Thursday, May 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 Yukon geology program and staff
Hon. Mr. Kent: I rise on behalf of the House today to pay tribute and give recognition to the Yukon geology program and its staff. Ten years ago yesterday, the Canada-Yukon geoscience office was established in Whitehorse. The objective was to bring the federal and territorial geologists and geology program together under one roof.
Today, the Yukon geology program exemplifies one of the best models of cooperation between governments; in this case, the exploration and geological services division of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the mineral resources branch of the Yukon government and Natural Resources Canada.
The success of the geology program results from a decade of hard work by many scientists studying the land on which we live and unearthing the clues to the geology of the Yukon and the formation of its mineral deposits.
Geoscience knowledge is the lifeblood of mineral exploration. As such, the value and importance of the geological mapping and research that geologists undertake cannot be overstated. Its key objective is to assist and encourage hard rock and placer exploration by developing a comprehensive database on Yukonís geology and mineral deposits. Another is to conduct mineral potential assessments in areas proposed as special management areas and protected areas.
As devolution approaches, the anniversary of this program offers an ideal occasion to celebrate some of the successes of the Yukon geology program. Staff have produced, updated and contributed to hundreds of geological maps and databases. They include Yukon bedrock geology, glacial limits, palaeontology, geochronology, bibliographies and the minfile, a comprehensive database of all known mineral occurrences in the Yukon.
The geology program is a Canadian leader in the delivery of digital information and the use of the Internet. Its Web site receives hits from 80 countries. As a result, Yukon geology is easily accessible to the public and industry worldwide.
At least $50 million in exploration and development spending by industry can be directly attributed to the Yukon geology program. For instance, their geochemical surveys led to the discovery of the Kudz Ze Kayah massive sulphide deposit and the Yukonís largest ever staking rush in the Finlayson Lake district. Their geological surveys spurred extensive exploration in the Wernecke Mountains, and their geophysical surveys have stimulated exploration and claim-staking in the Ogilvie Mountains and the Dawson Range.
The geology program staff have authored and co-authored at least 150 articles and reports on various aspects of Yukon geology. Fifty are in peer-reviewed scientific journals and the remainder in government publications. Geologists have given hundreds of talks and presented posters at the Geoscience Forum, the Cordilleran Roundup, the Dawson City gold show, the Geological Association of Canada, the Geological Society of America, the Society of Economic Geologists, the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the Yukon Science Institute and other scientific meetings.
The YGP office is a favourite destination of schoolchildren, and the public education programs have left lasting impressions on the students.
The Yukon geology program is a destination for professors on sabbatical and has connections with universities throughout Canada, as well as the U.S. and Australia.
Their work is not only of interest to the mining industry; it is also employed by specialists in the areas of archaeology, climate change, ground water, the environment, land use and resource planning, and land claims. The Yukon geology program has been recognized for its exemplary work many times over the years, an achievement of which Yukoners can be proud.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask members of the Legislature to join me at this time in paying tribute to and recognizing the staff of the Yukon geology program who are with us here in the gallery today.
In recognition of Child Care Awareness Day
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I rise today on behalf of the government to recognize the hundreds of child care workers in the Yukon who look after our children when we are at work and when we are at school. Tomorrow, Friday, May 24, Whitehorse will celebrate Child Care Awareness Day. It is fitting that members of this House acknowledge the day and give thanks to the men and women who work in the field of child care.
Child care workers help our children learn through play and sharing. They are our partners in raising healthy, happy children. When we canít be there, they are.
Whether they work in a child care centre or family day home, child care workers provide care, security and learning experiences for our children. As parents, it is a comfort to us that our children are well cared for, that they are safe and secure, and that they are happy. Growth and development occur most rapidly in the early years of life, and these have profound, long-term effects.
The care and dedication of our child care workers help this process along. Child care workers play an important role in our families, our neighbourhoods and our communities. Thank you to all of them on behalf of all of us.
Mr. Keenan: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to Child Care Awareness Day. In the Yukon, we celebrate this on May 24, and itís an opportunity for recognizing the important role that child care plays within our community.
Child care providers are the people who do the incredibly important job of caring for our children. They ensure our children are well cared for and have opportunities for healthy development. The early years lay the foundation for all future development, and trained child care workers and providers are an essential part of building for the future.
Child care providers support parents and provide a solid foundation within the community and, without child care, parents canít work and, if parents canít work, families will suffer.
Quality child care is good for children; itís good for parents and itís good for communities. Child Care Awareness Day gives us the opportunity to recognize child care providers and the important work they do. It allows us to say, "Thank you. We appreciate the important work you do for us."
Thereíll be a celebration happening in Rotary Park tomorrow from 4:00 to 7:00, so I would encourage everybody to go out, show your support and thank those people who provide child care for our young children, our families and our community.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
We will proceed then to introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce someone we met on the Alaska-Yukon exchange. Today we have visiting in our gallery Mr. Ron Irwin. Heís the majority press secretary, and he was the person who had to take the picture when we presented a Canadian Olympic jersey to the losing American side. So thank you very much.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to ask all members to help me make welcome my husband, Ernie Peter. Heís in the gallery with us today.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have for tabling the government contracting summary report, by department, for the period April 1, 2001, to February 28, 2002.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return. On May 15, 2002, the Member for Klondike asked an oral question, at Hansard at pages 3719 and 3720, with respect to banking and investment operation and maintenance expenditures, and I have a legislative return.
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. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Premier of Yukon, in advancing the argument that two pipelines, the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline route, are better than one, has dismissed the Dempster lateral as being a viable alternative to transport Canadian natural gas to market;
(2) because of this fundamental error, the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline is being perceived by some in the Government of Canada as a pipeline that would transport only Alaskan natural gas and leave Canadian natural gas stranded in the Mackenzie Delta;
(3) the construction of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline route and its gathering lines, one of which could be built to siphon off Yukon natural gas located in the Eagle Plains Basin, will result in promoting economic benefits in the Northwest Territories rather than Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Premier to break her silence and speak out in favour of building the Dempster lateral to allow Canadian natural gas located in the Northwest Territories and Yukon to be transported to market by the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) there are twice as many Yukoners who are classified as heavy drinkers as compared to the rest of Canada; and
(2) a large number of heavy drinkers means that there are significant health and social costs to Yukoners, such as a large number of FAS/FAE affected individuals in our population, domestic violence, chronic liver disease, impaired drivers, and petty crime;
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) alcohol and drug service programs here in Yukon should be delivered in the most efficient manner possible; and
(2) this government should develop an interagency committee where information, as well as resources, can be shared, resulting in a better coordinated service in the territory.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government should table the government contract summary report within the first five days of the sitting of the Legislature, thereby ensuring (1) open and accountable government by allowing public scrutiny and time for discussion and explanation; and
(2) increased transparency in matters of spending taxpayersí dollars.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Cultural Spaces Canada program
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Premier. The Premier has said that she actually plans to go out and consult with Yukon people on her own capital budget. As Martha Stewart would say, "Thatís a good thing."
We on this side of the House have asked the Liberal Party to go out, from day one, to consult with Yukoners on the budget. However, I have some questions for the Premier about why the current capital priorities are so out of sync with Yukon communities.
Will the Premier tell us why her government is not participating in the Cultural Spaces Canada program to match federal dollars to upgrade and expand cultural facilities in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Letís start with the premise of the question. I spent the last two days not in this Legislature, but on the north highway, and saw first-hand the capital budget at work, as did the Member for Faro ó he noticed the capital dollars at work on the Robert Campbell Highway. This is the earliest that people have been at work on the Campbell Highway in years and years.
We have been out travelling in the territory. The Minister of Community Services was also in Teslin and Watson Lake over the last two days, so we have been out travelling, doing what we do best, which is listen to Yukoners.
The other point with respect to the cultural spaces program the member is referring to ó Iím not aware of the program. Iíll look into the memberís question and get back to him.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Premier should be aware of that program. I have to say that, if the Liberals had been out in the communities several years ago, they would have seen work constantly being done in every community. They should pay attention to what has gone on in the communities.
The Premier has made a big deal about government putting dollars into recreation facilities here in Whitehorse. There is no such commitment for cultural facilities, and we know that cultural industries can and do play a significant role in our economy. But before the Premier stands up and tells us all about the wonderful things that the arts fund is doing for some groups, I would like to ask this related question: why has this government not made a financial commitment to a visitors centre in Old Crow when the federal government has agreed to provide funding?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That was a rather obscure path to the question. I have been aware of this particular project and ongoing work with Parks Canada and others. No doubt the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture will be following up on the member oppositeís question and listening to what the people in Old Crow and elsewhere have to say, as we are continuing to do, as I have just outlined.
Mr. Fairclough: Almost every day our MLAs hear the same old stories from the communities: no matter how many times they ask the government for capital support, they get nowhere. Itís the same thing in Carcross, where the Carcross-Tagish Development Corporation has been trying to get a very small sum of money to install radiant heating in Koolseen Place that can be used this tourist season. All theyíre asking for is $10,000 of government help. Can the Premier tell us when they can expect the government to stop making excuses and extend a helping hand to this worthwhile community project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are working with communities. The member has only to ask his colleague, the Member for Kluane. For example, the help that was requested in the capital budget by Destruction Bay is there. They asked for breakwater and they now have one in their community. The member opposite has only to travel around the Yukon and he will hear that requests have been heard, and that we are working with communities to address key issues throughout the Yukon and we will continue to do so. The member has asked that I consult on the capital budget and I have already indicated that we have.
The specific question with respect to the community of Carcross, I will be providing an answer to the member opposite.
Question re: Water quality
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health. Last week this minister admitted that the Yukon government has a primary responsibility for regulation of drinking water safety. In a letter to DIAND about the Whitehorse water licence the acting medical health office admitted that the Yukon does not have a specific regulatory framework pertaining to drinking water. I would like to ask the Health minister why this minister has not corrected the situation when the public Health Act clearly states that she has the power to make and enforce such regulations?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Over the past couple of weeks, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has been trying to alarm the public about Yukon drinking water. He has attacked the water in Whitehorse and the medical officer of health who, as a health professional, a doctor, says it is safe. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is not a health professional. The Mayor of Whitehorse is wondering why the member is raising the matter in the Legislature and not with him. The member is fear-mongering and there is no problem with the drinking water.
Mr. Keenan: Wow, Mr. Speaker, what an answer.
For one thing, Iíll point out that itís not the Health minister answering this; itís just a professional broadcaster who wishes to stay in the box and speak in sound bites. Thatís atrocious. Thatís absolutely atrocious to say that Iím alarmist and that Iím not a professional.
Mr. Speaker, let me just carry on with this line of questioning because I think itís becoming very apparent who the professional in this House really is.
Now, the minister must be aware that part two of the Walkerton report was released today, and one of the findings is that the Ontario government did not have enough legally enforceable requirements ó legally enforceable requirements.
The Yukon is in the very same situation. All we have is guidelines, so Iíd like to ask this minister, the Health minister, this: when will this Health minister make a commitment to do more than just monitor federal guidelines and when will this minister bring in some Yukon regulations with teeth?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Unfortunately I havenít had time yet to review the Walkerton report, nor has my colleague, the Minister of Health.
To correct the member opposite, I did not suggest he was not a professional; I suggested he was not a health professional.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes shifted his attack last week to criticizing this minister for daring to speak about water when he thinks itís the responsibility of the Health minister, and weíve explained to him over and over again that both departments have responsibility for various aspects of water. We have wondered why he cares who answers the question as long as the work is getting done and the water is safe.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to point out to the Yukon public that maybe this minister should do her job. Maybe this minister should take the time to read the Walkerton report because situations can happen anywhere in the country and they can happen here in the Yukon. The Yukon is not immune.
So, I would say to take the time to read the report. The Premier has just stood on her feet and said that theyíre out campaigning, by the sounds of it. Thatís what it sounded like to me.
Mr. Speaker, standards are one thing and only one thing, but it takes clear regulation and enforcement to make the standards work.
So I would like to ask the Health minister, who is legally charged with this responsibility, this: will the Health minister give us a specific timeline for when she will have a regulatory framework in place? Will it be this fall, this spring? Is it even on the radar screen with the Health minister?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to take the time to read the Walkerton report, which has just been released, rather than quickly pull a couple of points out of it and attempt, once again, to alarm the public.
The government takes the issue of safe water very seriously. It is a priority for us, as it is for all Yukoners, and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Dempster lateral
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Premier regarding the Dempster lateral. The Premier of the Northwest Territories has been very successful in wrapping the Canadian flag around the Mackenzie Valley pipeline route, to such an extent that even a senior Liberal Cabinet minister is calling for a boycott of the Alaska Highway route. The Premier of Yukon, in adopting the position that two pipeline routes are better than one, made a fundamental error, Mr. Speaker. In adopting this position, she effectively dismissed the Dempster lateral as being a viable pipeline route.
The net result of this major Liberal blunder is that the Alaska Highway route is now perceived in Ottawa as a pipeline route to transport Alaska gas only, leaving Canadian gas stranded in the Mackenzie Delta.
My question to the Premier: why did the Premier dismiss the Dempster lateral as a viable alternative to the Mackenzie Valley route to transport Canadian gas to market?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The answer to the Member for Watson Lakeís question is that we havenít dismissed the Dempster lateral as a viable option to transport Mackenzie Delta gas to market. We focused, of course, on the Alaska Highway pipeline because, without that important gas transportation corridor, the Dempster lateral wouldnít be possible.
Again, we have focused our efforts on the Alaska Highway, but we have made provisions to identify a corridor for the possibility of a Dempster lateral and, should the Mackenzie Delta producers decide that that is the more viable route for transporting Beaufort Delta gas to market, weíll be ready to permit that pipeline, as well.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I think itís time this Liberal government caught up with whatís going on. Letís look at the facts. The evidence shows that while the Premier and her caucus continue to make excuses, the Mackenzie Valley producers are steamrolling ahead by awarding a contract to COLTKBR of Calgary for preliminary engineering. COLTKBR will study and design the routing of the pipeís main line down the Mackenzie Valley as well as associated infrastructure such as compressor stations and other gathering lines. One of those gathering lines, Mr. Speaker, is bound to go to the Eagle Plains reserves to siphon off Yukon gas to the Northwest Territories. Why is the Premier and her government allowing this benefit to slip away from the people of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, to answer the Member for Watson Lakeís question, the fact of the matter is that when the Beaufort Delta is busy, the Yukon is busy as well. Any infrastructure development through the north is good for all northern communities. The Dempster Highway, of course, is the transportation link to the Beaufort Delta, and, again, we have not dismissed the opportunities for a Dempster lateral or the opportunities for a smaller diameter pipeline to come out of the Eagle Plains Basin to bring that gas to an Alaska Highway project. The fact of the matter is that we recognize the importance of this infrastructure to all Yukoners and to all northerners, and we expect it to be a very important development as we look to tap our natural resources, including Yukon natural gas.
Mr. Fentie: Well, true to form, this minister and his government have yet to answer a question. This is a serious problem, Mr. Speaker. The Mackenzie Valley line will have the capacity to transport one billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. The minister should look at the map, because our Eagle Plains reserves are quite close to what could be the next pipeline built in this country to transport Yukon natural gas to the marketplace, totally ignoring any benefits for the Yukon Territory. Those are the key issues here, Mr. Speaker.
The Premierís lack of support for the Dempster lateral means that Yukon could lose out, big time, to the Northwest Territories. Will the Premier, even at this late hour, finally break her silence, do the job she was elected to do, and speak out in favour of the Dempster lateral so that the Alaska Highway route will once again be seen by the producers and the Canadian government ó most importantly ó as the route to get Alaskan and Canadian natural gas to market and, by doing so, creating a great deal of benefit for the Yukon and its people? Will she do so?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to clarify an issue for the Member for Watson Lake, the work that has being done in the Mackenzie Valley right now to bring their project closer to reality is work thatís already been concluded in the Yukon. That work was concluded here in the 1970s. Foothills Pipe Lines spent some $400 million in the 1970s identifying a right-of-way, doing a lot of the environmental screening. That was money that was spent here during the 1970s, as many members in the House will recollect.
As I said before, we are not dismissing the Dempster lateral as an option. Should the Mackenzie Valley and the north Yukon producers wish to pursue that option for transporting northern natural gas to market, weíll be ready to permit that project.
Question re: Alcohol and drug program delivery
Mr. Keenan: I have another question for the Minister of Health today. Iím sure the minister will agree that programs and services are stronger when theyíre identified by a community as a priority of the community and when the communities have been involved in developing them. Thatís why programs like the CDF and community addiction fund worked. So, Iíd like to ask this minister to explain exactly what the alcohol and drug secretariat is doing to support community needs outside of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The new continuum of care in the alcohol and drug secretariat does a number of things to work with Yukon communities. The first thing that it does is that it trains people to go out to work in the communities in alcohol and drug treatment. The second thing that it does is that it has assigned three individuals to the communities of Dawson City, Watson Lake and Haines Junction in order to develop those programs in those areas and to work as a liaison between the services in Whitehorse and the services that should be available in most of Yukonís communities. In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, we will be working with Yukon communities to develop other aspects of the programs; for example, wilderness treatment.
Mr. Keenan: I am certainly flattered that the minister is actually doing her job in this particular case. It is certainly good news. I would also like to point out that there are immediate needs in the communities at this point in time. And the secretariat is developing programs ó yes. Yet the secretariat is not willing to support those community initiatives now. There seems to be a movement to consolidate program delivery through the secretariat, and programs that have been developed and delivered historically at the community level are being ignored at this point in time. Why is the secretariat not supporting wilderness treatment programs such as the Donít Fence Me In Society in Carcross and the Tatlmain Lake near Pelly Crossing? There are many other programs in the Yukon but why is this one not happening?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are a number of reasons why we canít immediately deliver enhanced drug and alcohol treatment services in the Yukon. The biggest reason of all is that we donít have the staff. It is a simple reason. It took us a year and half to recruit for the last position for the alcohol and drug secretariat. It is a very difficult position to fill. We need to train people so that we have people available here in the Yukon Territory. We need to increase our staff, and our staff complement will be increased considerably under the new continuum of care. In addition to that, it is absolutely essential that we coordinate the limited resources that we do have to work on this issue. We have assigned that as a very high priority of our government. That is why we have developed the new alcohol and drug secretariat continuum of care. That is why we have financed it, but it will take time to put on the very good programs that we are hoping to put on in the future.
As for discussions with other agencies that wish to deliver other types of programming, those are ongoing discussions.
Mr. Keenan: The minister has asked and says we have to train people. Iíd like to point out that every community in the Yukon has trained people. Community initiatives have not been supported by this government. There are programs ready to go, but there is no government support for them. Folks want to be able to access programs within their community, with the option of treatment by people they know, the professionals who care, from their community, not government workers from a secretariat in Whitehorse.
So, will the minister direct the alcohol and drug secretariat to use some of its program funding to support existing community initiatives this year now?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Weíre already doing that. There are two youth programs that will be going on this summer. They are wilderness treatment programs.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is trying to make the point that every community has trained alcohol and drug personnel, and thatís not accurate. That is patently not the case in most Yukon communities. That has always been the problem. We donít have the people out there who are trained and have the level of expertise that we need in all Yukon communities. Thatís one of the reasons we have assigned three people ó the one in Haines Junction, the one in Watson Lake, and the one in Dawson City ó to work with those programs in those regions.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, we have First Nation training programs. Weíre working with other levels of government to work on training people and putting them out into those communities to bring in those much-needed services.
I agree with the member opposite there has always been a shortage of community solutions to the alcohol and drug treatment problem that we have in the Yukon, and weíre working on that. We have a continuum of care that has been agreed to by most and, as a matter of fact, has been spoken about by all Yukon communities, and they agree that we have to pay attention to this ó we have to invest time, money and staff.
Question re: Grade reorganization
Mr. Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Education. This year represents the first graduating class that has basically come through what they call a grade reorganization. This is the first year. A few years ago when the Department of Education reviewed the grade structure within Whitehorse schools, it was to look at some better solutions. The purpose of this review was to consult with all the education partners and to come forth with a grade and school structure that would meet the needs of all children. One of the major recommendations was that we organize three smaller high schools, rather than the one large high school that existed before this.
My question to the minister: does the minister agree that grade reorganization is now complete in Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I think that the question is broader than just that in education. I think that we need to look at the entire education system in the Yukon and some of the challenges facing us in the near future.
Mr. Roberts: I did not get an answer to the question. I would appreciate an answer to the next question.
The grade reorganization program has actually taken a few years; we know that. The completion of the Holy Family addition and the near completion of the addition of Christ the King Elementary, will complete the elementary grade reorganization. From my observation, the grade reorganization has been a good thing for Whitehorse students. Could the minister please inform the House if she feels that all structural requirements are now complete for grade reorganization in Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: In order to hear an answer, one has to listen.
The answer to the memberís question is that the grade reorganization has completed one of the phases involved. We need to look at what is going on in education throughout the Yukon to count our successes and look at where we can improve.
Weíre looking at the programming; weíre bringing in analyses to find out what is working and whatís not working, and weíre going to be making some changes to try to get better results from our education system.
So, education will change ó whether thatís grade reorganization or whether itís structural change, change will happen.
Mr. Roberts: My question was very specific. Iím talking about structural construction. Iím not talking about education. Education always changes. Thatís the whole name of the game.
When the Porter Creek Secondary School was set up as a high school, a new addition was added to accommodate the growing number of students. When the addition was built, the cafeteria was built for approximately 300 students. The school now has close to 700 students. The shops in the school were never expanded or improved from when the school was a junior high, so the shops are not built to high school standards.
My question to the minister: the fact that the cafeteria and shops are not built to high school students ó will the capital budget for 2002-03 reflect bringing these facilities up to high school standards and bring to an end the grade reorganization structural plan that was started at least eight years ago?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Once again, Iíll answer the member oppositeís questions in the broader context. We have declining enrolments. We have a number of issues facing our schools. The member opposite mentions one or two schools. There are far more schools than that in the Yukon.
Weíre here debating an operation and maintenance budget. The capital budget will be in the fall. The member opposite will get his answers on the capital projects in the fall when the budget is presented. We are going to improve the education system. If the member opposite chooses not to hear that, thereís not much I can do about that.
Question re: Aishihik dam, land claim compensation
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier, and itís on the Champagne-Aishihik First Nationís final agreement. Section 2.5.0 of the agreement deals with certainty, and subsection 188.8.131.52 effectively states that the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation cedes all of their claims, rights, titles and interests to Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.
Currently, however, the Yukon Territorial Water Board is dealing with millions of dollars in claims against the Yukon Energy Corporation by Champagne-Aishihik beneficiaries for the destruction caused by the construction and operation of the Aishihik dam, which, as the Premier well knows, was done under the federal governmentís watch. The federal government is taking the position that claims for compensation for the Aishihik dam were covered off by the final agreement.
Iíd like to ask the Premier what the position of the Yukon Liberal government is in relationship to these claims for compensation.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike mentioned a number of specific clauses in the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation agreement, which I do not have in front of me, and the member also mentioned a matter that was before the Water Board, and the member opposite is very well aware that the Water Board is a quasi-judicial board. And, of course, no politician of any stripe would interfere with a quasi-judicial board. So the matter is before the Water Board.
Mr. Jenkins: But what Iím looking for is this: does this Government of Yukon, this Yukon Liberal government, have a position with respect to compensation for these claims? Theyíre hanging their hat before the Water Board.
While Yukon Energy is indicating it is rejecting multi-million dollar claims for compensation, it has agreed to pay smaller amounts of money to 75 Champagne-Aishihik members. Can the Premier explain why Yukon Energy is paying this compensation, when clearly it is the responsibility of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I take the member oppositeís question very seriously. There are two points I would make in response to the member oppositeís question: the first is that he has raised the issue of Yukon Energy, and I will take that matter up with the minister responsible; the second is that the entire issue, as I have indicated, is before the Yukon Territorial Water Board, which is a quasi-judicial board, and I would not interfere or present any opinions ó opinions, in any event, are out of order in this House.
Mr. Jenkins: But the minister is restructuring Yukon Energy and Yukon Development Corporation so that they report directly to her office and she appoints the overseers of that entity. Now, the compensation paid by Yukon Energy Corporation for these claims is going to be added to our power bills. Consumers here in the Yukon, including the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation beneficiaries themselves receiving the compensation, are all going to be paying for this compensation, which Iíd like to clearly point out is a federal government responsibility.
How does the Premier justify making Yukoners pay, and is her government going to be reimbursed these costs by her federal Liberal government friends in Ottawa? No.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: How does the member opposite justify asking not only hypothetical questions, but questions that are fundamentally incorrect in their assertion that the government is being restructured in such a manner as the member suggests.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, I have indicated a number of points to the member opposite. The minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources is responsible for just that: energy, mines and resources, which includes Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. The fact is that, with respect to the issues the member has raised, I have indicated where I can and where I cannot answer the member oppositeís questions, and I will do so.
Question re: Renewal of government, YEU survey
Mr. Fairclough: When the Premier announced her governmentís restructuring program last June, she said it would improve services to Yukon people. The people who should know if thatís the case are the governmentís own employees.
Now, the employeesí union asked its members about the so-called renewal and got a very strong response to its survey ó some 702 responses. Can the Premier explain why only 12 percent of the government employees believe that renewal will result in better services to Yukon people?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is referring to a survey that I also read about in the last YEU newsletter. The fact is that one of the goals of the renewal process was not only to prepare for devolution, but also to provide better services to the Yukon public, and that is something that Yukoners who work for the government have indicated they have a desire to do.
Now, the member opposite is quoting from a survey that he has seen the results of. I was aware the survey was underway; I have not seen the results the member opposite is bandying about. Perhaps he could share them with me and with the House.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím sure the Premier has seen it but is refusing to answer the question. This has been a very costly experiment on the Premierís part ó millions and millions of dollars, directly and indirectly, yet people most directly involved arenít convinced that this will do the job.
What ongoing plans does the Premier have to correct the weaknesses in renewal so that government employees will feel more confident about it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We began renewal a year ago, and we indicated at that time that our goals were to prepare for devolution and better services. We consulted with over 800 Government of Yukon and Government of Canada employees. The biggest issue that is left to be dealt with, with respect to renewal, is the blending of the cultures of the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon and, in some cases, between departments, where we have linked, for example, Government Services and Infrastructure, the transportation branch of the Government of Yukon.
We need to work together and work with our employees, and that is what weíre working on now at the deputy level on down.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like the government doesnít have any plans in that case. Government restructuring has created a lot of turmoil and anxiety in the public service. The Premier may believe itís because people donít like change, but that doesnít explain why 88 percent of the public employees do not believe renewal will improve services to the public.
It may have more to do with the consultation process that was used. Some 81 percent of the survey respondents were not satisfied with the level of consultation, and it will take more than cake and ice cream to overcome that perception.
As part of her own accountability plan, how does the Premier intend to crack the way its minority government listens to the most valuable resource: its own employees?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Every day we listen to Yukoners, including Government of Yukon employees. The member opposite has quoted extensively from the unionís survey, and I would ask that the member opposite table that survey if he is going to quote from it. The fact is that we as a government, the Public Service Commission, as well as the renewal team, have worked extensively with the union on a regular briefing basis on a regular exchange of ideas. The issue for many of the Government of Yukon employees was anxiety around the organization chart; that was completed. The issue now is working together. That is what we are focusing on, and that is where our work is taking us now. From the deputy level on down, we are working with structuring these departments in such a way that Yukoners have an opportunity to work together to provide the better service that we know they are already doing.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 73: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 73, standing in the name of the hon. Mrs. Edelman.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the minister responsible the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board that Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I rise today to speak to Bill No. 73, Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act. Bill No. 73 represents the governmentís efforts to find a compromise to fix inequity that arose when the maximum wage rate formula under the 1983 Workersí Compensation Act could no longer be used.
As members know, the normal practice for workersí compensation is that you receive the benefits based on the legislation in effect at the time that your injury occurs. This can create several benefit levels to workers over the years, depending on the frequency of changes to the legislation. What also happens is that when new legislation comes in, parts of the old legislation may no longer work, and that is what happened with the maximum wage rate under the 1983 act and the indexing of benefits.
A few words of explanation about two concepts: the maximum wage rate and compensation benefits. With workersí compensation, compensation benefits are indexed annually but cannot exceed the maximum wage rate. The maximum wage rate usually increases annually through a different formula than the one used for indexing benefits. Workers injured under the 1983 act ó for example, those between 1983 and 1992 ó were subject to the old maximum wage rate, the old indexing of benefits and the old formula for increasing the maximum wage rate.
An additional issue is that the maximum wage rate was $40,000 in 1992 for workers injured under the 1983 act and bumped up to $50,000 in 1993, but only for workers injured under the 1992 act, which is still in effect. This meant that if you were earning $55,000 and were injured on December 31, 1992, your benefits were limited to 75 percent of $40,000. If you were earning $55,000 and were injured a day later, your benefits were 75 percent of $50,000 and, therefore, much closer to your real earnings.
The formula for setting the maximum wage rate under the 1983 act was based on the earnings of those injured under that act. What happened is that the formula became unsustainable and subject to wide fluctuations and the number of workers injured under the 1983 act diminished over time.
For those workers at the maximum wage rate, they have not received any indexing of their benefits since 1997, as the maximum wage rate under the old act has been frozen since that time.
What this Bill No. 73 does is try to find a compromise between going back and redoing all the claims that were active after 1992 where a worker was injured between 1983 and 1992 and simply restoring the indexing effect of the year the wage rate became frozen.
What the bill does is that, effective January 1, 2002, any worker whose disability arose between 1983 and 1992, and who is still receiving compensation, will be presumed to be earning the maximum wage rate under the current legislation. The bill also makes these workers subject to the full indexing for compensation benefits and the same formula for increasing the maximum wage rate as workers injured under the current legislation.
The increased maximum wage rate will not apply to workers suffering a recurrence of a disability that arose under the 1983 act. This is necessary to avoid any possibility of triggering an increase in the recurrent claims.
At my request, the board conducted an actuarial analysis of the financial impacts of Bill No. 73. I will be pleased to send that over to the members opposite so that they can get a better indication of those numbers. Thatís available right now.
So, to sum up the highlights of the analysis, the bill will redress the problems for everyone who is still on compensation. The bill will accomplish what it is supposed to do for 20 of the 26 workers still receiving compensation. The others may receive an additional benefit. This is inevitable, given the compromise and the need to have one set of rules in this legislation. The actuary notes that the total cost to the compensation fund will be $4.5 million. This is based on the actuarial tables and their analysis of the data that is available.
The worker-stakeholder advisory committee has recommended to the board that these costs be recovered by the prevention and benefit enhancement reserve. This could be done by transferring up to $1 million a year for the next five years to the benefit liability reserve and would result in no increases to assessments.
I am certain the board will consider this proposal in making its determination on how to cover these expenditures. The actuarial analysis also notes that the Yukon government will be required to show $300,000 as the present value of future payments. This is not an actual expenditure, but it is an accounting requirement.
As members may know, under the current Workersí Compensation Act, the Yukon government is required to pay all direct costs for claims arising prior to 1992, plus the 15 percent administrative fee. This commitment is not being altered through this legislation and will be upheld. The draft actuarial analysis has been shared with key stakeholders at two information sessions held last week. These were held by the president and chief executive officer at my request. Three more information sessions are being scheduled, two of them in the communities following the request of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce that this be done.
In closing, I want to thank the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board and others who have brought this issue to our attention. We recognize this legislation will not satisfy everyone, but it does provide a remedy to those who have been most deeply affected by the unintended cap on their compensation payments, and I look forward to hearing the thoughts of the members opposite.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Just a few short comments. The official opposition is completely in support of the intent of this bill; and, of course, we know it will correct the inequity between the eligible maximum wage rates for workers injured prior to and after 1993. We have been asking the government to bring forward an amendment to the Workersí Compensation Act to correct this inequity for the past two years. However, weíre very concerned about government ministers introducing legislation in this House that is flawed or is incomplete. It suggests a hurried and last-minute process of legislative drafting that should not have been necessary, given the government had to prepare the bill.
The Legislature did not convene until after fiscal year-end, contrary to previous practice, and this timing is completely and solely the government of the dayís choice. So we will support it in second reading and have a few questions in Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this amendment to the Workersí Compensation Act. I must clearly point out that we have before us two amending pieces of legislation to the act ó one for spousal benefits and extending of those benefits, and this one now to extend the benefits to individuals injured prior to 1993.
Both of these areas have been well known to the government for quite a number of years, and both these concerns have been raised on a number of occasions. The concern I wish to express here today, Mr. Speaker, is the amount of time it takes government and the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to wake up and recognize their responsibilities. The whole purpose of the Workersí Compensation Act is to deal with injured workers in a respectful manner and compensate them for their time loss for injury and, in the event theyíre injured beyond the point they can go back to their position, to retrain them for another area or, furthermore, to pay them what they should receive for an extended period of time, until they reach the age of retirement.
All these areas, Mr. Speaker, have been well known to WCB officials, well known to the minister who has been in her position and role as being responsible for WCB for the past four months. It takes so long for WCB to react and implement or recommend these changes that they spend more on the internal process and workings than they do addressing the whole purpose of WCB.
I have serious reservations with some of the timelines associated with WCB coming to the rightful decisions they should be making on a much more timely basis.
The other area under review is a management audit of WCB. We havenít heard anything about how thatís progressing. We know itís underway. We havenít heard anything about a number of other initiatives that WCB must be addressing.
Now, it takes layer upon layer of boards and committees, workersí advocates ó who are doing one heck of a fine job in addressing the needs of injured workers and bringing it to the attention of the board. All these positions probably wouldnít be necessary if, in the first place, WCB addressed their responsibility and did their job.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, Iím pleased to see these amendments to this act brought forward, but a number of others are needed and should be before this House now ó not next year or the year after. Why it takes so long to do the simplest of tasks is beyond me.
Mr. McLarnon: We, the independents, have looked at this and see the numbers as actually being rather reasonable. Weíre waiting for research to be done, and weíre glad that it has arrived. We will be talking to the stakeholders. One of the stakeholders, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, is having a meeting about this next week. We will be going and listening to their points of view. Weíre reserving our vote until then, but on the face of this, I congratulate the government on at least reaching a deal to finally break the impasse on this issue that had been so long in the forefront.
We do have other issues with the way this bill was done, though. One of the issues is that we know three amendments are coming forward. We havenít seen them. We would like to see them because, if the amendments are substantial, we are going to be putting a point of order forward that, in fact, the government has slipped in a bill under the Standing Orders and then changed it afterwards. This is a problem for opposition, because opposition needs the time to consult on these bills and all of the implications to ensure that, if major changes come forward, we can go to stakeholders and people come to us and make sure we are representing their positions properly and that everybody has the same information.
Unfortunately, thatís not the case. When we started this session on April 4, I believe it was by April 14 that all bills had to be tabled. We will look at those amendments to see if there are substantial changes.
The reason why the Order Paper and the Standing Orders were changed was so that the opposition would be given a just and fair amount of time to understand the bills, read the bills, understand what peopleís concerns might be with them, and hold the government accountable. Bringing amendments in that we havenít seen does certainly speak to a possible end-run around it, and we are going to be scrutinizing the amendments very clearly. In fact, it would probably be useful, since everybody has seen them except us. We would like to see the amendments before theyíre presented, so we can at least speak to them. Other than that, at the time the amendments are presented, we will be calling Committee for a recess so that we can study them.
So, it either saves legislative time to send them over now or we will, very justly, ask for time to read them, because these amendments have impacts ó we know they do. We had heard, through the grapevine ó everybody else was telling us that there were negotiations going on, so we would like to know what the results were and how they were arrived at.
Itís a simple question. Everybody in opposition, while we support this bill ó and it sounded unanimous ó we certainly understand that our rights may have been abrogated here in the House by a backdoor, or an end run, policy around the Standing Orders.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go back to some of the comments made by the members opposite. Certainly the amendments will be made available, I hope, from the official opposition ó itís up to them to make those amendments available to the members opposite. May I be clear that these amendments are purely technical ó absolutely technical. They are small wording changes that were made because there were some very technical problems with the numbering system, et cetera. These will be made available, I hope, to the members opposite as soon as possible.
As for the issue of making amendments to legislation, I would like to point out to the members opposite that they have been fully prepared from day one to make amendments to legislation and to budgets on the fly on the floor of the Legislature. This is considerable more notice than that. Members opposite talk about the timing of the drafting. There has been a change in the Rules of the House. The Rules of the House now say that we have to have legislation ready by the first five days. For the six years that I have sat in this Legislature a miracle occurred and we had that legislation ready in the first five days of the sitting of the House, and I can tell you that it created a great deal of angst in the public service but it was done and it was the right thing to do. We brought it forward within the Rules of the House, and there shouldnít be a problem with doing the right thing because of a technical problem. It will make the lives of many people considerably better.
The Member for Klondike talks about the fact that there were two amended pieces being brought forward to Workersí Compensation Act in this legislative session. I might remind the member opposite that the complete review of the act will occur starting January 1, 2003. The maximum wage rate and the spousal benefit are both long-standing issues. Many governments have known about these issues for many years. In the four months that I have been the minister, I have managed to bring forward those two acts in legislation. That is not an easy feat and I know that it is happening because of the support of all the members of this House. The member opposite is making the point that the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board should be more responsive ó that issues should be dealt with on a more timely basis, and I canít agree with the member opposite more strongly. The operational audit will be brought forward next month, the month of June. The Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board will deal with some of those issues about more timely resolution to issues that are Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board related. That will also deal with the issue of governance as well.
So we will have some ideas from that on how we can improve service to Yukoners through this board; in addition to that, the appeal tribunal as well.
The member opposite talks about attending information sessions on Bill No. 73. If the members opposite would like more information sessions, they are certainly available to them. The information sessions are just that, though. They are information sessions; they are not political meetings. The member opposite has made the point again and again and again about the drafting of the legislation, and I just want to say to the members opposite that we did our best. We created and brought forward pieces of legislation to amend long-standing issues that have been in existence for many years and have dramatically affected the lives of Yukoners. We brought them forward within the first five days, as the new rules asked us to. Even though there are some technical issues ó and these are very minor technical problems ó it was our best efforts, and we did what we were supposed to do.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 73 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Weíll call division.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 11 yea, five nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
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 2:25 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Weíll now proceed with Bill No. 73, Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act.
Bill No. 73 ó Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Keenan: In second reading, I started off in a reply and a speech, and I expressed dissatisfaction in the process, but certainly not in the outcome. Iím very supportive of the outcome, as the four members of the official opposition are.
Iíd like to ask the minister about the decision-making process that took place to determine the retroactive date in the legislation, as it will affect all other entitlements besides the maximum wage rates for injured workers, subject to the predecessor legislation.
I have a couple of questions like that, and Iím not sure if the minister would like me to read them out, and then perhaps the minister can answer. That would be the first one: the decision-making process to determine the retroactive date ó that was that one.
The Injured Workers Alliance has informed me by letter ó and I know the minister is aware of these concerns as well ó that the board recommended to the minister, in as recently as March of this year, that the maximum wage rate under the 1986-92 legislation be increased retroactively to 1998 ó and thatís four weeks later the minister introduced the bill that will make the retroactive date January 1, 2002.
So, what happened to the March recommendation of the board that would have made the retroactive date four years earlier? Could the minister explain what factors were taken into consideration around the choosing of the retroactive date, and were other retroactive dates considered? Iíll leave that in the hands of the minister.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, to a certain extent, the date was arbitrary. So a January 1, 2002, retroactive date was picked as a time when there was political will or there was a will on behalf of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to address the issue, and that was the date that was picked ó back to January 1 of 2002.
Now, January 1 is normally the date that is used for many Workersí Compensation Act actions, and that is why we chose January 1, 2002, because at that time there was will on behalf of the government to deal with the issue.
Mr. Keenan: Could the minister just explain the process to me? It was a consensus decision that included all players. Can the minister talk about that process?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There were three options that were presented to us as a government as a way of resolving this issue. The first option was an option put forward by the Injured Workers Alliance. This was a very complicated option and would have required a great deal of administrative support, and the end result may not have solved the problem. It talked about going back and doing each individual case over a number of decades. That would have taken actuarial work to about six or eight months. It was felt that we wanted to deal with the issue sooner than that. We also wanted to make sure that there was a single approach to dealing with the issue of maximum wage and indexing. In the past there were many tiers of benefits and what we wanted to do was come up with the most simple and elegant solution to this issue that we could.
The second option that was presented to us was the one that the board brought forward. This would have perpetuated basically a three-tier system, and we were not in favour of that as a government. What we did was create another solution, which was the best of both worlds. It is a one-tier approach that talks about having all workers under one tier or one level. It is remarkably simple and it solves many of the problems that have been long-standing with this particular group of injured workers.
Mr. Keenan: I guess, Mr. Chair, I appreciate what the minister has said on the process and players. I guess I know, from a briefing that was provided to the official opposition, that it was done on a consensus basis, that people realized the shortcomings of the process, if I could say it in that way, and they worked together to come up with something for the benefit of the injured workers. Of course, I very much support that, but I would like to point out, as I had in my second reading speech, that I think the process is one that we have to take maybe a bit ó no, we donít have to take a bit; we have to take much more seriously; government has to take it much more seriously. I know that substantive legislation must be tabled within a week of the beginning of the session ó five days, I believe it is. Of course, it was. Then, after that fact, we were asked to make an amendment to the amendment, I guess, if I could say it in that manner.
So I would just ask government, in general, not specifically maybe to this clause, but to whatever weíre going to be doing in terms of bringing legislation, is that we try to do it in as thorough a manner as we can.
I have said in this House before that last fallís display, I think, of the Wildlife Act, where the minister having to introduce 11 to 13 amendments on his own ó and this process is now being duplicated by having to make amendments here on the fly ó this is probably not the way government should be governing, if I could say it in that way.
We do have amendments that will be coming forward, and I will be moving those amendments at the appropriate time to make it even better. I must say that it is indeed a pleasure to be able to work toward the betterment of injured folksí lives. So, of course, at the appropriate time, we will be introducing the appropriate amendments in line-by-line to do that.
I thank you for your time, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This has been a learning process. Trying to get this legislation ready in the first five days of the session was, as mentioned earlier, a Herculean effort, and we have learned from that process. We also know that we will have to back up drafting and that we will need to have more resources appointed to legislation in the future if we want to bring it to the Legislature in a timely manner.
For example, for the guardianship legislation Iím dealing with under Health and Social Services, we have assigned a full-time person in order to bring that legislation forward, as well as the health omnibus act, which weíre hoping to bring forward in the fall. There have been individuals actually assigned to those acts, outside of Justice, which is not the normal process.
So, we are learning through the process ó absolutely.
I believe what the member was trying to say was that there perhaps should have been more consultation on this particular option. Mr. Chair, this is one of the longest standing issues that government has faced ó the inequities within the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, as are in the act.
Now, there will be a full-fledged review of that legislation, but we may not get that legislation in the House for maybe two years, and this affects peopleís lives, as the member opposite already mentioned. We felt we needed to deal with this inequity as soon as possible. Therefore, we did the best we could. At the time, I had only been the minister for two months ó I thought it was four months, but it was two months ó and it was a steep learning curve.
When the member opposite first became a minister, we both chatted about it at the time, about how much you had to learn in such a short period of time. There was no mercy whatsoever from the members of the media or the opposition, so you didnít get the opportunity to cross all the tís and dot all the iís, but we did try very hard, and this legislation, when itís passed, will benefit Yukoners, particularly injured workers.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? We will then proceed clause by clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, be amended in clause 2 on page 1 by:
inserting in paragraph (b) the expression "subject to paragraphs (b.1) to (b.3)," before the expression "1992 or earlier" and by repealing in paragraph (b) the expression "until January 1, 2002"; and
inserting in paragraph (b.1) immediately after "after January 1, 2002," the expression "if a worker is in receipt of compensation,"; and
repealing the expression "maximum" in paragraph (b.2).
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Keenan that Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, be amended in clause 2 on page 1 by:
inserting in paragraph (b) the expression "subject to paragraphs (b.1) to (b.3)," before the expression "1992 or earlier" and by repealing in paragraph (b) the expression "until January 1, 2002"; and
inserting in paragraph (b.1) immediately after "after January 1, 2002," the expression "if a worker is in receipt of compensation,"; and
repealing the expression "maximum" in paragraph (b.2).
Is there any debate?
Seeing no debate, is everyone ready for the question? Are we agreed?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 2 agreed to as amended
Title agreed to
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 73 out of Committee with amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Edelman that Bill No. 73 be reported out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 64 ó Spousal Compensation Act
Chair: Bill No. 64, Spousal Compensation Act, standing in the name of Mrs. Edelman. Is there any general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title of Bill No. 64 read and agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Based upon an agreement among the House leaders and pursuant to Standing Order No. 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 64 read and carried.
Chair: Mr. McLachlan has requested unanimous consent that all clauses and title of Bill No. 64, Spousal Compensation Act, be deemed read and carried. Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 64, Spousal Compensation Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mrs. Edelman that Bill No. 64, Spousal Compensation Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now move to Bill No. 51, Official Tree Act.
Bill No. 51 ó Official Tree Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title of Bill No. 51 read and agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, based on an agreement among the House leaders and pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 51 read and carried.
Chair: Mr. McLachlan has requested unanimous consent that all clauses and title of Bill No. 51 be deemed read and carried. We are requiring unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clause 1 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 51, entitled Official Tree Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by the hon. Mr. Eftoda that Bill No. 51, entitled Official Tree Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to Bill No. 55, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5).
Bill No. 55 ó Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5)
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title of Bill No. 55 read and agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, based on an agreement among the House leaders and pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 55 read and carried.
Chair: Mr. McLachlan has requested unanimous consent that all clauses and title of Bill No. 55 be deemed read and carried. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 55, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by the hon. Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 55 be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 72 ó Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act
Chair: We will now proceed to Bill No. 72, Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Is there any general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title of Bill No. 72 read and agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, based upon an agreement among the House leaders and pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 72 read and carried.
Chair: Mr. McLachlan has requested unanimous consent to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 72 read and carried. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 72, Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 72, Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Motion No. 56 ó Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2)
Chair: We will now proceed to Bill No. 56, Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No.2), standing in the name of Ms. Duncan. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to take the opportunity to advise the House, although itís not contained in this bill, that I had indicated that the effective date would be June 1, and given the dates that the House is expected to close and the subsequent order-in-council, itís difficult to have the retailers all advised by June 1. I would like to indicate that in response to working with Yukon retailers, this would be effective July 1 as opposed to June 1. Itís not contained in the bill; itís general information for the House.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title of Bill No. 56 read and agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, based on an agreement among the House leaders and pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 56 read and carried with the exception of the fact that the Premier has now stated the effective date of implementation of the tax would be July 1 rather than June 1.
Chair: Iíll just leave the last part out. Mr. McLachlan has requested unanimous consent to deem all clauses and title of Bill No. 56 read and carried. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 56 out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report Bill No. 56 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that the House recess for five minutes so that the Minister of Community Services may get witnesses to proceed to Bill No. 9.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that we take a five-minute recess while we wait for witnesses.
Motion agreed to
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03. We are now in the Department of Community Services. Is there any general debate?
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Community Services
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Please allow me to introduce the 2002-03 main estimate for the Department of Community Services. Community Services was created out of the renewal initiative. It envisions leadership and service delivery and community relations. This department aims to provide Yukoners and businesses with better access to government programs, services and information. The Department of Community Services works closely with Yukon communities to foster community development and capacity building. One of our goals is to improve communications and linkages within government so that Yukon people, businesses and groups are served in a more consistent and coordinated manner. Over the long term, the department will showcase the skills of the public service workforce, particularly in the area of customer service. Community Services also has a safety and emergency measures component. In addition, we are preparing for devolution. The department will house the fire suppression program from DIANDís northern affairs program.
Mr. Chair, as the main estimate shows, the department plans to spend $30,838,000 in operation and maintenance.
The department plans to recover $1,025,000 of its total O&M expenditure. Revenues are estimated to be $7,226,000, reflecting an overall increase of $853,000, as compared to the forecast for the preceding fiscal year.
The department consists of a number of branches. In addition to the deputy ministerís office and corporate services, there are four service branches: protective services, community development, service Yukon, and consumer and safety services.
The protective services branch has safety as its primary focus. The branch promotes and coordinates effective fire protection and prevention, as well as emergency preparedness, in the Yukon. Protective services has a budget of $1,082,000 and an anticipated recovery of $139,000.
The community development branch provides a wide range of services and advisory assistance to Yukon communities. The branch is a strong supporting body to assist communities in their dealings with the Yukon government. Community development organizes departmental teams to address issues and to respond to evolving community concerns. The team approach supports community efforts in the area of capacity building and development. Community development includes sport and recreation, property assessment and taxation, community affairs and community infrastructure. The branch has a budget of $22,949,000 and an anticipated recoveryof $879,000. The budget for the community development branch includes $19,845,544 in transfer payments.
Of this, $11,817,000 is to be paid directly to municipalities under the comprehensive Municipal Finance and Communities Grant Act.
Another $3,955,000 will be paid to municipalities for grants-in-lieu of property taxes.
$2,454,000 will be paid out as homeowner grants, and a further $1,383,000 will be used as contributions toward sports and community recreation.
The Association of Yukon Communities will receive $100,000, and grants in the amount of $70,000 will be allocated for various community and local advisory area operations.
Within the total contribution estimate, under sports and recreation, funds are provided for Yukon recreation groups, sports local authorities, core funding to Sport Yukon, and Yukon sport-governing bodies.
The Service Yukon branch has a budget of $2,784,000 and an anticipated recovery of $7,000. The branch consists of motor vehicles, public libraries, and the upcoming service centre. Service Yukon will improve access to government services by bringing together many of the most commonly used services. This includes driversí licences, vehicle registration, health care registration, vital statistics, consumer and corporate services, labour services and building, gas and electrical inspections.
We expect to open this one-stop shop in the summer of 2003. The consumer and safety services branch consists of consumer services, corporate affairs, building safety and labour services. It has a budget of $2,426,000. In support of a fair and effective marketplace in the Yukon, the consumer and safety services branch is responsible for consumer services, and regulation and enforcement. The branch enforces regulations that contribute to a competitive Yukon economy, promote compliance with labour standards and provide inspection services to enhance building safety.
The departmentís main estimate reflects the continued commitment to advance the well-being of Yukoners by supporting municipalities and by providing municipal-type services and facilities to unincorporated communities. I would now be pleased to answer questions specific to the tabled departmental operation and maintenance budget.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to begin by acknowledging the very important work this department does, and the number of dedicated personnel within the department, which was formerly part of Community and Transportation Services.
Iíd also like to acknowledge the very capable deputy minister of the department, who is with us today ó formerly of Haines Junction. I might add, Mr. Chair, that people out there miss him and are looking forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks, when heíll be celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with other people in town.
Weíre looking forward to seeing him back.
We hope people within the department are settled after the renewal exercise, which has relocated many people within this department. I would like to ask the minister if, first of all, she can provide us with a breakdown of renewal costs within this department.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The total cost for renewal to March 31, 2002, in Community Services is $316,922.46.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister also oblige us with a breakdown of ministerial travel for the past year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím trying to remember which of my trips in the last year were transportation and which were Community Services but, for this fiscal year, as Minister of Community Services, there were three trips outside the territory ó sport ministers, ministers of local government, and Arctic Winter Games ministers ó plus a number of trips around the Yukon Territory.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, Iím looking for a written breakdown of the relevant categories. Can the minister undertake to get back to us with that information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. There are a few items in the accountability plan I want to go through, as well as some areas in the department. One of the areas that Iím most anxious to get on with is the area of fire suppression. Now, Mr. Chair, last November 6, I recall the minister indicating there would be a draft fire protection policy that would be put out to stakeholders for comment later that month and in December of last year. Can the minister give us an update on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Last November 6, we werenít aware of what would be where under renewal, so I must have been referring to something within the fire marshalís office, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister isnít sure what she was referring to, how can we on this side of the House possibly understand what it was she was referring to? We donít have the resources available, the direct connections to the department and all the information, and so on, that the minister has. So Iím looking for a more complete answer that provides a description of what this policy is, where itís at now, and did it come forward ó as she promised in the House ó for November and December of last year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, Iíll review the Hansard to see exactly what it is the memberís referring to, but it would not have been fire suppression.
Mr. McRobb: I guess we can move on, and the minister will find in the Hansard that I did refer to a draft fire protection policy, which were the ministerís own words only a few short months ago. Also in the area of fire suppression, we understand that the department will be assuming fire-fighting responsibilities from the federal government post-devolution, but there is a real problem now within the territory of the risk of wildfire to our communities. It is the general feeling that the federal government is simply not doing enough to combat that risk. In fact, the federal governmentís own report, the Ember report, identified how severe the fire threat was to virtually every community in the Yukon. The reason is pretty simple ó the communities in the Yukon are virtually all situated within boreal forest that are mature forests, and currently very dry forests. In some areas, like Haines Junction, beetle-killed trees add to the dryness of the forest and increase the combustibility of the forest, therefore increasing the hazard.
Back in September, I raised the concern about what this government was doing to bridge the jurisdictional gaps, in order to ensure that Yukon communities and people were protected adequately from this risk. Can she indicate to the House what it is the government is doing prior to devolution to address this problem?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The responsibility for fire suppression remains with DIAND until April 1 of next year. Over the course of time between now and then, staff from Community Services are working closely with the DIAND fire suppression staff to ensure that the program is well integrated into the new protective services branch of Community Services. The deputy minister has been meeting with the DIAND fire suppression staff around the territory in an attempt to become familiar with the operation, and we are confident that we will be well-prepared come next April 1 when the responsibility becomes ours.
Mr. McRobb: I sense a difference in what the minister just said and the question I asked. Sheís responding to the mechanics of renewal and the mechanics of devolution. My question pertained to the issue of the fire threat to Yukon communities and people; namely, lives, resources and property ó the three prime areas of concern ó and how our communities are particularly vulnerable under the current dry and windy conditions, and how there seems to be an inadequate effort on behalf of the federal government to address this problem. Itís a problem that the federal report indicates is severe, Mr. Chair.
My question was to the effect of what is this government doing to make some progress to protect Yukoners, prior to devolution? Can the minister expand on the previous answer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I heard the Member for Kluane the first time. He seemed to be suggesting that the Yukon government should be leaping in before fire suppression becomes our responsibility. We cannot do that, Mr. Chair. We are participating in the zonation policy process, which establishes priorities for fire suppression. Yukoners are involved in that process, and we will continue to be.
We have a lot to learn between now and next April 1, and I am confident we will be prepared, come next April 1.
If the member wasnít going in the direction I suspect he is, I apologize, but he seemed to be suggesting that we should be jumping in there this year, and we cannot do that.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I understand the budgetary limitations placed on the government prior to devolution. However, it would seem, given the promises of cooperation that weíve heard from these Liberals with other governments that are also Liberals, itís reasonable to assume that some of these jurisdictional gaps can be bridged in order to protect Yukoners and avoid a bit of a catch-22 situation. I believe Yukoners will find little comfort ó if their community is absolutely put at risk for fire this summer ó in what the minister said ó very little comfort, very little comfort.
It also raises a concern of how prepared this government is going to be after next April 1, if really all theyíre doing is minding the mechanics of renewal. What are we actually doing about getting on track to protect our communities, to ensure that we have a reasonable and effective standard of fire protection in the territory?
I didnít get anything from the minister in response to that concern, Mr. Chair. I would like to point out to her that I have before me a bulletin put out by Indian and Northern Affairs, dated yesterday, entitled "Wildfire Bulletin", which says, "forest fire danger rating increases," and it pinpoints the areas around Haines Junction and Beaver Creek.
Mr. Chair, I drove to Beaver Creek and back yesterday and can attest to the potential fire threat in that area due to the dryness of the forest. People out that way are very concerned about any lack of action on anybodyís behalf toward protecting their communities.
I might add that I was somewhat dismayed to learn that some of the fire smart applications are being put off because of what can be referred to as technicalities. I was even more dismayed when I heard the report that the Premier is blaming bureaucrats in the government for those delays.
Mr. Chair, this comes down to the funding priorities of the government ó the political level of government. We have seen budgets for programs like fire smart decreased in the past two years. We just recently found out that, of the $500,000 allocated this year, the administration costs must come out of that fund. That equates to a further reduction of some 10 percent.
Mr. Chair, given that these projects are usually in the neighbourhood of $40,000 to $50,000, that only allows for maybe a dozen fire smart projects to be undertaken each year. That isnít very much, when you consider there are communities like Mendenhall that have several phases to its plan. If you put that in the bigger context of all Yukon communities ó in my riding alone, there are about a dozen such communities ó and itís quite obvious that the funding commitment from this Liberal government is very inadequate. Itís also obvious now that the pre-devolution work from this government is inadequate, as far as making any progress to protect Yukoners.
Iím quite concerned that there might be a problem before this government gets its house in order and actually improves the fire protection facilities and resources to the level they should be at now.
Iíd like to ask the minister if, at least ó given the budget constraints, and I can understand the budget constraints, but what about delivering the message to the federal government on any type of policy or vision this territorial government may have in moving in that direction? After all, there is less than a year left before devolution. Shouldnít we be giving the message to the federal government about the direction we want to move in? Can the minister respond to that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The pre-devolution work is not inadequate. The work that is being done is very necessary, and under the new protected services branch, the fire suppression program, the fire marshalís office and the emergency measures organization all have very important roles to protect the lives of Yukoners, their property and their communities. All three of those groups, if you will, have the same major priority ó protecting Yukon communities, and the lives and property of Yukoners. Bringing the combined resources of these three programs under one umbrella will provide the opportunity to better integrate the delivery of our emergency response capabilities.
We believe that communities throughout the Yukon will realize the benefits that will result from this new approach to protective services when the Yukon government takes over responsibility for the fire suppression program next April. Each of these agencies is active in almost every Yukon community. They each have specialized mandates, but again, they all share the same over-arching priorities of protecting Yukoners and their communities. Many of the resources, including the human resources, will become available to us upon devolution in 2003. We do not have these resources at the present time, and it is these resources that we will be applying to the forest fire suppression activity, including the human resources ó the people. Our efforts now are being directed toward reviewing the processes that DIAND uses and planning the integration. We are not proposing that DIAND change their program this year. We would be happy to listen to any suggestions that help us direct the program in ways that the member feels would be more appropriate for Yukoners.
We have some learning to do before we can change any direction.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what scares me, Mr. Chair, is when the minister says they have some learning to do before there is any change in direction, because Iíve been watching these Liberals for two years now, and in many cases they still havenít learned. People will be expecting action immediately upon devolution. People are expecting action now, Mr. Chair.
But aside from this topic matter that obviously weíre not going to agree on, I would like to ask the minister if she can indicate what the position of the government was as represented to the federal government in its review of its firefighting policy. Can she give us an update on that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are still looking at the results of the consultation that took place. Iím a little concerned that the member seems to be suggesting that Yukoners are more at risk this year than they have been in previous years because of this devolution process, and I most emphatically do not believe that that is the case. The fire suppression process is a very skilled one, requiring very experienced and dedicated people and, come next year, those people will be part of our establishment, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I donít think the minister got it quite right, Mr. Chair ó itís the preparation for devolution. Sure, that might cause concern, but itís also because of bulletins put out by the federal government, such as the one I referred to, that indicate itís a severe hazard right now, coupled with my personal anecdotes and other factors as well, such as the recent warm, dry winds that have essentially removed a lot of the snow pack from our mountains ó and thatís water that wonít be showing up in our streams and lakes and in the ground. Through sublimation, itís simply transported with wind and carried right outside the territory.
But anyway, I would like to progress along to another area. I noticed the EMO newsletter from the winter of 2001 ó Iím holding it up here; the one with the ministerís picture on the front cover ó states that, and I quote, "Another campaign will commence to promote and recruit new membership to emergency service organizations, such as the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Hospice Yukon, local volunteer fire departments, and search and rescue groups, and similar organizations."
Can the minister indicate when we can expect this campaign to begin and how much money it will have, and who will be involved? Will local fire departments and other organizations be consulted about this program?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Recruiting for emergency organizations is an ongoing process. It happens around the clock, year-round, in all communities of the territory. As Iím sure the member knows, when somebody new moves into the community, all the volunteer organizations tackle that person to see if they want to get involved.
We began enhanced awareness activities back in December for a number of things. Emergency Preparedness Week was early this month ó May 6 to 10, I believe. The Red Cross has been very active in promoting emergency preparedness to the individual and family levels, as the government was working on last fall, and there will be personal disaster planning workshops over the next few months. There have been a number of recent emergency exercises in the public eye to help raise awareness.
The member is looking for a specific date and a specific budget, where everybody is supposed to turn on and get busy. There is a certain amount of that, but it is an ongoing process, as Iím sure the member knows. Emergency training goes on and lobbying for new resources continues.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not sure if all the questions were answered there. But perhaps the minister, when reviewing Hansard, can look through some of these questions, and if she wishes to provide more information, I would be more than happy to accept a written response. This is in the efforts of moving on and making progress on this budget.
I would like to ask about the national critical infrastructure protection program. This is a joint initiative of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Its aim is to identify elements of infrastructure that are critical to national interest. The Yukon will be asked to help develop an inventory. Can the minister indicate for us what stage this process is at now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The acting manager of EMO is our representative from the Yukon in that work, and heís working with other critical agencies to develop a list of our priorities at this point.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what departments and groups have been involved in assessing critical infrastructure within the territory?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have that information right in front of me, but Iíd certainly be happy to provide it, along with the review Iím going to do of Hansard of my last answer to see if there was anything I missed.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair, and I would appreciate sort of a clean-up document that responds to any outstanding questions.
A couple more on this matter will include whether the public will have a chance to provide input, and what kind of security provisions would be put in place as part of this exercise?
Moving on to the area of block funding for municipalities, can the minister indicate if any changes are anticipated, or can she give an update on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are proposing that the total grant to municipalities remain at, as I indicated in my opening remarks, $11,816,869 for the 2002-03 budget. Documentation on grant amounts and formula calculations were given to the municipalities in March, and the grant cheques were deposited in municipal bank accounts on April 2, I believe, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Rural services is a matter that I have asked the minister about before. Can she give us an update on what is happening?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have said to the member before, we recognize that there is a lot to deal with here and we know there is an issue with the coordination of municipal-type services in unincorporated communities. We know there is some inconsistency in property tax rates throughout these areas. Clearly there is a need to better coordinate the delivery of services and to rationalize property taxation in the rural areas. It is unfortunately not something that can be done overnight, and the department is now analyzing some options to deal with these issues. I look forward to addressing the matter when they discuss the options with me.
Mr. McRobb: That is what the minister said back on November 1 of last year, and I am wondering if the department has provided her with those options yet. Can she give us a status report on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Not yet.
Mr. McRobb: I want to change topics to that of sewer upgrades. That is something else I asked the minister about back on November 1. She said at that time that she expected to table a report in the Legislature in November as far as the upgrades necessary for the infrastructure of municipalities and so on. I donít recall that report, and if it has been tabled, I apologize. Can the minister give us an update on that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had hoped to be able to table it last November, but that became impossible. Iím hoping that I will see it next week.
Mr. McRobb: All right, there seems to be about a half-year delay in the tabling of this one report. When might we in opposition see the report?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the Member for Kluane will see it almost as soon as I will. I expect to table it next week.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I want to ask a few questions about the accountability plan. I noticed on page 6A-5, item 2.1, one of the objectives is stated as follows: "To support meaningful participation by Yukon people in local decision making."
Now, I want to clarify this is an approach that we in the official opposition certainly do support. Can the minister outline for us how she plans to proceed with that objective?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, thatís something thatís ongoing. Every time I go out to the communities, I meet with Yukoners in general and with local government representatives and First Nation representatives in particular. I bring back their questions and concerns for discussion with my caucus colleagues. That all goes into the pool of knowledge to help us when weíre discussing communities, when others are visiting communities and when weíre preparing budgets.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, there is more information right here in the green pages of the accountability plan than what the minister provided. I was looking for more explanation than whatís in the green pages but, instead, I got a promotion of this Liberal governmentís consultation process.
Now, we are on record at several locations objecting to the adequacy of that consultation. One of the deficiencies that I come across very frequently, from talking to constituents who have seen the Liberal ministers and so on, is how unfair the process for consultation is. A case in point would be the Premierís quick trip up the north Alaska Highway a couple days ago, where there was no advertising and no public notice. So whatís happening during these quick trips by the ministers is theyíre coming into contact with people in the communities, all right, but itís only some people in the communities. Itís not a fair process because thereís no fair notice for other people who have concerns, who are waiting for the opportunity to express them to the minister or, as the case may be, to the Premier.
Now, Mr. Chair, if an independent board or some other body operated in such a way, they would be taken to court for breaches of natural justice. But in the Yukon, at the political level, there is no such mechanism in the process. I guess the only mechanism, really, is an election, and we know that could be coming soon.
One of the things I want my constituents to know in the next election is how a lot of them are being left out because the Liberal government seems to only consult whomever they want to talk to, and they fear meeting the general population and people in the communities who might disagree with what theyíre doing. Thatís why the Liberal way is to make a quick trip to the communities and then ambush the communities with a secret meeting, and maybe only hear from some people. Thatís not good nor adequate representation during the consultative process.
But that aside, back to the subject matter in my question ó in the key strategies that accompany objective 2.1, it mentions, "Promote the meaningful participation of a range of interested parties on local governance committees". I would like the minister to explain: what are these local governance committees and what are they supposed to do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Had the member read further ó local governance committees, planning and zoning committees, community library boards. Local governance committees include village councils, which are elected by members of the community, and community library boards are chosen by the community. These people do the work that they have always been doing.
I would note that members of the Member for Kluaneís riding are certainly not shy about contacting me if I donít happen to knock on their door when Iím in their community; they know my phone number and they feel free to call me with their questions and concerns, as I call them when I have information that I want to pass on to them or information that Iím looking for from them. I have never had any problem communicating with the people in the communities.
We work actively with all local bodies, including the municipalities and the local advisory councils, and we will continue to do so.
When I was in Teslin yesterday, for example, I met with the mayor and council and with the chief and councillors from the Teslin Tlingit Council, and I do my best to do that whenever I am in a community.
Mr. McRobb: I believe that answer is quite inadequate. At the beginning the minister seemed to suggest that the answer to my question was located within the text that followed. However, it is not. The key strategy says in full, "Promote the meaningful participation of a range of interested parties and local governance committees, planning and zoning committees, and community library boards."
My question was, what are these local governance committees and what are they supposed to do? The minister indicated that they are the planning and zoning committees or the library boards. That is not what the text here indicates. The text indicates that local governance committees are some kind of an existing entity, along with planning and zoning committees and community library boards. I would like the minister to take one more try at explaining what exactly these local governance committees are?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: They are local advisory councils, mayor and council in larger communities, recreation authorities in areas where there is no formal local governance. There isnít a range of brand new committees. There are existing committees in most areas of the Yukon; we work with them and we will continue to do so.
Mr. McRobb: That type of a response was rather obviously missing from the key strategy. There is no definition of local governance committees in this entire section of the budget. And, excuse me for asking, Mr. Chair, but what about communities where there are no local governance committees? There are several of them in the Yukon. I am not talking about ones necessarily that donít have mayors or councils. What about unincorporated communities, some where even a residents association doesn't exist? Are they left out because they donít have a local governance committee, or what? How does this minister intend to deal with them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, in some communities there would be a community club. In Ross River, there is the Ross River Round Table, for example. In most communities, there is one group that is working for the betterment of the community in one form or another. Those are the groups of people we work with.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, I guess that answer is self-explanatory. In communities where there is no association, they fall between the cracks. Iím sure some of them will be quite interested when they find out how theyíre treated by this government.
I want to move a couple down the line, to objective 2.3, which says, "Assist with the development of public works infrastructure appropriate to each community." Can the minister indicate when the consultations will begin with communities about their priorities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have already indicated, when I travel to communities, I am consulting with local residents and, in as many cases as possible, the groups that represent them ó the local advisory councils, the mayor and council, or the community clubs, et cetera. The Premier has indicated that she is travelling the territory this summer as well, to talk with people about finances. This is an ongoing process. When people from my department go to communities, they engage in discussion with people. The communities are not shy about discussing their priorities with us.
Of course, we also participate with the Association of Yukon Communities. This work is a continuation of the work that was done under the former Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. McRobb: Iím already on record indicating my lack of support for how this government consults, because their consultation process is not fair, and we all know that one of the basic tenets to a fair process is proper notice. Mr. Chair, proper notice isnít five minutesí notice; itís usually about two weeksí notice. That simply is not happening.
Does the minister expect everybody to come running to her the minute she arrives in one of the communities and ask her what they should be finding out from her ó what processes she wants to hear from them on and so on, Mr. Chair? I would say that thatís ridiculous. Thereís a proper structure to such types of consultation, and that has been followed by every previous Yukon government that Iím aware of. Iím also aware that the Executive Council Office has guidelines for consultation, and Iíd be very interested if the minister can indicate for me where in those guidelines this type of consultation exists.
Now, Mr. Chair, having said that, Iím not oblivious to the opportunity for people at the political level to go and schmooze with Yukoners in the communities. However, to actually mix that with their involvement in very serious consultations is another matter altogether. People do deserve some respect, and they deserve proper notice and due process. That simply is not happening in areas like this when the minister expects people to come running to her if they want their voices heard. Thatís simply not the way a responsible government would do it.
Having said that, I want to move to part 2.5, where it speaks of strengthening the voluntary sector. We in the official opposition certainly support this again, Mr. Chair, but I would like to know if the minister can outline any new initiatives that we might expect in the near future to help support the voluntary sector.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, one recent initiative is the establishment of the Volunteer Bureau, which works with newcomers to identify to them what volunteer opportunities are available, and also to connect groups in need of volunteers with available human resources.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I might come back to that one later.
Part 4.1 is also of interest to me. Can the minister explain how well complemented with volunteers the various community fire halls are? She mentioned this before about how, when a new person arrives in one of the Yukonís smaller communities, usually they are ambushed by others wanting to enlist them in various causes, such as the local volunteer fire groups, and so on.
We know there is increased pressure on fewer individuals, because there is a drain of people from our communities, as there is from the Yukon as a whole, as people are forced to go outside looking for employment to feed themselves and their families and so on. Recent population statistics bear this out. A lot of our communities are dwindling in population so, therefore, there is increased pressure, usually among the same people who are volunteering for all of the other things. Really, the burden upon the usually half a dozen or so in the community is becoming quite severe.
Iíd like to ask the minister if she has any feeling for how well complemented the volunteers are, especially with regard to community fire halls.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am aware that some volunteer fire halls have quite a number of volunteers. I am aware that in a couple of instances, there are not as many as the fire chief would hope for. Training is an important component, and training is offered to any potential new members.
When I visit communities, I try to visit the fire halls and talk with the chief and some of the volunteers, whenever possible. I know they do great work in protecting Yukoners. As the member knows, in small communities there is a great deal of demand on, in many cases, very few people.
For the record, I would point out that the population of the Yukon is increasing. I know that work opportunities in the territory will increase with the announcement that the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport will be in the Yukon next week to announce the Canada Games funding. So, things are looking up in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: Well, maybe theyíre looking up in some respects, but in a lot of others theyíre looking down, and thatís why people are leaving.
I understood from the ministerís opening comments that the proposed one-stop shop is within this department. Will the minister just nod to that effect? Yes.
Can the minister give us an update on this? Has the expression-for-interest deadline passed and, if so, what responses did the government get?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: While Service Yukon is within our department, the service centre and the process surrounding the tendering and awarding the bids is the responsibility of the Department of Infrastructure. The government did tender for an appropriate location for the new service centre in the downtown area of Whitehorse. The tender closed May 9 and price envelopes were opened May 14. The government will be considering the award shortly and the service centre, I expect, will be operational by summer 2003.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister mind giving us a bit more information ó for example, how many responses were received? If it were only a few, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to know where those locations are, if the minister can provide that information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe there were seven bids and they were all within the downtown area specified in the tender package. Iím sure I could, if you wish, get more information for you from the Minister of Infrastructure.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister undertake to have that for us, say, by 1:00 on Monday? Would that be suitable?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I can try. Iím sure the Minister of Infrastructure would be happy to try to accommodate that deadline.
Mr. McRobb: That concludes my questions for now.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to explore with the minister a number of issues. One is utility charges. There are a number of areas where Government of Yukon is the service provider ó i.e. piped water, trucked water, piped sewage or sewage eduction. A number of years ago there was a survey completed by the department with respect to the cost and the level of subsidy that is currently in place in the areas where the Government of Yukon is a service provider. Have there been any changes in the fees that have been assessed under this ministerís watch?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Off the top of my head, I am not aware of any fee increases to date. This is part of the whole rural services and rural taxation issue, which we are trying to resolve. As I have said, the department is in the process of analyzing some options, and I look forward to seeing those options soon.
Mr. Jenkins: This is about the fourth year that this analysis has been underway, and I have yet to hear of it even coming to a conclusion. I am told by previous ministers and previous governments that the analysis is underway and we are still looking at our various options. What we have here ó and I have the legislative return that was supplied by the previous minister under the previous Government of Yukon, spelling out the significant subsidies that are paid for water and sewer by the Government of Yukon. The same does not hold true for areas where Government of Yukon is not the service provider.
Rates have been increasing steadily for water and sewer provision in all the communities, and the Government of Yukon doesnít appear to be keeping pace. Is there not, in effect, any formula as to how much youíre going to recover, and if not, why not? Further to that, why doesnít the government have in place a policy that all areas be treated in the same manner with respect to the level of subsidy?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thatís what weíre working toward in the whole area of rural services and rural taxation. We recognize that there are inconsistencies in various areas throughout the Yukon, and this is what weíre working toward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the point Iíd like to make is the fact that the minister is referring to rural services and rural taxation. What Iím looking at is the total Yukon, everyone who uses water and sewer, and it impacts on everyone. And the level of subsidy is inconsistent. Itís inconsistent across the board, and the minister recognizes that. But when you get into organized communities like the City of Whitehorse, like Watson Lake, Dawson, Haines Junction, Carmacks, they have faced significant increases in the last 10 years. Some of the rates provided by the Government of Yukon for services in rural Yukon havenít changed for something like 14 and 15 years. I found one that predates that. No one could tell me how long the rates have been in effect, but they are significant.
In fairness to Yukoners, when are we going to see this government with a consistent policy of water and sewer rates across the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I canít give the Member for Klondike a date, as heís clearly looking for, but Iím looking forward to addressing the matter when my department brings me some options. I would point out that municipalities set their own rates, as the member well knows.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iíd like to point out to the minister that municipalities do set their own water and sewer rates, but they are heavily contingent on the financial and capital contribution made by the Government of Yukon as to how it impacts on the rates. Itís not a consistent application of funds in this area, either. We just have to look at the situation in Carmacks, which is in desperate need of a secondary sewage upgrade, and options are being explored.
If we look at my community, which is sole-source contracted with a system operator in Edmonton, no one is willing to look at any other options. Ultimately, the ratepayers are going to be charged exorbitant amounts of money for the services provided, unless this minister addresses her responsibilities. Now, why will this minister not address her responsibilities in this area and provide a consistent application of rules across the Yukon for municipal governments to follow and a consistent level of funding to municipal governments? Why do we have to reinvent the wheel at every turn, Mr. Chair? That appears to be whatís going on.
The minister knows exactly where Iím heading. Some of these situations, I grant the minister, have been going on for 10 to 15 years ó that the rates have remained constant in rural Yukon. Others, in organized communities, have witnessed a steady increase in what theyíre being charged for water and sewer.
That is not fair. Now, when can we see a consistent application of rules and policies by this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is aware, the municipalities set their own rates. I have said several times that the whole rural services, rural taxation situation needs rationalization, and I look forward to seeing the options my department is currently analyzing in this regard.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what that tells me is that the minister has provided no political direction to the department. All sheís waiting for is the department to tell her what she should be doing. Iím very much appalled by that suggestion.
Letís explore another area with the minister where thereís an inconsistent application of policy. Letís look at the Municipal Act. There are various categories of organized community. We have villages, towns, cities. Now, what drives the change from a village to a town, and from a town to a city, is population.
Iíd like to ask the minister how long a village has to have an increase in population, corresponding to the level of a town, before it will become a town.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I do not believe there is a time limit indicated in the Municipal Act. Legislation needs to be changed in order to change the base grant to a community.
Mr. Jenkins: That is not the question I was asking the minister. How long would a village, which had grown to a population of a town, remain a village before it was granted status as a town under the Municipal Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I had answered the member previously, legislation is required to change the base grant if there is a population increase. The member is looking for an answer like "three days" or "two ", or "a year", and I canít give him an answer like that. That is not the way it works.
Mr. Jenkins: Conversely, how long would there have to be a reduction in the population of a town before this minister would address her responsibility and bring all the legislation into conformity? How long does that condition have to exist? Two years, three years, or five years? How long does a town not have to have the population to support a status as a town before it is recognized as a village? I have asked the question the other way and the minister failed to answer it. Let us ask the question the other way. How long does a community, which is incorporated as a town, that hasnít had a population to support its status as a town under the Municipal Act for five, six, or seven years before this minister is going to address her responsibility, do her job and classify that community accordingly?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Whether itís a population increase or decrease doesnít change the fact that legislation is required to change the base grant. I mean, the member is clearly talking about the community of Faro. We take advice from the Association of Yukon Communities on how to proceed in such cases.
Mr. Jenkins: Weíre blaming it on the Association of Yukon Communities, even though the Municipal Act, which the minister is responsible for, is very, very specific that these are the drivers that determine the status of an organized community, and itís population-driven to a large degree.
We canít find out from this minister how long the population of a village has to be increased before it will become a town. The minister has failed to answer that question ó whether it be one year, two years or three years. She has also failed to answer the question: how long does a town remain as a town when its population has decreased significantly below the level of a town? In fact, it qualifies as a village.
Can I ask the minister when sheís going to address her responsibilities with respect to the Municipal Act and the formation of these organized communities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: So to be clear, the Member for Klondike wants to take away money from the community of Faro because of their loss of population. The current formula is allocating Faro the appropriate amount of money per the formula. The Member for Klondike is very well aware of the formula from his years as Mayor of Dawson City, and there are a number of factors that go into that formula. Dwelling units is one of those. The formula does not take into account whether they are occupied or vacant.
The current amount of money allocated to Faro is the appropriate amount under the formula as it exists.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím just appalled that the minister ó Iím referring to the Municipal Act; Iím not referring to the municipal grants act. Thatís what the minister is attempting to bootleg into this debate. The whole issue centers around the Municipal Act itself, which the minister is responsible for. Now, when is the minister going to address her responsibilities under the Municipal Act? I want to know how long a village remains a village, even though its population has increased to a town size. Conversely, I want to know how long a town remains a town, even though its population has decreased to a village size. Iím not talking about the grants act at all. Thatís another piece of legislation that enshrines how much each community gets in municipal block funding. Letís not go there; Iím not going there. Letís deal with the Municipal Act. Those are the questions I have for the minister. And why she canít answer them ó letís not hide behind the legislation, because the legislation is there. The minister is just not doing her job, and why not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím wishing I had a copy of the Municipal Act in front of me, but the act is being followed. The member is wishing to take money away from the community of Faro, and thatís the bottom line.
Mr. Jenkins: I would submit that the act is not being followed and that the minister is being remiss in addressing her responsibilities, because the population of Faro does not support its status as a town. I want to know from the minister how long that condition has to exist before the minister will do her job.
Now, if the minister doesnít have a copy of the Municipal Act, I can send the page out to get one. Iím sure thereís one on the table here. Itís readily available and is quite specific. Now, why canít the minister answer the question?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iíd be happy to review the act before the Legislature sits Monday, if the member feels there is some portion of it that isnít being followed with respect to Faro.
Mr. Jenkins: The part of the act that is not being adhered to is the fact that the population doesnít warrant the community of Faroís status as a town. It is specifically tied to population, as to what population size constitutes a town. I have asked the minister for specifics and for the guidelines as to when a village changes to a town and when a town that loses its population changes to a village.
You know, if we went into the municipal grants act ó save that for another day. If we look at Keno City, it is still called Keno City ó thatís a city. We know how much a city gets in municipal block funding, and Iím sure the residents there would welcome it.
For the record, the minister can change the status of an organized community with the flick of a pen. That she has failed to do so sends a clear message that this minister is remiss in her responsibilities, Mr. Chair.
I look forward to a legislative return as to when the minister is going to change the status of a village to a town, and/or from a town to a village, because it is driven by population. I look forward to that legislative return in due course.
The minister went on to the grants portion of that act. When is that going to be changing? Will we see some new legislation under the new government this fall, or will it be dealt with expeditiously under this current government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We anticipate that the Association of Yukon Communities may want to review the formula in the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act. We wonít know the extent or suggested approach of such a review until AYC has conducted further consultation with members, in the wake of the recent annual general meeting. I would be happy to provide the member with the information he is seeking, in the form of a legislative return.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís the status quo and the minister is not going to do her job is what she is saying. Letís look at another area, the recent reassessment that took place. The Government of Yukon is responsible for assessment. There is supposed to be a uniform assessment across the Yukon. With the new reassessment of many communities, what we have witnessed is a tremendous increase in residential values. In fact residential values are up to or exceeding market values, which is unprecedented. Under the original formula used, it used to be Whitehorse replacement cost less observed appreciation. Under the new formula, it is a number of factors and land sales are for the land values. There are usually not enough land sales to come in to play, but the side of the equation that I do not understand is the commercial side and the institutional side. We have seen a dramatic decrease in institutional values and in commercial values across the Yukon in the areas that have had reassessment. Most of the organized communities, where they are the taxing authority, have been slow to react which has meant, by and large, tax increases for residential property holders and a significant saving for the Government of Yukon in what they are paying out in grants-in-lieu. Under the old federal government, the grant-in-lieu used to be based on what the federal government determined. When the buildings and assets transferred to the Government of Yukon, the Government of Yukon accepted the municipal evaluation established by the Government of Yukon and accepted the mill rate established by the respective taxing authority and paid accordingly.
Now weíre seeing them abandon a whole bunch of tax room that they previously occupied, and there has been a shift in taxing to residential property owners ó a significant shift, I might add, Mr. Chair.
Now, I want to know what the purpose of this was. Was there a policy shift or change? Why was it undertaken and who is benefiting? Because the only one who I see benefiting is the Government of the Yukon and, in some parts, the federal government.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To be clear, the Member for Klondike, then, is suggesting that thereís a difference in the taxation of residential properties and business properties? Is that what heís suggesting? Yeah, heís throwing up his hands. I thought I knew where he was going with this, but he has obviously failed to be clear.
Mr. Jenkins: On the contrary, Mr. Chair, the failure is on the part of the minister in failing to understand what sheís responsible for. There are two components. There is the assessment. Now, the assessment is done uniformly across the Yukon by the Government of Yukonís assessment branch. Recent reassessments have shown a significant increase in residential and a decrease in commercial institutional assessments. Now, am I clear so far?
Iíll walk the minister through as easily as I can. Now, the next component in the exercise is the taxing authority ó whether it be the Government of the Yukon or a municipal government.
What has happened at the municipal level is that municipal governments have not been as quick to react as they perhaps should have been, and altered the mill rate for residential significantly and altered the mill rate for commercial/institutional significantly. So, basically, they raised the same amount of taxes under the new assessment as they did under the old assessment. Does the minister follow what Iím saying now, or have I lost her already?
Itís a very simple exercise.
Now, there are two different mill rates ó sometimes three, sometimes four. Thereís a residential mill rate, a commercial mill rate, there can be an institutional mill rate, and sometimes there is another mill rate for undeveloped or less developed commercial-type undertakings. So, there are various mill rates.
What you want to see under the new assessments are mill rates that are changed so that the residential property owners donít shoulder an unfair burden of the tax load. But thatís what is currently taking place across the Yukon.
In my community, I can cite my own case, where my residential taxes have gone up $880-something for this next fiscal period. Yes, there has been a decrease on the commercial side of it, but in balance, all it appears to favour is the large commercial property holders, which are by and large the Government of Yukon. If the minister would look at what schools were paying previously in grant-in-lieu and what theyíre currently going to be paying, there has been a shift in the tax load to residential property owners from institutional and commercial. Now, I want to know why the government has taken the assessment in this direction and why there has been a significant change, because the same holds true where Yukon is the taxing authority, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the problem the member says he is experiencing is a result of the assessment being done on the current year and near current year data instead of being several years behind. That the mill rates are set by the municipalities is my understanding, not by the Yukon government.
The impact of a reassessment is determined by each taxation jurisdiction, municipal or territorial, through the setting of the annual property tax rates. Back in 1998, the Yukon government introduced a computer-assisted appraisal system to reduce the time period between reassessments. The reassessment schedules for this year and next will complete the conversion of all remaining building data to the new system.
There has been concern by property owners about their property taxes increasing. Now, this is where, I think, the member is going with that. There has been no loading of the tax rate to benefit the Yukon government, Mr. Chair. I would expect municipalities to adjust their mill rates in the various categories to generate similar revenues from each category, so there is no major impact on any particular property type.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, letís apply the same logic to the Government of Yukon, where they are the taxing authority. There are many areas in Yukon where the Government of Yukon is the taxing authority. Why wouldnít the Government of Yukon apply the same logic that the minister just expanded on?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe the reassessment I spoke about, when I said I believed that 2002-03 would be the end of it, I believe that next year it will affect the unincorporated communities.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30 p.m., weíll take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the Department of Community Services, as part of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Iím sure the minister responsible for this department would like to hear there isnít any but, on the contrary, thereís a considerable amount.
Currently, weíre underway in my community with an application for a new water licence. The request for the water licence is being backed up with a lot of research and a lot of engineering work. That engineering work, Mr. Chair, was sole sourced to a firm by the name of EPCOR, which is primarily a system operator. Theyíre in Edmonton, and any engineering work they need, they third-party that to other engineering firms.
Theyíre the choice of the city to undertake all this review for water licences. They have embarked upon a project that will be included in the application for the water licence and the sewage treatment, which is of a type and system that does exist in the north. The closest one is in Skagway, but thereís new technology available, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to know from the minister why that new technology is not being explored, why that new technology is not being looked at for communities such as Carmacks and my community.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am aware that there is new technology. In fact, I believe Carmacks has someone looking into it as one of the possibilities for their new system.
As the Member for Klondike pointed out, this is a City of Dawson project. My department would be happy to provide advice to Dawson or any other community, should we find that there is a more efficient system than the one the community is currently planning.
The company that the member referred to is currently involved with the first phase of the sewage treatment project, and it is my understanding that that is all the company is doing.
Mr. Jenkins: Two things that the minister pointed out are correct. Firstly, itís a City of Dawson initiative, but it must be clearly pointed out that probably all of the funding, if not more, is going to be flowing from the Government of Yukon. Secondly, this initiative with the system-operating firm, EPCOR, is going to be the basis for a water licence application.
What the minister is trying to suggest at this juncture is that they are only involved in the preliminary stages. Well, the preliminary stages and their pre-engineering, which this is, are going to be part of the water licence application. The second stage is implementing the water licence decision, which will require the implementation of the pre-engineered system, which is what the City of Dawson is going to hang their hat on. Once you are down the path that far, that path becomes a heavy ditch with big walls on both sides that you canít get away from or out of.
So for the minister to suggest that itís just at the preliminary stages is, in part, correct, but once youíre down that road, itís going to be next to impossible to move off that road. What Iím asking the minister to do ó because this minister is the funding department for this initiative. And weíre not just talking a million or $2 million; weíre talking a multi-million dollar project with significant O&M costs after the capital dollars have been spent, Mr. Chair, which the residents of my community cannot even begin to afford. What it will have the effect of doing is taking our current water and sewer charges to what they estimate to be about $2,000 per year per household, which is just ludicrous ó ludicrous.
New technology does exist; in fact, itís on virtually all of the cruise ships coming up the Inside Passage. The newest ones have on board 2,000-plus guests plus a crew of about an equal number. So, weíre talking about a community on board a cruise ship of 3,000 to almost 4,000 individuals.
And they have the same demands on them for water, sewage, laundry, food preparation and cleaning as a standard organized community of 2,000 would have, Mr. Chair.
If the minister wants to see what the City of Dawson has asked EPCOR to design for them, she only has to go to Skagway, where thereís an SBU system installed. Thatís the closest one. And she can ask the officials there how efficiently it functions when the ambient temperature drops. The only thing thatís saving that community is that when the ambient temperature drops, their population has dwindled to 15 or 20 percent of what it is in the summer. I can report to the minister that Skagway is currently booming with the arrivals and departures of cruise ships. Theyíre enjoying a good visitor season. So the demands on their water and sewer system must be quite extensive. Now, I want some assurances from the minister that she is going to step in at this juncture and have a look at this system, more than just an examination in-house.
Now, the minister has appointed a supervisor overseeing the City of Dawson, and I have not seen an order-in-council revoking that appointment. Could I ask the minister if there is one?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The supervisor is still in place for the City of Dawson. With regard to Dawson City sewage treatment, it is my understanding that, if a better system is available and is cost-effective, et cetera, and Dawson decided to go that way, an amendment to the water licence could be sought.
My department is looking into the system the Member for Klondike is referring to. As a major financial contributor and for the long-term benefit of residents, the Yukon government is obviously interested in ensuring that standards are met and operating costs are minimized.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I was hoping the minister was going to begin somewhere. Thatís a very nice statement, but when is it going to start? I havenít seen any evidence of it to date, other than this government and this minister pouring copious quantities of money into the community, probably a lot of it unnecessary. This firm, Hydroxyl, is prepared, at minimum expense ó I believe theyíre looking at about $50,000 ó to move one of these plants to Dawson, hook it up, and they can run it on a test basis.
Mr. Chair, you canít get a better offer than that. Hereís a firm that says, "We have a sewage treatment plant that works. It works in cold water conditions, and it meets all applicable Canadian standards and, for that matter, U.S. standards." Now, given that the minister has a supervisor and that the minister is going to be funnelling copious quantities of money into the community, why wonít the minister take this firm up on its offer?
All weíre talking about is 50,000 bucks. That probably doesnít even equal what the Mayor of Dawson spends travelling in a year. Letís start looking at this in rational terms. There seems to be no one at watch over this tremendous expenditure.
Let me spell out for the minister what weíre hoping to achieve here. Weíre hoping to provide the highest level of sewage treatment at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer ó thatís the exercise. Now there are two components to cost. There is the capital and the ongoing O&M. How does the minister even begin to expect, given that the cost of sewage and water for an average home on an annual basis in my community is going to be over 2,000 bucks a year ó how does she even begin to be able to expect to address that? Or does she expect to be out of office before that happens and itís not going to be her problem?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the record, the sewage treatment project in Dawson City is one that the City of Dawson has entered into; it is not a Yukon government project ó just let me be absolutely clear about that.
Itís interesting that the Member for Klondike mentions an offer from the company, Hydroxyl Systems; we havenít heard that offer and itís an offer that that company should be making to the city.
For the memberís information, my department is reviewing the methodologies identified through independent professional engineers and that work is now underway. Carmacks, I understand, is looking into that system as a potential one for their community as well.
Mr. Jenkins: There is a major issue here, and the decisions that are made at this juncture are going to impact significantly down the road on the community of Dawson.
What I am stating categorically for the record here is that we cannot afford to continue with the exercise that is currently underway or the direction that is being taken. I am not sure if the minister is totally aware of what the operating temperatures of the SBU systems are. In all probability they are going to have to heat the sewage so that the reaction can take place, and we canít even afford to heat the water in a yearís time given that we are going to be on hydro and there wonít be any surplus heat coming from the gensets in the community. All of these factors are not being looked at. Somebody should stand back and take a good look at it. Given that the Government of Yukon has a supervisor in place and the terms and conditions surrounding that supervisor are well spelled out in the Municipal Act, I would encourage the minister to read, but the minister says, "Oh no, it is just there to assist." If it is just theyíre to assist and provide advice, why do they need a supervisor? There has got to be some underlying, compelling reason that there is a supervisor in place, and it is because of the financial exposure the Government of Yukon has for indebtedness that is currently being incurred by the City of Dawson, and they are significant.
Did I hear an acceptance of the offer from the minister if Hydroxyl makes it directly to the Government of Yukon, if they are prepared to put a plant in place, hook it up and test run it for a certain period of time? Other than the operating cost for electricity and chemicals, the total cost for mob/demob, overseeing it for a test period ó I believe it is in the neighbourhood of $50,000. Would the minister accept that kind of an offer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Iím not in a position to accept that offer. They need to make the offer to the city. It sounds like a very attractive offer, but it is for the city, whose project this is, to accept it.
The Yukon government is also interested in achieving the required standards for the plant with the lowest possible cost to the consumer, and we are following up on all leads. I thank the member for providing input, and we will provide the results of our review to those who are interested.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, by then it will probably be too late because the community will be down the road too far to change canoes. Once youíve signed a carte blanche credit card form to buy a Rolls Royce, itís pretty hard to switch to a Cadillac, although they provide you the same means of transportation. Thatís exactly what would have to happen. For the record, Mr. Chair, the city will not even speak with this firm or representatives of this firm. So there has to be something that this minister can do, given that she is the purse.
Mr. Chair, letís explore the issue surrounding the recreation centre in my community. I have just recently learned that the arbitration between the City of Dawson and the contractor responsible from the ground up has been postponed once again. There were two mediations that were supposed to go forward last year. Both of those were cancelled at the request of the city. Arbitration was set for early June. It has now been cancelled to July 28 or 29; I canít recall the exact date. What this means is, for this winter once again, Dawson will be without an arena. Thatís despite the fact that there has probably been multi-millions of dollars spent. And the minister is going to say she canít comment on a lot of the decisions because they are before an arbitration hearing, but a lot of the decisions with the rec centre as to how it has progressed flow right back to the current Department of Infrastructure and an official there and the ministerís own department and an official in her department.
Now, I would encourage the minister to sit down with the Minister of Infrastructure and nip this in the bud, before it goes too far. After this hits arbitration, and even if the ruling comes down the middle, itís going to cost the government millions of dollars. The sad part of it is that we will still not have an arena in my community this winter, because all indicators currently point to the fact that the design is seriously flawed. The foundation, as designed, will not work.
Now, Iím not an engineer. I have seen these passive refrigeration systems. I went over and looked at the system when it was being installed. From my limited knowledge and understanding, I couldnít understand how it would work ó because it wouldnít. It would vapour-lock, given the design.
Furthermore, the number of degree days in the community will not allow it to work. The suggestion that it go to mechanical refrigeration ó weíd have to increase the hydro site in Mayo to such a degree to supply the electricity to run the refrigeration plant to freeze the ground underneath the arena that it would be cost prohibitive.
Further to that, everyone is forgetting that there is almost a stream of water flowing currently under that area and has been, historically, for hundreds of years probably, although we can only go back just over a hundred years in history. It used to be one of the best duck ponds. They used to bang a pile into the ground there, and they would have an artesian well flowing out.
Talk to Parks Canada right across the street ó they spent a fortune on foundations. Before the government allows major work to be undertaken, do they not have any checks and balances or do they just keep sending money?
Now, given that the Government of the Yukon and the officials in this ministerís department played a very decisive role in how this project was going to advance ó and one individual in the Department of Infrastructure specifically has played a very specific role in almost direct management of this project ó what is this government trying to do, teach Dawson a lesson or something? Because itís a very expensive lesson for both this government and residents in my community; we canít afford this nonsense.
Now the minister has two choices: she can sit back and do nothing or she can take the reins, like she has the ability to do under this supervisorís role, and get this project back on course and do something with it. Iím sure there are officials within her department who could tell her how to do it so that everyone comes out a winner and we have an arena.
Now, Iíd encourage the minister to move forward on this initiative because this is going to be a time bomb waiting to explode.
We have multi-millions of dollars of money flowing for an arena thatís sadly needed and much warranted, for secondary sewage thatís much needed and required, yet this minister is taking a "sit back, donít worry, be happy, itís not my responsibility" role. Well, Iíd encourage the minister to go and read the Municipal Act ó there has to be a reason why a supervisor was appointed and why that position of supervisor over the City of Dawson has not been rescinded.
Perhaps the minister could start there and share that information with us.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Klondike will recall, the supervisor was put in place in order to work with the city on the development of its financial plan, and I believe they are fine-tuning that plan at this point.
As for the recreation centre, the member is correct that I cannot comment on this because it is before an arbitrator, but it was the City of Dawson that entered into this project by devoting city land, by contracting the design, by issuing the tender and by awarding the contract. We respect that the city is the owner, and we have moved only to assist the city in establishing suitable capacity to manage the project.
My department is not involved in the proceedings. It is a matter between the City of Dawson and the contractor. A project management team is required under the capital funding agreement, and the team includes one representative from the Yukon government. The role of that team, as I have said before in this House, is to provide advice and assistance and to make recommendations to council. The team has no authority for approval. All decisions with financial implications respecting the project are made exclusively by council.
The city hired an independent project manager to oversee the project and work the project management team, and that person reports directly to council. In terms of the rinkís availability for this year, I understand that the cityís project management team is considering options. We havenít heard from the city about these options yet.
The issues about design and construction and matters related to arbitration arenít matters that Iím in a position to discuss. Thatís a matter of specific relevance to the City of Dawson.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the minister is confirming is that she is going to do nothing, and thatís despite the fact that all strings for this project management come right back to the Government of Yukon, and she has not refuted or denied that. Thereís a project management team in place, and it would appear that that one member has sole discretionary and veto power over everything that takes place ó that one member in the ranks of the Government of Yukon.
Itís interesting to note, Mr. Chair, that on many occasions, there has been more than one official from the Government of Yukon in attendance at the community, overseeing this initiative. For the record, what we have is a multi-million dollar project thatís off the rails, and thatís going to cost everyone a tremendous amount of heartache and energy and, at the end of the day, this year, weíre not going to have an arena.
Yes, the city is out exploring options. One of the options itís exploring is a plastic ice surface. It might or might not be great; I donít know, but I do know that, if you put in any surface, it has to be level. Currently, the whole grade inside the building is moving.
You canít put a building on top of a lake, Mr. Chair, and permafrost conditions have been worked with and are well known in the area, and have been for quite a number of years. There are engineering reports that exist, going back to when YTG was looking at installing a water and sewer system in the community, with all the thermostatic readings all down the street that this arena is located on. All that information was compiled for the Government of Yukon and on behalf of the Government of Yukon by very reputable engineering firms.
So for the government to say that they didnít understand what was going on and pump in that kind of money and have a member on the project management team, I would submit, Mr. Chair, that this minister is remiss in addressing her responsibilities ó very, very remiss.
Mr. Chair, I donít know why the minister is not proceeding and involving ó I guess they have to maintain the profile of this individual who is spearheading the drive as he has purported and made the announcement that he is the next Liberal candidate coming out of Dawson and they donít want to derail any of his followings.
Well, Mr. Chair, weíve got some major, major issues, and I will see what I can do to get the minister a letter from Hydroxyl offering to install one of their systems in the north, offering an opportunity for the government to save what could be, as a result, millions of dollars in not just capital costs but ongoing operation and maintenance costs. Because I have first-hand viewed these systems, and I can tell you I was suitably impressed. While the minister here today doesnít impress me, this system does, because it really deals with a situation, and it deals with it effectively ó unlike this minister, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I would like to get some guidelines from the minister and some policy with respect to some of the initiatives underway. Letís go back. This rural services, rural taxation issue ó when are we going to see a policy directive come out of the Government of Yukon on a uniform application of water and sewer, whether it be delivery and eduction across the Yukon? And is the Government of Yukon considering support for secondary sewage systems that the minister says we have no responsibility to design and no recognition of the resulting operation and maintenance cost? Is there a policy currently being worked on in the department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said a couple of times already this afternoon that my department is working on this. They are currently analyzing some options, and I look forward to reviewing those options with the department when they bring them to me.
Mr. Jenkins: I was hoping for some timelines. This information was compiled and the report was submitted under the previous government. This minister has been at the helm for over two years. I have seen a lot of water go under the bridge in two years, and a lot of reversals of policy, but we havenít seen any initiative.
Could the minister be specific and tell us when we are going to see a policy in this area? This fall? When is this policy going to be determined and established? I would like some timelines, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is asking for a specific date and I donít have one for him. I know this is a long-standing problem that has faced a number of previous governments. I would like to get it dealt with properly rather than rushing something through. It is a large issue with many facets, and I will make sure the member is among the first to know when I have the information.
Mr. Jenkins: Not good enough. Let us try this again. We are talking two years into a mandate and no progress at all, no ability to determine when this is going to come to fruition. We have just seen another briefing note passed to the minister ó maybe that is going to provide some insight. Will it be this fall? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said to the member that I canít give him a specific time. Some aspects of rural services have been considered by various governments for the past 10 to 15 years. His own party was in power and did nothing to change the situation. Weíre going to move on rationalizing water service recoveries as early as we can, and then weíll move on to other services.
Mr. Jenkins: Sounds like, "Donít do anything until we get back into power," which will be a long, long time for the Liberal government after this next election.
Mr. Chair, these are some of the issues facing rural Yukon, and they are significant issues, but we havenít seen anything materialize. I guess the quality of life is what comes into question here, and the quality of life is being eroded at a rapid rate. We have the Minister of Infrastructure in this government touting their ability to get the highway contracts out for Shakwak in the capital budget last fall ó get them through this House last fall and award them as early as possible. But this government forgot that part of its responsibility was to get a water licence for the contractors, so thatís still in the hopper. The contractor goes to work ó and no water licence. Heck of a fine day.
There are responsibilities associated with doing the job correctly, and this is the area this minister was responsible for, up to the rearrangement of the deck chairs on this SS Titanic ó this Liberal SS Titanic. But there are a lot of problems there, and the buck for this initiative rests firmly at this ministerís door because it was under her watch that all of this initiative took place, and she forgot. She forgot to check with her officials and ask if everything was in place.
What happens next? Does the Premier transfer the responsibility for highways over to some department, where I am sure the members in that department are going to take great pride driving up and down the highway in their Department of Infrastructure hats. How to instil pride in the workforce ó take a lesson from this Liberal government.
Letís look at some of the other community initiatives. Letís look at the flow of money to communities. One of the areas that I have advocated for quite a number of years is that municipalities have a uniform accounting system and that infrastructure be determined and inventoried, so that you can compare apples to apples. That is not currently the case, and the disparity is growing wider and wider and wider between municipalities as a consequence of this ministerís inability to act in this area.
One of the hardest things to do is to compare the cost of operating and the cost of living between one municipality and another, especially in light of the way that money flows to the respective communities, because it doesnít bear any relationship to reality, by and large. That is more or less at the largesse of the government or the minister of the day.
I would like to explore with the minister initiatives surrounding a levelling of the playing field so that all municipalities are treated fairly, equally and have the same type of infrastructure. Is there any internal policy review or analysis currently underway in the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Itís my understanding that new standards have been established by ó and I donít know the technical term. The professional accounting association and their member accountants who do the work for the municipalities are trying to get the municipalities to move forward in this area.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, my suggestion to the minister would be a simple one. In order to implement something of this nature, number one, I would encourage the minister to go out and buy the programs and buy the necessary computer systems for each of the communities and ask them to report on a continuing basis in this format. Thatís what has transpired in other jurisdictions, and it has worked.
Now, Iím sure the minister wonít take this suggestion seriously because she doesnít want to move forward and level the playing field. She wants to continue to treat rural Yukon as second class.
Mayo recently called for some capital funding for an initiative to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their community. What was the rationale behind the decision to not come and honour the request from their municipal government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The community of Mayo brought forward a very good plan for a recreation centre; unfortunately, a budgeting process is all about making choices. In the capital budget last fall, we were unable to allocate money for that purpose. I have explained that in the House many times. The village took a very thoughtful and responsible approach to identifying and addressing their needs and gave us, as I said, an efficient and practical design.
My department is continuing to work with the Mayo Village Council, and as the member already knows, we are looking at the overall needs for municipal-type infrastructure throughout the Yukon as well as the resources available.
Mr. Jenkins: So I guess Mayo is left out of the loop, but the minister will still continue to send Faro the second highest amount of municipal block funding of any organized community outside of Whitehorse, and then Watson Lake, and then Dawson under the current formula. Does the minister think that and believe that to be fair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member knows, the municipal block funding is operation and maintenance dollars and recreation centre funding is capital dollars, so he is mixing his dollars.
Mr. Chair, I am very aware that the current community hall and curling rink in Mayo are old and need replacing. As I said last fall in the capital budget, we were unable to commit financial assistance for the project.
Mr. Chair, there is another capital budget coming this fall, and this government is going out to speak with Yukoners in all communities and in between about priorities for the budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iíd encourage the minister to look at the back of the department that she is responsible for, and there is a capital vote there currently that we are going to be asked to approve. Could the minister just turn to that page in her briefing book so that she fully recognizes that there is a capital component to what weíre asked to deal with in this session and this sitting? Because there certainly is, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, that still doesnít answer the question as to why Faro gets the lionís share of the municipal block funding, and the fairness to Mayo. If you start looking at the bells and whistles that Faro currently has in place and can afford vis-à-vis what a community like Mayo should have, doesnít have, has asked for and been declined, itís not fair. Thatís not good government.
Now, when is this minister going to wake up and recognize that her role is to ensure a fair and equal treatment for all Yukoners? When is that day going to occur? All of the areas I have outlined for this minister, whether it be the transfer of responsibility under the tax system of her own government when itís the taxing authority, from commercial and institutional to residential ó which is not fair; there is a loading and an off-loading ó or whether it be municipal block funding; of the total of municipal block funding, half of it goes to the City of Whitehorse ó and rightfully so ó then the next significant amount goes to Faro, then Watson Lake, then Dawson. Is the minister going to be examining this formula this year at all, and will she be bringing back amendments to the formula? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My department believes that the formula is currently working. It is designed to compensate a community for temporary loss of capacity. It could be necessary to look at the formula but, at the moment, it is working.
Mr. Jenkins: There are some interesting words ó temporary loss of capacity. Could the minister please be specific and tell us what she means by "temporary loss of capacity"?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am referring to tax capacity. The member knows very well what I am referring to.
Mr. Jenkins: Other than the movement of a few trailers out of the community, there is the same number of dwelling units there; a few have moved out. There has not been that much moved out, and of course we have a uniform assessment across the Yukon, so where is the problem?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member is well aware, the population of Faro has been increasing. Perhaps not as quickly as some would like, but members of that community are working very hard to keep their community viable.
Mr. Jenkins: They are doing it largely in spite of initiatives of this government.
But let's look at this temporary loss of capacity that the minister spells out. The assessment is still there because, by and large, the dwelling units are still there. The land value is still there because the land is still there, or has the minister moved some of the land? What has changed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member well knows, the population of the community had decreased substantially, and the people remaining there are trying to turn that around and the population has been increasing recently.
Mr. Jenkins: But the minister will admit that there has been no change in the assessment. The minister will admit that there has been no significant change in the number of dwelling units. Theyíre still all there. So really, all that has happened is that the mill rate has been significantly reduced. Is that not the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member himself pointed out earlier this afternoon, a part of the formula is the population, and as I pointed out, a part of the formula is also the dwelling units, whether or not they are occupied. The member seems determined to take away money from the community of Faro, and this is an issue that Iíve had discussion with Association of Yukon Communities on in the past and will again in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, weíve had discussions, but the ministerís not prepared to do anything, nor will she do anything because that riding is occupied by a Liberal member, and thatís maintaining the status quo; donít upset the apple cart. What Iím looking for is a fair treatment of all Yukoners, and the treatment afforded Mayo by this government is deplorable when you compare it to the amount of money flowing into a community like Faro. Now, is there some sort of internal discussion that is going on in this Liberal caucus that says only one major project per community per this sitting of this Legislature or for their mandate? Because Iíd like to point out to this minister that the school in Mayo was started under the previous government and there was a rotation of where schools were going to be built based on the rural school study, and that hasnít been followed.
That shows the respect that this Yukon Liberal government has for rural Yukon. It is deplorable. Instead the former Minister of Education in this Yukon Liberal government wants to go building schools where they are not needed. If you had come and told me that we needed one just south of Whitehorse or an enlargement of Golden Horn, hey, that makes sense. That is where the population is growing. You start looking at this ministerís financial treatment of Faro and this ministerís treatment of Mayo under the municipal grants act ó it doesnít wash. I donít know if it stems back to them having a position that a community only gets one major project. Mayo got a school and that is it. They are not going to receive anything else. Or is it coupled with the fact that they have a sitting MLA who is not of the same colour and stripes as they themselves are? I think a responsible government would address these inequities and address them sooner rather than later. Are there any timelines as to when we can see some initiative toward balancing the equation and putting more money into the community of Mayo for their much-needed infrastructure? Look at what Faro is spending its money on currently and what their current reserves are. Just look at the financial statements at the end of the last fiscal period and bear in mind that none of the capital and capital undertakings are listed. I was privileged a few short years ago to have a tour of the new municipal offices in Faro. That was a significant undertaking all paid for ó not debentured. It is very interesting, Mr. Chair. And thereís the new visitor reception centre in Faro.
Mr. Chair, for the same size population area, Mayo is coming up on the short end of the stick and this minister is responsible for doing that, and thatís not fair to those residents. Now, there is a capital component in her budget that I would encourage her to look at because there is the potential for moving some more money there this year. I canít do it but the minister can.
Is there some sort of policy in this Yukon Liberal government that spells out that we will not treat Yukoners equally and fairly? Is there? Because it appears to be amplified quite well by what this minister is doing and what this minister is not doing. I cite the grants act as just being one area, and not taking the Village of Mayo up on its initiative for some enhanced recreational complex for its 100th anniversary. Because Keno is called Keno City, they would probably stand a better chance of convincing this government to spend money on them as a city. Thatís an amazing way of looking at things but Iím sure it would be welcomed and well-received.
Are there any timelines for the minister to look at these initiatives ó specifically the municipal grants act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have already indicated, I have ongoing discussions with Association of Yukon Communities about issues that affect the communities and will continue to do so.
I would also point out that infrastructure in Faro ó the town offices and the visitor centre ó were projects of the previous NDP government, not of this government. This government is committed to all Yukoners, rural and Whitehorse alike. Capital expenditures are programmed, as the member knows, over fairly long periods of time. To do that requires the establishment of priorities and needs. We are very aware of these needs and are looking at them as we start to consider the next capital budget, which is this coming fall.
Mr. Jenkins: What I was attempting to point out to the minister and for the ministerís benefit is that Faro has a lot of the bells and whistles that some of the other communities are currently asking for. When you look at the population of some of these other communities and when you look at the population of Faro, they have the same right to be treated in a like manner. But thatís certainly not the case under this ministerís watch. Itís certainly not occurring.
Would the minister would give me some indication as to when these changes would be made, or when we can see a balancing of the equation with respect to a community like Mayo receiving more funding so they can provide their residents with recreational facilities of a much better and higher level than they currently enjoy? Itís not happening. It has been denied.
It has been denied by this government. And why? The only thought that comes to the majority of the people whom I have spoken to is because they chose to elect a member other than a member of this Liberal government, Mr. Chair. And thatís sad. Thatís very, very sad.
Mr. Chair, I asked the minister previously if they were doing an inventory and an analysis of all the infrastructure in the outlying communities, and the minister indicated that they had done so. When will this report be tabled, and what are the terms of reference of this analysis? Could the minister kindly table a copy of the terms of reference and the timelines and when we can see this final report?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I indicated earlier this afternoon, I should have that in my hands in the next couple of days and plan to table it next week.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I also ask the minister at the same time to table the terms of reference for that report, because theyíre sometimes more revealing than the actual report itself as to what information is being sought and in what manner that information is being sought. Would the minister kindly agree to do that also, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member is looking for a document that I donít have. We undertook a municipal infrastructure review, and thatís what Iíll be tabling next week. I donít have a document called "terms of reference for municipal infrastructure review" to give to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: So, no guidelines were established as to what we were looking at or what we were going to go about doing? The basis of a sound output is sound guidelines and sound input, but the minister obviously missed that part of the equation. Itís a sad day for Yukon.
What Iím looking for is this: what were the guidelines given to the officials who assembled all this information, or were they just instructed to go out and compile a list of all the facilities in the Yukon? Thatís not very meaningful. Would they be categorized by size, facility, age, state of construction, effective useful life? What were the terms of reference given to the individual who compiled this information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is a compilation. We undertook an assessment of municipal infrastructure to give us a base point for reviewing necessary upgrades in incorporated and unincorporated Yukon communities. We need the information in order to proceed from there.
As the member knows, our primary focus has been on safe water supply and distribution, sewage treatment and disposal, and the operation and maintenance of solid waste disposal sites. Priorities for upgrading facilities will be based on need. As I said, I will be tabling that report next week.
Environmentally sensitive treatment of sewage in Yukon communities is a high priority for this government, and there has been considerable work done in recent years, stretching back some time on this issue.
We are beginning, or financially assisting, sewage treatment projects in Dawson City, Carcross, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Carmacks and Ross River. We are in discussions with the Village of Teslin regarding future changes to the sewage collection system. We continued that discussion just yesterday afternoon, Mr. Chair.
For Dawson City, as the member knows, the capital funding agreement there commits the government to a substantial contribution to the sewage treatment project. In Carcross, site preparation work was completed in 2001 by the development corporation of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. Detailed design has been completed and tenders for the construction of the storage lagoons and related work have been issued. Construction will be carried out over two years and is planned to proceed this year as soon as reasonably possible.
In Destruction Bay, the in-ground septic disposal system is operational and preliminary design work has begun on a new lagoon treatment system to replace the existing lagoon, which is close to a residential area and residents have asked for its removal for many years. The new site will also better serve the community of Burwash Landing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike is yelling across the floor, "What about recreation facilities?" Mr. Chair, we were focusing, as I said in this document, on safe water supply and distribution, sewage treatment and disposal, and the operation and maintenance of solid waste disposal sites.
We are well aware that many communities have newer recreation centres. We know that the Village of Mayoís is among the oldest in the territory and that its useful life is nearing an end. We are well aware of that.
Now, back to where I was. The Village of Carmacks and the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation agree that the most appropriate and cost-effective sewage treatment system is a mechanical treatment plant. Itís being sized to accommodate the entire community. I believe it will be in the same general area as the present facility. We will be entering into a cost-share agreement with the village for that. The village does not operate a municipal water supply and distribution system. We have some preliminary cost estimates for that.
Weíve contracted the preparation of a water licence application for the existing and future treatment facilities in Ross River. Although preliminary findings indicate that the existing facility is functioning properly, weíve been recommended to relocate the sewage pit to the future sewage treatment site, which would remove any possibility of sewage effluent migrating through the old abandoned garbage dump.
In Teslin, the village has requested financial support to build a sewage trunk main to connect the lift stations to the sewage lagoon. Right now, the sewage is hauled by truck from a number of lift stations in the community to the lagoon. We have worked with the village on developing terms of reference for a review of the 20-year-old sewer design. That review is, I believe, currently underway.
Mr. Chair, considering the time, I move we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that we now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 73, entitled Act to Amend the Workersí Compensation Act, and has directed me to report the bill out of Committee, with amendment.
Committee of the Whole has also considered Bill No. 51, the Official Tree Act, Bill No. 55, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), Bill No. 56, Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2), Bill No. 64, Spousal Compensation Act and Bill No. 72, Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, and directed me to report these bills out of Committee without amendment.
Committee of the Whole has also 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 23, 2002:
Government Contracting Summary Report by Department (April 1, 2001 Ė February 28, 2002) (Kent)
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 23, 2002:
Banking services expenditures: explanation of (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3719-3720