Thursday, May 6, 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 International Youth Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of International Youth Week, which takes place from May 3 to 9 of this year. Since it began as a small grassroots movement in Canada in 1995, Youth Week has grown into an international annual event celebrating all aspects of youth culture, diversity and achievement. It is an opportunity to honour the talents, ideas and abilities of young people in the Yukon and around the world.
As a government, we recognize the important contributions of community-based youth organizations and their members and volunteers. In this budget we have increased the amount of funding available to the Whitehorse Youth Centre, Youth of Today Society and Bringing Youth Toward Equality by $50,000 each.
All across the Yukon, many other youth groups are doing important work so we have also increased funding for community-based youth projects and events. Our Health and Social Services and Education budgets also had a strong focus on youth. Among other initiatives, we have committed a total of $711,000 for a new receiving home and an alternative school in downtown Whitehorse to support youth at risk. We recognize that young people are our future leaders. These are just some of the examples of how this government is working to ensure our young people can play a part in building a brighter future for this territory.
I would like to ask all hon. members to join me in recognizing the outstanding contributions of Yukon youth and to recognize this week as International Youth Week.
Mrs. Peter: On behalf of the official opposition, I rise in tribute to International Youth Week. This celebration of youth began in 1995 in Toronto and the concept has grown internationally since then. In the Yukon, we are very proud of youth achievements in sports, in drama, in music and in academics. There are many indications in the Yukon that we can be assured of strong leadership in the future.
Around the world, youth struggle to educate decision-makers about the economic situation of young workers. They express firm views about environmental and social concerns and their future. This shows they are conscious of important issues and are willing to take up the struggles facing them.
The achievements of youth are even more notable when we consider that youth today face many serious challenges, even in Canada. Post-secondary education is no longer available to many young people, work is difficult to find and is often part-time, wages are low, and the future often looks bleak.
Whitehorse is not without its youth on the street. A report was done by the Northern Research Institute, which surveyed youth at risk and homelessness. The result is an interesting profile describing this section of society.
About 40 percent of them, Mr. Speaker, say their income is derived from welfare, panhandling, dealing drugs or theft. Another 40 percent have lived in a group home, 66 percent have been arrested, and 43 percent have an addiction to alcohol and drugs.
A most disturbing statistic is that over half of them describe themselves as lonely, and nearly 30 percent have considered or attempted suicide. These are indicators that alarm us and should show us the path we need to follow. We in this House have an opportunity that is rare in this life. We can take steps to affect the future. While we are paying tribute to our successful young men and women in the Yukon, let us not ignore homeless youth; they too are our future.
In recognition of Speech and Hearing Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Every May this countryís attention focuses briefly on issues of speech and hearing as the Canadian Association of Audiologists and Speech Language Pathologists urges us to pay attention to the need to have more people screened for hearing loss and its importance during Speech and Hearing Month.
One in 10 Canadians has a communication disorder. This could be as a result of injury, overexposure to heavy industrial noise, a disability, a voice disorder, or even as a result of untreated middle ear infection as an infant or young child. Young folks experience hearing loss because of noise, and baby-boomers are now paying for all that high-decibel music as we are ageing.
Currently there are 1.2 million hearing-impaired individuals in Canada and of those, 40,000 are profoundly deaf. While some of this hearing loss can be cured by surgical or medical treatment, the rest cannot be cured.
Yukonís population is ageing, so we need to pay attention to the health implications of an ageing population. One of those is the fact that the national median age for stroke is 50 years of age. What does this have to do with speech and hearing, you might ask? Well, of those individuals who have a stroke, 30 to 50 percent will require speech therapy.
More than 10 percent of grade 1 children have some speech, language or hearing impairment. We are fortunate to have dedicated speech language pathologists and audiologists in the Yukon.
The Child Development Centre provides assistance to young children and their families struggling with communication difficulties. The Department of Education, through its special programs unit, provides assistance to school-age children, and we have assistance at the other end of the spectrum through our continuing care facilities. Therapies are available to assist others in between these age groups. Individuals who require sign language interpreters have the cost of that service covered through our health care insurance.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to providing the support and assistance to those Yukoners with speech and hearing difficulties year-round, but during the month of May each year we recognize Speech and Hearing Month.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have for tabling a report entitled, "Dawson City: The Town of the City of Dawson Trusteeeship ó Background and Consequences".
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Environment to conduct additional, extensive public consultations before proceeding with changes that will prohibit Yukoners from keeping large fish caught in all Yukon waters as of 2006.
Speaker: Any further notices of motion?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: First Nation education
Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. A couple of days ago, I asked the minister a very direct question about First Nation education policy. All we got in return was another history lesson and lecture that had nothing to do with the question. The minister didnít talk about reindeer, but he did talk about First Nation education 200 years ago.
I was asking about the ability of First Nations under their final agreement to take control of education within their jurisdiction. So Iíll give the minister another chance to make a serious reply. What is the minister planning to do about the eventual drawdown of education by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís one prerogative that First Nations do have, and if they so choose to exercise it, then that would be a decision thatís made by that First Nation. It is an option, and it is within their agreements. So I guess at the end of the day the choice would be up to First Nations.
But, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to say what this government is doing toward funding First Nation initiatives in the education system: for example, the aboriginal language teachers, $2,280,000; YNTEP, again, $540,000; First Nation curriculum materials and resources, $500,000; Native Language Centre, $352,000; department staff and work directly on First Nation curriculum programming, $200,000; aboriginal language teacher trainees, $100,000.
By the time the six of those trainees will be done, it will be up to $500,000 plus. There is curriculum development for $100,000. There are three other programs ó I know my time is up ó totalling $4 million plus.
Mr. Fairclough: He avoided the question again. Shame, shame.
The minister is not fulfilling his obligations under the existing Education Act. He talks about consulting, but he complains that First Nations arenít responding. He says heís waiting for a report from CYFN before he can complete the Education Act review.
The Grand Chief of CYFN says First Nation governments want to talk about education as a whole and not just the act. The minister is the minister, the ball is in his court and he canít go on playing the blame game.
Why hasnít the minister taken the initiative during the past year and a half to pick up the phone and say, "Letís talk"?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start, Iíd like to correct the member opposite that we donít play games with anybody. This government is sincere about developing a working relationship with the aboriginals of this territory, and we will continue to do that with respect and dignity. I would like to put on record again that this government has the political will to move this agenda forward with First Nations on education and, as I stated previously in this House, Iím always available to talk to First Nations.
I would say to the members opposite that all the money this budget is putting forward ó one of the biggest in the history of the Yukon, one of the biggest budgets in Education ever ó and I respectfully encourage the members opposite to support this bill.
Mr. Fairclough: A year and a half has gone by, and the minister canít even pick up the phone, Mr. Speaker. Section 54 of the Education Act mandates that there will be a central Indian education authority and that government must consult with that authority on a regular basis.
It also says that the government will pay for that authority to conduct evaluations of First Nation education programs.
Now, the Yukon government gets funding from Ottawa for First Nation students, and one of the reasons First Nations walked away from the Education Act review was because YTG wouldnít provide funding for them to research the draft recommendations, and that led to the collapse of the First Nation Education Commission.
Will the minister now put something substantial on the table for the chiefs so that meaningful talks can begin without any further delay and the necessary changes to the Yukon education system can be put in place? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I say that this government has put something good on the table, and that is the will and the ability to move forward on education initiatives with First Nations. This government has made the commitment and will keep up to that commitment of meeting with First Nation people.
When we talk about this Education Act that the member opposite keeps bringing up, there were approximately 7,000 comments and observations advanced during the Education Act review. Approximately 2,000 were related to the act; the rest were non-act related. The 2,000 comments were translated into 153 actual recommendations about the act. This demonstrates the need to be reminded that three-quarters of the issues were non-act related.
Question re: Social assistance rates
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. For over a week, weíve been trying to get beyond the yarn the minister keeps spinning about why he wants to discriminate against certain classes of people who receive social assistance. According to the minister, a swarm of single males from British Columbia arrived last summer and pushed social assistance costs through the roof, but he refuses to provide one single scrap of evidence to support his case. Why? Probably because he canít.
Will the minister now admit that his plan to cut social assistance rates for single males in the summer is based on ideology, not statistical evidence?
Speaker:Before the minister answers, the Chair is not entirely comfortable with the terminology, "yarn he is spinning". The implication is that the member is not telling the truth, and whether somebody said it before or not, I happened to notice it this time, so I would ask the member not to use it and Iíll do the same with it next time.
Minister of Health and Social Services, go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. If raising rates for one category is discriminating, then I guess our government is discriminating. That is the way the member opposite is interpreting it, because what we are doing is raising rates across the categories that have demonstrated a need, and that rate increase is for the following groups: the handicapped, single parents and two-parent families. Thatís where weíre act on this initiative, Mr. Speaker. There was a balloon in SA payments last summer to single males, 40 years of age and under, with employable skills.
Mr. Hardy: The minister admits his department keeps stats, but he refuses to release figures from a year ago to prove his case. Why? Because he canít. The minister says he wonít give out these figures because they could identify individuals ó the spinning wheel is working overtime, Mr. Speaker. The minister forgets that people on this side of the House have been in government. We know how those stats are recorded. They donít identify individuals.
Will the minister stop stalling and provide the numbers he has used to justify cutting back social assistance rates for single males, and if he canít, will he drop his plans for this attack on a single category of people in need?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Single category: last year, 158, $488,265 paid out in that category, and 91.8 percent were employable.
Single females: $150,473, and 68.8 were employable.
Then it goes on and on.
We stand by the position we took, Mr. Speaker, that there was a bubble last summer that is clear evidence the month of arrival in the Yukon usually coincided with about the middle of May and some of them subsequently went on to become Yukoners. Most of them were off the SA payments after 3.9 monthsí average of collecting SA payments.
Mr. Hardy: One rate in the summer, a different rate in the winter ó thatís what has already been proposed. One rate for males, a different rate for females; one rate for people from B.C., a different rate for Yukon residents ó if that isnít discrimination, I donít know what is.
The minister has made it very clear what he thinks of certain people. They smoke cigarettes; they drink beer and they pay their cable bills. How dare he, Mr. Speaker? How dare he make those kinds of statements about these people? I can understand why itís an affront to this minister that they do pay their bills.
Now the question: is the minister planning to begin his discriminatory attack on transient males this summer, or will he first get a ruling from the federal government about the legality of what he has in mind?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is referring to the social union framework agreement óSUFA ó mobility. Weíre well within the purview of this federal legislation, Mr. Speaker. Iím going to table for the member opposite the caseload, arrival date in Yukon and the application date. It clearly identifies the number of months that SA was collected by single males ó it was 3.9 ó and for females, it was 3.9 months. It clearly identifies the month of arrival.
Iíd be happy to share that with the member opposite. It clearly supports the position of our department that there was a big bubble last summer caused by single, unemployable individuals moving to the Yukon. We had to budget by way of supplementary budget an additional $1 million, and this member opposite voted against that money.
Question re: Pardon disclosure requirements for employees
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The Government of Yukon has several policies for how it deals with its 3,000 employees plus. One of those policies concerns security clearance checks for new employees. The Yukon Party government recently changed this policy. The government is now asking potential new employees to disclose if they have ever been pardoned for certain criminal offences, and this new rule came into effect March 30. Itís now a requirement for some members of the public service to disclose if they have been pardoned before they can go to work for Yukoners.
The policy would only make sense if the same rules applied to absolutely everyone, including members who hold the highest office in this Legislature and members of the public service who find themselves in our classrooms on occasion as substitute teachers.
Does the Yukon Party government plan to extend this policy to everyone?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Iíd like to thank the member opposite for that question. I would be the first to say that this government has the utmost respect for everybody who works for the government and that definitely everybody will be treated with respect.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I asked a specific question, not about the respect shown but about a change in policy. The Yukon Party government has changed the policy for government workers. The government may now require workers to disclose whether or not they have received a pardon for certain offences before they are hired.
Now, the minister has not answered the question, because this new policy does not apply equally to everyone. Why does the government have one set of rules for people who work for the government and another set of rules for people who may find themselves occasionally working for the government, like substitute teachers, or who find themselves in the Legislature? This is a double standard. Now, will the minister commit that this policy will be examined and it will be applied to everyone equally?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, what I could share with the member opposite is that in the case that the member stated with regard to public schools, of course the government is going to take every precaution to ensure that the safety of the children is paramount, and it will continue to be that way.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue, and it is of concern to everyone. There is also the larger issue about how the government creates public policy. Public policy must be fair; it must be equal; and it must apply to everyone. Will the minister commit that there will not be one set of rules for people who find themselves potentially employed by the government where theyíre required to disclose a pardon for some criminal offences, and the policy may not apply to others? Will the minister look at that policy and ensure that it applies fairly and equally to everyone?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would have to start by saying that I believe the collective agreement would certainly address this issue if it were happening. I donít believe that unfair treatment would be accepted by the collective agreement or by the deputy minister. To the best of my knowledge, there is no unfair treatment of anyone working in this government.
Question re: Septic facility upgrades
Mr. McRobb: My question today is for the Minister of Community Services. The need to upgrade septic facilities to comply with modern health regulations poses a severe financial challenge to many Yukoners. For instance, I know of several highway lodge operators and other small business people who are facing hardship ó even closure ó because of this governmentís hard-nosed approach. Small business is the backbone of the territoryís economy, and highway lodges have been a lifeline for travellers for decades. What does this minister have to offer to the operators of our highway lodges and small businesses across the territory to help upgrade their septic systems to his government standards?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the area of septic fields in the Yukon comes under the Department of Health and Social Services, the guidelines for septic fields has not changed. The inspection service has not changed. It is still consistent with what it has been for a number of years. There have been some highway lodges ó we are aware of three in the memberís riding, and I donít want to identify them ó that have had difficulties. One was closed for a period of time. When they reopened, their septic field was frozen and they had difficulties with it leaching out onto the surface. There have been others that have gone through an expansion, and during that expansion they used open pit or basically a cesspool, which is not permitted here in the Yukon.
Now I know the member wants to ensure full compliance with health and safety regulations in this area, and that is what the department is doing. We are working on it in a cooperative manner. The department officials are working with the lodges in question.
Mr. McRobb: I did not hear any suggestions from the minister on how this government is working to help those people.
We have an opportunity in the next few days in this Legislature to help those people with this problem. The Community Services minister is sponsoring Bill No. 45, Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, in this sitting. His amendment allows the government to finance the cost of wells or other sources of potable water and to recover that outlay through a charge levied against the property ownerís taxes. Amortizing the cost over several years makes it affordable for the property owner. We have a golden opportunity before us to further amend the same bill to also provide financing to those who need to upgrade their septic systems.
Will the minister consider bringing in the necessary amendment to achieve that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The regulations in this area are enforced by the department. With respect to the issue that the member opposite is speaking to, it only pertains to private residential properties. This is a commercial property that is being referred to and commercial properties are full-cost recovery.
Mr. McRobb: So what? Itís time for this government to be creative and proactive to Yukonersí needs.
The Member for Klondike is trying to speak for everybody on that side of the House. We can tell from his expensive bridge in this budget that dominates the capital spending, but we need to hear from the minister sponsoring the bill.
Weíre not suggesting this government needs to fund the program right away. Letís go to step one first and pave the way in the legislation to accommodate it at some future point. We further suggest a septic upgrade program give priority to small businesses facing closure due to this governmentís health regulations.
If the Minister of Community Services wonít amend his own amendment to his bill, will he at least support one introduced by the official opposition?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue of regulations and enforcement of those regulations under the Public Health and Safety Act are consistent across the Yukon. There have been problems identified in the memberís riding, Mr. Speaker, but this is the first time the initiative suggested is being put forward, and it stems from a constituent raising it with the member opposite. Weíre well aware of this, but I can assure the member opposite that the Department of Health and Social Services has been consistent in the requirements for adequate septic fields in the Yukon. It has been consistent in its method of inspection. And when there has been a problem, the department has gone the extra mile. The officials in the department have gone the extra mile to work with the owners to achieve a solution.
Question re: Canada Winter Games Host Society
Mr. Cardiff:My question is for the Minister of Community Services or his designate. The minister recently participated in meetings in Quebec discussing sport, recreation and fitness in Canada. In fact, he had a meeting with the federal Minister of Sport and Revenue, the man with the money. It is reported that the minister is confident heís going to bring home millions of dollars from Ottawa. How much of that new money will be earmarked for facilities or activities in nearby communities such as Haines Junction, Teslin, Carcross or Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I met with the ministers responsible for sport and recreation in Canada. I also did meet with Minister Stan Keyes, who is also the Minister of Revenue, and we had some discussions with regard to funding aspects as they relate to the Canada Winter Games Host Society. That particular aspect is what the member opposite is discovering. We had some negotiation. We had no actual commitment of real funding. We had commitment that he would look at the funding formula that was provided under Canada Winter Games, and he would be getting back to me shortly.
Mr. Cardiff: We recognize that this is a City of Whitehorse event and that theyíre hosting it, but there has been a huge investment of Yukon taxpayersí dollars as well as money from the federal government. Organizers of the event expect surrounding communities to attend to the games and to volunteer at the games.
But some communities are feeling left out and theyíre feeling disappointed. Part of the pitch to get Yukon people on board with bringing the games to Whitehorse was that all communities in the Yukon would benefit. All communities were promised tangible benefits as a result of the games. Did the minister bring that message forward to the federal minister?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I was speaking with the federal minister on a specific item as it relates to the $4 million under Canada Winter Games in funding for the host society. The host society is responsible for putting on the games. Theyíre responsible for the administration of those games being placed here in Whitehorse. They are making every effort to incorporate all the communities locally and to garner whatever support and/or assistance they can provide in putting in the most successful games ever.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister speaks for all communities in the Yukon when heís wearing his hat as Minister of Community Services or the minister responsible for sport, and he needs to bring forward the message of all communities. There are many opportunities for rural Yukon to participate in the Canada Winter Games, such as coaching, cultural exchanges, community visits, speaking engagements ó those are just a few.
Many communities would love to host world-class athletes at events in their communities. Will the minister make a commitment in the House here today that all communities throughout the Yukon will receive their share of the positive benefits that the 2007 Canada Winter Games are going to bring?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That is what the host committee is working on ó that particular aspect, that whole aspect in there. Through sport and rec, our department is looking during the decade of sport at providing additional coaching aspects for our athletes and our coaching through our rural areas throughout the Yukon. Thatís assisting with the coaching in our area as well as developing our athletes to get ready and prepare for 2007 and ultimately, possibly, 2010 at the Olympic Games. But the aspect is that we are working together on the coaching. Weíre working together with our athletes and weíre trying to develop so that we can put on the best show for our local audience.
Question re: Dawson City chief administrative officer
Mr. Hardy:Now once again this has been quite a week. Once again the answers and non-answers from that side of the House have changed from day to day. I donít expect weíll ever get a consistent story from the Minister of Health and Social Services, so let me turn to the Minister of Community Services. Will the minister confirm that the interim town manager of Dawson City is moving out of his hotel room today and into the house that the town provides for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite well knows that the trustee has indicated that the CAO will be out of the hotel this Thursday ó as of today ó and he will be in the facility next week when he comes to work, and thatís even if he has to live in his camper.
Mr. Hardy: Way to treat this guy after giving him the royal treatment over at the Eldorado.
Itís good to see that the insolvent town of Dawson City isnít going to be running up even more debt under its new management from the other side of the House. That still does not address the problem of this minister. Just like his colleague from the Klondike, he keeps changing his story. First it was that the house needed renovations. Then it needed a paint job. Then it was about furniture. Will the minister now set the record straight about why the interim chief administrative officer was living in the hotel owned by the Member for Klondike instead of the house provided for that purpose by the taxpayers of Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Hart: On several occasions Iíve discussed this particular situation with the member opposite. We are in the process of trying to locate furniture. The issue of whether he stayed at the Eldorado ó that is where the individual found the facilities he was looking for that would accommodate his stay there on that particular issue. Thatís his prerogative. He has also dealt with the trustee as far as dealing with the situation heís in today, at the member oppositeís request, and we will be moving in there even if we have to put beds on the floor to accommodate this particular issue. The trustee is making this accommodation, and we hope to have that settled by early next week.
Mr. Hardy: I thank the minister for that response. However, we wouldnít have so much trouble getting straight answers in this House if the Premier would take some responsibility for the ministers, but the Premier has to lead by example, Mr. Speaker. How many times do we have to listen to the Premier say that his ministers answer questions but we just donít like the answers? Every time we ask a question, weíre told by the Premier that we donít like the answers but they are answering them. Thatís not the case.
How gullible does the Premier think the Yukon people are? Theyíre listening, Mr. Speaker. If the Premier spent less time giving patronizing lectures in this House and picking fights with the media outside this House, he might be able to attend to business better, and I recommend right now that he starts attending to the business within his own caucus, because there are serious problems.
Will the Premier now instruct his ministers that they should give open, factual and relevant answers to the people of the Yukon when theyíre asked questions in this House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think when it comes to gullibility, we should refer to the members opposite. How gullible do they think Yukoners are? What theyíre suggesting is that a person moving into Dawson City would be moving into a house thatís not ready to be lived in. What do they expect? For him to nail a tarp to the side of the wall and live under the tarp? The person in question needed facilities ó cooking facilities for his needs. The only place available in Dawson City at the time, while the house was being made ready for living in, was a hotel in the City of Dawson. The individual stayed there.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, our ministers do answer the questions, day in and day out. The pages of Hansard will reflect that. Again I point out that the members opposite do not like the answers because thereís no political gain in the facts. They need the rhetoric, not the government side.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. Weíll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee today is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue on with Vote 53, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, general debate.
Bill No. 10 ó First Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó continued
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Lang:Iíd like to introduce Fred Carmichael and Norman Snowshoe from Gwichíin Development Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to further our debate that we started on Tuesday of last week. What I would like to do is define how weíre working with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project. From the questions I got from the members opposite Iím not quite sure theyíre clear on what weíve done in the last year and a half, and Iíd like to go over a few points here before we start the actual line-by-line debate.
This government has taken a very active role by preparing ourselves to be an effective intervenor in any National Energy Board hearing on northern pipelines.
Mr. Chair, we have developed an overview of the National Energy Boardís regulatory approval process and a general strategy to ensure that there will be access to market for our natural gas.
This government is working cooperatively with the Yukon explorers group, which is composed of Devon Canada Corporation, Chevron Canada Resources, Hunt Oil Company of Canada and, of course, Northern Cross, to complete a northern Yukon pipeline assessment. This work will provide us with valuable background information for Yukonís intervention at a National Energy Board hearing on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. We have also been working with the Yukon explorers group to collectively promote the potential natural gas reserves and to ensure that the Yukonís gas potential is identified and placed on the Mackenzie Valley producers groupís radar screen ó another job that we have done in the last 12 months. This government is working to ensure that the Yukon is able to maximize opportunities that will arise from northern oil and gas development and from both pipeline projects.
In order to ensure that the Yukon maximizes its opportunities with the Alaska Highway pipeline, we have been working on a pipeline strategy that will address the respective benefits and disadvantages of the two alternatives.
This will allow us, in conjunction with First Nations, to make informal decisions concerning the project. This government concluded a subagreement on oil and gas with the Northwest Territories government, which provides a basis for a cooperative approach on northern pipelines and reciprocal access to jobs and business opportunities flowing from northern oil and gas development.
It has been interesting to see the interest that has been shown in the Alaska Highway pipeline project by the major pipeline companies in North America, as evidence by the flurry of applications for the Alaska Stranded Gas Development Act. This Yukon government welcomes the formation of the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition as this very large construction project will offer many opportunities as well as challenges to Yukoners and Yukon First Nations. We will be developing a protocol with the pipeline coalition in order to work jointly with First Nations in anticipation of the Alaska Highway pipeline. As well, this government is looking at setting up a Yukon pipeline secretariat to maximize Yukonís coordination and efficiency of operations for the Alaska Highway pipeline.
This government has committed $130,000 to the pipeline coalition for 2004-05. More support is required from Canada to allow First Nations to do this important work. Government and key representatives of the coalition travelled to Ottawa in early April to seek financial support from the federal government, similar to the support given to the Aboriginal Pipeline Group in the Northwest Territories. Industry has also expressed a willingness to support this very important work.
As you can see, we are preparing and have not let down our efforts to advance the Alaska Highway pipeline project and to ensure Yukonís interests are represented in the Mackenzie Valley project. We are preparing Yukoners to take advantage of the job and business opportunities that will arise from the pipeline construction and operation as well as the northís emerging oil and gas industry.
In this case, we have been supporting efforts to help train Yukoners for jobs in the oil and gas field, such as offering petroleum industry training services, or PITS, certified courses through Yukon College. These training standards ensure employers that employees have received a high quality and common standard of training in both the skills and safety required to perform their duties.
We are working to ensure we are prepared and ready to regulate an Alaska Highway pipeline project if it is announced. We continue to support an approach that recognizes the assessment and review work done previously on the Alaska Highway pipeline project and which respects the valid authorization in place. If a Yukon greenfield route is proposed, we would support an approach that is as streamlined as possible.
This government is clarifying the environment and regulatory processes needed to properly review and approve this large construction project. Let me assure you that we will be prepared for either scenario in the event the detailed pipeline proposal is tabled by industry.
In other words, Mr. Chair, we are taking care of our oil and gas pipeline division of Yukon. Weíre involving Yukoners on every level. Weíre working in full partnership with First Nations and, at the end of the day, Iím very confident weíll be ready for whatever pipeline emerges in the future.
Mr. McRobb: Iím looking forward to completing debate with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources on this department. Although we would like to spend a lot more time dealing with the very important issues that are under his purview, we are limited of course because of the cap on the number of days in the sitting. Hopefully by later this afternoon, weíll progress from this department into Highways and Public Works.
Of course the leader of the third party has questions, as do some of my colleagues.
Within that framework, Mr. Chair, I hope to deal with a number of issues. Energy, Mines and Resources is responsible for a number of big-ticket items, if you will, with regard to energy issues, and I hope to touch on some of them this afternoon. For example, I think we need to touch on the governmentís energy policy; grid extensions is another area; the Watson Lake cogenerator we hear this government is working on, but so far they havenít given us much information on it. We have some questions about that, and a couple of other areas are coal-bed methane and coal-fired electrical generation. What about wind turbines? Thatís something else I hope to ask the minister about.
In the category of mining, I hope to ask him about the subsidies to the large mining industry in the territory.
Itís a question we all have in this Legislature, and I think itís time for the government to fess up on what exactly those costs are. Also, we want to certainly give our support to the placer mining industry in its ongoing discussions about new regulations from the federal government.
In the area of resources, there are a number of issues. First of all, as the member has already raised, the Alaska Highway gas pipeline is a matter of significant interest to people across the territory, especially those along the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline corridor.
Weíve already discussed a number of issues, and I hope to resume where we left off.
I also want to ask him about gas distribution ó the Whitehorse proposal has been under discussion ó and ask him about the ability of other communities to tap into a pipeline should it occur. In the area of exploration, I hope to touch on seismic and oil and gas nominations in the territory. Dealing with regulations for the oil and gas industry, this is an area I hope to question the minister on. Why doesnít the territory yet have regulations for this important industry?
In the area of lands, we need to know more about the roads to resources proposal from this government, and in the area of agriculture, what land parcels heís looking at opening up. What about facilities like the portable abattoir? Whatís being done to promote organic farming, et cetera? So there are a number of issues to deal with. There are more here as well, but weíll see how far we get with the time allowed this afternoon.
But I would like to resume within the Alaska Highway pipeline issues we were discussing on Tuesday. I put on the record what was my understanding about a study that was done, some due diligence that was done, by an outfit from Texas by the name of Fluor Daniels. I described for the minister how Fluor Daniels sent personnel to the Yukon to scout out the options for logistics and transportation of the pipe throughout the territory. Apparently these people concluded that the port of Skagway was too congested to be used as an incoming port for the pipe, and they recommended that the pipe instead be routed through the port of Haines, Alaska. Now, further to that, thereís a big marshalling yard proposed in the Haines Junction area where the pipe would be dropped and redistributed for about the 1,000-kilometre section of the Alaska Highway that goes through the Yukon. That section of highway obviously extends from Watson Lake to Beaver Creek.
When I questioned the minister on this, he didnít seem to know too much about it, and that was rather disappointing. In the two days since that discussion, I hope he has had the opportunity to be briefed and Iím hoping he can provide more in the way of information today. It was rather disappointing to see the minister go off in his answer talking about some bottleneck in Haines Junction, as if that was my concern. Any bottleneck is in the mind of the minister. It was not something I suggested at all. Hopefully we will deal with the issues before us and not some fantasy bottleneck the minister has dreamt up.
The minister likes to say that this government is pipeline-ready, and thatís the latest buzzword ó "pipeline-ready" ó but we have to question whether thatís mere rhetoric or whether itís substantiated by the actions of this government.
Iíll give you an example. If the main incoming port for the distribution of pipe is Haines, Alaska, then why arenít we building a weigh station in Haines Junction? Thatís a good question. There was an existing weigh station in Haines Junction, Mr. Chair, but this Yukon Party government has reduced its budget from about $250,000 a year down to practically nothing. So instead of preparing the infrastructure and facilities to meet the highway traffic necessary for the construction of the pipeline, the government is going in the other direction. Itís reducing the infrastructure we need, not increasing it.
Furthermore, the government is building a big, expensive new weigh station in Watson Lake. Well, if the pipe isnít being trucked up the Alaska Highway, Mr. Chair, then what good is this expensive facility in Watson Lake? How is that being pipeline-ready? Obviously, itís not. So again, the buzzwords from the government about how itís pipeline-ready are mere rhetoric.
Also in terms of budget priorities, we have to question the expensive $50-million bridge at Dawson City. How is that getting pipeline-ready? Well, if we saw all the other elements needed to become pipeline-ready properly addressed, and if the funding were there to accommodate an expensive pet project in Dawson City for the Member for Klondike, then, okay, it would be another matter; however, that is not the case. There are all kinds of projects and facilities needed in this territory to become fully pipeline-ready, starting with training of workers, Mr. Chair.
Iíve identified weigh scales as an item, or will we see the deterioration of our highways? You know, on Tuesday afternoon, there was identified something in the neighbourhood of 38,000 truckloads of pipe required to distribute the sections throughout the Yukon portion of the pipeline ó 38,000 truckloads ó and thatís if they can fit two pipes on each truck. Thatís a lot of pipe and thatís a lot of traffic, and thatís a lot of deterioration of our highway system.
We have to enforce the regulations we have or some government down the road will be stuck with a huge repair bill for our highways, and thatís not right.
Mr. Chair, it has also been raised as a concern to me, as Highways critic ó and I hope to get to that point with the Highways minister ó the need to upgrade the Alaska Highway to accommodate the additional traffic. Iím not talking about a few extra vehicles or a few more Winnebagos here. Weíre talking about 38,000 truckloads, and these are huge trucks, going through the Yukon. This government needs to ask itself what impact that traffic will have on our territory and on our transportation system. This government needs to follow up and ask itself what upgrades it needs to do in order to contend with that huge increase in traffic.
I know people in the transportation industry who have told members of this government, to no avail, about how they see the need to upgrade some passing lanes on some of the hills, put in more rest stops, pullover lanes and so on, right from Watson Lake to Beaver Creek, in order to become pipeline-ready.
Thereís nothing in this governmentís budget to accommodate that. Weíve heard no statement from the government that itís looking at that. Instead we see portions of the back road, the Campbell Highway, between Watson Lake and Faro being upgraded. We see a huge project in Dawson City, the $50-million bridge, but we donít see passing lanes on the main Alaska Highway. This is a serious matter because we can look at projections of statistics that examine the probability of fatality in relation to highway traffic and, in particular, heavy commercial traffic. With the number of curves and hills and dips in our highway corridor, itís likely that any such analysis would predict a fair number of casualties on Yukon roads during the time period of heavy commercial traffic on our highway system hauling pipe for the pipeline.
Now itís easy for a government to ignore this problem because essentially itís down the road and it becomes somebody elseís problem, but I encourage the members on the opposite side to be responsible and think about those future Yukoners and future visitors, whomever they might be, and consider what is incumbent on this government to do, and that is to have an outlook for the future to make our highways safer.
Itís a simple matter to address. This government does not need to proceed with a $50-million bridge in Dawson City. It can do the right thing: amend this budget and apply some of that money toward upgrading the Alaska Highway.
As a matter of fact, why not make it the start of a multi-year program to do exactly that? Weíre not expecting passing lanes and pullovers accomplished in the next year or two. Within the next five years would be fine, but that work needs to start right away. And there is one area in the budget that can be trimmed down to pay for it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, pursuant to Standing Order 19(l), the member opposite is whining.
Chair:Order please. There is no point of order, and raising the comment ó
Order. Itís entirely inappropriate for a member to raise such a point of order. As well as being insulting, it leads to the deterioration of conduct in this House, and I would ask all members to rise above that.
Mr. McRobb, please continue.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I certainly agree; we need to raise the bar of civility in this Legislature.
We know the Member for Klondike is feeling a little sensitive about his expensive pet project and its repercussions to people across the territory, because it will set back their priorities for years.
Mr. Chair, it has robbed the ability of this government to deal with other priorities, such as upgrading the Alaska Highway to become pipeline-ready. We can understand why heís a little sensitive, Mr. Chair, but maybe he should have thought of this before he arm-wrestled everybody at the Cabinet table when the budget was developed. Maybe he should have thought about it a little sooner.
Itís not too late. The term "death-bed repentance" comes to mind when looking across the way. This government has the ability to introduce an amendment to its budget, one we would support. Letís divert some of that $50 million to where it should be going to become pipeline-ready. Is that something this minister would support?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I hope for the sake of the gallery that they come away with a better light on this today than I have at the moment.
I want to remind everybody in the House that we were elected by the Yukon to represent Yukon and to be the board of directors for the Yukon government and the budget. My budget here is Energy, Mines and Resources. If the members opposite are serious about going through the budget, which the Yukon people elected us to do ó all of us in this House, opposition to critique and look at it, to look at line items that are questionable. When I hear the conversation this afternoon, I donít think the opposition is serious about looking at our budget, Mr. Chair.
We have put together a budget of $705 million for this year. We arenít even halfway through that budget and we have seven days left out of a 30-day sitting. Is the opposition ready to address the budget or not?
From my side of the House and from where Iím sitting as a director of the government, I donít think theyíre sincere. When I bring my budget for Energy, Mines and Resources forward, and Iím answering questions about a bridge in Dawson ó which the member opposite puts a price on and pulls things out of the air; talks about widening the road in north Alaska, which isnít in my portfolio; talks about where the pipe is going to come from ó if you look back in history, Mr. Chair, I imagine the pipeline will be built much the way the Alaska Highway was built ó geographically.
Theyíll look at Skagway, theyíll look at Haines, theyíll look at Fairbanks, theyíll look at Dawson Creek. And how we get the products into the Yukon? Iím going to leave that up to the pipeline people to figure out. Itís not my job to manage the building of that large pipeline. My job is within the Yukon to work with Yukoners to progress and be ready when the pipeline ó whatever pipeline ó comes down within our borders.
So for me to stand here as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and to debate the fact that the Dawson City bridge is going to cost X amount of dollars or X amount of dollars, or that we arenít pipeline-ready, I say to you that in 16 months weíve gone a massive way forward to consolidate our situation not only on the Alaska Highway pipeline but working with Northwest Territories on possibilities of participating in that pipeline, not only through companies but through our First Nations and through individuals.
Then training ó we certainly are concerned about the training because the training to work on these kinds of projects is very extensive. Itís extensive from all sorts of avenues. Itís not only a very physical job ó most of the jobs are very physical ó but thereís also a process where they do checks and balances, drug checks, liquor. All of these things that pertain to working around a pipeline or drilling rig are going to be a big part of the people who are going to work.
So what did we do about that? Well, weíre working with the Department of Education. That would be an appropriate thing to handle that. The Department of Education, through the university, through our College, our very capable College, through the petroleum industry training services, are putting people out there to be trained so that when the time comes for the action to happen in the Yukon, we hope to have a corps of workers who are able and willing to go to work, not only to work on the pipeline but hopefully at that time to be part of the training team to bring our youth on line so that they can participate in the pipeline.
We want everybody in the Yukon to be very conscious that we are working hard to make sure thereís maximum input from Yukoners. Now, thatís First Nations, other Yukoners and our industries, our companies.
So we are getting to the point where weíre comfortable that weíre moving in the right direction.
Now, as far as wasting time ó like the governments of the past, when you questioned the arrangement with Northwest Territories, who was going to go first and who was going to do all these things, and that we were sort of racing against Northwest Territories on who was going to build a pipeline ó well, I tell you today, this government realizes there are going to be two pipelines, so why would we waste our time competing with Northwest Territories when we could join in partnership with them north of 60, put our people to work, our companies to work, and benefit from both pipelines?
Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, if Mackenzie Valley pipelines goes through ó which, from all the background I have at the moment, it will ó we will be taking advantage of that pipeline for our northern gas and petroleum products. So we have a big obligation to north Yukon to make sure that they arenít blocked out of the pipeline. We have partnerships with the government; we have partnerships with aboriginal groups to make sure that we can benefit from north-of-60 production. Now that, in turn, is reversible. They are going to participate on our pipeline, as good neighbours should, as good Canadians should. So to say that we are not educating our youth is not right. To say that weíre not taking advantage of all the reports that come our way ó and the report he talks about was a report commissioned by the producers to give some economic study to the pipeline ó is not true. We are looking at the Alaska Highway pipeline strategy, which will address the respective benefits and disadvantages of the two alternatives. This will allow us, in conjunction with First Nations, to make informed decisions concerning the project.
So, Mr. Chair, what weíre doing is taking all the reports, putting the strategy together and itís going to come to us, and weíre going to sit down and address the strategy. We have only been in office for 18 months. When we arrived here ó before devolution, by the way ó we had a lot of work to do and Iím very proud of the people who work in my department and work with me to make Energy, Mines and Resources what it is today. We absorbed a big part of DIAND when we did this.
Mr. Chair, Iíd like to report in the House that it was a success. We have a very active department, a very motivated department and a very active department. You understand that, with all the regulations, whether weíre in oil and gas, agriculture, mining, or all these other issues we address on a daily basis, we have Yukoners making those decisions ó Yukoners, not somebody in Ottawa. Theyíre made here in Whitehorse. Made-in-Whitehorse decisions for Yukoners.
Our job is not done. This job is an ongoing job. When the member opposite talks about oil and gas and the lack of work that has been done by the department, I say to him he hasnít done his homework ó again, coming to the House unprepared, not enough work done, not enough background and he tends to embarrass himself because of the lack of work.
So, Mr. Chair, in his question ó I donít know what the question was. Was it about the double lane of the highway? Was it the bridge? A lot of things he asks I think heíll probably save for the Minister of Highways ó I hope ó and I canít answer some of those questions. But I can tell you, Mr. Chair, and I can tell this House that Energy, Mines and Resources is a very tight part of this government and is probably moving very fast to being in a situation where we will be masters in our own house. In other words, weíre going to have regulations in place for forestry; weíre going to do the oil and gas; weíre looking at mining.
When our government came into power here a year and a half ago, within 10 days the placer authorization came down ó the decision by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, which was a very devastating thing for our industry. But for every bad thing that happens, at the end of the day some good can come out of it.
It was a really interesting situation in the fact that we had industry, which was devastated; we had First Nations who worked in the industry, who were devastated; we had a government that had just started, and we had a Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who had made a decision.
Ministers of the Crown in Ottawa very rarely go back on decisions. Good or bad, Iím not sure, but theyíre not big on losing face, and that decision was a very small decision for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to make. That was a very small decision, because whom did it involve? It involved a few miners in B.C. and of course the Yukon, because we are really the only placer operators in Canada. So we were a little area in Canada. They were having problems right across Canada: east-shore fishery, the west-coast fishery, so the minister made a decision. When we got our governments together ó meaning the Council of Yukon First Nations and territorial government ó with industry, we went to Ottawa and addressed the issue in a very controlled way ó in other words we didnít go and burn down the office ó and pointed out to the Minister of Fisheries that he had made a mistake; this was not a right decision. He made it on the back of a bad decision. Two weeks ago we were received in the office of the new Minister of Department of Fisheries and Oceans who told us ó told me and the Grand Chief ó that what we worked out with them was a template of how governments could work with industries and fisheries and at the end of the road have an efficient balance between fish and fish habitat and industry.
So, Mr. Chair, that was a success story. So what did we learn from that? What did we learn from this experience? We learned that, first of all, you get more with sugar than you do with salt. Second of all, if we solve our problems in Yukon and go to Ottawa, we get received. In other words, First Nations and the Government of Yukon get together and go to Ottawa as a united front, they listen, and weíre received very well. So it was a good learning experience, and it certainly was a growing experience for our government of the day.
So are we a government that isnít doing anything? As he said, we could go on for days on the things weíve done in 16 months. We could talk for three days on forestry and all the work weíve been doing in forestry. We could talk for a week on the mining issues. There is a very interesting partnership between the Kaska Mineral Corporation and Teck Cominco doing an expansive study of the R block down in southeast Yukon, potentially a very successful, hopefully, partnership and, in turn, maybe a very big mine. So thatís on the horizon. We have a situation where we have people on the ground there now from Ross River. Theyíre taking an active part in the work that is being done on the R block at the moment. So today we have people working and we have industry. The Kaska mining industry has people on the ground working in southeast Yukon. So 16 months ago, that wasnít happening. That only happened because we, in partnership with the First Nations, went to work and worked outside of the box.
So in agriculture ó he was going to ask questions in agriculture. I could spend days on agriculture. We have certainly worked with the federal government. We had been invited and we are actively working as a partner across Canada. We are a full partner at the federal table, so when we go, we sit at the table with all the other agricultural ministers in Canada. So we participate in all the programming that we can with our small jurisdiction, so we are an active part of the planning of the overall agricultural industry in Canada.
With that kind of participation ó and again Iíd like to thank our staff at the agriculture branch, who have aggressively grown into that situation over the years so that we are equal partners, and that is quite a compliment to Yukon. That is not the same for our two other territories. Our department has been very aggressive at trying to get to the table, address our issues and work within the framework the federal government puts in place so that we can benefit from any kind of resources the federal government has at its disposal, and so we get a share of those resources.
Recently we signed on to a program with Canada that will trigger $270,000 a year for the next three years, which will be worked within by the producers and the agriculture branch to modernize and work with our industry to improve it health-wise, and all these other issues that come out of agriculture will benefit in the next three years ó all the producers and the department ó so we can grow within this industry.
We have potential here in agriculture, which is quite interesting, because of the nature of it and also the perception out there that we donít have an agriculture industry, and that of course, Mr. Chair, is not true. We have a very active agricultural industry, and Iíd like to remind the member opposite, because he asked about agriculture, that he should take a few moments out of his busy day and talk to people in the agriculture branch and see how positive it is and how the industry is growing within the Yukon.
There are all sorts of things you can talk about. The forestry issue is a large issue in the Yukon. When we assumed office here 16 months ago, there was no forestry in the Yukon. The last wood that was released in southeast Yukon was in 2001. The last government actively worked at closing down the forestry, and I have to say they were successful.
The last government actively worked at closing down forestry, and I have to say they were successful, closing down the industry in southeast Yukon with their policies and their lack of communication and their lack of participation or the seriousness of the industry for southeast Yukon. So we did enter into a partnership with the Kaska. We have been working very hard with the Kaska to get some wood out. Today, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to ó that the wood is going flow this summer. And weíre going to work positively on another block of wood ó interim wood, Mr. Chair ó so that we can jump-start this forest industry and get people back in the field and people back working.
Again, I think that in living in Whitehorse we forget the fact that there are other communities in Yukon. I myself lived in Watson Lake for 25 years. I understand the importance of the forest industry to Watson and to the people living in Watson. We have looked at many avenues on how a proactive government ó not like the last government ó would look at Watson Lake being a productive partner in the economy of the Yukon ó in other words, contribute to the economy. I think itís important that thatís the attitude we take in all our communities, and hopefully ó
Chair: Two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to close on that note.
Mr. McRobb: Well, wasnít that something, Mr. Chair. Perhaps the reason weíre only halfway through the budget is that some of the ministers across the way ó including this one in particular ó insist on giving 20-minute responses to very simple questions. If this continues, weíre not likely to clear this department come closing day in this House. So I would urge the minister and his colleagues to shorten up their answers and try to respond to the question, which, by the way, was ignored by the minister. I merely asked him if he would support an amendment to the budget to make the Yukon pipeline-ready rather than spending the money on the Dawson bridge, but he didnít even talk about that.
He was too lost in his answer. He was all over the map, and before I move on, I want to comment on some of what he said. He talks about how he is proactive. Well, this government is not proactive. Itís barely reactive. Itís governing through the rear-view mirror. If this government doesnít understand what plans and logistics are being prepared for the pipeline, it will be too late to react once those plans become known ó too late with the delay in the budgeting process. In our system, the government needs to stay on top of these issues, identify them in advance, and act soon enough to allow them to materialize when theyíre needed. This minister is lost in that regard ó completely lost.
He says heís working hard getting maximum input from Yukoners. Mr. Chair, there are all kinds of issues that make a mockery of that statement. Where is the government in terms of getting feedback on coal-bed methane development or many of the other important issues? Itís not doing it. Where is this government on getting feedback on the Dawson bridge? Well, they didnít even ask Yukoners if they wanted a bridge; they just ambushed Yukoners with a bridge.
The only embarrassing thing in this Legislature this afternoon is trying to follow the logic in what the minister is saying. It simply doesnít add up, and he goes on to proclaim that we should be masters in our own house. Heís a master in his own house, all right, Mr. Chair. Just refer back to his comments during the Whitehorse Correctional Centre motion, and youíll find that out.
Mr. Chair, we need to be more concise, and we need to cooperate in here. We can arm-wrestle all afternoon, but it wonít serve the public need very well.
So Iím going to keep my questions short and snappy and I request that he keep his answers likewise.
There was a big announcement earlier this week that Enbridge Inc. has filed an application with the Alaska state government to build its section of the pipeline. Does the minister have any comments on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it interesting that one minute we donít give enough information and the next minute we give too much and that weíre dragging out the process. Weíre on to, I think, seven days left. Is that correct, Mr. Chair? And weíre here under the direction of the opposition in our budgets.
Again, weíre not talking about Energy, Mines and Resources on that last question; weíre talking about an application to the Alaska Stranded Oil Development Act in Alaska. Thatís one of three. Those decisions are going to be made in Alaska. We certainly hope that those decisions are made in a timely fashion, but we have not at any point made an application for the stranded gas in Alaska. Enbridge made an application. Shortly after, TransCanada made an application. MidAmerican made an application and withdrew it.
I think where weíre getting off the track with the opposition and with the limited knowledge ó I think what weíre trying to do is give them too much information and maybe in a way that we donít communicate well because weíre working on different levels. But what is important in our government here is that we have to deal and work with the cards weíre dealt.
Another thing is that we have to fight the battles we can win. There is such a thing as asking, "Why would you fight a battle that we couldnít win before we even came out of the gate?" So as the member opposite rambled on about different structures in the Yukon, different crises that this government is going to meet in the future and, as he says, weíre governing through the rear-view mirror, which couldnít be any more wrong ó but, again, his job is to put misinformation out and my job is to give you facts.
Chair:Order please. The member knows full well that the comments he just made are out of order. I would again ask the member to retract that statement and to continue on debate that is consistent withÖ
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ö the Standing Orders of our Assembly.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang:Thank you, Mr. Chair. Moving along on the budget speech or to talk on my budget ó
Chair: Order please. Prior to moving on in debate, Iím asking the member to retract the statement he made.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I thought I did, Mr. Chair. I retract the statement I made.
Chair: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Moving along with the debate on Energy, Mines and Resources, I think itís important to understand that this department is a new department, really, because we probably took over three-quarters of our responsibilities last year in April, so itís not a department that has been up and running for any length of time. Weíve had 16 months and, of course, with the issues the member opposite talks about ó the Alaska Highway pipeline ó and how we, somehow in the conversation, are not taking advantage of all the input weíre getting to make these kinds of regulatory decisions, or any decisions, on the pipeline, and thatís why, to correct the member opposite, weíre putting that Alaska Highway pipeline strategy thing together so that we will have all that encompassed in the strategy to see where the next steps are, Mr. Chair.
The next steps are ahead of us. The producers in Alaska, the pipeline people, the governments in Ottawa, the governments in Washington and the State of Alaska have all sorts of responsibilities pertaining to this pipeline, and Iím going to leave them to do their jobs and make those decisions. We will work with Ottawa. We will work with the First Nations. We are not immune from the decisions that are made in Washington; we do not ignore the process in Washington, D.C. We have people in place. If we need some input somewhere, we certainly are proactive. Weíre working very positively for all Yukoners to make this pipeline as successful as we can, understanding that there are benefits to a pipeline. There are also downsides.
So thatís why we have put $130,000 of territorial government money toward the aboriginal pipeline committee. We sincerely feel that they have a big part to play in this pipeline, and by having this group together, they can take the task of doing that aspect of the pipeline as a group. That will take some pressure off our government, because, again, they are governments and they are willing to take the responsibility of the aboriginal participation, whether itís crossing their traditional territory, whatís going to happen with the aboriginal pipeline groups outside of the pipeline route, how they are going to participate. So we as a government took $130,000 and committed to that. And then, to be more aggressive, we went down because of the decision the federal government made on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline ó they funded the Aboriginal Pipeline Group from the N.W.T. to look over the same issues that our group has to look over ó and we worked with the aboriginal group and went down and put a proposal in front of the Minister of Northern Affairs and Energy Canada. So weíve done our work. And I think that we will aggressively work with the aboriginal pipeline committee to make sure that the funding is in place, that they move ahead on this project, and that they work toward a common goal.
The Yukon territorial government and aboriginal governments are working together to minimize the impact that this pipeline will have on our territory. As far as access to the pipeline, the Northern Pipeline Act, which is the Foothills proposal ó if it is in fact the proposal that goes forward ó a lot of those issues are worked in that so that the Foothills concept is that there is room for access, putting fuel in and taking fuel out. All those issues are addressed. Of course, that was in 1977, so a lot of that stuff has to be modernized and moved ahead because dollars have changed and values have changed over the last 30 years. There are a lot of issues to be done.
I agree with the member opposite that we havenít done everything on the pipeline. We certainly havenít, but we have done a lot. I say, as far as the pipeline is concerned, Mr. Chair, as you see the pipeline grow on the horizon, you will see a lot more work being done. As the pipeline goes through our communities, there will still be work to be done. That work will probably never cease, because when the pipeline is actually through our communities, there are going to be issues of access. How are we going to utilize it from a point of view of marketing our product? How are we going to access it for use in our communities? All those issues are going to be addressed with us, I imagine, and the First Nations on how weíre going to handle the product within our borders. Those are all issues that are going to be worked out in the future.
But I say to you that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is very thinly staffed in the sense that we have a lot to do with very few people, and we maximize the workforce we have to not only think ahead on the pipelines ó whether itís Mackenzie Valley or Alaska ó but also other issues, disposition in north Yukon, the No. 4 disposition going ahead very positively. I think the disposition is going to be May 11, and we will see what the nominations are like for the No. 4 disposition in north Yukon.
If I read the waters right, Mr. Chair, it seems thereís a lot of interest in the north. As the Mackenzie pipeline grows on the horizon over in the Mackenzie Valley, we have more and more interest in our resources on our side of the border.
Are we doing our homework? Certainly weíre doing our homework. Weíre working in a positive light with industry, aboriginal pipeline groups and the pipeline people themselves.
We certainly work on these issues and I think that probably, as we go down and address the problems with our highways ó and we put $50 million, if Iím not mistaken, into highway work this year. We as a small government have a limited budget but, as we work with the producers and they see needs ó like the member opposite is talking about Haines Junction and the issue of yards and about the highway access and access to the ocean in that area. We have Skagway; we have a railroad there. We have all sorts of issues that I imagine will be put in front of us and we will be asked to participate, in whatever fashion we can, with the limited resources we have.
But we are not going to conquer those situations today. We are going to deal with the cards that are dealt to us today. There is no Alaska Highway pipeline right now being built. The Mackenzie Valley pipeline is going through its licensing process. What weíre doing now is working to get Yukoners ready for the inevitable pipeline that might come down the Alaska Highway in the future.
Again, weíre not hanging our hat totally on any one of the pipelines. Thatís why weíre very concerned about our forestry industry, weíre concerned about mining and weíre concerned about other industries out there that could create some wealth for Yukoners. We have training programs that we have built into the mining community; we have training programs that weíve built into the oil and gas, the forest industry ó weíre working very actively with the First Nations, not only with the Kaska but weíve signed an accord with Champagne-Aishihik on addressing the issues they have with their beetle kill.
So, are we not doing our job?
I think we are, and I think in 16 months we have done a massive job in our department, both to absorb what we did from DIAND in the head count and to move forward with our departments in a very client-friendly way and at the same time do all the backup work required when you take over these departments. Itís not as if you open up one day and all of a sudden you have a department. Thatís not how it works. You have to face the customer, yes, because the office opens at 9:00 in the morning, but also you have to sort out the issues that are behind you and the challenges that are behind you to bring those departments into line in the Yukon government. So that, plus client service plus the influx of exploration we had ó last year we almost tripled the amount of exploration work from the year before. So not only did we have that influx of industry, but we also had to manage it and we had to manage the department.
So what have we done in 16 months? Well, we have done a massive job in 16 months. This government, Energy, Mines and Resources, has taken on the task of regulating type II mines, forestry, all of these other issues out there, and we have been successful. Iíd like to report that it has been successful.
We are getting input from both First Nations and clients and industry and Yukoners on how well weíre doing. Now, again, it is not a job done but running a department in any government is a job in progress. The only thing in life weíre guaranteed is change, and our government is flexible and we work with change and we move forward.
When the member opposite talks about methane, coal methane gas, we got that on April 1 of last year. We are in the process of working with regulations, looking at other areas, other jurisdictions on how they handle that issue. We are a long way from coal methane gas regulations. But we canít ignore them. So again, weíre flexible, weíre working with it and weíre working forward so that one day ó itís not going to happen tomorrow ó we will have a coal methane gas regulation in place for Yukoners and Yukoners will be involved in making those regulations.
Certainly the First Nations will be involved. The First Nations with traditional use areas will be involved. We will look at this thing with a very businesslike, ecological, economical view of the situation. I donít know how I can say more clearly for the members opposite that in 16 months weíve gone light years ahead of where we were when we started. And I look forward to the next 16 months, because if we progress as well as we have done in the past, we will be light years ahead.
Mr. Chair, as is the nature of the party we belong to ó and, again, we have a conflict with the members opposite on our platform ó we have a platform to create wealth for the community out there. We have a commitment that weíre going to work positively to the point where Yukoners can be a net contributor to Canada. Eighty-five percent of the dollars we spend in this House come from Ottawa. I think that maybe what we have to look at, because we have a rich piece of real estate here, is becoming a net benefit to all Canadians. We look forward to that day, but we have to do that with economic development.
I know thatís not what the opposition wants to hear, but at one point in the game, we are going to have to have our economic development house in order so that we can balance between environment and economic development to come up with a workable plan to create wealth inside our borders.
We have many ways to do that. Our government has looked at the film industry. The film industry is very successful in that way. You know, when you have people like Robin Williams arrive ó and I know that the member opposite says it was a mistake because Winnipeg ran out of snow ó but they were here. The simple fact that he walked downtown in Whitehorse and looked around and went back to Hollywood and took the news that the ó
Chair:The Chair appreciates that there is some latitude given to members in general debate on a department; however, the Chair is failing to see the connection between film and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Iíd ask the member to continue on in debate and to direct his comments and answers to the matter at hand.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I apologize if I got off track a bit.
Itís my understanding that the member opposite in his last question was talking about a bridge in Dawson, which really didnít have much to do with my department either. So what Iím saying is that we are talking about a philosophy here, and the mandate we as a government gave Energy, Mines and Resources, was to create a resource-based industry that balances between environment and industry so that these small communities could have some economic development to sustain them through these hard times.
I mean weíve got a situation in Mayo with United Keno Hill. We were very proactive on that. We took United Keno Hill in partnership with the federal government and the First Nation, and we took the step. The federal government put it into receivership so that at the end of the day we can find who owns the mine. All those issues are out there. I guess in my short answer here this afternoon ó because of the things our department has done in the government, we could stand up here and probably talk for five hours, but being a fair man I think that the member opposite should get an opportunity to ask another question.
Mr. McRobb: Again this minister continues to deploy the strategy of wasting the time in order to limit the questions the opposition can ask. We have a limited period of time in which to go through this budget, and I appealed to the minister to use some sensible cooperation and try to shorten the answers. My question was about Enbridge; instead we heard all kinds of issues not related to the question.
This government must be scared of questions we can ask; thatís why itís limiting debate. Now itís time for these people across the way to be held accountable. Let us ask the questions; let them give the answers, but letís try to avoid these big, lengthy rambling answers. This is no time for this minister or any other to stand up and try to hone their speech-making abilities. This is basically a question-and-answer session. I have several questions to ask, and if the minister insists on giving 20-minute answers, well, time will run out with only a few more being asked, and thatís not fair.
I want to ask him now about the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition formed in the territory. Last September he took credit for forming the group. Unfortunately, recently he backed away from taking credit for the formation of the group and realized that the group did, indeed, form on its own.
Iíve asked him questions in Question Period about when the three First Nations who arenít part of the coalition will be brought in, and he has been unable to provide us with an answer.
Mr. Chair, this is a concern, because we have to get our ducks lined up in the Yukon to be ready for this huge proposal. One minute the minister is taking credit for forming the group; the next minute heís saying he has no control whatsoever over how it functions and in getting the outstanding members to be a part of it.
I would like to ask him for his concise response on what heís doing to bring that group up to its full complement.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to correct the member opposite. Itís called the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. Thatís the legal name of it, at the moment.
That, of course, is nine First Nations who will be directly affected by the pipeline, if and when it comes through.
The member opposite is talking about the three observer First Nations, so there are six signed on and three observers. Those are the Teslin Tlingit Council, Carcross-Tagish First Nation and the Kluane First Nation. They are considered observers. I understand the Carcross-Tagish First Nation has been working through its land claim issues and the Teslin Tlingit ó all of these members have sent people there to be observers.
Again, weíre looking at the group getting together and starting, so the process is up and running. Theyíve hired a coordinator. Thereís some office space being rented so they get location. At that point, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I understand that the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is a stand-alone group.
The nine First Nations ó or the six that are signed on or the three observers ó are running the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. The territorial government is not. The territorial government funded it to $130,000 and is certainly working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to get the resources from Canada that they need to work with this thing so they can put a three-year plan together and come out the other end being an effective group when it comes to debating the issues of the Alaska Highway pipeline.
In answering his question, we certainly are, as much as we can as a government, working with the group. But again, they are an independent group from us. They have internal issues that theyíre working with. I met their coordinator ó a very effective young woman who is working with them to move this thing ahead. I think Iím very optimistic that this group is determined to become a very effective part of the bargaining relationship where it pertains to the pipeline.
This is a good-news story. Itís good news certainly for the aboriginal groups out there, and itís good news for industry and the producers, because we are again, as a government, encouraging our Yukoners to get ready for a pipeline, and part of that is the aboriginal component, which is going to be very important for whatever pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for his level of cooperation in shortening up his answer. I would like to ask about the TransCanada Pipelinesí announcement recently to explore ownership options for the proposed pipeline with American First Nations. The minister will recall the question I asked him a couple weeks ago about whether similar opportunities will be opened for Yukon First Nations. I would like to ask him what heís doing to achieve that goal.
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have to remember that in a lot of the things we as government tend to be the big brother in situations. I think we have to be very clear on this: this is an aboriginal question about participation and ownership. I imagine that TransCanada, being the company it is with the past it has working with aboriginal pipeline groups, in whatever deal is made on the Alaskan side or the B.C. side, will be a Yukon thing. As a government, we encourage TransCanada, get out there, get in front, work with the aboriginal group and in turn if we can be some help ó again, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is formed to work with these issues. Certainly we, as another level of government, will help as we are asked to help. But as far as driving the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, thatís not in my mandate. They, the nine First Nations, are working together to get this thing up and running and to answer those questions from whatever pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway. Again, we donít know what pipeline is going to come down the Alaska Highway.
We as a government are encouraging all Yukoners to understand that one day there will be a pipeline down the Alaska Highway, but whether it happens next year or 10 years from now, we have a lot of work to do in this department. As we work with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and they accept that responsibility, this government is going to let them do their job and Iím very pleased to report to the House that theyíre very capable of doing that job. So I think the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is in good hands. I encourage TransCanada to work with them. I encourage Enbridge to work with them. I encourage BP to work with them. I encourage Coneco-Phillips, I encourage Exxon, all of these issues.
Because, Mr. Chair, you understand that, at the end of the day when these decisions are made, the nine First Nations that are in the route ó now thatís the Alaska Highway pipe. That could be change if itís a different route. They have to be addressed individually. They are all governments. This Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition is covering those and itís going to be a conduit, but when this pipeline comes down, all of those governments are going to have to be individually addressed. So as far as a partnership, whatever, equity ownership, all of these issues have to be decided between them, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, or the independent governments, and certainly the pipeline owners, so we at that point encourage people to get together and get these things resolved so we can get ahead and go and proceed with a pipeline.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister about the Whitehorse gas distribution franchise. Whatís the latest with respect to the public hearings on that proposal?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That has been withdrawn, so that question is not on the radar screen at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: I understood the Yukon Development Corporation put up an amount of money for the hearing process. I seem to recollect it was something in the neighbourhood of $750,000. Can the minister indicate how much of that money was actually spent for this purpose?
Hon. Mr. Lang: With it being withdrawn, next to none of that money was spent, Mr. Chair ó on the decision to withdraw the application.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I want to ask about access to the pipeline, should it be built, by other communities. This is an important question throughout the territory. I did have an opportunity to ask his officials during the briefing about it, and I would like to commend one official in particular who works in this area. He has an extremely high level of knowledge about it. I would just like to hear it from the minister, on the record.
First of all, what opportunities will be provided to the communities along the route to access the gas from the pipe? We donít need him to recite from the original treaty, because we know a number of communities were identified and were promised access to the gas, should a pipeline be built. What Iím looking for, Mr. Chair, is an answer that really tells us whether itís economically feasible for any one of the communities to actually tap into that pipeline. Could he give us a response to that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I certainly would commit that we are certainly concerned about access for both the consumer and for economic reasons. So those are the decisions that are going to have to come out of whatever route is proposed and whatever route is successful with their application. That certainly is one of the issues concerning our government and the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. We certainly will be asking those kinds of questions. It certainly has to be economically feasible to do it, or why would we do it? One of the components of any pipeline coming through the Yukon will be access to that resource. Also if, in fact, we have gas of our own, what kind of a deal can we make to put gas into the system?
So I thank the member opposite for the question. It certainly is one of the things that we would be working on, because why wouldnít we, if we are the government when this pipeline comes through? We should be very conscious of the fact that we need access to the resource for independent house owners and for industry, and how does that happen? You know, you have to distribute the gas. So those are all issues that we have to work on in our communities; we have to work with the pipeline groups, and Iím certain the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition will be very interested in this issue too.
Mr. McRobb: I believe I heard the minister say it will be decided based on whatever route is chosen for the pipeline. Perhaps he can clarify for us, Mr. Chair, exactly what process will be used to determine whether communities can tap into this basically unlimited supply of energy? What is the process that will be used for that?
For instance, will it be a process between the developer and the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, or will the government be involved? Will there be an opportunity for the public to get involved and perhaps municipalities along the route could become involved?
Iím sincerely unclear as to the process for this matter to be decided and would request the minister to shed some light on it.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To make it a little clearer for the member opposite, the federal government ó the NEB would also be involved in these kinds of issues. I appreciate the question. I appreciate the sincerity of the question. Itís a very important question for us. We have a corporation called Yukon Development Corporation, we have the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, we have ourselves as a government, we have the producer, we have the NEB to make some of these decisions. So we are certainly going to be very active on that file and, as we move along, weíll report back to the House on how these policies unfold.
I canít see any pipeline going through Yukon that doesnít address those questions. I think we have to be very astute when weíre dealing with these kinds of questions because, of course, weíre dealing with multi-size companies, whether itís TransCanada or whether itís Enbridge, or whatever company comes through. We have to be prepared to deal and, of course, our partner being the NEB ó the federal government ó and, of course, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, at the end of the day it has to be part of the deal.
So I commit to this House to make sure itís a high priority and that we work very positively with the federal government, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and our territorial government to come through with a Yukon-made plan on how we can all benefit from access to the pipeline, whether weíre putting gas in or taking gas out.
Now, the efficiency of it or the price of it, all those questions have to be dealt with. Remember, weíre a very small jurisdiction.
So theyíre going to use that against us because, of course, if you were to access gas for ó letís say Champagne ó you know, those are all the kinds of issues that weíre going to have to look at and rationalize and come up with some kind of plan for, a master plan. I guess, at the end of the day, itís no different from we do with hydro. We move it around the territory. But the question is: who is going to move it around the territory? At what cost? And we have to get access to the pipeline at a specific cost so that if weíre putting our gas in it ó itís all very well for somebody to say, "We have access so put your gas in, but weíre going to charge you $4 whatever when it hits the border." Well itís not finally economically feasible to do it. So all of those issues have to be addressed.
I appreciate the question and the sincerity of the question and we have it in front of us. Weíll be dealing with it as the years go on or the months go on. And as these announcements unfold and we get closer to the actual people who will be dealing with it, which is out of our jurisdiction, out of our control, at that point we will have to go to work with either Enbridge, that American company, or TransCanada to come up with a rational way that we will have access to the gas. We will have access not only to taking gas out of it but putting gas in because the deal we make the first day is the deal thatís going to be there for 30, 40, 50 years. So when we make a deal we also have to be conscious that something might happen in a hundred years and we might have to have access to that pipeline, and if we donít make a deal at the beginning of the pipeline, things change. So we are very concerned about it. We are working toward trying to resolve some of those questions, but at the moment they are just questions.
Mr. McRobb: I agree with the minister that this is an important issue to practically every Yukoner, especially those who live in the communities along the route.
While the minister may have good intentions about working to ultimately resolve this challenge, we would like to know a little more about it long before then.
I couldnít help but note he was briefed by the official. There is no doubt this knowledge does exist among his officials in the department. Perhaps there is another way to deal with this. Would the minister respond to the question more exactly through a legislative return? Would he agree to do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Can the member opposite clarify more precisely what he is requesting?
Mr. McRobb: My question dealt with clarity regarding the process that would be used to decide whether communities get access and whether itís economical access to energy from the pipe. I realize, Mr. Chair, itís a complex matter and one that might require some discussion. Thatís why Iím putting on record Iím quite willing to accept a legislative return on this.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I guess in answering the question, a legislative return would be one way of doing it. But again, I remind the member opposite that we are working on this. Certainly we will give him what we have. Again, Mr. Chair, I say to you that itís a work in progress, and there are some issues there that are going to be addressed down the road. But as far as access to the line, we can give you a vague outline of how we perceive this thing going forward. Of course, itís not written in stone, so we will give you what we have, but understand that it is a work in progress and that it isnít written in stone.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair, and I commend the minister for his cooperation.
I want to ask about the office of the Northern Pipeline Agency. Yukoners have been promised that this office would be here by now. Can the minister give us an update on it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I join you with my concern about the NPA. We have been working with Ottawa in trying to get them committed. First of all, getting Ottawa to commit to the NPA has been a job and that hasnít been done. When that happens, if it falls on that side, we certainly expect an office here in Whitehorse, but until such time as thatís accepted by Ottawa, we see that this office will not materialize until the day that is decided. If the federal government of the day decides that thatís the route theyíre going to go, we will definitely expect an office here in Whitehorse and we will work very solidly toward that.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask the minister about oil and gas nominations. Currently there is a call for bids for the north Yukon Peel Plateau, I believe it is. Can the minister give us an update on what the timelines are and how many bids are in the works for that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Nominations close on May 11, so itís very soon.
Mr. McRobb: All right, weíll look forward to that deadline in pursuant announcements next week. We note that there has been a drop in interest in nomination bids in nearby jurisdictions ó Alaska and Northwest Territories ó and even in the Yukon to an extent. There havenít been companies lining up in any sort of competition for these bids. We hear the minister talk about rallying support, when in Calgary and so on, from the oil companies. How many bids does he expect to receive on this call?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are optimistic that there will be the bids out there. To give any figures would be just that; it wouldnít be appropriate. We have to understand that this was very frontier gas that had no pipe to it, so any of the dispositions weíve done in the past in north Yukon have been just that: frontier gas.
We have had interest. We have corporations up there that have the dispositions in place, but now with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline growing on the horizon, there has been more interest. As that pipeline becomes more and more of a reality, I think weíre going to see not only more people interested but of course then the bids will go up as the corporations understand that theyíre going to have access to that pipeline, and itís going to be of financial benefit for them to explore that area. So as far as the number on May 11, I canít give you a number. All I know is that there seems to be an interest and I very optimistically look forward to a few corporations taking advantage of the nomination.
Mr. McRobb: If these nominations lead to development proposals, will the minister assure Yukoners that land use planning would first occur before the development of any activity related to oil and gas in those areas?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the member opposite, we certainly encourage land planning. Part of land planning is these dispositions. Thatís all part of managing land in north Yukon. We are working toward the land planning for north Yukon. The land planning group has gotten together and itís called the working group for Peel, so thatís proceeding as well as the disposition.
Land planning is part of the overall view of north Yukon in that specific area, and these dispositions are part of that.
Mr. McRobb: I might have to follow up on that one at a later date. Another question that I asked the minister previously dealt with the need to submit plans for seismic work with the agencies in order to get their feedback on the plans.
Thereís really nothing to lose here. The agencies do it as a regular course of their business. Not a lot of time is required. Itís the safe way to go because some of the agencies might identify how impacts can be avoided, and so on.
We know that the work Iím referring to occurred along a highway corridor that is exempt from the need to file any such plans with agencies.
So what Iím asking the minister is if he would consider requiring the filing of plans with the agencies, even along highway corridors, in order to assure Yukoners that any impacts will be mitigated and considered before the activity happens. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Since my tenure in office here, Mr. Chair, we had the seismic work that was done around Carmacks on the highway corridor, but we certainly worked with the First Nation. And at that point, because of the capacity of the First Nation on the workload that they had, there was some postponement on that program. Certainly the information from that program is public information. So once it is done, it will come back to us, the Yukon government, and certainly to the First Nation whose traditional area the highway ran through. So both governments will be privy to the information, and we certainly, as it moves forward ó to be honest with you, Iím not sure the master plan of that. I understand that there was some work done in years past on the Campbell Highway, and this is a federal government initiative. It certainly improves our science. Itís important for Canada. But we certainly work with locals and with the First Nations to make sure that it minimizes any impact on the local community.
So hopefully the process will move forward. Iím not quite sure where the next phase is. Certainly I will be updated on that ó I imagine when it starts ó but I think the concept was to do all of the Yukon. I think the Eagle Plains area was done at one point. So I think there is a master plan there, and Iím really not privy to that information at the moment. I imagine I can find it. But to be honest with the member opposite, I really donít know the next step on this. But I certainly will take it under advisement and update him when that comes available.
Mr. McRobb: Iím struggling to coordinate that response to the question. I didnít ask for the master plan of seismic work. What I asked for was whether the minister would consider requiring the filing of plans to do seismic work with the relevant agencies ahead of when the work is done in order to provide an opportunity for those agencies to give their expert opinion on the plans back to the proponent and the government in order that we have an opportunity to address concerns and potential impact from that opportunity. Thatís what Iím asking about: the filing of plans with agencies. Would he consider requiring that along highway corridors, which are currently exempt from environmental regulation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly can take that under advisement, work with the department and ask those pertinent questions.
Mr. McRobb: Iím not quite sure if asking questions of the department will achieve what Iím after. Itís the minister who makes this decision. Itís the responsibility of the political level of government to make decisions like this. I donít think somebody in the department is going to make a decision like this without at least a nod and a wink from the minister. Iím asking him if he would be willing to consider this request.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Obviously the member opposite has never worked in a government. We certainly work with our department at all levels. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources works very collectively with the Energy, Mines and Resources department. We have a team of 240 members in that department.
All of them have been working in unison to make Energy, Mines and Resources the top-notch department it is today. The member opposite thinks the minister can make these kinds of decisions without input from his department, but thatís not the way our government runs the department.
What I say to the member opposite is exactly what I said to him a minute ago in answer to his last question: I will take that under advisement; I will talk to my department, and I will see what our mandate is on these kinds of issues. Thatís how this minister runs his department.
Mr. McRobb: Iím sort of okay with that, Mr. Chair. I would like to ask the minister if heís in support of it, but I donít think Iím going to get a definite answer. Itís all right for him to discuss it with the officials, but we need to know what comes out of that. Mr. Chair, would the minister agree to come back with a legislative return covering what materializes from his discussions with his officials on this matter? Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer to that is no. I understand that I have to stand up here and answer questions from the opposition, but I also have to understand what the mandate is of my department. A lot of that information is out there, and my department has a lot of work to do on a daily basis to manage the department. I say, in my wisdom, that wouldnít be a wise way to spend my departmentís time at the moment.
Iím going to take this under advisement. Iíll look at the mandate of my department and Iíll move forward. Thatís how this government operates; we work in unison with our departments. We hopefully donít put too big a task on our department, because the department is working under a lot of pressure with all the issues the member opposite is bringing forward.
And I want to maximize their day to be productive for the Yukon taxpayer. I feel that thatís not a productive way to use my department.
Mr. McRobb: We can wait until we hear back from the minister on this.
I want to ask him about the oil and gas regulations. We couldnít help but notice that there has been not much activity in this area since this government has been here. For instance, the drilling projection regulations are still in draft form and have been since July 1999. The royalty regulations have been in draft format since October 1999. The geoscience exploration regulations have been in draft format since March 2001, as are the licence administration regulations.
Now, if the minister is indeed keen on oil and gas activity, he should be equally as keen on ensuring there is a good regulation regime in place. We have to develop the regulations to avoid this tiger getting away on us. We know the Yukon has a lot of potential in this area, and if the door gets opened up before we have the regulation framework in place, then there are going to be all kinds of bad precedents set and possibly court cases that we just canít afford. So I want to ask the minister: what are his timelines for developing and completing the oil and gas regulations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It gives me great honour to report to the member opposite that the Yukon government and First Nations are currently working to finalize three new regulations this spring: the licensing administration regulation, number one; geoscience exploration regulation, number two; and the drilling and production regulation, number three. Yukon, this government, is planning to enact these regulations in the year 2004.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for the briefing note.
The member mentioned three of the four regulations I did. The one he did not mention was the licence administration regulations. Will this also be completed before the end of this year?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the member opposite asking these questions because the department has been very active on the questions that he just addressed to the House.
Iíd like to go through a couple of them. On legislation, the Oil and Gas Act of course has been completed and enacted. This is sort of like a report card for the House: regulations transfer, completed and enacted; dispositions, completed and enacted; licensing administration, being finalized, and it will be done probably within 60 to 90 days; geoscience exploration, finalized 2004; drilling and production, finalized 2004; royalties, in progress; pipeline, in progress; gas processing, not started yet. So of all of these, this government has moved ahead on these issues and these are unfolding as we sit in the House here today. So the oil and gas division, the regulations, legislation, are in good hands. We are moving ahead very aggressively with it. I have to compliment my staff. They have been working at this very diligently over the last period and weíre seeing the end of the tunnel.
Mr. McRobb: Well, letís hope that light isnít a train.
Thereís no doubt that the staff in this department are excellent in terms of their knowledge and their drive to develop this industry.
I want to ask him who will be regulating the industry. Will it be his department, or will it be the Department of Environment? Can he tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís a very generic question. To answer it properly, I would say we would probably license about 90 percent of it. There are other issues; there are water licences and all sorts of environment questions that would be regulated by other departments. I perceive that Energy, Mines and Resources would handle 80 percent to 90 percent of the regulations.
Mr. McRobb: Iím wondering why itís not the Environment department that regulates the industry. After all, isnít it that department that regulates the licensing with respect to the type II mines and so on? Iím just wondering what the difference is between the two industries.
Hon. Mr. Lang: We regulate a lot ourselves through the Quartz Mining Act. Again, in the mining community ó if you want a percentage ó we regulate probably 80 percent to 90 percent of that too. Environment is certainly a big part of the management of our resources but, in the mining portfolio and the oil and gas, this department would regulate probably 80 percent to 90 percent in the mining community, and thatís done under the Quartz Mining Act.
Environment is a big part of the type II sites, because of the environmental implications of the situation we found ourselves in devolution. As industry moves ahead, we will be regulating oil and gas and the mining community through regulations and working with Environment to make sure we work in unison when these economic opportunities come forward.
Mr. McRobb: I think this is an important matter that really deserves some discussion with Yukoners. I say that because we want to try to make the right decision from the outset. If it turns out a few years down the road that a mistake was made here and a lot of money was wasted and we have regrets with respect to environmental damage, then the interests of the public certainly wonít be served.
We want to ensure we have a fair and respectful regulatory regime for this industry and we want to make sure that Yukoners get maximum bang for their buck. We donít want to see wastage; we want to see efficiency as well. Iím not sure if those objectives can be achieved by using this department as the regulator for the oil and gas industry. Now, Iím just lobbing that out there; Iím not absolutely cemented in this decision. I am open to change. Perhaps the minister can enlighten me, but it seems that thereís an opportunity to use officials already within the Environment department whose responsibilities are geared strictly to enforcement, and thereís a cost-saving attached to that. So I would like to ask the minister if he has examined potential cost-savings and what has he concluded.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the question, understanding that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources does regulate the industry. We have a very highly qualified regulatory department ó itís called client service ó regulating the industries that we oversee. We certainly work in conjunction with Environment but we are a very capable department. We have a large, very efficient, very well-educated client-service base, so we are covering all the bases that the member opposite is talking about. We are doing it in-house ó in other words, in Energy, Mines and Resources.
Regarding questions about environment, we work with the Department of Environment, but I think the member opposite does an injustice in the House, questioning the Energy, Mines and Resources and its client service and inspection branch. You know, they provide a modern environmental monitoring and regulatory inspection program based on information, education, encouragement and enforcement. Thatís our job. Thatís what the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources does. The insinuation or the question from the member opposite about how we shouldnít somehow be involved in the client service business and we should give it to another department as a check and balance of our department ó in other words, to police our department ó that would just be duplicating what we already have now.
I have to take exception to the comment that we donít have that kind of expertise in our department, that our department is not a fair, honest inspection branch based on education. Whether itís in forestry or mining, these people are qualified. They live in the communities. They work for Energy, Mines and Resources, and they have, in the past, done an exceptional job, and to complicate it by insinuating or by changing the process from what it is now with only what I say as the minister and as privy to how the department runs would only complicate it. Weíre trying to use the words "client service inspections". "Client" meaning client ó the individual or the company or corporation thatís out there. We want a client-friendly service of inspections to monitor the specific ó whether itís forestry, mining. We want a relationship between the individual and government, and I think weíve done that.
In the past, weíve had issues on that when the federal government did it, whether it was DFO or another department. Again complimenting the men and women who work in my department, this client service and inspection agency is very highly qualified. And, as it unfolds and as we work ourselves into the many industries we oversee, I think they will do a good job for Yukon and all Yukoners. At the end of the day, weíre going to do the job weíre assigned to do ó regulating industries and resource-based corporations in Yukon. To mix it up with Environment would be a folly. It wouldnít be management; it would be divorcing ourselves from our responsibility as a department to manage the resources in a very practical and fair way ó fair for us ó understanding that our client service and inspectors have a responsibility to all Yukoners to make sure the clients ó the people out in the field, whether itís a corporation or individual ó live up to our high standards.
In the future, if the member opposite thinks thereís somehow a conflict, I canít see the conflict. I think itís an integral part of Energy, Mines and Resources that we do these things. I think it will unfold and be very successful, understanding that weíre working our way into this. There have been training programs going on with our inspectors to make sure theyíre up to date on all issues pertaining to the department. I would eventually like to see a department full of very flexible inspectors who could go out and work in forestry in one turn, go back, and so they have a mish-mash of capabilities and are challenged in their job and so, if you call an inspector out, heís capable and educated to answer questions out there in the field on issues that the department has and in which all our inspectors are trained ó an overall view of how Energy, Mines and Resources expects our resource industries to monitor our resources and protect Yukoners, as well as work well with industry and individuals.
The member opposite is off track on this. Obviously, again, he has not given us the time to prove ourselves. I think the department will prove that this client service inspection thing will certainly be a positive thing for our department ó understanding that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is a tight little group of individuals. I think itís a very well run department. If you were working with an overview of all the government, I would say this is the pristine service in the territorial government.
I think the client service and inspection group are highly qualified, highly motivated and highly thought of in the Yukon. I think that mentality theyíre going out with now will expand into all the industries and in time will show rewards for us as a society ó with those kinds of qualified workers out there, their flexibility, the training they have and their background. Weíre not ignoring the training programs; we have things in place so they can be motivated; they can be trained; they can be flexible. I think thatís where weíre going as the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, understanding weíre a small department and that we have a big responsibility for the overview of the Yukon. It is a task.
I appreciate the fact that the member opposite worries about Energy, Mines and Resources and the inspection agency, which is a big part of it, and that there could be a conflict. I say there that isnít a conflict at the moment and I canít perceive a conflict in the future. We are a regulatory department and certainly we have interaction with Environment, but to create the checks and balances that he perceives we need would only complicate Energy, Mines and Resources and put an unfair burden on Environment, because they themselves have a responsibility to the Yukon in many fields. So as a regulatory department, an intricate part of us is a client service and inspections. We have people in place; theyíre highly trained, highly motivated and theyíre out in the field as we speak.
They work for Energy, Mines and Resources. They answer to the department, and they work with the industries out there that fall under Energy, Mines and Resources.
So the member opposite believes in more checks and balances, understanding that I believe, as an elected member, that the less complicated a government department is in the eyes of the people out there, the better the department is. And I think thatís where we cross swords, Mr. Chair ó that do we want more government, or do we want less government? Do we want an inspector to arrive one day from Energy, Mines and Resources? Do we want an inspector from Department of Fisheries and Oceans to arrive one day and then Environment the next day? Do we want to complicate Yukonersí lives? Or do we want to consolidate our inspection and the client service into a very rugged, well-informed, well-educated group to do the job that Energy, Mines and Resources has set out in mandate to do? Or do we want to complicate it for every Joe Blow on the street and make it the perception to industry out there that it would be complicated. They certainly wouldnít have the quality of client service inspectors in Environment that we have in Energy, Mines and Resources ó heaven forbid, Mr. Chair. That would not happen. So we, being Energy, Mines and Resources, have gone out. Weíre working with the men and women we have in the field. Weíre educating them. Weíre very proactive on this. There is a way to go, Mr. Chair. There is a way to go in all of our departments, but I think Energy, Mines and Resources in 16 months has gone a long way.
So, in closing, Mr. Chair, on the question of the member opposite, if he would like to hear it, I would say to you that there are no plans of complicating Energy, Mines and Resources to have checks and balances on ourselves. We have a client service and inspection agency that is up and running and very effective and protecting Yukoners from follies that might be out there in the industries that we monitor.
So this is a good-news service and I thank the member opposite for giving me the opportunity to talk about my client service inspections because we forget about these people. Theyíre out doing their job. So to have a moment to tell you about how superb this group of people is gives me a great honour as the minister.
Mr. McRobb: I think the minister had a bit of a relapse there and we got what was more of a speech again when we were making such wonderful progress. I think we need to remind ourselves that we do need to make progress. I think he drew a little too much out of my question and went into another area that raises questions, but I think thatís best left for another day.
I want to turn now to the lands part of his department, specifically agriculture, and ask him what agricultural land parcels heís considering opening up. Now, I know he mentioned the Haines Junction lots, and Mayo and Carmacks. He hasnít said anything about the Mendenhall agricultural reserve. Can he give us an update on opening land parcels?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, the agriculture branch is an intricate part of my portfolio, and of course itís a growing part of my portfolio. We have an initial development concept for the Haines Junction area. This concept will be put forward for public consultation in March 2004. What happened to the ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Pardon?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Oh, Iím sorry. I just was surprised not to see him; I thought he fell under his desk. Medical attention.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, again weíre talking about the agriculture branch again. I hate to repeat myself but we have been working with certain communities on the agricultural portfolio.
Last year, in 2003, 13 agricultural land titles were issued. Weíve looked at different parts of the Yukon through an agricultural process that prioritizes what land is out there that we can benefit from agriculturally. In other words, our agriculture branch, with the science end of things, is going out and looking at ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: As he mentions, looking at Mayo, Stewart River ó all these issues are out there. Weíre not inventorying land, per se, but bringing ourselves up to date on what land is out there and what is agriculturally friendly and, when they come into our department, directing our customer base to look at these areas if theyíre interested in agriculture.
Now that we have the Mayo-Dawson line, thereís access to that power line that makes that area very beneficial for agriculture in the sense that they would have access to power. At one time, the Stewart Valley was probably one of the richer areas for agricultural land in the Yukon. Not being an agricultural person, I found that quite amazing but, between the sunlight and the soil on the river bottom, it really fed most of Dawson City during the turn of the century.
We have the interest in that area from individuals expanding their agricultural leases and also buying new or trying to acquire property. We are actively working on the file. We understand the sensitivity of agriculture and also the burden the agricultural industry has in Yukon because of our small population and our infrastructure cost. Itís quite an expensive endeavour for people.
But I appreciate the fact that these young people, these individuals who go out and go on to the land, are what, if you were to look into history ó these people, these farms will be here for generations. And these people are the pioneers in the territory for agriculture.
So I appreciate the fact there is a lot of experimenting going on in different crops, different animal base, all of these things are out there. But I appreciate the fact that the agriculture branch is very proactive in working with the industry to not only raise money so that we can answer some of their financial questions, but also to give them the advice through our department through the agriculture branch on the science we have at our disposal and work with them hands-on to make sure that they minimize the mistakes that can be made when you do start a farm.
So there is a lot to be done. I really compliment the department for their proactive way of working with the general public and the industry to make sure that we move ahead in a very positive, progressive way to see, at the end of the day, successful farms out there. There are successful farms. Most of them, I would say, Mr. Chair, are hobby farms. A lot of the people work off the farm, especially the farms around Whitehorse, but they are working on the farms. So those farms are improving every year. There is more land opened up. There is more treatment of the land. So this is a growing thing, and the people who do work on the land have quite a task ahead of them.
As far as inventory of land, weíve got the Mendenhall property that was a carry-over from the federal government. That was a concept. There was that question about the Haines Junction area. We certainly have public input when any land goes out. We certainly work with the local First Nations to make sure that all of this is compatible with how they see the world unfolding.
We have had great cooperation from First Nations. They have been proactive on this.
I say to the member opposite that agriculture is a small part of our economy in the Yukon, but itís an important part of our economy and a growing part. In the future I think itís just going to get bigger and stronger, and thereís going to be more of them out there.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís a growing thing all right. As a matter of fact, I couldnít help but notice that the length of the ministerís answers is also growing.
I know he likes to talk about agriculture and animals and so on, and indeed he has a background in groceries, but Iím sure he can see that Iím no novice at that either.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Thank you. Thatís the nicest thing he has said to me all day, Mr. Chair.
I really would like to find out whatís happening with regard to his intentions to release land in the territory. We know the last time there was a big land sale ó it goes back maybe more than 20 years. In fact I believe it was his brother who was behind a big release of land, and some people are concerned that type of thought might run in the family. Iím not comparing him to George Bush. Iím not asking if heís getting ready to invade Iraq or anything, but I would like to ask him if he intends to eventually get the release of a large quantity of land in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am glad you brought my brother into this conversation. He will be very happy wherever he is at the moment. But as far as reviewing, weíre doing a lot of work in the agriculture branch reviewing some of the federal plans on land.
Are we going to issue a big block of land? Thatís not on my radar screen at the moment. Weíre open to ideas from Yukoners about how they would like us to proceed with the agriculture branch. Understand that land is just one thing when you release it to individuals. It creates wealth in our communities.
If you release the land for one farm, they have commitments to make. They have to do fencing. It doesnít sound like much, but when you go down to Home Hardware and buy all the fencing material, itís quite an investment. Then theyíre building homes, and these homes are an investment.
When we look at the economics of the Yukon, thatís a big part of it. If we could get people out investing in land and the fencing and improvements on the land, that creates an economy in these communities. To be blind to the economic benefit of the finished product ó the farm ó and see what it produces and understand that, at the end of the day, it might just be a hobby farm, it also gets people on the land, it gets them using the land and there are the economic benefits to all our communities. They become part of the economic engine of Yukon.
You can add it up whichever way you want, but every dollar counts. The agricultural industry in the Yukon ó the farmers, the people who invested in land and improved the land and invested in a future in the Yukon ó is a big part of our economy. Itís not just the dollar value they create ó and they certainly have a dollar value. Thereís about $50 million worth of invested money in our farms in the Yukon.
Anyway, there is a huge investment on our farmland. A lot of that is in the Whitehorse area. You just have to drive out of our community and look. Some of the farms are fabulous, Mr. Chair. You go on the north highway. I look at the Druryís farm and what theyíve done, not only on the ground but also what theyíve done for our schools and what theyíve done for individuals in the Yukon to learn about farming. Itís amazing that a family like that ó and they are one of many ó took the risk in the Yukon. A Yukon family went out there with a dull axe and cut out a future for their family. They are the pioneers of the farming community in the Yukon, and I donít make light of the work that those people went to to create that wealth on their farm.
When I drove down the highway the other day, I saw a buffalo farm, and there is the Drury farm, and then thereís another farm ó I donít know who owns the one across the field, with irrigation. All this stuff is investment in the Yukon and in the future of the Yukon. So in addressing the question about farming and what we have planned to do and what my brother did in the past ó which really isnít relevant to what weíre doing today ó he saw a need out there, I imagine, and addressed the need, and thatís what our government is going to do. When there is a need and there is Yukon interest, we will answer the call, and the call might be for land somewhere. We will work with the First Nations, and we will try to fill in where Yukoners ask us to fill in. But the farming community is a big part of our economy. They invested $50 million in the Yukon, and they also created wealth for the community, and they made it a friendlier community for us to live in.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, moving on, Mr. Chair. Whatís happening with respect to the portable abattoir?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That has been an issue on the front burner of the agriculture branch for many years. The territorial government invested some resources and built an abattoir in Partridge Creek, which is south of Dawson. Itís a permanent abattoir, but because of the logistics and the geography of the Yukon, it wasnít being used by a majority of the producers in the Yukon.
So there were some issues about a portable abattoir, and probably in hindsight ó of course we can all look in hindsight and correct a lot of errors ó the decision to put the abattoir where it is was probably ó if you sat down with industry and everybody, they would say that it wasnít a good decision. But itís there, Mr. Chair. So what this government did, with our agriculture branch, was say: look, is there some way that we can resource the Yukon Agricultural Association to subsidize moving the animals that had to go through the process and utilize our investment at Partridge Creek Farm. That was one way to address that, to see at the end of the day whether that would suffice. Instead of looking at a portable operation, could we in a small way make it feasible for the industry to utilize the abattoir? We did that.
Now, as far as answering the memberís question about a portable abattoir, that is not a dead issue either. Weíre just trying to work out within the industry, and government ó because at the end of the day the government is going to have to participate in whatever happens, and can we minimize our exposure by utilizing what is already existing, because the Partridge Creek Farm does an excellent job of running the operation. So that goes without saying that they operate a very fine, inspected abattoir for us in the Yukon. The only problem we have is location.
This year, I hope, under advisement from my department and industry, to get a report on how last yearís thing worked. Now, understand how people are. You can make these issues work or you can make them not work. Itís whether the industry is committed, whether we as a government are committed, on the Partridge Creek Farm.
We have three individual units there that have to work together to address this problem. Iím saying this in the House, because I am not closing the door on a portable abattoir. Iím just trying to work with what we have here today and try to minimize our financial exposure at the moment and solve the problem for industry. If we donít utilize the Partridge Creek Farm abattoir, what is the Partridge Creek Farm going to do with that investment? Itís a bit of revenue for them.
Itís not an easy task. Itís not something we can say yes or no on but, at the moment, there is no portable abattoir. There isnít one on the horizon at the moment, but itís not a done deal. Somewhere down the road, I imagine, as our industry grows, we will have to look at some more convenient way to handle the stock in the Yukon. Iím going to leave that up to government and industry to decide while working with Partridge Creek Farm.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask him about the roads to resources. Does he intend to give Yukoners the opportunity to be consulted on that initiative and give their feedback before any such policy or plan or program ó whatever it might be ó is started?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On the issue of roads to resources, the program that was put together and the paper that came out was worked on by us, First Nations and a local engineering firm. Itís more of a tool for land planning. Itíll be used by First Nation recreational groups. It showed access to different areas of the Yukon so that when the land planning goes ahead, there will be some semblance ó
If thereís an R block out there and a First Nation had some use for that R block, how would they get access to it? When land planning comes out, this will be taken into consideration, whether itís industry-driven, First Nation or recreation. Itís how access to these areas, with land planning, would be perceived in the future.
I think it was just a great tool for land planning. It gave a very clear outline of how these different areas of the Yukon would be accessible if, in the future, that was a wish of government, First Nations ó the two levels of government ó and also recreation and other land users. So I think to say the roads to resources is a misnomer. Thatís not what the issue is. The issue is access; access is very important to all groups in the Yukon ó controlled access so that we understand that if in fact a First Nation is getting access to their R block, we work with them on access so that we donít duplicate all this access. So itís thinking ahead, and itís working with land use planning groups so that they have a tool to sit down with and say, okay, hereís some access. If we have access questions on different parts of the Yukon, this is how this study could be used to complement that. We certainly have regulations in place to make sure that all Yukoners are part of any decision on this kind of access question.
Mr. McRobb: I want to move on to mining and, first of all, Mr. Chair, acknowledge the contribution to the economy by placer miners. All three parties in this Legislature supported the placer miners in the major issue of the Yukon placer authorization that occurred mainly last year. There is no need to play politics or try to champion the cause. It was a mutual effort between all three parties, and we should all acknowledge that.
I do want to question the past performance of the territory with respect to the major mines, though. Mr. Chair, first of all, there have been major mines that have been very positive contributors to the economy of the territory. I recall when first arriving in the Yukon more than 30 years ago, there were a number of major mines in operation. I think I visited each one of them.
I recall the Faro mine. Iíve been there a few dozen times. Clinton Creek ó probably at least two dozen times. Tungsten ó a good three dozen times. Cassiar ó at least a couple dozen times. Elsa ó probably more than a dozen times. The list goes on. Back in those days, even Whitehorse Copper was operating and there were other mines as well. Those mines operated within the regulatory framework of the day. In some cases, when messes have been left behind ó as weíre stuck with now ó theyíre the responsibility of the government that issued the licences at the time, which is the federal government. Hence we have the type II mines as identified in the devolution transfer agreement.
I think all parties in here could agree that there is a need to be very diligent when licensing any future mines in the territory, especially the major mines in the territory, because we donít want to get stuck with a huge clean-up bill. The territory simply cannot afford it. There have been bad examples in the past. Some operators have not lived up to their obligations, and weíre talking about very expensive clean-up bills that must be paid for by Yukon taxpayers, possibly Canadian taxpayers. Probably the old adage that itís a few that gives a black eye to an entire industry would certainly apply here, as it would to pretty well any industry.
I would like to ask the minister: what can he say to assure Yukoners that due diligence will be practised by this government to ensure that the future interests of Yukoners are adequately considered when it comes to the start-up of new mines in the territory?
Now, I know heís probably going to get up and say that we have a regulator in the Yukon Territory Water Board, which issues water licences, and itís an independent body, a quasi-judicial tribunal. Iím fully aware of that. But thereís also responsibility incumbent on any government of the day to make sure that the interests of taxpayers are upheld.
The Water Board has an interest to uphold the Yukon Waters Act, Mr. Chair. The territorial government has a larger responsibility, and it is to that larger responsibility that my question is geared. So we all know that any government of the day would like to take credit for getting the economy rolling and announcing new mines and having cake and ribbon and the whole nine yards. But we also have to be responsible that any cleanup will be mitigated and also responsible that any cost wonít be passed on to taxpayers. Thatís a tough issue to deal with, because in most cases you canít require a start-up operation to put up a bond for half a billion dollars that might be required for cleanup down the road. We know that. So perhaps this minister can tell us what he is doing in this area? What is he doing to ensure that Yukonersí interests are being upheld in the bigger picture and that the government just doesnít sell out for a photo opportunity or to a mine starting up? What is he doing?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to remind the member opposite, when we talk about the type II mines, we have to keep it in perspective that a lot of these mines ó United Keno Hill for one ó created a lot of wealth for Canada for many, many years. It started in the 1920s, and it certainly didnít have the environmental responsibilities in those days. They were good corporate citizens. They moved ahead. They employed people. They created wealth for all of Canada, and they ran for 35 or 40 years. Certainly, at the end of the day, the environmental question was there, but of course when they were licensed, there werenít those responsibilities. So when we say they were bad corporate citizens, I think that they werenít. They were just working within the rules of the day. Faro is a prime example of a mine that had a 20-year life. It created wealth here for 35 years.
Certainly itís an environmental problem but, again, they were licensed under a different era, different government and under different demands from the community. What is very much of a success for us ó as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó Brewery Creek has been an example for all the mining industry north of 60 to watch that corporation put their money where their mouth is and work in a very positive fashion for reclamation in their Brewery Creek operation.
At this point, theyíre dismantling the buildings. They have sold the buildings. Thatís part of reclamation. This year, theyíre going to close down the road access to some of the pits. Theyíre working with the water situation that they have there with Laura Creek. So they have been working very positively to close the mine down and hopefully, at the end of the day, this will be an example of how we want to see mines open and close in the Yukon.
This is the first mine, really, in the history of the Yukon that really opened up and closed down and did exactly what they said they were going to do. This is a great opportunity for us in the Yukon to use it as a template of how we could see other mines work.
On the question on the regulatory situation, the member opposite is right about the Waters Act. They have regulation on new mines. Thatís independent of us. Thatís an overview of the Waters Act. There are security policies guided by the Waters Act, and then we have the Quartz Mining Act. Thatís another regulatory base thing in addition.
All those things are checks and balances. To go on with that, when we as a government matured and went into devolution, there was a bit of a void on policy on this, so we have really bitten the bullet and weíre working on policy to make sure that what the member is asking never happens in the Yukon. It doesnít have to happen in the Yukon with the government in place and with the checks and balances weíre going to put in place. At the end of the day, weíre looking forward to licensing a mine and seeing it grow, mature, employ and to putting things in place to make sure, at the end of the day, a mine ó in a perfect world ó would progressively get ready to close down.
There wouldnít be a United Keno Hill or a Faro. The life of the mine would be closing down because we all have to remember in this House that a mine is built and it closes. Faro closed, United Keno Hill, Clinton Creek; all of these mines ran out of economic capabilities and they closed ó whether the ore wasnít there, whether the money wasnít there, whether the market was down: all of these issues are taken into consideration.
So we are very positive on licensing. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is doing a very effective job with our type II sites. Through devolution, Iíd like to report to the House that we have changed the process that was signed by the last government in devolution. We got a commitment from the federal government: this is just one little thing we did through the devolution program. We insisted on putting workplans together and getting funded ahead of the project, instead of how the devolution process was to work: we would do the management and then we would bill them.
Well, you know what itís always like when you have to bill people. This way we put a business plan together with the First Nation, with the corporation, with ourselves and with the Government of Canada, and they front the money and we manage the project. So thereís a success story. Thatís devolution. Thatís how we improved on the devolution agreement that was signed, and thatís how well weíre working with the different agencies.
I have to commend the federal government on the high calibre of people they have on staff to address problems like this. They were very open to the negotiations on this question because we believed that the money should have been fronted so we werenít taking out of our pot to do something that the federal government was responsible for, and they came to realize the folly of their way and they fronted the money.
So we in turn are managing the sites. United Keno Hill is now in bankruptcy. PricewaterhouseCoopers is managing the sale of the mine. In other words, theyíre getting it legally ready to sell if in fact there is a potential buyer out there. BYG is now in receivership. The same thing is going to happen there. Weíre either going to close the mine, in other words reclaim the whole thing and put it back into inventory ó in other words, it will be a potential property in the future when it becomes more viable.
The site itself is being overseen by partnerships with the local First Nations and other companies to monitor and do the work that has to be done to maintain those two sites. The First Nation is in the process in Dawson City of closing down Clinton Creek. It is in the process now where we are looking at maybe two or three more years and the Clinton Creek mine will be no more. That is being done exclusively by the local First Nation.
The other ones, like Minto ó Minto has never been opened, but it is still a type II mine legally because it was licensed during the federal governmentís tenure in office.
So, those kinds of issues are there. The mining department of this portfolio is managing those sites, and weíre certainly looking forward to licensing mines as they come forward. And you certainly understand that in Energy, Mines and Resources, first of all, we have a responsibility to the Yukon people that we do not create a situation where people walk away from their responsibilities. We will commit to the House to have the checks and balances in place ó that we will not create another Faro.
Again, to be fair, as I said in the preamble to the question, because of the situation and history of the mine and the licensing process of the day, at the end of the day, they didnít meet their obligations, but at the end of the day, three-quarters of those obligations were not obligations when they were doing them. So, the mining company didnít do anything wrong at Keno Hill; they just didnít have the regulations in place or the responsibility or the environmental mentality we have today to answer those questions.
So, weíre talking about type II mines, weíre talking about history, and today we should be talking not so much about history as how this government ó we in this House ó perceive going forward with the mining community to recreate the industry we had here for many, many years. We understand that mining created the Yukon. Starting with the Klondike, mining has been a big part of our fabric.
And by the way, to report to the House, we have great resources out there. There is the base of industry out there that we can license and work with in a very positive way to make sure that, at the end of the day, we donít create any liability for Yukon people.
Chair: Order please. As weíve passed our normal time for a recess, do members wish to break for a recess now?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: As this requires unanimous consent of the House, weíll have to continue.
Mr. McRobb: I would beg the membersí indulgence to hold off on the break. I only have a few more questions. With the ministerís cooperation, perhaps we can conclude rather quickly ó thatís if he can high-grade those speeches down to a more concise type of response. That would be appreciated.
Weíre interested in finding out more about which government programs help to subsidize the mining industry. This is probably something the minister canít stand up and recite off the tip of his tongue, because Iím also going to ask for the amount of those subsidies on an annual basis. Is that something he can maybe provide a legislative return on? Can he come back to us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Can you clarify what you mean by a subsidy, Mr. Chair?
Mr. McRobb: Sure. The tax break would be a subsidy. The placer program ó I canít recall the full name of it, but the one the government just put out the press release on ó would be another type of subsidy. There have been large amounts of money spent on improving roads to mines. I remember the old Loki Gold property; a previous Yukon government subsidized it. There are all kinds of programs that potentially do this. There are also funds that go to not only helping exploration but other parts of the industry.
Iím really looking for a list of all those types of programs with the amount of money typically spent on an annual basis. If thatís a little too vague, then the amount of money spent in the last calendar year would do just fine. Would he undertake to return with that information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly we can work with the member opposite on these mining-related programs. They certainly are not subsidies to the industry, but we do have to work 12 months behind, because a lot of these programs are not tallied until the end of the season. So we will give what information we can and have on hand at the moment on the mining-related programs.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that concise answer. As his reward, Iíll chop a few follow-up questions I had on that.
I want to ask him about Teck Cominco, because the government creates this perception that Teck Cominco is working to develop large mines in the territory. Iíve heard from people in the industry, Mr. Chair, who have a long memory, and I can recall myself about a decade ago when Cominco held large properties in the Finlayson area, and the talk ó perhaps it was even more than talk; I believe there were newspaper stories which, of course, would authenticate the premise that indeed there was something to it.
The talk was that Teck Cominco held those properties to ensure they werenít developed and brought on to the market. And the motive was to protect its investment at the Red Dog mine in Alaska and to not flood the market with lead-zinc and so on, which would work to bring the price down.
So the person who contacted me indicated he thought it was just a repeat episode of what we knew happened about a decade ago, yet the government is promoting it as several big potential mines on the horizon. How can the government be so sure thatís what is happening when, just a decade ago, what I had put on the record was indeed the case?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I donít know how to address the member opposite to try to second-guess the Kaska Minerals Corporation and the work theyíre doing at the moment in their R block. The mine itself, the Finlayson property and this company that he alludes to, spent $14 million to $19 million on that property. The company itself produces about 13 percent to 15 percent of the worldís zinc. They do not control the world zinc market. Red Dog is one of their investments, certainly a very productive mine and a very positive partnership with First Nations in that area.
So Teck Cominco has a long experience working in partnership with First Nations and that boded well for the Kaska Minerals Corporation. The problem that the mine had ó now Iím not a geologist but in, my limited knowledge, the problems that were laid to rest by this R block is the selenium count in the ore was too high in the Finlayson Lake area for processing. Selenium creates an economic problem in the milling. So there was a question about the drilling program on the R block because of the $19 million that Teck Cominco spent on the site. As they did their drilling program and got closer to the R block, there was an issue of less selenium and, if they could get access to the R block, that could prove the mine up because the selenium count went down and they could mix the product in the mining process and come out with a cheaper product at the end of the day. That was a business decision that they made.
We canít second-guess corporations. When corporations come to the Yukon, they come with invested dollars; they come with commitments. What theyíre going to do at the end of the day is a corporate decision; itís not a government decision.
We hope for the best, and we will work with whatever company comes to the Yukon. We will work in a positive way so that the investment dollars will eventually create a mine. I canít visualize why Teck Cominco would spend all this money in the Finlayson area ó $14 million to $19 million. It might not be a lot of money to Teck Cominco, but itís still an investment, and the investment is in the potential of a mine.
With the 13 to 15 percent of the market they control today, I wouldnít say they controlled the world market. Second guessing a corporation as big as Teck Comino ó I would first of all like to commend them for the partnership they created with the local First Nation in a very positive way. They bring the expertise of that kind of partnership coordination from the Red Dog experience and theyíre very positive about that.
Another thing with respect to Teck Cominco: there have been questions in the House about the smelter in Trail and all the issues about the ecological problems that Teck Cominco inherited when they bought the thing. An example of what Teck Cominco did, from a mining point of view, was in the community of Kimberly. Sullivan mine was open for many years ó probably over 100 years. Kimberly was basically a mining town that grew around the Sullivan mine. When the resources ran out ó and Teck Cominco was the operator of the mine at the time the decision was made to close the mine ó it was interesting, because part of their reclamation plan was to invest the money to reinvent the town.
They expanded the skiing facilities in the community, upgraded the T-bars to chairlifts, worked very positively with the community and gave the community hope and a new reason to be alive. At the end of the day, the mine was reclaimed. The town had reinvented itself; it had redone its main street, and this was helped along by the Teck group. At the end of the day, they had an economy. Very few people left the community of Kimberly. Theyíre still there and living off what was created by the mining community. I think everybody in this House should take a trip to Kimberly and have a look at what Teck Cominco does at the end of the day for the community theyíve been a big part of for so long.
So in answering the question: is Teck Cominco a fly-by-night operation? No. Is it investing money unwisely? No. Is it building a partnership with the local First Nation? Yes. Is it doing what it said it was going to do? Yes. At the end of the day, are they going to build a mine? I donít know, but I tell you in the House today that they are a very credible organization, and I think the money that theyíre spending today is not to close down the resource; itís to open up the resource. And hopefully with this partnership with the Ross River Dena, at the end of the day, they will create the partnership that will open the mine and create some hope for the community of Ross River, some jobs, and get that part of the Yukon up and operating in a fashion that brings some life back to the local communities, whether itís Faro, Ross River, Watson Lake. All of those communities will benefit. We as a government ó the Minister of Highways and Public Works has taken on the task of upgrading the Campbell Highway. This makes Teck Cominco, the Kaska, a little bit more confident that weíre committed to that area for the mining community. It upgrades a highway that has been neglected for many, many years. And I think at the end of the day, when the decision is made to open a mine in that area, one of the questions that will be asked ó and we, in turn ó is about access by the Campbell Highway. And as we upgrade that highway to a standard that is a standard of highway that we in the Yukon will expect in all of the Yukon, that will bode well for those decisions. So we again, indirectly and directly, are working with the corporation to make the mine site, the property ó first of all, the R block ó available to the First Nation so they could enter into this partnership. Second, the access is going to be covered by us being proactive on the expansion of our highway programs, bridging programs, so when that decision is made, Teck Cominco can stand up and say, "Has the government come to the mark?" Yes. "Has the government brought the road up to standard?" Yes.
Does the government have training money available? Yes. Has the government worked with the First Nations and the First Nation government? Yes. Then, at the end of the day, Teck Comincoís decision will not be that hard to make because, at the end of the day, we will make it so that decision ó that financial commitment ó theyíre going to have to make, which is a massive financial commitment, will show that we will be a partner in that decision and move forward to create an economic base for that region of the southeast Yukon that so badly needs it today.
Mr. McRobb: The minister needs to sluice down those responses a little more or, never mind the break: people wonít even get a chance to go home for dinner.
Now, a couple more questions in the area of mining. First of all, he mentions the Brewery Creek property and holds it up as a great example. Letís not get into that discussion. Would the minister provide us with a balance sheet of the work done, the cost, and the amount of securities remaining, along with ó would it be possible to get an estimate of the number attached to the work remaining? Basically, a one-sheet summary would be ideal, and it would certainly prove to us ó you know, if the figures jive ó that indeed things are in a better state than one would otherwise believe. Would the minister undertake to provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you to the member opposite. Certainly, Viceroy Resourcesí Brewery Creek ó again, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I canít comment on the working relationship we have with that resource-based company. They are a very well-run organization. They had a letter of credit for $8 million to put on deposit with us or with the federal government before our time, understanding this was a type II site. The exact figure was actually $8.1 million.
That decision was made between the corporation and DIAND. That was a letter of credit, which was renewed when we took over devolution. At that point, before our time, DIAND and the industry were in the process of creating a security release agreement. It wasnít finalized in devolution so weíve extended that.
Certainly weíve been monitoring the closure of the mine very closely. Weíve been working with the First Nation and making sure that Yukoners in that area are well-informed about the process and certainly, as the mine moved along, there was a release of the letter of credit of $3 million, which leaves at the moment $5.1 million. This money is in the form of a letter of credit to the Yukon government and, as we move along with the reclamation plans, the security release agreement is now between Viceroy and the Yukon government.
As they work toward closure, which this year is part of that ó and the member opposite asked about the assets leaving the property. I have a different opinion whether theyíre assets or liabilities because, in fact, they had an obligation to remove the buildings because they were a liability and that was part of the reclamation program. Thatís moving ahead as planned.
This year, thereís going to be a very active reclaiming of all the roads that are through the mine site. We have to understand the size of this mine. Itís about 600 acres of land that has been affected. Probably less than 400 have been directly affected, so itís a very small footprint. People in Grande Prairie have larger farms than that operation has.
There is a process in place on how the letter of credit would be handled. It certainly is an interesting file because, as they move along closer to the actual closing date, to the finale, itís going to be a great compliment to the mining industry of the Yukon.
Plus itís going to be an example of how we as government are going to handle the mining community to make sure that theyíre responsible corporate citizens. Weíll have a map in front of them on how the reclamation money would be spent as they reclaimed the mine. In other words, this is a great example for any government north of 60 to have the actual closing going on through this time of taking over devolution because of the success of it.
So weíre actually learning on a daily basis how this thing is rolling out. Weíre working very hard with the corporation and the First Nation. Itís a work in progress, of course. There are timelines for getting things done. The company wants to get this done as quickly as possible. They are certainly very aggressive on that. There are people on the ground there now as we speak. Itís interesting to watch. In my life in the Yukon Iíve watched many mines go up, but itís interesting to go out there and watch a very well run closure happening and how this thing folds up like a deck of cards. Eventually, as the last trucks pull out and the roads disappear, itís back to nature as much as they can, while understanding the impact the mine had on the terrain.
Everybody in this House should take a few minutes when theyíre travelling to Dawson. Iím sure the men on the site would take you through it. It is quite a thing to see, because theyíre working with science and construction with all that stuff going on. Itís a success.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is drifting again. I asked for a one-page balance sheet with a breakdown of the cost and what work is remaining with estimates, and so on, and work done. Iím looking for a simple answer, preferably a yes ó that heíll undertake to provide that for us.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The short answer to that is we have a letter of credit for $5.1 million. It involves Energy, Mines and Resources but, most of all, it involves Environment and, of course, the industry itself and First Nations. On the floor here, Iím saying we have $5.1 million in reserves, in a letter of credit. If he would write that figure down, that is the figure we have on deposit. Weíll work with Environment, which, in the future, will be working very closely with reclaiming these sites. So thatís the long and the short of it, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I wasnít looking for that short of an answer; I was looking for the long answer in a short period. Probably the best way to achieve that is if the minister would just say that certainly he will provide that information to the members across the floor; then we can move on. It doesnít have to come today; it doesnít have to come next week. As a matter of fact, it doesnít even have to come next month ó just sometime in the near future if the minister would undertake to return to us with that information. Because weíre looking for breakdowns on work done, when the securities were released, how much the balance is, estimates for work to be done, and so on.
We want to be assured that indeed this corporation is a good example and one to be held up and thereís nothing to worry about, and the best way to gain our assurance is if the minister can give us something in writing, preferably a one-page sheet that spells out these numbers. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíll report back to the House orally on Monday on that issue.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Chair. Weíll expect a ministerial statement or something on Monday. That sounds like what it is. The Member for Klondike advised him on that answer, so we can expect something in that way.
I want to follow up on one other thing about Brewery Creek, and that is the issue of whether these premature releases of security have absolved the federal government of its liability. Certainly, the question is out there. Iím not saying that itís 100-percent yes, and I donít think the minister should say that itís 100-percent no. My question to him is: did he ask for a legal opinion on this matter, or has he seen a legal opinion on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I remind the member opposite that all of these moves are covered with legal advice. We have in-house legal counsel at all times, so we certainly cover our bases as we move forward.
As far as the federal governmentís liability is concerned, we certainly work with the federal government on these issues. Certainly they understand the process. They committed to the process when they entered into the agreement on how the letter of credit would be handled, so they were part of the decision-making team. To insinuate or to say that we as an independent government did not keep the federal government informed on the process when they set the process up and did not inform them of what we were doing and did not ask for legal counsel on the issue is, as I say, dead wrong. We covered our bases as a responsible government on all the questions that are out there. We certainly are working very, very positively with industry. Brewery Creek is a success story. As far as a corporate citizen is concerned, they have done a stellar job at meeting their commitments and addressing any of the issues that we have brought forward.
We have had many independent engineering studies done of that area. They have addressed all the questions that were on these engineering proposals, so we have done our work. The federal government is informed on every move that we make. The local First Nation is working in unison with the corporation and ourselves. Weíre keeping them informed on whatís happening and, at the end of the day, it has created work for the Dawson City area, which desperately needs work.
They have met all their commitments, and they have a workforce on the ground there now that is working there. This will be a reservoir for us as a government. As we see mines on the horizon, these people will be trained and will understand the concept of closure. Theyíll be working out there in the field.
So we are covering all sorts of bases with Yukoners. Yukoners are working on-site. First Nations are working on-site. Theyíre getting educated, theyíre working with heavy equipment, theyíre working with science, and all those things are being covered by the manpower that is created out of the Dawson City area. It bodes well for the community to have those kinds of resources coming into it during the off-season when there is no tourism.
So, I think, as far as the question is concerned, the corporation has done its due diligence. The federal government has been involved from day one. The federal government is made aware of all our transactions because, as I will say again, it is a type II site, they have a responsibility and, at the end of the day, all weíre doing is managing the site for the federal government. It would be folly to do anything that would jeopardize the Yukon people on a point of obligation on that site. We arenít doing that. Weíre not doing it today and we will not do it in the future.
Yukoners are not responsible for a type II site. I remind the member opposite that this is a success story because this mine opened up and is closing in a respectful way to nature and to the local people, and it involves Yukoners to do it. This is very much of a success story. This corporation is doing exactly what it said it was going to do.
We, in turn, are doing exactly what we said we would do: release the line of credit as work progressed. In other words, as the mine closes, the money is released.
Thatís why the letter of credit is in place. Itís there to protect us from the fact that, if the man were to walk away from his obligations, we would have the resources to go to work and finish the job. The successful end of it is that we donít have to do that. All we have to do is release the letters of credit as the workplan is finished, so itís a success story.
Mr. McRobb: I think the minister has worked himself up into a bit of frenzy to support his actions coming up on Monday, which I think is probably another premature release of securities based on all these wonderful things he has put on the record. So weíll look forward to addressing that when it happens.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Chair:Order please. Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to Article 3(4) of our Standing Orders, there does not appear to be a quorum present.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: This is a useless point of order. Itís the practice of this House to excuse this particular House rule for a quorum during Committee debate. The members across the way should know that. We can excuse the Member for Lake Laberge because he has only been in his job now for a year and a half and maybe he doesnít know that yet. But if weíre not at quorum, weíre very close to it. What the Yukon Party is trying to do is waste the time of this House by ringing bells for four minutes. I say, Mr. Chair, there is no point of order.
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb has raised an interesting point. There seems to be a long-standing practice in this Assembly and an understanding; however, that understanding may be in contravention of our Standing Orders which state that when a member brings to the attention of the Chair that there is not a quorum, then a quorum must be called. Iíll ask the member again if itís his intention to bring to the Chairís attention that there doesnít appear to be a quorum.
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I believe that Standing Order 3(4) is clear. Past practice of this House notwithstanding, there does not appear to be a quorum present.
Chair: We will now ring the bells.
Chair: I have shut off the bells and weíll do a count. There are nine members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Mr. McRobb: I hope the Member for Lake Laberge had enough time to do whatever he had to do.
Weíre trying to wrap up this department very quickly and I have but a few questions left. I will keep them very short. I want to thank the minister again for his cooperation and keeping the answers short as well, at least most of the time.
Last fall we debated the Hatch report and the Brodie report with respect to Brewery Creek. We understand that a consultant, a professional engineer, has been hired and has produced some findings. Can the minister provide those findings to us?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Understanding that as the Brewery Creek mine unfolds in the closure plan, there have been three or four independent engineering studies of the liability and the progress of the closure. The last one was from a company called SRK. Of course, they did a study about 12 months ago, if Iím not mistaken. It was a short period of time ago. The Brodie report was one of the first reports that came out, and then of course the Hatch report. So as we grow into this closure, we certainly are having these independent engineering firms bring forward issues to us so that we can, in our capacity ó and this again is sort of a grey area for me to talk on because itís Environment that really handles this now. So we certainly work in cooperation with Environment, but I think youíd best maybe broach the subject with the Minister of Environment when you have an opportunity to debate him in the next couple of days.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we would certainly appreciate copies of those reports ó the SRK report, copies of whatever the professional engineers produced. Whether itís this minister or the Environment minister, it doesnít much matter, as long as the material is provided.
I want to go now to the area of energy. I have a few questions. There are a number of positions open in the energy and corporate policy area. Can the minister indicate when those positions will be filled?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, in answer to the member opposite, as we all understand, in departments there is usually a five- to seven-percent vacancy. Thatís just the nature of running a department. We are certainly working to fill the vacancies in our department in a very aggressive way. We certainly canít run the efficient organization we are running without manpower, but of course we have to look at the manpower from a qualification point of view, so a lot of the people we put in positions have to have background in all those kinds of things and the expertise they bring to the organization.
We are actively working toward filling all our positions. But again, I repeat that there are people moving, leaving and doing things. It turns out that we have roughly a five-, six-, seven-percent job vacancy rate, which is the nature of our industry.
I think thatís probably a true figure for all departments in government; we never reach maximum employment. Itís not that we donít try to; itís just that as we move forward with things, other issues come up and other people leave the corporation. Certainly we are moving toward a full complement of staff, but in the real world, it will never actually resolve itself, because we are always going to have people coming and going.
Itís just the nature of the department itself. A lot of the people, for instance, in the geology branch ó thereís a huge demand out there now with the upswing in the economy and the upswing in the resource prices and the mineral prices. Thereís a big demand out there for geologists. So we have to compete with many other outside interest groups to acquire the calibre of people we need to run this efficient organization.
So again, I say to the member opposite, there are vacancies. We are concerned about the vacancies. Some of these vacancies will be filled fairly soon, but it doesnít mean that at the end of the day weíre going to have a full complement. We will always be running at five-percent unemployment, and as the mineral industry builds up and as the demand for the geology and the science end of it goes out into industry, we are competing against corporations that can offer an awful lot of benefits to these young and upcoming geologists to actually put them in the field and do the profession that theyíre trained to do.
So we have work to be done. We are conscious of this. We understand the competitive nature of the industry weíre in, understanding that all of this industry that weíre managing in Energy, Mines and Resources ó there is a component of it that is industry that is running a parallel situation, whether itís forestry, whether itís mining, whether itís oil and gas. We compete on a daily basis with industry for that kind of expertise. So we certainly are competitive, and we do offer packages that are comparable to industry, and we certainly work very positively with those issues. But at the end of the day, we are competing with a small pool of individuals, especially in specific fields that in the past have not been graduating the number of people we need for the industry that is here today.
For the departments of geology in the universities across Canada, the pool has shrunk because the demand has shrunk. Five years ago if you went out looking for a geologist, there was a large pool of unemployed, or underemployed, geologists. Today that isnít a factor.
We are in a position of competing. We are in a position of running a department that needs specific expertise to manage it, and so we are in a situation where, at the end of the day, we compete with not only other governments but with industry to get the best people for the job. So are we filling the jobs? Yes. Are we filling them progressively? Yes. Is there going to be a figure out there thatís going to be job vacancies in the future? Yes. But weíre working at trying to thin that down because, understand that we budget for the manpower we need to run our department, so when weíre running five and seven percent behind, that hamstrings us to run our department as efficiently as we would like to. But itís the nature of the business that creates the vacancies.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what governance structure he is using for Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation and is it something he can provide to us on paper? I know in the past there has been a study or report called governance model or governance study. Is it something he can provide and can he identify what it is?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Understand that the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation are overseen by myself as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. To bring us up to date on the situation with Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation when our government came to the position weíre in today ó and that was in December of last year ó we found that the Mayo-Dawson line was a bit of a crisis and a challenge at that point.
We found that, at the end of the day, we had a corporation that had a contract with a corporation that wasnít on the job at the time. We discovered that there was a large amount of money owed for different reasons to Yukoners, whether it was First Nations or contractors or individuals. We found that the energy company itself was overseeing this. So there were a lot of issues out there that were being driven in a way that, as minister, I wasnít comfortable with.
So as far as the Yukon Development Corporation and the governance are concerned, we have a lot of things on our plate. Weíre finalizing the Mayo-Dawson line, and right at the moment I can say to the member opposite that the corporations are exactly the way they have been in the past.
Are we going to look at governance? Thatís another question that is out there. Certainly, today, weíre not looking at that. Weíre looking at finalizing the Mayo-Dawson line, understanding again that we have situations where we have to play the cards weíve been dealt. We did that in a very responsible way and, as we have the closure of that contract and as we move along, some other issues will probably come forward. Whether governance will be one of them, I guess the government will decide that, but at the moment there is nothing ó the governance issue is an issue.
But at the moment, weíre working within the corporations to finalize all these other issues, and certainly I imagine that governance, in the future, will come to the forefront. But at the moment, Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation are structured exactly the way they were 10 years ago.
Chair:Before we continue on with debate, I would just like to take a quick moment to remind members that we are discussing Vote 53, Energy, Mines and Resources, and that I expect we will get to Vote 22, Yukon Development Corporation. But the matter before the Committee this afternoon is Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: Does this government have a comprehensive energy policy? I know one was developed two governments ago, and the last government decided to redo it. It was redone without public consultation, and weíre not even sure if it was completed.
So I would like the minister to indicate what this governmentís energy policy is, and is it something he can provide to us?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I certainly have been working with my department on trying to get an energy policy or future put together and have been working with the stakeholders, like Yukon Housing Corporation, Yukon Development Corporation, and other groups that the energy policy would reflect on.
Itís a job that weíre proceeding with. There are no timelines on it. My department is very conscious of it. As we have spare time, weíre working toward it. Hopefully, in the near future, weíll have something to bring to the House, but I canít guarantee itís going to happen in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: Where is the public consultation in the development of this policy? Is the public being consulted? If so, can the minister provide us possibly with materials that were provided to the public?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have to remind the member opposite that weíre committed to working with all Yukoners on all issues that pertain to them, and we also work with the First Nations, government to government, so certainly there is going to be public input on anything we do in trying to resolve this question. As we grow into it, the process will become apparent and certainly the member opposite will get a heads-up on it, and weíll move forward in a positive way.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask him about community energy management. Is it something this minister supports and whatís his government doing to advance community energy management in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That would certainly be part of this policy paper weíre working on. Communities are very important to us as Yukoners, and energy is a big question for these communities. So this energy policy would encompass all Yukoners, that being communities, First Nations and all individual people, so that would all be part and parcel of what we proceed to move forward with on this policy.
Mr. McRobb: All right, just a few more questions in the Energy branch area of his department. The minister has identified grid extensions theyíre looking at, and certainly it was part of their election platform. Can he indicate for us which particular projects theyíre looking at right now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd remind the member opposite that this would fall under Yukon Development Corporation not Energy, Mines and Resources, so maybe when we get to the Yukon Development Corporation we can answer some of those questions.
Mr. McRobb: I think we have to realize the distinction between the two. Iím not asking the minister, as overseer of the department, who happens to be the lead agency on transmission lines. Iím asking him as minister of a department that is involved in a process that deals with these matters.
We know that Yukon Development Corporation people donít work in isolation. There is interconnection between it and other departments, as the minister indicated in his previous answer. So personnel from Energy, Mines and Resources sit on committees that deal with these issues, and itís in that context that I ask the questions. So I would appreciate it if he could identify for us which grid extensions theyíre looking at, possibly in order of priority. If itís something about which heíd like to return with some information at a later date, thatís fine as well.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be honest, I donít have a clue.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I would agree. Thatís finally an honest answer.
But, Mr. Chair, it had a second part to it and that is: can he return with the information?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: The Member for Kluane is imputing false or unavowed motive by suggesting that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resourcesí answers before were not honest.
Chair:Order please. While the Chair wasnít entirely comfortable with the comment made by the member, I find that there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Again, policy with Energy, Mines and Resources would be working with that aspect of the department, and, of course, working with the Crown corporation on these issues. But the request for the plans for the new grids in the Yukon ó I donít know what I can report on it, except to say to the member opposite in honest reply, there has been nothing cross my desk that plans for an expansion of the grid in the Yukon anywhere else but the finalization of the grid between Mayo and Dawson and the financial obligations that that corporation is going to have to accept on that contract and finalize it.
I think the member opposite doesnít understand the point that we have a lot of work to do to get the Mayo-Dawson line in place, and certainly when there are grids planned they will be public. There will be, I imagine, public consultation. I donít see why not. And the process will unravel. But at the moment, there is no map; there is no process that says weíre going to start the grid from Swift River to Teslin or from ó Pelly, I guess, would be a natural one, to Stewart. That is not in place, and for me to give documentation that says nothing would be a waste of my time. And we would certainly keep him abreast of anything we might be doing in the future, as we do for all members of this House.
Mr. McRobb: As indicated at the outset this afternoon, I wanted to ask the minister about the Watson Lake cogeneration concept that the government is working on.
Perhaps, Mr. Chair, I will just put on record some questions, and the minister would save a lot of time if he would just undertake to get back to me with some information in the next month or so. That would be quite suitable for me.
So, on this particular project, first of all, if the minister would be able to provide an overview and estimated cost of the models theyíre looking at. We understand theyíre looking at a cogenerating station from Newfoundland, for instance. So we would like that particular aspect explained.
What type of ownership model would this government be looking at for this facility? The operational model ó for instance, would Yukon Electrical operate it? What would the fuel supply be? Would it be waste wood or green wood? And what would the source be? What about the subsidy, if any, from the government or ratepayers, or whomever, that might be required? What about the investment risk associated with a project in the event that perhaps the fuel supply is cut off, or perhaps demand for the electricity changes? Investment risk is a relatively major area when dealing with new generation projects. I recall a paper that was specifically developed on it by the former energy commission about six years ago.
Finally, would there be a Yukon Utilities Board review of any project that occurs? For the memberís information, that independent quasi-judicial tribunal has expertise and the tools necessary to examine and compare projects in the territory before giving regulatory approval.
Even when it does give regulatory approval, it may not give it 100 percent. It must consider the interests of Yukon ratepayers and consider any risk that might be involved in a project. Also if itís accurate that thereís a certain portion of what you might call economic development as part of the mix, that component could be spliced out of what is paid for by ratepayers, and accordingly so because the Energy Corporation shouldnít be used in such a manner when, in fact, we have a development corporation there for that purpose.
So I will admit that itís too much to ask the minister to stand on his feet and reply to all this right now. If he can agree to return with some written information in the next month or so, that would be perfectly okay. So will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I applaud the member opposite for the questions because those are very good questions. All of those questions had to be addressed before anything went ahead in the Watson Lake area pertaining to cogeneration. Our department, Energy, Mines and Resources, has an interest from the forestry point of view, but we arenít building a cogeneration unit in Watson Lake. There are interested parties out there looking at it. Weíre giving them the support we can in respect to the forestry and to all those issues that are addressed, and certainly those questions that the member opposite asked all have to be addressed to those components.
Now this proposal is an independent proposal. We as a government committed, when we were elected, that we would entertain proposals from independent individuals and corporations for the benefit of communities. We certainly have been open. They certainly know weíre here. They know our doors are open.
We certainly have been working with the local First Nation on these issues and the potential of partnerships. There is also the potential for sawmill operations: again, independent decisions by independent corporations that in turn will have to answer those questions.
We understand we have a utility board that has to be answered to. We also have a little thing called a franchise. Atco has a franchise to handle the power in Watson Lake. Not only do they make it, but they also sell it. So they have a part to play in any decision.
But as a commitment to you in this House, we are working with the individuals who have this proposal, but we are not part of that group. I guess you learn from history. We had a government in place at one time that used money from the Yukon Development Corporation to fund a sawmill operation in Watson Lake. It was not a success story. It cost the ratepayers of the Yukon millions of dollars. Iím not going to mention a figure, but it was massive.
So we will learn from that, and we will move toward a very comprehensive study of both forestry and the potential of cogeneration. All of that is on the road map. We have a great resource in southeast Yukon. Itís a huge forest resource. With the memorandum of understanding that the previous government committed to, weíve been working with the Kaska. Weíve signed an agreement between ourselves and the Kaska on how we perceive to manage the forest. They brought in 100 percent of their R block land, their forests and their timber, and we are going to be jointly managing the forests in southeast Yukon.
At the end of the day, there are going to be decisions made on how the forest is going to be managed. In other words, weíll manage it as a team. Second of all, thereís the partnership ó the interim access to forest, which weíre doing at the moment in partnership with the Kaska. Then at the end of the day, what does the partnership, the corporation, see as a potential for sawmilling in the Watson Lake area in the future. Cogeneration could be part of that. With cogeneration we have access to power, which is always a burden on any industry. Second of all, we have kilns, which can be produced. So in other words we can produce the energy for kilns, then at the other end, in a perfect world, we could have the silviculture being produced in Watson Lake, which could serve the whole of the Yukon. Then at the other end we have reforestation.
Those are all part and parcel of a business decision that will be made by outside industry, and we will be working with them as the forestry department, but I donít perceive a partnership of ownership. That would be left up to industry. I canít speak for the First Nation, our partner, because they are a government and we treat them as such. As far as the territorial government is concerned, we are looking to facilitate the forest industry in the Watson Lake area, and that will be covered. We have a franchise there. Weíve got a very, very well run corporation in the form of Atco, which does a lot of this kind of thing. In Alberta, they have a coal-fired generation. They have cogeneration, so theyíre not without their expertise, and they would be part of anything we did in the Watson Lake area.
So, whatís happening in the conversations that are going around in Watson Lake and southeast Yukon? Itís interesting that we are getting uptake to it. There is the interest, which reflects well on us as a territory, and there are a lot of questions that have to be asked and returned. But we as a government donít perceive that we, at any time, are going to be an investor, per se, in a cogeneration or a sawmill in Watson Lake. We are going to facilitate industry to go in there. We are going to work with them on the timber they need to service their industry. And we are certainly going to work with our partner, the Kaska First Nation, to make sure that partnership grows and strengthens as we walk through and work with them on all sorts of potential in the southeast Yukon.
So, to answer the question about cogeneration in Watson Lake, we are facilitating some questions being asked by industry ó very interesting questions. The interest is there; itís just how industry perceives this thing rolling out. And, of course, we have the Atco-Yukon Electrical question. So we have our options in southeast Yukon and we as a government certainly arenít shutting any doors.
But to make a commitment in the House, the commitment is that industry will decide what is built in Watson Lake. We will facilitate that industry with our partner, the Kaska First Nation, to make sure that our partnership grows and strengthens. So they will be a part of every decision we make in the southeast Yukon.
I think, at the end of the day ó not tomorrow, but in the process of unrolling our forestry regulations and all the things we have to do to manage our forests for the Yukon population and the Yukon public, who demands of us to manage them in a proper fashion ó we are going to come out with an industry in Watson Lake that will, first of all, be strong. We donít want to see another flash in the pan. We donít want to see another $2-million mistake because the community cannot afford another $2-million mistake.
So we are going to be fair to the community; weíre going to be fair to the industry; weíre going to facilitate; and weíre going to work very positively with our partners, the First Nations, to make sure everybody in southeast Yukon benefits from those resources.
Iíd like to say in the House today that our partners, the Kaska, the Liard First Nation with their chief and council, have been very proactive on this. Theyíve been very positive. It has been a great partnership up until now. I think it will only get better in time as we grow the trust between us as governments and get to know each other and move ahead on this file. This is going to be a success, but weíre going to be very conscious that this thing is going to unfold in a fashion that is acceptable to Yukoners and also, most importantly, that this time itís successful.
And, at the end of the day, the people in Watson Lake can put 100 people to work every day, and they can go to work, and the community can have a resource-based economy to give them back their identity, get the airport up and running, all of the issues that these small communities ó Watson Lake is not dissimilar to Mayo, to these other communities that have no economy. We in Whitehorse tend to get tunnel vision, and we look at Whitehorse and we go to Wal-Mart and we go to all these places, and we donít understand that these communities have no economic identity.
Now, the First Nations know that. They live in these communities. They come to us and they say to us: how can we revive this economy? We can do it by partnerships. When we talk about the issue about who owns what and what ó 100 percent, 20 percent. Iím not talking about ownership of 120 percent with First Nations. Iím talking about partnerships. Iím talking about it all being Yukoners. How can we all benefit from that resource? And at the end of the day, weíll all benefit from moving forward with our First Nations in partnership to create wealth in their traditional territory that benefits all the stakeholders in that community. Iím very, very pleased to say to you that the Kaska, with the forest agreements ó weíve moved ahead on them. They are very aggressively working on it. They brought expertise to the table; they brought commitment to the table.
They brought honesty to the table. They want to see things happen in their traditional territory. We understand the land claim isnít final. The land claim is an issue for them, and we certainly have a part in it, but itís an issue that DIAND walked away from. Iím not going to point fingers at who did what, but at the moment the Department of Indian Affairs has an obligation to the Kaska First Nation ó the Liard First Nation. It hasnít got a settlement.
We as a government decided that we are no longer going to wait for the end of these negotiations before we get on an economic footing with the local First Nation, because we eventually have to, through the Umbrella Final Agreement, realize that these are governments. By our commitment to that R15 block with the Ross River Dena, and our deal with the Kaska in their traditional territory in southeast Yukon, I think we have moved very positively to make sure that the resources of the Yukon, first of all, are shared by all Yukoners and that we put these communities back to work, bring back their pride, bring back some direction, and make sure that the moves we make in this are very positive.
So as far as cogeneration is concerned, thatís an option. As far as a sawmill is concerned, thatís an option. Silviculture, kiln drying, tree farming or the actual tree planting segment of all this involves a huge gamut of people and the perfect package would be cogeneration sawmill, kilns, silviculture and then the tree farming aspect. In a perfect world, that would employ 250 people every day on a 52-week basis. In the harvesting end of things, it would employ another 60 or 80 people, and also in the summer our students could work in silviculture and tree planting.
So that would be a perfect business thing for a business corporation to make that decision. Now, what we commit to do is work with industry to get that picture into reality, and what we have to do is bring investment into the Yukon, and we have to build their confidence up that investment is protected by regulation, that they have access to timber over a period of time and that we will work with them to make sure that their investment is protected to the point where they can make that investment, go to their bank, raise the money and bring that expertise, which we really donít have in the Yukon in the sense of a sawmill operator with that kind of a background, which is not just cutting down trees: itís also marketing.
Where do we market our product? What product do we make? All of those issues have to be decided by a corporation, a corporation with a background in those kinds of things. Government canít pretend to put together Energy, Mines and Resources on marketing on the timber. What are we going to do with the chips? Or what are we going to do about export?
All of those issues will be decided in conjunction with us, as a government, as forestry. We will be overseeing this, but we certainly donít visualize a partnership ó in other words, the Yukon government, under our watch, is not going to invest your money, our money, our Yukon government money, in another sawmill in Watson Lake. Thatís the bottom line.
We donít feel as the nature of our party that that would be wisely invested. There is always somebody out there with their hands out. If you were in government, we always meet people who come with proposals to us to answer how are we going to ó Mr. Chair, to bring you back to reality here, itís that we as a government are committed to work with regulation and the forest industry.
Weíre doing it in a very positive way. Understand that, at the moment, weíre putting regulations together on how we visualize the management of our forests for the sake of all Yukoners. We have 14 First Nations that are out there with self-governing governments. Of the 14, I think there are three that arenít settled. We are dealing with them as if they are settled.
We are committed to the partnerships on the resources in all of their traditional area, understanding that some areas have timber, some have minerals, some have different issues. But at the end of the day, we want to take advantage of the resources that are out there, in a very responsible way, and we want a partnership with the local First Nation to benefit them certainly, because when we benefit them, we benefit ourselves.
We want to get the Yukon to the point where itís self-sufficient, where, all of a sudden, weíre contributing to Canada. We have the resources, we have the forestry, we have oil and gas, we have a mineral base. We have all the potential. Now what we have to do, now that we have the responsibility ó we have an obligation to Yukoners to put the regulations to work, to get the forestry up and running. But itís a two-sided sword because, at the end of the day, we no longer have DIAND to point at.
These are going to be homemade mistakes, and we want to minimize that by learning from other jurisdictions. We want to maximize our knowledge by plagiarizing regulations they have in other places so that, at the end of the day, we shorten the learning span, so that we have made-in-Yukon regulations that will facilitate the expansion of our industries, but we donít want to make the mistakes that have been made in the past.
So when the member opposite talks about the cogeneration and all the questions he asked ó which are all pertinent questions ó those are questions Yukoners are going to ask. Watson Lakers are going to ask those questions. And those questions will be asked at the appropriate time. And I hope that the member opposite will remember the questions so he can ask the questions to the appropriate people so he can get answers. I hope that he takes the Blues home and writes them down in a list and puts them in his back pocket because eventually, as our economy grows, more of these questions on energy will unfold and will have to be answered.
So, are we going to go out to community consultation? Communities in the Yukon are very important to us. We do talk on a daily basis with any issue that will pertain to (a) a community, (b) a First Nation, or (c) if need be, we take it to the people themselves. So we as a government are committed to communicate on all levels to make sure our decisions are comfortable with them, because at the end of the day we answer to them.
As far as the Watson Lake area is concerned, it has huge potential. The resources are there. Itís just a management challenge and how itís going to unfold is certainly going to be in partnership with the local First Nation, and, of course, the town and the community will be kept informed on how itís going to progress.
Mr. Chair, seeing as itís 5:55, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Lang that we report progress on Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Motion agreed to
Chair:Before we continue, the Chair has a statement regarding something that happened earlier. Earlier today the government House leader brought up a point of order regarding a comment made by the Member for Kluane. The comments made by the government House leader were not in order. His comments were insulting to the Member for Kluane, a violation of Standing Order 19(i). The invention of a standing order is also a violation of Standing Order 19(k) in that his comments offended the practices and precedents of the Assembly. Further, the government House leader left the Chamber as the Chair was ruling on the point of order. This is a violation of Standing Order 6(4), which requires members to take their seats whenever the Chair is speaking. The Chair would ask that all members respect the Chair and the Standing Orders.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, First Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 6, 2004:
Dawson City: The Town of the City of Dawson Trusteeship Ė Background and Consequences (Report dated April 30, 2004) by André Carrel (Hart)
The following document was filed May 6, 2004:
Social assistance information re: subset of 2003-04 caseload (Jenkins)