Tuesday, April 1, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this 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 devolution
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Yukoners have wanted to run their own affairs ever since the territory was created in 1898. The first two elected members were added to the Commissioner in Council on August 11, 1899, and by June 28, 1909, the Council, or Legislature, was wholly elected. Today, April 1, 2003, marks the culmination of a very long devolution process.
Mr. Speaker, it is virtually impossible to thank all the individuals who contributed to the Yukon achieving devolution over the last 105 years. However, I believe it is important to single out a few Yukoners who made a special contribution.
The Yukonís long-serving former Member of Parliament, the Hon. Erik Nielsen, should be recognized as one of the foremost champions of devolution. Another special individual who set the stage for devolution is the former Commissioner of the Yukon Territory, Mr. Jim Smith. Under his administration, the appointed members, or assistant commissioners, of the Executive Council were gradually replaced by elected members of the Legislative Assembly.
The Hon. Jake Epp, the former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is also deserving of special recognition for issuing new instructions to the Commissioner on October 9, 1979, effectively granting the control of the government to the elected members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Yukonís first Government Leader, Chris Pearson, is also deserving of special recognition for all his work in advancing the cause of devolution. A complete devolution package was prepared in 1984 and presented to the Government of Canada in 1985 but was never acted upon. Successive Yukon governments further advanced the devolution cause, namely the NDP government of Tony Penikett and the Yukon Party government of John Ostashek, the NDP government of Piers McDonald, and the Liberal government of Pat Duncan. All these political leaders and their respective colleagues are deserving of our thanks here today. And a special thank you to the current Minister of DIAND, the Hon. Robert Nault, for completing the process.
Mr. Speaker, I want to pay a special tribute to all those employees who have worked so hard over the past months and years to contribute to the devolution process. As you know, today, April 1, 2003, is the effective date of the most significant transfer of responsibilities from the federal government to Yukon to date.
We will be taking over responsibilities for public land, water, forests and mineral resources.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to both the federal employees transferring to us today as well as to the Yukon government employees who helped bring this day about. I know that devolution has been an exercise in patience, perseverance and hard work. It has taken several years to get to this day and I appreciate the dedication and resolve shown by all of them. Our newest employees bring with them a great deal of knowledge and expertise gained through their working history and we are fortunate to have them. I welcome them all.
I would also like to acknowledge the cooperation between the Yukon government and DIAND throughout this process. Itís because of the work done by employees of both governments that I am confident this transition can take place without any major bumps in public service.
The devolution of public lands, water, forests and mineral resources will lead to positive changes for Yukon people. The ability of Yukon to control our own natural resources will provide us with the autonomy to make our own decisions and chart our own course.
Devolution is a significant step forward in Yukonís constitutional development and it will benefit all Yukon people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I have for tabling the Yukon Hospital Corporation financial statements for the period ending March 31, 2002.
Mr. Fairclough: I have for tabling a non-conforming petition signed by 470 Dawson City residents asking the Minister of Health and Social Services to reinstate full funding to the Dawson Shelter Society.
Speaker: Are there any other 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?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government accountability
Mr. Hardy:I have a very straightforward policy question for the Premier. Does the Premier approve of members of his Cabinet being in contravention of the law?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, obviously the member opposite will know the answer. Of course we donít approve of members of our Cabinet being in contravention of the law.
Mr. Hardy: Why should I know the answer?
Mr. Speaker, according to the Government Accountability Act, the Minister of Finance must table a consolidated accountability plan with the main estimates for the fiscal year. This accountability plan must include the fiscal year and at least two subsequent years. The Minister of Finance must include a statement of responsibility with a consolidated plan. As well, each minister must prepare an accountability plan for his or her departments for inclusion in the main estimates.
When the Minister of Finance tabled his budget on March 6, why did he and every one of his ministers fail to meet this requirement?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I must take the member opposite back to the beginning of the sitting. Our government has determined that the process developed under the former Liberal government, which they called "accountability", was an onerous process that used up a lot of officialsí time and departmentsí time in producing very little other than motherhood statements and generalities.
What we have done is revoke that legislation and gone back to the existing format before this misguided change, which shows in the budget not only a clear mandate by departments and where they are accountable to in regard to that mandate, but also statistics, which I think are a much more informative way to make sure the public understands clearly where accountability lies, department by department.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier canít just thumb his nose at a law he doesnít like. If he intended to repeal the Government Accountability Act, he should have asked the House to do that before he tabled this budget.
We have seen this governmentís approach to being held accountable. We see it every day in this House when this minister has refused to answer questions. We see it in the budget briefings when we donít get written breakdowns of departmental spending. We see it when we ask for information and the ministers tell us we will get it in due course. This is not being accountable. That is being arrogant and secretive.
We are supposed to debate a budget that takes effect as of today but that budget does not comply with Yukon law. In order to bring this government and this House into compliance with the law, will the Premier now direct the government House leader to bring forward the Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act for debate before proceeding any further with consideration of the main estimates for 2003-04?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have already passed an interim supply bill that reflects this month and the following month, May.
Secondly, it is apparent from the way the official opposition and indeed the third party have conducted themselves so far in this sitting that we are nowhere close to debating the budget. We have tabled the necessary legislation to revoke the misguided act and a misguided attempt at accountability.
We have gone back to a format that worked and has worked for many years in this territory. It is all about the departmentsí mandate and what they are accountable to in regard to that mandate. It is all about an informed public. The statistics are the most important element of that accountability, Mr. Speaker, so I would submit to the member opposite that this is a needless, irrelevant debate and we should get on with what is really important to Yukoners ó their future and the problems that we must address today.
Question re: Electrical rates, Rider J
Mr. McRobb:Yesterday, I asked the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation whether he had the authority to order the corporation to repay the $15 million overcollected from Yukon ratepayers from Rider J. Mr. Speaker, he said no. Well, let me help the minister understand his job.
The Corporate Governance Act of the Yukon Territory states, in section 4, part I, under "Directions and Protocols", "The Commissioner in Executive Council may issue directives to a government corporation with respect to the exercise of the powers and functions of the corporation."
So it is now clear that the minister can do the right thing and direct the government corporation to refund the money. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The statements from the member opposite about these figures he pulls out of the air, these part truths and everything that go on ó I would like to cover a few points, Mr. Speaker, on the facts.
Speaker:"Part truths" is unparliamentary. Please do not use that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Okay. Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points Iíd like to bring out for the member opposite.
Number one, the bottom line ó the simple facts ó is that Yukon Energy was given approval to lower electrical rates by 3.81 percent. That is the real story and that is good news to the ratepayers of the Yukon.
Number two, on September 23, 2002, Yukon Energy applied to the Yukon Utilities Board for a 3.81 percent rate reduction off Rider J put in place following closure of the Anvil Range mine. The Yukon Utilities Board reviewed the application, written comments and arguments from intervenors and the response from the Utilities Board; thereafter, the board issued an order on January 29 approving Yukon Energyís proposal to reduce Rider J by 3.81 percent effective January 1, 2003.
The application, all submissions and responses and the board order are available to the public, including the member. I will table that.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Pardon?
Speaker: Would the member conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíve got a few more points.
Speaker: Not yet. Please sit down.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Oh, okay, Iím sorry.
Mr. McRobb: I think that the minister is reading the wrong briefing note. He didnít answer the question, which was very simple.
Another point: yesterday he argued that it would be interfering with the day-to-day operations of the corporation. It would demonstrate leadership by setting direction if the minister took action. Who is going to protect the interests of Yukon consumers? The minister is very favourable and quick to protect the corporate interest but not to protect the consumerís interest.
Now, the purpose of the act I quoted also states that government corporations are institutions of government established to achieve governmental objectives in the public interest. Will the minister answer this question: was the corporate-sponsored price gouging on Yukonersí power bills a government objective or will this minister refund the money? Which is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We work with the YUB and Yukon Energy. We are in-between the Yukon Utilities Board and Yukon Energy Corporation. I would like to table this document from January 29, 2003, which has the decisions made by the Yukon Utilities Board on all those issues.
Can I table that please?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the minister is still on the wrong page. Earlier, he mentioned rates. Well, weíre not talking rates; weíre talking riders. Riders are an add-on to rates, Mr. Speaker. There has not been a general rate application for seven years. We need the board to investigate this matter and straighten out this whole rotten mess, including all these Rider Fs and Rider Js that have been price gouging Yukon consumers.
Another interesting clause in the act under same section states, "Ministers must be accountable to the Legislative Assembly for what government corporations do." Now that it has been established that our questions are completely within order and deserving of a credible response, let me ask this: will the minister take five minutes to direct the corporation to refund to Yukon Electrical consumers the $15 million overcollected and end the gouging now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, heís completely out of line. The $14 million is a figment of his imagination. If he were to address that YUB report on September 29, the Rider J issue is answered. Thereís no such thing as a $14-million figure out there.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, chair appointment
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, would the minister responsible confirm that the Yukon Party campaign manager and frequent financial contributor, Mr. Craig Tuton, has been appointed by this government as the new chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I can make no announcement on this initiative until such time at the Commissioner of the Yukon has signed the order-in-council.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the hiding continues. The member opposite and the Cabinet have sent over an order to be signed. Iíd ask the minister to confirm the name on the order-in-council, and he wonít do it. The Yukon Party promised to immediately establish an all-party committee to review these types of appointments. Shortly after the election, the government contacted members of the opposition, and they wanted to set up this all-party committee. Since that time, the government and this minister in particular have been dragging their feet. Both opposition parties have indicated they were fully prepared to proceed with establishing this committee and begin reviewing appointments, and itís obvious today why the government has been stalling on appointing the committee. Can the minister put on the record what is obvious to anybody who has watched this unfold? Theyíve not set up this committee because they still have some very special fellows who need to be rewarded for their contributions, financial and otherwise, to the Yukon Party election campaign.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is a very interesting overview of the situation. It is incorrect though.
Our party is committed to setting up an all-party committee to vet boards and committee appointments for the various boards and committees that we have appointments to in the Yukon, and there are quite a number of them.
Approaches were made to the official opposition and to the third party shortly after we were elected, and it took until last Friday to get a meeting together of SCREP to go forward from there. The next meeting of SCREP is called for April 11 and these are the kind of timelines we are facing. The dates for the meetings were selected by all of us, and we are going forward with as much speed on this initiative as we possible can. But we need some cooperation from the official opposition and the third party in this area, Mr. Speaker, because both parties came to the table with a preset, predetermined way of approaching this initiative, and we hope to achieve consensus on how we are going to develop this all-party structure.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has conveniently forgotten to mention there was also a meeting held in January about this very issue, and what he is also conveniently not stating is the confirmation of this appointment. He may wish to make it after Question Period.
But the fact is that the appointment of long-time Yukon Party campaign manager and frequent financial contributor to the Yukon Party, Craig Tuton, as the chair of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board is the latest in a government practice of rewarding friends and insiders. There are secret contracts to former candidates, there are salary raises to political staff, and this pattern has to stop.
Before this appointment was made, the minister sent out letters that asked for input on who the new chair should be. Will the minister table all the responses that he received with respect to this appointment and make this very public correspondence public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will table the correspondence received from the various organizations and political parties as to the appointment of the chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. The names were all brought forward by various groups and the appointments were made based on these submissions.
As soon as the Commissioner has signed off on this order-in-council, we will have a public press release as to who has been appointed and where, and that will be coming in due course, but we canít make that appointment until the Commissioner has signed off. Perhaps thereís some political connection that the member opposite has achieved ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: To suggest that is to suggest motives and impute false motives to members, and I would suggest the member withdraw it.
Speaker:There is no point of order. Itís simply a dispute between two members. Carry on, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite obviously has an inside track as to whatís going on. I donít know where the information is coming from, but she has a name she has brought forward. I canít lay out its correctness at this point in time, but as soon as the Commissioner has signed off on that order-in-council, that information will become public.
Question re: Mineral claim assessment fees, waiving of
Mr. Hardy:Going back to yesterday, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources was not able to answer my questions about his sudden burst of generosity toward the mining industry. It surprises me that the government would be so shy about a feel-good announcement to its friends. I would expect the minister to get up on the table at the Cordilleran Roundup to make this kind of announcement, or at least make sure thereís a paragraph in the budget speech about a tax holiday for miners.
In fact, the minister didnít even manage to get the news release out to the media before we brought it to their attention.
Once more, will the minister tell us when the decision was made to provide this relief from assessments? Was it before the budget was tabled, or since?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This decision was made as a promise that we made to the electorate. Itís good news for the mining industry pertaining to the Quartz Mining Act. We just took it over today, so as far as putting out releases before yesterday, it would be inappropriate. Hopefully it will be a positive thing for the mining industry.
Mr. Hardy: The minister said yesterday it was part of his partyís campaign. Well, it certainly wasnít in their platform document. Maybe it was in a secret-deals section along with the Premierís letter giving a promissory note on the community development fund.
One thing we do see in the Yukon Partyís platform is a promise to provide business with tax incentives to promote economic growth.
Was yesterdayís quiet announcement meant to fulfill the platform promise, or can other Yukon businesses expect the same kind of tax relief that the miners got starting today?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís an assessment; itís not tax relief. Itís an assessment.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, hereís the problem ó $40 million in direct spending taken out of the economy with this project ó program after program after program being hit, and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
This is a government that breaks a written agreement and takes $50,000 away from the Dawson womenís shelter. It takes away $12,000 that was helping to expose Yukon school children to outstanding musicians from around Canada and the world. It canít afford an Outreach van that gives practical help to young people on the street. It canít afford a shelter for the homeless, but miners get a tax shelter.
With over 40,000 mining claims in good standing in 2002, can the minister give us his best guess about how much this relief initiative will cost the Yukon government in lost revenue this year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, it is not a tax break, itís a relief ó a relief from assessment work. Hopefully this money will revert back into the claims. This is good news for the mining industry. Weíve got to get the mining industry back on some kind of footing. This is good news. This happened the day we got control of the Quartz Mining Act. This is a 12-month window for people to get back into work in the mining industry. This is good news.
Question re: Apprenticeship programs
Mr. Cardiff:My question is for the Acting Minister of Education again today. This question is not about funding to Yukon College or community training trust funds; itís about government in-house apprenticeship programs. Itís about why this Yukon Party government is slashing in-house apprenticeships from 11 two years ago to only two this fiscal year. Thatís what the question is about, and I hope the minister can stay on the topic and address this issue.
Why is the government slashing the in-house apprenticeship program?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For the member oppositeís information, what Iím told from the department is that a number of the apprenticeships have been concluded, and we will be continuing to fund the additional two apprentices who are still in the program. Nothing has been cut.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, thatís great for those two apprentices, but what about the rest of the young people?
Yesterday the minister reminded us of the declining population, but Yukoners who are still here, and the young people who are going to be graduating from F.H. Collins and the other public high schools in this system, donít want to leave the Yukon. They want the opportunities here. They want to be able to do apprenticeships and get the work here. They want an opportunity to work in the trades.
Now, the Yukon Party promised to make the expansion of apprenticeship programs and training programs a priority. Itís right in the platform. Why is this government ignoring that promise and abandoning Yukoners who want to enter trades and gain the skills that they need to get decent jobs here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly it is a priority of this government now and in the future. We want to get people working in the trades. We would like to get people who are trained in the trades to come back home, since they have been fleeing rather badly in the last two administrations. Our government has already, as I mentioned yesterday, put $1 million into the training trust. It puts it into the communities. It puts into the hands of people to train in these areas. We are certainly not cutting anything. That $1 million will actually leverage out to closer to $4 million and is in fact an increase.
Mr. Cardiff: This is not about community training trust funds or about Yukon College. This is about the in-house program, and what is coming through between all these pretty words is the message that the Yukon Party doesnít really believe in Yukonís young people. There is another message there. This government doesnít really believe it can do anything to improve the economy and get the Yukon people to work here. When is the government going to honour its commitment to make apprenticeship programs the priority ó is it next fall, next spring, in the next mandate?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: At the risk of being repetitive, I will again point out to the member opposite that money has been placed there and it is a priority. It leaves the decision within the department, within the communities, as to how to utilize those funds, and if the member opposite considers that $1 million leveraged to $4 million is not a commitment, again I would hate to be his banker.
Question re: Canada strategic infrastructure fund
Mr. McRobb:Well, what an interesting Question Period weíve had today. There are still no answers on many of the questions, and itís about time this government became a little more accountable in answering our questions.
My question today is for the Minister of Highways and Public Works, and it relates to the Canada strategic infrastructure fund. Now that the Yukon government has finally received the $20-million share from the federal government, it must match this amount, bringing the total to some $40 million.
Now, across the country, there are many others who also contribute to projects, including municipalities, First Nation governments, even private sector investors. So there is potential to leverage this $20 million to a much greater amount.
Now, in the platform of the Yukon Party, they promised genuine public consultation on matters of importance to Yukoners. I would like to ask the minister exactly what consultation process he plans in relation to this fund?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, we have just finally received confirmation of this fund, and weíll be consulting with the communities on it.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I guess the tradition continues, Mr. Speaker ó still no answers of substance.
Several communities in the Yukon are in dire need of infrastructure to meet basic utilities. One of those utilities is meeting requirements for sewage disposal and sewage treatment. These communities include Dawson City and Burwash Landing, which had its project cut by this Yukon Party government. There are several others as well. We know the previous government, in its two throne speeches, placed a lot of emphasis on meeting these needs. So I would like to ask the minister if he would commit to making sewage treatment facilities a priority for this government before funding pet projects for southeast Yukon or a bridge in the Member for Klondikeís riding.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Why did I know that was coming?
I would like to remind the member opposite that the contract for preliminary engineering on a water licence application has been awarded for the Burwash sewage lagoon and we are there. And yes, we will be discussing things with our AYC counterparts to deal with the sewage and water issue throughout the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister if he can table some material outlining the process, along with details of that fund, and also two other funds: the border infrastructure fund and the infrastructure Canada program. Would he commit to bringing back a legislative return documenting those funds and the information I requested?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we can do that, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: SARS contingency plan
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Speaker, a new threat has hit Canada. Itís known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. So far, 129 cases have been reported across Canada: four of them were fatal, and this disease has also infected children.
Although there has not been a reported case in the Yukon, it doesnít mean that we are in the clear. With all the travelling thatís taking place in and out of the territory, it must be of some concern to the minister.
Mr. Speaker, Iím not asking this to raise any alarm bells. We just want to know Yukonís readiness.
Can the minister tell us what his contingency plan is to deal with SARS in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Any potential outbreak of this nature is being closely monitored by health officials within the department.
Mr. Fairclough: It doesnít appear that the minister has a plan. I know this is an important matter and must be dealt with. Itís all about public safety and public security.
It could come to the point where people infected with SARS, or suspected of being in contact with the virus, might be quarantined, so Iíd like to ask the minister this: can the minister tell us what the procedure is to identify people who may be in need of quarantine?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The individual charged with public health is the individual who would declare such an occurrence and put in place the proper procedure, and what steps that are to be taken with respect to any outbreak of any sort of this nature are well-outlined.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that answer. Weíre hoping to clarify this issue with the public. Thereís a lot of work that needs to take place, should we experience SARS here in the Yukon. We need to trace contacts; we need to deal with isolation; we need to deal with voluntary home quarantine; we need to have an isolation ward, and we need to deal with screening. We also need lab testing to know what weíre dealing with, Mr. Speaker.
Can the minister assure the House and the Yukon people that there wonít be any delays in receiving results from lab testing?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite makes a good point, and I want to assure this House that our medical community is very much on top of this issue. They are in consultation with their counterparts across Canada. Our chief medical officer of health is constantly in touch and any plan that has to be put in place is there. If it has to be implemented because of an outbreak, it will be implemented and followed through on with the proper procedures as outlined in the plan that hopefully we wonít have to implement, but we might. But we are ready, we are prepared and steps that have to be taken will be taken if a SARS outbreak occurs here in Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the names of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 2, 2003. They are Motion No. 12, standing in the name of the Member for Southern Lakes and Motion No. 59, standing in the name of the Member for Southern Lakes.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 32: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 32, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 32, entitled First Nation Indemnification (Fire Management) Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 32, entitled First Nation Indemnification (Fire Management) Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 32 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 32 has passed this House.
Bill No. 33: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 33, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Lang.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 33, entitled Act to Amend the Forest Protection Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that Bill No. 33, entitled Act to Amend the Forest Protection Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 33 agreed to
Deputy Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 33 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: 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 the hon. Government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Do members wish a 15-minute recess before we begin debate?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 2 ó Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Community Services ó continued
On Land Development
Mr. Cardiff: I was just wondering if the minister could provide some detail about the additional $360,000 and what project that related to.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The amount is to cover funding required to construct the industrial lots on Mount Sima Road.
Mr. Cardiff: Could the minister tell us if that phase of the project is complete then?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The development includes power and telephone, but thereís still BST to do on the road.
Industrial in the amount of $360,000 agreed to
Mr. Cardiff: I was wondering if the minister could provide some information about this additional expenditure and which project it was related to as well?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is an increase required to do contour mapping in the Pine Lake area near Rancheria.
Recreational in the amount of $19,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the line residential?
Mr. Cardiff: Thereís a reduction of $1,129,000. Obviously, something that was planned to go ahead didnít go ahead. Could the minister apprise us of what that project was?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There was approximately $1.1 million worth of residential work on the Mount Sima Road due to some geotechnical work that was required, along with some consultation issues, and a additional small amount of $19,000 for the Hamilton residential Copper Ridge due to underground sewer and water taking a late start last year.
Mr. Cardiff: So just for a little bit of clarification, the $1.1 million was for work to proceed on the Whitehorse Copper development, then?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, itís because of the delays of getting the geotechnical work done in that area, yes.
Chair: Is there any further discussion?
On Property Assessment and Taxation
On Rural Electrification and Telephone
Rural Electrification and Telephone in the amount of $209,000 agreed to
On Service Yukon
On Public Libraries
On Community Library Development Projects
Community Library Development Projects in the amount of $61,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on the total of other capital expenditures?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Community Services in the amount of $13,970,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on the capital recoveries?
Ms. Duncan: I have a question specifically on the land development cost recovery. Do you want me to wait until we get to that line?
Chair: You may proceed.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The land development cost recovery of $750,000 ó is that a write-down per the Auditor Generalís instruction or is that something else that I am unaware of?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It reconciles with the reduction on the previous page of land offsets on the land development side.
Ms. Duncan: I donít have the precise reference in front of me, but I do understand and recall that there was a reference made ó I believe it was an Auditor General report or recommendation that we look at the value of the land we have in the books, because the Government of Yukon develops land and we put that cost on the books. "You know what, youíre not going to recover that much money, so write-down some of that land development."
Iím just wondering if this was a write-down of land development ó I canít recall ó or if it is something else. Perhaps what the minister could do is just provide me with a written response in respect of this ó what land write-down has been recommended and what has been done for the 2002-03 fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre not writing down any land. This is totally based on the reduction of land use.
Ms. Duncan: A reduction of land use? Pardon?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Land development. So, less land development, less cost recoveries.
Has the issue, then, of the write-down been brought forward to the minister, or by the minister to Management Board, or is it being left with the Minister of Finance?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, no decision has been made on that at this moment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there has been no decision on land write-down by this government is what I understood the minister to have just said. Could the minister advise me to whom I should be posing these questions? Would he be bringing this recommendation before Management Board or shall I direct the questions to the Minister of Finance? Whom should I be asking this question of in general debate. Does he wish it to come under Community Services or does he wish it to come under Finance?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, when it comes to the development of lands, she should refer the question to me when we get to the mains.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on capital recoveries?
Department of Community Services agreed to
Chair: Weíll then continue on with Vote 53.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Chair: The page reference is 8-3. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am pleased to introduce the 2002-03 supplementary for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The department requests an increase of $560,000 to its operation and maintenance budget and $18,000 increase to its capital budget. The department welcomes federal support of $176,623 from the innovation and knowledge fund. This fund is a Canadian commitment to enhance knowledge and innovation. The budget items are 100-percent recoverable from Indian Affairs and Northern Development and involve three projects. These projects were included in both the operation and maintenance budget and the capital budget.
They include $95,000 to conduct an aeromagnetic survey to explore the oil and gas potential of the northern portion of the Peel Plateau, ; $28,000 to study the potential of agri-tourism in the Yukon. Agri-tourism has the potential to raise farm income, improve returns on farm assets and add to the economic returns from tourism; $50,000 for the Yukon geology program to study whether climate change could melt permafrost and cause terrain instability on the Alaska Highway corridor.
The major changes in the O&M budget are as follows: an increase for devolution preparation spread out through several EMR branches for a variety of items, such as job descriptions, restructuring of federal land application policies, mineral policy, development and Type II mine site work.
Number two is an increase of $60,000 under corporate policy and planning for a forestry workshop that is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government. The goal of this workshop, held in February with First Nations and renewable resource councils and DIAND, was to identify common goals for managing Yukon forests.
An increase of $20,000 for a contribution to the Kaska forest stewardship, an MOU on forest stewardship signed in July 2002, established a Kaska forest resource stewardship council with a mandate to develop a regional forest management plan and an interim wood supply plan in southeast Yukon.
Thereís an increase of $200,000 for the agri-food companion agreement under resource management, which is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government. The agri-food innovation companion program is designed to provide for the long-term stability of the agriculture sector through innovation and development initiatives.
Thereís an increase of $121,000 for additional resources for oil and gas development and pipeline activities, including contracts for a pipeline benefits study, Ottawa and Washington liaison relations and legal support. Thereís an increase of $11,000 under mineral planning and development for the placer mining awareness marketing program, which was 100-percent recoverable from the federal government.
Thereís an increase of $20,000 regarding mineral policy consultation, which was again 100-percent recoverable from DIAND. As well, there is a reduction of $2.5 million in oil and gas royalties, due to lower gas prices.
In the capital supplement, the major changes are as follows: an increase of $60,000 for land surveys related to the Whitehorse waterfront area, which is 100-percent recoverable, and an increase of $339,000 to primarily fund the Kaska economic table and the Alaska Highway pipeline project.
The purpose of the Kaska economic table is to realize training, employment and business opportunities in southeast Yukon arising from resource activities.
There is a reduction of $295,000 in the regional mineral development program. Funds are not available from the federal government to participate in this program. Therefore, the matching funds from the YTG were not required. The Yukon regional mineral development program was to provide additional funds to facilitate completion and promotion of Yukonís mineral resource information infrastructure and potential in a comprehensive and user-friendly way. This concludes the supplementary estimates for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we in the official opposition do have a few questions for this minister on the supplementary budget. We also recognize the opportunity during the upcoming mains budget to ask about this department as well.
But before I proceed, Mr. Chair, I would like to express our concerns that this minister saw fit to cancel the briefing packages that are customarily provided to members of the opposition on any budget brought forward by the Yukon government. Mr. Speaker, we in the opposition rely on that information to increase our knowledge of what is happening in each department in terms of major projects, policies, expenditures, reductions, et cetera.
One of the first questions we asked departmental officials was: why was there no briefing package provided? The answer given to us was that the instruction came from the deputy minister responsible for the Executive Council Office. Now, Mr. Chair, we know that person reports directly to the Premier, so obviously it was a decision made by this Yukon Party government to limit the information used by the opposition to hold it accountable.
I would say that this is a significant departure from what this government campaigned on in the fall election: to be more cooperative and collaborative and inclusive of members of the opposition, of all MLAs in this Legislature, in order to do whatís best for Yukoners.
It didnít take this government long to shift gears and go on to a hide-and-run type of government where it has cut the information that has been customarily provided to the opposition.
We havenít heard the end of this matter yet, but I wanted to express this concern up front in todayís debate to this minister.
One of the lingering questions from the past fiscal year in terms of Energy, Mines and Resources was the secret deal apparently made between the department and the former owner of the Keno Hill properties, and I will refrain from identifying him by name, Mr. Chair ó everybody knows whom we are talking about. I would like this minister to explain for Yukoners what the terms and conditions of that special deal were, which have never seen the light of day.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will have to get back to the member opposite. As far as Iím concerned there have been no backroom deals made with anybody through Energy, Mines and Resources. If there are, I will dig them up and find them. But under my watch, there have been no deals made.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would ask the minister to confer with the Member for Klondike who used that same language toward the past government about this deal. There was some backroom type of arrangement between the Yukon government, specifically the former Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, and the proprietor of the Elsa properties. The details of this arrangement were never made public.
Now, Mr. Chair, the talk on the street is such that the former government used the environment as a trading chip in order to lure, to promote, the investment in that property, and Yukoners deserve to know exactly what it was we were giving up in order to make that happen. This deal has never seen the light of day. Iím very surprised this minister claims to know nothing about it ó very surprised ó especially given the attention to this matter by colleagues in his same party who sat on this side of the House, such as the Member for Klondike.
I recall the now Premier also asking questions about this secret deal. Itís amazing the minister doesnít know anything about it all of a sudden and has to go check, Mr. Chair. This was one of the top issues for this department, yet he knows nothing about it. I think itís high time this government fessed up as to what the deal was, what was being sold out in order to try to keep this deal together, at least until the election cleared last fall.
Now, Mr. Chair, that raises a very good point. Was this whole deal just a mirage to get through the election, to avoid the embarrassment of the government not being able to hang on to this particular property and keep the developer interested?
Mr. Chair, Yukoners deserve some answers to these questions. Can the minister respond?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It never fails to amaze me what he will do in front of a TV set.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I submit there is a definite point of order here. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is suggesting that there are motives to my questions. That is highly inappropriate and I suggest you know it as well, Mr. Chair. Weíll wait for your ruling.
Chair:The Chair finds that there was a false or unavowed motive put forward and asks that the member retract that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I apologize, Mr. Chair.
This thing that the member opposite brings up is history. We will look for this smoking gun somewhere in our department, but I have not been privy to any secret deals made with the previous owners of United Keno Hill or the new prospective owners of United Keno Hill. So I say to the member opposite that there were never any side deals made by a Yukon government that would have to be covered up. I say to you that Energy, Mines and Resources is an open set of books. It has been in our government, and it was in the last government.
So, as far as creating this scene about something that isnít going to happen, the last owner is gone; he is history.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, isnít that interesting. Isnít that interesting. Iím sure those words will come back to bite this minister before long.
Now, letís go to the bigger picture because Iím troubled by what the minister said in that he believes the way the previous government conducted itself around this secret deal was open and accountable. Mr. Chair, letís be realistic here.
I would like to know if this minister, in his term as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, would consider engaging in any similar type of activity that isnít completely open to Yukoners and the details arenít provided to us on this side of the House.
Would the minister ever engage in anything like that?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair:Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I am having difficulty with the memberís numerous references to a supposed "secret deal". To me, that suggests that there were false or unavowed motives on the part of the previous minister. The question is also hypothetical. He is asking if this conduct had occurred ó which did not ó would the minister engage in it? It is entirely hypothetical.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, there is no point of order. It is a dispute between members. It is a dispute on the interpretation of the facts surrounding the mine in Elsa, and it is on the record. We canít rewrite the history book.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, this is one of these extremely rare occasions when I would agree with the government House leader. There is no point of order.
Chair: Mr. Kenyon, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As a rare moment I find myself in agreement with the leader of the third party. When the Member for Kluane, within five minutes, uses phrases like "hide-and-run government", "secret deal", "backroom deal", mirage to get through the election" and "secret deal" again, I suggest that this is extremely unparliamentary.
Chair:Order please. The Chair finds that there is no point of order. There is a dispute amongst members; however, the Chair is concerned about the language that is being used and would urge members to conduct themselves in a manner expected of parliamentarians and in a manner in which the people of the Yukon expect us to behave.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, again I would like to answer the question from the member opposite. The Yukon Party was elected on an open government. We certainly are going to be open to the general public and also to the side opposite.
As far as side deals or anything else that was made at any level of government, we have to understand that we work with people in the bureaucracy. People in the bureaucracy are not in the business of making side deals. Energy, Mines and Resources is a very tight department, run by very credible people. Iíve only been with them for six months, but I will fall on their side of the sword. Theyíre not the type of people who would make side deals.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, Iím not saying people in the department make side deals. It is the political level that does that.
Iím merely asking the minister if he would ever engage in putting together some kind of a deal involving trade-offs ó that the deals were not exposed to us in the opposition. Now, that is simply asking for information on any possible deals that might be arranged in the future.
At the beginning of todayís questioning, I pointed out how this government cancelled the briefing submissions normally handed out in departmental briefings. Yet the minister just stood up and talked about how they were elected to be open, and they will be fulfilling that promise. Well, thereís a direct contradiction there in that one example alone. So Iím not very confident that this minister will be fulfilling his duties in an open and accountable way, and I am very concerned that this government will be using the environment as a trading chip for development.
Mr. Chair, Iíll put the minister on notice right now that he should be completely forthright with us in the opposition about any arrangements that even come close to this particular area.
Otherwise, weíll be discussing it in this Legislature, in this forum of accountability, at some future date. You can count on that.
Now, I wish to turn to other matters and ask the minister if he would table any reports developed from the many activities in this department over the past year.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, weíll be putting a list together and presenting it to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: All right; thatís fine.
Would the minister also oblige a similar request? Would he do the same for any policies developed within this department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíd like the member to be more clear on the policy, on the specifics of it. In other words, itís pretty general to say "all the policies". Weíd like to have specifics.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, all the specifics are not available in the documentation provided by the government that is before me today, but as an example to try to be helpful to the minister, I am looking at one item that says "mineral policy consultation". We know thereís also work around land policy development and so on. So those are two examples and there may be many, many more.
What Iím asking the minister is whether he can oblige our request for the provision of any such policy.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, thank you. Yes, thatís available.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have a few questions, and Iíll leave the majority of them for general debate on the mains. I would like to ask a couple of questions with respect to the supplementary, and perhaps I could also put the minister on notice that Iíd like some of these answers in the mains when we get to that debate.
The royalties for oil and gas are down, and I believe I heard the minister say that thatís strictly due to gas prices; itís not a reduction in volume. I would just like that concern addressed. As to the royalty regulations, thatís one of the issues that we were working on, as a government, to develop our royalty regulations under the oil and gas area. I just wonder if the minister can tell us, when we get to the mains, how those are coming.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, thank you. The price of the $2.5 million included also a shutdown at our wells for cleanout, so there was a volume thing and also price. The wells themselves have been pumping for 10 years. They are going down a bit on volume. They are very successful wells, one of the most successful wells in North America. There is going to have to be some work done on them to bring that volume back up. There is some discussion on how that would be done, so that answers the $2.5 million, so there was a shutdown for cleanout. Of course, your prices are fluctuating, and also the volumes are down ó not considerably, but down probably 10 percent. Thereís a margin there that itís down.
As far as the royalty policy and everything else, weíll be able to answer that, and weíre proceeding with that through the oil and gas division. So Iíll be able to answer that for you. Thanks.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll look for a progress report on the royalty regulations when we get to the mains. The minister has indicated that, yes, that would be available. The ministerís comments about the fourth longest producing wells and that Yukon has only eight sedimentary basins with only ever 71 wells drilled; I know the speech well and it is very familiar.
The $339,000 in capital in the Alaska Highway pipeline analysis ó this is additional capital money that the minister is seeking. I would like to know what has been done for that money under his watch. If the minister could outline ó and perhaps in light of his cold, he may wish to provide this in written form. What I would like to know, for example, is what efforts they have made with Ottawa with respect to the establishment of the Northern Pipeline Agency office and having it located in the Yukon. I have seen one letter in terms of representations to Ottawa on the pipeline. What else has been done by the government for this $339,000 expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the question to the leader of the third party ó and I thank her for mentioning my poor cold, I appreciate that ó out of the $339,000, we spent $72,000 lobbying the U.S. federal government. There was $72,000 spent in there. The Kaska economic table was $250,000 and travel was $12,000, and the $12,000, I think, included the trip to Calgary, which was done right after the fall election, and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation was $5,000 and that was gas and oil. That total was $339,000.
Ms. Duncan: So what the member ó I appreciate his reference to his poor cold; he seems to have shared it with all of us.
The $250,000 for the Kaska economic round table, then, was put into the Alaska Highway pipeline analysis in capital expenditures; that is what the minister has just confirmed.
The other point of concern is that the member should be aware, as theyíve adopted the Liberal Party platform, of my support for mining exploration and mineral activities. It does, however, also give Finance ministers very, very grey hair because there is no ability to predict what those are going to be like.
I see the uptake on the mining incentives program is down $15,000. I just wonder if the minister has any sort of a forecast for exploration for this year. Weíre supposed to get that about this time of year and he has just come from a meeting of mines ministers, so does he have a forecast for this year for that line and also some of the other exploration tax incentives?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Going back one step is the Kaska economic table, $250,000; $50,000 of that was given before the $200,000 was given by our government for the Kaska economic table. So there was some previously given and it totalled $250,000, so it wasnít given as one lump sum.
Now, as far as the Yukon mining incentives program, that $15,000 is for administration costs.
Ms. Duncan: So thatís a reduced administrative cost ó okay.
The other line items will be the Finance ministerís questions. But I would like an answer as to whether or not we have had an exploration forecast released yet?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, the predictions are for a better year this year than last year, so hopefully it works out.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sure weíll get more details as the next 20 days go on and the memberís cold improves.
The other line I was quite interested in is the capital maintenance to the Faro mine under mineral planning and development.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Thatís quite all right. Let me repeat that question. The other line Iím interested in is capital maintenance Faro mine" ó $75,000. This money has not previously been budgeted by the government. There was no 2002-03 voted to date, and Iím concerned that weíre starting to wander into areas we shouldnít be ó I donít want to start paying Government of Canadaís bills, to put it bluntly. So, what are we doing with this $75,000 and should we be there?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is for legal costs that the territorial government has incurred.
Ms. Duncan: Is it for legal costs around the Kassandra case?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, itís a bankruptcy case.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, were these moved over from the Department of Finance? No?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, no.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Weíll then proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $84,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy and Planning
Corporate Policy and Planning in the amount of $68,000 agreed to
On Resource Management
Resource Management in the amount of $355,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on oil and gas management?
On Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a breakdown on this item and, if it includes any of the recent contracts, is there any information available as far as what was produced is concerned?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On the oil and gas development and pipeline line, the additional resources for oil and gas development and pipeline activities, contracts for auxiliary benefit study, Ottawa and Washington liaison and relations, and legal support, is $150,000; pipeline preparedness and First Nations contribution is $112,000. Net miscellaneous lapse was $32,000; and contracts ended early, $109,000.
The breakdown. Do you want ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, to answer his questions, I would have to get back to him on that.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister give us a status report on OGRIMS, the oil and gas resource information management system? Itís a computer system that this department was looking at putting in place and having available. We have the state-of-the-art maps for the mining industry. OGRIMS is the state of the art for the oil and gas industry. So, where is that in the department? Is it done? Is it up and running?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís under capital. Itís a continual thing. But we can give you a status report on it.
Chair: Is there any further debate on oil and gas development and pipeline?
Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline in the amount of $121,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on minerals planning and development?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $560,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on operation and maintenance recoveries?
Is there any discussion regarding revenue?
Ms. Duncan: Under the recoveries, the Yukon Placer Committee ó there was $11,000 that was additional funding from DIAND. Iíve made representations to the minister before about looking for additional funding for the Placer Committee. Is there any possibility of that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís an ongoing thing with the issues we have with the placer situation. So we are funding it as we can, and we certainly are trying to keep our end up. We have expanded the funding to the placer association.
Ms. Duncan: That expansion of funding is in the mains in the 2003-04 budget. I can reserve my questions until then.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Not at this time; it is not in there.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister has just said they have expanded the funding to Klondike Placer Miners Association. This funding is recoverable and was $11,000, so it must be coming in another supplementary then. If the minister could just tell me where I am to look for that money, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To answer that question, it is up and it will be in the 2003-04 budget. It is not a supplementary; it is going to be in the new budget.
Ms. Duncan: For the record, the minister has confirmed that there is expanded funding for Klondike Placer Miners Association in the main budget, and it is not to come in a supplementary.
Mr. McRobb: Since we have reopened the door to the recoveries, I have been prompted on another matter. I would like to ask the minister what his plans are to go along with Department of Fisheries and Oceanís concept of the Yukon government participating in the regulation of the placer miner industry. Can the minister give us an update as to where that stands?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The update is that we are working on this issue on a daily basis with industry, First Nations, the government and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We will probably have more to say in about 10 days, but we are about 60 percent of the way there. It is getting more positive. It is an issue that is very sensitive, not only to us in the Yukon, but also to Fisheries. We are working actively with our Senator Ione Christensen and Larry Bagnell, who are both doing an excellent job for us down in Ottawa. Also, Tara Christie in industry is doing an excellent job. To answer the third partyís question, in the supplementary, for the placer mining, there was $38,000 and in the main there is $57,000.
Mr. McRobb: Just a follow-up question. Iím wondering if the minister has yet had any direct discussions with the Hon. Robert Thibault about the Yukon placer authorization issue and who in his department or at the political level is carrying the ball for the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer about the Minister of Department of Fisheries and Oceans ó yes, Iíve personally been in contact with him. Second of all, Jesse Duke is our point man on this issue from the Department of Mines and is doing an excellent job. Hopefully in the next two weeks weíll have an announcement that will be positive.
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy and Planning
On Integrated Resources
On Infrastructure Development
Chair: Is there any discussion on infrastructure development?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I have the line explanation for this reduction in spending?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís reduced legal costs. We got a better deal, I guess.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the Department of Justice will do that for you.
Chair: Is there any further discussion?
On Resource Management
On Land Central Services ó Recoverable
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, earlier this afternoon I asked the minister to table any policies and reports and so on, but I would like to ask the minister to give us an overview of what his intentions are with regard to land development in the territory. I think we all recognize there is a big demand for the opening of land in the territory. Whatís the minister planning to do?
Hon. Mr. Lang: What our government is planning to do is to work with our land offices and our people we have in place, and weíre going to expand the land out there for Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Okay. How is the minister planning to do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: By working with the communities and First Nations and concerned taxpayers and getting land available for people in different agricultural lots and things like that. We are working in a positive fashion to expand on that.
Mr. McRobb: Could the minister indicate if there have been any special contracts devoted to this effort?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No.
Mr. McRobb: I understand there has been a contractor by the name of Mr. Church looking into the development of land in the Yukon. Can the minister indicate what this person has been doing?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, our department hasnít ó we have no contractors on land in the Yukon as far as I know.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is having another bad day, Mr. Chair. The water glass goes flying and his papers before. Maybe weíve got him flustered by these questions. Anyway, weíll let the smoke clear on that one, and weíll anxiously await these reports and policies the minister has promised to us.
Ms. Duncan: I am also interested and have a number of constituents interested in the cottage lot development as well. If the minister has any plans in that regard, I would appreciate him sharing those with me.
The minister got control of land today and I am very pleased, of course, as we all are, with devolution and the progress. There is also substantial involvement with respect to land in the department. The minister has control of land as of today. What is the ministerís perspective on land and the settlement of the land claims? Is the minister supportive of providing land to the Kaska?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can answer that by saying that we as a government are certainly in support of finalizing all First Nation land claims in the Yukon, and we would like to do it sooner rather than later.
Ms. Duncan: For the benefit of the minister, all Yukoners are very supportive of the finalization of land claims. The issue before the House ó and the issue has been before the House on several occasions when his colleagues asked me what the land quantum was in the mandate to settle with the Kaska. So I am asking the minister who has control of the lands, what is the land quantum?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is still at the discussion stage, so I canít give that out.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister support land for transboundary claims? Does the minister support the land quantum being put on the table?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the member opposite, I think what weíre talking about here is a negotiation. I think thereís a lot going on that probably Iím not privy to in a lot of ways, for transboundary claims or whatever. I think itís up to our governments and the First Nation and the federal government to make those decisions. So what I say to the member opposite is that weíre working on it. Hopefully we can get some final agreement and get it off the books and have all the land claims settled in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, for the benefit of the member opposite, his colleagues never hesitated once to ask me if I had put 1,600 square miles of the Yukon on the table. He has control of the lands as of today. Does he support that?
Itís inappropriate to ask a ministerís personal opinion. Itís appropriate to ask for the governmentís position on an issue.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Iíll rephrase the question. Is it the position of the minister who has responsibility for lands that 1,000 square miles of the Yukon should be put on the table? Is that the ministerís position?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, to the member opposite, I canít get into square miles or acres or whatever. This Kaska First Nation land claim will be settled in the end. So Iím for a very quick, prompt settlement of the Kaska First Nation claim in southeast Yukon. Is there going to be land involved? Certainly thereís going to be land involved, but thatís a negotiating point. There will probably be land, and there will be resources, and there will be money. I canít tell you how much money itís going to cost. I canít tell you what resources are going to be involved. But I imagine, in the discussions, those things will be all settled so that the Kaska can get on with their lives and the Yukon can get on with managing the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister is also saying that the governmentís position is that resource revenue sharing is also on the table?
Hon. Mr. Lang: What Iím saying is that Iím not, on a day-to-day basis, in negotiations on the Kaska First Nation land claim. Iíll make that very clear. Iím working with my government and my colleagues to make sure that it is as painless as possible for the taxpayers of the Yukon and as successful as possible for the Kaska First Nation. So whether or not weíre going to have land, resources and money on the table, I think, probably down the trail, there will be questions about that. Sharing in resources will be a question.
There are all sorts of questions out there. Those are all part of the negotiating tools we are working with, as a government, to finalize this land claim.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the mandate given negotiators comes from Cabinet. As a Cabinet minister with responsibility for lands, heís part of assigning that mandate. Iím asking the minister to give an idea of what, as part of his role as a Cabinet minister, he is bringing to the table and what mandate has been given from his departmental perspective.
Hon. Mr. Lang: At this point, we are not into negotiations with the Kaska. The federal government has pulled away from the table so, at this point in the game, our government, being a new government, has not had any mandate to deal with anything on the First Nations and the Kaska.
In other words, the federal government has pulled away from the table, so we havenít been in negotiations on the land claims question.
Ms. Duncan: The government provides a mandate from the Cabinet ó as a Cabinet minister to be prepared to go into negotiations, to know whatís going to be on the table, to even discuss the reengagement is the issue. So, generally speaking then, in terms of developing a mandate, whatís the ministerís position on land and resources?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, certainly when we go back to the table to negotiate land claims, weíre going to have a mandate from Cabinet to negotiate land resources and the other things pertaining to the land claim.
What weíre working at now, as a government, is trying to get the Kaska First Nation and the federal government back together so that we can proceed with this land claim and finalize it.
Ms. Duncan: So, working toward getting them back together ó is land part of the deal?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At this point, land is not part of the deal. What weíre working with again now is trying to get the federal government and the Kaska First Nation in a compatible position where they will sit down and negotiate, and we will go back to the table at any time they ask us to go back. Now, what we bring to the table will certainly be a mandate from our government as to what we have on the table, whether itís land, resources or money, and that will be done at the time we go to the table.
Mr. McRobb: I have one more question. What is this ministerís intention with respect to cottage lot development?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We all understand that the people in the communities like to expand their cottage lots. There is a question of where we can expand. We have the environment to think about on our lakes; we have access to our lakes and all sorts of issues. In answer to the question of the member opposite, our government is pro developing some cottage lots for the use of the Yukon taxpayers. In saying that, we have to be careful. We have to work away at this and make sure that when we do it, the repercussions on the neighbours, lakes and on the roads are not negative.
Mr. McRobb: I think we can agree on that. I would like to ask the minister a question, and it follows up on the Yukon Partyís commitment to collaborate and cooperate and involve all Members of the Legislative Assembly. Would this minister commit to consulting any opposition MLA whose riding will be directly affected by the approval of any cottage lot developments? Would he commit to consulting any members on this side of the House prior to approving or proceeding with any such plans?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In our platform, we committed to work with the House on all sorts of issues pertaining to governing the Yukon, but we have to remember that we on this side are the government, but we will be open to the oppositionís questions and hopefully we can answer those questions.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this government has not been open so far, and I invite anyone to check Hansard from earlier in this debate for examples. There are definitely reasons to doubt the level of accountability demonstrated by this government, and now weíre beginning to see that promises of working with all members in this Assembly were simply election talk.
Mr. Chair, the minister has refused to live up to that promise. I gave him a clear opportunity to state that he would involve members on this side of the House before proceeding with the approval of or development of any cottage lot developments in the ridings of opposition MLAs.
You heard yourself, Mr. Chair, that the minister refused to do that. Well, Iím not going to stand here and batter the minister over it. I think the record will stand on its own, and I can advise the minister this will be yet another example that indicates the Yukon Party government is not living up to what it promised Yukoners.
Land Central Services ó Recoverable in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Land Central Services ó Non-recoverable
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, land central services ó non-recoverable?
On Oil and Gas Management
On Oil and Gas Resource Information Management Systems
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, oil and gas resource information management systems?
Ms. Duncan: I think I have already asked the minister this question. Is he committed to providing me with an update on the oil and gas resource information management systems and how well they were working? I see that we have underexpended by $11,000, so did we choose not to purchase a particular piece of equipment or did something come in underbudget?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think that involved some system work that was delayed, so itís an ongoing thing.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on oil and gas resource information management systems?
On Resource Assessments Ė Oil and Gas
Ms. Duncan: We were working toward land disposition in the Whitehorse Trough. Where are we in that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are proceeding with the Whitehorse Trough. We havenít made the decision whether we are going to put that into this phase. That decision should be made probably within the next two weeks. Hopefully we can get it out by the end of May, understanding that, in the spring, we have our sale. So we are working on that issue.
Resource Assessments Ė Oil and Gas in the amount of $16,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline
On Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate why another $339,000 was appropriated to this line item, which brought the total to three-quarters of a million dollars for the past fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There was $72,000 increased costs for lobbying for the American federal government; there was $250,000 for Kaska economic table, and there was a travel of $12,000 for the Kaska to go down to the Calgary oil and gas seminar, and then there was some oil and gas money to the tune of $5,000 for Kwanlin Dun.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, $250,000 for the Kaska table is what I believe the minister said. Can we get an itemized breakdown of that item?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We can give you a report on that.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, to be clear, the minister is saying that the $200,000 for the Kaska economic roundtable is this money. This is not the contract for the negotiation of the abeyance. Is that correct? Because they are two different items.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member is correct.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, then I would like to also be apprised of the work that has been done at the Kaska economic roundtable. As the minister committed to providing the official opposition with that information, Iíd like their latest report as well, please.
Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis in the amount of $339,000 agreed to
On Minerals Planning and Development
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, Yukon mining incentives program?
On Geological Surveys
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, geological surveys?
On Regional Mineral Development Program
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, regional mineral development program?
On Resource Assessments ó Minerals
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, resource assessments Ė minerals?
On Capital Maintenance Faro Mine
Ms. Duncan: The minister has previously indicated that this $75,000 is legal costs. Could I have a breakdown of those sent over please?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, we can send that to both of you.
Capital Maintenance Faro Mine in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding capital recoveries?
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources agreed to
Chair: Do members wish to proceed with Vote 52, Environment?
We will recess for five minutes.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-0, with Vote 52, Environment. The page reference is 9-3.
Department of Environment
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: By way of introduction, for Vote 52 for the Department of Environment, working as stewards of Yukonís natural environment, we seek an increase of $24,000 in operation and maintenance expenditures, which is matched by the same figure of $24,000, for a total difference of nothing. Capital expenditures have a reduction of $165,000, and there is an increase of $14,000 in capital revenue.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mrs. Peter: For the record, Iíd just like to make a few issues clear for this department. Since the Yukon Party came into office, a lot of changes have happened for the Yukon in this department, and weíve seen some cuts in some areas and I would like some clarification on that.
The one area that I have asked about before and I would like to seek more clarification on is the 43-percent cut to the capital budget for parks and resource assessment. I asked this question last week and was given an answer about the interpretive centre in Dawson, which didnít really make sense to me, so I would like to have clarification on the 43-percent cut to the capital budget from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím a bit confused. Are we in the line-by-line, since that is a line item?
Chair: We have not yet proceeded to line-by-line.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The 43 percent reflects, for the most part, the largest part slowing down on the development of the Tombstone interpretive park. Thatís the vast majority of that item.
Mrs. Peter: That is a drastic cut. Can the minister give me more detail about that cut, whether it is for a building itself, or are there other issues around that he can clarify?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It is, in fact, for a building at the Tombstone interpretive centre. This has been a project weíve been working on for some time, and it was brought to our attention during meetings with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the elders, who expressed concern that the campground and potential site for the interpretive centre was in a migration area for the animals. It made perfect sense to me that, years ago, knowledge being what it was, this was a great place to put the campground and project an interpretive centre, because thatís where the animals are but, in sober second thought and in talking with the elders, they would prefer we look at that and, perhaps, utilize that area for viewing, but put the interpretive centre somewhere else.
That leaves the question open in the meantime, and weíre certainly not going to disrespect the request of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in elders.
Mrs. Peter: I share with the minister that we do not go against any wishes of the elders. I would just like to make that clear for myself also. The Yukon protected areas strategy staff were moved to another branch within this department. I would like to, again, seek clarification on that. What are the duties of those staff now that theyíve been moved from that area into another area?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The term "another branch" is incorrect. The member opposite is a bit confused on that. They are doing today exactly what they did before with one exception, and that is seeking out new areas. They continue to work within existing areas. They continue to develop the data which is necessary for our branch, for the Energy, Mines and Resources, and for the First Nations.
The move that she refers to was, in fact, renovations being done to the second floor of the wildlife laboratory at 10 Burns Road to bring staff back over ó home, as it were, Mr. Chair ó and remove them from the old weather station up by the aquatic centre. The lease on that expired last night at midnight, and Iím not sure if that move has actually occurred yet, but we are certainly working at this ó there is an indication that that move will occur in one month. The renovations are a little bit slow at Burns Road. At that point, they will be brought back.
But they are the same people doing exactly the same jobs.
Mrs. Peter: I donít believe Iím the one who is confused here. There are a lot of people out there in the Yukon public asking questions. I am asking these questions on their behalf, and I would appreciate it if the minister would answer those questions for us.
The minister is giving mixed messages not only to me but to the Yukon public. He is saying that the staff is still addressing the issues of the Yukon protected areas strategy and a number of times already has answered questions in those areas for me. As far as I know, that was eliminated or discontinued.
Can the minister please, for the record, clarify those for me and for the people out there who are asking the questions?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I agree with the member opposite on one point and that is that there is some public confusion on this. I suggest that part of the public confusion is continual questions ignoring the answer.
The people are the same people, they are doing the same job, they are being moved to 10 Burns Road and, since some of the background here was questioning on that, the government previous to us took 10 Burns Road with two years left on the lease and negotiated renovations, effectively the addition of a second floor under the wildlife laboratory and, in that motion, signed an additional 10-year lease, which is causing us a bit of a problem with our space concerns ó actually a surplus of space.
These people are working within already identified parks and areas ó Tombstone, Fishing Branch. They are working with existing SMAs that have already been identified for each of the land claims deals, both past and the ones coming up. They are working within existing national parks. They are doing this same work. The only thing they are not doing is going out and confusing the issue, in our mind, of trying to identify new areas. They are not in a new branch. There is no new branch. I donít know how to be clearer than that.
Mrs. Peter: I think the minister is confusing the message more by worrying about moving from one building to another. That was not my question.
My question is: what are the staffís responsibilities now that the Yukon protected areas strategy has been eliminated and there is a little bit of clarification around that?
He brought up the subject of the Fishing Branch. Can the minister please tell me what the further plans are for the Fishing Branch in the management planning area?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am still a little confused here. Under renewal, which had nothing to do with YPAS or, frankly, with this government, some of the people involved in YPAS were moved over into our parks department. That occurred well before the election. All I can talk about is that since the election, those individuals are still in parks branch. The planners whose responsibilities included, at that time, future and existing and SMAs and everything else were at the weather station. It is the weather station people who moved.
Itís the member opposite who is questioning me about a move. I would be remiss not to give that answer, and that is not confusing, Mr. Chair. It is the same people doing the same job and, frankly, I think theyíre moving the desks over, too, so theyíre sitting in the same desks. The desks will just happen to be located over at 10 Burns Road at the end of April. They havenít moved yet.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd like the minister to answer my question about further plans for the management plan for the Fishing Branch.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Weíre at a stage now where we are waiting for the management plan to be drawn up. Itís in progress right now, and weíre looking forward to an early conclusion on that. Tombstone is further along, and I understand that probably within two to three months we should have that set up as well.
Mrs. Peter: Is there a dollar figure for the planning thatís going on right now?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As of the moment, no. What dollars will be committed to that will be in the 2003-04 budget, which we have hopes of getting to.
Mrs. Peter: In the Environment budget briefing, there was an issue brought up about a Parks Canada building in Old Crow. Can the minister please tell me what kinds of plans are being made for a building in Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thereís a little confusion on this as well. Parks Canada, which is a federal organization, is to our knowledge looking at a building up there and is talking with Tourism and others about ways of utilizing this, but this doesnít have anything to do with the Department of Environment.
We do have an item that the member may find confusing. To put a building, which Iíve seen alternately described as building or shed ó which will allow our conservation officer space up there and for storage of other things relating to our department. But thatís not the Parks Canada building that she refers to.
Ms. Duncan: One of the representations that I have received in the past is from the recycling groups with respect to the disposal of batteries. They have quite an enormous collection. Periodically the Government of Yukon, in the past, has stepped in and provided the funding, not out of the recycling fund but out of the Department of Environment, to ship these batteries south.
I would like the minister to confirm that there is no supplementary money for that particular initiative in this supplementary. Just to put the minister on notice, I have a number of questions with respect to the recycling fund and recycling initiatives, and I would be anticipating that perhaps on Earth Day, April 22, a ministerial statement in that respect.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We can never judge from day to day what happens in this House, but we will certainly look forward to Earth Day.
In the supplementary budget, as it stands now, no, there is, to my knowledge, nothing to do with batteries on this, although we are certainly looking at batteries, as we are looking at tires and oil and trying to come to some conclusions on that. Itís certainly on the horizon, but there is nothing in this supplementary on it.
Ms. Duncan: I will reserve further questions until the debate on the mains.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? We will then proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On General Management
General Management in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $23,000 agreed to
On Management of Natural Resources
Chair: Is there any discussion on management of natural resources?
On Monitoring and Compliance
Chair: Is there any discussion on monitoring and compliance?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of the Environment in the amount of $24,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on operation and maintenance recoveries?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the miscellaneous partnerships we have had a $40,000 reduction. Clearly, some organization has not come through as anticipated, so perhaps the minister could outline what that was.
Also, under the recoveries, I believe the centre line under management of natural resources is actually the Walter Gordon Duncan Foundation, so perhaps we could change that reference as there are a number of others. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is quite right. They have the foundation wrong on that, under the recoveries.
Itís interesting on that one, Mr. Speaker, that there is a big question. One of the problems the Department of Environment has is that people who would like to give us money find it difficult to do so. In other words, if you want to donate for a specific project, there are problems within the government to try to designate it for a specific project without simply putting it into general revenues, and being told later, yes, the Fish and Game Association, for instance, donated $3,000 but they wanted it earmarked, so to speak, for the bison collaring. Either they donate that into general revenues and have the warm fuzzy feeling that weíre going to use it for what we say, or ó in one case, they made it out for the bison research fund, which in effect doesnít exist and causes us all sorts of problems.
So we create line items on both sides, both expenditures and recoveries, so that the money can go into one account and then be distributed into the others. We found in the past in many cases that we werenít able to accept money ó if someone really had a problem with that arrangement, they simply would not donate the money. As we started this mechanism, what this indicates is that we found donations of $40,000 more than we had anticipated. In the budget next, I warn the member opposite, that amount increases, I believe, to one or two hundred thousand ó $100,000, which will give lots of latitude for people who want to donate toward conservation-related activities. We may not hit that and it may come up as a supplementary next year, but what weíre doing is giving a mechanism and trying to decrease the number of times that this has to go back to Management Board, because every time we try to do some little thing in some little fund weíre constantly causing a lot of paperwork. Weíre just trying to cut that paperwork down.
Ms. Duncan: I understand the paperwork issue. Itís the same issue around indemnification clauses. We have to do an act every time we want to do an indemnification. I understand that there are some ties that bind, so to speak, in the Financial Administration Act. I understand that, but we had estimated miscellaneous partnerships at $50,000, and weíre showing a $40,000 reduction in the supplementary.
So is the minister trying to say that we spelled out the donations more clearly, or is he saying ó because he used the expression $40,000 more. In fact, itís $40,000 less in the miscellaneous partnerships. Why? Did people find this too onerous? Did we overestimate at the beginning? What happened?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It would appear that the member opposite is quite correct on that. It is a reduction on this.
But again, it results as choosing an arbitrary number and then allowing us to work within that. Again, one of the things we had was difficulty with some of the groups that wanted to donate money. This comes from an arbitrary thing that tries to cut down on the paperwork, but we hope to do much better with it next year, in terms of larger donations.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on operation and maintenance recoveries?
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Information Systems and Equipment and Furniture
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
On Lands and Facilities
On Tombstone Interpretive Centre
Tombstone Interpretive Centre in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
On Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA)
Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
On Corporate Planning Initiatives
On Legislative Development
Chair: Is there any discussion on legislation development?
Ms. Duncan: The department appears to have elected not to proceed with some legislative development. Is this a reconsideration of additional work under the Wildlife Act or is it the species at risk legislation from the feds. What exactly is the legislation that is not proceeding?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is quite correct. That reflects work that was deferred on the Yukon Environment Ac, not the Wildlife Act.
Ms. Duncan: This must be specific regulations then, because the Environment Act is enacted when specific regulations proceed before the public and before Cabinet. What regulations arenít being done?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It would appear that refers to an updating of the Yukon Environment Act, and it was work that was probably deferred because of devolution, but I donít know that off the top of my head.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to provide a written response outlining in greater detail what legislation is not proceeding and why the line was reduced?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Absolutely.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on legislation development?
On Management of Natural Resources
On Protected Areas
On Park System Plan
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line item, park system plan?
On Resource Assessment
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line item, resource assessment?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Environment in the amount of an underexpenditure of $165,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding capital recoveries?
Department of Environment agreed to
Executive Council Office ó continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate.
Mr. Hardy: Iíll ask the minister if heís still going to make some comments, or does he feel that enough time has lapsed and we can clear it?
I was looking at this, and I guess I was looking at one of the titles in here. Itís still general debate, but it jumped out at me. Itís called the Yukon permanent fund, and obviously the title itself kind of was misleading because it didnít stay permanent very long under the Yukon Party. However, can the minister tell me if this $15-million contingency fund isnít made up partially of the amount that was removed from the ex-permanent fund?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No, for the leader of the official opposition, the permanent fund has no relationship to the $15-million rainy day fund that is set aside for the inevitable issues we will face due to, you know, the loss of transfer to population or other factors in the formula that may reduce our grant from Ottawa. That $15-million amount has been set aside under a number of governments and continues to be a line item in the mains.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister give me kind of an overview of where that amount of money went?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the $10-million permanent fund, which was set up in the Executive Council Office, was dissolved and the money went back into general revenues.
Mr. Hardy: I donít have many more questions in general debate here. I know there has been some talk about it but I just need to refresh my memory, because it has been over a week since we were discussing Executive Council Office. For the agreement around the waterfront land purchase, are there timelines to that? I know we talked about it, but I donít remember if we were actually given some timelines on the agreement itself.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The waterfront purchase is pursuant to the land claim agreement. Itís something that was committed to the First Nation under previous governments. As far as timelines, our government has forwarded our agreement to purchase. Itís now in the cityís hands.
Mr. Hardy: Is the minister telling me that there are no timelines for the amount of money allocated? In most agreements, when you enter into them, there is a certain timeline where, if everything isnít concluded, it is either off the table or else youíre back at negotiations. I am just trying to find out if there was some sense of timeline put on this or if the money would end up being returned if the purchase doesnít go through, for whatever reasons ó whether itís because of the city balking at it or the First Nation reconsidering the offer and the transfer of land. So, thatís what I am looking for, to try to find out the governmentís responsibility on that one.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Firstly, it is now April 1. We have an agreement in principle with the city, but the amount will have to be revoted into this fiscal year because we were unable to conclude that agreement within the fiscal year 2002-03.
As far as a timeline, this is part of the land claim. Weíve proceeded with all our responsibility in this particular section of the land claim. The First Nation continues on with theirs. We have to work with the city on this, obviously, so the first steps are to get this purchase agreement or sales agreement. There has been an extension provided by Ottawa to the ratification timeline, and everything would be consistent with that timeline.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up on that particular line of questioning. The minister responsible says the offer is in the hands of the city. He didnít indicate in response to my colleague what the time limit is on that offer.
So letís try this another way. Can the minister provide information to the House as to when he anticipates the City of Whitehorse responding to the offer, or have they responded with a counter-offer?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member probably knows that the offer to purchase this waterfront property stems from the negotiation of this land claim, which the member opposite signed on to, as far as representing the Yukon government. We have provided the city with our offer to purchase, based on the amount of money they required for the property, and we are awaiting their response. We have an agreement in principle, and I canít say for the member if thatís going to be tomorrow or next week. Perhaps the member would want to pick up the phone, call the mayor, and see what response the member gets from the mayor.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a number of points. First of all, the offer to purchase this was ó this is the first time that the Government of Yukon had done this in a land claims settlement. The offer was made. An amount was offered. The offer was made and we havenít had a response ó or the member has made reference to an agreement in principle. Can the member opposite advise us about that agreement in principle?
Mr. Chair, for the member opposite, I am seeking information about the agreement in principle. The member opposite made reference to an agreement in principle. What is it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The agreement in principle is based on the offer to purchase the waterfront property, which is part of a land claim agreement that the member of the third party entered into. We are only following through with the commitments in that land claim agreement, which is now housed in an MOU, which is under the ratification process. The agreement in principle is obviously with officials, and weíre waiting for a formal response from the city in regard to finalizing this particular sale.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite tell me: if this doesnít go forward, what happens to the money?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, in this particular case, because of this connection to the land claim and it doesnít go forward, is the member referring to the fact that the land claim would not be ratified? It has an important bearing on what the answer would be.
Mr. Hardy: What Iím trying to get a handle on, Mr. Chair, is that this amount of money is all hinging upon the ratification of the land claims agreement with Kwanlin Dun. So if you can answer that first question, then we can go from there so I get the picture.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I think maybe Iíll go about it this way, Mr. Chair. The money is booked here because the original timeline on ratification was to end yesterday, March 31, 2003. The federal government granted prior to yesterday, March 31, an extension for the timeline on ratification. However, we had booked the money. Itís part of the land claim that was entered into, and should this land claim not come into effect, I think the obvious answer is, then, the money would lapse again. It would not be spent.
Mr. Hardy: Well, based on that, could the minister give me an indication of what his feelings are in regard to the ratification of the land claims with the Kwanlin Dun?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First off, we are comfortable with the extension given because there were certainly a number of circumstances involved subsequent to the signing of the MOUs that led to delay in the ratification process, so we are very comfortable with the extension. We feel it is a fair approach to take. We also are hopeful that the ratification process will result in the finalization of the land claim, but we donít dictate to a First Nation what the outcome of those things will be. We have offered to be helpful where we can. Should they request our assistance, we will do what we can in that area, but much of this now is left up to the First Nation. They have signed on to this MOU as both the federal and territorial governments have, and they are now in the process of ratification, and this is a time for them to do their work and, as I said, if required or requested, where we can we will help out.
Ms. Duncan: It is quite under CEAA and some of the other legislation, both federal and now territorial that, with respect to land transactions, environmental assessments are the norm. Has the environmental assessment been done on this piece of property and, if so, who paid for it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The owner of the land is the city and, based on the purchase agreement, it is our understanding there is information available in regard to this particular parcel or property that relates to environmental issues. We feel comfortable that we can proceed, as laid out in the final agreement.
Ms. Duncan: The minister said that "we feel comfortable that we can proceed" so Iím taking that to mean that heís comfortable that the city is going to accept the offer and that the purchase of this piece of land is going to proceed.
Unfortunately the minister hasnít been able to give us any kind of a time frame or a time on the offer. Can the minister now state when he expects this deal to be concluded? I would appreciate an answer other than to pick up the phone and call the city.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, we have an agreement in principle. There is still an ongoing negotiation to conclude. Obviously that means that there is some finalization to this sale and this purchase. As I said earlier, I canít say if it will be today, tomorrow or the next day. Itís up to the process to bring it to fruition. As soon as we know, we will certainly let the member know.
Ms. Duncan: Can the member opposite refresh my memory. Is there a time or date on this offer? I mean, if itís part of the land package that is now being put before Kwanlin Dun members, they are advised in meetings and the public is advised what the land selections are. This parcel is one of them.
They are voting based upon an acceptance of this parcel. They are voting to ratify their land claim, that yes, these are the land selections and this is one of them. So presumably we must conclude this prior to ratification.
Can the minister give any kind of an idea? Is it on city councilís agenda? Is it an in-camera meeting? Is it before bylaw? Is a bylaw being drafted for this purchase? Where are we with the purchase of this land? Have the environmental assessments been concluded? Have all the caveats to the sale been taken off it? Where are we with this purchase?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I believe I have already answered it. We are in the stages of finalizing a purchase arrangement for the property as laid out in the land claim agreement. Itís part of the land claim agreement. The ratification has been extended. Weíre trying to conclude this particular area so that the ratification process, as it proceeds, will have this element of their claim ready. Whether the city has to change a bylaw or not, we can find out. I highly doubt it. That should already have been addressed when the city put this up for offer, if there was any need to change bylaws. Theyíre the owner of the property.
Secondly, yes, I would say that, once officials have concluded, it must go to the elected representatives of the City of Whitehorse to give their stamp of approval on the deal.
I suspect, in the very near future, it will be in city council and they will be dealing with this matter once the agreement has been finalized.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, can the minister confirm, and he may wish to give me a written response ó unfortunately, due to a conflict in scheduling, I didnít attend the public meeting that outlined the land selections. Was this put up? Was this information shared with the general public ó this land parcel ó and was a date given at the meeting?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has made their land claim maps public and every parcel of land that has been selected was part of that public presentation. It includes this particular area because they have chosen it. Itís an R block, if you will. Our job, though ó the Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse ó is to conclude our arrangement. The Kwanlin Dun has selected this parcel so it was made public.
Ms. Duncan: Was the public information about when this would be concluded also put out, or was it just a question?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I would submit to the member that this has nothing to do with the First Nation. Theyíve selected the parcel under the agreement the member entered into ó the member opposite, the member asking these questions, the former Premier. We are committed to purchase this land from the city. This is not the First Nationís issue. Theyíve done their job in terms of selecting that parcel. Governments have agreed to it. Itís our duty now to conclude with the city the purchase of this property.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no one is suggesting ó and I never said in my answer that this was the First Nationís issue. I said it was the governmentís issue to conclude, as the member has just said. All Iím looking for is a conclusion date from the minister. There must be one, somewhere.
What is the conclusion date? Prior to ratification ó the members are voting based on the presumption that this matter will be concluded. I had every reasonable expectation when I was part of the government that made the offer that it would be concluded. I also expected it would have been done long before now. Itís the member oppositeís responsibility to bring this to a conclusion. Can he tell the House when he anticipates doing this?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes. We are going to conclude in the immediate future.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister definitively answer when this matter will be concluded ó something other than "in the immediate future"? Something a little more definitive would be helpful to all parties.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In this arrangement, given the fact that this is part of a land claims selection, and we are not buying a house that would have a drop-dead date on the purchase arrangement. We are very conscious of the issues around the ratification process. That is why, with the city, we have made best efforts to expedite this purchase. We are now awaiting the response from the city. We have an agreement in principle. If the city is going to take a day, two days or another week, that is pretty well in their court. We just urge that they do so as quickly as possible.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will continue with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, land claims and implementation secretariat?
Devolution in the amount of $935,000 agreed to
On First Nations Relations
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, First Nations relations?
On Government Audit Services
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, government audit services?
On Cabinet Offices
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $400,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any other discussion on operation and maintenance expenditures?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Executive Council Office in the amount of $1,085,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on capital expenditures?
On Capital Expenditures
On Cabinet and Management Support
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line, Yukon permanent fund?
Mr. Hardy: Is this the last time we are going to see the name Yukon permanent fund?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Never say never. If we look to our neighbour to the west, Alaska, the Alaska State permanent fund is a huge success. However, the difference between what the former government tried to do here and the Alaska State permanent fund is hundreds of millions of dollars. Thatís what it takes to make this sort of mechanism work.
So, at this level, no, the money is much better used by Yukoners in circulation. Housing a $10 million permanent fund and utilizing the earnings off that fund for economic development severely limits our ability to do so. I think we get a much better return in targeting expenditures where we get stimulus and we can generate cash flow. For example, there is a multiplier factor on dollars spent, so if you stimulate in the short term the economy by injecting monies into the communities, for instance, you will realize, through spending power or cash flow, a multiplier effect that is going to have much more benefit than having this amount of money sitting locked away somewhere and trying to use the interest earned off it to accomplish what that amount would really do, which is very little.
Mr. Hardy: That was a very nice little speech. I was just curious if the name itself was ever going to be used again. It didnít seem to be very permanent. It seems to be with the change of government. It can disappear at the stroke of a pen.
I would like to make a suggestion that, if there is one created in the future under the Yukon Party watch, maybe they could come up with a different name.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will certainly take that under advisement. I get the memberís point, though there certainly is a correlation to what Alaska has done with their permanent fund. For what the former government was trying to accomplish here, albeit a little bit misguided, I donít think thereís any reason why, at some point in the future, the Yukonís economy ó through resource development such as oil and gas ó should not produce a significant return, and we might then entertain looking at ways to set aside amounts of money that could be used for investment purposes to create growth ó in what the government has available in cash to assist economic development in the Yukon. But at this stage of the game, it would require much more than this amount.
I canít say never, because another permanent fund may become a fact of life for Yukon at some point, given the fact that it has proven in other areas to be effective. Albertaís heritage fund, the Alaska State permanent fund ó we could certainly give it a different name, but I think itís the concept thatís the important thing here.
Mr. Hardy: Iím not challenging the concept. I think the concept has a lot of merit, and obviously a lot of Canadians believe in the concept. We only have to look at RRSPs ó save a little money every year and, after 20 or 30 years, you are able to retire on the amount of money you saved and the investments you made. Thatís done with the philosophy that the little bit of money you can put away over a longer period of time each year will accumulate enough interest and investment that you basically create your own pension.
Now, the Yukon permanent fund might have been made with the intention that, each year, there would be more money allocated to it. However, we donít have the revenues coming in to make a substantial contribution, but the philosophy of "if itís not enough, you donít start it" is kind of short-sighted, too. If that was the philosophy, then almost nothing would be started in the Yukon. Many people have made their fortunes by starting with very small businesses and growing into much larger and successful businesses. Others have kept a small business but a very efficiently run one and ensured thereís something for themselves and their families down the road.
On both sides, thereís some merit to the debate and discussions around a permanent fund. I just get a kick out of the name, frankly. I find itís quite an interesting name ó that a previous government can create a permanent fund, and the next government can come along and remove a permanent fund. For me, itís kind of a little humorous, and there doesnít seem to be any way to protect the fund.
The member opposite talked about investments and that. Itís one of the things that, when the NDP was in government before, we had some initiatives, such as the fireweed fund, which allows other monies to be contributed from the federal government to be matched, and allows the Yukon people themselves to invest in this type of capital fund.
Iím not going to go into it at this point. Iíd probably rather discuss it with the Yukon Partyís budget instead of the supplementary. Iím just going to drop this but, if it is ever created again, I hope we do have a creative name, instead of "permanent", which doesnít seem to be very permanent.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the member has made a lot of good points. However, we must reflect on the fact that the former Liberal government, in its spending habits, created a situation where an accumulated deficit was becoming a reality and, in that situation, the incoming government had to make some decisions to ensure that that did not happen. In doing so, weíve gone from this supplementary, which only closes out up to period 8 ó thereís still more final accounting to take place to conclude the fiscal year 2002-03 ó but weíve gone from where we were at, at this period in the fiscal year, to developing a budget that is the third highest budget or expenditure in the history of the Yukon Territory and have managed to keep the Yukon out of an accumulated deficit position.
Weíve done so by ensuring that there were no layoffs in the public service. Weíve done so by ensuring that we continue to maintain spending to programs and services for Yukoners. So, as far as the permanent fund name, letís agree then, the official opposition leader and I, that should we ever get to the point where we want to create another mechanism that may reflect how the Alaska State permanent fund works or the Alberta heritage fund, if we can ever reap those massive benefits from resource development that would actually create whatís required for a fund of this type, the member and I could sit down and put our heads together and maybe come up with another name.
Chair: Is there any further discussion on the line, Yukon permanent fund?
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
On Kwanlin Dun Heritage Cultural Centre
Ms. Duncan: Is this the balance of the contribution to Kwanlin Dun Heritage Centre or are there additional expenditures expected after this one?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This amount of money was a commitment by the former NDP government to the Kwanlin Dun as part of that land claim negotiation under that government. $880,000 is reflected in this supplementary. The balance of the $1.2 million commitment that will be reflected in the mains for 2003-04.
Ms. Duncan: The $1.2 million for the cultural centre was a commitment in the negotiations under an NDP government. To advance the money was a question from, I believe, the 2000 campaign. I would like the minister to confirm that this in fact is a pre-implementation of monies for the land claims settlement. Normally post-ratification and then an effective date is when monies committed in a land claim are paid. This is in fact pre-implementing the land claim. I would like the minister to confirm that.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, it should come as no surprise to the member opposite that I disagree with that particular definition. The money has been booked. Some money has been handed over in the spirit and intent of the land claim, obviously, but also the fact that the upgrade or enhancement of the waterfront is part of this. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation has an opportunity here to participate in that. We are not pre-implementing; we realize there is a ratification process going on, but we are showing the First Nation that, as a government, we are prepared to honour our responsibilities and commitments that other governments have entered into.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, itís a commitment that is in the land claim agreement that the member says he disagrees with ó the definition that it is not pre-implementing. Can the member then define what it is?
To me, giving an advance prior to implementation of a land claim on something that is effective once a land claim is implemented, is pre-implementation. I donít know how else it can be defined. The member doesnít like the definition, so could he provide me with an alternate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís not a question of whether I like or dislike the definition. The fact is that the former government committed to the First Nation that this would not be contingent on the settlement of the land claim. As I pointed out, we are merely following through with what other governments have committed to do. Thatís why the money is booked and that is how we will continue to operate as a government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it was the member opposite who said he didnít like the definition so I asked for an alternative one. Is the member saying that this money is not contingent or not part of the land claim settlement? He says itís not contingent upon the land claim settlement. Well, itís certainly part of their land claim agreement, as far as I understood, and thatís what he said earlier.
Iím asking about the advance of this money. If itís not pre-implementation of the land claim, what is it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the member should know. The member committed to the First Nation, when in government, that this amount of money was not contingent on reaching a final agreement. Weíre only following through with commitments made by a previous government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís the memberís turn to answer the questions and the member should know, the member ought to know, that that is not the case. The fact is that the land claim cultural centre for Kwanlin Dun was part of the land claim. All Iím saying to the minister opposite and asking him to put on the record is that he and his government are pre-implementing the land claim in advancing this money. Thatís all Iím asking him to state for the record. Yes, this is an advance on the Kwanlin Dun heritage culture centre. Itís $880,000. Itís an advance on something thatís in their land claim.
Will the minister confirm it is pre-implementation of the Kwanlin Dun land claim? Thatís all Iím asking him.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, instead of dancing around this issue, I think we have to reflect on the facts as they transpired. A former government committed to a First Nation in a land claim negotiation that this amount of money would not be contingent on reaching a final agreement.
Therefore, I cannot define this, in good conscience, as pre-implementation. We are merely following through with a commitment made by a former government to a First Nation here in Whitehorse.
So I think the memberís point is moot. There was a commitment made in regard to this particular amount of money, and that commitment was providing to the First Nation assurances that the money was not contingent on reaching a final agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I disagree with the member on that. I also would note for the member opposite that this is an amount of $880,000. That is the responsibility of his government ó that amount of money to be advanced.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No, the member opposite says off-microphone, "Here we go again." I donít want to spend hours and hours and hours with the member opposite on House time. The member opposite still has not provided what was approved up to period 3 and what was approved in period 8. I still donít have that information.
That being said, I recall very distinctly the transfer weíve already debated of $200,000 out of the responsibility of Business, Tourism and Culture into Executive Council Office for the Kwanlin Dun heritage cultural centre. I recall that. So an advance of $200,000, I understand. This is $880,000. Thatís a $680,000 difference. Thatís additional money that is being advanced, additional money approved by the member oppositeís government.
Iíd like him to acknowledge two things for the record. One, that this is pre-implementing a land claim settlement; it is pre-implementation. I am not saying it shouldnít be done. I just want the member opposite to acknowledge that. I would also like an explanation of the balance of the $680,000. How is it going to be spent and how and when this agreement ó is this part of the memorandum with Kwanlin Dun or has this simply been agreed to by negotiators at the table, and how is it being spent?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Had the former government not committed to the First Nation that this money was not contingent upon reaching a final agreement, if that had not happened, then we could conclude that this expenditure may very well be a pre-implementation. In this case, it is not. We are merely honouring commitments by a former government. If it were not contingent on reaching a final agreement, how can it then be pre-implementation of anything? It is a commitment by former governments to an amount of money that would go to the First Nation to build a cultural centre on the waterfront in Whitehorse. That commitment started with the former NDP government. That commitment was entered into as far as enhancing it by clearly outlining for the First Nation that the money was not contingent on reaching a final agreement; therefore, the member should take the responsibility for what we have had to do in honouring former governmentsí commitments to a First Nation. We arenít going to break those commitments. We are following through with them, as we should.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not disputing the concept of pre-implementing land claim agreements. As a government, we did that with the Mount Sima Road project. Thatís a very good example of how governments can work together and work ahead of the final ratification in a land claim settlement ó ahead even, in the case of Mount Sima, of the memorandum of understanding being reached. Itís a sign of good faith at the table. Itís working together. I understand that. I just would like the minister to acknowledge that, and acknowledge that this is a pre-implementation.
Unfortunately again, he has not answered the question. Thereís an additional $680,000. How is that money being spent? Itís an advance toward the Kwanlin Dun heritage cultural centre. The minister has responsibility and has made this additional advance on construction, design, planning. How is it being spent?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, okay, the member can have it her way. The member did preimplement this amount of money by committing to the First Nation that this amount of money was not contingent upon reaching a final agreement ó first item.
So, if the member wants to focus on pre-implementation, it happened through the commitment her government made to the First Nation, and we are following through with that commitment.
Second item ó the money is for the cultural centre. Obviously, thatís where itís going.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím just going to agree to disagree with the member opposite. This debate isnít about who is more stubborn. Itís about a very, very clear point on pre-implementation. Iím not disputing pre-implementation. I do dispute the memberís interpretation that itís not contingent, because there are other clauses in the land claim that, should it not be ratified ó there are contingencies.
So, I disagree with the member opposite. I will agree to disagree. The fact is that this is pre-implementation.
Now, under our watch, there was a commitment of $200,000. The member, and the minister, has responsibility for further advancing another $680,000. The additional is $880,000. $200,000 came from a transfer from Business, Tourism and Culture. There is an additional $680,000 that Management Board, under his chairmanship, has agreed to advance.
So, there is an additional advance made. Itís usually part of a request. What is happening with that money? It is the responsibility of the member. He hasnít just said, "Hereís a cheque." There has been a request. There has been an advance. It has been for something. What is it for?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, let me take the member back in time to those glory years of the Liberal government. The commitment by the Liberal government to ensure that $1.2 million for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation cultural centre was in fact a commitment by government to flow that money, and that flow of money was not contingent on reaching a final agreement.
Upon taking office, we are merely following through with that very commitment that that former government had made, and the monies in total ó $1.2 million ó are to be allocated to the First Nationís cultural centre. To date, $200,000 has transferred to the First Nation for planning. Obviously there is another $1 million to go. In this supplementary to close out this fiscal year, there is $880,000 in total, which leaves an amount of money for the coming fiscal year, 2003-04.
What more needs to be said on this issue? The former government made a commitment. Our government is following through with the commitment. The former government was pre-implementing, by her definition, a land claim. By our definition ó fine, if thatís the way the member wants it. Weíre merely following through with that memberís commitment, and the money is flowing to the First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: I donít disagree with that. I donít disagree with the principle of pre-implementation to some degree. There was a certain amount approved under our watch. Now there is additional money the member opposite has approved and is seeking authority for.
The $1.2 million was agreed upon by several governments. I would just like some more information from the member opposite, and itís not unreasonable. Clearly, an amount was discussed for work on architectural drawings and research into cultural centres ó $200,000, the member opposite is saying, is for planning. I understand itís for the Kwanlin Dun heritage cultural centre. Is it site clearing? Is it drawing? I would just like some information.
Does the member have any additional information? If no, or if he wants to provide me with a legislative return, fine, but there was a Management Board submission that requested that an additional $680,000 flow. What was the supporting documentation for that? What was the reason for it? And what is happening with it? Is progress being made on the heritage cultural centre? Is this site development? What is it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think what weíre having is a failure to communicate. I donít know how else I can put this. We are following through with a former governmentís commitment. The commitment was a $1.2 million allocation of money that was not contingent on reaching a final agreement. I think weíve established that fact. Now, the $1.2 million allocation of funds is toward a cultural centre and Iím sure, in time, we will see where all these monies will wind up.
Frankly, from what I know about construction, we may see that this cultural centre will require ó not from us, because our contribution as agreed to is $1.2 million, but weíll have more money from other sources to the First Nation expended on this cultural centre.
So, at this time, I canít say to the member whether our monies will build a roof or put in the windows or do all the architectural work. Thatís not something that I am going to guess at. I am just merely pointing out that we, as a government, are honouring former governmentsí commitments.
We have more debate on the mains on this very same subject, and I am sure that the member and I will go over this again. But at the end of the day, the expenditure was committed to and that is reflected in the supplementary. The balance of what was committed to is reflected in the next fiscal year mains, 2003-04.
Ms. Duncan: At the end of the day, on the record, I disagree with the member on the point that he insists upon making that the $1.2 million was not contingent on reaching a final agreement. I disagree with the member on that. I believe the $1.2 million was part of the land claim agreement and that there are provisions should a final agreement not be reached. No one wants to think that we arenít going to reach a final agreement. I have every belief that we will and, were I in the member oppositeís shoes, I would continue to work toward that end.
All I am asking for ó and the member is either unable or unwilling to provide ó is before someone pays a cheque or issues money, there is a sense of what it is for. I recognize the government meeting the $1.2-million commitment, and the member has been very clear that it is $1.2 million. The question I am asking is: there was additional money issued, so was there anything other than "Well, we would like to collect on another $680,000 of that agreement"? If there was nothing more, then fine, so be it. I would just like the member opposite to state that.
Are we going to issue regular $880,000 payments until the $1.2 million is reached, without a "By your leave, here is what we have done for it", or how and when are these payments being made? When a payment is made, something triggers it, maybe a straightforward request: "We would like the next instalment on the payment or we are going to do this, this, this and this toward our cultural centre and we would like the payment to get it done." I am seeking that information. What triggered this additional $680,000?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, if the member disagrees with the point that the amount of money is not contingent upon reaching a final agreement, the member is disagreeing with herself. Itís the memberís government that made that commitment to the First Nation. The monies are for the cultural centre, and Iím sure the member realizes that there are many elements in building a cultural centre or any other project of this magnitude.
We are following through with a commitment. There is a lot of money booked in this supplementary, and further money will be booked in the mains. In total, the commitment will have been honoured. The money is booked. That doesnít mean itís being spent tomorrow. It means itís booked.
Governments do this all the time. The federal government, for example, has booked $2.5 billion for the provinces. That $2.5 billion is booked in the past fiscal year, but because the money is not flowing yet, itís being put into trust. Thatís an example of accounting issues you find yourself in.
So, in this particular case, a certain amount of money is booked for this fiscal year, and the balance will be booked in the next fiscal year, closing out the commitment to the First Nation. There are a number of other factors that must be dealt with, obviously, and those factors are being worked on as we speak. At the end of the day, we are following through on commitments made by the previous government.
Ms. Duncan: For the record, itís previous governments ó in the plural. All the minister has stated is that they have booked an additional ó so, the total is $880,000 booked of a $1.2-million expenditure.
He is unwilling to indicate what will trigger payments. This money is not being transferred. He said some of it may lapse. Iím quite prepared to defer this debate and weíll discuss it in the next budget, in the O&M when the next vote comes up. That apparently is the memberís wish. In the interim, I would just encourage the member to perhaps provide me with a legislative return that clearly points to where in the agreement these payments in this $1.2 million have nothing to do with reaching a final land claims settlement. That is what the memberís saying. Perhaps he can provide a legislative return to substantiate what he said this afternoon. I will debate this again when the money lapses or when itís triggered or not and when we vote the balance.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In this case, Mr. Chair, I will not. Iím not going to provide a legislative return for a commitment made by a former government. The member opposite knows what she committed to; she knows full well, and all I can say to the member opposite is, "Letís move on. This is history." The time is ticking, and weíre still trying to debate a supplementary budget that is, to the largest degree, the responsibility of the former Liberal government.
Ms. Duncan: I am quite prepared to move on. I indicated that, and the record will reflect that the member opposite is not prepared to provide a legislative return from this open and accountable government and isnít prepared to substantiate or indicate ó although it is their responsibility for taxpayersí money. They are responsible. I am sure that if I received a cheque from the Government of Yukon, it would have the Premierís signature and the Finance ministerís signature. He has responsibility for this money and he will not explain what will trigger its expenditure or how it will be spent or when the money will flow or how the money will flow. He just says itís a previous governmentís commitment. Well, we are all well aware of that.
How will this money flow to the First Nation? Are they sending us an invoice? If they are sending us an invoice, they are outlining what itís for.
I would like to move on. I would also like some answers from the member opposite. What does he base upon this idea that there is not supposed to be any tie to the land claim? Is the member opposite saying that this is just a $1.2-million commitment outside of the land claim and that there is no contingency on reaching a final agreement and it has nothing to do with reaching a final agreement? This is a part of the Kwanlin Dun package, a commitment to $1.2 million. If that final package isnít agreed upon, heaven forbid ó but if itís not, there are issues surrounding money that has already flowed, and I would just like the member opposite to recognize that but he wonít. Fine, we will agree to disagree.
I would like the member opposite, who has responsibility for taxpayersí money, to agree that there are ways that money flows. There is an invoice or something. But he wonít agree on that either.
He wonít provide a legislative return to substantiate what he said this afternoon. Weíre at a stalemate, Mr. Chair. And unlike previous members who would spend hours and hours and hours and days of this House in a stalemate, Iím not going to go there. Weíll agree to disagree and weíll redebate this line in the mains.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I fully accept that. I meant no offence to the member. I feel that itís also my responsibility to utilize our officialsí time wisely. The member wants a legislative return; well, itís in the pages of Hansard. The answer has been provided quite thoroughly, and until we know exactly what will transpire in the coming days, weeks and so on, all we can say to the member is that there has been a commitment for $1.25 million. That commitment is for a cultural centre for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Previous governments have committed to that money.
This former government committed to ó although the concept and the initiative were part of a negotiation of a claim, the money was not contingent on reaching a final agreement. Thatís the answer. Thatís what would come in a legislative return. Itís in the pages of Hansard.
Therefore, my decision not to provide a legislative return is using our officialsí time wisely.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we agree to disagree and I appreciate that the minister meant no offence. The minister, then, wonít take any offence that I would ó itís common practice and common courtesy to not write deputy ministers to go to the minister. So, in this case, I would like to advise the minister, since we have agreed to disagree, that itís my view that there is a contingency with respect to this money. And, since he wonít provide a legislative return, I will write to the head land claims negotiator then and the Deputy Minister of ECO, and ask for the sections of the land claim and the memoranda to deal with this and also ask how the money flows.
What contribution agreement have we signed then; if it is not contingent on land claims, what contribution agreement is it? How are we issuing the cheques? The minister also said, for the record, he has changed his answer in that he said $1.25 million just a moment ago and $1.2 million earlier. Would he confirm it is $1.2 million total?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the member opposite knows the $50,000 was spent under her governmentís watch. So the member can write letters; fine. I would suggest though that the member write me, because that is where the officials are going to come anyway. So if the member wants to deal with this in that manner, I invite her to write me a letter detailing all these concerns that the member has for the decisions her government made, and I will make best efforts to help that member out in addressing those concerns.
Ms. Duncan: The member opposite said I have concerns about decisions my government made. No, I have concerns about decisions that have been made by this government and the minister oppositeís awareness of all the details surrounding this $1.2 million and the money flowing. I will express those concerns to him in writing.
Kwanlin Dun Heritage Cultural Centre in the amount of $880,000 agreed to
On Kwanlin Dun Waterfront Land Purchase
Kwanlin Dun Waterfront Land Purchase in the amount of $1,235,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any other questions on capital expenditures?
Capital Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of an underexpenditure of $7,885,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Chair: The Chair seeks a bit of direction as to which department we will be proceeding with next.
Committee of the Whole will come to order.
Department of Infrastructure
Chair: We will continue on with Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, with the Department of Infrastructure. The page reference is 12-3. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Department of Infrastructure has tabled a supplementary budget decrease in the amount of $28,000 for operation and maintenance expenditures and it requests the amount of $6,219,000 for capital expenditures. This increase is partially offset by an increase in O&M expenditure recoveries of $56,000, revenues of $10,000 and capital expenditure recoveries of $5,152,000.
Mr. Chair, the departmentís supplementary budget request for operation and maintenance expenditures consists of decreases essentially for savings of $331,000 in position vacancies, a reduction of $46,000 recoveries of technology support services to corporations, and the transfer of the Driver Control Board position to the Department of Community Services related to funding of $37,000.
The decreases total $414,000, and theyíre offset by deficits of $132,000 in increased cost to insurance costs, $83,000 to transfer of adult French language training from education, $50,000 for Kwanlin Dun job centre contribution, $96,000 for printing of the consolidated statutes, and recruitment costs of $25,000, resulting in a net decrease of $28,000.
Mr. Chair, broadly speaking, the departmentís supplementary budget increase for capital expenditures consists of a total revote of $4,840,000 for projects carried over from the fiscal year 2001-02, and an additional recovery funding of $1.5 million for the Alaska Highway Shakwak project.
Specifically, the capital supplementary requests include financial management information system budgeting upgrades, human resource information needs of $382,000; multi-developmental mobile radio system, commonly known as MDMRS, replacement planning of $95,000, all of which is recoverable; the Alaska Highway construction of $1,573,000, of which $1,532,000 is for the Shakwak and is 100-percent recoverable.
Also, there is the Dawson Airport airside rehabilitation amounting to $3,693,000, of which $3,350,000 is recoverable; and the completion of a number of building maintenance upgrades totalling $533,000. Mr. Chair, I would be pleased now to provide further details if the members opposite have specific questions on the supplementary budget.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Chair. We have a few questions, starting with: when can we in the opposition expect the minister to provide for us the information we requested last week in the departmental briefing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We anticipate having the majority of it ready for the members opposite by tomorrow morning.
Mr. McRobb: That would be very much appreciated ó finally something positive from this government in terms of accommodating our requests, and we do appreciate that. I would like to ask the minister if he could outline his plans on the replacement of the MDMRS and specifically any mention of the building of communications infrastructure in the territory, particularly with respect to cellular service.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The department is undertaking a review of the current system and is looking at its options on how it is going to develop ó a replacement for the current MDMRS, and we are looking at those options as we speak and are in consultation with a consultant from out of Vancouver.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister undertake to provide us with some written material that explains in more detail what the department is working on in regard to the expansion of communication service, especially in regard to the formation of any partnerships with industry or other governments. Would he commit to providing that information for us?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe we could probably accommodate the member opposite in that request.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
There is a question that I have that is related to the Shakwak project. I would like to know what this governmentís policy will be with respect to signage. Just to outline the concern I have ó it has been brought to my attention by countless constituents ó itís the politicization of the Shakwak signage by the previous government. In specific terms, it was on each of the highway signs, the major signage, that indicated the amount of the project and who the contractor was. On the bottom of the signs we had the Premierís name and designation and also the highways ministerís name and title on each of those signs. Any reference to who paid for the job, if it was there at all, was very difficult to spot.
This caused a number of problems. First of all, with local Yukoners, they saw it as politicization of the signage, trying to take credit for something the Americans were paying for. From the viewpoint of tourists, whom I heard from as well, they put the blame on the poor road conditions, especially in the construction zones ó and we all can remember back to last summer when there were numerous complaints ó on the Yukon government, because those were the two names at the bottom of the signs.
Many people talked about this with me, especially during the election campaign. I have a suggestion to make to the minister. Instead of having anybodyís name on the signs, why donít we put something to the effect of, "This project was paid for by the American government, the American people." Something like that. Can we do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will take the memberís suggestion under advisement.
Mr. McRobb: All right. One other matter thatís somewhat similar, and Iím thinking back to near the end of last September, is the celebration held near Champagne in connection with the opening of the highway segment there. I heard concerns again from people who felt that that particular event was very political, and they felt uncomfortable. How it came about was that the previous government invited some people, especially the media, to come to a media event out at the section, and they used the contractorís facilities to have a bit of a party, if you will. There were some political speeches and then the people travelled down the length of the new Champagne bypass section to this end, where there were some more political speeches. The official government photographer was present and the previous minister invited people up to be included in the official photograph. Mr. Chair, Iím not going to mention names but letís just say it was "political selection" and my constituents wondered why, for instance, their MLA wasnít invited to take part.
We all know that Iím quite modest when it comes to cameras and being included ó I see the members nodding in agreement. Thereís another unanimous decision, Mr. Chair.
So they were a little bewildered as to what exactly was happening, and it really left a bad taste in their mouth about how governments can do that sort of thing. So I would like to ask the minister if he would right now commit to just doing away with those road-opening parties. Another option at his disposal is to make them a little more fair and evenly balanced and remove the politics. Would he commit to one or the other?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, I will commit to the member opposite that if we provide anything to do in his constituency, he will be invited.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís very accommodating, Mr. Chair, and hopefully Iíll be invited to the opening of about two or three sections in the next couple years ó maybe the Burwash sewage lagoon opening, which I would be glad to attend, and maybe the Destruction Bay breakwater opening, and a few sections of Shakwak that need to be attended to. I think the minister and I can make a number of public engagements in the foreseeable future and build on this cooperative effort we see today. Iíll be looking forward to it.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Weíll then proceed with line-by-line.
On Operations and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $79,000 agreed to
On Information and Communications Technology
Chair: Is there any debate on the line information and communications technology?
On Transportation Division
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line transportation division?
On Supply Services
Supply Services in the amount of $96,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Chair: Is there any discussion on the line property management?
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of $95,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Infrastructure in the amount of an underexpenditure of $28,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on recoveries? Are there any questions regarding revenue?
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Information and Communications Technology
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
On Multi-Departmental Mobile Radio System
Multi-Departmental Mobile Radio System in the amount of $95,000 agreed to
On Transportation Division
On Transportation Facilities
On Transportation Facilities and Equipment
Transportation Facilities and Equipment in the amount of $129,000 agreed to
On Transportation Planning and Engineering
Chair: Is there any debate on the line, transportation planning and engineering?
On Highway Construction
On Non-YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway Ė Shakwak
Alaska Highway Ė Shakwak in the amount of $1,532,000 agreed to
On YTG Funded:
On Alaska Highway
Alaska Highway in the amount of $41,000 agreed to
On Top of the World Highway
Top of the World Highway in the amount of $150,000 agreed to
On Silver Trail
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding the line Silver Trail?
On Pavement Rehabilitation
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding the line, pavement rehabilitation?
On Bridges Ė Numbered Highways
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding the line, bridges ó numbered highways?
On Other Roads
Other Roads in the amount of $62,000 agreed to
On Aviation/Yukon Airports
Airports in the amount of $3,712,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Central Stores
Chair: Is there any discussion concerning central stores?
On Acquisition of Used Assets
Chair: Is there any discussion concerning acquisition of used assets?
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $533,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding the line, building development overhead?
On Property Management Services
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding the line, property management services?
On French Language Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding the line, office furniture, equipment, systems and space?
On Association franco-yukonnaise Day Care
Association franco-yukonnaise Day Care in the amount of $145,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there further discussion on capital expenditures?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Infrastructure in the amount of $6,219,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on capital recoveries?
Department of Infrastructure agreed to
Chair: Is it the intention to proceed with Vote 08, Department of Justice?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Order please.
Department of Justice
Chair: We will continue on with Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, with Vote 08, Justice. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The supplementary budget for 2002-03 represents an increase in operation and maintenance expenditures and a decrease in capital expenditures. The increase in operation and maintenance expenditures was $918,000 or 2.6 percent. This increase in the operation and maintenance budget was due, in large part, to an increase in court services to pay for the recommendations of the Judicial Compensation Commission and salary and benefit increases for the RCMP.
The increase in operation and maintenance expenditures was partially offset by an increase of $19,000 for videoconferencing recoveries in the court services branch.
The decrease of $1,279,000 in the capital budget is due largely to lapsing funds for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre redevelopment. The management services capital budget increased by $139,000 in order to complete the upgrades to the maintenance enforcement computer system and to take advantage of fully recoverable program money for upgrades to the court registry information system.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre capital decrease of $1,418,000 is made up of $1,877,000 in lapsing funds voted and $469,000 for Special Warrant No. 2, a revote from fiscal year 2001-02. There is also an increase in the capital recoveries of $71,000 for enhancements to the maintenance enforcement system and the court registry information system.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd just like to address a few questions to the minister regarding the decision not to go forward with the new Whitehorse correctional facility. I have brought that question to the floor a few times in the last month and we know there has been a memorandum of understanding signed with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. We are in support of government-to-government relationships. However, the consultation phase that did not take place before this decision was made is very questionable. I would like to hear from the minister if there is going to be any consultation with any First Nation government in the territory in the future regarding this agreement or this decision.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Absolutely, thatís the whole intent of the memorandum of understanding that was struck by the Premier and by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation chief and council. It outlined provisions that we would engage all Yukon First Nations in the consultation period surrounding the program delivery with respect to corrections.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that answer. It was my understanding that it was between the Premier and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I would like to have more information from the minister if she or the Department of Justice were involved in the decision-making for the memorandum of understanding.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe the member opposite has raised this question before and, yes, I can safely say, and Iím pleased to say, that all Cabinet and caucus was involved in the decision-making process to engage Kwanlin Dun First Nation in the MOU. So, yes, we were fully involved.
Mrs. Peter: The minister is correct; I did bring this question to the floor on numerous occasions in the last month, and itís for the record and for the clarification of the Yukon public. The question keeps coming back to me and the messages getting out to the Yukon public are not very clear. Iíve been asked to ask these questions again.
With respect to the programming thatís being offered, if any, at the correctional facility at present, will there be any improvement to the programs any time soon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: There certainly is some programming transpiring right now, with respect to the clients at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Thereís also some work being done with respect to staff training. In particular here, I can just point out a few of the initiatives that are taking place with respect to the inmates and some of the programming being offered.
As the member is fully aware, Yukon College maintains a community campus at the centre on a half-time basis. I know the member is aware of that because she was just over at the centre not long ago. Yukon Learn, of course, also offers a literacy program. The centre also employs two full-time program facilitators who offer programming to address criminal thinking needs behaviour.
They offer substance abuse management programs four to five times a year, a violence prevention program, and they are currently preparing to offer a commitment-to-change program to address criminal thinking and behaviours, as well. There is also a variety of volunteers who offer programming for inmates at the centre, including Narcotics Anonymous and spiritual counselling, including sweats. Alcoholics Anonymous ran until recently, as well. We also maintain a contract for chaplaincy services through the Whitehorse Ministerial Association. We also have a contract with Council of Yukon First Nations for a pre-release and transition worker to assist with release planning and transition into the community. We also have a full-time addictions counsellor from alcohol and drug services branch, and they see offenders on an as-needed basis.
Mrs. Peter: I would be interested to receive any information from the minister regarding any renovations that are going to be done to the facility in the near future.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Certainly, Iíd be happy to provide the member opposite with that, as I believe the leader of the third party had requested information as well.
With respect to upcoming renovations that are ongoing right now, weíll continue to go. Iíd certainly be happy to provide that.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for her cooperation.
I also requested a copy of the report done by the fire marshal. I believe it was done in December. What might the timelines be for me to receive a copy of that report?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No problem. I could get a copy to you folks tomorrow.
Ms. Duncan: Could I ask the minister to outline for me a chronology of events, please, around the decisions made about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
In the fall of last year, a total capital vote of $4,236,000 was passed through the House for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and capital projects within the department. Now, there were, of course, a number of expenditures made under that, and on December 23, the Justice minister and her colleagues had a financial warrant signed off by the Commissioner that took back $1,994,000 of the capital vote for Justice.
So I would like the chronology of events leading up to that cancellation, as it relates to the development of the MOU, and when the decision was made related to that. Related to that, was the minister provided with a legal opinion as to her liability for cancelling this jail?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to a legal opinion regarding legal liability, Iím not familiar with a legal opinion as such.
With respect to the chronology of events, Iíd be happy to provide a chronology of events and dates. I donít have those before me, but Iíd be very happy to provide the member opposite with that.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the memberís intent that she will provide that information to me, and I look forward to receiving it. That being the case, there are a number of issues where, if you will, the legal issues rest with that particular minister. The government has some exposure with respect to the cancellation of this project. There is the health and safety of those incarcerated. There is the health and safety of employees. There are the issues around contracts already entered into with the architect and design and the contracting community. My question is this: has the minister been advised of the extent of her exposure in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The member opposite raises a number of questions regarding exposure. We are certainly very familiar with our obligations here and are working very diligently. With respect to contracts that were made with the architect ó for example for the schematic design and the design development work ó all consultants were notified back in January that the project had been put on hold and were instructed to compile their invoices for the work completed as of such, and that is where things sit.
As the member opposite knows, the Yukon government certainly takes full ownership of the work that has been done to date. With respect to renovations, fire concerns and the well-being and safety of our inmate population as well as our employees ó of course it is, has been and always will be of utmost priority for this government. We are working with the Yukon territorial fire marshal, the City of Whitehorse fire prevention officer, the occupation health and safety committee at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We are also working with the staff on addressing some of our needs and our obligations of course. As the member opposite may be aware, the day we had made the decision that we had to put this facility on hold, the Deputy Minister of Justice at that time was meeting with the fire marshal to talk about where we were at with the project.
So weíre certainly undertaking to do what it is that our obligations are, and weíre very sincere in that regard.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the ministerís sincerity. I appreciate that. However, I have real difficulty with delaying this decision ó real difficulty. I believe itís fundamentally wrong for government to have put these issues again at risk. The member will recall that in a previous lifetime in this House, the Justice minister at the time was told by the fire marshal, "Build this. You have to do this." Government has to do this. There was a change of government, there was a commitment made, there was capital commitment, capital forecast, $17-million construction, and weíd worked very hard to bring that to a reality because there are very, very serious concerns that have dragged on for far too long under different governments. Iím very concerned about the exposure by the taxpayers of Yukon, by the Government of the Yukon ó the exposure to risk.
I appreciate the ministerís sincerity when she says itís an utmost priority, that contractors had been advised that it was put on hold. As far as Iím aware from media reports and comments of the minister, the on-hold is indefinite. There are no set plans to deal with this construction issue.
What I also heard the minister say, and I would just ask that she confirm it, is that essentially the deputy minister was informing the fire marshal at the same time as the contracting community was being advised via letter ó that, thanks, weíll take your work to date, give us the invoice for the balance, but this is on hold. So I know the ministerís going to provide me with dates. And I appreciate she doesnít have them in front of her, but my understanding is that that happened concurrently. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Itís my understanding that the contracting community was notified a couple days prior to that, perhaps a day or two prior to that.
Ms. Duncan: So the effort was made, essentially, to notify the contracting community, the fire marshal, occupational health and safety and staff ó best efforts were made to try and do that concurrently. I see the minister nodding.
Just to confirm, then, the minister has confirmed that and has indicated that she will provide me with a chronology of how events occurred and include in that chronology also when officials met with the Council of Yukon First Nations Elders Council, who have participated extensively in the development of the design to date ó so, when they were notified as well, if that could be included in the chronology.
Does the minister have any idea ó have any of the contractors, any of the contractors, the fire marshal, any of these interested parties, been given any idea ó as this is a priority of the government ó when this might proceed?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, as the member opposite may be aware, we have made a number of strides, I believe, in the few short months that weíve been around here, since being elected. One of the first steps, of course, is to sit down with Kwanlin Dun First Nation to negotiate the framework of the negotiations, to take a look at the design, at all the work that has been completed ó including the programming options, in consultation with the Council of Yukon First Nations Elders Council ó and to take a look at all the preliminary design work that was completed or was ongoing by the contracting community.
We certainly are very intent on proceeding with this. These discussions are currently underway right now. In the meantime, weíre also discussing with all Yukon First Nations the opportunity to discuss various programming options.
So thatís where weíre at. We have always said that a facility will be built. It has always, though, been a matter of where and how.
Ms. Duncan: In all sincerity to the minister ó and this is not a personal criticism, but I disagree with her position that this is a stride forward. There was a commitment, there was construction undertaken, some work had already been done, we had a design, we had full consultation with the Elders Council, CYFN, full involvement from the very beginning. To put it on hold is not a stride forward, itís a step back, and itís a step back that exposed the Government of Yukon and Yukon taxpayers. I take that very seriously and I have real difficulty with this not proceeding forward.
In the media release that the government issued on February 17, when they outlined the public commitment, the understanding between Kwanlin Dun and Canada, they made reference to a part of the memorandum of understanding that indicates there was agreement to work with Kwanlin Dun and other First Nations to review the design and develop programs. Would the minister provide a copy of that memorandum of understanding ó not the memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun but the reference in this media press release. Itís media release no. 31. So, if the minister would just review that and provide me with that document, I would appreciate it.
The second point about that media release is that Kwanlin Dun has agreed to make use of the Yukon contractors and subcontractors to the greatest extent possible. Iíd appreciate hearing how that confirmation is expected to proceed.
In that memorandum of understanding, there is also a commitment to provide the First Nation with financial resources to enable it to engage in fulfilling the memorandum of understanding. Is it the ministerís understanding that these financial resources would come from lapsed funds of this supplementary, or funds not being spent on the jail, or will they come from Executive Council Office?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iíd be very happy to provide a copy of the memorandum of understanding to the member opposite.
The contractors ó Iím sorry, I just had a bit of a lapse in thought there. With respect to the negotiating costs, thatís certainly to be negotiated, and those funds will be found within the existing budget envelope.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you for the agreement to provide the memorandum of understanding. I appreciate that. What Iím referring to are the media release references to another memorandum of understanding ó a clause in an earlier understanding between Yukon, Kwanlin Dun and Canada. I would like a copy of the clause, please. The minister is nodding.
The memorandum of understanding that the minister is sending me a copy of confirms that Kwanlin Dun has agreed to make use of the Yukon contractors and subcontractors. How is this enforceable, if you will, or how is this agreed upon in the memorandum of understanding?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you for the second question. The question with respect to use of local Yukon contractors and subcontractors ó I might remind the member opposite that the MOU is a letter of intent, say what you will, the finer details to be negotiated surrounding the construction of the facility. How it will be designed and what programming will all be defined within the negotiations that will transpire. With respect to the MOU that the member was referring to, that refers to the agreement that was struck by the previous government, her government I believe, between Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Canada as well. I would be happy to provide her with a copy of that clause.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for that. The Yukon government is not a "may provide" in terms of financial resources to negotiate this; it is "shall provide" to the First Nation, and the minister has said it would be provided within the budget envelope. Do we have any sort of an idea of what kind of envelope we are looking at for these financial resources? Are we talking about $1 million, $500,000 ó do we have any sense of what it is?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No, I canít provide the member opposite with that as of yet.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that and the ministerís undertaking that she will provide the other items. Could I also ask for any other correspondence from other First Nations such as the Ta'an Kwach'an on this agreement, either addressed to the Minister of Justice or the Premier?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Certainly, Iíd be very happy to provide her with that.
Ms. Duncan: I will await that information and look forward to additional debate on this particular subject. I think Iíve put my views on it clearly on the record.
In past practice in this House, in the main debate on Justice, the minister has been asked to provide a list of outstanding legal cases against the Government of Yukon. Could I ask the minister for that information prior to the main debate, please?
Weíve fallen out of that practice in the last couple of years because, in part, if I might, we no longer have lawyers in the House on the opposition side that used to ask for it. So it wasnít provided in the past; it hadnít been asked for. So I just want to go back on the record of asking for that. My former colleague used to ask for it on a regular basis, and it is a matter of public record as whatís outstanding. So if I could have that information, Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will undertake to provide the members opposite with that information, as I will for the last couple of years.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Weíll then proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding management services?
On Court Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was some issue across the country with respect to improving the Maintenance and Custody Orders Enforcement Act and the collection of those monies, and Iím wondering if this is additional money for that purpose? Have we improved our system?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe the initiative that the member opposite is referring to, the family justice initiative, if Iím not mistaken ó and this is not what this is referring to. This is actually Judicial Compensation Committee recommendations here for the three judges and one senior justice of the peace as well as an increase in court services witness program videoconferencing costs, which is 100-percent recoverable.
Court Services in the amount of $513,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding legal services?
On Community and Correctional Services
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding community and correctional services?
On Community Justice and Public Safety
Ms. Duncan: Could I just ask the minister to review the line item and what itís for?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Certainly. That can be attributed to RCMP salary and benefit increases. Also, there was a lapse due to contract services and chief coroner activities for inquests that will not be required in this fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís the total amount? Itís just those two items? Okay, thanks very much.
Community Justice and Public Safety in the amount of $445,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any further discussion on operation and maintenance expenditures?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $928,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding operation and maintenance recoveries?
On Capital Expenditures
On Management Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Ms. Duncan: This is, as I understand it ó the computer equipment, in particular, was badly in need of being overhauled in Justice. Is this what the bulk of this money is for? No?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair. No, this is with respect to the family justice initiative and the maintenance enforcement program. There have been some changes. This is simply for, I believe, completion or toward the completion of the computer system enhancements, which are partially recoverable. It is in support of that initiative.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $139,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
On Correctional Reform ó New Facility
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, thereís a difference in the line item. The December 23 warrant was for $1,994,000, and this is the correctional reform new facility for which the supplementary shows a decrease of $1,418,000. Was the $1,994,000 not just for the jail? It wasnít just the correctional institute? It was other capital? I see nods, so I understand that. Thank you.
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding total of other capital expenditures?
Is there any debate regarding total capital expenditures?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,279,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on capital recoveries?
Ms. Duncan: Just a question on the maintenance orders enforcement system ó are we now up to date and able to work well with other jurisdictions, or is there more work to be done and thus debated in the 2003-04 fiscal year?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Itís my understanding that it is all completed right now and no additional expenditure is to be made.
Chair: Is there any further discussion regarding capital recoveries?
That concludes the department.
Department of Justice agreed to
Chair: The Chair seeks some direction as to which department we would wish to proceed with.
Would someone care to make a motion to report progress?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call this House to order. May the House have a report from Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:53 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 1, 2003:
Yukon Hospital Corporation Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2002 (Jenkins)
The following Documents were filed on April 1, 2003:
Dawson City Womenís Shelter: non-conforming petition re shelter funding (Fairclough)
An Order in the Matter of the Public Utilities Act, Revised Statutes, 1986, c. 143, as amended and A Yukon Energy Corporation Application to Reduce Rider J (dated February 3, 2003) (Lang)