Wednesday, December 1, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of George Sinfield
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to a man who lived a life of service to others. Yukoners are fortunate that he lived the last quarter century of that life here.
George H. C. Sinfield was an employee of the Yukon's Department of Tourism for some 16 years, from 1974 until he retired in 1990. Marketing was George's thing. He played a key role in the Tourism department, first reaching beyond the Yukon border. George recognized that tourism here was an unlimited resource. He realized its potential.
And how he disliked the word "tourist". I remember him telling me over and over, "Pam, the word is visitors." Now, I automatically think "visitor" when someone says "tourist".
Although George retired officially from his work in the Department of Tourism, he never retired from his interest in tourism. My colleague from Riverdale North notes that after his retirement, George always attended every meeting that had anything to do with tourism, if it was open to the public. He took it all in and often made quiet suggestions later to people who had the power to do something about it.
A lot of Yukoners knew the work side of George Sinfield - the tourism side - but there was a lot more to know. George was born on July 4, 1930, in London, Ontario. He grew up in England, however, and carried a British accent wherever he went. He was a graduate of the Sandhurst Military Academy and served in the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong. In 1962, he retired from the British Army as a captain; George's military background influenced everything he did. He remained in Hong Kong for several years, working for the telephone company and then represented the Hong Kong tourism association in Canada until 1974, when he came to the Yukon.
George was active in many facets of life in this community. One of the first things he did was to get involved with the Boy Scouts, an organization he first joined in 1945. He was a dedicated and active member of the Rotary Club of Whitehorse until the day he died. He was a great supporter of the Yukon Transportation Museum. He was a proud member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. He worked with the Big Brothers organization. George Sinfield was a shining example to many. That was recognized when he was named Whitehorse's Volunteer of the Year in 1993.
One of his hobbies was cooking, and he produced many wonderful gourmet dinners. He loved to show off the Yukon to those who came here to visit.
Officially, George had no family, but he had a number of close friends who became his family, and he had his wonderful little dog, Brew. Brew died November 12, just a week before George.
George Sinfield believed in the Rotary motto "Service above self". His life is the proof of that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
World AIDS Day
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, today is the 12th World AIDS Day. This event is held throughout the world on December 1, to bring local and global attention to the challenges of HIV and AIDS.
There's still no cure for AIDS, nor is there a vaccine against HIV. Each year, World AIDS Day has a specific theme. Past themes have focused on women and AIDS, AIDS and the family, communication and community commitment.
This year's theme is "Listen, learn and live", and it is aimed especially at children and youth. Every minute of the day, five people between the ages of 10 and 24 are infected with HIV. That's 7,000 young people per day - 2.6 million new infections every year in young people alone, Mr. Speaker.
The UN estimates that there are 11 million children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Without a cure, we must rely on prevention. We must stop the disease before it begins, and this is where the mobilization of youth comes into play. In the Department of Health and Social Services we work with youth to design our sexual health and education campaigns. We want to provide the tools that they will use. By working with young people to develop those tools, our chances of success improve.
Today we, in this Assembly, wear our red ribbons to show support for people who live with HIV and AIDS, and to honour those who are working to fight against this epidemic, and to recognize the young people whose commitment will be instrumental in eliminating the health threat from the world.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to bring to members' attention to the presence in the gallery of Serge Lamarche, the chair of the Special Commission on the Yukon Act. He joined other commission members Frank Fingland, Pat Joe, Jean Gordon and Angela Walkley in producing the final report I'm about to table today.
Please join me in welcoming him here today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I do have the Special Commission on the Yukon Act final report, as well as the record of public input during the act review.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling the annual report for 1998-99 for the Liquor Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 11 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 11 of the First Session of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Klondike on November 30, 1999. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 11 is accordingly deemed to be read and received.
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 92: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 92, entitled An Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, the Public Service Act and the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved that Bill No. 92, entitled An Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers Act) Act, the Public Service Act and the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 92 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Red-tape reduction: electronic service delivery
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I rise to inform the House of a number of policy changes our government plans to implement that will reduce the burden of red tape on people and businesses in the Yukon and make it easier to conduct transactions with the Yukon government.
Last week, I announced several changes in permitting, purchasing policies and other related administrative procedures that we will be introducing over the coming months. As members are aware, individuals and businesses in the Yukon, as elsewhere, are increasingly using electronic technology for activities as diverse as staying in touch with families, doing research, shopping, marketing goods and services.
In partnership with the private sector, our government is making a huge investment in providing telecommunications infrastructure throughout the Yukon. This investment will not only provide new opportunities for Yukon people to do business, get an education, receive medical services, it will also make government services more accessible.
I'm pleased to advise members today that, over the next two years, our government intends to provide on-line options for a number of transactions. First priority will go to items such as selected motor vehicle licensing services, including temporary permits, registration renewals and fee payments; access to property assessment and tax information, homeowner grants and electronic payment; other land-related information, such as registered land interest, mineral lease information, oil and gas technical information, geoscience information, land use resource planning and environmental assessment data; access to a comprehensive directory of health services available in the territory; student financial assistance information, including the status of grant and loan accounts; additional tendering information for government contracts; on-line ordering for liquor licensees; video-conferencing for court activities; access to Territorial and Supreme Court judgments, forms, literature, and information; and corporate affairs transactions, such as searches and registrations to the personal property security registry.
Mr. Speaker, as one small example of how a change will immediately benefit businesses such as banks and law firms, the Justice department will be amending a somewhat archaic regulation under the Personal Property Security Act that requires registrations to be "typed". Only Manitoba and the Yukon still have this requirement. While it's a minor change, it symbolizes our government-wide commitment to improve the way we provide service to Yukon people. To reinforce this commitment, I am pleased to announce that we intend to introduce appropriate legislative measures next fall to give force to the red-tape initiatives.
I would like to stress that care will be taken to ensure that electronic service delivery fully complies with the privacy provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
As my department and other departments and agencies identify other ways to streamline processes, we will look forward to sharing that information with members.
Mr. Cable: The minister seems stirred to action on the red-tape reduction initiative. The Liberal caucus is supportive of the initiative, and we're supportive of the action on the initiative. The making of life simpler for Yukoners and Yukon business will have two positives attached to it. It will reduce the cost of dealing with government. It will help signal to business that government is part of the solution in doing business more simply in the Yukon; it is not part of the problem. Now, red-tape generation is a continuous process. There is a never-ending inclination to problem solve through additional paperwork. It would be interesting to hear from the minister what interdepartmental structures are in place to carry on the battle against red tape, to ensure that the initiative doesn't die of lethargy.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus I'm pleased to respond to the minister's statement on red-tape reduction.
It would appear that we're heading into an election, given that this is the second statement that this minister has given in one week with respect to red-tape reduction and supporting the Yukon people and Yukon business.
As I stated only a few days ago, we on this side of the House are fully supportive of the initiative to reduce the burden of red tape in the territory, and we welcome these changes before us that will make it easier to conduct transactions with the government through on-line options.
Clearly, the use of the Internet services has caught the interest of many Yukoners throughout our vast territory. Where distances are far between the next communities, more and more Yukoners are getting on-line to keep in touch with friends and family as well as to shop and conduct business. At the same time, the World Wide Web has become an efficient and cost-effective tool to do research and business without having to leave your home. With this in mind, I'm pleased to hear that more government services will be offered on-line.
I have a suggestion, however. It might be a worthwhile exercise to post these very initiatives on the government's own Web site so that Yukoners are kept aware of what changes have occurred and how they may now access these features.
This, in itself, would go a long way in making government services more accessible to the public. Would the minister advise what steps he is taking to ensure that these on-line options are monitored on a regular basis and acted upon as required? While it is all well and good to offer services on-line, it is equally important that there are people on the other end to ensure services are delivered in a timely and efficient manner. Failure to do so will only result in frustrations and headaches, not to mention more red tape that I'm sure we all want to avoid.
Perhaps the minister could explain what resources he intends to use to assist with these on-line options. It seems to me that those who could really benefit the most from on-line services are those Yukoners residing in rural Yukon. Unfortunately, many cannot access basic telephone service. For those who do the cost of telephone service is becoming so that many Yukoners are finding it an extremely expensive necessity.
While our caucus is supportive of these initiatives, the minister stated that his government will be working to further improve services over the next two years. Perhaps he might want to look at an initiative to link the insurance companies in, because a lot of these initiatives have to do with the motor vehicle, and pink slips could be done on-line.
For a government that was elected on an election platform entitled "A Better Way", it is unfortunate that efforts have only just begun in the last year of this government's mandate to make good on its promises. If the government were truly sincere in its commitment to support Yukon people and Yukon businesses, it would have made much more of an effort over the last three and some years instead of waiting until the last few months of its mandate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just with respect to some of the discussions that we had today, the issue around electronic service delivery is something that we have been looking at for a considerable amount of time, and in some of our discussions on red tape - some of the discussions with industry and various other groups - one of the themes that began to emerge was not only the need to reduce extraneous regulation, but also the need to create a more service-friendly culture in government.
We have begun to look at some options, particularly in trying to get services out to rural Yukon. One of the things that is going to facilitate this, of course, is the Connect Yukon project, a project that, I might say, the opposition decried and voted against. The member made reference - a perfect segue - to basic telephone service. That's also part of Connect Yukon, and that's something we intend to deliver, along with high-speed Internet access and data communication to our friends up on the north Klondike Highway. So I'm glad he sees the wisdom of that particular initiative.
We are going to be searching for different ways to use our electronic capacity to improve service for Yukoners. I think there are many other areas where we can be encouraging corporations, for example, to make their services available on line. I can foresee where people could send in applications for various and sundry projects in different government departments. So I think we've just scratched the surface of electronic service delivery, and I have challenged my colleagues to encourage their departments to look at ways in which electronic service delivery can facilitate service - and quality service - to people in the Yukon.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, financial statements
Ms. Buckway: I have some questions for the Minister of Tourism about the Beringia Centre and its future. Back in April, my colleague from Porter Creek South received assurances from the minister that a financial statement concerning the revenue and expenses associated with the Beringia Interpretive Centre would be provided, and I quote, "It's a little ambitious to say by the end of this week, but certainly we could have something next week." That was April 26, Mr. Speaker. This is December 1, more than seven months later, and we're still waiting.
Now, of course, we have another visitor season's worth of information to add in.
Can the minister provide a date by which we can expect to see the current financial statements for the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I would say that, if results don't happen, as I say, in the House here, you should at least have the courtesy to give me a call, and I'll certainly ensure that it happens. We don't have to wait six months for the House to sit if she asks the question again.
So, I will apologize that the information never got over to you, and I will ensure that it does.
Ms. Buckway: I look forward to receiving that from the minister.
To the end of the 1998 visitor season, revenues were about 22 percent of what was needed for the Beringia Centre to break even. The forecast for the cost to operate the Beringia Centre for the 1998-99 fiscal year was $360,000. My understanding is that revenues for this visitor season, when the minister says tourism was up, were roughly the same as for 1998 - about a fifth of what it costs to operate the place.
Can the minister confirm this?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I certainly can confirm that, Mr. Speaker. The revenues are down at this point in time. I think they're sort of consistent with last year. This government, though, has been aggressively promoting the centre. We have looked at billboard signs, we are doing additional conference promotion with it, we're doing increased school visitation, and we have the Quest and Rendezvous initiatives and many initiatives that surround the Beringia Centre. So certainly, we will continue to do the good work and find ways to make it work if we can.
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Beringia Centre revenue is not growing as projected by this government, and it's not even close to the wild projections made by the previous Yukon Party government. The Yukon Party forecast revenues this year of $580,000. At least the $80,000 was right. Yukoners are paying more than a quarter of a million dollars every year to operate a facility that nobody's visiting. It's a great resource, but the government hasn't yet figured out how to get people to use it.
In December of 1997, the minister said, "The business plan said that in the third year it should be making money, and if it's not getting close to living up to those expectations then we are certainly going to be looking at it in a new light."
The Beringia Centre is certainly not getting close to paying for itself. Is the government looking at it in a new light, as the minister indicated they would?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, absolutely, Mr. Speaker. We have been aggressively promoting the Beringia Centre and looking at it in a realistic sense. We know that it's a wonderful idea and that it can work. We'll try to make it work. One of the things we're doing to try to make it work is to make it a community attraction. That's how we're approaching it. We're looking to a community management model. We have had discussions with various community groups, and we'll continue with those discussions. I'm talking with the MacBride Museum Society, and we're involved in ongoing negotiations with the society so that we might be able to come to a very comfortable situation with the Beringia Centre and so that we might be able to help make it work at the community level.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, appearance before Committee
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. I wrote the minister in October, asking him to confirm that the chair and the president of the Workers' Compensation Board would appear before the Legislature this session. The minister wrote back on November 1 saying, yup, that's going to happen.
On Monday, we find out in the House that the board is to appear on December 13, well after the last likely day of the session. So, I wrote to the minister yesterday asking him to reschedule the appearance. He said that no, we can't do it.
Now, we passed substantial amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act that deserved some questions of the board. Why was the appearance scheduled for right near the end of the session - the maximum time limit in the session - when it was apparent to everyone that the government agenda was light and that the session was not likely to go on for 25 days.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this government passed massive new amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act to improve the system, and it whizzed through the opposition in a matter of a couple of hours. I was stunned. I thought, with all the talk about Workers' Compensation, that they would have spent hours discussing and debating the ideas around the bill, but they didn't seem too interested.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the workers' compensation system, I didn't know that this session was going to wrap up early. The opposition controls the end of the sitting, not the government. The MOU says that the session runs until December 15, or at least until December 15, or it can run until December 15, and we expected that it would go that long - a 25-day sitting.
So we dealt with the chair and the president. The president is out of town this week. The chair was away from November 21 to the November 29. I'm going to be out of the territory next week for a couple of days. So we had picked December 13. There's nothing subversive about it or anything like that. We just didn't know the opposition wasn't going to spend more time on the bill.
Mr. Cable: The bill had an exhaustive series of public hearings. I was at one of them. I didn't see the minister there. The opposition was fully briefed on the bill; that's why it went through smoothly. There was a well-done task force report; that's why it went through smoothly. The minister knows that, and the minister knows that a $25-million supplementary budget that's now in its tenth day was not going to carry us on to December 15.
The minister knew that there were many questions circulating in the public about the board's operations. He knew the amendments would invite many further questions. He knew that the cost-benefit analysis would invite questions, and he also knew a couple of weeks ago that the president had made some pretty damaging remarks about the board's operations that needed some explanation. The session started November 1. There have been eight evening sittings since then. There's another one tonight. Is the minister saying that the board president and the chair could not have been slotted into any one of those slots?
Hon. Mr. Harding: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I went to numerous meetings on the act, and I did see the member at one of the meetings. Unfortunately, he was asleep in the front row when I was engaging the Injured Workers Alliance.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, the member says it's a low blow. It's quite true, and it was noted. Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue surrounding the Workers' Compensation Act and the board coming before the Legislature, we expected a 25-day sitting and that was the agreement. The Liberal member signed it himself. We had some discussions with the chair. The chair was out of the territory from November 21 to November 29. The opposition had told us they were going to come into this House and just clean the government's clock on the economy and workers' compensation and everything under the sun, so I was amazed when, in two hours - poof - the debate was gone on this substantive workers' compensation bill.
We put forward the date of December 13. The president is out of the territory this week. The chair, I believe, is back now - maybe - and they were geared up to go on December 13.
If the members would like briefings with the board and the chair, I will endeavour to set them up. As well, if the opposition ends the session early, we'll try and set something up with them the first couple of weeks of the next legislative sitting.
Mr. Cable: The member and I were at a meeting of the Injured Workers Alliance, if he'll remember - he was sitting in the seat behind me - and everybody's senses were dulled. That's why their eyes were glazed over from his whispering in the seat behind.
The amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act that we just passed called for the board to appear before the House once a year. The last time the Board appeared before the House was December 9, 1998. The amendments haven't been proclaimed yet, but, in the spirit of the act, is he prepared to ask the representatives to appear next Monday night? Surely that's not too much of an imposition on the board.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have set a date for December 13. That was the one that worked out with the president and the chair of the board.
You have to remember that the chair of the board also has another job. They are citizens. This is something that they do that I think is commendable on their behalf, but I have to respect their limitations as well. And we felt that the agreement that the members opposite signed held, and we fully expected to be here for 25 days. With regard to the issues that the member may want to ask, I will try and set up a briefing for the full opposition with the board chair, if they want, if the session ends early, and if they shut it down, and as well, if that doesn't work for them, then we'll try and bring them forward in the first couple weeks of the next legislative sitting.
We have been trying to organize both the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to come into this sitting, and it has taken some doing, because they have alternative lives and alternative occupations.
Question re: Roads to resources, southeast Yukon
Mr. Ostashek: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. On November 24 -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: He doesn't like my question. I thought maybe the minister had that little gadget over there.
On November 24, in the Fort Nelson News, there was an article that said the Liard highway is a top priority in a $100-million roads announcement. That was an announcement by the British Columbia government that they're spending $100 million on rural resource roads. Mr. Speaker, the road that they're talking about, the Liard highway, is Highway No. 77, which runs from British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, very close to the Yukon border and the Kotaneelee gas field.
On November 25, I rose in this House to give notice of motion, urging the government to consult with the Town of Watson Lake and First Nation governments concerning construction of a resource road in the southeast Yukon that would provide access to our numerous resources in that area.
Later, the Member for Watson Lake said not to worry, because this government has been planning such a road for three years now.
My question to the minister: can he explain to this House, if they have been planning this road for three years, why is it not included in the five-year capital plan? Why has there been no mention of it in the budget speeches, and there's also no funding allocations for it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As usual, the Yukon Party is a day late and a dollar short on this particular issue.
The Yukon government, through the good works of the Member for Watson Lake, has been lobbying for and pushing for an easement to be negotiated through the discussions that we're having at the land claims table. To begin construction in advance of settlement there would be difficult and, I would argue, not a correct course of action to take. However, we are committed to the long term to seeing things move slowly from Watson Lake out toward southeast Yukon, as resources can be obtained.
There are many things that we are doing that aren't contained in the budget, but this is certainly one of the things that we believe, over the long term, can happen and should happen.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the B.C. government is moving ahead very quickly with the resource road, and if this government doesn't take some action soon we could get left in the dust, and the jobs and benefits will continue to flow to British Columbia via the Liard highway. It could act as a giant drainpipe and leave the Yukon high and dry.
I would like to ask the minister to advise this House how much money it is prepared to invest in a resource road in southeast Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party got absolutely nothing going in forestry or oil and gas in southeast Yukon, and that's why they weren't able to maintain a hold in that area.
Mr. Speaker, we've gotten $10 million in seismic work underway in southeast Yukon; we've gotten things cooking with the South Yukon Forest Products, and 100 people working at the mill, and things have been happening there - lumber exports are way up. We've been working through the Member for Watson Lake on reciprocity agreements with B.C. We've been negotiating a road easement to the Kotaneelee.
The member's motion the other day put forward a proposition that raw logs should be hauled from way down in southeastern Kotaneelee into Watson Lake, and then back out of the Yukon. I would argue that would be a difficult economic proposition.
We believe a slow access to the resource, where it's feasible and economic to bring the wood into Watson Lake, would be the good course of action to take. As well, the road into Kotaneelee presently is only a winter road from B.C., and that's one of the reasons why the costs have been marginal in terms of that particular road initiative.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it's typical of this minister: if he doesn't have an answer, go on the attack. He doesn't have an answer to the question. He didn't answer the question.
Mr. Speaker, it's all fine to talk and tell Yukoners what a great job you're doing, but they want to see some action. And I would like to ask this minister, if this government has any concrete plans about the construction of a resource road into southeast Yukon, will he make a commitment to table those plans in this Legislature tomorrow, so all Yukoners can see how much work this government has done on it?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry if I hurt the member opposite's feelings. I really didn't think I was attacking him. He was asking for action. I told him we're negotiating a road easement, so we have some access into that area. In terms of action, there's a mill underway, operating, in Watson Lake where we've been working with the Member for Watson Lake to ensure that there's access to fibre there and that people are working. The member wanted action. I told him there's $10 million in seismic work for the first time in 20 years in southeast Yukon - something the Yukon Party failed miserably to entice any action on whatsoever.
Mr. Speaker, there's lots of action.
In terms of the road easement, I'll be happy to provide to the member what we can provide on that particular subject.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad proposal
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is once again to the Minister of Economic Development concerning another motion I tabled in this Legislature regarding the Alaska-Yukon-southern United States railroad proposal.
Mr. Speaker, other governments around us are acting while this government is sitting on its hands. I just mentioned the $100 million the B.C. government is investing in resource roads at the same time there is a proposal by a Texas consortium to bring Prudhoe Bay gas across northern Yukon and down the Mackenzie Valley.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have two potential developments in neighbouring jurisdictions, which could adversely affect the Yukon, and one major proposal that we believe could be of huge benefit in exploration and development of the Yukon, and that's the Alaska-Yukon railroad proposal. This government doesn't appear to have jumped on board and I'd like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member didn't see the press release from Foothills Pipe Lines a couple of weeks ago about their renewed interest in the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. We have been meeting and working with that particular company and with industry. My officials were down in Calgary having meetings with these companies just last week, working on these particular issues. We believe that particular route is far superior to the proposal that is being promoted by certain people - Mr. André being one.
With regard to the railroad, we haven't been sitting back at all. I had a call last week from Jeannette James, a legislator in Alaska. I had a long conversation with her about the issue. There's a conference coming up in Vancouver in a short time. We will be attending that. I have written Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens. I have written the federal minister. I have received responses back from all of them. We have offered to participate to some degree in a feasibility study. Unfortunately, the federal Liberal government has said that they're not interested in that particular tack.
We don't want to build unnecessary expectations, but we have been a constructive player in this particular issue.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Well, I would like to ask the minister if he could table some of that correspondence so that Yukoners could judge for themselves how active they have been.
Can the minister advise this House if this government has had any meetings with the Government of Canada or Yukon First Nation governments about the Alaska-Yukon railway proposal, including the setting aside of lands for a right-of-way through the Yukon? Have there been any meetings that the minister can tell us about?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I'd be happy to table the correspondence. I think I have about 10 letters here that I have sent and responses that we have gotten. There are about eight or 10 here, I think, from different ministers, senators, Alaskans, Canadian Arctic Railways.
As I told the member, I had a discussion just last Friday with Jeannette James, a legislator in Alaska, out of Fairbanks, who has been leading the charge on this. She's organizing a conference and was asking us for input for potential speakers. I told her that we would be at that conference. It's going to be held in Vancouver. The issue, as I understand it from Senator Murkowski, from Alaska, a very influential player in United States federal politics, is that they are putting together some funding for potentially doing a major feasibility study on removing the right-of-way for the corridor and checking out the economics of this, because, frankly, people haven't done that yet and that obviously has to be done.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Well, I agree with the minister that the feasibility study has to be done, and it's going to take the cooperation of all levels of government. I would have hoped that this government would have been more enthusiastic about it.
The minister says there is a meeting in Vancouver. He also said that the federal government has shown no interest in this proposal at all. Can the minister tell me: is the federal government going to be at the meeting in Vancouver? What leads him to believe that the federal government is not interested in this proposal?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I can read a paragraph from the letter that I got back from the Minister of Transport, who says, "While I indicated general support for Senator Murkowski's proposal, I also stressed that any initiatives of this kind must be undertaken by his group or other private sector interests, not by the Government of Canada. Should a feasibility study be undertaken by a third party, Transport Canada would certainly be willing to examine its content and provide any non-financial assistance within its power." So, the federal government may be participating in Vancouver. I hope they do.
I don't know what the member means by showing more enthusiasm. I don't want to hype up expectations unnecessarily. I want to see the numbers crunched on this. We have been prepared to participate to a modest degree in feasibility work surrounding this issue. But we don't have the kind of dollars that Senator Frank Murkowski has access to - or the Alaskan Legislature, or the Government of B.C., or the federal government, for that matter. So, we don't want to put the cart before the horse here. We will, however, continue to be constructive players and be helpful in terms of facilitating to see whether or not this is ever going to be a reality and if it makes economic sense.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre takeover by MacBride Museum Society
Ms. Buckway: I have some further questions for the Minister of Tourism on the Beringia Centre. There has been talk since at least the spring of this year and, indeed, the minister alluded to it earlier, that the MacBride Museum Society is interested in taking over the Beringia Centre. There has been some talk that, under any agreement, the government would continue to be responsible for the operation and maintenance costs. Can the minister tell the House what level of support will go with the transfer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker. We have developed a set of principles that are working with the museum society and us. It's a set of principles that is going to be very transparent, and folks will know what they're getting into. We're sharing all information with the museum. We're looking to make this work, not to bring it down. I know that it is difficult, based on the idea itself sometimes, but certainly we'll continue to try to make it work, and we'll do it in an open and transparent manner with the museum association and through the set of principles. When they are negotiated and finished, I'll be glad to table them or forward them.
Ms. Buckway: I note that the minister didn't answer the question.
Mr. Speaker, the Beringia Centre business plan, prepared by the NDP government, promised to develop facilities in both Dawson City and Old Crow. Neither one of these facilities exist, and there are no plans to make them a reality. The NDP commitment to build a heritage resources centre at Beringia has also been broken. Have these projects now been permanently shelved?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I take exception to that, Mr. Speaker, because the New Democratic Party never said that we were going to build a heritage resources centre - never did. That was part of the plan from the previous administration. It was brought up in Haines, Alaska, I believe. Our representative there said that we would work within the Beringia Centre concept because it was already going, and we have done that, and we have proven that we have done that.
I also take exception to saying that I did not answer the question, because I did answer the question. I said I'd be glad to table a set of principles that we have developed for the museum association, and I will do that when they are completed. So I did answer the question. I guess I'll have to continue answering the question here until the member remembers to listen.
Ms. Buckway: The initial question related to the level of support that would go with the transfer, so where are we now with handing over Beringia to the MacBride Museum Society? Can the minister confirm that April 1, 2000, is the date for the transfer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As was said previously in the House, yes, that is the date for the transfer and we'll continue to work, in an open, transparent manner with the proponents. We will continue to do this, as we are an open and honest government, and we want to be able to make the transfer based on an open and transparent process with the museum association. They're feeling very good about the process; they're feeling good about the set of principles that we have developed together so we will continue to work on that initiative and in that direction.
Question re: Education Act, temporary teacher rights
Ms. Duncan: I have some follow-up questions for the Minister of Education. The Education Act mandates a 10-year review period; however precedents have been set with two highly specific amendments - one in 1994 and one in 1996. A definition section of the Education Act, section 195, has clearly been identified as part of the law that discriminates against first-year, temporary teachers. This section clearly discriminates against temporary employees in the earliest days of their careers - some welcome to the education system. Fixing this highly specific issue could be dealt with relatively quickly. Yesterday when I asked the Minister of Education whether she was prepared to deal with this long outstanding issue and bring forward an amendment, she clearly confused this legislative issue as a collective bargaining issue. It is not a collective bargaining issue; it is a legislative issue, and legislation is dealt with in this House. Will the Minister of Education bring forward the specific amendment to the Education Act either in this sitting or the spring sitting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have indicated to that member in the House, as I have indicated to the president of the Yukon Teachers Association, what the government would do on this matter. The Education Act review is being developed; there is a steering committee right now that includes the partners in education, there are representatives from the Yukon Teachers Association, from school councils and from First Nations as well as the Department of Education who are currently planning a process for the review of the act to submit to me.
I have indicated that we will be considering all amendments at one time and that this particular request from the Yukon Teachers Association needs to be considered, along with other requests from other members of the public who are interested in amendments to the act.
Ms. Duncan: The problem is that the very earliest we'd be looking at the Education Act amendments is two years from now, and this issue is about the fundamental rights of temporary teachers, who are largely first-year teachers. They should be represented by the Yukon Teachers Association. They are not, and the minister is the biggest roadblock to that happening. The law, the Education Act, says these people are not employees. The law has to be changed, and it could be changed without a great deal of difficulty by a short amendment. It has been done before. The precedent has been set for this piece of legislation.
Unfortunately, the government is being as stubborn on this issue as they were with Flo Kitz. The government didn't change its mind on the issue until it was repeatedly, publicly embarrassed. Why does it have to be that way?
Will this minister - this labour-friendly, NDP government - do what's right and bring forward this amendment?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government is interested in maintaining a constructive working relationship with the Yukon Teachers Association. In April of 1998, the temporary employee regulation was updated, and a draft was provided to the Yukon Teachers Association for review. First-year, temporary employees are paid by authority of that Cabinet regulation. They are paid from the same pay grid as bargaining unit employees and are entitled to sick, special leave and insured benefits.
The Yukon Teachers Association didn't raise any issues or ask for additional terms and conditions of employment to be included in that regulation, either at the meeting that was held in April 1998, or in any subsequent written submissions.
Ms. Duncan: The minister is mixing apples and oranges. The issue is this law, the Education Act. The issue is an amendment to the Education Act that would give these first-year, temporary teachers representation, give them the rights they deserve.
Basically, it's being denied by this NDP government - a labour-friendly government. It should be really proud of that. Let's look at A Better Way, the election promises. It says how the government treats its citizens and how it consults with people about decisions that affect them are as important as the subject being discussed. The YTA has asked for a meeting to discuss this amendment, and the minister has refused. So much for consultation. So much for living up to election promises.
Will the minister at least meet with the YTA on this specific issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member's not listening to the answers that I'm giving, and the member's accusation is not true. I have met with the president of the Yukon Teachers Association about the issue of amending the Education Act to provide for the recognition of temporary employees. I just indicated in my response to the previous question about the temporary employee regulation being updated, and temporary employees receiving the same pay grid as bargaining unit employees.
I have indicated to the president of the Yukon Teachers Association that we welcome Yukon Teachers Association participation in the Education Act review steering committee to design and plan the process for that review. I have also indicated to the Yukon Teachers Association that we were not prepared to do ad hoc amendments at a time when we're planning a review process to meet one request, when there are other outstanding requests from parents, from First Nations, from school councils, about other amendments to the act. We will deal with them when we review the Education Act, and I look forward to that exercise. I know there's a lot of support for it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
orders of the day
opposition private members' business
motions other than government motions
Clerk: Motion No. 170, standing in the name of Mr. Ostashek.
Motion No. 170
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps is deserving of recognition for the service it provided in supply and transportation for all units of the Canadian Army up to 1976;
THAT this House recognizes that, in May, 2001, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges Canada Post to issue a commemorative postal stamp in May, 2001, recognizing and honouring the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps on its 100th Anniversary.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I will not be long in my comments on this motion today. I believe it should have the support of all members of this Legislature, and I was very, very pleased when I was asked by a fellow Yukoner to see if our caucus would give support regarding the creation of a Canadian postage stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in May of 2001.
The person who approached me had served in the Service Corps himself for a period of 19 years, from 1960 to 1979, and he is planning to attend a ceremony on the first weekend of May 2001.
In preparation for this important occasion, he and other members have been seeking the support of elected members of all governments in the creation of a commemorative stamp, and today, Mr. Speaker, they are looking to us, in this Legislature, for our support.
The Yukon Party caucus salutes the role the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps has played in Canada over the years and is pleased to offer our full support for this initiative.
Too often, I believe, we, as Canadians fail to recognize our honourable military history even once the battle has been won. In fact, recent surveys of Canadians in relationship to our history, both military and political, sadly demonstrate this lack of understanding.
I believe the motion before us today is an opportunity not only to pay tribute to the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps for its contributions to our country, but is an opportunity to raise the awareness of the important role members of the corps have played since its origin in 1901.
Before the unification of the Armed Forces in 1967, Canadians had constructed what they called the five arms and the 13 services. Of the 13 services, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps was the senior service, and its main role then was transportation and supplies for all the units that made up the Canadian Army at that time.
Though integration has changed the name, the Service Corps still lives in the hearts of those who served. The Yukon is a place in Canada that is ever cognizant of Canada's military history. Despite our small size, Yukoners served valiantly in two world wars and in the Korean War.
The demography of our territory was shaped in large measure by the series of airfields constructed in 1941 to provide protection for permanent aircraft to be deployed rapidly in northwest Canada and Alaska in times of emergency and to allow men and supplies to be moved into the region by air. The construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 forever changed the map of the Yukon, and it became the main transportation corridor for all of the territory. Consequently, Yukoners know how important transportation of supplies and services is.
A postage stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Service Corps, the main role of which was transportation and supplies, is something that we as Yukoners can fully appreciate and can fully support. I hope that all parties will offer their support to this motion, as I believe this initiative would be a very fitting tribute to those who helped to preserve democracy and uphold freedom and the rights that we as Canadians enjoy today. I think it's most important that we as Yukoners support this motion today, because the Service Corps did play a very important role in the building of the Alaska Highway and making sure that transportation issues were dealt with.
Mr. Speaker, before I close, I would like to leave members with a quotation from Sir Winston Churchill: "Victory is the beautiful, bright-coloured flower. Transport is the stem without which it could have never blossomed."
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm pleased to speak to this motion today. Some time ago a long-time Watson Lake friend and now constituent, Wayne Wannamaker, came to me and had a talk about what he felt was an unrecognized part of Canada's military history, and that's the role of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps.
Wayne had the idea, along with some of his comrades that, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the corps, they were encouraging the issuance of a commemorative stamp, and today, along with our colleagues across the floor, we in the NDP are pleased to speak to that motion.
Napoleon once said that an army marches on its stomach. It is interesting that the French leader remarked on this at the time the first modern citizen armies were being developed. During the period of the Napoleonic and Peninsular wars, modern armies outgrew their capacity to live off the land that they conquered and passed through.
In 1794, the first form of a service corps, the Royal Waggoneers, were formed to give logistical support to the armies of Wellington. Later, during Crimea, the dreadful conditions suffered by British troops led to the development of the land Transport Corps. This force became, in the British Army, the Army Service Corps and provided the support for Canadian involvement during the Red River expedition and Wolsely's expedition to Khartoum, an expedition which Canadian voyageurs played a major role. The corps was the foundation of the Canadian Army Service Corps.
The Canadian Permanent Army Service Corps was formed in 1904. It was this corps that sailed with the Canadian Expeditionary Force to France in 1915. The corps provided transportation services, food, ambulance, supply and vehicle repair services for Canadian forces in the field during the Great War. By 1918, the corps supported over 400,000 troops and 150,000 civilians. In World War I, 482 members of this corps died due to enemy action or disease, and 767 honours and awards were given to its members. In World War I, the corps again saw action as they supported the first Canadian brigade in fighting for the fall of France.
In the Far East, members served in the Hong Kong defence and, following its capture, suffered horribly in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. The Royal Canadian Army Service Corps members went ashore with Canadian troops at Dieppe and suffered casualties and capture in that action. The Royal Canadian Army Service Corps supported Canadian infantry and armoured divisions as they fought their way through the mountains of Sicily and Italy.
When Canadian troops went ashore on the beaches of Normandy, the corps was with them, moving thousands of tons of supplies and ammunition inland as Canadians struggled to establish bridgeheads in France. As Allied troops pushed deeper and deeper into Europe, the corps provided the logistical support that led to the eventual success.
In the Second World War, 1,006 members of the corps gave their lives. In Korea, the corps provided important transportation and ambulance services. Chief among their hazardous duties was the provision of ammunition for Canadian divisions serving as part of the United Nations force. Since then, the corps has served wherever Canadians have been called on to support peacekeeping efforts - the Middle East, Congo, the India-Pakistan conflict, Cyprus and Indochina.
Today, the corps represents the backbone of Canadian forces throughout the world and here at home. In May of 2001, the corps will have served Canadians for 100 years. Over the years, the corps was there, often unsung and often unheralded, but absolutely crucial to this country's military efforts. We join with all members in this House in recognizing this role. And we feel that a fitting way to show our appreciation, and the appreciation of a grateful nation, would be the issuance of a commemorative stamp.
In closing, I would like to recommend the initiative of citizens like Wayne Wannamaker, and those individuals who continue to keep the role of the women and men of the Canadian Forces in the hearts of all Canadians. Thank you.
Mr. Cable: The Liberal caucus will be supporting the motion. In these days when our army is constantly under fire - not just in Yugoslavia and East Timor, but here at home, in Canada, where the military in general and the army in particular are subject to constant attack - we need to look at our military history and do some remembering.
We need to remember the service of our servicemen and our servicewomen through several wars in the protection of our democracy and the protection of Canada's interest. We need to remember the loss of life that started at Batoche and carried through in South Africa in the Boer War, at Vimy Ridge, Ypres and Passchendaele in the First World War, and Italy, Normandy and Holland in the Second World War, and across the numerous hills of Korea during the Korean War.
We need to remember the countless peace actions where Canada has done yeoman service over the last 50 years, and through the large majority of those engagements, men and women have been involved in transporting food and ammunition and supplies to the frontline troops. These are the people of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, formed nearly a century ago.
While the corps has taken a different face since integration of the forces, the traditions continue, and we need to continue to honour those of our servicemen and our servicewomen who do the necessary job of providing supplies and ammunition and transportation.
I should say that, on the Internet, there is a very brief but concise, short history of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. For those who have the Internet, I'm going to give you the Internet site. It's http://army.cipherlogic.on.Canada/rcasc. I take the time to do that, not because it's that difficult to find, but to reinforce that I think people should take the time and learn about our Royal Canadian Army Service Corps.
It's an honour for the Liberal caucus to recognize the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in the celebration of its anniversary. We support the motion urging Canada Post to issue a commemorative postal stamp in May of next year, honouring the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'll be very, very brief. I want to thank the other parties in the Legislature for joining with us to support this very worthwhile cause, and I want to thank Wayne Wannamaker for bringing this forward, and giving us the opportunity to give him our support and the Service Corps the very deserving recognition that they so need. Hopefully, it will make more Yukoners and more Canadians think long and hard about the contribution that these men and women made to our history in the Yukon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 170 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.
Bill No. 19 - Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will continue with the supplementary estimates. We are on the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to read into the record some of the responses from yesterday. Before I do that -
Chair: Order please. The Chair will recognize Mr. Phillips because it has been brought to my attention he left off yesterday.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have no problem with that. If the Chair and Mr. Phillips and members of the House would indulge me, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce in the gallery, if I may, the former Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Mr. Steve Taylor.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I asked the minister a couple of questions at the end of the evening yesterday. I have a couple more. I don't have very many more with respect to Community and Transportation Services. But I talked about the rural roads program, and one road that I have been asked a few questions on from people in the Tagish area is the Pennycook Creek Road. I understand that the residents of the area for two or three years have asked that that road be upgraded. The reasons they have been given continually are that there is a concern or a question of land claims on the Pennycook Creek Road.
I have spoken to some federal officials, and they tell me that there is an area where the road passes through that is in contention. There are some discussions that are taking place about the road. I'd like to ask the minister if he has any other alternative plans, if that area is claimed, for example. Or is the government discussing with the First Nation involved a compensation package so the road can continue through there? I know there are quite a few residents up that road who have been wanting to see the road improved for some time.
I'm just wondering what kinds of discussions are taking place with respect to getting an easement or getting some kind of right to go through the road, or is there another option of going around the specific claim? I believe the claim is just south from the bridge. There's an area there that was set aside, or there's some question about it being set aside some years ago as a reserve by the federal government. And the federal and territorial governments are somewhat reluctant to proceed through without that clarification. So, how long will we have to wait before we can come to some resolution of that matter so the people on the Pennycook Creek Road can see an upgrade like others have? Although some roads have been upgraded without anybody asking for it, that's one road that people have continually asked for upgrading and have continually been told that it can't be. So, I'm just wondering if there's some kind of timeline that the minister has with respect to improving that road.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, this problem has been around for much longer than even the time I have been the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. It has always been a problem.
I have met with residents, and it has been brought to my attention. What I told the residents over there at that point in time is that I will work with them on this initiative. I have brought some comfort to them on this initiative. Of course, there are complications, such as the land claims and there's this specific claim, and even the idea and thought that those lots were sold with no road access to them. These are all caveats that have been brought forth through the 10-year agreements they have.
I said that I would work with them, and I will continue to work with them to try to find some type of solution so that we might get access there. Certainly, as the Carcross-Tagish First Nation comes closer to the finalization of their land claim agreement, it will certainly give us the opportunity to move forward on it at that point in time.
So, I have been discussing the situation with the proponents, the people who have brought it to my attention, and I will continue to work with them. As I said, there are impediments, such as the land claim, the specific claim, and that they willingly bought the lots knowing that there was limited access - only water access. But certainly, this government, in its endeavours to improve and make healthy communities, will work with them on this initiative, and I thank the member for bringing it forward.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I think in general the majority of the people on the Pennycook Creek Road, on that far side, the east side of Tagish River, are in support of road access. And, the land claims issue set aside, is the minister prepared to commit on the floor of the House today that his government agrees with the residents on that road, and that, once the land claim issue is taken care of, the road will be upgraded?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In principle, Mr. Chair, I do not have a problem with that, although I prefer to do it in as simple a fashion as we may. Certainly, I would like to see the land claim in there and the land selection finished. As I have brought comfort with my words to the proponents there on Six Mile - that yes, we would look at it in such a time when there was a possibility to do it.
Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader, in updating us on specific land claims, told us, either at the beginning of this session or the end of last session, that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation claim was very close to completion, and I'm wondering if the minister has any sense of when that might happen? The indication I received from the Government Leader was that it was imminent, that we'd hear something very quickly. Does the minister share that view, that we could see something within the next two or three months in that particular area of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I believe that's a question better directed to the minister responsible for land claims.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I thought maybe the Minister of Community and Transportation Services would know, because he's not only the minister responsible for the land in the area, he's also the MLA of the people I'm talking about, and I would have thought that he would have been a little more briefed or have a better understanding of where we're at with that issue.
All I'm trying to get is a sense from the minister. He surely must be asking the Government Leader, "How close do you think we are? I have got constituents who are very concerned about this. What can I tell them?" Has the minister not asked the Government Leader whether or not we're close enough so that he can give some comfort to his constituents in Tagish that a settlement might be imminent there and that they might see some resolution to their concerns in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I certainly wasn't there in the beginning of the tabling of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow in 1974, but shortly thereafter was. Through the endeavour to settle land claims and to recognize First Nation self-goverance structures, First Nation traditional government structures. This government has been there and will continue to be there.
I have been through the agreement-in-principle process, I have been through the umbrella final agreement process; I have been through the First Nation final agreement process, and I have been the vice-chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, so, certainly, Mr. Chair, I'm very interested in the betterment of our aboriginal people's lives and will continue to work forward through them. I just stated a time frame that it has been 25 some-odd years, Mr. Chair. I'm hoping for the successful conclusion of a land claim in the area. I know that the First Nation and non-First Nation people in the area are desirous of having a land claim finished in the area. To those ends we will continue to work.
To speak to the question before me, on the Pennycook Creek Road, this government will continue to work to find ways with the individuals who are affected. We're doing it in other areas in the riding, and within other areas in traditional territories of the Yukon First Nations. It's not something that I can say is going to be there on May 1. I will pass on the question to the minister responsible for land claims - the hon. Government Leader - and get a question back as to the best thoughts.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, you know, the government's commitment to land claims, as we all know, in the election campaign was to have all land claims settled by, I believe, last year, and, of course, we still have several outstanding claims, and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation claim is one of those. So I was just kind of hoping to get a better idea from the minister with respect to this particular claim.
Maybe the minister could find out for me - and I can possibly ask the minister responsible for land claims later today, if we get into their budget, or tomorrow or Monday or next week or before December 13 or 14, anyway, what the goal is to settle the Carcross-Tagish First Nation claim. I know there are some discussions taking place this week or next week - very shortly - with the First Nation, and I would hope that we come to some resolution of it. I was only making representation on behalf of residents on the east side of the river, who have been trying for some time to get the road improved and have felt rather frustrated by the exercise.
I just appeal to the minister to do whatever he can, as the Minister of C&TS and the MLA of the area, to encourage the Government Leader, who is responsible for land claims, to at least come to some agreement with Carcross-Tagish First Nation to allow easement or some passage through that piece of land so that the road could be improved, so that people can use it.
While we're on the same type of subject, the minister talked about cottage lots. Dozens and dozens of Yukoners ask me, from time to time, about the availability of cottage lots and lots around lakes in the territory. I know we were talking about devolution of land and resources to the Yukon. I wonder if the Government of Yukon and C&TS have done any preliminary work with the federal government to look at various lakes and areas of the territory where we could start developing some waterfront cottage lots, not just a subdivision like Judas Creek, because that's what people in the Yukon like. I know the minister probably has a place beside the lake, as I do. Yukoners dream of that lifestyle and want that kind of thing. And for years we have been given the answer that, because of land claims, we can't, but I know that now we have settled with several First Nations, and we're expecting the others to be settled in the near future. I'm asking the minister this: have we started some preliminary discussions with the federal government and/or the First Nations with respect to developing some cottage lots for Yukoners so that all Yukoners can head to the cottage for the weekend or at least have their little place alongside a nice lake in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Here's a chance to get all warm and fuzzy and cozy here again. Certainly, I drift back to my house by the lake and think of all the peace that it brings to me to be at a house by the lake, so I can certainly agree with the member. I'd like to proudly announce, too, that, in conjunction with the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation and in conjunction with Ross River DenA Council, we have come to an agreement. We have developed - and have for a lottery at this point in time - eight lots at Little Salmon Lake, so, we are attempting to fill the void as it is.
We have further meetings scheduled for later on this year to again meet with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, and others, for the development of cottage lots within their respective traditional territories.
Mr. Phillips: I have a couple of questions relating to that. First of all, will these cottage lots be fee simple? Will people be able to own them, or is it going to be a lease? Because I think what Yukoners have been asking for is an opportunity to own land and have their little piece of land in the territory.
Years ago, we used to only be able to lease, but we have moved away from that with the existing cottages around Marsh Lake, and I know many people I have talked to actually want to buy a piece of land by the lake and own it outright. Is that the direction that the government's moving in?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The tenure is fee simple.
Mr. Phillips: I'm pleased to hear that.
Have there been discussions with any other First Nation? The minister talked about Little Salmon-Carmacks. That's quite a ways up the highway for some people maybe around the Whitehorse area, an area of Riverdale, which I represent. Has there been any thought given to any of the lakes around the Whitehorse area?
I know the land claims aren't all settled in this area yet, but we're very close to it in some areas. Has the government been talking about lot development on any lakes in the proximity of Whitehorse, for lot development for private ownership?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I have also spoken to within the traditional territories of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, and I have also spoken with the Teslin Tlingit Council First Nation. I know the department is out there talking to them and trying to find ways that we might be able to develop lots within respective traditional territories.
We find that it is a much easier exercise if you do work with the First Nations that have final agreements in place at this point in time. They do have concerns. We're attempting to address those concerns before we do go out. The dialogue is ongoing and will continue over the course of the winter.
Mr. Phillips: One other question I have about lots: I see in the paper an advertisement for country residential lots, rural residential lots, out near Wolf Creek. I forget the name -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Spruce Hill lots that are being developed. Can the minister tell us - I thought I heard a number of 47 lots; maybe I'm wrong. But how many lots are there, and what is the size of the lots that are being put up for sale?
Hon. Mr. Keenan:Yes, the member is absolutely correct. We do have in the paper, starting on Monday, a lottery coming up for the Spruce Hill lots. They're country residential lots just opposite the Mary Lake triangle there. As to the exact size, I am not sure, and I do believe there are 27, but I will certainly get the information back.
Mr. Phillips: I would appreciate the minister getting back to me on that.
Mr. Chair, a question I have, again, about safety. The Mary Lake turnoff, when you come down from the Carcross side, you come down a steep hill and, at the bottom of the hill is one of the Mary Lake turnoffs, which has been the scene of a few accidents in the past. Now we have the new turnoff to the new Spruce Hill, I believe, as well as the other Mary Lake turnoff opposite each other. Are there going to be any changes to the road configuration there, making it a little wider, because you're going to have - it appears to me, anyway at least - a lot of convergence of traffic there just at the base of a hill. People are going to come from Whitehorse heading south, and they're going to come over the top of that hill, and especially a trucker, and there's now traffic coming from both sides there. Is there thought of a light going in there or some kind of a safety feature to warn people of a fairly significant intersection? I believe school buses will be turning there and all kinds of vehicles, people coming to town. With the conditions we've had this year, with the freezing rain and that kind of thing, it makes it very difficult to stop sometimes when you're coming down one of those hills.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I've been assured that these country subdivisions and all land development are designed with safety first and foremost in mind, and access to the highway is certainly a portion of that.
I do not know at this point in time at my fingertips here if there's any further work to be done on that initiative, but I'd like to reassure the member that, certainly, they're designed with safety first and foremost in mind. If there's a light to be put up there, though, I do not know at this point in time, and I'll have to get the information back to the member.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I just have one more question in general debate. This one's relating to the fire smart program, but I'm not sure whether this is even in the minister's department.
There was a study done by a couple of individuals who went all over the Yukon Territory and determined the risk, or how much fuel there was around communities, and that kind of thing. I know they travelled all over the territory, and I have spoken to some individuals who did the Marsh Lake-Tagish area, and I was told that there is a report coming out in the very near future, if the minister doesn't have it now, with respect to the forest fire danger, and that Judas Creek, Marsh Lake and that whole side of the river, all the way to Jakes Corner, is a very high-risk area because of the old-growth forest in that area.
I'm wondering if the minister has any information he wants to share about the study, and when can we expect to see it? Is it going to be made public to everyone, such as the various groups and organizations in the area? How is the minister going to make the study public?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I can say that, when we do develop land lots in the rural areas, these fire smart initiatives are taken into consideration as we design the lots.
The question is specific, of course, to the Minister of Economic Development, the hon. Trevor Harding. I shall certainly pass on the concern to the appropriate minister, and I will ensure that the member opposite will receive the report when it is ready.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions for the minister on the lot expansions and the new country residential - Mile 2 on the Mayo Road. The minister may be aware that the residents - my constituents on the Mayo Road - have been trying to expand their lots as far back as 1986. I have a list of times and things that have happened.
Just to go over with the minister a little bit, back in 1986, when we were in power and I was their MLA, I contacted the city about that, and we got to a point where there was an agreement finally reached in October 1998 for lot expansions for those citizens who were living along the Mayo Road at Mile 2. It wasn't an agreement that was easy to reach, but the reason they needed the lot expansions was to bring their property size in line with the city country residential minimums and to accommodate on-site septic systems and wells, with enough room to reduce the potential for cross-contamination problems.
As I say, they agreed in November of 1998, with the exception of a few outstanding concerns they had. One of those was the cul-de-sac road that the city or the territorial government - I'm not sure which - had put in there. They were concerned with the amount of street lighting that was going to be incorporated into the plan, and they were very concerned about the day-use recreation area down by the Takhini River, which the residents strongly opposed because of excess traffic and being bothered by tourists who wanted to use phones, and they were concerned about attracting more bears to the area.
Nevertheless, they agreed to that plan, but before anything much transpired, they were notified in March of 1999, I believe, that they could go ahead with the lot expansions, but there were four more country residential lots going in behind their property which, for years and years, they were told was being held in reserve and was not available to anyone.
Now, all of a sudden, they have no sooner approved a lot-expansion plan than they have to agree to the four country residential lots that are being fast-tracked in that area.
The city must have changed their bylaw or brought in another category, because my understanding is that they're only one-acre lots, that they're not the original one-hectare lots that have been developed as country residential in the city.
Some other changes in the conceptual plan - that the city called the final development conceptual plan, is what they were presented with in March. There was a lot that was known as 614 - which, I'm sure, if the minister is not aware of, his deputy will be - that was identified as environmental protection and has now been identified as a park. And, as I said, land that was previously identified as being unavailable in lot enlargement requests had now become two- or one-acre country residential lots.
Needless to say, my constituents were very upset that no one had been consulted about the changes and that there was very little room for them to make any further changes to this plan. And, despite the few changes that were made, they reduced the number of lots from five to four.
In short, the residents feel that, although the proposal to develop four country lots has been fast-tracked, some felt, though, that the terms and conditions of the purchase agreements were not reasonable for the land, as it was in a flood plain. And that's another question that I have, because these other four lots that have been expanded are expanded into the flood plain, and it crosses over all four of the lots, I believe. It seems to me that there has been some push to get these lots on line.
I want to start out and take this piece of time by asking the minister: was it at the request of the territorial government that these four country residential lots were incorporated into the lot expansion plans of my constituents on Mile 2 of the Mayo Road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the territorial government works with the City of Whitehorse for the development of country residential lots. We do that on an ongoing basis and, of course, as the member knows, it is very healthy and good for the economy, so we will certainly continue to do that. Things have not changed since the member opposite was the Government Leader and their government had tenure of the day - things have not changed from that point in time. So we will continue to work with the city for the meaningful development within the city to be able to provide country residential lots. The specific area that the member is speaking of is all, of course, to city standards - the city is the lead on this. I do know that a final concept plan has been submitted to the City of Whitehorse. The City of Whitehorse, I understand - and here I find myself answering for the City of Whitehorse, but I'm just being totally honest with the member opposite regarding the information that I have - went out in 1996 and they talked about the creation of four new lots. Members from the area at that point in time, as I've been briefed, said that they did not want to pay for the new road that would access those lots, but they were very interested in the extension of their lots. I do believe that the city has proposed to those folks that they would be able to apply for lot extension. I believe that four of the 10, at this point in time, have applied for lot extensions. I believe that they've been reassured that the road costs to the four lots will be recovered through the pricing of the four lots and not passed on to the other 10 folks.
Mr. Ostashek: I'll thank the minister for that, but he failed to answer the question. I asked the minister the specific question: were the country residential lots that the city was making plans for - was this done at the request of the territorial government? Because the minister says it was back in 1996 these lots were developed.
I was not aware of that because, in 1996, all I was aware about was the lot expansion plan that was put together, and that the citizens there accepted it, without the lots in behind. They were told all along that this land wasn't available for development, and all of a sudden, without their having any input into it, there are four more lots being developed in there. I just want to know if it was at the request of YTG that the city went ahead with the conceptual plan there.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Specifically on this, no. We did not go and say specifically, here. I'm being totally honest with the member opposite as I always am. We work in a partnership with the city. We ask if there are areas of development that they're looking at and are interested in. They said, "Yes, there are these areas, and these are wanted areas." And I can show the member opposite the areas that we have - or better yet, he could write a letter to the city and get the information himself.
So we will continue to work on that partnership basis with them for development of lots everywhere. But certainly these are city-led decisions, and I've just been briefed as to what the residents wanted - and now I'm speaking for the city, which is dangerous always - but according to my knowledge, the residents, in 1996, wanted the road upgraded. The city could not do it unless there was a cost-effective portion to do it, and therein lies the answer, because that is how they came to identify these lots, and to - I imagine - provide a winning situation for all the residents, and to give them a lot extension.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate what the minister is telling me. My concern is that the residents who were living there were told the land was not available, and then all of a sudden there were four lots developed on the land that they had been told for years was not available to them. It's territorial land; it's not city land. So, can the minister tell me why it was not available to the residents who were there, who were trying to get it over the years, and all of a sudden they develop four lots there?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as I have said, that is the process that we have used, that I've been versed on. I'll have to talk to the city administration. I'll instruct my department to talk to the city administration to find out the exact process and get back to the member.
Mr. Ostashek: What we are concerned about is not the process. I'm trying to find out from the minister. If he doesn't know, I'll wait for a letter. I want to know why those residents were told, for year after year after year after year, that this land was not available for development, and it was territorial land; it wasn't city land. They were told -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, it belongs to YTG, and YTG transfers it when the city is going to go ahead with development. YTG does the infrastructure work and turns it over to the city, or sells the lots. The city does the planning; I understand that. I want to know, so I can tell my constituents, why they were told for years that the land was not available. They were given the reason that it is in the 100-year flood plain. That's one of the reasons it wasn't available for development. Now they've developed lots on that 100-year flood plain. It seems to me to be unfair to the residents living in that area that if they've been told for years they can't have this land, that nobody can apply for it - nobody would even take an application for it. The city wouldn't. YTG wouldn't. Nobody would. But all of a sudden, after they had agreed to a plan of lot expansion, not including the new subdivision, within six months they came back and told them they'd have to accept the new conceptual plan with the new lots in it in order for their lot expansions to go ahead.
The constituents out there want their lot expansion. They want it, but they feel that they haven't been treated fairly by being told for years that the land is unavailable for development and now, all of a sudden, there are four lots on it that are going to be sold.
The minister must see the unfairness in the situation, and if I can get the assurances from the minister, if he can't give me an answer now, that he will get me a letter back with the rationale as to why the citizens were told that it wasn't available to them, and then, all of a sudden, it was developed into four lots that will be sold, I'll be satisfied with that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will provide the rationale for the member opposite by letter.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, there was an article in the Whitehorse Star on September 24 of this year, speaking of country residential lots. The title is, "Country lots inevitable", and this was quoting Lesley Cabott quite a bit, the city planner. It says that the push was by YTG to relocate people off the waterfront. They were looking for four or five government-made requests this spring. That must have been the spring of 1999. The government made the request this spring. It was looking for the need for at least four country residential lots, it said. The number is now down to three, likely to two, and this was on September 24, 1999.
Now, the citizens at Mile 2 on the Mayo Road - my constituents - have been told by the city that, of the four lots that were developed, one was reserved for a waterfront squatter. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'd like to speak about the waterfront residents for a moment, if I may. Certainly, it was a joint effort with the City of Whitehorse and the territorial government to bring certainty to the waterfront, if I may, on which we worked with the waterfront residents. And, of course, the member knows the principles that we had used. I tabled that in the Legislature for their perusal last year.
The member knows that and has seen the principles. He knows that it was incumbent upon us to find areas for the residents. To answer his question specifically, I do not know, right here, if that was the case. Again, I will have to find out if there's a waterfront resident being considered for the area, because I just simply don't know.
Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate that and would ask the minister to put it in his reply to me with the letter for the rationale for the lot expansion on to the flood plain.
I have a couple more questions on that development on behalf of my constituents, Mr. Chair. The day-use recreation area - the residents in the area are strongly opposed to lot - if the deputy has a map there, I think Lots 614 and 291 are marked as "park" and "bridgehead". This land is owned by the Government of Yukon, and in the city plan there is a proposed area park there. I want to know if this has been reviewed by the government and if a decision has been made to approve these plans. Has the territorial government approved those plans incorporating a territorial park there on the Takhini River, where the residents wanted it as an environmental reserve?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do believe they've identified it for park-type purposes. It won't be a territorial park, though. It would be a city park, if they would. And, of course, we have no problems with that, if that's what the people come with and identify. I don't have a problem with that.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand that we have to have parks around, but I'm concerned that, once again, my constituents have not been consulted about that being made into a park, and that seems unfair that the dozen citizens who are living in that area are going to have their lives disturbed in the summertime with a lot more traffic than what they have to put up with now.
And the minister himself knows that when we have an area as secluded as a park there, in an area out where it is not going to be policed that well, there are going to be overnight campers, even though they're not supposed to be there. My constituents are concerned about the amount of traffic that is going to be created in there, about the mess that is going to be left there by these people who are using this day-use area, and they are concerned about it adding to the bear problem in the area that there already is. What kind of assurances can I get from the minister that my constituents will be consulted before the city or the territorial government goes ahead with the park?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As I have said, Mr. Chair, it's a tenure of YTG land. We always work with the city. It is the city's jurisdiction on that type of issue. I will ask the city on behalf of the member opposite and incorporate their process that we had into that all-encompassing letter that we're talking about in the area. I will do that for the member opposite; that is not a problem. But that is certainly a city-led issue, and I don't know if they have, and I can't really say, on the floor of this Legislature, , but I do understand that they do have their bylaw processes that take that type of initiative into context. But certainly it is a city issue, and I will put them on notice that it include some of those answers within the letter that I will report to you.
Mr. Ostashek: I'd appreciate it if the minister would do that, but the problem here is - the biggest problem with my constituents' area - is that they weren't consulted about the new lots going in. They weren't consulted with what the city calls its final conceptual plan. The last they heard was about their agreement, the fall before, for their lot expansion and thought that was the end of it. Then all of a sudden, within six months, they get notified that, yes, their lot expansion will go ahead as long as they agree with this final conceptual plan that the city put in. They didn't have any choice, and as the minister has said, some have already agreed to the lot expansion because they need it.
I would again point out the unfairness of this, where the citizens have not been consulted on it. Now, maybe the city put an ad in that they were going to be changing the zoning or doing something, but they certainly didn't make any effort to notify my constituents in that area, and I think that's unfair, because this is going to be a change in their lifestyle, with additional traffic in there. There's enough traffic in there now, with people going in there and launching boats on Takhini River. It's not the fact that my constituents don't want anything in there; they want to have a say in what's being developed there, and I think the minister can appreciate that.
So I would be very grateful if the minister would relay that to the city, that they ought to do a better job of consultation when they're putting these conceptual plans in place - not take the citizens in the area by surprise.
If I can just get the minister to capsulate now, because I understand that my constituents were told that they were given until November 15 to accept the government's offer for the lot enlargements. Now, who does those lot enlargements - the territorial government, or does the city do those lot enlargements?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's the territorial government.
Mr. Ostashek: Then it was the territorial government that gave them until November 15 of this year to accept the government's offer for lot enlargements, and it was also contingent upon them accepting the city's development plan for the area.
The minister told me that some had accepted it. Could the minister advise me if all the residents in the area have accepted the offer made by the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I do believe that, of the 10 property owners, only four have accepted. So I can answer the next question for the member without him asking it, because he's going to ask, since we're by the November 15 time frame, would it be possible for them? And I will say yes, absolutely, we'll continue discussions with the many property owners and talk to them about it. And of course they're not forcing them to take lot enlargements. We'd like a yea or a nay if that's the process, so in the spirit of cooperation and continuing consultation, when we can, we'll work in that vein.
Mr. Ostashek: Can I ask the minister, then, Mr. Chair, if all the 10 or 12 residents in the area don't accept the proposal, is this going to mean additional costs for the ones that have accepted?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been assured there will be no additional costs.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, my understanding is that the subdivision and the zoning are scheduled to go before council in December; therefore, I would assume, if that schedule is being met, they have already received all the approvals that they require from the territorial government.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not sure what the question was in there, but if the member is asking if we're on side with the time frame and whatnot, and the city's direction, certainly.
Mr. Ostashek: One final question from the minister on that issue: when will the lots be developed?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If all the process goes through and the four lots are accepted, I would assume that they would be developed in the next season.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I will leave that for now. I'll get back to my constituents. I would appreciate receiving, as soon as possible from the minister, the outstanding issues that I've requested.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I assure the member opposite that, yes, I will do that.
Mrs. Edelman: The issue of lot enlargements out in the Tagish area on the Six Mile River - has the minister had any updates on that situation?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do believe, as the member opposite knows, there are land claim interests within the same area. I have talked to the Land Claims Secretariat, with the department and to the property owners and the MLA out there in Tagish. We talked about how we could fulfill their needs and lot extension. I do believe that every one of the people who were asking for a lot extension have brought forth their requests. We have talked to them about the various options that have been detailed for discussions purposes there, on the west side of the river. Of course, the options range from providing only lot enlargements with a new service road to a concept with seven new lots.
So, certainly, we are very much keeping the residents in the loop and have assured them that we will do everything we can to respect their requests for lot enlargements. I do believe that it will be a go, but it's subject, of course, to the land claim negotiations that are happening there. So, what we are attempting to do here is to accommodate both the wishes of the lot owners in Tagish west - Six Mile - and to solve the land claim there. So, we're looking to create a win-win situation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I accept the minister's commitment to a positive outcome in that area. Is there any timeline on that? Are we talking within a year or two years? Some of these people have been waiting for lot enlargements for decades. So, I'm wondering if there's an end in sight.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we're looking for a successful conclusion to this, too. I realize that this has been on the minds of the residents of Tagish for many, many years. And the member is absolutely correct that it could have been decades.
But we're looking to create the atmosphere for a win-win situation. I have taken and recorded the concerns of the lot owners there, who have made requests. It has been put into the system. We're looking over until we're finished the land claim. As I have said, I feel that we will be successful in this initiative. I'm hoping that we can be successful in this initiative within the next year. That's what my hope is.
But certainly, we're safeguarding the wishes of the lot owners at the same time that we're trying to settle the land claim. I'm hoping for a very positive outcome, and I'm hoping for a successful conclusion within a year, I would say. That is my desire.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I understand that the minister can't completely commit because this is a situation that's outside of his control, to a certain extent.
One of the issues that we have brought up in the Legislature before is the issue of EMO recognizing volunteers. I know that there is a picnic every year. The minister and I actually met one day during the fire at Burwash, and we met up at the operations centre up at the airport. At that time, we were well into the emergency, and people had been staying overnight and working 24 hours a day, some of them for very long periods of time, going well beyond their job descriptions and what a volunteer should be expected to do, the ones who were volunteers.
The picnic is great. Not everybody gets a chance to come into Whitehorse to go to the picnic. Are we thinking about other things that we might want to do in order to show our appreciation to those people who work so hard for us and are there when we need them most?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I can certainly stand in this Legislature with pride, and I'm sure that every one of us in this House could do the same. Without volunteers at every level, whether it's at this level or whether it's just conducting a bingo game on behalf of seniors or people who are incapacitated or whatever, volunteers are truly the strength, one of the strengths, of human life, and particularly Yukon life, because we see them reflected everywhere.
All I can say is that I have great pride in them. I chat with the people who are involved there. I think that what they did was a fantastic community service, absolutely fantastic. Have I thought of something to specially recognize them? No, I have not thought of something special to recognize them, and I take this opportunity to thank you for bringing it forth because, certainly, without them, we wouldn't be where we are in our community society development today. Could we go further? There might be some ideas that I can ask and think about, as to how we can further recognize them.
Mrs. Edelman: The whole issue of people who help us during emergencies or disasters has really come to the forefront this year, as we come closer to the year 2000. One of the things that our caucus has asked for in the past is that there should be an annual report to the Legislature, a sort of state-of-the-art, or state-of-the-ark, on where we are in emergency preparedness for various issues, and what the greatest risks are. Of course, there's always going to be the same ones, there's always going to be forest fire and earthquakes and power outages, particularly in the winter - we're all very much aware of that recently.
The idea of having Emergency Measures Organization coming to the Legislature on an annual basis gives them an opportunity to have some profile and for us to remember that those people are always there and they're always on call. I don't think there's any way that we could estimate the amount of hours that people put into the training and the stand-by time that they make available to us as Yukoners in their efforts to keep us safe and clothed and warm and have a shelter in the event of a disaster or emergency.
The idea of an annual presentation to the Legislature I always thought was a good one, and I think that it's something like - one of those things like, during the power shortage, I don't think that there was a single person in the Riverdale area who didn't realize that there was something wrong with their plan, that they didn't have the batteries that they thought that they did, they couldn't remember where the flashlight was or, darn, they couldn't find any candles or, boy, it would have been great if they had kept the wood stove, because there was a very long, long period of time there when there was no power and a lot of houses really got cold.
What would be wrong with an idea like that? What's wrong with the idea of having somebody from the Emergency Measures Organization come and report to the Legislature, not to be grilled but rather just to say, "This is one of the things that we could do to bring up the profile of emergency measures and to get people to remember all year-round that we need to be aware of disasters and that we need to be personally prepared? It's a good promotion for that organization, and I'm wondering if the minister is at all interested.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, anything that we can do to recognize the volunteerism within the community fabric is something that might be beneficial. Certainly, though, Mr. Chair, I would like to just also say that this is something that I could bring up with my House leader and talk to the House leader, and see what the thoughts are.
Certainly, as the Member for Riverdale South and sunnyside is a House leader herself, I would assume that she could bring it up. But I will pass it on and see what the dynamics of the House are - if it could incorporate it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we do have annual reports from various corporations. The Emergency Measures Organization is one of those sort of different ducks that's not quite government, not quite volunteer. It has so many different organizations and services involved with it that it's difficult to quantify everything that goes on in that organization. But I do know that there are reports that are done for the government.
If there wasn't going to be an actual presentation to the Legislature, I wonder if the minister could think perhaps about having an annual report from Emergency Measures Organization tabled in the Legislature on an annual basis. I wonder if the minister would be open to that concept.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: As stated earlier, Mr. Chair, I'll certainly discuss it with caucus and the caucus House leader.
Mrs. Edelman: That's very interesting. I'm not too sure what the connection is with the House leader.
The other issue that we talked to the minister about was a thank-you effort for volunteers in the Emergency Measures Organization.
Has the minister considered things - for example, the discounts on campground fees, or discounts on fishing licences, or anything in that area as a sort of a thank you or recognition of the people who are out there doing this good work for us on a year-round basis?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, I have not considered that as a part of our thinking. Certainly I can talk to caucus about it.
Mrs. Edelman: I thought I'd point out that I no longer have a self-interest in this as I have resigned from the Red Cross emergency measures position, and I think that that needs to be known. I'm not trying to get discounts on my campground fees, Mr. Chair. It is a good idea, and there needs to be something more concrete that we give to our volunteers who serve us so ably in this area.
The other issue that I've talked to the minister about in the past, and I wonder if I can get another update, is the issue of regional government. At one time, the minister said that the area around Mayo was interested in regional government. Is that still a go, and where are we at on that process?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, no, I haven't been notified by the mayor and council of Mayo or by the chief and council of Mayo. I do believe, in a couple of weeks, they have a joint meeting scheduled, and that might be a point of discussion. I'm not sure, but I do know that they are working together to improve community life there and maybe share jurisdiction as outlined within agreements and for the betterment of community life.
Mrs. Edelman: Yesterday, I was reviewing Hansard from the spring and there did seem to be some interest in regional government shown by that area. Have any other areas approached the minister's department?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, the department hasn't been put on notification that there's a regional government concept anywhere.
Ms. Buckway: I've got some questions for the minister about the access road to the Beringia Centre. The minister refused to answer the questions yesterday in general debate, because he said it was a Tourism matter. The contract for the construction of the road access and the turning lane were awarded by Community and Transportation Services, not by Tourism, so I think it is a matter the minister should be answering to here.
How much has been spent on changing the road access to the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I beg to differ with the member opposite that the capital funding, I believe it was $250,000 if I remember off the top of my head, was in the Tourism debate, and Community and Transportation Services just simply administered it. So, it is a Tourism issue but I do believe, if I remember rightly, in the spirit of trying to answer questions, it was $250,000.
Ms. Buckway: Looking in the contract registry, Mr. Chair, it was under Community and Transportation Services contracts. If the minister could provide us with a legislative return on the cost, that would be appreciated.
I'm wondering still when the work will be done on that access road and if the minister could commit that it will be in place before the visitors arrive in the summer of 2000.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Chair, it is a Tourism-type question, because the money was voted through the Tourism department. I don't have the information at my fingertips. I can say, though, if I recall correctly, and the member can check, it was a $250,000 capital project in 1998-99, I believe. Then there was a revote of $144,000 to this fiscal year, which is about to end. We're three months or so away from the end of it. The job is complete at this point in time. Of course, the C&TS portion was on the main highway there, because it does get confusing. I understand that, so I'm attempting to answer. And then from there, it was a Tourism-type question because it was a tourism access road to the Beringia Centre.
So, total capital costs are $250,000. I believe there was a $144,000 revote. It is complete. Done. Now, that was phase one - there is a look at phase 2 - and that was up to certain curbing, as I recall. The phase 2 could involve the rest of the curbing and the paving, and maybe some landscaping or something like as such, and that would be considered within the context of the next budget.
So, I do believe I'm answering correctly, but I'll have to go back and check my other books to make certain.
Ms. Buckway: The minister said yesterday that there was a problem, in that the contractor used inappropriate materials. Now, I'm not sure whether this was on the Tourism part of the project or the C&TS part of the project, but could the minister elaborate? Which part of the project and what inappropriate materials?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the C&TS portion of the job is actually complete and done. The inappropriate materials, I do believe - it was just not a proper base. That was the year that we originally started the project.
Ms. Buckway: How could this happen that improper materials were used? Was the project properly inspected?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, if it was caught that inappropriate materials were used, then it certainly was inspected.
Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry. I didn't quite hear that answer. Could the minister repeat that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: If it was diagnosed as improper materials, then it certainly was inspected.
Ms. Buckway: The minister has said that he doesn't micromanage projects in his departments. Maybe he should.
Can the minister advise how it happened that improper materials were used? Does the Government of Yukon not employ qualified contractors to do work for the government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank the Member for Lake Laberge for her faith in me to be a micromanager, but I certainly have the utmost faith in the department to be able to manage these situations.
I believe that it was one of the engineers or the road foreman who did say that it was inappropriate material.
And we certainly do hire qualified contractors. There are many qualified contractors in the Yukon Territory in this type of business. I know that the Member for Lake Laberge is not attempting to bash any of those contractors, but it certainly sounds that way. So, certainly, the contractors we have hired are bona fide contractors.
Ms. Buckway: I'm not attempting to bash anybody, Mr. Chair. I'm just attempting to understand how inappropriate material could be used on a government project, without it being noticed before it was too late. And I'm wondering if the minister can commit that this project will be finished before the visitors arrive in the summer of 2000.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we will always endeavour to get it done before the visitor season.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have to go back to the Mayo Road for a minute. I went back and referred to my notes. For lots 614 and 291, the land was earmarked as a park, but 291 is bridgehead reserve. Is the minister telling me that he's turning over the bridgehead reserve to the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, certainly not. We won't be turning over the bridgehead reserve. I believe it's used also for recreational use for others. But as I have said, I will get all that pertinent information processed forthwith, et cetera, for the member opposite.
Mr. Ostashek: I understand the minister's going to get the information for me, but I have a couple of questions that I have to ask on this. The bridgehead reserve is the part that my constituents are concerned with. There's a letter from the manager of land development to the city pointing out the concerns of the residents. That letter was dated January 13, 1999.
"The residents are strongly opposed to the provision of toilets, garbage containers, parking and picnic tables at the service road termination point at the bridgehead reserve." So is it the territorial government's intention to upgrade the bridgehead reserve?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No.
Mr. Ostashek: Okay, so then I can inform my constituents that the government won't be going ahead with picnic tables and that at the end of the service road?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, my department is not going to be doing that, no. They have no plans for improvement.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if the minister can give us detail on the lines as we go through, please?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $476,000 consists of $554,000 increase for the forest fire emergency response, of which $267,000 is recoverable from Emergency Preparedness Canada. A $12,000 increase is mainly relating to search and rescue response, of which $7,000 is recoverable, and a reduction of $90,000 reflects the telecommunications program responsibility to transfer it over to the Department of Government Services.
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $476,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I wonder if we could have detail on each line?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The increase of $33,000 is for various staff training activities and part of a salary to a retired employee.
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This increase of $124,000 consists of a $78,000 increase in highway maintenance due to the Burwash forest fire; $45,000 is recoverable from DIAND; $64,000 increase net of minor reductions in transport services to the Watson Lake weigh station; $18,000 net decrease in airports mainly due to saving in total aviation briefing system, and that contract cost as the new Yukon aerodrome communication network was invented earlier than anticipated.
Transportation Division in the amount of $124,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The $162,000 decrease mainly relates to reduced grant-in-lieu of taxes arising from changes in the City of Whitehorse tax rates, and the $90,000 increase is to fund various undertakings, which include the Keno City fire hall, conference of the ministers, maintenance property reassessment at Watson Lake, dump staff at Mount Lorne, recreational and recreation program-related activities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, a questionnaire went out to the Mount Lorne area asking about services at the dump in that area. The questions that were asked were, perhaps, not as clear as they could have been. One of the questions was whether or not there should be power to the site, but it didn't say that the reason you needed power to the site was for the light, which meant that you could extend the hours in the winter, and for the compactor, which needed power on site. So there really wasn't as great an information gathering process as there could have been.
The situation now is that the funding for the staff expires at the end of this fiscal year. What are the plans? And maybe the minister can give us an update on his planning process that he's working with Mount Lorne on in order to extend the services of the staff as well as to bring power into that dumpsite.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we have been there from the start with the Mount Lorne residents and are desirous of having this turned over. We are going to be considering it within next year's mains, of course. I don't have anything in here, but we'll continue to work with the Mount Lorne residents.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of an underexpenditure of $72,000 agreed to
Speaker: Any questions on the recoveries or revenue?
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to ask the minister to table the efforts the department has made to date on the recoveries of the funds with respect to the Burwash fire, the recovery of the funds from Indian and Northern Affairs, and previous recoveries for the cost of the evacuation in Old Crow and Pelly. There was some three-quarters of a million dollars that is still outstanding, according to the Government of the Yukon. It's due from Indian and Northern Affairs to Yukon, and that goes back some years. It's still not recovered. I'd like the minister to table that information as to the efforts they've made to date to recover those funds.
Would the minister do so?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I certainly will.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $561,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Emergency Measures
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The increase of $398,000 is the funding required to respond to the Burwash fire. It consists of $198,000 for reclamation, $183,000 is recoverable, and $200,000 for beautification work.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there was an article in the paper awhile back about some residents of that area who had been burned out, and they weren't overly thrilled with the compensation package that they had received.
Where are we sitting with negotiations on that issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been told that most of the residences have been settled. As to where everybody is exactly in the process, I'll have to get back to the member opposite, but certainly everybody has been approached and most have settled to this date, that I know of, but I'll gather the rest of the information.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $398,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Of this amount, $81,000 is a revote from last year to become compliant, and $35,000 is an increase that is largely for the replacement of computers to support the CARS program, of which $25,000 is recoverable from NavCan.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $116,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This reflects the savings in maintenance camp facility projects.
Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On YTG Funded
On Alaska Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This is a request for a revote to complete the revegetation and to upgrade the access road to the sawmill in Watson Lake.
Alaska Highway in the amount of $94,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, this is a revote to carry on with the Grew Creek multi-plate culvert.
Campbell Highway in the amount of $328,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Recreation Facilities
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, this is a revote for the construction of the swimming pool in Ross River.
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $228,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Community Planning
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, this is an increase in the sum of revotes for various community planning projects, including the Golden Horn area land use planning and Ross River area, and for a $5,000 zoning development for the Hamlet of the Ibex Valley.
Community Planning in the amount of $122,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, this represents a savings in project planning costs.
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The surplus of $5,000 is mainly due to the funding requirement for improvements of water and sewer informations.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, these are in-house savings, or are these savings from engineering firms?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: These are in-house.
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is $44,000 for a revote on the Tagish sewage treatment; $106,000 for a revote on Destruction Bay sewage treatment and $5,000 required to complete monitoring of the Marsh Lake sewage lagoon.
Mrs. Edelman: Is part of that monitoring road usage into the - or keeping the road open to the Marsh Lake sewage?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, it's not, Mr. Chair, this is capital, and the road would be opened and maintained through the O&M side.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
On Road/Streets Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's again a revote for the Ross River road upgrade projects.
Road/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $27,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Hon. Mr. Keenan: This has an increase of $233,000 required to complete construction of 20 industrial lots in Dawson. That's underneath the Callison stage 3 project. Also requested is a revote of $169,000, an increase of $4,000 to complete the legal survey in Faro, and a decrease of $158,000 in the Whitehorse industrial, as approval of area scheme design has been delayed.
Mr. Jenkins: What's holding up the sale of the lots in Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I don't know whether the holdup is here. We were looking to have lots sold by lottery in the fall of 1999. I'll have to get back to the member forthwith.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the roads are all in, the survey's completed, the street lights are on, they still continue to shine, and I'm told they won't be available for sale until the spring, and I'd like to know why, because there are a great number of people who anticipated their sale this fall. That's what they were originally led to believe - for both the commercial and residential lots - but nothing has transpired. Why are we going backward at this point in time?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't believe we're going backward, because it was our ambition to have them sold by lottery in the fall of 1999. I certainly do not know why, but I will get the information back, because I would like them on the market as soon as possible also.
Mr. Jenkins: So I have a commitment from the minister to get them, if everything is in order - which I believe it is - and we can offer them for sale very, very quickly, either the last month of this year or the earliest in January of next year. Is that the minister's position?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will get them up for sale as early as I can. As I said, I wanted them out for lottery. I don't know what the reason is, but I'll certainly push to get them out.
Industrial in the amount of $79,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: It's a decrease on the Whitehorse Copper/Mount Sima, as approval of the area development scheme has been delayed.
Commercial in the amount of an underexpenditure of $525,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There is $145,000 requested and, again, it's a revote for mobile home lots; $132,000 for revote at Copper Ridge; $570,000 balances, required to cover out the internal allocation.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise where we're at with respect to inventory currently of lots in the Whitehorse area? It looks like we're growing at an alarming rate, and they're not selling.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you muchly, Mr. Chair. The information I have here says that Whitehorse has a combination of 113 residential, 66 residential mobile, nine mobile and five multi-family lots, totalling 193 lots.
Mr. Jenkins: This has been the subject of some criticism in the past by the Auditor General, and I was wondering what level the department determines to be a comfortable level for lot inventory in the Whitehorse area.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I've been informed that this is a two-year supply comfort level.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House what we've sold, year to date?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't have that information here; I just have the availability. I'll have to get the information back forthwith.
Mr. Jenkins: If it's a two-year supply, we should have sold 100 in the previous year and we should be well on our way to selling 100 this fiscal year, Mr. Chair. That's what I'm getting at, and I'd like to know where we're at with respect to achieving our goal on the lot sales. If the minister could bring back that information, I'd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly.
Mrs. Edelman: The original concern that was brought up by the Auditor General was five years ago. I wonder if we could have figures back for five years on land sales and land availability in the Whitehorse area in particular.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: You betcha, Mr. Chair.
Residential in the amount of $847,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, it's a revote for projects under this program that could not be completed in this season.
Mrs. Edelman: One of the concerns that people are having with this particular program is that suppliers, for example, of solar electrification programs, are having trouble getting their money from the government. There seems to be a long, long period of time before they actually get their dollars.
I know that the department was going to be working on that. How are we doing in that process, because people were waiting eight or nine months, and for small businesses, they simply cannot afford to wait that long. And certainly if you are in business, you aren't allowed to wait eight or nine months to pay your suppliers. So people are taking an awful lot of personal risks trying to cover those amounts.
How are we doing with that process of trying to make this a little bit faster payment schedule.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, neither the deputy nor I have been alerted that this is a problem. I know, certainly, people in the department are working toward that. Of course, I'm not a micromanager, as you realize, and I'll have to get that type of information back to the member, because these programs are put together and when we became government in the last couple or three years, we looked at how to make it more accessible and better for people out there. So, certainly, you've alerted me to something that I will ask the department about and seek a solution to and inform you.
Mr. Jenkins: Recently, a lot of the responsibility for telephone service in the Yukon transferred from the minister's department to Government Services. Could the minister advise the reason for this occurring?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: There were two departments working basically on the same initiatives. It was decided to amalgamate them, and it was the recommendation between the two departments that it should go with Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Yet, Community and Transportation Services still maintains, within itself, an organization dedicated to communications, so I would just like to know more about how this decision was achieved - that everything in the development stage would be transferred to Government Services from C&TS.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, I will provide the information to the member, but the MDMRS, the multi-departmental mobile radio system, and the wireless systems that are with us are internal communication devices and that is why we keep them here, applicable mainly to our station in life or in the government with our crews out on the highways, et cetera. So, it's mainly an internal issue that is internal to us. I can provide a brief explanation in written form as to the reasons why, if the member prefers.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it seems like responsibilities are being split, and I was just wondering how we have achieved this split. Previously, representations to CRTC came from the department that the minister represents; now they will be forthcoming from Government Services. The MDMRS, while it is predominately used by C&TS, goes across all departments. So there's an issue there, and it probably should stay with the lead department, but then we get into the Northwestel initiative - there's two parts to that, the wired and the wireless - and the Government Services will be responsible for everything in that initiative in that area now. But the minister has promised to get back with an explanation, and I was hoping he could add more to the dialogue now on the issue than just getting back with additional information as to how this division occurred and how it was decided what went where.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly the wireless initiatives that the member has spoken about is internal and we do have that initiative within us - external more or less is outside and within the Department of Government Services. As I said, that is the explanation. If you want a more detailed explanation, I'll provide a brief explanation to you by letter form.
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $1,896,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Chair: Committee will next deal with the Executive Council Office. Do members wish to take a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
I have been informed that Committee will now proceed to the Yukon Legislative Assembly Office.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the increase in supplementary totals $119,000 in O&M and $5,000 in capital. The O&M increases occur in two programs: the elections program and Hansard. There is additional funding of $49,000 in the elections program, and that's comprised of $35,000 to cover the costs of the Laberge by-election and $14,000 to cover the costs of completing the legislative drafting of the Elections Act. I'll note that the total cost of the Elections Act drafting is estimated at $54,000 now.
In regard to the Hansard program, the total increase is $70,000, and part of this is additional funding to cover $58,000 in overtime on the contract, which recently ended at the end of August 1999. That contract has a base of 140 sitting days, which was exceeded on April 13. Hansard transcription during the 11 sitting days from April 15 to the end of April cost approximately $1,000 per hour, totalling $58,000. The remainder of $12,000 is needed to cover the cost of the new contract from September 1 of this year to the end of the fiscal year.
The addition for the capital vote is $5,000, and it is for office furniture, equipment, systems and space - a nice generic term, Mr. Chair. A portion will be used to obtain a gift for the Nunavut Legislature. The exact nature of the gift is the subject of ongoing consultation with the Nunavut Legislative Assembly. This consultation is being handled by our extensive staff in the Legislative Assembly Office. The goal is to provide a gift that the MLAs in Nunavut, and presumably the MLAs in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, will find appropriate, and it will be an ongoing reminder of Yukon's contribution to the creation of a new territory in Canada.
That pretty much covers these particular votes.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Elections in the amount of $49,000 agreed to
Hansard in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $119,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly Office agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Committee will now proceed to the Executive Council Office, page 2-21.
Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the supplementary provides for an increase of $1,441,000 in O&M spending by the Executive Council Office. This increase is offset by a recovery of approximately $1 million. It results in a net increase of $455,000 in the O&M supplementary. This is to support the government's commitment to devolution, to the review of the Yukon Act - $229,000 is for the review of the Yukon Act - and $226,000 is the Executive Council Office's contribution to the Yukon economic forums.
There is a $14,000 reduction in expenditures and recoveries in the French language bureau. I believe that is the total of the changes in this particular vote.
Ms. Duncan: This Executive Council Office - as the Government Leader has noted, the responsibility for devolution rests with this particular department. The Government Leader updated us last week on devolution, and I'm wondering if he can enlighten the House further in terms of expenditures and changes, in light of the delay. I'm interested, particularly, in the personnel and expenditure issues. What are the individuals that are assigned to devolution? Are they continuing working on the agreement? I would assume they are, although presumably not at the pace that they have been working on it. If the minister could enlighten us.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Based on the information that we received from the federal minister respecting devolution, the change in timetables for the expected implementation of the devolution agreement, I've asked the Executive Council Office, as a result, to renew its efforts with vigour, to increase its energies in this particular field of activity, to ensure that all the work is done on this particular file.
We are going to increase our contact with the federal minister, his office and federal officials to ensure that there will be no further cause for delay in the completion of this particular agreement. We realize that negotiations between the governments are always difficult, and there are items of disagreement from time to time. We have been able to detect through the negotiators' memoranda of understanding that we believe that we are in the ballpark for a settlement, and we do not believe that it is legitimate to delay this any further than it has been.
So we are going to be increasing our efforts afresh and putting even more energy into completing the project so that it can take effect for April 1, 2001. And all the other various initiatives that fall out from this particular project will be, as well, pursued. For the greatest First Nation issues, as some of the members may know, some of them have been resolved, including the PSTA pursuant to the Northern Affairs program, which was initiated at the devolution table - the initiative to work on this particular PSTA was initiated at the devolution table - and was satisfactorily concluded a couple of weeks ago. It means that we can now turn our attention to other issues and ensure that everything is covered off to secure a seamless transfer of federal responsibilities to the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a couple of questions arising from the minister's remarks. The minister indicated that there would be an increased contact with the federal minister. How is it intended that that would take place? Is there an increased role for the Ottawa office here? Is there staff from the federal office coming here? How are we doing that?
The minister also spoke of renewing efforts and also indicated that there are a number of areas where we were in the ballpark. I'm worried that, a couple of times, the minister has come into the House and said, "Well, we had this resolved, but there has been a reversal." At times it seemed like one step forward and two steps back.
Has there been some finality on some issues so that we're assured we will not go back and revisit them in the negotiations over the length of time that we have?
The minister referenced increasing our energy. I didn't hear a reference to increasing expenditures.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In terms of increasing our effort, I have asked that the Ottawa office and Yukon officials based in Yukon make more contact with federal officials than ever before. I will be making more personal contact with the minister's office.
This file will not die. This is going to be completed, obviously not during the mandate of this government, but this project will be completed, because I think the people of the territory want to see it completed, and they will not accept it not being completed.
So there will be more effort applied by our officials, and we will ensure, at least for ourselves, that federal commitments to meet certain deadlines will, in fact, be met, in terms of the federal government's own efforts to pursue its responsibilities within its own government. There are a whole series of hurdles that the federal government must overcome internally, and, based on our concerns recently that work inside the federal government to realize their own responsibilities to see the Yukon Act developed and passed through the House on time, we feel that it would be helpful for us to get to know, in detail, the federal government's internal responsibilities in the system, getting through their processes.
We certainly made Trojan efforts to complete our processes to ensure that we met our obligations. So, we will assist them in meeting their obligations internally in their organization to ensure that we have the best chance of success in this project.
The reversals have cost us some time and effort. One example was about a month or a month-and-a-half ago. The latest iteration of the transfer agreement was transferred to the Yukon with large sections relating to the First Nations people crossed out by federal lawyers who wanted to eliminate references to the federal government's ongoing fiduciary responsibility for aboriginal people. This, of course, was a bombshell to Yukon-based negotiators, and it took us a month to overcome this hurdle. We had to invite the federal lawyers into the Yukon, and through literally a month's worth of work, we had all the language put back into the agreement.
That's the kind of reversal that is not helpful, particularly when there is a lot of work to do.
And that, of course, caused First Nation negotiators in the Yukon to get quite nervous about federal resolve to meet with their ongoing obligations.
So, indeed, we do not want to see reversals. They are not helpful, particularly those that are contrary to the negotiators' agreement, which was signed last spring. We felt that we had covered these bases and that we were making progress. In fact, we were making progress, but when one arm of the federal government decides to come in and provide some new direction that causes all the negotiators to rethink and redo large sections of work, this does not bode well for meeting our timelines.
So, while I can't guarantee that there won't be further reversals, we will not be the cause of these reversals. We will try to work through, with the federal government and the First Nation negotiators, the various features, which will ensure this project comes to completion according to the new schedule.
In terms of funding - I think the member asked about funding - the funding is for, in part - about $300,000 of the funding that we have identified here - a contribution to First Nation negotiators. There is further funding to provide for legal support and the legislative drafting work that has been completed. Members have seen the product of that work in the mirror legislation, and the coordination of the devolution project. Members will know that there are positions in the Public Service Commission and Government Services dedicated to pursuing devolution.
Thirdly, there is about $300,000 for classification reviews, job descriptions, legal research, et cetera, the records assessment and the transfer of records, which is all necessary work to see the completion. I have every intention, despite the setback in the timetable, of seeing this work proceed. We will just have to do what we can to complete all the technical elements of the transfer so that that will not gum up the works later on when we get close to the deadline. So, the sooner the better, in my opinion.
Ms. Duncan: As all Yukoners know, Yukon doesn't seem to make the radar screen in Ottawa sometimes, and ministers, in spite of their best intentions or commitments, can end up dealing with other things. When the Government Leader met with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development most recently in Vancouver, was there a commitment by the Minister of DIAND to assign this file?
It seems to me what we need through the federal system - and looking at it as an opposition member - is a body within that federal system bureaucracy to take this file and pilot it through and to show the same level of commitment and dedication of resources and effort that Yukon negotiators have shown. And was there a commitment made to have an individual, or group of individuals, assigned this file?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The federal minister has already indicated that it is firstly a priority. I think we understand what it means to be a priority at this point, and I should say that we are making some progress even though, of course, the most recent progress is somewhat disappointing. They have assigned a full-time senior negotiator to negotiate devolution, and that has been ongoing for better than a year. So we're certainly aware that this is going to take some senior-level assistance, and we have ensured that both Minister Stewart and her deputy minister of the day, Mr. Serson, Mr. Nault, Ms. Sarafini, the new minister and deputy, are very well aware of this file, and we have not been belligerent participants in any way.
We have been, I think, supremely cooperative, even in the face of some provocation. So we will continue to be so, because it is our belief that that is the best way to get results.
We have informed the senator - the new senator - of the issues, and we will continue to keep her in the loop, and we have obviously been keeping our MP as well aware of our initiatives, and I have spoken with the Prime Minister about the initiatives, and he has indicated support for the initiative, and even indicated that perhaps he would be pleased to help close the loop because he felt that - in some small way, I suppose - as a minister of Indian Affairs in the early 1970s that he had some role to play in initiating the general theme, or the thrust of all of this. We would be happy to have him come and close the loop.
We will be certainly acquainting all relevant MPs in Parliament of this particular initiative in the New Year. I will once again be suggesting to the opposition - to the member herself and to the leader of the Yukon Party - that, if they would like to help play a role, we would be glad to have them on side and help us complete this project with some relevant lobbying, which will be necessary.
I am more convinced than ever that that will be a significant part of this task, and that we will need to undertake a lot of activity in Ottawa to ensure that people understand that this is not only a priority for the Yukon but it should be a priority for Canada as well. I noticed from Mr. Nault's remarks to the media recently, he was of a view that this was part and parcel of a pan-northern initiative on the part of the federal government - to consider devolution to all the territories.
I've informed Mr. Okalik to beware that the train is coming, and I'm certain that he'll be pleased to hear about this new initiative. But if it's a pan-northern issue, then this clearly has national connotations, it's not just simply a Yukon issue, and we will be seeking support from others. I have had correspondence from a number of the premiers who had given support to devolution - I think five or six premiers, anyway, who gave support to devolution at the premiers conference and are wishing us well and want to see this concluded. I will definitely keep them apprised of events, as well.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I've repeatedly stated my personal support and our party's support for negotiating the best deal for Yukoners. I would like to suggest, in that vein, that perhaps rather than waiting until certain events have happened, that we could make an initiative to regularize the devolution briefings with opposition, as well, in order that we continue to be kept up to date and, as the Government Leader used the words, "in the loop" on this file.
The Government Leader made reference to timetables, and I don't recall having seen any sort of a timetable. He's made reference to them a couple of times. I wonder if the Government Leader would indicate when his next meeting with the minister is and when the timetables are going to be finalized.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the timetable, beyond what we understood to be the case after the meeting with the federal minister, is certainly in federal hands, in terms of going through their internal processes. We are going to complete what we have to have done as soon as possible.
So, apart from the introduction of mirror legislation in the House, we are going to ensure that the details of the negotiations, to the extent that we can, will be completed as soon as possible.
The mirror legislation will probably go through next fall, I would imagine. It certainly can do that. I have indicated to the development community and the conservation community that they should take the time to review the legislation. They indicated that they would like some legal assistance to verify for themselves that the mirror legislation is, in fact, mirror in nature, and I have offered that legal assistance, or I have offered funding for legal assistance so that they can hire whomever they want. I would presume we can cover that base off quickly so it will only require passage in the Legislature at some opportune time.
In terms of the details, we are working out all the details ourselves right now. The detail that we cannot do is that we can't make job offers to federal employees until we get personnel information about who they are and that will only come when the federal government decides to provide it.
So, those are some caveats in terms of completing all the work, but we will certainly complete all the work that we can complete on our own, even if that is substantially in advance of the devolution transfer date.
I understand from Mr. Nault that, in order for the federal government to proceed to legislation in the fall, he needs to take a transfer agreement and the legislation to Cabinet in the summer, so we would expect that we will have those two things ready for him in the summer.
So, those are the broadest target dates. We did discuss a 2001 implementation date, and it is my clear understanding from our meeting that April 1, 2001 is, indeed, the target date for the handing over of responsibilities. In deciding on that date, we have always determined between the federal government and the Yukon government, between the ministers and me, that the best transfer would be a so-called out-of-season transfer, meaning not during the placer season and not during the forest firefighting season. So, April 1 is seen to be a good date to accommodate both of those seasons and also to accommodate the fiscal year, which we share with the federal government.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader didn't address when he would next be meeting with Minister Nault. At his last meeting, another agenda item was land claims. I wonder if the Government Leader can update the House on his discussions with Minister Nault on that subject.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, Mr. Chair, I'm interested in meeting Mr. Nault in January. He said he's going to be here, so when he comes, I'll host him, and I'll be happy to get into some details. If he doesn't come in January, then I'll go and see him in February. We will see each other in the early new year, one way or another.
There are two outstanding issues at the land claims table, as I think I had indicated once before, that are holding up both of the negotiations. They are the loan repayment issue and the section 87 rolling implementation issue.
It is the contention of First Nation negotiation representatives that the amount owing for negotiations is excessive and is becoming a disincentive for those First Nations who have not settled to, in fact, settle. So they would like to see some relief on that front, and they have been given some assurances by the federal government that the federal government's prepared to consider options.
I think there will be some further negotiations in December - it's December today - in a couple of weeks, to pursue that issue.
There's also the issue of the section 87 rolling implementation. Some First Nations who settled after the first four are arguing that the first four had the benefit of a period of time where their employees did not have to pay income tax to anyone. They feel, because the date in the UFA has now passed, and they're now required to pay income tax, they feel that they should be accorded a similar period - a three-year period, perhaps - in terms of an income tax payment moratorium.
Whether they achieve that goal with the federal government is anyone's guess, at this point. The latest that I know is that DIAND was to approach federal Finance to see whether or not there was any glimmer of hope, and I don't know the results of those discussions.
Those two issues were outlined in a lengthy session in Vancouver between negotiators a couple of weeks ago, or actually the week before I met with Mr. Nault, and were identified as the major impediments to the remaining land claims that have largely been negotiated but are not signed off.
The negotiations for the Kwanlin Dun are proceeding, and the issue for Kwanlin Dun is whether or not they will be able to negotiate past the end of the federal mandate, which is expected to expire on March 31, 2000. It is unrealistic to think that the negotiations, based on past experience, will be completed by that date. So, the federal minister has to determine whether or not he will extend the mandate.
With respect to the Kaska negotiations, of course, the member may know and I think I have said it in the House, there is an outstanding court case. That court case prompted the federal government to shut down the transboundary negotiations and, given that the Kaska have indicated that it's all for one and one for all, as long as the situation continues, there seems to be an impasse.
Nevertheless, the Ross River negotiating table continues on the subject of land, and that table has not been closed down, but that may change, depending on how the federal government views the Kaska litigation.
So, all in all, we're very close to signing off a number of agreements. As I have indicated before, there have been some tables where there have been no negotiations going on for better than a year because, from the Yukon's perspective, there is nothing more to negotiate. But there are federal issues that remain outstanding, and we just have to wait and see how those can be resolved. We're providing help to try to see those come to conclusion and, with any luck, they will.
The one First Nation that has a different issue - once again, a federal issue - that is impeding final agreement is the Ta'an claim. It's a funding issue. It's important to Ta'an because, not only will it affect some one-time expenditures to the First Nation, but it will also affect their ongoing funding after the claim is signed. So, they obviously take it fairly seriously and I understand that, as it's purely a money issue, the federal government may be able to resolve that one first, and we may see the First Nation go to ratification, if that can be resolved.
So, that's a summary of the negotiations. We're still active, interested, wanting to pursue and complete the negotiations. I think it's important that we do, and if there's anything we can do, we leave no stone unturned.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Government Leader for the update. The Government Leader made reference to the timetable. Did the minister not give any indication as to what action he may or may not be taking on the extension of the March 31 deadline?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Nault's official position is that he does not want to entertain discussions about any extension of the end of the federal mandate, as he wants to keep people's minds focused on completing the negotiations now. So, he doesn't want to get into negotiations about extending the mandate when he feels that people should be negotiating the completion of the claim. I think that, depending on the results of the outstanding issues that I mentioned, the series of outstanding claims can probably be settled very quickly. I would perhaps want to exempt Kwanlin Dun and probably the Kaska - or, at least, the transboundary Kaska - from that category, though.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Government Leader made reference to the cost of the Yukon Act commission. I believe the amount identified was $229,000. Is this within the budget originally set? And what does the minister anticipate for discussions by this House, in terms of the report that was tabled today? Does the Government Leader anticipate a discussion in this session or at some future point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Discussion around - well, I would expect - and I have indicated to the media - the next step would involve a discussion with the member herself and the leader of the Yukon Party about next steps around public discussion.
The report of the commission primarily recommends further public exposure of the issues, and we're willing to continue exposing the issues. They recommend that, where we all disagree on points, they don't recommend a solution - they recommend that we not disagree any more and find a way to get unanimity. That might be naïve but it's worth a try, and certainly I wouldn't discount the possibility.
So I think the next steps on the Yukon Act would be to have the parties meet, either before or after the Christmas break, continue discussions around next steps. I would probably propose that we continue public discussions, invite people to write, as the commission recommends - invite people to write contributions from various perspectives and place them in the newspaper as contributions to the debate from various people.
The commission did suggest that, despite the fact that we have been discussing devolution for three years in this Legislature, and despite the fact that it has been part of everybody's election campaigns for more than one election, that it is the commission's suspicion that people don't know what devolution is and suggests that we provide some more explanation, and I'm happy to accommodate that request.
I don't think it's difficult to accommodate, so I would probably recommend that we continue that kind of initiative. The federal minister has indicated to me that he believes, though he was not specific, that there will be some elements of the Yukon Act proposal draft that he will not accept, at least in a round 1, because he is of the view - and he may change his view upon reflection - that some of the changes are superior, - not only equivalent to those of a province, but superior to those of a province. I don't know the rationale for this, but he has mentioned it to me and he mentioned it to the media. I think it's worthy of a further conversation with the minister to suss out exactly what those features might be.
I can think of one feature that might be seen as being aggressive, but nevertheless, I think that both the proposals in the Yukon Act are acceptable. One thing that I did address with the minister was that, if by the time we got to devolution of resource management and we still had outstanding issues to address in terms of non-devolution-related matters or matters that we still thought were on the table, he would commit the federal government to another round of discussion after devolution of the Yukon Act, and he allowed that that was a worthy suggestion. So, I think, as I say, next steps are some discussions around public discussion and consultation, and I will certainly maintain attempts to keep the pursuit of changes to the Yukon Act as much of an all-party event as I can.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I wonder if the minister could give a little more explanation on this $14,000 decrease in the public communications services and the Canadian heritage. The minister made mention of the French language agreement or commitment, and I just wonder if we could have some more detail on that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, this reflects the difference between what we thought we could achieve in the French language agreement, which we signed since the main estimates were passed, and at this moment this reflects the actual amount in the agreement that the federal minister, Ms. Copps, was prepared to provide in the agreement, and we have since signed a French language services agreement with the federal minister. It is down from previous years - some time ago - but it does have some commitments to one-time expenditures in it for various projects that l'Association des Franco-Yukonnais would undertake, and we feel that the agreement is certainly as good as any other jurisdiction in the country and is good enough for the time being.
Ms. Duncan: Was there any decrease or reduction in services to Yukoners as a result?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Not to my knowledge, Mr. Chair. I don't believe so.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, before I let other members into the general debate on the Executive Council Office, in reviewing the minister's answer on land claims and the minister's answer given to me previously on this subject in the update, I didn't hear any mention of outstanding issues - Yukon government issues - at the table. Are there any issues - strictly YTG issues - that the Government Leader feels are at a difficult negotiating point, at this point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For Carcross, there are some individual community land selections and that sort of thing that would be outstanding. I am quite confident that we would be able to resolve those issues - the site specifics. I'm sure we could resolve those issues very quickly.
In Kluane, there is another issue there that I didn't mention, which is a land selection in the national park, which is outstanding - a specific claim.
For Ta'an, there is nothing.
In Kwanlin Dun, there are, of course, issues. We are not finished.
Ross River - we're still completing land and self-government negotiations.
Liard - nothing. We have to go back and see whether or not the First Nation accepts the Liard negotiator's agreement at this point. We've not heard anything from them and, to my knowledge, we've not heard a call to return to the table. There probably wouldn't be a return to the table in any case, because we won't be going to any tables without the federal government's presence.
White River - nothing.
As I say, the land selection issues, I believe, are relatively minor in nature in the Carcross claim.
The big issues that everyone is talking about are federal.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have a few questions in general debate on the Executive Council Office. I'm going to start out with the mirror legislation. I asked the Government Leader in Question Period one time and I don't believe I got a clear answer. Is the mirror legislation, in the Government Leader's mind, mirror legislation, and there have been no changes made other than removing the words "federal government" and inserting "Yukon"?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The instructions to the drafters were clear - no changes in the intent of the legislation. The difficulty the drafters encountered during the drafting period was that the federal legislation makes reference to other federal legislation. In some cases, there is no clear, equivalent Yukon legislation to draw reference to. So, they have had to try to address that particular matter. There are a few examples of that.
The intent in the drafting is that there be no change in policy and as little change as possible in terms of procedure as a result of the transfer. I have indicated that to the development community and to the conservation community. They have asked to verify this, which is a fair point. They don't believe that they have the expertise internally to do the verification. I'd be happy to have them do the verification because that would help me verify, for my own purposes, that the policy direction is being realized. I'm certain that huge attempts have been made to meet that test by our drafters. This legislation has also gone to the federal government. They have made some suggestions. Those suggestions have been incorporated into the draft so that we can maintain mirror legislation in its detail.
So, it will be mirror. The only difference after the development assessment process is finally passed, is that the CEAA/YEAA legislation will be replaced by DAP legislation.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister said he has offered some financial assistance to the Conservation Society for legal advice on the mirror legislation - did I hear the minister correctly on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I offered the Chamber of Mines and the Conservation Society some funds to hire their own lawyer to verify the legislation, that the legislation is mirror in nature. And if they have any suggestions, if there has been a judgment call by our drafters and the other lawyers have suggestions on how to make it truly mirror, then we'll be happy to entertain the suggestions.
Mr. Ostashek: That's fine. I thank the minister for that. I didn't hear him say Chamber of Mines when he first got up - I must have missed it.
I just want to go to land claims for a minute, and the minister has elaborated on the two major outstanding issues between Yukon First Nations and the federal government on section 87 and on reimbursement of negotiating fees. What is the territorial government's position on this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, on negotiating loans, my position has been that, if the federal government wants to give First Nations more money, then that's okay by me. If they want to forgive the loans so that the First Nations have a good chance - an even better chance - at performing better as a self-governing First Nation, then it means more money in the territory and I have no reason to object.
With respect to the section 87 rolling implementation, we have indicated a long-standing position that there should be a level playing field, that people should be paying taxes. Some First Nations have made a case, which is worthy of some review in my opinion, that the First Nations that had not been self-governing with a moratorium are being treated differently from those First Nations who did sign in 1993 and had the moratorium for a number of years and were able to take advantage of that while they got themselves up and running.
They're saying, "Well, now we're all paying taxes, we're going to be a self-governing First Nation after the signing of our agreements, and we're not going to have any moratorium." So, while there are a number of ways to skin this cat, it doesn't necessarily have to be a moratorium on the tax side. It could be a direct payment by the federal minister.
I think the issue of fairness is something worth considering for the First Nations that have not settled. However, I have indicated to the federal minister that these issues should be addressed immediately, that these are impediments to a settlement, and if he is interested in moving or changing the federal mandate in any way, then he should act immediately. If he does not want to change the federal mandate, he should say so immediately so that we can get past this hurdle.
Mr. Ostashek: There's no doubt that those First Nations that didn't sign off in 1993 aren't going to have the same advantages as those that did. By the same token, I think one of the reasons that land claims have dragged on for over 25 years is because no government - or anybody - has been prepared to live by any sort of a deadline to settle land claims. And I believe that, you know, hindsight is always 20/20, but had the federal Liberal government in the early 1970s, when it embarked on the process of settling land claims, had set a hard and fast date - not something that was unrealistic, but a hard and fast date - we probably would have had this all behind us, because we all are human beings, and we all work better when we know that deadlines have to be met or something dramatic is going to happen.
We now are being faced with another deadline of March 31, and I would like to know from this minister: what happens if the federal minister decides that that's it, that he's not prepared to extend negotiating mandate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I think we're potentially in some real trouble if he doesn't extend the mandate for Kwanlin Dun, because I just don't believe it can happen, realistically. I have talked to the on-the-ground negotiators, and they just don't believe it can happen - from all parties. I think on that front we're in trouble, no doubt.
With respect to the Kaska claim, there's a Mexican standoff right now, and I don't know what's going to happen there. We would like to, of course, settle in the southeast, and a lot of negotiations have gone on there. Huge progress has been made, but there is no table, and it doesn't look like there will be one unless some compromise is struck. I do believe that if the big issues respecting negotiating loans, section 87, can be satisfactorily concluded, I do believe that the rest of the First Nations can meet the 31st of March and they can move to ratification.
I genuinely believe there is nothing there that would prevent that, so I would join with the federal minister in encouraging people to try to conclude as the top priority, and I think we can, if a couple of hurdles are overcome.
Mr. Ostashek: There's no doubt that all of us would like to see the land claims finalized and settled by March 31. My question to the Government Leader was this: what is the process after March 31? What happens if the federal government, the federal minister, decides not to extend the negotiating deadline? What happens then? Has the Government Leader got any idea of what happens at that point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My understanding is that, if the mandate is not renewed, then the resources at the federal level are redirected to other negotiating tables, and the negotiations for First Nation governments that are outstanding go into limbo-land, with no target for settling and no active tables.
I would suspect then we'd be into litigation and trouble and problems.
Mr. Ostashek: My interpretation is that it would also mean a further advancement of funds to the First Nations to be able to continue to clarify their positions.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly there would be no federal financial resources directed to any party, because there would be, from the federal perspective, no negotiations.
Chair: Order please. The time being about 5:30, this Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the Executive Council Office. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of questions. Today I received another document from the Bureau of Statistics on retail sales. It's something I've heard a lot about from people on the street, and I wonder if the minister shares the same sense that I do - that there are so many blanks left in the retail sales area that it's not really a useful document to a lot of people. Even when you call the Bureau of Statistics and ask for clarification, the answer you normally get is, "The numbers we produce are the numbers we get from the federal government."
I think these are useful documents. They are useful documents for people who are making financial decisions and those kinds of things, but they are only useful if all the figures are there.
I just wonder if the Government Leader shares those same feelings. For example, in this particular year, all the recreational motor vehicles have been pulled out. They were in there for some time. Other sales are pulled out completely for the whole year, and I think they always have been. I don't know if we have ever shown them at any time.
There's a figure at the end, and if one tries to add figures up, they don't add up; they don't make any sense. There are actually little asterisks at the bottom saying, "Other sales consist of sales in the areas of drug stores, shoe stores, men's/women's clothing stores, household furnishings and supplies stores". It gives you a big, long list of what it includes, and then there's not a figure in there for it. So, people are confused when they read it. These are useful to have, but it seems to me to be a rather costly exercise if all we're doing is reprinting part of the story, and it would be useful for others to know all of the story. We have argued that the figures aren't a true reflection, and the government has argued that they are.
My point is that we'd all probably be better satisfied if there was more complete information so that we could actually see, because I don't think anyone can really tell from what we're given how accurate these figures really are.
I just wonder if the Government Leader shares that, and if we made efforts with the federal Bureau of Statistics, which provides us with all of this information, to get a little more of a thorough breakdown on the Yukon specifically so we can get a handle on what is and is not getting better, and where and where not to invest based on what seems to be growing or not growing kind of thing. Could the minister maybe tell us how he feels about it? Is he satisfied with the way the figures are produced, or does he want to see more detail?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I think there's no doubt people will interpret no matter what the figures are. People will make interpretations of those figures to justify a case they will try to make, no matter how the figures are developed, no matter how complete they are.
This has never prevented people from both sides of the Legislature to try to make a case, and there will be disagreements among members in terms of their interpretation - no doubt. In terms of the information we get, in my conversations with people, we constantly try to refine the information so that we get more and complete information on all fronts so they can understand our baseline situation better.
There are decisions made at the Statistics Canada level that change the way they count information. The member will remember a year and a half ago or two years ago when it looked as if our unemployment stats were rising, and it was a reflection of a change in counting. That didn't stop people in the Legislature from criticizing the government and the government defending itself, but it was a change in the way Statistics Canada generated numbers. Not being statisticians ourselves, on both sides of the Legislature, one would suggest that we probably are not the best people, on both sides, to be interpreting the statistics, but nevertheless, it doesn't prevent us from doing so.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I mean, they are valid arguments or valid points that the member makes. My point is that maybe we shouldn't be producing them at all, if we can't produce them in a complete form. I mean, with respect to other sales, which shows nothing, we have left out virtually - other sales are drug stores, shoe stores, men's and women's clothing stores, household furnishings, appliance stores, service stations, automotive parts stores, liquor, wine and beer stores, and other retail stores. We have left out about 80 percent of the Yukon economy, with no figures, and no one can see whether that has been good, bad or indifferent. And yet we have a couple of numbers there, and then on the other side we have the final numbers, and none of them add up.
All I'm saying to the minister is this: doesn't he think it would be more useful if the figures were produced for these other stores, or is it not available? Or does StatsCan not gather it that way, and if they don't gather it that way, Mr. Chair, then how do they come to a final figure, which far exceeds - I mean, I'll give the minister one example. They have a figure of supermarkets and grocery stores of $26.7 million, with semi-durable goods in the same line - $4.6 million - and the total for all stores at $93.3 million.
Well, 26.7 and 4.6 doesn't add up to 93.3, and that's how a layperson would read that. My point is that maybe it should be a little more thorough or it shouldn't be there at all so that we're not misleading people or causing people to ask a lot of questions. You show this to people and they can't make head nor tail of it because it doesn't make a lot of sense to them. That's all I'm asking the minister. I don't want to get into an argument about whether the figures here are good, bad or whatever. I think it was probably the same when we were in government, but I'm just wondering if it's a useful exercise, at the fairly high cost of the Bureau of Statistics here, to produce these documents that end up on our desks. It seems that every second or third day I get another document similar to this from the Bureau of Statistics, and I just wonder how useful it is - especially this one here. Some of the other ones make a little more sense, but in this one, there are so many gaps that it's hard to interpret what it means.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would agree with this proposition: anybody who has had some statistics explained to them by a statistician generally has new insights that he or she, as a layperson, would not have gleaned from the numbers. So, I think it would be fair to say that the statisticians know the limits of the numbers they are generating. It is often the inclination of people in our position to try to use those numbers - not knowing the limits - to justify a case one way or another. It is not uncommon for a layperson, without the benefit of the explanation, to draw inappropriate conclusions and, in fact, to draw conclusions that may not be justified by the numbers themselves.
I think that has often been true when one debates statistics, and it comes from both sides of the argument.
So, one has to be reasonably careful about understanding what one is learning from the numbers. I agree with that proposition. I think it is incumbent upon those of us who use the numbers to try to get some explanation as to the limitations as to how the numbers can be interpreted, and that would give us some general, comparative sense as to how things are going.
In terms of the raw data, as I understand it, a lot of information is gleaned from federal figures - StatsCan figures - and we have to depend on how they count things. And there is a mighty debate across the country about how things are counted, because such things as equalization, formula financing, et cetera, are determined on the basis of how StatsCan counts numbers. So, there's lots of debate, even amongst statisticians.
I know that the stats branch tries to get more and more refined information all the time, but they have to depend, in some respects, on Statistics Canada for some information.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I won't belabour it, but this is produced for the general public, and what I have heard from people I have talked to is that they can't get anything out of it, and they don't understand how they got the numbers. So, maybe there's room for the stats branch to sometime put an insert in one of these, and take a line and explain how we got it.
Let me give you an example again. The total for 1996 in supermarket and grocery stores is 66.0. At that time, they did include recreational motor vehicles. That was 30.4. Then they had other semi-durable dry goods at 10.8. Other sales were blank. And then at the end, they had "total all stores" at 206.9. Well, if you add 66 and 30 and 10.8, and then you look at the little asterisk at total stores, and if you go down here, it says, "Total includes other retail sales. Sums may not total due to rounding." I don't think that a hundred and something - 102 or 103 - rounds out to 206.9.
I hope the minister can see my point here. There's probably a good explanation for it. Does the Bureau of Statistics know what other sales are or what other amounts it took to make that 206? Why wouldn't they be in there in a line item so that we could know? If that's the total of the lines, if I'm interpreting it correctly, then why isn't there something there so that -
I could understand if we were at 205.8 and they rounded it to 206, or even if 201 was rounded to 206, but there is a difference of 100 points in the one line I gave the minister, and it doesn't seem to make any sense. So, maybe the Bureau of Stats has to do a better job of explaining what these figures mean, rather than just putting in kind of a highlight in the front saying, for September 1999, "The increase is 9.4 percent from September 1998," when, if you add up the numbers, you don't get that.
I don't know how they come to that, but I just want figures that are useful so that, if somebody picks this thing up from the Bureau of Statistics, and it's costing them money to produce it, it is useful.
It's on pretty rigid paper, so it's not useful for anything else other than what it's printed on right now.
My concern is that it doesn't help anybody. If you went to a banker or if you tried to figure out what was going, it just becomes a bit of debate in this House. You argue one point; we argue another; and vice versa if the tables are changed. So I don't know why we're spending the money to do this if we aren't getting reliable figures that at least make some kind of sense.
That's my point to the minister. I don't know whether he feels that producing these statistics warrants doing a more thorough job or whether he's happy with what we're getting right now. I'm certainly not happy with it, and I know anybody in business whom I've talked to who gets it says it's not a very useful document at all because it doesn't tell them anything.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I would hesitate to make a generalization that the documents don't tell us anything. I think the question is how completely we can interpret the information that we are getting, and what conclusions we can draw from the information that we are getting.
In terms of some of the information that people want that may help them in terms of determining trends, such as tourism visitations, or that gives a sense of what certain trends are so that they can perhaps use them for something more than just simply a debate in the Legislature - but for business purposes it would probably be worthwhile to encourage a discussion between stats branch and those who want to see if certain information can be collected in order to determine certain kinds of trends that might help them in their everyday lives.
I have never known stats branch to refuse an explanation of the information they do get. If anybody phones, they always explain to the best that they can the information, and how far someone can interpret that information. I know they have tried to brief the media too. When the media has drawn conclusions that are beyond what is reasonable in their opinion, they have offered to brief the media.
So, there may be some point in the coming year to encourage those who want to see whether or not a certain kind of information can be determined by statistical data. Whether or not the stats branch can describe it in a way that's useful for a particular business activity, they should have that dialogue, and I would encourage the public, if there's somebody out there who wants to count something in a certain way, to contact the stats branch to see whether or not that information can be collected in a way that is useful for their business.
Mr. Phillips: I think the minister sort of made my point. We do get tourism visitation figures. We used to. We haven't got many this year, but we used to get them. The minister is right; those are useful figures. They tell us border crossings, and they're listed according to community or borders, and they all add up. We can sort of see how many people crossed at Skagway, and then we can see how many people overall crossed into the Yukon. They make sense. But we're talking about retail figures here. We're talking about sales of goods in retail stores in the territory, and they don't make sense. They don't add up at all, and I don't know why we would produce them. The minister says that we can contact the stats branch. People shouldn't have to contact the stats branch. I thought the purpose of putting out this flyer was so that the information would be available.
All I'm saying to the minister is that if we can gather numbers such as number of visitors across the border, then why can't we gather numbers with respect to total retail sales in the territory and publish those? It's no secret; you don't list businesses. You just do a retail sales thing. They do have it broken down in categories, and we do get a final figure here. Is somebody making up that final figure, or do we not actually get the real information? You can't tell by looking at the document. There are three figures that they give you in three different categories, and then the final figure is way above that, with no justification or any explanation of how they came to it.
All I'm trying to ask the minister is that maybe we have to, as a small government in the territory, decide whether it's useful to put something like this out when it doesn't mean very much to anybody. Or should we do one that is more useful, that breaks down the various categories in the territory? I mean, the government, when it talked about exports, quickly found a way to break out lead-zinc from the total exports. The other day, there was a graph, which had been done by Economic Development, that broke out lead-zinc, so why wouldn't you want to do that for the other sectors so we have a better handle - and business people have a better handle - when they want to invest in the territory? We're trying to attract investment. I think if an investor looked at something like this right now, they would be somewhat puzzled over how we came to the conclusions we've come to when the figures just simply don't add up.
To say to some business person who wants to invest in the Yukon, "Well, I don't know. Statistics are statistics, and you'd better call the stats branch to really find out what they mean" - most of the time when I have called the stats branch, they have told me, "Well, we get out stats from the federal Bureau of Statistics, so we can only print what they give us." My point is then, if they don't give us all of it, maybe we shouldn't be printing any of it, if it doesn't make any sense.
So, I'll just leave that will the minister, and I hope we could actually sit down and maybe we could sit down with the Chamber of Commerce or other businesses in the territory and come up with an overall plan and get the information that would be useful to all those businesses, and then have the stats branch use their energy to compile that rather than just taking figures that mean very little to anybody and don't add up in the end anyway. That might be a more useful exercise.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I'll agree with the member. I'll agree with the proposition that we should encourage the stats branch and the Chamber of Commerce, say, to sit down and talk about what kind of information they might develop that might be useful to the business community.
And I'll agree, despite the fact that I have not heard anything like the criticism that he says he's heard. In fact, I have not heard any criticism. So, I'm prepared to believe that we travel in different circles. However, based on the member's representation, I will undertake to - it's an easy concession or compromise to make.
I can't agree, though, that the information doesn't mean anything to anybody. I think that's a generalization and it dismisses a lot of work that the stats branch does do, and I think it does mean some things to some people. Some of the information, I think, is good information.
In terms of the interpretation of the statistics, we have to understand that there is a science to interpreting statistics. People spend their entire lives, not only collecting, but interpreting statistics and understanding the limitation of those statistics.
Drawing conclusions is something that I think we'd be wise to encourage economists and statisticians to tell us - for those of us who don't know anything about statistics - and I would anticipate that, even if they were to collect certain statistics in a certain way and describe them in a certain way, it would not necessarily be understood by all, and it might not necessarily be useful to many, in which case a call to the stats branch would help in terms of determining whether or not, based on the information and the data collected, they can glean information that is useful to their particular business or their particular orientation. And I would encourage people to call the stats branch, because, as I say, I have never known them to refuse an explanation or refuse information.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the update on devolution and on land claims, I neglected to ask the Government Leader for a current status report on DAP. Could he provide that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I can, Mr. Chair. The DAP negotiators are continuing their work. We have not received - and I don't know how close we are to receiving - a federal draft. We have got the Yukon working group, meaning Yukon citizens on an advisory body to the Yukon government, working to discuss issues that are discussed at the main table, and they had a briefing session just recently.
I don't know when the federal government is going to spit out the next draft, Mr. Chair. From time to time, people can be optimistic about them being able to do that and, at other times, less optimistic, but we have made it very clear that our objective in this debate, as one party to the negotiations, is that we want a development assessment process that is efficient and effective, for which there is some general consensus in the Yukon, that it is the right process for us. So, we will continue with that orientation throughout the discussions.
I have also indicated to all groups in the territory that, once we do receive a federal draft, whenever that is, we will convene a working session with all stakeholders to go over that draft.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, does the Government Leader have any kind of a date at all on the federal legislative calendar when DAP might be - supposedly, hopefully - before the House of Commons?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I will even go so far as to actually read the briefing note here. That might help. No, it doesn't help.
With respect to the timeline, we have been told that there is potential for DAP legislation by the fall of 2000, and probably there is potential for that if the work can be done effectively. We'll have to see.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions that follow up on Auditor General's reports. We have not had the report from the Auditor General. Normally, we get reports on other matters. We've had 1996 and 1997. We got the March 31, 1997, this past March, and I'm wondering if the minister has heard anything about when we might get the next one. In the follow-up of the March 1997 report, there is a comment that there was a 1995 recommendation that the government, under Executive Council Office - hence my reason for asking it at this point - made reference to effective annual reporting to the Legislative Assembly. It made the point that if MLAs have a particular interest in more detailed management information, it should be available upon request. It also noted that meaningful performance information is still needed for most departments.
The overall thrust of the recommendation was that the Department of Finance should review departmental submissions to ensure that questions that have been raised have been adequately answered. Can the minister address at this point what happened with that recommendation? Was there ever any follow-up? In my time in this Assembly, I haven't seen detailed reports from departments that make reference, such as the type that the Auditor General recommends.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I'd have to have a look at the recommendation and the context of the recommendation and the management response at the time. I'll have to take notice on the question, and perhaps when we get to Finance, we can pursue it a little more thoroughly there.
Mr. Ostashek: I just have one follow-up question on statistics. One thing about statistics is that they're useful for comparison, to see trends going whichever direction they're going. And the question I have for the minister is that I'm curious why, up until this quarter, we always had recreational motor vehicles broken out, and we don't have them in this quarter.
Does the minister have any explanation why they haven't been going out in this quarter?
Hon. Mr. McDonald:Mr. Chair, I have asked the question, and all the information that I have been able to receive is that Stats Canada didn't produce it - pure and simple. We don't have it because they didn't produce it, and we have no way of getting it. So, that's just the way it is. I can't help it.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, the difficulty I have with that explanation is that we had them broken out on a quarterly basis for the first two quarters. They're not listed in this report on a quarterly basis at all for 1999. Are these figures and this report published by the stats branch here, or are these published by the stats branch in Ottawa? Is this report published here, or is it published in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It's published here. It comes from information that we get from Ottawa. I would invite the member to get over to the stats branch and ask them himself. The explanation provided to me is that the information was not provided so they couldn't provide it.
If he can get some information, I invite him to contact stats branch directly and ask them, and see -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I don't know, Mr. Chair. There was no executive decision to do anything with any statistics. I have never given a single direction with respect to how to manage statistics, or how to report statistics of any sort at any time.
Mr. Ostashek: I have just one final question. The minister says he asked about this and why they didn't have anything from the federal stats branch. Does that mean that we will no longer get them broken out, or was it just that they missed this one time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I got the impression - and I'll check this - that they're not reporting it this way any more. But I'll check it again.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Intergovernmental Relations
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
Policy in the amount of $455,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
Public Communication Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $14,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $1,441,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the department requires an additional $227,000 in O&M and $5,000 more in capital.
The operation and maintenance monies are needed for several purposes. In the first instance, the department has taken an employee of the Land Claims Secretariat on for a one-year training assignment. Exposure to the government's budgeting process and the intricacies of the formula financing agreement are considered essential for the employee's regular position, and this secondment will provide that training.
Funds in the amount of $100,000 are also being requested to support the development of a business plan by the Yukon Federation of Labour for the Fireweed Fund. These two items account for the $160,000 being asked for under the treasury program.
The $67,000 shown is a requirement in the workers' compensation supplementary benefits program as a result of an unanticipated billing received from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board for a lump-sum payout made by them under the Supplementary Benefits Act. As members may recall, the act tops up pensions for workers who sustained their injuries under the old private plans prior to the establishment of our compensation fund.
The capital monies are needed for two printers in the budget sections of the department, and that comprises the funds being requested by this department at this time.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has had some time to reflect since we engaged in general debate on the supplementary budget. Does he have any advice for the House as to his position on tax cuts?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are none in this supplementary, Mr. Chair. In the estimates for this year, as the member knows, we have budgeted approximately $4.5 million for tax cuts in the current year, or tax credits, but in terms of future taxation measures, I can assure the member that there will be no tax increases and that we will continue to take the advice and consider the advice of the tax round table that has been meeting. It has met a couple of times in the last four months or so, and it will probably meet again shortly to go over the work of the Department of Finance with respect to a number of tax measures that we are considering. There is also the forest subcommittee of the tax round table, which is going to be reporting at the next round table meeting.
If the member is interested in our position with respect to tax cuts on the personal income tax side, I know she will be able to hold on to her questions to the point when we table the main estimates for the following year, which is only about a month or two away.
Ms. Duncan: Bill C-78 went through the federal House and the Senate after much debate - and considerable debate in this House - and the implications on the territorial government's budget are estimated to be - I've heard comments from the Government Leader - anywhere from $10 million to as high as $15 million.
My understanding is that there has been a federal commitment to ensure that the Yukon government was provided funds to deal with the implications of Bill C-78. Now, they don't appear in the supplementary budget. Is it anticipated that we'll see those in the spring budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is in fact the case that the federal government has indicated to us that they will cover the increased costs associated with the measures to increase employer contributions to the public service pension plan. It will likely come in the form of a transfer equivalent to those increased costs, and it would be reflected in the main estimates.
Ms. Duncan: I have just a couple of questions on these Auditor General reports. Does the Minister of Finance or the deputy have any sense when we might receive the Auditor General's report on other matters? Is there any indication?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I understand that the Office of the Auditor General has had cutbacks and the reports aren't as regular as we'd expect; nevertheless, we do expect that, probably by January, we'll get the next report.
Ms. Duncan: Well, they do make for interesting commentary on the territory's finances.
I just have a couple of questions, following up on these reports. Sprinkled throughout the reports that we have received in the last few years have been comments on the recording of the environmental liabilities in the territory's financial accounting. Have we made progress toward a reasonable determination and disclosure of environmental costs and liabilities?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think it's safe to say that we have begun work in this area. This is a major field of endeavour. The methodology is very rough in determining environmental liability. We also have the issue of devolution of resource management responsibilities coming to the Yukon. We have not calculated the potential liability for the federal government, other than to get them to commit to addressing whatever the liability is. But we have not come to conclusions on how to calculate and report this liability.
Ms. Duncan: Is that something that the minister anticipates would be discussed during the devolution talks and discussions over the next year - how we're going to perform this recording?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: What we have done, Mr. Chair, is simply, first of all, to agree to the principle as to who is responsible for any environmental liability that was permitted under the federal regime, and we got agreement that that will be covered by the federal government - period. We have had a lot of discussions as to exactly how that will be calculated, when the federal response will come, when the federal government would pay up to meet an acknowledged environmental problem.
This is all basically new work for all of us, and certainly for the federal government, because they have only had to face, in any real way, the environmental liabilities of the past. Of all the period from the time they started regulating to today, they've only now realized that there is a liability. They would like to calculate it for Treasury Board. It's difficult to do so. Many of the sites aren't known. They're still trying to catalogue sites. There is still the assumption that, even if they catalogue all known sites, there may be other sites. And determining what the cleanup is, by current day standards, is no small task.
So, that's where we are right now. We have been getting some methodological information from the federal government on the work that they've done, but they've still got a lot of work to do, too.
Ms. Duncan: The last question I wanted to follow up with is with regard to this older recommendation. It essentially talks about performance indicators. What I'll do is send it over to the minister in writing and ask if I could just have his officials examine it and respond.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay, we will, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I just have one question on this budget for the Finance minister.
On November 17, I asked him a question about the outstanding forest fire evacuation monies owed by the federal government for Old Crow and Pelly, and I received a legislative return from the minister, dated November 30 - yesterday, I guess. It states that we have $272,327.44 outstanding. What is the government doing about collecting this money?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the invoice is still out there, Mr. Chair, because we still have every intention of collecting. But we will continue to try to collect. We believe that it is legitimate to receive these monies from the federal government as per the agreements for emergency responses, and we are still collecting. We're still in the mode of wanting to collect, and I have seen nothing from anybody that suggests that we should slow down or stop our efforts.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, the money from Old Crow is outstanding from when the Government Leader was in government many years ago - back to 1990-91, somewhere in there, that money has been outstanding.
Does the federal government admit that they owe this money to the territorial government, or are they taking a position that they don't owe it to the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the deputy indicates that the contacts are being made through the Department of Community and Transportation Services. But from our perspective in Finance, the basic response from the federal government at this point has been no response. There has been no objection to the invoice; there just has been no response. It is a collection action that we will keep on our books until we get a response, because we believe it's justified.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I would hope that we're billing the federal government interest on this outstanding bill for about nine years.
We have another situation this year with the evacuation of Burwash Landing. Who's going to pick up the bill for that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't know when we're going to get paid. In terms of our response, we're going to provide the funding, in the first instance, to the people of Burwash Landing.
We will front the funding for the federal government, as we have in the past. Based on the record so far, it might take 10 years - minimum - to get the money, but we are interested in collection. There are agreements in place for determining the federal share. There should be no reason why they don't pay up. We're not calculating, as far as I can tell from the departments, anything beyond what the agreements state that we are entitled to. So, we're not adding money to the invoice; this is what we believe we are due according to the agreements, and we should be paid.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't think we should take another 10 years to collect the money. We have devolution coming up, and I would hope that this would be one of the outstanding issues that would have to be settled before devolution was finalized.
Once we finalize devolution, the ability to collect this money from the federal government will be a lot less than it is now and we're not having very much luck now.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, it is an issue that we have asked be raised in the context of devolution discussions, but there will still be, even after devolution - in terms of emergency response - a federal share, even though people of the Yukon will be fighting the fires. There is still this emergency measures program that will still remain federal, and we will still be expecting, in the future, that they share according to the agreement.
We'll just have to bring pressure to bear. That's all I can say - and try our best to collect because, as far as I'm aware, there has been no dispute as to the numbers. They're entirely justifiable, according to the agreements, and I don't know why they won't provide the resources.
Mr. Ostashek: I have one final question for the minister: where does this money come from? Does it come out of DIAND's budget, or does it come out of Treasury, or where does it come out of in the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'll have to check on that, Mr. Chair. I'll provide information back.
Mr. Cable: I have got some questions on the formula financing agreement that was talked about in the general debate, I believe. Where do we sit on the renewal of the agreement? Are there negotiations underway? Just what is the status?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, we just renewed the agreement, Mr. Chair. We just signed an agreement, so we're at the beginning of another cycle.
Mr. Cable: I know what the minister has called the "perversity factor" has been an annoyance to a series of Finance ministers in this government. I take it there were no concessions on the part of the federal government to modify the perversity factor.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There has been no signal from the federal government about wanting to change its position on this perversity factor. The case has certainly been made to Mr. Martin. Predecessors have made the case to Mr. Martin and to Mr. Martin's predecessors, including Michael Wilson some time back. But so far, they're not willing to change.
Mr. Cable: I'd just like to ask how the sister territories are treated, particularly the new territory, Nunavut. Are they treated in a similar fashion with respect to the perversity factor?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Indeed they are, Mr. Chair. They have the same formula.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Treasury in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits
Workers Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $227,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I don't have a prepared script from anyone with respect to the funds being requested for the ombudsman. However, as people know, under section 5 of the act, the ombudsman may undertake extra work for third parties, and it's a recoverable amount. He's asking for the money, and I see no reason not to provide it to the office.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: Does Committee wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, the combined operation and maintenance and capital funding for Government Services in supplementary estimates totals $7,106,000. O&M funding has increased by $631,000. Of this amount, $90,000 represents a budget transfer from Community and Transportation Services for the telecommunications program, and $440,000 consists of revotes approved to complete projects started in 1998-99. The balance of the increase of $97,000 is accounted for by various departmental costs associated with the red-tape reduction initiative.
Capital funding has increased by $6,475,000. Revotes in the amount of $2,361,000 have been approved to continue projects from prior years. New capital funding totals $4,114,000. Government Services' participation in the economic forums will cost $145,000. Various costs associated with the implementation of technology and telecommunications initiatives, such as long-distance learning in public schools, total $2,790,000.
New funding for property management has increased by $1,179,000.
Details of the projects will be provided in line-by-line debate.
Capital recoveries for the Department of Government Services have decreased by $45,000 due to a decline in the number of government auctions selling surplus equipment. This is attributable to an increase in the recycling of used assets by departments.
These are the highlights of the supplemental requests, and I will be happy to answer any questions at this time.
Ms. Buckway: I have a couple of questions for the minister on NovaLIS. I understand the majority of work was scheduled for completion in the spring of 1999 with the total cost of about $2.1 million spread over three years. I'm wondering if this project is on time and on budget, if the minister could advise?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will just quickly go through the progress and budget of this project. The total budget was $2.1 million, jointly funded by the territorial and federal governments, and the project remains on budget.
One new purchase contract will be issued to NovaLIS for disposition and mapping software licences for additional users. The $25,000 estimated for the additional licence is included in the original budget.
There have been a variety of service contracts let to a number of associated companies as well as local companies, and I can go through those if the member wishes.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate that. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Preliminary analysis, DMR Group, Victoria, was $27,794. Monenco Agra, Calgary, public tender, $120,100; proof of concept, Monenco Agra, Coopers Lybrand, Calgary, public tender, $158,000; land titles implementation, Monenco Agra, Coopers Lybrand, Calgary, $42,267; land titles project, NovaLIS, Halifax, $24,499; land titles implementation, NovaLIS, Halifax, $13,838; electronic data load, NovaLIS, Halifax, $32,500; early mapping, NovaLIS, Halifax, $41,459; manual conversion, practical analysis, two contracts, $7,115 and $6,690; implementation disposition mapping component, NovaLIS of Halifax and Sorrento Systems of Whitehorse, $484,650; electronic data load, NovaLIS of Halifax and Sorrento Systems of Whitehorse, $44,850; policy development, Barham and Associates, Whitehorse, $19,500; implementation assistance, vanKippersluis Consulting, Whitehorse $14,250; mineral claims map conversion, Underhill Engineering, $7,600; mineral claims map conversion two, Yukon Engineering Services, $15,500; LIMS '99 map digitizing services, Yukon Engineering Services, $19,400.
Ms. Buckway: You mentioned a couple of contracts there that went partially to Sorrento Systems of Whitehorse, as I understand. Is it possible to break down the amount that they received, as opposed to the outside company?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have the breakdown on that. I just have the gross figures, so I'd have to bring that back in further detail.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate it if the minister could do that.
Are there any dollars left in the budget for this NovaLIS project that are to be spent locally?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, there will be a series of map conversion issues, I believe.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister advise what the total amount of those might be?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To date, the Yukon government has spent $130,000 on contracts and services done by Yukoners for data and map conversion.
Our federal partners in the program have spent an additional $110,000 locally on conversion work that the land information management system, LIMS, will use. In the next year, there are several more data conversion contracts that will be tendered in the Yukon, with a total estimated value of between $150,000 to $200,000.
Ms. Buckway: When is this project projected to be complete, then? When will it be finished?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe it is due to be completed in the forthcoming year. Now, the date I couldn't give the member with any degree of accuracy because there are a series of contracts yet to do.
We also expect that there will be some other, I guess, outflow from this. Some of the things that we have suggested, in terms of electronic service delivery that I was announcing today, we think may impact on this as well. Some of the issues around maps - and particularly around mineral claims - I think will impact on this.
Ms. Buckway: Just doing the math quickly in my head, it sounds like a total of $160,000 remains of the $400,000 that the minister had originally promised in local contracts to do with the land information management system. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It initially was estimated that there could be up to $400,000. However, the contracts have come in somewhat less than what we had figured. There was a preliminary figure based on what we thought it would be. It has not come in at that amount. We figure that there is probably between $150,000 and $200,000 left to do. Also to be factored in is the $110,000 that our federal partners have spent locally.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister advise, then, when the remaining local contracts will be tendered?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will have to provide that for the member by some form of legislative return. I don't have the exact dates on those.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate it if the minister could do that, Mr. Chair. On the human resources information system, which was started in 1995, I believe, with a projected cost of $1.4 million - and the costs ended up at almost $3 million. What is the final cost of HRIS, the human resource information system? Can the minister advise?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Just for clarification - that was the system that wasn't supposed to work?
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I believe that's the one. Of course, I wasn't here at the time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I won't press the issue any longer. Suffice to say that January came and went and the sky didn't fall. The direct HRIS project costs were $2,142,881. The project also picked up the cost of existing government staff that worked on the implementation. These costs totalled $853,303 and are basically an accounting entry because we would have been spending the dollars otherwise to support existing systems.
Ms. Buckway: I've got a couple of questions from the contract registry to do with the Government Services department, if the minister would indulge me for a moment. I notice that the University of British Columbia had received a contract for $84,907 to do an air quality study on the Whitehorse administration building. Some of that has been spent. That was in 1995 - the contract date, and it was scheduled for completion on March 31, 1995. Can the minister give me a couple of details of what that was about?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe the only thing remaining is a visit by the individual who did the air-quality study to do a follow-up on the quality of the air in the building.
I'm just looking for the details on that one. I think I'll have to just take a look.
I don't have a note on that particular point, but I could certainly provide it for the member.
Ms. Buckway: I would appreciate it if the minister could do that.
I notice another Government Services contract in September of this year was to install avalanche protectors at Yukon College. Now, am I reading something into this that isn't there? Is Yukon College in some danger of an avalanche?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have a note on avalanche protectors here. Can the member give me a sense of what that is? Did she say that was Government Services, for Yukon College, avalanche protectors?
Ms. Buckway: Yes, in the contract registry, April 1 to September 30, 1999, it says Government Services, page 36 - fourth item - AFAB Enterprises to install avalanche protectors, Yukon College for $2,250.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Does the member have a contract number on that?
Ms. Buckway: Yes, SS99-16-3141-40156.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will certainly get that back to the member as soon as I can. It's the first I have heard of it.
Ms. Buckway: I also noted a couple of contracts in this same registry to do with 502 Hoge Street: to install flooring, install a window and a door, install window and a door, kitchen cabinets and, I believe, replace some stairs. There were a number of contracts, all fairly small, with a number of different contractors. Could the minister give me some detail on those?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, I'm advised that the avalanche protectors are actually a metal lift along the roof so that you don't get snow coming, crushing down. I was beginning to think of avalanche sheds and wondering what the heck that was. I suspect, by the address on Hoge, that it would be one of the group homes that is maintained by Health and Social Services.
Ms. Buckway: I was just wondering why there was so much repair done on that place in one period of time.
I've got a couple of questions about the traditional healing room at Thomson Centre. There was a $19,000 contract issued in June for the traditional healing room, and then in March, a little earlier, to refinish the interior of the Thomson healing room. Now, admittedly, I wasn't here at the time. I'm just wondering if we were refinishing something that had been just done, or was something improperly done in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'm not sure if the member is familiar with the healing room. It's a traditional First Nation healing room that is attached to the hospital via the Thomson Centre. What had to happen there is, because of the access, there were a number of areas in the Thomson Centre that required redesign, one of which was the office area, to create a corridor to hook into the healing room. And off the passageway is an area where traditional medicines are prepared.
The healing room was designed in such a way to allow, I guess, the greatest use of natural materials. It has an aggregate, pebble floor, representing a beach. It has a series of cedar panels inside. It has a wood-burning fireplace. So, there were a variety of contracts involved in that, and there was an attempt, as well, to involve as many First Nation contractors as possible.
With regard to refinishing, I suspect it had to do with the connection to the Thomson Centre.
Ms. Buckway: One of the issues continually raised - and one that we hear about often - is about problems contractors have contracting in the Northwest Territories. Is the minister working on these issues with the contracting community or with the Government of the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have had some discussions with the former Minister of Public Works, Jim Antoine, before he became the Premier of the Northwest Territories, on this particular issue. They were primarily general. I outlined some of our concerns in a meeting with him last spring, and I indicated our concerns about some of the practices that we felt were unduly restrictive to Yukon contractors. Beyond that, we haven't had any further discussions. Mr. Antoine became the premier and left the public works portfolio, and we haven't had a chance to go any further with those discussions.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister advise if he is planning to go any further with these discussions. It is a matter of some interest to the contracting community here.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think there would be some opportunities for us to do that. We have been working with the other two northern territories on a closer basis, particularly in some areas, and I think that this would be something that we would want to explore in the future.
We have been focusing primarily on areas of education and health, but I think there are probably some areas of commonality that we could discuss with regard to such things as practices in terms of contracting and so on. This has been something that I have raised with some of the ministers in Nunavut and the N.W.T., because we are concerned and we do have some concerns, particularly around some of the provisions of SUFA, the social union framework, in terms of labour mobility. I raised the issue at the SUFA meeting in Calgary a bit over a month and something ago and made the case that, given the scale of our economy, given some of the issues around our umbrella final agreement and the provisions under section 22 for local input, we felt that there needed to be at least some recognition of the special circumstances in the north, and in that case I was supported by the representatives from both the N.W.T. and Nunavut, who share very similar problems.
Ms. Buckway: I take it from that, then, that the minister will be making efforts to resume these talks at some point, hopefully in the near future.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would anticipate that when we do this, we'll probably be approaching it on a tripartite basis with the other two territories.
In particular, Nunavut has a number of concerns because they have a preferential hiring policy with their public service that they are afraid may be in some danger of challenge. Of course, the Northwest Territories has sort of been skating a thin edge, I guess, with some of their restrictive contracting practices. Now they have made an argument that they need such practices in order to develop their economy. We have made a similar argument, and we also have the additional factor of our umbrella final agreement. And I have used that as a point, that we do have a legal requirement, and that legal requirement supersedes some of the provisions of the social union framework agreement.
Ms. Buckway: Could the minister give us an update on the local hire recommendations here?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Full employment. That's right. I'm glad the Member for Klondike has recognized that. Let's just take a look here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, how jealous they are, Mr. Chair.
Let me just grab this. Okay.
The implementation of the Yukon hire policy is proceeding on schedule. There have been 33, or 83 percent. of the recommendations implemented.
There has been good progress made on the four other recommendations - recommendations 6, 8, 11 and 34. In the one case, number 33, we are assessing options based on legal advice and recommendations from the Bid Challenge Committee and consulting internally before looking at external interests. Two recommendations are on hold pending the completion of the Northern Affairs program devolution. With respect to the one that probably many people are focusing in on is the idea of a hiring agency. We have indicated that we'll be consulting with some of the stakeholders to look at what we consider to be an appropriate pilot project and to examine some options for implementing this kind of an idea.
We have had some discussions with the local contracting community and explored some different options.
We feel that we are making good progress in this area, and we've had meetings with labour - just on recommendation number 6. In that regard, we've had meetings with labour interests, contractors; we held those in February and in May and June. There were four major issues discussed: one was the more consistent use and application of supplementary general conditions and reporting requirements to address the need to promote the use of Yukon and local labour; revisions to the Employment Standards Act, to clarify that contract workers are employees, and to ensure that they are paid accordingly on government construction contracts; revisions to fair wage schedule and the use of hiring lists on government construction contracts. Those have been the four major issues that were discussed.
Ms. Buckway: I'm told that we used to get a listing of the recommendations and the implementations in a chart format for local hire. We haven't seen one since, I believe, sometime this spring. If the minister could provide this again, that would be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I was under the impression that you were receiving them, but we'll certainly provide them.
Ms. Buckway: With regard to devolution, Government Services was counting and assessing buildings - the building information system. Could the minister give us an update on how that has been going?
Hon. Mr. Sloan:We have done an assessment of the buildings; we have undertaken a comprehensive evaluation. What's being proposed are nine office buildings - not the Elijah Smith Building, I might point out, the one we wanted - four heated storage buildings, nine heated workshops, 83 cold storage buildings, 38 residences and 11 fire lookout buildings.
Some of the residences may be sold to federal employees occupying the housing, if the employees are considered of indeterminate status and if they accept employment with YTG.
We've identified all physical building deficiencies and have costed them out and, to date, most of the building deficiencies have been corrected. We're looking at another assessment or review just prior to transfer, and it's anticipated that the cost of any deficiencies not yet completed, or new deficiencies noted, will be transferred to YTG as a one-time cost.
We have also done an assessment of the information technology system, and the federal government will provide the necessary funds or undertake the work to upgrade the information systems before transferring to YTG.
As well, we have also done an evaluation of DIAND's vehicle fleet and have costed that out. Only the vehicles meeting age and condition criteria established by the YTG fleet vehicle agency will be transferred. It is anticipated that significant funds will be needed to ensure the supply of safe and efficient vehicles.
As well, there are issues around other physical assets, including such things as firefighting equipment - tools, chainsaws, boats, motors, and, I'm sure your favourite, Mr. Chair, office furniture. There are probably other things, Mr. Chair, that you're fascinated by, but they are too numerous to list.
I can say that we have taken one building over in anticipation, Mr. Chair, of the transfer, and this is the building that is near and dear to your heart, the Beaver Creek firefighting station, which we have now converted into the Beaver Creek nursing station, which, you will recall, we opened together while we visited Beaver Creek.
Chair: The Chair will look forward to a renovated office in the next budget.
Ms. Buckway: I'm a little unclear from something the minister said. Is there a chance that the Yukon government will get the Elijah Smith Building?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, there isn't a chance. It is the one building that we did have our eyes on, but the federal government has indicated that they are interested in keeping it. However, they have indicated an interested in having our property management assume the actual management of the building, and, of course, the staff would then become part of the YTG workforce.
Ms. Buckway: Does the minister have any idea of the potential total value of the assets that would be coming to the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we don't have the potential total assets. We have priced out what the upgrades would be and what the replacements would be, but I don't have an assessment of the total assets - what the actual value of those assets is. I imagine that a number of these buildings may not be of particular significant value, such things as cold storage buildings that might simply be a shed attached to a DIAND office someplace. So, I don't have a total figure on that.
We have tried to identify what the costs have been and relayed those on to the federal government in terms of funds that they would either have to transfer to us for upgrades or make those necessary adjustments themselves.
Ms. Buckway: The minister has made reference a couple of times to the cost of upgrades. Can the minister share with us what it might cost to bring these buildings up to standard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll provide that for the member. As well, we'll try to get some costing on what we suspect will be the information technology costs and pass those on.
Ms. Buckway: Are these costs being broken down by community or by type of building or in any other way?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: They would be undertaken, not by community, but by separate category - for example, buildings, information technology, vehicle replacement, other assets including, as I said, Mr. Chair, many of the things that you were so interested in, as well as some costs around inventorying of DIAND records and bringing that into place.
There is going to be one area, and that is that we're working with other departments to determine how DIAND employees are going to be physically accommodated. There will be, clearly, some DIAND employees who may stay in their present locations, but, for example, I know of several buildings where, essentially, even though the building is being maintained, there are no employees there because the DIAND workforce has stepped down. So there may be some issues there where costs are incurred for accommodations. We have experienced that in Health and Social Services with the transfer of the phase 2, integrating some staff that we have had. That has obliged us to look at some other buildings and consolidation of staff.
Ms. Buckway: I notice in the contract registry, which I referred to earlier, a $96,000 contract for an asset management system. Is this to do with dealing with assets for devolution?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's for our supply services.
Ms. Buckway: Will the delay in devolution impact this inventory that the minister has been doing on buildings? Is the delay going to have an effect here?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't believe so. Our major concern was actually on the buildings themselves. We were anticipating an earlier transfer, and we had already begun to do an assessment on the building deficiencies. We don't anticipate that there will be any incremental costs as a result of this.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister advise if his department purchases vehicles from outside the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Mr. Chair, we deal with local suppliers. We lease a considerable number of vehicles from some of the local companies, such as Norcan and others, but no, we don't purchase from outside.
Ms. Buckway: Has the Government Services department purchased any vehicles from Nanaimo Nissan?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not to my knowledge. I can certainly check with the fleet vehicle agency and see, but I don't recall a purchase from - was it Nanaimo Nissan?
Ms. Buckway: Every day, there is a car with a government plate in the parking lot behind the Royal Bank tower, and it has a sticker on it from Nanaimo Nissan, so, I'm just wondering if the minister can explain that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm sorry. Can the member tell me which parking lot that is - the name of the parking lot?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, the Royal Bank. I suspect what that is, is that we inherited some vehicles in the phase 2 transfer, and the Royal Bank tower is where we have some of our Health and Social Services staff. We inherited a fair number of vehicles from the federal government, some of which were not in particularly good shape - notably, many of the Suburbans that our nursing stations used. We have since replaced those with other vehicles.
We found that when we took over phase 2 health, many of the vehicles were not particularly in road-worthy shape. That has made us somewhat more vigilant in looking at the condition of the vehicles that we will be inheriting from the federal government as part of devolution.
With respect to that vehicle, I suspect that it is one of those transfers.
Ms. Buckway: Thanks to the minister for clearing that up. I had a very concerned constituent raise that with me. She thought the government bought all its vehicles elsewhere, and I said that I would inquire.
I have a couple of questions for the minister about Connect Yukon. I believe we established in Question Period in November that it wasn't really all residents of the Yukon who would be included. I have constituents at Fox Lake, who are concerned and wrote a letter to the editor about communications. Can the minister advise if they'll be covered by this Connect Yukon initiative?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I can't predict who will be part of - and I assume we're talking about telephones at this point.
The goal is basically threefold. One is the aspect having to do with rural phone extension. The second has to do with the upgrading of high-speed data and Internet services, and that is going to be accomplished through an agreement with Northwestel. What that will principally do is develop a physical infrastructure, primarily increased microwave capacity and increased band capacity, most notably directed up the North Klondike Highway where the service is poor. I would suspect that individuals living at Fox Lake would have the ability to access any upgraded capacity. Now, what is involved in that, I would not have the technical details at this point. I could certainly see if that is going to be part of it.
What we have done is identify major areas of telephone deficiency, and that is forming part of the rural telephone program. What we do know is that there are going to be some areas that are obviously going to be much more cost-effective than others, and it's going to be primarily under critical mass. For example, there are areas in Laberge, such as Deep Creek, where, just by very preliminary estimates, it will be relatively cost-efficient and, therefore, the costs should be lower. There may be some areas where the cost is going to be somewhat higher because there are fewer lots. We do know that areas such as Tagish, Marsh Lake, Deep Creek and many of those places - some of those areas - are going to be relatively easy to do. They have got a critical mass of lots, and we suspect that the cost will come in very competitively in that regard. There are some, quite frankly, where the cost is going to be more, and that is going to be a decision for individuals.
We are premising this project on an investment of public money, plus we will be looking at a contribution from the lot owner, a contribution from the supplier, whomever that is, in the particular area - essentially, to go $1,000 for the lot owner, $1,000 for the supplier, and we will do the next $5,000.
And then anything over that would have to be borne by the lot owners in that area. Now, it may be that if we're at, say, a $9,000 cost, lot owners in that area may choose to access that. They may feel that's within their means. It may be that they'll make a decision - and it has to be on a 65-percent vote - not to do it.
But we feel that given the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I may ask to provide more details. Given the number of lots that could take advantage of it, we feel that it will be of benefit to a large majority of people.
Ms. Buckway: The minister has mentioned Northwestel in this initiative. Where is the rest of the private sector here, and are the First Nations having any part in this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we have concluded a memorandum of understanding with the First Nations - including the Kaska, Ta'an Kwach'an, CYFN - for their involvement in this whole process. We will be working with the First Nations for First Nation communities to be able to increase their capacity to take advantage of this.
Our partnership with Northwestel is primarily on the development of infrastructure for high-speed data transmission. Clearly, they are the major supplier; they have the infrastructure. It would not be practical - nor do I even suspect it would be economically viable - for someone else to come in and try to duplicate that infrastructure.
So we've worked out an agreement with Northwestel in the form of a public/private partnership that we think will be positive for both partners in this.
We do see that there will also be an ability for local suppliers, local Internet servers to also access - if one wants to call it - the major pipe for data access. We're encouraging, say, a company that's an Internet server in a particular community to take advantage of us putting the major infrastructure in place.
We also see the private sector - in terms of some of the Internet providers, and some of the folks who will benefit from technology - as being part of this partnership.
We won't be asking them to make an investment. We'll be asking them to take part in this so that we can make sure that there are enough opportunities spread out for some of our smaller companies in the territory.
Ms. Buckway: If the minister could provide the memorandum of understanding, that would be much appreciated.
I also wondered if the minister could advise if the First Nations are investing in this project or merely participating in it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, in terms of investing money in the outlay, no. However, that does not suggest a First Nation could not, if it wanted to, get into the area of supplying services to their own citizens if they chose to form a company and, by means of that company, accessing the major data transmission lines. There's nothing to prevent a First Nation from doing that. For example, if they wanted to provide services to their own offices and their own community, that would be certainly within their scope - either they, or perhaps in partnership with another company.
Ms. Buckway: Well, I'm sure the residents of the Ta'an Kwach'an Village, who have no telephone service at all at this point, would welcome any improvement in the status of that situation.
I was intrigued today by the minister's statement on red-tape reduction and electronic service delivery, some of which ties with this Connect Yukon initiative, and I'm wondering about the on-line options the minister mentioned for a number of transactions. Will the minister be providing for people who have no on-line access, computer terminals in government offices in various communities around the territory so that the people who live in the more remote areas can do this?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We recognize that not everyone has access to computers, but we are anticipating, in the development of this, the development of more public Internet access sites. We have taken a look at some of the experiments in New Brunswick with some of the kiosks as well, so we are going to be exploring different ways in which electronics can be used to deliver services. We did take a look at Service New Brunswick and the options there and tried to get some ideas. We have asked, basically, various departments to give us some suggestions. Right now a good deal of the departments' applications have been restricted by capacity, so what we've asked is, "Given the increase in capacity, what kinds of things could you do and would you want to do?" The list that I read today were actual suggestions from departments rather than from Government Services. Certainly, there were one or two in there from Government Services, but many of them came from, for example, motor vehicles branch and other areas. So we are going to be encouraging more of that. I think there's a great deal of opportunity. For example, I've talked with some folks at the Lottery Commission -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Good heavens, Mr. Chair, a coup.
I have talked, for example, with the Lottery Commission about the idea of people even being able to fill in lottery applications, send them on-line, and so on. I think there are a lot of opportunities, and by providing some public Internet access sites with proper capacity, I think that many people could take advantage of it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My dream? My dream would actually be if, at a future point, we actually had some of the kiosks where people could do many of those functions. But that's a way off and quite a few dollars off, I'm afraid.
Ms. Buckway: I'm wondering if the minister could perhaps commit that, when this on-line dream of his is approaching reality, wherever there is a government building in a rural community, he will arrange to have public Internet access so that the rural residents who don't have their own computers and their own Internet access can do this sort of work and perhaps save the government workers some time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can certainly commit to the member that that's our goal and that's what we hope to achieve.
Mr. Chair, given the lateness, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, Third Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m .tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled on December 1, 1999:
Yukon Act (proposed revisions): Final Report of the Special Commission (November 1999) (McDonald)
Yukon Act: Official Public Record (symposiums, transcripts and documents) of the Special Commission (McDonald)
Yukon Liquor Corporation 1998/99 Annual Report (Fairclough)