Tuesday, March 27, 2001 - 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 Trena Irving
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Legislature to pay tribute to Trena Irving, a Yukon woman who was selected by the Aboriginal Sport Circle to receive the prestigious national female Aboriginal Coaching Award. This is the first time that a Yukon aboriginal coach has been awarded this honour. Trena travelled to Toronto to attend the Canadian Sport Awards last week, where she received her award along with Canada's other top national sport award winners.
Trena is well-known to Yukoners for her involvement in the sport of weightlifting. Highlights of her 12-year career include participating on the Canadian national weightlifting team at the North American championships in Central America and bringing home three bronze medals and earning three silver medals at the 1991 Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island.
After many successful years of performing as a top Yukon athlete, Trena saw it as her responsibility to give back to a sport that had given so much to her development, not only as an athlete but also as a person. Trena also continues to give back to her community in her role as a teacher at the Tantalus School in Carmacks, where she started a local weightlifting club.
The Yukon Weightlifting Association, the Tantalus School and the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation nominated Trena for this award. As an aboriginal coach, Trena is a role model to her community and students. She is making a difference and showing what hard work can achieve.
We're very proud of Trena, and we extend our congratulations to her for this award.
Mr. Fairclough: On behalf of the official opposition, I would like to pay tribute to Trena Irving for her accomplishments.
The community of Carmacks is very fortunate to have Trena teaching and coaching their students. Having won an award of this magnitude certainly has raised many eyebrows and much interest of Yukoners and of many people in the community of Carmacks.
Trena won medals in many events such as the Canada Winter Games and the Western Canada Summer Games and many other events. An injury has prevented her from competing, but she is still dedicated to the sport and has focused her efforts in coaching students in weightlifting. The results are improved relationships with her students, a very active weightlifting club in Carmacks and pride in the community. The spinoff was winning a coaching award for the national aboriginal coach in Canada. She is the first Yukoner to receive this honour and we are all proud of her.
There is a weightlifting competition coming up in Carmacks on April 1, which is Yukon-wide and she has also booked a trip to Vancouver in June with her students for a weightlifting competition. And in February, Trena took three students to Winnipeg to compete there and they all did very well. I believe that it is only fitting that this House pay tribute to Trena for her commitment to the sport of weightlifting and her accomplishments. Keep up the good work and good luck.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return. On March 12, 2001, the leader of the official opposition asked an oral question regarding the development assessment process, in Hansard, page 1259.
I have a second legislative return, Mr. Speaker. On March 8, 2001, Hansard, page 1245. On March 12, 2001, Hansard page 1258, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked oral questions to the Acting Premier respecting the land claims process, and I have a legislative return in that regard.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have for tabling the Yukon government review panel submission to the Canada Transportation Act statutory review, which was here yesterday.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 41: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 41, entitled An Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 41, entitled An Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 41 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that foot-and-mouth disease poses a very serious threat to Yukon livestock, game farms and wildlife;
THAT the danger of foot-and-mouth disease spreading from Europe to Yukon is increased by having direct international flights from Europe landing in Whitehorse for the summer tourism season; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon to implement safety measures at the Whitehorse International Airport and at other ports of entry to Yukon to protect Yukon livestock, game farms and wildlife against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. By now, everyone in the Yukon has probably heard the news report about the status of the Member for Whitehorse Centre. For the record, will the Premier advise the House about the member's status? Is he or is he not a member of the government caucus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre is a member that sits on this side of the House. He is a member of the government caucus. And, Mr. Speaker, this is an internal caucus matter. I don't discuss what goes on in our caucus on the floor of this Legislature, just as I don't discuss - and would not expect to discuss - what goes on in the NDP caucus on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: We certainly don't want to interfere with the internal workings of the Premier's caucus. However, there are some important questions on public policy at issue. For example, the member's ongoing status on legislative committees, how long he will be paid extra for chairing Committee of the Whole, and how long he will remain on government backbenches.
My follow-up question is about the kind of representation the people of Whitehorse Centre can expect while their MLA is in the doghouse. Is the Premier taking any steps to ensure that the people of Whitehorse Centre will have an avenue for getting their concerns brought to the attention of the government caucus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, again, for the member opposite, this is an internal caucus matter, and I do not discuss what goes on in our caucus on the floor of this Legislature any more than I discuss what goes on in the internal leadership battle in the NDP between the Member for Kluane and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun on the floor of this Legislature.
In direct response to the member opposite, the Member for Whitehorse Centre is and will continue to be an excellent representative for his constituents.
Mr. Fairclough: This Liberal Party campaigned on being open and accountable, and we're talking about public policy. We are concerned about the Member for Whitehorse Centre's constituents. During the member's little confession on the radio this morning, he admitted that he had tried to go around the rules regarding the liquor licence suspensions. He didn't mention that he also wanted the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments to review the regulations regarding sole-source spending. Can the Premier tell the House if the member had a problem with one specific contract, or was he upset in general about how this Liberal government awards sole-source contracts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre is and will continue to be an excellent representative for his constituents. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has done what every single member on this side does: raise issues forward to the government that are raised to us by our constituents, by people we meet on the street, by the member opposite's own constituents. That is what we do. We are here to provide good government for the people of the Yukon, and that is what we are doing.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation on the same matter. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has admitted that he tried to get the minister to interfere with a liquor licence suspension on behalf of his constituent. The president of the Liquor Corporation told the media yesterday that the member's problem concerned a licence suspension involving exotic dancers. Now, this issue has landed squarely in the lap of the minister.
Can the minister explain how the corporation's president would even be aware that this particular suspension was on the mind of the MLA for Whitehorse Centre?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is trying to suggest that there has been some form of political interference. There has not and there will not be political interference on this side of the House. This Liberal government believes that political interference is wrong, unlike the members opposite, who a few days ago admitted on the floor of this Legislature that they have politically interfered with the community development fund on a regular basis, and they thought that was okay. This government does not believe in political interference, nor do we practise it.
Mr. Fentie: I'll ignore the rhetoric from the Premier and ask the minister responsible the Liquor Corporation a follow-up question on this same matter. On the radio this morning, the Member for Whitehorse Centre described himself as a rogue MLA. We on this side of the House make no judgement, Mr. Speaker. We can also understand, though, why this minister may be reluctant to go to bat for this meddling MLA one more time. However, these are serious questions that the public needs answers to.
Can the minister tell the House categorically yes or no: did the Member for Whitehorse Centre have any direct contact with the Liquor Corporation officials on this matter, either before or after he asked the minister to intervene. Can the minister answer that. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has done exactly what he said they don't do. He has sat in judgement of a member. The fact is that there has been no political interference. I have stated that for the member opposite and that's what the member is fishing for. Again, the member opposite calls it "rhetoric", and I refer to it as "the facts of the matter", unlike the NDP, which clearly - clearly - interfered in the CDF. I point to the audit report. There was political involvement with some projects beyond that which was required by the makeup of the CDF board. This activity placed the managers of the program in the awkward position of being directed to violate the program terms of reference. That's political interference and that is not what we do on this side of the House.
Mr. Fentie: It's obvious the Premier is extremely sensitive about this issue by trying to mask it in accusing this side opposite and implying that we politically interfered with something. Not the case.
Mr. Speaker, this issue has sprung up while the Liquor Act was under review. It is probably fair to assume that regulations and how they are enforced is a significant part of that review.
My question again is for the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation. How can the minister expect to convince her caucus colleagues about future amendments to the act and the regulations when a simple licence suspension is tearing her caucus apart? Can she answer that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's fair to assume - and the member's rhetoric leapt out at me, Mr. Speaker - that this government is open and accountable, as we have said we would be. It's fair to assume that this government does not practice political interference. It's fair to assume that this government will tackle the tough issues that the NDP refused to do, like the Education Act, like the Wildlife Act, like the Liquor Act, like the sorry state of the Yukon economy. That's what this government does. We provide good government to the people of the Yukon. We are open and we are accountable and, yes, we have full belief and support in one another as a caucus and as a team, providing government to the people of Yukon, and we're glad to do it.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation, presidents
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like they want to buy shares in a golf course in Shawinigan.
I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation. Just prior to the Liberal government taking office, the previous NDP government created two president positions - one for the Yukon Development Corporation and one for the Yukon Energy Corporation. Previously, one individual served in both capacities. That capable individual is now serving as the Associate Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office. I would like to know if the Premier will soon be announcing the appointment of a new president for the Yukon Development Corporation or is it the Liberals plan to have one individual again serve in both capacities for Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are always open to new ideas, new thoughts and new directions. Of course, when we moved into government, a lot of these things were in place before we even took office. Obviously, to try to correct things, or even if we thought we had to try to correct things in this last 10 or 11 months, we are still looking at all the options. We are still looking at the future and we are still trying to build for the future. We will do that with the input of Yukoners and even from the Member for Klondike, if the member wishes to provide us with some advice under that.
We are open to moving in the right direction, because all of us will benefit from it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's deal with the reality of today. Can the minister confirm that the recently appointed president of the Yukon Energy Corporation has quit and can he advise the House who is currently managing the affairs of the corporation?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, as I know at this point, that person has given his notice. He has not actually quit. That person is still in the position. We will cross that bridge when we come to it, but at this point, we haven't replaced that particular person with anyone.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister fails to recognize that he can't cross a bridge until he builds the bridge. The bridge doesn't exist. This is a rather alarming situation, Mr. Speaker.
Yukon Energy Corporation is currently undertaking its largest capital project ever - the construction of the $25 million Mayo-Dawson transmission line, a project that the Premier has refused to submit to an updated Public Utilities Board review. And now we discover that the two corporation presidents responsible for managing the project are no longer there.
Can the minister advise the House if the departure of these two gentlemen has anything to do with the very questionable financial viability of this project?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It is not quite fishing time yet, and obviously the Member for Klondike is out fishing. I am not sure what the member is fishing for. We have very capable people working for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. Those two individuals are still with us; they haven't left the territory, Mr. Speaker. So I am not sure why, all of a sudden, the Member for Klondike is alarmed that, because there is the advent of one particular person leaving, suddenly everything is in jeopardy. That is, again, the alarmist view from the Member for Klondike. There is always this fear-mongering that goes on when a question is raised - making an issue where there is no issue. At this point, there is no issue. It's just another one of those glamorized views that the Member for Klondike thinks that the people of the Yukon should be fearing. Really, there is no fear to be made at this point.
Question re: Electrical rate stabilization fund
Mr. Keenan: Same minister, same briefing book. I do have a question for the minister on planning for the future. The Yukon government's rate stabilization plan runs out in a year from now. Now, last fall, the former president of Yukon Energy Corporation said that consultation should occur in the first quarter of this year. Now, that first quarter is up. When will these consultations take place?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thanks again for that question. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the fact that the rate stabilization plan is to cease in 2002. We still have a year in order to do that consultation. We still plan on doing that, Mr. Speaker, but we have to do every step within its own perspective. First of all, we had to get the Mayo-Dawson line in order before we move to the next stage. Hopefully all these things will unfold as we make one decision and then move on to the next one.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I guess, as it has been proven historically in this House, this minister is awfully long in talk, but he's awfully short in the actions that are required. It was just last fall that the former president said that it should occur in the first quarter. Well, the first quarter is just a week from being up. You're flying in the face of advice - advice that you pay a lot of money for. Now, the clock's ticking on that rate stabilization fund. Consumers are getting worried. They want to know if something's going to be out there. They need assurance. Just last July, the Premier said a number of options are being considered. So, again, is the minister planning to renew the stabilization fund, or does he have something else in mind to protect the consumers from a big jump in electricity rates, or is it even on the horizon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I again thank the member opposite for the question. It's much like the Member for Klondike. The whole objective is making an issue out of where there is no issue. Fear-mongering seems to be one of the issues that I think the members opposite like to promote in the Yukon, so that we can get everybody into a panic stage. There is no need to be in a panic stage at this point, Mr. Speaker. We know what we have to do, and we are proceeding along those lines.
Why we would pull any surprises - we're not a government that does that. We involve Yukoners in the process. We involve Yukoners in making decisions, and so far, in the 11 months that we've been in power, we have stuck to that - although much to the chagrin of the opposition, because that very seldom happened when they were in power. So, Mr. Speaker, we are on that track of making sure that we involve Yukoners in our future, and that is a statement that we made over and over again, and I'll just make it once more: we will involve Yukoners in where our next direction will be, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: One of these days I'm going to stand on my feet here and I'm going to thank this minister for an answer, but unfortunately it's not going to be today. I can see that.
Mr. Speaker, I take great offence to the member opposite paying big bucks for good solid advice, throwing it out and saying no, accusing us of fear-mongering. What we're doing is representing the public in this arena, I guess you might call it, and it would be nice to get that recognition.
Now, he said we didn't do anything. Well, Mr. Speaker, we invested $10 million in a rate stabilization fund, and we did that for a four-year period. We kept electrical costs stable for four years. I see that the minister is over there just chuckling and grinning in the back bench and thinking this is fun. Did we stop there? No. We put $16 million - total investment - into energy initiatives.
So, I would like to ask this minister: between grins and chuckles over there, exactly what steps is this government going to take to protect the electricity ratepayers? What steps are you going to take and what are you prepared to invest for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm always amused by the members opposite and how defensive they become about the things they did do or did not do, and spending most of the time trying to share that view.
Mr. Speaker, we are obligated to have a public review. We are obligated. The member opposite thinks that something sneaky or something underhanded is going to happen without the public being involved. That is not in the cards, and if that's not an answer, I don't know what is an answer for the member opposite, because no matter what one says on this side, it's never an answer. It's always, "That's not the truth" or "It's not the answer."
The answer for the member opposite is that there will be a review, the public will be involved and, hopefully, decisions will be made based on what Yukoners want for the future. We're not into bribing Yukoners. We don't do that. We work with Yukoners because we know that the long term is our real objective - you know, that 10-year objective that I keep presenting to the members opposite? I haven't forgotten it. That's really the picture that we have in mind - 10 years.
Question re: Mayo school, construction contract
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for another very open and accountable minister here and that's the Minister of Government Services. Yesterday - just yesterday - this minister refused to answer my questions about the true costs of retendering the Mayo school. He also claimed that this government saved the taxpayer, and this a quote, "almost $1 million." I tell you, Mr. Speaker, that's a little bit hard to swallow on this side of the House.
I would like to ask the minister if he can tell us if that was a gross savings or a net savings?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I've always believed that $1 million is a $1 million, whether it's gross or net. We saved $1 million - almost.
Mr. Keenan: Thank God he's not the Finance minister. Again, that's very hard to swallow. Again, I don't think the minister knows the difference. So, I would just like to continue if I may here.
The minister doesn't want to admit that there were costs involved in this delay. I reiterated yesterday about the extra costs involved and he ignored that. He skated all around answering that question, so I will ask again. Will the minister provide the House with a list of the extra expenses his department incurred for the redesigning of the school and the retendering of the contract? Will he table that information?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I think we created jobs in that community. As the members opposite have asked time and time again, what are we going to do with the people who have been training in that community? We provided that opportunity for that community. We also saved money. We saved almost $1 million. The member opposite knows that we were out there trying to do something for Yukoners. We have and we still are trying to do something for Yukoners.
This government is confident that we can restore confidence in government. We are doing just that.
Mr. Keenan: Well, they have a funny way of showing a restoring of confidence. I would also like to say that the minister is talking about creating jobs. Well, what were those created jobs - that make-work program - for? I will tell you what it was. It was at the expense of the community and of the students.
There are other costs involved here, not just the ones I reiterated yesterday. The Yukon Housing Corporation has costs there, and you're the minister. The Department of Education, the Executive Council Office - they all have costs that have to be factored in. Now this whole thing is getting to be costly little adventure, and it surely doesn't sound like good fiscal management. It sounds like it is very reactive. So I will ask the minister just one more time: will the minister table the list of all the additional costs to all of the government departments as a result of this very misguided decision to delay this school?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I guess in the previous government they may have been misguided, but this government certainly isn't. The bottom line and the bottom figure is that we saved a million dollars. The delay of the school had to do with a large amount of money being over the budget allocated for the Mayo school. Other than that, I see no incident here besides us saving a million dollars of taxpayers' money.
Question re: Travel, ministers and political staff
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question that I am sure the Premier has been dying to answer. Can the Premier tell the House why she, her ministers, her MLAs and her political staff went $60,000 overbudget for travel in the first nine months of their term in office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I wouldn't say I've been dying to answer the question, Mr. Speaker. I hope I'm well, and thanks for the concerns about my welfare.
Regarding this government's travel - the MLAs' and the ministers' and the caucus' travel - we have, first and foremost, accounted for it in terms of the Executive Council Office - fully accounted for it. What we have been doing is delivering for Yukoners. We have, by attendance at first ministers conferences, brought home millions of dollars to Yukon in terms of additional funding for health care. We have made representation at housing conferences, brought home a number of initiatives for Yukoners.
The pipeline conferences that I have attended that members opposite love to criticize me for, we have seen the support for the Alaska Highway pipeline project grow - not only within the Yukon but outside of the territory. The Minister of Tourism has brought home additional seats and an increase in our tourism rubber-tire visitation with the attendance at the RV show. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services, by her attendance at a number of events, including the Northern Air Transportation Association and representations to the Minister of Transportation, is working toward gaining funding - much-needed funding, according to the Member for Klondike - for Yukon's airports. So what did we do with the money? We delivered, and we're continuing to deliver.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had a budget. They went way over it. So much for good, sound fiscal management. Before this sitting, we asked for a complete breakdown of these costs and all sources of funding for this travel. In the fall, the Premier provided some information, including sources, although some had notable omissions. This time the funding sources were not even provided in the information that was given to this side of the House. Will the Premier now agree to provide the missing information by tomorrow - it shouldn't be all that hard to gather together - and if not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in the initial list that was provided to the member opposite, we made an error. I admitted that to the member opposite. There was an error of omission, and in a subsequent letter I also apologized to the member for the error. Nobody said that anybody in this Legislature is perfect.
We openly and accountably provided the member with the travel information. We have provided the member opposite with the costs. We have not hidden the costs of ministerial or caucus member travel in departmental budgets. It's all accounted for in the Executive Council Office and that is where the funding has been provided, as I outlined to the member opposite. It might come as a surprise to the member opposite, but there's only one taxpayer in the Yukon and we're accounting for the money we spend on their behalf.
Mr. Fairclough: That's why I'm asking the question, Mr. Speaker, because there is a budget and the Premier and her colleagues and her staff have blown the budget in five months and have gone way over with no controls at all. The current fiscal year isn't even over yet, yet this high-flying, high-spending government is out of control. Just last week, they dropped another bundle to make life comfortable for themselves by installing new carpets in the Cabinet offices.
What measures has this Premier taken to control expenditures by her political colleagues and staff so that taxpayers' dollars can go where they belong, which is to serve the Yukon people?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That was quite an interesting bootleg in of an additional question by the member opposite. The fact is that this government has provided - not only to the members opposite but to members of the public - to anyone who has asked the question and those who haven't, by simply reading the budget document, how this government provides sound, fiscal management for the people of the territory.
Again, with respect to travel, the Minister of Renewable Resources represented all three territories at The Hague. The member opposite travelled to Kyoto on the same sort of issue - climate change. We thought at the time that it was important that Yukon be represented when the member opposite did it and we think it's important now. What's more, we still think it's a wise expenditure of taxpayers' money.
We also think that it's a wise expenditure of taxpayers' money when the Minister of Tourism is at an RV show, convincing thousands upon thousands of visitors, at the most visited booth at the entire show, to travel to the Yukon this summer. When she travelled to Europe, just as the member's colleague did, she convinced Europeans to travel to the Yukon this summer.
It's important that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services makes representations about the need for infrastructure dollars in the territory. It's important that the Minister of Health and I make representations nationally with regard to health care dollars. What's more, I think we've done it well. The facts speak for themselves.
Question re: Member for Whitehorse Centre, status in caucus
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Premier, with regard to the punishment of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Now, the member has said that he wanted to convene the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments to get around the regulations in the Liquor Act. Is the Premier aware of that fact and aware of what agenda items were identified for the potential meeting that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was trying to set up in convening the committee?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, when this government was campaigning, only one short year ago, we promised Yukoners that we would restore confidence in government. That's what we're doing.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre has recognized that he did something that he should not have done outside of the caucus process, and he has come back and has stepped aside from caucus responsibilities. It is an internal caucus matter. That is as much as I'm going to discuss with respect to that internal caucus matter with the members opposite.
The members opposite do not discuss their caucus matters on the floor of this House. They're not government - matters of government policy. That's what Yukoners want to know. Yukoners, when they see the Member for Watson Lake stand up, want to know what this government has done on the economy. They want to know what this government is doing with respect to climate change. They want to know what this government is doing with respect to transportation, how we're rebuilding the roads. That's what Yukoners want to know, not our internal caucus issues.
Mr. Fentie: Well, this is all about confidence in government and if a member for a constituency is punished within caucus for representing an issue of a constituent, that has to do with confidence in government. Now, I asked the Premier whether she was aware of what the agenda items for the convening of the Committee on Statutory Instruments were. The Member for Whitehorse Centre wanted to convene this committee to deal with an issue or issues. Can the Premier explain to the House, in asking the opposition to attend this meeting, why, then, were the opposition to deal with, not only this issue on the Liquor Act, but sole-source contracts? Can the Premier explain that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What I can and will and want to explain on the floor of the House are matters of government policy and government action. What I have said to the member opposite is that this, the representations that the Member for Watson Lake is making, are an internal caucus matter. We have dealt with it internally. In our efforts to restore confidence in government, we have also been clear with the public in discussing this. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has clearly, publicly, had the courage to admit that he has made a mistake and has dealt with it. And we, as a caucus, fully support him in that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I submit that the Member for Whitehorse Centre made that admission under duress. There's dissension in this Liberal caucus, and confidence in government is at stake, not to mention good governance for the Yukon public. What do sole-source contracts have to do with a liquor licence suspension?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the Member for Watson Lake, I would submit to the members of the public and to the floor if this Legislature that this is an internal caucus matter and that any dissension between us as a team is in the mind of the member opposite. It's not on this side of the House; it's over there. What's more, Mr. Speaker, any political interference is not on this side of the House; it's from over there. And believe me, the Yukon public knows that.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Opposition private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, so many things going on, so little time.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, March 28, 2001. They are Motion No. 93, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake and Motion No. 31, standing in the name of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, March 28, 2001. It is Motion No. 65.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re: Bill No. 5
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, House leaders have agreed that Bill No. 5, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2001-02, should be given both second and third reading today. Also, the House leaders agree that it is not necessary for this bill to be considered in the Committee of the Whole.
On behalf of the House leaders, therefore, I would like to request the unanimous consent of the House to (1) proceed with the motion for second reading of Bill No. 5, which specifies that the bill go directly to third reading, and (2) call Bill No. 5 for third reading on this day.
Following third reading and passage of Bill No. 5, the Administrator would be received to grant assent to it.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent for the procedure outlined by the government House leader?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
Bill No. 5: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 5, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a second time and stand ordered for third reading.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a second time and stand ordered for the third reading.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 5 agreed to
Bill No. 5: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 5, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 5 agreed to
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried and that Bill No. 5 has passed this House.
Speaker: We are now prepared to receive the Administrator of the Yukon to grant assent to the bill that has passed this House.
Administrator enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT TO BILL
Administrator: Please be seated.
Speaker: Mr. Administrator, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed a certain bill to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Administrator: I hereby assent to the bill as enumerated by the Clerk.
Administrator leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Please be seated.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon everyone. 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. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: I believe Ms. Buckway had the floor.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: When we concluded yesterday afternoon, I was talking about Connect Yukon and the understanding that each side of the House had on the project, about what Connect Yukon is and what it is not.
We have heard the members opposite shamelessly tell Yukoners that we changed the Connect Yukon project. I have tabled the facts, Mr. Chair, and the facts speak for themselves.
I need to emphasize once again that the Connect Yukon project agreement is not about individual telephone service. It never was about telephone service. What the previous NDP government says they conceived and what was delivered some months later are two different things, Mr. Chair. The Connect Yukon agreement that was signed by the previous administration, as I said yesterday, will cost the Yukon government $23.5 million over the next five years.
If the agreement was meant to provide, as I said yesterday, basic phone service to unserved and underserved areas - all of them - it would have an additional cost, and that cost would be about $27.3 million. This is a cost that need not be absorbed by Yukon taxpayers, as the member opposite appeared to be suggesting. That is what Northwestel had asked the CRTC to provide through the service improvement plan.
Now, residential telephone subscribers will benefit from better phone services in communities where Connect Yukon is implemented, but the Connect Yukon project itself is not, and never was, about individual phone service in the Yukon. The NDP knew that when the contract was signed before the election last April, and they know it now.
Provision of telephone service and quality of phone service are the responsibility of Northwestel, as regulated by the CRTC. That is what the service improvement plan is all about. The official opposition is trying to take credit for the service improvement plan.
This government has not redefined the Connect Yukon project in a manner that will provide fewer benefits to Yukon people, as they have stated. We have not redefined it at all, Mr. Chair. The fewer benefits are a legacy of the former NDP government, which rushed to get the Connect Yukon project signed before the last general election.
Mr. Chair, I can accept no responsibility and I will not accept any responsibility for what the previous government said or thought that they said. I can only look at what they did. What they did was to leave Faro and Ross River out of Connect Yukon. What they did was sign a contract to provide high-speed Internet and data access to a number of Yukon communities - not a telephone in sight, Mr. Chair. That was an NDP decision and I want to be very clear about that.
Now, I tabled in this House last November 1: a letter of intent dated March 31, 2000; the contribution agreement for the Marsh Lake infrastucture build dated April 12; and the service agreement for Connect Yukon dated April 1, 2000. Those are the facts. The Member for Kluane suggested yesterday that I do not need to table them again because he has them. Well, I would suggest that he read them.
The former government signed the contract with Northwestel, leaving out several communities. They betrayed the public trust. We are trying to rebuild it. The NDP deliberately signed that contract last April before the election and excluded several communities.
Now, the service improvement plan, as I have said, is separate from the Connect Yukon project. We have made no changes to Connect Yukon or to any other agreement involved in that project. We have been actively implementing the Connect Yukon agreement as signed by the previous government.
The letter of intent that I referred to yesterday to support the delivery of high-speed services to additional communities did not include a budget or commitment to spend on these communities or rural areas. I have said that we're seeking solutions to include those communities, and we continue to seek those solutions. The local infrastructure build is also separate from the Connect Yukon project, as I said yesterday; that relates to the expansion of phone service in the south Whitehorse and Marsh Lake area, and 261 additional lots had access to phone service by December 2000. That was a separate agreement, Mr. Chair. I'm hopeful that the members opposite have now a better understanding of what Connect Yukon is and what it isn't.
Yukoners are going to benefit from Connect Yukon in many ways. Businesses may use the services to expand their markets. New data services will enable schools, community campuses, health centres and libraries to enhance the services they deliver to the public. Examples of these positive benefits include high-speed data transfer between government offices, enhanced services to the public, distance education options for schools and college campuses, and video conferencing.
In the medical profession, there will be many options available as well, which can include access to on-line ultrasounds, drug database searches, and the capacity to stay current with evolving procedures and equipment. Specific applications that could be considered to support health needs include teleradiology, multi-point video conferencing, telemental health and teleconferencing for cardiology, dermatology and orthopaedics, to name just a few.
The Connect Yukon project will also help to support economic opportunities for business and individual users. Business people, including home-based and small business, can take advantage of these benefits for marketing and sales. Their market is the world. Many Yukoners are taking advantage of this market.
Pipeline projects could make use of the project for data control. Work-at-home possibilities are enhanced, especially for heavy data users like graphic designers and architects.
There are many positive benefits of this project. I've told you about a few of them, and everything comes with a price. I've also told you that the Yukon government is contributing a total of $23.5 million to the Connect Yukon project over five years, and I think I've outlined several times how that is going to be broken down or how it is being broken down.
Last summer was very busy with Connect Yukon. A great deal of work has been accomplished. A number of communities' schools are on-line with high-speed Internet, and the project is going ahead as scheduled. Connect Yukon is a project that will benefit Yukoners, and these benefits are already being experienced.
The Dawson-Mayo-Whitehorse microwave fibre cable upgrade project is scheduled to be completed this summer, and Internet and high-speed data services will be delivered to Carmacks, Dawson City, Pelly Crossing and Mayo, upon completion of that project.
I am pleased to have had this opportunity to explain the Connect Yukon project once again in the House.
Now, Mr. Chair, there were a couple of other matters that the Member for Kluane raised yesterday. One of them was on the Shakwak project and the sections that remain to be completed on that project. Mr. Chair, after fiscal year 2001-02, once the work that is outlined in the budget before us is done, the following sections will remain: the section from kilometre 1674 to 1684, east of Christmas Creek, is currently in the schedule for 2002-03; kilometre 1768, Duke River, to 1786, Quill Creek, is in the schedule for 2002-03 and 2003-04. Kilometre 1735, Nines Creek, to 1758, Burwash Landing, is also in the schedule for 2002-03 and the following year, 2003-04. From kilometre 1792, Silver City, to kilometre 1735, Nines Creek, is currently programmed for 2004-05 and 2005-06, and that, of course, is subject to new funding being approved, which is not something we anticipate any difficulty with.
The Member for Kluane yesterday asked again about the Shakwak project, and if I could indicate who decides which projects are done and who makes the decision as to which sections are done. I had indicated that it was not a political decision and should not be a political decision. As I had indicated yesterday, the transportation engineering branch makes recommendations to the federal highways administration in the United States on the sequence of sections to be constructed, and the recommendations are based on a number of factors, including the serviceability of the existing road section, construction logistics - for example, we don't want two contractors concurrently working in the same quarry - the desire to keep construction zones to a reasonable length for the convenience of the travelling public, and special circumstances. One example of that would be that the Burwash Landing section was moved ahead at the request of the community, in the aftermath of the forest fire.
Now, the federal highways administration - FHWA - makes the final decisions. However, because of our good working relationship with them, they usually concur with the recommendations.
The Member for Kluane also asked yesterday about the maintenance between construction zones, and he said that if the highway crews are being paid to sit in line because they have to go to the middle section to maintain it, then there's a cost to the taxpayer. I said I would inquire of the department what the difference in O&M might be if the highway crews are delayed by the pilot cars in the construction areas.
Now, this has not been indicated as a problem in recent years. Highway maintenance heavy equipment is allowed to pass through the construction zones without having to wait in the pilot car lineup, under arrangements that are made by the maintenance foreman with the construction contractors, and that is the practice that we have been following, Mr. Chair.
If the member has further questions in general debate on the Community and Transportation Services budget, I would be pleased to answer them.
Mr. McRobb: What we just witnessed, Mr. Chair, was a form of grandstanding by the minister to consume the camera time once again. Most of her answers focused on Connect Yukon. That wasn't even the question. The question dealt with the Canada-Yukon infrastructure program and how it was revealed late yesterday afternoon that the funding level this year is less than the deal reached seven years ago. Yet the Liberal government saw fit to include it as a major flagship issue in a throne speech and in the budget - their ability to get federal dollars here in the territory.
Well, we found out that seven years ago the amount was greater than what this Liberal government managed to get now, and that is a far cry from what they led Yukoners to believe - how the territory would benefit with a Liberal government here and also one in Ottawa.
As part of that, the minister pointed out that some $400,000 of that appropriation was achieved by the previous government in 1997. I pointed that out, Mr. Chair, in the exact previous paragraph to the minister's answer.
So, I would ask her to maybe do away with her briefing notes and answer more spontaneously and more relevantly in this Legislature.
Now in the Connect Yukon matter, since she raises it, I will respond by saying, what about the letter of intent signed by this government, the previous government? The letter of intent clearly said that Connect Yukon included telephones. And if it weren't for the major reshuffling in the organization and the program for Connect Yukon, people in the territory would have telephones and improved telephone service. But what this Liberal government did was, aside from the change in the minister and the change in the Cabinet staff, it changed the deputy minister, and it shifted the program from Government Services to Community and Transportation Services. It changed the technical people involved in this very complicated program. It is only fair to expect that there would be cracks along the way with such major changes in personnel. What happened is clear: the telephones for rural people and people without telephones or in need of improved service - all of that fell between the cracks.
This government should take responsibility for that. It should also assume its responsibility and acknowledge that it has the provision to bring forward the supplement necessary in order to bring the telephones to these people in need, and that was not acknowledged in yesterday's debate.
The minister also pointed out that it would cost $27.3 million to bring telephones to people in the territory, which was a greater figure than the cost of Connect Yukon. Well, we had some debate subsequent to that, and I did find in the Hansard that I was correct in what I heard. The minister herself - I will quote it from the Blues: "If it were meant to provide basic telephone service to all unserved and underserved areas, it would have had an additional cost of about $27.3 million."
Mr. Chair, that is the same figure that I asked the minister to substantiate. I wanted to know what made up that cost. The minister was unable to back up what she had said, but instead pointed the finger across the way and criticized me. Well, Mr. Chair, if this government is as open and accountable as it wants Yukoners to believe, it would focus more on providing information and backing up what it says.
Already we see countless examples of it not doing what it said it would do. The list is getting a lot longer.
Now, there are plenty of issues around Connect Yukon and around some of the major projects, like Shakwak. I would hope that the minister and I will both agree that we should be making progress in this department, especially in lieu of the latest travel plans. Let's see if we can clear this department and get on with those issues.
The grandstanding we saw from the minister yesterday afternoon, obviously to grab a handle on the camera time, going on about Connect Yukon, was not in response to a question asked. My question -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, somebody over there just said, "Yes, it was." I would refer them to the pages in Blues, pages 1398-1399. The text of the question was focused on the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program, which, disappointingly, is less now than it was seven years ago. So much for the Liberal bonus.
So, we don't need the minister prolonging debate needlessly when we, on the opposition side, didn't ask questions on those matters to begin with. Let's try to make some progress.
Now, there are a number of outstanding matters I would like to touch on before getting to line-by-line. Yesterday, we covered quite a few of them, from Shakwak to the Haines Junction highway, rural services, the Canada/Yukon infrastructure program is mentioned, the Nahanni Range Road, and some others.
What I would like to start off with is that I want to thank the minister for providing the review panel's submission to the Canada Transportation Act from the Yukon government. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet to see if indeed it includes the submission from the Department of Tourism, which I understand was also made, and that was part of the request yesterday. So, if there was a submission from the other department, I would ask her to indicate if that would be forthcoming.
I'll move on to the Burwash fire reclamation - the $317,000-plus amount recovered through the Disaster Financial Assistance Act and ask the minister what the plans are for that amount and when the cheque would arrive.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The cheque has arrived, and under the DFAA, the Yukon government had claimed $635,000 for cost-sharing with the federal government on the Burwash fire. Federal auditors disallowed $213,000 of the claim, of which $49,000 was for firefighting costs and $164,000 was for disaster assistance. The structural firefighting costs were determined not eligible, and the disaster assistance amount was determined not eligible, as it was an insurable loss. The cheque has arrived, Mr. Chair.
In response to the Member for Kluane's assertion, once again, that this side of the House was grandstanding, the Member for Kluane, Mr. Chair, has spent more time in this House than I have. He's very familiar with the tricks the NDP employ, and he should not attribute those tricks to anyone but his side of the House.
Chair: Order please. I would remind members that we're here to debate the budget, and to try to keep the remarks on the budget please.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that, Mr. Chair.
What about the submission from the other departments to the Canada Transportation Act review panel? And what about the question about the purpose, or the intention, for how the recovery on the Burwash fire would be spent?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The money for the Burwash fire has already been spent. We spend the money and then seek to recover it. And as for the Canada Transportation Act, the Yukon government review panel submission is in the member's hands. The Tourism department did not make a separate submission. TIA Yukon did make a submission, and I do not have that submission.
Mr. McRobb: Now, I'm aware that the Yukon territorial government spent money on the Burwash fire reclamation. That's no surprise, but what is new is the amount of the recovery - the $317,000.
Now, can the minister help me out in understanding how money received that was not forecastable, at least, in certain dollars - and how it could be applied to the past expenditures? Or, in fact, does that money go into general revenues for the department, or some other device within this budget for the coming year? Can she assist my understanding of that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I explained, the money had already been spent on the Burwash fire. It's necessary to expend the time and the effort and the money as the disaster is unfolding and then claim the recovery later. So, the money has been spent. The cheque has gone into government coffers.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, but that doesn't help at all. I'm looking for some help from the minister to make it clear how this money just received now would apply to previous expenditures and not go into the departmental budget for next year or lapsed funds, or whatever it might do. Can she explain that?
Now, we can both agree the money on the fire was spent previously. That's not the question here. The question is: how will this money just received now, Mr. Chair, displace money before or - what becomes of this money? Is it to pay outstanding bills that weren't paid before? Does this money provide an increase in the amount of money available to this government for next year's budget, or what? Can the minister help us, on this side, understand that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in the final year-end figures for the current fiscal year, it will show as a recovery. Previously, it had been shown as partially recoverable. So, it will be shown as a recovery.
Mr. McRobb: Right, Mr. Chair, so I think that helps to solidify the understanding that I did have before. That is that the money isn't simply going to pay a previous bill; it does add to the government's bottom line at this point in time. It either adds to the surplus or whatever - provides additional monies for the department. Can she just confirm that so I can substantiate this understanding, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have indicated that it will be shown as a recovery.
Mr. McRobb: All right, then I will assume that will be 317,000 extra dollars than what the government had planned for when it developed the budget.
Now, on a related matter, going back to the minister's correspondence of 22 December, it was estimated that the recovery would be at least 75 percent of the total monies expended. In fact, we see that it was reduced to about 60 percent. Was there a particular reason for this? Now, I am aware of what the minister said earlier about who disallowed what, but can she indicate if there was a specific reason why it was less than what she had forecasted in her letter of December 22?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have explained what was disallowed and why. I don't know what more the member could possibly want.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, when the minister writes the opposition and claims that the recoverable will be at least 75 percent and then it falls substantially short of that amount, we expect a more substantial answer than that when we follow up on that matter at the next opportunity.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, I want to move on. We'll just let the record stand as it is - one more example of how this government isn't open or accountable, and certainly isn't helpful in helping us understand more about this budget.
Now, with respect to the Dawson bridge, the Member for Klondike explored this issue in great detail yesterday. I recall the minister saying that the bridge engineer is working hard, and we're sure he is. When I explored this matter back in December with the minister, she indicated there would be a cost analysis prepared with recommendations. Can she indicate if that has been prepared and if she can provide it for us, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The cost analysis hasn't been completed yet, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate when she expects that to be completed, and whether or not she can provide it to us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'd have no problem providing that once it is completed. I believe completion of that would be still several months away.
Mr. McRobb: It's all about the future, Mr. Chair.
Now, going back to the discussion in December, there was also mention of the Regional Environmental Review Committee study being done. Can the minister indicate if that has been received and whether she can provide us with a copy of that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware if that report has been received, but I will ask the department if it has been received.
Mr. McRobb: I would still like to have the minister indicate whether she would provide us with a copy. And also, the BST schedule - I'd like to know if she would provide us with a copy of that as well.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that isn't finished.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister indicate when the BST schedule for the Yukon would be finished and whether or not she can provide us with a copy? And as well, the RERC study, when it is received, can she indicate whether or not she can provide us with a copy of that, too, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll make available a copy of the BST schedule when it's available. That should be several weeks. And, as I have said, I will check with the department to see whether the Regional Environmental Review Committee report has reached them yet.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Now, I know that, on the Thursday before spring break, there was considerable discussion surrounding the uniform regulations for commercial highway traffic beyond the Yukon jurisdiction. Over in Alaska, some of us had the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Perkins and discuss this matter with him. Where it left off was with Commissioner Perkins indicating that he is waiting for a Yukon proposal and, once it was received, he would look at it and we would go from there. So, I would like to hear from the minister when this government intends to forward a proposal to the commissioner.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Could the Member for Kluane please clarify what exactly it was that he says Commissioner Perkins was waiting for?
Mr. McRobb: Sure, Mr. Chair. It has got to do with standardizing the regulations for commercial highway traffic, interjurisdictional - between Alaska, the Yukon and points south. But obviously Commissioner Perkins is dealing mainly with the jurisdiction of Alaska.
This is not a new matter. This is something that has been discussed recently and at length in this Legislature. That's what I'm talking about.
The point was that Commissioner Perkins said, "Give us a proposal. We'll look at it and maybe we can get something done." The question is: when does this government plan to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: When I visited with Commissioner Perkins, not so long ago, we had a discussion on this issue. We had said we would send a copy of our highway regulations to him for some comments, which we did. We have not received his comments, so this is part of an ongoing discussion, Mr. Chair. We're waiting for comments from him as well so that we can incorporate them in comments back to him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I don't know. One of the other MLAs said that the government has received that information. So, I'm not sure where this matter is at.
Let's just leave it at this. The minister should look at making immediate progress on this matter, in trying to standardize these regulations that are causing considerable trouble in the trucking industry. This affects our economy. The customer in the end has to pay if there are disruptions, delays and inefficient loading of vehicles. The end bearer of that cost is the customer. So, for the good of all Yukon customers, I would ask the minister to put this one near the top of her agenda, and let's see something worked out. Obviously, Alaska is quite willing to make progress on it, as indicated by Commissioner Perkins.
Now, Mr. Chair, I would like to follow up on the commercial highway sign policy. We discussed this in the fall, and the minister indicated that there would be something very soon. Can she give us an update on that please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A committee has been hard at work on the issue of commercial signs on our highway corridors, and, in fact, this is one of the things that is going to be discussed at an upcoming tourism conference. The member may have seen it advertised in the papers. So, the work is continuing, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. When does the minister expect some progress on this matter in terms of when we might see a new policy brought in? And what steps are there along the way that might involve the public, such as any consultation and so on? Can she enlighten us on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I hope that we will be able to have a picture of what the public would like by the end of this year. The discussion at the tourism conference is a part of the process. There will be public consultation, which is very important. I hope that later this year we may have some answers for the member. And I hope that he will participate in the public consultation.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I thank the minister for the invitation. It is not very often that we get invited to anything. Maybe it is just to the functions where there aren't ribbons to be cut or cake to be eaten that we get invited to. Regardless, I want to thank her for that.
Moving on, I would like to know what this government is doing to bring in a territorial agent service in communities in need in the territory. I understand that currently Carmacks, Teslin and Beaver Creek are without one. Can she update me on that and also indicated what the government is doing about it, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Territorial agents are not a responsibility of this department.
Mr. McRobb: We'll have to find out who is responsible over there and, obviously, redirect the question. I see one MLA is pointing to the Minister of Tourism, so we'll catch up to this matter in a few weeks.
I would like to know about the Carmacks recreation centre and the issue of cost overruns. Is this government prepared to cover any such overruns?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are aware that the costs for the new recreation centre are higher than the original estimate, and we have agreed to provide additional assistance to the community for that project. The resources will be available in the 2002-03 fiscal year for that.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I didn't quite catch the full answer. Can she indicate again for me, please, if the government will cover the cost overruns?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon government will provide part of the cost overrun, and the Village of Carmacks has committed to providing the balance.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide the numbers of the overruns at this point, or what they're expected to be, and what portion the government would cover, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The last estimate I heard was about $3.7 million for the recreation centre, which is about $700,000 higher than the original estimate in the capital funding agreement. We will provide $350,000 toward the project in fiscal year 2002-03, and, as I said, the Village of Carmacks has committed to providing the balance.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Back to the Nahanni Range Road for just a moment. Can the minister indicate when the government was first contacted about roadwork needed by North American Tungsten, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Our department, Community and Transportation Services, first became involved, I believe, on February 26.
Mr. McRobb: Now, on a matter that was raised by the now Premier one year ago in her budget reply speech, when she criticized the previous government for not including in the budget an eduction truck and water-delivery system in the Village of Old Crow - can she indicate if those expenditures are in this budget for us, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, they're not in the budget that we're debating.
Mr. McRobb: Back in December, I raised a suggestion to the minister that she look into an initiative created by the Ontario Trucking Association called "sharing the road with trucks". At the time she appeared to be quite interested in this, and the discussion at that time related how, in the Yukon with the main international highway through the territory and the significant commercial truck traffic passing through the territory, combined with not only local traffic but also all the tourists, indeed such an initiative would have benefit here. Can I ask the minister to update us on any progress she or her department has made on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: While we have had some talk on it, we haven't made any substantial progress yet. I look forward to that in the future.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Now, just on a final note in general debate, I want to roll a few things up and pose them as a suggestion by way of question to the minister to see if we can't increase the amount allocated for the rural roads upgrade program.
This program is very important to the territory. It provides capital works, employment for Yukoners, and it upgrades secondary roads within territorial boundaries. Mr. Chair, there were numerous roads upgraded over the past few years under this program, and Yukoners appreciate that.
This government campaigned on increasing highways budgets. It has done that to some degree, but it's disappointing that it has really robbed Peter to pay Paul in some instances and, in this case, the budget for the rural roads upgrade program was reduced by some 60 percent, from $1 million to $400,000. Certainly there were no indications during the election campaign one year ago that this government would do that. Everybody I talked to had the impression that the Liberal government would continue that program with the funding levels practised by the previous government.
So, Mr. Chair, in recognition of this important program, what I would like to do is propose to the minister the reallocation of some line items in her budget toward the rural roads upgrade program.
Now, I would like to start with the office of the deputy minister. I see that there's an item, $4,000 for a new computer. Sorry, John.
I also see, under corporate services division, $173,000 for computing equipment and systems. Now, some of this equipment is actually called peripheral. Obviously, it is important, but it's not essential. Obviously, it's discretionary, and that's what we're tackling now - whether the minister would consider it within her discretion to reappropriate those monies.
In addition, earlier this afternoon we talked about the $317,000 recovered from the Burwash fire through the DFAA. Well, all rolled up, Mr. Chair, there is a significant amount of money here - in excess of $500,000 or close to it. And that would pretty well bring the program allocations for the RRUP back up to what it once was. So, I would like to ask the minister if she would consider doing that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane finds it very easy to reallocate money within my department. Let me assure him that it isn't that easy.
The rural roads upgrading program sits where it is because there was no set amount for that program - it has varied considerably over the last few years - and I wanted to ensure that we could get a start on the Alaska Highway reconstruction in the member's riding, between Mendenhall and Haines Junction. In order to make that possible, money was reallocated from the rural roads program for that Champagne highway project.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I was looking for something a little more substantial than that.
Now, there were several items identified and the minister didn't respond to those suggestions. Instead, we heard some excuses - rather flimsy ones at that, Mr. Chair - that there was no set amount for the RRUP in the past and how they had to get a start on the Alaska Highway reconstruction. Well, let's just deal with those two issues. No set amount of money for the RRUP. Let's take that one on first. Now, I don't have the historic numbers for the RRUP. I am sure that the minister has the information at her side. I seem to recollect that the historic funding level was typically $1 million. I also recall this program being supplemented in the fall budget, I think it was twice. I think that the first time it was brought up to $1 million and the second time it might have even been increased to $1.5 million.
So, sure, there was no set amount. There is no set amount for anything. Maybe the minister could indicate one thing that there is a set amount for in this whole budget. I can't think of one thing right now. Now, everything is discretionary. It depends on how the government puts its budget together. Was there a set amount for the community development fund? No, this government repackaged and reduced - two of the three Rs at least.
Mr. Chair, the government has the ability, despite what the minister thinks or believes, to make things happen for the betterment of people in the territory. The government doesn't have to listen to other jurisdictions, not even in the country. It doesn't have to listen to what is proposed by anybody. These people are elected, Mr. Chair. So, an excuse like there is no set amount for anything just doesn't fly.
There is nothing stopping the government from continuing with $1 million for the rural road upgrade program, but it chose to cut it way back instead.
Now, for the second matter. The minister said they had to get a start on the Alaska Highway reconstruction. Well, Mr. Chair, that fortifies the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul argument I mentioned earlier. Now, it wasn't mentioned in the media or in the budget speech that that reconstruction near Champagne is a four-year project, because all we heard from the government would lead anybody to believe it was a one-year project. We didn't discover it was four years until we started questioning the government about that project. Then we discovered, "Oh, that project's a four-year project, not a one-year project." Most of the public still doesn't know about that, Mr. Chair - other than people who listened to this debate or read it in Hansard is not aware. The minister's shaking her head. Maybe she can provide us with some information. Has the government sent something out to the people of the territory to indicate otherwise? We would like to know.
So, Mr. Chair, I'm hoping for something a little more substantial this time. We have not only made a suggestion regarding something that should be beefed up in this Liberal budget, a budget that should be increased, but we have found where the money should come from.
Now, the minister has criticized us before. What were her words? Something to the effect that the NDP thinks money comes from the money tree and it just wants to spend money on everything, but there are tough decisions. Mr. Chair, I didn't fully accept the minister's views on that, but I did take the meaning out of what she said and just worked a little bit harder to find where the money might come from in hopes that we might get something a little more substantial today.
Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed. Instead, it's just more excuses, Mr. Chair.
So, there is a new computer, there is some other computing equipment, and there is the freebie from the DFAA, which, rolled together, total half a million dollars.
I'll ask again: will the minister consider reappropriating that money toward the rural roads upgrade program to bring it closer to what it once was before the Liberals reduced it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The DFAA money was considered in our budgets two years ago, so receiving the cheque doesn't make any difference.
And I agree with the member that the rural roads upgrading program is a very important program. It is a very important program. However, there were some hard choices that had to be made, and they were made. I'm sure the member wouldn't like to see that work in his riding not take place this year. That was important, and there are people in his riding who know full well and have known from the beginning that that was not a single-year project. It was quite clear to them, as it should have been to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, we're not getting too productive a response out of the minister - just more finger pointing.
The fact is that the cheque from Ottawa has just arrived for the Burwash fire. The government put out a press release to that effect - $317,000. That doesn't go back two years budget to be spent. We established that barely half-an-hour ago. The minister is trying to pair me off, for political purposes, with constituents in my riding. Now, if I was totally self-serving, I might cave in to such pressure, but a couple of matters prevent me from doing that, Mr. Chair. Number one is I'm also here for the benefit of the territory, not just my riding; and, number two, what the minister says is nonsense.
Mr. Chair, that project did not have to be cut back to fund the rural roads upgrade program. There were lots of other areas, such as the ones we've identified. We didn't hear her address the computing equipment. The $317,000, if in fact it goes back two years, well, that was the previous government. We're the previous government over here, Mr. Chair, and we say reallocate that to the rural roads upgrade program.
So would the minister please try to take a higher road for a change, and stick to the issue and avoid the personal insults or the political manipulations. Stick to the issue. Can we increase the amount of this important program through the means identified?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we'll continue with line-by-line.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Well, I'm asking if there is any further general debate - last call. She's not required to answer.
Is there any further general debate? Final call.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions. One was in regard to the question the Member for Kluane asked of the Carmacks rec centre. There was a million dollars in this present budget that we're dealing with and one from the previous year. So, there's $2 million going toward this project. The Village of Carmacks was to invest $500,000 and build a rec centre for $2.5 million. Now, they ran into some problems with having to include a sprinkler system, which bumped the project up another $3.3 million, but is the new number now $3.7 million, as the minister indicated to the Member for Kluane?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Is the Member for Mayo-Tatchun suggesting that I would give him a different figure? I said that the costs are now estimated to be $3.7 million for the Carmacks recreation centre, yes.
Mr. Fairclough: The member also indicated that it was $700,000 over and above what was originally planned. What was originally planned was $2.5 million; now it is at $3.7 million. So, that's what I am trying to do is get clarification on - where are the numbers and when did they change? Maybe the minister can provide that for me.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The original estimate was $3.0 million.
Mr. Fairclough: At that time, was the Village of Carmacks putting in $1 million? Or was it $500,000?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would have to pull the capital funding agreement to review the figures. Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: I didn't get what the minister gave for an answer to the Member for Kluane regarding the portion or the additional amount that the village has to put out to have this facility completed. Now we are at $3.7 million and the Government of Yukon has provided, so far, $2 million. What is the additional figure that the Government of Yukon will be providing to the Village of Carmacks for this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is very difficult to hear, so I am not sure that I heard all of that. But the Yukon government will provide an additional $350,000 toward the project in the 2002-03 fiscal year and the Village of Carmacks has committed to providing the other $350,000.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I want to get this straight, because people are asking me, too. The village originally was putting $500,000 into this project. Now, with the figures the minister just gave me, we're out $500,000. So where does that come from? Who is putting that amount of money for that additional cost into this project? Is it the village, or is it the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, I don't have the capital funding agreement in front of me. I would be pleased to provide the member with a copy of it tomorrow.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that. My understanding was that the original project was $2.5 million, and it bumped up another $800,000 to include the sprinkling system, which would have left it at $3.3 million, and that's why the numbers that the minister is providing surprise me a bit, and I'm just wondering who would come up with the additional costs of $400,000? So if that could be answered in the information provided by the member opposite, it would be greatly appreciated.
In regard to rec centres, the Village of Mayo has been in discussions with government with regard to a rec centre there. What they wanted was a facility to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Village of Mayo, which is in 2003. To be able to do that, you need to do the proper planning ahead of time to make sure the facility is built, and we haven't seen any of the planning money in this budget. Will we be seeing any planning money in the fall capital budget for this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That subject came up in the pre-budget tour and we need to do some talking with the community to get more details before any decisions can be made, and I remind the member that the fall budget is not yet set.
Mr. Fairclough: In order for this facility to move ahead for them to have it during their 100th anniversary, then the dollars need to be there and planning needs to take place this coming year. I don't see it reflected in this budget unless the department has another way of dealing with this. Other than that, I see it reflected in the capital budget this coming fall. Are there other ways that the department can put planning money aside for projects like this, even though it's not identified within their budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, there isn't, Mr. Chair. As I said, we will be talking to the community to get more details. The idea just came up in the pre-budget tour. We had not heard about it previously.
Mr. Fairclough: This has been raised by the community of Mayo in the past, and I'm hoping that there is some paper trail on this. What they would like to see is a facility built in 2003.
So, I hope the department can work with the Village of Mayo, and the First Nation because they're also interested. It's not about this project. It's a school, the First Nation administration building, this project, and keeping people working. It's my focus to have those projects in place and also for them to have a facility in which they can celebrate their 100th anniversary.
Now, the member will be flowing information to me, and I greatly appreciate that.
With regard to highway camps and government compounds, on your list you had the Mayo compound and the one in Carmacks - the highways compound - a reduction in O&M. Is that because of some capital projects that did take place? Why is there a reduction in O&M on these two government compounds?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Referring back to the rec complex for the 100th anniversary, which the Member for Mayo-Tatchun says has been on the minds of people of Mayo for some time, there was absolutely nothing about this in the previous government's long-term capital plan, so obviously they didn't take it seriously. This government heard about it for the first time during the pre-budget tour, and we will be taking the appropriate steps to speak with the community and get more details. If this was so important to the member opposite, I'm amazed it wasn't in the previous government's capital plan. Something doesn't seem quite right here, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this department following the previous government's long-term capital plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We looked at the previous government's long-term capital plan, and there was nothing in there for the facility that he's describing.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasn't the question that I asked. Can the minister answer the question, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are in the process of developing our own long-term capital plan.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it's quite obvious that this government doesn't see any of the work that has taken place in the communities to develop these types of plans.
Now, the Village of Mayo and the First Nations have worked with government in the past to have this facility developed, so I'm hoping that the government would continue with that initiative by the community.
Now, in regard to Carmacks and the two grader stations - the one in Mayo and the one in Carmacks - why is there a reduction in the O&M costs for those two facilities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The figures for Mayo - the 1999-00 actuals for the Mayo camp - were $717,618. The forecast for the 2000-01 fiscal year was $735,434. In the 2001-02 budget that is before us, the figure is $1,186,224. That is not a decrease, Mr. Chair. For Carmacks, the 1999-00 actuals were $1,331,800. The 2000-01 forecast was a decrease, $1,203,639, and the 2001-02 mains are $1,126,130. That is another small decrease.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us why there is a decrease?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, in the Mayo area, the increase is due to additional work on the Silver Trail - the "increase", I point out. It is not a decrease in Mayo. And I don't know the reason for the small decrease in Carmacks, but there are a number of projects that vary from year to year. I haven't had time to sit here and do the math and figure out exactly what the decrease is for the Carmacks camp, but it is not large.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Village of Carmacks has been discussing for a long time the desire and the need to move its facility. There was an area identified for it, and it was supposed to be fenced off. I thought it was supposed to be fenced off last summer, and access equipment, culverts and so on could be moved into that compound, and it wasn't done. Why is that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I didn't hear all of that. Could the member please repeat the question? He's very difficult to hear.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm speaking about the government highways camp compound in Carmacks that has been discussed by the Village of Carmacks and governments for many years - way before even we got in. And there was a commitment, I thought - and this is what I need to have explained - in the 2000-01 budget for moving or starting to move the government compound. Now, an area was identified. It was supposed to be fenced off last summer, and some things were supposed to have started to move. I'm just wondering why that didn't take place.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I do not recall anything in the 2000-01 budget for such a move. I did speak with the mayor about this. I told him that, at this point, we cannot commit to moving the grader station, because we do not have the money. We need it for other priorities.
Mr. Fairclough: Could the minister tell us what the amount is for moving this compound?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it's between $2 million and $3 million. I don't have the exact figure. I could get it. But we did not have the money to initiate such a project in this budget before us.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the department in active talks with the Village of Carmacks to move this facility? Over the past years, the fence was moved back several times to accommodate the rec centre. It has been moved back even further now to the point where equipment being stored on the grounds and trucks turning are having a bit of a problem.
The whole shift was to get this moving. Part of it was that the rec centre was encroaching more into this compound. So, I'm wondering if the department has a date or what they're looking at for moving this government compound out of downtown Carmacks.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: One of the reasons the money isn't in the budget this year is because of the cost overrun on the rec centre. I had made it very clear to the mayor, when we were discussing that - and I said we would meet him partway on the cost overrun - that that means that there will be no money to start the move of that camp for the next couple of years.
Mr. Fairclough: I take it then that the grounds and the area for moving this camp have been identified. It was supposed to be fenced off to get rid of some of the excess material that's there - culverts and so on, that are cluttering up the place. Is that going to happen over this summer? When can we see planning monies to move that, or is that all done internally within the department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The resources will not be available to fence that area and move any equipment in the coming fiscal year.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said, because of the overruns on the rec centre - is that standard policy with this government that, when projects go over, communities don't get any additional monies? How does that work?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In four years in government, the member opposite obviously didn't grasp that there's only so much money to go around and, when you have to put some into a pile that you weren't expecting, something else in the other hand doesn't happen. So, choices have to be made.
Mr. Fairclough: I just can't believe the answer that I just got, Mr. Chair.
I understand how the budget works, and I know what the government was left with. The minister said $64 million was not much, but it is a lot. They are also projecting in this budget, which they're presenting in this House, a $45-million surplus.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: I guess the books are wrong, because the members opposite say six.
Is the minister going to lobby the Finance minister to change the books to make sure it's accurate and that proper numbers are reflected to Yukoners?
I didn't think so, Mr. Chair, because those are voodoo numbers, voodoo dollars.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. I'd ask members - "voodoo economics" or "voodoo numbers" would certainly imply false motives. It's quite clear in the fact that they are not imputing false motives or accusing anybody of lying. So, I'll leave it at that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, it's clear that the ministers don't know how to read their own budget. I hope the backbenchers do, because it's all laid out right there. And if they're telling the general public that there's only $6 million - that's what they agreed to - then they're basically saying $45 million from last year. You take away the lapses and the surplus deficit and you only end up with $6 million.
This department will have huge expenditures for years to come. What the member is saying is that there's $6 million in surplus, and next year we'll have $14 million in deficit financing. The government is now into deficit financing. That leaves government in the hole by $8 million. Is that the understanding of the members opposite? Is that the Liberal way of doing math?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is not Community and Transportation Services - this is Finance that the member is asking about. He had the opportunity to ask the Premier these questions in general debate on the budget. He will have the opportunity to ask the Premier these questions in debate on the Department of Finance. This is the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for reminding herself of that, because we talked about monies and what there are in surpluses and it is the minister who brought that up, so I pointed out what their understanding is. And, again, the minister could not answer these simple questions. What should the Village of Carmacks expect with regard to having this compound moved?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I cannot give the member a definite date when the grader station might be moved. At the moment, the priority is to put the money into the highways, which have been sadly neglected. Putting the money into the highways is our priority.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: As I am Chair of this Committee, interjections are not welcome and I will start disciplining members if they continue them.
Mr. Fairclough: With regard to the Campbell Highway, there is a reduction in the amount of capital dollars that are for doing upgrades to that highway. So, in speaking about highways and this Liberal government's commitment to that, why is the Campbell Highway being reduced?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The budget for last year for the Campbell Highway was, I think, just over $1 million. The plan for this year calls for an expenditure of $900,000. That is not a huge difference.
Mr. Fairclough: Is that a government commitment to decrease these highway expenditures?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is having his bit of fun. This coming fiscal year, the project that is to be done includes the completion of Margaret Thomson Hill, the rebuild of the Buttle Creek section, and the total of that is $900,000. Those are the projects that will be carried out this year.
Mr. Fairclough: Over the past couple of years, government was committed to BST work on the beginning of the Campbell from the Klondike Highway in Carmacks out. Even though it went a few kilometres a year, this year it did not happen. Why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is asking why a particular section of BST wasn't done in the 2000-01 year. He's not asking a question about the budget before us, he's asking about the fiscal year we're still in.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Both years - okay.
Last year there was significant work done on the Margaret Thomson Hill, and we are continuing that work. We have been focusing in the recent time period on the highway between Ross River and Faro.
As for BST in the coming fiscal year, that schedule has not yet been determined, as the member surely heard me tell the Member for Kluane.
Mr. Keenan: I just have a few questions for the minister, and I'd like to ask the minister about the sewage treatment plant in Carcross, if I may. It has a particular twist so, if the minister will just give me a few minutes, I'll explain the positioning of the question.
I just have before me the CBC transcript of the Karp interview, based on the new resort hotel that's looking to be built in Carcross. There's a five-star, 150-room hotel to be built there. As we proceed, I know that we have the dollars for the treatment plant for Carcross in place at this time. I have just spoken to a couple of constituents from there who are very concerned that it is not going to go ahead now because the five-star development out there is looking to change the water licence.
I understand the water licence is a federal issue. It has just been signed by Nault as a class A, but they're looking to get an extension of that licence. Where the hotel is going to be built, or where it's desired to build the hotel, is a strictly rocky bluff. I know the minister knows where it is - it's between the Watson River and the desert there. I know the minister has walked in there probably numerous times. It's solid rock.
So now what they have to do is make application so they can do underground piping and sewage delivery, I guess, to the lagoon itself.
What I would like to ask the minister, to the best of her knowledge - or if she could find out for me - is if that application for that new water licence will hold up the development of that project this summer.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm not aware of any delay in the project caused by that resort proposal. It will result in more sewage, and that will have to be taken into account. But I will undertake to check for him on the implications of that and get back to him.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the comfort that the minister is giving, and I would very much appreciate that information. I think what the community very much wants, with the absence of a White Pass economic generator for this summer, is assurance that there will some type of spending authority, such as the lagoon, in the community. They are quite nervous that it's not going to be happening because of this new application. So, what I'm asking for is that information and the assurance that that development would nevertheless go ahead.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I've indicated that it is my understanding that the Carcross sewage treatment project will go ahead, but I will undertake to find out the implications of the resort project on the water licence. I don't know how quickly that could be accomplished, but we will have the department make some calls right away.
Mr. Keenan: I deeply appreciate that and I look forward to those results. I take it from the minister's answer that there is political will for the sewage lagoon to go ahead this year. I very much appreciate the minister doing that work for us in the community.
I would just like to move on to a couple of other issues here.
I know that you have been talking to other members about the telephones. I have had numerous people, again, talking to me from all different areas of my riding about the bringing in of telephones. The latest one here was just a couple of hours ago. I assured the folks that, according to the service improvement plan, this is the time that they will be getting their telephone service.
I would like to ask the minister if that is the only vehicle that the minister has in mind for the development of telephone service into unserved areas. And if I am not making myself clear, ask again.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Just a reminder to all members opposite that the service improvement plan questions are to be addressed to the Department of Government Services because Connect Yukon has nothing to do with telephones. The service improvement plan does, and the Minister of Government Services will deal with those questions.
Mr. Keenan: I was hoping that we wouldn't have to go down this route of moving from one department to another. I am asking a very simple question.
Contained within the departmental objectives of the Department Community and Transportation Services, it does speak to developing transportation, Connect Yukon, telecommunication and community infrastructure, to improve the quality of life for all Yukoners. So, I do believe that I am asking the right minister. So, if the minister does look in the dictionary - and everybody in this House knows what a great command of the English language that I do have - telecommunication does include telephones. I guess Oxford here can't be too terribly wrong. So, I am speaking to the right minister.
Now, the minister - and please, this is a friendly question. This is not a mean, loaded question. I want to bring certainty to my people, my constituents who are out there at this point in time. The only way that I can do that is to say, no, the government does not have the political aspiration or will or desire, or whatever it is, to develop a telephone program. I did not say Connect Yukon, I said a telephone program.
Does this government and this minister feel that there is a need for a telephone program within the Yukon Territory? It is a simple question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: And not a leg-hold or conibear trap in sight.
Mr. Chair, the program objectives for the Government Services department under technology and telecommunications include to coordinate Yukon telecommunications and broadcasting policy and regulatory matters, and the service improvement plan falls under the Department of Government Services. As such, it is not proper for me to answer questions for that department. They should be addressed to the Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I really did not want to go into this route, here, because this is a very simple question. But I would like the minister to stand on her feet and describe the seventh objective within the department.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the service improvement plan is dealt with the Department of Government Services. Questions about the service improvement plan will be answered by the Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, this is not a service improvement plan question. Let's put the service improvement plan aside. Let's speak totally about the objectives of the department, of which one includes, "To develop transportation, Connect Yukon, telecommunication and community infrastructure to improve the quality of life for all Yukoners." Now, that's the seventh objective. I look into the Concise Oxford Dictionary, page 1099, telecommunication: "communication over a long distance by cable, telegraph, telephone or broadcasting".
Now, I'll put the snarky attitude aside for a few moments, if I may, and just ask the question of the minister. I believe it's contained within the departmental objectives. It's there. You have to change the objectives, and I'm sure the gentleman to your right will now be able to do that, but I'm asking a question. Does this government feel that they want to or should be developing a program - call it whatever you will - for the implementation of telephone service in unserved areas?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Department of Government Services has responsibility for questions about the service improvement plan, which was a Northwestel request to the CRTC, and the service improvement plan is doing what the member is asking. But questions about it should be directed to the Government Services minister, not to Community and Transportation Services.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I was wondering if the minister might be able to stand on her feet and describe the intent of the seventh objective.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the member well knows, the telecommunication in that objective refers to many of the other areas that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is involved in, such as broadcasting and the MDMRS radio system.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I certainly disagree with the minister on that, and I would ask the minister if she would look to maybe clearly defining departmental objectives.
Chair: Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Keenan: Well, obviously, Mr. Chair, the minister is not aware or not prepared to speak to the departmental objectives. Just for the record, Mr. Chair, I'm going to reiterate, because this is going to make one nice humdinger of a mail-out for me, and I'm doing it in a nice tone.
Now, the seventh objective within the Department of Community and Transportation Services says, "To develop transportation, Connect Yukon, telecommunication and community infrastructure to improve the quality of life for all Yukoners." We have agreement from the minister that that is the case.
I also understand, as the previous minister of the department, that there are other telecommunication-type vehicles within the department. What is not clear here now is this objective, because I do believe that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is the lead agency when it comes to delivering telephone services to subdivisions, as the minister was saying to the Member for Klondike the other day.
Now, is the minister saying that the existing programs within the department, such as the MMDRS and all those other wonderful things, are inclusive of telephones and subdivisions and new subdivisions? I'd like to ask that question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Our departmental objectives are quite clear and, as the member is also aware, when the Department of Community and Transportation Services does subdivision development, telephones are included through the telephone service provider. But the focus of this department is not telephones. The service improvement plan, which is about telephones, is dealt with by the Department of Government Services.
Mr. Keenan: Well, that mantra is simply that. It's not a feel-good mantra. It's just a mantra. Actually, it's a departmental mantra. That's terrible, because what I can suppose - I guess that might be the word, and there might be better words, and I have a dictionary in front of me, but I'll just go with "suppose" - is that people think that government is there to assist and to help. When I say, well, I don't know, and I'm going to ask a question, and I'm not going to ask the question in a mean way - I want to know, yes, do they have the internal fortitude to do this?
What I'm hearing from the minister now, in every other language possible, including body language, is that, "No, we do not have the internal fortitude to develop a new program. We put all of our aspirations to get phone service into the Department of Government Services, and what we've done is we have done our role, because it's defined in the service improvement plan. And yes, we're totally happy with the service improvement plan, time frame and dates, thank you very much." That's what I'm getting from the minister. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am making no comment one way or another on the service improvement plan. It is the responsibility of another department and I am not going to comment on it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I am not going to take this dead dog and drag it around any more because it is gone - it is absolutely gone. But what I will seek is for the department to change their objectives. Would the department please change the objectives within the departmental objectives to clarify that no, it has nothing to do with the service improvement plan, but, yes, it has everything to do with telephones when it comes to the development of new subdivisions? Will the minister do that just for clarity, for the rubes in the country like myself? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes feels that there is some lack of clarity in the program objectives of the department, we can take another look at them before the next budget. Most people I have talked to have had no problem with them.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I finally got a commitment out of the minister. And for that, I think I will mark the wall because this is the first commitment I have had from this minister in three sessions, I think.
Certainly, it is not for my clarity. I believe that it is for the minister's own clarity and the department's clarity and for all of those other folks out there who are sitting at home waiting for this wonderful Liberal government to deliver on some of their promises.
So, I shall step off of telephone services and let the folks in the communities know that this government does not have the internal fortitude to do what they said they would. But don't worry, the NDP will be back in three years.
I would like to speak about revotes if I could at this point in time. I know that the design work has been done, but I will ask that in a question. Has the design work been done on the bridge walkway?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The study for the potential addition of a walkway on the Nisutlin River bridge is in progress. Once the detailed estimate of construction costs is complete, we will be considering the project along with other capital projects.
Mr. Keenan: When do they expect that to happen, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I expect that the study will be completed within the next few weeks.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I would remind the minister, when campaigning after winning the election, spoke about implementing the meat and potatoes of the budget as it is. Of course, we all know that the Minister of Health went and abused that privilege, and he's going to continue to abuse that privilege, I believe, but we're not talking to the Minister of Health. We're talking to the Minister of C&TS.
Now, it has been approved within the previous budget. I would like to know when the revotes are going to be coming up for this capital expenditure. I believe it is $400,000 or $450,000 for the development of the walkway. Will that be honoured?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there was no money in the current budget for the building of a walkway. Therefore, there is no revote on that amount of money.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I take exception to that because I do believe it was there, but I'll look into it.
Mr. Chair, in absence of a walkway - and of course we know that this is a joint request by the Village of Teslin and the Tlingit Council of Teslin, where they hold their administrative centre. They had both asked numerous times for a walkway. Now, if the walkway - and I do not believe it is going to be built. The design work is going to get there. Is the minister aware of the surface of the bridge? The deputy minister sitting beside you would be able to better describe it, but it's certainly graded. I believe it has holes in it. Wear cowboy boots; it's tough to walk across. Thank gosh not many people wear those cowboy boots when they're out hiking. But certainly, it's a problem.
I want the minister to understand the nature of the problem. It's a joint community request. It has come from them for reasons of safety, to promote the Trans Canada Trail, to promote tourism - those type of initiatives there.
If we're not going to do a walkway, which I believe is desperately needed, and if the minister would join me in a Sunday walk out there someday, I would like to take the minister for a walk across that bridge, because it's a very dangerous bridge. We have steel quarters here and then steel quarters down here that act as guards, and they're good to keep a semi-trailer under the bridge, but a child or any person walking could easily slip through there, and I remember as a youngster when I used to jump through there and go swimming I used to get my butt kicked an awful lot because it's very, very dangerous. Things have not changed since then.
So, I'd like for the minister to take all of that into consideration as we do that, and if the minister would please consider those capital infrastructures and the development or the non-development of a walkway there, I would appreciate the minister putting all of those things into the air and understanding the decision as we go through that decision.
I'd also like to know about the sewer upgrade. I know that there was a request - again, a joint request. The community has 10 percent of the money for the extension of the sewer, so that they can get away from the expense of trucking and hauling the sewage and taking it in there. Now, a design has been done on the sewer, and I see the minister's looking at me with what I would like to think are quizzical eyes.
I want to know - where the sewer ends now, I believe, is somewhere around the airport, and they have to extend it down to the lagoon where it is now. The community has 10 percent of the money, and they were hoping that government would be able to supplement the rest, seeing as the government did make hay of it during the election campaign, talking about water and sewer being very important to the communities. I'll never forget the Tourism minister standing up and demanding that we do those things.
So I'd like to know when you feel that this is going to be put into place, this program. Would it be in consideration next year, because the community, as I last talked to them, have not heard back from any government member, other than the ones that were there, and that was in January. So I'm asking questions now so I can communicate with the community.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Getting back to, first of all, the Nisutlin River bridge walkway, I am puzzled by one thing. If this has been a priority of the community for as many years as the member says, I am amazed that he did nothing about it when he was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. As I have said, I expect the study within the next few weeks.
As for the Teslin sewer project, from the sewer main to the lagoon, we're prepared to work with the community to further assess the needs. We became aware of an interest by the village in this project as a consequence of an inquiry by the department, through the Cabinet meeting in Teslin.
The sewage is currently collected by a piped system and delivered to a community holding tank, which is then pumped out and trucked to the lagoon. I understand that that is not the most ideal situation, and we will be getting more details from the village.
I note, also, that for significant projects of this nature - and this would be a significant project as the preliminary cost estimates would be about $3.5 million - municipalities have the ability to apply for funding assistance through an extraordinary funding contribution.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for that information, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate the minister supplying that information and direction. I take it that she has asked the department to look and find ways, and I understand that they can do it through extraordinary events.
Now, the bridge walkway, of course, if it has been such a demand from the community - well, Mr. Chair, when I hear things, I don't make promises off the cuff, or shoot off the lip. I certainly try to get all the factors together and to move and to find a way of how to accomplish something, not to put into rhyme or reason why you can't do something, but how you can do something.
So when I found out about the Nisutlin bridge pedestrian walkway, I acted on it - I acted on it. I acted on safety lights on the opposite end. Thank you, that reminds me of something. Lights at the opposite end, and we did that. Now, that fell outside of departmental policy, but the nature of the problem showed that there was definitely a problem. So I take exception to the minister's remarks saying that if this were my priority, why didn't I do it? It is my priority and I did start and invoke the system to do it. So, I want that to be recognized. I did not stand in this House and say that there will be $30 million allocated over the next couple of years and then have to come back and say no. This is a nice little shot back to the minister, just so the minister understands. I might be hard of hearing but I am not completely illiterate. So, I would suggest to the minister that she could gobble up a little bit of her own advice at times.
On the rural roads and their upgrade, I would like to know if the minister is looking at a change in policy on the rural roads upgrade program.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We provided copies of the policy to members opposite just a couple of weeks ago and no change in policy is contemplated. I am hopeful that the funding will increase in the 2002-03 fiscal year, but it wasn't possible for this fiscal year that we are now debating.
Mr. Keenan: Well, let me say that I am very pleased that the minister is looking that way because that is not a fiscal question that I asked, but I appreciate that the minister takes it seriously. It was a policy question. I understand that there is a policy that came out. I do know that in the communities I have talked to, of the different operators who benefit from that program, certain ones want to change the policy so that it would be more focused - get a better bang for their buck kind of thing. I have spoken to them. I believe that other members of your caucus are certainly very well aware of what they were promoting and what the different ones have been promoting. That is the reason for my question; it's strictly a policy question. I heard the minister say that there is no expectation for a change in policy at this point in time or in the near future. Is that what I heard the minister say?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is obviously getting at something specific, some specific problems that he has heard about. I would appreciate if he would share them with the House.
Mr. Keenan: I'm kind of surprised, Mr. Chair, that you haven't been apprised of this because, certainly, members of your caucus have been there and were apprised of it in the same meeting that I was at. I think there were only five of us in the room, but I certainly will. I will, because it's very serious. Your deputy minister, I think, is aware of the problem, but I will take a few moments to maybe explain some of the nature of the problem.
In Teslin, there is the sawmill road, and the minister probably took a cruise down the sawmill road when she was in Teslin. It goes back into Nisutlin Bay and to a tourism resort, and there's room on both sides for future subdivision development or that type of thing.
There are people who live down there year-round. They have been asking continually to develop and upgrade the road because it's a little economic generator to people coming back and forth and using the road. So, what we did is that we went through the scoring process, et cetera, and we said that yes, it does warrant an upgrading. So we said, "Let's do it." Off the top of my head, I can't remember - $20,000 or something like that went to that road. What we tried to do, Madam Minister, at that point in time, is - because some of the road lies within the jurisdiction of the Village of Teslin, we tried to encourage the village to come in and say, "Would you please put some money in here and we'll do this really nice road for the benefit of the community?" Well, for whatever reason, the village refused.
We said that we should go ahead with it, and we did. So now what we have here is a road that is three-quarters done. The territorial government's portion is right up to par and the one-quarter that's within the Village of Teslin, or a portion of it, is not right up to par.
I believe that the operators who were in the room at the time had spoken to the chair and others - the Member for Riverside was there also at the time - and said that, for the bang of $20,000 we could have done the whole job. So I sat down for a few moments and said, "Well, that's a little deep." And if I remember correctly, the MLA for Riverside said, "Yes, yes, yes, but..." and explained the situation. And I appreciated that because it was more than just making $20,000 of roadwork. It was a jurisdictional problem, too, that was involved.
They said they could do it for $20,000. What I'm trying to find out are the objectives. We've just been through some objectives here already, and we could go waltzing through some more objectives, but the objective of the program is to be able to allow local opportunity for business people and also to create local opportunity and improve community infrastructure. I like that, and everybody likes that. What I was wondering, though, is the minister looking to change any of that policy within, and how will it affect those objectives of community employment and community improvement? But the minister has assured me that there is no change in the wind for the policy, and that's the backdrop. Is that correct, Madam Minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is no change in policy contemplated at this point. The rural roads upgrade program does not apply within municipalities; it is for rural roads outside municipalities where there is a need, and the member is well aware of the criteria of the methods for getting projects on the list. Since it doesn't apply within municipalities, that would be a major shift in emphasis for the program and would take away from the truly rural roads, for which it is intended.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I also thank the minister for that answer, and I take comfort in the answer. I understand that we can work other ways with the jurisdiction so we can get good community infrastructure. I appreciate that.
I'd like to just stick to the rural roads program for a few moments. A couple of years ago, the director of transportation was cruising through Johnson's Crossing, I believe, and had spoken to a gentleman by the name of Les Allen. You might know Les Allen - Les and Pansy Allen. They live just about underneath the bridge there, on the left. They've got that nice little, old cottage, and it's really beautiful there. You know what I mean. They do a lot of traditional things - fishing guides, selling smoked fish - a lot of cultural-oriented issues.
As the Alaska Highway is this high here, and you come up from that walkway or that access, you have a grade like this. And what it's doing is breaking the law. So I believe the director at that point in time agreed it was breaking the law, and we have to bring the lift up that enters on to the Alaska Highway so that it's on more of a flat plane, so they can move on to the highway, instead of sliding back this way. It's this point in law, or a standard anyway, somewhere.
This was supposed to have been done - well, I believe it was addressed to the department in 1998. Yes, I was the minister, I understand that. Working with the department to prioritize different issues; I understand that also.
I would like to know if it is on the radar screen at this point in time.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will certainly check with the department about that specific project.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I think, Madam Minister, that it's as easy as going, "It's going to happen." The department is on your right-hand side there, but I appreciate that, if you would check with the department.
While you are checking with the department, maybe we could do an analysis, with the good work that has been done in Tourism. I would say that, over the last 20 years, the Yukon is becoming more of a tourism destination. Each successive government in the last 20 years has put phenomenal resources toward tourism and have worked with tourism, so we have a great influx of visitors here, from renting cars to coming out and renting canoes, and all sorts of things.
Unfortunately, some of the locals - I'm not sure how to say it, but they maybe are not so pleased with that, because they're pleased to see the economy and the dollars floating around and taking advantage of that, but it's putting a burden on some of the infrastructure.
Now we have that roadway from Johnson's Crossing scooting down and underneath the bridge and coming around and back up there. I don't know, it's about 200 or 300 metres maybe - say 400 metres at the max. In the summertime now, we go ahead and blade it up. We put sulphur and all that other stuff on the road for dust control and whatnot, but we don't seem to get around to that until quite late in the season. I understand. I have talked to the people who live along there, and I've said, "Well, you have to give them a chance, and you have to work with the department." I've talked to the department. "Please, can we do this expeditiously so we can stop them from raising dust?" Because what we have here is an elderly lady and her elderly husband, and they do all these handcrafts and things. They do it by hand, and then they put it into money. Then these trucks and the traffic come by, and there's sulphur blowing through the air, and it's into their food, it's into their garden, it's into their moose skins and those types of things.
I'm sure you know the couple - Les and Pansy Allen. They're a lovely couple - really nice folks. Would it be possible for the minister to direct the department to do a cost analysis on the difference between maintaining the road and chipsealing the road? Now, I'm going to answer the minister's question, because when I asked that of the department, they said, "We don't even have a road down there. We don't plow that road." So, I said, "Maybe we ought to go back and talk to the foreman and maybe we ought to find out that we do plow that road." They came back and said, "Oops, by God, we do plow the road." So, we do plow the road. We can't say we don't now.
I was wondering if the minister would please look at two things. If we can't chipseal it this year, which I think - well, the minister knows better about that than I do. Could we at least do a cost-benefit analysis on it? Probably it won't work out so much that it will be a cost benefit to chipseal it, but certainly for the comfort of the people and for the advent of the tourists who use that area, it would be very beneficial.
I would like to ask the minister, twofold, on that. Is that possible?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can certainly ask the department to look into doing the calcium treatment on the roads earlier and to check into the cost of various options with regard to the road. We can look into that for the member.
Mr. Keenan: I take the minister at her word that that will happen. There's a communication problem surrounding this, as we go through here. I would like to know sooner rather than later, so that I can share that bit of news. I certainly appreciate that I will be able to say to the folks that, "Yes, we will be getting the sulphur and calcium, et cetera, onto the road sooner rather than later."
While that department is in that mode, I would like that department to cruise on up the road about 20 miles, turn to the right into the Teslin cottage lots - and maybe you folks have toured the Teslin cottage lots - and do the same cost-benefit analysis for the cottage lots. The cottage lots subdivision probably has approximately two to three kilometres of road within it, but it has the same problem. Cottage lots is a deceiving term actually, because they are all year-round residents who live down there, and there are approximately 15 or 20 year-round residences there. So, while we are in that mode, I would appreciate if the minister could get that work done. Would that be possible?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will check into that road as well. I know that it does take a certain amount of traffic to make BST cost-beneficial, but we will look into it in the cottage lots subdivision as well.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate that very much if we could do that. When we do this, I would appreciate it if we could -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: I feel very sorry. Okay, Mr. Chair, I am not trying to prolong the agony here at all, but I understand that the minister is not feeling well. I just have a few short questions for the minister.
I would like to be kept in the loop when we are going to do this. Could we do it in conjunction with the people who live there? Because I happen to know of one individual from within the department who sat there and did a traffic count. That maybe wasn't quite the proper way to do it, so I would suggest that we include the community. That would be the proper way. Whether it is positive or not, that would be the way to do it.
I would also like to shift over to Tagish now and speak about the Tagish Estates subdivision road. Could the minister - I am not trying to whack you here or anything, but I know what the problem of the road is, okay? Before we brought in the Subdivision Act - that pertains to standards, and it says that if a private developer is going to build a road, it has to be done to these standards so that we can have school buses and all these things coming in. Well, before that, some of those issues didn't happen, and we had land opened up and surveyed but the roads are in an atrocious state of affairs.
The Tagish Estates road is one of them, and I'll describe for the minister what that road actually looks like. What we have is the legal roadbed coming right down here and then we have willows right up onto the road. There are no ditches on this one side because it's all over on the other side. They have ditches on one side but not on the other. It's a real mess and I know the deputy minister knows about the area because we talked about it before, in the last couple of years, I guess.
I would like the department to go out and look at that road to see if there are ways we could improve it, because I do believe that now it is under the tenure - "jurisdiction" might be a better word - under the jurisdiction of the territorial government. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is a road system that is under the jurisdiction of the territorial government, and there was some rural road upgrading money spent there last year - $20,000. I can ask the department to go and take a look at it. I don't know how soon they would be able to go and do that this spring, considering the number of things on their plate, but we can try to have a look at it.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for that and I very much appreciate that. I will put some of the folks who live out in that subdivision on notice that the department will be coming to look. Maybe if the department does come and look, the department could - and I will get a name to notify when they do come to look, because when I went and had a real hands-on look at it I thought, "Holy, man. This is very terrible." You have to stick your truck over halfway, right into the roadway, and at this time of the year the roadway is only this big. It's dangerous like eating cold soup. It's not good for you. That's how dangerous it could be.
So I would appreciate it if you would look at that.
It's also a school bus route, and I've had complaints that I'd like to pass on to the minister at this point in time - that it's not plowed nearly far enough for the school bus to safely turn around, et cetera. So, if the minister would just take that for what it's worth and look into that, maybe as one of the guiding principles.
I have just a few more questions. I will try and let the minister get out of here in 10 minutes, if I can. That's how quick I'll go.
The minister spoke to me in the last session that we had - or the last sitting of this particular session - about street lights, and I took comfort in the minister's words when she said she would be looking at maybe the development of a new policy or the consideration of different items in the policy so that we might be able to bring street lights into areas that do not fit within the policy as it exists now. Has the minister taken it upon herself to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I must apologize. The department has briefing information ready for me on street lights, and I just haven't had time to sit down with them for a couple of hours to deal with it, but I will.
Can the member please clarify the complaints about the school bus? Was that again in Tagish Estates, and specifically where?
Mr. Keenan: Yes, it is. As you proceed through the Tagish Estates - as you know, you're going through Tagish and you hit the Estates, you turn to the right and you get on to the road. If I recall correctly, it's the very first road that you hit, and it would be going straight west. I believe there are other roads that hive off to the north of that, but I believe that where I'm talking about is straight west, and there are a couple of families who live out there who are suffering from that. So, that's good.
I appreciate that the minister hasn't had time. I understand how busy it must get, and I must say I do not have that busy problem any more.
I understand that there's a busy problem on that side. Would it be better for me to send a letter to the minister to ask about these specific areas, because I know they are in the Carcross area? There's right up to Chooutla subdivision, I believe. The other one was in the Tagish area, and it was the First Nation subdivision, because I don't believe there's a name for it. But as you proceed, going toward Jake's Corner from the bridge, it's about a half mile up on the right-hand side, so it would be going to the south, and there's that subdivision in there. That's actually one of the most critical places, I think, that needs street lighting at this point in time, because there are a whole bunch of families living there. It is out in the boonies, I guess, for lack of a better word. There's lots of wildlife that move around. Children have been seeing animals on the routes. It's a scary thing for them. They're walking in the dark with little flashlights, and I know that the minister is understanding how scary that can be, having grown up in the Yukon herself. So I will send a new letter to the minister on that, and if the minister could answer that and I could bring some comfort to those people, I'd appreciate it.
I'm having some problems with the process. The processes are the FTLAC, the LARC, the Federal/Territorial Lands Advisory Committee - I know that this is multi-jurisdictional. I don't want to be told by the minister that this is not her department, it's the other department, because I know it's really chaotic. Well, just as I said, it's the Federal/Territorial Lands Advisory Committee.
I have constituents in the Carcross area who have been into this process and they're getting jerked all around the doggone place. They get some certainty and then the certainty is removed.
I guess what I need is a clarification of the process. Could the minister provide that? Because what we have here, from what I understand, is a very confusing and very upsetting process. Folks are looking - and I'm talking about business people here - to inject money into the economy to develop tourist attractions. It's all happening in light of the development of the five-star hotel in the area. Some of these folks have been in this process - well, one of them has been in the process for up to 15 years.
The other has been in the process for, I think, a couple of those years - the last couple of years now - and they're getting very, very frustrated. They're looking at litigation and I said, whoa, before we get into litigation and hiring some of these top guns or lawyers who cost lots of bucks, I'll talk to the minister first to see if the minister could do that.
So, I'd appreciate if the minister could and would look into that for me.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I, too, have constituents who are frustrated with the process. If the member would speak with me during the break and give me some more details, we can determine which committee is responsible for it and can perhaps get somewhere.
In view of the time, Mr. Chair, perhaps we could take a break.
Chair: We'll let that stand for one more question, and then I'll call a recess.
Mr. Keenan: It's on tax rates and services, and I guess it has to do with telephones in a way.
I'm wondering - some of us live out where we don't get services, and that's by choice. That's by choice, and, God, I would never turn that in for services, but others don't have the mentality that I have.
We pay the same tax rate as other people who collect those services.
Now, I have one constituency couple who are a very dear couple, and who are thinking of moving to Whitehorse because they don't have security in fire protection and they don't have water service. They said they could live without those two, because we have people who help each other out there, of course, as everywhere in the Yukon, but it's those doggone telephones that are really driving them to Whitehorse.
I've heard what the minister said on telephones, but I feel that it's unfair for people like them who are paying the tax rate for some of these services but are not getting these services, and they could accept that but now they have to move to Whitehorse because of age and illness, I guess, too.
I was just wondering - I heard the minister say to my colleague from Kluane the other day that the rural services paper needs a little work. Well, I know the rural services paper is ready to go. I support the rural services paper. Bring it into this House. Bring it into policy. I want it, because that will help clarify some of the issues. I will massage over here, you massage over there, and we'll get something happening here.
I want the minister - I guess it's not really a question; it's more of a statement - to know that it is very serious out there. Also in the Tagish area, it's very, very serious, because I have a lot of seniors there. I hope to get that old someday, too.
Chair: The time being 4:30, 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. We are in general debate on Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have had an opportunity to review Hansard and some of the responses received from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding the Shakwak project and the contracts that are currently out for this forthcoming year. And I have had an opportunity to dovetail the information that the minister provided with the way the Shakwak project was operated in previous years.
The minister made the statement that most of the work that was to be proceeded with was summer work. That's why it was tendered as late as it has been. Well, the information that I have taken from the tender documents is that that is simply not the entire case. A great deal of the work could have, in fact, been done this last winter and could have, in fact, been tendered earlier.
In fact, a lot of the work that is going to be tendered and is currently being tendered will have to be done this next winter. I refer specifically to the work at Christmas Creek. That work could have been done and Yukoners could have been put to work this last winter. Instead, what is going to happen is that they won't be working until next winter.
There is also a major waste cut that could have been tendered earlier and could have put Yukoners to work this winter. It is a rock cut adjacent to permafrost and that work won't be done until late this fall or early next year. There is also a quarry pit that could have put Yukoners to work this last fall and winter. Instead, it is only currently being tendered.
In fact, the Government of the Yukon - if the minister was on the ball, she could have drawn down more Shakwak money, created more contracts and put more Yukoners to work than currently will be the case.
Now, why that hasn't taken place - I'm extremely disappointed, and I think the minister will find that a great number of the contractors out there are equally disappointed. I go back to the Yukon Party's position, Mr. Chair, when they came to power, as to how to turn the economy around. They put together a private/public partnership of individuals to look at these kinds of initiatives and to review what could be moved forward immediately, with the understanding that we'd create jobs, we'd create opportunities for Yukoners. And all we have here is a whole series of missed opportunities, and that in itself is a shame, given the state of our economy.
Mr. Chair, that could have created a lot more economic certainty here in the Yukon than what has been created by this government to date.
Mr. Chair, could I have some assurances from the minister that she will examine in detail the opportunities that the Shakwak money presents, with a view to accelerating the opportunities for contractors to go to work at an earlier date, to go to work over the period of the winter, not just sit back and take the road of passive resistance and say that it's summer work?
I guess every highway engineer wants to do the work in the summer, because that's when the weather conditions are the nicest to do the work. But, if you look at the date at the close of the contract this year, it closes on April 19. I'm sure that the road bans will be on, and the Alaska Highway will be 100-percent legal axle loading. What that means is that there are no overweight permits. Contractors can't mobilize their equipment during those times. The road bans may or may not come off in late May or early June. So, we've missed a whole window of opportunity for the contractors to go to work early, and why? It would appear that there has been no forethought and no planning done on this exercise. The path of least resistance has been taken.
That's a shame, Mr. Chair, given that the Shakwak money is there. That money has been transferred from the federal Government of the United States to Canada, and it has been forwarded to Yukon.
Can I have an undertaking from the minister here today that she's going to examine with her officials ways to accelerate these contracts, and I don't want to hear that the capital projects are going to be in the fall budget. That's just a step forward. In the existing format that has existed for past years under the NDP, they even had the forethought to get these contracts out earlier.
Now, why are they slipping back? Is it because these contracts are in rural Yukon, Mr. Chair?
The exercise of good government is to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer. Now, the creation of wealth is something that is not readily understood by this Liberal government. They're reliant, virtually, on Ottawa for the transfer dollars, and they're reliant 100 percent on government - the federal government for transfers and for money.
Government itself does not create wealth. The easiest way to look at government is that government is a big horse that has to be constantly fed and watered. The way that this Liberal government is looking at government, it's a big cow that you constantly milk, but it has to be fed, sooner or later, and that part is being neglected. That poor cow is getting thinner and thinner, and more and more people are leaving as a consequence.
You can see the cow fading away before our very eyes, Mr. Chair.
I'll go back to my question to the minister, Mr. Chair. Can we have some assurances that the Shakwak contracts are going to be out earlier, close earlier, and Yukoners can go to work at an earlier date and stay working over the course of the winter, as they have in the past? Now, it's going to take a little bit of planning and a little bit of forethought on the part of the minister to direct her officials that this is the way she envisions things. We have enough highway engineers in the department that they can anticipate the needs and they can put the programs in place and do the engineering. We must have enough highway engineers, given that we have the ability to second them to other jurisdictions.
Now, given that we apparently have more than adequate staff in-house to address the engineering side of the equation, where is the problem and why the hesitancy on the part of the government to get these contracts out as early as possible? I'm not looking for the excuse, Mr. Chair, that they're summer construction projects. That simply is not the case, entirely.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike can have my assurance that the various Shakwak projects will be tendered when appropriate for the specific project. I believe that the department has done a good job organizing the projects for this year and, in fact, I have a couple of updates for him.
The schedule for the Jarvis River contract, kilometre 1664 to 1674, is that tenders will close April 19, construction will start May 22 and construction will be complete September 30.
The Silver Creek area - the tender will be advertised in April to close May 17; construction to start in early June, and construction completed at the end of June 2002.
For the Burwash Landing to Duke River section, tenders will be advertised on May 1 and close June 14. Construction is to start July 1 and, again, end at the end of June 2002.
I am confident that the department is doing a good job with these projects and will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that confidence is not shared by many in the industry, and their voices are such that they really can't do anything but sit back and wait for the government to react. And the government is reacting very, very slowly.
Can I seek the minister's assurances that, given the timing of the writing of these contracts and the start dates, overweight permits will be allowed on the Alaska Highway during breakup this year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The weight restrictions and the construction contracts - historically, 75-percent loading restrictions on Yukon highways will be removed by May 1, and 100-percent removed by June 1.
For the Jarvis River section, the contractor would be able to begin moving the construction camp and some light equipment up to a D-8 dozer, including a crusher, to the site by May 1. The first phase of this project is the set-up of camp, grubbing of right-of-way, clearing and stripping of the gravel pit and rock quarry, crushing of granular material for surfacing the detour road and the supply of culvert material. All of this work could be undertaken as soon as the equipment is taken to the site.
Heavy loads, scrapers, rock trucks, large dozers and large backhoes could be taken to the site beginning June 1.
By then, the frost should be out of the ground and the contractor could commence work on the detour road and with the excavation of rock from the rock quarry. We expect that the effect of load restrictions on the progress of this project will be minimal.
For the Silver Creek project, the contractor would be able to begin hauling light loads immediately upon award and would be able to begin hauling heavy loads within eight days of award. Load restrictions, we believe, will have no effect on the beginning of work on this project.
For the Burwash Landing to Duke River section, the load restrictions will be off before the contract is awarded.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would suggest to the minister that she ask for the weights of some of these pieces of equipment. Even with a dolly and a bolster and the legal axle loading at 100 percent, a lot of this equipment cannot be moved during the 100-percent legal axle loading along the Alaska Highway, Mr. Chair.
So contractors are going to be having difficulty mobilizing their equipment. The minister has very carefully skirted the whole issue by saying "light loads" could be moved in. That's just the case. Contractors, when they go out, like to mobilize. Their equipment goes in, bang, they get to work, and they get out. The exercise is to complete the job as quickly as possible in the best manner possible.
We have some excellent road-building contractors here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, but the restrictions being placed on them currently, by the timing of the awarding and letting of contracts are such that they're acting as an impediment to them doing the job in a manner that would have put Yukoners to work ahead of this time and would keep them working during the winter months.
Why are the minister and the department adamant that a lot of this work must be done in the summertime? Because the minister mentioned crushing. That can be done 12 months of the year, virtually, Mr. Chair. Quarry pit development - that can be done 12 months of the year. Is the answer why it's not being done in the winter because the minister has not been doing her job and not getting the proper quarrying permits in place prior? What's the real problem here, Mr. Chair? Because there's something more than the timelines and these just being summer jobs. Now, what is the real issue and the real reason, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said this before and I will say it again: I am confident that the department has done a good job with organizing these projects. Some of the projects in the past years have required winter work. The ones that will begin this year did not require work this past winter. The member doesn't like the answer that he is hearing, but that is the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that all of the applicable permits necessary for the construction that the Government of the Yukon had to obtain were applied for and have been obtained in a timely fashion?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will have to check on the specifics of that. I am not aware of any problems with permits.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was brought to my attention that the reason that these contracts weren't let at an earlier date was because all of the appropriate permits were not in place. The Government of the Yukon was having difficulty obtaining a number of permits, because of their late timelines in applying for them. Can the minister confirm that information? Or are we going to get a legislative return back on this one, too?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said that I would check on it. There is no need for the member to be obnoxious about it.
Chair: Order please. I would ask members to please refrain from personal comments on attitudes. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. No one is being obnoxious, Mr. Chair. The issue is that Yukoners could have been at work this last winter and this spring. They could be out there working already. Now, they are not because this minister has failed in her responsibility to ensure that the department moves ahead, addresses these contracts and gets them out in a timely fashion.
I'm seeking the minister's review of this matter, with respect to permits - that they were all applied for in the appropriate timelines, and all obtained in the appropriate timelines. I would appreciate a written response to that by way of a legislative return. Can the minister provide her assurances to that effect, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I can do that.
Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of other issues that arise where the regulatory authorities seem to be becoming more and more overzealous with respect to their position. And I refer to the Yukon Territorial Water Board and their recent requirement of construction camps that have an occupancy load exceeding 50 individuals to apply for a water licence to discharge their septic waste. This is even though they have a septic field in place that is approved by the authority having jurisdiction, and that has been overseen and monitored for its installation and conforms. Now, after the fact, Yukon Territorial Water Board officials are insisting that they have a water licence for the discharge of that waste, which basically trickles out into the ground and is dissipated. It's probably one of the best methods of sanitary waste disposal that we have.
Now, why is there this overzealous position taken by the Water Board? Is the minister aware of it? Is she aware of the timelines? More importantly, is she aware of the timelines that a contractor, when he's awarded a contract, must take to apply for this water licence, and the duration of the time from when the contractor applies to when the Water Board rules and grants the appropriate licence? Is she aware of those kinds of timelines - the lead lag on that kind of an application?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the issue did arise last year. The Water Board feels it has the right to do this. I will undertake to get some further information for the member on this.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for offering to provide me with more information. I have the information; that's why I'm asking the minister the question. What is she prepared to do to expedite these kinds of water licence requirements that are currently before contractors, given that they can delay the project and throw off the whole time schedule now of a major highway construction project?
That's the issue, Mr. Chair. It reflects back on the time that the contractor can go to work. If the camp contains an occupancy load of 50 or more individuals, they are required to get a Yukon territorial water licence. They are required to go through all of the hoops to obtain that water licence.
The regular sitting of the Water Board is such that it may or may not happen on a monthly basis. So, from the time the application is filed to the time it's granted could be several months. And there are not many licences that go through the Water Board in a period of two months, Mr. Chair. The minister might consult with her colleague, who is the former chair of the Water Board, to get an understanding of the timelines it takes to drag through the process.
So, this further impediment imposed on an approved septic system by the Yukon Territorial Water Board may have a negative impact on the timelines when the contractor can go to work, because really they can't occupy the camp with more than 50 individuals until they are in conformity and have a water licence for their septic discharge.
Now, what I'm asking the minister to do is to intercede, and let's apply some common sense to these regulations, Mr. Chair. Because the Department of Health looks at the drawings for the septic field and says yes, no or maybe. If it's a commercial installation, they really have somebody there on-site. Occasionally, for residential, they will accept pictures. So, if it's satisfactory to the Department of Health, what are we now doing introducing another regulatory body into the process? I'm looking for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to investigate this situation and to see what she can do to remove this requirement. Can the minister understand the seriousness of this problem and the impediment it may pose to the contractor going to work in a timely fashion? And can she please assist in removing this rather needless requirement from the backs of the contractors?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I understand the potential seriousness of the problem, and I said I will investigate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's get some certainty here. I'll look forward to a legislative return on this investigation.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the Member for Klondike wishes a legislative return, he shall have one.
Mr. Jenkins: We didn't get a really good understanding of highway loads, given the timelines that the contractors can go to work. Many of the loads that they have to transport on the highway will require overweight permits from the 100-percent legal axle loading along the Alaska Highway. Does the minister have some problem giving her department's decision to postpone the letting of these contracts and the delays in awarding them? The contractors really have to mobilize this equipment in there as soon as possible after they are awarded. They want to go to work as soon as possible. There might be other contracts later this year that they can bid on.
Now, what's the downside for allowing them overweight permits to mobilize their equipment to the job sites along the Shakwak highway projects?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the record, there was no postponement; there was no delay in the issuing of contracts for the Shakwak project this year. The projects are unfolding on schedule.
The problem with issuing overweight permits during a period of weight restrictions is damage to the road surface. We went through that a couple of weeks ago at great length, and damage to the road surface is what weight restrictions are designed to prevent, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, there have been delays in the letting of the contracts and there will be delays in awarding the contracts from previous years. The minister makes the decision as to when the department can issue the contracts and when they will award the contracts. The department has the ability as to when the road bans come on and when they come off, so the contractors are totally at the mercy of the Government of the Yukon, and all they want to do is go to work, Mr. Chair.
This government could facilitate that request and put Yukoners to work, if they would have let the Shakwak highway construction projects in a more timely manner, the same as previous years. A lot of this work could have taken place in the past winter and this spring and put Yukoners to work.
Could the minister just confirm that for the record - that contractors could work on this project during the winter and during the spring and that, in fact, a lot of this work will take place this fall and next winter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There was no postponement; there was no delay in the Shakwak projects this year. Yes, some of the contracts will continue through the next winter. That is by design.
Mr. Jenkins: And those same contracts could easily have taken place during this past winter, had the minister been on the ball and the department got the contracts out in a timely fashion. That is the point that I wish to make, and that is a valid position that the industry has pointed out to me - that the minister has been remiss in addressing her responsibilities. But I am sure that forewarned is forearmed, and she will spend some time asking the question as to why these contracts can't be let in a more timely fashion and awarded before the road bans go on. Because it is going to be very difficult for these contractors to mobilize their equipment during periods of weight restrictions on our highways.
I have a number of other issues I would like to explore with the minister. Let's go into a couple of simple ones that might be fresh on the minister's mind. Could the minister advise the House as to the cost to the department of providing the supervisor to the City of Dawson, what duration is anticipated, and what is going to be the total cost to YTG for this supervisor?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no additional cost to YTG for the supervisor for Dawson City.
Mr. Jenkins: I am so disappointed in the minister. What I am looking for is the cost to YTG for this supervisor who has been appointed to oversee the City of Dawson? Now, there is the return transportation on a regular basis. I am given to understand that YTG is picking up that cost. It was probably budgeted in somewhere. What I want to know from the minister is the total cost to YTG, including that portion of the wage and benefit package for the supervisor, that will be specifically allocated to Dawson for this individual. I know that Dawson isn't paying for it. YTG will be absorbing the cost internally. Surely we have to be aware of what those costs are, or is this some new internal accounting position so that we just spread it all over and just ignore it?
There has to be some internal tracking method as to what the supervisor is ultimately going to cost the department. What is that cost?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that there is no additional cost to YTG for the supervisor. That is the case. We can get an estimate for the Member for Klondike of what the cost has been so far in transportation. What it will cost in the future will depend on how long the supervisor remains in place.
Mr. Jenkins: Fundamental to an exercise of government is to be aware of your internal costs for the various undertakings that you have. It's becoming more and more obvious that the minister really doesn't understand how internal costings work.
I understand that she doesn't want to be more forthcoming with the actual figures, because each trip to Dawson by the supervisor - is the minister aware of what the cost of each trip to Dawson by the supervisor is?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I haven't reviewed his travel claims. The department can assemble that information. It has not yet done so.
Mr. Jenkins: This is going nowhere fast.
Would the minister please provide a legislative return with the total cost breakdown for the supervisor for the City of Dawson as to his internal cost, his payroll loading cost, his transportation cost, and other sundry costs associated with his responsibility to act as the supervisor for the City of Dawson? Could the minister please do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We can do that for the trips that have already occurred. If the member would like to know what he had for breakfast, we can probably find that out, too.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, here's a minister whom I asked, in gross figures, for the amount of his expenditure and what I am getting is details as to what the supervisor has for breakfast. I am really not interested in that.
If the minister would just be forthright and, yes, provide the information. I can understand that it might not be readily available, but I'm sure the department has an excellent handle on what the internal costing is for this individual and what expenses have been realized to date by the department to fulfill his obligation as supervisor for the City of Dawson. That's what I'm looking for, Mr. Chair. That's all I'm looking for.
Further to that, how long is this supervisor anticipated to be in place, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: At this point, there is no end date on the supervisor's appointment.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, given the financial plight of the City of Dawson, could the minister advise the House if she is comfortable with what, I'm sure, is the department's recommendation to loan the City of Dawson the necessary funds to complete their undertaking of the rec centre by way of the minister signing off this request, rather than going to a plebiscite of the property owners in the community?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, I am.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like the minister to elaborate on what provides her with that measure of comfort and certainty surrounding the debt load that the City of Dawson currently will be obligated and responsible to repay, given that it's amortized over 25 years and given that the only certainty under municipal block funding is one year at a time. This presents a tremendous burden to the taxpayers should federal transfer payments fall off or be reduced, as they will be after the next census adjustment. So, is there some assurance there that for the term of office that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is in place, that municipal block funding will remain at its current level or be increased? Is there any assurance there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Association of Yukon Communities has asked that we give them three years' notice of any change in municipal block funding, and we are looking at that request. I don't foresee any changes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's interesting that this Government of Yukon would lend a municipality money for 25 years and only assure them funding for three years. Try and take that to the bank and borrow - "I have a three-year job, but I am seeking a 25-year mortgage." It usually doesn't bode well with the bankers, and in this case, the banker is the Government of Yukon.
I have heard a lot of points being raised by constituents of mine who are taxpayers that this burden might become insurmountable, given the recent increase in water and sewer rates, given the potential increase in water or sewer rates from the advent of a sewage treatment plant, and given the debt load that the municipality will have in place.
Has the minister done an analysis of the debt load, as to whether it is manageable within forecasted changes that are anticipated within the Dawson community and within the provision of - especially utilities that are currently operated by the city?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The municipality is redoing their financial projections with the help of the supervisor. I am confident that they will be able to meet their obligations.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, as a significant taxpayer in that community, I'm sorry that I don't share the same position that the minister does, and I'm disappointed in the minister's response. I'm hoping it's not going to come back to haunt her, but it may very well do so, given that there are going to be two tremendous increases in utility charges to the City of Dawson. One is going to come about with the provision of electrical hydro to Dawson on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, that the resultant loss of the heating component for the potable water supply will have to be augmented using oil or some other fuel. This could result in a tremendous increase to the cost of the provision of potable water. That's one component that we're going to see change.
And in the position taken by Yukon Energy - yes, there may be secondary power sold to the municipality in off-peak hours for heating water. The water has to be heated virtually 24 hours a day, and the biggest demand on the water system is the same as the electrical system. It's first thing in the morning, lunch hour, then from about 4:30 until about 8:00 at night. That's when the energy is needed to heat the water supply. When the electricity was generated, which corresponded to the peaking in the water supply, they were in balance. There was more electricity being generated with diesel generators, there was more heat that could be used to heat the water, and they kind of rose and fell in sync. Now, that is not the case.
I'm sure that the mathematicians within the department could make the case that there would be surplus energy available, but when is it available, Mr. Chair, and at what reliability.
The other part of the equation that hasn't been looked at with respect to the hydro transmission line is the flex-term note with Canada with respect to the debt repayment for the Northern Canada Power Commission - as to how that's going to impact on this system being utilized to an extent that it hasn't been utilized before. The terms of that flex-term note with Canada, Mr. Chair, were such that, in the event of the shutdown of any major mine, the interest payment and the debt payment on that component stop, and that was a good thing for Yukon. But I don't really believe that's been examined in its entirety.
Then, we look at the other area that's going to have a significant impact in Dawson with respect to sewer rates, which is the potential for an additional cost increase due to secondary sewage and sewage treatment that is, once again, being required and, once again, being required for a situation that arises for about 90 days out of the year - about a three-month window - where the discharge into the Yukon River appears to exceed the standards set on it with respect to the LC50 standards by the Water Board.
The LC50 standards might be something that the minister could take up the challenge with and examine in greater detail, with a view to going back to the Water Board and putting in a testing facility here in the Yukon that might review and undertake this kind of testing, because it is a very expensive test. How it works, Mr. Chair, is that the utility pulls a composite sample over 24 hours from the sewage discharge, and it is contained in one of those little five-gallon buckets, those nice little red plastic buckets. The water temperature is about three, four, five degrees Celsius in the sewage end of things - maybe one degree higher, maybe one degree lower - and that composite sample is shipped to a lab in Vancouver.
Now, it may or may not make connections from Dawson onto the Air Canada flight south and, because it is considered to be an unknown material, it is not shipped priority, and they won't accept it priority shipment, because nobody can specify what is in that container. It is said to contain sewage effluent.
Then, when it gets to Vancouver, it is sometimes the next day before it gets to the lab - usually the next day, depending on if it makes the morning flight or the afternoon flight.
After all is said and done, the contents of that five-gallon container are dumped into a nice little aquarium, and those little fishies are introduced. And if over 50 percent of them croak, they have failed the test. That's it. They have failed. Nothing is taken into consideration with respect to the rise in the water temperature of the sample polled, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water of the sample polled, or the fact that the sample wouldn't even support fish with the amount of oxygen in it to start, Mr. Chair. The Minister of Renewable Resources can confirm all this because he's well-versed with it. So, I would urge the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to take a briefing on this area, because it's a very important facet as to the cost of providing municipal services here in the Yukon, and it's going to be an ever-increasing one.
No one wants to damage the environment, and no one wants to hurt the little fishies in the Yukon River or any other river or stream in the Yukon, but the fact that remains is that receiving body of water is tremendous in comparison to the amount of diluted effluent that is discharged into it.
I had occasion to speak with the former Minister of Fisheries, who is now the current Minister of the Environment, who comes from Victoria. It's interesting to note what the federal Minister of Fisheries' position was at the time with respect to the discharge from the City of Victoria, which is dumped right out in the ocean with less treatment than the City of Dawson is intending to giving their sewage. Not only that, Mr. Chair, the sewage from Dawson is not coming from an industrial area. It's primarily residential, and the chemicals in it are such that they're not anywhere near impacting on our environment like the chemicals that are dumped in from an industrial region or an industrial subdivision, like the City of Victoria.
That is on the record, Mr. Chair, and that information is readily available.
So, we have one wonderful set of standards that the federal Minister of Fisheries accepted for Victoria, but he won't accept and acknowledge what the City of Dawson is doing, Mr. Chair. So the outcome is going to be a multi-million dollar expenditure to provide secondary sewage treatment. And who pays, Mr. Chair? It's either the ratepayer or the taxpayer. Mr. Chair, the ratepayer and the taxpayer are the same.
So at the end of the day, who wins? It's not the fish, because they've pretty well abandoned the Yukon. They're not here any more. Just like the workforce under this Liberal government, they've gone elsewhere. As long as the Member for Kluane promises not to come to Dawson, I'm sure we can keep the sewage discharge at a proper level, Mr. Chair, but that's it.
Mr. Chair, there's a whole number of costs that are not being addressed in this equation, dealing with the City of Dawson. Now, we recognize that Dawson is in financially dire straits, and we recognize that Dawson needs help, and the minister must have had to wrestle tremendously with the decision to appoint a supervisor. The appointment of a supervisor is the first step under the Municipal Act, the second step being getting rid of the whole mayor and council, and I know the minister was loathe to proceed that far. And there didn't appear to be a requirement to proceed that far, Mr. Chair, but a supervisor appears to be very necessary to keep a thumb on the pulse, especially of the finances of that community.
Mr. Chair, we are faced with a growing crisis. The water and sewer charges for our community are one of the highest, if not the highest, in the Yukon currently. They are going to be going higher, given that the Mayo-Dawson transmission line is going to be replacing the diesel plant in Dawson to a great degree. There won't be the surplus heat available to heat the potable water supply.
I guess the minister can look at it and say, "Fine. Cut down on the amount of water usage." The other side of the equation is that, because it's a piped system and it's a piped system in permafrost, the sewer lines do not remain on the standard grade. They end up curving and bending with the permafrost. And in order to keep the effluent flowing, a constant flow of water has to be maintained in the sewer system. In fact, many of the homes at the end of the sewage line on the street have been asked to turn their bleeders up in the course of a winter and bleed more water so that the sewer lines will stay open.
So, the equation to cut down on water use is one that is a double-edged bit on that axe, Mr. Chair. And that is not even being taken into consideration. The next step, we are given to understand, is that there is going to be a reinstitution of all of the water meters in the community, with its resulting capital cost. And the resulting capital cost is anywhere from about $1,500 to $2,000 per household for a water meter. And what have we accomplished at the end of the day?
We'll end up having the city bleed the necessary water to keep the sewage system open.
So there's a very serious problem. Then we're going into secondary sewage treatment. The usual method of secondary sewage treatment here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, is by way of sewage lagoons. I guess Dawson could use lagoons. They could pump it over the hill behind Dawson, over into the next valley, or they could pump it under the Yukon River and upstream to a sewage treatment area. But all of these costs, let alone the line and the resulting pumping costs, are prohibitive. So Dawson will end up with one of those mechanical sewage treatment plants.
There have been improvements made in the technology lately, Mr. Chair. There have been improvements made that might have an impact on the overall cost to the community. They might spare the community a lot of the additional costs that may be incurred with the operation of a lagoon-type system, where all you have to have is a lagoon able to hold, I believe, two to two and a half times the annual output of the sewage system of that community.
So, it's quite a volume in the sewage lagoon that has to be contained therein. Given the nature of Dawson where, in order to keep the water lines and the sewer lines open, bleeding must take place, the minister only has to turn to her deputy minister, who, as one of his projects when he came to the Yukon, was overseeing the installation of that wonderful system. So, I know that the information is readily available at his fingertips, and a thorough briefing on this subject would probably be advantageous for the minister.
Further to that, Mr. Chair, I believe the department should take a very proactive position with respect to the re-licensing of municipal water supplies and municipal sewage discharge systems. They only appear to get involved after the fact, or when a problem may or may not arise. What ends up happening is we have a whole series of different positions taken and different standards adopted. What might be nice for the department to do - not only nice but rightful - is to adopt a uniform position and a uniform standard and a uniform approach to the re-licensing of municipal water supplies and waste-water discharges. Why that hasn't been done to date, I do not know.
The other abnormality that stands out, Mr. Chair, is the difference in costs, even for those areas that are serviced by the Government of Yukon. A number of years ago, a cost-of-service study was undertaken by Community and Transportation Services to see what was actually being paid by the respective residents of the outlying communities - the unorganized communities, so to speak - for water, sewer and garbage, and what it was costing the Government of the Yukon to operate. The legislative return I subsequently received showed me a great disparity in these costs.
I submit, Mr. Chair, that the provision of water and sewage should be a basic undertaking of government. It should be a basic undertaking. I mean, the telephone company has one rate for a private phone, whether it be in Old Crow, Watson Lake or Whitehorse. They have one cost for a business line. It doesn't matter what community or what area in the north. If you look at electricity, there is a basic amount. It's priced uniformly and consistently throughout the Yukon. But the provision of water and sewer is all over the wall. Here we have a minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, who has the ability to dictate that the price of a bottle of liquor is going to be consistent at all liquor outlets around the Yukon, but we can't do the same for water. We can't do the same for water. Point well made.
You have to sit back and give your head a shake when you say, "Yes, there is quite a disparity there; there is a problem there." What happened to universality? Why should we be paying so much for water in Whitehorse and so much less for it in Destruction Bay and so much more for it in Old Crow and Dawson City?
Now, if the Liberals were really, really concerned with universality and the provision of adequate utility services across the Yukon, there might be a plan to examine ways of bringing all of these costs in line. And for awhile, that used to be the case.
That used to be the case - that Dawson residents paid the same as Whitehorse residents, and any differential was picked up by the territorial government. And that was the case for a lot of communities around the Yukon, but we've downloaded the responsibility 100 percent to the municipal government, and in come cases force-fed it down their throats and insisted that they take on the responsibility. There is usually a little bit of a candy coating on the stick that held the product that was being delivered to the municipal government so that they could swallow it a little easier, but at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, costs subsequently rose and rose alarmingly, and that's really not fair. It places rural Yukoners at quite a disadvantage - quite a disadvantage, indeed.
But, seeing the position taken by the Minister of Health and Social Services with the provision of his health care to rural Yukon and the double standard he's creating and seeing the double standard created by the Minister of Education in the school system, I can begin to understand why the Minister of Community and Transportation Services is getting in step with her colleagues and creating the same double standard - one for Whitehorse, one for rural Yukon, and probably another one for herself when she's out at her summer establishment somewhere along the lake, if that is indeed the case, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there is a whole area that must be examined by this government, and the costs must be brought into line. We are on an ever-increasing treadmill for utility costs. In fact, more often than not, we are regulated into - well, regulated right out of existence. That's happening with the Water Board and the subsequent visits by the federal Gestapo, the federal Department of Fisheries. It's getting scarier and scarier. The pendulum has to swing back, and common sense has to prevail because the environmentalists are calling the shots and ruling the day. We still have to live and we still have to operate in the Yukon, or we do what a lot of other Yukoners have recently done - move elsewhere. And that's a shame, because that's getting to be more and more the case.
I have a number of other issues I want to take up with the minister. It's a constituency issue surrounding a commercial highway lodge lease at Moose Creek. It's an area where I have been in negotiations and have had a constant exchange of letters with the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs regarding this owner and operator of the lodge and the assessment of the land.
The federal government brings in their own assessors - their commercial appraisers - and they establish values that are pretty hard to dispute. The only way you can dispute them, Mr. Chair, is to pay the costs to bring in a commercial appraiser. There are none in the Yukon. They have to come from Edmonton, Prince George or Vancouver, and for them to come all that way, to come up to Moose Creek to appraise a piece of land, the cost is prohibitive. We have a whole series of residential land appraisers here in Whitehorse who are excellent. Some of them, in my opinion, are eminently qualified to look at the commercial side of it, the low-end commercial side, but the federal government is adamant that it has to be a commercial appraiser.
There is a real, serious problem surrounding this issue and the land values they subsequently assess. Usually there's a correlation, Mr. Chair, between the municipal assessment that is done by the minister's department - Community and Transportation Services - and the assessment branch, which is reasonable and fair.
And the improvements therein are a standard formula. It's a Whitehorse replacement cost, less observed depreciation, and every class of asset has a certain amoritized lifespan. All of that is pretty well known with respect to the assessment process, but when it comes to commercial land values, we're in quite a quandary here.
So I'd like to get into that area with the minister tomorrow, Mr. Chair. I'd like, probably over the evening, if the minister could take it upon herself to get a thorough briefing on this issue surrounding water and sewer and we can deal with that in greater depth tomorrow, also.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I report that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 27, 2001:
Canada Transportation Act, Statutory Review: Yukon Government Review Panel Submission (March, 2001)
The following Legislation Returns were tabled March 27, 2001:
Development Assessment Process Legislation: status
Oral, Hansard, p. 1259
Land claims issues that can be discussed on the floor of the Legislature: list
Oral, Hansard, p. 1245 & 1258