Tuesday, November 30, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have some legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 11
Mr. Jenkins: I have a petition for tabling today.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to subsection 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Eleanor O'Donovan, Keith Brown, Laurie Henderson and Vicki Wilson to be members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Further, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislature Assembly, pursuant to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Richard Fast to the Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication.
Speaker:Are there any statements by ministers?
First Nation community constable project
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform the House of a major advance in our government's policy of supporting a criminal justice system that is more responsive to the needs and values of Yukon communities. As part of the restorative justice initiative, the Justice department and the RCMP are adopting new approaches to policing services that feature increased community involvement.
Today I am pleased to announce the introduction of the First Nation community constable pilot project. This two-year project has the support of the Justice department, the Aboriginal Policing Directorate of the Solicitor-General, the RCMP "M" Division and Yukon First Nations.
This program will enhance restorative justice measures at the community level by augmenting community-based policing, contributing to improved First Nations police relations and assisting with community safety crime prevention and a host of police/First Nations service delivery needs and objectives.
The First Nation community constable pilot project will contribute to the development of police services that are more sensitive to Yukon aboriginal culture and beliefs. Candidates will work alongside RCMP members on a daily basis, taking part in ongoing in-service training and, if required, receive academic upgrading. Through hands-on mentoring and training, candidates who choose to pursue policing careers will be better prepared to attend the RCMP academy in Saskatchewan. In short, the project will function as a First Nation access program.
Both the Carcross Tagish First Nation and the Teslin Tlingit Council have identified candidates who have been screened for personal suitability and recommended by the community. They meet criteria established by the RCMP in consultation with First Nation governments. Because candidates enter with different levels of experience, skills and academic training, time frames for gaining the necessary credentials to be accepted as regular cadet members of the RCMP will vary.
At least two candidates will be able to proceed through the First Nation community constable training to qualify for acceptance as cadet officers, fully sponsored by the RCMP. After cadet training, candidates will return to the Yukon for a period of at least five years. It is hoped that qualified candidates from other First Nations will be able to take advantage of the opportunities provided during the two-year pilot project.
This pilot project is an important part of improving relations between aboriginal communities and the RCMP. It has the potential to increase policing services in Yukon communities while allowing for greater participation of First Nations in law enforcement.
It can also play an important role in restorative justice by involving community members in resolving conflicts within their own communities. For example, First Nation community constables can act as a liaison between local community justice committees and the RCMP to implement community safety plans.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this pilot project to members as a practical example of the many steps our government is taking to foster safe and healthy Yukon communities.
I look forward to providing the House with more information as the program proceeds.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: The Liberal caucus is very supportive of this initiative. It follows a similar experiment in the Northwest Territories, which I understand has been successful. Any policing initiative that will bring the police closer to the community they serve, and foster community participation in policing, is positive. The First Nation community constables and the RCMP members involved in the program will all gain knowledge - knowledge of policing and knowledge of the communities.
I have a couple of questions for the minister. Are the candidates being put forward by the two First Nations going to be taken on to the RCMP payroll? Will they be members? Is there a formal off-the-job training program for these constables prior to their being taken on in the cadet program?
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I'm pleased to respond to the minister's statement regarding the introduction of the First Nation community constable pilot project.
The initiative to enhance First Nation involvement in community policing service not only provides a greater voice for Yukon First Nations in law enforcement, it improves relationships between aboriginal communities and the RCMP, and it helps reduce conflict within our communities.
For years, First Nations have played an important role in Yukon communities delivering policing services and assisting with community safety, crime prevention and other important initiatives associated with community-based policing.
Seeing how well these individuals have served the territory over the years, we on this side of the House are pleased to offer our support to the continuation of developing police services that are more responsive to the needs of First Nations and non-First Nations alike.
Having said that, however, I do have a number of questions for the minister that I hope she can address in her rebuttal. Over the years the territory has had a number of First Nation people who have worked in various capacities with the RCMP. They later became full-fledged members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
I would like to ask the minister how these other programs, or previous programs, tie in with this program that the minister has just announced. Were the previous programs just cancelled, or are they still in effect? And really, what is the difference between what is being offered now, and what has been in place in the past?
The minister stated that this is the two-year pilot project involving all Yukon First Nations. Could the minister advise the House as to the qualifications that the candidates will have in order to be eligible to apply for these positions?
The minister stated that at least two candidates will be able to proceed through the training to qualify for acceptance as cadet officers. If the program is limited to two cadets, will that really preclude other Yukoners from joining the RCMP in the normal fashion? Because really, for a small area, we do not have the opportunity for members from the community at large to join the RCMP. The thrust is on aboriginals joining the force in one form or other.
How can candidates serve at least five years in this project when it's only a two-year pilot program? Where is the funding coming for this program? Is the assistance forthcoming from the federal government, or is it being funded solely by the Government of Yukon?
And finally, Mr. Speaker, what is the monitoring of this program? How is that going to take place, and what will it entail? And when will an evaluation be taken?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am pleased to respond to the comments of the members opposite and thank them for their support of the community constable pilot project.
The community constable program is essentially a monitoring program. Candidates must be of good character, as referenced by their record, reputation and reference check. Once a candidate has been identified by their First Nation, they must also pass a security clearance by the RCMP. The intent is to provide both on-the-job training and other training that the community constables may need in order to be accepted into the regular academy training of the RCMP in Regina.
At the present time, there are over a dozen Yukon First Nation citizens who are serving in the RCMP, both in the Yukon and throughout Canada. Those are Yukon First Nation citizens who have applied to be accepted into the RCMP, have been accepted, are taking the training and are serving as full members of the police force.
The community constable project will allow Yukon First Nation citizens to take advantage of this mentoring program and then apply and be accepted into the RCMP, take the training and become regular members of the police force.
We do look forward to seeing constables take the training and to improving our responsiveness to Yukon aboriginal cultures and beliefs through having more participation of First Nations people in the police force.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Legal aid funding, child custody cases
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.
Over the past three years, there have been a number of serious shortcomings identified in services for women in the territory. One of those services that is sadly lacking is the ability for women to access legal aid lawyers so that they can gain permanent custody of their children or address changes in child support payments. The problem is that the NDP government is underfunding this vital service for Yukon women.
Mr. Speaker, how many women have been turned away by Legal Aid because of lack of funding in the last three years since this minister has been in charge?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No matter how many times the members opposite ask the question, that doesn't change the fact that the legal aid program is the responsibility of the federal Liberal government, that the shortcomings in their funding mechanisms have had an effect, not just in the Yukon but across Canada. We have increased our funding to the legal aid program in order to help deal with the fact that they haven't brought forward funding as they should. The federal department did have a meeting scheduled with jurisdictions across Canada, because this has been raised repeatedly both at the political level and through the officials. Unfortunately the federal Liberal government cancelled the meeting.
Mrs. Edelman: It gets more incredible every day. Now, it's totally a federal government responsibility. This is a joint-funding agreement and the minister did not answer the question, again.
Mr. Speaker, when women cannot access a lawyer to help them in the court system, then they have to go to the court themselves. The Law Line has noted an increase in the number of calls they have received on family law issues in the past three years. What is happening is that people go to Legal Aid, they get turned down for a lawyer so they phone up the Law Line in a desperate attempt to defend themselves against their spouse, who usually appears with legal counsel in court. It's a good thing that the Law Line offers the service, and it's too bad that the NDP underfunds this organization as well. The Law Line is hanging on by its fingernails, they are terribly underfunded, and they may have to cut their services to the public in order to survive. What negotiations are underway with Yukon Public Legal Education Association or the Law Line in order to continue this valuable service for Yukon men and women who cannot get legal aid or afford to pay for legal advice?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As I believe the member is aware from discussions we've had in this House, there is a joint-funding agreement between the Government of Canada and the Yukon government. The Yukon government has increased its funding, although we still need to see the federal government coming to the table and fully funding the program. We are working with the Legal Aid Society, aside from providing them with additional funding to cover their immediate needs for 24-hour duty counsel and for increased rent. We are reviewing with the Legal Aid Society their current caseloads and the historic data over the last three years, their funding and the federal position on funding. We want to examine the pressure points for legal aid and look for solutions. This does require all the parties sitting down and working together.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the Law Line is picking up where Legal Aid is falling down in services to women in this territory.
Let's talk about another shortcoming in services to women. The minister was at a brown-bag luncheon, along with myself, this month with a number of women from various organizations who were having problems with the new Family Violence Prevention Act. The most common problem is that people were having trouble interpreting the act and telling their clients how this act would help the people that they help daily: women who have been abused. The act was proclaimed at the beginning of November, but the people in the communities who are working with this act still do not know enough about it to use it to protect the women that they work with daily.
We all want the act to work, and for that to happen, people have to be able to explain it to their clients. This could be done by the Yukon Public Legal Education Association if it were adequately funded. Will the minister consider funding YPLEA to provide education on this new act, which is supposed to help women.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This government has done a lot to improve the condition of women throughout the territory. The Family Violence Prevention Act is only one example of how we're working to make life safer for women.
The member should be aware that the Family Violence Prevention Act is being implemented with assistance from a number of organizations that have served on an implementation committee. That includes women's shelters, that includes the family violence prevention unit, victim service workers, the RCMP. There have been training sessions offered for justices of the peace, for the RCMP and for community members who will be working as designates to help a victim get an emergency intervention order under the Family Violence Prevention Act.
We will continue to work with the communities. We'll continue to support women's equality measures like the Family Violence Prevention Act, like the maintenance enforcement amendments, like the new child support guidelines, to make the regime fair for all women.
Question re: Education Act review
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education. Last week the minister, in response to a question that I asked, indicated that she was not aware of any amendments required to the Education Act that were of a critical or urgent nature. In other words, any amendments could wait until, at the earliest, 2001.
The Yukon Teachers Association has made the minister aware of an issue that they have considered critical for some time: the issue of temporary teachers not being represented by the association. The minister, when asked to consider an amendment to the act to deal with this issue, has given a flat no. Is that the minister's position today, that the government will not consider any amendments to the Education Act to fix this unfair situation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the issue of temporary teachers is one that has been at the bargaining table through each session of negotiations between the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Teachers Association. At the last round of negotiations, the government voluntarily recognized, at the bargaining table, temporary teachers who have more than 10 months of service.
I have indicated that the issue is at the bargaining table and that we're not prepared to consider one particular amendment at the request of one group of the partners without looking at various amendments that have been requested by school councils, by First Nations, by the Yukon Teachers Association. We believe that can be accommodated in a full review of the act.
Ms. Duncan: We are talking about the legislative issue. We're talking about the issue of amendments to the Education Act, and the minister has a problem. This government is being anti-union. They're refusing to allow temporary teachers the right of representation. It's a fundamental labour right.
Section 195 of the Education Act defines an employee, and it specifically excludes temporary teachers. Let's just talk about how unfair this situation is. We can have two teachers working in classrooms, side by side, both teaching, say, grade 8 classes, both getting paid the same amount, but one teacher's entitled to be represented by the YTA and the other is not. That teacher is also not allowed to accumulate benefits, such as Yukon bonus or sick leave, because this government doesn't consider them employees under the Education Act.
Is the minister's position still that the government will not consider any amendments to the Education Act to fix this unfair situation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is the government's position. The Government of Yukon has taken a position that I have defended here in this House, to involve all of the partners in education in developing an Education Act review process. We know that there are issues that the First Nations, the school councils, the Yukon Teachers Association and the public at large would like to see dealt with in amendments to the act.
By looking at opening up a particular amendment at the request of the YTA - that is an issue at the negotiating table - we're compromising the negotiations. The Government of Yukon, as I indicated in the response to the previous question, has voluntarily recognized teachers who have longer terms of service, and that has come into place under the current contract.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister has run out of excuses. This act has been amended a couple of times. It was amended in 1994; it was amended in 1996. It's a legislative issue that I'm addressing with the minister today.
The minister is just using excuses. We have an unfair situation in the treatment of employees. The Yukon Teachers Association has come to the minister and asked for a legislative amendment to the Education Act that deals with this inequity - this unfair treatment.
The minister is giving a flat "No. Absolutely not." Why is the minister damaging relations with Yukon's professional teaching force by refusing to resolve this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we have not given a flat no. During the last round of negotiations the Yukon government recognized the service of teachers who are called in for more than 10 months, and they are able to get all the benefits that the regular teaching force does.
We want to help, but we should not try to bargain Yukon Teachers Association issues in this partisan environment here on the floor of the Legislature.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to recognize and welcome Paul Nordahl from the Yukon Teachers Association to the gallery.
Question re: Group home establishment, consultation with neighbours
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Today I tabled a petition in the House from residents in downtown Whitehorse, who expressed their concern about a group home for adults with FAS - one of whom has been charged with sexual offences - being established at 5131 Fifth Avenue in downtown Whitehorse.
The 46 people who signed the petition - most of whom, I believe, live in that neighbourhood - are concerned about such a group home being established without any consultation with them.
Can the minister advise the House what this government's policy is concerning consultation with neighbourhood residents when homes such as this are established? Do the neighbourhood residents have a right to know that such a group home is being established there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:Mr. Speaker, the member may not be aware of the fact that we have actually had a group home for young individuals with FAS, downtown for a long period of time, for a number of years. The facility that he refers to is actually a government facility, and we have a number of young people who were referred to us by the courts. The facility itself was developed in response to the fact that the courts have ordered these young people into our care.
To be quite frank, I haven't seen the petition. I think I had one call with respect to this particular issue, and I would suggest that, if the neighbours had had concerns, they could have made those concerns known to us at the appropriate time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the neighbours didn't have a chance to tell the minister that they had problems with the group being established there, because they didn't know it was being established in that area. The petitioners express concern that this group home is located directly across from the Wood Street Annex school, as well as the fact that other school children live in that area. The petitioners believe the group home should be established in a more appropriate location.
Is the minister now prepared to listen to the residents' concern, and, for the record, why didn't he consult the residents in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that if the residents had a concern, we would certainly meet with them and talk about their concerns and probably, actually in that process, mitigate a lot of those concerns. These are individuals who are supervised 24 hours a day. We have never had an incident of any of the individuals with this disability offending at any time they have been in our care, and we would certainly be willing to meet with the neighbours and talk with anyone who has a particular concern.
I notice that the member wasn't particularly open when he tabled his petition, so I would suggest that this is something that we could meet with the neighbours on and discuss with them.
Of course, we're kind of used to the member and his friend from Riverdale North, who have this very schizophrenic attitude. On one hand, they're great defenders of young people, and on the other hand, they're portraying young people as villains and criminals.
I can merely say that we have never had an incident with these young people in our care, and I'm really quite surprised that the Member for Klondike feels that he has to do some fear-mongering on this.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Speaker, we're not fear-mongering. What we're asking is that the minister consult with the people in the neighbourhood before they establish a home of this nature. That's the issue. What the minister is suggesting is that now that it has been established, they'll go out and talk to the neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood didn't even know that this group home was going to be established there until after it was put in place. Would the minister be prepared to make a commitment that, in future, he will consult with residents when a group home for adults with serious criminal offences in their background is established in the neighbourhood? Will the minister give that undertaking in this House here today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: So now we've gone from young adults with disabilities to serious offenders. I think I know where these folks are going here. I think the Member for Klondike is merely acting as a stalking horse for his friend, the Member for Riverdale North.
People with developmental disabilities - developmental delays - are now serious offenders. So that's how they are characterizing young people who have been in our care - they are serious offenders - young people who have no control over a disability that will impact them throughout their lives. They are now criminals. They are now offenders.
Well, that's really an enlightened attitude, Mr. Speaker. That's just brilliant. In this day and age, this is how we characterize people with lifetime disabilities - as offenders? This is how we want to see young people in our care? The member ought to be ashamed of himself. Why doesn't he pick on somebody who can strike back? Why doesn't he have the courage of his convictions to pick on someone who can at least respond?
Instead, he picks on the most vulnerable people in society. Great play.
Question re: Medevacs
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister failed to answer the question - two separate questions, separate issues; the minister couldn't even understand the basic question, so he goes on a tirade as he usually does.
Again, to the Minister of Health and Social Services, earlier in this House I raised the issue of the dramatic increases in medevac flights from Dawson City. When I asked the question of the minister on November 16, he indicated that the statistics I had requested earlier were in the mail; I received them this morning, dated November 10. It took 20 days to get mail internally in this organization. Fantastic, Mr. Speaker.
I thank the minister for the information as the statistics prove how dramatic the increase in medevacs from Dawson have been. There were 43 medevacs last year; 32 medevacs in the 1998-99 year, and in the current fiscal year - which has still got five months to go - we've got 47 medevacs costing $101,000. Is the minister now prepared to admit that his failure to negotiate an on-call availability agreement with Dawson doctors is going to result in a lot more medevac flights than the five or 10 or so flights he predicted originally? Is the minister prepared to say he made a mistake and that he should have negotiated on-call availability with the doctors in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have before me some six offers that we have made to the physicians in Dawson, and I also have the responses from those physicians, which are extremely costly. We have made what we calculate to be fair and reasonable offers, but the counter offers have been far, far beyond our means. The member, I suppose, can probably explain why the figures for medevacs are also up in other communities. If he takes a look at some of the medevac figures, he'll also notice that many of those medevacs were actually done during hours when the physicians were on call, when they were in their offices. So, what does that explain? Last night he described the work of nurse practitioners in his own community, people who contribute to his community, as merely giving a cursory view. I don't think that the nurse practitioners in the Dawson health centre give a cursory view to anyone. I think they evaluate; I think they make an assessment and they move ahead and do the appropriate action. But he has very, very little regard for their abilities or their ability to accurately diagnose.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is wrong about what I said last night. His interpretation is dead wrong. He's dead wrong. He took an issue and he twisted the words around. You know, that's the way this minister works, because he can't address his responsibility and he can't do his job.
Another community that has been experiencing problems in maintaining its medical services is Ross River. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of medevaced flights from that community as well. In 1997-98 there were 13, and there were 15 in 1998-99. Year to date - fiscal year to date - with still five months left to go, there have been 27 medevacs, and that's because this minister can't do his job and maintain nurse practitioners in that community.
Does the minister believe it is more cost-effective to rely on medevacs than provide medical services in the communities? Is that what the minister believes?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course that's an absurd extrapolation there. The medevacs go up and down, and if the member would take a look at the stats, he would notice that they varied in years, and they vary with such things as motor vehicle accidents and a variety of instances that occur in communities.
The issue in Ross River has been - and I explained last night some of the problems we have had in recruitment and retention in Ross River itself, not related to anything so much as what we have done as to some dynamics that are going on there.
But I'm not sure where this member is going, because he tries to twist and turn the facts as he wishes. I notice that he ignored the fact - he said that we had failed to negotiate with the Dawson doctors, and when I pointed out that we had made six offers, he quickly scurried away from that one.
He doesn't have the courage of his convictions to follow a line of questioning, so he's all over the map. First it was Dawson, now it's Ross River.
Let's see where he's going to try next.
Mr. Jenkins: The bottom line is that this minister has failed to address his responsibilities. His responsibilities are to put in place a program that attracts and retains health care professionals in our respective Yukon communities, and the minister is not doing that. He's not doing it effectively, and that is resulting in a whole series of medevacs from these outlying communities.
When will we see the minister establish a firm policy to attract, recruit and retain health care professionals in rural Yukon? Is the minister going to be doing something about it, or is he just going to waffle around like he has been doing, and it's everybody else's responsibility or problem?
Just because the minister can't do his job, why is he blaming everyone else, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not blaming anyone else, Mr. Speaker. We have had a very active, very proactive, nurse recruitment program. We have been going out. We have been recruiting at universities. We have been recruiting at job fairs, and we have been quite successful. We put four people through a program to train nurse practitioners in Winnipeg. We brought those people into the communities.
With respect to medical practitioners, we have advertised and are at a point now where we're looking at bringing some medical practitioners into one of our rural communities. We have actually been quite gratified by the success we have had in the response to some of our advertisements.
So, I'm not really sure where this member is going in terms of his nattering on about retention and recruitment. We have done what we can to recruit nurse practitioners, and we're doing the same with physicians. I suppose the member, in practising his own particular style of Jenkinomics, figured that the way to do things is simply to shovel money out the door. Well, we don't see that as being particularly responsible. We think that there are other issues in terms of recruitment and retention, and we're going to act in a publicly responsible way.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, access road
Ms. Buckway: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism about the Beringia Centre. Let me forestall the inevitable by saying that the Yukon Liberal caucus supports the Beringia Centre as a visitor attraction and as a resource for Yukoners of all ages. We wish the NDP government would do the same.
Over a year ago, construction was started on a new entrance to the Beringia Centre off the Alaska Highway. This spring, the minister said that the new access road would be completed this summer. Summer has come and gone, and it is still not finished. We have gone through another entire visitor season using the old entrance. This is not a mammoth project, Mr. Speaker. Why wasn't the road completed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, since this government assumed the responsibility of the Beringia Centre, we've been working very hard to make it work. We put in place instructions for a business plan that would reflect it. We're talking right now with the community to show how we can make the centre more attractive to local people, to tourists and to visitors, so that we might be able to showcase it as we have been doing.
There was a problem in that the contractor had used inappropriate materials, and certainly we're expecting that to be fixed this season, and we will continue to work toward that end in the next.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, there's a mess and an uncompleted road that visitors to the Beringia Centre can't use. All summer, they were greeted by a construction barricade and a bright green, spray-painted sign that said, "Open". We have a multi-million dollar facility and a $5 sign, and the minister says he's doing all he can to promote tourism. Glaciers move faster than the minister.
Why wasn't the new access road to the Beringia Centre - despite the problems with the contractor - completed this summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, as I said, we are working toward the problem. We are going to do everything we can to make the Beringia Centre work. We're proving that at this point in time. Unfortunately, I'm not the foreman on the job on every site, as the micromanagers across the floor wish me to be. Certainly, I will continue to endeavour to ensure that Yukon is represented on the map, and I think that the numbers that we have consistently proven through an increase over the last three years, prove that we're moving in the right direction. So we will continue to move in that direction, Mr. Speaker. We're also going to be considering the next stage of it into the next budget.
So certainly, we're a government that is there and will continue to be there.
As for the mammoth mistake, I don't really see it as a mammoth mistake, because when people around the territory say that they live in the Yukon Territory, and it is classified as heritage heaven in all of Canada, I think that certainly refutes what the member is saying.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, there was money in the budget for that access road this spring, and nothing happened all summer. Now the ground is frozen again. I spoke to a number of visitors, and even some local residents, who said they wanted to visit the Beringia Centre this summer but couldn't figure out how they were supposed to get there. The sign said "Open", but the road was obviously closed. Now, if you're driving a large motor home, you need clear directions. It's a lot easier to keep going up the highway than to find a place to turn around and go back to Beringia. Think how much tourism might have been up if more people could actually have driven in to that attraction.
Are we facing yet another summer with this mammoth mess in front of what's supposed to be one of our major attractions? Will the minister give us the date in the year 2000 when the work will be done and the road will be open?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, it's going to be through a revote, and we will be doing it this summer. As for the rest of the issues that the member is bringing forth, there's certainly a very good parking lot that is shared with the Yukon Transportation Museum. There's adequate access to the centre as it is now, and we'll continue to improve that. It gives me such great pleasure to hear the Member for Lake Laberge talk about the increase in numbers in tourism and how we can make it better. We're always working to that end and we'll continue to work to that end because, yes, we do live in heritage heaven.
Question re: Wilderness tourism operators, licensing of
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Tourism.
Last fall, during the debate on the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, the Minister of Renewable Resources said, "We're working with the Tourism department to make sure that the information is going out worldwide. Tourism has a lot better grip on people who are coming over here and we're working quite closely with them."
The Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act has been proclaimed, and it will be in effect in the year 2000. What steps has the Minister of Tourism taken to ensure that visitors to the Yukon know about the new law?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the Department of Renewable Resources and Tourism staff are working with the operators to help them to fill out the forms to get a basic understanding of the paper process, and we'll continue to do such.
Ms. Duncan: I'm so pleased that, just like yesterday, the Minister of Tourism knows exactly what's going on in his department.
The Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, after two years of work by the industry, finally made it into law this spring. This fall, the government produced a new vacation guide for the new millennium. The vacation guide talks about wilderness and cultural tourism. There's a two-page centrepiece that talks about all different types of wilderness tourism activities, activities that this Legislature made licensed activities last spring. There is nothing about the new law - nothing. Industry was promised that the vacation guide would inform visitors about the new law, and it doesn't.
Why did this fundamental piece of information - that the Yukon government now licenses wilderness tourism operators - not make it into the Yukon's major marketing piece?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We are continuing to work with the operators. We are continuing to educate people as they come forth, and we'll continue to do so.
Let's talk about what the act actually does. It safeguards the clients, and it safeguards the industry. It enables people to come over and to feel comfortable with what they have to do, and we'll continue to work toward those ends. It's an act that has been very much supported by the industry and is driven by the Wilderness Tourism Association. That shows me that we can and will continue to work at partnerships to further the benefit of tourism benefits to the Yukon Territory and to its people.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, industry asked for this, and the minister hasn't delivered. Industry worked with the government - including the Department of Tourism - for two years, to develop a fine piece of legislation that licenses operators in our wilderness. Page 84 of the vacation guide begins a listing of adventure travel operators - not a single line about licensing them. The wilderness tourism operators, the travelling public, who will look at this guide, and we as legislators - members of this House, who are proud of our work with industry on the legislation - deserve an explanation.
Why is there nothing in this guide that tells visitors which operators are licensed? Why is there nothing about the wilderness tourism licensing?
The minister had plenty of advance notice on this. Why is there nothing that recognizes this advent in Yukon tourism?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, certainly the member cannot dispute that we're doing great work. She just was there in a miniscule part of time at the conference this weekend - stuck her nose in and pulled it back out, Mr. Speaker - but during that time, I'm sure that she saw the camaraderie with the industry, with the department, with the people in general, where we're moving, how we're moving, and why we're moving.
We're moving with the consultation and the people, and it almost sounds to me like the member is taking a snide shot at the Tourism Industry Association because, Mr. Speaker, they are a part of the partnership that we build together to further tourism in the Yukon. And has it been working? Well, Balair feels it's working, and Condor feels it's working. Air Transat's back and feels it's working. The numbers are up consistently, and feel it's working. This government has expanded its infrastructure, and this government will continue to do its duty for the Yukon people.
I shudder to think of the miniscule mindset of the Liberal Party, when it comes to the micromanaging, and they absolutely refuse to put onto the table what they would do, and where they would go, in any of the industries that affect the Yukon Territory.
So I challenge them to stand and say what they would do, and to quit beating up the department and the partners that we have in the industry, and to maybe congratulate them for the work they've done, too.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, December 1, 1999. It is Motion No. 170, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek North.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent to waive Standing Order 27(1) and not to place a motion on the Order Paper
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the provisions of Standing Order 27(1) with regard to the notice in order to call Motion No. 195 and Motion No. 196 for debate at this time. Notice was given for both of these motions by the Minister of Justice earlier today. I would also request unanimous consent for Motion No. 194 not to be placed on the Order Paper.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. Pursuant to the direction given by the House, I would ask the Clerk not to place Motion No. 194 on the Order Paper.
Clerk: Motion No. 195, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Motion No. 195
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to subsection 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Eleanor O'Donovan, Keith Brown, Laurie Henderson and Vicki Wilson to be members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to thank these candidates for putting their names forward to serve on the Yukon Human Rights Commission. As is the practice in this Assembly, all parties in the House endorse the new commissioners. We wish them well in their new responsibilities as members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Motion No. 195 agreed to
Clerk: Motion No. 196, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Motion No. 196
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, appoint Richard Fast to the Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication.
Motion No. 196 agreed to
Speaker: Government bills.
Bill No. 93: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 93, standing in the name of the non. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 93, entitled An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 93, entitled An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amendment proposed in this act changes the title of the judge of the Yukon Supreme Court and would provide the Yukon with a locally based Chief Justice. Currently, the Supreme Court judge is referred to as the Senior Judge of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice is a B.C. judge based in Vancouver.
The amendment proposes that the title will change to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The duties of the proposed Chief Justice position, in relation to judicial administration, will be similar to those now carried out by the existing Senior Judge.
There is also companion federal legislation that pertains to the Supreme Court. The federal Judges Act creates the position of Senior Judge of the Yukon Supreme Court. Therefore, the federal Judges Act will also have to be amended to bring this change into effect.
Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court in all provinces have their own Chief Justice. Only the territories do not have a local Chief Justice. The proposed amendment will bring Yukon into line with the provinces.
The Government of the Northwest Territories is also seeking to have a Chief Justice for their Supreme Court.
I'm pleased to bring forward this amendment to the Supreme Court Act and to support the change in title from the Senior Judge of the Supreme Court to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Mr. Cable: The Liberal caucus will be supporting the bill and we'll look forward to being advised in Committee as to when the minister thinks the federal legislation will be in place and when we will actually have the position filled.
Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Party will be supporting the bill as presented.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 93 agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 93, An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act.
Bill No. 93 - An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In response to the question raised by the Member for Riverside in second reading, I have written to the federal Minister of Justice to indicate to her that we would like to amend the Supreme Court Act to accommodate the change in name from Senior Judge to Chief Justice. I understand that they have a new person in charge of judicial affairs in the minister's office, and we do not have a definite time frame as to when the federal amendments would come forward.
This is largely a housekeeping measure, however, and we do not anticipate that it would take very long.
Chair: I see no further general debate.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 93 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: Committee will now continue with the supplementary estimates. We are on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in the past, the minister and I have had a number of discussions about the gravel size on Yukon highways. In particular, there is one constituent who often writes letters to the minister and to myself about the size of gravel on Yukon highways. His concern is that the gravel is too large and that this increases the incidence of broken windshields. The minister has repeatedly, just about every year, talked about examining the issue again, and I wonder if he could update us on the size of the gravel on Yukon highways?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair. I've talked to the department about it. We've talked about it. We've looked at the ratio of accidents through it. It's unfortunate when it does happen. We always attempt to do the right thing. It's a very rare occurrence, and I do believe that the standard of the highways outweighs the size of the aggregate.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if the minister can give us an indication of how many complaints he gets about the size of the gravel on the highways on a fairly regular basis?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Off the top of my head - and I'll confirm with the department - I'd say, on average, maybe two.
Mrs. Edelman: So the department is only receiving two complaints a year, or is it generally per season? And the minister is indicating that, yes, there are usually only two complaints a year. Well, that certainly is interesting, and I know that in the opposition offices we have heard more than two complaints this year alone.
On the issue of the Marsh Lake steering committee, which is trying to develop an advisory body out in the Marsh Lake area, the minister knows that this is probably our third largest community in the Yukon, and they are at this time trying to develop some sort of advisory body to the government on municipal issues in that area. There have been some meetings already struck. There is a committee that is looking at the issue, and they're considering establishing the same election time frame currently used by municipalities under the Municipal Act.
If this is going to be an advisory council, does not that group have to have the same election periods as municipal bodies under the Municipal Act?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Member for Riverdale South asked a very good question. I would say I assume so. Certainly I will check on it, but I do think that there's a reflection in the Municipal Act that would state as such. I'll get the department to check on it and get back to the member.
Mrs. Edelman: Some of the other issues that have come out of this organization are that they are hosting a series of public meetings to talk with the community about their progress on advising the advisory body to the government. This costs money. They don't always, but they often have to rent a facility. They often provide coffee, tea and sometimes donuts. And there are some administration costs as well; for example, photocopying, typing, that sort of thing. One of the problems that the Tagish advisory body had in the past was that there wasn't enough money for administration. What sort of budget has been allocated toward the Marsh Lake group to try to develop and interact with the community about where they are in this process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I do know that the department has been working with the Marsh Lake governance group. It has been very, very positive. As the member said, there is a steering committee of 11 people who work there. They had their first meeting in October. The department was there with them and will continue to be there with them to provide in-kind services, advisory types of services and, I think even in some cases, the donuts and coffee for the evening. Certainly, I don't have an exact figure as to what their spending authority is or what has been given to them for spending, and I will get that to the member opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd like to suggest to the minister that there are an awful lot of people in that area, and it's a very large physical area. Geographically, it's huge. And trying to bring people in and do all the administrative stuff, even delivering flyers, is a very expensive proposition in that area. I'd like the minister to consider offering some definite financial aid to this group, as they try to develop an advisory body to the government.
The other thing I'd like to speak to the minister about today is his policy on open burning at rural dumps. Does the minister have a position on burning at rural dumps?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, we certainly do have a policy on rural dumps, and, in light of the event that happened in forest fires this year in Burwash, I have asked the department to reflect that so that those types of issues could be worked for and against - I guess, if I could say it in that manner - so that we could keep up. We wouldn't have a standard for others that we wouldn't reflect ourselves.
So I have instructed the department to reflect that in policy, and I can share that policy. It reflects what they must do in a general sense, in a weekly maintenance sense, and in a monthly maintenance sense, and I will share that with the member opposite.
And, of course, we do have areas, such as Mount Lorne, that have taken the initiative of no burning.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in the policy that the minister is going to be kind enough to share with both the Yukon Liberal Party as well as the Yukon Party, is there a policy on whether they're going to burning at rural dumps?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, rural dumps - I assume we're talking about Yukon territorial dumps? Yes, we will continue to burn.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the ways that we can try to eliminate some of the material that's both in territorial dumps as well as municipal dumps is to take a good hard look at recycling cardboard, and I know this issue came up during the Renewable debate but it's a municipal issue as well. Municipalities obviously deal with most of the waste in the Yukon and, in particular, most of the cardboard, which takes up almost 25 percent of the space in some of the landfill sites and dumps in the Yukon that municipalities organize and operate.
What does the Department of Community and Transportation Services see as their role in trying to help municipalities deal with the issue of recycling cardboard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The department, through advisory services and our community people who work with the different municipalities, are instructed to work with the communities just to find out how they can be of assistance and to provide a liaison, I would say - or maybe that's too broad of a description - but certainly to work with the municipalities, C&TS as a community advisory and with Renewable Resources to try to find adequate solutions to the problem.
I know that the Member for Riverdale South has brought this up in the House before and I can say that, certainly, it's a very important part - recycling - of reduction within the landfills.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm aware that the minister sees this as an important issue, and it is. But I still am not clear on what role C&TS intends to fill when it comes to the recycling of cardboard at municipal landfill sites.
I know there has been some discussion at some landfill sites about getting special deals on backhauls into Whitehorse, and then have the recycling going into the local recycling centre here in Whitehorse or else down south.
What sort of commitment is the department giving to municipalities as to what they're going to do with recycling of cardboard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the jurisdiction that we're talking about lies with the municipalities. As an advisor to the municipalities through Community and Transportation Services, we'll continue to work with communities to help them steer through this process.
Again, we'll continue to work with the Department of Renewable Resources, because it's with Renewable Resources and the municipality that the problem and solution will lie. What our community people do is help them facilitate people and provide advice.
And I'd like to at this point mention that the Marsh Lake advisory committee funding in 1999-00 is $6,000, and that is as a grant.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, what I have now heard from the minister is that, basically, there is going to be a liaison capacity with the Department of C&TS between Renewable Resources and municipalities, and that there's a lack of commitment from the department to try to deal with what is basically a municipal service.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: The minister is indicating that that's not the way he has envisioned this process, so perhaps he could be a little bit clearer as to what exactly C&TS is going to do about this. What exactly is the commitment? Are we talking about bringing stuff into Whitehorse? Are we talking about helping with a baling thing that can be shared among municipalities? What sort of commitment at all is there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly the jurisdiction, at this point in time, lies with the municipalities - it lies within the municipality in a formal state of their jurisdiction. The government department that is in charge of the solid-waste consultations, and looking into that, is the Department of Renewable Resources.
Now the member knows that I'm the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and that Community and Transportation Services does have community advisor-type people within the department who are there to provide services to them - not to take over their jurisdiction, but to provide advice to them.
Now, when I said liaison, as I clarified, that was much too strong; they're there to provide advice between the people who have the jurisdiction - the municipality - and the other government operating agency, the Renewable Resources department. My departmental people will be there with them to work through the process to find solutions, and the member has come up with a couple of ideas that might be a part of the solution. That work now is ongoing and, when it's solved, I'll certainly bring the answers back to the members opposite.
Mrs. Edelman: There's a whole series of issues around this. The first one is that, out at Mount Lorne, for example, the recycling portion of the dump operation out there pays for the staffing costs at the Mount Lorne dump, so it's a really viable operation for that area. It works very well.
This is something they could do in other municipalities, or in other areas that aren't incorporated. The Government of Yukon operates a number of dumps throughout the Yukon, as well as having some advisory capacity to municipalities on landfill issues.
What is C&TS doing about the recycling of garbage? I've heard what Renewable is supposedly doing about it, but what is C&TS doing about the recycling of cardboard, plastics, tin and anything else that can be recycled, and which is filling territorial dumps, as well as municipal dumps?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Are we talking about municipal dumps and our government dumps? Well, what I can say is that, in municipality-type dumps, C&TS - the government - does provide close to $12 million. Of course, in the new Municipal Act that we had passed through this House on a consensus basis last year, the responsibility lies with them. The appropriate government department is Renewable Resources. That is their bailiwick. What we do through our community advisory process, through the one jurisdiction and along with Renewable Resources, is provide advice as we can and as we will and as is pertinent. Our own dumps at this point in time are burning dumps. The member knows that solid-waste regulations have not been passed as of yet, but the consultation is done, and I do believe that the Department of Renewable Resources is putting that together for Cabinet decision over the course of this winter. When that does come up, I will certainly apprise both the appropriate parties.
Mrs. Edelman: This is one of these things that gets caught between departments and nobody deals with it. It's an important issue. It's not, you know, a politically sexy issue. It's like talking about sewage. I go and start talking about sewage and everybody's eyes glaze over. It's just unbelievable how quickly people can become disinterested. But the reality is that we produce a lot of waste, and it goes to our landfill sites and it goes to our dumps. All of us in this room are responsible for that.
What I'm hearing from the minister is that there is a lot of garbage going to dumps operated both by municipalities and by the territorial government that could be recycled. What I'm hearing from the minister is that Renewable Resources is supposedly the lead department on this; however, during the Renewable Resources debate, the Minister of Renewable Resources said that that was more of a municipal issue because these were operated by Community and Transportation Services. Somebody has got to get their act together. Somebody has to make some decisions. Somebody has to do something about it. There are many, many landfill sites in the territory, and there's a lot of garbage in there that can be diverted and sent to recycling centres in the south to be used and reused by people here in Canada. What are we doing to deal with that issue at territorial dumps? Perhaps I'll just narrow it down to that for the minister - the dumps that are operated by Community and Transportation Services.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for narrowing it down, and I'll attempt to again answer the question, all-encompassed, if I may.
The Member for Riverdale South is absolutely correct when she says that everybody in this room is responsible, because it starts with the individual households and it starts with self, and then it expands in the community, et cetera, and the ultimate goal is certainly for a cleaner environment.
Now, I can think of the Teslin community, which has a recycling centre depot. I can think of, well, practically all communities - Haines Junction, even Tagish - have recycling centres. Certainly, it's a part of it. The recycling portion of this does lie with the Department of Renewable Resources, so I can certainly see where the member would become easily confused about this issue. But in the case of the municipal type of dumps, it lies with the municipality. We provide almost $12 million per year for them to support their own jurisdiction.
Now, the Department of Renewable Resources a few short years ago - no more than a couple or three I'm sure - endeavoured in their wisdom to go out and talk to people because there were people such as the Mount Lorne group who wanted absolutely no burning. They saw it as a detriment to their community, to their society, and as a detriment to tourism. So, they had a series of community meetings. I met with them personally a couple of times, and I know that the member opposite was there, because I observed her there at one of the meetings that I was at also. They took it very seriously.
So, what we have here is a rather broad range of dumps. There are municipal dumps. There are community dumps. There are territorial dumps. What we're trying to do at this point in time is based on the consultation process that was led by the Department of Renewable Resources, and it's not quite pulled together. It will be over the course of this winter, and the recommendations will then be considered by Cabinet. We are going to look at a broad range of what we can, as a government, instigate. From that point on, duties will be allocated to and, likely, recommendations will be given to the municipalities, and recommendations will be given to the Department of Community and Transportation Services for the jurisdiction that we have over certain dumps also.
This has yet to happen and is happening. Community and Transportation Services is playing a proactive role in helping the municipalities with their jurisdictional ideas and trying to find ways to work ourselves through this. The Department of Renewable Resources is leading the actual consultation, but I do believe that a lot of the consultation implications will be left to the Department of Community and Transportation Services and the municipalities to help implement.
I'm hoping that clears it up.
Mrs. Edelman: There are a series of issues that came out of that last conversation. The first one is that I'm not confused about the departments. I'm frustrated, frustrated beyond words by the fact that here are two departments responsible, theoretically, for the same thing, and no one seems to be taking the lead. That's very frustrating not only for myself, as the critic for Community and Transportation Services, but for all the municipalities and the people who use dumps out there in the territory, and that means every one of us.
The minister talked about bringing in a series of recommendations out of Renewable Resources that will have to be implemented by municipalities. Who is going to help pay for that? I mean, that's going to increase the cost of services at the municipal level - I'll guarantee it - and is this downloading of responsibilities without funding again? Is there any commitment toward increasing the funding so that municipalities can afford to increase their services when it comes to waste in our communities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm somewhat frustrated also, because she doesn't seem to be listening.
Now, what I'll say again is that we have various levels of jurisdiction for dumps. The AYC and their membership have jurisdiction over a certain amount of them. I, through my tenure as the minister, have jurisdiction over others.
The lead in dumps at the municipal level is the AYC - the municipality itself. The lead at dumps at the territorial level is me, as implemented through this gentleman in his department.
Now, what we have, as I say, are jurisdictions sorted out. So we know where the jurisdiction lies at this point in time now. We have got that common understanding. Now, it was triggered, and this government in its wisdom three years ago said that yes, we want to go talk with the people. It's a renewable type of thing because it has all these types of issues in it - recycling, et cetera - and the Department of Renewable Resources, as represented by that minister, took the lead and initiative for consultation, and they went out.
Now, that consultation is finished, but it has not been pulled together and reflected in policy or any such thing at this point in time. That work will occur over the winter months. I expect that it could be done shortly, I would say, over the rest of the winter, and, of course, I will get it to you as it is done.
Now, in the case of the recommendations that come out, I was with the Association of Yukon Communities, as was the Member for Riverdale South, in Haines Junction earlier this spring - June, I think it might have been - and I did speak to the people - to the mayors and representatives there - and I said that this is coming, that we will be talking with you people. Of course, it had to get implemented as it comes out, but the decisions have not been there yet.
So, what I have said to the Association of Yukon Communities is that we will find ways to work with you to implement these recommendations as they come forth. That's exactly and entirely where it lies, so it's not downloading of any sort, as the federal Liberal government does to this government from time to time. It is not that. I have taken the initiative to bring some comfort to the Association of Yukon Communities so that they might be able to move forward with us. That's exactly where it lies at this point in time.
Mrs. Edelman: The minister says that they're going to work with municipalities. Well, I hope that part of working with municipalities is a financial commitment so that when those responsibilities are downloaded to municipalities - and these are very expensive responsibilities - I hope there will be some financial commitment from the government that will prevent them from having to take on services that they cannot afford, because the way it stands right now, municipalities will have no choice but to burn, because they will not be able to afford to operate their dumps following the new regulations coming out of the solid-waste regulations.
And the minister talks about being frustrated. Well, I'll tell you what frustration is: it is that at the same time the solid- waste regulation consultation is going on, so is the consultation on rural services, and we're talking about landfill sites in both.
So, there is a great deal of confusion, and there is a great deal of frustration, and the bottom line is that municipalities are going to have to pay more money to operate their landfill sites when the regulations come down from Renewable Resources through the solid waste regulations. They are going to have to pay more, because if they don't follow the regulations, then they'll have to burn. That is their only alternative because if they don't have the money to do it, then they'll have to burn, and we're all trying to avoid that.
Now, the minister has not given any financial commitment whatsoever from the department or from his NDP government as to what they're going to do when municipalities are going to increase the cost of operating their landfill sites. Is there any financial commitment whatsoever from this government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, first of all let me point out that the member is using the word "downloading". It is not I who is using the word "downloading". Okay? I'd appreciate it if the Member for Klondike would pay attention to this question, too, because I'm sure he's going to be asking the same question in a short while. When I was at the Association of Yukon Communities, I told the Association of Yukon Communities that we're looking for better ways. A lot of that initiative was triggered by members of the Association of Yukon Communities. I committed then, at that point in time, that we must find a way to implement these recommendations. This government - the first government in five or six years - has put together an increase, albeit a small increase. It was a one-percent increase. We've also put together a 50-percent increase - $25,000 it was - to the Association of Yukon Communities' central infrastructure.
So, this government is helping and working with the Association of Yukon Communities in increasing their grant, in helping them with their immediate infrastructures. They have a representative in downtown Whitehorse, their executive director. We are doing that. I said that I would work with the Association of Yukon Communities and others, and I will work with them and others, when we do go to implement these upcoming initiatives. I don't know what is coming at this time because the recommendations will be brought forth this winter. We will work with the Association of Yukon Communities and we will not ram something down their throat. We will work with them to find ways that we can work together in partnership to solve this problem.
Mrs. Edelman: We have to be clear here on the scale. The minister's talking about a one-percent increase in block funding. Block funding hadn't gone up for 11 years, but the cost of services certainly had. The minister's talking about a $25,000 increase to the Association of Yukon Communities. It costs about $12 million to operate the dump in the City of Whitehorse. Think about the scale. You're talking about millions and millions of dollars that are going to be increased costs for Yukon municipalities when these regs come down, and you're talking about downloading responsibilities without having an offsetting increase in funding from the territorial government.
If you're going to insist that municipalities - and this isn't a bad thing. It's not a bad thing. If we're going to insist that municipalities cannot burn at their dumps any more, then they have to be able to do something else to decrease the amount of material that's going into their landfill sites, and the way to do that is through recycling, because otherwise, we're going to have to burn, and we're talking about many, many increased costs to municipalities. In the Yukon municipalities, we're talking about millions of dollars over the next few years, when these solid-waste regulations come into effect.
And I still haven't heard from the minister any commitment beyond working with people to help it work. I have heard nothing from the minister about a financial commitment to help municipalities offset the costs that are going to increase when we bring forward these new solid-waste regulations that, at the very least, are going to stop burning at landfill sites in the territory.
Is there any financial commitment to help offset the costs that are going to happen when solid-waste regulations come down - the increased cost of services at municipal landfill sites here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, this government has brought forward an increase to the Association of Yukon Communities base grant. This government has brought forth an increase to the Association of Yukon Communities central initiative. We have consistently moved forward in partnership with the communities so that we might be able to do the best thing.
We have just passed the Municipal Act legislation, which is an enabling piece of legislation that gives much authority to the municipalities to move in the direction they would wish to.
And not once have we just shoved something down somebody's throat that I can recall. I can commit that we are going to work with the communities and that there will be financial incentive. What that financial incentive is at this point in time I do not know, because the process is not over and complete. But, based on our history, we will be there and have been there and will continue to be there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's get away from the lead dumpster of the Yukon and into something a little bit more beneficial and see where the government of the day is going on the issue of airports, specifically the new regulations that are being implemented by the federal government - the aircraft emergency interventions services regulations.
Could the minister advise the House what the cost of implementation of these regs for the Whitehorse Airport will be? I'm also given to understand that it will impact on any of the airports in the Yukon where scheduled service is provided with a certain class of aircraft over a certain weight or over a certain number of seats, which will be, specifically, Dawson City and Old Crow. Could the minister advise the House how he expects to meet the conditions of these new regulations in Whitehorse, then in Dawson and Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I would say that there will be no increased costs at the Whitehorse Airport because the service currently provided there meets the draft requirements. The Dawson and Old Crow airports would be required to have an on-site recorder and fire truck during the commercial passenger-carrying operations, which would impose capital costs of approximately $500,000 and ongoing costs of O&M of about $250,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, how does the minister expect to meet the obligations?
Let's take Old Crow. How does he expect to meet the obligations in Old Crow? What we're looking at is to locate a piece of fire-suppression equipment there. That will have to be flown in to the community. The only way would be on a Hercules, because we're talking about quite a piece of equipment. We'd have to have an adequate water supply. How is that going to be met? And we'd have to have a way of housing that vehicle in Old Crow so it's available any time the scheduled service lands or is in the community. Then we have to have trained individuals who meet a certain standard. How is this going to be accomplished?
I certainly can't agree with the cost that the minister has advanced. That must be just an order of magnitude estimate. I'm sure it doesn't address all of the costs that will be incurred by the department.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, we wrote to the transport minister in May, and we indicated that the initial proposals that they were promoting were unacceptable - they were not acceptable proposals to the territorial government - and that we believe airport emergency services should only be implemented where it can be justified on a cost-benefit basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that makes no sense whatsoever - where it can be justified on a cost-benefit basis. If we used a cost-benefit basis, we couldn't even justify the existence of the Whitehorse airport, Mr. Chair. That costs us over $2 million a year to operate, and we recover about $750,000. So how can the minister use that in his justification - the cost-benefit? Could he explain that further, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, we're not the only ones, Mr. Chair, and thank you very much for the opportunity. The Air Transport Association of Canada, the Canadian Airports Council, and other provinces and community associations do not support the proposal, so the federal government knows of these initiatives - that we do not support the proposal - is re-looking at it, and certainly I'll get back to the member on it when there is something significant moved on this.
Mr. Jenkins: I take the minister back to his first statement, that they wouldn't implement the emergency services in airports where it wasn't justified on a cost-benefit basis. That's what the minister said. Now, I'll review Hansard, but on a cost-benefit basis is the rationale that he advanced.
Now, could the minister explain what he meant?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What I said, Mr. Chair, is that the territorial government believes that airport emergency services should only be implemented where it can be justified on a cost-benefit basis. In certain situations that can happen, and in certain situations it cannot happen. As I said earlier, the ATAC, the CAC, other provinces and community associations do not support the proposal and we've put the federal government on notice that we do not support the proposal as is and that it's up to them to come back with a counter proposal.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I think we're a long way from achieving any kind of consensus with respect to the implementation of these regulations. The cost of implementing these regulations will be significant when they are imposed upon the airports here in the Yukon, and they will be imposed, from what I'm given to understand.
The minister earlier stated that Whitehorse Airport was in full compliance and would have no trouble meeting these regulations. Could the minister just confirm that it is currently the case? The airport in Whitehorse conforms in all respects to the safety regulations required by Transport Canada.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes. Yes, I can confirm that. There would be no increased costs at the Whitehorse Airport because the service currently provided there meets the draft requirements.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess it's not surprising that I disagree with the minister, and I disagree with the minister on the following basis: currently the Whitehorse Airport has an inadequate supply of water for firefighting purposes. What is the cost to the Government of Yukon going to be for upgrading the water supply to meet current requirements for firefighting at the Whitehorse Airport?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: When a fire is fought on the airport runway, foam retardant is used. To bring the service to the airport will cost the territorial government $1.5 million.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, foam is a mixture of a product and water. It requires water to make the foam, Mr. Chair. The ratio is clearly indicated on the containers. I don't have it off the top of my head, but it takes an awful lot of water to mix with the ingredient to provide the foam. And currently the Whitehorse airport does not have an adequate supply of water.
Mr. Chair, why hasn't this issue of water supply to the Whitehorse Airport been addressed in the last couple of budgets, with the expansion of the airport facility?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We have been working with the City of Whitehorse for eight months to a year on this initiative, and we're coming very close now to working with our partners in the City of Whitehorse to solve this problem.
Mr. Jenkins: Solving the problem, or downloading it to the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Solving the problem.
Mr. Jenkins: Does solving the problem mean that the Government of Yukon is going to be budgeting, in the next budget process, the necessary funds to address the responsibility of having an adequate supply of water at the Whitehorse Airport for firefighting purposes?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, as I've said, we've been working with our partners in the city on a very meaningful relationship in this and other avenues, and we'll continue to do so. The key words there are "working with them", and we've been doing it for over a year. Certainly, what we do, the agreement that we do come up with, will be considered within the next budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm looking for some confirmation. This a very serious issue. I'm looking for the minister to indicate, here on the floor of the House today, that these funds will be included in the next round of budgets presented for the consideration of this House to address this serious deficiency.
Now this deficiency has been known for quite some time, that there is an inadequate supply of water at the Whitehorse Airport for firefighting purposes, and the airport currently does not meet all of its safety obligations - that's a given. Now, I just want a simple yes or no from the minister. Will he ensure the House that these funds for the upgrading of the water supply to the Whitehorse Airport will be included in the budget this next spring?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, this government, in our infrastructure development over the past couple of years, has proven that we're very capable of working with the airport to continue to improve the airport. Certainly, through my work with the City of Whitehorse, we do not do for jest - we work for the real thing. And, in this case, I will be there for the initiative and the project, as it becomes described through the budget process. I will be there fighting for that. We do have a process that we go through. As you can see, the Government Leader has been out on the road for much of this session and the early fall; we go to the people, we talk to the people, and we consider a lot of the issues at the table.
I will be there fighting for this initiative.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a very important safety issue. It's a safety issue that could impact severely on, well, all of the trade and commerce that is created by the Whitehorse Airport, and impact severely on our visitor industry. I'm looking for the minister to give more than his warm, fuzzy, friendly way of dealing with this issue. I'm looking for a yes or a no answer.
Will the minister be including this in his budget for next year? It's a safety issue. Is the minister ignoring it? I just want a simple yes or no. Will the minister be including the sum of money necessary to upgrade the water supply to the Whitehorse Airport in the next budget. Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure, and I'll have to review the Blues also for the morning for the Member for Klondike, but he said the visitor industry was in a decline. There has been a 40-percent increase in air traffic in the last three years here. Is that a decline? A 40-percent increase, my friend.
How did that happen? That's because I brought that warm, fuzzy, cuddly feeling to the Management Board, and this government, in its endeavour to move forward with the industry, did that.
Will I be there for that again? Will I be fighting for this? Yes, I will be. I will be there. It's certainly not much of a fight, because this government is very unique in its approach to trying to do the right thing, and I think that's very apparent within the economy. We're diversifying the economy, and we're going to continue to work to those ends. We're focused and we'll continue to be focused.
Will I be there for the fight, and will I be there to ask for the support for this? Yes, I certainly will be. As I said, we do not work in jest. We work to do the right thing, and this is certainly one of the initiatives that we'll all be there fighting for.
So, will I? Yes, I will be.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his response. One of the other areas that the minister has responsibility for but can't seem to get a handle on, are the VASIS lights in Dawson and Old Crow. They've been out of service more often than enough this last year. Could the minister advise the House what steps he's taking to ensure that these are kept up and in service on a continuing basis? At certain times, they were out of service for several weeks in both locations. The airport in Old Crow is specifically prone to faulting and VASIS being out of service. They're very much required. It's the only lifeline into that community. What steps is the minister taking to ensure that this important navigational aid is maintained?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In our endeavour for safety, whenever there's a problem, we'll go and fix it. I'm sorry - on the VASIS, I don't have the information at my fingertips. I'll endeavour to get it back.
But that is our standard; that is our policy. It is our principle that, when something in this issue is broken, we fix it, and we try to fix it for the long term.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue in Old Crow is that they be repaired rapidly and they not be left unserviceable for several weeks at a time. The same thing with Dawson City; they are to be repaired and put back into service very quickly. In both locations, they were out of service for a considerable length of time. Old Crow has a problem, and it has been a continuing and recurring problem for a number of years. As soon as the ground freezes, it seems like some of the wiring harnesses pull apart, and the lights go out.
So I thank the minister for that.
One of the other areas, before we leave airports, is the RCOs - the airport communication systems for Mayo and Watson Lake in the Yukon. They're remoted into Whitehorse, to the FSS - the flight service station here. There was a move a couple of years ago, after the northern air study was concluded, to have places like Faro and future RCOs remoted into Whitehorse. Nothing seems to have materialized with respect to the implementation of the recommendations stemming from the northern air study.
Just where are we at? Why haven't we followed through, Mr. Chair? Why haven't we concluded what the study recommended?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the study was instigated and carried out by NavCan. We certainly agreed and concurred that the study should take place. We have let NavCan know that but NavCan has, at this point in time, not gotten back to us on any of the directions that they are going to take.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other initiatives that that study, the northern air study, recommended - the study is concluded, and the recommendations have been in the forefront of the department for quite some time. One of the other recommendations was that the automatic weather reporting station that was in Watson Lake was going to be moved to Burwash, and Burwash was going to be remoted out of Whitehorse. An RCO was going to be located there. Nothing has happened to this end either. Just what steps is the department taking to ensure that we're going to get what was recommended in the northern air study?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we participated with Nav Canada. We wanted Nav Canada to proceed with the study. Nav Canada has made recommendations and, in this case, Nav Canada is making recommendations themselves. Nav Canada, at this point in time, has not gotten back to us on any of these issues to talk about the implementation. I will certainly be sending a letter to them and talking to them about this very initiative.
Mr. Jenkins: I find it ironic that the issue has to be raised in this House before the minister's department will follow up on a very important initiative such as this.
One of the other detriments to constant traffic in and out of the Whitehorse Airport is the reliability of the VOR and the DME at the Whitehorse Airport. The responsibility rests with Nav Canada for its maintenance. It has been out of service on a number of occasions. Canadian Airlines, our prime carrier, flies facility to facility. It relies heavily on VORs, believe it or not, in their cockpit. I'm told they don't even have GPS. They just fly from VOR to VOR, and if it's not up and running, chances are they won't come into Whitehorse.
What steps is the department taking, Mr. Chair, to ensure the reliability of the VOR? It has been out of service a number of occasions. Just a short time ago Nav Canada was in, repaired it, they left, and a couple of days later it was down again.
What steps is the department taking to ensure the continuing reliability of the VOR?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, when the VOR broke down - if I could say that - we let Nav Canada know, and we expressed in no uncertain terms that this is very unacceptable, that this cannot happen and should not happen again. And we do it from a safety perspective, of course.
Nav Canada has since reassured the government that while the VOR is being repaired, aviation safety will not be affected, and that they have implemented procedures with Canadian Airlines so that further delays will not be encountered.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have any correspondence from Nav Canada where that assurance is given, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I'll check, and I'll get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the way that it was read into the record, Mr. Chair, I would ask that the minister table that correspondence from Nav Canada just so that we have a clear record that they're going to maintain the facility in a continuing manner and that they have explored or looked at optional VORs for Canadian to hit in this area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: Probably one of the other areas that the minister has a little bit more of an understanding of than airports is the highway system here in the Yukon, and I'd like to thank the minister for the 24-odd street lights that have been recently installed at the entrance into Ross River. Unfortunately, it took a number of deaths on that route before the government reacted.
One of the other areas where we have a problem with in the Yukon is the M'Clintock River bridge. Given the number of fatalities that have occurred at that site, could the minister advise the House what plans his department has to address the issue of safety there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it's very tragic that accidents happen there, and I'm sure I can reiterate the condolences of all members of this House to the families.
As has been stated on the radio, excessive speeds and normal weather conditions do contribute to these accidents, and we will continue, through the department and in partnership with others, to find ways to communicate with people and to educate people, as is the case with any major accident that falls within one of our highway systems. We will have a departmental look at it and do a critique of the accident, after all the reports get in, to find ways to make it safer.
Certainly, I have talked with the department. I have instructed the department to try to find ways that we might be able to make our highways safer.
Mr. Jenkins: The Government Leader and the Member for Mount Lorne were recently at a meeting at the Inn on the Lake with the constituents of that area, and the Government Leader made the statement - and I can't quote exactly, I wasn't in attendance - that the government was going to be doing something with the highway and the highway approach from the south on that bridge. Now, is this something that the minister, in his capacity as minister responsible for highways, is aware of, or is this something that has been imposed upon him? All we're looking for is that this apparently unsafe approach to the bridge - it is a long, straight stretch and then you just go over a rise and, bingo, you're right at the bridge. And anybody who drives the highway on a continual basis probably tends to approach it a little bit faster than one should, but there are probably ways that that approach could be made safer with the application of a little bit of engineering knowhow. Is the minister going to be pursuing it on that basis or just posting a sign at the top of the hill? In what way are we going to be looking at this?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I said, the department will be looking at it, as we do after any major accident, to find the impediments and what caused the accident. We're looking here to make things better, which is what we're exactly doing; if we can do that through education, through signage, through cutting the slopes, whatever, that's what we're going to be doing, and we'll work to those ends. Certainly, what the Government Leader had heard at the Inn on the Lake at the budget consultation is something that has been passed on to me and the department. As I said, after any major accident, the department will critique these issues and try to find ways to make the roads better.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's not just one major accident at that location. There was a series of them over the years. Like the incident in Ross River, the people there asked and asked and asked for street lighting and said it was unsafe, and we get to the position where it's very unfortunate that someone must die in the Yukon before this minister's department will react. That's the issue we have before us, Mr. Chair. And we have the same situation on the Klondike Highway out of Dawson City, where the traffic vehicle count is very, very high. It's above the level for the width of that highway, given the volume of traffic there, given the pedestrian load and the lack of street lighting. And yet the minister will not react to widening the highway and extending the street lighting out there.
How many more deaths is it going to take before this minister reacts, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm absolutely appalled. I'm absolutely appalled, Mr. Chair, but I am certainly not surprised. Nothing will surprise me any more, Mr. Chair. To be able to attempt to take a tragedy in somebody's life and to exploit it into political brownie points is appalling - absolutely appalling.
The member goes on and pluralizes everything when they are individual cases. We will continue to work with communities. We will continue to find appropriate ways to make our highways safer. We have proven this through our capacity, our initiatives to go out and to find dollars from other sources, to lobby for programs so that we might be able to continue with the development of infrastructure.
The situation that the member speaks of outside of his constituency in Dawson City is something that I have asked the department to look at, to find ways, to consider if it can be done, when it should be done and the type of work that has to be done. I have passed that on to the Member for Klondike, so for him to be here and to be so morally bankrupt as to have no morals and to use this for political expediency, again, is absolutely appalling.
Chair: I would like to remind members not to use insulting language.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue before us is still that the Klondike Highway going out of Dawson City is very well and highly travelled. It has a high degree of pedestrian traffic. It doesn't meet the standards that the highways branch currently has in place for width or for lighting, when it has that volume of traffic.
When is this minister going to do his job and address his responsibilities?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, this government has been doing our job and addressing responsibility. We've put together programs that affect communities, that help the communities to identify their priorities, such as the rural roads project, and others.
This government, upon the request of the Member for Klondike - whom I take every step to work with, and most of the time I do not agree with his morals or his way of doing initiatives but, as my parents have told me, "Listen to all, for within all there is at least one percent of some direction." So it takes all my skills to listen for that one percent.
That one percent I don't find is there at this point in time. This government has put street lights at Henderson's Corner at the request. We asked all MLAs of this House - on both sides of the House - to identify these processes. I have asked you on a personal basis last spring outside this House to give these to me. You said, maybe not verbatim, but what you said was, "Is the department looking at it?" I said yes. "It's good enough for me."
So do not stand there as the Member for Klondike and tell me that I'm not doing my job and this department is not doing their job, because we are clearly doing our job - clearly doing it; and will continue to do so, even in the face of animosity as represented by the Member for Klondike.
Chair: I would like to remind the minister to address his comments to the Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, the issue that the minister and I spoke about last spring was the rural roads policy in the Klondike area. It had nothing to do with the Klondike Highway. I had written to the minister on that issue, and the minister is fully aware that that section of the highway does not conform to the standards that his own department has adopted. The traffic count is way in excess of what that highway will sustain.
One of the other issues that has been brought to my attention, Mr. Chair, is the Top of the World Highway. Historically, the Government of the Yukon has posted a sign as you turn the corner saying it is closed. Now, business is very limited at this time of the year, but we do occasionally have someone showing up in Dawson wanting to travel to Alaska in the wintertime over the Top of the World Highway. Can the minister advise the House why his department has not erected a "Closed" sign for the Top of the Highway at the turnoff around the corner?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'll direct the department to do assessment on that. I do not micromanage the department, but I certainly create and work with policy development and will continue to do so. I have a very fine staff within the department and in all sectors of the department, and it is with this message that I remind them to put a sign up.
And I also would like to take this chance to say that I did travel the Taylor Highway this summer and that the Yukon portion is in fantastic shape - absolutely fantastic shape.
Mr. Jenkins: I might remind the minister that it might be in fantastic shape in the summertime, but currently it is closed. It is covered with snow and, other than the sign when you turn the corner saying that the U.S. Customs is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., there is no indication that that road is closed. And that's one of his departmental responsibilities.
It's interesting, Mr. Chair. One of the other suggestions that has been brought to my attention is that there are signs currently available that are being used in a lot of northern jurisdictions that are coated with a certain type of silicone. The snow will not stick to them. Have the department officials investigated this possibility? It's quite a safety hazard.
The Member for Whitehorse West seems to laugh and find humour in the fact that there are a lot of people who rely on road signs. There are road signs available. They're used extensively in Alaska. The snow will not stick to them. The snow just hits them and falls off. Has the department investigated the usage of such signs, or such a product that they coat these signs with?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, in our endeavour to make highways safer, I will take what the member has said back to the department. I would like to clarify that the Member for Whitehorse West was not laughing at his comments, but was certainly laughing at him, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: No matter who was laughing at what, there wasn't any laughter coming from this side of the House, Mr. Chair. These are very serious issues. They are safety issues. They are important issues to all Yukoners, so I would ask that the minister just bear with me for a little while while I go through a number of other areas that I wish to explore with the minister.
The opening of the Top of the World Highway in the springtime - can the minister advise the House as to what transpired at his meetings with Joe Perkins? He was just recently in the Yukon. I know I had a meeting with Commissioner Perkins in October in Juneau, but unless there is some tremendous pressure exerted from this government on the State of Alaska one way or the other, it looks like the opening of the Taylor Highway might not occur until June 1 of next year.
What steps is the minister and his department taking to ensure that the Alaska part of the Top of the World, the Taylor Highway, is opened on time to facilitate our growing visitor industry, Mr. Chair - the only part of the Yukon's economy that's growing? Everything else has been devastated by this government.
The Yukon is still a wonderful attraction but, unless we have airports that are safe and people can fly in to, and highways that are open, we won't have visitors joining us. So, what is going to happen with the Top of the World Highway? What steps are the minister and his department taking?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I could elaborate on tourism forever, and certainly the Member for Klondike is a beneficiary of that lucrative business, as I guess we all are here in the Yukon Territory, because this minister, this government, this department has put resources into the development of infrastructure. We have not simply said that we need a new attraction. No, no, no. We looked at it; we thought it out; we talked to the people and onward we moved.
So I absolutely thank the Member for Klondike, Mr. Chair, for the kudos, the back-door kudos that they were.
Now, the member knows very well that, yes, the senator was here. I understand that the Member for Klondike, along with the KVA, have gone to Juneau and have made presentations. I have talked to the executive director of the KVA, and he related to me that that had taken place. I applaud the member for doing such, and I wonder if the member had done that from the purpose of being a Klondike MLA, or was there another purpose? I think that there might have been another purpose, really.
What this government will continue to do is we'll continue to lobby. We have sent letters to the Alaskan government; we have talked to them about these issues, and we'll continue to talk about these issues. We were in the same situation last year as we are this year. We got out of it and, again, I will continue to work with my Alaskan counterparts to find a successful way to open the Taylor Highway sooner rather than later.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for his response, Mr. Chair. Could the minister indicate what chances of success he envisions with his approach to the State of Alaska on the opening of the Taylor Highway?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, I cannot ask what chance of success is, Mr. Chair. I go for the straight goods. I have said to the member opposite that I'll continue to lobby, and I will continue to lobby. If the member would look at our success rate in the past, that might be a reflection of future steps.
Mr. Jenkins: I was just wondering how much funding was going to be budgeted in next year's presentation to this House for the Yukon River bridge crossing at Dawson.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, that'll be up for consideration, as other issues will be, and I would not put too much faith toward it, because it is certainly something that is not supported by all people. Again, he wants to jump up right away. Yes, Mr. Chair, pardon me. But certainly we have been through this debate, as the member knows full well.
Mr. Jenkins: There was an approach made by the City of Dawson to the federal government for funding for the bridge crossing at Dawson, and the city was advised by the federal government that if they had ownership of that right, the federal government would come to a funding agreement with the city.
Has the Government of Yukon explored this avenue with the City of Dawson? I know they have been apprised of it. Have they explored this possibility?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not sure if the Member for Klondike is asking me if I have a bridge for sale or not. No, I don't have a bridge for sale - if I don't have a bridge where a bridge would want to be for sale.
But, certainly, Mr. Chair, we are not a part of that discussion.
I can also say, though, Mr. Chair, that in the 1999-2000 capital budget that we're implementing now, we had included a $50,000 hydrology study to study ice effects.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister be agreeable to the transfer of this responsibility to the City of Dawson so that they could pursue it with the federal government and attain the necessary funding to put such infrastructure in place?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I can endeavour to talk to caucus on these types of issues, although, again, Mr. Chair, I would not put out a strong hope that we'd turn this jurisdiction over to the City of Dawson. Certainly we will continue to work with the City of Dawson and other partners in this initiative.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that I explored with Commissioner Perkins in Juneau was the issue of the motor transport regulations for the trucking industry. There is still a wide degree of variance between British Columbia and Yukon, and the Yukon and Alaska in a number of areas. But it appears on the trans-Canada scene that the Yukon is still out of the loop with respect to a similar type of operating authority and conditions.
Has the Yukon given any further consideration to getting in step with the rest of Canada, or are we still going to be out of line with the rest of Canada on many of these initiatives, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, is the Member for Klondike talking about the National Safety Code?
Mr. Jenkins: We're party to the National Safety Code. We have been for quite a number of years, Mr. Chair.
No, I'm not talking about the National Safety Code; I'm talking about the uniform standing for operating authorities. The Motor Transport Board regulates them here in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As the Member for Klondike knows, yes, we will keep up with the rest of Canada - that Canada wants to deregulate.
Mr. Jenkins: Are we buying in or are we not buying in? That's the question to the minister. Are we going to become like the rest of Canada or are we going to stand out there on our own?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I know that the Member for Klondike is somewhat of a maverick on these types of issues and will just jaunt off into the sunset and do what he merrily likes. That's certainly not what this government does. We've talked, and our position was developed after consulting with the Yukon Motor Transport Board and the Yukon Transportation Association, and both the Yukon Motor Transport Board and the Yukon Transportation Association have advised us that, should the federal government proceed with economic deregulation of extra-provincial/territorial trucking, it may not - it may, quote, not - make sense for the Yukon to continue regulating the interterritorial trucking. So, certainly as we work with partners, we'll continue to work with partners, and that is the recommendation.
Mr. Jenkins: So, are we buying in or are we not buying in? What position is the Yukon going to take?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, that decision has not been made yet, but certainly I've alluded to the decision because, working with our partners on the Motor Transport Board and the Transport Association of Yukon, they're saying that it would not make sense. Again we'll be talking to them, and it will likely be that that will happen.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, is the minister saying it makes sense to get in, or is the minister saying it makes sense to get out? Or is he going to pull a Liberal stunt and stand on the middle of the fence? Which way are we going?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I kind of thought that when I put a quote around it that that might make some sense or bring some focus to the word. It may not make sense for the Yukon to continue regulating the interterritorial trucking. That is exactly what I said. I also said that we have partners on the Motor Transport Board, we have partners in the Yukon Transportation Association, and we'll be discussing that and making a decision.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas of concern is the trucking regulations in the State of Alaska, and a number of our operators run through Alaska, primarily to pick up fuel in that state. They are looking for the rules in Alaska to be similar to the rules in Yukon or vice versa. There are some areas where the Yukon is dissimilar, and there are some areas where the State of Alaska is not in line with the Yukon.
In my discussions with Commissioner Perkins, he was agreeable to undertaking a review, and he asked that the issues that were of concern be put on the table for discussion. I know these issues have been conveyed to the minister's department. Could the minister advise the House what stage we are at with making representation to the State of Alaska on these issues?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, the issue arose several years ago. The department attempted to work with the Alaska government at that time. Nothing came of it. There wasn't a chance or an opportunity to make a success of it. We do have, at this point in time, an intergovernmental relationship developed with our Alaskan counterparts, and we'll raise this issue at that level.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the main issues is the maximum length - in the Yukon, 85 feet for bumper-to-bumper for B-trains, or double, as they're called in Alaska. What the operators are looking for is the same specifications for Alaska as Yukon on some of the arterial highways. The same holds true with the Province of British Columbia. The Province of British Columbia has some real quirks in their specs for, specifically, tractor wheelbases. The trend in the north is to have a longer wheelbase on your tractor and move your fifth wheel ahead further. For some reason, the Province of British Columbia does not accept that. Is there a movement afoot to standardize our arrangements with the Province of B.C. so our operators, our truckers, can move freely into British Columbia? Has this approach been made, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been advised by my deputy that there is a uniform standard between the jurisdictions. This was developed a couple of years ago. It is uniform. If the Member for Klondike is talking about a newer model or something, I'd appreciate some elaboration on that so I can get a better understanding so we might be able to go to bat.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll convey the information, with the minister's permission, directly to his deputy. Is that okay? It's an issue of tractor wheelbase length, Mr. Chair, and it's something that's just arisen in the last little while. It is causing concern, Mr. Chair.
One of the other areas that we have been doing a lot of review on is land use planning. I refer specifically to the Deep Creek area. Where are we with this land use plan for that area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we have been working with the community. It has been coming into near completion at this point in time. I know that the Member for Lake Laberge raised this question earlier in the House. We had talked at that point in time about where it has to go into the process, so certainly we're committed to completing the zoning requirements with them. We're coordinating several interconnected planning projects in the Lake Laberge area. If you like, between Hot Springs Road and Grizzly Valley, they were completed, and we're working toward the completion of the Jackfish Bay and the Mayo Road regulations.
We're also talking with the First Nations, and we're looking to have this put to bed later this fall.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm given to understand that the review has been completed, and we're just waiting for some time this forthcoming summer to bring in the regulations. That's my understanding, but there are a lot of concerns that have been brought to my attention - a number of them from the agricultural community in that area - that their interests have been usurped or overlooked.
Is the minister aware of the concerns of the agricultural community, and why do they appear to be ignored or overlooked in this planning process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I would beg to differ with the Member for Klondike that they were overlooked. Certainly I will check, but when the department goes out to do consulting with the people - the proponents who are affected - the association is certainly one that should be, so if the member has any information, I'd appreciate it if it were passed on to the department, and I'll certainly ask the department for a list of who was consulted to make sure, and ensure, that they have been consulted.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister will find, if he just asks his officials who was consulted, that every resident in that area will appear on that list. Now, whether they were in agreement or disagreement with the process is the issue.
The other issue is the amount of confidential information that was leaked out through one source or another to various individuals on grazing leases and agricultural applications in that area, which could have distorted their reasoning and their overview of the land planning process. There is a request currently - I don't know if it's come right to the minister - for the land use planning process for this area to take a step backwards and start with a fresh view, now that Mr. Livingston is no longer in the picture.
Is the minister willing to entertain that kind of request, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, whether the MLA is a New Democrat MLA or whether the MLA is a Liberal MLA or, heaven forbid, whether the MLA is any other type of MLA, it would not change the process of consultation. We would still be talking to proponents we wish to talk to out there.
I do not feel that we need a fresh start. If we're out there talking to people, we will want input from those folks, and those folks will give us their input, and we'll make sure that we do a good round of consultation so that we can have effective planning done.
Mr. Jenkins: So, at this point in time, the minister is not willing to take a step backwards and review what has gone on. It's fait accompli. This plan is in its completed stage, I'm given to understand, and the minister's officials are just going to go ahead with it. Is that where we're at now, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're not going to be starting from square one, no. But, Mr. Chair, I encourage the folks who have been talking to the Member for Klondike to, if they have something to say, please say so because we want to hear it. We want to be all-encompassing. We want to hear what people have to say.
So, we're not going to start from square one, but certainly we wish to hear what people have to say, and if they have something to say, we want to hear it.
Mr. Jenkins: That was the only land use plan in the Yukon that wasn't touched on by my colleague.
What I'd like to know from the minister is whether or not the rural services review that was undertaken by the department to see what it was costing the department to provide the various services to unorganized communities throughout the Yukon was undertaken and completed. Some of the costs that the department is incurring to provide services and some of the recoveries are pretty much out of sync with what the organized communities have to do today, and I was wondering where we were with respect to the rural services review and to acting on its recommendations.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the consultation is done and is not complete within the department at this point in time. When it does become available, I will certainly make it available to the member. I must say though, when it comes to services for the communities I'd like to talk about the rural roads projects that we have done. We have done Connect Yukon initiatives, bringing initiatives to people which they want to see, such as Internet distance education services to those folks. We have also gone out and looked at incentives and tax breaks that we could do, such as the low-income family tax credit, the small business investment tax credit, the seniors property deferral program, so we have been working to provide and improve services of a rural nature to the rural folk, and we'll continue to do so. And certainly, when I have it all pulled together, which I certainly envision would probably take some time over the course of this winter, we will forward it to both respective parties.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, the minister is meandering all around. The rural services review was concluded quite some time ago, Mr. Chair, and it was looking at the cost of providing services, i.e., potable water, sewage eduction, fire protection, landfill sites to the unorganized communities - what it would cost and what the individuals in these unorganized communities were paying. This past summer, the minister's department finally answered a letter that I sent with a breakdown of what the water and sewer charges were in the various organized communities. I'd like to know where we were at. When the minister first announced this review, it was done on the basis of justifying the charges, one way or the other, for the services that were provided.
What I want to know is, how long is it going to be before a decision is made as to whether they're going to recover 20, 30, 40, 50 percent, or 100 percent of the costs that the government is incurring to provide these services? Given the changes that we're incurring on a regular basis with - if you want to use one example - landfill sites, virtually all of the organized communities have been hit with a healthy increase in the cost of garbage disposal, except those areas where the service is provided by the Government of the Yukon. That's one example. Just where is the department at? Are they going to be making a decision in the near future? Could the minister provide some timelines, because that was the original intent and purpose of bringing in this rural services review?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can give some timelines. I can commit that it will not be done in time for the next taxation year but, certainly, it will likely be ready for the next taxation year after that.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that the minister mentioned, of why there was an increase, was because of the Burwash fire. It was a fire in the dump that was a controlled burn - or it started off as a controlled burn by officials from the minister's department - and ended up running away, causing a major disaster in that area.
The minister stated that the EMO recovery was going to be some $450,000 of the expenses that the department had incurred in that area. What likelihood does the minister feel he has of recovering that money, given that the evacuation for the Old Crow fire and the Pelly fire - those bills of almost $750,000 still remain unpaid, Mr. Chair.
So I'd like to ask the minister what likelihood he feels he has of recovering this some $450,000.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, the items are eligible for recovery. We have put them on notice. The initial outlook from the federal government was that it looked acceptable at first glance. They were certainly going through the process then.
The member's absolutely correct, though, in terms of recovery. They are recoverable items. When do we recover? That is something that has been brought forward with the federal government: we would like to see these things happen sooner rather than later, and we'd like to see these happen before devolution happens or as part of it.
So, certainly they are recoverable, and we'll have to continue working with the federal government through a slow massage, I guess, to get those dollars back into our coffers.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this slow massage of the federal government that the minister's going to be engaged in - I still haven't had my basic question answered. What does he feel that the likelihood of recovery will be of this $450,000, given that there is still $750,000 outstanding?
Now, I know it's eligible under the federal disaster relief programs, but being eligible and recovering it are two different things.
Our success hasn't been great so far. Now, what does the minister feel his likelihood of success in this case will be?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I feel good about it. I think that it can be worked. It's certainly a part of it, and I do feel there's a good chance that we will recover it.
Mr. Jenkins: The amount that's still outstanding from the federal government to the Yukon government for the Old Crow fire and for the Pelly fire - could the minister advise the House what steps his department has taken recently to recover this three-quarters of a million dollars?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we have exchanged dialogue with them through the Department of Finance, through ourselves. We let them know that this is something that we do want settled and do want cleaned up. As I said, I feel good that we will have a chance. At least they fit the process. We will have to continue to do the massage with the federal government to ensure that they do live up to their commitments.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the minister's cheque is in the mail, Mr. Chair.
One of the other areas that has been brought to my attention, Mr. Chair, is the issue of contracts from the department. Quarterly, the department goes out for fuel oil and gasoline supplies for YTG equipment and vehicles in and around the Yukon Territory. The contracts are then awarded to various primarily service stations in rural Yukon, but I want to know what recourse a vendor has who has been awarded a contract and the fuel outlet doesn't receive any business from YTG - they go somewhere else.
Could the minister advise the House what recourse that firm has?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I would certainly encourage that if there is a problem out there, any of the vendors should certainly get hold of the department and let them know that there is a problem out there.
As for recourse, well, we put out for bid for the fuel prices, and we asked employees to serve us up there, and now - and the member well knows this, and, I mean, he knows that country as well as I do or better maybe - if you're coming from Mayo and you're plowing down the road and you have to stop in someplace and you can't quite get back to Mayo but you can go to another place, those types of initiatives happen. But we always encourage our employees to gas up at the allocated places.
So, certainly I ask if the Member for Klondike has information to pass it on, and I encourage all vendors to be able to pass on to the department if things are not going the way they should be going, because that's certainly the process we intended it to be.
Mr. Jenkins: So, is the minister saying that there is not set policy within his department that, after a contract has been awarded to a specific supplier, the equipment and the vehicles are required to fuel up there on an ongoing basis, saving exempt emergency-type conditions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I believe and understand that there is recourse in the policy, and I'll be more than pleased to table the policy.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the areas that was touched on previously that I'd like to explore with the minister is the issue of a laboratory, a testing lab here in the Yukon, and not just for water or sewage effluent, but to expand it for the testing of special waste.
Now, we're growing. There's more and more of a legislative requirement imposed upon the various communities to do testing and to do testing of sewage discharge and, as well, the special waste.
Is there any move afoot to pool all the requirements, and demonstrate and go for an interest or a support for a lab that could encompass all of these various areas? Has the department explored that possibility, Mr. Chair?
I mean, we're creating Yukon jobs, maybe just one at a time, but here's another opportunity. Everything is going south currently, or to Alaska.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I just have to thank the member opposite for concurring with our one job strategy at a time. He said it was successful, and I certainly agree with him that it is successful.
No, Mr. Chair, at this point in time, there has been no special initiative to look at special-waste effluent at this point in time. Certainly though, I can talk with the department about it and see if there is a need. Of course, those types of issues would be expected to come from the private sector but, certainly, if the government can help facilitate that by creating that type of an environment, we'd be more than pleased. I think this does go with what the Member for Riverdale South had said last night in debate on that.
So, certainly we can look at those issues, and I'll ask for discussion with the department and keep both respected members informed as to what might be achievable.
Mr. Jenkins: I see a growing need for a continuing type of testing of this nature when you combine all of these areas. The labs that were historically in place in the Yukon were primarily there for the mining exploration industry but, given the dismal track record of this government to retain that industry here in the Yukon, about all we can focus on today is municipal waste and special waste, Mr. Chair.
So, I would urge the minister to explore this possibility, because I see some potential here for creating one job. We've probably lost about 15 or 20 good jobs, but we can create one good job, Mr. Chair.
The issue surrounding capital block funding, Mr. Chair, is one of importance to all municipal governments, especially rural governments, given that the last one-percent increase in capital block funding, because of the formula, 80 percent of it virtually went to Whitehorse. There has been some very extensive additional downloading that is being foisted on the communities - the special-waste regulations and the solid-waste regulations and now, currently, the 3.46 increase in electricity costs. Now, that's not secured in the special rate relief. All of these areas are being downloaded on municipal governments from the Government of the Yukon, from one department or another.
Could the minister advise the House what kind of an increase he's going to be considering to offset the downloading that is currently taking place from the senior level of government to municipal governments? What percentage increase, or what amount of increase, is he looking at providing municipal governments to offset all of the additional costs they are incurring, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I take offence to the downloading statement, because that's certainly not the case. We'll continue to work with municipalities within my jurisdiction. I know that other departments, as represented by the territorial government here, will continue to endeavour to do the same.
Mr. Chair, I think it was this government here last year in our main operational budget that we brought forth. Albeit a small increase, it was an incremental increase, Mr. Chair. We looked at it, it was a helpful increase to the Association of Yukon Communities, and all Yukon communities were grateful for it.
For the Association of Yukon Communities, we went even further than that when we looked at their administrative centres and we saw that they needed an increase. So, yes, we did. We brought forth another $25,000, a 50-percent increase. Now, I won't harp on a 50-percent increase. What I will harp on is that this government has been and will continue to be there for the Association of Yukon Communities.
As I said, I take exception to the "downloading" remarks by the Member for Klondike, Mr. Chair. I have come to accept them, though, as everyday course, and I guess I will for the next little while, anyway.
Mr. Chair, as a part of the budgetary deliberations, I know that a presentation has been made on behalf of the Association of Yukon Communities to the Government Leader on his budget tours, and that will certainly be considered in the context of the overall budget.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: We were exploring with the minister an increase in capital block funding for the municipalities, given the tremendous amount of downloading that is occurring to the municipal governments from the senior levels of government for special wastes, solid waste, some of the government agencies - electrical rates, a 3.46-percent increase in electrical rates.
I was looking for a commitment from the minister that some sort of an increase in funding will be forthcoming in the next budget cycle to offset the additional costs that are being incurred by these respective governments. Can the minister give his assurances of that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I had reiterated before the break, Mr. Chair, this government has been there for the Association of Yukon Communities and will continue to be there for the Association of Yukon Communities. We provided an increase to their budget last year for the first time in many, many, many, many, many years. We have also given a 50-percent increase, $25,000, to the Association of Yukon Communities' central infrastructure, for their executive director, et cetera.
I think that this government has proven that we will be there. Certainly, as I said to the Member for Klondike earlier in debate, we will be looking at this as a part of the overall budgeting process, and yes, I can commit to looking at it as a part of the overall budgeting process.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister prides himself with ongoing consultations with the Association of Yukon Communities and its executive, and I'm given to understand there has been no consultation between the minister and the executive since last year - last budget - since the legislation came forward in the House to amend the Municipal Act. Can the minister confirm that he has actually cancelled all his meetings with the executive of Association of Yukon Communities that were arranged for this last summer and fall?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I meet with people if and when I can. I have absolutely no idea where the member gets his information from, and I have with the president and the association director in my office just two weeks ago and will continue to do so with an open-door policy.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the issues arising out of my community is a land swap between inventory from the City of Dawson to the territorial government. All of these arrangements were reached. There is still the issue of the cheque being transferred from YTG to the city for some $748,000.
This process appears to have stopped, and it looks like the department is going back and it is going to be included in next year's budget. Could the minister advise the House why, what happened and what transpired in this process that it has been stopped and put on hold and we're having to go back with a submission to Treasury Board for these funds once again?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the process of which the Member for Klondike speaks is one that is ongoing, and I currently expecting a recommendation to go before Cabinet within, gosh, I'd say the next month to a month-and-a-half. I'd have to check on that, but certainly a recommendation is coming forth on that process. So, the process hasn't stopped at all. The process is ongoing and will be concluded.
Mr. Jenkins: I was given to understand that the city had concluded these arrangements; it had gone forward; it had received approval, and somehow the money was reallocated somewhere else, and now there's another submission to Treasury Board on this issue.
I guess, at the end of the day, the concern is, when will the city receive its money?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we know well of what we talk about here. We are working with the city, and we'll continue to work with the city in all these endeavours. Certainly, this is one that they requested that we work with. It certainly lies within their jurisdiction. We took it upon ourselves to help to alleviate some of the pressures that were put upon the city by that decision. As I said, the process has not stopped. The process is ongoing and will be concluded shortly. As to when the actual cheque will be there, I do not know, but I know that it is going to be through the process within a month-and-a-half or so. I'd have to check on the exact timelines but I'm looking to bring it to a successful conclusion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm looking for a specific range of when the cheque will be delivered to the city. Is it a month and a half, two months away? I don't need a great big overview of the process, Mr. Chair. I'm just looking for when the process will come to a conclusion and when the city can expect their funds, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, there are a couple of steps to go through in there first, Mr. Chair. Yes, we have been working with the city on this. It has to go to Cabinet for approval; it's on its way to Cabinet for approval. I cannot - as the member might be aware - supercede a Cabinet decision. I feel confident that it is going to be put forth and through the system. I feel good about that, and confident about that, and I know that it will be successfully concluded, definitely by the end of this fiscal year, and certainly sooner, if all things work out.
Mr. Jenkins: Just two final questions for the minister. Will it be concluded in the city's fiscal year, or YTG's fiscal year, and will the original amount of $748,000 be the sum that the submission to Cabinet is going forward with?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The latter part of that question, Mr. Chair, from the Member for Klondike, is what's to be discussed at Cabinet. We're making a certain recommendation to Cabinet. I can't supercede a Cabinet decision, and it will be based on the territorial government's fiscal year.
Ms. Buckway: I have a couple of questions - first of all, about the road to the Beringia Centre. How much has been spent to date on the turning-lane construction and the new access road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: What did the Member for Riverdale North call it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Hee hee - you gotta be careful. Wahoo. I'm going to "phffft" you.
If I recall off the top of my head, Mr. Chair, it was a quarter of a million dollars, but that's something I'll have to confirm. It's certainly in our briefing book, but I'll confirm that for you. I do believe it's $250,000.
Chair: I'd like to remind all members to not address other members directly.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister advise how much money remains in the budget for that Beringia road project?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to remind the member that this is a C&TS debate, and it was done through Tourism and again I don't have the information at my hand. I can take a shot in the dark. I think it was $250,000, and I think there might have been a $130,000 revote, but we're in C&TS debate and, I'm sorry, I do not have that information readily available.
Ms. Buckway: It is a road so I'll take it up again in the Tourism section.
Could the minister outline the current status of the Hootalinqua fire protection plan? I know some progress has been made in that area with regard to rural fire protection, if he could outline the current status.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, the department has been working with the greater Lake Laberge community, and we're certainly going to continue that process. The community has brought forth some ideas and recommendations. I think there is an enlarged fire-training room and those types of things. We're certainly considering all those issues so we might be able to move forward on that initiative.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister advise when we might see a fire hall for the Hot Springs Road area?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe, as I recall, that that was a part of our three-year capital plan, and if I remember correctly it is scheduled for completion for next fiscal.
Ms. Buckway: As the minister is aware, there are a number of land use plans ongoing. Can the minister advise the current status of the Mayo Road planning committee, which I had asked about in Question Period some time ago. I believe the minister had at that time advised that it was in Cabinet or close to Cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we expect to have the approval of that later on this fall or in the early new year. It's in the process.
Ms. Buckway: Is it then expected to move forward with the naming of a new planning committee to carry on the work as they had outlined in their proposed bylaws?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm sorry. With my ears, sometimes I have a hard time to quite catch it, and I would just ask if you could slow down a bit to let me get my ears on.
I think what I caught from you is, am I going to rename the planning committee to carry on the initiatives? As I would recall, that should be up to the citizens to bring forth their initiatives, once completed. I do believe that it's into the process now of completion with the regulations. If they need a governance society, then that would be up to them to put forth. I, as a part of the process, would consider that, and I say "consider" rather loosely because it's always done.
Ms. Buckway: I believe that one of the recommendations that came forth with the work they had handed in to the minister was that a new planning committee would be named to carry on with the work as they had outlined it in their proposed bylaws. So I'm just asking if a new planning committee would be a part of the final product.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not sure, Mr. Chair, at this stage, when it has gone through the Cabinet process and it's in the hands of the folks who are the proponents, if it would be called a planning committee or a governance society. I'm not really sure, but that will be a recommendation that will come through. Certainly, there will be warm bodies there who are going to be brought forth by the community and endorsed by myself and Cabinet.
Ms. Buckway: Yes, I'm concerned with the function of the group, not with the title.
Moving on to the land use plan for the Deep Creek area, I have heard some concerns expressed from constituents in that area about the draft Deep Creek plan - the final draft, I believe, was in July of 1999. And there are a number of concerns from a number of people. I wanted to ask what the plan was from the minister for Richthofen Island.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, those types of issues will come forth through the Cabinet process. It's in the process now. I have not reviewed it. The recommendations are being brought forth to me now and, as a part of it, I will review them. I can say, though, that if the Member for Lake Laberge is talking, as was the Member for Klondike earlier, about some of the concerns that were brought forth to the Member for Klondike regarding the planning situation, please feel free to share them with me or the department, so that we might be able to incorporate the thoughts and the direction of the people into the plan.
Ms. Buckway: I believe the minister is already in possession of the information to which I'm referring. There has been a strong suggestion that Richthofen Island should never have lots sold on it, and should always be protected for passive recreational use, and I'm just asking if that specific issue is one the minister can address as something they're perhaps considering.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, as a part of the plan, I'm sure that the people have addressed that. Is the Member for Lake Laberge telling me that that is a part of the plan, and that they have? Because, normally we always look at this, we try to encourage the people to speak freely of what they would like to do.
I have never been personally on the island or even close to the island, so I know not of what I speak, but I certainly hope that the process was checked on those things, and I will check on those initiatives forthwith to find out what it was and to share with you, if I may.
Ms. Buckway: There were some concerns from some residents in the area that passive recreational use only should be what's considered for that, and of course, the Ta'an Kwach'an land selections are in that area, and there are some concerns that key wildlife habitat and whatnot be protected.
However, if the minister's going to look into that, I'm just aware that some people will not support or endorse the final draft of the Deep Creek community plan, and I'm wondering how the minister's going to deal with that. Will he again consult with the people?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, as I have said, I haven't had a chance to review the plan yet. These recommendations come forth as a part of the process. I expressed to the Member for Lake Laberge that I will enter into this situation quite a bit before I would normally enter to try to get some information to share so that you would have a good knowledge base and working base for your constituents.
I will endeavour to do that, but at this time, I am speaking without a knowledge base on this issue. I will endeavour to inform you and, at the same time, inform myself, and that is before the process, because good people, too, work in there, and I'm sure that if the citizens have brought that forth as a concern that would be reflected. But I'll try to confirm that.
Ms. Buckway: One other issue that has come to me from constituents in Deep Creek relates to, again, the size of gravel. Rocks often fly off the dirt and rock trucks that the government and private business use in the area, which can cause damage to windshields, and covering that cost can be a problem for private citizens.
Has there been any thought given to a mandatory cover over these dirt and rock trucks to keep the rocks from flying off while they're travelling the public roads?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The rocks or the sanding trucks are self-contained, and the problem is not necessarily the aggregate blowing out over the top of the load. I do believe the problem is that, when the sanders go by with their distributor - whatever you call that machine for distributing the sand - some would give a whump and cause some damage.
As I have said earlier in debate, this concern has only been brought up, as I can recall, in approximately two letters a year so, if there are others, I would encourage other people to please convey those concerns to me. I would certainly appreciate that.
Ms. Buckway: I will move on to another area that I believe is covered by the Community and Transportation Services department when it's outside a municipality, and that is the issue of loose dogs - dogs running loose in rural areas. I have already had several complaints from constituents about loose dogs. Is there anything the minister has been looking into in the way of an animal control bylaw, perhaps, similar to what the municipalities have to help control pets that run in traffic, get into the garbage, damage private property and are a potential safety hazard to children?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, we all know the tragedies that have happened throughout the country regarding dogs and children and people who are invalids, I guess, if I could say it in that type of a sense. They're not there to protect themselves. This is an issue that comes up many times as I go to communities and talk to the communities. Yes, we're always looking to empower communities - through bylaw or through community initiatives, predominantly - to look after their dogs and to find ways of controlling the dogs. I can arrange for a briefing or a letter to the Member for Lake Laberge on these issues and where they go and what we do. We try to work with partners in the communities, sometimes with the RCMP, but the RCMP are reluctant and loathe to do those types of initiatives, too. We're always struggling to find ways to curb loose dogs, pack dogs, wild animals, et cetera, in the communities, because it is definitely a problem. So, again, I reiterate that we're trying to work with the communities, whether they're advisory councils or whomever, to develop those bylaws. Certainly, our advisory services are fully capable of process on these types of initiatives, and it's always a challenge.
Ms. Buckway: Would the minister have any advice for areas that aren't communities, that are somewhat more rural, where it often boils down to neighbour versus neighbour in the case of loose dogs. This is, as I understand it, quite a concern in a couple of areas of my riding, and I've had concerns expressed to me about it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We have societies in town here that do some good work, and I see signs everywhere I go - well, not everywhere, but predominantly in key places - about looking after animals. And that's certainly my advice; respect an animal as you would respect yourself. That's the way I think most of us, who have been in the Yukon for any length of time, are with animals. That would be my advice. But, certainly, that is just my political type of advice. I will have the community services people continue to work with the folks in the member's riding, and if she'd like to raise this as an agenda item in some of the meetings that she attends and that my department attends, we'll certainly seek to find solutions for the problems.
Ms. Buckway: I have a couple of questions about the state of planning committees on the Hot Springs Road. It is my understanding that my predecessor as the MLA in this riding had said that development on the Hot Springs Road - I believe he was referring specifically to expansion of the Pilot Mountain subdivision - was going to occur with or without a plan, which of course got the whole area up in arms, and I'm wondering what the current status is there.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, on Pilot Mountain specifically, were you asking a question?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Keenan: We're certainly very committed to a consultative process, and a steering committee of local residents has been established to direct the local area land use planning process, and certainly any rural residential lot development timing will be examined in conjunction with the development of the local area land use planning. So they will be running concurrently and with the people. Now, I know that the Member for Lake Laberge is new to the Legislature, but I'm sure not new to the issues that surround us here and it's just the old - we're trying to go out and consult with people, we're doing the right thing with people, we've made a commitment to people that we'll continue to do these types of issues, but for the benefit of the economy and growth we certainly need to have lots developed, so I go with the attitude, and I instruct my people to go out with the attitude, to look how we might be able to develop lots but to do it in conjunction with the citizens affected.
Ms. Buckway: I gather that it would have been in June of 1998 that the government had come forward with a proposal to expand the Pilot Mountain subdivision. The people on the Hot Springs Road in that area viewed it as unpopular, and things got a little bit heated. There was a meeting recently out there to discuss further land use planning issues on the Hot Springs Road. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the meeting was scheduled on a Wednesday night when the Legislature was in session, I was unable to attend that meeting, and I'm wondering if the minister would consider in the future, when the Legislature is sitting, having such meetings on a night other than Monday or Wednesday, so that members might attend.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I realize that our first commitment is to the legislators here. Today I found myself in a very unfortunate situation where I wanted to be at another place, too, but it just wasn't possible.
We certainly try to accommodate MLAs in their endeavours to serve their constituents if we can, and we will continue to do so, but it is not the overriding principle. Usually these meetings are set at the community level and then we try to attend, but I'll certainly remind the staff that if it's a possibility that we could, we should, because it's good to have input from all levels and to keep people informed. We certainly believe in that.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate it if the minister would undertake to check on that.
I have a question about the maintenance agreement on the highways - the maintenance agreement with Alaska for the south Klondike Highway. Could the minister advise what the status of that agreement is and when it might be up for renegotiation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, there's certainly no written formal agreement on it at all. It's economics that drove it, and it has been open for the last few years. I haven't had any indicators so far that it's going to change. It's a gentleman's agreement. It's a handshake agreement, if I could say it in that way. So, it's not a formal agreement.
Ms. Buckway: If the minister could advise, it's my understanding that, on the Canadian portion of our highways, the RCMP looks after speeding infractions and the government looks after weight restrictions, generally. Who specifically enforces the load limits, and how does a trucker know who is in charge on some of these multi-jurisdictional roads?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly on the Canadian side, it falls within the jurisdiction of Community and Transportation Services, and there are notifications all over the place as to load limits. We put it in the paper ahead of time if there's any change, and any of the truckers are very up to speed on these types of initiatives. So I don't think there is any confusion between the two jurisdictions. They're run concurrently.
Ms. Buckway: I'm wondering if the minister can explain which of the Yukon government highway maintenance camps - especially those in or near established communities - are now using fuel from their own sources for fueling government vehicles, rather than using a local service station. There were local service stations contracted to supply fuel to government vehicles in many communities, but there have been some changes in recent years, and I'm wondering where the government now uses its own fuel.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'll endeavour to share the list. We have a complete list for the Yukon, and I'll endeavour to share that with the Member for Laberge.
Ms. Buckway: The minister's comment earlier this afternoon - that the NDP government builds infrastructure first - has me wondering, Mr. Chair, why there is not yet a sewage system in Ross River when there are, as the minister described them, attractions there.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, there is a planning process going on in the community of Ross River. There is not, like, sewage pumped into the streets, slop buckets this way. It's not like that at all. It's very controlled. There are septic systems involved there. The community is looking to moving ahead, to do different types of infrastructure development.
I think maybe the Member for Laberge took me out of context a bit when I said infrastructure first. I was referring to the airport, and we're certainly working on the airport and the infrastructure that we do there, and we're very proud and pleased with it. And you're going to get me going on 40-percent increases here from airlines arrival here, and I'm going to love to do it.
But I'll calm down here a little bit, too.
On the sewage specifically, we put together a process of empowerment within the community - the round-table process in Ross River. And the community is very much coming together to identify economic opportunities, social opportunities, and providing direction and advice to the department as to what they would see in terms of infrastructure development or improvements within their community.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister please advise what priority a sewage system is in Ross River? Where does it fit into the general scheme of things?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do not believe it has been prioritized at this point in time, as specific as it being number three in the gate and due to be here in 1998, or anything like such. No.
They're looking at it as all-encompassing. They're looking at roads, et cetera. So, it has not been definitely prioritized. I expect that, through the course of the winter though - because the round table does meet on a monthly basis, and that their agendas are full and that they look at all of those issues. And I have committed that I will continue to work with them as an overall government initiative, and we are and will.
Mr. Phillips: I have a few questions in general debate for the minister. My first question is about the rural roads program. This summer, there was a lot of work done on rural roads in the territory through the rural roads program.
Can the minister tell me how a road is selected? I mean, how does the government determine which road they do next? Does the department drive around and look at the condition of roads, or does it get a request from a municipality or a local improvement group or an individual, or is it the MLA who asks for the road to be fixed? How does it come about that one would get some work done on a rural road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, all of the above that the Member for Riverdale North said - all of the above. We have a road inventory, and the department will bring forth some recommendations. Certainly I solicit from the MLAs on all sides of the House to bring up appropriate projects. The road foremen, et cetera, are very much a part of it. I have certainly been notified by individual citizens on specific work, too, which you always endeavour to do.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I'll tell you why I asked the question. It's because I attended a meeting early in the fall of the South M'Clintock Association. That's a group of about 30 or 40 home owners in that area who meet from time to time. The main purpose for the group initially was established for fire protection in the area, and it was just a loose-knit group that got together to make sure we have fire protection. The question arose at the meeting with respect to the road, because this summer, unbeknownst to anybody, on a road that was perfectly fine, some trucks arrived and, in a four or five day period, $30,000 worth of gravel was spread, rolled and packed on the South M'Clintock road. The issue at hand was that everyone said, 'Why did they fix up our road? There was nothing wrong with it.' At the time, we just had one section of road, about a quarter of a kilometre out of the three kilometres, that was washboard and, after they'd finished with the whole road, then we had three kilometres of road that was washboard.
And the road wasn't ditched or drained, so all we really did was pack three inches of crush on top of the road. Only one small section of road, Mr. Chair, had a low area, and after about three days of heavy rain, there might be a five-foot puddle in it. They could have brought a truck in there and dumped some gravel in and levelled it.
So, the concern from the residents at that meeting was that, if there was $30,000 to be spent in the area, they would have appreciated some consultation with the home owners in the area, because our preference in the area, from that meeting, would have been to do something about fire protection.
That was a concern raised by the home owners. The road wasn't a problem. I'm not necessarily complaining to the minister. I'm saying to the minister that nobody knows why the road was fixed. Nobody on the road knows why the road was fixed. There was nothing wrong with the road. But somebody gave a go-ahead to spend $30,000 on a road that didn't have a problem, and I'm sure there are all kinds of demands for that money.
And so, I'd like to know from the minister, who authorized that road to be repaired and who did they contact in the area - if they consult with residents of the area - that there was even a need to do it?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, I'll have to check into the details of that question but, certainly, when we look at things, school buses have requirements and fire protection has requirements, and I will get back to the member on it.
Mr. Phillips: I thank the minister for that answer because that's precisely my point. Number one, the school bus doesn't go down that road; that's just a road into the cottages. And number two, fire protection was our priority. And number three, they spent $30,000 on fixing up the road that didn't need to be fixed up.
So the residents were concerned - they don't know where the request came from. All I'm saying to the minister is that I agree with the rural roads program. I think it's a good program, but I think the minister could have saved himself a lot of dollars and maybe come in with two or three truckloads of gravel and dumped it in the one low area, which really isn't a problem but, if the road had to have any gravel, there's one area there that maybe is a couple of hundred yards long, or a hundred yards long, that could have used some gravel. It's a low area. But the rest of the road was fine, other than a bit of washboard that we got on one end of it, which we seem to get every year.
If the minister wants to do some work on the road, Mr. Chair, I suggest to the minister that they do some ditching and they also do the road so that it's crowned a bit so any water that got on it would run off. All we did was add three inches of gravel and pack it, and I don't think that was the intent. Maybe when the minister is coming back with that program, I believe there was $40,000 or $50,000 spent on the sawmill road on, I guess it would be the north side of the Alaska Highway. The minister may know where the road goes. It goes up the old M'Clintock River on the north side, and there are a few people who live up that road, but they gravelled it way up to almost where there is nobody living. There are rumours out in that area that the government has obtained a block transfer of land from the federal government and is looking at some rural residential lots in that area. Maybe the minister could bring that information back if that's, in fact, true, if that's a new rural residential subdivision that's going to go in the near or distant future. Maybe the minister could bring that back as well.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I'll bring back the triggering mechanism in South M'Clintock, and no, Mr. Chair, I don't pay attention to rumours.
Mr. Phillips:I'm sorry Mr. Chair. Maybe I wasn't listening, the minister said he doesn't pay attention to rivers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: People in the area have been talking about the Government of Yukon putting a subdivision in that area. There's a landlocked transfer from the federal government to the territorial government down that road, and the people in the area want to know if the government is contemplating a country residential subdivision in the area or some development in the area in the future. That's the question. I won't treat it as a rumour. I just want to know if they're going to do that.
Mr. Chair, I have a couple of other comments because I know we're running out of time and I won't get the rest of my questions in, but the Member for Laberge mentioned the sanding trucks. I've heard some of the same complaints and the complaint I have received is about the size of the gravel that they seem to be spreading on the road, and when a big truck comes by - I don't know what size crush they're using - it seems that people are getting damaged windshields. I know there is a problem putting too fine a crush on the road because it just gets swept off when the vehicles go by. But maybe the minister could address that on the next day when we get back.
My other comment, while I'm on it, is the M'Clintock River Bridge - and I know the Member for Klondike raised it as an issue. But I was noticing this morning on the M'Clintock River Bridge that there is a lot of snow banked up on the inside of the bridge on the road side, and it makes that road crossing the bridge rather narrow at the present time. I just wonder if there's a grader going out in that area, or something going out in the area, that the next time they plow the bridge they could make sure they slow down on the bridge and plow it right to the edge, so that people aren't squeezed to the middle.
I know when the school bus passes a transport truck, for example, there is not a lot of room between the two vehicles going across that bridge. It's a narrow bridge to start with, and the snow seems to be - with all the snow we've had - it isn't plowing right up over the edge of the bridge; it's sort of stacking up on the sides, and I think it could cause a problem, if someone hit it, and then actually it forced them out into the middle of the road or something - then they'd be in big trouble real fast.
So I'll leave that with the minister, Mr. Chair, and the minister can get back to us tomorrow when we get back here.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 93, An Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 30, 1999:
O&M and capital grants by department for the years 1995-96 to 1998-99 (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5437
RRSP contributions by Yukoners in 1997 and 1998 tax years (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5460
Labour-sponsored venture capital corporations: cost benefit analysis (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5461
Labour-sponsored venture capital corporation funding from government (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5462
Fireweed Fund fiscal year (October 1 to September 30): rationale (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5463
Forest fire evacuation billings (outstanding) to the federal government: Old Crow and Pelly Crossing fires (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 5613