Thursday, July 6, 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.
In remembrance of Chris Guichon
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to Chris Guichon.
Chris' Nancy has joined us in the gallery, along with many of Chris' colleagues. All members of this House offer you our heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your husband, your best friend, your colleague.
Chris was born in British Columbia and passed away in a helicopter accident near Atlin on June 22. Although that province may have given and claimed his life, Chris was one of ours - a Yukoner through and through. Chris was one of us, and flying helicopters was Chris.
Family, friends and fellow pilots spoke of him in a farewell service, just as Chris would have spoken - with love for what he did, trust, laughter and tears, and always with respect.
Father Jim Bleackley conducted the service and reminded all of us of how our faith is shaken at times like this, when we lose someone like Chris; that it is the trite phrases that are the quickest to come to mind. If a confession is in order, Mr. Speaker, in commenting upon the words of the priest, I must say that certainly it was the phrase, "He was the best" that came to my mind when Father Jim spoke.
Chris was known throughout the Yukon as simply the best when it came to flying a helicopter. The hardest part of the service came for many of us when Bob Cameron, in speaking of the late chief pilot, noted that the sign still hanging on Chris' door said, "Gone flying". That is what Chris loved to do.
Chris also was a people person. He loved the people he was with, whether they be in the world-wide aviation community or us northerners. Father Jim reminded us, in offering his sympathy, of the strength of our community, and the importance of the time that we give to it. Although our time with Chris was far, far too short, his presence in this world made the Yukon community a better place.
We will become a stronger community as we cope with his loss. We will not forget Chris Guichon.
Again, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Yukoners, all members of this House, I offer to Nancy, the Guichons and his colleagues, his brothers and sister, his friends everywhere, our heartfelt sympathy.
In recognition of Sarah Abel-Chitze - Vuntut Administration Building
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of all members of this Legislature to pay tribute to the people of Old Crow, as this weekend they dedicate their new Vuntut Gwitchin administration building to Sarah Abel-Chitze. In this time full of changes, the people of Old Crow have always been able to make adjustments and keep up with a fast-paced world, while remaining true to the traditional lifestyle of our ancestors. Today I would like to pay tribute to the people of Old Crow for continuing to show leadership with guidance from our elders of the Vuntut Gwitchin nation.
This is a day to remember as community members continue our work in the new administration building that bears the name of Sarah Abel-Chitze. Mrs. Chitze was a proud Gwitchin woman and a great leader of her people. She always had a word of advice and guidance leaving one with a warm, loving feeling. She blessed each of us with her gift of her wisdom, honour, dignity and respect for all people. She left us with a legacy of hope that we, the Gwitchin Nation, will always hold onto our strong values and our traditional lifestyle. She encouraged us to work together in unity for the children of tomorrow. Mashi'cho.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Tucker: I would like to welcome today Kirk Potter, Alice Patnode, Logan and Mac, and their guests from Germany, the Wegner family. Welcome to the Yukon and enjoy your stay here, and we're happy to have you.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 1 - response
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the petition put forward by the Member for Klondike. I would first like to mention that the Yukon Liberal government welcomes petitions as an opportunity to receive feedback from Yukoners. I commend the member opposite for doing this, for taking this initiative and bringing this petition to the House. I am hopeful that Yukoners also want to know when the information they are receiving is correct and when it is not correct.
The petition submitted is not word-for-word factual. The member opposite tends to go off like Chicken Little before getting his facts straight. My message to Yukoners is that the sky is not falling.
The Department of Health and Social Services did not establish an open custody group home for young offenders at Bear Creek. It is important to note the difference between an open custody home and an open custody group home.
The difference is that a group home typically operates with paid staff who work shifts and it also accommodates from four to 10 youth at any one time.
The Yukon open custody program uses caregiver homes, which are private, family homes. There are no paid staff in this home. The family is paid a per diem for each day that the young offender spends in the home. The maximum number allowed in a home is two, with one being preferable.
The petition continues on to state the following words - and I quote - " without first consulting the local neighbourhood, in contravention of departmental policy." Mr. Speaker, there are two issues with this wording. First, there is an inference that the department policy was not allowed and not followed. Mr. Speaker, this is not true. Open custody homes are designated in accordance with the Young Offenders Act. The director of family and children's services completes the designation, based on the recommendations of the open custody staff.
Currently, the department recommends and requests that anyone who wants to set up an open custody home consult with their immediate neighbours in order to determine and build support for having the home operate as an open custody home.
However, there is no obligation under the Yukon Young Offenders Act for the department to consult with the community or neighbourhood prior to setting up an open custody home.
To improve the standards of consultation, we are working on designing clear public guidelines. These guidelines could include the possibility of open neighbourhood meetings to occur. As well, a letter of intent could be sent out to the outlying neighbours. We expect to have these types of guidelines take the form of a policy in the coming months.
My second issue with the wording of the petition is the inference that the family did not consult their neighbours. Mr. Speaker, this is not true. The family has organized meetings to consult with neighbours and has received much positive feedback about their interest in establishing an open custody home. The only negative feedback has been the difficulty in clarifying that the home is not a group home. And may I underline that, Mr. Speaker - not a group home.
The petition presented by the Member for Klondike may perhaps mislead Yukoners to believe no consultation is being done, and it may mislead Yukoners to believe that the Bear Creek home has been designated as an open custody facility. Mr. Speaker, setting the record straight again for the Member for Klondike, the facts are that the department has been actively seeking open custody caregivers in communities outside Whitehorse. While the majority of caregivers are located in Whitehorse, many of the young people requiring open custody care are residents of communities outside Whitehorse. It is wonderful to have families within the communities seek the opportunity to be an open custody caregiver.
Last year the family of Bear Creek home had expressed interest in setting up an open custody home. In order to be approved as an open custody caregiver, a home study is required. The home study was done in December 1999. The Bear Creek home was not designated an open custody facility at that time - and may I underline that again - Mr. Speaker, not. It was decided that a designation would be made if and when a suitable open custody placement was arranged with the family. The Ancient Voices camp is owned by the family who owns the Bear Creek home, so there may have been some confusion there, with the home in Bear Creek and the Ancient Voices camp, which is down river. It has been designated as an open custody facility as of June 21, 2000. We are aware of the confusion of this issue - confusion no doubt stirred up by the Member for Klondike.
Early next week, the manager responsible for the open custody program will go to Dawson City to meet with concerned Bear Creek residents. Staff in my department are making the necessary arrangements for this meeting, Mr. Speaker, and it is hoped the meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 11. It's an open meeting; anyone interested in attending this meeting may indeed attend. They can meet privately with the departmental staff, whatever way they wish to consult; they are able to do that. They can contact the Dawson City office, or my department, if they wish to have further connections.
We look forward to receiving feedback from Yukoners. That's what we're all about, Mr. Speaker, whether it's in the form of a petition or a phone call, it is all appreciated. I think there are a number of things, if you want to go through the real issue of looking at the specifics, Mr. Speaker. The court has a lot to say about what happens with our youth.
We, as a community, must look for answers and responses. We are basically working at our best to do this, but we must make sure that we have all the facts and all the issues. If we don't, we confuse people. We confuse Yukoners who want to do the right thing and want to be partners in the process of rehabilitation.
I commend all those caregivers who take on this responsibility in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. It is a noble job and a hard job. We, on this side of the House, believe that they deserve no end of thanks for what they're doing. They just deserve all we can give them.
We are taking steps, Mr. Speaker, to set the record straight. Hopefully the residents of Bear Creek understand where we are currently at; hopefully we can work with the Member for Klondike to build a better program for the future so that we can get all the information that Yukoners need in order to make the right decision. Thank you.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the official opposition has been outspoken in its support for a new school bus for Old Crow;
(2) the official opposition voted to remove the expenditure for the bus from the budget on July 5, 2000;
(3) these positions are completely contradictory;
(4) the NDP has broken its commitment to support the budget; and
THAT this House urges the NDP, and all members of the opposition, to follow through on previous commitments in order to create certainty for all Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Liberal government should continue the work of the previous NDP government in pushing for a northern gas pipeline from Alaska to follow the Alaska Highway route, as opposed to one that jeopardizes our north coast and the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd; and
(2) the pursuit of megaprojects, which are ultimately directed and controlled by economics and world markets, should not be the sole basis of any future economic strategy for the Yukon; and
(3) megaprojects such as the Alaska Highway pipeline can precipitate large economic cycles and have many social impacts; and
(4) the Yukon government has a responsibility to ensure that resource developments occur in a manner that is economically viable, environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government, while pursuing the benefits of an Alaska Highway pipeline route, to continue to pursue other sustainable economic diversification initiatives that will broaden our economic base and make a positive contribution to the people of the Yukon.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Liberal government made a commitment to Yukon people to adopt the budget initially tabled by the previous NDP government in its entirety; and
(2) the provision of a community bus to the community of Old Crow, at a cost of $120,000, was clearly identified as a commitment in that budget; and
(3) this provision, which was made by the previous NDP government in direct response to requests from the community of Old Crow, has the full and unwavering support of the official opposition; and
(4) the Liberal government, as recently as Wednesday, July 5, reconfirmed that fact that this commitment is in the budget; and
(5) the Premier has acknowledged that the finances of the territorial government are in a healthy state, including an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
(6) the Liberal government has been meeting its ongoing financial obligations through Special Warrants, based on the spending commitments in the budget first introduced on February 21, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it said it would do, by directing the Department of Community and Transportation Services to release the necessary funding from its Special Warrant allocations to facilitate the immediate purchase of a community bus for Old Crow.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Family day homes, CSA standards
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask a question of the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the minister told this House, with regard to the concern of family day homes having to adopt CSA standards, which the Liberals opposed while in opposition just three months ago, that this was a situation in which he would have to fix the NDP mistakes. When he said that, did he mean it was a mistake to bring in CSA standards for family day homes or not to bring them in?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the issue of standards set by the Canadian Standards Association has to do with developing appropriate standards for the appropriate environment. This issue was on my desk, as I'd mentioned earlier, when I first assumed the office of Health minister. It was an issue raised by my colleague, the hon. Sue Edelman, and, of course, the issue was not dealt with by the previous government. Basically, it was left hanging, and when the election was called, finding that it was a hot potato, they decided to put a moratorium on it, Mr. Speaker. So, this moratorium is still in place.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, that doesn't come close to answering the question. The minister is standing here whimpering about having tough issues. There are going to be hundreds of them for the minister. The NDP couldn't solve them all for the member opposite. It's bad enough they're using our budget and our agenda. Now they want us to solve every issue for them.
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member again. Did he mean it was a mistake to bring in CSA standards for family day homes or not to bring them in? What's his direction?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, it's always rather interesting to listen to the opposition talking about their budget. They won't even support their budget. This happened last night. They did not support their own budget, so I'm not sure what they mean by the fact that we won't support it. We want to see the budget through so that we can get Yukoners back to work. There seems to be some obstruction about passing the budget.
In response to the question, Mr. Speaker, we, as a government believe, as I shared earlier, in consultation. I put a word on that. I call it "honest consultation". We, as a government, believe in working with all the parties that are affected by whatever rules or policies that are being put in place.
I have to share with you that, at the time I assumed office, it was apparent that not all the stakeholders had been involved in this process and that, basically, we ended up in a situation that had to be put into what is called a box. In order to make changes, we have to be able to hear all the thoughts about where the previous government went wrong. If it went right, it would have been passed. It would have had no comments; everyone would have supported it.
A review is an inclusive process, where stakeholders can be heard. We are reviewing where we are with all the stakeholders, and I underline the word "all". We hope that in the next month we will have the conclusion of this review -
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, again, the minister did not answer the question. I want to point out to the member opposite that the NDP was consistent with this budget. We voted for it before the election, when the Liberals voted against it, and we voted for it after the election, when the Liberals decided to flip-flop and vote with us on the budget that they now have brought forward and own.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had a firm position on these standards for family day homes before the election and during the election campaign. They said that the CSA standards were ridiculous and nonsensical. Now, there is no position.
The minister must answer the question. When he said he had to fix the mistakes, did he mean that he wants to bring in the CSA standards or that he is not going to bring in the CSA standards?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, we are trying to fix another one of the NDP mistakes. One of the steps taken to help remedy the situation is that we are meeting next Monday. There is a meeting of all stakeholders involved in this important issue, representing the Yukon Child Care Board, which will be sort of our moderators - that's why the board was put in place, to help make decisions. We will be hearing presentations from the Childcare Association, from the informal day care directors group, the Society for Yukon Family Day Homes and the childcare services of the department. We are going to do it right. We are not going to do it instantly. Obviously, there are many problems with it. We are making sure, as I have said over and over again, that we're consulting. We're basically trying to do it the way it should have been done initially. I can tell you, if we do it the right way, people will accept it.
Question re: Family day homes, CSA standards
Mr. Harding: I look forward to that, Mr. Speaker. I want to point out the obvious, which is that the Liberals had a firm position before the election. They knew all the answers. Now they're hiding behind what they call consultation. Well, the NDP also consulted with all of the people whom the members opposite just mentioned, but it's a tough decision and a tough issue. Yesterday the minister said he had legal opinions, they were in, and they were complete on this issue. I want to ask him: do they say that Yukon taxpayers have a legal liability if the Yukon government doesn't have family day homes adopt these standards or not?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, he is trying to be hypothetical. He's trying to say, "Well, these are what the results are." We're still in the process of consulting, Mr. Speaker, and we're not going to change that. I think, basically, that all of those issues, be it the legal opinions, will be part of that process, and the final option, once we have all the information, will then be going to caucus and Cabinet. Then a decision will be made. We believe in making sure that we follow the steps.
Mr. Harding: For the record, for the fourth time, the minister didn't answer the question. And I want to point out that the Standing Orders of this House say that a question that's hypothetical is out of order; therefore, if the member were correct, the Speaker would rule me out of order on the question, so he's wrong when he says it's a hypothetical question. Yesterday, he stood up and said that there were three legal opinions. I want to say to him now that we want to know what the legal opinions say. So can he stand up today and tell us if the opinions say that Yukon taxpayers have a legal liability if these standards are brought in or not?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I think, once again, trying to guess what the final analysis is going to be is one of the habits that the opposition uses all the time. When all this information has been gathered, Mr. Speaker, it will all be forthcoming, and they'll be one of the first ones to get a copy of it and then they can do their grand staging then, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the NDP is far from grandstanding; we had to endure the Member for Riverdale South, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, promising the sun, the earth, the moon and the stars to all the family day home operators. saying she was going to bring in made-in-the-Yukon standards. Mr. Speaker, we were trying to say that the issue is a tough one and it should be reviewed, and we should do proper due diligence and get the legal opinions. At that time, the Liberals said that that was not good enough and we shouldn't be hiding behind legal opinions. Well, now the legal opinions are in; the minister said so yesterday. What do they say? Do Yukon taxpayers have a legal liability if these standards are not brought in for family day homes, or not?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, I think one thing we should straighten out, Mr. Speaker, is that, you know, consultation is one thing but promises are another, and keeping your promise is another one. What we are trying to do is to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that we make the right decision for the right reasons.
I think the important part is that I am not going to stand here and pre-judge a task we have assigned to our committees; that's what should have been done in the first place, Mr. Speaker. Even though they state very clearly that this issue was consulted on with all the stakeholders, if it was, then why did we have a problem? Why was there a moratorium put on the CSA standards during the election? It's very obvious - because they had not consulted with all the stakeholders.
I have a letter here that states very clearly, Mr. Speaker, that not all the stakeholders were consulted, and they're working with us to ensure that we arrive at the right answers.
Question re: Land claim renegotiating loans, repayment of
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Mr. Speaker, the settlement of Yukon Indian land claims was supposed to be the top priority of this Yukon Liberal government but, to date, we haven't witnessed any evidence whatsoever of this. Instead, what Yukoners have witnessed, as a consequence of the failure to make progress on land claims, is a devastation of the Yukon economy.
Now the two major federal issues blocking progress on land claims are the repayment of land claims negotiating loans and section 87, income tax exemption.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to propose a solution to one of those issues here today - the repayment of the negotiating loans. I believe it is unrealistic to expect the seven First Nations that have yet to sign to pay the federal government over half to as much as 65 percent of their settlement money. Effectively, these First Nations are being penalized for causing all the delays in the 27 years it has taken to negotiate the claims, which just isn't true and it is not fair. So I'd ask the Premier if she will accept the proposed solution whereby each party to the agreement accepts one-third of the responsibility. Now, I know she can only speak on behalf of the Government of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, but if the Yukon government, the First Nations and the federal government, shared the responsibility equally for paying the outstanding land claims negotiating loans, we can move ahead. It'll stop the roadblock; we can move ahead. Will the Premier consider such a proposal and, if not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'd to thank the member opposite for putting forward a constructive suggestion on the settlement of Yukon land claims. The seven outstanding land claims are a priority of this government and I'd like to address a number of the points the member opposite raised. This government has not "done nothing" as the member intimated in his question. I have attended principals meetings, which went ahead as scheduled in spite of a change in government. We have worked hard to ensure we're up to speed. Land claims negotiating tables that were active before the election continue to be active. I have worked with Yukon First Nations chiefs - I have met with a number of them - and have additional meetings scheduled where there are seven unsettled claims.
The work continues and we are working very hard on this issue. The member has correctly pointed out that there are two major federal issues. The member has made a suggestion with respect to one of those federal issues, the repayment of loans. I thank the member for the suggestion. I'm not going to negotiate land claims on the floor of this House. I thank the member for his suggestion, and we'll take it into consideration.
Mr. Jenkins: Again, time is running out. Currently, a new, powerful, federal independent agency is being proposed to rule on outstanding claims. Now, this proposed agency will have two parts, both to help negotiate claims and a tribunal to make binding decisions should negotiations fail. It also has a cap of $5 million on each claim.
Now, such an agency, if utilized in Yukon, would mean Yukon First Nations would actually end up owing the federal government money for their settlements, rather than receiving any money. Does the Premier support this new Liberal federal land claims agency?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, for the member's information, the Yukon government was advised in writing by Minister Nault of the federal initiative to which the member refers. I was briefed and read through the letter, examined it and had a number of concerns. In speaking with officials, my understanding is that the new federal initiative has no applicability to the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess that's because it just hasn't been formed as yet, Mr. Speaker. But the messages have been coming out clearly from Ottawa that there are going to be new directions taken with respect to the settlement of Indian land claims. Those messages have been consistent, and there has been no decision as to whether it's going to apply or not.
Mr. Speaker, what ultimately will happen is that the courts will become the forum for dealing with land claims, with predictable, devastating consequences for the economy. We just recently witnessed that in northern British Columbia with Redfern Resources and the Tulsequah Mine. Is that where we're going to end up, in the minister's opinion? Is it going to end up in the courts as a consequence of this new Liberal government not being able to negotiate or assist with the negotiations of land claims? Is that the case? We're headed for the courts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member knows very well that the federal position with respect to land claims has been for some time - and continues to be - that, where there is litigation, there is not negotiation. You do one or the other with federal government, and that has been their position.
I neither speak for nor defend the federal government's positions in this House. I'm stating for the member that that's what the federal position is.
The member is refusing to hear my answer about the lack of applicability of the new initiative to the Yukon, and I would invite him to review the information about it and to review the section on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms found in the umbrella final agreement.
This government and the Liberal Party are on record for years and years as supportive of the Yukon land claims and the negotiation process. As a government, we are doing everything we can and we will continue to do everything we can until we see these seven outstanding land claims resolved.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism. The Liberal Party has been very critical of previous governments on their handling of the Beringia Interpretative Centre. The Liberals, while in opposition, made a commitment to put more money into Beringia. They also committed to establishing a volunteer board for the centre. What has been done to fulfill these Liberal commitments for the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I have been dying to answer this question since the beginning of the session, to tell you the honest truth.
The Yukon Liberal government has been working on a friends of Beringia model. That is what we discussed during the Tourism debate, and the member opposite is aware of that. It's not the complete model that we had originally planned, because the season started before there was a government direction on what to do with the Beringia Centre because we had not been sworn into office. However, we are going with the Friends of Beringia model, with slight changes, and we are working with the Transportation Museum.
We have spoken with MacBride Museum. They are not interested this year in taking over that contract. However, we are going to be looking at Beringia in terms of the whole museum's structure in a museum study. The workplan for that is not being developed.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, there's another review on the way by the Liberal government. Certainly the Liberals had all the answers when they were in opposition. They criticized the government for not making Beringia a viable museum. Now that they are in government, they can't make a decision if their lives depended on it. They have led Yukoners down the garden path on so many different promises that I can't keep count.
I will ask the minister again: why won't this Liberal government deliver on their promise on those two issues?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we have delivered on the promise. The promise was to have a Friends of Beringia model, and that's what we are doing. It's not the whole shebang because we haven't had an opportunity to work the whole season this year, but we do have a Friends of Beringia model in place, and that's what we are doing with the Beringia Centre. So I'm not really clear on what the member opposite is trying to get at. We fulfilled this promise, and we are going to continue to fulfill that promise, and part of that promise was to put the Beringia Centre in the context of the rest of the museums in the Yukon and do a study of the museums in the Yukon Territory, similar to the Lord study that was done approximately 10 years ago.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, isn't it interesting how the Liberals' view of the world changes completely when they are given the responsibility. They failed to come through. The Premier said that it was a disgrace that the grass wasn't planted at the centre and that the Liberal government would landscape and pave the access to the Beringia in the spring. Now, here we are in July and the work isn't even close to being completed. The Liberals had plenty of time to get this work done before the peak tourism season; so much for their commitment on heritage and tourism, Mr. Speaker.
The Liberals are blowing bubbles. Why wasn't this work done when the Liberals said that it would be done?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we are doing that job right now.
Question re: Argus mall development, Chilkoot Centre
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development. Recent evidence surrounding the Argus Properties makes it clear that the developers walked away from this project and that the proposed mall is now, in all probability, dead. Will the Premier confirm that the Argus project is now a thing of the past?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have answered several questions from the member opposite with respect to the Argus project. In those answers, I have indicated to the member opposite and to all members opposite that it is not the Government of Yukon's role to either enforce provisions of this agreement or to act upon them. And the members opposite know full well the details in the agreement. It is not up to the Government of Yukon to decide or to comment publicly on whether or not this particular agreement has either been breached, is finished, or where it is at. It is not our role to enforce the convenants of the agreement, nor is it our role to state whether or not the agreement has been breached or has not been breached. The agreement, to my knowledge, still exists.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the developer has walked away, there is no agreement. I can point out to the Premier that it is the government's role to ensure that $750,000 of Yukon taxpayers' money is spent appropriately. The Premier now has a chance to restore some of the tarnished credibility of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who campaigned so vigorously against this project. Now that the government is no longer bound by this agreement, will the Premier now ask the city to return the $750,000 that was set aside for off-site infrastructure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only tarnish on any credibility is the fact that the previous government negotiated an agreement and then are criticizing it daily and decrying that agreement in the House. If there is any, that is the tarnish.
The government's role in this agreement has been very clear: to provide funding for off-site infrastructure. It is not our role to enforce the agreement and it is not our role to say the agreement is over. There has been no notification to us that the agreement has been deleted or torn up in any way by any party.
Mr. Fentie: Well, this side of the House hasn't criticized the project at all. It was that side of the House that criticized the project and campaigned against it during the election, which resulted in the voters voting for the Liberals because they were going to kill the project.
Mr. Speaker, this Liberal government has deviated from far too many positions that they promoted to get elected - more legal aid funding, multi-level care services in Watson Lake, a community bus for Old Crow and a dialysis machine, just to name a few. This money - $750,000 - would go a long way to pay for some of these things. When will the Premier live up to the Liberal position expressed so eloquently by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and ask the city for the cash back?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I was asked repeatedly about this project during the election campaign. I was asked both as an individual campaigning to be a member of this House and I was asked as leader of the party. I said over and over again that we, as a party, did not like the way the agreement was negotiated; however, we would live with it. Living with that agreement means that it is not our role to tear it up, it is not our role to say that one or other of the parties has breached or not breached any covenants of the agreement, and to the best of my knowledge that agreement is still in effect and still stands.
Question re: Argus mall development, Chilkoot Centre
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, a follow-up question to the Premier on the same issue. The Member for Whitehorse Centre described this particular arrangement - this deal as he has called it - as corporate welfare during the election. He wrote ranting letters to the editor, gave speeches about how he was going to kill this deal and the Liberals on the doorstep around this territory, particularly in the City of Whitehorse, campaigned extensively against the project.
The deal is now dead. Take a look at the site - the Premier should take a look at the site. People have walked away. For her to stand today and say that she has no responsibility, after what the Liberals said to enforce the provisions of the agreement, is complete bunk. Why doesn't she do what she said would do and ask the city for the $750,000 back and put the money into buying legal aid or buying the kidney dialysis machine that they promised?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this member and members of the Liberal Party - members of all political parties - were asked about this project on the doorstep. My response during the last election campaign was and remains today that we don't like the way this agreement was negotiated. We don't like the deal and the way the former Minister of Economic Development did this agreement. We don't do business that way. That is not refusing to accept responsibility; that is saying that we do things differently, and were we in the member opposite's shoes, we would have done things differently.
That being said, we also committed that upon taking office we would live with the terms of the agreement. Living with the terms of the agreement means that we do not have the ability to say, or the role in the agreement to say, whether or not the agreement is in breach and whether someone is in breach of a portion of that agreement. That is not our role in this. Our role as the Government of Yukon, as the member opposite knows, was to provide funding for off-site infrastructure. That is what we did. Now the member opposite is challenging me to take a drive by the site and see that no one is working - happy to do that, have done that and do that daily.
The point is that there is an agreement and it is not our role to declare either of the other two parties in breach.
Mr. Harding: The Premier can ask the money to be returned from the City of Whitehorse for this specific project. The deal is broken. There is no deal. The deal is no more; it is gone to join the "choir invisible"; it's a dead deal, and it doesn't exist any more. So, the Premier has the ability to ask the City of Whitehorse for the money back to use it for other functions because they campaigned against it. Why does the Premier insist that she has no ability, in a deal that the Yukon government is a signatory to, to ask for the money back and use it for other purposes as many members of the Liberal Party campaigned for in the last election?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The difference between what the member opposite is saying and what I'm saying is the member opposite is saying that the deal is dead. I have said we have had, as a government, to the best of my knowledge, no formal notification from any of the parties that the deal is dead, that the deal or the agreement has been ripped up or expired. Until we have that, contemplating any action on the part of Government of the Yukon is hypothetical, anticipatory - choose whatever word you want. Until we are formally notified that the agreement no longer exists, we do not have the ability to declare the other two parties to the agreement in breach. I have told members opposite that over and over. If I receive formal notification of such, then I will answer the member's questions. I have not received that notification.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is claiming that she can only lie supine on this issue and can't take any initiative herself, when they had so much to say during the election campaign.
Mr. Speaker, she says she doesn't know if there have been any breaches of the agreement. Read the paper - Wal-Mart, Safeway, no tenants, no anchor tenants. What were the provisions of the agreement with regard to the anchor tenants if she's not sure? Drive by the site. Take a look. Listen to the people on the street who are talking about this arrangement.
Mr. Speaker, the deal is done, it is over, and she has the ability as a Premier to ask for the $750,000 back. Small businesses in this territory are still taking the city to court over this issue. She can end this uncertainty once and for all by doing what she said she was going to do. Why doesn't she do that? Why is she hiding behind some nonsensical legal argument?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am sure all of the legal community appreciates being told they're nonsensical today by the member opposite. The agreement is very clear, and the Government of Yukon does not have the ability, under that agreement, to declare the other two parties in breach. We don't have that ability. The provisions are for others to do that. That's not the Government of Yukon's role, and the member opposite knows it.
If this project does not proceed, it will not be as a result of any actions or inactions by the Government of the Yukon. I have said that to the member opposite as well, and I have said it to members of the public. I also said during the election campaign that, were we to be elected, we would live up to the terms of the agreement. The member opposite is saying the agreement's over.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, the member clearly isn't interested in an answer.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Question of privilege
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege.
Yesterday, the Member for Whitehorse Centre read into the record a motion, which reads in part, "(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 the opposition members, with the cooperation of their respective House leaders, to model professional and courteous behaviour in the House at all times."
As required by the Standing Orders, after carefully reviewing the written motion in detail, I provided the Speaker notice in writing of my intention to rise on a question of privilege at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre has accepted the role of Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole. For this honour, he receives an additional payment of $5,287 a year. Our Standing Orders, section 42(4), read, and I quote: "The Chair shall maintain order in Committee of the Whole, deciding all questions of order, subject to an appeal to the Speaker." The Chair's duty is to maintain order and decorum during Committee of the Whole. In order to do this, it is essential that the Chair act in a fair and impartial manner toward members on both side of this House.
Aside from these serious allegations not reflecting reality, the motion that the Member for Whitehorse Centre sponsored brings into question whether, in fact, he is being critical of his own performance as Chair in exercising his duties to maintain order and decorum.
Mr. Speaker, in bringing forward a partisan motion on members' decorum, the Deputy Speaker is engaging in highly inappropriate behaviour. I submit that his action in tabling a motion of this type violates the trust placed in him as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole, and thereby breaches the privilege of all members of this Assembly.
I should point out, for the Speaker's benefit, that this is not the first time the Member for Whitehorse Centre, in his capacity as Chair of the Committee of the Whole, has engaged in behaviour that has been called into question for being partisan. On Thursday, June 29, the Member for Klondike suggested to the Speaker that the Chair of the Committee of the Whole may have engaged in "collusion" between the Chair and the House leader for the Liberal Party on a motion to extend sitting hours. That same day, the Speaker ruled that the Chair had not followed the written rules of the procedure laid out in the Standing Orders of this House.
It was the contention of the third party that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, as Chair of the Committee of the Whole, may have engaged in partisan behaviour by prompting the government House leader to introduce the motion to extend sitting hours on Thursday afternoon. The facts are on record that opposition House leaders had not agreed on extending sitting hours, as is the normal practice of this House. As the Speaker noted, the Chair did not read the motion into the record, as required by the Standing Orders and, in addition, he did not allow debate from opposition members present in the House.
When the matter was called into question by the Member for Klondike at that time, our caucus was willing to give the new Chair the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, this latest breach provides further evidence of impartiality toward members' order that cannot be overlooked.
Mr. Speaker, the government has 10 sitting members. Any one of them could have sponsored the motion tabled yesterday by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, with the exception of the Speaker, and they could have done so as a government or private member motion. We maintain that it was inappropriate for the Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee of the Whole to do so, commenting in such a partisan fashion on the order and decorum of other members in this House.
By way of remedy, Mr. Speaker, we would like to suggest that you ask the Member for Whitehorse Centre to withdraw his motion, and that it be stricken from the record. Our caucus has no choice but to express our lack of confidence in the member's ability to maintain impartial order and decorum during debate in Committee of the Whole. We are then obliged to ask the Speaker to rule on this breach of conduct, and the Premier to appoint another member as Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. McLarnon: I rise on the point of privilege.
While I am Chair of the Committee of the Whole, my duty is to be impartial and my duty is to be fair to all members of this House. While I am sitting as a private member on this side, my duty is to respond to the members in any free and open way that I can.
What the member opposite is asking for is actually to impugn my privilege as a private member by limiting my ability to speak freely as a member of this House. The question, as you have also noted in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, was that there was no collusion or evidence of collusion in my actions as Committee Chair.
Mr. Speaker, what I am asking you to do is to consider this point of privilege as spurious, and what I am asking you to do is consider the point that, as Chair of Committee of the Whole, I do a different job from what I do as a private member of this House, and I am asking you to consider that, if any statement in the future is made by a private member who happens to be sitting in that Chair, as the opposition can ask for his removal for his statements as a private member and not for his conduct in the Chair, then you will be limiting the speech of every private member in this House who takes the job of Deputy Speaker.
Speaker: Thank you for those submissions. The Chair will take the matter under advisement and report to the House on Monday.
We will now proceed to 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 Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Municipal and Community Affairs Division - continued
On Equipment Purchase - continued
Equipment Purchase in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Road/Streets Upgrade
Road/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $320,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Industrial in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
Commercial in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
Recreational in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
Residential in the amount of $5,600,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services
On Miscellaneous Projects - Recoverable
Miscellaneous Projects - Recoverable in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $350,000 agreed to
On Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable
Miscellaneous Projects Non-Recoverable in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $14,433,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries? Are there any questions on contributions? Are there any questions on multi-year capital projects?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $46,419,000 agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services agreed to
Department of Government Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to introduce today the Government Services budget for 2000-01. The operations and maintenance budget proposed for Government Services for 2000-01 totals $21,408,000, an increase of two percent for the 1999-2000 forecast.
The increase is primarily due to enhanced computer network to 11 communities that will support new distributed learning programs in those communities. The capital budget proposed for Government Services for 2000-01 totals $7,181,000. Of this, $1.1 million represents recoverable odd projects. $1 million is for the construction projects managed on behalf of the federal government, and $100,000 is for the community access program funded by Industry Canada.
Over all, the 2000-01 capital estimates decreased by $6,912,000 over the 1999-2000 forecast. Of this, $4,657,000 was one-time funding provided for various waterfront development and infrastructure projects and for year 2000 upgrades. The remaining $2,255,000 represents a decrease in the information services funding reflecting completion of the recent development projects such as human resources information systems, financial management information systems and land interest management systems.
Specific capital items included in the 2000-01 fiscal year are $415,000 investment in technology partnerships. These partnerships bring together business, community, education and other government interests to explore opportunities for applying technology in the Yukon.
The partnerships support improved access to services, culture and information for Yukoners, provide opportunities that enable Yukon businesses to create jobs in a knowledge-based economy and develop knowledge and skills among Yukoners that businesses can draw on to pursue opportunities in the technology sector. There is $425,000 for business incentive rebates for projects such as the continuing care facility, Mayo school, various highway construction projects and various Yukon manufactured goods and construction material rebates. There is $250,000 for various capital building maintenance projects and $60,000 for building energy conservation projects. $2.9 million is to upgrade the Yukon's telecommunication infrastructure, providing high-speed technology and Internet services to most Yukon schools and community campuses. Again, this will probably be transferred to the Department of Community and Transportation Services at a later date. The project will also provide high-speed data services to businesses and consumers throughout most of the Yukon.
Further information on departmental activity and expenditure forecasts are contained in the 2000-01 business plans for the project management agency, fleet vehicle agency and the Queen's Printer agency.
This concludes my overview of the 2000-01 estimates for Government Services. At this time, I would be pleased to address any questions that the members may have.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions and I would appreciate it if the minister would attempt to answer. If the minister cannot answer on his feet, then I would relish a legislative return with accurate information as soon as possible.
I would like to know about the Yukon hire policy. I would like to know about input. I don't want political rhetoric; I want to know exactly what the Yukon government's feelings are about Yukon hire. It has been said by the Minister of Health and Social Services that he thinks there should be and could be a local hire initiative review. I would like to know the minister's feelings on that. Does he feel that there has to be a review?
Does he feel that, in order to attract professionals, such as teachers, doctors and nurses to the Yukon Territory, that their spouses should somehow be given a break or anything like as such in professional jobs? In the communities, that could be a detriment. I would like to get an understanding of the minister's views.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have talked to the Minister of Health and Social Services in this regard. Definitely we will be looking at it in the Yukon hire commission. With regard to the information that Mr. Keenan is requesting, we will definitely have no problem in tabling that, too.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, in the absence of that, I'd like to know how we are going to ensure that there is local hire - village hire, if you could say it in that way - for the Mayo school and the extended care facilities. How are we going to ensure that that happens?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in the continuing care project, we have struck up what is called a round table on hiring. This round table will be a pilot project and added to other projects within other communities and we definitely will be using that as part of the Mayo school development.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, by legislative return, I would appreciate the terms of reference - the schematics, I guess - for the round table, if he could; how many people sit on it, who are the representatives, et cetera. And, as you go, you could include in the same return if you like - it was an election commitment of the Liberal Party in the design and construction of government-funded projects. I'd like to know if there has been any progress made on these, and how are we going to fulfill this promise by the Liberal government?
I'll try and make this simpler, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there's an election commitment on behalf of the federal Liberal government to include the community in the design of government projects. I was wondering how you're proceeding with that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We can definitely get to what Mr. Keenan is requesting if we can get a little bit more clarity on it. I have the platform in front of me, but as of the design, I think our commitment to having people, participants and players involved in the communities and to have them involved in the planning process or planning stages of development with projects is part of our commitment.
If there's anything more that Mr. Keenan wants, then we definitely will be able to table that for him.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate open-ended commitments like that. Just to reiterate, it was said that we'd be getting community thoughts on the design, construction and those types of things. Will they part of the management team, et cetera? So, if you could just get the makeup of those types of scenarios, I'd very much appreciate it, just so I have something I can work on further.
I'd just like to go into another question if I can. Can the minister tell me -
Chair: Order please. I'd remind all members to address their remarks through the Chair rather than use the word "you".
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I was saying "Utah". I was referring to a state in the United States, so I will sidetrack from that, though.
Could the minister please explain to me, then, the buy-local campaign by this government that is going to begin? What's entailed by the election promise? How will local businesses be involved, and how will it be any different from the buy-Yukon campaign that's currently running out of the Tourism department?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I think that's a question that probably Tourism could best answer. I can definitely get back to you on that answer, along with Tourism.
Chair: Mr. Jim, again I would ask you to speak through the Chair.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the details surrounding the buy-local campaign - the terms of reference, what would be expected out of it and again, how the local businesses would be involved in it. I would like to know, on red-tape reduction, if the minister will commit to having a red-tape reduction initiative to remain up? What is the government going to do to increase red-tape reduction?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Red-tape reduction is an ongoing process and we see no problem with it continuing. We have the utmost confidence in the red-tape reduction, and we have also introduced another program called the services leadership program, which is starting in July.
Mr. Keenan: I understand that we're supposed to be able to address questions on Connect Yukon through Government Services. Am I to direct them to the Minister of Government Services or am I to direct them to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services? It's good to see a little action out of that Liberal government.
Chair: As far as I understood, Mr. Keenan, the protocol was that you would be able to address these questions to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and she is on her way.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe what I could do is talk about Connect Yukon for a few moments as a part of the New Democratic vision to connect the Yukon. I have had constituents from around the territory at large talking about how we can go to Mexico and we can be out in the hinterlands of Mexico and yet still be able to get e-mail connections, et cetera, and to do business.
So, upon many meetings with NorthwesTel and much frustration, I guess, to explain our issues in representing the people of the Yukon and trying to get telephones, we created the Connect Yukon project. We went out and found resources. We did not have to cut resources to existing programs; we found new, existing resources.
So I would appreciate if the Minister of C&TS could give me an update as to what is happening in Connect Yukon. I know that during the election campaign some of the parties that were campaigning to get elected had expressed a desire to be able to move Connect Yukon up and that it was a possibility. I'm wondering if that is expressed in the minister's thoughts on Connect Yukon. Can you move the time frame up, as the existing time frame for implementation? There is a possibility of doing that, and I'm wondering if the minister has put her mind around those types of initiatives. So, in general, I would like an update on Connect Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: First of all, the Connect Yukon project, as it existed on May 6, when the new Liberal government was sworn in, was considerably different from the program announced last October during the Lake Laberge by-election. The Connect Yukon program will build telecommunications infrastructure so Yukon communities have access to high-speed data services. Residential subscribers will benefit from better telephone services and better access to the Internet. Businesses may use the services to expand their markets. New data services will enable schools, community campuses, health centres and libraries to enhance the services that they deliver to the public. Schools will be able to use video conferencing equipment, and telecommunications projects will become more feasible. Now, the immediate impacts -
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I certainly know the input - what it's to do, how it's to do it. I'm asking for an update on just the implementation of it.
Chair: Unless the member has a -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I certainly don't need the philosophy behind it. I recognize the New Democratic socialist philosophy that is behind the program. I would just like an update as to the time frames, when communities such as Tagish and the different areas in Tagish could be expecting their services.
Chair: There is no point of order. Would the minister continue.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, at this point the time frame for the implementation of Connect Yukon is as it was when the new government was sworn in, and I'm sure that the member opposite is quite familiar with that time frame.
Mr. Keenan:I'm very familiar with the time frame, but, in part, the question was: did the minister have a new look at improving the time frames? I know that there are people who have service at this point in time who are going to be connected through the Connect Yukon program. Is there a possibility that others could be moved up who don't have that basic service? That's the type of thing that I'm asking the member.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'd be happy to provide the member in written form with the current schedule for Connect Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: That would be satisfactory, Mr. Chair. I would also like - it doesn't have to be a hand-written note or anything. But I would just like for the minister to express if there is a way that you could improve on the program, because, certainly in opposition, the minister had quite a bit to say about - God, if I were to stand here and read all they had to say about this, we would be here until the cows come home. So I would like to know if the minister has any thoughts about changing or improving, or is it as is? That's all.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, at the moment, it is as is. I'm surprised the member would be suggesting that I could improve upon the NDP perfection, but, as I said, the program is considerably different than it was initially announced, but I will get that written information to the member. I have not, at this -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member wants to listen to my responses, I would be glad to provide him with the written information to this point. I have not had the opportunity to make any changes. That is not to say there won't be some, but at this point we are proceeding with the project as it was when it was handed over to my department.
Mr. Keenan: So, I guess what the member opposite is saying is that she feels very honoured to be able to implement a New Democratic program that would be able to connect people's lives, if I can say it in that way. I guess that is what the member is saying. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I said I hadn't, as yet, had time to make any changes, so, for the moment, it is proceeding as it was.
Some Hon. Member: A point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I believe that we are in Government Services. We are in general debate on Government Services. I am hoping that it does come back to the table, here.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Yes, I thought that, according to the House last night, there was a protocol during Government Services debate that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services would come in. I'm sorry if I offended the member opposite by introducing it during general debate. If the member would like me to stand here and talk on my feet for another half an hour, I would be more than pleased to do that. We certainly understand what that would mean. I'm not trying to be threatening; I'm just trying to be very cooperative at this point in time.
I'm asking for a bit of vision from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and a legislative return, if there have been any further thoughts or update in the makeup of the schedule. I have had the pleasure of dancing around with the Minister of Government Services during general debate. I have asked my questions there. So, yes, Mr. Chair, I have no further questions in general debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Government Services?
We will proceed line by line. Turn to page 7-6. Is there any general debate on Corporate Services?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Corporate Support Services
Corporate Support Services in the amount of $2,070,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics?
Corporate Services in the amount of $2,070,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Administration and Finance
Administration and Finance in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
On Production and Network Services
Production and Network Services in the amount of $3,192,000 agreed to
On Client Services
Client Services in the amount of $278,000 agreed to
On Records Management and Communications
Records Management and Communications in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
Planning in the amount of $447,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Information Services in the amount of $4,595,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Administration in the amount of $227,000 agreed to
Purchasing in the amount of $417,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer
Queen's Printer in the amount of $296,000 agreed to
On Asset Control
Asset Control in the amount of $187,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $917,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Central Stores in the amount of $221,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $2,265,000 agreed to
On Technology and Telecommunications
On Administrative and Regulatory
Administrative and Regulatory in the amount of $98,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure and Technology Support
Infrastructure and Technology Support in the amount of $1,075,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Technologies and Telecommunication in the amount of $1,173,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Chair: Is there any general debate on Property Management?
On Realty Services
Realty Services in the amount of $11,305,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Are there any questions on the statistics? Are there any questions on the recoveries? Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Property Management in the amount of $11,305,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $21,408,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Business Incentive Policy
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $425,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $475,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
Information Services in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Central Stores
Central Stores in the amount of $28,000 agreed to
On Acquisition of Used Assets
Acquisition of Used Assets in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer Equipment
Queen's Printer Equipment in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
On Special Operating Agency: Queen's Printer Agency
Special Operating Agency: Queen's Printer Agency in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Technology and Telecommunications
On Infrastructure Development
Infrastructure Development in the amount of $2,900,000 agreed to
On Technology Partnerships
Technology Partnerships in the amount of $315,000 agreed to
On Community Access Program
Community Access Program in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, did we have a look at the Connect Yukon project, which I'm sure falls under this heading?
Chair: There were questions on it, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm aware there were questions - I was listening in - but the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was supposed to respond to them in a great deal and there were a number of other questions in the Connect Yukon covered by this line item that we are just presently clearing. I would just appreciate knowing the Connect Yukon project - the budget transfer of $40,000; what that is pertaining to, and in the total amount of the $3,000,000, that's just $1,008,000 associated with the project.
The agreement between Yukon and Northwestel has a certain number of initiatives in it that are triggered at certain points, and this information has not been provided, Mr. Chair. I'd like to ask the minister to table that information or read it into the record - whatever is easiest.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, would you prefer - since we are discussing it and the protocol was to bring the Community and Transportation Services minister down. Would you prefer to ask the questions directly as she's here now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I'm wondering if it is possible to table this information, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, but I see the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, who is now currently responsible for this initiative and thank her for attending the House. These arrangements were agreed to yesterday - at our sitting yesterday - and I do have some questions on this line item, so if the Minister of C&TS is prepared to answer them, we can move forward.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I understood that this line item had been cleared.
Chair: The total is not cleared, so, at this point, all the questions on this can still be asked.
Mr. Jenkins:There's a letter of intent between the Yukon government and Northwestel; it was signed on October 20, 1999. Has there been any further agreement reached between Northwestel and the Government of the Yukon since that date?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was a service management agreement whereby Yukon government and Northwestel have agreed to share the cost of upgrading the Yukon's telecommunications infrastructure, high-speed data and Internet service to most Yukon communities with schools and college campuses, and there is an agreement on service to Marsh Lake, where the Yukon government and Northwestel have agreed to share the cost of installing a new 57K fibre optic cable infrastructure between Whitehorse and Marsh Lake. This will allow up to 261 lot owners along the way to receive phone and Internet service, and it establishes a backbone to enable Northwestel to provide high speed service to Marsh Lake and to further extend service to the Tagish area in the following year.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister to table a copy of those agreements between Yukon and Northwestel, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, insofar as I'm able to, subject to confidentiality requirements, yes, I will.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to ask the minister: what would be confidential in this area? Does the minister know of what she's speaking, or is this just some delay tactic? These are documents, agreements between Yukon and Northwestel. Why can they not be tabled? There's nothing confidential in these kinds of undertakings.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Insofar as I can, subject to confidentiality requirements, I will be happy to table them.
Mr. Jenkins: Further to those agreements between Yukon and Northwestel, there are also agreements between Yukon and the Council of Yukon First Nations, Kaska Tribal Council and Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The original payment was for the period October 1999 to March 2000. The Government of the Yukon provided $100,000. Has that agreement been renewed? If so, could we have a copy of that letter of agreement or letter of understanding or however it is now titled and the amount of money we are looking at?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Insofar as I can do so, subject to confidentiality requirements, I will be happy to provide the member opposite with the information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm somewhat at a loss to see why there would be some confidential agreements in there unless the current government has something to hide. The previous government had nothing to hide in this regard.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to have an understanding of the agreements between Northwestel and Yukon. Are there any conditions in the new arrangements that would preclude them from making excess profits? Northwestel is and continues to be the most profitable telephone company in Canada, and if they don't make it through the ratepayers, they make it through the taxpayers, as they are in this case. Where are we with respect to these initiatives to capping the profit? I can understand them being allowed a rate of return on their assets, but where are we in capping their profits on these initiatives that are cost-shared or primarily funded by the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I would be happy to provide the member with a written response to this and any other detailed technical question.
Mr. Jenkins: The Connect Yukon initiative - could the minister spell out what areas initially it will encompass and how it will extend into rural Yukon? It seems to be concentrated in the Whitehorse periphery, but what are the timelines for the balance of Yukon, the rest of us - I guess we call it TROY, the rest of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the schedule for Connect Yukon, as it currently stands and as I have previously explained to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, is as the previous NDP government left the schedule. So, if the member opposite is suggesting that the former government was depriving the rural areas of the Yukon of service, I think he's barking up the wrong tree.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that's not the case. I'm not barking up the wrong tree. If the minister goes back to the agreement between the letter of intent between Northwestel and Yukon, this is just a letter of intent, and it spells out where they're heading. It was under the current Liberal government that things were finalized.
My understanding is that it was finalized, and the blessing was given by the Liberal government. Everything came into focus in March of this year, in late March or early April, and subsequently fell into May and June, so that is under a new mandate.
What may have changed, if anything? The minister is stating that there have been no changes whatsoever from the timelines that were originally envisioned by the former NDP government and there has been no change in the priorities, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that is what I have said, and may I remind the Member for Klondike that the election was on April 17, and the agreements were finalized at the end of March, before the election?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, with respect to the rates that are going to be charged, have these been established and is the government giving its blessing to the current rate increases being proposed by Northwestel? We will now have some of the highest access charges in the area proposed under this extended network. Are they going to fall under CRTC regulations in spite of the fact that Yukon is investing a considerable sum of money, or is there going to be an initial offsetting factor that would allow lower access rates in these new and expanded areas?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to provide the member with a written response to this or any other technical question. Anything concerning the CRTC is the responsibility of the Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, here we go; pass the buck, Mr. Chair. It used to be the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and now we're moving it all around. It's one of those shell games, I guess, that they play so you can't find out who is doing what. But the bottom line is that we're spending some $1 million of taxpayers' money and putting it into a utility not owned by Yukon, and they're allowed to have a rate of return on their assets, so the bottom line ends up being that either the ratepayers pay or the taxpayers pay. And, for the minister's information, they're one and the same.
Mr. Chair, where are we heading after this initial Connect Yukon? Does the minister have an overview, or has she not extended her scope that far?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the member opposite is so fond of reminding me, I'm new to this. I have not had a chance to go into detail on a lot of things; Connect Yukon is one of them, and I will be happy to give the member opposite a written response to his questions.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that, Mr. Chair. Just a heads-up for the minister - we'll probably be exploring this in detail in the fall session so it's an area that I would ask the minister to spend some time on. It is one of the tripods on which an economy is built - the communications end of it - and we have some of the poorest communications and some of the most expensive communications in North America, and there is room for a considerable amount of improvements and there is room for a considerable amount of cost reductions - upgrading to bandwidth, so that we can at least get on with commerce.
More and more today, Mr. Chair, the communication network is not being used for phone conversations; it's being used for data transmission, and that's the area we have to focus on. And, until we are into this global economy, we pay a penalty for virtually all of our communications, especially in rural Yukon. And that includes some of the area, Mr. Chair, that is in the member's own riding; she's fortunate, she doesn't live in that riding so she has excellent telephone access but, in a lot of her riding, the telephone system is not anywhere near adequate - as it is in my area - so I would encourage the minister to move ahead with as much speed as she can muster to address this shortcoming in the Connect Yukon initiative.
So I asked the question as to where we were heading after this first part was completed, Mr. Chair, and the minister didn't have any sort of an understanding of where we are heading or what we are doing after the initial phase. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the member opposite for the lecture. I look forward to debating Connect Yukon at length in the fall budget, by which time I'm sure I'll be totally up to speed on all facets of this project.
Mr. Jenkins: Might as well clear it. There's no more information that can be forthcoming under someone that's so poorly informed.
Chair: Any further debate on technology and communications?
Technology and Telecommunications in the amount of $3,315,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $1,606,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Common Facilities in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Project Management Services
Project Management Services in the amount of 1,000,000 agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $2,931,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on Government Services recoveries?
Mr. Jenkins: We had a number of initiatives where property management undertook work for outside agencies. I was wondering if the minister could advise the House how those projects are; whether we're actually recovering what we projected to recover or whether we're suffering a loss? There were some initiatives in Ross River and other areas.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Government Services has managed the construction of the RCMP building in Ross River, and I can see there are other buildings, but what we are doing is recovering the cost. We will get 100-percent cost recovery of expenses paid under an agreement between the federal government and this government for project management services. This signed agreement includes feasibility studies and upgrading of forestry infrastructure facilities at airports in Haines Junction, Dawson and Whitehorse, also.
Chair: Are there any questions on transfer payments?
Some Hon. Members: Clear.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $7,181,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate on Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have some brief comments on the Yukon Liquor Corporation budget.
As promised, both prior to and during the recent election, we will begin a review of the Yukon Liquor Act. During the fiscal year for tabling new legislation and the accompanying regulations in 2002, the return of refillable containers will be moved from Yukon Liquor Corporation to Raven Recycling and shipped via Yukon Liquor Corporation's carrier from Raven Recycling to Vancouver for re-entry into the refillable beverage container system. This will result in reduced costs to Yukon Liquor Corporation and provide additional sources of revenue to the recycling program in the Yukon.
This budget projects total sales for the fiscal year to be $17,550,000. This figure is about $600,000 lower than the original projection for 1999-2000. This downward trend is a result of a lower population base and economic factors.
The budget includes a small capital budget of $140,000, which is the same level of capital expenditures that would have been projected for 1999-2000. $30,000 of the total is for warehouse/store modifications and the balance of $110,000 is for corporate-wide equipment sales and systems.
The corporation will continue to focus on improving customer service, both through its dealings with licensees and retail consumers. During this fiscal year, it is anticipated that the new point-of-sale system will be fully operational. This system will provide management with more timely and relevant information to facilitate the decision-making process relating to product sales and inventory levels, as well as product selection. There are no increases in human resources anticipated in this fiscal year. Thank you.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I thank the minister for her brief overview. We finally have got a commitment delivered by the Liberal side. When she mentioned "brief", it was exactly that.
Mr. Speaker, this side, after a great deal of prying, has found out from the minister that indeed there will be a Liquor Act review. The minister also went on to say that it's going to take approximately two years to complete this review. Could the minister now confirm with the House that, in fact, the Liquor Act review has commenced at this time and inform the House as to which department will be leading the review itself. Will it be Justice or will it be the corporation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it will be the corporation. We're in the preliminary planning stages. As you know, this act hasn't been looked at in quite a number of years.
I think I need to point out that I've only been asked once whether or not we would do a review of the Liquor Act, and I bounced to my feet and said, "Yes, we're going to do it", so it's not like there has been an awful lot of reticence to answer the questions on this particular subject.
We are happy to be doing this review. I expect that the issues that are going to come out are going to be very contentious, and there are a lot of very, very different opinions throughout the territory on a number of the issues attached to alcohol. Some of them actually have very little to do with the Liquor Act itself, but many of them do, and we are going to be making our very best efforts to get that to the House in the year 2002. Of course, the member opposite has been a legislator for a number of years and realizes that even though it sounds like two years is a long period of time, in government time that's breakneck speed.
Mr. Fentie: Let's hope that there are no necks broken. Maybe I missed it, but could the minister confirm that the review has in fact now started, that it has commenced?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we are in the process of getting the workplan together. We are in that stage, so I would say that probably the review is underway in that respect only.
Mr. Fentie: In that regard, Mr. Chair, would the minister undertake then to provide the Legislature, once the workplan is in place, with at least a copy of the plan, or at least the terms of reference of the plan? Would the minister do that? I see that she's nodding her head. Okay, I can move on.
Have the corporation and the minister any idea about what this review is going to cost the corporation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Right now we are looking at figures of $50,000 to $70,000.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that.
If the review is not done by the end of the two-year timeline, would there be more expenditure toward the review? Would it be shut off? What would be the contingency plan should we be in a situation where, after two years, for example, we have got a situation where it's just simply not possible to complete the review and there's going to have to be a considerable extension in time? How is the corporation going to address that very real possibility?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I don't really see that as a real possibility. If there is a problem with getting the review completed and the legislation ready, it would be a timing issue. It's unlikely it would be a monetary issue. We have committed to this project. We are doing this and, all things being possible, we will have it to the Legislature in the year 2002.
Mr. Fentie: The minister obviously doesn't agree then that this particular initiative has a very real possibility of polarization. There are a number of major views held by large segments of the population in regard to this. Small wonder why a review hasn't been done earlier. That could be the reason.
I'm asking if the corporation would have, as they commence with this, a contingency plan should this become gridlocked?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we are committed to this project. This government has had the political courage to take on this review. We are going to do it. It is extremely likely that there are contentious issues that are going to be dealt with, and they will be dealt with during the review. We're very aware of that and we're still going to do it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I admire the minister's statement that she will persevere.
Mr. Chair, two years to do a review, then we have to deal with legislation. Can the minister enlighten us a little bit on how long, after two years of the review taking place, does she think it would take before we would have legislation tabled here that could be debated and ultimately passed, thereby changing our laws in this territory when it comes to the sale, consumption, storage and whatever else may happen with alcohol in the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps I wasn't clear enough. The commitment on behalf of the government is to have legislation tabled in the year 2000. A review is going to be a shorter period of time, obviously.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that.
The minister must have some sort of clear vision on where she would like to take the corporation on this matter. So, my question to the minister is: is it her view that we will be tightening up the laws in this territory around the consumption and sale of alcohol and so on, or are we going to open it up in this territory? Are there any comments that the minister can make in that regard?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are two things. The first thing is that the act is old. It's written in archaic language. It needs to be clarified. The second issue is that I'm not going to presuppose what people around the territory are going to say. We're going to go to the people and we're going to ask them what they think, and the new act will reflect those opinions.
Mr. Fentie: I'm still grappling with this. Does the minister have a path laid out before her? Does she see where she wants to take this review, ultimately the development of the legislation, which is in her purview - this is the minister's decision. This is the minister's portfolio. Where is she taking the corporation? She must have some sort of vision of where we're going. Can she enlighten this Legislature just briefly in that regard?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, where I'd like to go is out to the people of the Yukon, find out what their opinions are, and present legislation to this Legislature in the year 2002 that reflects those opinions.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, let's let the record show then that the corporation will be going out to the public with a blank piece of paper. We are going to have a review done before the two-year timeline, and then have legislation brought to this House within two years. Moving on then, the member, in opposition and for quite some time, has been a very vocal advocate for businesses being trampled by the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Does the minister see the Yukon moving toward things like neighbourhood pubs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think I need to go back on the member's previous comments about the blank piece of paper going out to the territory. We are going to be tabling a workplan and I have already committed to that to the member opposite and that will be coming to him. In the workplan, we will give a much more detailed indication of what we are going to do as far as the review of this act. Going out with a blank piece of paper I doubt is going to be a part of that workplan. The other issue about neighbourhood pubs, I would imagine, considering that I have heard about this issue for many, many years in the Yukon, that that will be part of the review, part of the opinions that are expressed in the consultation process for the development of the new Liquor Act.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I am to take it then that the minister - if the review comes back and it is evident that this territory is now to be opened up to neighbourhood pubs - would then support that concept.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I am not going to wander off into the fields of what may or may not happen in the future. What I am going to do and what I have already done on a number of occasions today is I am going to commit again that the new act will reflect the opinions of the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, all right then, in that regard, the minister has been an advocate for businesses who derive their revenue from the sale of liquor. It has been in the past; that is a well-known fact. However, there seems to be a contradiction because the member, who is now the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, has also been a very, very outspoken representative of one of our scourges in this territory: the FAS/FAE issue - a direct result of the abuse of alcohol.
Can the minister explain how she can be on both sides of this street?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Since the beginning of the Yukon Territory, we have had a schizophrenic relationship with alcohol. Governments have had this odd relationship where we want the money that comes from the sale of alcohol, and yet we pay for the results of people drinking too much. That's the odd and sad relationship that we have with alcohol in the territory. That's the way it has always been, but hopefully it will not always be that way in the future.
Mr. Fentie: The minister is moving ahead with the review of the Liquor Act. Okay, that's fine. However, we have witnessed a government take office with a $56.2-million surplus in its hand, in the bank, and we have seen the Liberal government put very little focus on this problem of FAS/FAE. There is a contradiction here, and I'm merely trying to establish with the minister how she intends to address that contradiction that is coming from the Liberal side.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Of course the member opposite knows, because he has been in the Legislature quite some time, that the issues around fetal alcohol syndrome will be addressed during the Health and Social Services debate. I have already freely admitted that we have an odd relationship with alcohol in the Yukon Territory, and it's not just the Yukon Territory; it's throughout Canada.
Mr. Fentie: I highly doubt that a Liquor Act review is going to address an odd relationship that we have in this country with alcohol. I think the whole thing is based on people consuming alcohol in a responsible manner. I don't know how a Liquor Act review addresses anything to the contrary. It's the minister herself who was such an outspoken advocate when it came to FAS/FAE. On many occasions in this Legislature, we listened to the members opposite, the minister of the day for the corporation, go on at great length about this problem. I'm trying to establish the contradiction here. If the Liquor Act review opens up the sale of liquor in this territory, then how does the Liberal side address the other part of this very, very difficult situation, and that is the FAS/FAE issue and, in fact, all abuses of alcohol?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, plainly, the review of the Liquor Act is not going to solve the problems of people who are suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects in the Yukon Territory; there is no connection whatsoever. However, as I stated before to the member opposite, governments - particularly the Yukon government because the Liquor Act was our first act here in the Yukon Territory - have a schizophrenic relationship with alcohol and the sale of alcohol. On the one hand, we depend on the revenue and the taxes and, on the other hand, we pay for the social costs of people who drink too much alcohol. I don't what more I can say about that.
Mr. Chair, I know that the Minister of Health and Social Services will be dealing in great detail with the services for persons who have fetal alcohol syndrome and he will also be dealing with issues around alcohol abuse in the Yukon Territory, and he will deal with that in far greater detail than I can in the discussions around the Liquor Corporation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I for one - and I am sure that my colleagues concur - will be watching the review proceed with a great deal of interest and that's about all I have, Mr. Chair. I'd like to pass this on to my colleague from the Klondike.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to pass on my hope that the members opposite will work with us in doing the review of this act. That's something that hopefully we can work on together.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it's interesting - I just went through the current orders-in-council that were recently provided to our office and see one appointing the DM and the effective dates. But I'm pleased to see that you have retained the same deputy minister. At least he can keep the minister on the straight and narrow, as he probably has the best understanding that I have seen in any DM, over probably just about 30 years in dealing with the Liquor Corporation.
So, why the Premier would take it upon herself to shuffle chairs, I don't know. I think it's a very foolish move on her part, but probably one of many, Mr. Chair, given that we're coming upon a major act review.
Now, the minister went on at great length to say that she was going to seek out public opinion. Okay, that's fine. And we're going to have a paper, but you can lead public opinion or you can follow public opinion. Now, is she going to take a proactive stance or a reactive stance with respect to the Liquor Act review, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's not my intention and I will not go out there presupposing the results of the consultation process. That's not going to happen. It's going to be a very intense process. I would imagine that we're going to go out and speak to people first, then go back and check to make sure that we have heard properly the information that has been given to us or the opinions that have been expressed to us. This is going to be a very, very intense consultation.
What I can say is that we are very, very open to the opinions that we're going to hear around the territory, no matter how varied they are, and we know that it's going to be very contentious. We know that there are very, very strong feelings in this territory about the sale of alcohol.
Mr. Jenkins: Is everything in the act under review - classifications, definitions, the whole gamut? Because the language is quite old or archaic, and I give the minister credit for recognizing that. One just has to read it and you can come to that conclusion, Mr. Chair. But with respect to the definitions, that can be done without a Liquor Act review. Why haven't the definitions been upgraded and brought into current acceptable standards?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this act has been amended and amended and amended. Why would we go through another amendment process? If we're going to be looking at the whole act, then we want to look at the definitions as well, and I agree with the member opposite that the archaic language extends into the definition section, and we're going to be looking at the review in totality; we're going to look at the whole act, including the definition section.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister, Mr. Chair. So everything is on the table for review. What about privatizing the Yukon Liquor Corporation - is that under review?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I would imagine that that issue will also come forward during the consultation. I would imagine that some of the concerns, for example, that have been expressed in Carmacks about selling to underage children will also come up. There are going to be many, many concerns that will come up during the review process.
Mr. Jenkins: But the issue I was focusing on, Mr. Chair, was the privatization of the Liquor Corporation. Is that on the table?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we're going to go out there and listen, and if that's what comes out of the consultation, then that's what we'll be listening to. Everything is on the table.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is going out with a blank piece of paper. It sounds like some of the answers we receive from some ministers in this House, Mr. Chair - blank answers from that blank piece of paper.
I'd like to get a little bit more precise with respect to the privatization. That would have to be a political decision. The act review in itself is one thing, but the privatization of the corporation would be another. The information with respect to privatization is not something that is decided by the people of the Yukon; it's the political will. I'll give the minister credit; she has a political will to conduct a full review of this Yukon Liquor Act, but what about privatization? That, again, takes political will. Does she have the political will, Mr. Chair, to privatize the Yukon Liquor Corporation - yes or no?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have the political will to do the review of the Yukon Liquor Act. The privatization of the Liquor Corporation may be one of the issues that is on the table for review. Certainly, the member opposite is very much aware of the fact that when a bill comes to this House, the politicians in this House decide whether or not that bill goes forward. So, in that sense, yes, there is going to be some political will.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the caveat on that response is that the politicians who hold the majority determine the direction. We can exert some influence on the direction but not to the degree that we would often like.
Let's go back to the recycling end of the business, Mr. Chair, and the minister made mention that in Whitehorse - and I took it to be in Whitehorse - that the Liquor Corporation was getting out of the recycling game. Is that just in the Whitehorse depot, or is there going to be a uniform policy across the Yukon, or are we creating another double standard?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we are talking about the limitations of scale, and it will only be in the Whitehorse area. Of course, they are going to be open to other markets at some point in the future as the numbers increase in the outer areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I urge the minister to take her other hat, her tourism portfolio, and put that hat on for a moment and picture herself with her nice, big Winnebago, coming up the highway, and first of all trying to locate a liquor store in Yukon - no signs, no nothing. Where are they? Okay, then you find your liquor store because Aunt Martha needs her slug of gin. Then you finally locate the liquor store, you pull in, and you know that everybody across North America is into recycling, and you walk into the liquor store with your empty bottle and your six-pack of beer and, "Oh, we don't do that here, but we do it in rural Yukon." Why can't we have one consistent policy across the whole gamut?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have contracted with Raven Recycling to support that initiative, and recycling is an initiative that we, as a government, strongly support.
We don't want to be competing with a non-profit group that's trying to provide that service to the public. What it also does is provide extra money to underwrite, if you will, some of their less-efficient or less-lucrative recycling that they do; for example, the milk containers. It's a way to keep recycling here in the territory, particularly in Whitehorse, and that's what we support.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we support the private sector, so why would we engage a non-profit organization for the recycling rather than a private enterprise, and why do we have to split them up and have them in two different areas? It's convenient to drop off returns. Go to any liquor store in British Columbia - government liquor stores; even the NDP there got it right - and you have the option. If you're coming in and picking up liquor, you can return your empties there.
So, what we have created here is a double standard, and it's an inconvenience to the travelling public who don't know what the program is from one location to the next. So, why would we create this double standard? I'd like to get some sort of an understanding on that. The excuse that you want to support Raven Recycling is commendable, but think about the poor customers. Try to look at it from a customer orientation standpoint. Now, from that standpoint, you can only conclude that the easiest way is to pick up and drop off at the same location, the same as occurs in other jurisdictions.
So, what poor Aunt Martha has to do, driving up in her Winnebago, after she finally finds the liquor store here in Whitehorse, is to go and find the recycling location. Does that make sense? It certainly doesn't. In virtually every other jurisdiction, where you buy, you can usually return an equal amount of empties. What Aunt Martha is going to end up doing is dumping that stuff in the trash can. So, are we actually encouraging recycling? No.
It has got to be convenient, practical and consistent. What we have done is made a system that's inconvenient, impractical and inconsistent throughout the Yukon. Why would we do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, perhaps I should mention to the side opposite that the amount of returns at the Whitehorse liquor store are very, very small, and that that usually happens at the Raven Recycling to start with. We are trying to encourage people to recycle. When they come in with their liquor containers, then they will also bring in their milk jugs and their glass and their tin, and that's what we are trying to do. We are trying to encourage people to recycle, and I think that the member opposite knows that there are recycling depots in Porter Creek, in Riverdale and also downtown. Raven Recycling is trying very hard to make it as convenient as possible to do recycling in the Yukon Territory, including the recycling of liquor containers.
I hear what the member is saying, though, and I think it's a very good point. Aunt Martha, who apparently is very fond of her gin, may not know, as a tourist, where to take her recycling, and perhaps what we could do is post in the liquor store here in Whitehorse where the recycling centres are. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is making the assumption that Aunt Martha can find the liquor store. Try and find the darn things here in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, let's look at what other jurisdictions are doing with respect to recycling. Is the minister aware of how the liquor outlets in British Columbia operate? They accept returns of beer containers and such, which is usually the biggest amount of returns, and most of the liquor outlets that are government-operated that I'm aware of in Canada do the same. I just can't understand why we would want the liquor store here to be out of sync. Why not accept them at the liquor store here and just have Raven Recycling pick them up if it's a problem? But why have two separate policies within the Yukon Liquor Corporation: one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukon?
That seems to be more and more the case with a lot of Liberal initiatives. We have one policy for Whitehorse and one policy for TROY, the rest of the Yukon. Now, why would we want to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: When Aunt Martha, who has this tremendous fondness for gin, comes into the liquor store in Whitehorse, which she can find quite easily because it's in the mall, she will see that there are opportunities to take her recycling down to a recycling centre, which is quite close to her. At that time she can also bring in her other recycling that she may have crammed into the RV. That other recycling may be her milk jugs - which she may mix with her gin, who knows - her tins and her glass as well. That is a possibility if she so wishes it. I think that is the thing. We are promoting recycling by doing it this way and that's a decision that we made here in this government and it's a good decision. Regardless of how they do it outside of Whitehorse, this is a very good idea for Whitehorse. This is going to work quite well with Raven Recycling. It's going to encourage greater recycling of a number of products including the containers for alcohol.
Mr. Jenkins: For the minister's information - and I understand that she's new at this portfolio - gin and milk is not a very popular cocktail in the Yukon. I would urge her to gain an understanding of what beverages realize a profit for the Liquor Corporation before we move out of it. But, the issue is one of convenience. Throughout British Columbia, the government operated liquor stores. You can return empties to liquor stores all through British Columbia and you can pick up. Now, why would we want to set somebody on a course of, "Well, you can buy it here, but you have to return it over there"?
Let's assume that people come through Watson Lake. In Watson Lake, the Yukon Liquor Corporation has one policy. They get to Whitehorse and there's another policy. They get to Haines Junction or Dawson and there's another policy. Can't we establish something that's convenient for the customers? The whole exercise is customer service. It's not a bureaucratic undertaking. There are not a lot of empties returned to the Whitehorse liquor store, but it is a convenience to the customers. Given that we want to enhance our visitor industry and given the price of gas, we don't want poor Aunt Martha to have to drive all over town looking for the recycling areas.
All I'm urging the minister to do is to maintain the ability to have returns accepted at the Whitehorse liquor store, to have one policy that's consistent throughout the whole Yukon. Like in the stores in B.C., you restrict the amount of returns that you can bring in. You can restrict them to the amount that they purchase. It makes an abundant amount of sense. Why can't we look at this issue from the standpoint of convenience to the customer, not from the bureaucratic standpoint, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, it is about customer service. Apparently, you don't drink milk with gin; you drink pop or juice. Pop or juice with gin means that there are containers that can be recycled. We are talking about convenience for the customer. They can take all of their recyclables to the same spot.
I think the member opposite needs to know, too, that for the last two years, we haven't been doing returns at the Whitehorse store. That's the way it is. All we're doing here is legitimizing that. We're saying that those things go to Raven Recycling.
To be absolutely clear, we are promoting recycling in the Yukon Territory by doing it this way - and particularly in the liquor store in Whitehorse - by doing this program here. What I think is a very good idea - and the member opposite brings up a good point about the tourists. They don't know where the recycling centre is. Perhaps we should post that information up in the liquor store, because, apparently, the member opposite thinks that a large number of the tourists are doing, that they are stopping at the liquor store to refuel themselves in some way.
So it would be wise, then, to put up a poster to say where the Raven Recycling depots - and there is more than one - are around the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps the minister, in her Tourism portfolio, could develop a whole brochure on this so that people coming to the Yukon know where the liquor stores are and where they can recycle, because there are various policies: there's one policy for Whitehorse and one policy for rural Yukon. All I'm urging the minister to do is to establish a policy that is consistent across the Yukon Territory and convenient. And yes, the Whitehorse liquor store is not the recipient of a large amount of the deposit refunds, but so be it. It's still a convenience for the general public, for the visitors we want to attract, and you want to be consistent with other jurisdictions.
Now, I know that British Columbians are not Einsteins when it comes to the liquor business, but they at least have it right with respect to recycling, and the amount that you can refund and return is the same as what you take out. They have a limit on what you can return. It's just a convenience, and it's a customer service.
Now, if the minister wants to accept the status quo and not provide that service and put up a poster, I guess so be it. Usually, when you address issues of customer service, it's pretty simple, pretty straightforward, and usually - try the KIS approach. It works. Keep it simple - you've got it.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I've always been a strong believer in the keep-it-simple-silly approach.
We are talking about convenience for our customers. The convenience is that they can go to one spot with all of their recycling. The other issue that, of course, is not clear at this point is that the vast, vast majority of recycling is done through the warehouse, and that's from the licensees. That is the majority, obviously, of the liquor containers that will be going through the Raven Recycling instead of the liquor warehouse.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what are we going to do? Are we just going to maintain the status quo and put up a poster? Is that it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Can we look at the guidelines for liquor markups and those areas under review, Mr. Chair, with respect to this Liquor Act review?
I mean, the Yukon Liquor Corporation, Mr. Chair, is quite unique. Everywhere else where you go over the limit you're fined, or if you go too fast on the highway or do this or that wrong you're fined. In the liquor business, if you sell under an ounce, that's wrong. You can go over an ounce, but you can't go under it. Everything else is backwards to the rules in the other government agencies. But anyway, that's the way it is. Let's not go there.
But just what is going to be on the table for discussion with respect to markups and whatnot? Is the policy for the Liquor Corporation going to be maintained the same for the next while, where you buy something, add your freight and then you double it before you sell it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has a very different understanding of the markup structure than I have. The decisions on markups are business decisions of the corporation, and will stay as corporate decision making.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any anticipated changes in the methods that are currently employed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: That is not fair. To go back, markup structures are not part of the act. It is a corporate decision and we are not seeing any changes in that markup structure in the future.
However, as time goes on, of course, there will be increases in prices, but as to the markup structure itself, it's unlikely that that's going to be changed in the near future.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well the markup structure is what I was looking at. The Liquor Corporation buys the product for a certain sum of money, adds the freight to it and then usually doubles it or maybe doubles it and then adds the freight - I can't recall off the top of my head. It's a reasonably good business to be in, and it appears that some of the markups are a little bit higher than others. There are some occasions when we buy from other jurisdictions. Is that markup being reviewed, because I know that sometimes it gets quite skewed when we buy directly from the manufacturer? Sometimes we buy in smaller quantities and will buy it from the B.C or Alberta, primarily B.C. I guess we get different pricing arrangements currently from B.C. Liquor Corporation. Is that a consequence of where we purchase from or what causes this skew in the pricing?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I know that the member opposite already knows this, but the imported products come from the B.C. liquor board and the rest of it comes directly from the breweries, wineries and distilleries. Only occasionally do we deal with Alberta, as the member opposite knows.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, so that begs the question: is that how we occasionally get into different markups or different end pricing to the consumer on some of the products? There is a shortage of a certain product and so we buy it from Alberta, or do we bring it in at the same price, or price it accordingly?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the cost is based on our landed cost - occasionally that varies, very rarely actually. Sometimes we get better deals from the suppliers. There are sales on certain items and we certainly take advantage of those sales when they occur.
Mr. Jenkins: That brings us to another point. The only time the Yukon Liquor Corporation has a sale is when they want to get rid of some product line and de-list it. There's a very, very rare occasion when there's a sale; it's probably the last business in the Yukon that ever has a sale of any magnitude, Mr. Chair, but it does happen occasionally.
I was wondering if the Liquor Corporation was going to look at any enhanced marketing. There is probably a whole list of de-listed products that are currently on sale now, Mr. Chair, that the minister now has in her hands. I don't know if she wants to get on the record as to the pricing, but I don't think it's necessary.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I know that I have heard this complaint quite often from a number of people and it's a commonly held perception - and I know in the past that that was the case. I remember years and years ago buying some wine on sale, and there was a reason it was on sale; it made great cooking stuff.
To be clear, the corporation does have a monthly sale. There are a number of items that are put on sale monthly. Sometimes it's because we have a surplus. It could just be that we got a special deal on it from suppliers, but there is a very regular sale process. I see that the number of items on sale is quite limited, but there are limited sales that occur on a monthly basis at the corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: A caveat on that, Mr. Chair: as long as supplies last; and the supply is usually very, very minuscule.
Let's look at home brewing and making of wine at home and its use. It's a growing field. Are there any moves by the government to impose further regulations in this field?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I strongly suspect that that issue will also come up during the Liquor Act review, as well as local breweries.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, some of the best wines I have tasted in the last few years have been from individuals who are making it on their own, and there are some excellent products out there, Mr. Chair.
But, Mr. Chair, it raises another issue. There are quite a number of events that occur around the Yukon, weddings and the like, where individuals make their own wine and they're not permitted to serve it at these events. Is there any way, if they're more than willing to pay corkage or whatever to Yukon? There doesn't seem to be any mechanism at all. The only option you have is to give it away or let them take it home with them after the event. A lot of individuals make their own wine, label it with their personal label and want to serve it at an event but can't do so. There just doesn't appear to be any mechanism to pay the appropriate taxes to Yukon and move forward. Why not?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Typically, permits have to be obtained from the Yukon Liquor Corporation, and the reason that this is regulated is that the wine that is provided at these functions has been inspected. It may or may not meet health standards and the Yukon Liquor Corporation does provide that service for the products that they sell.
My feeling, on this issue, is that once again this is another one of those items that will come up during the Liquor Act review. I know I have heard this complaint as well, particularly around weddings. People have very carefully gone out and bottled wine and then thought they would be able to serve it at their reception. So, I strongly suspect that this will come up again during the Liquor Act review.
Mr. Jenkins: So the whole basis for not allowing Yukoners this avenue is that the wine is not inspected and there could be a health risk. Is that the major risk or the only risk?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I suppose the biggest reason is that it is actually prohibited under the Liquor Act right now. The act, as we have been saying continuously since the beginning of this debate, is archaic. It needs to be reviewed and this is one of the many reasons we are reviewing it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I did look down the list of employees in the Liquor Corporation and I didn't notice one wine inspector there at all, so I was going to ask the minister where that individual was, Mr. Chair. Perhaps some of the minister's colleagues in her caucus can serve the function, I don't know, and we can move forward.
Currently, all I'm told is that it would be an amendment in the regulations to permit this kind of use, Mr. Chair. It wouldn't take a full-blown amendment to the Liquor Act. I'm told it could be accomplished by an order-in-council permitting the sale of homemade wine and charging a corkage on it or charging the appropriate taxes.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As far as wine inspections, I think we need to go back on that issue. Wine isn't inspected at the manufacturers. Ontario does inspections on behalf of the rest of Canada on wines. I think we're underestimating the liability factors on providing wine in the territory that hasn't been inspected. That's a tremendous issue.
But to be clear, that's why we're doing a full-blown review. We're not going to make little changes here and there. There are not going to be a bunch of ad hoc changes to the regulations and to the act itself. We are going to do a complete review of this act. We are not going to be doing it in bits and pieces. We're going to look at the whole picture, and we will be presenting the new act to the Yukon Legislature in the year 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have had more inferior quality wine purchased through the Liquor Corporation than I've had homemade wine that was an inferior quality. Perhaps some of it on the homemade front didn't meet my standards but it was still reasonably good wine as compared to some of the stuff that has come from the Liquor Corporation. So as far as bad wine is concerned there is probably an equal opportunity for the Liquor Corporation to provide it as well as the home front. But, I have kind of looked at other jurisdictions that allow the serving of homemade wines at receptions and they are predominantly in the U.S. Given that the U.S. is very, very much more sue-happy than we are in Canada, I can't understand why we wouldn't allow it here. Why wouldn't we find a method to allow the serving of homemade wine at receptions? Now, there has to be a vehicle - the issue is the health standpoint and the safety of the wine. Now, that could probably be overcome by a disclaimer and the other issue is probably that the government receive its appropriate taxes. So, will the minister undertake to provide, get together with her officials and see if there is a vehicle to get around this issue and put something in place?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I agree with the member opposite that Americans do tend to be rather litigious creatures; they like to sue each other; it's something they do.
We'll certainly take a look at this, but we are going to be taking a look at this is terms of doing a review of the Liquor Act, and we are not going to be making ad hoc changes. We are going to do a complete review of the Liquor Act, and this will be one of the issues that are going to be dealt with, I am quite certain, during our review.
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins:Before the break, we were looking at pricing policies of the Liquor Corporation, and I was wondering if the minister could provide an explanation as to why many of our imported beers are so expensive as compared to other jurisdictions in Canada. It just doesn't seem to conform. If the minister cares to take a trip over to Anchorage, you can buy a 24-pack of Coronas for the same price that we pay for a six-pack of Corona here in the Yukon, even taking into consideration the exchange, Mr. Chair. And we all know what the price of Mexican beer is in Mexico. For Heineken, it's the same thing. Why is there an inordinate amount of profit put on these product lines versus the other beers?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, in the States, their tax structure, their revenue structure is completely different from ours. You can't really compare one to the other. We are, however, relatively competitive with other jurisdictions in Canada, particularly British Columbia, which the member thinks so highly of. I think that as far as packaged beer goes, our markup is 91 percent, which is pretty well competitive with the rest of Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, so what is our markup on domestic beer? Is it also 91 percent?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, but on the domestic beer, we get a freight allowance, and on the imported beer, we do not, so the markup wouldn't be 91 per cent on both, if you take into consideration the freight allowance - correct, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it is 91 percent of the landed cost, and the member opposite is fairly familiar with the way that alcohol is priced in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it just gets back to the issue that the price of imported beer here in the Yukon is inordinately high compared to other jurisdictions.
Well, the minister might shake her head no, but when is the last time she bought a six-pack of Heineken in B.C. and bought a six-pack of Heineken in the Yukon? There is quite a difference. If she wants to go back east, there is quite a difference again, and I might remind the minister that, with the exception of Alberta, all these other jurisdictions have provincial sales taxes added in. We do not have provincial sales tax, so it begs the question: why are the prices so high here on imported beer?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm not clear if the member opposite wants me to drink Heineken across the country; that seems to be what he wants me to do, and I don't like beer so it's not going to happen but -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: And, of course, the member opposite is pointing out that perhaps I could buy it for the rest of the Legislature. I think what I'm going to try to do right now is probably pass the budget first.
The point that I'd like to make is that we are relatively competitive in this area with the rest of Canada. We buy our beer from B.C. This beer, the imported beer, comes from B.C., and it's virtually the same price as it is in British Columbia.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, maybe the trouble is that B.C. is making too much of a markup before they pass it on to us, or something, but why - let's take Corona, or Heineken for that matter. Why are they so much cheaper in Alaska than here? It comes the same distance. I'm sure there are not the same taxes and markup on it, because you can buy a box of 24 Corona for virtually the same price as you buy a six-pack here.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This question has been asked and answered previously. Quite clearly, we are not Alaska. We have a different pricing structure. We have a different tax structure. We have a different revenue structure. This is not Alaska. I know that most of the tourists think they're in Alaska, but it isn't, and we do have a very different way of pricing the alcohol, and the fact that it's cheaper in Alaska is great for the Alaskans if they like to drink beer.
Mr. Jenkins: We should look at Alaska taking over our liquor distribution system, Mr. Chair. There's an option.
But let's look at wine. Let's look at wine here compared to the rest of Canada. Let's look at French wine. Quebec has an inordinately lower pricing schedule for French wine vis-à-vis the Yukon. Domestic wines in Ontario are considerably lower. Even B.C.-manufactured wines are cheaper in Ontario than they are here, so it's not a factor of transportation.
It appears that we're taking an inordinate markup on all of these product lines, Mr. Chair. Why?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we buy from B.C. We have been really clear. That's where our product comes from. If the member wants to move to Ontario because the price of alcohol is so much cheaper there, then he's certainly welcome to. But the way they price the alcohol in Ontario has little or nothing to do with this debate.
What I'm suggesting to the member opposite is that the prices that we have are competitive with the rest of Canada. He is pointing out areas where they are not, in his perception. Things are different. This is the Yukon; this is not Ontario. We do buy our product from British Columbia. We are competitive with British Columbia because it's the same product and it's more or less the same price structure. We are not competitive with Alaska because they have a completely different structure. That is the way it is.
I'm not too sure what point the member is trying to make. He's comparing apples and oranges, as he often does. What is the point of this question? It has been asked and it has been answered, three times now. I'm not too clear what the member is trying to get at.
Mr. Jenkins: The point is, Mr. Chair, that we have a monopoly. We have a government-regulated monopoly on the booze business here in the Yukon. We have one store to go shopping in, and it's under the government's domain. We do not have options. If we do not like the type of beer that we buy at the liquor store we can't go to the liquor store down the street and buy from a different vendor, because the different vendor doesn't exist. Everything flows from the government monopoly. The government monopoly and the government control and lock on prices is, in a lot of people's opinions and in the opinions of a lot of constituents' minds, unreasonable, unfair and too excessive. That's the point, because a lot of these people travel to other jurisdictions and they know what they're paying for the same product in these other jurisdictions. Once you begin to accept a consistent brand of, let's say beer or wine, you buy that consistently, no matter where you go, because you like that product. But, here you can only buy it from the government monopoly. That's the issue: the government monopoly, their excessively high prices.
All the minister can respond by saying is that it's fair compared to the rest of Canada. I submit that it's not fair compared to the rest of Canada. In some cases, they're considerably higher. This is an administration function to change the prices. It's not something we have to debate on the floor of the Legislature. It's an in-house undertaking. Why can't we get in step with the rest of Canada? It would be nice if we could get in line with the rest of Alaska for whiskey prices, but I realize that's a separate country and they have different laws.
But the liquor laws are pretty consistent across Canada. The monopolies that governments enjoy are very consistent across Canada, so why can't we get in step with the rest of Canada and have prices that are reasonably similar to the rest of Canada?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, our prices are very much similar to other places in Canada. There is the odd variation on specific products. The member opposite brought up the issue of privatization earlier in this debate and at that point I was quite clear in saying that this is extremely likely to come up during the Liquor Act review. Privatization is one of the solutions that people see to bring the prices down on the price of alcohol. Sometimes that is true and sometimes it is not, but that will be one of the issues that is dealt with during the Liquor Act review. He is absolutely correct that there is a monopoly on the sale of alcohol right now in the Yukon Territory.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Yukon Liquor Corporation?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just one in passing. A comment that the minister would probably be well-advised to keep the current deputy minister she has advising her around - or probably seconded for the duration of this review - because it is not going to be an easy task. It's going to be a grinding task. She is going to hear from people from all walks of life and all facets, and she is never going to be right. She is always going to be wrong on anything she does or undertakes.
Some Hon. Member: A point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Point of order, Member for Lake Laberge.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is once again employing violent language with the phrase, flogging a dead horse. I do not think that that is appropriate in this House and would ask him to refrain from using such language.
Chair: The Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the minister might care to review Hansard. That phrase has been used consistently by the minister with whom I'm debating the Yukon tourism budget. I believe the last time it was used, it was used by her. She can pick it up in Hansard. She probably said "flogging a dead horse," and that's what I said - "flogging a dead horse". So the phrase has been in constant use. It's an established practice. Let's quit wasting time with silly things like this, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The phrase is not unparliamentary, nor is it listed in Hansard. My personal preference is, to avoid delaying the House, that we would ask members to understand the sensibilities of other members and also understand that things may be said in passing without thinking about them. It's not unparliamentary, and I won't rule on this phrase again.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to be clear, I have great respect for Deputy Minister Ray Hayes, who has now moved on to Government Services and was quite pleased to be able to have him for the short period of time that I did. I'm also very respectful of my new deputy minister, Mr. Webber, and I'm sure that we'll have a very productive relationship as we do the review of the Yukon Liquor Act over the next two years.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Less Internal Recovery
Less Internal Recovery in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the revenue?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Liquor Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation agreed to
Department of Justice
Chair: I refer members to page 9-4, the Department of Justice. Is there any general debate on the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to present the Justice department's main estimates for the 2000-01 fiscal year. The operations and maintenance budget for 2000-01 will total $31,672,000, representing a decrease of $534,000, or two percent, from the 1999-2000 forecast.
The Department of Justice budget has remained relatively unchanged over a number of years. Approximately 91 percent of the department's budget is spent on fixed costs, including personnel costs, the contract with the RCMP for policing services, departmental communications and utilities costs, contract services, and grants and contributions.
The Department of Justice has discretionary abilities over less than 10 percent of its budget. In addition, there are a number of areas where the department does not have complete control over the costs. When the activity is funded by transfer payments, such as legal aid and the Human Rights Commission, it is not always possible to anticipate demands and resultant costs.
The department is involved with other areas where it cannot completely control the scope and volume of activities. Some examples of this include certain types of RCMP costs, such as salary increases for RCMP officers, the judiciary in general and costs for certain types of trials, coroner's inquests and autopsies, inquiry boards into medical, insurance or other professional complaints, and rate hearings under the Yukon Utilities Board. These are externally driven demands. The department does its best to anticipate them and adjust its budgeting processes accordingly.
For the fiscal year 2000-01, the operations and maintenance budget for the Department of Justice is $31,672,000. Of this amount, $14,103,000, or 45 percent, covers personnel costs. This overall percentage remains the same as last year, despite increases resulting from collective bargaining.
The amount of $11,196,000, or 35 percent, of the overall 2000-01 budget will be spent on policing services. The remaining 20 percent, or $6,373,000, represents $2,448,000 in transfer payments to groups or individuals who deliver programs on behalf of the Justice department and $3,925,000 for program costs.
The department's capital budget for this fiscal year is $1,233,000. This amount is for general capital expenditures of $183,000, including $40,000 for the first steps in planning for information systems upgrading. There is $1 million allocated for planning the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and $50,000 for ongoing renovations.
The operation and maintenance budget breakdown for each branch in the Justice department is as follows: the management services budget for 2000-01 is $2,147,000, an increase of $30,000. This increase represents additional costs associated with the worker advocate office. These costs are recoverable from the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
The court services branch is responsible for the operation of the Yukon court system and also runs programs such as maintenance enforcement, child support guidelines, witness administration and the sheriff's office. Its total budget is $3,900,000, an increase of $154,000.
The increase includes an additional $76,000 for implementation of the new child support guidelines. These costs are fully recoverable from the federal government. An additional $11,000 of the increase related to increased costs for judicial compensation as a result of the decisions of the Judicial Compensation Commission.
The legal services branch is responsible for prosecuting territorial and some criminal offences. It drafts legislation, litigates civil matters, is responsible for First Nation administration of justice negotiations and provides legal advice to the Government of Yukon. The branch also administers the native court worker program, legal aid and public legal education and information programs under the access to justice agreement with the federal Department of Justice.
For 2000-01, the budget for the legal services branch is $3,210,000. This is an additional three-percent decrease from the previous fiscal year, at a dollar amount of $108,000. Further reductions in outside counsel costs, and a significant decrease in litigation costs are anticipated. Once again, despite the ongoing freeze on federal government contributions to legal aid, the Yukon contribution to legal aid will continue to increase. Although the branch has an overall decrease, an additional $125,000 has been identified to cover the costs of an operational review.
The consumer and commercial cervices branch is comprised of the consumer services, corporate affairs, labour services, land titles, coroner's office and public administrator's office. This branch administers approximately 50 pieces of legislation.
The total budget for 2000-01 will be $2,525,000, a decrease of $334,000 from 1999-2000. The community and correctional services branch administers probation services for adult offenders and the victim services and family violence prevention unit, as well as the Whitehorse and Teslin correctional facilities. The budget for 2000-01 is $8,431,000, an overall decrease of $94,000 from the fiscal year 1999-2000.
There is a decrease of $146,000 in funding for the operation of institutional facilities. While the budget was developed, prior to the decision to temporarily close the Teslin Community Correctional Centre, no major cost savings are immediately anticipated as a result of this temporary closure. Work on the redevelopment of the Teslin Centre is ongoing.
The crime prevention and policing services branch administers programs directed at crime prevention and deterrence in the Yukon including the delivery of policing services. The budget for 2000-01 is $11,196,000. This amount includes an increase of $315,000 in the policing services due to increases in the RCMP collective agreement. Despite this increase, there is an overall decrease of $45,000 across this branch.
The budget for the Human Rights Commission for the 2000-01 year will be $263,000. This is a decrease of $137,000 from the 1999-00 year.
The goals of the department are to contribute to improving public safety, fostering healthy communities and increasing public confidence in the justice system. These goals will be achieved within a responsible and efficient budgetary framework.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on capital and O&M for the Department of Justice?
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister whether she supports all the expenditures in this departmental budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Netro: The minister has talked about the legal aid program review started by the NDP government. I would like to ask the minister whether any other programs in the Justice department are under review?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With the Human Rights Commission, there is an operational and legislative review and we're planning an evaluation of things like the community constable program.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I would like to know what new policy direction the minister has given to her new deputy minister.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, thus far, I have had exactly two meetings with my new deputy minister, and we have been discussing ongoing circumstances in the department. As soon as this legislative session is finished, if that happens in my lifetime, we will be working on some policy direction with the new deputy minister.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, the Liberal platform promised to support community healing initiatives and to work with all Yukon communities to develop and enhance community justice initiatives. I am interested in how the minister plans to follow up on that commitment. The NDP government did considerable work to support community justice and develop the restorative justice strategy, which, in opposition, the Liberals supported. Can the minister tell us whether she will be bringing forward a restorative justice action plan to support community justice measures that the Yukon people requested in the justice system - and when?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I am still going through the restorative justice initiatives that I have received and am probably two-thirds of the way through the document at this point.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, the budget before the House was tabled with long-term capital plans for construction of a replacement for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to provide a new facility for the benefit of inmates and staff. Through the restorative justice public consultations, it is clear that the Yukon people want to see correctional reform.
A new facility can better accommodate new correctional programs for inmates so that they can get the literacy, vocational and lifeskills that they need to lead a productive life. Whitehorse Correctional Centre is more than 30 years old, and facility reports indicate that it cannot continue to operate much longer. In fact, a lot of time has been spent in this House discussing this matter. The former Liberal critic repeatedly supported the need for a new jail.
In fact, I have stacks of Liberal press releases and demands for a new jail. Can the minister tell me whether she shares the view of her former colleague and agrees with the fire marshall's reports and the long-term plans brought forward by the NDP to build a new Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Absolutely, Mr. Chair. I'm anxious to complete planning for the facility and get construction underway, hopefully within this term, provided that the federal government matches contributions. We do require a certain amount of money from the federal government for this project, as they have promised.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, a new correctional facility is an important project and, when we're back in this House in the fall, I will follow up with the minister to see if the Liberal government will keep their word and complete the correctional facility that, in opposition, they said should be built.
Mr. Chair, the minister has, in opposition, demanded legal aid funding increases for single moms and families living in poverty to go to court on family matters such as child support and custody. Now that they are in government, the minister cannot duck the question. She needs to be accountable to the public.
Does the minister agree with the public statements made by her party and her colleagues that legal aid funding should be increased?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it is my hope to see all Yukoners have access to legal advice at a cost they can afford. There is a review of the legal aid system currently underway, as the member opposite knows, and once we receive that report we can proceed to look at the recommendations it contains.
Ms. Netro: Will the minister bring forward a supplementary budget in the fall to increase legal aid funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can't make any commitments relative to legal aid until I have received and reviewed the report, which is currently underway.
Ms. Netro: Why did the Liberals tell the public they would increase legal aid funding, and then not do it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are waiting for the results of the report. I guess it's hypothetically possible that the report may say that no increase in funding is necessary.
Ms. Netro: Why could the Liberal government find $250,000 for prospector grants - something they didn't say a word about during the election campaign - but they couldn't find any money for the legal aid program, which they repeatedly said was underfunded?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the legal aid program is under review. When we have the results of that review, we will look at its recommendations.
Ms. Netro: As a matter of policy, does this Minister of Justice think the legal aid program should support civil legal aid for family matters?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already said that. I would like to see all Yukoners have access to legal advice at a cost they can afford.
Ms. Netro: Has the Minister of Justice spoken yet to federal Minister Anne McLellan about increasing federal contributions to legal aid funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the legal aid program is currently under review. No decisions will be made on changes to the program or increases or decreases to the funding until that report is complete.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I have some questions for the Minister of Justice about the Teslin Community Correctional Centre. The Government of Yukon and the Teslin Tlingit Council have an agreement regarding the use of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre and were in discussions about amending the agreement to support a new and different focus for the facility prior to the election. The facility has provided local employment for Teslin residents. I understand that the employees have been given lay-off notices, effective June 30, 2000, and that some of the employees have been offered positions elsewhere in the government.
I'd like the minister to give us an update on the Teslin centre. Is it still the minister's plan to reopen the facility within the next three months?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry. Could the member opposite repeat the question, please?
Ms. Netro: I'd like the minister to give us an update on the Teslin centre. Is it still the minister's plan to reopen the facility within the next three months?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm wondering about the member's use of the word "still". However, the former government temporarily closed the Teslin Community Correctional Centre as of March 31, and my colleagues and I and the Mayor of Teslin, the Chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council and others interested in the facility are going to be continuing discussions on the future of the facility.
It would be impractical to reopen a facility when there aren't minimum security inmates for the facility. I'm sure the member would agree.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I would like to know when was the last community meeting about the TCCC held in Teslin?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I toured the facility shortly before the beginning of this legislative session and met with some of the concerned groups and I have also met with the chief. I have been unable to go and participate in a community meeting as we are busy with the Legislature. Should this session ever end, I look forward to going there to do just that.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, which department in government is taking the lead on working with Teslin residents to determine the future of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, at this point, the Department of Justice has the lead in that initiative and we are asking several other departments for their input.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I have a number of questions relating to the employment situation of the Teslin residents who have been working at the Teslin Community Correctional Centre.
I understand that permanent staff received lay-off notices effective June 30, 2000, and are eligible for priority hiring for a period of one year under the terms of the collective agreement. Can the minister tell me if the permanent staff have been offered positions elsewhere in the government? Secondly, can the minister tell me whether Teslin residents have been offered positions only in the Department of Justice or in other departments, as well - and which departments.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: All employees of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre have been accorded all rights provided to them within the guidelines of the Public Service Act and the collective agreement. I would be glad to give her a written update on what has taken place since the Liberal government took office.
Ms. Netro: I would appreciate that. What kinds of positions are they able to receive priority hiring for?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would be part of the written information.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to probe a little further with the minister, if we could, on the Teslin Correctional Centre and the intents and uses of it. I know that there has been an agreement that's comprised of the mayor and council, the chief and council, the employees, the government and they're striving to find another use for it. Could you please give me an update as to what some of those uses might be at this point in time? While you're on your feet, could you please tell me who the chair of the committee is?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I suspect the member opposite is quite aware that the chair of that committee was the former Deputy Minister of Justice. As the new deputy minister is still getting briefed on things, we will be reactivating that committee shortly. It would be improper of me to speculate at this point on what some of the future uses of that facility might be. I wouldn't want to cut anybody off from suggesting other uses.
Mr. Keenan: I wasn't asking for speculation, Mr. Chair, and I don't think the member would be speculating. I understand that the committees had numerous meetings - three or four. And I'd like to know when they meet, how often they meet, what some of the comments have been to date as to where they would go or what would be happening with the facility itself. There's no reason to be afraid or paranoid of my questioning here. I just simply want to know what is going on because attached to the intent must also be training of sorts, and some of the employees who have not been offered employment other places - one year there - and we would be looking at that. So I'm asking a good constituency question. I appreciate that you just have a new deputy minister, but I would also appreciate something that I could take back to my community and promote, and say, "This is what the government is doing, and this is how we might be able to help facilitate this for you." No fear, no paranoia - just the goods, in this lifetime, if you would.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't have that information in front of me, as the member understands with the change in deputy minister. But I would be happy to provide that information to him. It might not be tomorrow, but it will be in this lifetime.
Mr. Jenkins: Initially, I'd like to take exception to some of the remarks the minister made with respect to her portfolio and her obligations. The minister went on, on a couple of occasions, to say you can't do that kind of work because this Legislature is sitting. I find that extremely appalling, that a minister of this government would make such a remark. I might remind the minister that we're at day 19 of a 35-day sitting. We are debating the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon. In addition to that budget there's a supplementary budget. Now, when you add these two together, we are dealing with a very vast sum of money. What it appears is that the minister can't get a handle on her responsibilities and conduct the business of this Legislature simultaneously. Everyone prior to this has been under those same constraints and obligations, Mr. Chair.
So why, all of a sudden, can't this minister task her various areas of responsibility and address them and deal with them? Perhaps it's time for the Premier to look at a Cabinet shuffle. I know it's early on, but maybe that's the course of action that's perhaps prudent.
Mr. Chair, we have a number of issues here before us, and the minister waffled all over with respect to legal aid and what is going to transpire, and that's probably the biggest issue that she has currently in the Department of Justice that is at the forefront of Yukoners. And the issue is one of money.
Now, after the end of this review, what this review is going to show is that there is a shortfall of funds in the legal aid budget. The review will confirm that. The review will confirm what is common knowledge, what is understood by everyone, and I'm sure this review has been conducted after previous reviews were completed.
So, this is not something that's new, Mr. Chair. It has been an issue that has been underfunded for quite a number of years.
When the legal system puts on the legal aid budget other demands for criminal cases, there is just not enough money in the legal aid budget to address the areas it predominately addresses - the rank and file individual that has a situation, and are, in a lot of cases, single mothers or single individuals. These are the individuals in our society that the minister is failing by not providing enough funds in the legal aid budget.
Now, I suggest that if the minister took it upon herself to take the amount of money we have spent on reviewing this for the vast number of years that we have been reviewing it, and transfer it to the legal aid budget, we might be able to satisfy a lot of other issues that are outstanding. That has not been the case and the answers that the minister provided the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin are just totally unacceptable.
I think that this requires a lot more thorough examination. I would like the minister to be more forthright as to where she is going to be taking the department with respect to legal aid, and not just tell the House that, at the conclusion of another study, we are going to be examining it and deciding where to go.
Given the number of people who have a thorough understanding in her department as to what it's going to take to address the legal aid issue, it's very simple. It's called money, but we'll deal with that next Monday.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House a report from the Chair of 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.