Tuesday, April 23, 2002 ó 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 Norma Kassi, Jonathon Solomon, and Sarah James
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to pay tribute to three First Nation people of the North. Norma Kassi of Old Crow, Yukon, Jonathon Solomon of Fort Yukon, Alaska, and Sarah James of Arctic Village, Alaska, have been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.
The Goldman Environmental Prize is given each year to grassroots environmental heroes from six geographic areas. Each Goldman prize is worth $125,000 U.S. to the recipient. This yearís prize will be divided between the three North American winners. These three individuals have been tireless in their defence of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge against oil and gas development. As you know, the Porcupine herd has sustained the Gwitchin culture for approximately 20,000 years. The Goldman Prize has been called the Nobel Prize for the environment.
It is awarded for sustained and important efforts to preserve the natural environment, including but not limited to, protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combatting destructive development projects, promoting sustainability; influencing environmental policies and striving for environmental justice.
The Goldman Environmental Prize winners are selected by an international jury from nominations submitted from only two sources: a network of 31 internationally known environmental organizations and a confidential panel of environmental experts from more than 45 nations.
We are proud that an international organization has identified the importance of the Porcupine caribou herd ó an importance that we, in the north, have long recognized both territorially and federally.
We are hopeful, Mr. Speaker, that this recognition will carry the significant weight for the First Nationsí lobby efforts to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Canada Book Day
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I rise today to pay tribute to Canada Book Day, as an opportunity to celebrate Canadian books, authors and to recognize the importance of reading in our day-to-day lives. Now in its seventh year, Canada Book Day coincides with UNESCO-declared World Book Day. It is on April 23 of each year that we celebrate Canada Book Day. This particular date was chosen for its representation of when prominent authors, including Shakespeare, Cervantes and Nabakov were either born or passed on. Our writers not only entertain and enlighten us, they help define us as a people. Canadian authors such as Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson and the late Margaret Laurence are just some of the examples of what fine visionaries this country has.
A fitting way to celebrate Canada Book Day is to recognize our libraries and the role they play in our communities throughout the country. Libraries have been around for more than 4,000 years. Not only do libraries serve as a treasure chest of information for everyone to access free of charge, they provide an invaluable resource of history.
Despite this importance and the increased role libraries play, funding for these institutions is being reduced across Canada. Here in the Yukon, funding for our libraries has not kept pace with reality. And I would encourage the government to recognize the importance of our libraries and fund them accordingly. It is fitting that we pay tribute to Canada Book Day, our libraries and librarians.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introductions of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have for tabling a legislative return dealing with the Elsa water quality at the United Keno Hill mine site. This is in response to a question raised by the MLA for Klondike in general debate with the Premier on Thursday, April 18.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a legislative return for the Member for McIntyre-Takhini.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jim: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) many Yukon classrooms today have a very broad mix of students who have a variety of specific needs; and
(2) there is significant research today that states that, in the primary grades, it is important for a teacher to make daily contact and teach individually as often as possible with each child; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to lower the pupil/teacher ratio in all primary K3 classrooms, from the present one teacher to 25 students, to one teacher to 20 students.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT is the opinion of this House
THAT this House orders the establishment of a Commission on Electoral Reform in Yukon;
THAT this House, in reference to the appointment and organization of this commission, orders that:
(1) there be five members including the Chief Electoral Officer,
(2) the Chief Electoral Officer be the chair,
(3) the remaining members be appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly upon recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer, and
(4) the Members' Services Board give consideration to and make recommendation on the funding to be provided for the commission's activities;
THAT this House, in reference to the activities of this commission, orders that the commission undertake a consultative process with the people of the Yukon focusing on the following themes:
(1) electoral representation including consideration of the first-past-the-post system now in place and the proportional representation model,
(2) electoral boundaries including addressing whether the focus on numbers of electors leads to the resultant districts being representative of common needs,
(3) system of government including consideration of models other than the British parliamentary one now in place,
(4) methods of holding elected representatives accountable between elections including recall, and
(5) role of political parties including regulation of fundraising by parties; and
THAT this House orders that the commission, following completion of its consultation with the people of the Yukon, produce an options paper on electoral reform and the other related matters it has been charged with considering and that this options paper be transmitted through the Speaker to the Legislative Assembly by the beginning of the 2002 Fall Sitting.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, because of the population base in many of our smaller communities, it is very difficult to hire full-time physical education instructors in our small schools as well as find highly trained recreation directors; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to hire combination recreation directors and physical education teachers to provide a better quality recreation and physical education program in these smaller communities.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Non-government organization funding agreements
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health.
We know that there are approximately a dozen non-government organizations that receive funding through the Department of Health and Social Services and we know that these NGOs deliver a wide range of services that are important to all Yukoners. So I would like to ask the minister how many of these NGOs have long-term funding agreements in place now?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Most non-government organizations have three-year funding agreements under the Department of Health and Social Services. Some of them are expiring this year; some expired last year; some will expire next year; so there is an ongoing negotiation on the length of those agreements.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to point out to the public at large that it was a previous government, the New Democrat government, that worked on multi-year funding agreements with the NGOs.
It was also recognized that NGOs needed to have their funding in place sooner rather than later so that they would not run into cash flow problems that would negatively affect the delivery of their services. So has this Liberal government changed the policy in regard to funding for NGOs in any manner?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Iím not too sure what the member is trying to get at. Transfers to non-government organizations occurred on April 1 through the warrant process or the order-in-council. We transferred almost $95 million to non-government organizations at that time.
Is the member opposite saying that there was a problem with one of those organizations because, if there is, I would like to know what that is so I can do something about it.
Mr. Keenan: We appreciate the can-do attitude, and certainly there is a problem. Some of the NGOs felt that they were forced into signing the agreements so that they could keep adequate funding flowing for the delivery of their services.
Would it be possible, the next time the minister negotiates, I guess, with an NGO, to start a little earlier so that there would be a continual flow of services through the NGOs? Can the minister please assure the House that the minister will take that into consideration and implement that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: When I first came on as the Minister of Health and Social Services, I realized that there was a real problem with the relationship between the Government of Yukon ó in particular, my department ó and the non-governmental organizations. The problem was that the only relationship we had was a funding arrangement.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that non-governmental organizations have far more to offer the people of the Yukon in their expertise and in what they can offer for services to Yukoners. I feel that there is a real opportunity there, and for that reason, Iíve launched an activity with a contractor who will be going out and speaking to non-governmental organizations that work for the Department of Health and Social Services, in an attempt to build that relationship, which I hope will be a healthy one.
Question re: Lottery Commission
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services on a familiar topic. The Yukon Lottery Commission used to function at armís length from the territorial government. Thanks to the governmentís renewal process, the commissionís board no longer has the same authority to appoint and manage commission employees.
How does the minister expect that change to improve the services the commission provides to retailers and the Yukon public?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the Public Lotteries Act, section 9, it says that, subject to the Public Service Commission Act, the Executive Council member ó in this case, that would be me ó shall make provision for a secretary and other administrative support services for the commission. So it is clearly the responsibility of this government to deal with the staff.
The Public Lotteries Act doesnít prevent the staff supplied by the commissionís work from being part of a department of government, and the Yukon Liquor Corporation is, like all the corporations, a department of the government.
May I point out, once again, that there has been no change in the way people apply for lotteries funding, in the amount of money that is disbursed or in the way that the board of the commission acts to deal with the applications and disburse the money ó no change.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, itís encouraging to see the minister is becoming familiar with the act, and I know she is familiar with sections 12 and 13 because I formulated them in my question last week. Those particular sections clearly spell out the role of the Lottery Commission Board.
Now, this is more than just changing commission employees from one government department to another for administrative purposes.
Until this matter has been appropriately adjudicated, will the minister ensure the board that it still has the full authority granted under the act regarding the conduct and management of the Lottery Commission and its employees?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have pointed out repeatedly to the commission board, to the public and to the members opposite that there is no change in the way they do their work. The only change is that the staff of the Lottery Commission now reports to a different government department. That does not change the way the staff does their work either. No change, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, it could well turn out that the new arrangement does not conform to the act. That could leave this government in the difficult position of having to act either to erode the authority of a citizen board or to proceed in the direction it is going, of centralizing decision making and control in the corner suite upstairs.
If a legal challenge went against the government, Mr. Speaker, would this minister advocate changing the act or abandoning the misdirected arrangement resulting from renewal? What would she do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no intention to erode the authority of the citizen board. The board of the Yukon Lottery Commission continues to function as it always has done, in the best interests of Yukoners. The staff of the Lottery Commission continues to support the work of the board. There has been no change, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Renewal of government, cost
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Premier on the cost of government renewal. The Premier stated the cost of government renewal is $895,000. It would appear that this budget amount is but a small fraction of the real cost. In a budget briefing, for example, I was told that the cost of moving the Whitehorse liquor store alone was going to be some $2 million, and that does not include off-site levies, which are bound to be substantial. Furthermore, weíre going to save $200,000 by doing that; weíre not going to have to pay rent. Further, in view of the size of the proposed service centre in Whitehorse, I believe a conservative estimate of its cost would be in the $3-million-plus range. Overall, it would appear that a conservative estimate of the real cost of government renewal would be in the $7-million range. How can the Premier drone on about being accountable when she has not been forthcoming with the real $7-million-plus cost of government renewal? Why is the Premier hiding the real cost of renewal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, no one has hidden anything from the member opposite. The fact is that $895,000 was voted for renewal last year and the project is still within that budget. The cost breakdown is as follows: communications, including consultation ó and that includes 700 government employees ó reorganizing financial systems to restate budgets, $92,000; human resources management ó thatís training, classification and staff support programs, working with employees ó $287,000. In office moves, the budgeted amount is $374,000. I have stated this in the Legislature. I have provided a legislative return. The information has been provided several times to the member opposite.
Future costs such as the opening of the service centre ó and I find it amazing that the member opposite will stand on his feet and say how much it costs when the tender has only just been released and has not closed for the construction of that as yet ó and a separate cost for the liquor store will be covered off in that particular budget.
The fact is that we know the members opposite donít support renewal; however, the Government of Yukon and the Yukon public do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, weíll find out soon enough if they do or not, Mr. Speaker, because all the minister is speaking on is the actual cost of the paper exercise. The Minister of Finance is out by over a factor of 700 percent, perhaps more, in estimating what the real cost of government renewal amounts to. Itís a massive error and it makes a mockery of any claims about this Liberal government being accountable.
Now, Iíve heard reports that as many as 1,000 government employees will be moving as a consequence of renewal, and each move is going to cost money. Will the Premier confirm those reports or deny them?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The endless conjecture from the member opposite that he stands on the floor of this House and states as fact is mind-boggling.
The fact is I said on my feet not two minutes ago that the office moves are budgeted at $374,000. Thatís a reasonable estimate based upon the work of government employees who have gone through and examined all the different moves required. The fact is that the service centre tender is for leased space. The fact is that moving the liquor store, which is supported by the majority of Whitehorse residents ó and weíve had many positive comments about that ó and in fact it was as a result of comments received during the Liquor Act review ó that what weíre doing is expanding the liquor warehouse. So the fact is, Mr. Speaker, that renewal has and will result in better services to Yukoners and weíll be better prepared for devolution ó something I also know the member opposite doesnít seem to support.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the bottom line is we are going to be moving a lot of government employees around. We are going to be incurring a tremendous expense, way above and beyond the $895,000 that the Premier has indicated, on the floor of this House, will be the cost. And the Premier is even suggesting that we are going to lease these premises so they wonít cost us anything. Nothing could be further from reality. In a recent survey of government employees, 48 percent said the restructuring will have a negative impact on the government, whereas only 32 percent said it would be positive.
What measures is the Premier going to introduce to improve staff moral, other than holding going-away parties for the many employees who will be leaving, and inviting other employees to eat cake?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite may not respect the opinions and value the work of Government of Yukon employees. We on this side of the House do. Government of Yukon employees have indicated their support and work through renewal. Difficult as change has been, I applaud the public servants who have worked incredibly hard on this and worked through this process.
The end result of renewal will be a government that is fully prepared to assume the management and control of Yukonís lands and resources on April 1, 2003, as we complete devolution. And it will be better service for government employees. We are working with not only customer satisfaction in tracking the satisfaction of Yukoners in reaching and working with government, but we are also working with our employees in tracking their satisfaction levels as well, working through the renewal committee on that. The fact is Iíve said it will cost $895,000, and thatís what it will cost.
Question re: Water quality review
Mr. Keenan: I have another question for the Minister of Health. Now, in January 2001, the territory received a failing grade on water quality. We realize that the minister promised at that time a review of community water facilities that would go to Cabinet last spring. Will the minister table the results of that review and tell the House what this government is doing about its recommendations?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I would be happy to table the results of that survey.
Mr. Keenan: There was also another part of that question, Mr. Speaker, that didnít get answered. What is the government doing about the recommendations of that survey?
We know that the quality of drinking water is of major concern to people in the Yukon Territory. The official opposition has received 429 responses to our question about a territory-wide standard for drinking water, and 92 percent of the respondents said that they want a territory-wide standard.
So, Iíd like to ask this minister: when will the minister get together with her colleagues and other departments with a stake in this jurisdictional matter, and hammer out a comprehensive strategy to guarantee that Yukon people have a safe supply of drinking water? When will that happen?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: We have ongoing discussions about this very important public health issue. There are ongoing discussions with the Department of Infrastructure, as well as with the Department of Community Services, with the Department of Health. Those discussions will continue. The results of those discussions will be made public as soon as possible.
Mr. Keenan: An ongoing discussion, at this point in time, is not going to cut it. It was commissioned. We received that failing grade well over a year ago. What we need here in the territory now is some action; we need some leadership. Iíd like to also point out that this was on the ministerís mind well before she was a minister. It happened to be on November 2, 1999 that the minister wanted to sponsor a motion. Mind you, that was when the minister was in opposition.
They have been sitting on that side now for over two years, and the situation hasnít improved at all. What we have in Carmacks is a boil-water advisory; we have very serious concerns about the Whitehorse water supply; and in each of the unorganized communities, we have continuing difficulties.
So, Iíd like to know, what will it take to get some action on this very critical, maybe number one, health priority in the territory at this point in time? What will it take to get the attention of this government and the departments involved, and get some action on it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue. Itís the water that people drink. We take that responsibility quite seriously.
Mr. Speaker, we are taking our time to make sure that we have the right, long-term solution for Yukoners. We find this to be a very, very important issue, and we will bring forward a many-faceted solution to this problem as soon as possible.
Question re: Finances of government
Mr. Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Finance.
This minister has set a number of Yukon records in the brief time in history in the last two years: the largest surplus inherited from another government; the largest budgets presented; the largest deficit budget; the largest supplementary budget due to overspending ó just to name a few.
Through all these records, this minister has claimed to be a responsible fiscal manager, yet this minister has provided a statement in the budget that shows the Yukon will be virtually broke in two years.
My question to the minister: how does the minister expect Yukoners to believe that any new program spending such as on alcohol and drug programming is going to be funded this year when it is apparent there are cuts looming?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has made some rather negative comments about the budgets that have been presented by this government and has chosen to cast them in a rather negative light. The fact is, this government has budgeted and spent taxpayersí money responsibly doing what governments should do, which is delivering on health care, delivering on education and working with the business community to ensure that there was a level playing field in which business could thrive. And where there could be tax initiatives that would support the business community, we have undertaken them.
The member opposite would be well-advised to remember that there are projects in the lapses that are budgeted for which the government has every intention to proceed with, and for one reason or another they do not. There is also a contingency amount. There are also additional cost pressures that the government is unable to state when budgets are released but are expected. One was tabled the other day in this Legislature, namely the Judicial Compensation Commission. All of this has to be dealt with by the government.
Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the answer from the minister, but my idea wasnít being negative. I was being very positive: largest surplus inherited, largest budget presented. Those are not negative ó those are facts; those are reality.
My follow-up question has to do with the issue of stashing money under a mattress or in a sock or in a permanent fund, for search of another phrase. The Premier has used Alaska and Alberta as examples where these funds work. These two funds were set up when their respective governments took advantage of massive jumps of the economies when jobs and money were being created faster than it was prudent to expand government ó in other words, a boom. Mr. Speaker, moreover, these funds were created with the specific purpose and framework. The Yukon version has none of these prerequisites. In fact, it is taking money out of our economy when it is needed most.
My question to the minister: is this the Liberals' election slush fund to put money back into the economy through economic development spending to help Yukoners re-establish a real economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The fact is that the $42 million that was negotiated ó debt owing to the Yukon government was negotiated and subsequently paid by the federal government ó was allocated a number of ways, including setting aside money for the census contingency. At that time, $10 million was set aside in a permanent fund.
The member opposite said that Alaska and Alberta created the funds when resource revenues were high. This money was set aside when there was unexpected money received by the government. So it makes absolute sense that it be done.
The permanent fund ó in Alaska, the fund pays money in a dividend cheque. In Alberta, the heritage money was used for public purposes. There are two different models that can be followed. When I announced it, I outlined both of those and I indicated that we would consult with the Yukon public as to how to then do those.
Because the member suggests that money be spent in the economy. It has been. One just has to look at the capital budget from last fall.
Mr. Roberts: I have heard many times from the Finance minister that this Liberal government is a good fiscal manager. The federal Auditor General has just recently criticized the federal Finance minister, Mr. Paul Martin, for squirreling away millions upon millions of dollars on foundations and endowments that are not under the scrutiny of the House of Commons. The Auditor General made it very clear to the federal government that this is not an acceptable practice. This leads me to wonder, with the recent announcement of the Yukon foundations and endowments, if we are also setting ourselves up to be criticized when our books are being audited.
My question to the Finance minister: will the minister table any background documents that support her moves to remove money from an economically depressed economy, or running government reserves to zero, as a sign of sound fiscal responsibility?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, one could table a number of caucus discussions of which the member was a part. However, the fact is that these allocations and these endowments received thorough scrutiny, not only within government and within caucus, but within this Legislature as well. These matters were put on the floor for debate, and the members opposite did not criticize a word, didnít say a word.
With the Yukon Foundation endowment fund, there was a ministerial statement that announced that particular endowment, and the members opposite supported it then, and now they are not. I would encourage members to go back and look in Hansard and go back and look at the budget documents. The Member for Klondike is kibitzing across the floor, as he usually does. The fact is that I would encourage him to go back and read his response to the ministerial statement when the Yukon Foundation endowment fund was announced.
Question re: Water quality review
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the Premier on the issue of water quality. Now, we just heard the minister responsible state that this is a very important issue to the government opposite and that they are having internal discussions. My point to the Premier would be that there is another order of government that should have been involved already in those discussions, and that is the federal government.
Is this Premier willing to take this issue to the federal government, given the fact that money and resources toward infrastructure and the appropriate testing facilities and the appropriate standards are something that the federal government should be participating in and helping this territory develop those type of things, given what has happened across this country in other regions? Has the Premier started discussions with the federal government on this issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: For the memberís information, I will offer the following points. First of all, water and water resources and things like flood monitoring coming over from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs and Northern Development to the Government of Yukon will be housed within the Department of Environment.
That is one of the water issues that has to be dealt with and that this government is dealing with. We also know that the federal government has underfunded the flood monitoring and so on to some degree.
Secondly, with respect to working with communities on infrastructure and safe drinking water for Yukoners, there are more than just two levels of government involved: the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon has a degree of responsibility, as well as communities, as well as working with First Nation governments. The overall goal absolutely is safe drinking water for Yukoners.
Now, how and when we rebuild that infrastructure to ensure that water and sewer are in place ó the Minister of Community Services is working with communities on that, and we are also working with others, including the Government of Canada on their infrastructure fund.
So, weíre working with AYC and others on that, yes.
Mr. Fentie: Iím sure the people of Walkerton arenít too concerned on where these issues are housed within governments. The issue is that something must be done, an action must be taken, and this action must start to happen immediately.
Internal discussions are one thing, Mr. Speaker. Concrete action in this matter is another. The first and most important issue for this Premier is to ensure that the federal government is on side, will partner in this issue and make the necessary commitments to the Yukon government and the Yukon Territory, and that we can advance this particular issue here and now.
It also has a very important economic link because the Development of Infrastructure that the feds should be contributing to is going to help put people to work in this territory.
Will the Premier now give this House an update on exactly where the federal government is in terms of a contribution of resources and funding for the development of infrastructure when it comes to water and sewer in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, I will commit to come back to the member with two things: one, the status of the water and sewer infrastructure report that was expected from Community Services. I will get back to the member on exactly where that is. It was assigning priorities. And I will determine, in discussions with Association of Yukon Communities ó which has recently been lobbying on this infrastructure as well, at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities level ó what the level of contribution by the Government of Canada to Yukon is, and get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: I have a positive suggestion to the Premier. I think that thereís a need for a collective voice, again, to be sent to Ottawa ó whether it be through the Premier ó that this issue is of the highest priority. Ninety-two percent of respondents in this territory state clearly to their government, and to us, the elected officials, who have a duty to act, that this is a very important issue.
My suggestion to the Premier is to take a collective voice from this Assembly immediately to the Minister of Finance and the relevant ministers in the federal government to ensure that they now get involved with committing to resource funding and the development of infrastructure for this territory. We want this action to happen now. Will the Premier do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I take the positive suggestions from the member opposite. I appreciate them and will take them under advisement.
I just would like to share with the member opposite that I know that, through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the president of the Association of Yukon Communities has lobbied the Government of Canada, namely Finance Minister Paul Martin, as well as Mr. Manley and others, on the infrastructure fund. I know that the minister responsible for Infrastructure has also met with Mr. Manley on this particular issue.
Regarding the precise funding and the requirements, the report that I indicated in an earlier answer, I have indicated I will get back to the member opposite, and I will do that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 24, 2002. They are Motion No. 128, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake, and Motion No. 101, standing in the name of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
Speaker: If there is no further business there, the Chair will continue.
Speaker: The Chair will now deliver the ruling on the question of privilege raised by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini on April 18, 2002.
Standing Order 7(1)(b) states that a member wishing to raise a question of privilege shall provide the Speaker with written notice of the question at least two hours before the opening of the sitting. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini hand delivered the required written notice to the Speaker's Office prior to 11:00 a.m. on April 18, 2002. In doing so the Member for McIntyre-Takhini satisfied the requirement of Standing Order 7(1)(b).
Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege, and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the "earliest opportunity" requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. With respect to the matter raised by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, the events referred to in his representation on the Question of Privilege took place on April 17, 2002. The next sitting day was April 18 and the matter, therefore, was raised in the House at the earliest opportunity.
The Chair must, then, decide whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege. If the Chair were to so decide, the Chair would then give priority to a motion proposing an action to deal with the prima facie breach of privilege. The usual motion put forward in such situations is to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for review and recommendation.
To reiterate this procedural point, it is up to the Chair to decide whether there is, on the face of it, a question of privilege and, therefore, a need to give priority of debate to the matter. It must be understood, however, that no matter what the Chair decides, the House itself may make a determination, through a substantive motion moved in the normal way, that something is a matter of privilege. That is the House's choice.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini, when raising the question of privilege on April 18, stated that the basis of his complaint was related to a letter, dated April 17, 2002, from the Minister of Health and Social Services to the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The contents of the letter, which the Member for McIntyre-Takhini provided to the House, are, in parliamentary format, as follows:
"In light of recent events surrounding child welfare, I want to be very careful to ensure that we continue to deal with each other on a respectful government-to-government basis.
"I accept that [the Member for McIntyre-Takhini] represents his constituents, however I am unclear as to whether or not he speaks for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation government. Could you please clarify for me whether or not [the Member for McIntyre-Takhini] is a spokesperson for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation on child welfare issues?"
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini then informed the House of his perspective of the intent and consequences of this letter. He said "[T]he minister has directly attacked my right to ask questions in the House by asking if I had permission from my First Nation government to bring forward questions on behalf of constituents who also happen to be Kwanlin Dun. The member is also implying through this letter that I am solely representing the view of the Kwanlin Dun government on these issues, instead of my sworn duties to all Yukoners and to this Legislature."
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini did not identify a specific heading of privilege as having been breached. Rather, he said that while his concern "does not fall easily under the steadfast rules of parliamentary privilege, . . . it must be addressed as a contempt of the Legislature, because it affects all members of this House."
The 22nd edition of Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice defines contempt, on page 108, in the following way:
"Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence."
The Chairís task, then, is to determine whether the ministerís words and actions and their effect constitute a contempt of this Assembly. In doing so the Chair must consider not simply whether the memberís rights have been attacked Ė as he has alleged Ė but whether the ministerís words and actions have obstructed or impeded the Member for McIntyre-Takhini in the discharge of his duty.
In this regard, the Chair concludes, after due consideration, that the ministerís words and actions do not constitute a prima facie breach of privilege or a contempt of the Assembly.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is correct to be concerned about safeguarding his rights, and those of other members of the Assembly. However, the Chair is not convinced that the words and actions of the Minister of Health and Social Services have, directly or indirectly, had the effect of obstructing or impeding the member in the discharge of his duties.
The Chair notes, for example, that though it may be felt by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that the minister questioned his right to ask the questions he did, the minister had already answered a main question and a supplementary question on the issue. The minister then answered the memberís second supplementary question. Also, the minister had answered questions on a similar issue the previous day. Further, on April 18, the minister tabled a legislative return that expanded upon the answers she had already provided. The Chair must conclude, therefore, that the member has been able to fully exercise freedom of speech while participating in the proceedings of this Assembly.
While the Chair has not found a prima facie question of privilege, the Chair does wish to comment on the statements made in the House by the Minister of Health and Social Services when she said,"First of all, I didnít realize that the member opposite is suddenly representing the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Mr. Speaker,we deal with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation on a government to government basis."
Statements like that made by the Minister of Health and Social Services are not unprecedented in this Assembly and this House has ways of dealing with them. Members will recall, for example, last November 21 when the Member for Klondike utilized terminology that could have been interpreted as suggesting the Member for Kluane was acting as a spokesperson for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. At that time the Chair ruled, "it isn't in order to suggest that a member is representing somebody or someone other than his constituents." Such a suggestion is an imputation of an unavowed motive and, pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), is out of order because it is unparliamentary language.
Therefore, in reference to matters such as that raised by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, the Chair would suggest that, in the future, members who are concerned that the language being used is unparliamentary raise the issue with the House as a point of order at the time the statements are made.
The Chair would further suggest that members recognize the sensitivity of their colleagues to the language and tone of debate and make best efforts to obey the strictures against the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House.
The Chair appreciates the attention of members to this ruling.
Notice of opposition private members' business: clarification
Speaker: Order please. I have an unexpected order of business here. The Chair wishes to clarify the items to be called during Opposition Private Membersí Business on Wednesday, April 23. The Chair understands those items to be Motion No. 228, which is incorrectly numbered as No. 128 on todayís Notice Paper, and Bill No. 101, standing in the name of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on the Order Paper. Could the House leader of the official opposition verify for the Chair, please?
Mr. Fentie: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is correct. Your correction of the record is the way it should have been read into the record. Thank you for that.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Thank you.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day. Government bills.
Bill No. 72: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 72, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 72, entitled Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 72, entitled Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this bill is the result of a recent change in federal policy respecting intergovernmental agreements. Indemnification clauses are becoming a standard feature of federal government arrangements with the provinces and with the territories. Unfortunately, and unlike most other jurisdictions, in order to grant an indemnity, our Financial Administration Act requires that a special act for that indemnity be passed by this Legislature. In other words, to enter into an agreement with the federal government ó and generally these are cost-sharing agreements ó the federal government has been requiring provinces and territories to have an indemnification clause.
The way our Financial Administration Act is written, weíd have to pass an indemnification act for each one of these agreements, so this is what this short amendment to the Financial Administration Act does. Members in the Legislature are aware of this because we have recently passed several bills relating to such indemnities.
One can understand the reasoning behind the requirement in the Yukonís Financial Administration Act. However, itís simply unworkable, given the new federal policy. Each year, we enter into a host of agreements with the federal government. A very good example of this was in the supplementary budget in the then Department of Renewable Resources, now the Department of Environment. The supplementary was all for additional money as a result of federal government cost-sharing agreements, and this indemnification is, again, a result of those agreements.
They result in a recovery of money by the territory, so naturally, of course, itís not something we want to not take up.
It will become extremely unwieldy if we were to pass an act for every agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon. And if we were to table a bill, Mr. Speaker, covering all known agreements rather than doing them individually, weíd still face the problem of numerous new arrangements that materialize throughout the year.
In light of this, the only practical solution was to bring forward the amendments to the Financial Administration Act that Iím bringing forward today. Itís a more flexible course of action and one that permits these indemnities to be granted by order-in-council.
This bill accomplishes that purpose and permits us to continue to enjoy the benefits of cost-shared agreements between ourselves and the Government of Canada. I would encourage all members to support this particular piece of legislation. If they have any outstanding questions or concerns, Iím more than happy to address them, either at Committee or, if they wish, in a briefing.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: The official opposition does not have a problem with this act. I understand the explanation given by the Premier, and we may have some questions in Committee of the Whole and we will be asking them at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: Unlike the leader of the official opposition, I do have some concerns with where weíre heading.
Due to a policy change of the federal government, what is being asked for is a carte blanche, save-harmless agreement on all matters related intergovernmentally. Basically, Yukon government, because we are a subservient government to the federal government, weíre giving up our responsibility for anything that the federal government funds in any of the initiatives to come back on us. Weíre just giving them a save harmless, indemnifying them from anything that may or may not happen. This is due to a change in policy.
At this juncture, it only affects a few areas. Those areas currently will come to our attention, but down the road when there are future changes, they will go by unnoticed because we are making changes now to the Financial Administration Act that will allow those to be just part of the day-to-day procedure on the government-to-government relationship between the Yukon government and the federal government. I donít believe that that is open and accountable government.
Now, for the record, when the Minister of Finance gets back on her feet, I would like her to identify those areas that the federal government is wanting to be indemnified from any recourse at this time. There have been some areas identified previously. I believe there are currently three, perhaps four, areas. But from there, I am not aware of any areas that have come to light, but there are potential areas of significant importance where that may very well be the case.
I would encourage the Minister of Finance to tread very, very cautiously and to watch what rights weíre signing away because, after we provide a carte blanche, open-door, save-harmless agreement for the federal government, there wonít be anything that comes to our attention until after itís a done deal and some difficulty may arise.
It is one of those moot areas that are dealt with that is a policy change on the federal government level, and it impacts on our legislation. From time to time, we get specific bills asking us to indemnify and save harmless certain organizations and certain groups, like the new Canadian blood group.
And what precipitated that? Start looking down the road as to why that came before this House. It was because the organization that was really initially in charge of blood collection and distribution in Canada failed to safeguard Canadians, and they were subsequently sued. So now, with this new organization, they have a save-harmless agreement. Their officials canít be touched, and thatís what we are being asked to approve here in the Legislature today ó a blanket change to the Financial Administration Act in the Yukon, to indemnify and save harmless the federal government for whatever they may or may not do. And I believe we should be going on a case-by-case basis.
I believe it is of critical importance that this government represents the best interests of all Yukoners, not just bow to the pressures of the senior Liberal government and say, "Yes, we will." It is a sad day for the Yukon when the government here wonít stand up for the rights of Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. I believe in this case this minister should be doing so. She should be more proactive. I would encourage the Minister of Finance to bring to the floor of the House what areas have been affected by the policy changes with federal government transfers to Yukon and what areas weíre dealing with now. I donít believe it is right for Yukon to provide a blanket, carte blanche, save-harmless agreement to the federal government at this point, especially in light of what has transpired in the past in other areas.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLarnon: On behalf of my colleagues who sit as independents, we support this bill as well. But I guess what I would ask the Premier to do, Mr. Speaker, is explain to the Yukon public what this means. We in the Legislature have all taken the time to learn what "indemnity" is, you know, in the federal transfers, but the Yukon public doesnít have the time or often, in many cases, the research abilities granted to them that we do in the Legislature to understand the implications of this bill. So I would ask the Premier to give an example to the Yukon public in plain language as the leader of the third party has, what the purpose of this bill is and what weíre voting on, so that the Yukon public can understand this. Financial indemnity through third-party and federal government agreements is Greek to a lot of people.
The real impacts of this bill can be plainly stated, and I wish the Premier would do that so Yukoners would know what we are voting for and why this House, in general, supports this.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I particularly appreciate the fact that the leader of the official opposition has indicated that, not only did he hear and understand what I had put forward and explained to the Yukon public, but he recognized the administration of this and appreciated what the government was attempting to do.
I thank the independents across the way for their support, and I welcome the opportunity to further explain this bill to the public. I would ask, in exchange, that the explanation be accepted as reasonably as itís provided and that the fear-mongering be kept to a minimum.
The fact is that this is not this government failing, in any way, to stand up for Yukoners or not meeting the test of speaking on behalf of Yukoners and protecting Yukoners. In no way has this government failed in that respect, and to suggest that is simply wrong.
This is a situation that every province and every territory of this country is faced with. The Government of Canada, in every single cost-sharing agreement with the provinces and the territories, is asking for an indemnification clause. So, what does that mean? Yes, that means that, as the Member for Klondike has pointed out, one cannot go back and sue the federal government. This is a cost-shared program weíre talking about. Itís not services delivered by the federal government alone.
The fact is this Legislature has already dealt with the Canadian Blood Services and the indemnification required for the agreement to provide services to diabetics and diabetes awareness. In the list of agreements, one only has to go back to the supplementary budget. This clause and this change in policy for the Government of Canada would have required us to bring back an act, a bill, taking up House time, for every one of the resource management agreements that are listed in the supplementary budget, because they are cost-shared agreements with the Government of Canada. Thatís everything from forage crop losses to marketing in agriculture, the Fur Institute of Canada trap awareness ó every one of these, and thatís not to mention going through other departments ó for example, Energy, Mines and Resources, geological mapping and some of these other cost-sharings. Every single time the federal government wants to cost share with the Yukon or, in plain language, give us money to do something with them, weíd have to come back to the House, pass a piece of legislation, and deal with it. Our stack of legislation would be this big.
I appreciate that the Member for Watson Lake understands. Itís unfortunate that the lack of understanding is not enjoyed by everyone in the House, so itís important that it be on the public record. The fact is that we considered long and hard as a government whether to continue with the stack of legislation, and the fact is it just kept growing and growing and growing and growing. The alternative, after much consideration, was to make this minor amendment to the Financial Administration Act, which only deals with cost-shared agreements between ourselves and the Government of Canada.
Itís only those types of cost-shared agreements, only with the Government of Canada. So, the blame and save harmless that the Member for Klondike refers to ó the fact is that these are cost shared and, where the federal government has responsibility, they have the full responsibility.
Where it is cost shared, we are able to enter into these agreements if we are able to have this amendment passed through this House.
Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 72 agreed to
Bill No. 65: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 65, standing in the name of the hon. Mrs. Edelman.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I now move that Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 65, entitled Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I am very pleased to speak today about another example of this governmentís continued commitment to maintaining quality health care in the Yukon.
This act provides authority for dental therapists to examine patients and provide treatment for common dental problems, such as cavities, between examinations by a dentist; prepare X-rays in advance of a dentistís examination; to aid in clinical assessment and treatment planning. These changes will allow us to improve our service through the childrenís dental program in the Yukon. The childrenís dental program has great value in fostering dental health for Yukon children.
Members will recall that we recently examined the program and weighed the benefits against the costs of making changes. We decided that the program would remain as is. With this amendment, we will enable the dental therapists to work to the full scope of their abilities, to provide more efficient and effective service to children served by the program.
The legal authority will enable the dental therapists to provide improved service to Yukon children. The amendments will allow dental therapists to examine patients and provide identified services specified in the act between examinations by a dentist, if a dentist has examined the patient within the previous two years. This means that, if a dental therapist finds that a cavity that existed on one tooth surface when the dentist examined the person has spread to two surfaces, the therapist can go ahead and do the filling for both surfaces without going to the dentist for approval.
This is a practical change that will allow a therapist to provide timely and appropriate care for the children. The amendments will also allow dental therapists to go beyond the two years if a delay to enable an examination by a dentist would harm the patient. This means that a child who is absent when the dentist visited the school to examine children will still be able to receive dental care before the next visit by a dentist.
The amendments will allow dental therapists to have X-rays ready when a dentist examines a person so that the dentist can plan treatment based on both the clinical examination and the X-ray evidence. This will mean that the dentist is able to prepare a treatment plan for a child with the best evidence available at the time of planning.
The amendments are needed, Mr. Speaker, because of the legal limitations and uncertainties on the dental therapists that now exist. Dental therapists currently do not have the legal authority to act independently outside a treatment plan provided by a dentist, even if the childís dental needs have changed since the last exam. Dental therapists can only implement a dental plan prepared by a dentist and cannot respond to changed or emerging dental needs of children. They cannot change a dental treatment plan established by a dentist in order to treat a changed condition even when they both have the knowledge and the skills to determine how to respond to the condition.
The amendments will be a particular benefit to children living in rural parts of the Yukon, where there is no resident dentist. In some communities, a dentist may only visit the community once a year to do exams in the school. If the child is away from school during that visit, they may have to wait an entire year before they have an opportunity to have a dental examination in their own community. During this time, dental therapists have had their hands tied under the current legislation because they have not had the authority to examine the child and amend an existing treatment plan prescribed by the dentist. The therapists have not been able to act within the scope of their abilities to treat the dental problems a child may have.
The therapist must now wait until that child is seen by a dentist the following year before receiving approval to proceed with the needed dental treatment. A dental problem may become worse during that waiting period. For instance, a tooth that could have been filled may have to be pulled. We are trying to avoid this scenario by allowing dental therapists to modify dental treatment plans for up to two years between examinations by a dentist. If, by some chance, the most recent examination by a dentist was more than two years ago, we are also making it possible for dental therapists to provide treatment that is within their scope of practice if a delay to arrange an examination by a dentist would harm the patient.
The proposed amendments are a middle ground between differing views. Some people would like dental therapists to have a greater independence than what is proposed. Others are divided on whether there should be the same or less independence than what is proposed. We have consulted extensively with the National School of Dental Therapy, the national dental therapy working group and the dental consultant to the childrenís dental program, as well as with Yukon dentists and dental therapists, in developing these amendments.
We have also compared these amendments to legislation in the practice of dental therapy in other jurisdictions. We are confident, on the basis of consultations with those knowledgeable informants across Canada, that the amendments we are proposing are appropriate. They are appropriate in light of the skills that dental therapists learn and the knowledge they have, on the one hand and, on the other hand, the need and desire to have continued involvement by dentists in assessing dental needs.
I feel strongly that the Act to Amend the Dental Profession Act will contribute to maintaining a high standard of health care in the Yukon for many years to come.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly wonít be as long in the tooth in the second reading speech here as the minister is, but I would like to point out that the official opposition is generally supportive of this piece of legislation that is before us here.
We certainly understand the intent. The minister has clarified in the second reading of the budget bill a few of the questions that I will be asking through the Committee of the Whole ó some of them surround the scope of practice and the Canadian standards and the consultation process. So, we certainly understand the intent and support the legislation, and very likely will be supportive of the legislation after the questions have been discussed and answered.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in general support of these changes to the Dental Profession Act, but letís look a little bit deeper and letís look beneath the surface of what is happening.
We just have to go back a few short years when dental hygiene, primarily in rural areas north of 60 ó and Iím speaking of both the Northwest Territories and Yukon ó was appalling. It was appalling primarily in the First Nation groups in both of those areas, and there was a very concerted effort that was started right here in the Yukon by two well-known dentists to address the situation, and it caught on. It caught on very extensively in the Northwest Territories, to the point where they established a training centre in Fort Smith and trained a considerable number of dental therapists who went back to their respective communities and attended to the dental needs of the children in those areas.
What we have in the Yukon specifically, if I could concentrate here, is basically a two-tiered system, because really, the delivery of adequate dental care in rural Yukon is dependent on the frequency with which the dentists visit that community and the number of individuals they can see during their visits.
If the individuals are in the school system, the proper forms have to be sent from the school, home with the student and signed by the parents. Parental consent has to be sent back before anyone can be looked at.
What weíre being asked to do in this legislation is basically widen the scope of the treatment potential that the dental therapist can provide. I really do not have any quarrel with that. But it says we have a problem in addressing the dental needs of the youth in our population, and itís predominantly in rural Yukon.
Itís no secret that the opposition has been lobbied by a number of individuals to widen the scope again that is provided in this act. You kind of have to stand back and look at what is happening in other areas that this same Minister of Health is responsible for. I cite nurse practitioners specifically. In most of rural Yukon, nurse practitioners take over from doctors and their practice is broader than that of a basic nurse but it is not nearly as comprehensive as that of a doctor. Itís somewhere in between, like these dental therapists are. With all good intentions on the part of these nurse practitioners, they occasionally go a little bit beyond the scope of their practice as has just recently happened in one of our outlying communities and that nurse practitioner was pulled out of that respective community. I donít really know what has transpired since. Another nurse practitioner was put into that community.
The intentions and the honour of that individual were called into question, because that individual wanted to do the job probably a little bit better than was set out in the guidelines. So what Iíd like to explore in general debate with the minister on these amendments is whether we are widening the scope of practice adequately to meet the needs, or whether it is still too narrowly defined. And Iíd like to know the ministerís position on a couple of sections ó sections 25 and 26, to be specific ó and thatís where our efforts will be concentrating.
Iíd encourage the minister, when we get into line-by-line in this act, to have a full and comprehensive briefing as to why weíre only going that far and not somewhat further. Like I said in my initial remarks, Iím in general support of this act and would very much like to hear from the minister as to why weíre not going further and why weíre only going as far as we are, because really, this bill, like a number of other situations, only amplifies the double health care standard that Yukon provides ó one in Whitehorse and one in rural Yukon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the minister now speaks, she will close debate.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have concerns about this bill, and Iíll be bringing some concerns to the Committee of the Whole, and that is, actually, the concern in clause 26(1), which allows dental therapists to practice the full scope of their training and expertise only in an emergency.
Now, since dental therapists can be fined under this act, and disciplined under this act, I want the word "emergency" defined. And the reason why is that if it becomes a call of whether it is an emergency or not, it's all relative after the fact. But, at the time, if a person has to make a call and say, "This is an emergency treatment," then we need to have it defined so that a person cannot be unfairly persecuted or prosecuted because of a definition of a word. So I definitely will be asking that "emergency" be defined.
I do have other problems with this bill. Why are we asking people who are receiving training to forget some of the training as soon as they come to the Yukon Territory? Why are we asking people who have spent years developing expertise to not worry about that expertise when they come here? Itís like taking a fully trained teacher and telling them that they will only be able to use some of their training while they work for us. Letís use our resources fully. Letís use the training given to people and apply it to the benefit of Yukoners.
What I see here is a deal ó plain and simple ó to keep dentists happy, to ensure that dentists are still part of the equation when it comes to dental therapy, even though dental therapists work much more on rehabilitative and day-to-day care of our dental health. They are the front-line workers when it comes to ensuring that our childrenís teeth are not only in good condition but will be in good condition for the rest of their lives. If that is all we are asking people to do, then there are other people who can do that and are trained to do that. Dental therapists come with a full package of training and they are allowed to do their full duties in other parts of this country and this continent.
Mr. Speaker, I ask you, is there any difference in the care? What we see here right now is the ability to keep dentists in the loop, and I can understand that as an overseeing action but, as part of the definition of what a dental therapist could do, this is essentially telling our society that we do not value all the services that dental therapists are trained for.
Thatís why I will give extra scrutiny to this bill. I do not give it my unqualified support in any way.
I did listen to the concerns that the Member for Klondike raised, that we were approached by people who worked on the bill. Again, itís a sad commentary today that, for three years of work, they feel they have gone right back to square one, that there has been very little progress made and that the bill was doctored to ensure that those three years of work were fruitless.
So, what I want to do, Mr. Speaker, is raise those points, find out why the government is not allowing full utilization of training and expertise in areas. I also want, and I will ask for, the word "emergency" to be defined to protect people who have to deliver services in our rural communities. Letís face it, in many of our rural communities, except for occasional visits from our dentist, this is the only sign of dental care that we have. I want to make sure that the people delivering that have the full ability to deliver what they know to improve the health of children, not only in the rural communities, but Yukon wide.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the minister now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talked about the long-standing childrenís dental program and, indeed, this is one of the longest programs in Canada. Itís also an award-winning program of dental health, specifically targeted toward rural children.
This act will enable dental therapists to better work within that program. Under section 26(1), the member opposite has concerns about "emergency" being defined. Thatís not part of that section, so I wonder if at some point over the next few days, he could give us what section he is referring to. Section 26(1) is a very lengthy explanation of possible therapies that a dental therapist may do without the direction or supervision of a dentist. There are quite a number of things that are listed there.
The members opposite say that they have been lobbied by the dental therapists to increase the scope of practice for dental therapists. Indeed, weíve heard those same concerns. Weíve also heard concerns from the other side. I have to tell you that neither side is happy with the results, which would lead me to suspect that this is probably the best solution. It is neither too far toward limiting the scope of practice, nor is it too far on extending the scope of practice. Itís a balancing act with legislation; it constantly is.
What we needed to do was address the problem on the limit of scope of practice within the childrenís dental program. This bill does that.
The member opposite wanted to know about what sort of expertise we were using in order to come to the conclusions that we did. As mentioned in my speech, we spoke extensively to public health experts Outside ó three different sources ó and they have told us quite clearly that, number one, the childrenís dental program is a great program, but they have also said what the practice is elsewhere and what is an acceptable level of practice, an acceptable scope of practice.
Weíve done the very best that we can. The bill hasnít been doctored as the member opposite suggests. The bill has been carefully crafted to try to address all the needs that have been brought forward. There has been an extensive consultation process.
This is about balance, and this is the bill that I present to my colleagues for debate, and I look forward to that debate at our next opportunity.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 65 agreed to
Hon. 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 2:45.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are in general debate of Yukon Housing Corporation, part of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Yukon Housing Corporation ó continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would first of all like to provide information to questions raised yesterday by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was inquiring about the number of jobs that this budget will create. I tried to explain to him that it has not been the practice to report on the number of jobs created by O&M budgets directly and that we would normally have this type of information available for discussions on the capital budget.
In my opening address, I stated that the O&M budget will enable the Yukon Housing Corporation to continue to offer a full line of proven housing programs that many Yukoners rely on, and that these programs not only help Yukoners meet their housing needs, they also support the Yukon economy by creating jobs and investment in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes knows that it is the capital programs that have the greatest impact on the economy and creation of jobs for Yukoners, and Iím sure he understands that the O&M budget provides the corporation with operational funding and enables it to deliver the capital programs, and thus create jobs.
Mr. Chair, if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes would have liked to discuss the number of jobs that the capital budget may create, last fall when we tabled, debated and passed the capital budget in this Legislature would have been the appropriate time to do so.
This doesnít mean the O&M budget does not also create jobs, because it does. Each year, the Yukon Housing Corporation spends over $1 million maintaining the staff and social housing stock. This includes about $500,000 for the hiring of community contractors to do the regular maintenance. That is job creation, Mr. Chair.
There is also money spent purchasing goods and materials from Yukon suppliers, and these expenditures support the Yukon economy and the creation of jobs.
Mr. Chair, the home and yard maintenance program, for example, creates jobs and, more importantly, it helps Yukon seniors maintain their homes so that they can continue to reside in them as long as possible. This program helps Yukon seniors find the appropriate expertise to maintain their homes and, in doing so, that helps create jobs for Yukoners.
It goes without saying, Mr. Chair, that the wages for the employees of the Yukon Housing Corporation are contained within this budget. Those are real jobs. The jobs of Yukon govto our economy. This government has worked very hard to protect as many jobs as possible.
Mr. Chair, yesterday in my opening address, I stated that the Yukon Housing Corporation operation and maintenance budget enabled it to deliver its important line of programming that many Yukoners rely on and that, in doing so, it supported the economy and creates jobs. I trust the clarity Iíve provided to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes gives him a better appreciation of this point.
Mr. Chair, yesterday that member asked me to identify the vacant positions at the corporation, and I am pleased to report back to the Committee of the Whole today with this information. One employee, sadly, died recently. One position has always been filled with casuals or temporaries, as it is currently. One staff member was seconded to another department and has since accepted a permanent position there. Another is on a temporary acting assignment and will be returning within a few months. Another decided to leave the Yukon, and that job, I expect, will be posted soon.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. If the member or any other members have further questions, I would be pleased to hear them.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe itís just my faulty ears here, but I would expect more from the minister in terms of just being pleased to hear the questions. Iíd be pleased on this side of the House to be able to hear a question answered at some point in time by this particular minister.
The minister, in her opening dialogue here on the second day of this mini-debate, I guess, took a couple of swipes. It certainly is not to be unexpected, I guess, if I could say it in that manner. So weíll certainly rise above that and just ask a few questions concerning what the minister just spoke about.
The minister has just said that I should know better ó absolutely I should know better, because Iíve been a minister in that position, and I should know better than to ask questions in the O&M debate as to how many jobs are created. Yet it was this very minister now on the opposite side of the House who didnít quite understand that and we did take the time to talk about job creation and job programming.
The minister has gone ahead and spoken about the $500,000 for job creation, so the minister must have an idea of the job creation from that. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím sorry, I didnít quite understand where the member is going with that. Could he please repeat the question?
Mr. Keenan: Iíd just like to point out that itís not where Iím going with the question. The minister wasnít listening. The minister was conflabbing when the minister should have been listening.
I asked specifically ó the minister stood here and said $500,000, which is a significant amount of money. If $500,000 was put into rural roads or a fire-smart type of program, then we would know how many jobs it would create. So could the minister please tell me how many jobs will evolve from this $500,000 program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The half a million dollars for hiring community contractors to do regular maintenance will translate into the equivalent of six and a half full-time equivalents.
Mr. Keenan: Holy moly, it has only taken maybe 45 minutes on the floor of this House to be able to get that information. I certainly appreciate that from the bottom of my heart and all of my constituents. I appreciate how the minister has answered that question, for it shows that the minister can answer a question if the minister wants to answer a question.
I would like to ask the minister ó she spoke about the elders program. When the Liberals were on this side of the House in official opposition, they wanted a critique on every one of the programs. Iíd like to ask the minister, on the programs that the minister mentioned and the seniors programs, has the minister critiqued those over the winter and found ways to fix the weakness within the programs, if there is any weakness within the programs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would remind the member opposite that I took over the portfolio in mid-January. These programs are always under review within the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: And, while we go through this review of the programs that are existing, are there any looking outside of the box for new programs that might be able to service Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Housing Corporation is always looking at potential new programs, and if an idea comes forward to fruition as a program, it is announced when the time is right. I am not going to discuss potential ideas here at this point. Weíll announce them when they become programs, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: The minister said "when the time is right". I was wondering if the minister could please explain "when the time is right". What does that mean?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is surely aware, potential ideas are discussed and evaluated and that takes some time.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would just like to point out: is it just the department, is it just the board of directors, or who is involved in this potential cornucopia of ideas? Who all is involved?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors comes up with ideas, so do the employees of the Yukon Housing Corporation, so do people from the community. There is no shortage of potential ideas, Mr. Chair, and each must be evaluated.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister please get on her feet and describe to me the consultation process with the communities that the minister is alluding to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would point out that, since mid-January, we havenít announced any new programs, except the home and yard maintenance program expansion into the communities, which was at the request of the communities themselves.
Mr. Keenan: The minister hasnít answered the question. She spoke about a specific program. I asked about the mechanism ó how does the minister define "consultation of the community"? Is it just drop into the local Yukon Housing office and then weíre gone, or does it mean a public meeting, or what does it mean? I would like to know so that I can get people to participate in those consultation processes with the minister. So, please, would the minister answer the question?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, consultation takes many forms and, when we are seeking community input on potential ideas, the consultation process will be laid out. The member is asking me for a specific to fit a general situation, and I canít do that, Mr. Chair. It varies situation to situation.
Mr. Keenan: Well, we are getting somewhere. It might not seem so, but we are getting there. The minister has spoken about "on potential ideas." Does the minister take the potential ideas to the community and ask for an endorsement, or does the minister actually go and get potential ideas?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I would remind the member that the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors runs the corporation.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe we should go to a different line of questioning, now that the minister has brought that up. Now, the minister stated that the Yukon Housing Corporation incurred very little costs as to renewal. Iíd like to ask the minister: are there any changes being made to the structure of the Yukon Housing Corporation and, if so, were these changes made in consultation with the staff or the board of directors? Further to that, could the minister please let us know when she met ó the date ó with the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors to discuss these changes?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are no changes to discuss, except for the appointment of the president.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to ask the minister to describe ó because the minister has just alluded to, or maybe just stated a bold fact that itís to the president. I understand that that is not really the way things are working at this point in time or would like to be working. So could the minister please tell me: there is a president now, there is not a deputy minister. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The president of the Yukon Housing Corporation is the Deputy Minister of Community Services.
Mr. Keenan: Itís funny that we talked about the dental act a few minutes ago because this is like pulling teeth. Iíve got to tell you. If the minister would just explain the vision instead of just reading a quote from a departmental objective or vision and explain what the political vision is, things would go so much smoother here and we could get in and out.
Iíd like to go back to the original question if I could. Could the minister please tell me when the ministers met ó and Iíd like the date ó with the board of directors to discuss this change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I havenít yet had the opportunity to meet with the full board of directors. I have, however, met with the chair, and the corporation has had a president for some time. It just now has a different president than it had previously.
Mr. Keenan: Weíll get to that in a moment, Mr. Chair.
I would just like to ask the minister again ó the minister did actually stand on the floor just now and say that she did not meet with them; she had met with the president. Was that just to tell the president that there were going to be sweeping changes in government, or was it to ask the president if this was a good move or if we should be going this way, and how we would maintain armís-length relationships? All those types of questions just naturally flow from that type of discussion. Did that happen?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are not going to be sweeping changes within the Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: I would like an answer to the question.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I met with the chair of the Housing Corporation Board and discussed in very general terms a number of things. It was a get-acquainted meeting.
Mr. Keenan: Yeah, I could certainly see that at a get-acquainted meeting you wouldnít want to give somebody their walking papers, for goodnessí sakes. So I think what I can take from this whole discussion from the minister right now as we debate this on the floor here is that the minister, for one, did not meet with the board of directors. The minister met with the president of the day, had a general conversation, an introductory conversation, nothing of substance just letting each other know who we are.
If the minister wants time to discuss this with her official, I would be more than happy to wait.
I would like to ask the minister a question. After this feel-good meeting, was there any talk about, at any point in time with the board of directors, or the past president or the new president, about how to maintain an armís-length relationship now that it has had sweeping changes?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The board of the Yukon Housing Corporation does operate at armís-length from the government. There have been no sweeping changes. No change is planned in the relationship of the board to government. I might also point out that the board has met at one regular meeting since I became the minister, and I was unable to attend that meeting because of previous commitments. They called another one at short notice and I was unaware of that one until it had happened.
As soon as I can, I will attend a meeting of the board. The member opposite is attempting to imply that things are happening that are, most emphatically, not happening.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, Iím not implying anything. Iím asking a few questions, and certainly if the minister were to show any leadership at all ó I mean, the minister has been the minister of this corporation since January? Three and a half months, four months, five months almost? Mr. Chair, I find that terribly disturbing, because Iím not trying to imply anything. Iím asking about process and what I want to ensure is that we have a Yukon Housing Corporation that is going to be delivering a proper service.
Now, if the minister would look back ó and I know the minister has lived in the Yukon all of her life ó if the minister has a corporate memory, this is not the first time that this has happened. This has happened when there was still a Tory Party in the Yukon Territory, not a Yukon Party. The Tories were all banded together. Mr. Lang was the minister, and I even believe it was so long ago that the now Premier of the day was a Tory at that point in time. And it went the way the minister is taking it today.
So, Iíd like to point out that that reflection on corporate history, on benchmarks that have been done in the past, should be looked at and should be examined to see why it went back to an armís-length corporation.
The minister here is standing on her feet in this House telling me, no, she hasnít done this. You know, by goshes, it might be quite a shock to the minister that this has actually been done before.
So, we have a deputy minister now who is the president but reports to the minister. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The president of the corporation reports to the minister and the board, as the president has normally done.
I would also point out to the member that the former president has met numerous times with the board chair, the entire board and various members to keep them aware of the changes.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I just have to point out that that is just simply Liberal consultation ó Liberal consultation. They go back and they meet with the people, and they tell the people what theyíre going to do. Thatís not consultation; thatís dictation. Thatís exactly what that is. So you can meet sporadically or letís go for a quick coffee.
Mr. Chair. I did not ask a question. I was just simply giving the minister the courtesy of the time to meet with the Premier and her officials so they might be able to come up with some sort of reasonable answer to my questions.
I would like to point out that there has been no consultation. There might have been a series of donut-dunking sessions or something in the local coffee shops around town. There might certainly have been that, but there certainly was not a concerted effort to meet with the board in a formal manner. If I were the Premier ó and who knows whatís going to happen politically here, but Iíll tell you, Mr. Chair, if I were the Premier and I were the minister and I were going to make sweeping changes to government structure, then, by gosh and by golly, Iíd be talking to people beforehand to suggest how we might be able to work together. That has not happened, and I will have no further questions about consultation for this minister.
But I would like to ask the minister: what has this minister put in place to make sure that the change in the department does not affect the efficiency and effectiveness of the corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The only change that has happened in the Yukon Housing Corporation is that a different person is president, and that change happened after April 1. In the coming months, I will work with the staff and the board to ensure that the Yukon Housing Corporation continues to deliver good programs to Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Itís certainly nice to get an idea of where the minister is going on this, now that we know where sheís not going and what she hasnít done. We know the way the minister is going, and I can certainly support that.
The minister is actually saying that there will be no effect to the efficiency and effectiveness of the corporation. Thatís what the minister is telling me. Now, if I were prepared to accept that, could the minister please table a policy on the boardís governance and the boardís accountability with respect to the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The only change, as I said, is that a different person is now president. There is no change planned to the way the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation does their work. There is, in fact, a performance agreement between the minister and the board, which provides a framework that encourages strong corporate governance of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Iíd like to ask the minister if the minister would be able to table that corporate framework that would support the governance structure.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would have to discuss with the board whether thatís a document they would wish to have tabled. I would point out to the member that the accountability plan has already been tabled and is before him in the House.
Mr. Keenan: Thereís nothing secret about a governance structure ó absolutely nothing secret ó is there? No. If it comes to the administration and dispensing of a program, then thereís absolutely nothing ó
Mr. Chair, thatís just simply telling me that the minister has been caught not doing the job. Thatís what that tells me. There are probably more colourful ways to explain that, but Iím not going to get into that, because I tell you, this is such a personality-driven concept ó this whole renewal, the structure here ó that Iím starting to feel bad for the minister.
The minister is actually telling me that the corporate framework that would support the governance structure, that the minister has to have a note to release that? Is that correct ó a note from the board to release public direction, public knowledge?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The performance agreement is between the minister and the board. It exists, but I am not releasing it unilaterally. That would require discussion with the board.
Mr. Keenan: I just have to point out that Iím not asking for a performance agreement on the deputy minister; Iím not asking for that at all. That is just, just ó that person does; that person report to the Premier. They are hired by the Premier and only reports to the Premier. It might be a courtesy that that person would stop and talk to the minister, but thatís because the Premier has delegated it. Thatís between the Premier and her deputy minister.
I have no questions about that performance agreement. What I do want is, I want ó and please, please if the minister would listen now. The minister has a corporate framework that would support the governance structure. That is what I would like tabled. Iím sure that the minister has it right in front of her, right now.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member probably also has before him the corporate governance legislation, which I believe is what he is asking for, and he already has the accountability plan for Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Keenan: That wasnít an answer to the question ó I was just telling Davy what she thinks Davy has in front of him. Well, Davy wouldnít be asking the question. Itís pretty simple. All Davy wants, on behalf of his people from Ross River-Southern Lakes, is this: he wants the flowchart, the corporate structure flow chart ó who reports to the president, the directors, that type of thing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. The Chair can only recognize members when theyíre standing in their place, waiting to be recognized. When a member sits down or a member stands up, the Chair has confusion as to figuring out who is asking the question and who isnít. In the future, if members wish to be recognized if they have a question, please remain standing; or, when they sit down, understand that other people standing up can relinquish the speaking order and take their spot.
The Chair wishes no longer to rule on this.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes does not already have a copy of the organization chart for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Iíll make sure he gets one. If he does not have a copy of Bill No. 71, the Corporate Governance Act, which deals in part with the Yukon Housing Corporation, I will make sure he gets one. Part 2 of that act amends the Yukon Housing Corporation Act by adding a couple of sections: one, that responsibility for the administration of this act and for the corporation shall each be assigned to the same minister; the deputy head of the Department of Community Services shall be ex officio the president of the corporation; and subject to a directive under one of the subsections the minister and the corporation shall negotiate annually a protocol about performance expectations for the corporation to meet and roles of the minister, board and president.
If the member does not have a copy of this proposed legislation, Iíll be happy to get him a copy.
Mr. Keenan: No, Mr. Chair, weíre not talking about the piece of legislation entitled No. 71 or anything like as such. What weíre talking about here, Mr. Chair, is simply the flow and the organization chart within the department. The reason I want this is because the minister is asking Yukoners at large to accept that there will be no deviation from the ongoing reality that the department has played historically. The ministerís asking us to accept that. I cannot accept that, Mr. Chair.
Now, the minister has that flow chart. Would the minister please table the flow chart? It would expedite this debate in this House. And the reason I want it is because I want to ensure that this minister is going to preserve the efficiency of this organization. Is the minister prepared to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The organization chart for the Yukon Housing Corporation is public. I believe itís on the Web site. At the next break, Iíll go and print the member a copy.
Mr. Keenan: Iím sure that the minister doesnít have to go at the next break. Iím sure that somebodyís listening to the minister as she speaks and that the organization chart is probably being pumped out right now. Iíd very much appreciate it if we could have that flow chart come forth.
Iíd like to ask this minister: is she prepared to commit at this point in time not to plan any cutback in the staff at the corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite is asking for a commitment that the staff level at Yukon Housing Corporation will never change. Obviously I canít give him that commitment. Staffing levels go up; staffing levels go down, depending on the programs the corporation is delivering at any given time.
Mr. Keenan: That just begs this question: is the minister planning any changes in the programming?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I feel that the conduct of the member opposite constitutes personal harassment, which means objectionable conduct, comments or displays that demean, belittle or cause humiliation or embarrassment. This form of harassment is forbidden under the Human Rights Act, and the Yukon Human Rights Act. I would ask that the member opposite take note of his conduct and consider others before he speaks or acts.
Chair: Order please. The Yukon Human Rights Act has jurisdiction outside of the Legislative Assembly. If any points of order are going to be raised in the Legislative Assembly, based on points of order, please raise them in that way.
Anything in that respect, when weíre talking about contravention of rules, the Chair will deal with.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I would just like to again ask the question, and I donít think theyíre frozen in time. I know programs are not frozen in time. It takes leadership to get out of the box, to look at new program development, to critique old program development, to make it better, to massage life into it, or to do away with it. Thatís simply the question. Iím asking this minister now, does this minister have any of those changes in programming as her wish list to move forward with new programming, or what? Can the minister please tell me that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is asking about staffing changes at the Yukon Housing Corporation. No staffing changes are contemplated.
Mr. Keenan: It is certainly much easier when we can work in this cooperative fashion, I must say. It just simply needs a question to be answered, and I certainly will not renege on that.
I do believe that potential ideas should be examined. We should be looking to others to ó not to provide the leadership. Government is there to provide the leadership. We should look into others to step out of the box and find new ways of implementing those programs. Because certainly I am not going to endorse if this minister comes and says, "There is a program here but I want to keep it going because it has been historical there and it's not working."
Thatís not what I am about. I understand the roles that a minister has, both in policy ó I understand the roles that the minister has in terms of sitting at Management Board and making things work. So I certainly understand the role.
And Iíve got to point out that today was a bit refreshing for me as I listened to the proceedings of the House here and saw it go through ó the discussion today. And I thanked one of the ministers publicly in Question Period for a can-do attitude because I think that is what we need. We need ministers on that side of the House to examine the ideas. Because the ideas that come forth are not always frivolous. No. Ideas can be brought forth and work together.
I would like to remind this minister that her government is in a minority situation and should be looking to have that can-do attitude. That is what I am looking for. I am not looking for everything to be slam-dunked because I realize the realities. But I am getting tired of hearing folks on that side of the House talking about it being about choices. I even heard the Premier, the Finance minister, say today when talking about a piece of legislation that if it leads to a recovery of money, naturally we can, and proceeded on.
Itís a can-do type of attitude. There was talk about recoverable dollars. So, yeah, why canít we put in a program and just get it out there because itís good for people? Thatís exactly what Iím looking for.
I want to talk about land claims and self-government for just a few moments, and I did yesterday. Land claims and self-government have been a major part of the whole process and Iíve always attempted to play the role of betterment. What can we do to make things better in community living? As we evolve through land claims and self-government certainties and weíve sorted out the jurisdictional duke-outs that arise and we know who has the jurisdiction and who doesnít have the jurisdiction, that still simply just doesnít make it right. It just enacts processes of working together for community development.
Most of the communities that I have talked to or represented have always been in that mode, whether itís from recreational facilities, working together for justice initiatives, educational type opportunities, thatís what they did. I cannot think of one of the communities in my riding now that doesnít think that way. They donít think that way. They have said, "God bless you, Davy boy, and we want you back because there are no funding vehicles that this government has."
And I recall speaking in this House two years ago talking about these funding vehicles. If the only vehicle thatís put in place is the structured governance "consultation" ó if itís simply that and you donít get out to the communities, then you donít know what the communities want.
Well, Iíll tell you. The communities want to work together out there.
The Speaker today ruled on a point of privilege from the gentleman from McIntyre-Takhini, and I listened carefully to that, because I thought, "Here I am bringing forth an idea that is not made to make me look good or make the minister look bad." I brought the idea forward consistently when this gentleman from McIntyre-Takhini was the minister, and I want to bring this idea forward to the minister again.
I do have the right, the responsibility and obligation to bring these ideas forward, and I think government has the responsibility to look at them with a can-do attitude. Just donít simply dismiss them on the floor of the House. Look at them, so that we can work together for the betterment of Yukon people. I do believe, by golly, that thatís what weíre here for.
I have gone around my community and spent a lot of the winter doing that and talking to people one-on-one. Some days I only got to see one person. It was difficult, because people wanted to talk.
I have many ideas, Mr. Chair, that have come forward that Iím going to be presenting here or have already presented to government for their analyzing and to see if it can be done. And I have to say that most of the letters I have received from this particular minister are on how things cannot be done, why they cannot be done. I heard this minister say that ó how did she exactly say that? "It hasnít even been brought forward." Well, Mr. Chair, that idea has been brought forward. I have brought that idea forward continually since I have been a member of the opposition.
It was brought to me by way of a formal letter, by way of e-mails, by way of telephone calls, by way of meeting on the street, and I explained that I have talked with the minister and, no, nothing happened, a no-can-do attitude.
Now, I had to go back to land claims and self-government, because this minister has been in the Yukon longer than I have, or almost as long as I have. And we remember the old days, and we want to see it move forward. And so, as I fulfill my meaningful role as an MLA, I always think back to that.
Iíve heard First Nation people in the communities talk about, "How come we canít get anything, Dave, from the government?" And theyíre not so nice to me at times, because they say, "You were there; you had the opportunity." And I explain ó Oh, I knew the minister would agree with that right now, because thatís the reality, but why didnít you do it? I heard that from previous ministers of this government, "Why didnít you do it? Itís too tough for us." No, things evolve and move along in time. Nothing is frozen in time. Where did I hear that just today? Nothing is frozen in time, not a program and certainly not peopleís wishes, either.
Now, theyíve asked about, "This census that comes around, Dave, what does that mean to us?" I said, "I think it means $13,000 if we all get counted and it goes into the formula financing for the government, you know, and jeez, come on, sign up, you guys. I want you to sign up, because it does mean something. It means an awful lot." "What do we get out of it?" I said, well, roads plowed, health care, all those types of things. But those things that are coming to be everyday expectations, I think ó you know, a safe road, a hospital. This is Canada; this is the Yukon. Weíve been on the cutting edge of a lot of things, including land claims, including listening to people. We have been on the cutting edge; Iím very proud to be a Yukoner, and Iím not afraid to say that it just didnít start in 1996 when Davy kid got elected.
It was a long time before that, so I explained this to them and I talked to them about those types of thoughts. Now, what Iím asking for ó and, do you know what? I think there might be a responsibility. I recall, one time, when we talked about fiduciary obligations and the feds tried to back away from that fiduciary obligation through the land claim. They said the fiduciary obligation was with the Yukon territorial government, and I said, "Whoa Nellie, get back here. That fiduciary obligation is not limited or taken away by a land claim."
Would the minister not agree that, when a program is created by this government, based on the dollars that we receive from Ottawa, which are also First Nation dollars, that there is maybe a legal obligation there to be specific to one group and not another? I think there is. I truly do. And Iíll repeat that.
What weíve designed is a Yukon program, and a Yukon program designed by Yukon, endorsed by Yukoners, does not fit all Yukoners. I think that thereís a legal obligation. These types of programs have to be applicable to all Yukoners. It shouldnít be done in a duke-out manner. It should simply not be done in that manner. I think we should have the can-do attitude, which I have heard expressed here, and this minority government situation is very refreshing. Itís very refreshing because Iím putting out an olive branch at this point in time on behalf of people. The minister knows exactly what Iím talking about. The minister said that it has not come from the Housing Corporation. I have a copy of this, and Iím sure that the minister has a copy of this also.
There are no recommendations in here. But some of the goals that came from here ó and Iíll read them because Iím not sure the minister has seen this or not. But I will repeat it for the minister. "Providing skill transfer and linked resources." Iíve heard the minister speak about that today in capacity and training; I appreciate that. "Fostering partnerships and networking opportunities. Encouraging information exchange and innovation in key housing issues in the north" ó innovation in key housing issues. "Improving communication with First Nation housing providers and decision makers." What Iíd like to suggest to the minister is that the ability for the Yukon Housing Corporation to loan dollars to a person who want to pay back ó this is not a grant Iím speaking about now; itís not that. Iím speaking about a program being applicable to First Nation people. Itís going to take some work but there are mechanisms in place. CMHC has a mechanism in place even though they hold, I guess ó no, the department doesnít hold a fiduciary obligation, government holds it but they implement it. Even though they have that obligation they have found ways to make it work.
What Iím simply asking this minister is, would this minister have the wherewithal as the previous minister did not have to be able to work with First Nation governments to find a way to make those dollars ó which are recoverable dollars ó equal access within the Yukon Territory?
I do believe that banks ó commercial banks, all of the banks. We all know who the bankers are. My goodness, we pay them off every week or month, I guess. They have mechanisms also.
I would like to ask this minister: would this minister be willing and able to initiate a conversation with the chiefs ó the chiefs, not the Grand Chief who has no authority on this, but the chiefs, who have jurisdiction on this ó to find a way to make it better. And again I point out that it is just recoverable dollars, that there are mechanisms in place around and about. It is not a fiduciary obligation ó certainly a moral obligation and a legal obligation of sorts.
So, could I ask the minister to please stand on her feet and to tell me what the minister wishes to do with this issue that will not go away?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yukon Housing Corporation programs are open to all Yukoners, including Yukon First Nation peoples of course, but they arenít available on settlement lands for two very good reasons: Canada has jurisdiction to provide housing programs on settlement lands, and they do this; and security cannot be registered on title for housing loans on settlement lands. Those are the difficulties, as I know the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes understands very well. Yukon Housing does work with First Nations to assist them to develop housing policies and programs. Yukon Housing also helps First Nations with training opportunities, housing management policies and procedures, and building technologies, and I could give him any number of examples that I am sure he is already familiar with.
Mr. Keenan: So, can I take it from that statement by the minister that the minister is not interested in entertaining the idea I brought forth?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Canada has the responsibility to provide funding to First Nations to assist them in managing their housing programs. That is the relationship between the federal government and the First Nations.
The member opposite is laughing. He finds this very funny. I am attempting to explain the reasons and the member doesnít want to hear them.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd just like to point out that it can be very frustrating in the House at times, Mr. Deputy Chair. I have pointed out that there might be a possibility that the Yukon territorial government is maybe breaking the law. It might be wise for the Finance minister to look at that and see if a program that is not applicable to all with Yukon money is, indeed, within the parameters of the law. Iíd appreciate that.
I think they will be doing this as a government anyway because, certainly, this issue is not going to go away.
So, not only is this government not willing to move forward on a moral obligation, if not a legal obligation, theyíre just not willing to move forward because they say somebody else has got a responsibility, even though First Nation heads would ó Iím not sure ó 25 percent of Yukon people are First Nation people? So, if we do a quick calculation ó by golly, Mr. Chair, Iím just not equipped to do that quick calculation, but certainly itís a significant amount of dollars thatís hard-triggered by First Nation folks in the territory who come to the territory for the benefit of, I guess, all, I will say but, in some cases, not all.
Iíd also like to point out that itís very much a recoverable item, very much recoverable. Usually issues that are recoverable go right through this House, bup-bup-bup, and itís out, because we recognize itís not a cost, that it comes back, so it is recoverable.
Iíd also like to point out that other institutions have gone the other way because, to them itís business and they can make money off it. Certainly Iím not sure how the Housing Corporation looks at it. They certainly might look at it in a different light, but I think that this government should be willing to at least examine the possibilities of being able to do this, because there are mechanisms out there. There are mechanisms there. They are benchmarks. Whatís not there is the political will. And, for the love of God, I cannot believe that there wouldnít be a political will on something so commonsense as this.
I guess Iím just fighting with myself to stay in the box, and I donít mean that to be disrespectful language at all. Itís so nice to hear a refreshing attitude of, sure, weíll look at it. Iím not asking something to be carved in stone. Mr. Deputy Chair, that reminds me that, five months ago, we didnít have $150,000 for a CT scanner, but four months ago we did.
So Iím bringing forth a very real concern to the floor of this House, and I hope that folks are listening. I would be appalled to see, in the June platform of the Liberal government ó the June election platform ó that theyíre willing to sit down and work with First Nation governments to find ways to enhance housing on First Nation lands, whether itís settlement land category A, category B, or whether itís fee simple settlement land.
Mr. Chair, Iím appalled.
So I wonít ask the minister for a yes or no or a maybe answer, because I think the minister has very eloquently put on the floor of this House the ministerís desire. And the ministerís desire is not to be inclusive but to be exclusive. I expect no less from a Liberal ó no less ó because the wind is just not blowing that way at this point in time.
If I could speak about the accountability statements ó you know, we go through all the accountability statements and itís dadada daddle laddle dada da da. But one of the key strategies ó and itís identified in the accountability statement ó "enabling access to third party financing". Could the minister please explain what sheís doing on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is asking how the Yukon Housing Corporation enables client access to third party financing. Thatís done by providing assistance to Yukoners to access third party financing through banks and other lending institutions. The corporation will provide education, counselling and coaching to clients about how to access financing. Through the corporationís assistance, clients who may not have been able to obtain financing are able to borrow from a commercial lender.
The assistance provided by the corporation allows many Yukoners to realize their dream of home ownership as they establish their credit rating with a financial institution. Helping clients establish good credit assists them in obtaining bank financing ó that is, third party financing.
Mr. Keenan: I was wondering if the minister could get on her feet and describe "clients" in this case and how itís applicable to what the minister just spoke about?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: All of the Yukon Housing Corporation programs have a target audience. As for home ownership, as of the end of March 2002, the Yukon Housing Corporation had 324 clients in the home ownership portfolio. In 2001-02, 38 home ownership clients obtained bank financing.
Mr. Keenan: So, "clients" simply means "target audience".
I listened to an analogy one time at a self-government conference that was held in Toronto. It was delivered by a good friend of mine, actually. We worked quite closely through the years together. I remember people would ask why we should be doing this, and I remember the story my friend told at that time. He said, "You know, at one time this was our land. We lived off it, we ate off it, we housed ourselves off it, and we had nice places, nice tents, and there was a shining light in those tents. And then people came. Some had colds, some didnít. But lots of people came. And those people who were sitting in that tent threw the flaps open. There was a big pot of caribou stew there. And they welcomed them in ó 'Come on in, take shelter, have something to eat, be comfortable.'" Well, itís unfortunate that there wasnít a whole bunch of those folks in the tent, occupying that tent at that time, but things were different because you had to move around the land to be able to achieve a living. It was a different type of economy. Itís an economy thatís still alive and vibrant.
Pretty soon another set of headlights come over the hill and another one and another one and another one. Pretty soon that tent was full. That person had to move out of the tent because that tent was full. The caribou soup pot is empty at this point in time and those people were not welcomed into that tent any more because they were outnumbered. That certainly, I think, is something that I had to say at this point in time for the minister to understand. Because now, not only do those people get talked down to, put down, struggle to maintain the high road but now they canít even make it into the target audience. We canít even get into the target audience. Mr. Chair, Iíve got to say that I am very upset with that, very disgusted that thatís how things have evolved. That is a historical fact and I guess today is going to be a historical fact tomorrow. It canít be dropped.
Governments come and go ó some sooner than others óand I would ask the minister to please drop the quizzical look and get that open look of, "How can I work with you? What does it mean? How can I help you fill up your caribou pot again? Thatís what I would ask this minister to consider because we have gone from clients to target audiences to, "Holy moly. You are not even allowed in the tent. You are not even allowed on the block." One of the objectives for the Yukon Housing Corporation is "to provide social housing to those in need." Now, the strategy to meet this objective is to again, "maintain an adequate supply of quality and affordable social housing."
Could the minister please tell me if she thinks there is an adequate supply of quality, affordable social housing out there in the communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Before we go there, I wish to point out very clearly that the target clients for the Yukon Housing Corporation are different depending on the program. Some programs are targeted to first-time home buyers, some to low-income people, and some to contractors or builders or tradespeople. The target clients change depending on the program. I want to make very sure that the member opposite understands that. As for social housing, yes, basically there is at this time an adequate supply.
Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Chair, poor people, all the things that the minister just spoke about a few moments ago, include First Nation peoples on First Nation lands. Theyíre willing to partake in the mainstream, I guess, but unfortunately, theyíre not a client, theyíre not a part of the target audience, theyíre not a part of the target client. I think weíve got more titles for folks here than we really need. The minister said that, yes, the minister believes thereís affordable social housing out there in all the communities. Could the minister please provide to the House a housing inventory of the social housing that is out in all the communities and the ratio of occupancy, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can certainly get that information. I can say that to fulfill its mandate, the Yukon Housing Corporation does have an adequate supply of quality and affordable social housing.
Mr. Keenan: Did the minister say she was going to table something, and what was the time frame?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said I would get the member the information he has requested.
Mr. Keenan: And a time frame?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can get the member the information probably by the end of the week.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister please include ó what are there, two types of housing in the communities: social housing and staff housing? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím sorry. I heard social housing and staff housing, but I wasnít quite sure what the member was asking.
Mr. Keenan: What Iím asking is, are those the two types of houses that fall underneath Yukon Housing? Is it limited to staff housing and social housing, or is there another brand out there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, thatís the stock that we own and operate ó social housing and staff housing.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to ask the minister if the minister could please include in that housing inventory ó which will be here by the end of the week ó that it be inclusive of the staff and social housing in the communities. Could the minister commit to that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we can do that. I could read for the member into the record a long list of numbers but Iím sure he would rather have pieces of paper in front of him.
Mr. Keenan: If itís not too much trouble, I certainly respect what the minister is saying; I would like to have a piece of paper in front of me, but I would like the information. If it doesnít take too long, if the minister could read that into the record, I would appreciate that deeply.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In Carcross, there are six social housing units. In Carmacks, there are 18 ó five of them have some accessibility features. In Dawson City, there are 67 ó four are designated for seniors, two people are on the waiting list, and five have some accessibility features. There are 13 units in Haines Junction. In Mayo, there are 24 units ó four are designated for seniors and four have some accessibility features. In Ross River, there are 15 units ó one has some accessibility features. In Teslin, there are 13 units ó four are designated for seniors, one person is on the waiting list, and there are five units with some accessibility features. In Watson Lake, there are 33 units ó four are designated for seniors, nine have some accessibility features. In Whitehorse, there are 328 units ó 102 are designated for seniors, there are 38 on the waiting list, and 78 units have some accessibility features. Thatís a total of 517 social housing units; 118 are designated for seniors and 107 have some accessibility features.
As for staff housing, in Beaver Creek, there are two units; in Carcross, there are four; Carmacks has 15; Dawson City has 23; Destruction Bay has two; Faro has 23; Haines Junction has six; Mayo has seven; Old Crow has seven; Pelly Crossing has seven; Ross River has 12; Teslin has nine; Watson Lake has 31. The total is 148.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate the minister reading that into the record. The minister can still carry forth and bring to this side of the House the occupancy ratio by Friday. If we can have it by that point in time, Iíd appreciate it.
Could the minister tell me: in the seniors housing, is all seniors housing occupied by seniors or, in some cases ó and the minister doesnít have to get this to me right away, and if the minister could just listen to me on this matter, Iíd appreciate it, and include it in the package when it comes. What Iím thinking here is that, if thereís not a case of enough seniors to occupy homes ó because, as a chief, I remember working with the corporation to build an elders residence, a seniors residence, and then, by golly, none of them wanted to move in.
I guess Iím using that as an example. Is it possible for the minister to tell me, are there any seniors? Iím sure that if it came to the local authority of the Yukon Housing Corporation Board in the communities and thereís a senior needing it, then that senior would probably not have the ability to kick somebody out if there were a younger couple living in there or whatever, but that senior would be put first on the list. So Iíd like to know specifically if that is happening in any of the communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To be clear, we wouldnít kick somebody out of housing, and there are different priorities. We routinely monitor the waiting list for social housing, and the focus is to assist those most in need. If the member can offer any more clarity on the information he is expecting, that would be helpful. Iím not quite sure I understood where he was going with his last remarks.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thereís nothing treacherous about me, Mr. Chair, absolutely nothing. I just want a few answers, and so I appreciate the candour of the member opposite about that. I just want to know ó and if the minister can get it to me by the end of the week, that would be fine ó if there seemed to be enough seniors housing in the communities. I mean, everybodyís going older. I mean, by golly, I just said that we are all growing older here. Is there going to be enough? Are the projections enough? In some cases, are there young folks living in a house here that a senior canít get into? I understand, and I donít expect the minister to be kicking anybody out, but I certainly expect that weíd be trying to fulfill the needs. Is that adequate for the minister? Thank you very much. I see the minister nodding her head, and Iíll move on in my question.
Weíre almost there, just a few more toughies and we might have to go ó Iím not sure how long. Itís up to the minister.
Now, the corporationís very own community housing survey revealed that 24 percent of Yukoners either have an affordability problem or a possible affordability problem when it comes to their housing ó 24 percent. Thatís pretty high. I got that from the ministerís own corporation. And 69 percent of Yukon renters said that they rented because they could not afford the cost associated with home ownership or else they had no other option.
Now, the minister of the day, Mr. Jim, on May 9, 2001 stood on the floor of this House and said that he was pleased that this budget for the Yukon Housing Corporation contains strategic direction provided by this government, that it was a budget that helps more Yukoners obtain financing for home ownership, that it helps families access low interest loans to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, and that it helps generate employment ó not how much, we donít know ó and business opportunities throughout the Yukon.
So, I would like to ask: what strategic direction does this budget contain for the Housing Corporation in the O&M portion?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The statistics that the member has quoted ó 69 percent of renters couldnít afford a home is why we have home ownership programs. And this is the operation and maintenance budget, which supports the programs in the capital budget.
Mr. Keenan: So what the minister is saying is that there is really not a specific strategic policy directive that comes out of this budget ó O&M for the benefit of the clients or the target audience, or anything like as such. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, thatís not what I said. The reason the Yukon Housing Corporation exists is to help Yukoners solve their housing problems in any number of ways.
Mr. Keenan: Does the minister believe any of the 69 percent of those renters who say they rented because they couldnít afford the cost associated with home ownership? It could be First Nation people who might be able to get into a discussion we just carried on with a few moments ago. Does the minister believe that any of that proportion might be First Nation, of the 69 percent?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would believe a percentage of those people would be First Nation people, yes.
Mr. Keenan: Well, yes, I certainly agree with the Member for Klondike that the majority could be. I would say that there certainly should be a program or something like as such. Iím going right back to where I was, if the minister would be able to consider looking at that. Could the minister please outline how this O&M budget helps to obtain, if it does at all, financing for home ownership? Does this budget do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, it does not; the capital budget does that.
Mr. Keenan: So it was 6.5 FTEs that came from the $500,000 ó is that the one program? Iím certainly not being cheeky in this situation but I would like to know how much employment is generated through an O&M budget. I simply think itís a good question and I need that information. Can the minister please break down what the FTEs are in all the programs that come?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The $500,000 was one example relating to a specific program. The O&M budget also includes the staff salaries. The $500,000 was hiring community contractors to do regular maintenance, and thatís what would create about six and a half full-time job equivalents for Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: The six and a half FTEs ó is that inclusive of the existing staff or just the ó I was led to believe it was from the $500,000, that it was a program. Could the minister please explain?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We spend over $1 million maintaining the staff and social housing stock. That includes half a million dollars to hire community contractors to do the regular maintenance, and those maintenance expenditures create about six and a half full-time equivalents.
Mr. Keenan: The minister stated something that confused me and stated it again. I would just like to ask, then: so, that is exclusive of the FTEs that are part of the Yukon Housing Corporation staff? We have them. They do a good job of what they do there. But then there are six and a half that come from the $500,000? Okay, thank you very much. I see the minister nodding her head, and thatís exactly the information I want.
The Yukon Housing Corporation, by the then minister, on May 9, again spoke about the Housing Corporation undergoing a process to become more efficient, more effective. Iíd like to ask the minister to advise us on how the corporation is becoming more effective and efficient.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The accountability plan is one way weíre trying to become more effective and efficient, and the employees are always looking at ways to do better, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, I very much appreciate the employees always looking to be more efficient, more effective, and maybe if the employees could play more of a stronger role, because they are front-line workers, in conjunction with the minister, to find out how ó to me, efficiency is absolutely essential. Effective is absolutely essential, also, but when you have 69 percent renters and 25 percent saying they want to get into home ownership, it tells me that the corporation should step out of the box ó absolutely out of the box.
So Iíd like to ask the minister and all to be able to look and work with the front-line workers, work with the self-government situations in the territory to be able to find a way to step out of the box. And then I think, not only through accountability ó because, certainly, when the minister announces accountability wasnít even on the plan, wasnít even on the horizon at that point in time. So, for the minister to stand in the House and say that that was one of the tools that weíre using to make it more effective and efficient is not absolutely correct. It certainly folds into the scenario at this point in time, but there certainly has to be other ways and means of doing that.
Under the accountability statements of the departments, it says clearly that the board of Yukon Housing receives strategic direction from the minister. So, if they do that at this point in time, why is the government getting rid of an armís-length relationship? Is the government saying that theyíre not pleased with the performance of the Housing Corporation? Can the minister explain to this House why it has happened?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To be very clear, we are not getting rid of an armís-length relationship. The board of the Yukon Housing Corporation will continue to function as before.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I think that the minister is going to find that there has been a mistake made. I guess Iíll just leave it at that, because it has happened previously, way back when. But it happened and it had to revert back, so this is maybe one of those mistakes that the next government is just going to have to simply correct, because we certainly do appreciate, on this side of the House, the work that the Yukon Housing Corporation has done historically, is doing today, and we feel that we can do even more with the corporation under proper political leadership, and that has happened in the past. It helped to diversify this economy, it helped to export our talent, it showed leadership ó exactly what it showed. I guess weíll just have to wait for that leadership to come forth another day ó political leadership ó because itís not happening now.
What is this minister doing about the ideas that came from the First Nations housing conference?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We havenít been able to meet with our partners on this project yet ó the CMHC. I believe that meeting is taking place next month, at which point they will go over some of the ideas that came forward from the conference and see where we can move ahead.
Mr. Keenan: Will any of the First Nations be involved in that meeting?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This meeting is for the Yukon Housing Corporation and CMHC to go through the information that came from the First Nations housing conference.
Mr. Keenan: Partners, one of the critical partners that was at that meeting was the First Nation people. Does the minister not believe, think, that the First Nation people, the partnership, should be able to continue with that? I find that kind of silly actually.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím not sure I heard a question there from the member.
Mr. Keenan: There is a partner missing from the meeting that is going to be happening with the Yukon Housing Corporation, with the CMHC. I asked the minister, and she can check into the Hansard, does she not feel it appropriate to have the third partner there at this meeting?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This meeting is for the Yukon Housing Corporation and CMHC to go through all the material that came from the First Nations housing conference to see where they can go forward with that.
Mr. Keenan: And does not the minister think that a First Nations organization that helped put this together, that worked with these partners, would be a part of that? Thatís simply ó to me, I would think itís essential that they should be a part of that, if itís one person even being there and working their way through this for the final report. My God, itís based on a partnership. Partnerships donít say two thirds in and one third out. So I would like to ask the minister this: is the minister willing to have the third partner at that meeting thatís coming up?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Housing Corporation and the CMHC got together to sponsor this First Nations housing conference. Now theyíre going to meet to go through the material that came out of the conference to see how best they can proceed.
Mr. Keenan: So the minister is telling me that it was, well, somebody from CMHC or the previous minister had a dream one night, and they had this vision, and they thought, "My God, what an opportune time to be able to come together for the benefit of the First Nations." Does this minister actually stand on the floor of this House saying that they facilitated this idea, that they facilitated it and that they can goldarn well get together and say how the report should be done in absence of First Nations? It smacks of colonialism; it just smacks of it.
I donít care if the minister answers the question or not. Iím through with her now.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to explore with the minister some of the issues surrounding the changes that are taking place in the management and the reporting function. I am referring specifically to the DM who is now going to be basically hired or fired at the pleasure of the Premier and who is overseeing the Housing Corporation.
We were advised earlier, Mr. Chair, that itís not going to mean any changes in the Housing Corporation. That begs the question: so why change it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have said, the only change at the Yukon Housing Corporation has been that a different person is now the president than was the president previously. The person who is the president is also the Deputy Minister of Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iíd like to thank the minister for her stab at attempting to answer. If itís not going to mean any changes, why was it changed to this new model?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As outlined in the Corporate Governance Act, corporations are being aligned to specific departments through a common minister, and there are protocol agreements between the minister, the corporate board and the president to ensure close coordination between the corporation and aligned government departments.
Mr. Jenkins: And the minister subsequently throws her hands up in disgust because she doesnít understand the basis of management. I would encourage the minister to come to an understanding of the changes and the impact they may have on the operation of this supposedly armís-length Crown corporation, because no more is that going to be the case, Mr. Chair.
I have concerns with the whole change in the management and the subsequent management accountability that is taking place.
What it eventually means is that the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation instructs his or her deputy minister, and that deputy minister just instructs the president or the chair of the Housing Corporation that thatís the way itís going to be done. Weíre probably going to see that more and more often, Mr. Chair. What it smacks of is a government that doesnít trust its boards and committees. It smacks of control, a massive control network in place.
When the minister mentions that the departments or the Crown corporations are going to be aligned with departments, does the minister understand what that means, and could the minister provide a clear and concise overview of what aligning a Crown corporation with a department means?
Chair: Order please. Just to ensure that the House remains at the level of decorum expected for a parliament, weíre just going to give warnings to members to stop using language that might be seen as offensive, provocative or threatening in the House. It is strictly forbidden under the rules. Statements like "the minister doesnít understand" is a provocative statement that incites more debate rather than being issue-related. So just try to keep the language up.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike couldnít be more wrong. There is no change in the function of the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation, and I will say that as many times as it takes for the member opposite to understand it.
Mr. Jenkins: So, when we align the department with the Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to ask the minister if that means it will function in the same manner as a department, tender out the jobs that it has for undertaking, report them in a similar manner as other departments report them on the Web, or is it just going to be reporting them when itís convenient for the Housing Corporation at a later date?
One might encourage the minister to look on the Web site where Government Services posts all the contracts. And yes, there are some there for the Housing Corporation, but the heading on the Web site says "Contracts for this fiscal period". There are none. I guess the worst one is the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board ó that dates back to 2000. That was the last time they posted any contracts on the Web site. All of the Crown corporations are posting on the Web sites and Iíve got a copy here for the minister that I can send over. I donít have the dates beside them on this copy, but they are not kept up. So how is aligning the Crown corporation with the department going to assist the average individual to understand what is going on in the corporation and how business is being done if they donít use the standard methods and tools of a department such as the purchasing, contracting out, sole-sourcing? Who is going to have the responsibility for a sole-source contract above the certain limit? Will the minister be signing off on it now? Is that a change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Housing Corporation will continue to function the way it has always functioned. It is important that the work of government corporations be coordinated with the work of government departments to minimize overlap and duplication and conflicts between government and corporate activities. There is no change contemplated to the way the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation has been functioning.
Mr. Jenkins: The question to the minister is, on invitational bids or sole-source contracts issued by the Yukon Housing Corporation, will the minister be required to sign off on them now, or can the Yukon Housing Corporation just do as it pleases? Whatís going to be occurring there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Housing Corporation Board will continue to function as they have in the past. Where the minister has not signed off on something in the past, the minister will not sign off on something currently, either.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., we will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, Yukon Housing Corporation. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate, I was concerned with the accountability, Mr. Chair, and I was also concerned with the contracting procedures followed by Yukon Housing Corporation.
Is the minister going to instruct the Yukon Housing Corporation to follow Yukon territorial government guidelines for tendering sole-source contracts for invitational bids? Will she be doing that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, itís my understanding that the Yukon Housing Corporation already follows those directives.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps, then, I could request from the minister a copy of all the Yukon Housing Corporation contracts, the total number, how many are sole-source and how many are invitational tender. It should be in the ministerís briefing books, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís my understanding that that information is contained in the government contracting summary report, which I expect will be tabled any day.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím asking the minister for that information now. Would she please provide it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have it now.
Mr. Jenkins: Would she please provide that information? She can do it by way of legislative return; thatís fine.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can provide it by way of legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: While weíre on the subject of contracts, there does appear to be a lack of, I guess, going out into the communities where a lot of these contracts are granted and advertising them. Could the minister assure the House that the Yukon Housing Corporation will advertise these contracts ó all of them, not just the sole-sourced and the invitational bid ones, including the sole-sourced ones, the ones that are eventually sole-sourced and the invitational bids in a proper manner. Thatís what Iím looking for.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will do our best, as we always do, considering the resources in the communities.
Mr. Jenkins: While the minister is summarizing contracts, there are some standing offers in the contracts and some contracts for ongoing maintenance and repairs, primarily in the communities, that will expire in due course, and theyíre usually renegotiated with the existing contractor. Could the minister provide a list of the contracts that are presently existing, when they will be expiring, and how the corporation plans on advertising them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We can do that by way of legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for her courteous and prompt responses.
The ministerís statement earlier on in debate was: "The Yukon House Corporation continues to deliver good programs to Yukoners."
Iíd like to explore with the minister a Yukon Housing initiative of a little while ago called Mountainview Place. This was a 69-lot subdivision conceived under the previous government, with lot prices ranging from $22,100 to $29,100. The last time I looked, there were six lots occupied with mobile homes and two of them were vacant.
Could the minister advise the House: how many of these lots have been sold?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Five lots have been sold, and another five clients are giving serious consideration to purchase property in the development.
Mr. Jenkins: Five lots have been sold, and the information is that five other lots have serious inquiries. And how old is that information that the minister is providing to the House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yesterday.
Mr. Jenkins: Because the window of opportunity on an offer to purchase, according to the prospectus, is four weeks, I believe.
Yes, itís a four-week time frame from the time that you enter into the agreement, in which you have to come up with the financing.
So, we have five under offer.
Could the minister advise the House, given that this has been in place and on the market since 1999, what the carrying costs to Yukon Housing Corporation for this subdivision, or lot development, have been for the last couple of years?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I donít have that information at my fingertips, I can get it for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: The other issue surrounds these lots. Theyíre in a condominium type of arrangement. Presently in the Yukon, thereís a Condominium Act. Could the minister confirm that this subdivision is in full compliance with the Yukon Condominium Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To the best of our knowledge it is.
Mr. Jenkins: How can there be annual meetings of the condominium corporation? Can the minister confirm that that annual meeting was held, and how are the costs to undertake things like snow removal and grounds maintenance currently being done in this area? There is currently only one road ó the road that goes right through it ó and the ownership has been transferred to the city. So, there is snow removal and the other areas. Who is responsible for that, and who is paying the cost? Given the number of lots that have been sold, there doesnít appear to be enough money there to even collect the waste, let alone do anything else.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can confirm that there has been an AGM within the last fiscal year, and I can get the member the other information he is asking for.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister conclude by saying that this was a good program, and it delivers good programs to Yukoners? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member himself has said, this was an initiative undertaken by the previous government. It hasnít been as successful as Iím sure they would have liked.
Mr. Jenkins: Yet the ministerís statement was that the Yukon Housing Corporation continues to deliver good programs to Yukoners. Is this an example of a good program that Yukon Housing Corporation has delivered to Yukon? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member will recall, there was a sound idea behind this program in that a number of older, nonconforming mobile homes were to be relocated. For a variety of reasons, this hasnít worked out to the extent that the previous government had hoped.
Mr. Jenkins: That brings me back to my question that Iím still seeking an answer to, Mr. Chair. Could the minister confirm that the Yukon Housing Corporation continues to deliver good programs to Yukoners and that this development is a good program? A simple yes or no will suffice.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Providing affordable home ownership to Yukoners is a good program, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has not responded to the question, and let the record reflect that.
What I asked the minister is that the minister made a statement earlier, "Yukon Housing Corporation continues" ó and I must emphasize "continues" ó "to deliver good programs to Yukoners." Now, what that says is a very catch-all type of statement that the minister made and indicates clearly that the past programs have been good programs and the current programs are also good programs. I want to ask the minister if she concludes this Mountainview Place initiative is a good program ó yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, the Yukon Housing Corporation does deliver good programs to Yukoners. I also said that there was a sound idea behind this program and that it hasnít worked out as well as the previous government would have hoped. The present demand for this particular type of home ownership is slow, but there should be a longer term demand for affordable housing options as offered by this development.
Mr. Jenkins: I would take the minister back to the survey that was recently undertaken by Yukon Housing as to the problems with affordable housing. That exists currently, continues to exist, and has existed for quite some time. This program ó this Mountainview Place ó does not address the missing part of the equation.
Iím not going to get into the record, once again, what the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation said while in opposition in Question Period. Thatís on the record. But it clearly shows what side of the equation the now minister responsible took in opposition.
This minister is at the helm now. What is she going to do to turn a program like this around? In opposition, she was opposed to it. She criticized it severely; itís on the record. Now the minister is in government and she is the minister responsible. What changes is this minister going to effect to address the needs for affordable housing and affordable lots?
It has been ongoing for quite some time. It was clearly identified in the meeting held between First Nations, CMHC and this government, but what initiatives are we seeing coming from this minister?
I really havenít seen one, Mr. Chair, but I want to let the minister stand up and tell the House what initiatives have begun under her governmentís watch, and her governmentís watch goes back some two years now. So there has been ample opportunity to right what in opposition were wrongs. What is the minister doing and what has she done and what has her predecessor in the Liberal government done to address the shortcomings for affordable housing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Unfortunately, we canít solve all problems overnight. We have a good slate of programs related to affordable housing, and the government made a commitment to review Mountainview Place when we came into power two years ago, and we have. The board of directors of the Housing Corporation was asked to review and develop options, and the review determined that the nature of the development limited the potential for conversion to another type of development. I believe the memberís well aware of that. It also determined that any new opportunities would likely be confined by the nature of the condominium ownership of the park. The board recommended, and I support, the plan to break the development into two phases. That was done under the previous minister. Phase 1, which is about half the lots, will be marketed as originally planned. Phase 2, the remaining lots, will be held back, pending the success of the first phase and new market opportunities that develop.
Mr. Jenkins: So could I ask the minister if the lots that are going to be held back, have they been taken out of the condominium corporation initiative, and how is this being treated so that it does conform to the Condominium Act, which was my question before, and the minister responded, "to the best of my ability, it does." Now, how does it conform if weíre removing half of them and no notice has been given, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This change was made, I believe, approximately a year ago, and the condominium corporation is certainly aware that the change has been made.
Mr. Jenkins: Where I am heading on this initiative is that the minister has stated on the floor of this House that, to the best of her knowledge, the Yukon Housing Corporation is in full conformity with the Condominium Act that is in place and which oversees initiatives of this matter. The minister has subsequently stated that half of the lots have been taken out of the condominium development.
I will ask the minister once again to confirm that the Housing Corporation is in full conformity with the Condominium Act as to how they went about this change? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will check on that for the member opposite. There is nothing to say that phase 2 may some day be condominium homes. The member is laughing. The member has been fishing and he thinks he has caught something. But I will check on that for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: No, the member hasnít been fishing. The member has learned a long time ago to not ask a question unless you are pretty confident about the answer before you ask. And the Mountainview Place prospectus is still out there, and the lot development and the size of it is still out there, and its registration under the Yukon Condominium Act is still a legal document. But once you are into the Condominium Act ó and I would encourage the minister to ask her officials. And she should have a grasp of it, given that she was once Minister of Justice, because there are parts of that Condominium Act that are very specific as to what can be done and how they can be done.
Mr. Chair, I want to know what the carrying cost is going to be, and I have asked the minister for that previously. Given that theyíre breaking it down into two entities, will the carrying costs still be identified as a one-line item for this initiative, or are we going to see some of it buried in inventory somewhere else?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I said I would get the information for the member. I have already said that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there are carrying costs on the condominium corporation, as it was originally conceived and marketed. There are now two components. There is what is being put into inventory, which may be brought back into the condominium corporation at a later date, and maybe not.
Mr. Chair, whatís the downside of using this as a tool for development and writing off virtually half the cost and putting them on the market to see if thereís any uptake? Because really, given the pricing that they are, and given the condominium fees ó theyíre way, way too high to achieve the aims and address the needs of Yukoners. The prices are just too far out of line, and anyone moving an older mobile home onto the lot and having to bring it up to current standards, would be mortgaging themselves with a depreciable asset for quite a significant length of time, and thatís really not fair, given that, in good times, most houses here in this market appreciate. So, I have encouraged the minister to look at options, other than taking half out of inventory and burying it somewhere. There are a lot of initiatives and options that would be open, that could make these lots very saleable and could provide affordable pads for mobile home owners. But the scope of this undertaking is only limited by the ability of those the minister directs to understand the issue and deal with it. But this could be a very positive initiative, if the price were half of what it currently is.
The price is just way too high for what you get, and you start looking at the condominium fees. I would also like to ask the minister how much support for the condominium fees is the Yukon Housing Corporation giving each of the homeowners in that area, given that the condominium fees are purported to be ó it says, "Initially, the monthly condominium fees will be approximately $30 per month. Generally, that will cover maintenance and upgrading of the water, sewer and roads within the development that are owned by the condominium association. Note that only the main road will be a public road and transferred to the city. All other roads will be owned and maintained by the condominium corporation."
Then it goes on to say, "On an annual basis, the condominium fees will generate a fund to be used by the condominium corporation for insurance, grounds maintenance, landscaping and private road maintenance." Well, we know that hasnít taken place. So, who is currently paying for the insurance, and could the minister confirm that there is condominium insurance in place, in the same manner that the condominium corporation has to carry it? Could the minister confirm that the grounds maintenance, landscaping and the private road maintenance ó how is that all being funded?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Theyíre being funded by the condominium corporation and, yes, there is condominium insurance.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. Where is the condominium corporation receiving this money from?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The developer pays fees on unsold lots. The member is laughing again.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, the developer is who?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member well knows, the developer is the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Just one of those other nice areas where the Yukon Housing Corporation, at the end of the fiscal period, goes back to the Government of the Yukon with their hat in hand saying, "Weíve incurred a deficit of this many dollars operating the programs and plans that you, the legislator, have approved, and just send us a cheque over for this amount."
Yes, Mr. Chair ó well, letís leave that area alone, because I would encourage the minister to take a more active look at this Mountainview Place development and see if she can turn it into something thatís going to benefit Yukoners, given that there are 69 lots ó six have been sold.
One of the interesting statistics I came across in the statistical information sent over by the Premier, as Minister of Finance, was for community services, consumer and safety services. It looks like the number of Yukon professional licences issued ó and it amazed me. Collection agency employees ó did you know that we have 600 estimated collection agency employees here in the Yukon? In 2000-01, the actual number was 566.
Now, I donít know where they all are, but they must be attached to this Mountainview development to see if they can go and collect some money from someone because, unless some efforts are made, Mr. Chair, this project is just going to sit there. Given that most land development is undertaken by Community and Transportation Services, or whatever new entity it now has, what are the current plans of this government? Are more initiatives going to be undertaken for land development in any parts of the Yukon through Yukon Housing Corporation? Is there a policy in place for this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yukon Housing has no plans at this time to undertake any land development in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if thereís a need for land development under this governmentís watch, whoís going to be doing it? Whereís it going to be undertaken? Through Yukon Housing Corporation? Through Community Services? Where and how?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I remind the member weíre discussing the Yukon Housing Corporationís operation and maintenance budget, and Yukon Housing Corporation is not contemplating entering into any land development at this time.
Mr. Jenkins: The Housing Corporation is not contemplating it, but will they be? A simple yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Letís look at a couple of other areas, Mr. Chair. Letís look at the issue of a consistent application of a pet policy throughout Yukon Housing Corporation. Why isnít there one? We have policies as to who can get into social housing, we have policies as to how they can get in, we have one pet policy for Yukon Housing Corporationís social housing in some areas and, right next door, where thereís a staff housing, thereís a different policy for pets. When will we see the Housing Corporation develop a consistent pet policy across the board?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would expect to have a new pet policy in place for social housing by early summer 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: And will it be the same as the current policy for staff housing? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím hoping it will be a more permissive policy, but itís up to the board of directors.
Mr. Jenkins: And, just for the record, will it be consistent across the Yukon in all areas where Yukon Housing Corporation has social housing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I understand it now, thatís the intention.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím not comfortable with that kind of a response. That might be the intention but thatís what has led to the inconsistency ó that each housing board in the respective communities has adopted a different pet policy. To bring some consistency across the Yukon, the government should insist that the board have one pet policy.
Now, will there be one pet policy across all of the Yukon corporation ó is the minister suggesting a local option in some cases? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Iím not suggesting a local option. Iím saying that the pet policy is the responsibility of the board of directors. The board understands the social benefits and the value that pets are to some people, particularly seniors. Theyíre also conscious of the inherent costs and risks associated with allowing pets in social housing.
So, the board has instructed staff to undertake a review of the present pet policies. The intent is to try and find ways to better meet the needs of tenants, particularly seniors, and at the same time minimize the associated costs and risks.
As I have said, I anticipate that the board will have a new pet policy in place for social housing by early summer.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, the scripted remarks that the minister just came forward with are a very good overview of where I believe we should be heading, especially with our seniors. Pets are a tremendous asset to seniors, and I would encourage the minister to move forward on this initiative and move forward on it when she holds her first meeting with the board, and encourage them to come to a consensus very quickly. And yes, there are associated risks but, given the costs that some of the social housing retrofits are incurring, I believe the social benefits will far outweigh the resulting costs.
One of the other areas that I do have some concern with is, in a number of areas, potable water is trucked to social housing. There have been problems in the past, given the entrance for the potable water supply, and the fuel supplier sometimes has mistaken it, and there have been problems. There are no rules in place for ongoing testing of potable water supplies.
Could the minister advise the House what steps Yukon Housing Corporation takes to ensure that the potable water supply delivered to its social housing units and staff housing units meets the Canadian drinking water standards?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is a policy for cleaning holding tanks, and Yukon Housing tests water in its houses on a regular basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the minister to elaborate on the frequency of cleaning holding tanks and the frequency of water testing undertaken by Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can get that information for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Could the minister confirm that, in all respects, the water being supplied to the occupants of Yukon staff housing and Yukon social housing meets the Canadian drinking water standards?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We would not knowingly supply water that didnít meet those standards. We try very hard to make sure that all water delivered to those homes is suitable drinking water.
Mr. Jenkins: But, other than periodic cleaning of holding tanks and periodic water testing, the minister has not identified any way in which they ensure that the potable water supply is safe and conforms to the Canadian drinking water standards ó that which is supplied to staff housing and social housing operated by Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yukon Housing tests well water where the wells supply Yukon Housing units. In unincorporated communities, Community Services already tests the water and, in municipalities, municipalities are responsible for testing the water that goes to the Yukon Housing units.
Mr. Jenkins: Where Iím heading on this initiative is that the Yukon does not have in place any rules or regulations requiring municipalities that supply potable water, requiring anyone who delivers potable water, to have a consistent series of tests performed on the potable water supply. Given that in many cases, Yukon Housing Corporation is the supplier of accommodations, and they include potable water, the minister is remiss in addressing her responsibilities if she does not ensure that the potable water supply is safe and conforms to the Canadian drinking water standards. Thatís where Iím heading.
When are we going to see this government bring forward regulations governing potable water supplies? Now, I donít know what itís going to take, and I hope itís not a Walkerton experience here in the Yukon before this government wakes up at the switch, with their huge budget surplus, and theyíre caught off-guard because theyíre rearranging the deck chairs on the SS Liberal Titanic, and they canít address the basic needs of individuals here in the Yukon, namely the safety of our potable water supply.
Itís across all boundaries. It doesnít matter if itís here in the City of Whitehorse, where the potential is for giardia or beaver fever, given the source of the City of Whitehorseís water supply, or if itís wells. But municipalities basically just check on a continuing basis for two areas: fecal coliform count and the chlorine. Thatís it, Mr. Chair.
I would have been of the opinion that this ministerís past experience in Community and Transportation Services would have alerted her to the problem. Or, I guess, really what weíre going to see next is a bill before this House that all occupants of Yukon Housing Corporation are going to have to indemnify and save harmless the Yukon government and the Yukon Housing Corporation from the supplying of potable water to them, Mr. Chair. Now, Iíd encourage the minister to go back to her Cabinet colleagues and move forward very, very quickly on regulations surrounding potable water here in the Yukon.
And while weíre into this area, Mr. Chair, one of the other difficult times is being experienced by my community of Dawson. It would appear that the municipal government is being forced to install additional sewage treatment. At present, a very rough estimate of how much a household can expect to pay for water and sewer with an SBR plant is $2,000 a year ó $2,000 a year, and that hasnít been fully costed.
Now, the minister, in her previous capacity as Minister of Community and Transportation Services, suggested to the city that they bill Yukon Housing Corporation a charge above and beyond what the normal households were paying for water and sewer services, Mr. Chair, and this was pointed out to me by officials. I guess thatís what took place, and Yukon Housing Corporation objected to being charged this additional amount.
Would the minister advise the House of the basis for the lawsuit that I believe is underway between the City of Dawson and Yukon Housing Corporation on this initiative, or is she going to just basically hide behind the fact that itís before the courts and she doesnít want to comment, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I cannot comment on that as the matter is formally before the courts. The member is laughing again but that is the truth of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have an issue before the courts now, and about the only individuals who are going to win in this whole equation will be the lawyers. Well, I guess the judges will win also, given the headlines in the newspaper today, but the basic premise under which the Yukon Housing Corporation operates is the provision of adequate, safe housing.
Now, I know the minister is going to have a problem addressing the next question, but why is the minister not protecting the interests of all Yukoners and seeking a resolution of this matter before it gets to the courts. Why canít that be done?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is already before the courts and therefore I cannot comment on it.
Chair: Order please. This directly applies to something called the sub judice convention, and that is the voluntary restriction of the House to not talk about matters before the courts in order to ensure that there is no prejudice on court proceedings by discussions in this House. They are different, and this is a voluntary restraint on the part of the House that has been traditionally upheld throughout the years. No particular rule is there, but it certainly is a convention that I will respect as Chair of the House and ask that no further questions be directed toward the actual court case.
Mr. Jenkins: I donít want to deal with the court case, Mr. Chair. I want to seek a resolution of this matter. Will the minister intervene and see if she can resolve this matter outside the courts, because itís in the best interest of all Yukon to do so? Will the minister undertake that? Yes or no?
Chair: Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we see the answer there. There was a non-answer.
The minister provided statistics to the House a little while ago on the communities and the number of social housing units, and the minister only mentioned those social housing units that had waiting lists. Iím given to understand ó yes, the minister said there were two waiting in Dawson, and there were so many waiting in another jurisdiction. From my memory, and it usually serves me quite well, the minister mentioned a couple of communities in the briefing note she read out that had a waiting list. But what was strangely missing, Mr. Chair, was the number of communities that have a vacancy, Mayo being one of them.
What kind of undertaking is the minister doing to see if we canít use the social housing units for another purpose?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In some cases, vacant units are sold ó for example, to First Nations on a government-to-government agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: Letís zero in on Mayo. Whatís the governmentís initiative there from the surplus social housing of a couple years ago? What has transpired and what direction is the Yukon Housing Corporation taking there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In the fall of 2000, Yukon Housing negotiated with Nacho Nyak Dun the sale of a surplus housing unit as part of a winter works initiative. In February 2001, Yukon Housing negotiated a sale of two surplus houses to Nacho Nyak Dun, and the First Nation plans to use these homes to support their home ownership program. The sale of the units to Nacho Nyak Dun was done under the spirit of their settlement agreement.
The Housing Corporation continues to have a number of vacant units in the community of Mayo, but we intend to wait to see what effects the opening at the United Keno Hill Mine and the devolution of Northern Affairs programs have on the demand for social and staff housing before any further plans are made to sell surplus units.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, would the minister advise the House how much Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation paid for these units, per unit?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The first house in the fall of 2000 was sold for $1; it had to be moved. The other two were sold at book value.
Mr. Jenkins: Could we have the price, please? Could the minister give us the actual dollar value because, for book value, theyíve been written off.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe it was about $34,000 each.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd encourage the minister to go back and see what the costs actually were.
Mr. Chair, I was wondering if the Yukon Housing Corporation had come to an arrangement to rent houses out to the private sector in Mayo. There have been requests from residents there who were denied access. They couldnít even rent them for any price. They were allowed to sit empty.
Now, given that the Yukon Housing Corporation is an agent of the Government of Yukon, and its mandate is to provide housing, the one individual who approached me was refused housing. He was self-employed, and the Yukon Housing Corporation wouldnít rent him a home on a standard ó like surplus staff housing is sometimes rented, because they said they couldnít deal with social housing in any other manner than for social housing purposes. But we subsequently learned that you can sell off social housing, or they can be transferred internally.
Now, there are needs out in the communities. Itís a pretty hard thing to do, when you drive into a community and you see vacant Yukon Housing Corporation homes that are heated, unoccupied, in the dead of winter, and someone wants to rent them but isnít allowed to because theyíre self-employed and donít fit into the footprint that Yukon Housing Corporation has in place for social housing. That shouldnít be the way these individuals are treated.
Now, can we hear from the minister as to what initiatives the Yukon Housing Corporation has underway to address this kind of need, given that the minister has now been fully briefed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member can provide me outside the House with specific details of the situation, we will look into it and get back to him.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for her response. The minister might want to check with the previous minister, because I did write a letter to that minister on this very issue, Mr. Chair. But maybe that was entered into the computer base, and itís still up in cyberspace with the former minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporationís computer, Mr. Chair. Iíll look forward to the minister researching the files and seeing what she can come up with.
The other issue in rural Yukon that is cause for concern is, in order to encourage staff to reside in rural Yukon, thereís an employee buyback plan. The upper limits of this plan have not been increased for quite a number of years. Is the minister going to have a look at this buyback plan and increase the level that they will buy back to a reasonable level? Yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yukon Housing Corporationís experience with the program suggests that the limits of the program are reasonable in Yukon communities, and the corporation has received very few complaints from employees about this program.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, they have received very few complaints because they donít stay. They move on. They have a song that they sing when theyíre leaving the Yukon, and it goes something along the lines of, "Take this jobÖ" But, Mr. Chair, there is an issue, and we as a government must attract and retain the best people possible, whether they be teachers, health care providers or any other individual who is hired by the Government of Yukon when part of their package is housing in rural Yukon. In order to encourage them to stay in rural Yukon, one of the best incentives is to get them to buy their own homes.
For the record, could the minister provide the upper limit on the employee buyback plan? We can all see how low it is in light of what the current cost of an adequate accommodation happens to be in rural Yukon. Just for the record, could the minister provide the upper limit that Yukon Housing Corporation will currently go to on the employee buyback plan?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím sure the Member for Klondike could have provided that figure ó $68,400.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd encourage the minister to have a look at housing costs of an adequate nature, or even what Yukon Housing Corporation pays for a home. In fact, the last one that was built ó the construction of one duplex housing unit, excluding lands and service connection ó was $278,823. That was the last contract price, and that didnít include the design, it didnít include the site preparation, it didnít include the service connections, it didnít include a whole series of costs, Mr. Chair. So probably, if we doubled that figure that the minister just quoted, it could act as an incentive to attract and retain employees.
Why is the government reluctant to even address this area? Is there a malaise somewhere in the ministerís understanding of what it takes to attract and retain employees? Because really, adequate housing is extremely important, and adequate housing that can be heated efficiently and that is not going to have an electrical bill thatís way out to lunch, like some of the electrically heated properties in Pelly Crossing that the teachers were asked to rent. They couldnít even afford the electrical bill, never mind the rental rate that was charged. That issue has been addressed but, my gosh, Mr. Chair ó
Why hasnít this upper limit for a buyback plan for employees in rural Yukon been addressed by government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can agree to look at that amount, but I certainly canít promise that it would increase. Some people have built or purchased homes in communities, and they have been quite successful in reselling their homes in the private sector. When Yukon Housing would buy a home back, we have to have the ability to resell them in the community as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it looks like Yukon Housing Corporation has a lot of flexibility in selling houses. They can sell them for $1 or they can sell them for virtually any book value. It really doesnít relate to market. And what we have to do with the employee buyback is relate it to market conditions. Most people, if you want to look at Whitehorse, where this buyback plan does not apply, have lost a considerable sum of money because of the depressed economy ó lost a considerable amount of money in the value of their homes. Probably on average, I am told, it's about $15,000 to $25,000, depending on where the house sits in the market range.
I would encourage the minister to go back to her Cabinet colleagues, as this employee buyback scheme could be used as a very good tool to encourage government employees to settle in rural Yukon, because it gives them a measure of comfort that they can get out from probably the largest single purchase that someone will ever undertake in their lifetime ó a home and the subsequent mortgage associated with it.
And thereís a difference when somebody owns their own home and occupies a rental property, as to how they feel. Usually they are quite comfortable with the community, they want to put down roots there, but they want their own association with owning a property. Itís probably the dream of most people to own their own home.
This minister can address the responsibilities in that area, because we really have a problem attracting all the professionals needed. Part of the problem is housing, so may I suggest to the minister that the formula thatís in place ó I believe itís an appraisal estimate to be done on the housing unit after it has been on the market for so long. The whole formula is spelled out in policy and itís very good. The only part of it is the upper limit of $68,000. Because there are not too many homes anywhere in the Yukon that you can buy for $68,000 and that you would expect a nurse, teacher, a school principal, a highway foreman or an equipment operator to live in. I donít believe it can be done, Mr. Chair.
So, for the record, could the minister just reconfirm that sheís going to ask her Cabinet colleagues to go back and address this issue of the employee buyback plan, with a view to increasing its upper limit? Iíd suggest probably half again ó to a maximum of $120,000 to 125,000 would probably be appropriate, and it would probably go a long way in retaining professionals and individuals government must hire in rural Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will discuss it with my colleagues.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíll put that little issue in my "tickler file", and weíll see what the minister has to say this fall.
The other issue Iíd like to explore with the minister surrounds staff housing. I brought it forward previously, to the previous minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation and the minister before that minister. There is a tendency to change ministers a lot more quickly under this Liberal government than under the previous NDP government. I have no control over that, and obviously it would appear that the Premier doesnít either, but we wonít go there today.
Staff housing ó its adequacy. In many communities, social and staff housing are side by side ó currently with two different policies with respect to pets, I might add. If you look at another federal agency that has recognized the need for adequate staff housing and done something about it, I would like to cite for the minister the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The RCMP went through having virtual members on single status, living in a detachment, then purchasing trailers, then purchasing modular homes, then going to stick-built homes. What it has meant is the turnover has significantly been reduced, because adequate housing is being supplied. Yes, there is a standard vocation of members in rural communities but, by and large, when the members get into a community that they like and they enjoy and their housing is adequate, they want to stay and they ask for an extension.
Is there an initiative underway by this government to build a better standard of staff housing in those areas identified where housing unit stock has reached its end? Because Iíve seen a lot of retrofits. Iíve seen retrofits on retrofits on retrofits. In fact, if you add up all the money that has currently been spent on some of the staff housing units and social housing, it would probably be three or four or 10 times the original value, Mr. Chair, but they still donít meet current standards.
The RCMP just basically give away or sell for salvage their old modular homes ó just take them off the lot, leave the lot bare ó and they issue a tender to come in and construct a new home ó stick build on an adequate foundation, designed so that itís not going to cost an arm and a leg to heat, and the heating medium is not going to be a gas that may or may not come to the Yukon. Itís trucked to that location. Everything is kind of uniform and standard. Theyíre well-lit, airy, a certain size and, in my opinion, itís an insult to try to recruit a school principal to a community and say, "Youíre going to live in that little duplex of 850 square feet where, when you walk in the front door and try to turn sideways, you might have a problem."
I couldnít imagine what it would be like if ó well, we wonít go there, Mr. Chair. If you were greeted at the doorway with the Member for Kluane trying to enter your house and sell you a ticket to an NDP undertaking, it would be quite an undertaking to see.
Staff housing is not at the level it should be, Mr. Chair. Is the department going to take a look at this, with a view to upgrading it, and have a look at what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are doing with their staff housing in rural Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, staff housing is an important component of recruitment and retention of employees who deliver programs and services to citizens in rural communities, and the Yukon Housing Corporation is endeavouring to raise the standard of staff housing. New units are constructed to better standards than the existing portfolio and, when renovating units, the units are being brought up, where possible, to better standards.
One of our goals in our accountability plans is to provide staff and social housing to serve the changing needs of clients, and the objective is to enable effective delivery of government programs and services by providing improved staff housing.
As a key strategy, we want to maintain an adequate supply of staff housing to develop and implement improved staff housing standards to support the recruitment and retention of staff.
Yukon Housing Corporation owns and operates 148 staff housing units in 13 Yukon communities. In the last few years, Yukon Housing has been upgrading the standard of the staff housing stock wherever possible.
Upgrades would include items such as dishwashers where possible, better quality flooring, cabinets and interior finishes. New units are being built to R-2000 standards with fuel oil heat, which makes them very energy efficient.
I can give the member some examples of units that have been built to this new standard. In 1998, a new duplex was built to R-2000 standards in Teslin. In 2000, an existing unit was completely rebuilt to the new standard in Watson Lake. Just last year a new duplex was built in Pelly and this year Yukon Housing plans to build a new, single-family staff unit in Ross River.
Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker to do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 23, 2002:
Water quality: Elsa/United Keno Hill Mine site (Kent)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3257
Children in care: First Nation children in treatment programs outside the Yukon during 2001-02 fiscal year (Edelman)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3208