Wednesday, April 7, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of World Health Day
Ms. Duncan:I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to World Health Day, April 7. World Health Day is recognized in 191 countries. This year, the theme for World Health Day is "Road Safety is No Accident."
Mr. Speaker, it is no accident of policy that an individual must be considered responsible in a graduated way in the Yukon in order to operate a motor vehicle. We treasure our vehicles as transportation. We must respect them as dangerous when operated under the influence or unsafely. Today and every day, I encourage all Yukoners ó it isnít just about obeying the rules of the road; itís about practising safe driving habits today and every day.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the government, I rise today to pay tribute to World Health Day, April 7.
Approximately 200 countries in the world recognize this day. This yearís theme of World Health Day is road safety and today we recognize that, in order to encourage road safety, we obey the rules of the road, we adhere to them and we practise defensive driving. Mr. Speaker, these are just some of the areas and the manner in which we, as responsible citizens, should be conducting ourselves.
Further to that, we have all come to rely on our vehicles as the prime mode of transportation. Indeed, here in the Yukon, Yukoners use their vehicles more on a mileage basis than any other jurisdiction in North America ó itís the highest. That said, we have a responsibility to ensure that we abide by the rules of the road and practise safe driving.
Mr. Fairclough: On this World Health Day, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition to celebrate and recognize today, the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization. The theme of World Health Day for 2004 is "Road Safety is No Accident".
Around the world, road injury statistics are extremely high, and the Yukon is no exception. We are a society that is reliant on our automobiles and our roads for daily living. Motor vehicle accidents are a major cause of injury and death, and many of these accidents are caused by impaired drivers. Impairment combined with, of course, excessive speeds, and the non-use of seatbelts increases the risk of injury and death enormously.
In 2001, 38 percent of the fatally injured drivers in Canada who were tested had been drinking. Of these, 85 percent had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. Alcohol use is less than it was a decade ago but is still unacceptably high. The efforts of organizations such as MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have helped to increase awareness and reduce fatal accidents, and we now have a local chapter of this valuable organization.
Road safety not only involves drivers of vehicles, but includes pedestrians and riders of bicycles and motorcycles and ATVs.
Most accidents are preventable when due caution is observed. The use of bicycle helmets is mandated in six provinces and should be the same here. The design of roadways and sidewalks needs to be taken into consideration as pedestrian and bike riders are at risk every day. We would do well to take these issues seriously here in the Yukon.
I would also like to draw the attention of the House to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, who has developed a national plan of action called "Road Safety Vision 2010", making roads the safest in the world.
More locally, the City of Whitehorse has endorsed a safe communities initiative, being developed by several volunteers and agencies ó the development of programs to support safety and prevention of injury. I encourage all members to become aware of their objectives and support their efforts.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling a report from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on the absence of members from sittings of the Legislative Assembly and its committees.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling today a detailed breakdown of the capital expenditures, community by community, as requested by the opposition.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 2 ó response
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I rise today to respond to Petition No. 2, tabled on December 16, 2003, presented by the leader of the official opposition concerning the outstanding loans owed to the government. On December 11, 2003, our government released a three-point plan for dealing with the issue of outstanding loans that has plagued successive Yukon governments.
The first step involved the forgiveness of loans for four non-governmental organizations. The loans that were forgiven included the Great Northern Ski Society, known as Mount Sima, for a total of $395,000; the Yukon Rodeo Association, for a total of $44,974; the Yukon Quest Society, $29,400; and the Northern Lights School of Dance, $15,472. The overall total, Mr. Speaker, is somewhat less than $500,000. This first step has been completed.
The second step involves allowing borrowers to restructure their loans under the Business Development Assistance Act. Under the regulations to this act, borrowers can apply to have the interest rate of their loans decreased to the current rate established by the Bank of Canada. Interest on these loans is being weighed for three years. This loan restructuring offer was not made available to companies in which any member of the Cabinet is involved. This step was initiated on January 1, 2004, and will remain in effect until June 30, 2004.
The Government of Canada has indicated that it will repatriate and manage the collection of its loan portfolio. That includes small-business incentive, Canada-Yukon tourism subagreement, economic development agreement, renewable and economic development agreement, tourism, and small business support.
The total value of this federal portfolio is $607,000. The Industry Canada component is $504,000, with Yukonís portion being $172,000. The third step involves the sale of all the government loans, including all those that have been restructured, to a private company or financial institution commencing July 1, 2004.
The condition of sale will be that the company or financial institution that purchases the loans will respect the repayment arrangements in place at the time of sale. A consultant has been engaged to develop a tender package that will be issued in the very near future. To date, four companies have already expressed an interest in looking at the loans portfolio.
The government will sell the loan portfolio to the company or financial institution that provides the best financial return to taxpayers while minimizing the risk of business foreclosures and impact on borrowers.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House appreciate the fact that there is no magic solution to this complex, intricate and long-standing problem that has plagued successive governments for the last two decades. Our government believes it is time to bring this matter to an end. It is our contention that government should not be in the business of giving loans, as that is best left to the private sector.
We are well underway in implementing our three-step plan that will ultimately resolve the issue of these outstanding government loans.
Speaker: Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Party election platform made a commitment to create safer communities;
(2) the Yukon has three times the national average of reported sexual assault;
(3) the use of the Yukonís largest transition home has doubled over the past 10 years;
(4) aboriginal women experience three times the rate of spousal assault than non-aboriginal women;
(5) women in the Yukon are asking us all to break the silence and take a stand; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to demonstrate leadership at the highest level of government by speaking out and by taking positive action to address violence in the community.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services today. Last night a well respected, long-time councillor in Dawson City resigned as a direct result of the ministerís interference with municipal affairs. Why does the minister continue to undermine the democratically elected council of Dawson to satisfy the political agenda of the Member for Klondike?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Letís review the situation. Dawson City has financial problems, and I have stated that in this House many times and so has the previous government. In 1999, Dawson City had reserves of a little over $4.1 million, had a little over $1 million in the bank. Right now they owe more than $4 million, have no money in the bank and have very little funds in reserve. Thatís a difference of approximately $8 million.
Secondly, we have a CFA with the City of Dawson that we signed over for $10.4 million during that period. Dawson is the only municipality that has borrowed beyond its municipal limit, albeit with the authority of the government at the time. They are at the full extent of the debenture that has been provided to them, except for a small amount. We have already provided Dawson with the monies that they require. There is also pending arbitration outstanding and it could take a couple more months for the final results of the arbitrator to bring forth that issue with regard to the City of Dawson. I believe that the mayor and council must now accept the fact that they are operating in a very tight environment on a financial basis.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister is not doing a lot to help them. Itís time to call a spade a shovel in the House. What the minister has been allowing to happen is appalling. Every municipal government across the territory should be very, very alarmed at what this government is doing.
The event that triggered the councillorís resignation was pretty straightforward last night. The ministerís hand-picked supervisor from British Columbia ordered the mayor and council to do something that they felt was very wrong. Why did the minister, through his supervisor, give the municipal government an ultimatum to rip up a valid contract for waste management services or face expulsion from their elected positions?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This government is concerned and is working on solutions for Dawson City. Not only does the situation affect the residents of Dawson but also the Yukon taxpayers.
As minister, I am responsible for the Municipal Act. A supervisor was put in place. A financial plan was written for the city and was agreed to by the city for them to follow. The supervisor is there to oversee the operations and the financial implications of that plan. The supervisor is currently in Dawson City as we speak.
Mr. Cardiff: I know the Member for Klondike has his own cheering section in Dawson City but the majority of people in the Yukon think that the heavy-handed approach that this government is using is disgusting. The minister can stand there until he is blue in the face repeating his story about how the supervisor is just doing his job under the Municipal Act, but the bottom line is that the minister is using a bazooka to swat flies.
Now, the council has reluctantly broken the contract at the ministerís insistence. Is the minister going to pick up the tab for the lawsuit that could come out of this?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Letís review the situation. Dawson City is in debt, like I mentioned before. In fact, itís some $4.3 million worth. Plus, we have a pending final arbitration decision that is still probably a couple of months away from being finalized. The mayor and council must adhere to the financial plan that they agreed to, for them to follow. They have very limited room in which to play. They have a long-term financial plan and it is going to take them many years to get out of the situation that they are in. So, itís important that they follow that financial plan because there is very little room for error.
All of the spending must be scrutinized by the supervisor because of the state of the finances in Dawson. I would say that we are committed to assisting Dawson and assuring all taxpayers of reducing any further risk to them. We will try to solve this problem on behalf of Dawson City and Dawson City residents, as well as Yukon taxpayers.
Letís review some of the other commitments for the region. We are looking at building a multi-care facility for Dawson City. We are looking at upgrading nearby roads within Dawsonís vicinity. We are also looking at work on the Dempster Highway and ó
Speaker: Order please. New question.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Mr. Cardiff:Iím not quite finished with the Minister of Community Services and his micromanagement of Dawson City. Last nightís council meeting in Dawson City was to discuss the townís draft budget and, as the minister pointed out, his supervisor was there last night, and heís going to stick around for the weekend so he can have dinner with the Member for Klondike, probably. But the ministerís handpicked supervisor did not even participate or present any financial information at a meeting about the budget.
Will the minister confirm that the supervisor instructed the council to include a $25,000 contingency in the budget for an expected lawsuit as a result of being directed to break that waste management contract?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The supervisor was in Dawson to review the budget plan and help assist with the development of the budget with mayor and council. Last night the mayor was not in Dawson City, and a couple of other council members were not there, so they didnít have a quorum.
Mr. Cardiff: I beg to differ. There was a quorum. There was a meeting. The mayor was on the phone, and they didnít have a quorum after the councillor resigned.
The waste management contract that Dawsonís council accepted included a recycling component and a plan to clean up high-traffic areas in the town. It would have cost $22,000 more than the lowest bid, which did not have those environmental components. Under normal circumstances, youíd expect that the minister responsible for landfills would be supportive of an initiative like this and support the community ó applaud them. But there are no normal circumstances in Dawson, Mr. Speaker.
Can the minister explain the economic logic of spending $25,000 on a lawsuit to save $22,000 on an inferior garbage contract?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I remind the member opposite that the $22,000 differential that he is advising the House on is for one year. This is a 10-year contract. Thatís $220,000.
Mr. Cardiff: And how long is the landfill going to last? Dawsonís budget also called for an increase in waste collection fees to cover those costs. Unfortunately, the Member for Klondike would have been impacted by those fee increases, but the chamber endorsed them. The budget also anticipated a small surplus, which is my understanding, and you would think the minister would encourage that as well. But the people in Dawson are furious, because this minister wonít explain why heís treating the people of Dawson and the elected council this way. Theyíre furious that their MLA wonít even meet with them.
Since the minister and the MLA wonít answer, I have a question for the Premier. Will he put up the estimated $17,000 it would cost for the City of Dawson to get an inquiry into this by the Ombudsman so that the people of Dawson and Yukoners can get the answers that they deserve?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are dealing with the City of Dawson, and weíre working with them on their strict financial problems. I believe that the supervisor indicated that he is looking at the possibility of an inquiry for Dawson, and weíre considering that option.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, lump sum payment to injured workers
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Long before this minister got in the business of denying health care benefits to adopted children, he was busy denying benefits to injured workers. There are some people who are owed money from Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board who want to receive it all at once in a lump sum. On February 17, a new policy was introduced regarding lump sum payments. The new policy ensures that these workers will never receive the money that theyíre owed. One of the many conditions that the new policy imposes on injured workers is that they "must demonstrate the ability to manage his or her financial affairs" before being allowed to receive the money theyíre owed.
Mr. Speaker, itís ironic that the minister in charge of Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board has already demonstrated that he canít manage his financial affairs. He owes taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and now he is making judgements on others. He would not qualify under this policy. Will the minister ensure that these conditions are dropped and give injured workers the money theyíre owed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíll have my officials send over a copy of the structure of WCB and the member opposite will clearly see the role of the board. The role of the board is well-defined and the policies they bring forward are put in place by the board. Itís not the purview of the minister to interfere in that area whatsoever.
Ms. Duncan: This minister has shown no hesitation in choosing ambulances and interfering all over the place. Injured workers are owed this money. If they want to receive it in a lump sum, they should be allowed to do so. The new rules imposed by this minister have put the bar so high that workers will never be able to satisfy all the conditions.
Mr. Speaker, this is the voice of the Yukon in early January, and itís a quote. "I donít believe that itís their right and none of their business as to what I spend my money on. Do they account for the money they spend? Does their employer hold out on them because they might go and spend it somewhere foolishly, like on some other people or the Casa Loma bar? I donít think theyíre too concerned about injured workers at all. I donít see how or why our great leader down at YTG is allowing this to happen. Before the election, he promised they were going to be doing things fairly and honest down there. He didnít say they were going to be appointing the campaign manager as the chair."
That is a direct quote, Mr. Speaker, and it was aired on our public broadcast station.
Will the minister rescind the new policy that punishes workers?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I believe thereís a point of order there that the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to me.
Speaker: On the point of order, leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. I am stating the facts and I have stated a direct quote. Iím stating the facts as I know them to be. I would put to you that that is a dispute between members.
Speaker:Iím going to ask the indulgence of the House. Iím going to take the opportunity to review the Blues and Iíll be back with a ruling on Tuesday. Please carry on.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member oppositeís allegations are completely inaccurate, trying to attempt to suggest that the minister is responsible for these initiatives. They are clearly defined as board initiatives and theyíre board responsibilities.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has shown no hesitation in interfering in other issues and in speaking out. When on this side of the House, he has asked other ministers to speak out about policies. This is an example of "Father knows best", which this minister is well known for. It is an attitude that is becoming abundantly clear.
The minister owes Yukoners hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid loans. Now heís telling injured workers that they wonít be paid the money thatís owed to them.
Passing judgement on how injured workers might manage their money is completely unfair. Will the minister stop hiding behind the board, rescind this new policy, which prevents workers from getting the money that they deserve and that they are owed? He has backed down on one bad policy this week; letís make it two.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite knows full well that the minister does not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the board of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, nor does it interfere with the policies of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board. That is completely mandated as a board-controlled initiative. Iím appalled, given the amount of time that the member opposite has spent in this Legislature, that she does not understand the basis of the workings of the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Question re: Johneís disease
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Environment. The valuation report on the game farm shows that a lot more animals were destroyed because of Johneís disease than we had previously known. On Monday I asked the minister when and how he first became aware that the former owner had destroyed some sheep on the property. His answers use the word "we", meaning the department, rather than "I", meaning the minister.
Let me be more specific: did the minister have any knowledge of the existence of Johneís disease on the Yukon Game Farm before the former owner reported it to the department?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: No.
Mrs. Peter: The minister had raised the matter of professional confidentiality and we respect that. However, the minister also took an oath to conduct the business of the Yukon public to the best of his ability. The minister has a responsibility to make sure Yukon people know all they need to know about issues that could affect their health or the health of Yukon animals.
Wildlife officials in his department asked him for relevant information and he didnít provide it. We have asked him for relevant information and he isnít providing it.
To the ministerís knowledge, how many domestic animals or game farm animals or wild animals in the Yukon have tested positive for Johneís disease in the past five years?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I appreciate very much that the member opposite respects confidentiality, and that has certainly come out in other speeches she has given on the floor of the House ó that there must be confidentiality, which brings me to the surprise that she would then ask me to stand up and breach confidentiality in matters that do not involve this House. I donít care whether itís a physician, a veterinarian, a chiropractor, a lawyer or a child psychologist ó such matters are confidential and perhaps the member opposite would remember that in future speeches.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, we are asking the minister to be responsible in his capacity as an Environment minister. Thereís a growing concern worldwide about animal diseases or diseases carried by animals that can also affect humans. Look at last yearís SARS epidemic; look at the BSE situation in Canada and the U.S.; look at the hantavirus or the West Nile virus.
Mr. Speaker, look at whatís happening south of here with the bird flu. There are 19 million birds being slaughtered and maybe many more to come. Public health and safety are probably the most important responsibilities on the shoulders of any elected official.
Will the minister agree to table, by next week at least, full answers to all the questions about Johneís disease in the territory that have been raised by his department officials and in this House?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I remind the member opposite that, in fact, all that information is in the report that we tabled yesterday and I encourage the member opposite to read that report and spend some time thinking about it.
Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the member opposite, however, that there are a number of issues out there that must be addressed and they are worldwide issues. This is why we have identified up to $150,000 for disease testing. We will be working with First Nation governments, with hunters and with renewable resource councils to determine what is out there. The threat comes from everywhere; the threat comes from rubber-tire traffic coming up the highway; it comes from deer wandering in.
Iíd like to remind all of Yukon that Swan Haven is now open and we welcome the arrival of the swans, and I suggest that the member opposite give that some thought. Where does she think those swans were four days ago? Right over southern British Columbia.
Question re: Removal of Minister of Environment
Mr. Hardy: After listening to what has taken place so far, Iím compelled to ask the Premier a question. Does the Premier consider the refusal of Cabinet ministers to answer legitimate and important public policy questions to be consistent with his campaign commitment to provide open, accountable, fiscally responsible government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Considering that this situation that the member opposite, the leader of the official opposition, is inferring here on the floor is not taking place ó in fact quite the contrary, as the government and its ministers are providing answers. Weíve seen that reflected day in and day out in this Legislature. The problem is that the opposition does not like the answers, but thereís a distinct difference between providing answers and an opposition not liking the answer.
Mr. Hardy: The record will speak for exactly that issue and we will be proven right and he will be proven wrong. Iím sure that somewhere along lifeís journey, this Premier has heard the expression about a good offence being the best defence, and weíre witnessing that on a daily basis. The point about that saying is that it requires a good offence, not a lame and predictable attack, and we have once again seen that. We see it again daily and weekly.
People are watching the government with growing alarm, and they donít trust this government. The Premier might be very interested to read some of the things people are saying in Dawson City, and I hope he takes the time to actually see what is going on up there because itís frightening.
Now, will the Premier direct the Minister of Environment to provide full and frank answers to the questions that have been addressed to him about the prevalence of Johneís disease in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think itís important to note first and foremost that the government side, contrary again to the official opposition leaderís inference that we are on the offence, is here to defend the budget that we have tabled on behalf of the Yukon public. We await the debate for the budget from the members opposite.
In regard to the Minister of Environment, the issue that the official opposition is dealing with relates specifically to the game farm. I cannot expect this minister to know whatís going on in a microcosm out here in the Yukon land base or its wilderness, but when it comes to the game farm the minister did his work, the minister has tabled the relevant information. In the report, the tests show that Johneís disease today at the game farm, among the game farm animals, is not prevalent.
Mr. Hardy: Iíd like to remind the Premier that itís a game preserve.
The Premier leaves me no choice, and unlike some other members of this House, I have never been eager to call for the resignation of a Cabinet minister. I believe that is the last resort, Mr. Speaker, a measure that should only be used after a great deal of thought in regard to less drastic remedies to resolve this, and we have asked for those remedies. But given what we have seen this week and over the past 17 months, Mr. Speaker, I really am reconsidering my position on that. Questions regarding the health and safety of the Yukon people cannot be treated lightly, dismissed, nor refused to be answered in this Legislature. Will the Premier relieve the minister of his responsibilities for the Environment department?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, first, the government takes very seriously the health and well-being of Yukoners, its environment, its people, its animals, and all that goes with it. More importantly, we are here as a government to ensure that that health and well-being continues into the future.
Now, letís get to the requests by the member opposite. There has been absolutely no reason for the government side to entertain any dismissals of any member. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I say to you that the government side remains confident that its team that is put together ó as elected by the Yukon public ó is, in the best possible interests of the public, delivering what we have been elected to deliver. I would commend the Minister of Environment for his efforts when it came to the Wildlife Preserve. It was a long-standing issue. Other governments have not dealt with it; we have. More importantly, we as a government have lived up to and delivered on a very important recommendation from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board ó bravo, Minister of Environment.
Question re: Ambulance services
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. Can the minister confirm that staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre had to transport a patient to Whitehorse General Hospital recently because no ambulance had arrived more than 20 minutes after they made a 911 call?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: No, I am not aware of that situation.
Mrs. Peter: On March 31, a call was made to 911 for medical assistance. The call came from Whitehorse Correctional Centre. After waiting 20 minutes for a response by the ambulance service, the officers at Whitehorse Correctional Centre took the matter into their own hands and transported the patient themselves to the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Has there been an internal investigation of this incident, and will the minister make that information available to this House?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Delays of which the member opposite is speaking have not been brought to my attention.
Mrs. Peter: This is one more drastic example of the ambulance service being in disarray because of mismanagement by this government. This is a very dangerous incident that needs investigation. Once again, public health and safety are an issue with this government.
Will the minister at least take her colleague, the Minister of Health, aside and demand that he acknowledge the obvious problem that exists within the Yukonís ambulance service?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, we are doing nothing as a government but improving the ambulance service. One only has to look at the budget that is before this House, which Iím sure the members opposite will vote against. What it does for the rural ambulance volunteers is increase their honoraria, something that hasnít been done since the early 1970s. It provides them with a basic outfit ó a jumpsuit and a coat ó which is some $500 odd per individual.
Also, we are putting in place additional training. There are some trainers in rural Yukon; there are some trainers in Whitehorse. That is being instituted. We take the issue of public safety very, very much to heart, and we are addressing the needs of our public safety system ó specifically emergency measures. We are doing that.
As to the allegations that there was a long time responding to the Whitehorse ó
Speaker: Thank you.
Question re: Ambulance services
Mr. Fairclough: This government has not been open and accountable in many cases. They have made many deals behind closed doors. The sell-off of the ambulance service to the Yukon Hospital Corporation is a prime example. There has been no consultation with ambulance services or the union and no notice to the public about their plans.
My question is to the minister: has the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board agreed in writing to take over the ambulance services from the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The ambulance board, I believe, did so by resolution sometime last year. They are going to be taking over the management of emergency measures service. Government is not selling off anything. The management of the emergency measures service will be provided by the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation. Itís a hand-in-glove arrangement. It will provide a higher level ó a more efficient level ó of service than what we currently provide. Thatís the exercise.
We are very concerned as a government. We are providing the highest possible level of service that we can. Thatís where we are going, and with the aid and cooperation of the Yukon Hospital Corporation and their board, who requested that they take over the ambulance emergency medical services, we will be there soon.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, certainly the professionals donít agree with this minister, and I donít believe that the board has given the green light to take over the responsibility of the ambulance services.
No doubt the board knows that there are many outstanding issues that need to be addressed. Despite it all, the minister claims that everything is fine. Well, just look at the papers and what the ambulance attendants are saying publicly. Perhaps thatís why they are being silent. The minister cannot be trusted in this case. He is trying to save a dollar or two on the backs of Yukonersí health and safety.
Why is the minister going ahead with this sale without first correcting the drastic problems that we are hearing every day? We understand about the clothing and the allowance, but the bigger issues that are still outstanding havenít been addressed. Why havenít they been taken care of first?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the record, the Yukon Hospital Corporation, the Whitehorse hospital, will be managing the emergency medical service. They wonít be selling it. We wonít be buying it. Thereís no transfer of ownership. The Hospital Corporation manages it.
To that end, if the member opposite would get into the budget debate, theyíd clearly identify about a half a million dollars in additional costs that our government is incurring this year as an injection into emergency medical services for the provision of clothing, training, more ambulances, and just to improve services overall. Thatís where weíre at.
When in opposition, I always ensured that I knew the answer to a question before I asked it, and this member might want to understand that kind of premise before posing the questions like he is.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, itís obvious the minister doesnít know the answers. I would say that he should be doing his homework. There has been no consultation with the union or ambulance attendants. The minister goes ahead and makes a decision. It sounds like the minister knows best. This is a top-down governing style, and people are recognizing it. This minister, Mr. Speaker, enjoys micromanaging, and he will get up and say heís not doing that. Heís doing it in his department, but heís not listening to people or the professionals. This minister said the sellout of the ambulance services is all about improving the service. How will the service improve when the hospital does not have the expertise in EMS, nor the experience with volunteer ambulance crews or in training capabilities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not jumping to conclusions; heís leaping to conclusions that are patently false. The Yukon Hospital Corporation, the Whitehorse Hospital, has the expertise. They have been examining this issue for some time, and their board has directed the management to begin discussions with the department so that they could take over the management. Nothing is being sold. Theyíre taking over the management. And if the member opposite wants to get into the budget, we can clearly identify where there is almost a half a million dollars of additional funding going into upgrading this emergency measures service, including two new ambulances, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 225
Clerk:Motion No. 225, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to construct a bridge over the Yukon River at Dawson City to enhance trade, tourism, and commerce.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to debate this motion.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of the bridge at Dawson City is one that has had a long history of discussion in the public forum in the Yukon. In recent days, the opposition has continually suggested that our government has not made the business case for building a bridge at Dawson City and has called upon us to do so.
Personally, Mr. Speaker, I found this rather surprising as it seems to me the business case for building a bridge at Dawson City is so simple and so clear that I would have thought it would have been immediately obvious to all members of this House.
Iíve spoken to many of my constituents about the possibility of building a bridge at Dawson and about the specific proposals that we as a government were considering, and this has included raising the issue for discussion during at least four of the public meetings Iíve held in my riding.
Iíve not run across a single one of my constituents to whom it has taken me more than three minutes to explain the business case. Itís very clear and itís very simple.
The reasons for building a bridge at Dawson can be separated into two parts: firstly, the economic savings from building a bridge versus operating a ferry; and, secondly, the benefits to all Yukoners, and especially to residents of Dawson City, that will result from having constant access provided by a bridge rather than the unreliable modes of ferry and the ice bridge, not to mention the freeze-up and breakup times in-between when thereís no access.
Simply put, this can be compared to leasing a car versus buying a car. Iím sure that members of this House, as well as all Yukoners, would understand why it would make more sense to spend ó taking round numbers just for simplicity ó $1,000. If you went to purchase a new truck, would you be better off to spend $1,000 a month leasing the vehicle and, at the end of the term ó three years, or whatever that term may be ó you own nothing ó youíve given all the money away and you have nothing at the end of it ó or would you be better to take that same money and to buy the vehicle and, at the end of that time, you would own the vehicle?
I think thatís fairly obvious. Youíd be better off investing that same amount of money in purchasing the vehicle rather than simply renting it. It doesnít take a rocket scientist to figure that out, and it doesnít take a team of high-priced accountants to do some sort of wondrous math to explain it here. Itís very simple. The Yukon government pays approximately a million dollars a year for the operation and maintenance of the ferry at Dawson City. There are a number of factors included in this, including the yearly shoring up of the riverbank to build the ramp, which has an adverse effect on the fish habitat.
So if you take that cost of approximately a million dollars a year, and instead of putting that money into fuel and other operations and maintenance costs that leave you nothing at the end of the day ó if you had a private company build that under a public/private partnership and you paid them that same million dollars per year to buy that bridge back from them over that period of time, at the end of that time, whatever that time period would be ó a number of years, 25 years, for example ó youíd own the bridge instead of having thrown all of that money away into operations and maintenance of the ferry, including the environmental effects.
I mentioned the issue of fish habitat. Thereís also the fact that a ferry burns diesel fuel. There are hydrocarbons coming out of that. There are greenhouse gases. Itís not a very sustainable method, and Iím surprised that the opposition would encourage us to use non-environmentally sustainable methods rather than a more environmentally respectful solution to this.
We have issued, at this point, a request for proposals for a bridge design consultant. The bridge design consultant ó once that person or company is determined ó will evaluate the design. From that point, we will determine the exact cost of the bridge, but we made it clear that we expect the cost to come somewhere around the $25-million to $30-million mark. The cost of this could very clearly be beneficial to the Yukon from the financial side, instead of throwing away $1 million a year in operation and maintenance that we get nothing for, by taking that money and using it to buy back that piece of infrastructure that a private company has built. There are a number of different options of how this can be structured with public/private partnership. There are options for partnering with others in this, such as the First Nation government, the federal government, the strategic infrastructure fund. These options may be open, but whether they come into play or not ó even for the Yukon going alone as a territory to pursue this ó it makes sense.
It is a sustainable option. It is far more economically sensible than just throwing money into the river, which is essentially what we are doing now. We are putting in place a fixed piece of infrastructure that has an expected design life of 75 years. There are other issues in addition to that operation and maintenance cost that have to be factored in. Currently the engines on the ferry have to be replaced about every three years. The cost of that is approximately $300,000 each time you do that. There is insurance for the ferry. Everyone knows that their car insurance rates have risen; their house insurance rates have risen, and the insurance rates for ferries have risen as well.
I believe the amount thatís required to be carried for insurance is $50 million under the Marine Liability Act that the federal government passed. To make this affordable for the Yukon government, we carry a deductible of about $2 million. The rates are high. The rates are increasing.
The ferry at Dawson City also has a limited lifetime. We expect to have to replace the ferry in approximately six years at an estimated cost of some $7 million. When you factor that into the equation as well ó you add that on top of the yearly operation and maintenance cost for the ferry of a million dollars, which essentially weíre throwing into the river, achieving no fixed, long-term benefit for the Yukon. Weíre just throwing the money away. If we build a bridge, we spend a similar amount of money in a year but instead of throwing it away for operations and maintenance, you are investing it in the purchase of a fixed asset, which will stay in place for an estimated 75 years.
There are also, on the other side of the equation, the benefits to Dawson City and to all of the Yukon from the value of having in place a fixed piece of infrastructure that will provide constant access rather than having the interruption that is currently faced with the ice bridge, with the ferry and with the intermittent period of freeze-up and breakup. Also those members of this House who have driven up to Dawson in the winter in the last few years, or have talked to people in Dawson, will probably recall that in the last few years there have been issues with the ice bridge at Dawson City. Some years theyíve had a problem with there being an open section of river where previously they have not had that problem, and having difficulty putting in an ice bridge that is capable of sustaining traffic. I believe that there was even one winter a few years ago when there was never a fully approved ice bridge put in in the winter. I could stand to be corrected on that. The Member for Klondike is nodding that there was a year within the past few years that the Department of Highways and Public Works never approved the ice bridge as being safe for traffic; it was used by residents to travel, but it was not considered safe officially for vehicle traffic. So thereís an issue regarding the safety of Yukoners, particularly residents of Dawson but also people going up for the Yukon Quest.
Of course, this is considered one of the key tourism events for the Yukon in the year. We try to attract visitors from both Canada and the United States and internationally to this event, and weíre putting efforts from the Department of Tourism into promoting this event. We try to attract them to come to Dawson City and then ask them to drive on an ice bridge that may not be safe for them. I would suggest thatís not really responsible as a government either. We have to take into account the safety of Yukoners, their ability to access things, and the ice bridge has proven unreliable within the past few years. So there are issues around safety for Yukoners, as well as the economic arguments.
There are other issues, such as the possibility of accessing the Top of the World Highway on a year-round basis, which would provide great economic opportunities and benefits for Yukoners. The Governor of Alaska has already made it clear that he is interested in looking at that, that if we were to build a bridge they would very, very seriously look at actions for keeping the Top of the World Highway open all winter.
Mr. Speaker, also, building a bridge has been something that has played a part in Yukon Party platforms since 1992. It has been a commitment, and the wording has remained essentially the same, that we would build a bridge at Dawson as soon as it became economically feasible to do so. Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that it is economically feasible to do so.
Weíve had the suggestion raised by members opposite that the only reason weíre considering a bridge at Dawson is because of the Member for Klondike. But I would like to point out that 1992 was prior to the Member for Klondikeís election and that this has been a long-standing commitment by our party. I would also like to point out, in view of the member of the third partyís attacks on this project and criticizing us on this issue, that this was a Liberal Party commitment in their 1996 election platform, which I believe the member of the third party ran on.
Iíd like to question why they have changed their opinion on this and reversed their commitment to this. Perhaps the member of the third party will provide us with this information later on in debate.
Other economic opportunities that can be gained from this include the longer tourism season. Currently, companies such as Holland America with bus tours begin their operations through Dawson City ó I believe that somewhere around May 15 is the earliest they will run their operations because they have concerns about the access, whether they will actually have a ferry that they can travel on at that point.
This would enable the tourism season at both ends of the year to be extended to major operators such as that. It will also extend the access for RV travellers ó a factor that has been much underestimated, I believe, by the members opposite. Itís the number of tourists ó particularly the RV travellers ó who find the wait for the George Black ferry at Dawson City intolerable, or who come in to the visitor reception centre in Whitehorse and are considering where they are going to go on their journey and are told that they have to wait for the ferry at Dawson City. I am sure they ask how long that will be, in most cases, and I would assume and hope that the staff at the Tourism department are honest and inform them that in some cases it can be quite a number of hours during the summer. So what is the economic impact on Dawson from people simply choosing not to go there?
There has been a suggestion by some that Dawson City actually sees more economic benefit from people waiting for the ferry and having lunch while doing so.
Well, I would seriously question that, Mr. Speaker. I would wonder how many people leave their RVs, motor homes or their trucks in line waiting for the ferry, leave their vehicle there unattended and go have lunch. Perhaps some do choose to have lunch when they might otherwise have driven on and gone a little further, but it should be considered and recognized that, along the Top of the World Highway, the distance to the next source of food in a restaurant is quite a ways. I think the impact of that would be very minimal, and I can tell you from personal experience that when I have been up at Dawson City and when I and my family have been there in the context of our tourism business, we have chosen ó with ourselves and with guests weíve had up there, staying in a campground ó not to go across for a lunch or for dinner because of the wait for the ferry.
If it were simple to pop across the river for an ice cream cone, you might do so. If it were simple to pop across and have a sandwich and coffee at ó the name escapes me ó the riverfront coffee place there in Dawson City, or any other of the shops there, a lot of people would choose to do so instead of camping in the campground, parking their RV or pitching their tent and deciding that theyíre not going back across there for the day, because they donít want to endure another wait of several hours for that ferry, on either side.
Thereís also the benefit of jobs to Dawson Cityó jobs in construction, jobs in building the bridge. There will be tremendous economic benefit to Dawson City and, indeed, to Yukon companies that are, in many cases, based outside of Dawson City but would bid on the project or be suppliers for the project.
This creates a tremendous opportunity for money flowing through the Yukon economy and for turning over within the Yukon economy and creating short-term benefit. The economics of the bridge ó I think Iíve made it fairly clear how it would be beneficial in the long term, and the mid-term benefit will flow through from tradespeople who would not be forced to leave the Yukon, from tradespeople who would probably move back to the Yukon because of opportunities such as building the bridge, such as the multiplex, which our government has committed money toward ensuring it is built in Whitehorse.
There has also been the question raised by members opposite about what happens to the current employees of the Department of Highways and Public Works who operate the ferry. The minister has made clear that although those jobs on the ferry will obviously no longer have a place on the ferry, they will not be given pink slips. They will be transferred to other responsibilities within the department.
Simply put, a ferry does not make any economic sense when compared, dollar for dollar, to a bridge over the long term. We have to evaluate this in the long term. If you look at the cost over two years, well of course it doesnít make any sense, but this government takes the long view of things. We see the big picture; we see the long-term effect of this, and the costs of this project are intended to be spread over a number of years. The yearly cost should end up being no more, no greater, than the yearly operation and maintenance cost of the ferry, which it seems the opposition is proposing we just continue doing ad infinitum no matter the detrimental impact to tourism that ferry has, no matter the effects on fish, no matter the effects on the atmosphere from greenhouse gases.
This government is moving toward a sustainable and sensible piece of infrastructure that will have long-term benefits, that will be financially beneficial for the Yukon in the long run, rather than going with the unreliability of a ferry and rather than continually throwing money into the river, as has been done for years. Iím speaking somewhat metaphorically, of course, Mr. Speaker.
The opposition is also failing to acknowledge the fact that ferry traffic has grown slowly and steadily to the point where itís up by approximately 80 percent over the period from 1983 to 2002. This increase, which, of course, from the tourism side we would hope would continue to climb, will continue to exacerbate the problem faced now with the long lineups for the ferry unless the Yukon were to purchase a larger ferry than the current one, approximately six years from now when weíre forced to retire the current ferry. And there is also the possibility that a larger ferry or a second vessel would have an additional cost on top of that. Thatís not a very fiscally responsible way to do things. Itís not very environmentally responsible. And, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that thatís just plain dumb.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, other factors are that this tender weíve put forward, and the request for proposal in the current budget of $1.5 million for the design consultant, is to determine what the cost of this project will be. This government has not signed any blank cheques. Weíre going to proceed in a sensible manner. All the indications and all the numbers we have at this moment point toward the determination that building a bridge is the sensible thing to do, so weíre taking the sensible and prudent step and getting the next piece of information. We expect those numbers will only confirm this position.
There will be consultation with the people of Dawson City. Efforts will be made to ensure that the overall look of the bridge is consistent with Dawson Cityís gold rush era image.
A fact I have failed to mention is the benefits to the mining industry in the Yukon and the potential to increase mineral activity and exploration. It does impact very heavily on a company if their employees are forced to wait numerous hours for a ferry instead of being able to drive back and forth between job sites.
The bridge design is expected to be finalized by the spring of 2005. I could go on at some length on this, but I think the case has been made fairly clearly and fairly plainly. I hope that, based on the information presented, the opposition will take full time to consider this and will change their position from opposing the bridge to supporting moving forward on the construction of a bridge at Dawson City as being the sensible and prudent thing for the financial future of the Yukon, for the economic benefit of Yukoners and for the long-term prosperity of the territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a word to describe what we just heard but you ruled it unparliamentary yesterday. Letís just say that there are a lot of clean hogs wandering around.
We definitely have a problem with this governmentís position on this bridge. There are several very good reasons to back up our position. Probably at the top of the list is the failure of this government to provide a business case for this massive project. I will be getting to that in a little while, Mr. Speaker.
There is also a very good point that Yukoners were not asked whether they support a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City. We heard the Member for Lake Laberge talk about how it was in their campaign platform, but it was not worded such that this government would build a bridge. That promise was qualified and it said they would plan to build a bridge when it is economical to do so. So, there were two qualifiers in that statement, and Iíll get to that a little later as well.
There are several problems with some of the rationale we have heard from this government in support of the bridge. One of the points was that the ferry workers will not lose their jobs; they will be shifted to other jobs. Well, one problem with that logic is that even if that were the case, then other government workers are displaced from their jobs. Even if those jobs are casual positions, then other people wonít have the opportunity to fill those jobs.
The overall picture is such that there would be, I believe, 17 jobs lost in the Klondike region. I will be talking more extensively to that point later. There are so many aspects to this bridge that really cast the feasibility of the bridge in doubt, the timing of this project in question, and the affordability of this project is certainly not established given the projected economic picture for the Yukon Territory.
Each one of those is a major area that should cause a government thatís open to comments reason to reconsider its agenda to proceed with this bridge.
It would appear that this bridge is really an expensive pet project for the Member for Klondike. It has been labelled as such, even in this Legislature. The Member for Klondike has long lobbied for this bridge. Even back in 1992, when he was not an elected member, he lobbied for the bridge as a member of the Yukon Party.
That reveals the weakness in the argument just advanced from the Member for Lake Laberge. You donít have to be an elected member to have influence on a party or a government; just being a big supporter and maybe a financial contributor to the party will do.
And certainly an argument could be made that his financial support at the time may have come from government money that was loaned and not repaid. So thatís probably a discussion for another day, but we do know the Member for Klondike owns at least one hotel in Dawson City. And we have a case where the Member for Klondike could be benefiting personally from the construction of a bridge. This is a matter that must be raised.
Mr. Speaker, if a bridge were constructed, you would have a large number of workers in Dawson for a short period of time. It is also reasonable to assume theyíll need hotel rooms. That could directly benefit the Member for Klondike.
In addition, the Member for Klondike himself has said that, with a bridge, people can go across the river and golf. Well, what a great thing to advertise to your clientele for the hotel. Go across the river and golf in the evening and come on back ó no wait for a ferry. So once again, the Member for Klondike could be benefiting. And it goes on.
From what I understand, he has relatives who own property across the river, Mr. Speaker.
You know, we heard today in Question Period about the Member for Klondikeís holdings, and maybe it should be a matter for the Conflicts Commissioner. But you know, Mr. Speaker, I recall reading a newspaper story that revealed how that memberís holdings were all bundled up in a numbered company, which was stationed outside the territory, and it was impossible to find out exactly what he owned and did not own.
I would submit thereís a lot of confusion around the personal holdings of that member. It seems thereís a lot of confusion about the agenda at play and who might or might not benefit. When it comes to affordability, Mr. Speaker, weíre talking about a major project that could hit $50 million ó and I throw that out because the price of steel is on the rise, and we know this bridge will be using steel in its construction. If itís anything like the other recent mega-project that went way over budget, the Mayo-to-Dawson transmission line, then $50 million is not out of the question.
$50 million for a project to build a bridge to a back road in the far northern area of the Yukon ó letís put that into context. Letís compare it with other projects. One other project that comes to mind was the Grey Mountain Primary School. Weíll remember that in here as the Achilles heel of the previous Liberal government. I seem to recall that project was valued at about $3.5 million.
This bridge, if it comes in with a final bill of $50 million, is easily a dozen Grey Mountain Schools ó a dozen of them. Taxpayers will pick up the tab for years to come ó not the Yukon Party, because the Yukon Party has already revealed its plan and its schedule for proceeding with this project. Itís spending $1.5 million in the coming year, and it plans to start construction just before the election.
So the burden to pay for this project will be foisted on future governments. Itís a huge project in terms of Yukon finances launched at the end of a term, to be paid for by future governments, which compromises the governmentís ability to finance other projects and needs of Yukoners across the territory.
This bridge will jeopardize building schools in Whitehorse, in rural Yukon. It will jeopardize improving roads throughout the territory. It will jeopardize water and sewer projects throughout the territory. It will jeopardize other infrastructure projects throughout the territory ó one of them I raised yesterday about expanding the cellular infrastructure network throughout the territory.
This huge project will dominate the budgets from the Yukon government for a number of years to come. It will be a big black hole and taxpayersí money will get sucked into this big black hole for many years to come. And it will come at the expense of some of the projects I have identified and a whole lot more. There are program funds, like the community development fund, that will be put at risk. There is health care funding that will be put at risk. The ability to buy new equipment such as ambulances or fire trucks, what have you, will be put at risk.
This huge financial commitment will squeeze out other projects across the territory for years to come. Theyíll push them onto the backburner and maybe off the stovetop altogether. I can think of one project in my riding ó and I mentioned it last week ó the sewage lagoon near Kluane Lake. What a disaster this has turned out to be. This government has stalled work on that project for the past two years. There has been a half a million dollars spent to advance that project, yet it has been stalled out by this Yukon Party government. The very environment at Kluane Lake is threatened by this delay, yet this government found it necessary to include in its budget an amount for advancing the bridge that is exactly triple the amount spent to prepare that lagoon in the past. What other projects have been pushed back because of the need to advance this bridge already? Weíre only talking about a million and a half in the 2004-05 budget. Just wait until next year or the year after when the project is tendered. Then youíll see a lot more in the way of spending.
This whole project raises a lot of concerns. Itís clear that it is a private agenda by some members in government. We know the Member for Klondike exerts a lot of power at the budget table, and certainly there is all kinds of evidence of that.
But I would have expected his colleagues to rise to the occasion and defend their constituents and do whatís best for the Yukon and try to stop this very expensive and unneeded project from proceeding. Maybe they tried to do that. Maybe I should forgive the members opposite, because maybe they argue on behalf of their constituents against this project. Maybe it was just the Member for Klondike and the Member for Lake Laberge, who raised this motion, who were in favour of it. I donít know. There has also been talk that the real reason this project is proceeding is it was part of a deal to throw the leadership of the Yukon Party a couple years ago. Thatís public information, right from transcripts from radio news.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:On a point of order, Minister of Environment.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I think that, pursuant to our Standing Orders, the member opposite is getting a little far-fetched in his accusations and imputing motive. I donít think itís necessary to go into any more detail on that.
Speaker:I think the member does have a point of order. I would ask the Member for Kluane, again ó I know you donít like the term "temperance". The Chair is uncomfortable with the approach of impugning individual members, and I would ask the member not to do it, please.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with the word "temperance."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I believe itís also against the Standing Orders to accuse a member of representing someone other than their constituents, and I believe a full retraction from the Member for Kluane is called for.
Speaker:There is no point of order. The issue has been dealt with. I would ask the Member for Kluane to carry on.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the truth is my comments are tempered a lot from what they otherwise would be. I respect your presence here today, because you are a major influence in that temperance.
If this discussion took place out in the parking lot or wherever, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that the discussion would be far less tempered than what youíll hear today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: My colleague for Mayo-Tatchun adds to that. Also, if you go to public meetings in Dawson City youíll find debate that is much less tempered than youíll hear in this Chamber this afternoon. Although it might be appropriate that we hear of resignations in this Chamber, itís very unlikely weíll hear of that today.
Mr. Speaker, there are all kinds of questions around this project. The government has had ample opportunity to make its business case and I want to talk about that now because weíve been asking for a business case for a number of weeks. Last Thursday in here, I put the Premier on notice that I expected his government to produce a business case and, come Monday, there was nothing from this government. So I asked the minister again ó I believe it was Tuesday afternoon ó about a business case and he agreed to provide it on Thursday. Thatís tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.
Then later on Tuesday, after the government side called the motion, I asked the minister if he would speed up the delivery of that material to allow us sufficient time to review his business case and the studies we expected to accompany it. He conceded that it might be possible to deliver the studies during the noon hour.
Well, that wouldnít have left us very much time to review what we expected to be a considerable amount of information. Then, Mr. Speaker, a development ó this afternoon at 1:08 p.m. precisely, a stack of reports was delivered to our office while we were all in here eagerly awaiting the commencement of Question Period. This stack of document is about a foot high ó about .3 metres high.
I reviewed the information, and there are studies that go back to 1989 ó many of them are from the early 1990s. The cover letter that accompanied this stack clearly spells it out. These studies comprise the governmentís business case. It referred specifically to a 1995 report entitled Life Cycle Cost Analysis. So, Iíve had a minute and a half, or maybe two minutes, to review this document ó this study ó a study that is 321 pages long, complete with a very large amount of detail and tables and maps and schematics. But in the minute and a half or two minutes, Mr. Speaker, I was able to glean some information that led me to believe that already this business case is stale-dated. The dates referred to in this report have already passed.
Why is the government so eager to use this particular outdated report to pass for its business case? I donít know; it doesnít make sense to me.
Letís think for a minute about what a business case really is. I know the government is reviving the old business development office as part of re-establishing the Department of Economic Development. Maybe these members across the way need to visit the business development office to ask them about what comprises a business case. I will just speculate what the answer might be.
First of all, itís going to involve a business plan. Everybody who goes into business must have a plan. So far we havenít seen a plan for this Yukon Party government. The only plan it has was that double-qualified promise from its election campaign. Thatís it. If they had a plan, it would have been tabled as part of its business case, and it wasnít. As a matter of fact, there wasnít anything from the Yukon Party tabled in this .3-metre stack of information. This stack consists entirely of old reports, many of them done during the Ostashek regime prior to the NDP governmentís 1996 election win.
So what else would comprise a business case? Well, maybe a pro forma analysis, a multi-year projection of costs and benefits. It could be reasonable to expect that. After all, any applicant who goes through that process must produce these very same things. Surely the government wouldnít be asking Yukoners to do something it doesnít uphold itself.
What about a market analysis? What about examining who the potential users of the bridge would be? Are they just the Member for Klondike and his hotel guests, or are there other people as well? We need to know. We need some recent information to determine the answer to that important question.
There are all kinds of other aspects to a business case. What financial model will be used? We still have not heard from this government what financial model they will use. Weíre still up in the air. Here we are, midway through a motion debate on this, yet weíre left guessing about what model will be used. Will it be a P3 ó public/private partnership? Will it be financed through the Yukon government? Will it be a toll bridge? Will the money be coming from Larry, according to the leader of the third party? Will it be from some other sugar daddy out there not identified in any business plan? We donít know yet.
I retract that, Mr. Speaker. Iím not calling Larry a sugar daddy.
So back to the case of the business plan. I think we can all agree ó maybe if we were out in the parking lot, the government side would also agree ó that we really do need a business plan and none has been provided. Thereís my point.
I want to move to some other aspects. What about cost to the bridge? And Iíve already mentioned how $50 million should not be ruled out. One of the main driving factors, Mr. Speaker, is the cost of steel. Has anybody checked into the rising cost of steel lately? Mr. Speaker, the members opposite should wake up and look at the price of steel.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: What will be stolen here is taxpayersí hopes, dreams and wallets, Mr. Speaker. That will be the real steal.
But, Mr. Speaker, from what I understand, there is a lot of global pressure on the steel industry. We live in a changing world. Weíre not stuck back in prehistoric times, as the Yukon Party would like to believe. From what I understand, China ó this is very surprising ó produces more steel than the U.S.A. and Japan combined. And China right now is on a mad buying spree for as many of the components that go into making steel as they can. That apparently is the main driving force behind skyrocketing steel prices.
So here we are in the Yukon. We have a small population. We have a small budget relative to China or anybody else, and this bridge has been talked about in the back rooms for decades. Think of the timing here, Mr. Speaker. This has to be the worst possible time to ever build a bridge in Dawson City, when the price of steel is going through the roof. You know, we need to have some sober thought here.
Well, the Member for Klondike is heckling from across the way. He is quite content to ride out this debate, because he knows he will be a big winner in the end, at a cost to all Yukon taxpayers. But one of my colleagues pointed out: what about the cost of a statue of the Member for Klondike on this bridge? Has that been taken into account?
Well, the Member for Porter Creek Centre says they budgeted for that. Well, where is it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Itís in the business plan. Excellent answer. Well, maybe if that business plan ever sees the light of day, we will be able to view that line item for ourselves. We donít know yet.
There are all kinds of problems with this bridge ó all kinds of problems. There are some major questions around this bridge, and we wonít be able to discuss them all in detail today, because the government has not provided us the business case. We do need some hard numbers. We need to test the governmentís case.
I remind the government again for what I think is the third time in this fresh, eight-day sitting that a government is only as good as the opposition. If the government doesnít improve the information flow to the opposition then itís held less accountable. If the government is less accountable, we all know that we can lower our sights and expect all kinds of bad things down the road ó scandals ó you name it. For a good example of that, just look to our federal government and youíll see this happening now, and it could happen in the territory.
In fact, if voters here werenít so fickle, it might even happen again. They might be lured into re-electing this Yukon Party again, but we know thatís not going to happen, especially when it comes out before an election with a promise to build this big bridge. Nobody is going to go for that. And certainly after last nightís meeting in Dawson City, the Member for Klondike better start thinking about updating his resumé. Maybe he shouldnít be too quick to do away with the ferry because he might just be in line for a job on that ferry.
Seriously, Mr. Speaker, I want to also introduce some discussion based on what I heard in my riding of Kluane because it is an area that could be directly affected by building this bridge. I have had the chance to discuss it with some constituents, and Iíll come back and say some are happy with it, some are rather discontent, and most are unsure. I fall into that last category because we have yet to see any convincing argument or business plan from this government to justify this bridge. There are questions about cost, about affordability, about tolls, about how it will be built, about how it will push projects from across the territory onto backburners or off the stovetop altogether for many years to come. The whole thing appears to be intended to satisfy some kind of arrangement that was made, and it definitely was not approved in the election because of the double qualifier on this particular promise from within the Yukon Partyís election platform.
I ask you on that point: if this government really wanted to get a mandate from the public to build this bridge, why didnít it just put right in its platform, "We will build a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City"?
That would have completely disarmed the opposition parties after the election, because the government would simply stand up and say, "We have the mandate; you heard what the voters said, and weíre proceeding."
Well, Mr. Speaker, things are a little different because of the double qualifier. All this government said it was going to do was plan to build the bridge and only when itís economical to do so. Again, none of those qualifiers has been satisfied.
Another concern is with the approach taken by this government toward announcing this project. It announced the project and also announced some drilling and studies would be happening the following week. Mr. Speaker, some investigation has revealed this government placed invitational tenders with some companies to do that work and, therefore, those tenders were not publicized in the normal fashion.
This government carefully planned this whole bridge to be a surprise announcement without any lead warning. Why was that? Well, obviously it didnít want people to know. It wanted nobody to know in advance that it would be springing this bridge on them.
Thatís not open or honest; thatís not being straightforward with Yukoners; thatís not a whole bunch of things. Thereís a major point there and a major concern about what this government did to Yukoners in the process of how this announcement was made with the secret planning and advancement of the work. There was ample opportunity to go out and consult Yukoners, to ask them whether or not they wanted the bridge at Dawson.
You know, thereís a little more to it than that. You can ask Yukoners if they want the bridge, but most people will say, "Well, can we afford it?" And the last word they had on the territorial financial picture was the terrible trajectory, the need to rein in our spending, blah, blah, blah. They werenít told about this upcoming record budget. They werenít told this government was going on a spending spree. They werenít told that this is a one-shot deal. They werenít told any of that. For anybody to make a reasoned judgement on any particular project, they need to know the backdrop for that decision. Again, this government hid that information from them and sprung it only when it revealed the budget. And thatís wrong. Thatís not open and accountable and all the other rhetoric we hear.
I know this is hard to take. These words are rather unpleasant, and Iíll take time to reflect on them this weekend, and hopefully weíll heal in time for next week. But it is our job here, as members of the opposition, to bring some flame to the toes of the government members. In the case of this Dawson City bridge, we need a flamethrower for what they deserve because there is a lot of accountability yet to be had on this project, particularly with the way this government has treated Yukoners and not brought them in to the decision making.
Now, I want to turn back to some riding-related concerns, and one of the main concerns from people who are unsure about this project is: how will it affect transportation on the main route to Alaska?
Because letís be clear ó building this bridge upgrades the only other route to Alaska, so there is a direct connection. The present thinking is such that it could decrease traffic counts along the main Alaska Highway through the Kluane region; therefore, it would make it even tougher for a lot of the businesses who are struggling to survive and make it less feasible for future businesses to open. This bridge could have a negative economic impact. It might be the other way ó it might be positive ó but we donít know.
It goes back to consulting with the public. I firmly believe that this government should have gone out to Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, and Beaver Creek, and ask the people about this project, being prepared with some information about how this project could impact traffic along the north Alaska Highway.
I could go on about how a lot of people have invested their lifetime earnings, and so on, into businesses in the Kluane region, but I assume everybody knows that.
There is another aspect ó that is that the road from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska, is also impacted. If you look at the profile of a lot of tourists nowadays who drive up the Alaska Highway, a lot of them are fly/drives from Europe. These are the very people who spend a lot more money than the basic Winnebago crowd.
The fly/drives usually enter the area at one of two locations: Anchorage, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. They usually exit out of the same location. So a typical fly/drive tourist could fly into Anchorage, rent a vehicle, drive to Tok, Alaska, see the big display advertising the Klondike and a big picture of the new bridge and Diamond Tooth Gertieís, and so on, and the brochure with the statue of the Member for Klondike. How could they possibly resist? So they end up in Dawson City. Then they go on to Whitehorse and from there a lot of them could fly back from Whitehorse to Anchorage or drive to Skagway and take the ferry back to Anchorage. What gets cut out of this loop ó either one of those loops ó is the Tok-to-Haines Junction and Whitehorse section, and the Tok-to-Haines Junction-to-Haines, Alaska section. A lot of people are concerned about this. I think to make a reasoned judgement on the feasibility of a bridge, we do need to have some information about how this bridge could impact traffic routes elsewhere in the territory.
That being said, this bridge also upgrades the Top of the World Highway alternative, and it could be called "the thin edge of the wedge" or "the step down the slippery slope", or both, because once there is a $50-million bridge in place, it becomes easier to spend $5 million or so every year to upgrade the Top of the World Highway.
Thatís a never-ending project. It would be possible to sink $5 million a year into that highway for a lifetime ó and thatís a lot of money. In itself, that will take away from other projects around the territory.
Apparently the amount to upgrade the Top of the World Highway has been estimated at some $60 million. Well, thatís an incredible figure, and thereís still the section in Alaska on the Taylor Highway. I know Governor Frank Murkowski came out and gave his blessings on the Dawson bridge, and out of respect for him, we should all bow down at least three times and build a bridge without any business case.
But, Mr. Speaker, weíre elected by Yukoners, not by Alaskans, and our first duty should be to the people back home. I know how the Alaskans view spending money on the Taylor Highway because Iíve talked to them about it. About three times now Iíve talked to senators and representatives in Juneau and about another three times when they have visited us over here. Iíve also been in meetings with the DOT ó thatís the Department of Transportation ó where the Member for Klondike was present, and Iíve heard the member speak up on upgrading that Taylor Highway. Iíve heard the reaction from officials within the DOT and they kept sloughing off the Member for Klondike, saying, "Itís not a priority to us, sorry. Weíre actually thinking about closing that down even longer every winter." But the Member for Klondike is very persistent. He usually gets his way with his colleagues but itís a different story when he goes outside his home jurisdiction. So the head of the DOT was rather unconvinced by the arguments advanced by the Member for Klondike.
I monitor the Anchorage Daily News rather closely, and there has been no indication that Alaska has changed. Itís a case of having a low priority on that section.
So why are we in a mad rush to throw away taxpayersí dollars down the slippery slope for a Dawson bridge? This highway is only open for a few short months of every year. It doesnít make sense. Itís probably the least travelled highway in the territory, with the possible exception of Highway 10, the Nahanni Range Road, because the Cantung mine is closed.
Its traffic count is very low, yet this government is rushing ahead to build what could be the most expensive megaproject in the history of the Yukon government, paid for by the Yukon government. I say that because no one else has been identified yet. Itís not like the Shakwak highway reconstruction project, which is paid for exclusively by the U.S. government. Itís not like other highway improvements, like the section west of Champagne that will be improved this summer, which is cost-shared with the federal government. Itís not shared with anybody that we know of yet. Even if it were cost-shared 50:50 with the federal government, thatís still taking money away from other projects.
So we pay in the end anyway. It simply doesnít make sense for the government to rush into this until it convinces Yukoners that it has a sound business case and that the territory can afford this megaproject and that the timing is right, and most of all that it has a mandate to pursue and proceed with the construction of this project. Those are major shortcomings in the governmentís plan.
Mr. Speaker, the City of Dawson has also identified several other priorities. I believe it still puts those other priorities ahead of a bridge. What about water and sewer construction in Dawson City? We have a case where Judge Heino Lilles has an order for Dawson City to uphold construction of a sewage treatment facility later this year, yet nothing is being done about it. This government is ignoring that issue, as the Member for Klondike has consistently ignored the Dawson sewage problem for decades. Thatís a shame. I hope that people in Dawson reflect on this at the polls next time. And judging from the results of last nightís meeting, theyíre starting to get that message, and thatís a good thing.
So there are all kinds of problems with what this government is trying to do.
I would like to remind all members of the motion that was put forward by the Member for Copperbelt last December 3, when the House was about to debate an opposition motion on the outstanding government loans. Yes, Mr. Speaker, we can recall that member saying, and I quote: "It is not necessary to debate this motion at this time." Then the member went on to move adjournment of debate.
I submit that itís not appropriate to debate Motion No. 225 today because the side opposite has failed completely in its obligation to make the debate on its own motion a meaningful one.
I have here an enormous stack of documents related to what the Minister of Highways and Public Works seems to believe makes up a business case for building a bridge at Dawson City. The ministerís executive assistant delivered it this afternoon while we were here in Question Period. Like I said, weíve had a minute or two to glance at some of those old reports and that stack, which is completely void of any business plan.
Now, Iím quite sure that even the sponsor of this motion, who has developed a certain notoriety for his ability to speak at length without saying anything, has not had an opportunity to familiarize himself with this information.
Motion to adjourn debate
Mr. McRobb:Accordingly, I move that this debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Kluane that debate on this motion be now adjourned. Such a motion is not subject to debate or amendment. The Chair therefore must put the question immediately. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: I think the nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 225 negatived
Speaker: The Member for Kluane still has the floor.
Mr. McRobb: What a travesty to justice that was. The members opposite insist we debate something without having the information. Why couldnít they have waited another day, or maybe a few days, so that all members in here would be able to have some informed discussion? Obviously this government is hiding more than just a business case. Obviously we do need to turn up the burner on the toes of these members and bring home the reality of what accountability really means.
So our work is cut out for us in opposition in the days and weeks ahead, and hopefully not too many years, where we are forced to deal with a government that thinks it knows best, the government that has all the answers but really answers very few questions.
There is not much more I can say, given the lack of a business case and the inadequate period of time weíve had to review the stack of old studies. I do say "old studies", Mr. Speaker. They are stale-dated but good enough for the Yukon Party.
So I would like to move an amendment to Motion No. 225.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT Motion No. 225 be amended by adding the following: ", only if a select committee of the Assembly recommends that it do so; and
THAT the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by a separate motion of the Assembly following consultation between the House leaders."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 225 be amended by adding the following: ", only if a select committee of the Assembly recommends that it do so; and
THAT the membership and mandate of the select committee be established by a separate motion of the Assembly following consultation between the House leaders."
Mr. McRobb: I think this is a great amendment. Itís the responsible thing to do, itís the logical thing to do and it should be the respectful thing to do.
Mr. Speaker, it follows up on an idea from the government side only last week. And all the members voted for the use of a select committee. We would disagree that there was no need to shuffle off whistle-blower protection into an open-ended process but, nevertheless, the government side supported the establishment of a select committee.
So what this amendment does is follow up on the suggestion from the government side to establish a select committee to examine the appropriateness of the Dawson bridge. Such a process would be a fair one.
The committee itself would be established by a separate motion of the Assembly, following consultation between the House leaders. That would involve a representative from each of the three parties represented in this Legislature. So itís a fair process and one that would be expected to launch a round of public discussion and consultation on this very expensive pet project that will put the territory in debt for many years to come.
The government side can use that process to tell Yukoners about the virtues of the project, but it should also be fair and identify the shortcomings and risks associated with the project, as well as the details of the project, including the cost and impact on the local economy from the loss of 17 jobs, the impact on other regions from the loss of traffic, and the impact on future budgets as we slide down the slippery slope of upgrading the Top of the World Highway ó and all the impacts. Letís put all the information out there for Yukoners, so they can get an accurate picture of what this project is really all about.
We owe that to Yukoners out of respect. Many Yukoners bring forward very constructive views, and a lot of times those views change the course of government and improve the path taken by government, and thatís exactly what this government should do. It should be open to those kinds of suggestions.
So all of those things would stem out of the process that has been identified in this amendment. All the more reason for all members in this Legislature to support this amendment tabled today.
I also want to review what happened just a few moments ago when the government side voted down the motion to adjourn debate. Moving the amendment was our second option. Moving a motion to adjourn debate was our first option.
As pointed out, this was an approach used by the government a few months ago when it suspended a motion brought forward by the Member for Whitehorse Centre around the repayment of the outstanding government loans. The motion by the government at the time was not supported by the opposition parties. It was sprung on us with no notice and with no legitimate reason, we felt.
To the contrary, the motion I introduced has a valid reason, such as the complete lack of information in the business plan. Those are things that have been established through the course of discussion this afternoon.
What has happened in the past few months is that weíve got a Yukon Party government that voted for a motion to suspend debate that was based on rather shaky ground, and it was a rather undemocratic process ó certainly no lack of notice. Yet we see four months later the same Yukon Party government voting against a very similar motion, but a motion that is substantiated because the information has not been provided.
Of course, I would expect all members would agree that in order to have constructive debate in this Legislature, we should all be provided with the best opportunity available to apprise ourselves of the facts of any issue. In order to do that, we need to receive the information. Because the government is the main proponent for the bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City, the onus is upon it to provide that information. Chief among the information that should be provided is the business plan. Again, the government has not provided a business plan. It has only provided some old studies that have been around for years and years that contain stale-dated information.
Just to wrap up my explanation of the events that unfolded in here just 10 or 15 minutes ago, Mr. Speaker, we have a government that does whatís good for it, using a particular tool, yet it votes against anybody else trying to use the same tool to achieve something for the public good. So thereís a bit of a double standard. What we have in this amendment is the same thing. Only last Wednesday did this government use the same tool weíre using today, which is an amendment to a motion from the other side that basically refers an issue to a select committee. What I expect is going to happen is the government side will vote down this amendment and once again display its double standard in this House.
I would remind members that this double standard is embedded forever in Hansard and can be referred to by anybody at any time. Our Hansard is also online and can be accessed by anybody with Internet access at any time. So what it is about to do, again, to further its double-standard approach will be a matter of fact for anybody to see.
I would encourage members to think about their constituents and other constituents in the territory and of the territory itself and think about the long-term good of the territory. Can we really afford this very expensive project? This government is coming off a wild spending spree that is unprecedented in government history. I ask it to just rein in its spending a bit, which has gone out of control. There was no need to launch this expensive pet project on top of all the other spending included in this record budget. The Member for Klondike should have restrained himself at the budget table. The other members should have thought more about sober thought when it came to expressing their views on the budget. The government should have consulted with Yukoners more about this project.
That being said, Iím looking forward to the vote. I donít expect it to approve because I think the government side will continue its double standard. If Iím proven wrong, I will be the first to apologize to the government. So letís make that happen. I will gladly apologize to this government if it does something in the public interest like defer this matter to a select committee.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disgree.
Speaker: Did somebody stand?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: My apologies. Order please. I must take the word of the member if he said he was standing.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to speak in favour of this amendment. I think that, given the things that have happened in Dawson recently, it would do well for this Legislature to listen to what people have to say, because the people in Dawson do have a lot to say these days.
Thereís a lot of concern about the idea of having a bridge when there are other pressing needs in Dawson. They have problems with the rec centre; they have problems with the need for sewage treatment and waste management and water services.
So on one hand we have a bridge that they have done little consultation on. They basically want to impose a bridge on the citizens of Dawson and on all Yukoners, and the financial burden that it would cause on taxpayers.
Obviously members on the other side thought a select committee was good a week ago, so I donít understand why a select committee was good last week but itís not good this week. They were trying to disagree with the motion.
That doesnít compute. Youíve got this situation in Dawson now, where youíve got three-term councillors who have dedicated their lives to municipal politics in Dawson City resigning ó but no consultation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Thatís right. The Member for Klondike is holding his hand over his heart and moaning.
Now, the situation in Dawson is pretty volatile right now. I think that a select committee that went around and talked to citizens, that presented the economic case that the Minister of the Department of Highways and Public Works ó my understanding is that he provided it after we came into the Legislature today, but we havenít had a chance to look at it. Has the public had a chance to look at it to see what the economic case is? A select committee could show the public the economic case that the government is trying to make.
I think that itís important that all Yukoners get all information. Thatís what open and accountable government is about. Thatís what was in the Yukon Party platform. But what we see in Dawson, instead of cooperation and consultation, is micromanagement of municipal affairs. You canít have a waste management plan that deals with environmental issues.
The Member for Lake Laberge was talking earlier about the environmental issues of the bridge.
A select committee could examine those issues ó the environmental issues raised by the Member for Lake Laberge ó about the ferry. Maybe they could compare them to the need for a sewage treatment plant or the waste management plan the City of Dawson wanted to put in place. The waste management plan was sound, by all accounts. It was about reducing the amount of garbage going into the landfill and extending the life of that landfill. I think thatís environmentally responsible, and Iím sure that a select committee looking at it would say that as well.
Maybe a select committee could look at the price of steel. I know the Member for Klondike knows a lot about the price of steel. He was telling me all about it, not that long ago, and how it related to the increased costs of the multiplex. He seems to know a lot about the price of steel, yet we donít know about the price of the bridge. How is the price of steel going to affect the final cost of building this bridge?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: The Member for Klondike is suggesting that it could be made out of wood. Maybe a select committee could find out what the best material to build it from would be. Maybe they could build it from used lumber from hotels or something. Who knows?
But I think there are a lot of questions yet to be asked and a lot of questions that need to be answered about whether or not a bridge is needed in Dawson.
I think that we need to hear those questions; we need to hear those answers.
The Premier earlier today said something, actually, as well. He said the opposition doesnít like the answers. You know, weíre over here asking questions and we donít get the answers. He said we donít like the answers. Well, maybe the Premier and the members opposite arenít going to like the answers of a select committee. Maybe that wonít fit with their game plan and what they want to hear. Maybe thatís why they donít want to have a select committee. I donít know. Maybe one of them will stand up and tell us why a select committee is something that was, like I said earlier, good last week but not good this week. We need to have more discussion. This is a fairly large expenditure. Youíve committed $1.5 million to planning for a project for which we donít really know the price, given the volatility of the materials.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Well, again, the Member for Klondike wants to make comments about lumber. If he paid attention, last year the cost of lumber was a big issue and it is still an issue. The price of plywood hasnít gone down. So even if they build it out of concrete, it is going to be expensive because you use plywood to form concrete in a lot of instances.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Well, if the member was listening, he would have heard that it was concrete formed with plywood and steel. If you want to build it out of concrete, thatís what you form concrete with ó plywood and steel. So again, there are volatile products adding to the cost.
The government hasnít done its homework on that one, and they donít want to hear the answers. The Premier says that we donít want to hear the answers, we donít like the answers we get, but they donít even want to ask the hard questions and get the answers.
Itís interesting that the supervisor has informed the Dawson municipal council that he wants them to have a budget thatís pay-as-you-go. The Premier and the government want to mortgage Yukonís future on a bridge while other things, like sewage treatment in many communities, are not being addressed ó and other environmental concerns, like landfills and waste management, or the cleanup of toxic sites. There is a lot of work to be done that should be examined before we proceed with an expensive bridge, which we donít even know the price of.
So the Member for Kluane has asked the House to consider amending this motion to allow for a select committee to take some time and look at the whole situation and involve the public in meaningful consultation. "Meaningful consultation" ó thatís out of the 1992 Yukon Party platform, I believe. In the last platform, it was "open and accountable government", so I think it would be good if the government looked at its history and its past and look at its platform and did the right thing and agreed with this motion.
It would benefit all Yukoners; it would benefit the people in Dawson.
I think there is a lot of concern in Dawson about how much money gets spent and how little the real needs of Dawson are actually addressed ó whether it be servicing its debt or the problems theyíve had with the multiplex. Those are all things that need to be considered before you build a bridge. What is in the best interest of the people of Dawson and of all Yukoners?
So I would urge the members ó Iíd be interested to hear what they have to say and I look forward to discussing this further.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to address the amendment.
What immediately struck me about the amendment brought by the Member for Kluane is that turnabout is fair play, Mr. Speaker. This is what the members opposite did with respect to a motion on whistle-blower legislation, which is very important to Yukoners and was a platform commitment by the Yukon Party. They took what I thought, quite frankly, was well-thought-out legislation, which I was looking forward to debating, and referred it to a committee. They took a platform commitment and said ó because the actual legislation was brought forward by somebody else ó "No, letís deal with this in Committee."
So now the government has said, "Well, no, but we want to discuss this platform commitment" ó being the bridge ó and in all fairness, other members in the House have said, "Look, letís take that platform commitment and send it to a select committee of the House" ó fair point.
That being said, I think we should have a committee take a good and serious look at the proposed bridge, because there are a great many issues to be discussed, including the foot-high stack of material that was delivered to us. Iím not using metric, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize for using the old imperial measurements, but it is a significant amount of work that was delivered.
Itís a significant amount of material that was delivered, and it warrants a significant amount of debate by all members of this House ó the proposal to construct the bridge ó and use of a select committee, while not often used by this Legislature, is a good idea.
I would like to address the idea of the committee addressing the bridge. I had an opportunity to speak to a Yukon organization about the proposed bridge, Mr. Speaker, and I did note that thereís something good to be said about everybody, even if itís only the fact that they can whistle. There are some good things to be said about the bridge.
I think of that expression for two reasons ó the expression about thereís something good to be said about everybody even if itís only that they can whistle ó thereís something good to be said about the bridge. It should have a great deal of debate, and thereís an interesting reference to whistling because thereís a very famous tune that is whistled, and itís from the movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Itís an Oscar-winning movie, as a matter of fact, and itís about a prisoner-of-war camp where, under terrible starvation conditions, prisoners build a bridge that is continually being blown up.
Speaker: The Chair is failing to find the connection ó
Ms. Duncan: Between the fact that I mentioned whistling, bridges and something good to be said, Mr. Speaker?
Speaker: And the amendment. Iím sorry. Iím failing to make that connection. Iíd ask the members to please focus on the amendment.
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. The amendment suggested that we deal with the subject of a proposed bridge via a select committee of this Legislature ó now, such select committee to be established by a separate motion following consultation between House leaders. This was a suggestion that was made last week by the government and considered to be a very thoughtful, constructive suggestion. I see no reason why such a suggestion that was considered thoughtful and indeed democratic last week shouldnít also be considered thoughtful and democratic this week.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike is suggesting that I sit down and that the amendment be voted on.
Well, democracy is enabling everyone who wishes to speak to be heard, Mr. Speaker.
My point on this particular motion, as I have said, is that the amendment was considered a constructive suggestion last week. It should be considered a constructive suggestion this week. It again addresses an issue of the Yukon Party platform, and it would be worthwhile to have a select committee examine this proposal. And it would be worthwhile ó although House leaders have not often been able to agree in this particular session, certainly a consultation with House leaders should be able to establish a select committee. And if House leaders are unable to agree, perhaps party leaders could.
However, Mr. Speaker, I think that the Member for Kluane has brought forward an amendment that is certainly worthy of full consideration by all members of the House, and I look forward to their thoughtful consideration. If it was worthy of support last week, why isnít it this week?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Hardy: On the amendment ó yes, I am standing to speak to the amendment. I believe itís a very legitimate and good suggestion to resolve some of the outstanding issues that exist, and hopefully bridge the problems around this matter.
Now, unfortunately it has already been indicated to us, on this side of the House, that this amendment that the Member for Klondike has brought forward is not acceptable and there is no desire to have it sent to a select committee. That is kind of contrary to the position they took last week, when there was another issue before the Legislature that was brought forward by this side. It was an interesting process with respect to the amendments that were brought forward by the government members in relation to the motion we had ó the bill ó and then our attempt to try to find some common ground in that regard so that we could move forward on the whistle-blower legislation.
Unfortunately, nothing was acceptable because there was never an attempt to allow the whistle-blower legislation to move forward, therefore the amendments, similar to this one, ended up basically being stalled. I feel very strongly that we had gone the extra mile to try to deal with what we consider to be a very serious issue in the Yukon ó and with the employeesí needs. Of course it wasnít accepted very well.
So, taking that one week later, and thinking, "Okay, this is what the Yukon Party government believes in. They believe that select committees could be used to deal with some very difficult issues, such as spending situations like this proposed bridge over troubled water that exists around Dawson City." When I say "bridge over troubled water", I say it with all due respect because there is no question about it that the political waters in Dawson City are very, very disturbed.
There is a lot of hurt, a lot of underlying currents that are swirling around and have the potential to pull Dawson City down into a whirlpool of disaster if it continues along the way it is going.
I do not see this bridge as a solution for the troubled waters existing in Dawson today. Iíd rather see this government take some of their money, take some of the attention theyíre directing toward this project and apply it to waste management. Thatís a long-standing issue, and I would hope that a select committee would look at that. Apply it there. I would rather see this government take some of the effort and some of the money they have and are directing toward this ó like the $1.5 million ó and apply it to resolve some of the financial difficulties Dawson City is experiencing. Iíd rather see the Yukon Party government expend some positive energy and effort and not the negative attack that Dawson City council is experiencing. Use the energy, the will of this government, to go to Dawson, sit down, and resolve those issues without council feeling attacked, without council feeling betrayed, without council feeling that they have no role left to play in the city. I would rather see that. I believe a select committee has the ability to weigh all those aspects and hopefully deal with the troubles existing within Dawson and continue to grow.
This weekend there is the short-film festival up in Dawson City ó a very exciting and interesting short-film festival in the Yukon, which will be attended by many people. I will be travelling to Dawson to participate in that and watch it and enjoy it.
I am hoping that the Member for Klondike will actually be in Dawson and be around the town and hopefully be able to answer many of the multitudes of questions that are swirling around the bridge project, as well as all the other aspects that seem to pool around this minister ó often very, very difficult issues and problems that are created by the government and this minister. I am hoping that he is going to be in his community and answer the questions that I think many people do have, and resolve some of those issues.
This step would go a long way to addressing some of the concerns. A select committee would be able to travel to Dawson City, look at whatís being proposed, talk to the people who are most directly affected by a bridge up there, talk to the proponents, talk to the people who have major concerns and would rather see the money spent elsewhere, weigh the pros and cons, and out of that come forward with what I would believe would be hopefully a very good, sound solution that would be well-supported by the town itself as well as the rest of Yukon.
Do I have a lot of hope that thatís going to happen? Maybe I am being idealistic again, Mr. Speaker. So be it. I could hope that that will happen; however, I suspect it wonít. I expect, by the behaviour already of the Yukon Party in regard to this, in refusing even to speak to it, that they will want to remove this right out of it so they can move on with the original motion, which, unfortunately, we do have some concerns about. Of course, thatís why we are bringing an amendment forward.
Now, Iím not going to get into the discussions in regard to how great we work in here and how we accept each otherís amendments ó not. Or how we try to resolve or work through bills and contribute equally so that the best bill comes forward ó the best motion comes forward ó that is representative of all the members of this Legislature. Iím not going to talk about that ó it doesnít happen.
On a rare occasion, on a very benign motion that most people would be foolish not to accept, yes, we do agree, but I would hope that the people in this Legislature are willing to take on the more difficult ones, have very vigorous debate and, at the end of the day, find some amendments and changes to it that accommodate the concerns and the wishes of all members in here and we can move forward.
Instead, all I see is a wish to have the most benign ones put on the table to have an agreement with but, for the difficult ones, to either try to talk out, shut down or change beyond recognition. This amendment is a reflection of the Yukon Partyís actions last week. This is what the Yukon Party government wanted last week and what they got. We have only copied them. We feel that they would be appreciative of this, that they would like us to react in the same manner they acted last week in bringing forward an amendment that is reflective of what they did last week and which allows the same type of solution, and they would step up to the plate and say, "Absolutely, letís go for it. We agree with the select committee."
Iím going to stop my comments now to hear the other side speak and hopefully vote the same way they voted last week on almost the same wording, which would be for the select committee.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Itís my pleasure to speak to this amendment to the motion put forward by my colleague. I would like to make my comments in regard to the bridge thatís being proposed in Dawson.
The cost of this bridge is estimated at $25 million to $35 million. I have heard both sides of the story, Mr. Speaker. I have some friends who live in Dawson, and I have been speaking with them.
It is amazing what a difference one week can make in this Legislature. We know what happened last week with the whistle-blower legislation that we put forward and how easily that legislation was put to a stop. We were bringing that legislation forward in regard to protection of workers. I believe in that type of legislation, Mr. Speaker. And here we are again, one week later: weíre proposing an amendment to a motion that was brought forward by the government in a spirit of cooperation. Again, it was mentioned by my colleagues that commitments were made in platforms and on the floor of this House on how we are going to work together and how we are going to come to some form of consensus on motions and bills and legislation that we bring forward on behalf of the Yukon people. Sometimes we can do that, and then other times, you know, we hear of many reasons put forward by this government why that canít be. And a $25-million to $35-million project is a huge undertaking ó a huge undertaking.
Weíve asked for information before debating this issue before us. I havenít seen any of the information yet. It was given to my colleague, I believe, an hour or so before we had to address this issue. However, that being the case, we speak to this issue for those concerns. Weíve been asking for information on behalf of the Yukon people to bring the best case forward ó the concerns the people have, the issues the people have ó so the government can at least hear what weíre hearing in our offices.
Many a time Iíve said, you know, Iím not standing here speaking through my hat. There are people who phone and say, "These are the things that we are concerned about. Would you please bring these issues forward on my behalf?" And I do. That is our responsibility as elected officials in this Legislature.
The Yukon Party government in their platform promised the Yukon people to be open and accountable to the people who elected them and to the rest of the territory. When someone promises to be open and accountable, I usually take their word for it. That is part of our tradition. Your word is what counts.
The people of Dawson have been going through a very difficult situation in the last couple of weeks, and we donít wish that on any one community. That is why we on this side of the House are making some recommendations. Thatís why weíre bringing forward this amendment to the motion ó that a select committee of the Assembly be involved.
Weíve heard over and over again, and weíve even discussed the meaning of the word "consultation," so that key people can be involved in the decision-making process, whether put forward by this or other governments ó that key stakeholders will be involved at the decision-making table. And thatís only fair, Mr. Speaker. Itís only fair that we allow people to have their say in a decision thatís being made, and especially in this case.
Weíve heard that there are many people out there who do not accept this project thatís being put forward by this government. They need to hear those views. They need to hear those concerns. They need to see the business cases, or business information, that was put forward to us. The people involved in that community ó what about the First Nation government? Has this government met with them? Where do they stand in all of this?
A project of this size places a huge financial burden on the taxpayers of the Yukon. We have in front of us one of the largest budgets in the history of the Yukon and some of the ideas in there are great, but what about future plans? What about the costs in the future? How are we, as Yukon taxpayers, going to address those needs in the future? How are we going to pay the O&M costs on a bridge of this calibre? Are we going to place more burdens on the taxpayers?
The City of Dawson has a great history in the Yukon Territory, and my colleague was referring to the film festival thatís happening there this weekend. Only this morning on the radio, my niece was interviewed. One of the films they did in Old Crow is going to that film festival. Itís very interesting how a place like Dawson brings people together, how our histories all connect to each other, and thatís only one example of how much information the government can receive on behalf of the grassroots people to make a decision to either build that bridge or not to build that bridge.
And a select committee will help them to establish that. I would like to suggest to the government side that they cooperate with us in this matter so that all Yukoners can have a voice in this decision.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Speaker: I think the nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 225 negatived
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion?
Mr. Hassard: It is a pleasure to rise today to speak in support of the main motion as I feel it is a motion that urges the government to do something that, in my mind, is long overdue.
There are many, many good reasons to build this bridge, in my mind. I believe that the majority of Yukoners agree with that.
Now, weíve heard a very small number of people voicing their opposition to this project, but what are they really opposing? Are they opposed to safer travel in the Yukon? I canít imagine it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hassard: Well, they may.
Are they opposed to increased tourism opportunities in Dawson and the rest of the Yukon? Are they opposed to people living on the west side of Dawson?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hassard: Iíve never had to ask for the heckling on my own side to stop. Sorry.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I ask: are they opposed to people living on the west side of the Yukon River in Dawson having year-round access to schools, libraries, recreation facilities, a health centre, grocery stores and employment?
Mr. Speaker, in light of some of the comments in Question Period today, are they opposed to those people having year-round access to an ambulance? I canít imagine. The Member for Kluane talked at length yesterday about the need to upgrade highway infrastructure in his riding. Now, does he oppose the money being spent on bridges in his riding? Well, that remains to be seen, but I would be very surprised to see that member ask us not to spend $4 million on a bridge in Beaver Creek ó $4 million on a bridge in Beaver Creek.
Now, the Member for Kluane also said that this bridge would jeopardize a lot of other projects going on in the territory, and yet in this yearís budget we see in that memberís riding about $17 million worth of highway construction. So I donít see where the bridge in Dawson is taking anything away from the riding of Kluane. Now, I should clarify that probably all of that $17 million related to Shakwak money might not all be in his riding. I do question how he can oppose spending money on bridge decks on the Alaska Highway and reconstruction of highway projects. To me, it just doesnít make any sense.
Iíd like to look at some of the many positive aspects of building this bridge. First of all, it completes the existing highway system in Yukon ó no gaps in the system, so to speak. Tour operators, in relation to tourism, can book year-round with no waiting or guessing as to when the ferry is going in or when the road is going to open up. Right now, how can a tour operator book a trip when they donít know when the road is going to open?
How many tourists do we lose as a result of that? We are always promoting tourism in the Yukon, and I believe that this bridge is vital to improving our opportunities. This government and previous governments have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and probably millions of dollars, in upgrading the Top of the World Highway for tourism. Iím curious how many people see the lineup at the ferry and turn around and never cross the ferry to see the Top of the World Highway.
When it comes to resource development, I think about the limited time frame that mining operators have to work. I canít imagine waiting for a ferry with a part for some heavy equipment to get across the river. I mean, time lost is money lost to these people. We canít obviously count what weíve missed in the past, but I really wonder what Dawson and the rest of the territory would have looked like if the bridge had been built years ago. What opportunities were missed?
In relation to the people who do mine and the investment they make in their equipment, it must be very frustrating to have that equipment stranded across the river for such a great period of time. In my experience in the construction industry, itís very obvious that people have to diversify their business to make a living, so that equipment being stranded on the wrong side of the river doesnít help them to earn a living. A bridge would just increase that ability for them to access other opportunities, whether itís Inuvik or the Dempster Highway or some other part of the territory, with that equipment.
Mr. Speaker, the Tintina gold belt is one of the major gold belts of the world, and access to that through Yukon is provided by the Top of the World Highway through Dawson, and I would have to say that access is very limited by the lack of a bridge.
Also, what other mineral resources remain undiscovered in this area? Improved access would surely help the businesses that are in the business of finding that mineral potential. So there again, we have jobs that are being missed and, the last time I checked, everybody in this Legislature was looking for more jobs, so I donít see an argument there.
I talked earlier about safer travel and there was some heckling about ferries not killing people. Well, school buses donít kill people, and there are all kinds of things that arenít supposed to kill people, but it happens. One only has to watch TV, watch the news and read the paper and see around the world where ferries do have accidents. Heaven forbid, and I touch wood when I say it, because I donít wish that on anyone but, as we get used to something, we become complacent and accidents can happen.
Last night, actually, on the news was an incident of a school bus and a five-year-old child being killed while trying to get on the bus. One never likes to wish that, but the potential is there and the best way to remove the potential and ensure it doesnít happen is, in my mind, to build the bridge.
Mr. Speaker, I hate to close on that down remark, so I guess Iíll close by bringing into question the opposition from some of the members across the way. I have to wonder if itís merely a case of jealousy and the fact that they are not the government that took the initiative to build this bridge. Iím glad to be part of a government thatís looking at it.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To talk about the bridge issue and also the issue of the motion and prospects of a committee deciding, we all have to remember that a camel is a horse put together by a committee.
We have to move along on these kinds of projects, and certainly, the no-development party is definitely against the bridge in Dawson. I understand why ó weíve got other issues ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:Itís inappropriate to describe the opposition as anything other than the opposition ó no nomenclature. Agreed?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agreed.
Speaker: Carry on.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís a grey area, but I agree.
Speaker: The Speakerís rulings arenít up for debate. Please carry on.
Hon. Mr. Lang: This government has gone forward with $1.5 million in this yearís budget to put together an engineering plan to answer some of the questions about costs of the bridge, concepts, communication, consultation ó all those issues our government has committed to do.
This bridge issue comes at a very timely time for us to be in power, because we have a problem with the life of the existing ferry. You understand that when the ferry is time-expired, which happens in 2006-07, we have to buy a new ferry. That ferry will commit us to another 30 years of ferries in Dawson. The massive resources that itís going to take to buy the ferry will commit the Yukon and Dawson to the life of that ferry in Dawson. So we have been proactive on this, understanding that this has been on the books of all parties. All parties have had this on the books as part of their platforms. The ferry in Dawson was very important.
Itís very important to me because I see a bigger picture than the opposition does. I see, all of a sudden, tying up our transportation grid ó finally getting it final with the bridge in Dawson. We havenít built a bridge like that in Yukon since the 1960s when we put in the bridges in Stewart and Pelly to tie those transportation grids up.
As far as the opposition going on and on about the lack of business on the north highway against the Dawson highway, you understand that Dawson sees 35,000 people a year going through Dawson City during the summer. Letís say we improve that by 20 percent. Weíve got to figure that into the scenario.
First of all, as my colleague said, the exploration work across the river ó we can lengthen the season on both ends, spring and fall. We can open up the road so that Dawson City can benefit from access to petroleum products 12 months a year. We can look at other things that will benefit the City of Dawson City. And when the members opposite go on and on about lack of consultation, this is part of this $1.5 million. We are going to address the issues in Dawson City. We arenít tying the bridge issue in on any other issues.
We understand Dawson has issues. Most communities have issues of one sort or the other. With our budget that weíve tabled ó which hopefully we can get to eventually ó we have resources for all the communities to address those problems.
This $1.5 million is not being taken away from any other aspect of Dawson Cityís daily existence as a community in the Yukon. Nor is it being taken away from the community of Old Crow. Nor has it been doctored off the Watson Lake budget.
This money is engineering funds put together by our government in a proactive way that weíre going to grow into a bridge in Dawson City, in a perfect world. Now, as far as saying, "What is the business plan of the bridge?", what is the business plan of the bridge? The business plan of the bridge is that itís going to tie in our transportation grid in the Yukon. And I would like to say that I think, probably as a jurisdiction, once this bridge is in place we will have probably the best transportation grid in northern Canada, and probably if you were to look at the State of Alaska ó we have very good transportation grids.
When they put in the Dempster Highway 35 years ago, what was the business plan behind the Dempster Highway? The business plan was an investment in the future of the north. There was more economic reason not to do that than there was to build a road to Inuvik at that time, but it creates wealth as you go down the trail.
What was the sense of building a railroad across Canada? What was the economic sense of building the railroad? There was no economic reason to build a railroad across Canada, Mr. Speaker. It was a dead loss to build a railroad across Canada. What Canada invested in was a railroad to build the economic backbone of our country. And as far as the mining community, the people of Dawson City ó their questions on this bridge are going to be answered. The people who are going to be working on the construction are going to have jobs. Weíre going to attract some of our tradesmen back into the Yukon ó good news for Yukon. Now, the member opposite is dead against that, dead against bringing tradespeople back into the Yukon and putting them to work.
I know all of us in this House have jobs. We get our cheques every two weeks. Weíre fine. What about the tradesmen out there? Who is his voice in this House? Who is the one fighting for the tradespeople in this House? Itís our side of the House fighting for the tradespeople, and weíre fighting for our youth and weíre fighting for the future of the economic backbone of the Yukon.
I will throw one number alone out there on the price of the ferry. I didnít realize that every four years they change the engines on the ferries. It costs $300,000. Itís done on an hourly thing.
The bridge makes sense. The bridge ties our communities together. The bridge ties Dawson City into no longer being at the end of a road for eight months a year. Dawson City will be on a route to Alaska. It opens up another door of communication with our neighbour. It opens up another trade door. Iím looking forward to one day when we as a progressive society can take a look at the North Canol and eventually expand on that so we can go to Norman Wells. The Yukon is rich in resources. Itís rich in people. And now we have one small link to do to tie in the transportation grid of the Yukon, and we turn our back on it because the price of steel is too high.
Weíre a year and a half away from building this bridge. Are we going to debate with those people across the way there on the price of steel, waste our time on the opposition, that negative group that they are, on the price of steel and say itís too expensive so we wonít do the engineering? We have done hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of studies in the Yukon on the Dawson City bridge. We supplied them with that information. If you donít know your past, you donít know where youíre going. If they ignore that ó that information that is put in place ó then that is to their folly.
That information on the bridge in Dawson is pertinent today. The money was taxpayersí money spent by different governments to address the transportation grid in the Yukon. Certainly in 1962 it didnít make economic sense or there wasnít the demand there to build the bridge. They made a commitment to bring a ferry in; they put the George Black ferry in place in 1967. The life of the ferry is over, Mr. Speaker.
To replace that ferry will cost anywhere between ó now, weíre going to throw numbers out like they do. It could cost as much as $7 million or $8 million.
Thereís another thing you have to address on the new ferries, and that is if thereís anybody in the Yukon who is qualified to captain a ferry. These new ferries are very sophisticated vehicles. The safety on them ó all these things that arenít really being addressed on a daily basis on the George Black ferry because of grandfather rights will have to be brought up to date.
So for us to decide because the price of steel is too high today that we wonít move ahead with this engineering plan and address the cost of the ferry ó it would be our folly if we did not look at a bridge concept and compare it to a ferry concept.
As far as the argument about the lineups in Dawson City creating the industry that Dawson City runs on because everybody is just cooling their heels on either one side of the river or another, that does more damage down the road ó word of mouth. How many people get to Trutch and say, "Donít go to Dawson; youíre going to wait for the ferry for four hours"? How many people get to Whitehorse at the RV park and sit there and say, "Do you realize it took me three hours to cross that?" I mean, itís too much time.
So if we can create 20 percent more people going to Dawson, thatís an extra 7,000 people going through the community of Dawson, never mind the industrial end of it, which is the mining and oil and gas people, all those people who will be expanded there ó the member opposite talking about the Top of the World Highway. Well, why would anybody spend any money on it?
Why would the Alaska government spend money if weíre not even interested enough to tie it in with a bridge? By showing our mettle ó by showing that we are committed to a bridge ó we can look at that highway in conjunction with our neighbour, Alaska, and address the problems of that road. The people who work on the ferry are just part-time people. We can probably give them full-time jobs on maintaining and keeping the Top of the World Highway open.
Our problem isnít that weíre building a bridge. Our problem is who is building the bridge. Thatís the problem. The opposition sits and criticizes the bridge very weakly ó theyíre very weak at it ó and says to us, "Donít build the bridge." But guess what, Mr. Speaker, we committed to building a bridge, like every one of those guys across there committed to do. They talked about this bridge for 20 years. But the difference between us and the opposition is that weíre going to build a bridge, Mr. Speaker. At the end of the day, the people in Dawson City will realize the benefits of that bridge. It wonít be done by the opposition shutting things down. Itís going to be by our party showing direction and leadership that the bridge one day will be real; it will be across the Yukon River, and we will have tied up the transportation grid of the Yukon. Finally, the last nail in the railroad has been done. The bridge is there and we can go on with that.
It is not a hard argument to talk to Dawson City about the bridge. Certainly there are people in Dawson who donít want to see a bridge. There is always opposition. Look at this. I mean, this is opposition ó weak as it is, but it is opposition.
We as a party are committed ó 11 of our members here ó to build a bridge, and we are going to do that because we promised the Yukon people that we would look very constructively at building a bridge.
We want our people back here working in the trades. We want access to the other side of the river in Dawson. We are concerned about the life of the ferry in Dawson and, be what it may, there is a great future in north Yukon. Part of that future is based on having a bridge and 12-month access to that part of the Yukon.
We work with our partners in Alaska, we upgrade the road, and we put people in Dawson, no longer at the end of a road for eight months a year. They will be a positive contributor to our economy 12 months a year.
So Iím totally supportive of the bridge and this motion. I appreciate the weak support we got from the opposition, but Iím sure, as we walk through this and educate them ó what they lack is education ó we will bring them up to the mark, and we will be shoulder-to-shoulder when weíre opening the bridge.
I rise in support of this. I think this is what our government is all about. Itís a proactive government. Itís great to see that we have a great team on this side, working toward a very positive future for all Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Itís always interesting to follow the Member for Porter Creek Centre in debate. I do hope the member will not consider the arguments as presented in this House. I trust he will not characterize them in subsequent debates as weak, as I find that to be a less-than-constructive debate that the Yukon Party promised Yukoners.
Everyone in this House was elected by Yukoners, and it is the voices of Yukoners speaking when we rise to our feet.
No, we donít need to be educated. Weíre speaking from the heart.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Porter Creek Centre, if he takes the time to listen, will recognize that other members of this House have also done their homework on the issue of the bridge and have been through the studies and the data and have looked long and hard at the Dawson City bridge.
I found a couple of points that I would like to specifically address with respect to the Member for Porter Creek Centreís comments that Iím immediately following upon with regard to the bridge. One was with regard to the reason for and the economics of the railway, which I will leave to those with their degrees in Canadian history to argue with the member opposite.
I would like to make a point with respect to the memberís reference to Trutch, on the Alaska Highway, and also Steamboat Mountain. I had the opportunity last summer of driving the highway both ways and noted that the improvements to the highway, particularly around Steamboat Mountain, have dramatically and significantly changed the businesses on the highway. Those who have grown up as highway kids and who have spent a lot of time on the highway will recognize that improvements to the highway dramatically change the business. Itís not different with an improvement, such as a bridge. In fact, it was out of the mouths of babes at the recent bridge-building contest. One of the contestants who built their bridge labelled it the Dawson City bridge and on one side put "Welcome to Dawson" and on the other "Thanks for visiting" because this youngster recognized that, just as the changes in the Alaska Highway have significantly impacted the businesses on the highway, the construction of a bridge may significantly impact those who decide to stay or not in Dawson City.
Weíve noted many times in this Legislature how visitors, unaccustomed to our long daylight hours, just keep driving and driving and driving, and that is a real concern with the construction of a bridge in Dawson ó people will just keep going through.
I also note that in the Member for Porter Creek Centreís need to educate those of us on this side ó and I think it was educate to his point of view ó there is no written commitment that anyone has seen, and in this three-quarters of a foot or a foot-high material, thereís no written commitment from the Government of Alaska to keeping the Taylor Highway or the Top of the World Highway open, should a bridge be built ó no written commitment from the government. In fact, we have debated in this House ó and I can recall in my short time here ó at least two motions and at least two instances where we have had to lobby our Alaskan counterparts long and hard to even open the highway and not let the spring just simply melt away the snow, but to actually make an effort, put the money in, deal with the highway so that the miners on the other side could get to work earlier, not to mention our visitor industry.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there has been much discussion about the capital costs of the bridge. Whether or not the Member for Porter Creek Centre thinks thatís important, it is important. Weíre talking about an expenditure in one of these studies ó and Iíll come back to the point about studies in a moment ó the preliminary design cost is $19.7 million. Thatís one of the older studies; I think itís about 1995. Factor that to 2001 dollars, and the minimum bill youíre looking at was $25 million. And thatís construction alone. That is not factoring in the cost of a new highway camp on the Top of the World Highway, and itís not factoring in the cost of maintenance of that highway.
Thatís construction and that was before the price of steel went up as significantly as it has in recent days. That is a major, major investment in Yukon infrastructure.
The Liberal Party, and I personally, have spoken many times in this Legislature about the importance of infrastructure throughout the territory. I personally believe very strongly in infrastructure. However, Iím also a strong believer that you have to look at all the infrastructure needs.
That being said, the Robert Campbell Highway is a significant infrastructure need, a significant highway loop that is long overdue for investment dollars. There are bridges in this territory that have given successive Highways ministers nightmares in worry about them. They are old structures and they need repair and replacement. There are a significant number of them and they have a significant amount of traffic.
Just going back to the studies for a moment, Mr. Speaker, these studies that were delivered today are not, as the motion suggests and previous speakers have suggested ó that the economic costs have all been done. The correct title of the studies, at least one of them, the most recent, is, The Development of the Top of the World Highway including Yukon River Crossing at Dawson City Life Cycle Cost Analysis. Thatís about the bridge. Itís not an economic analysis; itís an engineering analysis and it has an engineerís stamp on it.
An economic analysis has not been done on the Dawson bridge and construction without an economic analysis is inconsistent with what the Yukon Party put forward as an election platform.
Now, Mr. Speaker, to suggest also that everyone in Dawson or throughout the Yukon is in favour of the bridge ó if that were the case, then the Yukon Party would have no fear in putting the bridge to a plebiscite of some kind. We have the budget money for it. Itís a dollar, and itís voted every year for plebiscites. I think itís even in the Legislative Assembly of the Elections Office budget amount.
So if thatís the case, then put it to a vote; put it to the test. The difficulty ó what the Yukon Party is not recognizing ó is that Yukoners have other priorities. Yukoners see themselves very much as stewards and trustees of this precious environment we live in, and we should ó ought to, we must ó by court order, clean up our own backyard first. Itís not just about the sewage in Dawson City, which is court ordered to be built this summer. Itís about the sewage treatment in Burwash that was put off under this government. Itís about sewage treatment in Carmacks. Time will tell, I suspect, that it will be more expensive than what weíre seeing now. Itís about people in Ross River who want to ensure that their water is safe. They want to know that. They want their water tanks cleaned. They donít have a water and sewer system in that community. Maybe thatís not what is required, but every Yukoner must have access to safe, clean drinking water, and we must leave this place cleaner than we found it and, at a minimum, look after our own garbage. Itís incumbent upon us as responsible citizens to do that. There are other priorities than the bridge. No one is saying to never build a bridge. What weíre saying is, "Look at the whole Yukonís priorities; look at the whole public policy; look at the whole infrastructure picture."
We did. We looked at those costs. We debated about this long and hard.
The issue that came ahead of this is sewage treatment ó among other things ó and safe schools.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Itís interesting that the Member for Lake Laberge says Grey Mountain School. Isnít that interesting that members of the side opposite will deny children a $3.2-million school and a safe, clean, healthy living environment and nowhere in this $705 million that theyíre so incredibly proud of can they spend one dime on the 100 children plus who attend Grey Mountain School, to make sure they have a school that provides them with a safe, clean learning environment. That says what they think about children. They will answer that question door to door and at their public meetings in their ridings, because Yukoners will ask.
Now, I mentioned earlier ó I talked about the movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. I note that the whistling has started. This proposed bridge has been aptly named ó
Speaker:One minute, please. Order please. No whistling. As wonderful as it is, itís not allowed. Please carry on.
Ms. Duncan: I realize it isnít in order, but I do appreciate music. And it does lend a different air to our House, but itís not in order, as youíve noted.
The fact is that that particular bridge, and the movie about that particular bridge, and the discussion about this particular bridge, have a lot in common. Now, as I said earlier, the movie is about a prisoner-of-war camp, where prisoners, under terrible starvation conditions, built a bridge and the bridge is continually being blown up.
The decision by the Yukon Party to immediately build their bridge in spite of a lack of economic analysis is also questionable circumstances. The idea of a bridge connecting the Top of the World Highway and west Dawson to Dawson City has been around for a very long time. It has been especially highlighted as a necessity in the eyes of some when the Alaska Highway was closed due to a landslide near Kluane Lake in the height of a very busy summer tourist season. Occasionally in the summer we see articles in the newspapers and the odd radio report out of Dawson about visitors complaining about the lineup to wait for the ferry service.
The George Black ferry operates 24 hours a day from May to October. During this time period, an average of 70,000 vehicles and 181,000 passengers use the ferry ó the free ferry, which is also greatly appreciated by visitors. We donít always hear the good-news stories ó meets the transportation needs of visitors travelling to Alaska via the Top of the World Highway or the Taylor Highway. The mining community, the Clinton Creek mine operated on the other side of the highway at one point in time, residents of west Dawson and Sunnydale, and those who enjoy the fastest growing sport in the world, golf, golf under the midnight sun at the Top of the World golf course. All of these individuals and all of us in this House, Iím sure, have used that ferry.
In the wintertime, once the ice on the Yukon River is too thick to allow the ferry to operate ó and I use the words advisedly because the ice doesnít always get thick enough to construct an ice bridge. We have seen very recent winters when we were unable to construct an ice bridge. The ferry service and the ice bridge are essential parts of our infrastructure.
The cost annually is about $750,000 on the ferry, and itís about $16,000 to $20,000 for an ice bridge. And Iíd like to speak briefly about the costs. It has been mentioned in this House that there will be an O&M cost saving if we build this bridge. Well, Mr. Speaker, the majority of the costs are the jobs on the ferry. The government opposite has guaranteed those jobs. So will there be a cost saving? Iím not convinced, and I would suggest to you that Yukoners arenít. I also note that it has been noted to me that the union contract makes reference to workers working with individuals when there is technological change. Replacing a ferry with a bridge, it could be argued that these workers have something to say, as well.
And thank you, Mr. Speaker, for advising me that, unfortunately, I only have five minutes left.
There is no question that construction of infrastructure is an economic generator. Our Yukon companies engaged in road construction and road resurfacing technology employ thousands of Yukoners ó thatís road construction and road resurfacing. The summer months are when the construction takes place. Our expertise is recognized worldwide.
Building infrastructure in the Yukon is an expression of commitment to the territory and belief in future economic opportunities. Mr. Speaker, my party and I are firm believers in infrastructure. Weíre also strong believers in this territory as a land of opportunity and building it so that our children can enjoy the same opportunities we had when growing up. That means spending taxpayersí dollars wisely. That means looking at all the infrastructure needs. And, Mr. Speaker, there are other infrastructure needs that are ahead of the bridge in Dawson City: quite clearly, the sewage system in that community, the sewage systems in other communities, schools, as well as other much-needed infrastructure.
That and the fact that the Yukon Party does not have the economic plan they committed to having before proceeding with construction are at least two reasons why this government should not proceed with the construction of the bridge and should be proceeding with other much-needed infrastructure at this time.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to address the motion.
Mr. Rouble: Itís my pleasure and my honour today to discuss this motion. Itís an interesting motion and weíve had a very interesting debate so far. Iíd like to add and contribute to it.
I thought, Mr. Speaker, this would just be a case of arguing the same head of the coin. Previous partiesí platforms, other than those of the Yukon Party, have included comments such as, "We commit to issuing a proposal call for the construction of a Yukon River bridge at Dawson."
I think we can all agree on a lot of things about this project, so weíve started to go through and weíre building the business case. One of the first steps in building the business case is to sit down and do a situational analysis. Whatís the current situation? What are some of the basic facts and assumptions?
Fact number one: we need to get to the other side of the Yukon River. We need a way to do that. Number two: we have a ferry thatís nearing the end of its life. Number three: there are significant annual O&M costs to operating this ferry. Number four: thereís a significant user dissatisfaction with that ferry. Weíve all heard it before. Number five: thereís an ongoing environmental impact from this ferry.
So thatís the lay of the land; thatís how we see the current situation. I thought we could all agree to that. Well, I thought we could all agree to that until I heard the Member for Kluane and some of his comments. He put forward an argument that we didnít need to get to the other side of the Yukon River, not the argument of why we need to get there.
Now, if thatís the position of the opposition, I would like to hear that clearly and loudly, that we donít need to see any way of getting to the other side. Because I think we do. I think Yukoners and our visitors need a way to get across that river.
So letís look at this situation. How are we going to get across to the other side? We need a way to get there that is cost effective, thatís environmentally friendly, thatís safe and is socially acceptable. I think we can all agree with those criteria. We want to get across to the other side, we want to do it efficiently, we want to do it financially smart, we want to do it safely, and we want to do it in a manner thatís acceptable to people.
So, what are our options, because we are at a bit of a crossroads. We have a ferry that is due for replacement and the cost of that ferry is anywhere between $6 million and $8 million. So, whatever decision we make, we are going to incur some costs. If we decide to go with the ferry option, we will incur the capital cost ó again, $6 million to $8 million ó plus incur the operation and maintenance costs of that ferry in perpetuity. We will continue to pay that cost, which is pegged at somewhere around $1 million a year, as I understand it.
Now, if we take a look ó how much money have we spent on that ferry in the last 20 years? According to the statistics that I have been able to find, in current dollars, we have spent about $20 million in operation and maintenance on that ferry ó $20 million has been spent. It was committed by this government and spent. We got a servicing response for it ó it satisfied a need, but it has gone. It has flowed down the Yukon River, so to speak.
So, if we continue with the ferry option ó which, you know, is being proposed as a possible solution ó we will continue to put money into operation and maintenance. Again, letís take a look at the present value of that operation and maintenance funding.
In 20 years weíll have spent at least $20 million on the operations and maintenance. So after 40 years of operating that ferry, what are we left with? Well, weíve spent over $40 million in O&M, and weíve spent over $8 million on a new ferry, and at the end of 20 years from now weíre stuck with a 20-year-old ferry and the commitment to continue to pay a million dollars a year.
We seem to be looking at this ó and the opposition has put forward the concept that weíre pitting projects against each other, that we can either put money into sewage infrastructure in this community or we can build the bridge, but we have a commitment right now. We are committed currently ó unless something changes, but if we just go ahead with the status quo ó to buying a new ferry and then continuing to maintain it. Thatís money weíll be spending. So at the end of 20 years down the road, weíll have spent that money. So weíre not saying, "Well, letís put money into this project or letís put money into that project." Letís put money into finding a way to get from one side of the Yukon River to the other.
Under the current model, weíre going to spend a million dollars a year in perpetuity and build another ferry. The math just doesnít make sense. A new bridge will last at least 75 years. So what makes better sense? Do we invest in a capital expenditure right now, or do we continue to pay year by year, year by year, over and over and over again? The math is obvious. Weíve already spent well over $25 million on maintaining that ferry. Wouldnít it have been better to have invested that at the time in a bridge?
We still would have got across, and today we would have a bridge. I think it just makes sense. Weíll put the money into infrastructure, and weíll have an asset that will last a long, long time. You know, 75 years is a minimum estimate. Itís an accounting estimate. Over the course of 75 years, heck, weíd probably have to buy three to four additional ferries, because they wear out. And how many countless engine repairs? And how many countless loads of gravel would we dump into the Yukon River?
So just in the capital cost of the ferries alone, weíd probably pay for the bridge, let alone the operation and maintenance expense. So letís find a way to satisfy the need to get from one shore of the Yukon River to the other, that is cost-effective, environmentally friendly and safe.
Now, the issue of safety too ó I donít know if youíve driven over the ice bridge, but itís not something Iím entirely comfortable doing, because I certainly donít feel safe making that drive. And I know a lot of folks in a motorhome wouldnít feel safe or comfortable making that drive. And it isnít always a safe way to get across, which we discussed earlier. Sometimes it doesnít set properly, so weíre stuck in a situation where people are crossing unsafely.
We can either continue to pour money down the drain in operation and maintenance costs, or we can invest in the infrastructure. The Yukon Party has committed to investing in infrastructure and building a community thatís stronger for all Yukoners.
This is an excellent way of doing that. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have also heard about the economic impacts in the community, the people whose employment would be displaced by not having a bridge. There has already been a commitment to work with them to find other employment opportunities for them within the government. The government has made that commitment to them. We are working with them. I would expect that between now and when the bridge is finally built we would lose some jobs through attrition throughout the government, so those people may take those new jobs over. Itís not the case of displacing one person to fit in another. We will work with the employees to help them find suitable, alternative employment.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the other issue of how weíre going to fund that ó and that hasnít been the topic of debate ó I would suggest that we could likely find the money in our operations and maintenance budget if we put that into paying for a bridge rather than paying O&M costs. It would probably cover that. But there are other models to look at. There are other things to think about and to consider.
I donít think the model for funding this bridge has been decided on yet. There are lots of models to look at. We could look at the model that was used in British Columbia. A couple years ago, when people in B.C. looked at how to get across a body of water, they came up with the B.C. fat-cat ferries situation. Thatís a model. It had disastrous results, Mr. Speaker, but it certainly is a model that could be looked at. Or another model to look at for crossing a body of water is the way P.E.I. did it with the Confederation Bridge. Again, Iím not tossing either model out as the solution to the question, but Iím saying that there are some things that we need to look at and to consider when going into a project like that. We can pick a model that seems to have been successful, seems to be working appropriately and seems to be solving the problem. Or we can look at another model that was an abject failure.
It has been a very interesting day in the House today with the debate. There were interesting points raised by the members opposite and an interesting amendment that came forward earlier ó this motion to put it to a select committee. We on this side wanted to get back to the debate we were having, but there are a couple of points Iíd like to point out about that amendment, because I am in favour of select committees and getting all sides of the Assembly together to work on an issue, but I did have a problem with the amendment that was put forward. A key part of that motion was the clause, "only if a select committee of the Assembly recommends that it do so." I had a problem with the clause "only if" because that takes the decision-making power away from the elected officials and puts it into the select committee.
With the motion we were discussing a week ago, we had the motion to put a group together to take a look at a piece of legislation, to work together on crafting it and to bring it back to this Assembly to debate it and to decide whether or not to pass it. However, with this model we wouldnít have had that option because the people who would have made the decision wouldnít have been those duly elected to represent the community; it would have been a smaller group of people who would have then had the decision-making power.
Mr. Speaker, I thought, how can we get around that? I thought about putting in some subamendment, perhaps at the end of it adding, "and ensure that the representation of the committee reflects the democratically elected membership of the Assembly," because I think thatís what should happen on many of our select committees. It should recognize the membership that the Yukon electorate chose ó those who were duly elected to represent views of Yukoners.
The challenge with that, though, is that the opposition is made up of six members out of 18, so if we went down to a small committee, say three people, the opposition would only have one seat, which isnít large enough to give them the option to contribute fully. Likely one party wouldnít be represented. So the only way to really ensure the appropriate representation so we can get full debate on these issues is in our forum here, especially if we would give that committee significant decision-making power and the ability to veto an idea.
I then heard a comment about this debate that said the duly-elected government wouldnít like it because maybe the response that came back wouldnít fit with their game plan. That disturbs me. In a duly-elected representative government, weíre elected to implement our game plan. We shouldnít and we canít ó we have an obligation to the Yukon people not to give up that ability to empower the minority to make all of the decisions. Thatís not the way a democracy works.
I think this has been a very healthy debate today. There have been a lot of very good points raised. This is an issue that requires an awful lot of thought and consideration, and it requires more careful attention. It does require more crunching of the numbers, but I will put to you again that it doesnít make sense to spend a million dollars a year ad infinitum, with additional capital costs, and to commit future government to all those expenditures when, instead, we could create a piece of capital infrastructure that would cover those costs.
It wouldnít cost us as much. It wouldnít cost the Yukon taxpayer as much in the long run.
I look forward to the rest of the debate. I look forward to hearing the thoughts and opinions of the members opposite and I look forward to putting this to a vote. I hope that members opposite will see the logic and argument that we have presented today and vote in favour of this motion.
Speaker: Member for Copperbelt.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order, order, order, order, order. Member for Copperbelt.
Mr. Arntzen: It gives me great pleasure to rise today and speak to this motion.
After 40 years of studying this project, I think itís time that we get on with it and build this bridge. But first of all, you have to complete the study, which is what we have put money forward to do.
The feasibility study for this bridge started about the mid-1960s when the production decision of the Clinton Creek mine was being made. It has been ó well, letís put it this way: if it was built at that time ó and the mine was in operation from 1967 to 1978 ó it would have been a lot easier, I believe ó particularly during the three or four weeks of freeze-up and breakup each year ó for anybody to operate.
I remember being a part of that operation, sitting in Dawson, waiting for hours on end to get across on the ferry ó those adding to the cost of transportation of products and raw material that we were bringing out from Clinton Creek to tidewaters and shipping on to the mills around the world.
Perhaps the Clinton Creek mine could have gone on for many more years if we had been able to cut back on some of the transportation costs that were created with this bottleneck in Dawson.
A Dawson City bridge would complete the existing highway system within the Yukon, and it would greatly improve tourism and trade between Alaska and the Yukon. Alaska actually is, and continues to be, Yukonís biggest trading partner.
Also, the communication and cooperation that we enjoy between Yukon and Alaska is most beneficial to Yukoners as the recently held Yukon Gala in Alaska attests to. And the meeting we are going to have in Whitehorse on May 27 and 28 is going to be equally as beneficial as the one we had in Alaska at the Yukon Gala earlier last month.
The present Alaska governor, Frank Murkowski, is a strong proponent of increased tourism and industry activities between Alaska and the Yukon. As he has strongly demonstrated, he supports the increased tourism travel throughout the Yukon from both Haines and Skagway, Alaska ó trying to tie it together.
He supported more Shakwak funding to improve the Alaska Highway and extended the stopover time for passengers to permit them to visit Whitehorse and more distant Yukon communities, should they wish to do so.
And part of this support includes operating the Top of the World Highway on a year-round basis. Governor Murkowski also supports support for increased industrial interaction between Alaska and the Yukon, as demonstrated by strong support of an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the Alaska-Canada-southern-48-states railway. So having a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson would not only benefit Yukon tourism, but it would also greatly improve mineral exploration and extraction in that area.
Mr. Speaker, as we all know, placer mining has also been going on since the Klondike Gold Rush on the Sixty Mile River and several of its tributaries. So placer mining continues in Alaska, at Chicken and at Wade Junction along the Taylor Highway, as the portion of the Top of the World in Alaska is known.
In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, the Tintina gold belt, one of the major gold belts of the world, extends across central Alaska and into the Yukon near Dawson City. And new mineral deposits along this trench are Pogo, Fort Knox, Donlin Creek in Alaska, and in the Yukon, Brewery Creek, Dublin Gulch, and Ketza.
To the present time, there have been more than 29 million ounces of gold produced, and there is an estimated 40 million ounces in this trench.
The Eureka and Long Line prospects are just two of the Yukon prospects that have received extensive exploration from the Top of the World Highway. So the existing information suggests that only a small number of Dawson citizens oppose the bridge construction, as far as we are concerned or I am concerned, from what I hear. Some of those people have suggested that it would prove to be an eyesore and it would put present ferry workers out of work. Thatís far from the truth because the bridge would not only give improved and year-round access between Dawson and west Dawson, but it could provide improved telephone systems or perhaps even water system between the two parts of Dawson ó added value. With regard to the ferry workers being put out of work, it has long been stated and continues to be stated that these workers would be offered work in other areas of the Highways and Public Works department.
The historical nature, culture and scenery of Dawson is recognized by this government. For those reasons, the bridge design is to be as visually pleasing as it possibly can be. Dawson residents will be consulted extensively before construction is started.
A concrete pair and concrete deck system is expected to be used ó preferred to be used. It is expected to be 365 metres, or roughly 1,200 feet long, and to have two lanes of traffic and a safe sidewalk. The construction phase is expected to take two to three years.
A request for proposals for the bridge design consultant was released on March 5, 2004 and is being worked on as we speak. The design is expected to be finalized in the spring of 2005. So, hopefully this summer we can see the fruits of the work that will be done toward the design and can get that in place so that the bridgework can start very soon. We need people to go to work in the territory and this will be a great project and will allow for a lot of our citizens to have well-paid jobs for two or three years when this project is going on.
The cost is estimated to be $25 million to $30 million, so obviously there are going to be a lot of dollars coming back into the economy, in Dawson as well as the rest of the Yukon.
Several methods are available to fund the bridge ó we know that. However, a means of funding has not been selected as of yet. Whatever method is chosen, I think Yukoners can be assured that this financially responsible government will achieve the best deal possible.
So, finally, it gives me great pleasure to support the construction of a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City. It will fulfill yet another of the commitments we made, and that previous governments before us made.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise to speak to the main motion moved by the Member for Lake Laberge. It says: "the House urges the Yukon government to construct a bridge." I donít think anyone on this side of the House is saying no to a bridge. What weíre saying is that there needs to be a sharing of information about that bridge.
How many taxpayers are urging the government to construct a bridge? How many municipalities are urging this government to construct a bridge over the river at Dawson? Is the Association of Yukon Communities lobbying this government to construct a bridge in Dawson City?
How many First Nation governments are lobbying this government to construct a bridge at Dawson City? How much information has been shared with taxpayers, municipalities, First Nation governments and citizens of Dawson? If they received the information in as timely a manner as we did today, then theyíre not as informed as they deserve to be. The economic case was asked for. The Member for Kluane requested information around the bridge. The economic case, if you will, the studies that had been done ó as I said earlier, that arrived earlier today and I know that ó just for the information of the Member for Porter Creek South who didnít have it in metric ó a foot is approximately equivalent to 300 mils, I believe, and we know that the Member for Porter Creek Centre was up all night reading that. But we need a sharing of that information. We need an opportunity to look at it, as do the citizens who are interested in looking at that information so that they can make a decision and talk to their representatives in government. I donít have a lot of people coming up to me on the streets of Whitehorse saying, "You know, you gotta build that bridge." I do have a lot of people coming up to me and asking me, "Whatís the bridge about? Why do we need a bridge in Dawson City?"
We hear issues of safety. A couple of members on the side opposite have raised issues of safety.
I believe that the ferry in Dawson, to the best of my knowledge, is maintained in a safe manner and has provided safe travel for years. Admittedly there are periods of time when the river is freezing or the ice is going out and there isnít complete access to the other side of the river.
But there are also some other statements that have been made in this House as well that there will be no gaps in the system once this bridge is built. Well, I beg to differ. There are still gaps in the system. The government commissioned a study to look at the Dawson ferry and the Ross River ferry. So, we are going to get a bridge in Dawson; does that mean we get a bridge in Ross River as well? I believe that the North Canol Road is also part of the Yukon highway system.
The other thing Iíd like to point out is, I think one of the members mentioned Inuvik, and there is a gap, so to speak, in the system on the road to Inuvik ó there are ice bridges and ferries on that road as well.
So, why do we need to get to the other side of the river? The Member for Porter Creek Centre talked about a number of things. He talked about tourists complaining about the three-hour wait to get on the ferry in Dawson.
Iíve been to Dawson in the summer and, admittedly, sometimes there are delays. The people Iíve talked to, who are waiting for the ferry, are enjoying their time visiting the vendors on Front Street. I know that maybe theyíre not getting as far uptown as some people would like, but theyíre having a good time. Theyíre seeing Dawson and talking to people. I donít know where the minister is hearing all the complaints. Maybe heís spending a little too much time in the Wal-Mart parking lot these days.
But this is a great expense of money, and there has to be a reason behind spending all of this money to construct a bridge over the Yukon River to enhance trade, tourism and commerce. So, resource development was raised as one of the reasons for going across the river. Well, there are examples of resource development that have carried on for years across the river with no bridge. It was pointed out by others on both sides of this House about resource development that had taken place and hadnít been hindered by the lack of a bridge.
So, is there something else at work? Are there some big plans for major resource development on the other side of the river? That would kind of fit with the Premierís policy of "Log it, drill it, mine it, pave it and then protect it probably."
We covered it all, I think, on that.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:The Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: I believe that the Member for Mount Lorne is in contravention of Standing Order 19(g) and imputing false or unavowed motives to a member by suggesting his allegations of what heís saying that the Premierís policies are.
Speaker: There is no point of order, simply a dispute between members. Carry on, please.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíve heard those words come out of the Premierís mouth before, so Iím sure that heís not going to go back on things he has said in the past.
One of the other things that was brought up was the environmental case. There are a lot of environmental concerns in the Yukon, and Iím sure that the George Black ferry is probably one of the least that weíre worried about. There are lots of mine sites to be cleaned up. There are sewage treatment facilities that are needed in many communities. I wonder what the haste to rush this project through is for. If Iím not mistaken, a project of this magnitude ó Iím not sure of this but I believe it should be looked at and it should undergo a full environmental assessment under YESAA, and let it look at the environmental impacts of a bridge. What are the environmental impacts of a bridge in Dawson City as compared to other things?
What are the social impacts of building a bridge in Dawson City? Iím sure that there are positive and negative social impacts, depending on where you live and whether or not you play the fastest growing sport in the world, according to the member of the third party. What are the economic benefits and what are the economic consequences of building a bridge?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: His true colours come out.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker: Order. The Chair is having some difficulty hearing the member. If the Member for Mount Lorne could continue, please.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you. So my concern is that this project wonít undergo a complete screening and that the concerns of Yukoners, the concerns of people in Dawson, wonít fully be heard ó and the concerns of all Yukoners. This has an economic impact that impacts on the whole territory. This is money that is being spent in Dawson City on highway infrastructure while other infrastructure projects that are needed arenít being started ó some of them are court ordered.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the concerns in Dawson and the concerns of these other infrastructure needs need to be addressed, and Iíd like to propose an amendment to the main motion.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to move
THAT Motion No. 225 be amended by adding the following: ", provided more urgently needed community infrastructure, including a sewage treatment facility, has first been constructed."
Deputy Speaker: Order please.
It has been moved by the hon. Member for Mount Lorne
THAT Motion No. 225 be amended by adding the following: ", provided more urgently needed community infrastructure, including a sewage treatment facility, has first been constructed."
Mr. Cardiff: I believe, having been talking to many people, both on the streets here in Whitehorse and, over quite a period of time, listening to people from Dawson who call and e-mail and fax on a fairly regular basis, they have a hard time getting a hold of their MLA to make their concerns known and they feel a need to have their voices heard.
So, there are a lot of problems, as evidenced by many things that have happened in Dawson City. There are all kinds of infrastructure needs in the community of Dawson.
Over many years, going back many, many years, the infrastructure needs of Dawson were neglected and many things that were needed werenít looked after, werenít built. Recreation facilities were sadly lacking and poorly maintained for many, many years. Those needs need to be addressed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Yes, that was one, for sure. The swimming pool, the recreation complex, playgrounds ó all those recreation and infrastructure needs were left by the wayside. They werenít dealt with.
The current municipal council has tried to deal with the shortcomings they were left with. Now, to obtain funding, they had a funding agreement to deal with some of those shortcomings, including the sewage treatment facility. And some of that money was used for the recreation centre. The site suitability maybe wasnít the best for the recreation centre, but that could also fall under the responsibility of previous city councils.
I think the need for a sewage treatment facility in Dawson City is well-documented. There is a court order telling the City of Dawson that they have to construct a sewage treatment facility, but there has been interference by government, through a government-appointed supervisor, who has set a financial plan for Dawson that doesnít adequately address this issue.
The government is failing to assist the municipality in meeting these needs. Instead, the government tells the municipality to appeal the court order at a cost to the City of Dawson. The government is telling the City of Dawson how to spend basically good money after bad. I think the City of Dawson would like to deal with the sewage problems they have and the environmental issues. Another example of an environmental issue in Dawson is the landfill, which is another piece of community infrastructure that is going to suffer at the hands of this government. We have $30 million for a bridge ó and it sounds to me like itís probably a Cadillac bridge ó but we get the moped waste management plan.
Now, it seems to me that if the government were truly concerned about the environmental concerns in Dawson and was willing to spend $30 million on a bridge, they would at least put some money into waste management and infrastructure in Dawson ó both into the sewage treatment plant and into the landfill.
But this government doesnít want to do that. They want to forbid the municipality to deal with these things. They forbid them to raise taxes to deal with issues around the landfill and solid waste management. They forbid them and donít provide enough funds for the City of Dawson to deal with the sewage treatment facility. I believe ó and I think that the residents of Dawson believe ó that this amendment to this motion to provide more urgently needed community infrastructure, including a sewage treatment facility, is in their best interests, and itís what Iím hearing from the residents of Dawson, and itís what Iím hearing from people on the streets of Whitehorse who are concerned about the environment.
For Yukon citizens, it is more important to ensure that the water treatment in Dawson is ó
Speaker: The memberís time is up.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Minister of Environment, on the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker, thank you. This whole thing does get confusing a little bit. I would like to speak to the amendment and the linking of the bridge into sewage and environmental concerns. It is certainly my position and my firm belief, Mr. Speaker, that there is no such link. Itís interesting when people talk about environmental concerns and then I hear arguments from the other side that theyíre quite happy to let cars sit there and idly wander around, with many of them idling their engines, pumping greenhouse gases into the environment. I donít think thatís quite what we want.
The other thing, too, that bothers me is, having been up there many, many times in the great city of Dawson and having watched a ferry chugging across, back and forth, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for one little break, I think, on a Wednesday night; trucks and graders pushing fill into the river to try to keep the banks going ó Mr. Speaker, this isnít environmentally friendly.
Good Lord, if people are concerned about the Yukon Queen going back and forth once, a modern vessel with virtually no wake pattern, and yet theyíre willing to let the ferry sit there and chug back and forth 24 hours a day, seven days a week in some of the best salmon-spawning areas ó this is just crazy. But the thing I find interesting in this whole thing is certainly what I get on the other side ó the fact that no one really wants to develop anything up there. There is a real no-development attitude on this, and I think other speakers from our side have mentioned a number of times what the highway has done, what other bridges have done in terms of opening up trade and tourism. Calculations show cheaper fuel rates. Whatís that going to do for tourism? Whatís it going to do for the mining sector?
I think the one thing here thatís very interesting over the whole thing is that if we look historically on this debate, this is another item that has been debated for many years and certain groups have certainly become cast in a certain way. One member a few moments ago said that they donít want to see anyone going back on things that were said in the past, and I agree with that. I think if we set a pattern and have a firm statement, and sometimes if weíre sort of iffy ó and I have to admit over many years I was a bit iffy on the bridge until I started realizing what great benefits it has. But if you look back historically, the leader of the Liberal Party came out emphatically in favour of the bridge. At the time, he saw an incredible investment potential, saw First Nations settlement money coming in ó
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Lang:I would like to introduce Sue Staffen, the wife of our Speaker. Sue, welcome to the House.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: For that, I can be interrupted any time, Mr. Speaker.
But the leader of the Liberal party at that time said that he saw great settlement money coming in for First Nations and great investment potential in a bridge over the Yukon River. That sounds an awful lot like a P3 or a public/private partnership. I agree with that; I think thatís a good way to look at it.
In fact, in one election, the Liberal Party set a major plank in their election platform.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am speaking to the motion, Mr. Speaker, and I am speaking specifically to the linking of sewage treatment or other issues to the economic benefits of the bridge itself and the construction of the bridge itself.
Now, at that point in time, the leader of the NDP said that the Liberal proposal was daydreams and deceptions. I think Iíve heard that even several times today. We certainly heard it at other times.
The Liberals at that time saw 17 different ways ó and they were proud of 17 different ways ó of potentially funding this. Again, Iím not familiar with all of them but I agree. This is a good project on its own, Mr. Speaker; it does not have to be linked with anything else. It stands on its own merit.
The leader of the Liberal Party at that point, when questioned on it, said something like, "Well, weíll cross that bridge when we get to it," when questioned on the financing. Obviously he had some contact with the Member for Kluane and his great sense of humour that we enjoy so much in this House.
There was talk at that point in time of charging tolls. That was put on the table by the Liberals ó that tolls might be something to look at, at that point in time. He was quoted widely in the media about something to the effect that Dawson and a bridge was a great place to put investment. I agree with that. It stands on its own.
There were a number of different ways of looking at it and looking at all of the options. Those are really, really essential. To link that matter to a sewage plant or a sewage treatment area makes very little sense.
It shows a serious lack of understanding about what this bridge can do. It can open up tourism much more quickly. Whatís an extra three weeks of tourism? That money generated will have a spinoff effect in many other areas. It does not have to be linked specifically to this.
I certainly commend the Liberal Party for their stand at that time, which I assume is consistent, because I agree with the Member for Mount Lorne ó I believe it was ó who said itís not really good to go back on things that she said so vehemently in the House. So we certainly understand that that remains to this day. But, of course, that is always subject to change, as Iím sure even that position ó from the sound of Liberal knives coming out across Canada ó that all sorts of things will perhaps change on that. And, of course, I also have to wonder if weíll maybe be the recipient of some funds for the bridge or some sponsorship funds for some changes in a variety of different areas. But to link these two issues is wrong. They have no linkage.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to speak to the amendment that my colleague from Mount Lorne has presented.
Iím quite amazed that the Minister of Environment made some of the comments he has and was not able to see clearly exactly how monies are to be spent by government. It is their commitment, I believe, to look at healthier communities and infrastructure. And along comes a big surplus that was given to them by a previous government, and a lot more money handed down by the federal government in health care and census.
I have read the budget to the members opposite over and over, and it appears, Mr. Speaker, that they cannot read their own budget that theyíre presenting in the House. Still I believe they are not presenting information to the public and to members on this side of the House and to the House about whatís really in the budget.
The Yukon Party promised to build infrastructure in communities. They said it in this House, in their budget speech replies, that infrastructure was important and that it was also important to involve those in decisions that affect them. Now, has that happened? In a number of cases, of course, that hasnít happened. And the motion is basically asking government to have a closer look at exactly what communities want, not to just move ahead quickly on a pet project of the Member for Klondike ó a bridge ó and lose sight of other important infrastructure that needs to be addressed in the communities.
I would like to hear from all members on that side of the House speak to this amendment, not just the Minister of Environment, although he made some important and interesting comments about the environment and how it links to the bridge. Well, itís all about government spending and their commitment, the previous governmentís commitment, and the commitment of governments before that on community infrastructure.
Do we leave the City of Dawson alone and build a bridge before we address the critical issues facing that community in particular? Well, the Yukon Party wants to. Theyíve put in a lot of money to do just that already ó $1.5 million toward that. What weíre saying in the amendment is for this Yukon Party government to go back and talk with communities. I heard the Member for Mount Lorne ask if there was approval or if there was a big outcry from the community, from the general public and from the First Nations to have a bridge built across the Yukon River in Dawson City.
Well, if that question were asked of the Premier tomorrow, weíd probably get a good run-around answer, but the answer would be "no" at this point. I would think that most communities around the territory would like to see improvements in the infrastructure ó our roads ó around the territory. Thereís no doubt about that. The Member for Klondike, when on this side of the House, talked about widening the Klondike Highway. He talked about it being a safety concern at that time. That member has been off the road a few times and hit a few moose out there, and he knows that highway is narrow and does need some work in a number of different places.
If those were truly his feelings at that time, how come that member did not lobby the Yukon Party, his own colleagues, to make improvements to the Klondike Highway? Why didnít that happen?
Well, itís obvious that this member wants to make a mark in Dawson City, as this is the Peter Jenkins bridge.
Speaker:Order please. Itís not appropriate to mention ministers by name. I would ask the member not to do that, please.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, Iíll try not to do that, but itís pretty difficult when the general public is saying the same thing, Mr. Speaker. I will avoid that in the future.
The members opposite ó the Premier made mention of us on this side of the House being environmentally concerned, and he brought up the whole issue of the ferries going across the river and logs floating down the river. It was to him ó it sounded like it on this side of the House ó an environmental nightmare that this was happening. His solution was to build a bridge. That was the solution.
My goodness, Mr. Speaker, the Premier forgot the City of Dawsonís situation with its sewage problem and the fact that they have been ordered by the court to put in a system. Well, thatís a shame ó a real shame, coming from the Premier. To casually overlook a fairly big and important issue, I would say, of that community and other communities. I would think that governments would have to invest millions of dollars in a community ó City of Dawson, the community of Carmacks ó very soon and in the future.
Now, because this bridge is going to be committed to and built by the Yukon Party government, does that mean there is less money in the pot for this type of infrastructure to be built in communities? Well, thatís whatís being expressed to us on this side of the House. Maybe there isnít.
What happens? Iíve also heard from the Yukon Party government about committing to sewage infrastructure in the community of Carmacks, not only to the Village of Carmacks but also to the First Nation. But there are no monies and nothing was even looked at by this Yukon Party government at all. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini knows full well what it means when you see First Nations moving out of the place they live in to somewhere thatís healthier and where thereís infrastructure. Carmacks is no different. They have moved already, and the member knows they moved from the lower bench up to a higher bench. And theyíve been on septic systems now for many, many years.
In that community, the water is bad and itís getting worse. And there are all kinds of complaints about the quality of the water coming out of the ground. We live beside a municipal garbage dump that was lit every day, with the toxic fumes coming right over the hill, which is only an eighth of a mile away ó and sucked right into the school vent and exposed every student and teacher to that for years and years and years.
And, Mr. Speaker, when communities come out and ask why their people are ó whether theyíre First Nations or not ó dying off with all kinds of different kinds of cancers, a lot of people link it back to the water and their surrounding environment. As a matter of fact, in Watson Lake, the members all got a copy of a letter from a citizen concerned about whatís taking place there ó important stuff. Thatís the health and safety issue of our people in the territory.
I didnít hear this government get up and say, "Well, weíre going to really work hard with communities to fix those problems." They did not do that.
As a matter of fact, it went totally the other way. I urge members to look at their own budget replies from last year. They were all about the trajectory ó remember that? ó and that government had to curb their spending habits. Weíve got to put the time into it. And it didnít happen.
Now we get announcements without any consultation ó none whatsoever ó about this is what government is about to do. I know that the member opposite ó the Member for Lake Laberge ó is bringing forward this motion and urging government to do something. He is urging his own government to do something. Well, they are going to do it anyway. They will do it anyway. It wonít be until there is a huge outcry by the public that will stop them.
There are a number of things ó look at this bad policy stuff that had to be reversed immediately. That was done by the Member for Klondike.
The Chair is failing to make the connection between what is in the newspaper and the amendment as proposed.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, itís all about bad decisions. This is what Iím going after right here. Itís about bad policies and bad decisions that we feel the government side has made.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: The Minister of Environment said he cannot see the linkages. What we are suggesting is that this government take care of the much-needed, I guess, infrastructure in the communities before it moves on to projects like this.
We on this side of the House are not opposed to a project like this. It has been mentioned ó there have been monies in the past put into studies, sites have been looked at by many other governments. Itís not that. It is what communities want that we would like governments to direct their resources to.
Thatís what this amendment is asking government to do. So far, from what weíve heard, only one member on that side of the House got up to speak to this, but I donít believe this type of amendment really has any impact on the members opposite. I would think, if any one of the members go back and meet with their constituents, this would be brought up.
The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin knows that. As a matter of fact, he fought for infrastructure for his community of Teslin. Now government has invested some money in that community for a sewage system, improvements to the sewage system. Well, other communities would like that, but some are a bit more costly. Like I said, this government has not had any major discussions at all, say with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, about what they would like to see.
Right now there is a commitment to the Village of Carmacks to make improvements ó because of water licences and so on, which are a big issue there ó to their mechanical system in that community, which serves about 40 percent of the community. It just so happens that the First Nations are not on that system. But they do have some vision and they do want to have a system in place, yet there is not the commitment at all from this Yukon Party government. Maybe it is because the Yukon Party would like the federal government to throw more money into this when it comes to First Nation issues. As a matter of fact, we heard that over and over from the members on that side of the House. Thatís what they want to see.
It is as if the Yukon Party government feels they donít have that responsibility to First Nations if they are on settlement land. I know they feel that with education, but they do pay attention, and they do pay attention to government decisions. They know that this motion has been coming forward. Weíve been getting calls to make amendments to the motion, and weíve done just that. I would like to hear from members opposite about exactly how they feel about what governmentís position should be when it comes to major projects such as these.
Dawson City is facing a huge issue with their sewage treatment facility. That was one of the reasons we put this in. We could have made it stronger. We could have asked for water systems in communities, for example, but we didnít. We wanted government to at least pay some attention to the community and the wishes of the community, not just through a hired hand who is now going to make all the decisions for the City of Dawson.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would like members on the opposite side to support this amendment and not shrug it off as having no link to the main motion. It is in order. It has gone through the Clerk and it is in order. The members opposite should show the general public that they have more in them than it appears with the motion they put forward.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On the amendment: Iíve heard a lot of criticism from across the floor, and I for one would not be in agreement with this amendment. I believe that the only thing this government is guilty of is listening to the citizens of the Yukon Territory and putting lots of dollars into infrastructure throughout the territory. The budget speaks for itself. I think the evidence is fairly clear that there is an awful lot of money going into infrastructure. To correct the member opposite for Mayo-Tatchun, I think that member ought to look at that budget again just to see how much is going into the town of Carmacks on infrastructure ó even the school; the sewage system. It speaks for itself. And that member voted against these things. So what can I say?
Anyhow, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about the bridge, there has been a lot of criticism about the support to do such a project. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to put on record that the MLA from the Dawson area has been re-elected and re-elected for about eight years, to be exact, somewhere in that vicinity, and every platform commitment was to build a bridge. So I think if there was to be a select committee, we should have the citizens of Dawson be the select committee.
Again, to confirm even more the support for the bridge, I think that in our platform commitments there was mention of the bridge, and the biggest majority ever in the history of the Yukon was elected into government. I think that again speaks for itself on support of what this government was proposing to do.
I believe that a lot of the support that went into the decision on the bridge has to do with the good leadership of the Yukon Party, one who understands the financial situations of the territory and how to best put those finances to work. I have to commend the Premier for having that knowledge and the political will to go forward with projects in the Yukon Territory that would really benefit the citizens in the territory and also advance the economic development of the territory.
I have a concern when the opposition is always so ready to criticize good initiatives for citizens of the Yukon Territory.
I canít help but stand up and say that it would be more beneficial for the Yukon citizens if the opposition would, in fact, agree once in awhile on such projects. I am quite convinced that it quite possibly has been one of their daydreams of getting good recognition sometime in the future for building this bridge in Dawson. Maybe to date they just havenít heard the leadership to be able to accomplish that.
I am saying today that there is now a government in place with the leadership, the capacity, the political will and all to construct and complete this project.
I think thatís about all I have to say to this amendment.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I would have hoped that the previous member would have had enough wind in his sails to get to 6:00 p.m., but I guess thatís not going to happen, so I will make a few very, very short comments.
The motion that was brought forward was a motion that reflects the concerns of many, many people in the Yukon. Of course, they reflect the concerns of the opposition. And, of course, Iím not going to speak for the leader of the third party, but from our perspective, we believe there are many, many projects needing to be done. Some of them do have a higher priority than the Dawson bridge, from our perspective.
I believe the previous speakers on this side have mentioned those projects, including the sewage lagoon, which is a long-time, ongoing struggle in the Dawson area. At some point in the near future it will have to be addressed. There is no question about it.
Our hope would be that if this government has such leadership and access to resources, they would bring forward those projects as willingly as they do the Dawson bridge. That would be an indication of a government that is listening to the people, specifically in Dawson, and trying to address the many concerns that have been expressed over the years, because it hasnít just been a request for a bridge in Dawson. It has been a request for a sewage lagoon; it has been a request to upgrade some of the facilities. When we were in government, of course, we were dealing with many of those as well.
I wouldnít necessarily say that building a bridge is an indication of great government.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on the amendment to Motion No. 225 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 7, 2004:
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 9(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated March 25, 2004) (Speaker Staffen)
Capital Budget (2004-05), Summary Distribution by Community (Fentie)