Monday, June 26, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce my family. There is the former Member for Riverside, my father Jack Cable, my nieces Evelyn and Grace Hull, my sister Jennifer Hull, and my brother Dan Cable.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that it is the government's responsibility to provide leadership in the area of resource management, and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to
(1) encourage sustainable use of renewable resources,
(2) work with other levels of government to develop fuel reduction areas around Yukon communities to protect Yukoners from wildfire,
(3) recognize and expand the agricultural potential of the Yukon, and
(4) continue to support trapping as a way of life.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the four levels of government in the Yukon must work together to provide the services upon which all Yukoners depend, and that intergovernmental cooperation on service delivery will enhance the efficient use of taxpayers' dollars; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to take a leadership role in facilitating this process by
(1) instituting an annual intergovernmental consultation process on all issues related to First Nations self-government;
2) working with all levels of government to improve our economy and maximize the use of transfer payments from the federal government; and
3) holding an annual meeting that brings together representatives from all levels of government.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the Yukon Liberal caucus has been working with the Boswell Resident Group since November 1, 1999 to facilitate the information flow concerning the major electrical power surge on October 31, 1999; and
(2) the NDP government did nothing to help the Boswell Resident Group; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue working with the Boswell Resident Group toward the resolution of this matter.
Mr. Keenan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) in remarks to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce in January, the Premier reconfirmed the Yukon Liberal Party's commitment to protect electricity consumers by keeping the price of power down and building for the future; and
(2) the rising cost of imported fossil fuel, including diesel, has serious cost implications for Yukon residents, businesses and the electrical utilities; and
(3) the Premier has acknowledged that the territorial government's finances are in a healthy condition, including an accumulated surplus of $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to table a detailed plan outlining how it intends to do what it said it would do to protect Yukon consumers from rising energy costs.
Mr. Speaker I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) while they were in opposition, the Yukon Liberals took a strong position advocating a comprehensive review of the Workers Compensation Act; and
(2) the policy position of the Yukon Liberals was that such a review should be conducted by officials appointed by and reporting directly to the minister; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal government should make good on its commitment by presenting a detailed plan outlining when, how and by whom such a comprehensive review of the act will be conducted.
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Liberal Party, through the Premier and the Member for Riverdale South, have frequently expressed highly critical views of the community development fund, referring to it in such terms as a "slush fund," and a "ministerial candy store"; and
(2) all Yukon communities, both urban and rural, have embraced the community development fund as an important vehicle for creating jobs and meeting community infrastructure priorities; and
(3) during the recent election campaign, the Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment to evaluate economic development programs to gauge which ones are producing results; and
(4) the failure of the Yukon Liberal government to take action on this commitment is creating needless apprehension and uncertainty about community-sponsored projects; and
(5) the Premier has acknowledged that the government's finances are in a healthy condition, including an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it would said it would do, and outline immediately when and how it intends to evaluate the community development fund, so that Yukon communities can have some certainty about local projects they consider important to them.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that
(1) in her address to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce in January, the Premier made an unequivocal commitment that a Yukon Liberal government would conduct "regular, solid analysis" to determine the effectiveness of the key economic initiatives of the previous government, such as the trade and investment fund and the trade and diversification strategy; and
(2) during the recent election campaign, the Yukon Liberal Party promised both to support the trade and export initiatives of local businesses and to "evaluate export initiatives using benchmarks such as the number of companies exporting and the dollar value of exports"; and
(3) the Yukon Liberal government's failure to act on these commitments is creating uncertainty in the business community about this government's real commitment to economic diversification; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it said it would do, and immediately outline the specific steps it would take to support the trade and export initiatives of local businesses, as well as how and when it will conduct the promised cost-benefit analysis of the trade and investment fund and the trade and investment strategy.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Canada's three northern territories should be treated equally by the Government of Canada in relation to the recognition of their respective offshore boundaries; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that Yukon's northern boundary description in the draft Yukon Act (1999) should be made more consistent with those of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut by amending Schedule 1 of that draft legislation as follows:
(1) Change "on the north by that part of the Arctic Ocean called Beaufort Sea" to "on the north by the northern limit of Canada in that part of the Arctic Ocean called Beaufort Sea.";
(2) Replace paragraph 2 of the definition of "Yukon" in section 2 of the draft Yukon Act 1999 with the following paragraph:
2. "Yukon" includes the designated area of the Yukon Territory, comprising all land and water in Yukon to the south of the northern limit described in Schedule 1.
(3) Elsewhere in the draft Yukon Act 1999, including the heading to Schedule 2, change "adjoining area"(or "Adjoining Area") to "designated area" (or "Designated Area") and include a consequential amendment to the effect that any reference to "adjoining" (or "Adjoining") in the Oil and Gas Accord should be interpreted in light of this change.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The leader of the third party, on a point of order.
motion of urgent and pressing necessity
(Pursuant to Standing Order 28)
Forestry industry in southeast Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'm rising pursuant to Standing Order No. 28. I'm not raising a point of order, but it is the practice of this House that a member may gain the floor for the purpose of Standing Order No. 28 in this way.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order No. 28, I request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed at this time with a motion, due to its urgent and pressing necessity.
Mr. Speaker, the motion for which I request unanimous consent reads as follows:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the forestry industry in the southeast Yukon has reached a critical stage because lumber mill operators in that region have been unable to obtain secure, long-term access to timber and one of the major mill operations in Watson Lake is scheduled to close on Friday, June 30, 2000, with a subsequent loss of many much-needed jobs in that community; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to immediately contact the Government of Canada to ensure lumber mill operators in Watson Lake are able to obtain long-term access to timber through timber harvesting agreements by Friday, June 30, 2000 in order to preserve jobs in the forestry industry in Watson Lake.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Standing Order No. 28 states:
(1) A motion may, in case of urgent and pressing necessity previously explained by the mover, be made by unanimous consent of the Assembly without notice having been given.
(2) Unanimous consent for a motion under this standing order shall be requested during the Daily Routine in the period following Ministerial Statements and prior to the beginning of the oral Question Period.
Does the leader of the third party have the unanimous consent of the House to proceed with the motion, which he has read in the House?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Unanimous consent has not been granted.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Forest industry, support for South Yukon Forest Corporation
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has told the Yukon public that the buck stops at her desk. When I asked what she would do to address the crisis in our forest industry last week, she passed the buck to the Minister of Renewable Resources.
My question to the Premier today is this: what steps has she taken since last week to try to save the 125 jobs that the South Yukon Forest Corporation provides to the community of Watson Lake?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question and the representation on behalf of his constituents. As the member well knows, there has been, over the past two years, support provided by the Yukon government to the South Yukon Forest Corporation. That support, I am certain, I can re-outline for the member opposite.
The issue that the member was raising last week - and one of the key issues for the South Yukon Forest Corporation - is the matter of timber supply, which the Minister of Renewable Resources is making best efforts on. That response was given to the member opposite last week.
In terms of what the Minister of Economic Development intends to do, should the Minister of Economic Development be asked, and department officials be asked, to provide assistance, we will do as we would do with any Yukon business. We will provide due diligence in determining what area and how we might give assistance.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this situation is critical. We now know that the mill will be closing its doors Friday, June 30. The workers have been notified. The investors have been notified. This is no time for double-talk; this is time for action.
Mr. Speaker, will the Premier do her job immediately, and address this crisis to ensure continued operations of the Yukon's largest private sector employer? Will she do so today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's also no time for fear-mongering. My understanding is that South Yukon Forest Corporation had a planned two-week hiatus and that they have chosen, at this point, to advance the date, and the two-week hiatus will begin on Friday. So, that was scheduled. That's the first point.
Secondly, one of the issues is timber supply, and I have already indicated that the Minister of Renewable Resources is making best efforts on that issue.
Thirdly, should - and I emphasize "should" - South Yukon Forest Corporation approach the Department of Economic Development, best efforts and due diligence will be undertaken.
Certainly, this side is making best efforts and is in fact doing our job on this issue for the people associated with South Yukon Forest Corporation and all the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it's true it's a scheduled shutdown now because they're going to run out of timber. There's no more log inventory. I warned the Premier about this back in May in a letter to the Premier. The Premier has a job to do here and that's to ensure that the people of Watson Lake and 125 families can continue to earn a living.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier is responsible for economic development in this territory. It's her job to build the economy, not stand idly by while Yukon's main economic engine shuts down due to lack of timber.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can assure the member, for the third time, as the Minister of Renewable Resources assured the member last week, no one on this side of the House is standing idly by. There are three points. First of all, yes, the member has agreed that there was a scheduled shutdown.
Secondly, the Minister of Renewable Resources is actively working on the timber supply issue with the federal officials.
Thirdly, should South Yukon Forest Corporation approach the Department of Economic Development, we will do due diligence on this. As the member opposite well knows, for the past two years the Yukon government has provided support to South Yukon Forest Corporation - training funds, facilitating supply discussions, as I already stated, a $205,000 loan for engineering work, and investigating other funding sources. That work has been done. We will continue to work with South Yukon Forest Corporation. We will do due diligence, as we will do for all Yukoners.
Question re: Forest industry, support for South Yukon Forest Corporation
Mr. Fentie: The Premier isn't getting the message here. The shutdown is not a scheduled shutdown because they had pre-planned it. It's a shutdown because they're going to run out of log inventory and there's no reason for them to have run out of log inventory.
Mr. Speaker, this will send the Yukon's forest industry back into total dependence of raw-log export; we are losing our main economic engine in the manufacturing sector.
Mr. Speaker, there are 125 jobs at stake. The economic future of the community of Watson Lake is in jeopardy. Once again, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier stop stalling and take immediate action?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, in response the Member for Watson Lake, the Yukon government acknowledges and has spoken about South Yukon Forest Corporation. The previous government has supported South Yukon Forest Corporation. This government is dealing with three issues: first of all, a planned hiatus; secondly, timber supply, which the member already spoken about; and, thirdly, should the company approach the Department of Economic Development for additional funding programs or some form of assistance, due diligence will be conducted. I would emphasize that this government has already provided training funds, a $205,000 loan, and is investigating other funding sources for the mill. We're well aware of the situation in Watson Lake, and we are making best efforts.
Mr. Fentie: Best efforts by the Liberal government are simply not good enough. This shutdown is due to lack of log inventory. There is no reason that this shutdown should have to happen. If the Liberal government across the floor had been doing their job upon taking office, they would have addressed the log inventory question.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier shows here today that she doesn't care about the 125 families soon to be out of work. She doesn't care about the community of Watson Lake and its economic future. Mr. Speaker, does she care about the 60 Yukon investors who have invested their hard-earned dollars into this sawmill? What is the minister prepared to do, right now, to assure these Yukon investors that she is capable of showing some economic leadership?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, right now, as the member says, the Minister of Renewable Resources is working on the THA - the lumber supply analysis - with the federal government. Right now, as the member demanded, the Minister of Renewable Resources is working on this issue. I have stated that, and the minister responsible for Renewable Resources has stated this.
The member knows full well that forestry is still a federal responsibility, and we're working on that too, right now, as the member states it. There are three issues: there is a planned hiatus; there is a timber supply analysis issue, which the member has quite rightly pointed out; and, thirdly, should there be a request for additional assistance, due diligence will be conducted.
The member knows very well that this side - all members of this House - care about Yukoners and we care about Yukon investors. That's why we are working on these issues.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, there's such a thing as standing on a board and getting a hernia trying to lift it. The Liberal government says they're working on this issue. What has happened? Upon taking office, we now see one of our main economic engines, the forest industry, shutting its doors on Friday, June 30. This is not some pre-planned shutdown. They are shutting down because they are out of log inventory. This situation should have been addressed immediately by the Liberal government, upon taking office.
We're talking about 125 jobs here. We're talking about 60 Yukoners who have invested their money in this operation, believing in the forest sector and the forest industry. We're also talking about small operators. Last year, the South Yukon Forest Corporation purchased approximately 30 cutting permits from smaller operators. It is their economic lifeline.
Will the Premier tell this House what three specific steps she is going to undertake here today to solve this crisis?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, as I have already stated, this government has taken a number of steps. First and foremost, although the long-term THA process is not going to deal with the short-term wood supply problem, the member opposite knows full well that this is a federal government led process and that we have, since well before the election was called, been asking that Yukon be present at the table in discussing this. We had taken those steps before the election was even called and we have been working on them since, asking that we be present at the table on this issue. That's point number one.
Point number two, there has been support for South Yukon Forest Corporation. Should there be a request, we will do due diligence. As I have said, there have been training trust funds allocated to South Yukon. There has been a $205,000 loan. There has been the assistance of Economic Development officials in investigating other funding sources. Now the member opposite is trying to suggest that we have been standing idly by, when that is not the case. The South Yukon Forest Corporation had a two-week planned hiatus. That's what they're taking. This government has responded, and we will continue to respond.
Question re: Forest industry, support for South Yukon Forest Corporation
Mr. Harding: I'm amazed at the answers I'm hearing today from the Premier of this territory. The Premier who said the buck stopped with her. The Premier that said she was going to show leadership. What does she say today when it is pointed out that we are facing the shutdown of the largest private sector employer in this territory? We're facing 60 Yukon investors losing their investment, a return to raw-log exports. She says, "If they phone me, I might look into it." She was told that this was coming back in May by the Member for Watson Lake and she has done nothing to help these 125 people who work at that mill. Why would the Premier show so little regard for the people of Watson Lake and the Yukon economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we're showing every regard for the people of Watson Lake and all of the people of the Yukon. We have, before the election was called, responded as we should. We have lobbied long and hard on behalf of Yukon's forest industry and Yukon's forest resources. Since taking office, no, the Premier is not standing idly by, nor is any member of Cabinet nor any member of the back bench. We have been working diligently on behalf of the people of the Yukon and we will continue to do so, including the people of Watson Lake, people employed by South Yukon Forest Corporation, and others.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, in March and April the employment numbers are way up from last year, before the Liberal government came to power. They campaigned on turning the economy around but now we see that their approach to the economy is actually going to cause this territory to lose the largest private sector employer we have.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon, with metal prices down, had one, lone boom town and that's Watson Lake and the Liberals are certainly on their way to fixing that.
I'd like to ask the Premier if she will show leadership this week - today - and get in touch with South Yukon Forest Corporation, the Minister of Northern Affairs, Bob Nault, and resolve this situation this week and avert this shutdown and the loss of these critical jobs.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is a planned shutdown and the member full well knows it. The member also knows that forestry is still, at this point, a federal responsibility. There are two issues: there's the immediate, short-term wood supply and there's the long-term THA process, and the Yukon Liberal Party and we, as a government, have been actively lobbying the federal government on this issue. My Minister of Renewable Resources has been working on this diligently since the election. Prior to that, we, as a party, were working on this.
Thirdly, the issue of support for South Yukon Forest Corporation, the member knows full well, as Minister of Economic Development and as a former minister of this government, what support has been provided. And in order to provide support, there should, or ought to be, a request and, as sound fiscal managers, we ought to do due diligence. That's exactly what we intend to do. The member knows that.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, there's one difference between the NDP government and the Liberal government. She has listed off what the NDP government did to keep those people working and keep that mill bringing value-added production to this territory, so that we weren't back to raw-log exports. What this Premier keeps doing is listing off what the NDP government did. When is she going to stand on her own two feet?
There are investors out there in this mill, from the oil and gas industry, in Calgary, who have written us letters expressing concern. They are watching this Liberal government very closely, who campaigned on their special relationship with Ottawa Liberals, ensuring that the Yukon economy would continue to grow, not retrench. Mr. Speaker, what is happening is quite the opposite.
I want to ask the Premier again: will she phone, today, right after Question Period, Bob Nault, and South Yukon Forest Corporation and put together something that will ensure that the mill averts this shutdown - which includes the loss of 125 jobs and those of the small operators and all those Yukoners out there who are depending on it in the whole community - so that they can resolve this situation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is a whole community of Yukoners who are indeed listening to this debate and the member opposite. There are a number of issues and I have listed them. For the member, again, this is a planned shutdown - a planned, two-week shutdown. "Hiatus" is the term that was used.
Secondly, the issue is short-term wood supply and the issue is the long-term THA. The department and the Minister of Renewable Resources have been working with the federal government on this. The federal government still has responsibility. My understanding is that they are getting close.
Thirdly, should there be a request for financial assistance, once we get these other issues resolved, this government will do due diligence. That's what we will do -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we are working on the issues associated with the South Yukon Forest Corporation, as we are working on these issues on behalf of all Yukoners.
Question re: Natural gas pipeline, Alaska Highway route
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier was recently in Calgary, lobbying oil and gas representatives to fix the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline route to transport Alaskan natural gas to the Southern 48, rather than pick the alternate route across the northern Yukon and possibly in the offshore and down the Mackenzie Valley.
This alternate route would effectively put the Yukon out of the oil and gas business for decades to come and would leave the Yukon in the economic doldrums in terms of oil and gas development, such as we are today.
Can the Premier explain, therefore, why, in the Liberal-NDP devolution proposal, she is not pushing for federal recognition of Yukon's northern boundary in its offshore waters, which are currently under N.W.T. jurisdiction?
The information that the Premier tabled on June 21 doesn't even address this fundamentally important issue. Doesn't the Premier recognize the importance of the Yukon's northern boundary in its offshore waters and doesn't she believe such a boundary would give the Yukon more of a lever in lobbying against this offshore pipeline route?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Liberal government believes in a number of things: first and foremost, the Alaska Highway route as the best option for transporting Alaskan natural gas south.
The member is asking about the northern boundary and wants to enter into a constitutional debate with me as to jurisdiction. I have provided information to the member opposite and would also, publicly, again for the member, offer him a briefing with those who are actively working now on the Yukon Act and the Yukon Act proposal and the devolution discussions, as we have offered in the House before.
Certainly, officials are more than prepared to discuss this issue with the member opposite in terms of his concerns with regard to the northern boundary.
Mr. Jenkins: A briefing on an issue, where the government of the day is very, very wishy washy, doesn't provide any information or any certainty in that area.
Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago I read a motion into the record, which would amend the draft Yukon Act (1999) to recognize Yukon's offshore northern boundary. That was a very constructive proposal, and I would like the Premier to explain why the federal Liberal government, in the creation of Nunavut, recognized its boundary in the offshore but will not recognize Yukon's northern boundary. Why is the Yukon being treated as a second-class territory by her federal Liberal friends in Ottawa?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member's question is why the federal government recognized Nunavut's offshore boundary. The member's premise of his question is wrong. That is not the case, and the member has read into the record today a motion, which he believes to be constructive. Certainly, officials will look at the drafting of the Yukon Act and give fair and thorough consideration to the member opposite's proposals.
The member opposite's view of the northern boundary and the view of other people who spend their lifetimes looking at these constitutional sorts of issues disagree. Our role is to demonstrate that leadership that the member opposite is seeking and to look at all the arguments and make our presentation with respect to the Yukon Act. The Yukon Act is still in the drafting stages. It's still being worked on, as are the devolution discussions. We are working on them. We will examine the member opposite's perspective, it will be taken into account, and we will act accordingly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, what we have are two sets of rules in the north. The federal Liberals have a set of rules for the Northwest Territories and for Nunavut, and then the Yukon falls under another set of rules, and they're not the same. All we're asking is that all three northern territories of Canada be treated in the same manner.
Now, the Liberal Premier is saying that she's providing leadership. Has the Premier ever apprised her federal Liberal friends that the Yukon's offshore northern boundary in the Beaufort Sea should be recognized? Has she ever bothered to ask, and, if so, would she please table the correspondence in this House? If not, it's high time to pick up that red phone and see if that special relationship with Ottawa works. I suggest she not phone Bob, but Jean this time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, let's see. The member fancies himself a comedian, a constitutional lawyer, a leader and a whole lot of things this afternoon. First and foremost, the rules with respect -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The attempt to the far left is objecting to the responses.
First and foremost, the rules as they apply to Nunavut and the Yukon are not different. Secondly, the northern boundary issue is an issue that has been examined in the past in the discussions around the Yukon Act, and I'll be happy to provide that information to the member opposite. The Yukon Act is a work in progress; negotiations are ongoing with federal officials, at this time, on the drafting of the Yukon Act, which includes discussions around the northern boundary. I will provide the member opposite with the background information on this once again.
Question re: Workers' Compensation Act, review of
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, when they were in opposition, the Liberals frequently took the position that the Workers' Compensation Act was in need of a major overhaul. My question for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board: will the minister tell the House if it is still the position of the Yukon Liberal government, and, if not, what has changed?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This being the first question on the Workers' Compensation Act, I appreciate the fact that we are moving ahead with discussion. We're moving ahead with meeting with stakeholders; we're moving ahead with meeting with the board. We're basically looking at our options, and we are going to continue to do this in order to ensure that the future of the Workers' Compensation Board is seen as that positive light that it should be for all workers in the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the former Member for Riverside was very outspoken on this subject. He even tabled a motion in this House saying that there should be a comprehensive review of this act. I don't think that said that we should be looking at options; it said we should be looking at a comprehensive review.
Can the minister tell us now if they're going to get through the options paper, when they might decide on a comprehensive review, when it will take place, how long will it take, and what do they expect it to accomplish?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, thanks again for the question. Yes, we are moving ahead, as the member opposite has suggested. We are going to look at doing a review. It is in place and moving in that direction. We are not moving backwards. We do want to make sure that all the players are involved in that process. As they well know, this takes time. I'm hoping that, over the next week or two, we will be able to make an announcement to that effect.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the member for the partial answer, seeing as we're so polite here this afternoon.
The former member was very clear in the suggestion that the comprehensive review should be conducted by officials appointed by, and reporting directly to, the minister. What criteria will the minister be using to select these officials and what direction does the minister expect to give them?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are basically moving ahead on this issue, because of - I guess you would call it - the past record of Workers' Compensation, in the sense that they need to have a very open forum. At the moment, we are in discussions with a very reputable organization that is going to be part of this process. I can't at this point tell you what that is, because we haven't received firm confirmation on it, but we are definitely going to move ahead with a review. We are hoping that, over the next couple of months, this can be undertaken. Again, that report, frame of reference - all those things - will basically be in line with the issues of trying to resolve many of the concerns and questions that we've had in the past with Workers' Compensation.
It's very timely. We think it's very important. We, as a new government, definitely want to see this happen. As a matter of fact, we even want to go further. If we find that these issues don't respond and we find that the report does not give us the full information, we are willing, as a government, to even look further beyond this.
Question re: Old Crow community bus
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services about the purchase of a multi-purpose community bus for Old Crow. That was requested by my constituents at the pre-budget meeting with the former Government Leader. Can the minister tell me if the purchase of a community bus, for Old Crow, will in fact take place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, no, I can't advise the member on that at this time.
Ms. Netro: The Premier said that all of the expenditures in the NDP budget, which she tabled, would go ahead. At the transportation services budget briefing, officials expressed strong reservations and said that several issues needed to be analyzed before the proposed purchase of a community bus for Old Crow. Will the minister commit to this expenditure and tell me when the community bus for Old Crow will be delivered?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The officials are correct. There are some issues that need to be analyzed before we can decide whether to go ahead with this expenditure.
Ms. Netro: Her officials have several concerns about the purchase of a bus for my community. I can table for the minister an excerpt from the information given to the critics at the meeting. Has the minister, as the elected official, given clear direction to her department that this expenditure for an Old Crow community bus should proceed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, as I said, there are several issues surrounding the purchase of this bus that need to be looked at before we can go ahead.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting 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 now call Committee of the Whole to order. Would members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Women's Directorate - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I would like to begin today by speaking to a number of issues that were raised during the general debate on the Women's Directorate's budget last Thursday afternoon.
The member opposite from Vuntut Gwitchin asked me about some of the priorities of this government, with respect to women's issues.
As I mentioned then, our caucus will discuss this subject during our planning sessions later on this summer. I would like to say, however, that some of my goals for Yukon women include safety, health, prosperity, equity and, of course, respect.
Of particular concern to the member opposite from Vuntut Gwitchin was violence prevention. Violence against women is a serious pervasive problem in the Yukon and an obstacle to equality for women across our country. I would like to reassure the member opposite that I believe that every Yukon woman has the right to live in a safe community, free from violence and from the threat of violence.
For many years, the Women's Directorate has been responsible for the government's comprehensive, multi-year and multimedia public education and public awareness campaigns on the prevention of violence against women. The directorate fulfils this commitment through public awareness campaigns in a variety of media, including print, radio, video, theatre and school-based activities.
The directorate has produced many publications in this area, including a family violence directory of services and resources that has been updated and reprinted every two years for the past 10 years. This valuable community resource is distributed throughout the Yukon. I mentioned a number of other publications and initiatives in the area of violence prevention during my opening remarks on the Women's Directorate, so I will not list those again, but I would like to reassure the member opposite that the directorate's important work in the area of violence prevention will continue.
To further clarify a number of points raised by the Member for Klondike, I would like to speak briefly about the role of the Women's Directorate. First and foremost, the Women's Directorate is a free-standing department of the Yukon government. It is not a lobby group, nor a non-government women's organization. It does work closely, however, with women's organizations in the communities, and it also provides contribution funding for both the Women's Centre and the Yukon Status of Women Council. It also funds a voice for Yukon women through the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues.
In its role as a free-standing department of government, it has the mandate of supporting the Yukon government's commitment to the economic, legal and social equality of women in order to ensure gender considerations are an integral part of the government policy, legislation and program development. With the purpose of advancing women's economic and legal equality, it does the following: it acts as a central policy advisory to government on women's equality issues through gender-based analysis and through its participation on Deputy Minister Review Committee, the Assistant Deputy Minister Task Force, Policy Review Committee and the Communications Review Committee, to name a few. It consults with Yukon women and collaborates with women's organizations to promote the equality of women. It works closely with women's organizations on community events, such as Women Abuse Prevention Month, Sexual Assault Prevention Month, December 6th and various other community-based, ad hoc committees throughout the year. For example, the Women's Directorate played a very significant role in the planning and co-ordination of the Circumpolar Women's Conference last year.
It consults and has an ongoing dialogue with women's organizations on a variety of issues, including gender equity in public schools, midwifery, women's programming for addictions, and it also works with other government departments to implement effective programs on the prevention of violence against women and children.
To further clarify for the Member for Klondike, it cannot and does not draft joint papers in collaboration with women's organizations for the purpose of lobbying other government departments. This is not one of its roles. It also has a very small budget and does not fund ongoing programming.
As I mentioned earlier, funding for transition homes in the Yukon, for example, is the responsibility of Health and Social Services. Legal aid is funded by the Department of Justice.
In terms of the work the directorate does collaboratively with the Departments of Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, Community and Transportation Services as well as Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Liquor Corporation, directorate staff participate on a number of interdepartmental and inter-agency committees. Here are a few examples: directorate staff actively participate in the development and implementation of the Family Violence Prevention Act. They have provided input into the government plans for restorative justice and they have assisted with amendments to the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act. They have collaborated with other government departments on interdepartmental working groups to develop anti-poverty measures and strategies for youth and for seniors. They are currently involved with intergovernmental work with their colleagues across the country in developing a new identities program for women fleeing abusive relationships.
The directorate chairs the Gender Equity Committee, which involves both government and non-government representatives. This committee works to implement the gender equity policy in public schools, to ensure that the learning environment is safe, equitable and provides equal access and opportunities for both girls and boys.
The directorate has worked closely with the Department of Education on a number of issues, including promoting the participation of women in the apprenticeship and trades fields. They co-sponsored a Northern Research Institute report last year, "Yukon Women in Apprenticeship and Trades", which received national acclaim. This report has been followed up by encouraging young women to establish a women-in-trades-and-technology chapter here in Yukon, which is the only jurisdiction that previously did not have a chapter of this association.
In the area of health, directorate staff has participated on a number of community-based midwifery planning groups. They have been involved with alcohol and drug services and women's organizations in promoting women's programming for addictions treatment. They are also participating in discussions around reproductive health.
I am hopeful that by giving some detail around the work that the Women's Directorate carries out it will clarify the role of this department to the member opposite - the Member for Klondike. With reference to the many questions asked by the Member for Klondike on the issue of legal aid, I will again reiterate that the Women's Directorate is not the lead on this issue. They have certainly been involved in discussions with women's organizations and with Justice on this issue, and will continue to be involved throughout the review that is currently underway.
The Department of Justice has undertaken this review of legal aid at this time because legal aid needs of single mothers and families are of concern to our government.
Our main priority for legal aid is to ensure that a long-term solution is in place that addresses the key issues facing this service and ensures it will meet the needs of all Yukon people. We do not want, nor do we intend, to jump into a hasty, reactive solution to this issue that may create more problems at a later date. We have been charged with the responsibility of providing good government, and we will do that through a thoughtful review and careful analysis of this important issue.
The Department of Justice is working with and supports the board of the Legal Services Society in developing a comprehensive approach to the service and financial demands of legal aid in the Yukon. The legal aid operational review that is currently underway will be addressing how best to provide the services to Yukon people, and in particular to single mothers and their families.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to thank the minister for taking so much time to run over the mandate of the Yukon Women's Directorate. That's an understanding that I had before I became the critic of that portfolio, and I'd like to thank her for reading into the record the many facets that the Women's Directorate deals with.
But rather than just run around the whole exercise and all of the areas that the Women's Directorate deals with, the minister fails to address the one main issue and the single issue that is causing the greatest deal of concern within that whole area of the NGOs and the Women's Directorate - and that issue is the shortfalls in the legal aid system.
Now, I reviewed Hansard from last Thursday during Committee of the Whole, and the minister really took issue with my comments in relation to the shortcoming in the legal aid system and its impact on many women today.
That impact is a reality of our life, and that impact is what has to be addressed. Now, what I heard from the minister today, Mr. Chair, is, "Well, it's not our department. We're going to study it, and this is being studied over in Justice, and we're going to pass the buck over there." It looks like the usual Liberal response; we run around the whole circle and don't really analyze the problem and fix the problem. In opposition, this Liberal minister was extremely vocal as to where the shortcomings were with women's issues today, and the shortcomings are traceable right to shortfalls in the legal aid system. That's primarily where we have to focus.
Now, what I wanted to see is that we should try to come up with a made-in-Yukon solution and ask the minister if she would give consideration to coming up with a paper outlining the number of women who are seeking legal aid and who are not being helped as a consequence of the shortfall in funding in our legal aid system here in the Yukon. That would probably address a majority of the concerns that are coming through from the NGOs and that the Women's Directorate hears about these days, Mr. Chair.
I'm not asking the Women's Directorate to become the lead agency. I'm just asking them to be the major mover and shaker to do something. Don't just sit there, run around, study and analyze and pass the buck. I was trying to get through to the minister that the Women's Directorate should, in fact, play a very large role in addressing and resolving this particular issue. Many of the directorate's clientele are the same ones who are having to deal first-hand with the problems associated with legal aid.
So, we can pass the buck as much as we want, Mr. Chair, but until we target what the problem is and address that problem, even though it might be at arm's length from the Women's Directorate, we're not really going to move ahead. The layer and layer and layer of other officials between us and the problem is not going to resolve the problem. It is just going to distance the government from the problem. Perhaps that is what they are hoping to accomplish - distance themselves from the problem and not address it head-on.
Now, all I'm asking of the minister is to play a key role, see if we can resolve this issue, and the issue is the shortfall in funding in the legal aid system. Now, I don't know how the minister wants to slice it or cut it or dice it or whatever she wants to do with it but, at the end of the day, that is the issue before us. Would the minister undertake that kind of a role within the Women's Directorate? I'm interested in the answer, Mr. Chair, because I'm sure we're going to run all around the circle again, but not target the problem.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's very interesting, the Member for Klondike's perception of what happened last Thursday. Clearly, that member stood on the floor of this Legislature and said that the Women's Directorate should take the lead in this issue - the Women's Directorate was responsible for this issue. That's what the Member for Klondike said. The Member for Klondike also said that the Women's Directorate should take the lead and that they should write a paper - a paper that would lobby the other departments, and everything should wait until that paper was complete, and that paper should go to the Minister of Justice. Everything should wait for the paper that went to the Minister of Justice, including the review of the legal aid system. Well, the legal aid system has problems, and that was something that we were very aware of in opposition and it's something that we're still aware of, and that's why we're doing the review.
If the Women's Directorate did the paper, then we would have to wait on that process, and that process looks like it's now going to be finalized by the middle of July. That means that the Minister of Justice will have a review completed and she will be looking at the options available to fix parts of legal aid. All of it can't be fixed. We're going to do our best. The member opposite thinks that - he did say - the Women's Directorate should take the lead on legal aid. That's exactly what he said. We have it in Hansard. That is not the role of the Women's Directorate. I've spent a great deal of time telling the Member for Klondike that that is not the role of the Women's Directorate.
Obviously, the Women's Directorate has serious concerns about this issue and has advised and worked with the Department of Justice, as well as other departments, on this very important issue. The Women's Directorate is very, very aware of the problems for women in this territory - the economic problems, violence. All of those issues are important to the Women's Directorate, and that's why we work at what we do, such as maintenance enforcement. The list goes on and on and on.
The Member for Klondike said that the Women's Directorate should take the lead, that they should somehow come up with a paper to lobby the Department of Justice to fix legal aid. That's what the Member for Klondike said. That's what is in Hansard. We are saying that we are not going to wait for a paper to be produced by the Women's Directorate, which is clearly inappropriate - it is clearly inappropriate, especially because the Women's Directorate has already been working on this issue - and that we should wait until this paper goes to Justice, and that somehow or another that will fix the problems with legal aid. The Minister of Justice knows that she's going to be getting a review on her desk by the middle of July. She will be working very, very hard to fix legal aid.
I don't want to wait. I don't know why the Member for Klondike wants to wait.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I will take the minister to Hansard, page 361. What I said was: "Now, if the Women's Directorate is going to be the lead agency or one of the lead agencies" - what I was advocating was that all of the various women's organizations come together, and that we address the issue. The Women's Directorate could be the lead or one of the leads. It is clearly stated in the Blues, Mr. Chair.
Now, that's one of the areas that has to be addressed - the shortfalls and the shortcomings in the legal aid system. What this minister is doing, Mr. Chair, is passing the buck to her colleague, the Minister of Justice, under which the Women's Directorate was formed.
So, let's move on. If the minister's not prepared to do anything in this area, so be it, but the system could be repaired and could be improved upon if this minister does her job, works with the NGOs, gets the information to the Minister of Justice and convinces the Minister of Justice to put more money into the legal aid system. It's a pretty simple exercise. And, in opposition, the member who is currently the minister responsible for this area, Mr. Chair, was very, very supportive of more funding for the legal aid system. How times change, once you go from opposition into government. How things change.
So, I guess we have to wait until the Minister of Justice looks favourably upon this issue. I see us moving ahead if the two ministers would get together and resolve the issue, and the issue is more money for the legal aid system. Can the minister undertake to do that?
Now, I'm sure we're going to hear a whole bunch of diatribe that won't mean anything, but the bottom line is that, until there's more money put into the legal aid system to address the shortcomings, we're going to still continue to have major, major problems. A lot of those problems can be addressed and can be improved by more money in legal aid.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's always a question of perception. The Member for Klondike says that whatever I say is going to be diatribe and it won't mean anything. On the other hand, he asks that this side of the Legislature take a position. We have told the Member for Klondike a number of times - a number of times - that the Women's Directorate does not take the lead on this issue. We have provided leadership in this issue by getting information to the Department of Justice, which is the responsible department.
This review is very important. That's why this government undertook that review, and the previous government did not. This is very, very important to our government. That's why the Minister of Justice is taking a very thoughtful approach with this review and quickly dealing with some of the issues around legal aid.
Mr. Chair, clearly, the Member for Klondike doesn't listen when I say what the role of the Women's Directorate is. Clearly, the Member for Klondike doesn't listen when we say how important this review of legal aid is to our government. Clearly, the member opposite may be wasting his time in this Legislature because he doesn't listen to the answers that are given to him. If the Member for Klondike has further questions on the issue of legal aid, I would suggest that he perhaps direct those questions to the minister responsible, and that's the Minister of Justice. If the Member for Klondike has any new questions, I would be happy to entertain them at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: How can I propose any new questions when the minister can't answer the basic questions that are going to repair the system? We're just going around the periphery of the circle and it seems to be further and further remote from the centre. In opposition we had a member who had all of the solutions. There was no review that was necessary; it was just, "Put more money into the legal aid system, and why isn't the Minister of Justice doing it right away?" That was her call. She went on and on and on at great lengths. Why isn't it being done? There are tremendous shortcomings in the legal aid system, and it's impacting on a tremendous number of women around the Yukon, and rightly so. Mr. Chair, I agreed with this member when she was on opposition, but now that she is in charge of that area, how do we best accomplish that in a very expedient and rapid manner?
In opposition, it was immediate - just put more money into it. We can come up with $250,000 right out of the blue for incentives for the mining community - extra incentives, above and beyond what's already there, another $250,000. Now, what can we do for legal aid?
If you look at all the areas and all the campaign promises of the Liberals, Mr. Chair, I thought it would have been a very, very wise exercise if they'd have prioritized where they were going to put their money, rather than just looking for photo opportunities, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and cake-eating situations. You know that really does nothing to repair a system that has got some major flaws in it. And it's not that there isn't enough money there. There is a surplus that has been clearly identified and earmarked on March 31, 2000, of some $50-odd million.
Is that what this minister is saying, Mr. Chair? She's going to leave everything in the domain of the Minister of Justice in order to see something happen? Is that what this minister is saying, that she's failing in her responsibility, she's abandoning women and she's going to entrust everything to the Minister of Justice?
It's a sad state for women in the Yukon when we have to rely on the Minister of Justice to fix a problem that the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate could lobby for and have done immediately, if not sooner, Mr. Chair.
So, I want to know why the situation isn't being addressed immediately, Mr. Chair. Why aren't there some more funds being put into legal aid to repair these shortcomings, to assist women in need at this juncture?
In opposition, it was one story, and it could be fixed and it could be done immediately. Now that this minister is responsible for this area, it's under review. I can see the headlines in the Whitehorse Star tomorrow, "Government under review. Nothing is going to happen in the Yukon." This must be a Liberal exercise in creating the best welfare state in North America. Is that where we're headed? Is that what the Liberal game plan is, to create the best welfare area in North America?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps that's what the Member for Klondike wants. He's against incentives for the mining community. Perhaps that's what he'd like.
And, to be absolutely clear, yes, I am leaving everything in the domain of the Minister of Justice because she is the minister responsible for legal aid.
The report on the review of legal aid will be sitting on the minister's desk probably in the middle of July, and if the Member for Klondike knew anything about the issue at all, which he clearly does not, he will know - and this is something that I brought up a number of times when I was in opposition - that you don't just throw money at legal aid to fix the problem. That's something I said on a number of occasions. There are problems around civil and criminal cases being funded by legal aid. High-profile cases -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. I call it the hockey rule. Once the referee loses sight of the puck, he blows the whistle. I can't hear the minister opposite. I'd ask that the members opposite please -
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It is quite sad because, indeed, I do have a voice that does carry, but I still cannot be heard above the sounds from opposite.
One of the problems with legal aid that we brought out as a party, when we were in opposition, is the fact that when there's a high-profile criminal case, all the money in the legal aid budget is used to fund that case, and there isn't anything left over for civil cases. That is one of the problems with legal aid, and that was one of the issues that we brought forward when we were on the side opposite, the side that the Member for Klondike now sits on. You can't just throw money at legal aid; you have to look at the whole picture, and you have to do a good job of fixing it, because it is certainly something that needs to be fixed, and it is certainly something that our government is very, very interested in. That's why we are doing a review of legal aid. That's why we have dealt with this issue very quickly.
The Member for Klondike is very, very proud of the surplus, the history lesson about the imaginary surplus from the NDP. That was the surplus as of March 31. It is now June. That is no longer the surplus. That is history. That is living in the past. That is no longer the surplus. To be absolutely clear, as of March 31, 2001, the surplus will be $14.7 million. That's when this budget is finished. These are the issues that are on the floor. Perhaps the Member for Klondike can save his questions about legal aid for the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for her response, Mr. Chair, but I'd probably have the same success with the Minister of Justice unless, of course, it's carefully scripted for her and read off, like a news report.
If anyone's listening upstairs, I would ask that they address this area for the Minister of Justice so that she does have some answers for the House, unlike this minister. But the records clearly reflect that the surplus was $56.2 million at March 31, 2000, the end of the fiscal year, and it would have been higher had the Liberals not tabled the supplementary budget. That is their choice.
Now, we can't use the lack of money as an excuse for not addressing the shortcomings in a system. Political expediency, a lack of knowing the issues or just wanting to postpone making a decision, because there are other priorities - these are probably closer to the truth.
The issue before us is still the same. A great deal of the issues surrounding women today are the shortcomings in the legal aid system. That's what needs addressing and needs to be repaired.
This minister, with her responsibilities for the Women's Directorate, has a wonderful opportunity to consult with her colleague, the Minister of Justice, and fix it. But, I guess we're going to see it under review from now until the middle of the summer. Then it's going to be discussed and kicked around.
Can the minister provide any assurances that we will see something happen in this fiscal period, or is it something that will occur in the next budget cycle?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the review is not complete. I can tell the member opposite - and I will repeat this again for him, because he clearly doesn't hear what I'm saying - that the review will be sitting on the Minister of Justice's desk by the middle of July. At that point, she will look at all the options. One of the options may be to throw money at this issue. That is going to be one of the decisions that the Minister of Justice makes. Perhaps if the Member for Klondike could save his fascinating questions for the Justice department review during our budget discussions, he will get more detailed explanations from the minister responsible, who is the Minister of Justice and to whom, by the way, issues around women are very, very important.
Mr. Jenkins:I know that the minister can't answer for the Minister of Justice, but we are only 19 days away from the middle of July, and there's probably a good chance, given the speed with which the ministers of the day are answering for their various departments, that we will still be sitting. Will that information be shared with the members of this Legislature?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: My understanding, Mr. Chair, is that when that information becomes public, it will certainly be shared with the members opposite. To be clear though, the review of legal aid is not just about women's issues; it is also about issues for men and for children and, indeed, for all Yukoners. These are not just about women's issues; these are about issues for all Yukoners.
Chair: Seeing as general debate is clear, we will now go line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
On Program Delivery
Program Delivery in the amount of $394,000 agreed to
On Public Education
Public Education in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Violence Prevention
Violence Prevention in the amount of $43,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Are there any questions on the Women's Directorate transfer payments?
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $477,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $477,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Chair: Since there is no capital in the Women's Directorate, we will then proceed with Yukon Housing Corporation.
Yukon Housing Corporation
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I am pleased today to introduce the Yukon Housing Corporation budget for 2000-2001.
I will start by speaking generally of the corporation's impact on families, communities and its role in our economy.
The Yukon Housing Corporation links and invests in families, communities and the local housing industry. The corporation's program works to provide Yukoners with access to adequate, suitable and affordable housing.
The corporation's lending programs promote home ownership and repair and improvement on residential and commercial energy management. These programs put dollars directly into the hands of Yukon homeowners and business people who can purchase goods and services from the housing-related businesses. These programs are an investment in families and housing related businesses.
The corporation's social housing program assists those who need help to obtain access to adequate, suitable and affordable housing. This program is an investment in families and community infrastructure.
The corporation's training and education program assisted a range of people: the first time home buyer, the do-it-yourself renovator or builder, the industry professional. These programs are investments in people and housing stock.
Just as homes are built from blueprints, the corporation's programs are built from its strategic plan. This plan focuses on community development, technology information, direct assistance, programming, housing market development, and community and economic development.
Mr. Chair, in addition to these programs, there are two areas of particular importance to this government. I will be working with this corporation to maximize our potential and to address these areas, and I will now briefly highlight work underway.
First, Mr. Chair, Yukon seniors are raising concerns about the future housing needs of its growing segment of our population. Many seniors have already made their housing needs and preferences known. The corporation is responding by identifying a range of ways of meetings seniors' immediate and long-term housing needs. I encourage all Yukon seniors to participate in examining these possibilities with the corporation when they are released for review.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, the Yukon Housing Corporation is working with some members of the housing industry to pursue diversification opportunities in external markets. I'm encouraged by industry's initiatives and the corporation's supportive role. These actions will contribute to strengthening and diversifying the housing industry and our economy.
Mr. Chair, I have spoken of two areas of particular interest to me. I will be identifying other areas as I work with the corporation and talk to Yukoners. That dialogue will begin in the coming months. I will begin visiting communities to learn first-hand about housing issues in rural Yukon.
Mr. Chair, I will now speak briefly about the corporation's budget for 2000-01.
There are no significant increases in this budget. The changes that have been made reflect consumer demand. The corporation has a capital budget of $16,629,000 for the year 2000-01. Of that amount, $4,771,000 is fully recoverable.
For the most part, these recoveries represent a repayment of loans from clients who have accessed the corporation's lending programs. The corporation has an operation and maintenance budget of $12,544,000 for the year 2000-01. Its budget is to recover $8,961,000 from previous sources. The recoveries show an increase of three percent, due to a projected increase in the interest income from the loans programs, given an increase in the programs' intake.
In closing, Mr. Chair, I have spoken about the importance of responding to seniors' housing needs and the importance of supporting the housing industry as it explores good opportunities. While the corporation is focusing on these areas, it also continues to deliver programs: the home ownership program, the home repair program, energy management programs, and education and training programs.
I am confident that, with its focus on people, whether they are renters, homeowners or home builders, the corporation will continue to provide access to adequate, suitable and affordable housing. We will continue to be a significant and constructive participant in the communities and the economy.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, this afternoon, I heard in Question Period the Minister of Community and Transportation Services speak about the budget and answer a direct question from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Certainly, Mr. Chair, I know that Cabinet got briefed, got up to speed, made the decision on the budget and to proceed with the budget as is - today I heard a deviation that we're moving away from that budget a bit in C&TS. I'd like to ask the minister: does the minister believe in the budget before him? Are there any changes that you've instructed the officials to change, or have the officials suggested changes to the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there have been no changes to the budget. We are proceeding as we said before in that we will honour this budget and that we will carry on. I'm fairly confident that, with the team that we have at Yukon Housing Corporation, we are looking forward to this budget.
Mr. Keenan: Well, that really wasn't the question. I'm glad that the member is looking forward to the budget. It's a heck of a good budget. It touches bases in a lot of places. I certainly agree with the member opposite about the quality of the budget, but that wasn't the question. The question was direct: do you believe in all of the programs as they've been laid out within the budget. You're going to make - I always hear "best effort" over there. You're going to make very best efforts to follow through with the budget as it is laid out; you're not going to take one segment from the budget and move it over, like the Old Crow school bus. I'd like that said, for the record, on the floor.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the board of directors for the Yukon Housing Corporation has the ability and the flexibility to move those dollars for consumer demand, and they've always had that ability, and we have to go in accordance with what the demand is out there, and I really can't make a commitment and say that no, we will not make changes to this. We're here to serve the needs of our clients, and that's exactly where we're at with this.
Mr. Keenan: Does the member believe in the budget as presented? I kind of detect that there is a bit of a move to hide behind the board of directors and the ability to move. I understand that there is an ability to move from the department, as they can at different times. Their best efforts, I guess, is to work with the budget as laid out, so I'm asking the minister - not the board of directors - do you believe in the budget as laid out?
Chair: I would ask all members to respectfully make their comments through the Chair rather than use the word "you".
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would say again that we are serving the needs of the clients. I would say also that yes, if the homeowners program helps Yukoners in any way, if it helps renters, if it helps businesses, yes, we will. If that is the question that he is asking with regard to the budget, that's our answer.
Mr. Keenan: Can the minister please just stand on his feet and tell me a bit about the minister's vision for the department?
I've heard the minister say twice now that it's more or less client driven. Can the minister expand on his vision for what the minister would like to accomplish within six months, a year, four years, if he is so lucky to be a minister for four years in the Housing Corporation? Share your vision with me, please.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Okay. First of all, I think we definitely have to deal with Mountainview Place. That's an outstanding issue.
We have to deal with the seniors, as we've said in our platform and we are dealing with our seniors and we are coming up with a plan this winter, and one of the things that we're looking at is home ownership. Again, we're looking at renters and businesses and economic development. Within Economic Development, we're looking at diversifying our economy to see what advantages we have with regard to our economy.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for that vision, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister talk about the current status on the exports initiatives that are going into Chile?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, with the Neil Letang construction group, they're packaging four units in Vancouver as we speak. They're on their way to Chile within the upcoming week, and they will be landing on August 1 in Chile. With the BLC group, they're going to Chile this weekend. They're heading off to Chile right now, this coming weekend.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, some of the information I received on the BLC group and Chile is that they're working toward a social housing development. If that happens, will there be Yukon jobs created out of that? Is that all within the minister's knowledge?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Chair. Yukon jobs will operate from here. It will create Yukon jobs here.
Mr. Keenan: Would the minister elaborate on how many jobs and their potential? The minister does not have to be specific, but I'd like a general assumption, if I might, please, as to how many? Will people be going to Chile with them or will they be taking just pushers or labourers or professionals? What is the makeup?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, right now, it's a bit premature to speculate what sorts of numbers we are looking at. Right now, the BLC group is going to Chile, and they are going to negotiate the contracts with the Chileans. They are doing a presentation right now. Hopefully, they will secure a contract. If they do secure a contract, it depends on just what size of a contract is secured.
Mr. Keenan: So, Mr. Chair, the minister is telling me that it's a bit premature to speak of any Yukon jobs for folks in Chile surrounding the social-housing concept? I always kind of thought that that was the whole idea as to how we would be diversifying our economy, and that it would be through those efforts. So, I am a bit shocked that the minister can't speak to even a standard as to how many people would be employed by a Yukon crew as they go. Is it just the construction name that goes and they make the bucks, or is it absolutely - can the minister tell me just a little bit about it? Four? Two people and his wife? How many people?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, again, it would be a bit premature to speculate as to how many numbers there are. We don't know. They are going there right now to make a presentation. Again, they are trying to secure a contract. Once they secure that contract, we will definitely get back to the member opposite and give him an answer on numbers, if that's what he wants.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I would very much appreciate that from the minister. If the minister could give me the history of the project, at least an allusion as to how many jobs the minister expects that would be created and how much money Yukon Housing Corporation has put forth to this. And are we going to get the best bang for our buck?
So, I'd like a good history and I'll let the minister off with that this sitting.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation has approved $25,000 for training modules to provide some training and for a trip to Chile to speak on light-frame construction for homes or housing units.
So overall, the amount of money that has been spent is $25,000 and we're working on training modules for this venture.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to just move over to the Yukon seniors conference report. When can we expect to see some policy direction commitments made, based on the recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The action plan is still in the stages of development, although it still has to go to the board and we're looking at probably later this summer or fall so we can consult with the seniors.
Mr. Keenan: I think what I heard from the minister was that you're looking at the report, you're going to go back, and you said you're going to consult with the seniors. I would take it that maybe it was the steering committee or something like as such. Why would you be going back as the minister and speaking to the seniors?
Chair: Just a reminder that I would ask members to speak through the Chair and to not refer to members as "you".
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have to let the member opposite know that it is the corporation that's doing this and that I will be going to do this.
Mr. Keenan: What's the corporation going to do?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we will be taking this to the board. The board will be reviewing it. We'll consult with the seniors, and we will act upon the direction that we get from the seniors. We will have proactive responses to the needs of the seniors.
Mr. Keenan: Just to clarify here - the member has said twice in this very limited debate that it is the board. Can I just get the member to explain this: when he says "we", is he speaking on behalf of government or of the board, or is it the ministerial relationship that they have with it? It's getting to be a bit confusing for me. Are we hiding behind the board, or are we speaking before a board?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We're not hiding, for one thing. We're not hiding. What it is is that it is my - I'm sorry, I apologize. It's not "we". We realize that - again, it's the way I speak. The special relationship that we have with Yukon Housing Corporation and the caucus, the members of government, and definitely they are accountable to the Legislature for the corporation - or I am, and I will work on saying that it is Yukon Housing Corporation, and I'll work on saying that when it's my duty as the member, and I will try and make it very clear as to what "we" is all about.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, we all have habits that we've had for a long time. The member says "we", I say "you", so we'll all get along, as long as we can clarify this and there's not a conscious effort to hide behind a board. It's very clear and I want to make sure that is said. When I ask questions here, I would expect that the member would be able to speak from that knowledge base of what the board is doing because the board certainly does represent an integral part of the Yukon community.
So, Mr. Chair, if I may sum it up on this one particular issue on the seniors report, would it be possible or plausible to say that it would be this fall that the process would conclude, now that you have tabled the report, read the report. There are not really recommendations but kind of semi-concrete, recommendations of where the people would like to go based on their input into the seniors report. Is the minister now going to take it back to that planning committee or steering group of elders and seniors, and ask them for their prioritization of these semi-quasi recommendations, and then look at putting it into the next budget cycle?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, basically I guess the action plan is still being developed as we speak, and we will be coming back with more information on this in the very near future, or in the fall.
Going back to the previous question, we are not hiding behind the corporation in any way. And I say "we" in that we have to report to the Legislature on the corporation.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I think what I've heard then is that, very soon, this fall, it's going to be out there for prioritization and that the action plan will be back.
I guess what I'm trying to get from the minister here - I heard from the Member for Riverdale South; the sunny side of Riverdale - speak about reports sometimes being used as bookends. I want to make sure that the minister is not looking at treating some of these very stringent and good ideas that come from the report as bookends. I hope they will actually make it into some type of direction in the budget cycle.
I'm not trying to be sneaky. I'm trying to be upright and I'm trying to get the minister to say if that is his plan. That's what I'm trying to accomplish.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I don't know what the member opposite means as far as bookends, but, no, basically, we're not going to be using it as bookends.
Mr. Keenan: That's one tone that I'll remember.
The minister spoke about Mountainview Place. Can the minister just stand on his feet and talk about - well, the Member for Porter Creek North, I think it was, had, during the election, all sorts of things to say about it. I have press copies here. Can the minister please stand on his feet and say when and how they are going to fix this problem that they deemed a problem?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the Mountainview Place is a 69-unit mobile home community, and was part of the previous government's mobile home strategy. It was intended to be an affordable home ownership option for tenants who were renting their mobile home pad and wanted to own their own pad.
This government will continue to provide home ownership options to Yukoners. This government is very concerned with the health and safety issues of residents of mobile home parks. Also, Yukon Housing Corporation will evaluate the Mountainview Place project this coming winter. We foresee - when I say we, I look at the Yukon Housing Corporation and myself as a team - creating an ugly duckling to a nice swan.
Mr. Keenan: There were all sorts of answers during the election. Of course, after the election you sum up, how many was it - 122? They must be getting awful costly because the answers that were there just two short months ago are now into an evaluation program, and it's going to be done this fall. In the meantime, could the minister please stand on his feet and tell me about their new affordable mobile home strategy and what options that minister is planning to bring forth?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we definitely see that there are problems with the Mountainview Place. At present, there are only five agreements to purchase. We realize that there are health and safety issues that we consider very important and they are very important to me. We are definitely looking at this for review.
I have instructed the Yukon Housing Corporation to find better solutions to this problem. We realize that in the fall there will be a clearer picture of the number of options for the selection of the best process to take in filling this mobile home location.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I understand that, yes, we're going to evaluate it. I'd certainly like to know what, in the minister's mind, the problem was. Of course, it will come through the corporation, but certainly I'm very interested in that.
That's not exactly what I asked the minister, though. In absence of an affordable mobile home - and we are going to be developing options this winter - does the minister have a political vision for the minister's department? What is the minister's vision as to coming up with an affordable mobile home option if the one option that they see there is not going to work? They say there are problems. I'd certainly like to know what, in the minister's mind, the problems were and are, as soon as I can.
They're going to evaluate that this winter. Does that mean that the lots still are not for sale at this point in time? If a lot is bought and sold at this point in time, will it be grandfathered into any policy that might be made to be more lucrative to selling the lots there? There's a grandfathering option there, but I'd like to know predominantly what the minister's vision is for an affordable mobile home option, and I'm not interested particularly in the board of directors' vision, because I know they have a good vision. I'd like to know what the minister's vision is.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, we have to say that there are five agreements within that area. We know there is a problem at McIntyre. There's an open space up there, enough to fill up two football fields. It still sits there, and it's from the previous government.
It's still okay to purchase lots up there today. It's premature to say the outcome prior to conducting a review on this, and I will not, as minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation, start speculating on exactly what the board sees fit for the mobile home units.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm a little surprised at the minister's answer. For goodness sake, it's in the minister's riding. At the doorstep he was talking about doing something different. Now I ask for an explanation of how the minister's vision is for his department, and certainly, he was speaking at the doorsteps about this and the minister can't tell me what his personal vision is. We certainly can hide behind - well, it's my problem because I was a part of the management, I was a part of the problem, and I was part of the Cabinet that made this decision. But, doggone it, we went out and made the decisions for people who were in need. This member, in his own riding, can't even describe the policy, let alone what we're going to do for the people within his own riding.
I'm asking the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation if he has a vision for an affordable mobile home strategy and what the principles of that might be. Not once, in this question, do I want to hear the member opposite talk about Mountainview - just the vision.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this government is very concerned with the health and safety of residents of mobile home parks. We realize that there is an issue there with the open space at Mountainview Place. The Yukon Housing Corporation will evaluate the Mountainview Place project this coming winter.
It is my vision to complete and fulfill this Moutainview Place project and to see it filled in. Again, the previous government has tabled us with an ugly duckling. We want to make it to at least come out as a half-decent swan.
We are looking at affordable housing options. We are looking at other avenues that need to be looked at for these lots, and they need to be filled. We realize that there's a big problem there, and it is coming up this winter.
Mr. Keenan: I asked the member opposite not to mention Mountainview Place, but it seems that in absence of a vision - well, actually I shouldn't say the absence of a vision, Mr. Chair, because the member, when he did speak, stood on his feet and spoke about the NDP vision. He's implementing the NDP vision right now.
He said he was going to turn it over to the board of directors to look at some options. Certainly the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation knows, or should know, that overcrowding here is one of the detriments to a good quality of living in the Yukon Territory.
Is the member saying, "Well, we can get a bang for our buck if people don't really need a quality of life, and we can just squeeze in a couple more trailers in the layout."?
I would like to ask the member if he could stand on his feet and tell me. The member obviously stood on his feet during the election campaign and said, "This is what we're going to do differently. We're going to do something different." What are you going to do that is different?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the NDP vision was simply not working, and it is simply not working with Mountainview Place. It wasn't working then and it does not work now, and we're working at trying to find some different agreements. The only thing that we have now is five agreements to purchase these lots to date. Other than that, we still have this problem at Mountainview Place, and we will be going back to it. And this coming winter, there will be different options and better options, better solutions to getting these lots filled.
Mr. Keenan: Well certainly, Mr. Chair, if they're going to adopt the NDP budget, then they certainly should be adopting the NDP vision. In absence of the NDP vision, but in collusion with the budget, if you do not have a vision of your own - my God, it's going to be fun this fall and I look forward to it. And that is not a threat, Mr. Chair. That's just a little bit of a warning.
I would like to know what the minister's vision is. The member stood out there and spoke about doing something different and just beat the tar out of the New Democrat vision. And the NDP did have a vision and recognized that there were problems, recognized that people need quality of life and looked at different options. The member stands on his feet, thumps up the NDP vision, thumps up our budget, yet that's all he's got in his back pocket, and then he speaks of his vision, and, Mr. Chair, there isn't even need for a commercial break in that vision because there isn't a vision.
So, I would very much like to hear maybe a little bit more about Moutainview Place. When we get through with talking about the bumbling that happened with Mountainview Place, would the minister please carry on with the minister's vision. I would very much like to hear what the minister's vision is.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I must reiterate once again that the NDP's vision just did not work and it will not work. There is no reason why they should think we're after their vision or following their vision. Sorry, but what we're doing now is correcting - not correcting necessarily - but trying to help them out with some of the problems that were presented before us in this government, from the previous government.
Again, I will reiterate that we only have five agreements since we got in here to purchase these lots. These lots are being slowly purchased. Our clients are in a number one need program. We need programs that clients want.
I really don't know what it is that he's after. If he could get more specific with regard to this vision that he's looking at - our vision is one that was tabled in front of this government by the previous government. It is the problem with the Mountainview Place. Moutainview Place is something that we will be looking at. We are looking at it now, as we speak.
I have the utmost confidence in the Yukon Housing Corporation team. We are looking at different options - better options and solutions to solving this problem here. We are also keeping in mind the health and safety aspects of these different units and the crowding problems in different trailer parks. We know that there are some options and we are right in the process now of taking those on. Those are directives that came from me to the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan:What that preamble told me is that there is no vision, that, certainly, you'll say anything on a doorstep to get yourself elected, but let me also say that people are not foolish. People realize that government has to provide leadership and that personality-driven leadership just will not cut it. It just will simply not cut it. I expect the member - and I'm being kind - to have a vision, to have some type of solution. Everybody knows what the problems are. It's the smart politician and it's the leadership that comes forth and provides the solutions to the problems. Just don't reiterate the problems over and over and over.
But, speaking of the problems, could the member maybe stand on his feet and talk about just what are some of the problems and the obstacles encountered?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, can the member opposite please clarify his question his little bit?
Mr. Keenan: With pleasure, Mr. Chair. Certainly, I understand that the Liberal government has no vision, when you ask a minister on his feet to stand here and speak about the vision that got them elected, they quickly point to the NDP budget. When the NDP asks, "What is your vision?", the member quickly turns and says, "Well, it's your vision and your budget, so we don't have a vision. It's a corporation anyway, by gosh, and maybe I should try and hide behind that corporation, but if I can't do that, well, maybe I should just review it, and if I can't review it, well, then we should develop some options." I think I pulled it all together there?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Yes. So, now you ask me for a more simplistic question. If the member does not have a personal vision or a Liberal vision to bring to the problem - and the problems that I am talking about include an affordable mobile home option strategy, and the member does not have a vision. I have spoken to the member about the fact that he should know the answers; we all know the questions. Then, if he doesn't have the vision, then does the member really know what the problems are? What are the problems and obstacles that are encountered that are to the detriment of the selling of these lots?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, getting back to the first question about vision, it is our view - this government's view - that we want to be open and accountable, and we want to be able to speak to Yukoners. We want to get the Yukoners' view and find out what the options are that would work, options that make sense, options that people want and options that people can afford. We are actually going in a consolidated process with the people of the Yukon, and it doesn't really matter what my vision is. My vision, first of all, is that there is health and safety for people of the Yukon. Unless we get that vision from the people of the Yukon - and we are here to serve the best interests of Yukoners, and I really don't understand what this guy, what the member opposite, is trying to pin his question on.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, this guy is not trying to pin his question on to anybody, not at all. This guy is just trying to find out if the member has a vision. Obviously, the member has no vision, but the member did say something that intrigued me. The member spoke about going out and talking to people, talking about consulting with people on what their vision is so that you might be able to have a vision, too, to seed upon.
Can you tell me when this is going to happen, what the timeframes and the closure dates are, what you expect out of it and who's going to participate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we will be, and we have been, as we got into the first date, very open and very accountable.
We are having a strong working relationship with the people. Unlike the previous government, this government is prepared to go out and talk to the people. This government is prepared to find options that do work and options that make sense. Again, they are options that people want and can afford.
Mr. Keenan: This guy certainly isn't getting a chance to ask the questions. Or, he is getting the chance to ask the questions, but the minister opposite isn't providing the answers. I guess that says that the minister doesn't know what the problems are, so it's pretty hard to adopt or develop a vision. So, we'll just go out there and adopt a vision.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: My God, you're right; it is a New Democrat-Liberal government vision.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Okay, I'm getting it now, a New Liberal-Democrat vision. Well, Mr. Chair, we'll just move on, but I'm looking forward to this fall.
I would also like to know what's happening with any legal dealings with the FREL? Will there be a move to proceed with foreclosure proceedings or anything like as such? Tell me what the minister knows about FREL.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I know a bit about FREL. It's the Faro Real Estate Limited. It owns 60 percent of the total rental units and 40 percent of the single family housing units in Faro.
The Yukon Housing Corporation owns a mortgage on FREL's properties in Faro. This company is one of Yukon Housing Corporation's clients. As a matter of policy, the corporation does not publicly discuss clients' files or financial obligations or situations.
Mr. Keenan: That's exactly what I would have said. Only I would have said it a lot simpler and much shorter.
Well, just talking about Faro, will there be any new money to follow through on the election commitments that the Liberal candidate made in Faro to increase the amount of money available for mortgage financing for homes in Faro? Or are we just going to simply cut and run on our Liberal candidate in Faro, the same as we've done with the one in Watson Lake, because he never got elected, and there's a bit of punishment there? So, would the minister please stand on his feet and talk to me about that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In 1998, when Yukon Housing considered providing mortgage lending in Faro, they did so by putting in place lending parameters that would limit the exposure that Yukon taxpayers were taking. They set a budget, they targeted a limited number of clients and they set minimum down payment terms. They set shorter amortization periods than normal, and so on. They did this to manage and minimize the risks to Yukoners and, at the same time, to offer some home ownership lending to support the Town of Faro.
Presently, Yukon Housing has invested close to half a millions dollars and have helped 16 people buy homes in Faro. Yukon Housing Corporation's per capita market share in Faro is greater than any other Yukon community. Because of the economic uncertainty in the Town of Faro, it would be inappropriate for this government to direct further investment by the corporation in mortgage lending at this time.
Mr. Keenan: The member certainly never answered this guy's question, that's for sure.
So, I would like to know if there's going to be any money identified to follow through with the election commitment -that's new money - to increase the amount of money available for mortgage financing for homes in Faro.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Again, we must reiterate that, because of the economic uncertainty in the Town of Faro, it would be inappropriate for this government to direct further investment by the corporation in mortgage lending at this time.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, that's certainly taking back the comments that were made by the previous Government Leader back in the days of the tenure of the Yukon Party. The leader of the Yukon Party said at that time that he didn't expect Carmacks to be there any more because it's just sort of a gold rush town. Mr. Chair, that appalls me, because that is the attitude that I see rising from the Liberal government ranks, and that is appalling. That is not even a good answer. It's a terrible answer, and it's a slur against the people who live in Faro.
My God, people from Faro are getting national recognition from Faro by diversifying the economy, and we have a minister standing here talking about the economic uncertainty. This NDP, when we were in government, went out and challenged the economy. We looked at diversification, and what did we get? Every time, we got thumped from the Liberals - "Stay closer to home, do this, do that" - and now I see them standing here, a minister standing on his feet in this House, giving a typical Liberal line at this point in time - "It's under review," or, "We've got to go on a vacation," or hide behind the board, or "We're going to evaluate it later."
And now, to slur - I expected the member to cut and run. I absolutely expected the member to cut and run on the candidate because that is their history. But to stand there and talk about calling down the Town of Faro because of economic uncertainty, pinpointing one community that is down and needs help, is just typical of this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, if I can say it is this way. Because here we have the only boom town in the Yukon Territory, Watson Lake, requiring political leadership, and the Premier, along with her Cabinet, stands and says, "Nobody's phoned me. I didn't know there was a problem."
Well, I would suggest to the minister that he be just a little more focused and not be running down the people of Faro. And maybe I would even suggest that they shouldn't be cutting and running from their Liberal candidates - or are there some other kind of patronage appointments that are coming whereby you can cut here and stroke there? That is typical of a Liberal Party government.
I think I'll just leave that at this time. I'd like to move on a bit.
Let's see what the minister knows about the building that the Yukon Housing Corporation lives in now. Are there any plans for renovation? It has electric heat. Is there a move to change to a cheaper heat source?
There is some unoccupied space in the storefront rental units. Is Yukon Housing going to go after new tenants to create some income to pay off the debt incurred to buy the building?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, to get to the member's comments earlier on about Faro, I explained before that this is a situation that we are in and it's not our stance or belief. We actually do believe in Faro and we also believe in rural Yukon and we believe in Yukoners - all Yukoners.
We've also provided this homeowner program to residents in 1998-99 on a limited basis. The budget was set on a number of units targeted for home ownership. These targets were met in June 1999.
Yukon Housing was offered the opportunity to purchase the building at 410 Jarvis Street in Whitehorse at which the Whitehorse office has been located for several years. Over the years, Yukon Housing made approximately $200,000 in leasehold improvements to the building, such as computer cabling, partitions, shelving, et cetera.
The building meets the corporation's present and future needs. The corporation evaluated the costs and benefits, and it concluded that the purchase of the building would make good financial and administrative sense.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I've been listening to the debate, and I'm not going to take up much time, but I just want to say that I stood at a debate in front of about 40 to 50 people in Faro. The Liberal candidate promised clearly, unequivocally, that there would be more Yukon Housing Corporation mortgage money made available if a Liberal government were? elected. Now the Liberals want to cut and run on candidates' promises, but I say that they're accountable, and I'm going to be making sure that the information the minister just shared is made available to as many people in the community as possible, and I'm going to make sure the people in the Yukon and in my community know that the Liberal candidate was talking through his hat. He has absolutely no stroke. He was saying anything to get elected. It's a theme fairly consistent with just about everybody in the Liberal government and their candidates. We have seen them cut and run now on Watson Lake on the extended care facility. We have now seen them cut and run on Faro.
For the member to stand up and say that, because of the economic times and the uncertainty of Faro, they're not going to consider more Yukon Housing Corporation mortgage funding is basically saying that this government isn't going to do anything in Faro because there's uncertainty there.
I want to tell the minister that it is because of that program that the NDP government first extended that there is a future for Faro, because 17 people, I believe, bought homes. And I think the record of repayment on those mortgages has been exemplary. People in Faro, as an economic development tool, are living there and working in the area and around all different parts of the Yukon - and some are even in B.C. - and living there. And some people even bought their homes and have retired in Faro. One couple from Ross River has retired in Faro.
To say that they're not going to extend any more Housing Corporation mortgage funding when it was promised clearly - and I know, because I have had constituents tell me that they promised it and they heard it and it was unequivocal. I am disappointed but not totally surprised by what I'm hearing today.
I think that the minister should take another look. He should have a discussion with the board and the candidate because the future of the community is in the balance, which you have here now. To take that kind of position - when the government doesn't do what it said it was going to do - is going to have a very detrimental effect on the future of that community.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The comment to which the member opposite is speaking on is purely speculation. It is not necessarily factual. I have talked to the candidate from Faro and the word that I got is that he will be working hard for people in Faro. We believe in the people of Faro, and we believe in rural Yukon, and we also believe in all Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, that's not true. It's not purely in speculation; it's not factual; it's what will be said on the floor, I guess, in a heated debate to get elected. Certainly it hasn't happened on this end, but it certainly happened on the opposite side. I think there was just a bunch of shock and surprise come election night when they went, "Holy moly, we actually did it. Now what do we do? I know, we'll adopt the NDP vision and the NDP budget." Unfortunately, you can't take that broad-based vision and put it into some members' heads in increments. It just does not work. They come up with pure boxlines that say pure speculation and not factual. Well, that is absolutely not the truth. I don't know. Maybe we'll have to ask, and maybe somebody videotaped that one too, as they did in Watson Lake, so that we could keep the government honest. That's what's factual.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Got to do it, and you don't need a commercial pause, because they only say it in 30-second sound bytes, and that's it.
I'm beginning to think that the standard line from the members opposite is, "Well, that's what I said, but that's not what I meant." I think I'm going to be hearing that an awful lot more and I tell you, that's just not going to do it, Mr. Chair. It's just not going to do it.
I'd like some answers. I'd like to have answers when I ask a question. If you can't have it on the floor of the House, I certainly understand that also. But I do expect an answer; I just don't expect sauciness, I guess.
I'd like talk, in a little bit here, about their building. I asked some questions about the electric heat and if there would be a move to change that. If the member's researchers or executive assistants need something to do, they can certainly go out and research the Blues in the morning. I'd appreciate a letter back as to what they are going to do with the building, as to the electric heat. Are they going to apply for some of their own programming, or what? I'd like to know those types of issues, please.
With the effect of the staff housing, though, I heard the Minister of Health and Social Services say that he hadn't spoken about it to the Minister of Government Services, and we're into Yukon Housing right now, about local hire benefits and whatnot, but I'd like to know what the minister's view is, I guess, of staff housing with Yukon Housing Corporation in terms of respect. Is there any flexibility coming within the vision - or the lack of vision - out there on local hire and getting people here to offer units into the communities for health professionals and teachers, et cetera?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I assume that what the member opposite is talking about is how does local hire fit in with staff coming up from down south. We are in the process of reviewing this. We are looking at those options and we're very confident that, this fall, we will be coming up with some better solutions to the problem and that this staff housing that is available to employees is especially important when we hire staff on from outside.
That's an issue that has been brought forth to us, and we're very aware of it, and we are working toward that, coming this fall. We will have some better solutions for this.
Mr. Keenan: I won't belabour the point, but I would just like to know a little bit more about it. It could be in a written form. I'd like to know when the government is going to be doing it. Is it only going to be for professionals who are identified as lacking in the communities, such as nurses, teachers or game wardens, whatever? I would expect that the minister would be able to reply in that light, as to who would benefit from it. Would it be just a simple break on rent for employees, et cetera? So I would like to know all that information. I would really like to know what the member's vision is for that change.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We'll definitely update him on this, and we'll get back to the member with more information in the future.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it has been brought to my attention in rural communities - mostly rural communities, but it might be a community problem in the City of Whitehorse, here, too - that there's a difference between social housing and staff housing. In some cases, I do believe that they're even sharing duplexes - social housing on one side, staff housing on the other side. Yet the rules are different in consideration of pets - if you have a cat, dog, parrot. If you're into social housing, no, no, no, no, no. If you're into staff housing, you bet. I'd just like to know if the minister is going to be doing something about that, or if it's expected to be a Human Rights Commission challenge.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, a Mayo social-housing tenant has challenged the pet policy established by the community advisory board in Mayo. The Community Housing Advisory Board established a pet policy for their communities, and concerns have been raised about pet policies in some communities. Pet policies are very sensitive policies. Yukon Housing has been discussing pet policies with the Yukon Human Rights Commission and is seeking their help in addressing concerns raised by the tenants. I don't know what more I can answer to that, but that's generally where we're at with it.
Mr. Keenan: I take exception to that. I understand there are community advisory committees in each community, but I understand that their policy is generic. I would appreciate knowing whether it's generic or specific. I do believe that there's a point here, that there's a difference, Mr. Chair, between social housing and staff housing. If they share the same duplex or if there are two duplexes in the same building and they share that - or even they're a block apart and one is social housing and one is staff housing - there should be no difference between somebody who does not have a job and somebody who does have a job. The standards should be the same.
So, I'd like for the member to stand on his feet and to state whether he agrees with me or disagrees with me.
Hon. Mr. Jim: There is flexibility because of our social housing transfer agreement. We have community boards that look after the social housing and we have the Yukon Housing Corporation that looks after staff housing. We are very aware of this issue of social housing right next door to staff housing. Again, that's one of the issues that is raised and we will be looking at it again in the fall.
Mr. Keenan: Is the member telling me that they're going to be looking at it in a generic, territory-wide basis and not leaving it up to the social housing committee? I feel myself, personally, that it's unfair that, if you're in staff housing, you'd be under the auspices of the Yukon Housing Corporation but if you're in social housing - and they all belong to Yukon Housing Corporation - you come under a community advisory board.
What I'm hearing the minister say is that they're looking at the discrepancies between the two, and there are some, or would be, and to meld them together so that what Peter gets is good for Paul, or what Susie gets is good for Pat?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I wouldn't know about Suzy or Paul or Pat or what's good for them. What I think the member opposite wants is to know if this is going to be an ad hoc type of Yukon Housing Corporation. We would like to say again that it is under review. It's with the Human Rights Commission, as well. It's a bit premature at this time to make speculation on what the Yukon Housing Corporation's issue is with this problem.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I was just about to sit down and turn it over, until some juicy tidbits came up there, so bear with me, if you would. Not once did I say "ad hoc". I certainly respect the work that the Yukon Housing Corporation's members have done. They have done a mighty fine job working with government and I expect that will continue. If the right direction is given, then it certainly will.
What I'm saying, Mr. Chair, is that there's social housing and staff housing. They are both under little, miniature umbrellas, but there's a great, big, beach umbrella over those two minis that hold it all together under the umbrella scenario. There are going to be options.
As with everything else in this government, it's under review at this point in time. Is the minister going to send some questionnaires out to the people who are affected in the staff housing? Are you going to be consulting with the proponents in the social housing side and in the staff housing side, so that we might be able to come to some sort of agreeable solution? I, for one, do believe that if you have a cat, no matter what its name is, it doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter if you're on the social side of things or the staff side of things. It should be a generic process. So, the member is going to be going out, through the auspices of the Yukon Housing Corporation, to figure that out and make it right. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this issue is under the Human Rights Commission. It is being tabled for the Human Rights Commission. We are going to be going and consulting on another two with the local housing advisory boards. There is a process, and I really can't speculate the outcome of the pet policy issue. We are working on solving problems, and we are working on a more fair and equitable solution to this problem.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to ask the minister if the trend is going to be continuing with his Liberal government, if they are going to politicize the appointment of the senior level in the departments with a Liberal appointee as president of the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In June of 1999, the president was appointed to the chair by the previous government. If we look back to the previous government, I don't know if it was a political appointee or not, but this government certainly has not appointed the president. The OIC was okayed and it was passed by the previous government.
Mr. Jenkins: That's not the question I asked the minister, Mr. Chair. I asked if the minister and his Liberal government were going to make a change and make an appointment of a Liberal-leaning new president to the Yukon Housing Corporation. Does the minister anticipate a change to the role of president within the Housing Corporation, such as we have just learned about today with the Liquor Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I really can't speculate as to what's going to happen tomorrow or the next day. Changes happen throughout, from time to time. Change is part of the nature of this world. I don't know specifically what the member opposite is really getting at. I would say that I would be speculating as to what he's trying to say in regard to change.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking the minister to speculate. What I'm asking the minister is to state categorically if his government anticipates any change in the senior public sector employee - the head of the Yukon Housing Corporation; the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Does he anticipate any change?
I see the minister has just received a briefing note, so probably he's got a good reason to opt out of the question or has a good answer as to why he can't answer it.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, as we said before, earlier on, the president's position was accepted, through an OIC, in the different, previous government. We see no reason why there should be any changes in that respect, and I would inform the member opposite that I don't see any reason for it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we've just seen a change today in the head of the Yukon Liquor Corporation. There was a new president appointed by this Liberal government, and I'm just wanting to ascertain from this minister, Mr. Chair, if his government anticipates any changes in the presidency of the Yukon Housing Corporation. It's a simple yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Again I would say, Mr. Chair, that I cannot answer for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, but we see no changes for the president's position at the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to explore some of the policies and some of the studies that have taken place with respect to Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair, and probably one of the first ones deals with the community housing study that took place through the Yukon. Just when are we going to see any of the results of this and see the results implemented?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The report is all complete, Mr. Chair. It's going right through to computer data right now. It is being processed. We are hopeful - we're not hopeful; it will come out later on this fall. We will be presenting this to the major stakeholders in the community.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House as to the timelines, from the start of this study to its completion, as to when we will see this actual report?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, to the member opposite, I would be more than happy to get back to him with respect to the timelines at a later date.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I suggested that it appears that a small study of this nature is taking some two years, would that shock the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I would like to say that the funding was a two-year funding project, and it's now complete. The data is being input on computer, and we're now in the process of making that report ready for the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the impediment to its early completion was that the funding for the research appears to have been over two fiscal periods, Mr. Chair, and furthermore, we're just inputting all of the data now and the report will be discussed with the stakeholders this fall. Will it be in a draft form this fall, or will it be in its completed form?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I guess one of the reasons for it taking such a long time is that there is the lack of resources in the communities of the Yukon. The project is complete - complete in the sense of data analysis - and we are compiling this information on the data bases. One of the reasons is that we had to hire community surveyors. We look forward to going to the communities and presenting this material.
We would also like this process to be distributed and the information used by the communities. The process, I guess, again, has to go back to the lack of resources and the people we had to hire in the communities. We say that we look forward to going to the communities. Once again, we add to the information that it is to be used by these communities. We have full confidence in the Yukon Housing Corporation to fulfill this by this fall.
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., would members care to take a short recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. Jim: In terms of numbers, I've made an error. The numbers were incorrect. What I was looking at was not the information that I was to present to you. The correct numbers for the capital expenditures is $16,629,000 and the capital recoveries are $14,771,000. I reiterated that in my speech. The second number on the O&M is $12,544,000; the recoveries are $8,890,000. The number that was used in my speech was $8,961,000; however, the real recovery is $8,890,000.
Mr. Jenkins:Just before the break, I was discussing with the minister the community housing study and the time period it was taking to complete this study and at least get into a draft form. Initially it was because of the funding that was provided over two years for the study, then we subsequently learned there are not enough people around to undertake the study, at least those were the minister's own words.
Given the number of consultants available in the Whitehorse area and given one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, I find it extremely far-fetched that qualified individuals who understand the basis of a study of this nature are not readily available, and that it takes some two years to assemble the data for a very basic study. We have heard two excuses now. What's the minister's third excuse?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'm pretty confused as to what he says about excuses. There is no excuse. I didn't mention anything about problems with hiring staff or a shortage of people being employed. We said that we hired surveyors. I didn't realize that I had said it was a problem in getting resources or a problem in getting staff hired. This was a project that the Northern Research Institute was hired to do, and they did all the communities. This impacted on them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure it did impact them, but their actual time undertaking this study for all of the Yukon communities - just how much time did they spend collecting this data throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, number one, there is no money and there was no money in this budget to go ahead with, and incidentally, this is one of the largest studies that has ever been undertaken by the Yukon government. The study is complete, and we are inputting the data, and we're also looking at presenting this to people in the communities, to our major stakeholders.
I don't know what more I can say about this.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm trying to get at is the length of time it takes to do a study. Why is it taking so long? Why is it taking so long to conclude it in a draft form? We have another several months to wait before getting it this fall in a draft form. I believe, Mr. Chair, that the minister misspoke himself when he said that this is the largest study ever undertaken by the Yukon territorial government. It perhaps might be the largest study ever undertaken by Yukon Housing Corporation, but I know of many, many other studies undertaken by the Yukon government that were considerably longer and more extensive.
If I could, I would ask the minister if he would like to correct the record. I simply want to find out why this study is taking so long.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would like to stand corrected in that this study was, in fact, the largest study undertaken by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
We have a two-year project, and this two-year project is a multi-year project. We have completed the information, the reports. It is being processed in the data, and it will be off this fall. Again, we have to reiterate that it is a multi-year project right from the get-go.
Mr. Jenkins: So, could the minister please be precise as to on what date this fall we can receive the draft or a completed copy of this study?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As I said earlier, I would be more than happy to get back to the member opposite with the exact dates.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's look at another study: the seniors study that has taken place, and the review that has taken place through the Yukon communities. Could the minister advise the House just where we're at with respect to that study.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the draft action plan is being reviewed right now as we speak, and once we get any information from the board of directors as to their recommendations for improving seniors housing, we will be more than pleased, seeing that these opportunities that have been discussed and the proposals for the Yukon seniors will be recommendations that we look forward to under this government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister advise the House what kind of timelines we're looking at for the seniors study, from when it started to when will we see the final report?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I'd like to reiterate, once again, that this is being reviewed by the board, and I respect the board's position that they will be reviewing it. I can't give an exact date or an exact time when this review will be completed and presented. What I can say is that as soon as we get that information, we will be bringing it forth to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins:Well, Mr. Chair, it sounds like we're in for a lot of these 10-year studies and plans like the Minister of Health and Social Services advised the House of the other day. I am looking for some sort of timelines on both of these undertakings. Our party does not disagree with the need for such an undertaking. But when it takes a year and that flows into two years and we're probably looking at three years before we conclude all of these studies, the basic data usually ends up outdated and the numbers just don't extrapolate in the same way. In the case of our seniors, our seniors population is growing. So, what might have held true and been valid two years ago when the data was collected certainly wouldn't be the case today.
So, I have a simple question for the minister: when was the seniors study started? What was the date? The month of the year is all I'm looking for, Mr. Chair, and when do we anticipate it being concluded? Now, I don't need any gobbledegook in there as to having had consulted with the board and all of that kind of stuff. I'm just looking from start to finish. What does the minister envision for timelines?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this study began in February of 1999, and we will provide timelines of the seniors action plan. We need the board of directors to be part of this process, and there is no way I would put myself in a position where I will set a date at this time and place. We will definitely look into completing this project this fall, as slated. These projects that have studies or plans are all ongoing plans from the previous government and the previous government before. We are going in accordance to the timelines of these studies, and this particular study will be tabled this fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we are going to let the minister off very, very lightly this session, because he is a new minister in a new portfolio. But, in an undertaking of this magnitude, we just want to know what the timelines are. We can't seem to get a handle on the timelines for either study. Perhaps the minister could give us an idea. I just want an order of magnitude estimate as to what we're looking at for the total costs of each of these studies - the community housing study and the seniors study. What are the total costs from start to finish? What are we looking at? I don't believe that we're looking at a great, big amount of money here.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, to the first statement, I would say that, yes, we will provide it. The other is that we look forward to helping seniors. We will go in accordance to the expenditures that have been provided in this budget. We will provide that service.
The community housing studies are over. They are not in this year's budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, by the time this minister concludes these studies, many of us in this House will probably be seniors.
Let's put it very simply. Will the minister undertake to bring back a legislative return spelling out when these studies started, when they are expected to conclude and the costs incurred for outside consultants, in-house - the total costs. Can the minister undertake that? Then we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to explore with the minister some of the other policies that Yukon Housing appears to have in place that basically don't make too much sense and are an impediment to delivering affordable housing to a number of people, Mr. Chair.
The policy with respect to income and housing - when the Housing Corporation takes a percentage of the income of the individual as rent, it's classified as rent. I'm referring specifically, Mr. Chair, to the support payments received by a large number of women from their respective spouses or ex-spouses to look after their children.
When the social housing program was under the federal domain, there was a case made by the government of the day that they couldn't change the federal rules; they were hard and fast. Under the federal government, the payments made to a spouse for support for children or otherwise as just basic support must be included in the calculation for their rent.
This social program was devolved from the federal government to the Yukon government, under the auspices of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Strangely, nothing changed, and the minister said that they're not looking at any change in that regard. The reason given in the House was that it's a federal program and they can't touch it, and they'll look at it when it's devolved to the Government of Yukon. It has been devolved to the Government of the Yukon. There has been a major court case in Canada, in the Supreme Court, that has concluded that there's no income tax to be deducted from spousal payments or child support payments because they're not income.
A question to the minister, Mr. Chair: why does Yukon Housing still insist on classifying these kinds of payments as income and taking 25 or 30 percent of them for rent?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I guess I would have to say, Mr. Chair, that most jurisdictions in Canada assess rent at 30 percent of income. In the Yukon, we only charge 25 percent. The courts base child support payments on a formula that takes into consideration the many costs of raising and caring for children. To determine the child support payments, the cost of providing shelter has been considered in the formula; therefore, it is fair that some of the child support payment is used to provide shelter.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are a lot of women out there receiving child support payments. Perhaps the minister can advise the House as to why there is such a discrepancy in opinion and why the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that child support payments were not to be classified as income? Basically, the calculation that Yukon Housing uses is income - the income of that individual.
The Income Tax Act has now been amended after a Supreme Court ruling that concluded that this wasn't income. If you make child support payments, you can no longer deduct it as a payment. Now, why is the Yukon Housing Corporation still insisting on deducting 25 percent of that child support payment for rent?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The Yukon Housing Corporation has a moral obligation to treat all its social housing clients fairly and equally. It would not be fair to include some sources of income from some tenants and omit some sources of income, such as child support payments, for others. Overall, I think the bottom line is that this is a taxation issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's exactly what we're talking about: a moral obligation. Now the federal Income Tax Act has been amended, and it excludes child support payments. They are no longer classified as income. The federal Income Tax Act has been changed; child support payments are no longer classified as income. Now, why is Yukon Housing Corporation still insisting that child support payments be classified as income in the Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The courts base child support payments on a formula that takes into consideration the many costs of raising and caring for children. The cost of providing shelter has been considered in the formula; therefore, it is fair that some of the child support payment is used to provide shelter.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like that's fair in the opinion of some of the officials within Yukon Housing Corporation, but it is certainly not fair in the eyes of many, many women out there. I take you back, Mr. Chair, to the basic question: the federal Income Tax Act does not recognize child support payments as income. Why is Yukon Housing Corporation classifying child support payments as income and taking 25 percent of it for rent, now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we say again that that is a taxation issue. We don't want to be mixing apples with oranges. We also say that the child support payment is fair. We use it to provide shelter and so on for the family.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I believe that this government has a moral obligation. Has the Yukon Housing Corporation ever undertaken a review to look at the financial implications of not including child support payments in the basic rent calculation? I don't think it would be a two-year study to ascertain what we're looking at, Mr. Chair. I would hope that it could be done in a very quick fashion - to just have a look and see what the financial implications of not including child support payments in taking 25 percent of them for rent. What are the financial implications for Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Jim: One of the reasons for this formula is that the financial information that is to be calculated from the tenant is financial information that has been calculated from the past, and we have never had a reason to go back and recalculate this information. The clients did not give us their financial information for this purpose. We can't say that there is a formula and that's the primary reason why we use this formula. In the many considerations that there are in the raising and caring for children, we look at this formula. This formula is the lowest percentage of income for rent across Canada. The social housing is more affordable in the Yukon than in almost anywhere else in Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that's simply not the truth. At the end of the day, when you add up all the other costs associated with occupying a social housing unit here in the Yukon vis-à-vis some of the other jurisdictions in Canada, it is on par, if not higher - even given the fact that most other jurisdictions take 30 percent versus 25 percent.
To come back to the main question, though, let's ask the minister in another manner. Will he go back to his officials and have them do a review of this situation where child support payments are included in the basic rent calculation? Will he go back and have them review it, and ascertain what their shortfall in revenue will be, because all of the tenants in social housing, Mr. Chair, have to come in and declare their total income sources? It can be easily calculated as to how many have child support payments in the equation and what Yukon Housing is receiving from those child support payments? Then have a look at the total program to see if it's justified. The minister is absolutely correct; he does have a moral obligation and we could help out a lot of single mothers if there was more money in their pocket at the end of the day for other than rent.
Mr. Chair, this amount of money doesn't mean a great deal to the Yukon Housing Corporation, but for a single mother trying to raise a family, at the end of the day - at the end of the month - that 25 percent is a considerable sum of money. In a lot of cases, a child support payment isn't forthcoming, yet they usually include it. They then don't receive it and have to go back and say, "Hey, look, we didn't receive this," or "I've just started receiving it and you want to include it in my rent." There are a lot of issues surrounding a fair and equitable treatment of individuals in such circumstances.
The Yukon Housing Corporation hasn't always been fair in their treatment of women in this situation. So, I'd ask the minister if he would give an undertaking here on the floor of the House today to ascertain, dollar-wise, what the impact on Yukon Housing Corporation would be if the 25 percent of child support payments were not collected from women in social housing who are paying it currently, and if they will consider reviewing that policy?
Chair: Before we continue, when members in the House are referring to statements made by other ministers, the Chair asks that they do not use words like "not the truth". We would prefer you use words like "incorrect" or "misspoken" or "misstated".
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this government will look into getting more information from other jurisdictions in respect to this. I don't want to get into the particulars of a client and the monies received or assessed for monthly rent. What I can say is that we will take this under advisement.
Mr. Jenkins: Sounds like we're pumping a dry well.
Let's move on to some of the other policies that probably should be reviewed or must be reviewed. Could the minister spell out the policy when a tenant in social housing has a complaint? Just what happens in the hierarchy of the Yukon Housing Corporation? I can tell the minister that the number of complaints that have come to my desk from tenants in Yukon Housing has increased dramatically these last few years and there just appears to be a tremendous reluctance on the part of the Yukon Housing Corporation to address these concerns and complaints and fix them.
It's usually safety issues, such as soot in the house, the walls turning black from the heating or ventilation system in the place. We can go on to other situations where fuel has been pumped into the basement and has destroyed the tenant's goods, and usually someone has to stand up and fix it, but it's a long, protracted process to get anything to move.
Now given the length of time it takes to conclude a study, I can understand why it takes so long to fix the problem. But any landlord who has a problem wants to fix it as soon as possible, because that's in the best interest of the safety of their tenants, but Yukon Housing seems to have a different way of going about it.
Is there a hard-and-fast policy as to how we address these issues, and could the minister elaborate on it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: What we're talking about here are the health and safety aspects of our clients. And this government, along with our team at the Yukon Housing Corporation, has always treated the health and safety issue as urgently as can be. Can we do better? Yes, there is always room for improvement. Will we do better? Yes, we will; we will improve.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the standard scripted answer, Mr. Chair, but the reality of it is that there are issues that occur, and I have one constituent who contacted me after she spent considerable time contacting the Yukon Housing Corporation, all to no avail.
It goes back to December of last year. In March, she's still waiting for an answer from the Yukon Housing Corporation. It is about the air quality in her apartment in Kinsey Manor. The walls were black. She washed them twice a week, and they would still be black. Yukon Housing Corporation didn't do anything. They came up and did some air-quality testing and advised the tenant that they would be contacting her in eight to 10 days. She points out in her letter, "I have calculated 27 working days, never mind calendar days, and haven't heard from you, and neither has the Dawson office." She asked, "When are you going to move; when are you going to do something?" This is one case. I have a number of them, not just from Dawson, but from other areas of the Yukon, as well.
I believe that it is contingent upon the minister to do something about a policy wherein, if there is a health and safety issue arising from any of the tenants in the Yukon Housing Corporation, that Yukon Housing Corporation reacts. It's not a laughing matter. It is a serious matter, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no laughing on this government's part. We realize that it is a health and safety issue. I don't know if the tenant we're talking about moved out. Maybe that is not the question alone. I think what needs to be addressed here is the expediency or effectiveness in answering to these health and safety issues. I will definitely take this under advisement and make improvements.
Once again, we will make that improvement.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, three months to respond to a tenant is not an improvement, and it's not something that hasn't occurred prior to this one complaint, Mr. Chair. Since the manor was constructed, there has been a problem with the heating system in a number of the apartments, with pipes banging, with zone valves supplying heat when the thermostats were turned down and not supplying heat when they were turned up. When is Yukon Housing going to address their responsibilities and fix these issues? It seems to take an inordinate amount of time to address the simplest of tasks. Why so long?
The issue of soot in Kinsey Manor was finally solved by relocating this individual from one housing apartment to another one. I know I certainly wouldn't remain in a housing unit for three months where you have to virtually wash the walls twice a week. I did go in and I visited this individual, and I can tell the House that I'm really appalled by Yukon Housing Corporation. They only reacted after this lady contacted me. Only after the elected officials got involved did something happen. Prior to that time, Yukon Housing procrastinated, procrastinated and procrastinated and had every excuse in the book. That is not fair, that is not reasonable and that is not what Yukon Housing Corporation should be all about. When it concerns the life safety of the occupant, that should be of paramount importance.
Now I want to know what the minister is going to do about putting in place a firm policy for Yukon Housing Corporation, so that if an issue arises with respect to life safety, it will be acted upon immediately. Now, "immediately" in the world of Yukon Housing might be six months or three months, but "immediately" should be a lot quicker than that. What is this minister going to do?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, yes, we do respond to health and safety issues when they are urgent, and we definitely realize that there are problems with some of the thermostats in the buildings. The problem did take some time to surface and to be addressed. The thermostats have been replaced. YHC accepts criticism that it took too long to find this problem and address it. Our boilers in some of our buildings are not capable of heating the building properly, and this past winter the corporation encountered problems with the boilers at Kinsey Manor. They were not firing and, consequently, not sequencing properly, and under certain conditions, they would overheat the water. One of the two boilers was shut down, and Yukon Housing Corporation is working on repair and replacement solutions. Part of the difficulty is that the boilers use propane as a fuel source, and it is difficult to find qualified service technicians in rural communities to service and maintain propane equipment. For this reason, the corporation is considering replacing the propane-fired boilers with fuel oil-fired boilers.
These are issues that come hand in hand and are probably found in most jurisdictions and in most levels of government with respect to maintenance. We do realize that there are issues in the expediency of correcting some of the health and safety maintenance issues in buildings that are in the Yukon Housing Corporation's jurisdiction.
We definitely will take this under advisement. We will be looking at ways of ensuring networking and communicating in a more effective and efficient manner, so that we can correct some of these issues that these buildings under the administration of the Yukon Housing Corporation have.
We'd like to state that this corporation has numerous issues that not only pertain to maintenance, but we also have the bigger picture: export, diversifying the economy and seniors' issues. There are numerous issues that we look at and we realize again the health and safety issues that pertain to our tenants and our clients is something that we will be definitely looking at in the near future.
Chair: Order please. The time being close to 5:30 p.m., shall we take a recess until 7:30 p.m.?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with debate on the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thought the minister had a complete briefing over the dinner hour and he was going to come back with a tremendous series of responses to the questions I left him with. Obviously, I've lost more faith in the Liberal government of the day. I will go back to the line of questioning I was on previously, Mr. Chair.
When we left, we were concerning ourselves with some of the issues surrounding a policy for the fair treatment of people who are referred to by the Yukon Housing Corporation as "clients". I guess it's a very captive group of clients. They are the residents of a lot of the dwelling units owned by the Yukon Housing Corporation and rented to them, either through the social housing program or the staff housing program.
I was exploring with the minister the issues surrounding the Yukon Housing Corporation policy for the treatment of a complaint arising from a tenant, either in social housing or staff housing.
Does Yukon Housing have a policy spelled out as to how to deal with a complaint? If they do, I'd like the minister to table a copy of that policy.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in our field services manual, we have instructions that deal with complaints. I'd be more than happy to table that.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there timelines associated with this field service manual that a response has to be yielded to the client?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, could you reword this question? I was off there somewhere.
Chair: Well, I can't reword anything; I'd prefer you use the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Could the member opposite reword the question then?
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not going to reword it, but I'll repeat it. In the field service manual that Yukon Housing Corporation has, does the section dealing with client complaints have timelines associated with it as to when and how to respond?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I certainly don't have the specifics in front of me at this time, but we'd be more than willing to circulate that to the member opposite at a later time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister probably has the most knowledgable individual beside him, Mr. Chair. I would be hopeful that he would have had an understanding of this field service manual and could advise the minister accordingly. But what I'm specifically looking for is the timeline that officials follow to respond to a complaint and address that issue. Is there such a timeline? If not, would the minister be prepared to put that into this field service manual, or does this constitute another 10-year study?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, again, I would say that those specifics are not in front of me. It's also dealing with day-to-day business within the Yukon Housing Corporation. I would like to say that the board of directors will be doing the day-to-day administration - it is directed toward doing the day-to-day administration.
In terms of timelines, I really can't give you any specifics on that. We can circulate that to the member opposite at a later time.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not suggesting that the minister micromanage Yukon Housing Corporation, but we wouldn't be in debate on this issue had it not been a concern raised and brought to me by a number of the clients - basically tenants, Mr. Chair - of Yukon Housing Corporation. The timelines for response or dealing with an issue and resolving it appear to be of the magnitude of about three months. Thank God that it's not something like the heat being off completely and it's 50 below. Otherwise, a three-month response would certainly have a very adverse effect.
In the last situation that was brought to my attention, the response time was three months. That's what it took, and that is very much a cause for concern, Mr. Chair. I'm not wanting the minister to get involved in the day-to-day operations, but I certainly believe that the minister should have the ability to go into the department and say, "This is not working. This is cause for concern." We have to respond in a timely manner and set specifics for that response. That's what I'm looking for.
Can the minister see my train of thought, agree to it, and probably enlighten Yukon Housing Corporation with certain timelines as such, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we certainly agree on the aspects of the health and safety issues. We take these problems very seriously. We ask ourselves again: can we do better? And we say yes. And will we do better? And we say yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that certainly didn't answer the question. Is the minister prepared to set timelines, because this is not the first time that this situation has arisen where a major incident has occurred with a client who has gone to the local housing manager and said, "This is the situation. It's quite serious." And it takes an inordinate amount of time to resolve and it's usually beyond the scope of the local housing manager and it usually goes up the ladder to Whitehorse and when it gets into that - I'm not sure what we'll refer to it as, but it certainly is some sort of an administrative arm and it seems to get lost. And the bafflegab and non-responses and some of the exchange of correspondence sounds more like a letter you'd send to some of your worst enemies, just pointing out that the problem is not theirs; it's the tenant's problem.
If it were the first occasion, I wouldn't be raising it here. In my term in this Legislature, I'm seeing more and more of these issues raised by clients of the Yukon Housing Corporation - and on both sides, in the staff housing and in the social housing programs. So, I would like the minister to commit to having timelines placed on this field service manual with respect to when the Housing Corporation must get back to a client and say, "Yes, we recognize your problem and here's what we're going to do."
Can the minister commit to that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, again I do not have the specifics in front of me, but I will be bringing back sections of the fuel service manual dealing with responding to tenants' issues or complaints. I will definitely, with respect to the timeline he is talking about, take that under advisement.
Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier in this general debate, we'll let the minister off at this juncture, and this fall we'll certainly be exploring in much greater detail these issues. I'm sure by then that he'll have a complete understanding of the responsibilities he has with respect to Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair.
Let's move on to the total outstanding liability within the Yukon Housing Corporation for mortgages in the various other programs. Just where does it stand today, and could the minister advise the House of the delinquency rate for all programs as a percentage of that program?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, what is the delinquency rate for all programs and dollars? The total Yukon Housing Corporation mortgages receivable portfolio at March 31, 2000 was $33,970,197. It includes rural native housing loans. That's slated at $3,407,897. Transfers from CMHC in October 1998 - in 1999-2000 the corporation incurred a loss on disposal of assets due to delinquent loans. This loss amount is $83,430 for the rural native housing, which is 2.44 percent, and $74,179 for all of the other loans, which is 0.24 percent of total mortgage receivables.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister mentioned the rural native housing in the second breakdown. Could he kindly repeat the numbers he provided and what he is referring them to? He said "all other programs". Could the minister be specific?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this is all other loans. That would be home ownership, home repair.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there a breakdown by the various categories? That's more what I'm looking for.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We don't have one handy right in front of us, but we certainly can provide that for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll take the minister up on his offer if he would kindly provide that information. If we could move on to the uptake of the various programs, does the minister have the various programs listed and what the uptake is on them?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, as of March 31 of this year, we have had 514 and, as of March 31 last year, we had 555.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have a breakdown of the uptake? I know a lot of it is internal. What is the breakdown of the various components of the multitude of programs offered? That's the information. If he could break down that uptake for the various programs, that's the information I'm seeking.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we'd be more than willing to give the member a summary of that - yes.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just take the minister back to rural native housing, the outstanding mortgages currently stand at $3.4078987 million, or $3.4 million, basically. What does Yukon Housing Corporation have as security for those mortgages?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we have lands and infrastructure buildings. If there is anything else that he specifically wishes, we can certainly bring it back.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is telling the House, with respect to these rural native housing mortgages, is that they are secured in the conventional fashion against land and assets.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: That's very interesting, in that CMHC, even when they loaned the various First Nations money, required the signature of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs - a very good friend of the Premier here in the Yukon - to co-sign for the amount. Is that not the case with this indebtedness?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I apologize for calling him Mr. Speaker. It's Mr. Chair.
The RNH program was not exclusive to land set aside.
Mr. Jenkins: So, with respect to land set aside, what kind of security do we have?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we can certainly get back to him on the specific answers that he needs with respect to the rural native housing program, and we can get back to him probably as soon as tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the timing of the answers tonight and earlier today, we'll probably still be in general debate tomorrow so we can look forward to receiving that information.
There are two types of DIA lands set aside. There must be two types of procedures. I'd like the minister to spell out the two different types of lands set aside and how they secure their mortgage under both cases, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we have already made our offer. We'll be bringing this back tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: There have been a number of foreclosures undertaken by Yukon Housing Corporation. Two of them have been brought to my attention, Mr. Chair, and, at the end of the day, the owner had, in one case, a considerable amount of equity in the structure. This was a situation in Watson Lake, and at the end of the day, that total amount of equity that the owner had in the dwelling unit was completely eroded by the legal costs, which appeared to be very disproportional to the total amount of the mortgage and the total amount of legal work that was necessary. It seemed to be very, very high.
I recognize that there is a cost associated with the legal system, and foreclosure is not a nice thing, but I'm familiar with quite a number of them, having been involved on the lending side of the equation, Mr. Chair, and was wanting to know why, in the cases that I'm aware of with respect to Yukon Housing Corporation foreclosures, the legal fees appear to be quite high.
Is there some reason for this, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would caution myself here a little bit about the instance of getting into a client file and I would also like to say that this was not a Yukon Housing Corporation issue. It was a court decision. I wouldn't say "issue", but it was a decision. It wasn't the Yukon Housing Corporation that was the decision-making body for this issue; it was a court decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the last thing one would want to do is foreclose on someone's home, but occasionally that's the only recourse that we have. There's kind of a cost associated, depending on the amount of the mortgage. If it's a straightforward foreclosure, it usually doesn't amount to the costs that I've seen associated with Yukon Housing foreclosures.
What I'm telling the minister, Mr. Chair, is that their costs seem to be very, very high in relation to the mortgage. In the two cases that I'm aware of, the legal costs were quite dissimilar, but they virtually eroded any equity that the owner had in their dwelling unit and their land.
That gets me somewhat concerned. Someone stands back and looks at the total pie, sees how much is there, sees how much the liquidated costs are going to be and puts it on the market. They dispose of the assets and, at the end of the day, after the legal fees are paid, they erode all the equity that the homeowner had.
Now, if it just happens once, you don't really raise any alarm bells. Once it happens twice, you look at it and you start asking around about other foreclosures. And when you see it happen a third time, if it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, chances are very good that it is a duck.
What I'm suggesting to the minister, Mr. Chair, is that there appears to be a problem in this area - that the clients, even under foreclosure, are treated not with the respect they deserve, but whatever equity they had in that structure is eroded. Now, is this just a function of the Yukon Housing Corporation? And I ask the minister not to blame it on the courts.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we know that the delinquency rate is up there, as it is in all mortgage loan agencies. We definitely look at foreclosure as the last resort to take within the Yukon Housing Corporation. The legal costs are unfortunate but are a cost of foreclosure.
To bring issues to me directly - that way we don't talk about a client file in this Legislature in a way that we don't really talk about this client file in this Legislature. I don't know what more I can say to the member opposite. We definitely have to respect the information; we respect our clientele, anyway.
Mr. Jenkins: In both cases the foreclosures were virtually an open letter written to the minister of the day. The one individual in Watson Lake didn't get any sort of a response from the previous minister. I was hoping that this minister would be somewhat more considerate of the costs and provide the prior owner in this foreclosure with an explanation as to why the legal costs were as high as they were. Will the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would ask for the member opposite to bring this to me. At this time I really can't make any promises to make any changes of that nature, but I would really like for him to bring that information to me.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure the Housing Corporation is extremely well-versed with the matter that I am referring to and the foreclosure that I am referring to and probably the second and the third one. The minister might want to have a look at the cost of foreclosures and all these three situations, because they are totally out of line with the amount of the mortgage and the amount of work that had to be done from a legal standpoint.
It kind of reminds me of the lawyer who ended up before St. Peter's gates and he was there at a very young age. He said to St. Peter, "Well, why am I here?" St. Peter said, "Well, you are up here." He says, "Well, I'm too young to be in heaven." St. Peter said, "Well, according to the records you have already billed for 175 years." Maybe that's the situation in respect to some of these foreclosures, so we might want to look more carefully at some of these billings.
If I could move on to one of the other areas. On green mortgages, what is the number of them and what is the uptake on that program?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, last year, the Yukon Housing Corporation registered 15 new homes under the green mortgages program and financed 10. This year, to date, the Yukon Housing Corporation has approved five green mortgage clients.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could take the minister back to Faro, what is the downside to being involved in more mortgages in Faro, Mr. Chair?
The Yukon Housing Corporation appears to be involved in all programs. If you look at the corporate objectives - mind you, that was under the previous minister, the hon. Eric Fairclough. I don't know if this minister is acknowledging the same corporate objectives. If you look at the corporate objectives, it says to respond to the limitations of the housing market with direct programming. To me, Mr. Chair, that would firmly address the Faro situation, with the lack of mortgage money for that community. Why is more mortgage money not being made available?
The answer given to the Member for Faro is totally unacceptable. It is completely within the mandate of the Yukon Housing Corporation and is secured in the same manner. The risk is low. I believe that the numbers given for mortgages in Faro works out to be a total mortgage of about $32,000 or $33,000 per mortgage of the 16 mortgages and the total exposure. That is a very low amount for mortgages.
Granted, some might be higher and some might be lower, Mr. Chair, but given the number of mortgages and the total exposure that the Yukon Housing Corporation has, that's the average of those mortgage prices. So, why isn't the Yukon Housing Corporation into backstopping mortgages in Faro any longer?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the first, I guess, obvious answer to that is the risk. We have few homeowners in Faro, and Yukon Housing Corporation has a large percentage of mortgages, possibly the highest percentage of mortgages set in the Yukon per capita.
Mr. Jenkins: But, Mr. Chair, under the corporate objectives I don't see anything associated with risk. It doesn't say to not respond to the limitation of the housing market because of the high risk, or any risk. I would imagine the risk for housing is virtually the same in a lot of rural Yukon communities. The only place where there's a solid housing market - and the average price of a housing unit has dropped considerably - is here in this Whitehorse market, but the housing market in my community of Dawson and in Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, Ross River, Carmacks and Watson Lake has a risk associated with it.
Is there a market penetration that the minister is referring to, and you don't want an exposure above that level? Is that what the minister is saying, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we work in a fiscally responsible manner to resolve the housing needs of Yukoners and to strengthen the Yukon's economy through the housing sector by helping the marketplace to work better, furthering the self-efficiency of communities, industries and individuals, and assisting people where needed.
I see that there is the issue of risk, and the member opposite mentioned earlier that there's nothing stated in the budget respecting risk. That points, I think, moreover to probably the number of applicants to date who are interested in home ownership or a mortgage in that area. To this date and up to right now, we don't have any.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is there are no applicants from Faro for mortgage money. Would the Yukon Housing Corporation be in a position, or are they accepting applications for mortgage money from Faro residents or potential Faro residents?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, at present, the Yukon Housing Corporation has invested close to $500,000 in Faro and have helped 16 people buy homes in Faro. The Yukon Housing per capita market share in Faro is much greater than any other Yukon community. Because of the economic uncertainty of the Town of Faro at this time, it would be inappropriate for this government to direct further investment by the corporation in mortgage lending at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: So, to sum up, the minister has said, "No one from Faro has applied for a mortgage." The corollary to that is the Yukon Housing Corporation isn't accepting applications for mortgages for Faro. The minister summed it up and said, "We have a $500,000 exposure there and 16 mortgages." That equates out to a ballpark $33,000 per mortgage on average, Mr. Chair.
But I would disagree with the minister with respect to the total exposure. What is the total outstanding liability from all categories for Faro? What is the total outstanding liability for all categories of mortgages for Whitehorse? The minister will find out that Whitehorse has a way, way higher total amount of dollars outstanding than Faro does - and I'm talking all categories of financing by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the banks provide mortgages in all communities; however, there is no CMHC mortgage insurance in Faro. The banks deem the Town of Faro to be a high-risk mortgage community.
Mr. Jenkins: That's partially correct, Mr. Chair. The CMHC determined that it will not lend into single-industry towns, unless it has a backstop of the respective government, or if the company that owns the assets or is applying for the mortgage is in that community.
But the minister has made it abundantly clear that Yukon Housing Corporation will not consider any future mortgage lending in Faro. That's in spite of its corporate objectives to respond to the limitations of the housing marketplace with direct programming. There is a provision that the programming will include provision of affordable, suitable and adequate accommodation to Yukon households in need - assistance to Yukon residents to construct, purchase or repair their homes. And there is a provision for adequate and suitable accommodation to Yukon government employees living in rural communities and administration of the employee housing buy-back program. So, the first part of it doesn't apply to Faro. Faro is a second-class community. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we definitely need to be responsible to Yukon taxpayers. When risk is too high, the Yukon Housing Corporation will not lend.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we've created a double standard - one for the balance of the Yukon and one for Faro. Could the minister perhaps advise the House what the foreclosure rate on this outstanding $500,000 for 16 mortgages has been? How many foreclosures there, Mr. Chair? I don't believe that there are any, but perhaps the minister can enlighten me. How many foreclosures on the $500,000 for the 16 mortgages in Faro?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We have no double standard. We have no foreclosures. We started lending just over one year ago, so there are no foreclosures and there is no double standard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if we start looking at some of the other programs that the Yukon Housing Corporation has, looking at the foreclosure rate and at the delinquency rate, and we look at Faro, there's a $500,000 exposure and 16 mortgages, and that program is different. No foreclosures? That would lead me to conclude that the risk is not there, if adequate risk assessment were done. Is that not the case and it is a good risk on those 16 mortgages? Again, I suggest to the minister that the Yukon Housing Corporation has created a double standard - one for Faro and one for the balance of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I believe that when we say that there is no double standard, we say that this was a client risk, and it's coupled with a risk associated with the community. Again, we have invested $500,000 in 16 people who bought homes in Faro.
Again, we say that the corporation per capita market share in Faro is much greater than any other Yukon community. Because of the economic certainty of the Town of Faro, it would be inappropriate for this government to direct further investment by the corporation in mortgage lending at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we won't put any more mortgage money into Faro - quite interesting.
Well, let's go to Chile. What's the exposure of the Yukon Housing Corporation for investments into housing units in Chile? What's our exposure? How much is the Government of the Yukon paid, through Economic Development and through the Housing Corporation, for our exposure in Chile? Who is carrying the mortgages on these units that are going down there? I'm sure the minister will find that it is the taxpayers of Canada, one way or the other. How is this being accomplished? How are we lending into Chile and not into Faro?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Yukon Housing Corporation is working with two companies that are active in Chile. One of the companies recently prefabricated five small houses in Whitehorse for export to Chile. We also understand that they were pre-sold and that they are expected to have them completed by late summer.
The other company is presently trying to secure a larger contract - or this company is presently trying to secure a larger contract of 278 housing units.
The other company has a letter of intent for a contract for a large social housing project. They are working on finalizing this contract. Again, we look for diversification of the Yukon's economy, and we look for employing people from the Yukon.
We have a loan of $10,000 to one of the companies and another loan of $5,000 out there. It will be repayable if the contract is signed. There was a contribution agreement of $10,000 in addition to that. With regard to the economic development and any assistance in there from Economic Development responsible for this project - I don't specifically know what the contribution agreement states right now at this time, but we'll definitely have to ask the Minister of Economic Development on this one.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister didn't answer the question. The question was, how are these units being paid for? Is there any exposure by Yukon Housing Corporation, either for mortgages on these units or the Canada Export Development Corporation, that was negotiated by Yukon Housing Corporation? Or did the Government of Chile pay for them up front?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We have provided upfront money for these two companies. We have nothing to do with their financing. What we have done is just provide the money up front for them to go ahead with their venture. We've tried to provide as much assistance and expertise as we possibly can. There has been no exposure to the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Now we're getting there, Mr. Chair. So, the Government of Yukon, through the Yukon Housing Corporation, has advanced all the funds necessary to construct these housing units to these respective companies. In order to do that, the Yukon Housing Corporation must be very comfortable that somehow these housing units are going to get paid for. I'm sure that the Yukon Housing Corporation was somehow in the equation to arrange financing or arrange payment for these units, because it was a pilot project. How were they being paid for? Is the Government of Chile fronting it? Is the Canadian Export Development Corporation advancing the money? Is the Yukon Housing Corporation, or any related subsidiary or peripheral organization that the Government of Yukon is involved with, have an arm's-length arrangement to advance mortgage money? How are these units being paid for?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, first off, we haven't provided all of the funds for these two companies. We have provided loans and contributions; that was our involvement. The other point is that the companies have provided their dollars, their investment, and are investing in themselves.
Mr. Jenkins: I can appreciate that the minister's very, very new in his portfolio and wouldn't have an understanding of international business, but the biggest thing you want to ensure is that you get paid for what you provide.
Now, for the Government of Yukon to put money into this project, they must be comfortable that these housing units are going to be paid for one way or the other. Now, what measure of comfort was provided by these two companies - or by this one company that's providing these five housing units - so that the Government of Yukon would advance the funds that they have advanced? Is it mortgaged somehow, through an agency in Canada, through a bank in Canada? Are there any cross guarantees? Is it secured by the Export Development Corporation?
This company that's going down to Chile from the Yukon wants to get paid, and in the whole equation, in the whole business cycle, that's one of the first things that you ensure - that you're going to get paid - perhaps, I guess, unless you're the Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair.
Now, it would appear that the minister is doing his due diligence with respect to Faro. He's saying that we're not going to lend any more money in Faro because it's a high risk and our exposure is too high there already. But then we're going to the extreme end of the South American continent, and we're getting involved down there.
If there's an opportunity, let's take it, Mr. Chair. But how is Yukon Housing Corporation secured on this undertaking?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, these two companies down in Chile are at a very preliminary stage with development and housing export. One of the companies has made a deposit. That was received from the developer in Chile. The other company is going there to do a presentation. The amount of dollars is very modest for what is being covered here. The Yukon Housing Corporation has no exposure.
Mr. Jenkins: So, Yukon Housing Corporation has no exposure. That's in spite of them having loaned $10,000 and $5,000 and being involved, in one way or another, in the construction of these five modular homes that are going to be moved out of Canada, where Yukon courts have no jurisdiction, Mr. Chair. So, there is a risk; there is exposure.
What is the total amount of involvement, dollar-wise, in these five modular homes? Now, the minister has admitted to $10,000 and $5,000 as loans, but there has to be other involvement there. What is the exposure, and how is it secured? Is there a chattel mortgage against these modular homes? Is there a personal guarantee from the company executives? Are there other assets here in the Yukon to secure this? What is it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the loans - say $10,000 or $5,000 - the $5,000 is a conditional loan and that conditional loan is repayable if they are successful in the contract. There is no exposure, other than the company's ability to repay the loan.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is saying is that Yukon Housing Corporation has no involvement in the construction of these modular homes? They didn't advance any money whatsoever for their construction, or for the area to make them or for the plant and everything? I'm probably just not asking the correct question, because the minister appears to be walking all the way through.
It's just a simple straightforward question. How are these units being paid for when they end up in Chile?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I can reply by saying that it's by the person who is buying them.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, are there any mortgage arrangements made in Canada by CMHC or the Export Development Corporation that Yukon Housing Corporation may or may not have assisted with in order to finance these five modular homes? Because by the time you take five modular homes from the Yukon all the way down there and set them up, you are probably looking at $500,000, unless they are very small modular homes, the size of a doghouse or trapper's cabin, which I don't believe is the case.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The response is no to the $500,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we'll get back to that issue in the fall. If I could move on to Mountainview Place, or whatever you want to call it. It's that wonderful development on Range Road where there are condominium-style trailer lots to which we can relocate older trailers and upgrade them. What is the game plan now that these are selling so well? What is the game plan that the Yukon Housing Corporation has for these lots, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the corporation has agreements for sale on five lots. Two people have moved in. I have asked the corporation to review and examine options for Mountainview Place. This review will be undertaken and will be with us here, more than likely in the late fall. In the meantime, Yukon Housing Corporation will continue to sell these lots.
Mr. Jenkins: Sounds great, Mr. Chair, we have another review underway.
Okay, let's move on. Could the minister advise the House just how high leverage are these mortgages on these lots? Is it 95 percent or more? What's the down? Or do you get in for zero down and just about 100 percent mortgageable?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the mortgage rate, I guess, will have a two and a half percent down payment. If the mobile home is beyond economic repair, then we could offer mortgages with no down payment.
Chair: As the time is 8:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members:Agreed.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. McRobb: I've been waiting quite awhile to get this question in. It's a follow-up on the staff housing in Beaver Creek for the teacher issue, which I know the minister is aware of. We have had some correspondence on it, and the latest correspondence referred to a meeting on June 16 with the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors. The matter was going to be reviewed at that time. Can the minister give us an indication of what was decided on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it's before the board, and as soon as the board makes a decision on it, we will pass that information on to everyone affected.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the information that the minister gave me said that the meeting was to take place on June 16. Now, can the minister give us an idea of what happened at that meeting?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it is before the board, and it is under review, and the board will get back to him as soon as they make a - they're waiting for some more material, some more information with respect to this, and as soon as we have that information for the board, we will get back to him on that.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left, the minister was explaining how much down one needed to get into Mountainview Place. Conventional lending is about five percent down, but with respect to Mountainview, you can get in with two and a half percent or zero down. Just how many of the lots sold are at which rate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we have a home ownership program at two and a half percent and that's not restricted just to Mountainview Place, and then we have another one of zero down.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, but the question to the minister was how many of the lots under agreement for sale - or lots that have been sold in Mountainview Place - are at the zero down and how many are at the two and a half percent down level?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I presume that would be a question for the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation. I would be more than happy to find out the numbers of zero down and two and a half percent down.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the minister. It's not a question for the president of the Yukon Housing Corporation. The president of the Yukon Housing Corporation might be changed tomorrow by the Premier of the Yukon. But I understand that the minister is going to be sticking around for a little while, and he's the one who has to answer for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the House.
What I want to know is the number of lots that have been sold in Mountainview Place - either sold or are in agreement for sale - with zero down. It should be a simple question. I am sure the minister is going to say that it's confidential. With zero down, what Yukon Housing Corporation is doing is basically giving them away. As long as they conform in some way or another to be able to debt service the mortgage, zero down is usually considered to be a high risk. Two and a half percent down is a very high-risk mortgage. The minister can consult with his officials. Even five percent down is a high-risk mortgage.
So, we won't lend into Faro, because it is high risk, but we'll lend here in Whitehorse with zero down. It sounds like quite a double standard to me, Mr. Chair. How many mortgages in Mountainview Place are at zero down?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The member is asking for information that deals with clients. I will get back to him with that information, if he so chooses. A two and a half percent down payment is in support of homeownership, and all loan applications are being reviewed for risk. I don't perceive to say that I do have numbers on zero-percent down or numbers on two and a half percent down on homeownership in Mountainview Place. If that information is what he wants, then he will get it at a later time.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure that at the end of the day the minister will have an understanding of risk assessment. This government will not lend money into Faro because of its risk. The banks charge a higher lending rate on high-risk mortgages, and they insist they be CMHC-insured. So, as the down payment goes down, the risk goes up. I'm sure the minister can get together with his officials in Yukon Housing Corporation, and he'll have a firm understanding of that, Mr. Chair. But it takes us back to the question that is quite important: if all of these lots in Mountainview Place are going out with zero down, it's a very, very high-risk undertaking, indeed.
Now, I'm sure the department officials could give the minister an indication, maybe not as to the exact number, but to half or three-quarters of the five lots. Four, five, three are in the zero-down category. Because that, Mr. Chair, is a very high risk, no matter how you cut it. What we are doing is trying to level the playing field here in the Yukon.
We won't allow mortgage money into Faro because it's high risk, but we will allow very high-risk lending in Mountainview. Why the double standard?
Hon. Mr. Jim: At this time, Mr. Chair, we don't know if there is zero down on all of the lots in Mountainview Place, or on one or two. I have answered this question before that we will get back to him on it. We go according to the loan agreement and clients must qualify for a loan. We'll get back to him as soon as it's stated.
Mr. Jenkins: So, as I understand it, the minister is going to provide me that information. Will that be some time later this evening or will it be tomorrow morning, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it will be tomorrow. However, we must caution ourselves on exactly what information we can provide as to client information, and that information will be here tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like we'll still be in general debate tomorrow on Yukon Housing Corporation, and I will look forward to seeing that information before we get back into it, Mr. Chair.
Some of the other areas that have been brought to my attention, Mr. Chair, deal with the issues surrounding the standards for staff housing provided in rural Yukon. Perhaps the best way to go about this is to contrast another agency of Canada that provides staff accommodation in rural Yukon to what Yukon Housing Corporation is doing.
I'll refer to the agency that provides housing for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They went through the whole equation initially of putting in modular homes in rural Yukon. Then they got into kind of a quasi-type stick-built, and now they've gone to a full-blown, proper house. They found that the housing units had a more effective and longer life. They kind of standardized heating systems, square footage. They're quite a little bit larger than what they used to be.
Their housing units being created today - I know in my community and a lot of other rural communities - are ones you can be proud of living in. They're warm, and they're built to last.
In contrast to what Yukon Housing Corporation has done with respect to staff housing over the years, there really isn't much difference to a social housing unit and a staff housing unit for senior people, for school principals, school teachers or the like.
A lot of them come into rural Yukon not knowing about bleeders, not knowing about the whole system of how things operate in the north. There doesn't appear to be standardization of heating systems. Yukon Housing has some that are propane, some that are oil. We seem to have one series of problems after another with some of these staff units: they're not adequately insulated, the windows don't seal, the cost of heating one unit is disproportionate to its size. There doesn't seem to have been any quality control executed over the construction of them in the past, Mr. Chair.
Is Yukon Housing Corporation adopting a new policy that will bring it more into line to, say, what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are doing for their staff housing, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the Yukon Housing Corporation has $300,000 set aside for one unit. Again, with respect to the quality of housing units, I say that there needs to be a response to the need for staff housing, but we also have to be fiscally responsible. In the early 1990s, propane heating was used and it was the cheaper fuel, but in this day and age, propane heating is not the cheaper fuel today.
Mr. Jenkins:No, the minister has it somewhat backwards. He does not have correct information. The capital cost of installing propane is way less than the capital cost of installing oil heat for the main burner. The capital cost of a chimney is considerably less for propane vis-à-vis oil. There's less capital cost, but the overall cost of propane is higher and has been higher. There has been no time that I am aware of in rural Yukon when propane has been less expensive to heat a dwelling unit over the course of the whole year. In fact, in all of the cases that Yukon Housing Corporation has in my community, the propane heating systems have been considerably higher to operate at any time since they were constructed than the equivalent house with oil. And that has been a major, major bone of contention.
But, it's not just the propane and oil. It's just the standards that the houses are designed and built to that seem to be a test ground for every new scheme and idea that Yukon Housing Corporation wants to implement, and rural Yukon gets it. Why don't they try it in Chile before they try it here in the Yukon?
Let's look at the two dwelling units in Dawson that Yukon Housing designed and built for the Energy Corporation.
The heating system is on the ceiling and it blows down. These housing units are just a few years old, and you have to keep a pair of boots on in the house in the winter to keep your feet warm on the ground floor. The upstairs is a sauna. This is a brand new design, just a few years old, originating out of the Yukon Housing Corporation, agreed to by them - the whole nine yards, but it just does not work. Heat has a wonderful tendency; it rises. If you want to push it down, you have to blow it down, which takes a lot of energy. The cost to blow that energy down is the responsibility of the tenant. When are we going to face reality, put heating systems in the floor and do a conventional design that we know will work?
If you want to get into experimental homes, I don't think anyone would have any quarrel with that. That cost should be borne by the Yukon Housing Corporation. Now, either the taxpayer or the ratepayer is going to be saddled with putting a decent heating system into these units. Why should that be? Because Yukon Housing Corporation is going into a test mode? That's not fair. It's not reasonable. The tenants in those houses - although they haven't expressed it very vocally - it's common knowledge in that community that the heating systems in these relatively brand new homes do not work. It's some brainwave from the Yukon Housing Corporation. Why should we be saddled with these wonderful ideas that we know do not work? Why should the tenants in this staff housing have to pay the exorbitant costs to heat them when these designs are adopted?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I do agree. I do agree with the member opposite with respect to the poor planning that went into the housing development in Dawson. I also agree that it was five years ago when these units were put up and the plans were put in place to build these houses. We see that flaw. We know that there is room for improvement. We will certainly take that under advisement.
Coincidentally, the Yukon Development Corporation owns these homes. I don't know what more I can add to that. The only thing I can say is that we definitely are willing to work and make these changes and improvements to housing units in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: So, when is Yukon Housing Corporation going to wake up and adopt a decent standard for rural staff housing? Is that going to be implemented, Mr. Chair, or is that under review, or is it in the 10-year plan, or are we going to hear about it next fall? Just where are we?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the Yukon Housing Corporation - this government - has standards that are in accordance with the building codes. We have always gone in accordance with the building codes and standards. I don't know what more the member opposite wants.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, to say that we have adopted the building codes - that's great. But if you adopt the building code, it really doesn't mean anything. You know, if you want to take certain sections of it - it says, "The furnace in the unit, or the heating device, has to be capable of maintaining a certain temperature when the ambient temperature outside is this low," so you could put a monstrosity of a furnace in a house and leave it without any windows. You could still maintain the interior temperature in that dwelling unit at that level, but it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. There has to be an improved standard for the staff housing in rural Yukon. The standards that currently exist are not adequate. They are not adequate to attract and retain those professionals that we need in the communities to fulfill their various roles. Yukon Housing Corporation is tasked with providing adequate staff housing.
Now, I cited the example of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police being through the full hoop, and they are now constructing a decent home for their members in rural Yukon. That's not the case with the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Now, the last two homes that were built by the Yukon Housing Corporation in our community for the Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation are just a backwards design. It was probably accepted by the Yukon Development Corporation, so I guess we can pass the buck back to them and say if they want any design changes, they have to do it. But the concern is for the people, the staff, who are attracted there, to live in an adequate housing unit. They don't mind paying a decent rent. They want utilities to be reasonable or commensurate with what they have been told, and they just want a decent standard of housing.
Yukon Housing Corporation hasn't been able to provide that in the last two duplexes that they constructed for staff housing. They are propane heated, and they had all sorts of troubles with heating costs and with supply of the product. If the tank gets down, like it did last winter, to just a small percentage of its capacity, it won't vapourize, and in an extreme low temperature, the propane truck won't deliver up to our neck of the woods because it's too cold. So, we're in a catch-22. But when you have propane, there's only one supplier up in our neck of the woods - ICG or Superior - and they're one and the same now. Every time we change suppliers, there's a new series of tanks, but you can only go to the one should you need the product.
Why is the Housing Corporation saddling the staff people with that responsibility and ever-escalating costs and problems that are virtually insurmountable and very difficult to address should there be difficulties with that appliance in rural Yukon? Why does the Housing Corporation continue to do that? It's not something new. It has been ongoing for a number of years. When is the Housing Corporation going to address their responsibilities for providing an adequate level of staff housing for staff in rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we talked about standards and improvement of standards. We are in agreement with that, but it's unfair to say that we're blaming the Yukon Development Corporation, because that's not the case. It's like saying that the plans for these houses that were being developed five years ago are the plans that came from the member opposite's party and we should go back to them and change these plans back to then.
But yes, we are looking at improvement. There's always room for improvement, and we are looking at these standards, and we are looking at changing off from propane. And we haven't built in Dawson in years. Definitely, there is room for improvement for these standards. What more can I add to that?
Mr. Jenkins: Do I hear the minister saying that they're off propane, that they're going to be converting to oil in all of these areas now, Mr. Chair? Because at Kinsey Manor we've got a big problem with a fuel source and a fuel supply and with the boilers. So, what's the game plan? Are we going to standardize in oil, or are we going to try to continue to operate on the propane?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we are looking at Kinsey Manor, and as far as changing it from propane, yes, we are changing it from propane.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we leave that, I'm seeking an undertaking from the minister with respect to staff housing in rural Yukon that will look at much-improved standards and a higher standard for these units. Will the minister agree that it is a sore spot? And it's very, very difficult to attract professionals to rural Yukon when the standard of housing supplied by the Yukon Housing Corporation, the sole agency of the Government of Yukon that's responsible for this area, is just not fair. The level of staff housing is probably one of the major concerns voiced by the professionals who are hired by the various departments of the Yukon government when they choose to locate in rural Yukon. Unless that's addressed, we've got a real problem.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would say that I believe in quality housing units. We believe in the level of service being of high quality, and we will do our best to provide affordable housing that is well-maintained.
At this time, I am very aware of the level of quality of the housing units in Dawson, and I will definitely take this under advisement.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are going to be a lot of things under advisement. Let's go on to the seniors' situation. Where are we at for housing units for the seniors? There's a demand here in Whitehorse; there's a demand in Dawson and there's a demand in Watson Lake. What's the game plan that the Yukon Housing Corporation has with respect to seniors housing?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we went through this in general terms. There is a draft action plan that's going through. We are reviewing that. We believe in seniors. We are committed to seniors. We are definitely working toward a Yukon seniors housing program. That's something that's coming up in the near future here.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that was quite the answer, Mr. Chair. Let's contrast the minister's answer to the election platform - the platform on which this Liberal government was elected - which was to construct independent living accommodations. Just how far along are we to meeting this objective, because this is one of the fastest growing sectors in our society - our seniors, Mr. Chair - and our seniors being the only area of the economy with any disposal income left here in the Yukon. They are a very, very beneficial and worthwhile component of our society.
But given the Liberal's campaign promise to construct independent living accommodations - and I noticed that the minister just was given his instructions from the Premier - perhaps he could advise the House just where we're at with regard to this issue and how we're moving forward in addressing the needs for senior housing?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we have an action plan that's coming forth. It's happening as we speak. In December 1999 at the seniors housing conference, the Yukon Housing announced that the seniors action plan would be prepared and released. This action plan is beginning, and the proposals for improving seniors housing choices, support programs that the corporation will be examining in the coming year for implementation in the short, medium and long term - and action is already taken. The action plan is to be released in June 2000. It's now June, but we are working at it. It was reiterated once that Rome was not built in a day and that good food takes time.
Mr. Jenkins: I thought the minister was going to say that Rome wasn't built in a day but he wasn't the foreman on that job. But, be that as it may, it still doesn't give any timelines as to where we are heading or how this Liberal government is going to meet their platform commitments, which were campaigned by the Liberals who were elected, to construct independent living accommodations for seniors. That was the pledge.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now, I am told we have four years to do it, so at the end of four years something magically is going to appear in the way of housing for our seniors. And we are going to consult. And I'm going to hear next that we have a 10-year plan. The only thing I haven't heard, Mr. Chair, is that it's confidential.
But there's an immediate need for seniors housing. One of the initiatives that was pointed out to the Liberals, who are now apparently sitting in power, was the acquisition of the Westmark Klondike Inn to convert that to a seniors residence. Has that been explored, or is it being explored? That was an initiative that was pointed out to me by quite a number of seniors here in Whitehorse.
You know, members over there are laughing about it, but the building is for sale, and the price appears to be right, given the cost of new construction today. There are 100 rooms there. If they were opened up so that each two rooms were made into one suite, it might be a heck of a game plan for 50 self-contained rooms.
Now, have we even explored that? It's an issue that's known to the department. Where are we at? Has it been explored and costed, or is it something that we just pay lip service to and not bother with?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I believe that this idea was something that was concocted from the private sector. We have no initiatives that work toward involvement with the private sector, and we're not looking at the Westmark Hotel.
I believe that this corporation has developed a comprehensive information base on seniors' housing needs. The next step is development of initiatives for discussion with seniors. The corporation has been actively involved with a number of activities that support seniors housing.
The corporation recently completed the community housing studies and released the conference proceedings of the seniors housing conference. The Yukon Housing Corporation is developing a number of initiatives to meet Yukon seniors present and future housing needs. We know that seniors, governments, communities and builders will all need to be involved in helping to meet the needs of that growing segment of our population. We are very aware of it, and we are working toward a better future for our seniors tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister appears to be long on prose and very short on substance with respect to what the initiatives are. Perhaps the minister could share with the House some of these initiatives that they're looking at? What initiatives are they looking at, what is coming more into favour, and just how far along are these initiatives? I would like to know some timelines, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this is currently before the board for review, and I'm definitely looking forward to reviewing the senior housing recommendations of the corporation in the coming months.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, in my community there's a shortage of independent housing accommodations for seniors. The lodge itself is full. Most of the seniors whom I know want very much to remain in their own housing units for as long as possible and be supported in their living there, but there is a need for independent living accommodations. In fact, because they aren't available, some of the seniors have actually moved away. I'm sure that the department will come up with statistics that say there is not a waiting list, but if you spend any time speaking with anyone there and know the community, you'll find that that's very much the case.
What's the game plan with respect to my specific area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there are some 530 social housing units across the Yukon Territory, 67 of which are in Dawson. At this time, as of April 2000, there is a waiting list of nil. There are four designated for seniors. We have, once again, an action plan under development.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess it all depends on the end of which month you look at. At the end of April, that could have very much been the case, but two months prior to that, in the winter, that was not the case, Mr. Chair. A couple of times in May, there were people banging on the door of Yukon Housing Corporation looking for accommodations. The vacancy rate in Dawson is usually close to zero. Any time there are housing units open is when there are major repairs underway and they are being rebuilt. A lot of the inquiries are made, and when it's learned that there's nothing available, an application isn't even completed. The department extrapolates only those that complete an application. They don't have their ear to the ground at all times, Mr. Chair.
I was just wondering why, because there is a demonstrated need for more independent living accommodations for seniors in Dawson, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: In light of the time, Mr. Chair, I must move that you report progress on Bill No. 2.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Kent: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled June 26, 2000:
Minto Explorations, Finlayson Lake area and anticipated mineral exploration: information pertaining to (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 283-284