Wednesday, April 30, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Brian Campion
Mr. Arntzen:I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to Brian Campion, my friend and fellow Yukoner who passed away on December 13, 2002, after receiving open-heart surgery in Vancouver.
At this time, I would like to welcome the Campion family, who are in the visitors gallery: his wife Carol, his children Cara and Colin; his mother Helga, brother Greg, and sister Jill, as well as other extended family. Please join me in giving them a warm welcome.
Mr. Arntzen: Brian Campion was a Yukoner, born and bred. He was born to parents Helga and Ches Campion in Whitehorse on October 13, 1948.
In those days, Brianís father, Ches, ran the highway department and Brian spent his childhood living in various communities along the Alaska Highway, and thatís where his love affair with the Yukon wilderness began. The family eventually moved to Whitehorse, and Brian graduated from F.H. Collins in 1966, having excelled at school.
After earning a bachelor of commerce degree at UBC, Brian returned to Whitehorse to work but soon realized that he didnít like accounting very much, so instead he decided to pursue a legal career. After earning his law degree from Dalhousie and completing articling, Brian once again returned to Whitehorse in 1978 to practise law with the old firm of Yukon Member of Parliament Erik Nielsen. Since that time, Brian has lived, worked and raised his family in the Yukon.
Someone once described Brian as having a mind like a steel trap, and armed with the qualities of common sense, honesty and a formidable ability to think, Brian quickly established a respected legal reputation.
He was nominated particularly for his outstanding work in the area of mining.
Brianís pride and joy, after his family, was his airplane. He would take any opportunity to go flying with family and friends. In less formal times, he would fly himself and the Crown prosecutor to communities to do court work.
In his leisure time, Brian loved exploring Yukon in his plane, snowmobiling in the mountains and boating on Yukonís rivers and lakes. Brian Campion was a true northern son. We offer our condolences to his family on behalf of this House.
He will be greatly missed.
In recognition of Police Week
Hon. Ms. Taylor:I rise today to pay tribute to Police Week on behalf of all members of the Legislature. May 11 to May 17 is Police Week in Canada this year.
Police Week first began in 1970 with a collaborative effort between the federal ministry, the Solicitor General and its territorial and provincial counterparts.
Since its inception, Police Week has focused community attention on a variety of social and crime-related issues. Over recent years, the main purpose of Police Week has been to forge stronger partnerships between policing services and the communities they serve. Working together benefits everyone.
Partnerships are built through interaction of police services, individuals, organizations and institutions, which all share responsibility for the well-being of our communities. The RCMP is extremely active in communities throughout our territory, and Iíd like to take this opportunity to commend them for the work that they do every day in promoting safe communities.
The RCMP are planning activities throughout the week to recognize the significance of this particular initiative. Some activities include a poster/essay contest for children in Yukon schools, a basketball game between RCMP members and local youths, launching a helmet incentive program to encourage kids to wear helmets when they ride their bikes, barbeques in the schools in Mayo and Dawson, as well as bike rodeos.
Iím pleased to bring Police Week to the attention of this House and encourage all members to take part in the activities planned for Police Week, next week.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Economic Development department, deputy minister appointment
Mr. Hardy:The Premier has insisted that he had no involvement in choosing the so-called stakeholders who were invited to help select a new Deputy Minister of Economic Development. Be that as it may, people will come to their own conclusions about that, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier confirm what his communications advisor told the media yesterday, that the Premierís two senior political advisors ó the principal secretary and the chief of staff ó were involved in picking these stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, the case is that I had no involvement with this process, and for good reason. We want to ensure there is no spectre raised of political interference in the hiring of this particular deputy minister in this position.
Of course people who are on staff must be involved in processes like this. Somebody has to do it. Thatís why we have staff; thatís why we have public servants; thatís why we have a bureaucracy. My job as Premier will be to take the recommendations that are brought forward at the culmination of this process to make the decision on who the deputy minister will be.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, senior political staff who meet with the Premier every day do not just go merrily about their own business without getting some kind of direction from the Premier, at least not in a well-organized government. The Premier needs a deputy minister or two.
The Premier wants to involve people outside government in the hiring process ó either his political staff or mind-readers ó or he gives them some guidelines.
What did the Premier ask his senior staffers to look for when it came to picking stakeholders to consult about potential candidates for these two positions at the very top of the government structure?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The obvious. I instructed the staff to ensure that I had no involvement in the process, that my only involvement would be at the end of the process when the recommendations on who would qualify for this position come forward, and that is when I have to make my decision.
We have made every effort to ensure that there is no political interference, and that, I think, is testimony to how we have conducted ourselves.
So, the direction was: make sure that Iím not involved.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier decided he wanted to change the process. Thatís his privilege, but he canít claim his new process is devoid of political interference or considerations when his two senior political advisors are front and centre in that process.
What we want to know, and what Yukon people want to know, is just who is calling the shots. Does the Yukon have a government by elected representatives or by political staffers, sole-source contractors and hand-picked stakeholders? In other words, does the Yukon now have a government by invitation only?
What criteria did the Premier or his political staff use to decide who qualifies as a stakeholder in economic development and who doesnít? What parameters did the Premier set?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have already answered that question. The direction was to ensure that I have no involvement, that the process was to not include any interference or any spectre of interference from me, as Premier, for the obvious reason that I have to make the choice, when that time comes, of who the deputy minister will be.
This is not a situation where we are a government of any other kind than a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Thatís what this process represents.
Question re: Business loans outstanding
Mr. Hardy:A few days ago, the Minister of Finance provided some written information about his departmentís policies on collecting outstanding debts. It includes portions of the departmentís accounts receivable procedures manual, including the collection policy dated November 1, 2000. This policy states very clearly what is supposed to happen after an account is more than 30 days in arrears and after a certified letter has been sent. It says that if payment is not made, accounts receivable will use a right to set-off on any monies due to the account holder from the Government of Yukon pursuant to section 35 of the Financial Administration Act.
Why has the minister not directed his department to use the procedures in its own policies when it comes to long overdue accounts involving two of his Cabinet ministers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the policy hasnít changed. I think that the question the member is asking relates to and reflects on the problem that we face with these long-standing delinquencies. The 30-day clause here was in effect when that member was in government. The 30-day clause was in effect when the third party was in government, and governments before that ó were these debts collected? No. There is a problem here. Thatís why we are taking the time to find the solution.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd like to remind the Premier, since he seems to forget, that these are two Cabinet ministers within his own Cabinet and he is their boss.
Thatís the policy, but the Premier isnít enforcing it. Heís waiting for some new policy or procedure, but there is already a process in place. The accounts receivable procedure manual has a new section, 5.9, entitled "Collection Procedures". The very first line says, "Using the age list generated each month from ACCPAC, action must be taken to collect delinquent accounts."
Why is this very clear policy directive not being followed in the case of the two Cabinet ministers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There has been no change in policy. This question reflects the problem that we have with these economic development loans. There are serious issues here. There are many issues; there are many variances; there are many conditions and terms that go with each individual loan. The problem here is that the collection policy obviously didnít work. Some of these loans have been delinquent for decades, not 30 days ó itís in years, well over a decade, Mr. Speaker. Thatís why we are taking the time to find a solution.
Mr. Hardy: The people of the Yukon are looking for some leadership on this, not some excuse.
Paragraph 3 of the collection procedures is even more specific. It covers what will happen when the delinquent account holder is a government employee. Hereís what it says: "If payment is not made, a letter is sent out under Management Board Directive No. 9/84, section 5-1, advising the employee that the deduction will be made from his or her next payroll cheque."
Why is the Minister of Finance not applying the same standard to the two delinquent Cabinet ministers that applies to anyone else on the government payroll? Why is there one rule for employees and another rule for Cabinet ministers, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thereís not, and this is not an excuse. This same policy and the rules are the same as they were for years. Former governments have failed to collect these delinquent loans. That is a reflection of the problem with the process that allowed these loans to proceed in their original phase. The collection of these loans is something we are working on to solve. The reason why is because the bar, the standard, has been set by those who have repaid their loans.
We are not changing policy; we are not ignoring policy; we are not contravening policy. We are inheriting a problem that many governments in the past have failed to solve. We have given direction to the Department of Finance to bring forward a solution to the problem. When that solution comes forward we will act accordingly.
Question re: Kaska First Nation land agreement
Ms. Duncan:Iíve some questions for the Premier. During this first session weíve seen a government that likes to play favourites. If you support the government, you get what you want. There have been sole-source contracts to defeated Yukon Party candidates, appointments for campaign managers and hefty $20,000 raises for political staff. If youíre a Cabinet minister and you owe money ó well, weíve heard about that. Now comes word that the Kaska are getting what they want, in return for their support. The Premier has said, outside of this House, that a deal with the Kaska is days away.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it has long been the practice of the Yukon government to have land sales only with those First Nations who have settled land claims. Will the minister confirm that his secret deal with the Kaska includes an oil and gas land sale in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me deal with the preamble. The member opposite is famous for trying to link these types of incorrect statements to this government and, frankly, Mr. Speaker, the member has never and will never be able to make the case. There is no favouritism in this government.
When we look at favouritism, the member opposite should stand up on the floor of this House and relay what favouritism is all about. Her government poured out hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal advice and political advice to Liberal operatives and friends. Her government poured out hundreds of thousands of dollars to Liberal candidates. Thatís not something this government has done and it never will.
As far as the Kaska deal, it is about dealing with the problem that the uncertainty of an unsettled land claim brings to us in the Yukon. We are working with the Kaska outside the land claims box because there is no land claim negotiation left. The federal government has walked away from land claims in this territory and from concluding unfinished business, and, no, it does not include a land sale.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I could challenge the Premier on his preamble, but the real issue here is that the Premier has just contradicted his own Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
On April 14 in this Legislature, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources said the government is proceeding with the land sale in southeast Yukon. He said that disposition 5 will be in southeast Yukon. The question Yukoners are now asking is: who speaks for the government on this issue? One minister says yes, the other minister says no. Maybe the Premier could get this one right.
When is the land sale in southeast Yukon going to proceed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, a land sale in southeast Yukon is not housed in a bilateral agreement with the Kaska Nation and, frankly, the member opposite knows full well why disposition 5 is even on the books. These things began under former governments, and itís the Yukon Oil and Gas Act that dictates how we proceed with those dispositions. The member knows that. Thereís no contradiction here. Weíre following our own legislation developed by previous governments.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier is breaking a long-standing position of the Government of Yukon and moving ahead with an oil and gas land sale before we have a signed land claim agreement with the Kaska. It just speaks to the point that the Yukon Party has been busy dealing with friends and insiders since it took office.
Now, after the House rises for its summer break, the Premier intends to make the announcement about the deal with the Kaska. The issue for Yukoners is that there is no incentive for a First Nation to settle a land claim if they can get all of the benefits without signing one. Thatís what is happening under this Premier.
Now, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has admitted that the land sale is going ahead, and the Premier seems to have implied it. Will the Premier confirm that what he has done is break a long-standing position of the Government of Yukon and moved ahead on an oil and gas land sale before there is a signed land claim agreement in place? Will he confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The only thing that we are breaking in terms of a long-standing position is past governmentsí inability to recognize the issues and go to work on solutions. The only thing that we are changing here is that we are going to look toward how we can, in a full partnership with First Nations, develop this territory, its economy, its future ó something the member opposite couldnít do, something the former NDP government couldnít do. Thatís what we are doing.
This does not contravene the existing legislation in any way, shape or form. There is no ability to get a land claim with the Kaska in the southeast Yukon ó the federal government is not at the table and they are not going to negotiate unless litigation is put into abeyance. What we are doing is working on averting that litigation so that we can get back to the table and so we can conclude unfinished business to bring certainty to this territory and experience, for the first time in a long time, some economic growth.
Question re: Vuntut Gwitchin Intergovernmental Relations Accord
Mrs. Peter:My question today is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Itís related to a question I asked the Premier yesterday about the government-to-government accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Will the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources give us a status report on the latest call for nominations for oil and gas development in the Eagle Plains-Peel River area in north Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That disposition is going ahead. We are working with the First Nations in northern Yukon, and hopefully it will go ahead this spring.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, there are four First Nations whose traditional territory is affected. There are Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, the Tetlit Gwichíin, Na Cho Nyäk Dun and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. The Yukon government has legal obligations to consult with the First Nations on a government-to-government basis as part of the call for the nominations process. Will the minister tell us exactly what consultation has taken place with the four First Nation governments, and is he satisfied that all the requirements have been met?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To insinuate that we donít deal government-to-government on all these issues is dead wrong. We have a procedure that we follow to the letter of our commitment to work with First Nations. I know how many First Nations are involved with that disposition in northern Yukon, so I am dealing with all four First Nations. We are dealing with them as we speak in this House. Every First Nation will participate in making these decisions. We have a process in place, we are following that process, and hopefully we will finalize all those questions by this summer.
Mrs. Peter: The deadline for the government-to-government consultations is only two days away, but tomorrow ó the day before the deadline ó the department is sending a junior employee from the oil and gas branch to Old Crow, on a day when the leadership will not be available. Mr. Speaker, under the rules for land disposition, the First Nation has to agree to the land in their traditional territory that is made available to the oil and gas activity.
How can they agree or disagree when there hasnít been any meaningful dialogue? There is a growing suspicion that this government is so anxious to provide certainty to industry that it is willing to sacrifice government-to-government relations with First Nations.
Will the minister now agree to put this call for nominations process on hold until all four First Nations have been properly consulted on a government-to-government basis by the minister and his senior officials?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that we have a procedure, and we follow it. I donít consider those who deal with the government on these dispositions as "junior people". They are very qualified people, very qualified civil servants working government to government. We have notified all the members ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you for the interruption. We deal government to government. There is a process, and we have followed the process. We answer the questions; we send the people to deal government to government; we send the people who are qualified to answer the questions when they arrive to represent our government. The people who work for our government are not junior people; they are very well-qualified, and I take offence to what she said about our civil servants. The person who is going to Old Crow tomorrow is not a junior member of our government. She is an active member of our government, working for the benefit of all Yukoners and working with our department, Energy, Mines and Resources, in a process that has been drawn up in conjunction with all the First Nations in the Yukon.
The representative of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources will be in Old Crow tomorrow to answer questions.
Question re: Highway safety for motorists and cyclists
Mr. Cardiff:My question is for the Minister of Department of Highways and Public Works. With the warmer weather, there is an increase in the number of people riding bicycles to and from school and to and from work. In my riding, especially, the safety concerns of students are concerns for parents and motorists alike. Of chief concern is that paved shoulder areas where cyclists normally ride, more often than not, disappear where the acceleration and deceleration lanes at entrances to subdivisions are located. Will the minister tell the House what standards his department uses for the construction of public highways that address these concerns or any plans his department has to address concerns over cyclist/motorist conflicts through changes to those standards?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Our department is looking at all these bike lanes throughout the immediate area of Whitehorse here and we are ensuring that safety standards are maintained. We are also looking at repainting some of the lines where they are being wore out ó these lines that the member opposite is concerned about.
Mr. Cardiff: Hopefully, we will see a little more pavement or a larger paved shoulder where they disappear into the deceleration lanes.
One specific location where there are concerns in my riding is at the Cowley Creek subdivision entrance. There is a big dip there as you come down and speeds increase. The posted speed limit there, in fact, is 90 kilometres an hour. Itís an unsafe situation, in part because there is no signage to warn motorists to watch for cyclists and there is also no marked crossing area on this stretch of highway where students cross the highway on occasion to get to the school. The potential for tragedy or serious injury is very real, and there have been incidents involving motorists and cyclists in the past.
Before a tragedy occurs, will the minister have his department look specifically at the cyclist/motorist conflicts at the Cowley Creek subdivision entrance?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíll take the member oppositeís concern into consideration.
Question re: School closures, WES and MADD
Mr. Hardy:I have a constituency question for the Minister of Education. It doesnít even involve him having to answer by letter, so we can clear this up in record time.
Yesterday, the ministerís answers to the leader of the third party left the door wide open for the possibility of school closures by this government.
Under the previous government, plans were being made to shut down the English language programming at the Whitehorse Elementary School and move the experiential programs like MADD out of the Wood Street Annex.
Will the minister give his assurance that two schools in my riding will be left as they are under his government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I think if the member opposite listened to the answer yesterday, itís not going to change from today. I stated yesterday that Iím not one who is good at making predictions, and I donít intend to start.
Mr. Hardy: People do expect some vision. The minister must remember the public outcry and outrage from parents and students when the previous minister tried to make some widespread changes in these two schools. There was also considerable concern about the fate of Takhini Elementary School, which is in the ministerís own riding, and Iím not going to ask the minister to predict the future. Iím asking him what his policy is, as minister, regarding school closures, so he doesnít have to go there with that excuse.
Will the minister make a commitment right now that neither Whitehorse Elementary nor Takhini Elementary will be closed during his watch, and that the programs at the Wood Street Annex will stay where they are and where they have been so successfully?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will confirm one thing to the member opposite, that, yes, I do learn from other governmentís mistakes, and I am well aware of the reaction.
Again, I want to state for the record that the population in the Yukon has dropped dramatically over the last three years. Funding formulas for all government programs are geared according to population. Again, I will say that I cannot predict anything, and at this point in time I am not prepared to say yeah or nay to anything, to either one of those questions.
Question re: Forest fire management
Mr. McRobb:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services, who is now responsible for the territoryís fire management program.
On April 1, responsibilities for fire management were devolved to the protective services branch of his department. This government has provided no reassurance that it is ready and capable of directing timely and sufficient resources toward combating forest fires. It has also not indicated whether Yukon First Nations have been fully involved in developing fire management plans.
People are wondering why this minister has not said anything about these serious matters, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister now assure Yukoners that he is confident that Yukon First Nations have been involved sufficiently in the process and that his branch is ready and has the necessary resources to direct toward combating forest fires?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have just taken over this huge responsibility as of April 2. We are obviously moving around. I will ensure him, though, that we are ready for the upcoming season, especially in view of the fact that we have had very limited snow and moisture content over the last winter. We are working with the First Nations and honouring our agreements that were made through the previous DIAND administration in contracting the fire control out in those areas, as we have in the past.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís not much reassurance, Mr. Speaker. According to the minister, everything is still in limbo. It has not been completed yet. The fire season is almost upon us, and itís shaping up to be a bad one, unless we get lots of rain soon. The Yukon snow survey bulletin, as of April 1, indicates that snow conditions in the Yukon are generally low. It warns of a very low snow/water equivalent in the Kluane region, which is fire zone 5. This is the driest area in the territory.
I would like to table copies of that map from the bulletin, which proves that.
Snowpack stations in the Alsek River Basin report three new record lows. The potential for a bad fire season is more severe with the dry beetle-killed forests in the region. We need to bring some flame to the toes of this minister. What has he done to specifically address the seriousness of the fire threat in this region?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, with regard to the beetle, maybe if his party had addressed that situation when they were in power, we wouldnít have the big bill we had there in the first place.
Anyway, just to reassure him, we are carrying forward the people who handled the fire division for DIAND, and weíre carrying forward their policy. I think weíre ready. Weíre utilizing the same people; itís just a matter of getting a new location for some people. Weíre ready to take this on.
I agree with the member opposite that this has the potential to be an ugly fire season if we donít get rain, whether itís his riding or anybody elseís right now, but weíre using the people who came over under devolution. These are the same people who handled the fire issues in the past, and weíll be utilizing them to the maximum of our ability.
Mr. McRobb: I am sure that Yukoners will be sleeping soundly at night all summer long with those words of reassurance.
Tomorrow the free camping season opens and the minister hasnít said a peep about the need to be careful with campfires. A check of his departmentís Web site indicates that there are no fire warnings anywhere in the territory. Letís hope this doesnít become a burning issue.
The minister needs to do more about fire protection in the context of current conditions in the territory. Itís all about protecting people, property and resources.
One course of action he could take is to relocate firefighting resources to the regions most in need in order to accelerate response time. Another option is to hold firefighting practice sessions and training workshops in such regions.
What is this minister prepared to do? Will he consider these suggestions?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are coordinating the fire issue throughout the Yukon, in certain areas throughout all of Yukon. We have facilities in Watson Lake and Haines Junction, and the coordination is done from the Whitehorse area. We are doing what we can to anticipate where and when the fire may hit. We are taking every precaution possible to ensure the safety of Yukoners and the travellers coming through the Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 3: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 3, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 3 has passed this House.
Bill No. 2: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 2, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 2, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now read a third time.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 2 has passed this House.
Bill No. 21: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Bill No. 21, entitled Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 21, entitled Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, be now read a third time.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 21 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 by 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:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, starting with the Department of Tourism and Culture.
Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Department of Tourism and Culture
Chair:Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, with the Department of Tourism and Culture, which is Vote 54, in general debate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am pleased to present the 2003-04 operation and maintenance budget for the Department of Tourism and Culture. This budget reflects a decrease of $644,000 from the 2002-03 main estimates. It should be noted, however, that a major portion of this decrease is attributable to the fact that the 2002-03 supplementary budget included several one-time, fully recoverable projects totalling $320,000.
This budget is our commitment to the tourism industry to enhance marketing, infrastructure and product quality. To enhance our marketing opportunities, the tourism industry has asked me to explore the possibility of establishing a special marketing agency, and we have listened.
My department and industry will take these steps together in partnership. There will also be a reallocation in existing campaigns due to the implementation of the war in Iraq contingency plan.
A working group consisting of the department and the tourism industry created a contingency plan in the event of a war in Iraq. Following the start of the war, the industry-led working group sat down to determine the Yukonís course of action. The contingency plan called for the reallocation of existing resources to focus our attention on mitigating the possible negative impacts to the travel industry. Based on the recommendations of the working group, the department will be reallocating funds from existing campaigns to begin a re-contact campaign that will also target approximately 20,000 potential visitors who have expressed an interest in travelling to the Yukon this year.
We are also realigning our advertising programs where possible to focus on safe and close-to-home messages. We have strong, ongoing communication with our key marketing partners, the Canada Tourism Commission, Alaska, B.C., Alberta, the private sector including Holland America, Princess, GMC, motor coach operators, airlines and overseas tour wholesalers.
We also need to work with all our partners.
Given events largely beyond our control, including the war in Iraq, SARS, uncertainty in the airline industry, as well as an anti-American sentiment, we are focused on holding our market share during this time of travel uncertainty, yet we continue to look for future and long-term opportunities.
Two travel markets that have seen an increase over previous years ó the United Kingdom and the Dutch markets ó will receive more marketing attention aimed at capitalizing on increased visitation. Both the British and Dutch markets have shown promise for potential growth in visitors and an increasing number of Yukon suppliers are working with our tour operators and wholesalers.
The marketing branch is planning to increase our partnership with tour operators to stimulate additional growth. We will initiate, in turn, additional consumer programs to obtain a similar awareness that expanded the Yukonís market share in Germany.
Another forward-thinking project that will have our attention is the Yukon brand strategy. In partnership with industry, we will look at corporate partnership destination cooperative marketing. Weíve seen success with national and international cooperative marketing partnerships with Fulda and GMC. The industry feels that this may be the approach to the future growth of our industry, and weíre committed to working with our partners in this regard.
One of the commitments I have made to the tourism industry is product development. Itís a priority for the tourism industry and we will reallocate, in turn, our resources within the department to create a full-time permanent position to focus on developing new products for the future. Product development ensures that we have adequate standards and capacity for a quality experience for our visitors. The tourism industry has asked for this focus and we have listened.
One of the areas weíre moving toward is product development clubs. Working from the success of the Wilderness Tourism Industry Associationís northern wilderness product club in building awareness of the Yukon as an adventure-tourism destination and with new dollars from CTC in partnership with a variety of interested groups, we are seeking opportunities to develop these new products.
One of those new clubs that is receiving support from the department and the CTC is a learning travel product club. Several organizations and businesses have joined forces under the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture. The learning travel club will promote the Yukon as a destination that offers arts and culture courses to enhance their travel experience.
Another highlight in this budget will focus on the development of arts and culture in the Yukon. Dawson Art Society will receive $250,000 for programs and community continuing education and professional development programs in the arts.
A major initiative is designing and delivering a transferable diploma program in partnership with Yukon College. This program targets regional, national and international, especially circumpolar, participants.
Another way that this government is supporting the growth of cultural industries is a review of the Yukon Film Commission. Government recognizes the value of the film industry as important in our efforts to grow and diversify our economy. The film industry has had a banner year and we want to build on that success. In partnership with the film industry and other stakeholders, we will be hiring a respected and experienced contractor to undertake the review of the Yukon Film Commission.
Industry will also be asked to work with the government to develop terms of reference for the overall review. To help sustain our efforts during the review, the film commission will be hiring a contractor to provide additional marketing services to promote the Yukon as a film location.
This concludes the highlights of the 2003-04 operations and maintenance budget for the department. With respect to the capital budget, this budget represents our commitment to promoting growth in the economy by focusing on initiatives that provide long-term benefits to the territory for a healthy and diversified economy while recognizing the difficult decisions the Yukon has had to make in order to reduce reliance on government spending.
The total proposed capital budget reflects a decrease of $947,000 from our 2002-03 forecast. Again, the major reason for this reduction is due to revotes and one-time costs included in the 2002-03 forecast through the supplementary budget.
Corporate services branch provides internal support for the department. The branch will see a decrease of their program by $12,000 as a result of deferring some replacement of computer workstations. Industry development and research branch reflects a decrease of $375,000 from our 2002-03 forecast. This is a decrease that will be further explained as I take you through the branchís planned activities.
Iím pleased to introduce a new project that will meet the governmentís commitment to rebuild the Yukonís economy and develop infrastructure. This project will undertake the development of a Yukon investment strategy, access to funds, and attracting investment, which has always been an issue in the Yukon. The new Yukon investment strategy will develop a strategy to attract investment and increase access to capital.
We will also be working toward increased entrepreneurial capacity by working with various agencies to provide business skill development through an implementation strategy and workshops. This new program will benefit Yukon businesses and employees by improving business viability and enhancing employment opportunities.
The tourism industry will see improvements to the tourism industry resource centre Web site and systems hardware to better service their industry. This is a new project that will enhance our ability to deliver information and expertise to our tourism clients.
Industry research and strategic planning will see a decrease partially due the $18,000 revote received as part of the supplementary budget and to refinements in the analysis work on the various planning and survey work of the department.
The film industry will see a renewed investment in positioning the Yukon to compete in the international marketplace. The film incentive program will remain committed to sustained activity. The film promotion program will see an increase for the development of a digital image library for better storage and delivery of images of Yukon landscapes. The department will create a new database of digitally photographed locations and train staff and contractors on use of the new program under the film infrastructure support program.
Technology and innovation will see a commitment to the Yukon Technology Innovation Centre. The technology partnerships program develops partnerships with the private sector and with First Nations to increase the capacity of Yukon residents and businesses to develop and use technology. This project will see a First Nation contribution agreement to promote the use of information technology by First Nations and to support the Yukon Information Technology Industry Society.
The marketing branch shows an increase of $3,000 from our 2002-03 forecast. The marketing branch capital budget reflects priority to make major repairs or replacements to the VRCs ó visitor reception centres ó in the communities.
Some of the facility repairs will take place in Carcross, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Beaver Creek and Haines Junction. Most of these projects are contracted to private contractors and will lead to jobs within the community.
This budget provides for necessary operational equipment and replacement computers for the VRCs, information kiosks and the purchase and maintenance of displays. Heavy use of the equipment and displays will result in wear and tear of equipment that needs to be maintained in good order for our visitors. The increase recognizes that there was a reduction in the supplementary in 2002-03 and brings this branch back to the previous level of funding.
Cultural services branch reflects a decrease of $563,000 from our 2002-03 forecast. Historic resources will use its budget funding to focus on planning and implementation of enhanced visitor facilities and services at Hootalinqua in cooperation with the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation. Historic sites activities will centre on Yukon communities. The department will work with the Dawson Museum and Historical Society to continue the restoration of the Millen House, the original telegraph office. We will provide ongoing identification, research and recording of sites for the historic sites inventory data base.
Weíll also be meeting our obligations under land claims by providing funding for the Fort Selkirk site management and development, Rampart House site preservation, Forty Mile management planning, Yukon sawmill restoration and rehabilitation, along with research, planning and development of the Yukonís heritage trails. Weíll also provide research, analysis and plan designing for historic site management and development in the Yukon at sites such as the Yukon sawmill, Rampart House, Dalton Post, Forty Mile, and Canyon City, to name but a few.
The Yukon paleontology program will provide critical programs and research support vital to the successful implementation of paleontological management responsibilities through ongoing field research, publications, exhibit development and curation of Yukonís collections. Yukon archeology will be a key participant in implementation of the new development assessment process and will ensure that Yukonís archeological heritage is preserved in the face of ongoing development pressures.
Field work will include a joint project between the Department of Environment and First Nations on the ice patches as well as other important areas of the Yukon. The department will provide project funding for First Nations, Yukon government and joint community archeology field research initiatives.
The heritages resources unit provides project funding and technical assistance while the First Nations use funding for youth employment.
Community museums capital assistance continues for the development of identified projects and improves the overall quality of Yukonís museums. Museum funding support programs will be overhauled for 2003-04 to ensure a greater degree of funding flexibility and for more direct support to museums.
The exhibit assistance program provides core funding for museum exhibits. Funding will focus on the Transportation Museum, the Dawson City Museum, the Keno City Mining Museum and the construction of the Stringer travelling exhibit.
The department will also support museums through the artifact inventory and cataloguing project and through conservation security.
The Beringia Centre will see a decrease in the capital budget due to a one-time revote in the 2002-03 supplementary budget used to finalize work from the previous year.
The centre will receive funding to further upgrade the interpretive trails and outdoor exhibits. Planned improvements also include refinishing outdoor beams and benches.
This budget shows our commitment of support for the Yukonís permanent art collection. Working with Friends of the Gallery, art is purchased for the government and is owned and enjoyed by the people of the Yukon. Permanent art collection, storage, renovation will see an increase in this budget for additional shelving for the collection.
Yukon arts fund will be funded at the same level of $500,000 for approved applicants. It appears that there is a decrease of $85,000 from the 2002-03 budget. However, there was a one-time revote of $85,000 in the supplementary budget.
The craft strategy this fiscal year will move to the next stage of development with work in training, marketing and export initiatives.
Archives will also see the aggregate capital funding redistributed to provide for a space recovery program to meet future needs. As well, funding will support digitization of archival collections, conversion of displays, automated public access systems, and a contract conservator that will be cost shared with federal funds.
This concludes the 2003-04 Tourism and Culture budget.
Mr. McRobb: To begin with, Iím honoured to represent the official opposition as critic for the Department of Tourism and Culture once again. It certainly is a department that has a bearing on every region in the territory, as well as the territoryís economy as a whole. We know at the current time, with mining as depressed as it is, that tourism is the number one industry, and a lot of Yukoners are highly dependent upon it to keep the wheels of the economy rolling so we donít just become focused entirely on the government economy.
There are many regions in the territory that put a lot of emphasis on tourism and depend on visitation from tourists, whether by road, air or ferry, to boost their local economies. We know the Dawson region is like that. Its numbers in the summertime really swell above the normal population figures for the region, and it has many things to offer. The Kluane region, of course, has many outdoor wilderness adventures and scenic trips to offer, including one of the 10 most adventurous trips in the world, the Tatshenshini day trip ó it made the list of the top 10 last year or so. I invite the minister, if she hasnít experienced that trip, to come on out. Itís a very worthwhile thing to experience.
But every region of the territory has something to offer, Mr. Chair, and Yukoners as a whole are very proud of what we can offer in the territory. We want to offer it year-round, not just in the summer.
I recognize the efforts by personnel in the department toward placing greater emphasis on attracting more visitations in the wintertime, as well as the shoulder months ó at this time of the year and in the fall. We know that simply increasing numbers during the summer months when our tourism businesses are already peaked out at capacity doesnít provide the maximum benefit, so itís trying to fill the valleys and the gaps and make it more of a year-round type of economy.
I mentioned the personnel in the department, Mr. Chair. I would be remiss if I didnít comment on the vast experience and knowledge and ability of these people in the Department of Tourism and Culture. Iíve always been impressed by their creativity and their ability to problem solve and their ability to show creativeness and responsiveness, and they really do deserve all of our recognition. As well, people in the tourism industry in the Yukon are some of the most experienced and creative entrepreneurs in the world, Mr. Chair. These are people who have had to adapt their businesses, perhaps create their businesses around certain niches in the market and adapt to changing conditions. Weíre all aware of some of the challenges the industry currently faces, as outlined by the minister. They are severe in some cases. These people deserve a lot of credit for their ability to adapt to such challenges, to become creative and perhaps provide more services in a way that will attract business, for some of the ingenious businesses themselves, Mr. Chair, that the Yukon is very proud of. We owe a lot of recognition to the entrepreneurs and tourism operators in the territory for advancing our industry to the point it is at.
That said, Mr. Chair, there is lots of potential that remains untapped, and operators and people who work in the industry as well as other Yukoners who may benefit directly or indirectly as well as Yukoners as a whole, because weíre all in this together, Mr. Chair. Revenues and jobs mean more money for schools, more money for highways and so on in the territory. So every Yukoner has a stake in trying to get the wheels of the tourism economy going and up to the potential it has, and we know there is great potential for that.
People really do depend on the government to show leadership, to provide opportunities to help them get going. We know that the cancellation of some programs, like the tourism marketing fund that provided small tourism entrepreneurs with funds to develop Web sites ó that particular program was extinguished by a previous government. I know operators who are looking forward to something along those lines being replenished in the near future. Of course we on this side of the House would support that.
There are a number of recommendations coming out of the tourism industry that I know the government is considering and working closely with the industry on. Thatís a good thing. I hope they are considering the whole Yukon picture in all regions ó as they are in Whitehorse.
I spoke of the potential, Mr. Chair. There are lots of areas ó First Nation tourism and culture, the heritage programs are one big area. I was discouraged by the reduction of that particular budget item in this department. At a time when tourists the world over are coming to recognize the importance of First Nation heritage and culture and at a time when this is a hot item with the tourist industry, it seems contrary to purposes to be decreasing the budget in that area. I hope to explore that in further detail as we progress into the lines in this department.
We know that the territory has a lot of potential along the lines of First Nation cultural centres. We can look next door to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as to the west in Alaska. While visiting in Alaska last summer, I had the opportunity to visit a cultural centre in Anchorage that was very interesting. It provided a lot of services. Itís one of the main attractions in the city.
Itís something that we need here ourselves, Mr. Chair. We know there are cultural centres in Dawson and in some other communities, and there are plans in the works for some others, but what we need is some financial commitment by the government and some resources to try to put some deals together. They donít all have to be government financed, and really government can act as a facilitator in trying to make such developments happen.
So there is all kinds of potential in this whole area of tourism that really is interesting. Itís also fun, Mr. Chair, to work with the many operators and personnel in this area, because I find that people are generally always upbeat and positive. As mentioned, theyíre creative. Working in the hospitality industry, of course, makes them fun to be with, and I just think we have a great resource within the very people in the Yukon who work in this industry. Aside from the natural attractions of the territory, thatís probably our most prized resource in the tourism sector.
I would like to give the minister a chance to respond to what Iíve said.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I wholeheartedly concur with the member opposite that we have a lot of very talented individuals in the industry today. Weíre very optimistic; theyíre very encouraged despite the very challenges we have out there today, and I refer to the international events that have recently taken place ó the health emergencies that weíre having to contend with on a national basis. Despite that, the industry has been able to be very optimistic.
They, as well as I, happen to view that theyíre probably strategically very well positioned here, in view of all these challenges, and that we stand to do all right. Weíre certainly hoping that that will be the case, and weíre working toward that end.
The member opposite referred to our commitment to encourage visitation to all regions in the territory, and we certainly are committed, as a government, to increasing that desire to have year-round destination tourism in every region, and thatís outlined in our product development plan as outlined for this fiscal year. In doing so, we hope to work with industry, hand in hand, to attract high-yield niche markets in all seasons and to entice all visitors to the territory to stay a few days longer and spend a few more dollars while theyíre here.
In doing so, I have to say that some of those high-yield niche markets have to do with First Nation products. I think that anywhere we go in the country, in any survey, including in the recent ones here in the territory, First Nation product experiences are very much in demand, and we recognize that and First Nations recognize that and are taking positive steps in realizing some of those opportunities in the territory.
As I mentioned before during our supplementary debate, a month ago or whenever it was we were here last, I outlined some of our governmentís work that has taken place to date with the various First Nations around the territory.
The member referred specifically to cultural heritage centres, and he mentioned financial commitment. We recognize our obligations, because this is one area that is very important to me and one that is very important to my colleagues, as a government.
It is outlined. We do have a responsibility, an obligation, that is set out within chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement. It is just that, unfortunately, we are having a difficult time trying to convince the federal government to meet its fiduciary responsibilities as well. This was probably the case for the previous government and perhaps the previous government prior to that.
I have made representation to Minister Copps, as the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, with respect to this obligation, that there is this commitment made ó this is a legally binding commitment ó and we are asking them to meet their obligations.
In fact, during a recent meeting of ministers of culture in Ottawa, I had an opportunity to raise this very issue at the table with my counterparts. Again, I raised and stressed the very importance of meeting these obligations and working with the territorial government and working with Yukon First Nations to develop this very worthy product.
I will end on that note.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that extra elaboration, and it seems she is fully cognizant of the importance in the area of the First Nations culture and the need to develop it. I would certainly hope she brings that will to the Cabinet table and that we see the results in the next budget, Mr. Chair, because not only is it advantageous for the territory to be on the leading edge in taking advantage of this emerging market, but we have to respond to the needs and the desires of our First Nation people in advancing and marketing their culture where desired.
We have a world-class product here to model, and people do need the government help, as mentioned. Itís not always financial. In some cases, itís administrative, providing facilitation in making partnerships or agreements work and pulling the necessary people together, perhaps doing background research or whatever is required. Each case is unique.
But certainly we will be revisiting this matter in the next budget. If that occasion is in the fall, Mr. Chair, when we have a 24-day sitting, perhaps when weíre analyzing a supplementary budget, then so be it. I expect the minister at that time to be more familiar with whatís happening in this area, and at that time this government will be close to one year in office, a quarter of the way through its mandated term, and we expect to see more concrete indications of where itís heading in this area, as well as other areas in tourism. And, Mr. Chair, this goes to all the ministers. At that time weíll be looking for more results from this government and expecting the government to be up to the test to fully assume responsibility at that stage.
Maybe we can make more progress at that time.
I mentioned the tourism marketing fund program that was axed by the previous government and how Iím hearing from small tourism operators that thereís a need for low amounts of financial assistance and expertise to help them get their own Web sites up and running. Is there anything within the department or on the near-term radar screen that might provide assistance in that area?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I have mentioned repeatedly in this House, our department is working very closely with industry. As the member is fully aware, the previous government eliminated the tourism marketing fund for various reasons. The fund did play an important role; however, there were many weaknesses with the fund as well.
Currently we do not have that fund in place, as the member opposite is very much aware. We are in the midst, though, of reinstating the community development fund, and weíre working on the guidelines to put that fund together.
Mr. McRobb: I would then assume that tourism operators would be eligible to apply through the CDF for funds for such things as developing Web sites for their businesses. I take it that that is what the minister is saying. Iíll look forward to passing that information on.
Mr. Chair, I donít intend to be very long here today in debate. As mentioned, we do expect another opportunity in the fall, at which time we can review matters in more detail. My colleagues would also like to ask a question or two of the minister. I know the leader of the third party is anxious to do so as well.
I just have a couple more questions. Can the minister advise us when the next exit survey is planned?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe it is due to take place next year.
Mr. McRobb: Itís my understanding that there was a problem in obtaining that information quickly the last time it was done. Could the minister undertake to commit to us, on this side of the House, to provide that information to us when it becomes available? Would she agree to that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe the member opposite is referring to the last visitor exit survey? Yes.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís good news, Mr. Chair. I look forward to passing that information on, because such fundamental information needs to be distributed out there to the very people we look up to in the industry who are so creative and experienced and are able to build on the information provided to them. We look forward to some acceleration of information ó the flow of information in that area.
Mr. Chair, at this time Iím prepared to pass it over to the leader of the third party. Thank you very much for the answers to the questions.
Ms. Duncan: I listened with interest to the opening comments by the minister and I noted a number of expenditures in different areas. The minister mentioned facility repairs to the visitor reception facilities and mentioned Carcross as one of these. Have we resolved some outstanding issues with Koolsíeen Place, or would she prefer that I direct these questions to the Minister of Infrastructure? There were some issues with respect to the visitor reception centre in Carcross, Koolsíeen Place, and I just wonder if she would like to address those or if she would rather I direct them to another minister.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am not familiar with those. I can certainly undertake to get that information or, as the member may choose, to take it up with the minister.
Ms. Duncan: I will take it up with the minister. I believe that it is the rest of the visitor reception centre, so I will direct it to the minister. Are there any major changes with respect to the visitor reception facilities that the minister would like to make the House and the public aware of, or are these straightforward repairs and ongoing maintenance?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, that is correct. It is just ongoing repairs and maintenance ó no substantial changes.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. Also there was a mention of museums and some initiatives in the department. I didnít hear mention of the museum strategy. Could the minister elaborate on where that is in the department, and what are the plans?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, the museum strategy, as the member opposite is very well aware, has been ongoing for some time. We have received the first rough draft and conducted an initial review of the consultantís report for the development of the strategy. It, in turn, was presented to the Heritage Resources Board at their meeting in May last year, and it was released to stakeholders.
Comments and corrections to the draft report were solicited from various stakeholders at that time and are currently being incorporated in the final report, which is being completed right now. As the member opposite is also probably aware, we have convened a working group of representative stakeholders to assist in working on the next steps of the strategy development. Again, they are the Heritage Resources Board, the Historical and Museums Association, interpretive centres, museums, First Nations, among others.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it sounds like the final report of the museum strategy is going to be finalized over the course of the summer when weíre not in session. Given that the preliminary report has been released to stakeholders, perhaps the minister would make that available to members of the opposition if thatís possible, so we can get the general flavour of the report. If she would rather not do that, then as the final report is finalized, would she provide it to members of the opposition rather than wait until the House is recalled? Could we have either the preliminary or the final report?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iíll see what I can do.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Mr. Chair, with the Houseís indulgence, Iíd like to turn our attention to the gallery to introduce a constituent of mine, a long-standing citizen of Watson Lake, a tireless worker through the Liard Basin task force. Please join me in welcoming Shirley Bauer.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I thank the Premier for introducing Shirley to the House. Itís nice to see you again.
The minister also mentioned the craft strategy, and she said the focus and next steps were on training and marketing. What sort of a financial investment by the government does this entail, or is it simply departmental resources, and exactly how is it going to develop?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe there is a series of four workshops to be held over the next year with respect to prepping individuals and businesses, preparing them to become market and export ready. I believe $10,000 has been identified over the next year to do that.
Ms. Duncan: So, then, I would take it that thereís no investment in a warehouse facility or any other sort of commercial type of investment in assisting the craft strategy; rather, weíre continuing to work with local retailers. Am I correct in that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, thatís correct.
Ms. Duncan: The taking action plan that was initiated by the previous government ó the now Premier committed to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and Yukon Chamber of Commerce members in December that the plan would continue. Will it continue under the Department of Tourism, or will it be housed under Economic Development?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Taking Action Committee is a very useful body. We have had the opportunity ó I certainly have, as the former Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture ó to meet with the chair as well as the group on a number of occasions. They will be one of many stakeholders that will be consulted in the development of the new Department of Economic Development.
Ms. Duncan: So, then, any work with this committee from May 1 forward, once the House resumes, would be done by the Minister of Economic Development. Is that what the minister is telling me ó that although she was working with them, with the introduction of a new department that work will go to the Minister of Economic Development? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I think that decision will be made in consultation with the stakeholders, once we have the new Deputy Minister of Economic Development in place.
Again, working closely with industry, those decisions will be made ó for example, on the role of the Taking Action Committee and the very plan and how that fits in the larger scope of the departmentís activities.
Ms. Duncan: Are the same discussions going to take place with the investment strategy that the minister referred to? Does that mean that once a Deputy Minister of Economic Development is in place, there will be a discussion as to when that takes place or which department it goes in?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, thatís correct.
Ms. Duncan: The department has some significant challenges ahead with the worldwide situation and, indeed, our own Canadian situation with the World Health Organizationís view of Toronto and other situations. I understand that ministers of tourism are to meet in Toronto in the month of May. What contingency Yukon plans for marketing is the minister for the Yukon taking for discussion with her colleagues?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: This whole discussion actually started far beyond when SARS took over. It was actually the war in Iraq that struck the emergency here and has forced all jurisdictions in the country to immediately mobilize and identify funds that can be reallocated to various campaigns so that we can address the immediate short term to try to combat some of the negative results flowing out of these various events that have happened, which, I might add, have been beyond our reach and control.
The member opposite is correct. I did field a conference call on Sunday afternoon with my colleagues, the tourism ministers across the country, as well as the federal minister, Allan Rock, the Minister of Industry, and one of the suggestions that came out of that conference call was to, in fact, arrange a meeting in Toronto next week. This has been set to occur later next week in Toronto as a means of showing and garnering support for not only Toronto and the Province of Ontario but also to show our consolidated support for the whole country as being a great place to visit this year.
With respect to our own department, as I mentioned before, in response to the war in Iraq, we were able to divert funds toward a re-contact campaign ó some 20,000 individuals who have requested a vacation guide over the last couple of years. Those individuals are or will be re-contacted here. I should note that primarily all of the programs are in place right now, as they are all over the country. But, like I said, we were able to divert funds elsewhere. We are also focusing especially on our domestic market here ó the gateway cities: Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, in particular ó as we think that there is a great opportunity for them to come to the Yukon.
Again, we think that we are well-positioned as a safe destination ó it is relatively close to home ó and we hope to capitalize on those.
Ms. Duncan: Is there any thought or discussion of reinvigorating the Welcome Alaska Campaign?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No, not at this time. I believe I presented the member opposite a copy of the evaluation of the Welcome Alaska program. Some of its recommendations, again, as she knows ó for industry, we found that it was difficult to apply standard performance measurements to the retail campaign and any future campaigns should include an effective tool for measurement. As well, one of the recommendations was that retail campaigns must be led by the private sector ó for example, the chamber of commerce ó and that, instead, perhaps greater focus could be placed on attracting visitors for shopping, festivals and events within the territory.
No, we donít intend to kick-start the Welcome Alaska program.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I know that there is a certain segment that doesnít look favourably upon the campaign. The fact is, it works. I mean, if you go through any parking lot in downtown Whitehorse on any given weekend, youíll find more Alaska and N.W.T. licence plates than you will Yukon, quite often, or even Yukoners travelling in ó it works in the Whitehorse area. It also has proven to work in the Golden Circle route, which Iím sure the current president of TIAY has made the minister well aware of. Maybe the minister doesnít like that campaign, or maybe officials donít like that particular campaign. The idea didnít come from the department. It came from outside the department. Quite frankly, I believe it worked, and I know many others believed it worked, and we see the retail community as strong sponsors, and they make a strong financial commitment to the Yukon community in many other ways: their sponsorship, their volunteership. Look at the Run for Mom shirts in support of breast cancer and many, many other situations. Canada Book Week.
I would like to encourage the minister to ask officials to find another campaign then, to find another way to welcome our neighbours, because they are a market that is close to home. They are American. We lead the country in strong American-Canadian relationships. The Alaska-Yukon relationship is unique. Iíve had the opportunity to lobby both the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and many others and remind them repeatedly that we have over 300,000 people cross our borders. We are a large border crossing, which represents a security and a financial issue, but itís also a tourism issue.
I would strongly encourage the minister, since there is an effort in the department to look outside the box, with world events, to find a way to welcome our Alaskan neighbours, because they do come here and they do spend a great deal of money and enjoy our festivals and our events. Maybe that program wasnít the answer, but it was better than nothing. I do believe we need to do something.
I would just ask the minister to give consideration to those comments.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I thank the member opposite, and the member is absolutely correct. Our neighbours in Alaska are very important to us. We value their contributions to the north, as we do the rest of Yukon, and visitation to Alaska directly benefits visitation here in the Yukon. We encourage them to stay another day, to stay a few extra days, to spend some time in the territory.
I have to say, as was related on Sunday among my tourism counterparts, thereís the view that SARS is a definite concern, but even more of a concern is this anti-American sentiment that seems to be festering within our country, and this is very much a concern to all of us. We want to show Alaskans, and we want to show our American counterparts, that we very much value their contributions, and we very much want to see their visitation to the territory, as well as to Alaska.
We believe that people will be coming to Alaska. We want to ensure they stay here and are able to enjoy their visit here a few extra days.
So we are looking at perhaps something that we are able to do immediately to combat that sentiment out there, because we are concerned as well and we need to come up with some good ideas and something that is sound and that will work. In working with industry, I am sure that we will be able to do something almost immediately.
Ms. Duncan: I am not going to press the minister on that. I am going to look forward to an announcement in the next short while of a new, terrific initiative to welcome our Alaska neighbours.
I will throw out another idea for her, though. Ambassador Cellucci has been much in the news lately, of course, about this Canadian-American relationship, and he journeyed through the Yukon last summer, of course, as part of the western governors and western premiers meetings. He travelled ó literally drove ó from Dawson, over the Top of World, through Alaska, down the Alaska Highway and hiked in Kluane. He knows what we have here. Encourage him to speak out. Pick up the phone and ask. And that goes for marketing Canada. He is trusted as an American voice speaking in Canada ó speak about his visit to Canada. There are ideas out there and I would offer that one to the minister as follow-up.
Those who have been to the Yukon, as we all know, come back. They love it; they appreciate it. I would encourage her to ask Ambassador Cellucci to speak out on his visit.
As I said, I look forward to the ministerís announcement that weíre going to follow up with some marketing with Alaska and to our Alaskan neighbours.
The tri-territory agreement on tourism has been put forward a couple of times. I think the first time that I heard of it was in January 2001. There was talk of having the three territories sign a northern tourism agreement on the Team Canada mission to China. That didnít take place ó one territory or another wasnít able to. Again it didnít happen in 2002, although the other provinces, I must say, were very interested in our success in Germany.
Where are we with that agreement now? Is it still an idea thatís out there? Is it buried within the GN.W.T. accord; where is it?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Just going back to the comment about Ambassador Cellucci, thatís an excellent idea, and I will take her up on that idea. I thank her for that.
I just want to elaborate also, further, that during our conference call, it was made very much apparent that CTC, as well as the provincial and territorial tourism ministers, would very much like the federal government to divert the $10 million that everyone had thought had gone to the City of Toronto to combat the negative press around SARS, to go in fact to CTC to distribute, and that will be one of the discussions that will be flowing next week. Certainly, Iíve asked our Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture to raise this in a conference call this week ó just to ensure that some of those resources are directed toward Alaska and not just the Lower 48, as that somehow most commonly happens. So we will be doing that as such.
The member opposite referred to Canadaís north tourism partnership, and we continue to be involved very much in this particular partnership on a quarterly basis.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, actually, I wasnít referring to Canadaís north tourism partnership. It was an idea that was floated out there, and it just never came to fruition. It was one that, for one reason or another, one territory or another hadnít voted it through Cabinet or whatever. So it was at the idea stage and there was some preliminary paper, but it had never actually happened.
The Yukon Party platform talked about a pan-northern economic development agreement with a tourism component. This would be an outflow of that; it would be something similar. Any progress on that? When will it happen?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: In December ó I think it was just two days either after we had been elected or after we had been appointed to our ministerial posts ó there was a meeting of ministers in Victoria, and Minister Rock decided to join them as well. The discussion evolved about the tourism economic development agreement ó that tourism is, in fact, very much an important part of our economy and should be a component of any economic development agreement.
So those discussions are ongoing. I happen to concur with the member opposite on joining forces with our two northern colleagues. As seen with the health accord, we were able to prove that power is in numbers, and we were able to produce some results. Weíll certainly be working very closely with my two tourism counterparts to the east.
Ms. Duncan: The minister mentioned an economic development agreement. Has there been progress on that? When I left this discussion, it was on access to the western diversification fund. All the finance ministers agreed that the fund would be topped up so that all the money from an economic development agreement wasnít spent on administration.
Is there progress on this, or where is it? Is it still with western diversification, or is it a separate economic development agreement?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Ever since I can remember ó ever since 1992, I believe, or certainly in the early 1990s ó Yukon in particular has been trying to gain access to the western diversification fund. We havenít been successful as of yet, so we, as outlined in our platform document, have decided to encourage the federal government to develop and implement an economic development agreement across the north that would include a tourism component.
The most recent piece of correspondence I recall is a letter from the Prime Minister of Canada in which he didnít appear to be too interested, but we havenít given up hope.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not going to get into an argument about the merits of an economic development agreement versus western diversification. The point is access to funding, so my suggestion is that maybe theyíll have better luck if they continue to press for the western diversification fund because it had the support of all the premiers in August.
The new marketing entity ó what will it look like and when will it be done?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iím pleased to report that a number of positive initiatives are currently taking place and have been unfolding over the last month.
When we specifically talk about marketing, I think of the Yukon tourism marketing partnership and the recent developments that have taken place there. As was just recently unfolded or presented to the membership at the TIAY AGM held in Watson Lake, the new model of the YTNP was approved and Iíd be happy to provide her with a written overview of it.
With respect to the concept of a special marketing agency or the move toward an SOA or Crown corporation, those discussions have been somewhat placed on hold because of all the events that have taken place in the world ó the war, the SARS, the industry, the airline uncertainty. But those discussions will continue to take place when industry is able.
Ms. Duncan: I look forward to receiving the information from the minister. Could I just ask: itís a matter of standard practice, or it has been in the past, to provide all members of the House with current copies of "Welcome Yukon", and so on. Not stacks of them to send out ó Iím not going to get into that discussion, but just a copy so we have them. I would just ask that that practice continue.
With respect to the cultural industry training trust fund, what is its current status? Can the minister commit that it will not see a reduction in funding? There are rumours itís going to be eliminated.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I donít know of any discussions that have taken place on eliminating that fund. I think itís a very useful and important fund, and we have no desire, whatsoever, to reduce or eliminate that fund. Unfortunately, I donít have the information at my fingertips as to what the status is, but weíd be happy to provide you with an update.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís fine. Pending applications and approvals and so on would be great.
Just a final question on this specific area ó the former Minister of Tourism, in dealing with these funds and ensuring they were depoliticized and free from interference, worked very hard with all her colleagues to ensure there was a peer review process, as opposed to a political type of process. Is it the ministerís intention that this continue under the Yukon Party government ó a peer review process rather than a political process?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, thatís absolutely correct.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the minister for her answers today, and Iíll look forward to receiving the information. If I can be of further assistance in terms of helping market the Yukon, Iíd be pleased to do so. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: I just have a few questions. I guess I should start with a very simple question, one that maybe would help clarify the situation. Who actually is the minister responsible for arts and culture?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thatís me, last time I checked. Yes.
Mr. Hardy: Iím glad that the minister opposite thinks itís her, but as she is familiar, as she knows, there was a debate in this House around the formation of the Economic Development department and the wording in a Web page and a message by the Premier stating that they will be doing the arts and culture segments. So just one more time: has she discussed this with the Premier; has it been clarified that she is solely responsible for this area?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe the only decision that has been made, as the Premier referred to, is that the cultural industries branch is housed in Economic Development. As the budget, though, that weíre debating right now, everything is flowed here in Business, Tourism and Culture, which weíre currently debating.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cathers:Mr. Chair, Iíd like the House to join me in welcoming two constituents of mine, Curt and Marcia Thompson.
Mr. Hardy: So my understanding is that the cultural industry is with Economic Development.
Never mind the budget we are debating ó I am curious if I am asking the right questions to the right minister. Itís essential that I am talking to the right one here.
Is cultural industries with Economic Development, solely now, and arts is staying with Tourism? Or maybe can this minister help me to get a handle on exactly what is going on over there to help us over here understand this kind of shifting map.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Itís not shifty math. Itís just that we are doing our job. We are doing what we said we were going to do ó not to take away that phrase from the member opposite.
We said that we were going to create a stand-alone Department of Tourism as well as a stand-alone Department of Economic Development. We are doing that. As of April 1, there is a Department of Economic Development. We are in the throes of hiring a new deputy minister for Economic Development, at which time ó as has been repeated many times to the member opposite ó we will be consulting with all industries and all stakeholders in the creation of the new Department of Economic Development.
Mr. Hardy: Well, obviously that wasnít an answer to my question. And I do agree with the minister opposite and I sympathize with her in some areas ó that it is not as clear as it possibly could be at this present time. Maybe in the fall it will be very clear where I would be directing these questions for the next budget in the springtime. However, she didnít really answer my questions. They were not that difficult.
But I do agree with her on one thing: the throes of hiring a deputy minister. There are obviously a lot of problems around this. We have been talking about that in Question Period for the last few days.
It would be really nice just to get a couple of simple explanations about it, and we can move on. She mentioned stand-alone ó a stand-alone Department of Tourism, a stand-alone Department of Economic Development. Are we going to have a stand-alone Film Commission?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite is very much aware, we are in the middle of conducting a Film Commission review that will certainly look at the feasibility of having a stand-alone Film Commission.
Mr. Hardy: Does the minister support a stand-alone Film Commission?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: If I did, that would be pre-empting the consultations to take place and that would be pre-empting the views of what industry would like. So I canít give you a yea or nay; I canít espouse my personal opinion, but what weíre doing is working closely with industry to determine that answer.
Mr. Hardy: I think the minister is on record as actually saying she thought a stand-alone Film Commission was a very good idea. Does she still stand by that statement, or has it now changed because she has more information? If so, what is the information that caused the change?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: There are pros and cons to every decision that a person and a government makes. Again, this review will take into consideration all aspects to deal with a stand-alone Film Commission. Perhaps it is the right thing to do; perhaps it isnít. Again, weíre looking at the practice that is being carried out in other jurisdictions in our country. We want to take a look at our capacity, we want to take a look at our market potential and, in doing so, we will make a decision thatís market-based and is solely based on facts.
Mr. Hardy: Does the minister stand by her statement she made previously that she thought the stand-alone Film Commission was a good idea? I just want to know from her own statements if that is what she feels. And if it has changed, fine; Iím not going to pursue it. Iím just curious if what she initially thought is still the same thought?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Representation was made to individuals, caucus, as soon as being elected that, in fact, a stand-alone Film Commission would be a very good thing. Iím not disputing that a stand-alone Film Commission is a good thing. It has worked in other jurisdictions. Whether or not it would work in this jurisdiction, I donít know because I donít have all the facts in front of me. But certainly it deserves discussion, and thatís exactly what weíre doing. Weíre taking a look at it through this review.
Mr. Hardy: Talking about the review, just very quickly, what are the timelines for the review?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Now that we have our steering committee convened, and now that we have a contractor hired, weíre hoping that we can have the discussions and the whole review tied up shortly.
Mr. Hardy: "Shortly" can be anywhere from one month to 12 months, Iím assuming. So can I assume that this will all be done before the fall sitting, say?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Absolutely.
Mr. Hardy: Has the minister been meeting with the industry representatives in the film industry, the growing film industry and activities that are happening there? Has she had meetings with them, and has she had correspondence with them over the last couple months?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have not recently met with members of the film industry, but I have received a number of pieces of correspondence over the last couple of months from various members of the film industry.
Mr. Hardy: Awhile back, the Yukon Party government gave $250,000 to the Dawson City Arts Society. In giving that amount of money, what other monies did they give to other arts organizations in the territory? Can I have some detail on that and, as well, what discussions have evolved around the needs that they have, and what requests have been made?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iíd be pleased to provide the member opposite with that information in writing, because I just donít have it at my fingertips.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the member opposite. Thatís really all Iím asking. I donít need it on the floor today.
The Dawson City Arts Society had also requested a building. I think this was during the election. There was a letter sent around in which one of the Cabinet ministers had responded that they would honour these pledges. Where are the other parts of the promise that was made to the society that include the building plus the O&M of it?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I canít provide an answer either way, because that is outside my purview, but Iíd be happy to raise it with the minister responsible.
Mr. Hardy: I guess what Iím trying to figure out is the amount of money that was part of the letter that was pledged during the election has been fulfilled ó thatís my understanding. I think there was a request for that amount, and that has been fulfilled, and I congratulate the government for fulfilling that pledge. I guess what Iím trying to find out are the other parts of the pledge that was made surrounding the building. It shouldnít be out of the ministerís department, because itís still connected to the arts, and they are talking about a facility to enhance and grow the arts community in Dawson City.
Have there been any discussions with the other departments about the transfer of this building in this area, as well as any figures that have been derived on the operation and maintenance of it?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I would encourage the member opposite to raise this with the Minister of Highways and Public Works to obtain the specific details surrounding the building.
Mr. Hardy: Okay, Iíll talk to her colleague about this. There was a reference in the budget speech regarding Whitehorse. Iíll just read it so you understand where Iím coming from.
"We will work with the City of Whitehorse and other stakeholders to preserve the downtown core, develop the waterfront, move the roundhouse and extend the trolley line from the Argus properties to Schwatka Lake."
Now, this is under Tourism and Culture, which is why Iím asking. The minister could quite easily say that we should ask this department or ask that department but, because itís all connected to tourism, arts and culture, could the minister please tell me what discussions have evolved with the City of Whitehorse and other stakeholders, who the other stakeholders are, and what the plans are for what I just read out?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, the downtown waterfront is really an anchor point for the future of our city. It serves as a very key place for attracting visitors and attracting investment to the downtown core.
I am pleased to say that a number of discussions are taking place on a number of different initiatives. But more specifically, with respect to waterfront planning, there have been some discussions with individuals such as the Mayor of Whitehorse, the chair of the Canada Winter Games, the Chief of Kwanlin Dun. There will be discussions with the Chief of the Ta'an Kwach'an ó I believe that the Premier was just meeting with him as well.
These discussions are taking place and we are hoping to work collectively with all of these individuals and all of these very key players in the future development of the waterfront.
You must realize that we do have a Kwanlin Dun claim on the waterfront part. We also have the City of Whitehorse doing their planning. Of course, we have our properties as well. So we just want to work in conjunction with one another so that we can reduce inefficiencies, perhaps, and make the best waterfront possible.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for that response. Itís good to know that these discussions are ongoing. Is the minister involved in them?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, I have been.
Mr. Hardy: Very good. The development at the waterfront has been a long outstanding issue ó many dreams of many people and, because of that, many different viewpoints of what should happen. Is the minister, in her discussions, keeping in mind the public input on the waterfront development? The public input that I am talking about is what the city went through in their modelling and in their questionnaires that went around and in their public meetings. Are those still what is driving a lot of the plans for the waterfront or is it changing from what the public has perceived will be happening with the waterfront?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I think that was the whole reason for us wanting to bring all the key players ó and I referred to Kwanlin Dun and I referred to Taían and I referred to City of Whitehorse. Itís very important that we come together and see if there is an interest in working together in developing our waterfront and, in doing so, then possibly engaging the other stakeholders ó the general public and other associations, arts and cultural community, of course. They play a very important role.
Mr. Hardy: Moving slightly off the waterfront, where are we with the extension to the trolley line from Argus properties to Schwatka Lake? That it would be extended both ways is what weíre looking at, because right now it seems to be just a middle trunk, so we need two ends now to go the rest of the distance. Where are we at with that, and are there any timelines on when we can see both ends of the extension being put on?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The Minister of Highways and Public Works is the lead player or the lead minister on this particular initiative, and I would be happy to again obtain the specifics on this initiative, or else he could raise it with that minister responsible to get an update.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I hope the minister understands why Iím asking. It happens to be under Tourism and Culture, and Iím trying to make sure the debate stays in the department that it has been identified under.
I also hope that the minister is kept abreast of any type of development that is obviously going to affect tourism in the territory and it is going to affect the waterfront substantially. So I appreciate her offering to supply the information to me. Maybe Iíll try tomorrow to get the answers from the minister when we finish up debate in that area, as well. If not, then Iíll write you a letter and you can respond.
One of the other issues that came up under the previous government was new buildings and artwork that goes into new buildings. One of the contentious issues that happened around that, of course, and Iím sure the minister is aware of this, is the request for donations of artwork for the Copper Ridge facility. The arts community was quite offended by that, as they rightly should be, because anybody who is aware of people who are involved in the arts recognizes that for many of them this is their livelihood, and they do not make a very great amount of money, so a donation to them is part of their livelihood.
Is this minister or this government planning to ensure that any new buildings will feature Yukon artwork, but also ensure that that artwork will be purchased at a fair market value and will be part of the overall estimated cost of the building ó that the delivery of the building will include the purchase of enough artwork to make the building more friendly?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I happened to take part in that ceremony held recently at Copper Ridge Place with the residents council, in which a number of artists were recognized for the pieces they donated to the facility, and it was very generous of them. I saw those pieces and my hatís off to those individuals.
There is currently not a policy in place, so to speak. I do recognize, though, that other jurisdictions in the country do have a policy in place, and they range anywhere from one percent of the entire budget donated or specifically allotted to an art component of a building, and itís something Iíd like to take a look at. We havenít had an opportunity to discuss it as a caucus or a Cabinet, but Iíd like to take a look at it.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, we did it previously in the territory, and I would hope that the minister would really consider this. I know that it would be a tremendous benefit for the people in the arts, and it would help grow and develop this territory in that area. It does pay recognition to their occupation as well.
Recently the Minister of Education had indicated that core curriculum was the way that this government was going to go, with less emphasis on the other activities that we have found traditionally in schools, such as arts and sports and that.
Does this minister plan to work at ways to bring cultural activities into schools ó hopefully working with the Minister of Education ó to ensure that children are exposed to arts and culture?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Absolutely. I should just point out to the member opposite that, in particular, our department does ó as well as the Department of Education ó a very good job.
I always think that there is always room for improvement in whatever we do. We always strive to seek that improvement through our initiatives ó enhancing, promoting.
As the member opposite may be aware, our department in particular funds the artists in the school program toward artist sessions in each of our schools. Our department also supports youth art classes through the arts funding program here in the territory and through transfer payments to the Arts Centre and the Dawson City Arts Society as well. Adult learning and training programs are also supported through our funding programs and we offer workshops through the craft strategy.
These are some of the things ó and I always agree that there is room for improvement. Again, at the recent meeting of ministers of culture that I attended in Ottawa, there was a lot of discussion around the table about the importance that arts and culture does play within our schools, within our communities ó making healthy communities ó as a measure of prevention or just enriching the lives of our students and public at large.
I will be working closely with the Minister of Education in addressing perhaps an overall strategy to address arts in education.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I guess my concern is that the comments made by the Minister of Education and those made by the Minister of Tourism and Culture do not seem to mesh as well as we would like, and this has raised a lot of concern in the public about what the direction is for children in the schools regarding arts and culture. So that was probably the motivating factor around my question in that regard.
I think thatís about it for my questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Peter: I have a few questions for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Iím wondering if the minister is aware of any plans for a visitor reception centre for Old Crow.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, Iím very much aware that there is a discussion about a visitor reception centre being constructed in conjunction with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and Parks Canada.
Mrs. Peter: The discussions that were taking place happened over a number of years, and the only partner that wasnít willing to come to the table ó so that we could see some fruition to this plan ó was the Yukon territorial government. I am wondering if there are any changes at the moment in regard to a decision for the centre.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: There are a number of ways that our department can assist, and I believe thatís by identifying if there is any need to acquire space in that facility or to lease space from that particular centre, and I believe we will do so.
Mrs. Peter: There has been some very detailed planning around this building and how itís going to fill the need in the community in that regard. So, in the future, if there are any other discussions happening and any correspondence that the minister can make me aware of, Iíd appreciate that. Iíll leave that question.
That leads me to another issue that Iíd like to bring forward. Itís around local economic development ventures. When there were discussions happening with the visitor reception centre, there was also a person assisting our community in addressing some economic development ventures at that same time, and there was some training that took place around wilderness training opportunities. I just wondered if there were any more discussions on that area with this department.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I understand this was being conducted out of industry research development and is continuing and will continue to take place.
Mrs. Peter: As far as I know, those discussions along that same line are not taking place to date as they were at least a year and a half ago. I can find out more information about that, but if the minister has different information that I can have, Iíd also appreciate it.
We have a very successful local business that has been in place, and Vuntut Gwitchin is the beneficiary of that business, and itís Air North. Iím wondering if the Yukon territorial government has the numbers for the usage of the airline, whether it be north or south, and if it has increased.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Air North, the Yukonís own airline, plays a very important role. I think the presence of Air North and Air Canada ensures we have competitive and accessible air access to the territory, and we recognize the very important role they play here. We thank them for that.
We are very cognizant of the need to distribute a fair and equitable amount of business to both airlines, and we are working to do so.
Mrs. Peter: Iím always interested in and am watching carefully the activities using Air North. I listened with interest earlier in this debate about tourism for the Yukon. I, for one, am very concerned about the percentage drop in tourism to the Yukon for the summer, and especially in how itís going to impact and affect small businesses.
We have people not only from outside the Yukon Territory coming to Whitehorse and bumping up the economy a little bit, there are people also from our communities who come into Whitehorse. We canít forget that. There are people who come into Whitehorse from my community on a very regular basis. That helps the economy in this city. You know, we have to acknowledge that, because they do help businesses in this community. Last summer, we held in the community of Old Crow but two very key conferences. One was our biannual Gwitchin gathering, and the other was the CYFN Annual General Assembly. The economic benefits for our community were very substantial, and it helped the local people. We talk about culture; we talk about tradition, and in that regard, that is one of the interests in tourism, when they come to the Yukon Territory. They want to know about local people, local history, and I would encourage the minister to work very closely with the First Nations tourism department and see what kind of partnership they can build for a better tourism industry for the territory; and has she already done that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to numbers, with respect to air travel here in the territory, again thatís something thatís within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Highways and Public Works, so Iíll ask you to direct your questions to him.
With respect to local initiatives, I agree with the member opposite that itís very important to be cognizant of our local people within our communities, and I think we are doing so. The stay-another-day initiative is a good tool to help create recognition, as do all the different events and all the different attractions that we have within our own backyard, and to encourage local Yukoners to stay in our own territory when they do take a holiday. There are so many great places to visit and we encourage that. I certainly encourage that and am very cognizant of what each has to offer.
With respect to First Nation involvement in tourism, there actually was some discussion, again at the cultural ministers meeting in Ottawa, about doing some work on aboriginal tourism strategy in the country. So, at that time, I undertook to stand up and offered for the Yukon to help take that lead on that strategy and, if it was a pilot project in the country, we offered to undertake and play a role in that strategy. We followed that up with a letter to the federal Minister of Heritage. We have yet to hear, but as I mentioned before, First Nation products, activities and events are all very important. This is a key area for further development in helping our industry grow, and itís something that we intend to continue to work toward.
Mrs. Peter: I applaud the minister for taking that initiative to Ottawa and I am hoping that something successful can come out of that. We need all the help we can get in the territory right now.
While we are talking about tourism, I brought the topic to this floor a few times regarding the interpretive centre at Tombstone Park. It is the gateway to the north country. How we go about planning and initiating these settings is very, very important so that when we have tourists who come from Alaska or anywhere in the world and they come to Dawson City, the home of the Klondike, and would like to go and experience some wilderness and see some animals, they will hopefully venture up the Dempster Highway. When they do, they will come across a very important place like the interpretive centre, where they will receive information about the local First Nation people and about the whole north country ó the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, the Na Cho Nyäk Dun and also the Gwitchin people over across the border in the N.W.T. That, to me, is very, very important. We have these places so that we can offer information about the First Nation people in this territory, and how we go about that is very crucial.
The setting itself has to be original, not foreign to what and where this place is going to be. We have a beautiful wilderness area, and in the wilderness we canít have great big silver trailers sticking out like a sore thumb, so to speak. We need places there that are going to be attractive, not only to the people who are going to come and see it, but to the people who are going to be working there. I would encourage the minister ó in her discussions, I am assuming that she has input to the discussions regarding these areas with the Department of Environment ó to bring that to that table, because the original people from that land are the people and the keepers of that land. What they request at that time is the key to what is going to make a very long-standing, successful initiative done in partnership with the government and the local First Nation people ó a very successful initiative on behalf of the people of the Yukon.
So, when we have people travelling up the Dempster and we have the local First Nation people delivering the information, then it is successful in the end.
I would just like to leave that with the minister. Thank you for your time.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few more questions to close this out. Can the minister indicate whether product development is still retained within her department?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, it is.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Thanks for that. I would like to ask the minister what the latest updated outlook is for visitor expectation numbers for this upcoming season. What information can she provide us at this time?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Itís interesting that the question has come up, because I donít truly know if anyone has a handle on that right now. I think industry and the rest of my tourism colleagues from all over the country are of the same opinion that itís too early to tell. We are very optimistic ó I am very optimistic ó that weíll be able to hold our own, hopefully, in keeping with the previous year. Again, I think weíre probably one of the best positioned places in the country, given our strategic location and our ability to attract visitors to the territory for our products and our scenery. Of course, being strategically located next door to Alaska also helps.
But at this time we are all at a loss as to what we can expect. We are very optimistic that we will be able to hold our own but, again, thereís no concrete way of knowing that at this time.
Mr. McRobb: In the event that the forecast turns a bit sour as far as an outlook goes before we get into the season, what measures is the minister prepared to take to try to increase the visitations for this summer? There must be some action items that she is considering with her colleagues in the department. Can she give us an idea of what might be possible?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I think Iíve mentioned before, most of our promotional campaigns are in place. Most of our market pieces are in place at this particular time, as are all other jurisdictionsí pieces of literature out there right now. With that said, though, we have undertaken ó hopefully within the next week to 10 days, weíll have this retail literature going out as part of the re-contact campaign. Some 20,000 people will be receiving some information with this retail promotional piece as well as the stay-another-day initiative. Prior to meeting with my counterparts in Toronto next week, the department will be working very closely in conjunction with the Canada Tourism Commission, as well as the other jurisdictions to see, identify, what we can do as a country ó a national strategy to help combat some of these challenges before our country right now. That includes the $5.5 million that has been internally identified within CTCís own internal budget. Weíre hoping that the federal government will be able to use the $10 million that it has identified toward CTC toward that end.
Mr. McRobb: I think we, as Yukoners, understand that, on a per capita basis, the tourism industry has more impact on the Yukon than other jurisdictions in this country, and a strong argument can be built on that fundamental matter, Iím sure, to the CTC and the federal government to try to lure funds here in order to enact whatever plans can be done to recover the season and make it better for our operators in the event the numbers just donít materialize.
I want to thank the minister for providing some information last week in response to a request I made earlier on, either at the budget briefing session or during the debate on the supplementary budget. However, Mr. Chair, there are some items missing that I would like the minister to revisit and see if material can be provided in those areas.
Iíd like to ask the minister, in the interest of being efficient with our time, if she would do as the Minister of Education has committed and provide us with a breakdown and explanation of the line items in order to expedite debate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iím prepared to go line by line, if thatís what the member is asking for.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís not what I was asking. I was asking for a written breakdown and explanation, which would expedite debate, Mr. Chair. The Minister of Education committed to doing that, so Iím asking if the Minister of Tourism and Culture would oblige us with the same treatment.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, I am here. I am ready, willing and able, so I would be happy to go line by line right now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the problem with that is that it is going to consume time ó perhaps a considerable amount of time. We know that our time is limited. So the request was made in the spirit of expediting debate. That is the key that seems to have been overlooked.
The minister doesnít have to oblige our request; we know that. She can force us to go line by line, if, indeed, that is what the opposition parties choose. The request was made in the spirit of cooperation and efficiency, if she would oblige us ó the same as the Education minister has.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I truly believe that itís all of our obligations to go through this budget and to be open and accountable. In doing so, I am prepared to go line by line.
Ms. Duncan: I had three questions that I had missed from my notes. I would just like to ask them in general debate.
We havenít heard an update on the airline situation from Europe recently from the department, and I didnít hear it mentioned in the Tourism discussion and it hasnít come up in Question Period or ministerial statements, so could we have an update, please?
When I was last involved in Germany, we had Condor continuing and the new version of Balair was trying to locate an aircraft to have direct flights for this season. Has that happened? What is the status of the negotiations?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe that we did issue a news release on Condor Airlines starting up, I believe, June 1 ó although I donít have that right in front of me ó or as early as late May, through to late September. They will be, again, flying direct flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So that is on. I believe that was in a news release earlier. I could be mistaken.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sorry. I didnít see that. So, Condor on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Are there any discussions with ó I believe it was Balair that went bankrupt and was looking to lease an aircraft, and was looking at continuing to have flights to the Yukon and Alaska. Did that happen for this tourism season? Where are our discussions with that version of an airline now?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Nothing has transpired but, as the member opposite is very well aware, the department continues to work to secure additional access.
Ms. Duncan: Do we have a preliminary indication from Condor as to their sales? They usually have a fairly good idea in January or February of what their seasonís going to look like. Has the minister been advised by Condor?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No. Iím not aware of that.
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Lake Laberge has spoken glowingly of the inclusiveness of the Yukon Party government. Is the minister involved in the hiring of the new Deputy Minister of Tourism?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No, I certainly have not been involved.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister aware of whether it is the same process, i.e. involvement of the private sector as is going on with Economic Development? Is the minister aware of that?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, I do know that part of the process is to involve a member of the arts community, and I believe a member of the heritage community, a member of the Tourism Industry Association, as well as a member of the Yukon First Nations Tourism Association.
Ms. Duncan: If two senior deputies are also included, thatís a six-member panel for the hiring of the Deputy Minister of Tourism. Is that the ministerís understanding ó that it would be a representative of these four organizations and two senior deputies?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That Iím not aware of.
Ms. Duncan: Could I have a status on the Yukonís tourism marketing agency? Thereís a fancy word for it ó the agency of record. What is the current status? Have we signed an agreement, and who is it with, and how many years are left to run?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I donít have that information available at my fingertips, but Iíd be happy to get back to her.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. Iíd appreciate it. If I could have by letter who is the current agency of record, when was the contract signed, and how many years are left to run, just that information by letter would be fine.
Just back for a brief moment on the Deputy Minister of Tourism: does the minister have any idea when we might hopefully have a new deputy in place? And I would be remiss if I didnít acknowledge the current deputy, who is a tremendous service to the Government of Yukon, and itís Iím sure with regret that the Premier accepted her retirement. She has been a tremendous public servant to the Government of Yukon, and I appreciate her efforts. Does the minister know when we might have a new deputy in place?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, I am optimistic that we will have one in place, hopefully by the end of May.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the ministerís openness.
Mr. McRobb: We, on this side, also acknowledge the years of dedicated, good service put in by this deputy minister, and we wish to extend our appreciation to her and her family in the years ahead. Also, our condolences to her replacement who, regardless who the person is, will have some big shoes to fill when it comes to heading this department. Certainly it will be a challenge, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I concur with my two colleagues opposite that the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture has done a fine job over a number of years, and it has been a number of years. She has been very professional, open, frank and honest, and I appreciate her leadership over the last five or six months since being elected. So I would also like, on behalf of our side of the House, to pay tribute to her as well.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will then proceed with line-by-line.
Mr. McRobb: One of the reasons that I asked for an explanation of the breakdown of the line items, again, is because time is short. We have a major department in the Department of Highways and Public Works yet to deal with in its entirety. The amount of debate time has been reduced to about four hours in total. In addition, we have the Public Service Commission, the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Yukon Housing Corporation, as well as the third reading on several bills, Mr. Chair.
I would appreciate it if the minister could undertake to provide us with a response to the line items in this department. Aside from that, Mr. Chair, pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, read and agreed to
Chair:Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 54, Department of Tourism and Culture, cleared or carried as required.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Tourism and Culture in the amount of $14,368,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism and Culture in the amount of $3,475,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism and Culture agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation
Chair: Weíll now proceed with Vote 19.
Hon. Mr. Hart: It is my pleasure to present the 2003-04 O&M budget for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. I would like to inform the members that the Whitehorse liquor store will remain in its current location, and Iíll be pleased to answer any specific questions on the budget tabled.
Ms. Duncan: Could I have a final cost on the renovations to the liquor warehouse in Whitehorse, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Approximately $310,000 was spent last year, and there is approximately $65,000 to $70,000 required to be spent this year to re-establish the compound security, ensure proper drainage, define the driveway and chipseal the access road to the office building.
Ms. Duncan: And could I have a final cost accounting on the renovations to the James Smith Building in Haines Junction? The liquor store is also housed in that building and significant renovations were required. It was almost similar to the Thomson Centre roof type of story. There were extensive renovations. So could I have a final cost on those and an indication on when all of the repairs and renovations will be completed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite mentioned, there were extensive repairs made to this location ó $365,000 in total. Thereís approximately $15,000 remaining and some minor paving to be finished by June.
Ms. Duncan: And, Mr. Chair, once that is complete, are all the safety and outstanding concerns then resolved or will there still be outstanding issues to be resolved?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, Mr. Chair, I believe they will be.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding from the briefing is that there has been no money set aside to deal with development of the Liquor Act. Has all work been halted on the Liquor Act, or where is it at?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Chair, I would have to ask the member opposite to direct questions regarding the act to my alternate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Bear with me, Iíll try and answer to the best of my ability. As the member opposite is aware, we will be looking at the overall review and what information has been provided over the next few months here.
Ms. Duncan: Am I given to understand from the Minister of Justice that a redraft of the Liquor Act might be before the Cabinet Committee on Legislation when it next meets?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I believe that our government is on record as having said that we will be taking the next year ó so probably within the next few months ó to take a look at what has been presented to date and seeing where weíre going with it.
Ms. Duncan: What I have heard the minister say is that there has been no decision reached as to whether or not a revised Liquor Act will proceed. There has been no decision as yet; is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thatís correct.
Ms. Duncan: And there may be a decision within the first year of this governmentís mandate?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: Iím not sure which minister is going to answer this, but there is an outstanding issue with a Yukon brewing company that we were trying to resolve. Have there been changes to Liquor Corporation policy in order to work these issues out?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are presently involved with the local brewing company, and weíre in the negotiation stage with that.
Ms. Duncan: Well, it has been under discussion for awhile. What I was looking to find out was if there has been an agreement reached. Are we a little closer to resolving this? Are they able to self-distribute their product?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We havenít got anything specific agreed upon at the moment. There is no agreement for them to self-distribute at this time.
Mr. McRobb: I have two questions. Does this government intend any changes to the off-sale policy?
Hon. Mr. Hart: No, not at this time.
Mr. McRobb: What is this governmentís position on allowing neighbourhood pubs?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That, again, will be part of the review and we, as a government, will take the time to take a look at what has been provided to date, and that will be part of the review.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to apologize for not being here when this started.
Chair:The members are reminded that members cannot identify if a member is absent.
Mr. Cardiff: If I missed it, I would like to know what the intentions are to proceed with the Liquor Act review and the recommendations that are in it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I relayed earlier to the members opposite, what we are doing is basically postponing any changes to the Liquor Act, as we take some time over the next year as a collective government to take a look at what has been presented and where do we go from here.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to know if there is any intention to move forward with any of the recommendations in the existing report that was done under the Liquor Act review, and do anything with them.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Itís a little confusing ó our apologies. Again, on all the recommendations that were formed as part of the package to the Liquor Act review, we will be undertaking a comprehensive review and taking a look at the entire package.
Mr. Cardiff: One of the specific recommendations I would like to know about is the direction the government is going to take between now and when they complete the next review, and that is the need for education about alcohol awareness and treatment programs in rural as well as urban areas. The liquor consumption in the Yukon is the highest in the country, I believe, and this causes a lot of problems, both here in Whitehorse and in communities. The recommendations are pretty clear that more needs to be done about education and alcohol awareness. Iím just wondering if the government has any plans in that area.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Liquor Corporation is encouraging education on responsible drinking on a regular basis and, as several members may have noticed, we have had pamphlets out and we are doing our part in this area. We are not involved in the actual treatment aspects. Thatís actually a Department of Health responsibility.
Mr. Cardiff: One of the other recommendations in the previous act review was that profits from the corporation should be directed, either wholly or in significant part, toward government-approved, socially responsible alcohol education or treatment programs. Is there a figure for how much the government puts toward those programs now and how much it intends to put toward those programs in the future?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We put approximately $60,000 a year toward these projects. Also, part of our mandate is to maintain health and safety for Yukon. We are focusing on education, as I mentioned earlier, on awareness of implications of alcohol abuse. Weíre also funding a conservative portion of the Driver Control Board demonstration for those who have been convicted of drinking and driving.
Mr. Cardiff: One more subject area that Iíd like to explore with the minister is something that came up during the previous review. It is the issue around privatization. There were several people who were involved in these consultations who recommended privatization of liquor distribution.
Iíd just be interested in where the government is going, or if they have any intentions of going in that direction with regard to liquor distribution, as far as liquor stores go.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will review this situation in the context of the act review when itís being completed. At the present time, though, we will operate it as we have been in the past.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Weíll then continue on with line-by-line.
On Yukon Liquor Corporation
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Less Internal Recovery
Less Internal Recovery in the amount of one dollar cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Liquor Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: We will continue on with Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It is my pleasure to present the 2003-04 capital and operation and maintenance budgets for Yukon Housing Corporation.
The corporationís 2003-04 budget consists of $12,712,000 in operation and maintenance expenditures, with a recoverable portion of $10,476,000 and capital expenditures of $15,209,000 with a recoverable portion of $13,420,000.
In comparison to the 2002-03 budgets, net operation and maintenance is higher by approximately $800,000, mainly because of the anticipated increase in financing costs. Capital expenditure is higher than the 2002-03 forecast by $963,000, most of which is for home repair and upgrade of the home ownership programs.
Yukon Housing Corporation will continue to provide effective, courteous and professional service to thousands of Yukoners every year. From direct programming to technical design issues, to practical tips on energy efficiency, the staff of Yukon Housing is there to assist all Yukoners.
This budget provides opportunities for Yukoners to access funding to purchase or repair their home. This budget will generate employment and business opportunities throughout the Yukon, especially in rural areas. This budget will help protect our environment.
As the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation, it is important that I form a strong, effective relationship with the board of directors. I have met with this board and I have asked them to focus the corporation programs and services to generate social, economic and environmental benefits for Yukoners.
I have asked the board to review administrative policies that pertain to the provision of social housing. Specifically, I requested the board to review the pet policy for seniors housing. I will also ask for a review of the rent assessment policy and the exclusion of child support payments in the calculation of rent.
The issue of seniors housing is of utmost importance to this government. I will work closely with my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, as we explore seniors housing options.
Iím very pleased that this budget includes funding for the expansion of the home and yard maintenance program in the community of Teslin. This will enable seniors in this community to access assistance for general maintenance of their home and is a further example of this governmentís commitment to assist seniors to remain in their homes.
Yukon Housing Corporation will play a key role in assisting with the growth, education and development of a vibrant housing industry. This year, this relationship with the housing industry will be strengthened. In partnership with the Canadian Home Builders Association, the corporation will assist with the sponsorship of the home show at the annual Lionís Club trade show. This will be an important event for the housing industry to promote the quality of their products and services to thousands of potential customers.
Throughout the year, Yukon Housing Corporation will do its part by ensuring that design and tender work encourages bids from Yukon contractors and that contract policies and procedures are fair and consistent.
Greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced because of the Yukon Housing Corporationís consumer and industry education, as well as energy programs such as the green mortgage program, the energy guide for houses and the R-2000 certification.
This budget allows for Yukon Housing Corporation to continue offering energy-conscious consumers access to direct funding, information and technical expertise. Homes are now being built or upgraded with greater emphasis on energy efficiency. By reducing fuel consumption, Yukon home owners are contributing to a cleaner environment.
Yukon Housing will also work in partnership with DIAND and CMHC in holding a second First Nation housing conference this fall. To ensure that the content of the conference is applicable and relevant to their needs, we are working with Yukon First Nations to define the topics and themes for this discussion.
Iíll be pleased to answer the questions specific to the tabled budget.
Mr. Cardiff: I have a few questions for the minister.
On October 3, 2002, it was announced that there was an agreement with the federal government for $5.5 million over five years to flow to the territory, and my understanding was that it required the Yukon to match the funds. Iím just wondering if weíre taking them up on that offer or not.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in conversation with CMHC right now and weíre working on negotiating that particular aspect.
Mr. Cardiff: When can we expect funding from this agreement to be available for affordable housing and Yukon homeowners for major home repairs?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, itís a five-year program and weíll be looking at proposals over the next year.
Mr. Cardiff: Could the minister tell me what portion of the potential $11 million ó Iím just looking for a breakdown on where the priorities would be in regard to either seniors housing, new social housing or major repairs to preserve existing housing in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe our priorities would be on senior housing at the moment, and also with aspects on major repairs.
Mr. Cardiff: Is there any idea about how this particular funding would be divided between Whitehorse and the outlying communities?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are no specific criteria, rural or Whitehorse, at this moment. Weíre looking at proposals coming up.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, there was a study done in 2000, which I donít have in front of me, but my understanding is that the study indicated that there are a substantial number of homes in rural Yukon in need of major repair. So I would ask the minister: how will municipalities and First Nations be consulted about the allocation of these funds?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Well, we are in the process of looking at proposals in this particular area, and once we are along the way, we will be having discussions with those who are in need of these major repairs that the member opposite has indicated.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd just like to move on to one other thing here with regard to funding flowing to the territory. If the information isnít available, Iíd be happy to receive it by a letter or a legislative return. The funding I was referring to previously was announced last fall. My understanding is that there is another block of funding, in the neighbourhood of $320 million, also flowing from the federal government, and Iím wondering if weíre going to be participating in that program, as well, and what the Yukonís portion of that would be.
Hon. Mr. Hart: One of my people has recently just come back from Winnipeg where this fund was announced. There has been no determination yet on how this funding will be allocated, and weíll be dealing with our territorial neighbours, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, to discuss how our portion will be allotted. Because, as the member opposite will understand, the per capita basis will not give us ó weíll be looking for a base funding requirement under this process.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions.
I believe the minister indicated that he has directed the Yukon Housing Corporation Board to examine the pet policy and the issues around inclusion of child-support payments as part of rent. I would take it from that that the minister has met with the board and provided direction to them on this. Would he provide the dates of the meeting and a written context of the direction given to the board, please?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I met on March 28 with the board, and a discussion with regard to the pet policy was on that agenda and took up all of that time, so the child support issue will be on the agenda for the next meeting, which is June 13.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I be provided with a copy of the minutes in which the pet policy was discussed?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, Mr. Chair, no problem.
Ms. Duncan: Is it the intention of the minister that the Housing Corporation is involved in the construction of the new seniors facilities as outlined by the Minister of Health?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Could the member opposite indicate which one she is referring to?
Ms. Duncan: Letís start at the beginning. Is there any money set aside or work undertaken by the federal government with respect to either Macaulay Lodge or Copper Ridge Place?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have nothing in our budget for either one of those facilities.
Ms. Duncan: Is it the intention of the Yukon Housing Corporation, or has the minister had discussions involving the Housing Corporation in the construction of new seniors facilities in either Watson Lake or Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is nothing in our budget for this year, but we could possibly be looking at it in the upcoming year.
Ms. Duncan: So the Yukon Housing Corporation may be involved in that. Has there been new direction or any direction given to the Housing Corporation with respect to Mountainview Place?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is no new direction being planned for that particular area.
Ms. Duncan: Has anything happened? Have we sold a lot? Can the minister provide a breakdown ó he can do this by legislative return or by letter if he wishes. Itís a bit of an interesting project that the various governments have inherited. What is its current status? Is it an asset on the books? Are we selling anything? What is happening with it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can provide the member opposite with something in writing on that.
Ms. Duncan: I look forward to it. The affordable housing program ó the minister mentioned this is $5.5 million over several years from CMHC. When last I was familiar with this, the federal government ó often with these programs, the territorial government has to provide matching funds in order to uptake them, and I see the minister nodding in agreement on that. There was some thought that some of the work that had already been undertaken by other governments, such as the work on the continuing care facility ó Copper Ridge Place ó might be included as part of our contribution.
Is this the case?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There was some indication on this at a preliminary date, but weíve had a subsequent request from CMHC for an audit on certain information with regard to that, so thereís still maybe some doubt as to whether that funding will be allowed part of our down payment.
Ms. Duncan: So, if itís not, is the minister intending to come back to the House, or bring forward a supplementary, looking for matching money for this $5.5 million? What are the plans for this money?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The point is that we believe it will be accepted. We were just a little bit surprised at the additional request for funding but, at this time, we still feel reasonably sure that itíll be accepted, once we provide the information.
Ms. Duncan: So what the minister is telling me is that our contribution of money that the Yukon has already spent in the continuing care facility will be included as our portion of this $5.5 million under the affordable housing program; so what are the plans for this federal money to be spent? How is it going to be spent? Letís say the minister is right. I hope that that happens, that the feds say, yes, thatís your contribution. So how does the minister intend to spend the federal dollars?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We could be working with the private sector on trying to build affordable units.
Ms. Duncan: Affordable units for seniors?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, the intent is for seniors.
Ms. Duncan: Throughout the territory or in a couple of specific communities?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will look at the greatest need and priority.
Ms. Duncan: Does the minister have a date by when the Government of Canada has requested more information? Presumably they have requested this information prior to flowing the money to the Yukon. Does he have a date for when we might see a resolution of that discussion? And am I correct that itís $5.5 million over five years from CMHC? Whatís the start date on that money?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The agreement started in October of last year, and once we commence building these units, then we will bill the federal government.
Ms. Duncan: Is it the ministerís intention that this federal money will be partnered with the private sector in this construction?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre trying to encourage private or non-profit organizations to assist in this process.
Ms. Duncan: Would that be through some form of a public process, or an invitational type of procedure?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It would be through an RFP.
Ms. Duncan: And when is the minister looking at releasing that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre probably looking at sometime in late fall and carrying on into the following year.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister aware of something that the rest of us arenít, because that is sure going to miss the construction season?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It will be for next construction season.
Ms. Duncan: Okay. There is also a seniors housing management fund. I think, if memory serves me, itís about $800,000. Is it the ministerís intention that this money would be used as well, or will it be left for the purpose for which it was intended?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is a possibility that it could be used for something along those lines. At the moment we havenít determined what is going to happen to this fund. In fact, we have put some additional monies into it this year.
Ms. Duncan: So what is the total of the fund now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The balance is approximately $877,000 at the moment, and the corporation will be bringing forth something to Management Board to determine how we are going to utilize it.
Ms. Duncan: What Iíve heard the minister tell me this afternoon is that there is a seniors housing management fund that was voted by a previous government and previous Management Board. That fund now totals $877,000. There is no commitment by the government as to what it will be used for, so there is no commitment that that will be used for seniors. Ideas are coming forward from the corporation.
Is the minister prepared to commit that this money will be used for seniors housing?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: So, what I am given to understand is that there is that pot of money, if you will, in the seniors housing management fund ó $877,000 in the Yukon Housing Corporation. There is also $5.5 million being transferred from the Government of Canada under the affordable housing program and that the minister anticipates a Yukon Housing Corporation request for proposals to be issued this fall for the construction of seniors affordable housing units. Is that understanding of what Iíve heard so far this afternoon correct?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That is correct.
Ms. Duncan: And just to complete that, a request for a proposal to be issued and then construction next spring ó correct? And the minister wonít reveal what community ó itís based on a needs assessment.
Hon. Mr. Hart: If we get a response to RFP, yes, we will consider one next year.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that the Minister of Health has already had two unsolicited proposals, so Iím certain heíll be forwarding them to the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I thank the member opposite for that.
Ms. Duncan: The seniors home and yard maintenance program was initiated by our government and very, very well received. There was a tremendous uptake on that particular program. It clearly addresses a very demonstrated need in our community. Is the minister planning additional funding for that program, is he planning its continuance through Yukon Housing Corporation, or can he provide us with information on that particular program?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I did read in my notes that we had extended this program to Teslin this year, and we have provided some additional funding to this program because, for the same reasons as she indicated, it has been very well received, specifically here in Whitehorse, and it has been much appreciated.
Ms. Duncan: Is it the ministerís intention that the program will continue for some time, and is there any hope of additional funding for it for next year?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The early indications are that we have a successful program, and the more uptake and demand there is, I guess weíll be looking at some additional aspects in funding or extending the program.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Weíll then proceed line by line.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation, cleared or carried as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation, read and agreed to
Chair:Mr. Cardiff has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 18, Yukon Housing Corporation, cleared or carried as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $12,712,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $15,209,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Chair: Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: It appears that there is support for a recess. I propose a 10-minute recess.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order.
Public Service Commission
Chair: We will continue with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, with Vote 10, the Public Service Commission, and general debate.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Today I am pleased to introduce the 2003-04 budget for the Public Service Commission.
The commission is requesting $12,361,000 for operation and maintenance expenditures over the next year. The Public Service Commissionís goals are to provide strategic direction for departments in response to immediate and emerging needs, to provide policies that help departments manage their human resource needs and to deliver government-wide services to help departments manage employment matters.
The Public Service Commission will continue to provide corporate leadership and human resource management in a number of areas.
Highlights include ensuring fair treatment for devolved federal employees and Yukon government employees who are affected by the Northern Affairs program devolution transfer.
The recent memorandum of understanding signed with the Public Service Alliance of Canada reflects our commitment to affected employees, respecting and adhering to the collective bargaining process between the Yukon government and the unions representing its employees, and a continued commitment to conduct all negotiations in good faith.
The recent memorandum of agreement signed with the Yukon Teachers Association is a clear demonstration of our commitment in this regard. There is a continued commitment to apply the Yukon hire policy to ensure Yukon residents are given preference on all public service jobs and to provide Yukoners with the first opportunity for employment and advancement within the public service. We are continuing to develop and implement representative public service plans in consultation with Yukon First Nations, completing the transfer of the pension plan from the federal government to the Yukon government, and delivering meaningful information to departments to help support human resource management decision making. This work will continue to be supported through the human resource management systems branch.
These important initiatives, among others, are being funded through the budgets of the commission.
This concludes my introduction to the operation and maintenance budget of the Public Service Commission for the fiscal year 2003-04. I will be pleased to answer any questions at this time.
Mr. Hardy: I have a few questions to ask, and hopefully we will be able to move along quite efficiently in this matter and wonít spend too much time on this. I guess one of the first ones I want to ask about is the workplace harassment program. At what stage is the review, and what are the timelines around this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: YTG takes the issue of workplace harassment very seriously. We have a commitment to fairly address harassment in the workplace, and this is reflected in our collective agreements and our workplace harassment policy. The Public Service Commission is currently reviewing the workplace harassment prevention policy and program and will be bringing forward recommendations for improvements this fall. The review has included jurisdictional research, as well as focus group sessions with key stakeholders, including both unions, to help identify the critical issues for the organization.
A working group has been formed with representatives from the harassment prevention office, Womenís Directorate, human resource managers and both the YTA and YEU. The group is tasked with developing policy and program recommendations.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister tell me what the timelines are? What are the predicted timelines? How long is it going to take?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This fall is when it will be done.
Mr. Hardy: Where are we on the investigation into the unwarranted usage of the Internet by employees?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, we should be able to report some progress on this issue by the end of May.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you for that answer.
How about one of the promises made during the election campaign regarding whistle-blower legislation? Has the department been directed to start doing any work in this area?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for his concern regarding the whistle-blower legislation. I wish to assure members of this House and our public service employees that we are continuing to examine the best possible mechanism to ensure these protections are in place. I would like to note that many such protections currently exist, both in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in our existing Legislature and policy framework, and our grievance procedures in respective collective agreements.
As members are no doubt aware, the issue of how to best implement such a policy or legislative tool is one that jurisdictions across the country, including the federal government, are grappling with. We are proceeding carefully, and we will take the time to consult with our unions on any potential new legislative or policy initiatives in this regard.
Mr. Hardy: Is the minister still committed to bringing some form of whistle-blower legislation forward?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, I havenít really decided which legislation is required. We are still going to be proceeding with a full review.
Mr. Hardy: I can take it that the minister is backing away from an initial promise in regard to whistle-blower legislation, and he is looking at other options. I believe he had said in the Legislature earlier on when we were discussing this at the beginning of the legislative sitting that he was considering options. If that is the case ó if he has pulled back a little bit and he is looking for more information, I am looking for what other options would be considered to try to address a promise made such as whistle-blower legislation.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe this government is really backing away from it. As stated previously, we are approaching this issue carefully and we will take the time to deal with it. The other option we have is new legislation or policy initiatives.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the minister doesnít have to get testy over this. I am just asking questions and that happens to be part of my job. If there are comments made initially in an election campaign, and even discussions after it regarding whistle-blower legislation, and if the minister opposite has talked about options and looking at all options and will proceed ahead and I ask those questions, then I would expect that the minister would be able to answer them, especially since weíve had a couple of months since those questions.
However, the whistle-blower legislation was quite a substantial promise and I understand the difficulties in trying to develop a policy around it and some direction.
Has the minister directed the department to gather information on options in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer is yes.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for that quick response.
Would the minister be able to supply me with detail about what some of the options are, what some of the models are that have been used, or variations in regard to trying to meet some of the requirements that whistle-blower legislation would address? Would he be able to share that information with me?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department is still looking for some of the information that is requested, and we expect to have something more definite within a couple of months.
Mr. Hardy: Would he be willing to send over some information once itís gathered with regard to some of the options and considerations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít believe I could really make that total commitment at this point in time, but Iíll take it under consideration.
Mr. Hardy: Sorry, Mr. Chair. I heard the first part of that, but Iím not sure about the second. Is the minister saying he wonít make that commitment? Is that what heís saying?
Would the minister supply us with information on this side ó what has already been gathered in regard to this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department hasnít really returned any of the information yet, and Iím still waiting for it.
Mr. Hardy: So is the minister saying that there has been no work done on this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: No, the work is still being done on it; so itís in progress.
Mr. Hardy: Would the minister give us an update on what has been done to date?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Itís like I mentioned earlier; itís still being investigated, more or less. But to date the information I have is that there is no broad-based whistle-blower legislation in Canada. If you are seeking protection of YTG employees from discipline or dismissal if they disclose wrongdoings by the employer, we already have that in the Yukon. YTG employees are covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms ó their respective collective agreements for bargaining unit personnel, section 77 of the Public Service Staff Relations Act for managers and confidential employees, section 20 of the Environment Act and section 99 of the Employment Standards Act, with respect to proceedings under that act.
So the things that have been coming to us ó like I said, there is no broad-based whistle-blower legislation that can even be used as an example.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for his response. However, the Yukon is quite well known in Canada as being, at times, in the forefront of legislation. We in the Yukon, in government, have often set a standard that other jurisdictions in Canada have struggled to live up to and, by that, have been an inspiration for what we would consider up here as positive changes.
I guess what Iím looking for from this minister is the kind of leadership that has been demonstrated in the past, especially during the Tony Penikett government around human rights legislation, the Environment Act, the economic act ó the list goes on and on. In this area as well, I would think that this minister has an opportunity to really set a standard that would have a very positive influence on the rest of Canada.
I would hope that that would be the way he would look at it and not just look at what other jurisdictions have fallen short on as a reason for not going ahead in this area.
Saying that, though, Iíll move on.
We got a legislative return on a question asked April 22, and I just want to get some clarification. The question that was asked was: how many people worked for this government as of December 31, 2002, and how many vacant positions existed? In one area in this, it talks about permanent vacancies representing approximately four percent of the total population. Could the minister give me the number ó not a percentage but a number? How many is that? Also, could he give me some clarification of what "permanent vacancies" actually means?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Permanent vacancies pertains to permanent positions that are vacant.
Mr. Hardy: How many does that actually work out to ó four percent ó could the minister just tell me that on the floor? I donít have a calculator with me. Maybe he has the figures in front of him.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít have the exact number on that, but I believe itís approximately 160 or somewhere in that area.
Mr. Hardy: Could I get an explanation why there are 160 permanent vacancies? I understand what you mean. It is permanent positions that are vacant at the present time. Could I get an explanation why?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think the most obvious one is that some of the positions are very difficult to fill. These tend to be positions for which there is a significant demand at both the regional and national levels. For example, nurses, psychologists, scientific and senior management positions.
Mr. Hardy: So I can assume that these positions are going to be filled. You can guarantee that these 160 to 170 positions ó because they are permanent positions ó are going to be filled?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I really canít guarantee that, because some of the positions are difficult to fill, but the department is in the process of working with these numbers.
Mr. Hardy: I can assume that these permanent vacancies will no longer become permanent positions. At some point, there may be changes within the departments. If needs drop, then these would become null and void, I guess, for filling, and they wouldnít exist any more. Am I right in how Iím interpreting it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We do examine these positions. If a position canít be filled in one way, it is examined to see if it could be obtained in a different way.
Mr. Hardy: Iím not so sure about that answer, but Iím not going to spend a lot of time on it. I can come back to it in different ways, I think.
Whatís being done to fill these positions, especially what the minister mentioned across the way ó positions that are difficult to fill and that have a significant demand regionally and nationally. Whatís being done to attract these professionals, as they were identified by the minister just a minute ago, and whatís being done to encourage development and training within the Yukon, as well?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think the member opposite is probably aware of things that have happened right in the Yukon in the past and not-so-distant past, where we had people right from the U.S.A. up here, trying to recruit nurses right out of the Yukon. We have that to contend with, but also the government is continuously doing recruitment for nurses, for example, and the government also attends leadership forums and is constantly on the lookout for people with the management skills that are required.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I think itís well known that if you can train the people who actually live in the area, they will return and work in the area that they identify as their home and you will get a long-term commitment from them and the enticement away is a lot less.
My concern is: what is actually being done for the local people to encourage training in these areas that are obviously quite short? What incentives are available? I do know of a few young people who have a strong desire to enter nursing, for instance, and I have found that there are a lot of roadblocks, whether it is the cost, whether it is the marks that are being demanded by the institutions outside now. For peopleís information, I do know that, because there is a demand in this area, many of the universities and colleges and institutes that train in this area have raised the academic levels.
If we need people in these areas, what are we doing to try to fill those using local people and local youth who are interested in these professions we so desperately need people in?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to this Yukon government leadership forum, itís a program that was developed by YTG and, at the present time, we have 25 people attending that. When we get into issues regarding nurses and doctors, I think the appropriate minister should answer those questions ó Health and Social Services.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, I think this is getting to be kind of a problem, where it just shuffles from one department to another. This is PSC. This is the department that supplied the legislative return and the one that identified the problem. This is the one thatís supposed to deal with shortage in staffing and deal with employment, Iíd assume.
I also have a fundamental belief, Mr. Chair, that these departments shouldnít act like theyíre separate from each other, especially this one. Thereís nothing wrong with the minister standing up and answering a question like that. This is about the fourth question Iíve had today where the minister ó even though itís mentioned in their department ó says to ask another department. I find that kind of shallow, frankly. It doesnít sound like the government is working together or that the departments are working together very tightly.
Can the minister tell me if he has asked the department to streamline their operations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I havenít asked anybody to streamline their operations.
Mr. Hardy: This is general debate, I know, but the opportunity is for us to do a lot of our questions in general debate and then just have one vote on the line items. So I am going to ask a few things in that area, because that is what we have been working on for a lot of the departments. I feel that it would be the same way we will be doing it here.
Could the minister give me some detail around the reduction in staff relations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the member opposite, I would be prepared to go line by line if they so choose; however, for the sake of this question, I will answer it.
This activity shows a decrease of $55,000 and the commission no longer budgeted for 75 percent of the presidentís salary. This is part of the contract negotiation.
There is a decrease of $50,000, or 32 percent of the long-service awards budget. This is a result of fewer recipients scheduled for awards for this year.
Mr. Hardy: This has taken into consideration devolution?
I thank the minister for nodding his head.
I had asked this question awhile back, but I still wasnít totally sure on the answer on the devolution part, although I think I know what the minister meant. I will just ask it again to get it clarified.
The long-service awards ó the years put in by the people who were working for the feds when they transferred over, those years are recognized for their long-service award?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, they are.
Mr. Hardy: There has been talk about the withdrawal from WCB, and I really donít want the minister to tell me to ask in that area because WCB is in this department ó the workersí compensation fund.
Could the minister explain where thatís at ó if there have been any more discussions around the premiums paid to WCB and going into the loan on their funding?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I stated on the floor of this Legislature earlier that our first preference is to continue working with WCB. At this point in time, no decision will be made until after the review of the Workersí Compensation Act is completed.
Mr. Hardy: So I can assume that youíre just in a waiting game right now.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that at this point in time our best interest is going to be to work with the board and try to get information that we have asked for in the past, and also to start developing a good working relationship with the board.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister just explain to me the increase in the human resource management systems?
Chair: Order please. Is that a specific question regarding a specific line item?
Mr. Hardy: Is the Chair asking me a question?
Chair: Iím concerned that weíre getting into specifics: specific amounts about specific line items. Is there an intention to go into line-by-line?
Mr. Hardy: No, there isnít.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím not too certain that I want to keep jumping into different lines within this budget. As I stated earlier, Iím prepared to go through the line-by-line, if the member so requests.
Mr. Hardy: Now, we can have a debate about this if the members opposite want, and we can go around and around and around, or you could allow the few questions we have in this department on a couple of items that you consider line items to be answered. However, if the minister feels that he wants to do line items because he doesnít like our general debate, because it touches a little bit on the budget, so be it. But personally, I would suggest that we would seem to have had a good working relationship and weíre just starting to play a game right now.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the past practice of the House has been general debate can take place over any area, and when the members opposite want to go into detail, then we go into line-by-line. That has been the past practice of this House in Committee of the Whole, and we only want to ensure that that continues. It allows both parties to constructively debate the business of the public.
Chair:Thereís no point of order raised here. As we are still in general debate, please keep your questions general in nature, in keeping with past practice in this House.
Mr. Hardy: It looks like we have to go into the line items, frankly. If this is the way itís going to be, thatís the way itís going to be. If the minister insists thatís what he wants to do, so be it.
I have a few more questions in that area, and Iíll come back to it.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a few questions in general debate. Can the minister provide an update on the contract negotiations between the Government of Yukon and the YGEU?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Before I answer that question, Iíd like to make a comment to the leader of the official opposition before he sat down.
With regard to saying that this member is playing games, Iím sorry he feels that way. With a couple of questions by the leader of the official opposition, and maybe a few more by each member on that side, we will have completed the line-by-line just through those three or four questions. So I donít believe I am playing a game, as stated.
With regard to the question from the leader of the third party, the formal bargaining deal on mostly monetary items took place March 31 to April 4 and continues on May 5 through to May 9, and June 2 to 6.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister comment generally? I understand he canít get into specifics, of course. Itís a negotiation. But generally, in the governmentís view, did the first session, March 31 to April 4, go well, and were substantial issues resolved?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I canít say that the first week went well. The pre-bargaining was held November 18, 22 and 27, resulting in the agreement of 40 non-monetary items. This included a new grievance procedure and a greater flexibility in the hours of work provisions.
Ms. Duncan: The negotiations, as I understand it, have concluded with the teachers and they are going to ratification vote. Is that correct? The minister has nodded.
When is that concluded?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The ratification is expected by the middle of May.
Ms. Duncan: The leader of the official opposition touched on whistle-blower legislation. I would like the minister to confirm for the record ó I listened carefully to the debate but Iím not certain I have these answers. There is no money being spent on the development of whistle-blower legislation in this budget, and any work is review work and itís being done internally by officials. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, that is correct.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister advise whether or not the whistle-blower legislation, as previously drafted and tabled in this Legislature, is under examination by him?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís part of the things that will be considered as weíre doing the review.
Ms. Duncan: So what Iíve heard the minister say, then, is that consideration of whistle-blower legislation would go to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, or is it strictly that he is considering whether or not to bring this forward, as minister responsible? Is it a Cabinet decision, or is it a ministerial decision?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, all thatís taking place is Iíve asked the department to produce a report on where things are at, and I still havenít received that yet. Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: When does the minister anticipate receiving that report?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe within the next couple of months.
Ms. Duncan: I would encourage the minister to give consideration to the legislation that was previously drafted and tabled in the Legislature.
On February 28, 2002, my understanding is there were less than 100 outstanding classifications. Whatís the number now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As of April 10, 2003, the number is 341.
Ms. Duncan: There are 341 outstanding reclassification requests? The minister is nodding. Why has there been this tremendous backlog? Are there additional resources being allocated so that this backlog can be dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: No, there arenít any extra resources at this time. The department is just working through them. However, there will be some additional help through the summer to assist with the devolution.
Ms. Duncan: Are these 341 outstanding reclassifications all a result of devolution?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: None of the 341 are from devolution. We have 144 outstanding from the renewal, and we have 197 that are not related to the renewal.
Ms. Duncan: Iím sorry, I didnít catch the number that the minister said that were not related to renewal.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That number is 197.
Ms. Duncan: So almost 200 are not related to renewal, but there are 341 outstanding reclassifications. And the minister said there were no additional resources in the department to deal with this backlog, which has occurred since the government took power. Can the minister advise what the average waiting time is for a reclassification request?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: When a job description is received by the Public Service Commission, there are many variables that affect the length of time it takes to complete the classification review on the position.
Based on the current workload of the classification unit, it is reasonable to expect that a classification review will take approximately six months to complete.
Ms. Duncan: So, six months for the average Government of Yukon employee and less than a week for the newly hired political staff for reclassification decisions. And the government says thereís only one standard.
The copy of the decision for the reclassification for two positions within the political staff has not been forthcoming. May I have that, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Public Service Commission does not classify any political positions.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it just gets more interesting.
So the Public Service Commission was not involved, then, in the reclassification or classification of these two positions?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: New and/or revised job descriptions for Cabinet and caucus employees ó for example, chief of staff and principal secretary ó were prepared by a local contractor in accordance with the job description format used by Yukon government for its public service positions and based on the duties and responsibilities required of the positions. These job descriptions were approved by the Cabinet office and then classified by the same contractor in conformity with the job evaluation system used by the Yukon public service.
Salary ranges for these positions are determined by the classification level that corresponds to a Yukon government payscale. For management positions there are 10 salary ranges, and for non-management positions there are 22 salary ranges.
Ms. Duncan: The point is that the classification was done very quickly and additional resources paid to get that classification, and other Government of Yukon employees wait six months. Thatís the point. That doesnít strike me as being fair, and Iím sure it doesnít strike the 341 people awaiting their reclassification as being fair either.
On the devolution, there was substantial work in trying to work with employees, as there was work beforehand trying to deal with the blending of cultures. There are different terms for seasonal workers for the Government of Canada and for seasonal workers for the Government of Yukon. Have these been reconciled? Have we brought the YTG workers up to the same benefits that the seasonal workers for the Government of Canada enjoy?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, our seasonal workers are covered under the collective agreement and the federal employees are covered under an MOU that was signed by PSAC and the Yukon government.
Ms. Duncan: So, letís start at the beginning, then. Is there a difference in the benefits and ó rights is the wrong choice of words. But is there a difference in the benefits enjoyed by one group of workers? Is there a difference between the Government of Canada seasonal workersí benefits and those of the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, there is a difference. This government protected the benefits of the federal employees who were coming over, and the YTG employees have their collective agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Are we going to resolve this issue at the negotiating table?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, this is a grandfathered arrangement for the protection of people coming over under devolution.
Ms. Duncan: What is the difference in additional cost to Government of Yukon if we were to extend the same benefits? Has that been estimated?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, we havenít gone into that or tried to determine that.
Ms. Duncan: Fair enough. The issue around insurance or being self-insured by the Government of Yukon with respect to workers' compensation, there was a paper. Aon Reed Stenhouse were contracted. May we have a copy of that report?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That report went to Management Board, and it hasnít been dealt with yet.
Ms. Duncan: Is the minister saying that it is protected by Cabinet confidentiality so we canít have a copy of it, or will he provide it? It is paid for by public taxpayersí money. Can we have a copy of it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe what Iím saying is that it is protected, because there was no decision made on it.
Mr. Hardy: Could I have an explanation on some of the statistics that indicate that the request for classification review is dropping by 26 percent? Could I have the minister explain that to me?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This does not include devolution, and we donít anticipate anything more in reclassification.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd like a bit better explanation. Iím not sure what you meant by not including devolution.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This number does not include the devolution process. However, we do expect some in devolution and we know that there will be no renewal exercise happening.
Mr. Hardy: But it seems to indicate that there is going to be a substantial increase in the classification appeals. What would be driving that kind of jump?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We do anticipate an increased number of classification appeals as a result of devolution.
Mr. Hardy: Itís my understanding that the Classification Appeal Board hearings cost money and a fair amount of time and a tremendous amount of stress for people going through it. What I see here in the statistics indicates a fairly significant jump. What would we be looking at for extra costs and time and resources that would be taken up by a jump like this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We do have some dollars coming in devolution to deal with this issue.
Seeing the time, I would like to move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that we report progress on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of 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 government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Document was filed April 30, 2003:
Yukon Snow Survey 2003: map indicating snow water equivalent percent of normal as of April 1, 2003 (McRobb)