Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the Geoscience Forum
Hon. Mr. Kent: I rise today on behalf of the Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to all those who are taking part in this year's Geoscience Forum.
I was fortunate this past weekend to meet new faces and renew acquaintances at the forum, and I want to extend my appreciation to everyone from placer miners to exploration companies for their dedicated efforts in these tough times for the mining industry.
Mr. Speaker, joining us in the gallery here today are some participants in the Geoscience Forum: Mr. Jim Dodge, who is the Prospector of the Year; Tara Christie, who is the KPMA president, and her father Jim, who operate a placer mine in the Dawson region; prospector Mr. Ron Berdahl; Mr. Mike Burke from the Yukon geology program, and YTG's mining facilitator, Mr. Jesse Duke. Could I ask members to join me in welcoming them to the gallery?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I would also like to thank all the other individuals and companies who explored in the Yukon this year and recognize some of the award winners at this year's forum. Viceroy, Nova Gold and Newmont were jointly given the mining reclamation award of the year for their work on the Elsa airstrip, and Doug Busat of TD Oilfield Services won the placer reclamation award for his diligent work on Hunker Creek near Dawson.
Two special honours were bestowed this weekend: one for prospector of the year, Mr. Jim Dodge, by the Yukon Prospectors Association, and one for long-time achievement in mining reclamation, given to Norm Ross of Ross Mining by the Klondike Placer Miners Association.
Jim's work as a mining engineer and geologist has taken him to the four corners of the earth over his 81 years, but it is his independent prospecting work that prompted the association to honour him. His relentless work in pursuing rare earth elements in the Yukon was one activity that caught the Prospectors Association's eyes.
Rare earth metals are used in areas ranging from magnets to fire suppressants. Jim is also noted for his development of the Tea claims near Mac Pass into a producing barite mine.
Mr. Dodge was born in Manhattan in 1920, graduated from the Missouri School of Mines in 1941, and began his work in the Yukon in 1963 as a scout, sniffing out investment potential for a Japanese company.
Norm Ross' long-time reclamation honour is well-deserved. Since the early 1980s, the responsible mining practices at Ross Mining have consistently been far in excess of those required by regulation and legislation. Areas mined out by Ross Mining now host lush vegetation, small lakes and streams used by all types of wildlife, including areas where moose return annually to bear their young. Norm has not kept his strong sense of commitment to the land to himself. Over the years, he has given many presentations at conferences and to miners on how to best plan and implement reclamation techniques into profitable mining operations.
Not only do we thank him, but Mother Nature is also surely nodding her head in agreement. A special thanks to Norm, Jim and all the participants in the Geoscience Forum.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I too would like to join with members in paying tribute to the 29th annual Yukon Geoscience Forum as an opportunity to recognize the role that mining plays in the territory and the significant role that adds to our economy.
Our party is a strong supporter of the mining industry. The Yukon Party's goldpanner logo is symbolic of the degree of our commitment to mining, and we are proud to display that commitment. It is no secret that when mining does well, the Yukon's economy does well. These are, without a doubt, tough times for mining and, as a consequence, some of the toughest economic times this territory has ever seen.
Government policy such as the development assessment process and the Yukon protected areas strategy has destroyed investor confidence in the territory that has resulted in hardship for many Yukoners and an exodus of our young population because there are no jobs.
Like the saying goes, however, if there is a will there is a way. With strong leadership and policies and a proper balance, I am confident that mining will resume its rightful place in the Yukon as a vibrant industry once again.
It can be easily said that the high standard of living enjoyed by Canadians today stems in a large part from the development of our rich natural resources - agriculture, forestry and minerals. While we in Canada have been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, we are even more fortunate in having people with the ability to find these resources and convert them from potential assets into useful products.
For these very reasons I am pleased to recognize Mr. Jim Dodge as this year's Yukon Prospector of the Year, for his affinity for rocks and his success in finding what mining prospectors would call the motherlode of rich deposits in the Yukon.
I'm also pleased to take this opportunity to recognize and congratulate Mr. Norm Ross as this year's winner of an award for outstanding quartz and placer mining reclamation practices. A constituent and friend of many years, Norm Ross has earned the distinction of being a successful producer of placer gold in the territory, as well as a world leader in the recovery of placer gold.
We look forward, once again, to the day that the mining industry will be the leader in the Yukon's economy.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of National Child's Day
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise in the Legislature today to join with others in Canada in recognizing National Child's Day, and around the world, known as Universal Child's Day.
The United Nations General Assembly recommended in 1954 that all countries institute the day to observe worldwide fraternity and understanding among children, and to promote activities for the welfare of the world's children.
Through the years the United Nations has brought many children's issues to international attention. In May 2002, there will be a United Nations special session on children.
Daily in the news we learn of the terrible circumstances in which many of the world's children live. We are concerned about these children. Yukoners generously, through charities and individual efforts, reach out and help make their lives just a little better.
Mr. Speaker, it is our hope that the world's children continue to fare better and hope that their prospects for the future are filled with promise, but we cannot think that this will just happen. We must continue and expand our good and dedicated work as families, as educators, as volunteers, as governments and as neighbours, to care for and nurture our children.
We often say that children are our future, but more importantly, they are an enriching and vibrant part of our present. Their clarity of vision, openness, joy, creativity, and spontaneity give us the gift of hope each day.
In celebration of our children and in praise of those who love and devote themselves to their growth and keeping, I, and my colleagues, join with others here in Yukon, at home and around the world to commemorate National and Universal Child's Day.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to also pay tribute to the National Child's Day. National Child's Day is the day to recognize that children have rights. Children have the right to be healthy, the right to be cared for and the right to be educated. They have the right to access services that they need and they have the right to be safe.
In order that children have their needs met, it is important that government shows leadership in providing policies, programs and resources that support all families and children. Government Services should be universal and accessible to those families and children who wish to access them.
While the needs of children and their rights have slowly gained prominence in the last few years, the number of children living in poverty continues to rise. Poverty has lasting effects on healthy development, success in school and lifelong health. Governments have a role to play in ensuring that the impacts of poverty are minimized through delivery of services.
Key people in children's lives include their families, their caregivers, their teachers, and other children, and it's important to recognize that children live in families and in communities, and that in order to meet the needs of children we need to ensure that their family and community needs are met.
Today we should remember the importance of children in our lives. Take the time to listen to your child, to hug your child, and pay attention to the children around you. And if you dare to or if you want to hear the truth, just simply ask a child.
We should also pay tribute to the child care workers, to the teachers, and to the friends and families who work to improve the lives of children. In order to have a healthy community and a strong future, we must value and support our children and the people who nurture them.
Mr. Speaker, I would just like to point out that the Council of Yukon First Nations has a motto that has been with us for many, many years - "Together today for our children tomorrow". What a legacy.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I'm also pleased to pay tribute to National Child's Day as an opportunity to celebrate and honour our country's youngest citizens. Since 1993, Canada has recognized November 20 as National Child's Day. This date not only marks the commemoration of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, but also the UN adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
The future of our children is of utmost importance. We as a community and country at large have a responsibility to not only meet the basic needs of our children, but to also provide them with what it takes to ensure that they lead healthy, fulfilling lives. In doing so, we can shape the world in which they will be raised. That will, in turn, help determine their future, so that they may one day become contributing members of our communities and tomorrow's model parents.
This task is not something that can be done all alone. It takes a whole community - parents, educators, employers, politicians. It is our responsibility to meet these obligations and rise to the largest challenge of all - that of raising our children. With the continuation of public awareness campaigns such as this and increased education, each of us can make a difference in a child's life, and so we should. Children are the key to our future.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) every parent has the right to make their own choices about which foods are or are not acceptable for their families to consume;
(2) every consumer has the right to know whether the food they purchase has been genetically modified; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to lobby Health Canada to develop a mandatory system for labelling foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Yukon campground review
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am pleased to report to the House today the results of an assessment I undertook this summer to determine the state of Yukon's campground system. During this summer season, I had the opportunity to visit 39 out of 41 campgrounds and all 12 recreational sites to see first-hand these important recreational and tourism facilities. I, and my colleagues, have heard from many Yukoners regarding registration and security issues, as well as making our facilities more accessible to people with disabilities. They have provided many valuable suggestions on how these improvements can be made.
Overall, I am impressed with our campground infrastructure and the level of service we provide to users. Those Yukoners and tourists I spoke with were equally impressed and pleased with Yukon's campground services and facilities. Many of these campgrounds and sites are located on spectacular natural settings that attract both visitors to the Yukon and residents alike.
This infrastructure provides critical support to the tourism sector - a sector that our government continues to fully support. While we can take pride in our existing system, I also believe that we need to take stock and assess our system, as it is today, and also where we need to go in the future in order to continue contributing to the tourism economy and to the recreational well-being of all Yukon residents.
To that end, I would like to advise the House that I have instructed the Department of Renewable Resources to review the 1992 Yukon campground system plan. This plan sets the direction for how we operate and develop our campground system. I have specifically asked the department to update the plan in terms of its goals, to identify the recapitalization required to maintain the system, and to identify where we may be able to update our current recreational park and site system.
I will, Mr. Speaker, return to the House to share the results of this review in the spring of 2002.
Mr. McRobb: Well, improving our territory's campgrounds is something the Yukon government should be doing continually, and I encourage the minister in his efforts. The minister said that he'll be asking the department to update the Yukon campground system plan and to identify ways to update the system. In the minister's reply, can he indicate if this will be done using an approach that is driven by industry or by visitors?
While the minister's on his feet, can he also elaborate more on what he means by "looking at the recapitalization required to maintain the system"? Now, I'm sure Yukon taxpayers are very grateful to the minister for giving up the whole month of July to tour the Yukon at their expense, in a motorhome, roasting wieners and marshmallows, while gathering intelligence on the state of our 41 campgrounds.
However, he should be aware of loads of pertinent information that already exists, such as the evaluative survey of campgrounds from the stay-another-day program.
From that survey, some of the most frequent complaints from visitors include: (1) YTG registration payment system is confusing and does not allow for sufficient flexibility; (2) YTG campground attendants do not carry identification and yet demand payment; (3) YTG campground regulations are not well-posted or understood by travellers; (4) campgrounds are noisy; (5) outhouses in campgrounds and rest areas need to be attended to more frequently; and (6) travellers do not know if they can bring their oversized RVs into YTG campgrounds.
Visitors suggest some form of annual campground permits for non-residents would encourage longer stays. They also suggest they want campground regulations posted in campgrounds and they want them printed in German as well. Also, they want informative signage at campgrounds on bear safety, flora and fauna, and fishing, and they want a rating system for campgrounds and a separate area for travellers with dogs and generators, to reduce noise pollution.
Now, yesterday, the minister indicated that he was looking at relocating one of our campgrounds. I wonder if, in his reply, he can indicate which campground he doesn't like in its current location. What about suggestions from other Yukoners? Will the minister commit to providing the residents of the territory with an opportunity to provide their input into how our campgrounds could be improved, changed, or new ones created?
What about an interactive Web site on the Department of Renewable Resources' existing Web site? This would also be another opportunity for visitors to plug in their feedback and provide us with a better understanding of what needs to be done.
Another source of information that must be considered can be found in the suggestions section of our regional tourism plans. For instance, the Kluane area has recently developed a wonderful plan that should not be relegated to collect dust on the minister's shelf.
There are all sorts of great recommendations in this plan that are waiting for funding commitments from this government, and some of them do relate to campgrounds.
If the minister truly wants to improve our rural visitor attractions for our tourists and residents, he would talk to his colleagues about doing something to bring in cell phone capability, at least along our major highway corridor. From his travels this summer, he should know that cell phones don't work outside the Whitehorse area. When our travellers discover that, does anybody think they'll be staying another day?
In closing, I hope the department will be using these suggestions in updating its plan, and I look forward to the minister's response.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in the fervent hope that the review of the 1992 Yukon campground system plan just announced by the Minister of Renewable Resources will be undertaken on a much more cost-effective basis than the $5,676.49 of taxpayers' money this minister spent conducting his personal campground tour to get the idea for this review.
In view of the over $5,000 the minister spent on the tour, one has to wonder if he actually spent any time in the campgrounds. Given the 31 days that the minister spent on this tour, one has to also wonder about the justification of having Yukon taxpayers pay this bill. However, Mr. Speaker, I will give the minister the benefit of the doubt, that he actually took time off from his gruelling holiday schedule this summer to undertake the onerous task of conducting a complete tour of Yukon campgrounds. The minister's sense of duty and strong work ethics are to be commended, unlike that of other Liberal colleagues, who simply took the summer off.
Mosquitoes and black flies did not deter this minister from the task, and I am confident that the minister discovered that Yukon campgrounds are some of Canada's finest and on a par with those the minister toured in Australia last summer.
I suspect that it was on the tour of the parks in the Yukon this summer, in conversing with nature, that the minister discovered that the old Parks Act was really just a campground act and needed total replacement. Lo and behold, the minister saw the need for a bold new legislative quest he now calls the Parks and Land Certainty Act. Unfortunately for the minister, no one likes his new act and I believe it is time for the minister to beat a hasty retreat back to the campgrounds from whence he came.
I look forward to the minister advising of his next tour, which I am led to believe will be a parks tour sponsored by the Yukon Liberal caucus. Herschel Island is lovely at this time of the year, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure once in awhile when we can find humour in these hallowed halls, and I very much appreciate the support from the opposition in recognizing the good work that this government does, that all ministers are out and about and that we are doing a very hard and efficient job.
I thank the Member for Klondike for recognizing that, Mr. Speaker, because it's not very often that he passes kudos to this side of the House, as we all know.
Well, yes, Mr. Speaker, I should let the Member for Kluane know that, for the whole hour yesterday in debate on Renewable Resources, he continually pleaded with me that I take him along on the next camping trip. Well, Mr. Speaker, I couldn't find him in his riding yesterday. I told him that. I looked.
So, he says that he is encouraged by the good work that this government has done in reviewing the existing situations in our campgrounds.
And he asked me, Mr. Speaker, if it were visitors and industry who are motivating us. It is not only visitors and industry; it is also Yukoners.
He said that we had problems with noise. Well, those campgrounds closest to larger communities do experience a bit of noise. I acknowledge and recognize that and we are looking at ways to mitigate that factor.
He also indicated the fact that registration problems have occurred. Well, we have heard that. Not even when I was out and about - and I did spend some time in those campgrounds, and I did roast wieners and marshmallows with visitors, because that's how you get the facts. You listen to people, and people use our campgrounds, so it was only logical that I did sit down and share a conversation with those folks.
The fact is that the Yukon time program results also identified a number of factors that dispute the Member for Klondike and the Member for Kluane in their assertions about our campgrounds. Yukon campgrounds are clean, beautiful and well-maintained, and they are, Mr. Speaker. Our outbuildings in campgrounds are second to none. They are clean. They're well-maintained and that is because of the dedicated campground staff that we have looking after our campgrounds. They do go way beyond the call of duty.
There was one experience at Million Dollar Falls this year that was of a little sad nature, and I would be willing to share that with members opposite. But not only the campground maintenance crew, but the campground attendant went well beyond the call of duty in looking after an emergency in that situation. But I was there; I saw and witnessed it.
Yes, I did spend time in our campgrounds, and I am proud to say that we do have a wonderful, efficient campground system.
As a matter of fact, not only by visitors - tourism, rubber-tire, whatever the member wants to call it - our campgrounds are well-used and we have also extended the season so that Yukoners themselves can take better advantage of our campground season. So at the beginning and tail end, we will probably, next year, do the same thing - offering Yukoners the first month of campground use free.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government renewal process, devolution
Mr. Fentie: Now that the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission is in a humorous mood I hope I don't spoil that for him with my following question. The Premier's template for government renewal is all about downsize, privatize and layoffs. However, this minister continues to use the renewal project as a method to prepare for devolution. We now have a devolution agreement; however, we will not be taking over those responsibilities until sometime in 2003.
Now, when we take over those new responsibilities, there are some interesting terms involved. To meet those terms, can this minister tell the House how many of the existing federal employees will need to come over to Yukon government in order to manage the programs we are now taking over from Ottawa?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I don't have those figures right in front of me, but I'll be happy to get them for the Member for Watson Lake.
Mr. Fentie: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Well, there seems to be some confusion. I guess the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission is still finding great humour in his ministerial statement, but I asked the minister responsible for the commission. The important link to the transfer is capacity and experience. It's not how many federal employees will be coming over to the Yukon side, but it's the functions that they will be performing. The project the Premier calls renewal - but is actually project downsize - is compromising that very vital link in the transfer.
Can the minister answer this question: how is the Yukon government determining exactly what positions will be available to current federal employees? Is the Public Service Commission working on that, or is it in the hands of the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Perhaps there was a project downsize in the plans of the NDP, but there is no project by that name in this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, and the members opposite should be well aware of that.
Mr. Fentie: We weren't informed that the minister responsible for Justice was now the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. However, again, regarding the Public Service Commission, the minister who was responsible in this House yesterday stated and admitted that the budget for rewriting job descriptions, because of project downsize, is in the Executive Council Office, not in the Public Service Commission at all, Mr. Speaker. But we all know it's fundamental that whoever pays the piper calls the tune.
My question to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission: is the Public Service Commission in charge of rewriting the job descriptions themselves, or has that function been co-opted by the Executive Council Office to meet the political objectives of project downsize?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: In fact, there is no project downsize in this Liberal government, as the member has stated. That is categorically wrong. The devolution of the Northern Affairs program from the federal government to the Yukon government, Mr. Speaker, will take effect April 1, 2003. As part of the devolution transfer agreement, approximately 240 federal positions, including the salary and benefit costs for each of those positions, will be transferred from the federal government to the Yukon government. The Yukon government will offer to each federal employee whose position is being transferred a position that matches as closely as possible their existing federal position. The Yukon government has agreed to do this in order for devolution to take place. Federal employees will be appointed to positions integrated into the Yukon government effective April 1, 2003.
Question re: Government renewal process, layoffs
Mr. Fairclough: I'd like to follow up with the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission and I hope that he can answer some of the questions and not skirt around the questions that have been asked on this side of the House.
The minister and the Premier both refused to confirm the figure of 175 layoffs as their target for downsizing government. Yesterday, the Premier danced away from any questions about hidden costs of project downsize.
Can the minister confirm that the Premier has said she is willing to spend down a $99-million surplus to pay for restructuring government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: First of all, the surplus is $51 million, and secondly it may have been a plan of the NDP government but there is no project downsize in this Yukon government, and the members opposite should remember that.
Mr. Fairclough: Is that all we get for an answer? I believe that members on that side of the House are confused when the leader leaves them in charge. The Liberals will spend money on a renewal project that nobody asked for. They'll waste taxpayers' money on furniture for the Premier's throne room. They'll spend lavishly on travel perks for themselves, like the Minister of Renewable Resources and his excellent adventure in the Yukon's campgrounds, at a public cost of $5,700 for a wiener roast - but they will not spend any money on getting the economy rolling, and that shows where this Liberal government's priorities are.
How much has the government saved so far by leaving over 100 jobs unfilled under the so-called "staffing watch"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, renewal was asked for. It was asked for by government employees; it was asked for by members of the public and, to set the record straight, the Auditor General suggested it as well, and there is no target for layoffs.
The members opposite would like people to believe that, but there is no target. The Premier has said it again and again, Mr. Speaker, and the members keep asking again and again, but there is no target. And renewal was asked for.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thanks to this so-called "staffing watch", we're halfway to this government's target of 175 jobs. The government's own officials have said that, and they speak on behalf of the government, Mr. Speaker, and on behalf of the ministers who are responsible.
But renewal isn't just about project downsize. It's also project privatize. The public service is already being turned over to the private sector: BST work on Yukon highways, boiler room maintenance on the Education department building. How many YTG managers and employees have been involved in the process of identifying public services that can be privatized? And what are the next areas to get the chop?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The members opposite continue to attempt to steer public perception in the wrong directions. Perhaps the members opposite had planned, in the unlikely event that they had become government last time, to downsize and privatize, but that is not the intention of this Liberal government.
Question re: Fuel cost survey
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Economic Development. Now, the Yukon Bureau of Statistics is continuing to publish its monthly fuel survey to show Yukoners how badly they are being overcharged at the pumps. The recent survey for October shows that current gasoline prices for regular self-serve in Yukon range from 74.7 cents per litre in Whitehorse to 91.9 cents per litre in Dawson City.
The survey would be more informative if it gave some gasoline prices for other Canadian cities, in order for Yukoners to have a better idea of how Yukon prices compare. For example, it is my understanding that the current price in Alberta is around 50 cents per litre for regular self-serve gas.
Can the minister explain why gasoline prices in Yukon are a minimum of 25 cents per litre more expensive than Alberta, especially considering the fact that Alberta's fuel tax is even higher than that of the Yukon? We have the lowest fuel tax in Canada. What is the reason for this glaring disparity? And don't tell me it's due to the shipping costs.
Hon. Mr. Kent: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Member for Klondike for acknowledging that we do have the lowest fuel tax in the country, and suggest that the Yukon government supports promoting a competitive market in the gasoline industry, not setting prices that could interfere with that competitive market.
Mr. Jenkins: It was through no fault of the Liberal government that we have the lowest taxes, and it was the Yukon Party's position that they should be eliminated completely.
But it's very clear that Yukoners are taking a hosing at the pumps. Some jurisdictions in Canada, such as P.E.I., have successfully regulated fuel costs for quite some time now.
Rather than continue to publish statistics that show Yukoners how poorly we are faring in terms of gas prices, is the Yukon Liberal government prepared to examine price controls? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Regulating gasoline prices or regulating the market is not something that the Yukon government is going to support. What we do support is government regulation to promote a competitive market, not setting government-regulated prices that could interfere with that competitive market.
Mr. Jenkins: Speaking of competitive marketplaces, my final supplementary is to the Minister of Education. He really has no qualms about wasting taxpayers' money, and it concerns the cost of heating the school in Old Crow. Can the minister explain why the Department of Education is currently paying $1.50 per litre for heating oil, whereas Community and Transportation Services is paying $1.19 for the same product in Old Crow? What is the reason for this disparity?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would certainly suggest that the Member for Klondike ask the people of Old Crow that question and I am sure he would be well-enlightened on the effect if that situation were changed up there. I would certainly direct him to ask the folks in Old Crow about that price with respect to fuel oil for the school.
Question re: Child care worker funding
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health, if I may. Now, I am asking the Minister of Health a question, but Lord knows who is going to stand up on that side to answer the question. We know that the territorial government signed the early childhood development initiative more than a year ago. I would like to say that last year on December 12, 2000, the minister - and I know how the minister loves a direct quote of his own words back to him, so I will please the minister: "We're going to put the money in the pockets of those people who are most dear to our child care at this point, and they are the child care workers."
Will the minister honour the commitment that he made last year?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we have already put a number of dollars into early childhood development and our healthy families initiative. We have also put money into the Child Development Centre. We've put money into child care. We are now funding meals for children staying in day homes. We have done what we said we would do, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I'll quote the Minister of Education: "au contraire". Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. The minister made a commitment on the floor of this House to put health care dollars where they're most needed. I do believe that was based on consultation.
Does the minister realize that child care in the Yukon is getting into a crisis situation and it's growing every day? It's very difficult for programs to recruit and retain qualified staff, and that's required in the regulation of the Yukon territorial government. We have people here who are operating without trained staff, and that could compromise the quality.
So would the minister please tell me how and when, most importantly, he intends to address this situation in wages and working conditions? Has the minister found the correct briefing note at this time?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The only crisis that's being created right now is by the member opposite. The member opposite always creates a crisis when he gets emotional about issues wherein he doesn't have all the facts. I have just shared with the members opposite how we have spent some of the early childhood development money. Now the member's saying that we're not training. That doesn't belong to Health and Social Services. We don't train people. That belongs to another department, and there are monies there and have been monies there in the past, and there have been monies currently. So I would hope that people take advantage of this. This is not my job to go out and train early childhood people. I mean, that's not my job. We provide the sources and the resources for it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, this minister is absolutely wrong. I'd like to ask this minister just to show a little compassion and to maybe think before he speaks, because the minister did say that he was going to put resources where they were most needed. I'm not asking this minister to go out and train child care workers. Obviously he's not qualified to do that. I'm asking the minister to lead the department. That's exactly what I'm asking the minister to do.
Now, quality child care is essential, and it's essential for many reasons. I just spoke about healthy families, healthy individuals, lifelong health, prevention at its earliest stages, Mr. Speaker. It enhances success in school, and it supports women and families. It's just good for Yukon. It's good for society.
So when is the minister going to address this very situation or at least recognize that there is a problem? When?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the member opposite becomes very excited about things when he doesn't have all the facts.
Mr. Speaker, we are providing resources for training, and it is up to the organizations out there to access these funds.
Again, I would like to clarify for the member opposite that I probably could go out and train early childhood people, with my background and my training, so the member opposite is not correct in that assumption either.
I guess that really what the issue is here, Mr. Speaker, is that we are working very hard at ensuring that we have a first-rate and a top quality trained group, and we will continue to do that.
Question re: Training trust funds
Mr. Fairclough: My question is to the Minister of Education.
The 2002 and 2003 capital budget cuts training trust funds by 72 percent. In this year's supplementary budget, it actually increases the funding in training trust funds. Yet there are funds that have had their agreements broken.
How many communities and workforce sectors have had their current contribution agreements broken?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Obviously the member knows a little bit more than I do on this subject, and I would be more than willing to get back to the member with the facts of that question.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked this question yesterday and didn't get any answers. I have asked it twice and did not get any answers. I was hoping the minister could go back to his department and get briefed on training trust funds.
Training trust funds are also given to NGOs, and these NGOs, as the minister knows, are voluntary organizations that support communities.
Will the minister identify how many NGOs have had their current contribution agreements broken or, as a result of the budget cut, have had the process stopped to reapply for a fund?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite refuses to accept an answer that I provided, in saying that I would qualify further his answer rather than create an answer for the member.
I'm pretty confident right now that there have been no funding agreements that have been broken. The member is correct, when he is referring to the capital budget item on training trust funds, that there is a reduction. I will get him the facts of the matter. I had indicated that to him already.
Mr. Fairclough: I was hoping that the minister could have done that after being asked this question yesterday. I don't have to go and ask another question. I will accept a written response on that.
Cuts in the capital budget of this magnitude will certainly result in loss of employment as well as loss of program support for a trained workforce.
What is this minister doing to address the fact that reducing the budget by 72 percent will result in significant job losses at Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is one correction that I'd like to inform the member opposite of, Mr. Speaker, and that is the fact that, yesterday, he didn't ask about training funds being cut, and I would suggest maybe he check Hansard on that.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, I had indicated yesterday and I have indicated to the House that there is a reduction in training trust funds. I also indicated to the member yesterday that there are monies out there in existing trust funds, training funds, that can be accessed, and there are a good number of sources that the Yukon College specifically can tap into, Mr. Speaker, and I will provide a list of that to the member also.
Question re: Community development fund
Mr. Fentie: I have a related question to the minister responsible for Economic Development. Now, the minister's colleagues are actively encouraging Yukoners to apply to Project Yukon for project funds. My question to the minister: why would they be giving that advice when the community development fund cupboard is bare, void of any funds?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, in this year's budget, the Yukon government has allocated $1.5 million to Project Yukon. In the capital budget for 2002-03, there's a further $750,000 allocated to the Project Yukon budget, and that's why we are encouraging Yukoners to access those funds.
Mr. Fentie: Let me point out to the minister that $1.5 million is half of what the community development fund used to be and, in the up and coming budget, it's slashed again.
Now, we know that the community development fund was enormously popular with Yukon people. It created thousands of hours of work, it contributed to community well-being, and it also allowed communities to meet their own priorities. This Liberal government has put this very popular fund of community support on the fast track to extinction.
My question to the minister: how many groups with approved projects in place have now been told that they won't get the money they were promised because the fund has dried up?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I said before, the fund hasn't dried up. There's $1.5 million budgeted in 2001-02, and a further $750,000 budgeted in 2002-03.
Mr. Speaker, budgeting is about making choices. The previous government chose to spend the $3 million on the community development fund. We've chosen to allocate our resources elsewhere, such as $14 million in government funding for highway construction, more than $7 million for the construction and maintenance of school facilities, and programs in my department, such as the Yukon mining incentives program, which increased by $100,000 to $850,000.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me point out to the minister that the uptake on the community development fund, as it was under the NDP, was some $16 million. This minister is talking about a $1.5 million contribution for this fiscal year, and that's being slashed again in the next capital budget to one-quarter of what it was.
Mr. Speaker, this is creating false hopes; this is pitting community against community, group against group, and it's demoralizing the public service by telling groups to apply for monies that are not there, monies that are disappearing.
What Liberal scheme is in the works to support community projects and create jobs, or is this government going to drop the ball on that, the way they have on the rest of the economy in this territory, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I said in my previous answer, budgeting is about making different choices. The NDP chose to spend $16 million in their mandate on the community development fund. Our choices are different. We've allocated $250,000 to the Convention Bureau; there's an arts fund, which is $500,000; $800,000 for the rural roads program. A number of constituents of the Kluane riding have done work on the Shakwak and work on the Champagne bypass, and they will be working on the Champagne-to-Haines Junction project next year.
Mr. Speaker, as I've said, budgeting is about choices, and our choices are different from those made by the previous government.
Question re: Fuel purchase policy
Mr. Keenan: I couldn't agree more with the Minister of Economic Development. It is about choices, and we're here to point out that they have made the wrong choices.
I have a question for the Minister of Government Services today, though.
Now, I have established in this House, on the floor of the Legislature, that the Liberals are protecting the big oil companies and are protecting them at a cost to all Yukoners, and it's very apparent from the Minister of Economic Development's answer today in the House to the Member for Klondike.
So, I'd like to ask this minister, then: when the responsibility for the fuel purchase policy moved to the Department of Government Services, a number of changes were made to the policy. Can the minister confirm that the fuel purchase policy under the new policy is for a period of two years and that the present contract was signed in July of 2000? Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to say, once again, that Government Services provides a list of fuel purchase locations, and also that we are responsible to the negotiated rates from the oil companies and sought bids from the independent retailers interested in selling fuel to the government.
The policy with Government Services for the period of two years is correct.
Mr. Keenan: I find that all very interesting, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for answering the question - if we're locked in for two years - maybe the minister has noticed here, since September 11, that oil prices around the world have dropped about a third and that crude has hit a record low of $16.65 a barrel? That's happening today.
So, can the minister tell us, now that he's locked in on this secret price - and I'm still going to say that it's a secret price. I have received no change on any of that from the minister here. Can the minister please tell me how the taxpayers are going to enjoy the benefit of falling tax prices?
Hon. Mr. Jim: With the benefit of falling tax prices for fuel in Yukon, the benefits were to go toward education, housing and other programs within the government that we can actually access through these dollars and that will be available to other departments.
In terms of the direct benefits to people purchasing the fuel in Yukon, we say that there are different efficiencies through our corporate card purchases. We also look at extreme ways of handling discounts, resulting in savings to taxpayers through reduced government administration costs and faster payments to local businesses.
Mr. Keenan: I would just like to point out that this minister, along with the whole Cabinet, indeed the whole caucus over there, enjoys spending upon themselves the savings that they secretly save. I guess that is where we make up on the travel budgets and whatnot.
I've got to point out, though, that what I've learned -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Is the member rising on a point of order?
The hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, we have had this discussion before. Standing Order No. 19(g) asks members not to directly infer or impute false motives. There is no doubt that is what just happened. The Member for Southern Lakes has just suggested that any savings are spent on ourselves. That is definitely imputing false motives. I would ask this to be stricken as unparliamentary language please.
Mr. Fentie: This is hardly in reference to this particular Standing Order in the way the member is posing his question. In fact, it is just a dispute between members, and the Member for Whitehorse Centre is merely getting up on a frivolous point of order.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, this is simply a dispute between members.
Speaker: Order please. As the Chair heard the debate, it didn't appear to the Chair to be a point of order. However, the Chair will take it under review and will report back to the House if necessary. Having said that, I would ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to restate his final supplementary.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I accept that. Let me also state that I would do nothing to make this government look bad. They do a good enough job on their own.
I would also like to point out that what I have learned in Question Period today, based on answers from the Minister of Economic Development, is that we have two prices in the Yukon Territory when it comes to gas. For the public we have a reason of competitive market, but when we go to spend money on the government fleet, we have a table that is set up with secret negotiations. Does the minister not see that?
So I am going to ask this minister: when is this minister going to do the right thing and open up the secret process so that all Yukoners - not just government, but all Yukoners, the public at large - can be sure that everyone is treated fairly and that tax dollars are being spent wisely?
Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We are locked into rebates only for the two years. These rebates are applied against the current prices. In terms of pitting - and I said this earlier on in the supplementary debate that we had - we are not here to pit the oil companies against the private companies - be it prices. We are here to provide services for government and for the public, and we are doing the best that we can with providing good services and the best prices for the delivery of fuel for government. In terms of the prices for the private sector, I'm sorry that I can't really respond to that because I'm not the oil company or the private sector that negotiates these prices.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. It is Motion No. 168, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(2)(b), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. It is Motion No. 108.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:20.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Renewable Resources - continued
Mr. McRobb: When we left off yesterday, I was talking about the F grades the government has received recently, and talking about the species-at-risk grading. We were talking about the World Wildlife Fund grading of the lack of progress in protected areas, and I think it's quite plain to see the minister is really living up to his name in this regard. It also provides a good indication to Yukoners of how poorly the government is doing when it comes to these big-ticket items in Renewable Resources.
So, we know now, Mr. Chair, of the priority the minister assigns to campgrounds, and that's all well and good, but we can't lose sight of the bigger picture as well. And, in terms of protecting our wildlife and our unique lands in the territory, time is a dynamic factor and, therefore, we should treat those areas with a higher priority than at present.
But that aside, Mr. Chair, I do want to make progress this afternoon, because we're still on the supplementary budget and we, in the official opposition, do want to move to the capital budget very soon. That will offer lots of opportunities for discussion at that time.
So, I have reduced my question load to the minister substantially and, essentially, at this time, I'm prepared to go into line-by-line. Now, I know the leader of the third party does have some questions I might want an opportunity to follow up on but, at this time anyway, I'm prepared to stand down on the general debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Planning
Policy and Planning in the amount of an underexpenditure of $104,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
Mr. McRobb: I do want to ask the minister for a breakdown on this. We know that the Liberals promised balance in spending between resource management and mineral assessment and so on. We haven't seen that balance put into practice. Can the minister explain what his intentions are in this area for the future?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We are - with all due respect to the member's opening comments - I just want to assure the Yukon public that I too take very seriously my responsibilities under the Renewable Resources portfolio, and that, yes, in the last hour of debate yesterday, we managed to talk about campgrounds. We talked about other things. I know the member in his heart knows that I do take renewable resource activities very seriously, not only with respect to campgrounds, but to the YPAS, to the Parks Act and to all the actions and activities of the department.
And I will attempt to responsibly answer all the member's questions in line-by-line now. The member asked specifically a question of what we're allocating to resource assessments. The fact of the matter is that we are allocating the same amounts to resource assessments, and even recoveries that come into the department are being allocated to that as well.
Mr. McRobb: It's somewhat reassuring to hear that because, sitting across the way over here and observing the minister and knowing how things are, it is important for him to do more than just focus on the campgrounds.
I know from his travels this summer, he probably earned a campground badge from the Premier, and that's remarkable, but we do have to move on.
Resource Management in the amount of $270,000 agreed to
On Land Claims
Land Claims in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $176,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Operational Equipment
Operational Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
On Protected Areas
On Park System Plan
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us a breakdown on this and the next line item when it comes up, too?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect, Mr. Chair, we are in line-by-line, and I think it would be appropriate for the member opposite to stand up and ask questions on the next line when we get to it.
This line item - the $50,000 for the park system - is a revote and to continue the park planning for the Fishing Branch protected area and other protected areas projects specifically.
Park System Plan in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessment
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The amount for resource assessments, again, is a revote to complete the ecoregions of Yukon report and the northwest Yukon recreational features inventory.
Resource Assessment in the amount of $36,000 agreed to
On Territorial Campgrounds and Day Use Areas
On Capital Works - Campground Facilities
Mr. McRobb: We know the minister earned his campground badge this summer for all his good work, but he failed to answer questions in today's ministerial statement, and there's one that I want to pursue again with him, and that was what he foresees in the way of recapitalization of the campgrounds. I'm wondering, because I notice in the back of the "parks and land uncertainty act", at least that's what some people call it, it has a glossary of listings for Yukon campgrounds, and there are some missing.
I have drawn the logical connection between that and the wording in the ministerial statement about the recapitalization need that's going on and, besides his lack of response while he was on his feet, I'm wondering if he can outline for us exactly what's going on with regard to recapitalization. Is the government considering privatizing any of the campgrounds, for instance, or giving some away or selling them?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: One slight correction for the member opposite. It's called the Parks and Land Certainty Act, Mr. Chair.
With respect to the question that he is asking, it is rather unfortunate, Mr. Chair, that yesterday we did have a fair exchange of information, but now the member opposite has digressed into a form of questioning that is typical of him.
I think I had indicated to the member yesterday, Mr. Chair, that I have instructed the department to look at all options with respect to existing campgrounds, and I will, as I indicated in my ministerial statement today, be reporting back to the House with the full details of that evaluation.
Capital Works - Campground Facilities in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources agreed to
Department of Tourism
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I am pleased to introduce the Supplementary Estimates No. 1 for the Department of Tourism.
The department is requesting an increase of $159,000 to its O&M budget and $799,000 to its capital budget. The highlight of this budget is $436,000 in capital funding provided for the historic resources trust fund or the Yukon historic resources fund. The funding is a one-time contribution to the Yukon historic resources trust fund in order to increase the fund to $1 million. This funding finally completes the 1992 government commitment.
In partnership with the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, a board that comes under the umbrella final agreement, the department will develop program criteria and begin distributing the interest generated on the first year in 2002-03.
The supplementary budget also contains $300,000 in capital revotes. They include the tourism marketing fund, $83,000. These projects were approved under the program but were uncompleted at year-end. This revote is required to allow the finalization of the projects. There is $40,000 for the museums strategy; $40,000 in capital funds will be revoted to the heritage branch for the implementation of the museum strategy. The contract was awarded to museologist Bill Barkley in association with Bob Janes and local consulting firms Midnight Arts and Legend Seekers. I anticipate that a discussion paper - actually, I released this on Monday. The discussion paper is available now and we will conduct two further rounds of consultation prior to writing the strategy.
The issues surrounding First Nation cultural, heritage or other interpretation centres and the Beringia Interpretive Centre have been and will be addressed in the final strategy.
Other projects that are subject to revotes include: $35,000 for the Kluane museum expansion project; $35,000 for the air access study, phase 2. This is the air access study area that deals with rural areas that the Member for Kluane is so definitely interested in, and, of course, so am I. There is $25,000 for the Carcoss-Tagish First Nation's heritage centre; $21,000 for the millennium fund; $15,000 for the wilderness tourism river raft regulations and $15,000 for the wilderness tourism product capacity study.
We have been working closely with various tourism industry sectors to gather the information that government and industry require for the industry's growth and sustainability. Our partners in the wilderness tourism sector asked government for this study but, due to other priorities, we are unable to participate.
We have agreed to complete the study at a time when both partners can focus their energy together. Other revote projects are: the millennium fine arts project for $15,000; $10,000 for the visual arts acquisitions; and, $6,000 for the Beaver Creek VRC septic field, also in the Member for Kluane's riding.
Finally, the Department of Tourism has requested $63,000 in capital for projects that are fully recoverable.
It is a priority of this department to leverage our funding and to work in partnership. Examples of these partnerships include $52,000 for the virtual museums project. The Yukon is a national leader in developing virtual museums. We have already created two virtual museums and have identified $52,000 for another virtual museum of Fort Selkirk.
This funding is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government. Our sponsor in these museums is the Canadian Heritage Information Network. Our success, however, also lies with the cooperation and support of the heritage community, Yukon museums, Yukon College, First Nations and our youth.
There's $11,000 for the term conservator position, and the funding for this position is fully recoverable from the Canadian Museums Association. In operations and maintenance, the $159,000 requested is also 100-percent recoverable. Examples of that are $87,000 in the scenic byways project. This is an intergovernmental agreement with the State of Alaska to pay for a program under the tourism north marketing partnership. The tourism north program is a joint Alaska Highway marketing program that includes our partners in Alaska, Alberta and B.C. The Yukon has been the management authority of the tourism north program since 1999. The scenic byways is a U.S. federal highway maintenance program that falls under that tourism north program. This money is 100-percent recoverable from the State of Alaska.
There is $53,000 in cooperative marketing for small advertisements, Mr. Chair. The highlight for the O&M recoveries is $53,000 we've requested for cooperative marketing with the Canadian Tourism Commission on small magazine ads in our U.S. market. The ads encourage potential visitors to discover the Yukon. There's $15,000 for the City of Whitehorse kiosk in the Visitor Reception Centre, which is fully recoverable from the City of Whitehorse. There is $4,000 in the Carcross walking tour brochure.
Now, I was on the inaugural walking tour of the lovely community of Carcross, and that included an unplanned tour of the Willard Phelps historic home. And although personally guided tours throughout historic homes aren't normally part of the tour, I'd highly recommend these new self-guided community tours of Carcross, Burwash Landing - also in Kluane - and Watson Lake. I urge Yukoners to take the time to explore the interesting and informative history of our own communities.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm sorry for the minister that she has to walk the trails in the wilderness while the Minister of Renewable Resources gets to joyride in a motorhome, but maybe she'll draw the long straw next year, Mr. Chair.
I have really reduced the number of issues I wanted to raise in general debate. I have some in line-by-line, but there are a few things I want to request some information on.
To begin with, can the minister indicate for us what progress she is making on developing new cultural centres in the territory? Can she tell us what they are?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, development of cultural centres is a community project. So what that means is that if a community comes to the Department of Tourism or comes to the government and says that they are interested in developing a cultural centre, then we work with them to find ways that that can work.
In some cases, a cultural centre is not the first step. We were speaking today to some representatives from the community of Ross River, for example, about their need to do some interpretation for the dinosaur tracks in their community, and we have spoken to them about developing literature in that area and perhaps working on getting an interpretive guide for that area.
It's a gradual, evolving process. We work with all communities to try to follow what they see as their needs in any way that we can help them encourage that development over time.
But, Mr. Chair, it's not a quick process. The answer to everything is not the immediate development of a cultural centre in any particular community. It has to be a long and evolving process, which the Department of Tourism is happy to be involved with in the planning.
Mr. McRobb: I wonder how the public would even be aware of this opportunity, because the Liberals, as we know, don't conduct public consultation before they develop their capital budgets. I haven't seen anything in the way of messages to the public saying that they are willing to entertain proposals for cultural centres.
I would like to ask the minister if she can provide us with copies of correspondence between Air Canada and herself and the Premier. It's something she alluded to yesterday, and can she do that for us, please?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, let's go back to the member opposite's original comment. Apparently, this side of the House does not do consultation on capital budgets. Very interesting theory, Mr. Chair, considering the fact that every member of this caucus has gone out into the Yukon communities, and we have the results of that in our capital budget. It's very, very clear that there are priorities in the communities that are being reflected in our capital budget. There was more money needed for highways - that's in the capital budget.
Now, of course, we're talking about the supplementary budget here. The side opposite only has five days left, but they continue to go on and on and on in the supplementary budget instead of getting their attention on to the capital budget.
If the member opposite needs to focus his debate, then I would consider that he needs to do it very soon, because we only have five days left to sit in the Legislature. They are proposing to spend the entire day tomorrow on another day of somewhat pointless debate, instead of going through and talking about the capital budget, Mr. Chair.
The museum strategy is our attempt to look at museums and cultural centres throughout the Yukon Territory. Now, the last time that was done was over 10 years ago. That was the Lord report. The museum strategy that we have undertaken will give us the road map of where we want to go on museums and cultural centres over the next 10 to 20 years. It's long-term thinking.
The member opposite seems to think that that's not something that we do, but it's obviously something that we do. That's also why we did the air access study, because we're thinking in the long term. One of the problems that we have is that we only have one carrier in the winter, and that stunts our economic growth, quite frankly, Mr. Chair. So we undertook an air access study, as did every other jurisdiction in Canada.
That air access study said that there are problems and, prior to releasing the summary for that air access study, we had communications with Air Canada. In addition to that, we had communications with Air North.
Now, the member opposite wants a copy of a very public letter, and I'd be quite happy to provide that to him. There are no secret agendas here, Mr. Chair. We have been out speaking to the Yukon public about developing our capital budget, which is not under discussion here, and we have certainly been out talking to the public about our museums and our opportunities for museums in the future. Mr. Chair, those letters where we corresponded with Air Canada are public. I'd be happy to provide them.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it's rather entertaining to listen to the minister come full circle and contradict herself, Mr. Chair. I would urge her to not go on and on and to stick to the substance of the question.
Since her government is so open and accountable, can she provide us with a copy of the agreement with the Call of the Wild production?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There is no agreement. A memorandum of understanding has been developed, but there has been no agreement signed.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'd like to thank the minister for her assistance. Can she provide us with a copy of the memorandum of understanding?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Government of Yukon is bound by a confidentiality agreement on the memorandum of understanding.
Mr. McRobb: All right. There we go again, Mr. Chair.
I have a couple more questions on the increased marketing schedule for this coming year. Number one, on the Golden Circle tour campaign - the minister has characterized as something to the effect that the Liberal government is bringing it back, but I don't remember it ever dying. I think I even collected a pamphlet on it this past summer. Can the minister just enlighten us on the status of that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There were two times that I had conversations with members of the convention bureau in Juneau - those were at an Alaska Tourism Industry Association meeting in Fairbanks, and last fall, as well as this fall, in Anchorage at the Alaska Tourism Industry Association meeting there.
The Golden Circle tour is basically a circle driving program.
I can tell you from working booths in RV shows that that's what people are most interested in. They want to start from one point and then not have to retrace their steps. They want to go around in a circle.
Now, obviously, you can't drive into Juneau, but they are interested in taking the ferry up through that area. Juneau was never part of that Golden Circle program in the past. It's new to the program. Haines and Skagway have worked with us in the past, as has Atlin. In some years the program has been going and in some years it hasn't, but there has never been a consistent effort to market those four or five communities together, and that's what we're going to be doing this year.
One of the things that we are doing is we're going to be working better with the rubber-tire trade, and I thank the Member for Kluane for correcting me on that. That may be the last time I can thank him, though.
Mr. Chair, the rubber-tire traveller uses The Milepost as their reference guide most often. Therefore, that particular circle route is going to be featured quite often within The Milepost. We know that that's what our tourists use because of the stay-another-day survey that we did at the end of the program at the end of the summer. So we're going to be increasing the advertising in there, and we will be focusing in on that Golden Circle tour.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what the government is doing to implement the many fine recommendations in the Kluane regional tourism plan, which I alluded to earlier this afternoon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we've been doing so much. I'm just so excited. We've had major discussions with Parks Canada. We've had those at ITB over in Berlin. We've discussed it with them at Rendezvous Canada. In addition to that, on the DM level, we've had extensive conversations with Parks Canada. I met with Sheila Copps in Ottawa in June, I believe, of this year, also discussing the Year of the Bear and the opportunity to work with Parks Canada on the Year of the Bear and that we're marketing Kluane. In addition to that, we're marketing Kluane through Holland America. They're most interested in developing a joint partnership with Denali and Kluane.
That's where they want to spend their marketing money in the near future. They see Kluane as the Denali of the future.
Mr. McRobb: I think that comment requires lots of follow-up but unfortunately it won't be at this opportunity.
I would like to let the minister know, though, that in August I did take the full 11-hour bus ride into Wonder Lake in Denali Park and thought about Kluane Park an awful lot during that time. She should also know that the park is currently undergoing the park management process, which should be finalized by now.
I think there is a lot of potential in the area to follow up on the suggestions contained in the regional plan. And, as I mentioned earlier today, in a lot of cases it just requires support from government, either financially or policy-wise, or whatever, to implement some of those.
It's fine to be marketing the territory but we have to have some steak to go along with the sizzle, too, Mr. Chair, and in the way of product development, the Kluane area has undergone this major scoping exercise through extensive public consultation to identify a number of areas in which the area can be developed, and this meets with the support of the communities in the region.
I know the minister is aware of this, but I keep looking in the Liberals' budget for some sign that they're putting some financial backing behind these recommendations in the way of tourism attractions, and I'm quite hard-pressed to identify any.
Now, I want to conclude on one issue. It's an issue I have mentioned today to the Minister of Renewable Resources and mentioned the other day to the Minister of Government Services and mentioned originally to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and nobody seems to want to claim responsibility for this. It is about cell-phoning the Yukon, primarily along our main highway corridor, the Alaska Highway.
It's something I mentioned to some people on the weekend at the TIA Tourism Roundup, and everybody expressed support and thought it was a good idea. Then on Sunday night, I checked out the stay-another-day report on the Internet off the TIRC site, and discovered that, among the visitor complaints, lack of cell-phone access numbered something to the effect of three out of 16 of the complaints identified. It also said that many of the visitors had paid for extended cell-phone coverage programs and were quite disappointed to discover that was a waste of money in regard to communication in the Yukon.
We all know this is a big problem. It's a problem to our residents, a problem to our businesses, especially in the rural areas that are not covered. I would suggest it's a problem to Whitehorse area retailers as well, because a lot of people coming into town would love the opportunity to phone in and rearrange their schedules, or perhaps order something from a local shop, and so on, and we all know how important communication is.
Now, I recognize that the cost of implementing cell-phone coverage, or wireless Internet, whatever type of service is practical, along our main highway corridor won't be cheap, but to offset that, there's lots of potential to partner with other governments. We're looking at the federal government, the Alaska government, the U.S. government, possibly even the B.C. government in regions of northern B.C. - as well as private industry with people like Northwestel. Given recent world events, Mr. Chair, I would suggest the American government would look seriously at such a proposal given that, in the past, it has paid for major projects, such as the Shakwak reconstruction project which, in the end, will tally close to half a billion dollars.
I think there is potential to put something together. In the last two weeks in this Legislature, I have been searching for any evidence to indicate that there has been progress, and have found none.
I know the minister is going to stand up and say that that's not her responsibility with the Department of Tourism. I see her shaking her head now, saying that it isn't. We know that, but this is very important to the tourism industry.
The tourism industry is our number one industry, and we know from the CTC conference in the Yukon recently that people want to be within about a day's return of home; they want to be kept in touch. How do you think they are going to react when they discover their cellphone won't ring in their RV when they're out at our campgrounds? Are they going to stay another day then, Mr. Chair? I hardly doubt it. They're going to hightail it for Alaska, where they know that, once they get close to Tok, their cellphones will work - and, as a matter of fact, as the Member for Klondike told me, once you've made Tok, there's pretty well continuous coverage all the way through Alaska, at least to the end of the Kenai Peninsula, along the highway corridors.
So, the only zone that is a no-communication zone is probably in the area just north of Fort Nelson up to Beaver Creek, except for the Whitehorse area. And talking to some people at the Roundup on the weekend, I understand that Marsh Lake is also out of the zone. We all know there are hundreds of people at Marsh Lake. What's the MLA for Mount Lorne doing about that? Doesn't she lobby the Minister of Tourism? What's the Minister of Tourism doing to lobby her Cabinet colleagues to do something to show some initiative to meet this problem? Because it's more serious now, given recent events.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I always have so much fun with the Member for Kluane. First of all, the only real black hole of communications in the Yukon is right here in this Legislature.
I have a place out at Marsh Lake, as the Member for Kluane knows, and my cellphone works just fine out there.
The member opposite should remember that Minister Tobin has just put $1 billion in broadband, starting in the north. We're working on it. It's not right now, but we are definitely working on it, at the federal level as well as the territorial level.
The member opposite says that we need to have a little sizzle in our steak when it comes to the Kluane development plan or the regional development plan, or the tourism plan. I'm not much of a meat eater, Mr. Chair. I don't really care for that, but what I can tell the member opposite is that we are coming up with private sector dollars. Holland America has said that they think Kluane is one of the most important icons of the Yukon Territory, and I heartily agree. There is nothing that moves me more than coming around that one corner - I probably go a little bit slower, perhaps, than the Member for Kluane, but coming around that one corner slowly - and looking at that range of mountains. There is nothing like it, and that is what the Yukon is. It's wonderful.
Of course, I don't get to see Dawson as quickly as the Member for Klondike does, but that's another sight that is quite moving, and I find it is another icon of the Yukon Territory.
The member opposite makes the point, I believe, that the Kluane Park management plan will be out soon. My understanding is that it has been released. We did have some concerns -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Pardon me? The draft? Yes, it's the draft that is out.
We did have some concerns about filming in the park. It has always been a concern of ours that we need to have access into Kluane for filming, and we are working with Parks Canada on that issue.
The Kluane plan, the member opposite contends, and I believe - well, I agree with him - that it should not just gather dust on a shelf. We agree with the member opposite. That's why we're working so hard on developing Kluane with our Holland America partners, as well as working on the Year of the Bear project with Parks Canada.
We're working away at the Kluane plan, and I'm sure we'll have some positive results out of that very shortly.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a few questions for the minister in general debate on Tourism. Advertising has a very prominent role and is a very necessary part of the Department of Tourism. Recently there was a Cabinet submission with respect to the agency of choice of the government to extend their contract.
Just where are we at with the selection of a new ad agency, and why are we changing horses in midstream, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: That tender will be out this fall. We've appointed Ivan Dechkoff as the person who is going to be overseeing that tendering process. We extended the contract with Parallel for an additional year so that we can build or grow more Yukon private sector growth in this particular tender. In particular, it was one local design company that has been working with Parallel.
We want to have some results to that by April 1, obviously, when the contract runs out, and I can update the member opposite as soon as that tender is finalized, or as soon as that bid has been reviewed.
Mr. Jenkins: So, just for the record, we're going out to tender this fall. When does it close, and when do we anticipate awarding it? Is it a 30-day close?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Recommendation to Cabinet is in March. It closes in January, and there will be a three-month review period in-between.
Mr. Jenkins: A three-month review period. That's interesting. Is this an arm's-length process?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just mentioned to the member opposite that we've appointed Mr. Dechkoff, who is not part of the government, who is actually the bank manager for the Bank of Commerce, to oversee the project. So, yes, it very definitely is at arm's length.
Mr. Jenkins: So, after Ivan Dechkoff has reported back to the Minister of Tourism and her department on this matter, there's a three-month review of his findings before anything is going to take place. Could the minister just elaborate on the need for a three-month review in-house after an arm's-length process has been undertaken and concluded by this individual?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, it's a very complicated process. Again, I've just been reminded of that. There are six people who have been appointed from the Tourism Industry Association to sit on the review committee, as well as professionals from the Department of Tourism. In addition to that, there's the overseer, who is Mr. Dechkoff, as we mentioned before. In addition to that, we will review all the written submissions and take the top three, which will go to oral submissions, back to the review committee. From that, we will develop a Cabinet submission. That Cabinet submission will be accepted and be decided upon in March.
This is a first for Yukon government. We're trying to do it as thoroughly and efficiently and as well as possible. In addition to that, of course, we want to make sure that this is perceived to be an open process and that it is beyond reproach.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have no doubt that that will be very much the case with the arm's-length process, but after that is finalized and a recommendation is forthcoming, it goes in-house in the department - and in the minister - and there is a subsequent review that takes place there. Given that this is a new process and it's an arm's-length process, why is there a need for a subsequent review by the minister's officials?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The professional analysis will occur during the review process. The only analysis before it goes to Cabinet is that done by the Executive Council Office. Pardon me, that will be done by the Department of Finance because it is going to the Management Board. I am sorry, Mr. Chair, I was a little bit off on my bodies.
The member opposite - I am still not quite clear on what he is trying to get at. There isn't going to be another process beyond the arm's-length process that we have initiated. There isn't going to be some secret, last-minute changing of the recommendation. The recommendation that will come from the review committee is the recommendation that will go to Management Board.
Mr. Jenkins: That is what I was hoping to hear - that the recommendation coming from this arm's-length review committee will be the recommendation that goes before Management Board.
Another topic dear to us all is air access and what is transpiring in that area. And, given the current proposal before the government from Air North, we all know what is going to happen if the current rules are applied and if Air North is - let's assume that the wishes of the owner of Air North are granted by this government and that 50 percent of the travel out of the Yukon is accorded to one airline and the balance to the other airline.
Let's assume that the prices are set at the onset. We all know that Air Canada has a very predatory pricing practice. Given the current rules that are in place, we know exactly what is going to happen. Air Canada is going to drop their price until they effectively put Air North out of business.
Now, there are contract provisos in place when Government of the Yukon analyzes any contract, and there's a northern preference in there. Is the minister prepared to exercise this northern preference and split the business 50:50 between a potential northern carrier and a national carrier, in order to provide some competition in the marketplace and ensure an ongoing guarantee to the northern carrier for 50 percent of their business, at the price of the onset? Because we all know that the prices from Air Canada are going to drop as soon as there is competition. That's a given, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I agree with the member opposite, absolutely. That has been the practice of Air Canada in the past and they've been successful doing that, and that's why they will continue to do it again.
The member opposite seems to believe that 50 percent of the travel going out of the Yukon Territory is government travel and, in fact, all government travel is only 16 percent of the air passengers going out of the Yukon Territory. Even if we did give Air North all of that travel, it still wouldn't be enough to make that airline viable. So what can we do?
First of all, Air North knows that there's always risk, and they're trying to hedge their bets by going into Alberta three days a week - that's their proposal so far - where there is no competition.
I have been just informed that apparently the meeting with Air North, by the way, Mr. Chair, has been rescheduled to Thursday, November 22, and we'll be talking to them about some of the options that are out there.
Guaranteeing travel is not something that governments do any more. The member opposite knows of a tourism operator, for example, in Alaska that guaranteed seats with one of our charter companies and has not done very well with that. Mr. Chair, it's not the practice any more for good reason, because people end up losing out. There are way too many risks in guaranteeing seats. Actually, in a lot of ways, there are more risks in guaranteeing seats than there are in getting an airline going.
But this time of upheaval is an opportunity for people, as well. We know from Air North's comments on the weekend at the Roundup that they can now lease planes for 40 percent of what they would have been leasing them for a year ago. So there are economic opportunities out there.
And the member opposite is also very aware that this government does believe in a level playing field and that competition ultimately is the answer that will give us lower fares, will give us better connections and will give us better service.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this member also believes that unless the government intercedes in the marketplace, there is not going to ever be a level playing field, because the national carrier, Air Canada, is going to use their force and their power and their financial clout to lower the airfares to whatever rates it will take to put Air North out of business, should they agree to provide the service.
The minister might also want to analyze the statistics that are available as to the number of segments originating out of Alberta - both Calgary and Edmonton - that terminate in Whitehorse in either direction, and it is not significant. I believe the suggestion that's out there that would make this viable and make this work is to take the total number of dollars that the Yukon government spends on travel and cut it in half - divide it between both airlines at the current prevailing rates - and that at least provides a backstop of a certain measure of business.
From there, yes, it's a free marketplace, but it's only as free as whoever has the deepest pockets, Mr. Chair, and given that I believe the figure is 98 percent of airlines that start in Canada ultimately fail, that's not an enviable record for any business.
Mr. Chair, we rely on our air connections, and every time Yukon turns around, we seem to be getting either a slap in the face or a kick in the pants from Air Canada. And it's not orchestrated at the local level. It's orchestrated, I'm sure, right from head office in Montreal. I don't know how, given the airway miles between here and Vancouver that have remained constant since the inception of airways, they can stretch it now to 1,100 miles. It was always 965 or less, and I believe, when you look at your points under Canadian Airlines, it was in the low 900s. Suddenly, under Air Canada, it becomes 1,100 miles.
Has the minister or her officials ever raised this issue with Air Canada? And what kind of initiative is the department taking with Air Canada on the issue of points?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, it's important to remember that we undertook this exercise because we felt Yukoners deserved a better deal. We felt that our access by air was limiting our economic growth. We thought that Yukoners were paying too much, the connections were lousy, we needed better service and, in particular, we needed another gateway to Alberta.
What the air access study did clearly - and that's in the business case that's attached to the summary that was distributed to the public - that business case proved that we do need another gateway for economic growth, and that the segments that are currently going to Alberta are not a true indication of the opportunity in that area.
In addition to that, the air access study proved, which is not a surprise to anybody in the Yukon, that we are paying too much, the connections are lousy and we need better service. So that is why we undertook this, and with that business case, we will go to airlines throughout Canada and talk to them about the opportunities in the Yukon Territory. That does not mean staying the way we are - that is not acceptable, the status quo is definitely not acceptable. The member opposite has been very clear about that - it is not acceptable to his party either, and I know that the official opposition has also said that they are not interested in things staying the same - who would be? We rely on air access to build our economy. It can also be a stranglehold on our economy, and that is why we are undertaking this process.
Now, we will be going with our business case, and we have a very strong business case, to a number of airlines in Canada. The problem is they don't think about the Yukon. I mean, we know that many Canadians don't think about the Yukon, yet alone airlines. And I know, for example on the Air Canada little sheet that they have in the front of the seats, that the Yukon is still not on their map, which is quite frustrating.
So we have to go to the different airlines and say, "Here is a business case and we have a very good business case." There is a lot of money to be made on this route. We are going to go to them and we are going to say, "Here is an opportunity for you. How can we work together?" I don't know if there is anybody in this House who is not interested in us pursuing that. I don't think there is anybody.
The points issue - we were immediately on the phone with our representative at Air Canada, whom we speak to on a virtually daily basis and said, "You know, how come you didn't talk to us about this? You told us about the possible change in aircraft. You've spoken to us about possible changes in the number of flights that you are bringing in. How come you didn't talk to us about the points?" And we got a less than satisfactory answer from them. And, like the member opposite says, they think that we are 200 miles away farther than we are.
We are not - and another thing, Mr. Chair, it is quite interesting that nobody seems to have the same number for how far the air miles are. When I had my Canadian points, it was 918 air miles. Since we have gone to Air Canada, it has become 922. I wish they would make up their mind, but it is definitely not 1,100, as the gentleman from Montreal from Air Canada mentioned.
We have gone to them and expressed our displeasure. They came back with their argument that they should have done it a long time ago, but they're a business and you can't tell Air Canada what to do, that's quite clear. That's why we are going through this air access process and why we're interested in competition.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm disappointed in hearing from the minister that we have the potential for a home-grown solution here with Air North, yet we're going to go out and lobby some of the other airlines in Canada to come to the Yukon.
Usually a solution made in the Yukon is best for Yukon, and I would encourage the minister to sit down and - you know, there might be some hesitancy to accept what a northern carrier is saying, but all they were looking for, from the information I have, is to mitigate the risk. The government can do that and they can do that without an additional financial burden, based on the current government's expenditures for airfares out of Yukon.
Mind you, Mr. Chair, there might be somewhat of a problem in that the business class section of Air North won't be commensurate with what Air Canada currently offers the Premier and her fellow Liberals when they travel in the front of the bus on their frequent trips in and out of the Yukon. I guess there's that point that we might have to contend with.
But I believe there is an issue here that can be addressed. It's going to take political will of this government to do so - nothing else.
Mr. Chair, I don't know if the minister has any response to that or whether she cares to.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I always enjoy chatting with the member opposite. The Member for Klondike in particular brings a lot of expertise to this House. He's a private sector tourism operator, and he has certainly dealt with these issues for many, many years. In addition to that, he was the Mayor of Dawson City. I always enjoy getting his point of view. Not everybody does, of course, Mr. Chair, but I do.
The member opposite says that we're not interested in talking to Air North about mitigating the risks, and we're sitting down with them on Thursday to talk to them about that very issue. But the end result still has to be cheaper fares for Yukoners; it still has to be better connections, and it still has to be better service for Yukoners. We're not interested in the status quo, Mr. Chair; we want to move forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, maybe strapping a couple of jet pods on the DC-3 at the airport weather vane might be the way to go, because under this government, if the Yukon has ever moved backwards as far as air access, it has moved backwards at a very alarming rate. Given the demise of Canada 3000 here in Canada and very, very little chance of its resurrection as its former self, we're going to suffer. The visitor industry in the north is going to suffer. One only has to look at Canada 3000's frequency of flights between Vancouver and Anchorage and the number of passengers that were moved between those two centres, many of which ended up here in the Yukon on the land portion of their excursions through Alaska.
Mr. Chair, there's a major requirement of this government to sit down and fully analyze Air North's proposal. My view of it is only to conclude that it would be in the best interests of Yukon to split the government travel business 50:50 between Air North and Air Canada at the current prevailing rates to give them a hedge against the lowering of rates in the future.
There is also the issue - and I would like to know where the minister stands - with respect to another gambling casino, here in Whitehorse. Has the Liberal government established a position?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Liberal government has established their position. The Minister of Justice has been very clear on that. This government is against the expansion of gambling in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other areas that this minister has care and control of and that is causing concerns in our visitor industry, especially in Whitehorse, is the package liquor store. We only have one outlet in Whitehorse. Is there a move afoot to make liquor more available here in Whitehorse and at least indicate where the store is? If you look at ma and pa in their little motorhome and ma wants her bottle of gin, it's pretty hard to find the liquor store here in Whitehorse. It's not in the communities. In fact, as I said earlier, I give the Government of Yukon top credit. The only product here in the Yukon that they have a consistent price for everywhere is liquor. Everything else goes all over the wall as far as price.
Maybe the Minister of Renewable Resources knows something I don't know. He's sitting there shaking his head. I'm sure in his trip around all of the Yukon campgrounds, he found that the price of beer was consistent at all the government liquor stores.
But be that as it may, is the Minister of Tourism lobbying her other hat to provide a second liquor store in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This actually comes under one of my other portfolios, and that's the Yukon Liquor Corporation, as the member opposite is fully aware.
We are looking at all those issues as part of the review of the Yukon Liquor Act, and that has certainly been heard on a number of occasions, particularly in Whitehorse, that there does need to be another outlet for particularly the selling of wine and beer.
However, this is not actually that relevant to the Department of Tourism, although we know that they like to drink. We know that our tourists like to drink because we did a survey at all of the visitor reception centres this past summer; however, the only thing that that seemed to prove was that the big drinkers in the Yukon Territory are not our visitors; we are.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, present company excluded, I couldn't pass comment. I know that it is a cause for concern, and that it is a constant bone of contention with the many, many visitors. Where is the liquor store and why is it closed today, it's Monday, or where do I find it in Whitehorse? I urge this Minister of Tourism to talk to herself in the mirror with respect to her other portfolio, and come to a conclusion to establish a second outlet, especially in Whitehorse.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I would be happy to carry on with that schizophrenic conversation, thank you.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Keenan: Just one - I would like to bring to the minister's attention that, as I leafed through the beautiful magazine that promotes our wonderful Yukon Territory, I've noticed that in just about every department of government that, when we speak to the Southern Lakes area, the town and the lake of Teslin is included. Only within the department is Teslin and the Teslin Lake excluded from the Southern Lakes marketing initiative. I would appreciate if the minister could look into that and please assure me that Teslin will not be overlooked as a part of the Southern Lakes region. Teslin is mentioned in a stand-alone area but it is not mentioned in the Southern Lakes area and, of course, we know that the Southern Lakes area receives visitors more on a daily basis than Whitehorse and other areas. I would also like the minister to see about promoting the South Canol Highway much more aggressively for the beautiful vast beauty that we have there.
The Yukon experience - I run into many, many pedal bikers and others who do that. So, would the minister look to putting more resources and recognition toward those two areas?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The evolution of the visitor guide is constant. We work with our private sector partners on that, and actually that was something that started under the previous Minister of Tourism, who also happens to be our current, or was our Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. So we work with the Yukon tourism marketing partnership started by the then Minister of Tourism.
The issue of including specific areas, of course, is ongoing and is one we will also bring to the attention of the committee that's half private sector and half government.
But the other thing that we're going to be doing next year is to include more product in our visitor guide and in our stay-another-day program. That's something that was asked for in the stay-another-day survey, and we are hoping to get quite a bit of product from Teslin and the Teslin area because we know there's some good stuff in there. I know the member from that area is very aware of that as well.
As for the South Canol, certainly we'll be putting that in there.
The idea of promoting regionally throughout the Yukon has met with a lot of support from the communities in particular. We have had communications back from a number of communities that have said they didn't even know that some of the stuff that showed up in our stay-another-day program literature existed. We will be continuing with that stay-another-day literature this year and we're hoping to improve it. It's a lot more current, obviously, than the visitor guide, because it will include a calendar of events, which includes festivals and various other local opportunities for our visitors and Yukoners alike.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we will continue on with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Heritage in the amount of $4,000 agreed to
Marketing in the amount of $155,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the operation and maintenance recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $159,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On General Corporate Support
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Marketing Initiatives
On Tourism Marketing Fund
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister indicate if this is for projects already approved and carried over?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Can she provide for us a list of project approvals and those turned down along with the total amount requested in each case?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Tourism Marketing Fund in the amount of $83,000 agreed to
On Historic Resources
On Capital Maintenance - Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister provide for us some information on Beringia? I'm looking for some records of revenue for this year and last year, as well as numbers of visitations? Will she provide that? And also, how will she make good on her promise to see Beringia become a revenue generator when it seems it's constantly losing money?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, I don't ever remember making that promise. I've never been that green. Obviously, Beringia makes money. It's how much they lose that's the problem. Mr. Chair, the Friends of Beringia model is that what the member opposite's asking about, because that was a new management program for Beringia, and the member opposite needs to know revenue. That's a little difficult to break out. We can try to give the member opposite an idea of the number of admissions and the price for each admission. But, Mr. Chair, does the member want this for which year? I wonder if he could be clearer on that?
Does he want it for last summer as well as this summer, or does he want it for the complete year? Because we don't have the complete year yet, obviously.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: So the last full year-end and year to date is what the member opposite is requesting, and we'll endeavour to get that to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: My question on the Beringia was what the minister was going to do to turn around the situation of how it's losing money. I didn't hear a response to that.
My other question was what her plans are for Beringia offshoots. I know the Liberals promised Beringia centres in Old Crow and Dawson City. What's in the cards for that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there's going to be a new - well, it's not new, it was proposed in the past - management model to help bring in more money to Beringia, but there has been a lot of proactive stuff happening in the past year - a series of brown-bag lunch lecture series. Rentals at Beringia have been phenomenal over the last year. It has been extremely well-utilized, and my deputy minister brings up the case of the Korean Airlines.
It's a very convenient location. It's central in the city, and it has been utilized, I would say, much better in the last year than it has been in the past as a rental property.
But, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is talking about the satellite Beringia centres and that that has been questioned about in the past. I can give the member opposite a little bit of detail on that.
I think the member opposite actually got that information within the briefing that was given to him on this budget, but I will give that to him again. I know that I signed off on that, and it was supposed to go downstairs. Whether or not it has actually gone, of course, is another question, but I will get that to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I didn't hear the minister respond to the Dawson City and Old Crow locations for expanding Beringia.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: That's fine. I guess that's what she referred to by saying "satellite".
Capital Maintenance - Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in the amount of an underexpenditure of $9,000 agreed to
On Historic Resources Trust Fund
Mr. McRobb: I've got a few questions on this program, too, Mr. Chair. This appears to be a new line item. It is the largest newest expenditure.
Can the minister indicate if this is federal money and how much of it would be federal money?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite may recall that in 1992, a previous government started something called the heritage resources fund. The heritage resources fund was structured so that once it reached $1 million in the fund, then the interest that was accrued on that $1 million would be available for distribution into the heritage community.
Now, the problem was that it never got anywhere close to $1 million. So when the endowments became available because of transfer funding from the federal government, $436,000 of that was put into the fund to top it up and bring it up to $1 million. At that point, a process was triggered so the interest would become available to disburse among the heritage community. Half of that interest goes back into the fund to build the fund and the other half is distributed to the heritage community.
I think the member opposite should remember that in 1992 it was an NDP government.
Mr. McRobb: It's irrelevant to me what the government was, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to know how much of that was federal money.
Are there any specific allocations for this fund? What can the minister tell us that this fund will actually do?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Heritage Resources Board, which is a UFA board as the member opposite is quite well aware, is going to be looking at criteria for the funding that will go out to the heritage community.
My understanding is that the last draft that I saw was speaking primarily about capital dollars. However, there has been a lot of suggestion in the last discussion paper that came out of the museum strategy that really what museums need, although they are just a part of the heritage community, is O&M funding, so that is something that we are going to have to be looking at as well.
And like I said, the heritage branch is preparing some options for the Heritage Resources Board to take a look at. Now, the board may choose one of them, or none of them, or all of them. That is up to the Heritage Resources Board. We certainly don't direct that board. As I said, that is a UFA board and they will give us their best options.
Mr. McRobb: Can she give us an idea of what is required to complete this process and the timelines? Because I think people are quite interested in applying to this program.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have been advised that - because interest, of course, is at an all-time low - the amount that is going to be available for disbursement is going to be around $40,000, and it will be available, hopefully if all the work is done, within the next fiscal year, so that would be after April 1.
Mr. McRobb: And is the funding allocated by the Heritage Resources Board?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes, it was felt that the Heritage Resources Board best represents all heritage interests. There is more to the heritage community, as the member opposite knows, than just museums. There is considerably more than that. There are cultural centres and, you know, interpretative walks. There are all sorts of different and wonderful parts to our heritage community, and the Heritage Resources Board represents all aspects of that community.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I have one final question, and it's to do with other heritage. Can the minister provide us with copies of correspondence between her department and the City of Whitehorse regarding the restoration of historic sites?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there's a lot of correspondence that happens. I wonder if the Member for Kluane can be a little bit more specific. Is that for the past year, and is it on any specific sites? I wonder if he can give me any indication. The member opposite is saying, "For this year." We can go back and take a look. We have a very strong and close relationship with the City of Whitehorse, and that's a considerable amount of information. That goes up and down over time, of course.
I think that the member opposite is talking about specific heritage buildings. At least maybe if I can narrow it down to heritage buildings, is that what the member opposite's interested in? And the member opposite's indicating yes. Are those buildings that have been designated by the Heritage Resources Board as being significant territorially? The member opposite says, "Whatever." We'll send whatever we've got.
Historic Resources Trust Fund in the amount of $436,000 agreed to
On Museums Assistance
Museums Assistance in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing
Artifact Inventory and Cataloguing in the amount of $52,000 agreed to
On Conservation and Security
Conservation and Security in the amount of $11,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
On Industry and Regional Services
On Product and Resource Assessment
Product and Resource Assessment in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Visitor Reception Centres (VRC)
On Development - Beaver Creek
Development - Beaver Creek in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Arts and Cultural Industries
On Visual Arts
On Visual Arts Acquisition
Visual Arts Acquisition in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Millennium Fine Arts
Millennium Fine Arts in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Millennium Celebrations
On Millennium Fund
Millennium Fund in the amount of $21,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the capital recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $799,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism agreed to
Chair: We now shall proceed to Women's Directorate. Is there any general debate on vote 11, Women's Directorate?
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, on behalf of the official opposition's critic for the Women's Directorate, who is not here and asked me to take her place, she has asked me to ask a couple of questions, if I may.
I'd like to ask the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate what the plans are for the Women's Directorate policy unit after renewal? Is there any idea about integrating it with the Justice department or to create any other unit? Can the minister just tell me what her plans are?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, no, I can't. That process is ongoing and the end result will be unveiled by the Premier in, I believe, April of next year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, boy, things really got sped up there. Now it is in December of this year apparently that there are going to be some concrete results. We'll have a better indication of what the structure of government will be, post-renewal. That will be December of 2001.
Mr. Keenan: Can the minister give a hint of what we have identified in the department that is focused directly on women's issues?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There will always be some section of government that deals directly with women's policy issues - always. If nothing else, by the fact that we have members of this government who see that that is an important part of the way services are delivered and that the way services are delivered to women is sometimes different than it is for men. There are different requirements.
Mr. Keenan: I absolutely agree with that, but the question that I am asking the minister is: this would there be a directorate established? We in the official opposition absolutely agree with the minister that women's issues need a specific focus and we could even build upon the focus in light of recent happenings within our community here for women's issues.
Certainly, on this side of the House, we would be very supportive of seeing a beefed-up policy unit. I don't know if the minister and I are just getting mixed up in our language here. The minister says there will always be a policy unit, and I'm saying a directorate. In the minister's mind, is it one and the same?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No, it's not. What I'm saying to the member opposite is that, as of December 2001, there will be a new structure in government. I'm not saying that there will be a directorate or that there won't be a directorate. What I am saying to the member opposite is that there will be a new structure for government, and that is being put in place because of devolution and in order to offer services to Yukoners in a better way.
In December, the member opposite will see what the results of those many conversations have been over the last few months.
Mr. Keenan: I would appreciate it if the minister would be able to reassure me that - there have been thoughts from, I guess, both sides of the House at different stages of everybody's political career that there hasn't been sufficient funding to adequately address the policy issues for Yukon women. I am certainly hoping that the minister, as she moves forward with the establishment of, I hope, a very successful directorate, would be adequately supplying it with the services and funding that would be able to provide the services that are identified. Can the minister give us that assurance?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I can tell the member opposite that women's policy issues are always a part of conversation at the Cabinet table when we make decisions. I can tell the member opposite that women's policy issues are important to this government and that there will be a different structure for government that will be announced in December of this year, and the member opposite is simply going to have to wait to see what that structure is going to be.
Mr. Keenan: I wait on pins and needles, as I am sure all Yukoners do at this Christmastime, to see what the minister is going to be bringing. We have no further questions in general debate, and I would move that the Department of Women's Directorate be read and carried.
Chair: It is actually easier to vote this through.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Chair: Do we need break? Ok, we will give some time for a ministerial health break. Two-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to present the supplementary budget for the Yukon Housing Corporation. I will now take the opportunity to explain the changes to the corporation's 2001-02 budget.
First off, Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, I was pleased to introduce a budget that included almost $2 million in new funding for the home ownership program. This is a clear example of our commitment to Yukoners. I'm very pleased to announce that the government has provided an additional $4.9 million toward the home ownership program. These funds are fully recoverable, Mr. Speaker.
There has been a significant uptake in consumers accessing this program. For these reasons, I have asked the board of directors to undertake a review of the program. I've asked the board to look at who is accessing the program and the corporation's role in the marketplace and alternative delivery options. The board of directors has agreed with my request, and I look forward to their report early in the new year.
It is very important to note that although a review of the program has been initiated, this government has simultaneously provided an additional $4.9 million so that Yukoners can have access to mortgage financing. Mr. Speaker, you will note that the corporation projects new interest revenue of $40,000 based on clients accessing these new loan funds, and this is reflected in the supplementary budget.
The second point that I wish to make, Mr. Speaker, is that Yukon Housing Corporation has introduced a rent scale that is applicable to all clients who receive social assistance and access social housing from Yukon Housing Corporation.
This level playing field ensures that all funding agencies are charged the same amount. For this reason, there is an $824,000 increase in the Yukon Housing Corporation's recoveries.
I want to note, Mr. Chair, that almost $500,000 is offset by the increased expenditures through the Department of Health and Social Services.
Finally, earlier this year, the commercial energy management program was transferred to the Energy Solutions Centre. Accordingly, there is a $20,000 reduction in expenditures offset by a $20,000 reduction in recoveries.
Mr. Keenan: Well, we left off last fall, or last spring or whenever it was, with this minister in Yukon Housing speaking about some of the issues surrounding First Nation lands, and the minister said he was going to take an idea to, and garner ideas from, the housing conference on First Nation lands. Can the minister now tell me how the minister is going to approach the issue of CMHC being able to loan - or the corporation loaning money for improvements on land set aside, or any other tenure, within settlement land?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The president of the Yukon Housing Corporation met with DIAND's regional director to work together on the issue of housing on land set aside. As it sits now, we're looking at a closer working relationship. Not only that, we're looking at partnering in ways in which we can address the issue of housing on settlement lands.
Mr. Keenan: So, what I am hearing from the minister is that the minister has found a way, or the minister is looking to find a way, but the minister is positive that he wants to seek a solution to the problem that I brought out. If that's a yes, then I would appreciate that very much from the minister.
Could the minister give me an idea of the time frame when people would be able to apply for such resources?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I would like to say that, yes, we have; however, at this point, I am saying that no, we haven't found solutions, but we are working together in finding solutions to some of the issues of First Nation settlement lands.
Mr. Keenan: Well, it sounds like the relationship, based on the partnership as they're coming out, is already a strained relationship. So, I would suggest to the minister that if the minister - in this case, I don't think that we have to really reinvent the wheel. I have spoken to chiefs here that are willing to meet and work with the department so that we might be able to find a model. As I pointed out repeatedly in the House, there is a model. There is a CMHC benchmark there, and I'm sure that it just has to be blown off, maybe Yukonized, whatever, however we want to do it and deal with it. But I would appreciate - because the case I am speaking of, it has been a couple of years now. It's a health problem, that's what it is. We need - not "we", it's got nothing to do with me personally - but the person needs the resources. The person does not wish a grant. The person just wishes the mechanism through the corporation to be able to do that. There are benchmarks in other areas.
Will the minister make that commitment that he would work expediently toward solving this problem so that we might have something in place for the next construction season? Of course, the next construction season is seven or eight months away. Could the minister commit to that time frame, to have something positive in place for the betterment of a program?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I guess it boils down to the last sitting when we talked about the issue of more participation with the Yukon Housing Corporation and the availability of programs on settlement lands. Again, am I able to advise that the corporation's home repair program is available on settlement lands? No, I am not. But I am able to confirm that initiatives such as Yukon Housing Corporation's representative public service plan and the recent First Nation housing conference, which attracted over 200 participants, are examples of positive action. That's the kind of positive action that we're looking at at this point. We're looking at the three parties, the federal government, YTG and the First Nation government, trying to create an atmosphere where they can actually sit down and make a commitment to saying, "Yes, we must come to resolution of some of the issues about housing on settlement lands."
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm disappointed. Now, the minister had said that he wanted to work with the First Nations and would be looking to work with First Nations through the conference, but what I'm hearing from the minister now is that we have just come from the conference, and we have said that we're going to do things on a partnership basis, but the need is immediate. There is an immediate need here.
Can the minister give me a time frame on this? I have to go back and say something, and I have said before that I try to be a messenger of government programs. I try to do that. When folks beat me up on behalf of something, I say, "Look, I'll take it back and I'll point it out to the minister," because that is my job. And I'll say so. The minister has to play back this way, too. This isn't just for a certain segment of Yukon society. It is for all that the minister is governing.
So, could the minister please tell me when we can expect to see this type of plan implemented, based on all the consultation and the partnerships?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As you know, the First Nations allocate housing funds and there is a question of capacity which is a problem with First Nations. The development of capacity is our focus in terms of Yukon Housing Corporation. We try to assist First Nations in program development for housing. We are trying to work closely with and for First Nation communities on developing a good program that will deliver not only units but will upgrade and repair some of the units in the First Nation communities. At this point in time, it is a question of roles and what roles are being played here. It is a question between federal government - is it their fiduciary obligation to provide housing for First Nations? We say yes. Yukon Housing Corporation's obligation to First Nations is that we should at least look at this in the direction of, "Yes, you are Yukoners and we should actually try to provide some sort of assistance if you don't have the financial resources to provide these types of assistance." And we are looking at how can we get over that hurdle of housing development on settlement lands.
Mr. Keenan: Slowly but surely, if it is not recreation, if it is not health, if it is not housing needs that are being identified and brought forth to this government, the fiduciary obligation where it keeps dropping from these ministers' lips just keeps dripping. That is so apparent to me now as the minister goes forth to say that yes, there might a need there. Could I direct the minister to look at the third corporate objective? Everything I am asking for is contained within the third corporate objective for Yukon households. The minister is throwing up a smokescreen of the fiduciary obligation and it is resonating among Cabinet at this point in time.
The minister has a duty to implement the corporate objectives of his department, Yukon Housing Corporation. I don't see this minister doing that. I see this minister hiding behind a smokescreen, which is called a fiduciary obligation on behalf of the federal government to the Yukon First Nation people. I'm absolutely appalled at that - absolutely appalled - and it has just come to me, just now, as I hear the minister speaking. Because when the minister said that the minister's here to help develop capacity - beans, absolute beans when we say that. It might not be parliamentary, but the minister knows what I mean. It's wrong. It's deeper than just developing capacity. Capacity when working with First Nations is an admirable thing, and we should be doing it, because not only would the First Nation governments be able to learn something from YTG, it would be reciprocal and the territorial government could learn something from the First Nation governments.
What we do have here before us is a jurisdictional dispute, and I thank the minister for coming clean on that, and I have no further questions for the minister on that issue.
Can the minister please go on to tell me just a little bit about what the minister is doing in terms of campaign promises in seniors housing and what the minister's doing in social housing and, in the $4.9 million that the minister's speaking of, is there's room for social housing and senior housing?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Yukon Housing Corporation is proceeding with the development of a number of proposals contained in the seniors housing action plan. I believe the action plan provides a visionary approach to provide for the long-term housing needs of seniors. The corporation has established a seniors housing trust, developed a management plan for the operation of the trust fund, jointly developed the Whitehorse seniors home and yard maintenance program with the Yukon Council on Ageing, and set up a small seniors housing resource library.
Corporation staff is currently developing the accommodating home directors to proceed with more of the action plan proposals in 2002. Over the course of this government's current mandate, we hope to establish a strong foundation for the ongoing development of housing that meets the needs and preferences of Yukon seniors and disabled persons.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister table the seniors action plan?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I already have.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, Mr. Chair. I would like to know, in regard to the green mortgage, whether or not any monies have gone forward to any of the seniors housing projects.
Hon. Mr. Jim: A management plan has been developed by the Yukon Housing Corporation, and it will be coming forth from the board and passed on to me. But through this management plan, it will tell me about payment arrangements or funding arrangements with the different programs.
As I said earlier on, we were looking at how the Yukon Housing Corporation - who are our clients, and what is happening in our Yukon Housing Corporation. Are we actually providing the assistance that is needed by Yukoners with respect to housing?
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us how much is in this seniors fund as a result of the Yukon Housing Corporation's green mortgage?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Today the board has approved a management plan, and that management plan will be going to the Management Board. Once the plan goes to Management Board, we decide where the revenues from this plan will be streamlined.
Mr. Fairclough: How much revenue was generated from the green mortgage?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I would ask that I get back to the member from Tatchun in regard to the dollars that are in the green mortgage fund. I will get as much information as I can with regard to the green mortgage fund, and how much revenue has been generated from it.
Mr. Fairclough: My riding is Mayo-Tatchun.
The simple numbers that have been generated from green mortgage revenues were to go toward seniors housing, and the member did say there was a management plan coming forward to government from the board. Is there a change of policy as to what to do with the revenue generated from the green mortgage fund?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The initial plan was never adopted by the previous government. This board is developing options to streamline the finances for this plan, and the Management Board will decide as to where these finances may be going in this plan.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can tell us what problems they have had in streamlining the work that is being done and where this money is going. What can we expect to see, or what differences are we expecting to see with streamlining where the money is going? Or is that just a wrong word used by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, yes, I apologize with "streams". I should be saying that, but not "streamlining".
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister give me an update as to the status of Mountainview Place?
Hon. Mr. Jim: This is another example of planning, types of planning, for development. Mountainview Place's development since the last time has been split in half. Lots are available, and very little uptake has happened with Mountainview Place. The board again will be reviewing the site in the new year.
Mr. Fairclough: I was hoping things would move a lot quicker than that. We have another year, and it's going to be out of the government's mandate before anything is done with this. Initially, we had a year and a half. Are there any changes in plans for the intent of the development of Mountainview Place?
Hon. Mr. Jim: At this point, Mr. Chair, the intent is that we will maintain status quo with Mountainview Place. We are committed to this project, and the board of directors of the Yukon Housing Corporation has reviewed a number of options with Mountainview Place, and I support the board's decision to continue to market these units and to revisit the issue in the coming year.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I would like to know who is in control of the water testing that's taking place in Carmacks. A number of Yukon Housing units have tested positive for E. coli in the past. You've got the Department of Health and Social Services doing water testing in that community and also Yukon Housing. Who's in control and who's taking the initial steps to ensure that these water tests are taking place on a regular basis?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the Yukon Housing Corporation has been testing wells on a regular basis and immediately disinfecting wells, as needed, to keep them safe. In terms of who's in control, we look after Yukon Housing Corporation's units. The two wells that tested positive for E. coli were disinfected Friday night - last Friday and retested over the weekend.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, obviously there's a bigger problem than just disinfecting the wells that are in those units. We've had the Department of Health and Social Services doing water tests and also Yukon Housing Corporation. One week they say it's safe to drink the water. Then next week they say, "Don't drink the water." The week after, they say, "You can drink the water." This is a problem for the community if, in fact, they were drinking water that's not healthy, and people want to know what effects it does have on members of the general public.
Yukon Housing Corporation - the minister just said that they're doing regular tests? How long is the testing going on? We've bleached the wells now, the water's good to drink? Is that the message that's going to the community members now?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I presume that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is talking about the overall health of the water in Carmacks, and I presume that his question should be directed to the Minister of Health and Social Services. But if he's talking in terms of the Housing Corporation's housing units, the wells for those units and those questions, I would say that we maintain and look after the testing of these wells as regularly as possible - on a regular basis.
Mr. Fairclough: How long has this minister known that the wells in some of the Yukon Housing units in that community have tested positive for E. coli?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As of November 13, 2001.
Mr. Fairclough: I know that there were positive tests about a year ago, and this has been taking place and people have been told to drink the water one week and not to in the following week, and this has been going on for actually more than a year. I remember it taking place when the NDP was in government. But now this has become a serious problem because people are recognizing where the contamination is coming from.
So, what steps is Yukon Housing going to take in conjunction with the Department of Health to ensure that the community is drinking safe water? Bleaching the wells is fine in two homes. People want to see tests done every day when this type of thing takes place. Has the boil-water advisory been lifted because of the tests?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I would say that, yes, there were tests done the previous year with Yukon Housing Corporation wells, but it wasn't E. coli - it was not E. coli that was being tested.
The community issue - we will respond as a government that Yukon Housing Corporation is working with the Department of Health and Social Services, along with other departments, such as Education, and we are looking at ways in which we can address this issue of E. coli.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun is correct. There are people saying that it's not safe with E. coli. A number of people are saying - like, for instance, the town of Carmacks is saying that it is an issue of safety, and that all issues with water are of concern in the community. We concur with them. We say that we think the same.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I am hoping that this minister can work closely with the Minister of Health and Social Services, because this hasn't gone to the satisfaction of that community.
The water testing that has taken place, those who are in Yukon Housing units, the private homes, the school, and so on - not enough testing has taken place.
I would like to know whether or not there are regular tests on Yukon Housing units and public buildings throughout and across the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Jim: If it is not a problem with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, then we could certainly get back to him and indicate to him that there are regular tests and in which buildings the government has.
Mr. Fairclough: I would appreciate having that information as soon as he possibly can. I would like to know what commitment this minister is going to make to the people in Carmacks that they will have safe drinking water. Not just bleaching of wells, that is only a band-aid solution. I would like to know about the long-term commitment and whether or not he would be working with the Management Board of government to ensure that community has good water in the future?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I will make a commitment to work closely with the Health and Social Services department to address the issues of health and safety concerns which are the priority of this government.
Mr. Fentie: I have a constituency matter I would like to bring up with the minister. I have a constituent in the Watson Lake area, a First Nation member, who has tried unsuccessfully to get some resolution from the minister or the corporation in regard to her son, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren.
Just briefly for the minister, this is an issue about a young First Nation family living here in Whitehorse who are having difficulties making ends meet, trying to raise a very young family, and are living in conditions in a trailer unit which is in desperate need of repair. We have even broached a question with the minister in the previous sitting around how the corporation deals with the needs of First Nation members off First Nation land who require some assistance through whatever means or mechanisms that the corporation has available when it comes to home repairs.
To date, there has been nothing - and I can assure the minister - done on this matter. This young family continues to live in some very serious conditions in a trailer that is in need of repair. I want to stress that there are young children here, and they're having difficulties making ends meet. Is there anything - can the minister commit here, today, in this Legislative Assembly - that he can do to assist this family, even through us helping to facilitate a meeting with the minister. Will he commit to do something on behalf of this young First Nation family?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'd like to say that this would point toward our home repair program with the Yukon Housing Corporation, but it's the home repair program on titled land. Or there is the rental repair program that could be for the land owner or the land tenant or the rental.
Again, I have to regard that as an operational issue. I can direct it to the president to look at the situation. In terms of me saying that we're going to be accessing the home repair program, no, I can't do that.
Mr. Fentie: I think what the family is trying to point out here is that they have tried a number of avenues, including this young family's mother, mother-in-law and grandmother. They have been unsuccessful in dealing with their problem, which is now quite old, and still are faced with the same problems and living conditions.
So, can we help facilitate for the minister a meeting of this family with the minister and representatives of the corporation to see if we can't find some resolution to this problem. It appears that here is an example of a young First Nation family that simply does not fit within the goalposts of the minister's corporation and, so to speak, has fallen through the cracks.
Can the minister commit to at least meet with the family, review their situation and problems to see if he can't exercise his authority to assist this young family in getting beyond the situation they're in?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I've always tried to maintain that I have an open-door policy to issues, and it still stands today. I'd invite the Member for Watson Lake to provide this family the information to make contact. By all means, set up a meeting, and I'll have the president, the client and me meet with this family. I'd ask the president for a policy overview of the issues at hand.
Mr. Fentie: I want to thank the minister for that. I would just like to confirm that that can happen as quickly as possible as we are heading into winter. If there is anything that can or should be done here, we should probably be trying to get it done immediately. Can this meeting take place as quickly as possible?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'm under the understanding that the president will be going to community meetings on duty travel as of Friday, and if we can possibly put this in sometime during this week, by all means, we will. It's within the schedule of the president, I think. Certainly, by all means, we can try to make arrangements as quickly as possible to have this meeting.
Mr. Keenan: The leader of the official opposition was speaking earlier specifically about Carmacks. Could the minister table the communication strategy as to when the minister will be inspecting all public buildings, social housing, staff housing, or anything that is within the purview of the minister in terms of water safety.
Can the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it's just unrealistic that I go in and inspect. I don't have the certification or the expertise for inspecting the levels of water cleanliness or healthiness. I would be more than pleased to direct the staff to check the overall conditions of our units and provide that information to the member opposite.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I realize that the minister doesn't have the expertise in this, but the minister is here to speak on behalf of the department and to instruct the department and not to find ways of getting around the minister's obligation to the Yukon public.
I specifically asked if the minister, along with whomever the partners in government might be - Health and Social Services or whomever - the unit that is going out into Yukon communities because we have E. coli show up in one area - will look at the public buildings, which this minister is in charge of. There have been rumblings in different areas. I'm sure that Cabinet has discussed and developed a communication strategy that would be showing the detail - not the level, but the comfort of going into each and every community - whether it's incorporated or unincorporated. We have public buildings, whether they're related to schools or nursing stations, or whatever the public buildings might be. It might be simply a building that the community agent is housed in, but it's a public building, and so it's the public buildings, all the social housing and the staff housing.
Is the minister checking those throughout the Yukon Territory? Is the minister being specific to the community of Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Under the Yukon Housing Corporation, I'm responsible for the Housing Corporation's units, and I believe that this is a Department of Health and Social Services issue. I will work with Health and Social Services, as they are taking the lead role on this issue, and we will ask the Minister of Health and Social Services for information on how the issue is being communicated.
Mr. Keenan: That's not good enough. If this minister is not aware of his duties and spins it off to the Minister of Health and Social Services, who has answered satisfactorily to this question in the House and taken it very seriously - I'm not asking this minister to hand it off and to put it over into the Department of Health and Social Services. I'm asking this minister to take extremely seriously the minister's influence and the minister's role within Yukon Housing, and the relationship with the board, so that we might be able to look and to assure my constituents, the minister's constituents and Yukon people in general that water is safe in public buildings, that water is safe in social housing, and that water is safe in staff housing. I want government to do it.
The minister has a responsibility, as per the minister's objectives here, for certain segments. I'm asking the minister to assure - and I know that the minister wants to assure all Yukon people that their water supply is safe.
So I have asked if the minister would do that. I asked if the minister has thought of that and, if the minister hasn't thought of that, then the minister should and he should develop a communication strategy that would enable us to share with the proponents who use the services of public buildings - including schools and nursing stations and agent's offices and whatever, including social housing and staff housing. That's what I'm asking. Will the minister be a part of that solution?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Once again, this is a Health and Social Services issue and they are taking the leading role in this. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is implying that I don't think that health and safety is a priority. I say that, as minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation and Minister of Government Services, health and safety is certainly a priority with this government and with me as a minister.
This is a community issue and this government is responding to the issue. Health and Social Services is specifically charged with cleanliness of drinking water, et cetera, et cetera.
Mr. Keenan: I really have no further questions. I find this to be a futile exercise with the minister. I put the Yukon Party on notice that I am going to be clearing general debate and getting into the meat and bones of the Housing Corporation so I am willing to forgo the general debate now.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we'll continue with line-by-line. Are there any questions on the operation and maintenance recoveries?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of nil agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Repair and Upgrade
On Energy Management Loans/Programs
Energy Management Loans/Programs in the amount of an underexpenditure of $20,000 agreed to
On Home Ownership
On Mortgage Financing Loans
Mr. Keenan: I'd like the minister to make a commitment that the minister will be able to make sure that these home ownership financing loans will be applicable to all citizens of the Yukon Territory. Would the minister make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'd say that it is available to all Yukon citizens, but it is a question of security and land title, too, to use as security toward the loan.
Mr. Keenan: I beg to differ, in that this minister is driving a wedge between the communities at this point in time. I see no further need to ask questions but I have to drive that point home - that it is not open to all Yukon citizens.
Mortgage Financing Loans in the amount of $4,900,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $4,880,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Chair: We will now take a 15-minute recess, returning at approximately 4:50 p.m.
Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate, Second Appropriation Act.
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The supplementary estimates for Vote 23, Ombudsman, show an increase of $23,000 in operations and maintenance. There's no change in the capital estimates. The O&M increase is required to cover the costs of legal fees paid for through Vote 23 during this fiscal year. The request for this funding was made to and reviewed by the Members' Services Board of the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the Office of the Ombudsman is currently being inundated with a number of ATIPP requests, and as a consequence of the Liberal government of the day's inability to field these in a timely manner, his workload has grown tremendously. What is going to be the ultimate cost for the Office of the Ombudsman, given the additional load that is being placed on him?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I am acting for the minister responsible for this department, I don't have this information at my fingertips. I think the figure the member is asking for is going to be impossible for me to estimate, but I will get back to him with what I can.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the issue before the House is a very serious one, in that the Office of the Ombudsman was originally envisioned to operate for a certain amount and, as a consequence of the current government of the day not responding to ATIPPs in a timely fashion, he's got a workload-and-a-half, where he was only envisioned to have half a workload, if you want to look at it in those terms. This whole request for ATIPPs was commenced by the Liberals when they were in opposition, and it has now come back to haunt them, Mr. Chair, but they really don't know what to do.
My position is that we should give the Office of the Ombudsman whatever funds he needs to address the requirements, because he does have a statutory requirement in many of these areas. When he took on his role, the workload was a certain amount, and it has grown significantly. And it has grown significantly not only because of ATIPP, but also because of his involvement in the Yukon Medical Council decision, and all of these areas are adding a lot of burden to his office.
We could alleviate a lot of these difficulties if the Liberal government of the day, Mr. Chair, took it upon themselves to establish a policy expediting these ATIPP requests in-house. Is the acting Premier going to entertain such a policy of expediting these ATIPP requests in a very diligent manner, so they can process them and get them back? That's the holdup, Mr. Chair, and that's the tremendous burden.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: What is before us today is an increase of $23,000 in O&M in the Office of the Ombudsman. This request for funding has been passed through the Member Services Board of the Legislative Assembly. I will attempt to get the member the information he is seeking, but his question does not relate to the item before us.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't think it would come as any surprise if I disagree with the acting Premier, that it certainly does bear relevance to what we have before us for discussion.
It's really a number of matters. One is that the Office of the Ombudsman has been inundated with ATIPP requests, and the second matter is that the Medical Council has required him to go and get outside legal advice.
Now, these two issues are causing a lot of additional workload for the Office of the Ombudsman, Mr. Chair.
The Liberal government of the day could expedite this office's business by putting in place a policy to expedite ATIPP requests. Is the minister prepared to do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are dealing with a $23,000 item in O&M in a supplementary budget. I have said that I will attempt to get the member the information he is requesting.
Mr. Jenkins: Further to that, is the minister prepared to put in place a policy for her government to deal with ATIPP requests?
Well, I guess the minister is behaving in a stubborn manner, but the question to the minister is - let's go the other way. Does this government have any policy in place as to how to deal with ATIPP requests?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect, Mr. Chair, that the minister is failing to answer the question. I guess we can only come to the conclusion that the minister has something to hide. That is disappointing and she is hiding behind her office, because she will not put in place a policy to deal with the ATIPP requests that are being made of her government, nor does she appear to want to enunciate that policy. And one can only conclude that that is very disappointing.
Once more, for the record, will the minister please respond? Does this Liberal government currently have in place a policy on how to deal with ATIPP requests?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm just disappointed in the minister's lack of response. But we're not going to get anywhere. It's obvious that the minister doesn't even understand this area that she is responsible for, just for today. We're not going to get anywhere with a further debate on this area.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $23,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $23,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Elections Office?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The supplementary estimates for Vote 24, Elections Office, show an increase of $91,000 in operation and maintenance. There is no change in the capital estimates.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed right to operation and maintenance expenditures.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Elections in the amount of $91,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Elections Office in the amount of $91,000 agreed to
Elections Office agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: We will now proceed to the Department of Economic Development. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I am pleased to introduce the 2001-02 supplementary estimates for the Department of Economic Development.
I'd like to take a few moments at the onset of this debate to highlight the main items for members in the House.
The major changes to O&M expenditures are the following. A $15,000 reduction is proposed in our corporate services branch, which offsets an increase in Health and Social Services to fund the Blue Feather Youth Centre. $706,000 have been decreased from the main estimates for mineral and oil and gas resources. This is based on the following three factors.
The 2001-02 main estimate was based on all First Nations receiving a share of the $9 million in oil and gas royalties. The reduced estimate forecasts nine settled land claims. We also had to correct an error in calculating the main estimates, which didn't take into account formula financing payments. Finally, an additional $140,000 has been committed for various oil and gas consulting contracts. This includes hiring consultants to assist with legal and other work associated with the offshore, royalty audits, NEB inspections, engineering and regulations. We are proposing to augment the oil and gas business development budget by $123,000. This is to fund a Council of Yukon First Nations contribution to prepare for their participation in pipeline-related discussions and other oil and gas issues. This is also to help fund an economic impact analysis of the pipeline.
The major capital expenditure changes are the following: a $25,000 reduction proposed for the Project Yukon's budget. Some projects are slated for completion in the new fiscal year, and the $107,000 for the community development fund is a revote to cover expenditures of approved projects that were not completed by March 31 of 2001. Mr. Chair, $142,000 for geologic surveys will be recovered by a contribution from NRCan. This new funding program, the targeted geoscience initiative, was initiated last April after we tabled last year's capital budget, so it is an unexpected windfall. We expect similar funding under the TGI in the new fiscal year.
The regional mineral development program is a new initiative. Initially, we created this program in response to NRCan's idea of creating a national cooperative mapping strategy and a challenge to the provinces and territories to identify matching funding. As of yet, the federal government has not come through with any funding for this. However, we saw merit in this work and committed $150,000 for an airborne survey in the Carmacks copper belt.
We will continue to seek federal funding for the regional mineral development program.
In the last 18 months, Mr. Chair, we have twice increased YMIP funding because of the demonstrated snowball effect this program generates in advanced mineral exploration. The regional mineral development program will help attract new interest in the Yukon by compiling and promoting our most promising mineral districts. And the Yukon geology program continues to provide quality geoscience information to industry to support new discoveries.
The same is true, Mr. Chair, of our oil and gas resources. Ongoing efforts are devoted to developing the oil and gas industry in the areas of rights and dispositions, exploration and development, legislation and regulations, resource assessments, fiscal regime, and relations with First Nations. The oil and gas business development unit continues to work hard to deliver its detailed workplan on route selection advocacy and project preparedness. This includes engineering and economic research, First Nation capacity building, legal research and analysis, government relations in both Ottawa and Washington, government coordination, including environmental assessment and regulatory review, as well as developing opportunities for Yukoners. All other capital programs remain at relatively the same level as this year's forecast.
At this point, I would be pleased to enter into Committee debate.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, we must first look at something that I find very interesting in this supplementary budget, and I think it goes right back to the objectives of the department. It says "to work with Yukon people, communities, businesses, First Nations and other governments to create jobs, new opportunities and a strong, stable Yukon economy by" - and it lists a number of other objectives. The interesting point to note here is that this supplementary budget reflects a lot of money that is being extracted from the Department of Economic Development.
This poses the question then, why, in the economic times that we are experiencing in this territory, is this department reducing expenditures in such areas as mineral and oil and gas resources? Regional mineral development and those types of programs are having reduced expenditures. So, this supplementary budget is simply not, in the areas that the minister was pointing out in his opening remarks, addressing any increase in economic development in this territory whatsoever.
To further compound the problem, as it relates to the objectives, in this supplementary budget there is no target expenditure for winter works; there is no target expenditures that would create economic development, jobs and benefit to Yukoners now. Immediately. This certainly is part of this new minister's mandate under his program objectives. I know that the minister has been handed a real tough deal and a very difficult situation to manage, given the mess that the former Minister of Economic Development created in this department. That is unfortunate and I feel sorry for the Member for Riverside, because I think he is being sacrificed, or is it because of the Premier's much-vaunted downsizing project - is this department simply going to disappear and we are not going to have any more Economic Development? These are serious matters for this minister to consider. Unfortunately, we can't gage what this new minister's plan will be by anything in this supplementary budget. I think we were all hopeful - and that includes all Yukoners - that when the minister brought forward this supplementary we would see a road map or a clear indication of where this minister is going to lead this territory economically - his plan.
That, unfortunately, appears to be extinguishing economic development within the Yukon government and, furthermore, in the territory in general.
Now, the minister is going to state in all likelihood that unemployment is down, retail sales are up, all those wonderful things, but we're on to the minister and this Liberal government on how they're dealing with the unemployment factor. They're getting rid of the workforce. The Liberals have managed to lower unemployment by simply decreasing the workforce in dramatic numbers. That is not boding well for this territory whatsoever. It is certainly doing a lot of harm in the territory, especially out in the communities.
Now, this Liberal government has millions at its disposal. Not petty cash - millions. $99 million in surplus. Why, then, is there no money targeted toward the community development fund - as they now call, after interfering with it politically, Project Yukon? Why, then, did they not add more money to an initiative that would have created jobs all winter long - fire smart? Every community in this territory could have put together applications to fire smart and put dozens of people to work all winter long, not only creating benefit in communities through cash flow and expenditure from spending power, but decreasing the risk of wildfire to our communities.
With $99 million in surplus, it's mind-boggling why this new minister, when at the table making a stand for his department, did not get some of that fund or those monies for his department?
In this supplementary, there is absolutely nothing. And to compound this problem, we can see from the capital budget tabled here this fall, that it is even getting worse, because programs like Project Yukon and the community development fund are being slashed to a mere shadow of what they once were, at a time when this minister has absolutely nothing else to point to that would give Yukoners hope, now and into the future, when it comes to our economy.
The minister can't stand on his feet and say, "Well, we have the mine at Cantung in operation." It wouldn't have mattered what this minister did or who was in power in this territory, that mine would be going as it is today, and it will result in some benefit accruing to Yukoners, but certainly not something that is going to address what we need to do in our economy now, and especially as now, the immediate, relates to where we are going in the future.
One of the program objectives is all about supporting and encouraging the responsible development of the Yukon mineral, forestry and energy resources. So, let's look at minerals. I have asked this government to provide me a breakdown, by legislative return, of what mines are poised to start up, thanks to the Yukon mining incentive program. I got an answer back from the minister's department that alludes to mines that are dated 1988 and 1989, and mines like Sa Dena Hes, which are no closer to starting up than mines we haven't even found yet.
The problem here is, although the Yukon mining incentive program is putting some prospectors out there searching for potential, there are no mines - no development happening based on that expenditure.
Secondly, it's very evident from the announcements that Devon has made and where the price of crude oil is heading that the energy sector, even though it was very limited in what we were managing to achieve compared to other jurisdictions, is now flat and we can hope for very little in that area.
Let's look at forestry. What was once a fledgling industry in this territory, beginning its development, is now dead - completely dead - and I think this government bears a lot of responsibility for that. It's so bad in the forest sector, in fact, after this Liberal government announced they were taking the lead in forestry in this territory, that Minister Nault had to gallop into the territory on a big, white stallion, grab the forestry file, and take it back to Ottawa to see if he could fix it. Even that minister may have trouble doing so as long as this Liberal government continues to be an impediment in the forest sector.
So I would point out to the minister that although he might have good intentions, let's remember the road to Hades is paved with good intentions. There's nothing happening here, and Yukoners, especially this winter, are in desperate straits. They need something to happen, and with this government sitting on $99 million - and yet this minister could not make enough representation at the table to top up funds like the community development fund and fire smart that would have put dozens of people to work this winter. I strongly urge the minister to reconsider this supplementary budget and call it what it is - non-economic development. Can the minister answer why he did not at least get a couple of million dollars targeted toward fire smart and the community development fund program?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned to the Member for Watson Lake today, with his question in Question Period, budgeting is about making choices, and it's about setting priorities for spending. The priorities of the previous government, the NDP government, were for $3 million into the CDF and a total of $16 million over the three and a half years that they were in office.
This government makes different choices with our spending. We have chosen to spend money on things, such as $40 million into the transportation division of Community and Transportation Services, completing the Mayo school, completing the continuing care facility, work on the Whitehorse multiplex, work on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, lobbying for an Alaska Highway pipeline, support for the mineral industry - YMIP funding up $100,000 to $850,000.
Mr. Chair, I'm very hopeful that one of the YMIP projects will lead to a major discovery and a staking rush, such as occurred in the Finlayson district in our record exploration year of 1996. I spoke to a number of miners this past weekend at the Geoscience Forum, and they told me how important YMIP was to them in carrying out their exploration this past year, in light of the difficult times the mining industry is facing right now.
Mr. Chair, yesterday morning, when I was delivering my opening remarks at the Geoscience Forum, I announced that we had extended the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit for another year, to April 1, 2003. These are important initiatives, Mr. Chair, that the resource and mining sectors need us to address. As I said earlier, in speaking with a number of miners on the weekend, they told me how important these types of programs were to them carrying out their work.
With regard to fire smart, we have allocated $500,000 to it and 11 fire smart projects have been approved for a total of some $466,000. There are people working on fire smart this year.
I was in the Member for Watson Lake's community in mid-October and talked to some of the people who were working on the fire smart program down there.
With regard to the tungsten mine, last March I attended on the Premier's behalf, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada meeting in Toronto and met with the mine proponent, the president of North American Tungsten at that time. Ten short months later, that mine will be going into production in January with Yukoners working at that mine. There will be people from the Member for Watson Lake's own riding working at that mine. And one of the reasons that the president of North American Tungsten was able to open that mine was because of the good, strong, solid infrastructure support demonstrated by the Cabinet at the time in allocating the funds necessary to address the shortfalls on the Nahanni Range Road.
There are a number of things we are doing to improve the economy, working with the proponent for the former United Keno Hill Mines Ltd. property. I noted in the Member for Mayo-Tatchun's newsletter that he sent out that he was quite pleased with the progress and the opportunities that would come from the resurrection of the Elsa silver mine.
As I said with Mayo school, the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, the Whitehorse multiplex, work on the continuing care, the hard work of the Minister of Tourism with regard to the Call of the Wild - there are going to be a number of opportunities, not to mention the opportunities with our strong promotion of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
There are lots of initiatives we're working on, and we see lots of opportunities for Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we'll slow down a bit. I want to point out that I already stated that some benefits will accrue from North American Tungsten. We all agree. When it comes to fire smart, what the minister is not recognizing is that increased funding to fire smart this winter would have increased benefits and jobs for Yukoners, and this government is sitting on a lot of money. It's not going to grow because you sit on it. It could be put to good use - at least some of it.
Now, the minister likes to list off a number of things as if these are Liberal initiatives and these are the things they're doing to help the economy - the Mayo school. The Mayo school was begun by the former government. This government did its best to turn that project completely upside-down, and almost has. However, the NDP commenced that project. The extended care facility - the NDP commenced that project. The multiplex - the former NDP government commenced that project. None of these things are Liberal initiatives. They just happen to be sitting on that side of the House - but not for much longer - reaping some of the benefits from this, but at the same time spending a great deal of their day patting themselves on the back without any recognition of what's going on in regard to these projects.
They're coming close to completion. What happens then? There's no plan here beyond this. We understand that the mining incentive program is hugely supported by the industry and prospectors. However, the minister cannot point to one mine, other than hoping that, in some area, we may get lucky and a mine site will go into production because of this program.
I want to stress to the minister that right now, not only in this country but internationally, raising money to develop a mine is very difficult.
The minister mentioned a mineral tax credit - another NDP initiative. All these things that the minister listed as work that the Liberals are doing - it is not work that the Liberals have been doing. They are simply restating what another government had already done.
Now, the pipeline - the former Minister of Economic Development focused totally on this pipeline, which is iffy, no matter what people may think on that side of the House. I know the Premier has tried to basically brainwash her colleagues that this is the economic panacea for this territory, but that's not the case - not the case at all.
In fact, this Liberal government can lobby all it wants and spend all this money, which would have been put to much better use in areas that would create direct jobs today because, frankly, it will be the industry, Madam Chair, that decides what is going to happen with either an Alaska Highway pipeline or a pipeline anywhere. It's going to be the industry that does that, and this government could have got focused much earlier on in other areas that would have created jobs and benefit for Yukoners. We all hope a pipeline will happen because we know that access to energy, especially a source of energy that may be somewhat cheaper and safer for use in this territory, is a good thing, but it's not something we put all our eggs in - into that one particular basket.
I think what really is wrong here is that the Premier and her renewal project have simply brought this department to a dead standstill.
This minister's management and people within his department are totally focused on this misguided downsizing project, one that may have the Department of Economic Development disappear from the government's radar screen - gone. There's nobody able to help this minister within the department because of the workload that they have taken on, when it comes to project downsize, to address economic development in this territory, and it is, as I said, stagnant.
Why will this minister not at least give recognition to the fact that, with all the money they have available, putting some of that money into circulation in this territory immediately through projects like fire smart, through projects that communities bring forward as their priorities - why does the minister not at least give recognition that that will create jobs? Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Madam Chair, there are a number of things I'd like to touch on with regard to the Member for Watson Lake's comments over the last five or 10 minutes, starting with his comments on the Mayo school. When that project came in, it was substantially over budget, and we worked hard with the community of Mayo to bring that project in on budget. The days of cost-plus government have to end, Madam Chair. We can't carry on like that. Those are the types of things that we can't do. If there's a specific amount of money budgeted for a specific project, then we have to live within those means. Cost-plus governments just don't work.
Madam Chair, with regard to the Yukon mining incentive program, those dollars are spent in the Yukon. They are spent on exploration in the Yukon, and it's my hope that some day it will lead to a producing mine. It's those exploration dollars, which are provided by this government and were raised by the previous Minister of Economic Development when the Premier had the portfolio, and a further $100,000 raised by myself for the 2002-03 budget, that are going to bridge the tough times that the exploration sector is facing right now.
We talk about the pipeline. When we took office, the pipeline wasn't on the radar screen. It wasn't. The previous government had budgeted a mere $100,000 for the pipeline unit, which barely paid lip service to the pipeline unit, Madam Chair. This is a very important project to the Yukon. It represents infrastructure that is every bit as important as the Alaska Highway was 60 years ago, as the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad was 100 years ago, and as the sternwheelers were to the Yukon in delivering goods and services to the Yukon throughout the early part of this century.
Madam Chair, the Member for Watson Lake likes to take credit for a lot of things that the NDP started. I'd like to explain to the member some of the things that we have started in helping to address the economic concerns of the territory.
The IT sector - largely ignored by the previous NDP government. We have initiated a sector strategy that's due to be complete by the end of March.
As well, there is the e-commerce legislation that we introduced into this House last year; promotion of the cultural industries; the Minister of Tourism's promotion of Yukon music and the Yukon at Rendezvous Canada and through the "On Yukon Time" program that she initiated last year.
There is the creation of a studio guide, profiling 35 visual artists. There is continued support for the film industry which, not including Call of the Wild, has brought $2 million of productions into the territory. The arts fund is a new fund created by this Liberal government; that is $500,000 of new money to the arts community in the territory, including promotion of Yukon artists' work.
Also our partnership with other governments, obtaining increased economic development spending from the federal government. Over $5 million of that upgraded the Dawson Airport in the Member for Klondike's riding. There is an extra $4.4 million secured by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services over the next four years under the strategic highway infrastructure program. There is funding from the National Research Council and from Industry Canada for our IT sector strategy, as well as the work that the Minister of Renewable Resources did in obtaining crop insurance funding from the federal government to rescue our agricultural sector from that soggy summer of a couple of years ago.
So, Madam Chair, we're doing a number of things: building infrastructure, carrying out work in the IT sector, and we are addressing the economic concerns of this territory.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would suggest that the minister and the Liberal government are doing one thing for certain - spinning their wheels. Now, the minister just made much about cost-plus government expenditures. I really like this example because, out in the communities like Mayo where the need is the greatest, where the ability to access a job, to earn a living and put food on the table, is the most difficult to achieve. This government, for some unknown reason, thought that the Mayo school and the possibility of it going a couple of dollars over budget was a terrible thing.
And yet, here in Whitehorse, when it comes to dealing with their Liberal operatives and friends, we have an overbudget on the Hamilton twinning, the Hamilton Boulevard. No problem there. There's more money going into the extended care facility. That's possibly over budget. Yes, the minister is making a mistake on that. There are all kinds of problems. The practice session that the Minister of C&TS undertook out at Marsh Lake for BST could be costly to the Yukon taxpayer, too. It's a wonder, Mr. Chair, how quickly this minister - whom we all had a lot of hope for, whom we thought of as this young up-and-comer, would immediately grab the reins, take control of his Department of Economic Development and do something constructive and productive for this territory - has now been sucked into the morass of the Liberals' loopy outlook toward economic development in this territory.
That's too bad because, as I said, we had a lot of hope for this new minister, being young blood.
The minister makes comments like the former government was ignoring the pipeline. No, the former government was astute enough to know that a hundred grand would have done a lot in terms of organizing the Yukon government when it comes to the Alaska Highway pipeline, because it was evident to the former government and still is to us on the official opposition side today that it will be the producers who decide what's going to go on. It's their billions of dollars that will make it all happen. There's an existing agreement in place, called the ANGTS agreement. The federal government has a role to play.
We understood all those things. This novice Liberal government, who had absolutely no economic plan when they fell into office, decided that, for optics, we will - and this is through the tutelage and leadership of the Premier - we will make the Alaska Highway pipeline our economic plank.
Well, here we are, months into this - actually, almost two years - and we're no further ahead in that regard than we were the day the Liberals took office. Furthermore, it's the same project that Yukoners were hanging on the gate for back in the 1970s. That's some 20-plus years ago. So I think it's fair to say that the former government had a much clearer perspective on how to involve itself with the pipeline but, at the same time, how to target expenditures to create jobs for Yukoners. That's not happening.
Now, I ask the minister: through all of this bafflegab and Liberal back patting, why did the minister not make representation at the table, given the massive surplus this government had and has, and at least throw a couple more million dollars at projects like fire smart that would create jobs immediately? Why did the minister not do that? Because if he had, he could have doubled or tripled the number of Yukoners working this winter. Can he explain that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, I find it interesting how the Member for Watson Lake talks about projects that are overbudget by a couple bucks here and a couple bucks there. That project was overbudget by $1 million, and this government saved Yukon taxpayers that $1 million.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Watson Lake talks about the pipeline. He spent five minutes on it, and he went around and around and I don't know where he stands. I've seen press releases from him that he doesn't support it. I've heard the Member for Kluane speak in the House, calling it a black hole. As I said before, this is such an important piece of infrastructure to Yukoners, and the members opposite play politics with it, which I find very shameful, Mr. Chair.
We are working hard to improve the economy on the devolution transfer agreement. Let's talk about that. The Member for Watson Lake doesn't support it, whereas other members of his NDP caucus do. So, actually the Member for Watson Lake joins the Member for Klondike in his non-support for devolution, saying that it is not the panacea.
We have settled one land claim in our 18 short months in office. And, in listening to Grand Chief Ed Shultz yesterday morning at the opening of the Geoscience Forum, he expressed his belief to the miners and the exploration geologists in the room that, by this time next year, we should have all remaining land claims settled.
We are working hard with First Nations to maximize jobs and economic opportunities in the communities. We have developed benefit agreements between what was formerly Anderson Energy - now Devon Energy Corporation - and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation for oil and gas work in the Eagle Plains region.
We are creating the Dena Cho Trail, which is a partnership with the Ross River Dena Council and the Town of Faro. We have also, as I mentioned earlier, begun the construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, not to mention the work that has gone on with the Kwanlin Dun and the Mount Sima industrial subdivision.
The Member for Watson Lake asks about fire smart and why I didn't stand up at the table to fight for fire smart. Budgeting on this side of the House is a team effort. It's a team effort done not only by the Finance minister, as was done under the previous NDP government where the former Finance minister just went into his office with a sharp pencil and told everybody what they were getting. We do this as a team over here. We involve all Cabinet ministers and all caucus members when we develop our budgets.
As I have said, budgeting is about choices.
We did choose to spend $500,000 on the fire smart initiative this year. We also chose to spend some $7 million upgrading the Champagne to Haines Junction section of the Alaska Highway - projects that will create jobs, jobs for Yukoners, and leave us with lasting infrastructure improvements. The highways were largely ignored by the NDP government, and that is why we have to take care of that right now under this government. Let's talk about the $800,000 for rural roads that we have budgeted as a team over here, when we develop our budgets.
There are numerous infrastructure projects that we are looking at. I think of F.H. Collins Secondary School replacement, the Grey Mountain Primary School, which is another example - the Catholic school expansions at Christ the King Elementary School and Holy Family School. The work on the Watson Lake Secondary School, the work on Vanier Catholic Secondary School. When we talk about budgets and setting our priorities, we do it as a team. It is not just the Finance minister who does it or one member of Cabinet or caucus who can lobby hard in one way or another. We work as a team and we set priorities and spending priorities that will work for all Yukoners and get the most bang for our buck.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is comforting. The Liberals work as a team. But, in looking at this supplementary, one would wonder, then, what happened to the Minister of Economic Development? Did he go to the bathroom? And his team took a whole bunch of money away from his department. There is nothing in this supplementary that is going to put Yukoners to work now.
So, what do you tell Yukoners as they line up at the Sally Ann and soup kitchens and sit at home wondering how they are going to buy Christmas presents for their children or consider moving from this territory, as many Yukoners have? More importantly, our workforce has left to go work elsewhere. What do you tell those people this winter?
The minister is a team member, but he went to the bathroom, and they snow-jobbed him and took a whole bunch of money out of his department. Oh well, maybe we'll be luckier next time and the minister will come and help us out. You can't do that.
Mr. Chair, I think it's evident that there is something lacking with this Liberal government. That is an economic plan or vision. That is a blueprint of how to address the Yukon economy. And furthermore - and this is even more troubling - I don't even think that this minister, who has now obviously been brainwashed by the Premier, the former Minister of Economic Development, who probably runs this whole show from that corner office - and these members simply don't know what makes up the Yukon economy. So, if they don't even know or haven't even figured out the components of the Yukon economy, then how are they going to stand on their feet in this Legislature and explain, as they list off all these things - most of them, they haven't done any work on. They have simply allowed things to carry on as they were under the former government. But those good initiatives are all coming to an end, and nothing here in this supplementary is being directed toward addressing the issues we face today and helping set up where we have to be tomorrow.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, we now have the Minister of Tourism chirping away in the background about land claims. Let me tell the minister something: land claims right now are solely in the hands of the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. If there is going to be any success in land claims in this territory, it's going to be in spite of this Liberal government, because he has had to come in here and put his foot down because this Liberal government simply had a mandate that wasn't even in the ballpark for settling land claims. They were only playing at it.
So the federal minister had to come here and try to rescue this process, because March 2002 is looming quickly and the only thing they had managed to accomplish is to have the Ta'an Kwach'an land claim re-signed for the third time. What an earth-shattering event this Liberal government had that day when they tried to say it was through their good works the Ta'an Kwach'an had settled their land claim - fiddle-faddle. That land claim was done and had been done for a long time. The minister should not be so easily led down the garden path by his Premier, who made a mess initially of this poor, demoralized and upside-down department that used to be such a well-tuned running machine in this territory. It requires leadership. It requires political leadership and direction, and if the minister and his government do not have a vision or a plan, there is no way to provide political leadership or direction.
So we have in the budget prior to this, which this supplementary is closing out, a situation where this Liberal government thinks that the way to success is just sit around and wait, spend a bunch of money in areas that people are demanding that they spend it in, failing to admit openly that the former government had contributed a great deal to their ability to spend that money in those areas such as highway construction, because it was the former government that negotiated the Shakwak funding, and our Liberal friends across the way are now signing the cheques for that funding.
Furthermore, I want to point out that this Liberal government makes much about highway expenditure and, when it came to an initiative that would have really addressed not only the needs of today but would have helped to set the stage for dramatically improved economic development in southeast Yukon - a road to resources - they couldn't even come up with a $150,000 pot of money for a feasibility study on where to put the centre line, the front line and the back line on this road to resources. And, in a shameful display, they used the Kaska First Nation as their scapegoat for their inability to act, because their Liberal centre of influence - a very small one, whispering in the Premier's ear - said, "Oh, no, don't spend that money down there. Let's spend it up here. Let's spend it in Whitehorse."
They used the First Nation as an excuse. Well, quite frankly, the First Nation is very interested in a road to resources, for obvious reasons. They have a land claim that a road to resources will certainly assist in the future. And this government - the Liberal government and this Minister of Economic Development - hasn't even contacted the leadership of the Kaska First Nation on this issue. They haven't even talked to them. So how would they know that it's the First Nation's fault when they haven't discussed the issue?
So there's one example of how far off the target this new minister is when it comes to economic development.
Now, the minister said something that is another example of how the minister has so quickly become brainwashed. The comments that we on this side of the House don't support the pipeline are simply a bunch of rubbish. For obvious reasons, everybody in this territory supports a natural gas pipeline.
But let me put something on the floor here. It was that minister's Premier who may have compromised and jeopardized our future benefit from that pipeline by her misguided amendments to an act here that has completely ignored our ability as a Yukon Territory to internally control what will happen with that energy in the pipeline. Let me explain.
By opening up, or amending the act, as the Premier did, she has opened the door for interest and utilities from outside this territory to come in and create a utility for gas here in the Yukon and sell us cheap energy - let's just call it energy, because we don't know at this stage whether it's going to be cheap at all, given how utilities operate with a guaranteed return on investment.
Now, the minister should well know that, under the ANGTS agreement, there is a fundamentally important issue in that agreement, and that is: should the Alaska Highway pipeline occur, en route on that pipeline, the Yukon can take gas out of the line and the producers will replace that gas downstream. Now, it does not say that certain utilities must be involved in that. It just says that producers will replace the gas downstream. Now, here is where the short-sightedness of this Liberal government comes into effect, and it's testimony to their lack of vision or a plan.
What should have been happening, instead of running around Calgary wearing out the rug at the Palliser Hotel, the Premier should have been working on an arrangement with the producers to do this: allow the Yukon to extract its needs and energy from the pipeline and have ourselves replace the gas downstream.
I want to remind the minister that we are a producer. The Kotaneelee is producing at this time. We have lost a golden opportunity for this territory to become its own utility with its own resource. In short, the Liberal government has sold us out. That is a pretty sad state of affairs, given the fact that, on one hand, they promote the pipeline as being this major economic benefit. On the other hand, they are removing any benefit in real terms that we could have accrued in the long haul, because there is going to be a cost to this energy no matter how we look at it. But if we could have used our own energy, our own gas sources, we could have set what that cost would have been locally and not poured millions upon millions of dollars into the coffers of some utility outside of this territory. Unfortunately, the Liberals' lack of vision has put us in jeopardy when it comes to that very important facet of us being able to improve our economic fortunes in the future.
Now, the minister talks about land claims. As I pointed out, the federal government has come in to rescue that initiative; however, there were other initiatives ongoing that would have possibly resulted in much more economic development, in a region where the oil and gas industry wants to be - the southeast Yukon. The economic table that was developed between the former government and the Kaska First Nation was doing exactly that. This Liberal government cancelled it.
The only reason that this minister can stand on his feet and try to take credit for expenditures in seismic in the southeast Yukon was the direct result of the economic table and its initiative and the negotiations that took place at that table.
Furthermore, the minister stated that he had developed impact benefits agreement, that this Liberal government has developed impact benefits agreements. Well, they have to because that is the way the legislation is written, and that legislation, the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, was passed and implemented by the former New Democratic government. So, obviously, the minister is just reading from notes but has nothing concrete to offer in terms of economic development.
Where do we go from here? Well, the minister just seems to not want to address something very important - millions of dollars at his disposal. Yes, as he pointed out, it is supposedly a team that makes these decisions; however, I would query how many people are in Management Board if it's a team that makes these decisions. Is the minister in Management Board? I don't think so.
However, there are millions of dollars available. Why is the minister not trying to access some of those funds to put Yukoners to work now? It's going to be a long, hard winter, and now we have the Member for Faro yodelling away. Well, let's look at something that happened in the member's community.
There is a small mom-and-pop forestry operation in Faro, in this member's community. Now, we all know Faro is in desperate straits when it comes to anything that would create jobs.
This small forestry company, under this Liberal government, has now been forced to go to seek legal action against the federal government because it cannot receive timber. The Member for Faro has done absolutely nothing on behalf of this company that has created jobs and contributed to the wealth of Faro for decades. And today, under this Liberal government, in less than two years, this company - not only can it not get timber in an area that it has been harvesting for years, it has to now go to court to try and get some rightful access to a resource. And the Member for Faro has the audacity to sit in this Legislature and chortle away about this side of the House sitting down - no. Wrong, Mr. Chair.
This side of the House has to keep trying to get through to the members opposite that they have an error in their ways and it's costing Yukoners, even Yukoners like this small mom-and-pop forestry operation that has now lost any ability to create a revenue and, from that, jobs for people in Faro.
As far as being a community in this territory, it is probably one of the communities most desperate for work, for jobs, for some sort of benefit. All this government had to do in this regard is go to their federal masters and demand, on behalf of this small Yukon company, that they receive this very nominal amount of timber they need to keep operating. Did that happen? No. However, the Minister of Renewable Resources made a great deal out of standing in this House and informing this Assembly and Yukoners that the Yukon Liberal government was going to take the lead in forestry.
Well, what has happened since that much-flaunted announcement? Minister Nault not only has come to rescue the land claim process from this government, but he has also had to take the forestry file from the government of the day here in the Yukon and take it back to Ottawa to try and fix the mess it's in.
This is the same government whose deputy ministers, a year ago, signed on to a process that would have given the Member for Faro's small, little forestry company access to timber. And that was signed on by the Minister of Renewable Resources' deputy minister and this Minister of Economic Development's deputy minister a year ago - a process that would have resulted in this small mom-and-pop operation receiving the small amount of timber that it requires.
The Member for Faro has done absolutely nothing for these people or for that community since he has taken office. They made a point of saying that the former Member for Faro worked tirelessly for them, but not this new member. This member has been led down the garden path, like the rest of these Liberals across the floor, by the Premier, who hasn't got a clue on where she is taking this territory. She only follows the direction of a very small centre of influence whispering in her ear. That's why the Department of Economic Development is soon to disappear.
Economic development is not something the Liberals want to see happen. They want to hoard money, use it for elections and then do nothing in between elections. Like true Liberals, they are leading from behind, waiting for something to happen so they can try and capture it, doing nothing but launching all kind of platitudes and Liberal lubrication that doesn't mean a whole lot to Yukoners who are suffering again and face another long, hard winter.
Now, the Minister of Economic Development, according to his mandate and objectives, has a duty to do something. That is why the minister is in office. He has a responsibility to do something. At this stage in the game, the minister cannot say that there is going to be a mine start up in the very near future to help put Yukoners to work. The minister cannot say that in the very near future the Alaska Highway pipeline will go into production or construction and will put Yukoners to work. The minister cannot say that drilling will be taking place in this territory, putting Yukoners to work. The minister cannot say that there is anything on the horizon under this Liberal government's watch putting Yukoners to work. But what the minister has available at his disposal are millions of dollars that the Liberal government is sitting on and hoarding.
Now, Mr. Chair, I was trying to point out to the minister the fact that, with all that money available, there are simple ways to put Yukoners to work.
Chair: Order please. The member's time has expired. The time being 6:00 p.m., I will now rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 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.
Order. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.