, with a view to, in part, bringing in a uniform and consistent cost that accurately reflected the level of services that the Government of the Yukon was providing in these unincorporated municipalities.
Just where are we at with the uniform policy? Are individuals receiving water and sewer treatment, and garbage - are they being assessed on a uniform basis across the Yukon, or are we still all over the map on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, basically, Mr. Chair, we're not all over the map. I'd just like to talk about this, too, because it's certainly something that has been out and about in the Yukon public for many years - if I can be so bold as to say, for many decades. It's been out and about there for many decades.
The government - myself, I guess - looked at it as something that should have been done many moons ago - or pardon me, many years ago. I'm reverting back to the original language. But certainly it should have been done eons ago, it hadn't been done, so I took it upon ourselves to go out and to do it, and to talk to the people.
That is happening at this point in time. Work is continuing on the rural services policy. We're expecting that the policy issues that will arise from the consultation will be considered by Cabinet, and I'm expecting that Cabinet should be considering this, I would say, within this calendar year. And if I remember it we're going to go -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Oh, yes, definitely within the century, I think that's a challenge that we can make, and we can meet.
So certainly it's there, and Cabinet has to consider it, and we're going to consider it in the near future, and that's exactly where it's at, at this point in time.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any kind of a position paper that has been brought forward by the department as a consequence of this review? Surely we have something documented in something - a formal overview of this situation - because it has been going on for several years. Now, does the minister want to share it with the House, or is he going to hide it back in the department somewhere?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, certainly, when it's gone through due process and gone through Cabinet. It's certainly internal at this time. I'm expecting that Cabinet should be able to consider it, and I will find out for both of the respective members the exact date. If I remember right, it should be within the next couple or three months that it should be done and finished. But I will get an exact up-to-date process and speed on it.
So, all of what has been done is internal at this point in time, and when it's ready I will definitely share it, and I expect that that should be soon. I'll get that date firmed up just a little bit more, but I do think it will be in the near future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, coupled to this review, Mr. Chair, is the rural services property taxation, which is a level of taxation that accurately reflects the level of service that those people would be receiving from the Government of the Yukon, one way or the other. What I would envision occurring as a consequence of this is a lowering of the tax rates in probably agricultural areas to less than what it is currently, and in some of the other areas that are very remote where those individuals provide all of their own septic fields, their own water, their own garbage disposal, their own power - everything, the whole gamut and range of services are provided by that individual.
Whereas if we take some of the unorganized communities where the government is providing water, sewer, power - e.g. Destruction Bay and Burwash, if we want to look that way - we can look in any direction out of Whitehorse to the unorganized communities where the level of service being provided by this government is considerably higher.
So, I'm just curious as to when we can see an implementation of this new taxation that reflects the level of service, or are we going to wait for this whole review and do it after the next election, Mr. Chair? What's the time frame?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, this government had committed within its 1996 mandate that we would not raise taxes and certainly we are not going to raise taxes.
The Member for Klondike is absolutely quite right that there is a very definite relationship between rural services consultation - the study, if you will - and the property taxes that are set and the services. Combined with that statement is the fact that different folks receive different services where they live. Where I live, I don't receive X amount of services, yet I know I pay X amount of taxation dollars in property taxes. That's true all over the Yukon, and the intent of this process is to bring the two together, to correlate them just that much more.
So certainly, I expect that with the consultation, as it flows through the process, those types of things will have to be considered and factored into it. This government did say that we would not be raising taxes with this mandate and we're going to live up to that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we can argue whether this government has met that commitment. We see a new taxation on Tetra Paks and all of the service costs increasing. Most taxes in the rest of Canada are going down but here we're staying the same. We can argue whether that's an increase or not.
Have the cost of these services being provided by government been indexed? I am referring specifically to water and sewer charges in some of the unorganized areas. Has there been an indexing of these charges to cover our increased O&M costs or have they been remaining static for the last several years, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been made aware that they have remained static.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that gives rise to the question of why. Whitehorse has increased virtually every year for water and sewer, garbage. That's pretty synonymous with most Yukon communities.
When was the last time charges for water and sewer in the rural, unorganized communities were increased? I can't recall the last occasion they were increased, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's information that I'd have to get back. I don't know. I just asked the deputy here as to the last time, and we don't have that type of information, but I will get that type of information.
As to the nature of the first question from the Member for Klondike, as to why, that's exactly why this government had the courage to go out and do rural services consultations, so that we might be able to hear what the public has to say, and then to start this educational process among the public, and ourselves, as to the cost of services delivered.
So, really, the whole point that I had for going off and doing the consultation was to correlate the services with the taxation power.
So, in answer, that is why it's done, and we will make decisions based on the consultation that has taken place at the appropriate time and, as I said, I expect that to be in the next couple or three months.
I will find out the date as to the last time the non-incorporated communities' rates were changed. I will definitely find that out and provide the information.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other issues that's out there around the Yukon, Mr. Chair, and I have failed to get an answer from anywhere within C&TS, is with respect to assessment and taxation. There's a rotating assessment that is done consistently throughout the Yukon and some areas find the formula quite annoying. I guess recently, a couple of years ago, the residents at Marsh Lake found that their improvements had gone through the roof and a new tax rate was established there to reflect, I guess, the level of service more accurately, because the formula for improvements is quite specific. It's Whitehorse replacement cost less depreciation, and the land is whatever the land values are currently.
One of the abnormalities that has been out of this loop for the past two cycles has been the community of Faro. There were instructions given to the officials not to do the reassessment. We're working on a reassessment that is over a decade old, I'm given to understand, Mr. Chair. Where did those instructions not to do a reassessment in Faro come from?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It wasn't just Faro that has missed the last cycle, if I recall and I'll ask the department, through this statement, to verify it with me. Also Watson Lake has, I do believe, as I was checking about a month and a half ago. I stopped in and was chatting with some of the technical people about this, and I was asking why and how and when did they expect it would be done again. I'll correct myself if it's not correct, but I do believe it's Watson Lake and Faro that were out, and it was just simply for - it was just impossible. As the Member for Klondike knows, we have the new CAMA - well, for those who don't know, it's a computer assisted mass assessment system that is coming into effect, and we are hoping that, with that system in place, we will be able to reduce the assessment cycles right down to two to three years, because simply it will be that much easier.
I do believe that in the case of Faro, as I just looked at some information here, that the last time it was done was in time for the 1990 tax year, which was done in 1989, so, certainly, it was done even previous to this present administration taking power. I think that answers the member's question specifically, if I recall.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, there have been a number of instances around the Yukon where the four-year cycle hasn't been adhered to. It's gone to five years in a couple of cases. But nowhere has it gone to 10 years. The only exception is Faro. And I want to know where those instructions to not reassess Faro came from. Why are we working on an assessment in Faro that's 10 years old?
It hasn't happened anywhere else in the Yukon. Where did those instructions to the department come from, to not carry out a reassessment?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, if the member's asking for a specific direction, or policy number, I can take a minute and say, "This is it", there is none. There is none. There was never any specific direction given by me, or a deputy minister, or anybody else, to say that we're going to do these things, we're going to stay away from Faro.
There was certainly nothing done there. Now, I did ask within the department, well, why? Why wasn't it done? And if I recall, it was for two areas. I think it was Watson Lake, also, as I said. I will have to check that, though, and I'll check at the break, just to see. And I'll correct myself if I made a mistake, in assumption.
It was simply to the fact that, during that time cycle, it was difficult to keep up to it. So we're hoping that the computer assisted mass assessment system will be able to keep more regular cycles. And I'm looking, and hoping, for a two- to three-year cycle, so that there won't be that shock, or that anger, that would arise, as, historically, after a four-year cycle. Now it's going to be quite severe in these two situations.
But simply, there is no order anywhere to go out and deliberately do that. Absolutely none, and I hope the Member for Klondike will take my word on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess the minister can expect his response to be unacceptable on that issue. It doesn't bear any relationship to what has actually transpired. There have been numerous examples where the cycle for reassessment has gone to in excess of four years, which is a normal cycle for municipalities, but the department has diligently attempted to do the assessment on a continuing basis on a four-year cycle.
Faro has missed two cycles. That hasn't occurred anywhere else in the Yukon, and I want to know why. I can't see it being blamed totally on overwork by the department and the department officials, Mr. Chair, and I can't see it being blamed on the new computer system, and I can't see Watson Lake being thrown out as an example as to having missed the last four-year cycle.
I want to know why Faro has missed two cycles. There is no other place in the Yukon, no other organized community in the Yukon - or I believe unorganized community in the Yukon - where it's into a 10-year cycle for reassessment. I have looked. I have looked through the assessment roll for the Yukon, and I can't find one. The only one that comes to the top of the pile as being way, way out of line with anything else is Faro. Now, why?
Now, the officials in the assessment department are probably some of the most diligent and knowledgeable individuals that I have run into in that area in Canada. By and large, they know their stuff, and that's not a decision that would be made in that department - to not carry out that reassessment in Faro.
That has to either come from the deputy minister level or above. Now, if the minister wants to stand up and say it comes from his level, and it was done because of this, I don't have a quarrel with it, but let's not hide the issue.
Why was it done, and at what level was it that the instructions came down from not to carry out the assessment? I don't want to see anybody in the department over in the assessment branch fall on their sword to protect the minister. It was obviously done for a reason, but what's the reason and why is it out of cycle?
Ten years, Mr. Chair. The minister can't point his finger at any other organized community in the Yukon that hasn't been reassessed for 10 years and, to the best of my knowledge, that has never happened before, Mr. Chair, since we've been doing assessments.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I do agree with the calibre of staff that I have within the department as exceptional and, in some cases, in Canada, just top rate, so I'm very pleased that I have that group working behind me and with me.
Now, the Member for Klondike seems to think that there's something up my sleeve here but, no, there's nothing up my sleeve, because I'm shaking them out, and there's no instruction up my sleeve. Of course, it's missed by the member, because he could make a good retort or a good statement, then turn around and ignore the answer. I think, therein, is a lot of the problem. If you ask a question, you have to be ready to accept the answer, and certainly the answer has not been accepted.
Let's start off with simple math. The last time it was done in Faro was in 1989. If we agree that they're to be done every three or four years, if you add four to 89, that'll put that into the year 1993-94.
Well, by golly, let's see. Who was the minister of the time. I think it might have been the Member for Laberge or it might have been the Member for Kluane, but let's talk about the administration. By God, it's not even this administration, wherever they are. Here they are. Right here. We're right here - because it wasn't us.
If the member is asking which administration did it, well, it was not this administration. If the member is alluding to or trying to poke holes into a political argument, well, he should talk to his colleague to the right who was a member of that Cabinet. The leader of the official opposition was also a member of that, so maybe they did.
Now, did you guys have something up your sleeve? Certainly this government did not have anything up their sleeve and we're checking right now. There's nothing there. So, certainly, if there is any direction at the advent of this, then it was from the previous administration, which is the Yukon Party administration.
So, I really doubt in my heart, my mind and my soul that any instruction was brought down for the benefit of Faro - no, but I will check it out. I will definitely go and check out why and how it was there.
Certainly, when I was chatting with the folks in the department and they talked about it and they said it was just that you get so lost in the process that it was hard to keep up, I can certainly understand. Certainly, as we bring in the computer-assisted, mass-appraisal system, that is going to help.
I can say quite categorically that there was nothing that was done by this government and this government never issued a statement to any bureaucrat or to any deputy, and that no deputy ever gave instruction to any of their directors that this should be going out and we should do this on purpose.
I do believe that this is not just a Faro statement but it is also applicable to the Watson Lake area, but that's something I'll have to check, and I will check after the break that is coming up.
So, I can stand here with strength and pride and say that nobody in this administration even came close to alluding to the fact of what the Member for Klondike wants me to say. It absolutely never happened.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if we could go back in time to an earlier part of the day when we were talking about the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. One of the issues that we've discussed at some length is the graduated licensing regulations, which are on their way in. It sounds like they'll be in by the year 2000, probably in January. That was my understanding last time we spoke with the minister.
Mr. Chair, in other jurisdictions when graduated licensing is brought in - and this occurred in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta - there is also a driver's education component that is brought into the schools at the same time and I have an inquiry for the minister. Maybe he can get back to me at some point in the future. He may not have the information now because we are still in the consultation process, but typically what has happened in other jurisdictions is that, if someone takes the safe driving course, whether through the schools or through a private operator, then that course is taken into consideration in the graduated licensing process, so that, if you take the safe driver's course, your graduated licensing period is reduced from, say, three years down to two years because it's felt by the administration that that information has been taken in by the student and that it has benefited their driving ability.
Now, is this one of the considerations that we're look at here now, with the regulations for the new graduated licensing process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the information requested by the member could be a part of the package, but it is something that, as the member said, I don't have at my fingertips. I know it's to be considered by Cabinet and we will be having this information out, hopefully, by the end of the month, and when it's available I will definitely share it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, just to continue along that line, it seems to me to make a great deal of common sense, which we rarely hear in here but on occasion it does show up, that if someone has taken the course and is well-versed in the rules of the road, and they have had lots of experience during the course, that would benefit their ability to drive on Yukon roads. And therefore, it should be taken into consideration during the graduated licensing process.
The community of Carmacks airport is very centrally located in the Yukon, and there have been conversations over the years about using this airport as the central staging area for firefighting in the Yukon. It's a subject that comes up over and over and over and over again. I know that the minister and I have discussed this already a couple of times in the last two years. Has there been any movement on the development of the Carmacks airport?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In the consideration of that, no.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there have been some changes to the Carmacks airport, and it's my understanding that the highway compound, for example, has been moved out to the airport from the middle of town. This decision may have some impact on the ability of Carmacks to become this larger and better utilized airport at some point in the future. Is consideration of using the Carmacks airport for a central firefighting force part of the decision-making process when we're looking at decisions around the use of the Carmacks airport?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, let me paint a backdrop, I guess, before I get up on the question of yes or no.
Certainly, I know that the community has put forth a case. They said that, with the ban that runs through the Carmacks area, and then they've done some figures and studies, saying that the fights are all very closely within that corridor.
I listened to them; I talked to the mayor on this situation last winter, in December. I did commit to working with the mayor on these other issues. It was a pleasure to be able to meet with the mayor and his council and his administrative staff at that time, because they had some ideas that they wanted to see if they could, maybe, bring to fruition, or to bring to reality.
I did commit to working with them on those issues, in any way and manner that I could. I would definitely have to check within the department to see if they've triggered any of those initiatives. But certainly, we will continue to work with the town of Carmacks so that we can just keep open good lines of communication.
The devolution process that is happening, at this point and time - or is not happening at this point in time - I guess what I should say is that the jurisdiction, at this point in time, simply lies within the Department of Northern Affairs, INAC more commonly called.
Now, the member asked about the grader station. Yes, the grader station is slotted to move, due to budget requirements. And if I can recall, it's somewhere over a million dollar expenditure to move the grader station in Carmacks.
At this point in time, well, we're debating the budget, and it's not a part of the budget at this point in time. Certainly, I will continue to work with the town of Carmacks so that we can have some good decisions as they progress.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister is aware that this issue has been a fairly significant issue to the town of Carmacks over a number of years. It doesn't look like devolution is going to be happening in the next month or so, but it is going to be happening in the next five years.
It would seem to me that forward thinking would dictate that we look to the town of Carmacks as a possibility for central firefighting capabilities, if for no other reason than to look at it as a backup in case something happens to the Whitehorse Airport, which is currently being used as the central firefighting force staging area.
At any rate, I'll leave that issue again this year, and probably bring it up with the minister next year. Hopefully, by that time, there will have been some progress made in that area.
The Marsh Lake area is looking at getting an election going of some sort - what it is is more of a question or a referendum of the people in that area - as to whether or not they want to have some sort of advisory body.
Now, I attended a meeting out there approximately eight weeks ago and, at that point, the department was trying to develop a question that would be suitable for the referendum question and that that referendum question, it was my understanding, would be ready for the voting process somewhere at the end of May.
Are we still on track with that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I look forward to the firefighting debate regarding the town of Carmacks next year, if and when devolution does happen. To insinuate that the government isn't forward looking or forward thinking in this is absolutely ridiculous. The member just expects us to pack up everything that we have in the Whitehorse area at the airport here, which would affect the businesses that we have here, and move it all off to the town of Carmacks. Well, it's just not that simple. It's just absolutely not that simple of a process.
We're talking about a process that would involve the meaningful management of lands and resources and everything therein. Unless, of course, the Member for Riverdale South has some hidden tentacle into the federal Liberal Party, and then they can say, "Hey, what about giving an increase. Hey, what about these types of things," but I don't expect that to happen at all. So, to say that we're not forward thinking is absolutely not correct. We're doing something that we feel is to the benefit of the Yukon Territory, and we'll make decisions with that first and foremost in our minds.
Now, I do know that the Member for Riverdale South said that a secondary - or whatever it was. If it's not primary, then it would be secondary. I think that was the connotation that it was put into. Well, certainly, all those types of issues are part of DIAND at this point in time and their firefighting capabilities.
To answer the member's specific question about Marsh Lake, we're expecting the questionnaire to be sent out in May.
Deputy Chair: Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Member: Yes.
Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, prior to the break we were talking about a couple of different things. One of them was the Carmacks airport, and I just want the minister to be clear that the Yukon Liberal caucus does not have some sort of red line to Ottawa, despite the fact that every minister over there seems to think that we do. We don't even have a red phone, and even if we did have a red phone it's not attached to Ottawa. It probably isn't attached to much.
The issue around the Carmacks airport was more a question of long-term planning. I know that this government typically has a five-year capital plan. That sort of long-term thinking and long-term planning is part of the way this government operates. My question was about what the government's long-term plans were on the issue of the Carmacks airport. I didn't get much of a response on that.
However, the issue with the Marsh Lake question - and I'm really at a loss as to what exactly to call the Marsh Lake question because it's not really a referendum and neither is it an election; it's some sort of question that going to be put out to the people in that area. This is going to cost some money and there are going to be problems with logistics out there because where we used to have elections was at the Lakeview Marina, and that of course has burned down to the ground.
So, I'm wondering if the minister can give us an idea of what the costs are going to be and just sort of an idea of where people are going to be voting. Is it going to be held at the Inn on the Lake? That's the only other facility out there that is a significant size that might allow for that, but that is a private dwelling.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I do believe that it's going to be a letter ballot. I'll have to get back on that. I don't know if we're going to have a designated spot between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to show up there and to cast your vote in support of or against whatever. I do believe it's going to be a letter ballot.
The other part of the question was on the cost of it, and that is something that I'll also definitely have to - on both - get a very clear answer back.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's my understanding that C&TS is going to be doing a lot of the work that is still left to be done on the Range Road mobile home park. How many dollars have been allocated in the Department of Community and Transportation Services to finish up this development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For the Member for Riverdale South, that's something I'll have to check on. I can't recall off the top of my head that we are, because it is led by the Yukon Housing Corporation, not my department. I will check into it and get an answer back as to everything that we're doing in affiliation and conjunction with them, and of course share it with the Member for Klondike.
Mrs. Edelman: I'd appreciate that information when it becomes available.
I had a constituency question about the size of the gravel that we're using on Yukon roads. Now, my constituent has a real concern, because he said that the size of gravel is actually quite significant and that it was doing damage to his windshield, and he wondered why we aren't using sand. I wonder if the minister could illuminate us on that particular issue.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I will certainly endeavour to illuminate, if I may. I'd like to say, though, that I feel very radiant today, so I just might be illuminous. Are those words?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As long as it works for my friend.
Yes, I can tell you exactly who you got the letter from, the box number and everything, because this is a constituent, an individual who is consistently monitoring the size of gravel that is used on the highway.
I can say, though, that on the rare, extremely rare, occasion that a chunk of gravel that is bigger than the screened size requirement - it's extremely rare. It's so extremely rare.
The same individual, in the last letter to myself as the minister, congratulated us for doing a good job - for listening and looking. So yes, we do have a set aggregate size - if you can say it that way - for the size, and it's all within policy, it's all within common sense, absolute common sense. But on the one rare occasion that a rock - not even that big, the size of my thumb - gets through there, it seems to hit that individual's truck and, by gosh, I just can't figure how that happens, but it does.
But by and large, I've received, I think, since I've been Minister of C&TS, four letters of compliment from the travelling public this year on the maintenance of the Alaska Highway, so I think if we put it all in balance - but the size of the aggregate is done by policy.
And I hope I illuminated some light on that rather dreary subject.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you for that fascinating answer.
Our caucus has been contacting the minister's department about the rural electrification program. Now, out on the Hot Springs Road, there were two installations of solar-based power through the rural electrification program. Actually, there were three that the minister sent us the contracts for.
So, what I'm wondering about is that for two of these places in particular, which are far, far down the road, was there any sort of cost analysis done on whether the power line should have gone in? Because it seems to me that the solar option is quite expensive in comparison to bringing in the power lines.
Was there any sort of cost analysis done on bringing power lines in versus doing solar, or did the department go with solar purely at the request of the applicant?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, well, Mr. Chair, it's not a matter of the department doing this or not. It's just a matter of the department facilitating what the applicant wants, so it's strictly the applicant's call. And I would imagine that in this case it was what the applicant wanted because it was cheaper, so that's sort of how we work with folks in doing it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, one of the changes to the rural electrification program was the ability to bring in solar power as an option - and that was one that the Yukon Liberal caucus strongly supported. But, along with this came the issue that there are very few places that can install solar power in the Yukon. Now, I notice that one of the contracts that was provided was greater than the $25,000 limit, and yet it was sole sourced. It didn't go out to tender. Is there any particular reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, anything to do with that is the call of the proponent. It has nothing to do with the department. It's absolutely the call of the customer, the proponent, the person that triggers the program.
Mrs. Edelman: So, am I to understand then that the sole-source regulations do not apply to the rural electrification program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I guess you can look at it as being sole sourced if they did it, but it's not a sole-source from government. It's strictly what the proponents themselves are desirous of doing. If they want to do it with T&J Moonbeam Landscaping, or whatever the heck it is that's going to get that in, that's who they do it with. It's got nothing to do with the department - absolutely nothing.
Mrs. Edelman: The only problem with all that, Mr. Chair, is the fact that it's still taxpayers' money that's put up front. Certainly it's paid back by the proponent in the end, but it is taxpayers' money that is sent out. Now, in this case it may be because there's nobody else in the Yukon who can do it. That's an extremely good possibility, but I worry about other technologies that we're more familiar with but we're not using - the ability to go out and tender and try to give equal opportunity to all Yukon businesses. I would like to raise that as a concern with the minister.
Perhaps there is another business out there, for example, that's looking at doing this at some point in the future but they're being prevented from it because the government is continually sole-sourcing to one company. That may be the case, and it's unclear as to whether that's actually hampering another business from developing in this area.
Now, the road to Aishihik - it's my understanding that this road was also sole sourced to the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. Is that a true assessment of that contract?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll just take a few moments, if I may. It's not really sole-sourcing it to the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation at all. We do have other roads and the rural roads program and that's going to continue for some years hopefully because it's such a wonderful program that can do those secondary roads that are of primary importance to different people in different areas.
What happened here is that the Champagne-Aishihik treatment centre that was at the end of the road was running for some time. You guys went through this with my colleague to my right here, the Minister of Health and Social Services, and got very satisfactory answers from that, if I may say so.
But a problem arose as to when it was going to be open, and they wanted us folks to maintain the road to keep it open. I thought, "Oh, gosh. For this type of thing, how can we do it cheaper?" So, as I sat down with the department, we endeavoured to find a way. We knew they could do it a lot cheaper for us so we fronted, I believe, $20,000 for them to keep the road open for the duration or whatever of their healing camp up there, because I didn't want to get the healing camp going, thanks to the good work of my colleague to my right, the Minister of Health and Social Services, and then to have me, the Minister of C&TS, not be able to drop a grader blade onto it and to keep it open for that primary purpose.
So, we put $20,000 in. This was in conjunction with the chief and council. It was the previous administration, I believe, at the time, but we did find a way that we could keep the camp open and keep the road open at that point in time. That's the explanation for that money that's been referred to by the member.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have no doubt that the Champagne-Aishihik Band would benefit the most and can do the job probably the best in this particular case, but we're talking about a trend with sole-sourcing.
I want to go back to the example of the solar panels. The solar panels that were put in by the proponents or the applicants on the Hot Springs Road, for example, were over the sole-source limit by only $1,000 in this case. But what if they were over by $30,000 or $1 million? Would the government still do it because that was the only place available to do it and that that would be fine, that would be acceptable because that's what the applicant wanted?
There needs to be some sort of upper limit on how much the government will front taxpayers' money for on these points because it is still taxpayers' money, even though it's being paid back by the applicant.
Would $50,000, double the sole-source limit, be a reasonable ceiling, for example? I wonder if the minister could give us an idea of the parameters on that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, if it were over by $1 million, that person would be in the wrong business, for sure.
I do hear what the member is saying. As I listen to it, I can see that it might be a problem or have the potential to generate a problem if there were, you know, X, Y and Z number of people who delivered the solar panels or the solar energy in the Yukon.
I probably tend to agree with the Member for Riverdale South that there isn't an overabundance of these folks in the country at this point, so that when somebody, whether it's for cosmetic reasons or pure energy reasons, wants to go solar, they are doing it according to their decision. Now, I recognize that the Member for Riverdale South is saying that it is the taxpayers' nickel. Well, it is the taxpayers' nickel upfront, but the taxpayers get their nickel back through the process. I mean, the member's very well aware of this, and I'm sure supports me in saying it's a heck of a good program, because it is a heck of a good program. It brings electrification and communication to the rural areas.
As to the decision, it certainly lies within the mandate of the person who is getting the service, whatever it might be. Now, we do have technical people in the department who work with these folks in terms of how to enter the process. The department's got to definitely be adding it on to the tax rolls, et cetera, so that we do recoup.
At all times during that process, there would be the rule of common sense involved, so that, if the department said, "Well, hey, you ain't spending $50,000"; or, "Did you know that you applied for $25,000, but you can get this for $20,000?" - that type of stuff would go out just in the matter of doing business every day, as a matter of course.
The member posed a question that was very specific. Would you look at putting a caveat - that's my word - to it, saying that it's double that, or something, that's something that I'll have to sit and talk to the department about, and I will sit and talk with the department about those types of things. I don't want to see somebody get burned or ripped off, or anything, even if it's by their decision. If it were by my decision, through my stupidity or lack of information, I would not want it to cost me money. If there's somebody out there saying, "Hey, Dave, you should be doing it this way, and looking at it this way," I'd expect that.
So, certainly, I will look into it.
Mrs. Edelman: I appreciate that consideration. One has to think about people who have points of view on the far end of the spectrum, for example, someone who is quite a strong conservationist, and who would only accept green power that came from solar, no matter if it cost them half the price to bring in a land lines. There has to be some degree of common sense. I agree with the minister. However, you can't legislate it in unfortunately.
We were talking about deregulation earlier in the debate, and one of the things that's come up is the idea that the department tried to float by, which is that there should be a special corridor for deregulation that would go, say, from Watson Lake up to Whitehorse. And this was a suggestion that came from the department to the federal government - that they consider that there should just be a bit of a corridor and that the deregulation for roads that go between jurisdictions shouldn't apply out in the more remote areas so that we don't put into jeopardy the ability to offer service into our rural areas and so that you can get groceries at a decent price into, say, Mayo or some other place without having to worry about constant competition. Now, the whole idea of the corridor, I know, was put forward to the federal government, but I don't know if we've heard anything in the way of a response back on that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, unfortunately, it is a myth that there's a Liberal red phone that's a hotline to the east coast of Canada because in this certain case we could use it. But the federal government has just tabled their legislation as to full deregulation. That's what they want. That's where they're going.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this could drastically affect the cost of groceries in some of our really rural communities. I wonder if the minister can keep us updated as things progress, and particularly with the positions that the Yukon government is taking in this area.
Now, we spoke in Question Period about the changes to the tower for this summer. I'm just wondering if YTG is still negotiating with Nav Canada, and when can we expect a decision on this for next summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the members know our position on that. We're talking at this point in time - is what it is. There's a process that's going back and forth, like as such. There's a transportation ministers meeting coming up later on in this month. I don't believe I'll be there, unfortunately, I'll be in the Legislature here, but certainly we're doing preparatory work to let them know that our position isn't inconsistent with our previous position.
We've got full, unanimous support, as I've said in the House before, from all ministers of transportation around the country, as to the situation that we're in. But it's truly in their hands, at this point in time.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hear that we're still in the negotiation process. Of course, the big concern with the tower, as the minister, in his hat as the Tourism minister, can appreciate, is that some of the larger airlines - the international airlines in particular - have a real concern with coming into an airport that only has a seasonal tower.
Regardless of the other issues, I think it's really important that there is a finish date on the decision for next year. Does the minister have any inkling about when we're going to find out how this goes for next year? Because I know we're already negotiating for the next year, as far as tourism, with airlines on the continent.
I wonder if the minister can give us some sort of idea. Is it six months? Two months? Maybe he can give us an idea.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Okay, thank you. Well, Mr. Chair, we're hoping that something will come out of them soon. I wish I could give a prediction whether it was two, or six, or three months, or eight months, or whatnot. That's a difficult one.
But they have listened. As a matter of fact, we caught them with their pants down a little bit, if I can say it in that manner - and that's why they're taking their time now to listen - because at some time they said that it would matter, and it wouldn't matter. And we've checked with Condor Airlines, and is it the association of transport officials at a national level. So it's at an international level. They went and checked with them - international air traffic.
They checked with them, and then the government checked with them, and said no, it will not matter, we'll still come in. So that's the process that we're in at this point in time. We're back-and-forthing a little bit with them. I'm hoping that their minister will be bringing it down the pike sometime, but I just couldn't, by gosh, say that it's going to be December 31, the end of this calendar year, or it's going to be September 14, my birthday. I just don't know. I just haven't the foggiest idea, but we're working with them, and we're continuing to massage. One of the principles that we're saying to them is that, "Look, we're becoming a world-class destination. This is what we're desirous of. We're putting our money here. This is what we're doing." They say that none of the issues that they're doing would be to the detriment of that vision.
Mrs. Edelman: The Member for Klondike just brought up a very good point, and this was one of the points that was brought up at one of the many briefings we went to with NavCan, and that is that it's not so much the international rules that we're talking about; it's just the operating rules for the various companies that will be hopefully coming into Whitehorse in the next two years, and the way that they operate as a business.
Just to support the minister in his endeavours to get this issue dealt with soonest, on a number of occasions, I brought up with the minister the idea of a special homeowner's grant for persons with disabilities, similar to the seniors grant. Has there been any consideration given to that issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is something that I'll definitely have to check into. I don't have an answer right at my fingertips here, I'm sorry.
Mrs. Edelman: I will look forward to that response as well.
The Auditor General's report, once again, expressed a concern about the significant amount of land inventory that the Yukon territorial government holds. What is this government doing to reduce that inventory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The department is somewhat at odds as to the magnitude, as to the value of the Auditor General's comments, and are in discussion and will continue to be in discussion. We have to come to, and find, some mutual ground, and we certainly will.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on a number of occasions, we spoke in the House about the way our land is developed in the Yukon, particularly in the urban subdivisions. It seems that with every new subdivision the land parcels get smaller and smaller and they don't get sold.
I've talked to the minister before about reconfiguring some of the lots - maybe perhaps having differing price structures - so, for example, if a lot were on a cul-de-sac, which is a far more desirable lot in the market, then that might be worth a bit more, and a lot that's on a corner, which is dark or an incline would be worth a little bit less. That makes sense because that's the way the market is.
All I keep getting back from the minister on that issue is this whole idea of, "Well, we want to keep the costs down for the people who are buying the land." But it doesn't talk about making the land more saleable. It doesn't talk about giving people what they want. People want bigger lots. People are willing to pay a premium for a bigger lot and, similarly, they want a bit of a bargain if it's not the best lot in the subdivision. It makes a lot of sense.
There are things that the government can do to help reduce that inventory and part of that is reconfiguring some of the lots that we already have. I ask about this every year and I hope that the minister can give me an idea of what exactly we are doing to try to reduce that land inventory. We're spending millions on holding costs every year. Can the minister give us an idea of some of the programs that he's started?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, some of the things that we are doing here, if you'll look at the land development - first of all, though, in starting off, I've got to say that the lots that we're predominantly talking about are the lots in the Granger area, within the city. My guess, just by saying that, is that the lot sizes are set by the city at that point in time. They do set up the lot sizes in the city.
Now, the Member for Riverdale South asked if we could make some lots a little bigger because they have a beautiful view, because there are people who will buy the high-end lots and people who will buy the low-end lots. That is a matter of course at this point in time.
The Auditor General says that we should have three years' worth of supply where we, as a government, and historically as a government, can keep ahead with the time frames, the winter, the development season and the construction season. We try to keep two years ahead of time. So, we're in the window of one year too many. The Auditor General says, "Thou hast too many lots here." We recognize that we do have too many lots of this one category. So, we're not developing those type of lots because we do have an adequate supply of those types of lots in inventory now. If you'll look into the land development scenarios that are going to happen, it's going to be more in the areas where we're very needful of the lots to enhance country residential.
So, we are working toward the implementation of those guidelines, because I've never seen anybody win a duke-out with the Auditor General yet, and I don't expect we'll be the first, so I expect we will be able to work with the Auditor General. The department has put forth maybe some of the ideas that we have, but certainly that's what it is. He says we have a three-year supply. We shoot for two. There's an overabundance of some that are set by the city, so we're not developing them so much as we are going out to develop the local lots that will sell.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's interesting, because when you're on the city end, you get told that it's YTG that dictates it, and now that I'm here, YTG is telling me that the city is the one that's dictating the size of the lots. Well, that's not the most accurate information I've ever heard.
Plainly, YTG sets the policy, and what they do is that they try to develop as many lots as possible for the least cost, and they pay no attention to the realities of the market. That is the constant argument that I've heard over the years - and over a number of years - from the territorial government. We aren't doing anything creative at all to reduce that land inventory, and I think it's time we start to pay attention to that.
I know that in the Executive Council Office an audit is being done to look at ways to reduce that land inventory. When can we expect some sort of action that works on the recommendation from that audit, or is the Department of Community and Transportation Services not going to be paying any attention to that audit from the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I resent that, doggone it, Mr. Chair. I don't think that's absolutely correct at all. What we have been doing as a government - and, you know, I've got a meeting with the mayor coming up soon, and it's to do with land development, and I'm going to hopefully continue to enjoy the close relationship that we have with the city and the department, because certainly we do like to work together.
In 1994 and 1995, there was a budget of $12,480,000, with an expenditure of $8,678,000. Then, if you go to 1998-99, it goes from $12,480,000 to $6,680,000, and the projection for this year is $3,760,000, so we are definitely working toward the implementation of the thoughts that have come out of the Auditor General's report. We're definitely working toward that end, and I think that the figures in themselves say that.
And we'll continue to do that, because we do know that we need more lots of one type and less lots of another type. We've got more lots of the type that we don't really need, so we're not developing those types of lots at this time, but we're going to go out and vigorously do it so that we do get a balance. So, I resent the language, because we're absolutely working, and I figure that the figures prove that for themselves - from $12 million to $3 million.
Mrs. Edelman: That doesn't speak to the issue, or the fact that we developed these little tiny cookie-cutter lots in the urban subdivisions. The minister seems to be indicating that's a different issue, and it's not a different issue. The large majority of the lots that are in the inventory are the little cookie-cutter lots up in Whitehorse West.
The problem is that they don't sell. They'll go to developers but, by and large, the average first-time homeowner that those lots are supposed to be sold to aren't buying them. They're selling to developers.
They're small lots. They get smaller with every subdivision. There's no creativity shown in the financing or the configuration. Clearly, no one in the Department of Community and Transportation Services is willing to move on this issue. They weren't willing to move on this issue 12 years ago, when we first started talking to them about that. They're not willing to move on it now. I had hoped that the minister was going to look at this issue and establish some political direction so that we could look at creative ways of dealing with the way we develop land in the Yukon, particularly in our largest city, and the urban lots that we're developing, although I sense that, once again, there is no interest in looking at creative solutions.
Mr. Chair, up in Porter Creek C, there were some lots that were reduced in price when they couldn't be sold after five years. Is there any interest on the department's part to look at options like that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, I don't think it's being painted absolutely right. I mean, historical problems have to be looked after. Certainly this government will look into and after those problems. I mean, the member knows what we're doing in some of the urban communities on land that's been sitting there, that's been obscured and ended up for access, or whatever. We're going to continue to do those types of things, and I will continue to work with them.
The cookie-cutter lots that the member speaks about from her experience as a city counsellor for two terms, I believe, or whatever it is - she speaks from experience, and I understand that - and now here.
They are set by the city. I will - and I've made a commitment - to speak to the mayor and the council about the development of the lots. But certainly, it is not primarily just our problem. I mean, we're holding on to it, but we will work to get out from underneath it. And I think the figures from $12 million to $3 million prove that.
Now, the member spoke - and it is, the economy's in a slump, at this point in time. We're doing everything we can. If and when the economy does come back, at that point in time, this will not be such a problem. But at this point in time we're living within the confines of the problem, and we'll continue to try and cope, and to make sure that we come to a reasonable agreement with the Auditor General's report.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. Let's take the minister back to airports in and around the Yukon, Mr. Chair. We didn't get too far with the Whitehorse Airport, but probably I'd just like to get the minister on the record as to when 13-right is going to become fully operational. What is the date - runway 13-right? When is that runway going to become fully operational, with the NOTAM removed?
I know the minister doesn't have any influence over Transport Canada, which puts the NOTAM in place. But when will 13-right become fully operational? What's the date?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, certainly the Member for Klondike, being an experienced pilot himself, is very aware of these types of issues. Certainly, as I've said in the House earlier, we are going to work, and are working, with Transport Canada through the process.
As to when the conclusion of the process is going to be - I don't know so I can't say September 14 again or anything like as such, but I can tell you that we are working with them to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's just as I expected: the minister doesn't know. We're extending 13-right or 31-left on the southeast end. Now, there is a template that Transport Canada has over any design changes, and they just take the topographical map for that area and they put that template on the runway and they identify any obstructions in the flight path that are clearly identified on the topographical map.
Then they have to make a site inspection to look at any structures - i.e. buildings, smokestacks, antennas, and things of that nature. With the runway extension that we're going ahead with for 13-right on the 31-approach end, what, if any, consultation has the department had with Transport Canada? Have we gone through the process now with putting the horse in front of the cart or are we still going to be pushing the cart like we are on the other end of the runway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, all I can say is that we're working with Transport Canada. Some zoning irregularities arose. Did we create those zoning irregularities? Absolutely not. No, we did not create those. In 1996, when it was transferred over to the Yukon territorial government, the zoning irregularities were there. It wasn't a problem at the time. It's been told to me now, as I work through this problem that we've inherited, that it is not a major problem, that there are processes to use when you have one of these problems.
Well, Mr. Chair, I suggested that we're in the process. When is the process going to end? I have not a clear idea of when it's going to end, but certainly it looks like it is going to come to a satisfactory conclusion, because this is not just something that dropped out of the sky and landed on the Yukon Territory. This is a problem that the process is around for, because the problem arises in other areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't know if that was an answer or that was a non-answer, Mr. Chair, but the reality of the world today is that, if you acquire an asset - let's take it to be a store or something of that nature - and you make any structural alterations, you have to bring it up to current codes. Now, that holds true for industry across North America. That holds true, whether it's a store where you have to provide barrier-free access, or handicap washrooms, but you have to bring it up to current codes or your licence isn't renewed.
So, before we spend the sums of millions of dollars that we're spending on the Whitehorse Airport, isn't it a prudent move of the department to go to Transport Canada, explain to Transport Canada what they're doing? The minister wants to go back to when the runway was moved in Faro to the top of the hill, and when the runway extension was put in in Faro, a process was followed by the department before they started construction. In this case, we haven't followed that process: to go to Transport Canada and say, "Look, this is what we're proposing; what will we have to do to get it licensed and to meet all your criteria?"
Why wasn't the process followed with respect to the runway extension at the Whitehorse Airport, 13-right, and are we following due process with respect to the extension on 31?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as I've said before and I'll probably have to say many times in this House, we are following process. We absolutely are following process. The Member for Klondike says why didn't we just go to Transport Canada. It's just not that simple. You don't just go and tell somebody what to do. He's talking about it like it's an industry, or his Ford V8, or whatever it is that he's got, but it's simply not in that like. There's a process there to work with them. We are working with Transport Canada and we'll continue to work with Transport Canada.
The airport extension here is one of the best things that ever hit the Yukon Territory. I think we're all agreed on that. We're just somewhat reluctant to agree to that, but certainly we're all in agreement with that because it's going to be very helpful to the tourism industry of the Yukon Territory. So, there's nothing wrong with it.
When an irregularity shows up and there's a process to be used to identify that irregularity and to fix that irregularity, that's the process you use, and we're in that process with them.
I call for progress.
Chair: Order please. The time being approximately 5:30 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: When we broke for the break, the minister was going to see if he could obtain some information. I'm sure he's forgotten the topic, but maybe his deputy minister, in his very capable role, can advise him of that information.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I have a very capable deputy minister, who is a pleasure to work with.
Over the course of the dinner hour, the deputy minister had talked to the department, and he assures me that Transport Canada has reviewed the plans and that there are no outstanding concerns at this point in time.
I was also made aware of a few obstacles that will require some mitigation. It's to the hills and trees that are basically there, and it's just a matter of clearing a few. Basically, that's it.
Mr. Jenkins: If we could carry on with that little bit - a few obstacles: the trees. Are there any hills that have to be removed from the flight path, from the approach plate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, some of the obstacles that are on the south end and on the west side are where we'll be looking to doing some development. A few of the trees have to be taken out and some of the hill has to be cut a bit. This is all relating back to the 1972 zoning.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, the other way, other than removing a hill, is to provide markers or lighting on those obstacles. Is that going to be the case with the approach on the west, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, we just have to cut down the hill, and just for the record's sake, if we can call it a hill, it's not one of the major hills or mountains around here. It's just to the south and to the immediate west of it. It is just the trees and some of the hill that has to be cut. I'm not specifically sure as to how much it has to be cut but certainly when the information becomes available, we'll share the information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the information is available; it is out there; it's common knowledge. And for the record, I'd just like the minister to put it on the record as to just how much of the hillside has to be removed. The location - it's not a big, deep dark secret, Mr. Chair.
This is an approach played as to the angles, deflection each side, and the vertical. It's all common knowledge associated with the engineering of an airport. So it has been known for quite some time, and to get the minister on the record as to what extent it is intruding into the approach flight is very, very difficult.
So, I'd very much like the information, and in a timely fashion, because we've been asking this question where we're getting into - well, since last summer. So the end of last summer - it's nine months since it was known that these obstructions were in the flight path.
Certainly that information has been available. I'd like the minister to table that information so that we're fully aware. Will the minister undertake to do so?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we will table the information in a timely fashion.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's start looking at a couple of other airports. The Old Crow one, the road at the end of it that's being eroded by the river - just what steps are the minister and his department going to be taking with respect to that road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we are working with the people of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Old Crow people, to see what has to be done and can be done this year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it doesn't require an Einstein. We really know what has to be done. We either have to relocate the road or relocate the airport or put some sort of a berm there. I'm sure there has to be a review done internally by the minister's officials. Just where are we at? It's not a case of going to Old Crow and asking the people of Old Crow which way we're going to go or what we're going to do, because it's the people of Old Crow that have brought it to my attention, and I see it when I fly into Old Crow - the river washing away the banks and moving over. And it's not something that just started last year. This has been ongoing for quite a number of years, and the officials within the Department of Community and Transportation Services are very, very conversant with it. But what's the game plan, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the game plan would be to fix the problem as resources become available.
Mr. Jenkins: What kind of a fix is proposed, Mr. Chair, and what are we looking at dollarwise?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we do have figures that are applicable to the situation there. I don't know what the budget figure is at the tip of my fingers. I can get it for the member opposite, though, and it certainly will be done when resources are allocated to it.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could bring back a legislative return on that issue, containing the departmental review as to what we're looking at as to the extent of the work, the scope of the undertaking, the dollars and the timelines for that work being undertaken - can the minister give that commitment, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely.
Mr. Jenkins: At the airport in Carmacks, the power lines on the east end are obstructing the approach plate. What is the department's position on the airport in Carmacks, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is insinuating that there are power lines in the way there. We are certainly not aware of that from a departmental perspective.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House of the last time he flew in to the airport in Carmacks, or if he ever has?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not so sure how that's relevant here - what my travel schedule is.
Mr. Jenkins: We're not concerned with the minister's travel plans. We're concerned with the minister's understanding of the areas that he's responsible for. Could the minister advise the House of the last time he flew into the airport in Carmacks, or if he ever has?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that has nothing to do with the relevancy of my job and what I do for a living here. Certainly, this House is made to debate the policy, and I'll continue to debate the policy in as effective a manner as we have been.
I must say that it must be a bit boring for the Member for Klondike because he's certainly doing a good job of opening it up now. I continue and encourage him to continue to open up, but we'll debate policy as it is. And if I've flown in, or if I've flown out, or if I've flown over, it is of no concern to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it is, Mr. Chair; it is a concern. If the minister would take the opportunity to fly into the airports that he's responsible for, he'd have a much greater understanding of obstructions, flight paths, approaches and the facilities that are there and to what extent they need upgrading and development. I would urge the minister to spend the time and gain an understanding of his department in that regard.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Order.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we have the Minister of Education responsible for giving the minister advice and the Minister of Health and Social Services, who has a hard time with his portfolio, offering the Minister of Community and Transportation Services advice also. I just don't know. We're having a very, very interesting debate here, Mr. Chair.
If the minister wants to check, the power lines at the airport in Carmacks are a hazard on the east end and they have been, especially when you're into the heavier weights of aircraft, or classes of aircraft.
The airport in Dawson City -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The members over there, Mr. Chair, are laughing. What the members fail to recognize is that the airport is used, and used quite extensively, by the forest service for protection purposes and they fly in and out of the airport in Carmacks, and they're very heavily laden aircraft. The same power lines have been there for quite some time.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're looking at the safety of the airports and we're looking at providing the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost, Mr. Chair. That's the object of government.
Let's look at the Dawson City airport. There's currently underway an in-house study with respect to the airport in Dawson and its potential for upgrading. Just where are we at with that study, Mr. Chair? And when can we expect to see a preliminary report from the department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I think it's a given on this side that not all of us on this side have had the educational opportunities that the member opposite has had to get his pilot's licence here. So certainly we do speak from a bit of non-experience as non-pilots, I guess.
But certainly we can speak to the issue of the Dawson improvements here. We did meet with the Dawson folks - the officials did - in February, and we did commit to obtain confirmation from Transport Canada whether an airport location within the Klondike Valley - but certainly closer to Dawson - could provide better capabilities than the existing airport, and are developing conceptual plans and construction cost estimates for consideration by the community this fall - preparation of a funding strategy, whereby the territorial government and the City of Dawson would work together to obtain federal dollars for the airport improvements.
Mr. Jenkins: It's quite obvious that the minister does much better when he sticks to the script. The issue with the airport in Dawson is with the sale or the acquisition by YTG, under the Arctic airport A, B and C policy. There was still a considerable sum of money that was left on the table by the federal government with respect to the airport in Dawson City.
Can the minister confirm just how much was left on the table?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, that goes beyond my corporate memory of the situation, but I'll endeavour to find out. I believe it goes back a good 10 years but, yes, I'll have to check on the figures and find out what the figure is and get it to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: This was with the transfer of A, B and C class of Arctic airports, Mr. Chair. We're not talking a couple of decades ago. We're talking just of recent time frames. So, that information has to be within the department.
At the same time as the transfer of the airports, the airports in Haines Junction and Carmacks received a tremendous infusion of federal dollars to bring them up to standard, and very little, if anything, was done with the airport in Dawson at that juncture because it was up in the air as to which direction the government was going to take. But there was a considerable sum of money left there and, from the best of my memory, it was approaching $2 million or more. In addition, Indian and Northern Affairs were also looking at funds for the development of the tanker base for forest fire protection, and there was a considerable sum of money.
What I'm just seeking to obtain, Mr. Chair, is a summary of all those dollars that were on the table, and I believe they still continue to be available to this government for upgrading or for relocation of the Dawson City airport. I'm just looking for the minister to bring back a legislative return overview on this issue. Would the minister agree to provide that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister, Mr. Chair.
A couple of the other issues that are still out there - and we have made some inroads - are with respect to - we'll go back to the department of highways, Mr. Chair - and the accord between the Government of British Columbia and the Government of the Yukon on the highways system and the inter-transportation of goods and the equal treatment of truckers on both sides of the line. We are probably in the best position ever, given that we have a communist government in British Columbia and a NDP government here in the Yukon, so they should be able to get along very, very well, and we should be able to achieve some level of cooperation in this regard.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Whitehorse West, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe the member has misspoke himself. He obviously didn't wish to characterize our good neighbours in the south in that manner. I'm sure that he would like to correct the record.
Chair: The Chair does not see a point of order, just a disagreement between members.
Mr. Jenkins: It's not even a good disagreement among members, Mr. Chair. I just stated the facts for the record.
If we could look, Mr. Chair, at the issue -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Let the member speak.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the issue is surrounding the agreements between the Yukon and British Columbia on our highways. The B.C.-Yukon accord on transportation was, I believe, signed, but there are still some outstanding issues. Just where are we at with respect to a resolution of these matters?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not aware of any outstanding issues.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue is surrounding the equal movement of trucks into British Columbia vis-à-vis the equal movement of vehicles into the Yukon. There are still a number of outstanding issues, Mr. Chair. We've dealt with gravel, we've dealt with logging, but there is still an unequal treatment of truckers going south as coming north.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not aware of that. If the member has a specific, I'd surely appreciate it.
Mr. Jenkins: Private Yukon carriers going into British Columbia to pick up less than full loads - that's the issue. They're allowed to do that into the Yukon; they're not allowed to do that into British Columbia. Why not?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the truck is registered, Mr. Chair, then I've been assured by my deputy minister that there isn't a problem.
Mr. Jenkins: There is a problem, and it's been brought to the attention of the minister's department, and still there has been no resolution of the issue. The situation is that of a corporately owned vehicle here in the Yukon going to pick up their own goods in British Columbia. They're allowed to only have one stop. They're not allowed to go to two different locations to pick up goods. They're only allowed to go to one location. That is not the case for a trucker from British Columbia coming into the Yukon to pick up goods. Why don't we have similar arrangements in place with respect to these types of carriers, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, neither I nor the deputy minister are aware of a problem, but certainly if the member can provide a case example, I'd be more than interested to see how we could rectify the problem.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll have the individuals in question contact the deputy minister. Is that what is suggested, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely. If there is anything that we can do through this, they can contact either myself or the deputy minister.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there is quite a difference in the way truckers from the Yukon are treated in British Columbia versus, say, to Alberta or Saskatchewan. It's a different ballpark, although we're supposed to be both playing by the same rules. I'm sure if the minister sits down with the deputy minister, he'll find that to be very much the case.
Let's just look at another area where there appears to be an inconsistency and this was brought to my attention by one of my constituents. It deals with the suspension of drivers' licences after an impaired charge. The issue is, on your first conviction, you lose your licence for one full year. There appears to be a lot more flexibility in the law after your second conviction. It's not as hard and fast as to when you can receive your licence back, and the courts are granted a lot more flexibility in returning the licence to the individual after the second conviction than after the first.
Would the minister advise why that is the case? Why is there more flexibility? In fact, you could have your licence returned to you after your second conviction after one year, but on the first conviction, it's a mandatory one year.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we went through the legislative process in this very House just a very few short months ago. The first conviction, of course, is a suspension for the one year.
If you get a second conviction, the member says that there is more flexibility. Certainly there is, and that's because it's a three-year conviction at that time, and then, of course, a third conviction is life, or five years.
So certainly in the case of the first one, there is no flexibility because that's the limit, it's one year. But in the case of a second one, if a person can prove the point to the DLB, then certainly it could provide that flexibility.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue that my constituent is taking exception with - and he points it out to me in the brochure that is issued by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. It says, "As you can see, vital information regarding the non-existence of a review process for first-time offenders is not only omitted from the new Motor Vehicles Act, but from any other YTG information. And the purpose of the brochure is to give the public all the information they need about changes to the act. Why is this area just completely omitted?"
That was the question, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, there is no appeal for the first one, because it's only for the one-year duration. Where there is more flexibility is in the second and the third where, as I just explained, in the second one it could be a three-year, with flexibility down to a year. So it looks to me that the benchmark would be one year.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, let's move into some of the other areas where we've had some concerns before. The fire hall at Burwash - can the minister confirm whether the fire hall has received an occupancy permit?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That's certainly one of those issues that I'll have to check into to see if there's an occupancy permit. I don't know at this point in time, off the top of my head, but I've been told that it is being used for said purposes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know it is being used, but the last time I checked there was still not an occupancy permit issued for the fire hall, as it hadn't been completed and there were still outstanding deficiencies that hadn't been addressed by the contractor. Could the minister also check and confirm that that is, indeed, the case - that there are still outstanding deficiencies that have not been addressed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair. As I said earlier, I will check to see if there is an occupancy permit.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the time from when this construction took place to the present is quite extensive and, given the length of time that we have experienced in this regard, and given the number of individuals who have been taken to the courts for non-compliance with building standards here in the Yukon, can the minister offer some explanation as to why no action has been taken with respect to this structure? The last time I checked, the occupancy permit had not been granted and the building is being used; in fact, it froze up for quite some time.
If we look at the number of cases that the department has for compliance with the building standards, we have the Watson Lake Tags store where proceedings were initiated because of non-compliance with the Town of Watson Lake, Building Standards Act and the building standards regulations; we have 13183 Yukon Inc. where legal proceedings were started to obtain compliance with the Building Standards Act; and we have Sifton Air where legal proceedings were started to obtain compliance with the Building Standards Act and building standards regulations.
All these areas, Mr. Chair, started after construction commenced, and they didn't complete it. They didn't complete it. They didn't have an occupancy permit in some cases, and yet, for the fire hall in Burwash, we have a different set of rules. Why is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't believe we have a different set of rules, Mr. Chair, at all. I cannot answer the question on my feet here at this point in time as to the occupancy permit, but I will check on it for the member opposite and definitely get back to him. I can say though that, yes, through, I guess, lack of usage in some situations with the septic system, I understand that the septic system did freeze this year, but it is going to be steamed and pumped out so that it will be working. The well, I guess, as any new structure in certain geographic locations, was pumping muddy water. Again, that was because the pump was not being used on a daily basis, but certainly, the good people from Government Services have looked at the problem, repaired the problem as part of a regular maintenance program that they do carry out, and they fixed the problems. So, certainly, it will all be up and running, and I will definitely check for the occupancy permit.
Mr. Jenkins: So what we have is a fire hall in Burwash that wasn't completed on time and on budget. To the best of our knowledge, it's still not issued a valid occupancy permit. We had a freeze-up there, we had the septic field freeze up, and the well didn't seem to be performing correctly.
Could the minister bring back the total cost to date of these other areas, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I've just been told that the deficiencies will be cleaned up, and they will be started up and cleaned up, as a matter of fact, this week, just with the information.
I'd like the Member for Klondike to get a grip on himself there a little bit, if I could put it in that manner, because he's trying to point a finger saying, "Well, the sewer froze up, and the water is muddy." This is an everyday part of life in the north, my friend. It's a part of life.
Now, I do not profess to be the greatest earth mover or log cabin builder but, doggone it, I've done both of them. And you know what? My septic froze up this year because I've been spending maybe just a little bit too much time waltzing with the Member for Klondike. Is that a fault of mine? No, no, no. These things happen. It's not a fault of mine that I have to go waltzing - absolutely not. That's just a part of my job, and what a pleasure it is.
But certainly, that is a problem, so the member should not look to further misconstrue what he's already misconstrued. This stuff happens. The pumps do happen, and in the case of new pumps, they were pumping muddy water. The septic froze up because there wasn't enough bafflegab in there, I guess, which the Member for Klondike certainly has enough of to keep it open, flowing and free. But certainly, those deficiencies will be corrected this week.
The member has been provided with the information that he requested already, on February 16, 1999. The member has been provided the information as to the total cost. The total cost to date, if I could say, to February 16, is $338,072.25.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it sounds like not only does the Burwash fire hall have a waste disposal problem, but the minister himself must have one, given the answer we just received. We were also assured by the minister that the deficiencies at the time were going to be cleaned up immediately, if not sooner. We've just learned that the deficiencies will be cleaned up this next week. Now, these deficiencies go back to substantial completion of the project, which was over a year ago. Now, what is taking so long to get this project completed? What's the problem?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In the letter we had sent to the member on February 16, it states the price there also, and if the member would carry on to read just a tad, the deficiencies are quite minor. One is adding a half a sheet of plywood to enclose the well room inside the fire hall; the other is the installation of deadbolts and two outside doors; the third was the readjusting - oh my God, the readjusting - of weatherstripping on the outside doors and the fourth one, of course, is to complete some exterior painting around the overhead doors.
Now, if this was February or even it was December, ah shucks, even if it was October or April - would you find it a little difficult to do some exterior painting? I would assume so. The Member for Klondike is well aware that we're trying to keep the cost down. So, should we go and rent a big steamer or should we give her a couple of weeks and wait. I think the prudent, commonsense decision evolved.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister thinks he's going to thaw it out in a couple of weeks and it's going to be any less expensive, he might want to wait until late June or early July when the ground is naturally thawed, especially in some of the areas where there's permafrost. I'm sure he can consult with his officials.
Let's go back to the original question: what is taking so long to get this project through to completion? When was the start date of this project and what are we looking at for a completion date? Most of these projects are a matter of months: this one's a matter of years.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can do it without having too many drinks.
The construction of the replacement fire hall did begin in September 1997. We've spoken more times than enough in this House about some of the problems that arose. Certainly, we have to take into consideration the permafrost problem there and there was something called a thermosiphon and so, thermosiphons had to be put into the building.
There we go again; we should be listening, and we're yakking like little kids out of turn again. I mean, if you ask a question, for goodness' sake, let's listen for the answer. I'm giving you the answer, so I'll undertake to start over again, if I may.
The construction of the replacement of the fire hall began in September 1997, and certainly it has had its minor hiccups, but it's nothing to do with anything other than maybe the permafrost, the terrain that's around there. We've had to put in thermosiphons to stabilize it - just minor things, but certainly, as the member's well aware - he said that he realizes that it is opening from his drives by, so obviously he's driven by, and seen it open.
We do expect that the deficiencies will be corrected this week. That is what is said here, and certainly I can reiterate some of the deficiencies: readjusting the weatherstripping on the outside doors, okay, that makes sense; installation of two deadbolts on the outside doors; and adding a half sheet of plywood to enclose the well room inside the fire hall.
It certainly sounds like minor deficiencies, and it certainly sounds like just an everyday part of the business. So I'd like to commend the people who have been working on it, for the good work that they have been doing on it.
I can also say that it's created some employment in a community that otherwise does not have much opportunity for local work. It's certainly created that, and that's the type of work that this government could, should, and will continue to do.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I want to enter this debate because I'm concerned at some of the points the minister has made with respect to the fire hall in Beaver Creek.
He was asked questions by the Member for Klondike about the septic system and the well, and he seemed to brush them off, as if to say, "Those problems, that's the Yukon. That's related to the Yukon". It's cold; he froze up his own septic system.
The concern I have is we haven't just started building septic systems in the Yukon this year. We've been building them for years.
Mr. Chair, I can wait till the minister's finished talking to his friend over there. He accused us of not listening - now he seems to be carrying on a conversation with his colleague over there while I'm trying to ask him a question. So, maybe we could wait till he's finished.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, the Member for Whitehorse West.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and I were just trying to identify which community was in question, because the member referred to Beaver Creek, and I thought the discussion was around Burwash. That's what we were discussing - was it Burwash or Beaver Creek?
Mr. Jenkins: There's no point of order. The member opposite is just wasting valuable time in this House with his interjection of useless information.
Chair: The Chair sees there is no point of order but also reminds members not to use language that may incite altercation. Mr. Sloan.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we were just wondering which community was being referred to, because the Member for Riverdale North did refer to Beaver Creek, and I understood we were discussing Burwash. So, we were discussing whether Burwash was meant or whether it was Beaver Creek. There was no attempt to waste time. We were just wondering which community was being referred to here.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, it was Burwash Landing. That's what we were talking about. I misspoke myself when I said Beaver Creek, and the minister knows that, and that wasn't what they were talking about anyway. They were just joking around about other things. He might think he's funny, interjecting like that, but if that's the way that member wants to act, that's fine.
Mr. Chair, I want to ask the minister about the problems with the septic system and the problems with the water system. First of all, all kinds of people in the territory put in septic systems every single year, and everyone who puts in a septic system knows that, if you don't use it on a regular basis, if you don't flow water into it on a regular basis, the septic system will quit working and, in this climate, can freeze up. I'm just wondering why precautions weren't taken by the department or by individuals responsible to ensure that this wouldn't happen.
I went away for a month this winter and I had to ensure that someone was either in my house or came by my house and put some water into the system so that it wouldn't freeze up, because in the Yukon you know that's a regular problem. And it costs a fortune to have somebody to come out and, hopefully there's nothing broken, but to steam out and clean out a septic system. If it is broken, you have to go in there and dig it all up and put it all back in again.
The minister just seems to have a cavalier attitude that it doesn't really matter that we had problems with the septic system, we had problems with the well. I mean, didn't anybody think about these things? I mean, who is in charge of this project anyway? It seems to be just going along and nobody cares, and we just hear one thing after the other. A year later, we've still don't even have an occupancy permit. I mean, the minister should treat it like he's spending his own money, like it's coming out of his own pocket -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Member for Watson Lake says, "Remember the Beringia Centre." Well, I'll tell you what with the Beringia Centre. There were no cost overruns with the Beringia Centre. There were huge cost overruns with the NDP government when they built it as a visitor centre - huge cost overruns. But no cost -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: You bet it's better. It's a lot better.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, if I'm going to be criticized for my department, then I'd like the gentleman, even if he is not my regular critic, but if he needs to bring in supporting help to his regular critic, to stick to the department.
Chair: I see no point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Another rude interruption, I guess, from the members opposite who don't really want to answer the questions.
It's a serious question. Why or how did it happen that the septic system froze up when the building isn't even in its first year of operation? Why wasn't somebody ensuring that there was water and the system was being utilized somewhat so that it wouldn't freeze up? Why wouldn't you do that in a brand new system, especially in a place like Burwash Landing when you know that that could happen up there? Why did we let it happen?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak and to be held responsible, of course, for the flushing of the toilet in the Burwash fire hall. I mean, next time, I guess I must show enough wisdom in the future to have some midnight shifters on there, or a flusher - a midnight flusher. We're looking for some midnight flushers.
It's certainly hard to take it seriously, Mr. Chair, when the members opposite just come in and play silly games - absolutely silly games. I don't know the Member for Riverdale North very well, nor do I care to choose to know the Member for Riverdale North very well, but it certainly seems that the Member for Riverdale North has a very high opinion of himself for all these wonderful things that have never happened to him in his life or his career.
He has ensured that while he was away on vacation that the septic tank was being flushed on a regular basis, or maybe it was simply the fact that the member has so much of what goes into a septic tank that it just works. Therein is the theory of a septic tank - the bacteria. As the Member for Riverdale North has said, when you just have water flowing through, the flow of water will stop it. Well, that is absolutely not the truth. That is absolutely the furthest thing from the truth. But the Member for Riverdale North certainly professes to know all and be all. If that's not the case, then he'll just go investigating. If he finds a meaningful conviction, he'll hang him, he'll jury him, and then he'll even go out and retry him in this House because he can get away with it.
Well, certainly, that's not the way this government works. We work with people, and we'll continue to work with people. There have been problems on the Burwash fire hall. I've provided the total costs in a letter on the 13th, to the member opposite, to let the member opposite know what some of the problems are. The deficiencies are being completed this week, as we speak.
Will this happen again in the Yukon, Mr. Chair? I sure can't say it won't happen again in the Yukon. Certainly, I anticipate that it happens every year to someone or somewhere. Now, why did it happen? Well, by gosh, you know, that's just the million-dollar question. Why did it happen? I guess because I didn't have a midnight flusher there. If I would have had the midnight flusher there, I guess the problems wouldn't have happened. But I kind of beg to differ, because I don't think it's just a problem that the midnight flusher would have been able to handle.
So, the gentleman from Riverdale North - you know, he's quite the flusher himself. I mean, he spends a lot of time sniffing around at that level, finding out and getting the real dirty goods on people. He's rather famous for it.
But certainly this ministry will continue to work with the levels at a policy level, and will continue to work and ensure that, when and if we can, there is an ongoing opportunity for training for building efforts, through capital funding arrangements or otherwise, in order to continue to have good community development.
So, I really and truly hope that does give some ease to the members' minds over there as to why this happened. I guess, in sincerity, they weren't flushing at midnight, and, certainly, if you have any recommendations, I can get you the address, and you can give them the recommendations because you're a pretty good midnight flusher yourself, if you can take a vacation in the middle of the winter while the rest of us are here doing some really good work, as we should be.
You do have the answers. Thank you.
Chair: Order please. The Chair would like to remind members not to make personal and insulting remarks and to also address their comments through the Chair, not to speak to members directly.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like that minister to withdraw some of those remarks he just made about me.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, you've already commented that the remarks are unparliamentary. The minister made them directly at me. Hansard will clearly show that. I would like the minister to stand on his feet and apologize and withdraw the remarks.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I see no reason to do it.
Mr. Phillips: Then, Mr. Chair, I would like you to report to the Speaker and for the Speaker to review this matter and to report back to the House here tomorrow on the matter and the comments that were just made by the minister.
Chair: The Chair would like to say that there is nothing to rise and report on. There was no point of order and the Chair did not say there were unparliamentary remarks.
Mr. Phillips: Making insulting comments - on a point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, now there is a point of order. Making comments about individuals in this House is unparliamentary. The member did that several times. You made a comment, Mr. Chair, with respect to the member's comments, and I'm asking the member to withdraw the comments because I believe they're out of order.
Chair: Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I think, Mr. Chair, it has to be said that your ruling was for all members to address their comments through the Chair. That's what the Chair's ruling was.
Now, as to insulting remarks, no. This has been a dispute between members and there is no point of order. So, let's please continue the debate.
Chair: Order please. The Chair will review the Blues and report back later.
Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the comments the minister made about a midnight flusher may seem humorous to the minister but it's not humorous to the Yukon taxpayer who is going to have to pay somebody to go up there and steam out that particular septic system and thaw it out. There are ways to ensure that a septic system won't freeze up.
And somebody had to be responsible for that building while it was under construction. Now, you do a couple of things when you're working with a septic system. One, you don't use it until you get your occupancy permit, and somebody's actually occupying the building, and so there's nothing to freeze up in the septic system. Or two, if you do use it, you ensure that it won't freeze up, and cost the taxpayer a few thousand more dollars to thaw it out. That's my point.
And I'm asking the minister: who was responsible for ensuring that this problem didn't arise and that we made sure that the septic system wouldn't freeze, and it wouldn't cost us a few thousand dollars more to thaw it out?
And maybe the minister can tell us, when he's on his feet, how much money it actually did cost to have somebody go to Burwash Landing and thaw it out. I understand the minister says he's going to wait another week or two for it to thaw out. But anything I've ever known about the Yukon - if it's in the ground and it's frozen, and nobody does anything to it, it's probably going to be June, early July before that septic system thaws out.
So I'd like to know from the minister, how much it's going to cost; who's going to do it, and who was responsible for the building when it froze up.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, just to set the record straight, I didn't say that it would take a week or two. That is not in the reference. If the member is going to follow the debate, then he should follow the debate. I did say that it would maybe take a couple of weeks to do the other issues. Those other issues were putting a sheet of one-quarter inch plywood up; they were hanging weatherstripping on the outside doors and putting two deadbolts on an outside door. There, Mr. Chair, is where it is.
The Kluane First Nation has contracted a John Obermair from Burwash to look at the deficiencies and to clean them up. Again, there are the answers that were requested by the Member for Riverdale North.
Chair: Do the members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: I just want to go over this project briefly with the minister. The contract for the Burwash fire hall was sole sourced to Kluane First Nation - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It was done through a capital funding agreement.
Mr. Phillips: Well, that's similar to sole sourcing. It went directly to the Kluane First Nation. They dealt with it.
According to the agreement, was there a given time in which the Kluane First Nation was supposed to turn over the completed fire hall to the Government of Yukon and were all costs and work included in the original contract?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If the Member for Riverdale North would just ask his colleague to his left for the letter, it would have all this information in it from the debate of last year. Certainly it was done through a capital funding agreement. It was for a total of $338,072.25, and the actual cost was higher by $7,660.14.
Mr. Phillips: Did we ever receive the final inspection and completion of the project? I guess we haven't because they haven't got an occupancy permit. When did the Government of the Yukon take over responsibility of this project, or do we have responsibility of it now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been assured that we took it over about a year ago, but I can get the exact dates in question.
Mr. Phillips: So, we virtually sole sourced the project to the Kluane First Nation. Before it was completed, we took it over. How much money of the contract did we spend - from the Government of the Yukon - on the project?
I'm trying to understand how we did this, because if we take over another building project elsewhere and three-quarters of the project is completed, usually if the government has to move in and take it over because the builder of the project can't complete it, there's a deduction made from the payments that go to the builder because they haven't completed the project and the government uses that money to complete the project. Did we do anything like that, or did we pay the Kluane First Nation the full value a year ago for a completed building and then take it over and complete it ourselves?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can reiterate that the information is in the hands of the Yukon Party at this point in time. It is there with a signed letter to the Member for Klondike. They do have it.
The member said "almost a sole-source," or something like as such was his language. It was done through a capital funding agreement, and the reason that we do these capital funding agreements is so that we might be able to provide jobs, we might be able to provide training, local empowerment, local people doing local jobs. The total portion that went to the Kluane First Nation was $292,000 all told, I believe, as I read it.
Mr. Phillips: So, there is about $80,000 of the $372,000 that the Government of the Yukon would have had to spend in the last year to complete the project. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The total project is for $338,072.25. That is the complete and total cumulative project cost.
Mr. Phillips: I had $372,000 here. I don't know if maybe the minister misspoke himself, or I didn't hear him right, but that's the figure that I wrote down.
Mr. Chair, the Government of the Yukon took it over a year ago. Why didn't the Government of the Yukon take the necessary precautions to ensure that the septic system wouldn't freeze up? Why wouldn't we do something like that if we had responsibility for the building?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I've been told that there was a problem with the heat tape, and that therein is the reason why it froze up.
Mr. Phillips: Isn't there usually a secondary heat tape on those kinds of things when you're running a heat tape for systems like that? Or was it that the whole system failed? I mean, what happened?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm not terribly sure, Mr. Chair, to tell you the truth, if there was a secondary backup there. What happened was, it froze up.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I understand the water and the septic system froze up in the building. It sounds like we had a fairly serious problem related to the building. I guess the heat went off, or something didn't work. Wasn't there somebody monitoring this, or wasn't there an alarm system put in place, or somebody that would check it every few hours?
You know, when a building's under construction, usually the person that's responsible for the building before it's actually turned over to the client has to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen. In this case, it was ourselves who had taken responsibility for the building.
I'm just trying to determine who dropped the ball. Why did this building freeze up and why did we not catch it sooner, rather than later?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I wish I would have caught the tail end of that. You guys have got to remember, I can read lips. I shouldn't have told them, that, should I? I catch them too many times.
First of all, let me say that I did not say that the water froze up. I did not say that. I said that it was pumping grey water because it hadn't been used as often as maybe it should have been. The Member for Riverdale North is putting words in my mouth, saying that it did freeze up. I did not say that at all. The septic system, from a lack of use, froze up. Why did it freeze up? Well, I think we went through that already.
Mr. Phillips: I understand from the information the minister has given that it froze up sometime in January or earlier this year and that we're looking at the next two weeks for it to thaw out. The minister was going to come back with some costs with respect to thawing this out, or are we going to let it run its natural course and thaw out on its own? He said something about hiring somebody from Burwash Landing to thaw it out or hiring somebody from that area to thaw it out. What kind of costs are we looking at, and will those be costs that the Government of the Yukon, I guess, since it's responsible, will have to bear as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the Government of the Yukon will have to bear those costs at this point, I've been told.
Now, there were so many things that were wrong in the member's statement there that I guess I just have to start over and talk about it.
When did it freeze up? I do not know. How much is it going to cost? That was the other question that the member had asked about and I already answered that question. Well, I didn't answer the question actually, because I don't know what the cost is going to be. I don't expect that it's going to be much but, yes, there is a contractor who is going to be working it from Burwash and complete it this week. That's the time frame for it.
Let's see, what else can I add to that? I've got the time frame in there; the costs will be coming; it's just pumped dirty water, and that's it. I do believe I've answered the question.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, is it a cost-plus job? Did we get a quote on thawing it out or is it just cost plus, so much by the hour, and is there an estimated cost of what it might run us to thaw this septic system out?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would assume that we've hired a person to go up and to steam it out, so whatever it would take. If it's done by a steaming system, then that's what the price would be.
Mr. Phillips: We've hired somebody to go up and steam it out. I thought the minister said earlier it was somebody from the area who was steaming it out. Is it somebody from Whitehorse now who is going up to do it? I'm just trying to find out who's doing the contract. Is it sole sourced? Was it a contract that was let? How are we doing it? I'm just asking the minister to inform us.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Up, down, east, west - I guess these are figures of speech, but certainly somebody has been hired from the community.
This is the third time I am answering this question now for the Member for Riverdale North. So, maybe the Member for Riverdale North should really be more attentive - or, I find these very helpful and they are courtesy of the House, also.
So, if you are having trouble listening ... But, if you're not having trouble listening and you just want to inflame the debate, then you should say so. Let's take the honourable way out because there is so much that's spoken of honour from the member.
So, Mr. Chair, was it sole sourced? I'm sure that it's worked within the confines of the system. We do wish to get the septic tank thawed out and up and running, and that is exactly what the contractor is going to do. Whether he comes from down or up, the job's going to get done.
Chair: Once again, I'd like to remind members not to address other members directly, to direct their comments to the Chair.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm just trying to get the minister to provide us with factual information on the floor of the House. I asked him the question at least three times, and he's given me three different answers. At first, it was somebody from Burwash or Beaver Creek; secondly, someone was coming up that steams things out, and now we seem to be moving all over the Yukon. I'm just trying to find out who's doing the contract. Was it a sole-sourced contract? Was it a public tender that we let out for the work? Did we call up three people who do steaming in the territory, Mr. Chair, and ask them for a quote to go up to Burwash and do the work? How did we do it? That's the question.
If I had an answer from the minister - any one of the three times I asked the question - I would have gone on to another question and not had to ask this again. So, all I want the minister to do is to answer the question clearly: is it a sole-sourced contract? Was the individual in Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, the north highway somewhere, or from Whitehorse? Who's going to be doing the work, and how much is it going to cost? Is it an hourly rate, or is it a contract price?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, I will attempt to answer the question in a manner that the Member for Riverdale North might be able to digest.
Certainly, the Kluane First Nation has contracted a gentleman from Burwash to clean up the deficiency list, as noted on the building inspector's report, and we expect the deficiencies to be completed the week of April 12.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, a few minutes ago, I asked the minister whose responsibility the building was, and the minister said it was the Government of Yukon's responsibility. And we now know we have a frozen septic system there. I thought, all along, he was talking about the Government of Yukon going out and finding somebody to thaw out that septic system. Now, he just says that we've contracted with the Kluane First Nation. I know the deficiencies he laid out for the member - the door locks and such - but are they also doing the septic system that froze up under the watch of the Government of Yukon? Is that how it's working?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the Kluane First Nation has contracted a person from Burwash to clean up the deficiency list, as noted on the building inspector's report, and we expect that these deficiencies will be completed in the week of April 12.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, those are door locks and weatherstripping and such. I'm trying to find out about the septic system. Let me bring the minister back to the septic system. That's what we were talking about. These aren't difficult questions. These are pretty straightforward questions. Whose responsibility is it to thaw out that septic system? Who is the contractor? Who is getting the contractor? Is it a price per hour, or is it a contract price? Where is the contractor coming from? Those are the questions that I'd like the minister to answer.
The other deficiency list is fine. That wasn't my question. My question is about the septic tank, and I'd like the minister to stick to that and try to answer that question. Could he do that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'll answer the question for the member's pleasure in a legislative return.
Mr. Phillips: Is the minister telling me that they don't know? The minister has his official with him, and they don't know at the present time who is doing the work, or it hasn't been decided? I mean, why don't we know who is doing the work? Surely there are people listening, and someone must know in the department who is actually doing the work and how it is being handled? I mean, we were discussing it prior to the break. These are almost the same questions I was asking prior to the break. I just don't understand why we don't know who is going to do the work.
The minister seemed to have confidence a few minutes ago on how the work was going to be done. Now he's going to get me a legislative return to try to tell me how the work is going to be done. Does the minister just not know? All the things that he was telling me before, was he just trying to give me an answer that would hopefully make me stop asking questions or something, and he really doesn't have a clue who is going to do the work, and he's got to go back to the department and somebody has got to check? Is that what he's saying now?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it would be my pleasure to answer the member's question by way of legislative return.
Mr. Phillips: Well, will the minister bring the legislative return back to the House when we reconvene tomorrow? I'm sure it's not a difficult question, and we could have an answer to something like that tomorrow so that when we get back into debate in C&TS, we can discuss the matter further.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we'll make best efforts to get the legislative return back, if and when we can. I know that it's just going to inflame the Member for Riverdale North, but I think the department has much more to do at this point in time during debate to respond to the serious questions of the debate and to continue, so, certainly, those will be my first priority.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I'm pleased to see, Mr. Chair, that the member thinks that the debate in this House is valuable. That's why we're here: to ask questions in the House and get responses from the minister. The minister's been there for two and one-half years. This is a problem he's known about for at least a year and a half, since this project started, and you'd think that if the minister was really doing his work, Mr. Chair, he would know what's going on. He would know what's going on with this particular project. It's been a problem, it's been the subject of probably two or three hours of debate in this House, so hopefully the minister will come to the House tomorrow a little more informed than he is today to answer some of the questions about this matter.
I have another couple of questions, Mr. Chair, about this area. Since we have water problems at the fire hall as well, what are we doing now for water for fire protection for the community? What kind of plan is in place right now to provide protection?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The problem has been repaired and there is not a problem now.
Mr. Phillips: So, if there were a fire tonight in Burwash Landing, it would all be taken care of. There's nothing frozen up. The water pumps work, everything is fine, and everyone is happy with the situation now. Is the fire truck actually in the fire hall and being used, and is that the point at which, if a fire was called in, they would load the truck? It's probably loaded already if it's in there, but if they had to come back would they load it there and proceed to the fire? Is everything in place now to fight fires in Burwash Landing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That would certainly be my assumption.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm concerned with also, Mr. Chair, is the total cost of all of these repairs, and I would ask the minister to bring back, by way of legislative return, the total cost that the Government of the Yukon has incurred with respect to the Burwash fire hall for any additional costs, above and beyond the contract price of, I believe, $338,000.
Now, we've incurred quite a number of expenses for gravel that we're aware of. We've incurred quite a number of expenses to get the water system running. We're incurring additional expense now to thaw the system, and the minister wasn't quite clear as to whether the original contract would cover the costs of all of the deficiencies - whether the Kluane First Nation, through their construction arm, would be picking up those costs or whether they don't have to and the government is going to be addressing those additional costs.
So what I'm looking at are, since the government's been involved, the additional costs that we're incurring. Can the minister bring back that information by way of legislative return?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the issue regarding the gravel that was placed around - the member is probably well aware, because the job was done by the Burwash Landing resort. The cost of gravel was $2,380, and that was, of course, done under a separate contract.
But that was the gravel that was placed around the fire hall to enhance the access to the building, in an effort to landscape it, and to keep it in good shape on an ongoing basis.
Just so that the Member for Klondike is aware that those are not costs that are associated with the capital funding agreement, I can provide the costs that I have by way of the legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking at is the additional cost that the Government of Yukon has incurred, and will be incurring to bring this building up to standards where it gains an occupancy permit from the building inspector, and everything works. Water can be pumped out of the well, the septic field works, the doors close, and the lights turn on and off, and it can be used for the purpose it was intended - that of being a fire hall.
Now, all those additional costs - if the minister could please provide, by way of legislative return, those costs, I'll be quite pleased. Can the minister undertake and agree to do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the costs that are extra to it, I will be able to provide to the member. I want to, again, be certain that the member understands what he's asking for, and certainly I will.
So we will provide the costs, by way of legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I can assure the minister that the member understands full well what he's asking for by way of costs. I'm having a very, very difficult time explaining the basics to the minister so that he can understand, Mr. Chair, and I will look forward to that legislative return.
Mr. Chair, another issue that I note is missing from the summary of actions that are underway or anticipated is with respect to the extension to the Whitehorse Airport. The contractor there got into financial difficulty and failed to pay a number of subcontractors on that job. Just where are we at with respect to resolving all outstanding matters with respect to the contract for the runway extension 13, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the progress payments that we did make were based on the strength of a statutory declaration, and the statutory declaration did indicate that subcontractors had been paid. We know now that the payment of the claim is the responsibility of the bonding company and the timing, of course, will be contingent upon them.
I can say that the combined value of the Yukon government's contract payment holdback of $107,000 and the contract security of $727,000, which was put up by way of a bond, together total $835,000. That exceeds what the contractor's claims of $775,000 are.
So, the money is being turned over to the bonding company and the bonding company is paying the contractors who were not paid.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any time lines for this situation being resolved and monies flowing to the subcontractors on this job?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is the responsibility of the bonding company, and the timing, I guess, for the repayment to the contractors will be dependent on the assessment of each of their claims. But it is in their hands now, and so I assume they've started it.
Mr. Jenkins: Usually, there are two issues here, Mr. Chair, and usually, unless government gets behind it and pushes it, the subs are left hanging out to dry for extended periods of time before they get paid. Now, the first issue is that it would appear that the contractor has erroneously signed the statutory declaration. Is the government anticipating or contemplating any action with respect to the statutory declaration that was erroneously made?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I would imagine, Mr. Chair, that it would be a matter for the RCMP, if they felt that something untoward was done. Certainly, the strength of the statutory declarations indicate that subcontractors had been paid - certainly, that's the process that we use with government. So, we had assumed - and wrongly so - that the payments were paid, because they did. They had an employee of their company come in and sign a statutory declaration. That certainly gives us every indication that everything was paid, but it wasn't, so what can I say? Not many people would go out and do that type of thing, but in this case, it was certainly done.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House how many statutory declarations were signed by the general on this job, and how many progress payments were paid based on the statutory declarations that appear to be quite illegal?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, no, I don't have that type of information at my fingertips, but I certainly will get it and provide it to both sides of the House, I assume.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given, Mr. Chair, that the minister and his officials now know that the contractor signed the statutory declaration and provided information that wasn't accurate, what action is the Government of the Yukon contemplating in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm not quite sure what the question from the member actually is. What I can say, though, is that if the RCMP feel there has been criminal negligence, then the RCMP will look at it, and treat it in that light. So, I imagine that it's up to their investigators to make that judgment call, and they will make that call. It might not be a judgment call, but they'll definitely make that call.
Now, unless the Member for Klondike is asking me if we're going to do something more than have the strength of statutory declarations - because that is certainly the route we go on here and will continue to go on. I would assume - well, not assume - I know that we're working with the bonding company, and I know that the bonding company would probably have lots to say about the contractor and question us whether they would receive bonding from them again, or whether they would not receive bonding from them again. But certainly it seems that the statutory declaration is the way to go, and I don't believe that this happens very, very often at all. I can't remember it happening within my tenure.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when did it become known to the Government of Yukon and the department that the statutory declaration that was provided to the government, to receive payment, was not an accurate reflection of what had transpired - that they had indeed not paid their subs? And yet, they swore an affidavit saying they had done so. When did that information come to the attention of the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I really don't know what day it came to light, or even how it came to light - when the violation of the system took place, I don't know. Again, I can endeavour to find out for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it would appear to be abundantly clear, Mr. Chair, that an illegal act took place here. Has the department been in contact with the RCMP and asked them to investigate this matter?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'll have to find out when we first became notified, et cetera, and get back to the Member for Klondike.
The other issue - did we instigate? No, I haven't instigated. I'm not sure, I'll have to check with my colleagues in Government Services if they had anything to do with it. I'll certainly do that with my colleague from Government Services to find out if they did. I would suspect, though, that it would be the people themselves, the contractors, who were offended who would instigate that, but it's something I don't know. I will get the dates of when we were notified and when we first learned that the subcontractors weren't getting paid and whether there is any legal action commencing. That's information I do not have but will endeavour to collect.
Mr. Jenkins: All the subs want to have coming their way is payment for the goods and services that they've provided to the general contractor. The general contractor has been to the government and has sworn out his statutory declaration saying he's done everything that he has to do, he's paid all his subs, now pay me. The Government of the Yukon, based on that statutory declaration, paid the general contractor.
Now, the reality of the situation is that the general contractor had not paid the subs. That, in itself, is an illegal act. If the departments involved haven't contacted the RCMP, why haven't they contacted the RCMP and asked them to investigate?
Is there not a policy in place when the law is broken that it is pursued? Let's not just fall back on the bonding company, Mr. Chair, and say, oh, we're dealing with the bonding company, the bonding company is going to look after it. That's a cop-out.
This kind of approach jeopardizes the whole contracting procedures, when the government is not prepared to take a hard stand against a general that swears out a statutory declaration, and does so, and it's blatantly incorrect.
Now, what action has been taken? If there isn't an RCMP investigation, why isn't there one, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, information I've just received that's been sent down for the benefit of the debate is that information was received from contract administration in March 19, 1999, so that's this information we have here.
Now, the question - the member will please bear with me here for a moment - is: what happens when false statutory declarations are issued and what happened in this case?
Now, the statutory - one moment.
It says that the statutory declaration that was signed in transportation and engineering for progress payment number five was signed on October 5, 1998, and transportation and engineering had no reason to believe that it was false. Of course, this was progress payment number five, and I take it that of the first four everything was just as smooth as it should have been, and people were complying with the process.
So, on October 5, the fifth one was signed, and again transportation and engineering had no reason to believe that it was false. The statutory declaration signed for progress payment number six was signed on December 11, and it had several clauses changed and several clauses added so that it would presumably not be false.
Now, for progress payment number six, contract services and transportation and engineering were aware that the sub-contractors had formally notified contracting authorities that they had not been paid, and progress payment number six was not paid to Ko Ken, but to the creditors' holdback account in contract services.
Now, it says, "There is no clear process to follow when it is known that false statutory declarations have been signed and it is under investigation at present."
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm very much appalled. Here we have a government, a government that deals in millions and millions of dollars worth of contracts, and there is no clear direction or policy in place as to how to deal with a statutory declaration that is provided to the Government of Yukon and is known to be false. There is no clear direction as to what to do. Why not? Why isn't there?
Any business that I'm aware of knows full well that if you provide a service or goods you want to get paid, or if you're hiring goods and services, you have to pay, and if you don't there are legal remedies to those acts.
Now, we have in place a set of contract procedures here that is very, very specific, and unless we have some sort of a procedure in place with respect to, basically, illegal statutory declarations, the whole system's going to come crashing down. There has to be a policy in place to deal with this issue.
I want the minister to stand on his feet and explain why. And since it's come to his attention, has he instructed the department to develop one and bring it back for its consideration?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, you know, Mr. Chair, I think that, first of all, I've got to explain a little bit more about the goodness of society. Why do I have to explain the goodness of society? Because, well shucks, for the first time in many, many years since this government has been up and running at this, there has been a discrepancy. Billions of dollars have gone out over the last few years, so, I would say that for some, that's a notion of goodness in mankind that we can get along together and act together according as we should. So, for a government not to have a policy in place if somebody knowingly files a false declaration, to me, is appalling. It's appalling. Certainly, I'm as appalled as the member opposite but am on the opposite side of the fence, because I didn't think that you'd have to have a policy in place, because the system was working very, very well.
Now, it does seem though that we have to find a way to know what happens when a false statutory declaration has been signed. It might be somewhat after the fact, but it certainly is a part of the fact. We don't want this to happen again, and we never want to be a part of a government that would condone this. So, certainly, we do not want this to happen, although we certainly try to always look for the best in mankind and in people.
It is certainly under investigation at this point in time. I guess I would hate to be standing in this House and saying that it was done falsely or not falsely. That is not for me. I am not the judge and the jury, as other members in this House are - and they just happen to come from across the river, and not all of them either, but certainly, one of merit.
Anyway, I don't find it as appalling as the member opposite seems to want to find it. It's under investigation at this point in time. The right thing will be done and will continue to be done.
I must give congratulations to the transportation and engineering services because, as soon as it was found, they put a grinding halt to progress payment number six and turned it over to the authorities - the bonding contractors - so that they might be able to work within the process.
So, I do believe that is the process we're going on and, of course, as I said, it is presently under investigation. I will keep the Member for Klondike apprised as to what the investigation results are.
Mr. Jenkins: Just before we report progress, Mr. Chair, can I ask the minister to just clarify? It's under investigation by whom? Is it by the RCMP or is it just some in-house investigation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would say that, the way it reads, there is no clear process to follow when it is known that false statutory declarations have been signed, but it is under investigation at present. It would be a Yukon territorial government initiative, and I do believe that would be under the lead of Government Services. But certainly I will check and move that you report progress, Mr. Chair.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole 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 from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader 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 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 12, 1999:
"Counting Us In: a statistical profile of Yukon women" (dated April 1999) (Moorcroft)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 12, 1999:
Whitehorse Correctional Centre superintendent: number of qualified applicants; hiring process (Moorcroft)
Oral, Hansard, p. 4589