Monday, April 30, 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 Prince of Wales' visit
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of the Legislature and on behalf of the Government of the Yukon, I would like to pay tribute to all of those who helped make the Prince of Wales' visit to our territory a huge success.
The event required months of preparation and endless hours of work by hundreds of Yukoners. Without their dedication, the Yukon would not have been able to impress His Royal Highness as much as it did.
Those of us fortunate enough to attend the dinner last night heard from Prince Charles himself just how much he enjoyed the scenery, the culture and the people he met during his all-too-short visit. He especially enjoyed the way the light reflected off the mountains and remarked that one day he would like to return to the Yukon to spend some time painting.
There were many people who unfortunately could not attend last night's dinner, and it is those people I would like to pay a special tribute to today. Most of the people involved in the planning, both in Whitehorse and in Mayo, were volunteers.
This is especially fitting because one of the main themes of His Royal Highness' visit was a tribute to volunteers. To those people, I say thank you.
On behalf of the government, I would also like to thank the chiefs and other First Nation people who went out of their way to welcome Prince Charles to the land of their ancestors.
To all the artists, performers and other people involved in entertaining His Royal Highness, both last night and throughout the weekend - a job well done.
Municipal workers in both Whitehorse and Mayo also worked hard to ensure that Prince Charles' visit to their communities went smoothly. Thank you.
Many members of the local RCMP helped their counterparts from Ottawa with security. And for an event like this, Mr. Speaker, that's no small undertaking. From the Prince's motorcade, to crowd control, to many hours alone at such posts as the SS Klondike, Prince Charles' hotel, and even hours spent standing in the woods along the Trans Canada Trail. Thank you.
To the staff from Heritage Canada and other federal officials who played a large part in organizing a wonderful evening at the SS Klondike - merci beaucoup.
I would also like to thank the palace staff and entourage who accompanied the Prince from the United Kingdom. While they took their jobs very seriously, they were always cooperative, interested, respectful and genuinely caring and interested in learning about our history and culture.
I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I did not thank members of my own staff and other Government of the Yukon employees who put in countless hours before and during the Royal visit. There were dozens of protocol issues to be dealt with: media accreditation, requests from around the world, dinner arrangements, flight arrangements, timing of arrivals and departures, emceeing, organizing artists and performers, and countless other tasks that needed to be done in preparation for the Royal visit.
While it's very difficult to single out any one person, Mr. Speaker, I would especially like to mention Sheila McGowan, my personal assistant, who worked tirelessly on top of her regular duties, performing for the Royal visit. Unfortunately, two days before His Royal Highness arrived in Whitehorse, Sheila got word that her sister was very ill. Sheila is now in Edmonton with her sister and was unable to enjoy the festivities she had worked so hard to help us with. Our prayers and thoughts go out to Sheila, her sister and her family.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank His Royal Highness for gracing us with his presence over the past few days. Those who had an opportunity and the pleasure of meeting him found him to be charming, sincere and genuinely interested in learning more about the Yukon. We look forward to a return visit, and maybe next time he'll bring the boys.
In recognition of National Forest Week
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Today marks the beginning of National Forest Week. I would like to take a few minutes to pay tribute to the forests that bring beauty and comfort to all our lives.
We enjoy the trees around us every time we gaze out a window or go for a walk. We benefit from them every day, as we find warmth and shelter in our homes built of wood. Our lives are greatly enriched by the many types of wildlife that find food and cover in forested habitats. Some of us are able to support our families by working in the forest industry.
First Nation Yukoners have been using trees for warmth, shelter and traditional medicines for thousands of years. Yukoners of all cultures will continue to benefit from forests far into the future, because trees are one of those special gifts from Mother Nature, a renewable resource that can replenish itself forever.
Trees are closely linked to our history, Mr. Speaker. As the Member for Mount Lorne said in her motion of November 21, they are popular symbols that help identify us on the world stage. The Yukon and Nunavut are the only jurisdictions in Canada without official trees, but that is about to change.
The Department of Renewable Resources is now preparing a pick-a-tree campaign that will give every Yukon resident a chance to vote for the Yukon's official tree. Three weeks from now, Yukoners will find a brochure in their mailbox with information about the candidate trees and a tear-off voting ballot. The tree that receives the most votes will become the Yukon's official tree. The winning tree will be announced at the end of Environment Week, which runs from June 3 to 9.
Five ballots will be drawn from entries, and each of the winners will receive a set of three books about trees in Canada and in Canada's north. Yukon schools will be provided with information packages to help teachers organize classroom votes and create a learning experience. It is my hope that the pick-a-tree campaign will contribute to a greater public understanding and enjoyment of our forests, because the more we all know about our forests, the better we will be able to manage them efficiently.
So I encourage all Yukoners to take a closer look at the forests on your doorstep during National Forest Week. Look at the elegant patterns and shapes that nature has created. Notice the birds and the squirrels on the branches. Think about how you use trees and wood in your own life. And when your pick-a-tree ballot arrives in the mail, make your vote count.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) many Yukon youth are being forced to live in unsafe situations according to a recent report entitled House and Home: A Study of Whitehorse Youth at Risk of Homelessness; and
(2) the Blue Feather Youth Centre provides for the needs of some of the youth identified in this report; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Health and Social Services to live up to his $40,000 annual commitment to fund the Blue Feather Youth Centre.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Mortgage funding for Faro residents
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to advise the members of this House and the residents of Faro of two important initiatives of Yukon Housing Corporation. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation considers Faro to be a single-resource industry community. Because of this, Faro residents have not been able to access traditional mortgage financing from chartered banks. Approximately two years ago, the board of directors of Yukon Housing Corporation instituted a limited traditional mortgage lending program for residents of Faro. The board reviewed the results of this mortgage program in Faro, and I am pleased to announce that the board has decided to provide access to additional mortgage funding on an ongoing basis.
The board has decided to create a new home ownership program portfolio ceiling in Faro of $500,000. This is effectively the maximum amount of mortgage funding that will be available at any given time. Accordingly, every year, the Yukon Housing Corporation will determine the outstanding principal on the home ownership loan portfolio, and the difference between this amount and the $500,000 ceiling will be available to Faroites.
This new limit will allow almost $150,000 to be made available this year to members of the community and, each year, based on the level of repayment of the previous year, new funds will be made available.
The Yukon Housing Corporation will use a lottery system that ensures that all Faroites will have an equal opportunity to access this mortgage financing. The corporation will make an announcement shortly on the timing of the lottery, but I can advise members of this House that the lottery will be held in Faro.
I would also like to announce a new interpretation of the single-resource community that will, for the first time, enable qualified government employees in Faro to access the employee buyback program.
For quite some time, the Yukon Housing Corporation has been dealing with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on the availability of the National Housing Act mortgage insurance in Faro. CMHC designated Faro as a single-resource industry community and would not provide mortgage insurance to prospective homeowners. Since the National Housing Act mortgage insurance is a requirement of our legislation, the Yukon Housing Corporation has been unable to make, in the past, the employee buyback program available to Yukon government employees in Faro. Through lengthy discussions between the CMHC and the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors, they have now received beneficial news for current and future Yukon employees in Faro.
CMHC has advised that, if the individual owns market housing, then the individual can apply for NHA mortgage insurance. Market housing is housing that has been built by private individuals or housing that has been originally owned by the mine but has been in private hands for five years or longer. Accordingly, the board of directors concurs that the Yukon government employees in the community of Faro can access the employee buyback program. This is a marked change from past practice. The board has directed staff to advise Yukon government employees in Faro, along with the Public Service Commission, so that current and future employees of the government are aware of the opportunities that are available through the employee buyback program.
I would also like to thank the board of directors of Yukon Housing for their hard work that has allowed my government to offer these two initiatives to residents of Faro. I also would like to thank and acknowledge the hard work of my colleague from Faro.
I am proud that our government will be helping residents of Faro to access mortgage financing on an ongoing basis and that qualified Yukon government employees in Faro will now be able to make use of the same employee buyback program that the employees in other communities have long had access to.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, first of all, my kudos and thanks to the good work of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board and the Yukon Housing Corporation staff. Very good work, and it just goes to prove that, if the politicians do do their job, provide leadership, provide the direction, we can be doing good things for the communities as the departments and government should be doing.
So, I think it's a wonderful move for the Town of Faro.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have other similar situations in the Yukon Territory, and it seems to be that access to capital is the major problem here - in some cases, for a loan or to actually go out and buy the home. I have repeatedly asked this same minister who has delivered this statement to look after my constituents' needs. It seems that if you have a government MLA, your community needs will move forward, but if you do not have a government MLA - which many in rural Yukon do not have - then you're not really given the attention you should be given.
So I would again like to take this opportunity to point out the facts. I have a constituent in Teslin - and I know of other constituents throughout the Yukon Territory - who have a problem because they live on First Nation lands. I have asked the minister if he would please work with the Yukon Housing Corporation to issue some instruction, so that we might be able to find a benchmark that we would be able to give that authority to other people who need it. And Mr. Speaker, I have been taunted in this House, saying that that is not an issue. Again, I feel that it is a very strong issue.
So congratulations to the Town of Faro and the Yukon Housing Corporation. We do hope that some positive action will be taken on behalf of those people who face similar issues and situations, but do not have the benefit of a government MLA.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to respond to this ministerial statement by the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation concerning the Town of Faro.
With the closure of the Faro mine, the people of Faro have been putting up a valiant struggle to build a new economy for their community. In Yukon, communities designated as a single-resource industry community have had to close down once the mines on which their economies were based have closed. Elsa and Clinton Creek some readily to mind, Mr. Speaker.
The initiatives taken by individual Faroites such as Mr. Herbie Croteau, whose efforts were recently recognized in this House, show how hard the people of Faro are prepared to fight for the continuing existence of their community. As a former Faroite myself, I know how much the community means to the people who live there. Faro has produced generations of Yukoners, and many of the people who have left will continue to call it their hometown.
In many ways, the situation that the Town of Faro is in is similar to that confronting the entire territory. Faro has been a single-resource industry community living in a predominantly single-resource industry territory. Mining has been the economic mainstay of Faro, and Faro has been the economic engine that has driven the economy of the territory.
While I applaud efforts by the people of Faro and the government of Faro to keep it on the map through economic development initiatives, I would ask them not to give up on mining. Mining still holds the greatest potential for the Faro area and for the Yukon - something that the Liberal government has forgotten. In fact, this Liberal government, through its policies such as the protected areas strategy, the development assessment process and special management areas established in secret, have helped devastate the Yukon's economy.
Mining companies have seen their mining claims either gobbled up or engulfed by parks on three separate occasions. This has had a horrendous impact on mining exploration and development in the territory, which, I believe, this year will establish a new low.
The facts are simple: you can't have a resource-based economy by withdrawing over fifty percent of Yukon and putting it into parks status, something that this government is doing.
As for the specific initiative that the minister is announcing today, is the minister prepared to provide similar assistance to other rural Yukon communities, or are these initiatives just confined to Faro because the current sitting MLA for the riding is a Liberal?
I note that the Minister of Education is committed to putting a new Grey Mountain Primary School in his riding. Now, what are the Liberals practising - chequebook democracy? We now have a Yukon Liberal government creating and maintaining a double standard for the delivery of health care - one for Whitehorse and another one for rural Yukon. We have the same Liberal government creating and maintaining a double standard for the delivery of education - one for Whitehorse and another one for rural Yukon.
Now we see this Liberal government creating yet another double standard for Faro and another one for the balance of rural Yukon. Why can't this Liberal government at least provide the same availability to residential mortgage funds for all rural Yukoners where CMHC will not guarantee a mortgage? The same holds true for the employee buyback program. This government has the majority to institute one mortgage system for rural Yukoners and the employee buyback system. I challenge them, Mr. Speaker, to stop playing politics and do so. We do not need another lottery, but we need a well-thought-out policy to access residential mortgage funds for all Yukoners, no matter where they live in rural Yukon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I'm a bit concerned about what has been said here on behalf of this government. First we say that we're doing some things there for the community of Faro; we're doing some things for the people in the rural communities. Now the members opposite seem to think that we have an MLA from a rural community, from Faro, and that we're doing this because we have an MLA from Faro. Mr. Speaker, the capital dollars are not the issue. Having the government MLA is not the reason for the two new initiatives being put forward in Faro. The member opposite seems to think that doing a good thing for rural communities is not a good thing at all.
It was the community of Faro that pushed for these two initiatives; it was the people in Faro who decided that they needed to be part of the Yukon as a community. We as a government listened. This government sat down and asked, "What can we do to create new initiatives for Faro?" And this government is doing a good job, and we will continue to do a good job on this.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers? This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: School capacity study
Ms. Netro: My question is to the Minister of Education. Last week the minister was on the radio talking about school capacity. He said that there would be no political interference in this process. The 2000 Liberal Party platform included a promise to rebuild Grey Mountain Primary School. The minister has publicly said that he would honour that election commitment. The Department of Education has started a public consultation process around the impact of declining school enrolment on school capacity to develop options for future school planning.
How does the minister reconcile these two seemingly two inconsistent positions?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for asking the question.
As I, and the official who was on the radio with me, indicated, enrolment and capacity studies aren't a novel thing to Yukon. They are happening right across the country. They are incredibly complex in nature. The consultations are occurring in the community of Whitehorse with school councils, with parents, with administrators, with teachers and with the public.
As I indicated on the radio, we will sit down and look at the information when it comes in to see how we can best provide a safe, warm, comfortable learning environment for our students. That's exactly what we're working on and that's exactly what's going to happen.
Ms. Netro: On the radio, on Thursday morning, the minister also said that there are two other schools - Takhini and Whitehorse Elementary. They are old and he implied that they would be closing. Again, this is before the public consultation has happened and before the options have been developed based on the public consultation.
Has the minister spoken with the school councils from these schools to hear their views?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, on Friday, as a matter of fact, and on Thursday evening, I was available at the school councils' spring meeting here in Whitehorse at the Gold Rush Inn. And on Friday I did spend a couple of hours talking to a good number of the school councils that were represented there.
I would like to correct the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin when she suggests that there was word or a decision already made with respect to the Takhini school. That is incorrect. There has been no decision made with respect to the Takhini school yet. We are doing the study fully, something that has been long overdue, and, as the official who was with me on the radio station suggested, normally the school enrolment and capacity study is to anticipate growth. Well, the demographics in the country and in the Yukon have changed, and we're looking at how we can better provide education to students, Mr. Speaker. That is our goal and objective in this exercise.
Ms. Netro: As always, we're getting mixed messages out there. In 1996, the Liberal Party platform included a promise to build a kindergarten to grade 7 elementary school in Golden Horn. The recent information shows that the school in Golden Horn is full. There have been no public retractions of that promise. Is a new school in Golden Horn one of the options that is being considered?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, there is another factually incorrect statement by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. The alleged promise, as indicated by the member, to build a new school at Golden Horn is untrue - is incorrect. Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the "untrue".
The fact is that the offer during that campaign was that if the residents of Golden Horn wanted a new school, then that would certainly be considered by the Liberal government, had they been elected in 1996. So, there was no real promise made at that particular time.
As I had indicated to the member on previous questions, we are going to go through - it's a very complicated issue. We are primarily looking at the kindergarten to grade 7 grades and the capacities in 10 Yukon schools. We will not presuppose the outcome of that, and will evaluate the results when the recommendations come in.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Acting Minister of Health and Social Services. A study was released last week, which contained some highlights of the challenges that are currently being faced by the youth in Whitehorse. The study was commissioned by the volunteer Committee on Homelessness. I would like to take this time to thank that committee for providing the leadership in this field that's sorely lacking.
Now, the study found that 34 percent of the youth in the study have been in foster care, while 40 percent of them had lived in a group home. The majority of these people were between 16 and 21 years of age. The study found that those between 16 and 19 were most likely not to find the services that they need. So will the minister take steps to identify the gaps and develop the needed services for this vulnerable group of people?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: We are well aware of the study, and we are looking at some of the recommendations right now. I think it's very indicative of the way things are in the territory right now. Obviously we have to allocate resources to look at the needs of Yukoners, and that is what we are doing.
Mr. Keenan: What a refreshing change from the other minister.
Let me say that the survey again found a number of problem areas that need to be addressed, and they need to be addressed immediately. These, of course, include issues of respect and poverty.
Unsurprisingly, many of these kids have drug and alcohol addictions and issues surrounding that. And some turn to survival sex. That's a term I had never heard before - survival sex. It's appalling. What it equates to is the exchange of sex for food and shelter. I guess another hurtful thing here that I found out is that almost three-quarters of those children are of aboriginal descent.
So I would like to ask the minister: will the minister ensure that these necessary services are developed and done in partnership with First Nations and the volunteer Committee on Homelessness?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: We are obviously not looking for a top-down solution. We do have to work with our partners in the First Nation community as well as the many people who have been working as volunteers in this field for a number of years. They have the expertise to help us find the solutions. Of course we are going to work with them.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm taken aback with this attitude, and I do hope that this attitude will continue to equate through the government system, because it's a good attitude.
Mr. Speaker, the number of teenagers who are outside of the system is increasing. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of adolescents who are now in government care, as was mentioned on the radio this morning by the director of family and children's services. Now, many of the issues faced by those over the age of 18 are due to a lack of support for young adults who leave government care but have nowhere to go. So what is the minister doing to ensure the change from being in government care to being independent is successful in preventing these problems?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we can't prevent all problems, but what we can do is help with that transition, and this is a group of individuals in our society that has increased in number greatly, and that's just demographics. It's something that we do have to work on, and I don't have the solutions right now. It's something that we're going to be working on very carefully for the next while and probably for many years into the future.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School rebuild
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Minister of Education. On April 25, the minister stated that he was proceeding with the construction of a new Grey Mountain Primary School, despite the fact that he is beginning consultation on capacity and enrolment with the school councils of 10 Whitehorse area schools about the possible closure of some of these schools. In view of the fact that the fastest growing area of Whitehorse is in the Copper Ridge area - in your riding, Mr. Speaker - I would ask if you agree with the Minister of Education's decision to build a new primary school in Riverdale and then have to bus the children of your constituents all the way to Riverdale. I know what your answer would be, Mr. Speaker. It would be that the minister's decision defies common sense. As a result, I would ask the minister that if the 10 school councils go against the decision to rebuild Grey Mountain Primary School, will he respect their views, or will they be ignored?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's very interesting to hear the questions from the members opposite, especially when they jerk the Grey Mountain School Council for years and years, forcing students to be educated in small trailer-like units for years and years.
Well, as I indicated to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, the enrolment and capacity study is incredibly complex in terms of what it takes into consideration.
With respect to the Grey Mountain Primary School, we said that we would be an open and accountable government. A promise that we made to the students, teachers and parents in the Grey Mountain cafeteria was that we would replace the school, and we are going to do that.
I have also indicated to the school council directly that we are not quite sure how that school is going to look in the final analysis. Is it going to be kindergarten to grade 7? They very much want it to remain a kindergarten to grade 3, but there are a lot of factors that are going to impact on that.
First of all, yes, we are going to build a Grey Mountain school. And we are going to look at the other nine schools to see just what results and recommendations are going to come in from the capacity and enrolment study. I am not going to presuppose what the outcome is going to be on that. As much as the member would like -
Speaker: Order please. I must ask the minister to conclude his answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the decision has been prejudged. The minister has stated that he is going to build a new Grey Mountain Primary. We all know that some of the other Whitehorse area schools will be closed. The demand is in another area. That's the problem. The replacement school that was planned by the Penikett and NDP government cost in the neighbourhood of $4 million, back in 1980 dollars. The previous Yukon Party MLA for Riverdale North, who was the Minister of Education in 1993 and who, like the current minister, had made a commitment to rebuild Grey Mountain Primary, had to advise the House and his constituents that the construction of a new Grey Mountain Primary School could not be justified.
How does the present minister justify this construction now that the enrolment numbers at Grey Mountain are even lower today than they were in 1993? How does the minister justify that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I'm very happy to hear in the question from the Member for Klondike that the minister of the day back in 1993 had promised, during the election, that they would replace the school. The numbers are there to do that and, like I said, we're not quite sure what shape - we haven't got into the planning yet with respect to the replacement of the Grey Mountain school, but they have been ignored for years. For years and years and years, government after government after government, "Oh, yes, you're going to get your school", just to get that electoral vote.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we said, during the election, that we're going to build it, we're going to replace it, and we are. If the members opposite would just accept the fact, then we could get on with business.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to remind the minister that he is Minister of Education for all the Yukon, not just Minister of Education for Riverdale. The Liberal commitment to build a new school in Mount Lorne was based on enrolment numbers, so why isn't a new school in Riverdale also based on enrolment numbers? Why the double standard?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, here we go, Mr. Speaker. I don't know how many standards the Member for Klondike is up to now, or how many levels of what we're doing to deliver programs. As the minister responsible for Yukon Housing has just indicated, there was a good-news story in this House earlier today for the members in Faro - because those members in Faro asked for it and it was something that this government listened to and reacted to, and we will. In no way, shape or form have we ignored any of the other communities, despite what the members opposite would like the public at large to believe and their yodellings in this House about how we ignore the communities. That is so wrong, because we have been in the communities and will continue to go to the communities, despite the roadblocks that they would like to put up to keep us out.
But we'll go there, and we'll listen, because that's what we're very good at doing - listening.
Question re: Watson Lake economic development plan
Mr. Fentie: "Yodellings", the minister says, about rural Yukon. Well, here's one for the books, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development. Earlier this year, the community of Watson Lake and its people, through their municipal government, presented a proposal to this Liberal government across the floor regarding the development of a resource corridor from the community into the resource-rich area of the southeast Yukon.
This proposal was nothing more than a feasibility study to determine whether the next steps should be taken. Can the Premier explain why she has turned down the community of Watson Lake on this request?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we certainly have not turned down the community of Watson Lake. The community of Watson Lake presented their proposal to me, and noted in their discussions that they had not yet received the support from the Liard First Nation.
I have indicated to them that I was very interested in working with them and, as recently as last week, have signed off a letter to that effect, indicating our continuing interest in working with them on this specific proposal. I encouraged them to continue their efforts in working with the local First Nation community.
We have certainly not turned down anyone, Mr. Speaker. This government is interested in working with Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Very strange answer, indeed. Quite frankly, the Premier has stated that the government is not interested at this time in proceeding with the feasibility study. I find that a little hard to take, Mr. Speaker.
The community itself is trying to develop an economic plan for Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon. This decision ranks right up there in the no-vision department with the cancellation of the Alaska ports and the recent passage of the Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, which has sold out the Yukon's ability to develop its own utility. Now, the Premier is restricting the community of Watson Lake from proceeding with its economic development plan.
Will the Premier now at least give the community its just due in the fact that it knows what it is trying to accomplish here in terms of economic development? And will the Premier now change her mind and proceed with a feasibility study immediately so as to ascertain whether this project should proceed to its next steps?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite's anti-business, anti-interest in the Yukon, anti-Yukoners and anti-economic-development attitude just never ceases to amaze me. No one has said we are not interested in working with the community of Watson Lake. The thing is, Mr. Speaker, we are interested in working with the entire community and we are interested in ensuring that we work with all the partners involved. And my very clear message to the people of Watson Lake, when I met with them, was, "Yes, we are interested in working with you." And I asked that they also continue their efforts, as they had committed to do during the meeting, in working with the Liard First Nation.
This government is clearly on record in working with and being supportive of communities, unlike members opposite who, on Friday of last week, announced to the public their disdain and lack of interest and lack of support for the hard-working employees - who all spend their money locally, I might add - of Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. and Northwestel. If I were an employee of those companies I would be horrified with the member opposite's remarks.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier has it wrong. They are horrified at this government's attempt at economic development because it is not happening. And they've choked off economic development in the southeast Yukon, they've choked off any cash flow, and it seems like they are punishing that community for not voting Liberal.
Now, let's get to the facts, Mr. Speaker. The Liard First Nation does like this project and is onside. The community itself is onside. The Premier's problem is that she's taking her advice from a Liberal lackey in the community who has nothing to do with the community initiative and the desires of the community consensus.
Mr. Speaker, it's imperative that this government get off its duff and get something happening in terms of economic development in the southeast Yukon. The community of Watson Lake is in desperate straits, and for no other reason than the lack of political will across the floor from the Premier and her government.
The situation that this territory is in is a mess. Will the Premier now commit to the community, the Liard First Nation and the people of the southeast Yukon that this Liberal government will immediately proceed with the resource corridor feasibility study so as to ascertain whether next steps can be taken beyond the study itself?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's rhetoric is clearly on the record in advance of the Association of Yukon Communities' trip to Watson Lake. The member opposite clearly has a need to stand up and appear as though he is the staunch defender of Watson Lake that he is, indeed, on the floor of this House.
The very fact is, Mr. Speaker, that I met with the community of Watson Lake - the representatives - about this very proposal. During that meeting, they committed and recognized that their proposal had not in fact been sanctioned by the Liard First Nation. They committed to work in that regard, and I committed that we as a government were very interested in the proposal and we were working with the community, which is what we are continuing to do. I spoke also about this proposal with the Liard First Nation chief when I met with him shortly after Minister Nault's visit.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that we are not only working on this particular proposal; we're working on a number of other economic fronts as well. The member opposite just does not want to admit the fact that we are starting to see the results of our hard work with the increase in the retail sales, with the increase in the wholesale sales, and also with the building permits. Those aren't just my statistics and my words versus the member opposite; those are the facts as released by Statistics Canada and others - the second highest increase in the country in retail sales, and that's thanks to the work of this government and our tax cuts in putting more money in the pockets of Yukoners to spend locally.
Question re: Watson Lake economic development plan
Mr. Fentie: Well, the problem here is the Premier's inability to grasp what the stats are saying. The stats are saying, and the trends are clear, that the workforce is leaving this territory, unemployment is rising, rural Yukon is in desperate straits and that all the money that the Liberals are spending is in Whitehorse. Any good that has ever come out of what this Liberal government has done to date is as a result of the NDP budget that they just passed last spring. That's why those sales reflect the stats that they do.
This Liberal government has no economic plan and no vision. Now, the community has asked, if the Premier is not willing to proceed with access to resources in the southeast Yukon, which would take an economic vision, will the Premier then proceed with a capital project to put some people in that community to work? The request for an emergency services building is on the Premier's desk. Will the Premier commit to the community that she will proceed with that project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government is working on a number of projects throughout the Yukon. How can the member stand on his feet and say that the work that this government is doing is not of benefit to the Yukon? That is a stretch. The member's questions are getting more elastic by the day.
There is $4.4 million for the strategic highway improvement program, $4 million for improvements to the Dawson City Airport, and how about the $2.3 million for the national infrastructure program? What about $22 million to the Yukon in health care dollars? Those are all the result of the work of this government. They weren't figures contained in the previous budget to the one we're debating, which the members would like to revive. Between the dollars that we've been able to provide and the programming that we've been able to achieve - as well as the work by the Minister of Tourism for additional charter seats and the Minister of Renewable Resources opening campgrounds earlier to Yukoners as well as visitors, we are working on a number of areas. We are seeing results.
Yes, those results and that work include the community of Watson Lake and every other community in between, here to Old Crow.
Mr. Fentie: What a bunch of Liberal lubrication. The results that the Premier speaks of are jobs for Yukoners and those people in Watson Lake who have been forced to leave home - in Inuvik, Fort Nelson, Grande Prairie and everywhere else but in the Yukon. The people of Watson Lake are sick and tired of listening to this empty vessel across the floor, this Liberal government, promising this, that and the other thing and nothing is happening. A capital project would really be a boost to a community like Watson Lake. It would put people to work and, more importantly, it would implement cash flow in the community that this Premier and her government - this lack-of-vision Liberal government - have choked off completely.
Will the Premier commit to providing the capital funding to the community of Watson Lake to put people to work by proceeding with a capital project, an emergency services building? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, the member opposite just does not seem to want to recognize the work that this government is doing. He would rather engage in personal attacks as opposed to talking about the facts. Let's talk about what this government has been doing in terms of economic development. Let's talk about six initial contracts relating to the feasibility study for a pipeline that have been awarded, with four more to come. Let's talk about the fact that the member opposite, in one session, is chiding me for working on aggressive promotion of the pipeline and then, in the next sentence, he is accusing me of not doing enough.
WesternGeco have hired over 30 Yukoners to do seismic work. That includes people from Watson Lake. That is new money, in the form of wages, that comes into the territory. We are hosting discovery tours to bring potential investors to the territory. Three are coming this year. These are foreign companies that are looking to secure long-term supplies of metals - again, business investing in the Yukon.
We are working with North American Tungsten. My understanding is that Community and Transportation Services crews are working on the highway. I have letters of support and interest from the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce, with responses from North American Tungsten saying that yes, this government, the Yukon government, has responded favourably and that yes, they want to see people from Watson Lake and Yukoners at work.
This government is working on the Yukon economy. We are seeing results and no matter how the member tries to phrase the question, the fact is, Mr. Speaker, we're not doing that bad a job. We know there's work to do, but the fact is we're seeing results.
Question re: Computer equipment purchases
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's obvious that Yukoners are not working under this Liberal government. People are leaving, and the Premier cannot dismiss that type of information. Those are the facts.
I have a question for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Earlier this month, I asked for a breakdown of expenditures on computer equipment, furniture and office equipment between February 15 and March 31 of this year, and I'd like to thank the Minister of Government Services for providing that list in a timely manner.
However, the information is rather alarming. In only six weeks, this government spent almost three-quarters of a million dollars on itself in these three purchase categories. Why would a Premier, who boasts about good fiscal management, allow her departments to go on such a high-priced shopping spree at the end of the fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the member opposite is getting his figures from, but we certainly didn't get three-quarters of a million dollars on purchases alone.
The items the member opposite has been talking about are equipment that needs to be used. There are some departments in government that are still working on 486s, which have been outdated for years. What we are doing is trying to bring up the quality of computers that have been ignored by the previous government. We are actually looking at the hardware and software for government computers.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I asked the Premier to answer that question because the answer I got from this minister is no answer at all. He asked me where I got the information. I just said that he sent me a letter, giving me that information. It's all there - signed by Wayne Jim. What an outrage.
A certain amount of year-end spending can be expected, and it should be, for things that are truly needed, but not for what departmental officials would like to have. When you look at this list, you see that the Department of Education spent $104,000 on new computer equipment. The next biggest spender was the Executive Council Office - over $61,000 for computer equipment in Executive Council Office, despite the fact that the Premier has dismantled the public communications unit and sent the Bureau of French Language Services to another department.
Again, my question is to the Premier. Is this kind of binge budgeting one of the things that the Premier will be asking the internal audit unit of Executive Council Office to fix?
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Chair is concerned here about the fact that, I believe, we are going to be debating Government Services in general debate later this afternoon. I might need some guidance here, but it seems that under the Yukon legislative guidelines, number 12, the question is out of order if a debate is scheduled for that day on the same subject matter.
Is the Chair missing something here, or am I on target?
Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, though it could be misconstrued as a question that is related to the anticipation rule, it simply is not. This question is toward the Department of Finance, and the Premier refused to answer the first question. Now, the second question is with regard to the Department of Executive Council Office. It simply has nothing to do with Government Services. It was the minister across the floor who stood to answer, instead of the Premier, who was asked the question.
Speaker: Hon. Premier, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the member opposite's first question made reference to a letter from the Minister of Government Services. Clearly, I was not a signatory to the letter, and a question was incorrectly phrased to me. It was about a letter signed by the Minister of Government Services, and Government Services quite correctly is up for debate. The member opposite has now changed, in his supplementary question, and refers it to Executive Council Office, which is clearly a new question, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, this is just some guidance to the Chair. Since the money is being spent under last year's budget, it isn't under debate because we are discussing another budget this year.
Speaker: Order please. It is the Chair's decision that the Chair will allow the questioning to continue today, but I will ask members to keep the rule of anticipation in mind in the future. Please be guided by it.
With that, I would ask the Premier to continue with her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The member is making reference to $61,000 that was spent under the previous budget. I can advise the member opposite that I will be glad to provide him with a detailed breakdown of that $61,000 expenditure in greater detail, as he seems to wish.
During the break, there was some catcalling across the House and heckling that we had somehow, through the Executive Council Office, spent money on ourselves. I would advise the member opposite that that is incorrect. The member is questioning the carpeting, such as is in the members' lounge, which was paid for through the Legislative Assembly budget as that is Legislative Assembly precincts.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know the government cannot hide from that question at all because this is very serious. We just asked a number of questions about projects in the communities. Here we have the government, I would say, giving direction to the departments to go on a huge shopping spree for computer equipment at year-end. That money would normally go back into general revenues and can be used. Who is running the show, Mr. Speaker? That is the question.
The internal audit unit is very handy for politically motivated audits of programs that were working well for Yukon people. We will wait and see how helpful it will be in making sure that government departments aren't just given a blank cheque to spend on themselves at the end of the fiscal year. That's what we're talking about.
Justice has $303,000; Executive Council Office has $67,500; Renewable Resources -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question?
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will.
Renewable, $83,000. Government Services over $76,000. In designing her capital budget for this fall, will the Premier make sure that the spending priorities go to benefit Yukon people rather than continuing the trend of government spending on itself?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What is a shame and is truly shameful is the member opposite's complete lack of questions for this session. The fact is that the very end-of-the-year expenditures are quite common among all governments. This is not a year-end spending spree by anyone. The fact is the government departments budget all year for certain expenditures that they only make should there be enough money available. I can advise the member opposite that those monies are spent locally and once again the members opposite - it wasn't good enough in a public press release to chastise and criticize employees of Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. and Northwestel, now MicroAge, Whitehorse Business Machines - all of the companies that sell services to this government.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to section 19(h), a member can be called to order is the member "imputes false or unavowed motives". By stating that the member opposite neglected to mention that this kind of spending goes on all the time is certainly contravening that particular section as the former government used to send the direction to departments to stop spending at year-end. Those are the facts.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair doesn't believe that we have a violation there. There is no point of order. I'll ask the Premier to complete.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that this government has managed and will continue to manage, during the balance of this mandate, the people of the Yukon's - taxpayers' - dollars wisely. That's what we were elected to do, that's what we have been doing and, much to the chagrin of the members opposite, that's what we're going to continue to do.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 34: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 34, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 34, entitled An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 34, entitled An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to recommend this bill for third reading and final approval to the Yukon Legislative Assembly today.
As we have discussed during the course of debate, this bill will create a modern legislative and regulatory regime for trust business in the Yukon. With this legislation, the territory's existing Trustee Act will be renamed the Yukon Trusts Act, highlighting our efforts as a jurisdiction to establish the Yukon as a niche market for trust business, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I want to express my thanks to the local legal community for originally suggesting this legislative initiative. It's a good example of how the Yukon can use its legislative powers and regulatory reform to build a stronger economy. It shows how we can work in partnership with business and others to ensure that the Yukon is an attractive place to do business.
As I have noted during the debate, this bill incorporates modern features of trust law elsewhere in Canada. As well, it offers a new instrument that is unique in Canada - non-charitable purpose trusts. This type of trust, recommended by the Manitoba Law Reform Commission, will be available for personal, commercial and even not-for-profit purposes that meet the requirements of the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I do want to acknowledge comments made by the hon. Member for Watson Lake during debate on this bill. While this legislation is not an appropriate vehicle for addressing the issue of access to capital, I agree with the member that this is a key concern for many Yukon business people and potential business people. Those of us in this House need to continue to work to help to address this concern.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to again commend the local legal, financial and business community as a whole for suggesting and supporting this initiative. We look forward to continued work with the legal, financial and professional community on other Yukon export products to help build a stronger Yukon economy.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is another example of a very substantive piece of legislation that has been brought forward by the Liberal government during a budget sitting. Even though, on its face, there is a great deal of merit to the legislation, it's also important to note that it was in the hopper already. A great deal of the work on this legislation was done prior to this Liberal government even taking office. All this Liberal government had to do was turn the handle, and this bill fell out of the hopper.
They have done nothing on this bill other than phone up some of their friends and say, quickly, "Will you write a letter urging all members of the House to support this legislation?" But true to form, this visionless Liberal government - this government with no economic plan, this government without any direction, no compass, no sense of where they're going - refuses to even take the time to look into some innovation that may very well result in this legislation addressing through its merits and through further work addressing the single biggest problem that economic development in this Yukon Territory faces, and that is access to capital.
The Premier has already agreed with me and this side of the House that small business is an important, vital and integral part of the Yukon's economy. Yet she refuses to stand up for small business in this territory and then has the audacity to accuse this side of the House of being anti-business. Mr. Speaker, that is a shameful example of how this Liberal government is governing the Yukon Territory. It is not beneficial to Yukoners; it is compromising our future. In short, we are going nowhere. Why can't this government relent and realize that it doesn't know what it's doing, that it's now riddling this territory with incompetence at all levels? We are in trouble, and yet we stand here in this House debating this piece of legislation, which, through more effort and more work could have been made even better. It could have been enhanced, and it could have addressed the needs of many, many more Yukoners than the small legal community.
It's unfortunate that the stubbornness of the members opposite, through their Premier, continues. It is only Yukoners who suffer because of that.
Mr. Jenkins: I have some reservations about the whole concept that is being advanced here by this Liberal government. When you look at the surface of this bill, it has merit. It has merit for the justification for it and the purpose it serves. The major area dealing with trusts is the tax in the respective area where that trust is set up. Had the Premier, through her tax-cutting initiatives, addressed this issue, this would certainly have enhanced this legislation. But she failed to do so. She only sought minor tax relief here in the Yukon, and it is not keeping pace with tax relief that is presently being implemented in many other jurisdictions in Canada - specifically Ontario, Alberta, and I'm sure, in the not too distant future, the Province of British Columbia. The Province of British Columbia will soon have a small "c" Liberal government, a conservative Liberal government, unlike this NDP Liberal government. They are two separate animals, distinct and separate - politically, that is.
The issue that this bill does not address is how to enhance the economic well-being of Yukoners. This will permit a number of law firms to sell services offshore or outside of the Yukon.
They have to explore this wonderful opportunity for opportunities outside of the Yukon, because under this Liberal regime, Mr. Speaker, they've virtually destroyed the forestry and mining, and they're making a darn good attempt on the oil and gas and visitor industry. This Liberal government is not paying attention to the firmly established industries that used to drive the economy of the Yukon and used to provide for wonderful opportunities for people to move to the Yukon and get involved in a measure of the success that was being experienced here.
There was always a hope at the end of the tunnel that more was going to happen. Well, that hope, under this Liberal regime, has not just been tarnished, but eliminated. It's gone. It doesn't even exist any more. The only hope that exists for Yukoners today, Mr. Speaker, is the hope to find employment in other jurisdictions, specifically the Northwest Territories, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario - everywhere else but here.
The Premier stands on her feet and rattles on about the wonderful economic indicators being retail sales. I would challenge the minister to examine what is driving retail sales, Mr. Speaker, and find out the number of vehicles in all categories that are being sold by Yukon vendors outside of the Yukon. Yukoners are a very resilient group. Once they are established here, it's pretty hard to pick up a structure in its entirety. The only opportunity they have is to venture offshore, outside of the Yukon, and explore economic opportunities - seek them out and deliver the goods to those areas. That is being accomplished by a great many Yukon suppliers. That is really what is driving the wonderful statistics that Yukoners are experiencing in the retail sales category and in the wholesale sales category.
It's not anything that this Liberal government is doing or purports to be doing, Mr. Speaker. On the contrary, it's the entrepreneurship of Yukoners, and they have to to survive. This is just another area, Mr. Speaker, where Yukon lawyers - really, the amount of business that they're experiencing of late is as depressed as many other sectors. In order to get ahead and gain an advantage, they have lobbied effectively for these changes to the Trustee Act. I personally welcome them, but this government could have gone a lot further and done a lot more to see that they are an extremely useful tool, and the only way that this government can address that is to couple that with tremendous tax relief. We are seeing a paltry reduction in tax, but if we look all across Canada as to where Yukoners fit in the tax regime, for personal income tax we've actually bumped up quite a number of categories as to where we used to be. And that's not because Yukon has reduced the tax component; it's because other jurisdictions in Canada have reduced significantly the personal income tax levels.
Mr. Speaker, it defies common sense that all that this Liberal government is doing, given their vast majority, given the tremendous amount of money that they have in the bank - they came to power inheriting a surplus of some $60 million-odd, and they've subsequently received another $40 million-odd, so over $100 million - and a shrinking population to serve, is spending more and more money on more and more government, Mr. Speaker.
Telling Yukoners that we are poverty stricken, that we can't spend any more money on your area, especially rural Yukon - one set of rules for rural Yukon, and one set of rules for Whitehorse, for the Liberals' own constituents. That's a shame, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to be supporting this bill and reluctantly supporting this bill. In closing, I believe this government could have done a lot more than what they are doing today. They could have demonstrated leadership. I guess that if you don't have leadership, you can't demonstrate it. But there is an opportunity there to demonstrate some leadership, to go beyond the paltry steps we're taking and do something that's going to demonstrate their commitment to the economy of Yukon and to Yukon society - that they're prepared to stand up and fight for Yukoners, not just spoon-feed a couple of little measures across the floor of this House that are just going to put a little bit of icing on a cake, a cake that is very, very hard to swallow. But, given the Liberals' ability to eat cake and cut ribbons, I guess we're going to see a lot more of this kind of approach.
Mr. Speaker, what we have is a novice Liberal Yukon government that can't seem to get their hands around the problems faced here in the Yukon, and that's being demonstrated each and every day as this government progresses. When is this Liberal government going to wake up, recognize the shortcomings in the Yukon economy and recognize that there is a need to put that tremendous surplus they have to capable use to stimulate and make the Yukon economy grow - not just create more and more government?
Mr. Speaker, I'm disappointed, and more and more Yukoners I speak to are becoming more and more disappointed in this Liberal government.
They have a chance to turn this around. Will they do so? I suspect not, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only thing that seems to be hard to swallow for the members opposite is the sour grapes they are choking on because they didn't win the election a year ago. They just cannot get over it.
The fact is that, yes, almost a year ago we were sworn into office, and yes, on the fact of it, this is more than familiar legislation to the members opposite. It has sat on the Order Paper for six months. The members have had plenty of opportunity, not only to understand it thoroughly and to understand what it does not contain, but also to appreciate that this government is not confused. We have nothing to be ashamed of and quite frankly, unlike the viewpoint from the Member for Watson Lake, we are not riddled with the incompetence he suggests.
I would strongly encourage the member opposite to take a good hard look at what is truly required in being a strong and effective opposition. We know what happens to strong and effective oppositions, Mr. Speaker, they get elected to government because they offer an alternative. Fortunately, we don't have anything to be worried about right now.
The members opposite are clearly incapable of recognizing credit where credit was due. I took the Member for Watson Lake's suggestion with respect to the legislation and I outlined why it could not be incorporated.
It simply did not fit under the auspices of this particular bill. And the Member for Klondike does not recognize and will not recognize, no matter how many times he is advised, that we were unable to go further in this legislation without violating tax collection arrangements that we had. By agreement with other governments and by legislative authority, we could not do what the member opposite suggested. He was advised of that from the very beginning. I was completely open and accountable and stated that the tax incentive was not included and could not be included, and it could not be for a number of reasons. Those were outlined for the members opposite.
The fact is that the Yukon trusts act will now provide simple procedures to establish trusts, including a statutory form of trust instrument that can be adopted by completing a simple form. It will create a modern legislative and regulatory regime to attract trust business. It will establish non-charitable purpose trusts, which can be used for business, public and quasi-charitable purposes. It will regulate trust business and it will protect the consumer. It will simplify trust administration. It will enhance the powers and protection for trustees by limiting their liability and allowing them to employ agents in line with current investment practices.
It is not only business-friendly and protects the consumer, but it provides our legal, financial and professional community with the clear understanding that this government has heard their suggestions, has acted upon them, and we support their efforts and are working with them in rebuilding the Yukon economy so devastated by the previous government.
Mr. Speaker, again I commend this bill to the House and I look forward to its passage. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, five nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 34 agreed to
Speaker: I declare the motion carried and that Bill No. 34 has passed this House.
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. We will take a 15-minute recess, returning at 3:45 p.m.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on Department of Government Services, Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, when we left off the previous day, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was discussing the Mayo school replacement project with the minister opposite, and the minister was ill-prepared. He did not have the answers that were being sought from this side of the House, and I'm wondering now if the minister has anything for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, when we ended debate last Thursday, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was asking for information on the retender of the Mayo school. The Mayo school is a project of which the government is very proud. Through the cooperation of the community of Mayo, public servants from various departments and the project architect and consultants, we were able to modify the plans for the Mayo school to bring it within budget without losing a single square inch from the original floor plan approved by the building planning committee.
We saved $1 million without losing a single square inch of the floor plan or compromising on a single program for the students of Mayo. The Mayo school is a beautiful building, it is a quality building, and it is large enough to support community functions, with ample room for expansion should the school or community population increase in the coming years.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun requested answers to some specific technical questions on Thursday. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes asked what the general reduction in hardware features on the Mayo school plans consists of. The answer is that one aluminium door was deleted, and three doors were changed from aluminium to pressed steel. In his second question, the member asked for the RR factors for cellulose insulation and fibreglass insulation. The answer is that the R-value of cellulose is R-3.6 per inch, with fibreglass being R-2.9 per inch.
The type of insulation in this application could be well above the design standard and quality to qualify for the commercial 2000 energy rating, or C2000.
Question three, the member asked what style of construction is being used in the new school - post-and-beam or frame construction. The answer is that frame construction is being used for the entire school.
Question four, the member asked about the construction of the gym roof, what kind of construction was originally specified and why it was changed. The answer is that the original design specified a custom-built truss system, called a "fish belly" truss. This was changed to an open and visible manufactured truss with a Q-deck roof above. It is estimated that this change resulted in $30,000 in construction cost-savings.
In his fifth question, the member asked whether the insulation in the school was for soundproofing. The answer is that sound insulation is called for in some of the interior walls, including the library area. The exterior walls contain fibreglass batt-type insulation with an insulating value of R-3.32. The roof has rigid insulation in some areas and fibreglass batt blown-in insulation in other areas.
The member asked how many addenda were in the tender package. There were four addenda issued during the tender period. As of today, no change orders have been issued.
The member also asked how many things cut out of the project as being held for future years. The only portion of the project that has been deferred is for some of the landscaping. This soft landscaping, as we said earlier on, is cosmetic in nature, and its completion will be undertaken at a future date in consultation with the community.
The playing fields and playgrounds are all intact. There will be no impact on children's playing areas because of the deferral. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked for the cost of the Yukon Housing Corporation project, which transferred a surplus housing unit in Mayo to the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation. The answer is that the house is devolved to the Yukon Housing Corporation from Health Services Canada for no cost. The book value is zero.
The Department of Education training trust contributed $40,199 to the project. The Department of Government Services contributed $4,000 for the moving of the house.
In question number two, the member asked for the breakdown of the cost of travel to the communities. The breakdown is as follows: travel for the project manager, $1,261; travel for the Department of Education personnel, $657; travel for the ministerial Executive Council Office staff, $861. The total travel costs are $2,779.
If the members have any technical questions, I will be pleased to arrange a technical briefing with our departmental staff.
Mr. Chair, this government is proud of the Mayo school retender process. Through cooperation and innovation by the community of Mayo and our hard-working public servants, we were able to preserve the entire floor and bring the project within budget. This is a triumph for all involved and, most of all, this is a triumph for the taxpayers of the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, to keep politically correct, if I may - and you know how I love to remain politically correct, both on the street, in the House and out of the House - I think that what the minister has said here in some cases is absolutely ludicrous - a total travel cost of $2,279. I understand that we were even chartering airplanes to get into the town of Mayo from Whitehorse. So if this Liberal government has a connection to an airline that can charter that distance for that price, including all those other travel expenses - it's quite cheap - I would think that should be a topic for Cabinet consideration so that you can have the Minister of Tourism involved for the air access issues. And we might be able to move on a little more quickly to opening this territory up to the potential it truly deserves to have.
Mr. Speaker, I think that is just a real dog-and-pony show, Mr. Chair. That's all that we have going on here. But I'd like to move on, and in the interest of moving on, I will wait for my colleague for Mayo-Tatchun, and he can finish with the questions about the school.
I'd like to go back, though, to citizen-oriented service delivery and ask the minister just what he means by that.
Hon. Mr. Jim: This is part of the red-tape reduction services information project that we are providing. It is a number of different concerns that have been identified during our red-tape reduction consultation that Government Services is undertaking in a number of service improvement initiatives. When we say the change of address project, the universal change of address system has been successfully implemented. This system allows citizens and businesses to change their address with all government departments using only one form. The acquisition cards - the government has adopted the use of credit cards for small local purchases after a successful pilot period. This program is being expanded to all Yukon government departments. Using credit cards reduces paperwork for both departments and suppliers and it means that businesses get paid immediately rather than waiting for a cheque to be sent by mail.
Our blue pages, working with the federal government, the municipalities, the First Nation governments - we have redesigned the government telephone listings to create user-friendly subject headings and to combine all levels of government into one index.
The redesigned blue pages will make it easier for Yukoners to get access to government programs and services.
The new pages will be in the Northwestel phone book for 2001-02, available this spring.
The government signage review - responding to an idea raised by the participants in our service leadership training program, Government Services is reviewing signage in Yukon government buildings to improve communication with the public and to make the government offices more accessible.
Our on-line gazette - we have put the Yukon Gazette on-line and will be improving it over the next year by adding search functions and other services.
Other service improvements are in the works, as the better ideas program comes onstream. We expect that more service improvement ideas will come forward.
These are some of the examples of responding to citizen needs and to citizen-centred service delivery.
Mr. Keenan: The member said that was some of the needs. I would like all of the needs that the department is looking at in service delivery.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, those are the projects we are looking at at the moment, and basically I could say that's what we're looking at so far.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate what the minister is saying and I know that, if that's what we're looking at so far - does the minister have a plan for the next year where the minister is going to be looking at certain issues?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I also mentioned earlier on that we did talk about the better ideas program and we're looking forward to seeing more better ideas coming from government employees. The more ideas we do get from both public and government - we'll go with what's being asked by the public out there and also by government employees.
Mr. Keenan: It will all come clear to the minister sooner or later in this conversation that we have here, and the minister will maybe understand where I'm coming from. It's not a field of paranoia; it's actually downright fright when a government says that it's not going to enter into something, and then they inadvertently end up in something that they slipped into - whether a side-slip or whatnot. And it proves to me that, without a carefully thought-out approach to service delivery or anything for service delivery, it can backfire.
I'm giving the minister a caution here. That is exactly what I'm doing. The minister is talking about universal changes of address and credit cards and that type of thing. Let the department do the work. That's what the department does the best. They can find ways of ensuring that there are savings brought forth to, ultimately, the taxpayer, not to the government - ultimately the taxpayer. That's exactly where they should be.
Now that I've said that, I would definitely like to have a yes-or-no answer from the minister in terms of what's next. This is what we've done in the first year of the mandate of the Liberal government with the Department of Government Services, and we've looked at the universal change to credit cards.
The government listings will be in the YTG blue pages and it will be in the Northwestel book. There's going to be some signage through a service delivery program. Is there anything else in this motherhood statement or departmental issues that will be brought forth next year by the department?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in recent months, the focus of the red-tape reduction program has been shifting away from regulatory reform toward service improvement. This is in response to feedback from businesses identifying service quality as the main source of concerns about red tape.
The activities under the red-tape reduction program can be grouped as follows: (1) ongoing consultation - we are continuing to provide opportunities for businesses, the public and government employees to make suggestions on where red tape can be cut and services improved; (2) training and education - we are working to develop a more service-oriented corporate culture in the Yukon government and to sponsor opportunity for the public service to learn about service innovations in other jurisdictions; (3) service improvement projects - we're implementing specific projects to enhance services to the public to the extent possible, and activities are undertaken in collaboration with other departments, other levels of government and private sector organizations. Collaboration allows for making optimal use of scarce resources.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the extra few seconds here to sort things out.
I like the shift. It's a good mental shift, if you can go from red-tape reform to service improvement and focus on service improvement. That's exactly what I believe government should be looking at and should be doing. To see local businessmen on the front page of the newspaper pulling red tape from their mouths is not a very pretty sight at all. Is it true in that businessman's mind? It is absolutely true that there was a barrier there.
So, for the minister to make this focus shift over service improvement, then, in the area of red tape reform, there are still many items on the book that the minister is likely looking at and going to be bringing to Cabinet and, in a blanket gesture, he will wipe some of those useless red-tape directives out. So it's going to be happening on two fronts - service improvement, and we're still going to be looking at ridding the books of those old types of reforms. Is that correct, in a general statement?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, yes.
Mr. Keenan: Is government going to break even on this? Is there a cost-recovery basis on the delivery of services where government's going to say, "Well, we're not in the business to make this much money over and above." It's not a cost-cutting reform that the minister's doing at this point in time, is it?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I think the word would be "efficiencies." When we say "efficiencies," we look at all targets, that they're both cost cutting and time-saving - time-saving not only to services that we provide but services that are being provided to the public. It's about improving services to businesses and to the public in a time-saving manner. When you save time - man hours - you save a dollar value on it in the long run.
Mr. Keenan: The minister blew the whole wad of travel in one whack and went on a boogie across the country, had a heck of a good job, talked to a bunch of people in different jurisdictions, talked to the federal government, travelled the Maritimes, ended up in Quebec City and blew the budget. Now that the minister's back from that trip, the minister did refer to that trip previously - that little extravaganza - and some of the issues and things that the member had learned. The minister had talked about his meetings with service-quality experts from the Government of Ontario and from the federal Treasury Board. I'm just wondering what kinds of issues were discussed and what types of issues from that discussion is the minister looking to incorporate into the direction of the department?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The travel that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talks about pins on a number of things, both on Yukon Housing Corporation - with me being responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Minister of Government Services and also the Acting Minister of Economic Development. So there were a number of different budgets that came into play here. The member opposite asked what issues were talked about, and I can say that the Vancouver-to-Fredericton trip that the member opposite is referring to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jim: With respect to the services that were taking place there, we managed to talk to a few of the ministers from Ottawa and Goose Bay when we had the meeting in Goose Bay. We certainly have made it known that Yukon is back on the map and that Yukon did have some issues and that we want to be able to air this to the specific ministers.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate an answer to the question. I didn't really care if the minister thinks that the Yukon was on the map of Ontario bureaucrats' minds or ministers' minds or not.
I did ask the minister specifically about service-quality experts and those issues from both the Ontario government and the federal Treasury Board, and I would like to focus on that. Was there something that came out of that conversation that may be incorporated into the direction of the department?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, when I went to Ottawa, I talked to a few people there from service quality in housing. I met with Yukon Housing staff, and I have talked to CMHC officials in Vancouver. I discussed housing in the Yukon, First Nation housing, mortgage insurance in small communities. I talked to them about a number of different things.
In terms of service-quality experts, I didn't get a chance to meet with service-quality experts. I met with ministers and did a little bit of lobbying with ministers in Ottawa, but in terms of meeting with service-quality experts, I guess, the closest to service-quality experts was my talking with some officials from the CMHC staff in Vancouver when I stopped off there.
Mr. Keenan: We can put an end to this very quickly, Mr. Chair. Would the minister stand on his feet and say that there are no Ontario service-quality-expertise-types of initiatives that are going to be incorporated in the Department of Government Services in the Yukon in this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we are looking at a number of different aspects to government services and the quality of services that the Department of Government Services will be providing. Be it from Ontario or any part of Canada, we will be looking at future aspects of quality services.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, that's exactly what I'm trying to get at. I don't want the motherhood statements. I want to know exactly and specifically what the minister is bringing from eastern Canada, if I could be absolutely forthright for the minister to let the minister know where I'm coming from on this issue.
In the three and a half years I was a minister in this House on the government side - at least half a dozen times, whether during Question Period, Committee of the Whole or whatever - there was an insistence from the Member for Riverdale South that we should go out and be contracting a water-testing lab. We should be establishing a private water-testing lab.
We all know the results of Walkerton at this time. I, myself, am not close to that right-wing government from Ontario. Certainly the Liberals in this House are taking advice from those folks. I'm wanting to know - and I'm putting it all on the table at this point in time - about this very scary issue surrounding the privatization and what this department could and should be doing in different aspects of government. I want to hear from the minister that we're not looking at these types of issues and that we're still going to be passing on and keeping quality services here in the Yukon Territory within the government. So, it's not a privatization. I hope that explains where I'm coming from.
I don't need the motherhood statements; I just need the specifics.
Hon. Mr. Jim: With respect to service improvement, we are looking at nothing specifically from the eastern part of Canada. We are looking at learning from all jurisdictions within Canada with regard to service-quality improvements for Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: We could make this simple. I think we're halfway there, maybe. Would the minister be able to provide me, through a legislative return, a complete and detailed schedule and implementation plan, including subjects and time frames, of the initiatives about which we have just been talking on the floor of this House, for the next coming year? Would the minister be able to provide that, please, so that I can have assurances on that front?
Hon. Mr. Jim: With respect to initiatives, Mr. Chair, we'll provide the information.
Mr. Keenan: I hope the member sees the significance of what I'm doing and the relevance of the questions I'm asking. I hope that the minister, as the minister moves forward through his ministry, will keep those caveats in his mind so that we can be preventing tragedy here in the Yukon Territory. Any time the minister goes to Ontario and sits down with folks in Ontario, it sends a chill right up my back - absolutely up my back - when you just hear about the privatization of health care in Ontario. I have had the pleasure and privilege of sitting next to many ministers from Ontario within my portfolios, and I think the Harris government is doing nothing but opening the doors to private universities, to private health care systems, and creating very much a chaotic sense of government there.
Now, that said, I am not in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. I am in the Yukon Legislative Assembly and I speak only from the perspective of the Yukon jurisdiction. I am quite passionate about this review because I have had many conversations with maybe some of the same ministers as the minister has, and I have a completely different philosophical view of how government should be delivering services and what services government should be delivering.
I want the minister to be assured that any time he seeks advice from there, we have to put our own touch on it and we have to really, really think it through. That's where I'm coming from, so I hope the minister is completely understanding of it now. Is the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I certainly understand what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is talking about here.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that, Mr. Chair, and if the minister would keep that in mind as they go through the issue of governing or not governing the territory, it would be greatly appreciated.
We have gone to a credit card system now for paying bills. All departments are working toward that end. Certainly, it's more cost-effective than the old system. Does that credit card system allow employees - well, tell me about the credit card. Is it a territorial credit card, a MasterCard, a VISA, American Express, or what? Who gets to spend the points from it? I don't think there would be any points listed for that type of issue. But, say, in terms of the grader foreman driving down the road - he's out of his jurisdiction because he's coming to town or whatever. He has a credit card. Where does he stop to buy fuel?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the use of the acquisition cards - for example, the credit cards for government purchases were introduced as a pilot project last fall. The pilot was a success, and we will be expanding the program to be on a permanent basis for all different government departments over the next few months.
The cards are primarily intended to replace the use of purchase orders and petty cash for the small, local purchase of day-to-day supplies. In most cases, the cards are used for purchases under $500.
The cards reduce paperwork on both ends of a purchase transaction for government and for suppliers. The greatest advantage for businesses is that they receive payment immediately for the government purchase rather than having to wait 30 days to be issued a cheque.
Favourable feedback from businesses is one of the main reasons the program is being expanded to all government departments. Checks and balances are being placed on the cards for appropriate use and so that local purchasing policies are followed. This initiative is part of our commitment to make government more efficient and to pay our bills more quickly and to improve service and reduce red tape.
In terms of the example that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes asked about - about a grader operator coming to what station - what is being provided to the departments is a list of different stations in the Yukon. I believe it's what type of discounts that they would be having. It doesn't specifically tell you to go to the Shell dealership or the Esso or any other dealerships. It just simply gives you the listing of discounts being provided at the different services in the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: There are just a number of questions that go with that. I won't belabour the point there, but is that a $500 ceiling?
Hon. Mr. Jim: That's a $500 ceiling for purchases, yes.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate very much what the minister is saying about getting the dollars into the hands of the people who provide the service. It's nice when they can have that and count the cash flow at the end of the day and incorporate that into their cash flow, knowing that they have those dollars there.
I was just worried and wondering about abuses, not pointing to any one person. Of course, we would never do that. But certainly abuses do occur. I can think of some examples right now that have happened in different jurisdictions and in this jurisdiction also, in the Yukon. I understand that the expeditious transfer of funds to the wholesalers and retailers is something that government should be doing. I agree that government should be doing that, especially in light of the economy as it is. But I am also very concerned about the abuses of it and I'm wondering about the cost-effectiveness of it. I know that if I use my credit card - and I try not to use it too often - there is a cost to it. Is that cost incorporated into the overall thoughts that the minister has had when he first hit the floor of the Legislature and wanted to make things bigger? Or not bigger, but better? Is that incorporated into it?
Again, I go back to the idea of where one can use this credit card. Is it only for the designated service delivery agents of the territorial government or can I have one, go to Mac's newsstand because I'm short of bucks and buy myself one of those good socialist papers, like the National Post - those types of good papers?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would say that the credit cards are being provided by banking institutes, but this credit card is specifically an acquisition card that is for the use of government employees and people in government. The use of public sector credit cards for small purchases is a common and successful practice across Canada. Almost every jurisdiction in Canada has an acquisition card program.
There are reasons why we made a ceiling of $500. There are random checks we make on this to make sure that there are no abuses of these cards.
Mr. Keenan: There was just one aspect to that question that never got answered. I would like the minister to answer it. I should start using the term "acquisition" versus "credit". It is an acquisition card versus a credit card?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Okay. So the acquisition card can only be used at certain outlets where folks would need to get fuel, for example. Let's again use the example of a grader station foreman having an acquisition card, coming into town from Teslin. "Oops, by golly, I forgot to fill up the truck down there at Johnsons Crossing or wherever it is I was supposed to. Now I am in town." Where does that person go to fill their truck? Is it to a designated spot or can he just pull into the mom-and-pop shop and get gasoline there? So who accepts that card? Maybe that's a better way of saying it.
Hon. Mr. Jim: There are two types of credit cards. There is a fuel credit card that you can use just about anywhere in the Yukon. The other one is the acquisition card, which is a purchasing card that you can use to purchase anything for under $500.
Mr. Keenan: That sort of answers a question, I guess, in a way.
On the fuel policy question - I asked the minister this just a couple of days ago, or was it Thursday? I am not sure.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: It was last Thursday that I asked the minister about the fuel policy. Purchasing has gone from Community and Transportation Services over to the Government Services. I stopped and talked to a couple of the operators. I did manage to get home for a bit just this past weekend, and I talked to operators. Operators were saying, "What the heck are you talking about?" They don't know what is out there. So what I am asking the minister to do is that, every six months when it was within the Department of Community and Transportation Services - it was probably the biggest headache that the department could ever have, and they are very, very happy to hand it over to Government Services I am sure.
When it was in that department's hands and when it was localized - because there is probably a grader station in each of the communities, if not every one of them, and central to each of the communities - there was kind of a hands-on feeling, where foremen or superintendents - whomever's bailiwick it fell within - went out and ensured that the people who had the right to bid on it did so if they chose to do so. I don't see that happening at this point in time.
I have two points. I sent the minister a letter, and I still have not received an answer. I would appreciate it if the minister could take a better approach to answering the mail that has come from the other MLAs in the House, et cetera. If the minister would do that, then we could keep this flow because I'm certainly not here to make the minister look bad. I'm not here to make the minister look good, either. I'm simply here to do my job, and that is one of the tools I can use to do my job.
I would now ask if the minister could look to communicating with all of the service stations - and I do mean all of them, because whether it's corporation-owned, or a mom-and-pop shop, or just Davy K. out there pumping gas for the summer months, I have as much right to do that as they do. Does the minister have a communication plan or strategy? How does the minister get it to all of these people? And if the minister doesn't have one, would the minister consider developing one, and would the minister tell me what the time frames are? Do people have contracts for a year, six months, three months, or what?
So, I guess there are two points there: what is the length of the contract, and would the minister please give all service providers in fuel, especially in the rural communities because some of them need that little bit of hurdle to get them over. And, as I think I said on Thursday, one of them spent $12,500 last August and has yet to see a government truck come, and he has been going, "How do I even get them?" And nobody has even talked to those people. So would the minister ensure that all folks in the territory are apprised of the new policy and how they can bid on the new policy?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in terms of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes asking if we have sent a letter, we did respond. There was a letter sent on December 14, 2000. There was another letter that was responded to by Pam Buckway on December 20, and a copy was cc'd. There was also a letter on January 15 sent by me to Mr. Keenan regarding the fuel card acquisitions.
Chair: I have to actually warn members that the proper way to address all correspondence in the House rather than by a last name.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I apologize, Mr. Chair. "To the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes," I should say.
In terms of the oil companies, he asked if there were fuel purchases, in terms of informing the fuel businesses. Yes, I do agree that we do need to inform them. We will be looking at our communications to see how we can improve that aspect of fuel.
Mr. Keenan: How long are the contracts for? Are they given out over a staggered proportion or do they all come available on March 31 or something like as such? I accept the minister's answer about what the minister is going to do, but I would like to get an assurance from the minister that it's going to be happening expeditiously.
So, could the minister please answer those questions?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this government provides a listing of discounts with the services that are being provided in terms of fuel purchases, with the different businesses in the Yukon. The discounts are negotiated with suppliers and, when we negotiate those discounts, we will certainly give him a list, if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes wishes.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I haven't received an answer to the question, and I'd like to receive an answer to the question. I certainly would like to go out and do my job, and the answer that I'm seeking is how long are the contracts? Are they yearly or are they let quarterly? Are they done in a staggered proportion? The reason why I say this is that maybe they're going to become available next week and I should have my little butt out the door. I should be knocking on all the doors of service providers within my riding to say that they're coming out at this point in time.
So would the minister please answer the question in that light?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we negotiate discount prices with suppliers, and they give us a list of discounted prices, and then we give those lists to the employees, and they choose. We don't tell them it's from Shell or the Esso gas station on Jakes Corner or in Tagish. These are discounts and if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes wishes, we will provide that listing to him.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I so wish, Mr. Chair, but I wish to have an answer.
Now, I understand that the department goes out and negotiates, and I understand that the department goes out and negotiates discounts. That's a given. I understand. What I do not understand is the regularity with which that happens. Could the minister please explain that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we'll certainly get back to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on this matter.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate it, Mr. Chair, if the minister could get to me quickly. I would appreciate that answer and I would appreciate knowing who does it in the department, so that the folks whom I talk to can have a name that they can call and say, "Hey, I'm interested." What I'm saying to the minister is that there are people out there who know nothing about this negotiating process. This winter, if we look in Whitehorse, some of the businesses have gone bankrupt. Now, I can take the high road and not blame it entirely on the territorial government. It's happening. People are on the brink at this point in time. It's happening at this point in time. I know some who are really hoping that the tourists are going to start showing up a little bit earlier, so that they can hold on to their business. If they can just get over this little bit, they will make it.
I know that the minister wants them to make it, as do I, because better times are coming for the Yukon Territory economically. But, if they don't have access to this, some of them might not make it. So, I'm asking the minister who, in his department, does it. Whom can I tell folks out there to contact? I'm asking for the information on how long the contracts are and I'm asking for the time frames for these contracts - whether they're staggered out, or some if they're let at three-month intervals in a year or let out in two-month intervals or for six months - that type of issue. I guess that just leads to the logical question at this point in time: is there a policy? If there is, could the minister just table that policy?
Hon. Mr. Jim: With respect to how long it will take and the time frame, we will table that information to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. I will also table who negotiates, the contact person.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate that sooner than later. I go to the communities on a weekly basis. Every week I am out there in my riding someplace and, every week, I can be putting this issue forward, so I would appreciate it very much if the minister could give his best efforts on it. I would very much appreciate it.
I would like to talk about telephones for a bit. I had the pleasure of talking with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and, well, I think that we are going to see some objectives changing in the Department of Community and Transportation Services regarding telephones. Basically what the Minister of Community and Transportation Services said during debate is that there is not a telephone program, that the minister does not have and is not in charge of telephones. So, just reading a quick objective, I asked to speak with the minister, and the minister disputed with me, and we didn't get anywhere on that. But I guarantee you that we are going to have a change in the Community and Transportation Services objectives next year because it does say quite blatantly in there that telephones are. What the minister did say was that anything to do with telephones belongs within the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Now that I have given a great big, long preamble and everybody has their briefing books open to the appropriate spot, I would like to ask the minister, in terms of the CRTC and the direction on the service improvement plan that has been given and brought forth by the CRTC - I am hearing rumblings in communities now, and unfortunately I won't be in the position I should be in to provide information. But I was wondering: does the territorial government have a role to play, now that the CRTC has directed Northwestel to go out and to (1) put telephones into areas that are underserved; (2) improve the quality; and (3) bring the prices down - those type of issues. If they don't do that, does government have a role to play in that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the CRTC decision on December 1, 2000, approved the changes to the long-distance prices and local rates that came into effect on January 1.
The role that the government plays is that we make submissions to CRTC. We outlined a balanced approach on the summary of 31 recommendations. We have a Yukon position. Long-distance rates need to come down immediately so that they are comparable with the southern part of Canada, but Yukoners can't afford the proposed $5.00-per-month local line price hikes. The CRTC response to that was that CRTC approved a 10 cents per minute local long-distance plan for off-peak hours, to be capped at about $25. They approved a $3.00-per-month increase for residential services and $5.00 per month for Yukon businesses.
We also had a Yukon position that Northwestel's proposed service improvement plan should proceed as quickly as possible to help telephones and low-speed Internet out to areas that currently don't have that service. The CRTC's response was that there will be a four-year service improvement plan. It was approved with some slight modifications. Smaller communities will not receive call-management services, caller display - for example the caller display you have on your telephones. Northwestel is to encourage other Internet service providers to provide Internet services versus providing it directly.
Mr. Keenan: So in absence of anything like that happening, Mr. Chair, does the minister have a role to play in ensuring that that happens? That's the question.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The government's role is to monitor Northwestel's implementation of the service improvement plan, so yes, indirectly.
Mr. Keenan: And I appreciate that. That was the whole crunch of the question right there. I'm definitely wondering who holds Northwestel accountable on the delivery of that. It's ironic that you say on my telephone that I have my call display or something. I have no telephone; I have no Internet service. I have nothing at my home. You know, I kind of like it like that at times. Unfortunately, it does not allow me to do my political work and my personal work to the quality that I would like to do it.
There are rumblings now that the CRTC service improvement plan - as directed by the CRTC, I guess I should say - is starting to go wonky, if I can say it in that manner. They're starting to stray off now. The time frames aren't as tight as they were. People have great expectations that they're going to get a telephone. There are cottage industries in the Member for Mount Lorne's riding that I do believe don't have access to telephones at this point in time, or might only have access to a cellular phone, which is inferior. It doesn't allow them to do private business. On the Lewes Lake Road, where my riding starts to take over, I can think of three cottage industries that are just in that one little area, and, again, they're having great problems doing their business, and they have to come into town. Just escalating costs, I know that the minister understands what I'm saying. So there is a real problem out there. It has been recognized by the service improvement plan as directed by the CRTC, but if they don't do that, at what stage do we start to correct them? How are we monitoring them?
I understand that there's a meeting in Tagish tonight at 7:00, which I unfortunately will not be able to make. The President of Northwestel, the VP - they're all going to be there. Of course, rumours are flying all over the community. This is not going to get done, Tagish Estates is not going to get done. This isn't going to get done, but this is going to get done. I just want the minister to understand that this is laid out - the minister knows. The minister made a presentation. Is it four or five years, I think, over a four- or five-year period? Four? Thank you. The service improvement plan, that if we put one off here, it's going to go doodly, doodly, doodly, all the way.
Boy, that's going to be impossible for Hansard to spell doodly, doodly, doodly. And I just gave it to them again.
It's going to get put off all the way down to the end. There are a whole bunch of folks - seniors and people like me who are at the very end - who admit that we have to wait for the fourth year.
So now that I've talked and painted the picture, I think the minister is aware of what the problem is. When does the monitoring start and when does the political lobby happen? Would the minister take it upon himself to pick up the telephone and call the Northwestel folks and just say, "I heard these things and I understand these things. What can you tell me about it, because I want to see it get going?" It's just a proactive approach and the minister doing his job to ensure that we get telephone services out into the places that are without services.
I can go on, if the minister would like, because we have places out there, like Tagish, that do not have nurses available. Sometimes the roads are plowed, although this year was a little bit better than most, I guess, but not on a continual basis. It's the biggest area for seniors per capita in the territory. So I would think that the minister could and should be doing this.
I will give the minister the floor now to explain what the minister is up to.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, although we monitor the service improvement plan, it is the CRTC that Northwestel has to be accountable to. We work, I guess, in a teamwork approach on this, but they provide the installation of services in the communities in the Yukon. We monitor them, but the accountability has been toward the CRTC from Northwestel.
As to the four-year plan - the service improvement plan - we work with Yukoners to relay to the CRTC any concerns regarding implementation of the service improvement plan. We agreed to talk to the president of Northwestel, yes.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much. The minister answered, and I appreciate what the minister said. I understand about Northwestel being accountable to the CRTC, et cetera. There's only one thing: we're a little jurisdiction of 30,000 people, way over here, tucked away in a corner. This has been going on for years and years and years. I have made presentations, and members of my caucus have made presentations. We have thought of innovative ideas that would allow the companies to spread the word. If the only thing that we have to offer is our political voices, then I expect that the minister would do that. The minister has qualified that he will use his political voice. Certainly I will use my political voice, and I don't have a gold card or a title in front of it. The minister does, and a minister of government carries a lot of clout.
I would very much appreciate if the minister could stay on top of that and be the spokesperson on behalf of Yukon people. I see the minister nodding. I appreciate that the minister would take it upon himself to go out and do that.
It's very scary out there in the communities right now regarding telephone service. And again, it comes back to me every doggone time I'm out there. I appreciate that now I can say that the minister is going to pick up the phone and be able to do those things.
I was talking to a gentleman from Ross River. We were talking about highway contracts and contracting in general. Now, I know that this Minister of Government Services has nothing to do with highway contracts. That's about right, isn't it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Okay, I appreciate that. I explained that to this individual. What this individual is looking to do is incorporate with the Town of Faro and with the community of Ross River to try to make more training opportunities. I have talked about this previously with the minister.
But it turns out that maybe some of those contracts that different contractors have used to build capacity - I am talking about local capacity. You know, if there aren't any buggy skinners or cat skinners in the community, then maybe we should be training some of them. I think in this situation, that was applicable. It turns out that nothing - absolutely nothing said was going to happen on that. He says that nothing is happening and he is very, very frustrated. He feels that government is just setting him up for failure. And of course I tried to explain that, no, government doesn't set anybody up for failure but certainly it's a contract world out there. He said, "Ya, but." People have always got a "ya, but" and in this situation I think that this gentleman does have a right to say, "Ya, but". Certainly the company that I am speaking of was attempting to provide jobs and stability, both through a social forum and an economic forum by providing a job. It got into some difficulty about that and does feel that government has a stronger role to play within this whole contracting issue.
So I have asked the Minister of Government Services to contact the Minister of Education - advanced education or something like that where you can maybe get some dollars to supplement. So has the minister done any of that proactive work or is the minister still looking to consider that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: There has been some work with different governments as well. For instance, the First Nation government in Champagne-Aishihik just recently finished a contract with an apprenticeship on-the-job training for a plumber. So there are a number of different initiatives that we are looking at. We will talk to the ministers of Education and Community and Transportation Services about training opportunities for highway construction jobs and see how we can work together in seeing that that sort of aspect of training opportunities - not only that aspect, but it is also working together, working to create that sort of efficiency in information with the different departments, Community and Transportation Services, Education and Government Services. We will try to see if we can come up with a plan just on looking at job training for highway construction.
Mr. Keenan: This is my last question for a bit, and then I'll turn it over to my colleague, the Member for Klondike. I might be coming back in general debate with just a few more issues. I'd just like a little bit more on the apprenticeships. I'm not sure, but I think we might be ships in the night here at this point in time, and maybe it would be better if I could sit down with the minister in an off moment or private moment. Of course, with my luck with meeting with ministers, I'd appreciate it if the minister would bring a witness along, too, and as we sit down and talk about these different issues, maybe we can get things moving forward.
Specifically, I'd like to know all about the apprenticeship program. Maybe at some point in time we'll have to modify or massage some new interest into the apprenticeship program so that we can get those apprenticeship programs to fit into the communities. And the minister knows that some communities are small, some are large, some are organized, some are not organized, some have the capacity, some don't have the capacity - that type of thing. But I would very much like to be able to sit down in a brainstorming session and to maybe involve those proponents and say that this is what we can do and, most importantly, perhaps this is what we can't do - just to get it out there. There's that grey area at this point in time, but when we do do that, I'll bring a witness, and if the member would bring a witness, that would be appreciated.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'll certainly take this under advisement, and I understand where the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is coming from.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to explore with the minister the issues surrounding sole-source contracts. Could the minister confirm that all sole-source contracts above the sole-source limit have been properly dealt with and signed off by the minister responsible? Could he just confirm that for the sole-source contracts issued during his watch?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, in respect to section 20(g), all contracts entered into by Government Services for this fiscal year to January 31, 2001, were in compliance with the contracting directive. No invitationally tendered contracts extended the normal threshold in the contracting directive. Eighteen contracts sole sourced by the Government Services extended the normal threshold in the contracting directive, but they were in compliance under the circumstances allowed in section 20 of the contracting directive, which states that where sole sourcing is permitted and where the contract relates to the protection of exclusive rights, such as patents, or where the existing equipment compels the contracting authority to purchase specific equipment from a specific supplier for reasons of compatibility.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has confirmed that to January 31. Could the minister also confirm that to March 31, this month just passed?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we are still updating that, and we will make attempts to try and get it to this session. We are agreeing that, yes, we will make best efforts to try to get that information to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that simply won't do. That's a non-answer. Here we have a minister responsible for the contracts issued, and all he can give me, Mr. Chair, is his assurance that up to January 31, 2001, they're in compliance.
We normally run fiscal period to fiscal period. I am seeking his assurance that the case is solid for all contracts issued up until the end of the fiscal period, March 31. Does the minister have a reluctance to say yes to being in compliance? Does he not have faith in his own ability to monitor what is transpiring within his department? What is the reluctance on the minister's part to take responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no reluctance by him. Yes, we will get the information to him for the period to March 31, 2001. At this point, we are still working on gathering that information. We will be doing that.
Mr. Jenkins: So I sense, by the minister's reluctance for the period of January 31 to March 31, that there may or may not be some problems. What is the minister hiding?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Nothing, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Then why is the minister reluctant to confirm that his department is in compliance? We are now 30 days past the end of the fiscal period. Certainly after one month, the monitoring positions must be complete for the period up to the end of the fiscal year, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no reluctance on this side of the House. It takes some time to gather this information and offer it after the fiscal year-end. I'm not up as to the availability of this information, but I can certainly push to see that this information gets to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm extremely uncomfortable at this juncture, Mr. Chair. I would ask that this information be more forthcoming than what the minister is suggesting it's going to take today. Can we expect to see this information tomorrow morning before we clear general debate? I would like to move forward, but this kind of information should be current and should be available. I am having serious reservations about this minister's overview of his department - that he cannot provide this information in a timely manner. So can we expect to see this information tomorrow morning?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I don't anticipate any issues from this. I don't have it on hand at this moment, but I will provide it - yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess we're into another legislative return. Could the minister please provide a legislative return on this topic?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'm also having some serious reservations with respect to the timeliness of information of many departments with respect to contracts appearing on the Web and the accuracy of that information. I'd like to know why there is a difference between the various government departments or the Crown corporations with respect to the posting of the information on the Web.
Now, the only Crown corporation that is consistent in posting all of its contracts on the Web is the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Mr. Chair, the minister is also responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. That information is only current to about 1998. The Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation - we can find neither hide nor hair about any of their contracts.
What is the government's position with respect to the posting of these contracts issued by these Crown corporations on the Web? Why is there one policy in place for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, but it is not consistently applied to all of the Crown corporations? And why is there such a difference among them?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'll get back to the Member for Klondike on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it's obvious that the minister is not up to speed on Government Services. Can we take a break so the minister can get up to speed on it, because I have a whole series of questions and I don't want to go through them in this manner? We can either set aside this department and go on to something else, or we're going to be here for an agonizingly long period of time dealing with this subject matter and, really, that's not fair. It's not fair to the Legislature and it's not fair to the opposition that the minister can't answer questions that are bona fide, legitimate questions. I'm just tremendously disappointed with the constant "I'll get back to the member; I'll get back to the member."
We're at an impasse. Could we ask the minister to give consideration to setting aside this department so that we can move into something else where the minister is more up to speed than this minister obviously is, Mr. Chair? Or can we expect to get answers on these subjects in a forthright manner?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, as the Minister of Government Services, I can't make corporations, other than Yukon Housing because I am responsible for Yukon Housing, post their information, but I will talk to them about their information and will bring that up to them.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, here we have the same minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation and Government Services, and the last information posted on the Web - could I ask the minister this: when was the last time he looked at the contract registry on the Web under Yukon Housing Corporation, or has he ever?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I've looked under the contracts for a summary for all government departments and what is being provided, and I would say that the last time I've asked about different contract opportunities with the government was during the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I asked a specific question to the minister, and that question was: when was the last time the minister looked at the Web site for Yukon Housing Corporation as to the contract registry? When was the last time, if ever, that this minister has looked at the Yukon Housing Corporation Web site for the contract registry?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I looked at the contract registry and the list of contracts issued by the Yukon government during the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I didn't ask for the Yukon government. I asked the minister: when was the last time, if ever, he has looked at the contract registry for Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, I looked at the contract registry and listings last fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister were to go to the contract registry on the Web currently for Yukon Housing Corporation and if he would go right back at the break to his office and look up today, what was the last contract entered? What year was it? Was it 1999, 2000, 2001? What year was it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I know that we only have a number of days here left in the House, and if it was the year or the year after or the year before - I'd just say that the Member for Klondike seems to be stalling here and taking up taxpayers' time and money for a response that has been given to him time and time over again. I have looked at the contract listings, and it was in the fall. I don't see a problem with that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the point is that the contract registry for Yukon Housing is not current. The last dates entered into it were 1998. Now, it's not being kept up to date, and it's our responsibility as opposition members to hold the government accountable. And this information was previously asked for from the previous government - the contract registry. It was finally agreed to, and the government of the day started posting them all on the Web so that that information would be readily available. But what good is that information when it is not kept current by this government and when they have no consistent policy with respect to how to deal with Crown corporations.
Now, the minister's department is responsible for posting this information on the Web site for all government departments. When is there going to be a consistent policy developed by his government with respect to the posting of all this information in a timely manner and with a consistent application of the rules to all Crown corporations?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Although it's not an aspect for Government Services general debate, I feel, I will look into Yukon Housing's registry, and if it's not up to date, then I will certainly make those changes.
I will also look into how to deal with the Crown corporations. We are on-line, and we are certainly looking at those as better ideas within our better ideas program.
Previously these corporations were not on-line, and we will certainly look into how we might be able to deliver that message to the public.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's not accurate information, Mr. Chair. The Yukon Liquor Corporation has been consistent in posting their information on the Web with respect to contracts. They have been consistent. None of the other Crown corporations have been consistent.
The Yukon Housing Corporation, for awhile, was very consistent. They are no longer consistent. The Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation - I can't find any record of them ever having posted their contracts on the Web. Now, Mr. Chair, these government agencies all are supposed to conform to the contract rules as to how contracts are let and how they are overseen by the government.
When we can't even ascertain what contracts are let and when they're let and to whom - whether bid or sole sourced - how are we expected to find this information? Now, all this information is supposed to be funnelled into Government Services from all the Crown corporations. Why has there been a change in policy, number one, with respect to Yukon Housing Corporation and why, number two, is the Yukon Liquor Corporation the only one that has been consistent, accurate and timely in the posting of their information? That doesn't bode well for any of the other corporations.
Is this Liberal government even concerned with developing a consistent policy with respect to the posting of contracts on the Web for Crown corporations? Are they even concerned about it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we have had no change in the policy. There is no change to the policy. I will look into the timelines of the information being provided.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could I ask the minister if the government has a policy with respect to the Crown corporations posting their contracts on the Web? Does the government indeed have a policy covering off that area for all Yukon Crown corporations?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we provide a service to the departments - whatever information departments wish to deliver on the Web sites about their departments. If we can get together with the departments and discuss the updating of the information on the Web sites, we will do that. It takes time. We have just formed a new Web site, and it takes time to get all of the departments on-line.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I am just trying to understand what the minister just said, and I'm having difficulty. What I am looking for is the Yukon Liberal government's policy with respect to the posting of contracts on the Web by Crown corporations. What is that policy?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no specific policy for corporations, but we try to work with them and encourage them to offer the best from these corporations in terms of information.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister what happened to the old policy that required Crown corporations like Yukon Housing Corporation and Yukon Liquor Corporation to post that contract listing information on the Web? What happened to the old policy?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Not all corporations were required to post it. They were encouraged to post it; however, they were not required to post it.
Mr. Jenkins: That leads to the next question. Which corporations were required, and why were they required, and which corporations were not required, and why were they not required to provide the information to Government Services for posting on the Web with respect to contract registry?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I will certainly look into that and get back to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a question on government policy - existing and prior government policy. Could I ask the minister for a legislative return on this very important issue?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I believe the question earlier was asking if we could provide which corporations look at providing contract information. In terms of the Member for Klondike's question, I will get back to him on that as well.
Mr. Jenkins: This is another issue that we are dealing with. I want to know why some of the Crown corporations are exempt from this requirement, because there seemed to be a policy in place at one time that is currently not being adhered to. Obviously, somewhere along the line, it has been amended or changed by this Yukon Liberal government. I want to know why we are not adhering to the old policy and I want to know what the new policy is. Because the minister doesn't appear to have a complete understanding of that area, I would ask that a legislative return be provided on this very important issue.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again I'll say that we will look into that and certainly we'll give him a legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: So, this is two legislative returns, Mr. Chair - one on the issue surrounding the period January 31 to March 31 with respect to sole-sourced contracts and the second one is with respect to government policy on the posting of contracts on the Web by all the Yukon Crown corporations.
Mr. Chair, there is some concern surrounding the immigrant investor fund that is debt serviced by Government Services. What are we looking at annually? What is the rate of return? At what interest rate is this debt service being provided to the immigrant investor fund through Connect Yukon? I believe it's a line item in the budget, but could the minister spell out the rate of return, the interest rate and the rationale for undertaking this initiative in the manner that it has been undertaken? What policy do we have in place?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, this is the Department of Government Services and I believe that question is directed to the Department of Community and Transportation Services as Connect Yukon has been transferred over to C&TS.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for is the debt-servicing on the immigrant investor fund - has that been transferred to the Department of Community and Transportation Services from Government Services also?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, yes.
Mr. Jenkins: For the prior period, is there one fiscal period when the debt-servicing was undertaken by Government Services on the Connect Yukon initiative?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it was transferred over during last year.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, let me try and get my head around this. The Connect Yukon initiative was transferred partway through last year's fiscal period to Community and Transportation Services by Government Services. That, I understood, is what the minister said. At the same time were the funds to debt-service the initiative for the entire fiscal period transferred over to Community and Transportation Services, and how was that done?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we'll get back to him on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we are here to debate a budget. The fiscal flow of money within the departments - how it transpires - is a very important issue. In the last budget that was debated, all of the funding for Connect Yukon, the debt-servicing on it, was done by Government Services. It spread over three different departments: the ministers of Economic Development, Community and Transportation Services, and Government Services were all involved.
Now, partway through the year, the responsibility changed from Government Services to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I have no quarrel with that, but I would like the minister to sketch out how the funds flowed. What happened? Were they allowed to lapse and revoted? What transpired? How did the funds get over to C&TS from Government Services? What transpired in-house? Is the minister going to suggest that another legislative return is in order?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I don't have the information in front of me. This was last year's budget. We are discussing 2001-02 in this debate here. We're not discussing the 2000-01 budget. It seems to have gone into previous budgets. If the Member for Klondike so wishes, we can get that information. However, we don't feel that that is really necessary.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it's obvious that the minister is not up to speed with respect to Government Services and his portfolio responsibilities. I'm very, very disappointed.
Maybe we could just take a break at this juncture and the minister could get a briefing on this area. Then we can come back into some of the questions that I have for the minister.
Chair: Is that a formal motion?
Mr. Jenkins: I am making a formal motion to move for a break at this time.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we have a break.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, with the Liberal side saying that we on this side are wasting the time of this House - Mr. Chair, we need to be able to ask questions and be provided with answers. Legislative returns that show up in July, after we have passed the budget, simply aren't an effective tool.
What the Member for Klondike is suggesting is that the minister take a few minutes to sit down with his official, go over these things and provide answers here, so that we can clear this department.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The question that was posed by the Member for Klondike is about last year's budget. That is not the subject that is under debate today in Committee of the Whole. Now, as a courtesy, the minister said that he would get back to the Member for Klondike, and the break is not scheduled for another five minutes. We like to use our time constructively.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, if you will rule on the point of order.
Chair: There is no point of order. No rules have been broken.
Now, on the motion, the ayes have it. There will be no break.
Mr. Jenkins: We're going to be here for an awfully long time, because this minister isn't up to speed on his responsibilities for his portfolio. The flow of money within government is one of the first things that is explained to ministers. They should comprehend it and be able to explain it. And they should be able to explain the policies they have in place with respect to their government's position and its application to various areas that they are responsible for.
I am only in the initial phases of Government Services and questioning the minister. As we delve more and more into this area, Mr. Chair, it becomes more and more abundantly clear that this minister is not conversant with his portfolio and he can't answer the questions. He's constantly suggesting that "he get back to us". Well, that's sad; that's really sad.
I'd urge the minister to sit down with his officials and undertake a briefing on these very important issues, because they're critical to his department. They're critical to the operation of the Yukon.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., we'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Government Services, Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have any responses to the questions I posed to him earlier today?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, with respect to the question posed to me earlier, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will be tabling a legislative return tomorrow on this.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the immigrant investor fund and the debt-servicing by Government Services previously and the changeover, is the legislative return going to refer directly to how the funds flowed from Government Services to Community and Transportation Services, and then back into the immigrant investor fund? Because that's what I'm trying to trace - the flow of actual funds.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The answer to that is no. However, it is $1.7 million that Northwestel pays the Yukon 19596 Incorporated to lease the infrastructure with an option to buy out this corporation's interest in the infrastructure in year five of the agreement for an estimated $6 million.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister table a complete copy of that agreement transferring it interdepartmentally. Obviously that has to be a Cabinet decision to do so and I know I can't ask for Cabinet documents, but I am seeking clarification regarding the flow of funds as to how that all was worked out. That is the information that I am looking for, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Connect Yukon was transferred over to C&TS in its entirety. It's not in Government Services' portfolio any more. We will certainly look into it.
Mr. Jenkins: But I'm looking for an answer. He's going to look into it. What's going to be done? What information am I going to receive, when am I going to receive it and from whom am I going to receive it?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I would ask that C&TS provide - or it should provide - all that information to the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm also looking for the minister to provide a legislative return on his department's involvement to see how it dovetails into C&TS. Would the minister please do so?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back a little ways, Mr. Chair, into the Government of Yukon contract registry. Can the minister confirm that his department, Government Services, is responsible for updating the contract registry for all departments?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, Mr. Chair. The contract registry is maintained by the Department of Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, step one - this is going to be very painful, Mr. Chair.
Now, the Government of Yukon contract registry says that the registry includes information from all government departments and the Liquor Corporation. It does not encompass other Crown corporations or bodies. The information reflects the total contract value and includes changes and orders issued. The amount recorded for each contract is not necessarily paid out in any given fiscal year. The registry does not include the purchase of goods or small contracts under $2,000. It goes on to say that the on-line registry is updated weekly. Could the minister confirm that that is indeed happening?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we can confirm that it is happening; however, there are some circumstances whereby it may be 10 days for that information to be on-line at the registry. It is updated weekly but there are circumstances, and we aim to update it weekly or close to that interval.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just single out one department, Mr. Chair. Let's single out ECO. When was the last posting to ECO made by Government Services on the Web site?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, at this point, I would have no idea as to when the last Web site posting was. I believe that is an operational detail.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it might be an operational detail, but it becomes a concern of this Legislature, Mr. Chair, when that information isn't being posted in a timely manner.
Now, what I am asking of the minister is as of - let's take yesterday's date - April 29, I would like to know: of all 17 of the government departments, when was the last time a posting was made to each department, the day of the last posting? Mr. Chair, there are very, very few departments where this information is being provided in a timely manner. Executive Council Office is one of the worst, and we know Executive Council Office has an abundance of sole-source contracts that it would appear the government is hiding.
I believe this exercise would be a very good exercise for the government to see what it's like to try and ascertain what is transpiring across the departments, because I would submit that the information is not being posted on a weekly basis, or even every 10 days, as the minister suggests. The period is much more extensive than that. That gives me cause for concern. It also suggests to me that the government is trying to hide something, which apparently they are.
So what I'm looking for from the minister is the current status of all the various departments of government - the last time that some posting was made. Now, I don't want to use today's date because I might go in and find that they've posted a whole series of contracts today, and that's not fair. So up to April 29, yesterday - or let's even go back to last Friday, which will probably be a better date, Mr. Chair.
So let's go back to what is posted as of April 27.
Has the minister even examined Executive Council Office on the Web to have a look as to when the last contract was posted there? I don't believe so because most of that information goes back into March and most of the contracts go back into the last fiscal period. When are we going to see the contracts that have been posted or awarded in April of this year? When can we obtain that information? We are four weeks into April and I can hardly find a contract issued in April of this new fiscal period posted on any of the Web sites for any of the departments. Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: In terms of the question regarding information from Executive Council Office, no, I haven't looked into the site. It concerns me that the Member for Klondike seems to know if it is or is not current, and there is a delay from when the contract is finalized until it can actually be posted. We post it within a week or so after we get the contract from the department. We do provide this service to the different departments; however, we are not there specifically to say that this is how you go about posting your contracts. We can make recommendations. We can't post something that we don't have.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, but I didn't ask that question, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, let's go at it another way. Does this Yukon Liberal government have any policy with respect to the timeline of reporting contracts to Government Services from the various departments? Is there any policy in place?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I think it's the norm that as soon as the contract is finalized, we post it and that's it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I want to know if the government has any policy that, after the contract is dealt with in the department, the department has seven days or 14 days or whatever to get it over. There must be some government policy there. Otherwise, it could sit in the out basket in some department for six months, nine months or a year. Right at the end of the fiscal period, it gets sent over.
Now, the opposition has previously had tremendous difficulty obtaining the contract registry. The government of the day was reluctant to hand it over. This was cause for some considerable concern and extensive debate in this Legislature. Now, I know that the current minister wasn't there during those times, but I don't want to see a repeat performance of that. I thought it was agreed and understood after that debate that there would be a timely posting of government contracts on the respective Web sites.
Let me ask the minister this: have any contracts issued during this fiscal period, commencing April 1, 2001, been posted on the Web from any department?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we get contracts very shortly after they are finalized. Then we post them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that was certainly a feeble attempt, Mr. Chair. The question to the minister, once again: has any contract that has been issued by the Government of Yukon, commencing in this current fiscal period, April 1, 2001 - any contract from any government department or any Crown corporation - been posted on any of the department Web sites? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we get contracts very shortly after they are finalized, and then we post them. I'm sure there has been, but I haven't really looked on the Web to confirm that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, you know, in all fairness to the opposition, I think it's important that this minister be brought up to speed with respect to government policy - his government's policies. I'm becoming very uncomfortable asking questions of this minister, for which he not only doesn't have an answer, but he doesn't even have a clue as to what it contains or pertains to. That's disappointing.
Now, Mr. Chair, is there some way that this minister can be brought up to speed with respect to an understanding of the policies within Government Services that he's responsible for? Can we set aside this department and get the minister a briefing on these important areas? Would the minister entertain that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, absolutely not. What's being contained here is that we have information. I am trying to accommodate the Member for Klondike as well as possible, but if this is going to carry on, I'm just going to sit and listen to the Member for Klondike's wishes.
Mr. Jenkins: We might as well set aside the department, Mr. Chair, because there are no answers forthcoming. We're dealing with government policy and the minister is responsible for government policy. Perhaps there is some other member of his staff who could facilitate a flow of the information to the minister? We have to come up with some solution to this dilemma at this juncture. Does the minister not agree?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this detail is operational detail. It isn't a question of policy. I have no information as to what's on which department's Web site at this time. Given that, we have met a number of other different issues that we look at in Government Services. We provide that Web site service to different departments, and that pretty much explains it.
Mr. Jenkins: So what the minister is attempting to say, Mr. Chair, is, "It's not my fault, not my problem, somebody else's fault, somebody else's problem." We hear that from the Minister of Health and Social Services, we hear that from the Minister of Education, we hear that from the Minister of Finance, and now we're hearing it from the Minister of Government Services.
Here is a government that's purported to be open and accountable, Mr. Chair. We're looking for policy decisions.
Let's go a different way. We can't get the information off the Web because it's not there. Would the minister kindly table all contracts issued by the government up to April 30, the first month of this fiscal period? Would the minister please do so?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, if he looks on the Web site, he certainly can find the contracts on the Web site.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I can't even get the minister to confirm that any contracts issued by the government from April 1, 2001 forward, for the first part of the fiscal period, are indeed on the Web site, Mr. Chair. And I would challenge him to produce those contracts that are currently on the Web. How many contracts have been posted on the Web since the beginning of this new fiscal period? Have any been posted on the Web site? Can the minister confirm that, yes, there have been contracts issued in the 2001 fiscal period commencing April 1 that are indeed posted on the Web? Can the minister confirm that information, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, no, I can't provide information to April 30.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, from my search of the Web for that period, I can't find any government contracts in Executive Council Office - and I've gone through three different departments - that have been issued from April 1 forward.
Now, we are told in the Government of the Yukon contract registry that all contracts - this on-line registry is updated weekly. The minister has brought a new meaning to the word "weekly". A week is now 30-odd days or more, Mr. Chair. Now, when I went to school, it was seven days, and I don't believe things have changed significantly since that time. I know we've had some improvements in the education system, but a week is still seven days, and none of those improvements appear to be under the watch of the minister currently responsible for Education, who is smugly sitting there. I'm sure that if there have been any improvements and changes, they are as a consequence of his capable officials, not the minister himself, Mr. Chair.
But be that as it may, the issue before us is one of this contract registry. Now, Mr. Chair, the minister responsible cannot confirm that there have been any postings to the Web site for the current fiscal period. Failing that information, I am asking the minister to table all contracts issued for the first month of this new fiscal period. Can the minister please do so?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Once again, it's weekly. After the contracts have been finalized, they will be posted.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, could we just get an order of magnitude of the timelines from when a contract is first awarded to when it appears on the Web site? What is the normal length of time, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: It is usually a week.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, after the contracts are awarded it is usually a week. Can the minister - I am sure that there have been a number of contracts awarded during the month of April. Can the minister cite one that has been posted to the Web site?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I don't have the timeline in front of me or the information. They may be numerous but if the Member for Klondike so wishes, we can find different contracts that were awarded and after the contract is written up and the award letter has been sent out, we then look at posting it within that week.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would like to go over another area once again. Also available are contract details for Yukon Housing Corporation and Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. Now, we have the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation here, and he is also responsible for Government Services. Is there any internal policy in the Yukon Housing Corporation that the minister is aware of that curtails the flow of that information to Government Services to post on the contract registry?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is a board of directors from whom I get my information and directives. It is not I who makes policy. My officials from the Yukon Housing Corporation - I will talk to them with regard to posting contracts and the time frame in which they are posted with Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously the wheels have come off the cart in this situation. The information that is supposed to be provided is not readily available. There has to be some decision made at some level that is precluding the posting of this information on the Web site.
Now, I'm not asking the minister to make a decision for the Yukon Housing Corporation. I am asking the minister if there has been a change in policy at the Yukon Housing Corporation that has precluded the posting of this information to the Web site with respect to any contracts issued by the Yukon Housing Corporation. That's what I asked the minister and he is going to get back to the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors and ascertain that.
Now, the only Crown corporation that is consistent with the flow of information and the posting of contracts on the Web is the Yukon Liquor Corporation. So, one can conclude that this information can be provided, can be provided in a timely manner and can be done for all Crown corporations.
I know I'm going to get bounced among all the different ministers - the new Minister of Economic Development and the Yukon Energy Corporation with respect to the posting, whoever that might currently be in the government. It has already changed once in less than a year, and I don't know if we'll see another change, but so be it.
Where does the minister suggest I bring up this important policy issue, or is he going to suggest that I bring it up with each of the ministers responsible for those specific areas, with respect to Crown corporations posting contracts they have issued on the Web site?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no change in policy since I have been in this seat. I will be discussing registry and postings by Crown corporations with my colleagues, and see if we can make improvements. We are looking at efficiencies within government, and that may possibly be one of them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, is the minister aware of any background information with respect to the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation that would preclude them from posting contracts on the Web site? Is the minister aware of what they're trying to hide?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'd like to think that nobody is hiding anything in government. And as I said before, we will definitely be sitting down and talking about contracts and postings with my colleagues.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I would submit that they are either hiding something or the minister doesn't know. I don't know which area to explore first. I'm at a loss as to questioning the minister because in every area I explore, I come up with a blank wall - or stone wall, so to speak.
The minister is either not prepared or doesn't understand what is transpiring.
Currently, I'm advised that there is some trouble with the foundation of the school being constructed in Mayo. Could the minister advise the House what those difficulties are and how much additional cost the government is going to incur?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, representatives from the government, the contractor and the lumber supplier have inspected the floor trusses at the Mayo school site. We have received information from an engineer indicating that there are no structural problems with the trusses. As is typical with floor systems during the construction phase, there are some places where moisture meters indicate excessive moisture. The contractor will be installing heat to mitigate any moisture problems. A very small amount of mould has occurred in one localized area. This will be eliminated with the addition of heat and specific cleaning. The moisture problems will disappear when the construction is closed to weather.
The situation will be monitored on an ongoing basis, and the contractor will be directed to take remedial action in the event that minor levelling problems are identified.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is telling the House, in layperson's terms, is that the floor joists have been allowed to be exposed to the weather and have become damp. In order for mould to grow, Mr. Chair, the joists have to be heated at some juncture and then allowed to cool again, because mould doesn't grow when everything is frozen. It only grows on wood when it's raised above the freezing point.
Who is assuming all of the responsibility? Is the on-site engineering assuming the responsibility, or is the Government of Yukon on the hook should these trusses not conform to acceptable standards? Who is going to ultimately be responsible for the poor storage of this equipment? Will it be the Government of Yukon or the general contractor? And if it is the general contractor, would the minister advise why the contractor would even proceed in using these floor joists, given that they have been identified as having potential damage?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we are working. What the Member for Klondike forgets to say is that we are looking at the issue and we are attending to it. We are looking into the common problem of most construction sites. This is not about assigning blame until we've determined there is a real problem.
Mr. Jenkins: So what we're seeing and what we're uncovering now, Mr. Chair, is that as a consequence of this Liberal government's delay in the construction of the Mayo school and the postponement of it for the extensive period of time that they did so, that a lot of the building material that was delivered on-site and stored over the winter is now deteriorated and it is substandard. It doesn't pass the on-site engineering evaluation of this material. Is that what the minister can confirm to the House here today, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, there is no confirmation. It has deteriorated to being unusable, but we certainly are looking at it. As I mentioned earlier, we have adhered to the problem. It is a common problem in construction, especially in winter construction.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that the engineer on-site representing the Government of the Yukon's interest has accepted this material for construction purposes?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We are looking at it.
Mr. Jenkins: That wasn't the question and it certainly deserves more of an answer than that because what we have here is a delay in the construction in the Mayo school, a postponement of it. And we are told that they're saving all sorts of money. Now what we've uncovered is that some of the material delivered to the site has a potential for being substandard. Now, before material like floor joists or trusses are utilized and they are shown to be defective or have a potential for not meeting these standards, an engineer has to say yes or no. Has the Government of the Yukon's engineer confirmed that these trusses and joists are approved and they will be used?
Hon. Mr. Jim: There has been no confirmation that the start in construction has resulted in problems with the moisture content or problems with the quality of the trusses. We are working with our consultants and engineers on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, obviously it's a very serious problem. It's known in the industry as to what's transpiring. What is the order-of-magnitude exposure that the Government of Yukon has with this defective material?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we are still in the process of determining whether or not there is a problem so that we can get on with the construction.
Mr. Jenkins: What are the timelines for the decision being made in this area?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I believe it will be as soon as possible and shortly. However, I can't speculate as to how long it will be, as I am not the engineer or the expert engineering aficionado, but I can say shortly and I can say soon. My officials are keeping me up to date regularly on the progress.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, in the life of this universe, 100 years is a short span of time. Short, quick - these are all very abstract, and there is nothing definitive.
Now, the issue is an important issue, in that we have a construction project underway. It is managed by the Government of Yukon with respect to the provision of some of the material. That material is on-site. It would appear that a number of the trusses or joints don't conform to acceptable standards.
Let's go this way. Is the minister aware, or can he ascertain, how many trusses or joists, and what the cost of each one of these trusses or joists is?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we can go through this - it's just a sad day for Yukoners that we have to sit down and listen to the Member for Klondike talk to us about how many hairs there are on a bull moose or how many trusses are being used in the construction of this building.
The fact of the matter is that this Mayo school is being constructed as we speak.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I beg to differ - it isn't. There is a delay because of the materials. The issue is an important one. Usually, when you are managing a project and have timelines on that project, if you are a very capable, mediocre or even a very poor manager, some of the first questions you ask are how long the delay is going to be, what it is going to cost and what is our exposure? Is it our fault, our responsibility?
Now, did this defective material come about as a consequence of some action or inaction on the part of the Government of Yukon or its agents?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I hope that we will have an answer in a week or so with respect to the level of moisture in the trusses and the quality of the trusses. I will have to have my officials work with the engineers looking into the issue.
With respect to the member's latter question, I'd say no.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, decisions like that in the construction industry are made on a continuing basis - as to whether to accept or reject construction material - and it's not a lengthy, time-consuming process. I can't for the life of me understand why it's going to take a couple of weeks to make this decision, save and except that it's the Liberal government attempting to make it. Anybody else in the construction industry would have that decision made very, very quickly by the respective engineers. Either you reject those trusses, or you accept them. If you reject them, what is the basis for rejection, and if you accept them, what is the basis for acceptance?
The standards for all of these trusses are well-defined in the terms of reference for the material. It's all outlined there. Does the minister have any idea of the order of magnitude of financial exposure that the government has with respect to these trusses?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I would like to make sure that we do have all the facts. We'll make a decision once we have all the facts. Financial exposure is not yet determined.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the potential for replacing some of these trusses is probably very great at this juncture. The timelines for the ordering and delivery of these trusses is not something for which you pick up the phone and say, "Deliver me one of these." They have to be constructed to the specifications in the tender documents.
It's not something that's going to be done overnight, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, this Legislature was told by the Yukon Liberal government that the delay or the postponement or the cancellation of the Mayo school project last year was going to result in significant savings. When we examine what is transpiring to date, nothing could be further from the reality of the situation than we're going to be saving money. Given the amount of corners that have been cut out of the prior contract in so many areas, the Minister of Education should be ashamed to have let this happen. Because, Mr. Chair, next year we're going to have to budget probably another half a million dollars to pick up on all these deficiencies and all of the areas that were eliminated like landscaping, like painting and even things like floor covering to a lesser standard, doors and hardware. You reduce the standard, you reduce the effective life. In the commercial world, that is a reality. It doesn't matter what you look at commercially, whether it be a door knob or a toaster. You can go down to any of the stores downtown, and you can buy a doorknob with a lock in it and with a key for $20 or $30. That's not a problem. But go and purchase the same commercial product, and you put one or more numbers in front of it. It's $100-plus.
That's the nature of the commercial world. It's designed and built for a higher duty cycle to last a much longer length of time. You can take a toaster, a simple toaster that you and I have in our home; you can buy one for $20. Go and buy one for a food service establishment, and it's over $1,000 because it's a 100-percent duty cycle and you can use it continuously. But if you compromise on the standard, the life is not going to be there and you are going to replace that substandard product in trying to apply it to a commercial application on a much more regular basis. That is what all reports indicate is transpiring with respect to the Mayo school. At the end of the day, we are not going to be saving the amount of money indicated by this novice Liberal government. In fact it's probably going to cost us that much and more again. In any of these areas that one looks at, it's appalling.
I have explored with the minister a number of different areas here today, and I really don't think anyone would be satisfied with the responses we have received. Virtually all of this information is going to be forthcoming, provided by way of legislative return or they're working on it. It doesn't matter what question I have posed to the minister, very few of them have been given a response. That does not bode well for this minister's understanding of his department or what is transpiring in his department.
Now let's go back to the Mayo school; let's go back to these trusses. I am sure the minister has been given an appreciation of the cost that may be incurred to replace these trusses. Could the minister just advise the House what that order-of-magnitude cost is?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we're delivering the Mayo school. The community of Mayo has been waiting 15 to 20 years for this school. Previous governments failed to deliver, but we are delivering the Mayo school and we are delivering a quality school in a fiscally responsible manner.
Let's talk for a moment about the quality of children's education in Mayo and the wonderful opportunities that this new school will provide. The Mayo school will be energy efficient, attractive and extremely functional. It will contain a science lab, an industrial arts shop, a computer lab and an arts room to support the vibrant arts programs in Mayo. The gymnasium is large - a full 520 square metres. Adjacent to the gym is the home economics room, which can be doubled as a kitchen for community events and a fitness centre for community use.
All these features contribute to a positive, high-quality learning experience for the children of Mayo and to an enriched community life for the citizens of Mayo. I am very proud of this hard work by the people of Mayo and our public servants. Mr. Chair, because of their efforts, the Mayo school is going to be a showpiece for that community.
To top it off, the trusses will be fine. They are fine and they have been approved by the truss engineer. There are some problems with the lamination of the plywood. It is estimated that this cost will be approximately $4,000 to fix.
Mr. Jenkins: Boy, it's like pulling hens' teeth to find out the order of magnitude of costs. Now, $4,000 - is that the final, total cost or are there going to be delays as a consequence if these products have to be reordered?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it is estimated that this cost will be about $4,000 to fix.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that information, but I asked if there were going to be any delays, should these products have to be reordered. And what is the order of magnitude of delays? We are not talking off-the-shelf trusses. They are specifically designed for each application.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we anticipate that there will be no delays and that the trusses are okay.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I listened at great length to the areas in which the cost of the Mayo school had been reduced and where cost-savings had been effected. What I want to know from the minister is what the final cost will be when we go back in a year's time. How much is anticipated by the department to be budgeted next year to meet the same standards as the school was originally designed to?
And for the record, Mr. Chair, I want to state that we are very much in support of the construction of the school in Mayo. The position we take is that it should have gone ahead much earlier than the delaying tactics of this Liberal government have allowed. And we believe it would have created some considerable stimulus to the Yukon economy and put a great number of Yukoners to work over the course of this winter.
Given the tremendous surplus this government knew it had and knew it was probably going to foresee in the next fiscal period - some additional $42 million - it's going to be interesting to see what kind of lapses we are going to incur. But noting the spending frenzy that has occurred across all departments to get rid of that money so that it's no longer there, I do have some reservations about where we're going.
Now, of the money that has been cut from the Mayo school budget this fiscal period, how much does the department anticipate bringing forward next fiscal period to bring the school up to acceptable standards, with landscaping and repainting the areas that need repainting?
As a consequence of the inferior painting, how is this going to impact on the O&M budget, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the members opposite are so good at steering the public eye in a different direction all the time.
The member opposite continues to claim that the Mayo school has been delayed for a year. I want to point out again that all indications are that the school will be open in January 2002. This is a delay of four months, not 12 months. Four months.
It is up to acceptable standards and there is nothing budgeted next year. There is zero dollars budgeted next year for improvements. There is no dollar impact on O&M costs for the coming year.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what are the anticipated O&M costs for this school to be?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to say "happy birthday" to the Member for Klondike and, as a present to him, perhaps we will get him that information.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, that still doesn't answer my question and I'm still looking for an answer from the minister irrespective of whatever is happening in my personal life. I still have an obligation to hold this government accountable and keep them accountable and, when I can't get any timely responses, it's very, very difficult.
So, what is the impact on the O&M, and what is the O&M of this school going to be, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it's getting harder and harder for me to wish the member opposite a happy birthday.
Nothing is budgeted for this year. We have zero dollars that are budgeted for this year. It's up to acceptable standards. The Mayo school will be going ahead and there are no impacts on our O&M costs. The Minister of Education is responsible for O&M on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when you downgrade a triple-glaze to a double-glaze, unless it's low-E, your order-of-magnitude savings in capital is a certain amount, Mr. Chair. But at the end of the day, your net savings are pretty well diminished over a very short period of time on the O&M side.
So, Mr. Chair, it's very, very difficult in the construction world to reduce the amount of insulation value, whether it be in the glass, which is one of your greatest heat-loss areas, or in your doors, and these are the areas in which it appears that there has been a significant reduction in the R-value and the standards we are constructing within.
Mayo has the distinction, Mr. Chair, of being the hottest and coldest place in the Yukon - the hottest and coldest. Now, the minister might currently think that the hottest place is this Legislature, but that's far from reality. The reality is that Mayo has the distinction of being the hottest and coldest. The higher the R-value of this building will ensure a measure of comfort in that school at a price that will be reflected in the O&M costs for the Minister of Education.
But I know the Minister of Education is more concerned with maintaining this double standard that he has for education and ensuring that that exists - ensuring there's one standard for rural Yukon and another standard for Whitehorse - and he's just going to build schools where he has promised them. It doesn't really matter whether they're needed or not or justified or not or school councils are in agreement or not, but that's it.
We know that Mayo needs a school. It should have been started and built last year. The minister would have the biggest smile on his face come September or sometime late this fall when he attends at Mayo with his scissors and big cake. We all know that the Liberals love cutting ribbon and eating cake. There's going to be an opportunity, but that opportunity would have been sooner rather than later and it would have alleviated a lot of these little problems that are just starting to come to light with respect to things like trusses.
Now, there is a whole series of other areas that might occur and that probably have the potential for causing further delays. This side does not want to see that happen, but someone will have to be there overseeing this project and ensuring that it moves ahead rapidly and have the political will to do so.
Now, to take two or three weeks to determine whether a truss is useful or not useful - I find that very uncomfortable. Perhaps the minister should issue another sole-source contract that won't be posted on the Web for an engineer to go up and offer an opinion very quickly.
It's probably more serious than we give credit to, in that we can't seem to get timely answers. Now, is there any other part of the briefing note that the minister has that has cause for concern in it?
I will leave the window open for the minister, and we would like him to ramble on tomorrow morning when he has the camera on this very important area.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The Mayo school will be an attractive and comfortable building. It will enhance the learning experience of Mayo students and will lend itself to a number of community events. It will also be energy efficient.
We have previously discussed the C-2000 energy status of the buildings. Very few buildings in Canada have achieved the C-2000 status. Thanks to the assistance of the federal government, which provided us with energy management expertise, we were able to achieve C-2000 on the Mayo school. In a building of this type, approximately 30 percent of the building energy costs are for lights - 30 percent are for lighting. Through the innovative and generous use of windows, natural lighting in the Mayo school has replaced the need for much of the synthetic lighting.
The students, staff and community members will be able to enjoy natural light throughout the year. It is a credit to the foresight of the building planning committee that they put an emphasis on the importance of both the natural light and energy efficiency. The Mayo school is being built in a fiscally responsible manner, and it is maintained in a fiscally responsible manner.
Mr. Chair, the time being close to 6:00 p.m., I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jim that we report progress.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Member: Disagree.
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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.