Wednesday, December 6, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will move to 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 Amy Ursich
Mr. Kent: I rise today to pay tribute to Amy Ursich, whose young life was ended far too soon on November 27. Amy, only 22 years old and the mother of two young children - Hannah, three and a half years old, and Ben, only 18 months - was killed in a car accident in Alberta, where she had lived for the past five years.
Some of those very close to Amy are joining us in the gallery today, including her grandparents, Frank Ursich Sr. and Peg Ursich. The entire Ursich family has in the past and do presently contribute mightily to our community. Lorraine, Amy's mother, is on staff here at the YTG Building. Amy's grandfather, Frank Sr., is a former Sergeant-at-Arms of our Assembly.
The Ursich girls - Amy, Amber and Gina - were and are among the cream of the crop as far as swimmers go in our territory. Amy was known affectionately by her family and friends as the rebel, because of her independence and love for finding adventure in life.
She became hooked on skydiving while in Calgary, and was studying to become a paramedic at the time of her tragic death. She was also a junior swim coach in Alberta.
Amy was born and raised in the Yukon and graduated from F.H. Collins Secondary School.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during this difficult time. All we can offer to Frank, her father, Lorraine, sisters Amber and Gina, Frank Sr., grandmother Peg, their friends and family, is to try not to grieve Amy's death; rather, remember her full life as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother and friend.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I rise today to tribute Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, is a non-profit, grassroots organization with chapters and community action teams right across this country.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving is run by volunteers and mothers, as well as fathers and friends and other concerned citizens who want to make a difference in the fight against impaired driving.
Project red ribbon is a national public awareness campaign. The project is highly visible and community oriented. It asks Canadians to make a commitment to drive safe and sober. The program promotes the message that deaths and injuries resulting from impaired driving are needless tragedies and totally preventable.
Each year from November 1 to the Monday after January 1, MADD Canada volunteers from across the country ask motorists to tie a red ribbon to a visible location in their vehicle. You can support the project red-ribbon campaign by tying a red ribbon to your vehicle. It is a sign of respect for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives or who have been injured as a result of impaired driving.
Your red ribbon also serves as a reminder to people to drive sober throughout the holidays and through the year. Donation boxes and ribbons are available at Yukon Liquor Corporation administration office in Whitehorse and at all government liquor stores.
Funds raised through this program assist MADD Canada in providing services to victims, and educating the public to make our communities safer.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the red ribbon project sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
This national annual campaign was developed to raise awareness of the preventable tragedy that impacts many lives when accidents are caused by drinking and driving.
By tying a red ribbon on the antenna of your car, you are both remembering those who have died or been injured in drinking-related accidents and making a commitment to drive sober.
This public awareness campaign takes place between November and January to remind people during the holiday season to make alternative plans when drinking. Arrange for a designated driver, call a cab, ride the bus, or plan a sleepover if you will be drinking during this holiday season.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I rise to also pay tribute to project red ribbon, tie-one-on-for-safety campaign.
With the holiday season fast approaching, efforts nationwide are being stepped up to raise public awareness about the seriousness of drinking and driving. Project red ribbon, an initiative that was started by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has become Canada's most visible and successful public awareness program involving the distribution of millions of red ribbons on vehicles as a reminder to drivers to not drink and drive. Although a simple gesture, this simple act - tie one on for safety - has been well-received by Canadians as an excellent tool to acknowledge that impaired driving is a problem in our society and that there are many victims who suffer grave ordeals due to impaired-driving crashes. Simply put, project red ribbon is an excellent campaign to make people aware, to drive safe and sober, not only throughout the holidays but year-round.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I notice that the former MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, Mr. Esau Schafer, has joined us in the gallery today. Please join me in welcoming him today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for filing a journal of occurrences at the fork of the Lewes and Pelly rivers, May 1848 to September 1852.
Mr. Speaker, I have for filing a letter to Chief Norman Sterriah of the Ross River Dena Council on the dinosaur tracks at Whisker Lakes.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Premier, together with her Cabinet ministers, Caucus members and political staff, should restrict their outside travel to essential business in order to reduce the current, exorbitantly high outside travel costs and to enable them to pay more attention to their responsibilities concerning the major social and economic problems confronting Yukoners.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then leads us to Question Period.
Question re: Argus Properties, government meeting with
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier, again on the Argus issue.
Mr. Speaker, once again, we learned more yesterday from the newspapers and the Cabinet spin doctors than we did from the Premier, but I'm not giving up, Mr. Speaker - not yet.
She says that the Argus contract remains the same. I have a simple question: if the contract didn't change after the Premier sent her emissaries to Vancouver, what changed in this government's interpretation of the contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have advised the member over and over and over and over again that what this government is doing and has done is to bring an NDP agreement to a successful conclusion. That's what we're doing, and that's what we are endeavouring to do.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I continue to ask, Mr. Speaker, because the Premier's advice to me in this Legislature contradicts the facts given by her staff to the news media.
The contract clearly stipulates that the $750,000 of YTG contribution was for off-site municipal infrastructure. Four days after the minister answered the summons from Argus and sent her emissaries to Vancouver, the City of Whitehorse cut Argus a cheque for $294,000. A week later, another cheque was cut for $315,000.
Mr. Speaker, why did the Premier fold up like a pup tent when Argus demanded payment for work it had done to improve its own property?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is nothing sinister in this. The member is making leaps of logic and making comments about personal comments.
The Argus deal was negotiated by the previous government. Like other agreements with Yukoners, we have said during the election campaign that we don't rip up signed deals. We don't want another Taga Ku. We have done our best to live up to a deal that was negotiated by the NDP government. The City of Whitehorse has done the same. Argus is doing the same. We're trying to bring this agreement to a successful conclusion. That's what's happening. There's no difference in facts as stated by my staff or by me or by any members on this side of the House.
There's no new deal. It's the same agreement. We're just trying to bring it to successful conclusion.
Mr. Fentie: The Premier has misspoken herself. The facts do differ from what she tells the Legislature and from what we hear from her staff through the news media. There's something that doesn't add up here, Mr. Speaker.
Argus and the city were butting heads about who was in default. Lawyers on both sides were standing by at the ready. Argus beckoned to the Premier and said, "Help us out here." All of a sudden, the city blinked and forked over YTG's money to the developer.
After answering the summons from Argus, what instructions did the Premier give her staff that resulted in the city paying the developer's invoices for site development work on its own property?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the member's references to off-site infrastructure, the member opposite would be well-advised to call his former colleague, Mr. Harding, and re-read the original agreement. The original agreement had a number of holes in it - holes you could drive a truck through - and the members talk about off-site infrastructure. Well, if they have a definition of "off-site infrastructure", why wasn't it put in the deal?
Since May 6 when we were sworn into office, what I have done and what my staff have done is try to live up to this agreement, to bring the agreement to a successful conclusion so that there isn't a lawsuit faced by Yukon taxpayers. We don't want to see this agreement end up like that. We're all too familiar, as Yukon taxpayers, with Taga Ku. We don't want lawsuits in this territory. We want agreements, whether we negotiated them or not, brought to a successful conclusion. That is what we're doing.
Question re: Argus Properties, government meeting with
Mr. Fentie: Well, there's something very evident here. It's the Premier who doesn't know what's in the agreement because, if she did, she'd know that the definition for off-site infrastructure is there in the definition section of the said agreement.
The Premier's playing a very high-stakes game here, Mr. Speaker. She has used her political muscle, through her chief of staff, to intervene in a contract dispute between the private developer and the City of Whitehorse. It's easy to see why she wouldn't want this story to get out, and it may explain why this secret mission to Vancouver didn't show up in the travel information we requested originally.
Prior to the September 11 meeting, was the city aware that the Premier would be sending someone down to discuss this matter at the request of Argus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is nothing secretive about this. It was the members opposite who were so secretive about the Argus agreement.
The situation is this: there were two options. We could have meetings with Argus and the City of Whitehorse and live up to an agreement that was signed by the NDP, or we could do what the member opposite has suggested in this House and rip up the agreement or not live up to it and end up in court. Those are the choices facing us as a government when we were sworn in on May 6. We have lived up to the agreement. The only point that the member opposite has made repeatedly in this House is that the members opposite are out of questions, because these are the same ones they asked us in June.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the members on this side of the House will never be out of questions when it comes to this Liberal government misspending taxpayers' money. That is why we are asking these questions.
The Premier's intervention may have helped to divert a lawsuit, for the time being anyway. We know from the newspapers, not the Premier, that Argus has asked for arbitration. I have a simple, straightforward question for the Premier: will the Yukon government be represented at the arbitration process, and what position will it take on YTG's contribution of the $750,000? Will the Premier answer that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I would caution the member opposite about his questions. First of all, this government has not misspent taxpayers' dollars. What this government has done is that it has been sworn into office and has an agreement that wasn't negotiated by us, but which we are trying to live up to. And that's what we have been doing. We want to see this agreement reach a successful conclusion. And that's what we are working toward.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier can caution me she all she wants, but what I say here and what I promote is that the Liberal government did not live up to their original agreement and they bought themselves out of hot water by spending taxpayers' money as it was not intended to be spent on the original agreement. The government's position may have been compromised already, Mr. Speaker, by the Premier's intervention at the request of the developer.
If this matter goes to arbitration, the decision could go either way. If Argus is found to be in default on the agreement, what steps will the government take to recover the $750,000 that it advanced to the city for municipal infrastructure, or will it write the money off the way it wrote off the cost of dropping the port options in Alaska?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite were part of the government that negotiated the Argus deal. Now, they're trying to say that they had nothing to do with it - rip it up, don't live up to it, go ahead and have Yukon taxpayers at risk for a lawsuit. That's not the way we do business.
What we have done, Mr. Speaker, is that we have been accountable on this. We have said, "Look, there's an agreement, we didn't negotiate it, but we are going to live up to it." We want to see this agreement successfully concluded and that's exactly what we're doing.
Question re: Teslin Community Correctional Centre, future use
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. Now, one of the legacies of the previous, penitent NDP government was the Teslin jail. This experiment in social justice never really did work. The Teslin jail usually had more staff than inmates. At times - a staff of 20 - one inmate, Mr. Speaker.
During the territorial election campaign the Yukon Party wanted to consult stakeholders about possibly using the jail as an alcohol and drug treatment centre. Can the minister confirm that the Teslin jail has effectively been empty since the Liberal government took office some seven months ago? The lights are on but nobody's home. Is that the case, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's correct.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, can the minister advise the House what she intends to do with the Teslin jail? Has she had any discussions with the First Nations in the Teslin community about its possible use? What proposals are currently being explored and considered?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, discussions are currently underway with the Teslin Tlingit Council with respect to possible future uses of the facility.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but I asked what is being considered. What are we planning on doing? The Teslin jail did provide some much-needed jobs for the community. Unfortunately, the concept of the community jail just didn't work.
Will the minister assure the House that, in devising a new use for the jail, the provision of meaningful, long-term jobs for the community will be an important consideration, and that her discussions with the Teslin Tlingit Council will prove to be beneficial and we can see something happening?
We have a big government structure sitting there. We're heating it and we're paying the light bill. Nothing is happening with it. When is something going to take place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, discussions are underway with the Teslin Tlingit Council at the moment. The government has presented a number of options. At this point, we are waiting for a reply from the Teslin Tlingit Council on their wishes.
Question re: Social assistance rate increase
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I had such good luck with the Acting Minister of Health in providing answers and actually providing answers that I would like to ask her about another issue.
Now, the Minister of Health stated that he had been knocking on the doors of people on social assistance and that they were elated with their lot in life. So far, we haven't been able to find any of those elated folks, and actually, it is the exact opposite. We have been flooded with phone calls, saying, "Thank you for representing us."
Now, it's hard to make sense of any of the answers that the full-time minister gives. Perhaps the acting minister can provide one of her handy little yes-or-no answers.
Will the social assistance recipients be getting a two-percent rate increase this year, as promised in the budget?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, first of all, we don't poke fun at people who are drawing social assistance payments from the government. That's something that we don't do. The member opposite is asking about the budgeted amount in the NDP budget that was adopted by this government. We have looked at social assistance increases in a number of different areas. It is still in the system, though; and my understanding is that there won't be any action on that front, probably until January of the year 2001.
Mr. Keenan: I'm terribly disappointed, insinuating that you don't poke fun. This is not a funny situation. They don't poke fun, but they certainly don't help, either, Mr. Speaker. And looking at it, it just doesn't cut it. I mean, we stood on our feet in this House, and practically the entire caucus opposite said, "We want to help; we are going to adopt the budget; we are going to do this." Well, in the meantime, we do have the Premier, the now Premier, and she had said at the time that she supported it. Of course, she went ahead and voted against it, but she applauded it and said that it was a good move on behalf of the people. Now the cost of living's going up; people on social assistance are struggling to make ends meet. January is past Christmas; people are suffering; they desperately need this, and it was promised by this government. Now, when will it show up - and please don't go back to the generic answer of "next year." It was put in this year's budget.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I can't argue with the member across the way that there are real problems faced by many Yukoners every day here in the Yukon Territory. Many of them are recipients of social assistance. Now, the answer that I gave before is still the same answer. At the very latest, hopefully we will be able to see an increase in some form as of January of the year 2001.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, for the member to insinuate that we're having an argument on the floor again is terribly wrong. What I'm doing is my job. I am pointing out facts.
Fuel costs are soaring. I heard on the radio just this morning that the cost of fresh produce is going right through the roof. We have a transit strike that is hitting people who have no alternative means of transportation.
This isn't something that this Liberal government should be taking so lightly. It's all very well for the minister to say that he's going to do it his way, but what about the right way?
Will this acting minister show some compassion by increasing the SA rate without delay and making it retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year, as called for in the budget? Will that happen?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we have already been quite clear with the member opposite that there will be an increase of a sort to social assistance that will occur in January 2001. The format for the increase will be announced in January 2001, at the latest. I can't promise any sooner than that, and that is the date - January 2001.
Question re: Ministerial travel
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to go to another minister, if I could. I'd like to go to the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
According to some information that the Premier provided to our office, the minister and his executive assistant took an extended trip outside the Yukon from September 14 to October 2. Can the minister tell us what the purpose of this 18-day junket to eastern Canada was for?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I'll call it a ministerial trip that I did this fall, then.
In Vancouver, I met with regional officials from CMHC to talk about a number of concerns with regard to housing in the Yukon. As a precursor to the ministers meeting in Fredericton also, issues around First Nations housing were discussed, along with mortgage insurance in small communities. I also went over to Fredericton. I had a fall trip to Fredericton for the housing ministers conference. We talked about homelessness in Canada, affordable housing in Canada, and rural and remote housing. The conference was attended by ministers and officials from every jurisdiction in Canada, including the three territories, as well as the former federal minister responsible for the CMHC, Alfonso Gagliano.
And, as a result of this conference, ministers directed officials to develop a strategic framework for a joint action to address housing-related community development needs of rural and remote non-market communities. Yukon Housing will be actively participating in this project. We also instructed senior officials to continue work on an action plan to increase the supply of affordable housing in the housing market. We had discussions with the federal minister about the -
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Overall, the trip to Vancouver was to meet with federal officials. In Fredericton, we met at the housing ministers conference. In Ottawa, I lobbied numerous officials - Minister Nault and Minister Gagliano.
Speaker: Order please. Could the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We travelled to Goose Bay, acting on behalf of the Premier.
Mr. Keenan: Well, 18 days - it still sounds like a junket to me, Mr. Speaker. It sounds like a holiday. I have ministerial experience, as other people do on this side of the House, and I have never heard of an 18-day trip. It's just not done. I would also like to point out that there must have been some fun had, or it must have been very, very important because they managed to spend $12,316.97 for this one trip alone. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, they managed to blow the whole year's travel budget by more than $2,000 on one trip. I'd ask, now that the minister has had a little more time on the job, whether the minister considers this a very wise use of taxpayers' money, or was there maybe just a tad bit of extravaganza on this trip?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, at no time was this an extravaganza. I was actually not feeling very well during the trip.
We went to Goose Bay. I went there acting as the Minister of Economic Development, since the Premier could not attend due to scheduling conflicts. We felt it was necessary to stay overnight a couple of days in Ottawa and lobby there, and then to go from Ottawa to Goose Bay instead of coming all the way back to the Yukon, spending taxpayers' money, and then going back to Goose Bay again. I think we were saving a dollar in that case.
Mr. Keenan: Well, again, I have ministerial experience. I have been on the road to many places. Those trips are laid out before you go. Not in the middle of it, Mr. Speaker, do you have to feel good about it or feel that it's necessary to stop and do this. They are laid out.
I say again that this is just a feel-good extravaganza. The fact is that nothing came out of this trip that will improve the housing situation for seniors or low-income earners here in the territory. There is nothing for people to get CMHC financing to build homes on First Nations' lands. These are points that I have pointed out to the minister previously.
There is nothing for the residents of Faro, who cannot get CMHC programs, as promised by the now Member for Faro. There is nothing for the homeless or the hard-to-house. There is nothing for overcrowding. These are situations that are here in the Yukon Territory.
So, let me ask the minister this: from his side trip off of Yonge Street, how many seniors housing units in rural Yukon will this trip bring about? How many low-cost housing units will it create? How many jobs will it provide for Yukon people this winter?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Again, I say that it was not a pleasure trip. That's for sure.
If you're talking about the return on investment, certainly we knocked on a few doors with the ministers, both Minister Gagliano and Minister Nault. We talked about oil and gas. We also talked about the housing issue in the Yukon.
At no time was this a trip similar to the previous government going to Malaysia in 1999. This trip was strictly business. It was strictly for political business alone.
Question re: Global warming
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the globetrotting Minister of Renewable Resources. The minister has just returned from The Hague to attend the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change. It seems that nothing was resolved at this conference regarding a strategy to solve this environmental time bomb. Action is needed now. What has the minister done to make the federal Liberal government aware of how serious the global warming threat is to northern Canada?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's exactly the point, Mr. Speaker. It is a serious concern; it is a concern substantial enough that we're recognizing that the effects of global change are occurring in the northern biomes at this time. At the invitation of the federal Minister of the Environment, I was asked to attend as the northern minister rep for the whole of Canada at The Hague. The minister subsequently asked the other ministers for Nunavut and for the Northwest Territories. Unfortunately, their schedules wouldn't allow them to go, so I was representing the whole of northern Canada.
The effects of global warming are now, as we speak, impacting on the north. We're losing shoreline. There is a substantial change in the climate in the north. The ice floes that bring a substantial food source for aboriginals in Nunavut and Northwest Territories aren't reaching the shores as they flow south; they melt before they get there. The wind fetch on the water is creating greater wave action and, again, eroding our shoreline. So these are things that are happening right now - substantive things. It was imperative that the representation that Canada provided in The Hague bring this message, that the whole of the circumpolar region of our globe is suffering the effects of -
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm doing that, Mr. Speaker. That we are -
Speaker: Order please. The minister has 1.5 minutes to answer, and we're well over that.
Mr. McRobb: Now, I can agree with the minister that the Yukon is already seeing the direct effects of global warming and there is no need to go on and on about all those effects. The question is, what is this minister doing? The landscape is changing and if we don't act now, the damage will be irreparable. This minister is in a position to effect change. Instead of doing something, Mr. Speaker, he's standing idly by while his colleagues take charter flights only worsening the problem. He's allowing buildings to be torched in Ross River that could be recovered and salvaged. This Liberal government is, in fact, increasing greenhouse gas emissions instead of decreasing them. When will we expect to see some concrete action from this minister instead of empty ministerial statements and excuses for his Liberal friends in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's just the problem, Mr. Speaker. We are getting the message to our Liberal friends in Ottawa. They are acknowledging that and we hope to soon have a node located at Yukon College. The node will provide guidance and scientific research in support for what's occurring here in northern Canada. It might be the suggestion from the Member for Kluane that we don't travel, that we don't represent the north. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what we're doing. My colleagues and I are taking the message to Ottawa. They are listening to what we are saying and we are having effect - $20 million for health; the Premier getting the pipeline here. The pipeline itself would significantly mitigate the greenhouse gases by cutting back on the diesel generation for power here. So, we do have direct benefits from the work my colleagues are doing, as well as caucus on this side, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, may I suggest that a little less hot air and more action might be a much more worthwhile contribution. Now, the previous NDP government took an active role in the fight against global warming. We achieved the highest rating for energy efficiency in the country, and this Liberal government was happy to take credit for that. We created the climate exchange centre at the Yukon College. The previous Minister of Renewable Resources attended the Kyoto summit and was instrumental in raising awareness of Yukon's concerns about this issue. Now, I know the minister has received a note, probably from his friends in Ottawa, so he can give us a more constructive answer. What specific initiatives of his own is this minister working on right now to deal with this local and global threat?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That's just it, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Kluane is totally unwilling to listen to the answers. I will extend congratulations to the former Minister of Renewable Resources for having the foresight to go all the way to Kyoto to represent the interests of Canada and its north, its peoples, and its wildlife.
Unfortunately, the Member for Kluane wants to stay in a mental void as to where we are conducting our studies, complementing the work that the former Minister of Renewable Resources did. If he wants to slap that kind of action, that's fine.
Question re: Yukon College curriculum, climate studies
Mr. McRobb: New question for the same minister in his role as minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
The commission was looking into the feasibility of allowing some government employees to do some of their work at home, using modern technology to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The commission has basically decided not to proceed on this environmentally friendly initiative at this time.
Will the minister instruct his officials to revisit the idea of telecommuting, as proposed by the Cabinet Commission on Energy after widespread public consultation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I will discuss that option with the commission.
Mr. McRobb: Let's try another tack, Mr. Speaker. This minister is also responsible for the Education department. I'd like to suggest to the minister that the Yukon is in an excellent position to be a leader in the science of measuring, analyzing and preventing global warming. The Minister of Education has an opportunity to expand the scope of our efforts in this area by funding a climate studies program at Yukon College. Has the minister initiated any discussions with the college about such a project?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda:I am not quite sure, Mr. Speaker, if I am answering as the Minister of Renewable Resources, Education or Public Service Commission, but they are my responsibilities, so I will answer yes.
Mr. McRobb: I am glad that the minister has initiated discussions with the college, and we will look forward to a progress report in due course.
We have seen how eagerly Yukon students in elementary and secondary schools have responded to other environmental concerns. This is another area where this minister could provide some leadership and inspiration, especially given the unique educational opportunities that our geography provides. Will the minister make an undertaking to include permafrost and climate change curriculum in Yukon schools?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda:I believe that is already considered as part of the curriculum in some of the schools.
Speaker:The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re passage of motions
Ms. Tucker:On behalf of the House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the provisions of Standing Orders regarding motions and to deem Motion Nos. 3, 26, 27, 28 and 29, standing on the Order Paper under government motions, to have been called, voted on and carried.
Speaker: The government House leader has requested the unanimous consent of the House to waive the provisions of the Standing Orders regarding motions and to deem motions number 3, 26, 27, 28 and 29, standing on the Order Paper under government motions to have been called, voted on, and carried. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion Nos. 3, 26, 27, 28 and 29 agreed to
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 revolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everybody. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Speaker: We will continue the line-by-line debate on Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01. We are in Executive Council Office, page 2-3, and we're on policy. I believe Mr. Jenkins had the floor.
Executive Council Office - continued
On Policy - continued
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate last night, Mr. Chair, we were dealing with the issues surrounding the Crown in right and the northern boundary issue and the $150,000 in this area that the government was accorded for legal issues. My suggestion to the Premier was that the government of the day seek a reference to the courts to clearly establish the Crown-in-right position of Yukon. The Premier was not very sympathetic to taking up the challenge.
We looked at the issue under the previous NDP government and why they wouldn't proceed with the court challenge to firmly entrench it, and it was because the government of the day anticipated devolution and all of this coming through at the time that the Yukon Act was transferred over and in place. So it would all be a done deal, Mr. Chair.
But timing was critical and important under the NDP government; they just didn't have the window of opportunity to pursue a court challenge.
When we look at the Liberal government of the day, the only the reason they do not want to proceed with this initiative is because they don't want to offend their Liberal masters in Ottawa. That's the only reason.
Let's look at what's going to transpire. The Yukon, under the new provisions of the Yukon Act, is going to be the caretaker of lands here. That's it. The ownership is still going to be vested with the federal government, and the major component that's going to cause uncertainty and threaten Yukoners is the environmental liability aspect of the whole equation. Because, at the end of the day, we're going to have responsibility to manage the lands. The environmental liability is associated with that management. And should some of the other federal departments in the government deem that Yukon is not managing the lands in an appropriate manner, they could take action against Yukon.
And they probably will be doing so, Mr. Chair. They could theoretically and technically take action against the Yukon for the way they're managing the federal lands that the federal government still owns and that Yukon is responsible for managing.
And then the other area that is of great concern with respect to the environmental liability, Mr. Chair, is the issue surrounding the break line or the dividing line for environmental liability surrounding mines that operated before the changeover. So this is a kind of a wavy line, Mr. Chair. It's not very definitive as to what environmental liability stays with the federal government and what is transferred to the Yukon government, because the responsibility for cleanup will probably be just transferred to the Yukon government, and the federal government will say, "Well, we feel that it's going to cost that many dollars." They'll transfer that many dollars. At the end of the day, it's an unknown amount that will be needed to address the environmental liability with the closures of some of the mines. We only have to look at what is happening with BYG and what the federal government is saying, which is that they don't have enough money to look after the proper care and control of that closed mine.
How many closed mines do we have in the Yukon that the federal government has been remiss as watchdog and in putting together a pool of money to address the environmental liability? We don't know the extent. It's an unknown quantity. It's a big question mark.
The only way we can address this issue, Mr. Chair, is if the government goes to the courts and looks at the issue of Crown in right. What do we have to lose? We have a window of opportunity to partake in this court challenge. If we win, we will be much better off. We will not only have ownership of the land, but we also end up with care and control of it, which is all we're going to get under the existing federal position for the transfer. We need them both, and rightly so.
If you look at the evolution of any of the provinces in Canada, some of them initially receive care and control of the land. Some of them had outright ownership. Sometimes, after the province was created, the ownership came after. Sometimes it came right at the onset, but it was a variable and appears to be quite a negotiable point.
The other area that we need certainty with is our northern offshore boundary. We heard today how the coastline is receding and the boundary line for the northern part of the Yukon on the Beaufort Sea is a historic high water mark. It's pretty hard to define that over a period of 100 years, Mr. Chair. We know it's receding, we know it's moving backwards. But that is where we are at today, whereas virtually all of the other jurisdictions have a boundary limit out in the ocean. Why can't we be the same as any other Canadian jurisdiction? Why do we have to be different?
It deserves the attention that it should be receiving. But, under this Liberal government, it is not. Again I submit that the reason it is not is because they don't want to offend their federal Liberal masters in Ottawa. I don't know why. I guess the position is that we just want to go along with what they have offered us instead of going in there and representing Yukon and representing the rights of Yukoners. They are just into this Liberal love-in, Mr. Chair. That's not going to afford Yukoners the benefits that Yukoners need. And I do have some concerns with the approach that this new Liberal government is taking.
So, we do have $150,000 in this line item. It was budgeted for under the previous NDP government, which was accepted by this Liberal government. There should be ample funds in this line to proceed with a challenge before the courts on this very, very important issue, but no, we're not going to do it.
Also, if we want to look at the northern offshore boundary, we've heard today that the oil companies, as I stated previously in this House, Mr. Chair, are looking at both options. They're looking at the Alaska Highway pipeline route and they're looking at the route across the top of the Yukon and down the Mackenzie Valley. The bottom line is that the oil companies are looking at that route being between $1 million and $2 million cheaper across the northern part of Yukon and down the Mackenzie.
My preference is for an Alaska Highway pipeline. I think we could be accorded more benefits with that route, but the oil companies are looking at both routes. If it occurs and it's buried out in the ocean, Mr. Chair, what's Yukon's position going to be?
What we've heard is, "Well, we'll have the responsibility for workers' compensation in that area." Hallelujah. Oh boy, we've really gained some benefits. What we need, Mr. Chair, is some certainty - some certainty with respect to the Crown in right in the Yukon, and some certainty that our boundary on our northern shore will be the same as what any of the other jurisdictions in Canada currently have. I believe that's only right. You only have to look at the squabbling that Newfoundland and Labrador went through with the federal government over the oil and gas out in the ocean. We could very much have the same situation up in the northern part of Canada over who has the ownership of oil and gas. Is it a federal government initiative, or is it a territorial government initiative?
Who do the benefits accrue to? At the end of the day, given the writing of the Northwest Territories Act, probably everything will accrue to the Northwest Territories, Mr. Chair, and they certainly are leaning in that direction. Because if you look at the amount of activity in the Northwest Territories currently, in the same period of time that the Yukon might be receiving $20-million worth of oil and gas exploration, oil and gas exploration and activity in the Northwest Territories is approaching $1 billion, and they're going to be out in the Beaufort Sea, and they're going to be drilling. And some of that oil and gas that they might uncover, Mr. Chair, might be oil and gas, the royalties of which should rightfully accrue to Yukon, but with our boundaries in the north being at the historic high-water mark, what kind of a case can we advance, Mr. Chair?
The only way we can provide some certainty is to establish the boundary where it rightfully belongs - out in the ocean - and to pursue the issue of the Crown in right for Yukon - we have $150,000 in this line item, Mr. Chair - and take up the challenge, pursue this issue through the courts. At the end of the day, what have we got to lose? At the end of the day, we stand to gain a tremendous amount.
Because it might sound like a very moot area, and, really, if we went around this entire room, there are very few of us who have had the opportunity to dip our toes in the Beaufort Sea on the northern part of Yukon. There are probably only a few in this House, Mr. Chair, and if they have had that opportunity, it has probably been at the government's expense, Mr. Chair, not at their own personal expense.
But there's a tremendous area up there. It has a tremendous potential for oil and gas, but it's not even ours.
It's going to be cause for some concern and, down the road, to go to court and suggest that it belongs to Yukon is not the way to proceed, Mr. Chair. We should be doing that now, before the new Yukon Act comes into focus and comes into being.
We have a good window of opportunity. We have budgeted the money, and I submit that the only reason this new Liberal government is not doing it is because they don't want to offend their political Liberal friends in Ottawa, their Liberal masters. It could be suggested even that they're acting in collusion with them, Mr. Chair, so as not to offend them and to pull the wool over the eyes of Yukoners and slide this one by, because the chances are it's not going to be this government that has to deal with the consequences of this initiative. Chances are, it's going to be Yukoners who end up dealing with the consequence of this government's lack of initiative with respect to the north shore boundary and with respect to the Crown in right of Yukon.
Mr. Chair, the minister went on at great length yesterday to explain why she wasn't going to pursue a court challenge but, really, it didn't wash. When you weigh it, there was really no substance or reason. She had a legal opinion, as the previous Government Leader did, and it showed that there was really no necessity.
There are legal opinions on the other side of the equation also, Mr. Chair, and those legal opinions differ. One is white, one is black, and they're that different in what they say. One says that there is a Crown in right. The other one says you don't need to pursue it because it does exist. But there's no certainty from the federal government. We still have a colonial status, and I find it extremely upsetting that we're becoming more of a colonial entity in Canada than ever before.
Why is that, Mr. Chair? It is because of this Liberal government not taking the time to thoroughly think through the process, thoroughly analyze their options and thoroughly discuss them in the public domain. That's what the issue is. It should be done, it must be done and it has to be done, because we are here representing all Yukoners. All Yukoners don't want to be faced with the risk of a potential tremendous environmental liability arising as a consequence of some federal Department of Fisheries official or some other federal department official coming in and laying charges against the Government of the Yukon.
It's going to happen, Mr. Chair. It will happen. They probably will not like or appreciate the way the Yukon is managing the federal government resources here in the Yukon. That's it in a nutshell.
If the feds give us care and control and don't like the way we do it, the feds will take the Yukon to court. Think about it. Think about the implications. Think about the potential to avoid arguments in this area. Think about the potential to avoid arguments with respect to any potential oil and gas finds in the Beaufort Sea in lands adjacent to Yukon.
We only have to look at other jurisdictions in Canada. History is a wonderful teacher. We should learn about these areas from the history of other jurisdictions in Canada.
I'm not going to belabour the point any more, but I would very much appreciate hearing a positive response from the Premier on this very important initiative, and not just the typical Liberal wishy-washy answer about how they're going to look at it but not do anything about it, because they have looked at it and adopted the same position as the previous NDP government. Look at why the previous NDP government adopted the position it took.
I say to the Premier that they adopted their position because of the political situation of the day. And the political situation of the day was their window, and their timing wasn't wide enough. Their window of opportunity wasn't big enough to move this through and present a court challenge and have it and the devolution done at the same time. They were very much hoping that that would be the case and it would all transpire simultaneously, and that mirror legislation that was passed in Ottawa could have been passed here in the Yukon.
But it didn't happen and now this new Liberal government has another opportunity to examine the same area. We have seen the pitfalls of adopting fully - hook, line and sinker - the position and the budget of a previous government. The Liberals should be wary of that approach again, Mr. Chair. They completely adopted the budget of the previous NDP government - hook, line and sinker - and then went out to cherry-pick the various aspects of it that they wanted to eliminate. If it was a capital project for Whitehorse, it got money shovelled at it. If it was a capital project for rural Yukon, it was cancelled, delayed or deferred, or whatever.
It was the same amount of overpayment, but at the end of the day, we have seen a further creation of rural Yukon and a division between Whitehorse and rural Yukon. They've created two Yukons: Whitehorse and TROY - TROY being the rest of Yukon, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to know, under this line item, how we are going to spend that $150,000 on legal framework. If we are not going to proceed with a court challenge, what are we going to be doing with that $150,000? Is it going to be spent wisely or is the Premier just going to be flirting off to some ministerial conference somewhere and transferring the money internally in this budget, because we have already blown the travel budget?
Chair: Is there any further general debate on policy?
Policy in the amount of $191,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
Public Communication Services in the amount of $73,000 agreed to
On Aboriginal Language Services
Aboriginal Language Services in the amount $16,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Management Improvement
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister advise the House when we're going to see some?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already indicated that the work at the Bureau of Management Improvement has begun their work and that they will be reporting in January.
Mr. Jenkins: How will this report be received? Will the minister be tabling an actual report on this area or just making a ministerial statement, or will we see an actual copy of a report?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there will be advice received by me from the Bureau of Management Improvement on the specific questions that I have asked and that our government has asked them to review. We will be provided with that advice, and I will certainly convey the information, once it has been considered, to the member opposite.
Should the House be sitting, it may take the form of a ministerial statement. If I can communicate with the member opposite prior to that time, then I may take the opportunity to do so by way of a letter or report.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister send over a copy of the questions she has posed to this group?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my discussions with the audit group have taken the form of developing an audit plan for them, and I will advise the member in writing of the substance or the direction given the audit at the Bureau of Management Improvement.
Bureau of Management Improvement in the amount of $11,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
On Office of the Commissioner
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Offices
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $539,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the O&M recoveries?
Mr. Fairclough: Before we get into that, Mr. Chair, on the total O&M expenditures, I was wondering if the Premier can give us a breakdown of what the percentage increase in O&M is in this department that will be going on year after year? I understand that there are increases in Cabinet offices and that they are to pay those staff people who have left already, so I know that's not going to be included in the years to come, but there are going to be increases here that will be reflected in years to come, so I'm just wondering if I can get that breakdown in writing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, at this point and time, we certainly don't anticipate spending more on Cabinet office support staff than was previously spent.
Mr. Fairclough: I was talking about the total increase in O&M. I know that there's money spent now, but it's not going to be reflected in the future, but some of it is because of the increase now. I was just wondering if I could get that percentage difference in writing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the permanent increases that the member sees - or the ones that the member will see in the future - are the increases that relate to the wage and superannuation increases that are already noted. So, just to use an example, in the $539,000 for Cabinet offices, there is $29,000 that reflects the wage increase and $62,000 in the calculation of the superannuation benefits. Therefore, those two amounts will show next year as well. So, in each line, I'll provide the member opposite with the answer in writing.
Chair: Are there any questions on the O&M recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $1,261,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Aboriginal Languages Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment, and Systems in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
Aboriginal Languages Services in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the capital recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $7,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would like an opportunity to put something on the record before we start into this, if I could.
Unanimous consent requested
Chair: I require unanimous consent. Does Mr. McRobb have unanimous consent of the House to put something on the record?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: There is not unanimous consent for Mr. McRobb to be allowed to speak, so we will continue.
Is there any general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Department of Community and Transportation Services has tabled a request for a supplementary budget in the amount of $2,312,000 for operation and maintenance expenditures, and $3,900,000 for capital expenditures.
Mr. Chair, the department supplementary budget request is essentially for a few items, and a large portion of the total is non-discretionary. The supplementary mainly consists of funding of $2,139,000 needed for increased employer contribution toward superannuation, as required by Canada, and the impact of the new collective agreement; our requirement for an additional $379,000 for highway maintenance operations in line with the government's commitment to provide for improved funding in this area; an additional funding of $50,000 for sport and recreation groups; a capital revote requirement of $2,928,000 for the completion and/or continuation of work on projects carried over from the preceding fiscal year; a budget transfer of $2,900,000 from the Department of Government Services in relation to the transfer of responsibility for the Connect Yukon project; and a net reduction in land development expenditure of $1,447,000.
This supplementary also reflects an increase in operation and maintenance expenditure recovery of $39,000, and a decrease in capital expenditure recovery of $637,000. These changes in recovery relate to some of the changes in O&M or capital expenditures that I outlined earlier.
Mr. Chair, I would now be pleased to provide further details if the members have specific questions on this supplementary budget request.
Mr. McRobb: I want to start off by saying that this minister could have taken a much more cooperative approach in expediting information to members of the opposition parties.
In a briefing with the department we attended on November 6, we specifically requested that responses to our information requests be provided to us at least three days ahead of the time when the department would be up for debate in Committee. This has not happened. We are still awaiting replies to information requests from one month ago today, Mr. Chair. That is very unreasonable. It's another sign that this government is not interested in being cooperative with members of the opposition. It is more interested in playing political games.
It's about high time that they were called on it. And this is just one more example. It's very disrespectful of this Legislature and very disrespectful of us in the opposition parties, who are charged with the task of holding them accountable. Why is it that we are not provided this information? Why is it? Does the minister not want us to hold them to a higher level of accountability?
Certainly that is a conclusion that could be assumed, Mr. Chair; otherwise we would have the information in advance, as we requested.
Now, I also want to comment on what the minister said in her opening, filibuster-like presentation in the spring sitting, which went on for an extended period of time. As a matter of fact, it made the Independence Day speech look small by comparison.
First of all, the minister referred specifically to constituents of mine and to places in the constituency that were raised in a departmental briefing in a confidential-like manner. Subsequent to this, my constituents raised this issue with me and asked why they were put on record in a public forum because they brought concerns to my attention. I had to explain to them that I had no control over what this minister says in the Legislature, which is the public record. My role was merely asking the department about what it was doing in response to their concerns. But the minister got up, on July 4, and gave a big, sweeping explanation of every question we asked of the department officials in a closed meeting. Those meetings are not open to the public, so we on this side feel that it is at our pleasure to raise matters of confidence. That is fair game and it has always been the practice. So when the minister violates those practices of confidentiality, we have to take exception, and that is what I am doing here today.
Mr. Chair, I would suggest that if this government is sincerely interested in developing better relations with the opposition in this Legislature and showing greater respect for the Legislature as an institution, then it will start to show immediate improvement in how it provides information to those whose task it is to hold them accountable and not hide behind process or whatever, Mr. Chair.
Let's see some openness, let's see some accountability, and let's see some respect, not only for us but for Yukoners.
Now, I want to shift to comments about the department and start by expressing my appreciation for all the hard-working employees in this department. Many of these employees, Mr. Chair, go well beyond the call of duty in challenging circumstances to help other Yukon employees, such as a grader operator out in a snowstorm - a blizzard. I would also like to acknowledge the importance of this department. All of the rural communities in the Yukon rely on the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
The budget this year for C&TS is in excess of $110 million. This is the largest department in the Yukon government, and it touches every Yukoner. It affects Yukoners' property, homes, roads, vehicles, airports, telecommunications, emergency response services, sport and recreation facilities and so on. C&TS also provides employment for thousands of Yukoners, employees and contractors alike.
So, Mr. Chair, I think we can all appreciate the hard work done by the employees and the significance of this department as we begin to review its budget in Committee today.
Now, I would like to point out that the minister has failed to provide winter jobs for Yukoners. And what I'm speaking of are initiatives such as the ones we've raised. I'll give an example: brushing and clearing of rights-of-way. Another example would be crushing gravel for highway maintenance or construction, Mr. Chair.
There is nothing in this supplementary budget to those effects. Projects such as clearing or crushing are very intensive in creating local employment for Yukoners, especially when they are done in the wintertime, when a lot of our seasonal labour from outside has gone back outside. These are people from the communities who live in the Yukon full-time.
The minister has also failed to provide certainty about future projects. The minister likes to talk about how they are going to restore highway funding and about how the government believes in constructing new highways. But which ones, Mr. Chair? There has been virtually zero information. The minister has left everyone guessing and has not provided certainty or shown any leadership.
There are Yukon workers and contractors alike who are losing their patience waiting for this government to deliver at least information, if not projects. As we go through the department, we will be hitting on those questions, and we expect some cooperation in bringing some information forward. The minister has failed to make our roads safer, not only this past summer, with all the vegetation along the highway corridors that was brought to her attention by several people, including me, but also this winter. There is no extra money in this budget for increased winter maintenance. The extra money that is in this budget for maintenance mostly relates to cleaning up the mudslide near Kluane Lake this past summer and some cropping of the vegetation along the roadsides in late summer and early fall. That's it. Nothing else.
The minister has failed to make our roads safer this winter. Anyone who has been out driving on Yukon roads so far this winter, Mr. Chair, will know that the roads have been in far worse condition in some areas than they ever have been. This Liberal government campaigned on making our roads safer, on increasing maintenance of our highways. This Liberal government raised the expectation of Yukoners and travellers alike, but they're not delivering - no check on delivery.
In addition, Mr. Chair, the minister is being steered by her department. This shows a lack of leadership. It also shows that the minister is not listening to Yukoners. The decisions are being made in the back rooms. That's contrary to the message Yukoners have heard from this Liberal government. Yukoners were promised to be fully involved in public consultation on matters that affected their lives. That is not happening. The only time this government seems to get around to consultation is when it suits their needs to delay programs like the community development fund, fire smart, et cetera. They're using it as a tool to delay in order to proceed with the repackaging agenda. But that's not fair.
Another example of lack of leadership, Mr. Chair, is the failure to provide street lights for children in rural communities, street lights that were denied because certain criteria of the department had not been met.
Well, Mr. Chair, where's the political will? It's the responsibility of us, in this Legislature, to bring forward the will of the public and not stall out on a departmental agenda red-taped with criteria that must be met first.
The government has to show some compassion. The minister has been hiding behind her departmental staff on issues in the media, Mr. Chair. This has happened time and time again. Members in the opposition raise an issue. Who responds on the radio or in the newspapers, Mr. Chair? It is someone in the department. Where is the minister? Ducking out of her responsibility. She was elected to stand up and respond to the public, respond to us in opposition, and it is unfair to the public and to us to hide behind a departmental point person.
There are several examples of this. Questions on the rural road upgrade program, graduated drivers' licences and the detour in Ibex Valley are just a few, Mr. Chair.
This Liberal government has raised the expectations of Yukoners that things would be a whole lot better. In the spring, they couldn't deliver, but they said, "Wait until fall. We will deliver in the fall. You can check on delivery in the fall." Mr. Chair, again, there is no cheque, and it's bounced delivery. When is this government going to deliver?
The election promises from this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, are on record. We will keep reminding them of those promises as we go through each and every department throughout the term of this government. We will hold them accountable for what they said. In general, the Liberal government said they would pass the NDP budget "as is". We have seen and witnessed several notable exceptions. This government has not passed the budget as is. This government has cherry-picked the budget as is.
We will be indicating several examples as we proceed through our review.
Regarding Community and Transportation Services, the government said it would restore highway funding and participate with other governments in recently announced federal infrastructure programs. Mr. Chair, that line was repeated over and over this fall, as Yukoners heard about the special relationship this territorial Liberal government enjoys with Ottawa. Well, Mr. Chair, all the Liberal stars are now lined up. Where are the goods? Yukoners are waiting. Where's the delivery?
Yukoners have given Liberals the opportunity to produce by electing Liberals to represent them at the territorial level and the federal level. There's a Liberal-appointed senator. Mr. Chair, in virtually every position, the Liberals have cast their net over the Yukon and will now have to produce. And if they don't, Mr. Chair, they will have no excuse.
The government produced its second throne speech this fall. It wasn't much more substantial than the two-page version in the spring, Mr. Chair, but it did put on the record a few more promises, such as informing Yukoners as to how it will prioritize water and sewer infrastructure development in rural Yukon.
Or how it will link up with the federal infrastructure program, which is $2.4 million over three years. Or how it will increase maintenance funding to ensure our highways provide safe and reliable transportation to everyone.
Well, Mr. Chair, Yukoners are still waiting. When will this government deliver? There are several other promises, in addition to what was said at election time or in a throne speech. Many of those promises come through in this Legislature, Mr. Chair, during Question Period, Committee of the Whole, motion debate - whatever. It's our assignment, in opposition, to ensure that this Liberal government does what it says it will do.
Mr. Chair, I'm becoming worried that we will fail, because this Liberal government is obviously not interested in doing what it said it would do. So, I would urge the members opposite to take their word more seriously, so that we in opposition aren't tarred with the same brush that's about to tar them.
The Liberals promised that they would consult the public, Mr. Chair. Well, in recent weeks, we've seen the Motor Vehicles Act. We've learned that not only was there no public consultation, but there was also no public notification. The public was completely caught off guard by these amendments.
This Motor Vehicle Act bill, Mr. Chair, was disguised as a housekeeping bill, and it wasn't until we pried into it that we discovered it was much more substantial. It contained some new laws that concerned many Yukoners.
Why didn't this government show enough respect to consult Yukoners about those changes? Good question - another failing.
Now, let's talk about the financial situation of the territory. We know that the Auditor General reported at the end of October. There is a $64-million surplus. Well, the Liberal government is awash in cash. In the spring, the Liberals said that it was only $41 million. They were wrong. I want to quote the minister on July 5. She said, "There was not $56.2 million in the bank when the Liberals took office. We have said that again and again, and they know that." Well, she is only right if she knew at the time that that figure was higher, as verified by the Auditor General. There is lots of money. Even with this year's accumulated deficit, the financial picture looks very rosy for the year-end. With all the lapses that we know about and the extra revenues, a conservative estimate would be $40 million, then.
Much has been said about what is not in this supplementary budget. But one of the main excuses used by this territorial Liberal government is that they don't have enough money. Mr. Chair, $40 million or more is a lot of money. There is no excuse. There is no reason why this government isn't doing more to help Yukoners this winter.
It would have been a simple matter, Mr. Chair, for this government to introduce a short supplementary budget to bring in money for programs like fire smart, for roadside clearing, and maybe gravel crushing. It would have employed hundreds of Yukoners for about five percent of what the Auditor General will confirm at the end of this year.
This is not a charitable government. We see instead the government focusing on repackaging.
Mr. Chair, I was speaking to a constituent this summer who asked me what the Liberals are up to with the CDF, fire smart and so on, and I hesitated because I pondered what they really might be up to. I wondered if they were up to repackaging these programs in a nice red and white package with a nice red and white bow on the top, something they could call their own. The immediate response from my constituent was, "That's hogwash. Yukoners won't buy that." I recognized immediately that this constituent cut to the chase, saw through the smoke and mirrors, and hit the nail on the head.
I want to drive that message home, and I hope the minister is listening, because if we see in this House in the months ahead that, really, the agenda was to repackage, well, there's going to be a session of accountability at that time.
I have a number of questions for the minister. Most of them deal with the transportation division, but I want to start with one of the so-called top priorities of this Liberal government: water and sewer infrastructure.
Can the minister explain to us how she will be approaching water and sewer infrastructure as a priority?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: First of all, I must apologize if the member opposite did not receive the replies to the questions he asked in the briefing. I had understood that they had been sent over some three weeks ago. I apologize if they were not received, and I will check on that as soon as we get a break.
I'm glad the Member for Kluane realizes that Community and Transportation Services has hard-working staff. I'm glad he realizes that it is an important department. He makes those statements, and then in the next sentence he trashes the department completely - unless he thinks that I should be out there sanding the roads.
However, I agree that there are a number of areas that would create jobs this winter. The money isn't there. I'm still looking for the money. Some of the money in this budget - the member is quite correct - is for work already done; that is true. The member alleges there are backroom decisions being made. There are no backroom decisions.
I'd also point out for the record that I believe Health and Social Services has a bigger budget that Community and Transportation Services.
The member refers again to the $64-million surplus, which does not exist. We have a $33-million deficit budget. The member knows that his party went on a multi-million dollar spending spree in the first few days of April. We're still paying the NDP's bills. The surplus is not what the Member for Kluane says it is. The NDP spent the community development fund money for the fiscal year; they spent the fire smart money for this fiscal year.
Now if the member had a question about water and sewer infrastructure, could he repeat that? I will attempt to address it.
Mr. McRobb: Isn't that a fine example of the minister listening to the question? She is responding solely to the preamble, putting her political spin on what I said and ignoring the question completely.
The minister says the money isn't there. That's hogwash, Mr. Chair. The Auditor General substantiated that.
Further, if the minister chooses, she could review the Hansard debate from five minutes ago, and she will discover that I dealt with the deficit budget, addressed the accumulated surplus for this year - considering the lapses - and indicated that it is probably $40 million or more at the end of this year. And about that figure, we look forward to the Auditor General's report next year. So the argument that the money isn't there, Mr. Chair -
I can't speak for what the minister believes, but I can speak to the facts, and I would urge her to request a briefing from the Finance department about the facts around the territory's finances, and after that, Mr. Chair, she should get back to her responsibilities in this House of providing for Yukoners through her departments. The money is there; there is no reason why this minister couldn't have included in this supplementary budget programs like roadside clearing, programs like street lighting and gravel crushing. It would have employed hundreds of Yukoners for a very small amount of money.
What is the minister doing at the Cabinet table, Mr. Chair? What is she doing at the Cabinet table? We know that after the election she wanted the Connect Yukon project because that was her pet project. Obviously that must be occupying her time, because she is not fulfilling the rest of her responsibilities.
There's no reason at all why this minister couldn't have lobbied for some of these successful job-producing programs to be included in this supplementary budget.
Now, on water and sewer infrastructure, my question again: how will the minister be approaching fulfilling the priority of water and sewer infrastructure in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I repeat again that there is a $33-million deficit this year. The member's math isn't working out. I can't spend money that I don't have.
We're currently doing a review of all the water and sewer projects and needs. That will be finished later this winter. We're working with the community of Dawson on their coming sewage project. We're working with Carmacks, Carcross, Destruction Bay, Burwash and other communities as required.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's interesting, Mr. Chair, but I would point that the minister is using the same faulty equation that she and the Premier did in the spring, when they denied there being $56.2 million and said it was only $41 million. The missing component of the equation is the lapses. The minister is not including the lapses into her calculation, Mr. Chair. If she considers that, at the end of this year, that number will be substantially higher - up in the $40-million range, and it could be higher.
The minister said she can't spend money she doesn't have. Well, maybe we can agree on that. We can agree. She doesn't have the money. The reason she doesn't have the money is that she didn't ask for it. She wasn't influential enough with her colleagues to have them accept the fact that Yukon workers needed money this winter for projects like roadside clearing, installation of street lights, gravel crushing and so on.
They didn't support her request, if in fact she ever made it, Mr. Chair. I would alert the minister's attention to the fact that perhaps more priority should be put on lobbying her colleagues and supporting the case for extra expenditures in this very important department.
The minister mentioned mainly Dawson City about the water and sewer infrastructure. However, the throne speech indicates that the minister will be working with our Yukon communities to prioritize water and sewer infrastructure development in rural Yukon. What about the other communities? Could she give us a progress report on that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I mentioned five communities by name and said we would be working with the others as required. I have explained to the Member for Kluane what is happening. He clearly wasn't listening. If he wants a detailed explanation of the deficit budget and the state of the surplus, he will get that when we talk about the Finance department. He can get that from the Premier.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, since the minister is so hung up on what the year-end 2000-01 will be, I want to draw her attention to her own government's projections, which indicate an accumulated surplus at the end of the year of $64 million, which will be brought forward to the projected actual 2000-01 year-end. In addition to that, there's $15 million in estimated lapses. Certainly let's subtract the surplus deficit of $34 million. We're left with a forecast accumulated surplus, end of this year, of $45 million.
Mr. Chair, I understated that figure, and the minister is ignoring her own government's projections and insists on playing political games and insists that she's broke as an excuse as to why she did not provide the jobs for Yukoners through projects in this very important department.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the minister: does she not realize her own government's projections of $45 million accumulated surplus at the end of this year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member wants a complete explanation of the surplus and the deficit, he can get that from the Premier in the discussion of the Finance budget. I have answered him several times.
Mr. McRobb: Wow, that's really something, Mr. Chair. You know, my confidence in this Liberal government is getting greater and greater every day. I can sleep well at night knowing they all have a firm handle on the lever of power; knowing what's in the bank account and what decisions they can make, Mr. Chair. I would suggest that maybe the minister herself should take up the Finance department in that briefing and maybe ask her Premier for a copy of her own government's projections of year-end surplus of $45 million.
Maybe the minister doesn't know. Maybe she's not in the inner circle, Mr. Chair, that is privy to this information. Maybe this is news to the minister, Mr. Chair. If one were to believe what she said only a few minutes ago, it's fair to conclude that she is unaware of the statistic. Maybe the ministers are kept in the dark. Maybe there is a secret agenda by the inner circle, Mr. Chair, to hand out the goodies in years 3 and 4 and pull the wool over not only Yukoners' eyes, but the eyes of the ministers and backbenchers in years 1 and 2 by playing the game that "we're broke."
Well, I urge the minister to cut through the smoke and mirrors, get that briefing from the Finance department. Let's get on the track of reality here and start dealing responsibly with the territory's funding.
The economy is in a crisis stage and it is not the time for this government to be sitting on a huge surplus that could be employing Yukoners and making our territory a better place.
I want to get back to the department, and I want to know more about this federal infrastructure program. I want to know how it compares to the same program that has been available to the Yukon in recent years. How do the totals compare? Can she send over information on the program and also table a list of community projects that have been identified to date?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am sure that the Member for Kluane has at his fingertips the figures from the federal infrastructure project when they were in power. There is no list of community projects to date. I have said that we will be finished the review of the needs later this winter.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I hate to be the nattering nabob of negativity but the minister has struck out again. I do not have that information at my fingertips or in my files. She has it, and I would like to know if she would send it over.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the information of the nattering nabob of negativity. I will have the department look in the files and see what they can provide for the member.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister table a list of projects and, as well, a priority list - a keyword, priority list - of those projects?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said to the member that there is no list at this time.
Mr. McRobb: Are we playing pin the tail on the donkey here, Mr. Chair, or do we have an understanding of the priorities of Yukon communities? What has the minister been doing? She says she has been in contact with all these communities. What has she been hearing? Does the department have a roll-up of the projects that have been identified?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's an application-based program. We have not received any applications as yet.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair, so much for openness, accountability and cooperation in this Legislature. I guess we'll have to wait until a newspaper comes out, and maybe we'll get the information there.
Now, I want to shift gears and highways, and go to restoring highway funding. How does the minister propose to restore highway funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is quite aware that highway funding has been cut drastically over the past eight years. We have started restoring it, with a small amount in this budget. We hope to be able to increase it in the spring budget. We can't fix all the NDP and Yukon Party mistakes in a short period of time. There is a deficit budget overall, and it's going to take time.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we're getting an old answer to a new question. I would urge the minister to refresh her information, refresh her attitude.
We know there's a projected $45-million surplus at year-end. There was a $64-million surplus substantiated at year-beginning. The minister is still on the old line that she's broke, that she can't spend money she doesn't have. Well, we know she doesn't have it because she wasn't convincing enough at the Cabinet table. Maybe she believed the old line that they were broke.
And, I can understand that, but she knows better now. She knows that at the end of this year, after the deficit, this government is projecting a $45-million surplus. Would she like me to send over the page that sets all of this out?
Given the fact that there's lots of money in the kitty, given the fact that this government has made it a very high priority to restore highway funding, and given the fact the Premier is on record telling Yukoners that, if elected, it wouldn't wait until year three or four to deliver, they would do it right away, on important matters like infrastructure development -
Let's roll that up for a moment. What it means is that this government should be restoring the highway funding now, but it's not. It's talking about starting it next year - only starting it.
Next year is year two for this Liberal government, Mr. Chair - year two. It won't have the NDP to blame any more for what's not there and what is there. It will have to stand on its own. Like a bird shoved out of the nest by its mother, it will have to find its own wings and try to fly. Before it can fly, it needs to know where the ground is. The ground, right now, is a year-end projected surplus of $45 million. It's high time that this minister and her colleagues own up to that - high time.
Now, I want to know more about how this government is going to restore highway funding.
Perhaps the minister can tell us: how much will it take to satisfy that pledge by this government to restore highway funding in dollar terms? Can she give us a figure?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member's math is faulty. There is a $33-million deficit this year. The surplus is not what the member imagines it is. While global warming is having an effect on the territory, I think it will be some years before we can do capital work in the winter and do road building in the winter. So, there's no point putting capital funds in a winter supplementary budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I really feel at an advantage here - perhaps an unfair advantage - because before me is a page entitled, "Government of Yukon projections." It says that the accumulated surplus - the deficit, Mr. Chair - is $34 million, not $33 million. But the bottom line is that the accumulated surplus, end of year, is $45 million, not the $33 million the minister insists it is.
I'm dealing from information that outdates hers. Mr. Chair, it's a $45-million surplus. Let's get the facts straight. Let's start singing from the same song sheet here.
Now, how much money will be restored and when will it be restored?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is not a $45-million surplus. We will discuss the spring budget in the spring. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Well that's pretty sad, Mr. Chair. The minister has got her blinders on. She is refusing to acknowledge updated information that I have related. She is living in the past, in a state of denial, probably because she doesn't feel good about what happened at the Cabinet table when it came to crafting the supplementary budget. It's not a whole lot to be proud of from her perspective, Mr. Chair. Given the small amount of expenditures, given the complete absence of winter works projects by this department, and especially given the huge potential for very productive programs sitting on the shelf that could have been delivered, I suppose it's fair to expect a state of denial by the minister.
I ask the minister: how much will be restored and when? I would like to get an answer. Also, I would like to know how much is capital and how much is O&M?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of projects underway in the department this winter, which are providing employment for Yukoners. They have been mentioned in this House at least a dozen times. May I remind the Member for Kluane that we are speaking about Supplementary Estimates No. 2? We have not yet arrived at the spring budget. I will not address the spring budget at this point.
Mr. McRobb: This budget was supposed to be the mother of all supplementary budgets. That's what this Liberal government said in the spring.
That's what they said. They said, check on delivery in the fall. Our priorities will be addressed and it'll be in the budget in the fall, Mr. Chair. Well, these priorities must have been delivered by Scrooge, because they're pretty skimpy.
Mr. Chair, this government told us in the spring it would go away at some point in the summer, have a planning session, develop its priorities and projects, integrate them into the budget using the huge supplementary surplus, and bring forward projects and deliver them in the fall, and challenged us to check on delivery. It's embarrassing to see the checklist, because there aren't very many, if any, checks on that checklist, but a bunch of Xs, because this government has struck out when it comes out to checking on delivery - except for looking after its friends and looking after itself, in backroom deals. We're hearing more and more - almost on a daily basis, Yukoners are hearing more and more. It's embarrassing.
Mr. Chair, the minister claims that the department is spending all kinds of money on different projects to employ Yukoners. Sure, we accept that, but that's all part of the mains budget. There is nothing further brought in through this supplementary budget. This government failed to do that.
Let's compare it to the previous government, Mr. Chair. The previous government, as a practice, brought in a supplementary budget every fall, providing jobs for Yukoners and providing winter works.
Mr. Chair, it was no coincidence. The fall is the time of year to fine-tune the books - after the Auditor General reports, when the government and the Finance department are in a better position to get a handle on the accounts. It's December now, and this minister still doesn't have a handle on the accounts, and it's sad to say she's far from it.
The accumulated year-end surplus is $45 million, by this government's own projections. The deficit is $34 million, not $33 million, Mr. Chair. The year-end surplus for last year was $64 million, not $41 million as claimed by this Liberal government. I could ask the minister to stand up and explain the difference between $64 million and $41 million, Mr. Chair, but I think that would be a bit out of her department. That's a huge difference - $64 million to $41 million. That's more than 50 percent out, Mr. Chair - very inaccurate. The minister should accept the fact that it's $45 million - lots of money. There is lots of room there to work with, Mr. Chair, when it comes to providing more for Yukoners this winter. Obviously this government won't be fulfilling that. It will fall far short of that, Mr. Chair.
Now, the minister claims there's no list of projects for community infrastructure. She claims she has been in contact with all the communities. She didn't want to provide me with information on the program. Mr. Chair, that's pretty skimpy, pretty skimpy in the way of information.
As we move on to the transportation division, I hope the minister will be a bit more charitable in sharing the knowledge she has, as minister. Now, she has a very capable aide at her side, the deputy minister of the department. Mr. Chair, there is no excuse for the minister to not have sufficient answers at her disposal. However, if that should happen, then I would request an undertaking to come back and provide that information, and I would find that acceptable, under those circumstances.
So, I want to ask the minister about a multi-year budget plan. This would seem extremely important. To me, their commitment to restore highway funding is something the Liberals in opposition bugged us about all the time. "Where's your multi-year plan?" they said. Well, Mr. Chair, we got around to developing it and it's out there. As a matter of fact, it's part of the budget that this Liberal government campaigned on - the multi-year plan.
So, does this minister have a multi-year plan on how she's going to restore highway funding in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have a multi-year plan on what we would do if the money were available.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what can we do with an answer like that. I would like to remind the minister that she now has another set of eyes looking at her chair, and maybe she better take it up a notch, because answers like that don't meet the test in this Legislature.
Let's try to be helpful to each other. If the minister has nothing to hide, then let's see the information flow. What's wrong with that? Can the minister tell us which highways she plans to upgrade during the term of this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite is obviously trying to get great Hansard for his attempt at the NDP leadership. Thanks to the inattention to the highways of the two previous administrations, substantial work is required on virtually every highway in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's rubbish, Mr. Chair. The minister is fear-mongering again. When is she going to take the responsibility of her position seriously and start to deal in reality? Let's get down to it. Let's deal with the facts. The facts are that Yukon roads, overall, are in fairly good condition. This government knows that. One only has to go south into B.C., north to Alaska or into the Northwest Territories to put them into context. This government, though, likes to fear-monger. It raised expectations that it would make things a whole lot better; it would restore highway funding. It failed so far.
Looking in the telescope, Mr. Chair, there is no success in sight, because the minister is still in denial. At this point in time - December - they are putting their budget together for next year. And the state of the minister's awareness does not bode well for any highway funding being restored next year or any successive years.
I can tell that my job, as critic for this department, will be very onerous. I'll be quite experienced at holding the minister, or perhaps her successor, accountable for failing to restore highways funding, because I can see that it just won't happen. The minister won't even give a number. She won't even give a highway, won't give a year, won't give a capital number or an O&M number. Mr. Chair, this is really something.
Let's try to get some information out of this minister. Also, I want to address her little side comment about the NDP leadership. Well, Mr. Chair, let the record show that I have no aspirations at all, and what she is doing is trying to attack me personally. It is something that does not exist. I would suggest, again, that the minister try to take it up a notch, accept the responsibility and deliver. That's what she is there for. That's what Yukoners put her there for. I'm sure that's what her Premier put her there for - to deliver. But there's no delivery. Bounced cheque, no delivery.
I want to ask the minister again which highways this government is looking at upgrading or constructing? Does it plan to put together a multi-year budget plan? How much money will be restored and when? How much is capital and how much is O&M?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was an eight-year process to get where we are in capital money. Back in 1992-93, there was $22 million and change for capital. That has dwindled over the years to the current $3,800,000.
It's going to take awhile to get back up to where we need to be.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The members opposite are squawking "Shakwak, Shakwak". They know very well that the Shakwak project is funded by the United States of America. Those dollars are not Canadian dollars. They are for a short part of our highway network, and the Shakwak project is not a part of this budget. The members opposite know that very well.
It is going to take some time to get back to the point where we should be in terms of highway construction. I have said that all of the highways require substantial work.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, isn't that something.
Well, Shakwak is part of this budget. It's listed as an expenditure; it's listed as a recovery. It's a big part of this budget.
Mr. Chair, I spoke about the excess of $110 million that was budgeted to this department at the beginning. Shakwak, $25 million, is included in that total. It's part of this department; it's part of this budget.
The minister's state of denial seems to be more widespread than I feared. I would urge the minister to start to look at reality and provide some information, try to stay away from the partisan attacks, provide information.
Now, there's one area where generous people, Mr. Chair, would say that the minister did provide some information, but it's still a question mark. She mentioned figures of $22 million and $3 million. If those numbers are compared, Mr. Chair, that leaves $19 million. Well, is the minister saying that the magic number to restore highway funding is $19 million?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There we have the NDP math again.
The Shakwak project, as the member well knows since it's happening in his riding, is for a small portion of our highway network. The capital amount for all the rest of the highways in this fiscal year is $3,886,000. That is not enough.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Watson Lake is saying, "Says who?" He obviously has interesting ways to stretch a dollar.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is talking about negotiating Shakwak. I believe that's up for renewal in 2003.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it was the Yukon Party that did it in the first place.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it was the Member for Kluane who was asking the questions at this point, not the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. Perhaps the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the Member for Kluane would like to have a conversation?
However, there is a need to restore highway funding. It will be done over a period of time. Given the current state of the deficit, it's not going to happen in the next fiscal year all in one lump.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it's going to be a long afternoon, a long week, and maybe a long month and so on if we continue to get non-answers like that.
For the minister's information, I have spoken to the previous minister, who is the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, but I'm sure the minister won't be too impressed to discover that my opinion is that information from him is far more helpful than information from her. However, Mr. Chair, it does not help me to hold this government accountable. It increases my understanding of the department, but it does not help me to hold this government accountable - until we start getting some answers. I'm looking for the magic number to restore highway funding, Mr. Chair. It is like trying to nail Jello to the wall.
How are we going to hold them accountable when the time comes, when they claim that they have restored highway funding and fulfilled their promise, if we don't know the number? What is the number, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member knows that when his party was in government, they drastically cut highway funding. Now he has the nerve to demand that we fix it all at once. It takes a little longer to fix all the NDP mistakes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go again - another non-answer. This government is wasting the time of this Legislature late in the sitting, as it did early in the sitting, with silly stunts like the government motion on SCREP that took up several hours in this House. Now it's wasting time with silly answers. I am looking for a number.
The minister stands up and says that I shouldn't demand them to restore highway funding immediately. That was not the question. The question is, what is the magic number? Will the minister provide it, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I wish I had enough money to put in the budget to restore highway funding right now. I don't. The member is asking for a specific number. I will not allow him to pin me down to a specific number, because what I want and what might be available are two drastically different things. He should be able to look at the figures and know for himself what should be required. He should also know that, given the state that the NDP left the finances in, it's unlikely to happen in the next fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, that's stonewalling and more denial. The Auditor General proved that the finances the NDP government left behind were substantially good, unless the minister considers a $64-million surplus not to be substantially good.
The minister is not answering the question. She's twisting the question around to suit her own liking, and the answer does not relate to the question. The answer I got was something to the effect of how I'm demanding her to restore it immediately. She argued she can't do that. Well, that's a separate issue, Mr. Chair.
I'm asking the minister what the magic number is. I'm going to also ask another question. How does she expect us to check on delivery - this commitment to restore highway funding - if we don't know what that figure is?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I may have to buy lottery tickets or something. If I had $20 million or $25 million a year for capital, that would be lovely, but it isn't there.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'm not asking the minister to cough up $20 million or $25 million. I'm asking her to reveal to me what the magic number is that will be required in order to restore highway funding.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: And, Mr. Chair, I am telling the member what that amount would be, in an ideal situation and on a sustained basis.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us the number, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry. Could the member please repeat the question?
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us the number, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have told the member what is required to restore highway funding, and I've also told him that that amount is not available. What more does he want?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this is unbelievable - absolutely unbelievable - how, in seven short months, these Liberals across the floor can change their position so radically and deny simple information. We need to hold them accountable.
Mr. Chair, I wish all Yukoners could witness what is happening here. This bunch ought to be ashamed. They ought to be ashamed. They can't even tell us the amount required to restore highway funding - a main commitment by this government. How will we hold them accountable? How will we know when to check on delivery if we don't know what the number is. I ask again: can the minister please oblige and give us the number?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the Member for Kluane would quit yelling at me, we might get somewhere. His belligerent and condescending attitude makes this atmosphere very unpleasant.
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Point of order
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, accusing somebody of being belligerent and condescending - these are certainly remarks in this House that are going to cause disorder, and I think the minister should be well aware of that, and there's no need for that.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect to the Member for Watson Lake, I don't think it's appropriate for the Member for Kluane to be hollering at the minister when she is trying to provide answers.
Chair: On the point of order, I would ask members to refrain from language that would inflame debate. I now would also ask members to understand that mannerisms will also inflame debate, so there is a point of order. I would ask members on both sides to understand that this is a conversation and that the debate can be handled in civil terms.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: May I remind the member that we are dealing with the Department of Community and Transportation Services' supplementary budget? We are not debating the spring budget at this point.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister tell us what figure is necessary to restore highway funding, and also give us an idea if the department will be developing a multi-year plan that will outline how the funding will be restored, on a project-by-project basis, and when that plan might be available?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already answered that question.
Mr. McRobb: Oh, I'm sorry, I must have missed it. Can the minister please repeat the answer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department has a multi-year plan if the amount of funding that we would like is available. I have said to the member that between $20 million and $25 million in capital funding would be ideal. I have also said that we don't have that money at the moment.
I am not going to give the member a number somewhere in between there, so he can throw it in my face for the next four years.
Mr. McRobb: This government doesn't want to be accountable. That's why it won't provide the information. There is a $5-million spread in the number range that she provided. I ask her to be a little more exact. What is it? Is it $20 million or $25 million? Also, that number related to only capital. How much is required in O&M to restore highway funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we're expecting to put in an extra $2 million in O&M. When it comes to capital, somewhere between $20 million and $25 million a year, especially considering, as the member knows, that the price of oil-based products is going up at a rapid rate. Somewhere in that range would be ideal. That would put it back where it was eight years ago. However, as we do not have that amount of money, it's extremely unlikely that that will appear in the spring budget.
Mr. McRobb: At least we're beginning to make some progress. We have some numbers to work with. I take issue with the minister's opinion that we're demanding that money immediately, and with her opinion that money does not exist. But those are separate issues. Those are issues that were not part of my question. I wanted the numbers. I have numbers here - $20 million to $25 million for capital, and $2 million at least for O&M.
Now, we'll deal with more exact figures at a future date. But about the multi-year plan, will this plan identify which highway projects will be scheduled, how much will be appropriated and when, and when can we expect that plan to be available?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, a plan would, of course, contain which work would be done on which highways and at what cost. I don't believe such plans have normally been tabled in the House. However, I'll be pleased to check and see if that is the case.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this is a unique situation. In the young life, in the history of governments of the Yukon Territory, there was only once when the government campaigned on restoring highway funding and raising the expectations of Yukoners - things were going to improve a whole lot - and it happened this year.
So, the minister will go check to see if it has been done before, but let's cut to the chase. I'm willing to accept right now that it hasn't been, but that's no excuse not to provide it now, based on what this government has promised it would do. It's going to need a plan for how this money is spent.
Now, the Liberal government likes to pride itself on doing its homework, on building a business case, ensuring numbers can be substantiated and all the rest of the rhetoric, Mr. Chair. Yet the minister is not willing to confirm whether a plan will be developed that could guide the spending of what might be up to $27 million a year. But, Mr. Chair, why not? I would say there's a darn good case there for a plan, a multi-year plan of which projects should be targeted, along with a timeline. What work will be done? It's a simple matter. I would guess that the department has something very similar to that now. If it only had the money, it would probably be willing to start work on it right now, but that's a separate matter, Mr. Chair. What we're talking about here is a plan. What I want from the minister is to know if a plan will be developed that includes this type of information, and, if so, will it be available to us, and, if so, when might we expect it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already said to the member that a plan would include those things. I believe that the plan is fairly close to completion, but it depends on availability of money. When we present the spring budget, such a plan will have been completed.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go, Mr. Chair, we're getting more and more information as we pry a little deeper. Again, we will follow up on this a little later.
I want to refer the minister to an article in last night's Whitehorse Star about the Dawson City bridge. Is the minister's department contemplating proceeding with the bridge and have there been any discussions in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been, obviously, discussion of a bridge. No decision has been made as yet.
Mr. McRobb: Has the government developed a business case for the bridge?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Most of the work that is necessary to begin to make such a decision has been done. However, we have not considered that body of work as a government. We're waiting for the last touches to be put on it. There is a substantial cost attached.
Again, I remind the member that finances are tight, thanks to the state the budget was left in. It was not as much funding as had been indicated, at the time we took office.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is beginning to sound like an old broken record - an old broken record singing the same old tune. I thought we could accept new information provided by the government itself, accept the fact that year-end projections - a $45-million surplus, projections made by this Liberal government itself, taking into consideration a $34-million deficit and a $64-million surplus, substantiated by the Auditor General. So we can move on with our discussion and be a little more progressive.
The minister keeps going back into that old quagmire, singing the same old tune. I would urge the minister at the next break to talk to the Finance minister and find out what the reality is so she can come back and we can continue our debate on the same frequency.
Now, what information can the minister table for us on the Dawson City bridge and the business case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of studies relating to the bridge, which have already been made public. I believe that we can look and see if we can find a copy for the member. And some of the financial considerations that the previous government was privy to - we'll see if we can find those.
May I remind the member that at the next break I am already committed to checking with the department about the missing answers at the briefing that he had, which he says he never received. So I'll be checking on those, as I said that I would.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, since it's unlikely we're going to be clearing general debate today in this department, I will accept that information, for which I have been waiting a month, a little later than the 4:30 p.m. break. I think it's much more important for the minister to discover the facts about the budget, so that we can get into where this government is financially, move beyond the state of denial and be more progressive in our debate.
So, if she wouldn't mind doing that, I would appreciate it.
Now, the information on the Dawson City bridge - I would appreciate it if it's updated to the most recent available and not simply old reports that have been on the shelf gathering dust. I know the minister would have been provided with recent figures and possibly a newer analysis. We know information has been provided to the City of Dawson, Mr. Chair. One would think that we, in opposition, should be treated with the same respect at a bare minimum and not provided with similar reports.
So, I would ask the minister to endeavour to provide us with the information she has.
Moving to the Campbell Highway, this government has indicated it would like to spend a lot of money on the Campbell Highway. What can the minister tell us about that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On the Dawson bridge, I'll be pleased to provide the member with what the department has. I don't believe there has been a great deal of updating done in the last seven months, as we wait for the last bits and pieces of information. However, I would be pleased to provide to the members what I can, with the same respect and courtesy that they showed us when they were the government and we were the opposition.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, here we go - another qualified answer. This government's campaign on modelling professional behaviour, raising the bar of cooperation in this Legislature - they haven't produced, no check on delivery. We're getting qualified answers. I thought we were finally starting to get somewhere, to be a little more cooperative, Mr. Chair. The minister has to include that shot in at the end of her qualified answer.
Now, I would like to know if the minister or the government is considering in any of these projects - Dawson City bridge, Campbell Highway, any other highways - a P3 arrangement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, not so far as I know.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I guess that answer could be taken in a number of ways. Could the minister undertake to look into that and bring a more informed answer back to us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not quite sure what the member is getting at, but I've said that we aren't considering P3s, and he wants me to go and investigate that. I suppose I can.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, what I meant by that was, given the minister's denial over the state of the territory's finances and given her qualified answer about P3 - "not as far as I know," she said. Well, that's what I'm referring to. What I would like her to do is to go talk to her Premier - either one of them will do - and come back and give us a more definite answer, whether the government is looking at a P3 arrangement on any of these projects.
I'd also like to ask the minister for her definition of a P3 arrangement, because definitions can vary on this considerably, and again I want to know if we're on the same frequency.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been no discussion of public/private partnerships when it comes to road building.
Mr. McRobb: What about bridges, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been no discussion of public/private partnerships when it comes to bridge construction.
Mr. McRobb: What's the minister's definition of public/private partnerships?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll be pleased to consult my dictionary on the break. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister table information for us on what it believes to be a P3, so there's no misunderstanding at all? Also, can the minister tell us if this government has a policy on P3?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With respect to the Department of Community and Transportation Services, there has been no discussion of public/private partnerships. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: In the interests of moving on - I understand the department has a document on P3s. Will the minister own up to that and undertake to provide it to us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm sure there are a number of documents kicking around about P3s. I will ask the department what they have.
Mr. McRobb: I asked her if she would provide that to us, but I didn't hear that commitment. So, perhaps after the break, when we resume, we can find out more on that, in addition to the other outstanding answers that hopefully the minister will undertake to round up at the break.
Now, road construction - I want to specifically ask the minister about the upgrade of the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction. What is on the drafting board for that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to see that section upgraded as soon as possible; however, we are juggling very few dollars over quite a substantial amount of highway. That section has been cleared for some time and should be upgraded. It is in our five-year plan to do that.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with a copy of the government's five-year plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't believe it is normally done, to table five-year plans; however, I will check.
Mr. McRobb: This is extremely important. I understand that it has been done. Will the minister undertake to provide us with the five-year plan, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that I will check, and if it is appropriate, it will be done.
Mr. McRobb: We will look forward to hearing back on that after the break, as well. Can the minister indicate to us what road construction is foreseen next year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I can have the department provide that to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, who sets the budget for the government? Is it the department or the minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a couple of million details in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I do not carry all of them in my head.
Mr. McRobb: That's why she has the deputy minister at her side, Mr. Chair, and other personnel from the department listening over the airwaves, hanging on to every word the minister says and willing and able to provide information immediately.
Can the minister indicate to us what amount of money is required to upgrade that particular section of road?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I believe it's a total of about $30 million.
Mr. McRobb: That sounds fairly close, Mr. Chair. I think it was probably $30 million in about 1997 dollars or something. I would expect it to be slightly higher.
This section of road was scheduled in our long-term plan that is part of the mains budget for this year, the budget that the Liberals campaigned on. There was $800,000 allocated for next year to begin construction, and $1 million every year thereafter.
Can the minister indicate to us that those commitments will be honoured?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we expect to have that section of highway reconstructed within the next few years. I am somewhat dismayed that the previous government didn't see fit to get it done, as it was a long-standing commitment from some years ago. However, we will endeavour to carry it out and get that section finished so that it's up to the standard of the rest of the road.
Mr. McRobb: That's a good commitment, and I look forward to seeing that work done because, Mr. Chair, that's the last section on the Alaska Highway remaining, identified as part of the devolution agreement, which required the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake and Haines Junction to be upgraded. That's the last section of road.
But I would argue with the minister - the previous government did do something. It made a commitment. It's in the three-year plan, Mr. Chair. And I'm well aware of that commitment, and it's in the plan, in the same budget that this Liberal government campaigned on. So I don't think the minister is being as charitable as she might be in that regard. But at least it's in there.
Now, on highway maintenance, the throne speech says, "Over the next four years, the government intends to increase maintenance funding to ensure our highways provide safe and reliable transportation to everyone." Now, the minister has indicated there's a multi-year plan for the construction. Will there be a multi-year plan to set out how this government will fulfill that promise, which relates to maintenance?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I thought the member understood, maintenance is an annual and ongoing thing and there is always a plan for it.
Mr. McRobb: All right, can she provide that plan, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the O&M plan appears in the budget each year by highway, so, if he's patient for a couple of months, he'll have it with the spring budget.
Mr. McRobb: Wail till spring, Mr. Chair, she says. Last spring it was wait till fall. Last fall it was wait till spring. Well, I can tell that being in opposition is probably a big waiting game. From what I can see, we have another few years to wait and we'll be on that side of the House again.
Now, about roadside clearing, I want to take issue with the item in the supplementary budget and the press release that accompanied the announcement. It said that the Liberals have fulfilled the promise to restore our highway funding.
There was $379,000, which included $224,000 for brush and weed control and some more money for the mudslide near Kluane Lake. Yet, the government declared that their promise has been fulfilled. Well, Mr. Chair, I won't rub it in too much, but we discovered in the last hour that there's a big difference between $27 million a year and a one-time expenditure of about a third of a million dollars - a huge difference.
But I will leave that matter for another day. There is no mention in this supplementary budget about any kind of a roadside clearing program this winter. As the minister knows, the supplementary budget we tabled included a $400,000 program entitled, "roadside visual hazards clearing program", that would fulfill that need. And I think the appropriate time to deal with that in more detail is in line-by-line, later on.
The rural road upgrade program was announced when a number of projects were announced last spring. Since that time, a few more were added. I understand that some were not undertaken.
At the time of the briefing, one month ago, I asked if any of those projects had not been completed. I was told, no, they had all been completed. I was also asking if there were any lapses in the department and we were told that there were no lapses in the department. I am aware of at least one project that did not proceed - the upper end of the Aishihik Road - which was to be sole-sourced to the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. Can the minister identify to us any projects that were not undertaken out of the rural road upgrade program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will get the department to provide that to you.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you. Is the department currently soliciting applications under this program from Yukoners in order to fit them into next year's budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will be soliciting applications next spring, assuming that the item passes in the spring budget.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Is the minister intending any changes to the program between now and then?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Thank you for that.
I want to ask the minister about the highway sign policy. We all know there's a problem with excessive signage on some of our highways, and in June the minister said that department officials were preparing a proposal on commercial signs for her consideration, and she committed then to have something for us in the fall. Can she explain where this is at, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have seen a preliminary version of that. The Tourism department also has an interest in signage, and at whatever point the session finishes, whether it's this year or next, the Tourism minister and I will be sitting with our officials to further discuss this. I know it is an issue within municipalities and outside municipalities, and I would like to see some resolution to it as soon as possible.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister just give us a brief explanation of what options are being looked at at this point?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in revising the sign policy, the options would vary from leaving it the way it is to no signs at all, and all sorts of things in-between.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister indicate to us how the sign kiosks are working? I know there are a couple in Haines Junction. I believe there are also some in Dawson City. Can the minister indicate to us how many of these kiosks there are and how they're working and if they're intending on installing any more of them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are some in Haines Junction and in Whitehorse. Dawson either has some of their own or are contemplating putting some in. There are two in Dawson. I thought I'd seen at least one of them. They're working fairly well at this point, but there are a couple of options we'd like to look at with regard to their continued operation.
Mr. McRobb: On street lighting, the minister knows we've discussed this in Question Period, and there was also a program in our supplementary budget, which we tabled, for $600,000 for rural street lighting in the community of Tagish, Chootla subdivision and Albert Creek subdivision, near Dawson City. These initiatives, as the minister knows, would enhance public safety in the communities and have been requested by the communities.
I understand the position of the minister, that certain criteria have to be met in those cases, but in reviewing what she said in the spring sitting, Mr. Chair, it appears there's a commitment for the street lighting to proceed near Dawson City. Can she provide us with an update on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in the Dawson City area, that would be in conjunction with the reconstruction of the Klondike Highway, and that's under consideration for the capital budget for the spring.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Let's move on to airports. The Premier-to-be said in January that she would be bringing regular air access back to the community of Watson Lake. Can the minister provide us with an update on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Air access is being dealt with through the Tourism department, so if the member would deal with that when we get to Tourism? Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I would urge the minister to reconsider that. I think we're talking about something not specific to the Department of Tourism. We're talking about air transportation to the community of Watson Lake - the regular schedule to points outside. What is the government doing to return that service back to this community?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, this is the second time that I have updated the Member for Kluane on the same issue in less than a week. And, once again, to be clear, the Department of Tourism is taking the lead on this very important Yukon issue.
Now, the Department of Tourism - I'll go through it again, and the Member for Kluane doesn't want to hear this because it's good news and it demonstrates how hard our government is working on this important issue to all Yukoners. The Member for Kluane can hardly wait for the answer. I can tell, his face is rapt with attention.
Now, to be clear, we met with officials from Air Canada for a good portion of last week. This is a multi-faceted committee. It is made up of representatives from the private sector. It is made up of representatives from the City of Whitehorse. It's made up of representatives from municipalities across the Yukon Territory. It also includes a representative from the City of Edmonton, and, of course, five government departments, of which one is Community and Transportation Services.
We were most thrilled with our conversations with Air Canada, because Air Canada has always had a bit of a communications problem and they have decided that they want to pay attention to the issues in the north. That's why they sent a fairly large contingent of individuals to the Yukon to have discussions with this important group that is studying air access to the Yukon Territory.
Let's go back and talk about why we're doing an air access study. An air access study is something they're doing in every - and to be clear, Mr. Chair, I have already given all this information to the Member for Kluane, who seems to have misplaced that information from his memory in just the last week. And I know how he feels because, on occasion, I forget things as well.
The committee met with these individuals and we're doing an air access study, because every other jurisdiction in Canada has done such a study or started such a study. We are quite a bit ahead of a number of jurisdictions, however.
What we will be doing is gathering information that will allow us to go to these various airlines and say to them, "This is our market. Are you interested in coming here?" We have been studying a number of different issues: everything from government travel, medevac, going into smaller communities, problems with air cargo - and there is another study on air cargo going on, as the member opposite is quite well aware. I'm sure his memory is starting to come back to him, because I know I delivered almost the exact same speech less than a week ago to the Member for Kluane.
The issues that we spoke about with this group are important to all Yukoners, and the people who came to speak with the committee are decision-makers. These are a group of people who definitely want to work with us. What we're saying with air access is that first we go to Air Canada, then we will be going to other carriers that may be interested in coming here. And, armed with our information out of the air access study - Intervistas, by the way, was the successful bidder. They are a group that we have an awful lot of respect for. They did a very good study for all of Canada and for all the tourism ministers in Canada.
But once they have a chance to work with the figures that we will be providing them through the air access study - and I am sure that Air Canada will be willing to, and they have already stated that they are willing to work with us on these many, many important issues.
And there are a number of different issues - all sorts of funny little things that nobody had really talked about before. I could go on about this for quite some time; I may. Actually, I may, because I know that the Member for Kluane likes lengthy speeches, so perhaps I'll go on and on and on and on.
Now, some of the things that we found out when we were talking to Air Canada was that there were problems that have been identified by industry - for example, in scheduling - so that, with a great deal of expenditure of marketing dollars, we would get people coming in from the Asian rim, for example, and they would be missing the flight to Whitehorse by 15 minutes because of an air-scheduling problem with Air Canada. That was one of the many, many issues that we dealt with with Air Canada. Air Canada didn't even know that this was an issue with us.
There were problems with air cargo. The prices of air cargo suddenly went up and there didn't seem to be an awful lot of rhyme or reason as to why it was happening.
Some of the other discussions, of course, that have been happening on the national level - the federal government is now saying that the big monopolies can no longer do what they used to do, which was to undercut their competition to the point that they would get rid of their competition. And the federal watchdog -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Point of order, Mr. Chair. This is going beyond any reasonable bounds. We're hearing a long, boring speech from the Tourism minister - not a response to the specific question. Now, I can accept the fact that the Tourism minister feels that her colleague needed some assistance. But to allow her to drone on like this, for this long, is getting out of hand.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, as you well know, to speak within the Committee of the Whole is perfectly within the boundaries. If the member opposite has a problem with my speech being boring, that's his problem. The reality is that the rules of the House are that we have 30 minutes.
Chair: The rules of the House allow any member to respond to any question or ask any question and speak for 30 minutes at any time. There is no point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: So, where was I in my quite - and I suppose that the problem here is that the Member for Kluane thinks that air access is not an important issue. Perhaps conversation about this critical issue is somehow boring and, in fact, it couldn't possibly be boring because it affects all of us - every Yukoner in every way is affected by air access issues. So, if the Member for Kluane finds that boring, then that's mildly disturbing - mildly disturbing.
Now, let me go back to where I was in my conversation about air access. One of the other issues that we've found is that there has been some dispute about the way that we do medical travel outside of the Yukon. Does it go by stretcher or do we go by charter? A lot of what we found, when we were talking to Air Canada, was that they were making an awful lot of assumptions about the way we wanted to do our medical travel.
What we found when we talked to them was that, indeed, there were certain communication problems and that Air Canada had done us a good service by coming up to us and speaking directly to us about these very, very important issues, and that important issue, of course, Mr. Chair, is air access.
Chair: Order please. The time being close to 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate.
Mr. McRobb: That was quite the response from the Tourism minister - an interlude of advertisement from the department, but not very constructive to the debate here this afternoon.
Now, can the minister advise us what changes are taking place and what changes are anticipated to take place next year at the Dawson Airport?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I assume that the Member for Kluane is referring to the Dawson City Airport upgrade. Can he nod if that is correct? Okay.
We have submitted an airports capital assistance program application to Transport Canada for contribution funding to assist with improvements there. We haven't yet heard back from them, but we are hoping for a positive response.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, that's the project that would allow more parking for airplanes and so on at the airport, I believe.
Can the minister also give us an update on the Old Crow Airport and advise us where it's at? Was this a multi-year project? I seem to recollect it was. Will it be proceeding on schedule, as envisioned in our three-year plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I assume in this case that the member's referring to the Old Crow air terminal building. Design work is proceeding under the guidance of a building advisory committee. The committee includes four residents of Old Crow, one Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation representative, two aviation and marine branch staff, and one Government Services project manager. Ferguson Simek Clark has been selected as the local architectural firm for the project. The building advisory committee met with the architects in Old Crow at the beginning of November to initiate the design phase for the new terminal. Several options will be produced by the architect, and the final schematic drawings will be developed by the end of January.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, is the department anticipating scaling back at any airports in the territory currently under its jurisdiction?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Could the member be a little more clear on what he's asking, please?
Mr. McRobb: Yes, I'm asking about any scaling back in operations or reductions in budgets for any of the existing airports in the territory. Is anything like that being contemplated at the current time?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't believe so. We haven't completed our budget analysis, but at this point, no.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to ask the minister whether she has considered the installation of any Internet kiosks at rural airports in particular? This was brought to my attention earlier this year when I was stranded - if I could use that term - at the Dawson Airport for about six hours, waiting for a flight. I was looking around and could see no communication facilities available, other than a pay phone, and also acknowledging that the cost of installation of a computer with a dial-up line at these locations would be very minimal. As well, the availability of computers with Internet access at these airports would be extremely helpful to Yukoners and travellers. Has any consideration been given to installing them at our airports? If so, what is happening with that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's an intriguing idea and one that I'll have the department look into to see if it's feasible. I know when I'm stuck at an airport it would be a handy thing to have.
Mr. McRobb: Could I ask the minister about land development? There were a number of areas that were anticipated to be developed this year. Can the minister indicate to us if any of those areas were not developed, and if so, which ones weren't?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it's reflected in the supplementary. There was some work in Copper Ridge that wasn't done, and some land in Keno that wasn't developed, and a couple of other projects that were delayed.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Can the minister give us the status of the guidelines on cottage lot and shoreline recreational lot developments, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In terms of cottage and recreational lot development, there were eight lots at Little Salmon sold by lottery a year ago, as the member knows. There has been some site identification on a number of lakes, with the conclusion that there are suitable sites for recreational cottage lot development. Those lakes would be Braeburn, Pine Lake, Daughney Lake, Little Teslin, Hopkins, Canyon and Aishihik. These sites will need to be further assessed in relation to the shoreline guidelines that are being prepared by the Department of Renewable Resources.
There will be further consultation with the respective First Nations and area residents as well, and land transfers would also need to be secured from the federal government.
A land transfer request to Canada has been made for additional land at Little Salmon Lake in the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation traditional territory. That has been discussed with the First Nation. There are feasibility studies and conceptual lot layouts underway for Pine, Daughney and Little Teslin Lake areas in the Teslin Tlingit Council traditional territory and the First Nation is aware of this work.
Mr. McRobb: I am aware that the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation has objected to cottage lot developments in its traditional territory. Now the minister has indicated that there will be further consultation required. Can she give us a more specific idea of what is happening in relation to these lot developments in that area, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I am aware that the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation wants shoreline and cottage lot guidelines in place before any further feasibility analysis or conceptual design layouts are done in their traditional territory.
Mr. McRobb: So will the department be respecting that position?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of course, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I am pleased to hear that, Mr. Chair.
I have a question about the disaster financial assistance arrangements. On the Burwash fire, in July the minister indicated that she was awaiting recoveries on the DFAA and working with the federal government and that a claim had been initiated. Can she give us a progress report on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, it's in progress. We are not aware of any difficulties, but the process isn't finished yet.
Mr. McRobb: Does the minister have any idea about when those recoveries might be expected and the amount of that recovery?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm not aware of when it might be completed. We can get the figure for the member.
Mr. McRobb: What's happening on negotiations with DIAND and the claim regarding two other fires - the one in Old Crow and the one in Pelly Crossing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We wrote to DIAND in June on those and have had no response at this point. We are looking at another option for the Old Crow fire through a DFAA.
Mr. McRobb: I was hoping for more, since all the Liberal stars are lined up, Mr. Chair, but obviously, we'll have to give them more time.
The minister was going to return back with some information after the break. Can she indicate to us what information she has, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do have the answers to the questions from the supplementary budget briefing, and I apologize for the delay. As for the other information, I used my time on the break to go and deal with the after-effects of drinking a fair bit of water in the House.
Mr. McRobb: It's good to hear that, Mr. Chair. It would be nice if the minister could send that information over. I see it's on it's way now.
I'd like to ask the minister about public consultation. Specifically, what public consultation process is the minister planning on for the year ahead and beyond that? I'm thinking about legislation - either new or amended, policy or projects. What public consultation processes does she anticipate in the year ahead and beyond?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's a little premature, as we're still in the budget development stage, and a lot of things will hinge on that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, what consultations is the minister currently aware of for her department?
Now, I asked the Minister of Renewable Resources the same question back in July, and I was provided with a list, and I thought that was very helpful, and it would be nice to see greater consistency among the members opposite. Can the minister undertake to get back to me, provide me with that information? A nod of the head would do.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can certainly provide you with a list of consultations that are currently underway, yes.
Mr. McRobb: That won't be necessary, Mr. Chair. I'm referring to consultations coming down the pike, if you will, in the year ahead and possibly beyond that, and which ones the minister is contemplating or aware of for sure at this time that will be happening. Can she undertake to bring back to this House that information, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair. I can provide that to the member when it's complete.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what does that mean, Mr. Chair, "when it's complete"? Does that mean after the consultation is complete?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is aware, the budget process is underway, and some consultations will hinge on the finalization of the budget.
Mr. McRobb: Does the department use a public consultation policy or guideline and, if so, can the minister provide it, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the department consults with the public when appropriate. I don't believe there is a written policy to that effect.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that willy-nilly answer, Mr. Chair.
Now, I want to ask the minister about long-term projects. This reminds me that one of the undertakings by the minister was to bring back information after the break on the five-year plan. I can understand if the minister didn't get around to that, but maybe we can get an undertaking for her to provide it to us at the beginning of the sitting day tomorrow, which would at least allow us to look at it before continuing debate in this department. There just might be something in there that we would like to follow up on. Who knows?
In the absence of that, can the minister indicate to us what long-term projects the department has identified at this point? Now, we had some discussion earlier about highways and so on. There is no need to cover that ground again, so if the minister would deal with any additional projects in her answer, that would be fine.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can get the department to provide a list to the member. I'd like to remind him that we are dealing with the supplementary budget. At the rate we're going, it will be a short debate on C&TS in the spring budget, because it seems to me that we're doing most of it today.
Mr. McRobb: Au contraire, Mr. Chair - au contraire. I'm sure I can speak for my comrade from the Klondike that it will not be a brief discussion in the spring.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The Member for Klondike says he is thinking of joining the Communist Party now. I don't know if that's true, but I would say that's quite a leap for the member.
In this year's mains budget, under the long-term capital plan project listing, there were a number of projects and I have referred to this a few times already this afternoon. A number of projects were listed, starting with Alaska Highway, Shakwak, which of course is ongoing for the next couple of years anyway, but then more interesting was the Haines Junction section commitments that we both alluded to earlier. This moved on to future-year commitments at other locations, such as Tagish Road and so on.
Can the minister indicate whether those long-term commitments will be fulfilled by this Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have no reason to think that they won't be, subject of course to availability of the necessary budget.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I'll take that as a double thumbs up, given that there's a $45-million anticipated surplus at year-end, according to this Liberal government's own figures.
So, given they'll be awash in cash, Mr. Chair, that would seem to be a positive answer and I would thank the minister for that because I know the people who use the Tagish Road are quite concerned about the future of that particular upgrade especially.
I'd like to move on to a few other miscellaneous issues. One of them is the territorial agent's office. Is the minister intending to set up any more of these offices in Yukon communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would be the responsibility of the Yukon Liquor Corporation and, I believe, the Yukon Housing Corporation, to a lesser extent. It is not a Community and Transportation Services responsibility.
Mr. McRobb: Well, my apologies if that is the case, but I know that the previous Community and Transportation Services minister in the previous government was asked a very similar question by the now Minister of Tourism. But anyway, we'll leave it at that. If the minister discovers otherwise, there will be lots of opportunity for her to bring that information back, along with the rest of the outstanding answers.
On the upgrade to the Klondike Highway - we touched on this briefly, the Dawson to Henderson's Corner stretch. In the spring, the minister indicated that there was a $50,000 study done. Is this material available?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's not a study. It's money in the budget to finish the planning and design phase. There isn't a study that I can provide to the member - sorry.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Is that work done yet? The minister indicated that it was nearly done at the time - I believe it was July 4.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We can check and see. We are expecting it to be completed by the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: Now, back to the street lights. On that last three-quarter of a mile section in particular, can the minister give us an approximate budget amount required to light up that section of road?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can have the department provide that to the member.
Mr. McRobb: On the widening of the Whitehorse Airport runway, the minister indicated there were discussions with Transport Canada. Can she give us an update on that, and if that's in the near-term budget sights of this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no plan to widen the runway at the Whitehorse Airport.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to move into another area. On travel, on ministerial departmental travel, can the minister provide us with a spreadsheet, or whatever format the information might exist in, on her departmental travel, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with information on the lapses currently in this budget year and anticipated lapses to year-end, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We won't know that until the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I used the words "anticipated lapses" there, so it's fair to assume - anticipated lapses are what are expected at this point in the coming three and a half months. So I'm sure the department has a forecast for that, especially if some big projects aren't proceeding, and then it knows for certain that those appropriations will lapse. That's the kind of information I'm looking for, as well as any that have occurred so far. Can the minister oblige us with that type of information, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I'm sure the member is aware, this is information that goes to Management Board before it's made public, so he has to be aware of those constraints. It hasn't gone to Management Board as yet.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not looking for something so formal that it has to be qualified through Management Board. Just a one-page summary of what lapses have occurred so far in this budget year and the ones anticipated in the remainder of the year will do. They don't have to be cast in stone - just a best guess to help us understand, on this side of the House, where the department is at with regard to the expenditure of its budget this year.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I expect that that information will be available close to the end of the fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, so much for that, Mr. Chair.
I have another question on the regulatory code of conduct. This is an issue we're both familiar with, after dealing with the Motor Vehicles Act.
Can the minister indicate to us how her department approaches the code of conduct? Let's just leave it at that. Can she indicate how it is approached by the department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: When there's a Cabinet submission that requires changes to the regulations, we review it at that point and respond accordingly.
Mr. McRobb: Moving on, Mr. Chair, there are a few items here that would probably fall under the category of southern influence. The first one deals with a sport utility vehicle tax. Now, we know that in nearby jurisdictions such a tax has recently been implemented. Is the minister currently considering something similar here?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, nothing has been considered to date.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. On safe driving - I know that this is a matter that the minister takes quite personally, and so do we and many other Yukoners.
Back in May, something caught my attention that I followed up on. It was an initiative from the Ontario Trucking Association. I'd like to provide the member and the leader of the third party with a copy. It's called "Sharing the Road with Transport Trucks". The other one is "Trucking association gives away free copies of a new road-sharing video".
Well, Mr. Chair, I sent away for the video and received a copy - one of the first 1,000 free copies, as a matter of fact. I must say that it's very interesting. From my previous experience in the transportation industry, the need for something like this on the Alaska Highway has dawned on me from time to time, especially given the high number of first-time drivers on the highway every year, along with the high number of transport vehicles also on the highway, and given northern conditions, such as narrow roads in some locations and corners that are a little sharper than in southern areas, and maybe adverse conditions, such as snow at any time in the summer in some of these locations, like Steamboat Mountain, for instance.
I would think that it might deserve consideration to investigate the feasibility of maybe producing something similar here - maybe if not a video, then pamphlet information that could be available to these types of drivers, not only at entry points to the Yukon but other places as well, such as Dawson Creek, and also on the department's Web site, possibly, where potential drivers can access it from no matter where they are in the world. Has the minister given any consideration to this? And in either case, will she undertake to review this and give it some consideration?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the member opposite for the information. We will look at it with interest and consider what we might do in the same line.
Mr. McRobb: There are a couple of other matters that I know the minister is aware of and that I want to touch on.
One of them is about changing the colour of all new transportation and highway operations vehicles to school-bus yellow, as proposed by Mr. Johnson of Nelson, B.C.
What information can the minister provide to this effect, and has she considered this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I have noted that the Member for Kluane is on Mr. Johnson's list as well. The Yukon government uses manufacturer's yellow and Omaha orange on all of its heavy equipment, such as loaders and graders. As well, we use amber and blue flashing lights and headlights during operations to enhance the safety and recognition of these vehicles.
In 1994, the Yukon government adopted a standard white colour for its light-duty vehicles, such as pickup trucks and crew cabs. This was made to address issues of safety. That has been enhanced through reflective taping, amber rotation lights or amber and blue strobe lights, large decals and mandatory use of headlights during operations. We are satisfied that these practices provide excellent visibility and there have been no negative safety issues resulting from this practice.
I believe that it is also considerably cheaper to have plain white vehicles. The RCMP has also adopted the standard white colour with reflective striping for their fleet. As well, local utility companies and ambulances have adopted the same approach. So I am satisfied that our vehicles meet the test.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. But about the school-bus yellow. Now, Mr. Johnson proposes that there would be no extra cost if this is included in the criteria of the tendered contracts. Is the minister considering going to the school-bus yellow as the standard for these emergency vehicles?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We already use manufacturer's yellow and Omaha orange on all of our heavy equipment. I am concerned about the effect if a significant number of vehicles on the road were all the same colour and the public would start to confuse what was what.
Mr. McRobb: I could argue the reverse - the flip side of that - by saying that I think there are far more primarily white vehicles on the road than there are school-bus yellow vehicles. The vast majority of school-bus yellow vehicles are school buses. I think it's plain to see the difference between a school bus and a pickup truck coming down the road, for instance. So I would urge the minister to look into this a little further.
Also, I can recall, from being a Yukoner about 14 years ago, when Yukon Alaska Transport investigated the matter of which colour is safer, which colour could be seen in typical Yukon conditions, the best at a distance. They concluded bright lime green was the safest colour.
Does the minister have information she can provide to us, such as, you know, the rankings - the safety ranking of colours for vehicles?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is a report done by the Transportation Association of Canada on that subject, which I believe I can obtain a copy of for the member; but I believe what makes the difference is the use of reflective taping and the various flashing and strobe lights. I believe that's what makes the public aware of what the vehicle is. The school buses, as I'm sure the member is aware, have strobe lights.
Mr. McRobb: One other issue from outside is the matter of widening of centre lines. Now, a Mr. Chowaniec from Richmond, B.C., has written to me and the minister, from what I understand, regarding the widening of highway centre lines and the safety issues around that. Can the minister indicate to us what she's considering along those lines, if anything?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department is looking into that, and we'll be responding in due course.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I have a few riding-related issues I'd like to explore. The first one's the Haines Junction intersection, and I know the minister's very familiar with this. We went over it in the spring sitting, and there was some discussion around the definition of that project. Then, finally, there was a commitment that it would proceed this year, but it's plain to see to anyone driving through Haines Junction that the project has not, in fact, materialized - this $400,000 budget commitment.
At whose request was this project dropped, and what does the minister have in mind regarding this project, and what are the timelines for it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member has just suggested that it has been dropped, and in the next sentence he asks what the timelines are. It hasn't been dropped, Mr. Chair. Construction is scheduled to take place in the spring of 2001, prior to the busy visitor season.
The department is working with the village council and plans to proceed with installing overhead signs and extra turning lanes on each leg of the intersection. There will also be new street lighting. Funds have been approved. Design is being worked on, and spring 2001 is when the work will be done.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Was it dropped from this budget year, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, it will be done in the spring. The funding is in place, as I said.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Can the minister give some sort of a commitment to the people in Haines Junction that this project will not displace next year's project, and in fact it will be done independently of whatever priorities the community proposes for next year and whatever is approved by the government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This project is already funded and approved and will proceed. As we're in the budget planning process at this point, we don't know what projects we'll be undertaking next year, as yet.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. We had some discussion on the Haines Junction weigh scale property, and I think we can agree to disagree on where that matter stands. It's my recollection, as the former MLA who participated in meetings between the former mayor and council of Haines Junction and then Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Mr. Keenan, and also the then Government Leader, Mr. McDonald.
It's my recollection that there was a clear commitment on behalf of the Yukon government to transfer the weigh scale property to the Village of Haines Junction, should they develop a proposal that would be good for that property. Now, Mr. Chair, let there be no doubt about which property we're talking about here. It's the traditional location of the Alsek Music Festival. It's on the west side of the highway, near the Dezadeash River Bridge, and it's still within the municipality. Can the minister give us the government's position on where that commitment currently stands, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have had no discussions as yet with the Village of Haines Junction about that property. As the member knows, the building is an old building. It was originally the visitor centre and dates back to the mid-1960s. We are looking at options for what to do with it. I would welcome discussions with the village about the property, should they have a proposal.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I would just like the minister to take my comments into consideration when proceeding on this particular matter. I know she has had an evaluation done. I won't bother asking for a copy of it, but I think it's fair to say that the building itself is of very little value. It's the value of the land that is important.
So, as far as future use, I would suggest that this land would be put to far better use if it were developed as a priority of the local municipal government and the people in the community. So, I would urge her to proceed along those lines, if possible.
Going now to Destruction Bay, can the minister give us a progress update on the sewage lagoon and what could be anticipated in the future regarding the completion of that project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The construction of two in-ground sewage disposal systems was completed in August, and some changes had been made to the original plan as a result of input from residents. I know there was some concern among residents when the construction was completed. I was in the community at about that time and I will check with the department whether things are going okay or whether they have had other concerns. I haven't heard any further, so I have been assuming that the silence meant things were working all right, but I'd be pleased to check for the member.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister undertake to provide us with an update on the project - paper form would be suitable?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can do that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: There was another matter still in Destruction Bay about slash-burning downwind from the community. I believe that was associated with the Shakwak project. The minister and I are both aware that residents in the community were upset about the health hazard from this.
Can the minister indicate to us what has been done to prevent future similar occurrences?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, there was an unfortunate combination of wind conditions. The previous year, the work was being done north of town and the south wind blew the smoke away, and this year there were a couple of days when it was pretty miserable. The contractor was asked to bunch the slash piles so they would burn hotter, which he did, and that was resulting in less smoke. It's my understanding that the problem was of a couple of days' duration. We will attempt to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Going now to the Beaver Creek Airport, the minister will recall when we both attended a dedication of a monument to Jack Stalberg. The matter was raised at the time about finding money for landscaping around the monument. Can the minister indicate if any funds are being considered for that purpose?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are in the budget planning process at the moment, so I'm optimistic of a suitable resolution to that question.
Mr. McRobb: Going back to Haines Junction, on the Well No. 4 issue in Haines Junction - Well No. 4, one of the main supplies of the community's water - there has been a problem with the well, and the village has asked for assistance from the territorial government. Can the minister provide us with an update on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm unaware of any requests since I've been the minister, but I'd be pleased to check with the department.
Mr. McRobb: And if there's information available, will the minister undertake to provide that to me?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I will, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb:Recreation facilities are on the priority list for people in Haines Junction. Have there been any discussions yet with the minister on this matter, and is this something the minister or the government would consider for a multi-year funding arrangement similar to the one in Dawson City?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No such request has been made to me as yet. If one is, I will, of course, consider it.
Mr. McRobb: Going now to the Shakwak highway reconstruction project, has the minister initiated any preliminary work to ensure the continuation of this project prior to the expiration of it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right. What is the minister doing about sections of the Shakwak project that are basically falling apart? What I am talking about are deep crevasses in the road in some places. I saw a picture taken by highway maintenance people of a person actually standing in such a crevasse that was basically up to the top of their head, Mr. Chair. And there are other accounts from highway workers and other people that large cracks in the road can show up unexpectedly, and these present serious safety hazards. Apparently in some places the foundation of the road might disappear all together, just leaving a thin layer of blacktop on the top.
Can the minister undertake to explain what is being done to minimize this type of occurrence in current and future highway construction under this project, and what is being done to rectify the past problems?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is aware - and as I am certainly aware because I used to drive the old road a lot - the Shakwak project is a major project involving a great deal of work. Some settling is to be expected due to the amount of permafrost.
Maintenance and engineering are working on this to establish best practices and the best techniques that we can afford for maintaining reconstructed roads in permafrost-rich areas like this. There is a fair amount of work to be done to establish these best practices. Even the best known, affordable design standards for constructing roads in permafrost still result in some failures to the road surface, and this is something that will lessen over time as the entire project settles.
We will continue to work on restoring the failing areas until the ice melt stabilizes, at which time we can improve the road surfaces over a long-term basis.
Maintenance crews cover the highway every day and they are on the lookout for areas like that.
Mr. McRobb: Going now to community planning, could the minister indicate where the Ibex Valley plan is and where the Golden Horn plan is, when these documents will be approved and when they'll be available?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Golden Horn plan was submitted to the department for review in June, and one planning issue regarding subdivision of commercial and light industrial lots still needs to be resolved. That's being dealt with through our review. We are putting together a survey to determine community perspectives on the subdivision issue and we expect that that will be undertaken in January.
As for the Ibex plan, I know I had a note on that. A new note crossed my desk earlier this week. Voila. That one is being reviewed and I'll have to get back to the member on that, because I do have some new information and I don't want to risk misspeaking myself by trying to remember it all.
Mr. McRobb: I just received a call today from someone in Beaver Creek about Internet access, and it was my understanding that it was already available in Beaver Creek, but it is either apparently not or obviously some people aren't aware of it. Can the minister give us an update on that matter, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was my understanding as well that Internet access was to be available in Beaver Creek by this point, so I will certainly check on it.
Mr. McRobb: I'd appreciate that as quickly as the minister can provide it so that I can get back to this person.
I want to touch on the Connect Yukon area, but I don't want to really get into it because I think the minister and I can probably agree that our opinions and understandings differ a lot on this. This is an issue best dealt with another day.
I think what would be fair and appropriate for us to agree on at this point is if the minister can provide us with some information on the contracts and the agreements and so on, particularly updates, schedules, any summaries, any variances and so on - anything that's different from the project as it was envisioned in the spring sitting, when the minister was on the record saying that the Connect Yukon project would be implemented as is.
What I'm looking for is an undertaking from the minister to provide us with that information in written form. Would she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The project is generally on schedule. Local residential/commercial high-speed service has rolled out to Watson Lake and Haines Junction, and it should be in Carcross, Destruction Bay, Beaver Creek and Teslin in the next month. So that will probably answer your Beaver Creek constituent's question.
Old Crow's satellite link will be upgraded in 2001. Generally, things are proceeding as they were laid out in the information the member already has.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, but there have been new developments, including the CRTC's decision on Northwestel's service improvement plan. We now have a number that has been approved and identified by the regulator, and the utility will proceed to install the telecommunications infrastructure as intended.
What I would like is a written update from the minister on this whole issue. I'm sure something already exists that might be appropriate to provide to us. If it's not quite in a format to the minister's liking, then I'm sure it could be easily changed. Can the minister undertake to provide us with something on paper that clearly explains how this project will proceed and how it's financed, especially with regard to the service improvement plan, YTG monies, immigrant investor fund, Northwestel's contribution and so on? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is aware, the telecommunications part of the service improvement plan is the responsibility of the Department of Government Services, so I would ask him to address those questions to the Minister of Government Services when we reach that point in the debate. Connect Yukon, being a high-speed Internet and data access project, does not have as much to do with the service improvement plan as the telecommunications area generally, which is Minister Jim's responsibility.
One point about the service improvement plan relates to Faro and Ross River, which are of interest. The infrastructure capable of providing high-speed data services to those communities will be in place by 2004. Now, that's a concern to me. I have instructed my officials to continue looking at options to bring those services to Ross River and Faro earlier than that - perhaps, as an interim measure, if 2004 is the date when they'll get the upgrade, because it's not acceptable to me that those communities will be without service.
We are still looking at those options and should have a resolution in the next few months.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it's encouraging to hear that, Mr. Chair, because I think one of the biggest differences between this Connect Yukon project as envisioned and what it seems to be now is the time frame in which it will be implemented. It seems to have gone from two years to about four or maybe five years. I think the minister and I can both agree that Yukoners would like to see it a little sooner than that.
Now, in thinking about this and what may have changed since the spring, it occurs to me that the minister has revised the total cost of the project upwards, and that's a new matter that I would like to see some information on, to explain why more money is required. And I know the minister must have material at her disposal that addresses the financing of this project.
Now, I don't intend to question the Minister of Government Services on this, and there's no need to go into great detail on Northwestel's service improvement plan, but in terms of Connect Yukon, it dealt with those matters. So I think we can deal with this within this department.
So, given the questions around the financing and budgeting for this project, what I would like to see is something on paper that identifies where the money is coming from, the timelines to develop the infrastructure, which communities get what and when - the latest update on it - and, of course, where the money's coming from and any other changes. I understand that further contracts were required, as set out in the letter of intent. If issues like that could be addressed as well, so that we can be provided with a comprehensive understanding of what's happening with Connect Yukon, then I'd be satisfied with that. Can the minister undertake to provide that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane already has that information. I had provided the contracts, the letter of intent and so forth some time ago to members of the opposition as well as to the media. Nothing has changed since the service management agreement to deliver the Connect Yukon project was signed on April 1 by the previous Minister of Government Services with Northwestel as the major partner. Nothing has changed. The amount of money has not changed. It is still a project to provide high-speed data and Internet service to communities, and we are implementing the contract as it was signed by the previous government.
Mr. McRobb: Telephones - the minister forgot to mention telephones, Mr. Chair, which were an important part of the Connect Yukon program. Just this past summer and fall, we saw the installation of several telephones to people in the Marsh Lake area that were part of this project, all budgeted under Connect Yukon.
Back to the financing, Mr. Chair, the minister has said that there is nothing different. I would like some information along the lines of the immigrant investor fund. Can she undertake to provide us with a briefing note, at least, on where Connect Yukon is at in regard to the immigrant investor fund?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The local infrastructure built at Marsh Lake was a separate agreement, signed on April 12, 2000, by the Yukon government with Northwestel to accelerate the extension of phone service from the south of Whitehorse to the Marsh Lake rural area. It is not a part of Connect Yukon.
The cost of Connect Yukon is $23.5 million, from the Yukon government over five years. There is $1.7 million for five years, plus $6 million at the end of the term, or $8.5 million plus $6 million, for a total of $14.5 million. Distributed learning is $2.5 million with a Northwestel contribution of $3 million, and the subtotal of those is $17 million, which is capital money.
For the O&M budget, the data purchase package from the Yukon government is $1 million a year, or $5 million total for the five years. Distributed learning, data purchase package, is $300,000 a year, or $1.5 million over five years. That's $6.5 million plus Northwestel's O&M costs of infrastructure. For the Yukon government, both capital and O&M are $23.5 million. Nothing has changed, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I don't want to butt heads with the minister on the definition of the project because, obviously, we won't arrive to any mutual conclusion here today - possibly never. So, I won't go there.
I'm awaiting some information back from the minister and hopefully we'll get that by 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, if we could, so that I can continue in general debate on this department.
In the meantime, I'm going to give the Member for Klondike an opportunity to ask questions, if he has any.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have a series of areas that I would like to explore with the minister, the first one being the remarks she made on July 4, 2000, when she was introducing her budget. It's on page 501 of Hansard. The minister went on to say, "The department will continue to support the land claims settlement and self-government implementation process by working closely with the land claims secretariat and the Association of Yukon Communities."
I would like to ask the minister if that means an updating and a briefing about what is going on in the land claims that have already been completed and the ones that are ongoing.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm a little unclear on what the member is asking.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair - and I ask the minister to listen attentively - in Hansard, when the minister introduced the Department of Community and Transportation Services budget on July 4, 2000, she said, in part - it's on page 501 in Hansard - "The department will continue to support the land claims settlement and self-government implementation process by working closely with the land claims secretariat and the Association of Yukon Communities."
I would like to ask the minister if that means that the minister is updated and briefed on the land claims that have been resolved and the land claims that are still in progress.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, it does not mean that I am updated and briefed; it means that staff in the Community and Transportation Services department is working in that area and with the Association of Yukon Communities so that land claims can be settled as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what that means and what that says to us, Mr. Chair, is that the number one priority of this Liberal government - the settlement of the land claims here in the Yukon - is not an area that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is up to speed on. The only area that she has an involvement with is ensuring that her departmental officials are briefed and up to speed and liaise with the various undertakings. If that is indeed the case, I find that very disconcerting and very upsetting, seeing that the number one priority of this Liberal government is the settlement of Indian land claims.
The minister has not been briefed, does not ask for a briefing, and probably doesn't even understand the intricacies of the land claims process.
Now, one would expect that this area, being the number one area that this Liberal Government of the Yukon has identified as its top priority - number one initiative, number one area that they are going to address - that at least the minister would have an insight as to what has gone on, what is going on, and where we are heading.
But, no. All we have, Mr. Chair, are some carefully scripted words for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to read into the record to make her look good, to make her look as if she is covering off all of her bases to make it appear that she is provided with an insight and a briefing and an understanding of this area - a number one initiative of the Government of Yukon.
But all that is, once again, Mr. Chair, is more window dressing by this Liberal government - more window dressing because the main issue, the importance of land claims, doesn't even come to the forefront in this minister's department. It's just something that the department deals with and looks after. It's just something the department addresses. The minister doesn't have any obligation, doesn't receive a briefing, doesn't know what's going on. After all, really, she's just the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Chair: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.
The following documents were filed December 6, 2000:
Journal of Occurrences at the Forks of the Lewes and Pelly Rivers May 1848 to September 1852
Dinosaur tracks at Whiskers Lake: letter (dated December 6, 2000) to Chief Norman Sterriah, Ross River Dena Council from Mrs. Edelman, Minister of Tourism