Tuesday, December 7, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers. Today, I would ask all members to pray in their own way for a few minutes.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Fentie: I have a document for tabling, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling a November 25 letter from Canada Post to yourself as MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) reliable, affordable, scheduled airline service is essential to the people of the Yukon and to the territory's economic development;
(2) any reduction in frequency of flights, carrying capacity, type of aircraft, staffing levels, incentive programs or other services now available to Yukon people and businesses would not be in the best interests of the territory; and
(3) the Government of Canada has a duty to ensure that any restructuring of the Canadian airline industry will not have a negative impact on residents of northern Canada; and
THAT this House urges the federal government to ensure that the proposed acquisition of Canadian Airlines International by Air Canada will not result in any reduction in services or any unusual increase in cost to Yukon consumers.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) all Canadians have a right to expect reliable, timely and affordable postal services, including parcel service;
(2) communities such as Old Crow are more dependent on Canada Post for parcel service, and have fewer commercial options, than communities that have road access; and
(3) the policy of Canada Post to base its northern service parcel rates on cost recovery and the interests of its shareholders imposes an unfair burden on the people of Old Crow and other remote northern communities; and
THAT this House urges the minister responsible for Canada Post to direct the corporation to adopt a northern service parcel rate policy that better meets the needs of its consumers in Old Crow and other remote Canadian communities that are not accessible by road.
Mr. Speaker, if we get this in the mail now, there's a chance Canada Post can receive it before the end of this millennium.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education Act, temporary teacher rights
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education. I have asked a number of questions of this minister about the government amending the Education Act to allow first-year temporary employees and educational assistants to be represented by their professional organization, the Yukon Teachers Association. This labour-friendly government has refused to recognize these people as employees.
Last week, the minister said in the House, "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." Now the president of the Yukon Teachers Association has said publicly that no such meeting has taken place.
Let me give the Minister of Education an early Christmas present: a chance to correct the record. Did the Minister of Education meet with the president of the YTA on the issue of amendments to the Education Act to provide for the representation of temporary employees? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I did meet with Paul Nordahl, the current president of the Yukon Teachers Association, who was accompanied by Dennis Rankin. We met in my office, and we discussed the issue of temporary teachers and the Education Act. What I indicated during that meeting is that we believe that amendments to the Education Act should be conducted during the review when we look at issues that are of concern to all partners in education, including parents and school councils, First Nations and the community at large.
Ms. Duncan: The news story indicating that the meeting had not taken place was published yesterday. When did the meeting that the minister just spoke of take place?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: If that member is going to stand on her feet and quote a media article as fact and indicate that I'm lying, then I'd challenge here that that is unparliamentary. I had a meeting with Mr. Rankin and Mr. Nordahl. It was last year; this year he wrote and requested a meeting to discuss the same issue and I wrote back and indicated what the position of the government was.
I would also remind the member that as I've indicated in the House, we have amended the order-in-council that provides for the temporary employees regulation and we are paying temporary employees the same rate of pay as bargaining unit members. All of this was done with discussions between the Yukon Teachers Association and the Government of Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: The minister made the statement last week, and the letter that she sent last week indicating that she was refusing to meet with the Yukon Teachers Association clearly contradicted themselves. The government has said it supports working people. The minister has said that amending the order-in-council and amending the regulation deals with this issue. It does not. This is a legislation issue and it deals with the rights of first year employees to representation. Will the minister agree to bring an amendment to the House in the spring sitting?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have not said anything contradictory. I have not contradicted myself. I indicated to the Yukon Teachers Association, as I have indicated to the member in this House, that this issue could be discussed at the bargaining table. In addition, the Public Service Commission has written to the Yukon Teachers Association, offering to discuss any issues of concern, including temporary teachers, at pre-bargaining.
When I met with the Yukon Teachers Association, we also discussed the possibility of taking out of the Education Act the issues to do with employment, and having a separate statute that would cover employment issues, similar to the Public Service Act.
The Yukon Teachers Association was heavily involved in the drafting of the Education Act that is before us and in force now. They indicated they might be interested in that. It's something that would take some time and attention. We're willing to have YTA and the Yukon government sit down and look at that, but any legislative amendments have to be considered in light of requests from all partners in education to look at the Education Act.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Renewable Resources on the protected areas strategy.
The public is confused. The minister is confused. Mining investors are confused. Environmentalists are confused. The government can't make up its mind on the protected areas strategy.
In the Whitehorse Star on November 10, an article entitled "Fishing Branch staking met with anger" started with this sentence, "The Yukon government will ask Ottawa to reject 32 mineral claims that have been staked within the proposed Fishing Branch park, says the Yukon minister responsible for parks." The Yukon will ask Ottawa to refuse the claims.
In another quote from the same article, the minister said, "My department is doing a letter to them."
Yesterday, in Question Period, the minister said, "We haven't written a letter to the federal government requesting these claims to be rescinded."
November 10, the minister is going to write a letter. December 6, the minister admits he isn't writing a letter. A different answer with every new day. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. What's the minister's position today?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: With the people listening in to our Question Period, it's obvious that the Liberals are the ones who are confused.
Mr. Speaker, what we've said is that we were going to write a letter. We've met collectively as a caucus and Cabinet and talked it over, and decided that we will not be writing a letter. I told the Member for Porter Creek that we were not going to be writing a letter. I don't see what's so confusing about that.
We do have a right to make things better in the future with the protected areas strategy. We're not changing the strategy. We think that we could improve it in ways in the future. We haven't given it a real test yet, but in regard to the 32 claims, we will not be writing a letter to the federal government.
Ms. Buckway: It's no wonder Yukoners don't trust this government when it comes to the economy. I can't think of a better way to destroy investor confidence in the Yukon than to tell one story for the benefit of environmentalists and another for the benefit of the mining industry. Which spin they use depends on the audience. Perhaps the government thinks that Yukon miners and Yukon environmentalists don't communicate with each other.
Does the minister believe that the conflicting messages he is sending out are helping or harming the investment climate in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: The member opposite is focused on the negative, and we hear it time and time again in this House. What we've done as a government is gone out there, made the public aware of what's going to take place in regard to Fishing Branch, asked for a map notation giving people full notice of where the boundaries could be and the fact that the local planning team is going to make recommendations to us. So, we've done all that.
We've worked with the industry on this, and they have agreed that, yes, a map notation is a sufficient way of doing things and that they respect that. But, in the end, it didn't turn out that way. We feel at this point that we're so far into the process on Fishing Branch that we'll be making a decision soon on the boundaries and we'll go for total protection, not interim protection, but protection of the goal 1 area in the Fishing Branch very soon, as soon as we decide on the boundaries.
Ms. Buckway: The minister said yesterday, "I said we will not be writing a letter. We feel that the general public out there knew that this was going to be a protected area." So, on the one hand, the NDP government hasn't taken any action to disallow the 32 claims. On the other hand, they think they shouldn't have been staked in the first place because people knew that protected area status was coming.
Environmentalists in the territory aren't at all reassured when staking in potential protected areas continues and the government is taking no action. The government has promised to respect the claims, and the government has promised to get rid of the claims. Which promise are they going to break?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member is not listening again. I thought that when she came into this Legislature that it looked like she was supporting the protected areas strategy. Obviously, the leader of the Yukon Party is dragging her in, and they are both the same. They say that the protected areas strategy doesn't work. Those were the very words of the leader of the Liberal Party - that it doesn't work. And I asked her to go and tell the people in Old Crow that it doesn't work.
Fishing Branch will be established as a protected area with goal 1 and goal 2, and, Mr. Speaker, we are proud of that. We're proud of the fact that we have worked closely with the local people in establishing this protected area. It is a result of land claim agreements, and it was built upon that, to take care of one ecoregion in that area. And what's so negative about that, in working with the people? We have developed a strategy with the people over approximately a year and a half, and that's the guide that we're going with. We're seeking permanent protection in Fishing Branch, goal 1. That's where we're going next. We're not going backwards.
Question re: Canadian Airlines, impact of Air Canada takeover
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism on the future of Canadian Airlines. It appears that Canadian Airlines' future is anything but certain, now that Canadian is telling its shareholders to accept the Air Canada bid. The Canadian Airlines employees group has prepared two studies on the impact of Air Canada's takeover of Canadian and what effect it would have on the economy of B.C. The studies show that many Canadian employees will lose their jobs, and companies that serve the airline will also be hard hit.
Can the minister advise the House whether or not this government has conducted any similar studies in the Yukon to see what would happen to Canadian employees here, and how our local companies providing services will fare? Has any study been done with respect to that, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, no studies have been done on the direct impact. We know that this is a lucrative route and will continue to be a lucrative route. We have talked to the federal government about it. We have assured the federal government that we want to continue with quality air access to the Yukon Territory. We want them to ensure that. We want to ensure that there will be no rapid fluctuation in the prices of airline tickets here, and we'll continue to work in that manner.
Mr. Phillips: I'm surprised that the government didn't do anything about that because, as the minister knows, union and seniority issues will come up, and it may affect some of the local employees of Canadian Airlines.
I'm not only concerned about the job losses for Canadian Airlines employees here, but about the service sector for the Yukon tourism industry, as well as the air access to and from the territory.
Can the minister advise the House if there had been any discussions with Air Canada up until now, or are there any discussions planned in the very near future, now that we know that it looks like Air Canada will be the sole carrier in Canada, specifically in and out of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member knows that this is the government that has put valuable infrastructure dollars toward the airport, that we have gone out and we've lured Balair, Air Transat, Condor and others to the territory. We completely urge the federal government to take a very proactive role to ensure that the airline restructuring process will not be to the detriment of the Yukon Territory. It's all in process at this point in time. We'll continue to track the process and work with the process.
As the member knows, we hired a consulting firm out of Calgary that will enable us to bring recommendations forth to the federal government, and still I would like to fall back, though, and say that this is a very lucrative route. We said that points from the study have come out and said that it will continue to be lucrative, and I will continue to work to ensure that Yukon does have continued air access all year round, and we'll continue to try and find meaningful partners at a regional level.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe this is an opportunity for me to make a Christmas wish. Mr. Speaker, my Christmas wish this Christmas is that the Minister of Tourism would actually answer the question. The question to the Minister of Tourism is, has he had any meetings with Air Canada - not with the federal government; we've heard that story six times. Has he had any meetings with Air Canada or is he planning any meetings with Air Canada, who will be the probable carrier in and out of the territory, who will determine what service we're getting, whether it's daily in the winter or whether the service will be cut back? I'm urging the minister; it is timely for him or his officials to meet now with Air Canada to discuss the future of a regular, year-round carrier into the territory. Will the minister do that and will the minister please honour my Christmas wish and answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, what we've proven here is that the member does listen to the radio. You know that the Air Canada deal to purchase Canadian Airlines was just made; it was just announced. Even their initial talk about operating Canadian is that they are going to operate Canadian as a separate company for the initial period - or for the continued period. We did say that we want to ensure that ticket prices and frequency of flights, and that we have the same capacity here - a 737 or 767 -continuing into the Yukon. And of course we'll continue to work with airline industries and, yes, we will meet and send letters to Air Canada. It's all a part of the process and we're just coming to that stage of the process.
Question re: Hunting areas being reserved for First Nation elders
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources. I've had a concern raised with me by one of my constituents, a 20-year Yukon resident, who went to one of his favourite hunting spots last fall and found that it was now off limits. Apparently a local renewable resource council had put up signs closing off the area so they could be reserved for elders of First Nations only. My constituent, being a law-abiding citizen and not wanting to break the law, although very annoyed, returned to Whitehorse and consulted the Department of Renewable Resources. The department advised him to ignore the signs. My question to the minister is, did he or his department approve of posting the signs? And, if not, who did?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Selkirk Renewable Resources Council put up the signs. We wrote a letter to them asking them to remove the signs. We feel that they are an advisory body. I met with the renewable resources council and talked it over with them and again advised them that these signs should come down. There wasn't any approval through our department or through myself. It would be the department that gives approval to these things. It was not done through the department. They were put up by the renewable resources council.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the biggest problem here is that these signs were put up on category B land. Every Yukoner has the right to access category B lands for the purpose of hunting. This constituent drove 200 miles to go hunting, saw the signs posted, and had to return to Whitehorse, being very upset and didn't have time to go hunting again.
The minister says he has asked that the signs be removed. Does he, in fact, know that the signs have been removed?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, at this point, the signs have not been taken down.
Mr. Ostashek: If the signs were put up without any authority from any department, they are illegal signs. Is the renewable resources council going to be penalized for putting these signs on lands that they were not entitled to post? We all want land claims to work in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and it's issues like this that divide the community - when signs are being posted without authority.
So, can the minister tell me when the signs will be down and what is his department and his government going to do to ensure the right of public access to category B lands?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I said that I have met with the renewable resource council. I have talked to other people. I have talked to the Fish and Game Association to try to work things out with the renewable resource council. If this is their wish, maybe they could have been sitting down with the Fish and Game Association, and working closer with the department people. I asked them if this was a concern to them, that maybe somehow we can work on something together.
We have been working on management plans with other organizations across the Yukon, and I don't see why we can't be sitting down and working a little closer together. And they are committed to doing that, and our department will be working with the renewable resource council.
Question re: Credit unions
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Finance on credit unions. Over the last year, there has been public discussion on the value of starting up a credit union in the Yukon. The minister told the House last December that the government was exploring the legislative framework around credit unions and that he thought the options would be more fully explored.
Where do we sit on this credit union legislation? When will it be brought forward?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, there has been no decision as to whether or not we are going to be bringing legislation forward at all, or whether or not we need to bring legislation forward. As I indicated when the minister previously asked this question, there were other options to be considered as well, including federal legislation, which, I understand is in the pipe and may be available to register credit unions at the federal level and allow credit union centrals to insure local credit unions, such as one that might be developed in the Yukon.
What we have done in the interim in assessing those options is to work with the local organization, provide some funding for an analysis of a credit union potential in the Yukon and, at this point, we have not yet seen the result of that work, but I understand that it is ongoing.
Mr. Cable: There was a motion brought before the House in February of last year by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, where we agreed unanimously that the government should explore and encourage alternative banking activities such as credit unions. That's nearly two years ago. What are the reservations that this government has about Yukon legislative framework around credit unions? Are there some potential problems or red flags that we should be aware of?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I don't actually know where that question came from, Mr. Speaker. We have not said that we have decided on any particular option. We've said we are assessing the options. One option has been that the federal government might be in a position to legislate first, and that would be a better solution, perhaps, than the Yukon government establishing its own credit union legislation with its own administrative structures to oversee the credit union activity.
So, that is an option that we are still assessing. It is quite possibly a viable option. It might even be a better option than locally funded administrative services to cover the credit union.
We're very interested in pursuing a credit union as an option to provide alternative banking services, but there are a number of ways to achieve that goal. What we are doing - what I just indicated we are doing - is that we are funding, providing money to, a local organization to do analysis. I've not seen the analysis yet. I don't know that it's complete. But it will help us understand which is the best option so that when we do proceed with alternative banking services, credit unions - because there is good support in this Legislature, and there's a lot of support on this side of the House - we'll be able to choose the best option to secure that service.
Mr. Cable: All right, let's look at the federal option. We started talking about this nearly two years ago, in February of 1998. The Minister of Finance just indicated that the federal legislation is in the pipe. Whereabouts does it sit? When can we reasonably expect that the federal government will bring down the legislation that he appears to favour - that option?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That might be an excellent question to put to the Parliament of Canada. We understand that the federal government is still pursuing credit union legislation. It is quite possibly a better option. I'm not saying that it is a better option; I'm saying it's quite possibly a better option, because we don't know yet precisely what the legislation will accomplish.
We have been told that the intent of the legislation is to basically administer community credit unions at the central level, and ensure that they have access to the same oversight services and insurance that credit unions that are associated with credit union centrals in the provinces have.
So we think it might be a good option, because we're concerned about the high cost of administering the credit union in the Yukon, if perhaps there's only one credit union with perhaps only one storefront. So we obviously have concerns about that. We still like the option of credit unions; we want to encourage credit unions here, but we have to assess the options first.
Question re: Whitehorse waterfront area boundaries
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. The government has gone to some considerable trouble and expense to clean up the Whitehorse waterfront lands. In his role as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the minister developed a very generous buyout program for the Shipyards squatters.
Last April the government, in its supplementary budget, approved $1.4 million for Whitehorse waterfront landscaping, and all members of this House, and many members of the community, were supportive of improving the Whitehorse waterfront, to make it a better place for Yukoners and our visitors alike.
But there appears to be some difference in opinion, however, about exactly what are the boundaries of the Whitehorse waterfront lands. Where do they begin, and where do they finish?
I'd like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services if he can give us his government's perspective on where the waterfront lands lie. Is it between the Shipyards area and Rotary Peace Park, or beyond?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: For a certain amount of time there, it was starting to sound like the Member for Riverdale North was actually trying to make himself look like he supported the initiatives that this government has done. Well, let me clarify that there is not one initiative that that member, or anybody on that side of the floor, has supported that this government has done, but we're very, very proud of the fact that we have been able to work with people on the waterfront to improve the waterfront district itself for the betterment of the economic development initiatives of the City of Whitehorse or the Territory of the Yukon, and we'll continue to do that fine work. So, it's very nice to hear on the floor of this Legislature kind of a backdoor compliment for what we are doing.
As far as the actual boundary descriptions, or what are being concluded or what are being held with the negotiation, that is certainly information I will have to get back to you on.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, that answer is very interesting. Anybody I talked to in the City of Whitehorse in the past five or 10 years has talked about waterfront development being between this building and the 20/20 building, and it was extended a bit to go down to where the squatters were. That was the waterfront development, and I think people were generally pleased to see the government committing $1.4 million to developing that area. What they were concerned about is the government using the waterfront development money to put in sewer and water lines about a mile away from what anybody ever thought was the waterfront area.
All I'm trying to determine from this government is, where is the waterfront development in this government's eyes? Is it from where you can see the river? Because you can see the river from on top of the escarpment. I'm trying to find out what is waterfront development in the eyes of this government. A lot of people were excited about the development, but now we see almost half of the money going to a sewer and water project that won't do anything for our visitors with respect to beautifying the Whitehorse waterfront between the government building and the 20/20 building.
I'm asking the minister if he could please, for the sake of people wanting to know what that budget item really meant, tell me where is the waterfront?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, that if the member just stomped out the door and instead of going to his truck in the parking lot, turned to the left and walked until his feet were wet, he would darn well find out where the waterfront is.
Mr. Speaker, I can also say that I have been around here for a long time. It used to be called Whiskey Flats and a lot of other names that are around here. It has always been the hub of the center, the waterfront here in the Yukon Territory. I would say, simplistically, if the member is really, really desirous of an answer - to what kind of question, I'm not really sure it actually is - it is that the waterfront in the city would extend right from city end to city end. That would be the waterfront.
What we're doing is that we are working with the waterfront residents, and we will continue to work with the city to improve the economic initiatives of the territory, and yes, I am very proud to stand here and say that they are turning it around, and it sounds like kind of a cheap, backdoor shot to beat up on some other people that are coming into the territory to help us and assist us to improve the economy.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy asking that minister questions, because you never, never know what he's going to say, and it's always quite interesting to listen to the answers of the minister. They may not have anything to do with the question, but they are always quite interesting and they are worth thought afterwards.
Mr. Speaker, when the Yukon Party was in government, we built the visitor centre downtown, right across from here. Their government said that that wasn't the waterfront. Their government said that the waterfront was between this building and the 20/20 building. All I'm trying to decide or trying to find out from this government is where does it begin, and where does it end. I think that most people who saw the money go into that waterfront development fund thought it was going to trees and docks and beautification of the waterfront, and not necessarily sewer and water. If the government wants to do a sewer and water project as an industrial development support project, then do it. But don't take the money out of the waterfront development fund. That is my point.
I'd like to ask the minister if he would consider putting $750,000 back into that fund in the next budget so that we can actually use it to beautify our waterfront - the commitment that was made by this government when they announced it in the budget last spring.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I think the only thing the member opposite is proving is his very, very limited and narrow vision, and I do believe that the very limited and narrow vision is really representative of his whole doggoned party - the whole party. He doesn't have enough vision to fill a moccasin rubber, let alone a gumboot, and yet he has the audacity to stand here -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, that language is completely unparliamentary and the member should withdraw it.
Mr. Fentie: No, that language is not unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker. It is a dispute between members.
Speaker: I'm going to ask all members to stay away from abusive language.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. What we're going to continue to do on this side of the House is we'll continue to work with people, we'll continue to work with the city, we'll continue to work with the Association of Yukon Communities and other people in the territory to make this a better place to live. What this government has done is we've built schools, we've built roads and we've built community centres.
What has the government done previous to us, before? They had a very narrow vision and what they didn't do is a lot easier to say than what they did do. So I thank the member for bringing that question to the floor of the House because it gives me great pride to be able to stand and say that this government does and will continue to work with the people for the betterment of the Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, December 8, 1999. They are Motion No. 199, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and Motion No. 189, also standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Fentie: 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 Government Services - continued
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with the supplementary estimates. We're on the Department of Government Services. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Yesterday there were some questions raised, and I just wanted to take an opportunity to address those. Northern British Columbia was identified in the agreement between CYFN and YTG on communication upgrades. As I indicated earlier, the Kaska First Nation recognizes its transboundary members and because of that the term northern British Columbia was contained. However, the Yukon government will not be investing in services in northern British Columbia. What we can do is use some of our knowledge and experience to help in some discussions with service providers. It's hoped that our partners, in turn, will use some of their experience with community requirements to help Connect Yukon be more effective in its rollout in rural Yukon communities and particularly in First Nation communities.
There was a request for the letter of intent between the Yukon government and Northwestel, and I have copies here that can be distributed to members.
The question was asked, when will the preliminary package go to rural lot owners to advise them of the rural telecommunications program? When will the service areas be known, and will the delay affect the overall timelines?
The letter is being printed now. We were running labels, and we expect it to be in the mail by the end of the week. The proposed service areas will initially be defined by the end of the month. Discussions will be continuing with service providers into the spring, at which time information packages will go out to the lot owners, and we are still looking at starting the project in the next construction season.
What will be the rate of return be on the immigrant investor fund and to small-business partners? Interest on the immigrant investor fund will be seven percent, which amounts to approximately $3 million, depending on the details of amortization.
The other business partners, besides the two principals, will not be asked to make an investment into the infrastructure upgrade, so there will be no rate of return; however, their participation in the joint venture should ensure that the end users of the product will have an opportunity to provide some input into the product and ensure that the product meets their needs.
How will Northwestel be restrained from including the assets in their asset base and, therefore, allowing a rate of return to shareholders on those assets? The lease and final buyout are structured as a deferred contribution to Northwestel to ensure that, even at the end of the agreement, the assets obtained through the contribution will not be added to the capital base - hence, no rate of return on the government contribution portion.
Northwestel will earn a rate of return on their portion of the investment, which is estimated to be about $3 million.
Will the Ruraltel communications program result in some areas being on or in different exchanges? Example: the Whitehorse exchange to long distance? The rural program is designed to extend services to areas that do not have service. It does not address the base rate areas - areas in which calls are toll free.
Base rate area discussions are a regulatory matter and will be reviewed during the year-long hearing underway regarding Northwestel's regulatory review and rate of return.
There have been requests for the agreement on the waterfront landscaping project, the waterfront capital project. I have agreements of the landscaping - the capital funding agreement for Whitehorse waterfront landscaping. We'll get them to the members.
The agreement has not been negotiated for the trolley car development but I will distribute copies once it's finalized. We just received the report on the trolley. We're still evaluating some of our options there, and there are a couple of issues yet to be finalized on that.
With regard to the Argus development agreement, Economic Development will respond to the member.
The issue again on back-flow devices, and how many back-flow devices are there in existence throughout the Yukon with YTG facilities - the back-flow devices are one-way valves that separate a building plumbing system from the municipal system. Therefore, in every location where the building ties into the municipal system, it should have a back-flow device. In the larger buildings the municipal system is sometimes connected to the building in multiple locations to supply domestic water, freeze protection and sprinkler systems. Also, additions to the buildings are sometimes serviced separately from the original portion of the building.
There are a large number of these devices in government buildings. The new bylaw requires annual inspections, so there will be an ongoing requirement for certified inspectors.
If a business were struck from a roster under the Partnership and Business Names Act but still had a business licence, could they carry out the work? Departments do not generally ask for proof of registration under the Partnership and Business Names Act, but they do normally ask for a valid business licence. It is up to the individual business to determine if their business requires the protection of the Partnership and Business Names Act.
The furniture that is in government warehouses - the government is purchasing Yukon-made furniture from the following Yukon furniture manufacturers: Darcraft Cabinets & Millwork of Whitehorse, Treeline Woodworks Ltd. of Whitehorse, Cinderwood Kitchens Ltd. of Whitehorse, Doug Rody of Whitehorse, Copper Tree Woodworks of Watson Lake.
Comparison between the cost of locally manufactured furniture and that available from local retailers - the department will be compiling cost comparisons and will provide that information to members.
I hope that addresses some of the issues that were raised yesterday.
Ms. Buckway: I'd like to pick up where we left off last night. Last night, the minister gave us a list of areas that will be offered Connect Yukon service. They range from an area of 237 lots - the Tagish/Taku subdivision - to an area of 10 lots at Crag Lake. Can the minister clarify that for me: will the people in a small area be paying the same price for their service to be hooked up as the people in the larger areas, or will they be paying a significantly higher price?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There will be a higher cost in the smaller areas, although not necessarily exclusively in smaller areas. There are some areas there that do have an issue of proximity that would probably make it less. But yes, there will be some areas that do pay significantly more, and that is primarily the nature of where those lots are and the number of the lots.
Ms. Buckway: Can the minister elaborate a little bit on how much more would be significantly more? Would they be paying two or three times the cost of the people in the larger blocks of lots, or more or less?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Let's say, for sake of argument, that some areas will come in at around $3,000 a lot and, of course, when one factors out the service provider, the individual lot owner and the government's contribution, the lot owner will pay about $1,000. But say, for sake of argument, that, on an assessment of an area, the total cost comes out to $11,000. There would be the contribution from the government; there would be the contribution from the service provider, and that would not take it up to the full $11,000. So, therefore, there would be a significant difference, and it would be up to the lot owners in that area, if they indeed wanted to buy into the project. However, that would be considerably less, given the government's contribution, than what bringing telephones into that area would be without the government's contribution - without the service provider.
So it will vary. It's our feeling, however, that the large majority of the lots will come in in the range of about $1,000 for servicing.
Ms. Buckway: So, somebody in an area of 10 or 11 lots, like the people of Crag Lake, would they be looking at $2,000 or $3,000? I'm just trying to get an idea here for the people in these smaller areas.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I don't have the list of what the costs would be in relative terms, but, yes, the people in Crag Lake would pay more than the nominal amount that is being offered. I think that reflects a number of things, just in terms of distance, in terms of number of lots and so on. Clearly, the government subsidy will keep the cost down for the large majority of lots, down to the benchmark of about $1,000; that's our goal. We took the $1,000, by the way, from the CRTC, which suggested $1,000 as being the optimum price for a lot. So we set that as the amount that we felt would be the initial contribution from the lot owner.
Ms. Buckway: I'm just trying to establish what the ceiling might be for somebody living in a smaller area. If you do the math, somebody living in a 10-lot block, as opposed to somebody in a 237-lot block there could be a huge difference. Somebody in one of the smaller blocks could be paying thousands and thousands of dollars. I'm just trying to establish a ceiling here.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I don't, as I said, have the breakout of what the approximate numbers are with me, but I can tell the member that even the number of lots is not an absolute benchmark, because there are such things as how far lines or services would have to travel to those lots, how those lots are distributed - are they scattered, are they in reasonable proximity - and so on. But there will be a difference, and some obviously are going to cost far more, just because of factors like distribution, and so on.
When we take a look at just the main areas that I think will probably see the least amount, those will be the larger areas of distribution because, also, those areas tend to be in reasonable proximity to main services.
So I'm sorry I can't give the member a definitive of what the ceiling will be, but we hope to have that out as part of the information packages. The other factor that will go in, quite frankly, is we have only done some approximations based on what we have determined, in consultation with people like Industry Canada, some expert consultants, and so on. There may be someone out there who has a very inexpensive form of communication of which we're not aware, and if they come forward and they say, "Well, we can deliver this to this place for a very little amount," and it meets the basic standards, that may change the configuration for a small area.
Ms. Buckway: What would a situation like the minister just described do to the agreement with Northwestel?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, on the rural telephones, we don't have an agreement with Northwestel. Our focus with Northwestel has been on telecom infrastructure, as far as the phones go, that is, in effect - if you want to, basically, put it in a simpler way - an open market. You know, you could bring in Fred's Telephone Service to Mendenhall. If somebody had a particular kind of delivery system that could meet our specifications, they would bid, they would suggest, "Okay, here's what I can bring it in for. Yes, we can demonstrate that we can meet your technical specifications." Well, obviously they would have the avenue to bring that in. Northwestel may or may not choose to bid on some of these areas. They may choose to bid to deliver in certain places, and other companies may choose to bid in other areas. What we've tried to do is to keep the market relatively open on the phones, because that's considerably different from the ownership of the major infrastructure for telecom and how that is going to be developed.
Ms. Buckway: So let me get this straight. Northwestel is a telephone company but you have no agreement with Northwestel to be providing the phone service to these rural areas. Northwestel's agreement then is telecom. Okay.
Earlier in this debate, I'd asked the minister about the $4 million expected from a national fund designed to help meet the cost of providing phone service to high-cost serving areas. What is the fall-back plan if this money is not forthcoming?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, obviously with regard to the CRTC decision on the high-cost serving areas, we were waiting to see if in fact the CRTC's decision would define the level of subsidy, the amount that would go into the high-cost serving area fund and so on, and our feeling is that we could have tapped into that.
We still feel that when this is established and when there are funds, we can make a very strong case to recover some of our costs. But, notwithstanding that, we didn't know if a high-cost serving area would be established. We didn't know if, in fact, the high-cost serving area would focus strictly on long-distance subsidies, which Northwestel had made their case on.
We had made the case on two points. We had made a case on the idea of infrastructure development. We had said that the high-cost serving area should do two things: one was to help develop infrastructure, and the second was to help keep down long-distance tariffs.
Northwestel's position was that they were seeking that the fund should go to reduce the long-distance tariffs. We didn't know how it would come out, so we began planning, if you will, around the decision. So, we were prepared to go ahead with this project if the CRTC decision had come down and had said no, that the money would not go into capital or infrastructure development. We would have liked more certainty from the CRTC, in terms of the amount that would have gone into the fund. The CRTC has directed that there is to be money for infrastructure, that some of this fund will go into infrastructure as well as long-distance tariffs. They have also directed Northwestel to do a number of service improvements.
So, we feel that when the fund is established and once we have a better sense of how much is going to be in there, we will be making representation to that fund to recover some of our costs.
Ms. Buckway: I'm not sure I quite understood that. If we don't get that money from that national fund - that $4 million - is the whole project in jeopardy, or will you get the money from some other source?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we will proceed regardless, by means of just our own funds. We would like to be able to recover some of that money, naturally, from the high-cost serving area.
One of the things that we have learned, I guess by experience, is that the CRTC sometimes is not as definitive as what we would like. We would have preferred that their decision not only said that this is how much will go into it, but also that this amount would go for infrastructure development and so on. The project will go regardless. What we're hoping to do is to be able to access that to recover some of the investment we have made.
Ms. Buckway: The distance education component of the Connect Yukon initiative amounts to about $2.1 million, according to information from the government. It has suggested that students who are home-schooled can take part in this distance education. I don't know that this component is the minister's department, but could he provide some detail?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Distance education, I guess, is now going under the term of "distributed learning", and we'll make this available to all rural schools in the territory via the Internet. Basically, what's being proposed is that rural students will be able to take specialized curriculum courses outside the regular classroom setting via the Internet or such things as video conferencing - in effect, a virtual classroom.
The course offerings will depend on the identified needs of the student and the availability of qualified teachers. It will also, I think, make things a bit easier for teachers by enabling them to teach to their strengths. I think, for example, there are opportunities probably to use different facilities in different places. I'm thinking of something like a teacher in Watson Lake who is maybe working on an astronomy unit or something related to astronomy or space could use the Northern Lights Centre. They have developed a number of applications there.
So that may be one way. It could be the courses that schools can't teach, just because of the availability of wide varieties of specialists in some of the small, rural schools. Perhaps you could set up a virtual classroom here where you'd be doing grade 11 physics, or whatever, in a true, interactive fashion - not just sort of as a standard thing, where kids would watch video tapes, and so on.
One of the things that I guess we're looking at is that the $2.1 million would be used for the wiring of classrooms, hardware, software, teacher training. We'd look at bringing it in, in different stages. We're also looking at connecting the college. I made reference to that last night. One of the things we often hear is the level of courses that could be offered in rural campuses, because they don't have access to maybe some of the courses that are available here. Simply, they don't have the staffing.
As well, Internet connection speeds will be improved to every rural library.
Now, with reference to kids who are on correspondence, or home schooling, I guess how that would work - and this really isn't my department, but just speculating, and speculating from experience - depending on the nature of the home school - if a person were involved in a community, and they were being home schooled, it might be relatively easy to loan equipment and make available some kind of Internet access to a student. It may be possible for that student to use a public Internet access site at a library, to set up a program there, if that would be more suitable.
It may be possible for students to come into a school to take part in certain courses. I've seen that happen, where a student will come in for a particular course. They may be home-schooled in other ways, but for a particular course they may come into school. I do know that there are students who have worked with individual teachers, where the teacher will act in kind of a mentor capacity. The student may do all their work at home but may come in to get some assistance from the teacher.
I think, with individual students, there are a number of ways it could be handled. However, I'd be sort of speculating on behalf of the Department of Education at this point as to how they would see this work. I'm just bringing forward some ideas from my own experience of working in rural schools where you do have kids who are home schooled.
Ms. Buckway: Would special equipment be required, or would regular Internet access, say under Connect Yukon, be sufficient for a student to take part? Could the minister advise?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The idea would be to provide regular Internet access. What we would be doing would be providing the capacity for people in communities to hook into the Internet. I couldn't see any need for specialized equipment, unless there was perhaps something such as maybe in Old Crow where you might need, say, a satellite type of access in terms of receiving signals and so on.
But this would be regular Internet access. That's what we anticipate.
Ms. Buckway: I'd like to move to another subject entirely for just a couple of minutes: fire alarm systems. This is not about standing outside again yesterday, although I think we're all curious about doing that twice in as many weeks.
It's my understanding that one company in the Yukon installs fire alarm systems and a separate company must certify or verify the installation. Can the minister advise if that is correct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to get further details on that. I do know that there are basically two companies that I am familiar with that are in the fire protection business, but with regard to that particular issue, I'll have to get back to the member on it.
Ms. Buckway: I'm told that a company that tried to establish itself in the Yukon to do this work was unable to because there wasn't enough business. How much money would the government spend each year on the installation and the testing of fire alarm systems?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will provide some details on that to the member.
Ms. Buckway: I might as well ask the rest of my questions on this area then, so that the minister can provide me with information. If we say, for the purposes of illustration, that the government builds two new buildings a year, I'm wondering what the cost would be to install and test the fire alarm systems.
I'm also wondering if the systems are certified each year - if they must be tested and re-certified each year - and if the work is tendered or sole sourced. And if two different companies are required to do the installation and the verification, does the government then have to go outside the territory to fulfill that requirement if there aren't two companies here?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will provide the member with that information.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a number of questions for the minister surrounding Northwestel's position that was presented to CRTC with respect to the high-cost service area. I understand CRTC was ready to rule completely on this issue, and then the public/private partnership arrangement between the Government of the Yukon and Northwestel came to the forefront, at which time the CRTC backed off, addressing fully this high-cost service area issue. I'm advised that that was much to the detriment of other areas of the north, specifically the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, which were very much dependent on this arrangement coming into view and the funds being added on to southern telephone bills and transferred to the Northwestel company to provide a measure of - I guess we call it what it is; it's a subsidy for this high-cost service area.
Could the minister advise the House as to what has transpired with this initiative and why it was postponed? Was it for the reasons that I stated?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we deliberately held back on the announcement of this project until we were relatively sure that there would be a decision by the CRTC. We were concerned that, had we announced that we were prepared to go in this area, that it might provide the southern telecoms with an excuse to resist putting money into a high-cost serving area. In other words, they might say, "Well, if the government is willing to go down this route, then why should we be obliged to provide money." So, that was one of the factors in some of our timing on this project.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, isn't that exactly what has happened? Now that this private/public partnership has been announced, CRTC has been lobbied by the telephone companies and told, "Hey, government has come to the plate and they're putting money forward, and why is there a requirement for us?" Is the minister talking with his colleagues in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut on this very important issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we have worked out this arrangement on our own. It is our feeling that the CRTC decision, which is quite clear and gives some direction to Northwestel, as well as establishes some issues around the high-cost serving area, is separate from any initiative that we have taken with Northwestel in this regard.
I need to remind the member that our agreement with Northwestel is primarily in the area of infrastructure development for telecom. It does not relate to the actual improvement of phone service or the rates being charged. Our decision to move ahead with Northwestel has largely been in the development of infrastructure improvement and service improvement for high-speed Internet and data.
Mr. Jenkins: These issues are synonymous in the communications world today, so for the minister to hide behind that one specific area and say it doesn't apply to the other is pure nonsense.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister if he's had any dialogue or any correspondence with his counterparts in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories with regard to this very important issue.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe I answered that - no.
Mr. Jenkins: I understand there is quite a concern being expressed to CRTC and to Northwestel from these regions. Is the minister aware of these concerns? Have they been conveyed to him, and what has he done about them?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have had no concerns conveyed to me.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue before us is one of an opportunity for a subsidy from the south serving the telecommunications needs in the north, in one form or other. What is the minister going to do - what is his position going to be - should this support not arrive through CRTC, through a high-cost service area initiative? What happens if it's reduced or eliminated in the format that was originally applied for? What's the government's position going to be, and what are they going to do?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have had no indication that that is the case. The CRTC decision was very clear in establishing a high-cost service area. Our disappointment was in establishing the amount and the rate being charged, as well as we were not particularly pleased by the standard that had been given to Northwestel, in terms of improvement, but it's abundantly clear that the CRTC has recognized the cost of delivering service in the Yukon - and, as a matter of fact, in remote areas of the country - and has established this high-cost serving area.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to take the minister to the letter of intent, Connect Yukon infrastructure project, the Government of the Yukon and Northwestel, other considerations, item number 9, "The needs of Yukon communities, as expressed by members of the community and by Yukon First Nations, will be taken into account through an input process to be agreed upon by all of the parties in formulating details of development and service arrangements within the scope of the final agreement between Northwestel and the Yukon government."
Now, that's a very sound principle, which will, I hope, be one of the guiding points of this arrangement.
Does that mean, if the level of data transmission or the speed of data transmission that will be provided north of Whitehorse is not adequate to meet the needs of, let's use, for example Dawson and telemedicine and the new Internet service provider there, the Government of the Yukon will look at increasing the bandwidth to that community? Can the government be lobbied under this part?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, one of the things that we are trying to do is increase the bandwidth, and we are trying to increase the speed. We are looking at a type of service that would be considerably higher.
Under this project, the 17 communities that are accessible by road will see their current capacity for voice transmissions double. We are expecting that the capacity for data transmission will increase twenty-fivefold.
So, we are interested in increasing the capacity and the speed. That was the whole idea behind this project.
Once again, I'm disappointed that the Member for Klondike is opposed to this, is opposed to the extension of these kinds of services to rural Yukon. He voted against the budget; he is clearly opposed to making this happen, and that is in fact disappointing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, the minister is talking about a technical issue in very abstract terms. He's suggesting that voice communication will be doubled to outlying communities and bandwidth will increase by 25 times. Could he be specific? What number of duplex channels will be available, say, on the north highway, and what will the bandwidth be? What are we looking at? You know, just to make a statement that it's going to double. How many duplex voice channels do we have? Does the minister have that information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have that information available. That's a level of technical detail that we will provide to the member. I've already offered a technical briefing in that regard, and that can be addressed at that point.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I don't really have a question, but I just have a comment with respect to what the minister said a few moments ago. If someone questions the minister on an issue - yesterday, and again today - he has a habit of saying, "You voted against the budget, so you're against the project."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we're debating the supplementary budget. The Member for Riverdale North is now trying to debate, on the floor of this Legislature, comments made by the minister that have nothing to do with the supplementary budget. I would suggest that he is out of order.
Mr. Phillips: On the point of order, Mr. Chair.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips: First of all, Mr. Chair, it would have been nice if the Member for Watson Lake, who called the point of order, would have waited until he heard my question, which is specifically about the budget and my concerns about the budget and comments made by the minister specifically about the budget.
Chair: Would the member please continue.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The point I'm making with the minister is this: the minister, every time we question the issue of this particular communications program, the minister says, "You voted against the budget and so you're against the program." That's the minister's theory. Well, all I want to do is remind the minister that if that's the tactic that he wants to take then that means that the minister and the government and the side opposite were against the good work that was done for four years under the Yukon Party with Fort Selkirk. They were against the improvements to the Porter Creek School, were against the highways that were improved in the four years, were against all the people who received health care from his departments - who received social assistance, who received all that other stuff.
Mr. Chair, that minister and that government, when they were in opposition, voted against every single Yukon Party budget, but we all know that voting against a budget does not necessarily mean that you oppose a specific program. Voting against a budget is, most of the time, an expression - a political expression - that you're not happy with the direction of the government. And if the members opposite want to start pinpointing certain programs, which is their pet peeve - you're not supporting this community development because you voted against the budget - then the government, in the four-year tenure of the Yukon Party, would have ground to a halt with respect to health care delivery, with respect to education delivery - we paid the teachers out of the budget; we paid the teachers and we paid the staff of the minister, who are with him today, out of the budgets that the minister of today voted against in those days.
So the point is, it's a pretty lame-duck excuse to say that you're against this communications initiative because you voted against the budget. Members of both parties, in opposition have said they support an initiative, but every time we get asking questions of the minister about the initiative, and try and get some details - which the minister didn't know the other day and, in fact, corrected some of them here today - and he gets into a bit of a pickle, the minister starts to say, "Well, you don't like this thing, you voted against it."
That's his tactic, and I don't think the public buys it; I don't think anyone buys it. I think the minister should quit using it. The minister, Mr. Chair, should concentrate on trying to answer the questions. If he can't answer the question, he should bring it back, and he should realize that the members opposite are not supporting his budget because we have record unemployment; we have a record number of people leaving the territory; we have a government spending money every which way it can, and nothing seems to be happening to the Yukon economy. We don't agree with the priorities of this government.
There are some issues we support in the budgets, but there are many issues that we don't support, like going to China, and flitting around in China, and coming back with nothing.
Mr. Chair, there are all kinds of concerns that we have about what this government is doing or not doing. It hasn't helped the thousands of Yukoners who are unemployed or the thousands of Yukoners who have lived here for years and have left. That's why we're not supporting the budget. It's got nothing to do with this particular program. I'm pleased to see the government is connecting phone service to Yukoners, but I want to make sure, and my colleague wants to make sure, that we're not going to pay for it two or three times, that we can afford it.
Many Yukoners in the area I live in are living out there because that's their retirement home, and these people don't have a lot of disposable income. If their phone service rates are skyrocketing, they won't be able to afford phones, and they will need phones in those areas for their public health and safety.
All we're trying to determine is what the cost will be to the Yukon ratepayers and the Yukon taxpayers, and we tried to determine that yesterday and couldn't get a decent answer out of the minister and, every time he thought he was in trouble, he said, well, you don't like this program because you voted against the budget. I don't buy that for a second, and I don't think people in the public do.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I fail to see the question there. What I did hear was a diatribe, a bit of a rant.
I just merely assume, by their actions ye shall know them, and if the members are so wildly enthusiastic about this program I would expect to see it accepted by an endorsement of the budget.
With respect to China, I have not been to China. The closest I have got to China was a rather tasty dish of vegetarian chow mein the other night at the New Asia. I had it with kind of an egg roll. It was like an egg roll but -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: However, as the Member for Riverdale North has finished his posturing and jumping up and down, we'd just like to carry on, if we have any debate and questions.
With respect to the GNWT, the Member for Klondike did ask if I'd been in contact with the GNWT. I have not been in contact with the GNWT, nor have we received any correspondence or any letters from them. However, the GNWT have communicated with our officials and have indicated they are okay with this approach. Northwestel, as we understand it, is going forward with a request for upgrade of services in the communities, which is of interest to the GNWT.
With respect to the CRTC and the high-cost serving area decision, I am advised that that was more of an issue of the complexity of the issue rather than anything having to do with our initiative.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm looking for from the minister are the technical details - and I had asked that he table them - as to what the bandwidths are, and whether he is going to be sitting down with communities - like Dawson City, which are investing a considerable amount in the cabling and the high-speed Internet access to all of the residents of their community - and ensure that the data transmission to that community is compatible with the current technologies that are in use. That's what I'm seeking from the minister.
There is a standard, but are we adopting the correct and right standard, or are we going to somewhere in the middle that is going to be obsolete before it's installed? That's what I'm looking for from the minister - his assurances that they're going to sit down with the outlying communities and ensure that the connections are going to be compatible and serve the needs of the people in those respective communities. Can the minister provide those assurances?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course we can provide the assurances. It would be absolutely absurd for us to get involved in the development of a system that would not serve the needs of the communities. We're doing it for the communities. That's the whole thrust behind this. We're doing it for the communities. If it were exclusively a Whitehorse issue, we wouldn't worry about it. Whitehorse already has capacity. The area that doesn't have capacity is rural Yukon. That's why we're improving it, and I can't see us getting involved in something that would be counterproductive to the development of that kind of system.
I can provide some technical details that have just been handed to me here. The digital radio system that is proposed to replace the current analogue radio system, this system provides a high-performance solution for high-speed capacity links between Yukon communities and will support basic telephoning service, as well as interactive video, audio and data. The capacity of the proposed system is OC-3 channel 155 megabytes.
Currently there are approximately 170 toll trunks being used by the existing analogue radio system to serve the communities along the Klondike and Campbell highways. Under the new system, either one-half of the DS-3 - 336 voice channels - for basic telephone service will be allocated. Nearly twice the current capacity for voice traffic will be fully integrated into the data stream, allowing maximum utilization for full bandwidth for both services. So, perhaps that's of some assistance to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: That is of some assistance, but I'd like to ask the minister, and I'm sure he won't have that information there unless he gets another note: of the existing 170 channels, a number of them are dedicated and used exclusively to service various functions and various industries, which subtracts considerably from the 170 because they're duplex; they're used both ways, so you have to cut those numbers in half. So, how many are actually available after you subtract what are dedicated? That's some of the information I would like to know, and I'll hold the minister to his position that he's going to ensure that the service needs, or the needs of the communities, are going to be met with this upgrade.
I have another point to raise with the minister. If we go to item number 10, under "Other Considerations", I was wondering how for the Internet service in rural communities the restriction for Northwestel entering into those communities where it presently exists is only for two years, and yet this is a five-year agreement. How was the two-year agreement reached with Northwestel that they wouldn't go into a community as an ISP provider where one currently exists for two years?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That was put in there to give people, a possible server, an opportunity window to get into the Internet service, and after two years if no one has taken up that opportunity - or there hasn't been a local service provider developed, then Northwestel would be available to enter that field. And basically what we wanted to do was we were aware that there are some communities where there aren't Internet service providers and we wanted to provide a window of opportunity for someone who may have an interest in that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister didn't answer the question; he answered number 11: Northwestel will act as a provider in those communities where there is no ISP provider currently. They can go in immediately. But in the communities where there presently exists an Internet service provider, they can go in and compete with them in two years' time. How did we establish a two-year window there when this agreement is for five years? What's the rationale behind that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll provide that for the member in the form of a briefing.
Mr. Jenkins: I take the minister to section 14, and it is referring to the high-cost service area and it says, in part, "... therefore the parties agree to work together to have their investments reimbursed through the national fund should it become available." Now what I interpret this to mean is that should funds flow through CRTC as a consequence of their ruling from the telephone companies in southern Canada to Northwestel, Northwestel will reimburse themselves for their capital contribution as well as the Government of Yukon. Will the reimbursement be done on the same formula, or to the same ratio, as the capital contributions were made?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That would be our expectation, if we have invested our proportion and Northwestel would invest their proportion. When we approach the CRTC, we would make it up on our investments and seek appropriate reimbursement. That's how we would see it.
Northwestel, originally, was looking, as I indicated before, at the high-cost serving area as a way to defray the tariffs, or the costs, or the rates of long-distance service. However, in this case, they're clearly going to make an investment, so therefore I can see where they would want to recover some of their own investment.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would see this kind of a refund, shall we call it as such, being redistributed to the investors at the same ratio as they invested. I would see that as a mutually satisfactory way of recouping their investment, and the minister concurs with my thoughts on this.
Yet, the next sentence in that paragraph said that the parties also agree that such investment recovery shall be in accordance with a mutually satisfactory formula. That leaves it wide open to interpretation, Mr. Chair. Why would the minister not go in, in a normal business sense, and establish the return based on the investment, and state that, rather than some loosey-goosey sentence that says that we will decide how the investment is going to be recovered.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I should emphasize to the member that this is a letter of understanding. This is not the final agreement. The final agreement will address such details. The letters of understanding, or letters of intent, are basically to reflect the degree that the parties want to proceed with the development.
Now, as I indicated before, we don't have a final agreement finalized yet. That will contain a greater degree of details and a greater degree of specifics on this. So, we'll be prepared to table the agreement when it is finalized.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that I'd like to explore with the minister is the First Nation involvement in this. The First Nations will be receiving from the Government of the Yukon a $100,000 contribution to a process for developing a mutually acceptable proposal for implementing communications technology infrastructure and capacity development initiatives for the benefit of Yukon and northern British Columbia First Nation communities.
So, we have $100,000 going to the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kaska Tribal Council and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, just to develop a mutually acceptable proposal.
It goes on to further state that it's for the period October 1999 to March 2000, that the government shall provide $100,000 in support of this participation.
Given that this is a highly technical area, Mr. Chair, is the minister going to be providing the same amount of funds to rural Yukon communities in order for them to develop a position and come to an understanding as to what their needs are and how they can be best met?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, it's not our intention to do that. We recognize that many of the First Nations have issues of capacity, issues of developing the technical capacity. We have an obligation under the land claims agreement to involve First Nations in issues that have a major economic impact on them and, with respect to this agreement, this was an agreement to assist the First Nations in developing that technical capacity and developing their proposals in this regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, couldn't the minister see that a lot of the communities also represent First Nations as well as other Yukoners, and they need help and assistance to develop a position with respect to this Connect Yukon proposal and to give the government advice? And why would the government not fund the communities, which are representative of more Yukon people than the Council of Yukon First Nations? The communities and their respective governments oversee First Nation members as well as all Yukoners. It's a wider window, and a lot of the objectives that are required by First Nations can be met through a community initiative as well as through this First Nation initiative. So why would the Government of the Yukon not fund the municipal governments as well as the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe there are agreements to fund municipal governments, and that is basically block funding and transfers from the government. I'm sure that my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, could address.
I need to remind the member that there are, under the umbrella final agreement, particular obligations for the Yukon government to participate in discussions and consultations, and to facilitate, wherever possible, economic development for Yukon First Nations on their traditional lands, and we see this as being our contribution in this regard to making this process happen.
Mr. Jenkins: Make it happen, Mr. Chair, or buy some votes in the next election - what's the minister up to here, because this is certainly a stretch.
I would see a lot of benefits accruing by funding also going to municipal governments to address this area. If we want to level the playing field, I think that's the best way to do it, rather than just to fund the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kaska Tribal Council and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I can't say I'm disappointed in the minister and to hang his hat on the fact that there is funding coming through block funding. There are many, many other demands placed on municipal governments, and there has been a considerable downloading of responsibilities by this minister's government to municipal governments in numerous areas - numerous areas where they're expected to pick up the cost. And funding, I might remind the minister, did increase by one percent - 80 percent of that one percent ended up, because of the formula, going to Whitehorse; so there was very little that ended up in the outlying communities that have to address a great deal of added responsibility in this area.
And I'd like to urge the minister to reconsider his position; if he can find $100,000 for this kind of initiative, why can't he find another $100,000 for a similar initiative and input from municipal governments? Could the minister entertain that thought and have a look at it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, the member's premise that this is some kind of attempt to buy votes, I won't even dignify with a response, because I think that's indicative of that member's attitude toward communities and toward aboriginal communities in particular.
I suppose that any time we execute our responsibilities under chapter 22 of the umbrella final agreement, we could be accuse of buying votes per se, even though we are clearly obliged by the umbrella final agreement to facilitate the development of economic opportunities for our aboriginal citizens.
With respect to the issue of municipalities, not only was the first increase to block funding done under this government, I believe, but as well some of the changes under the funding agreements allowed Yukon communities greater flexibility in where they could direct their funding, and therefore facilitated greater abilities of Yukon communities to utilize their funds. As well, it might be worthwhile for me to point out some of the investments that this government has made in Yukon communities, whether it's assistance for Dawson City's recreation project or assistance to Watson Lake in some of their projects - the whole variety of development of community infrastructure - some of the recreation facilities in Beaver Creek, and so on and so forth.
We have looked at this project. We recognize our obligations under the umbrella final agreement and we believe that we have executed them in the appropriate way.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister knows full well if you want a project to succeed you can go one of two ways. You can consult with the individuals involved and get everyone on side, reading from the same book, or you can just single out those that you need to appease or keep happy or buy votes from, and darn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.
But the issue is one of service to outlying communities and to the area surrounding Whitehorse. Now, how best are we going to achieve those results but to involve as many of those people and their duly elected municipal governments in the process?
And I don't think this initiative is one that has been anticipated by any of the outlying communities, or budgeted for, and I would urge the minister to consider providing - in the scope of $20-odd million, we're talking another $100,000 - to provide some funds to the communities involved to address this very important initiative. Would the minister consider that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There was considerable discussion with AYC on the entire question of developing telecommunication capacity with this, particularly in regard to the smart communities initiative. There's a lot of discussion with communities about infrastructure. The consensus was that the Yukon could not afford to build multiple infrastructures; that communities need to work together, and it was acknowledged in our discussions with communities that public money would be required.
The Association of Yukon Communities chose to support the idea of a broader initiative. We know that communities like Dawson City, Haines Junction and Watson Lake have been active in pursuing technology initiatives. That's commendable. What we have said is that we are putting public money into the development of an infrastructure we think will benefit Yukon communities.
Now the member is telling me that he feels that communities aren't that supportive of this. I'm surprised. No doubt, he probably has some insight, so he is suggesting now that our previous consultations with Yukon communities meant nothing, that in fact they are now no longer supportive of the idea of developing infrastructure.
And I would suggest that, if this is indeed the case, it is not being communicated to me. Since this initiative has been announced, I have not received one thing from a Yukon community suggesting that they are opposed to it or they have serious concerns. I have received a number of representations from individuals, particularly living on the peripheral area of Whitehorse, about the speed at which some of these initiatives could be executed. As a matter of fact, I have also received some requests for some communities to be moved up to the head of the line, particularly in terms of the telephone extension.
So I'm flabbergasted that the member is now suggesting that Yukon communities are not in support of this.
Mr. Jenkins: Here we go again, Mr. Chair. The minister is taking white and painting it black, and taking black and painting it white, and missing the point, missing the issue completely.
Once again, for the record, I will state that I am in favour of this initiative. I have not heard from any community that is opposed to this initiative. But, in fairness to those municipal governments that have to have some input into this process, what I am urging the minister to do is to treat them in the same manner that he is treating the Council of Yukon First Nations, and provide them with a level of funding that is going to allow them to do a full and comprehensive review of what is being proposed, and see if we can help the minister, facilitate the implementation of this and perhaps improve upon it at no or little additional cost. Or, does the minister think that his idea is the only idea that is going to fly and that his focus is the sole focus? Is he subscribing to that theory, that his process is the only process that's going to work, that it can't be improved upon by involving a lot of other communities, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Not at all, Mr. Chair. We already did provide assistance to communities under the smart communities program. We provided $50,000 under the smart communities program, and that was to assist communities in establishing some of their own priorities and some of their own objectives, and identify some of their own needs. So, the member is a bit behind the times on this one.
We have provided $50,000, and it's also our intention to work with communities as a follow-up under Connect Yukon, and we intend to work with communities on this. So, I'm not sure what the member's concern is. We have discharged our responsibilities under the Land Claims Act to our aboriginal citizens.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, how did we determine $50,000 goes to all Yukon communities and $100,000 goes to the Council of Yukon First Nations? How do we determine the amounts, and why does one get twice as much? Why does the Council of Yukon First Nations receive twice as much as the municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We provided $50,000 for the smart communities program. This is a separate amount for the First Nations that we saw as an obligation under Connect Yukon to bring the First Nation communities into the process.
The member answered his own question earlier when he talked about the level of funds that flow to Whitehorse. Whitehorse does not have the same issues in terms of technical capacity that some of the rural communities have. We have provided the Council of Yukon First Nations and other parties the ability to participate in the development of a telecom infrastructure that we think will facilitate economic development throughout the Yukon but particularly for some of the First Nation communities. One of the things that we have heard often from First Nation communities is issues around capacity, particularly around technical capacity.
And this is a means by which the First Nation communities can get the necessary technical advice, the necessary assistance, to participate in this program, and we have felt that this is an appropriate amount, given the needs of the communities, and have approved it accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, $100,000 to the Council of Yukon First Nations to facilitate the participation by the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kaska Tribal Council and Kwanlin Dun First Nation in the development of the memorandum of understanding, and that's for the period of October 1999 to March 2000 - $100,000. What further funds does the minister anticipate the government is going to have to convey to the Council of Yukon First Nations to conclude this overview, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is the total amount.
Mr. Jenkins: I have some questions for the minister, surrounding a couple of the contracts.
I notice, under Government Services, in Ross River, mechanical inspections, the Ross River RCMP headquarters - does the Government of the Yukon own that building, or leases it to the RCMP, or how is the Government of the Yukon getting involved in this kind of a contract, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have contracts with the federal government to supply services for them, particularly in communities where they don't have their own dedicated staff, and we receive funding from the federal government in return. We have been asked, for example, to take on the management of a variety of facilities throughout the Yukon, including a number of federal facilities, and that is just a normal arrangement that we have with the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: Then why doesn't this occur under the property management agents? Because some of them appear there, and yet this one appears under Government Services. Why is there a disparity?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that the capital programs are under Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Do we have a written agreement with the federal government on these services that we're providing, and if so, could the minister table a copy of that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, we do, as a matter of fact. The broad outlines of that are contained in the mains, and I would refer the member back to the agreement that we have with the federal government. I don't believe I have that within this book with respect to this agreement, but I can provide it for the member.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions for the minister on SOAs, specifically on a property management one.
My understanding is that the property management SOA was set up to be competitive with the private sector in providing services to government departments. What kind of benchmarks have been put in place to see if the property management is fulfilling the obligations that they committed to under the SOA?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I would refer the member to the property management agency annual report. They do an evaluation of how they're achieving their own priorities, and I suppose the clearest indicator would be the level of satisfaction and so on that they have received from their client departments.
That's not to say that it's without hiccups. There are, at different points, some government departments that either object to the cost or cost increases, and may choose not to utilize the services of property management in some cases but, in general, they are achieving their aims. I don't believe I have - I may have in my pile here - the property management agency annual report. No, I don't, but that would be a good indicator for the member as to how they're meeting their goals.
Chair: Committee will recess for two minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Ostashek: It's my understanding that the property management SOA provides services to government departments, as well as Crown corporations, hospital board, Yukon College or any of those entities that are connected with the government in any manner. Am I correct in that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, there are some exceptions. Some of the corporations have chosen, depending on the nature of the service, to utilize other services rather than PMA but, in general, that's the way it works.
Mr. Ostashek: Government departments can either utilize the services of property management or they can go to outside contractors without going through property management?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: They are required to use the property management agency for general maintenance but, for example, they can use contractors for such things as grounds. Education may have a contract with a landscape company. They can use them, in some cases, for specified janitorial services, if necessary, security, et cetera, et cetera. But in terms of the actual maintenance, that's under property management.
Mr. Ostashek: That's what I'm trying to get to, and that's a concern of mine. My understanding was that when the SOAs were set up they were to be able to demonstrate that they could provide the maintenance services to the departments at a lower cost or competitive cost with the private sector. Now the minister is telling me that the departments are obligated to use the services of property management regardless what the cost is. That doesn't seem to be fulfilling the mandate of the SOA. The SOA was to be there and given the freedom to be removed from the bounds of the department, to be able to be an effective and competitive service to the departments and not mandating - how can we measure how effective the SOA is if the departments don't have any alternative but to use the SOA for maintenance?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated, sometimes there are some concerns with, for example, such things as costs and so on. With respect to that, if a department has serious difficulties with the PMA, they can seek to be excluded from the obligation for maintenance by going to Management Board.
I'll just send over a copy of the annual report of the property management agency, and I refer the member to page 6 of this document.
If I could just refer the member to page 6, at the bottom, customer options. Yukon government departments are required by Management Board directives to use property management agencies and services when they require development, maintenance or realty services. Client departments may choose to ask Management Board for authority to set up their own internal property procurement and management activities. Other facilities of management services, such as utilities, custodial and security may be acquired by property management or directly by the customer department.
So, there are options if a department is unsatisfied with property management. I think, certainly from a property management point of view, one of the things that they would want to achieve is the maximum utilization of their services. If I could refer the member to page 10, at the top of the page, improving our service and accountability to customers, this is how the agency itself is contained in their operational plan.
They have identified the key elements that are going to be undertaken under the next year, in terms of service and accountability to customers: to improve service measures and benchmarking; to develop and implement a communications plan; to develop and implement activity-based costing of facilities to improve performance; and to build partnerships with service providers. So they have identified this as something that they will be working on over the next year.
But there are options within the utilization of property management for departments to, I guess, step out of that, with Management Board approval.
Mr. Ostashek: That's a concern of mine, because the departments have to go through a procedure to be able to go to a competitive bid from somebody else. Otherwise they have to use the SOA of property management, and that, I believe, defeats the purpose of what the SOA was set up for.
It was set up to be competitive with the private sector in providing services to the departments. Now the minister is telling me the departments can circumvent that by getting an exemption from Management Board.
I just want to relay an issue to the minister why I'm asking these questions today. It was brought to my attention that an employee of one of the corporations went to an outside contractor to have a job done and had it done at a far cheaper cost than what property management quoted him and he was severely reprimanded by his supervisor because that, as the minister has said, is not acceptable without an exemption by Management Board.
The issue that was raised with me is that governments are supposed to be spending the taxpayers' dollars as wisely as possible and getting the biggest bang for their dollar, and it was my understanding that when we set up these SOAs that that was what the intent was: to give these SOAs, such as property management, such as the one looking after the rental vehicles for government, the ability to be able to compete with the private sector on a cost-effective basis and departments not being forced to pay a higher cost for maintenance because it's a government agency. If anything, it should be cheaper from a government agency because all the head-office costs aren't taken into consideration as they are with a private sector corporation.
I'm very concerned about that. It appears that with the issue that was brought to my attention, the employee was in the wrong because he didn't go to property management and was severely reprimanded by his supervisor, but I would urge the minister to take a serious look at this.
Why should we set up these SOAs? Maybe I was led down the garden path. I was the one who started this process, but I was told that this was so that departments would have a choice, without having to go through getting an exemption from Management Board before they could go to an outside contractor to get the work done at a cheaper rate. If we're not going to have property management accountable - and that's what the SOA was supposed to be all about, is to make them accountable - and to be able to justify the costs of what they're doing, I don't know why we would continue with the SOA in the manner that it is if it isn't giving the taxpayer of Yukon a better return on their investment.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that there has been no change in the mandate since he was in government, and now we haven't changed the mandate. There are, as I said, some exceptions for departments. I would have to know more of the specifics of the nature of this issue, and if the member would care to maybe share some of the specifics - of course in confidence - I could look into it and find out perhaps - and I'm just speculating here - that it was a service that had already been contracted with by property management and the employee was, in a sense, seeking another service that may have already been contracted for in the amount that was being assessed by property management. If the member can give me some specifics, I can certainly look into it and see what the issue is. But I can tell the member that there has not been any change in the mandate at all for any of the SOAs, except for, perhaps, not so much the mandate but some of the operational things - for example, fleet vehicle has set targets on utilization and so on, like that, for vehicles. But if the member can provide me, I can certainly look into it.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, I would be happy to be able to provide the minister with that, but I would have to check back with the person who alerted me to it first, because I believe that they are concerned that they will be severely reprimanded by their supervisor again, and I wouldn't want that to happen.
The minister says that the mandate hasn't changed. I can believe him on that, but the fact remains that I don't believe that this is the proper way it should be working. If we're not going to be competitive and not be able to give the departments the flexibility of getting the work done - that was my idea of why we were setting the SOA up, so that they could prove that they could be competitive with the private sector. If, in fact, they can't be competitive, then they ought not to be doing the work and we ought not to have those people employed. We ought to be going to where we can get the services cheaper.
I would urge the minister to seriously look at that, if the SOA is going to be reviewing their mandate and how they go about business. I believe for the SOA to be effective, it has to be competitive and it has to be able to stand the test and the scrutiny of being able to put in a bid on a job, just the same as any other contractor.
They ought not to be given the inside track because they are a government agency, that all departments have to go to them or seek an exception from Management Board. It seems to me that most departments would just say, "Oh, what the heck, it's not worth it." I think if we're going to have effective property management and effective government spending - and this is what this is all about - if the service can be provided by the private sector and would put contractors to work who aren't government employees, if they can do it cheaper, why shouldn't they be given the job?
So, I urge the minister to seriously look at that. I won't prolong the debate on this. I will get back to the person who raised this with me and see if I can give the minister any further information on it and see if we can have it resolved, but I'm not happy with what the minister has told me today. Even though it may have been there since my time, that property management does have the inside track I think defeats the purpose of setting them up as an SOA.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister, in earlier questioning in the House, made mention of $50,000 provided to Yukon communities to look at the smart Yukon initiative. Could the minister advise the House which communities received this money and how it was broken down?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would have to get the breakout of the money there for this. The one exception was Dawson City, which chose to go with a smart communities submission of their own. As to the other communities, we had quite a high level of interest from the communities and businesses. We had about 40 letters of support, including one from AYC and CYFN. Essentially, what happened was that we sponsored a consortium of consultants to work with the communities to see if there was interest in submitting a proposal and then assisting with the development of one. We had a large degree of buyin and this formed the basis for our submission on the smart communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, my understanding of this expenditure of money was that the Government of the Yukon engaged a contractor to develop a proposal to access federal government funding, knowing full well that the City of Dawson had an initiative underway that was on its way, if not gone to the federal government, knowing full well that each area or jurisdiction was only to have one submission in to be considered. Now, the outcome of it was lose-lose, all the way around. The Yukon lost everything. We didn't receive anything from this federal government; it all went to the Northwest Territories.
So, was this a smart move on the minister's part? Given the large number of people who spoke to me, it certainly wasn't. It was a decision made after the fact by this minister to convey the image in the House, Mr. Chair, that this $50,000 went to the communities for this smart communities initiative, when such was not the case. It went to a Whitehorse-based contractor to develop a proposal, that's all. And it was done after the fact, knowing full well that Dawson had a submission there and ready to go, and knowing full well that there was only to be one submission from the Yukon.
Everybody lost on this one, but the government still spent $50,000, which takes me back to my original request to the minister. He's providing $100,000 to the Council of Yukon First Nations to be involved in this agreement. Why can't he do the same for Yukon communities that have virtually the same objectives as the Council of Yukon First Nations? Why can't he level the playing field and provide the same level of funding?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, the member is suggesting that we should have not submitted any application because Dawson City had their own application. I would remind the member that there were six submissions under the smart communities northern category. The Government of Nunavut put in one, the City of Dawson put in one, the Town of Inuvik put in the convergence project, Yukon College acted as our agent in this case, and we submitted on behalf of Yukon communities, and the Town of Hay River and the Yellowknife smart network.
So those were the six coming from the Yukon.
We were interested in trying to access some of the funds that were available on this, and we felt that the money that we had invested in securing a consultant and working with the communities was worthwhile. I think, regardless of the outcome of the applications, the process was the important thing, and it brought people here and developed some common areas of interest, and it also gave us some of the basis for us to move ahead on our own Connect Yukon project.
So we think that there has been a positive momentum built up here, and that has provided the basis for us to move ahead with this particular project.
The member keeps talking about the level playing field, as if we can abrogate our responsibilities under the umbrella final agreement, and I would remind him that this is a legal obligation on behalf of the Yukon government, and it's something that we have taken seriously and have acted accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister knows full well that if you get everybody pulling in the same direction, your chances of success are that much better. Had there been one initiative out of the Yukon, the chances of success would have been considerably higher, from the information that has been provided to me, Mr. Chair. So, all I see is that the government spent another $50,000, and the Yukon received no funding. We lost a wonderful opportunity because, according to the spin that the minister puts on it, this was the correct way to go. I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, I can't agree with him. There are a lot of Yukoners who also disagree with the position and the decision made by this minister and his government.
But that still brings us back to the issue of funding the communities to be involved in this initiative. Now, what is the downside of providing the same level of funding to the Yukon communities that are going to be involved in this initiative that the minister is providing to the First Nations?
Now, I'm not suggesting whatsoever that the minister abdicate responsibilities under the UFA. I'm suggesting that the communities are in a position where they can provide significant input into this arrangement, into the development of an agreement and into seeing this project come to fruition. They probably have some tremendous impact and some cost-cutting areas.
Now, why not involve them? Why not provide them with some funding so that they have an opportunity to be involved, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, the member is suggesting that there was no support for the smart communities initiative, and I would disagree. We had a very high level of interest. We had 40 letters of support, including from the AYC.
So, if he is suggesting that there was no interest in us taking this project forward, I would have to disagree on that.
With respect to his request for me to provide money, I don't provide money on the fly in this Chamber or at any other time. When we were developing this project, we were cognizant of our obligations and we felt that we needed to fulfill those obligations and we have followed up on our obligations under the umbrella final agreement. Communities were involved in the development of the smart communities process. They gave us input; we are prepared to meet with them and consult with them again on how to do this, but we recognize that, particularly with some of our First Nation communities, we had to develop the capacity in order for them to be able to fully take part in this project.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $412,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $219,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Do members want any details or do they simply want to signal that - Okay, I don't want to rush through this. The $219,000 is a revote to provide consulting services and assistance for year 2000 implementation.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $631,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Business Incentive Policy
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $10,000 is for the business incentive rebate on the waterfront landscaping.
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Technology and Telecommunications
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase of $3,116,000, consisting of $471,000 for technology and telecommunications implementation infrastructure initiatives, $181,000 of which is a revote; $2,500,000 to provide equipment and resources for the Connect Yukon project, which promotes distributed learning in the public schools; $2,100,000 for public schools and, at the Yukon College, $400,000; and $145,000 for the information technology presentations component of the government's economic forums.
Mr. Jenkins: This is part of the capital monies going into the telecommunication upgrading, and I'll just take the minister back to one of the initiatives - the smart communities initiative. It's my information, Mr. Chair, that the government application was rejected because it did not meet criteria.
Now, the minister can confirm that but that's the information I have. So, if they did not meet the criteria, why did they submit an application, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We will provide some details to the member on that. I'm not sure of the issue in that case. I'll have to check into it.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue was a simple one: the Yukon had an opportunity to access federal funds if we had worked in a concentrated manner with all Yukoners pushing together in the same way. This minister went off on his own, hired a consultant to develop a proposal, said he had the support of the Yukon, and yet the government application was rejected because it did not meet the federal criteria. It was rejected.
The Yukon lost as a consequence of this minister's position, Mr. Chair. That's the issue. We lost access to a considerable pool of funds there, and it went elsewhere. And the same with Nunavut's application; it was rejected also, because it did not meet criteria. So, when it came right down to it, there weren't a lot of applications there, and had the Yukon submitted one, the information that I am given and provided is that we stood a much better chance of being successful. That information was conveyed to the minister and to his officials, and he didn't heed that advice. Is that the way this minister acts in virtually all of the cases?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member is speculating, and the member is operating under information that he believes is true. We have our own view. This is simply posturing, and I have already said that I will provide information in that regard.
Technology and Telecommunications in the amount of $3,116,000 agreed to
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Hon. Mr. Sloan: $46,000 is a revote for the replacement of the asset control system, which is $40,000, and purchase of furniture for the director of technology and telecommunications, a position transferred to Community and Transportation Services. That represents $6,000.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $46,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The increase of $1,290,000 is for revotes for the following: $680,000 for the land interest management project for disposition mapping phase; $75,000 for consulting costs to develop land and resource management strategy; $40,000 for the financial management information system to complete the redesign of the balance sheet account structure; $9,000 for the alternative network services connecting Yukon high schools to the Internet with high-speed cable solution; $80,000 for the one-window centres to provide high-end multimedia telecentre facility providing support for high tech applications for business and individuals; $281,000 for the community network rollout, which will provide government community offices with faster access to Internet; $100,000 to provide project management systems for projects by departments; and $25,000 for the tourism information system plan.
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $1,290,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The $574,000 consists of $262,000 for revotes for: replacement, inspection and repair of heating tapes, flooring, fuel tanks, heating, ventilation systems at various buildings; $299,000 for the year 2000 building-related improvements for the heating and ventilation systems; $13,000 for repairs to the electrical system at the Old Crow Health Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: Which agency of the government is responsible for buried fuel tanks? They have an effective life; they have be removed and replaced and upgraded. Which agency of the government is monitoring that area, and who is dealing with and keeping track of these fuel tanks?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It is the responsibility of the individual department. We are doing some on buildings that are handled by ourselves. Other departments have responsibility for their own tanks.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there not a central clearing point in the Government of the Yukon for this mandatory requirement?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, that's the responsibility of individual departments.
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $574,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That's a $44,000 saving on contracted services.
Building Development Overhead in the amount of an underexpenditure of $44,000 agreed to
Pre-Engineering in the amount of an underexpenditure of $3,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The increase of $124,000 consists of revotes to complete energy conservation, lighting retrofits and building upgrades; $78,000 for lighting retrofits in various buildings; $59,000 upgrade to building maintenance workshop; $13,000 savings in the retrofit to the sign shop.
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $124,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The increase of $1,328,000 consists of the following: $408,000 revote for renovations to the White Pass Building; $27,000 revote for space planning for devolving federal programs; $750,000 for the purchase of the waterfront trolley car; $130,000 contribution to the Polarettes Gymnastics Club to meet the tendered costs of design and construction costs for the extension to the gymnastics club; $10,000 transfer to the business incentive program to provide business incentive rebate to the contractors of the waterfront landscape project, and that was a decrease; $13,000 to complete the new conference room in the main administration building.
Mr. Cable: I think we established last night that there had been a landscaping contract with the City of Whitehorse involving $740,000, and that the Argus contract required a $750,000 contribution, which adds up, if my math is right, to $1,490,000. Now this House has authorized $1.4 million, yet I gather, and the minister can correct me if my information is wrong, that the whole of those contracts is now in the city coffers. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, the contracts will be administered by the city. There are some issues around business incentive that we are continuing to administer for them.
Mr. Cable: The question I'm asking is, we appear to be $90,000 short on the money that this House has authorized. How did the city get its hands on $1.49 million without authorization?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the money that the member is referring to for the project farther out hasn't gone over to the city at this point.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister could check on that, because my information was that it has. Perhaps there is a mistake, and the money in the city coffers relates to the money for the landscaping contract. Could the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've just confirmed that the money has not gone over yet to the city.
Mr. Cable: Okay. It appears that we're going to be $90,000 short. There's $740,000 for the landscaping, $750,000 for Argus and $750,000 for the trolley. We've authorized to date $1.4 million, and this supp has $750,000 in it. Is my math incorrect, or is that $90,000 still outstanding somewhere?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For one thing, the trolley project would not be considered to be part of that. That's a separate project on its own. That's something that we're handling ourselves just in terms of making that project happen.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Well, take the $750,000 out. There appears to have been $740,000 authorized for the landscaping contract and $750,000 authorized for Argus Properties, which is $1,490,000. And we have only authorized to date $1.4 million. Where's the other $90,000 coming from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We've held back the $10,000 for the business incentive program on that.
Mr. Cable: Wait a minute. $10,000 doesn't equal $90,000. Where is the $90,000 shortage coming from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, let me see if I can walk through this: $750,000 for the waterfront landscaping; $750,000 for, I guess, the costs associated with Argus; the other $750,000, which we are seeking, would be for the purchase of the waterfront trolley. Even though we're administering that project ourselves, that money will not go over to the city. That brings the total to $2,250,000 on all the projects together.
Mr. Cable: Just forget about the trolley for the moment. I think the minister and I took a different math course.
Argus is $750,000. I think the landscaping contract is $740,000 if I -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: It's $750,000, the minister is saying.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: All right. I'll let the minister answer this. The $750,000 then, for the landscaping - we'll bump it up - and the $750,000 for Argus is $1.5 million. Now, the minister had, in the first supplementary, had an authorization for $1.4 million. There is $100,000 floating around there somewhere, and he just talked about $10,000. So, there is $90,000 unaccounted for. Where is it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We'll confirm that. My official is of the impression that the actual money was more than that, so we'll have to check into that.
Well, bear with me, Mr. Chair. If the member can bear with me, I am advised that on this - and I don't have the mains with me - there was $500,000 approved in the mains and $500,000 approved for future development. There was $750,000 on the Argus project. However, of the $1 million that was approved for both in the mains and the future development, only $750,000 had been allocated at this point. That takes us to $1.5 million.
Mr. Cable: I wonder if the minister would check into that and give us some detail. My recollection of the debate on the first supp was that the minister mentioned the figure $1.4 million for waterfront development. We're over the $1.4 million, so some explanation is in order.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: My belief has always been that we're working in about a $1.5-million range.
Common Facilities in the amount of $1,328,000 agreed to
On Property Management Equipment
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is an increase of $34,000 to replace equipment due to unexpected breakdowns.
Property Management Equipment in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $6,475,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Chair: Before we go to the Department of Tourism, do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is now dealing with the Department of Tourism. Is there general debate?
Department of Tourism
Hon. Mr. Keenan:I'm pleased to introduce the Supplementary Estimates, No. 2, for the Department of Tourism. The department has requested an increased funding of $520,000 to its O&M budget and $1,518,000 to its capital budget. The O&M supplementary includes $82,000 in revotes, including burial sites guidelines development and marketing Web redesign projects.
The new activities and finding include $40,000 for national television coverage for the Skins Game, $50,000 to Asia-specific marketing initiatives and $50,000 toward the operation of the Dawson Arts Society.
The European marketing budget is being enhanced by $225,000 to cover a number of cooperative marketing initiatives.
Highlights of the capital budget or $1.5 million are as follows: the tourism marketing fund has been increased with an additional $250,000 and also a revote of $222,000 for projects that were not completed by year-end.
The Yukon Beringia Centre has revoted funds of $171,000 toward the access road, curbs, sidewalks, signage and other materials.
$22,000 will be recovered from the federal museum assistance program to do inventory work on artifacts that are held in museums outside the Yukon, and in the historic sites program; $107,000 will be revoted for a variety of projects and progress at the year-end, including an interior restoration plan for the Taylor and Drury Store at Fort Selkirk.
In industry research and strategic planning, $100,000 has been allocated to icon development and $185,000 to the economic forums tourism summit. The summit was very well-attended, with positive responses coming from both the industry participants and many wholesalers.
In the marketing branch, $65,000 has been revoted for the completion of a new summer shoot and replacement of visitor reception centre signage. The community response to the millennium fund has been positive, and $300,000 has been advanced from next year to meet this demand.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to explain it, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I was pleased to hear the minister note the revote of funds to finally, we hope, finish the road to the Beringia Centre. I note, however, there's lacking any commitment in this supplementary budget to the historic resources centre that was committed to by the former critic of Tourism, when he was in the opposition benches, and which was committed to by the Government Leader in previous positions in this House. What is the current NDP government commitment to the historic resources centre? Are they in favour or not?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, it is not part of our government's ambition.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has indicated in previous discussions in this House that there are discussions ongoing with board members of the MacBride Museum with respect to transferring the Beringia Centre to be run by and operated by that board. The MacBride Museum board had requested an accurate assessment, and I had requested, in this House, an accurate assessment of the costs of operating Beringia. We see the Beringia Centre not just in the Tourism budget, but there are other funds allocated to that facility through operation and maintenance by Government Services, work by C&TS, and other departments. There needs to be a full and accurate accounting and an accurate assessment of the recoveries associated with that particular project.
The minister had committed to doing this and was reminded of it in an earlier discussion in Question Period in this session.
Has this been done? Can it be provided to members of the opposition? Has it been provided to the board at MacBride?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Let me qualify that my government does have support for the Beringia Centre. We have said quite clearly from the beginning that we have to find ways to make it work, and we have allocated resources to make it work.
The member is absolutely quite correct, in that there are budgetary types of items in different departments that pertain to the Beringia Centre. What I have stated as, I guess, the first and foremost principle with the Beringia transfer would be one of transparency and honesty that we, as a government, would show what we have spent on the operation and maintenance of the Beringia Centre, and that we would share this with the museum board, because the issue is not to get rid of the Beringia Centre - certainly it's a part of the attractions here in the Yukon Territory - but to enhance it and to get it more into a local type of control through the community.
So, I have said to the board, through the department, that we would like to do an open and honest transfer with them on this initiative; these are the dollars that we are spending at this point in time; this is the five-year capital plan that we have around the Beringia Centre; and, of course, the department has ideas for the future to make the Beringia Centre better, if I can say it in that manner, and I will share all these ideas and initiatives with the museum.
I have gone out in just the last little while, in conjunction with the museum. We have hired a consultant who will be able to work between the department and the museum to bring us together, so that we might have a good transfer of the Beringia Centre to make it work, and that has all just been happening in the last week or two.
When the terms of reference and those principles are established, I will definitely forward them to the respective opposition parties.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, to be clear with the minister, my initial question was not questioning the government's commitment to Beringia. I questioned whether or not there was a commitment to development of a historic resources centre.
The minister referred to transparency, openness and honesty, and he also stated that he has said to the board, presumably the MacBride Museum board, that he has shared with them the five-year capital plan.
There are a number of questions arising out of the minister's response. First of all, transparency and honesty would mean providing all the financial information - O&M costs and revenue generation - to the board of directors. That information has been asked for. It should have been compiled a year ago, and what I'm hearing from the minister's answer is that it hasn't yet been done, and I'm concerned about that.
My second question - the minister talked about the five-year capital plan that was provided to the MacBride Museum. Did that include a historic resources centre? And the minister makes reference to his response to a consultant who has been now hired, I gather in the last two weeks, to work with the Department of Tourism and the museum. Who is that consultant? Was this project tendered? Was it sole-sourced?
And that also references the MacBride Museum. How did MacBride get selected? Was the Yukon Historical and Museums Association consulted about this decision? Was MacBride the only museum that expressed an interest? How was MacBride selected?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, as the member states, openness and honesty and transparency are certainly the principles that we will continue to work with. We are working with the board on this initiative. All the numbers are being prepared collectively from wherever they are.
No, it does not include the historic resources centre, and I can say quite candidly at this time that the Yukon Historical and Museums Association and the MacBride Museum do not support the building of the historic resources centre.
I can say that quite candidly because they both approached me on this in the last week. They do not support it, never did support it, and never did want it. I'm not trying to shovel anything down their throats either on this one. I'm just trying to make this work.
Yes, we did talk to the YHMA and the MacBride Museum, and it was through collective wisdom that we knew that we wanted to do something, that they were the logical partners here. They have certainly been around for a period of time within the city doing a very fine job of presenting their cases, and it was just a logical partnership. But the YHMA and MacBride both certainly support the decision.
Luigi Zanasi is the consultant who has been chosen. And I will say that the consultant who has been chosen has been chosen predominantly by the MacBride Museum Society. We asked them to provide names of people with whom they could work. They came forth with two names, and the name of the contractor as I have stated now is the name that was brought forward, and both people agreed to that. And it was sole sourced, and it was within the limits of sole sourcing.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has stated that the numbers and information on Beringia have been collected and collated - the revenue and the costs of operation. I'd like to have the minister's office provide that, too. I'm certain both opposition parties would like it.
When providing that information, I would also like some research from the department on the number of visitors, broken down by group - for example school visitors, receptions, bus tours - and the visitors and that information that is collected. I am particularly interested in noting whether or not the number of school visits to Beringia have decreased, and any reasons for it.
The Beringia Centre gift shop is operated by the private sector, and there are five jobs at stake. Would the minister explain why, with all these discussions around Beringia, there have been no consultations with this private sector contractor?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, the information that the member requires is currently being worked on. I can't say I will get it to her tomorrow or the next day, but certainly, as soon as it's available, I will get the information on all of the dollars and the breakdown of them.
It might be just a bit more difficult. I know that we do have numbers for bus tours, et cetera. As for the actual breakdown as to school visits, et cetera - those type of visits - I will do the best that I can to get them broken down from the information that we do have.
In conjunction with working with the folks in the private sector, it wasn't the individual himself but the individual's wife, I believe, who was talked to by one of my staff people and, certainly, the issues of all of the operators and the staff and the numbers for transfer, et cetera, will all be accommodated with a sense of how to.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the private sector contractor's contract with the government expires May 31, 2000. The minister's suggested transfer date is April 1, 2000, which is rapidly approaching.
If, in the unfortunate circumstance the department is unable to reach an agreement with MacBride Museum over the operation of Beringia, what's the contingency plan?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, the contingency plan is to make it work on the first step with the association, and we will continue to work with that organization. I would say it's much too early at this point in time to think that there's going to be a failure. There's not going to be a failure. We're coming with the can-do attitude. We want to certainly work with all of the proponents that are affected by it and will work with all of the proponents. The attitude is how can we make this Beringia transfer a successful transfer and to actually showcase it even better, if we can. I do believe that that will be one of the principles of the transfer into the community hands is: how can we do that.
It's not a write-off of the Beringia Centre. This is certainly a shift of the focus - not even the focus, the management of it - and at the same time there are ideas that the local community groups have that will make it better. It's not to take away from the theme of Beringia, but it's to enhance the centre as it is so that we can truly make it work. I would like to see a successful transfer by the end of this fiscal year - absolutely. I think that's just most logical, and that's definitely the date that we're shooting toward: the end of this fiscal year.
So, we're looking to a can-do type of attitude on it. I will keep the members informed, I guess, as to the stages we're at as I provide the information to the two members opposite, and will keep them definitely informed. But, again, the attitude with the Beringia transfer and YMHA and the MacBride Museum Association is can-do, how-to and we'll get to that point.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has his intentions and his philosophy set out, and he has repeated a number of times that we're going to make it work. The best intentions in the world are not paying attention to the practical details. There's a private sector operator with a contract that expires at the end of May. There are five jobs at stake here.
I'd like some assurances from the minister that there is going to be some concerted effort to pay attention to these practical details, for the contractor to be working on them and to be resolving or coming to some agreement as soon as possible with MacBride and the department on some of these issues. The contractor - the five people who work for them - have some very real concerns, and there's a gift shop that has to - or not, if it's not going to operate - have product bought for it, which is usually bought either in the fall or in January. Those sorts of practical decisions need to be made, and I would appreciate an undertaking from the minister that they will be dealt with. The minister gave me - when he said that the numbers are being worked on, and while they weren't quite ready, he expected to be able to give them to me shortly - the same answer I got last time I asked this question in Question Period.
So, I would like some reassurances from the minister. I assure him I will be taking him to task on it if we haven't received the numbers, and I would like some reassurance that these practical details are going to be looked at far sooner than later.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, let's not put a sense of doom to this transfer. This transfer is initiated to make it work, and it will work. If we all pull together - and I say we, we on this side of the House - we bring forth the information that I said we would bring forth; I will bring forth that information. That information will be shared with the people so that we can see what they're getting into.
I have gone so far as to hire an independent contractor of their choice, that we agreed with, to make this work. We are providing the numbers. I will provide the numbers. I will provide the numbers by this week - of the numbers that we have - but that's not solely what the member is asking for. The member was asking for other numbers, and I will do those other numbers. We will find ways to make this work and to make this work very efficiently. It will not be to the detriment of people. It will be to the enhancement of the Beringia Centre.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister, as I said, has got the philosophy down. Let's hope the practical details are dealt with.
I would like to turn to the tourism strategy. In the draft tourism strategy document that was released to the public and released at the tourism summit, there were - I didn't come across dates for response in the strategy when I read through it, yet an ad in the newspaper called for submissions into late January.
What is the time frame for the document to be finalized? Perhaps when the minister is on his feet discussing the document, he could outline whether or not the intention is that the tourism strategy document will contain specific action steps that have been contained in other tourism strategy documents that have been made available.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Again, the second round of consultation, as I've said, will be happening just after the Christmas season. We'll be talking to industry; we'll be talking to the community again to get that final round. It was very well-received. We made the announcement at the tourism summit last week and it was very well-received. Folks there said that they appreciated the work that had been done and the direction that people are steering, and to see it reflected, and they especially loved the guiding principles of respect for environment, respect for Yukon people, and to continue to have dialogue with Yukon people and to make sustainable communities and to continue with the growth and prosperity of the industry because it does fit in.
So those are the guiding documents. We're going out now to talk to different players within the field. Everybody is welcome. The question, I believe, was when will input into the strategy be finished? We're looking toward sometime toward the end of January to have those rounds finished.
Ms. Duncan: The latter half of that question for the minister was whether or not it is intended that the tourism strategy will contain specific action steps. For example, in other strategic planning documents, including tourism strategy documents, I've seen such specific action steps as development of transportation infrastructure - that sort of thing. Will there be specific action steps contained in that strategy?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, certain actions will be contained within the strategy. Any strategies that we have, they always speak to what it is, where we'd like to go as a government, what is needed in terms of attractions, et cetera, within the Yukon Territory to continue to bring people here.
Yes, they will be stated here. This is where we want to go. What will not be contained within there is that it will be implemented in such a time frame. I cannot pre-empt the budgetary process as it goes along, because we're going to have a living document that is hopefully going to be guiding us for the next 10 years - for the next decade - and so they're going to set out the benchmarks of where we would like to go. I think that this government has proven that tourism is very near and dear to our hearts through our infrastructure development, through our increase to the budgets, increase to the reception centres, to the summit, just to everything; we're committed to it.
So, we will continue to allocate resources as we go through the budgetary process to the document, and the document will be used as a guiding document.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister explain for me how the development of this overall tourism strategy is fitting in with the development of individual tourism plans for communities? I ask the minister each year during debate - or I have asked - about the development of tourism plans for individual communities, and the last information I had was that tourism plans for Old Crow and for the Canol region were to be completed in 1998-99.
Are they done? Are copies available? I'd like an update on other community plans, and then I'd like the minister to indicate how these individual region and community tourism plans fit in with the overall tourism strategy.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, it's a coordinated effort as we go to the different regions of the Yukon Territory. The players are there within industry service and marketing. The departmental players know the community players, and there's very much a concerted effort to speak to these different folks.
Yes, we've always continued to work. We've just hired an individual in industry services within the last month. He's very much an aggressive player and I'm very proud to have him as a part of the team. He was at the tourism summit and so far he has hit the ground running. He has been going to different communities with, again, that can-do how-to attitude to bring in the collective opportunity within the different regions and to streamline them into a plan.
I will have to get back with the exact places where they're working on them, but I know that we are working with Old Crow. I know that we're working with CRFT - that's Campbell Region for Tourism - and they're making efforts. There's a new effort in Ross River with some of the business community there that have put forth ideas outside the round table type of process but I'm very pleased that they're bringing forth their ideas and they're again all to do with tourism and tourism enhancement to that particular region.
Again, the person who we just hired within the department in industry services is going out and facilitating them in the issues.
In Old Crow, we have signed the MOU. And Old Crow, I think, is a very special place and a very unique place, and I look at it as an opportunity to showcase some of the issues that are needed for Yukon product development to be showcased to the world. I think we have a heck of an opportunity there. We signed a memorandum of understanding there, where they have identified tourism as being something that they want to get into. I have just had staff up there over the course of the fall and early winter talking to them, working with them, to find out, again, that can-do and how-to type of attitude.
We're working right now at this point in time with the Kluane area, and that is a lot to do with the push of the MLA of the area. He wants to see us working toward those ends and continue to work toward those ends. So I have assured the MLA for Kluane that we will be working there, and again, there is such a unique opportunity to showcase what we have there in the Yukon, and what we have in the Yukon are many-splendoured viewing opportunities to showcase to the world.
That is the general direction in which we're going in, and I will definitely, as I put more together, share it with the member.
Ms. Duncan: I'd just like, perhaps, a direct answer to this question: is this individual coordinating the community tourism plans with the overall tourism strategy? Is that this person's job? Yes or no would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: In part. I'm sorry, you just can't simply ask me a yes or no question. The only way you could ask me that is if it was a direct personal question, and then I could give it to you. It's not complex, actually, but the diversity within the department is such that we have people working here, within these regional types of plans. They are never to lose sight of what we're doing in the overall tourism development strategy, and they do come together.
So the focus is never lost. Now I want to have beetles for breakfast and see them come together, but I will not do that until later, maybe.
Ms. Duncan: Fair enough, Mr. Chair. I will leave the tourism planning section for the moment.
The wilderness tourism area, the Yukon vacation guide, the error of not including the point with respect to wilderness tourism licensing has been pointed out to the minister. How did this happen, and how does government intend to deal with it?
I know that the vacation guide is used as a mail-out piece, and there's a fulfillment of requests, and that's what the vacation guide is used for. Has the department given any consideration to some form of an insert into the vacation guide to point out the wilderness tourism licensing and its effect on the industry, and the fact that it is in place in the Yukon - just one page, slipped in as we're fulfilling those requests?
Have they given any consideration to that?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, and if the member will indulge me, I'll just take it a bit further, because we always look into making things better, and we can only build upon the successes that we have had here in tourism in the Yukon Territory for the last 10 to 12 years. There have been many successes. There has been incremental growth.
We have stayed within certain stages and processes in maintaining that growth, but as a department that continues to work with the industry in their capacity - TIA and, underneath TIA, of course, is the Wilderness Tourism Association, the First Nations Tourism Association, those types of umbrella people - we're trying to bring them a little closer to home.
So now what we're doing - and I think I have answered this to maybe the Member for Riverdale North before, or to yourself in the House here - about the marketing council concept. There was a marketing council that was the minister's very own marketing council. They made the issues. It was a kind of go out and ask.
What we have done now with the new lively and energetic blood that we have within the marketing department, in terms of our new director, is many ideas, and he has gone and talked now, within the last three or four months, with the industry, looking at how can we make it better.
What we'd like to create here are working groups containing, of course, departmental officials, along with key industry players. So, we'd have a hybrid off the marketing council that might affect air-access issues, so that when we come to the wonderful problem of three airlines showing up on the same day, we would have a process in place that would say, okay, well these things have to take effect. I'd maybe have the Community and Transportation Services airport manager play a role in that type of issue, along with other players, so that we do continue to do the good work.
The same case will take place and work with the vacation guide, because it's a wonderful document. It has had more hits than Disney, as I've said. It has won prizes in terms of coffee table presence - I think about four or five years ago - those type of things. It's a really well-received document.
Can it be better? Oh, you betcha it can be better. It always can be better. What we're doing now is we're establishing a process within the department involving all the partners - the Wilderness Tourism Association is one of those partners - and we will collectively work to make this document even better - even better - so that it will not have some of the little mistakes that do get generated, and it will be placed into a time frame where it will be all-encompassing, where people will have the opportunity - I don't mean necessarily the people in this room or Joe Q Public on the street, but certainly the key players within industry to critique and to make sure it's better and then out you go.
So what's that going to do? That's going to help us move forward. It's going to help us be all-inclusive of all of the industry. Other ideas that we've been floating around in our head are just communication type of ideas.
What do we have to offer? Is the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act an act of detriment or an act of betterment? In our mind, in the minds of the people in this room, I'm sure it's an act of betterment so that we might be able to protect and preserve our visitors as they come to the Yukon Territory.
I know I'm going on a little bit here, but it's very important that you understand where we're going with these types of issues, and I guess the principles of being, again, inclusive, of bringing people together for a better product and for the betterment of the tourism industry and the associations in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I think I thank the minister for that explanation. I'm going to look forward to reading the Blues and sort out that explanation.
I'd like the minister to outline some time frame for this new and improved version of the old marketing council. I'd like a time frame for when it's intended it will take effect, and I would like to discuss further those new plans.
However, let's rewind the tape for a moment to the original question. We have a vacation guide that's going out. It's going out now and in the near future to visitors. It doesn't contain any information about the wilderness tourism licensing and the fact that this is in effect in the Yukon and that our operators are working toward it, that we have a safe industry and yadda yadda, on and on and on. Is there some plan in place in the department to deal with that issue?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair. We're going to be doing an insert, with corrections on it, so certainly, I can definitely discuss that with marketing, and I can be supportive of those types of ideas. But I will discuss it with marketing because, certainly, the marketing council is not something that I want to step over - I want to be included with it.
We're working toward those ends right now with the marketing council as to when it will be completely up and functional. I would have to get an exact date, but I expect it would be sooner rather than later on those types of issues because, as the other member knows, we have an ongoing case all the time of being a year ahead in identifying marketing initiatives and those types of cases, and this is what we're actually working for, toward those ends - the futuristic type of ends versus the reactionary type of ends right here.
So, yes we will be putting in an insert and, yes, we are working with due diligence toward the formation of this council and the reconstruction of it and the enhancement of it, and bringing players in from different avenues to make it work even better.
Ms. Duncan: Just a recap; what I heard the minister commit to is that there will be an insert - provided this new version of a marketing council agrees to it - there will be an insert put in the 2000 vacation guide that will point out that there is a Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act in the Yukon and our visitors can expect that and our industry is working toward it. I understood the minister committed to that insert.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, we can consider that, and we'll discuss it with the marketing people. And she'll say, "Well, that's not a yes or no." Well, I'm not going to give it a yes or no on the floor of this Legislature this time; I'll consider it and I will discuss it with the marketing people and I'm sure that it's such a good doggone idea that I can't see why it wouldn't work.
Ms. Duncan: Let the record reflect the minister just stood on his feet and said, "That's such a good doggone idea, and guess where it came from?" Let that stand in the record.
The vacation guide, in particular the marketing council, had a literature subcommittee that put in hours and hours and hours of work reviewing that document, and the minister has outlined a new form of a marketing council. Perhaps he could provide us with the name so that we can start referring to it by name, or what is proposed for a name.
Can the minister just walk us through that process then? It used to be the marketing council had a literature subcommittee. I know of several volunteers who served on it. They went through the vacation guide line by line by line, and worked over it and made suggestions. The minister says there is a new process in place for marketing - a new version of a marketing council. How will something like this be dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Firstly, let me say that the old marketing council more or less outgrew itself. It's like my little Kyle - growing up and moving away. That's exactly what it is. It outgrew itself, yet there were still some principles that were good about it.
So we didn't just put it on the bus and ship it out. We dusted it off, talked to the industry about it, and said, "How can we go about making this better?" They said to be more inclusive, have some representation here so that when you have air access problems, we have people who are pertaining to air access; when we have capacity problems in the hotels, we have people here who know the hotel type of industry. That's the initiative.
Has it been named? Well, I'm sure that my colleague to my far left over there is working on something right now, and it might even be a super-energized marketing council. So, I don't know what the name would be. It would be a marketing council based on new partnerships to make it work and to be inclusive of the direction where we're going as a government with the industry.
Ms. Duncan: Does this new and improved version of the marketing council - is there some way the minister could outline for me how the new marketing council would deal with something like the vacation guide? Take that one specific example and walk through that process.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: When it became evident that we were having some problems again with it - and the problems were not intentional problems. They were problems of process, et cetera - those types of problems - and we knew we just couldn't have one individual. It has been in the hands of one individual now for over a few years, and these people have been working on it, but we saw, as we started to outgrow our blue jeans, that we needed to do something a little different, and that's exactly what we did.
So I asked the department to find different ways, to look at different ways, not to be exclusive again, and to be inclusive of people and to make recommendations. And one of the recommendations that the department made through the marketing branch was to say that we should establish an internal working group.
Well, we certainly took that just a step further, and we thought that if we can establish internal working groups for these issues, then we can have an internal working group that would still know what we're doing, how to make it better, but take it to this greater marketing council, just on the vacation guide, and there is nobody better to critique their product than the people who have and own that product. And as we, through the vacation guide process, go to showcase their product, they will not miss what their product is and make suggestions as to how to make it better.
I absolutely want to leave room within the process for that type of critique, whether it's in the hotel industry or in the Wilderness Tourism Association or in the First Nations Tourism Association or if it's anything more, that those players would have the opportunity.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understand that the document that the industry and the government are working with is a draft tourism marketing partnership document. Perhaps my questions would be answered if the minister would provide me with a copy of that.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I'll provide a written explanation.
Ms. Duncan: I didn't ask for a written explanation. I asked for a copy of a tourism marketing partnership document that appears to be available, and I would like that document.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, when we have finished, I will provide it.
Ms. Duncan: The trade missions that have taken place - at last count I think there are 29 of them that have been undertaken by the government. How many have involved the Department of Tourism and/or its officials?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Off the top of my head, Mr. Chair, I can say that it Hunan in China, and it was Taiwan and Japan on Team Canada.
Ms. Duncan: Have there been financial expenditures from the Department of Tourism in support of these trade missions?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, there have been, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to know from the department - usually they respond in providing written documents and some written answers - I would like some information as to how much money was contributed, under which line items, the number of staff that participated and an evaluation and follow-up of these trade missions. For example, if the deputy minister participated and came home with 19 leads, what has been the follow-up, how have we evaluated and how have we worked with this information?
That information should be readily available and I'm being told that there are others who would like the information, so perhaps the minister would be so kind as to have it available tomorrow.
The trade missions have an interesting plan to them, in that there doesn't seem to be one. It's just wherever and whenever and however, and there's no overall target marketing -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Strategy. Thank you, that's was the word I was looking for.
How do these trade missions and participation by the Department of Tourism fit in with either the old marketing council efforts or the new and improved version of the marketing council? Has it been their suggestion that Tourism participate, or is it simply at the whim of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm very proud to say that I'm here and standing, running the Department of Tourism, and certainly the Department of Economic Development is not running the Department of Tourism, but certainly they have very much of a good relationship with the department.
At this point in time, Mr. Chair, I would like to move that you report progress and continue on at a later date.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the house have the report from the 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 from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled December 7, 1999:
Yukon forestry value-added tour to New Brunswick (September 19 to 27, 1999): summary (Fentie)
The following Document was filed December 7, 1999:
Northern service parcel rates: letter from the general manager, Northern Services, Canada Post Corporation, to MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin (McRobb)