Wednesday, March 14, 2001 ó 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.
In recognition of Aboriginal Languages Month
Ms. Netro: On behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, I rise to pay tribute to Aboriginal Languages Month.
Jii sree nanh dinjii zhuh ginjik eenjit thok natríiniiíaii. Aii gwizhit nakhawekíeejit kut shik nakhwaginjik zhit gootsíat ginohkhii. Aii gwikíiigheí duuleh yeendoo diiginjik shit gigeheekhyaa.
Kaiikíit atíoanaachíuu gwizhit juu dinjii zhuh ginjik gaíoonahtan kut gwiintlíoh mahsií goovaadinuu.
Dii soo, dii sii gwundoo kut mahsi goovaachiidinoo.
Diiginjik gwiintlíoh tríihilíee.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, March is Aboriginal Languages Month in Canada. In Yukon, we have eight native languages. Besides Tlingit, there are seven Athabaskan languages: Kaska, Tagish, Southern and Northern Tutchone, Upper Tanana, Han and Gwitchin.
Language is a very important part of the culture of aboriginal people in the Yukon. To a large extent, it helps make us who we are. At this time, it is important to give thanks and credit to those who are working hard to keep our language and culture alive. Without these efforts, Yukon would be less diverse and less interesting.
Growing up in Old Crow, I was very fortunate to hear the Gwitchin language spoken every day. My mother insisted on using her language with us, and for this reason I am able to speak the Vuntut Gwitchin language. The many teachers of native language in the Yukon deserve praise for working hard throughout the school year to help both native and non-native youth learn something of the traditional language of their region. These language classes make a significant contribution to cultural understanding in the Yukon.
We need to thank the students who take the native language classes and their parents. When they choose to try to speak their language, it makes the elders happy.
The Yukon Native Language Centre has been supporting native language research and teaching for over 20 years. All the current and retired native language teachers have received training or are being trained at YNLC. This facility is internationally recognized for the quality of its work and the dedication of its staff.
During Aboriginal Languages Month, the centre is holding a series of training workshops. When we use our language more, our society in Yukon is stronger and more diverse. I congratulate all the people who are working hard to keep our languages alive and wish them all the best for the future.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Yukon government, I would also like to recognize the importance and value of Aboriginal Languages Month, and I would like to thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for her eloquent tribute in Gwitchin. Our languages are our connection to the past, our ancestors, and our history. Yukon aboriginal languages are not heard often enough in this Legislature, and I appreciate the eloquence with which the member just spoke. More people, both native and non-native, are investing their time to learn aboriginal languages to keep them alive and vital. Gwitchin, Han, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish and Upper Tanana are some of the languages normally associated with the Yukon, and more people are recognizing the importance of keeping these languages alive.
A language is more than a collection of words and phrases; it is the foundation of a culture. A language is the collective understanding of a people and their view of the world. Aboriginal languages are very evident throughout the Yukon. Many prominent locations and geographic features have aboriginal names. These place names add value for our visitors and for us. Aishihik, Klukshu, Hootalinqua, Kluane and others capture the imagination of visitors and Yukoners alike and identify these places more firmly in visitorsí memories.
Many First Nation youth are learning the languages of their ancestors to recapture the pride and spirit of their cultures. This, too, has a value beyond measure, not just for First Nation people but for all Canadians.
Itís important to remember that many languages have already been lost over the years and a large part of a culture died with them. We must encourage more youth to practise the tongues of their history, to make a stronger connection to their past, to preserve the culture and to keep alive something that is truly unique in the world.
In closing, I would especially like to tribute the leadership of John Ritter of the Yukon Native Language Centre and all of the native language instructors. I have met with them on many occasions and appreciate what a fine and dedicated group of individuals they are. The students have an incredible experience in the opportunity to learn their language.
Native language instructors throughout Yukon, and John Ritter and the staff deserve our thanks for their diligence and efforts.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Positive Choices tour
Mr. Jenkins: It gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to a group of young dedicated students from the town Watson Lake who are in Whitehorse to perform their annual Positive Choices tour, a series of shows dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Yukon youth by promoting healthy choices and positive alternatives. This show is in its third year running and the Positive Choices tour comprises youth involved in the Watson Lake chapter of Students Against Drinking and Driving, SADD, Students Working Against Tobacco, SWAT, and the Youth Association of Watson Lake, all of whom are committed to making a difference with the youth of the Yukon. These groups are more than school-based programs, and although they do organize activities in the schools, they are not considered an extra-curriculum club and do not receive any funding directly from the Department of Education. Rather, all funding needed is raised through fundraisers, donations and grant applications.
Over the last three years, this group of students has spent countless hours working to spread the message that youth can and will make a difference, and clearly, Mr. Speaker, they have. In just two years, over 2,000 students have watched the shows. Last year alone, the group visited eight schools and held 16 performances in five days. Thatís impressive, to say the least.
This yearís Positive Choices tour is proving to be even bigger and better, thanks to the presence of Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT, which is a junior leadership team consisting of students from grades 4 to 7.
The tour consists of three daily presentations, targeting different audiences. The first is for primary classes, the second is for intermediate grades, and the third is focused on high school youth. All are comprised of skits, music, dancing and interactive discussions, which are designed to excite each audience while meeting the following objectives: to spread the message that youth can and will make a difference; to learn leadership and peer support skills that will benefit the chapter in Watson Lake as a whole; to continue to meet new friends and share thoughts and ideas with other Yukon youth; and to promote the idea of positive choices and alternatives to the youth of the Yukon.
Performances will be running on a daily basis at the Wood Street Annex until March 17.
Mr. Speaker, once again, this group of individuals have done an outstanding job. I would ask all members to show their support to take the effort to participate in this worthy initiative and attend it.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Reports of committees.
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that highway funding was cut annually under the previous NDP Government;
THAT this House recognizes that the Member for Kluane admitted in this House yesterday that highway funding was not a high priority for his government, when he stated that "The highways construction budget was a casualtyÖ";
THAT this House applauds the Liberal Government for its efforts to repair this disturbing trend set in motion by the Member for Kluane and the previous government;
THAT this House recognizes that the contributions toward highway spending from the Liberal Government is $6.2 million in this budget, up from a 10-year low of $3.8 million last year under the previous government; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal government to continue to appropriately fund highways, thereby creating jobs for Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the government has the responsibility to ensure there is a proper balance between conservation and economic interest groups representation on committees established to advise the government on policies and strategies concerning resource development and land use; and
(2) this balance has not been achieved in relation to the committee established to review the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy in that resource development representatives are outnumbered by at least three to one; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to ensure that there is an equal number of representatives from both the resource development sector and environmental or conservation interest groups on the committee established to review the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy and on subsequent government committees established to develop policies or strategies concerning resource development or land disposition.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Non-government organization funding
Mr. Keenan: Itís so nice to see the Premier, sitting over there, chuckling, smiling and predicting how Question Period is going to go. So, today I would like to ask a question and get an answer, Mr. Speaker, and, of course, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Positive Lives and AIDS Alliance Yukon may be looking for government funding for this coming year. Now, we tried to get assurances from this minister that his recent duke-out with one of these groups wonít influence the decision. Now, will the minister please spell out the process that will be used to evaluate the proposals, if both organizations ask for funding?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The only party that is making an issue of this and talking about duking it out, is the member opposite. Weíre not duking it out with anybody. We are a government that has been duly elected by the people of Yukon to make good decisions ó and positive decisions. We donít go out and encourage duking it out ó I call it an inflammatory statement. When you speak that way, itís almost setting one Yukoner against the next. Mind you, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has done this on many occasions.
No, I think, Mr. Speaker, as I have said in earlier comments, that there was no indication given whatsoever about what groups can do and how they can do it. Itís up to them to decide what they want to do when it comes to any kind of request. And, like any other group, they can submit their application to the department. That is the process. There have been no rule changes, and nothing different has happened.
Mr. Keenan: I would just like to point out that the minister has again failed to grasp the question, and the minister has obviously failed to answer the question.
The comments that have been coming from this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, are not inflammatory; they are just accurate ó very accurate ó and I think that is what is disturbing for the member opposite.
Let me also point out that there are 30 diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS. There are over 400 cases of hepatitis C in the Yukon Territory. Now, some clients have all ó they have HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C. But the two organizations, at this point in time, now serve different user groups.
The clients ó and these are invisible illnesses as we all know here ó need to have a comfort level. They have to have that comfort level with the programming and with the personnel delivering those programs. In just the last couple of days, I have had many people speak to me about this issue, and they are quite concerned, as I am very concerned.
So, again, I would like to ask the minister if the minister will spell out the process for evaluating the proposals. I would like to see how the minister will ensure that the distinct needs and the preferences of both user groups are met in any funding decisions. So now there are two questions there.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite always wants me to commit myself to things that are operational. The rules have not changed as far as applying for government money. They have been the same under their government and they are still the same today. They have not changed.
It is up to groups to come forward with their ideas on what they would like to do and how they will do it. Our officials will then assess which group ó or possibly two groups, if that is the way it goes ó can deliver those services. We are buying services. It is not just a matter of throwing money away. We are accountable, open and transparent. Now, for me to give all the dotting of the iís and crossing of the tís ó that is not my job. My job is to ensure that we are delivering services to Yukoners. That is why we have staff and health departments; they do all of the finer work. And it has not changed.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I was talking about something that I think I failed in my question to get the minister to realize the seriousness of.
Iím asking the minister: what process is the department going to be using? He says that the rules have not changed. Well, that tells me that the gentleman has no compassion and, more obviously, that he does not know the process.
This minister talks about consulting. The minister talks about doing things the right way. Yet we have heard from people with these illnesses, and theyíre very worried. Theyíre very worried that their particular concerns will not be heard before the funding decision has been made. They need some reassurance from this minister here that the funding decisions will not be made without their input being considered.
So what Iím asking is that people at large ó the 430 cases out there now, and there are probably more ó need to be heard. Itís not just duking it out with proposals. Itís actually listening to ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question?
Mr. Keenan: So, there is an urgency involved, Mr. Speaker, and yes, I will ask the question.
Will the minister make a commitment now to consult with the users of these services about their concerns before making any decisions about funding either or both of these organizations?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have answered the question twice, Mr. Speaker. Because the member opposite chooses not to listen, thereís not much more I can do but give the member opposite the same answer. Again, I have shared with the member opposite that the process has not changed from when they were government. Applications are made to the department, listing or laying out what they would do to provide service. Those ideas or objectives are then analyzed by the department people, and thatís an operational procedure. The decisions are going to be based on delivery of services, not on what the member opposite is trying to portray ó because itís raised as an issue.
Mr. Speaker, that is not how we operate. We believe in openness. If people want to bring their ideas and thoughts to the public, thatís fine. Thatís another good way of discussing and coming up with better decisions. Weíre not afraid of that. We just want to make sure itís fair for everyone, and thatís the objective ó to be open and accountable and to do, what I would call, providing leadership, and we are doing that.
Question re: Taxpayer Protection Act, adherence to
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Last week, the acting Minister of Finance agreed that the accumulated surplus two weeks from now will be $45 million, not $30 million, and a year from now it will be $23 million, not $6 million. The real Finance Minister insists the savings account a year from now will be only $6 million, but she plans to table a budget next year with an annual deficit of $14 million. That means she would be breaking the law, the Taxpayer Protection Act, by putting Yukon into a cumulative deficit position of $8 million. Does the Premier plan to repeal the act, or is she prepared to submit her resignation along with next yearís budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker. The comment was, "Nice try," to the leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Speaker, let me go through this again. The estimated accumulated surplus at March 31, 2002 is estimated at $6 million before lapses. Those are vital words that the member opposite has missed in the budget speech, and those lapses are generally in the neighbourhood of $10 million to $15 million. Again, I would remind the member opposite that the $64-million surplus that they spoke about when the then Finance Minister tabled that budget, that the surplus estimated by that Finance Minister was $13 million. So this is standard, normal practice. Granted, the surplus has been drawn down significantly, and that has been noted. It has also been very carefully noted that this is before lapses and that we are paying very, very, very close attention to those lapses. That is reflected in the fact that we have the long-term projections that have been tabled. And I would remind the member opposite that we are also, again, bringing forward a long-term capital and a capital budget in the fall, which will also reflect current information.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier laughs at the fact that the Yukon is going into debt. Weíre using the governmentís figures, right here from their book. Anyone can follow along with what the Premier is saying.
Letís go on: the teacherís strike is over, so maybe the Finance minister will finally start using one consistent set of numbers. No matter how the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission tries to spin it, the government has raised the bar for wage settlements. Yukon nurses and government employees will be back to the bargaining table before long. Does long-term budget projections of this minister include the new 10-percent benchmark for a public sector wage settlement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it amazes me that the leader of the official opposition would read into the record a question that so clearly denigrates the ability of both the respected Public Service Commissioner, as well as the deputy minister and all the officials in the Department of Finance.
The figures that have been presented are entirely accurate. There has been no change in the accounting measures, and the fact that the surplus has been drawn down to $6 million before lapses is of concern to this government. We have always stated to all Yukoners that we will live within our fiscal means. We have reduced the deficit budgets that were tabled by the NDP and weíre working very hard to ensure that we maintain that fiscal responsibility.
For the member opposite to suggest that either this government or officials are not doing their jobs, or that we take them lightly, is completely wrong.
Mr. Fairclough: Again, the Premier refused to answer the question. Yukoners are concerned. They are paying attention to the budget too, Mr. Speaker. The minister now plans to go back to tabling two separate budgets ó capital in the fall and O&M in the spring. Weíre not arguing with her reasons for doing this; however, we do have some concerns about the ministerís ability to pull this off. Is the minister at all concerned that when she sets her capital budget and finds her O&M budget rising so fast that there is a risk of wiping out the accumulated surplus or having to lay off people? Is she concerned about that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, itís not a case of me, or anyone else on the benches on this side of the House, not providing the members opposite with an answer. Itís a question of the members opposite refusing to listen. I have explained to the member ó and spoken on it several times ó that the budget figures that are tabled are entirely accurate and indicate that there is a $6-million surplus, which is concerning before lapses. We are endeavouring to be entirely fiscally responsible. We are ever mindful of the fact that this is Yukon taxpayersí money, and we were elected to manage it, and we are managing it well.
Now, the member opposite keeps pointing to the budget speech and the budget highlights in it ó the Government of Yukon projections. The Government of Yukon projections are entirely accurate as of the date they were tabled. For the member opposite to suggest anything else is wrong. We are very mindful of the fact that this is Yukon taxpayersí money, and we will manage it wisely, just as they elected us to do.
Question re: Forestry summit
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Yukonís forestry industry has had a long-standing problem gaining long-term access to timber. That has virtually devastated their industry.
In 1996, the Yukon Party government drafted a forestry policy in an attempt to solve this problem and have the made-in-Yukon forestry policy adopted by the federal Liberal government.
The previous NDP government created a forestry commission, but it was equally unsuccessful in getting the federal Liberal government to listen.
My question to the minister: will this minister ensure that the forestry summit to be held this spring will not be an exercise in futility, whereby Yukoners keep talking about the issue, but the federal Liberals will not listen and continue to deny loggers long-term access to timber? Will the minister give that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact of the matter is that, with the lack of progress exhibited by the federal government in establishing THAs, the Premier, a short couple of months ago, wrote directly to the Minister of Northern Affairs. She indicated to the minister that we were proceeding along our own route in determining what areas, where and how while involving industry, involving resource users and environmentalists in the summit that we were proposing in early May. So, we are taking action, just as the member opposite has suggested.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this minister has a very poor track record when it comes to ensuring a proper balance between conservation and economic interests, as witnessed by the resource industryís walkout over the lack of balance in the protected areas strategy.
Will the minister ensure that there is equal representation in the forestry summit for forestry representatives and other resource users as compared to the number of conservation interest groups so we donít have a repeat of the Yukon protected areas strategy fiasco, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I want to read into the record exactly what representation did occur at the PAC summit that the member opposite continually seems to be trashing. He seems to be not wanting to encourage cooperation at all, but then, of course, thatís the road he always goes down.
Mr. Speaker, the YPAS advisory group membership consists of seven renewable resource councils, four conservation groups, three community groups and 13 industry resource groups, for a total of 29 groups in all, and these were the people who were asked to come to the meeting. It was unfortunate that there was a group of individuals who did walk away, but I am still confident, through the actions of the Premier and me, that we will get these individuals back to the meeting thatís scheduled for early April.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister just read from a different document than he tabled the other day. There were 28 groups indicated on the list that the minister tabled, six of which were from the resource sector and two from the chambers of commerce and the balance were environmental concerns. The Liberal government killed 125 forestry jobs in Watson Lake by refusing the help to industry when it needed it the most. So, I would like the minister to name a date, right here today, when the forestry industry can expect to fully gain long-term access to timber from his Liberal colleagues in Ottawa. When is this wonderful working relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals going to pay dividends, and when are we going to see results?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is obvious that the member opposite still has his head in clouds. He knows full well that the minister of the permits, THAs, with respect to the forest industry, does come from Ottawa. That is one reason that the Premier and I are promoting our own forest summit. I should remind the official opposition that, with the cooperation of one of their members, we are proceeding with this committee, with his input. I do believe that the member opposite still has both arms regardless of the fact that the Member for Kluane might insist that we donít take offers of support. Well, we are putting on this summit. As a result of this summit, we are going to continue to move forward in identifying areas and continue to apply pressure to the federal government in support of our initiatives.
Question re: Cantung mine reopening
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development. In spite of this Liberal governmentís lack of economic leadership, in spite of this Liberal governmentís lack of implementing any concrete actions, when it comes to our economy, there is a bright light on Yukonís economic radar screen. That bright light is Canada Tungsten, the former Cantung mine. Has this Premier had any talks with the new owners, North American Tungsten, to ensure that any opening and putting into production the mine, would result in communities like Watson Lake becoming again a marshalling point and that maximum benefits can accrue to Yukon? Has she had any talks at this time?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in spite of the trashing from the member opposite about our government and the governmentís initiatives with regard to economic development and in spite of his poor estimation of our governmentís performance, in fact, yes, we have had several discussions with Canada Tungsten. Thanks for asking.
Mr. Fentie: Well, itís not my trashing of this governmentís economic leadership. Itís Yukoners who are trashing this governmentís economic leadership. Thatís why 500 of the labour force have left this territory.
Mr. Speaker, there is something very important here that must be done ó more than just discussions, more than just words. I want to take the Premier back to her budget speech response of February 22, 2000. In responding to the then budget that was tabled by the former NDP government, the Premier was very sarcastic about an expenditure on the Nahanni Range Road, which I might add was a bridge to cover a washout so that somebody could actually drive to this mine site. Now, the Premier says theyíve had discussions. Is the Premier prepared at this time, regardless of her sarcastic position some year ago, to bring in another supplementary to perform the necessary work on the Nahanni Range Road so that should this mine trigger a production decision in the coming weeks or months, the road will then be ready for the necessary traffic that will result?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, in spite of the characterization from the member opposite that I was less than complimentary about the previous government, I would say to the member that heís wrong on that. I have complimented the previous government on occasion.
The member is asking if this government is prepared to bring in a supplementary budget to deal with the road issues toward the Canada Tungsten property. I can advise the member opposite that we have had several discussions with Canada Tungsten regarding their needs and believe that we would be able to meet them within existing budget commitments.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Iím hoping that the Premier is actually talking with North American Tungsten, because Canada Tungsten doesnít exist. I merely point that out.
Mr. Speaker, I want to point something else out. The expenditure in this budget that we are debating here today will do little to ensure that the necessary traffic can travel from the community of Watson Lake to the actual mine site, which, by the way, is seven miles inside the Northwest Territories.
I asked the Premier if she is ready to bring in a supplementary to address this. The $200,000-plus in this budget will do little other than fix potholes. When driving the road a year ago, I came across 13 washouts. There is a substantial expenditure needed to ensure that the Nahanni Range Road is put back into a condition so that the traffic necessary for the mine site can travel ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question?
Mr. Fentie: Will the Premier bring in a supplementary to address that expenditure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, not only does it appear that the member wants to be on this side of the House with us, but now he seems to want a job repairing the Nahanni Range Road, as well. I thought the member was running to become an NDP MLA.
The issue with respect to providing assistance to ensure that the road is to a standard that is required for the mine site is something that both the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the officials, and officials from Economic Development, have been dealing with. We are working to ensure that the money required to maintain that road and ensure that it is to an acceptable standard is there.
I would just like, at this point, to also provide the member opposite with the information that, as we were speaking yesterday in the House, Scott Kent, on my behalf as Minister of Economic Development, has been meeting with officials from this particular mining property at the Prospectors and Developers Association, on behalf of our government, and that is follow-up to other meetings on behalf of our government.
Question re: Mining workforce in Yukon and Northwest Territories
Mr. Fentie: Well, Iím flattered that the Premier has so much confidence in me and wishes that I were on that side of the House, but not even I can help the situation over there in the Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, let us go beyond this. We know that the North American Tungsten property is in the Northwest Territories. We also know that Premier Kakfwi is a very, very shrewd competitor when it comes to creating jobs for Yukon people. In fact, heís lobbying today for whatís left of the Yukon workforce to come to the Northwest Territories during the diamond mine boom and the oil and gas boom, and there is a chance that he may be seriously looking at this particular mine site in the Northwest Territories because it does have an airstrip.
Will the Premier now come to the realization that, with such things as the pipeline, the oil and gas industry and in the mining sector, we do have a competitor, and itís next door to the east? Will the Premier at least admit that on the floor of the Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what I will gladly admit on the floor of this Legislature is that weíre doing just fine, thank you, without the help of the Member for Watson Lake ó just fine.
And the other point I will make to the member opposite is that we, as a government, have met on a number of occasions with North American Tungsten. And just this week, Scott Kent, on my behalf, has met with them in Toronto at the Prospectors and Developers Association, and their commitment and interest in the Yukon is very, very clear. I would remind the member opposite of their commitment to Yukon workers and to the memberís own community, in ensuring that the thousands of litres of fuel they will require are purchased in Watson Lake. They have already purchased some goods, here in Whitehorse, for some of the needs to restart the mine.
The other point I would remind the member opposite of is that there is the little matter of the Mackenzie Valley Water Board, and they would have to deal with some licensing issues for this mine site, and that tungsten is not only found in the Northwest Territories. It is also found in the Yukon.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the Premier for enlightening me, but let me point something else out. The Premierís comment, "without me, they are doing just fine" is a little bit erroneous. Letís look at the facts. Under their leadership, forestry has shut down. The Yukon is now landlocked by cancelling the ports. CDF is gutted, putting hundreds of Yukoners into the unemployment line or, in fact, leaving the territory this winter, and there is an uncertain investment climate in this territory. Furthermore, a premier in the Northwest Territories is outgunning this Premier because he recognizes there is competition in this area, and that competition is for investment dollars.
Will the Premier now get on her feet in this Legislature and admit to the fact that we are competing for investment money in all sectors and that the Premier needs to sharpen up and do a much better job in that area? Will she admit that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will agree with the member that the Yukon is in competition worldwide on many fronts. I will not agree, with all due respect, with the memberís assessment of my performance. The voters in the Yukon are going to decide that.
We are working very hard on a number of fronts, and if the member wants to talk about track record and what we have done in mining, letís talk about the flow-through investment credit. Letís talk about the mineral exploration tax credit. The member is sarcastically smiling and laughing and saying, yes, the member has done nothing.
Well, if the Premier has done nothing, then why was I given credit for it? And Iím not talking simply by Minister of Finance Paul Martin. Iím talking about the B.C.-Yukon Chamber of Mines. Iím talking about the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. Iím talking about the Alberta mines minister, as well. All of those individuals have given the Yukon ó and not simply me but Yukon officials as well ó credit for ensuring that this issue was dealt with at the federal level. Thatís part of our competing for industry, worldwide. We have helped Yukon and are working to attract. We also have faith in Yukonersí ability to help us rebuild the Yukon economy.
The member criticizes us for our work ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, itís just that thereís so much that we have accomplished in the last year that Iím flabbergasted the member doesnít realize it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. There is a distinct difference between looking in the mirror and giving oneself credit, and Yukoners actually giving credit to a product coming out of this government. The Premier mistakenly came up with this flow-through initiative for the mining industry. The Premier well knows that, at the dinner for Minister Martin, the mining industry stated that itís too late, that itís doing nothing.
So, letís get serious, Mr. Speaker. We do have a competitor. Now, the Northwest Territories is competing for whatís left of our workforce. Is this Premier, as Minister of Economic Development, prepared to initiate, immediately, some sort of concrete action to ensure that whatís left of our workforce does not go to the Northwest Territories? Who knows? They may never return.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Okay. Letís talk about concrete action. Letís talk about ensuring travel to Alaska, a memorandum of understanding, working with Governor Knowles. Letís talk about support from the United States for the Alaska Highway pipeline. Letís talk about efforts with Ottawa to re-establish the Northern Pipeline Agency and ensure that thereís staffing. Letís talk about working with the mining industry. Letís talk about an exploration tax credit, for which they said, "Thank you, Premier of the Yukon, for working so hard on this. And now, could we please lobby and get it extended for a year, because the federal government moved too late." Letís work on that next, shall we? Itís already underway.
Letís talk about working with North American Tungsten. Letís talk about Yukoners and jobs. Thatís exactly what weíve been doing. We have been meeting with them. We have worked with them. Letís talk about working with Minto Explorations. Letís talk about working with United Keno Hill.
Weíre not just talking about this. Day after day, when we are in our offices or working outside of this building and throughout Yukon, we are working with Yukoners on rebuilding the Yukon economy because, in spite of what the member opposite says, we still believe not only in Yukoners, but also in the Yukon economy.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day; however, before proceeding to business under Orders of the Day, the Chair will provide a deferred ruling.
Speaker: Before proceeding to business under Orders of the Day, the Chair will provide a deferred ruling. Members will recall that, on March 7, 2001, the Chair took under advisement a point of order regarding references being made, during debate, to the absence of members. The Chair is also aware that this matter has come up in the Committee of the Whole.
The specific statement taken under advisement was that made by the leader of the third party when he said: "It is interesting to note that the government of the day is so concerned with the decorum and the way that the House operates that they canít even maintain a presence here." When a point of order was raised about this statement, the leader of the third party said: "I made no reference to specific members being absent, I believe that's what the Standing Orders refer to. I made reference that the government couldn't maintain a quorum in the House."
The Standing Orders of this Assembly do not, in the provisions respecting rules of debate, address references being made to the absence or presence of members. However, based on parliamentary authorities such as Beauchesne, it has long been the practice of this House to prohibit drawing attention to the absence of members. Annotation 481 in Beauchesneís sixth edition states that a member, when speaking, must not "refer to the presence or absence of specific Members."
Further, on page 522 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is stated: "It is unacceptable to allude to the presence or absence of a Member or Minister in the Chamber. The Speaker has traditionally discouraged Members from signalling the absence of another Member from the House because Ďthere are many places that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the obligations that go with their office.í"
A footnote to the statement in House of Commons Procedure and Practice cites eight examples between 1994 and 1999 when the Chair ruled on references to the absence or presence of members. These show that members have been ruled out of order for statements such as:
". . . the five Liberals in the House . . . .";
"Members stood today and acted as if this place was full of people taking notice of the debate and not even a dozen people are here.";
"I do not even see a minister in the House during the debate of this very important issue.";
"My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister in the absence of the Prime Minister."
"In the absence of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who until very recently was in Brussels . . .."
It is very clear from this that even the most oblique references to who is present and who is not are not allowed. Members will recognize from experience in this House that such statements tend to lead to disorder in the House. This point is very much reinforced for anyone who reviews the Hansard of March 7, 2001. Members, therefore, will appreciate why it is necessary for the Chair to rigidly enforce the prohibition against drawing attention to a memberís presence or absence.
In conclusion, the Chair finds the statement made by the leader of the third party on March 7, 2001, and on which a point of order was raised to have been out of order. The Chair appeals to all members to consider this ruling and to respect the prohibition against referring to the absence ó past or present ó of any fellow members during debates or votes in this House.
We will now proceed to business under Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will continue with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. Weíre in general debate, Community and Transportation Services. I believe Ms. Buckway had the floor.
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 ó continued
Department of Community and Transportation Services ó continued
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we note with some disappointment on this side of the House ó and Iím quoting the Member for Kluane: "The highways construction budget was a casualty in the larger pictureÖ" Highways were obviously not a priority of the previous government, and we, on this side of the House, disagreed with that and the voters disagreed with that on election day. This Liberal governmentís vision is to gradually restore highway funding in a responsible and balanced way. Our commitment to the Yukonís infrastructure starts in this first all-Liberal budget with a significant increase in highway spending.
Mr. Chair, our commitment to highways is clearly shown in this budget. The Yukon governmentís spending on highways has increased from under $4 million last year ó $3.8 million, a 10-year low ó to well over $6 million this year. This readjustment of priorities is what the voters clearly indicated they wanted on April 17 of last year, and we heard them.
Mr. Chair, this side of the House is actively building on a positive relationship with the government in Ottawa, to bring a new level of understanding of the needs of Yukoners. Pursuing a positive relationship, we believe, will eventually lead to better cooperation when it comes to funding Yukon projects. This relationship-building is contrary to the NDPís trash-them-and-then-beg-them strategy of working with the federal government.
Members on this side of the House want to concentrate on the positive when it comes to talking about the economy and talking about our budget. If the members opposite are always touting that the sky is falling, I wonder how they will explain to the voters during the next election that the sky hasnít fallen.
Mr. Chair, we designed this budget with the people of the Yukon front and centre in our minds. This budget reflects a desire by Yukoners to return to capital spending on infrastructure, and we are making a very good start with this budget. There is a lot of difference between committing something and actually delivering on it.
Tax breaks for Yukoners, increases in highway spending, and the list goes on ó these were all promised by the NDP. The fact is, Mr. Chair, if you donít deliver, you donít get the credit.
We increased spending on highways in the Yukon. We reduced taxes. We did it, Mr. Chair ó not the members opposite.
Mr. Chair, we are taking a balanced approach to restoring our capital spending budget. We have a number of constraints, such as increased wage costs, which affect how quickly we can make this basic structural change to restore capital spending.
But let me be very clear, Mr. Chair. Increasing capital spending on infrastructure is one of our priorities and we are following through on it.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane has made some factually incorrect statements about what this government has committed to in this House. It is not my job to educate the member opposite. If he or his researchers want to make up the facts and figures, rather than do their homework properly, I canít stop them. The voters, however, will not be so easily fooled. They will know, while they work away on the highway projects in the Champagne area this summer, that a Liberal government delivered on that promise, not an NDP one.
Mr. Chair, I want to be constructive in this House, as much as the members opposite do, Iím sure. We have crafted a budget for Yukoners, with input from Yukoners, about what their priorities are. Spending on infrastructure is important to Yukoners, and Iím sure that all members in this House do not disagree on that. While we may spar in this House with the members opposite, I do believe that they are trying to represent a particular viewpoint to the best of their ability, and that is what this House is for.
The electoral process is ultimately the decision maker for the voters, and they have chosen our vision of restoring money to Yukon infrastructure in a balanced way over the ideas espoused by the members opposite.
Now, yesterday, the Member for Kluane raised a number of questions. On the Alaska Highway reconstruction between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, he asked for a list of the specific projects that are all part of the $30-million-plus section of highway reconstruction. For planning purposes, the remaining unreconstructed section of the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction was divided into four approximate sections, as follows: for kilometre 1557 to 1573, the Champagne revision, the current estimate is $8.48 million for that reconstruction, and we are doing approximately one-quarter of that work this year; for kilometre 1573 to 1586, from Champagne to approximately Cracker Creek, it is $6.75 million; for kilometre 1603 to 1617, Canyon Creek to Marshall Creek, it is approximately $8.59 million; and kilometre 1617 to 1633, Marshall Creek to Haines Junction, is $6.75 million.
The preliminary design has been completed for each of these sections, except for 1573 to 1586, which still has to be surveyed and drilled for soils information.
Mr. McRobb, the Member for Kluane ó sorry, Mr. Chair ó was asking yesterday about the transport services branch item of $65,000 for supplies. He asked that I clarify what kind of supplies they are and how they will be purchased. The breakdown is as follows, and the number is $64,000 and change. Itís not actually $65,000. Stationery supplies for the admin section, $3,000; motor vehicles, $48,000 total ó of that, $23,000 is for licence laminators and forms; film for the cameras that produce the photos for driversí licences; $8,000 for stationery supplies and $8,000 for the purchase of driversí manuals and defensive driving manuals; weigh stations, $13,000 for stationery supplies, film and books.
The supplies that I just noted are purchased as follows: the stationery supplies for all sections are purchased through Yukon government central stores. The laminators, forms and film for motor vehicles are purchased through a competitive bid process. The driversí manuals are reprinted locally. The defensive driving manuals are purchased from the Canada Safety Council in Ottawa. These are not available elsewhere.
The film purchased by the weigh station section is purchased locally. Mr. McRobb, the Member for Kluane ó Iíll get used to it eventually, Mr. Chair ó had asked about the capital budget reduction. He said that the capital budget is down eight percent, or down to about $46 million, as compared to the $50 million forecast, and asked if the minister could explain. Gross capital expenditures, as I had noted yesterday, have been reduced mainly as a result of reductions in recoverable projects: the Alaska Highway Shakwak project, $1.6 million; land development, $2,033,000; and the rural electrification and telephone program, $540,000. The total is $4,172,000. This reduction total constitutes the eight percent.
The Member for Kluane asked about brush clearing and what locations are identified for brush and weed control for the 2001 season. At this time, the preliminary plans for brush and week control cover a number of areas: the Alaska Highway Haines Junction area, kilometre 1558 to 1630; in the Swift River area, north of camp, that will be mowing; in the Teslin area, some shoulder mowing from kilometre 1270 to 1365; and also some work around Teslin, kilometre 1240 to 1346; in the Watson Lake area, mowing; and, in the Whitehorse area, kilometre 1454.8, the Carcross Cutoff, to kilometre 1476, the Two Mile Hill; and kilometre 1410, the south access of Judas Creek, to kilometre 1454, the junction of the south Klondike Highway, there will be shoulder mowing; on the Klondike Highway in the Carmacks area, kilometre 306 to 324, and kilometre 360 to 392; in the Stewart area, kilometre 491, McQuesten, to kilometre 507.8, Gravel Lake; on the Klondike Highway, again in the Whitehorse area, from the junction of the Alaska Highway, at kilometre 191.6, to kilometre 224, Deep Creek, mowing. On the Campbell Highway at Brewery Creek, there are a number of areas: kilometre 470 to 476 and kilometre 478 to 479, kilometre 483 to 492, and kilometre 500 to 510 ó a total of 26 kilometres; in the Ross River area, kilometre 289.5 to 300.5, kilometre 301 to 330, and kilometre 344 to 348 ó 44 kilometres in total; for the Campbell Highway in the Watson Lake area, kilometre 50. On the Dempster Highway, in the Eagle area, itís kilometre 412 to 465, three metres wide on the right and five metres wide on the left. In the Ogilvie Camp area of the Dempster Highway, it is various locations. On the Canol Road in the Ross River area, itís kilometre 178.2 to 210.8. On the Canol Road in the Teslin area, itís kilometre 30 to 50. On the Silver Trail, it is kilometre 0 to 57.
Other roads in the Whitehorse area include Takhini Hot Springs ó mowing ó and in the Stewart area, itís the Ethel Lake road in to the lake. The actual locations, Mr. Chair, will be determined after spring inspections and as the growing season progresses. Brush and weed project work is identified on an as-needed basis, rather than targeting specific regions.
The Member for Kluane had asked about the communications Centrex increase and asked if that is part of the tariff increase by Northwestel, and if that is what it is for. This increase is as a result of the renewal of the agreement between the Yukon government and Northwestel with respect to rates for telephones that have Centrex network access.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane asked which objectives have changed for this department, and the changes are, in brief ó and I can go into more detail, if the member likes: the addition of active living to the sport and recreation branch; the addition of Connect Yukon to the emergency measures branch; the clarification of communication systems in the emergency measures branch; the clarification of diversification for the transportation division, and the clarification of community infrastructure for public health, roads and streets.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane also asked yesterday who makes the decisions on projects in the rural roads upgrading program and what the policy is that is in place. The projects are put forward by various people or groups, including MLAs, First Nation governments, private individuals, community associations, the transportation maintenance branch, et cetera, and evaluations are performed on these projects based on the criteria identified in the program guidelines.
Now, I note that one of the policy objectives is to upgrade non-industrial, rural roads in the Yukon, whether currently maintained by the Yukon government or not. So, on the ones that we do maintain, it is perfectly natural that the department should be making requests for upgrading on this.
I have for filing a copy of the rural road upgrading program guidelines for the Member for Kluane ó one for the Clerk and one for the Member for Klondike. If the member has any further questions, I would be glad to answer them.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, now that the camera time has expired, maybe we could get down to more serious business.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane is being totally ridiculous, suggesting that he only gets answers or that weíre only serious when the camera is off. I donít know if that may be the case for his side of the House, but it certainly is not for ours.
Chair: On the point of order, there have been no rules broken by Mr. McRobb in the Standing Orders; there is no point of order. Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: You know, Mr. Chair, itís rather obvious from the reaction by these Liberal members today that they donít want to be held accountable. We just saw an occasion a moment ago. We saw another indication about 10 minutes ago, when the minister was on her feet grandstanding and accusing me of certain things, putting words in my mouth, and we saw it from the Health minister, the Member for Porter Creek North, at the beginning of today. Obviously, they donít like to be held accountable.
Iíll refer the public to yesterdayís Hansard and yesterdayís discussion, when I tried my best to hold this government accountable for several failings ó failings such as not doing what it said it would do and, in some cases, doing some things it never said it would do. Mr. Chair, the list of failings is quite a long list, and itís our job to hold the government accountable. The members across can rise and shriek on points of order all they want, or they can introduce spurious motions at the outset of the Legislature and grab the TV time there, as well. Thatís fine, but theyíre playing political games, and I think itís very easy to see through whatís happening. This government doesnít like being held accountable.
Mr. Chair, yesterday afternoon, I described several examples. The evidence is piling. Our jobs on this side of the House are not getting easier; theyíre getting more difficult, having to deal with the burden of holding this government accountable.
There are more examples each and every day that we must bring forward and for the members to try to use their majority, Mr. Chair, to put their spin on events that occurred and get that message to Yukoners, especially through the TV camera, is despicable ó absolutely despicable.
Mr. Chair, the point made by the minister and the Member for Porter Creek North in regard to ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. I notice interjections from the floor. Interjections are completely forbidden in this House and I would ask members to please respect that. Mr. McRobb has the floor.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do apologize.
Chair: Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I know itís not easy to be held accountable, but the government must live through it as part of being government. If they would behave more like a government, show some leadership and live up to their responsibilities, then these occasions would be less frequent and we could get on to more positive business.
Mr. Chair, on the matter raised today on three occasions by the members opposite with regard to my comments yesterday, I want to explain. Itís all about being government, and this cast of characters will some day understand that. When the federal government cuts the transfer payments to the territory as severely as they did, some tough decisions have to be made. What happened was, the highways budget was one area that took a hit. But it wasnít forever or a long-term plan. Reintroduced spending in the highways area in the long-term plan speaks for itself, but is there any mention of that by the members opposite, the two ministers who alluded to this today? None whatsoever.
Is it fair? Absolutely not. Is it one-sided? You bet it is. Is it a casualty of Liberal spin? Yes it is, Mr. Chair.
The fact is the previous government undertook to construct this section of highway continuously until the projects were complete. So, for the minister to stand up and so-called clarify the record, and put words in my mouth, is completely ignorant of the history of this matter, which I have just explained again. It completely ignores the three-year plan tabled in last yearís budget, which is one that these Liberals campaigned on.
Mr. Chair, it seems that the Liberals are getting very good at playing the game. When are they going to get good at being a responsible government? On a daily basis, we see them cherry-pick little pieces out of what opposition members say, blow them out of proportion, throw them into a context that was not intended, and then message that out to Yukoners. Is that being responsible? Of course not, Mr. Chair. Of course it isnít.
Itís about time these members became a bit more responsible and showed some leadership, instead of always pointing the finger, patting their own backs, and unfairly criticizing the previous government.
These Liberals have been in government almost a year.
Itís more than a year now since the election was called. Itís time to get on with the job. People out there are looking for results, not more examples of finger pointing. Maybe if these members got out of the ivory tower, and out on to the streets, and talked to real people, they would find that out.
Now, Mr. Chair, it would be far more productive if the members opposite would focus on providing us with information requested in a timely manner, instead of starting these disturbances that seem to detract from the productivity levels in this Legislature.
Mr. Chair, we, on this side of the House, have tried to be constructive in the past, and we will continue to try to be constructive in the present, and we intend to carry on that tradition in the future. Now, what my colleagues and I will be doing as we review this budget is proposing amendments to the government on how to better spend the funds allocated in the budget. We are prepared to do that because somebody has to show leadership around here, and we understand how important that is to Yukoners.
The Liberal budget failed to address many of the issues important to people in this territory. The budget for the Government of Yukon needs to be more responsive to the needs of our communities and to the people out of work.
We are going to review the budget department by department and make suggestions on how this government can better spend the taxpayersí money. That is being constructive. We invite the government members to do away with the bad habits and to try to meet the challenge. We, on this side of the House, represent the majority of rural Yukoners. We also represent many other people in the territory and those in the City of Whitehorse who approach and ask us to bring forward their concerns because they feel that they are not being heard. To just ignore us is not being responsible.
The Liberal government ignored us in the fall. We went so far as to table a supplementary budget; they ignored it. The reasons for this and what the test of time has produced were reviewed yesterday in Committee. They ignored our suggestions last spring to bring forward another supplementary budget. Theyíve ignored practically every suggestion that weíve made. Thatís fine. We canít force this Liberal government to do anything, so we will continue to act responsibly and do our jobs to the best of our ability. Mr. Chair, we will let the voters decide.
Now, Mr. Chair, there is lots more this government could be doing to help restore our economy. This department is almost void of any new initiatives or programs whatsoever. The ballyhoo we heard from this government during their budget speech leaves a lot to be desired. Some of what was said was completely hollow.
We found out yesterday that the extra expenditure in one of my communities, Burwash Landing, is not really an extra undertaking at all. It is merely a continuance of current responsibilities under this department. The other day we found out that the Champagne revision is a multi-year project ó not something that will be done in this coming year, as mentioned by several of the Liberals in their budget speech replies and by the Premier herself in the budget speech. Yesterday we only learned that, in fact, itís four years ó not even three years. Well, this government wonít be around in four years and probably not even three years, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there are lots of good points to be made. There is no shortage of things that could be said at this time, but I want to focus on the matters at hand. Iíve informed the government side of our intentions to bring forward budget amendments, and we sincerely hope they will consider them and not reject them outright, as they have in the past.
The amount of money this government is sitting on, Mr. Chair, is really clouded by a smoke-and-mirrors show. Today we heard the Premier admit thereís another $10 million to $15 million in lapses. Well, now we get to the truth, Mr. Chair. Now that the teacher strike is over, we finally get the bigger figure. Weíll see what the future brings and what the Auditor Generalís report brings. Itís likely to get even bigger, because we know the figure was underexaggerated by more than 50 percent by this Liberal government in the fall, compared to the Auditor Generalís report. Iím referring to the $42-million surplus they reference continuously, versus the $64 million found in the Auditor Generalís report.
So, despite the Liberal Premierís math lesson of last week, we now learn thereís another component to the equation, which is plus $15 million. Now, weíre able to deduce that the surplus will be at least $21 million. How much more will the royalties be on resources, Mr. Chair ó oil and gas resources especially? We see whatís happening in southern provinces, we know whatís happening in the territory, we saw additional, unexpected revenue of some $5 million only in the fall. Well, how much more will this bring?
What about the additional revenues from Ottawa, Mr. Chair? We all recall the large sums ballyhooed by the Minister of Health ó extra funds obtained from Ottawa that will help to replace the cuts experienced in the past.
Could it be, Mr. Chair, that the replenishment of those funds will be redirected to highways? My, my, Mr. Chair, what if?
Now, apply that to what has transpired today in statements from the Liberal members in misconstruing my comment from yesterday about the highway budget suffering because of the health cuts, and look at what they did with it. This government should focus more of its energy on doing something to help the territory, instead of trying to spin things and launch them out there in the public in the hopes of getting political brownie points. Most of what we see coming from this government has to do with political spin. Thereís very little in the way of product.
I have mentioned before the number of caucus news releases from this government. I have never seen so many caucus news releases before. We all know of the difference between them and the normal YTG news releases, Mr. Chair. The caucus press releases are not associated with the Yukon government at all. They are associated with the party, and of course they can be expected to be far more political.
Obviously, the members across the way prefer to allocate more of their resources toward being political than being constructive. We see that almost on a daily basis. We saw that in the ministerís opening remarks when she was factually incorrect in referencing what I said, blowing it out of proportion, adding some spin, throwing it into a completely different context and launching that message across the airwaves to peopleís TV sets.
It seems that, with every sitting, Iíve got to go into one of these spells, Mr. Chair, where I point this out, and I was hoping we could get away from that this time around. I was hoping the government would learn from past experience and learn to move on to more constructive things, but weíre not seeing that that is happening.
There are many contradictions in what this government is doing compared to what it said it would do. I referenced many of them yesterday. There is one more I found today, Mr. Chair, and it is in the Premierís budget reply speech of last February 22, 2000, when the now Premier and then leader of the official opposition criticized the government at the time for rolling highway spending on sections of road that were nowhere near the communities into community budgets. I believe the Premier referenced ó yes, here it is ó the Nahanni Range Road. We heard it today in Question Period. Here is the exact quote from the Premier of some 13 months ago. She said: "All members of this Legislature will remember in 1997-98 when the NDP tried to overestimate the amount of money that was going to Watson Lake by including all the highway projects that were nowhere near that town. A little NDP math, Mr. Speaker."
Of course, the people in Watson Lake were not fooled, and they did something about it. She goes on to say, "This year, there is $179,000 in capital for Watson Lake, and half of it is for a bridge on the Nahanni Range Road. I can only imagine the reasoning for this, as Iím sure others can," she said.
Well, Mr. Chair, how short memories can be. What did this government do and say about the Haines Junction budget in this Liberal budget? Yes, Mr. Chair, the eyelids are flickering over there. They rolled in the Champagne revision into the budget for the community of Haines Junction. Here it is here, Mr. Chair: Haines Junction, $3,041,000. What they fail to mention is that the real budget is only $241,000. As I pointed out in my budget reply speech this year, that represents only some 28 percent of last yearís spending. So, the budget there was cut over 70 percent, yet the Liberal government disguises it as a huge increase by rolling in highway projects that are far outside the limits of the community. Some 70 kilometres down the road are rolled into the community of Haines Junction.
How can this government reconcile that with what the Premier said 13 months ago, in response to the previous governmentís budget?
Whatís their excuse this time? This is yet another example of how this government raised the expectations of Yukoners, and they have failed to deliver. Itís yet another example of how this government isnít doing what it said it would do. Mr. Chair, I know that, to you, that is becoming a familiar theme. There are many examples; this is just the latest one.
Several of the members opposite in their budget reply speeches also commented on the Haines Junction budget. Well, what made that even worse was, in my reply speech, I pointed out the 28 percent and how it shouldnít be rolled into the community, but did the others who followed me listen? No, they continued on with the Liberal spin, making it sound like they are doing a lot for the community, when, in fact, the budget for that community is slashed by some 70 percent. You know, part of our job over here is becoming important in the area of rectifying information put out to the public, because what the public is hearing from this government is fiction a lot of the time. One of the problems that we face on this side is that we donít have the resources that the government has to get our message out.
Our budgets are very limited. Earlier today, the minister referred to my caucus researcher. Well, Mr. Chair, we do have a couple of caucus researchers, but I share this researcher with other people. Itís not a full-time position, and that particular person has several other duties. Itís not like with the Liberalsí handlers, who frequently are observed in the gallery during Question Period or, as noted by reporters, protecting the ministers from questions from the reporters, or telling them what to say, as the Health minister last week was defended by four handlers. Mr. Chair, itís not like that at all. We donít have those kinds of resources over here.
Now, the Member for Faro is listening very intently, and I know what heís thinking. Heís thinking heís responsible for the latest increases to the staff resources on the opposite side, and heís absolutely right. With an increase in the number of the members opposite, their staff caucus budget will increase from ó I think the figure is ó $25,000 or $30,000, something like that. Well, thatís a lot of money. Compared to our budget, itís a heck of a lot of money.
So, they have the budget over there, Mr. Chair. They have a lot of staff working for them, even more than they had earlier in the fall. They also have governmental budgets. Each minister has a travel budget in his or her departments. I canít think of an example where they wouldnít, offhand. Furthermore, in the Executive Council Office, they all have travel budgets.
We see even the backbenchers, Mr. Chair, the Member for Riverside, off representing the Premier. Who pays for that? The taxpayers, not through the caucus but through another budget, probably the Executive Council Office budget. We see the other ministers travel. Usually that travel is paid for by the department, if theyíre on departmental business.
Mr. Chair, Iím critic for C&TS and thatís why Iím speaking today. If I wanted to go to an event in Dawson City or Watson Lake, Mayo, Faro, Elsa, Carmacks ó wherever ó there is no budget for me. None. I canít pick up the phone to one of the ministers and ask if their department could squeeze out some money for my travel. I canít do that. I canít call up ECO and say, "Hey, I have to go to Dawson City." I canít do that ó not like the members on the other side.
So, Mr. Chair, our job of holding them accountable and trying to correct the spin on the messages they give to the public is very challenging, given our limited resources, especially when compared to the resources on the governmentís side. Itís very challenging, but we will do the best we can.
Mr. Chair, when we hold them accountable for things theyíre not doing that they said they would, or vice versa, thatís part of our job. We expect them to be big enough to take it, improve, and move on. But weíre not seeing that.
Weíre seeing the finger pointing, and witnessing the sniping, the attacks and the spin, Mr. Chair. The games playing goes on.
I mentioned yesterday, again, that what is important to Yukoners is that we do our jobs in here and get on with the business of the public.
Chair: Order please. The member has 30 seconds to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Now, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister about the rural roads upgrading program, following up from yesterday. I see she sent over the policy. Do I have enough time?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Okay. I would like to ask: in the budget consultation process, who requested that the budget for this program be cut by 60 percent?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To go back to some of the memberís earlier remarks, this Liberal government is not playing political games. The games are on the side opposite, Mr. Chair. We donít have time to play games. We donít want to play games. The Member for Kluane has just wasted 30 precious minutes of the Houseís time, lecturing the government on all manner of subjects. I would remind him that this is debate on the C&TS portion of the budget ó Community and Transportation Services.
The Member for Kluane should be aware that many rural Yukoners do not support him or his party. We hear from them, and from people in and around Whitehorse, on a daily basis. They tell us that weíre doing a good job.
The Community and Transportation Services departmentís priority is to get the highways back into the shape they should be in, and we are making a start on that.
The previous NDP government took money that should have gone to highways and placed it elsewhere. The member admitted that yesterday. They did that knowing full well that a future government would have to deal with the problem of neglected highways.
The Member for Kluane, having been a backbencher in the last government, clearly doesnít understand the requirements of the budgeting process. He still thinks that money grows on the tree in the garden. Well, despite lots of fertilizer, the NDP garden isnít producing anything right now.
The Member for Kluane continues to waste the Houseís time with issues that have no relation to Community and Transportation Services debate. If he were serious about these issues, he would have raised them in general debate with the Premier, as he should have done. But he obviously didnít want to hear the Premierís answers. He didnít want to deal with the Premier on these issues.
The budget is for getting spending authority for government. Not all of that money is spent in a particular year for multi-year projects. The previous Government Leaderís estimates and the current Premierís estimates for annual budgetary deficits both show that the government will run out of money in four years ó this should be no surprise to the member opposite ó if spending continues at the current rate. His own previous Government Leader knew that.
We fully understand that the budget, in any given year, will have some lapses due to unspent monies. It is important to remember that those lapses represent money that has already been voted in previous budgets. Lapses should be counted as new money only when the money is no longer needed for the project for which it was voted.
The Member for Kluane obviously doesnít realize the potential importance of a North American Tungsten mine to the people of Watson Lake. He should speak with the Member for Watson Lake to receive some instruction on that. The Member for Kluane also fails to realize that a budget is not a race to make sure that each community gets what it got last year. Itís to prioritize the work that has to be done all over the Yukon. One community gets more one year; another community gets more the next year.
From his remarks, the Pine Lake corner, at approximately $800,000 this year ó he denies it. "Thatís not in Haines Junction," he says. The fact that residents have been asking for this corner to be fixed for many years has escaped him. We listened, and this Liberal government is doing something about it this year.
The Member for Kluane is complaining about the fact that he has to share a researcher. Mr. Chair, if he would get down to work and stop complaining, he would be a lot more productive. He did not complain about an excess of staff or an excess of money when he was a government backbencher.
I would note that ministerial travel is not, as a rule, paid out of departmental budgets. It may have been the practice of the previous administration to do that. They charged as much as they could to the departments, but we are doing government differently.
Now, the member is asking about the rural roads upgrading program and who decided that the budget would be cut from last year. There were not sufficient funds to put it at the level it was last year. As I said yesterday, the rural roads upgrading program does not have a fixed amount. It varies from year to year, depending on the needs and funding availability. I expect that it will continue that way.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, let that be another example to evidence what I said earlier. This government cannot rise above it, and show leadership and more productivity. It has to continue the games playing. They attack the members of the opposition, put words in their mouths and spin issues right out of recognition.
Mr. Chair, one thing I recall from that ramble was the minister suggesting that I was not supportive of the revision of the corner near the Pine Lake campground. Thatís not true, Mr. Chair. Even before that minister was elected the first time, there are numerous examples on record where I advocated the reconstruction of that corner.
And it was that advocacy that I believe initiated the future yearsí projects that were included in the three-year capital plan in the budget from one year ago. The Pine Lake corner, from what I understood, was to be the first project done. As a matter of fact, look at the numbers, Mr. Chair. Thereís $800,000 in the NDP three-year plan for this coming year, and the Pine Lake corner is estimated at some $700,000. Itís the same project.
For the minister to respond to the matter of the Liberals being inconsistent with what they said they would do and what theyíre doing now in regard to rolling up highway projects into a community budget and inflating it to make it appear as though that community is being responded to budget-wise by this government is complete malarkey. The Pine Lake corner is clearly outside of municipal boundaries and is part of the Alaska Highway, which is an international thoroughfare, connecting Alaska to the balance of the continent ó even the South American continent. Itís the main Yukon artery. Itís very important also to my constituents, to other Yukoners, and to businesses for transportation reasons. Thatís not the issue. The issue is this government not doing what it said it would do.
I can understand the minister getting a little uneasy about that in trying to defend the most recent example with a very weak argument. I can understand that.
But, Mr. Chair, I deserve the opportunity to respond to what she said. The Pine Lake corner is clearly outside the community boundaries of Haines Junction. It should not be rolled into the budget for that community. It should not be fully placed within the allocation of the residents of Haines Junction. That corner is shared with all Yukoners, and all those people who live up the north Alaska Highway. All will share in that benefit.
This example cannot be defended and rationalized with what the Liberals said 13 months ago, no matter how hard the minister tries to do so.
Now, as to the Champagne revision, Iím clearly on record supporting this and, like the Pine Lake corner, itís something Iíve advocated in the past. Again, I believe it is the reason why we made a long-term commitment, as evidenced in the three-year capital plan in last yearís budget.
It was also referenced in my reply to the budget that, indeed, that funding will continue until all of those projects are completed. Mr. Chair, I had that commitment, yet the Liberals failed to recognize that. It seems theyíre very good at extracting snippets and twisting them out of their meaning, but where are they when it comes to extracting important things, such as I have repeated today?
They are nowhere to be seen, Mr. Chair. This is a government that focuses more on being political than on being up-front and productive, and we continue to see that. I would sincerely appeal to the minister to try to stay on the high road and not drop off to the low road and reignite these types of arguments. Letís accept the record and move on.
The previous government made a commitment in future years to reconstruct that highway. The Member for Kluane was on record supporting the two projects in this yearís budget. Letís admit that and move on.
Now, Mr. Chair, for her to misconstrue my comments and turn them into yet another attack on the personnel in the department is reprehensible. I sincerely take issue with that. In no way whatsoever am I insulting Yukoners or personnel in this department. Twice yesterday I spoke to the effectiveness and dedication of the personnel. In addition, yesterday I spoke about what respect for Yukoners means to me. Yet the minister stoops to the low road, extracts those comments, twists them into something she wants Yukoners to hear, and puts them back on the record.
When I try to correct it, Mr. Chair, she doesnít listen. She goes back to her previous interpretation. This minister, in particular, doesnít seem to be listening. And then she attacks me for wasting time in what I have to say. Well, if she would listen, take my comments into consideration and register them, and cancel out her desire to continue these arguments, then I wouldnít have to get up and respond time and time again. We could move on.
But itís very important to me to respond to these types of personal attacks and misinterpretations of my positions and my feelings. Itís very important for me to set the record straight because, once again, there is not always an opportunity to do so. But in general debate in Committee, Mr. Chair, the envelope of discussion is quite broad ó you know that ó and there is an opportunity to respond to that type of rhetoric.
I want to remind all members on that side ó not just this minister ó that, as government, not only do they have to show leadership, but they also have to demonstrate responsibility. Yesterday I spoke about what responsibility means to me and what it should mean to them.
Responsibility in being held accountable, accepting constructive criticism, trying to improve and moving on for the benefit of Yukoners, is a synopsis of what it means to me and what it should mean to them. But part of that responsibility should be more of a tendency to not be engaging in the verbal street fighting and moving on to the important business at hand; moving away from the hand-to-hand combat in the Legislature and on to the issues, getting through the budget, satisfying the requests of those whose job it is to hold them accountable ó not throwing another log on the fire as we witness continuously.
Now, I would hope that the minister is not going to get up and again try to twist out of shape my feelings about those road projects or the position of the previous government. If that happens, I am prepared not to go back to that. Now, on the question of the rural roads upgrade program, I asked, "Who requested the cuts?" What I would like is a constructive answer to that. Can the minister explain to us how this government decided to cut this program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane is asking who requested the cuts to the rural roads upgrade program. I have explained to him at least twice already that this is not a program with a fixed budget. It is not a program with a fixed budget. There was not enough money to allocate to the same level as had been done last year, so that program sits at $400,000 this year.
Now, getting back to something the member said earlier ó if he wants to take credit for the Pine Lake corner, Mr. Chair, let him. I donít need to take credit for it. I know that the work will be happening this summer, thanks to this Liberal budget. The Village of Haines Junction specifically asked that that corner be reconstructed. We heard them, and weíre doing something about it. But if the Member for Kluane wants to take the credit for it, thatís fine by me.
As for the Champagne revision, the previous government had plenty of time to do something about it, but they didnít. Mr. Chair, the memberís constituents who read every word of Hansard know whatís really happening, and I have confidence in them.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, obviously the minister just canít resist.
Now sheís claiming that I want to take credit for the Pine Lake corner. That is not so; thatís not so. I am merely trying to correct the record that, in fact, this is a project I supported, and itís a project the previous government supported.
This government wants to try to take credit for everything, wants to make it sound like this is a new issue. Now, I know the Member for Riverdale South over there is chattering away in the back benches, and I would request her to recall back a couple years ago when she was in opposition and to recall some of the things that were said then. Donít forget those discussions.
Now, Mr. Chair, the Pine Lake corner was not only a request by the current mayor and council of Haines Junction; it was requested by the previous mayor and council, too, and for all I know, probably the one prior to that.
The minister is making it sound like itís something the government just heard and theyíre doing it because the village requested it. Well, thatís a load of malarkey. That builds on that discussion yesterday, Mr. Chair, where theyíre reaching out for excuses to justify what was already decided in the back room of the government. We all know the budget consultation process occurred far too late, and it was a farce. They didnít respond to any of these concerns from Yukoners.
The request for that revision is not new. It happened years ago, and itís something that we supported and it was in our long-term plan. Now, compare that to this governmentís long-term plan. Maybe thatís a better issue. This governmentís long-term plan is blank. You turn there, and thereís a white page. Itís completely void of anything. There is no long-term plan.
Now, go back to last yearís budget and look at the long-term plan, and thatís where you see the allocations for this highway. So, I would invite the minister to refresh herself with that material, and also accept that I accept that this particular project is in this Liberal budget. I am not trying to take credit for it. I am merely saying to the minister and the members on the other side that this is not just an issue that has surfaced since they have been in government.
Now, Mr. Chair, the rural roads upgrade program has been cut by some 60 percent, and I believe the minister has not been very forthcoming in responding to that question. However, it was mixed in with several other matters that I had to respond to. And Iíll have to refer to Hansard before re-entering that discussion.
Now, I want to move to the matter of rural services policy. What is this minister intending to do about rural services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Kluane may or may not know, rural services and rural taxation policy is a very complicated area and the department has been busy preparing the information on that. It is not yet complete but it is something we are working on.
Mr. McRobb: Could the minister give us a better idea of when we might expect the rural services policy to be brought to this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís difficult to pin it down to an exact time, but I would expect sometime within the next few months.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Iíll look forward to reviewing that policy or the implications thereof in this Legislature. If the minister would like to forward us a copy upon its availability, Iíd appreciate that.
Now, Mr. Chair, I want to turn back to the revotes for a moment. There were a couple of projects in the riding that Iím aware of that were lapsed from the current year into next year. Can the minister give us an update on those projects? One of them was the rural roads upgrade program project on the Aishihik Road, which is experiencing considerably higher traffic levels now with the bison hunt and the opening of the Aishihik wilderness treatment centre, and also the main street upgrade in Haines Junction. I believe that was some $400,000.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member well knows, I canít say that these revotes are going to go ahead, because thatís a Cabinet decision, not my decision. That decision should be made within the next few weeks. I certainly support them. In the case of the Aishihik Road, the work was indeed not completed, and the intersection upgrade of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road in Haines Junction will, I fully expect, be going ahead. But thatís not my decision; itís the decision of Cabinet, and that is to be dealt with in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: I think weíre going to have to revisit the issue of the $400,000 project ó maybe some other time in line-by-line debate, perhaps, or in Question Period ó whatever. I believe it was not related to the intersection. I think that was dealt with separately, and this was a separate undertaking.
I want to ask the minister about fire hall security. Now, this is becoming more of a problem, and we know that the budgets for the fire halls are limited and that not all of the fire halls have adequate security systems. We have recently seen break-ins at both Marsh Lake and Ibex Valley. It doesnít take a rocket scientist to figure out that, when the damage and replacement costs are tallied, it could be a very wise investment to ensure that these fire halls have adequate security systems that are functional and operational.
I would like the minister to indicate what she plans to do to resolve this problem.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you to the Member for Kluane for raising this very important issue.
There are 16 rural fire halls serving communities throughout the Yukon. We have been very fortunate that, until recently, security hasnít generally been an issue for these facilities in our communities.
Now, the Ibex Valley, Mount Lorne, Klondike Valley and Marsh Lake fire halls are the ones that I am aware of that have been recent targets for theft and vandalism. Our department is investigating these incidents and the fire marshalís office will be meeting with Government Services staff and the area fire chiefs within the next few weeks. They will be talking about appropriate security measures to meet the needs of the individual fire departments.
I take this very seriously, because the people ó and itís difficult to call them "people" ó who would break into a fire hall and steal equipment are putting peopleís lives in jeopardy. It may be their own lives they are putting in jeopardy.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I will look forward to an announcement in the near future to help resolve this problem, because I would agree that it is a very serious matter. We have to stop this trend at the soonest possible opportunity and send a message to these people that not only are they breaking the law, but they are jeopardizing the safety of their communities. They are placing unfair burdens on those volunteers whom we respect and count on to help protect our property.
Mr. Chair, there are other related concerns. Once the insurance companies latch on to the thought that these fire halls canít be counted on, the next thing you know, they will be raising insurance rates, which further increases the burden on our residents. I think itís incumbent upon government to show some leadership. This government is the only entity out there that can resolve this problem in terms of budgeting. These fire halls are within the responsibility of this department and the Yukon government. No one else is going to come to our rescue.
I would urge the minister to attend to this situation at the nearest opportunity.
Mr. Chair, I only have a few more questions, and then the leader of the third party, I believe, has a few more. One question I would like to ask is with regard to the budget for the community of Teslin. Now, we heard earlier about how this budget was severely decreased, even though the members of that community brought forward their budget suggestions to this government. And we are aware that there were budget suggestions with regard to this ministerís department. Can the minister explain why this community was so severely and completely ignored by her department in terms of budgeting for the coming year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I previously explained, in some years, some communities will get more, and in other years theyíll get less while somebody else will get more.
In the Teslin area, there is ongoing highway maintenance, recreation, fire, water ó all the things the municipality carries out on our behalf. There is nothing specific in the capital budget this year, but the village has identified some work on the sewage line extension to the lagoon, and the department is working with the village on this. At the meeting we had in Teslin recently, there were several issues identified, and while they arenít in this yearís budget, they will be considered as we work on our long-term capital plan, and that process is ongoing right now.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I might follow up some more in line-by-line.
The Tagish Road is something that was a severe casualty in the budget. It decreased something in the order of 80 percent, down to only $200,000. Can the minister explain that and indicate whatís on the horizon in terms of funding for that particular road?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The money thatís in there for the Tagish Road this year is for finishing existing contracts. And, again, we are in the capital planning process now and will be looking at the Tagish Road, as we look at all the other roads and highways in the territory as we consider the fall capital budget.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I noticed the allocation for the Campbell Highway has decreased some 20 percent. Can the minister indicate what was cut out of that highway, in terms of upgrades, and what the intentions are of the government in the future, with regard to the Campbell Highway?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Work on the Campbell Highway, as in all our other highways, is project by project, and thereís no guarantee that the budget will be the same from one year to the next, as Iíve attempted to explain. Thereís $900,000 for the Campbell Highway this year, which will see the completion of the Margaret Thomson Hill at kilometre 374, and a rebuild of the Buttle Creek section. We look forward to the work this summer on those projects.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I want to return for a moment to the area of water and sewer. Now, we see that there is only a one-percent increase in this area. Even though the Yukon received a failing grade on water quality, can the minister indicate why this is not a higher priority and what the government intends to do about it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Water and sewer is indeed a high priority of this government and one that we are working on. There is the beginning of work in Carcross for the sewage lagoon and other ongoing work around the territory. Several projects are in the planning stages. It is unfair for the member to suggest that water and sewer is not a priority of ours because it certainly is, and as more funding becomes available there will be more work. But several projects are in the planning stages now.
Mr. McRobb: I didnít indicate that it wasnít a priority; I merely asked why it wasnít more of a priority, because there is only a one-percent increase in this area. Now, I would like the minister to explain for us where the money is for a private water-testing lab, which was a commitment made previously by this Liberal government.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A water-testing lab is something that has been talked about for some time. There was a complete feasibility study done some years ago, and, at that time, it determined that there wasnít enough work here in the area to support a water-testing lab. Community and Transportation Services is currently preparing a study, again, on the feasibility of establishing a local water-quality testing lab here.
The total annual government expenditure ó federal, territorial and municipal ó on water sampling tests, performed at an accredited lab outside the Yukon, is about $167,000. A large part of the sampling in the Yukon is done on a seasonal basis. It would be difficult to maintain full-time staff and lab equipment year-round, but we are looking into it.
Total and fecal coliforms are the most important indicators of drinking water quality and safety, and we are ensuring that water testing is carried out in a timely and safe manner. Lab analysis of total and fecal coliforms in drinking water is provided locally by environmental Health and Social Services within 24 hours of submitting a sample. This gives us quick results, is free of charge to the Yukon government, and is very valuable to the communities, municipalities and the private sector.
Enhancing this service for municipalities and small communities may well prove to be the most feasible alternative to improving water analysis service in the Yukon, but, as I say, we are working on it. DIAND did a study in 1994 and determined it to be unfeasible to build a water lab here due to the seasonal market demand, the difficulty in maintaining an accredited laboratory, equipment, et cetera, compliance with industry accreditation requirements, and the high risk of creating infrastructure and having surplus capacity in view of fluctuating market demand.
As I say, it costs about $167,000 for water sampling tests outside the Yukon right now. That doesnít appear to be enough to support a lab here. However, the results of our current analysis of this will be reviewed by Cabinet in early spring.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Iím going to have to sort through Hansard to follow up on that particular question. But can the minister tell us what the Liberal government intends to do about standardizing water-quality testing and monitoring in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, Iíd be pleased to tell you, if it were my area of responsibility, but it isnít. That rests with the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. McRobb: Well, whatever happened to the group hug, Mr. Chair? I thought that all of these members were in a big huddle and shared this type of information.
This matter is very important to the ministerís department. There is a lot of overlap between the Health department and Community and Transportation Services with respect to water quality. And I would have expected greater lines of communication and a greater bi-departmental understanding of this matter, given its seriousness both to the Yukon and to the country in light of the recent examples. I guess that would be expecting too much.
I just have a couple of questions to close out on the transportation division. Does the minister still have that multi-year plan for the department that she was considering providing to me back in December?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was my understanding that the Member for Kluane received everything he had asked for in the session that concluded in December.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously I didnít. Maybe the minister can check that file. I would be more than pleased to receive this plan.
Anyway, back to the Nahanni Range Road for just a moment. I understand that there is only $200,000 in this budget to deal with this matter. What does the department intend to do about this road, which was in the news recently because of the efforts of the supporters of the tungsten mine to reopen that mine, which uses this road. What does the minister intend to do about the obvious lack of funds for this road in her budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Departmental officials have met with officials from North American Tungsten, and, as the member heard the Premier say in Question Period, weíre confident that the Yukon government will be able to meet the needs. We are still working on the potential costs. That work is not complete as yet.
Mr. McRobb: I have one last question on the matter of the departmentís Web site. I find it rather disappointing, in this day and age, to discover several dead links on the departmentís Web site. This is a very important department, and I believe that the public deserves to access information in these particular branches and services upon request. That is the intent of a Web site ó to deliver this type of information to the public upon demand. Especially with the present goal of making government better on-line, which is currently held in the city, I would have expected that the department and the minister, especially, would have made it a higher priority to develop this site to a more respectable standard.
Can the minister indicate to us whatís being done about this and when we might expect to see all the links actually leading to something other than a construction sign on the Web site?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Community and Transportation Servicesí own Web site is in the construction stage; it has not yet been launched. The road report, which is of vital importance to people, is available, as it has been for some time through the Tourism Yukon Web site. And Iím hopeful that our own Web site containing that information and much, much more will be up and running as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís just explore with the minister some of the explanations surrounding some of the Yukon government contracts from Community and Transportation Services. And Iíll take the minister to the contract registry ó never mind the one on the Web, the current one, but this is April 1, 2000 to September 30, 2000. There were a number of contracts, some of them dating back to being issued in 1999 and with completion dates in the early part of 2000 ó the third month. I refer to one issued to Ketza Construction, to develop a quarry, Alaska Highway, for $2.2 million. There is another one: Loucheux Enterprises, Meldon Construction and Landscaping Services. These are sizable sub-type contracts, and the money wasnít transferred. Are these just lapses that have been accounted for, or are they going to be subsequently let and issued, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have the contract book in front of me, so Iíll have to get that. But I believe the contracts that the Member for Klondike is referring to for 1999-00 were carried over into the next fiscal year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, theyíre carried over into the next fiscal year, and now weíre going to be going into the next fiscal year, and there was no amount expended in the year that they were issued nor in the subsequent fiscal year. Now weíre into the third period, and, normally, theyíre either carried over or lapsed, and itís unusual to see a contract go on for that length of time, other than a major construction project, Mr. Chair. So, there has to be some explanation.
One is for the development of a quarry; one is for crushing aggregate, issued in 2000, on the first day of the third month, and it was supposed to have been completed by March 31 of that same year. The same holds true for a couple of the other contracts, so it sticks out as being unordinary, and Iíd really appreciate an explanation as to what is going on here.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have the answers at the tip of fingers. I now have the contract book, but I can certainly get that for the member.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The contract is on that page; the answer isnít on that page. I will get it for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I would have thought that, given the order of magnitude ó you know, $2.2 million ó the minister would be on top of these things, but I guess thatís not the case.
There are a couple of other contracts that I would like some explanation for. There is one issued for a run-up pad for the Dawson Airport for some $37,000. The current-year expenditure was some $25,000. There is still a balance of $12,000 left on the contract. Yet, I am given to understand that the contract has been completed. Could the minister provide some backup as to where we are at and why that contract is not completed at this juncture?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, the contracting summary report ends on September 30, 2000, so work may have been done since then, which obviously isnít reflected in this report. But I can check on that one as well.
Mr. Jenkins: I did check on the net. If it has been, itís not indicated there, and I am aware of what work has taken place in Dawson. There has been no more work. I am given to understand that it is finished, yet there is an amount outstanding.
One of the other areas that draws my attention is a contract to Luigi Zanasi MA Economist: a market demand study for some $18,900 that is partially completed. What area were we exploring in this market demand study by Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that was for land development around Whitehorse.
Mr. Jenkins: So, I guess we donít know if we have a demand because the study hasnít been completed. Or is there a copy of that study that the minister can provide, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím sure the work on that one is, indeed, completed and I will check with the department to see if we can provide a copy of it to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other contracts that has been let, sole-sourced, is to 851791 NWT Limited. Itís to disassemble and transport a Bailey bridge to Whitehorse for some $9,450. Whatís this all about? What kind of initiative is this? Did we buy a Bailey bridge or lend one? It appears that weíre moving one from somewhere to the Yukon ó to Whitehorse.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Government of the Northwest Territories was getting rid of some of their Bailey bridges and we were able to acquire this for a fairly nominal sum, so we had to transport it over here.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if thereís a whole bunch of surplus bridges, could the minister entertain getting one long enough to cross the Yukon River at Dawson City, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít think the Member for Klondike would want a Bailey bridge across the river at Dawson. That would put an end to all traffic on the river.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is making a number of assumptions that are not quite correct.
One of the other contracts that tweaks my attention is one for the purchase from the City of Whitehorse of playground equipment ó Spruce Hill ó for some $31,400. Whatís that all about, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The city, I believe, now includes in their contracts for subdivision development a requirement for playgrounds to be developed as well. So, that was merely fulfilling that term of the contract. Playgrounds are also throughout Mary Lake and Cowley Creek, so the Spruce Hill one would be of a similar nature.
Mr. Jenkins: Do we actually have a formula now for subdivision development that the government utilizes ó the standard for roads, the size of lots, the park or greenbelt area that we set aside, water and sewer, and how much we recover? It used to be that the government recovered their development costs. Now it appears that they bring in an appraiser and kind of charge what the market will bear ó never mind the development costs. The development costs will be one thing, and what the market will bear will be another.
Could the minister outline, for my benefit, what the Government of Yukon is currently following? What methodology are they following for subdivision development?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iíll have to get back to the member on that because that is a complicated area. I will get back to him as soon as I can.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím sure there are standards for subdivision development. But what Iím most concerned about is how the price is established for the lots in that subdivision. If the minister will recall the last budget debate, the House was told by this minister that the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard wouldnít have an impact on the budget of the Government of Yukon, in that these additional costs were recoverable through the sale of lots.
So, obviously there has to be (a) an increase in the price of the lots that were on the market, or (b) the lots were priced at a level that was established by appraisal that was higher than the cost of development. So, there was some leeway in the pricing to absorb that additional cost for the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard. Just what is it? Just what procedure are we following, and how are we determining the cost of a lot in a subdivision? What does it consist of?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would suggest (c), that the price of the lots in that area already took into account the cost of twinning Hamilton Boulevard, as that project has been on the books for years and years since those subdivisions were developed. But I will attempt to get the mathematical breakdown for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I donít have Hansard before me, but last year there was a cost overrun on Hamilton Boulevard. The House was told by the minister that that additional cost that was incurred ó the additional cost of twinning Hamilton Boulevard ó was just going to be passed on in the sale of the lots in the subdivision. So, how was that done? Was there an actual increase in the pricing of the lots to reflect the additional cost overrun from the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard? Where were those costs absorbed? Or did they just fly into never-never land ó much like the Minister of Health and Social Services has the ability to do ó and just bury somewhere in his backyard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I believe that the $500,000 extra cost that the member refers to will be recovered through the development of new lots up there, which are not yet done. The price of the existing ones that are currently for sale will not suddenly take a hike.
Mr. Jenkins: Okay, so what the minister is saying is that the overrun cost of the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard will not be passed on to existing lot owners. It will be passed on to the next development stage. How are those additional costs kept track of in the department, Mr. Chair? Because they go from one budget cycle to the next, and then the next. Given the deplorable state of the Yukon economy that the Liberals have managed to create, maintain and further drive into the ground, it probably could be a decade before more lots are needed over and above existing inventories.
So, how is that $500,000 cost overrun on the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard tracked within the department, and how is it focused on, so that it becomes a component of the next subdivision development? Is there interest charged against it? How is it treated internally, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The financial people in the department are listening, and Iím sure theyíre already starting work on providing me with an explanation that I can give to the Member for Klondike that will fully respond to his question.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, itís obvious that the minister is not aware of this area of her portfolio, and itís a very critical one in land development. I was wondering if the government had in place any sort of a policy when a subdivision is developed. We anticipate so much cost for a road into that subdivision, and the cost is exceeded, but weíve already established the cost of the lots. Is there a policy in place and, if there is, could the minister share it with the House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: While there are cost overruns, sometimes there are also cost underruns. The member should be aware of that. And normally the various components of putting together a subdivision are identified as separate line items. So I can get him the information. Itís a complicated area, and I donít want to make an error in the House and have to correct myself later. I would rather just get the member the information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister alluded to the point that, while there are cost overruns, they sometimes come in underbudget, and I went through the last number of subdivisions created in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. Could the minister provide an example of one that came in underbudget in the last five years? Iím not aware of any. I could stand corrected.
Iím aware of quite a number of areas where theyíve come in overbudget. In fact, that appears to be more often the case, and it appears that what the government is currently doing is, after the subdivision is created, bringing in an appraiser to establish the value of the lot. It doesnít relate to what the development cost actually was.
So just how are we going about these initiatives, and how are we establishing prices, given that, in a large number of them, appraisers are hired after the fact? And you can go through the contract registry, and you can see where the appraisers are clearly identified and what work they undertook on behalf of the government, and itís usually to appraise the lots that have been developed for their value. I donít have any quarrel with that, but if thatís the policy of the government, could the minister clearly state it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iíll get the member the information he is requesting.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister saying she doesnít know whether the lots are sold at market value or development cost? Which is it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will get the member the information he is requesting.
Mr. Jenkins: That sounds like an admission by the minister that she doesnít know whether the lots are sold at market value or development cost, so weíll look forward to the minister having a thorough and complete briefing on these initiatives, Mr. Chair, and providing that information.
Will that be coming by way of legislative return, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member wishes it by way of legislative return, he can have it by way of legislative return.
Itís a complicated area, and basically we canít sell below the development cost. We sell at market cost, but if the market cost is below development cost, then we have to sell at development cost. As I say, itís a complicated area. I canít give him a five-word answer, and I will get it for him.
Mr. Jenkins: The correct answer, Mr. Chair, is that itís a combination of both of these areas.
Mr. Chair, letís look into some of these other areas. The new subdivisions just outside Dawson City ó whatís the uptake on them and when will they be available? There was quite a hesitation on the part of the government to put them on the market. Could the minister explain why? I know the city requested that they postpone sales once, but there appears to be a limited demand. When are they going to be on the market and, if they are, what has the uptake been?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are 25 country residential and 17 light industrial lots in the Callison area, and theyíll be ready for release after telecommunications issues have been resolved. Thatís been the holdup. We have reached an agreement with Northwestel on the installation of phone service, and that will be installed in the spring. Iím aware that some residents wanted the lots to be released earlier, but there was disagreement over whether they should be released with or without phone service. The decision was made to do it with phone service, so weíre finalizing that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, other than the phone service, these lots have been ready for about a year and a half. Has it taken a year and a half for the government to come to some arrangements with Northwestel for phone service?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the lots were completed some time last spring ó sorry, my department advises me that they were completed last spring. Perhaps some work was being done on them that the member wasnít aware of. The telephone issue was only agreed upon in principle last fall, and weíre still working out the kinks.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím given to understand that the order of magnitude for phone service for each one of these lots is some $6,000 per lot from our favourite telco, Northwestel. Is that what the government is ultimately paying to provide telephone service to these lots?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is an agreement with Northwestel that, for every lot in that area thatís sold within three years, they will absorb the cost of the telephones.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister tell the House what the cost is going to be after that three-year timeline is up? Because really what we have is that the cost of these lots includes the power distribution from Yukon Energy. The poles are existing and, basically, the agreement between Yukon Energy and Northwestel for pole attachments is currently in existence, and all Northwestel has to do is install an aerial around the subdivision, which is the least expensive form, other than probably a cell, for capital cost.
What is the problem, and why did it take so long? Because the lots were actually completed in the fall, not the spring. There might have been a few little piles of dirt to clean up, but they were surveyed in and completed in the fall the year before. Last spring, they could have been put on the market. All that summer they sat, and weíre talking about an 18-month window from the time these lots were completed.
What was the problem in coming to some arrangement with Northwestel on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It took until September to come to an agreement with Northwestel, that they would absorb the cost of the phone service for the first three years. I donít know ó if the member is asking why it took so long, I donít know why it took so long, but the fact is that it did take so long. Northwestel initially was not willing to pay any part of the cost, and the department persisted with its negotiations and we came to an agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: Doesnít that strike the minister as odd? What we have is a regulated utility with a monopoly, and they wonít provide telephone service unless itís on their own terms and conditions. Now, why does it take almost a year to come to some agreement with Northwestel on the provision of telco services, which they are rightly responsible for?
If you look at the other subdivisions, all of that negotiation as to who bears what cost ó if you look in Whitehorse where they are underground, itís a known, fixed cost and it is up front. If you are dealing with Yukon Electrical Company Limited or Yukon Energy Corporation, you just give them a set of the plans for the subdivision and tell them whether itís aerial or underground, the number of lots, expected number of service entrants and they will provide you with the capital costs and the governmentís contribution to the installation of the utility in that subdivision. Why does Northwestel stick out as being so difficult to come to some arrangement with and to get them to address their responsibility, which is to provide telco service? And itís more acute in rural Yukon than it is in the Whitehorse area. As soon as you get into the peripherals of Whitehorse, it becomes more and more acute. Itís not that there isnít existing telco service right beside this subdivision. In fact, it goes about 12 miles past it and you canít get the telco to move. What initiatives is the department taking to come to some arrangement with Northwestel to avoid this kind of delay? Because, really, you canít put a lot on the market today on the status that is envisioned here, without the provision of the basic utilities, which are electricity and telephone service.
Why does it take so long to deal with this company?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Questions about Northwestel, I think, should be properly addressed to Northwestel. But itís my understanding that these lots had been originally planned to be sold without telephone service. That wasnít acceptable to this government, and the cost as originally presented by Northwestel wasnít acceptable to this government, so we negotiated until we got a suitable agreement. It is not our intention to offer lots for sale in the future without phone service. So I think that problem will be resolved.
Mr. Jenkins: Will the minister kindly table a copy of the agreement with Northwestel on the provision of telephone service in this subdivision?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As soon as we have it, weíll provide it to the member, certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: So we donít even have it yet. Weíve been working on it for over a year and we donít have it. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will check with the department to see if the contract is in hand, and if it is in hand, I will provide it immediately to the member. If it isnít, Iíll provide it as soon as I have it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again Iím pleased to see the minister on top of these initiatives within her department and well-apprised of where they are at and where they are heading.
Letís move on a little bit, Mr. Chair. What is the current inventory of lots in the Government of Yukonís stable ó residential and industrial, country residential ó and the breakdown of the lots and the breakdown of the areas that they currently are located in?
Also, what kind of values are we holding in inventory currently, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had been certain that the Member for Klondike would be practising what he was preaching on Monday afternoon in his reply to the ministerial statement, when he talked about personal attacks. Itís apparently okay for him to make personal attacks. I think thatís a pity, Mr. Chair. Heís saying, "Do as I say, not as I do." Personal attacks have no place in this House.
The Yukon government ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Point of order ó there was no personal attack. I was making a statement of fact as to the minister and her understanding of this very important area of her portfolio. It becomes more and more clear that the minister is not aware of this area. The importance of it she is probably aware of, but Iím not making a personal attack. Iím just pointing out that the minister does have a very limited knowledge of this area.
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Point of order. I rest my case, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Give me one second, please.
Chair: First of all, we are here to debate the budget and the contents of the budget. Iíd prefer it if the debate stuck to the contents of the budget without making personal comments on the competency or perceived competency of officials.
While it isnít against the Standing Rules, it does reflect on the decorum that the Chair wishes to keep in the House.
I will use my discretion that this is not out of order, but in the future, I will be making points and calling people to order if I feel that we are getting too far away from the issues and too close to personal attack. But in this case, there is no Standing Order broken.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon government has 448 developed residential, mobile home, country rural residential, commercial and industrial lots available for sale in 11 communities.
In Beaver Creek, there are 10 residential lots available; in Carcross, there are five country residential lots available. Carmacks has 19 country residential, four commercial, four industrial and five residential. Destruction Bay has two country residential lots. Faro has 16 country residential and seven mobile home lots. Haines Junction has 25 residential, four residential mobile, six mobile home, seven industrial and two tourist commercial. Mayo has one residential and four industrial. Ross River has three industrial lots. Teslin has 39 residential and two commercial; Watson Lake has three residential, 15 residential mobile home, 16 country residential and 16 industrial.
Whitehorse has 74 residential, 65 residential mobile home ó the zoning allows for both single-family and mobile homes, nine specifically mobile homes, five multi-family and 15 country residential. In the Mendenhall subdivision, there are two rural residential lots available.
On Whitehorseís Range Road, 63 of the original 69 mobile home lots in the Mountainview Place subdivision are available through Yukon Housing. They are zoned specifically for mobile homes. I notice that Dawson isnít on this list. I suspect the computer may have skipped one.
We have planned development for 2001: continuing work with the City of Whitehorse on the Whitehorse Copper area; possible country residential and industrial lot development and 40 urban residential lots in stage 8 of the Copper Ridge subdivision. There are some anticipated lotteries this year, as well. In May, I expect that, in Dawson, there will be those 25 country residential, 17 light industrial and 27 urban residential in the north end of town, I believe.
For the interest of the member, between January 1 and February 9, three lots in Whitehorse were sold. From January 1 to December 31 of last year, 47 lots in Whitehorse and 23 lots in other communities were sold.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could the minister advise if the inventory is maintained on the books at development cost or sale price?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Theyíre on the books at the sale price, and Iím sorry that I donít have the total as of this date.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister could provide the actual amounts that the lots are on the books for, I would appreciate it. In fact, there are a couple of abnormalities that kind of stick out like sore thumbs. One of them is Mountainview, which was developed by Yukon Housing Corporation. Has that been transferred to Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, that is Yukon Housing Corporation. I was just noting the lots that were available throughout the territory: 385 are Community and Transportation Services, and 63 are Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: How is it determined who is going to be the developer of the lots ó whether it be Yukon Housing Corporation or Community and Transportation Services? Can the minister outline the process that is followed in the department and how these initiatives are moved forward, with respect to who the developer is and who assumes lead role?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In normal situations, Community and Transportation Services, as a rule, does the lot developments. The 63 lots in Mountainview Place were done by Yukon Housing Corporation, as authorized by the previous government. Iím not totally certain about the rationale for that, but the original plan was for a mobile home/condominium park. Again, that was the previous government ó not this government.
Mr. Jenkins: One would suspect that it was a political decision that moved it ahead under the auspices of the Yukon Housing Corporation. If the minister could kindly ascertain the reason for this initiative of the Mountainview development coming under Yukon Housing vis-à-vis C&TS, and why, Iíd certainly appreciate that information. Would the minister agree to provide that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iíll speak with the minister responsible for Yukon Housing and see if, between us, we can dig into the history for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there has to be some explanation for it because, historically, lot development has been an initiative of the Government of the Yukon, save and except on the rare occasion when the respective community has been involved in lot development.
One of the groups of lots that is strangely absent from the inventory the minister mentioned, Mr. Chair, is the north end lots developed by the City of Dawson. They werenít mentioned initially, and then they were subsequently mentioned as an add-on, as being for sale. Could the minister just confirm that they are in the inventory of the Government of the Yukon currently?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We expect, in approximately May, to have a lottery in Dawson for those 25 country residential, 17 light industry and 27 urban residential, which I believe are at the north end of Dawson.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just confirm that the north end lots are actually in the inventory of the Government of the Yukon and not the City of Dawson?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a number of other questions dealing with the contract registry. The minister has the contract registry in front of her. If she could turn to page 18, under security services, there is a contract for $3,500 for "cash pickup and delivery." Who are we acting as a bank for? I can understand this "monitoring alarms," but what are we picking up cash for? Or is the government just accepting cash and itís such a tremendous amount that they have to send a security company around to pick it up?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We do handle a lot of cash in the motor vehicles offices and I believe that is what the contract is for.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise what constitutes a lot of cash?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Department of Finance gives us advice on handling our cash. We follow their guidelines. They obviously feel that we have a need to contract for this. I note that the amount is for $3,500.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the $3,500 is the amount of the contract to the security company to run around and pick up the cash. In any of the rural areas, the liquor stores, which have the biggest amount of cash, donít employ security companies in rural Yukon. They also act as the territorial agents, who take in a pretty significant sum of cash. The bag of cash is usually just walked over to the local bank.
Given the order of magnitude here ó and we are specifically dealing with motor vehicles and a downturn in the amount of registrations ó I find it interesting that we would need a security company. I find it interesting that the Department of Finance would provide advice on security.
Just what is the case? Did Department of Finance tell Community and Transportation Services that they should provide security to have their cash picked up from the motor vehicles branch and take it over to the bank, or whatís happening here? Whoís advising whom, and why do we have to spend such a significant amount of money for ó I donít even know what the order of magnitude of the expense is. These are the small areas where, if the minister stayed on top of them, Mr. Chair, we would probably have a further $3,500 to spend somewhere else that could enhance benefits for a lot more Yukoners. But I have to point out that it does employ individuals from the private sector, so there is a positive component there.
But just how is it determined that a security firm is needed, and at what level is a security firm needed to handle the cash? Because I have an idea of the order of magnitude of expenditures in some of our rural liquor stores and some of the amounts of money spent on licensing all in the same establishment, and I have an idea of the amount of money that is taken to the banks on occasion. This would seem to be quite a paltry amount compared to some of these rural liquor stores that also act as territorial agents. Just where is the dividing line? Whatís the policy on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will seek information from the department on the Department of Finance guidelines. I note it would be about $15 a day for the cash pickup and delivery. Perhaps itís a matter of staff safety, but I will undertake to find out for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Thirty-five hundred dollars a year equates out to $15 a day. How does the minister come to that conclusion, given the number of working days that the government has, given the number of days that the licensing branch is open ó and I would be of the opinion that money isnít picked up on every day that the ó
Mr. Jenkins: Hello? Northwestelís working here, Mr. Chair. We canít get it to work just outside of Dawson. I guess Northwestel has now moved into Inuvik because of the tremendous economic activity, and put in a great big cell system up there. Itís appreciated. Itís probably Northwestel phoning with information for the Minister of C&TS on how they came to the arrangement on the extension of the phone service into the Callison subdivision.
Letís go back to the cash pickup and delivery. Where do we deliver cash to in C&TS?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will undertake to get the information for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: It looks like another legislative return that is so welcomed in the department, Mr. Chair. Iíll look forward to it. Could the minister just confirm that that will be the case?
I take it the minister is nodding her head in agreement, and I will be receiving another legislative return. The minister is going to be loved by the department, with this tremendous number of legislative returns.
One of the other contracts thatís let by C&TS is vehicle and licensing in Old Crow. Now, I donít know what the duration of it is. Itís a $1,200 contract thatís on page 20 of the contract registry. Given the initiative recently to license all the snow machines, three-wheelers and four-wheelers in Old Crow, why are we even pursuing licensing vehicles in Old Crow, Mr. Chair? Whatís the rationale behind it? Thereís really not enough road surface to consider. Why not just exempt Old Crow from licensing vehicles, and save them the cost?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I canít resist the opportunity ó we wouldnít want to have a two-tiered system of licensing in Old Crow, now would we?
Mr. Chair, considering the time, I suggest that we take a brief recess.
Chair: Considering the time is 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: The ayes have it. Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Continue with general debate, Community and Transportation Services.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have a couple of things. I did a quick check on the company that the Member for Klondike was mentioning ó did cash pickup and delivery. That company does it for several departments. And what happens with the Community and Transportation Services money is that itís delivered to Finance, but I donít think that on the floor of the Legislature, which is in effect the public, is the place to further discuss the details of cash handling by the government, because it is a sensitive issue. If the member requires more information, it can be had. I can get him a private briefing on it if he wishes.
As well, I have for filing the Whitehorse residential land demand analysis and forecast final report. The member had asked for that, and I have a copy for him.
Mr. Jenkins: I havenít had an opportunity to look at this forecast of land demand, but there has currently been a call for more country residential lots, and it could stimulate the economy. Now, Iím sure that the minister is completely versed and completely up to speed with the content of the report that she has just tabled. Is that covered at any length in Mr. Zanasiís report, and what does the report forecast for country lots for the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it is, and I believe it does. There is a great demand for country residential lots within the city. I know that the Yukon Real Estate Association was asking the city council the other night for country residential lots to be developed on Grey Mountain. But I would point out that, in that specific case, it is the responsibility of the municipality to determine where, within their boundaries, lots will be made available. But I thank the member for his interest.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. Itís more than just my interest. What weíre looking at are ways to stimulate the economy and to meet the demands of Yukoners. One only has to turn to page 2 of Mr. Zanasiís report, where it says that the overall survey results were that 50 percent of the people ó or the individuals he contacted ó wanted country and rural residential lots. That should say something. It was over 50 percent. Thatís over half. And the forecast as to how many lots people want, in the low scenario, is 100 new lots needed over the next five years, or 20 lots per year. Thatís even with a population decline.
Now, we know that, under this Yukon Liberal government, weíre going to see a population decline. Itís going to be heading downward. Mind you, there will be an inward migration of individuals who are employed in the Northwest Territories ó in the Inuvik region ó driving through the Yukon. So, there will be some advantages in the food, beverage, hospitality and fuel sales area, but thatís about it.
Given what the report of Mr. Zanasi outlines and given the position of a number of the members of the Yukon Real Estate Association on developing 60 to 100 country residential lots ó and even the suggestion that it could pump between $10 million and $12 million into the economy ó what is the minister prepared to do? Now that she has had an opportunity to fully analyze this report, which was provided to her on June 23, 2000, and with the current call from the Yukon Real Estate Association ó here we have a well-known right-winger and well-known left-winger saying virtually the same thing, Mr. Chair.
And thatís unusual in the Yukon, unless itís a reality.
So, what reaction is the minister going to take? What steps is the minister going to take in this regard, if any? Or are we going to take the usual Liberal position and do nothing, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member may not be aware that, within the Whitehorse boundaries, there are plans already for 200-plus country residential lots in the Mount Sima area. Those are in the planning stages, and we are working with the City of Whitehorse on them. The department will work with any municipality that requests us to develop lots within their boundaries, and we are doing that.
I do note with interest that many people prefer the country residential lifestyle. I sometimes wonder if thereís going to be anybody left living in the towns, but country is what we are all about, and itís nice to see people choosing a country lifestyle.
But, yes, we are working with the City of Whitehorse and with other municipalities to develop country residential lots in response to the demand.
Mr. Jenkins: If we all get into country residential lots, itíll be just further for the minister and me to walk to work than is currently the case, so I would caution her.
Mr. Chair, I was wondering if weíll see this initiative ó the development of country residential lots in the Whitehorse area ó come to fruition this year. Will they be on the market by the fall of this year? Will we be able to hit the construction season?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, there are 25 country residential lots in Dawson City that will go on sale this year, and we are working to bring others in other areas on line as quickly as possible. There are still, I believe, some unsold lots in the Spruce Hills subdivision of Whitehorse, and we are doing our best to meet the demand.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister didnít answer the question. Would the development of the country residential lots in this yearís budget cycle be on the market this fall and available for construction on them in this fallís construction season?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís unlikely that any new country residential lots will be ready for sale this fall in the Whitehorse area. There is some planning and engineering for some of them in the coming fiscal year, and construction and release would then proceed after that. In the Mount Sima Road area, preliminary concept design and engineering is being carried out this year, and we expect to release 10 to 20 lots per year, after this year.
Mr. Jenkins: The suggestion I heard from the Yukon Real Estate Association individual who attended the Whitehorse city council was an area closer to Whitehorse than Mount Sima. It was the Grey Mountain area. Is that being examined?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For clarification, the Mount Sima area is in the Whitehorse municipal boundaries. The idea of a development in the Grey Mountain area isnít new. It has been suggested before, but it requires the City of Whitehorse to come to the department and say that they want us to develop lots in that area. They have not yet done so, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Just to set the record straight, Mr. Chair, I said that the area that is being envisioned for development is closer to the Whitehorse area than Mount Sima. My intentions were that the Grey Mountain area was in closer proximity to the core Whitehorse area than Mount Sima. Thatís what I was getting at, and I believe what individuals were looking at are country residential lots in the closest proximity to the core of Whitehorse as possible. Thatís what the market appears to be receptive to.
Iíd just like to ask the minister what initiatives her department will be taking in this regard, because everything appears to be carry-over from the previous NDP government and their initiatives. What new initiatives are going to arise from this Liberal government with respect to land development and country residential development, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, in the Whitehorse periphery, there is planning going on in several areas, but as for Grey Mountain, the City of Whitehorse has to indicate to us that theyíre prepared to revise their official community plan and that they would be interested in lots in that area. Weíre prepared to work with the City of Whitehorse if that is indeed their desire.
Mr. Jenkins: So what the minister is saying, in a roundabout way, Mr. Chair, is that there are no new initiatives being developed and underway by this Liberal government. We are just carrying forward on the initiatives that were developed under the previous NDP government once again. Thatís the case. We are examining other options, but there are no new developments underway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, the member is right in some ways, but it wouldnít have been fair to anybody to simply stop the planning that was underway in the various areas and go do something else. A lot of that planning is quite reasonable and should be permitted to continue. We also donít have an excess of funds in this department, and the highways are calling for more funding if available.
The planning for the periphery of Whitehorse is continuing. And, as the member knows, for other country residential development within municipalities, it is up to the municipalities to approach us to do the lot development.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister still hasnít answered the question. There are no new developments or initiatives to bring forward lots in this fiscal cycle under this Liberal government? All that we are seeing is a carry-forward of the initiatives that were developed under the previous NDP government. If that was the case, fine. Just, for the record, state that that is the case. I am not looking for a whole bunch of rhetoric; I am just looking for a direct answer to a direct question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it takes three years to do land development. Itís not something that we could have conceived, engineered, laid out, constructed and sold within a 10-month period. It just doesnít happen.
The City of Whitehorse has been talking with the department on planning issues related to the development of the Porter Creek lower bench, and I believe that was an area that was in our platform. Thatís an area of interest due to the 1994 official community plan review in Whitehorse and due to public requests for developments there as well, but there is a three-year process to go through on that, Mr. Chair, as there is on any other land development.
So, in this fiscal cycle, there will be no lots sold that were conceived of by the Liberal government. Itís simply not possible to accomplish that in 10 months, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I can appreciate that, given that it takes the minister about 18 months to negotiate for telephone service in a subdivision in Dawson City, Mr. Chair, so I can accept that it would take her a considerable length of time to develop a new initiative. But three years from start to sale, well, I guess it could be. Thereís no need for it to be that long, especially given the hesitancy at times of putting lots on the market. The bottom line is that there are no new initiatives coming to fruition in this budget cycle under this Liberal government. All weíre seeing is a carry-forward of the examination of options that were in place previously.
Thatís kind of sad, especially given that the only area where there appears to be a significant demand for lots is for country residential lots in the Whitehorse periphery. I would hope that the minister might change strides and direct that some emphasis be placed on this, and probably lead by example. Instead of waiting for the City of Whitehorse to come to YTG, go the other way and see what we can do.
This study, commissioned by Community and Transportation Services ó the Whitehorse residential land demand analysis and forecast provided to this government on June 23, 2000 ó clearly indicates what kinds of lots people want. The overall survey results were that 56 percent wanted country and rural residential lots, 25 percent wanted urban-serviced land, 13 percent expressed interest in recreational land, and six percent wanted agricultural or other types of land.
Itís interesting, in that the demand for city lots has just dried up, and thatís the only area where we have a tremendous inventory and weíre still working on it. Maybe itís time to change gears and refocus, Mr. Chair. I would urge the minister to pursue that approach.
The other area where weíve seen a tremendous amount spent on land development and land acquisition is the Whitehorse waterfront. Just where are we at with the ó I guess we call it the "squatter relocation program"? How much has been spent to date? How much more will be spent? And can the minister advise the House what the final disposition of that land that is so assembled will be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would point out that we have reduced land development in the urban area, in response to the reduced demand, and we are prepared to reduce that further, if necessary.
Shifting to the Whitehorse waterfront, there were 17 cases of waterfront residents. The Yukon government has concluded agreements with 13 individuals. There are two sites where active discussions are still going on with the owners. One site is being handled by the executor of the estate on behalf of the deceased building owner.
The other site, the fourth site, involves long-term residents whose improvements were previously secured through a Taían Kwachían land selection. And a recent agreement with the Taían Kwachían to terminate this selection, in exchange for another location, now permits the occupants to be eligible for compensation. Absentee owners have rejected offers in two cases, and a legal action has commenced. About 50 structures, including 27 dwellings, sheds, et cetera, have been removed.
The City of Whitehorse has designated one building site and is maybe recommending three other sites for heritage designation. Itís up to the city to determine whether the buildings stay where they are, and it is responsible for negotiating terms for consideration of the heritage value of the structures with the owners. The total project budget, through the end of this current fiscal year, is $1,081,622.
Mr. Jenkins: Thatís what we have spent to date, to the end of this year ó $1.8 million. What do we anticipate spending in total?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That was the budget to handle all of the cases. We havenít spent it yet because several cases are still not concluded. I donít anticipate that weíll be going overbudget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when this initiative was first introduced into this House, $200,000 was earmarked for this initiative. To date ó I guess, at the end of this budget cycle, weíll be going from $200,000 to $1,802,200. In itself, $1.8 million is a significant sum, Mr. Chair. So, we must have some kind of an understanding about what weíre going to do after we have assembled this land. What is that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I suspect the member misheard me, or I wasnít clear in saying the total budget over the three fiscal years has been $1,081,000 ó not $1.8 million but $1.08 million. We are working with the city on the future disposition of this land, which is primarily public waterfront.
Chair: Ms. Buckway.
Mr. Jenkins: Weíve spent just over a million dollars ó thank you, Mr. Chair. We all do err in our ways from time to time, Mr. Chair. ó just over one million dollars on this initiative. Thatís about an 800- or 900-percent increase in the amount that was originally brought forward in this House, Mr. Chair. Other than waterfront lands, what is envisioned for this area thatís being assembled and cleared of the majority of its structures, and when will we see a plan of that initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have specifically not met with the new mayor and council to discuss the Whitehorse waterfront; however, the city has been involved in waterfront planning for some time. I would also point out that, although the land is held by C&TS, once deals have been reached in these cases, itís Government Services that does the upgrading and beautification of the land. I look forward to a meeting with the mayor and council, along with some of my officials, to talk about the waterfront.
Mr. Jenkins: So we have the Whitehorse OCP controlling that area; we have the Whitehorse zoning controlling that area and we have the Government of the Yukon removing the current residents of that area and buying out the land thatís just over $1 million, within $1,081,022. There has to be some sort of an understanding between the Government of the Yukon and the City of Whitehorse on who does what. Now, YTG is putting up all the money so far, it would appear. Now, could the minister apprise the House if there is indeed an understanding between the City of Whitehorse and YTG on this initiative, or just how did it come to pass? Now, I know it started under the previous NDP government, but it is a tremendous increase over the amount that was originally introduced into this Legislature for the acquisition of the properties there. Just what kind of an agreement is in place with the city and what will be the intended use of that land, other than park area, after the Government of Yukon has regained control over all of that area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, as this is land that is held by the Yukon government, we had to clean it up in order to permit the cityís waterfront development plans to proceed. As the member correctly indicates, it was the previous government that had gone ahead with this. The City of Whitehorse has been going through a fairly lengthy planning process. There have been various options presented for how the waterfront will be developed. Iím sure the Member for Klondike has seen these. As Iíve said, I look forward to meeting with the mayor and council in the not-too-distant future to discuss the Whitehorse waterfront.
Mr. Jenkins: Is any of this land going to be used for First Nation land claims settlement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That would be a question for the Premier, with her responsibility for land claims.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the land claims and land selection maps for Whitehorse and Whitehorse periphery are, I would say, reasonably common knowledge. And I am sure that the government of the day has had an opportunity to look at the current land selections. Has any of this land been earmarked for land selections that the minister is aware of? I could further direct the question to the Premier in her capacity of minister responsible for land claims. I am not here to negotiate land claims on the floor of the House, but the land is in the domain of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Community and Transportation Services has advanced over a million dollars to clear the land of the squatters and the buildings. Obviously there has to be a purpose at the end of the road. There has to be some understanding of why we did this. Now, if it is to provide some land for the land claims selection process, so be it. Can the minister advise the House if she is aware if any of this land is going to be used to settle the land claims in the Whitehorse area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike knows perfectly well that I cannot, and will not, answer any questions relating to land claims. Those need to be addressed to the Premier as the minister responsible for the land claims process.
Mr. Jenkins: Weíll find that the Premier is probably not as well briefed as the Minister of C&TS, who appears to have little understanding of why the government would be spending a million dollars on acquiring and assembling this land. Thatís a significant sum of money in itself, Mr. Chair, and it would lead one to believe that the minister hasnít been fully briefed on the focus and direction that the department is taking.
Could the minister advise the House who currently holds title to the land in question? How is it titled?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The land in question is under the responsibility of the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I can undertake to get him details of specifically how the land is titled. I suspect some of it is in the waterfront reserve but, as I donít have the maps in front of me, I canít give him a full and complete answer at this point and Iím not going anywhere near anything that touches on land claims.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister advise the House if thereís the normal setback from the river along the Whitehorse waterfront?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There generally is a 100-foot reserve on waterfront lands. As I donít have the maps in front of me, it may not be the case throughout the whole of the area.
As I know the member never asks a question he doesnít know the answer to, Iím questioning the point of this.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the point of it is that part of the land is in the 30-metre setback from the river that is federal land. Intruding into that 30-metre setback are a number of dwellings that the Government of Yukon is acquiring through this acquisition process. Itís my understanding that the Government of Yukon is acquiring, I believe, one property that extends into the setback area, and it hasnít been clearly defined. But Iím advised that it is.
What right does the Government of Yukon have to acquire squattersí areas, or remove squatters from an area, that they do not have care and control of? That area is federal land and federal reserve land, if we are talking about the 30-metre setback.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Working on the waterfront resident relocation, we have taken legal advice on this. The Member for Klondike believes that some of the land may cross the setback. Iím not aware of whether or not that is the case, as I do not have the maps in front of me at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iím not looking for an easy way out for the minister. Iím looking for an answer. You donít really need the maps in front of you. Obviously, legal advice has been sought and obtained by the department on this issue. Iím not going to ask for the legal advice. One only has to go and walk the area and one will see that there are a couple of structures that extend into the 30-metre setback from the historical high-water mark on the riverbank.
I was just wanting the minister to make the House aware of what right the Government of the Yukon has to go into that area that is federal Crown land, require the squatters in that area to move, and acquire their structures.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As this is a complicated area, I will get the member a written answer to that.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess we could go another way. Could the minister confirm that there are no dwelling units or structures within the 30-metre setback of Crown land along the river? Can the minister confirm that there are no structures being acquired within that 30-metre right-of-way owned by the federal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Two minutes ago, the Member for Klondike was suggesting that they are, so Iím going to have to review the facts of the matter and verify if what he is suggesting is, indeed, the case. I will get back to him.
Mr. Jenkins: This will be by way of a legislative return, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the Member for Klondike prefers the information to be in the form of a legislative return, it will be.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that, and Iíll look forward to receiving yet another legislative return.
While weíre on the topic of legislative returns, I know some of them require a great deal of research and initiative on the part of the department, and this side really appreciates the efforts that they make, Mr. Chair. But I must point out that, in a number of cases, the legislative returns are received quite late, and Iím still receiving legislative returns from the last session, from some of the other ministers in their respective portfolios. I would appreciate an undertaking from the minister to provide these legislative returns within the next 30 days, Mr. Chair. Letís give the window of opportunity there, and I would envision 30 days to be a reasonable amount of time. Could the minister undertake to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will try to do that. I will point out to the member that a legislative return is a more formal document than a mere written response and, as such, may take a little longer to prepare. So, if he wants an answer in a hurry, a legislative return is probably not the way to get it. But, for my department, I will undertake to provide legislative returns within 30 days, and I hope that it will be possible.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister, Mr. Chair.
One of the other areas that we are examining concerns vehicles and licensing. We look at Old Crow, and we look at the frustration they have recently experienced, having to license virtually all of their snow machines and three-wheelers, which are not licensed in any other jurisdiction in North America, and four-wheelers. Just having to obtain a bill of sale, get insurance and everything else, wouldnít it be prudent to consider an exemption? Wouldnít it be prudent to consider an exemption from the licensing of these units? I mean, if you look at the Northwest Territories and rural Alaska, in many cases they have exempted them. Now, whatís the rationale, given the tremendous length of roadway controlled by the Government of Yukon in Old Crow for insisting that snow machines and three- and four-wheelers be licensed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member asked that same question in December, and the department is almost finished on his response ó just about. So, rather than trying to give him half an answer now, Iíd prefer to wait until the department has completed the answer. He asks a great many questions, which keep the department very busy.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in the normal course of business, Mr. Chair, in this House, the minister responsible for that department is well-versed and has a complete understanding of the department, and thatís her obligation to the Legislature and thatís her role as minister. I can only conclude that the minister is not up to speed with a lot of the initiatives within the department, and we wouldnít have the need for this many legislative returns or this many written responses ó some stemming back to December and November that I have yet to receive on these initiatives. So the question comes again.
So Iím asking virtually the same question in another session. I still havenít had an answer from a question in the previous sitting of this Legislature, in spite of assurances from the minister responsible that I would, and I donít know what we in opposition can do. Itís our responsibility to hold the government accountable, and answering questions is their role. I guess theyíre hoping that, by not answering, it will get lost in the hopper, but I do keep a little diary of those questions that are supposed to have a written response or a legislative return, and I do tick them off when I receive them. So we do have a tracking method within our caucus that looks at these things. Iím just disappointed that it could take so long for the minister to respond.
If we look down the contract registry further, to page 23 in Community and Transportation Services, I note that the Government of Yukon, the Department of Community and Transportation Services, rented a motor home. I see there was a total contract value of some $7,000, of which some $4,500 was spent. Was this for the minister to travel around the Yukon to gain an understanding of the conditions of the roads and the various and sundry installations she has care and control of? I would be curious as to why the department would rent a motor home. My only conclusion is, given the tremendous increase in cost in the Executive Council Office area and the overbudget situation that they currently face with travel both inside the Yukon and outside the Yukon ó an amount approaching some $60,000 on Executive Council Office travel ó that the minister is kind of sloughing off some of the other costs associated with her travel. I know she doesnít need to rent a motor home to travel from her residence to the Legislature; itís just too close in proximity.
Could the minister advise the House just why this motor home was rented?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Earlier this afternoon, the Chair had asked members to refrain from making personal attacks, and the Member for Klondike is doing that again. The motor-home rental was April 28 through June 30 of last year, and it was for the mobile weigh-scale crew on the Top of the World Highway during the period of weight restrictions, when there was a problem with overweight vehicles on the road. As there are no accommodations on that section of the road, they were provided for the enforcement officer.
As for vehicle licensing in Old Crow, the short answer to the memberís question is, to avoid having a two-tiered system of vehicle licensing. He rails against two-tiered systems in every other area but seems to be advocating for one in this case.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís go back to this Old Crow situation. There are some occasions when a two-tiered system is beneficial. The only area where they are blatantly inappropriate is when it has to do with the Minister of Education and his two- and three-tiered system of providing education here in the Yukon ó one system for rural Yukon, one system for Whitehorse, and another system that is probably the most prestigious system of all, the Catholic system. Thatís the case. I am sure that, given the number of e-mails that I have received from constituents pointing out the disparity between the education system provided by the Minister of Education, itís an axiom; itís a self-evident fact, Mr. Chair.
Then they have the Minister of Health and Social Services, who has more two-tiered delivery of health care in the Yukon than any other department. In fact, the Minister of Health, virtually preaching from his bully pulpit, is probably on a collision course with disaster in the health care system, given the costs that we are incurring in delivering this health care and the lack of end results, Mr. Chair.
So, it makes an abundant amount of sense to look at an isolated community like Old Crow and to give some consideration with respect to the licensing of vehicles. It makes an abundant amount of sense. The minister only has to look at the Northwest Territories and, if she wants to, she can look at Alaska because sheís familiar with the various situations in rural Alaska. The snow machine is a tool. Itís not just a motorized sled that you go tootling off in the wilds with. Itís a tool, similar to a gun. But the Liberals have failed to recognize on the federal level that a gun is a tool, so theyíre virtually controlling all of that area, Mr. Chair.
Just to give you an example of the kind of costs weíre incurring with respect to Old Crow, Mr. Chair, that are virtually needless, you only have to look at the fuel side of the equation. There is a ban on using fuel that has any sulphur content in it for on-highway vehicles. And given the tremendous amount of highway in Old Crow, the Government of the Yukon takes it upon itself to fly in another 50,000 litres of non-sulphur fuel to be used on the roads only by the government equipment on roads in Old Crow. That makes a lot of sense.
All northern communities in the Northwest Territories are exempt from that requirement. They went to the federal government to obtain that exemption, as did Alaska. So you only need one fuel tank, and you bring in one source of fuel, and itís used for diesel generation, itís used for heating, itís used for all of the other areas. But no, here in the Yukon, we take it upon ourselves to incur additional costs that are needless, given the 50,000 litres a year that may or may not be burned by vehicles on highways in Old Crow.
Is the minister aware of just how many kilometres of road there are in Old Crow? Can the minister advise the House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I didnít have my pedometer the last time I was in Old Crow and walked around, so Iím not sure exactly how many kilometres there are, but I know itís not very many. I gather that this came in about two years ago and was a federal rule, and that the previous government had made a conscious decision not to ask for an exemption. Thatís my understanding.
Mr. Chair, a general comment here: the ministerís role is to bring the publicís interest to bear on departmental decisions. Itís not the ministerís role to know every minute detail of the department. Just because the Member for Klondike likes to prove that he has a long history of dealing with community issues ó and he does ó doesnít mean minute knowledge necessarily adds value to the process.
I have expert departmental employees to give me the information I need to make decisions. I donít need to be an encyclopaedia of minutia for the Member for Klondike to fulfill my role as a minister.
Some of the questions that he asks ó even my deputy minister, who has been around for many years, doesnít know the answers to some of these questions. He, like me, relies on the departmental employees.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess we have another minister preaching to the House. The issue is that ministers are responsible for their departments. The buck stops at the ministerís desk. Most of these areas that Iím exploring with the minister are areas of great concern in the respective communities. That I am made aware of them would clearly indicate ó and I donít spend a significant amount of time in Old Crow. In fact, the minister has been there more frequently than I have in the last while. The plane lands there on its way to Fairbanks, so thatís how frequently I have been there in the last little while. I have a number of friends who reside in Old Crow and, when you ask what the issues are, they are quite free in telling you about the issues. All one does is to dovetail it back to the actual costs of running a government and what goes into Old Crow.
This brings me to my next question: what colour is the bus thatís going into Old Crow, and when is it going to be delivered?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít know what colour the Vuntut Gwitchin chief chose for the vehicle.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is confirming that there is a bus slated to be delivered to Old Crow. I believe it is a 20-odd passenger community bus that could be utilized for all undertakings.
It is interesting how the department has gone 180 degrees around the loop on this initiative and how the Liberal government said, when they came to power, that they were going to be adopting the NDP budget in its entirety.
One concludes that the expenditures that were indicated in the NDP budget would be honoured and continued under the new Liberal government, but the Liberals chose not to develop their own budget and instead operate on warrants for a short period of time. It was completely their decision. It was completely their political decision.
So, the budget that was tabled clearly indicated a number of initiatives, and one of those initiatives was a community bus for Old Crow. We spent hours and hours debating in this Legislature about whether it was warranted or not. The issue is not whether or not itís warranted; the issue before us is that this government stated and ran on a platform that they would be tabling the NDP budget, and they would be moving it ahead in its entirety.
So, I compliment the minister in seeing the error of her ways in rescinding the purchase of this bus and now reinstating it. But I was curious if all of the arrangements have been made. If the minister, when she next stands on her feet, could just let the House know when the bus will be purchased and delivered to Old Crow ó Mr. Chair, the colour is immaterial, unless, of course, itís a school bus, when it has a special designation. But this isnít a school bus. Itís a community bus.
Mr. Chair, the other issue surrounding Old Crow ó and I spoke about it earlier ó is the issue surrounding the fuel and the sulphur content of it.
Now, thereís only one type of fuel that comes out of the North Pole refinery in the wintertime. Itís between a P50 and a P60. Itís closer to a P60 that can be used by the aviation industry, for power generation, for heating and for highway vehicles. Itís utilized all over Alaska for that purpose, but when it comes to on-highway use in Canada, we have to use a sulphur-free fuel.
Now, the only exception to that is when you seek an exemption from the Government of Canada on its use. Northern Quebec has sought and obtained that exemption. Iím not sure about Nunavut, but I know the Northwest Territories obtained that exemption.
One of the strongest environmental rules in the United States is with respect to sulphur content in fuel, and Alaska obtained an exemption from that requirement. I can table the documentation for the minister on that exemption that Alaska obtained from the EPA. Itís close to about five inches thick, because I personally was extremely curious as to how they had gone about it, and I inquired, and that information was provided to me, Mr. Chair.
But here we have a situation where the government would choose to spend an inordinate amount of money flying in 50,000 litres of sulphur-free fuel for its use on the roadways in Old Crow when an exemption could be obtained and a considerable cost-saving could be obtained, given that you have to store it in separate fuel tanks from the existing and given that, if you had previously been using a sulphur-content fuel, itís virtually impossible to get it out of the vehicleís system. So, I donít know what benefits we have at the end of the day, other than government incurring more costs, Mr. Chair.
Itís a political situation and itís a political decision as to whether to proceed or not proceed in obtaining an exemption for the use of sulphur-free fuel. Virtually everyone here in the Yukon who utilizes fuel for heating purposes or for power generation is burning a fuel that has a sulphur component. Itís just on-highway vehicles that have extremely low levels of sulphur, but all your off-highway equipment, all your power generation and all your heating, Mr. Chair ó those are the biggest users of fuel here in the Yukon.
Where are we at at the end of the day? We have just incurred a considerable degree of expense for this exercise in, I guess, political correctness with respect to addressing the environmental concerns. There are some times when it makes a great deal of sense. There are other times when it does not. It would make more sense to eliminate sulphur in heating oil than it would to move 50,000 litres of sulphur-free oil to Old Crow to be utilized solely in government equipment that operates on the roadways.
Thatís another political decision that costs money.
Why? Given the decision of other jurisdictions to seek an exemption from Canada and obtain an exemption from Canada, itís ironic that the Yukon would head off on the course that it is taking.
But, Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, we have to look at what weíve accomplished. Now, the issue before us of flying 50,000 litres of fuel into Old Crow is a costly one. It doesnít make any sense economically; it doesnít make any sense as to how much pollution we would actually reduce here in Yukon. There are other ways, many more significant ways, of reducing pollution levels here in the Yukon, rather than insisting that 50,000 litres of fuel be flown into Old Crow for use in highway vehicles.
If you were burning sulphur-free fuel in your power plant, and for heating oil, it would make a lot more sense. At the same time that the 50,000 litres of fuel is going into Old Crow on a special containerized shipment, fuel with sulphur in significantly greater volumes is being moved to that community to be used by Yukon Electrical Company Limited in the power plant. It is to be used for heating everything from the new school, which is a wonderful asset to that community, to the RCMP detachment, to all of the facilities that are currently heated by oil in Old Crow.
And when you look at the ratio in proportion as to how much fuel is being utilized on highways and how much fuel is being utilized for heating power generation, the comparison just doesnít relate to reality as to why we would proceed.
I would urge the minister to consider an exemption for the community of Old Crow. Yes, itís a double standard, but it is cost effective. And for the amount of pollution that is created, we are not looking at a significant reduction.
Now, if the minister wanted to proceed the other way and say heating oil and diesel fuel for power generation has to be sulphur-free, hey, thatís a different issue. But the minister would be best to reject the costs and consult with the authority having jurisdiction over this area, because we are looking at a horrible increase in fuel costs. And we are looking at sole-sourcing to other areas ó other refineries ó other than the numbers that we currently access. The Yukon could be self-sufficient with respect to fossil fuels and natural gas. Why we arenít today, I do not know.
We could also utilize hydroelectric energy to a greater degree than we currently have. Why we havenít, I donít know. It appears that the environmentalists are ruling the day, and all that we currently are going to become are keepers of the gates of this great big park, from Yellowstone to Yukon. The Minister of Renewable Resources, in his zeal to see the Yukon protected areas strategy come to fruition ó weíre going to see a whole series of additional parks created. I wonder if itís going to be a requirement that the fuel consumed in any of the vehicles that may or may not be allowed in or around those areas be sulphur-free. I donít know, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there is a whole series of areas where we can address the environmental concerns and be rational in our approach to the expenditure of government money and enhance the quality of living, instead of adding more red tape to what the government has responsibility for.
Now, Iím seeking some assurances from the minister that she will examine the sulphur exemptions that the Northwest Territories and northern Quebec have from Canada. Again, itís going to take a political decision in this area, Mr. Chair, but the cost savings are significant. They only need one fuel tank to supply fuel instead of two, which are usually cross-contaminated anyway.
Mr. Chair, on the issue of licensing of snow machines, and three-wheelers ó three-wheelers that canít be licensed anywhere else in Canada ó and of course four-wheelers, the real need to license those units defies anyone. To a large extent, they are a very viable tool that has enhanced the lifestyle of many members of our First Nations communities. We should look seriously at providing some sort of exemption to the requirement for licensing.
It only makes sense, Mr. Chair.
Well, Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.