Wednesday, July 5, 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
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, it's my honour to introduce to the House a member of our audience today, Clifton Fred. Clifton Fred is a Yukon artist. I am fortunate enough to say I grew up with him. He's now living and working in Vancouver. His art is currently in galleries throughout the city, and he's well-known for his portrait of Elijah Smith that still hangs in the Elijah Smith Building today.
He's visiting the Yukon currently and is sitting with his mother, Barbara Fred.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 1 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 1 of the First Session of the 30th Legislative Assembly, as presented by the leader of the third party on July 4, 2000. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 1 is accordingly deemed to be read and received.
Are there any bills to be introduced? Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that
(1) it is in the public's best interest to expedite the business of the House; and
(2) expediting the passage of the 2000-01 budget will create certainty among all Yukoners; and
(3) the Yukon government is willing to work toward the constructive resolution of all outstanding issues; and
THAT beginning Monday, July 10, 2000, the Legislative Assembly shall sit from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 to 10:00 p.m, Monday through Thursday, until the business of the House is completed.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) during the last election the Yukon Liberal Party campaigned on a promise of modelling professional behaviour in the House, and have delivered on that promise; and
(2) it is the opposition House leaders' duty to be willing and able to work respectfully and constructively with the government House leader; and
(3) the opposition parties have broken numerous House rules of decorum; and
(4) the opposition parties have refused to disclose the absence of members on numerous occasions; and
THAT this House urges that the opposition members, with the co-operation of their respective House leaders, to model professional and courteous behaviour in the House at all times.
Chair: Are there any further motions?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Haines and Skagway port access
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Acting Premier. Yesterday I asked this government what it is doing to close the deal on the tidewater facilities in Skagway. Once again, I got the tired, old Liberal line, that it is being evaluated, with no decision until the fall. That is unacceptable. We know there are other potential buyers interested in this very same property. The Acting Premier has the power to instruct her officials to conclude this deal immediately. Will she do that? Or does this government intend to squander this once in a lifetime opportunity for Yukon's economic future?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it was said yesterday - and I will say it again - that we are evaluating all of our options on this property. We will have a decision on the port access in Skagway and in Haines by early fall of this year.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that may very well be too late for the Skagway property. The deal could have been closed at least by the end of June. Due diligence has already been done. The lion's share of the purchase price is already in the budget. Every day that this part-time government dilly-dallies and is afraid to make a decision on anything, the chances get better and better that someone else who can make a decision will scoop up this deal. Why won't the Acting Premier call her boss in Calgary this afternoon and get the go ahead to get this deal done, now.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, I take issue with the member opposite's comments about how this is a part-time government. I don't think there is anybody, on this side of the House at least, who isn't working 14- and 16-hour days right now. The member opposite's comments are just ill-informed.
Mr. Speaker, the government is taking all of the information into consideration - not all of that information is available to us right now. We will be giving a decision on this in the early fall. This is a very, very large investment for the Yukon Territory and possibly a very important one for our future. We want to make sure that we make a good decision - a very good decision. We will be making that decision in the fall.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's important to note that the Deputy Premier has just stated that this is possibly a very important decision for Yukon. I would argue that this is a vital decision for the Yukon to ensure that we have access to tidewater. It's obvious the government is terrified of making a decision on anything, and this one's a no-brainer; the work has been done. It just takes one decision by the Deputy Premier. They can evaluate and review until the cows come home, Mr. Speaker; the only thing that will change is that someone else will pick up the property and leave this territory landlocked.
Will the Acting Premier now admit that the decision not to proceed has already been made and the delay of several months is just a smokescreen to give the government time to make up an excuse for not taking action?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, taking time to make intelligent decisions is not an excuse; it's a mandate of this government.
Question re: Haines and Skagway port access
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's evident that the problems are starting to compound on the Liberal side. The work has been done on this particular initiative - done to the point where a decision to complete the sale is what is necessary. It looks like the Skagway option is now history.
So let's look at the other option - the Haines possibilities. Again, for the Acting Premier, Mr. Speaker - although the word "acting" does not seem to apply to this Liberal government at all - it's obvious they may have blown their chances in Skagway, so I'd like to ask the minister about port facilities in Haines, Alaska. Once again, this is a deal that required a decision by June 30. The Premier herself pointed that out earlier in this Legislature. Can the Acting Premier provide assurances that the necessary steps are being taken to ensure that the Yukon will continue to have access to tidewater at Haines, Alaska?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, all of the information is not in. There is still information that has to be gathered. When that information is gathered, the Cabinet will sit down, as they always have in the Yukon government, and make an informed decision about this issue. The options are not closed. We still have the ability to make the decision on this property.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier herself said that the deadline for the Haines property was June 30. The due diligence on these matters has been done. What information is the Deputy Premier alluding to as far as information that needs to be gathered?
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has paid lip service to the important role of infrastructure improving the Yukon's economy. Yesterday, she admitted that Yukon people support the government investing to secure tidewater access. Those are the Premier's own words, but we haven't seen any action to back up those words.
Can the Acting Premier tell us what direction Economic Development officials have been given about either extending the existing option or buying the Haines facilities outright?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, things have changed since the side opposite was in government. There is other information out there that needs to be considered, other information that needs to be gathered, and possibly a different way of doing business in this government.
Mr. Speaker, I can just say that the information on this port is not all available at the moment. We cannot make an informed decision yet, but we will be making an informed decision and giving the results of our deliberations to the Yukon public in the fall.
Mr. Fentie:Well, the Deputy Premier is right about one thing: there's a new way of doing business in government, and that is by not conducting business at all, because the Liberal side has no ability to make a decision.
Mr. Speaker, the former government, the NDP government, had the vision to realize that the port facility at Haines would give producers like Dakwakada Forest Products a competitive edge in reaching Asian markets - important markets to the future of our forest industry, by the way. The community of Haines Junction, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation and Dakwakada Forest Products, among others, want to know what this Liberal government is doing to provide certainty to local exporters.
Will the government take action now to purchase the port facilities at Haines and table a supplementary budget to cover the cost? Will the Deputy Premier do so now?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it is true that the purchase of this property is going to require a considerable amount of money. That's why we have to spend time making a good decision about this property in Haines, as well as in Skagway. We are gathering information. There is more to this than when the side opposite was in government. This is a very different deal. We will be giving that information - the final results of our discussions at the Cabinet level - to the public in the fall.
Question re: FAS/FAE identification and services
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The legacy of Yukon's chronic alcohol abuse problem is fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. FAS/FAE is a preventable affliction that requires lifetime care. Now, in reviewing the Liberal platform document, however, I have found no direct reference to this major health, social and educational problem. In the section on caring for children, there is a statement that Yukon Liberals will initiate confidential testing in the schools to determine levels of development disorders to enable appropriate and effective educational programs development. The identification of children with FAS/FAE is a first step. Even the previous NDP government will ultimately be forced to take that step. So, the Liberal statement is nothing new. You first have to recognize that you have a problem before you can deal with it.
Now, action speaks louder than words. For example, the Yukon Party has proposed the creation of a team of specialists trained in psychology, personal counselling, social work and health to provide services to Yukon schools in support of students with FAS/FAE and their families. Is this something that the minister might be prepared to consider, or is it still under study?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike is absolutely correct. We basically have to look at where we're at, and this is one of our first options. We were trying to find out where we're at in the whole area of FAS and FAE. We know it is a serious problem, much like the member opposite has just made comment to. This is not something we just rush into. We basically have to look at where we're going with it, and we hope that, over the next couple of months, we will have some type of an idea or plan for the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Sounds like we have a plan over there in the Liberal benches. I just don't know how long it is before this plan comes into focus. The earlier the diagnosis of FAS/FAE is much the better. The Liberal position is to conduct initial, confidential testing of school-aged children. However, that testing comes far too late. Experts call for very early diagnosis - in fact, before the age of six. Can the minister advise the House what measures he will implement to ensure diagnosis before the children reach school age?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding is that there is in place already an identification process for newborns. This is something that we will continue with, with additional support coming from the professionals, communities, and people who would like to be part of the solution. Obviously, we will be looking at other ways of trying to identify. We are not going to wait until they hit school. The sooner the better - that is where we're at. We would like to try, like the member opposite has suggested, to eradicate this disease as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister and I agree - how unusual. But he's starting to listen to common sense and it's prevailing.
Mr. Speaker, as I stated previously, FAS and FAE is a lifelong affliction. Today, many adults with FAS/FAE are incarcerated because they were never diagnosed and there were no programs to deal with them, even if they were diagnosed. The Yukon Party was proposing investigating the feasibility of establishing special group homes for adults with FAS/FAE. Is this something the minister might also be considering? If he is, will he advise the House?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't want to be hypothetical about where we're going. I can only comment on where we are. We already do have a residence for FAS people. In my understanding, it was set up by the last government. We do have an identification plan in place at this point. We're hoping that, in the future, we can look at even doing more in the sense of trying to eradicate this disease. We would like to look at how we deal with our adults because, basically, the member is absolutely correct. The member opposite has made the observation that our jails are full of people who probably haven't been diagnosed with that ailment. We would rather look for other alternatives. We believe that that's the route we have to seek out. We don't have all the evidence at this point. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, although I think that's another problem that we sometimes run into. There is a lot of evidence out there at this point. It just means getting together. It means looking at where we can go and using our resources to do the best possible plan for the Yukon.
Question re: Yukon hire policy under review
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, construction has started on the extended care facility in Whitehorse and, later this summer, it will start on the new Mayo school. Many Yukoners are hoping to get jobs on these two major construction projects, but the Minister of Health and Social Services says that the government's Yukon hire policy is up for review.
So, I'd like to ask the Minister of Government Services, who is the one who should decide the policy direction for his department, and is the Yukon hire policy of this government now under review?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon hire policy is tabled. A lot of the proposals made by the commission have been enacted already. There are only, I think, some seven recommendations that came from the commission that are not being looked at. Other than that, the Yukon hire policy is ongoing.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, we heard on the radio the Minister of Health and Social Services say that he was going to suggest that it should be under review. We have the minister in charge of the department saying that it's not going to be under review; that things are ongoing. I would just like to know, in the minister's own words, how are you committed to keeping the jobs in the Yukon for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, local hire is an important priority for this government. Immediate action has been taken by this government to include - one of the recommendations was to have a hiring agency. This will not be implemented, but instead Government Services implemented a Yukon hire roundtable on the continuing care project to solicit suggestions regarding Yukon hire for that project and future projects.
We are continuing to offer an increased business incentive policy - labour rebate - which is available to contractors when 80 percent or more of wages on government construction projects are paid to Yukon residents. For the Mayo school project, as with the continuing care facility, the rebate has been increased to 10 percent, from 5 percent.
The mandate of the Bid Challenge Committee will be reviewed, and consultation with stakeholders will begin in the near future, possibly this fall. Yukon-made office furniture will soon be available for purchase to Yukon departments, so we are doing a few things that give the incentive of local hire in Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the initiatives that the member opposite has brought forward are all NDP initiatives. I'm certainly glad to hear the minister speak about local hire being a priority. Of course, it was never campaigned upon; the Minister of Health and Social Services was going to review it; the minister himself says we're going to stick with the priorities of the New Democratic government. Well, I'm pleased to hear you're making it a priority of your own.
Can the minister commit to the Yukon hire, as well as to the youth hire, for the two upcoming projects?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't quite paying attention. Could the member opposite please ask the question again?
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the honeymoon period is still on. Could the minister commit to Yukon hire as well as the youth hire and the two upcoming government construction projects?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, the commitment is already there; it's already in place. We have already talked about Yukon hire; we are already looking at youth hire - it's included in the businesses incentive program - I don't know exactly where the member opposite is asking for a commitment. I'm not really clear on his question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jim: The Minister for Health and Social Services was talking about the suggestion that it should be looked at in order to keep attracting health professionals. There was nothing that stated it was under review.
Question re: Land use planning, public consultation on 10-02 lands
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Liberals promised to consult the public and respect land use planning before inviting the oil and gas industry to nominate areas for development. The Porcupine Caribou Management Board, the environmental community, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and others have asked the government to live up to their word for land use planning to occur first. This is a sensitive time for the Porcupine caribou herd, which are now calving in the north Yukon. With the U.S. presidential election underway, many people are trying to get permanent protection for the 10-02 lands. My question is for the Acting Premier. What are the government's plans for consulting Yukoners? Will it be after the oil and gas rights are sold, or before?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure which area the member is referring to. If he is talking about southeast Yukon, the consultation process is already underway. That process is government-to-government consultation. If he is talking about the 1002 lands, that consultation is also taking place on the government-to-government level. That is part of the consultation series. We are the only jurisdiction in Canada that has public consultation and that is something that we all have to be proud of. It is public consultation in the oil and gas land sale process. I think that it is important to realize that this government treats other levels of government with respect and that we do work with them and consult them on matters that affect them most closely.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I asked the Acting Premier whether or not they would consult with Yukoners before or after the land gas rights are sold? The Premier issued a media release about her lunch in Calgary today with the petroleum industry executives to discuss Yukon's upcoming second issuance of oil and gas rights. During the election campaign, the Premier stated, "Land use planning is very important and should take place before these oil and gas leases are made." Will the Acting Premier confirm that the Liberal government does indeed plan to respect the land use planning process and consult with Yukoners before offering more oil and gas leases for sale to the industry?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, bringing oil and gas leases to fruition is a long process. First of all, you start by giving people the right to go out and explore. Then you give them the right to go out and drill, then you give them the right to actually go and get something, but long before any of that happens, you have a consultation process. The Government of Yukon is committed to that consultation process.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, this is not what's happening today. The Premier is in Calgary trying to drum up interest for oil and gas in the Yukon. This government said that they would model professional behaviour in this Legislature and be open and accountable to the Yukon public.
Now, the NDP, when in government, created Fishing Branch and also created a protected areas strategy that the Liberal government is now following. They are not doing anything new. The Liberals are in government now, and they must be responsible for their actions. I don't know why the Acting Premier is trying to hide on this.
Is the Acting Premier going to give her word today, in this House, that the Liberal government will do what they said they would do and complete the public consultation process before they offer any more oil and gas leases for sale, or will they continue to be a part-time government, not respecting Yukoners, and cater to the oil and gas industry?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the side opposite loves to repeat the same silly lines over and over and over again. One of them is the fact that this is a part-time government. Quite clearly, this is not a part-time government. We have taken the responsibility to govern the Yukon. We take that responsibility very seriously. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that our economy comes back. That is why the Premier is in Calgary right now trying to drum up interest in people coming to the Yukon to invest their dollars in oil and gas interests.
The government is not down on the corner in Calgary doing land sales for oil and gas companies. That's not what we're doing. We're saying, "Hey, the Yukon is a great place to invest." And it is. We all know that. That's what we're down there telling people. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a good thing. We are very, very committed to the consultation process. We are very committed to the process required before you go into oil and gas development on land within the Yukon Territory. That was an act that I voted for in this Legislature and the Liberal Party voted on in this Legislature. The processes are very clear within that act. The member opposite knows that; they were the government that brought it in.
Question re: Family day homes, CSA standards
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services, and I want to ask my question by reading a question that the Member for Riverdale South asked only three months ago, on March 2, in this House.
She said at that time that the CSA guidelines don't make a lot of sense. "The Canadian Standards Association standards for playgrounds say that play equipment must be surrounded by sand, because it is a soft material for children to land on when they come off play equipment; hence, the issue about impact. Sand in Yukon playgrounds is frozen for nine months of the year. It doesn't matter whether you land on sand or pavement when the ground is frozen, yet the minister's department is forcing people to make their backyards into giant litter boxes.
"When is the minister going to utilize a little common sense, like the Province of Ontario did initially, and work with the Society of Yukon Family Day Homes to develop appropriate standards for outdoor play spaces for family day homes?"
Given the position of the Liberals at that time on this question, is he going to develop these standards the Liberals called for, or adopt the CSA standards?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are aware of that issue, of course. It was a major issue in the last round. The issue with the standards set by the Canadian Standards Association has to do with developing of appropriate standards for the appropriate environment. This issue was on my desk, as I told you yesterday, when I assumed the office of Minister of Health and Social Services. It was an issue raised by my colleague, as the member opposite has just read. And, of course, the issue was not dealt with, as I said yesterday.
The moratorium is still in place and that's where it's going to be until the full review is done, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's just not good enough, because the Liberals had a firm position before the election, so one would have assumed that they consulted with everybody and developed the position. Now the minister is complaining that all issues weren't completely resolved when he came into government. It's just not reality to think that the minister isn't going to be handed some issues to deal with, and in this case he should be happy because the Liberals had a position to take before the election.
So, the answer is there for him, and I want to ask him,once again, with regard to this issue, is he going to do what the Liberals said before the election and make some made-in-the-Yukon standards for family day homes, or is he going to adopt the CSA standards?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, we have a problem. And it's the problem, of what I call "honest consultation". That's what we Liberals are all about. Unfortunately, the past government doesn't know what that means. We as a government believe in working with all parties that are affected by whatever the rules or policies are. They have to remember that the former government put these rules in place. They imposed them on everyone and then ran with it. In order to make changes - and of course, again, that's correcting mistakes of the past government because they didn't review it properly, they didn't consult properly - we have to do some work. Every time we turn a corner here, we find that the former government has made major mistakes and so we have got to find out how we're going to correct them. A review is an inclusive process where all stakeholders can be heard - not just a select few. So, we hope that by next month we will have these conclusions and we will have an announcement to make.
Mr. Harding: It's the Liberals who opposed the honest consultation that the NDP was doing prior to the election and the moratorium. Now the minister is saying it is they who are promoting consultation; uh uh. The Member for Riverdale South was saying, as judge, jury and execution, that the CSA standards were ridiculous. Now, before the election, a legal opinion was obtained; it's on the minister's desk - he's got a legal opinion on this particular issue with regard to liability. I would like to ask the minister if he can give an assurance to Yukoners that the Yukon taxpayers will have no legal liability on this question by not proceeding with the CSA standards?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess once again I have to mention he does not want to hear what I have to say. He has his own agenda and his own agenda is to perpetuate this problem as a problem that belongs to us when really it's their problem.
I have some information to offer to the member. What happens when you consult? You have to make sure all parties - not just a select few - are involved. It is my understanding, and very good understanding, that the previous government spoke to just a few people and basically did not consult with the day home operators.
They put a moratorium on the whole issue when the election came about, because they knew they had a hot potato and they didn't know how to handle it. So guess what? We not only have one legal opinion, Mr. Speaker; we have three legal opinions. So, basically, they knew they were on the wrong track, and again, Mr. Speaker, as I shared with you earlier, we're trying to fix another one of their mistakes, but we're going to do it right. We're not going to do it instantly, as they want us to do in everything they ask us. We're going to make sure that we consult with all the stakeholders, and we're going to ensure that we do it right from the beginning, because that is what the Liberal government is all about.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker:It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed
Chair: We will now take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee is dealing with Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Bill No. 19 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Transportation Division - continued
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I do have some questions that I didn't get answered yesterday in my preamble, and if I may, I would like to continue answering those now in case they don't come up in general debate. There were a number of them.
One of the questions was about participation in and progress of the 2000-01 mosquito control program. For the member's information, participating communities include Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Dawson City, Destruction Bay, Faro, Haines Junction -
Chair: Order please. As a preamble to questions previously asked, Ms. Buckway, since we are in general debate on transportation division, you can only refer your comments to transportation division.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, I have a number of them here. I'll sort them out, I guess, and answer them in due course.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate, we were in the highway maintenance area, and we were discussing right-of-way and the clearing, and the double standard that has been created in the Yukon with respect to the clearing of the foliage on the side of the highways. It seems, Mr. Chair, as you travel farther out of Whitehorse, the amount of foliage increases, and I was requesting from the minister an understanding of why this double standard has been created by her department with respect to the foliage clearing, and what steps she is going to take.
This is a safety issue and a very clear abdication of her responsibilities. The highways are less safe as a consequence of the tremendous increase in foliage that is allowed to accumulate along the sides of the highway and the highway right-of-way. What steps is she going to take to remove it, especially as you go further out of Whitehorse, and especially in close proximity to the highway signage - either signage indicating directional changes or indicating facilities or attractions?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I explained repeatedly to the member yesterday, there is no double standard. He persists in his assertion that there is. There is no double standard. The situation he is referring to is caused by cuts to the O&M budget over the last few years, and brush clearing is one of the things that has been reduced; however, there is no double standard.
Mr. Jenkins: I submit there is a double standard because the cuts have occurred quite remote from Whitehorse. In close proximity to Whitehorse, there has been no curtailment of the foliage removal. It just appears to increase in intensity as you go farther from Whitehorse, and I'd urge the minister to travel the Klondike Highway north of Pelly Crossing, and she can come to an understanding of what I'm saying here in the House.
The other issue where I didn't get a clear answer from the minister, Mr. Chair, was with respect to the Klondike Highway between Dawson and the residential areas as far out as Henderson's Corner. This highway currently has a traffic load that requires that it be widened. Now, that is a safety issue once again. There's a safety issue surrounding the pedestrian traffic, bicycle traffic, traffic to the residences and little, if any, street lighting. Street lighting finishes just out of Dawson where you go up the Dome Road. From there, there is no street lighting except at the entrances to Callison subdivision and, farther out, there are four additional street lights in, basically, a 10-mile corridor.
Now, if this situation were in Carmacks or Pelly or going into Watson Lake, we would have a tremendous amount of street lighting, and the highway would be widened. Again, Mr. Chair, I submit that there is a double standard. By the department's own statistics, it supports that this highway is inadequate. Why isn't this highway being widened?
I'm sure that the minister is going to stand up and say that they're going to study it and spend $50,000 on doing it. It's an issue that has come face to face with the department many times. I believe that the traffic study, Mr. Chair, was done some seven years ago, and at that time, it warranted widening. Why hasn't the department taken action to widen this highway in this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member knows full well the answer I'm going to give him, because I gave it to him, word for word, yesterday, if he would review his Hansard.
The department does traffic counts every year. The member knows that. The member also knows that planning for upgrading of the Klondike Highway in the area he is describing is ongoing, and it will include consideration of such issues as street lighting and accommodation of pedestrians and cyclists.
The planning work is $50,000 - the member is quite correct - and is included in this budget, which we are dealing with today, to complete the planning and design phase. It is expected that the work will be done in the next budget year. The member is well aware of this.
Even if I had issued orders to rush the planning, which is never a good idea, and start work on May 6, I doubt we would get it done to the member's satisfaction.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, according to the information I have, the planning is already completed. It's on the shelf. It's ready to go, and it has been for quite a number of years; it just hasn't been a priority.
Let me cite another example where the department previously turned down a request on a safety issue: it's the street lighting going into Ross River. That was turned down, denied. It took unfortunate deaths before street lighting was installed. We're talking about, I believe, 29 street lights that were requested, time and time again. The department turned it down, turned it down. Is that what has to happen to speed up the process? Does somebody have to die here in the Yukon for the department to react, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite is fear-mongering, as he loves to do. When the planning and design work is done, which should be done in this fiscal year, the work will then be carried out.
Mr. Jenkins: There's no fear-mongering on this side, Mr. Chair. Reality is something else. Fear-mongering is one thing. I cited numerous examples around the Yukon that required increased street lighting - the approaches to the bridge in Pelly Crossing, Carmacks - but then, these were all done. Street lighting has actually been installed across the bridge in Pelly, and it's a safer crossing now. But on the highway leading out of Dawson, that could be done in this cycle. Street lighting would improve the safety of that highway corridor, and, believe it or not, in another month or so, we are going to have darkness at night. We still have a lot of traffic, a lot of pedestrian traffic and a lot of bicycle traffic, and it is a safety issue. Why can't the minister address the safety issue in this cycle? We're not talking about a great deal of money, because the street lighting is installed by Yukon Energy and there is just the ongoing O&M cost. There has to be a request from the department to install them.
Now, there are existing poles. There's just the ongoing monthly cost of maintaining the street lighting, and we're not talking a great amount of money, Mr. Chair. It could be done in this cycle, and it could be done to the advantage of the residents who frequent the Klondike Highway going out of Dawson. Why can't the minister instruct her officials to install street lighting?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, let me get this right. The member would like me to put in the street lighting, like right now. Then, next year, he'd like me to rip it all out so we can widen the road. This doesn't make a lot of sense, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister had an understanding of what she was speaking of, we might get further along in this department.
The pole lines on which the street lights would be attached currently exist. They have been used, Mr. Chair, for the lighting standards. There would be a few places where additional poles may or may not have to be installed, but the cost of installing street lighting is - one has to send over a request to Yukon Energy, and they install them, and they bill on a monthly basis. Now, it doesn't require a new string of pole lighting. It requires the installation of the street lighting on a lot of the existing power poles that currently exist in the Klondike, as far out as Henderson's Corner. There are some poles on the cliffs out by Rock Creek that couldn't be utilized - I'll give the minister that. But we're talking about the last three-quarters of a mile of a 10- or 11-mile stretch of highway, Mr. Chair.
So, it's not a big initiative; it's not a big cost. The monthly cost for the street lighting could be borne within the department's budgets. So, is it the minister's intention to keep us all in the dark, or will she install street lighting?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm glad that the member opposite has added "highway engineer" to his list of qualifications. It is in our plan to light the sections from Callison into town at the time that the road is reconstructed. It would not make sense to put in the street lighting and then rip it out when the road is widened to accommodate the reconstruction. I think this is only common sense.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the existing power lines in the Klondike Valley are for power distribution and they currently are used to attach the street lights to. Now why can't the current poles be used for street lighting? They wouldn't require another set of poles for street lighting and I don't believe, when the highway is widened, that another set of poles will be installed. We're not looking for nice, big, steel lamp standards coming out of the ground; we are just looking for an adequate lighting system along the initial stage of the Klondike Highway. The minister is referring to probably the first two and a half miles. What is required is widening as far out as Henderson's Corner.
There are residential subdivisions, established by the Government of Yukon at Henderson's Corner, Rock Creek, Bear Creek and now in the tailings piles. All of these areas are and will be built up over time. Street lighting has been installed in the new tailing subdivision to light that area - for safety reasons, I might add, Mr. Chair. The only area that is not being addressed is the Klondike Highway. Now surely, Mr. Chair, the minister has exhausted all the excuses possible. It doesn't require a new set of poles; it requires attachments of the light standards to the existing power poles in many, many cases. Why can the government not take it upon itself to have those installed? They are billed a monthly rate by Yukon Energy, or in the case of Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. providing the power, the same formula is applied, and street lighting is billed on a monthly basis.
We're not looking for a great amount of capital. We are just looking toward the minister to address a safety issue. Will she do that, and do it this summer so that something is in place for this fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will be happy to review the plans with my officials to see if what the member is suggesting is indeed factual. I repeat that we expect to conclude the planning and design for this project this season and do the construction work the next year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, I take it from the minister that that's a firm no and that constituents in my riding, once again, will be very pleased to hear from a government that doesn't want to address its responsibilities for safety issues, Mr. Chair. I can only add that I am extremely disappointed.
Highway signage along the highways - is there any change in policies with respect to highway signage, both commercial and otherwise?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we of course recognize the importance of commercial highway signs to Yukon businesses and the importance of other signs to the travelling public. We are making every effort to work with business owners to make sure they are provided with the signage opportunities that are permitted in the regulations. The transportation and maintenance branch is always happy to inform business owners of the regulations and rules surrounding commercial signage and ensure that new sign requests meet the criteria set out in the existing regulations.
Mr. Jenkins: That doesn't answer the question, Mr. Chair. The question of the minister was: is there any change in the Liberal government with respect to their policy for commercial signage, and if they are going to continue being permitted, will the minister undertake to cut down the brush so that we can at least see them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I agree that we can look at brush clearing around signs. That would be a good idea. The department has brought some proposals to me concerning new formats for commercial signs on the highway. I am looking those over and, as time permits, I will be doing a bit more work on it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, will there be a consultation process with the public - with the current owners of the commercial signs? There was a consultation process done quite a number of years ago. The Department of Tourism was quite involved and our Tourism Industry Association of Yukon was quite involved. A policy ensued. Is this the policy that's being looked at? If so, what is being contemplated?
The minister made mention of a number of proposals she has before her. Could she share with the House what those proposals are and what we're looking at in this review? It sounds like an in-house review that the minister is focusing on. Or is it going to be a public consultation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the department has prepared a number of options for consideration, based on feedback from the public that gathered during previous consultations, some of which go back to the time when the member's own party was in power. Some are more recent.
If the member would like me to go into vast detail on this, we can probably accomplish that by about mid-August.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this arrogance has got to stop. We have to move ahead. We have to clear a budget. I'm asking for policy changes. Perhaps the minister can table the anticipated policy changes or the various positions she's looking at. I know that the Minister of Tourism just passed her a note, so I'm sure she has more of an understanding of the issue before her. I would urge the minister to table the various positions that are anticipated or being looked by the department with respect to commercial highway signs.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With respect, Mr. Chair, I don't believe the proposals are in a form yet that's ready to be tabled.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it has been looked at for quite some time. How long does such a format take? If we're looking at excuses to not address the issue, or if we're looking at ways to hide it behind a closed door and make the decision remote from the industry, then why doesn't the minister come clean and tell the House accordingly? All I'm asking the minister to do is to table the various scenarios that she is looking at. Will she do that? Before a decision is made, I believe it is very important that the industry be consulted and that some input be allowed from the industry and the current owners of these commercial highway signs before any changes are instituted.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there will be public consultation before any changes are finalized.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, I'd ask the minister to table the various scenarios, and what does she anticipate the timelines would be for her department to get this in a format that can be presented to the public?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we expect we should be in a position to deal with this in the late summer or early fall.
Mr. Jenkins: I would take it that that is this year, Mr. Chair. If it's not, the minister can advise the House the next time she's on her feet.
Let's move into the rural roads area of the minister's portfolio. There have been a number of initiatives where various contractors were hired to upgrade some of our rural roads. By and large, the project was well-received, but the overall coordination of these various contractors appeared to be a kind of loosey-goosey type situation and the overall product sometimes is lacking. Let's look at the Duncan Creek Road. What steps are going to be taken this year to bring it up to an accepted standard for its entire length, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this would more properly be dealt with under the capital section of the budget.
Mr. Jenkins: On the contrary, Mr. Chair, the capital has been expended. Now it's back in the hands of the Government of the Yukon. It comes under maintenance - to maintain it and maintain the standard through the whole road system. So, I submit, Mr. Chair, that we're into maintenance; it's a maintenance issue. What steps is this government going to take now that these contractors are finished? What steps is the department going to take to oversee and maintain this road?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, once the work under the rural roads upgrading project is done on a road, then the department simply maintains the road.
Mr. Jenkins: That begs the question: when are they going to start?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the Duncan Creek Road, we do maintain it and there is a schedule in place for the said maintenance.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are a lot of individuals out there, Mr. Chair, who would like to know when this schedule comes into effect and what will be carried on under this schedule, because to date there has been very little, if any, activity with respect to maintaining the sections that were rebuilt last year under the rural roads program.
So, I ask the minister once again: when will this scheduled maintenance start?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the maintenance of the Duncan Creek Road has already started, but since the member appears to have a specific concern, we would be glad to check that for him.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there seems to be an issue with the rural roads and the mining roads, that the amount of activity on them, in maintenance, has been reduced considerably over the last few budget cycles and doesn't appear to even be in the hoop until very, very late in the season. Now once again, I ask the minister: what is the maintenance cycle and when will it begin?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I just answered that question for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: My question to the minister: what is the maintenance cycle on these rural roads? The minister stated that the department had a program. What is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I stated that I would be happy to provide that to the member. I do not have it here at my fingertips.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we're beating a dead horse. Either the minister doesn't know or doesn't want to convey the information to the House, and she's going to go back and get back-
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The phrase "beating a dead horse" is a violent statement, which I do not believe is appropriate in this House.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: There is no intention of making any statement in this House that is not acceptable. If it doesn't concur with the House, I withdraw the statement "beating a dead horse" and submit "beating a dead issue", then. We'll change the phrase, Mr. Chair.
Chair: We will accept the change. Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm still looking for a response to my question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said that I would undertake to get that information for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just looking for some timelines, Mr. Chair. If the minister, when she agrees to provide information, would also provide some timelines, I would be very much obliged.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would probably be possible late next week or early the week after.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I see we'll be in debate on this department quite extensively this fall, given the timelines that the minister assigns to very simple tasks. I can appreciate that she is a new minister in a portfolio that she has very little, if any, understanding of.
One of the other issues surrounding highways is the reporting of highway conditions. It has been suggested that the reports be faxed out from the department of highways to the visitor reception centres in places like Tok and northern British Columbia. Is such an initiative something that the minister can undertake on her own, or is it another initiative that we have to study and review?
I'm just asking that this information go out on a daily basis to the visitor reception centres where people check in - in northern British Columbia and Tok - before they travel our highways. They would like to know what kind of road conditions they're getting into. It is currently not done on a consistent basis, Mr. Chair. Who is responsible? I understand that it's under the highway maintenance report or conditions report, and that is Community and Transportation Services. It would reflect into the Department of Tourism.
I'm not looking for the minister to pass the buck to the Department of Tourism. I'm just looking for a way to inform travellers coming to the Yukon, on a consistent and regular basis, as to highway driving conditions here in Yukon, particularly during the summer months - May to September.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is touching on a subject that is dear to my heart as I took issue with the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services repeatedly last fall and over the winter because of the delayed availability of the road report. I believe that it is already made available to visitor reception centres and certainly we are happy to fax it to any group who wishes to receive it. For people who are hooked up to the Internet, of course - such as I suggest the Tok visitor centre probably is - it is available on the Internet and is changed before 9:00 a.m. every working day.
Mr. Jenkins: That's another problem, "Every working day". There are only so many days in our visitor season and the only days that this information is available and updated are the days that government works. Why can't we do it everyday during the summer, weekends and holidays included? Because if you want to look right now, Mr. Chair, over this long weekend, all you could get on Tuesday, up until a certain time, was the highway report from the previous Friday. So you have got Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning before it is changed. Now, why can't it be done everyday during the season?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I am happy to note that, thanks to my representations to the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services, at least the road report on the Internet now says that it is not updated weekends and holidays. However, the telephone number is given and, if there is a change in road conditions, that is noted on the updated telephone report over the weekend and on holidays.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that is probably one of the poorest examples of customer service that I have heard in a long time, and I would like to commend the minister for overseeing a department that can't address customer issues. This is another area where we could make our visitors much, much happier if the information was current and up-to-date. I believe, Mr. Chair, that down the road we should probably present the Minister of C&TS an award for her outstanding ability in this regard to not change a situation that should be changed and must be changed in order to ensure our travelling public who want to visit the Yukon that the information is accurate and current. And that includes updating that information seven days a week, irrespective of weekends and holidays.
Now, I guess the issue is one of money, and I would ask the minister how much more money is it going to take for the department to upgrade that information on a daily basis during the summer visitor season.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have previously indicated, if there is a change in road conditions the information is updated on the telephone recording, weekends and holidays. That information is transmitted to the visitor reception centres for the convenience of the travelling public. The member knows that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well, it looks like we have a minister who would rather argue the point than take the advice and implement a change in policy that, while not too costly, could benefit the travelling public and could improve the understanding of highway conditions in the Yukon. I am just appalled that this minister would choose to stand on her feet and argue a situation, rather than take the advice and look at implementing it after addressing her responsibilities, finding out how many more costs we would occur as a department. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have said, the visitor reception centres are aware of changes in road conditions. The visitor reception centres are our primary contact with the travelling public and the visitors to the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I guess she's going to follow the corporate policy now, and she has got her back up and won't take good, solid, reasonable advice. I'm very disappointed. The issue is, of the outlying visitor reception centres - I refer specifically to Tok and the ones in northern British Columbia where a lot of our visitors travel through, check in with the visitors reception centres, and one of the first questions they ask at those centres is "What are the road conditions like through the Yukon?" The nicest thing to have in those visitor reception centres is a fax, saying what the Yukon conditions are; it's provided to us daily from the Government of the Yukon. Would the minister not like that kind of kudo? The travelling public would appreciate it much more than being told to just go over to that phone, and it may or may not be upgraded, and you dial and it'll say this road report is valid as of Friday, such and such, and it might be Sunday, and you get off the phone and say to yourself, "Well, it's Sunday, and that was Friday morning." Now, what could happen? Should I go there or not go there. The decision is sometimes made on that basis.
With the approach that this minister is taking, Mr. Chair, I submit that she's an impediment to the growth of our visitor industry. All she has to do is to take some good, solid advice, look at the overall program, find out how much more it would cost, and implement it. Why won't she do that, Mr. Chair? I ask the minister, once again: will she take that good, solid advice, and do something with it, implement it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have two points. One, at the end of the road-report recording on the telephone, it does say that if there are changes to road conditions, the recording will be updated. Therefore, if it has not been updated, one can safely assume that no changes have occurred. Number two, the visitor reception centres do get advised of changes in road conditions. I will be happy to double-check and ensure that any visitor reception centre in the area that is not currently posting that information for the general public does so in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the Yukon visitor reception centres do post that road information. That, I'm very much aware of, but I'm not concerned with the Yukon visitor reception centres. They are doing a very good job, thanks in part to the previous Minister of Tourism and the current Minister of Tourism. What I'm looking for is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to do her job and provide the Department of Tourism with some important, relevant information, and getting that information to the visitor reception centres, faxing it to the outlying visitor reception centres outside the Yukon. Why can't that be done?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, every time I have stopped at the Tok visitor reception centre, which is every time I go through Tok, the Yukon road report is always there, so I would assume that somehow they're getting it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll tell the minister how it's being sent over to Tok, and it's not thanks, in a large part, to any initiative on the part of the Government of Yukon in many respects. It is the same with the road report that goes out to the Matsu visitor reception centre - no thanks to the Government of Yukon, but it does get over there. It's an initiative that the Government of Yukon should be aware of and should undertake. It's good, solid advice. I don't want to belabour the point, Mr. Chair. I don't want to just continue to argue the point with the minister. It is good, solid advice. Take it. I urge the minister to take it and do something with it. It will improve conditions for all of us.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't wish to belabour the point either. I have already said to the member opposite that I will undertake to see that anyone who doesn't currently have it - and needs it - gets it and, furthermore, that they post it.
Mr. Jenkins: I would urge the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to get together with her colleague, the Minister of Tourism. She would probably come to a better understanding of what is needed. They might talk about these issues internally, Mr. Chair.
The other issue that has not been addressed, which I would urge the minister to consider, is that the report be upgraded on a daily basis through the summer visitor season. Now, the first question I would ask my department is how much money this would cost. It should be costed out first. Then, if it is a reasonable cost, run with the information and get it out there on a daily basis. There is no excuse. There was $56.2 million left in the bank when the Liberals took office, Mr. Chair. I don't think we're talking about a vast sum of money. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There was not $56.2 million in the bank when the Liberals took office. We've said that again and again, and they know that.
We will cost out what it would take to update that report daily. I stress again that when there is a change in road conditions, the report on the telephone is updated and visitor reception centres are advised.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on transportation division? We will proceed with line-by-line debate.
On Transportation Engineering Administration
Transportation Engineering Administration in the amount of $470,000 agreed to
On Highway Maintenance Administration
Highway Maintenance Administration in the amount of $1,056,000 agreed to
On Highway Maintenance
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could just send over a list of the sections of Yukon highways that are going to be chipsealed this year, I would appreciate it, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't have that in my possession at the moment, but I will be glad to send it over when I have it.
Chair: Any further questions or debate on highway maintenance?
Highway Maintenance in the amount of $28,263,000 agreed to
Mr. Jenkins: When will the Whitehorse Airport be fully operational, its complete length used for both landing and takeoffs? When was the NOTAM going to be removed on the Whitehorse Airport? Probably, when she's in there looking around, I guess the next issue that we're going to have to face with the Whitehorse Airport is the widening of the strip. It's 150 feet, and for wide-bodies, that's considered to be just marginal. The Transport Canada standard is wider than that. Is the department looking at the widening of the Whitehorse runway? The initiative to expand the airport is one that our party supported, but the runway width and length has to be usable for it's entire distance for both landing and takeoffs. When is that going to happen, and what's the game plan with respect to widening the strip?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On the NOTAM removal, we have the full length of the runway for takeoff. We don't have the full length for landing, but it's my understanding that it isn't required. As for widening the runway at the Whitehorse Airport, that has not been considered to this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any initiatives or approaches being made to Transport Canada to get the entire length of the runway certified for landing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have just said to the member, the full length of the runway is not required for landing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister suddenly becomes an expert on aviation. I just hope that one day soon the minister's not up there wishing she was down there - she remains down there wishing she was up there.
Mr. Chair, it's an issue that probably should be addressed and I would just like to know if any of the department officials are making any approach to Transport Canada - the certifying agency - to move the threshold back so that the entire length of the Whitehorse Airport runway can be used for landing.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the member well knows, because he goes on at length about this in every C&TS debate, there are some obstacles at the north end of the runway. We have had some discussions with Transport Canada on this, but don't see anything moving very quickly. And again, as to the widening of the runway, the Minister of Tourism advises me that not widening the runway is part of her clever tourism plan to keep visitors here a little longer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister might want to take the time to review the reports done on the Whitehorse Airport under the previous government. It's very accurate and factual information and one of the recommendations in there - if we want to attract and continue to attract wide bodies - is the width of the runway; it is minimum now, but it would serve a greater purpose if the runway was widened.
I would urge the minister that that's probably the next step she should be taking, along with negotiating with Transport Canada an arrangement whereby the obstacles in the flight path are marked and identified and the full runway width and length can be then utilized.
Now, all I'm asking her to do is instruct her officials to move forward with the task at hand. If no one does anything, nothing is going to change. The minister is charged with the responsibility of overseeing airports, so will she undertake to do that? It will better serve the visitor industry and all of the travellers here in Yukon - those we wish to attract and those of us who want to get in and out on a regular, scheduled basis.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I am confident that discussions with Transport Canada will continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the success of discussions with Transport Canada by the government as of late is very minimal.
While we are on airports, what is the game plan with the airport in Dawson City? When are we going to see some improvements there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Dawson City Airport has a 20-year development plan. Support for that was obtained from the community in January of this year, as I am sure the member is aware. The community's top priority for airport development is hard surfacing the runway. Transport Canada is being made application to for funding of these improvements.
The highest priority from an operational and safety perspective, of course - and we have spoken about this before - is relocating the DIAND air tanker base to the south side of the runway. DIAND has started work on the design of a new air tanker base facility to be completed - the study to be completed this summer.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the other safety issue that the minister is failing to recognize and do anything about is the issue of ramp parking. We used to have fly-ins of up to 50 aircraft, and no longer can they come into this airport and stay because of the inadequacy - I guess let's put it this way, Mr. Chair: Transport Canada is enforcing the regulations as to the distance from the centre line where you can park. Actually the Klondike Highway comes into too close proximity to the runway centreline. I would ask the minister: what steps are officials taking to provide additional ramp parking for aircraft?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the member knows, more apron parking is part of the overall plan for the Dawson airport.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I do have concerns with it being a 20-year game plan. We used to have ramp parking and it used to be okay when Transport Canada owned the airport, operated the airport and were the enforcement arm. Now, the airport has been offloaded or given to the Government of Yukon, and Transport Canada remains the enforcement arm. It is no longer proper to park in the areas that used to be available for aircraft parking. There is an inadequacy of ramp parking for aircraft.
What are the timelines - and I don't want to hear a 20-year game plan - and steps is the minister taking to ensure that there is adequate parking for aircraft? We are losing a lot of visitor business as a consequence of this recently implemented enforcement by Transport Canada.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the critical thing is for the tanker base to move, which will open a great deal of parking. As well, C&TS people are meeting with Transport Canada - today, I believe - to discuss the improvements, and funding applications will be going in shortly.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have is an uninformed minister. If the tanker base moves, when it does move, it will not free up any additional parking for any other aircraft, because aircraft parked where the tankers park are currently illegal.
If the minister, on her next trip to Dawson, cares to look, she will find a dotted blue line. Between the centre line on the runway and that blue line is where the tankers park. So, it's inside of an area in which parking is illegal. Moving the tanker base will not make any more parking available for transient aircraft, Mr. Chair.
It's a very small area, currently designated, where Transport Canada will permit aircraft to park. There's probably room for about 18 small aircraft, Mr. Chair. We used to have fly-ins of upwards of 50 aircraft. Where are they going to park? What steps is the department taking to provide ramp parking?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I presume the member opposite is telling me that all these fly-in aircraft were parking illegally. When the tanker base moves, there are tanks and some bush in that area to be moved, which will open up more apron parking.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's a lot more than just that there, Mr. Chair, and there's a lot of development costs that would have to be incurred. We're not looking for - this is a solution that's probably several years in the making, but there's the immediate concern of ramp parking.
Why was it legal or why was it overlooked for almost 30 years under Transport Canada, and now the hard and fast hammer of Transport Canada is coming down on the Government of the Yukon and it's no longer permitted? The air regulations haven't changed. It's just the enforcement that's much more definite.
When these fly-ins used to occur, all of these aircraft used to park right in front of the terminal, on the grassed area between the runway and the terminal, and there was space for probably about 40 or 50 aircraft there. In all of that area, you're no longer allowed to park aircraft. It's not permitted. Transport Canada is enforcing the regulations. There's not enough space off the ramp in the designated aircraft parking area for very many aircraft. Now, what steps is the department taking to provide ramp parking for transient aircraft who want to remain in Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm certainly not going to suggest to Transport Canada that they not enforce the regulations, in the interest of safety. I'm extremely disappointed that the member opposite is suggesting that the regulations are there to be broken.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what I'm endeavouring to do is look for solutions, not a confrontation attack on the reality of the situation. The minister can't answer the question; she has no solutions. I'd like her to keep in mind that the airports are under her department. Transportation is a necessary tool of economic development. Her approach is proving to be an impediment to our visitor industry and to aircraft coming and remaining in the community of Dawson.
Is she going to send over an offsetting amount of dollars to compensate for the loss of business that's directly attributable to this portfolio that she has, that she can't address her tasks before her, Mr. Chair? If she can't fix it and can't find a solution, I guess there's something wrong. Try another portfolio. But there's a problem with parking. Now, a 20-year plan is not a solution. We have to have this situation addressed and addressed very quickly.
The other side of the tanker base - there's still a vast area that could be cleared out and an immediate parking area could be made there. That could be done in the next couple of weeks. There's a solution. Why isn't that being looked at? Why do we have to wait for Indian Affairs to move their tanker base? They only occupy a small area. Let's not blame everything on Indian and Northern Affairs. Let's not pass the buck. All of that area could be developed to the east of the existing tanker base for off-ramp parking, and it would be legal. Why isn't this being done?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I agree with the member opposite that it is a concern. A taxiway would also need to be built, were there to be an area cleared on the other side, I believe - I see the member shaking his head. If I said black, he'd say white, and vice versa, so the member is not going to agree with me on anything. We agree that it is a priority to do some airport improvements in Dawson.
One of the problems is that the department had been looking at a relocated airport in Dawson, up until fairly recently, and funding for the Dawson Airport infrastructure wasn't included, in anticipation of Transport Canada building a new relocated airport. We have to get this situation back on track, since the decision has been made to leave the airport where it is.
We will take the members' suggestion under advisement, but I think his time frame of two weeks to build additional aircraft parking is a little short.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again the minister is wrong. It's probably less than two weeks to create parking in the area that I'm suggesting. There's quite an area from the tanker base to the east - to the two-zero approach end of the Dawson Airport - that could be utilized for parking, and could be developed extremely quickly. I just shake my head wondering what is wrong with a government that would just bow to the federal government, and not ask for or receive an extension until a two-week project was undertaken and delivered.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Where's this special Liberal relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the Liberals in Ottawa? I guess it has deteriorated now that they're in power.
Ramp parking is an extremely critical issue. The lack of it is impeding the growth of our visitor industry and the responsibility for same rests solely on the shoulders of this minister. I have provided this minister with a very viable option - very low-cost, viable option - but to no avail. They're going to take it under advisement. At least we got that far this time, so I'd like to thank the minister for her overview of the airport situation in Dawson.
Let's move to some of the other Yukon airports and see what we're doing. There was a study undertaken monitoring aircraft in Haines Junction. Just what results have we produced there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't have any details on that. I'll be pleased to ask my officials to check and see if there is any information that can be provided to the member.
Airports in the amount of $5,308,000 agreed to
On Transport Services
Transport Services in the amount of $2,412,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the supplementary information?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, road equipment reserve - are there any anticipated changes in the policy that had been in place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Any further questions on the supplementary information? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if we can just look at the statistics for motor vehicle registration. Again, we are looking at a downturn in private, no change in commercial, no change in dealers; is that the economy driving this situation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: We have finally got the minister on the record that the economy is in poor shape and it's driving down the motor vehicle registration. So I would like to thank the minister for same.
Just to bring the minister's attention to the statistics under the Motor Transport Board operating authorities. When are we going to be in the loop with the rest of Canada, or out of the loop with the rest of Canada and North America with respect to operating authority? When are we going to become consistent with Canada, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I gave that answer yesterday, and since I don't have it engraved in my brain, if the member will be patient while I find it, I will read it into the record a second time.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister, to bring her memory back into recollection, dealt with CAVR and IRP. She didn't deal with the consistency of application of operating authorities.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the federal government is responsible for the operating authority for movements between territories and provinces. There was deregulation last January, which accounts for the reduction in the statistics. Internally, we are still regulated, and that is something we are considering taking a look at.
Mr. Jenkins: That's what I'd like to target, Mr. Chair. The rest of Canada is deregulated. Interprovincially it's deregulated and internationally we're in a North American economy. Why are we still regulated interterritorially?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this is something the department brought to my attention as an issue shortly after the Liberal government was sworn in. I have said we would be taking a look at it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the rest of Canada got into the program at the beginning of this century. Have we got a timeline as to when we're going to be involving ourselves, the same as the rest of Canada, into a deregulated environment? I know it's being looked at. What are the timelines for a decision coming out of the department or at the Cabinet level, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if the member is wishing to criticize the Yukon government for not deregulating at the same time as the rest of Canada, he would be referring, of course, to the previous administration.
I have said we will look at it and we will. It will take a bit of work. I can't give him a specific date. I apologize.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister does recognize that she didn't cover this area yesterday. She was dealing with a different matter, so I'm sure she'll retract her statement and make an apology.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm so glad the member pointed that out to me.
Chair: Are there any further questions on statistics for Community and Transportation Services?
Transportation Division in the amount of $37,509,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Some of the issues surrounding C&TS - and specifically, municipal affairs - that I would like to take up with the minister include the review that was undertaken a couple of years ago by the previous government with respect to the services provided to unorganized communities and the inconsistencies in the rates charged, specifically for water and sewer, and, if any, for landfill maintenance.
I would like to know if there will be any programs brought into place by municipal affairs to provide consistency for the provision of services to unorganized communities. Is that being entertained, or are we going to continue on our merry road of apples, oranges and bananas, and a real mixed bag with respect to the provision of these services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm aware that there are some inequities with respect to sewer and water delivery charges in unincorporated communities. The rates are out of date and in need of review. I have directed the department to provide me with a detailed analysis of the relationship between rural services and rural taxation, including sewer and water charges.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's the first step. Where do we go from there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is putting the cart before the horse again. One step at a time.
Mr. Jenkins: On the contrary, here we have a government that has the ability to mandate that the price of a bottle of beer is consistent across the Yukon Territory and the price of a bottle of whiskey is consistent across the Yukon Territory, but when it comes to the basic provision of water, we're all over the wall.
Now, we have been able to get a handle on electricity. There's a basic block of electricity that is provided throughout the Yukon at the same price, whether you're in Old Crow, Watson Lake, Whitehorse or Beaver Creek. It begs the question as to why the government, this minister and this Department of C&TS can't get a handle on the most basic provisions of human life, which is water? Why can't there be a fixed cost for a provision of that service across the areas served by this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, we recognize that there is currently very little relationship between property tax rates and the cost of providing municipal-type services in unincorporated communities. In my initial briefings with department officials, the issue of rural services and rural taxation was identified as an area of critical concern. As I said previously, I have asked the department to give me a thorough analysis of the present structure and to present options to equalize the playing field for Yukon communities. I am not going to prejudge what that analysis will contain.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other issues that comes up under this area is how successful we are at controlling mosquitoes in rural Yukon and, by and large, I guess in all areas, it has proven to be very unsuccessful this year. Has the minister got any explanation as to why we have been so unsuccessful? I don't want her to rush out and buy us all a fly swatter. I urge her to have a look at the program that's in place and find out what went wrong with it. Has there been any change in the larvicide used or applied this year from last year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, there hasn't, Mr. Chair. We believe the increase in the mosquito population is due to the previous government supplying Viagra.
Mr. Jenkins: I thought Viagra was a drug used by males, not females who lay the eggs. If female mosquitoes are subject to the application of Viagra, as the minister states, I guess we really do have a problem.
One of the reasons provided in one of the newspaper articles was that the material applied - the Vectobac, if that was the product used consistently across the Yukon - couldn't be applied to streams or water where there are fish or fowl. I'll send over a copy of the specimen label from Vectobac for the minister's use. It's approved for use in streams, streams only, metered, undiluted, Vectobac 600L for one to 15 minutes to attain a concentration of .001 to .05 millimetres of Vectobac 600L per litre of stream water; use higher rates when streams or river contain higher concentration of organic material, silt and/or very cold water. So, the excuse that you can't apply it in running water is not an excuse. The fish can eat it; the animals can ingest it; it has no adverse affect, Mr. Chair. We've heard all sorts of excuses, but the program hasn't been very successful this year, and I think it deserves an analysis.
Furthermore, I'd like to ask the minister to table the evaluation of the various individuals who submitted bids as to why it was awarded in the manner it was, because I'm aware of the costs, and it appears to have gone to a higher bidder. I was just wondering why. So if the minister could table the review, I certainly appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, first of all, I believe that male mosquitoes do have some tiny part to play in the number of female mosquitoes around.
We will see what material we are able to table, subject to contractual regulation.
As the member knows, the larvicide used is naturally occurring and non-toxic to humans and other insects or animals, but the mosquito control program does not apply the material within 10 metres of fish-bearing waters or rivers. There is some discussion involved there with the Department of Renewable Resources, which has a definite stake in this, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: That was the issue I was taking exception to and I did check out with the rest of Canada, and for blackflies application, and for mosquitoes, it can be right into fish-bearing waters of all types. It's approved in the rest of Canada. Why there's a concern here, I don't know. I guess we're not part of the rest of Canada in many respects.
I'm pleased to hear, Mr. Chair, that the minister has acknowledged that male mosquitoes have small parts. I'd like to thank her for that very valuable bit of information.
I have some further items for debate, Mr. Chair, under municipal affairs.
Mr. Chair, in her preamble yesterday, the minister provided an overview of borrowing by municipal governments and the formula that is used. Not to go into a long debate on this subject, it's three percent of municipal assessments that a municipal government is allowed to borrow. That's the limit, and there's a caveat on that - three percent of the municipal assessments of which grant-in-lieu or taxes are paid.
If the department was doing a quick and dirty analysis of the amount of borrowing limit of any municipality, they would certainly first look to the column where that municipal government accrued the taxes received from the private taxpayers and the grant-in-lieu from governments and the various government agencies. I am sure that is very much the case, but if there was a budgeted amount, and that budgeted amount was overstated by some $300,000, and that was back-filled with a transfer from reserves, I am sure that the minister would agree with me that that could skew the quick and dirty analysis that the department would take of a municipality when they established the borrowing limits. Can we stop there and get a yes or no from the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this is an area that the member is extremely familiar with, due to his vast years of experience in municipal politics. It is an area that I have only two months' familiarity with, so would he mind repeating the question?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we look at a municipality's borrowing limit, it's set by the Municipal Act as three percent of the total assessment of that municipality. Now, there is a caveat on that, and that's the three percent of the assessment on which taxes are paid or in which grant-in-lieu are received.
So there is kind of a gap. You have a total assessment of the municipality, and the only amount you are allowed to borrow against is for those properties on which grant-in-lieu are received or taxes are paid.
Now, has that sunk in? Okay, we can move forward.
Now, the quick and dirty analysis that any financial individual would do would be to look at the column in revenues that picked up the amount of grants-in-lieu paid or received by that municipality and the amount of taxes received by that municipality, and they would kind of work it backwards to get kind of an indication on the amount of assessment on which they were receiving taxes and grant-in-lieu.
Are we following each other so far? I'm trying to put this, Mr. Chair, in as simple terms as possible. The figure you look at in the financial statement of the municipality is the total figure budgeted for grants-in-lieu and taxes. If that were overstated by some $300,000 and it was picked up and met with a transfer from reserves, does the minister not agree with me that that would skew the quick and dirty analysis as to the borrowing limits for a municipality?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the minister agrees with the member that this is a complicated area, so perhaps I had best review Hansard where I can see all these numbers in writing and work my way through it and then I can give him an answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to thank the minister for undertaking that initiative, but after you start looking at this equation for a number of the Yukon municipalities, Mr. Chair, there is no consistent reporting and no consistent accounting practice applied across all municipalities. So when you start looking at them, you are comparing apples to oranges and it begs the question: why haven't the municipalities been instructed to adopt a uniform accounting system? That's where we are heading.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have talked about a uniform accounting system with the Association for Yukon Communities. The Association of Yukon Communities has expressed some interest but certainly not unanimous, so it is something we are going to continue to work toward. And just to forestall the member, no, I don't have a timeline for him.
Mr. Jenkins: I have another question for the minister. Virtually all municipalities, when they borrow money, borrow it from the Government of the Yukon. Given that there's one fixed annual principal and interest payment and it's simple interest, it's not compounded. So, your borrowing costs and your debt servicing are considerably lower dealing with the government than dealing with a chartered bank, where you have to make monthly interest payments and also everything is compounded, usually twice annually. So, your total cost of borrowing, over, say, a five-year window on a million bucks - I had it worked out once, but it was considerable, given that in a lot of cases the interest rate varies when you borrow from a chartered bank versus the Government of the Yukon, where it's fixed. So, why would a municipality borrow from a chartered bank a sum approaching $1 million when it would be considerably less expensive to borrow from the Government of the Yukon, and the money is readily available from the Government of the Yukon? Why would a municipality do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A municipality is free to borrow money wherever they want, so long as they meet the three-percent limit. The department does check to make sure they are doing that. But, they are free to choose where they are going to borrow.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the variance in the amount of cost of borrowing from the Government of the Yukon vis-à-vis the chartered banks, I guess, why would a municipality choose to borrow from the bank over the government? The exercise is to get the best bang for the taxpayers they represent. If you need to borrow money, you certainly want to borrow it at the lowest possible cost. When you're dealing with sums of money approaching $1 million, does it make sense to borrow from a chartered bank when those types of funds are available from the Government of the Yukon and the interest rates - total cost of borrowing - is considerably less? Does it make sense? Why would you go to a chartered bank? I know they're free to do that, but why would you?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't know why a municipality would make a decision like that. As I said, it's up to the municipality to decide, based on criteria that they set.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we'll leave that, Mr. Chair, but I'd like the minister to spend a bit of time looking at a uniform accounting system for all municipalities, because we're going to get into a number of capital projects in and around the Yukon Territory where contributions are being made and reserves are being looked at, and you want to be consistent and you want to be fair in your approach. The only way to do so is to look at all of the categories and see that we are comparing the same areas to the same areas. I'm sure the minister would agree with that statement.
So, I very much urge the minister to have a look at that. I know it probably won't be acceptable to all members of the Yukon communities, because they each have different accounting firms but, unless we have a uniform accounting policy with respect to reporting assets, reserves, and how reserves are set up, we're at a loss. It is very, very difficult to compare one community to another when you're looking at providing additional funding or providing for basic infrastructure such as water and sewer.
We have a number of initiatives underway today to provide for sewage treatment infrastructure to communities, which is a needed requirement, but our application has to be consistent, fair and reasonable to all. As I said earlier, we have a government currently that has the ability to regulate the price of a bottle of beer and a bottle of whisky, so that it's consistent in every liquor store throughout the Yukon and we have a government that has the ability to legislate or regulate the basic amount of electricity for each household. From one end of the Yukon to the other, it's the same price, but the basic provision of water and sewer is an area that's all over the wall, and it shouldn't be. There should be a consistent rate for the same service.
More and more we hear of cost of service. The order of magnitude dictates that, when you service a great big population centre, your order of magnitude investment on a per capita basis is going to be considerably less than your order of magnitude investment for a community of 50 or 500.
That's the equation we have to work with. I will leave it with the minister, and we can move on, but there is a major issue. I'm sure that the department officials and those in the bean-counting area will be looking seriously at this issue of borrowing limits and how they define and determine the amount of borrowing for various municipalities. They will look at it in light of taxes and grants-in-lieu that are overstated and covered off by transferring contingency reserves that are basically cashed in to cover the shortfall. So, I will leave that with the minister. We will get back to it this fall, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the record, as I have already indicated to the member, we are in agreement that a uniform accounting system would be a good idea. I have said that we are already working on that. There is some resistance from some parts of the Association of Yukon Communities, but we are looking at it because we think it would be a good idea.
Chair: Is there any further debate on municipal and community affairs division? We will go line by line then.
On Assistant Deputy Minister's Office
Assistant Deputy Minister's Office in the amount of $174,000 agreed to
On Lands and Property Assessments
Lands and Property Assessments in the amount of $3,372,000 agreed to
On Public Safety
Mr. Jenkins: Is there additional money in here for the fire smart program, Mr. Chair, or is that outside of this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that is not in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Fire smart funding is in the Department of Economic Development.
Public Safety in the amount of $1,507,000 agreed to
On Sport and Recreation
Sport and Recreation in the amount of $1,778,00 agreed to
On Community Services
Community Services in the amount of $16,528,000 agreed to
On Engineering and Development
Engineering and Development in the amount of $760,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $24,119,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now refer to questions on the recoveries from Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Jenkins: EMO recoveries, Mr. Chair - I know the minister went over it, what does this $158,000 refer specifically to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there's a decrease of $220,000 from the 1999-2000 fiscal year to the 2000-01 fiscal year. Recovery of emergency responses - mainly the Burwash forest fire in 1999-2000 at $274,000, offset by increases. There was a $54,000 increase in the joint emergency preparedness program, JEPP, recoverable expenditure in this fiscal year, and an increase of $262,000 from 1998-99 to 1999-2000 due to recovery of emergency response's expenditure, again mainly relating to the Burwash forest fire, offset by a net decrease of $12,000 in the previous fiscal year as a result of corresponding reduction in expenditure.
Mr. Jenkins: Has the department obtained a legal opinion with respect to the potential of liability arising out of the Burwash fire as a consequence of an employee of C&TS or a contract employee of C&TS having set the fire in the dump?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was a fire at the Burwash dump. The fire was put out. The Department of Community and Transportation Services does not feel it is liable for the starting of the fire.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, so it looks like we are into a disagreement there.
On recoveries further - if the minister dovetails mosquito control from the estimates 2000-01, $17,000 recoverable, the forecasted amount last year was $27,000, the 1998-1999 actual was $16,000. You dovetail that to the other pages, and communities participating in larvicide program were nine and nine. It has been consistent, and the amount spent - the 1999 forecast and the 2000 estimate - are the same. Why such a drop in the recoveries in this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was a decrease of $10,000 from the previous fiscal year, as a result of one community, Carmacks, not participating in 1999-2000. As well, there was a reduced number of visits by the mosquito control coordinator to Dawson, as local staff managed the post-aerial monitoring program, and then there was an increase of $11,000 from 1998-1999 to the previous fiscal year due to some municipalities not participating and lower program costs two years ago.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could bear with me for a moment - what she is saying is that 1999-2000 forecast for communities participating in the larvicide program was eight instead of nine, as stated. Is that what she is stating?
Just go back to page 3-22 - I know we've cleared it, but I am just trying to dovetail recoveries with the statistics, and it is sometimes very hard to do.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we recover money from municipalities, but not from unincorporated communities. This year, Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Dawson City, Destruction Bay, Faro, Haines Junction, Ross River, Stewart Crossing and Teslin are taking part.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister goes to the statistics on page 3-22, it says "Communities Participating in Larvicide Program"; it doesn't list the communities. So we have no idea which communities they are. From background information I'm aware of it, but it states that 1998-99 actual was nine, so what I'm asking the minister: is the reduction from $27,000 forecasted recoveries to the estimates for this current budget period as a consequence of this figure over here - "nine" should be "eight" - or will eventually be eight. Is that the answer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are different communities participating each year, but the number nine is correct and there was less recoverable cost from Dawson, as I said, as local staff were managing the post-monitoring program.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on that area, this year we appear to have been very ineffective in mosquito control. What are we going to do about it, Mr Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the member knows, the Yukon government's mosquito control program makes one annual application of larvicide, aimed at eliminating the early snow-melt mosquitoes. Parts of the Yukon have had an unseasonably wet summer so far, or large quantities of snow-melt water, and that can result in more mosquitoes hatching from larvae which were unaffected by the mid-May larvicide campaign.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it sounds like we have another area in government where common sense doesn't prevail. If we have a late spring, we still apply it early, or if we have unseasonably cold weather and a resurgence of larvae that continues to grow, we don't go out and do a second application or anything. We just grin and bear it. All Yukoners grin and bear it, Mr. Chair.
Why can't we apply some common sense to this program? If the weather is inclement or changes from what we have had, which has been quite an unseasonably dry series of springs this last number of years, with an abundance of forest fires, the smoke subsequently chased away the mosquitoes. We don't have that this year. Very few forest fires; very few applications of larvicide. Just one application. Why can't we design a program that works? We have the technology, we have the people and we have the product. We just have to have the political will to accomplish this initiative.
Why can't we take a simple task like mosquito control and address it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Yukon government's mosquito control program hires an expert consultant who monitors the program and makes changes, depending on weather conditions and other factors. The local helpers are very important to this program in communities like Dawson City. Municipalities have the ability to kill the adult mosquitoes should they wish to do so.
Under certain weather conditions beyond our control, we will inevitably have more mosquitoes in some years than others and in some parts of the Yukon. That appears to be the case this year.
Mr. Jenkins: So, at any given time we don't have control over the weather conditions, Mr. Chair, so we have to alter the program to take into consideration what the weather is doing. Now, I'm sure the minister is going to say that it's the federal Liberals who are responsible for the environment, so they're responsible for the weather, but where's this wonderful relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals?
All I'm asking is for the minister to look at developing a program that works. Certainly, this year and in some prior years, it hasn't worked. All it takes is an initiative on the minister's part, but it seems like we get in there once a year, bang, and that's it. After that, nothing really happens. A helicopter goes around, dumps the larvicide on the suspected areas where the larvae is growing - no follow-up really, other than maybe a little bit of fogging or a little bit of ground treatment. Sometimes, in some years like this year, it probably would be prudent to go for a second treatment. Does the minister not agree? Will she undertake to do a comprehensive review and see what we can do in this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, the mosquito control program hires an expert consultant and pre-application and post-application monitoring of larvae development is performed to measure the success of the application program. The consultant, I believe, has the ability to order a further application of larvicide if he deems it necessary.
Mr. Jenkins: Then I guess the other issue that has to be addressed head-on is the controversy within Renewable, and I don't know if Fisheries are within the equation with respect to what streams you can treat. What are the timelines for solving this dilemma, because Vectobac is authorized for treatment in all sorts of water? This year seems to be the first year that this issue has reared its ugly head. This larvicide is approved for free-running water, fish-bearing waters, waters with all sorts of waterfowl in it, and humans can ingest this product. Maybe that's what the minister's doing; she's having a daily dose of this larvicide so the mosquitoes don't bother her, and she isn't aware that the mosquito population is growing alarmingly around the Yukon. I never thought of that approach.
This Vectobac - she might want to read the label that I sent over to her, Mr. Chair, and probably advise the House as to what steps she is going to take to bring resolution of this issue for the application of Vectobac in its permitted areas, like the rest of Canada.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if the member opposite wants to ingest Vectobac he is welcome to. I certainly wouldn't care to. However, it would be a good idea to discuss the issue with the Department of Renewable Resources and I will undertake to do so.
Chair: Are there any further questions on recoveries?
Mr. Jenkins: On recoveries Mr. Chair, if I can look at the transport division, aviation operations. Just where are we at with the recoveries of CARS and all of our costs that we are incurring on behalf of Nav Canada. I take it that that's where that recovery is from, for the operation of our CARS facilities. I could stand corrected, but our cost to operate CARS has been increasing and yet we are looking at the same estimate for 2000 as our forecast for 1999, which is up some $20,000 over the 1998-99 actual. Is that the case?
How are we going to meet our obligations for these new contracts with the CARS operators?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the cost of the CARS agreements went up, but we are also getting more money back from Nav Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Where is that reflected in these recoveries?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair; airports, $1,305,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we look at page 3-24, there's an aviation operations recovery of $723,000. Is that landing fees and permits? What does it relate to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, page 3-24 is revenue, not recoveries.
Mr. Jenkins: So, all of the CARS additional contracts are covered off by additional transfers from Nav Canada to the Government of the Yukon? Because, from my recollection, our increase in CARS operation went up substantially if I look through the contract registry for this period. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was an increase of $18,000 from 1999-2000 to 2000-01, an increase of $25,000 in this year, mainly due to higher bids expected for the CARS agreement, which expired at the end of March, offset by a $7,000 increase in the previous fiscal year due to emergency response services coverage by staff for scheduled flights outside regular hours of operation - and that was 100-percent recoverable from the airlines - and an increase of $156,000 from 1998-1999 to 1999-2000 mainly due to new CARS funding agreements with Nav Canada, and that includes the move to 24-hour operation at Watson Lake.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned an amount of $7,000 recoverable from the airlines. Now the only cases that I am aware of, where CARS are asked to come out after hours are for medevac purposes. Is that where most of that is recovered from - from the medevac flights? I am not aware of any CARS that opens up above and beyond their normal hours for the schedule. They will stick around if it's a short period of time, but when they have to come back in the middle of the night, that is a call-out, and I believe that is what that refers to. So is this just an internal transfer from Health and Social Services to C&TS for recoveries on medevac flights?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, no, that would cover when, for example, Canadian Airlines is late in Whitehorse, when it arrives here after hours.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, staffing at the Whitehorse Airport is Transport Canada, Nav Canada - how does CARS get into the equation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that figure is not all CARS, it is partially CARS.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the CARS I am familiar with is in my community of Dawson and the only time they are called in after hours are for medevac flights, so there is a call-out paid. I believe there is a four-hour call-out charge for the CARS operator to go out and talk to the carrier and put the runway lights on and the beacon and the navigation aids and give a local weather report. Now, who pays for that call-out charge?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, none of that $7,000 was for medevacs. It was for, for example, having a fire truck standing by at the Whitehorse Airport when Canadian Airlines is late.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm asking the minister who pays the call-out charge when CARS are called out in Dawson City for a medevac?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it's Transport Canada, but I would be more than pleased to check for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Okay. I'm not getting the answer that I believe is the correct one, Mr. Chair. I can understand NavCan paying the bill, not Transport Canada.
I'm just a little unsure about the answers I'm receiving with respect to the CARS operations. They have a fixed contract for a fixed period of time. Their hours are extended in the summer season and shortened in the winter. There are many occasions, due to the inability of the Minister of Health and Social Services to address the doctors on-call situation in Dawson, where medevacs occur in our community. How is it set up where NavCan - I believe it's NavCan - pays this bill for the CARS call-out?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, the member is correct. I misspoke; it is Nav Canada and not Transport Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. But, how does Nav Canada pay this bill? Is this an arrangement above and beyond the basic funding, and we just bill them at the end of a fiscal period? I'm not aware of this undertaking. It's pretty open-ended, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said I believe it is Nav Canada. I will be pleased to check for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd certainly like a copy of the agreement between the Government of Yukon and Nav Canada for the payment of these call-out fees after the normal extended hours. I'm not totally comfortable that this is the case, Mr. Chair.
I know the minister misspoke herself with respect to Transport Canada, not recognizing that there's another agency - a Crown corporation - which is Nav Canada. I just want the taxpayers of the Yukon to get the best bang for the buck. How this is done is usually by offloading to our senior level of government some of the costs that they used to incur. Now that they've downloaded this responsibility to the Yukon government, it sounds like there's a failsafe in this agreement, with Nav Canada and the Government of Yukon. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it would certainly be a dull Legislature if the members opposite knew the answer to every question they asked. I have said I will check on this for the member and I will do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure the agreement between Nav Canada and the Yukon government is a public document. Could the minister just send over a copy of that at her convenience. Next week will do.
Chair: Are there any further questions on recoveries?
Mr. Jenkins: I didn't get a yes or no on that request for the information, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If I can supply the information, I certainly will.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we want to expedite the business of this House, and all I'm looking for is a yes or no. It's a public document. I'm not asking for the moon; I'm asking for the minister to do her job. All I'm asking for is a copy of the undertaking between the Government of Yukon and Nav Canada.
I'd like to see it and get an understanding of the issue. Unlike the minister, who is green, who hasn't got a clue about many of the areas we are discussing, I'd like to be up to speed and have an understanding of the portfolios that I'm a critic of, and it would help me greatly if I could get yes-and-no answers and not all of these suggestions - if I can, or if I may, or perhaps, or maybe, or it's under review. Can the minister please provide a yes or no answer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Are there any further questions on recoveries?
Some Hon. Members: Clear.
Chair: Next page. Are there any questions on revenues?
Some Hon. Members: Clear.
Chair: Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Some Hon. Members: Clear.
Chair: I'll refer again right now to page 3-4. Does the total operation and maintenance of $64,105,000 carry?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $64,105,000 agreed to
Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess before we get into capital?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with Community and Transportation Services and go right into the line items for capital.
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Is there any debate on capital for the office of the deputy minister, emergency measures?
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Emergency Measures
Mr. Jenkins: I was looking for general debate on capital.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, as I understand it, general debate for all departments goes through when we are talking about operation and maintenance. On the capital side, we discuss only line items.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, office of the deputy minister - could the minister provide a breakdown of what we are spending the capital on?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, emergency measures - $10,000 for the seismic design of the joint emergency operation coordinations centre to meet the post-disaster standard by adding some steel bracing to the building. Community television and radio, there is $5,000 required for the purchase of satellite receivers and transmitters. The MDMRS, multi-departmental mobile radio system: $15,000 will be used to purchase replacement mobile and portable radios, and prior years' projects pertains to funding that was required for regulatory project work in 1998-1999.
Emergency Measures in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Community TV and Radio
Community TV and Radio in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Multi-Departmental Mobile Radio System
Multi-Departmental Mobile Radio System in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we go any further, Mr. Jenkins, since there seems to be some confusion with the format, we are wondering if you would prefer to have a minister talk generally about it or line by line on each one of these?
Mr. Jenkins: I'll just ask questions in line-by-line debate. If I would like an explanation, I will ask for it. Thank you.
On Corporate Services Division
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $275,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Regulatory Facilities
Regulatory Facilities in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment
Mr. Jenkins: Somewhere in this area, Mr. Chair, there is a capital cost associated with implementing the solid waste regulations. Just where is it, and how much cost did we incur?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that will be under municipal and community affairs, later on.
Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $450,000 agreed to
On Transportation Engineering and Planning
On Transportation Planning
Transportation Planning in the amount of $300,000 agreed
On Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management)
Transportation Engineering (materials and inventory management) in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On Non-YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway - Shakwak
Alaska Highway - Shakwak in the amount of $25,000,000 agreed to
On YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway in the amount of $695,000 agreed to
On Klondike Highway
Klondike Highway in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Campbell Highway in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
On Tagish Road
Tagish Road in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Mr. Jenkins: Is this painting of the bridges that the now Premier made the great to-do about?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $391,000 is for five projects. $100,000 is for repainting the Takhanne River bridge at kilometre 159.3 on the Haines Highway. $50,000 is for the design of a pedestrian walkway on the Nisutlin River bridge at Teslin. $101,000 is to upgrade the M'Clintock bridge and approach rail at Marsh Lake; reconstruction of the Wheaton River bridge at kilometre 25 on the Annie Lake Road at $55,000 and the Nahanni Range Road bridge at kilometre 174 on the Nahanni Range Road at $85,000. Both of those were washed out by high water.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $391,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister please provide a breakdown of the $1,000,000 for other roads, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that is for the rural road upgrading program for roads mostly in or adjacent to unincorporated communities to improve them to a reasonable condition. Is the member wanting a complete breakdown of the projects for this year?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Okay. Tagish Estates roads in Tagish, $20,000; Taku Subdivision roads in Tagish, $25,000; the Bonanza Creek Road in the Dawson area, $92,000; Henderson's Corner subdivision roads in the Dawson area, $15,000; the Sunnydale access road in the Dawson area, $25,000; the Blind Creek Road in Faro, $40,000; roads in the Little Salmon subdivision in the Faro area, $20,000; and the Mt. Mye sheep viewing road in Faro, $20,000. There are two projects on the Aishihik Road, kilometre 0 to 42, $50,000, and kilometre 42 to 125, $50,000. Pine Lake cottage lots roads in Haines Junction, $30,000; the Signpost Road in Keno, $10,000; the Duncan Creek Road in the Mayo area, $80,000; several locations on the Pelly Ranch Road in the Pelly Crossing area, $55,000; bridges on the north Canol Road in the Ross River area, $40,000; Johnson's Crossing, east side road, in the Teslin area, $40,000; the Johnson's Crossing boat launch in the Teslin area, $7,000; completion of the Upper Liard boat ramp in Upper Liard, $20,000; the Deep Creek south road in the Laberge area, $75,000; the Policeman's Point Road in the Laberge area, $70,000; the Fox Creek Road in the Laberge area, $10,000; Gentian Lane, south of Whitehorse, $12,000; the Kusawa Lake road, west of Whitehorse, $50,000; various spots on the Fish Lake Road, west of Whitehorse, $50,000; and roads in the Mendenhall subdivision, $10,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Is this work going to be tendered to the locals, or is it going to be sole-sourced, or is it going to be done in-house, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the work is mostly performed by local contractors. There will be some contracts entered into with First Nations for this work.
Mr. Jenkins: How much of this work will be sole-sourced with First Nations, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Aishihik Road, kilometre 42 to 125, and various locations on the Pelly Ranch Road will be contracted with First Nations.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have a total? I know that there are two jobs on the Aishihik Road for $50,000. What's the total that's going to be sole-sourced to First Nations, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: $105,000, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like a breakdown on the north Canol projects. I do believe I heard in my ears that it was strictly bridge work. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, it is for north Canol bridges.
Mr. Keenan: And who is going to be doing that work, Mr. Chair, and has the minister or the department had any connection with the round table of the First Nation of Ross River to ask for their input into this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the work project for the north Canol bridges was put forward by the department because of safety concerns on these bridges. Some of the money will be for engineering work, and the rest, I presume, will go to local contractors.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, that's just not good enough. We've been spending money building capacity in the community of Ross River. We've been working with all aspects of the community. This has been a much-needed source of work for the community. I understand that, when you say that you're looking at safety issues first, there are certainly plenty of safety issues that could be accommodated through general labour around the community. I'm certainly disappointed and I don't accept the minister's answer. The department is not to be taking a sole lead in this; it's there for the communities to participate in.
I would ask the minister if the minister would contact the round table in the First Nation - as we have in the past - to talk about community priorities. We've been building capacity within the community, and I'd like to see us continue to build capacity in the community, and $40,000 in bridges out of rural roads with a total budget of a million dollars just does not cut it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in the previous year, Ross River had $220,000 of this program. That was the second largest of the projects last year. The money, as the member well knows, is spread out throughout the territory, and every community can't expect to have the same amount of work each year necessarily. There are many, many, many requests received each year for work under this program, as the member is aware.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I don't want to belabour the point, but I take exception to the minister's answer because that's absolutely and categorically not correct. If the minister would read back some of the items that she listed out - and there are some 20-odd projects, and many of them are a continuation of what happened in the past, in the previous three years. So I take exception to it. It sounds like it's another case of the government punishing rural Yukon for not going that way. For not putting one Liberal seat into rural Yukon, we now have them being punished. And I take exception to the fact that the minister can stand here - we had a backbencher stand here and read into the record a motion about all of the wonderful infrastructure development that is going to take place throughout Yukon. Oh, it sounded like I just wanted to run over there and give him a big hug because it was going to be so good - just another falsehood.
Chair: Mr. Keenan, we would remind you to use parliamentary language. "Falsehood" is definitely an unparliamentary term. We would ask you to retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I'll retract that, but the judge and jury will be the Yukon public, and the judge and jury will not have to retract that at that point in time, because certainly I see it that way personally. My constituents see it that way as I explain it to them. This is going to make one heck of a good mail-out, I've got to say, because they say something on one hand and giveth, and on the other hand they take away-eth. It's all politics to the government at this point in time, and I surely wish that the government would start to show a little bit of leadership.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it is not all politics at this time; it is all about fixing rural roads. Let me see: Tagish, I believe, is in the member's riding; Dawson - there are several projects in the Dawson area. Last time I looked, Dawson was outside of Whitehorse. There are three projects in the Faro area, which, the last time I looked, was outside of Whitehorse. There are three projects in the Haines Junction area, and several other projects in the Kluane riding. There is a project in the Keno area, one in the Mayo area, one in the Pelly Crossing area, two in the Teslin area, which, last time I looked, was outside of Whitehorse. There is a project in the Upper Liard area, so the member is completely wrong. These are, by and large, rural projects. It is the rural roads upgrading program, and they are all outside of Whitehorse.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I am pleased that the minister can make a statement that these roads are all outside of Whitehorse. They are all outside of the Whitehorse city limits, but many of them are in very close proximity to Whitehorse, and it looks like some of the money has been moved around.
I am concerned with the monitoring that is going to take place on this expenditure. A lot of these sums of money are very small, and some of the projects were done extremely well in the last budget cycle, and some of them were with problems.
I'm sure the department is well aware.
I would like the minister to advise what steps will be in place to oversee a lot of these contracts. I don't want to hear from the minister that they're not going to get paid until they're done properly. It doesn't require an on-site engineer; it requires an understanding of what each contractor can do. Usually, most of the rural superintendents have a very good idea about who can do what and the timelines. What kind of monitoring is going to take place with respect to the awarding of this million dollars in contracts, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I do find it entertaining that the member not only asks the question, he also tells me how to answer it.
We will be using basically the same processes that were in place last year - tightening up in some areas where there were problems. Highway foremen will be overseeing most of these projects once again, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's easier if you give the minister the answer. It cuts a lot of the red tape. The usual situation is that you don't ask a question if you don't know the answer. I know the officials are very much aware of the answers in virtually all of the cases that I put on the floor of this House. The minister is still in a training mode - a very elementary and rudimentary stage of that training mode, Mr. Chair.
The department is aware of a number of problems with a number of contractors in the rural roads program last year. How are they going to monitor those problem areas? Because in a lot of cases, it's going to be the same contractors working again. We're going to have the same situations again. What steps are they taking, or are they just not going to award these contracts to contractors whom they have had difficulty with, in terms of quality of work, completion or substandard output?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we will be watching all the projects carefully.
My mother would roll over in her grave if I were half as rude as the member opposite. It's really rather interesting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure my mother and the minister's mother are both in the same place currently, looking down on both of us, and probably do not share the same opinions of their respective offspring, Mr. Chair.
Let's just have a look at some of the other highway capital undertakings. There was quite a policy initiative for new highway regulations and I'm sure that's in this capital area somewhere. It may come under prior year's projects or somewhere in this capital expenditure. Just where is it, and where are we at with these new highway regulations?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is in the O&M budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we go back to the same problem of what is capital and what is O&M. When is the department going to come up with a firm policy regarding what is capital and what is O&M? Painting a bridge is capital. New policy initiatives are usually capital, but now we have one for highway regulations, and it's O&M.
It's very hard to track a lot of these initiatives, as to where the department plugs them in. Will the department come up with a firm definition of what is a capital item and what is an O&M item, and will it parallel normal accounting practices for private industry? I know that the capital side of the ledger, like the building of a bridge, would be capital, a new highway would be capital and a new building would be capital, but in the real world you don't capitalize the painting of it.
Now, I have a hard time finding out where all of these new initiatives are tucked away, Mr. Chair, and, other than spending prolonged periods in debate, I'm sure the minister can find some dollars in the capital program to have a look at defining capital works and O&M works. And it should go across all of the government, not just C&TS. C&TS has some abnormalities, but a lot of the other departments have the same difficulties.
So, I'd urge the minister to give some consideration to a clearer definition of O&M and capital. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, generally, operations and maintenance is an outlay of funds, normally of a recurring or continuing nature, required for the delivery of government programs or services and which do not increase the value or life expectancy of assets owned or operated by the government. O&M also includes the acquisition of materials and supplies that are normally expendable in less than one year of use. Capital is an outlay of funds in excess of $1,000 to acquire and/or construct an asset that has a lifespan of at least a year or to increase the value or life expectancy of an existing asset owned or operated by the government. This must not be for an asset for eventual resale or transfer outside the government.
So, O&M, as the member knows, includes salaries and wages of administration and program staff, materials and supplies to be consumed, and administration or delivery of programs, travel expenses, et cetera, maintenance, repair, utility and operating costs so that facilities and equipment achieve their normal useful life expectancy.
Capital includes acquisition of land not being purchased for resale, acquisition or construction of buildings, works, roads or airport facilities, including the salaries and wages of on-site employees or other staff working directly on the project during the construction period, and provision of mobile equipment and other equipment.
Major works on vehicles, works or building, including modifications that change performance or capability - I believe bridge painting would fall under that section of capital. As well, planning and studies made in anticipation of capital items; grants and contributions used to acquire or construct assets. So, those are some of the things that would explain the difference between O&M and capital.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am aware of that definition, and I thank the minister for same. She would certainly have to concur with me that it would be quite a stretch to say that the painting of a bridge is a capital undertaking. Painting, in every other domain that I'm aware of in the private sector, is not a capital cost. Painting is an O&M cost.
The only thing that the minister could add to that is that we only paint the bridges every 15 or 20 years. We probably should be painting them every five or six; I don't know, Mr. Chair. Just because they're not painted on a regular basis, it doesn't necessarily make it a capital item. So, there is room for a lot of improvements, because it doesn't conform to standard industry accounting. Governments are off in their own domain. Assets are not depreciated over the course of their lives. Mobile equipment is capitalized, but buildings have an effective life, and painting is one of the items I take exception to.
The other area I take exception to is some of the policy initiatives. On occasion, they are capitalized; on occasion, they are O&M. How do you pick out the wages and benefits of staff employees for a capital project? All you can do is accrue the on-site inspector. It's a very difficult accounting function, unless you have more clear, definitive lines. If you start to look in-house, how much of the department's energies go to developing the terms of reference for painting the bridges? Are they capitalized? Probably not. They should be. They probably slip through the cracks. So, there is room, not just in C&TS but across all government departments, to have more of a conformity in capital and O&M expenditures than we currently have.
That is the point I want to make. I would urge the minister to have a look at it. It does raise a lot of concerns. If you are used to the real business world and start looking at a government budget - boy, there are more ways to skin a cat in government than I've ever seen in the private sector.
Most of the areas in the private sector are black and white as to what constitutes a capital and what constitutes an O&M, and you have Revenue Canada looking over your shoulder. You usually have an accounting firm - a public company - doing a full-blown audit, so there are checks and balances.
In this Legislature and in this government, the Public Accounts Committee has a review function, but more often than not, it's this Legislature that looks upon these expenditures and questions their validity - their necessity - and where they appropriately belong - capital or O&M.
So, I'll just leave it to the minister and let her off lightly this time in looking at these capital and O&M expenditures and where they appropriately belong.
Chair: Is there any further debate on Other Roads?
Other Roads in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister just provide a breakdown of what is going into Whitehorse and what they're going to be purchasing for Whitehorse Airport and the Dawson facility on a capital basis?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the airports program capital requirement of $1,635,000 consists of: at the Whitehorse Airport, $995,000 for phase 1 construction of a new water main from Two Mile Hill to the Northwestel property, of which $750,000 is recoverable from the City of Whitehorse.
At Old Crow Airport, $215,000 is for the design of a new air terminal building, geotechnical work, infrastructure analysis and apron expansion. There is a major equipment purchase of $180,000 to acquire a snowblower attachment for Watson Lake, planning and engineering at $20,000 for predesign and analysis in support of airport development and construction, and $25,000 for apron fencing for the Dawson Airport.
In terms of various projects territory-wide, $200,000 will be used at Whitehorse Airport to install new security fencing for overlay patches and to install an electric lock and intercom system; at the Dawson Airport, to conduct geotechnical and legal survey and to design concrete run-up pads; at Old Crow Airport, to do various improvements, and at various airports, to install concrete run-up pads and design of the airport capital assistance program and drainage plans.
Mr. Jenkins: So there isn't anything in here for apron parking in Dawson City. Can I move an amendment to include some, or will the minister just shuffle some around internally?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have already had that discussion. We are having discussions with Transport Canada, and we will look at it and see what we can do, but we're not going to do it here and now.
Airports in the amount of $1,635,000 agreed to
Transportation Division in the amount of $31,681,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Public Safety
On Major Facility Maintenance
Major Facility Maintenance in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Fire Protection
Fire Protection in the amount of $428,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
On City of Whitehorse Recreation Facilities
City of Whitehorse Recreation Facilities in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
On Carmacks Recreation Centre
Carmacks Recreation Centre in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $415,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Reserve Fund for Dawson City Projects
Reserve Fund for Dawson City Projects in the amount of $2,100,000 agreed to
On Community Planning
Community Planning in the amount of $190,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Planning and Pre-Engineering
Planning and Pre-Engineering in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
On Water Supply, Treatment and Storage
Water Supply, Treatment and Storage in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give us a line by line for these two items, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Certainly, Mr. Chair. Sewage treatment and disposal at $485,000 consists of four projects: $50,000 for Klondike Valley sewage treatment to provide for a septage pit; $300,000 for Carcross sewage treatment for construction of primary and secondary storage facilities, with the spray irrigation disposal system to be constructed in subsequent years, pending a Water Board decision; $100,000 for planning a new sewage lagoon at Burwash, which includes conceptual design, preliminary and detail design, and regulatory approvals; and $35,000 for preparation of a water use licence application for the existing septage/sewage disposal pit at Ross River.
Solid waste funding of $500,000 consists of three projects: no-burn garbage dump improvements at $225,000 for unincorporated community; miscellaneous solid waste disposal site improvements related to no-burn solid waste management procedures; miscellaneous garbage dump improvements at $75,000 for site improvements and construction at various unincorporated communities; and solid waste pilot projects at $200,000 to assess the implications of going to a no-burn method of solid waste disposal in the Yukon.
And in the opposition technical briefing, I'm advised members opposite weren't fully informed of the distribution of this line item. The $200,000 pilot project funding will be allocated as follows: Haines Junction, a compactor for domestic waste, estimated cost $65,000. Haines Junction has requested that a domestic waste compactor be purchased for their landfill operation. The current operation takes up a considerable amount of space under the bury management approach. The compactor would allow for the waste to be compressed and then buried in a narrow trench. The savings would be in the life of the landfill. In addition, there would be minimal litter scattered by wind or wildlife as the bales would hold the material and be buried soon after.
In Dawson City, a cardboard baler, power supply and storage facility; estimated cost is $60,000. Cardboard has become a serious problem for the landfill management at the Dawson City landfill. The cardboard is currently separated by the commercial businesses and collected for disposal. At the landfill, the only option at present is to burn the cardboard. This solution would reduce the burning and allow for some recovery of cost through sale of the cardboard. Backhaul to Whitehorse will be investigated as a means of moving the product to a central site for shipment south.
There is a community project at the Mile 9 dump in the Mount Lorne area, sorting tables, power supply and compactor motor conversion to single phase at an estimated cost of $15,000. The objective of this pilot approach is to further reduce the contribution to the waste stream through additional sorting of domestic garbage prior to disposal. This will increase the volume of recycling materials and enhance the financial return to the garbage management society. It will also contribute to lengthening the life of the landfill.
The compactor is an older model on loan from Raven Recycling, which will be used to compact the waste into small bales and then buried. This will also save space in the landfill. The size of the compactor is suitable for such a small site, but would not work for large-volume locations.
Regional landfill feasibility study: estimated cost of $60,000. Investigations are continuing on the transfer station approach to waste management. This was identified in June 1999 by the Association of Yukon Communities' representatives at a meeting of municipalities, communities and First Nations representatives, discussing possible regional approaches to waste management. No formal program has been developed at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we can clear sewage treatment and disposal, Mr. Chair. I was hoping we could spend a bit of time with solid waste. The issue I'd like to raise with the minister is -
Chair: Order please. We might as well clear sewage treatment and disposal if we're going to go line by line.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $485,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, some of the initiatives that we have just undertaken in the Yukon are the no-burn initiatives. I would like to know if the department has costed out what we are going to be incurring by way of O&M and capital costs for, say, the next three to five years, given a normal increase in the garbage load at the landfill sites. I guess, ideally, most Yukon communities would like to see a backhaul situation from their respective areas and you can have it all here in Whitehorse, but that probably is a little bit impractical in most cases. So if we look at the no-burn situation it has been estimated, by individuals very knowledgeable in this area, that solid-waste volumes are reduced by as much as 90 percent when we burn and when we do not burn. Now, given that we have pretty well adopted these no-burn standards, could the minister advise the House of the impact on capital and O&M for the next three to five years?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there has been no change in the regulations on no-burn. There have been demands from people in several areas of the Yukon for no-burn. As to the cost, we have a lot of information, but it would take some time to pull it together.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, this is one of those initiatives where C&TS carries it out and bears the cost, but it's imposed by Renewable Resources. We have two departments of government and I'm sure we'll get into it in Renewable Resources when the minister gets back here next week or next month or whenever. It's on the public record that that minister is at a conference so I don't think I'm speaking out of turn with indicating who is absent from the House with regard to that one minister.
There has been a wealth of information provided, but it doesn't seem like it has all been compiled or that it's accurately reflecting where we're heading and at what cost. If you look at the fact sheets provided on the issue, they kind of promote a one-sided - and you might as well say an unbalanced, unfounded and somewhat alarmist view of the situation, and it doesn't actually reflect on-site conditions, Mr. Chair, given the large volumes of waste that occur in some of the organized communities and given the smaller amounts of waste that occur in some of the unorganized communities.
So, this is an area where the budget in C&TS has, on the O&M side, decreased considerably over the last number of years, and now we have half a million dollars put into the pot to address the capital side. But has the department undertaken a full-blown analysis as to what we're looking at in capital and O&M for the next five years? Now, that's very, very important.
I understand the regulations are imposed on the department by Renewable Resources, but the costs are going to be borne ultimately by everyone.
So, has the department done its homework? Have the costs been brought to the table, and are there some areas where we might be able to mitigate some of these increases in costs?
I happen to agree with the minister, Mr. Chair, that we can backhaul it all to Whitehorse. That would be ideal for most of the rural communities. I would very much like to see that, so if we can negotiate a backhaul rate, let us know when we can start shipping our waste from rural Yukon into Whitehorse.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I already told the member, the department has compiled a lot of information in this area, but it is not pulled together yet in the form of a report for analysis.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, are we going to have two sets of standards - one for rural Yukon and one for the major landfill sites - or are we going to impose one set of regulations? How is C&TS going to accept the standards and implement them in a cost-effective manner? They are coming down the pipe, Mr. Chair, from Renewable Resources, and no one seems to be standing up there and saying, "Hey, maybe we should rethink some of these."
In some areas, it makes an abundant amount of sense not to burn, because the prevailing winds are such that you just don't want that aroma there. Maybe it's time that we looked at where dumps are located. There are a couple of things you learn, such as you don't locate an outhouse or sewage lagoon in the downwind stream of a community. The same holds true for a garbage dump, and, by and large, we've managed to accomplish this.
But most of the dumps around Yukon have been in place for a long, long time. They've service a growing population in rural Yukon, and we have a situation at Marsh Lake, in the Mount Lorne riding, where the prevailing winds are such that if there is a burn that takes place there, it isn't very pleasant. You don't want to have that occurring, so they could make a case for no-burn or they could make a case for the relocation of the dump. Now, has the department analyzed all of these areas - not just the financial implication, but the actual dumps themselves, dump configuration and what we can do to mitigate these costs. They are costs that are growing. In Whitehorse they're going to a full cost-recovery it appears, or they're hoping to get to a full-cost recovery, but it's going to be very, very difficult given the charges for tipping here in Whitehorse. They're not enough, given the added burden that's placed on these landfills. The same holds true for all rural Yukon, Mr. Chair.
So just where are we at, where are we headed, and how are we going to treat this environment of ours in a sound, sane, cost-effective manner?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department has looked at most of these areas. That is a part of the information that has been collected but not pulled together in report form. In due course, that will be done.
Mr. Jenkins: Do we have an undertaking from the minister that we will be compiling this report and that we will look at its full implication? I believe that it is extremely important.
We are having to conform to new regulations. We don't know what capital costs we're going to incur. We don't know what O&M costs we're going to incur. We have an idea. We have an order of magnitude. Given the half a million dollars that the Government of the Yukon is putting into dumps this year on the capital side, we can look at ever-increasing costs in that area. So, is this report going to be compiled - timelines for a compilation - and when is it going to be circulated? I'd very much appreciate having a copy of that report.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we'll now recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01. We are dealing with line-by-line in the capital budget, Community and Transportation Services, municipal and community affairs division. We will continue with line-by-line debate.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, before we broke for dinner, we were talking about no burns, et cetera. The Member for Klondike was asking when we would have a report produced. At the end of the day, there will be a report. The member, of course, can have a copy when it's out. But, as he realizes, it is a complicated area, involving a lot of discussion and a huge expense to the government if the decision is made to ban burning at the garbage dumps.
I would expect to discuss it with my colleagues in depth and have the report ready next winter.
Mr. Jenkins:But the minister did say the end of the day. That's only a few hours away. I look forward to receiving that report. I was hoping that consultation would be quite wide, but is this just an in-house review that is contemplated with respect to the no-burn issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we expect that the consultation would follow the issuance of the preliminary report, so that people in the territory would have some basis upon which to discuss the issue.
Solid Waste in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Flood/Erosion Control
Flood/Erosion Control in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Equipment Purchase
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just explain what we're purchasing here? We have an equipment reserve; we have all those vehicles in a pool. What are we doing above and beyond that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I didn't hear the end of that question.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have an equipment purchase for some $130,000. We have equipment reserves. We have the vehicles in the fleet vehicle agency. Just what does this pertain to? What type of equipment are we purchasing above and beyond the two categories that I mentioned?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the equipment purchase funding of $130,000 consists of two projects: $10,000 is for the purchase of miscellaneous new and replacement equipment used by the branch and for facilities in the unincorporated communities, including equipment for the mosquito control program; and the other $120,000 line item is to purchase a bus for Old Crow. However, as we have heard in the Legislature over the past couple of weeks, several issues need to be analyzed regarding the proposed purchase of the school bus.
The school bus regulations do not cover the use of a school bus in Old Crow. There is a precedent that would be set for all other communities, and there is the responsibility of operation and maintenance of the vehicle. In addition, as I have said, there is an identified need to correct an environmental problem regarding an intermittent creek that flows by the Old Crow garbage dump.
Mr. Jenkins: It's pretty interesting. In a $14 million - almost $14.5 million - capital budget, the minister can't find the $120,000, if that's the case, to provide remedial action to a stream or a creek through the garbage dump.
Well, let's put the record straight, Mr. Chair, with respect to this community bus for Old Crow. It's a community bus; it's not a school bus. School buses are yellow; community buses can be any colour. The current vehicle up there - what the minister referred to as a van - is a 15-passenger van. If the minister wants to check with his deputy minister, they are registered as a bus under the Motor Vehicles Act. It says so right on the registration.
If it's a cargo van, it's one thing. If it's a passenger-carrying van, as soon as it gets to 15, it's a bus. The van up in Old Crow currently is a bus. But the problem is that the bus doesn't have the capacity to carry around the number of individuals such as they need to carry around from point A to point B, which, granted, is not a very long distance.
But, given the extremes of the temperature and given the ages of the individuals involved, I'm just extremely curious, Mr. Chair, as to how the department targeted this one little initiative out of almost $14.5 million worth of capital to cut. How did that come about? That's very interesting.
The previous Government Leader went to great pains. I will give the previous Government Leader credit for the circuits he used to make through the Yukon to talk with the people in the various areas and go over what their priorities were. He did it at very little expense. There was usually the Government Leader and one or two other officials with the Government Leader at the time who undertook this task and came back with the initiatives that were recommended by the various community leaders and people that he met with. I am extremely curious as to why this one was singled out for cancellation by this government.
Could the minister perhaps enlighten us a little bit more? To use the excuse that we needed the money to correct the water flowing through the garbage dump, that just doesn't wash. When the minister learns the budgeting process, as I hope she will come to learn, in the sum of money within this department that she has, $130,000 is not hard to locate and come by.
There has got to be one caveat on that, Mr. Chair - there has to be a political will. In this case, the political will has been lost to meet the expectations and the requests of the people of Old Crow. I think that's very disappointing and disheartening, given that there's probably considerable other sums of capital money that could be cut out of the ridings represented by these Liberals who were recently elected. But oh, no, no; we have to go to the most remote riding in the Yukon and deprive them of something that we take very much for granted.
Why is there no political will to meet this obligation? Why is there no political will to live up to the original position taken by this Liberal government when they were out campaigning: honouring, putting forward and going with the existing budget? Why has that will suddenly vanished for rural Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we have been through this at some length. As I just said, the school bus regulations do not cover use of a school bus in Old Crow. A precedent would be set for all other communities and there is a responsibility for operation and maintenance costs. When I talked to the chief on Friday, he said to me that the current blue van provided in 1995 by the Department of Education, and later transferred to the First Nation, is primarily used to transport children to school. He used the term "school bus" throughout the conversation, not "community bus".
Now, the problem with the current van is that it is designed for a driver and up to 14 passengers. Too many students were getting on the bus and that is an unsafe situation and one that the driver can control. The Department of Education, since learning of the overcrowding, has insisted that no more than 14 students be allowed on the bus at one time.
Regular transportation of students to and from school requires a fully equipped yellow school bus under the Motor Vehicles Act regulations. We have talked about this at length. If the Department of Education were contracting to have students transported in Old Crow, the contractor would require a proper bus. I explained to the chief that the Department of Community and Transportation Services does not provide school buses or community buses. I also explained to him that a 30-passenger yellow bus, as had been discussed, would require the driver to have a class 2 licence and that the driver would have to leave the community to take the test. The roads in Old Crow, in the first place, aren't long enough to take the test and are not designed for large vehicles.
We have been through this at length. It is still under review. The school council has said that it is not a priority of theirs. The intent, according to the Department of Education, is that the van would make two trips. We are still looking at the situation, but at this point, I have mentioned the precedent, the responsibility for O&M and the fact that the school bus regulations do not cover the use of a school bus in Old Crow. Also, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has a 15-passenger van.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back in history a little bit, Mr. Chair. The van, when it was originally supplied, was supplied by the Government of the Yukon. Its intended purpose was that of transporting students. Let's not call it a school bus. Let's call it a 15-passenger bus.
So, let's just knock off these situations one by one. What class of licence is required in the Yukon to operate a 15-passenger bus, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I know that the larger vehicle proposed requires a class 2 licence. I'm unsure what requirement there is for a licence for a 15-passenger bus. And the member is nodding his head. He knows the answer, so perhaps he would enlighten me?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the class of licence that's required to operate a 15-passenger bus is not the standard class 5 licence. It's a licence above and beyond that classification.
So, the same holds true for the operator of a 15-passenger bus, as it would hold true for the operator of a 30-passenger bus, Mr. Chair. They still have to go somewhere to upgrade their licence from a class 5, if that's the class of licence they currently hold, in order to operate this 15-passenger bus.
It's the same with the dump trucks, same with the water delivery truck, and, if it has got air, if it's air-equipped, Mr. Chair, they have to have an air endorsement on their licence. It's a small little "a" on the licence, and these are under the minister's responsibilities, Mr. Chair.
So, to use the argument that the individual who operates this 30-passenger bus would have to go out and upgrade their licence just doesn't wash, because there are enough vehicles in Old Crow now that either (a) the people operating them are doing so illegally, or (b) they are going somewhere to get their licences upgraded to that class of licence that's required to operate that carrying capacity of motor vehicle classified as a bus or a dump truck or a water delivery truck or a sewage eduction truck.
Virtually all of the vehicles in Old Crow have been supplied by C&TS, and the blue 15-passenger bus is still a bus. Now, currently in Old Crow they are having quite a few difficulties with respect to them operating snowmachines, without them being licensed and insured. Everyone has to scramble around and get insurance before they can get licences, and it's quite interesting. The Government of Yukon can just say there are no roads up or no highways and not require any class of licence or enforce the licences to the full intent.
Let's go right around the circle and come back to this van and the bus that has been promised and committed by the previous government. Now, the excuse that the operator would have to go out and have their licence upgraded doesn't wash. The excuse that it doesn't conform to the Education Act is absolutely correct, but the previous vehicle was supplied by the Department of Education. What has changed? C&TS has been in the equation, and I guess, because it doesn't conform, ownership has been transferred for probably a dollar to the Vuntut Gwitchin, so why can't we honour this simple commitment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is an existing vehicle in the community, a 15-passenger blue van, which currently makes two trips to take children to school every day. Community and Transportation Services does not provide school buses. Community and Transportation Services does not provide community buses. That would set a precedent so that all other communities would then expect the department to provide a community bus.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back a little bit in history to Whitehorse. Who supplied all of the Whitehorse transit buses initially?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the first buses, the forerunners to the Whitehorse transit buses, were purchased by the Yukon Women's Minibus Society, of which a former minister in this House, Joyce Hayden, was a prime mover.
At some point, the federal government did provide some money, and there was, at some point, some money from the Yukon government, but that has long since ended and the City of Whitehorse has been responsible for the Whitehorse transit service for some years.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is absolutely correct. Initially, there was a local volunteer organization that commenced the initiative. The federal government had an involvement, and the Government of Yukon had an involvement. And like the 15-passenger bus in Old Crow, Mr. Chair, the government was into it and subsequently transferred ownership to the City of Whitehorse. In Old Crow, it was transferred to the Vuntut Gwitchin. So, there are parallel situations and the Government of Yukon has subsequently increased the amount of capital funding flowing to the City of Whitehorse in order for them to maintain the Whitehorse transit system. There was quite a shortfall initially, and YTG made it up.
Now, it's just an order of magnitude of scale if we're looking at Whitehorse Transit and the City of Whitehorse involvement and the bus for Old Crow and the Vuntut Gwitchin involvement. But I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and these are all Liberal ridings so they were successful, and Old Crow is not a Liberal riding and it's not going to be successful in persuading the minister to honour a commitment that they said they would honour.
Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member loves to say that the Liberal government is picking on rural ridings. That is not the case. There is currently a 15-passenger, blue van in Old Crow that is being used to transport children to school. It is also used to transport elders and dignitaries. It is a functional vehicle.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services is not in the business of providing school buses. The Department of Community and Transportation Services is not in the business of providing community buses.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, they have been, and they were in Whitehorse, and they are treating Old Crow differently. But let's just leave that issue alone. It's going to come back to haunt the minister and her government, Mr. Chair.
I have a request, and I don't know how to proceed. What we have is a situation where the issue I want to deal with under Connect Yukon has been transferred from Government Services to Community and Transportation Services. But we're going into Government Services, and what I don't want to hear from the minister when we get into Government Services is, "I'm no longer responsible for that area. It has been transferred to the minister responsible for C&TS."
Now, I'm seeking your advice about how to proceed with some questions I have on Connect Yukon. Can we deal with it under Government Services, where it is in this budget, and has the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - who, I'm sure, might be more up to speed on the issue than the Minister of Government Services. Or should we deal with it in the preliminary stages of Government Services? How do we proceed in this situation, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. I'll seek advice on this.
Ms. Buckway, the question would be: which minister would be answering for this? And I'll allow you to answer for the government on this - who would be answering questions on this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the responsibility for Connect Yukon is now within my department, I would be answering questions on it.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, would you be pleased with this? Since it is under Government Services, it would be okay for Ms. Buckway to answer for that department at that point, just for procedure to make sure that we clear line by line.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Okay, then that's the way we will go.
Chair: Ms. Buckway, do you agree to that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Okay, then we will go ahead.
So, we'll start again. Does this line item clear?
Mr. Jenkins: We're prepared to clear this line item as long as it is going to be spent according to the budget line item here. But if the minister is clearly indicating that we're not going to be spending it, it requires an amendment to the budget. How does the minister want to proceed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have indicated, we are looking at this item with concern because of the situation that I have outlined, the precedent, the fact that C&TS does not buy school buses or community buses. I did not say a decision has been made. I said we are looking at it with concern.
Mr. Jenkins: The message has come through loud and clear that the department is not prepared to spend this money as allocated here in this budget line. So, I would be remiss in my responsibilities clearing this line unless it is amended to reflect what the government of the day wants to do with it. How would the minister like to proceed? Will the minister bring forth an amendment to this line so we can clear it, and accurately reflect what the department is going to do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If there is any amendment, it will be brought forth in a supplementary budget at a later date.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, supplementaries are usually add-ons. Are we going to buy two buses for Old Crow? Mr. Chair, we are looking at a lapse on the capital side of the equation. Will the minister accurately reflect what her department is going to be doing with that line item? I'm prepared to entertain a motion to amend that line item to accurately reflect what the minister has instructed her department to do.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, if a change is going to be made to this line item, it will appear in a future supplementary budget. Supplementary budgets are not always used to add something. They can be used to take something away. I have said that this item is under review, as are several other items in the budget that I have outlined.
Mr. Jenkins: That's contrary to the information that the minister has provided the House previously. Perhaps she has misspoken herself, Mr. Chair; I don't know.
Given that there's an initiative to not spend that money, the Financial Administration Act requires that the adjustment be made at the earliest possible convenience. Is the minister willing to go contrary to the Financial Administration Act? We know now, Mr. Chair, what this government is going to do. Now they're waffling, saying that it's under review.
If we are not going to spend this money, could the minister please bring forward an amendment on this line, so that we can accurately reflect what is going to transpire? That's our obligation. It is the minister's obligation as a minister of this government.
She knows full well what course of action she's going to take, Mr. Chair.
Now, at this juncture, Mr. Chair, this line requires an amendment to accurately reflect what we're going to be doing with regard to this expenditure. Is the minister going to obey the law or is she going to break the law?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said all along that there was concern with this item and that we were looking at it. I'll say it again.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the Financial Administration Act is very specific. The budget has to be amended at the earliest opportunity. Now, I'm sure that this issue of a bus for Old Crow has been discussed extensively at the caucus meetings held by this minister's government. I am sure a decision has been reached, and the minister conveyed the decision in the House the other day that they weren't going to be spending that money on a bus. They were going to be spending it on rerouting some water that was flowing through the garbage dump.
So, approving this line in this budget, Mr. Chair, knowing full well the intentions of this government, is illegal according to the Financial Administration Act. We know full well which way the government is going to be proceeding. Why is the minister asking us to do this at this juncture? I'd be very hopeful that we could respect our obligations to the Government of the Yukon, to the oath that we swore, and amend this line in this budget to accurately reflect the capital undertaking that we believe is going to happen. We know full well that that doesn't appear to be the case.
We're not going to be spending that total $133,000, of which $120,000 is a bus for Old Crow. Why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when the opposition members had their technical briefing on this budget, they were told the same thing that I just told the Member for Klondike - that several issues need to be analyzed regarding the proposed purchase of the school bus. I outlined what those reasons are. The analysis is ongoing. We are looking at this issue with concern, and if the member wants to spend the next two weeks going back and forth on this point, I would be happy to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I am just appalled at the answer. We have an obligation to deal with these budget items on a line-by-line basis. Now, the line that we are referring to is a small expenditure - some $130,000, of which $120,000 is a community bus for Old Crow. Now, I would be quite prepared to clear this line and clear the whole department if the minister gives us a yes-or-no answer. Are they going to honour the commitment and purchase the bus for Old Crow, or are they not going to honour the commitment, are they not going to purchase the bus for Old Crow and they are going to amend this line in the budget accordingly. Which way does the minister want to proceed? It is a simple black and white issue.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have indicated before, several issues need to be analyzed regarding the proposed purchase of a school bus for Old Crow. One of those issues is that the school bus regulations do not cover use of a school bus in Old Crow. Another of those reasons is the precedent that would be set for all other communities. Another of those reasons - those issues - is the responsibility for operation and maintenance. As well, there is an identified need to correct an environmental problem regarding an intermittent creek that is flowing by the Old Crow garbage dump. We are looking at this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that's not good enough. If we have an environmental issue, we have other places in the budget where that should appear and be addressed. We certainly have the flexibility within the Community and Transportation Services budget to address that issue. The minister might want to sit down with her deputy minister and discuss the issue of environmental liability and thus the responsibilities accorded to this government. There is existing money in the budget to address that issue. If it's a garbage dump, we just put half a million dollars into waste management, into the capital side - half a million dollars into the capital side of solid waste management.
I ask the minister to change her position. This is not a school bus; it is a community bus. That's what it was identified as from the onset, and that's what it is. The current vehicle they use, the 15-passenger bus, is not a school bus either, Mr. Chair. It's a 15-passenger bus. She can ask her deputy minister to check the vehicle registration, and she'll find that's how it's registered. It's a bus - a 15-passenger bus. It's not a school bus. School buses are yellow.
So, once again, I would ask the minister how she would like to proceed. Are we amending this line in the budget, or is the minister going to stand on her feet and say, "Yes, we're going to provide a community bus to Old Crow, and we're going to accept what is in this budget before us"? In which way does the minister want to proceed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I refer the member opposite to my previous answer and also to the fact that if there is to be a change in this line item, it will be brought forward in a supplementary budget in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're dealing with supplementaries to add money to the budget. We might have a lapse in this line item. Now, it could very well be a lapse, but the Financial Administration Act, Mr. Chair, requires that we adjust and amend our budgets at the earliest opportunity. Why aren't we doing that here in this case, because this government knows full well which course of action they're going to be taking with respect to the community bus for Old Crow.
Now, can the minister stand on her feet and just say that they're going to provide the community bus to Old Crow as agreed, or can she stand on her feet and provide an amendment to this capital line item to reduce the amount by $120,000? Which way would the minister like to proceed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I refer the member opposite to my previous answer. If there is a change in this line item, it will be brought forward in a supplementary budget. No decision has been made as yet. I have said to the member that we are looking at this item.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's not what the minister has said in this House previously. The message was quite clear from the Liberals, Mr. Chair, that they would not be providing a community bus to Old Crow. They waffled all around and moved all around the issue and said, "Really, there are other priorities there and we've talked to the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin in Old Crow, and he referred to it as a school bus."
Well, we all get called a lot of different things, Mr. Chair, and, on occasion, they're not very accurate. I notice some big smiles from the government of the day, but the bottom line is that a commitment was made by the previous Government Leader of the Yukon Territory to provide the community of Old Crow with a community bus.
It was duly budgeted for. In fact, Mr. Chair, it's a line item under Community and Transportation Services, municipal and community affairs division, under equipment purchases. It took a little while to ferret out where it was but we have managed to ascertain where this $120,000 is buried.
So, once again, I would like to ask the minister if (a) she is going to amend this line item or (b) she's going to commit to providing Old Crow with this community bus that was promised. It was subsequently promised by the Liberals during the election in that they were going to accept this budget to move it ahead, to provide certainty. In fact, the whole reason this budget was tabled was to provide immediate certainty to Yukoners - jobs, jobs, jobs. They were going to honour the existing commitments. Well, here's the first one that we have eliminated.
Why are we singling out Old Crow? Why? It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever. If there's an issue with the landfill site and problems with that area, I submit, Mr. Chair, we have just cleared the line item for half a million dollars' worth of capital for landfill sites. Surely, within half a million dollars for landfill sites, we have the flexibility to address the erosion through the Old Crow dump?
Now, as far as I see it, Mr. Chair, there are two ways the minister can proceed: commit to providing the community bus to Old Crow or amend this line item to eliminate this $120,000. Which way would the minister like to proceed? Same minister, same question. I'm not looking for her to move all around and skirt the issue. I'm looking for a yes or no answer as to how she would like to proceed - provide the bus? Yes or no. Or amend the line item? Yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I refer the member opposite to my previous answer. One of the priorities identified by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation involves funding for a facility capital plan to chart the future type and priority of capital improvements in Old Crow. This is to set up an implementation plan under the intergovernmental accord, which YTG has with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Funds allocated for the school bus could be reallocated to support this priority.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if that's the case, why did the government bring this line item forward?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have said several times now - I hope that perhaps the Minister of Tourism is keeping count in this case - this is a situation that we are still looking at. There are several issues that need to be analyzed regarding the proposed purchase. I have outlined what those reasons are. We are looking at this.
Mr. Jenkins: While we are looking, I guess my officials are researching the issue and putting together a motion to amend the budget and will bring it to a vote so we know exactly where you sit. If the amendment doesn't pass, one would conclude that we are going to be proceeding with the purchase of this community bus for Old Crow. I guess if it stays in there, which I suspect will be the direction that this amendment takes when it's voted on, we'll just see what happens at the end of the day.
The other issue is what the minister has said previously in the House. She certainly has tempered her remarks tonight with respect to the purchase of the community bus for Old Crow.
Initially, it was no. I don't think, at the time, she could have been more definitive than she was. But now we've come from "no" to "maybe". There is only a short distance from "maybe" to "yes", and that is what I'm hoping the minister will commit to - or decline - tonight. Which way would the minister like to go? Is she going to commit to a community bus for Old Crow or are we going to amend this line item in the budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when the opposition members had their technical briefing on this budget, they were told that several issues needed to be analyzed regarding the proposed purchase of the school bus. I will go through them again. The school bus regulations do not cover the use of a school bus in Old Crow. A precedent would be set for all other communities and there is the responsibility for operation and maintenance. I have said from the beginning that there are several issues that need to be looked at. Those are the issues. If the member wants to go back and forth on this for two weeks, fine.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we certainly don't want to do that, but we would like to get the minister on the record one way or the other.
With respect to the school bus regulations, could the minister advise the House how the previous blue van got into Old Crow? It didn't conform to the school bus regulations, Mr. Chair. It was blue, not yellow. If the minister can recall how it was provided and the department of government that provided it, it would make for a very interesting story. It has come to be known as a school bus.
That is interesting, but I guess today we hear that, in spite of the fact that it is blue and not yellow - it is not a school bus, but it is transporting school children from their respective residences to the school. They have to make two trips to shuttle the children. It's quite interesting - so it is a bus; it isn't a bus. It's not a school bus, but it is a school bus. So, obviously somewhere along the line the regulations with respect to school buses and school bus operation and what qualifies have been altered to deal with a peculiar and different community, and it met the needs when the school population was lower. It met the needs. Now, all of a sudden we have a minister who is hard and fast on school bus regulations and O&M costs. I'm sure that the O&M costs have been discussed with the Vuntut Gwitchin and, like the current van, I am sure that they are agreeable to probably pay for some of them for when they use the community bus. There could be a cost sharing; we have entered into many, many cost-sharing arrangements before. It's not something new. I will take the minister back to the initial pledge made by this government when they were seeking office; they were going to table this budget and honour this budget. Now, I ask the minister, why won't she do the honourable thing and honour this budget.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I refer the member opposite to my previous answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Which was, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, for the member opposite, with his short memory, it is that several issues need to be analyzed regarding the proposed purchase of the school bus. School bus regulations do not cover the use of a school bus in Old Crow. A precedent would be set for all other communities, and there is the responsibility for operation and maintenance.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's paint this new community bus blue and ship it on the Hercules to Old Crow. What are the implications there for the Government of Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is a functioning 15-passenger vehicle in Old Crow. The Department of Community and Transportation Services does not provide school buses or community buses.
Mr. Jenkins: If we were dealing with school buses, I'd have dealt with the Minister of Education on the issue, Mr. Chair. But we're in C&TS, and we're dealing with - as it's classified so readily here - equipment purchases. Now, under equipment purchase in this line, we have an expenditure of some $130,000, and we are debating that budget. The government of the day appears to know full well what course of action it's going to be taking with that line.
So, Mr. Chair, I'd be remiss in my responsibilities if I cleared that line knowing full well that the government is not going to honour that undertaking.
We're charged with doing the honourable thing, and the honourable thing is to, number one, Mr. Chair, purchase the bus and ship it to Old Crow - this community bus. Let's wash out the school bus, because it's not a school bus. It might be used to transport students from time to time, but it's a community bus. That's a given. The second part of the equation, according to the minister, is the O&M costs.
Does the minister have any idea what the O&M costs on a bus of this magnitude are for a year, given the tremendous distance it would travel in Old Crow? What kind of O&M costs are we looking at? Does the minister have an order of magnitude estimate, because we seem to be falling back on the O&M costs. We can paint the bus any colour we want, Mr. Chair, but what are we looking at for O&M costs on this bus?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the operation and maintenance is one of the issues that is being looked at, as I keep telling the member, but he is choosing not to hear me. A bus of the type contemplated would be a diesel bus and there are some storage requirements around that for cold-weather use.
I find it interesting that the Member for Klondike knows better than the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin, who referred to this vehicle as a "school bus" throughout our conversation last Friday.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it appears that the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin perhaps misspoke himself with respect to his terminology of a school bus versus a community bus. They're one and the same to many of the people who I've spoken with. Let's put that one aside; that's not an excuse.
I asked the minister, Mr. Chair, what dollars in O&M costs are we looking at to maintain this piece of equipment for a year? What kind of dollars? I'm sure the deputy minister would have an order-of-magnitude estimate, given it's a diesel and given it's a 30-passenger vehicle. What kind of money are we looking at?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said repeatedly to the member that the O&M cost is one of the things we are analyzing. It is one of the things we are looking at.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, before the minister was not analyzing the O&M costs; it was a concern.
Now, my question for the minister is, how many dollars are we looking at per year for O&M costs on this community bus?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I say again that the O&M responsibility and the cost are issues that we are looking at.
Mr. Jenkins: And I say again to the minister, Mr. Chair, what are these O&M costs that we are so concerned about that we are cancelling this project? Are we talking $5,000 a year; $10,000 a year or $15,000 a year? Just what are we talking about? What sum of money - what order of magnitude - rounded to the nearest $1,000? I'm sure at the break that's coming up, the minister could find that information. Before, it was a concern. Now, it's cause for blowing the whole project out of the water.
Whether the community bus that goes to Old Crow is blue, green, pink or whatever, I don't think that's the issue. Granted, it doesn't conform to the school bus regulations, but I say again, Mr. Chair, if it were a school bus, we would be dealing with this issue in the Department of Education. We are not. We are dealing with it under Community and Transportation Services. It's a line item in the budget that we accept, approve and carry through on the commitment. If we know full well we are not going to carry through on the commitment, which appears to be the case, and every indication of that has been given in this House by this minister, then we amend this line item.
Now, we're probably just coming up to the break. I urge the minister to consider the position she wishes to take with respect to this line item during her break of a few minutes.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the position that I have on this issue has been outlined quite clearly to the member opposite. How many times? Eleven times on this particular occasion. In 1999 the previous government wanted to provide a larger yellow bus for Old Crow. There was a request to the Department of Education to research and analyze providing a school bus for Old Crow. The Department of Education recommended against a dedicated school bus, for a number of reasons, which I have outlined to the member, and the request was then put into Community and Transportation Services, and I have outlined for the member 11 times the concerns that my department and I have with that project. My position is not going to change in the next 10 minutes, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The time being 8:30, do the members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue on capital debate for municipal and community affairs.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I was hoping at the break that the minister would ascertain the total O&M costs for a year for this community bus that is going to be provided to Old Crow. What kind of O&M costs are we looking at? It seems to be one of the major stumbling blocks or impediments to not making the purchase - that and it not conforming to the school bus regulations, which is a side issue. Let's paint this vehicle green, purple, pink or any colour other than yellow, because it's a community bus, Mr. Chair.
Old Crow is distinct. It's different in many respects from the rest of the Yukon. I believe that it is our responsibility, as elected officials, to recognize that and amend the ways we look upon the outlying communities and the way we deal with them. I believe that that was duly recognized by the previous Government Leader when he made a commitment to providing a community bus to Old Crow. He correctly researched the potential or the possibility of providing it under the Education portfolio.
But this minister's insistence on calling it a school bus, which it is not - it can't be. Maybe, I guess, it could be, but then that precludes it from being used for other purposes to a great extent. And it does skew all of the other areas where school busing is provided, according to set rules. So, let's refer to it by the proper name, Mr. Chair: a community bus.
Now, during the break, did the minister get a handle on what the O&M costs were to operate this community bus for a year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I urge the minister to ascertain that information, and perhaps she'd get some kind of respect of the magnitude of costs that she's looking at.
I guess, Mr. Chair, the position that is being taken by this government parallels that of a previous Prime Minister of Canada when he was changing his mind. His comment at the time, when he was questioned severely on it, was, "Only donkeys do not change their minds."
Now, one has reason to suspect that the decisions forthcoming are not in the best interests of Yukon, and specifically Old Crow. So, we'll see which way we're going to proceed.
I have a motion.
Mr. Jenkins: I move
THAT Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be amended in Vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Equipment Purchase on page 3-6 in the capital estimates by $120,000 to read $10,000.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: One second. One second. If the House would please give us the time to respond, we have been instructed to follow procedure to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins
THAT Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be amended in Vote 09, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Equipment Purchase on page 3-6 in the capital estimates by $120,000 to read $10,000.
Mr. Jenkins: This motion is brought before the House, Mr. Chair, to provide some certainty to this community bus for Old Crow, as to which way this government is going to proceed.
Mr. Chair, I would suspect that this motion is going to be defeated and that the government of the day is going to honour their commitment and maintain these funds in this line item. If they choose to do so, they can very well do so. It's up to the minister.
The election that the Liberals recently won, Mr. Chair, was won on the basis of adopting this budget, and this budget includes the purchase of a community bus for Old Crow.
Why an expenditure of $120,000 in a $14.5-million estimate is coming under so much scrutiny is a credit to this minister in not knowing how to address her responsibilities within the portfolio.
Mr. Chair, I'm just very disappointed that it has to come to this level, where the minister can't see the error of her ways and change her mind. Perhaps Jason has provided her with the information, the de facto Premier of the Yukon, and she's not allowed to. I don't know. Again, I might be speculating in that regard.
But this is an issue that's extremely important to the residents of Old Crow. It was promised, it was committed, and why this government would renege on a promise that they agreed to honour and agreed to respect defies the imagination. I guess it all boils down to the lost seat in Old Crow, and they are not going to get the benefit of the doubt. I wonder what the situation would have been in Old Crow had a Liberal been elected, Mr. Chair - probably get two buses. robably see a supplementary this fall for a second community bus. The motion is pretty straightforward. It will send a clear message as to which direction this government is going to be taking.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the official opposition will be supporting this motion to make a point and that simple point, given that we're on the record, obviously as the budget's architects, of supporting this community bus, knowing that it was a priority for the community. The Liberals should be upfront and honest about their budgeting and should not hide behind the guise of, as I said yesterday, or as the minister said yesterday, looking at something or reviewing something to get beyond this budget cycle.
It is clear, from all of the indications that we have had from this government, that they are not going to proceed with this budget. The review is the latest line provided by Premier Cunning to the minister to try and get by the legislative session. We think that the Liberals have to fish or cut bait on this issue. We think they should do what they said they were going to do and honour each commitment in this budget as the Premier said, and as the minister said, before the election, during the election campaign and after the election and in this House. So we will be supporting this amendment to make a point with this Liberal government, that if they have made a determination with the Yukon public, they should be upfront in terms of their budgeting and tell people that. We believe they should be purchasing this bus as they said they would.
Chair: Are members prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Chair: Division has been called.
Chair: I call the House to order, please. The question before the Committee is that Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be amended in Vote 9, Community and Transportation Services, by reducing the line item Equipment Purchase on page 3-6 in the capital estimates by $120,000 to read $10,000.
Would those in favour please rise?
Chair: Would those opposed, please rise.
Chair: The nays have it.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the line?
Mr. Jenkins: So, we have a clear, definitive answer from this government that the $120,000 still remains in this line item for the purchase of a community bus for Old Crow. Now, I know the minister has the ability to move that money out, but I think, and I'm hoping, that reason and common sense will prevail. Like I said earlier, only a donkey doesn't change its mind.
Mr. Chair, there's an opportunity to meet an expectation of the residents of Old Crow - an expectation that was left with them with the tabling of this budget this spring, and again by this Liberal government, which promised to retable the same budget to provide certainty and jobs for Yukoners and to move the economy ahead.
The expectations were out there, Mr. Chair that, by tabling the same NDP budget, the same expenditures would be expected and agreed to. But more and more, as we get through the budget, we're finding areas where the line has a wiggle in it. The wiggle seems to go around those expenditures that have been eliminated, cut or reallocated to some other section of the budget.
We are all looking for speedy passage of this budget, Mr. Chair, but given the uncertainty provided by this new Liberal government with the budget, with what they're going to eliminate or cut or reallocate, it's difficult to provide a speedy passage, where you don't know where the government is going to change from what everybody anticipates or expects or has been promised. What Yukoners have been promised by this Liberal government is that they will adopt this budget, this NDP budget.
Now if they wanted to tailor it to their own situation - add to it or subtract - a supplementary budget is in order. The supplementary budget that was tabled by this Liberal government didn't identify any of the areas that are slowly unfolding as being altered, changed, or we're breaking our promise to that specific group or organization or community. No one wants to see that, Mr. Chair. This Liberal government campaigned on certainty, certainty with this budget. I would only ask that they honour their commitments, and I look forward to seeing the contract registry list the purchase of a new community bus to be flown into Old Crow.
Now, in case the minister doesn't know, Mr. Chair, the window of opportunity is when the Canadian Armed Forces Hercules is here, or, alternatively, you can charter one out of Fairbanks, or, alternatively, the minister can build a winter road and drive it in herself.
I don't think she has the proper class of licence, Mr. Chair, and I wouldn't want her to go through the routine to acquire that proper class of licence.
But in place was a procedure as to how that bus was going to be delivered and the window is still there, but I'm asking the minister not to miss the bus. Get it ordered, get it here so it can be delivered to Old Crow.
Will the minister provide that undertaking, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite keeps asking me to change my mind. Well, I can't change my mind because, as I keep telling the member, a decision has not been made. I never said the decision had been made. I have expressed concerns and outlined competing priorities rather strongly. If there is a change to this line item, it will be brought forward in a future supplementary budget.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, it's our belief that this government is not coming clean with the people of Vuntut Gwitchin, rural Yukon, this Legislature or the Yukon public.
We believe today is an indication that there was an amendment put forward, not by choice of the members opposite but to reflect, under the law and the Financial Administration Act, a change in the budget that the Liberal government is obviously planning based on their comments.
They are now hiding behind a review of this expenditure when they made comments over and over again that they believed the expenditure is not necessary for a community bus for Old Crow.
Mr. Chair, we think that they should be upfront with people so that the community of Old Crow can react accordingly. If it's under review, then that begs the question as to why they said that all expenditures in the budget were going to be honoured. If it is cancelled, then they should indeed say that to the public of the Yukon and to the people of Vuntut Gwitchin so that they can respond to that particular issue.
We need, as legislators, to make this a public issue because it is important that people know where the Liberal government stands. Obviously, the NDP, having been the architects of this budget, putting it together, putting this community bus in the budget, voting for this budget at second reading when we brought it forward, and at reading again, want this community bus to proceed. We think that it is really a travesty that the minister, sitting here in Whitehorse, is going to dictate what's best for the community of Vuntut Gwitchin.
I think their attitude in this is very symbolic for the rest of rural Yukon as to how decisions are going to be made that affect rural Yukon. It's sort of a mother-knows-best approach. People in rural Yukon shouldn't argue with the minister in Whitehorse because she knows what's good for them. And I think that's very inappropriate and that it's something that the member opposite is going to learn some hard lessons on, as the coming years unfold.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it would be incorrect to amend the line item, as no decision has been made. I have explained that. The members opposite have just voted in favour of taking the item out of the budget, so who is not supporting it?
Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite just voted against the amendment. So, does that mean the bus is on? Can she stand here today and commit that she's going to put the bus into Old Crow as she promised?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I can stand here today and say that the decision has not been made. I have expressed concerns and outlined competing priorities. If there is a change to this line item, it will be brought forward in a future supplementary budget.
Mr. Harding: Precisely. The member opposite has taken this new line of the review. Last week, in Question Period, the bus was not going to go ahead. It was as plain as the nose on your face that it wasn't going to go ahead. Now they're hiding behind a review. We're simply stating to the member opposite that she should come clean with the people of Vuntut Gwitchin.
She's now standing in this House tonight telling us that she speaks for the Vuntut Gwitchin. On the floor of this Legislature, she's paraphrasing the chief's words to her, and it will be interesting to see whether her recollection of that conversation is the one that sticks over the coming months.
However, Mr. Chair, our vote for this budget and our vote that we have committed to in third reading is indicative of our commitment to rural Yukon. This entire budget is indicative of our commitment to rural Yukon. We just would wish that the Liberals would be upfront with the people of Vuntut Gwitchin so that they could react accordingly, knowing that this bus has been cancelled by this government.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I say again, no decision has been made. We are looking at the situation because of concerns and competing priorities. I have never said that the decision has been made. It has not.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, such was not the case in numerous questions posed to the minister during Question Period. It was quite clear that the minister was waffling. The minister was looking for ways to cancel this project. I'm sure that the department officials were probably not in favour of supporting this political direction that C&TS was to provide a community bus to Old Crow. I don't know who is running the ship over there, but it doesn't seem to be the minister herself. I am very disappointed.
There was a political commitment made by the Liberals to honour the previous NDP budget, and retable it. The reason they were going to proceed in that manner was to provide certainty. Where is the certainty now, Mr. Chair? How many other areas are going to be under review and looked at within this budget? We've heard of some in Health and Social Services. Let's focus on Community and Transportation Services and the capital side of it. How many other initiatives is the minister not going to be addressing?
I guess we will find out after the fact. I was very, very hopeful that the minister would provide a clear direction this evening as to where this government was heading with respect to the purchase of the community bus for Old Crow. Such is not the case.
It's disappointing at best that the minister would take this course of action. For the life of me, Mr. Chair, I have thought and thought and thought about the rationale behind such a review on such a specific item. The only conclusion that I can come to is: who is running the department, and where are these suggestions for change coming from and the reasons for them?
I know we have a new minister. I know we have a honeymoon period with the press and people of the Yukon, but to undertake a review of that specific item at this late date, after this budget was initially tabled - in the normal course of events, once a budget is tabled by a government and they are defeated, a new government brings in a new budget, a budget of their own making and that reflects their priorities, initiatives, directions and the course that they wish to plot for Yukon.
What we had was a Liberal government elected that campaigned on providing certainty to the economy by retabling the NDP budget in its entirety - retabling the NDP budget in its entirety, Mr. Chair. We have had supps that have been tabled from a previous government, but to retable a total annual budget, that is very much without precedent. This Liberal government gave every indication to Yukoners that the direction and priorities set within the budget would be maintained.
That was a political promise made by this new Liberal government. So much for political promises, so much for Liberal political promises. We were promised that this wonderful, cozy relationship between the Liberals in the Yukon and the Liberals in Ottawa would do wonderful things for us here in the Yukon, but we know where that relationship is at. The telephone lines between the Yukon and Ottawa probably have a surcharge on them from Northwestel, and they can't afford to make those calls or something, or they're not answering, or they fail to recognize that there's a three-hour time zone change and they're calling at the wrong time. I don't know what it is, but the message coming through is not one of certainty, like tabling this budget or looking at this budget being used in its entirety as a tool to get the economy going, to create jobs, to provide certainty. That's not occurring. Why? It's because this government has begun the process of cherry-picking. Instead of being upfront and saying yes or no, or "We are going to amend this," or "We're going to alter that," the tack taken by this government is, "We're going to review it."
We have heard from numerous ministers in this government who have said that we are looking at up to 10-year reviews on some of the initiatives that this government has - 10-year reviews. Mr. Chair, it might be prudent to look at the period of the mandate that this government has.
We start looking at this specific line item of the purchase of a community bus for Old Crow, and not to get a definitive answer at this stage, after this length of debate, it bodes well for the minister, her department and her government.
It bodes well for them, not knowing where we're heading or how to get to where we will eventually be. It appears that they don't know.
Let's just have a look at this one more time. I recognize that the motion has been defeated and it is still in the budget. Can the minister give kind of an evaluation of where this review process is. Is there an 80-percent chance of the Old Crow Vuntut Gwitchin getting this bus - 50-percent or 10-percent chance? Just where are we in the deliberation process? When will a decision be forthcoming?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, a decision will be made when we finish looking at the issues surrounding this line item. As I keep telling the member, it would be incorrect to amend the line item, as no decision has been made. If there is a change, it will be brought forward in a future supplementary budget. I don't believe I can get any clearer than that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was the minister herself who answered numerous questions in this House from the members of the official opposition and the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. She is firmly on the record as saying a number of things: the situation for the bus is under review and that they have other spending priorities. This would lead one to conclude that the bus has been cancelled, because that information flows through quite readily when a decision is made.
Mr. Chair, I'd ask the minister to ascertain the delivery on a bus of this nature - a community bus for 13 passengers. What's the lead time on delivery? I'm sure that all that information is there. What is the cost of flying it into Old Crow if we miss the Canadian Armed Forces airlift? What's the deadline according to delivery of this coach or this community bus to Whitehorse and what is the deadline on meeting the Canadian Armed Forces carrier trip into the community of Old Crow? What sort of deadlines are we looking at?
Certainly, that decision to purchase this community bus is looming very, very quickly. So I guess, if we postpone the decision until after the date that we can have that community bus arrive in Whitehorse, we can fall behind the excuse that, "Well, we didn't order it in time; it's not here so we can't ship it in."
We can come up with all sorts of excuses if we really look, and I'm sure we're going to be finding those excuses quite readily.
It boils down to two questions: the colour of the bus and what the O&M costs are. What is the delivery time - the lead time - on a community bus, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I say again, I have never said the decision has been made. I have strongly expressed concerns and outlined competing priorities.
Estimated costs of the bus include the price for a demonstration model of the bus, $62,500. The cost for a new bus is $70,000-plus. That does not include GST or licence fees. Approximate shipping costs from Alberta to Old Crow are $17,000. Those are the figures I have available, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the minister's information, she doesn't pay GST. Governments do not pay GST. What is the delivery time from the time of placing the order we can take delivery of this type of vehicle.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't have that information in front of me.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, normally the delivery time is a minimum of six weeks. It's not something that they take off the shelf. The demand is usually there for the fall season - the start of the school year - for these types of vehicles to be delivered, and there is not a great number of manufacturers of these types of units. So, I don't want the excuse to be forthcoming this fall that we didn't order it in time to take delivery of it on time and get it to Old Crow on time.
Has the minister even asked her officials about delivery of this piece of equipment and what the lead time is on the acquisition of this type of piece of equipment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is putting the cart before the horse, again. We need to address the issues I have outlined for the member and would be delighted to outline for him again.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we've moved on from that point. We're just examining the acquisition of this piece of equipment. From the time that the purchase order has been placed with this supplier, what is the delivery time?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It would depend on whether it's a demonstration model, a new bus or a used bus. The delivery times could vary widely.
Mr. Jenkins: I can understand buying a demo model, and I can understand buying a new model. Why would she even consider a used model, Mr. Chair? Is it the same people advising her not to buy it, or what's the problem?
Why would she even consider a used model, especially given the remoteness of the community, the servicing of the vehicle in Old Crow? You'd want to ensure close to 100-percent reliability for the life of the vehicle, and that usually is accomplished by buying new. Why would she deviate from that kind of position?
I wasn't aware that anyone bought used buses, other than in the government sector. I was aware of some specific equipment handling for the Whitehorse Airport that has been bought new, but I'm not aware of too many occasions where the Government of Yukon has bought used equipment of this nature.
Why are we changing our position on that, and why would we even consider used buses?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we're looking at all of the options, and this discussion has now moved on into the hypothetical, as no decision has been made.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it might be hypothetical this fall, if the purchase is not proceeded with. But the minister is going to stand in the House and say, we didn't make the decision in time to order it for this budget cycle, but it's under review, and we'll look at it next year. Now, again, that's hypothetical, but it has occurred time and time again.
Mr. Chair, there is another issue surrounding the acquisition of this bus that intrigues me. Was information supplied to the minister from the political arm of government to not proceed with the purchase of this bus and to put it under review, or was that from the department - to not proceed with the review and just put it on hold, have a look at it and not proceed with it? I'm interested as to what area the request came from - the political arm of government or the department. That should probably define where we have a difficulty with the acquisition of this coach - if it's an internal department difficulty or a political difficulty - given the election results in Old Crow.
I don't know which way the decision came from, but there was certainly some information that flowed before this review was undertaken. How and where, I do not know.
Given the time, I move that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by the government House leader 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, 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.
Order please. The time being 9:30 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until l:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.