Thursday, November 1, 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.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Women Abuse Prevention Month
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As minister responsible, I rise in the House today to recognize November as Women Abuse Prevention Month.
On behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Justice, and myself, I would like to honour all the people who work in the family violence prevention field, the women at the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and the workers in women's shelters and transition homes.
The Minister of Justice and I also wish to recognize the valuable services offered by the victim services and family violence prevention unit at the Department of Justice. The unit has been helping offenders and victims of domestic violence for about 14 years. Staff of the unit offer state-of-the-art service delivery based on the effective treatment models.
The Family Violence Prevention Act is now entering its third year. It provides for three kinds of protection orders that offer assault victims alternatives to the criminal justice system.
The victim services program offers crisis intervention and long-term counselling services to women who have been sexually assaulted or battered by their male partners. Ten-week treatment groups for battered women are also offered on a regular basis. The program offers assistance in obtaining information relating to criminal charges, court support, applications for emergency intervention orders, filing of victim impact statements and registration with parole boards. Workshops aimed at educating the community in ways to stay safe are also offered.
Earlier this summer, the victim services unit hosted a special workshop for teens and young women, providing education on sexual assault awareness. Many Government of Yukon departments, including the Department of Justice as well as the Yukon Teachers Association are involved in this year's national white ribbon campaign. This is a campaign that gives men in the community the opportunity to speak out against violence against women. The Justice department continues to focus on making the Yukon a safer place to live and is offering valuable services to both victims of abuse and offenders.
This year, as in the past, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre is spearheading the public awareness campaign surrounding Women Abuse Prevention Month. There will be displays around town and in various high schools. Youth groups will be hosting dating and relationship talks, and there will be a talk at the public library on the domestic violence treatment options.
There will also be a series of video lunchtime presentations at the public library in Whitehorse, and a safety awareness and personal defence class for women at the United Church hall. I invite Yukoners to participate in some or all of these activities because, the more we know about this issue, the better we can fight it.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have a legislative return in reply to a question from the MLA for Kluane.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return in response to a question, October 30, from the leader of the official opposition with respect to the amount of money in the supplementary budget that has been expended.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have for tabling a legislative return in response to questions raised by the Member for Klondike during the ministerial statement on the youth endowment fund on Monday, October 29.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Bill C-39 - An Act to Replace the Yukon Act
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I wish to share with the House today the significance of a new federal bill. Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act, was introduced and given first reading yesterday in the House of Commons. On this bill rest the hopes and aspirations of many of us in this Legislature for long-sought recognition of our system of responsible government, for us to manage the Yukon's lands and resources, and for achieving a critical stage of our political evolution.
A new Yukon Act in part fulfills the federal obligations set out in the Northern Affairs program devolution transfer agreement to bring to Parliament the legislation needed to provide the additional law-making powers necessary for the Government of the Yukon to carry out its new responsibilities for land and resource management.
This new act, which will replace the current Yukon Act, does much, much more. It is of particular importance to the members of this House that the new act recognizes the system of responsible government we have had in place in the Yukon for the past 20 years, setting out in detail the concepts first articulated in the Epp letter of 1979.
With the new act, our existence as a Legislative Assembly, not a council, will be fully recognized. The preamble of the new bill specifically recognizes this important principle of representative government.
The introduction of Bill C-39 signals yet another historic advance in Yukon's history. With its passage we will have a modern legal framework to underpin the actions of government for many years to come. I am sure that each of us here will be watching its progress through the House of Commons and the Senate with interest.
I have contacted the leaders of all the federal opposition parties about this matter. Without reservation, they have expressed their support. While the government has undertaken to secure passage of this bill, I believe a new act warrants the full support of all parliamentarians. I've offered to provide the federal opposition parties with whatever assistance they require to complete their research so that they too can speak in support of Bill C-39 when second reading takes place.
We have some exciting weeks ahead of us. It has taken persistence and creativity to craft the new Yukon Act.
When we celebrate the passage of the new act - and it will be a celebration - it will be with the knowledge that our achievements collectively were made possible by the hard work of many people throughout Canada and the Yukon, and over many years.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to respond briefly to this ministerial statement. It is a statement that lays out what process has taken place as a result of many years of negotiation on devolution. It is a natural process that we expect to take place in the House of Commons so that we can finally get the resources that we have wanted to manage so badly in the past.
I believe that there are many people to thank when you look at what took place with regard to devolution. All of the teams that have been put in place - our negotiating teams - over the past years - we have had many discussions in this House, both on the government side and on the opposition side, about the Yukon Act. There are a lot of discussions taking place out there. We know that there is going to be a mirror legislation that goes through this Legislature.
I thank the member again for announcing and bringing forward this ministerial statement. I think it is of interest for all Yukoners to see that progress is happening.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus to respond to this ministerial statement on Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act, that was tabled in the House of Commons yesterday.
Now, prior to the tabling, Yukoners were not even aware what was in this bill, even though it will affect us all very profoundly. Only those in the inner Liberal sanctum would have known what provisions the bill contained, and they call this a democracy, Mr. Speaker.
It is somewhat fitting that the Liberals chose to play trick-or-treat with Yukoners by tabling the new proposed Yukon Act on Halloween. This new act will help to give force and effect to the devolution transfer agreement that will come into force on April Fool's Day in 2003. Those dates are very telling, Mr. Speaker.
The last time Yukoners saw a proposed new Yukon Act was when the previous NDP government tabled one in 1999. And to the NDP government's credit, there was extensive consultation on the act carried out by the Special Commission on the Yukon Act. The Yukon public had much to say about the new proposed act, and a lot of what they said and recommended can be found in the special commission's final report that was tabled in November of 1999. The Special Commission on the Yukon Act in its final report made nine very important recommendations. Now, I haven't got time to relate them all here today, but let me deal with some of their key findings.
The special commission noted that there were three major contentious issues; namely, the concept of Crown in right of Yukon, the recognition of which would grant Yukon the ownership of its land and resources; the Yukon's northern boundary; and how far to push the envelope in pursuit of the transfer of federal powers from the federal government. The special commission recommended that all three political parties reach consensus on these key issues before proceeding with any new Yukon Act. To my knowledge, the present Yukon Liberal government never even attempted to reach a consensus with any on these items.
Another contentious issue, as noted by the special commission, was changing the term of office for the Yukon government, from four years to five years. Most Yukoners who were consulted were not in favour of this change.
Mr. Speaker, while I have not yet had the opportunity to review the contents of Bill C-39, I am led to believe that none of the recommendations made by the special commission are recognized in that bill. The Premier and her Liberal colleagues have effectively taken the commission's final report containing the views of Yukoners and turfed it into the trashcan. Welcome to the new world of Liberal democracy.
The Premier then had the gall to ask Yukoners to celebrate this monstrous sell out. Yukoners are supposed to celebrate the fact that they are now to become caretakers in our own land. We can assume the environmental liability for managing Yukon lands and resources but we are not entitled to own them.
This represents the greatest federal offloading in Yukon history wherein the Yukon government will potentially be held responsible for multi-millions in environmental liability for federally owned resources.
Yukoners are supposed to celebrate the fact that we are surrendering Yukon jurisdiction in the Beaufort Sea to the Northwest Territories.
We look at Nunavut - its offshore boundaries with the Northwest Territories has been recognized and defined by the federal Liberal government. Why can't they do the same thing for the Yukon?
The Minister of DIAND may be celebrating in Ottawa for having duped Yukoners. And the Premier of the Northwest Territories may be celebrating in Yellowknife for winning Yukon's portion of the Beaufort Sea, but there is no cause for celebration here in Yukon for this undemocratic and dictatorial act by the Yukon Liberal government.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the leader of the official opposition for his approach to the ministerial statement today and his support for devolution and for the Yukon Act, which truly recognizes the responsibility of governments of all stripes to be accountable to the people we serve and to be, in fact, masters in our own house.
I would especially like to commend the leader of the official opposition as he, too, as I did, recognized and thanked the people who have gone before us, not simply the public servants, although they played an incredibly important role, but also the legislators who have served in this House before us. It took many, many years of legislative work and support for Yukoners to make these decisions here at home. And I, too, would like to again record my thanks to them.
Mr. Speaker, in response to the Member for Klondike, I have several points I'd like to make. First of all, there was, indeed, a Special Commission on the Yukon Act, and the special commission provided a great deal of information and input, which was certainly considered by the Yukoners who worked with the federal government - and this is federal legislation - justice lawyers in drafting the new Yukon Act. They worked very long and very hard on this, as Yukoners.
One of the elements of the new Yukon Act is that it cannot be changed by the House of Commons without consultation with Yukoners. That's a landmark provision in any legislation, Mr. Speaker, and it's very important.
I'd also like to make clear for the Member for Klondike a point regarding the Special Commission on the Yukon Act, which noted that the issue of the offshore boundary would be referred to a separate process and would not be considered in amendments to the Yukon Act. So, to suggest that this government has, in any way, disregarded the views of Yukoners is completely incorrect, and the Member for Klondike should recognize that.
With respect to the Crown in right, Mr. Speaker, let's be absolutely clear. Establishing a Crown in right of Yukon is not necessary for devolution. It's not necessary for the Yukon Act. By having administration and control of Yukon lands and resources, the Yukon government has the use and benefit of these resources. Ownership isn't necessary. What the Member for Klondike is trying to achieve by suggesting that we pursue that line is provincial status by the back door. We have support everywhere in this country for our efforts on devolution and on the Yukon Act. To do something as suggested by the Member for Klondike, we would lose that support.
And we would lose the opportunity to control and work and be accountable to the people of Yukon. It is very clear that when a Yukoner is issued fee simple title to a new cottage lot or a rural holding, any one of the members of the public - in the gallery today or outside listening to this - understands that what is going to happen is that the Yukon government will be able to issue that and that we will have the management of control. Whether there is a Crown in right of Yukon or not doesn't make a difference to the average citizen the way devolution is going to make a difference to the average citizen, and we very much look forward to April 1, 2003, and to the passage of this act. And, again, Mr. Speaker, thank you to the members of the official opposition for their support on behalf of Yukoners.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon tourism
Mr. McRobb: Tourism operators in the territory are worried about the impact on the Yukon's tour industry from terrorist activity. Bookings for next year are way down and declines are expected in virtually every sector, ranging from international travel to cruise ships to rubber-tire traffic. Yukoners are tired of waiting for leadership and direction from this Liberal government and they want action. Just yesterday, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon issued a news release calling on the government for immediate action. From the words of TIA president Steve Leonard, "We need your help and we need it quickly. We cannot afford to cross our fingers and hope for the best."
What is the minister doing about this request?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Probably one of the most significant events that affected tourism in the Yukon Territory and throughout North America happened on September 11, 2001. There is a problem. There is a problem throughout the Yukon Territory, throughout Canada and North America in the tourism industry. I have heard stories from the hotel industry in particular about tour operators phoning up and expecting that they can book for next year without having to pay a deposit - a deposit that those hotels count on. I have also heard from the hotel industry in the Yukon Territory that they are having problems because they are expected to reduce their rates considerably.
That's just the hotel industry, Mr. Speaker. It's right across the entire tourism industry. So, with that in mind, the Yukon territorial government has done a number of different things. I know there's not enough time to respond within the time allotted, but I can start with the member opposite, and I'm sure during the supplementary I can continue with that.
The first thing that this government did is that I went, as the Minister of Tourism, to an emergency meeting in St. John's, Newfoundland at the end of September, and I met with Brian Tobin, who was the federal minister. At that time we had two messages for that minister, and the first message was that there is still a problem with the airline industry in Canada, and particularly with our national carrier. We had that problem before September 11, and it was exacerbated by the events of September 11 - it continues. That message was heard by Mr. Tobin.
The second -
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The second message was that we needed financial help to deal with the events of September 11, and I'll continue my answer after the next supplementary.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, but something tells me that the minister won't answer the question about the TIA cry for help no matter how much time we give her.
Recently, I received by mail this promotional material from the community of Haines, Alaska, which I will now send over to the minister. Direct target marketing such as this appears to be quite effective. I know of several Yukoners who have been motivated to visit Haines as a result of this marketing technique.
Our largest tourist market is from the United States, and we know that Americans now prefer short trips that will allow them to return home within a day. Many Alaskan communities and cities are within a day's travel of our territory, including Anchorage. Alaska has 20 times the population of the Yukon.
Can the minister tell us what special steps she is taking to refocus tourism efforts closer to home, such as in Alaska?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: To continue my point that I was making originally, those four Tourism ministers who represented Canada - I represented the north, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. We said that we needed help. Brian Tobin came through and he got an extra $20 million to help deal with the events of September 11.
This is what the Yukon is going to do with its share of that $20 million. First of all, the federal government is going to work at getting Canada as a preferred destination in North America because it is perceived to be a safe destination. The second thing that they are going to do is focus in on border states. In the Yukon that's, of course, Alaska. The third thing they are going to do is match funds with the jurisdictions across Canada, to help them promote their jurisdiction the best way they know how.
What we are doing in the Yukon is this: we've applied for Canadian Tourism Commission dollars. We will match those dollars on the following three proposals. Now, these have not been accepted but it's what we're asking for.
The first thing is for $270,000. That's $160,000 from the Yukon government and $110,000 from the federal government. That will be a rubber-tire program - a joint Yukon-Alaska program. The second program is a group tour program, which is a direct mail campaign to Ontario. That Ontario campaign will be from Holland America to talk about cruise-ship options in the Yukon Territory. That amount is for $120,000. The third amount is for the -
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I wish I could go on. What we're going to be doing is a sales mission to Calgary, Vancouver and Toron to. That amount is for $120,000.
Mr. McRobb: Again, the minister did not answer the question of how she will respond to the request from TIA Yukon.
Now, a month ago I called on her to take action, and I made four suggestions: (1) release the air access study for public review and input; (2) intensify negotiations with air carriers, including Air North; (3) increase marketing efforts in Alaska, B.C., Alberta and within the Yukon Territory; and finally (4) provide more support to our tour operators for marketing. Now, sadly, the minister responded to this by saying that we've done everything we possibly can do.
Now, will the minister admit that there are viable options to pursue in terms of marketing the Yukon? And how will she respond to these constructive suggestions?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, nothing that I hear from the side opposite is new. The air access study will be coming forward. We're already working on the air access study, and we've already had discussions with Air North at some length, and that will be coming forward in the new year for discussion across the Yukon.
In addition to that, we're also working on a $400,000 campaign with the Alaska retail program. We're working with Era Aviation to come up with programs or with tour packages to the Yukon Territory from Alaska. We're also working on the northern neighbours program, so we will have familiarization tours of media that will go to Alaska as well as the Yukon. The Golden Circle route has been brought back, and it will now include Juneau. So that's Haines, Skagway, Juneau and Whitehorse. In addition to that, we're working with the Alaska Marine Highway partnership for an additional $20,000 so that you can book a trip in the Yukon Territory on the ferry when you're sitting off the shore in Prince Rupert. All those things are possibilities.
By the way, Mr. Speaker, that's close to $1 million that we are setting aside. Those are dollars that we were not putting toward those projects prior to September 11. This is new spending on new priorities within the Yukon government.
Question re: FAS/FAE registry
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Health. Last year, a registry was implemented requiring that diagnosed cases of FAS be reported. Yesterday, the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon suggested that the registry was not providing an accurate picture of the scope of the problem in the Yukon.
Today the minister said that the registry was working. Has the minister looked into the effectiveness of the registry?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The previous administration supported the FA registry. As a matter of fact, it was under their watch that the registry came into place. This administration completely supports the FA registry. This is a high priority with our new medical officer of health. As we all know, we have a new medical officer of health for the Yukon, Mr. Bryce Larke, and, of course, the medical officer of health and the department officials are currently looking at options with respect to the FAS registry. As a matter of fact, the medical officer of health meets regularly with the physicians and has put this on their agenda for this coming week.
Mr. Speaker, this government has made FAS a high priority and we work diligently on this issue. There are many things happening throughout the territory in this area. We have a working group that is finalizing a report on options for diagnostic teams and recently the Premier has profiled the need for FAS research at the past-premiers conference in Victoria.
Mr. Speaker, as minister, I continue to follow up with the federal Minister of Health on the Yukon's needs with respect to FAS. This is a very important issue, and we are working very hard at trying to ensure that we have one of the best programs in the country.
Mrs. Peter: I agree with the minister that this is a very high priority in the Yukon.
This morning, the minister said on the radio that it appears to be working. The Yukon is a leader in dealing with FAS. The minister has cured the problem.
Does the minister seriously believe that there has been a significant reduction in the problem in one year? What about all the other cases that do not appear in the registry although they were identified prior to this cure?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would never dream - I would like to dream that we have cured all the problems in a year, but I am sorry we haven't. These are very serious issues. They are long-standing. It is going to take a couple of generations to cure this problem, and we know what the cure is. It is abstinence from drinking; that's the cure. This is one of the issues that we can avoid very quickly if the message is out there. We know that when mothers drink, babies quite often become FAS.
We are very concerned, as a government. We are concerned - and I know our new medical health officer is very concerned. He just started here about a month ago. We are expecting again, along with our new drug and alcohol CEO, Ms. Corliss Burke, that these two will be working very much together and with our communities in trying to look at more programs that we have to put in place to ensure that messages are getting across.
The medical officer of health and the department officials are committed to trying to beat this very - what I call "plague". I call it a plague. I know it isn't a plague like we have traditionally seen them, but it is of such serious nature that we really have to work hard at trying to beat it. And, of course, we as a government are still very concerned about this being the high priority for our government.
Mrs. Peter: Some doctors have suggested that both the paperwork and the process of obtaining an accurate diagnosis of FAS are a problem in the Yukon. We do not have a team that can diagnose FAS accurately. What information does the minister have to support his claim that the registry is a success and that we are seeing fewer cases of FAS in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would like to think very clearly that we are being a success. If that is the case, I did muse that it would be very good if we did see the numbers reduce. But, Mr. Speaker, if there's a problem with the registry, with the applications, this is what our medical health officer is going to do. He's going to be sitting down with the doctors and looking at what the problems are here. We don't want to make this onerous, but it is the law that we have it filled out, Mr. Speaker, because obviously we want to have a handle on this issue and on this problem.
Our new medical officer of health is very understanding of this issue. Of course, he has been very busy this past month with the anthrax scare and has been in Ottawa and back and forth. So obviously it hasn't been on the frontline of his agenda, but I know for a fact that it is now, Mr. Speaker. He is going to be presenting this issue to the doctors and looking at solutions. If that's where the problem is, then let's resolve it. I would think it's not going to help us as a territory and as a government not to have true facts and true figures. Otherwise, why have a registry at all? We're the only jurisdiction in the country that has one, and, obviously, if it's not going to work, then there's no point bragging about it if we haven't got all the things to make it work.
The FAS working group is finalizing a report on options for diagnostic teams, as the member opposite has mentioned, and we are strongly committed. As you know, the Premier is very strongly committed.
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We have the Prairie North FAS conference in May, and we're very much looking forward to a very high profile of this very important issue for us.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Park creation in Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier.
Now, yesterday in Question Period, I revealed that there was a secret deal in progress to create three new goal 1 or no-development parks by the time the Premier attends the Cordilleran Roundup. I noted that the Premier in her response did not deny that such a proposal was in the offing. She effectively said, "Wait and see." At the same time, the minister for parks in the Yukon, who is currently the head of CPAWS in the Yukon, has announced another no-development park about the size of Vancouver Island.
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Is this a point of order?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: The member has done this two days in a row. He has referred to a minister of parks and then referred to him as the head of CPAWS. I can tell you that the only ministers in this House who have anything to do with parks are not related to CPAWS in any way.
I would ask, since we are trying to keep this at a professional level, that the Member for Klondike actually refer to ministers or people by their name, rather than any references that he may have in his mind.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is no point of order. The member is just disrupting the normal flow of business in this Legislature. Contrary to the Standing Rules of this Legislature, you cannot refer to members by names.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. McLachlan: The Member for Klondike has continued to trivialize terminology and proper nomenclature of ministers in this Legislature. The only ministers are on this side of the Legislature and none of them are known as minister of parks.
We believe a grave error has occurred and request your ruling upon this matter.
Speaker: Official opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: After listening to the righteous indignation coming across the floor from the Liberal side, I must enter this particular point of order.
The Member for Faro is on record calling someone on this side of the House "a circus clown". The Member for Whitehorse Centre is on record calling someone on this side of the House "the Hyland hyena". I don't think that the Liberals across the floor have any room to stand on their feet and admonish the Member for Klondike.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair previously, within the last week, brought it to the attention of all members in the House that it is customary in the House to refer to members by their constituency and ministers by their portfolio. By that, the Chair would expect members to be referred to by their proper portfolios.
Very insulting language or language likely to cause disorder is clearly unparliamentary and out of order.
However, on the issue at hand today, the Chair is going to reserve his decision on it and review Hansard very closely, and the Chair will have a statement for the House within the next few sitting days.
This has been going on and going on and going on, and it's getting pettier and pettier in here, and I can't stand for it any more. So, I'll reserve decision today. We have interrupted Question Period and now I must ask the Member for Klondike to continue on and ask his question, please.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Question Period I revealed that there was to be a secret deal in progress to create three new goal 1 or no-development parks by the time the Premier attends the Cordilleran Roundup. I noted that the Premier, in her response, did not deny that such a proposal was in the offing. She effectively said, "Wait and see."
Now, at the same time, the minister for parks in Yukon, who is currently the head of CPAWS in Yukon, has announced -
Speaker: Order please. I must ask the member to refer to ministers by their portfolio.
Mr. Jenkins: But I am not referring to anyone in the House.
Speaker: Then it's the Chair, and I don't know how anybody else can decide to whom the question is posed.
I'm going to ask - I'll give the member one more chance to ask the question without trying to create disorder, or else we'll continue on to the next opposition question.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I await your ruling, but I am not referring to any member in this House. I'm referring to the current head of CPAWS in Yukon. He announced another no-development park about the size of Vancouver Island that he would like to see created in the territory. This new park would encompass the watershed boundaries of the Snake River in northeast Yukon and is part of CPAWS' Yukon-to-Yellowstone park initiative.
Can the Premier advise the House if the Snake River park is to be one of the three secret parks yet to be established?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As usual, finally getting around to the question, wasting valuable Question Period time with innuendo, not identifying sources of information - and the information is quite wrong.
We have not indicated, secretly or in the back room - or whatever other suggestions the member might have - three secret park developments.
We in Cabinet decide where and how the parks go. We've made that very clear through the YPAS review. Mr. Speaker, we have noted publicly that we intend to identify all goal 1 areas by the end of April of 2003. We've said that publicly. We have also said publicly that, as areas of interest become known, we will also advise publicly on that issue.
So the member opposite, again, is creating - it's so hard, it really is so hard to indicate what the member is saying publicly, especially in front of the camera.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, Parks Canada, for some time, has been after the Wolf Lake area near Teslin to create a national park there. Our valiant Minister of Renewable Resources, however, has effectively told the feds where to get off because he was going to create a territorial park in place of the federal one. Will the Wolf Lake territorial park be one of the three secret parks that the Cabinet has determined and will be announced by the time the Premier's attending the Cordilleran Roundup?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Another point of clarification - yesterday, the Premier had indicated that she probably will not be going to the Cordilleran Roundup, and that was the question that was originally asked of the Premier yesterday.
We had said that we had listened to the public - despite what the members opposite continually charge - we do listen very closely to what the public says. The public in the Teslin Lake area indicated that they do not want a federal park in that area and do not support the actions of Parks Canada in that area. Both the Premier and I have indicated - the Premier in writing and myself, firsthand, with the folks in Teslin - that we will not be pursuing a national park in the Wolf Lake area in Teslin.
Mr. Jenkins: Just the point. You won't be pursuing a national park. It will be a territorial park. Now the minister also fails to recognize southeast Yukon, and the gentleman who is responsible for creating more Yukon parks, the head of CPAWS, has had a dream of creating a system of parks from Yukon to Yellowstone in the U.S. for such a long time. He has had his eyes fixed on the resource-rich area of southern Yukon. Can the Premier advise the House if the third secret park she will be announcing will in fact be located in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it's incredibly irresponsible, I think, for any member in this House to go through defamation of character of people outside this House who don't have opportunities to defend themselves. The Member for Klondike is very, very skilled at doing that. It's incredibly, incredibly irresponsible for anybody in this House to do that, Mr. Speaker. I just think it's a sad state.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education. Yesterday, the minister said that not funding the First Nation Education Commission was a decision of the previous government. I would like to point out that the previous government put forward a funding offer to the Council of Yukon First Nations that was turned down. The minister also denied that Yukon Teachers Association received core funding. How else would the minister describe the annual $80,000 contribution to fund the president's salary?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yesterday I did answer that question for the member opposite, that it was part of the collective bargaining process that the president of Yukon Teachers Association get their funding. So it was through that process that that was determined, Mr. Speaker.
The funding issues with respect to the Council of Yukon First Nations are very complex, and I would like, with the House's indulgence, to identify three key areas within Council of Yukon First Nations. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I would like clarification from the member opposite on her questions with respect to her suggestions about us funding First Nation students' education, or are the questions specific to Council of Yukon First Nations' department of education, or, Mr. Speaker, is she asking questions specifically about the First Nation Education Commission? If I could get clarification on that, I'd be more than willing to answer the member opposite's question.
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday a letter from the chair of the First Nation Education Commission outlined their position on the government's responsibility. That is where my line of questioning is coming from. It is suggested that funding the commission be reconsidered in light of your FTA responsibility.
Will this minister agree to reconsider funding the First Nation Education Commission, as requested by the chair of the commission?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I did receive a letter by fax from the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin on the issue, and I will be responding. I attempted to contact the chief this morning, unsuccessfully. But I will be directly responding to his letter.
For the record, I would like to file a letter from the former Minister of Education to the then CYFN Grand Chief, Shirley Adamson, following through and indicating to the Grand Chief that there would be no further funding - and this was done by the previous government - for the First Nation Education Commission - the acronym being FNEC.
Mrs. Peter: The 2002-03 capital budget includes $200,000 for the Education Act review, which suggests that the Liberals can afford some political appointments. The Liberals have a huge surplus. All partners in education need to be treated equally.
Will the minister explain what the holdup is in supporting the input of the First Nation Education Commission?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the previous government, as did this government each respectively provided to the Council of Yukon First Nations for a project-specific involvement on the review of the Education Act. That has been in effect for two and a half years. The previous government contributed $50,000 to the Council of Yukon First Nations for representation as one of the partners on that committee. We felt it was worthwhile to continue to review the Education Act. We also committed to that project specific $50,000 for continued involvement in the review.
Mr. Speaker, we're coming to close on that, and it is a line item - $200,000 is a line item in the current budget we're reviewing, hopefully shortly. That $200,000 is for Education Act related activities, and the member is quite wrong that it is for political appointments. That is very, very incorrect.
Question re: Renewal of government, potential layoffs
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. Yesterday the Premier tried to assure the House that no government employees needed to fear any consequences from making critical comments at government renewal meetings. I would like to assure the Premier that she is wrong. Government employees are fearful, and it's for a very good reason. It's called "layoffs". In fact, the executive summary of the Yukon government employees' comments in Yukon communities states that the most frequently mentioned comments were these: when would people know, and which people would be laid off? Those were the comments.
Does the Premier really believe that people will feel free to express themselves candidly when they have the threat of layoffs hanging over their heads?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that people have felt free to express themselves, both at renewal committee meetings as well as through e-mail, on the telephone, and one-on-one. Individual Yukoners, those who work for the Yukon government and those outside the Yukon government, as I tabled yesterday in my legislative return, hundreds of them have sent us their candid and frank views on renewal. So, to suggest that the public servants are not interested in this is quite incorrect. People are interested in renewal.
What the member is also expressing is that public servants and the public are concerned about change, and that's rightly so. Change is difficult. It also presents opportunity for people, Mr. Speaker, and that is what we are working hard to recognize and working with the public servants who recognize that such change is long overdue.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier may not be hearing the concerns from the employees, but we on this side of the House certainly are. Maybe the Premier needs to get out a bit more. There is fear of layoffs, and the Premier has to bear the responsibility for that. She admits that there will be layoffs, but she refuses to say how many. The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has said that government knows exactly what positions will be available for federal employees, so the Premier must know which YTG positions are targeted for layoffs.
Will the Premier relieve some of the anxiety surrounding renewal by admitting right now how many Yukon government employees will be laid off?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, when I announced renewal in June, I was asked this question three different ways from reporters. I was asked: will there be layoffs? I said at the time, and I have said all summer and throughout the hard work of the summer and the ongoing work of people in renewal, that I don't know. To suggest that there's some kind of a target or to suggest that there's some kind of a prefixed plan, the member is wrong. That's how other governments have done renewal. That's how other governments behave with public servants. They just announce two-percent rollbacks and then see what happens. This government works with the public servants - 824 of them in renewal meetings alone - in designing a new government to meet the needs of Yukoners and to prepare for devolution. We need to do that, and that's what we're doing. We're working with public servants. There are no targets. There's no pre-conceived plan.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier refuses to answer the question. This government is denying what has been said at renewal meetings by her own officials. At least 175 Yukon government employees will be laid off; that was said by her own officials. Unless the Premier is prepared to give a different figure, we have to assume that what her official has said is right. It's no wonder that people in the Yukon are giving this so-called renewal the name "project downsize." Will the Premier confirm or deny that she wants to see the public service reduced by 10 to 15 percent through attrition and layoffs? Will she do that by telling us here what her target numbers are?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Shouting the question doesn't make it any different.
The fact is, I have said from the beginning that we would work with public servants in designing a new government - a renewed government - to meet the needs of devolution and to work with public servants in providing better service to the public. That's what we're doing.
We, unlike some other governments, are not imposing something upon public servants. That includes the member's suggestion that there is some form of a target. The member is absolutely, fundamentally wrong - wrong, wrong, wrong. That is not the case.
We are working with public servants, and public servants have asked for this kind of change.
The member can suggest and fear-monger irresponsibly if he wishes. That is not working on behalf of the Yukon, which is what we're doing on this side of the House. What's more, we're working with them.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McLachlan: Pursuant to an agreement reached this morning between all party leaders in the Legislature, the government will not be calling Motion No. 155 for debate at this time.
I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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.
Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:15.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02. We are in Executive Council Office. Mr. Fairclough had the floor.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Mr. Fairclough: I have asked the Premier a number of questions in regard to the change of dollars going into the Cabinet offices. I don't have any further questions at this time, and I will just turn it over to the Member for Klondike.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Mr. Jenkins: Did we get a listing of Executive Council Office travel?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It has not been requested up until now, but certainly I will provide the member opposite with a legislative return on that.
Mr. Jenkins: Where are we at with Executive Council Office travel? It looks like it is up significantly.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't know where the member got the idea that it's up significantly, as there are no supplementary funds identified in the Executive Council Office in this particular budget.
The supplementary provides for a decrease of $5,000 in O&M spending by ECO, and an increase of $1,645,000 in capital. The $5,000 decrease was a transfer to Health and Social Services for a contribution to the Youth of Today Society; $80,000 has been transferred from the First Nation relations office to the Cabinet offices, and, as I answered this question to the leader of the official opposition, the $80,000 was transferred to the Cabinet offices to fund the First Nation relations liaison position, which was moved to the Cabinet offices. The $895,000 in capital is the renewal initiative, and $750,000 is the Yukon Foundation endowment support.
So although there is no additional funding requested in this supplementary for travel, I will certainly provide the member opposite with a legislative return on out-of-Yukon travel and in-territory travel by the Government of Yukon ministerial offices.
And I would just remind the member opposite that we have, since taking office, accounted for our travel more accurately by recording it through the Executive Council Office rather than through departments.
Mr. Jenkins: I look forward to receiving that legislative return, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, is it still the current policy of this government to put all of the ministerial travel in the Executive Council Office, or is it still distributed across some of the portfolios? Given that we've got an additional Cabinet minister now and the associated travel of that Cabinet minister, it would appear reasonable that some of the other costs that normally were attributable to this cost centre of the Executive Council Office are being distributed across some of the other departments. Could the minister confirm that there's no other ministerial travel allocated to any of the departments, that it's all here in the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, to the best of my knowledge at this point in time, I would say that it's all recorded through the Executive Council Office. What we'll do is provide the member opposite, as we have done in the past, with a listing of the trips - and that provides the member with the detail he is seeking - so that in preparing that information, should it be that a trip, for example, by the Minister of Economic Development was recorded somewhere else, that will come to light. We'll provide the member opposite with full and accurate information as we have always done.
Mr. Jenkins: That's not just for ministers; that's for political staff and other Executive Council Office staff.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Executive Council Office travel, such as Cabinet support staff travel, is included. So, for example, the member will recall last year when he was advised of all of my travel, it was indicated not only that I had travelled to the funeral of the late Prime Minister Mr. Trudeau but also that the principal secretary travelled as well.
So, certainly we've recorded that information in the past, and we will continue to provide the member opposite with full and accurate information.
Mr. Jenkins: The leader of the official opposition went on and ferreted out the First Nation relations and the whole change between going into a Cabinet office. Originally this First Nation relations individual was hired on a contractual basis. Have they now lapsed and it's a salary position totally? Or is there still some ongoing contractual arrangements with this same individual?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My notes and information indicate that the position is now a Cabinet office position.
Mr. Jenkins: The question was: are there any more contracts, separate and apart from the salaried position in Cabinet office? Are there any more contracts between this same individual and the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'll determine that and provide the member opposite with as much information as is publicly available. I will not provide specific personnel information.
Mr. Jenkins: Government contracts are listed, and I'm aware that there have, in the past, been a number of contracts ongoing and continuing. If you look at the contract registry currently, Mr. Chair, you can see there's an open contract still in existence.
Now, is this overlapping the current - and when did this position become effective?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as much information as I can provide the member opposite on the details of that I will do so. If there is specific information that is pertaining to this individual that is now personnel information, I won't provide that. But whatever is publicly available, I will certainly look into what the member's looking for and provide him.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm specifically looking for, which shouldn't be hard to uncover, Mr. Chair, is the official start date of this individual for these responsibilities and whether there was any overlap in a contract that carried over until after the date the individual was hired in a salaried position. Because according to the requirements, you can't have both. You can't have it both ways, and it would appear from the contract registry that there is the potential for an overlap. And if the minister just wants to confirm that - the start date that this individual started on a salary and when the contracts expired, how much of the contract was used - because it doesn't say that the contract was used up in its entirety. So I'd like to know how much was utilized.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'll get back to the member.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Executive Council Office?
Seeing no further general debate on Executive Council Office, we will go right to the vote.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: There is no vote. Since this is a reduction in numbers, it is just available for comment.
We will go right on, then, to Community and Transportation Services -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Capital. No, we have been separating capital out. I haven't done any capital so far, unless we do capital second with no general debate. That's the way we have done it in the past and that's the way I continue to do it.
So, capital will be discussed separately without general debate. In any budget, O&M is always first and then capital is done second. That's the way we have done it and that's the way we will continue to do it. So, we will just go through capital votes separately.
When we do this, as the Chair, in proceeding in keeping with past practices, I haven't done any capital votes yet on any of the previous departments. We are grouping capital together, as in any other budget in the past.
So, currently, what we are doing right now is going through general debate in O&M, as we have done in the past in previous practices of this Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: So far, with Yukon Legislative Assembly, we haven't discussed capital and we are no longer discussing capital.
One second, please.
Order. On the advice of the House, we will change practice of the House. In the past, we have done capital separately, but we will now do this together to clear the line item off.
Executive Council Office
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $1,645,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Department of Community and Transportation Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Department of Community and Transportation Services has tabled a supplementary budget request in the amount of $873,000 for O&M expenditures and $26,130,000 for capital expenditures. These increases are partially offset by an increase in O&M expenditure recovery of $70,000 and capital expenditure recover of $7,962,000.
The department supplementary budget request for O&M expenditures is essentially for funding of $573,000 needed for the maintenance at Tuchitua camp and the opening and repair of the Nahanni Range Road to facilitate the mining operation by North American Tungsten. This work is ongoing and we are happy with the work to date. The road condition is now such that heavy loads are moving safely, allowing the mining company to proceed with its preparations to open the mine. That is expected to happen in January.
There is a requirement of an additional $200,000 to cover aircraft charter costs to transport Yukon participants and officials to the 2002 Arctic Winter Games in Nunavut and Greenland, and additional funding of $70,000 for sports and recreation groups, which is 100-percent recoverable from the Yukon Lottery Commission.
The department supplementary budget increase for capital expenditures essentially consists of a capital revote requirement of $4.5 million for the completion and/or continuation of work on projects carried over from the preceding fiscal year, the funding for which has been previously voted by the House.
Funding of $4,580,000 for airside infrastructure rehabilitation at the Dawson City Airport - this work is being completed under the airports capital assistance program with Transport Canada. Also, $1,009,000 is being spent at Dawson City Airport to relocate the air tanker base and construct an initial attack base. This work is 100-percent recoverable and is being done on behalf of Public Works Canada.
There is additional funding of $4 million to accelerate the Champagne revision work. This brings the total funding for this year to $6.9 million.
There is funding of $750,000 to establish a community recreation leadership endowment fund; and a requirement of $8 million to establish a recreation infrastructure trust fund for the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
I spoke last week with the federal Secretary of State for Amateur Sport and remain hopeful that we will receive a positive response from the Government of Canada on time to make the 2007 Canada Winter Games in the Yukon a reality.
Funding of $1,790,000 is required for roadwork and servicing at the Argus Chilkoot Centre site, which has a recovery of $705,000 this year and a recovery of $750,000 in future years.
Mr. Chair, I would now be pleased to provide further details if the members have specific questions on this supplementary budget request.
Mr. McRobb: This department has the bulk of the expenditures for this first supplementary of the mains budget, and we will be spending some time at it. Since the minister was the one who moved the time allocation bill, can she give us an idea of how much time she feels is reasonable to spend on this department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I feel this is fairly straightforward and the member should be able to proceed through it quite quickly. I'm not going to attempt to put minutes on it, as I think the question was frivolous.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously, the minister is not prepared to back up what the Liberals put into their own motion.
Moving on, Mr. Chair, I want to first of all look at the bigger picture. The amount of money supplemented to this department is a considerable amount. We see more than $26 million in capital added on to $46 million from the mains, and that represents almost a 60-percent increase in funding. I'm aware of where some of that money went, but it raises a question about the future planning ability of this government.
We know from a year ago, Mr. Chair - I asked the minister for future plans with regard to capital projects and specifically a five-year plan. And the minister did indicate to me that that would be provided. As yet, we have received no such material. Can the minister indicate if we'll be receiving that information and, if so, when we might expect it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member has received the three-year plan.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, that's not what the minister promised. It's quite a bit short of what we were told the Liberal government would provide, but it's something we're getting used to, because Yukoners are becoming used to expecting something less than what was promised by this Liberal government. I won't pursue that matter any more, because it should be incumbent on the government to fulfill its own promises. We know it doesn't listen much to us on this side of the House, so it's rather fruitless to pursue this matter.
Now, Mr. Chair, the minister indicated a number of things up front in her preamble. The first item that caught my interest was the money spent on the Nahanni Range Road and the Tuchitua camp. We know this is due to the reopening of the tungsten mine at Cantung, Northwest Territories. And we had some discussion on the highway in the spring budget debate and what would be required to reopen that section of road.
Can the minister indicate for us if her government has arrived at any agreement with North American Tungsten on the operation and maintenance of this road and with the Government of the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have entered into a mutually beneficial agreement with the company to reopen and upgrade the Nahanni Range Road to the border. We are providing road maintenance services to kilometre 134, and North American Tungsten will maintain the rest of the road at their expense.
Mr. McRobb: To complete the answer to the question, is there anything arranged with the Government of the Northwest Territories for road maintenance? We know that the last - what is it - 15 miles of the road to the mine is within the N.W.T. border. It has been quite a while since I've travelled the road, but I have been to Tungsten a couple of dozen times, mostly about 20 years ago.
Is there anything agreed to with the N.W.T. government? I know on the Dempster Highway it's a joint undertaking, and on the Skagway Road, too. Is there anything in regard to this highway?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Government of Yukon has not entered into any agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories respecting road maintenance on the Nahanni Range Road.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I would ask the minister if she would oblige us and provide us with information, should anything be produced in that area of an agreement with the N.W.T. government.
She mentioned the mutually beneficial agreement with North American Tungsten. Is this something she can provide for us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Did I understand the member is asking for a copy of the agreement we have with North American Tungsten?
I'll check with my officials and see if we are able to provide that.
Mr. McRobb: Now, on that matter of providing information, I made a number of information requests at the briefing for this department. Now, I realize that only occurred yesterday morning, and it's probably a bit on the hasty side to expect it by now, but I would indicate that that information is required in order for me to do my job effectively as the official opposition critic for this department.
I'd like to ask the minister when we might expect that information and also invite her to send over any material at all that she has on any of the items requested.
Can she accommodate us in any way on that request?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that the officials had indicated to the Member for Kluane that the information he asked for in the briefing yesterday would be forthcoming within the week.
I know that they are working hard on it today, and I expect they will be able to meet or exceed that deadline.
Mr. McRobb: That's fine, Mr. Chair, but then again, we didn't expect to be debating this department today, given the fact that the schedule for Committee was changed. Consistent with what was said at the briefing, we would have expected the material in time for this particular debate, but it's not here. We don't have it available when we need it.
If there's any information at all the minister can provide - I know that some of it is already in existence; it doesn't have to be prepared - that would be appreciated.
The minister also indicated that the work done on the Argus Chilkoot site, which was a recoverable - it was a sizable contract, I believe something in the neighbourhood of $1.6 million. It was contracted by the government - a sole-source contract, I believe.
Can the minister indicate if she can provide information to us on that agreement - perhaps a copy of the agreement - would that be possible?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That agreement isn't mine to provide. It was signed between the Department of Economic Development, I believe, and Argus, so he should be asking the Economic Development minister.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister clarify how her department is involved with this item and if it is indeed in the budget line item? Can she confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Certainly, Mr. Chair. We had spoken to an amount of $1,790,000, I believe, and there was a contract with Skookum Asphalt Limited, signed May 31 for that amount to install services within lot 214, the cross-connecting road, and improvements to the west side of Quartz Road. The infrastructure installation was completed by September 30. The final surface installation - light standards, sidewalks and cleanup - was completed by October 23, and the government's commitment to Wal-Mart for installation of site services to their lot boundary was completed by September 21.
Mr. McRobb: Those details are interesting, Mr. Chair, but most of them are available on the government Web site under the contract services branch. It's not quite what I asked. I asked if we could get a copy of this agreement and the minister confirmed this item is within her department. So, in the interests of accountability, I would ask one more time if the minister can provide us with a copy of the Argus agreement for this sizable contract, which was contracted by the Yukon government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have indicated that the Department of Economic Development is representing the Yukon government in this regard, and the Minister of Economic Development is the appropriate person to address the Argus agreement. If the Member for Kluane wishes a copy of the agreement, he should be asking the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. McRobb: That's not very accommodating, Mr. Chair - not very accommodating at all.
The minister also mentioned the amount for the Arctic Winter Games. That was rambled through rather quickly. Could she repeat that number and give us a breakdown of what that was for? I recollect she mentioned something about travel. Could she be more specific, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That was $200,000 to cover aircraft charter costs to the Arctic Winter Games in 2002, which, as I believe the member knows, is taking place in two different venues: Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Nuuk, Greenland. The charter costs are higher than normal.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is probably aware, as I am, that the Hercules aircraft that were volunteered by the Canadian Air Force to transport dogsled teams from the Yukon to the Arctic Winter Games have apparently been cancelled. Is she aware of this, and is she prepared to cover the cost of transportation so that this important venue from the Yukon can be continued?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will check with the officials who are specifically involved with transportation for the dogmushing teams, and get back to him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I was hoping to do a little more than just scratch the surface of this matter. It sounds as if the minister wasn't aware of it, which should be surprising. I've been aware of it for probably two weeks now, and I'd be very surprised if the minister didn't have some more information about this matter.
Just to expand a bit on it, as she should know from her former involvement with dog sledding in the territory - I know I've seen her at the Silver Sled in Haines Junction - many of these venues are qualifying events that build up to participation in games such as the Arctic Winter Games. Unless there's a clear signal, as soon as possible, these qualifying events will be disrupted. The actual participation at the Arctic Winter Games for this dog sledding event could be severely disrupted. So in order for this to continue, we need a decision very soon, I would presume, in order to resolve this difficulty.
So can the minister provide us with any more information about her knowledge of this and what she might be prepared to do to ensure that these qualifying events can proceed and Yukoners can look forward to participating in the Arctic Winter Games?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I said I would get back to the member with more information as soon as I can, and I will do that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, okay, Mr. Chair. Again, that's not very helpful to continuing debate at this time.
Now I would like to turn to highways, because there are a number of expenditures on highways, and one of the major projects that is responsible for the increased funds is a project in my riding near the Village of Champagne.
This particular project is referred to as the Champagne section. The first thing I would like to get out of the way is a bit of a dispute that the minister and I had, which unfortunately took place in the newspapers shortly after the conclusion of the spring sitting. I asked her if she could use federal money and advance this project to be completed within two years rather than the four years that it would take to complete the project, as indicated by the Liberal government. In her response, she indicated that she had informed the Legislature. So I would like to ask her where I can find that reference?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I didn't bring Hansard from the previous sitting with me, so I will have to review that. I can tell the member that grade work for the Champaign revision will be substantially complete this year. The road will be gravelled in 2002, and a BST surface will be applied in 2003.
Mr. McRobb: All right, the scheduling is interesting. But getting back to this flurry of letters back and forth, I would describe the tone of the minister as quite - what would be a good word? How about "terse"? The tone was quite terse and there was a lot of back-patting - and, at the same time, being quite aggressive toward me for even making such a request. Now, I am not prepared to move off of this that quickly. So let's just settle back and relax for a minute or two, because I was tempted to respond to the minister's second letter, but I knew better because most Yukoners really don't appreciate it when politicians engage in disputes in the media. And for the minister to even respond a second time was quite surprising based on historic practice by political representatives in the territory.
So I took the occasion, Mr. Chair, to call her executive assistant and ask where that reference might be found. The assistant told me that there was a slight reference during the ministerial statement on the SHIP, the strategic highway infrastructure program. But it was not in the ministerial statement itself, which took place on May 1 of this year. It was in the minister's reply.
Part of the reason I'm going into this, Mr. Chair, is because there's a bigger issue here, and it's called respect for this Legislature. We know this government has very little respect for this Legislature, especially when you see the flurry of announcements after the conclusion of a sitting, stuff that should have been brought to the floor of this House, and when you see some abuse in that regard during a sitting such as the devolution announcement the other day.
There are countless examples, but back to this particular example: the minister was responding to comments made by me and by the leader of the third party. I'll just read the particular reference that included what she felt was substantiation for informing this Legislature of the sizable funds increased for this project in this budget year. "We are already spending more on the Champagne bypass this year than the entire highway budget of the previous government for last year. With new funding, that project will be substantially done this year and finished off next year."
Now, Mr. Chair, that is it. That's all she wrote. There is no indication of where that funding might come from, of exactly what project it pertained to and what it didn't pertain to - a very obscure reference indeed by anybody's standards.
Yet the minister found it substantial enough to base two letters to the editor on - trying to take credit that it was a Liberal idea and not responding to my suggestion for advancing the project.
Well, it's rather sad when you see the minuscule importance of some of the content brought forward by this government in the way of ministerial statements - old policy disguised as new policy. Yet a major program initiative, such as moving forward a project from four years to two years, resulting in several millions of dollars of spending, not developed through any type of official notification in this House whatsoever.
Why did the Liberal government not consider this grounds for a ministerial statement?
There was one on the strategic highway initiative. Why not on all the extra money put into this section of road?
Well, let's think about that, Mr. Chair. Why didn't this government do it?
Well, one of the first possible reasons could be that we're in the mains budget debate - a very occasion for scrutinizing the spending plans of the government in the current budget year.
The government could have brought in a supplementary budget for inspection, to be passed in this House, but it didn't. Even though it apparently knew that there would be sizable expenditures in the area of highways at the time we were debating the budget.
Did the minister indicate that? No, in fact, Mr. Chair, there are countless references from the minister and other members of the government of how there would only be a portion of the total we see now spent on the Alaska Highway projects.
No mention at all of bumping up this project and spending the additional millions of dollars; no mention at all. And that is very disrespectful of the government to treat the opposition in such a manner. Someone called it the mushroom treatment. We're getting used to it; we're getting used to it.
Now, the media ranks higher on their priority list for giving information to. We saw that the other day with the devolution briefing with the media, mid-afternoon. Ours was after the sitting day ended.
So, Mr. Chair, this is really the only opportunity I have to bring some fire to the feet of the Liberal minister and try to keep them accountable for respecting this Legislature and respecting us on this side of the House and keeping us informed. Because I know, Mr. Chair, when in opposition, the Liberals wanted those same things. But now the Liberals are in government. Obviously they don't want the opposition parties to have what it wanted, and that's not fair.
So I'm very interested to hear what the minister has to say. I'm going to give her an opportunity to respond, and I would like to ask her why we were not informed of this huge expenditure before the conclusion of the spring sitting.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As my former deputy minister will say, one of my first priorities when I became the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was to resume work on the Mendenhall to Haines Junction section of the Alaska Highway, which had been neglected for many years.
That was a priority of mine, and I made that clear to my caucus colleagues and to the department, aside from any correspondence that I may have received from the Member for Kluane on that matter. It was my priority, and I made it clear, as soon as I could.
The rancour displayed by the member opposite on most occasions in this House, I find very disturbing. There is no reason for it. I also find it interesting that we are criticized when we do ministerial statements and, now, we're criticized when we don't. This was not a change in policy so I did not feel a ministerial statement was warranted. It was a change in expenditure, for which we normally do not do ministerial statements.
If the member wishes to go over, at length, a perceived slight to himself, since he wishes always to have the last word, he is welcome to it. I just wish he wouldn't do it during the debate on the supplementary budget, to which it has no relevance.
Mr. McRobb: Well, you know, I'm sure the minister, if she had a preference, would close down debate on anything that questions what the government does. Let's face it - that's the way it really is. Talk about rancour. I would challenge the minister to compare her own performance in this Legislature with mine, any day. I'm willing to believe, Mr. Chair, the number of times she has been called to order would exceed the number of times I've been called to order. Certainly the minister has developed a reputation for exhibiting rancour when questioned on certain matters of her department. The record stands for itself, and that perception is out there.
So I would remind the minister, when she points a finger, there are always three pointing back at her.
Moving on, on ministerial statements, my comments were characterized as being critical of what the Liberals bring forward and critical when they don't bring something forward, but my comments were based on the importance of an item, and I made that clear. She can check Hansard tomorrow.
Bringing forward several millions of dollars in expenditure, Mr. Chair, is very important. Compare that with some of the ministerial statements from the government side. I remember one by the Renewable Resources minister over there extending the campground season. That took 20 minutes in this Legislature. It's a very small item when it comes to budgeting - very small. Yet when a multi-million dollar project is added behind the scenes and we're not informed on this side, apparently the Liberals find that okay. Obviously, they're more interested in public massaging than they are in being held fiscally accountable. Again, that comes as no surprise to us on this side because we have known that for some time now.
The minister also took the time to characterize my concerns as my own personal concerns, and I would again remind her to check Hansard on that, because my reference was to us as an official opposition, and even in the plural as both opposition parties, when it comes to being subjected to the mushroom-type treatment from this government.
The spin put on the minister's response is not surprising. It's something I'm actually familiar with. It's a tactic that is usually used when you strike a nerve, Mr. Chair, or maybe have something to hide or maybe you're particularly weak in that area and you want to deflect attention and begin the persecution on a questioner. So, I'm very familiar with that tactic and, quite frankly, it doesn't work with me because I can see right through it. So I can spare the minister her efforts with that type of strategy, and I would invite her to respond with something that really pertains to the information being requested. What really satisfies me is if I can get answers to questions and material requested.
Like other colleagues on this side, we are more interested in holding this government accountable for what it does, what it doesn't do, what it said it would do, and so on. And, as critic for this department, it is part of my responsibility to review the budget numbers. When we get deflected like this with such a huge expenditure and then attacked for raising the issue in the media, we do have a right to raise the matter and raising the matter is most appropriate in this forum of accountability - most appropriate. There are other opportunities, I suppose - other options such as the media, but again that would be the least constructive route. Maybe what the minister likes is to get into media battles over these issues and maybe her assistants can write her letters to the editor and just keep sending them in. Maybe they can write some more for other people too, get them to sign and send them into the papers as well, because it would appear their expertise in that area is growing rapidly.
Now, one of the concerns I have with the Champagne section is with the number of changes to the contract since it was tendered. Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane is complaining because we are spending money in his riding and he hasn't figured out a way to take credit for it. That is the long and the short of it. It is really too bad that we get a verbal tongue-lashing every time we say anything he feels is offensive. The Member for Kluane is asking about changes to the contract. I do not get involved in the minutia of the department. They do not consult me every time they receive a change order. So, I will ask if there have been changes to the contract and I will get back to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Well, pardon me, Mr. Chair. Is the minister saying that she is not accountable for changes to the contract that was out for tender? Is that the position of this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of course that is not what I said.
We are accountable, but that does not mean that every time there is a change, the department comes running to tell me about it. That would be totally ridiculous, Mr. Chair.
I said that I would ask what changes there may have been and get back to him, and I will do that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm not prepared to accept that as good enough at this stage in the game.
She has the deputy minister at her side. She has all her briefing binders at her disposal. This is the Liberals' flagship project and the tender has been changed four times since it was let out.
How do we know the changes weren't made as a result of some interference by this Liberal government? How do we not know that?
The minister is playing dumb on this matter and I want to get to the bottom of it.
She has been handed notes from her deputy. I want to know when those contract changes were made, what they were for, whether this was a fair process and whether the interests of the Yukon public were served.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My, my, Mr. Chair. There are signing authority levels and there has not been an increase to the budget for this project. As such, I would not necessarily be aware of every change.
I believe that the contractor has had discussions with the department on a number of things. He has had discussions with me on other matters, and he has expressed no dissatisfaction with the current state of the project.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, let the record show that the minister did not answer my question.
Perhaps when the minister is on her feet again, another attempt can be made to answer the question, along with this one: does the minister have any knowledge whatsoever of these four changes to the contract? Was the minister involved in any discussion whatsoever on those changes with anybody, including her colleagues, the deputy minister or anyone in the department? Did she have any discussion whatsoever on this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, change orders are regular and normal on major projects, and they can be made available in summary form. The member seems to be suggesting that something improper has been taking place. I object to that in the strongest possible terms, and if he has some accusation to make, let him make it.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, how do we know something improper hasn't taken place if the minister can't even answer the question?
Let's look at what has been established here. I asked the minister to explain what the four contract changes were on this multi-million dollar contract. She came back saying that she knew nothing about it. I followed up, asking her if she had any discussions whatsoever with anybody on this. She did not answer that question but instead accused me of suggesting something improper.
Mr. Chair, once again, this is an inconsistency of the Liberal government, another case where they're demanding we show the proof when, in fact, they are who should show the proof. The Education minister earlier today said that they don't come out and do things without proof. Well, that was another contradiction, because the press release of this Liberal government prior to this sitting, accusing us of wanting to filibuster the capital budget, was based on rumour, rumour, rumour, and the government, the Liberals, had no proof.
So, there you have it, Mr. Chair - three recent examples within the last two weeks that do not add up. They simply do not add up.
Now, I want to ask the minister again - and we can spend the rest of the day, if she likes, on this. I want to know if she had any knowledge of these four contract changes and any discussions with anyone about them.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have previously answered that question.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm sorry, but I did not hear the minister's response to that question and would please invite her to repeat it for me.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I had explained to the member that the department does not normally come to me to tell me about any change orders there might be. They are regular and normal occurrences on major projects, and unless one of the changes exceeds my deputy's signing authority level, I don't know about it.
Mr. McRobb: That was certainly not an unqualified response - first qualification, "not normally", and the second one, I believe there was an "if" in there.
Why can't the minister give an unqualified response? If she wants us to believe she had no discussions or knowledge about this, why can't she stand and give an unqualified response?
Now, will she give us an unqualified response to the question, which I will repeat? Did the minister have any knowledge or discussions with anyone about these four changes to the contract?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it is the member opposite who is suggesting that there have been four changes to the contract. I have said I have no knowledge of any change orders to this contract. I'm not going to take his word that there have been four. I don't know if there have been any, and I have already said that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister were lacking information resources, I might be willing to go along with that, but she has a deputy minister at her side. There are other officials listening to this discussion, there are pages who bring in notes on a regular basis, and she has her briefing books in front of her. This is the Liberals' flagship project and, right on the government Web site, anybody listening please go to the Internet, Government Services, contracts, search for "Skookum" - pardon me, search for the Champagne revision, and you'll find it. Four change orders - four of them, Mr. Chair - right there on the Web site. I have a copy of it somewhere here - I'm just trying to locate it and if I do, I'll send it over to the minister.
It's rather surprising she doesn't know about this. Her answer still does not allow her to slip away from the question, because if she doesn't know about it then one can assume she had no discussions with anybody about it and that makes me wonder why the minister isn't willing to put that on the record and answer the question straight out rather than, once again, trying to deflect the question.
This is a serious matter. I know the Liberals would probably prefer us not to ask questions in the Legislature regarding contracting, but that's all part of the game, Mr. Chair.
Many previous members in this Legislature have asked countless questions on contracting. It's a very important part of how the government spends money.
When the government does make change orders to contracts, those change orders have to appear to be above-board and there has to be an open and fair process. Because if contracts are changed once they are let out, then it's fair to say there is a perception that the change orders will alter the terms of the contract and the expectations held by the bidders of the contract at the time that the bids were submitted.
I am not accusing the minister of any activity in this area, but it's up to the government to clear the air, and we are not getting that so far. We are just getting more smoke and mirrors, more fog in the air.
Already I sense that there have been contradictions in the minister's position - what she knew and what she didn't know. It's a very simple matter that could have been cleared up, had the minister answered the question without qualifying the answer. But that's not what happened, and the minister would probably prefer that this question just disappear. But it won't disappear because I am going to send her over a copy of the contract summary that was let to Pelly Construction. It's for construction of the Alaska Highway, kilometres 1557 to 1571, a publicly advertised construction contract, for a total amount of $4,508,929.
Quite clearly, it indicates the number of changes to this contract was four.
I'll send this over to the minister so she knows what we're discussing, ask her to look it over and, once again, can she indicate if she has had any discussions about those changes with anyone, or had any knowledge of those changes?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Okay, I can see from this piece of paper from the Government Services Web site that there have been four changes. We can now take that as established as of whatever date this was. The fact that there have been changes is not unusual. I have said a couple of times now that change orders are regular and normal. I have also said that the department doesn't come running to me every time there's a change order, unless it's a big enough one that the deputy can't sign for it.
So, if the member has an accusation of impropriety or interference to make, let him make it. He appears to be attempting to create a problem where one does not exist.
On another matter, in reply to a previous question about transporting dog teams to the Arctic Winter Games, the Hercules was requested by the international committee. A confirmation was not received from the Department of National Defence. The matter was not affected by the September 11 incidents. The dogs will be transported by Canadian North and, at this point, I don't know the cost.
Mr. McRobb: All right, we will follow up on that item a little later.
But, first to the rancorous response by the minister to my question - let me point out that I am not accusing her of doing any impropriety. I am merely requesting her to clear the air on her involvement: what she knew and didn't know about this matter. I thought I had phrased the question rather clearly and in a rather matter-of-fact way, yet a response in that context was not forthcoming. Instead we are accused of going on a wild goose chase, perhaps of slandering the government. But I'm not prepared to proceed, if at all, to that type of action without knowing for certain that there was any wrongdoing.
The next step in this process is clear. We need to hear from the minister, and we are not getting to the next step. So, by not providing us with the information we requested in a clear way, then it does raise suspicions about what really happened. So the minister - I know she is new at politics, but after a year and a half, we are in the fourth sitting at this stage - should have learned by now that the best way to fend off this type of questioning is to be up front and put to rest any suspicion by providing the information requested.
Now, because the minister has not done that, it does fuel suspicions. Because she's now beginning to conclude that this matter may be taken to another stage, it adds fuel to the fire. Why doesn't the minister put the fire out by clearly indicating she had no knowledge or discussions or, conversely, indicating that she had? Why doesn't she answer that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have answered this question several times. The member obviously isn't listening.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the record, I believe, will speak for itself. The minister did not respond in a manner that was unqualified. I'll review the Hansard before continuing on with this department next week, and we can return to it, whether we're in general debate still or perhaps in a line item on highway construction. But there will be an opportunity to follow up with the minister to see exactly what she said in reply. And I would invite the minister to maybe prepare another response, if, indeed, an unqualified answer does exist. It doesn't exist.
Now, there are a few other areas I'll turn to now in general debate, and one of them is the Canada-Yukon infrastructure agreement. We noticed increased activity in this area. Is this something that is quite flexible in terms of spending, or do we have a commitment from Canada as far as a budget allocation goes over the next several years? Can the minister just provide us with some background information on this program in terms of funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are waiting for federal approval before proceeding with the projects we currently have ready to go, and proposed projects and associated funding require approval at the federal and territorial ministerial level, so I'm waiting to hear from my federal counterparts. We have a list of recommended projects based on program criteria, and the principal criterion used to evaluate proposals was whether or not they were green proposals. The infrastructure agreement signed by Canada and the Yukon gives first priority to green infrastructure projects like water and wastewater systems, water management, solid waste management and recycling, and we have a number of these projects identified as necessary. But, until we have final federal approval, we can do nothing more.
Mr. McRobb: We'll explore that one a little more in-depth at a future date as well, Mr. Chair.
Now, one of the other areas that is important to the transportation division is the highway maintenance camps. In my riding in particular, there are four such camps: Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Beaver Creek and Blanchard camp on the Haines Road. And, Mr. Chair, I'm aware there is a danger that half of these camps might be affected in the near future under this Liberal government.
I would like to hear from the minister what her plans are in that regard, what these camps can expect in the future from this government. Will they stay operating, will they be manned on site, what's in store for them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I really wonder what the Member for Kluane has been telling his constituents. It's status quo as far as I'm concerned.
Is the member suggesting we are going to close camps? No way, that is certainly not my intention. We have had no discussion on that.
The member is going to drag renewal into this in a minute and I will repeat that renewal is not a downsizing or privatization exercise; it is to make government better.
I value very highly the work done by the highway employees in this territory. I cannot state that strongly enough. For the member opposite to be suggesting anything else is despicable.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is rapidly establishing her reputation as the minister of rancorous response.
I was subjected to an attack by the minister, suggesting that I have been telling my constituents that highway camps are closing. In context of truth, that is the furthest to mention from it. What I have been doing here -
Chair: Order please. Discussions of truth, and whether things are true or not true, are not appropriate in this House. I would ask members to please refrain from any mention of untruths or what they believe to be true or not true from other members' statements. This is unparliamentary language and I will not accept it.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. McRobb: I'll replace that with "reality".
Now, nothing could be as far from reality as what the minister just proposed and, for the record -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I didn't propose anything. I was reacting to a comment from the member opposite that we were going to close highway camps. I did not raise that; he did.
Chair: On the point of order, there have been no rules broken here. There is no point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Now, before I was so rudely interrupted, I want to make it clear that I made no allegation whatsoever. I have said nothing to my constituents about the possibility of maintenance camps closing under this Liberal government. I merely asked the minister a question - that was all. There's no need for the minister to personalize the debate and accuse me of doing anything further than that.
Constituents have brought to me concerns about those two highway camps.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The minister asks which two. Again, the highway camp at Destruction Bay and the highway camp on the Haines Road at Blanchard camp.
Now, the minister has already said, in a rather forceful way, that there are no plans to close them, so I really don't need that question answered any more. The minister is already on record, so we'll move on.
I would like to turn to the matter of funding for communities. Can the minister indicate if there are any plans to reallocate the municipal block funding?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The allocation of municipal block funding is a matter of discussion with a committee of the Association of Yukon Communities, and those discussions happen from time to time.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate for us what the primary concern of the association is and what the minister is contemplating doing to address that concern?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Nobody said there were any concerns.
Mr. McRobb: So according to the minister, nobody has concerns about the apportionment of the municipal block funding. So I would assume from there that the Liberals aren't prepared to really do much about it. So, I will be a little bit more specific, because I have heard some concerns myself, and I'm not even a minister. One of them is, what is going to happen with the rather large apportionment to Faro, based on some population figure of yesteryear? How will the minister be adjusting that portion in next year's budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A committee will be meeting. The Association of Yukon Communities has a proposal that will be dealt with. It hasn't even been assessed as of yet, but it will be a decision made fully with the cooperation of the Association of Yukon Communities.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isn't that interesting. We have an association making a proposal on something that it is not concerned about. Now, isn't that interesting. Now, you know what really is interesting in this Legislature and in questioning the Liberals is finding that, as you pry into an issue, you begin to see there is substance to the matter being questioned, even though, at first glance, the Liberal ministers say there isn't.
Now, Mr. Chair, I'm aware of plenty of concerns about the redistribution of the municipal block funding based on more current population estimates. Now, the minister has indicated that that work hasn't been done yet. That work hasn't been done yet, yet they're beginning to assess a proposal from the association. That's quite interesting, Mr. Chair. I don't suppose we're going to get much of an answer to this one. We'll have to wait for about six months until we're back in here again, probably in the spring. By that time, I hope the minister is prepared.
I'd like to ask her about rural services and ask her where this initiative is at and when we might be expecting to deal with it in this Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, on the previous matter, the member was asking about matters to be included in next year's budget. This supplementary is not dealing with next year's O&M.
On rural services, we know that there is an issue with co-ordinating municipal-type services in unincorporated Yukon communities, and we also recognize that there is some inconsistency in property tax rates throughout these rural areas. Clearly we have a need to better coordinate the delivery of services and to rationalize property taxation in the rural areas of the Yukon. The department is in the process of analyzing some options to address these issues, and we look forward to dealing with the matter.
Mr. McRobb: A couple of things, Mr. Chair. First of all, I'm aware the redistribution of any municipal block funding would have to be in next year's budget discussion, so there's no need for the minister to again become rancorous in her response.
Secondly, on rural services, Mr. Chair, I'm aware that the Liberal Cabinet was dealing with a Cabinet submission a year and a half ago. So, for the minister to say the department is still preparing a submission on this is, to put it mildly, a step backwards.
I would like to ask her why the government didn't proceed with the Cabinet submission it had a year and a half ago? What direction to the proposal has been given by the Liberal government? Can she indicate what changes to that submission the Liberals are anticipating?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, rural services consultations took place six or seven years ago, and the previous administration did nothing. I am waiting for the department to bring me some options that I can share with my colleagues, and we will then deal with the matter.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, to sound so negative, but the minister is wrong. The previous government did a whole lot. We advanced this issue from public consultations all the way to a Cabinet submission, which, as she should know, is 99 percent of the work. The only thing after that is rubber-stamping and being given a communications package along with it to inform the public about what it's about.
Now, Mr. Chair, there have been plenty of Cabinet submissions on issues and initiatives this Liberal government has taken credit for, so I can understand because of their need to take credit for everything, but to dismiss the importance of a Cabinet submission is merely meaningless. I can understand that, because there's a political motivation behind that desire - and every day, looking across the floor, I am reminded of what that is all about.
But obviously this Liberal government has given new direction to the rural services Cabinet submission. I am asking her again: what direction has she given? Why is the department reviewing it? Obviously the department has been instructed to change some areas. Can she shed some light on this for us, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: What may or may not have come to Cabinet, or what may or may not be coming to Cabinet - I'm sorry, it's none of the members opposite's concern.
I am waiting for information from my department with regard to rural services and rural taxation. The tough work is developing a programming and implementing it. We are doing work on that during this term.
Mr. McRobb: There you go, Mr. Chair. There is a case in point.
Now, I want to turn to the RETP - the rural electrification and telephone program. I would ask the minister if there have been any policy changes in this program and whether she can provide for us a breakdown of the projects approved for this budget year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be pleased to provide the member with a list of the projects he asked for. There have been no policy changes.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that would be appreciated.
Now, we've already covered ground associated with the Arctic Winter Games. In the briefing, we discussed with departmental officials the timelines for the Canada Winter Games. We know there is some $8 million in the fund and we're wondering how this is progressing.
We understand that there may be an announcement at the end of this year, or perhaps early next year, with respect to whether or not Whitehorse is awarded the games, but I would like to get it on formal record. Can the minister give us an update on what Yukoners can expect in terms of these games?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I met with the Federal Secretary of State for Amateur Sport at the Canada Games in London in August, and he was very supportive of our bid to host the 2007 games, and he indicated that he's working with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to make funding available. I spoke with him again last week. He is still very supportive but indicated that confirmation of funding requires approval of Cabinet and Treasury Board and committed to keep me informed on the progress.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I would like to ask the minister that, in the unfortunate event - the very unfortunate event - that the bid for the games is not approved, what are the plans for this money? It's a rather sizable amount, some $8 million. What are the plans for this money?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are proceeding on the assumption that Whitehorse will be awarded the bid. If that is not the case, we'll deal with that when it happens. I'm not going to speculate on what might happen to that money. I am assuming that we will be awarded the games, and I would prefer to be positive about this rather than negative.
Mr. McRobb: That's understandable, Mr. Chair. We on this side, too, are very much in support of the Whitehorse bid. I was hoping to get beyond the politics of it and get to the point of what would happen to the money, and I think that has been dealt with adequately, at least at this stage. So I'll move on.
I want to ask the minister about community recreation facilities, and we know there are facilities agreements in some Yukon communities. Can the minister give us an explanation in that regard - why some Yukon communities, why not others? I know that some people in Haines Junction, for instance, would certainly like the government to have further discussions in the area of bringing recreation facilities to that community. So can the minister shed some light on what we could expect in the next couple of years in the way of additional agreements for recreation facilities in Yukon communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My department is always happy to talk with any community that is interested in developing recreation infrastructure. There has been a lot of work in that area over the last 10 years, and we are planning to assess the infrastructure and develop policy to guide future development.
As the member knows, a recreation centre was completed and officially opened in Carmacks. The recreation centre in Dawson is currently under construction. We met with representatives of Carcross in June of this year to discuss a process for a new recreation facility in their community. A working group with wide community representation has been struck to facilitate a planning process and I expect that the results of a needs assessment and the accompanying report will be presented to the community before Christmas.
We are continuing to work with Old Crow in the development of their multi-year capital plan. We are also involved in the planning process for the Ross River arena and my department has also met with the village council in Mayo to discuss their plans for a proposed recreation centre. We are continuing to work with them to refine their plans and assist them in achieving their goals. We are happy to meet with any community that has ideas with the caveat, of course, that we can't give everybody exactly what they want and exactly when they want it. Sometimes plans have to be postponed a year or two.
Mr. McRobb: Once again, that is an area that I would like to follow up on next week. I would like to turn now to Dawson City and ask about the prospects for a Dawson bridge. Can the minister enlighten us on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, a Dawson bridge is something that has been talked about for some time. Because of the high capital costs to construct a new bridge, expected to be in the order of $25 million, I'm presently not able to commit to such a major project. It's not going to happen in this capital budget, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I can understand that, Mr. Chair, because, looking at the capital budget, I don't see it listed anywhere. That's why I asked the minister what her future plans might be. It's not listed in the two-year forecast either. The minister said there are no plans for it and I'm satisfied with that response.
Mr. Chair, what about P3s, or private/public partnerships? I have pursued this matter before with the minister, and she indicated there were no such P3s on the drafting board. Can she give us an update on that? Does she still feel the same way?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, since the Member for Kluane and I last spoke about this, nobody has come to us with any requests for P3s. I know it's a subject that is constantly on the mind of the Minister of Economic Development, and I'm sure he'd be willing to discuss it with the member.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe some day, Mr. Chair, but we're in C&TS right now, and I'm just following up on a previous matter with this minister.
As far as highway maintenance goes, I hope the minister doesn't flare up like she did about the maintenance camps but, Mr. Chair, watching television of recent reports out of the province to our south, it's quite clear there is an agenda by the Liberal government down there to privatize services. One of the particular areas they're looking at privatizing is the maintenance of the Coquihalla Highway.
Who knows what's next? I would like to ask the minister, point blank, if we can expect any moves to privatize any of the highway services at all in this government.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have no plans to privatize anything in highway maintenance.
Mr. McRobb: That's somewhat reassuring, Mr. Chair, but I guess a qualified response like that still allows opportunity for the minister to come forward with some plans tomorrow, or perhaps have somebody else come forward with the plans. The minister had the opportunity to resolve that matter in her response but instead chose to qualify it as she did in her previous responses to other questions.
I want to follow up on another road matter, the rural roads upgrading program. Just off the top, I'd like to point out that the Liberals' math doesn't quite add up. They claim they doubled the amount of this program. Well, that's false. The amount of the program for this year is $442,000; the amount projected for next year is $800,000, which is not 200 percent of that original figure.
In terms of what it was under the previous government, it still represents a drastic decline, even with the increase. Even with the increase, Mr. Chair, it's a 20-percent drop in funding for this particular program.
So I'd like to ask the minister: are there any plans to restore the funding amount for this program, which was established by the previous government?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McLachlan, on a point of order.
Mr. McLachlan: I would like to remind the members opposite that this is general debate on a supplementary budget. Members opposite have criticized the minister for being out $26 million on a supplementary and then have made proposals for a $24-million project at Dawson City.
This is the supplementary budget, not the mains. I believe that perhaps the member opposite is -
Chair: Order please. Your point of order - do you have one?
Mr. McLachlan: The point of order is that I believe that the member has got the debates mixed up on the two budgets. These are main questions.
Chair: On the point of order, I will take no further advice on this.
On the point of order, debate on general money bills is general debate. It is far-ranging. There is no difference between a supplementary budget and a main budget in the form of general debate.
There is no point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am beginning to wonder about the Member for Faro. We should all look to him to establish some order of decorum in this Legislature. After all, he was in here many years ago, before any of us. I would speculate that he has probably followed the proceedings in this Legislature since that time. So, over the last 20 years he has been familiar with the rules, yet it's quite clear from his conduct that he is quite green when it comes to his knowledge of the rules, and his interruptions are becoming more frequent and, I would submit, more ridiculous all the time.
Now we have the time police chasing us down, Mr. Chair, clocking our every move throughout discussion on this budget. We are getting back to the minister's motion. I thought the issue was resolved earlier today, but apparently the Liberals would like to draw up the schedule for the official opposition and probably for the third party about how much time they should spend in debate on particular line items in departments.
Mr. Chair, we're not into that type of detail, that type of control, and that type of micromanagement, no matter what the Member for Faro would like. I would urge him to remain seated and dispense with these frivolous interruptions. Now, Mr. Chair, I asked the minister about the rural road upgrading program and if there were any plans to re-establish the previous set funding level for this program. Can she give us her plans about that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member had first quibbled with my math, but mains to mains, the program budget has doubled from $400,000 in the mains to $800,000 in the mains for 2002. We are very pleased that we were able to double the budget. I will not make any commitment as to funding levels for future years. That would be foolish, Mr. Chair. I'm just very pleased that we were able to double the budget to $800,000 for the coming year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I would take issue with accepting, blindly, the theory we should compare only mains to mains, because that would exclude reality. It would exclude the fact that this year's funding is substantially higher - greater than 10 percent of the mains. So I would submit the proper way to compare is to compare the total for this year, which we know at this point, with what's being projected for next year. The minister answered the question; there are no plans to restore funding to this program. Although I would disagree with the policy, I accept that as her answer and we'll move on.
I want to go to the area of water and sewer infrastructure. I know some of this is covered under the federal program with federal funds, but the Liberal government has advanced the notion that this area is one of its priorities. And I would like to ask the minister what she is planning to do with respect to ensuring Yukoners have access to safe and clean water supplies. We won't have to mention any recent events. I hope the minister will take everything into context with her response.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I expect to table a report in the Legislature in November - toward the end of November, by the end of this month, which should answer the member's questions. We undertook an assessment of the infrastructure in municipalities to provide a base-point for reviewing upgrades in both incorporated and unincorporated communities, and our primary focus has been on safe water supply and distribution, along with sewage treatment and disposal and operation and maintenance of solid waste disposal sites. The priorities for upgrading facilities will be based on need, and the report will be out, I expect, by the end of this month.
Mr. McRobb: One of the matters I have asked for the department to provide material on is the new sewage lagoon at Burwash Landing, and can the minister give us two basic figures for that - the year it is anticipated to be completed and the total cost of the project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I can't give the member a firm time when the Burwash sewage lagoon will be completed because we're still working on licensing. As he knows, that can be a somewhat variable thing. The total expenditure is in the neighbourhood of $700,000.
Mr. McRobb: That's again something we can follow up on in the future.
I would like to ask the minister about airports for a moment. I'm sure the Member for Klondike will explore the work done at the Dawson City Airport, so I'd like to ask her a specific question on an airport in my riding, at Haines Junction.
I asked a question in the briefing about the future of the community management of this facility. Can the minister put on record a commitment to maintain the community management of this facility in Haines Junction, or does she have some other plans?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there has been no discussion at this point of moving airports from Haines Junction - none whatsoever.
Mr. McRobb: Again, that's not really an unqualified response because we know that things can change tomorrow. What I'm asking for is whether or not the Liberals have any future plans to change that. I'm sure the minister, if there's anything further she can add, will provide it with her next response.
I would like to turn to the question of alternative landing locations.
We know, on September 11, the City of Whitehorse was, some would say, set into somewhat of a panic, as being the landing location for two jumbo aircraft. I would like to hear from the minister - what has she accomplished in regard to seeking out other landing locations that could avoid this whole problem to begin with? I heard from some people that the airport at Burwash, for instance, can handle a plane of that size, although it would have to take off virtually empty. There's the issue of debris from the turbines, I suppose, but there are ways to overcome that.
I've also heard the airport at Watson Lake may be suitable - even more suitable - for accommodating such aircraft under these conditions. I would like to know from the minister what discussions she has had and if any progress in this area has been made.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is aware, we are working on a comprehensive report on the events of September 11. There have been wide-ranging discussions on the various facets of that report, and I ask him to wait for the answer to this question until that report is tabled. I'm not going to release contents of this report prematurely.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister if this report will accommodate any type of public input? I've heard from the public about their experiences, and people out there feel there's a need for the government to consider those experiences when drafting up such a report, to consider in any future model that improves upon what we had at the time.
Can the minister just shed a bit more light on any opportunity for the public to provide input into the report or policy from the government, whatever might develop as a result?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will be seeking input on the report this House receives. We have received some input already, and we are considering all options at this point to bring to a resolution the events of September 11.
Mr. McRobb: I'm not sure if the question was answered the way I requested, but, once again, there will be opportunities before this department is cleared, to further explore that.
What I am prepared to do at this time is give the leader of the third party an opportunity to ask some questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to thank the Member for Kluane.
I have a few questions for the minister. She alluded earlier, in response to the Member for Kluane, with respect to potable water supplies - what kind of assurances are we going to see that the government is taking steps?
I am not just looking for a report on what currently transpires. Are we going to be coming up with a new municipal water supply policy and safeguards for all other water supplies?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that Environmental Health is developing regulations on that at this point and the Member for Klondike can put that question to the Minister of Health.
I have said repeatedly in this House that a safe water supply is one of our priorities, and we are certainly working toward that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given that the minister's department is going to incur the biggest financial impact, I'd like her to share with the House what is going to transpire. Is Community and Transportation Services working cooperatively with the Minister of Health to come up with a new policy and firmly entrench it with respect to how potable water supplies are looked after and how they're monitored? Is there going to be assistance in the form of a lab in the Yukon to perform the routine tests? And outlying water supplies that are usually derived from wells - is it also going to encompass this area? Now, yes, the Health department is probably going to be the enforcement, but certainly they have to go back to Community and Transportation Services for the knowledge of where potable water supplies exist, what their current conditions are and how they're currently being monitored.
Now, where are we at with this initiative, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I already explained to the Member for Kluane that we're reviewing municipal infrastructure, that safe water supply and distribution has been a main emphasis, and that I expect to table a report on the matter in the Legislature at the end of this month.
Mr. Jenkins: What I want to know from the minister is what steps she is taking to ensure a safe, potable water supply.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we've been around this with the member again and again and again. I am tabling a report at the end of this month, and Environmental Health is developing regulations. The member wants the information now. I'll be tabling a report at the end of the month.
Mr. Jenkins: So, is the minister saying that this report is going to contain the steps that the government is going to undertake to ensure a safe, potable water supply here in the Yukon? Is that what the minister is saying? Because the report can be anything - the location of all Yukon wells, the location of municipal water supplies, how they are treated. What I want from the minister is, how is the Yukon public going to be protected? What steps is her department taking, in concert with the Minister of Health and his department, to ensure that there is a safe, potable water supply for Yukoners, that it is tested on a regular basis and we can count on it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member knows that we test regularly in the areas where we provide water. Municipalities test theirs. The recent tests have been excellent. It is a municipal responsibility in incorporated communities, we have some services in unincorporated communities, and we are assessing all infrastructure. The member obviously isn't willing to wait for the report or for Environmental Health to develop regulations.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are currently in place regulations, and they don't appear to be adequate with respect to potable water supplies. Let the record reflect that this government and this minister are almost a year and a half into their mandate. It is an issue that has raised itself with serious consequences in other jurisdictions, and I would urge the minister to move forward with all haste to ensure that there is a safe, potable water supply here in the Yukon. And the minister has to be in step with the Department of Health on this initiative, but it is her department that is going to feel the financial consequences of this initiative.
Mr. Chair, under the past government, there was a study done of services in rural Yukon in those areas where YTG is the taxing authority. The results are readily known and readily available. Where are we headed with this study? What are we planning to do with it, or is it just another doorstop?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have already explained to the Member for Kluane, we know that coordinating municipal-type services in unincorporated Yukon communities is an issue and that there are some inconsistencies in property tax rates. We are in the process of analyzing some options that will address these issues and we look forward to dealing with this matter.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the inconsistencies are the price charged by the Government of Yukon for the services they provide. They are all over the wall in the Yukon. There is no consistency to the basic services provided - with the exception, I might add, of one minister and that is the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, who has a consistent price for her product throughout the Yukon. But the Minister of Community and Transportation Services charges all over the wall for water, water delivery, sewage, sewage eduction. There's no consistency to it, and is the minister saying that this is going to be reflected in a policy that's coming down from her government, that there's going to be a consistent charge for these services throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite has repeated what I said and amplified upon it somewhat. Yes, we know there's a problem and we are working on it during this term. We know that the prices are all over the wall, and we are looking at ways to rationalize that.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're at that, Mr. Chair, I know that for provisions of water and sewer in my community, our hit last year was an increase of just over $1,000. Now we're looking at additional sewage treatment. What steps is the Government of Yukon going to be taking to mediate what could be a 300- or 400-percent increase in our costs for this basic service?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With regard to the solid waste disposal facility in Dawson, we are participating in the capital to reduce the infrastructure cost to the city. At this point, we don't know what the O&M will be, but we are working on that with the City of Dawson.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there a technical review committee within Community and Transportation Services that oversees the direction that's being taken, or is the city pretty well on its own to determine how to proceed - whether to go to mechanical or passive secondary sewage treatment? Is there any technical review done by the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have a member on the project steering committee who is working on this project.
Mr. Jenkins: And this individual who is on this project steering committee, he provides the technical overview?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The committee hires a professional project manager and consultants to provide the technical overview.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the order of magnitude of the expense that may or may not be incurred and the subsequent, ongoing O&M costs, is it not prudent for the Government of Yukon to analyze what has been determined? With this type of cost - what I am suggesting is that it's prudent for the government to obtain a second opinion. Is the minister telling me that they do not do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The sewage treatment facility is a City of Dawson project.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, pass the buck; pass the buck. Which brings me to another City of Dawson issue. Order-in-Council No. 2001-14, passed on January 23, 2001 - is there any subsequent order-in-council pursuant to section 335 of the Municipal Act that has been passed in this regard with respect to the appointment of the supervisor?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So the minister is confirming for the record that this order-in-council is in full force and effect and that there has been no subsequent order-in-council passed to this date affecting this appointment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That is correct, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that information.
Mr. Chair, given the tremendous costs that we are going to be incurring in not only capital costs for additional sewage treatment but also in O&M, does the minister not think it's prudent, given the supervisor's position in the City of Dawson, to seek a second opinion on the technical side to this issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the sewage treatment facility is a City of Dawson project. If the member wishes to discuss the details of this project, he should do so with the mayor and council in Dawson City.
Mr. Jenkins: What I am seeking from the minister is, given her responsibilities as Minister of Community and Transportation Services, given her current position with a supervisor overseeing the City of Dawson, it all suggests that a second opinion may be a very prudent move. But the minister has passed the buck firmly to the City of Dawson's hands, and we will leave that where it's at.
Let's look at the Dawson City Airport and the current expenditures being incurred there, and where we will be at after these expenditures have been incurred. We will have a runway surface. I'm given to understand it may be capable of supporting asphalt.
Could the minister advise the House what steps she or her department is taking to secure the funding to proceed to the next step and hard surface the runway?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the Member for Klondike knows, the paving of runways is not currently eligible for ACAP funding. It is a pricey proposition and the Yukon government and other airport operators are lobbying Transport Canada for expansion of the ACAP criteria.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, we will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Before we proceed, I will inform the House and thank the House for the guidance on the procedure of budget matters. Having reviewed it, I realize that the Chair is in error and I do appreciate the advice given by members of this House.
We will now proceed on regular matters. Mr. Jenkins had the floor last.
Mr. Jenkins: I am just hopeful that the rest of your caucus, Mr. Chair, will be so forthright in addressing their discrepancies in judgements.
Mr. Chair, while we're on the issue of airports, we were exploring with the minister the upgrading to pavements and what is happening on the federal scene for access to more money from the various jurisdictions.
Could the minister be specific as to what kind of approach is being made on this initiative? If the minister goes back a short while in history, under the federal government, if you look at the amount of money that was pumped into airports, a tremendous amount was earmarked for northern Quebec.
Since that time, Transport Canada has basically backed out of any funding for airports. The only way they came to the plate on the Dawson Airport is because when they transferred ownership to the territorial government, it was non-compliance and was in a position where it would lose its certification as an aerodrome.
Mr. Chair, could the minister be specific as to what initiatives she is undertaking, on the political level, to obtain more funding from Transport Canada? I know her officials are hard at work at the various conferences, but what initiatives is the minister herself taking, on the political level, to ensure more funding for airports and for paving?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when I'm out at meetings, I speak to people, and I speak to my federal counterpart. We have been lobbying hard. ACAP funding is the target, and we are looking at changes to that. I am not the only minister doing that. Other ministers across the country are lobbying, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm if she has had a direct conversation with Minister Collenette on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I have.
Mr. Jenkins: There are some issues surrounding the paving that will require more dedicated equipment than what currently is in place, but until such time as we bring the airport in my community up to a better standard, it cannot be used as a significant tool of economic development.
It is also a port of entry, and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency has individuals in place there. And it also requires security for boarding and deplaning passengers. Could the minister advise the House what steps are being taken in rural Yukon for boarding and deplaning passengers from entering and departing from the U.S.?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are no issues in Dawson. We have met the requirements, and we have Canada Customs inspection there.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, in Old Crow there's an issue of individuals deplaning there for departure to Fairbanks, and there's also the issue of boarding passengers, depending on the routing of the airline from Dawson. So there is an issue in both of these locations, and I want to know what steps the minister is taking to address them.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, can the member clarify: is he asking about baggage searches, or is there some other area he's attempting to explore?
Mr. Jenkins: I said "security". That's part and parcel of security, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are currently meeting the regulations.
Mr. Jenkins: Just barely, I might add. There is an issue with the United States.
Now, what steps is the minister taking to address that issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have this problem with this member time and time again.
If he would get to the point that he wants an answer for instead of circling it - I can answer a specific question.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister is saying is that there are no problems with security in these areas. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member has a specific question. If he will ask it, I will answer it.
Mr. Jenkins: The specific question: could the minister confirm that there are no problems whatsoever with security at the Dawson Airport and the Old Crow Airport with respects to boarding and deplaning passengers?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I do get very tired of the games played by the side opposite in this House. There is an issue with ID for people in Old Crow for whom, when the plane is routed through Fairbanks before it comes to Whitehorse, it's causing a problem, and we are working to deal with that.
Mr. Jenkins: There are further problems with respect to security clearance for those deplaning in Alaska. What steps is the minister taking with respect to these international departures?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are no airport issues that I am aware of. If the member has a specific question, I wish he would ask it.
Mr. Jenkins: There are security issues with respect to passengers disembarking in the U.S., arriving from Canadian departure points. Now, what steps is the minister taking to address those security issues?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are no airport issues. If the member has a specific question, I wish he would ask it.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister cares to go on the record and say there are no airport security issues with respect to boarding and deplaning passengers disembarking in the United States, let her do so. Would she please respond?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is hinting about security issues. If he can be specific, perhaps we can answer his question.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'm sure we'll be in line-by-line on Monday in this department and when we come to airports, I'll ask the minister again and she can have a thorough and complete briefing on the issue on Friday and Monday morning.
Let's move on to airports with respect to CARS and RCOs. What's the long-term prognosis for maintaining CARS here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not aware of any pending changes. As the member knows, CARS is done on a contractual basis with Nav Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: The current contract between the Government of the Yukon and Nav Canada expires when, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't exactly remember. I'll have to get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Currently, Nav Canada is placing RCOs in all of the rural airports, and this would certainly downplay the need or the necessity of CARS.
Can the minister tell us what is happening in the long term with respect to RCOs? And if they're not planning on downgrading CARS, why are we going to all the expense of installing RCOs, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are not going to any expense to install remote communication outlets; that's Nav Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for pointing out who's doing what, but there is a contractual arrangement with the Government of Yukon to provide the CARS services at our rural airports. Now, further to that, Nav Canada has taken it upon itself to install RCOs at all these rural airports. Basically, everything is piped into the Whitehorse Airport - or, probably Edmon ton Centre eventually. So, the requirement for personnel is virtually non-existent under the rules that are now in place for those stations that have RCOs. Could the minister advise the House: what is the game plan?
The Government of Yukon, Department of Community and Transportation Services, plays a very significant role in this area, Mr. Chair, and I'd like the minister, for the record, to spell out where we're heading on these initiatives.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said that I'm not aware of any pending changes on the part of Nav Canada with regard to CARS. The RCOs were part of a review across the north. They augment service to provide 24-hour radio contact. As the member knows, the CARS stations are not 24-hour.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if they are not 24 hours and the RCOs are there 24 hours - but why are the CARS personnel always called out when there is a medevac into one of these remote areas?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The last time I looked, an RCO couldn't respond to a medevac request.
Mr. Jenkins: I would urge the minister to obtain a briefing on this area. We will get back to this in line-by-line.
Let's look at our rural roads program. I want to thank the Minister of Economic Development for his letter that he sent in response to a letter I sent to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the Nahanni Range Road as to who is paying for what. I didn't see the funds for the Nahanni Range Road upgrade and maintenance in the Department of Economic Development. Could the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell me to the contrary? The last time I looked, these funds were in Community and Transportation Services, and yet my response on this area was from the minister responsible for Economic Development. Now, has the money been transferred to Economic Development?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe there were questions in that letter about jobs at the mine that were more appropriately addressed by another minister. We are maintaining the road to kilometre 134 of Highway 10 as we did before.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we've made some progress, Mr. Chair, in that the minister remembers it's Highway 10. In the spring debate, when I asked about Highway 10, she didn't know where Highway 10 existed. But I appreciate her understanding of the issue.
Mr. Chair, this is a significant sum of money that we're going to be expending on the Nahanni Range Road, Highway No. 10, to the Northwest Territories border, and it was done under the auspices that we would generate jobs for Yukoners. This government is very, very good at generating jobs for Yukoners in other jurisdictions, Mr. Chair. And I'd like to know from the minister if she'll spend the same amount of money on Yukon owned and maintained roads to create and maintain jobs as she will on this Nahanni Range Road to create and maintain jobs in a different jurisdiction?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Nahanni Range Road, as far as we maintain it, is a Yukon owned and maintained road.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm well aware of that, and I thank the minister for confirming it. The issue here, Mr. Chair, the purpose of opening that road, maintaining it, is to create jobs for Yukoners. Now, I ask the minister if she will consider the same initiative here in the Yukon Territory, because we're creating those jobs in the Northwest Territories with respect to North American Tungsten, Mr. Chair. From my understanding, there's going to be one of their personnel based in Watson Lake doing the human resource side of the mine, and that appears to be it for employment created here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. That individual will be moving around between Whitehorse and Watson Lake, but the actual workforce will be Yukoners, and they will be employed in the Northwest Territories.
Yes, it'll be a lot of Yukon firms and a lot of Yukon employees, but I want to ask the minister if she will consider the same investment in roads here in the Yukon to employ Yukoners here in the Yukon. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We spend far more on road maintenance in the Yukon, for roads that go point to point in the Yukon, than we do in this case. This was an unusual circumstance with a road that hadn't been used for some 15 years. The member is fishing again. If he has a specific question, I wish he would ask it.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a specific question, and I've asked it, and I will ask it again. Will the minister consider spending the same magnitude of funds on a Yukon road that is going to keep Yukoners employed here in the Yukon? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If we come upon a situation where some heretofore undiscovered road requires reopening to service a mine in the Yukon - of course.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's one into the Marn deposit just behind the newly created Tombstone Park that is soon to be gazetted, which could be upgraded and installed in Chandindu, but of course, it won't be able to be put in place, Mr. Chair. So much for initiatives.
Mr. Chair, I'm referring specifically to the Sunnydale Road that has been sadly neglected, and it creates a lot of employment for Yukoners.
When is the Yukon government going to address their responsibilities and upgrade and maintain this road to a satisfactory level?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, over the past four seasons, we have spent $86,000 on the Sunnydale Road. That is a sizable investment for this road. It has a golf course at the end of it and several people live in the Sunnydale subdivision.
Mr. Jenkins: Furthermore, part of the Sunnydale Road goes across private lands. Is the Government of the Yukon finally going to recognize this and survey this road in properly, relocate it or come to a property swap across the private lands that it currently goes across? What's going to happen? Because this issue has been up in the air for quite some time, and the Department of Community and Transportation Services has not addressed it. What's going to happen?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we are continuing to look at the future needs of the Sunnydale Road as we do the needs of all the rural roads in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the issue of the Sunnydale Road crossing private lands is an important issue for the owner of those lands in that, if there were ever an accident on that section of the Sunnydale Road on that individual's private property, which this road crosses, that owner could be held responsible.
Now, would the minister be comfortable, until such time as this issue is resolved, with providing the owner of that property with a letter of comfort, save harmless and indemnifying them from any responsibilities arising out of any incident on this road? Would the minister be prepared to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Not without discussing the matter thoroughly with my department.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there is the issue of either a land swap - but the government is going to have to take the initiative and survey in a lot of these roads. I believe that currently the figure was somewhere just over 30 percent of all Yukon highways and roads are legally surveyed.
I know it's a big project, but when titled land is adjacent to a highway - that's exactly what this Sunnydale Road is; it's classified as a highway under the Motor Vehicles Act - I believe that it is imperative for the government to survey the road and ensure that, when it crosses private land, they enter into a land swap with the owner of those lands and ensure that all parties are adequately served.
Does the minister not agree with that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will undertake to speak with my officials in detail about the Sunnydale Road, and I will get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: This fall some progress was made on resurfacing, but the surfacing material that was put on the bottom - there is a technical word for it and there's a common word for it, but it means "very, very slippery" and it's a very poor surface. Climbing out on this very steep grade on the Sunnydale Road is virtually impossible. During the warm weather, it is impossible to climb up that road unless you are in four-wheel drive.
The equipment was there. I believe it required about another $1,500 to $2,000 expenditure of government money and about another day's work to adequately surface that road so that individuals this spring can get out of there, but they yanked the equipment out of there.
It would be easy getting down. They can slide all the way down, but getting back out is another matter.
So, I'm looking for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to make a commitment here today that she's going to have her officials examine this road and bring it up to the standards that are needed. The minister mentioned some $80,000, and if she were to look back, most of that money was spent under the previous watch, and most of it was for a significant rock cut and to redirect the road.
Now, from there, under this minister's watch, very little has been spent, Mr. Chair. Very little has been spent, especially on the section that needs it. Now, I'm looking for an undertaking from this minister to get in there, get the job done, and get it done properly - to meet with the owners of the property there and come to some arrangement for where the road is going to be routed over their property. I'm sure they'd be agreeable to a land swap. But their liability, as a consequence of that road going across their property, is very significant.
Now, the minister might - I'm just putting the minister on notice that I'm not going to leave this matter untouched, and I'll want to know what is anticipated to be done in that area for this spring.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, to be specific, $50,000 was spent on the Sunnydale Road in 1999, $25,000 last year, and $18,000 this year. If the member thinks $43,000 is very little, I'd like to disagree with him. The funding has been provided, and will continue to be provided, under the rural roads program. We actually spent $7,000 above the approved amount this year, so more work than was planned went into the Sunnydale Road this year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when it comes to road construction and road upgrading, that is a very paltry sum - a very, very paltry sum. The minister can check with her officials as to what it costs to build a kilometre of road to acceptable standards today and that will give her some idea of the order of magnitude. The sum of money being spent on that to service a viable, economic area nowhere resembles the money this minister is prepared to spend on the Nahanni Range Road for employment for Yukoners in another jurisdiction. Here we have another example of meaningful employment created in an area of the Yukon and this minister won't address the access road to it. Shame on this minister, Mr. Chair; shame on this minister. I will be exploring that in further detail this spring with the minister.
The rural roads program - Duncan Creek Road - what is going to take place there ultimately? Is there going to be more money spent, or are we still going to chug along the Duncan Creek Road next year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Work on the Duncan Creek Road, as with any other rural road, will be considered in accordance with the program guidelines and resources, along with the other applications.
Mr. Jenkins: Probably because it is a rural riding it won't get the attention it needs. But I should encourage the minister to spend some time and effort. The other area that I have serious concerns with in respect to highways is highway lighting. And there was a move, just recently - well, under the past watch - to install lighting over the bridge at Pelly Crossing - which, incidentally, is partially out - and in Carmacks, all their street lighting was out from across the bridge and north on Sunday night. But, be that as it may, it currently exists.
I'm sure the minister can send a couple of dollars over to the energy company to turn the lights back on. But one of the other bridges that is of serious concern is the Upper Liard bridge coming out of Watson Lake. What are the timelines for installing lighting on that bridge and its approaches, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The work order has been in with Yukon Electrical for some time, and I expect it will be done this fall.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we were supposed to be doing a study of the access route into Dawson City along the Klondike Highway, which is also sadly in need of lighting. Just where are we at with respect to this study? We know the traffic count is of an order of magnitude that warrants lighting. We know that the traffic count is significant to have a widening of the highway and shoulders installed there, but to date there has been no movement by this government or the previous NDP government. Just where are we at with this study and this initiative, or can the minister confirm that a purchase order has been sent over to the Energy Corporation to install lighting in that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, a purchase order has not been sent over to the Energy Corporation. Some planning and some other work remains to be done before lighting is going to be a factor.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House of where we are at with respect to the corridor study that we were told was underway in this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the planning and design are still underway. I can't give the member a firm date when it will be completed.
Mr. Jenkins: That's very unusual, Mr. Chair. "Planning and design are underway." It's usually budgeted for one fiscal period. Usually, the budgeting for the O&M cost that we're going to incur - or perhaps the minister is capitalizing this expense. Be that as it may, there must be timelines on when we hope to complete this undertaking. Is it just open-ended? We're going to study it to death for the next 20 years, or what are we going to do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is some work yet to be done on the planning and design. I can't give the member a firm date when that will be completed.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister be specific as to what work has yet to be done on the planning and design?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will ask the department for an extremely detailed note on what has been done and what has yet to be done. I do know that we do need to consult with the City of Dawson on this matter.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that there are adequate funds within her budget to complete the undertaking of this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I don't keep money in the budget for projects that aren't actually in front of us at this point. When the time comes to complete the project, I'm sure the money will be available but, due to other pressures on the capital budget, I can't give the member a firm time when the planning and design will be finished and the work will occur.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking when the work will be undertaken. I'm asking if there is enough money in the budget to complete the design phase of this project - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, there is.
Mr. Jenkins: Basically it just requires a bit of political motivation on the part of the minister to see this project through to fruition. I'll look forward to encouraging her officials to do so.
One of the other issues that I have raised with the minister for some time now is the issue of brush clearing along Yukon highways.
I wanted to thank the minister for the brush clearing along the Klondike Highway, but then I came to realize she had nothing to do with it. They were clearing the right-of-way for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. But there is a nice, clean, wide right-of-way for most of the route, but there are some fingers of trees or vegetation left between the right-of-way and the highway clearing on the right-of-way.
Is the minister aware of this, and what are her officials going to be doing about it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Brush and weed control is a favourite subject of the Member for Klondike. He believes there is a moose lurking behind every bush.
We carry out the work to the maximum extent possible, and the budget for brush and weed projects has been increased for the second year in a row. For the 2001-02 fiscal year, we increased the budget by over $287,000, bringing the total to $620,000. The proposed budget for 2002-03, which we'll deal with when we get to the capital budget - not the supplementary, which we are currently dealing with - is $625,000.
The member is asking about some specific bits of brush, expecting that I can tell him specifically who is going out to cut them down and what type of chainsaw they're going to use, but I can't do that.
This year we awarded 12 brush and weed contracts, which proved to be all that the limited number of local brush-cutting contractors could handle, and then some. As a result, there were some delays. Our maintenance camp did some of the activities as they finished their highway projects, and we are entering into service contracts with some local companies to do some other brush and weed control activities.
Later this fall we will be identifying all the areas that need to be brushed next season, and we will have tenders ready to go by May 1 to allow for an earlier start on the projects next year.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the whole issue is the time for tendering of these undertakings, given that the whole purpose of backing up the capital budget to the fall of the year was so that we would know what work could be out there.
Is there any problem with going to tender April 1 under the new capital budget, so that we know what's out there and we know what we're going to do? What's the downside of getting the information out and the tenders out there earlier?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Brush and weed is in the O&M budget.
Mr. Jenkins: We are in general debate. I want to know why the tenders for this area can't be issued earlier, right at the beginning of the new fiscal period.
The whole explanation given to the House for the capital budget being backed up to the fall was that these projects were going to be going out earlier.
In the past, some of the brush and weed clearing has been capitalized. The minister might want to check her record. Most of it is O&M but some of it has been capitalized, Mr. Chair.
Why can't we get the tenders out for this initiative earlier?
I mean, if you're going to remove snow, you get the tenders out early in the fall before the first snowfall. It stands to reason that if you're going to cut brush, you get the tenders out in the spring, as early as possible.
Does the minister have some other idea as to how the seasons work here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: May 1 will be considerably earlier than brushing tenders have been let as far back as I can remember.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister suggesting that the tenders are going to be awarded by May 1? If that is the case, I don't have a problem with it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, the contractors like to look at the ground with the snow off it before they bid, so we can't be doing it too soon, but we will have them ready to go earlier than they were this year or last.
Mr. Jenkins: It will be going out May 1. When will they be closing and awarded?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: They will be going out in May, and in some parts of the territory there is still snow on the ground. This is significantly earlier than it has been done before because, in the past, brushing was considered by previous administrations to be a slush fund that they could cut if they needed the money somewhere else. I am attempting to make it a priority.
Mr. Jenkins: I am not looking at previous watches. I am looking at the watch under this minister and attempting to help her in exercising her responsibilities. Now, I applaud that they are going to get the tenders out earlier, but they still could close at the same time that they closed previously, and they still could go through the award period, which is quite extensive beyond that.
So, what I would like to know for the record is when do they close and when are they awarded? When are these people going to start to work and when do they have to be completed by? Because that is the whole issue. The completion date of a lot of these contracts wasn't until the end of October or beginning of November, and I might remind the minister that we have snow on the ground then.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I haven't seen the contract documents yet, I can't say when the tenders will close, but it will certainly be in May and not in July, as has happened previously. We are attempting to have this work ready to go earlier than previously, so that it can be completed earlier.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there is an issue on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line about the ribbons of trees between the highway right-of-way clearing and the clearing for the transmission line. That should be addressed. The minister can do with it what she wishes, but it is an issue. It's either going to blow down on the highway, or it's going to blow down on the right-of-way. I guess it's cause for another series of bonfires along the road. It was probably the largest - here we are, a government that supports no burning in our garbage dumps, and it was probably the biggest series of fires I have ever seen, outside some of the major forest fires recently. But that was the determination of how this slash was going to be dealt with, and so be it - it has been dealt with.
Mr. Chair, the issue of highway access is another issue. We have two businesses recently, one in Burwash and one up here on the Alaska Highway, at the corner of Wann Road, that can't seem to get adequate highway access. I'd like to ask the minister why there is such a delay on providing Goody's Gas Bar with access to the Alaska Highway? Is it because, as one of the only independents, and one of the lowest priced gas suppliers here in the Yukon, that this government is seeking to protect the other petroleum suppliers? Is that why the reluctance to allow them access to the Alaska Highway, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is wrong. Public safety is the issue. In 1999, transportation engineering granted this business permission to build a narrow, curved access road with no entry signs to provide a right-turn only exit from the business on to the Alaska Highway, and the business would also have full access from Centennial Street.
Our traffic safety engineers could not permit full highway access so close to an intersection. The danger to traffic safety, Mr. Chair, is real. The access was not constructed in accordance with the conditions of the permit. On numerous occasions, the business operator was directed to correct the access road, bringing it in line with the access permit conditions, and until that was done, the access was to barricaded, preventing traffic from using it. The barriers will be removed, Mr. Chair, as soon as the owner modifies the existing access road in accordance with the permit issued to meet traffic safety requirements. Transportation engineering has a responsibility, and I as the minister have a responsibility to maintain and promote traffic safety. In its present form, this access is not acceptable from a public safety perspective.
Mr. Jenkins: So could the minister advise the House what the appropriate distance from one intersection to the next intersection in a 70-kilometre zone is, because that's the whole issue that we're dealing with here. And the impediment that this government has placed on this individual's business is having a drastic consequence. And I suggest to the minister that there's more to this than just highway safety, because a right-hand turn could easily be provided on to the shoulder of the Alaska Highway, and that wouldn't be any impediment to the flow of traffic.
Now, I can appreciate that, in that close proximity to the Wann Road intersection, there could be problems with a left-hand turn. But the short radius that the government has allowed would preclude all other than small vehicles going out and exiting on to the Alaska Highway from this gasoline supplier or petroleum supplier because they can't swing right with the curve that the Department of Highways has provided.
It has to be a wider radius and, Mr. Chair, that would present very little, if any, additional safety concern. In fact, currently, if someone goes out that route, they would have to almost cross into the oncoming lane of traffic before they could swing with a vehicle of any proportion.
Mr. Chair, there has to be a compromise reached by this government on this issue. The minister hangs her hat on safety, and safety is of paramount importance. That's the first priority. But there are ways to make this intersection work with a right-hand turn. And there are ways to make it work with a left- and right-hand turn by moving it farther north, on to the adjacent property that this individual owns. That would meet the applicable highway codes for a second access on to the Alaska Highway into a 70-kilometre zone, turning left and right. The distances would meet the criteria.
Now, why won't the minister entertain any of these initiatives?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I invite the member to meet with my officials for a full briefing on highway safety standards. If the Member for Klondike or any other member wishes to change the standards for highway safety, they can make a presentation to the standards committee of the Transportation Association of Canada. I meet with the Transport ministers at least annually and would be happy to bring forward a reasonable proposal to revise the standards adopted by most jurisdictions in Canada.
The business owner was aware of the conditions of the permit when he built the business and, with respect, the location makes it impossible for two-way access. This is not some Yukon standard dreamt up here, Mr. Chair. This is a national standard and I will not be violating it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure that the minister would be pleased to note that I agree with her with respect to a two-way access from the current driveway.
What I'm asking the minister is what is to preclude a wider turning radius for a right-hand turn from that area? That is the current issue before us.
I'm sure that if the minister were to analyze or have her officials analyze blocking that access off next year and constructing a new access to the north, with both right- and left-hand turns, with the appropriate spacing from Wann Road to that road, it would meet the applicable codes for access to a highway with a 70 kilometre per hour posting. Has this been entertained and looked at?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The transportation engineering branch has looked at every possible way, but the bottom line is that the access that exists wasn't constructed in accordance with the conditions of the permit and we do not believe that two-way access is possible anywhere on the property.
If the member would avail himself of my offer of a full briefing on highway safety standards, he would understand this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's contrast what is transpiring in this area to what is transpiring along the Klondike Highway going into Dawson City, where the minister is failing to recognize her responsibility, failing to provide adequate width of the road, in spite of the traffic count, and failing to provide adequate lighting. And it's going to be studied - for how long, we don't know.
So, is there a double standard once again - one for Whitehorse and another one for rural Yukon? And why should that be? Because currently the access from Callison into Dawson City does not meet the applicable codes.
The minister can have her officials confirm that, and that's based on the traffic count. Now, it's posted at 70-kilometres per hour also, as is the Alaska Highway in the same area, and it has sharper radiuses of curves on it than the Alaska Highway does. Why the double standard? And why won't the minister undertake to meet the safety obligations on the Klondike Highway in the same manner that she is emphatic she has to meet them on the Alaska Highway? Yes, they are two different highways and two different standards, but you might want to check your code book, because virtually the same conditions apply for access on to a highway at that posted speed.
Chair: Order please. I would just remind members to always refer remarks through the Chair. The use of "you", unless it is a descriptive use, is not allowed under our rules.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: So, when would the Member for Klondike like me to set up his briefing with the transportation engineering department?
Mr. Jenkins: Just send over the actual arrangements that you've concluded - that it's not feasible to permit this individual to do as he has asked with respect to a right-hand turn out of the existing driveway and with respect to a second driveway farther to the north, with both right- and left-hand access. I'd like to know why that can't be done.
Then I want it contrasted to the Klondike Highway, from Callison into Dawson, as to why all the access roads have been permitted there to the extent they have, into a 70-kilometre per hour posted zone.
We can't have two standards, Mr. Chair. If we're going to accept one standard and stand by it, fine, I have no quarrel with that, but there are two sets of standards in existence, and there shouldn't be.
I'd like that analysis sent over as to why Goody's Gas Bar can't have a right-hand turn with a wider radius on to the Alaska Highway now and, furthermore, with respect to an access further to the north with both right- and left-hand turns.
Then I would like the contrast to all of the recent driveways and access to the Alaska Highway that have been installed on the Klondike Highway in a similar 70-kilometre per hour zone from Callison into Dawson - just a simple comparison to show the minister that there are ways to do it, and it has been done. That is all I am asking. If the minister can send that information over - have a good look at it herself before she does - and she'll see that there are significant comparisons between these two areas and a different treatment of these owners of the adjacent land.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Rather than sending an analysis over, I would prefer to send it with my highway engineers so that they can sit down with the member so I can be sure that he understands the material. We have discussed with the owner of the business the possibility of a frontage road. We are looking at that to see if that is a possibility, and if the owner wishes to provide the frontage road and it meets code, we are willing to look at that. That work is being done now, but the conditions of the permit must be met before access can be granted.
Mr. Jenkins: I would urge the minister to go back to her officials and ask why a wider sweep radius for a right-hand turn cannot be permitted. Why can that not be allowed? That is the only impediment of opening up access to the Alaska Highway with a right-hand turn currently, and the minister is dead wrong if she thinks it can't be done, because it can be. An access road adjacent to the Alaska Highway with access on to the Alaska Highway can easily be constructed in that area.
I urge the minister to have her officials show her a comparison to the current Klondike Highway, from Callison into Dawson, in the 70-kilometre per hour zone, as to the recent accesses that have been permitted on curves that have a tighter radius than the curve currently in existence, and a narrower surface on the existing roadbed. There's a significant difference, and it's not fair.
The same thing holds true for a business in Burwash. Here's a government that's trying to encourage all sorts of economic activity, and we have an individual with a significant investment in a gas bar on the Klondike Highway, and he can't get access to the Alaska Highway - can't get access to the Alaska Highway under this government.
There's an aroma coming off this, Mr. Chair, and it's not sweet-smelling, and it might have something to do with this government attempting to protect the other petroleum suppliers here in the Yukon. It might have something to do with that. If you start looking at the number of independents here in the Yukon and the prices being offered by this individual, it is commendable, given the amount of amortization costs that he is carrying.
Mr. Chair, we also have a small business out in Burwash that relies upon highway traffic and access to their area to sell their products and to keep their business alive and going. Now, what steps is this government taking to accommodate these individuals, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in the case at Burwash that the member is referring to, I am in the process of finishing a letter to the owner of that business, and it would be improper for me to discuss it in the House before I have communicated my response to the owner. I will say there has been no application for access in that instance. So if there has been no application, access can't have been denied. But I will not speak to that until I've had an opportunity to communicate my reply to the business owner.
Mr. Jenkins: Here we go again, Mr. Chair. Here we've had a business with prior access to an existing highway. They come along, redo the highway and don't reinstall an access. That's great. The minister's going to stand on the floor of this House and say I'm not going to discuss it or pay any attention to it until I correspond with the owners. Well, Mr. Chair, why can't you discuss it with the owners before you relocate the highway, before you upgrade the highway, and come to some arrangements with them as to how you're going to provide access?
The expectations are there, Mr. Chair, that highway access will be available to them similar to what it was before, and the minister is hiding behind the fact that they haven't applied for a permit or they might not have applied for a permit for highway access. Well, whippy-dingy-doo. Some way to treat Yukoners. Some way to treat property owners along the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Chair, it is imperative that we consult with the property owners adjacent to the highway and come to some arrangements with them for highway access in a like and similar manner to what they had prior to road construction or road upgrading.
Why wasn't this done, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are circumstances here that the Member for Klondike has no knowledge of, and it would be extremely discourteous of me to give my response to this business owner's letter to the Member for Klondike before I give it to the business owner.
As part of the design of the roadway through Burwash Landing, one of the considerations included providing access to adjacent businesses and attractions at safe locations. The ditch that is now located on the right-of-way beside Burl Berry Hill is a way to clearly delineate the highway edge and prevent vehicles from uncontrolled and unsafe entry into the traffic stream.
During the design phase, consultation was held with the community. After hearing this business owner's concerns, an additional highway lane in front of the museum - which was already planned - was extended in front of his business to allow for parallel parking for tourists and others wishing to view his exhibit and visit his shop. This will replace the random parking on the right-of-way that occurred prior to reconstruction.
At this point, that is all I am going to say about that until I have had an opportunity to communicate directly with the owner. As I said, I am in the process of finishing up a letter to him.
On the matter of the Porter Creek business, once again, the member is reluctant to sit down with my officials for a briefing on highway safety standards. I cannot understand why he would be so reluctant to get this valuable information.
Now, the Member for Klondike says how easy it would be to provide the access that has been asked for. If the Member for Klondike would provide me with an engineer's report, signed and tabled in this House, that shows that the transportation engineering branch is incorrect, I would certainly be pleased to look at it.
But I have explained that the access there was not constructed in accordance with the conditions of the permit. The business owner was well aware of what the permit specified and chose to build the access otherwise. Once the access is in compliance with the conditions of the permit, then there will be no problem.
The member seems to feel that other things are more important than traffic safety. Traffic safety is of primary concern, Mr. Chair. I think many of us in this House have -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I heard the minister say that if I could prove that the access to the road, as the owner wanted, and I never did say that. The owner wants left and right turns out of the existing highway access, and I have never asked for that because I know it can't be done. I'm asking solely for a wider right-hand turn only at this juncture, because I agree with the minister that it's a safety issue.
Chair: Order please. Can I ask what the point of order is, Mr. Jenkins?
Mr. Jenkins: The point of order is that it's inaccurate information that the minister is providing to the House.
Chair: There is no point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike has agreed that two-way access can't be provided, not from there. We're making some progress. I have explained to the member that transportation engineering people are looking at the situation farther down to see if it would be possible if the owner wishes to provide the frontage road. We are very concerned about traffic safety. As I was going to say, I think many of us in this House have lost relatives and friends through traffic accidents. At this location, there have already been a couple of near misses. The city is also very concerned that we don't disregard the standards, and I will not disregard the standards, Mr. Chair.
Considering the time, I move we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled on November 1, 2001:
First Nations Education Commission Contribution Agreement: letter (dated October 9, 1997) to Grand Chief Shirley Adamson, Council of Yukon First Nations from former Minister of Education, Lois Moorcroft (Eftoda)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled on November 1, 2001:
Alaska Highway (Marsh Lake) reconstruction: contract amount; contract holdback; number of persons employed (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2396
Supplementary budget: amount spent to date (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2406
Youth Investment Fund: projects funded and amounts to date (Kent)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2362