Thursday, November 25, 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?
Tribute to CKRW radio
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to CKRW radio. This month, the station celebrated its 30th anniversary on the air. Commercial radio stations sometimes come and go rather quickly, but CKRW has been a constant on the Whitehorse scene, under the same ownership, since November 17, 1969.
The first voice over the CKRW airwaves was that of Yukon newcomer Ron McFadyen. Rolf Hougen did the Yukon a great service by hiring Ron, because Ron was and still is dedicated to community broadcasting - people radio.
CKRW has maintained a sense of community continuity with long-time staffers like Mike Durrell. Mike has been there for 20 years now. That's handy when it comes to knowledge of Yukon people and events. CKRW expanded in 1986 to serve several Yukon communities. The station is heard in Dawson, Mayo, Carmacks, Faro, Watson Lake, Teslin, Haines Junction and Carcross, in addition to Whitehorse. As well, CKRW has picked up a following throughout North America on the Anik E-1 satellite. The station has also developed an Internet audience.
In recent years, station hosts have been calling CKRW "Radio Fun," a little play on the competing national radio station down the block.
Happy 30th birthday, CKRW, and may your next 30 years be as interesting.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: On behalf of the territorial government, I wish to join the hon. members today to pay tribute to the radio station CKRW on its 30th anniversary. CKRW is a Yukon institution like many others. It is best known for its top 40 programming; however, it has many familiar programs like Trader Time, Talk Back and Birthday Greetings, which are regularly heard in homes and offices and stores throughout the territory.
Over the years many good people have worked at CKRW, and Yukoners have gotten to know them as well as the personalities on other radio stations. At this time, I'd like to thank all those people who over the years have worked at CKRW. Thanks also go to the owners and the managers of CKRW for providing an important communications vehicle to the people of the territory.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: I would like to introduce to all members Bruce Charlie, who's from Old Crow, sitting in the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have for tabling three documents: statement of revenues and expenditures of the health care insurance program, the health services branch; the Yukon Hospital Corporation, financial statement; and the report of the Yukon Child Care Board.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motions?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that oil and gas, forestry, mineral and other resource developments in southeast Yukon at the present time are providing benefits primarily to northern British Columbia rather than Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to consult with the Town of Watson Lake and the First Nation governments concerning the construction of a resource road in southeast Yukon that would provide access to oil and gas, mineral, forestry and other resource exploration and developments in the region and enable the people of the Yukon to benefit from these developments.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) symbols of Canada not only heighten the awareness of our country but also our sense of who we are as a people;
(2) trees are one of the most popular symbols in Canada and each jurisdiction in Canada with the exception of Yukon and Nunavut have official trees; and
(3) trees have played a central role in the development of our country and continue to be of commercial and environmental and aesthetic importance to all Canadians; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to solicit the input of Yukoners in the selection of an official territorial tree for the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Red-tape reduction initiative
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I rise to advise the House of a number of policy changes that we are implementing immediately, or in the very near future, to make it easier and more cost effective for Yukon residents and business people to deal with the Yukon government. These red-tape reduction initiatives involve a number of departments and are a direct outcome of our commitment to help reduce the regulatory burden on Yukon people, in line with our adoption of the Code of Regulatory Conduct just a over a year ago.
Government Services has been working with the business community on a sectoral basis to identify areas where we could reduce red tape.
My department has been coordinating the efforts of other government departments to make this red-tape reduction a reality.
Today, I'm pleased to announce some of the following changes in the way the Yukon government does business:
The term for Yukon drivers' licences will be extended to five years instead of three.
Campground permits for Yukon residents will be available on a three-year basis, as well as the current one-year basis.
Retailers of locally manufactured wildlife product will no longer need a special licence to trade and sell such products, which are already licensed at the manufacturing level.
Forms required by truckers paying fuel tax have been harmonized with those of other Canadian jurisdictions to eliminate the need for different forms when a trucker enters or leaves the Yukon.
Businesses that own trailers will no longer have to re-license their trailers every year. A trailer licence will soon be valid for up to a 10-year period, if desired.
Truck operators will now be eligible for refunds of licence plate registration fees when their vehicles are out of service.
The Driver Control Board will now have the authority to reinstate suspended drivers' licences, rather than requiring the matter to go back to court.
There will be more flexibility in the licensing of vehicles. For example, new vintage licence plates for cars 25 years or older will have fewer restrictions. As well, rental agencies will be allowed to use commercial licence plates rather than having to use special rental plates.
We will implement a universal change-of-address capability so that businesses and members of the public can fill out one change-of-address form and have all their addresses updated to all government departments automatically, if they wish.
Government Services will initiate a pilot project to streamline payments at point of purchase for relatively minor purchases that would normally be done by contract or purchase order.
To reduce red tape for gasoline and diesel retailers, we will simplify the process of adjusting prices on government accounts.
As members are aware, the government has also invested $70,000 in the blue-book project to help address the concerns of the mining industry with the federal regulatory process.
Finally, I would like to advise members that earlier today, a total of 313 outdated or obsolete regulations disappeared from the government's books by order-in-council. As a result of an extensive internal review involving all departments, we have effectively abolished one-third of Yukon government regulations with the stroke of a pen.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to working with Yukon residents and businesses to make it easier for them to deal with the Yukon government. I will be advising the House of further actions in this regard very soon.
Mr. Cable: The Liberal caucus compliments the minister on his moves to make life simpler for Yukon residents and Yukon business people.
Red tape is created by government and must be eliminated by government. It is easy, sitting in an office somewhere, in isolation - in a political office or an administrative office - to hear about some problem and dream up some regulatory or administrative cure and not spend any time deciding whether the cure is worse than the problem. I've corresponded with the minister and with the Minister of Renewable Resources on one such problem, as I'm sure the minister will recollect. It was a classic example of red-tape overkill in response to a perceived problem.
So, I'm pleased to see that the minister's department has been coordinating the efforts of other government departments to make red-tape reduction a reality.
In response, it would be useful to hear from him about how his department is approaching the cost-benefit analyses that are part of his regulatory reform initiative. What sort of drill is being set up to determine whether regulatory solutions to problems are worse than the problems they are designed to cure?
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I am pleased to respond to the ministerial statement on red-tape reduction.
Small business in Canada generates close to 80 percent of all jobs. At the same time, we are also aware that unnecessary regulation can cause as much as seven or eight percent to the cost of doing business. Indeed, red tape is a burden for business and has stopped many a business in the Yukon from succeeding.
The initiative to introduce a new Code of Regulatory Conduct was an initiative that this government announced on September 30, 1998, as a means to reduce the paper burden and to help small- and medium-sized businesses run more effectively and efficiently.
To monitor the reduction of red tape, a red-tape thermometer was erected outside of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. In fact the minister, along with the president of the Chamber of Commerce, had a real photo opportunity there. At the time of the announcements, there were expectations among the general public, contractors, the business community at large. There was going to be a reduction in government red tape, and rules and regulations were going to be streamlined.
Since that time, Mr. Speaker, the red-tape thermometer hasn't moved, and the cost of doing business has increased rather than decreased, leaving many Yukoners to pay the price of going bankrupt.
Over the last three years, we have seen business after business shut its doors in this territory as a result of this government's inability to create a climate that is conducive to the growth of the private sector. The changes that the minister has made reference to are indeed positive steps, and definitely a step in the right direction. While all well and good, however, I couldn't help but notice that the majority of the changes that the minister announces flow from the motor vehicle regulations and the Motor Vehicle Transport Board, many of which were recommendations that members opposite put forward on the floor of this House previously.
While I am very pleased that the government has finally begun to listen to what we and others have to say, I'm nevertheless very disappointed that it has taken over three years for some of these to come to fruition. Perhaps if efforts had been made when the government was first elected, Yukon businesses would be experiencing growth rather than decline.
If this government were truly sincere in its wish to cut red tape, the government would show some very good faith by not implementing the 10 or so Yukon hire recommendations, which will only add to the already excessive government regulations that Yukon small businesses oppose. Yukon hire conditions, such as the government should implement a hiring agency, which contractors on Yukon government construction projects would be required to use, will only add to government red tape and the already monstrous paper burden.
As Yukoners are all too familiar, this government has a very poor consultation track record when it comes to actually listening to what people are saying. The minister will recall the full-page newspaper ad that the Yukon Contractors Association took out last year, titled "Are you listening?".
They expressed concerns about the recommendations to introduce a hiring agency. The association made the point that, in a time when funds are decreasing, the Yukon government should be implementing policies that would make the most of our tax dollars. They made the point that free enterprise does not require more government intervention, and I for one, and my party, agree with them.
When we look at the 300 outdated or obsolete regulations that disappeared from the government books, what about the additional amounts that have been currently added in the last little while? Are they actually necessary? In the opinion of a lot of individuals, they are not. So, while I am pleased to finally see some movement on the government's initiative to help business by cutting red tape, the government could be doing one heck of a lot more in this area.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As usual, some opposition members are unable to recognize and accept good news. I believe there's a former U.S. president who once described people as being niggling nabobs of negativity.
We are acting on our commitment to cut red tape. We are making life easier for businesses and individuals in the Yukon, and these are real changes that will help Yukon people with real struggles with government, and they're substantial changes. We recognize that these changes don't address all the problems that exist. We're doing ongoing consultation; we've been working on a sectoral basis. We'll continue to hold those sectoral reviews and involve face-to-face interviews with business people and, if that isn't listening to people and trying to follow up on the recommendations, then I don't know what is.
The first sectoral review was with the hotel and accommodation sector, and it was a meeting of business people, government officials, and not only just people from Government Services, but from all the government departments that interact with this particular industry. And some of the red-tape issues were raised, discussed and explained, and really what it was, was an exchange of information. The next sectoral reviews that we're anticipating will involve construction and real estate. We're also planning some regional sectoral reviews to work with communities to address some of the concerns that the local chambers of commerce up there have.
As I said before, the business community has told us that not all red tape originates with the Yukon government. There are issues of duplication, and complexity, when businesses deal across jurisdictions, and that's something that we have to work through. And that's one of the reasons why, for example, we initiated the blue-book process; we've been working with DIAND and the Chamber of Mines to streamline federal mining regulations.
This was a commitment of $70,000, I believe, on our part to resolve issues with federal regulations. This is an area that has major implications for the economic activity in the Yukon. To facilitate a response from all levels of government, I'm inviting the City of Whitehorse and local federal departments and the business community to help form a red-tape reduction task force.
What we're hoping to do is create a forum to identify and resolve some of these cross-jurisdictional issues.
We believe that, by working with the business community and by trying to address some of the issues, we can move ahead, and we can make life easier for business.
One of the things that has emerged during these discussions - and I think it's a very valuable thing - is the question of service delivery. We have been putting our minds to how we can improve, facilitate, expedite service delivery on behalf of the Yukon government. Are there ways in which we can, for example, employ technology to make things easier for business? Are there ways in which we can continue to review our own internal regulations? I have a list of further regulations that we've asked departments to work on, to refine, to develop and, as I've told the House today, we plan another announcement in the very near future on this whole issue.
So I'd like to thank some of the folks here who have been positive. We are moving ahead. I'm pleased to say that this is an ongoing process; it's a rolling process. We will be continuing to work on this, and we'll be continuing to address some of the needs of the business community.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Electrical rate stabilization fund
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Last year, the government announced its electrical rate stabilization fund. This was a fund set up to subsidize electrical rates so that bills would be frozen at the January 1997 rates. It was this government's version of making good on its election promise to make electrical rates stable and affordable.
Now we just heard that the electrical utilities were granted a 3.5-percent rate increase, effective December 1 of this year.
How much is going to come out of the rate stabilization fund from now until the end of the program to deal with this increase? What's the effect on the rate stabilization fund?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the rate stabilization fund that we created had the effect of giving Yukoners an end to the roller-coaster ride of rates they faced with the Faro mine coming up and going down, and we took over $10 million of money from the Yukon government and gave it to the Energy Corporation to allow them to finally stabilize rates.
In this case, the rate stabilization fund will work as it was intended and will increase the benefit for non-government residential consumers from $26.23 to $30.36 and other benefits for general service, non-government and general service, municipal government customers will rise $10.74 to $16.49.
So, thank goodness we had the foresight to initiate the rate stabilization fund and to ensure that Yukoners could have some stable rates well into the future, into 2002.
Mr. Cable: The question I was asking was what will the rate increase or how will it affect the fund? Now, we've had precious little information on this fund since it was set up. According to the government's press release in March 1998, the fund was to be financed initially from Yukon Development Corporation dividends, and it was then to be replenished when industrial customers came on line. In the fall of 1998, as the minister has just indicated, there was a $10-million cash infusion from government.
The industrial customers haven't come on line, so where do we sit with this fund? How much is this rate increase going to reduce the fund? How much is in the fund now? Are we going to have to top it up in the future, before the program ends?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The answer to that is no, Mr. Speaker. We won't have to top it up, even with absorbing this rate increase. The Yukon Utilities Board in the territory reviews and sets the rates. We can protect consumers with the rate stabilization fund and still have about a million and a half dollars left over in the fund into 2002.
Mr. Cable: Yukoners have been waiting, Mr. Speaker, for the other shoe to drop, wondering what's going to happen after the next election and after the rate stabilization program ends. There are huge, potential power rate increases to be dealt with, unless the Faro mine comes back on stream. The government bought itself some time, but the problem isn't going to go away; it's only going to get worse. Where are we going on electrical rates? What's going to happen two years from now? I know the minister is going to say that he's going to have some public discussion in the year 2000. Isn't anything going on now to anticipate what's going to happen after the program is finished?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As a matter of fact there is. From discussions with the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board - they're doing some gap analysis on this situation. It's interesting to note that while the Liberals, in opposition, are asking the question, they're not putting forward a position in terms of what they'd like to see. What we've done is put our money where our mouth is, put $10 million into the corporation to protect consumers, both residential and business and municipal, and there will be enough money in the fund to protect them until March 31, 2002. The work is underway. There's going to be some public discussion on this particular issue as to how we should approach it into the future, with the fact that we've lost the Faro mine, which provided 40 percent of the business for the Yukon Energy Corporation and helped pay the fixed carrying costs and the mortgages associated with the assets that the public of the Yukon owns, which make up the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Question re: Electrical transmission grid, Dawson-Mayo feasibility study
Mr. Cable: Just for the information of the minister, the Yukon Liberal Party's budget doesn't have $10 million for rate stabilization. That's the role of the government.
I have some other questions for the same minister on the Yukon Energy Corporation. When the Yukon Energy Corporation officials appeared before this House last November, they told us that the corporation was looking at the feasibility of building a transmission line from Mayo to Dawson so that the surplus hydro capacity at Mayo could be used. Now, last month, the president - that's the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation - told the media that Yukon Energy had completed its initial feasibility study, and that they were calling for proposals for engineering studies and cost estimates to test the accuracy of the feasibility study.
What did the initial feasibility study show? Like, what's the price of the project? Does it look initially like it's a go?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's right about the rate stabilization fund. The Liberal Party doesn't have $10 million to put into protecting consumers, and I would argue that, if they even did have it, they wouldn't take that course of action to protect consumers. I think perhaps they should put some of those taxpayer-funded resources for spin doctors and researchers that they have in the official opposition - all the money they get from the taxpayers - to work on generating some electricity and some ideas, so that they could have something to say in the Legislature that's constructive.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the grid extension that the Yukon Energy Corporation Board was looking at, they've done a lot of work, in terms of analyzing the proposal. They feel that they're cautiously optimistic that there's a good chance of it coming to work and being feasible, and actually having an effect, after about five or six years, of having a positive impact on rates. They also want to utilize some YDC funding as part of the proposal, to ensure there's no increase to consumers in the interim period.
Mr. Cable: After the minister finished the spin, he did talk about the effect on rates, and he talked about the effect on rates five years down the road. I assume that the feasibility study examined the effect of the project on Dawson power rates. What does the feasibility study show, specifically? Will Dawson rates be lower after the transmission line is built, or higher, or unchanged?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'm not entirely sure of the point of the member's question. As a former president of the Energy Corporation, as a private citizen, he will know that the Energy Corporation and the Yukon Utilities Board and the Yukon Electrical Company have equalized rates in the territory so that, right across the territory, people pay the same amount. If you're asking about the specifics of the project as it relates to how power is now supplied in Dawson, which is by diesel, then yes, the use of the water that's presently being spilled to a large degree in the Mayo dam will have a positive impact on what it costs to provide power in Dawson presently. However, the bills for Dawsonites won't change, because they're equalized throughout the territory. They may, after five or six years, actually have a positive effect in terms of going down.
Mr. Cable: When the Energy Corporation officials were before the House last year, some reservations were expressed to them on whether the Public Utilities Board would permit recovery of the total cost of the transmission line from the ratepayers.
Now, assuming this project is a go, as it sounds like it might be, is it the intention of the Energy Corporation to submit the project to the Public Utilities Board for a capital hearing review to determine what portion of the costs may be recovered from the ratepayers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the chair in public statements has made it very clear that there will be no impact to ratepayers negatively, so they intend to utilize Yukon Development Corporation funding. That's their proposal as they envisage it, and they haven't made any decision as to whether they're going to go ahead or not with the particular project. So the Yukon Development Corporation would be ensuring that there is protection of the ratepayers, so they don't have to bear the cost, which would be the fundamental concern, obviously, of the Yukon Utilities Board, should they have to review it.
Question re: Eagle Plains, oil and gas exploration - wage rates
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development. On November 16, the minister announced that Anderson Resources Ltd. from Alberta was the successful bidder under the Yukon Oil and Gas Act for two parcels in the Eagle Plains Basin, with bids totalling $20 million for exploratory work over the next six years.
The minister made much of this announcement and he raised the expectations of many Yukoners who are desperately looking for work.
My question to the minister is, can he advise the House why most of the Yukoners who attended the three briefing sessions on November 23 walked out before the briefings were over? These briefings were on the potential for seismic work in the Eagle Plains area. Can he tell me why they walked out?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm not even sure which particular briefings the member is talking about, whether he's talking about the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors or whether he's talking about the luncheon. I attended a luncheon with about 120 Yukoners the other day where the CEO of Northern Cross, David Thompson, was speaking. It was very positive. They were talking about the fact that finally, after the oil and gas industry was completely dormant under a Yukon Party administration, there is going to be some activity in the territory. There has been $10 million spent in seismic work in southeast Yukon. We have been planning for the future and negotiating a road easement through the land claims process from Watson Lake to that area. There is now this new bid of $20 million. I think the CEO of Northern Cross called it "quite a substantial amount of investment". He was very pleasantly surprised. It bodes well for their particular initiatives and what they want to do in that area and, as Anderson said on the radio this morning, there's good potential for the local hiring of Yukoners on those particular projects.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised that the minister doesn't know anything about it, because it was his department and advanced education that ran the ads in the papers for the briefings. It was his department that did it. I have the ad here that I took out of the paper.
Let me tell the minister why. It's because the people who attended the briefing, when it came to the section on remuneration, were told that entry level positions are being paid $7 an hour. Accommodations will be supplied for the crew but they will only be allowed a subsistence allowance of $25 a day. That was in conjunction with the government, Mr. Speaker - in conjunction with the government.
That's less than Yukon's minimum wage. These Yukoners could earn more money working in fast-food outlets in Whitehorse rather than going to work out in the bush on seismic work.
I want to ask the minister, are these the types of employment opportunities that this government is promoting to replace the well-paying mining jobs in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's really pathetic listening to the member opposite. There was seismic work underway by Northern Cross, there was development work by Northern Cross, there were three seismic programs underway in the territory this fall.
I know some of the people - who are Yukoners - who worked on those projects weren't making seven bucks an hour, I can guarantee the member that. So I have absolutely no idea what his strategy is here.
Is he saying, for example, that the oil and gas industry shouldn't be welcomed by this territory? That the Yukon government shouldn't pursue this activity?
Mr. Speaker, when you have local control, and you have a reasonable market - like you do with an NDP government in control - you get investment and activity - $30 million in oil and gas. When you have a Liberal government responsible for mining and a poor market, you don't get as much investment in mining. That's the way it works.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was famous for raising expectations. Yukoners remember his promises about railroads to Carmacks, and mines in the permitting process with the Liberal government that have never happened.
Mr. Speaker, we have been doing all kinds of work in this area. The companies pay, I think, Mr. Speaker, according to industry standards. With regard to the briefings that the member talked about, we have had all kinds of people speak to Yukoners in all parts of this territory about oil and gas development, and getting ready for it into the future.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm amazed that the minister is so na´ve and out of touch with what's going on.
I will table for the Legislature the briefing that was passed out by Arcis Corporation, the geophysical decision orientation handbook.
The minister says he's sure the companies are paying the industry norm. The fact remains, Mr. Speaker, this offer is below Yukon's minimum wage. Yukon minimum wage is $7.20 an hour. This company's offering $7 an hour for entry-level jobs.
I want to ask the minister, is it true that residents who are applying for these jobs are hired in Calgary, and will be provided with equivalent transportation costs to and from Calgary in order to circumvent Yukon's minimum wage requirements? Is that true?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, that's completely ludicrous. It would be illegal. What is the member -
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is so desperate to try and put a damper on good news on mineral and oil and gas exploration in this territory, it's really quite pathetic.
The people who work in the southeast Yukon this year were paid at industry standard. I know that; I've talked to them. Some of them came from my riding; some of them were Kaska; some of them came from Watson Lake; some of them are down there cutting pipeline right-of-way right now, contractors. They're not working for seven bucks an hour.
Is the member saying that Northern Cross paid people up in Eagle Plains seven bucks an hour when they were hiring people?
The companies that come up here and put on seminars about the seismic industry may talk about their experiences elsewhere. They're going to have to pay an industry standard and, Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House have very good employment standards legislation. We've got a good minimum wage. I would expect that you're going to see the wages be much more than minimum wage and, Mr. Speaker, I have no idea what the member's strategy is here, with the tack of this question.
Question re: Eagle Plains, oil and gas exploration - wage rates
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister ought to do his job. It's his department and advanced education, in conjunction with Arcis Corporation, that are holding orientation seminars to hire Yukoners at $7 an hour. That is below the Yukon minimum wage. It's in the document I tabled, Mr. Speaker, and that minister can stand up and spout off the rhetoric all he wants. This is fact. Over 60 Yukoners went in there; over three-quarters of them left. They were insulted by a $7-an-hour wage offer.
And this is from a government that condemned a previous government on the Yukon hospital. What did they say? Something about - the Member for Whitehorse Centre, people coming up in the back of pickup trucks, working for $12, $13, $14 and $15 an hour. So, that was what they said during the last election campaign. That was what they said during the debate here on employment standards.
Mr. Speaker, now we have an outside company offering Yukoners jobs at $7 an hour, with the help of this minister and this government. How can the minister justify that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's so silly, the question from the member opposite. First of all, Mr. Speaker, they're continuously touting Alberta, a province that was built on the oil and gas industry. Now he's trying to say that the oil and gas industry only produces "Mc" jobs. Mr. Speaker, I think the premise of his argument, just based on reality, is completely absurd. First of all, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners I talk to that I know who worked in southeast Yukon, who worked for Northern Cross and Eagle Plains - and I know, working for Anderson - will be paid the industry standard. To propose, seriously, to pay underneath minimum wage, and to have people work for underneath minimum wage, would be illegal and would be dealt with severely. The member's point is nonsensical.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm not making these figures up in my head. I have the orientation handbook that's being handed out by the minister's department and Arcis Corporation, which is apparently going to be doing the seismic work for Anderson Exploration. That's what the people who are applying are being told. It says right in that handbook that entry-level wages are $7 an hour. It also says they're going to be paid the equivalent to travel to Calgary and back, because they're not going to be hired in Yukon; they're going to be hired in Calgary. The government is condoning this, in fact, working with the corporation to circumvent things.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon workers are angry about all the hype that this minister has raised, and I want to know from this minister what further role is the department going to be playing in this with Arcis. How much is the Yukon government contributing to this orientation program? Can the minister tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's no wonder, with this member as their leader, that the Yukon Party is going be able to hold their conventions in a telephone booth if he keeps up this tack.
The government doesn't hire Arcis Corporation. Is the member suggesting that we should tell Anderson who to hire to conduct their service work? Is that what he's saying, their seismic work? This company was utilized to try and explain, to inform workers, about the methodology behind the work. They'll be trying to inform Yukoners about what the expectations are in the industry. Mr. Speaker, if they pay seven bucks an hour somewhere else in the country, I would be mighty surprised but, in the Yukon, we have minimum wage standards that are higher than that. They wouldn't be able to do that here.
I know that other experiences with Northern Cross, with what is happened in southeast - they're paying more than that, much more than that as a matter of fact. And I know Yukoners who worked on those jobs.
So, Mr. Speaker, if Anderson chooses to use Arcis - because there's no seismic companies here in the territory - they're going to have to have to go by industry standards and our Employment Standards Act, and they were brought in to try and explain to Yukoners what the industry is. Our legislation has impact benefits agreements. Without local hire, they don't go to work and they don't get their licences to do the work. So, Mr. Speaker, that's the way it is.
Mr. Ostashek:Well, the minister says "that's the way it is." Well, let me tell this minister something. Let me use a phrase with him that he was so good about using when he was in opposition. This minister and this government are breaking the law, their own laws. This ad says that this is being done in conjunction with Economic Development and advanced education to support this opportunity for Yukon residents to gain hands-on experience this winter in preparation for anticipated oil and gas activity in the Yukon. They're breaking the law.
I want to direct my final supplementary to the minister responsible for the Employment Standards Act. Does the minister responsible for the Employment Standards Act condone and support this attempt by an outside company to circumvent Yukon's minimum wage?
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is such a pathetic attempt to try and gain a media headline. It's really-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: And the member's saying: "We will. We will." Of course, see? So that's exactly what it's all about. There's no truth in the matter whatsoever. Mr. Speaker, it is so pathetic.
The Yukon Party knows the agenda that the NDP government has in oil and gas is popular - $20 million in investment in Eagle Plains. We were speaking to 120 people in a room the other day, where the Northern Cross was speaking about the future of the industry in this territory - it's positive, it's bright. There is seismic work that went on this fall in southeast Yukon, $10 million in investment. They're trying to find a way to undermine it, and I'm so amazed at how low they've stooped.
If anybody in this territory pays less than minimum wage, they'll be dealt with severely by the Department of Justice - case closed, game over, get another question.
Question re: Yukon Family Services, counselling
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services and, once again, it concerns a situation at Yukon Family Services. This non-profit organization receives almost $700,000 from the minister's department to offer counselling services to Yukoners. There has been a huge reduction in services recently and a number of staff resignations over the last few months and few years. The situation has gotten worse, not better. Yukon Family Services is now down to one full-time counsellor. Some people have been waiting for help for months. The new executive director of Yukon Family Services has said that Christmas is the time of year when the need for counselling it at its greatest. The crisis is impacting poor people the most. They cannot afford private counselling.
Now, one possible solution is to have government cover the cost of private counselling for those who cannot afford it. Has the minister looked into this option as an interim measure?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just with reference to Yukon Family Services, this is an organization we have worked with for a long period of time, and I do know that they're going through a very difficult period. We have been as supportive to them as possible and I think, if the member acknowledges the comments of the new executive director of Yukon Family Services, he was complimentary to the Department of Family and Children's Services, who he knows have taken on a greater load.
It's not merely an issue of basic resources. It's also an issue of availability. We have our own mental health services that deliver as much as they can, but we have looked at the whole issue of private counselling and that becomes an issue, really, of availability, of caseload, for the private counsellors within the territory. We have looked at a variety of options here. We are continuing to work with Yukon Family Services.
One of the things that we consider to be quite positive is that the rural areas - and the executive director has noted this as being kind of an anomaly to the norm - tend to be served better than Whitehorse right now. As a matter of fact, we've got a new counsellor for the North Alaska Highway, operating out of Haines Junction.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, which is all very interesting, but I do know that there's a complete lack of services in Teslin and in Carmacks, which the minister did not mention.
Also, to be clear, Yukon Family Services has done great work in the past - it's just that they're at a down time right now. Most organizations go through ups and downs within their operations, but the minister still hasn't talked about whether he's looking at the option of providing interim counselling from private services.
This is particularly important when we're talking about the women who are coming from Kaushee's Place, and being referred from Kaushee's Place. These are women who have left very abusive situations, and they need counselling right now.
And some of those women have been waiting for counselling for months and months and months and months. And now it looks like they're going to have to wait until the end of January. Well, it's November now, that's three months on top of the time they've already waited.
Anybody who has worked in the field of family violence knows that Christmas is a really busy time, unfortunately. These women need help. What is the minister doing to help provide counselling services, particularly for the women who are going to be coming from Kaushee's Place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I thought I did address that. I said that we have looked into the issue of private counselling, possibly seeking services from some of our private counsellors. But it is a question of availability. We have looked at a whole variety of options, but we are continuing to work. It's our understanding that Yukon Family Services is in the process of trying to recruit. They've been hit by some - I believe three - of their counsellors leaving on extended leave. One, I know, has taken a year-long leave.
We have been working with them, trying to support them, and we will continue to utilize all our resources that we can to help support people in need.
However, I have to let the member know that this is a process that has been largely internal. It has been an internal process for Yukon Family Services. They have gone through a change of executive director, twice. They've gone through a major shift in their -
Speaker: The member's time has expired.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this situation has been around for awhile. It's going to get worse over Christmas. There are just no two ways about it at all. It's going to get worse. More people are going to need help. How long is the minister willing to let the situation continue? We're talking about bringing in another counsellor by the end of January, but that still leaves Family Services quite short of staff.
How long is the minister going to let this situation continue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, we continue to have confidence in Yukon Family Services, and it's regrettable that the member doesn't.
We have been advised by Yukon Family Services that, indeed, they are trying to resolve their staffing problems and their problems of recruitment. We have offered all our services, including recruiting assistance and so on and so forth, to Yukon Family Services to help them reach their full complement. However, they have been impacted in a very sudden, very dramatic way with the loss of three counsellors all in one month.
We are continuing to work with them. We have offered all of our services. We have taken over a load with family and children's services to try to ease that burden. We are utilizing our mental health services to the greatest extent possible.
Now, the member wants me to give a drop-dead date for our support for Yukon Family Services and I think that's unfortunate. I think we can continue to work with this organization.
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
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yesterday in general debate there were a number of issues raised which I would like to respond to. The Yukon Party critic, in his own invidious way, stood here and attacked our government's commitment to single mothers. It was the Yukon Party government, Mr. Chair, while in office, who cut funding to women's shelters and threatened to close Kaushee's Place transition home in Whitehorse.
Our government has increased funding to women's shelters, which provide housing for women leaving violent relationships, and provided multi-year stable funding to transition homes. The Yukon Party government sat idly by for four years while the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre was run out of little more than a closet. The New Democrat government, since coming into office, has increased the core funding to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre to $20,000 a year and has also improved the administration of the funding to provide the direct amount to the centre up front at the beginning of the year-end.
We have also committed to three-year funding agreements to provide stability for the staff and users of the Women's Centre. While the Yukon Party government was in office and the centre did not have a home, we made a commitment to women to provide the centre with a permanent home and had a $137,000 grant for housing and Yukon Housing Corporation mortgage assistance. Since moving into that house, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre has been able to concentrate on women's equality issues and not on housing, they've been able to restore their drop-in services, to ensure wheelchair access to the Women's Centre, and dramatically increase programming for women and children, including the single moms drop-in programs.
The Women's Centre has increased their volunteer base and created a women's advocate position, which offers services for women needing help. They've strengthened their ties with other community organizations and have been able to become a strong and consistent presence in this community.
My personal political commitment is to support women's legal, financial and social equality; what's good for women, actions that create an equitable, fair society, is good for everyone. I want everyone to be safe. Our government is acting to create safe, healthy communities by supporting families. Let me tell the Member for Riverdale North how this government is making life better for single mothers and their children.
We've brought in amendments to maintenance enforcement legislation, to amend the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act to make it easier to ensure that women can get their child support payments. We have an administrative garnishment process now in effect that makes it faster and easier than going to court when a parent is not paying their child support.
We have improved the enforcement measures so that non-payment of child support can be registered in the personal property security registry, and with credit reporting agencies. We're improving an already effective program.
While the opposition supported the bill, the Yukon Party did not do it themselves. With the Family Property and Support Act, we've recognized the legitimacy of common-law and same-sex spousal relationships that will benefit many families in the Yukon.
It's an unfortunate reality that families do break up, and that one parent often ends up taking on responsibility for children. Dividing family and property assets forms the basis for determining appropriate levels of child support.
We believe that these amendments, which also bring into effect the new child support guidelines, will help single mothers and their children.
The justice system needs to be more accessible and more responsive to victims. Women and children are abused. The Family Violence Prevention Act is a new law, introduced to respect and support victims' control over their own lives. I'm proud to deliver on an agenda that does give more control to victims.
The Family Violence Prevention Act is designed to be used by lay people. A victim of family violence can seek help removing and barring a violent man from the family home. A justice of the peace can issue an emergency intervention order that prevents an abuser from contacting the victim or the victim's family. The order can give a victim exclusive occupation of the home. The order can direct a peace officer to remove the abuser from the home.
In addition, there are victim's assistance orders, which can require an abuser to pay a victim compensation for monetary losses suffered as a result of the abuse or to cover the cost of temporary accommodation or legal expenses. The order can grant a victim temporary possession of personal property, such as a vehicle, children's clothing and identification documents, or can restrain the abuser from contacting the victim or the victim's family, employer or co-workers.
Mr. Chair, this new Family Property and Support Act has been developed with input of women's groups, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, victim services and transition home workers. We have taken over two years to bring this law into effect in order to have good participation from communities.
There was an implementation committee with representation from numerous community groups, including women's groups and shelters. Two RCMP officers and two victim services workers were trained to provide ongoing training to new RCMP. Information sessions were provided for women's groups and transition homes in the territory, for Kwanlin Dun, Justice and Health and Social Services, the family violence prevention unit, the Medical Association, and the general public.
We will continue to provide training sessions for front-line workers and others who need information on the Family Violence Prevention Act.
As a response to a survey of teenage girls in the Yukon and what happens in their lives, the Department of Education has implemented a gender equity in the schools policy. Supporting families requires working with children, as well as working with adults. We want to encourage young women and men to fulfill their potential. We can do that by providing a school environment that believes in equal value and potential for both sexes.
We supported the Red Cross child abuse prevention services in Whitehorse and rural community schools. We've provided in-service training for Yukon teachers, to offer the second-step violence and child abuse prevention program. That's becoming part of the career and personal planning curriculum, with a focus on prevention and conflict-resolution skills for young people. Next year, we will provide the first gender equity award for a Yukon school that best demonstrates school activities to support gender equity.
We've brought in the crime prevention and victim services trust fund to route gambling revenues from Diamond Tooth Gertie's and court fines into a new crime prevention and victim services trust fund. That fund will be used to provide services and information that support victims of offences, that help reduce the incidence of crime, that address the root cause of criminal behaviour, prevent violence against women and children, and publicize information about how crime can be prevented and how people can protect themselves from victimization. This focus on crime prevention and on support of community-based justice projects is working. The crime rates are down. Youth crime is down.
The Member for Riverside had asked questions about restorative justice work and about the reduction in the crime rates. Property crime rates came down dramatically in the summer of 1997, when we offered the first youth recreation and leadership program in the Whitehorse area. There was a lot of discussion about restorative justice, which is a framework that focuses on the effect that crime has on a community. Restorative justice is concerned with restoration - restoration of the victim, restoration of the offender to a law-abiding life, restoration of the damage that's caused by crime to a community.
Mr. Chair, we're really pleased to see the community involvement in these kinds of efforts. This government is interested in working with communities to support improvements to the justice system and to empower communities to make changes where they live.
We've also had to deal with some difficult problems. Much of the evening was devoted to questions about the Timmers inquest. I'm not surprised, but I'm extremely disappointed by the line of questioning from the Member for Riverdale North, who was once again trying to fuel racial divisions.
Mr. Chair, let me summarize what we are doing in response to the death of a young man in an arrest. We agreed to support the Council of Yukon First Nations to have standing at the inquest so that they could appear. We believe that it is important for CYFN's voice to be heard in this matter and that it was in the public interest.
We have requested a detailed budget from the Council of Yukon First Nations, and when we receive that we will be signing a contribution agreement and providing them with a cheque. We have also supported the coroner's office and their independent counsel and their other expenses to bring in expert witnesses and to conduct the inquest.
The member likes to wax eloquent on the subject of youth justice, but let me tell him that there has been a seven-percent reduction in the number of young offenders from 1997-98 to 1998-99. The factors that have led to that reduction in youth crime are greater use of police diversion for minor offenders and greater use of recreation programs for youth. The Department of Health and Social Services, which is responsible for youth crime, has put an enormous amount of effort into programs at the Youth Achievement Centre for young people who are in trouble with the law or currently at risk of offending.
Those programs are working. They have a youth sex offender treatment program to reduce the risk of reoffending of their participants. Also to support moms, whether they're single moms or young moms, is the healthy family program to support parents of newborns and available to families with children up to five years.
We have teen-parent access to education and a youth investment fund, which has supported all kinds of community-based projects to involve youth who are seeking positive changes in their lives. We're working with youth to develop a youth centre through a youth centre task force. These are all constructive initiatives that are leading to safe and healthy communities in the Yukon Territory.
The Member for Klondike had a question in relation to line of sight supervision. I want to provide him with an answer today. This contract is with Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives to provide line of sight custodial job supervision for a client while working with Challenge and while under placement at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as per the Yukon review board. The client in this situation is an offender who is ordered to reside at Whitehorse Correctional Centre in its capacity as a mental health facility. This client is being jointly managed by the Department of Justice through Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the Department of Health and Social Services. This is a supervision being done to ensure public safety. Health and Social Services actually picks up the bulk of the cost associated with the management and Corrections provides bed, breakfast, security and casework, so there's a joint funding of the one-on-one job coach placement at Challenge.
The contract commenced on August 13, and runs until March 31, 2000; 50 percent of the contract has been journal-vouchered to Health and Social Services. This contract is not a probation contract, but because it involved the community supervision of a WCC client, it was entered in error under that coding.
The Member for Klondike also had a question in relation to some meetings in Dawson City. The matter does not involve the Yukon Department of Justice, nor federal Justice.
What happened is that the RCMP community and aboriginal policing branch, headquartered in Ottawa, asked the sergeant in Dawson to set up community interviews with a wide spectrum of the community. A number of meetings were set up. When the sergeant from Ottawa community and aboriginal policing branch rrived, they requested the Dawson City sergeant to cancel three of the appointments that had been set up.
At the present time, Sergeant Gleboff in Dawson City is calling to apologize for the confusion and to explain that the visitors were there from Ottawa to review the First Nations policing service and that some of the interviews that were set up were not requested by the official from Ottawa.
I hope that clears the record for the Member for Klondike, and I look forward to further debate.
Mr. Phillips: I just have one comment in general debate, Mr. Chair. The minister made some comments in her remarks a few minutes ago about accusing members of this House of racism. I would suggest to that minister -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Mr. Phillips: I would suggest to that minister -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, on a point of order. Pursuant to Standing Orders 19(h) a member may be called to order if he imputes false or unavowed motives to another member. The minister did no such thing of accusing anybody of racism in her remarks whatsoever, and I would ask that you call the member opposite to order.
Deputy Chair: Mr. Phillips, on the point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, the member did talk about racial overtones, and a member bringing racial issues into the House.
Mr. Chair, I object to that strongly, and if the minister wants to make those kinds of accusations, she should step outside of the Legislature and make them in the public, so she's not protected by immunity from being in the House and making those kinds of comments.
Deputy Chair's statement
Deputy Chair: Order please. In hearing the points of order, I'm going to have to review the Blues before I make a judgment on this. Hopefully, by this afternoon, I will have a chance to give you my decision.
Can we continue?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, yesterday at a brown-bag luncheon, the minister presented on the new Family Violence Prevention Act. One of the questions asked was what would happen if a person challenged the emergency intervention order and took it to court. Who would be paying for the court costs? I wonder if the minister can be a little clearer in her answer today than she was yesterday. One of the problems I had is that I wasn't really clear on who would be paying the court costs - whether the government would be defending the order or whether the victim would have to go and defend the order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, as I indicated in the opening remarks, the Family Violence Prevention Act has been designed to serve the victim's interest and to be dealt with as much as possible by lay people. We have provided training for designates in communities, which includes RCMP, and we have also provided training for the justices of the peace on how the emergency intervention orders work. A designate can help a victim get an emergency intervention order or a victim's assistance order from a justice of the peace.
When that does appear before a court, the victim can be accompanied by the designate to court.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I need to be clearer with the minister. The minister is saying that when an emergency intervention order is challenged - by the abuser, I guess, in this case - then the JP-designate is going to accompany the victim to court. Is that what she is saying?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the designate may accompany the victim to court. It's designed to be user-friendly. You don't necessarily require a lawyer to speak on your behalf.
When you go to court to register the emergency intervention order - and I believe that under the normal course of events and in the experience that other jurisdictions have had with the order - the judge would normally uphold the orders that are issued by a JP.
Mrs. Edelman: So, if the JP-designate and the victim are in court, and it's likely, perhaps, that the judge is going to uphold the order, then who is paying for the court costs?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: The minister is wondering what court costs. Does the person who is challenging the order pay for the court costs?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There's no provision for costs in the act.
Mr. Cable: There was a discussion in the news media - and in this House following up the news media comments - on the use of circle sentencing for spousal assaults. The proposition that was made in the media, anyway, was that it was inappropriate, for various reasons, to use circle sentencing for that particular crime in that it did not deal with the underlying problem and released the offender back into a situation where the offender was likely to repeat.
I was talking to somebody this morning who put a little different take on the use of that process and the use of the conventional system. His proposition was that, often in the conventional system, the person abused is too intimidated to go in the witness box, and the cases are then dropped, so that the abuser then goes back into a situation that might even be more violent.
This person, who is quite familiar with the circle sentencing and restorative justice initiatives, indicated that the root causes are never dealt with in the conventional system. There's no peer pressure, and the abuser retains the power, so that the person abused cannot escape from the problem.
What I was wondering is, the minister is going to be meeting with the judges - she said the other day - to set up evaluation criteria for evaluating circle sentencing. I have some reservations about eliminating any crime, except perhaps murder or a few of the more violent crimes. Is she going to be setting up, with the judges, criteria for evaluating the system generally, or for specific areas of the criminal law?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There's no question that this area is complex and difficult, and that finding ways to serve the best interests of victims and of the community, whether in the mainstream system or in new, alternative measures, presents considerable challenges. Circle sentencing, in relation to criminal matters, is primarily a federal responsibility, and the procedures for circle sentencing are set by the federal government. Sentences are handed down by judges.
We all know and we all respect that the independence of the judiciary is an important principle and is one that leads to our justice system being well-respected around the world. Circle sentencing is community based, and it's based on the premise circle needs to be flexible and in line with the individual case being heard.
In our recent consultations on restorative justice, we have heard about many aspects of the justice system, including a wide variety of views on circle sentencing. We need to ensure, no matter what aspect of the justice system we're dealing with, that people are treated respectfully, that victims are treated respectfully, that offenders are treated respectfully.
One noted researcher on circle sentencing, Dr. Carol LaPrairie, has indicated that further research needs to be conducted on circle sentencing, and I agree and the Department of Justice and the courts agree that this research is needed, and that clear parameters for undertaking such research or evaluation need to be developed. The Department of Justice is currently looking at how this research might best be undertaken. We consider evaluation of all restorative justice activities to be essential. As we complete our restorative justice, we will be also starting work on a plan to evaluate restorative justice. That evaluation will include looking at circle sentencing.
The procedures for circle sentencing are set up by the court. The B.C. Court of Appeal has suggested the circle process needs some regularizing and some organized procedures to follow. In my discussions with the Chief Judge, we will be considering the criteria for an evaluation, and I think that would need to include the kinds of cases that are dealt with by circle sentencing and whether in fact they're successful.
Mr. Cable: The person who gave me the information this morning is very familiar with the court system and has worked in it for many years. Could I encourage the minister to determine how many cases have been brought forward in the conventional system for spousal abuse, where these cases have been dropped because the person abused has been afraid to testify?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we can determine the number of cases that have been dropped, although we cannot, with a great deal of certainty, know why they have been dropped. But I'll look into that. It's a subject that we do keep statistics on and can look at whether they help us in this manner.
Mr. Cable: I thank the minister for that. I think, whatever the reasons of course, if there is a large number being dropped, that would put up some red flags and might direct us more to the circle sentencing method of handling those sorts of cases.
On another issue, the Future Ground report relating to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the Teslin jail indicated there was a lack of programming at these institutions, and it's my understanding that there is still not adequate programming at the institutions. Could the minister outline just what is going on up there in the way of programming?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have responded at length on this to the member opposite in the spring session. I can provide a written answer for the member on programming at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and on some of the changes that have been made and the ongoing work to implement the Future Ground report. Perhaps my staff who are listening could send down the Whitehorse Correctional Centre briefing book, which has further information on that subject, if the member wants to explore this in detail this afternoon.
Mr. Cable: If the minister will provide a letter indicating the present programming, that will answer my question.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we'll go to line items.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Mr. Cable: All of these line items are fairly significant. I wonder if the minister would just give us a brief overview on each of the five items.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can provide them at each line item or read through the entire list now for the members opposite.
The management services detail is for funding for the workers' advocate office and is recoverable, as you will see in the recoveries. In addition, this line item contains the commitment to provide the Council of Yukon First Nations with a $150,000 contribution to represent the interests of the family of Harley Timmers.
The legal services line item for $210,000 is for a recent decision by the Yukon Human Rights Adjudication Board and for court costs related to the Curragh Resources lawsuit. The court has found in favour of the Yukon government and ordered a $3-million settlement in the Curragh Resources lawsuit. Of this amount, $102,000 had been received in cash, $600,000 is being held in trust, and the remainder is under court order pending the outcome of these proceedings.
In consumer and commercial services, the $325,000 line item is for funding to support the coroner's office for the cost of the Timmers inquest. In general debate, I provided a detailed breakdown of that for the members.
The crime prevention and policing of $315,000 is for salary increases and benefits to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, under their new collective agreement, and the Human Rights Commission increase in funding is to cover an increase in the number of hearings and appeals that they have held.
Mr. Cable: I didn't get the part of the line item under the $210,000 for legal services. Did the minister say there was a human rights arbitration?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Decision - the minister said that was a decision. Was that decision involving the Yukon government?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Can we get some more details? What did the Yukon government do wrong?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This was the decision in the McConnell case.
Mr. Cable: And how much did the government wind up paying that person?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The judgment was for $110,000.
Mr. Cable: And it related to some form of discrimination? Was that the basis of the case?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This was a case on discrimination on the basis of medical disability. The Human Right Adjudication Board found and issued a decision resulting in a settlement of $110,000.
Mr. Cable: Was this the case where the board ordered the restoration of employment, as well as a cash settlement?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, the person came back into the employment of the Yukon government, although I have been informed has since voluntarily resigned from a position with the Yukon government.
Management Services in the amount of $215,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
Legal Services in the amount of $210,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $325,000 agreed to
On Crime Prevention and Policing
Crime Prevention and Policing in the amount of $315,000 agreed to
On Human Rights
Human Rights in the amount of $137,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $1,202,000 agreed to
On Operation and Maintenance Recoveries
On Management Services
On Worker Advocate
Mr. Cable: Could I get a description of what the recovery is for?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, as I indicated to the member earlier, the recovery is from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to cover the costs of operating the workers' advocate office.
Worker Advocate in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Recoveries for the Department of Justice in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Management Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to provide detail for the members on the capital expenditures in the following five line items in capital. The largest expenditure is the management services, which is a revote to cover the cost of the integrated case management system. This is an integrated courts information system, which will allow for access by the Department of Justice employees and the family violence prevention and victim services unit, which is not possible in the existing system. The revote also covers the corporate affairs registry system.
The reduction of $210,000 under the law library line is the renovation project, which has been cancelled as the Law Society declined to support the project. There was a corresponding $105,000 in the recoveries as this project is not proceeding.
The consumer and corporate affairs line item is to cover specialized equipment for the coroner's office. The correctional facilities renovations item is for conducting renovation projects at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and includes a revote and some communications equipment.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $226,000 agreed to
On Law Library
Law Library in the amount of an underexpenditure of $210,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
On General Program Equipment
General Program Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
On Correctional Facilities Renovations
Correctional Facilities Renovations in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $86,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on capital recoveries?
Department of Justice agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I am pleased to introduce the 1999-2000 supplementary budget for the Department of Economic Development. In O&M, there is an increase of $1.1 million due to the increase in royalties from the Kotaneelee field, which incidentally is the very large gas-producing field in southeast Yukon. On the capital supplementary, there has been a net increase of $2.6 million.
The increase is a result of CDF for a total of $1,034,000 due to revotes of $534,000 for prior approved projects, plus an additional $500,000 for the fire smart projects; a trade and investment fund increase of a total of $451,000, due to revotes of $201,000 for prior approved projects, plus an additional $250,000 for new projects; a centennial anniversaries program increase due to a revote of $274,000, because not all the projects are finished. There was $200,000 budgeted for a new program called capital maintenance Faro mine; an additional $223,000 established for a new program called economic planning, which includes various economic forums. Another new program was established for infrastructure development related to the purchase of port access options in Skagway, Alaska, and $485,000 was set aside for this program.
I would be pleased to go into general debate the members might have.
Mr. Cable: The minister will recollect that there was a business summit last year, where a number of local business persons got together to discuss the economy, and then there was a booklet produced.
Did the government respond to the report of the business summit in a formal reply? I have a two-page note, which I think was given to the Chamber of Commerce. Was there anything more extensive than the two-page reply that was initially given to the Chamber of Commerce?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Chair, there was, and a lot of it was in the form of actions taken on the recommendations that they put forward.
Mr. Cable: I'm not sure what the minister's saying. Was there a formal written reply, or was this something the Chamber of Commerce was supposed to pick up out of the ether?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We'll have to check if there was a more extensive written reply. We've got an ongoing dialogue with a lot of the business organizations around business issues, tax reform. We did respond to the business summit. We also took action on a number of the recommendations. I'll have to check whether there was a more extensive written response.
Mr. Cable: One of the main recommendations that came out of the summit was the need for evaluating government programs. There have been a number of questions asked in the House as to where the minister's head is at on this. Has there been a formal evaluation procedure discussed with the chambers on government programs, in particular on government economic development programs?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Chair. We had extensive discussions with the business community on the whole issue of performance indicators, and we're now producing with them performance indicators. The member will remember the recent publication with all the export and investment information called Trade Team Times. There was research done into performance indicators and contained in that particular document.
Mr. Cable: Has the chamber, together with the government, produced some sort of paper that can be circulated? I'm not talking about some mention in a newspaper. Is there any document around that shows that there has been some agreement between the chambers and the government on how to evaluate government programs?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We haven't struck a formal agreement. We've been working on program evaluation, and reports have been very good on our programs from the business community.
Mr. Cable: What has the business community had to say about these trade missions? Have they given the government any reflection on whether there has been adequate product out of these trade missions for the money invested?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, one has to only check the information that was contained in the booklets that were tabled on the forestry trade mission and on the Calgary oil and gas trade mission, and talk to the businesses. We do an evaluation after each trade mission with the businesses that are on it to get their feedback. I would say the vast majority, if not all, have been positive. We've been told over and over to get out and do more work, do more trade missions, get out there and hustle. There is always some discussion about where you should go, but I would point out that nobody knows where the opportunities are until you actively seek them.
Mr. Cable: The minister's saying he collects evaluations after every trade mission? Is this sort of written down for all to see?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We do compilations from the businesses. I don't know if we did that for the first few. I'll have to check on that, but I know that, for example, on the trade mission to Calgary, we did an evaluation, and on, I think, some of the others. And I can provide some of the details of that analysis to the member opposite, if he'd like.
Mr. Cable: I would indeed like that.
On another topic, the Autumn Industries contracts and the propositions that have come out of the agreement with the government on examining wood-burning energy projects - last week or the week before, there was an announcement out of Autumn and out of the government that two projects appeared feasible. One was the retooling of the Yukon College heating system and the replacing of the wood-burning boiler with a new type of boiler, and the other was a downtown massive - if I could use that word - installation to feed a number of government buildings, including this one, and a number of private buildings in and around this area.
Has the government reached any conclusion on whether those two proposed projects make sense?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Not conclusively, no. I have an excellent official in the trade and investment branch, and others - people from Government Services - who are looking at the findings of the reports, trying to deal with all the issues that may come up. They were looked at strictly from a feasibility perspective. There are other things that have to be considered, such as sensitivity around certain buildings - for example, the downtown area, the downtown project, and the sensitivity surrounding, for example, the hospital. Those are very important services to Yukoners - absolutely critical - so how one may want to approach that particular building, or not approach that particular building, has to be thought through to truly determine whether you're going to be able to proceed with this initiative on a feasible basis or not.
So, I'll summarize by saying that no, we're not there yet, in terms of concluding a response to Autumn.
Mr. Cable: What's the target date for responding to the proposition involving the Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, again, this is one with some sensitivity surrounding it, given the trouble in the early days with the - I can't remember the name, but I think it was a fluidizer or the heating system that was attempted there. There is still some discussion in the community with some people that perhaps it wasn't a system problem but a fuel problem. We have to work with Government Services, people in the community and Autumn, to take a hard look at that.
I don't have a target date formally. However, I would like to conclude with Autumn as soon as possible because, if we're going to do something, it would be nice to get started and have the construction underway as soon as possible.
Mr. Cable: It's not clear from the report as to how the analysis is going to be done, whether it's going to be a strictly bottom-line analysis - a conventional return on investment analysis - or whether we're going to involve such things as a weighting factor for leakage and local employment, sort of a global analysis. How is the minister going to approach the proposal?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member is quite right. There are factors that enter into it. The project is valued at somewhere, if my memory serves me correctly, around $18 million in capital construction in the downtown area. That would be significant and obviously quite an impact for local contractors and workers. But we have put some bottom lines in terms of our approach, and we don't want to pay any more, certainly, than we are paying now for the fuel that produces our heat.
So, at this point, we have only looked at them having to meet our cost of providing fuel for heating right now. I think that's somewhere around 29 cents for Government Services per litre. So they would have to beat that number with their system heating the capacity.
We haven't looked at the broader picture other than the obvious that the member has mentioned: the leakage issues; the fact you could conceivably have a fire-killed wood industry with people cutting and bringing fuel into source. There are all kinds of merits, but our bottom line has been that they've got to beat what we're paying right now.
Mr. Cable: The minister indicated that that was his present position. Is he holding in reserve a global analysis?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, that's our position. Autumn knew going in that that would be one of the factors. Any one of these projects in this territory, when you try and entertain them, becomes - because they're big, they affect a lot of people, and they're always controversial.
Those factors - there's going to be local employment and local construction - are pretty much a given, if you're going to attempt a project like this.
Mr. Cable: One of the make-or-break areas for the wood-burning operations will be the collection of wood at an economic price. Now, my recollection of one of the reports is that the economics were done over three levels of cost for pellets, and the maximum level was $110. Now, I don't think that that's a price the Yukon pellet makers can meet.
Has the minister looked at that to see whether that approach is feasible?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have asked that that be investigated. I haven't gotten the final results of that back. I would argue that, if we can't supply the fuel source locally and get some local benefit, then I would not be in favour of proceeding. However, some of the preliminary discussions with local pellet manufacturers and people in the business of forestry have said that they think they can do it. Some of the issues pertain to stumpage and how the federal government - the member's fine cousins in Ottawa - charge for fire-killed wood. It has been a bone of contention with us that that wood should be acted upon and harvested as soon as possible, at relatively cheap rates, to try to put it to some use. Otherwise, it's just rotting out there.
Now, some obviously consider that ecologically to be the way it should be, and it should go back into the environment and have a natural cycle. I take the view that there's a lot of wood out there that's a resource, that's burnt, that could be used to also help the environment by reducing greenhouse gases through this system, and the study looks to be good, in terms of having a nice impact on that environmentally as well as putting a lot of people to work, in terms of cutting it and hauling it and burning it.
Mr. Cable: Well, hopefully devolution at some juncture next year will solve the wood collection problem that has just been raised. What is the government doing - I've heard they are somewhat in the mix trying to get fibre lined up for local suppliers. Is the minister's department doing anything in that area?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yeah, we've been mixing big time. The Member for Watson Lake has been the lead on a lot of forestry issues, helping me out in terms of dealing with various mills from AJ Enterprises to Dakwakada, to South Yukon Forest Products, and some of the other smaller players, and trying to work with the federal government to bring a politician's perspective - which they don't often get as a DIAND bureaucracy managing the resource here - to try and convince them to move on some of these issues and to support them publicly when they do.
Mr. Cable: Say all this comes to fruition and we do get a source of cheap fibre, are we going to be able to meet that $110 per tonne for pellets?
Hon. Mr. Harding: If we don't, then I think the project would be in pretty rough shape. We have to be able to meet certain numbers. The feasibility, I suppose, could be readjusted if there are other factors that could supercede that requirement on the $110 but, right now, that's what the studies look to.
Mr. Cable: On a question I've asked the minister several times, he locked the government into the one machinery supplier - Hotab, I believe it was - the engineering was done by AB Konsult, a Swedish company, and the energy machinery supply was to be done by Hotab, this other Swedish company. Why did we take that approach? It's one thing to have a consulting contract for engineering, which I would have thought would have been fairly straightforward; it's another thing to lock in this group of people all working together to get a project going that may have a mixed agenda. Why didn't we use an engineering contract initially to decide whether these things were a go and then put the proposition out to machinery suppliers to bid competitively on the proposition, once we had decided that it was in fact a go?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, it's a debate about approach. The member can argue that that's the best approach. We at the time - and I stand by the decision - felt that the connection that Autumn had with Hotab and the engineering firm gave them a proven track record in terms of these systems that we knew nobody locally had. Sometimes with systems like this, seeing is believing; experience is critical, and we still believe that we can get competitive pricing on the machinery.
If we don't, we won't proceed with the project, and that will cost us another $100,000 in terms of the study, because we would have to pay the full value of the study that was done.
But if we want to check on what Hotab's pricing is, or anybody else, we can do that. We can say, "Your pricing is too high." Then we don't have to proceed.
So, I mean, it's a question of the fact that they had some experience - very well-known. We researched their business track record and experience quite extensively, and heard nothing but good things, and that's why we went with them. And we cost shared it - there had to be something in it for them, in terms of getting a good opportunity at proceeding with this arrangement, and that was the joint participation in the costing of the study, which was roughly $200,000.
Mr. Cable: Well, there are dozens of engineers around that could have dealt with this problem, and there are dozens of wood-burning machinery manufacturers. The minister's saying who his department is going to check on the prices to make sure that they're good. We don't normally do that when we purchase things for the people. We have contracting regulations that suggest that the market is the best arbiter of what the best price is.
How are the minister's officials going to go about checking whether we're getting a good price? Do they have the knowledge in that area? I think he told us earlier that they didn't have the knowledge to actually do a feasibility study. How are they going to determine whether the prices on the machinery are the best prices?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the studies are all public. The information is out there, the schematics, the planning. It's very easy to even send them out to other players and let them take a run at it. We have some leverage because we don't have any obligation to proceed in the construction. So we can do that, and that will ensure that we have some competitiveness. Now, we viewed this - I mean, it's much the same. There's a lot of controversy right now over the parkade. A lot of business people like it; some are very wired up about it. One of the issues for them is, why Ketza? Why don't you just put everything out to public tender? Why did you pick them? Of course, they did some of that work earlier on. Those kinds of issues always get raised in matters such as this, and it's a fair point. I take the member's point. He's asked me in the House before, why didn't we go to a terms of reference in the first place. I've told him my rationale. It has been debated publicly. I'm accountable for it. That was the decision we made, and I have to live with the consequences of that.
Mr. Cable: The reason I bring it up is, if we were to go down and stick another turbine in the dam, we certainly wouldn't sit down with somebody - a machinery supplier - and ask somebody in cahoots with the machinery supplier to come up with a plan. The engineers would get to work first, draw up the specs, and then it would go out to the public, to the many machinery suppliers, the many dam builders - in the case of a new turbine - to get the best price.
If we're talking about $15 million for a project downtown, surely the minister sees that hiring somebody who has a vested interest in the project is not the best way to go. How can we be certain that we're going to get the best price? He mentioned, I think, that he might put the thing out for testing in the market. What does he mean by that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is wood burning as a heating source. It's not sticking another turbine in the dam. In a lot of places in Canada, it doesn't exist. It does exist in Sweden, and it works well. This company has an international track record, and they were prepared to put some money into a study, to take some chances on the supply questions - because they're still not entirely answered, because we don't control that resource - and take a look at it.
They are putting up the money for the capital. We're not investing in the capital, as a government. They're putting the money up. If the member is saying that they are essentially charging us perhaps an uncompetitive rate on that capital in order to have an influence on the feasibility study and make a better return, then I think there are ways to investigate and check on that. We can do that by putting the information out to someone independent, should we wish to do so, and we may have to do that, but so far we're at the decision-making stage based on the numbers we have. We know the organizations in question have considerable international expertise and a good reputation.
Mr. Cable: The two Swedish companies undoubtedly do. They're quite legitimate companies, but that's not the issue. If there were a $15-million road-building project - let's simplify it and let's leave turbines out of it - we certainly wouldn't be sitting down with the road builder saying, "Shucks, go out and design this road and help us decide whether we should be building this road and then, when it comes to building it, you've got the contract." We certainly wouldn't approach it that way. What we would do is get some independent engineering analysis. We would get the road designed, and then it would go out to the market. This is such an unusual way of approaching a potentially large expenditure.
Now, whether the government comes up with the capital or not I think is irrelevant. The eventual prices that will come out of this project certainly will be reflected in how much money is loaded into the project.
How is the taxpayer going to be protected against the costs being fluffed up?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I told the member early on that the bottom line was we're not paying more than the price we're paying now for our diesel fuel, so I don't understand what the member's point is.
The member disagrees with the methodology that we utilized. He's made his point. What's the point of going over and over this? I don't agree with him.
Mr. Cable: The price we're paying for diesel is not the only benchmark. The wood-burning project could in fact produce energy at a cost less than the diesel fuel. Can't the minister see that? And you don't get that unless you get some competition.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've told him there's ways of checking that, and I've told him why we did what we did, and I've told him that, if it was to come in at anything less than that, you would have the environmental benefits, the work benefits, the cost benefits of the fuel; so many benefits if it works out. If it doesn't work out, we'll have to eat the cost of the study, and that'll be the end of it.
Mr. Cable: What really concerns me is a group of people will come into the territory with a bunch of flashy brochures and -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: - I'll say it - smoke the minister, you know, put the line out on the surface of the water and up he bites. It's such an unconventional way of dealing with large projects. Has the minister any precedent for doing this sort of thing before in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I don't expect the member's premise. I mean, he may think - the members opposite, the third party leader and he - may think they're the most cunning and skilled negotiators in the world and I'm just a country bumpkin, but I can tell the members opposite that the members should continue to take their position; I will continue to defend it. I think that we have a good position, I think that I don't have specific precedents, but I do know that there are public/private partnerships out there that have been conducted in similar or like manners, and I make no apologies for the arrangement that we have and, if it yields something beneficial for Yukoners, time will tell.
Mr. Cable: Time will indeed tell, and I'm not suggesting the minister's a bumpkin, and I'm not suggesting that either I or the leader of the third party or the minister are skilled negotiators, but what I am suggesting to him is that the market has a way of pruning a lot of these subjective overlays out of a purchase.
I'm surprised that the minister has taken this particular approach.
Let me ask this question. He's talked about a public/private partnership. Now, as far as I can make out, the government might be donating the land or throwing this into the pot. What else is the government going to be doing? Is this a real partnership or simply a contract for the supply of heat?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's a partnership in terms of the approach and the cost sharing of the study. It's a partnership, should they be successful, in terms of the feasibility, providing an opportunity for them to provide heat at a certain level of price, which we agreed upon, in terms of ensuring it meets or beats existing price levels. This was the bottom line for us. Those, I think, are elements of a partnership. Should these people not be able to meet those terms, then we won't proceed.
It is, and the member conceded that it is a different arrangement. I think the element that is different about it is that it is a public/private partnership. Normally, it wasn't just throwing out an objective in terms of a reference or call for proposals to be wide open. There were certain things that they did, certain levels were agreed upon in advance, criteria that had to be met going in, which they had to look at in terms of the study they put forward.
So, that element is different from the standard "throwing things out for terms of reference" or a call for proposals.
In our estimation, just as in our arrangement with Northwestel and Connect Yukon, there is a public/private partnership in existence.
Mr. Cable: Let's look at the Yukon College project. Has the college board or the college administration been brought into this? Are they all on side? Are they ready to rip out boilers and stick in new boilers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No.
Mr. Cable: When does the minister's department anticipate that they will bring Yukon College into that project?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we have to decide whether there is any chance of the project succeeding. I think there have been some discussions among officials and some people at the college.
The member asked if the full board has agreed. That's not the case. I have had discussions personally with some of the people who were involved in the original heating system there, and there are going to have to be more discussions underway. I like the idea of the downtown more, because I think that it's something that more Yukoners connect with. The feasibility looks more encouraging to me. I think there's more potential for jobs and job creation as a result of it. So, we're not there yet with the college, and we may not get there.
Mr. Cable: The original consulting contract with Autumn indicated that the government could ask that other projects be looked at. Has the government asked Autumn to look at any other projects?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister would look into that and give me a note to that effect. He's nodding his head saying he will.
I wrote the minister a letter early in November on exports and his export figures, asking him for a breakdown, sectorally, on where these exports were going. We had been advised, as I believe the third party had been advised, that the figures probably did not accurately reflect the changes in exports of good and supplies that were generated here in the Yukon, that there were a lot of motor vehicles and snowmobiles and whatever being purchase on a flow-through basis.
For the vast majority, the price would not stay here in the Yukon. It would simply be a flow-through. The minister hasn't answered that letter yet. Where are we on that? Has he broken out from the export figures motor vehicles and snowmobiles and machinery that is manufactured outside but simply sold through Yukon retail outlets to, say, Alaskan retail purchasers?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the numbers are done by Industry Canada. They're standard throughout the entire country, so when people talk about exports out of a province or a territory, it's the same criteria and rationale.
Some of that work has been done. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I signed off a letter to the member on this issue either this morning or late yesterday. So, I'll check on that, but the criteria is readily available. It doesn't include vehicle sales, commercial vehicle sales - one of the issues that has been raised by the third party leader. It doesn't include that. I know that, because I investigated that feature of it specifically and got that confirmation from Industry Canada.
They're not our numbers. They're Industry Canada's.
Mr. Cable: All right. I'll look forward to receiving that letter. The Conference Board of Canada issued a report a few months ago which indicated that there are no real growth prospects in the Yukon economy for quite some time, and it made a number of other observations.
Does this government agree with the Conference Board of Canada report?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Some aspects of it. In terms of growth potential, I think they were wrong. I think there is growth potential. They don't identify factors that could happen that could make a huge difference. We could get a big upswing in the price of gold or base metals, which will have a direct impact.
I mean, I was just on the phone with Cominco today. They still have interest. They just got their water licence for Kudz Ze Kayah. They still hold Faro and Sa Dena Hes. Those properties are still operable. It's just a question of somewhere around 60-cent zinc. Foothills could go ahead with the pipeline discussions. I mean, who knows? And if that's the case, the member opposite knows what kind of numbers we'll have. Look at the difference Faro alone made on the GDP. When we lost it in 1993, it was a 17-percent drop. When we lost it in 1996-97, it was a 10- or 12-percent drop, so they're significant.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I'm going to try not to cover the same ground as the critic for the Liberals did, but I do want to explore a few more areas of the Autumn Industries contract that I don't believe the critic for the Liberals touched on. First of all, I would like to ask the minister if he would also provide me with a copy of the letter that he's writing to the Liberal critic on exports. The minister is nodding his head yes.
I have some major concerns with the proposal by Autumn Industries, and I have some of the same concerns the Liberals have as to how it was handled. I'm not going to get into that; I believe the critic covered it.
My understanding of what I gleaned from the study and what I've seen from the press releases was that the feasibility study was done on $100-a-cord wood. When they were talking to the media, they said it could go up as high as $110. Am I correct in that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I haven't received a report on the feasibility yet. The member opposite might have done more number crunching than I have, so I can't really answer that. I can get that information for him.
Mr. Ostashek: I have some questions about using fire-killed wood for pellets, because I don't believe that there's a proven process yet that's in place for making pellets out of fire-killed wood. I understand that one of the problems they encounter with making pellets out of fire-killed wood is that the wood is too dry and there's not enough sap content in it to hold the pellets together.
Does the minister have access to any study that I'm not aware of that it is feasible to make pellets out of fire-killed wood?
Hon. Mr. Harding: That is an issue that's of great importance to me as well, and I have some concerns about that. I don't want this to be a green-wood user. I think there would be significant difficulty, at least, if there were any major component of green wood utilized in forwarding this project.
I'll check if there are studies on the technology of what we're using and I'll try and provide them to the member opposite, or at least a photocopy if they exist.
What I do know, and I'm certainly no expert on this, is that a lot of it depends, too, on how long the wood has been dead and has been drying, and if you get to it sooner, then there's potential, but if you get to it too late then it is too dry and the pellet just falls apart. These are issues that I don't have the answers for for the member, but I do share his concerns.
Mr. Ostashek:On the other questions - the supply questions - aside from the stumpage that's being charged by the federal Liberals for this wood, the project of the magnitude that's envisioned by Autumn Industries in the release that they put out - some $15 million or $18 million in capital costs - is going to use a lot of wood.
The selling point seems to be that we're going to utilize this fire-killed wood, but in order to obtain this fire-killed wood, we're going to have to go to where it's at. And, as we start getting into transportation costs of hauling wood from, say, Pelly Crossing, a couple of hundred miles away, or from Watson Lake, we have that additional cost. We also have the cost of building access roads, because all of this wood doesn't burn on the highways. So we're going to have to be building access roads into these areas, and it seems to me like this is a major undertaking that we really don't have. Even with as nice a study and documents that Autumn Industries put out, giving us all the good points on this project, I really don't believe that we have an adequate wood supply that could be cost-effective, based on the magnitude of the size of the project. Has the minister got any concerns in that area?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, parts of the study that I did look at more carefully than other parts was the issue of the allotment of wood that was required, and it actually was not that much. They did a full analysis of the burns. We told them right from the get-go that the issues of transportation cannot concern us. We'll always have our backup systems. If you cannot pay for the transportation and pay for provision of your fuel and still give us a rate that will beat the price that we're paying now, then we're not interested. So, they factored that in.
The member makes the point about access of roads, that's an issue with the stumpage. However, presently it doesn't go into anything at all. It just goes into general revenues, and those issues are going to have to be factored in as well, in terms of the provision of the fuel. The member raises some good points about the transportation costs. It has always been a bone of contention that they analyzed. However, I was struck by how efficient the systems are and how little they actually used to produce the heat, and they are contained in the studies. I don't have the studies with me here right now, but if the member peruses them a little bit more, he'll see some of those aspects of the study.
Mr. Ostashek:Well, Mr. Chair, I guess the minister and I are going to differ on the amount of wood that's being used. My understanding is that in three years they were projecting a use of 25,000 tonnes of pellets. That takes a lot of cubic metres of wood to make 25,000 tonnes of pellets. That seems to me like a huge wood supply.
The minister says he's not concerned because if they can't meet the price of diesel fuel, then they're not going to buy the heat from them. But, who is going to be responsible for the cost of the utilidors that are going to have to be put in if we're going to tie more than one building into it? Is Autumn Industries going to be responsible for the cost? The minister is nodding his head yes.
Well, fine, that's okay, but let's look at it from the other side. I don't believe this is as environmentally friendly as what it's being professed to be, because there are still CO2 emissions. We're burning wood; there have to be CO2 emissions.
I also understand that there are wood ash emissions that are going to be falling back on the ground.
Also, the minister says he favoured downtown Whitehorse over the college. I have some concerns with that because Whitehorse is situated in an area where we have a real inversion, and it traps everything. Look at the ice fog that we have now just with automobiles. So I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered then.
The other problem I have with all of this is that, whether or not Autumn Industries is paying the capital costs, we are now on the dawn of oil and gas exploration in the Yukon. Hopefully, within the next five to 10 years, we're going to have some discoveries and the possibility of Whitehorse's being serviced with gas. I'm a little concerned about us going down this road where we're going to go back to burning wood, even if it is in the form of pellets, when we could be using something that's a lot more environmentally friendly.
The minister says as long as they meet the price of diesel fuel they'd be interested. I again have difficulties with that. That's like the microhydro people saying, "Well, we can beat diesel power at 13 cents a kilowatt. We can come in at 12 cents." Well, that's not the issue. That's not the issue.
The issue is - as the Member for Riverside says - trying to get the best possible deal we can for the taxpayers of the Yukon.
I guess my question to the minister in all this, though, is, what about a central heating plan using oil from Northern Cross or natural gas trucked down from Eagle Plains? Has his department investigated that at all as a central heating source rather than wood pellets?
Hon. Mr. Harding: There has been a ton of work done with Northern Cross, and the Energy Corporation has spent a lot of money. We've spent a lot of time with Economic Development and Yukon Development Corporation, in terms of analyzing that. There has been a lot of difficulties with it - they'll freely concede that to you.
Some of it was anticipated, some wasn't, and we have checked out options. They've recently purchased an old generator from N.W.T. Power Corporation, because N.W.T. tried to burn sweet, light crude, and it never worked for them. I don't know if the situations are completely analogous between the N.W.T. and here. We've had discussions with Northern Cross about different ranges of uses. I was just talking to the CEO a couple of days ago. They're still interested in doing some more work up there. The parcels they hold right now are right next to what Anderson has just bid on, so they're going to be doing some more work on their project, and perhaps we can get to the position where they'll be able to meet the market here.
They were even mentioning the other day about a small topping plant in the expose that they did to the business community. A lot of people who were at the luncheon on Tuesday afternoon were looking at some basic refining, probably the creation of diesel out of the sweet, light crude, and then serving local markets. So all those things are being looked at by Northern Cross.
The member raises some good questions. The charts on the CO2 emissions for the Autumn project, as it's envisioned, look pretty good.
There will be issues around the inversion of Whitehorse, and that has to be looked at. That's one of the issues that we're considering in terms of whether to proceed or not.
The issue around the amount of wood - in the study, it references that about five percent of the annual fire kills per year would accommodate all of the heating needs if you did the college and the downtown core. Now that, of course, is a pretty basic number. More work has to be done on it, because is the fire kill in Old Crow or is it in Fox Lake? So it's not a true picture of the costs associated with it. More work has to be done to analyze that, and that's part of what we're trying to do right now.
Mr. Ostashek: I've seen the figure of five percent in there, but that doesn't really mean anything. It's how many cubic metres of wood it takes to make a tonne of pellets. That's the figure I'm looking for and I haven't found that figure yet.
Hon. Mr. Harding: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Thirty-five? The minister can answer when he's on his feet. I can't hear him. I was asking how many cubic metres of wood it takes to make a tonne of pellets. If the minister knows that, I'd appreciate him relaying that to me.
What I was talking about in the Northern Cross project was not burning the crude as power for our generators. I was asking if his department considered putting in a central heating-plant system, similar to what Autumn Industries is going to do using wood, but instead using crude? Has the minister considered that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, we haven't been asked to by Northern Cross. I don't know enough about the subject to say whether it has got potential or not. Should they be interested in looking at something like that, I guess we'd consider it.
The member will know, though, that in terms of emissions, this crude has pretty serious emission issues associated with it, so that's probably why we haven't engaged the issue. I'll find out, but I can remember having a discussion and asking that same question, and the preliminary information I got back was that the emissions issue would be the biggest problem with it - it would be so substantial.
We've already had many concerns from just the test burning we did of the Northern Cross fuel over at the diesel generation facilities for YEC.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand that there's quite a spread between what Autumn Industries is putting in for a tonne of pellets and what the only local supplier we have at this time wants for a tonne of pellets. I guess the minister's going to tell me that that is not his concern - if they can't meet the numbers, then they're not going to get the contract - but I think it has to be a concern of the minister, because one of the equations that's put into this whole project is creating local jobs.
So, could I have the minister's thoughts on that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I may have misspoke myself. I'll have to look back on what I said but, certainly, if no local producer can produce the fuel at what Autumn factors in, and they're going to truck in pellets, I think that would be ludicrous. Talk about transportation costs.
If we can't work out an arrangement where they see local suppliers and job creation in that area, then this thing is, I would think, pretty dead. I think it has got to be a key factor - it is a key concern. Obviously, I want the fuel production to be local - absolutely.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm going to leave that for now.
I want to go back to the questions I was asking the minister in Question Period, because there seems to be a difference of opinion between him and me as to what's really transpiring. I want to go through the document that has been presented to Yukon people who are interested in working and are looking for jobs in the oil industry with Arcis Corporation and the government's involvement through the advanced education.
The document says that entry-level positions are paid $7 an hour. I know the minister has taken a position that this isn't for jobs in the Yukon, but there's nothing in this document that says that people working for Arcis in the Yukon, if they were successful in getting a contract, would be paid more. There's nothing in this contract that says that, and this is why, I understand, that 45 of the 60 people didn't stay for the whole presentation; they were upset with the amount of remuneration that was being offered.
It also goes on to say that those successful applicants who want to work in western Canada this season will have opportunities offered to them soon. For those who wish to work in the Yukon, we will keep your application on file, and in the future, should Arcis get a contract, they would be considered. So, as I say, the document doesn't say anything about there being a different wage scale for the Yukon. The minister maintains that there is, or there would be. If the wage for entry-level jobs with this company is not going to be $7 an hour, could the minister tell the House what it will be?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I don't know who walked out of the meeting or who didn't, but the member opposite in Question Period said that this was the contractor who was going to be doing the work for Anderson. Well, that's not the case, not at all. Now, he may have known that when he said that. He probably did, but anyway, it's Question Period.
In terms of companies being brought up here, we've brought dozens of companies up here to put on training in Watson Lake and in Old Crow and in Faro and in Ross River and all over the place, because we want people to hear from industry themselves. What this was by Arcis was a training opportunity for Yukoners, because they want to get a leg up in terms of having a good pool of Yukon workforce to call upon so that they have a good chance of getting contracts as the industry grows over the long term. It's completely on their own.
What they're offering is a training wage in Alberta to work on seismic, and they're offering to cover all the costs associated with that. And if Yukoners don't want to take that training opportunity, then they don't have to. In terms of what they'll pay up here, I can guarantee the member opposite that it will be more than $7 an hour. I know that the history on the work that has been done up here so far is a heck of a lot more than $7 an hour. So, if Yukoners don't want to take the training opportunity offered by a private company out of Alberta, who is prepared to pay for a training wage and pay their expenses - and it's a camp opportunity, as I understand it, because there's no seismic planned yet at least with Anderson, at least until the new year - then they don't have to. It's purely up to the workers themselves. It has got nothing to do with the Yukon government. We brought them up here like we brought tens of companies up here - dozens - to talk to companies. I met with three or four oil and gas companies just last week alone.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, that's just not quite correct, that the government doesn't have anything to do with it. The notice that was put in the paper was put in by the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Education, and it has got Arcis Corporation's name on it, and the applications for the orientation were handled through the government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Fine, it's training, but the minister has to appreciate that none of the people who attended this were told that there was any different wage if the company got a contract in the Yukon.
Now, the minister says he's confident that, if they got a contract in the Yukon, they'd be paying much more money; the wages would be higher. The government is working with Arcis Corporation to have Yukoners go out and be trained. I'm asking the minister, what wage would Arcis be paying for entry-level jobs if they got a contract in the Yukon? Because they indicated to the people who were at the orientation program that they were hoping to be working in Eagle Plains this winter.
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is so bizarre. Here I've got the leader of the third party, who voted against the increase for minimum wage that the NDP brought in - he voted against it - now saying that somehow the Minister of Economic Development should determine the rate that a private company will pay for seismic work. It's bizarre.
Mr. Chair, where is the member opposite going with this? If they pay $7 an hour in the Yukon - first of all it's illegal, and the Department of Justice will be notified immediately and they will deal with it - if they get the contract at all. Secondly, experience doesn't bear that out, given what Northern Cross paid for the work they've done in Eagle Plains and what was being paid in southeast Yukon for seismic this year.
So, I don't control the marketplace, Mr. Chair, but I would argue that experience bears out that trades people, and people in the oil and gas business, get paid more than $7 an hour. They certainly do in the Yukon, because it would be illegal to not do it.
Mr. Ostashek:The minister doesn't need to get so defensive. He's working with this corporation. They say they pay $7 an hour in other jurisdictions. If that's the way the minister wants it to happen, they pay $7 an hour. And where I'm going with this, Mr. Chair, is I want to know from the minister, who has been working with this corporation, if they were to get a contract in the Yukon - people who want to go to work want to know - what would be the entry-level wage? What would it be? If the minister doesn't know, he can bring me back a legislative return. He can get from the company what they're going to pay in the Yukon.
But where I'm going with this is the fact that this government, when they were in opposition, made much ado about Alberta companies coming in here and undercutting wages. When we debated the Employment Standards Act, Mr. Chair, you yourself said a labour force that has been brought up stuck into the back of pickups and working for dirt cheap wages. You went on to complain that outside companies were undermining the fair wage schedule by paying workers only $12, $13, $14 and $15 an hour. That's what you said in the debate, Mr. Chair.
Now we have your government involved in training people for jobs that are at minimum wage levels. The minister says they will be hiring in the Yukon. I want to know what they will be. This government made a lot of political mileage during the last election about Alberta contractors coming in here and undercutting Yukoners. And now they're involved with sending Yukoners outside to work for just a little bit better than minimum wage outside and below the minimum wage that they would get in the Yukon.
I want to know from the minister, what can these entry-level workers expect to get if Arcis was to get a contract in the Yukon to do seismic work?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, this is a training opportunity, and if Yukoners don't want to take it, all expenses paid, then they don't have to.
I know a lot of people who take training who don't get any money and all expenses paid. It's up to Yukoners whether they want this opportunity from a private corporation. We bring companies in here - Arcis, Chevron, Canadian Forest Oil, Anderson; in Watson Lake, we had 270 people - Yukoners - who sat through training sessions, who sat through information sessions, from a whole host of companies, that we advertised on government-sponsored letterhead that we were putting this together. It's an opportunity for Yukoners.
This one is a training opportunity, which is even more crazy, in terms of what's coming from the member opposite. Mr. Chair, I don't know what Arcis will pay. If he wants to know what Arcis will pay, he should contact Arcis. They're a private corporation.
Is he proposing that the government should legislate wages in oil and gas in this territory?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to know where this government's coming from, because they're all over the map. One day they condemn the previous government for bringing in outside companies and undercutting the wages in the Yukon. They condemn them. They condemned the government for that, made a lot of political mileage of it - even went so far as to put out a bumper sticker, "Building Alberta's Future".
Now, they're involved with sending Yukoners outside for training - which is good - but at a very low wage. And the minister won't stand up in the House and tell Yukoners what they can expect to get for entry-level work, if this corporation were to be successful in getting a contract to work in the Yukon. That's what Yukoners want to know - 45 of them walked out because they were disgusted. And there's nothing in this document that tells anybody what entry-level positions would be paid if the work were done in the Yukon.
It says $7 an hour for work in western Canada, and it leaves the presumption that it doesn't matter where you work, that's what you're going to get. And you're going to get $25 a day to feed yourself in a hotel - the company will provide lodging for you. Well, it's an insult to Yukon workers.
And he says you don't need to take the training. That's fine, but the minister has some responsibility, because he has advertised for people to come in and take this training with the company outside. I want to know from this minister, so that I can tell my constituents, what they can expect to get if they should decide to go to work for Arcis Corporation if Arcis is successful in getting the contract. What will be the entry-level position pay? Will it be $7.20 an hour? Will it be $8 an hour? What will it be?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It won't be $7 because that's illegal. This is a training opportunity, and Yukoners can take it or not take it. We have brought all kinds of companies up here to do seminars for people. We do it because there aren't local companies yet. Does he know any seismic companies locally that can put on the seminars? I don't think so, because there aren't any.
Mr. Chair, is he asking me to legislate wages in this industry? Because if he's not, I don't know the answer to his question because it's a private industry. The only answer I know is that it won't be $7 an hour because it will have to meet the minimum wage. My guess is that it will be quite a bit higher, given the experience that Yukoners have had in this industry on the $10 million in seismic work that went on in the southeast this year.
The member says I have some responsibility to give him whatever wage a private company is going to pay because we have seminars for training going on, where people can go of their own free volition to learn about the industry and take a training opportunity. I think it's completely ridiculous.
Mr. Ostashek: This minister is twisting and turning in the wind. This is the government condemned, when they were in opposition, that condemned outside workers coming into the Yukon and undercutting our workers here.
Now we have this government involved in sending Yukon workers outside for training to work at jobs at just a little bit better than minimum wage even outside. I believe the minimum wage in Alberta is about $5.25 an hour or $5.50 an hour. That is not very much remuneration over and above the minimum wage in Alberta. If Yukoners can expect the same percentage of an increase in the Yukon, we have this government training Yukoners for basically minimum wage jobs, after all the hype that this minister has put out about all the high-paying jobs there are going to be for Yukoners in the oil and gas industry.
Now I know that when they get into drilling rigs and that, they pay more money. I worked on them; I know; but I also know that seismic jobs have always been very low paid entry-level jobs.
Will the minister bring back a legislative return as to what Yukoners can expect as entry-level wages, should they go to work on these jobs in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, the member's questioning is a farce. We're not sending anybody anywhere. Yukon workers were offered an opportunity. It would be nice if the wages for the training opportunity that the private company offered were higher, the expenses were higher, the whole works were higher - but Yukoners don't have to take that opportunity. The company is extending an offer, the workers don't have to take it.
We certainly weren't going to pay to send a whole bunch of workers out with Arcis to conduct the training. We've put on training in the Yukon that we've paid the full cost of, here in the territory, and we need to do that in advance of this industry coming in.
In terms of what Yukoners will get paid, the member opposite will have to contact the private companies themselves and get their pricing for what they're going to bid on, say, Anderson's job, and if he thinks seismic work is useless, then that's fine; that's his position. I think it's something that's going to benefit a lot of Yukoners.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister's position now is if Yukon workers don't want to take $7 an hour, they don't have to take it.
Mr. Chair, you must be furious with this, because I know how you stick up for the working people of the Yukon. You must be furious with the attitude of your minister. They're going to train people for minimum wage jobs. I think that's an insult to Yukoners myself.
I have a couple more questions for the minister here on their plans for their territorial docks in Skagway and Haines.
An article in yesterday's paper said that the principals involved with the Skagway docks are scratching their heads. They were never consulted by the Yukon government. Is that statement in fact true?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, I'm going to go back to the member's preamble to the question regarding oil and gas. His characterization of my position is not, in fact, my position. That's what he has determined for his own purposes.
First of all, this is a training opportunity that people want, and if people don't want to take the training opportunity, they don't have to take it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Exactly. It's a private company making an offer. If he's asking me to legislate the companies in this industry and their wages, when he himself voted against the modest increase we gave to the minimum wage in this territory recently in the Employment Standards Act, I think he's got a pretty tough public case to make.
Now, he's suddenly the big defender of the -
Today, he's asking me to legislate the oil and gas industry. I can't wait to send this out to the oil and gas companies so that they can see what kind of a wing-nut third party we have here.
This would be amazing. Most of them come from conservative Alberta where they're all going the other way, and here we have the conservative third party here asking us to legislate the wages specifically in the oil and gas industry. I mean, they're going to fall out of their chairs when they read this debate in Hansard, in which he's asking this minister in the Yukon Territory to tell him what companies have to pay on seismic work in the Yukon. That is hilarious. Then, of course, he says seismic work is not good for the economy, not good for Yukoners, not up to his standards. Well, I think the member opposite is barking up the wrong tree.
With regard to the article that appeared in the Skaguay News and the Whitehorse Star, we engaged Tait Consultants, who acted as an agent for us. He's a former executive of White Pass with a thorough knowledge of the industry in the state to act on our behalf. He secured the option. I have had discussions with the previous Mayor of Skagway and some of the councillors on this issue in the past. There have been discussions with White Pass on this specific announcement. I contacted the mayor prior to making the announcement.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I'll respond to the minister's preamble first, because I hope he does send that out to all oil companies, to see how this minister twists and turns in the wind and tries not to be pinned down on anything. He inferred legislation, not the leader of the third party - not once - and I hope that the minister does send that out.
What I'm going to do is talk to all those Yukon workers who think the NDP government is protecting their interests, and they will make their decision at the ballot box, Mr. Chair.
The minister says he talked to the Mayor of Skagway, yet the Major of Skagway refutes that in this article. The mayor, John Mielke, Skagway city manager Bob Ward, White Pass president, Fred McCorriston, port manager Tom Cochran and John Wood of Alaska Development Corporation, which owned the ore dock, said no one in the Yukon government talked to them about the plan.
Now I find that somewhat mind-boggling, that this government would take an option on a piece of property without first investigating the limitations of the Skagway dock. They just picked it out of the air that there are so many cruise ships there that we can't ship our stuff through there, so we have to get some property in Skagway. I find that mind-boggling - then to find a piece of property that is not even zoned for what this government wants to use it for.
It says it's zoned recreational open space or low-density residential. They can't come down here and slap something in it. The perception is it'll be a dock. Where are the uplands going to be? A whole myriad of things they'll have to jump through.
Mr. Speaker, I had concerns when the minister announced that that was a piece of property that they had put an option on, because I didn't believe that it was zoned for heavy commercial by any means.
The minister says that they got all their information from Mr. Tait - consultants. Well, we know who Mr. Tait is, we know who he is quite well - quite well - and so does the person in the minister's department, who seemed to be spearheading this for the government. We know that quite well.
But I am just amazed that this government would go out and plunk down a $10,000 deposit, take an option on a piece of property that they haven't even investigated with the city if they could use it for what they intended to buy it for.
Does the minister believe that that was a sound business decision, to go ahead and put down a $10,000 option on a piece of property that is not even zoned for the uses this minister wanted to buy it for? Does he believe that's a sound business decision?
Deputy Chair: As it is 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Deputy Chair: I'll now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Before continuing with debate on the estimates, the Chair will make a ruling on the point of order raised by the government House leader earlier on this day.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: The Member for Riverdale North was responding to remarks made by the Minister of Justice and he said, "The minister made some comments in her remarks a few minutes ago about accusing members of this House of racism."
The government House leader then raised a point of order stating: "Pursuant to Standing Order 19(h) a member may be called to order if he imputes false or unavowed motives to another member. The minister did no such thing of accusing anybody of racism in her remarks whatsoever, and I would ask that you call the member opposite to order."
The Member for Riverdale North then responded, saying, "On the point of order, Mr. Chair, the member did talk about racial overtones, and a member bringing racial issues into the House."
The Chair has reviewed an early draft of the Blues and has found that the Minister of Justice said, "Much of the evening was devoted to questions about the Timmers inquest. I'm not surprised, but I'm extremely disappointed by the line of questioning by the Member for Riverdale North, who was once again trying to fuel racial divisions."
It is clear that the Minister of Justice should have been called to order at the time, either by the Chair or by way of point of order, pursuant to Standing Order 19(h) which, as the Government House Leader points out, states that members are not to impute false or unavowed motives to other members.
The Minister of Justice was not called to order and it is now too late to deal with it because points of order on unparliamentary language must be raised at the time the words are spoken.
In reference to the remarks of the Member for Riverdale North, the Chair understands how the member might conclude that he had been accused of racism based on the comment by the Minister of Justice that he "was once again trying to fuel racial divisions."
The government House leader said that the Member for Riverdale North was out of order, pursuant to Standing Order 19(h), on the basis that he had imputed false or unavowed motives to the Minister of Justice. The statement made by the Member for Riverdale North was, "The minister made some comments in her remarks a few minutes ago about accusing members of this House of racism." There are no motives avowed in that statement so it is not out of order pursuant to Standing Order 19(h).
All of that having been said, it is not necessary for the Chair to resort to the Standing Orders or parliamentary authorities to rule on this matter. The plain fact of the matter is that members should not be making such accusations in this House.
Members would do well to consider a ruling by Speaker Johnston on May 13, 1986, when he said: "I would ask all Members to give careful consideration to the remarks they make in the heat of debate. Name calling and impugning the motives of other Members does nothing for the tone of debate nor the reputation of the Legislative Assembly. In the future I would ask for the cooperation of all Members in using language that is appropriate to the dignity of the House."
We'll go back to general debate.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Back to the leader of the third party being mind-boggled. I would say to the member opposite that he should not put words in my mouth. I said that I contacted the mayor prior to the announcement. He said that the mayor disputed my statement.
I did not speak to the mayor prior to the announcement, but we played phone tag prior to the announcement and did not connect. We connected after the announcement. But I did contact him prior to the announcement.
With regard to the specifics around the issue, the member made some allusion to the Tait consultant and the public servant who's mentioned in the article, and he said, "We know about that; oh yeah, we know about that."
Maybe he could, when he stands up, tell us a little bit more about what he meant by that. What did he know about that? I'm confused by his statement. I'd like to know more about that. Is he implying something, or is there something he could tell us more about that?
Thirdly, there were issues of confidentiality surrounding this particular purchase. There was quite a bit at stake. We didn't have full and broad discussions with all the players in the community. However, there was a good level of knowledge about the property and the people involved in the community.
By the same token, we did not have discussions with everybody in advance in the City of Haines, or the Borough of Haines, or the Chamber of Commerce, about our purchase of the port facility there. However, we got very good comments from the Chamber of Commerce, which I can give the member opposite if he's interested, as well as some excellent discussion with the city's Mayor of Haines, who thought it was quite exciting and interesting.
We were involved in a business arrangement. That's why the discussions did not take place in advance of this particular option; however, I have had discussions with the City of Skagway in the past, as have our officials, about the question of port access. With regard to this land, this is a 10-, 20-, 50-year-out option. It is as I said the day we bought it-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, do I have to get the transcript for the member opposite? I heard his usual, "Haw, haw, haw." I said that the morning after the announcement - 10-, 20-, 50-year-out option - so that's what I told the media the day after. So, obviously, as usual, he doesn't listen. So, we expect to see that we'll have some further discussions with the mayor. I've talked to him since. We'll have a forum, obviously, with White Pass; I've always stated that it's our intention to continue to use the existing ore terminal and the dock; however, we did not want the next generation of Yukoners to not have at least the fighting chance - the potential - to have an option there; 10-, 20-, or 50-year-out.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, that must have been what his official meant when he said that the consultant had a broad-ranging mandate that included a lot of blue-sky information. That must be what the minister meant there.
The fact remains, Mr. Chair, whether it's 10-, 20-, 30-, 40- year-out, did the minister's department not check to see what the zoning of the land was? Because from what I understand and from what's in this article, it's not zoned. They call it uplands. I say staging area. It's not zoned heavy commercial, and they say that there's a comprehensive plan that has been approved by the city that designates it as recreational open space or low-density residential.
Did the minister's officials not check on the zoning before they put the option on the property?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, it's an option that I think cost $10,000 or $15,000 Canadian. That's the reason we took an option and why we have the option to analyze all the information. There are a lot of issues with it, not just the zoning issues. There are a whole bunch of issues that we have to look at. But my position is that this shows some vision, some long-term vision, and just because there are zoning requirements now doesn't mean 10, 20, 50 years from now the zoning is going to be the same.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, that's a ridiculous position for this minister to take, and a very irresponsible one. One of the first things you do when you're going to buy a piece of property for a certain use is to look to see what the zoning is and what the options are for changing the zoning. This is very preliminary work that's done before you invest.
The minister says it's only an option - $10,000, $15,000 of taxpayers' money, plus the cost of the consulting study, plus the cost of doing the due diligence. It sounds like it's no big deal to the minister if we drop $10,000 on this property because they didn't do their homework before they put the option on the property.
I'm going to ask the minister to come back to this Legislature with the total cost of this project, the consultant's report, the due diligence, and we know the cost of the option, which I think the minister stated before was $10,000. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I pray the member opposite asks me about this in Question Period, because this is real purchasing of options for this territory in Haines and Skagway. It's a vision. It's long term. It's securing tidewater access. We don't just talk about infrastructure like the member opposite did when he was, for a brief period, the Government Leader. We are investing in wiring the Yukon, telecommunications infrastructure, expanding the airport runway, diversifying the economy. He was good talker but not a good doer, and he's so angry that we've actually done this. We actually have taken some bold steps. And, of course, just like our development of oil and gas, he tries to find a way to critique it. But, Mr. Chair, it's hopeless for him - absolutely hopeless.
The information surrounding the dock I can provide to the member opposite. This is a long-term option - 10-, 20-, 50-year-out, as I told the media the day we bought it - and the land is worth what we're going to end up paying for it, and it's a good asset for this territory for the long term. It shows we've got some forward thinking. We're not looking back to the 1900s, like the member opposite. We're looking ahead.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, you can tell when this minister has been put into a corner. He gets off on his political rhetoric and talks about everything except the question. I asked the minister if he would come back to this House with the total costs of the consultant's study and the due diligence for this property. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member opposite hasn't put me in any corner. It's like being nibbled by a duck. I'll tell you right now, I'll bring the information back for the member opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one more question. Can the minister tell me why they never checked the zoning before they put the option on the property?
Hon. Mr. Harding: He just made a supposition there. We knew what the zoning was. We're looking at that and a whole range of issues. But, again, it's a long-term option and what is the case now doesn't mean it will be the case forever.
Mr. Cable: Just to follow up on the dock purchase in Haines, I asked the minister in Question Period whether the dock that's being purchased there was an ongoing business, and whether it was profitable and whether - if the option is exercised - the government will have to stick in some operating money when it takes over the property.
I wonder if the minister would let us know the answer to that question, because I don't think he answered it in Question Period.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we don't have all the information on that yet. We're analyzing it. I think that the way the option reads is, if we don't make a move within 45 to 60 days, we have to pay the cost of the option. We can't get it refunded. That's one of the things we're looking at, along with the environmental permitting surrounding the dock.
I believe there will be some holding cost. There is some charge now, minimally. There are some ships that do some off-loading - small cannery stuff, as I understand it. I don't know all the details, but I'll provide the member the best information we have as soon as I can.
Mr. Cable: Well, perhaps we should clear up just what is the purchase? Is it for property, or is it for the property and the business that relates to the dock?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that's one of the options. You could purchase the assets of the company. You could purchase just the assets themselves, and leave the company out of it, or you could take a lease. That's the way the option we've negotiated reads. It has three options: a lease; purchase the company, which is called Chilkoot Lumber, and all of its assets; or just purchase the assets and saw away the company.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Well, assumedly, if we buy the dock, whether it's through the vehicle of the company or a property purchase, we'll have an ongoing business there. I assume the dock won't be sitting there unused.
Does the dock business make money at the present time?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll try and provide that answer to the member opposite. We'd have to get that information off Chilkoot Lumber, and I would presume we're trying to find that now, so I'll try and find it, if we have concluded an answer to that.
Mr. Cable: I thank the minister. Perhaps I could be provided that by way of letter, if it takes any more than a couple days, because the session is drawing to a close.
During the debate on Autumn Industries, the issue of whether burning of wood was more environmentally benign was brought up, and I'm just wondering if the minister's off on the wrong track. My understanding of the burning of wood is that there is a zero-effect on the carbon cycle - the wood would normally decay and give off carbon gases anyway. So that the environmentalists, anyway, treat the burning of wood as much more benign than the burning of fossil fuels, which are taken out of the ground, and where the carbon is locked in the ground. Is that not the minister's understanding?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Well, in this same vein, would not the burning of wood attract some greenhouse gas credits? Is this not part of the analysis?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes.
Mr. Cable: Okay. I asked the minister a question on the export figures earlier on, and he indicated he had signed a letter on this and, as if by magic, this letter appeared on my desk, so I'll have to compliment the minister. I don't know where it fell from, maybe the ceiling here, but I've tried to figure out from the letter just whether motor vehicles are included in the export figures, and it appears from the attachments to the letter that they are, in fact. And I was wondering if the minister could clear that up, because it was my understanding that he had indicated they were not.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The Industry Canada figures do not include commercial vehicle sales, and that was the information I was given; if the member has got something different, then I'm not aware of it. I've only been told that. I signed the letter off to the member opposite; perhaps he can read out what he's talking about.
Mr. Cable: Yes, I will. There was an attachment to the letter, which is entitled "Yukon Top 25 Internationally Exported Goods, 1997", and there's a list of 25 items. The one for 1997 includes, as item 18, motor vehicles, compression ignition, cylinder capacity 1,500 to 2,500 cc's, which I think would catch most cars. Then, in the 1998 figures - another attachment - it says motor vehicles, spark ignition, cylinder capacity more than 3000 cc's. So, I'm not clear, and I'm sure the minister isn't clear, but I wonder if he would look into the letter and the attachments he sent me, and ask his officials whether motor vehicles are included in the export figures that wound up in the ads that were put in the publication that we've been discussing in this House?
The minister is nodding his head that he's going to do that.
I always like reading the minister's prose, and there's a letter in today's Whitehorse Star, the November 25 issue of the Whitehorse Star, talking about exploration figures. The minister says, "In fact, the $9.5-million exploration figure for this year that your article mentioned was $2.5 million higher than the estimate made by the Yukon Chamber of Mines this past spring." I assume this is correct, but what did the minister's department, in fact, estimate would be the exploration expenditures in this year?
Hon. Mr. Harding: We usually accept the chamber's spring estimate.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister would check with his officials and see whether, in fact, there was an estimate made, because I think that's fairly standard practice - is it not? - to estimate the expected exploration expenditures for the upcoming year.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'll have to check on the source, but my understanding is that we usually use the Chamber of Mines' forecast. That's what the economists use, as I understand it, when they make their economic forecast, and then NRCan reports in the geology branch in the Geoscience Forum in November.
Ms. Duncan: I have a few questions for the Minister of Economic Development. The other day in Question Period, I asked the minister about the cost of the trade missions. The last count was 29. Now, these have spanned over at least two fiscal years. Has the minister any accurate figures on the cost of the trade missions?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, what does the member want? I know we have the information. Does she want all 29 to be tabled, and to count all the costs? I mean, what information does she want? I can try to provide it for her. It will take some time obviously, but if that's what she wants, I suppose I can get it for her.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, thanks, I'd appreciate the detailed information on the trade missions.
On the trade and investment strategy, one of the earlier documents promised that a database of exporters would be developed. I have forgotten if it was listed as a goal or if it was merely a statement of evaluation.
Has that database been developed, and is it available?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think that it is, but I will check for the member opposite. I know if it's not ready yet, they're very close.
Ms. Duncan: Is it intended that this would be public information, like a catalogue of exporters for those interested? The minister is nodding his head. I would look forward to receiving that as soon as it's available.
Last time we had a discussion in the House - or some time ago, and it may have been last fall's session - I asked the minister for a legislative return on mining royalties. Could I just ask that he have his officials review that - I don't have it with me in the House - and provide me with any new information? If there's nothing new, that's fine, but I would just ask that they review it.
The minister mentioned, in his opening remarks, the fire smart program. One of the fire smart meetings that I attended in Porter Creek this year was attended by several levels of officials in different governments. The understanding at that meeting was that there was going to be a review and a report filed, available this fall, which would assess the entire Yukon and grade the risk in various areas, and it would establish priorities. Has that report been made available, and is it going to be used to guide the funding released under the fire smart program that the minister mentioned?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member's talking about the Ember report that is completed. It's a guiding document in terms of decision making.
Ms. Duncan: Just to be sure we're talking about the same document, can the minister provide some more details on the Ember report, as he referred to it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think I can provide at least a photocopy of the report for the member. It's a general, guiding document that indicates risk areas done by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Ms. Duncan: I just want to be sure we're talking about the same report. It's a guiding document. Certainly, it was to assess various areas of the Yukon and establish risk. And assuming the minister has read that and has done that, is it going to be used as a guiding document?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: It is. Okay, the minister's nodding.
I listened with some degree of interest to the minister's exchange with the leader of the third party with respect to the training for seismic work, and I note that the Minister of Education is also available to perhaps assist the Minister of Economic Development with the answer to this question. Are individuals available for training allowances from the Government of Yukon, should they participate in that particular training opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Harding: This is a private company offering a training opportunity to Yukoners. We have been investing our money on education seminars here. We use the private sector sometimes to help us because, obviously, the people in our oil and gas branch are limited doing that business, plus they need the practical knowledge from the industry themselves.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I obviously didn't make that question clear. The training allowance I was referring to is if, for example, an individual is furthering their carpentry training outside the territory. They may, depending upon marks, et cetera, and good standing, be eligible for some type of a training allowance, just as those who are pursuing a Bachelor of Education are eligible for student financial assistance. That's the sort of training allowance I was talking about.
It may be that these are older individuals who are seeking this new career or training opportunity. That's the sort of training allowance I was talking about.
The minister may wish to further respond to that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll check. The Minister of Education doesn't believe so, but we'll just confirm for the member. It may be something to consider. I know we've done some training outside in the past as well. Usually it's institutionally based, not private-sector based, though.
Ms. Duncan: I would appreciate any further information on that.
I mentioned yesterday during our debate - or what passed for debate - on economic issues, section 55 of the Yukon Quartz Mining Act - and I understand fully that it's federal legislation - has the mining facilitator, who works out of the Department of Economic Development, done any work with industry on section 55? The minister is looking at me askance.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, we've done a lot of work on the legislation, but mostly getting ready for devolution. There's a lot of concern in industry that they want the legislation to come over as is, and there's all this nervousness about opening it up, so we've told them that we're not interested in anything like that, in any changes, until there's a level of comfort that they want to proceed. That's one of the discussions that I had with the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee.
Ms. Duncan:Right. I understand that it is to be completely mirror legislation. The mining industry does not want the legislation or the regulations opened up.
Section 55 is the section that gives the minister the latitude to grant relief from exploration costs. It has been exercised at least once - for Anvil Range - and there was opportunity this summer, given the downturn in metal prices and other economic factors, for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to grant that relief to claim holders this summer. Unfortunately, there was a changeover in ministers of that portfolio this summer, and also the new minister didn't see the wisdom of that, although I understand there has been some latitude at the public servant level that the minister didn't see fit to do that.
That's something that's an economic opportunity that the minister could do once mirror legislation was passed by this House. I'm wondering if he has had any discussions with the mining industry on it or with the mining facilitator?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, I haven't. We have had lots of discussions about mineral exploration tax credits, and we initiated one of those. So, no, actually, it has never been raised with me - not in numerous meetings with mining people, never.
Ms. Duncan: Well, I'll forward the minister my correspondence on it, because it was certainly raised with the federal minister and it was raised with me. It only applies to a small number, granted, but it's certainly an issue.
On the Yukon Mining Advisory Council meetings, I note that I requested the decision document, if you will, or the minutes, from the board meeting, and the minister has provided those to me. Are these meetings open to the public at all?
Hon. Mr. Harding: No, they're not. They're board meetings. At the request of the board - and I'm in agreement with them - they want to be able to speak freely about tough issues, and very candidly, and give good advice to government. They know that at least part of it will be carried out.
I would think that might curtail their ability to do that, and might make some companies quite skittish if they have to couch every word they say.
Ms. Duncan: They might not be as inclined to deliver tough messages to government, either, but I'm sure that they feel quite comfortable to do that.
The representatives of Foothills Pipe Lines were in the Yukon in October, and I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with them again. Can the minister share with us any information being provided, or prepared, by his department with respect to working with Foothills Pipe Lines, either on the south Yukon project or any information with respect to the Dempster lateral.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I think there are some meetings today in Calgary with some of my officials, and Foothills and different companies in the oil and gas industry. Obviously the ANGTS route is something we think is far superior to the Mackenzie route that Harvie Andre has recently been promoting in the N.W.T., and we've made that very clear, both publicly and in private meetings with the companies.
Just to let the member know, there's no shortage of opportunities for the mining industry to bash government. They don't have to use the Mining Advisory Board to give a shot to us.
Ms. Duncan: The public information that's available with respect to government working with Foothills, I would ask the minister to provide that to us and indicate if they are looking at any particular projects or any briefs or lobbying undertaken to express their support for routes other than the one proposed by Mr. Andre.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've already relayed that we've always supported the ANGTS route, and Foothills has had some interest in the LNG option out of Anchorage and coastal Alaska, and have given us concern on that front. However, they put out a press release that I'm sure the member saw a couple of weeks ago, saying they were renewing their interest in the ANGTS route.
Just in terms of the section 55, I just got a note. My mining facilitator did pursue this. The federal government said they wouldn't invoke this change, so the mining facilitator did do some work on it.
Ms. Duncan: I'd appreciate the documents, then, from the mining facilitator, if there were letters sent off to the minister. And if there are any discussions with the mining industry on that, I would appreciate receiving them.
My colleague just passed me a note indicating that the review of the Ember report indicated that Whitehorse was at a very high risk for wildfire - in fact the highest risk.
My concern under the fire smart program is with the application guidelines. I understand the need for a registered organization of some kind to submit applications under this program. The difficulty I have is with the particular area of Whitehorse that is at very high risk, which is represented by at least three members in this House: both the Members for Porter Creek and the Member for Laberge.
There isn't a Porter Creek organization per se. There is a small community association that has just been formed, which covers a small section of Porter Creek. It's not a registered organization like the Riverdale Community Association per se.
And my concern is that, when residents in these areas want to try and adopt some of the fire smart principles and remove the options for fire, there is complete confusion as to whose responsibility it is. Is it federal land? Is it city land? Who has responsibility? That's an extremely difficult question, and no one has properly responded. They all stand up, just like the NDP government, and point in the other direction.
In light of the time, is it the Chair's wish that I report progress, and the minister can answer that question?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Ms. Moorcroft, on a point of order.
Withdrawal of remarks
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you. I have just reviewed your ruling about my comments that the Member for Riverdale North fuelled racial division by his line of questioning on the Timmers inquest. I respect your ruling and withdraw those remarks.
Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll just tell the member that the City of Whitehorse can apply for fire smart just like any other municipality, if they wished. This is still a federal responsibility, and we believe that the government - the counterparts, the nice Liberal friends of the member opposite - have a responsibility here. We're trying to scratch the surface of it, but they still control the resource.
In terms of the people in Whitehorse, I think that the City of Whitehorse, if they wish to make an application, could.
Mr. Chair, I move 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 the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 25, 1999:
Health Care Insurance Programs: statement of revenue and expenditures, 1998-99 (Sloan)
Yukon Hospital Corporation financial statements for the year ended March 31, 1999 (Sloan)
Yukon Child Care Board 1998-99 Annual Report (Sloan)
The following Document was filed November 25, 1999:
Arcis Corporation - Geophysical Division Orientation Handbook: Yukon and N.W.T. residents (Ostashek)