Monday, April 26, 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 at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Yukon Young Authors Conference
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I rise today to pay tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Yukon Young Authors Conference.
Later this week, 80 students from across the territory will be working to develop their own unique writing voices, with the assistance of gifted Canadian writers.
These writers are also taking part in the 13th annual Writers Festival, sponsored by libraries and archives, the Department of Education and Nakai Theatre.
Public readings are scheduled at various locations in Whitehorse and community libraries in Haines Junction, Carmacks and Teslin. This year, we are welcoming authors Kate Braid, Julie Brickman, Peter Christenson, Shani Mootoo, Ian Ross and Rhea Tregabov.
I would like to recognize the organizers of these successful annual events, particularly Joyce Sward of F. H. Collins Secondary School for her yearly dedication and efforts to the Young Authors Conference.
The Yukon is an appealing place for creative minds, and writers are no exception. The visiting Canadian authors are enthusiastic about experiencing the north and working with our talented students and other Yukon writers.
I am sure all members will join me in welcoming the visiting authors and wishing all of our Yukon writers well in their quest to express their creative inspirations on paper.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Yukon Writers Week as an opportunity to recognize the contribution that our writers make to the cultural richness of our territory and our country at large. The Yukon Writers Week, the Young Authors Conference, the Yukon Writers Festival and the writers in residence program all provide an excellent opportunity for budding and established Yukon writers to gather knowledge from experienced authors.
At the same time, these events provide opportunities for the public to be exposed to a variety of literary talent over the course of a year.
I'd like to take this opportunity to offer congratulations to Yukon writers, though they may be novice or expert, for their ability to provide fuel for our minds, and their ability to inspire others with their works of literary art.
I would also like to recognize Yukon publishers and local bookstores for their creative work and dedication to our culture. All of these people help to see who we are, and because of them our own lives are richer, our vision stronger and our voices remembered.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to the 13th annual Yukon Writers Festival, which begins Wednesday evening. It's one of the tiny series of events in our busy Yukon year, but it has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of the people that it touches.
The visiting authors include two poets, a playwright, a short-story writer, two writers of novels, a non-fiction writer, and a multi-media visual artist. I know that sounds like more than six people, but they are multi-talented.
Now, Yukoners can hear them reading their work live on a couple of different occasions this week. There's a traditional setting for a reading Wednesday evening at the Yukon Arts Centre, and a more contemporary setting, along with local musicians, Saturday night at the Guild Hall. It's two wonderful opportunities to hear a wide variety of new Canadian work.
The part of this week that's most exciting to me is of direct benefit to young Yukoners, and that is the 20th annual Young Authors Conference. It's for high school students from around the Yukon, and our young writers get two whole days to work with the six visiting authors. An opportunity like this, to spend time with published authors, to hear some of their work and to have them go through the work of Yukon students, is a wonderful thing.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the Yukon Public Libraries and the Department of Education for their continuing interest in and support of this festival, and also, of course, the Nakai Theatre, which came on board three years ago, for helping to broaden the scope of the festival.
Now, last week I said that the Rotary Music Festival was the best deal in town, and this week is even better because all the events of the Yukon Writers Festival are free.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Tabling of returns.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling an annual report of the Yukon Ombudsman, Information and Privacy Commissioner for the period from January 1, 1998, to December 31, 1998.
I also have for tabling the report of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly for travel expenses of members of the Assembly during the 1998-99 fiscal year.
Speaker: Are there any other returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have three legislative returns, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal government's plans to tighten up regulations covering foreign tourists who claim the GST rebate on goods and services they buy in Canada are ill-conceived, will cause chaos at Canadian border crossings with long lineups, will discourage foreign tourists from buying Canadian goods and ultimately will cost Canadian jobs; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Government of Canada to scrap its planned anti-tourism GST rebate regulations.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Mineral strategy
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development on the current poor health of the mining industry in the territory. The minister may have noticed the ads by the Yukon Miners Defence Fund appearing in local newspapers on Friday, noting that this is the first of a series. The ad's entitled, "Where have all your neighbours gone?" It points to government over-regulation and obstruction, driving away investment and killing the mining industry in the Yukon.
Perhaps the minister will be able to read these ads and finally get the message that all is not well with mining in the Yukon.
My question to the minister: can he advise the House when this government's much-promised mineral strategy is going to be produced? When can we expect it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we've been doing a lot in terms of support for the mining industry, working with them, and the tax table to create the Yukon mineral exploration tax credits. We just engaged a consultant to try and kick-start the federal government's review of the permitting process, known as the blue book process, because even though we don't have control of the resource we want to see some improvements made.
I want to tell the member opposite that it's not just the Yukon that's having trouble with the mining sector. I'll just read a few quotes from the National Post of this year - the front page of the business section. It describes the mining sector and says, "The mood in the world's commodity markets has turned ugly," and it talks about the low prices for nickel and copper. It says, "The junior exploration market continues to suffer post-Bre-X jitters."
Another article in the Globe and Mail states, on the front page of the business section, "Observers familiar with the junior mining sector say it's impossible to over-estimate how damaging the Bre-X Minerals gold mining scam has been to investor psychology."
So, there are lots of overall factors affecting the industry worldwide, but we're working within the scope of what we control to make it a better place to do business and invest, and we think it's working.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it appears that everybody's working to get the mining industry going except this minister, and all he can come forward with is the same excuses he's had for two and a half years.
It's quite peculiar, Mr. Speaker, that junior mining companies don't have any problem raising capital to explore in Alaska or the Northwest Territories, yet they have difficulty raising money in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, this isn't the first group that arose in the Yukon. Another group, the responsible economic development group, expressed their concerns about what was happening in the territory with respect to the current imbalance between economic development and environmental protection.
I would like to ask the minister: did he even take the time to meet with this group to hear their concerns first-hand?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, these aren't excuses, these are statements out of the Globe and Mail and the National Post business sections quoting industry experts. So I'm just trying to give some reality therapy to the member opposite.
The member says that in Alaska and the N.W.T. they have no problem raising capital. That's complete hogwash. In Alaska, they're seeing a downturn as a result of the excitement from Pogo starting to wane a little bit, and it's actually starting to spread the excitement into the Yukon, as a result of our work to promote the Tintina gold belt.
And, Mr. Speaker, we've heard lots about the value of the mineral exploration tax credit; the president of the B.C. Chamber of Mines said just recently in an article that the situation in the Yukon is in fact much more inviting than many of the provinces. He said, "It's a much more positive situation than B.C., that's for sure. The territory is much further ahead in their land claims agreement." He said the Yukon is more supportive of mining companies than southern communities.
The N.W.T. had three mines shut down last year. If it wasn't for the diamond mine they would see a massive downturn in any mineral exploration. So the member opposite is living in some foggy lack of reality world, Mr. Speaker.
What we're doing through the mineral exploration tax credit, and a lot of the work we're doing on the blue book...
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the minister ought to take a dose of reality. The fact remains that whatever this government is doing isn't working, and they've been told that by almost every segment of the investment community - that it isn't working.
Mr. Speaker, there's another mining publication that the minister ought to read. It's called The Ore Chute, the newsletter of the Yukon Prospectors Association. The latest newsletter states that this may be the first summer in living memory without a significant drill program in the Yukon. It goes on to say that things are much busier in the Northwest Territories.
I want to ask the minister: is this government going to come forward with any new initiatives to try to build some confidence in the mining community and investment community in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we've already done so much more to support and create a climate for investment in the Yukon than the Yukon Party, Mr. Speaker. The members opposite like to think that Bre-X had nothing to do with the downturn in the sector, the fact that gold, the fact that zinc and all base metals - copper - have completely plummeted. Mines are shutting down in the N.W.T. If it wasn't for diamond mining, there wouldn't be any mining activity in the Northwest Territories. It's completely ridiculous what the member's saying.
If the member doesn't believe me, he should read the Globe and Mail, read the National Post. Mr. Speaker, we've gotten letters of support from the Chamber of Mines, from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, on how we're handling the protected areas strategy. We've gotten numerous companies saying that the environment for investment here is good, it's just the fact out there that the markets are terrible for the mining sector right now.
What we're doing, Mr. Speaker, in terms of marketing the Tintina gold belt, the work we're doing on the blue book, in trying to push the federal government to improve their regulatory process, make it more efficient, is actually having a positive effect, and we're hearing that from companies. We expect that we will have a better year - although given the fact that the markets are still terrible, it's not going to be as good as we would like, but that's a reality of the world economy. That's why we've got to diversify this economy.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and it's on the Whitehorse waterfront squatter relocation plan.
This plan is growing more bizarre with each passing day. Some of the compensation amounts have been truly exorbitant in order to encourage the Shipyards residents to relocate. We'll call that the "carrot approach".
Now, I understand that the government is using the "stick approach" this time in removing the three non-resident homeowners in the area, by serving them with eviction notices, with no compensation whatsoever, because of their refusal to cooperate with his government. That sounds more than fair, I'm sure, to everyone out there.
Perhaps the minister can confirm this, but the real issue for most Yukoners with this government's squatter relocation plan is the priority the Shipyards squatters are receiving in relation to access to much-sought-after agricultural and country residential land.
Can the minister explain why the squatters weren't just given the financial compensation, and then, if they wanted agricultural and residential land, they would have to wait in the lottery like everybody else, or why weren't they just given some of the vacant lots that we have in inventory in the Whitehorse area? Why were they given priority for the agricultural land and the country residential lots?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, again, it gives me great pleasure to go through this one more time with the Member for Klondike. I have noticed certain changes in his preambles. He is now not referring to them as "squatters" - we call them "residents" - but he actually refers to them as "homeowners", so I do believe that some of this massage therapy is helping.
What we have been doing here has been quite consistent, Mr. Speaker. We've been very consistent with the waterfront pricing principles and we'll still live within the waterfront pricing principles.
The specific question from the Member for Klondike though, let me say, was, why were they bumped to the front of the line? Mr. Speaker, I think what we're doing here has been done on a very fair and equitable basis and we'll continue to work within the fairness and equitable principles.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's nothing fair and equitable about a wait list of over 100 people waiting in line for agricultural land, and these individuals being moved to the front of the line and given preference for agricultural land.
Now, it's my further understanding that five other Whitehorse waterfront squatters are going to be given preference over other Yukoners for the new lots that are going to be made available in the new Mary Lake development. Can the minister confirm or deny this information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, if I might, it was in the paper on Friday, I do believe, where I'd spoken to the press about just this issue. What I said to the press and what I'll say to the member at large, and to the Yukon public, indeed, is that we're going to look at a fair and equitable process.
I think what the Member for Klondike keeps coming to is where they're going. He does not look at where they're coming from, the principles and what they're giving up. I've tried to explain that during many long hours of debate in the House with the Member for Klondike, but there is absolute, adamant refusal even to listen to that.
So, I can say again that they're giving up something. It's incumbent upon government to work with them. We're doing it in a consistently fair manner. We're doing it with fair pricing principles that have been agreed to by all.
Mr. Speaker, I really know not what more to say but to continue to say the same thing. Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are going to be working with the waterfront residents so that we might be able to have a fair and equitable process. In the same manner, we are looking to move ahead and diversify the Yukon economy because, certainly, the challenge is there for us to continue and to diversify the economy and this certainly is just one of those incremental steps that we take in doing that.
So, thank you, again, for the opportunity to clear this up for the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, moving people to the front of the line for agricultural and country residential lots to diversify the economy or develop the economy - that kind of a response defies the imagination.
The minister is on the public record, and I quote: "As we go to relocate waterfront residents and we open up land, we'll be following the usual process, and if there is an interest of waterfront residents, well then, they will be taken in as a factor."
The minister can't have it both ways. Either they follow the normal process, or they are given preference. Which one is it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it's exactly what I said. We, as a government, have the gumption, the need, the desire, the political will to work with people in a human way. So, what are we doing? We're resolving an issue that certainly the previous administration had plenty of time for. They had four years in which to tackle a political problem. Did they have the skills? That might tell a reason why they didn't tackle a political problem.
What we're going to do, Mr. Speaker, is that we are working with the waterfront residents in a fair and equitable manner, and at the same time as we're asking them to give up things in their lives, alter their lives, we are looking to move them into other areas.
Are we looking to herd them up and round them up and brand them and move them on in? No, no, no, no, no. What we're looking to do is that we're looking to work with them in a fair and concise manner so that we might be able to integrate them where they choose to go.
Are we going to do it in a fair and equitable manner? Yes, we are. Are we creating subdivisions for - I know that the Member for Klondike just loves to have that line of thinking in the background of his head, that we have a certain group here and a certain group here. That is not this government's stance. This government's stance is work with people and to ensure that we work with them in a fair and equitable manner for the people of the Yukon because, certainly as I've said in debate previously, we are one community. This is a one-community problem, and it has to be a one-community solution.
Question re: Immigrant investment fund
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development on the immigration investor fund.
The minister issued a press release on April 7 saying the government had subscriptions for over $15 million for its immigrant investor fund and that the fund manager expected that 80 percent, or about $12 million, would be approved by the immigration authorities, and that's a pile of money. The minister has been pumping this fund as a means of job creation but we haven't heard much from him on the investments by the fund.
What sorts of investments are being looked at at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know the opposition always wants us to do this. They always want us to spend the money before we get it, but we don't do that. We wait till we have the money before we spend it.
In this case, Mr. Speaker, we had to market the fund first, and the total raised, I'm happy to announce now, is $25 million. We've had more subscriptions come in beyond March 31, and we still expect 75 to 80 percent of them to be approved. Twenty percent of that investment will go in T-bills; the rest will be implemented into projects in the territory that we feel have a good, stable rate of return, which will have an ability for the Yukon infrastructure to grow, and we will be engaging in some meetings to further the investment strategy once we have a better handle on the firm commitments of the money to the Hong Kong Bank of Canada. We'll probably begin those discussions in June.
Mr. Cable: Surely the minister isn't going to jump out of bed one morning after the money arrives and the interest starts running? Surely he's given some thought to where the money is going to be placed? We haven't seen or heard much public activity on this side of it - the outgoing transactions.
What is the minister doing to work up interest with the private sector? Has he had any conversations with the private sector? Has the private sector approached him on the investments?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've had hundreds and hundreds of meetings with the private sector and discussed the immigrant investor fund and the mining industry, and numerous other aspects of the economy - oil and gas, trade, diversification. Mr. Speaker, the meter hasn't started running on the money, so the member need not worry. We're going to ensure that we have a good discussion with people on the investment side to make sure that the investments are sound, that we invest them in proper projects that will have a good return for Yukoners, as well as the investors, and we're going to have to ensure that we do it in a manner that's consistent with the principles that we espouse as a government, that Yukon people espouse, that are going to have some benefit for people over the long haul.
So, we intend to do that in a thoughtful manner, and we will do that, as I said to the member opposite, probably beginning in June. We will sit down to more formalized potential investments.
Mr. Cable: Here's what the minister said in his press release of April 7: "I will be meeting with HSBC officials and the funds board during the summer to determine investment decisions."
Surely we're not waiting for two or three months before we set some guidelines. What sort of guidelines have been given to the board for making its decisions? Is there anything more than what's in the offering memorandum, because the offering memorandum is pretty light on job creation? It just mentions it in passing.
What is the board going to be doing? What are their guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, there was a meeting last week in Vancouver between my deputy minister and the Hong Kong Bank of Canada to discuss investment criteria. The Hong Kong Bank of Canada is one of the investment advisors. There will be a good discussion about potential investments. We've already listed some of the criteria for the investments. It is clear that, while the investors putting their money forward has good potential for the territory, we have to be very concerned because we have to ensure that the investments are safe, because they are expecting to get a return at the end of five years, from the time that the investment is initiated and started, of two percent per annum. We have to ensure that these are fairly low-risk initiatives, and we will continue to work with Hong Kong Bank of Canada, and other Yukoners, to ensure the investments are well made and well placed.
Question re: Immigrant investment fund
Mr. Cable: Same minister and the same topic. I'm concerned about the timelines. The minister has said he'll be meeting with his officials and with the manager in the summer to make investment decisions. yet he's been talking about this fund for the better part of a year. I think he first talked about it in late 1997, as a matter of fact, and there's been very little public play on the investment side. When are we going to see the first jobs come from this fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this is an initiative that's been around for years, but we were the first government in this territory to have the gumption to actually organize. It's never before been done; it's been around for over a decade.
And Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we have already had discussions. I just told the member, there were some discussions just last week between my deputy minister and the Hong Kong Bank of Canada about investment decisions.
But Mr. Speaker, I know that the opposition was very - I can remember opposition members telling me they didn't think we'd even raise the minimum subscription in the short time we had, of the $3 million. They were sort of gleefully hoping that that wouldn't happen, so they could declare it a failure.
But we've still been receiving applications well beyond the March 31 deadline. So we've been focused on marketing, as we should be, and getting the fund up to it's fullest potential. We weren't going to spend the money until we were sure it happened. This all happened in a period of some six weeks from marketing to the point we're at now three weeks after the March 31 timeline, to try and put this all together.
So we're going to do it in a thoughtful, responsible manner.
Mr. Cable: Well, surely the minister can walk and chew gum at the same time. We're taking in money, and surely some thought can be given as to how it's going to be spent. Now, the Yukon Energy Corporation is looking at the transmission line between Mayo and Dawson. Is this one project - one of the investments - that's being looked at for the money in the immigrant investment fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, we don't have the money yet, so we can't really spend it. There is a federal immigration process in place here. What happens, Mr. Speaker, is, as I've told the member opposite, they just don't hand over $250,000 to the Yukon government fund. That's not the way it works. They have to apply through the processes. There are interviews that they have to go through. Money starts to change hands at that point, so it takes a little bit of time for this to happen.
It was only 26 days ago that was the end of the period for the investment, and even after that, Mr. Speaker, we got some flowing in from other funds that were oversold that they weren't interested in any more. So, we only found out probably two weeks ago what the total of the fund would be.
The member asked about a specific infrastructure project. There would be a number of infrastructure projects under consideration. I've mentioned electrical infrastructure in the past publicly, and that would have some potential.
Mr. Cable: If the minister was to go to the bank to borrow some money for a house, surely he wouldn't design the house after the bank manager said, "Yes, you have the money." What is going on? Is that transmission line between Mayo and Dawson one of the investments being looked at for the immigrant investor fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what is going on with the member opposite. There is not even a decision made on that particular grid extension. What does he want to put the entire cart before the horse for?
The board of the Energy Corporation doesn't even know if they are going to do that project, so am I going to go out and tell all these investors that we've invested in a grid extension that isn't even going to take place? Does he really think that's a signal that we want to send to these investors?
You talk about being disorganized, Mr. Speaker. What the Liberals are proposing is completely ridiculous.
Mr. Speaker, I've told the member opposite that we've just gotten a final total on what the money will be, and it all happened in a period of some six weeks. There are federal immigration procedures that have to be worked through before the money is even triggered to us. And then, Mr. Speaker, in a thoughtful, deliberate manner, we will decide, with some Yukoners, how the investments will be made and what they'll be invested in, and we don't intend to announce investments in grid extensions that haven't even been decided yet by the utility.
Question re: Yukon College funding cuts
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education.
Mr. Speaker, under the previous Yukon Party government, training trust funds were channelled through Yukon College to train individuals in mining, road construction, and other industries. The arrangement worked very well, and we had the full support and participation of companies such as Viceroy and Golden Hill Ventures, to name but a few.
It's my understanding that, due to funding cuts to the college, its industry training staff are now being laid off. Can the minister confirm this information?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I had anticipated this question from the member opposite and I have here someplace a photocopy of the Yukon Party newsletter about at least one of the training trust funds they initiated that did not, in fact, involve a partnership with the college.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, moving beyond his hyperbole in the preamble and his specific question about possible layoffs at Yukon College, no, I have not been advised of that. The member may be fear-mongering again, but I would like to advise the member, as I have in the past, that Yukon College, under the College Act, is governed by an independent board of governors who function at arm's length from government and who administer the core funding, which we provide to them and which we, as a government, have increased.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately that's not what the college is saying. The college met with the minister and told the minister that, unless they were going to see some increase in the areas they talked about, they were going to have to cut some programs. My information is that the instructors for the skills for industry program - two of the skills for industry instructors have been given notices.
I'd like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, why the minister hasn't sat down with the college board and seriously talked about potential cuts to programs in the future, so that we don't need to be laying people off at Yukon College.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite is talking about federal cuts that are affecting Yukon College. Human Resources Development Canada used to spend in excess of $1 million a year for seats at Yukon College, which resulted in employment of staff.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is standing there and implying that our government is not working collaboratively with the college. I can assure him that we are, and I can assure him that we meet regularly with the college and attend college board meetings, on request, and that we are very much promoters of Yukon College and will continue to do so.
Mr. Phillips: I don't know how the minister can stand in this House and say she's working collaboratively with the college. Mr. Speaker, she met with the college - and the college met with us afterward - where they told the minister that there was a problem. She told the minister there was a problem, yet the minister says that everything's fine. It's not fine, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like to ask the minister if she would give a guarantee to this House that any future training trust funds will be discussed and that there'll be full consultation with Yukon College before the funds are disbursed. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Again, the member opposite needs to do a little history here and take a look at the trust fund that they put in place to train Ross River residents, which was not done in consultation with Yukon College.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member opposite that the college discussed the issue of training trust funds with me over a year ago and, over a year ago, I instructed my department to work with the college in training trust funds to ensure that there is dialogue with the college. We also, though, make sure that we speak to community groups and to industry groups that also are involved in the training trust funds, and that's what makes them so successful - being able to respond to industry-specific needs and to community-specific needs with the groups that are affected in the community.
Question re: Tagish, lot development and sales
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
I had a number of calls over the weekend from Tagish residents who are upset about this government's plans for the lots in that community. The minister announced last year that land was going to be developed on the west side of the Tagish River - the Six Mile River area.
It's my understanding that a number of residents - certainly the ones who I have spoken to - have applied for lot extensions on the very land that the minister is now trying to sell out from under their feet. Are these lot extensions going to be made available to Tagish residents first or does the minister plan to sell the land from under their feet?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the Member for Riverdale South for bringing this forth and talking about the good consultation work that this government has been doing with the people in Tagish.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with the people from Tagish. I don't have the timelines right in front of me as to the specific timelines regarding the extensions on an individual basis. I can say, though, that the department is working with them to follow the guidelines, and in cases where we can, we will.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not too sure whether I got an answer to that. I asked the minister whether the people who had applied for lot extensions were going to be getting first priority on the land, and I don't feel that I've gotten any sort of answer on that one so I'll go to another question.
Now, despite repeated requests that the minister attend a public meeting to discuss these plans with Tagish residents, he has thus far refused. Again, several residents who I spoke to this weekend said that they would love to attend a meeting with the minister to discuss these very plans.
Now, there is another meeting scheduled, apparently, for the last week of May and perhaps the first week in June. Will the minister commit that he will attend this meeting?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the repeated requests from people from Tagish to meet with me is absolutely wrong. I do meet with people when they request it. I take more than my time to go out and meet with people and to listen to people, and I listen to people, and I listen quite carefully to people. So, for the Member for Riverdale South to say there have been multiple requests is absolutely an untruth. It is not true.
Am I going to be going out and meeting with people from the Tagish area? Yes, I am going to be going out and meeting with people from the Tagish area. I do not need a member from this House here to appoint the timelines to me and say "Show up on these dates".
As a matter of courtesy, I will always and will continue to work with the people of Tagish, and we will be there meeting with them on that issue and on many other issues, and it certainly is from meetings that I had attended on a personal basis with those people that it came forth to this House and to my department to see if we could continue to work with them on a meaningful basis. It was not triggered by the Member for Riverdale South.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the minister has once again not answered the question.
Now, I spoke with 14 people this weekend. They all wanted to meet with the minister. They have not met with the minister. Is the minister saying that people from Tagish are not clear on their facts? I hope that's not what he means.
Now, the other great concern about this particular development is the increased costs, because there is going to have to be some sort of local improvement charges to pay for, if nothing else, the road that's going to access these lots from the rear of the property development.
Can the minister estimate what the local improvement charges will be with this development for the people who are already in that area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the people from Tagish within my riding know that I have an open-door policy, and on a continuing basis I will continue to meet with them. It is not the people from Tagish that I am browbeating, if I might say. I do think that it's the person that works the telephone for political points, maybe spreads the wrong type of initiative and says, "Did you know that this was happening?" when they know that it's absolutely not happening.
I think that's where that comes from. So, yes, I will continue, in my manner, to meet with people from my riding, and from wherever I may have to work with people, to get their input, to see how we can meaningfully develop land, improve land, and improve quality of life. I will continue to do that. I commit to doing that. That's an answer to a question that maybe wasn't really asked, but I will commit to doing that.
As to the local improvement charges, certainly, again, I know not what she speaks of. As we go though the process of accommodating people with their land extensions, as what they want, and then identifying and re-surveying, costs may be incurred at that point in time, but certainly there are historical implications that all have to be brought forth.
What I can commit to the people of Tagish is that I will work in a fair and consistent manner to clean up the problems that are there. I will do that, and I will be out to meet with them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
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.
Motion to sit beyond normal hour of adjournment
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to an agreement between the House leaders, I move
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 14, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Tourism - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with the Department of Tourism. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: When we left off on Thursday last, we had some discussions about the demise of Rocky Mountain Campers, and the minister was going to keep us abreast. He evidently had a meeting on Friday and may have had some more meetings since then with respect to the situation and how it could affect the Yukon. I just wonder if the minister could bring us up to speed?
I know the minister didn't talk to me on the weekend about the meeting on Friday. I don't know if he spoke to the Liberal critic or not about it. I don't know if the government's come to any kind of a resolution of it, or whether they've had some discussions.
The information that I've gleaned has been partly out of the newspaper. I would have hoped I'd have heard some of that from the minister, because obviously the media had it before I did.
It would be interesting to find out the minister's perspective of it.
Mr. Chair, I understand a consortium has been struck and that they have contacted the Government of the Yukon with respect to solving this situation. I wonder if the minister can tell us on the floor today what involvement the Government of the Yukon might have? Is he happy with the consortium arrangement that, I understand, they may be able to find the units and satisfy the individuals? Maybe he can let us know what involvement the Government of the Yukon intends to have in finding a solution to this particular problem.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly I can, Mr. Speaker. Over the course of the weekend, there was really nothing much to update to both of the respective critics of Tourism on the situation of the Rocky Mountain Campers insolvency, but I can tell you what the process is and what process we are working on with them right now. I can describe it for you. That's absolutely not a problem.
What I did over the weekend was to draft a letter and write a letter. I forwarded it to the chair, Mr. Judd Buchanan, of the CTC, speaking of all the good efforts that the CTC has in initiatives across Canada, that they should not be letting us down at this point in time, that this is a Canada-wide problem and not a problem peculiar to this jurisdiction, and that any solution that comes up must be a Canada-wide solution and not just be left up to a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.
So, I asked that the CTC, along with the industry-led consortium, along with the Government of the Yukon, work together so that we can assist where we can with an industry-led solution.
So, the letter has gone out. I expect to maybe be called away from this debate at any point in time, and if I am, I'd ask for a break to speak with Mr. Buchanan.
Yes, there is a consortium. The consortium is being led by one of the players within the industry. They feel that they have a solution, I think, for most. Right now at this point in time, they are looking for solutions for all the jurisdictions. They feel that they do have a solution for most of the jurisdictions in terms of finding product that will come here, and I have just been briefed by my deputy minister. Before the Committee debate, he had informed me that the consortium is right now working with the wholesalers to crunch the numbers as to what the effect might be.
We expect that we should have some hard facts by tomorrow morning, and certainly it'll be my pleasure, as soon as I receive those hard facts and direction, to inform both the respective critics of the Tourism department.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I understand this consortium has, like the minister said, come up with at least a possibility of having all the units available for these individuals who've already booked. And I understand that we're talking about between 120 and 150 units - is the information that I've received today. I know that locals are involved as well. I know some of the other local RV companies here are involved in probably supplying some of the units, as well as receiving some units from larger companies in southern Canada.
Could the minister tell us whether or not he anticipates that the Yukon government is going to be asked to contribute financially in any way to undo the demise of this particular company?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the figures of the number of units that I have closely reflect the number that the member has spoken about. He says 120 to 150. In the briefing this morning with me it was 130 and 160. They're looking to crunch those numbers and to see what it is right now at this point.
Any assistance that the territorial government could provide would be through the form of existing programs, so it's certainly important that, as we move along, we define a better number crunch, and identify what we can. So certainly the territorial government is desirous of working with the consortium, and, at this point in time, it's a great unknown, so I will qualify it by saying that we'll work within the existing programs at this point in time.
But again, I expect that there should be more information coming out by morning, and certainly I can brief the opposition on it.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could give us assurances that if there are any discussions to involve funding from the Government of the Yukon, this kind of thing will be discussed with the Tourism Industry Association, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, and others will be involved in any key discussions that might take place with respect to this.
It might be useful to hear their input in a situation such as this, because many of them will be affected by either the arrangement being made, or the arrangement not being made. And many of those businesses themselves have been experiencing some fairly tough economic times over the past year and a half or so.
So I wonder if the minister could give us assurances that there will be full consultation with at least the executive of TIA, and the executive of the Chamber of Commerce, with respect to any involvement of the Government of the Yukon.
And maybe the minister could also tell us what he means by, "If we did anything, we'd do it within existing programs," because I'm not aware of any existing programs that now allow us to do something like this. It's not really marketing, so I'm not sure how much flexibility we would have.
So could the minister inform us of what he means by that?
And, last but not least, I'm told by sources I've talked to that there's a sense out there in the marketplace that this thing has to be kind of put to bed by this Friday, or at least for the weekend, when Rendezvous Canada takes place, because many of these operators are in the marketplace and, if they don't make an arrangement with this Yukon problem, then any units they have they will be trying to, of course, sell and market like crazy at Rendezvous Canada. So it could be that there might not be as many units available after this weekend.
So I would ask the minister if he feels the same way about that, or is it as tight a time frame as I see it - and maybe a little more explanation on what programs he would see us being involved in, and what involvement we might have.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll start from the last question, if I may. I agree that the time frame has to be very quick; it has to be very tight. That is therein the reason why we came back from the conference early and we spent the better portion of yesterday in the office working our way through this, and contacting people and drafting letters, and letting them know the importance and the seriousness of what our jurisdiction, Yukon, is going through in this.
So certainly I can agree that the time frame is tight, and we must try and make it better. Again, I reiterate that I will brief both folks tomorrow on it and work through it.
As to consultation with the executive of TIA and the chambers, within that short time frame that we're trying to find solutions, we'll give it our best efforts, and it's certainly my desire to talk to them and keep them abreast of what we're doing at this point in time. I did take time on the weekend to assure the Tourism Industry Association executive, and we were there with some of the executive of the chambers, but never really spoke to the chambers on it, so much as to let them know that there is a problem, that we're working with the problem.
I did commit to TIA that this is a partnership solution, and so we will continue to work with TIA and to brief TIA as to what we're doing.
As to the existing programs, we've been working with the Department of Economic Development very cooperatively about this and looking at developing a range of options for the programs, or what programs might be applicable at this point. So, it's just a little bit premature for me, at this point, to say what they might be, but certainly there is very much activity happening behind the scenes within government right now and, yes, we're very desirous of working with the executive of the chambers and TIA and keeping them in the loop with us so that we might find and assist an industry-led solution. Certainly, the time frame is, as I said, the quicker, the better. I don't want to lose any of this product, if at all possible.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'm told that a significant number of individuals who had booked with Rocky Mountain Campers we are now trying to seek alternative equipment or alternative motor homes for to use because Rocky Mountain Campers is not operating. A great number of these people had booked on the through flight from Germany on the Condor Air flight and in some cases, it could be as high as 50 percent. I'm not sure of those numbers and maybe the minister could bring us back some idea of what we're looking at.
Have we received any assurances from the wholesalers or Condor Air that if this doesn't come about, the flight still will carry on even if these individuals that had booked and may not be coming will not be in the seats, because it would make quite a difference, I think, to the charter company if, say, 40 or 50 percent of their seats were not full. I'm not sure - I know people have insurance for these kinds of things in Europe and there are some kinds of safeguards built in - but maybe the minister could inform us of whether or not this particular issue could jeopardize the overseas flights and possibly jeopardize us not getting Condor Air coming here as they said they were going to this season.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that is something that I do not want to happen. Our agent in Germany is, right now, and was over the weekend, talking with the wholesalers in Europe and they're doing their very best to look at what the inventory exposure would and could be. I have no indications from Condor at this time that they would be looking to cancel. I think that's not on the table but we are right now in the process of, last Friday and over the weekend, getting in touch with them and working with the wholesalers there and Condor Air. Again, I expect that, by tomorrow, I should have all these numbers and I will be calling the appropriate people in the morning to give a briefing after I get a briefing as to where it is. Then it should become much clearer. We should have more numbers on the table at that point in time.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess if there's a lesson learned here by us at all, the lesson is that we should be careful not to put most of our eggs in one basket in the future, as we can be dramatically affected by one significantly large company, who may have had the lion's share, so to speak, of some of our European travellers this year. This is very important to us, especially in August and September because that's when most of our Americans have gone back south and even Canadians have gone back because of children going back to school. It really has extended our season and it would be a real shame if we were to lose momentum there and lose our reputation in the marketplace with respect to being able to deliver products.
So, I'll leave it there and I'll look forward to the briefing the minister may afford us tomorrow.
Hopefully, the government will reach a satisfactory agreement.
The minister did mention that Economic Development is involved as well, so maybe the minister could bring back for me what programs Economic Development would have that would deal with a situation like this. I'm not aware, again, of any in Tourism, but I'm also not aware of any in Economic Development, and so if the minister could bring that forward. I think it's even more important, if Economic Development is involved, that there be full consultations with the Chambers of Commerce. The presidents of these are in town and can be reached by telephone or conference call or whatever, but I certainly think there should be some discussions that take place, because this, one way or another, could have a significant impact on a lot of businesses in this territory over the next summer months.
Mr. Chair, I'll move on to another area, and that's the tourism marketing fund. I've heard some positive comments about the marketing fund, and I asked the minister some questions - I actually asked the department some questions with respect to information about the fund in the briefing. The department did send me a copy of the agreements and did send me a copy of the criteria, but one thing I asked for wasn't available at the time, but I understand it is available now, and I don't know why I didn't get it, and that is a copy of the individuals who received the fund and what they received it for. I think all I've got here is a comment that X number of businesses - 37 application approvals totalled, 1998-99 level, of $200,000, but that doesn't help me much in knowing what the fund was used for. So I would hope that sometime during the debate this afternoon I could get a copy of the individuals who received funding in this marketing fund.
Mr. Chair, although the fund has been received well by some businesses, I have heard some complaints already. The concern that I've heard from businesses is that the fund is for new initiatives. I have heard that, in one particular allocation of just over $100,000 - and that's why I needed information about who got what - I was told that one company - a new company starting up in Kluane National Park - received $32,000 for marketing. That's fine, I guess but, on the other hand, they did receive the lion's share of that allocation of over $100,000 - about a third of it, Mr. Chair.
My concern is that other companies that have been using their own funds for years, and spending their own money, and sometimes barely making it - could be described, in some cases, as non-profit corporations, almost, because you don't make a lot of money in initial start-up in this business - made application to the fund and were turned down. They were told that this is not a new market, and that they were just looking at going into their old markets.
Well, the individual said to me, and I would agree, why does it matter where the people come from? If I can increase my marketing and increase my share by the funding you give me, and fill my lodge up twice as full as it was before, it doesn't matter whether it's a new area I'm in, or an old area I'm in - these people are still coming to the Yukon, are still buying products and services, are still spending their money here, and it's a benefit.
They felt a little bit disappointed that, because they weren't a brand new business and into a brand new market, that they were being refused. I think an argument could be made, and it's a concern that always happens with these kinds of issues, that the government ends up almost competing, funding other private companies, almost competing with those that are existing.
That's pretty tough, in these economic times, when you're out there in the marketplace with your $10,000 or $20,000 trying to market, and then someone else gets $32,000 and ends up at a booth next to you at a trade show selling a similar product. It's a legitimate concern. And my concern is we have to be very careful with this kind of thing.
I think that there are some positive initiatives under this fund, but we have to make sure that we're not cutting off those people who have worked with their own blood and sweat and money to develop the product they've got, and want to expand it. Because everyone that I've talked to in the tourism business, who is in their own little business, feel that it's one of the best little businesses in the world, and they want to improve it, and increase their numbers.
My concern is that we shouldn't be turning some down, because we're saying, "You're not in a new market", when there's room to grow in the market they're in. If there's room to grow in the market they're in, we shouldn't be caring whether it's a new market or not.
If they bring 25 people this year, and 50 next year, that's growth. And it doesn't have to be whether they're in North America or England or whatever market. I hope the minister understands what I'm saying. It is serious, and some people are very concerned about it, and they felt it was unfair that a business that was totally untried, a business totally not proven - I mean, I think the business they talked about, the activity in Kluane Park, is a very worthwhile venture, but these people will make an argument that so is their operation a very worthwhile venture.
And they have proof that they've been successful, but could be more successful if they weren't refused in this particular program.
I'd ask the minister to comment on that. If he has a list, maybe he can table the list of the people who got the funds, and on what basis they got them, that kind of thing. I'd be interested to see that, as well.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I'd be more than pleased to provide the list. It's public knowledge and I think it was in the paper last week - or it's coming - but I will get the list as to the granting of the dollars that have come out.
The member is fully aware that it is a citizens board that makes the decisions and it's chaired, certainly in the tourism marketing fund case, by myself, and the trade and investment fund is chaired by the Minister of Economic Development.
Some of the policy issues that are working their way out at this point in time are some of the instances that the Member for Riverdale North speaks of. We are looking to develop that type of policy so that some of the examples that were used by the member will not, in fact, happen - that we will be able to find ways to accommodate them. It certainly is not to create competition so much, it's more made to create a product that is a much-needed product within the tourism industry itself at this point in time.
So, certainly I will provide the list. I will provide any of the policy development as we evolve through it as a matter of courtesy, on an ongoing basis, to both critics so that they can keep up with the policy development. Again, I can give the member my assurances that I think all of the examples he has used were examples that we use on the citizen-led board to try and define policy. That policy is going to be put into place, we're hoping, before the next granting session.
So, as the policies are developed, I will be more than pleased to provide detail.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, that's the concern I have. I wish that the policies had been put in place in the first place and we wouldn't have had some people out there very upset right now that they weren't treated fairly. I would have thought when you're developing a fund like this that the non-competition policy would be pretty upfront in the beginning. I mean, this is the kind of thing that you would make sure of. I mean, we've done enough of these things now, with the old CDF and the other funds that used to come forward, that competition was a big concern, where somebody got money to open a gas station right across from somebody who had worked all their life to build one. That was a big concern.
I think in the minister's own riding in Ross River, it became an issue at one time, where there was a gas station opened up with government funds right next to one that was already there. I think it was a political issue at one time. This was several years ago, before the minister became involved in politics. But it's not the only one. There are hotels in other parts of the town and some got rooms and some didn't. It became a real problem with that particular fund. I would have thought this would have been worked out ahead of time.
The minister said, Mr. Chair, that the Minister of Economic Development is the minister who sits on the committee to - I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I thought he said the Minister of Economic Development, and I thought it was the Minister of Tourism because the money is in his budget and in his department and it says here, "In certain cases, decisions on funding will rest with the responsible minister." I would have thought that because it is the tourism marketing fund it would be the Minister of Tourism. The minister is nodding his head in the affirmative. So, that's what I'm talking about: the tourism marketing fund.
The other fund we can address with the Minister of Economic Development because the trade and investment fund is a little different.
My concern is that the minister responsible is the minister who sits on the board - and the minister indicated it is.
Mr. Chair, the information that I've got on the funding and the eligible applicants, eligible costs, equity requirements, funding guidelines and criteria is pretty vague.
The bottom line is that virtually any proposal that deals with tourism could quality, if you read "development or improvement of marketing plans and business development strategies, special events, package tour development promotion, awareness and promotion programs targeted at non-resident visitors, participation in consumer and trade shows, sponsoring familiarization tours for travel influencers in emerging markets."
Mr. Chair, the last one I read out is sponsoring fam tours. This has been a role of the Government of the Yukon for many years. Is this a shift now, where, say, the Town of Watson Lake, or the Dawson City KVA, could actually organize, apply for and host a fam tour of some media to Dawson City, and it wouldn't be run through the Department of Tourism and any of the fam tours they do, it'd be aside from that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, on the last issue first, if I could. The fam tours are not covered by the department, so a unique little, niche-type market is where a fam tour might be able to take place, and that is not done within the department.
The programs for the tourism marketing fund, again, are granted or let through the board - a citizen-led board. They're designed to be flexible and, at the same time, we do know that we have to have policy on a continuing basis as we work our way through, especially in the first couple of meetings that we've had. The broad policy is certainly to look at new and innovative ways to do it, sort of not to create Joe's Gas Station because Bob's got one on the corner, and there might be room. That is definitely not the intent of the program
Mr. Phillips: The minister says "in sponsoring familiarization tours for travel influencers in emerging markets". So, he said that is niche markets. What do we mean? What's a niche market? Is Taiwan the niche market? You know, I'm just trying to figure out exactly what we're talking about here. Is the Canadian market, which we haven't marketed much in the past, a niche market? So, maybe the minister could explain that a little better, because it seems to be sort of wide open with that.
The criteria also say that the funding is available for new or incremental projects - incremental. What does the minister mean by "incremental projects"? Are these existing projects or building on existing projects? "That show demonstrable results" - and so how do we measure the results? Is there a built-in measuring criteria into say, like, Watson Lake, for example, that goes into a niche market with a fam tour for their Northern Lights Centre in Taiwan? Do we put in something that, after year one, they have to report back and tell us what they did, what improvements they saw, how many people they got? Is there some kind of a reportable thing so that they get the money and we know that it actually achieved something, or do we just give them the money and say to just go for it, it was a good idea? How do we check it? Because it said that it has to show demonstrable results. Is that just in the application, or is that in the final results that they have to be demonstrable?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, before they receive their final payment, there has to be the reporting built in that would therein cover the measurable items. So the measurable items of tracking would take place within the final report, before they get their final payment.
On the issue of the niche markets, an example that I've used is the Taiwanese market, which is currently a niche market in the Watson Lake area. If they were to look at translating their brochure maybe, into Taiwanese, then that would be a coverable cost within there.
The other question, I believe - oh, and another example, pardon me, might be that we've had some interesting ideas come forward, and one of the ideas might be for a cycling media fam, because of all the good trails and the roads that we have around here. So, again, that would be a cost that would be eligible.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd suggest to the minister another idea, too, that they might look at - I don't know where it would fit, but the minister says to translate something into Taiwanese. I would suggest to the minister that one thing the Government of the Yukon should be seriously looking at in the industry services shop there, is providing translation facilities of brochures, menus, that kind of thing, for businesses in the territory in general.
Maybe people could bring them to the department over the winter months and there could be an individual, either on contract or whatever, who would translate this information for them, especially into the German language because they are becoming a significant portion of our visitors in the territory. That might be something the department may want to look at. I wouldn't be wanting to ask the department to take on this new chore themselves, but certainly within the department there could be - I know there are all kinds of restaurants and other businesses out there who would like to translate their menus and other things into German to accommodate our visitors and this might be an opportunity to look at doing something like that.
I know, when one arrives at the Vancouver Airport now, for example, one is greeted by signs in four or five different languages, because they appreciate the value of the international visitors. I think Chinese, Taiwanese, German and all these other languages are on almost every sign in the Vancouver Airport. We don't do a lot of that here and it could be something that we might want to consider, now that we have control over the airports as well - getting that kind of information made available for those guests who may not be conversant in the English language.
Mr. Chair, the other thing I thought was kind of open-ended in the tourism marketing fund is, "Applicants must provide cash equity in the proposed project." It goes on to say, "No fixed amount of equity is required, but that the equity will be assessed in funding decisions." That's pretty open. What are we talking about here? You say "cash equity", so I imagine you're talking about real cash. If somebody's going to do a program worth $80,000, you're talking about coming up with X amount of dollars in cash - not just sweat equity - real cash. Is that what the minister means? Or does "cash equity" in the minister's view mean "sweat equity" in the work the individual is going to put into the project?
Why isn't there some level? I mean, again, the playing field's different, where I might come in with a proposal and get 80 or 90 percent of my funds provided by the government, and I only come up with 10 or 20, and the next person does a very similar proposal and has to come up with 50 percent. How do we keep it a fair playing field for everyone? Are all specific type proposals expected to have the same amount of cash equity?
How does it become a level playing field? Does the minister have the criteria for that, or are we setting it based on our first awards? How are we establishing whether or not 10 percent is enough for going out to a trade show or producing a brochure? How do we determine what the level is? Have we determined it with the initial granting of the funds?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're speaking of cash when we talk of this. The reason that there is a difference, as it says through the brochure - and I can assure the member that it's one of the issues that we've addressed as a policy item that had to be addressed, which was announced by the board at the last session. So the citizen-led board got together and said that this is here, but we have to have a bit more of a defined policy.
The reason why there's flexibility in there is because, if there's, say, a business and a non-government organization, you would look at them slightly differently - one has this opportunity and another has this opportunity. What we're doing at this point in time now, at the direction of the board, is that we're going to develop the criteria, through policy, in time before the next session.
Again, I'd be more than happy and pleased to provide that as soon as a policy is done and, of course, accepted by the board. I'd be more than pleased, but those are the reasons. We're looking for cash; there had to be a little bit of flexibility between the NGOs and the businesses just simply for that.
Mr. Phillips: When is the next allocation of funds? When do they plan to do that?
Secondly, the minister said something about whether it's a business or whether it's a non-profit organization. My concern there is that there be something in place ensuring that we're not going to be funding non-profit organizations to be in competition with businesses, that they're not going to be able to do the same kind of things because, for example, I know of two individuals in this territory now - maybe four or five, actually - who are in the business of organizing conventions, activities and events right from the Commissioner's Potlatch - that won an award, by the way, on the weekend - to other activities that take place, from Thunder on Ice to all these other activities.
These people are now making a business of organizing these kind of things. These are people who really need all the business there is in this small territory to actually make a living - there isn't a lot of money there. So my concern would be: would we be funding organizations that plan activities like Frostbite or Rendezvous or other activities to do this kind of thing or would we fund the organization and let the organization then hire this individual, or what, to sort of put on their event or sponsor their event or market their event?
I'm just trying to get a handle on where we're going with this kind of activity and making sure that we're not again in competition with someone out there in the territory who is trying to make a living doing the very same thing that a non-profit organization has applied for.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as we get through the description between, say, the NGOs and the businesses and the applications therein that one would have with the other, it's certainly not to create competition. That is the last thing that we want to do.
We want to do it to the extent where they're promoting tourism, and certainly not to have one come into competition with the other. That's not what we want.
I know that some of the issues we've gone through in the sessions is that we've had the discussion, and we've instructed the technical people to go away and think about it and come back with some ideas on policy on these situations, where we will not create competition and where we would be able to focus more on the enhancement of tourism in its true tourism self.
Mr. Phillips: I have a couple of final questions in this area. It states here in the application, "Intake of applicants"; they can submit their applications at any time. It also talks about the funding requests.
In some cases, decisions on funding - the final decision on funding - will be the responsibility of the minister. What I'm talking about is the last-minute decisions. What happens if the minister grants funding to some individual or group and the board receives a proposal and doesn't like what the minister's done? Is there anything they can do, or is the minister's word final? And I wonder, if that's the case, if it's even worthwhile presenting it to the board afterwards if they can't change anything.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the member paints a picture that won't happen. There are provisions, if it's under $5,000, that the minister may make a decision, but the minister will not make a decision if there's an appropriate timeline that could accommodate the board in itself. And so it would have to be very extenuating circumstances, such as time frames or whatnot.
And then an issue that I would look at, of course, is to make sure that it's under the $5,000 limit, and if it was under the $5,000 limit, could it not wait until the next time, if it couldn't wait until the next session. And by the way, I don't have the time frame on me right now, but I believe it's sometime in June - but I know the department's listening - so I'll get the next granting time frame for the member - both members.
So, basically that's it, and certainly, as I would follow the criteria, if it's under $5,000 and it's pertinent to that section of the fund, then I would go ahead and do it. And certainly, it would have to fit the guidelines. I was assured by my deputy that no, the board could not reject it, because I would be doing such a good job of following the guidelines that it would be within the board. But that is something that I don't want to do, except only in extenuating circumstances, and that's really why it's there - for extenuating circumstances.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, that's one I'll be watching closely. If the minister is approving a few of these $5,000 ones, we'll be watching it fairly closely.
Mr. Chair, there was a discussion this weekend at the TIA convention about live-release fishing, and the Minister of Economic Development said that the government has no intention of limiting live-release fishing but, on the other hand, the Minister of Renewable Resources said that he's going to wait until he hears from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board on what they recommend. So there is some uneasiness out there about the issue that there's no intent to limit live-release fishing at this time, but then, when they get the recommendation from the board, it may restrict it.
I talked to a couple of operators on the weekend, and I just want to give the minister a heads-up. I kind of suspect that what we'll end up getting out of the board is not a recommendation to limit it, but a recommendation for an educational thing for people to limit their catch, more than a fixed limit. After you catch 10, you've got to quit. It'll be, kind of, conserve the fish, conserve the resource, and when you get to 10, consider limiting your catch.
The caution that was expressed to me by operators in the business was, "Concentrate more on proper catch-and-release techniques, concentrate more on general conservation practices," but to make a statement in there that, "Once you catch 10 you should quit," will impose some guilt on some of these very conservation-minded clients, and could do harm to the business, with respect to saying - I mean, they can go to British Columbia. I mean, I'm going fishing in British Columbia this spring with a couple of friends of mine. One of the promoters talks about catch-and-release, gives you instruction on catch-and-release, and the whole works, and they brag about the 20 or 30 or so, up to 50, Chinook salmon you can catch in a day. He said, your arms get tired sometimes, and you usually quit long before you do that.
I mean, that sells the trip to some people who are avid fishers who want to go out and do that. That's very important to them. These people are conservation-minded in the first place, and it's only a few who abuse that kind of thing.
So I just caution the minister that the wording is important, and the wording is important because these people are, as the minister has said in the general public, selling to the world, and our competition is the world, and the rest of the world doesn't say, "Limit your catch to 10." So we want to be conservation minded, and I think you can do what the Minister of Renewable Resources and maybe the Minister of Tourism want to do, but word it differently. Don't make people feel guilty after they catch 10, going, "It was written so strong in there." Maybe there's a better way to put it. Maybe you don't have to set it at 10, but realize there is some mortality with fish, and people are encouraged to limit their catch, if possible. It's a little softer language than a number. Once you put a number in there, people are going to question this when they get the brochure from the supplier.
They'll say, "What is this 'limit your catch to 10' thing? I'm spending $2,000 to come to your place for four days and you want me to only catch 10 fish a day. I'm coming there because you say you have the best fishing in the world." So, I just caution the minister that that's the concern that was expressed to me. Watch the wording. Be careful with it. I have no problem with conservation practices, but be careful how we put it in there.
I hope the minister might want to comment on that briefly.
Another area that came up on the weekend is the off-road overnight parking. There was a letter I sent to the minister with respect to RVers pulling off in the rest stops and that kind of thing, and the minister said he was going to try and come up with something this year. I wonder if the department has worked anything out in that regard? I certainly haven't received a satisfactory reply that I could pass on to the individuals in Watson Lake who were concerned about this.
I'm wondering what kind of options the minister has in mind for limiting the parking in the sort of no-parking spots or the viewpoints on the highway for this upcoming season?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, if I can take off my straw boater now and put on my orange C&TS fluorescent hat so now I'm the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I've been instructed by the Deputy Minister of C&TS to find ways where we might, on properties that we, the territorial government, have, such as gravel pits, old and new, or whatever, where people are doing this, to find ways to prevent overnight parking in those situations. Right now, it could be done on a berm basis, as has been suggested by some; it could be done on a chaining-off basis on others. The department, at this point in time, is looking at the main corridors of the highways, the Alaska Highway and, of course, the Klondike Highway, at places where we can install those prevention measures.
We're looking to do that, of course, as soon as the ground thaws and it's that time of the year, then we will go ahead and do it. So, that's where we're doing it. We're looking at it through a blocking approach with the berms and, also, the chains. Of course, we're going to have to continue to work with the people, maybe through our brochures, our guide, et cetera, to allow people to become educated so that they will use the private RV parks or the territorial parks that we have designed. So, that's what we're going with on the issue of people just pulling over and parking.
I know that both members on the other side of the House and myself know that best efforts will never have a 100-percent success in this, but certainly we're looking to education, as I said, and berms and other effective means of really limiting what actually is happening and could happen.
On the issue of catch-and-release fishing, I too have been spoken to by numerous operators on the weekend regarding the issue of, "Are we going to be allowed only 10?" et cetera. I did confirm to them that we will be looking for other ways to do it, and certainly, as the Member for Riverdale North has spoken about, more in an educational style of presenting issues and how to properly do catch-and-release. That is the way that I would support those types of issues. So again, I thank him for the advice.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, just to comment on the catch-and-release issue, I think that if the Yukon developed a comprehensive education program with respect to catch-and-release, it could be such that it could be second to none in Canada and in North America. There is lots of information out there and, with a good educational program, some good brochures and the kind of thing that people would be handed when they pick up their licences, I think we could be known as an area that does practice good conservation measures.
I think the Minister of Renewable Resources commented on Saturday at the Tourism Industry Association convention that there has been an increase in the number of fish turning up in our lakes now because of conservation methods such as catch-and-release over the past few years. I'm seeing that and so are a lot of other Yukoners.
And so it's starting to work. The minister said that he's not, but maybe later on, when the session is out, he can sit in my boat one day, and I'll teach him some of the practices of catch-and-release so I can show him how to get those ones on the line and let them loose again without harming them, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, a couple of other issues came up. One was campgrounds, and there was a resolution put forward by the Tourism Industry Association with respect to opening up the campgrounds earlier. Now, I know that a couple of years ago, under Mr. Brewster and, I believe, Mr. Fisher at the time, there were attempts made at opening up certain campgrounds earlier on main routes. And there was a resolution passed this weekend at the TIA convention wanting to see campgrounds opened up earlier for the visitors as well as locals. Although this isn't in the minister's department, it was a resolution put forward by the Tourism Industry Association.
What is the minister's view on opening up the campgrounds a little earlier for visitors and keeping them open a little later in the season as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it was with pleasure that I sat down and worked with the Department of Renewable Resources. On the main routes, we are looking to have the campgrounds opened by the long weekend in May to have them coincide with the first European flight that we have here. So certainly, we're going to get them open by then so that there won't be, well, campers on the road, I guess. We don't want that to happen, so we're not going to let it happen in that manner. We're going to get them open by the long weekend in May, and, of course, the first flight is on the 19th. So, it should be helpful there.
As to extending the campgrounds into the fall season, well, that's something I hadn't chatted with them about, but I guess I will chat with them about it.
Mr. Phillips: I'm sure TIA will be happy to hear some of that, and hopefully the minister will be successful in extending the opening in the fall, as well.
Mr. Chair, another resolution that was brought forward at the TIA convention was on Canada Customs, and Revenue Canada's changes to the GST rebate for our visitors.
I tabled a motion here today on the floor of the House, that, as we all know, will be difficult for us to debate in a timely fashion, because we're supposed to be finished at the end of the month.
I'd like to know this from the minister: what efforts are he and the Finance minister going to make, with respect to sending a clear message to Ottawa, that this is a silly approach to a problem, and in fact will create a lot more problems for our tourism industry than it will solve, and it will cost the federal government a lot more money than they ever hope to recover - I think the quote from the TIAC representative at the conference was they exposed $50,000 worth of fraud, and it looks like the estimates are going to be around $8 million for staffing, and for the paperwork involved in solving the problem.
It seems to me to be outrageous, to say the least, but not inconsistent with some of the decisions that have come from Ottawa over the years.
So I would like to know what efforts the minister would make to quickly get to whomever it might be in Ottawa - whether it's the minister responsible for Customs and Immigration, or the minister responsible for Revenue, or the Finance minister, whomever - to point out that this is an extremely silly proposal. And not only is it silly, but if you look at the facilities in the Yukon - and I'm sure it's the same in a lot of other smaller jurisdictions - and the way that the facilities are designed, it's almost impossible to carry out.
Customs is all built so you pull off on a certain side of the road, and when you're going the other way - they're situated on certain sides of the road for approach. There's no parking for people who are exiting - they're normally supposed to just go right through when you're exiting the country, and you're only supposed to report on entry.
So it's going to mean a whole bunch of physical changes, along with staff changes. We're already having problems with Canada Customs now, in that they're always complaining and whining every year about their budget constraints and the number of hours they're open. We're always lobbying to get them to open a little earlier, stay open a little longer, and they've been very accommodating, but I think that the managers of Customs have to be shaking their heads when they hear this proposal, because it's going to take a lot more staff time to sit down with the hundreds of visitors who are leaving our country, who will have to show their item and get the receipt stamped, so they can collect the GST. It's a silly proposal. I mean, there's no point in spending a ton of money on this thing. I think we should get to the problem right away, and the federal government should go off and do something more useful.
So I would ask the minister how he's going to respond to this. Will he be writing a letter immediately to the ministers responsible? Will he encourage his colleagues in Cabinet, who also were involved in this - I imagine the Finance minister and others - to do a similar thing? Because tourism is extremely important to the territory.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can agree on two fronts with the member opposite: that tourism is very important to the territory - we know that and agree with that - and that what the federal government is desirous of doing here is not going to accomplish what they want to do here. So we both agree with that.
Yes, I will sit down, and plan to sit with the Finance minister - you hit it bang on - to talk about how we could oppose this, as necessary, and to get a full briefing on what the implications would be to the detriment of the industry.
So, as we have the resolution from the AGM there, it gives us the manner with which to work with the industry on it.
So yes, we will be. I'll be sitting down and writing letters, as necessary, and will be looking to do that earlier.
Mr. Phillips: Another issue that came up on the weekend was the lack of funding for the Yukon Convention Bureau. There was one delegate who spoke out fairly strongly on that, and many others agreed with that individual. In fact, I think after he spoke, there was a round of applause for his comments.
Mr. Chair, the businesses in this territory, from the hotel business to every tour in this territory, are going to feel a fairly significant downturn this year because of the lack of number of conventions. I think that last year we had sort of a bumper year of conventions in the territory, but we've continually funded the Convention Bureau over the past few years with, I think, $25,000 from YTG, and the city kicks in, I think, about $25,000 or $30,000. And I know they just received some other funding through the community development fund for some $45,000, but it's for establishing an overall marketing plan.
I've always been of the belief that, for our shoulder seasons, the smaller conventions would be a real niche market and a real opportunity in April and May and late August, September and October to fill our hotels and our businesses with visitors who, as the individual said the other night at the meeting, spend individually between $2,000 and $8,000 a person. That's quite a bit more than anyone else.
I'm just wondering if the minister feels the same way about conventions and is prepared to look at increasing the budget for conventions in the future.
Now, I know there is nothing in the supplementary for the Convention Bureau, but it seems to me that, as the minister knows, if conventions marketing takes place today, they usually see results two or three years down the road. You don't see them right away. So, for every year we wait, it's another year that we'll have to wait for results.
Everyone that I've ever talked to in my travels - and I'm sure the minister is the same - especially in this country, Canada, always tells me that they want to come to the Yukon, and if there is any kind of convention, they always tell you that they'd like to come to the Yukon for a convention.
So, the market's there. We just have to go and get it, and the Convention Bureau has a very energetic group of individuals working for it. I think the expertise is in town to do that. I think it would be the best money we could spend right now in going after that marketplace of conventions under 300 to 400 people. Like the minister says, Dawson City has done very well in targeting a certain group and filling up their hotels every weekend. I think we could do the same thing. Our hotels are cheaper in the off-season; we could probably get a better price on our airfares in the off-season, and there could be some real opportunities for businesses in the territory. It would certainly help, and we certainly saw the increase last year with the number of conventions that were mainly the result of the '98 Gold Rush marketing, and people came in that era to experience other activities at the same time.
I think we've got to do something and do it quickly, and I'm concerned that another year is almost too late. The minister's got to think about doing something fairly quickly. Is he of similar thought, and what is he doing about it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I am of a similar thought, and a couple of months ago I instructed the department to sit down with the industry and government, hoteliers and others to look at a model, maybe, that would be evolved. The intent would be to have more effective convention marketing, and that's where we're at at this point in time and we're brainstorming on it. I surely do agree that the Yukon is a place to be for conventions, whether it's micro or macro. We want to be able to host as many as we can, in a good fashion, a bang-up way.
So, I've instructed the department to look at this and to include the partners that we have within the solution. Certainly, I'm hoping they'll be able to report back. When I do report back, if the House isn't in, I'll certainly share the information and direction of where we're going.
Mr. Phillips: The other issue that was raised at the TIA convention was that there was a resolution last year - the only one that was not acted on by the Government of the Yukon - and that was a CAP resolution, and that was that the tourism industry was concerned that the $1.5 million that was allocated to the Whitehorse CAP that wasn't spent not be lost to tourism. There was a concern expressed at the convention that it's disappeared; it's gone back into general revenues and been lost. I would suggest to the minister that he could make both sides happy here.
He could make the people who are concerned about that money disappearing happy, and he could also make the Convention Bureau happy by bringing that money back into the budget and spreading it over a few years and increasing the tourism marketing budget for conventions. So, Mr. Chair, just a suggestion to the minister.
I have to tell the minister today that I was profoundly disappointed in the minister today in the House, when we had an opportunity, in our Order Paper, paying tributes, when the minister neglected to rise on his feet and pay tribute to the gold team that was so successful at the TIA convention in, again, blowing the purple team and the red team right out of the water.
This is not an unusual event, as the minister knows. In the five years that the event has gone on, gold has won it four times, and only because of some shenanigans last year - I think the red team bribed the judges -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Liberal member said that was a spurious accusation. It was spurious, and it is accurate - they did bribe the judges.
So, unfortunately, they won last year, despite what everyone else knew. I would have thought the minister would have risen on his feet today and taken the time to pay tribute to the gold team and the excellent job that the team leader, Bernie Phillips, and the dozens of people who worked with him - my other brother, Bernie, by the way - had done while carrying out their activities in Skagway.
Mr. Chair, I'll ask a question after that. The other concern I have is in the past few years, we've had all kinds of celebrations going on and we've had banners up all over the territory. I just remind the minister that 1998 is gone and some banners that say 1998 on them are still hanging around on the poles on the streets and in the communities and we should be removing them.
My question is more related to: do we have a banner program now? They're quite colourful and a lot of other cities and jurisdictions all over the country have various banners that they put up. I see the city has got some new ones that they switched around, and I just wonder if we have any kind of an overall territorial-wide program of colourful banners that explain our heritage, our history, or plants and flowers or the wildlife of the territory - something that would be colourful that we could put up in place so the banners are there until we have another celebration that would be specific to, say, the year 2000 or some other celebration we're honouring?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, on the issue of banners, we do have banners coming. They'll be going up upon the opening of the visitor reception centres in mid-May. So, we will have the new banner program up and running. I can certainly provide a pictorial, if I may, to both members to show what the banners would look like. They look really sharp.
As far as the tribute goes, Mr. Chair, I've been lobbied by the gentleman to my left that I should have made a tribute, so that in turn tells me that he was on the gold team, and that's very disappointing to have to receive that type of advice here in the House. I've got to say I'm a little disappointed with that, because certainly what the purple team did this year is just, I think, the most bang-on, wonderful thing, because they did not stoop to the level the red team did in going out and cheating, or anything like as such, as they had in the past to win the competition.
We just hunkered down and did some really good, hard work, and continue to do that work, so that next year it is going to be the purple team that wins, and we're going to do it on the basis of hard work, not going out in any other derogatory manner, and working against it. We're going to do it through the hard work ethic that we surely share with the other people on the purple team. And that, therein, is why we came in second, and certainly next year I do think that we will get to start the dynasty, if I may - and it will be a dynasty that will be there for, I would anticipate, the next millennium, because that is how serious it is.
So I could stand now and say yes, through a tribute, that it was good to learn from those people who have practised somewhat questionable ethics in winning the competition, but certainly purple has been looking at that, and we're going to win next year. But all in all, I guess I should give somewhat of a tribute to the people on the gold team for again finding a way beyond my - and our - means of winning the competition, and I would also say in this tribute that they should treasure it, because this is certainly the last year that they'll ever have it.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the comments from the minister. I don't think he should have made his last comment though. I think he kind of went up there a little too far.
The minister did say that the purple team did their very best, and I realize that they did their very best, but it's obvious, I think, to the red team and the gold team, and even the citizens of Skagway, that their talent bank is overdrawn. I wish them well in the recruitment this year, but we'll look forward to the TIA convention in Whitehorse next year, and hopefully, for the first time in the six-year history, the purple team will come to the game to really put on a show. So, we'll look forward to that.
Mr. Chair, the concern that has also been expressed to me from time to time is the future of the Department of Tourism, and I just want to get the minister on the record again that there is no intention of this government to merge the Department of Tourism with any other department, and that it's going to be a stand-alone department, as it is one of the strongest industries in the territory and that there won't be a merging of departments. Can he give us those assurances?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, there has been certainly not rumblings from anybody within our caucus or direction received that we're going to be merging. I think that this administration is very happy and pleased with the 11-percent increase, and we know that it comes from good, hard, focused direction, and that's certainly the direction that we wish to continue to go.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, the 11-percent increase - the minister keeps talking about that in the House all the time and about the good, hard work of his government. That was in the gold rush centennial year. Does the minister feel that that 11-percent increase is all as a result of the work of his department just in the past two years that his government has been in power? Is that was he's telling us - that it has just been these last two years and that's what gave us the 11 percent - the hard work of his government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Just on the fact that we have a focused Tourism department: the administrations of government certainly change from time to time - I don't expect it to happen in the very near future or the long-distance future at this time, because of the wonderful things that have been going on in a very detrimental time of our economy.
I feel that the territorial government, in its wisdom, has formed a Tourism department and has clearly shown wisdom in doing that, because we've had incremental increases. Last year was a fantastic year, due a lot to the gold rush, due a lot to the fine work that the department has done, due in part to the administration of the day, for continuing with the good work that has historically been put in place by many administrations, and I'm very desirous of seeing that proceed into the future.
I do believe we have a projection for next year. The projection, I believe, was of a one-percent increase. As the member knows, the different celebrations that are around the place, take part in putting together the projections.
I know I've answered your question. It's not the administration - it's what we have to sell, as an administration, called the Yukon Territory that makes it so successful.
Mr. Phillips: The reason I asked the question, I was starting to get the impression from the many times the minister has stood up in the House, and other ministers have stood up in the House, and said, "We've got this 11-percent increase," like they did it all.
The concern I have about is, I think the minister's right - the credit goes right back to the Department of Tourism officials, way back in 1991 or 1992, when they marketed the Alaska Highway celebration, and we built an awareness of the Yukon over the years, certainly leading up to the gold rush. I can remember some members on the side opposite criticizing us for overmarketing the gold rush - the best year for tourism we ever saw.
I guess when we were in government, we didn't really overmarket it. We marketed it just right to show an 11-percent increase, but I think it was an awareness that was created, which led to a good increase over the years.
I also think it was the people in Dawson City who went out and played the hockey game in Ottawa. I think it was the gold exhibit that travelled all around North America. I think it was the Internet page that was created by the Department of Tourism and others, who got hold of every newspaper and partnered the newspapers all across the United States and made people aware that their friends and relatives were here in the gold rush. And I think it just was a general awareness that happened. I just wanted to get the minister on record on how he thinks it all came about, and I'm pleased to hear him say today that it didn't just happen in the last two years, that it's been a focus in the last probably eight to 10 years that has led to the Yukon being successful, culminating, of course, with the gold rush celebrations. So, I'm pleased to hear the minister say that.
Mr. Chair, another question I have is on Tourism North. I understand that we've now taken over the administration again of Tourism North from the Alaskans. I know we share it from time to time. I just wonder if that means we have any more staff or are we doing it with the existing staff? Do we get extra money in the budget to do it through the Tourism North budget? How is it working?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, there haven't been any extra administrative dollars put into the budget for the Tourism North program. The administration is rotated on a yearly basis among the City of Prince Rupert, the State of Alaska and the Territory of the Yukon, and it's our turn this time.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, another area that I want to touch on a bit is the area of heritage. A concern I have is that although the minister has stood in the House several times and told us that their government cares about heritage, the record shows differently.
The records show that in the last three years we've seen a decrease in the heritage budget, and my concern is especially on the capital side of the budget in the transfers to museums and that kind of thing. I'm concerned about that and I'm just wondering why there is less emphasis on heritage. I think the minister talked about the new policy with respect to tax breaks for people with heritage buildings - and that's fine.
He talks about the Taylor House but, as the minister knows, it is not a heritage house. It's an older house, but it's not designated by the City of Whitehorse or anybody else as a heritage house. There are other houses in the territory that have been actually torn down, and so I'm just wondering, you know, what the priority of the government is with respect to heritage.
I know the critic of Tourism, a few years ago, made a commitment to the historic resources centre and that centre is not even in the five-year capital plan. It's not even in the dreams of the Department of Tourism, yet there was a commitment to build when they were in opposition. I just wonder what's happened to that and why it has disappeared off the agenda and why the Government of Yukon seems to be not taking heritage seriously?
I know that if you look in this heritage budget, you can see over the last several years that the budget has gone down. I had a document I'm trying to locate here, Mr. Chair. I had it earlier. It's probably still in my office, but it laid out heritage and the decrease in the budget over the past three or four years and it has been quite dramatic.
I think it's down some 30 percent, I think, this year compared to other years, and I'm concerned that it's not a priority with this government. I'm just wondering what the problem is and why the government doesn't see heritage as a top priority.
Maybe the minister could tell us why heritage has taken the lion's share of the cuts. I know they increased the marketing fund by $750,000, but they decreased the heritage budget by almost the same amount, so it looks like heritage has taken the brunt of the reduction. I'm just wondering what the reason for that is.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, it's in process. This government absolutely believes in heritage and will continue to focus upon heritage as one of the key components of tourism, not only as an attraction for tourism, but certainly it's a feel-good thing for the people that live here in the Yukon, because we're very proud. We take much time and opportunity through the course of the year to go to Keno City, to go to Dawson City, to go to Fort Selkirk, indeed to travel around and look at some of the unique heritage sites that we do have.
Mr. Chair, within the last, say, four to five years, a lot of the one-time capital projects have been done and have been completed, such as the Beringia Centre. Last year there were monies put into the budget for the completion and the updating of the road to the Beringia Centre, and that was, I think, somewhere over $300,000. As these projects get completed on the capital side of things, there is a need and a desire to move on, and that's exactly what we've done.
We do not fund singularly from the heritage department for some of the unique heritage initiatives that we have. We've funded many things in the Dawson City area in heritage initiatives, right from wheelchair accessibility ramps to protecting the railway shelters. And for the railway shelters, I'm talking here about $100,000-plus for the historical society for storage - again, storage facilities - at just less than $100,000. This year in the supplementary budget we've included $400,000 for the Oddfellows Hall.
So certainly this government is consistent, and will remain consistent, to ensure that heritage is recognized, and heritage is and can be recognized in many different programs - the CDF, the regular funding processes through the Department of Tourism and so on.
But again, we've done many things - the Miles Canyon Historical Railway Society for $250,000, the museum renovations in Dawson for $200,000. We've done the Oddfellows Hall renovations for $200,000, plus north, another $400,000 - the historical societies around the territory. We've done and will continue to do many things. It's not a case of - these are new dollars that have hit the Department of Tourism in terms of the tourism marketing fund, Mr. Chair.
I can also say that, on the O&M side of things, the O&M has increased the funding for this year by $9,000, Mr. Chair. I know we weren't speaking of the O&M side, we're speaking of the heritage side, but we've done many things for heritage. If the Taylor House is certainly not eligible to be a - if it's not designated as a heritage house, it's certainly perceived to be a heritage house, so certainly that perception is the money that we put forth. And again, the member knows that it lies totally within the City of Whitehorse, but again this government came forth with over $500,000 for the building, because of its history.
So Mr. Chair, I take exception to the remark, because certainly it's not to take from Peter to give to Paul, or Sue to give to Ellie, nothing like as such. It's here, Mr. Chair, because we do believe in the value of heritage in the territory and we'll continue to do so.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'd like to believe the minister but the figures don't back that up. The minister says that capital amounts change from year to year, and I agree with that, but let's look at what's happened. On the heritage side, they've consistently gone down over the last two-and-a-half years -consistently gone down. It's been less each year for the past two-and-a-half years. For three budgets of the Government of the Yukon, the heritage budget on the capital side has gone down, and some budgets are a mere pittance of what they were a few years ago.
Let's look at one; for example, the interpretation and signage. We're not finished the interpretation and signage in the territory. In fact, many of our signs are looking rather ragged out there and need to be changed, need to be improved. Yet, that budget has gone from almost a third of a million dollars - two hundred and some-odd thousand dollars plus - down to $125,000. It went from $196,000 to $178,000 to $125,000. It's on its way down.
The budgets for historic site maintenance have gone down from $262,000 to $145,000 - 45 percent; historic sites inventory from $83,000 to $65,000; Fort Selkirk, $203,000 to $180,000; Yukon archaeology, $191,000 to $166,000; paleontology, $139,000 to $115,000 - 17 percent; heritage studies, $57,000 to $30,000, a 47-percent decrease; a total this year alone of a 33-percent decrease in the capital side of the budget, and the Beringia Centre is a very small portion of that. It went from $25,000 to $20,000, so it's $5,000 of an almost $800,000 decrease.
So, whether the minister likes it or not, the figures speak for themselves and the heritage branch has taken a beating. I'm sure it's not from lack of applications from the various museums and the heritage community out there for projects, but it appears that it just is not a priority.
Last year, there wasn't even any money in the budget for the Canyon City tramway, and the minister finally scooped up $10,000 that he found in a desperate, save-my-backside move. He found $10,000, and this year he has gone back to fund it for $15,000 for interpretation, which is a positive sign. I'm pleased with that, but it should never have been taken out of the budget in the first place. I guess if we hadn't said anything about it, it wouldn't even be there today because it wasn't a priority of the government until it started to get beat up by the general public and the tourism industry people who thought that interpretive walk and the services provided by the Conservation Society, I believe, were a worthwhile endeavour.
You know, Mr. Chair, exhibits assistance has gone from $173,000 to $150,000. The artifact inventorying and cataloguing has gone from $104,000 to $70,000; and the conservation security has gone from $53,000 to $35,000. This isn't holding the line; these are dramatic decreases.
So, there has to be a reason for it. I know that capital budgets go up and down, but this has been the third consecutive year of an overall decrease in the budget. I'm just wondering what the problem is. Why is this government, after telling us that heritage is extremely important to us, slowly whittling away at the heritage budget? Can the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I can answer that, Mr. Chair, and I thank you for the opportunity that you will allow me to answer that. If we strictly go with the numbers game, which the member opposite is doing, saying it's minus 33 percent, if you factor in the capital portion, if you factor in the $400,000 from what it was the year previous to the forecast, well then that's going to change those numbers dramatically, Mr. Chair.
We've got to look at the full envelope, as we look at these types of funds, from what's contained within the CDF. I've just read out well over a million dollars' worth of programs from the CDF that went toward the heritage initiatives that people have across the territory. So it can't be done strictly in a numbers sense, because you have to look at it in the overall sense of what this government is doing, and I resent the fact that the member would think that heritage is taking a beating, because heritage is not taking a beating.
The magnitude - we do not have any $3.5-million capital heritage projects this year, but we have some $400,000 capital projects, and other capital projects - $3.5-million capital projects to come underneath the heritage department in any one given year is phenomenal, and it happens very irregularly.
This government is going to take a balanced approach, and continue to take a balanced approach with the heritage museum, and find different ways of working with them. Some of them will be through the CDF, some will be through the good planning and initiatives that come from within the staff of the heritage branch within the Department of Tourism. We're going to still continue to accept, through the CDF, some really good and interesting ideas that all speak to the enhancement of heritage within the Yukon Territory.
So heritage is being recognized within our budgets, and heritage will continue to be recognized in our budgets, at some point in time.
As I said, the magnitude will be reflected in the numbers game, but truly, in the numbers now - the 33 percent is not the correct number, but I'm sure that somebody in Finance is crunching the correct number and will get these numbers provided, but certainly this government is very supportive of the heritage community and will find ways to continue to support the heritage community.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, let me give the minister some examples. From 1996-97 to 1999-2000, we've got a 21-percent decrease in the capital funding to museums. In the historic sites area, from 1996-97 to 1999-2000, we've got a 31-percent decrease - we're talking $881,000 down to $605,000.
The historic resources centre has been nuked. In 1996-97, $150,000 was in the budget. It's gone in the 2000 budget and is not even in the five-year capital plan. Maybe the minister could tell me if it's even on the drawing board for the Government of the Yukon or if it's now history.
The museums assistance in 1996-97 was $467,000. The estimate for this year is $314,000. That's 33-percent down. The interpretive signage was $245,000 in 1996-97 and is $125,000 now. That's almost a 49-percent decrease.
The fact is that it has gone down, and the minister says that, well, we're putting a whole bunch of money in the community development fund. Well, is that the new approach to heritage in the territory, that now we're going to fund through the ministerial process of doling out money through the community development fund through a minister who isn't involved in heritage, and we're taking it out of the hands of the Minister of Tourism and his department with respect to future heritage projects? I would have thought that the Minister of Tourism would want to be involved in heritage projects in the future. It appears now that we're moving away from the heritage branch, who have so much expertise in the field, to the community development fund, where a minister who may not have even been in a museum is now allocating the funds.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, thank you again for the opportunity.
Mr. Chair, the process of the Department of Tourism and the heritage branch is a process that will always remain in place. The continuing planning, the continuing working within the capital plan and the planning process within the department will always be there.
What we have done to the CDF - the community development fund - is find another way of helping the heritage community. Certainly it's not left up to just the department to go out and talk to the heritage community and say, "What are your plans and what are your dreams, because these are what our plans are, and these are what our dreams are, and can we collaborate together to do things". That's a system - as I've said now already - that is in place and will continue to be in place - the planning process within the department.
But what this government has done, through the community development fund, has allowed people within the community - the larger heritage community, or the community of Yukon - access to another program. And some of the programs that I have in front of me - as I've read out - speak to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Mayo Historical Society, the Keno Community Club, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the friendship centres, the Youth Empowerment and Success, the Scottish Club, the Transportation Museum, the Dawson City Museum, the Dawson City Historical Society.
So we look at it as another avenue for dollars that the heritage community might be able to access. So certainly we have two processes. We have the continuing process of the five-year capital plan - the capital planning process - which will, depending on the priorities, go up and down. A couple or three - well, four - years ago there was the development of the Beringia Centre, which is a large capital expenditure. They're spot, if that's a way of saying it - well, no, spot might not be a way of saying it - but they happen from time to time, on a timely basis, is how they do.
But again, the government of the day does believe in heritage. I think in the supplementary budget - working with the Dawson City Art Society, and looking at the development of $400,000 in Dawson City into a heritage building is phenomenal and speaks for itself. That's the kind of good work that this government will continue to do. I look at it, as many people - many, many, many, many people - thin the heritage community look at it, that they have access to not just one initiative for heritage programs but now more than one, and that's including the CDF that they have, too.
So, certainly, Mr. Speaker, if we sit and argue the numbers game, it will continue to look that way, but this government will continue to front heritage with dollars, whether it be through signage programs, interpretation programs, or other programs. We'll continue to walk the walk, and that is something that is going to definitely be part of our mandate and our program, and we'll continue to work within it.
Again, I reiterate, Mr. Chair, that there is opportunity from many programs, whether you're upgrading the Binet House in Mayo or working on a museum in the communities, and this government will be supportive of you and will continue to be supportive of the heritage community.
Mr. Phillips: How does the community development fund dovetail with the department's agenda and the work they're doing with heritage? Is there consultation with these projects? How does it work?
Before, it used to be that the department would talk to the various museums and those out there in the heritage community and would work closely with them with respect to these projects, and would make proposals to government for budgets from time to time. I'm just wondering now. This looks like a whole new process for heritage projects, and I'm just wondering how much involvement the department has in it. Do some of these groups submit to the CDF for funding, without even going through the department? Does the department have any say in heritage projects that go ahead? How does that work?
Maybe the minister can tell us that.
Maybe the minister could answer the question I asked, I think, twice now and that is: where is the historic resources centre in the government's plans? There was a commitment made prior to the last election that they would build it. I know we're fast approaching another election and it just hasn't seen the light of day. In fact, it's not even in the five-year capital plan, Mr. Chair, so I guess it's not in the mandate of this government - and it appears, from the five-year capital plan, it's not in the mandate of the next NDP government, whether they are the government or not.
So, I'm just trying to determine what happened to the historic resources centre. Heaven forbid, is the historic resources centre now history, or what? Maybe the minister can answer that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the historic resources centre was a priority of the previous administration. I can say that it is not a priority of this administration, and that's based a lot on the new way of looking at the Beringia Centre and working with the heritage community on Beringia in its entirety. So, that is where the historic resources centre lies at this point.
One, the CDF itself, though, of course all communities are certainly aware of many different components of the guidelines of the CDF, and know that the CDF is and can be applicable to heritage projects.
The heritage branch sits on the technical review committee so that it is done in a very thorough manner. I, myself, also have the ability to sit on the CDF board. So, certainly, the department sits on the board and they work with the board on the technical review committee.
It is open for heritage, and includes heritage guidelines. It will continue to be open to the heritage community to fulfill some of their dreams on a community and a regional basis, and the department will continue to function within its direction, within its mandate, of the heritage guidelines.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I guess the historic resources centre is history under this government. That's what the minister said.
Mr. Chair, the last comment I have is one that relates to education but has an effect on tourism, and that's the STE. We've had some complaints from people in the tourism industry that the Government of the Yukon has occupied at least 50 percent of the students in the STEP. I think the initial intent of the program was for non-profit organizations and others. Lots of non-profit organizations and others who want to involve themselves in the STEP are finding that the opportunity for funds, and the opportunity for hiring a student under this program, are diminishing, because the government is utilizing it more and more for its programs.
My concern there - and it's only a comment; I don't know if the minister can deal with it or not - is that the minister should have a look at that, because it was intended initially for others, other than government, to use, and it seems that the government, each year, has increased its number of students in the STEP and, consequently, decreased others from applying, because there have been fewer opportunities.
So, I'll leave it with the minister. I know there are some letters on the program that have gone to some of the ministers in the past, so maybe the minister can comment on it, if he wishes, but my concern is that we should try and get back to the initial purpose of the program, so that these groups that are not government themselves can take advantage of it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we'll look into the comments from the member.
Ms. Duncan: I have a few questions for the minister. I'm going to try to focus my questions so that we don't replow tilled ground, so to speak. There are a few points that I'd like to get on the record and a few questions and issues that I'd like clarified by the minister.
The tourism strategy document that was tabled in the House by the minister and the summary brochure that was distributed - certainly to my household late last week, I believe it was - is, as I said, a commendable effort by the department. There are a few questions with regard to the tourism strategy. I'm interested in a timeline. When this was originally discussed in the House, the minister referred to a February 1999 timeline, and we passed that. We got it in April. And I'm concerned about the discussions. When are we going to see discussions take place with Yukoners? Who is going to facilitate Yukoners' input? It was terrific to receive that brochure in the mail. Certainly, I have an interest and will be responding, and I've already responded in part. Who is going to be jogging Yukoners about that and reminding them by saying, "We want your input now. Please participate." Who will be facilitating that? Have we contracted that out to someone? And can the minister also address the question that I raised in debate but didn't hear an answer to - where do the tourism plans fit with the overall strategy? Where do they connect? We have terrific tourism plans for communities - most of the communities in the Yukon, if not all of them. Where do they fit with the overall tourism strategy that is being developed by the department?
Those are a few questions, if the minister could get started on those.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In the case of the facilitator, Mr. Chair, the tender right now is pending with the department's participation. That's where it's at right now, so some decisions will be made shortly, regarding the facilitation component of the strategy. And of course the member knows that the timeline is to immediately start as soon as the facilitator is hired.
Where do the tourism strategies - that's the regional tourism strategies, I take it - fit in? As we go out, as we talk to the people of the Yukon Territory on a territorial-wide basis, we'll be yakking with those folks, complete within that territorial-wide basis, are the different regional plans. And those regional plans will be brought forth to accompany, and to be a part of, the direction that the people within that particular region would like to go. And also the marketing plans that they have will be included within that, so that the scope will be of the total strategy.
So the regional tourism plans will be incorporated into the strategy - the overall territorial strategy - so that it will be reflective of what the peculiar groups want to have within their region.
Ms. Duncan: The minister refers to "peculiar"; I'm sure he means "particular".
The timeline is still very condensed, and the department and the government - I shouldn't say "department" because I don't mean officials. But the target of February '99 for release of this was missed. We're into April. Are we looking at extending the timeline if necessary, if that's the message back from Yukoners?
Now, it may be that Yukoners take the time to do this immediately, and submit their input to the department. It may be that they request more time, and I'm wondering if the minister is prepared for that eventuality.
What's the overall cost of this project? What's the anticipated budget for this project? And - I'll let the minister answer that one.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the first question, on the timelines, we want to immediately get out there as soon as our facilitator is hired. We know that there might have to be a different way of talking with the tourism industry and the people at large, and I think it's really important that we recognize that. It's not singularly the tourism industry, although the tourism industry is very much a focus of where we're going, but it's Yukon-wide consultations very much driven by and with the partnership of the industry.
We know that the industry is getting ready to go into their season. We will be innovative and we will be flexible, so that we have the right product -absolutely the right product. The cost that we've included within the budget, of course, is $50,000.
Ms. Duncan: One of the issues I raised briefly in debate about this was the overall organization, if you will, of the different visitor organizations, and so on. I understand there was a 1993 study commissioned on this subject. It was commissioned by the previous government and I'm sure it's somewhere in the department's library. I wonder if I could just make a formal request from the minister to have that sent over to me? I'd just like to have a look at it. It was a focus group situation done under the previous government in 1993, and I would just like a look at that report.
With respect to the tourism plans, Silver Trail completed theirs in March 1998, according to information supplied by the department. Could I have a copy of that as well?
And there are two plans scheduled for this year - two regional tourism plans, as the minister has referred to them, for Kluane and Old Crow. What's the time frame for those two regional tourism plans to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can provide the 1993 report on the completed Silver Trail regional tourism plan to the member opposite. It's not a problem.
We are looking to have the time frames completed on Kluane and Old Crow, if all goes well, by some time in the fall. It takes a little bit of time so, you know, I can say certainly by fiscal year end, but we are certainly targeting before that, if we can.
Ms. Duncan: These plans are very volunteer and time intensive, so I wish the minister well in that exercise and encourage individuals to participate.
One of the discussions with respect to Old Crow and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation was in the Beringia Interpretive Centre business plan. There was discussion of a Parks Canada tourism information heritage centre to be built in Old Crow in a shared facility.
Now, much of the Beringia Interpretive Centre business plan has, unfortunately, fallen a little short of its target. That was a very interesting proposal and it's certainly interesting to Parks Canada, in light of the Ivvavik, as well as Vuntut parks - particularly Vuntut Park.
I just wonder where that proposal sits now. Is the Department of Tourism at all interested in it? Is it a case of them possibly getting it in the five-year capital plan? What's the department's response to the interest from Parks Canada on that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, the plans that were discussed between Parks Canada, et cetera, were very preliminary plans. Certainly, through the overall territorial strategy and the time frames that have to conclude the Old Crow regional plan will all be conducive to bringing forward what could be done to enhance the tourism infrastructure within the communities.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm sorry. I didn't hear the minister indicate whether or not it was in the five-year plan or not in the five-year plan. And has the department issued a formal response or had a formal request? My understanding is that there have been at least informal requests from Parks Canada to the Department of Tourism. Has there been any correspondence? Has there been anything committed to paper as to whether or not the department is keen on this project?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, like I said, there has been very preliminary talk with Parks Canada on this. It's really nice to know that we can work with Parks Canada to further the development of regional tourism plans and Tourism generally in the territory is a partner with them. Certainly, we don't have the information right here at our fingertips, but I will provide the information that we have on an up-to-date level to the member so that the member can keep up to date and at par with where we're going.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for copies of the information. I don't have a sense that we'll be seeing plans for that facility any time in the immediate future. Let's hope that we might be, further down the road.
On the subject of Beringia Interpretive Centre, the minister has committed to providing a financial statement concerning the revenue and expenses associated with the Beringia Interpretive Centre. The minister, at one point in his time, referred to "all the expenses contained in my department will be presented".
I'd like to caution the minister that they're not all in his department, that there are various other locations and departments throughout government that provide funding and support to the Beringia Interpretive Centre. I'd like to ask the minister to be sure to include those costs, firstly, and, secondly, do we have a time frame when we might see that financial statement?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the caution, Mr. Chair. It's something that we're very aware of, and that's why we're doing a comprehensive critique on it. The time frame - I think it's a little ambitious to say by the end of this week, but certainly we could have something next week. The department is working on it, and I will get back to the member.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Is 15 minutes okay? Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Tourism. Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Chair. Before we leave the subject of museums, I'd just like to make a couple of points with the minister. First of all, with respect to the Beringia Centre, I appreciate that it's going to take some time to pull the financial statements together and also that the staff have been very involved in the last week or so preparing for the annual convention of the tourism industry.
I appreciate that it takes some time, and I was not attempting to place undue stress on anyone on that particular question. I would just like to remind the minister that we'd like that information.
I'd like to remind the minister that last year about this time I put the point on the record with regard to the funding of museums, particularly in terms of the directors of museums. As the minister well knows, the position of executive director is often an unsung hero, in terms of volunteer organization, and it's not necessarily the highest paid in the overall organizational structure, and I asked the minister, once a settlement had been reached with YEU, if we could have a note as to what the cost would be if the museum staff - the core individuals - were to have their core funding increased by the same amount.
For example, perhaps the minister's department would take a look at what the curator of a local museum was paid and, in light of the YEU increase, what the overall impact would be on increasing the museum funding budget to the same level.
My concern is that, while these individuals are struggling for ongoing funding and working to protect and preserve their particular heritage locations throughout the territory, they often give many, many hours, and I would like to see that effort recognized. Often that's one of the ways to do it.
I never did receive an answer, to the best of my recollection, on that particular request for information, and I wonder if the minister could either respond or indicate to me that I might get an answer on it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I'll have to check further and get back to the member.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks. If I could get that information forwarded to me, I would appreciate it.
I'd like to speak to the minister for a moment about air access and air travel.
Tourism has spent a great deal of energy in this regard, and I'm wondering if the minister could provide some additional information. I never did see the actual signed marketing agreement with Air Transat - an actual copy of the agreement signed by officials with that - and I wonder if the minister could provide that for me.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I was just talking with the deputy minister, and he says that in the contract we didn't get the information, so he'll have to look into it, but certainly we will share.
Ms. Duncan: Now, that's a cooperative approach.
The minister has mentioned the new Condor flights. What is the percentage of passengers flying on to Anchorage at this point and what is the percentage getting off the plane in Whitehorse? I apologize if the minister has stated this and I have missed it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The projections that I got from the marketing manager of Condor Air last spring - and they might have changed since then, but he was saying it's the highest he's ever seen, and I think it was a 60/40 split, but that will be finalized, of course, upon the completion of the season, but I can dig that up. If I recall, that's what it was.
Ms. Duncan: I'm going to assume that that information that the minister has just stated is as current as he has at this point.
The cooperative marketing agreement we entered into with Era Aviation - Era Aviation essentially said that they couldn't afford not to fly into Whitehorse, given the deal they were given by the Government of Yukon.
What was that deal?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Era Aviation, in 1997-98, in a cooperative marketing arrangement, received $22,000.
Ms. Duncan: Is that a signed agreement between Era Aviation officials and the minister's officials, or the minister himself? Can I have a copy of that agreement as well?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It was based on a marketing proposal, and certainly we can provide that.
Ms. Duncan: The business summit recommendation - I mentioned this to the minister before - basically said, "Don't subsidize other airlines at the expense of the year-round operators, and be fair," yet the government is continuing with the marketing program with the various air industries, and the minister has said we've discussed this before in the House.
I'm wondering how the minister intends, with this year's agreements - and we weren't given copies of the agreements in the briefing; we were advised this was still under discussion and that we would receive copies of the - there's $250,000 for air agreements, and discussions are underway with Yukon's airline partners.
No specific amounts had been assigned to any particular marketing activity. How then does the minister intend to take the business summit recommendations to heart and assign the cooperative marketing agreement fairly?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, we have some information sharing that we must do with all businesses, and I think we'll start with the Tourism Industry Association, because they're certainly very much aware of the process that we use as a marketing department to go through to lure and to keep airlines here, whether they're of a seasonal nature or of a year-round nature. So, certainly we have to sit down and chat with them and the industry through the chambers. We're going to do that.
I think that I've got a grip on what they're saying, that they want it to be equal. Again, it's not a subsidy, it's a marketing agreement that we have, and certainly marketing agreements are different as Era provides a different service from Canada 3000 or Canadian.
Certainly, in terms of equality, we are very much working with all so that we will have equality among all. The equality comes not in the terms of the exact same number of dollars that they get, but equality in terms of the services provided and the marketing dollars that we provide to them to enable them to continue to fly to this territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, how does the department deal with this, or track it? For example, there is the Canada 3000 brochure that many of us took an opportunity over the weekend to have a look at. Canada 3000 have done this brochure throughout Canada and it has an excellent series of packages for the Yukon; for example, fly to Whitehorse, drive to Anchorage and then take their flight back from Anchorage. There are some excellent packages there. I was advised, for example, that there's no tourism marketing money in that. There again, a business is marketing the Yukon.
I noticed in the Canadian Plus April/May news that, if you're a Canadian Plus member, there's a Yukon adventure - "with a golden opportunity to explore the Yukon this summer, now's the time to start planning" and this is in conjunction with a local company, Rainbow Tours. Is there any Government of Yukon marketing money in this project? I suspect not.
So, what I'm saying to the minister is that we have these airlines marketing the Yukon and we also have these marketing agreements where we have large agreements with one individual carrier. How does the department ensure that there's fairness, then, and that the individual businesses are all treated fairly and it's not just dependent upon who asks?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I hope the day comes that we have to start saying, "No, no, no. Stay out of the Yukon Territory because the territory's full", based on the strategy and initiative we have. The hoteliers are happy and the RVers are happy and those types of things. That's certainly the aspiration we have as a government and as a tourism department.
To get there, it takes all sorts of little, different types of initiatives, and it takes a great belief, I think, because what it is, is it's entrepreneurs. Angus Kinnear, the president of Canada 3000, when I stopped and talked with him in Toronto in January, or whatever, we talked about these different issues. He's a very aggressive businessman. Is he as aggressive as others in industry? Somewhat, maybe not as aggressive. I guess what I'm trying to say is it's really up to them, as entrepreneurs, to look for new markets.
As we've been proceeding with tourism initiatives over the last decade and a half in the Yukon Territory, those people around the world are seeing that, holy moly, a non-stop flight from Europe all the way to the Yukon? They have to get in on the action, and that's what Air Transat did in the very beginning. They knew that there was an opportunity. They knew that we were talking the talk and walking the walk that it took, so there was this awareness that there was opportunity here for us in the business to be able to come in and to fit in, and to make money off it.
So they did. A normal course of action - and I hear where the member's coming from, I think, and I want the member to hear where I'm coming from, because it's a process, I think, that's in place, to bring them, so they do know that they want to come here. They come and say, "You know, we want these types of initiatives," and we say, "Certainly sir. You're coming from this market, and your company not only comes from Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver," so you would cut a cooperative deal with them for that type of exposure. Then if you look at Era Aviation, it's just a little bit different.
So how do we do it? We go shopping. It's because of the vast awareness of the Yukon Territory as a world-class destination at this point in time.
It says here again, that different arrangements are made, much as what I've just been saying, for different airlines.
In the case of Canadian Airlines - going with their program - no, we never put any money in them. That's Canadian saying, "Hey, we want to do that." Yet, at the same time, on that one particular air points initiative - I can't remember what it's called, because I don't collect any more - is one issue that they put together because there was an opportunity for them to do it. And it's based on the belief - which is the right belief - that the Yukon is the place to be. Now, there's that awareness out there, and when I travel across to Europe and to England and other places, as the former minister knows, that's what they come to, and they hear. And the presence of the minister in those marketplaces is just phenomenal.
What's happening now is that other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, are sending their minister next year, because they want a chunk of the action. So you see what I'm saying? They want that lure to come to their jurisdiction, and we're saying they can and they will, and we're saying that you have your entrepreneurial spirit to go and do your initiatives based on the tourism climate here in the Yukon. And on the other side of things, you have a government that will cut cooperative marketing arrangements with them on an individual basis.
And basically that's the way the process works. There's no real template or a benchmark on the wall that you have to adhere to. It's just that we want to go and work with them. And it's done very cooperatively; it's not done in hard negotiations saying, "This is all you're getting", and whatnot. It's done very cooperatively. It's done with a spirit of, "How can we open up the exposure to the territory, and what can we do with you, as an airline, to expose that?"
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, once again, I am the brunt of a lecture on the tourism industry, about how I just don't understand that this is how these deals are cut, and I just don't understand that we want all these people here.
Mr. Chair, I have never suggested for one moment that I don't support the tourism industry in the Yukon.
I've been too involved in it not to support it. I appreciate the fact that it's here. I've said it over and over and over again. I also, as an opposition politician, not only have the right, I have the responsibility to ask how we are spending money and why we are spending it in particular ways.
I reflected a point that was made by industry, and I asked the minister how are these agreements perceived to be fair. It's obvious that we spend $22,000 with one airline, $30,000 with another - that it took them months to get the bill paid - and $285,000 on another. Surely, there should be some criteria. Maybe, if the minister stands on his feet and says, "Well, it's because they were reaching our target markets," well, fine. That's an answer, but that's not the answer I'm getting.
It's a fair question. There is $250,000 going in marketing agreements. We have the private sector - the entrepreneurs that the minister spoke so glowingly about and without whom we wouldn't be here - out there hustling in the marketplace, working hard, promoting the Yukon. We want them to do that, but when government meddles in the marketplace, we have unforeseen and sometimes unfortunate results, and all I'm asking is about the perception of fairness.
I realize that the tourism industry is important. I know it's important, and I know that we have to get this by marketing. I know that, and I know air access has been identified. It was identified in the tourism plan for Whitehorse in 1993. It has been identified for a long time.
We also have to, and have a responsibility to, ask how this money is being spent and how those decisions were arrived at. That's a fair question, and I'd like an answer from the minister. How did the minister decide on these particular agreements, and what's the plan in place for this year with the marketing agreements?
We spent a lot of money marketing with Air Transat, built up an expectation in the marketplace - they're not here; we've got Condor instead. Are we going to continue to build upon that work and use Condor? The minister has talked about targeting more marketing at Asia Pacific. Is it marketing with Cathay Pacific? Is it marketing with Canadian? What are we doing and why? I'd like that answer from the minister. He said there's no template. Perhaps not, but there must be a reason why one airline is chosen over another. What's the reason?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: At the risk of sounding condescending - if that's the proper way to say that word - that is not what I am attempting to do with the Member for Porter Creek South, not at all. It's unfortunate that the member has to take it that way because I do know that as we go through very healthy exchanges with both sides of the House, I listen, I take notes and take forth the goodness of what was said. It is not done in the spirit of speaking down or speaking up; it's done in the spirit of listening and sharing information, and that's how I am trying to project this. Now, I'm having a bit of difficulty.
We can always learn to be better communicators and that's certainly one of the goals - that I share with myself, I guess, and maybe others - is to become a better communicator.
The member asked specific questions: what and why? Why did we not, say, go to Canadian to bring non-stop service from Europe? Because Canadian doesn't service Europe. It's done by - now, the member is giving me eyes and I don't mean to be talking that way - the people who are there, by the service providers. There is not a service provider from Canadian Airlines within the European market. They fly out of Heathrow in London and they have partnerships, of course, with British Airways in other areas all over the world - all good stuff.
When we went into the European marketplace, it was to look, and that was a scramble because we knew that we needed to do something. The industry talked to us on it and they said "Good". I talked to my Government Leader and said, "God, I feel good about this. I want to do it. I think it's a good idea." He said, "Get out there and hustle it." So we did.
And we looked at the opportunity of who we would do this with. Of course, Air Transat was very hungry and desirous of doing it with us. The CTC was very supportive of it, so we cut that deal with them. When that opened up, it showed faith in the Yukon Territory as a world-class destination because, as the Member for Riverdale North repeated to me today a couple of times, it is a global competition. It's not B.C. and to the south and to the east, the territories and Nunavut, and to the west, Alaska. It's the world. Really it is. And I'm trying not to lecture. I'm trying to explain.
So, as you look at this competition, you go out to different areas. Now, as I announced to the Tourism Industry Association, we're looking for new markets and I'm looking for logical players that would assist us in that.
As I said, I've got meetings with Canadian Airlines to talk about our next market identification, and that is Asia - the niche market within Asia. Because when I say that, it's such a broad statement that it's not just all of Asia. There are two focuses that maybe we can go to in Asia, and they would be Taiwan and Japan, because their numbers are proving that people still want to come. There's definitely a high-end there where they need to have their Robson Street-type malls and five-star hotels type of thing, so we put that to the industry and it gives them something to work with, so I talked to different hoteliers about whether they would be able to accommodate those things.
So, they're looking to expand their services and whatnot. So, we also look at there being a niche market there that likes to do outdoor adventure. There are people who are certainly younger than me and the Chair of the House and they have the ambition to be able to do it, so they go out and have a different type of market - canoeing down the river, hiking up the mountains, and that type of thing.
These are all taken into fact, as when we go to speak to them, and when we do go to speak to them, Canadian, I know, I think, I'm hoping, will say things like, "Well, yeah, you want to work with us, by gosh, we will work with you folks, and these are the types of things we can do." So it's a marketing agreement. So, we have a set, identified type of fund that says what we can do with them. It's based on a cooperative arrangement, not to say that I come in with my packet of money and I say, "Here's $50,000, and that's all it is."
No, we ask, "What can we do together?" And we work on that type of arrangement. So, it's a belief of them in the industry, or a belief in the industry and in the Yukon as a world-class destination. Then, as a government, we go out to help them to do it. As I said, Europe is not the Alaska market, et cetera, so we very much talk to each airline. They change - each agreement is singularly different, but they are marketing agreements, and we are speaking to our local airline. I could never do without our local airline. I mean Canadian Airlines has been a mainstay in the Yukon Territory from before it was Pacific Western.
I hope that attempts to explain it, because that's truly what I'm trying to do: attempt to explain it.
Ms. Duncan: The minister shouldn't interpret my question as a defence of one airline over another. The question was fairness. I certainly recognize and appreciate the service from Canadian, as all of us have done. It's also, as was printed recently in a newspaper in Whitehorse, tough to remain loyal when you get the prices that you do. Now, the writer said it far more eloquently than I, but it's tough to remain loyal to that airline when you look at the prices that Canada 3000 is offering Yukoners for a trip south.
It certainly wasn't Canadian that I was referring to. It is examples like, "Why Era Aviation and not Air North?" Why focus on - well, I certainly understand focusing on air access for Whitehorse, but what about Central Mountain Air? What did we do with them? I certainly received representations from Central Mountain Air when they were here and when they were unable to make a go of their particular run. For example, with staff and volunteers that leave an organization, we do what's called an exit interview to see where the organization could have done better. Did anybody do an exit interview with Central Mountain Air and the Tourism department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I've just received some information from the member opposite regarding Canadian Airlines, and there was a partnership with Canadian Airlines in 1993-94 when they flew out of Europe, and, of course, I was explaining that they've changed their priorities, and we're still willing to arrange deals with them through their one-world initiative. We are talking with Air North officials to see how we can work with them, and Canada 3000 is also talking to Air North on the issue of Central Mountain Air. Well, Central Mountain Air, of course, is a subsidiary of Air Canada, I believe, and Air Canada made the choice to leave the territory. I can say that, of some initiatives that we're working on right now - and I think I reported back when I got back from Europe that I've talked to the Edmonton Airport authority. As soon as this session gets finished, I'm going to be sitting down with the Edmonton Airport authority, and we're going to see how we can open the north up so that in northern runs, you don't have to go down and up like this.
We're going to sit down with them and chat and find different, innovative ways - a good brainstorming discussion is what I expect to have in the first session - of how to open the north up, so we can have those micro-type carriers that will just connect the north again, the way it had been historically. We're doing those types of initiatives right now.
Sure, if you want to talk about partnerships, when I was in the United Kingdom, I'd spoken to Canadian Airlines there, and it was through partnerships that I had the through fares reduced again. So they reduced it to be more credible, so that people can come to Vancouver and then the through fare to Whitehorse was not going to be 1,000 pounds or anything like as such. It's going to be more realistic in a competitive range of maybe 150 pounds. Again, that's in partnership with Canadian, and we'll continue to do that.
Again, we partnered with them on our in-flight - you don't want to hear me sing that one more time, do you?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: So I rest that. When my own team says no, I really know that I'd better sit down.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister's getting some friendly advice from his colleague to not only not sing, but speed up the answers, so if he would like to move along on this particular debate -
I asked the minister about, in the Community and Transportation Services debate, whether they were considering purchasing a catering truck for the Whitehorse Airport, and some questions with respect to the push-back tug. I appreciate that officials are probably working on those responses.
Does the minister have anything new in terms of the purchase of the catering truck?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, it's still in the same situation that we are. We just know that we have to do something.
But certainly the more technical information is on its way.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, winter tourism is identified in the tourism strategy, as it has been identified for a number of years, as certainly an opportunity for Yukon tourism. I know there was an economic evaluation done of, I believe, Rendezvous, with regard to the value of that particular winter festival and there were some numbers crunched. Does the minister have those available and is there any sense or any thought or consideration being given to doing a similar evaluation of the trek over the top in Dawson City?
It's the Tok-to-Dawson snowmobile trip, and I think they're up to three groups, or something, of many hundreds of individuals doing that trip. I'm wondering if there's a plan for an economic survey or if there's any follow-up by the department on that particular success as to how other areas might learn from that success?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been advised that the impact study taken on by the Sourdough Rendezvous Society is not ready to be shared at this point. I know that they are going to share it for public use and it is an initiative of the Sourdough Rendezvous Society. I would encourage whoever wants to do it to certainly do it and we will certainly appreciate the results of that work.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, we have a number of these winter success stories in the Yukon. There's the Quest, the Sourdough Rendezvous and there is, as I mentioned, the trek over the top. How does the minister and the department intend to incorporate what we assume to be positive results in this study? How do they intend to incorporate it? What are the department's winter tourism marketing efforts?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: That is something that is unique and new to the territory. It's certainly a challenge for us to find ways to do it, and we're going to do that in partnership with the affected bodies. I've been speaking with Mr. Charlton, of the Rendezvous Society, and others, and have instructed the department to work with them to find new and innovative ways so that we might be able to market winter tourism.
Ms. Duncan: The minister indicated that they were looking for new and innovative ways to do this. How much budget are they working with specifically for winter tourism marketing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We'll use the existing tools that we have in place - different programs that we have in place - within government for that. I've asked them to focus a bit more, and that is exactly what is going to be happening as we go through the deliberations.
Ms. Duncan: The minister said that he's asked the department to focus, and that's what they're going to be doing - going through the deliberations. I assume he means that going through the discussions on the tourism strategy, they're also going to focus on that effort.
The Member for Riverdale North has raised the issue of more funding for convention marketing, as was pointed out to the minister during the Tourism Industry Association convention - the need for convention marketing. This has been an issue that the industry and business, government and non-profit organizations have wrestled with over the past few years.
There's another wrinkle to this whole idea of convention marketing that I haven't heard anyone mention, and I wonder if the minister might consider this tie-in with his other hats, and that's the sports groups that travel to the territory and the larger efforts that are undertaken. I'm thinking of, for example, hosing the TSN Skins Game in December 1999.
This event is very well supported by Yukoners. Most of the 500 tickets have already been sold for that particular event. While it may not necessarily bring in 1,000 conventioneers, it's certainly going to be bringing a substantial number of people to the territory, as would hosting the junior national curling championships, which we could do, as would hosting a number of the other sports events. Softball Yukon really developed, in part, in this territory because of their hosting of these events.
In all of the discussion around the Convention Bureau and building the convention marketing for the territory, I haven't heard any tie-in with the minister's other hat, the sports, art and recreation branch, and I'm wondering if there's an avenue for government to further assist that particular effort through that department, or if there are some additional efforts that could be made in that regard. I know the minister is fond of curling, so perhaps he would give this some thought in terms of conventions as well.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to correct the Member for Porter Creek South. I'm not fond of curling, Mr. Chair. It's bonspieling that I'm very fond of, and there's a major difference. I like to get a backache with a reason, and certainly I am very fond of bonspieling.
Now, if I could take off my straw boater that I wear when I'm in Tourism, and if I could take off my fluorescent orange cap when I'm talking about graders, and put on my winter games hat and my baseball hat and talk about all those neat things, yes, the department - C&TS - is very supportive of winter games. We do recognize the economic value of them to the community, and we'll continue to recognize that through contribution agreements or whatever arrangements have to be made.
And now I'm back in my straw boater, because I'm talking about Tourism now. The department has put forth $25,000, I believe it is - I can get the correct figure for you but I think it's $25,000 - for the Skins Game. So, as we evolve through the whole issue of marketing winter events and what we have in the wintertime, it's that type of scenario that I've asked the department to address in a mini fashion, because what we're talking about are events or festivals and the like.
I want to see them consolidated so that it isn't just left up to that society to say, hey, hey, hey, and put something on the rolling ads, but it's something that we can collectively put money together for, and as we do it collectively, the resources that we have to put to all of the individual ones will be put together. We'll save money, and we'll do a bang-up job of marketing. So, that's exactly what I've asked the department to check into.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just to clarify for the record, the department has put $25,000 toward the Convention Bureau, not hosting the TSN Skins Games. Or, is the minister telling me that they've also contributed to the hosting of the Skins Game?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, money to the Convention Bureau and also to the Skins Game, but I'll certainly get back with the exact amount of money. Yes, we believe in it.
Ms. Duncan: Great. I'm glad to hear that information from the minister, and I'd remind him to make sure he gets his ticket early.
The minister said that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is supportive. I didn't hear him indicate that they were forwarding any money to the Convention Bureau, but perhaps that's something that the department can examine.
I would also like to ask the minister if I could receive the department's policy on pins and the visitor pins, the Yukon emblem, the Yukon word mark and some of the others. The minister was approached, as many of us were, because in curling, in particular, when the juniors travel out, they are dealing with 11 other teams, four members per team, and the first thing you do when you walk out on the curling ice at a national championship is that each member hands each other member four pins. It's a lot of pins.
I know the minister was asked for pins, and the Member for Whitehorse Centre was asked for pins, as I was asked. I was also asked, at the same time, and couldn't respond - what's the policy? Curling is one particular example. I know there are many others, and I know we end up in this discussion every year in the Tourism debate, about the hassle around getting brochures.
So if I could ask the minister to forward those two policies: number one, pins for youth groups and, number two, brochures, because we've had representation from members, as well, about -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: It's an issue with the general public. They would like to know what the government's policy is, and like to know how come they can't get brochures from the Department of Tourism. I had both of those issues raised with me, again, and I'd like a clear policy.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If I may speak about the Skins Game, yes, we have put $25,000 toward - I believe that money is for the Skins Game. We've also put $25,000 into the Convention Bureau. You encourage me to get my tickets early. I'm actually hoping I'll get a bye into the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Are you telling me I won't get a bye, because there's not a bonspieler's prize in the Skins Games? I'm really going to check that out, because I'm looking to get a bye.
But certainly then, if I can't get a bye, I will get my tickets early.
On the issue of the pins, the pins are very expensive, and I'm not sure if the Clerk of the House here has control of it. I've been told that it is the Clerk of the House here who has control over the pins, but I guess that's not the case.
Pins are very expensive to produce and certainly we have a very limited number of them. We certainly do have as many as we choose to. They're very expensive.
What we do have, though, are business people in town who do produce the pins and, the way things are going, they have pins for sale. We do have pins and, whenever I can, I distribute those pins. I don't think I've refused anybody pins.
Could we do a little bit of a better job? I guess if we had a whole bunch more bucks, we could produce that many more pins and then we'd be in competition with the private sector, and I'm certainly not interested in duking it out with the private sector or the Clerk of the House.
So, I don't even know if there's a policy on it or on the brochures, to tell you the truth, but that's the direction, and I will write a letter to the member opposite after I do some research to see if there is an actual policy, but that is the case.
Ms. Duncan: The Chair has kindly allowed me one last comment before we report progress.
When the minister is reviewing the situation, I'm not asking the minister to go into competition with the private sector or spend a whole bunch of money. I just would like to be able to answer the people who come to me and say, "What's the policy?" And I would like to answer something other than, "Well, it's who you can lobby." I'd like to answer something a little better than that.
The other point is, perhaps it would be a worthwhile initiative if the minister would consider that a number of brochures are produced by the Department of Tourism and, as a matter of courtesy, every MLA could receive copies of those, just a sample copy, so we know what to take with us when we go out and we know what we can pass on to our constituents.
I know that they exist and we could walk across the street, but as a matter of courtesy it would be nice to receive, each year, a sample of, "This is what we've got this year."
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it gives me great pleasure indeed to be courteous to all members of the House, and certainly that is something that we always attempt to do. Anytime there's any information from the Department of Tourism, we usually sign letters and then try to share them with all the MLAs. If there's been a slight in that, then I would apologize on behalf of - well, myself.
We will continue, and if there's anything that you need, please feel free to contact me, but we will continue to do the work that we have, and any time that a new brochure comes out, we'll be more than happy to send it to all MLAs.
Chair: The time being close to 5:30, Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Tourism. Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I'd like to just raise a few points with the minister and then move on. I'll try to focus these questions and keep the debate moving.
We had a discussion last year at this time, and I'd just like to remind the minister of it. I asked about fam tours and how the vendors are chosen. I understand that if, for example, we're entertaining the western Canadian hiking magazine writers, obviously we're going to take them on hiking tours. My question for the minister at the time was how do we pick and choose which hiking tour operator to take them to?
I asked the minister to get back to me on that - if there was any sort of a checklist for, for example, if we're entertaining six fam tours, that we might use one operator on one trip and one on another. Is there something in the department?
The minister had pledged to get back to me, and I don't recall having received an answer.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, we do go for the quality product, of course, and that doesn't mean that some are of higher quality than others. So, we try to get them to focus on where we'd like to see them go, what we'd like to see them write about, et cetera. So, we try to spread it around in as fair a manner as possible.
Ms. Duncan: Again, this is one of those two-hat questions: highway signage. I know that it's a big issue with businesses in Whitehorse and it's a major issue and has been for a number of years with the department.
There are two points I'd like to make with the minister in that regard. One is regarding the ability of businesses to put highway signs up. There is some question and concern out there. Perhaps the minister could give me a written response clarifying the policy in that regard and also, what efforts we make to ensure that signs are current and well-maintained. There is a goodly number of them, and I realize the season is early, but there are a number of them around Whitehorse that could really do with some sprucing up, so to speak.
Also, a concern has been raised with me that our highway signage, particularly at the entrance into Whitehorse, is not large or appropriate enough. We need more signage advertising the SS Klondike, the MacBride Museum and, of course, the fish ladder.
For these concerns with regard to the highway signage, an appropriate response by the minister would also be an appropriate response to the business summit as it was also a recommendation. We need a greater ability to draw people into downtown Whitehorse and large signage would be one appropriate response, I think, to that.
I wonder if the minister would care to respond to those comments?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, as I put on my orange hat, once more, I can speak about it. We do have a policy, and I can forward that. We're looking at revamping that policy to make it even more current.
So, yes, I can send the policy over and we can send some of the ideas that we might have for updating the policy.
As you know, and as the former minister knows, this is a very contentious issue, but all we can do is keep plodding ahead.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to restate that I think it would be particularly appropriate, given that one of the portions of the hats that the minister wears is heritage, we improve the signing to the heritage sights and the historic sights within Whitehorse - attractions such as the SS Klondike and the MacBride Museum.
While on the subject of selections, the minister has kindly, in response to a request, forwarded copies of the standing offer agreement we have with Bergold Promotions in Europe, and I note that we also did a standing offer agreement with an agency in the U.K. this year. How are these businesses selected to be our agents in Europe? Was there a form of a tendering process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been told that they didn't really go through a tendering process, per se, but I can speak a little bit about the Jill White Promotions from the United Kingdom. She came so highly recommended from many different people within the industry. So, it's a consultation process that is garnered. In that case, it was people from the high embassy in London and others that were specifically promoting her, and in the industry. It certainly turned out to be the right move because she certainly could open many, many doors, and it's the same case with Bergold Promotions.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the same letter from the minister I received, I was able to review a copy of the promotional video, and I note the minister and the department received glowing letters in support of the particular video. It certainly is very powerful and well done - and also, for the record, I returned it. I thank the minister for an opportunity to view it.
I'm just curious as to the distribution of that particular video. Can someone go to the department and get it? Is it fairly widely available? Do we show it? What is the distribution of it?
I would also note for the minister that when the video was shown at the breakfast meeting that was attended by Mr. Bergold and a representative of Fulda, the opening of that video that was shown had a Beringia Tours logo. But it's not on the video that the department gave me to view. I was just curious about that difference between the videos.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On the last issue first, I don't know. I'll have to check it out, but it's been pointed out that they might have a copy that they had done for themselves and inserted that.
On the other issue of availability, yes, the film is widely available for anybody who wants to see it.
Ms. Duncan: And presumably for anyone wanting to bring a convention here, they could borrow a copy from the department.
The northern tourism partnership agreement with Nunavut - if I could just ask the minister's office to send over a copy, I'd be interested in that.
And the think-snow campaign and the film commission - I've received some representation from individuals involved in this industry - and I've actually passed them on to the minister - that there's a real growing industry in the Yukon in terms of the individual filmmakers, camera people and video people trained, particularly through Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon, who, for instance, when Pamela Martin was here during the CTV special, she used the Northern Native Broadcasting camera person, and they've won a series of awards as well. And there have been suggestions that the film efforts by the Government of the Yukon could be refocused to be even more supportive of this particular industry. And I wonder if the minister has noted those representations on his to-do list and if the department is giving any sort of thought to refocusing the film efforts. And that's not to say that the ones that we're doing now are not good efforts. I certainly applaud the think-snow campaign. It's a great campaign. What else are we doing to aid our local filmmakers, and how are we looking at developing the film commission itself as a commission within Tourism.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the film incentive component does have initiatives for local people and it's an ongoing thing from the previous administration to here. We've seen this very much as an opportunity, so we're surely looking to critique it on an ongoing basis so that we might be able to take the best advantage of the talent base we have here in the Yukon Territory.
We have put aside $50,000 for local film initiatives here out of the budget of $175,000, with $25,000 for training.
On the Nunavut and the northern partnership program, yes, I will send you all the information that we have on that.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps I could just urge the minister, once there is an opportunity, to sit down with some of the film industry folks here and perhaps do a targeted session with them as to how the department might better support their efforts.
One of the areas I would like to ask the minister about is Visitor FM 93. We used to have that radio station throughout Yukon, and I confess I haven't listened to it lately. It only operates in the summer months. Is it going to continue, and do we use it as a showcase for local artists? For example, in between the travelogue, do we play Jerry Alford's CD, or readings from our local authors, or anything else? Do we use Visitor FM 93 to promote our local artists, and if not, why not, and is it still operating in the summer months?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, it certainly has a very limited range. The FM 93 station, as you know, has its focus predominantly on the Carcross-Tagish loop and other loops like that. Certainly, in the private sector there is much more of an awareness of these type of stories or local histories or local colour coming up, so we're trying to work with them so that they don't impede the others.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was certain that visitor radio stations would operate a short distance outside of the communities. I seem to recall seeing the sign outside Stewart and Pelly that said to tune in to Visitor FM. And it was this FM radio station, if you will, that was operated by the visitor information centres. My sense from the minister was that this was just part of the Carcross-Tagish loop.
I'd like a clarification on that, and I'd like to have him take that idea back to the arts branch in cooperation with Tourism because they're in touch with our storytellers, with our musicians in the territory and use it to a greater degree to promote our local artists, if that's possible.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly that's possible. I can talk to the arts branch about that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to also express appreciation to the arts branch. They have done an excellent job over the years in promoting the growth of the arts community in the Yukon, and I'd like to express my appreciation to them.
The minister might be aware that on April 12 there was a news story about the cruise ship lines giving money to Alaskan heritage centres. Princess and Holland America gave $325,000 to Alaska Native Heritage Centre in Anchorage.
Now, Princess and Holland America do a lot for the Yukon, and they contribute as well. I was just curious if anyone had made any request of them or if the minister was aware of this, if he was aware of the development of this heritage centre, and had any information on it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Chair, if anybody came with a cheque for $325,000 American, we wouldn't turn it down, but by the same token we don't aggressively go out and go, "Spare change, spare change" either. We don't do that.
But certainly what we do do, and will continue to do - because I certainly appreciate the Holland America and Princess. They're both very critical to our tourism industry here in the Yukon and dwell in the north in particular, and we do enjoy a fine relationship with them, and there are always ways to improve it, and we're always working to improve our relationship with them, through co-op marketing and whatever we can with them.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, maybe next year. As long as the minister's aware of the news story, maybe we'll follow up with it in the appropriate place and time to ensure the Yukon receives full opportunity.
The Member for Riverdale North has noted and the Tourism Industry Association has noted their support for increased opening and closing dates of the campgrounds, which was an issue I raised with the Minister of Renewable Resources.
I wonder if, when the Minister of Renewable Resources responds to the Minister of Tourism on that issue with some costing, the ministers could forward that information to us as well.
I'd also like to commend the Tourism and Renewable Resources departments for their Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act package. I sat and worked through it while I listened to the debate earlier today, and it's very well done. Very easy to follow. I'm sure the business community appreciates that.
The issue of Rocky Mountain Campers and the information that's coming to Yukon - I'd also like to, before I close debate, just raise with the minister that I didn't - he has stated privately, but I haven't heard him state publicly efforts with respect to working with the local operators. I'm concerned that once we have met the challenge before us, which I know we're going to do - Yukoners are strong and innovative people - I'd like to encourage the minister and departmental staff to sit down with the industry operators at the end of the season and just analyze the situation.
Analyze what happened, how it happened, how well we coped, and where and how government involvement should or should not take place. I would like the minister's assurances that he will consider doing that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's fundamentally clear that the local operators are a part of the consortium and definitely will be a part of the solution in the ongoing initiatives. The department is continuing to find ways to make it better and, as the Member for Riverdale North has said, there was a lesson learned. He was speaking generally to all of us here that we cannot afford to put all our eggs in one basket, and certainly it is with clarity that I listen to that, and I hear the same being echoed from the member opposite. So, certainly, we'll be continuing to monitor the situation and to work with the situation, but again, the local operators are very definitely involved within the consortium.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that the local industry operators are involved with the consortium. I'd also like a commitment from the minister that he will sit down with those local operators - not just the consortium but the local operators - and talk to them about the Yukon and the Yukon situation. In the fall, when the dust has settled - although we don't have dust any more; we have such excellent roads - and the summer has passed, I suggest that the minister could sit down with them.
The Fulda incentive that is scheduled for this September - does the minister have any sense of how many individuals that might involve, and is the department making any contribution to work with the group coming over?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: September 14. It's kind of funny that when I was over talking to those fellows in Europe, I had said to them that it was very nice that they would be coming and that they're even coming on my birthday, September 14. And when they translated it into German from English, they sat up and said that the minister just invited all 500 of us to his birthday party in the Yukon Territory. I said, "No, no, no, no. There is no money involved from us." And it was all a laugh, and we had a really good joke with it. But certainly they'll be here on September 14. You all know my birthday now, so I certainly expect that there will be many things coming forth for it. There will be approximately 500 people, and no, the Yukon government never put anything toward that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on that note, I have just a final question in general debate. Overall, the Tourism department has undergone a great many changes. There are a number of acting positions, and I note through this debate we've generated a lot more work with them, with answers to send over to us. When might the department be back at full strength and with everyone doing their originally assigned task? Is there a sense of when that might occur?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm going here with caution. Certainly it's not something that I can get too deeply into. I appreciate that the Member for Porter Creek South realizes that.
The director's position is closing on May 12. We've advertised internally and there wasn't a successful candidate, so it's gone out externally. It will close on May 12, so we expect that, depending on the number of applicants and the short screening, we will have somebody positioned as marketing director soon after that.
Certainly the other critical issue is the position of deputy minister, and the deputy minister is out on three months' medical leave.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that answer from the minister and the sense of where the department is going, and also the department's response at the Tourism Industry Association convention about depth on the bench. I certainly would concur that individuals have certainly filled in. That can only occur for so long, and then the stress level is beyond the pale. So, I hope that that's able to occur quickly and fairly easily.
That would be it for general debate for me, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Ms. Duncan: That line item has a six-percent increase. Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that predominantly comes from Other. There's been an increase in personnel and there's been an increase in contract services.
Operations in the amount of $1,052,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $1,052,000 agreed to
Operations in the amount of $305,000 agreed to
Museums in the amount of $371,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites
Historic Sites in the amount of $141,000 agreed to
On Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in the amount of $347,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: I have a question on the statistics, Mr. Chair.
Yukon historic inventory buildings - the explanation note is that this comes from departmental records and actual or projected number of buildings recorded in the fiscal year, and it's a 450-percent increase. Did we discover a treasure trove of historic buildings? How did this increase occur, when the department's heritage budget is not increased by anywhere close to that amount?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd be pleased to provide an inventory list to the member.
Heritage in the amount of $1,164,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister's officials to send over the usage of the industry service centre? I understand it's very well used. Is there a breakdown kept of the statistics, if it's local businesses or anything like that? I'd be interested in the usage.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, if I can recall from my speechmaking on Saturday night, it was 600 hits, I believe. Yes, it was, but I will detail that.
Operations in the amount of $480,000 agreed to
Industry Services in the amount of $480,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there general debate on marketing?
Operations in the amount of $1,325,000 agreed to
On Public Relations
Public Relations in the amount of $131,000 agreed to
Promotions in the amount of $1,886,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $1,749,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, just a reminder to the minister: this is the area where I am very concerned about whether we're in the marketplace at the right time, primarily because of the disruptions we've had within the department, and this is the area that I talked about with the minister, and if we had to do some contract work. We have saved some dollars here with respect to some individuals there, for one reason or another, and we certainly would have no problem at all ensuring that we had the right people in the right place doing the necessary marketing work. I know everyone over there is doing an outstanding job, but can only do so much and there have been some shortages and so, I would hope the minister wouldn't hesitate if he saw fit to do some contract work there on specific project-by-project assignments. He wouldn't get any argument from our side.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've already instructed the department to draft the terms of reference for that.
Marketing in the amount of $5,091,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there general debate on Arts?
Mr. Phillips: I have real trouble with this line item in the budget, but I think we'll let it go this time, considering that the biggest actor in the arts branch is now the biggest actor in the department.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I thank the member for that.
Operations in the amount of $1,410,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The arts development has shown a 150-percent increase, and the special events and exhibitions have decreased. I would take it that the department is spending more time in terms of workshops and less on exhibiting and showcasing the work that's been done. Is my sense correct, or does the minister have anything to add in terms of the overall direction of the arts branch?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I've just been told by the acting director, whom I thank for the compliment toward me, is that yes, he said that we are doing more work in the community.
Chair: Are there any questions on the revenue and recoveries?
Arts in the amount of $1,410,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $9,197,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Corporate Services
On General Corporate Support
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was an increase there. Are we getting a new computer system there? It's fairly marginal, but overall there is quite an increase in the department. That's the redirection, of course, of the tourism marketing fund, but that's a fairly new building, fairly new furniture, and it's an 18-percent increase. Is there any explanation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, it's primarily for the replacement of non-year-2000-compliant computers.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $52,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Marketing Initiatives
On Tourism Marketing Fund
Tourism Marketing Fund in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $802,000 agreed to
On Historic Resources
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre - Capital Maintenance
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre - Capital Maintenance in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Museums Assistance
Museums Assistance in the amount of $314,000 agreed to
On Exhibits Assistance
Exhibits Assistance in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Conservation and Security
Conservation and Security in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites
On Historic Sites Maintenance
Historic Sites Maintenance in the amount of $145,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites Inventory
Historic Sites Inventory in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Fort Selkirk
Fort Selkirk in the amount of $180,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites Planning
Historic Sites Planning in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
On Interpretation and Signage
Interpretation and Signage in the amount of $125,000 agreed to
On Canyon City Tramway
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, this was a project that was designed some years ago, and there were some preliminary discussions with Kwanlin Dun, and they were quite actively involved in the design of the project. And I know there was an actual drawing, and future plans and estimates of re-creating Canyon City as a tourism attraction. And it would be a great addition, I believe, to the attractions we have in Whitehorse.
The reason the actual construction stopped is because of some of the problems Kwanlin Dun was having. It wasn't their priority; let's put it that way. They were focusing more on other things. There now appears to be more stability in Kwanlin Dun, and I'm wondering if the department is going to pursue sitting down with Kwanlin Dun and trying to reactivate the plans so that we can get a fairly significant attraction, and may possibly partner with Kwanlin Dun or others out there, to establish a re-creation of Canyon City, as part of the First Nation heritage out there - the fish camp that was along the river above the canyon, as well as the portage. That was a portage area, I think, where they used to pull out before they hit the rapids, as well as the main stopover for all the boats that came down the river, and all the goldseekers could jump on the tram and come down to Whitehorse that way.
So there's a lot of history there, and great potential of adding another attraction, and I just wonder if the government has been sitting down, or is going to sit down in the near future, and have some discussions with Kwanlin Dun about the development of the project.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, certainly, Mr. Chair. With the stability of the new leadership, or I guess I should say with the new leadership of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, it's very much the desire of the department and ourselves to turn that into exactly what the member said.
Canyon City Tramway in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Yukon Archaeology
Yukon Archaeology in the amount of $166,000 agreed to
Paleontology in the amount of $115,000 agreed to
On Heritage Studies
Heritage Studies in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Heritage in the amount of $1,505,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
On Industry and Regional Services
On Industry Research and Strategic Planning
Industry Research and Strategic Planning in the amount of $505,000 agreed to
On Product and Resource Assessment
Product and Resource Assessment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Tourism Industry Resource Centre
Tourism Industry Resource Centre in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Industry Services in the amount of $535,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centres
On Multi-media Equipment
Multi-media Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On VRC Capital Maintenance
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that this is due largely to the realization that the Beaver Creek project is going to be a lot bigger than originally anticipated. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Predominantly, Beaver Creek takes up $85,000 of that, with Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Dawson and Carcross taking up the other portion.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what are those upgrades? Again, Whitehorse is a fairly new facility, so what are we doing with that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's not renovating something that's broken. It's just additions, banners and photo panels to make it more attractive and more interpretive.
VRC Capital Maintenance in the amount of $165,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Travel Equipment, Displays and Productions
On Purchase and Maintenance of Displays
Purchase and Maintenance of Displays in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Production, Distribution and Versioning of Vignettes
Production, Distribution and Versioning of Vignettes in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Production, Distribution and Versioning of Films and Audio-Visual Shows
Production, Distribution and Versioning of Films and Audio-Visual Shows in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Marketing in the amount of $230,000 agreed to
On Visual Arts
On Visual Arts Acquisition
Visual Arts Acquisition in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Prior Year's Projects
Prior Year's Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
On Facility Development
On Arts Centre Capital Maintenance and Equipment Replacement
Arts Centre Capital Maintenance and Equipment Replacement in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Film Incentive
On Film Incentive Program
Film Incentive Program in the amount of $175,000 agreed to
On Millennium Celebrations
On Millennium Fund
Millennium Fund in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the recoveries or transfer payments?
Arts in the amount of $633,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $3,705,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism agreed to
Chair: Committee will now proceed to the Women's Directorate.
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The 1999-2000 capital budget of $5,000 and the operations and maintenance budget of $427,000 for the Women's Directorate represents a total of $432,000 to support the Yukon government's commitment to the economic, legal and social equality of women.
The O&M expenditures of the Women's Directorate fall under one program heading: policy and program development. The directorate's priority work is to integrate gender consideration into our government's policy, legislation and program development.
Good public policy relies first and foremost on good analysis. Gender-based analysis provides a way to measure the impact of existing and proposed policies, programs and legislation on women and men. It helps policymakers understand the relationship between government policy and the different social and economic realities of women and men.
This year, the directorate published Counting Us In: A Statistical Profile of Yukon Women, which provides important information on the similarities and differences between Yukon women's and men's lives.
The directorate works closely with Justice on policy issues such as the regulations to implement the Family Violence Prevention Act, with Education on the implementation of the gender equity in public schools policy and the youth strategy, and with Health and Social Services on anti-poverty, health and social issues. The directorate is actively participating on the government's task force on healthy communities to ensure departments take a coordinated approach to creating programs and policies that affect Yukon communities and take into account the reality of women's lives.
The allotments under policy and program development are for personnel, for project and program funding, and for transfer payments. An example is the payment to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre of $20,000 to help carry out its valuable service. Last year, the centre offered an eight-week anger management program, which now has a waiting list of 50. The centre plans to run the program again in the spring and fall. There is $12,000 also provided for the Yukon Status of Women Council.
The issue of violence against women in the territory remains of significant concern. In November of 1999, over 120 people attended an evening event to hear speakers on the topic of "freedom from violence, a basic human right". This was followed by a symposium with over 50 people from the Yukon participating in panel sessions. There is an allocation of $43,000 in the area of violence prevention for public awareness and education campaigns and producing resource materials. This year, the directorate produced an educational video on the defence of provocation, entitled In the Heat of Passion. We are also publishing options, choices and changes. We worked with Kaushee's Place, the family violence prevention unit, the legal community and other women's groups to provide a booklet with reference materials for women leaving abusive situations.
The directorate chairs a regional advisory committee to deliver the Canadian Red Cross abuse prevention services program in the Yukon. This program, run by trained volunteers, has been expanded into rural Yukon schools and now includes an aboriginal component, "walking the prevention circle".
The directorate also continues to co-chair a federal/provincial/territorial status of women working group on violence against women.
The Women's Directorate continues to focus on initiatives and projects that promote equality for young women. The young women of grit program has had great success in supporting women who are at risk or may have experienced violence in their lives.
There have also been a number of activities in implementing the gender equity policy in the public schools including, this week, during the first gender equity awareness week, the publication of a reader-friendly booklet called, It All Adds Up.
I look forward to questions from the opposition.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I hate to disappoint the minister, but I want to thank the department for a very thorough briefing and also for responding in writing to some of my questions. I am prepared to go line by line. I have no questions in general debate.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I was really pleased to attend the open house at the Women's Directorate, I think, two weeks ago. It was very good. It seems like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't that long ago. There was a lovely spread put on and there was also a viewing of the defence-of-provocation video that the Women's Directorate has recently put out. It was very well put together and very professionally done.
In one of the handouts that was given out at the open house and indeed, was tabled later in the Legislature, is this report, Counting Us In: A Statistical Profile of Yukon Women. There are a couple of points in the report that speak to women's lives here in the Yukon, and the minister spoke earlier about the reality of women's lives.
In the report, they talk about how women do the majority of child care in the Yukon, which comes as no great surprise to anybody, but it also said that, in the paid profession of child care worker, that women are paid up to $4,000 less a year than men who perform the same service. It seems to me that that is a very important issue to women. This is what we do, obviously, in the majority of our time and it makes sense that that is a gender equity issue that we might want to be paying some attention to.
I found it a little disturbing and I'm wondering if there are any plans in the near future to look at the issue of child care and women in the Yukon's role in that profession, and also what we do on an unpaid basis.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the member is right. The Women's Directorate open house was a couple of weeks ago, and it certainly was well-attended. I'm glad the member enjoyed it, as I did.
On the subject of child care, it is an important issue and it was a previous New Democrat government that established the child care board, which is still in operation. And we have a child care advisory board.
There have also been a number of training programs offered at Yukon College, and that Yukon College has delivered in a number of rural communities. We have brought into effect regulations, which require minimal standards of training for child care workers.
I work with my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, on improvements to child care services and to the training that's available for child care workers.
I appreciate the member's interest and look forward to advising her of further progress as it is made.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, obviously my question was too long or too complicated. My concern with the area of child care was the fact that there is a problem around gender equity. Women who are working in this field make less than men who work in the same field, and there is an extreme majority of women who work in this field, so this is a very large issue about gender equity, and I was hoping that that might be an area the directorate might be looking at in the future.
Also, it's women mostly who look after or take care of the older generation as well in the Yukon and everywhere in Canada, and this is also a gender equity issue, both on a paid and unpaid basis. On a paid basis, they make less money, and on an unpaid basis they work more hours.
This is also a gender equity issue that's important to Yukon women, and indeed to Canadian women, and I'm hoping there will be some attention paid to both of those care issues - women caring for others - at some point on the agenda for the Women's Directorate in the coming year or years. There needs to be some sort of workplan to take a look at those issues around gender equity in those two areas.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, those are issues that do need to be incorporated into all policy decisions that government makes. That's the role of the directorate - whether it's Health and Social Services who may be taking a lead on a particular initiative on child care - to ensure that the directorate is involved in looking at the gender analysis.
The fostering healthy communities task force that I referred to in my opening remarks also includes many departments across government, and the Women's Directorate is actively ensuring that those gender considerations are being considered in all areas, including child care.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of quick questions for the minister, and they relate to the way the Women's Directorate works throughout government.
In terms of gender equity awareness, it was a week ago that I raised the issue with the Minister of Renewable Resources. It didn't come out very well in debate, but the point I was trying to make was that it would seem that there aren't enough women represented in the field, so to speak, and it's been raised as a concern with me by young women. They would like to work in the field in Renewable Resources, and they don't see a lot of opportunity. It's traditionally a male-dominated environment, and they are expressing an interest in that career, and it's something that, under gender equity awareness, I would just like to point that out to the minister.
The other point that I'd like to raise is one that I raised with the Minister of the Public Service Commission with respect to women in work, particularly women in work in the public service conference that's coming up in Ottawa in September. I just wonder if the Women's Directorate has any involvement in putting forward the chance to participate, and if anyone from the Women's Directorate is looking at that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: On the first point, Mr. Chair, the member and I are in agreement that young women today do need to look at careers in a whole range of occupations, and moving out of traditional occupational groups, such as child care, is important for women. They do have interests in a lot of areas.
We support that through the focus of the gender equity in the schools policy, as well as in other ways. At the present time, there is also a study on apprenticeship being done to encourage women to consider careers in trades and technology. The recent Skills Canada Competition up at Yukon College saw many women participating in non-traditional occupations.
There's obviously more work to be done, and the Women's Directorate will continue to work with other government departments on that.
The question about the conference on public sector work, I'll have to inquire about and bring an answer back for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll send the information I have over to the minister for the department. I think, given the number of women who are employed in the public service in the Yukon by a number of different governments, perhaps it would be worthy of the Women's Directorate at least taking a look at this.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
On Program Delivery
Program Delivery in the amount of $329,000 agreed to
On Public Education
Public Education in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Violence Prevention
Violence Prevention in the amount of $43,000 agreed to
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $427,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $427,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Policy and Program Development
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mrs. Edelman: Just detail on the line again, Mr. Chair. This is for the new computer station, is it?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, that was explained at the technical briefing. The member is correct.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Chair: Does Committee wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm pleased today to introduce the 1999-2000 budget for Yukon Housing Corporation.
In addition to its regular corporate activities, the corporation has several new initiatives underway to foster healthy communities and generate employment opportunity for Yukon people. We have listened to Yukon people and responded.
This budget reflects many of the concerns people expressed on the need for affordable housing, energy efficiency, and improved quality of life. Yukon Housing Corporation has positioned itself to assist the consumer, the housing industry and the environment in the new fiscal year. I'm speaking of initiatives such as Homeshow '99, the green mortgage, the demonstration manufactured housing.
Already, financial institutions have indicated their willingness to offer lower interest for the energy-efficient homes, thus precipitating the move toward the market consciousness of the value of energy conservation in the territory.
In addition, the first two phases of the community housing studies are near completion, along with the Whitehorse seniors housing survey. Through these and other projects, coupled with other efforts within the government, Yukon Housing Corporation will help improve the climate of business and industry in the territory and improve the housing options for Yukon residents.
As part of the mobile home strategy, $1.5 million has been earmarked for the completion of the Range Road mobile home condominium development to create more affordable housing options for Yukon people and, in addition, a $1 million loan program to improve roads and public safety in mobile home parks. These two initiatives are the two main factors in the increased capital expenditure of the corporation.
Most of the Yukon Housing Corporation expenditures are fully recoverable - the home ownership program, green mortgage, private sector partnering and the mobile home enhancement program. The home repair program continues to be in high demand, and many people are taking advantage of the low interest offer. Eighty-five percent of the expenditures under this program are recoverable and this demonstrates our commitment to the continued availability of assistance for low-income homeowners.
Many of the capital expenditures by the corporation will go toward employing Yukon contractors and purchasing materials from Yukon businesses.
Projected O&M expenditures have only increased by two percent. Of note, one-half FTE is recoverable from the industrial research assistance program of the federal government. This position provides Yukon industry with access to resources for research, development and marketing of new technologies.
There are also several areas of the corporation that generate activity but are not directly linked with the financial commitments. For example, the round table on energy program delivery staff is in communities, participating in large events, such as the trade show, self-help courses, and industry training in areas such as oil burner mechanics, the R2000 upgrading and certification and energy auditor certification.
The implementation of a new financial management system is on time and on budget. The expenditure under the central services reflects the cost of developing new systems, such as a property management system client database and replacement of work stations due to non-year 2000 compliance.
The systems required to manage the new green mortgage program is already in place. I'm pleased to work with the corporation and find that this budget demonstrates fiscal responsibility, while demonstrating a practical and cost-recoverable approach to improving economic conditions of the housing industry, living conditions for people and respect for the environment.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to just explore with the minister some of the issues surrounding land development here in the Yukon, previously by the Department of Community and Transportation Services and now by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Chair, the report of the Auditor General for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 1997, devoted five pages to land development. It encompassed an overview, an evaluation of finished land, an evaluation of land under development, value-for-money issues in land development, conclusions, recommendations and management comments.
What happened was that the Department of Community and Transportation Services comes under extensive scrutiny with respect to their land development policies, their recovery policies and other related issues. What appears to have happened, Mr. Chair, is that land development has kind of been moved over to the Yukon Housing Corporation, and I'd like to ask the minister if the same rules that applied to Community and Transportation Services with respect to land development are going to be adhered to and followed by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, they will.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the government's stated accounting policy for valuing land is that it's held at the lower of cost or estimated market value. The total value reported in the land balance is to include the cost of acquiring, planning and developing service lots for eventual sale. Is this the policy that the Yukon Housing Corporation is following? Let's use the mobile home park, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, that's the same - Yukon Housing is following that policy.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any areas where the Yukon Housing Corporation will be differing from established policies for land development, land sales, from what was utilized by Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess the short answer is no, I haven't had anything other than what we've had here.
Mr. Jenkins: So what the minister has stated for the record is, the policies that were followed by Community and Transportation Services with respect to land acquisition, land development, and land sales, will be adhered to in the entirety by the Yukon Housing Corporation? Is that what the minister is saying? Or are there areas where the policies of the Yukon Housing Corporation are going to be different from those of Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is the same policy, yes.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to ask the minister where and how was the determination made that the undertaking for the development of the mobile home park on Range Road was going to be done by Yukon Housing Corporation, vis-à-vis Community and Transportation Services? How did that come into the domain of the Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member knows that we were looking at trying to take care of some of the health and safety issues in mobile homes in trailer parks. We did go to the private sector but there was not an uptake on this, so that's how the corporation went ahead and tackled this on its own.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister not agree that this undertaking could have been done equally as well without the secondment of individuals from C&TS to Yukon Housing Corporation by Community and Transportation Services? It could have been done by the agency of the government that, in the past, has done all the land development. What precipitated the move over to the Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We've had a number of organizations and departments working on this. We've had Community and Transportation Services, as well as Justice and the City of Whitehorse, involved and participating in trying to look at combatting this whole situation with mobile homes, and that's kind of how it grew.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm very curious, Mr. Chair, as to why, all of a sudden, everything is transferred over to the Housing Corporation whereas previously it was done by Community and Transportation Services.
These types of undertakings - this is the first undertaking of this size by the Housing Corporation. Previously, land development was the domain of Community and Transportation Services, and it would appear that even the secondment from other agencies of the government for the Housing Corporation to facilitate this undertaking has been done.
So, I would also suggest to the minister, Mr. Chair, that when we look at the Auditor General's report, the Auditor General severely criticizes the Government of Yukon for having a land inventory that appears to be overstated in value and much in excess of the current needs. So, is part of the reason being that we just want to usurp the Auditor General's report and put it into another pot so that it won't look like we have one great big number of lots beyond what we have currently? Is that part of the reason?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the member knows that we have said that what we wanted to do was take care of the health and safety issues in mobile home parks, and this is where this grew out of. We wanted to be able to put together programs that mobile home owners could use to move and upgrade their units to this park. So, it was an overall strategy, a mobile home strategy that drove this development of the mobile home park.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we already have available mobile home lots in the City of Whitehorse that are on the market. In fact, we have an oversupply, and the price of those mobile home lots are known, whereas the price of these lots that have yet to be completely developed are not totally known. If we go on the same formula that is used by Community and Transportation Services, we still have a lot of costs that we have to assemble. We do not know what the final cost of these lots is going to be in the Range Road mobile home subdivision, and then we do not know what the eventual costs are going to be to the residents there, or the purchasers of those lots, given that they are strata titled and there are a lot of other costs associated with strata titles that haven't even been recognized.
So, we just take the total cost, and it looks like we've broken it down into a lot more areas, so the total amount that is represented by the sale of the land appears to be much more reasonable. But that is not the case, Mr. Chair. That certainly is not the case when one adds up all the costs associated with the purchase of a lot there, with the strata title fees and with all of the other operating costs of a home in that area.
So, I'm still very, very curious, and I'm not satisfied with the explanation that the minister has offered as to why the Housing Corporation ended up being the lead agency. It sounds like it was by default. Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, Mr. Chair. I told the member why we were looking at this particular development. It's not a land development for regular housing in the city. It's targeted at mobile homes and, in particular, trying to take care of the health and safety issues related to some of the mobile home parks. That's how we started this whole thing. The member knows that, not only that, but in the mobile home parks here we had evictions in 1994. Where do these people go in the middle of the winter?
What we wanted to be able to do is put programs in place to upgrade the units to an acceptable standard and to also put in place programs to help these individuals move their units into this particular mobile home park. That's what we were working with.
Along with the other departments, the Housing Corporation has a mandate to do such development. It is within its act to do land development and the financing of land sales. The corporation has worked with municipalities to develop land. So, it's not that the corporation is not mandated to do this.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not suggesting that it's not within the mandate of the Housing Corporation. I just said that it's a peculiar undertaking for them, given that this type of land development in the past has all been done by Community and Transportation Services and their lands people. That's what I stated for the record, Mr. Chair.
I'm still very, very curious. The minister mentioned mobile homes that are going to meet standards, and then he mentioned "acceptable standards". Well, the acceptable standards for the City of Whitehorse is that a mobile home can't be over 10 years of age, or are we just going to go by the Z-240 standards? What standards are we adhering to with respect to these mobile homes? Are we going to establish a whole new set of standards, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't have the standards in front of me. I know that they were all up to code - like the wiring code and so on. The corporation has standards and so does the condominium, so we can provide that to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm seeking from the minister, Mr. Chair, is where these standards are? Have we developed a whole new set of standards for the units that we're bringing in or hope to attract to this mobile home park, or are we adapting the industry standards, which is the Z-240 sticker?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It would address all, of course, the health and safety issues and build to code. Whether or not it is the same as the Z-240, I don't know at this point. I'll have to get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, will these conform to CMHC standards, and will there be insured mortgages on these units through CMHC, or is the Housing Corporation assuming all of the risk for these mortgages that will be extended on these units?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I guess the short answer is that we don't have mortgage insurance, not like CMHC did through the new home warranties and so on, although our loan programs are designed to take care of these types of issues, but not the insurance. You are talking about home insurance and not condominium fees or anything like that - is that correct?
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm referring to, Mr. Chair, is the underwriting of the mortgage insurance, which is usually backed by CMHC on a conventional mortgage, depending on the levered amount. There's a fee for that CMHC guarantee. Is that the case with respect to these repairs, or is the Housing Corporation assuming all the risk associated with the lending?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Housing Corporation doesn't have CMHC backing it up. With our mortgages, we don't have CMHC as insurers, either. It's all done through the corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: So in the event of default, who suffers the loss?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: This is like some of the programs we offer through the corporation, like the home repair program. We are the ones who are responsible.
Mr. Jenkins: So I take it to mean that, in the event of default, the Housing Corporation would assume the loss. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: If there is a default, the corporation enters into a process to try to recoup the money.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister still doesn't get it. In the event of a loss on the mortgage, who suffers the loss? Normally it's offset to CMHC - they guarantee 95 per cent. The minister has acknowledged that CMHC is not underwriting or backing these.
Is there any type of mortgage insurance in place on these mortgages - and I would assume they're mortgages, or are they just chattel mortgages that are registered against the trailers? How are we going to secure our risk and who suffers the loss in the event of default?
I understand the process if there is a default. The Housing Corporation would take legal remedy and try to recover whatever they could. The Housing Corporation has obviously got the exposure. Who suffers the loss in the event of a default?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That would be the corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: What amounts have we set aside to recognize the potential for defaults in the accounting of the Housing Corporation for this next fiscal period, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'll have to get back to the member as to what monies are put aside for this, and I'll forward that information to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll look forward to that. Will it be by way of legislative return? Could the member just confirm that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I could do that, or just pass the information on to you.
Mr. Jenkins: Just before we leave the Range Road mobile home park, could the minister just give us an overview as to how the development is progressing, the number of anticipated lot sales that we hope to achieve, and when they're going to take place and when we will see actual movement of mobile homes onto that area?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We are hoping that the project would be completed in July. We're also hoping that by mid to late June we would have people accessing the program and having units roll onto the lots by the end of July.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I just ask the minister - let's say someone is relocating a mobile home from another area of Whitehorse from a park, and they relocate to this area. Just how much money will they have to come up with, given the multitude of programs that the government has in place? Let's say it's a 14x70-foot mobile home, it's 20 years old and in reasonably good shape. Just how much money would that individual have to put down, or come forward with, before they could access that lot and do their move? And would they be responsible for the move, or would that cost be wrapped into the total package that the Housing Corporation would be advancing?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The relocation of the mobile home unit to the new mobile home park is part of the overall program. The client, though, needs two-and-a-half percent down to get into the program itself. That could simply be to upgrade units, to bring them to standards, and so on.
Mr. Jenkins: So, for two-and-a-half percent down of the total cost - now, could the minister just clarify for the record what is included in that total cost? I would assume it to be the land, the relocation, the blocking, the skirting, the upgrading of the mobile home. What is included in that total cost for which the individual would have to put down two-and-a-half percent?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member is correct. The land is part of the cost, as is the relocation, and also the upgrade, which is part of the home repair program.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House about how the Housing Corporation is going to secure this mortgage? What methods are they going to be using for security?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It's with the title.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the issues in the Yukon is that there is not a mobile home registry, per se, and banks have been very, very reluctant to lend money on a mobile home and take a security on the mobile home and the land, especially when the mobile home could be gone overnight. So, they usually take a chattel mortgage against the mobile home in question. Has the Yukon Housing Corporation anticipated anything of this nature, or are they not following normal banking procedures, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We feel that the strata title has sufficient security for this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the banks don't; none of the other mortgage companies do. Why is the Housing Corporation so exclusive that they think and feel that this is all we need? How was this decision arrived at?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't have any indication that the banks have taken this approach. They do lend to people who are wanting and are willing to purchase a trailer unit - a mobile home. Again, our goal is to get people out of a poor health and safety situation and try to get them into better living conditions and better community surroundings. So, that's the approach that we have taken with all the programs that we have put in place to get these people up and going.
Of course, when we're getting the clients into the program, they're going to have to qualify for the loan, so there is all the research that the department has to do on their income, their credit, how much debt they're in, and so on. So, a lot of work goes into this before the clients are approved.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Well, given the lucrative down payment of some two and a half percent, if you're looking at a conventional mortgage, and if you go to a high-lever mortgage of five percent down, your CMHC loan insurance guarantee is considerably higher than if you increase it to let's say a maximum of 25 percent down. You don't have to pay any CMHC insurance.
But this is a very, very high-levered mortgage that these individuals would be looking at. The issue is surrounding the security that the Housing Corporation is taking, Mr. Chair. And the banks have had difficulties with this area in the past, and what the Yukon really needs, Mr. Chair, is a mobile home registry. Because the only way that the banks will lend on a mobile home is if it becomes permanently fixed to the lot.
But in any case where it can be moved readily, the only security the banks will end up taking - unless you've got a ton of other assets that they can encumber - is via chattel mortgage. So I'm very, very concerned with the exposure on these high-levered mortgages that the Housing Corporation ultimately has, given the duration of time that they're over. It's quite extensive. The effective life for assessment purposes for a mobile home is anywhere from 15 to 20 years. For a double wide, it's a little bit higher, but not very much, Mr. Chair.
So we're talking an asset that is really depreciated over a very short period of time, that we're financing with very low down payment, over an extended period of time. I think it's incumbent upon the minister to ensure that security is in place that's adequate to protect the taxpayers' money that's being invested here.
Does the minister not think so?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We feel that the - well, once the mobile home owners move their units onto a lot in this condominium, on the strata title they own the land. And of course, the units - I don't know what the member means by it not being fixed on the units, but they are set up to the systems, and it's not like the units are going to be moved. They're built on foundations like regular homes are.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, regular homes are usually on a concrete foundation or a PWF pressure-treated wood foundation. Mobile homes are usually on a series of blockings. The axles are usually left under the mobile homes, especially the 12- and 14-wides, so they can be readily reconnected and out in a very short period of time. So there is a risk in that area and that has been duly recognized by the banks, which leads me to another question.
A mobile home registry would aid lending institutions in the Yukon. Has the minister explored this area with his colleague, the Minister of Justice, to see if there is any movement to put such a registry in place?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we have not explored this in detail. We feel that we have sufficient security through the strata title and that's the approach we have taken in developing the whole mobile home strategy and the programs that go with it.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we leave this, what assurances, Mr. Chair, do we have that the Yukon Housing Corporation and their land development policies won't be the subject of five pages in the Auditor General's report because of the same steps taken by Community and Transportation Services in the past? We're following the same policies but we've just doing it at arm's length now through Yukon Housing Corporation. It's going to be much more difficult to track than it has been in the past. What I suspect will occur is that two, three or four years down the road we'll be faced with an Auditor General's report that points out the same faux pas and the same problems with a big inventory that's being carried on the books of the Housing Corporation. So we'll have two land inventories, and this one will be more the risk and exposure. It's all with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Can I have the minister's assurance that that's not going to happen? I'm sure that in two years' time, he won't be the minister charged with the responsibility for the Housing Corporation, but so be it.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We don't have plans in the corporation to go and do another development like this. We feel that the 69 lots that are being developed within this mobile home park would be sufficient at this time. It depends, I guess, on the uptake and what happens with other parks - should they be shutting down and wanting to move units within the city limits.
So, we don't have any plans to go ahead and develop any mobile home parks. Should this one fill up right away this summer or over the next couple of years, and if the demand is still out there for mobile home lots that are designed like this to take care of the health and safety issues, then possibly we could look at it, but at this point, we have no plans.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, one of the other areas that arose out of the development of the Range Road mobile home park was this government's very capable use of the carrot-and-stick approach. When they want something, they have the carrot that they put out. When they don't want something, they have the stick approach - they just beat somebody over the head with it, like they did with the Gonders to get them off the property that was transferred from the Government of the Yukon to Yukon Housing Corporation.
Is consideration being given, now that the land has been titled to the Housing Corporation, to enlarge the lot size for the Gonders?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Like I said in answer to these questions in the past, the board of the directors are the ones that deal with this issue. They've met with the Gonders and have worked out a deal with them, and I believe that the Gonders are just waiting for better weather to continue building their home.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's your view of the situation. The reality is that the Gonders were put between a rock and a hard place by the Housing Corporation and this minister, Mr. Chair, and they had no recourse but to accept the offer that was before them. They couldn't afford to prolong the situation.
If they had had deeper pockets, they probably could have come out, after an extensive and long court battle, very much awarded in their favour. But the stick approach taken by the Housing Corporation is not going to be shortly forgotten.
I would just like to ask the minister if he'd come back after he's consulted with the board, which makes all these decisions - which sounds like pure bunk to me - as to whether the Gonders can expect to see a lot enlargement offered to them or considered granted to them by the Housing Corporation. Can the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I told the members what the board was responsible for. It's not that I, who am responsible for this corporation, will go out and do this. I would say the Gonders have done it to themselves by not providing all the information to the Housing Corporation.
The Housing Corporation dealt with the issue. They met many times with the Gonders and worked out a deal. I said that to the member. I don't know where he would like to go with this. They signed on to the agreement, and they felt that what was in there was to their liking.
They can continue to build. With the lot enlargement - there was one or two lots; I'm not even sure about that - a normal person out there on the street would say that this is a great deal, and nobody in the Yukon gets deals like this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, some more pure bunk, Mr. Chair. One only has to look at the Whitehorse waterfront squatters and Shipyard residents to see how they were treated and contrast that with the Gonders and their treatment by the Housing Corporation, which was extremely autocratic - it was the "big stick" approach.
That's the only way to describe it. The Housing Corporation put the Gonders between a rock and a hard place and, as I stated earlier, Mr. Chair, this situation is not going to be quickly forgotten by a lot of Yukoners.
It's not a deal. It's not a deal for the Gonders. They were offered other land that they could relocate to, and I was just wondering where this is at for the Gonders? Is the government making as much effort through the various agencies and through the Housing Corporation to locate another suitable plot of land so that they can move their business to it, as they are for acquiring land for the Whitehorse squatters, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Gonders didn't indicate that they wanted to move. We had taken on a situation with the mobile homes and tried to work out an acceptable deal with the Gonders. I'm not going to get into detail because I don't deal with those details; it goes through the corporation.
Mr. Chair, we have taken a responsible approach when it came to waterfront residents. We've had so many questions asked of this particular move. We've taken on a tough situation that nobody else had tackled before, and we've made an acceptable approach to the whole thing and have had a conclusion to it.
The members opposite do not have the same attitude as we do when it comes to taking an approach that we do in regard to trying to make somebody's life better, continue development in the Whitehorse area, and so on. We've done that and we've worked things out to the satisfaction of the homeowners, and in this case, the Gonders, who are going to be continuing to build and they have accepted, I guess, what they felt was an acceptable deal that they can continue to build and work on. The corporation had many meetings with them to try and work this out.
It wasn't, I guess, until a lot more information came out that they were able to put together this particular deal.
So, the corporation has not moved away from the issue. They've taken it full on, to continue to work with the Gonders and to continue to develop the mobile home park, and that's where we're at with it. The corporation does its job in dealing with people and clients and so on, and works hard at it. They've taken this on. They've not pushed it aside or even gone through the court process. They've tried to work things out. That was the approach they took, and that was the result.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, it was a very heavy-handed move on the part of the Housing Corporation with respect to the Gonders, and the minister is well aware of that. There is the carrot-and-stick approach, and this government is proving to be very capable of applying both. It's quite obvious that the Housing Corporation had political direction as to what to do, because they were acting on that land well in advance of the transfer of that land to the Housing Corporation taking place.
So, they had to be acting on instructions before they acquired title to that land, Mr. Chair. That's quite obvious.
Before we leave the issue of the Whitehorse squatters, I'd like to ask the minister what involvement the Housing Corporation has with respect to the squatter relocation program that is currently underway by this government. Just what is their involvement to date, how many individuals are they helping, to what extent, and what kind of dollars are we looking at overall, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We are a team player in this whole waterfront development, or movement. The Housing Corporation provides technical assistance on housing issues, and we also have been dealing with the waterfront residents on an individual basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could the minister please answer the question? What's the financial involvement of the Housing Corporation in the squatter relocation program? How many dollars have they expended to date, in what areas, what types of mortgages? I'm just looking for the total dollar figure. I'm not looking for a song and dance.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I asked for the total dollars. Now, the Minister of Government Services is trying to get into the overview, but I'm looking for the total dollars, and the total commitment that the Housing Corporation has made to date, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the member asked what involvement the Housing Corporation has with this whole thing. I told him that we would provide technical assistance. To this day, we have not provided any financial support.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Yukon Housing Corporation. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We were dealing with the Whitehorse squatters' relocation, and I'd like to know what the Yukon Housing Corporation anticipates they will be loaning out in total for the squatter relocation program.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, we don't have a budget for the relocation of the waterfront residents. What I did say to the member is that we would be dealing with the residents on an individual basis, and it would all depend on what they're looking at, and whether or not they qualify for the programs, and what the corporation offers.
So it's on an individual basis. It has nothing to do with the movement of the waterfront residents at all.
Mr. Jenkins: It's on an individual basis. It has nothing to do with the waterfront residents at all. That's what I heard the minister say, Mr. Chair, and yet the minister stated previously that they were a team player, a partner in this move.
What I want to know from the minister, and he can bring it back by way of legislative return at the end of the summer before the next sitting, is the total dollar cost that Yukon Housing Corporation incurred in the squatter relocation program.
Can the minister undertake to bring that information back by way of legislative return before the fall sitting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I told the member that we have nothing to do with the C&TS budget in regard to moving the waterfront residents. We will be dealing with them on an individual basis like we deal with the rest of Yukoners wanting to access programs through the Housing Corporation.
I can provide the member with some numbers. If it's not breaking any rules or any confidentiality, or whatnot, I can provide them to the member at the end of the summer, or whenever the program is finished or whenever they have finished accessing Yukon Housing programs, if the member so wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, that's what the member wishes. I wish the total cost to Yukon Housing Corporation for their partnership or their involvement with the Whitehorse squatter relocation program. I'm not looking for the names of the individuals. I'm not looking for the specific amount of any mortgages or borrowing or the names of the programs that they've accessed. I'm looking for the total dollar cost that the Housing Corporation has incurred. It's either loaned it or funded it by any of the programs that are available to these Whitehorse squatters for their relocation to other areas. That's the information that I'm looking for, and if the minister can undertake to bring that information back before the sitting this fall and winter, Mr. Chair, I'd appreciate it. Can the minister give that undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I said to the member opposite is that we can provide the information - the amounts of dollars that have been put forward to these individuals. There is nothing tied to the Community and Transportation Services budget for the movement of the waterfront residents. It's like any other one of our programs, whether it's home repair or mortgages or whatnot, which we do have information on. So, it's part of our overall numbers that we do keep track of, and I can provide that to the member as long as it doesn't identify, I guess, individuals directly or indirectly.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister, and I'd just ask him to confirm that he'll provide that by legislative return before the fall sitting.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member knows that it would have to be, I guess, given in this Legislature during the fall sitting. If that's what the member is asking for, we can do that, or we can provide that information to the members opposite through letters and whatnot.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we just have a look at the social housing inventory? Does the minister have a breakdown of the total inventory and its utilization - the vacancy rate on social housing units, by community? Again, it's information that I'm sure the minister doesn't have quite at his fingertips, but I would also appreciate receiving that information - social housing units that are available across the Yukon, by community, and their vacancy rate for this past period - say, the past fiscal year, Mr. Chair. I'm sure the Housing Corporation operates on the same fiscal year as the government.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we can provide the information for the members opposite on how many social housing units we have in the communities, the vacancies and how long they've been vacant.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just wondering if the minister had any other information with respect to where we are with the home warranty program now that the B.C./Yukon program went into receivership. Where are we headed and how are we making out with respect to the new program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation has been talking to a couple of companies in Alberta and they feel that they could have a new home warranty through these companies available in the Yukon in approximately six months.
Mr. Jenkins: What happens in the interim six months?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Those who are building homes build without a new home warranty. The Yukon Housing Corporation, through the green mortgages, doesn't have a new home warranty attached to it. Right now, CMHC has waived the new home warranty so that you only have to have the five percent down needed to build a home, so people are able to continue to construct houses through CMHC and through Yukon Housing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the number of housing starts in our depressed economy, because of this NDP government's dismal record in developing the economy, I don't think it's going to be a very important issue, but I'd like to thank the minister for that information.
One of the other areas I'd like to explore with the minister is with respect to the numerous programs that are being delivered by the Yukon Housing Corporation. Has there been any change in scope or policy with respect to the delivering of these policies - in any of the policies, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: There's one program that we have had changes to, and that is the commercial electricity management program, CEMP, which we've made more flexible, so that municipalities can access them. Municipalities and First Nations can access them, but I can tell the member that, with all the programs we've had - we've had over 555 people access these programs. It's the highest ever, it's an increase over last year, and last year was an increase over the year before.
So there's been a big uptake of the programs we do have through the corporation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in the seniors strategy that was released this year, and recently, one of the groups that seems to be most disadvantaged when it comes to housing issues is the rugged individualist, which would be men 55 years of age and older.
What is the Yukon Housing Corporation doing with this group to look at their housing needs?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We're trying to see what the housing needs are through the seniors housing study. We've also taken the senior housing issues to the communities now. It wasn't part of the community tour when the first two began, but it is part of it now, now that we've got into more discussions in regard to seniors housing. The member knows about the green mortgage. We don't know what the uptake is going to be yet, but if it's big, it's a good thing for seniors in the future.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I doubt very much this particular group is going to be doing much uptake on the green mortgage program. That's extremely unlikely as they are most often living in transient hotels, particularly in the winter, but I hope the minister can keep me updated on the progress with this particular group. I know that when we get the final seniors housing strategy, that will be part of it.
The Watson Lake seniors - during the Health debate, there was discussion with the Minister of Health at that time about Yukon Housing having a role working with supported living for seniors in Watson Lake. What is the corporation doing in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation has met several times with the Signpost Seniors. They have just completed the questionnaire with the community housing study that has the senior component to it, so that's what has been taking place in Watson Lake.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I would presume, then, that the minister is going to continue along with this process and that there's going to be continued commitment from the corporation in this initiative? The minister is indicating yes, so I'll move on to the next topic, then.
The Duke Street apartments - Riverdale Manor is what a lot of people call them - the Gateway Housing development has been working with the corporation, I understand, looking at some ways that they can accommodate seniors in the building that they have now. This was a seniors complex but, indeed, unless you were 55 years old and extremely spry, this is not the best, shall we say, place for Yukon seniors who are ageing.
What are we doing with the Gateway Housing Corporation to work on making the Riverdale Manor more accessible and more livable for seniors?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The corporation has sat down with the Gateway Housing Corporation to see how they could access the programs through the corporation. To date they have not come back with a response for any financial assistance.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, is the corporation following up on that? Because they have expressed an interest, and perhaps they're not aware of how they can indicate that best to the corporation.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We are waiting for a response from them. The corporation anticipates one, although if there isn't one, I'm sure that we can follow up by requesting a meeting, or whatnot, with them to see where they are having problems, or whether or not the corporation can explain a bit more about the programs and how they can use them - or just to try to find ways of helping.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I hope that that follow-up occurs sometime before the construction season ends this summer. As we all know, we have a very short window of opportunity.
The next topic that I'd like to talk about with the minister responsible is that of the recent Yukon home show, which apparently was reasonably successful. There did seem to be an effort to partner with the Lions trade show, which is also an event that occurs at more or less the same time. Were there efforts made to try to put the two of them together - the Lions trade show and the home show?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The Homeshow '99 was, we felt, very successful. We've had a good number of people go through the home show and access information through the booths that were set up there. The home show was basically everything to do about building homes, and it was basically to assist the industry. There were a lot of good comments that came out of the home show. There were also suggestions that we do continue. We haven't been teaming up with the other.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this year the Lions trade show is half the size that it was in previous years, partly because of the very depressed economy. Some of the presenters at the home show have, in the past, also rented booths at the Lions trade show. So, what I'm wondering about is if any effort was made whatsoever to try to partner with the Lions, or was this not a direction that the corporation wanted to take?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, there were no attempts to do this together. The industry, knowing where the economy was at, wanted to try to put something together to bring more awareness to exactly what the Yukon has to offer with respect to the building industry and what is out there for supplies and technical assistance and so on. So, this was directed at assisting industry. It wasn't a fund raiser or anything like that.
I know that there were a number of people at the home show who normally set up booths in the trade show. Again, everybody felt that this was a place they could show their stuff just for the building industry.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I suppose my concern is that what has happened is that the home show has competed with the Lions trade show. First, they are exactly the same customers, in a time when we have limited resources because of the poor economy. It's a concern that was raised with me and with our caucus. That's why I'm concerned that there wasn't an effort made to work with the Lions Club, an already existing group here in the city.
The minister spoke about this not being a profit initiative. Were there any profits? How much money was made at the home show?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We've had no profit generated by this. Basically, the monies that were raised there went strictly to administrative fees. So, the door fees and so on went strictly to administrative fees.
Mrs. Edelman: Did those administrative fees include the cost to bring up Mr. Barber?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Yes, Mr. Chair, that was one of them.
Mrs. Edelman: Will the Yukon Housing Corporation be exhibiting at the Yukon Lions trade show this year?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, I just wanted to say that those who had booths at the home show felt that with the information they handed out, they did generate business by being at the home show. We do have three booths through Yukon Housing at the trade show.
Mrs. Edelman: Can we get back to the topic of the home warranty program? The home warranty program out of Alberta is apparently now being bought by National Home Warranty, which is a much larger insurance corporation, of course. Will the Yukon Housing Corporation be working with a local agent? Is that going to be one of the criteria for bringing this program into the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I'm not sure where the member is coming from, but I believe if the company is to be offering a new home warranty here in the Yukon, they may be opening an office here or going through an organization or a company here. I don't know if it's a normal occurrence when a home warranty is offered in the Yukon that it goes through agencies, or whatnot, but the corporation is working with the two companies in Alberta, and hopefully in six months we can offer something to Yukoners.
Mrs. Edelman: The reason I'm wondering about that is that usually the government has a preference for having a local agent for the delivery of a service to Yukoners. I do know that there are some companies in the Yukon - construction companies, for example - that have been approached by National Home Warranty to act as their agent here in the Yukon, and I'm wondering if there'll be any preference given to a home warranty program that was delivered through a local agent. That's what my question was for the minister.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure about that. I'm going to have to get back to the member opposite. I know that this was a sudden thing in the Yukon and the corporation is trying to respond by working with these two companies in Alberta.
Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to move on with the minister to the topic of the mobile home park on Range Road.
There was a series of issues raised with our caucus on that particular development. During the mobile home park study, the number-one concern, I believe, that was raised was dust in the mobile home parks here in the Yukon.
What is the Yukon Housing Corporation doing to address that particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the corporation has in the budget this year a mobile home park enhancement program, which is to be directed to the health and safety issues in mobile home parks, and roads - paving of roads - is very much one of them.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, has there been much uptake from the local mobile home park owners on that program?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is a new program in this budget, so we will be in the process of contacting all mobile home parks to let them know about this program.
Mrs. Edelman: The new mobile home park is going to be having lots that are at least $30,000 - some of them may be $28,000 and go up to $32,000, that's apparently the range. Does the minister consider this an affordable lot?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the final development costs of the mobile home park aren't in yet. We have said that lots could range from $25,000 to $32,000, although we don't know what the final costs of the development are as yet, or the final cost for the consumer.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a $32,000 lot is not on the low end of the scale for land lots here in the Yukon. Does the minister consider this the range of affordable lots, $32,000?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the final cost of these lots isn't put together yet. That's just our estimate of what they could be at this point. What we felt was the high end, the $32,000, were the lots with the better views and so on. What we think the average cost could be in the mobile home park is around $25,000.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I find it mildly ironic that the Yukon Housing Corporation is willing to put out different prices for different lots having different attributes, for example, better views or better locations on cul-de-sacs, whereas the Department of Community and Transportation Services doesn't see that. Indeed, all the cookie-cutter lots up in some of the subdivisions are priced exactly the same regardless of the amenities they may or may not have.
One of the other issues that has been brought forward to us about this particular mobile home park is that the people who are going to be moving into it have expressed interest in having their own yard, having other buildings like garages and greenhouse and storage places on the lots. What does the minister see as far as outbuildings on these lots?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, once this mobile home lot is developed and people are buying up lots and moving their units on, then decisions like this could be made by the condominium corporation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that doesn't make sense. People want to know what they can have and what they can't have on the property. Everywhere else in the City of Whitehorse, it is quite clear because of zoning, about what properties you can develop, how much you can put on the property, where you can build, how many dogs you can have.
So, is the minister saying that those rules don't apply up in this particular mobile home park?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Certainly, we will be making all the clients aware of what can take place and what they can build on these lots.
In regard to having pets and so on, this is going to be, again, decided by the condominium corporation. It could be something that if they want certain pets and so on out of it, then that is their decision. We do have, in the design, a central area for every one of these lots to have sheds or a place to park RVs or trailers and so on. That is the design of the mobile home park.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm really concerned about the fact that the rules that apply to everybody else within the City of Whitehorse are not going to apply to the people in this particular development. That doesn't make sense. We're only allowed to have two dogs. We need to have our dogs leashed or else tied up. We need to have control of our pets. We need to know where we can build our buildings, and if you're too close to the property line, then you have to go to the variance board. Those are the rules that everybody else lives with. Is the minister saying that those rules are relaxed within this particular development?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm not saying that they would be any different than the rest of the City of Whitehorse. Whether or not they want to have pets in there would be the condominium corporation's decision. There are some mobile home parks in Whitehorse where you're not allowed to have pets.
Mrs. Edelman: During the mobile home park study, that was one of the big concerns - that in the new mobile home park there would be an allowance to have pets, particularly dogs. That was one of the concerns that people raised - that and dust, of course.
People were very clear about what they wanted. They wanted to have more room; they wanted to have more storage and outbuildings; they wanted to have pets. Now, the minister is saying they can't give assurances to people that all of the things that they asked for and identified as important issues to them will be addressed in the new mobile home park. He's saying that they'll move in, and they'll make the decision later on, with sort of a floating horizon about what the rules might or might not be.
If the minister is trying to entice people to move into this development, that's not the best way to do it. Is the minister going to be a little more clear with people when they move in as to what the rules will be?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, obviously there were mixed feelings about pets. Some people want them and some don't, and some move into places that don't have pets for a number of reasons, such as noise or whatnot. So, there is that concern out there, too. So, a decision was not made on that, but if there is anything different from what I have said, I can provide clarification to the member opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I need to point out to the minister that when there are condominium developments in other jurisdictions, the rules of the condominium development are very clear to anyone who moves in.
There was a condominium development, for example, down in the industrial area in Whitehorse and when people moved in they were clear on what was allowable within that development, and what was not allowable in that development, so that there weren't flexible rules for people.
I'm not getting a clear message from the minister about where he's going with this. What if somebody moves in with Fifi, their most beloved pet, and Fifi suddenly becomes not allowable within the mobile home park?
Now, the person may have moved in because they always wanted to have a pet, and that was never allowed in all the other mobile home parks. It doesn't make sense for the minister to have flexible rules.
Surely, the minister can see that. That's why we have zoning within the City of Whitehorse - so that people will know what the rules are. So that they know they can't put up industrial parks beside residential areas. People do need to know what the rules are, and they're not going to be interested in moving into a place unless they have some certainty on what's going to be allowed, and what's not allowed within the mobile home park.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The construction, of course, isn't done and we will certainly be communicating with those who will be moving into this mobile home park. Although, once people are living there, they can make decisions on what they would like to see take place within their condominium, whether it's improvements to the roads, or sidewalks or whatnot. It's a decision that they all make. We will be communicating with the people who are moving in and with the clients. I'll have to check for the member opposite on whether or not these are out or if they are still flexible within the mobile home park, and I'll get back to the member opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I am going to suggest to the minister that the city zoning applies everywhere in the city and that's part of the Municipal Act. That's one of the authorities the municipal governments have.
The minister talked about applications for this particular mobile home park. How many actual applications has the minister received? I know that the land is going up for sale, I think, on May 3 or the first week in May. How many applications has the minister received or how many applications is the corporation working with right now?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I believe we have around 24. The last time the question was asked, I said 19. I think it's around 24.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
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: Mr. Speaker, at 2:29 p.m., Committee of the Whole passed the following motion:
THAT Committee of the Whole and the Assembly be empowered to sit from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the purpose of continuing consideration of Bill No. 14, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
Further, 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 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 10:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 26, 1999:
Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner 1998 Annual Report (Speaker Bruce)
Report on travel expenses of members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, 1998-99 (Speaker Bruce)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 26, 1999:
Mineral tax credit: notes presented to the Tax Reform Round Table, fall 1998; mineral exploration incentives across Canada (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 4366
Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment: directions to/from government (November 1997); YCEE community conferences schedule, spring 1999; letter to chair of YCEE from the Government Leader (dated October 9, 1998) (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 4381
Mineral royalties (Yukon): explanation of mining royalties, gem production royalties (Harding)
Oral, Hansard, p. 4389