Thursday, December 7, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Pursuant to the Historic Resources Act, I have for tabling the Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1999-2000 annual report.
Pursuant to the Historic Resources Act, I have for tabling the Yukon Geographic Place Names Board 1998-99 annual report.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following constructive motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Premier, in view of her oft repeated statement about the settlement of land claims being the top priority of the Liberal government and having been the minister responsible for land claims for the last seven months, should take the initiative to become properly briefed on all outstanding land claims and related matters.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Ministerial travel
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier about this government's travel policies. Yesterday, the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation admitted that he had spent over $12,000 of taxpayers' money on one coast-to-coast trip with his executive assistant. When did the Premier learn that this trip would exceed the minister's entire travel budget for the year, and what did she do to prevent it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation and Government Services travelled in a number of capacities this summer. The expenditures that were made in covering the cost of that trip were no more than what the previous government spent on various trips, including trips by the former Minister of Health and his executive assistant to Iqaluit.
Mr. Speaker, the real issue for the members opposite and the real difficulty they're having with this government's travel is that this government's travel has produced results - $20 million in health care spending. We have aggressively promoted the Alaska Highway pipeline project during our travels, and that has shown results with the Foothills office opening. We brought a new research facility on climate change, and we're hosting the first-ever agricultural ministers' conference in the Yukon next year - not to mention the 2,200 additional charter seats as a result of this government's travel.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier didn't answer the question and I ask her to pay attention to the question and provide us with answers. This is about sound fiscal management and, when it comes to travel, there isn't any with this government.
If the Premier and her ministers stayed within their budget, that would be one thing, but they don't. In this government's first five months alone, the Premier herself was more than $20,000 overbudget on outside travel, and there has been lots more air time logged that we haven't seen details of yet.
Taxpayers want to know what are the policies and where are the controls? Who authorizes ministerial travel for this government? Is it the Management Board or does the Premier do it herself?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows very well what the government policy is for signing off on ministerial travel, just as he knows about the ministerial travel in excess of $4,500 for one trip to just three cities in western Canada by the former Minister of Tourism alone.
Mr. Speaker, this government's travel has shown very clear, very measurable results. Again, I remind the member opposite that there is $20 million in additional health care spending. There is the first-ever agricultural ministers conference to be hosted in the Yukon. There's a centre for climate change at Yukon College, as a result of the work during that specific trip and direct conversations with Minister Nault. There was work at the CMHC conference, as well as work with the British Columbia government in dealing with housing issues. There have been results from every single dime this government has spent.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm asking questions that the general public is asking me to ask. The Premier hasn't answered the question: who authorizes the travel? Does she or the Management Board authorize it?
Even the budget-setting process under this government doesn't make sense. The Housing Corporation minister has outside travel of $10,000 for the year. The Health minister had $7,500. Where is the logic to that? It seems that the budget figures don't matter anyway. Just like the Premier, both these ministers managed to blow their budgets in only five months. Maybe that is why the Health minister skipped an important ministerial meeting to go kayaking.
Does the Premier plan to impose a travel freeze for the rest of this fiscal year, or does she expect departments to take up more and more of the slack for those high-flying politicians and their political staff?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the NDP cannot make up their minds on this issue, like so many other issues.
On June 12, the Member for Watson Lake criticized me soundly in this House for not attending a pipeline conference in Calgary. Yet, who are the first people out the door, helping us to welcome Foothills and the work we did in lobbying them to reopen their office? Who were the first people there?
They cannot make up their minds on the pipeline issue, they cannot make up their minds on travel, and they cannot make up their minds on so many things.
The government policy in situations of travel is authorized by me, in my responsibility for Cabinet. Management Board authorizes international travel. The member opposite knows that policy very well. He's just using yet another opportunity to throw mud around the Legislature and see if it sticks. It's not going to. That kind of personal smear is not going to stick.
This government has shown results for the travel, and we will continue to show results in the remaining term of our office.
Question re: Ministerial travel
Mr. Fairclough: That question was about good fiscal management and the Premier authorizing departments to go overbudget on their travel. That's what we're getting at, Mr. Speaker.
I have another question for the same minister. Earlier this fall, the Premier provided a full list of travel for all ministers, MLAs and political staff for the first five months of this government's term. I also asked her to identify all sources of funding for that travel. We already know that the list she provided was not complete with respect to one trip. Is the Premier aware of any other omissions from that list?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any other omissions from that list, and I have reviewed it. The member opposite should be well-advised that I did answer the question fully. It's about sound fiscal management, and sound fiscal management means having results to show for dollars expended. Those are just some of the results that we have to show - $20 million in health care, an agricultural ministers conference being hosted in Yukon for the first time, results in housing, results in terms of our pipeline and oil and gas lobbying. We have results to show for what we have done, unlike the previous government and their trips to the Sakha Republic, Irkutsk and a few other far-flung places.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, where are the results? What can the minister show? Nothing. It's not here. It's all about the future.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps my next question will jog the Premier's memory a little. Can the Premier confirm that the Member for Whitehorse Centre represented the Yukon government at a function in France earlier this year, and can she tell us who paid for that trip?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre was invited to work with l'Association des franco-yukonnais, and I apologize to the francophone association for my pronunciation. It's not as good as I would like it to be. That travel was paid for by the Government of Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: When the Premier provides us with an update of this revised list of travel in the near future, I hope the information on this particular one would be included. It does seem strange that a community group, though, would pay for an MLA to represent the Yukon government, when students on the same trip had to do their own fundraising, Mr. Speaker.
To the Premier's knowledge, did the MLA conduct any government-related business while he was on that trip and will she provide records of any items charged to the government, such as long-distance telephone calls?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Oh, for heaven's sake, Mr. Speaker. I stood on my feet and told the member opposite that that particular expenditure was paid for by the Government of Canada. It fascinates me that the member opposite received this answer on October 20. What took them so long to ask these questions? What took them so long, Mr. Speaker, is that they don't want to hear about the results of the work that we have been doing in our travel.
What have we been doing? Lobbying for additional health care funding; lobbying to have Foothills reopen their office; lobbying for an agricultural ministers conference; lobbying for northern economic development strategy; working with other partners throughout the country to deal with the very real issue of homelessness in this country.
Not only are we representing the Yukon government and Yukoners, wherever we go in whatever we do, but, Mr. Speaker, I would attest that we're representing them well and we're producing results.
Question re: Parks in southeast Yukon, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society proposal
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier.
Now, southeast Yukon has an abundance of resources. We have forestry. We have oil and gas. We have mineral deposits. Yet, because of the policies of Liberal governments both here and in Ottawa, it is currently an economically depressed area of Yukon. One of the most popular items for sale at the local auto parts store are trailer hitches, as Yukoners pack up their belongings and head to jurisdictions where there are more progressive governments.
Now, if things weren't bad enough, the situation in southeast Yukon is probably going to become even more economically depressed. I have for tabling a map that shows the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society protection plans for southeast Yukon. CPAWS appears to blanket approximately 50 percent of that area with more parks. In view of the fact that the Premier and her Liberal colleague supported CPAWS' position on the Tombstone Park, supported CPAWS' position on Fishing Branch Park and the new Asi Keyi Park, do the Liberals support CPAWS' plans for southeast Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should focus his questions. This government is working on a number of areas in the economy. We are working toward rebuilding the Yukon economy in any of a number of initiatives that I've already pointed out, and that includes working with the community of Watson Lake and other communities. In terms of working with groups throughout the territory, we, of course, are listening to what individuals have to say, because we are listening to what Yukoners have to say. We communicate. Communication is a two-way street. And we consult, and we work with people.
Does the member want to ask about the Yukon protected areas strategy? Does the member want to ask about progress in land claims negotiations? Does the member want to ask about rebuilding the Yukon economy? What exactly is the member looking for?
Mr. Jenkins: In case the minister didn't understand, Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister the Liberals supported CPAWS' plan for southeast Yukon. She wandered all over the map. She's listening, she's lobbying, but she's not doing anything to stimulate the economy.
Now, CPAWS played an active role in the territorial election campaign, taking out more full-page ads than all three political parties put together, but they remained silent during the recent federal election about the new Asi Keyi Natural Environment Park, probably so as not to harm the chances of a Liberal candidate being elected. The conspiracy of silence grows.
Can the Premier advise the House how many representatives from CPAWS and other environmental groups have been invited to participate in the protected areas strategy review versus how many from the resource side?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite using time in Question Period to publicly smear the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is reprehensible. It really is.
The point is that this government is, yes, working on the Yukon protected areas strategy. Are we working with Yukoners? Yes, we are. That's our job. That's what we were elected to do. We campaigned and committed to Yukoners that we would fix the Yukon protected areas strategy, and that's exactly what we're doing. Good work, Mr. Speaker, takes time, and good work means listening to what Yukoners have to say, including Yukoners who are clearly representing one interest group. There are all sorts of Yukon people and we are listening to them.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, the minister has failed to answer the question. Do the Liberals here in the Yukon support CPAWS' plans for southeast Yukon and the withdrawal of massive tracts of land for parks? Do they support that position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon has its own initiatives. We are working on those initiatives that represent Yukoners, and we are representative of all Yukoners, and we listen to them.
Question re: Argus Properties, payment for work on mall site
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier with regard to the Argus issue.
The beat goes on for this self-proclaimed open and accountable government. Once again, we get one story in this House and another story through the media.
Yesterday, there were media reports quoting the Mayor of the City of Whitehorse saying that the Yukon government ordered the city to pay invoices from Argus properties for work done on the proposed mall site and Two Mile Hill. Does the Premier have any reason to believe that the mayor is not telling the truth?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, before I answer the question from the Member for Watson Lake, I want to thank him, because yesterday he so aptly pointed out to the Yukon public that it was the Government of Yukon's work that has avoided the lawsuit on this particular issue. I want to thank the member opposite for those kudos. We don't often get them from across the floor.
Mr. Speaker, we don't have, as a government and as a party to the agreement - which the member opposite professes to have read; however, I would challenge that - the authority to order the city to pay Argus. We agreed with the city that the city should issue payments to Argus under the terms of the contract.
We are confident that the conditions that needed to be met were met before payment was issued. That's what we were asked and that's how we responded. There's no ordering of anyone.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I wouldn't be so quick, if I were the Premier, to pat myself on the back for blowing $700,000 of taxpayers' money on something that it wasn't intended to be spent on.
In the same article, an official from Economic Development said that what the mayor had said was not the case. We are trying to ascertain what the real story is. The day before, in a different newspaper article, the Cabinet spin doctor said that the timing of payments from the city to Argus had absolutely nothing to do with the Premier's chief of staff's meeting with Argus on September 11. Why won't the Premier just come out and tell us the whole story and let the Yukon people judge for themselves?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to do that. The whole story is contained in the agreement that the former government negotiated and that the member opposite professes to have read - and clearly hasn't. Yesterday, he stood on his feet and said that "off-site infrastructure" was in the definitions. If you read the agreement, it clearly is not.
The members opposite know that the former government negotiated this agreement. Mayor Bourassa, Argus and I are all trying to see this agreement successfully concluded, as opposed to have it end in a lawsuit. That's what any reasonable-thinking Yukoner would like to see happen.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's strange because last week we asked the Premier that very question, and she denied it. She denied that she sent anybody down to meet with Argus to avoid and avert a lawsuit. The Premier is not remembering very well what she says on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, we also know that the Premier wrote to both Argus and the City of Whitehorse, urging them to settle their differences. Will the Premier at least make a commitment to provide those letters to us by the end of today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to see that particular piece of correspondence, provided it's acceptable to the two other parties, I don't have any difficulty with that, because it says exactly what both this government and I have said all along. We didn't negotiate this deal, but we are going to live up to it. We are going to see it successfully concluded. We don't want to see another Taga Ku. That's not difficult for members of the public to understand. I don't know why it's so difficult for the Member for Watson Lake. It's very straightforward and simple. This government is doing its best to ensure that this agreement, which we didn't negotiate, is concluded. We're trying to manage this NDP deal.
Question re: Argus Properties, payment for work on mall site
Mr. Fentie: Well, in the Premier's comment about trying to manage an NDP deal, it's quite evident that the Liberal government isn't managing it very well at all, given the expenditure.
Yesterday, the Premier said that the so-called agreement, which she keeps falling back on, you could drive a truck through. Well, we know that hundreds of trucks drove through it, thanks to this Liberal government. Hundreds of loads of gravel were hauled on to private property and this Liberal government put forward $700,000 of taxpayers' money for that very expenditure, not for what the money was intended, in municipal off-site infrastructure. Why did the Premier then intervene on behalf of the developer rather than honouring the terms of the contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What's becoming clearly evident to everyone, is that the member opposite hasn't read the agreement and doesn't know the agreement inside out. The real issue here - again and again and again and again I need to state this on the floor of the Legislature because the members opposite don't have any new questions - is that the Argus agreement was not negotiated by us. The fact that you can drive a truck through some of the terms of this agreement isn't my fault. It's not something that we, as a government, negotiated. The previous government negotiated this. We want to see it successfully concluded. That's what we're doing as a government and that's what we were asked to do by the voters of the Yukon on April 17.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's contrary to the Premier's own colleague, the Member for Whitehorse Centre. Those aren't the claims he made. It's not what Yukoners want.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this government has just spent $700,000, of taxpayers' money, which was intended for such things as water and sewer. There's not even a porta-potty out there. All there is, is a level piece of property. This government also stated that all businesses are to be treated equally, so who's next to receive a nice little cheque from the government? Why didn't this Liberal government honour the agreement and tell Argus to pay those invoices, as they should have? Mr. Speaker, what undertakings did the Premier or her emissaries get from Argus that it would pay for the necessary municipal infrastructure, if the mall does eventually proceed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, again, I advise the member: what we have done with the Argus agreement is try and see it successfully concluded. That's what Mayor Bourassa is trying to do; that's what we're trying to do. That's what governments do is try and see agreements like this - albeit we didn't negotiate them - successfully concluded. I've advised the member that the administration of this agreement rests with the City of Whitehorse and that there has been no new deal. What we're doing is managing an NDP deal. The deal was signed and sealed by the previous government. All we're trying to do is ensure that it's successfully delivered.
Mr. Fentie: Well, there's absolutely no mall; there's no water and sewer; there are no roads; there's no signage. There's a level piece of property, and it's private property. And the Liberal government is the one that authorized the expenditure of $700,000 for that private piece of property. Mr. Speaker, what room has the Premier left herself to recover this money if the mall does not proceed and Argus is in default? How is she going to recover our $700,000 that she so flippantly spent to keep herself out of court?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My goodness, Mr. Speaker. There's a real trend here; the NDP opposite stand up and say that they don't support the pipeline; they do support the pipeline. We should travel; we shouldn't travel. We should live up to the Argus agreement we shouldn't live up to the Argus agreement. We should spend all kinds of money making sure that there's winter works, and, "No don't pay Yukon contractors who have worked and invoiced the city."
I wish the members opposite would make up their minds. For the three-hundredth time, Mr. Speaker, we are fulfilling the agreement - an agreement that was signed and sealed by the previous government. We are trying to deliver on it. The city administers the agreement, and if it would aid the members opposite, I'll see if we can't get them a copy of the agreement so that maybe they can finally sit down and read it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Fentie: Now that the Premier has brought up trends, let's talk about some trends - our jobs in this territory, jobs and the economy.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier stated that there are well over 600 jobs created this winter as a direct result of what this Liberal government is doing. Can the Premier tell us if that creation of 600 jobs is gross or net?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, honestly, they are getting desperate for questions.
The trend here is that the members opposite left Faro and Ross River out of Connect Yukon and they refused to accept responsibility. The members opposite spent $2.5 million of the $3 million of CDF money and they refuse to admit that. The members opposite negotiated the Argus deal. Now they're trying to say they had nothing to do with it and we're doing it all wrong. Talk about accountable.
When are the members opposite going to stand up and take some responsibility for asking questions that the public want asked in this Legislature? Real questions, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: What kind of answer was that to the so-called 600 jobs that the Premier herself said this Liberal government has created? Let's look at the trend, Mr. Speaker. Under this Liberal watch, September 1999 to September 2000, the net decrease of jobs in this territory was 500. From October 1999 to October 2000 under this Liberal government watch, the net decrease of jobs was 300. From November 1999 to November 2000 under this Liberal government watch, the net decrease of jobs was 200.
What is this Premier really doing when it comes to creating jobs in this territory? The trend shows us that this Liberal government hasn't created 600 jobs at all. What it has done is decrease jobs in this territory and is driving people out.
Will this Premier now admit that her comment here yesterday in the Legislature was pure conjecture?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, no, I will not stand here and say that the statements I made yesterday were conjecture. What I will say is that the member would be well-advised to review the statistics he just read into the Legislature.
Let's talk about the unemployment rate for three and a half years under the NDP government. Let's talk about 1999, with an 11.9-percent unemployment rate, and 1998 with 11.5. That's in November of those years. Let's talk about April to November under the NDP government - 12.3 percent and 12.6 percent in 1998. And there are a number of other statistics. If the member opposite wants to talk about jobs in Yukon, let's talk about jobs that are in the Yukon.
Let's talk about Beaver Creek, where, yes, we proceeded with visitor reception development. Let's talk about museum assistance in Burwash Landing. Let's talk about capital maintenance and upgrades at the visitor reception centre in Carcross, operational equipment for Renewable Resources, and the renovation and rehabilitation of housing units. In Dawson City, let's talk about the number of construction projects and the number of people working there. Shall we?
There is any number of individuals working. The mayor just advised me recently of the numbers of employed individuals in Dawson City. Let's talk about Destruction Bay, Faro, Haines Junction, Keno, Marsh Lake, Mayo, Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Tagish, Teslin and Watson Lake and the jobs in those communities, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie:Mr. Speaker, it's so good to see the Premier stand on her feet in this House and inform us of all the jobs that were created thanks to the former government - the New Democratic government - because those jobs are a direct result of the New Democratic budget that this Liberal government brought in and passed on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, furthermore, this Premier doesn't even know how to read her own statistics, because she's not informing the public about the number of people who have left the job market in this territory.
The facts are clear. Under the NDP government, there was a trend that increased jobs in this territory. It was going on, month by month. Under this Liberal government, this trend is reversed and the job market is falling through the floor. There are no jobs under this government.
Will this Premier now do the right thing, address the desperation in this territory that this Liberal government has created, bring in another supplementary, put some people to work this winter, and create real jobs - not something that is a figment of her imagination.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my goodness, there is a quote about statistics, but the language in it is unparliamentary, so I won't use it. I'm sure members opposite are familiar with it.
First of all, they want to take credit for the budget, which this government passed, told Yukoners we'd live up to, and we're implementing. Then, the next thing I know, it's a figment of their imagination. I wish the members opposite would make up their minds.
The real desperation in this Legislature is the lack of questions from the members opposite. They really are desperate. Under the NDP government, 3,000 people left the territory - 3,000 people. We are working to rebuild the Yukon economy and bring those people back. We are doing that with capital projects in communities. We're doing that by working on major economic issues such as oil and gas, pipeline, renewable resources issues and health care issues. We are dealing with the issues that face government. And Mr. Speaker, in the eight short months we have been in office, we have made a darn good start.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everybody. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Today the Committee is discussing Bill No. 35, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2.
Bill No. 35 - An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The comments that I have made in second reading and in the second reading speeches covered most aspects of this bill and, in any event, it's very simple in principle. The bill reduces taxes for all Yukon taxpayers and for the mining industry, if they conduct exploration activities. We all want competitive tax rates and a vibrant economy. The legislation will go some way to achieving that goal. It will see our personal income tax rate reduced from its present 49 percent of basic federal tax to 46 percent for the 2001 and subsequent taxation years. This will increase the disposable income of Yukon taxpayers by over $2 million per year, which is a substantial sum by anyone's measure, Mr. Chair.
The bill also extends the mineral exploration tax credit, which was scheduled to expire on March 31 of next year, for a further year, and it increases the value of that credit by three percent, from 22 percent to 25 percent.
This credit is being utilized by the industry, and I'm certain it has encouraged a number of new or expanded programs. I need not remind the members how important it is to our economy's future that expanded mineral exploration be an ongoing fact of life in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, the passage of this bill during the current sitting will provide certainty to the mining industry as it develops exploration budgets for the coming year. In addition, Mr. Chair - this is a very important point that has often been lost from the debate - what the passage of this legislation does now is that it permits the personal income tax deduction tables distributed by the federal government on January 1 of this year to reflect the reduction in taxes.
I expect all members of the House to support these goals encompassed by the bill and look forward to their support for it. If members have any questions of a general nature, I'd be pleased to address them at this time.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing as there is no further general debate, we'll go clause by clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 35, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2, out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: I believe we were in Community and Transportation Services, general debate. I believe that Mr. Jenkins had the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate yesterday afternoon on Community and Transportation Services, I was pointing out the situation with regard to the preamble of the budget that the minister presented last year. The minister went to great lengths and took great pains to explain that they were working cooperatively with the First Nations and dealing with the resolution of the land claims settlements.
It was interesting to note that the first priority of this Liberal government is the settlement of the land claims here in the Yukon.
It's also interesting to note that, other than mention made of it by the minister in the preamble, she had an undertaking that any briefings whatsoever or any understanding of the land claims were all deferred to the department, and the department was going to deal with it. As for her role in the situation, she was totally aloof. Like the Premier, Mr. Chair, she stands up and says, "Well, I probably didn't have a briefing on that. I didn't know."
But there are many other important issues within the Department of Community and Transportation Services that I'd like to raise with the minister, and if we could start with the issues surrounding the area planning committees.
Now, there are two major ones underway. There are the Marsh Lake area planning committee and the Takhini Hot Springs Road planning committee that are underway and ongoing. With respect to Marsh Lake, it appears that the process has been put in motion, and it's - if you refer to a phrase that they used in the navy - "Damn the torpedoes; full steam ahead", because it would appear that there's a great majority of the residents in the Marsh Lake area who do not support what is being proposed through the area planning committee.
It is further pointed out to me that, given the large number of individuals resident in that area, some 600, they are justifiably an entity on their own. They're larger than Carmacks, they're larger than Mayo, and probably larger than Haines Junction currently, in terms of area population. It might even be prudent to look at a town status for that area.
We have the same area planning committee looking at the Hot Springs Road and there's a great deal of controversy surrounding what the technical side of the planning committee is proposing and what the area residents understood, and what the area residents are seeking from this government. They are at cross-purposes. If one just looks back in history, we see a great deal that doesn't conform to the original arrangements, Mr. Chair, and that I find very disconcerting.
Then we look at the initiatives surrounding the municipal governments and water and sewer, and the way that this government is treating municipalities. There seems to be a double standard for the way the government involves itself. There is probably more opposition to municipal licensing coming from government than there is support.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services appears to be reluctant to go to bat for the communities and get involved in the water licences or to get involved in the process. Yet, that is not so for other territorial government departments and other federal government department, that are right there at the table, ready to take action. What we see is the Yukon Territorial Water Board making representation and the process coming off the rails when the recommendations going to the minister are not honoured, and the federal minister won't respect the decision of the Water Board here in the Yukon - just basically ignores it and goes the other way. We have examples of that currently, Mr. Chair. I find that appalling. A whole process is set up for licensing municipal water, and we have a situation like that occurring.
Mr. Chair, I further submit, with respect to water licensing, that we have more tests today and incur more costs checking the effluent discharge from municipal water supplies than we have procedures, policies and rules in place to ensure that potable water supplies are healthy. We only have to look at the Walkerton situation in Ontario, and what we have here in the Yukon with respect to testing. About the only tests that municipalities do on a daily basis is to test for the amount of chlorine.
The bacterial count is done once a month, twice a month. It's quite interesting, and the potable water supply control and monitoring is a territorial government responsibility. Why is the minister not concerned with that area, along with her colleague, the Minister of Health, to ensure that potable water supplies here in the Yukon are safe at all times?
We have had two boil-water warnings issued here in the Yukon recently - in fact, during the term of office of this Liberal government, Mr. Chair - but we haven't heard anything from the minister other than, "It's safe; don't worry, be happy." If we just recall the Walkerton experience, the same message was delivered - don't worry, be happy.
We have more federal controls over effluent discharge where we should be having the controls to ensure safety of the potable water supply here in Yukon. When are we going to see this area addressed, Mr. Chair?
Mr. Chair, we also have a lot of other safety issues on our highways and approaches to communities, and progress was made under the previous NDP government - highway lighting through various communities, such as Carmacks, Pelly Crossing and around Whitehorse - but we still need more. One of the communities that is sadly lacking in lighting is the entranceway into my community, Dawson City, and yes, there's a study underway. But I take the minister back to the traffic counts. The traffic counts in and out of Dawson City clearly indicate that the standard of highway that currently exists there is substandard. It is below the accepted standard for that volume of traffic. Plus the highway width is not anywhere near adequate, given the amount of pedestrian traffic and bicycle traffic, especially in the summertime. It doesn't get to be a problem until the light starts dimming in the evening and it gets dark out. In June, it's not a problem, but getting further into the season it becomes more and more acute.
And accidents will happen. There is not an adequate amount of highway lighting. The highway is too narrow coming out of Dawson City, for probably about the first 15 to 20 kilometres of the highway route. When is that going to be addressed?
Going into Ross River, it took an accident and took a death before street lighting was properly placed on the access to Ross River, Mr. Chair.
We get into the airport situation, Mr. Chair, which is again within the purview of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. We went to great lengths to extend the airport runway in Whitehorse to ensure that takeoff distances were adequate. But we still haven't dealt with the obstructions on the approach. There's still a NOTAM in place. When is that going to be addressed, so the full length of the runway can be used - so that 13 right and 31 left can be used consistently for takeoffs and landings, for its entire length? When are we going to see something happen there?
I don't want the minister to stand up and blame the previous government on this issue. She now has full control of the department. It's within that Department of Community and Transportation Services, the aviation branch.
We see another glaring problem with airports in my community, once again, of Dawson City, where the airport itself, Mr. Chair, was more than adequate as long as it was owned by the federal government and operated by the federal government. Now that the transfer has taken place to the Government of Yukon, the federal government came back in with the regulatory arm and said: "You can't park here. The highway's too close. Cut down this brush. This is a safety issue." How much money is the federal government going to be putting into the airport in Dawson City to ensure that it conforms with the existing rules, which haven't changed since the airport transfer took place? There has been no change in proximity from the centre line of the runway to where you could have an obstruction.
And the Klondike Highway intersects that area. The brush intersects that area. Here we have a minister who can't even cut the brush down on the side of Yukon highways, and we're expecting her and asking her to cut down the brush around airports, Mr. Chair? Well, it was late this fall that this initiative took place, and that brush was cleared alongside the highways in a number of areas, Mr. Chair. Again, a very important safety issue.
But let's just back up to airports. We have an airport in Dawson City at which the runway's too close to the highway. The parking for aircraft is too close. We have a serious problem. Then we get into the wonderful implications of Bill C-68 and gun control legislation, where we have pilots coming in from Alaska. Number one, there's no place for them to park in Dawson City any more, and furthermore, their requirements in Alaska are that they carry a firearm in their survival gear. That's a law in that area, and each time they come into Canada, they have to acquire a $50 permit for their firearm if, indeed, it's allowed and it's legal. Otherwise, it's confiscated - indeed, the plane can be confiscated, Mr. Chair.
This wonderful Liberal initiative is doing nothing for our visitor industry. But you can't find out today whether the firearm that's part of the survival gear can be titled to the aircraft. All indications are it has to be titled to the pilot of that aircraft. So if you have an aircraft constantly chartered and coming back and forth into our community, like we have a great deal in the summertime, we have a problem. Each time that pilot comes in, if it's a different pilot, it's another set of paperwork - probably up to a two-hour delay, if everything is approved - before the $50 permit is issued. If we have a fly-in, which is not too irregular an occurrence of 20, 30, 40 aircraft - we've had up to 70 aircraft at one time - fly into our community, there isn't any place for them to park.
As well, can you imagine the paperwork if they all have survival firearms on board? Just take an hour to an hour and a half per aircraft. Well, they're ready to leave before they have even had time to get out of their aircraft. How many Customs inspections is it going to take? Thank this federal government and their colleagues here in the Yukon.
Now, these are areas that need to be addressed. I'm sure the Minister of Tourism is well aware of them, but we haven't heard anything happen. And this all starts on January 1, just a few days down the road - just a few days down the road. That's another area that must be addressed. Airports and highway safety - we haven't seen anything coming from this minister.
Let's look at the Connect Yukon initiative. Now, that's so splintered between three different departments today that we don't know where we're heading or who is in control. We have the initiative starting in Economic Development, paid for by Government Services - the debt servicing under Government Services - and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services involved in that component of the Connect Yukon initiative. We also know that the federal government, during the recent election campaign, announced a Connect Canadians initiative. Where do we plug into the scheme of things there? Has this minister taken the time, and will Yukon be receiving a refund from Canada for Connect Yukon and this $20-odd-million initiative?
I haven't heard any announcement from this minister in this regard, and it's a very important area. When the announcement was first made, Mr. Chair, the understanding of Yukoners was that those without telephone service would be receiving access to telephone. Well, Mr. Chair, nothing could be further from the truth. That simply will not happen. It will happen in some areas, but it will not happen in the Yukon in the areas that people envisioned that they would have access to telephone service.
There's going to be a tremendous amount of rural Yukon that still will not have access to a telephone. We have all heard the CRTC announcement. We have all heard the amount of money that Northwestel is going to be investing in infrastructure. It's going to be interesting, given the layer upon layer upon layer of initiatives. No one has really explained how they all dovetail, how Connect Yukon, the rural program, and Connect Canadians all fit together.
Then we come back to the initial initiative of funding Connect Yukon by borrowing. The Government of Yukon borrows the money from the immigrant investor fund, which, in the opinion of many, Mr. Chair, is illegal because the Government of Yukon is not supposed to borrow money for its own purposes or for its own areas. All the Government of Yukon did was set up a numbered company to funnel the money from the immigrant investor fund to the numbered company and then out to Northwestel. Then, after the fact, we hear that it's going to be debt serviced by Government Services. It sounds like a heck of a deal for Yukoners.
So, what it says, Mr. Chair, is that instead of the ratepayers of Northwestel paying for Connect Yukon, the taxpayers pay, but they're one and the same; they're the same people. We have the taxpayers paying through the Government of Yukon. What's the difference? It looks like a sleight of hand, one of those old games that they played in the fairs, moving the shells around and trying to guess which one contained the item. It's just a sleight of hand. On the surface it sounds good. At the end of the day, the taxpayers pay instead of the ratepayers. So much for Connect Yukon.
And will it provide upgraded service for Yukoners? For some of them, Mr. Chair, not for all of them.
It still will not provide affordable telephone service or access to telephone service - just a basic handset for many, many, many Yukoners. Anything in the area of wireless, Northwestel has divested itself of to a wholly-owned subsidiary, NMI Mobility. It sounds great, but at the end of the day, it's an arm's-length transaction; they're unregulated - the wireless end of it - and we're probably going to pay, because there's not enough room for competition in that area.
So just where does the Connect Yukon initiative plug in to the Connect Canadians initiative? I can't find out any information about that area, either, Mr. Chair. We do know that for both initiatives, it won't be the ratepayer who pays; it will be the taxpayer. But they are the same. Perhaps we could spread it over a bigger or more extended area.
And one of the other areas that the minister has not addressed and should be addressing is the recovery of money from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Yukon government acted in very good faith when there were forest fires - forest fires that the federal government rightfully fought - and during the times of forest fires that were threatening both Old Crow and Pelly, both of these communities were evacuated. The Government of the Yukon picked up those costs and subsequently billed the Government of Canada, and the Government of Canada has not paid. Why, Mr. Chair? We still have recoveries due to the Yukon for the fire in Burwash, and we are talking about a considerable sum of money when you add up all three of these areas together.
But the minister is just reading her briefing notes on this area now to bring her up to speed, Mr. Chair. These are important areas where the minister must be addressing her department's concerns and concerns of Yukoners. The money has flowed out of the coffers of the Yukon government and we were led to believe, Mr. Chair, that there was going to be a nice, warm, cozy relationship between the Liberals here in Yukon and the Liberals in Ottawa. But all it appears to be is that the new Liberal government here in the Yukon are going to act as apologists for the federal Liberal government.
It doesn't matter if we look at initiatives surrounding water licensing for municipalities, recoveries from Canada for evacuation of communities that are threatened by forest fires or any of the other many, many initiatives underway in the Yukon.
Yesterday, in general debate, we looked at the northern boundary of Yukon. We looked at the Crown-in-right issue of Yukon. All of these play a very important role in where we are in our relationship with our federal government, Mr. Chair. We can't seem to get any of these areas right. And, more often than not, we're alienating a great number of Yukoners in the process.
Mr. Chair, I think it's very, very important that the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services not blame previous governments. All we heard in previous debate on this department was the minister blaming the previous NDP government for not adequately funding Community and Transportation Services. The minister should look within the department and the fact that this Liberal government came to power with a $64-million surplus.
A surplus of $64 million - an unheard of amount. So, the buck stops with the minister.
Hopefully we can all move forward with safer highways and safer airports - not only safer, but adequate highways and adequate airports. Our transportation system is a tool of economic development, and what it says to everyone by ignoring these areas is that we are ignoring economic development, especially in these two great areas of air transportation access and highway routes.
We can't even find out if the Minister of Community and Transportation Services has come to any arrangement with officials in the State of Alaska about the Top of the World Highway opening on time. We have a number of tour operators calling already, saying, "Can we schedule anything before the first part of June?" We can't give them a positive answer. Why? Because this minister is not doing her job. She can't find out the basic information about whether the highway is going to be open on time. It's a sad day for Yukoners.
I don't want the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to pacs the buck to the Minister of Tourism, because the whole area is primarily her responsibility - to ensure that our transportation system works.
I have put enough on the plate that the minister has a few minutes to respond. Hopefully we can get some concrete answers about where we're heading.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have writer's cramp. I couldn't keep up with all the questions, so I'll get back to the member in writing on those, since he asked about 75 questions in there while the camera was on.
Moving on, if he has a specific question, I'd be glad to answer him.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's start at the beginning once again, Mr. Chair.
The Marsh Lake area planning committee and the Takhini Hot Springs Road planning committee - what is happening in these two planning areas?
Why is there so much opposition to what has been concluded by the planning committee with respect to Marsh Lake initially, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Can the member clarify what he means by "so much opposition" in the Marsh Lake area, please?
Mr. Jenkins: It has been brought to my attention by residents in that area that they are concerned with the way the area planning committee is proceeding and the areas that they're exploring, and where they eventually intend to end up. There obviously must be an issue there. I'm sure, in the minister's briefing notes somewhere, she has an overview of that. What is it, for the record, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is confusing planning with local governance. In May, Cabinet endorsed the establishment of the Marsh Lake local advisory area, which was an initiative generated by Marsh Lake area residents, an initiative that has widespread support from Marsh Lake area residents.
The first election of the Marsh Lake Local Advisory Council was held on October 19, and this was a community-driven initiative. There has been opposition registered by a handful of people. It is not widespread opposition.
Mr. Jenkins: I was referring to the area planning committee and what they've concluded.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no planning committee in the Marsh Lake area. It is now a local advisory council. It is local governance.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go to the Takhini Hot Springs Road, the area planning committee there. What is the opposition? And just for the record, can the minister provide us with an overview of the concerns that the people have raised in that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been a lot of response to the Hot Springs Road planning initiative received from the community; that is a healthy thing. Residents of the Hot Springs Road area are taking an active interest in the plan and in the direction of their community.
There are a number of views held by residents. Some are opposed to any future development, while others would prefer to plan today for potential development in the future. We also know that agriculture is an important element of the Hot Springs Road community, and the planning process will accommodate the development of agricultural land uses and permit a broad range of complementary activities.
A community survey is being sent out to further gauge residents' views on the options presented. I am urging all residents of the Hot Springs Road area to participate in that survey, and I am planning to hold a public meeting out there with departmental officials to talk about the planning process and the future of that area.
Mr. Jenkins: So this healthy thing, as the minister describes - is there any deviation from the planning that has gone on previously in the area, as to what it concluded in previous plans and what we're looking at now, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was no previous Hot Springs Road planning process. There was zoning underway there, and a diversity of views is a healthy thing. I'm not going to pick sides and say this kind of view is right or that kind of view is right. I would like the Hot Springs Road residents to work together with the department to come to a consensus on what's best for the future of the area.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the most contentious issues in rural Yukon, specifically, has been the zoning. What I understand is going to be taking place here is a number of changes to the zoning in that area. What has given rise to these proposed changes, Mr. Chair? Because that is really what it is all about. There are going to be changes in zoning, expansion or reduction in sizes of areas, and what was previously envisioned by the residents there, and a lot of them bought under a set of rules that now appear to be in limbo and might possibly be changed.
What is driving this requirement for change in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For many years, when anybody has moved into the Hot Springs Road area, they have affected the lifestyle of the people who were previously there. That process continues. There has been a consistent demand for rural residential lots in the Whitehorse periphery, as the member is well aware.
When Pilot Mountain went in some years back, there was vocal opposition from residents already in the Hot Springs Road area. Now the Pilot Mountain people are well-established there, as well as previous Hot Springs Road residents. Of course they don't all hold the same view. No changes have been made; no decisions have been made. A community survey is going out. As I say again, I would like all residents to complete the survey. I have received correspondence from many residents of the area, and I will be holding a public meeting out there for a more full discussion on the issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister have any timelines for this meeting and the conclusion of this planning committee's report?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had hoped to have held it already, but as the Legislature is still in session, that has been impossible.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would point out to the minister that the Legislature only sits until 6:00 p.m., four days of the week. There are seven days in a week. This is not a nine-to-five job that the minister has, and I would suggest that there is more than ample opportunity to get herself immersed in the business of her department and successfully conclude it. In fact, I'm given to understand that one of the major reasons for doing away with evening sittings is so that the ministers would have more time to address their responsibilities. So, let's not throw that out as an excuse.
Mr. Chair, one of the other areas of concern is what the policy of the Department of Community and Transportation Services is with respect to intervening on behalf of municipalities or with respect to water licence applications.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It may be a one-to-six job for the member opposite. It certainly is not for me.
There is no double standard with regard to water and sewer. We are working directly with the communities on water licences. We have been working with Dawson for many years and are currently working with Carmacks.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to know the department's policy with respect to actually appearing before the Water Board. Does the Department of Community and Transportation Services have a policy of appearing before the Water Board to support water licence applications from the various communities? If they do not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department used to do that when they were local improvement districts. Now that we have municipalities, they are quite independent and capable of speaking for themselves. They don't need the government to do that.
Mr. Jenkins: It's obvious, Mr. Chair, that the minister has never appeared before the Water Board. It's probably one of the most intimidating exercises that municipal officials can undertake, especially in light of the tremendous number of officials from other federal government agencies there, usually in opposition to water licences.
Why doesn't Community and Transportation Services have a policy of appearing before the Water Board to support community water licences?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we certainly give municipalities all sorts of support behind the scenes, with letters, et cetera. The municipalities bring their own experts to the hearings and they represent themselves very well.
Mr. Jenkins: I submit, Mr. Chair, that it's an area that the minister should be examining and should be doing something in, given that it's a very, very extensive exercise and an extremely costly one for most municipalities to prepare and present a water licence application. Because it's not done other than on a five-year or a 10-year cycle, a lot of the expertise is usually lost within the municipal governments, in that there's a changeover of officials at the top. So I think it's very, very important that we have a consistent and uniform approach for re-licensing, and the only way that that can be ensured is if the Government of Yukon offers its support and is there at the table, making representation in support of municipal water licence renewals or applications.
Why does the minister see fit to not be there, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I had a question of the minister. She's not answering. Is she not able to, or she doesn't have a clue? What's the problem?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I've already answered that question. If the member has a new question, I'd be glad to answer that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question was quite simply put. There's no consistency across the Yukon Territory in elected officials and in the actual officials within the municipal governments. There's a constant change, and licensing and relicensing occurs every five to 10 years for waste water discharge. What you want to ensure is continuity, Mr. Chair. The only way to ensure that is if there's some sort of support from the Government of Yukon, Department of Community and Transportation Services, to make representation to the Water Board in support of licence applications.
It would appear, Mr. Chair, that the minister just doesn't want to be there - doesn't want her officials to be there. I find that somewhat upsetting and disconcerting, Mr. Chair, because it's an extremely painful time for municipal governments, in that it's a very costly undertaking. It's very intimidating, especially when you attend these hearings and there are a number of officials from federal agencies and conservation groups. And they're all usually there in opposition to the renewal. They're not putting out any suggestions, other than that they're in opposition and that you don't meet the standard.
The Community and Transportation Services department is supposed to be there to help municipal governments. Why isn't the department interested in supporting municipalities in their water licence applications and re-applications, Mr. Chair? Is there some reason why we're not in that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't believe there have been any municipal water licence applications since I've been the minister, for one thing. Continuity is not the issue, Mr. Chair, so much as expertise is, and the municipalities bring their own consultants who are experts in this area to the hearings. They represent themselves very well, as I've already said. We are extremely supportive of the municipalities in this area, and we support them behind the scenes very well and will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House where the rules are for potable water to ensure their safety for municipal governments? Where are those rules written down, and where is it written that municipal governments have to conform to them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Klondike well knows, we are extremely concerned about the safety of our water supply. There is a minimum standard for the monthly submission of water samples for all Yukon rural communities. The member must be satisfied that the water supplied in the Legislature is safe, as he's calling for more water.
Watson Lake complies with the standard. Dawson City chooses to submit samples twice a month, and all water samples are tested for total coliforms and faecal coliforms. Environmental Health and Social Services provide the lab analysis within 24 hours of submitting a sample, and as I said before in the House, Mr. Chair, Community and Transportation Services is leading a review of the demand for a local water-quality testing lab in Whitehorse, because I'm sure that's where the member's going next. We expect to have the report completed early in the new year.
Mr. Jenkins: Has the minister looked at what rules are in place for other jurisdictions? Ontario has had grave concerns raised over Walkerton and its potable water supply. Has the minister looked at what is in place in the Province of Ontario to ensure safe drinking water and what laws are there? Because really, at the end of the day, other than the requirement to pull a sample once a month, that's all we have here in the Yukon.
It is up to the municipal government to ensure that that water supply is safe, but there is no stipulation that it has to really do anything, other than pull a sample once a month and send it in for analysis. If they choose to pull it in twice a month, or three times a month - Mr. Chair, look at the test for chlorine, which is done once or twice a day, depending on which system you look at. That is the only test that takes place, but if you have a waterline that lays dormant with nothing being drawn out of that waterline for quite a period of time, the level of chlorine dissipates down to zero. The bacterial count, if there is any there, grows, depending if the ambient temperature of that water supply increases. We could very well have a problem. If you test once a month, you could pull a sample and if that line were flushed a couple of days later, you would get very safe, potable water out of that line. You wouldn't even know that you had a problem.
What I'm asking the minister to consider, Mr. Chair, is the health and safety of Yukoners, and conduct a review of this area. We probably spend more time ensuring that we have safe, potable water than we currently spend to ensure that we have discharge that conforms to a standard. The requirements for discharge water are federal requirements, and the cost of implementation of those federal requirements for any municipal government far exceeds any of the costs that we incur for testing to ensure that we have a safe, potable water supply.
I believe that there is a grave injustice being done in this regard, Mr. Chair, and I believe we are leaving the door open for potential health problems. I believe it is an area that the minister should be examining very, very closely and putting in place a policy, initially, and then a program. That program should be coupled with a lab for testing purposes to ensure the ongoing safety of our potable water supply.
The minister made mention of examining a lab and seeing if something could be done.
There are two areas that have to be looked at, Mr. Chair. One area is the testing of discharge water and the potential for a lab here in the Yukon to meet those testing requirements, and the other area is the potable water supply and the safety of that potable water supply. So the former Chair of the Yukon Territorial Water Board is offering advice to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on this very important issue, so we can probably hear some very beneficial remarks.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm glad the Member for Klondike shares my concern about the safety of our water. I have already indicated that we are looking at issues around a local water quality testing lab. The frequency of testing is also being looked at. That frequency of testing is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Services. So, the member can address any further questions down that line to the Minister of Health when we resume debate on that area of the budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Here we go again. The minister is passing the buck - if it's not her officials, it's some other minister.
But the area of concern is to ensure safe potable water. In most jurisdictions in Canada, yes, the testing is a health matter, but the regulations fall under Community and Transportation Services, or a similar body. In some cases, they do come under Health, but by and large, the government department or agency responsible for communities has the regulations in place. The standards are developed by the Department of Health. That is the situation in Ontario, and I would urge the minister to consider the implementation of a program of more frequent testing of potable water supplies than once a month, as is done in the Yukon. We are on a collision road with potential problems.
One of the other areas that the minister is responsible for that I'd like to explore with her are airports. I heard her mention that she wasn't going to look at widening the Whitehorse airport, which is required. We're right at the minimum width for wide-bodied jets. The recommended width for a runway - depending on the operating procedures of the airline that you're hoping to attract into the area, the width of the runway could be too narrow.
Has this area been examined with a view to widening the main airport runway - 13 right, 31 left, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said yesterday, there are no plans to widen the runway.
Mr. Jenkins: Is it being looked at, examined or costed out? I know we could probably use the work for the paving companies, but is it being looked at, Mr. Chair? Is it even being examined or considered? One only has to refer to the Whitehorse airport study and the number of conclusions in that study. It's probably going to occur in the not-too-distant future that one of the airlines that we're inviting to fly into Whitehorse will not come into this airport, because they are wide-body equipment and their operating rules do not permit them. That's going to be the problem we're going to incur.
Is it being examined, looked at or costed out, so we know where we're at, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already answered that question. If the member has a new question, I'd be glad to hear it.
Mr. Jenkins: But the minister said she had no plans to widen the airport. I asked if it is being examined and costed out? Yes or no? We'll keep it simple for the minister, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: The minister needs some help over there. She has fallen asleep at the switch, Mr. Chair. She has got her head in her hands and her pencil I don't know where, and we just can't seem to get any answers from this minister.
Mr. Chair, a simple question for the minister. A yes or no. Has the widening of the main runway at the Whitehorse Airport been costed out? Yes or no?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Same question, same minister.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Same question, same minister, Mr. Chair. Has the widening of the Whitehorse Airport been costed out? Yes or no?
Well, let the record reflect, Mr. Chair, that either the minister is incapable of answering or doesn't know the answer. So can I have a written response to the question, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: You'll find the written response in Hansard.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there is no written response in Hansard as to what the cost of the widening of the Whitehorse Airport would be. That's the number I'm looking for. Has it been costed out and what is that cost? Does the minister not have that information?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have a stubborn one here today, Mr. Chair. Incompetent or incapable - which one is it, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it's obvious that we can't get an answer out of this minister. Is she going to be tendering her resignation as Minister of Community and Transportation Services?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the minister isn't scripted in her response, Mr. Chair, so she can't answer. I guess we can move on to the Dawson City Airport.
How much money is the federal government coming to the party with to upgrade this airport to meet the standards that they're requiring?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am waiting to hear from Transport Canada on our application for upgrading the Dawson Airport. The application was submitted some time ago.
Mr. Jenkins: And what is the amount of money that the minister is requesting in her application?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We requested between $4.7 million and $5.2 million.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister explain how you request between a range of $4.7 million and $5.2 million? I thought the minister would be specific as to what her request would be.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the specific request was $5 million. As I said, I'm waiting to hear from them with their response, whether they're giving us any or the full amount.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what the minister said is that the request from the Government of the Yukon was between $4.7 million and $5.2 million; now she's saying that the request was for $5 million. Just where are we at? What was the actual, documented request to the federal government for the upgrading of the Dawson Airport, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't have the document in front of me. My deputy advises me that it was a request of $5 million.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's my understanding that the minister is responsible for Community and Transportation Services, and if we can't do better than the answers that are forthcoming here today, Mr. Chair, it's pretty sad. I can understand why the highways are going into a deplorable state. The minister doesn't even bear any resemblance to her responsibilities or any knowledge of her responsibilities.
And I can understand why there's such a vagueness in her responses, Mr. Chair. It's because the minister doesn't know.
Now, I urge her to pay more attention to her officials when she's being briefed, because I know that her officials are providing her with excellent information in a timely fashion. It's up to the minister to grasp the fundamentals of her responsibilities and understand them, especially the financial implications.
I would like to ask the minister to elaborate on this $5-million request of the federal government for the upgrading of the Dawson Airport. Just what will it involve? What areas will be dealt with, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: When it comes to dealing with the member opposite, if he asked me the time, I'd want to refer to briefing notes - just to be sure.
We asked Transport Canada for money to complete some safety and operational enhancements, which include reconstructing the gravel runway, expansion of the apron, and paving of the apron and taxiway.
Mr. Jenkins: What about the plans to relocate the Klondike Highway? Is there going to be a variance granted by Transport Canada to permit the Klondike Highway to remain in the runway right-of-way?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Transport Canada is currently looking at our proposal. We haven't heard about the funding. We are awaiting their reply.
Mr. Jenkins: I wasn't referring to the funding and the reply. I was referring to the regulations and the proximity of the Klondike Highway to the centre line of the Dawson Airport. Now, the highway intersects into an area that is too close to the centre line of the runway for the class of aircraft that this is licensed to allow to land and take off there.
What provisions are being made for that? Is Transport Canada going to allow a variance or is the highway going to be moved or is the runway going to be moved?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Transport Canada's regional officer has completed a detailed review of the proposed project and has indicated that it's in the Ottawa office with a recommendation for approval. We are waiting for that. The question the member is asking will no doubt be contained in that reply.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps it would be prudent if the minister sent over a copy of the request to Transport Canada for the proposal for the $5 million. We could have a look at it and ask some questions in the next session as to where we're going, Mr. Chair. Will the minister provide a copy of the request, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, I will not.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's look at these issues. Is part of the proposal to Transport Canada a request for a variance to allow the highway to remain where it is? Yes or no?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I don't know whether we have a minister who doesn't understand her portfolio or is incapable of explaining it. It was a very simple question, and it deals with the proximity of the airport to the highway, or the proximity of the highway to the airport. All I'm asking the minister to explain is, with respect to the Dawson Airport, has the Government of Yukon asked for a variance, so that the Klondike Highway can remain where it is? Have they asked for a variance from Transport Canada? Yes or no?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Is the main runway going to be paved in Dawson? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that was not part of the current application. Paving the runway is not eligible at this time for airports capital assistance program funding. The Yukon government and other airport operators are lobbying Transport Canada to expand the ACAP criteria.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the impediments to increasing the use of the airport in Dawson City is the fact that it's not paved. Many, many insurance carriers for wheeled aircraft will not permit their aircraft to operate on a gravel strip. It has to be a paved strip. The runway surface in Dawson is gravel and it's acting as an impediment, not as a tool of economic development.
It was an area that was reviewed by Dawson. It was agreed to by the territorial government previously. In fact, there were people who were suggesting that it was going to occur imminently, as early as a year or so ago. Where are we at with this initiative, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already told the member that paving the runway is not currently eligible for ACAP funding. Other impediments at that airport include the hills around it, which prevent it from being a 24-hour airport.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the airport is a 24-hour airport for about two months of the year, Mr. Chair. What the minister means to say is that it has to be VFR flight regulations that apply to that airport. So, as far as the airport being a 24-hour airport, it is that way currently, Mr. Chair. But, that's not the issue. The issue is how the airport is, in Transport Canada's terms of reference, currently illegal in many respects. How many of these illegal areas are going to be addressed by the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Hard surfacing the runway is a high priority for this government, after the safety and certification issues have been addressed. The current application is to deal with the safety and certification issues. So we will deal with those first.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is saying is that the Government of the Yukon took over responsibility for the Dawson City Airport, knowing full well that it wasn't safe, knowing full well that it didn't comply with Transport Canada regulations, and now it is going to cost approximately $5 million to bring it into compliance, and that is if the federal government advances those funds to the Yukon government.
The use of an airport is a very high priority. Given that the Minister of Health and Social Services has created a two-tier health care system in the Yukon, we have to get medevac planes in and out of Dawson on a regular basis. So there is a problem there. They fly in 24 hours a day, seven days a week, irrespective of Transport Canada regulations; they fly under a different category.
With respect to the airport itself, on how many different points is it not conforming to Transport Canada's regulations?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am aware that if we were starting again with a brand new airport in that location, we would never get certification because of the hills. That is the major point.
There is certification at this point, and we are working on improving that with the improvements that we have asked Transport Canada for funding for.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House: in how many areas is the airport in Dawson City not conforming to federal regulations? How many areas?
Now, we've got to the hills; we've got the highways. In how many areas does it not conform?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't have the exact number and the details with me. I'll be pleased to provide them to the member, although I know he already knows the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm glad somebody in this House knows the answers. Mr. Chair, I'll look forward to receiving that information in due course.
While we're on airports, is there any move afoot to decommission the ARCALS in Ross River and Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: There are going to be some changes with the operation of the CARS stations in rural Yukon, Mr. Chair. Some of the advisory services provided by CARS are some of the best in the north, here in the Yukon, and the changes will see everything operated on RCOs out of Whitehorse. Now, there are some positive aspects to that, and there are some negative aspects to that. Can the minister just elaborate as to how her officials see this initiative, and is there indeed a safety factor in the transition to this new procedure, and will we see the same amount of service provided by Nav Canada through their respective agencies?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The CARS systems are going to stay essentially the same as they are now. If anything, we'll have an increase in service, thanks to the RCOs.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister might want to read the current directive on CARS about what's changing, because considerable changes are coming after the beginning of this year. I am concerned with the direction we are heading, as are a lot of individuals in the aviation business. It's quite interesting, Mr. Chair. It's quite interesting, indeed.
Are there any other areas with respect to airport operations in which we can see a reduction - or are anticipating a reduction - in funding from the federal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the added requirement for Customs at the airport, specifically in Dawson and moreso in Whitehorse, what changes are going to be made to the terminals, and what changes have been made to the terminals, at what cost, to accommodate the influx of passengers?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll be delighted to provide the member with that information.
Mr. Jenkins: Do we envision any improvement in moving people through Customs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'll be delighted to provide the member with that information.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other problems we have in our community is the scheduled carrier, Air North, which provides excellent service throughout the Yukon, Mr. Chair. It originates out of Whitehorse, leaving Whitehorse in the morning and goes to Dawson City. Every day, it goes up to Old Crow and some days on to Inuvik, other days over to Fairbanks, then back to Dawson and back to Whitehorse. We have difficulty with the way Canada Customs treats passengers embarking in Old Crow or in Inuvik, should it go to Fairbanks, in that in Fairbanks, the plane lands. Other than deplaning passengers, all of the passengers who embark in Old Crow and Inuvik must remain on the aircraft. They can't disembark. And when they arrive in Dawson, Customs insists that they clear Customs.
This has been brought to the department's attention. What kind of action is the department taking?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's the first I have heard of this difficulty. I thank the member for bringing it to my attention.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're not going to get anywhere on airport policies or problems because the minister doesn't really understand her portfolio, Mr. Chair, and has a lack of comprehension of how to provide answers.
Let's look at some of the fire halls. Burwash - what is going to be the final capital cost of the completion of a fire hall in Burwash? What are we looking at in total, adding up all of the costs that we have incurred? What is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't have that figure at my fingertips. I'd be glad to attempt to find it for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: What is the department doing to monitor it? Currently, there is another amount of money - I believe that it is $121,000 - just to fix up around the building now. When we add it all up, the total cost of the replacement of that fire hall, including the remedial repairs after it froze up and everything else, such as the rental of the second fire hall for the interim period - it is just classified under capital expenditure, EMO, special projects, Burwash fire remediation, $121,000. I know that applies to the community cleanup after the fire, but there was also the fire hall. There was a lot of cleanup and other costs that were incurred around there. What was the final figure for that fire hall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The fire hall itself was completed over a year ago. I believe that figure is in previous budgets.
Mr. Jenkins: Not only was it in one previous budget, it was in two previous budgets - it carried over. There was also money spent on it last year. All I am looking for is for the minister to provide the total costs over all of the budget cycles, because it looks like it was spread over three, possibly four, budgets.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already said that I will get that figure for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's look at highways and lighting, Mr. Chair.
Now, we've lit the way into Ross River and that is appreciated. We have lit the way across the bridge in Carmacks and on the highway coming and going out of Carmacks. We have lit the way through Pelly Crossing. We have lit the way down south through Teslin and a few other initiatives. They are all very positive initiatives, Mr. Chair. What is the timeline for the lighting from, say, Henderson's Corner into Dawson City? This is an extremely highly travelled section of the highway. When is this going to take place? Because what we have is a study after a study after the numbers were assembled. Is this going to be in the next budget cycle?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Now he wants to extend it all the way to Henderson's Corner.
Mr. Chair, we're not going to install lighting from Callison into Dawson now, and rip it up when we're widening the highway. That would be foolish.
Mr. Jenkins: So, should I take that as a commitment that the widening of the highway is in the next budget cycle, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is well aware, we are in the planning process for the next budget cycle at the moment. If the member has questions related to this budget, I'd be happy to answer them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps the minister can share with us the design work that has already taken place in the previous budget for the expenditure. I believe it was some $50,000 worth of expenditure. Is that design available, and can the minister just provide us with a copy, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The design work is almost complete, and planning on the budget continues. Should it be in the budget, then we will be having a public meeting in Dawson to discuss it.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there going to be any plan made available to the Legislature before this public meeting, or is it just going to be a deep, dark secret?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, considering the distinct possibility that the Legislature will still be sitting when the budget planning is completed, there's a possibility.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm back in Dawson every weekend, Mr. Chair. If the minister wants, I would be happy to take the plans back on her behalf and ensure that they're delivered to the appropriate individuals in the community. Not that I want to act on her behalf, Mr. Chair. I wouldn't want that to remove the tremendous understanding I have with the department to get down to that point, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, could the minister provide the traffic counts - there are traffic counters at quite a number of locations throughout the Yukon, and the records are compiled on a continuing basis, and usually on a monthly basis. They are added up for the total year. I'd like to ask the minister to provide to the House the vehicle counts on our principal highways for - let's just go back three or four years. Could the minister provide that? It's readily available, Mr. Chair. It's readily available.
What I need the information for is to show the tremendous downturn in the economy, to show the tremendous reduction in vehicle traffic on our highways. I'm just looking at it, and I'm also looking at it to show what the increase in vehicle traffic has been in close proximity to Dawson. Because there are three vehicle counters in close proximity to Dawson, and there are a couple out by the Dempster Corner, and there's another set by Stewart Crossing.
So, there are quite a number of vehicle counters in our area, and this information is very, very valuable information. It's used and referred to quite frequently by the department to see what areas of the highways need upgrading. Actually, that is what has driven the process to ensure that the planning for the widening and upgrading of the highway going into Dawson takes place. It's directly related to its usage. Otherwise, we'd be relegated to just a trail coming from rural Yukon.
Mind you, in Whitehorse, it's not a problem to find another $3 million or $4 million to twin Hamilton Boulevard, but in rural Yukon, we can't even get street lights. So, that's the issue. Could the minister agree to provide the vehicle counts?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Certainly, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, one of the other interesting areas that this minister has partial responsibility for is Connect Yukon. In opposition, this minister was adamant that it wasn't going to provide phone service to all of rural Yukon and that a lot of her constituents and a lot of my constituents will be left out of the loop, as far as having phone service. We won't receive any. And it's not because we're getting disconnected off an existing system. The system doesn't even exist and will not exist under this Connect Yukon initiative.
Now, my understanding of Connect Yukon was one way. I've since read a great deal of the documentation and understand it to be another way. And now this federal initiative, Connect Canadians, has come upon us. Could the minister explain how the Connect Canadians initiative is going to dovetail with the Connect Yukon initiative and connect with the upgrading that Northwestel is undertaking? How will all these programs be put together? And I don't want the minister to just stand up and say, "You'll get better phone service", because we all hope that that's the case, but how do they all dovetail together?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Klondike well knows, the Connect Yukon is about high-speed Internet and data service and not about telephones. The federal government's Connecting Canadians initiative at this point has a task force in place, and it's mapping out a strategy. They will advise the federal government on the best approaches by March 31, 2001. At this point, they're working on a strategy. At this point, there is no connection with Connect Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise how the Yukon plugs into the strategy that Connect Canadians is developing? Are we taking the initiative, are we lead following, or are we just getting out of the way?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Government Services department is participating in the mapping out of that strategy. At this point, they are working on a strategy. That is all that is happening to this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's run this one by again. I have learned now that the Connect Canadians initiative is going to be under Government Services, but Connect Yukon is under the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Why the distinction? Why are we going this way? Is it just to hide something? Currently, it's just about impossible to find out any information, seeing that Connect Yukon is split between three different departments, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Government Services is responsible for telecommunications, except for the Connect Yukon project. Government Services is in contact with Industry Canada representatives, and they will be representing the interests of the Yukon on the task force.
Mr. Jenkins: So, when we get into Government Services, the minister will be completely versed in this area. Is that what you're telling the House, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, then why do we have Connect Yukon resting with Community and Transportation Services? It was there. The whole telecommunications was in C&TS, and I'm not sure what happened but it moved over to Government Services. Now we have moved some of it back to C&TS, but only a piece of it. Why are we splitting it up between two different departments - the whole telecommunications Internet? They're one and the same. It's all communications. Data transmission is more where we're headed. It's a very interesting area and we seem to have split it up. Why did we do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway:I have explained that several times in this House, but apparently the Member for Klondike missed it. So, I'll be happy to explain it again.
When we were in opposition and Connect Yukon was first announced, the then Minister of Government Services said it was all about telephone service to rural Yukon. That is a particular interest of mine, so when we formed the government, I asked the Premier for responsibility for the Connect Yukon project, believing it to be about telephone service to rural Yukon. Great was my surprise when I discovered that it was not about telephones - not a telephone in sight - but was instead about high-speed Internet and data access to the communities. That is how the Connect Yukon project came to live in Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess it begs the question: now that the minister knows it's not about telephones, but another area, why hasn't it been moved back to where it rightfully belongs - in Government Services, along with all the other communication initiatives?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, the project was underway, the transition to Community and Transportation Services was happening, and it made more sense to leave this particular project where it was. Government Services provides telecommunication services within all of the department, and this particular project is a specific thing for high-speed data and Internet access to the communities. It has a finite time frame, and that's that.
Mr. Jenkins: What it boils down to is that the minister wanted it because she thought she was going to have a political coup coming her way. I guess, at the end of the day, that's what it boils down to. I guess it might have been somewhat controversial, seeing the tremendous amount of notes and advice the minister received from the Minister of Government Services and the Premier of the Yukon. The advice was flowing. We needed these individuals just a few minutes ago to provide some insight to the minister when she failed to or couldn't answer some of the previous questions.
Could the minister provide us with an overview of the Connect Yukon initiative? Is it on course, on budget and when will we see the benefits of the results?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I'm pleased to say that the project is proceeding on schedule and the member already has a copy of that schedule.
Mr. Jenkins: The component for medical transmission of data - when can we see some benefits accruing? I don't want the minister responsible for Connect Yukon to pass the buck to Health and Social Services, but the system works well south of Whitehorse, but north of Whitehorse it's a different story. When can we see this system up and running - telemedicine?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll be happy to get that information for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's odd, Mr. Chair. It's an initiative that crosses boundaries and it's becoming more and more difficult to unearth where these initiatives take place.
Let's explore with the minister, Mr. Chair, the issues surrounding the actual funding of Connect Yukon. Has the minister examined the legalities of the way it was funded from the immigrant investor fund? Or did she indeed even have any concerns about the immigrant investor fund being used and the money flowing to a numbered company?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The funding arrangement was already established before it became my responsibility. The Yukon government has entered into a contractual agreement, as the member knows, because I've explained this in the House before, as well. A separate corporation was established to flow the funds for the project. The Yukon government is contributing a total of $23.5 million to the Connect Yukon project over five years. Northwestel is contributing $3 million in capital, plus the O&M costs associated with the new infrastructure.
I am satisfied that the funding arrangements are perfectly legal, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So the minister is completely comfortable that the funding arrangement is completely legal, even though the immigrant investor fund has very, very strict guidelines attached to it for its use. Now, what led to the minister making that statement? Has she obtained a legal opinion or an opinion from the Department of Justice in-house in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member has received - once as a legislative return and once as a filed copy of that same legislative return - a complete answer to that question about the funding for Connect Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is avoiding the question, Mr. Chair. Because the question as to the funding and the outline of how it flowed - I have copies of that.
The area that I am addressing and asking the minister to answer is: was a legal opinion obtained, either from the Department of Justice or outside, with respect to the legality surrounding the flow of the money and the way it flowed from the immigrant investor fund to a numbered company controlled by Government of Yukon to Northwestel? Because the immigrant investor fund has specific guidelines attached to it by the federal government, and it is not to be used for government purposes, and it is very, very strict. And by setting up this numbered company - in the opinions of a number of individuals I have spoken to - all it does is circumvent the rule.
Now I want to know from the minister if a legal opinion was obtained with regard to the method that the monies were flowed.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have already explained to the member, the Connect Yukon project was in place at the time this government took office. I am satisfied that the funding arrangements are legal. The member has twice had a complete answer to this question. If he has a new question related to this supplementary budget, I would be happy to deal with it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister has failed to answer the question. She skirted all around the question. And, yes, it was an arrangement made by the prior government, but it's obvious that the Minister of Finance, with respect to the Argus property, saw fit to dispatch a lawyer from her staff to Vancouver to look at that area, because she had a different interpretation with respect to the Argus situation and she wanted to evade and avoid - probably, more appropriately, to evade - a lawsuit at all possible costs by instructing the City of Whitehorse to pay off Argus and its suppliers, its contractors, its subs. But Mr. Chair, we might be in the same situation with the methodology employed here. And just because it's kind of an in-house arrangement, it still has to pass the examination of the Auditor General's office, and it still has to pass the test of conforming to the federal regulations and laws with respect to the immigrant investor fund and the guidelines associated with it by the federal government.
Now, once again, the minister has said that she is very comfortable with it. How did she obtain that measure of comfort with the funding? Was it by way of a legal opinion on this initiative?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking for a legal opinion. I'm asking the minister if her measure of comfort surrounding this initiative was determined or given to her by a legal opinion. That's all.
Speaker: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, we have a very incompetent minister not answering questions in this House. It's sad.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Under the rules of debate - using abusive and insulting language likely to create disorder - I believe calling a member of this Legislature "incompetent" is completely inappropriate, abusive and denigrating.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there's no point of order. "Incompetent" - all I'm doing is stating the truth, and if the member opposite is telling me that I'm not stating the truth, then the government House leader is abusing the rules of this House.
That's where we're at, Mr. Chair. There is no point of order. We're just in general debate, and if you were following, which I'm sure you were, Mr. Chair, you'd see very, very clearly that the minister is constantly refusing to answer questions - logical, very well-defined questions - and there has to be a reason for her failure to answer these questions. Either she doesn't know the answer or is incompetent.
If it's that she doesn't know the answer, could the minister please stand up and say that she doesn't know the answer and will get back to me? When she doesn't do that, one can only conclude that it's the other way, Mr. Chair.
There's no point of order. It's just a dispute between members.
Chair: I'd ask the members to give me one second to consider this.
Order please. After considering arguments from both sides of the floor, a member has a right to express an opinion, and I believe that what Mr. Jenkins was doing was expressing an opinion.
What I do want members from all sides to consider is that, while the word was used this time and I will not rule that word out of order, future uses that may inflame the debate will be considered out of order, and I'd ask members to use the word judiciously. But Mr. Jenkins, in this case, is not out of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, before I was rudely interrupted by the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, using the rules of debate is not a rude interruption; neither is expressing an opinion on this side of the House about the continual denigration of the members of this House in what we feel is an inappropriate manner and personal in nature.
We would appreciate it if the member opposite didn't use his points of order as an opportunity to speechify his own conduct.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, you made a ruling in this House and asked members opposite to get on with the debate and not have a delay. I believe that is what the member of the third party is referring to - the constant delays in here. We want answers, and we want to get on with the debate.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, there is no point of order. It's just an impediment to the debate in this House. What we have is a minister who either can't answer the questions or won't answer the questions. That's the impediment to the progress of debate in this House, along with the constant interruptions.
Chair: Order please. On the point of order, there is no point of order. I would remind members - and I will hit a limit where I will find inflammatory and argumentative language out of order. This is civilized debate, and this is to get on with the business of the House. I would ask members to be judicious in your words and your actions toward each other.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Well, Mr. Chair, there is really no debate being carried out in the House because I'm asking questions and the minister is not responding. She's avoiding the questions and going to great lengths to make it very, very difficult to even get a toe in the door. She is throwing up every type of roadblock possible - deferring to other departments, deferring to previous governments. It's just not a reasonable expectation.
So I will take the minister back to my question with respect to Connect Yukon and her position that she was comfortable with the way the financing was put in place. There are quite a number of individuals who have pointed out clearly to me, Mr. Chair, that there could very well be a problem with the way the financing flows for this Connect Yukon initiative.
It could very well be contrary to the rules in the immigrant investor fund - rules that are put in place by the federal Government of Canada.
Now, all I was asking the minister for was an answer as to why she has a measure of comfort with these arrangements. That was a simple, straightforward question. Was her measure of comfort established by a legal opinion? I am not asking for the legal opinion. I am asking why she has a measure of comfort with the financing arrangements - a very straightforward, succinct question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The loan agreement was written by lawyers and approved by Canada. If the Member for Klondike has some allegations that it is improper, I wish he would bring them forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister aware of the rules surrounding the immigrant investor fund? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, just because an agreement has been drafted by lawyers doesn't mean that it conforms in all respects to the letter and intent of the law. In many respects, lawyers draft an agreement in order to avoid aspects of the terms of reference or the law. Now, avoidance is quite okay. That is not a problem, but it also has to conform with the intent of the law.
So if the minister is aware of the terms through which funds from the immigrant investor fund can be invested, if she is comfortable that it's completely above-board and legal, we can move on. But, Mr. Chair, I would caution the minister that there are a great deal of individuals out there who are of the opinion that it's otherwise.
Now, the debt-servicing of Connect Yukon, why is it picked up in Government Services? If the Department of Community and Transportation Services is responsible for Connect Yukon, why is the debt-servicing for Connect Yukon buried in Government Services department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the member is factually incorrect. The Connect Yukon project in its totality is within the Department of Community and Transportation Services. If the member has allegations of some impropriety in the way this project is funded, I wish that he would bring those allegations forth.
Mr. Jenkins: What I was referring to, Mr. Chair, was the debt-servicing of the monies borrowed from the immigrant investor fund. It is reflected in the budget of Government Services. Now, the minister just stated that it's all within the Department of Community and Transportation Services, but that's not the case. We know full well that the debt-servicing of the money back to the immigrant investor fund flows from Government Services. Why isn't all of this contained within the Department of Community and Transportation Services - all the financial implications, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is factually incorrect.
Mr. Jenkins: Has a change occurred? Because the debt-servicing was clearly identified in the budget of Government Services in the mains. Has it been changed by this Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the supplementary, we are moving the money for this project from Government Services to Community and Transportation Services. It's a budget transfer of $2.9 million in relation to the transfer of responsibility.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps the minister can help me. Where is this reflected in the line items of the department? What page? What line item?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's on page 3-4 - special projects, telecommunications infrastructure development, Supplementary No. 2, $2.9 million. That's the transfer of funds for the project.
Mr. Jenkins: On page 3-4 - we're right on the same book, infrastructure development, $2.9 million. So we should see a corresponding reduction in Government Services. Perhaps the minister could help me with the reduction in Government Services. All I see is infrastructure development, rural telecommunications, capital recoveries, $200,000; infrastructure development is $2,810,000.
So, there's a difference. Why is there a difference?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is correct that there is a difference. I'm sure that when we get to the Government Services debate, the Minister of Government Services will explain that difference.
Mr. Jenkins: If we're going to move money around, it usually helps if it's the same amount in and out. Then it's easier to track. When it's a different amount, you just don't relate one to the other, even though they are possibly related, and we're talking about a difference between them, Mr. Chair. I can see now where the minister is coming from, but there is a difference in the amounts in the reduction versus the amount added in.
Why can't the Minister of Community and Transportation Services explain the difference? Why do we have to wait for the Minister of Government Services, Mr. Chair? It seems to be a transfer totally from one department to the other.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Minister of Government Services has brought me his budget notes, and $2.0 million from the Connect Yukon agreement with Northwestel was transferred to Community and Transportation Services. There was a $90,000 revote of wages and consulting services for development of Connect Yukon infrastructure, spent prior to the transfer date.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House when the transfer took place from one department to the other? Was that immediately upon this government taking office, or was it a different date, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't know the exact date off the top of my head, but it was within a few weeks of May 6, when this government was sworn in.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could provide that - it would have to be a Cabinet decision, Mr. Chair, to transfer this within government. So, could that information be forthcoming?
Mr. Chair, if we can just back up, I have a whole series of questions surrounding airports. I will probably leave most of them.
The area concerning the Whitehorse Airport - once again, it looks like the feds have pulled the wool over the eyes of the Yukon and a number of other governments in Canada.
The Whitehorse Airport was transferred to Yukon. One would have been of the opinion that, at the time of transfer, it would have conformed to and met all of the applicable standards for safety and firefighting ability. But that was proven to not be the case with respect to the water supply at the airport, which was previously a Transport Canada requirement.
Now, the Government of Yukon has had to budget quite a sum of money to lay another water main to the Whitehorse Airport to supply an adequate amount of water for firefighting purposes. The attachment to the new line is at one heck of an exorbitant cost versus the attachment to the older line, or the old system.
Now, why can't a case be made to Transport Canada - the same way as the case is being made with respect to the Dawson City Airport - that this airport didn't conform to the standards that were in existence at the time? It should be a requirement of Transport Canada to pick up this additional cost. Why can't a case be made for the water supply to the Whitehorse Airport?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's a general upgrade of the whole area, not just to the airport. The City of Whitehorse and the Government of Yukon are sharing the project costs. The project was begun this year and will be completed next year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know that it has now developed into a general upgrade. But let's just back up. At the time of transfer of the airport from the federal government to the Government of Yukon, the Whitehorse Airport did not conform in every respect to the standards in existence at that time for water necessary for fire protection. It did not. That has been substantiated in the report on the Whitehorse Airport. It was done about a year and a half or two years ago, Mr. Chair.
So, why can't the department make a case to the federal government that they should come to the table and ante up some of the money to meet that upgrade requirement? There wasn't enough water there for fire protection, Mr. Chair. That's a given. And there wasn't enough water there at the time that the airport was transferred. It just didn't have the firefighting capacity for fire flows.
An agency of the federal government sets the standards for fire flows at all of the hydrants around municipalities. If you don't conform to those standards, you have got a problem getting your rating and your insurance goes that way - right to the sky.
So, given that there was a problem at the time that the airport was transferred from the federal government to the Yukon government and it didn't conform to the standards in existence at that time, why can't the Government of the Yukon make a case to the federal government for a contribution to the upgrade for adequate water supply to fight fires? Because you certainly don't need the size of the main up there that currently exists. The only reason it exists to the size that it does is for fire protection and to meet fire flows. It is not to be able to have water in the tap. You can do that with a considerably smaller sized line. So the fire flow is what drives the size of the main and the fire flows are what drives the costs, because your pumping and your main size have to be considerably increased.
So given that that is the reality of the day, why can't the department make a case to the federal government for a contribution?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that if a case could have been made, the department would already have done it. I am aware that Transport Canada did provide some money for the airport in recent years, but I would be glad to check to see if the previous administration had asked the feds, and I would consult with department officials; but I believe that if it could have been done, they would already have done it.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a pretty poor assumption to go on - if it could have been done, they would have done it. I would caution the minister not to go there, Mr. Chair.
Well, it has been known for a considerable length of time that there wasn't adequate water at the Whitehorse Airport, Mr. Chair. You can go back into the late 1980s, and you can go back into the 1970s when that was the case. In fact, when they were building on the south end of the airport, there wasn't the ability to extend the water lines down there, because there wasn't enough fire flows to meet the existing. And it was known that when Public Works Canada built the new terminal, there wasn't enough water to meet the sprinkler conditions in that building.
Now, this is all under the ownership of the Government of Canada, and it appears that, once again, Transport Canada or a federal government agency has a set of rules, and as long as it's the federal government that owns or operates the facility, the rules can be interpreted with a wide degree of flexibility. But as soon as ownership transfers from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon and all the federal government is doing is acting as the enforcement agency, well, Yukon had better conform to the full letter of the law.
And, that's exactly what happened with the airport in Dawson. That's exactly what has happened with the airport and firefighting water here in Whitehorse, Mr. Chair.
Now, I would urge the minister to go back and re-examine this area, because there's probably a window of opportunity to pick up a great deal of money. We are talking about a great sum of money. To just suggest to the House that if it could have been done, it would have been done - I'm very, very uncomfortable with the minister making that type of a statement, Mr. Chair. In fact, I would suggest to the minister that she would be remiss in addressing her responsibilities if she takes that tack. She should be going back, asking her officials to examine this area and making representation to the federal government to come to the table and bring some money to address this shortfall, at the time the transfer was made.
We only have to look at the Watson Lake Airport, Mr. Chair, and the tremendous sum of money that was expended on bringing the water system there up to standard, after the airport was transferred from Transport Canada to Yukon. There wasn't a great deal of money in the transfer pot.
Yes, there was money to meet obligations to bring all of the other airports, the Arctic B and C, up to standard, which meant that we constructed a fancy little terminal at the airstrip in Carmacks and we spent a fortune out at Haines Junction building a nice terminal and office complex there, Mr. Chair. Out at Burwash, we put in an added facility and out at Beaver Creek - but that's not the issue here. Those airports were substandard. The federal government contributed the money necessary to bring them up to the standard it was determined that all the airports should be.
What was overlooked was the water supply for firefighting purposes at the Whitehorse Airport. Will the minister undertake to go back, have her officials review this matter, see if representation can be made to the House and report back to the House on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The government did get some money for capital from the federal government. The agreement was negotiated when the Yukon Party was in power and Mr. Brewster was the minister. So I'm sure he looked at all avenues because he was a well-known penny-pincher. But I will instruct the department to look at the situation.
I certainly do agree with the member that the water pressure problem has existed for a good many years, and I know that if anybody tried to use the sprinklers at the airport, they would have been spitting rather than spraying.
Mr. Fentie: I have just one quick question for the minister, as we're on airports. We all know what Nav Canada and the role they play in the Yukon Territory is all about now, and the CARS program at airports. There is up and coming in the near future something that's called a flight information centre, and it's connected to the CARS program and Nav Canada.
My request of the minister would be to lobby Nav Canada to seriously look at putting the flight information centre into the community of Watson Lake. We have a tower, we have a good facility as far as a terminal, and we are in desperate need of jobs. This is something that comes with the federal government system, and it would be, I think, a very positive step to take. We could look at that and have this minister make representation to Nav Canada to establish the flight information centre in the community of Watson Lake and provide those jobs there where they're so desperately needed.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I certainly will look into that. I haven't yet received many details on these flight information centres but I certainly will look into that for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, while we're on CARS and Nav Canada, Mr. Chair, there are some changes coming down the pike with respect to the CARS operators and their ability to talk with approaching and in-transit aircraft. These changes could very much act to the detriment of the general aviation industry. It looks like everything will be done by RCOs out of Whitehorse, or probably eventually Edmonton Centre. Has the minister been briefed on the proposed changes with respect to the CARS station operators? There really have been no changes with respect to weather. That's one of their main roles - weather. But with respect to the operation of CARS, it's something else. Is the minister aware of the changes? What is being proposed by Nav Canada?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I haven't yet had a detailed briefing.
Mr. Jenkins: The other area of concern is with respect to emergency services. The Minister of Health and Social Services is very much aware of the additional costs for the call-out of CARS operators in Dawson when there is a medevac flight after-hours. It's become more and more frequent under the Minister of Health and Social Services' watch.
So, this type of a situation gives rise to one set of rules for the CARS operator in case of a medevac flight and another set during the course of a daytime medevac flight. I don't believe there should be anything distinguishing both extremes. I think a CARS operator should treat an approaching aircraft the same way at all times, especially in the remote areas. What is happening, or what will be happening, is that all of the weather-related information is currently imported into Whitehorse. You'll be approaching the airstrip in Old Crow, Mayo, Dawson or Burwash in the not-too-distant future, and you'll be talking to an individual based here in Whitehorse.
And it does give rise to safety issues and it does give rise to difficulties, especially when there are a lot of aircraft in the area. And at times, in Watson Lake and in Dawson, we can have a considerable amount of aircraft movement in the course of a day, especially when we are fighting forest fires or something of that nature. Now, the statistics for aircraft movement for the last couple of years have been down in the Yukon - last year especially, because of the lack of forest fires. But in a normal season, the amount of aircraft movement is almost double what it currently is. And it just seems like the approach taken by NAV Canada is going to scare away a lot of aircraft - both visiting aircraft and itinerant aircraft in transit between the Lower 48 and Alaska or the other way around - and act to the detriment to our visitor industry.
Now, I would urge the minister to get up to speed with where NAV Canada is headed, number one, with respect to our changes in the CARS operators, especially with its treatment of medical evacuation aircraft, and number two, with general itinerant aircraft. Because at the end of the day the operator in the CARS station in the communities will not be allowed to talk to that aircraft. The information has to go from the rural airport to Whitehorse, and the approaching aircraft pilot will be talking to Whitehorse. The CARS operator, other than inputting or providing weather to Whitehorse, will be basically out of the loop. And that is going to present problems.
It won't present problems in the dead of winter, but it's going to present problems when we come into the summer. So, is the minister going to be looking at this area, and does she have any plans to do anything?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We run the CARS program, as the member knows, under contract to Nav Canada, and Nav Canada sets the rules. They can only implement significant service changes following consultation with stakeholders. They are required to do an aeronautical risk analysis study that justifies the proposed change. They are required to provide 45 days' notice to the Yukon government and users once a decision is reached; and if we reject the proposal, they can only implement the change if the federal Minister of Transport approves the proposal.
They have told us that they have no plans to change the service levels currently provided in the Yukon. I would certainly not support any attempt to reduce the level of service currently provided.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House if her department has rejected the proposal by Nav Canada to reduce their contact with itinerant aircraft?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are proposing that it stay the same.
Mr. Jenkins: "Proposing" - because the last NOTAM I saw is that it's imminent; it's going to occur. So, given that the Government of the Yukon is proposing that there be no change, how long ago was this communication sent to Nav Canada, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will ask the department for detailed information on this issue for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's a very important issue, and it's one that deserves the attention of the minister, because by the time the summer rolls upon us things could be very much altered and changed. And at the end of the day we'll have no window of opportunity to address the area that I'm asking the information of the minister on, Mr. Chair.
What we have appears to be an organization that is going on the tack that, if we remove all aircraft from the sky, it'll probably be a safer place. That appears to be the thinking of Nav Canada, and we all know that we have to move around and get around, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, let's switch gears once again and go to the various sewage lagoons along the north Alaska Highway. Currently, we had a lagoon at Destruction Bay. We have moved on to a septic system. Then Burwash trucks it to a lagoon. We're building another lagoon there now. Just how much money have we spent on lagoons and the like for the last little while? It appears that we have quite a number of them in that area - about a 10- or 12-mile area. Why the need for so many lagoons in so close a proximity to each other?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll be happy to get that information for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Under engineering and development, how much are we ultimately going to spend on the Burwash sewage lagoon and the Destruction Bay sewage system? Who pays for the trucking of Burwash's sewage to Destruction Bay? The question that should be asked - and what I did ask - is how many lagoons do we actually need out in that area and how many do we currently have? Is the minister aware of how many lagoons we currently have in that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, one lagoon is required for the area. We currently have one in Destruction Bay that will be closed down, and the one in Burwash is fully operational.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what are we doing to protect our rural landfill sites from fire and from fire spreading out of them? Are any initiatives being undertaken by the Government of the Yukon in this area, on the ones owned and operated by Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have, Mr. Chair, a total of 19 landfill sites around the territory, and we have made some improvements to expand buffers and enhance fire protection at Carcross and Tagish - and installation of on-site water tanks to facilitate fire control and reduce operating costs at Burwash, Beaver Creek, Ross River, Stewart Crossing, Tagish and Upper Liard. There are new burn trenches at Braeburn and Tagish.
Mr. Jenkins: If one looks around the Yukon, some of the cleanest and most well-kept dumps are in Haines Junction and Dawson City. From there, the ones that the Government of the Yukon operates - there are a lot of problems. Ross River wasn't even deserving of a mention, and the Minister of Education saw clear, through the Department of Government Services, to throw the old school in the dump and have a good, big bonfire there, rather than salvage any material that was possible. It was a dictate from the Government of the Yukon that resulted in a massive burn there.
I'm very, very curious. Are there any more initiatives underway at some of the worst kept dumps - some of the ones that offer the greatest risk of spreading, should a fire occur in their dump - the dumps operated by the Government of the Yukon? I was just curious about whether or not this area is going to be addressed. It's an area that has seen a constant reduction in both capital and O&M, and yet all of the municipal costs have spiralled upwards, Mr. Chair - spiralled upwards, and a great many of us are paying many, many more dollars for the provision of garbage service.
Just what is the game plan with the dumps that are operated by the Government of the Yukon? I welcome the information the minister provided and what has been undertaken, but is there any kind of an initiative underway to bring all these dumps to the same set of standards?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member must have missed it; I did mention Ross River.
For the record - and I'm sure the Minister of Education will deal with this further - there was a considerable amount of salvage undertaken on the old school gym in Ross River. The Minister of Education, I'm sure, will go into more detail on that under his budget. We are undertaking considerably more work for all of our landfills. Waste management plans are required for all of them. Plans must be filed by January 2002, and we are currently developing plans for the dumps.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the areas that was being looked at was a no-burn policy. Has the minister's department costed out the implications of this area, as to what it would cost the Government of Yukon if a no-burn policy was adopted across the Yukon, specifically for the dumpsites owned and operated by Government of the Yukon - the 19 sites?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are no regulations in place on a no-burn policy. We're looking at a number of possible scenarios.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd urge the minister to talk to her colleague, the minister responsible for Renewable Resources, because that's one of the initiatives coming out of that department - that a no-burn policy be implemented. It wasn't adopted this last time. Its implementation was delayed, but it appears to be an area that we are moving forward on. I was just wanting to know from the minister if it has been costed out and if that was the reason why the implementation of this area was delayed.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't know what the reason was for the previous government delaying implementation, but I'm sure I can consult with the department and find out.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just before we leave general debate, one of the first opening remarks I had for the minister was with respect to her involvement with land claims. I'd like to know if the minister has been briefed on where the land claims are - the seven remaining land claims - and how this pertains to her department? Has the Minister of Community and Transportation Services received a briefing in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: At close of debate yesterday, the Member for Klondike was criticizing me for not being fully aware of everything that's happening at the land claims table. He said, "I'd like to ask the minister if that means the minister is updated and briefed on the land claims that have been resolved and the land claims that are still in progress." I replied to him, "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 on that area and with the Association of Yukon Communities so that land claims can be settled as soon as possible." That's what I said.
Mr. Chair, of course I have had, through the department, technical briefings on specific issues relating to Community and Transportation Services. I will not discuss those issues in the House. They are confidential.
If the Member for Klondike has questions relating to land claims in general, he should have raised them with the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I heard the minister correctly, Mr. Chair, what the minister said, and previous ministers have said, is, "We will not negotiate land claims on the floor of this House." Now we are saying that, even though land claims have been settled, we will not discuss the implementation or the impact on our department on the floor of this House or the subject of our briefing within the department on the floor of the House. And here, Mr. Chair, is an open and accountable government - an open and accountable new Liberal government that hides behind every initiative.
Well, what is there to hide? I think that the all-important issue is the relationship between the Government of the Yukon and First Nation governments here in the Yukon. In fact, they are at the same level as the Yukon government; it's not a greater level, Mr. Chair. I think it's in everyone's best interest if this open and accountable Liberal government would be more forthright in how it undertakes to explain what is going on within its own various departments of the government with the relationship between First Nations and their respective departments. That's what I was exploring with the minister, Mr. Chair. And I find it quite disconcerting, especially given the departmental objectives of the majority of the departments.
And it's amazing Mr. Chair, when, at the end of the day, the minister will not discuss any of the areas that her department has dealings with the First Nations on. Now, can the minister provide a better explanation as to why everything is so secretive? What has the minister got to hide?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Not a thing. I have had the required briefings through the department on technical issues specific to Community and Transportation Services with land claims that are still under negotiation, and that's all I can tell the member at this point.
I have had the briefings I required, through the department.
Mr. Jenkins: It's interesting to note, Mr. Chair, the departmental objectives. The first item: to promote local government, to provide support to municipalities, to provide municipal services and facilities in unincorporated communities and to participate in the efficient implementation of land claims settlement. Nowhere in there do I see to keep it secret, to hide everything in the department, to not make the House aware of what we're dealing with and what areas we can explore to the mutual benefit of Yukon. Because there are a lot of initiatives there where if First Nations and the Government of Yukon work together, we'd be much better off here in the Yukon - much better off than we currently are.
We only have to look to the east, Mr. Chair, to see the Government of the Northwest Territories and the respective First Nations there and how they have come to work together. They have got their economy rolling and booming along. Here, it's a great big secret. They don't want to discuss it. We don't want to put that information out. We just want to hide behind closed doors.
It's an area that deserves much, much closer examination by this government, because the more open and accountable government is, the better off we all are. All this government says is we will be open and accountable.
The only way to do that, Mr. Chair, is to demonstrate it. Words are only so much window dressing. By demonstrating it, we'll see the benefits accrue to not just First Nation members of our community but all Yukoners. And, really, that's what we're here for; that's what we're here about, and that's what government is established for.
Well, Mr. Chair, we have a number of other areas that we could deal with, but just before we leave Community and Transportation Services, I notice the tremendous reduction in recoveries for private vehicle licences, some $27,000, and commercial vehicle licences, some $30,000. And the one I couldn't get my head around, and asked the question at the technical briefing, was the $30,000, as to what applied to out-of-territory and what applied to in-territory. And the breakdown was provided, Mr. Chair.
The estimated reduction of $30,000 in the sale of commercial vehicle licences consists of $18,000 for out-of-territory and $12,000 for in-territory. But the $27,000 translates into just how many vehicles? In my calculation, it's between 700 and 800 vehicles. Could the minister confirm that; that that's the expected reduction in private vehicles that we will expect to see licensed here in the Yukon this next period?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can have the department provide that information.
Getting back to land claims for a moment, I'm talking about negotiations and the member is talking about implementation. As needed, when I have meetings with the various First Nations, I am briefed on the implementation in the areas of my department's responsibility. The member is suggesting that we're only paying lip service to land claims. That is incorrect, Mr. Chair.
The time being 4:30 p.m., I move that we take a break.
Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will return at 4:40 p.m.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Community and Transportation Services. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister has had extensive briefings. Does she have any responses, or are we going to spend a lot of the officials' time in replying in writing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department is compiling the vehicle statistics the member requested.
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday I requested quite a bit of information. Does the minister have that to pass on?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have some of it. The department hasn't been able to complete all of it.
Mr. McRobb had asked where Connect Yukon is at with regard to the immigrant investor fund; we dealt with that somewhat earlier this afternoon. But there have no been changes in the loan arrangement for the Connect Yukon project between 19596 Yukon Inc. and the immigrant investor fund.
The department can offer a briefing on the funding arrangement involving the immigrant investor fund that was put in place by the previous government. If the members desire that, I would be happy to arrange it.
Mr. McRobb had asked if there had been any changes in the implementation of the Connect Yukon project. There have been no changes in the implementation of the project or the agreements in place to enable implementation of the project, and the department can provide a briefing on the documents supplied earlier on the project, if this is desired.
On the Burwash fire, DFAA claim, it had been asked when the recovery might be expected and the amount of the recovery. The claim was submitted to Emergency Preparedness Canada on April 12, 2000. The claim was in the amount of $490,327.68. The claim is being audited by Audit Canada as part of the normal process and is expected to be recovered this fiscal year.
On the cost of street lighting near Dawson City and the upgrade to the Klondike Highway, the estimate for street lighting from Crocus Bluff to Callison is $160,000. The department is working at the present time on calculating contract quantities, preparing plans and specifications and obtaining environmental approvals for the project. As I said to the Member for Klondike earlier today, a public meeting in Dawson will be held during the winter as soon as the preliminary design is complete.
The Member for Kluane asked what assistance the territorial government is providing the Village of Haines Junction with respect to Well No. 4. The department has been monitoring the developments with and working with the village on Well No. 4 since its installation in 1989. The well was funded out of a capital funding agreement - 90 percent Yukon government, 10 percent Village of Haines Junction - and it was the only successful well of four wells drilled to improve the village's water supply.
In the past few years, the water quality and quantity of the well has declined to the point where the village feels it is no longer an acceptable potable water source. The village wrote to the department on August 6 , 2000, requesting assistance. The department wrote back with an action plan on October 14. Since then, the village has been following the department's suggestions and has requested that we provide technical assistance in preparing terms of reference for a comprehensive engineering study to provide a long-term solution. The department will be writing the terms of reference in January 2001, as per the village's request dated November 3, 2000.
On the Ibex Valley local area plan, the plan has been completed and received the endorsement of the hamlet council. The department will have completed its review to ensure consistency with related policies and regulations by the end of December. This will allow for formal approval by the government in January, and we look forward to working with the community to implement the plan through the development of area development regulations.
A progress update on the sewage lagoon in Destruction Bay - construction of two in-ground sewage disposal systems was completed in August 2000. I gave the member some of this information yesterday. On August 10, 1999, the department met with residents to discuss the project. As a result of their input, some design changes were made. The disposal system near the lake was raised to give more separation from the groundwater table. In doing so, two houses required special connections to the new system. Additional site grading and seeding has been done, and the fence around the system was changed from chain link to wood rail.
A well-water monitoring program was put in place to ensure that local wells were not affected by the installation of the systems. Adjacent wells have been monitored quarterly by Laberge Environmental Services since September 1998. The new system is now operational, with all homes connected. As I said yesterday, some initial concerns regarding odour have been addressed, and no further concerns have been reported.
On the rural road upgrading program, three projects were undertaken in 2000 that weren't completed. One was the Aishihik Road, kilometre 42 to 125. The reason for non-completion was that wet conditions, as the member is well aware, limited the work the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation could perform. They advised the department that they would not be proceeding with any work this year. We will be looking for a revote for the funds so that the work can proceed next year.
The Johnson's Crossing boat ramp high water level has prevented the extension of the boat ramp. The concrete slabs have been prepared and the work will be undertaken during low water next spring. And the Braeburn sawmill road water use licence is contingent on professionally engineered designs being completed, as well as a prohibition on the use of frozen filler materials. Work on the design is underway and we'll seek a revote for funds to complete that work in the spring.
The Member for Kluane had asked for information on the minister's departmental travel. Minister's travel outside the Yukon isn't budgeted in the Community and Transportation Services department budget and no funds have been expended specifically for this purpose in the Community and Transportation Services' budget. When I am travelling within the Yukon on departmental related business with departmental staff, I may travel in a vehicle or an aircraft paid for by the department and included in departmental expenditures. So, I have had no travel that is directly charged to the department.
Mr. McRobb:There were five items that I believe there was some commitment on. I'll just read them off. And the minister has the option of providing it in written form, which probably would expedite the matters before us today: (1) the Dawson bridge; (2) documentation on P3 arrangements; (3) C&TS projects for next year in the way of road construction; (4) list of public consultations expected in the next year or so; and (5) the final one, the most important one, is the tabling of the five-year plan.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We'll get as many of those as possible to the member in written form. I again remind him that some of them are tied to the budget planning process, which is currently underway, and some of them will appear in the spring budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple of remaining questions, Mr. Chair, surrounding the Whitehorse waterfront initiative to buy out the people who currently are resident in this area. Where are we at? What is going to be the total cost at the end of this initiative? It looks like it's up over a million dollars now, Mr. Chair. And when is this property going to be cleared of all of the debris and the houses that the government has bought? How much longer is this project going to continue, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of the 17 individuals with whom the Yukon government has worked since the spring of 1998, agreements have been concluded with 13 of them. As a result of these settlements, approximately 50 structures - including 27 dwellings and sheds, et cetera - have been removed. Two offers have been rejected by absentee owners, and legal action has commenced. Two other sites are currently occupied, and discussions are continuing with the occupants.
One of those sites involves long-term residents whose improvements were previously secured through a Ta'an Kwach'an selection. A recent agreement with Ta'an to terminate this selection in exchange for another location now enables the occupants to be eligible for compensation.
The City of Whitehorse has designated one building site and may be recommending three other sites for heritage designation, and the city will determine if the buildings will stay where they are or will be moved. Six of the 17 individuals have chosen to relocate. Four of those have finalized relocation sites outside the city. The remaining two are considering sites within the city, or elsewhere.
The cleanup obviously won't be concluded until all residents have moved.
The total budget was $1,081,622, and I don't have the figure with me on what actually has been spent to date because some of this is relatively recent.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any timelines for conclusion? This initiative has been underway for quite a number of years, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I mentioned that two of the offers were rejected, and legal action has commenced. I don't know how long the court action will take, and finding suitable alternative sites for the other residents is a process that continues, so I can't give the member an estimate. It would be irresponsible of me to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: A suggestion for the minister, Mr. Chair: if we want to call this "Argus 2", the Premier will pay it out right away.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed with line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
Office of the Deputy Minister in the amount of $62,000 agreed
On Corporate Services Division
Mr. Jenkins: Just an explanation, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $116,000 consists of a $36,000 increase resulting from the impact of the collective agreement, and $80,000 results from the impact of changes in the superannuation contributions.
Chair: Are there any further questions?
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $116,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Mr. Jenkins: An explanation, please.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The total of $1,803,000 breaks down to a $427,000 increase resulting from the impact of the collective agreement; $949,000 reflects the changes to the superannuation; a $48,000 increase is for facility maintenance costs as a result of the collective agreement and superannuation contribution; and $379,000 is for highway maintenance program activities, which we have discussed, and most of them have been carried out.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on highways, why did it take so long to issue the initiative to cut the brush on the side of the highways? Why did that take so long? The contracts went out. They weren't issued. They were cancelled, and it was a long, long time this fall before any initiative by this government was undertaken. Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was a problem of money. We spent a considerable amount on washouts and mudslides this year, and I suggested that the department find some money for the brush clearing, which they did.
Mr. Jenkins: Obviously, we're going to proceed with it because the tenders were out. They were put out fairly early in the summer. Then, all of a sudden, they were cancelled. Now, that direction has to come from on high. For the total brush clearing in the Yukon, we're not talking about a great deal of money, especially since the minister is going to get a lawnmower for a Christmas present to tow behind her Harley Davidson. You know, the bottom line is that we're not talking a great deal of money for safety.
If we look at all of the areas where we have curtailed expenditures in the budget, the order of magnitude of the expenditure we are saving by cancelling these contracts was not significant. By the time we got around to awarding these contracts, they were out cutting the brush when the snow was on the ground. In fact, they weren't finished around Stewart Crossing until it was into November. I guess it's easier to break the brush when it's frozen, Mr. Chair. I don't know, but this is something that should be gone.
What steps do we have to take to ensure that this kind of problem doesn't arise again?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The brush clearing couldn't take place until I committed to finding extra money to do it because there was no money in the budget. That's the long and short of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that is what the supplementary budget process is all about. That's what it's for. So, the minister was asleep at the switch and didn't recognize that she had to go back for a supplementary and find some more money until that late in the season, until it was virtually forced upon her, and the safety issue was glaring her right in the eyes, and it was an alarming, dangerous situation. It wasn't only in one part of the Yukon. It was virtually all across the Yukon. The only place where any kind of brush or grass cutting took place on the side of the highways was within the city limits of Whitehorse. Outside of that, nothing happened. Is that this Liberal government's treatment of Yukon - one set of rules for Whitehorse and another for rural Yukon?
It appears to be the case, Mr. Chair, because it's the same Department of Highways that was out cutting the grass along the Alaska Highway right-of-way in the Whitehorse city limits as was further out along the highway. But the only place it was carried out this summer was inside the Whitehorse city limits. Why were this government and this minister so remiss in not addressing this earlier on, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the first place, the brush accumulation along the sides of the roads is the result of several years' growth. The second thing, the summer, as the member knows, turned out to be far wetter than we expected, and the growth was more than expected. The O&M expenditures have been reduced in recent years, and brush clearing is one of the things that gets put by the wayside, as it were, when the O&M expenditures are cut. We are working to ensure that there is money in the budget on an ongoing basis to keep the roads clear.
Furthermore, it's not a lawnmower. I believe it's kind of a pincer-like attachment on the sidecar of my Harley.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, why does this government have one set of standards for Whitehorse and one set of standards for rural Yukon? Because the only area that grass was cut along the highways was in Whitehorse and by the Department of Highways. Is that because the Minister's Harley wouldn't go outside the city limits of Whitehorse? Why is there a double standard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no double standard. There was clearing underway on all the roads in the territory at some point or another this season, and I'd be pleased to provide the member with a list.
It would probably be more appropriate, Mr. Chair, if the minister went out and drove the Yukon Highway. She could see for herself what was needed and where it was needed. There are still a lot of areas that need attention. When are they going to be receiving it?
If you look at the north Klondike Highway, north of Pelly, there are tremendous sections there that need attention. When is that going to be done?
Oh, a picture of the new Liberal Government Leader.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It actually says Yukon Party, along with the picture. It's a fine picture, relating to Beringia.
As the member is well aware, the budget planning process is underway for the next fiscal year and I am hopeful of successful negotiations with my colleagues.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for sending over a copy of her publication, Mr. Chair. There are some beautiful pictures. I have recently been assured that they are all of the Yukon, but I just can't seem to recall having met many Liberals over my time or having met one that closely resembles the one on the back page, or the inside cover of the back. They're probably pretty extinct today and we only have mock-up types in front of the Beringia Centre. But I can assure the House that, from time to time, we do uncover a lot of ivory and a lot of bones from prehistoric animals in the area in which I live.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Premier adds, "And it smells really bad." Well, I thank her for her tremendous insight.
And I would urge her to apply her nostrils to her portfolio as Minister of Finance and see if we can get some more money over into Community and Transportation Services so we can cut the brush down along the highway. My question to the minister is, when are the other areas of Yukon highways that have a great accumulation of brush going to be addressed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With reference to the visitor guide, the member certainly isn't referring to Liberals because we certainly aren't extinct.
I have noted that we are in the budget planning process at the moment, and I am hopeful of successful negotiations -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I would just like to point out that the minister is correct that the Liberals are not extinct but they are an endangered species.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Watson Lake and I will have to disagree on that. I am hopeful of successful negotiations at the Cabinet table for sufficient money for brush clearing.
Mr. McRobb: In following up yesterday, the minister is aware that, in the supplementary budget tabled by the official opposition, there is a $400,000 program entitled "roadside visual hazards clearing program". Now, the minister is aware of the objective of this program, which is to clear roadsides in the territory, specifically targeting labourers, small contractors perhaps, in order to provide winter employment for Yukoners.
Now, since there is virtually nothing new in this supplementary budget for the Department of Community and Transportation Services, we feel that this would be a very-much-appreciated and important addition to the supplementary budget.
So, my question for the minister is, will the government bring in a supplementary budget to include this program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, why not? There is lots of money in the budget. The minister and her colleagues are sitting on a huge surplus. The government's own projections leave $45 million at year-end, and that is a conservative estimate. I'm advised that it is a conservative estimate, with lapses of only $15 million. Now, we know this government's record on dealing with budget surpluses and the numbers they use. There is a large difference. In the spring, we recall that they said the surplus at the beginning of the year was $41 million. The Auditor General proved them wrong. He substantiated that it was $64 million.
Now, the minister is pleading poverty - she doesn't have the money. The fact is that there is lots of money, and this government knows it. This program would require only a small amount of funds.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Now, the Minister of Renewable Resources is piping up. He's objecting to this program already, but I want him and his colleagues to consider the number of people who could be employed by this program. Have some compassion and consider adding it to the supplementary.
Am I completely wrong, or is there substance? Mr. Chair, there are lots of people who acknowledge the substance of this proposal. This clearing is something that will have to be done, anyway. Yesterday, we heard a commitment about major highway projects to be done in the next few years. Mr. Chair, those highways will require clearing.
It's completely reasonable to advance some of the work to this winter to employ Yukoners. It's something the previous government did every fall by introducing its supplementary budget with the winter works projects. It's something we started on the Shakwak project by advancing clearing, in order to provide Yukoners with jobs.
But this government hasn't done that. It struck out completely in providing winter works. The money's there. The workers are waiting. Winter is the time of year to do the slashing. Will the minister consider bringing this program into a supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can have all the compassion in the world, and I do, but it doesn't help if I don't have the money.
The member is aware that lapses are normally revoted, and lapses of $15,000 would bring the projected $45 million surplus down to $30 million, which is not an adequate cushion. There are a number of projects under Community and Transportation Services that are taking place this winter: $90,000 is being spent on highway camp facilities maintenance; approximately a half a million dollars is being spent on winter gravel crushing; clearing on the Shakwak project is another $200,000 or $300,000, and highway construction work on Shakwak is winding down now, employing about 50 people. It's expected to reconvene in March. And, depending on the approval of the water licence, clearing of the Carcross sewage treatment site will also provide winter work.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: That doesn't cut it, Mr. Chair. Those are all existing works that were in the budget crafted by the previous New Democrat government, campaigned on by this Liberal government. But they forgot something, Mr. Chair. This government forgot something very integral to the budget process: the second part of the budget, which is the fall supplementary, and which provides winter works for Yukoners.
They didn't come through on that. The supplementary budget we tabled provided them with the information they needed; information very important to rural Yukoners, Mr. Chair, and so far it's ignored.
The minister stood up and read the list of projects or contracts being done this winter. Mr. Chair, those are works that employ people who are already employed. We're talking about new programs, providing new employment for Yukoners who would otherwise be unemployed this winter. That's the point.
The previous government made a practice of it. This government has done nothing to provide in this very important area. Now, obviously, if the minister has made up her mind or if she's been told to stay with her position, then we're not going to get anywhere.
So, Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister to reconsider, and we'll go with what she says.
Chair: Is there any further debate on transportation division?
Mr. Jenkins: I still am looking for a commitment from the minister as to when the highways are going to be made safe, by the removal of the brush on the side of the highways. All I can get, Mr. Chair, is the response, "Well, we'll look at it in the next budget." She doesn't have any money. It's the whole purpose of the supplementary estimate and there are going to be lapses in the department. The minister only has to turn to her deputy minister and ask about the order of magnitude of the lapses that they're anticipating, because there will be lapses.
Why haven't more contracts been extended to remove the brush along the side of the highway? The minister stands on the floor of the House and gives praise to safe driving week, but there's a responsibility on the part of government, Mr. Chair, to keep the highways safe.
The only way they can do so is by cutting down the brush on the side of the highways and ensuring the highways meet and conform to the proper standards, and ensuring that they're properly cleaned of snow and graded. But the minister doesn't appear to be doing her job, Mr. Chair.
Now, at the end of the day, someone could get seriously hurt in travelling Yukon highways, and the government of the day could be found liable.
What we need is a minister who can not only pay lip service to this area but attend to it and fix the problem. Because yes, there is an accumulated amount of material, but a lot of it accumulated under her watch, Mr. Chair, because there was really no attention paid to this area whatsoever until very late - well, until after the snow started flying. Prior to that, the only area that was addressed was Whitehorse. The government maintained highways within Whitehorse city limits and the periphery, but outside that area everything was allowed to grow.
The whole purpose of a supplementary budget is to address the needs. I don't think anyone in this House would have a problem had the minister come back to this House with a supplementary to address a highway blockage or a washout, like what occurred along the north Alaska Highway, or a safety issue like controlling the brush along the side of the highways. I don't think anyone would have opposed those kinds of requests for additional money, Mr. Chair, because they are safety issues. One highway washout, that's important; you have to open the highway. It's a safety issue.
And the growth of material along the side of the highway is equally as important - perhaps even more so, because after we fix a washout, we can at least move away from that initiative. But the growth of brush along the side of our highways has been allowed to continue at an alarming rate, and nothing was done about it all summer. When are we going to see the minister take the initiative and address this very important safety issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have already answered this question, but I will again point out to the member that the brush didn't all grow after May 6. It was because of several years of neglect. In the last several years, there has been an approximate cut of $5 million in total to the O&M funding, and brush clearing is one of the first things to go because the maintenance of the road surface has to be a priority.
In this supplementary before us, included is the repair of various road washouts and mudslides and additional brush and weed control, which I asked the department to do. I have indicated to the member, several times already, that we are in the budget preparation stage now, and I am hopeful that there will be successful conclusions to my negotiations with my colleague for an increase in the amount of money in the O&M budget to ensure that the brush and weed control can be carried out on a regular basis.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that, but I'd like to point out to the minister that, under the previous watch of the previous NDP government, brush clearing did take place, and it went on, virtually uninterrupted, each summer season. I am not aware of any season when it was totally cancelled, as it was under this Liberal government. Some brush clearing was always undertaken, either directly by the government or indirectly by contractors to the government, along some of the Yukon highways.
That went on continuously, to the best of my knowledge, under the previous NDP government. The only time that it stopped completely was under the watch of this Liberal government. That is appalling, Mr. Chair. It is a very critical and important safety issue, and I urge the minister to ask her deputy minister if that is the case. Because I am quite certain that under the previous NDP government - and they had lots of failings, Mr. Chair, but they at least cut the brush down on the side of the highways. They didn't stop the process completely, like what has occurred under this Liberal government. There was always some undertaking and some initiative, and some contract was let during the course of their tenure.
So it brings me back to the original question: why would the minister stop and curtail after the contracts have been sent out, put out. Everyone I am aware of had bid on it - in fact there were a number of bids received - and then it was just cancelled, Mr. Chair.
Now we have the Minister of Community and Transportation Services receiving instructions from the Minister of Education. Maybe the Minister of Education is providing her with an education, but it is probably on how to burn schools down in the dump in Ross River, Mr. Chair.
At the end of the day, all we want is for this minister to attend to her responsibilities and ensure that our highways are safe. Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The brush clearing over recent years has been less and less each year because of the cuts to the O&M budget. The brush clearing did not stop this summer either, Mr. Chair. The road washouts and mudslides temporarily diverted some of the money, but there was brush clearing this summer. There will also be brush clearing next year and the year after that and the year after that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we know that will be the case, because the minister will have her Harley out there with her lawnmower beside it. I'm sure she'll do an excellent job of maintaining the highway right-of-way and cutting down the grass all along the side of the highway, Mr. Chair. We'll look forward to seeing that sight on our highways.
Mr. Fentie: I'd just like to point out to the minister a slight error in her comments about the O&M budget on brush clearing being cut. There's a reason, if we go back in time, why there's much less expenditure on brush clearing, and all you have to do is look at the upgrades on the Alaska Highway. We've gone from V-bottom ditch to flat-bottom ditch. A lot of money was spent on backslopes, so there's much less of a problem with the brush. So I think the minister should be aware of the fact that it's not just because of governments. It's because of how we've spent money on upgrading highways.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank the Member for Watson Lake for that. I'm aware of that. I'm also aware that the O&M budget was cut and that, in the priority list of things that go, brush clearing did suffer as a result. I'm not saying it was the total reason, but it was a part of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, in our long-range plans, are we anticipating bringing the Klondike Highway north of Carmacks up to the current standard, as it is between Carmacks south? Is that going to be undertaken, and how many K's can we anticipate seeing this come to? Because at the end of the day, if you look at the current design, vis-à-vis the design that existed for this highway a number of years ago, there's a considerable amount of improvement. It's made these highways safer to travel. The width of the highway right-of-way has increased tremendously. The wide, wide path that exists, versus the old highway right-of-way, is a tremendous improvement. We all stand to gain.
What kind of progress is going to be made on this initiative, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I point out to the Member for Klondike that, if he would just remember that question, we're dealing with O&M, and that would fall under the capital part of the budget.
Transportation Division in the amount of $1,803,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Mr. Jenkins: Explanation, please.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of the $331,000, $83,000 is from the impact of the collective agreement; $192,000 of the increase is for the changes in superannuation; $6,000 is an increase in facility maintenance cost as a result of the collective agreement and the superannuation; and there is a $50,000 increase in sport and recreation due to additional funding made available through the Yukon Recreation Advisory Council, fully recoverable from the Yukon Lotteries Commission.
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $331,000 agreed to
On Operation and Maintenance Recoveries
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would explain the items for the members if they wish.
Chair: Are there any questions under revenues?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Community and Transportation Services in the amount of $2,312,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Emergency Measures
On Community TV and Radio
Mr. Jenkins: Just in general in EMO, could the minister provide an overview as to how some of the capital undertakings, like the provision of all of the boats to the rangers and the emergency measures organization around the territory - how is this whole area of government working? Are we experiencing any problems, any alarming increases in the requirement for capital for more radios because they're lost? Just how is it working, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe things are working fairly well in EMO, but I'll get a more detailed answer in writing for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Are we experiencing any increase in the requirements for capital and O&M from the various groups to support the materials and equipment that were on hand? A number of years ago, for the ministers information, a number of Suburbans and boats and motors and equipment of that nature were purchased. Now, given their life, they're going to come up for replacement or major repairs. How is that being looked after, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We got, several years ago, a million dollars from the federal government, on a one-time basis, for search and rescue, which helped to fund those purchases. We are trying to build into the budget a regular replacement fund, and this will be dealt with in more detail in the spring budget.
Mr. Jenkins: So, there's no money in here for replacement or upgrading of that equipment, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Not in this supplementary budget, Mr. Chair.
Community TV and Radio in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On Special Projects - Burwash Fire Remediation
Special Projects - Burwash Fire Remediation in the amount of $121,000 agreed to
On Special Projects - Telecommunications Infrastructure Development
Special Projects - Telecommunications Infrastructure Development in the amount of $2,900,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment
Maintenance Camp Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $86,000 agreed to
On Transportation Engineering and Planning
On Transportation Planning
Transportation Planning in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On Non-YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway - Shakwak
Alaska Highway - Shakwak in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps for these various areas, just what has the government done in the supplementary for the money spent on the various highway components - the Alaska Highway, Campbell Highway and Tagish Road?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: On the Alaska Highway, the $83,000 was a revote request for work on the Liard Plywood and Lumber access road in Watson Lake, part of which was used to assist in the construction of an auxiliary lane at Fraser Road in the MacRae area.
Mr. Chair, may I go ahead and give the explanation for the other highways at this point, or would you like to clear them one by one?
Chair: By all means, go ahead.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the Campbell Highway, the increase of $127,000 was a $90,000 revote to complete BST and guide rail on the realigned highway at Grew Creek; $7,000 to complete a revegetation project, and a $30,000 increase in internal labour costs because of the collective agreement and superannuation charges.
On the Tagish Road, there was a $136,000 revote to complete aggregate production and clearing from kilometre 7.6 to 9.6, and the other $20,000 was for the collective agreement and superannuation changes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, a number of these jobs were done by contractors. They contracted out, Mr. Chair. Are any of the lapses going to be occurring as a result of the contractors not having made substantial completion on the contracts because of weather? The question to the minister is who is going to be bearing the responsibility for the inclement weather this summer? Is it going to be the contractors or delays or is it YTG? Who is footing the bill there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the case of the inclement weather, both the government and the contractors each bear some responsibility.
Mr. Jenkins: I just can't get my head around that. Both the contractor and the government share the responsibility. Well, it's really an act of God. There have been a couple of major contracts where the whole roadbed has turned into soup and you couldn't turn a wheel on it. At the end of the day, the contractor is sitting there left holding the bag. He has got his equipment ready to go to work, but because of the weather, he can't work. What is the actual share as to who picks up what? Is it a 50:50 split - 60:40, 90:10? How does it work?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member has a specific question about a specific contract, we may be able to get that information, but there are also other reasons from time to time why a contract isn't completed on time that aren't related to the weather.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's try Margaret Thomson Hill and the contractor working there.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we realized there were some difficulties on that one, and I can get the details for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Also, there were a lot of problems along the Tagish Road. One of the rural roads projects that experienced a lot of problems was Duncan Creek Road. In fact, it was a quagmire. That's in the Mayo district. So, we have quite a few problems around the whole Yukon. Just how are these resolved?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: They are resolved on a case-by-case basis, because the reasons vary in each case.
On the Tagish Road, one of the contractors finished on time and the other one didn't. I can get the member details if he wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could provide that information, I'd appreciate it.
Alaska Highway in the amount of $83,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Campbell Highway in the amount of $127,000 agreed to
On Tagish Road
Tagish Road in the amount of $156,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Mr. Jenkins: It looks like we're spending a lot more money painting these bridges. Is that because the Premier is driving around in the sidecar with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and picking up paint chips from these bridges? I know it's all capitalized now. I was just wondering where the accelerated repainting programs are coming from on bridges, Mr. Chair, seeing that there was a lot of inclement weather this summer.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I think there's room in the sidecar for the Premier.
As far as painting on the bridges, $51,000 of that money was required for the Takhanne River bridge on the Haines Road.
Mr. Jenkins: So we've added $280,000 to a basic vote of $390,000, so there's almost a doubling of that area in the capital. We obviously did more than spend a few bucks on a bridge on one highway, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, there was $145,000 for the M'Clintock River Bridge to cover a construction tender that was significantly higher than the estimate that was done before the design was completed. There was a $7,000 revote to complete revegetation work for the Willow Creek bridge project, and a $77,000 revote for completion of the ice effects analysis on a potential bridge in Dawson City.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it sounds like we can find all sorts of money for revegetation, but we can't find any money to cut the stuff, Mr. Chair, because that's exactly what we have here.
We have an expenditure to revegetate an area, which means that the minister has to stop her little Harley Davidson and get out there and - well, little Harley Davidson, that's a stretch; maybe it's just a basic hog - and get out and plant along the side of the highway and it's, you know, hydroseeded or whatever. But we can find the money for seeding and for revegetation. The question still begs an answer. Why can't we find the money to cut the stuff down that's a hazard?
Now, if we look at the situation, Mr. Chair, the issue is one of safety, and the issue is the safety issue versus the seeding issue. And what the minister's going to say is, one is capital and one is O&M.
So the bottom line is this: what is more important, to ensure that seeding takes place on the side of the highway or that we have proper and adequate brush control in place? Why can the minister find capital dollars for an increase in the supplementary but, at the same time, during the course of her tenure, she has to cancel all the contracts for brush and weed control - all of them, Mr. Chair, other than some that were undertaken by the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Contracts weren't cancelled for brush and weed control. The revegetation work is a required thing to do on road projects. This was $7,000. We did add $118,000 in the O&M budget for brush control this year.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $280,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister just elaborate on how the rural roads program worked this past summer? I would believe that to be under that area of the department's budget.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In general, the rural roads project worked quite well this year. We can provide the member a copy of the detailed report if he would like.
Mr. Jenkins: I would appreciate that, Mr. Chair. If the minister could send it over, I would take a look at it. It was what looked like a pretty worthwhile undertaking at the outset, but there were some problems coordinating the activities of one contractor, and we had several small contractors working along the same stretch of the rural road, and we got into a few problems with that. What kind of departmental initiative was taken to oversee these contracts this year versus at the outset. How did we control them at this period in time, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be happy to provide that information for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again the minister stands up and says, "I don't know but I'll send the member opposite the information." So I will thank her for that. Are we going to see a continuation of this project, or am I going to be told to wait and see for the next budget, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm expecting that the rural roads project will continue.
Other Roads in the amount of $47,000 agreed to
Mr. McRobb: I think this is the appropriate opportunity to bring up the second of two programs in our supplementary budget. That initiative was the rural street lighting initiative, which included street lights for three different subdivisions. They are the Tagish Chootla, Albert Creek and Dawson City subdivisions.
Now, this supplementary budget that was introduced by the official opposition includes several winter works programs. The theme for the supplementary budget was winter works - putting Yukoners to work this winter. This was necessary because of the near total lack of winter works provided in the Liberal government's supplementary budget.
Now, this program will employ several local community people this winter and will enhance public safety. It's something the Liberals promised they would do - increasing highway maintenance and safety. It's also something that will have to be done, anyway. In fact, back in July, the minister indicated that the Dawson City section would be done next year, and we have heard similar commitments in the past day.
So, the money is there, the workers are waiting, and the work could be done now. Just to review the financial picture, Mr. Chair, it's noted in the Yukon government's own forecast that at year-end this year, there is a $45-million surplus. That is a conservative estimate based only on $15 million in lapses, which is historically low.
Mr. Chair, it also does not include anticipated revenues such as some of the ones we have heard in discussions on this budget, including -
Chair: Order please, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb, I'm going to point out that 19-3 speaks to another matter other than the question under discussion. The next line in this is Airports, and I don't see the relevance of street lights to airports. I was wondering if you could wait until we get a line that's more appropriate?
Mr. McRobb: Not really, Mr. Chair, because I would say this would fall under highway construction, and we're in capital expenditures.
Chair: But we have actually just cleared highway construction. I feel that this would be appropriate in Community Services, but the last of the highways was cleared and carried under Other Roads.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I understand we cleared Other Roads, but we didn't clear Highway Construction and move on yet to Aviation/Yukon Airports. That's why I'm fitting it in here.
Chair: I understand, Mr. McRobb, but I would ask you - this could easily fall into Community Services and I was about to proceed to Airports. We have cleared the last item under rural roads and, I hate to say it, but my decision is final.
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Mr. Jenkins: What did we finally end up spending this money on, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was $15,000 for a legal survey of the Dawson City Airport, which is 100 percent recoverable from Transport Canada; $171,000 revote request to complete the design phase and to purchase supplies for the Whitehorse Airport water supply system; and the $7,000 revote request to paint the Burwash air terminal building.
I'll just say to the Member for Kluane that I will look at his request. I have asked the department for a detailed briefing on street lighting and the criteria required.
Mr. Jenkins: We've explored previously with the minister the issues surrounding the airport in Dawson, and I was just curious as to why we would accept transfer in ownership of an airport when it's not legally surveyed. Why after the fact? Why this much later? Because, to the best of my knowledge, all of the other airports that were transferred from Transport Canada to Yukon were legally surveyed before the transfer took place. That's usually a condition of the transfer - that the transfer include a legal survey and the appropriate legal description of the airport and airport lands that are being transferred from Canada to Yukon.
Could the minister give me another example of airports that were transferred to Yukon that were not legally surveyed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This happened a long time in the past. The B and C airports were transferred in 1989 - the program. Inside that agreement was an agreement to transfer the lands, which is happening slowly over a period of time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I can recall when the Arctic B and C airports were transferred, Mr. Chair, and I can recall the issues surrounding it, and the government was given outright ownership of the airport and an appropriate area of land around the airports. And the actual ownership transferred. And in virtually all of the cases that I'm aware of, the legal description of the parcel of land was clearly defined and established in the order-in-council transferring that land. In fact, I recall reading quite an extensive document on the transfer of B and C. And the minister is absolutely correct; it goes back a long, long way. But I'm amazed to find at this juncture, Mr. Chair, that we're still looking at legal surveys of these lands, and the right of ownership is being decided at this juncture.
So, it probably begs the question that, if that's the case, and seeing the problems we have surrounding a great multitude of these airports, why the heck don't we give them back to the feds, tell them to look after them, and fix them up to the standards they expect us to maintain? We have a serious problem with a number of Yukon airports. It looks like the downloading of this responsibility is going to come back to cost Yukoners a tremendous amount of money. At the end of the day, in many respects, I know the airport in Dawson is not going to be able to serve the needs of the community. It's eventually going to have to be relocated.
If you look at the next step and the next class of scheduled airlines that could come into Dawson and what Transport Canada requires for an airport right-of-way on either side of the runway, we're talking about an area that has to be levelled and cleared that is wider than the valley is at that juncture, never mind that there's a river and a highway in there. So, at the end of the day, where are we at with the federal government?
It sounds like we have some problems, and I have some serious concerns as to how Yukon is being treated by the federal government - the federal Liberal government that is all cushy and warm and cosy with this new Yukon Liberal government with respect to the issues surrounding the airports, especially the cost of the Whitehorse waterline that's being extended to the airport, just to provide adequate fire protection at the Whitehorse Airport. That should be an initiative that we go back to the feds with and tell them, "Hey, you sold us a bill of goods."
It's the same thing with Dawson. This airport is not going to serve the long-term needs of the community. It's - "Actually, you have sold us a bill of goods."
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.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: The disagrees have it.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. Mr. Jenkins has the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as soon as the Legislature rises today, I would urge you to sit down with your colleagues and your caucus and explain to them, Mr. Chair, how procedure works. Obviously, they are either misinformed or they just don't understand. Mr. Chair, I don't know which way it is. So, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it's late in the day, they have had a tremendous amount on their plate today, and they just can't cope with the pressures of the responsibilities of their respective positions and areas.
We will go back to the airport situation, Mr. Chair. We will go back to the issues surrounding the airport. It looks like the federal Liberals dumped a bill of goods on the Yukon. I'd urge the minister to document fully all of these areas. Put together a position and go back to the feds, because we're going to see this time and time and time again as devolution takes place. The Yukon is just going to be caretakers for a lot of former federal government areas and initiatives.
And we're going to be held responsible by other federal agencies and departments, Mr. Chair, to ensure that we conform and conform to the full letter of the law, even though, when previously these areas were under federal jurisdiction in a federal department, they appeared to have some flexibility as to how they conformed to the letter of the law. We're witnessing that now, Mr. Chair, with respect to airports.
Transport Canada, when they descended on the airport in Dawson this summer, came down with a big, heavy hand and a big, heavy stick. And they basically drew a line in the sand, and they said that no aircraft can be parked beyond this area. What it did is it scared away tremendous groups that were coming to visit Dawson because there was no place for them to park their aircraft, Mr. Chair. They were told to go and park in Mayo if they want to stay overnight, or "Go and park at some other airstrip, but you have to land here to clear Customs. We don't have room for you to overnight, because there's no room on the apron or the taxiways. You have to stay behind this line."
The airport officials - you've got to save that minister behind you, pat him on the back, the Minister of Health is right beside the Minister of Government Services, and he seems to be taking in a mouthful there, Mr. Chair.
But we have got a problem and we have got a problem with the way that the federal Liberals have been treating the Yukon. And with more and more devolution, it is becoming more and more abundantly clear that we are going to have to have our heads up on all of these areas.
Seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Order please. The one thing that you cannot do is re-move the motion, but you can talk the clock out until 6:00.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Keenan, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: As a handicapped person - and many people know that in this House - I must concentrate very hard and very stringently to listen and follow the proper process of the House. What I find coming out here in the last few minutes is that it is absolutely impossible for me to concentrate, and I would ask all members of this House to please feel a little sympathy for the people out there who have to concentrate. Because it is very hard on the ears.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. Mr. Jenkins, you can continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Well, having received my instructions, Mr. Chair, I'm left with nothing but having to reiterate my position with respect to Yukon airports and this minister's lack of attention to her responsibilities and the lack of initiative on the part of this Liberal government to get closer to their federal Liberal counterparts in Ottawa and ensure that, at the end of the day, we see some benefits accruing to Yukon. It doesn't matter what area we look at, at the end of the period of time, we have a whole series of problems.
Mr. Chair, we have an airport in Dawson City and it doesn't appear that it's going to be paved in the near future, if at all. The cost of that is probably going to end up being prohibitive, in that it is very, very difficult to get a good base on either end of the airport. There's about 1,200 to 1,500 feet of runway in the centre that is very good and has very good base beneath it. On either end of it, it will require tremendous excavation, tremendous backfill, and compaction - the whole nine yards.
What we will have is a tremendous cost - goldplating a pig's ear is basically the way it should be described. So, we have to move ahead. The Department of Community and Transportation Services -
Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., I will now rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Chair: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 35, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, No. 2, and directed me to report the same without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, further, the 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. The time being past 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 7, 2000:
Yukon Heritage Resources Board 1999/2000 Annual Report
Yukon Geographical Place Names Board 1998/99 Annual Report