Thursday, November 8, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Remembrance Day
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of all members of the Legislature to pay tribute to Yukon veterans and all those who have served our country in the cause of peace. This Sunday is Remembrance Day, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and at 11:00 a.m. we will stop for a moment of silence to reflect, to remember and to say thanks. Thanks to those who served in our armed forces, in civilian support services and those who served by keeping life going at home. We remember all those who have lived through and died in wars, in peacekeeping, in service to their country. We reflect on what they gave up in order to serve. We think of how their lives were changed, how their family's lives were shaped by their service.
We give thanks for peace and for freedom and we remember the price that was paid by others for us.
School children will mark Remembrance Day ceremonies in their classrooms and in school gyms and, Mr. Speaker, we have just attended, as others have attended, Remembrance Day ceremonies. I would like to particularly commend the staff and individuals and students especially at Porter Creek Secondary School and at F.H. Collins School for their fine Remembrance Day ceremonies today.
Our community, all communities in the Yukon, will hold ceremonies and lay wreaths of remembrance. Here in Whitehorse, people will gather at the Elijah Smith Building tomorrow to honour our aboriginal veterans and the contributions made by First Nations to Canada's peace. And on Sunday there will be a community remembrance ceremony at F.H. Collins School. The ceremonies are very important, Mr. Speaker, and I would urge Yukoners to join me in taking the opportunity to reflect, to give thanks and to remember.
And, Mr. Speaker, may I also offer at this time our thanks to Pauline Wood, Noreen McLennan and Joe Goodeill who have joined us in the gallery today as part of this Remembrance Day tribute.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of 60th anniversary of Canada's Air Cadets
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in the House today to announce that Canada's air cadet movement is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. While the official birthday was April 9, 2001, individual squadrons will be marking the anniversary with various activities throughout the anniversary year, ending on May 30, 2002.
Canada's air cadet movement came into being in 1941 in response to a critical need for trained young men to fly in defence of freedom. A select group of teenage youths joined the air cadets to prepare for the day when they would take their places as aircrew with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Mr. Speaker, since 1941, approximately one million young Canadians have participated in air cadets. True to its roots, the Canadian cadet program maintains its military structure, but the youth involved remain civilians and have no commitment to serve in Canada's military at any time. Membership is free, and cadets are not expected to pay for their uniforms or for their training. The focus of today's air cadet movement is on citizenship and leadership, with an orientation toward aviation.
Canada's air cadet movement is recognized as one of the most successful youth movements of its kind in the world. There are approximately 25,000 air cadets presently enrolled in Canada's 450 squadrons. The air cadet organization carries out more than 60,000 glider flights each year and turns out 320 licensed air cadet glider pilots annually. One out of every five private pilots in Canada at the present time is an ex-air cadet, and 63 percent of the commercial airline pilots flying today got their start in the air cadets. Approximately 28 percent of the flying, technical and administrative members serving in Canada's Air Force today had some form of air cadet flying.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut currently boast four air cadet squadrons, and approximately 150 young men and women proudly wear the air cadet uniform. Each cadet participates in a planning and training program that emphasizes citizenship, leadership, physical fitness and aviation. To ensure the quality of the air cadet program, each squadron is staffed and trained by reserve officers of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut air cadets today employ approximately seven officers on a part-time basis. Many of these instructors are graduate air cadets who earn a part-time income while attending college or university.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, each squadron is also supported by a group of dedicated civilian volunteers, a sponsoring organization and cadet parents who assist with fundraising and lend a hand in many aspects of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut air cadet program.
Last summer one cadet earned their wings and is now a registered private pilot. Another cadet completed their glider training and earned their right to wear glider wings on their cadet uniform.
Also, last summer, cadets from all over Canada and England attended the Whitehorse summer training camp. Since 1941, our cadets' air cadet movement, in partnership with Canada's Armed Forces and local citizens, has provided wonderful opportunities for our youth. The air cadet league continues to strive for excellence, to be recognized as the best.
On behalf of the House, I would like to offer congratulations to all air cadets, past and present, and I would like to commend and thank the officers, instructors, parents and sponsors for their dedication to helping young Canadians successfully meet the future challenge of our province, territory and our country.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I ask all members of the Legislature to welcome with us here today members of the Whitehorse Lions Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Are there any introductions of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: I would like all members of the House to join me in welcoming Steve Cardiff, president of the NDP to this House.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) basic infrastructure systems are the foundation of our Yukon communities;
(2) development of basic infrastructure in the Yukon is all about improving the quality of life for all Yukoners; and
(3) the Yukon Liberal government has allocated $2.7 million in funds for the construction of a sewage disposal plant in the Village of Carmacks; and
THAT this House applaud the Yukon Liberal government for doing what it said it would do by following through on the commitment to review and prioritize the sewer and water infrastructure needs of Yukon communities and begin to plan for their construction.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Robert Nault, Minister of DIAND, visit to Yukon
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier.
The Yukon is bracing itself for another visit by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. Given the Liberals' excellent relationship, I'm sure the Premier is looking forward to that event.
At the same time, the devolution transfer agreement is before the House of Commons, and we know that the federal government has its own way of dealing with agreements, which is why a 19-page Yukon Act mushroomed into something the size of War and Peace.
Will the Premier ask Mr. Nault for an iron-clad guarantee that there will be no reduction in funds for fire suppression and other programs that the Yukon will inherit through devolution in 2003?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the forest fire suppression is a portion of the devolution transfer agreement that has been negotiated and is, as the member has noted, presently in the House of Commons. I would just add that the House of Commons, as the member may be aware, will be recessed next week. Following that recess, the bill, including the Yukon Act and the devolution transfer agreement, is being discussed at committee in the House.
So Minister Nault and the House have referred the bill to committee, and that's the stage it's at now.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, that wasn't my question. I asked the Premier to ask for an iron-clad guarantee on that.
The federal minister's last visit left both miners and First Nations feeling battered and bruised. It left the forest industry feeling totally neglected one more time. CYFN has given only conditional support to the devolution agreement, and other First Nations, especially the Kaska, are flat out against devolution until their land claims are settled. And the minister's mandate runs out in less than five months.
Is the Premier confident that Mr. Nault will be bringing - and listen carefully - a deal-making mandate to settle the outstanding land claims when he meets with the Kaska?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's my understanding that Minister Nault has meetings scheduled with the First Nations in White River, Kluane, as well as Kaska First Nations and Kwanlin Dun, I believe. So it's my understanding that Minister Nault intends to speak and work with the First Nation chiefs whose land claims have not yet been settled. The Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and the First Nations are the three parties at the land claims table, as the member opposite knows. While I'm certainly well aware of the Government of Yukon's actions at the table, I cannot speak for the Government of Canada's.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that only tells me one thing - that this Premier's not confident in what Mr. Nault will be bringing to the Yukon. One of the critical areas of concern for Kaskas and the forest stakeholders in southeast Yukon is the mess that DIAND has made with forestry. And this Yukon Liberal government has done virtually nothing to improve that situation. Is the Premier confident that Mr. Nault will do what it takes to get the issues solved so the transfer of responsibility of Yukon forests can take place in an orderly manner according to the principles outlined in the Yukon forest strategy?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday in the House, the departments of Economic Development and Renewable Resources are working very closely with DIAND to ensure a smooth and seamless transfer of forestry after devolution.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Recent developments as early as yesterday, Mr. Speaker, dictate that the Premier can no longer sit and stare at the heavens when she doesn't like a question that is addressed to her. It is now clear without a doubt that the Premier has allowed a situation to develop that has put two of her MLAs in a very, very difficult position. Day after day the Minister of Education has had to stand on his feet and read a script prepared by the Premier's staff and a script that is certainly not going to win the Governor General's Award for Non-fiction.
My question for the Premier: will the Premier now accept her responsibility as a leader and apologize to the Minister of Education and the Member for Whitehorse West for the untenable position her office has put them in.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, that was certainly an entertaining question. As the member opposite knows full well, and I have repeated in this House many times, I am not under the direction of the Premier's office when I speak in this House. I do prepare my own notes with help from some of the staff, that's true.
The fact of the matter is that the Member for Whitehorse West did nothing wrong in January and early February last year. He was out talking to constituents, to friends, to colleagues - just doing his job, Mr. Speaker. And it is through the irresponsible actions of the members opposite that the stories are getting confusing at all times.
What I would suggest to the members, actually, is instead of just sitting in their offices waiting for the phone to ring, they can actually use the little white buttons on the phone to reach out and touch someone - the technology is there.
You know, the phones are actually a two-way form of communication, Mr. Speaker, and the members opposite should call the people to verify the facts. Or is it that they just don't want the facts to get in the way of the story that they're continually working on, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: The facts on this matter speak for themselves. I think the Premier should be ashamed of herself to still allow this minister to stand up and take the brunt of this inappropriate action by her office and her staff. The buck stops at the Premier's desk - she has said that herself. Or does the buck only stop at her desk as long as things aren't too hot to handle for the Premier?
A fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy is that the minister accepts the responsibility when an employee knowingly acts inappropriately. That is especially true when it comes to the political staff. The Premier is personally responsible for their actions.
Why has the Premier allowed her office to be used in such an inappropriate manner, when she, herself, could have put this matter to rest on the very first question on the very first day?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and it continues - the personal attacks that the members opposite can only fall back on when they don't have any questions of substance to ask on policy, or where they should be.
As the Member for Kluane often says, they are holding us to account for government actions, for policy, for work that we're doing. Fine. Ask questions on that. But no, the members opposite, once again, are focusing their personal attacks, now attacking the Premier for doing the fine job she is doing in leading this party and leading us forward, in repairing the damages of the past government, and building credibility between the government and the Yukon people in support of Yukoners, at all times.
But no, they insist that their overall strategy is to work in personal attacks, and they've done it to every member on this side. It's very unfortunate that they have and that they are conducting themselves in this manner in this House.
Mr. Fentie: I feel truly sorry for this minister being reduced to accusations that we on this side of the House are conducting personal attacks on the members opposite. Read the news. Listen to the radio. The members opposite should be talking to the people. We don't need to. The facts speak for themselves.
We have been very patient, Mr. Speaker, with the Premier as she has grossly mismanaged this issue, along with many others. We have been prepared to accept that the Member for Whitehorse West simply made a well-intentioned error in judgement, and the facts bear that out. If the Premier does not do the right thing, it is the court of public opinion that will be judge, jury and executioner of the Premier and her government.
One final time: will she stand up, correct the record and apologize for the actions that emanated from her office?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, quite frankly the Premier has nothing to apologize for. She has done absolutely nothing wrong. They, on that side, are continuing their vendettas. They are continuing to challenge the credibility of members on this side of the House. There is a double standard quite obviously being perpetrated in this House. It was okay for the previous government to do what they did - when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, when he was the Minister of Tourism, flew down to Calgary and met with representatives of Parallel Strategies to talk about a tourism contract in the middle of a bid process. That was okay, there's nothing wrong with that, it's different. That's what we hear from the members opposite. It was okay for the former Minister of Education, a colleague of the members opposite, who met with the union just days before the tender closed, and she was a member of Cabinet and of Management Board - a very influential position, Mr. Speaker. But that was okay; there was nothing wrong with that - obviously a double standard.
The Member for Whitehorse West was simply doing his job, long before the tender went out, Mr. Speaker. He did nothing wrong. He was doing his job, like all members on this side of the House do. We get out and talk and listen to the public at large, and I would certainly encourage the members opposite to at least just listen to the public themselves.
Question re: Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act
Mr. Jenkins: I'm always amazed at the Liberals' ability to cover up mud with solid dirt.
My question today is for the Premier. In the Premier's ministerial statement on C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act, the Premier stated 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. The Premier's statement, however, is contradicted by what the new act really says. It says that the Commissioner shall act in accordance with any written instruction given to the Commissioner by the Governor in Council or the minister. Further, section 68 of the same bill says that that will remain in effect for 10 years.
This is no constitutional advancement, Mr. Speaker, as the Premier pretends. Is this one of the reasons why the Premier has not made this important act available to Yukoners? When will Yukoners be informed of the many changes in the new Yukon Act that is presently before the federal Parliament, and when will they be consulted on it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Once again, for the member opposite, Yukoners were consulted at length about the Yukon Act. The Yukon Act is a federal piece of legislation. It must be tabled in the House of Commons. Therefore, officials have taken the work that has been done on the Yukon Act and worked very long and very hard, from some painstaking negotiations that involved quite a variety of Yukoners, and they have drafted the Yukon Act that is now before the House of Commons. That Yukon Act reflects, among other things - updates the language of the act and reflects that this very place is a Legislature and is referred to as the Legislative Assembly as opposed to the Territorial Council. It also does reflect the wishes and views of the Epp letter of 1979, as the member opposite has pointed out.
What the member opposite is not realizing - if he would continue to read the act, which is quite extensive - is that the provision he mentioned is one that was previously in the act and what is new is that it is sunsetted. By the year 2013, that provision will no longer be in existence.
I commend the member opposite's interests in the Yukon Act. Unfortunately, he has chosen once again to indicate to Yukoners his lack of support for Yukoners making decisions on behalf of Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have out in the public domain now are two Yukon acts, one that the NDP consulted extensively with Yukoners on, and a new version with a whole series of amendments that neither of the Liberal governments - at the territorial level and at the federal level - have consulted on with Yukoners.
The Epp letter that the Premier referred to instructed the Commissioner to follow the advice of the Yukon Cabinet on all matters of exclusive territorial jurisdiction. These instructions, however, could be changed at any time by a subsequent Minister of DIAND, and Bill C-39 enshrines that. Where is progress? Can the minister explain why the DIAND minister can issue new instructions to the Commissioner, taking away the responsibilities granted in the 1979 Epp letter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not clearly aware and not following the legislation, which is in the public domain and which has been tabled in the House of Commons. The member opposite has been offered, in the past, a detailed briefing on the devolution transfer agreement. Clearly, the member has not availed himself of a detailed briefing on the Yukon Act. If the member wishes to have it, we certainly will make such available to him.
The fact is, the Yukon Act is supported by Yukoners, has been worked on by Yukoners and contains the views of Yukoners. It is a legal piece of legislation that is before the House of Commons, which is very detailed, and to even begin to address some of the misunderstandings of the member opposite, Mr. Speaker, would take far more time than what I have in Question Period.
I'm more than happy to have officials sit down with the member opposite so that he can fully understand the new Yukon Act. It is being debated. I again would encourage all members to examine it. The Yukon Act, Mr. Speaker, has received support from every single party - and there are many of them - in the House of Commons. I fail to understand why the member opposite, who calls himself the leader of the Yukon Party, is failing to support Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners deserve to be consulted on this new piece of legislation. They have not been. The NDP consulted extensively on a different version of the Yukon Act. Currently the act before the House has a tremendous amount of changes, Mr. Speaker, that the minister is hiding.
Mr. Speaker, can the Premier advise the House what happens 10 years from now when the DIAND minister ceases to give instructions to the Commissioner? Is that when the democratic concepts articulated in Epp's letter are finally to be recognized, and is that when Yukoners are supposed to hold their celebration? Is it 10 years from when this act is given assent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When the Yukon Act passes the House of Commons, expected by Christmas of this year, and then makes its way through the Senate, likely by the spring, Yukoners will have much to celebrate. It contains a devolution transfer agreement, negotiated by Yukoners, with Yukoners, which fully recognizes that accountable, elected Yukoners will be making decisions on behalf of this territory.
The Yukon Act, Mr. Speaker, is the umbrella that contains the devolution transfer agreement. It's a very exciting, historic moment for Yukoners, and to suggest that it does not contain the wishes or views of Yukoners is completely wrong. It does, and it has been crafted and worked on, negotiated at great length, by Yukoners, and it represents the wishes and views of Yukoners.
It's worthy of support of members of the House of Commons, and worthy of the support of members of this House, and of Yukoners. It is most unfortunate that the leader of the Yukon Party fails to either support the devolution transfer agreement or the Yukon Act.
Question re: Forest strategy
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the Premier. With the arrival of Minister Nault in our territory this weekend, the minister in charge of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and the situation that the Yukon, again, finds itself in - a total chaotic mess when it comes to forest management for this territory, and especially in the southeast Yukon, where the greatest pressure is - will the Premier make representations to the minister responsible for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to have him intervene in this process and get it back on track, so it does not continue to contravene the Yukon Territory's policy on forest management, which is the Yukon forest strategy?
Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I intend to speak with Minister Nault about forestry issues, as do, I'm certain, the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Renewable Resources.
As the Minister of Economic Development has pointed out in this House on several occasions, the Yukon government departments of Economic Development and Renewable Resources are working very closely with the current Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development staff to try and resolve some of these long-outstanding issues and problems. I certainly intend to draw them to the minister's attention again when he visits this week.
There are a number of items on the minister's agenda, and I would reassure the member opposite that, yes, forestry is one of them.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier's answer now confirms that this Yukon Liberal government is responsible for the mess that we find ourselves in when it comes to forest management.
I ask the Premier: will the Premier make representation to the minister to get the process back on track so that it adheres to the Yukon forest strategy, which is, by the way, the Yukon government's policy for the development of a forest management plan? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would remind the member opposite that when he stood back there and spoke about the Yukon forest strategy, it was not supported by Yukon First Nations. I would caution him in his references to that today, Mr. Speaker.
I have already advised the member opposite that the issues surrounding forestry are certainly on this government's agenda to raise with Minister Nault. Forestry is, until April 1, 2003, still a Government of Canada responsibility.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me reciprocate to the Premier with a little caution. Not only does this Liberal government's approach to forestry not have the support of the Kaska First Nation in southeast Yukon, it does not have the support of the mayor and council. It does not have the support of the Chamber of Commerce or of the much-vaunted planning committee that this Liberal government supports. It does not have the support of the majority of the members of the planning committee; it does not have the support of the MLA; it does not have the support of the people of the community.
This Premier is sitting idly by while the federal government's deficiencies in forest management in this territory are compromising Yukon's future. It's time that this Premier got something right and tried to put a little lustre back on this Premier and her government's tarnished image - have the Minister of DIAND intervene in this process, get it back on track so that it is consistent with the principles of the Yukon forest strategy, which are sustainability, economic viability ...
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Fentie: ... and social acceptability. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have already indicated to the member opposite that forestry is on the list of agenda items we have to speak with Minister Nault about. We have, in fact, already spoken with his office and indicated that forestry is on the agenda. Forestry will be discussed by Minister Nault and I, and also the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Minister of Economic Development. We are very aware of this. We have been proactive and have worked very hard on this particular issue.
To suggest that this side of the House somehow has a tarnished reputation, I would point, Mr. Speaker, to having settled a land claim, devolution, Yukon Act, millions of dollars in negotiated agreement to put infrastructure throughout the Yukon. This government has a number of successes to be very proud of and will continue that work throughout this mandate.
Question re: Airline service
Mr. McRobb: Today I have another question for the Minister of Tourism. Yesterday the minister said, once again, it's the bottom line. The Air Canada Corporation, she says, Mr. Speaker, has the lowest airfare and that will get the government's business. That is some $3.5 million per year. But such a policy isn't necessarily in the Yukon's best interest. Air Canada Corporation has demonstrated absolutely no loyalty to the Yukon.
Does the minister not recognize that the company will go to any length to crush competitors and protect its monopoly?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, what I know is that Yukoners deserve the best in air access. What that means is good service. That means looking at other gateways when we leave the Yukon. That means looking at Alberta, which is where our study has shown there is a real interest in going.
Yukoners deserve good fares. That's why this government is going to be looking for a considerable reduction in fares when we negotiate with Air Canada and when we look to other carriers. This government believes that Yukoners are entitled to good connections so that, when we arrive in Vancouver or somewhere in Alberta, they can connect to the rest of Canada. That's reasonable, Mr. Speaker. That's why we embarked on the process of air access. We believe that Yukoners deserve the best.
Mr. McRobb: Speaking of good connections, Mr. Speaker, I'm wondering how that answer connects to the question, because she didn't respond to the competition and monopoly aspect of the question.
Now, we all know how Yukoners feel about how Air Canada has treated them. People would accept their government supporting a local carrier. This government now has the opportunity to do exactly that. For example, Air North is an established and reputable Yukon business with a proven track record. Further, this local company has First Nation ownership interests. Surely this government would rank that higher than the interests of a monolithic company that takes most of its revenues from Yukon passengers outside of the territory. Why is the minister prepared to side with Air Canada's predator pricing practices that can disable the ability of local air carriers to compete?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite has a rich fantasy life.
First of all, let's be absolutely clear. We have talked continually to Air North. We continue to do that on almost a daily basis.
We have spoken to them about joint marketing programs, because it's in their interest and our interest to market the Yukon together.
We have held off our air access study for three months.
The Premier also sent a letter to Mr. Milton introducing Air North to Air Canada to talk about the route that they were interested in. We worked really hard with Air North, and we have been very clear in our message to Air North - it's the same one we would give to anyone we've been negotiating with.
Yukoners deserve the best. We want better airfares. We want better connections, and we want better service.
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday the minister said that she was disgusted with the news about how Air Canada has changed the point plan. It sounded like the latest straw on the camel's back.
Concerned members of the public are already gearing up for next Saturday's public meeting in Whitehorse with Air Travel Complaints Commissioner Bruce Hood. Can the minister tell us what official position her government will be presenting to Commissioner Hood?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has been bringing air access to the national table for a number of years - even when the side opposite was in government. We succeeded last year.
We had Intervistas Consulting do a national air access study. Since then, the Yukon has almost completed their own air access study.
What we're going to be telling Mr. Hood is what we've always told the federal government - that we want better service, we want better connections and we want better prices.
Question re: Airline service
Mr. Fairclough: I have a related question for the Premier.
The Minister of DIAND is the person who is currently responsible for ensuring the economic viability of northern Canada. Reliable, affordable air transportation is absolutely vital to Yukon's economic survival.
What position will the Premier be putting forward to Mr. Nault about Air Canada's treatment of Yukon people, and the need to prevent Air Canada from creating and exploiting a monopoly position that would not be in the Yukon's interest?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I've mentioned this in the House before, but the Premier is going to be going to Ottawa at the end of this month. She is going to be speaking to the members responsible in Parliament about what our position is on air access. We bring to the table something very different from every other jurisdiction in Canada, and that is that we have a monopoly airline in the winter. Mr. Speaker, what we have told the federal MPs and what we have told all of the federal Cabinet is that it is in the Yukon's interest to come up with better air access to the Yukon Territory.
Better air access - and perhaps I need to repeat this again - means better fares, better connections and better service.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Mr. McLarnon: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a recess until 2:00 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Chair: Community and Transportation Services has been set aside, and we will now start with the Department of Finance.
Department of Finance
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps I could introduce the comments on the Department of Finance in the supplementary budget. The department is in fact giving up monies by means of this supplementary. The additional sums that are required were required for staffing costs in the payroll branch and for an unanticipated charge under the Workers' Compensation supplementary benefits program. Those two amounts total $150,000. They are offset by the receipt of monies previously held in trust as a result of the ongoing Curragh legal saga. That amount returned is shown in the supplementary budget as $718,000, for a net of $568,000.
The receipt of these monies is being recorded as a negative expense since they were originally recorded as a bad debt expense in previous years.
Mr. Chair, that's the essence of the additional information members might require for the supplementary vote in the Department of Finance. I am prepared to answer any questions they may have in general debate on this particular department.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister brought forward a ministerial statement to the floor of this Legislature about renewal and improving accountability to the public and also to employees. The Premier said that this will be a more simple budget and accounting process. Maybe the Premier can let us know how and what we can expect to see for documents given to us on, for example, the budget and how we can follow along a little more simply to understand what is in the budget.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That ministerial statement that I delivered to the House a few days ago dealing with accountability - as the member has pointed out, departments are working on this. And the member is quite correct, the members of the Legislature and the public will see a new budget format when the budget is tabled next year.
The accountability is quite a detailed discussion. What I can advise the member opposite is that we have examined practices in other jurisdictions. I can provide the member opposite with some extensive reading material on this if he wishes. We have looked at them and modified them to a Yukon model, if you will.
What it says, in short, is that there will be clear core functions identified by departments. And, much as the way we see departments with a departmental objective written in, there will be some core services by departments identified, and there will be measurable goals outlined as well.
So it is going to take some work over a period of years before we see a full and more complete - some of the departments won't have all of the measurable goals outlined as yet, as they will be new departments, but there will certainly be an accountability framework that members opposite will see.
Our effort is designed to make the budget easier to read, as the member has suggested. It's also designed so that Yukoners will see more clearly precisely what services are delivered by government departments and the goals and measurable results.
The member opposite can think back in the general debate on the budget. In the larger text of the budget there is a number of statistical pages that aren't often debated at great length in this House. The member opposite and I will agree on that, I believe. Those statistics don't necessarily always seem to relate to the preceding pages. So the short answer is that the member will see more results. The budget will be easier to read. Individuals are working on it now. If the member would like to have a more detailed discussion on the accountability framework, the departments are working on it now, and I can arrange for that early in the new year. In the meantime, there's quite an extensive body of reading I'd be happy to recommend to the member opposite if he wishes.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not really interested in going into the details and reading about how the improvements can be made. What I'd like is a real simple form that I can take to the general public that has been asking me about this. Maybe the Premier can give me an example of how we can see improvements. If we take, for example, bad debt expenses to the public - reading $718,000 - I know that the minister has given some explanation on it. How is the public then going to be able to take that number and really know what that number really means?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In this particular reference that the member has made - this bad-debt expense - this is the receipt of monies that are being recorded as a negative expense because they were originally recorded as a bad-debt expense in years previous. That particular example is a difficult one for the member opposite, because it's the result of a very long legal saga, and it's not as clear an example as I can provide to the member opposite. A clearer example, in some of the other departments, I could outline for the member opposite if he wished.
The fact is that accountability plans presently being worked on by the departments consider all government's policy decisions. They have the vision, mission, values and core businesses of the department, and the goals and objectives for each of the core businesses, as well as the strategies for meeting those goals and objectives, and the cost of delivering each core business or service.
And departments are working on this now, so I'm going to - I don't particularly like to use a hypothetical example, but I'm going to, in this case, for the member opposite. If, at the conclusion of their work, Finance has listed the treasury as one of their core businesses, if you will, and that line item, it would show the cost of delivering that core service. In this particular case it would show, in the supplementary before us, that the cost of the treasury required an additional $130,000 this year.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm sure the public is interested in the large amounts of monies - $718,000 is a lot of money to the public and, really, a good, detailed and simple explanation to them of what that really means is an improvement to what we see in the books today.
I'd like to ask the Premier about the $54-million supplementary. I would like to ask her how it was developed and where it is with respect to communities and putting community people to work.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we already provided that information to the members opposite in a legislative return I filed the other day in response to a question from the Member for Watson Lake. It was asked in general debate on the whole supplementary. This particular debate, as I understand it, is focused on the Department of Finance itself.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the public out there is very interested in this large amount of money and how it creates work and finishes off projects in the communities and I would like more explanation, if I can get it, from the Premier.
I would like to ask the Premier, the Finance minister, if this supplementary is reflective of any reduction of income tax that was put forward as revenues - put forward in the past couple of years - as we see, up to 12 percent in 2002 - if that's already reflected in this supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair, the tax rates this year are reflected in the supplementary.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier say approximately how much is reduced from what we normally get out of income tax?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The simplest explanation for the member opposite is if the tax cuts had not been put in place there would be about - and this is an estimate - $2.25 million more in territorial revenue than what is seen here. That's if we had not put the tax cuts in place.
Mr. Fairclough: This is annually. And next year, of course, what's going to be reflected is a greater reduction in income tax? What can we expect for a reduction in revenue next year? Is it double what we have here?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The reduction in taxes is about two points, which is about $1.2 million. That's what we will see for a reduction next year.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a final question for the Premier in regard to Yukon Housing and their green mortgage. I didn't see it reflected in the Housing Corporation.
I am wondering if that mortgage - I know that it goes toward senior housing, but a portion of it also falls into general revenue. I am just wondering where we can expect it. Is it going to be in Yukon Housing Corporation? Because I don't see it listed as a line item.
Or is that whole program gone?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, the program is not gone. The revenues of the Yukon Housing Corporation are folded into the general revenues of the territorial government, so you wouldn't see a specific line item that says what this is - of course, our grant as well.
Sorry, Mr. Chair, they are folded into the corporation. The detailed response that the member wants on the success of the green mortgage program and precisely how successful in terms of monetary terms, the minister responsible will come with a detailed answer during that debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple of short questions for the Premier on this area.
The operation of the mine at Faro created a great deal of economic benefit for a number of years for Yukon. We enjoyed the benefits for those years and now we are incurring the cost. Has the minister done an analysis as to what it is eventually going to cost for the last two shutdowns for Yukon people? We are incurring that expense every month on our power bills. And what is it eventually going to cost the Government of the Yukon and the people of the Yukon for the mine operation in Faro?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I think the member is asking me - and perhaps he can clarify this - a question that some others have asked, which is: for the whole from start to finish - the operation at Faro - what has been the Government of Canada's and the Government of Yukon's contribution and the people contribution - the taxpayers' contribution, if you will - and what have been the revenues in terms of royalty and economic spinoffs? I suspect the member wants that detail. The member is shaking his head. Perhaps the member would like to clarify his question.
Mr. Jenkins: We know of the benefits that Yukon has accrued over the years that the mine in Faro was in operation and we have enjoyed those benefits. What I am exploring with the minister and what I would like to know is: what is the ultimate, final cost to Yukoners going to be for both the Curragh and Anvil Range shutdown? Whether it is related to the surcharge on our electrical bills, or whether it is litigation that is ongoing, which it certainly is in a number of areas, what is it eventually going to cost for the Curragh shutdown and the Anvil Range shutdown?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite asks an interesting question, and I will pull together the detailed information. It's going to take some effort on the part of officials. I will pull together the detailed information and provide it to the member by way of legislative return or, if the Legislature has risen, Mr. Chair, I'll make sure the member has a letter.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the Premier for that information.
One other matter is with respect to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. I am aware that the government is looking at becoming self-insured once again. I asked the Premier this question previously. I'd like to know just when the final results of the overview as to the benefits of being self-insured vis-à-vis going under the auspices of Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - I know we pay out $2.5 million a year in assessments to Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board from Government of the Yukon and, if we cash flowed it for just the expenses and administration costs, there would be quite a considerable savings for our coverage, like other governments have incurred or realized, Mr. Chair.
Just where are we at with this analysis and this undertaking, and when can we see a decision made, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is quite right. This is a matter under serious consideration by the Government of the Yukon, and the member opposite will see the results in the next budget of what decision and course of action the government chooses to pursue.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, given the total revenues or assessments that are levied by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, this is the largest significant amount that they take in, and it's only recently that Government of the Yukon has been covered by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. What are we doing to explore with Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board the pros and cons? Because Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has grown to a monstrous size, serving an ever-shrinking workforce here in Yukon, and that kind of a decision will impact on Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board quite considerably. What tack has been taken by the government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to, at the outset, convey to the member that I understand his point and empathize with what he's saying. The government is giving very serious consideration to this issue, and we are dealing with it, and the member will see the results of that in the next budget. Precisely how we are exploring this and the steps we're taking in examining this - we have a number of items under consideration, and this is a very serious one. We're looking at it in a number of ways, Mr. Chair, and I can assure the member that we're very conscious, of course. The member has pointed out that the Government of Yukon is the largest contributor to workers' compensation. Also, of course, we're very conscious of the private sector. There are members on our side of the House who have come from private sector backgrounds, and we're very conscious of this effort.
As well, I understand, too, that we're working toward a very good relationship with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. The minister responsible has worked very hard with the board. We look to seeking a solution to this while maintaining that good working relationship.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not interested in all of the window dressing about working cooperatively and everything. What I believe is the issue here is to provide the highest consistent possible level of coverage at the best possible cost to Yukon taxpayers. I believe that's the exercise that Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board should be engaged in, to provide the best coverage for the workforce at the best rates, and provide the widest range of benefits possible.
But, given the tremendous growth in administration costs in Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and given that the Government of Yukon has elected to become covered by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, that decision impacted tremendously on their decision-making processes and the size of the organization. Further to that, Mr. Chair, it also impacts on their assessment base to the greatest extent.
So, when the minister says "work cooperatively", fine. There has to be a game plan there, Mr. Chair, and most governments in Canada are self-insured. They are administered by the various WCBs. The federal government employees here in the Yukon are covered and the process is administered through the WCB in Alberta, and their rates are considerably less than is currently being provided here in the Yukon by the Yukon WCB. So, there's more than just working cooperatively with the minister responsible for WCB. There's a whole range of issues here that should be on the table for discussion and should be dealt with.
The minister says it's under serious discussion. Is any of this discussion in the public domain, Mr. Chair, or is it all going on behind closed doors?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it is not a public consultation process, if that is what the member is asking. I have already indicated to the member opposite that I empathize with the point he is trying to make and we, as a government, are working very hard on this particular issue. We will continue that work, and I have already indicated to the member opposite that the results of that work will be evident in the next budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, on page S-2 in this supplementary, it says that the accumulated surplus on March 31, 2001, at the beginning of this fiscal year, was $99,122,000. Can the Premier, the Finance minister, confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What I will confirm for the member opposite is that the forecast annual deficit for the year 2001-02, as per Supplementary No. 1, is $48,046,000, and that drew down on a surplus, at that point, of $99,122,000. The balance, Mr. Chair, which is what the Yukon public is interested in, is an estimated accumulated surplus, as of March 31, 2002, at fiscal year-end - which is approaching all too rapidly - of $51,076,000.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that wasn't my question. I understand that government spends when there is a surplus.
I just want confirmation from the Premier on whether there was $99,122,000 at the beginning of this fiscal year.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I told the member opposite that the deficit forecast at the beginning of this fiscal year was $48 million.
I said - if the member chooses to listen carefully - that that drew down on a surplus of $99 million. I did say that in the first response.
What I also said was that $99 million, less the deficit, less a forecasted accumulated surplus as of March 31, 2002 of $51 million.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that. I hope that she relates that message over to her colleagues because they are forgetting that this government did start off at the beginning of the fiscal year with a $99-million surplus. We all understand that, we have it straight now, and I hope the message does come out straight from the members opposite, because it should be clear. The rest - the spending, the deficit - is government spending.
Mr. Chair, I have no further questions.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In all fairness, I do trust that the member opposite also understands that the forecasted accumulated deficit, at the same time, which must also be recognized if one is - as the member suggests we ought to be - open and accountable, is $48 million. That is the spending - drew down on that.
In all fairness, the member opposite has asked us to be accountable to the public, and we have been. And the forecast for the accumulated surplus as of March 31, which is the current fiscal year that we're operating in - 2002 - is $51 million. That's the point.
As much as the members opposite will stand and say that we started out the year with $99 million, we started out the year with a $48-million deficit, too, and the members have to recognize that.
The fact is that what Yukoners are asking for is wise expenditure of taxpayers' funds, and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier doesn't have to put a spin on it at all, just the numbers. What the Premier could have said is, "This is what the government decided to spend down on the accumulated surplus." That is all that could have been said. She didn't say anything about lapses, and so on. I don't want to get into that discussion. That is government spending. That is the Liberal government's choice - to deficit finance.
Mr. Jenkins: This is a very interesting topic, and the spin that the Liberals are attempting to put on it is that there is no $99-million surplus. The Auditor General confirmed that there was a $99-million surplus at the end of the last fiscal period. What the Liberals are attempting to portray is the forecasted deficit at the end of the next fiscal period, or projected surplus, which takes into account a whole series of factors that we won't know about until we get closer to the date. We will have a reasonably good expectation, but it is the minister's own budgeting that determines how much they are going to deficit finance. And she, as Minister of Finance, and her caucus is solely responsible for deficit financing. That's it - that's a given - so, it is very, very difficult for the public to fathom what the discussion is about when the Auditor General has confirmed the accumulated surplus at the end of the last fiscal period. All the Liberals want to deal with is forecasted and projected, and that is of their own making and their own choosing.
The reality is at the end of the fiscal period when the Auditor General confirms an amount, and that is the bottom line. I have no further general debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we'll proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Treasury in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Workers' Compensation Supplementary Benefits
Workers' Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of an underexpenditure of $568,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Chair: We'll take a two-minute recess while we wait for the officials to change.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Department of Community and Transportation Services - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate, Community and Transportation Services. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fairclough: I did ask the minister to provide information in regard to the road in Mayo that goes to the lands office. It's approximately one kilometre of road and I'm waiting for information in that respect.
I would like to ask the minister in regard to the Mount Nansen Road. There has been some work done on it over the last number of years. They have taken a lot of the really dangerous corners out of it, and that was all through the rural roads program. It was also the time when BYG was still in operation.
But what I have noticed this year is that there has been some work done on that road but, to me, it's like prep work. A lot of the mud holes and the like were covered up by very big rocks. That made the road really rough and hard to drive on. I'm wondering if this is a phase of a rural roads program that will continue on the Mount Nansen Road.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To the best of my knowledge, the only work that has been done on the Mount Nansen Road this year is regular maintenance. There were no rural roads projects.
Mr. Fairclough: I am surprised, because the regular maintenance on the Mount Nansen Road normally is just grading it, and that is done only a couple of times a year. This year, there was lots of gravel put on for almost 30 kilometres or more on that road. It is patches here and there, so it has to be more than just maintenance, and I'm wondering if the Premier can bring information back. If not, if she does have some in front of her, if she could update me as to what went into that road. Was it rural roads and, if so, is it going to continue for next year?
One of the things I would recommend is to have a better surface put on what was put down over last year, because that is making that portion of the road really, really rough to ride on. I am just wondering if the minister can bring that type of information to me.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all, thank you for the promotion. I prefer just being a minister.
I'll be glad to look into it and get information for the member.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that, or the minister for that.
The community of Carmacks - it was read out by the Member for Whitehorse Centre that this government is helping the community of Carmacks - it was stated the "village" of Carmacks - for a new sewage plant. There is much more to it for that community than just the plant itself.
Now there are problems with the sewer lines, and normally government funds about 90 percent of the project. What has been recently discussed in that community is to have water also put in at the same time as the sewer lines are put in.
Is this government and this department considering doing that along with the septic system - the mechanical plan that they're putting into that community, along with the sewer lines?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Village of Carmacks and the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation have agreed on the type of sewage treatment system - a mechanical treatment plant - and it is being sized to accommodate the entire community.
Expanding the piped collection system isn't part of this project. The existing collection system will be retained. We've communicated to the village that the cost-share agreement would likely be in the 90-percent range for allowable expenditures, to a maximum of between $3 million and $5 million, and I'm expecting that a capital funding agreement will be submitted to Management Board later this month.
A water system is not included in the plans.
Mr. Fairclough: I've asked the minister this question before. And the community, in looking at a mechanical system, which is more favoured, I guess, in the community than, say, other systems because of the location of the community - this mechanical system could go beyond the $5 million. Is the Premier saying that the government will not be considering anything higher than $5 million?
What it really means is a huge impact to the Village of Carmacks where, if they are to, I guess, swallow the additional cost - if it's around $7 million - they would not be able to do the additional work that's necessary and is probably more important right now than the mechanical system that's designed to be put in place.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had said cost sharing 90 percent for allowable expenditures to a maximum of between $3 million and $5 million. It isn't in the budget, at this point, to go beyond that. Again, as for water, the village doesn't operate a municipal water supply and distribution system. Some preliminary cost estimates have been done, indicating that this would cost about $5.1 million and would serve only the existing municipal area; it wouldn't serve the whole community.
Mr. Fairclough: I'm unclear on the answer from the minister. Did she say that the water system would only serve the downtown section of Carmacks?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's what the preliminary cost estimates indicate. However, the sewage treatment plant will be sized to accommodate the entire community. Some of that will be piped and some will not be.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, some of it will be piped? Can the minister explain that? Because what I see happening right now is, we're going to put a mechanical system in the community of Carmacks that's going to cost a large amount of money for only a small portion of that community to access. Right now, the mechanical plant - the only one in the Yukon - that's operating in that community, only serves 40 percent of the community which, for a small community, is not right. I did ask the minister whether or not this would be serving all the community. I know it will be big enough to do that, but how we tie the communities in is what I'm interested in because, right now, I believe the Village of Carmacks is in a position of having to replace all of the sewage lines that are in that community, and they're waiting to do that work. They don't want to rip up the roads and put the line in and have to rip up the roads again. It's a big cost to them.
So what the minister is saying is that there are no monies and the government is making no commitment at this point for government monies to go to into any sewage line replacement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's correct, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there interest on the government side to put money into this work? Right now, it's very rapidly becoming a health issue, and it's to the point where the village has to put in all kinds of money to replace this line. I don't think they can just leave it alone and have a new system in place and not replace the lines. So, I'm just asking.
I would expect, I guess, if government is going to the extent of replacing a mechanical system such as this, it would serve the community well, and serving the community well means that the sewage system lines that are put in place should be ones that can be used by the community.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have said, the facility is sized to accommodate the entire community, but expanding the piped collection system isn't part of the project. The existing collection system will be retained, so it will be some piped and some trucked.
Mr. Fairclough: Has there been any interest or request given by the Village of Carmacks for the Government of Yukon to participate in the project of putting a new sewage line in the community of Carmacks?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the community is considering this. I have not yet received a request from them. As I have mentioned several times, we are doing an assessment of infrastructure in municipalities around the territory, with safe water and sewage treatment and disposal, as well as solid waste disposal sites, being our main emphasis. That report I should be tabling in late November.
We have been working on dealing with this mechanical treatment plant, and the scope of the project is as I have outlined it. That certainly doesn't shut the door on future projects at some point, Mr. Chair, but we are dealing with this infrastructure review at this point.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the minister have plans to sit down with the Village of Carmacks and look at what the project really means? I don't know what it means when they are replacing sewage lines and so on. I know it is becoming a problem. They have done tests on them, having robots in and out of the pipes. They know that there are leaks all over the place. There have been attempts to try and fix them but it hasn't happened. I am not sure if it is because of the age or the type of material that was used in the first place. So, is there going to be a scheduled meeting or a meeting in the future to address this particular project, along with pipe water to homes in that community?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am always happy to discuss with any of the municipalities any of their infrastructure projects. The officials in my department have met with the Village of Carmacks on a number of occasions. The village has not asked for a meeting with me on this particular project or any future projects, as yet.
Mr. Fairclough: Then would the minister call a meeting with the village to talk about this. I am not sure exactly where it would go but I can tell the minister that the water situation in Carmacks is becoming a very big problem. We have already seen the First Nation side having to spend all kinds of money moving the whole community from one level up to the upper level in that community. That took a lot of money and expenditures from both First Nation and a lot of federal money that went into that. That was years and years of work, and that was because that water table was to the point where you could not drink it. That is becoming the same situation in Carmacks and it is going to be one that is very serious if it is not addressed earlier. So, I am just asking whether the minister can make that commitment and work with the community and raise this. I know it is a big issue there and if it hasn't already been raised by the village, it should have been.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will be able to discuss this in greater detail when the infrastructure assessment is completed. We're always willing to meet. I don't have the information on the results of the assessment yet. When I do have the information, I will certainly invite a meeting.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm sure that the community is going to be speaking up in regard to wanting help from government on this particular project, because it's big, and I'm sure the First Nations are going to want to be able to have access to this. I know it's going to cost a lot more money because it's a matter of piping across the Yukon River.
I would like to ask the minister whether or not there are any plans to replace the single-lane Bailey bridge that's in the community of Carmacks that goes across the Nordenskiold River. Presently, the government has responsibility for maintenance, and I haven't seen anywhere where there is a commitment to replace that bridge with a double lane and a walkway for the pedestrians.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I know there have been discussions with my officials, which I have been a part of, about the replacement of that bridge. The member will have seen that there's nothing in the budget for that in this capital budget, but I know there are plans. Just off the top of my head, I can't recall when and what the structure will be, but I can certainly get that information for him fairly quickly.
Mr. Fairclough: If the minister could work with the village again - I know they had plans to put in a pedestrian walkway. Presently, that single-lane bridge is quite dangerous. We've seen all kinds of car accidents on it, particularly with the first snowfalls, because the approach to the bridge is on a curve and downhill.
The road right-of-way is also on private land. So I'm wondering how that whole thing is going to be moved.
I did write a couple of letters to the minister. One was for a streetlight in Stewart Crossing, and I've got a reply back - things were taken care of there, and I appreciate that. I also wrote a letter to the minister in regard to the Braeburn Lodge and having signs put up for a reduction of speed through that portion. In the reply, the minister said that they would be looking into that.
I'm wondering if the minister can speed things up because, since then, we've seen one very serious accident, where two semi-trucks hit each other, and it was massive and all over the road. There are a lot of people who just speed by there, and it's becoming more and more of a concern to those who are turning off and getting a cup of coffee at Braeburn. So I'm wondering if we could get that commitment soon.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Unfortunately, putting up speed zone signs won't make people slow down, and the difficulty we are wrestling with is putting in a speed zone if it's not enforceable, and if people won't slow down.
I've been in plenty of 70-kilometre or slower zones and watched people go by at 90 or 110. The travelling public has to have a willingness to obey the law before any speed zone would have an effect.
When there was a speed zone there previously, the majority of people disregarded it. So my concern is that I can put up speed zones anywhere but, if people aren't going to pay attention, there is no net gain; nothing has changed, and that's the difficulty.
Mr. Fairclough: I think something needs to be done. It's a request of the owner of that lodge who has seen many close calls, and I'm sure it could be enforced to a certain extent. I have travelled that road many times and I have seen the RCMP stopping at this lodge. Whether they're doing highway patrols from Whitehorse or back, there's always a stop at Braeburn.
Mr. Chair, the Five Finger Rapids lookout is pretty significant in that people do get a chance to see one of the most significant parts of the Yukon River. It's very popular with the tourist industry, and we have seen that little section of the parking lot jammed full quite often. We did put out a request to have work done at Five Fingers, and it was done, but it didn't make the area any larger, in my view. As a matter of fact, it looked like the road turnoff going south was actually shortened from what it was before. What was in place in the past was - and I know this is a standard for highway development of approaches and exists off roads. But what they had was a slight curve off into this road turnoff, and now what we see is a 90-degree turn. When it was first built, you couldn't see the road from the ditch. All the gravel was the same colour. There was nothing to indicate that this is where you turn, and if you actually made a left turn off it, you'd be over a three- or four-foot bank.
I'm just wondering why that happened. In the past, I think people appreciated being able to merge off - and not at a 90-degree angle - and stop at this site.
Also, when you leave as you're going south, it is also another 90-degree turn, and it just takes away from the amount of land that was once there for vehicles - mostly RVs and motor homes - to park. So it has taken away from that. That's a standard.
Is this a standard, then - the way the road was developed at a 90-degree angle - or is it just a choice of the department? And I'm wondering why, because the way the approach was built previously was just fine. All we needed to do was stretch out that area.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will certainly ask for more information on that. I know the available parking area was considerably increased and I didn't notice any difficulty the last time I was there, when four buses, a number of motor homes and a number of other vehicles were there, but I will obtain specific information on that for the member.
Mr. Fairclough: In regard to recreation centres, the government has put a lot of money into the recreation centre in Carmacks, and it was designed to be built on to the curling rink and skating rink. When the skating rink was built it was not built properly, in my view, and we have some heaves throughout the whole surface of the rink. Again, this is going to be a project that has to be replaced. You cannot have this type of thing and play hockey at the same time. It just doesn't work. It was to be built right and I don't believe that a proper foundation was put in when it was built. Is this department working with the community to look at a replacement?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The design of the current recreation centre and how it doesn't relate to the skating rink is a difficulty that was in place when I became the minister. I suspect there are some things that could have been done at the design stage to ease that difficulty, but they weren't done and as a result there is a problem. The village has raised it with me. We aren't in a financial position at this point to do anything, but we are certainly looking into it with the community and I believe they are trying to identify some possible solutions.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for those comments, and I hope things do work out, because not only is this rink used in the wintertime, it's used all during the summer. There are a lot of kids who access this for skateboarding and so on.
Going back to rural roads, there are several of them that I'd like information on. One is the Pelly Farm Road. I know that rural roads money has gone into that road. I would like to know if more is planned for the Pelly Farm Road and also the Duncan Creek Road, which was massively improved by the rural roads program.
And there is also some commitment by this department to do some grade work or Cat work to remove snow on the Signpost Road in Keno. There was a commitment there of at least $10,000, but the problem there was the timing of the removal of snow. If it ended up like how we had it this summer - it was in June by the time they got around to that, and it was right when it was melting anyway. If it had been done earlier, we would have had tourists actually making that trip up to the top. So I'm wondering if some clarification can be given to the Signpost Road and some updates on both the Pelly Farm Road and Duncan Creek Road?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No decisions have been made as yet on what work will go into the rural roads program. We've allocated twice as much money for the coming year, but as the member knows, we receive applications from the public. MLAs and various other people will recommend that work be done, and no decisions have been made as yet. We certainly consider all requests on a grid, based on various criteria. The projects that come out on top on a number of criteria are the ones that will receive the funding, and if the member has, you know, specific projects to recommend, we will certainly take note of them.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I didn't hear anything about the Signpost Road.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't believe I mentioned any road by name.
Mr. Fairclough: The Signpost Road wasn't coming out of the rural roads program; it came out of O&M in the department. There was $10,000 earmarked to have this road cleared early in the spring. I know there were discussions with the Silver Trail Association to do this. I guess the confusion is where the money is and who is able to do this work.
If it's upon the request of the community association in Keno, then the timing, I believe, would be right to do this.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will certainly look into what has been done on the Signpost Road in the past and what the department's understanding is of what may be done in the future.
Mr. Fairclough: One last question - if the minister can work with the Minister of Tourism on this, I know it's also a priority of the Department of Community and Transportation Services in clearing roadsides. There is some old-growth brush, or willows and that, along the road. It was closer to Elsa, and from this side of Elsa right to Keno. If that work were done, it would certainly improve the visibility and the beauty that's there in that valley. No work has been done for a long time. I'm wondering if the minister would consider working with the Minister of Tourism to do this, if they don't have it already planned.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe we did brush and weed activity on something like 40 percent of the roads in the territory this summer and we are, this fall, identifying all the areas that need to be brushed next season so we can have an earlier start on the projects. We will take note of what the member has suggested and see if that can be included in the work next season.
Mr. Fairclough: I have one thing to add to that. I am wondering if the minister can take it upon herself to look at this as more of a job creation, because what we have seen in the past is a bid on the contract, and equipment comes in and you don't see a lot of the local people working. It could be putting people to work on chainsaws and so on. I am just wondering if she can undertake that initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is a certain amount of money available to do brush and weed control, and sometimes it is not practical to do it by hand. Sometimes you need larger equipment. We will certainly try to keep that in mind but that isn't something that I can promise at this point without a lot more information.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask a few questions about Connect Yukon and Dawson City, and start by asking the minister if she can give us an update of the situation there, especially in regard to the speed of Internet access in that community?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As of the end of September, Dawson City has high-speed Internet service from the City of Dawson, and Northwestel will be delivering ADSL some time this month I believe. I have no more information on it than that.
Mr. McRobb: Was there an agreement signed between the Yukon government and the City of Dawson on this? How was the Yukon government involved?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon government wasn't involved.
Mr. McRobb: I understand that officials from EMO and possibly Government Services were involved in setting this up, so I'd have to follow up on that. If the minister has anything further to add, I'd be interested to hear it.
Does the minister have any concerns about Northwestel being the only provider in that community? I understand that's the case. Can she enlighten us on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It was my understanding that the City of Dawson was also a provider, and I'm not sure whether any of the Internet service providers that were there previously are still there or not. It wasn't an EMO official who would have been there, Mr. Chair. It would have been the person who, in addition to his duties with EMO, was in charge of the Connect Yukon project.
Mr. McRobb: I'm going to have to follow up on that some more before pursuing it with the minister.
I'd like to go back now to the issue of the Arctic Winter Games 2002 and the transportation of dog sledders and dogs to that event, which is still unclear. I did hear the CBC interview this morning with the Yukon chef de mission and was encouraged by what he said but, if I heard correctly, the options really aren't totally clear at this point.
I understand the commission is making a decision next week, but I would like to ask the minister if she is aware of what could be another option, and that is seeing if there is support to move the event to the Kluane region, where event organizers are prepared to host this event as part of the games.
Now, I know this isn't in the agreement for the games; however, if there's a will, there's a way.
I just want to put a few things on record that would make this proposition advantageous. Firstly, the event organizers out there are experienced, as the minister is aware. Secondly, there is road access to this venue. Thirdly, it is mid-way between Alaska and Alberta - two major dogsledding participants. Fourthly, anyone from Yellowknife interested in participation can drive there. Finally, there is a possibility that other teams in the Iqaluit region could be transported via Canadian North on backhaul flights. That would be a very affordable way to get them here.
So, in the event that things don't work out, is the minister prepared to give her support to this option?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to hear that people have been considering alternatives.
The Kluane region, in conjunction with the sport of dog mushing, then, should make a presentation to the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, because anything like this would have to be approved by it.
One obvious downside is that the athletes would be far removed from the rest of the games and wouldn't feel as though they were a part of it; they would feel like they were going to another dog race. But, if the alternative is that there would be no dog-racing event at the games, it would certainly be a possible solution. The Kluane region definitely has great snow conditions for such an event.
So I would encourage the region and the sport to get together and make a presentation to the Arctic Winter Games International Committee. I think that would be the best line of approach.
Mr. McRobb: My spirits are lifted, listening to the minister. However, for volunteers, who, as you know, do mostly have full-time jobs other than their time organizing this event, are hard pressed to develop their proposal to the extent necessary that one would reasonably influence the commission. I know there are avid people in her department who are involved in this, including the Yukon chef de mission.
I wonder if I can go back to the organizers in the Kluane region with something to offer, such as an extension of cooperation from the officials in her department. Is she willing to volunteer their assistance in developing an option for people in Kluane?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't believe that would be a practical solution, because it's the sport governing body that would have to be making the proposal. I think it would be best received from the committee if they were to do that. They're the people who know the sport best, and that is what I would suggest. If I heard the member correctly, I think the people of the Kluane region are selling themselves short. I'm sure they can work with the sport governing body and develop a fine proposal, because I've had occasion to work with them before on some other races, and they have lots of knowledge and enthusiasm, and I do not believe developing a proposal would be terribly time consuming.
Mr. McRobb: I'm well aware of the expertise among these volunteers and event organizers, but it would have been nice to take them an offer from the people in the department, as far as developing the proposal.
I'll move on to another area. It seems every time we're in general debate on this department I raise this matter. It's about the DIAND minister who is coming to town in a few days. One year ago, he gave $3.7 million to the Northwest Territories government for bridge construction, and I would like to know what the Yukon government is doing to tap into such programming.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm hoping, when the minister is here, that we'll get an announcement that we have been waiting for on the infrastructure project, but anything else I could say on that would be premature, pending his arrival and the hoped-for announcement.
Mr. McRobb: I think that's a different program, Mr. Chair. Maybe the minister can clarify that for me. Does the Canada-Yukon infrastructure program also exist in the N.W.T.? Because if it does then certainly this would appear to be a different program, and $3.7 million is a sizable sum of money. Maybe the Yukon is missing out. I'm not sure why, because I know this is about the third time now I have raised it.
So, can the minister clarify if the infrastructure program exists in the N.W.T. and if she has looked into this particular program, whatever it was, that did contribute $3.7 million to the N.W.T.?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Canada-Yukon infrastructure program exists across the country. If the member could tell me which program it was that contributed this money to the Northwest Territories, that might be helpful. We receive $2.48 million from this fund and are awaiting word on the specific projects.
Mr. McRobb: The particular news release I saw and printed out a year ago did not specify which program, so I think we can realize the minister has far more resources at her disposal than I do, and maybe this is something she can find out and get back to us on.
In that light, that reminds me, does the minister have the information that we requested in the departmental briefing which took place last week, I believe. One of the areas was an accounting of the rural road upgrade program projects, and I believe there were some other questions. Does she have that information for us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The deputy has indicated that he thinks it is in my office now ready to sign. It just came over with one of the officials.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I would remind the minister that it is extremely helpful to get this information before the conclusion of debate in the department. Unfortunately, that might not happen, so we will have lost the opportunity to follow up on the material responding to our questions. That again raises questions about how accountable this government really is. So, I would urge the minister to do what she can to send the information over. I know there is people listening in her office who can bring it down if it is just waiting for a signature, and others can photocopy it and we can get on with the show.
In the meantime, I want to follow up on telephones. We were discussing this matter on Tuesday - about the lack of communication coverage within the territory. My concern is primarily the lack of communications coverage along the main transportation corridor through the Yukon, which is the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Chair, this raises a number of concerns, such as safety, basic communication, lifeline services to residents - I went on the other day at length about a particular business that is really suffering because of a lack of communications - and convenience to both Yukoners and the travelling public.
I asked the minister if this Liberal government had any plans to try to resolve this situation. Unfortunately, nothing positive was in the response. My constituents, and others I have spoken to, aren't giving up hope yet. They wanted me to pursue this further.
For the minister's information, there is a bare-bones option out there that would resolve some of the problem, and that is the installation of call boxes every so often along the sections that are outside of the communications coverage areas. At least that would give the opportunity for travellers to stop and make that emergency phone call, or to check on family and friends.
The full-blown option, I suppose, Mr. Chair, would be to develop some kind of communication infrastructure like cell phones along the entire corridor. I recognize that there's a sizable expense attached to that option, similar to the wiring of the Yukon. But there are options in that regard such as partnerships and so on.
Maybe if we got some of this money from Minister Nault, like the Northwest Territories did a year ago, it would get things rolling, and maybe we can bring communications to some of these areas. This is a matter that covers several departments. The minister likes to believe that it's not the responsibility of her department, but clearly the departmental objectives for the Department of Community and Transportation Services says, in the seventh bullet, "To develop transportation, Connect Yukon, telecommunication and community infrastructure to improve the quality of life for all Yukoners." So the responsibility is clearly there. On the other hand, she has indicated that's the responsibility of the Department of Government Services.
The departmental objectives for that department have one bullet, and I'll read it in its entirety, "To provide procurement and management services, in partnership with government agencies, the business community and the public, that support and enhance the delivery of government programs." Well, Mr. Chair, there's nothing in there to indicate the development of infrastructure in the way communications, telecommunications especially, is within the mandate of the Department of Government Services.
The exception, I suppose, would be if there were some kind of a communications infrastructure program launched. Then it would fall under the definition of "program", which, I suppose, they could administer.
But there's a real problem out there in rural Yukon, and people in Whitehorse hear about it, too. Businesses downtown repeat some of the concerns that they hear from travellers - that their cell phones don't work until they get close to Whitehorse from either direction. This presents a real problem.
I know that it doesn't take long to get out on the highway, and you see the sign that you're beyond the 9-1-1 area. Now, maybe the events of 9-1-1 would give people the misleading idea that it's somehow bringing them more security, but seriously, it is a problem.
We know from the CTC's conference in Whitehorse a few weeks ago that travellers to the territory want to be within one day of returning home and they want to be in touch with their families. This is a critical point that is vital to our tourism industry. It's vital to our economy, because tourism is really all we have left, other than the government economy, and people need to be in touch.
So, people coming to the Yukon are not in touch for how long, Mr. Chair? Probably several hours south of Whitehorse and several more hours, perhaps a day or more, north of Whitehorse, until they get to around Tok, Alaska - which, I understand from the leader of the third party, presents them with almost continuous cell phone coverage all the way to Anchorage and beyond.
This is a terrible thing for the Yukon, and it's more important now that we do something to address it. This shortcoming has really been emphasized by recent events, and if the Yukon were able to advertise that we have solid, continuous communication for our travellers, and possibly high-speed communication at their disposal, then that would be a huge drawing card. Certainly it would cancel out the fear of our travellers entering an area where there is no communication.
I know the Minister of Renewable Resources spent the summer travelling around the Yukon campgrounds and maybe, Mr. Chair, he checked out the fact that several of our campgrounds are outside communication areas, and that is not what our tourists want. In fact, in a departmental briefing on tourism, it was made clear to us that the problem with the bottom falling out of the market on air flights is not the fact that tourists are scared of flying. It's that they want to be closer to home and most certainly they want to be in touch in case something comes up. Unfortunately, the present infrastructure in the Yukon is not compatible with that desire, and unfortunately again, it doesn't look like recent events are going to disappear. What happened a couple of months ago is a change in our way of life and we're going to have to accept that and get on with it.
In order to progress from here, we're going to have to take seriously this lack of communication in the Yukon.
So, I'd like to give the minister an opportunity to respond to this and find out if there are any plans at all on behalf of this government to address this problem. Is it something they're willing to raise with Minister Nault or with the Prime Minister, or whomever, to try to address?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My department has the responsibility for the MDMRS, the government radio system, which is used by police, ambulance and other safety services throughout the territory. The rest of it, Mr. Chair, is the responsibility of the Department of Government Services. Their technology and telecommunications branch has, as its program objectives, to facilitate and promote collaborative information infrastructure development in the Yukon and promote its use for community, social and economic development; to promote public-private technology partnerships and foster healthy technology and telecommunications industry relations; and to coordinate Yukon telecommunications and broadcasting policy and regulatory matters.
It's also the responsibility of Northwestel, which is regulated by the CRTC, and Northwestel has, as the member knows, their service improvement plan, which is now being carried out in the territory. I know that the Minister of Government Services will be delighted to answer the member's question when Government Services is up for debate.
Mr. McRobb: I have a problem with that answer because saying this is up to Northwestel is like saying our economy and our flights in the territory are up to Air Canada. We know where that got us. Air Canada has not been loyal to Yukoners, and it does not care about the Yukon economy and how many tourists we get and what's in the future for us.
Northwestel, Mr. Chair, I'm not going to put in that same category, but it has a larger region to serve than just the Yukon - only a small portion of its customers are in the Yukon Territory. It has its own responsibilities and its own capital plans. If we just sit back and wait for Northwestel to spend the money necessary to provide a continuous telecommunications zone throughout the Yukon, or at least along the primary artery, the Alaska Highway, we're going to be waiting a long time.
The previous government - and I wish I could really remove the politics from this, but there is an excellent example that overcame this jurisdictional gap and it was Connect Yukon. Now, was it within the department's objectives to provide Internet service throughout Yukon - high speed service? No, of course it wasn't. So, in order to provide such service, it requires some creativity and some initiative and some financial backing to make it happen.
Now, the minister so far has given us a blank and reverts to the apparent sole responsibility of the MDMRS, and then points the finger at the private corporation of Northwestel as being responsible, or at Government Services as being responsible. I would submit that this issue, which is a very important issue to the future of the Yukon - and we are talking about near future as well - crosses the boundaries of virtually every department in the government. And the government as a whole should be looking at this as a possible major initiative.
I suppose the best way to put this to the minister would be to ask her if she is prepared to bring this matter to the attention of her colleagues, especially her Cabinet colleagues, and try to get this on her government's agenda.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The communications is a major issue, especially in light of September 11, and work is being done on it in a number of ways.
Mr. McRobb: Well, again, I have some problems with the adequacy of that answer. What it really shows is the lack of will, the lack of creativity and the lack of response from this government to major concerns affecting the territory.
I guess there's not much I can do, sitting over here in the opposition side of the Legislature, about that. So, we'll just take it for what it is, flag it for future reference, and move on this afternoon.
One other issue from the other day that I want to just touch on lightly is the issue of airport security. The minister indicated that there were some options that were being explored. One such option was the possibility of government delivering the airport security service.
What can she tell us about that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Whatever is going to be done will be done on a national basis. Transport Canada has indicated that that wouldn't be their priority. So, people, nationally, are at work on this as well. I have no more information to give the member at this time.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Let's go now to the issue of municipal block funding again. The other day I asked if the government was going to review the allocations across the territory. We know that populations in some communities have changed considerably since the last allocation.
She did provide some information the other day. I'd like to ask her now what else she can provide, and also ask if she is willing to provide us with the basis for the current allocations and also the most recent numbers for the communities. Can she do that as well?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The other day, I gave the member all the information I can give him. The basis for the allocations hasn't changed since this government took office, so the member would have that information, and I can make available the current figures. I don't think they have changed from last year either, but I can make them available.
Mr. McRobb: That's again not a very helpful response because, once again, I'd like to point out that, just because the previous government may have had some information, it's very incorrect to assume that I have that information, or ever had that information, for that matter.
So, what I would like to re-ask is if we can get the basis in terms of community population numbers that the current formula is based on, as well as an update of what the community population numbers are now, maybe in the next column, for instance. Also, in regard to populations in the communities, I am aware there are changes within the last year. I'm sure the former Mayor of Faro, the current MLA, would stand up and say the population in his community has increased in the past year. That may be possible. I know there have been changes in some other communities.
What I'm looking for is most recent statistics, plus the statistics on which the current funding is based. If she can provide us with a page of information to that effect, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member doesn't have them, I can give him the numbers that were used in the calculation, including the population figures that were used in the most recent calculations, certainly.
Mr. McRobb: I look forward to that information.
Let's turn now to another area of transportation, and that is the proposed railroad - the one from B.C. to Alaska, which is envisioned to even, possibly some day, to extend to the former Soviet Union.
I understand that where this matter is left at is that we're waiting for the federal government to cough up some money. I understand that, almost a year ago, former President Bill Clinton signed a bill into law, which set aside $6 million over three years for a joint U.S.-Canada commission to study whether a railway should be built.
Mr. Chair, there are only two years left of that three-year deal, so time is running out. What strikes me is the possibility that $6 million is going down the drain.
I'm concerned about this, as are others. I'd like to hear what the minister has to say about this matter and about any lobby efforts to the federal government to get them to take part in this study.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The difficulty, I believe, has been that Washington has not yet formally invited the Government of Canada to take part. We have written, urging that that happen, and nothing has happened as yet. We continue to take an interest in the project. The Minister of Economic Development, I'm sure, could speak more to that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I don't see the Minister of Economic Development rising to the occasion, Mr. Chair, so I'll just continue on with the questioning. The minister indicated the Yukon government wrote Washington; however, in an article in the Whitehorse Star a couple weeks ago, one of the Yukon government's own employees, who is involved in this matter, indicated that, indeed, Washington has not formally asked Ottawa yet, but that's because it wants to know if it will get a favourable response. Well, Mr. Chair, that indicates it's another one of these little deals where, "I'll send you a letter when you give me a signal over the telephone that it's time to do so", or whatever.
Obviously that hasn't happened. Ottawa has cold feet on this railway study, and I know about it because it didn't want to get involved when we were in government. That was the problem - the federal government. Yet what do Yukoners see? Yukoners don't really know about this. They see the MP travelling with the Member for Faro up to the railway conference and being interviewed on the radio and then being rather evasive about this real issue of the federal Government of Canada's lack of will to contribute to this study. And it's really distressing, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to put it back to the minister that writing Washington is sending the mail to the wrong place. She should be writing Ottawa, who can then phone Washington and give the green light for the letter. Can the minister indicate if there has been any effort to convince Ottawa to get on with their participation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There has been communication with Ottawa. People have gone to meetings. I do submit that this is the wrong forum for these questions. The member should be putting them to the Yukon's Member of Parliament and asking him to speak with the transport minister federally and the Prime Minister about them. Asking me to deal with this, while I appreciate the question, it's an issue that the federal government should be addressed on.
Mr. McRobb: Well, well, well, my how things have changed. You know, when in opposition, Mr. Chair - my colleague from Ross River-Southern Lakes, the former transportation minister, is laughing in agreement, and we are both on the same wavelength here because it is rather obvious. The Liberals in opposition would just throw everything on the previous government's lap, and say, "You fix it, you're the government". But now that the Liberals are in government, they say, "No, that is not within our jurisdiction, you'd better talk to the MP".
Well, talk about a complete evasion of responsibility - this is flip-flop and fly. This is the Minister of Transportation. Is she saying she is not concerned about a railroad for the Yukon? That I should go talk to Larry - is that what she is saying? Because that is ridiculous. It is her responsibility as Minister of Transportation. One can only go up to the Transportation Museum on the top of the hill and see the relics up there, the railroad trains and everything else, to realize it is indeed the responsibility of her department. So, what is her department doing about this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have been attempting to respond to the minister's questions even though he should be addressing them to the Minister of Economic Development if he doesn't wish to speak to our Member of Parliament about the federal aspects of his question, which were considerable.
The project is an economic development project, Mr. Chair. The end result will be a transportation situation, but this is an economic development issue.
We are concerned about the project, but clearly it takes federal involvement.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it's more of the same, isn't it?
I would like to ask the minister of transportation: what about the Member for Faro? Because it's clear there is an agenda here that's not quite out in the open. It's clear that there's a preference within this Liberal government for the 1942 route, which comes into the Yukon on the north end through the Ladue valley and on to Faro before exiting at Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as per the ruling of the Speaker in the House that the ministers be addressed by their appropriate title, I would ask that the Chair also enforce that policy during general debate. It's the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, not the minister of transportation.
Chair: On this, I didn't catch it. Thank you very much. But at the same time, Committee of the Whole is rather informal. I didn't catch it. I will certainly. It always is the policy of the Chair to catch things, and in the future I will. But we're rather informal here. So if I missed it, I apologize. I don't screen for that.
Further to this, I'd like to explain the Speaker's ruling, as I interpret it. If it's not affecting debate, I'm not going to rule on it. If it's for a deliberate purpose, then I will rule on it, but there have been references today by members, calling each other Premier, references on the other side, instead of referring to the member as a member, they were referred to as a minister. This is what I call nitpicking, and this is also what I call niggling. The flow of debate has not been affected by this, and I won't rule on it in the future.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Chair, and I endorse it wholeheartedly. It simply is nitpicking. If I have to address the minister as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services at every occasion, then it's needlessly prolonging debate with useless terms.
We're discussing transportation. That's a major branch within her portfolio. We'll refer to her as the transportation minister when we're on highways, which is also in her portfolio. She can then be referenced as the highways minister. There's no harm done by that, Mr. Chair. We'll move on.
I want to follow up on the agenda of the Liberal government which, again, is for the back-country route through the Yukon. They have presented no evidence to indicate otherwise. I would like to ask the minister, what was presented at the railway conference in Fairbanks - I don't have the date handy, but probably almost two months ago now, in September - by the representative of the Yukon government, who was the Member for Faro? Can she tell us what he said?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Member for Faro was representing the Minister of Economic Development. Our caucus has had no decision on a route. That would be preliminary at this point. The member is wrong in this allegation. This is the same member who has been going up and down the north highway, fear-mongering among my department's crews, telling them that we're privatizing highway camps and closing highway camps. So, I mean, I question the credibility of what he's saying. It causes me serious concern when he can merely invent something. We have not had discussion about a route.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister is in effect saying that I'm not telling it the way it is. I want to be parliamentary here. I clearly indicated to her - I believe it was on Thursday, the first day in this Committee - that, in response to her allegation that I was spreading rumours throughout my riding of the closure of highway camps and whatever, that was not the case and I had not done anything of the sort. Now we hear more of this type of slander, Mr. Chair, and it's not right. The minister should just stick to answering the question, because we are very interested in this question, as are most Yukoners, and particularly the people in the riding of Kluane who might get cut out. Because there's definitely a movement afoot to route a railroad - if, indeed, there is one at some point - through the backwoods route, the 1942 route that goes through Faro. And I could back this concern up with three indications, Mr. Chair, and I want to get to them now, and each one involved at least the Member for Faro.
Number one was back in March when we met Representative Jeannette James from North Pole, Alaska, when she asked us, "Why is the Yukon government pursuing the back route through the Yukon, and not the Alaska Highway." She believed that a single utility corridor through the Yukon would be the best preference.
She went on to describe how a corridor could include a pipeline - a gas pipeline, that is - a railroad, possibly fibre optics, and who knows what other utilities?
That was the first one. Let me just finish that off by saying that I was the only one there. There were three Liberal MLAs, including the Member for Faro, with me in that meeting. I was the only one who spoke up and indicated that that's not the way I feel, but the Liberals remained silent to Representative James.
The second time was the track-laying ceremony in Faro where the member managed to get his mug shot in the paper. We know that the community of Faro was probably excited by the prospect and that's understandable. But for the MLA to take part in this, some would see it as symbolic - he is representing the Yukon Liberal government, and it could be seen as an indication of the government's preference.
Certainly it would be reasonable to conclude that the Member for Faro was influencing this routing at every opportunity in his discussions with his colleagues. That's fair to conclude that. Let the Liberals prove otherwise.
The final one was the railway conference in Fairbanks in September, where the member again alluded to the fact that his community of Faro is looking forward to the railroad, should it ever be built.
Well, I don't find a lot of comfort in this series of events that are happening behind the scenes, and some in public, although Yukoners don't know the whole story.
Now, I see the Member for Faro over there is getting pent up. He would like to respond. If he wants to get up, Mr. Chair, I have no problem with that. Let the Member for Faro get up and explain his own actions.
Will someone over there tell us what is going on?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The proposed Alaska rails to resources bill that Senator Murkowski put forward in Washington is a bill that's designed to determine a number of things with regard to a trans-Yukon railroad, including the economics of it and any possible routes that may be involved. If the Member for Kluane wishes to ask me those questions when we get into the Department of Economic Development, I'll be more than pleased to answer at that time.
Right now we're debating the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and I'd appreciate if he would just stick to policies within that department.
Mr. McRobb: Well, part of me feels compelled to pursue this further here, because this is the department with responsibility for transportation throughout the territory. We know it has responsibility for air traffic in the territory. That's a given. It has responsibility for road traffic in the territory. So, when we're talking about international agreements there, too, just look at the Shakwak highway reconstruction project.
Mr. Chair, the railway museum is in this minister's department even. So, there are all kinds of connections. It's clear this debate can proceed at this time, but the Liberal government wants out and wants time to think over its position no doubt and then give us some line on what their position is when we get to another department, and that's fine. If they want to take the easy way out, let's move on.
We'll deal with it later.
On a related matter of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway that extends to Carcross, I would like to ask the minister if there are any efforts from the Yukon government to try to bring this train service into the community of Carcross and maybe, first of all, to confirm whether the government has been approached by the railroad operators about this matter.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would remind the member that this is the supplementary budget debate for the Department of Community and Transportation Services. If he would address his questions to the proper minister at the proper time, I would appreciate it. I am not the minister for this question.
Mr. McRobb: It doesn't matter if this particular general debate is on the supplementary budget, on a capital budget, on an O&M budget, or whatever kind of budget you want to have. We are in general debate on this department, so the minister's excuse doesn't wash. Maybe you can give us a ruling on this too, Mr. Chair?
Chair: It is not really the practice of the Chair to rule on something he has been silent on. Usually the silence is the ruling, but general debate is general debate and, on every budget, you can have general debate. It is also to be understood that, if the minister doesn't feel like they want to answer a question because it is not in their department, the minister doesn't have to, either. So, essentially, the Chair sees no breaking of the rules, or even a reason to change what is going on. This is something that you are going to have to work on yourselves.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much for that clarification. Quite simply put, it indicates either the Liberal government can respond or can continue to duck responsibility and accountability, which we're getting used to on this side of the House.
I want to go now to an issue that the minister is familiar with, and it involves one of my constituents in Burwash Landing. I don't think this one can be deferred to another department. Let's hope not, anyway. It's on the removal of the customer parking lot next to his business.
This is the constituent, Mr. Chair, who participated in a consultation process with the government and was given assurances that the parking would continue alongside his property. But now there's a much different situation. There is no parking area any longer. The government came and took it away. This so-called business friendly Liberal government came in, swooped in and removed this business' parking.
Now, the minister got around to responding the other day to my constituent and indicated that he can apply for a permit at some future time, if he sees fit. Now, that is rather unsatisfactory, Mr. Chair, for a number of reasons, including the fact that the permit doesn't even begin to resolve the problems created by the government's reconstruction of the road outside his business. Secondly, it doesn't respond to the fact that the right-of-way is on the same property that the business is located on. So why should the owner have to get a permit?
It's a good question. Can the minister respond to that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the difficulty is that the customer parking area, as it existed before, and much of the business are on the highway right-of-way, which is a difficulty in itself.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sorry. I didn't catch all of that, Mr. Chair. So the fact that the right-of-way is on the landowner's property, I think, presents a special circumstance.
I see the minister waving her arms over there, as if to indicate that it might be the other way around.
I'd like to ask the minister, then: if that's the case and if that's the substance of her previous response, what information can she provide to me to support her belief that the right-of-way is on public property? Can she provide me with any information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member has received a copy of the letter I sent to the business owner, and the difficulty is that the retail outlet is located entirely on the highway right-of-way, and the owner has not sought a licence of occupation to be there. I would offer the member a briefing from my departmental officials on highway rights-of-way. I think that might help clear up his misunderstanding in this area.
Mr. McRobb: I don't believe I have a misunderstanding. I have heard from the owner of the property, who indicates there has never been any easement on the property and that, in fact, the right-of-way is on his property. We know there are cases like this, Mr. Chair, in the Yukon Territory, and often the way to resolve them is to just grandfather the rights-of-way and get on with business. But that particular matter will work its way through to resolution, I hope.
I would just like to go back to the bigger issue of why it's necessary to build a ditch on top of this knoll that would virtually prevent customers from walking through it to get to this business. Why is it necessary to put a ditch at this particular location?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The ditch is a way to clearly delineate the highway edge and prevent vehicles from uncontrolled and unsafe entry into the traffic. This has been explained before.
The member has a copy of the letter. The answer is quite clear in there.
And I would point out that no work has been done by government off the highway right-of-way. Our work has been confined to our right-of-way. Nevertheless, we have consulted and accommodated as much as possible.
Mr. McRobb: We can see that that's the minister's position and she's sticking to it.
In regard to this third lane, this entry lane from the community of Burwash on the Shakwak reconstructed portion, can the minister tell us about that? I believe she indicated it would be appropriate to use that as parking. Can she expand on that for us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: After consultation with the community - and I have already stated this before in the House - an additional highway lane, which was already planned in front of the Burwash museum, was extended farther, in front of the business in question, to allow for parallel parking for visitors and others who wish to view his exhibit and visit his shop. That replaces the random parking on the right-of-way that occurred before reconstruction. As well, the new walkway through the community climbs the Burl Berry Hill knoll alongside this business and provides access for people wishing to visit it. If the business owner, when he sees the completed highway, feels these provisions are not adequate, we will consider a permit to allow him to perform work in the highway right-of-way, which is not his property, to enhance his business access. He can seek that permit to do that work.
Mr. McRobb: The minister on Thursday, November 1, when this first came up, indicated that the additional highway lane that was extended in front of his business would allow for parallel parking for tourists. And I know the minister just said that.
Now, the minister talks about safety as being the reason for building the ditch in order to, as she puts it, clearly delineate the edge of the highway. Well, does the minister not think it is going to be a safety concern if southbound motorhomes are pulling over to this third lane on the other side of the highway and then pulling back out again on the blind side?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be pleased to have my highway engineers discuss this in detail with the Member for Kluane so that he can understand it. He could just indicate to me which time would be convenient for him and I will ask the highway engineers to be available.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's somewhat comforting. This is the minister's job, to deal with these issues.
This issue has received greater attention in the public eye because of the fact that there was a letter communicated via the media as well as a radio interview and questions in this Legislature already.
I would have expected her to at least be aware of the essentials, such as the major issue of safety, should these motorhomes have to wander back and forth across the complete width of the highway to get into this third lane. That presents difficulty. We are talking about a third lane, an entry lane on to the highway. What do you do with motorhomes facing the wrong way? What's the minister going to do about that?
For this particular business, southbound traffic is the largest market for his goods. When tourists consider purchasing large burl logs, for instance, they don't usually like to purchase them on their way northbound and then lug them around Alaska for a few weeks, when they can purchase them a lot easier on their way south.
The prevalence of southbound traffic here is the greatest concern, so I'd like to know what the minister is going to do about that.
Even with that particular safety issue aside, I've been informed by the proprietor that his customers will not walk down into a ditch and then up on the hill to his property. So this is a problem. The ditch wasn't there before. Government came along and put a ditch on top of the knoll, which I don't think makes a lot of sense, given the slope on the crown of the highway to begin with. We all know the water and so on will run downhill. It doesn't make a lot of sense to have a parking lot on top of the hill, at least in this particular location.
I will take up the minister on her offer of a briefing, but I wanted her to be aware of the information I just communicated so that if there is an opportunity to follow up in the future, at least we've established a baseline of knowledge on this particular issue.
At this time, I'd like to hand the floor to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who has a question or two. I might be back a little later; I'm not sure at this point.
Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to let the Yukon Party know that I have just a couple of short questions, and then we'll be into line-by-line if nobody is here to take over.
Because water and sewer is breaking down, I'd like for the minister to explain a little bit about the water and sewer study that is the infrastructure program that is supposed to be taking place and being formalized. I know and understand that in my hometown of Teslin that sewage was done - oh, gosh, it could have been 10 years ago or so, or even more than that. It has been breaking down. I forget what the engineer was telling me, but there's some new technology that you can put a little bug into the sewer lines and the little bug runs around and takes pictures to see if there are cracks and failings. I have two questions, I guess. At what stage is the water and sewer study going to be implemented, and is it possible to get that little bug, I guess, for lack of a better name?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the terminology would be "pig". That's the same thing as is used - pig - to go through pipelines and sewer lines. As I've indicated several times, I expect to table the municipal infrastructure review late this month. Teslin has requested financial support to build a sewage trunk main to connect the lift stations to the sewage lagoon. At present, sewage is hauled by truck from the lift stations to the lagoon, and we're quite aware that recent spills and related health concerns have prompted the village to ask for funding for a trunk main.
Terms of reference have been prepared and forwarded to the village for review, and this will assist the village to determine the most appropriate course of action and the cost associated with the proposed project.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank the minister for that detail. It's not necessarily the detail I wished for, and I'm aware of that particular project. I could go on at length with the minister because I feel that it's certainly unfair that a community can be prepared, can have the resources and the partnership ready to go with the government, and the government has a surplus of funding here, yet they're being put on hold.
That was not my question. I understand that completely; I know about that.
There was much ballyhoo made on sewer and water infrastructure within the Yukon Territory, and I was wondering how all the communities would come in. Because from what I understand, what is happening to Teslin is happening to a lot of the communities, so there's going to have to be a prioritization of some sort - I imagine through Management Board, or however they select. And if they select by Liberal ridings or New Democrat ridings, I don't know.
I guess what I'm asking is for a basis of that selection. The Liberals have ballyhooed that they were going to do the sewer and water infrastructure plan, and now the minister seems confused at what I'm asking. So please, put it on the record.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll be happy to put this on the record again. I have done this several times during the last few days.
We have undertaken an assessment of municipal infrastructure to provide a base point for reviewing necessary upgrades in incorporated and unincorporated Yukon communities. The primary focus, as I said earlier today, has been on safe water supply and distribution, sewage treatment and disposal, and the operation and maintenance of solid waste disposal sites.
The priorities for upgrading facilities will be based on need, and I expect to table the report in the Legislature later this month. We are beginning, or financially assisting, sewage treatment projects in Dawson City, Carcross, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Carmacks and Ross River, and we are now in discussions with the Village of Teslin regarding future changes to the sewage collection system there.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate that.
Mr. Chair, I just have one last question for the minister, and it's on line painting on the chipseal pavement or whatever - you know, the painting of lines and whatnot. I have noticed, because I have driven the highways considerably throughout the Yukon Territory. And I guess the first question is: has there been a change in the criteria to the line-painting policy?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there has been no change in policy. There has been a change in equipment. We have a new truck for line painting this year.
Mr. Keenan: If I could just help the minister out on this a little bit here. There are sections in the road that are 30 kilometres long. Actually, it's from approximately kilometre 1342 to approximately kilometre 1370 or something like that. A straight stretch is in there that has solid lines, and to my unlearned eye, I guess - although I have been the transportation minister and I appreciate that I have learned from that - it's a solid line and you can't pass. And there are an awful lot of trucks on the highway right now, and I have seen three trucks all hunkered behind this one little motorhome here, all wanting to go, and they can't. They're waiting for this passing line, and then when you get to a corner and you come around a corner, there's a passing line. Then, if you don't pass - and I'm not saying I do pass where I'm not supposed to pass - where you can pass safely, then where you can pass legally - it's very unsafe to pass there, and you're stuck in that spot for approximately 18 kilometres.
And with tourist season, I know people go, "woo, woo, woo, woo" and are upset because they can't get here, and I was wondering if it was just an accident or has the criteria changed, the visibility, or anything like that. I would very much encourage the minister next summer to look at those situations, and I know there are numerous situations like that in the Yukon Territory. So, would the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Is the member saying that there is a solid line now where there did not used to be a solid line?
Mr. Keenan: That line has come and gone, and fading back and forth, and I don't know if it was just the mood of the driver that particular day or not. But, right now, there is a solid line there, and there used to be a dotted line there. I pull out passing, and holy moly, I am breaking the law, and I plunk her back in and when I do pass, a tourist speeding, coming the other way, made me pull right over to the opposite side. It scared me, and I know that the minister believes in safety, and she even wants to see me arrive home safely. I know that. So, I would just ask the minister if the minister could go and check those situations so that both the minister and I, and even the Member for Klondike, can drive safely on these Yukon roads.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We have noted the kilometre numbers and we will certainly check into that. That won't be a difficulty.
There are some answers that I wish to provide that I haven't previously, and I would do so at this point.
The Member for Klondike was talking on Tuesday about the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association bus and had asked about insurance. There was no request or discussion in their YRAC application about purchasing or insuring a bus. The Yukon Amateur Hockey Association had applied to Lotteries Yukon for the purchase of a bus and their application was denied any funding.
Upon speaking to the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association president, he indicated to my officials that the association is purchasing the bus over time, using association fundraising and donations to complete the purchase, and the insurance is being paid for on a monthly basis by the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association to a local insurance company.
As well, the Member for Watson Lake inquired about the situation at Iron Creek following the collapse of the multiplate. We have spoken to Public Works Canada and received their schedule for installing a new structure. I do not believe that they could accelerate this schedule.
They will be advertising their request for proposal for design contract by November 29, closing phase 1 by January 15, 2002, closing phase 2 by February 14, 2002, awarding the design contract by February 28, 2002, completing the tender documents by May 31, 2002, advertising the construction contract by June 7, 2002, closing tenders by July 15, 2002, awarding the construction contract by July 31, 2002, and completing construction by October 31, 2002.
We had asked them about winter traffic conditions at the site, and they aren't aware of any problems to date on the site. There have been no direct complaints to them, only complaints through the media, Mr. Chair.
When the lodge owner who was quoted in the press about there being many vehicular mishaps was contacted, he attributed them to too much, not too little, speed. In other words, the vehicles were travelling at too high a rate. They are removing the lights this week and instigating a yield to oncoming traffic system, so northbound trucks won't have to stop at the bottom of the hill. The horizontal and vertical alignment is better now than it was with the old bridge. B.C. Highways has been requested to gazette the speed at 50 kilometres an hour so the police can enforce it, and public works has an additional truck at Iron Creek to tend to the hill, and no serious problems are expected.
The Member for Klondike had asked Monday, I believe, about the Dome Road school bus stop, and I would point out that responsibility for kilometre 0 to kilometre 3 of the Dome Road was transferred to the City of Dawson on April 1, 1994. Though the location of this bus stop is not within the department's responsibility, we did contact the City of Dawson and the Department of Education.
The Mayor of Dawson had raised this matter several weeks ago, and much has already been done there, but an official from the highway maintenance branch was in Dawson yesterday and went to look at the actual site. The bus stop in question is on the right side of the road when going up the Dome Road and is approximately 200 metres below a corner. The Dome Road is one of the City of Dawson's first priorities for sanding, due to its steep grade and the presence of the bus route.
The Department of Education has reviewed the situation and discussed it with the busing contractor. It is safer to pick up the children on the road, with the bus stopped with red lights flashing, stopping traffic in both directions, and we concur with this. The children are picked up on the way up the hill, not down, so they don't have to cross the road. Gravel has been laid and will continue to be laid on either side of this stop, and the city is considering installing a light on the pole adjacent to the stop. The city will be removing the brush for 20 metres in the city right-of-way in order that there is a clear line of sight.
The Member for Klondike had also asked about the George Black ferry repowering, and the repowering has been tendered. Finning Tractor was the successful bidder. The bid was $9,027 over the budgeted amount of $150,000. The two engines being replaced are 270 horsepower. They are the same size engines that are currently in the ferry. The engines are expected to be on-site in Dawson by the end of January of next year. Installation will commence by the end of March and is to be completed by May 1, 2002.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes had asked about the Tagish Estates Road because of the amount of school traffic and the number of buses and asking for brush clearing. We are aware of the brush concern and have been working with local residents to find a suitable solution. The road is directly adjacent to private property boundaries, and the brush can't be removed to improve sight distance without the consent of the land owners, as it is outside the highway right-of-way. Unless the landowner agrees with the clearing, no improvements can be made in this area. The department has been contacting land owners to seek their consent to proceed with the work. Unfortunately, some land owners have not granted permission, and the brush clearing has proceeded to the maximum extent possible without infringing on these private properties.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes had also asked about the Lewes River bridge and visibility in bad conditions, and we will look into the possibility of attaching reflectors to the bridge rail. If we find it is feasible, we will make arrangements to have this done.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, we will take a 10-minute break.
Chair: We'll continue with general debate in Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for her responses to a number of the issues I raised with her. I'd now like to move forward.
Mr. Chair, earlier I sent a letter to the minister with respect to one of the various community plans that she has on her desk to be signed off. It has been recommended to the minister by her department and by the committee. I have yet to receive a response. Could the minister tell me what the holdup and delay at her desk is? Is the letter lost in a pile or shuffled in some paper, or is it lost between all of the chocolates? What seems to be the holdup, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll certainly check on it and get back to the member. I don't recall having it on my desk, but I'll certainly check.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am referring specifically to the Deep Creek community plan. It has been recommended for the minister's signature, and it appears that the minister is holding up passage of this community plan that has been worked on for the last four years. Could the minister advise the House why she is holding up passage of this community plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It arrived on my desk between two and three weeks ago - I can get the exact date if the member wishes - and there was some material in the background that came with it that was out of date. I sent that back to the department for updating.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's cut to the chase and get to the real reason why the minister is holding this up. It would appear that there is a constituent - and I'd like to ask the minister what relationship the minister has with this individual who has applied for land in this region, and it has gone through all of the appropriate CEAA screening and the FTLAC decision was subsequently made. After all due process, it was not a land application that fit into the community plan as envisioned and it was denied.
This individual who was well known to the minister, Mr. Chair, appealed to not only the minister herself but also appealed to the Minister of Tourism and to the Premier, who also wrote letters on behalf of this individual. And at the end of the day, the minister has not approved the Deep Creek community plan. In fact, it's sitting on her desk, stalled. And I would be very, very concerned with the reasons that the minister explained or gave for not having signed it off.
Could the minister advise what relationship she has with this? Is there any relationship with this applicant, this individual who has applied for land in that area? What's the relationship? Why is there such a concerted effort by this Liberal government to see that this individual gets this land? Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I stated, the Deep Creek community plan arrived on my desk between two and three weeks ago. There was some background material that required updating. I sent it back to the department to have that updating done.
Now, the member probably also knows that I had a meeting with the Deep Creek advisory council about the status of their plan last night. At the conclusion of the meeting, they certainly did not indicate that they were dissatisfied with my answers.
The issue of a constituent with an application into the federal government for land is a separate issue, Mr. Chair. The issue of that person's application is a separate issue.
There have been several constituents who have written to me expressing dissatisfaction with the plan. I am also looking into their concerns and must clear up their concerns before going any further.
But, as I said, it was a lack of updated background to the plan that had me send it back to the department.
The member, I'm sure, chooses to believe otherwise, but that is not the case.
The member is asking what relationship I have with the person who has this land application. He is a constituent, as are the other people who have complained about the plan, and as are most of the members of the Deep Creek advisory council and the Deep Creek planning committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that her department has recommended its approval?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the role of the department in this case is to take the recommendation of the steering committee forward to the minister after reviewing it. That is what they have done. I have asked that the background be updated, and that is the work they are doing now.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd urge the minister to go back and see what the rules are and how they're laid out with respect to the process, because the minister is putting a different spin on community plans and how they proceed through the process.
I submit, Mr. Chair, that the spin we're getting here in the House is exactly that. It's not an accurate reflection of the process. The committee is formed. After the committee has been formed - and it has been in place for some four years - and has gone through all of the public meetings and due process, there is input from the Community and Transportation Services department officials. In fact they, by and large, spell out the criteria that is to be followed, which has been followed fully in this case.
And the Department of Community and Transportation Services has recommended it for approval, and it has been there for quite some time. It has stalled at the minister's desk because the minister wants to ensure that a friend of hers, and of the Premier's, gets a land grab in that area.
Chair: Order please. I would remind members - and this is getting perilously close, and in fact I believe it has crossed the line - that Standing Order 19(g), "imputes false or unavowed motives to another member" - what we are seeing here right now is essentially an accusation of corruption. If that is what the member wishes to do, I would actually make sure that this is done in the right way, because I will not accept an imputation of false or unavowed motives in this House without substantiated proof.
Mr. Jenkins: The official community plan for Deep Creek is stalled at the minister's desk. That's where it is at. It has been recommended by the department; it has been through all due process. That's where it's at. And it would appear that it is stalled because there is something that a very good friend of the minister and of the Premier wants in that area, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I went back and looked at a number of land applications and the appeal process, and I couldn't find one in the appeal process that has ever been accompanied by a letter from the Premier, as was the land application in this case. That in itself says something.
Mr. Chair, the Deep Creek community plan is in peril. It has the support of the First Nations that hold land in that area; it has the support of the whole planning team that worked on this process, and now what I'm hearing from the minister is that some of the information provided to her is not up to date. Can the minister just confirm that she won't approve the Deep Creek community plan until this individual gets their land application through?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is completely wrong. The Deep Creek community plan was on my desk between two and three weeks ago. I sent it back to have some background information that was with it, which was out of date, updated. That is the truth. I believe I can say that. I believe it's not unparliamentary to say that that is the truth. That is the truth.
I have also said to the member that there have been some concerns expressed about the plan and, in order that the plan not be challenged later, I am choosing to clear up those matters first. The application for a piece of federal land is not an application, it is an appeal. It has nothing to do with the Deep Creek community plan. The person involved in that appeal is a constituent. I would not describe him as a good friend or even a friend but, rather, as an acquaintance, as are many of the constituents in the Laberge riding. I believe if a person believes there has been an error in process, they have the right to appeal, and they have the right to ask whomever they wish to write supporting letters, asking that they receive a full and fair hearing on their appeal. That is what has happened, Mr. Chair, and that process is now unfolding.
The members of the Deep Creek advisory committee know full well what is happening because we had full discussion of it only last night, Mr. Chair. So I believe the member's information, in addition to being wrong, is out of date.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't concur with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, Mr. Chair, and I'm sure that comes as no surprise. The minister stated that the reason that she has delayed the signing of the plan recommended by the Deep Creek advisory council, and further recommended by her own department to her for signature, is that there is some information out of date.
Yet in the letter that she presented to the Deep Creek advisory council yesterday, the status of the plan is that it remains under review until the Minister of Community and Transportation Services accepts it as an advisory document.
Could the minister be specific as to what parts of the plan are out of date? Let's cut to the chase. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. What is out of date in the plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike clearly isn't listening. I said the background material that accompanied the plan, when it arrived on my desk, had some portions that were out of date. There is nothing in the plan that is out of date.
If the member is going to cast wild accusations around here, I would ask that he would at least listen to the answers that he's getting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's not blow a gasket over there. Let's just answer the questions.
The question specifically to the minister is this: what part of the Deep Creek advisory council's plan or background information is out of date? Could the minister be very specific? What is out of date? What has to be looked at again?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Some of the background information that came with the plan was out of date. I do not remember specifically what it was, as I sent it back to the department. I do not have it in front of me. I do not have it in my office.
Mr. Jenkins: I think that what we're seeing is just a façade put up by the minister to deflect the real story. The real story is that the minister doesn't want to approve this plan until her friend receives the land that they've requested on Lake Laberge. That's what it appears to be, and that is what is being conveyed to me by quite a number of sources.
Now, this individual had a land application in with the federal government. It went through the complete CEAA screening and then it went before FTLAC.
The FTLAC decision was to deny the land application. Now it is currently under appeal. There must be someone very, very knowledgeable with the procedures of government advising this individual as to how to work through the system, because they are doing a very, very good job on the appeal process.
But the bottom line is that for it to go back through the whole system, it will probably end up receiving the same consideration as it did in the first instance. And in all probability, all we will see is the delaying of the implementation of the Deep Creek community plan, because it is an amazing coincidence that both of these situations are moving forward at the same time.
One only has to refer to the letter that the Premier wrote on behalf of this individual. The contents, which are known to the minister, spell out that the Deep Creek community plan is not completed, that it is still under review, and basically implies that it won't be completed. They should have a look at this again. I am sure that I can get a copy of that letter from the Premier and table it.
Could the minister provide a timeline as to when she expects to approve or receive this updated information that she can't specifically identify and that is out of date, and when is this process going to come to a conclusion? Because this has been underway for over four years - four years, Mr. Chair.
From what I have read about the plan - and I have had an opportunity to look at it, Mr. Chair, and I have looked at a number of OCPs and I have looked at a number of area plans, development plans - this one has been done very, very well. I submit that the only impediment to its approval is the minister, and I would encourage her to come forward and specifically lay out the information that is out of date.
I want to ask the minister if she will provide a legislative return spelling out what specific information, background information, is out of date from the Deep Creek advisory council on their plan.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said that the plan arrived on my desk between two and three weeks ago and that I sent it back to the department asking that some of the background information that was out of date be updated. I would expect that work to be completed shortly.
I have also said that people have communicated with me in writing, expressing their disagreement with the plan. In order that there be no blemish on the plan, I want to clear up those letters. We are assuring ourselves that full consultation has taken place and due process has been followed with respect to the people who are complaining. It is not an unusual situation for people to come forward at the last minute when a plan has been prepared - to object at the last minute - but, to protect the integrity of the plan, I want to make sure that we have crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's and I am expecting the updated information and the plan back on my desk shortly.
If the Member for Klondike has some question of impropriety to raise, he knows the phone number of the conflicts commissioner, and I would urge him to dial it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what I asked the minister to provide was a legislative return or letter spelling out which areas of the Deep Creek community plan are stale-dated or need to be brought current. That was my question to the minister, before we got into all of the diatribe that we heard. Now, let's not prolong debate. Can the minister agree to provide a written explanation of what is stale-dated in the background information, and provide it forthwith?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I can do better than that. As soon as I receive the updated background information, I'll make sure that the member has a copy.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I didn't ask for that. What I asked is for the minister to spell out what information was not up-to-date and current. I would like a listing of that information, for which she deems it necessary to send the whole community plan back for review, postpone it after better than four years of very, very active work by a very concerned group of citizens in that area, who take pride in their community and in the process, who have bought into the process and done a thorough analysis.
Now, it stopped at the minister's desk because there are a number of areas that the minister has identified where the information was stale-dated, or had old information. I want the minister to identify the specific items that are out of date and send me a letter or provide it by way of a legislative return. That's what I'm asking the minister to do. Can she agree to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the background is ministerial advice, but I could probably provide him with a copy of it, as it arrived on my desk with the changes highlighted and made, if that would please him. I'm not going to sit down and write him a separate letter. I will provide him the document as it is now and as it was changed.
The member is determined to make an issue where there is none. The Deep Creek advisory council knows that there is none because we met to discuss this and some other things last night, and if he has accusations of impropriety to make, let him contact the conflicts commissioner. Otherwise, let him move on to another area, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, in all fairness, I've asked the minister for information. She has refused to provide that information. She has not agreed to provide the information. She has walked all around it.
Now, the issue is that the minister made a statement that she sent back the Deep Creek community plan because some of the background information was not up-to-date.
What I asked the minister specifically to do was to identify the areas where the background information was not up-to-date and to provide that to me in a letter form or by way of legislative return. That's what I asked the minister to do. And, Mr. Chair, with all due respect, the minister has refused to do that. Why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the minister has not refused to do that. The member isn't listening. This member is well known for inventing situations out of nothing.
Chair: Order please. The Chair's going to make a ruling on this now so that people understand the definition and the line.
What we have here are opinions. This is a place of opinions. When a member says, as the Member for Klondike stated, that he "believed" or in his opinion this is what happened, it's stating an opinion.
When the Member for Klondike actually said this is what happened and presented it as a fact, that's where we have to step in with Standing Orders.
In the case of Ms. Buckway, what we've just seen is a reference to inventing situations that don't happen, which is actually imputing another possible motive or falsehood on another member here.
If Ms. Buckway said "in my opinion", that's a difference, because what we have here is the free expression of opinions. Anything without opinion has to be accepted as fact on this floor, and I cannot allow a statement like that to go through because that would be accepting that as fact.
So, what I ask the member to do is rephrase this. All members should understand that the difference between an opinion and a statement of fact is what we make the rules on.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Under the rules of the House, then, I withdraw my previous statement, and I will rephrase it as "In my opinion, the member is inventing a situation." This is, in my opinion, something the member does fairly often.
If he has allegations of an impropriety, I would like him to contact the conflicts commissioner. If he is not willing to do that, then obviously, in my opinion, there's nothing there, and he should move on to another area of questioning.
Mr. Jenkins: All that I'm attempting to do is seek information from the minister that is not forthcoming.
Now let me backtrack, Mr. Chair. The minister was very specific when I asked her the question as to why the Deep Creek community plan was stopped at her desk.
She indicated to the House, Mr. Chair, that there was some background information that was not up to date. What I have asked the minister to provide, by way of a written response or a legislative return, is a copy of the background information that is not up to date. It's a simple exercise. I'm not looking for the whole document. I have a copy of the document itself. What I'm looking for are the areas in the background information that the minister does not deem appropriate and current and up to date. I want the minister to specifically spell out those areas.
That's a legitimate, bona fide question. Now, why won't the minister provide that information, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have said I would provide that information. The member wasn't listening. He did not ask for a copy of the document. I had offered to provide him a copy of the document with the changes highlighted. He had initially asked for a letter. He will get the information, but he's not going to get it today. The department is working on updating, as I had asked them to do.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair, I didn't ask for the information today. I asked for a legislative return or a written response, a letter, spelling out the areas in the Deep Creek community plan where the background information was not up to date, as the minister stated.
That's what I'm seeking - specific reference to specific lines.
One only has to look at the exchange of correspondence between the minister and the department with the advisory committee to understand why this program is off the rails. It really has nothing to do, Mr. Chair, with background information being dated. It had all to do with the support that this minister is providing to a constituent, for land.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Chair has called me to order for stating as fact something that should have been my opinion. The member is stating as fact something that is clearly his opinion.
Chair: I apologize in this case. I did not hear the exact statement. I will review Hansard on this and get back with a ruling. I did miss this one. I am sorry.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue is one of a land application by a very good friend of the minister in that region. That is the whole issue. That is the bottom line. But I am just tremendously disappointed in the delays that this Deep Creek local advisory council has had as a consequence of probably this minister not understanding the role that she has. The role is to overview the community plan, especially after it has been through due process, has been recommended by the advisory council, is recommended by her own department to her, and yet it is turned down. That in itself demands a question.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member stated that the plan has been turned down. He did not state that it was his opinion. It is not fact. The plan has not been turned down. I sent back to the department the plan with the background that had some out-of-date information in it. If the member has allegations of impropriety, he has the number of the conflicts commissioner. If he is not willing to do that, he should move on.
Chair: I would ask that, during debate, points of order be used to express points of order, and what we saw there was a continuation of what we could see in the next round of debate back to Mr. Jenkins. So there was no point of order there.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it would appear that I have touched a very exposed nerve that the minister has on this issue, and one only wonders why, because the bottom line is that the Deep Creek advisory council has spent over four years on a process that has been in place for a number of years, and it is something the department is thoroughly conversant with. In fact, it was set up by the department. At the end of the day, to see it - and it was turned down because it was recommended for the minister's signature. One can only conclude that it has been turned down by the minister. I think the minister should go back and look at other official community plans, area community plans and area development plans, and see how many have been turned down by the minister of the day. I'm not aware of one, and that goes back over quite an extensive period of time.
But I'll anxiously await the minister's letter or legislative return, or however she wants to transmit it - e-mail is quite fine, Mr. Chair, although I can't access my e-mail when I'm out of this building.
Mr. Chair, let's move on to another area that we previously dealt with and where there are more problems. Now, I know the minister is once again going to stand up and say this issue is a federal responsibility, but I go back to Canada Customs and U.S. Customs.
We have a series of events coming up early in the new year: the Yukon Quest for one, and the Trek Over the Top. There are a number of other gatherings taking place over the course of the summer which, unless the minister who oversees airports and Community and Transportation Services - and probably the Minister of Tourism, as well as the Premier - if they do not get involved, the flow of traffic between our respective jurisdictions is going to be severely curtailed.
As it stands currently, officials involved with the Trek Over the Top have gone to Canada and U.S. Customs to seek pre-clearance, as they've done in prior years, to seek pre-clearance of the guests who participate in this event, so that they can cross the border in both directions quite readily and, at this late date, they haven't received an answer. It's still under consideration.
Mr. Chair, what I'm urging the minister to do is to get involved, along with the Minister of Tourism, with Canada Customs, with our neighbours to the west, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, and see what we can do to expedite this much-needed business. Because in a few years, Mr. Chair, when we have nothing but a whole series of interlocking parks from border to border in the Yukon, we're still going to have to have some sort of revenue, and the only revenue that we're going to appear to receive is the handouts from our Liberal masters in Ottawa and some visitor dollars.
Will the minister contact these respective organizations, along with the Minister of Tourism, and see what they can do to help expedite an agreement, or arrangement, between the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services? Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: First of all, for the record, back to the previous question, the Deep Creek community plan was not turned down. That is completely incorrect.
Now, as to the current question, the rules remain in place, but U.S. Customs has said, if there are major events, talk to them ahead of time. We are doing that and are urging others with major event involvement to do the same.
On a related matter, the member talked the other day about VFR flights, and the State of Alaska was the first to re-establish VFR flights after September 11. There were new rules imposed, however, which treated the VFR flights almost the same as IFR, including, if you have a small aircraft, you must activate the transponder if you have one. If you don't have a transponder, Mr. Chair, you're not required to purchase one. You are no longer allowed to fly strangers, if you have a private licence. You have to file a flight plan, the same as for IFR, and you are restricted to certain corridors when flying to the Lower 48. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has said there is no Alaska exemption from the new FAA rules, completely contrary to what the member said in this House the other day. The Member for Klondike is completely wrong, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the minister should just go on the Internet. It's all published there about the exemption that has been granted State-of-Alaska-based aircraft by the FAA for VFR flights within that state. It's an exemption that came through a couple of days after the imposition of tremendous restrictions on all aircraft movements within the United States on September 11.
I am surprised and disappointed that the minister hasn't done some more of her homework.
I guess we can look at this area where the minister has turned down the Deep Creek advisory council's community plan - turned it down, sent it back and that is what has happened. I am sure the underlying reasons for that turndown - we will have to look at the letter or the transmission of information that the minister sends me with respect to the area where the background information is dated, because that in itself is very, very interesting.
I asked the minister if she was prepared to get involved with these organizations, along with the Minister of Tourism, to assist them in organizing pre-clearance for upcoming events, and these organizations have done exactly what the minister has said - exactly what the minister has said. If you want to look at the trek, their principals have contacted both Canada Customs and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to arrange pre-clearing like they have done in prior years. There was a major meeting a short time ago and it is still under consideration. The organizers of this event on both sides of the border are very concerned that pre-clearance won't be granted as it has been done in previous years.
And for the minister's information, what happens in pre-clearance is that all of the individuals crossing the border - their names, dates of birth, addresses; a full-blown history of them is provided when there are U.S. citizens entering Canada, to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. And they pre-screen them and say, "Yes, this individual can come; yes, this individual can come" and, on numerous occasions, they've said, "No, we will deny entry to these individuals."
The same holds true for entry into the United States.
But, once again, I will ask the minister - these organizations have followed due process and it stalled. Will the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, along with the Minister of Tourism, get involved and see what they can do to expedite this approval for entry into the U.S. and entry into Canada?
It's a simple question. I don't need to be cited the FAA rules, which the minister knows very little about, but can she just help out a group that's creating some trade and commerce for the Yukon, providing some business in a much-needed time of the year in my community? Or is this another determined effort by the Liberal government of the day to see the demise of another event here in the Yukon?
Chair: Order please. Before the minister answers the question, I am going to ask Mr. Jenkins to explain any possible relevance this has to the Community and Transportation Services debate. I don't usually call relevancy at all, but in this case I cannot see any link. I'll give the benefit of the doubt, if you can explain it, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: The relevancy is that a lot of this area is covered off by the minister of highways - because they're using a highway, they have to get permission to use a highway. They are using airports, ports of entry. So the relevance is all there.
Chair: That's fine. I just wanted to get it. I'll let the question stand.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of course, the Yukon government will do whatever it can to assist these groups. We have already heard about the Gwitchin gathering; we're aware of the Yukon Quest; we're aware of the Trek Over the Top. The member is doing his best to hear a "no", when no "no" has been said. We have said "yes" before, and we're saying "yes" again. We will do what we can to help.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, could the minister advise the House what involvement she has had and what steps she has taken in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The department has been very busy doing what it can. I will point out that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asked specifically the other day about the Gwitchin gathering. My office has not heard from the Trek Over the Top or the Yukon Quest with regard to this, so I would assume that if they're having difficulties and need my help, they will pick up the phone.
Mr. Jenkins: It took the minister a lot of words to say, "We haven't done anything." And really, that's what she should have said. They haven't been involved; they haven't done anything - they're monitoring the issue. I'm sure the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, along with the Minister of Tourism now have a heads-up and will become more active and more involved.
Mr. Chair, I appreciate the information that the minister provided with respect to the cost of the engines for the George Black ferry. The previous cost cited in the House, which the minister advised us of in the last session - that she assured the House was well in line and that they could do the job for that amount of money - has been underbudgeted and now we're seeing a tremendous increase.
Could the minister advise the House the final cost of repowering - it's not just the engines - or are we now deleting the marine gears, too?
So we're looking at more, because at the time the minister put out the dollar figure, I said that's very low and you can't do it for that price. Now, the minister said, yes, we could. We went merrily down the road, and what's the final price going to be when we finish repowering? Does it include marine gear or just a couple of new engines? And what other equipment are we replacing at the same time?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'll be happy to get the member a written answer to that question.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister very much for that information, because given the onus that we place on the George Black ferry to provide a transportation link to our community, and given the very pivotal position that it plays in our visitor industry, its downtime has to be reduced to the lowest possible common denominator. I'm disappointed that it has taken so long to bring this to a head.
The total cost is what I'm looking for. The minister has agreed to provide that. And what I'm also asking is: what else is going to be taking place, and what other auxiliary items are going to be changed out at the same time? And there was a subsequent program that we were told was going to go forward in the next fiscal cycle to replace the steering gear - get rid of a lot of the cable system and replace it with full hydraulic. Is that still on course, and when is this going to take place?
You know, a legislative return would be okay, but, again, Mr. Chair, we're talking about another $100,000-odd. Let's get a grasp on the order of magnitude. So by the time you add the engine, marine gear and steering, we're up to about $400,000-odd, Mr. Chair, and we still have a ferry that was constructed in the mid-1960s that may or may not prove to be reliable for very much longer.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will give the member a written reply, which will contain all the information he has asked for.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would hope so. I thank the minister for that response, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I see that the minister deked out of the issue surrounding the Dome Road school bus in my community and the pullout requirement, but it is a very, very important safety issue. And, yes, the highway was transferred to the city by a previous government; yes, the city is responsible for maintaining it, but it is a road that the city didn't ask for. They just received it, and subsequently a great deal of it was transferred back to YTG because the city has no ability to look after chipseal.
So there are a lot of issues there that are very, very important, Mr. Chair, and I would encourage the minister to stay on top of the issue of safety surrounding school bus pullouts and the requirement for same.
I'd like to thank the minister for the information in that regard with respect to the issue of the buses and the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association and the acquisition of the bus.
I'm quite interested in the insurance area, and I'll be exploring that further. It's most interesting because the requirements in the U.S. and running into Alaska are considerably more restrictive than they are here in the Yukon, not only for insurance, but the examinations and courses that drivers of motor vehicles in Alaska have to go through.
They have to be certified in a program of drug and alcohol. They have to be certified and knowledgeable in safety, in first aid - not to the same degree, but to a much higher degree than we have here in the Yukon.
I have nothing further in general debate unless the minister stands up and wants to get us off track in here again. But we can move into line-by-line.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed directly to line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services Division
Corporate Services Division in the amount of $107,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
Transportation Division in the amount of $407,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
Municipal and Community Affairs Division in the amount of $359,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Community and Transportation Affairs in the amount of $873,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Office of the Deputy Minister
On Emergency Measures
On Special Projects - Burwash Fire Remediation
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us a breakdown on that and indicate how much more of this work is remaining?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $49,000 was a revote request for the forest fire beautification work. Some information and directional signs were installed. The remaining signage will be done after highway construction has been completed, and landscaping and trail interpretive signage are part of the proposal.
What remains of the project isn't covered by this supplementary budget, but future projects include a tourist information kiosk, an upgrade to a heritage cabin and the refurbishing of highway welcome signs, which will total approximately $14,000.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Special Projects - Burwash Fire Remediation in the amount of $49,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services Division
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mr. McRobb: I would like a breakdown on this particular item, Mr. Chair, because, when we were discussing the mains, we made an appeal to the minister to transfer some of the funds for computers toward capital-intensive programs, like the rural roads upgrading program, and we were told that that wasn't possible.
Now we see that a sizable amount was added to that expenditure, so I'd like to know what it was for.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $56,000 is a $50,000 revote for computing equipment and system projects carried over from the 2000-01 fiscal year. Projects for which funding is required include driver and vehicle registrations, enhancements and printer; complete assessments and taxation data conversion; purchase LIMS hardware and software; upgrade hardware for the AS400 moves; and upgrade of infrastructure needed to meet the corporate standard. There is also $4,000 for transportation engineering requirement for a computer upgrade and the increased cost of a colour printer and $2,000 required for office furniture and equipment. Engineering and development requires three office chairs and a paper shredder.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $56,000 agreed to
On Transportation Facilities
On Transportation Facilities and Equipment
Mr. McRobb: Can we get an explanation why there's $175,000 less for this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There's a decrease of $190,000 as a result of the postponed purchase of a replacement snow blower and runway sweeper, offset by an increase of $15,000 to complete security improvements to weigh scales. We installed security cameras outside the Whitehorse and Watson Lake weigh stations.
Transportation Facilities and Equipment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $175,000 agreed to
On Transportation Planning and Engineering
Transportation Planning and Engineering in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Highway Construction
On Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway in the amount of $3,960,000 agreed to
On Campbell Highway
Campbell Highway in the amount of $175,000 agreed to
On Nahanni Range Road
Nahanni Range Road in the amount of $279,000 agreed to
On Bridges - Numbered Highways
Mr. Keenan: I have had a question about bridges on the North Canol Highway, and I'd like to ask the minister if any of these dollars might be going toward the bridges on the North Canol Highway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, this line item is to upgrade the Upper Frances River bridge, at kilometre 8.4 on the Nahanni Range Road for heavy truck traffic and facilitation of the mining operation by North American Tungsten.
Mr. Keenan: Is the minister aware that the community is looking for improvement on the bridges of the North Canol Highway, and is the minister looking to incorporate that in some future budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, of course we are aware of it. I don't have the complete future plan in front of me at this point, as we are dealing with line-by-line on a supplementary budget.
Bridges - Numbered Highways in the amount of $190,000 agreed to
On Other Roads
Mr. McRobb: I might not have gotten up on this one, but we're still waiting for the written material in response to our questions at the briefing last week. The breakdown for the rural road upgrading program was requested at that time, and unfortunately we still haven't received it. So maybe we could just get an explanation from the minister of what that $42,000 was for.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had indicated earlier that officials brought a number of legislative returns to my office, which I have not yet had a chance to sign.
Also, what we have been engaging in is debate on the supplementary budget. I'm sure that we'll have plenty of time when we get to all of the good capital projects in the mains budget to deal with further debate.
This is $42,000 for a revote request for rural roads upgrading to complete a project carried over from 2000-01. It was a capital funding agreement with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation to complete upgrading of the Aishihik Road between kilometre 42.4 and kilometre 118.1.
Other Roads in the amount of $42,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Airports in the amount of $6,183,000 agreed to
On Municipal and Community Affairs Division
On Public Safety
On Fire Protection
Fire Protection in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
On City of Whitehorse Recreation Facilities
City of Whitehorse Recreation Facilities in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
On Recreation Facilities
Recreation Facilities in the amount of $356,000 agreed to
On Community Recreation Leadership Endowment Fund
Community Recreation Leadership Endowment Fund in the amount of $750,000 agreed to
On Canada Winter Games Infrastructure Fund
Canada Winter Games Infrastructure Fund in the amount of $8,000,000 agreed to
On Community Services
On Reserve Fund for Dawson City Projects
Reserve Fund for Dawson City Projects in the amount of $973,000 agreed to
On Community Planning
Community Planning in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Public Health/Roads and Streets
On Planning and Pre-engineering
Planning and Pre-engineering in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Water and Sewer Mains
Water and Sewer Mains in the amount of an underexpenditure of $5,000 agreed to
On Sewage Treatment and Disposal
Sewage Treatment and Disposal in the amount of $180,000 agreed to
On Solid Waste
Mr. McRobb: That's a considerable amount of overexpenditure, Mr. Chair. Can we get a breakdown on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $150,000 increase is a revote for the solid waste pilot project to continue the Haines Junction solid waste management plan in the member's riding, the Dawson composting program and the Mount Lorne domestic waste feasibility study.
Mr. Fairclough: I was wondering whether there were any plans for this type of project in any other communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'd be pleased to address this in the debate on the mains budget, as I feel that is where it would be more appropriate, as we're in line-by-line now. If you rule otherwise, of course, I'll do my best.
Chair: If you're seeking a ruling, the question is very simple on solid waste and it's correctly related to solid waste. So, if you want to answer it, this is certainly an appropriate time to ask the question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Some of these pilot projects are being used to develop a template to facilitate future management plans. We are evaluating the true cost of the recent solid waste regulations and of a contemplated ban on burning garbage, so we chose three sites: Haines Junction, Dawson City and the Yukon government Mile 9 dump. Once we can see the outcome of those, it will help us to plan for the future in the rest of the territory.
Solid Waste in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Flood/Erosion Control
Flood/Erosion Control in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Equipment Purchase
Equipment Purchase in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,000 agreed to
On Road/Streets Upgrade
Road/Streets Upgrade in the amount of $1,802,000 agreed to
On Land Development
Industrial in the amount of $1,254,000 agreed to
Commercial in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Recreational in the amount of an underexpenditure of $600,000 agreed to
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide an explanation, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The increase of $775,000 consists of a $193,000 revote for the provision of Dawson City dredge pond subdivision servicing; $425,000 revote and an additional $215,000 required to complete construction and to accelerate the installation of traffic lights on the Hamilton Boulevard twinning. That's 100-percent recoverable. Members will recall that construction was delayed in 2000-01 due to a change in the soil conditions. It needed some extra work and delayed the completion of the contract.
There is $82,000 for roadwork in the Wolf Creek North country residential area, BST application and asphalt pavement; $15,000 for Mile Two Mayo Road country residential for engineering and survey work; $8,000 for Haines Junction Willow Acres country residential feasibility study; $3,000 for Spruce Hills country residential, to cover the balance of playground equipment; and $1,000 for Dawson urban residential lot purchase; and $1,000 for Ross River urban residential, to cover the cost of an advertising lottery. That is partly offset by a reduction of $168,000 for Porter Creek urban residential lower bench. Development there is dependent on the completion of the Copper Ridge subdivision.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to explore with the minister one of the issues surrounding the dredge pond subdivision in my community, Mr. Chair. It appears that these lots have been legally surveyed; they're in place. Individuals have purchased them. They go in to fill them, and there are ponds on them, and the federal Department of Fisheries has stopped them from filling them.
What steps is the minister taking to ensure that, when they're given clear title to a lot that may contain a dredge pond on it, that they don't have this problem? One would think that the dredge ponds - small, little bodies of water - could be filled in. What assistance is the department providing to these individuals?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to look into this for the member and get back to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's not just impacting on the lot developments sold by the minister's department. It's impacting on the First Nation's land development that they have recently attempted to develop between the Trans North helicopter pad and the Klondike River bridge. They were stopped by the federal Department of Fisheries. The federal Department of Fisheries has also stopped the Department of Highways from extending the width of the highway in many areas because of tailings ponds. So, it's not something that has just reared its ugly head with this subdivision development. It has been known. What has been the course of action previously taken by the department, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said I would be happy to look into this and get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, this has been ongoing for quite some time. Is it because the minister doesn't know what transpired previously?
Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said I would be happy to look into the matter and get back to the member. He doesn't seem interested in that answer, and I am sorry that he isn't. I will attempt to get back to him as quickly as possible on this matter. There are a number of issues that the member brings up where I don't have the facts at my fingertips, and all I can do in that case is to do what I said I would do, look into it and get back to him. Mr. Chair, considering the time, I move we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that we now 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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, 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 from the Chair of the 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 government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 13, 2001.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.